All I can think about

Yesterday, while finishing up my lunch break at work, my least favorite supervisor walked into our conference room, sat down, and proceeded to ruin the remainder of my Wednesday and, so far, all of my Thursday!  The jerk was single-handedly able to do this by being rude and condescending, two things I really haven’t experienced from a coworker during my twelve year tenure on the job.  I am happy to say I am not familiar with being treated poorly but it broke my heart nonetheless.  I felt angry and sad, as well as embarrassed, although I had no reason to be.  He made me feel very uncomfortable in my own skin and all I wanted to do was leave.  And leave I did.

The short few minutes, that resulted in hours of anxiety and anger for me in the following days, were all the result of my supervisor telling an awful story, for the 3rd time, about how he ‘beat’ his mildly aggressive Rottweiler with a baseball bat when he was younger.  He described in lurid detail how the adolescent dog, whom he had essentially ignored by gifting it to his son and leaving it to live outside during its formative years, growled at him when he went to feed him his dinner.  Being the alpha male that he is and was, my violent superior grabbed his nearby bat and hit the dog a couple times – when he described this moment, he even yelped out to reenact how the dog screamed while being beaten.

As I heard this frightful story yet again, I stood with a straight face, refusing to laugh alongside him as my other two moronic coworkers did (which struck me as a desperate attempt to seek the storyteller’s approval).  My supervisor noticed I wasn’t amused by his awful actions so he proceeded to tell me how beating a dog is necessary to training and how I would never be able to handle a canine of this caliber.

I didn’t know where to begin and I found myself, as I do in these scenarios, not saying exactly what I would like to say.  While I told him I would have handled things differently (to put it lightly), I wanted to tell him how he is an asshole.  I also wanted to tell him that he is a pathetic excuse of a man, I have zero respect for him, and I cannot wait for him to leave our place of work when he retires at the end of this month.  Finally, I wanted to hit him with a baseball bat while I provided some dog training tips to him for the future.

The whole thing made me so mad – knowing the pup was treated inhumanely, watching people laugh about it as if it was funny, and his condescension and outlandish ability to actually flip the script on me, as if I was in the wrong.  Things like this will bother me for days, as it already has.  I struggle with being around people who make me upset, in any shape or form, because all I want to do is separate myself from stress, anger, sadness or worry.  Life is too short and there are too many wonderful people to consume ourselves with (like Hugo ♥) – no one needs a negative, evil human being in their midst.  I sure as hell don’t.

I believe the Statute of Limitations in California is up on this story, since it happened a couple decades ago.  Plus, the victim has since passed away – makes me sad for him, just knowing he had to go through that, all alone in the world, with his trust in the very man that hurt him.  It pains my heart that it happened and it hurts to watch him laugh in unison with others, as he reminisced about his brutal tale.  He ruined the following days in my life, as I cried inside for the dog and for the way he made me feel.  I know I shouldn’t feel badly but I do.  Hopefully a little more time, some hugs from my own loving pooches, and his upcoming retirement will make it all better.

 

1/3rd done…almost…

Nearly five weeks into my real estate coursework and I am about to complete my first course.  And now that I am on the verge of completing my first, 45-hour class, I can say, based on experience, that the three required courses of study in California are no joke (Thank goodness I chose the fabulous online format that I did – Real Estate Express has been easy to navigate and a breeze to use for several hours on a daily basis).

Now, that’s not to say that the material is incredibly difficult or taxing to learn but it is just a little bit more time-consuming than I had initially imagined it would be.  Regardless, I am genuinely enjoying learning about a new topic; for the entirety of my adult life, I have been fully engrossed with and consumed by my present career, meaning that all of my learning and focus has been on that sole topic.  Because of that, it is overwhelmingly refreshing to be soaking up something fresh.

I am also proud of myself for doing just that – soaking up something fresh.  At a time in my life when I could easily sit back and become lazy, both in terms of my personal growth and career, it is satisfying to my soul to not do either.  And to top it off, Hugo wrote me a beautiful card the other day, which was accompanied by a bouquet of colorful flowers and a delicious dinner, that said how proud he was of me and that I am an inspiration.  While that isn’t my goal, it makes my internal smile shine bright knowing that my partner is impressed with my pursuits.

As a parting, extremely girly, side note – I was about to spell check this post and sling it your way when a tv ad fulfilled its mission and caught my attention.  Within seconds I found myself scrolling through the advertised website – FabFitFun.  It is actually a really fun idea, that I may just order for myself.  In a nutshell, for roughly $50 per shipment, four times per year, a young lady, or young man (or old folks for that matter!), gets a box delivered with a varied assortment of premium products, such as makeup, clothing, and accessories.  The unknown factor is what always interests me about business ideas like this, because it exposes the recipient to items they may not otherwise discover through their routine shopping excursions.  Anyways, that was a little off topic but I thought I would share it because it looks like fun.  Oh, before I forget, the ad mentioned using code PARTY for $10 off…enjoy! ♥

Insecto del amor

Time stops for no one,

time eventually runs out for all.

Before I truly started life, I found you,

into an enthralling world of love I fall.

 

We grew and thankfully grew together,

like a vine I raveled tightly on

the sturdy shelter found in your shoulders,

my solo wander and lonely existence was gone.

 

It isn’t always easy and I wouldn’t want it if it was.

You push me with your passion for me, for life,

have shown me how strength in character, purpose and love

feels on my skin.  Thankful to be your wife.

 

♥ Written on Thursday, August 29th, 2019, at 8:45pm – missing Hugo as he worked a sixteen hour shift at work.

 

Love & nourishment

I am sure you have gathered that Hugo is nothing short of a fantastic, near -perfect husband by now and you wouldn’t not be wrong in that assessment.  I only say ‘near-perfect’ because we are all human and none of us are perfect; should one come close though, it would be my Hugo.  Throughout the past fifteen years together, he has only grown more loving, thoughtful and caring, about both my wants and needs.  One of my recent ‘wants’ has been an easy transition into vegetarianism and thankfully Hugo has also embraced this lifestyle change with open and willing arms.

Because he loves to cook (and I love to eat), Hugo has been making some delicious, meat-free meals for his love bug (yes, that’s me).  I decided it would be nice to share some of those recipes here, in hopes of bringing a little more vegetarian love into your home this weekend.

A few weeks ago, Hugo made Chef John’s Mushroom Burgers and they were to die for.  Pan fry and pair them with some sliced avocado, sauteed onions, melted cheese and a toasted brioche bun and you have yourself one of the best and healthiest burger options possible.

After basking in mushroom burger-goodness for three solid days, Hugo decided to make Bon Appetit’s version of Ratatouille Pasta.  This perfect blend of late Summer veggies transform into a decadent and satisfying dish, unlike any other veggie pasta meal we have had.

My hope in sharing these recipes is that someone, or a few someones, out there, in the great big world, will find some joy and healthy nourishment out of food that is both good for the body and our struggling planet.  Just this week, one of the largest headlines concerns the fact that the Amazon rain forest is burning down, due to farmers clearing land to raise cattle.  While we all know growing food and raising animals require cleared pastures and fields, it is disturbing and sad to see our of our most bio-diverse areas, that is responsible for producing 20% of the world’s oxygen, disappearing at an alarming rate.

If not for your health, or the animal welfare aspect, of choosing to be vegetarian, maybe, just maybe, do it for our planet.  We are all in this together and if we don’t start making decisions as individuals for the greater good, we are all going to be royally fucked.

 

My beautiful puppy

20181223_132103 (1)
Her first bath after arriving at her new home – December 23rd, 2018.

Koa is already nine months old and while we have only had her for seven of those 9 months, time has certainly flown by.  Last year at this time, Kaiser and Nala went downhill fast, back to back, and by the Fall of 2018 we were without our doggies.  It is incredible how we are all capable of loving, suffering loss, grieving and eventually, however hard as the while process may have been, moving on.  I longed for little Koa, and later Gunner, in our lives and I am thankful every day for their love and companionship.  So for today, here is a little tribute to my beautiful puppy – Koa the Boa (or so she was dubbed when she got feisty as a 15 lb armful at twelve weeks), born November 5th, 2018.

20181226_134623
You have filled a hole in my heart.

Sharks in the ocean = KK is a land animal

I need to start out by saying that I love and respect sharks, as I do all animals.  I can’t say the same for all human beings, who can be inherently evil and nasty to one another at times.  Animals, on the other hand, are innocent and just trying to survive, without any malicious intent.  With that said, I have a couple of fears in life.  None of my fears are truly debilitating but I do get extremely anxious and uncomfortable in water deeper than my boobs.  Ok, maybe my belly button…but who’s counting.

Something about the unknown of what lies beneath the water line or just out of sight.  I am the person that gets wildly freaked out when a small branch brushes their leg in waist-deep water, immediately panicking and believing I am being attacked by a sea monster of sorts (again, I would still respect said sea monster).  Seconds later, when the culprit is identified as a sunken, 3-inch branch, I not only feel foolish but I also feel safe.  Needless to say, the ocean is not my jam and I am okay with that.  Everyone has their likes and dislikes and I have come to find out, after my thirty-five solid years of walking on terra firma, that I am a land animal, tried and true.

Hugo and I have spent many day trips and relaxing vacations at the beach and I enjoy every second of it.  As most people do, I enjoy the fresh air, the scenic beauty, and the calming sound of the methodical ocean.  Hugo lives to fish (and would fish to live if he had to) so he spends most of his time doing just that.  I am happy when he is happy so as he fishes I normally lay in the sun, walk the beach or stand by his side, simply pleased to be close to him and the ocean.

Now, with all of that said and done, it is important to note that Hugo loves to swim in the ocean and he will swim, dive, snorkel, explore and even paddle hunks of shark bait 100 yards out on a boogie board, so he can effectively shark fish from the Florida shoreline when there with our family.  Yes, this happened…and it happened in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, which I have recently come to find out is known as the Shark Bite Capital of the World.  At the time of our beach house rental with Hugo’s family and my mother a couple of years ago, I had no idea.  If I had, I would have gone into protective mode of my prized Hugo and really tried my best to keep him safe and out of the water.  He probably wouldn’t have listened but it would have been worth a shot.  After all, I happen to like the guy and want him around forever.

This came to mind as we have rounded out Shark Week 2019 and I realized as I wrote this post that I fashioned a similar excerpt last year at this time.  For someone who is scared of the ocean depths, I have a tremendous amount of love for the magnificent predatory animals that call the ocean their home.  Now if only we could choose who the sharks bite (maybe one of our recent murderous mass shooters), the world would be a little closer to fair and just.

Back to reality

Hugo and I just returned from a fun-filled, super relaxing week at a five-star resort just north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  After cancelling our pre-planned Hawaii trip due to inclement weather as a result of westward moving Hurricane Erick, Hugo trusted my judgement and we rerouted South.  I found the Westin and, better yet, their cliff-side outcropping of private, deluxe villas called Baja Point, and what an amazing find it was.  So many wonderful things to say about this place and to be quite honest, pictures just don’t do it justice.

20190802_194649

It was our first time back to Mexico in a long time, after a much younger Hugo and KK spent a drunken night in Tijuana many moons ago.  This trip to Mexico was a complete 180° from our prior trip in more ways than one – the resort was absolutely breathtaking, the food was phenomenal and our emphasis was on mindful resting and recuperation of our spirits, as we took a short, six day jaunt away from work and the bustle of Los Angeles.

As my blaring alarm went off at 3:30am sharp this morning, for a brief, fleeting moment I thought, “What is that hideous, annoying noise?”  It was right at that moment that I realized it was time to return to work today.  I dragged my sunburned ass out of bed, into the shower and off to meet my annoying carpool partner Mouse I went (you may remember Mouse from a prior post of two – if not, read up).  I parked my car at our meeting spot, just shy of an hour after waking up, and got into the passenger seat of our shared, work vehicle.  As soon as I opened the car door, the gross smell of Mouse’s cheap cologne wafted out of the car and I remembered just how much I hate carpooling.  More importantly, just how much I dislike carpooling with him.

Maybe it is because I got a new job offer via text from a prior supervisor during our Mexico trip or maybe it was just the rough harshness of returning to work after a week out of country but either way, I wasn’t having it this morning.  To be honest, I inch closer and closer to not wanting to have any of it anymore, day after day.  The job offer entails transferring to a work location that doesn’t require carpooling and gives me a bit more flexibility with my schedule but my only hang-up right now is the risk of leaving a comfortable work environment that I may regret.  Hugo and I will have to discuss it further over the weekend as we marinate on yet another life choice together.

I digress.  Cabo San Lucas, or the small portion of it that I experienced from our luxury resort, was outstanding.  We rested and slept, sometimes in the fluffy King bed and other times on the cabana couches poolside.  We ate, most of the time in the high-end, rooftop restaurant and always a lot.  And we soaked up each other’s company – Hugo enjoying time with me and I with him.  Sometimes with our work schedules we can go up to five days without more than 5 minutes together so trips where we enjoy us are beyond important to our happiness and health as a couple.  Most importantly though, there is no one I would rather travel the world with, experience new and routine things with and rest my head on while taxing down a runway towards a new destination and adventure in this thing called life.

 

A new pursuit

After months of tossing and turning over professional development ideas ranging from entrepreneurial pursuits to working with my mom to countless other pipe dreams, I kept coming back to the idea of real estate.  I have always loved and admired home searches and sales, most notably enjoying the personal process that Hugo and I went through during our own sales and purchases.  After a recent conversation with an elderly neighbor who has had her ranch property on the market without any interest, I chatted again with my close friend Meg about the ideas we have discussed in the past.  Meg had previously offered to take me under her wing as a partner and to teach and mentor me if I chose to get my real estate license and work with her.  While the idea is to pursue it part-time at first, it may possibly morph into a full-time job should things work out. So for now, I have signed up for my online coursework, met with representatives at Keller Williams to sign on with them, and arranged to hit the ground running with Meg once I am licensed and good to go!

I am excited to begin this new chapter, which comes on the heels of finishing my college degree and my promotion last year.  I am also proud of continuing to push myself professionally and to learn another skill.  Life is short and there isn’t any reason not to work as hard as possible for both personal success and the hope that one day, just maybe, I can buy Hugo that big, brand new fishing boat that he deserves ♥

July 13th

It breaks my heart to have the recurring thought that the relationship with my father is actually falling apart.  I don’t want to admit that its the truth but time after time, it proves to be reality.

Here I am, visiting my parents on the east coast, spending nearly ten hours traversing to and from airports, spending hundreds of dollars and traveling thousands of miles, all so I can come temporarily live under the roof of the people who raised me.  As much as I miss them living far apart, there is a reason that I left nearly fifteen years ago.  Part of that reason was the fact that I was growing up and growing out of our small town.  Another part was that I wanted and needed my independence and to decide what direction I would go in life.  And, as I have discovered over the years, the third part of the reason is that I really can’t handle my parents for too long of a time.  After a short couple days of visiting, whether they come to me or I visit them, after day two or three I am ready to return to my sense of normal – Hugo, our lovely, quiet house, the pups and no one else.

It makes me sad to feel as distant as I do from my father.  And most of it has to do with him, despite the fact that I usually blame myself and feel as if I have done something wrong.  I know, deep down, that I haven’t and I shouldn’t feel badly for having moved cross-country.  Regardless of the shadow of blame he casts on me, as if I have done wrong or performed poorly in life, I know I have done well.  Thankfully, my mom, who I am as close as ever to, reassures me of such and Hugo eternally supports me in what I do.

It has been a strange reality coming to terms with being disconnected from my dad.  The relationship we used to have, when I was much younger, has slowly faded away over the years.  That fade, coupled with his distant personality and real lack of interest in what I do, who I have become and the life we are living on the West coast, makes for the great divide I am experiencing.

Sometimes I don’t know if he feels it like I do.  I do know that he has always wanted me to move back to my hometown so I could buy the lot of land adjacent to his and build a home there.  Well, that’s not happening Dad so get used to it.  I feel harsh saying it but rather than focus on the fact that I am not moving back home, I just wish he would support my life as it is.  Maybe show an ounce of interest in where I live, what I do and who I have become.  That ounce would go a long way.

 

 

 

Sad and pathetic

Every time there is an active shooter incident in our modern world, we all take a moment to reflect on the tragedy and the somber reality that this is life as we know it now.  You can’t go anywhere without the possibility of being a violent crime victim anymore and while some may argue that since the introduction of gun powder into our world there has been the threat of gun violence, I do feel that it has increased over the years.  Whether that is due to the media sensationalizing it or the fact that we share more by way of the internet, social media, and 24-hour news outlets, it seems like no public setting is safe or truly secure anymore.

What a sad and pathetic thought that you can’t attend a garlic festival in a small, northern California town on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon.  The world we live in does not allow for even that seemingly docile and lovely of a place to be free from burden and sorrow now.  Not sure if there are any answers or solutions to this phenomenon known as mass shootings.  Some side with the need for increased gun laws and others speak of mental illness but regardless of what is causing it or who or what weapon is to blame, it happens all too frequently.  Enough of the “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims” – it doesn’t do anything and is a load of bullshit for the real people affected.  Your thoughts and prayers won’t bring back their loved ones and it certainly won’t heal the wounds that the maimed will be recovering from.

A beautiful day

Yesterday was an outstanding Saturday in my life.  I smiled for 90% of my waking hours, high-fived hundreds of lovely people, ran into a variety of old coworkers and new friends, and even cried with overwhelming happiness on several occasions.

What initially started out as a day where I felt as if I was being forced to volunteer and wouldn’t have very much fun, pleasantly transformed into easily one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences of my entire life.  Several weeks ago, an upper executive at my place of work asked for a volunteer to spearhead the coordination of the upcoming Special Olympics portion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run in our area of Los Angeles.  In addition, whomever volunteered for this assignment would also be involved with the actual Special Olympics event in Long Beach this weekend.  Being new to my unit and the type of person who likes to help out when someone asks, I stepped up and said that I would take the handle on this side project.  What I first assumed was a side project quickly turned into a semi-main project for the next couple of weeks, as I unfolded the details of what would really be needed to make this large ceremony, charitable run, and multi-organization event possible.  After pulling together all of the moving parts that made Thursday’s speaking engagement, ceremony, media event and subsequent run a success, I breathed a sigh of relief that it was over and I could go back to just handling my primary job.  I took pride in the event running smoothly and my organization receiving a plethora of compliments on the execution of it.  Long story short, Thursday was over and my required presence at Saturday’s Special Olympics was all that was left on my to-do list.

After sleeping in until 5am (truly feels like sleeping in when you wake up at 3:30am every day), I showered and dressed, prepped the pups for my departure, and embarked on my sixty-seven mile drive to Long Beach.  Upon arrival, I met my hardworking female coworkers and we walked towards the event entrance.  As we approached the group meeting area, I began to notice the large volume of volunteers, young and old, who too had woken up and gotten ready for a day of giving back.  And that is just about when I started to feel the compassion, empathy, sense of community, and love that began to boil up around me.  By the end of the day, these feelings swallowed me whole.

There was a short speech by several leaders in our various participating agencies, as well as a couple words from Special Olympians, before we all posed for pictures.  Then it was time for the opening ceremony – I had been hearing about this portion of the program for weeks, as it was the most dynamic portion of the planning and logistical aspect of the event.  Over a hundred uniformed personnel lined the inner and outer lanes of the outdoor track as upbeat music played on the portable speakers and the Special Olympians lined up just outside.  The energy was building and I was beginning to feel a true sense of unity and love, as I stood shoulder to shoulder with strangers.

And then, one by one, Special Olympics athletes of all ages, races, sizes and varying disability level entered the track – some walked, others skipped and a select few had to be pushed in their wheelchairs.  Some parents escorted their child, regardless of their age, because they needed a hand making the long trek through our welcoming gauntlet.  As everyone in the stands and across the track cheered and shouted for the athletes, the energy was high for all those who were moments from competing that day.  We slapped hands with anyone who wanted a high-five and applauded the bravery and fearlessness that every single one of them embraced.

About halfway through the opening ceremony, a middle-aged African-American man, with light facial hair, thick glasses and a crisp basketball jersey walked past me, as he too entered the track for the event.  Just as he past me and our hands slapped mid-air, I yelled, “Hey, I know you!”  We locked eyes and he exclaimed, “Yeah!”  For a quick second I couldn’t quite remember where I knew him from but then my memory flooded back into focus – his name was Colbert and he was a Special Olympian, with whom I had worked a charity event with about eight years ago.  During that event I spent several hours working side by side with Colbert, as we waited tables at a local restaurant, all while promoting the Special Olympics and attempting to raise money from the evening’s patrons.  Seeing him again made me so happy because he has a beautiful soul and strong, resilient energy, despite his circumstances in life.  I reconnected with him after the ceremony and later watched him play an incredibly skilled basketball game before lunch.

I am not exactly sure what it was about that moment, where I was a part of the ceremony and saw Colbert again, that brought me to tears.  A part of me felt so sad seeing this large group of disabled children and adults, who have to fight through life just to survive.  Some of them aren’t able to care for themselves without assistance and others will never experience some of the small portions of life that far too many of us take for granted.  From driving or cooking a meal for yourself, to getting married, living independently and having children, some of the men and women who walked past me that day may never get the chance to do one or all of those things.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to or that they don’t try their hardest.

Maybe my tears were a result of watching the large groups of parents, volunteers and coaches who selflessly dedicate their lives to helping, teaching and supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our society.  The stress, money and commitment that comes with that significant job is definitely underappreciated yet on this past Saturday, for a brief moment, I could see them sharing in the happiness and success of just being there.  For some of the supervising adults, and most likely all of the participants, this weekend may have been the highlight of their year, or possibly their lives.

While I don’t intentionally have experiences where I want to learn something from them, when I do feel transformed by a particular event in my life, I really try to soak up all of the lessons that lie right below the surface.  I implore anyone who has never volunteered for a charitable cause, particularly with groups of people with special needs, to get up and do so.  Maybe you won’t be impacted as strongly as I have been but your response may surprise you.  At the very least, you will bring a smile to someone else’s life and it will give you a greater appreciation for humanity as a whole.

Don’t live as if you have the time

I can’t believe I am about to say this…but…I might have actually taken a very deep learning point away from a cheesy reality show yesterday afternoon.  While watching one of the many Real Housewives sagas, I observed an older couple visiting a cemetery monument store, where they picked out the headstone for the woman’s recently deceased parents.  Both parents died within the prior seven months and during the headstone selection process, the woman talked about hoping she would have another twenty years with her own husband.

I sat and processed the moment.  I reflected on my own life.  Most people are living as if they have unlimited time left on this earth.  Time to be with the ones they love, which usually results in taking people for granted.  A lot of people (myself most definitely included) put off major changes they want to make because we feel as if we can tackle certain issues tomorrow, or the next day, or the next year.  I don’t think I am alone in that but the mere fact that I acknowledge it allows for improvement.  Also, days drift along and we are all sometimes guilty of wanting time to rush by, in order to get closer to a vacation or a promotion.  Sitting here writing, I realize how precious time is.  My most recent reminder came from my neighbor Mark’s cancer battle.  Although he was initially told he wouldn’t live past Christmas of 2018, he is still above ground and fighting.  He is self-admittedly living day by day and I truly believe there is a lot to be learned from that style of appreciation for our loved ones, our experiences and our beautiful planet.

As the woman on the RHOP (Potomac series, the true Real Housewives fans get it) said about her own relationship, I too have the same recurring thought from time to time about having my spouse around for the remainder of my life.  Hugo is the most wonderful person I know and love and I sincerely hope that we have at least fifty years or more left together on this crazy planet.  I can’t imagine what life would be like without him so he better be there to keep me centered ♥

A day

Wake up.

Quick, turn the blaring alarm off before he stirs.

Rush to shower, dress, do chores, time is ticking before you are late, but you’re early for another day of the same.

You watch the clock and wait until the hours tick by and the day is done

Just because it’s work because if it was good or filled with love, you wouldn’t want it to end.

When it’s all over though, you will have watched all of these days drift away all because you needed to work for a purpose, or what you thought was important or worth it.

You only work to afford all the things that you think that you need but do we really need any or half or a quarter of what it all is?

Could we downsize and minimize and compromise and possibly help one another a little bit more in this world so we all didn’t have to…

Wake up.

Clueless with cancer

As I wrote the title of this post, I felt a little bad, but not nearly bad enough to discontinue putting these serious thoughts on paper, so to speak, on this overcast, rather gloomy Sunday morning in California.  Not two days ago, I was down on the lower half of our property, letting our juvenile pups run around and get some fresh air.  As we walked towards the fence that borders the street, I saw a red 4×4 utility vehicle with my older female neighbor, Patty, driving, their elderly golden retriever Tommy on the middle seat and Mark sitting shotgun.  Mark, who is riddled with devastating bone cancer, had his old flannel shirt on, a smile on his face, and a three-foot sprayer wand in his hand.  As the threesome cruised along their curbline, Mark vigorously sprayed commercial-grade herbicide from his lethal contraption, as he has probably done multiple times a year for the whole of his life.  I immediately had several thoughts flood my mind – ‘Holy shit, that is disgusting!’, ‘Where are the dogs?’, ‘Are we downwind?’, and ‘I hope that shit doesn’t get on any of us or our property’.  Thankfully, he disarmed himself as they approached and they pulled over to chat for a moment.  Tommy and our pups played for about five minutes, Mark gave me the regular dreary update about his health status (just finished more chemo, feeling pretty terrible, but hanging in there), and I enjoyed a couple minutes with the two very sweet, but sadly clueless, neighbors in my life.

It breaks my heart that there isn’t an easier way to tell those you care for about things that matter or impact them.  Case in point – I want to scream from my rooftop to Mark’s that the chemicals he is using are poisonous, not only to him and his family but also to his poor dog, the deer who eat our grass, the rabbits who run through our open fields, and our suffering honeybees who pollinate our flowering hillsides in spring.  I also want to tell Mark about all of the recent court cases involving cancer patients winning their suits against Monsanto/Bayer, in which a judge determined the plaintiff’s cancer was caused by their exposure to the noxious product RoundUp.  Although it is sadly too late in Mark’s case, because he almost certainly cannot cure himself of his brutally aggressive disease, it pains me to think of someone ignorantly exposing themselves and those around them to something that is harmful, to say the least.  I also do not want that stuff anywhere near myself, Hugo, the dogs, or any of the other lovely creatures out there.

Sometimes there is a part of me that just wants to share what I know with those around me, regardless of how they interpret or digest it.  And that’s not to say I know a lot but I am conscious of what I use in my home, on my body and in my small world on our three-acre plot of earth.  That is all I have control over in this world so I make every effort to make smart, healthy and earth-conscious decisions wherever I can.  Because of my knowledge and consciousness, I want to help others, which in turn helps the rest of the world.  I wish I could just email them and tell them not to use certain products, with a detailed explanation as to why, but unfortunately, a lot of people (Mark and Patty included) would not only look at me sideways but they would also retort with ten reasons why spraying is better (cheaper and faster than manual labor, kills all of the weeds for the whole year, etc.).  I know the reasons because I have heard them before and when I do hear them, that is usually when I stop talking because clearly the battle isn’t worth having.  Especially between two sets of neighbors, one of which is fighting for their life, with an herbicide sprayer in hand.

A pledge to figure it out

Last night I rifled through my blog notes that I originally wrote down about nine months ago when I started this wild journey.  Notes about writing topics, hopes, dreams, wishes and fears, things that interest me and things that I dislike, place we’ve gone and places we intend to go, and a whole slew of other random blurbs about where I want to take my life.  That seems to be my free time thinking topic these days – where I am going and how am I going to get there?

Yesterday, as I muddled through another mundane Thursday on the 7th floor of my downtown Los Angeles high-rise building, I once again had the recurring thought of a different life.  Well, not completely a different life – don’t get me wrong, I am not leaving Hugo, the pups, my beautiful home, or the remainder of my close family.  I mainly just want to change my job and how I spend my time, as I strive to find something that excites me and pushes me both mentally and spiritually.  The spiritual side of it pertains to my wish to pour my heart and soul into a passion project that I could spend my life doing.  And I keep looking around at the world and all of the different people and professions that comprise this massive planet and I can’t help but wonder – what else is out there?

Maybe I am being a little selfish thinking about what more I can do for myself and never being completely satisfied with my current position in life.  Don’t get me wrong – I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am and I am very thankful for the wonderful benefits that come with my current employment.  Regardless, I can’t deny my feelings, my gut and my heart.  In my opinion, no one should.  Thankfully, I have an insanely supportive spouse, as well as parents who always want the best for me, so I really don’t have anything to lose.

It might just me a weird phase, as I continue getting adjusted to work life in the big city.  After all, I am a country girl at heart and maybe I will never get used to a long commute, spending ten to 12 hours a day in the concrete jungle, and the overwhelming amount of human interaction that comes with a large organization with tons of moving parts.  I probably tell Hugo on an almost daily basis how I want, need and crave a change.  At this point, he is sick of my frustration and uneasiness with my current situation.  Maybe sometime soon I will either find peace with the present or decide to jump into the deep end of the entrepreneurial ‘pool’.  But first, I will need to buy some swimmies.

Torn but not broken

Try to stop the distance from tearing us apart.

Been away too long and we just aren’t

From strong, to fair, to fading

No matter how much we fight for a strong love, we end up with fringes.

 

Try to stop the distance from tearing me apart

When we talk, its not the same

We want to fight the inevitable but sometimes the world happens without our permission

Your cold lack of interest in my life, wants and dreams

Hurts my heart, doesn’t matter if you mean it or not

You only care about yourself, I don’t care what you say

You only think of what you want, need and feel – I am an afterthought, don’t care if you deny it.

 

This smothering blanket of uncertainty and, and, and

You are selfish and sick, sad in the head and ill in the chest

Your only child keeps screaming out for something more

Your only wife tries hard, you just ignore.

 

Try to stop the distance from tearing you apart

We are all you have

You don’t love yourself

You taught me to be depressed and insecure and to not love me

Just like you don’t love you

Now I struggle with the same pain

And I hurt my partner, just as you’ve done

Thank god for reflection and change so I don’t repeat the same mistakes as the generation before.

 

Try to stop you from tearing me limb from limb

The mind corrupts, the body follows

The father leads, the child learns

I’ve gotten good from you but also all of the dark

Deep, lost and broken puzzle

As you fall closer into.

 

Familial friendship

Just because you are family, doesn’t mean you are friends.

My mom and I have uttered that phrase many times throughout the years.  We normally mention it when we are chatting about the fact that we are such close friends and how we find our tight relationship to be quite a rarity among family members.  Among all of my friends, coworkers and outlying family, none of those people share the love and bond that my mom and I have.  We see a lot of surface-level interactions, where people are cordial, polite and relatively kind to one another, but nothing that remotely exhibits real friendship.  Maybe it is just our family, although I believe these types of things occur in a lot of other family circles, but I see more fake bullshit, jealousy, arrogance and rude behavior than I see genuine kindness and love from some of my aunts and uncles, not only to myself but more so to my mother.

Throughout the years, I have seen several of my aunts and uncles, including my mother’s only sister and her dorky husband, treat my mother as if she was less than in every respect.  Despite my mom being the older sibling, who has always cared for and loved her little sister, my aunt has routinely spoken condescendingly and disrespectfully both to and about my mother.  As my mother’s daughter, I hate this.  I am really sickened by anyone who mistreats my mother, who is such a kind and loving woman.  My mother would give you the shirt off of her back (in fact she has with children in need in South America) and she exudes love and happiness every day that she walks through life.  She greets all those she comes in contact with on a daily basis with a smile, generosity, friendliness and a feeling of genuine realness that is too often lacking in human interactions these days.  I believe that my aunt acts the way she does because she is an insecure person who is unhappy with herself and jealous of the beautiful relationship that I have with my mother.

Despite the lack of relationships that I have observed in both my own family and countless others, I am so thankful for the lovely mother that I have.  From the love, guidance, grace and endless support she gave me as a growing girl, to the friendship and pure fun we have during our visits throughout the year, I am so grateful for her in my life.  As both of my parents are in Poland right now, and I am even further from them geographically than I normally am cross-country, I am sending love to those two wonderful people in my life.  May their bellies be full with fresh perogies and their hearts full of happiness…and should they choose to order the pig cheek from the room service menu for a late-night snack, I hope it brings a smile to their face.

 

*6:59pm update:  I almost forgot.  My intention with this blog post of the next was to make a commitment to write a little more and to truly make this one of my more important and present priorities.  Now that school is done and the pups are getting older, and therefore mildly more independent, I have a little more free time that I want and need to devote to this passion project.  So join me on this journey as I pledge to write more frequently – don’t hold me to it if I miss a day or two though, ok?

 

Crossroads

Is it a mid-thirties crisis, the fact that I’m fed up with my current office job, or the stark realization that life is too short to spend anymore time than you have to doing things you aren’t dying to do?

Not really sure what I intended with posing that question but all three of the above options are how I feel and what I am currently debating in my sunburned head.  Yes, I am mildly sunburned after spending a beautifully relaxing weekend at the beach with Hugo and the pups.  It was their first time staying by the ocean and they spent the majority of it learning about seagulls, big waves and just how much sand in your belly and up your nose makes you feel sick.  This weekend did so many things to me, and they were good things at that – I once again realized just how much I love Hugo as my partner in life, I reaffirmed how obsessed with and thankful for our two new pupster additions I am, and, finally, I circled back to all my continuous thoughts about doing something different concerning work and really pursuing my dreams.  This quite time by the Pacific made me realize just a little bit more how life is constantly fading away, with every passing minute, so why waste it commuting into a heartless city to engage in work that doesn’t excite or reward you, when there are so many opportunities lying right outside of your comfort zone, just waiting to be explored?

Tough questions with even more difficult answers, because the answers require great risk and no guarantee of reward, success or happiness.  But I think that is part of the thrill and appeal.  If we knew it would work out, most of the anticipation and our ability as humans to pour our blood, sweat and tears into an endeavor might subside.  Also, our ability to create sometimes hinges on a fire being built right under our ass, leaving us with no choice but to jump up.

Regardless, I still want a change.  I am not sure where to go from here and I can’t just make these feelings go away.  Some people easily work thirty years, from 9 to 5, in an office or not, just plugging away at their job, only to finish their tasks at hand on the day of their retirement party and pension check.  Others (and I might be in this group) struggle from their hire date with inward questioning about if the job is for them, if something else would make them happier and pondering what it would look like if they were to quit, today.  Now, throughout a long career, some might fall out early on, while others may grumble and moan, yet remain, until the bitter end.  It is probably just a matter of time, personalities, pressure (both on oneself and from family), and the size of that fire under one’s ass.  Hold on, I have to go…the flame is burning my bum.

Speaking Up

Saying what’s on your mind, telling a loved one tough news, and standing up for yourself can be some of the most difficult words that we utter, if we even say them at all.  I have always been someone who preaches the importance of telling those around you how you truthfully feel and emphasizing how much you love someone, because we all never truly know how much longer we have together on this Earth.  In addition, I place great importance on admonishing those we care about, in an effort to correct potentially destructive or dangerous behavior they may be engaging in before it is too late.  I always fear the idea of failing to remind a friend, subordinate at work, or my loving Hugo to either wear sunblock or to slow down while driving on slick roadways, because it could possibly result in them being injured, or worse, and I would know in my heart that I could have and definitely should have said something.  If I think it, it is worth a couple caring words to try to help those around you.

So, that leads me to tonight’s topic – speaking up.  There have only been a few times in my life where I have decided that my fear of some particular dangerous thing, and the potentially enormous associated risk factors, outweigh the social stigma and nervousness around being the person who ‘said something.’  A lot of people think things and, better yet, most people with sound judgement know better, however, very few will actually speak up.  From telling someone you are engaged in conversation with that they have a speck of wilted spinach in their teeth to suggesting a loved one reschedule an upcoming flight, due to forecast storms that may wreck havoc in their path, I am of the philosophy that when one thinks of warning a friend, by way of voicing a thoughtful opinion, it is always the best way to go.  Tactfully done of course, and always rooted in love and concern, a simple sentence to say, “You have a little something in your teeth” (because I don’t want you embarrassed), or “Maybe it would be safer to fly the following day, when the bad weather passes” (because I love you in my life and want you safe in one piece) is all it takes to potentially change the course of someone’s trajectory for the better.

Ok, got a little sidetracked explaining how and why I feel as strongly about speaking my mind as I do.  Just because I can write about it, doesn’t mean it has always come easily to me – I honestly don’t think the exercise of standing up and voicing an opinion comes very easily to many people.  Regardless, I did it tonight and I am glad I did.  For months now, I have been carpooling into my downtown Los Angeles job (you know, the new job I transferred into in February) with a male coworker that we will call Mouse (for the sake of this piece…and maybe because he is a relatively small, feeble individual who is rather consistent with a tired little rodent in my mind).  Mouse and I share the use of a Ford Taurus, trading the task of driving one another from our north county residences month after month, in an effort to save gas money and reduce the number of vehicles on the already congested Los Angeles freeways.  Alright, I might be fibbing here – we do it so we don’t have to spend our money on gas and vehicle wear & tear…the Ford Taurus is completely comped through our employer so it is a lovely little perk.  Again, there I go off topic…

After months of riding shotgun as Mouse speeds down the interstate, through multiple lanes, around slower tanker trucks and almost into the rear-ends of early morning freeway commuters, I have become more and more frustrated with his driving style and, quite frankly, a bit fearful for my own safety.  Now, you see, Mouse isn’t exactly an Indy 500 race car driver.  In fact, he wouldn’t qualify as the equivalent of an Indy 100 driver, if there was such a thing.  I say that because Mouse isn’t very stealthy behind the wheel – with a couple close calls, where he tried to smoothly maneuver around slower moving traffic, only to almost collide into gas tankers as the lane he was in suddenly ended, I am not impressed with his judgement or skill set as a middle-aged commuter.  In fact, I am completely turned off by his driving because not only does he lack the basic skills that many aggressive drivers have (I can comment on this because I am a fairly assertive driver myself), but he also appears to be speeding to impress me or prove just how bad-ass he is.

Needless to say, I am not impressed by Mouse.  I like mice, don’t get me wrong, but Mouse is a prick in my opinion.  Point blank, his driving is annoying and he is selfish because he is putting my life at risk by driving like an asshole.  So, tonight I said something (queue the applause).

It all went down like this:  Mouse texted me about an hour ago asking in his regularly paranoid, self-conscious state if something he said earlier, during our afternoon ride home, had annoyed me.  As always, I wasn’t really sure what Mouse was talking about, but as I was about to reply back that everything was fine, I decided to finally voice my opinion regarding how I truly felt.  Not that Mouse had seen me upset, because he hadn’t, but I have been thinking the same thing for weeks – slow the hell down and don’t kill us on the way to work!

So I said it like this – “The only thing that annoys me is driving 90mph to work for no reason…no need to put our lives at risk for nothing.”  And that’s it, I said it and couldn’t take it back.  Not that it was bad but it certainly made me feel vulnerable, judgmental and exposed.  But you know what?  That’s ok, because I said what was on my mind, I finally explained to someone who has been engaging in unnecessary, risky behavior that I don’t appreciate their callousness, and, most importantly, I finally stood up and spoke up for myself.  After all of those mornings thinking to myself that I sure hope he doesn’t lose control of the car and I become a paraplegic today, I finally told him how I really felt.  His reply – “Ok.”  And that is ok because I got it off my chest, put my feelings out there, and possibly saved my own life just by speaking my mind.

A week of relief & celebration

After sixteen years, 4 different schools, and well over $100k, I am finally a college graduate!  Sitting here on the couch, browsing on the internet and awaiting the arrival of Hugo for a quick bite to eat during his evening work shift, I am glowing with happiness and so relieved that my Bachelor’s degree is finally complete.  What began as two years of undergraduate work at the University of Vermont, eventually morphed into restaurant management school, years of work training and several junior college courses.  After completing my Associate’s degree about seven years ago, I continued accumulating work training and the equivalent college credits through our local college.  As I was laying on the couch after my recent fifth knee surgery this past summer, I got bit by the repetitive I should finish school bug that had bitten me many times in the past.  In prior years, however, the thought entered my mind, I applied for a few schools, submitted transcripts and let the idea die on the vine as I lost interest and didn’t see the serious need to move forward, since it was expensive and unnecessary given my current position.

For some reason, August of 2018 was different and thankfully so.  I applied at three online universities who offered similar degree paths and were roughly the same price per unit.  After narrowing it down to Union Institute & University, I closely analyzed the final budget for my college pursuit, applied for financial aid but got denied, and approximated the additional costs associated with purchasing books and those fun, random fees.  Within a couple of days, I was registered for 8 months worth of upper division classes, multiple Amazon school textbook orders were en route to our house via 2-day Prime shipping, and I was finally committing to finishing something I started in 2002.

As I have said in prior posts, finishing my college education at the ripe old age of thirty-four, all while working 50 hours a week in a taxing career, was both a carefully orchestrated dance of time management, and one of the most satisfying pursuits of my young adult life.  As I ticked through every homework assignment and research paper, I was, and still am, proud of myself for sticking to it and doing a damn good job.  Without being cocky (just stating the facts folks), I got straight A’s for every assignment in every class since August.  Now, before I pretend I am going to be some outrageous summa cum laude valedictorian of my online, accelerated learning, let me soak in my remaining 30 seconds of peace and happiness that comes with finishing the damn thing :).  Long story short, my paper degree will be processed and mailed out in 4-6 weeks and I can add this satisfying line to my resume for future promotional purposes.  It just feels good to check something off of your life’s to-do list, knowing that you set out to achieve it and that is just what you did.

 

So many questions

I might be having an existential crisis.  Or maybe I am just sick of working in a downtown Los Angeles office building, devoid of sunlight and fun.  It seems like every day I become increasingly more uneasy with accepting my current job as my workplace reality for fifteen to 20 years longer (who am I kidding, there is no way I am working twenty more years!).  Regardless, I keep returning back to my ever-present thoughts about wanting to build a business, develop a product, pursue my writing, start a partnership with my love Hugo, or basically do anything in my power to walk away from being a government employee that is bound by the strict confines of a 9-to-5 job (in my case, 5am ’til 3pm, when I finally break through the hellish LA traffic that owns the nearby freeways for twenty-three hours of the day).

Hugo is jamming to our favorite Americana music in the kitchen as he makes pork and tofu dumplings for dinner.  As he prepped ingredients over the past hour, I sat at the table whilst he chopped and we collectively brainstormed all of the ideas we have about our business pursuits.  After making a list, getting excited about things together and dreaming of all the directions we could go, I realized once again just how blessed I am.  I am thankful for having Hugo as my support system – it doesn’t get better than having your best friend there by your side, always willing to hash out the day’s events and dream my wildest fairy tales with me.  He just shouted from the other room, “I’m so lucky”, a reminder that he feels the same way.  It warms my innards to know we are in this thing called life together.

So back to the issue at hand – what direction do I go and how the hell do I get there?  The certainty of having a steady career, with excellent pay and benefits, as well as a guaranteed retirement, brings some serious security with it.  On the flip side, exploring the unknown and pursuing your passion has a crazy appeal to it.  Maybe its because the latter brings an uncharted, entrepreneurial path that is riddled with adventure and no promises, both of which are missing from my current work.  Or sometimes we just might be drawn to that which we don’t have or circumstances that differ from our current atmosphere.  Either way, I am craving a change and its just a matter of time before I make some moves (exciting, huh??!?).

For now, I will get my clothes ready for a 3am alarm, pack my lunch pail full of the healthiest options I can muster up, try my best to get some solid rest, and, once again, wake up to start another Tuesday in the City of Angels.

Eat & Support Organics: For you, the animals and the planet

My husband Hugo and I have repeatedly experienced scenarios with coworkers and friends where they question why we eat organically.  When we sit with these people at lunch and they catch a glance of a drink or packaged item of food, we are often questioned regarding what it is and where its from.  Their aggressive line of questioning is often summed up with an awkward, uncomfortable look of relative disgust, since we are obviously the weird ones who eat strange things.  In addition, if we happen to say we bought the delicious and healthy item at Whole Foods, their look also encompasses a sprinkle of ‘you wealthy little snob who shops at the expensive grocery store.’

As I type up this quick synopsis of how almost every encounter with those around us at snack time goes, I realize, even more than before, how crazy this uneducated behavior truly is.  Both Hugo and I were not raised in an area or around people who were so confrontational and unfamiliar with quality sustenance.  And honestly, this shit gets annoying because we eat organically for a variety of reasons, none of which the majority of people understand.  After awhile, I get tired of being asked what I’m drinking (kombucha), explaining what it is and why its delicious and nutritious, and then receiving a rude look and snarky comment.  In my opinion, those who are eating conventionally deserve the scowl, seeing as the farming process degrades the earth, the involved animals, and our bodies.  I guess I could go on about this forever and I do truly wish I had more, well organized time to retort when confronted.  In the end, my intentions are to educate others about my personal, multi-faceted love for organics and why it should be important to everyone.

First off, growing and producing organic food is the only sustainable, long-term approach we should have and need to have.  With the bulk application of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, conventional farmers are killing their overworked soil, allowing lethal run-off into our streams, rivers and oceans (which in turn contribute to algae blooms), and killing our bees.  Our poor honey bees – the mass army of soldiers who pollinate nearly all of our food, therefore enabling us to eat and survive as a species – are dying at a rapid and alarming rate, primarily as a result of exposure to the main, cancer-causing ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate.  It is disgusting, scary and widely used by ignorant people everywhere and, in turn, honey bees nationwide are meeting a sad, toxic fate.  While I could write about our declining honey bee population all day long, please read more via my included links.

Second, raising organic meat and planting and harvesting organic produce is the only ethical and healthy way to farm.  Organic standards for animals require the livestock to be free of antibiotics and hormones and to be fed a strict diet of organic feed.  In addition, the majority of organic meat producers also provide lovely quarters for their animals, which include large outdoor areas, access to grass and fresh air, and living conditions that do not include overcrowded, factory-style barracks.  Of course all of these variables are dependent on the type of animal and the farm’s location on the globe.

Finally, eating organically is good for you!  When fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, dairy and everything else we ingest, is humanely raised without synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, the antioxidant level is drastically higher, the taste speaks for itself and the human being actually consuming it is not coating their insides with carcinogenic sludge.  Case in point – Dr. Mercola attests to increased antioxidant levels and the Pesticide Action Network explains pesticide accumulation in our bodies.

I will never forget the car ride with my mom from a short few years back that is forever ingrained in my photographic memory.  While driving home from a long, relaxing day at the beach, during one of her many trips to visit Hugo and I on the opposite coast from her, we took the scenic route through the massive expanse of citrus farms just west of our house.  While winding through this particular farmland in the late afternoon, off to the right of the car we both observed one of the more disturbing things I have seen – a man wearing a full-body, hazmat style suit, face mask and boots spraying chemicals on a crop.  Although our observation only lasted for a brief moment as we passed by, the image was forged into both of our minds and we continue to talk about how sad and frustrating it was to see.

To think of just how much and how often pesticides are sprayed on conventional crops is beyond troubling because my heart hurts for the school kids who are inhaling the fumes and being coated with the particulate mist downwind from these commercial farms.  My heart hurts for the farm workers who may not be educated on the effects of exactly what they are using on a daily basis, or maybe they are yet they need the income and are willing to take on the extreme health risks from exposure so they can provide for their families.  My heart hurts for the cows, pigs, chickens and every other innocent animal who is pumped with hormones or antibiotics, or both, to increase their size, up their production and keep them sickness-free, since they are overcrowded and not taken care of, thus leading to poor health and zero immunity.  When the herbicides run into the ground water or enter a farmland adjacent stream, slowly flowing into larger bodies of water and eventually into the ocean, they pollute our oceans, kill those who live there and contribute to deadly algae blooms.  My heart hurts when beaches are closed and fish are floating dead to the surface.  And finally, my heart hurts to think of a developing baby being exposed to mass amounts of pesticides as their uneducated mother eats our mass-market fast food around the clock, polluting her body and the blood supply to her unborn son or daughter.  In the end, my heart just hurts.

So, given my thoughts and raw emotions behind why I care so much about organics, it really makes me both mad and sad when all of these people I engage with at work or in public either have no idea about what it means to eat organic or they scoff at the idea of a quality, non-toxic item costing $1 more.  Their lack of manners, common sense, and brain cells astounds me but, regardless, I will always continue to explain what kombucha is, tell them where I bought it, and say, with a big smile, that it tastes delicious.  I’ll do this probably until the day I die because you never know, maybe my rambling about the honey bees might just change someone’s mind.

Sweet family dog pile

I didn’t look at my timeline prior to beginning this post but I know it has been quite awhile since I have posted anything.  Somehow, even despite my prolonged absence, there continues to be new readers who pop up from time to time.  I am thankful to everyone out there who finds interest in what I have to say.  Writing gives me peace and although I don’t do it enough, when I do, I remember exactly why I enjoy putting finger to keyboard.

So where to begin.  I will start at the present and work backwards because that feels like it makes sense right now.  It is Monday, March 25th, at 5pm PST and I am sitting on my couch with The Shining on TV and two beautiful puppies at my feet.  They are snoozing before suppertime, with light snoring and their ears flipped inside out, after running around on the patio in the afternoon sun.  The windows and sliding glass doors are open, the sun is beginning to descend, and I can hear the water fall from our large, double-sided rock fountain just off the sun room.  That fountain is one of the most beautiful blessings in our home, one that we didn’t realize the benefit of until we moved in nearly seven years ago and saw the high volume of bird activity that our water feature attracts.  The weather was beautiful today – 75 degrees and sunny with a light breeze.  It feels so good to be coming out from the other side of our winter in SoCal, a winter in which we sustained a heavy amount of rain and overcast days.  For us Southern Californians, the lack of sun and the cold weather (a bone-chilling 50 degrees on some days) is somber and depressing.  So, needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed the past two days of sunshine on our warming planet.20190225_090620

I believe I have welcomed Koa in this forum but our newest arrival, Gunner, has yet to be seen.  Gunner joined our family about a month ago, after my coworker from a prior assignment called in need of help.  Heather and her husband, who are also Rottweiler lovers, got Gunner from a breeder just north of San Diego and they readily welcomed him into their family.  Heather’s family consisted of the two of them and their older dog, who they have had for twelve years.  When Gunner, the lively three-month old puppy entered the picture, the older dog was not as hospitable as they had hoped.  What started as minor nips turned into a couple of progressively more violent and frightening attacks on Gunner, as the older dog did not have patience with his puppy energy.  Heather knew she had to do something immediately so she called me, remembering that I had mentioned we planned on getting a male Rottie pup this summer, once Koa was settled, trained and a little older.  Although she didn’t want to give up her new little guy, she knew that she had to make a change, in order to keep Gunner safe.  It only took Hugo and I about thirty seconds to decide if we would take Gunner – he was adorable and in need of a home so it was an easy decision.

Heather drove to our house the following night, with their SUV arriving in our driveway and her husband popping out from the backseat.  Gunner was on his lap, wrapped in a paw print blanket and ready to start the next chapter of his life.  We let Koa and Gunner meet, on their leashes and from a distance at first, but that only lasted a few short seconds.  As they both tugged to get closer to their new sibling, their noses eventually touched, they gave each other a kiss and they immediately became best friends for life.  Since that night they have forged a bond rooted in love and adoration for the happiness they bring each other, Koa giving Gunner a safe place to live and Gunner providing our little girl with the companionship she so craved.

Now, I can’t say that having two puppies, who are mere weeks apart, at the same time is easy.  Because it’s not.  At all.  In fact, just about every other day I have a brief moment where I wonder how I ever got into this chaotic puppy situation in the first place.  And then I look into their sweet little eyes, who are already staring back at me with such extreme love its overwhelming, and I answer my own questions.  Somehow these two little beautiful souls have perfectly filled the void that Kaiser and Nala left when they passed.  That’s not to say that we replaced our dogs or forgot about them in any way.  But it really is magical to see and feel the happiness that they have brought to Hugo and I.  And interestingly enough, both Koa and Gunner truly embody all of the joyous aspects of our other dogs, without even trying.  Koa is channeling my late Nala’s love and calmness and I can feel her energy being carried on through this new young lady.  She is so young and full of life and when she stares back into my eyes, it’s as if she is telling me that Nala is safe and happy, wherever she is, and she would want me to be happy.  And then there’s Gunner, who is not more than fifteen inches off the ground and already 41 lbs.  In fact, I had to weigh him four times the other night, because I couldn’t believe the number that the scale was spitting out.  Regardless, our chubby baby brother has found a permanent place in our family and it couldn’t have worked out any more perfectly for everyone.

Resized_20190316_160435

In between puppy play time, three meals a day for growing bellies, and obedience/socialization class, I have been slowly but surely continuing to inch towards finishing my degree.  I can now happily and proudly report that I only have a little over four weeks left until my Bachelor’s degree is finished!  With a taxing job that begins shortly after 3am during the week, plus double puppy trouble and the remainder of adult life commitments, needless to say I have been busy.  But it will all pay off soon, when I have that piece of paper and upgraded resume to boot!

Finally, the other happy happening to report is the joyful ten years of marriage that Hugo and I recently celebrated.  I couldn’t imagine life without him because my life is defined by his friendship and love.  When I met him over fifteen years ago, I had no idea what life would have in store for us.  We have taught each other and grown together, transforming from kids with throwaway jobs and nothing to lose into adults with careers, a gorgeous home and two little pup kids.  My love for Hugo continues to grow, day by day, and it surprises me to see that the trajectory continues up, without an end in sight.  He has shown me what a true friend looks like and what a real man is, and because of this I find it difficult to find many people in the world who stand as tall or as strong, in terms of character and dignity, as he does.  Hugo, you are the love of my life ♥

 

A long hiatus…but we are back in the game

Happy New Year to everyone out there in the world reading this.  I wish you nothing but happiness, success, and love in 2019.

Speaking of happiness and love, I would like to introduce Koa.  Born on November 1st, 2018, she is approximately nine weeks old now.  Hugo and I got her two days before Christmas and we couldn’t be happier having new life and love in our home.  Koa came from an outstanding breeder in Temecula, CA – Vom Bustos Hause.  Frank @ Vom Bustos Hause truly values the Rottweiler breed.  He loves his dogs and breeds for both temperament and good blood lines/healthy dogs.  She is absolutely wonderful and we couldn’t be happier.

20190106_130245001

She walks on the leash already, listens to us, and greets us with love and enthusiasm when we walk in the door.  What more could a dog mother and father ask for?  She had her first experience with our UPS driver today – when our driveway sensor went off, she ran to the door like an alert Rottweiler should and she greeted him with excessive tail-wagging and happiness.  I then received my final books for my next college classes and we resumed our day.

Speaking of school, I am embarking on my final four months of classes.  I logged on today and begrudgingly began my schoolwork once more.  It is tough to get the ball rolling after the holiday break but I know in the end it will be worth it when I have my Bachelor’s and I am finally done!

Work has been stressful (as always) so I visited the chiropractor today for an adjustment.  My neck is cramped, my shoulders are tight and my patience is low (nothing new really, just the same old nonsense that I take way too seriously).  Hugo always tells me to relax and not worry about things but that is easier said than done for some people.

Our neighbor Mark finally has some good news – his recent blood test said that his cancer cells have died off and he is doing really well!  He and his wife Pat are incredibly optimistic.  So happy to see them be positive and hopeful for this new year with a fresh start.

20181226_134534.jpg

Just like a puppy in your home breathes a fresh start and reminds you of innocence and love, I hope I can continue to remind myself that life is simple and all too short.  After watching our last dogs greet the end of their lives this past summer, and watching the cycle of life continue with our new girl, I have to remember that life is short and incredibly valuable.  None of the other stuff is important.  Maybe our girl Koa can teach all of us a thing or two – be kind, be happy, and live each day as if it is both your first and last.

Thank you and I love you

A thank you letter to the men in my life:

Dad – Thank you for loving your only daughter so wholly and fully, without judgement towards me as a woman or pressure to be something else.  Thank you for allowing and encouraging me to dream big and about whatever I wanted.  Those dreams ranged from being an orthopedic surgeon to being a police officer and you supported all of them in their own right.  Never once did you say that since I am a female, maybe I would be better suited for this or that.  I can’t tell you how much that eternal belief in my ability to succeed and do whatever I wanted has impacted me in every aspect of my life.  I wouldn’t be as strong, independent and proud to be female without having had you as my father.

Hugo – Thank you for loving me as your wife and, more importantly, as your friend and equal partner.  Since joining our lives together at twenty years old, you always look at me as we stand, side by side, as equals.  I was never a woman in your eyes, I was a person who you loved.  As I dreamed of how to proceed professionally in my life, you supported it all, without missing a beat or questioning if I could handle it.  You pushed me to push myself and I thank you for your love and friendship.  As we have watched friends condescend on their spouses through the years, my heart is whole knowing that you have always spoken so proudly of me as your wife and encouraged my success as a strong female in the world.  You are a shining example of how men should treat women and you do it every day without even trying.

To the two men who have loved me for the entirety of my thirty-four years on Earth – one of you picked up where the other one left off.  After Dad raised me, Hugo became my partner in crime after moving out of my childhood home.  Your similarities are great, in that you both have pure, generous hearts, and your love knows no bounds.  I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have the two of you in my circle but I must have done something right in my prior life.

Love, K

You might wonder where all of my thankful, female rambles originated from tonight…well, here is a little back story.  After Hugo and I finished watching The Haunting of Hill House, which is absolutely wonderful by the way, another #MeToo movement moment flashed on the news feed.  We chatted briefly about this never-ending phenomenon and it occurred to me that I have been extraordinarily lucky to have been raised and loved by such genuinely wonderful men.  As I watch so many other women be demeaned, belittled and degraded by those close to them and predators alike, I am grateful for the love and support I have always received.  I only hope that men and women continue to raise their children with a remarkable sense of love, support and purpose.  Then, one day, they can hand their children, now all grown up, off to someone who will continue the good work those parents have done.

With love in my heart and all around me, goodnight ♥

Pumpkin Ice Cream to die for…and awaiting the results of Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake

Spending a warm, Saturday afternoon making use of two leftover apples in our fridge.  We are watching Anchorman on TV as the Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake from Pinch of Yum has twenty-five minutes left on the timer.  It smells amazing so I will advise of the results shortly ♥

Earlier this week, in celebration of my visiting Mom, I made Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream from Chef Nick Holcomb on the Food Network website.  Hugo, Mom and I ate several servings (a day) of this delicious recipe and I am happy to report this just might be the best ice cream I have ever had.  I used Pacific Foods Organic Pumpkin Puree, rather than fresh pumpkin, and it turned out beyond perfect.  Not only did it check the ‘festive’ box, in honor of Halloween this week, but it hit a delicious, perfectly spiced note in our hearts.

Although my Dad doesn’t make too many super sweet desserts anymore, after developing type II diabetes and drastically altering his diet, I carry on his love of cooking, baking and preparing food for the ones you love with your bare hands.  I love the process of baking, love the sweet smells emanating from the kitchen through the entire house and love even more the feeling of making Hugo’s belly full and pleased.  And that is all sure to be accomplished just as soon as this apple cake comes out of the oven.

Frustrated but loved

Just enjoying a beautiful Wednesday afternoon among the best of company – Hugo and my mom.  What could be better.  After so many weeks of sadness, frustration and aching pain, I feel mentally and physically defeated by my chronic knee injuries.  I am off work again for at least six weeks, as my right knee heals from the most recent trauma, my first PRP injection and the cumulative effects of my recent surgery and years of damage.  It has not been an easy road and I have to admit, it is wearing on me.

I feel defeated about having a chronic injury and the negative stigma that injury brings with it for work purposes.  Despite everyone telling me to just not care about what other people think, it is not always easy.  I have never been concerned or consumed with what others think about me but for some reason, when it comes to work and my reputation, I take it a little too seriously.  I have worked really hard over the past eleven years, not for others but for myself.  I pride myself on being a hard worker and busting my butt for my work product.  Then, being hurt repeatedly over the years, which is always a result of work itself, I feel as if I am viewed like a chronic issue, despite the injuries not being my fault.  If you work hard and put yourself out there in my line of work, injuries are sometimes inevitable.  Ever since my first knee trauma, my knees have turned into my weak point.  I always seem to hurt them and as my injuries and surgeries have progressed over the years, my knees have weakened even further.

I know I shouldn’t be concerned with what others think.  I know I should just focus on myself and continue to work as hard as I can, within the parameters of an injured body part and a partially defeated heart.  I know I am stronger than anyone who doubts me.  But I am human and sometimes, our feelings feel deflated and our souls long to have others truly understand our position.  When I feel as if I am being unfairly judged about my condition, I just wish I could have an honest conversation with whomever is doubting me.  I long to show them that I am hurt and just trying my best to navigate through life, like everyone else, with my own personal baggage.

After days and weeks of mulling over these feelings, I break down from time to time.  Hugo is always there to lift me up with kind words and strong hugs whenever I need him.  I am forever grateful for his unwavering love.  Just last night, during a moment of tears and frustration, I told Hugo I was feeling depressed over the situation.  Alone with Hugo in the living room, as my visiting mom was upstairs momentarily, Hugo replied, “Don’t be sad, you have your loved ones around you.”  He couldn’t be more right.

Glowing skin

One of my favorite daily rituals (that sometimes occurs several times a day) is washing my face and caring for my skin.  My process begins with removing my makeup, if it happens to be the end of a long work day, by way of a cleaning towel or makeup remover.  Then, I scrub my face with whatever cleanser I happen to have in my rotation that month.  I tend to buy different cleaners, from either Origins, Whole Foods or Amazon, but they always fall under the same category of being chemical-free and possessing as many organic ingredients as possible.  I am always sure to thoroughly read the ingredients on every label, as well as the fine print.  This is an important step that I feel a lot of women tend to overlook since they may be more concerned with a desired outcome, such as anti-aging or acne, than what is actually in the product.  My philosophy has always been to value the quality of skin products just as highly as you value the quality of the food going into your mouth.  After all, your skin is your largest organ so it should be treated with love and respect.

After cleaning, I pat my skin dry and sometimes (yes, only sometimes), I use a light toner to remove excess dirt and grimy makeup residue.  Then it’s on to my favorite part – moisturizing!  I can’t tell you how many times, especially in recent years, I have found myself yelling to Hugo in the house about how much I am enjoying applying moisturizer to my face and neck (I will get back to the importance of moisturizing your neck in a minute).  There’s just something so enjoyable about cleansing and properly moisturizing a clean face that brings joy to my heart ♥  It makes me feel refreshed and beautiful – who couldn’t ask for a better way to start or end every day.

Keeping up with my healthy skin regimen really improves my glow and overall complexion.  Over the past month, several women that I work with have told me that my skin is glowing and it looks beautiful.  It feels really nice to be told that and I normally attribute my clear skin to what I am eating (organic, balanced diet) and my skincare regimen.  But tonight it occurred to me, I have been doing one other little thing that I completely forgot about – using argan oil mixed in with my moisturizer.

I bought a little bottle of organic argan oil about six months ago, after hearing about its beneficial applications for skin, hair and nails.  At times I will rub a few drops in my palms and finger-comb it through my hair, rub it over my eyebrows and massage the rest into my hands and fingernail beds.  It feels nice but it makes you look as if you have super oily, un-showered hair.  That’s normally alright though because I will just do it right before bed and then wake up to shower it out.

Since I have had this same bottle of argan oil hanging around on the bathroom counter for months, slowly chipping away at it, I decided to start mixing it with my tried-and-true Alba hawaiian facial moisturizer.  Hugo and I have been using that face cream for years and it is truly fabulous – lightweight, clean and refreshing.  Now, I cranked it up a notch with a few drops of argan oil and the results have been noticeable to those around me.

Final note – always moisturize your neck!  I will never forget reading a short article years ago about the importance for women, and men for that matter, to always give love to their neck skin throughout their lives.  Point being that we tend to give a lot of attention to our face in general, eye area and crows feet, and mouth and smile lines, yet the neck sometimes get forgotten.  Then, in later years, there may be a stark contrast between the face and neck skin.  I am firmly committed to always thoroughly moisturizing my neck and I am sure to remind Hugo that one day in the future, when I am a svelte seventy-five year old vixen, my neck will be flawless to match!

What is love

What is love

Not a question really, more of a statement

 

His hands roughly massage the arch of my bare right foot

He does it because he loves me, he does it because he wants to make me feel good, relax, at ease

He does it because he is a beautiful soul who cares more about his wife than anyone or anything else

And he would do it forever, without having to be asked

 

The feelings of love, that have grown from small sprouts of attraction into stalks of the deepest bond

Eternal, life-devouring, my other half

Some search their whole lives to find this or feel a fraction of it on any given day

 

On this Tuesday night, I am unapologetically drowning in it

I never want it to fade, we never want it to subside

All I can be is thankful for him

Diligent in loving him back

Careful to never take it for granted.

Why do we love leggings, ladies? I think I have the answer

Because they’re awesome!  I could wear leggings every day, all day.  Even to bed.  Form-fitting, soft, snug and figure-flattering, who doesn’t enjoy a sexy pair of well-made, skin-tight pants?  Leggings are cute and easy, two things working women need in their lives.

After seeing the television ads for Kate Hudson’s company, Fabletics, I finally decided to visit their website a couple of months ago.  I fell right into their VIP offer that includes 2 pairs of leggings for $24 as an introductory offer.  The only catch is that you have to either keep or cancel their VIP membership after capitalizing on the offer.  Despite what you do with the VIP status, the leggings and that price are excellent.  I would recommend that everyone, or every lady, checks out these hot pants.  For $24, you really won’t be disappointed.  In fact, you may react like me on a recent laundry day.  When taking my clean laundry out of the dryer, I had a full-blown meltdown when I realized I forgot to remove the leggings from the full dryer cycle, exposing my new spandex to roughly fifty minutes of hot temps.  Despite my oversight, the leggings fared fine in the heat so I dried my tears and lived to wear my jet black leggings another day.

Unhappy but determined

It’s funny how you can’t deny or change who you are at your core, despite how hard you try.  That can be both a good and a bad thing, sometimes at the same time.  My current work environment does not make me happy and I don’t feel appreciated by my supervisors.  I am a skilled and determined employee.  I pour my heart into my assignments and genuinely care about doing a thorough, respectable job, for myself and the organization that I serve.  The most frustrating thing I am finding as of recently is not feeling like my authentic self is not appreciated.

Now, don’t misinterpret what I am saying as I have no intention of appearing conceited or needy for attention.  I take pride in my work ethic and am fully conscious of the high percentage of sub-par employees with whom I populate our office with.  I know my worth and I am not afraid to say it.  I am proud of how far I have progressed in my organization in the short eleven years of my employment.  I am also fully aware of how many coworkers put out a mediocre product, it is no shock to anyone as they are transparent with their lack of interest or hustle on the job.

So, given that I bust my hump, day in and day out, routinely coming into work with aches and pains, even limping at times, one can see how I would be frustrated when my upper management lacks any empathy for my recurring injuries, given my undying dedication I routinely exhibit in my workplace.  If one of my bosses called me at 2am and needed a favor, I would be there and they know it.  When someone has a complicated task that they need to entrust to someone they know will deliver, on time and well-done, I am the one they call.  So it is reasonable that I feel let down by the very people who employ me.

But it’s not personal, it’s business.  And even I have to remember that at times.  Hugo is constantly telling me that I need to distance myself from caring so intently about my career because, in the end, it is just a job.  None of the people I work with will be there fifty years from now, when I am waddling around after knee replacement surgery, which is inevitable, needing a hand up the stairs.  You know who will be there, my Hugo.  My eternal best friend and the love of my life.

Despite feeling unhappy at times and frustrated with things that I definitely can’t change, it helps to put pen to paper and vent.  It also helps to take a moment to realize that despite how certain individuals treat me, I will continue fighting on.  I can’t change my devotion and my intense interest in doing a good job.  That drive is inherent and honestly, I don’t want it to change.  I will always work hard and be determined to be the best because that is in my blood.  And deep down I know that one day I will settle into a position with like-minded people where I am appreciated for who I am.

 

I spoke too soon…

Just as fast as I posted my last thoughts today, Hugo agreed to getting a second puppy!!  We will now be getting the first pick male (boy pick of the litter, if you will) from the next batch of puppies slated to be whelped in late December with our breeder.  Our girl will now have a best friend for life, permanent wrestling opponent and partner in crime as it relates to chewing on our newly renovated kitchen cabinets.  I can’t wait to see what fun and joy the next chapter brings ♥

Circle of life

I am beyond excited for December 28th now.  Not only because the date is smack dab in the middle of the holiday season but mainly because that is the planned date that we will be picking up our new female pup!  We are so fortunate to have found a local, ethical breeder who has true respect for our favorite breed, the Rottweiler.  Vom Bustos Hause is owned by Frank Bustos and based in Temecula, a few hours away from us.  The mama Rottweiler is pregnant as I type this, with a due date of November 3rd.  Eight weeks after that date is the end of December, when the pups will be weened and ready to go off to their new homes.

I can’t sum up how happy and overwhelmed I feel at the thought of our new puppy joining our family.  It was a rough summer, that included knee surgery and the painful loss of our two beloved dogs, and Hugo and I are ready for happiness to once again be the presiding emotion in our home.  After months of deep sadness, fading hope, declining health and feeling broken losing our two best friends, I have so much love to give to someone new.  Our ‘someone new’ isn’t even in this world yet and I already love her ♥

Since she will be of European descent, with her father being a Serbian show champion, Hugo and I intend to pay homage to her German ancestry by naming her accordingly.  I have been trolling German dog name sites, compiling a list of suitable two-syllable names for potential future use.  If anyone reading this has any good name ideas in German for a bad ass female Rottweiler, please do share.

Hugo and I debated getting two puppies at once but we decided the cons might outweigh the pros.  The cons include difficulty in training two puppies at the same time and being overwhelmed, almost outnumbered and possibly taken over by puppies.  Some of those actually might be pros if you think about it.  The pros, on the other hand, include the fact that we would have two adorable puppies in our home at once, they would be brother and sister, and it would bring such joy to my heart watching them have fun together.  As I type this, I realize I am going to keep hounding Hugo about getting a second puppy in late December because it really would be amazing.

I really can’t wait for all of this love to enter our home again.  But rest assured, the fond memories of Nala and Kaiser will forever be imprinted on our hearts. We buried Nala yesterday in the same spot as Kaiser and Hugo is currently working on sealing both of their paw prints.  Once the sealed prints are ready for outdoor exposure, we will place them on their co-ed burial spot and remember them every time we walk past them.  Sometimes I catch myself looking out of the window and looking at their grave, just sending them love and wishing they were close to me.  But, like Hugo says, they still are.

Beautiful private rocket show from our balcony

20181007_192447My husband loves space.  From space travel and the discussion of life on Mars to touring our local Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Hugo’s inner little boy ignites when he hears Neil deGrasse Tyson speak.  I love how he loves it and because of his passion and fascination with the cosmos, I have slowly but surely become more engrossed with it all.  Sometimes at night we will shut the television off, grab a blanket, and lay in the middle of the driveway, watching and waiting patiently for shooting stars or the recent Perseid Meteor Shower.  On that particular night, our sick and dying Kaiser crawled on the blanket with Hugo and had a quiet moment alone under the night sky.

Last night, at 7:22 pm, we ran upstairs and perched ourselves on our western-facing 2nd floor balcony, ready for the rocket launch that Hugo had heard about.  From what he saw on TV, Vandenberg Airforce Base, which is about 100 miles northwest of us, was scheduled to launch a SpaceX rocket.  We waited for ten minutes, re-positioned ourselves in an open field adjacent to our house, and waited some more.  Nothing.  The only thing that happened was a scary bug crawled over my exposed sandal-clad foot, causing me to descend into minor panic.  And that’s when we realized we had the wrong night.

So, tonight, a little past 7 o’clock, while my husband was working and I sat online shopping for school books, Hugo texted me that it was about to start.  It being the SpaceX two-part launch that included a satellite being sent into space and the ‘first part’ (what I gather is part of the rocket launching mechanism) returning back to the launch pad at the base.  We both got into our respective positions, me at home and he outside of his car at work, and waited.  With the live stream countdown hitting zero, the bright rocket show began.

Over the course of a few minutes, the launch and separation illuminated the night sky so beautifully.  I toggled between taking photos, listening to the SpaceX commentary regarding the success of it all, and texting Hugo with excitement.  It is because of him, after all, that I got to enjoy such an awe-inspiring moment.  There’s something about watching an object lifting off from our planet and traveling out into the dark unknown that gives me chills.

The most marvelous part of learning to love and appreciate space, and all of its unique and limitless possibilities, is that I feel more centered and humbled.  By taking a few moments, like this launch or our night sky viewings laying in the driveway, you realize just how small we are down here on Earth.  My favorite part of that realization is the fact that our problems, worries and frustrations, despite feeling overwhelming and grandiose at times, are truly so small.  We are all just little ants floating on a big mass of water and dirt, surrounded by darkness and the unknown.  Now that is pretty cool.

Disgusting

A girl that I work with was bitten by a black widow while working a few days ago.  Not a huge deal since it is SoCal where black widows, among other spider species, are common.  Also not that devastating of a situation seeing as she only sustained swelling and mild discomfort.  The most frustrating aspect of the entire ordeal is that fact that our organization has decided to drastically increase their application of insecticides.  They intend to do so by having our contracted pest control company come to spray in more areas of our building and on a more frequent basis.

I am so disturbed by this response, considering the building itself is old and extremely dirty.  Rather than cleaning and approaching a potential bug problem with a natural, common-sense approach, our management, who is not health conscious in the least, went with the quick fix.  I understand that pesticides and insecticides are household products that countless citizens use in their homes without thought.  However, I am not one of them and I do not appreciate having to be exposed to toxins based on others’ ignorance.  I wish people would educate themselves regarding the risks of exposure to chemicals and be more aware of how they were taking care of themselves and one another.

Nala’s 9th Birthday

Although she passed one short week before her ninth birthday, today we celebrate all the good, loving and wonderful that was Nala.  We miss her dearly and feel the void she left in our home.  It is quiet and I am lonely.  Adjusting to life without a guard dog isn’t any fun as every small noise I hear through the open slider doors makes me feel helpless at the thought of a prowling burglar.  With Nala and Kaiser close by, I always felt that I not only had an early warning system for impending threats but I knew deep down that those dogs would be there for me if I ever needed them.  Little love bugs at the core, those two beasts would’ve battled if the circumstances dictated such.  And I truly loved them for it, even if it was just at the thought of them protecting me.

In other news – I almost fell for a phone scam this afternoon!  Around 4pm, I received a call on our land line from a heavily accented male who claimed to work for AT&T.  The caller congratulated me on being a valued customer and offered me a ‘too good to be true’ promotional rate, plus free movie channels (I mean, come on…who can resist free HBO?).  When I asked what the catch was, if anything, he replied that since the promo was sponsored by Amazon, it was necessary to pay three months up front with a $450 Amazon e-gift card, which would have to be purchased through the Amazon website.  Despite $450 sounding like a steep rate, the offer was actually a huge savings.  In addition, we would receive a Visa check card as a thank-you gift.  As I clung to every word, he had me…hook, line and sinker.

Suspicious as I was, I asked a variety of questions, all of which were met with reassuring responses.  The scammer ended our conversation by providing me with my unique promotional code and a DirecTV promo phone number to call once I had my gift card number.  I called the number and I was met with the same automated menu that I have heard during prior DirecTV calls so it immediately appeared legitimate.  Then, the male voice who answered validated all of my account info so I once again felt reassured.

At this point, I had also purchased the Amazon gift card but for some reason it hadn’t been delivered to my email inbox yet.  The order info from Amazon said that it would arrive within 24 hours and thankfully it was delayed.  Had I received it instantaneously, I probably would have handed it over via phone to my second scam artist right away.  Thankfully, the email was delayed for about forty-five minutes at this point so I called my level-headed Hugo (code name – smartest man alive) to tell him about his great offer.  He yelled, “Babe, it’s a scam, don’t do it!”  Within seconds, Hugo had conducted an online search that revealed his wife had almost fallen victim to a popular scam.  Thankfully I have Hugo to conduct checks and balances on me.  We all need a second set of eyes from time to time – I am just happy that it happened before I gave that swindler our money!

I think I was even more susceptible to being hoodwinked because I have been beyond annoyed with both DirecTV and AT&T recently, due to constantly increasing rates and the lies both companies have told us through the years.  Having just switched from Sprint to AT&T for our cell phones, Hugo and I were initially offered an outstanding rate for service and two new Samsung S9 phones.  I got the purple, he got the black and we were thrilled (Side note: The phones are just swell).  However, once we received the bill, the rate was quite a bit higher than we had agreed upon.  This pissed me off as it felt unfair, considering our whole purpose in switching was due to the reduced rate.  So, needless to say, when I got that 4pm phone call, my internal voice said, “Well, it’s about time that they did something good to us!”  Boy was I wrong!  That should have been my first clue that it was a scam – big corporations never do anything good for the consumer.

The biggest learning lesson that I took away from this was to double-check with the actual company when something appears too good to be.  When I first told Hugo on the phone about it, he told me to call DirecTV on the regular customer service number to ask them if they were offering the promotion.  Rather than call the number the scammer provided, which in hindsight was obviously a bullshit number as well, call the legitimate number to verify.  When I did, I was told outright that they have never offered a promotion like that and confirmed it was fraudulent.  I feel embarrassed even writing that I fell for this nonsense but hopefully I can prevent someone else from giving their hard-earned cash away.

Adjust as needed

In my line of work, there is a phrase used as a catch-all on a routine basis.  Adjust as needed is commonly slapped on the tail-end of our project plans, in order to cover the contingency aspect if things happen to change.  Supervisors alike will say, “Just adjust as needed, depending on circumstances,” making the act of changing plans on the fly sound like a simple task.

Over these past two months, life as Hugo and I know it has changed drastically.  Things, most of which were out of our control, have changed and we are desperately trying to adjust as best we can.  Our house is quiet and lacking energy after the passing of sweet Kaiser and Nala.  We miss them so incredibly much and the feelings make me sick.  Every time I look at my cell phone, Nala’s precious black and white photo adorns the lock screen.  She is staring back at me as if to say, “I’m right here.”  It’s just that she’s not right here with me and I wish she was.  I might have needed her more than she needed me in life and I feel a little lost without my two little love bugs.  Thank God and the Perseids that I have Hugo as my best friend and partner in crime.  I can’t imagine the sickening state I would be in if he ever left my life.

Two nights ago I emailed five different breeders, as well as the Rottweiler Rescue of Los Angeles.  Simple inquiries about puppy availability and the age of some rescues, that’s all.  I feel guilty for even having considered new puppies to join our family.  Nala and Kaiser won’t be replaced though.  In due time, however, we will find someone, or someones, to bring into our family again.  We have a lot of love to give and it would be a shame to waste that.  Even when we have had dogs, we still have more love to give.  One day we plan to build a barn and fill it with a couple of horses, chickens and whoever else strikes our fancy.  Hugo has suggested an emu or rescue pig so who knows.  Whomever joins our ever-expanding family will most surely be met with open arms and a warm heart.

As we lose those we love, I realize just how much we have learned from and grown with the animals that spent all of their years in our lives.  Hugo and I got Kaiser as soon as we returned from our wedding party in Costa Rica.  Prior to getting married in Los Angeles and flying to Costa Rica to celebrate with our family, there was Marley Bear.  Marley was our first Rottweiler, who drove cross-country with us during our big move and occupied our first 800 sq. ft. apartment.  We were three peas in a pod until she passed away from kidney failure while we were out of the country.  Marley was only five years old when she passed away – her death didn’t hit me in exactly the same way because we never saw her suffer badly, she died suddenly, without warning, and we weren’t present for any of it since she was staying with our neighbor in our absence.  Marley was a tough girl who lived in frigid northern Vermont, wearing gortex booties on the frozen asphalt for walks, and lived in three different states as I bounced around during my college years.  She taught me to be flexible and to let some things go.  Most importantly, Marley showed us how to live in the moment because you never know when all of this bright and sparkly reality will disappear.

Nala and Kaiser gave us nine beautiful years as a family of four.  Hugo and I realized the other day that they grew with us so beautifully as we all evolved into adults together.  We almost made it one decade, during that time Hugo and I accomplished a lot, matured into adults and forged an even stronger bond and clearer path with one another.  We bought and sold houses, advanced tremendously with our careers, and grew to love one another on a surreal level.  And when it was all said and done, we couldn’t have done it without Nala and Kaiser’s love.

How quickly things change

Not even twenty-four hours ago, I was sitting here writing about Nala’s resilience.  Well, today, just after noon, her time finally came to an end.  As I stood in the kitchen cleaning the grounds out of our coffee grinder, I heard a shrill cry come from Nala as she speedily ascended our brick stairs.  I ran over to her as she was standing, weakly balancing on three legs, in the living room.  Her body was shaking and she looked miserable.  I yelled for Hugo, who ran over to us, and we both knew that it was time.  Nala’s cancerous shoulder had finally snapped and she was suffering.  We loaded her into the Jeep and off we went to the vet to put our second puppy down in less than two months.

What a miserable experience this has been.  She was in such pain at the vet’s office, I asked them if there was anything they could give her to relax her and ease her discomfort.  The vet returned with a shot that ended up almost knocking her out, because when they wheeled her back into the room after inserting her catheter for euthanasia, her eyes were in a hard, fixed position, as her tongue flopped two inches out of her mouth without care.  We hated to see her like this but at least she was out of pain.

As the vet administered the two-shot series, Hugo and I hugged her and cried as she parted with us.  I pet the single white hair that sat just to the left of her eye.  That white hair sprouted up months ago and refused to fall out.  It was just as resilient as her spirit, that literally fought to the bitter end.

 

A sense of relief

Just wrote my third research paper in eight days.  An audible sigh burst from my school-burdened lips.  What a sense of relief I got from feeling like I am moving in the right direction as I continue to slowly and methodically accomplish my goals.

Waking up on my day off from work, brushing my teeth and typing thirteen pages on my laptop – what has my life come to?  I pose that question jokingly because I know exactly what my life has come to.  I am an independent, successful, driven woman who is fixed on getting her degree.  I don’t care if I am resuming school at the ripe old age of thirty-four.  Better late than never and boy does that feel good.

Hugo and I already made celebratory plans that include drinks at the Peninsula Hotel lounge in Beverly Hills, followed by a culinary adventure at Spago (Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, also in BH).  I will get straight A’s and finish at the top of my class just for the fine dining alone!

Inspiring resilience

20180907_181439 (1)I am sitting here rubbing Nala head as she cranes her neck up onto the seat of the couch and stares into my eyes with pure love.  I am once again overwhelmed with how wildly strong this dog is.  Her ninth birthday is a week from tomorrow, on 10/2, and she has been battling bone cancer like a boss for about two months now.  We really didn’t think she would make it this long but we are beyond happy that she has.  Every other day we have a moment of fear that she is entering a rapid decline, as she starts limping more severely and appears somber.  But then, somehow, she continues to recover from these spells and trudges on.  The fight is real and it burns in that beautiful dog’s heart.

I realize that I haven’t posted for some time.  This is 100% due to the fact that I am in the midst of finishing my college classes for this concentrated term and am bogged down with research papers.  Additionally, I am taking home some work projects so all of my free time has been spent on my laptop trying to dig myself out from under this self-inflicted rock.  I signed up for it and I’m glad I did, it’s just a lot.

Not only is Nala fighting for her life but our friend Andrew is too.  After a two week binge drinking session after he departed the LA area for his move to NorCal, Andrew somehow found the strength to fight his way out of his rancid motel room and into a sober living house.  He began work at his new assignment and is trying to resume normal life now.  Hugo and I are so happy he made it out alive once more.  I know they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but honestly, he has been pretty close to dying so he must be ridiculously strong by now.  Our relationship with Andrew is the closest Hugo and I have ever been to an alcoholic and it is astounding to see what the human body can tolerate and how crushed the human spirit can become.  He lives to see another day and continue fighting so, as his mother says, we will just keeping hoping for a good tomorrow.

Pound cake for Tootie

I picked up the remains of Kaiser today and brought him home.  His ashes, tucked safely away in a little wooden box, sat quietly on my front seat – one last car ride together as I sobbed uncontrollably.  When Hugo came home from an early morning fishing trip, we hugged and sobbed once more together.  Prior to his arrival, I set the bag from the vet, containing Kaiser and his clay paw print, down on the rug in our living room right where he used to lay.  This spot was loved by Kaiser, where he routinely lied down and flipped over onto his back, by gripping the side of the couch with his strong paw and leveraging his body weight to flop over into his most favorite, comfortable position.  Anyways, call me a little crazy, but it felt right to set him down there for a few minutes.  Nala came over and smelled the bag intently – she knew it was her old pal.  He had come home.

For some reason, I wanted to do a little baking this afternoon, almost as a final gift for Kaiser to celebrate how much we loved him.  I am not sure if that makes sense and quite frankly, I don’t really care.  We had leftover buttermilk that didn’t have a use to us, after Hugo bought it for cast-iron pan cornbread last week (absolutely delicious).  A quick Google search produced this gem of a recipe – Buttermilk Pound Cake.  I sliced some strawberries and dusted our slices with powdered sugar.  Hugo and I ate two fat pieces each and didn’t have one guilty feeling between us.  We cheers’ed with our fork and spoon, as a nod to our beloved Tootie (Kaiser’s silly nickname), and I gave Nala a tiny morsel so she could partake in the happy moment.  We decided that the pound cake satisfied our dinner void and called it a night.

Fight for farmers and vote with your dollars

I can’t believe that as a 34-year-old, independent working woman, I am about to say…I am bogged down with schoolwork!  As I scroll through endless syllabus pages that outline research papers and a multitude of assignments, I can’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into?”  In the end, it is a very good thing and I am quite pleased that I am back to school, back to school, as Adam Sandler would say.

Just a heads up to anyone out there that cares (and honestly people, everyone should care about this insanely important issue), the Farm Bill is back on Congress’ agenda this week.  Read about it, sign a petition and have a voice in changing our country’s pitiful environmental policies.

Also, a local community organizer in Ventura County, which is adjacent to our home, wrote this blog post about the heavy use of chlorpyrifos in Ventura County that I enjoyed reading earlier today.  Educate yourself on the toxins that are being applied to the conventionally grown foods that you eat.  I have personally driven past the farms they describe in this article – on any given day you can observe farm workers in hazmat-style suits applying chemicals to strawberries and other crops.  It really makes you sick.

My dad sent me a cool link this morning to a company called The Cornucopia Institute so I thought I would share it here.  This link provides all US-based organic dairy farms with a rating, based on their farming practices and care for their animals.  It is interesting to see that all organic brands are not equal, with vast and shocking differences existing between the highest and lowest ranking names.  What I learned from this ranked list is that the majority of large grocery store chains, who have in-house organic brands, are among the lowest ranking.  These bottom-dweller brands are doing the bare minimum to be in compliance for organic certification and I don’t think I will be supporting them anymore.  Hugo and I chatted about the rankings and were happy to see that the brands we normally buy (Stonyfield, Annie’s Homegrown, Organic Valley, etc.) are at least 4 cow brands!

As a final note, I urge anyone that is reading this to think long and hard about what you put into your body and what kind of planet you want to live on.  I personally don’t want to ingest chemical-coated strawberries and genetically modified sweet corn, swim in algae-bloom ponds next to golf courses with bountiful herbicide run-off, or drink milk from cows who have been fed low quality grain, locked in a dark barn, absent sunlight and love, all while being injected with hormones to increase milk production.  Consider the choices you make at the supermarket as an election – every time you buy an item, you are placing a vote for the company, the farming practices and the animals that fall victim to it all.  I choose to vote with my dollars to support those who care about our health and the earth at large and I sure hope you do too.

 

No one said that life was going to be easy

Wow, where to begin.

I have been off the radar and radio silent for a handful of days now.  Needed some time to find my bearings after a stressful August.  August, 2018, will go down in my record book as the shittiest month of my life thus far.  After our awful ordeal with sweet Kaiser, we found out that our female Rottweiler, Nala, has bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her front right shoulder.  What first presented itself as a minor limp and corresponding lump over the joint, turned into a cancer diagnosis after a series of x-rays at the vet.

For those who are not familiar with osteosarcoma, it is no joke.  An aggressive form of bone cancer, osteosarcoma is prevalent in large breed dogs, with Rottweilers said to have an occurrence rate of approximately one in 8.  That is a very high number, shocking to read quite frankly.  Our poor girl is the 1 in that equation.  After being presented with three equally bad options from the vet, which included doing nothing, amputating her limb, and/or doing chemotherapy and radiation, we chose to let her spend the remainder of her short life (based on her illness) feeling as good as possible and just being a dog.  We put considerable thought into the other options though – at one point Hugo and I had the three-hour amputation surgery scheduled but we later cancelled it.  We did our own independent research and discovered that dogs with this type of bone cancer normally do not live very long after being diagnosed, due to the aggressive nature of the disease.  Even when amputations are performed and additional, very expensive and physically draining therapies are administered, there still isn’t a very good likelihood of the dog surviving past a year, at best.  Sometimes, dogs only live a couple of months after amputation surgery.  And I am sure the recovering from losing a limb is not easy for those poor pups.

With all of that said, the biggest concern that the vet, and therefore we, have is this impending issue – due to the presence of bone cancer in her shoulder joint, the joint breaking is inevitable and just a matter of time.  That is why amputation, to remove the afflicted limb, is normally a viable option.  Hugo and I are terrified of her shoulder breaking because not only does that mean she has to immediately be put down but also because we don’t want her to experience that extreme level of pain.  After not wanting to leave the house at all, in fear that she would be all alone when her shoulder finally succumbs, I found myself staying home with her as much as possible.  I would hug and kiss her every time I walked past her, most times breaking into tears as I grasped onto her head.  I would hold it, remembering how her entire body used to be the size of what her head is today.  A little pile of puppy.  Nala of course was unaware of why I was so emotional, it was just another day to her.  And that’s when Hugo had an amazing idea – let’s buy a baby cam to set up to monitor her when we are away from home!  Within minutes, we had Amazon’ed a $30 Wansview camera that features two-way audio.  Technology is incredible and the feeling of security as we monitor her from afar is worth well above the purchase price of this valuable resource.

With everything considered, we opted to keep Nala out of pain with medication and rest, as well as anything her heart desires in the food category.  This has recently included chips and a little guacamole, scraps of barbecued chicken from our Labor Day picnic, and cheese nibbles from our goat cheese afternoon snack plate.  Although she is limping around and we are restricting her running, she has a big smile on her face and the energy to chase passing birds every day.

So for now, we are just enjoying every day with our girl, our last dog left.  I fear for the day that she isn’t here as our house will be empty and sad and just not right.  It has been tough experiencing such sadness and heartache with both of our puppies within such a short time frame.  It hit me so hard that I have been physically sick throughout this entire process.  To describe a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach would be a severe understatement.  I only hope that in time my body will calm down.

Not really sure how to transition from Nala to our friend Andrew but here goes nothing.  Andrew relapsed also immediately after celebrating one year of sobriety.  He is a sad idiot, he is a bad friend, and he is an asshole son.  He is a raging alcoholic who fell back into his dark hole.  This time, the dark hole manifested itself in the form of a dimly lit motel room in central California, as Andrew partially completed his road trip to Eureka, his intended destination.  He works for a large communications company and was lucky enough to be transferred up north, an opportunity to have a fresh start in a new part of the country.

The main things missing in Andrew’s life are a companion, whether that be a girlfriend, best friend or wife, and a family.  Andrew is alone, depressed and prone to relapse when faced with stressful, lonely situations.  I told Hugo, just before Andrew left for this trip, that I had a feeling this would happen.  And boy, was I right.  Wish I wasn’t.

He didn’t make it more than 36 hours before he started drinking.  And he didn’t just have a casual cocktail or frosty mug of beer.  This man goes from zero to 60 by drinking straight, cheap vodka right from the plastic bottle it comes in.  He doesn’t eat, hydrate with an occasional glass of water, or sleep normally.  He drinks until he throws up, passes out, and then wakes up at 2am only to chug some more vodka.  It is gross and sad.

The real victims in the equation are his poor parents.  They are such lovely, good-hearted people who love their son tremendously.  And the worst past is that there isn’t anything they can do.  They have done it all before and it doesn’t work because Andrew has to do it for himself.  No one can make an addict change, they have to truly desire to make the change within themselves.  Despite bringing him to therapy, the hospital, rehab, or any combination thereof, it will not be successful if Andrew doesn’t want it for himself.  As of now, we are on day 10 of this ordeal.  He has been holed up in his motel room slowly killing himself.  Only time will tell if he can pry himself out of his own nightmare of if his body will give in to the abuse he inflicts upon himself.

Life is cruel and has sharp edges that cut and sting.  The past few weeks have been negative at face value but I have been trying to find the learning lessons, peace and beauty that surrounds me.  I am thankful for the love that exists in my life, mainly Hugo and my parents.  Hugo has exhibited such incredible support and real love towards Nala and I during these tough times.  I am beyond thankful for him in my life.

So tonight, I will think happy, positive and loving thoughts for those in my life that are struggling.  Nala’s struggle is sad but unavoidable at this point.  Andrew’s is sad but can be changed with actions in the right directions.  I just hope he can find his way before it is too late.  And now I will go give Nala a goodnight kiss on the top of her nose.

Circadian rhythm, James Cook, coyotes…in no particular order

Hugo got up to pee as bright light flooded into the bedroom and I was awake. 2:18 am. Who am I kidding, I am awake. Sunday funday turned into reminiscing about Kaiser over several glasses of wine and hence, I am up before 3am on Monday. I say hence because alcohol has always effected my sleep/wake cycle, otherwise known as my circadian rhythm. Since I was laying in bed thinking about that long, uniquely spelled word, I decided to get up, take Nala out to pee, and do a little research.

As I typed circadian rhythm into Google, my most recent inquiries hung just below the search bar, like footprints or old flames that just can’t let go. One of which happened to be James Cook, the noble explorer from the 18th century. During our voyage out of town and into the great abyss of Los Angeles yesterday, Hugo and I stumbled upon an extraordinary little collectibles shop. We decided to poke our heads in with Nala in tow. I was in a swell position to spend a little dough as I was freshly liquored (actually wined) up from just departing a tasting as the nearby winery. Anyways, we walked in, met the owner and perused the goods. The back display room was particularly interesting, filled with old medical equipment, including a dentist’s chair from 1910. In the next room over, I fell in love with a cartograph (big fancy word, look it up) of the Hawaiian Islands.  Otherwise known as the Sandwich Islands, after the Earl of Sandwich, this illustrated map includes the islands themselves as well as James Cook’s ship and a Hawaiian Chief setting sail to greet him.  It fascinated Hugo and I so we made the $40 purchase for the map and threw in a mummified piranha for our remodeled guest room (actually Hugo’s computer lair).

When we got home, we did a little more reading on James Cook and I was hooked.  Credited with providing the first accurate map of the Pacific, James Cook not only discovered and charted New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef but he also battled scurvy by feeding himself and his crew a diet of watercress, sauerkraut and orange extract.  Fascinating, incredible and humbling to say the least.  To think of what life must have been like just a couple hundred years ago.

Your 24-hour circadian rhythm sleep/wake cycle is no joke.  Mine happens to be on, or up, or a little skewed this morning as I am awake so early.  As I said earlier, the wine always does it.  After not having had any alcohol for many, many months, Hugo and I have indulged in a couple of adult beverages the past few days, really just to relax and take our minds off of our recent loss.  We opened an expensive bottle of blended red wine from Sunstone (excellent organic vineyard and winery) we had been saving and toasted to Tootie two days ago as well.

This weekend with Hugo has helped tremendously in my healing process.  I feel much more relaxed and clear-headed, after many days of endless crying and a melancholy, somber household.  We miss Kaiser tremendously.  We miss Kaiser more than I thought was possible.  Seeing and feeling how much I miss him makes me realize just how much I truly loved him.

With the sounds of yipping coyotes feasting on a fresh rabbit kill just outside my window, Nala and I are now off to bed, for the second time tonight.

 

Doing a little cooking in between tears

In between fighting the nauseous feeling in my belly and the ball in my throat, I made this yummy Herbed Gnocchi and Mushrooms recipe from The Kitchn last night (no, that is not a typo).  I know that intro didn’t sound very appetizing but believe me, that meal tastes better than I have felt over the past few days.

Hugo and I are venturing out to the beach tomorrow morning, for some sun and relaxation with Nala despite the sad events of the past week.  I am really looking forward to it.  Especially after the somber afternoon I just had.  I had a lengthy conversation with our gardener Jose, who is a staple in our small neck of the woods.  Jose has cared for the livestock, and the ranches they live on, in our corner of the canyon for many years, meaning he knows everyone’s story.  We are currently putting in some fresh new grass in our backyard citrus garden so he stopped by the house around 4pm today to drop off the organic topsoil and grass seed.  We stood in the shade of the house, within feet of my husband’s sleeping bass boat, and discussed the sadness in the air.  I told him about Kaiser.  He nodded and paused, acknowledging exactly what I was saying and feeling with his limited English.  He didn’t have to say much but yet I knew that he completely understood.

We had discussed Kaiser’s health last week, as Kaiser greeted Jose through the fence.  Jose has always been scared of our Rottweilers, based solely on his overwhelming fear of dogs in general, however, last week was different.  I don’t know if it was because Kaiser’s energy was deteriorating but there was a calm sense of understanding for the first time between the two.  Kaiser wasn’t flipping out at him through the fence and Jose wasn’t retreating in fear.  The three of us just stood and talked, enjoying the company and sunshine.

During the rest of my afternoon chat with Jose, we also talked about my ailing neighbor Mark as well as two additional cancer diagnoses in the surrounding hillsides and subsequent deaths.  It was sad, depressing and maddening.  Illnesses are far too common and devastating to everyone they touch.  I concluded the exchange by reminding my friend to count his blessings.  I am not sure if he understood what I said exactly but he felt my energy.

As I am sitting here solo on a Saturday night, as my husband works a sixteen hour shift, a Clear The Shelters show was on TV.  I just watched a few light-hearted videos of rescue animals, some of which were from The Dodo and all of which distracted me from the melancholy in the air.  Check out their videos, hopefully they will warm your heart as they did mine.

Keeping my perspective, as difficult as it may be

I think one of the few reasons I am able to pull my head up, out of the water, and look into the clear blue sky today is that tragedy strikes us all and connects us in a way that we should be more conscious of.  As I turn on the news today, the accused killer of Mollie Tibbetts is in court.  That poor family who lost their vibrant, beautiful daughter in such a violent manner.  The world is cruel.

Perspective is important.  My small world, consisting of Hugo, my parents and family, our other dog Nala, and a few select friends, is just that, small.  We get trapped in our own bubble, for good reason.  But I think it’s important to take a moment to actually open your eyes to the other bubbles floating by you.  Across the street on our quiet dirt road, our neighbor is slowly dying in front of his wife.  Diagnosed with advanced multiple myeloma cancer about two years ago, he first found out about his illness while walking casually through his bedroom mid-morning on a random Sunday.  Out of nowhere, what felt like a shotgun shell to his left rib cage struck, causing him to fall to the floor and rile in pain.  That feeling was his rib breaking in half, as his first signs of cancer snapped his once strong bone in half.  He is not doing well and the slow decline into the great fade is starting to happen.  Another bubble is one of my coworkers, Garrett, who was in a bad motorcycle versus vehicle accident about last month.  Garret was riding his motorcycle into work, when a moronic vehicle driver cut him off, causing them to collide.  Garrett had his foot amputated on Tuesday afternoon.  Breathe that reality in for a second.

Even writing about all of the other circumstances I see is helping.  And this is just in my little world.  I am not a very social person as Hugo and I tend to keep to ourselves and lean on each other.  With that said, imagine the heartache occurring every day worldwide.  I implore you to look outside of your bubble, have a little compassion and put a smile on your face.  Because maybe, just maybe, it’s not that bad.

Love and loss

It finally happened.  The sweet, old man who Hugo and I loved so dearly passed away just before midnight last night.  It was about 11:50pm on August 22nd to be exact.  I couldn’t help but check the time when we walked back into the lobby of the emergency vet hospital, both of us sobbing and holding each other.  We loved him like family, as most pet owners do.

We brought Kaiser into our life just after getting married in the Spring of 2009.  Our first baby together, if you will.  He was our second Rottweiler that we shared, our first, Marley, having passed away while we were out of the country for our wedding celebration.  Kaiser’s recalcitrant attitude and strong-will tested me many times throughout the years.  Rottweilers are dominant, outspoken dogs that require equally assertive and alpha owners.  He proved ever portion of the latter sentence to be true.  He would bark shout in outrage if he was told to leave the room and angrily huff if he was forced to go outside to urinate, after sleeping all night and clearly needing to go pee.  He had a bold, lovable personality that everyone who met him adored.  During vet trips or road trips, Kaiser could often be found sitting between someone’s legs, whether it was Hugo, myself, the vet or a complete stranger, with a big smile on his face, his legs flopped open and his wiener touching the ground due to his relaxed, happy state.  As funny and crude as that may sound, we could always tell he was at ease and enjoying life in that position.  Hugo and I would have a little laugh every time we saw him like that.

Whenever we’d play fight in front of Kaiser, we would always joke that he was like our referee or a police officer because we would jump into action by jamming his body in between ours in an attempt to separate both parties.  He always knew it was in good fun but he equally got a kick out of joining in on the play fight.  I will be looking over my shoulder for a charging Rottweiler next time I tickle or pinch my husband, hoping he will bound across the room to stop it all.

From his grumpiest to silliest times, Kaiser taught me a lot about life.  I began to realize this a couple of months ago when he first got sick.  You become so accustomed to certain things in your life.  Waking up to the same person in bed every morning and kissing them goodnight sixteen hours later.  The sound of the coffee maker percolating to conclusion and enough money in the bank to buy the quality grounds.  Dogs greeting you at the door, almost causing you to trip as you walk in from a long day or vacation away from home.  It’s these things that we sometimes take for granted but when any of them come to a screeching halt, even momentarily, it makes us surrender to the truth that nothing is forever and none of this is guaranteed.

The house feels so empty without him here.  At his final weight, after being sick for months and slowly withering away to just bones, he clocked in at sixty-nine pounds.  He was a ghost compared to the svelte, masculine 109 pound canine that prowled our backyard for nuisance crows or a rogue rabbit.  It was madness to hear that weight number fall out of the vet tech’s mouth last night, just minutes before his catheter was inserted.  About an hour before that, Hugo had come home early from work because we knew it was time.  We both genuinely knew in our hearts that he was suffering and it was time to give him some peace.  But even with that said, we stood in the threshold of our laundry room, hovering over our sick dog, debating if it was the right thing to do.  We love each other and him so much that we had to just stand there, cry together and talk it out.  And we did.

As we spoke and came to the inevitable conclusion that he was in pain and it wasn’t humane to make him slowly continue dying through the night, Kaiser looked up at both of us repeatedly with his sunken eyes and nearly hollowed skull.  He had lost so much weight that the outline of his body was like a sketch artist had drawn a skeleton of a dog and pasted some hair on it.  It pained both of us to see him like that and the look in his eyes gave us the answers we needed.  Hugo took out his collar and leash, to which he wagged his tail to one last time.  Nala, our other dog, said her final goodbye at the trunk of my Jeep and we descended the driveway one last time with our little puppy in tow.

Grief is a strange thing.  I am not sure what stage I am in or when I will come out the other side.  One thing I do know is that I have never seen my husband cry, out of the fourteen years we have been inseparable.  But I saw him cry on and off several times since the events of last night unfolded.  Kaiser touched his and my heart in such a way that only the unbiased, non-judgemental, unconditional love of a gentle giant can.

So for now I will continue cleaning up the house and gathering his toys for our local animal shelter.  I will continue randomly crying as I remember the good times we had as a family of four.  I will comfort Nala and Hugo, as they both need me in similar yet different ways.  And I will keep a little place in my heart reserved for the beast that was Tootie, his nickname for all those years.

As a final note, Kaiser actually brought Hugo and I a tad bit closer these past couple of days.  We have been bickering a little and mildly getting under each other’s skin, most likely due to the fact that I am like a loaded gun that has been grounded at the house in excess of six weeks due to my knee surgery.  We have bonded and united as a team as we cared for our sick family member and ultimately laid him to rest.  Life has a funny way of coming full circle in that sense.  Maybe some times it takes a little bit of sadness to make you cling just a bit harder to the ones you love.

 

Better late than never

After a short four-day hiatus from writing, here I am!  Back and better than ever.  I didn’t really go anywhere, just didn’t have too much to say.  That’s fair, right?

So after my lengthy, 96-hour break, some of which I spent debating whether or not to return to school, transcripts have been ordered, degree programs have been explored and decisions have now been made.  My final decision is to enroll in an online bachelor’s degree program in the very near future.  I have wasted the past fourteen years debating it so I decided, enough is enough.  There is no better time than now.  Plus, I found an outstanding online degree program through National University that works very well for working professionals.  It is 100% online and you only take one intensive class at a time, with classes only lasting a month.  I like the sound of it so I am getting pumped to begin.  As of right now I intend to major in Homeland Security (that just sounds bad ass, right?), but that may change as I iron out the final details this week.

As the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards are about to start, this little scholar is typing away as Hugo makes sausage and shrimp paella.  Another outstanding Chef John recipe that is worth checking out.  Needless to say, the house smells amazing.  He has made this recipe before and it never fails to impress.  What a lovely man he is.  Feeding someone you love is a beautiful expression of selfless caring.  I am a lucky girl.