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.

 

Still got it in him

Despite being nearly seventy years old in dog years and being mortally ill with throat cancer, Kaiser still has it in him.  And by “it”, I mean the will to fight.  He has always been a scrapper; never a fan of other dogs, he has fought with all breeds, ages and sizes since he reached adolescence.  In addition, he gets rather feisty with Nala from time to time, whether it is over food or random dominance battles.  That is exactly what happened moments ago in our kitchen…over an ice cube.  Every time that I scoop ice from our freezer, both dogs frantically run into the kitchen, in hopes of acquiring a fat-free frozen treat on these hot summer days.  Although I didn’t give them one today, which may have lent itself as to why they were upset, as they turned to leave the kitchen, it was on.  Either Nala looked at Kaiser sideways or Kaiser didn’t appreciate the side eye that Nala was handing out because as they both took a step forward, they simultaneously turned and began battling.  It is normally mostly bark and minimal bite but two large Rotties getting crazy is always enough to get me yelling as loud as possible and stomping my feet, in an effort to break their attention away from one another.  Since they are both aging and quite frankly not in the mood for craziness like they used to “back in the day”, the brawl was brief and short-lived.  No injuries reported and both parties retreated to separate corners of the house, as they normally do for a short period of sulking and licking their wounds, if you will.

Although I don’t want to see my dogs fight, or any cross feelings between anyone in my midst, it is still nice to see that his soul is alive and well.  He can’t fight his instincts which is both real and raw.  Dogs can’t lie or fake it so it warmed my heart to see him want to get wild with his kid sister.  It will be rather telling when he does slow down to the point that a quick ice cube brawl is too much for him to sustain.  I know that day will come eventually but let’s hope it is later than sooner.

Afterword:  About twenty minutes later, as I continued thinking about this post, I couldn’t help but consider the similar behaviors that humans engage in.  The main difference is that as humans, we have the self-awareness and knowledge of our condition, which is both a blessing and a curse in my opinion.  For instance, if we have knowledge of a terminal illness, some of us may shelter ourselves or limit our energy exertion, which goes completely against acting purely on instinct.  If we are aware that we are sick, we may not solely act on how we actually feel but we factor the knowledge of our sickness and all of the negative attributes in when we make decisions or assess ourselves.  

I have said it before and I will say it again – we have a lot to learn from the animals in our lives.  Now I am off to refill Kaiser’s food bowl, so his belly can be full and his heart can be happy.

Isn’t it sad

As I sit here watching the 9pm news on the West coast, I find it incredibly sad that the Charlottesville, Virginia police department has to essentially shut the city down, on the anniversary of the nasty white supremacist demonstration ‘Unite the Right’ one year ago this weekend.  The event last August resulted in three people dying and over 38 other injured.  Fearing another catastrophic and dangerous event, authorities are prepping in an attempt to keep their residents as safe as possible.  Isn’t it a sad world that we live in, one that necessitates the closure of city streets and strict implementation of heavier rules, in order to keep people safe from each other?  It’s 2018 right now.  This country is the most volatile I have seen it in my lifetime.  It is scary at times as our future is uncertain.  It seems like nowhere is truly safe anymore as homegrown terrorists lurk in both urban and rural environments.  Our sense of community, with love for thy neighbor, feels lost but hopefully not forgotten.  I can’t help but wonder, where do we go from here?

Two things I love on this Saturday afternoon: Sex and the City & Infrared Saunas

How is it that I have watched the Sex and the City movie, as well as years of episode reruns, over and over again, yet when it is on TV, just as it is right now, I can’t help but watch it once more!  It is just that good.  I just found myself standing in front of our television, lovingly staring at our eighty inch screen, as Miranda and Steve reunite on the Brooklyn bridge.  Those ladies give me laughs and give me hope; laugh if you want but it’s true.

And that leads me to the second thing I am loving right now: infrared saunas.  After discovering our new local sweat spot, the Organic Sweat Shack, I have now fallen in love with climbing into a small cedar room and sweating my ass off.  Literally.  Outside of sweating and shedding a few pounds during a session, the additional benefits are worth exploring – detoxification, cell growth, improved circulation, and relaxation just to name a few.  My hope is to aid my knee in healing and to drop a few pounds while doing so.  Plus it feels great to sweat again, as I slowly transition back into an active lifestyle.

Major victory for the environment and Dewayne Johnson – Say NO to RoundUp!

If you haven’t seen the headline yet, there was a major victory today for environmental justice and a very sick man.  Monsanto, the agricultural giant who is responsible for the grossly popular weedkiller RoundUp, was ordered to pay $289 million to Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper who developed cancer as a result of being exposed to the herbicide (primary ingredient of glyphosate).  Read the full article here.

This victory hopefully signifies a shift in the wind regarding the widespread and accepted use of this harsh chemical.  Despite multiple scientific studies, and the horribly sick people to prove its harmful effects, companies such as Monsanto are able to weasel their way into the pockets of the EPA and lawmakers.  Glyphosate is still widely used in the US despite being banned in Europe (the EU tends to be much more environmentally progressive and intelligent than the US most of the time).  We can only hope that this landmark case will continue to move our country closer to ridding our farm workers’ and landscapers’ hands from this nasty toxin.

Thankful

During my time of recovery, from my recent knee surgery, Hugo has been emotionally and physically supporting me every step of the way.  He is upstairs playing one of his favorite computer games as I write this – one of the first moments during his time at home that he has taken a break from tending to me.  You can’t help but take those close to you for granted at times, especially when you are with them a lot.  This isn’t an intentional act at all.  Just how life works sometimes.  When I take a brief step back to appreciate all he has done for me in the recent weeks, it makes me realize once again, how truly lucky I am to have someone of his caliber in my life.

This could be your last Thursday

As Kaiser sauntered into the bathroom, as he has been following me everywhere in recent weeks, I turned to look at his sunken face.  The bones of his skull are now exposed because of all the weight he has lost from cancer.  His hip bones are pronounced as they pop out just next to his tail and his spiky spine is rigid along the length of his back.  I have been feeding him several times a day with meaty meals, in an attempt to not only put weight on him but to also make his final days as happy as possible.

Kaiser has an incredible attitude considering his prognosis and that really is one of the most amazing attributes that animals have.  Since they don’t have the knowledge or awareness of their condition (or maybe they do), they are outwardly as happy as they feel.  Today he happens to feel pretty good so he is exuding joy from his eyes, as he chases me around the house.  He has gotten a few hyper jumps on the front door in over the past few days, as the UPS delivery man approaches and he goes into full-blown puppy dog mode again.  Hugo even suggested that we lean our mobile plastic gate against the door, in an effort to prevent our crazed old dog from pouncing on the door and possibly breaking the glass.  These are his last few days of excitement in his life so we decided to let him jump away, even if the door gets scratched.

When Kaiser followed me into the bathroom today I told him out loud, “This could be your last Thursday buddy.”  Not really sure why I said it but it just came out.  But it got me thinking; this could be all of our last Thursday.  Anything could happen to any one of us today and we could not make it to next week.  So, after my brief moment of inward reflection in my dimly bathroom this afternoon with my ailing dog, we both decided, together, to embrace every moment.  Live each day as if you are sick, but can’t feel it.  Chase your loved ones around the house, eat as much as you want, and don’t think so much.  In short, adopt Kaiser’s lifestyle.  Celebrate every day as a blessing because just like Kaiser, they could be our last.

The girl who never wagged

I have been holding onto this writing topic for a while now because I love it.  I love it because I happen to live with the girl who has never wagged.  She is almost nine years old, fully covered in black and tan hair, and one of my best friends.  Her name is Nala and I love her almost as much as I love her flaccid tail.

When Kaiser was a few months old, I begged and pleaded with Hugo to get another dog.  After hours of online sleuthing, I found a local Rottweiler breeder with pups that were ready.  I hopped in my trusty Jeep and drove two hours east to my pup pick-up destination.  Upon my arrival, I told the breeder that I was interested in the largest female that they had.  He fished through the pen of puppies and out came Nala.

In hindsight, the breeder was fairly irresponsible because he sold me Nala when she was only a month old.  I set her on the front passenger seat of my car, with my sweatshirt as a makeshift bed, and she curled into a ball, sleeping the entire trek back.  When I lifted her out of the Jeep to go inside, I noticed she peed a little while she slept.  A quick welcome bath, followed by lots of hugs, and we were finally home.

Nala, who was named after Simba’s female friend in the Lion King, has been an incredible addition to our family since the day she got here.  She is fiercely loyal and protective of me, always treating me as her true mother.  I really feel that this is due to the fact that I have been mothering her since she was a little bigger than my hand.  Nala is also silly and playful while being cranky and outspoken.  She grunts and growls almost hourly, expressing herself through her voice but never with her tail.  While most dogs wag theirs in happiness, Nala’s tail has never wagged.  She shakes her butt from side to side, as if she wants to wag, but the tail appears to just not work.  I always hypothesize about why it doesn’t wag and my best guess is that it was possibly broken when she was a puppy, before she joined our family.  It doesn’t matter though because Nala expresses herself with her voice and through her eyes.  I can read that dog’s emotion right from her sweet face.  As I type this right now, she is staring at me from underneath the buffet table she has claimed as her den over the past several years.

The love that we have for dogs can easily supersede the love that we have for a lot of humans.  Or maybe that is just me.  As a side note, I tried taking a sweet little picture of Nala to post here but she sassily refused to look at me.  I am thankful to be blessed with the girl who never wagged and we wouldn’t want her any other way.

 

 

 

Regrets

I have a lot of regrets, as I imagine a lot of people do.  I regret not taking college seriously because I would really like to have my BA completed (although I dispute the necessity of a college degree but that is an entirely different conversation).  I regret not being serious about taking care of myself earlier on in life – just committing to losing weight and getting to the place I want to be, rather than struggle year after year with the same issues.  I also regret the way I treat those that I love sometimes.  These regrets in particular bother me, because our time with each other is fleeting and every minute with someone you care about could be your last.

This last and final regret always surfaces after I spend time with my parents.  When we are under one roof, during a visit to their house or when they come to visit my husband and I, there is always at least one occasion during those few short days that they annoy the hell out of me.  As bad as that may sound, I can’t help it.  It might happen because we don’t spend a lot of time physically with each other anymore so when the concentrated visit happens, it can be overwhelming.  And this doesn’t just happen with my parents, it happens with my husband’s parents at times too.  When you are incredibly independent by nature, plus you have lived apart from your parents for a considerable amount of time, having 24/7 interaction for multiple days in a row can be heavy to say the least.  And I am sure they would say the same about me because I can be difficult as well.

During our visits, there is normally one spat of bickering, arguing, and/or crying, followed by realizing the confrontation is a waste of time and then the inevitable reconciliation.  As I write that, I realize that it sounds kind of crazy and unstable.  But that’s us.  Or maybe that’s me.  I think the honest truth is that I can only handle small doses of them.  This might be true of all people with their parents but I do feel badly actually vocalizing it.

My mom is on her way to our local airport as I write this.  About thirty minutes after she left our house this morning, I started thinking of regrets.  I regret wasting any of our precious time together because it is a rarity.  None of us are getting any younger and every time I see either of my parents could be the last.  It’s the same for anyone you love.  My husband is at work this morning and there is a chance he doesn’t come home tonight.  When you watch the evening news, there are plenty of husbands that don’t make it home at night – our volatile world takes lives every day at the hands of violence and unfortunate accidents.

So although she has already left, and our time together was wonderful overall, I decided to write about regrets because the only way you can change things is by recognizing them.  I can’t change the way I feel or how frustrated I get, I know that.  But I can change the way I react to situations.  So maybe, just maybe, the next time we are together and my parents annoy the hell out of me, I will try to react more calmly and maturely.  After all, I am them and they are me and none of this would have been possible without them.  I love you mom ♥

Tuesday = 14 years & 14 years = Almost half a lifetime of happiness

Happy 14 year anniversary to my sweet Hugo ♥  Fourteen years of thankfully having you in my life.  You made every second of the past 441,504,000 seconds happy and filled with love.  I know our anniversary isn’t until tomorrow but I remember July 31st, 2004, like it was yesterday.  It was the day we joined forces as a team and created a life on the other side of the country together.  Thank you for being such a wonderful husband and best friend♥

Early warning signs of a stroke

HOLY SHIT, did we have a close call last night.  I will cut to the middle of this story, which is the scariest part.  My husband and I genuinely thought my mother might have had a minor stroke around 7 o’clock.  After a small argument with my mom earlier in the day, the thought of my mom having a serious condition, and potential lifelong complications, was frightening, sad and incredibly scary.

Now, let’s cut to the beginning of this short story.  After a delightful dinner of stuffed clams and some sides, Hugo started to clean up the dishes as my mom and I meandered around the patio area, sitting in the hammock and enjoying the cool evening air with the company of the two dogs.  We casually chatted as I watered some potted flowers that are scattered around the patio;  she swayed back and forth in the hammock, with her glasses strung around her neck as she gazed on and off at her cell phone.  We retreated inside again so I could ice my knee for the 40th time today, rejoining Hugo in the kitchen.  My mom sat down on the long wooden bench that runs along the backside of our kitchen table.  This is the usual, private spot she posts up in our kitchen when she visits – this is because she is capable of setting up a makeshift office there, complete with her laptop and her traveling wicker basket that’s full of her weekly pills, a “seen better days” Yeti cup, and various other odds and ends that descend the stairs with her every morning.

As I sat on the couch with my knee iced and elevated, I began contemplating my new blog post topic.  I looked over at my mother and noticed she was straddling the kitchen table bench and was hunched over at the waist.  I asked my mom if she was ok as Hugo craned his neck around to look; she replied, “I can’t see.”  “You can’t see??!?”, I retorted, in shock at her statement.  Blinking her eyes as she removed her glasses, and with mild panic in her voice, my mom returned with, “I can’t see out of my right eye.”

I’m sorry…come again?  You can’t SEE out of your right EYE?!!!?!?!!  I immediately thought that she was having, or just had, a mild stroke.  To Google I went.  My dear friend Google confirmed that sudden blurry vision or loss of vision out of one or both eyes is a symptom of a stroke.  Cue the HOLY SHIT moment.

Hugo, my mom and I went back and forth for the next ten minutes discussing her sole symptom and the lack of additional symptoms.  I put my sandals on anticipating a trip to our local hospital because I was genuinely scared that she had in fact experienced a mild stroke.  We continued diagnosing her online and therefore continued frightening the three of us with the fact that an un-diagnosed stroke could lead to serious long-term complications.  My mom said that her vision was coming and going in the symptomatic eye but she didn’t want to go to the hospital just yet.  I understood her desire to wait because she didn’t want to be hasty but the loss of vision in one eye genuinely scared me.  The clock ticked by and we watched 60 Minutes, all of us nervous that we were not properly handling this potentially dangerous medical situation.

A few short minutes later, my mom got up from the couch to retrieve her glasses from the kitchen table.  She picked up the glasses and turned to face us on the couch as she gasped and laughed at the same time.  “What?”, I asked.  She held up the glasses and said, “You will not believe this.”  She moved closer to Hugo and I on the couch as she laughed again.  She showed us the glasses as she explained how the right lens was missing!  She wasn’t experiencing a stroke, her vision was blurry because her glasses weren’t intact!!

Now, you as the reader may be thinking how could this happen?  Well, you aren’t alone in this thought because Hugo and I were thinking the same thing.  My mom clarified that she had been using the glasses, minus the right eye lens, and that is when she initially began experiencing the blurry vision, or so we thought.  She took the glasses off, still felt like her eyes were off, and that’s where the story picks up.  Needless to say, the story ends with twenty minutes of deep, guttural laughter and disbelief that this actually happened.  I mean, we almost called 911 because my mom was having a stroke when in fact she had lost her glasses lens! It is so ridiculous and so great, all at the same time.

The learning lesson in all of this is to know the early warning signs of a stroke.  I like this website – the take-away is the acronym BE FAST.  Balance, Eyes, Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911!  Click the link and be sure you are familiar with the symptoms.  I remembered learning about the loss of vision (our particular symptom in this scenario) a long time ago so that’s where the whole conversation started with us last night.

Finally (because I know the cliffhanger is killing you), Hugo did in fact find the missing lens.  It was hidden in the hammock from earlier that night and has since been successfully been reunited with its rightful glasses frame.  And I am happy to report that my mom is healthy and symptom free this morning ♥

Under one roof

After nearly fifteen hours of traveling the 2,872.6 miles from door-to-door, my mother bear arrived to our house safely.  That’s not to say that the trek was without bumps.  Actually, to be completely honest, it was riddled with bumps.

After driving from her home to the airport, severe weather delayed her outgoing flight by five hours.  Now, that is incredibly easy to type but when you are boarding, waiting, waiting some more, de-planing, waiting, trying to find something decent to eat at the airport, and then waiting some more for a little over 300 minutes, it sucks to say the least.  She finally departed for the left coast after the weather cleared and ultimately landed at 1:16am.  She gathered her checked luggage from the baggage claim carousel, her driver met her at the exit with a fancy name sign and she strapped herself into the backseat of her final leg of her trip.  As the driver joined a long line of vehicles patiently waiting to exit the airport parking garage and hit the road, both my mom and the driver realized something was wrong.  And the something that was wrong manifested itself in the form of an elderly, Asian parking garage ticket collector.  Thankfully, the speed at which this ticket collector processed exiting cars began to slowly improve and my mother’s car was able to begin the final leg of her voyage cross-country.  At almost half past two in the morning on this fine Saturday in late July, she arrived safely at our house.  We hugged, she tried on a bright red lifeguard jacket I gifted her, we checked out the new couches in our computer room, and we went to bed.

Good morning to the universe

It just turned into morning on the West Coast of the United States so I figured it was suiting to pen a good morning note to the earth.  All of the birds are still tucked into bed where we live and we would be too, however tonight is a little different.  As I write this, my mother is airborne, most likely flying westbound through the Rockies right about now.  Her flight was delayed roughly five hours due to severely inclement weather in New York City yesterday afternoon.  Any who, she is almost here and we are waiting up to greet her.  Hugo and I are drinking tea, eating freshly baked banana nut bread and enjoying the cool night air.

So thankful to have my mother joining us for a few days.  She is such a wonderful person and I am thoroughly looking forward to soaking her up for a few days ♥

Puppy love

Hugo and I are heartbroken.  We just found out yesterday that our male Rottweiler has advanced throat cancer.  That is a heavy sentence.  Our poor puppy – we love him so incredibly much and our house is in mourning already, just knowing that we are about to lose him.  The vet herself was somber and not very optimistic for his future.  Right now it is just about giving him the best life possible and prevent him from suffering in any way.  He is sad, we are sad.  Life really sucks sometimes.

It breaks my heart and physically pains me inside just knowing that his throat is almost completely blocked from the massive growth in there.  I feel helpless looking at someone who we have loved since he was a wiggly pup over nine years ago.  Most pet owners take on all animal relationships, knowing full well that normally humans outlive the animals in their lives.  Yet we all do it.  We know that after a silly puppy phase, to a growing adolescent phase, to a mild senior phase, we are potentially met with these awful times.  We do it for the love of animals and the friendship and companionship they give us.  And they give us so much more than that.

I have learned and grown in my own way from my relationship with my animals.  I have learned to be more patient and to love blindly, because they are masters of both qualities.  I have learned to enjoy the simple things in life, like food and how simply sitting next to someone you love can warm your heart.

I know this cycle continues every minute of every day, everywhere in the world.  Babies are born and everyone dies.  All species and for all different reasons, yet it doesn’t make it any easier when it is actually happening in front of you.  I do not believe in a higher power but I do believe in love and being kind.  Right now, my plan is to drown my old, sick dog in love and if there is anyone floating in the clouds listening to my desperate pleas, maybe they can spare him from suffering.

The agony of selling real estate

One word…ughhh.  Is that even a word?  It is to me, right here and now as we are in the middle of escrow, about to hopefully close on our rental property sale.  Dealing with lenders, underwriters, agents and all others involved is exhausting to say the least.  Our escrow snafu entails some verbiage in a homeowner’s association insurance policy, which is nothing short of 400 pages for all parties to review.  Both super boring and super unexciting and all parties involved point fingers at everyone else as to what the hold up is.  The joys of real estate transactions…here’s hoping it is over soon and we successfully close escrow on time next week!

It is sometimes difficult to be patient when dealing with other people because I sometimes want to wring their necks (as my Mom would say) when they don’t cooperate and get their business handled in a timely manner.  I am extremely assertive and aggressive when it comes to managing phone calls, checking things off of my to-do list and just, how do you say, getting shit done.  It boggles the mind when others around you are not on the same page.  Maybe that is the learning lesson in all of this.  Maybe.

Forgive yourself

I have felt a little bit like a failure, yet again, in regards to my diet because I have been straying off of my strict course since my knee surgery.  I have been so incredibly committed to myself for the past few months that since, for the past 10 days roughly, I have been eating whatever I want, I felt like I failed.  Failed myself yet again.

It took me a few days to process it.  With the constant support from my husband, who always tells me how beautiful I am, I finally processed it all today and came to my conclusion – who cares that I had a few day lapse in strict eating, I had surgery and have gone through a lot!  I have to cut myself a break sometimes (so much easier said than done for me because I am my absolute harshest critic).

So I write this as a renewed commitment to myself.  I am back on board with caring for myself and being conscious of my choices.  I will not dwell on the small mistakes I have made but I will rather celebrate all of the progress I have made.  I will continue to work hard because I am worth working hard for.  If we don’t make ourselves a priority, aren’t our priorities out of whack?

I look forward to being able to work out and move my body soon, after I become more mobile and continue to heal.  So not only do I have my renewed sense of self to be happy about today but I also have the upcoming arrival of my Mom, who is visiting us on Friday!  And I also have The Bachelorette on tonight and it starts in 5 minutes.  The only thing that would make tonight better would be having my husband at home with me (I miss him a lot since he is at work).  Cheers and goodnight ♥

Attack of the Natural Deodorants

All people sweat.  It is the body’s natural way of cooling off.   Some people sweat more than others and not everyone sweats from the same parts of their bodies.  While most sweat from their armpits, others might also sweat from the palms of their hands (me!) or anywhere else a pore is located on your body.  When we experience turbulence on an airplane, I clench Hugo’s hands as if he is my lifeline to safety.  With the anxiety of a bumping flight, my hands sweat like no other, sometimes even requiring me to wipe my hands on my pants.  Anyways, enough gross info about my clammy hands, time to progress to the topic at hand.  Since Hugo happens to sweat heavily and he also has to work 20 hour days at work once or twice a week (with this week’s temps in SoCal reaching well over 100 degrees) , we have cycled through deodorants in a never-ending search for an effective product that is also within our health parameters.

To start, we do not wear antiperspirants for two reasons.  The primary reason being that antiperspirants are made with aluminum, which we intend to avoid at all costs.  Aluminum in antiperspirants has been linked to everything from breast cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.  I don’t care if topical aluminum exposure was only linked to a head cold, I would still avoid it.

The second reason for not wearing antiperspirants is the fact that the goal of antiperspirants is to block your body’s ability to sweat, which is a natural function that should not be stopped.  Sweating plays a necessary role in our bodies by cooling us off and it is completely unnatural to attempt to stop that process.

Through the years, Hugo and I have been involved in a never-ending quest to find an effective natural deodorant.  I took the attached picture of just a few of the many products we have tried in the past six months or so but there have been countless other brands that haven’t made the cut.  We have tried Tom’s products (not that great), Burt’s Bees (also not that great) and Origins No Offense deodorant (expensive but it works a bit better than the others).  We also tried another really interesting product that we found on Amazon called Organic Island Deodorant with Probiotics.  That product is very interesting.  Effective, yes, but it is devoid of scent.  You can mix it with essential oils, which we tried in the small tub version, but in the end, Hugo’s pits are the judge and they gave it a B-.

Finally, a recent gift from my Mom proved to be one of the best smelling, strongest odor-fighting sticks we have found.  As always, Mom to the rescue! Introducing… Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Deodorant.  Per Hugo, it works quite well and he has a pretty damn good opinion regarding natural deodorants because he has probably tried upwards of twenty different brands in the past couple of years.  I am a bit puzzled as to why it received such mediocre reviews on Amazon (as evidenced through my link).  I didn’t read the reviews but it could also be judged by people who are used to harsh chemical products, which undoubtedly work well, however they are absolutely awful for you.

Hopefully this short piece on attempting to cure stinky pits will serve to inform at least one person out there about the harmful effects of aluminum and the many options that serve as healthier alternatives.

Shark Week Begins!

Just a friendly reminder that Shark Week begins in less than two hours on the West Coast and if you are on the East coast, it already began! And if you are on another coast, check your local listings!  I can’t help but use all of these exclamation points out of pure excitement!  Now go turn on Discovery Channel!

Finding your true North

What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life?  My first 34 years are behind me and I can’t take back any of the things I have done.  I haven’t done anything wrong in those years but all of the time is gone.  Since I don’t know how many more years I have left, how do I know what kind of time frame I have to accomplish my unknown tasks?  I have just under a hundred directions I want to go and just as many careers I want to pursue.  Hugo and I have tons of places we intend to visit, the majority of which I would run off to right now if work didn’t get in the way.  I wish someone could tell you where to go and what to do with your life.  As if there was a perfect answer to the scrolling questions and unfinished sentences in my head.  As if a script was already written, you were handed a guidebook along with a bag of survival tools, and you embarked on the path.  As bland as that may sound, it might be easier at times than having to navigate in the dark on your own.  Are you right where you should be or should you take a drastic risk and it will prove successful?  Of course the main fear we all have is that it won’t work out and I will find myself disappointed in failure and angry with poor decisions.

All of those thoughts stem from my recent internal battle over what direction to go with my life.  It isn’t a true mid-life crisis because, Spaghetti Monster willing (please comment if you get that reference rather than the typical ‘God willing’ phrase), I have well more than roughly thirty more years left on this planet.  Maybe 30 years left on Earth and another thirty on Mars?  Just kidding.  I am simply hoping for another sixty healthy years with Hugo by my side.

My recent thoughts originate from a few levels – my frustration with my current career, the thought of so many of my interests not being explored, and the feeling that every day I go to work doing what I am currently doing, I feel as if my days could be much more satisfying to me if I could throw myself into one of my many entrepreneurial interests.  There really isn’t any way of knowing if I never take the leap to make a change.  But gosh that is scary.

For now, I will just keep sitting here and plotting my next moves.  Day dreaming about the bakery I want to open, the real estate endeavors I want to take, and the endless business ventures I want to cannonball into like a teenager at the edge of a rocky edge in a sweltering summer day.  In fact, it is quite hot outside on this particular Sunday afternoon so maybe a cannonball would be appropriate right now.

Writer’s Note:  I haven’t shared this blog with anyone in my family, other than my husband, mother and father.  Apparently my parents thought that the point of all this was for me to express myself, pose rhetorical questions, and share my deepest, darkest thoughts…and then THEY would reply with tips and suggestions on how to fix it.  I understand that this is the natural parental response because they care about and love me HOWEVER, that is most definitely not the intention.  I assured my mother on the phone today that I didn’t go through the effort of writing so that I could inform them of my feelings by way of a daily post.  If I get one more email from them that includes “Dad found you some nail-biting solutions on Google”, I might have to take extreme measures (dare I say Mom and Dad get blocked?!). Love you both very much ♥

 

 

 

Bad habits and good routines – Why is it so damn hard??!?

As I sit here pondering my next blog topic and biting my nails, it occurred to me, I was actively participating in my next blog topic.  Biting my nails has been a bad habit, an awful habit actually, that I have struggled with for all of my adolescent and adult life.  Through the years I have successfully quit for as long as a year or so, only to slowly resume the habit out of stress, anxiety and pure routine.  Everything in me wants to quit and never do it again.  I have painted my nails, tried diversionary tactics like chewing gum and I even applied that toxic, off-putting and foul-tasting, gross, anti-bite nail polish (I really don’t know how else to describe the rancid taste that stuff from the 90’s had and that’s not to mention that it was probably hazardous to my health).

With all of that said, I still can’t quite figure out how to make a new routine.  The new routine being that I do not reach for my own hand to nibble on when I am spacing out, thinking, nervous or any combination of the above.  It really is a strange habit and I know I am not alone with the struggle to change it.  After a quick Google search, I discovered that researchers do not have any idea why humans do it and as many as 20-30% of adults actively bite their nails!  That is a pretty remarkable number if you think about it.  What I do know is that it may be a learned habit, just as many things are.  My mother bites her nails, while my father and husband do not.  My husband’s parents do not, which may also explain why he doesn’t and is incredibly turned off by the habit.

It’s a funny thing really – I bite my nails, however, when I see someone else engaging in the self-mutilating activity, I too am disgusted by the behavior.  If only I could continue to remember how it makes me feel to witness it when I am about to put hand to mouth (even writing that sentence grossed me out).  And that leads me to the other side of the coin.  On the one side we have bad habits and the difficulty we have in breaking them.  From biting nails to quitting smoking, habits become a part of us that are difficult, if not damn near impossible, to change.

Flip to the other side and you have good routines, the pleasant step sister to bad habits.  Just as bad habits can be a straight uphill battle to break, our healthy routines can be extremely difficult to create and implement in our lives.  How many New Year’s Day diets and exercise routines have we seen come and go with people you know?  And finally, as the most advanced species on the planet, I find it pretty remarkable that we are responsible for breakthroughs like walking on other planets and cloning creatures yet we cannot master our own bodies.  Shedding weight, from ten pounds to hundreds, or eliminating bad behaviors, like biting our nails or smoking, from our routine are real struggles that consume entire lifetimes for some people

Sometimes it makes me feel incredibly weak as a person to not be able to just change something about myself that I want to change.  I know I am not alone in having things about myself that I wish to see improve and that, in itself, is the human struggle.  Identifying your own struggle and working towards improvement, however slight it may be, is a battle worth engaging in.

Rules of Engagement (Part 5)

The fifth and final installment of this series is all about our animal instincts.  Deep down we are all animals and if you believe in evolution (like any sound-minded individual should) then you know that we have inherited our traits, such as fierce loyalty and protecting our loved one, from our ancestors.  Traits such as these should be celebrated and admired because without them, family units would not stay intact throughout generations.

Being loyal to who you love and what you believe in is one of the most admirable qualities someone can possess.  I can only speak for myself but I do know that I bond to people for life.  And once I am bonded, that’s it.  All bets are off and I will be by your side until the end.  I have said this many times, when talking about my connection with Hugo to people – if we both lost our jobs and ended up living in a van, down by the river (RIP Chris Farley), I would happily live in that van with him.  I could decorate it very nicely and we would enjoy the river-front location together.

As I ponder what it means to be protective of those that you love, I can’t help but also think of the word jealousy.  Jealousy normally has a negative connotation but I truly believe that a small, healthy amount of jealousy is a good thing.  For instance, when my husband’s phone beeps with four text messages all of a sudden and when asked, he replies that it is from a female coworker, I can’t help but feel like, “Who the hell is this girl?!!?!”  Now, I know I have nothing to worry about because Hugo loves me beyond belief and he would never cheat on me.  I truly know that.  But the animal side of KK can’t help but perk her ears up, have her back arched, and swat her tail back and forth.  Hugo is the prize I hold dearest to my heart and I protect him like a hungry lioness guards a fresh kill from nearby hyenas.

I think all women, and men for that matter, actually have those instinctual feelings, and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of.  I joke with my husband all of the time about how I feel because he should know.  It is actually a bit flattering to have your significant other get a little worked up over someone else potentially being interested in them.  And don’t kid yourself – when I have been flirted with or pursued by other men, Hugo postures up and flares his nostrils, so to speak, as well.

Super cool stuff you didn’t know that you NEEDED to know about

I have featured all of the below on my links page but since you might not make your way there, I thought I would put these links out here on front street.  This is just the beginning too.  I am endorsing all of these things solely based on my loving them.  If you have a place, product, or anything else worthwhile that you think should be reviewed, please drop me a line.

Super cool stuff that you didn’t know you NEEDED to know about:

Alaska Airlines – My favorite airline.  When you call, you speak to real human beings, normally in Idaho (yes, that’s a state in the USA). Also, in times of need, they are incredibly gracious with waiving fees and actually taking care of their customers.  Their credit card is excellent too. Great perks, such as a free companion fare every year, and no foreign transaction fees.

Alden’s Organic Ice Cream – Delicious ice cream that is made the way it should be, by respecting the cows who provide the base of your ice cream elixir.  Grab yourself a quart and keep it all to yourself 🙂

Chanel Nail Polish – Because of my job (both my actual occupation and place of employment shall remain unnamed), I need to keep my nails simple and clean.  Chanel Nail Polish in Ballerina is the perfect color; I feel feminine while still maintaining a simple, respectable look.

Coyuchi – Very expensive organic bedding/clothing company but based on the one insanely soft blanket I bought from them, very well worth it.  I am starting a piggy bank so I can buy Hugo and I some new bed sheets from here in 2025.

Living on the Earth – Bill Duesing’s essays speak the conscience of the environmental movement in Connecticut. For years I have clipped and saved them for inspiration. Duesing reminds us that the simplest pleasures of life bring the most personal happiness and the greatest harmony with nature. — Representative Mary Mushinshy, Assistant Majority Leader, Connecticut General Assembly

Perfect Bar – THE BEST PROTEIN BAR EVER!!  I survive on these almost daily.

Pesticide Action Network – Support the work they do for our earth by donating a few dollars, signing their petitions or both.

San Jorge Eco-Lodges & Botanical Reserves – 1,700 species of birds, 65 hummingbird species, 15 waterfalls, 14 unique ecosystems, 7 private birding reserves, 4 unique eco-lodges and not one good reason why you shouldn’t visit this magical place in Ecuador.

Teeccino – Amazing coffee alternative.  Really enjoyable at night when you are craving a hot cup of coffee but aren’t interested in late-night caffeine.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon and stir in a little whole milk.  Delish!

Uncommon Goods – Cool online boutique for unique gifts.

Rules of Engagement (Part 4)

Writer’s Note:  As I sat down to write this, I was surrounded by our two, full-grown Rottweilers (Kaiser & Nala), who had four squeaky toys between them.  Our dogs are big teddy bears, who we raised from pups and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Every time they have toys out to play with, they purposely position themselves with the toys between them as they begin a slow, low-growl standoff, that involves neither one of them being allowed to move as they mad dog each other.  These standoffs usually last about fifteen minutes, followed by either us separating them or a little Rottweiler dominance brawl, which sometimes results in a nipped ear or bruised ego.  I love the honest instincts that they can’t deny and don’t hide.  Dogs have so much to teach us about being real, caring about your family, and sometimes, when absolutely necessary, fighting with your sibling over a tennis ball.

Without further ado…

Never quit.  Never quit on pursuing something you love, never quit on a relationship you want to be invested in, and never quit on yourself.  Sometimes it is easier said than done because struggle, by definition, is not the path of least resistance.

Throughout the years, Hugo and I have had our fair share of arguments.  Some of these arguments pushed us to the point of questioning why we were together.  I think that is natural when the emotions run high and you are passionate about how you feel and who you are fighting with.  Our argument style is also very different – I want to resolve the issue right away while Hugo would prefer taking some time to cool off, then discussing the issue later.  When we did question if our relationship was worth keeping, it hurt my heart at the worst possible level.  I always knew that I could never live without him and sometimes it took hitting rock bottom to reinforce that feeling.  Hugo felt the same way and always told me so afterwards.  The old saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”  Well, in our case, it was almost gone a few times and that always opened my eyes the widest to the fact that nothing should be taken for granted.

Over the years, our arguments have subsided almost completely.  This is in part due to our maturing with age and our reduced alcohol consumption (alcohol was like kerosene on our arguments).  We recently talked about this and we came to the same conclusion.  Bottom line, we never want to be apart.  He is my soul mate and I am his.  None of the bad outweighs the overwhelming amount of good in our relationship.

After thinking about it for a while, I think that is the true relationship test.  When you examine a relationship in your life, whether it is between your significant other, another family member or a friend, if the bad does not outweigh the good and you want this person in your life, that answers the question all by itself and it is worth fighting for.  Love should prevail and if it doesn’t, that is a loud indidcation that you are not with the right person.  And finally, if you decide to stay in the relationship, you make a pact to never quit.  If you don’t make quitting on each other an option, the joy you can experience as a couple is limitless.

As I find myself doing fairly regularly in this blog, I will end this post with an update from Hugo’s kitchen.  Pineapple shrimp are about to hit the grill and they will be the star of some fat, Cali burritos for dinner.  Oh, and also some stuffed clams and Alden’s Organic mint chip ice cream (if you don’t know about Alden’s, do yourself a favor and click that link, it’s the best damn organic ice cream around).  Now that’s how you heal a wounded knee, with lots of love and lots of food.

 

Rules of Engagement (Part 3)

It is a quarter past nine on this balmy evening in SoCal and I am putting fingers to keyboard to begin segment three of my relationship series Rules of Engagement.  Prior to starting this, I jotted down a handful of topics I wished to write about.  The topics came easily to me and all of them are vital to my own relationship with Hugo.  This topic in particular is something that Hugo and I talk about on a regular basis as we strive to continuously improve our own relationship.  And the second part of the topic is sometimes discussed at our dinner table, after we both come home from work with stories about obnoxious coworkers.  And so, part 3 is about speaking kindly to one another and of one another.

All couples talk every day, all day long, bicker now and then, and seriously argue on the occasional basis (hopefully no more than that).   Since you interact with your spouse nonstop (realistically, more than anyone else in the world), it is reasonable that over time you begin speaking to them not only in the most relaxed manner but also sometimes not in the most ideal way.  You might snap at them a little faster than you would with a friend or coworker. You also might use harsh or hurtful words when you argue with them.  In the heat of the moment, sometimes all bets are off.  However, none of the mean things we say, in the midst of an argument, do we mean.

We all get increasingly comfortable in routine environments in life.  The way I look at it is this:  treat and speak to your spouse as if the person you are speaking to is the most important person in your world.  Don’t take them for granted.  Remember how much you love them and if a stranger spoke unkindly to them, it would bother you.  Sometimes a good reminder about treating each other kindly is a good thing because it never hurts to try a little harder to be good to one another.

So that is the first part.  The second part moves from your relationship to the outside world.  Since your spouse or significant other is such a huge part of your life, it is inevitable that they come up in conversation with others very frequently.  I love my husband very much and I am proud of who he is as a good human being, my partner in life and a hard-working professional.  Because of this, I like talking about him.  A lot.  I brag about him and compare all other men I meet against him, because he is my standard for what a real man should be – honest, loving and real.

As you would imagine, based on how I write about Hugo, I speak very highly of him to everyone I know that will listen.  The same can’t be said of what I hear being said about other people’s spouses.  It is sad and shocking to hear how so many other people in the world speak about their loved ones.  It’s almost as if certain individuals think that it makes them look “cool” to make fun of, berate, or belittle their husbands or wives during conversation with other people.  I think that behavior is not only a testament to their relationship but also speaks loudly of their character.  The importance of speaking kindly of your spouse can’t just be measured by a bystander but think of the impact those sweet, or hurtful, words have on your husband or wife.

From personal experience, it warms my heart every time I am told about the nice things Hugo has to say about me.  It has happened many times and it never gets old.  To feel loved is an amazing feeling and we should all hope to make those close to us feel loved every day.