Crossroads

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

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

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

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

Speaking Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A week of relief & celebration

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

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

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

 

So many questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet family dog pile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A long hiatus…but we are back in the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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