A beautiful day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A pledge to figure it out

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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.