Foster dogs: Meet Penny

Little Penny

It’s been months since we have fostered a dog, the longest stretch, in fact, since we started fostering a few years ago. Some circumstances had changed, life was busier and we just never came across a dog that we thought would be a good fit despite the overwhelming need for temporary homes. It’s crucial when you foster dogs to have boundaries, to know what you can handle, what you can’t and what will work best in your household. There is no point in taking a dog in knowing it won’t work out, only to have to move it again. The goal of fostering is to provide stability, to provide a home environment where a dog can thrive and you can really determine their true temperament. It can take anywhere from a few hours, to a few days to even a few weeks for a dog’s true personality to shine through depending on their history. Moving a dog from home to home doesn’t help anyone, especially the dog, so we’ve determined what works for us and what doesn’t and we do our best to stick to that. My weakness and preference are senior dogs. They are often harder to adopt out despite the fact that they are almost always potty trained, mellow, and still have plenty of love (and life left) to give. They fit in well in our house since our dogs are also mellow, older and lack patience for puppies or high-energy dogs. They can be left home alone without incident and they sleep through the night. All major wins in my book.

Emails started circulating about Penny, a senior dachshund who was in desperate need of a quiet place to go. I did my best to ignore them, hoping someone else would step up. Until, of course, no one did and I knew it was time. Penny isn’t just a senior, she’s a special needs senior. She hardly moves, she needs help eating and she sleeps 99% of the time. It was difficult to tell, though, whether this was her normal state or if this was what happened due to the recent trauma in her life. Despite what people think, dogs can shut down, they can give up, and they can grieve.  Penny was adopted as a “senior” (probably 7 or 8) at the humane society by an older woman. She was a lap dog and the center of this lady’s life.  Circumstances changed when the lady began to age herself and began to suffer from dementia. Not only could she not care for Penny any longer, she didn’t even know who or what she was. She came in to rescue scared, confused and completely devastated. Her estimated age is anywhere from 12-15. She looks every bit of her age and is by far the most frail dog we have had. When I agreed to foster I didn’t know what I was getting. I knew she was a senior but I didn’t know the extent of her situation.

She is deaf and mostly blind. I think she can see shadows or some other movement but that’s about it. She can barely sit up without falling over. I feed her by hand and offer her water out of a spoon. She shakes almost constantly when she is awake. Bladder control is hit or miss. If I feed her too much at one time, she throws up.

She’s not a dog that will ever get adopted. She will never be someone’s pet again. She has no more love left to give but she is in desperate need of love and compassion. She needs a quiet place to spend her days, someone to feed her and someone to keep her wrapped up in her favorite blanket. I can do that, if only because I hope someone would be willing to do the same for me.

On the up side, her sense of smell is very much intact and at the first hint of food she perks up. For ease of eating, I’ve opted to give her baby food. She can’t get enough. She drinks heartily and she gets agitated when I sing to her so I know she still has some smarts left. I think about my own dogs who at almost 8 and 9 are closer to the end of their lives than they are to the beginning. I think about what would happen if something happened to me and I could no longer care for them. I think about how I would want someone to cater to their needs, to feed them baby food from a spoon and to do multiple loads of laundry if they just so happened to wet the bed. Because I believe in karma, I am putting every ounce of that into this dog. Because I know it could happen, my dogs could need someone someday and I need to believe that someone would honor their sweet little lives, without knowing a thing about them, simply because that is just the right thing to do.

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Giant cakes, birthdays and why Pinterest is rude

Cake FailA friend of ours recently died after a battle with kidney cancer. He was too young, he had too much left to do, many more birthdays he should have celebrated and many more memories to make. I like to make a big deal about birthdays anyway but watching another family grieve over their father and husband, makes it seem like we should make even bigger deals about birthdays. We should never complain about getting older, he would have given anything to get older — wrinkles and all. We should celebrate every birthday like it was our last because you just never know.

So for my mother-in-law’s birthday I decided to make her a cake. Not just any cake though, a cake that says every birthday should be the biggest celebration ever because no matter how long we live, birthdays are limited. I am going to make a cake, I thought,  that puts all previous birthday cakes to shame. This cake is going to make other cakes jealous.

6 layers. 3 flavors. Two kinds of icing.

One huge disaster.

Pinterest gives off illusions of grandeur. It makes you think you can do anything. It makes you think that making giant cakes are easy. It makes you think that in just under an hour you can have a professional cake sitting on your counter. It makes you think that your layers won’t stick to the bottom of your pan and you won’t have to chisel those suckers out with a metal spatula. It makes you think you can evenly spread icing over 6 layers of cake without getting a single crumb in the frosting.

My frosting has so many crumbs in it, it looks like I put cinnamon in it or that I have some jacked up version of not-fun-at-all-fetti going on. At least one full layer is still charred to the bottom of the 6 cake pans I used. Pinterest is laughing at me right now.

My cake IS giant though. So giant in fact that I went ahead and left one layer off of it. It didn’t seem necessary when it was already 2 feet tall. I had to remove a shelf from the refrigerator in order to get it in there. It’s also burnt. The edges are crunchy. I hoped to make up for that with excessive frosting. It leans to one side because it isn’t entirely even, probably because half of the cake is still in the pans. There is frosting all.over.the.kitchen. My dogs currently have a sugar high because they were eating all the frosting I was dropping before I had time to wipe it up. I just went ahead and threw the frosting bag away because I couldn’t even imagine having to clean it.

I can’t wait to cut it open though. I wanted one of those amazing ombre cakes (my spell check wants to change that to hombre and I am thinking an hombre cake would have been a better way to go) that Pinterest keeps throwing in our faces. I am hoping that is the silver lining. That everyone forgets what it looks like on the outside because they are in awe over the multi-colored layers within. Time will tell. Pinterest is still laughing.

I bought her a bottle of wine too. But after that experience, after six layers of failure, the only solution was wine. I am drinking her birthday wine with frosting in my hair. That cake though, I’ll never forget it. It will be the most memorable birthday cake ever, for me at least. Until next year, when I hope to top it.

Life is short, eat ugly, burnt, giant cake.

No other cakes are jealous, in case you were wondering.

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What I wish someone would have told me about owning a business

Business tips

Owning your own business is many things. It’s frustrating, exciting, difficult, humbling, exasperating, overwhelming, and amazing. It is all of these things all at the same time. We’ve only been business owners for about 4 years but we have learned so much in just that short time. There are a few things I wished someone would have told us but like many things, experience is the best way to learn. In hopes of helping out other aspiring business owners, here are a few of my tips for surviving in the world of small business.

Don’t undervalue yourself (or over value yourself)

There is a common thought that if you are new, you should charge less to attract customers. You also may charge less because you don’t think you can charge more than someone who has been in business and has a lot more experience. Depending on your business, that is accurate to some degree but in other cases, not so much. In the service industry your price reflects quality and customers are most often willing to pay more for what they think will be a better service. If you are selling goods this doesn’t necessarily apply but people aren’t as interested in getting a deal when it comes to a service, they are interested in getting a high-quality service and they’ll pay for that. There will always be someone who charges more than you and always someone who charges less which means your price should reflect only one thing – your value. Experience, education, equipment and things like that all come in to play but so do the elements that make you, you. Your interactions with customers, your availability, your unique approach to whatever the service is etc. Research fair pricing, you want to be fair and in the ballpark of what is expected. But you also need to take into account what you actually do. Everything you do related to your business needs to be accounted for or else you are essentially working for free. Working for free leads to burn out and frustration really quickly. Don’t under estimate the value you bring to your customer.

Of course you don’t want to overcharge either. You can’t buy a nice camera and start charging professional prices even if you do take great photos. But you shouldn’t sell yourself short either. It’s a balance and the trick is finding it.

Get an accountant

Math. It hurts my brain just thinking about it. An accountant will be one of your most valuable assets. Not only do they take a huge burden off of you but they also are in the know on various ways you can save money or do things differently so that you can make more money/pay less taxes. Even if you think you can’t afford it, get one. Best money I ever spent.

Learn to say “No”

I’m not good at saying no in general. But in business it is essential. You can’t advertise in every publication or donate to every good cause. You can’t work 24 hours a day or be open 7 days a week. I suppose you could but eventually you’d find yourself in a bind. Set limits and stick to them.

A business is an education

You most definitely will learn as you go. Be prepared to make mistakes and be prepared to embrace them, learn from them and move on. Talk to other business owners, learn as much as you can from other people on what worked for them and what didn’t. It may not all apply to your business but the more you can learn the better. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This isn’t easy. Any business owner will tell you that they are still learning things even after decades of being in business. Things change and evolve, business is a constant process of learning and growing. Make that your expectation and you won’t be as disappointed when things don’t go as planned.

Keep your overhead low

It’s tempting to have a fancy office, nice equipment, the best technology, etc. but it may not be worth it. If something doesn’t actually make you money, you don’t need it. Start small and work your way up. In most small businesses, if you aren’t working, you aren’t making money. So there is no point in having an office full of nice things sitting there, costing you money that could be going straight into your pocket. People aren’t hiring you because you have a fancy business card or the best printer ever, keep reminding yourself of that. With that being said some overhead is essential to making your business work and to maintaining your sanity. Don’t bury yourself in work because you are afraid to hire help for a few hours a week. When it comes to supplies, a basic computer will do the job as well as a fancy one. Association fees, memberships and various other things add up. Remember that anything you are paying for isn’t going into your paycheck.

Don’t compare yourself to other business owners

A few points up I suggested talking to others, learning as much as you could from how other people do things. I stand by that, but the tricky part is learning not to compare what they are doing and typically their success with yours. Someone in the same business as you may seem to be way more profitable or much busier but the truth is you rarely know the whole story. People come to you because of you and trying to be someone else isn’t going to get you their success, it is going to hinder yours. People find success in different ways and at different rates. Should you learn from others and tweak your process or improve if necessary? Sure. Just don’t get caught in a trap of thinking that what you are doing must be wrong just because someone is seemingly more successful than you are.

No one tells you what to do

Self motivation is tricky. The lack of it is the reason I generally only make it to the gym 3 days a week instead of the 5 I commit to every Sunday. Or the fact that I only stay 30 minutes when I continually tell myself my goal is an hour. This is the biggest blessing and curse of business ownership. People that work for others think it is glorious that you don’t have to answer to anyone, that you don’t necessarily need to meet deadlines and that you can just come and go as you please. “Just take the day off” they think… it’s not that simple. A successful business runs only if you run it properly which means you have to keep yourself in check. You have to make the phone calls, place the ads, pay the bills, work overtime, even when you don’t want to and even when you know no one is going to fire you or get mad at you if you don’t. You need to be organized. You need to be able to get things done without being told. Without that, you only hurt yourself.

Not everyone will like you

This is a hard one. It is in our human nature to want to be accepted, to be liked. In the world of business, this is a huge check in humility. Not everyone is going to like your service, your product, what you offer and that is okay. You don’t like everyone either so what do you expect? Do the best you can and don’t worry about the rest. Don’t invest time in trying to convince people that you are better than they think you are, invest your time in keeping the people happy that already know you are great. There are going to be some people who absolutely love you, that refer anyone and everyone to you and think you are a gift from God. Put your energy into those people and don’t let the people who don’t suck any of that away. We don’t live in a game of Monopoly. There are several options for a reason. Don’t take anything personally, just stay the course.

Find an outlet

It’s going to be stressful. There are no paid holidays, no paid vacations, no paid sick days. There won’t be two weeks every year sitting in a bank just waiting to be used up for some vacation, exotic or otherwise. In the beginning especially, it is going to be non-stop. Make time for you and spend your free time doing something you love with no business talk in the mix. If you work with your spouse this is even more crucial. It is so easy to want to talk business constantly. Turn it off and do something else, if only for a few hours each day.

Remember why you started in the first place

Most people who start their own businesses do it because they love what they do. They want to work for themselves. It’s so easy when you love your job and when any ounce of effort you put in benefits you and only you (not some corporation), to want to spend every waking moment working. In some cases you have to spend every waking moment working just to keep the doors open, but like any job you are working to support your life so don’t forget to live it. It’s easy to feel an obligation to your customers and to some degree you should, but make time for you, time for your family. Don’t feel guilty about taking time off, people will survive without you. You’ll be more valuable to your clients when you are rested than when you are over-worked and in need of some time off. The clients you truly want will understand that. Those that don’t can go somewhere else.

Help others when you can

Having your own business is a huge blessing (even if it sometimes feels like a curse) that not everyone has the opportunity or the ability to do. Pay it forward by helping other business owners who are starting up, volunteer your time and donate to worthy causes. One of the best things about being a business owner is having the ability to decide how you want to run your company and how you want to manage your funds. Dedicate a portion of your earnings to charity, sponsor little league teams, give that high school student an after school job. When the stress of being a business owner starts to wear on you, you’ll be able to look at what good you’ve been able to do and that will remind you that it is all worth it.

Have you started a business? What are your best tips?

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Make like an Olympian and save a dog

One of the big stories to come out of the Olympics, that has nothing to do with competition or medals, has been the many stray dogs surrounding the Olympic complex in Sochi. Russia ordered the extermination of the dogs likely because they were a nuisance and much like trash to be discarded, they were just trying to clean up and present a nice appearance. There’s a good chance most people would have been happier to see stray dogs roaming around than to hear of their imminent fate and outrage ensued. Luckily several people stepped up to the plate including locals and various Olympians. People came together to rescue many of the dogs and several will catch a flight home to the US to live the life of luxury with some of the world’s best athletes.

While I find these stories to be very heartwarming and I am glad someone stepped up for these dogs, this isn’t a problem isolated to Russia. There are dogs here that are killed every day, dogs who could use this kind of press and dogs who are just as in need of a hero. We might not be killing them because we are hosting the Olympics, but we are killing them and that should cause just as much outrage.

According to the Humane Society, about 2.7 million dogs are put to sleep each year in this country. These aren’t aggressive, sickly or dying dogs, these are healthy, adoptable dogs. They are puppies, someone’s once loved pet, dogs that still have a lot of life and a lot of love to give. Count to 11. Every 11 seconds a dog is unnecessarily killed because shelters are full, because no one wants them. Don’t sit by as we order the extermination of dogs in our shelters simply because they haven’t made world news.

Get to your local shelter and be an advocate for the dogs dying in our cities. Spay and neuter your pets, support your local rescues, and when you want a dog, don’t just buy a pet, save a life. For every dog that will be shipped to the US from Russia, there are at least 100 just like it in a shelter in your state. Be the hero for our dogs.

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A year ago today

Grandma Margie circa late 80's?

A year ago today, I spent some of the last semi-normal moments with my Grandma. After hearing that she wasn’t doing well and the end was coming, I packed my things and drove to Phoenix. She was still walking around, still eating, still able to have a somewhat normal conversation. She was by no means herself but it was better than the days that followed.

We watched the State of the Union address. She mostly talked about how ugly Boehner is and how smug he looked. She wasn’t really listening but her commentary was far more interesting to me than the speech itself. I was drinking wine, she was drinking lemonade. When I told her I’d be spending the night, she immediately told my Grandfather to go open the vent in the guest room. He jumped up, I told him he could wait until a commercial. He was the only one actually paying attention to the speech.

She needed help doing basic things. When I first arrived she was reluctant to let me help her or even see her struggle. Even during those last days she wanted to protect me from seeing how much she had declined. A few days later she had given in and was actually requesting my help over my Grandfathers. She must have realized that despite her best efforts, I was well aware of her new state. Or maybe she realized it was my turn to take care of her and that I wanted to.

When her house cleaners came to clean the house, she started to cry. She hugged the woman that had been cleaning her house for years and apologized for how she looked. Through tears she said, “Look how bad I’ve gotten, so fast.” The house cleaner cried too.

She was an incredibly intelligent woman and it was so difficult to see the change in her mental state. She seemed dazed, confused and was even hallucinating. Whether that was a side effect of medication or a side effect of dying, I’ll never know.

I made her meals and her tea, we shared almonds as a snack, and we talked about her wedding. She showed me where she had stored away my Barbie dolls. I sat by her side as the hospice chaplain visited and tried to ease her fears about dying. She cried, knowing that no matter what, this was a journey she was facing alone, despite being surrounded by family.

A few days later she was confined to a bed and not long after that she had slipped away into a deep sleep that she’d never wake up from. I’ll always cherish those moments even though they were difficult to witness. A year ago today I was talking to my Grandma. Pretty soon I won’t be able to reference time I spent with her by “a year ago”. She died on February 19th.

Sandy

Today we found out her dog died. She loved her dogs. Sandy was particularly clingy in the days leading up to my Grandma’s death. At one point Sandy was nuzzling up next to her while she was trying to eat lunch. My Grandma said “Ouch” when Sandy hit her leg and my Grandad jumped into defense mode. He started to move towards her while already telling Sandy to go lay down. Without skipping a beat my Grandma yelled, “I’m the boss!” Which meant, the dog stayed, painful bumps or not. A year ago today, my Grandad was coming to terms with the reality that he was about to lose his wife. Today, he is coping with that anniversary and the fact that he lost the dog that my Grandma loved.

A year ago today was one of the best and hardest days of my life. It was one of my last truly vivid memories of my Grandma and also the day that I too had to accept that the disease was killing her, that she was dying, that my life moving forward wouldn’t have her in it. Today, I hope she is sitting with her donkey and all her dogs from over the years, having a beer.

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Dogs make poor decisions and why they need seat belts

Charlie

In Arizona, not wearing a seat belt is against the law if you are in the front seat or if the passenger is a minor. Children are also required to ride in car seats up until a certain weight limit. Regardless of the law, most people wear a seat belt whether they are a passenger in the front or back, a minor or an adult. We do it because we know the risks and the fact that they can be life-saving in an accident. However, when it comes to dogs, most people don’t think twice about putting them in the backseat, the front seat, or even the truck bed without any sort of restraints. I cringe when I see a dog riding in a truck bed. It was one of my Grandma’s biggest pet peeves and she’d make a comment about it anytime we’d see a dog on the road. They could jump out, fall out, and certainly if there was an accident, the dog would be toast. But I never really thought twice about putting my dogs in the backseat unrestrained. In fact, I often smile when I see a dog with their head out the window, happy as can be. Not anymore.

Yesterday on our short (less than a mile) drive from our clinic to our house, the unthinkable happened. We drive that route several times a week, often with the windows down. Charlie sits in the back seat with his head out the window and Woobie stands with her back feet on the back seat and her front feet on the center console. Just a few days ago we were discussing doggie seat belts. But not so much for Charlie, more for Woobie. We knew her prime position in the front seat would land her straight through the windshield if we were ever to have an accident. We never considered either of our dogs jumping out the window, especially while the car was moving. But, we thought, it was just a mile and for any longer trips, she does have to sit in the back. The idea, like so many, was never acted on.

I rolled the window down about halfway, like I always do, so Charlie could put his head out. We were about halfway home when I heard a weird noise almost immediately followed by a yelp. I turned back to see Charlie’s leash going out the window. It took me a few moments to register that my dog just went out the window, while I was driving on the highway. I immediately started to shake, preparing myself for the worst. Behind me I could see that several cars had stopped and I had no idea what I’d be walking up to. I fully expected to see Charlie limp on the road potentially run over, potentially unrecognizable. But then before I saw him I heard a man say in a gentle and calming voice, “Come on buddy, it’s okay.” As I approached, I saw the man holding the leash and Charlie walking along side of him, visibly shaken up and confused. His face was bleeding from several areas but no major visible injuries. He was walking just fine — not so much as a limp. I immediately picked him up. Another person who had stopped said he rolled several times. The man who went to get him told me his dog was killed when he did the exact same thing. The man assessed his injuries, continued to pet Charlie, and told me to take him to the vet. I thanked the man for his help and his compassion and we left.

I completely lost all sense of what was going on in that moment. I stopped my car on a dime in the middle of the road. I immediately jumped out without even thinking a car could be whizzing in my direction. That in itself could have lead to an accident. The very preventable situation could have lead to a very serious incident in so many ways that I don’t even want to think about.

Charlie is a mellow dog, he is often scared to jump off the bed or to walk by a box that he is unfamiliar with. He’s not hyper nor do I think he was jumping out after something. I think something spooked him, he panicked and the window was open just enough that he was able to jump right out. But, of course, I’ll never really know what inspired that lapse of judgment. What I do know is that if he would do that, any dog might do the same. In fact, once I told the story I was surprised to hear that several people’s dogs had jumped out of car windows.

He broke a tooth, has some road rash and a few superficial wounds, a slight concussion and likely some soreness but I know it could have been a lot worse. I know I could have run him over, the many cars behind me could have run him over, or the impact alone could have killed him.

Today, while I nursed my bruised patient monitoring him for more serious issues like a brain bleed, I researched dog seat belts. I knew the value of getting one for the dog’s sake but some other valid points were made that I had never considered. In a high-impact or even a low-impact crash, a dog flying out of your car becomes a high-powered projectile which can be a serious threat to other people in the area. In addition, a dog who survives a crash but is outside of the car can become aggressive due to the trauma of the incident and serve as an impediment to first responders. The people will be priority in any accident, not a dog, so your dog likely stands a better chance overall if they are secured in the vehicle, not running loose at an accident scene — assuming they survive at all. A serious accident over the summer near Phoenix, left one dog dead and other lost in the desert for weeks. Amazingly that dog was eventually reunited with his owner. A dog seat belt seems like a no-brainer. As a life-long dog owner, I have never put my traveling pets in any sort of restraint in the car, not even on long trips. Today, that changes. We wouldn’t put an infant or a toddler in the car without a seat belt or child seat and we shouldn’t put our dogs in a car without one either — whether we are driving a mile or several hundred.

Charlie is lucky and so are we. Today, he is wagging his tail and milking every bit of this. He was thrilled to get a jar of baby food for dinner because I thought hard food might hurt his mouth. In fact, I had to tell him earlier to stop jumping around. By all accounts, his brain is not bleeding and overall he is fine. Today, we aren’t mourning a dead dog, so instead I am hoping to let my experience serve as a lesson so that none of you have to face the worst-case scenario. While I don’t suspect we’ll be opening the windows any longer or at least not so much that a dog could ever feasibly get out, I also will have the peace of mind that if something does happen, we, all of us, will be a whole lot safer.

*I purchased a Solvit Pet Safety Harness. When I receive them and test them out, I am happy to let anyone interested know how it works and how the dogs feel about it. There are several varieties though and they are inexpensive leaving no excuse not to be sure your dog has one! If you have a dog, make it a priority to get them a harness before putting them in the car. And maybe consider keeping your windows closed.

Photo by Tangled Lilac Photography.

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Turning 30 and Setting Goals

Alicia: Through the years

‘Tis the season for goal setting and starting fresh. As a child I never liked having my birthday right after Christmas. I could never have a pool party. In many cases we were still on Christmas vacation which made birthday parties and school celebrations difficult. People often combined my Christmas and birthday gifts, something that would never happen if you were born in June or even February, or completely forgot all together after the madness of the holiday season. My birthday would often get lumped in with the rest of the holiday festivities making it lack that specialness that you only get once a year on your birthday. But as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the opportunity to start completely fresh, at a new age, all at the same time. I typically consider the start of my new year to be the day after my birthday. So in preparation, I’ve compiled my goals for the year. I hope that posting them will hold me more accountable as we all know that goals are all but forgotten by mid-February. Feel free to check in to make sure I am making progress.

Today, as I start my first day as a 30-year-old, I am looking forward to a new year, a new decade, and what I think will be some of the best years of my life.

  1. Blog more. If we are comparing to last year, ‘blogging more’ wouldn’t be all that difficult so more specifically I’d like to shoot for once a month minimum. I used to follow several niche blogs and wondered where I fit in when I started this blog that didn’t fall in any niche. But then I remembered I started this for me, to write about what I wanted to so there really was no reason my posts had to fit a specific theme.
  2. Pursue more of the things I enjoy doing. Blogging falls in line with this. I started freelance writing as a writer and I loved it. Writing is what I like to do but I hardly ever write anymore.  So I’d like to find a better balance of the work I have to do and the work I like to do.
  3. Start and finish one book per month. No excuses.
  4. Schedule a family photo session. Kyle and I haven’t had professional photos taken since our wedding and with the surge of camera phones I have realized we hardly have any photos of us at this stage of our lives.
  5. Make my physical health a priority. I hate working out, always have. However I was blessed with a good metabolism and little need to worry about exercising. As I get older that seems to be changing. The time is now to not be a lazy ass.
  6. Eliminate gluten from our diets. Read Grain Brain and Wheat Belly and see if you still want to eat wheat.
  7. Plan weekly meals, grocery shop and cook accordingly. Along with this, limit eating out.
  8. Volunteer more time and donate more money to local causes where we can make a bigger impact.
  9. Put more money towards our retirement funds. Self-employment has its perks, retirement packages aren’t one of them. It’s up to us to make sure we don’t have to work forever.
  10. Put grass in our backyard. I really hate rocks.
  11. Start our family whether through biological children or adoption.
  12. Spend less time on social media and more time actually being social. Perhaps it is time to take Facebook off my phone.
  13. Be more positive and less judgmental.
  14. Clear the clutter. Do a major purge and get rid of stuff we aren’t using.
  15. Stop buying stuff we don’t need. No more buying clothes simply because they are on sale. Buy only things you really love.
  16. Make extra payments on student loans so we can get those suckers paid off.
  17. Be more encouraging and less critical.
  18. Host more dinner parties – just for fun.
  19. Go on a trip out of the state.
  20. Send surprise packages or even just cards to people. People love getting things in the mail especially for no reason.
  21. Take the dogs on more walks. We used to walk daily now we hardly ever go out. I’d like to walk several times a week.
  22. Plant a GMO-free, organic garden and supplement with the local farmer’s market as much as possible.
  23. Keep things neat and tidy throughout the week so we don’t have to spend our weekends cleaning house and doing laundry.
  24. Start doing yoga regularly. At least a few times per week.
  25. Go on more hikes. We live in a BEAUTIFUL part of the state filled with endless trails and we almost never take advantage of that.
  26. Floss daily. Why is it SO hard?
  27. Eat breakfast daily. Coffee doesn’t count.
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Just before 30: My life through the years

People keep asking me how I feel about turning 30 and every time they ask, I always wonder if they are actually talking to me. 30. How did I get to be 30? It used to seem so old, so mature, so accomplished. But in the end, I think I am excited. I already feel nostalgic for the decade that was my 20’s. It was filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Life changed more dramatically in that 10 year period than in any other stage of my life so far.

I started my 20’s in college, carefree, on my own but still very much a kid. I was working but other than a car payment, the majority of my earnings could be spent on incredibly over-priced sunglasses, fancy handbags, and endless meals out. In terms of actual responsibilities, I had very few. Go to school, get good grades, show up at work, pay a few minor bills. My relationship with Kyle took off when I was 20. We were officially a couple, said “I Love You” for the first time, celebrated several firsts and were very much inseparable.

Looking back on my twenties makes me even more excited for my thirties. I have a clean slate, an entire decade to change my life. The transformation, events, and changes in my twenties were huge and I can only imagine how different my life will be ten years from now.

A friend of mine from high school, Julie, turned 30 a few days ago (Happy Birthday Julie!) and she posted a list of a few of the significant things in each year of her life thus far. I was amazed reading through it that she could vividly remember so many things from her childhood and from each year in general. I thought there was no possible way that I could do that but I kind of wanted to try. So here we go…

1st bday

My First Birthday. Pictured with my Great Grandma, Camilla and my sister, Erin.

Year 1: I was born 6 weeks early. I was tiny and weighed only a few pounds but I was ready to get things started. I have been excessively early to things ever since. Lack of punctuality is likely one of my biggest pet peeves.

Hello!

Year 2-4 (Because I just can’t be certain when things happened way back then): I pooped in my closet. I’ll never live this down so I may as well put it out there for everyone. I was supposed to be taking a nap and under strict instructions not to leave my room. So I did the only normal thing a logical child would do, go to the bathroom in my closet, walk out of my room (which was what I was trying to avoid in the first place) to the bathroom to get a towel, use towel to cover up said bowel movement. I vividly recall making friendship ice cream in preschool. That consists of putting ice cream ingredients in a coffee can and rolling it back and forth with a partner. Years later my best friend and I did the same thing in high school, except in the front yard along the side-walk. I had a mullet during this time frame which continued, as pictured below. I also loved to play and was VERY good at Memory.

The early years

Year 5: I started kindergarten. I used to wipe my cheek emphatically each time my mom kissed me before sending me off to class. I still do that to my husband. I got in a LOT of trouble for telling my best little friend that our teacher didn’t like her because she was black after she complained that she didn’t like our teacher. I had no idea what I was saying but I still am ashamed that I said that to her. It has always proved to me that kids pick up what they hear. I lived with two progressive and not-in-any-way racist parents so be careful what your kids are exposed to. My parents also got divorced and my life would change dramatically over the next few years.

Year 6: 1st Grade. I had Mrs. Jory. I remember painting pictures with my Grandma. I still have the pictures.

Year 7: My second grade teacher was Mr. Starr. My memories of him are similar to Robin William’s character in Patch Adams. He was full of life and loved baseball cards. I recall watching movies about Johnny Appleseed. I cheated on a spelling test by looking at the recycle bin to make sure I had the correct spelling of the word ‘white’.

Year 8: This was the first year I had the teacher that no one wanted – Mrs. Spano. She probably wasn’t that bad but she seemed really scary at the time. My dad got remarried and my step mom had my little brother Joey around this time period. Tether ball was the coolest game ever and my grandparents even put a pole in their back yard. We’d spend countless hours playing.

Year 9: We moved from our apartment to a house in central Phoenix. This also meant we had to switch schools, which was terrifying. I remember going to the school to get registered only to run into a 4th grade teacher who insisted that I be in her class. She was wearing bright red Reebok high tops and had red curly hair. I’ll never forget Mrs. Irwin for making me feel comfortable and secure in a new world. With the help of my Grandma, I made a killer Arizona Fair project and won the grand prize. I’d also meet one of my best friends – Andrea. She didn’t like me initially but I had no idea. My stepmom had another son, Billy.

Year 10: My friend Andrea and I spent all of our free time together. We spent long hours jumping on trampolines, convincing her mom to let us get pet mice and eating pizza. Our 5th grade teacher was in her first year as a teacher and even at the young age of 10, we were big pains in her ass. I still had really unfortunate hair. I decided to stop eating red meat at this point due to my love for animals. My mom made me continue to eat chicken so I would get ample protein during my growing years.

Year 11: I think I finally started wearing a bra at some point during this year. Not because I needed one but just because it seemed like time. I think I also started wearing deodorant. I went on a trip to California with the school band. It still stands as one of my fondest memories.

Year 12: There’s a good chance my sister and I were still playing with Barbies at this point. We’d spend hours playing with them at my Grandma’s house which was always a fond memory for her. I don’t exactly recall when we stopped but I do recall thinking we were probably too old to be doing it. I got the most intense sun burn of my life during a ski trip. Who thinks to wear sunscreen in the snow? Literally layers of my face peeled off, it was swollen and I was miserable for days.

Year 13: A turning point in adolescence from super awkward child to probably even more awkward teen. This was the first time that my friend Andrea and I didn’t have all of our classes together which was perhaps a good preparation from completely leaving all my friends behind in high school.

My 8th grade graduation.

My 8th grade graduation.

Year 14: I’d switch schools again leaving all my friends behind in a super vulnerable period of a teenage girl’s life.  What’s worse is I was headed for an all girls Catholic high school filled with children from wealthy families – we were not a wealthy family. I wore men’s tubes socks. I have no idea why. I met another of my very best lifelong friends in Spanish class – Jessica.

Jessica and I

Year 15: After a year of awkwardness and figuring out where I fit in among smart, talented and rich girls, I had a solid group of friends I felt comfortable with.

High School Football

Year 16: I became a legal driver. My friend Jessica and I spent as much time together as possible. She would frequently spend the night at my house during the week and my mom would call us out sick on Fridays. We’d tell her mom that it was just a retreat day or a mass day. There was a doughnut shop on my way to school and I’d stop several times a week to pick up a dozen to share with my friends. What I’d give now for a high school metabolism.

Year 17: My mom got remarried. It had essentially just been her, my sister and I for the past 12 years. She got married on the same night as homecoming so after the wedding I quickly changed into homecoming attire. It was Halloween-themed and two other friends and I took our costume inspiration from the Limp Bizkit Nookie video. It came complete with red Yankees hats and khaki pants. This was likely back in a time when MTV actually played videos.

College.

Year 18: I graduated from high school and entered college. I packed up my things and headed to Tucson to attend the U of A. I still remember showing up at the dorm and walking in to the tiny room. That tiny room would be the catalyst for one of the best time periods in my life thus far. It didn’t matter that the room was miniscule as it offered a huge new opportunity to be on my own for the first time ever. I’d meet the two people who would eventually introduce me to Kyle and I would grow up quite a bit. I ate hundreds of Jack in the Box tacos during this year of my life. I never gained the freshman 15.

Year 19: I moved into an apartment with one friend from high school and college and two girls we had never met before. One of those girls would later be a bridesmaid in my wedding and one of my best friends. I bought my first car, had a job, and was feeling a little bit more like an adult. This is the year Kyle and I started to be more than friends. This would mark the year that I started eating red meat again after getting a job at a steak house. I instantly wondered why I gave up bacon all those years ago. My mom and stepdad moved to Kansas City.

Year 20: Kyle and I officially became a couple and did obnoxious things like hold hands across the table at restaurants. I had a random but pretty serious health incident at the end of the year and he proved how amazing he truly is in that moment. He spent several nights on a ragged hospital cot all during final exams just so I wouldn’t be there alone. Other than Kyle, my Grandpa was the first to show up at the hospital after I had been admitted. He cried when he watched them put an IV in me. Not one of my friends came to visit despite me being there for several days. It was a turning point for me in terms of who really mattered in my life.

Baby Charlie

Year 21: I celebrated my 21st birthday at a dive bar with Kyle and Amanda both of whom had fake IDs. I was still recovering from surgery and didn’t last too long or drink all that much. Kyle and I got our first puppy – Charlie.  We paid entirely too much and bought him at a pet store – something I would never do today but a purchase I’ll never regret.

My 22nd Birthday.

Cancun

Year 22: Kyle won a trip to Cancun playing online poker and we took our first official trip together. I graduated from college, gave away a ton of stuff, and ventured off across the country with Kyle. He would be starting chiropractic school in Iowa. It was a big move in many ways. We had a house, lived together for the first time, got another dog and tried to navigate the more intense world of graduate school all the while being thousands of miles from home. Despite the fact that I was no longer a student after leaving Tucson, I still thrived in the school routine with Kyle being a student. Comprehending that actual people don’t get winter break was hard, and still is.

Iowa

Year 23: After a tireless job search that came up short, I decided to enroll in a program to learn the ins and outs of running a chiropractic clinic at the same school Kyle was attending. I met some amazing girls, learned a lot about things I never thought I would, and finally felt somewhat settled in Iowa. Cadaver lab rocked my world and reminded me why I originally pursued an Arts degree.

24th Birthday

Year 24: We continued to make updates to our home. Unexpected things like mold and major water leaks made us wonder what we were thinking buying a fixer upper with a student budget. I thought about leaving Iowa several times. It was an exercise in compromise, patience, and understanding.

engaged

Year 25: My friend Andrea’s brother unexpectedly passed away. Although I hadn’t seen him in years he was like a brother to me growing up. It made being so far away really hard. It was the first really significant death in my life. The sadness was balanced with the joy of getting engaged. Kyle planned a beautiful engagement complete with my parents at a Japanese garden in Illinois. Kyle also graduated from chiropractic school, we sold our house, and moved back to Arizona.

Year 26: This was a big year. We decided to set up practice in the small town of Camp Verde, a place I never thought in a million years I’d live. Our dog Lily passed away. A few months later we got married surrounded by our family and friends in Sedona. Our wedding planning process raised thousands of dollars for charity and our marriage started with the promise to dedicate a portion of our time to others, always. We also started volunteering with Camp Soaring Eagle – an organization that would truly change our lives for the better.

Starting a practice

First look

Year 27: We moved from Sedona to Camp Verde into a new house and officially felt settled since we left Iowa. Our stuff had been in storage for over a year so it was fun to unpack and feel like we were getting a bunch of new things. We adopted a new dog – Woobie. We started fostering dogs with a local rescue. I also officially began my career in freelance writing – something I never thought I would do.

Woobie joins the family.

Woobie joins the family.

My first press trip to the Domino's Pizza headquarters.

My first press trip to the Domino’s Pizza headquarters.

 

Dexter - one of our foster dogs

Dexter – one of our foster dogs

Year 28: My Grandpa passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Watching someone die is truly humbling and gave me an entirely new outlook on life. Just after he died, we found out my Grandma had pancreatic cancer and a terrible prognosis. My sister and I did partake in a very fun photo shoot though thanks to The R2 Studio.

sisters

Year 29: This was easily the worst year in my life so far due to the passing of my Grandma. Losing my Grandpa was hard but losing my Grandma shook up my life at its core. She was a very integral part of my life and I still sort of wonder how life can go on without her. Having such a hard last year of my twenties makes the transition into the 30’s that much easier. On a positive note, our business really took off this year and we finally felt like we were making progress!

 

Tomorrow I’ll be 30 and let’s hope I have even more exciting things to share next year!

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A Christmas wrap-up

It’s hard to believe another Christmas is in the books! This year, like the many before, was filled with entirely too much food, quite a few cocktails, and a lot of laughs.

tamales

It’s a tradition in many Hispanic households to make tamales for Christmas. Growing up in Arizona, even though we are not Hispanic, it has been a tradition to eat them. My Grandparents typically made Mexican food for Christmas Eve dinner complete with tamales purchased from a local family. We had heard that the process to make tamales was awful, time consuming and not all that fun. So a few years ago we decided to give it a try. Kyle and I didn’t actually think it was all that bad but then we never made them again. Until this year that is. I did find the process much more tedious this time and the results were underwhelming. I decided to wing it and skip using a recipe. It wasn’t a complete failure but I wouldn’t call it a success either. With enough salsa, our tamales are quite tasty.

Baking supplies from Safeway

Thankfully to help ease the pain of the 8-hour tamale process, I had some supplies gifted to me from Safeway that were meant to make my holiday baking experience easier than ever. They sent me a beautiful basket complete with cake mixes, sprinkles galore, a cake pop kit, and various other holiday baking necessities. I’ve made cake pops before and they were an epic disaster. Let me tell you, they did not turn out like they look on that box up there. So I thought a kit was pure genius and I hoped foolproof.
cake pop fail
And I was wrong. Cake pops are hard friends. My balls kept falling apart, my creamy coating was not creamy nor did it really do any coating of things, and it was all I could do to keep those suckers on the stick. Maybe next time.
Christmas Eve Party
Luckily I had a lot of other deliciousness to make up for the cake pops. With enough sprinkles anything looks good so thank you Wilton for at least giving me that, even if your cake pop kit did give me false hopes and broken dreams. On Christmas Eve we throw a big party complete with entirely too much food, a Bloody Mary bar, and endless mimosas… you know, the necessities. We are actually still eating (and drinking) the leftovers.
Tonight we celebrate the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 and tomorrow we start our diets. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!
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5 Things More Upsetting than Anything Having to do With Duck Dynasty

Photo credit: I Have a Name Facebook Page

Before this week I didn’t even know who Phil Robertson was and I kind of wish that was still the case. I’ve never watched Duck Dynasty nor do I intend to. I really don’t care what he said, people say ignorant things on a daily basis. I won’t get into the fact that this has nothing to do with free speech. I suggest you do some Googling if you are still convinced that it does. My news feed is full of commentary on both sides. What I am trying to figure out is why this is such a big deal? This guy is a person on a TV show, life functioned fine without him and I am convinced life will progress just fine even if Duck Dynasty ceases to exist. I am going to go out on a limb and say that if your life is truly so impacted by a person on a TV show, you probably need to find some better hobbies. To keep things in perspective, I thought I’d round up some headlines that should be filling my news feed, problems people should truly be upset about, and issues that people should be focusing their energy on. Please don’t waste your time writing a letter to A&E telling them they made a bad decision or telling them they did the right thing. Consider writing a letter to your member of congress instead, about an issue that truly impacts your life. Consider writing a letter to a soldier overseas who may just need a bit of encouragement and support. Write a letter to an old friend or to your Grandma. Grandmas love getting letters.

If these issues don’t upset you more than any issues surrounding Duck Dynasty, then you need a reality check.

Homeless people freeze to death

Seven homeless people have frozen to death in the Bay Area since November 28th. That’s just one story. There’s a good chance countless others have died this year, alone and forgotten. Many of whom likely served our country at one point. The amazing thing about this story is that all of these homeless men were identified by name. In many cases the identity of homeless people found dead is never known.

Source

Thousands of child abuse cases are ignored

If you live in Arizona you likely heard on the news that more than 6,500 cases of child abuse were not investigated by CPS since 2009. There was no explanation for why this happened. Many of the cases were deemed “not worthy for investigation”. How many children endured abuse unnecessarily because someone deemed their case “not worthy”? If you don’t live in Arizona, I am curious if you even heard about this or if you know how many cases go ignored in your state?

Source

Turns out you can be fired for just about anything including being gay

In 29 states in this country, you can be fired for being gay. Equal opportunity employment doesn’t apply to sexual affiliations. You can’t be fired for being disabled or for being black, but you can be fired simply because of who you love. Regardless of how you feel about gay people, in a world where this is an acceptable reason to be fired, why is it so outrageous that a person was fired for speaking their beliefs?

Source

Millions of people in the US can’t read

14 percent of the US population can’t read. 21 percent of adults read below a 5th grade level. The current literacy rate is no better than it was 10 years ago. In a country with so many technological advances and so much opportunity, it is unacceptable that millions of people cannot read. Why are we not concerned about this and what are we doing to improve literacy rates?

Source

Mass killings have become the norm

In 2013 there were 30 mass killings in this country. A mass killing includes any incident that kills at least 4 people, not including the killer. What seems more disturbing is that number is pretty standard for this country. There have been 23 mass shootings since Newtown just over a year ago. Several of which we hardly even heard about if we even heard about them at all. We have become desensitized to mass shootings or perhaps some just aren’t worthy of headlines or Facebook posts.

Source, source & source

I picked these points because I would think these would be the things people would be upset about, what they would be talking about or writing letters about.  There are also several positive and amazing stories that should get more of people’s energy than what some stranger said. What if we invested our energy and our passion on more of what really mattered? What if Facebook feeds weren’t filled with condemnation or defenses for someone none of us know and instead were proactive approaches to actually living the beliefs we so strongly defend. My friend Nicole said it best, “Love, tolerance, etc? Don’t talk about it, be about it.”

Photo credit: I Have a Name Facebook Page

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