MY TRUTH

#DouglasStrong // Eagles Soaring High

02/15/2018

My hands are shaking and my heart is racing as I attempt to get my thoughts typed out.  The tears are swelling and dropping heavily onto my laptop.  I don’t even know what to write.

All I know is that roughly 24 hours ago, an armed gunman entered my high school and killed, at this point in time, 17 individuals – a combination of students and teachers.  And when I say my high school, I will clarify that I’m 19 years removed.  I graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 1999, the same spring that the Columbine High School Massacre occured.  This mass school shooting shocked the nation and every school felt some sort of ripple effect.  Trench coats were banned and there was a higher awareness that school was not as safe as it seemed, but the threat we felt almost two decades ago pales in comparison to the current threat to students today.

In an ironic sequence of timing, I had been completing the book “A Mother’s Reckoning; Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy” by Sue Klebold, the mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold.  I’m not sure exactly how it ended up in my list of books to read, but I had started the book on Tuesday of last week and slowly listened to the audio book chapter by chapter as she spoke of her experience of the event.  She disclosed details of a positive family life and her guilt and agony over her ignorance to Dylan’s depression and plans for the massacre.  I could identify greatly with her as a parent and suddenly as her story unfolded I could see, as a parent, how this truly could be anyone’s son.   I cannot do the book, or her story justice, by explaining it in my own words, but I do suggest that everyone read it – especially before making assumptions about the shooter, their upbringing, the ability to identify markers of intent, and so on. We think we know, but in reality, we don’t.

That said, I had spent the last week and half reminiscing about my high school, especially my senior year – the year in which the shooting occured.  Dylan and Eric, the gunmen, were my age and also senior’s in their own high school when the murders occurred. I visualized our hallways, classrooms and courtyards, and imagined what it would have been like if we had been attacked.  In between chapters I started researching school shootings and gun laws.  I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that Columbine hadn’t changed any laws and in fact it seemed to be getting easier to acquire guns and make modifications to said guns in order to make them automatic weapons.  This book was challenging to get through – and reading it as a parent had a stronger impact on me then it ever would have pre-kids.

I was in the last few chapters of the book yesterday as my phone started buzzing uncontrollably. Family and high school friends were reaching out to notify me of the current tragedy unfolding between the walls of our alma mater.  Children were being gunned down in the same school, where we grew into adults.  My head started spinning and I felt like I was in some sort of virtual reality.  How was it that I was literally reading a book about Columbine and visualizing a mass shooting (albeit circa ’99) all week and now it was actually occurring.  Did I put this into the universe?  Did I cause this?  I know, I know – this seems completely egocentric, but let me just tell you that I felt like I was in an episode of Black Mirror and it is the first time I truly started to question that maybe, as Elon Musk declares, we are indeed living in a virtual world.  I could not wrap my head around any of it.  In addition to the odd coincidence of reading this book, I have two hometowns – the one I grew up in pre-college (Coral Springs/Parkland) and the city I moved to for college and lived in until 2 years ago when we got transferred to DC (Orlando).  Within the last two years since moving away from Florida, both my hometowns have been hit with mass shootings (Pulse and Douglas HS). I was reeling.

As the story unfolded it turned out the gunman was a 19 year old former student of the high school.  All I could think about was the fact that Columbine happened while I was a senior at Stoneman Douglas high school 19 years ago. This was the same time this shooter was entering the world. We had his entire lifetime to figure things out – to make things better. But instead, things have simply gotten worse and the number of casualties from yesterday’s event were far greater than Columbine, which was the largest school shooting at the time.  How is this even possible?

I will say that one positive of social media, is that within hours Douglas alumnae from all over were reconnecting.  We are a relatively new school as it opened in 1990 in the new and growing town of Parkland, Florida and even though it is a large school it is a pretty tight knit community.  We were banning together talking about how to support our alma mater, work towards change, provide relief counseling and aid to the victims and families, and just using each other for support to mourn this unfathomable tragedy.

During the discussions online another classmate of mine brought up the fact that for the rest of our lives, everyone will know Stoneman Douglas High School – on an international level, because of this tragedy.  What was once a top rated school in a town ranked as one of the safest in America, will now forever be remembered for a school massacre.  But for me, I choose to remember Douglas for what it was for me.  A place of love and life.  Of self discovery and growth.  A place where I experienced love for the first time as well as heartache.  A haven for friendships that still thrive to this day.  This was our home for four years.  Not every moment was positive and I know that high school doesn’t feel safe (emotionally and physically) for everyone, but overall my experience was positive and it shaped me into the woman I am today.

I never realized there would be a day where I felt thankful that I made it out of those walls alive, but I would imagine it is on the minds of all the survivors in that school today. Our kids should not be fearful to walk into school and parents should not wonder if they will make it home alive.  If today’s kiss goodbye will be the last.

The amount of pain that is in my heart today cannot even compare with a fraction of what the affected families and friends are feeling.  But within days my life will return to normal and I will go through my day to day with only fleeting thoughts of the incident. And before long it won’t be on my mind much at all unless triggered by something.  This is not the case for any of the current students at Douglas.  Nor the families that lost loved ones. I’m not sure if anyone can truly say if this tragedy was  preventable, but it was certainly unnecessary and I truly believe we have to do everything in our power to reduce the chances that this will happen again in any other school – or any location for that matter.

The time is now.  While it is in our face and the energy and emotion is strong.  Before we accept this as the new normal.

Another alumnae in our support group said it very well.  Whether you believe the issue is about gun control, mental health, school security, or other issues, we can all agree that there is a problem.  So instead of fighting each other on who is correct on the root cause or which solution will actually fix the problem and remaining at status quo – let’s each work towards what we believe is the correct solution!

What’s the worst case scenario?

Maybe we will wake up one day to a world with better gun regulations that help slow down the process of acquiring firearms, creating better red flags for possible shooters trying to buy guns, a ban on bump stocks,  better access to mental health counseling and resources to help reduce the likelihood of the shootings in the first place, and better security within our schools.

Seems like a win-win-win to me.

Ready to take action?

One easy step you can take is to reach out to your representative!  You can use RESISTBOT (https://www.resist.bot) to easily phone, fax, or email your representatives.  Or text “resist” to 50409.

Want to DONATE to help support the victim’s families and those affected?  Click HERE to donate through the Broward Education Foundation.

Let’s not get stuck in the status quo.  It’s time for change.  Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.  It’s time to soar higher.  #eaglepride #douglasstrong

BEST SELF, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, THE SIMPLE THINGS

The Making of a Quilt // Manifesting Outcomes

02/02/2018

There are some tasks in life that I look back on and say to myself “How the heck did I do that!?!?!?”  Running a marathon is one.  Natural childbirth is another.  Building my paved patio and raised garden beds in our last home.  I often wonder where I found the time, energy, or know how to do these tasks.  But I got through them, day by day, moment by moment.

Creating a quilt is one of these activities.  

For the longest time I have wanted to learn to use my sewing machine.  I have had lavish daydreams about creating my own clothing.  I have also been hoarding away pajama bottoms from our annual matching holiday pajama tradition that started over ten years ago with hopes of making a quilt to capture the memory of the tradition without having such an excess of pajamas.

This past November I decided it was time.  Without any real knowledge of how to use my sewing machine (I had made one feeble attempt two year ago and failed) I made a concrete decision that I was going to sew a quilt.  

The decision was not entirely random either.  There were specific triggers that lead me to the decision at this point in my life.  My husband and I had started to watch the Netflix show “Godless”.  It is a western style film about an old mining town run by women after a terrible accident killed off the majority of the men.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I HIGHLY recommend it.  I was watching it for one purpose – my friends daughter was one of the stars.

I was eager to see her perform.  Kayli Carter was playing Sadie Rose, a young widowed mother. I had met Kayli a handful of times when she was younger.  Her mother and I had become friends when we were both working at the counseling center at UCF.  Young in my own career as a photographer, her mother hired me to take her senior pictures and headshots.  It was a fabulous session – one of my favorites to date.  Just working with her that afternoon I could tell that she was fearless and a force to be reckoned with.  And she was certainly talented.  She had been accepted to the performing arts program at SCAD – no small feat.  

I kept up with her successes through my friend Kim, her mom,  as she landed roles in the school productions, was accepted into the highly competitive actors showcase at SCAD, moved to NYC to pursue her dreams, achieved roles in plays, and of course landed a role in “Godless”.  It is truly amazing to watch her achieve her dreams and fulfill what I consider to be her destiny.  I had not had the same courage to follow my dreams of becoming an actor at her age, and so I am inspired  by her veracity and courage.  

Additionally, the plot line of the series got me to thinking.  As her character hammers wooden planks in one of the scenes, working solo to build a church, my mind began to churn.  These days we are so focused on learning one skill and mastering it.  Well, this has never quite been my forte.  I’m more of a renaissance woman – Jack of all trades, master of none – and although this has made me feel incompetent and unworthy while job hunting, in my day to day it actually comes in handy.  I began thinking about how in the olden days women would do so many tasks and trades without formal training or technology to help them out.  Cooking, sewing, teaching, building, farming, etc.  There was no reason I could not do anything I put my mind to.

As odd as it may seem, in that moment revelling about Kayli’s brave and uncompromising spirit mixed with the plot line of these strong women taking on numerous roles and tasks, I resolved that it was time to make this quilt.

I started off by reading various blogs regarding quilts.  I looked at different patterns that may be easier than others, but that I still liked the look of.  I got the overall concept of how to design and build the quilt and bought a couple of useful tools to help.  I purchased a rotary cutter, ruler, and self-mending board to cut on. It cost me roughly $32.  I then got to work ironing and cutting the material into larger strips which would be more manageable to cut into the squares when the gadgets arrived.

Once I had the rotary cutter I got to work cutting the various sized squares.  I was beyond nervous each step of the way, worried that I would mess something up.  And I did.  There were times that I miscalculated and cut an inch too short or lost my grip on the ruler and cut at a weird angle, but overall I was successful at cutting all the squares.

It was incredibly time consuming, but once I was able to breathe through the process and let go of my anxiety of getting it perfect I was able to enjoy the process.  I kept reminding myself that the quilts did not have to be, nor would they likely be, perfect – I just wanted to get them done.  I felt like a finished, handmade quilt, albeit imperfect, was far superior than having 20 pairs of unused pajama pants taking up room in our tiny apartment closet.  So, I just kept moving forward step by step, cutting the squares while listening to my audiobooks, until at last I had 3 neat piles of varying sized squares.  

Deep breath – I did it!

I felt incredibly proud of this accomplishment and celebrated in my success.  I was one step closer to a completed quilt.  But then the reality hit of how far I still had to go to complete the process and how little I knew.  Panic set in.  What was I doing? I still had no idea how to use my sewing machine.  I was certain I was going to mess up all this hard work I just did and that it would be a complete waste of time.

Okay, deep breath.  One step at a time.  I gave myself a pep-talk and remembered my mantra that an imperfect quilt is still better than hoarding pajamas.  

I pulled out my sewing machine and dusted it off.  I sat down and for a whole day read tutorials, watched how to videos, skimmed through my manual and did some test runs on scrap material.  The following day I decided it was time to start building the quilt.  Two squares were joined to each other at a time until I completed the stack of that sized square.  I then would join the two rectangles together creating a new larger square.  Again, there were many mistakes made along the way, tangles of thread, wrong tension, and hours watching tutorials on how to unjam the machine, but I repeated this process until I had built the smaller squares to be the same size as the largest squares.  At this time, I laid out all the squares onto the ground.  I could now see the making of a quilt.  I spent some time creating the final pattern for the quilt and then began to sew my rows.

At each step of the process I continued to chant my mantra that the quilt did not have to be perfect, just completed.  There was a lot of deep breathing and working through my tendencies towards perfection.  Regardless of the errors or slow downs, I kept proceeding forward.  The rows were eventually done and ironed.  I had long strips of squares mended together.  Then it came time to connect them all and complete the front of the quilt.  With bated breath I pinned the rows together one at a time, sewing them together as I progressed down the quilt.  They didn’t line up perfect, but it was good enough and for the most part it lined up well.  Before long, the front was complete!

I was overwhelmed with joy.  I had done it!  I finished the patchwork.  The entire front was done.  

Panic struck again.  There were still so many steps that could go terribly wrong and mess up the entire quilt. The hours and days of work I had already put in.  I still had no idea what I was doing.  I wasn’t sure how to create the back, or what type of batting to get, or if the layers would even fit in my very basic sewing machine. And on top of that, I had decided that I was going to make two quilts, one for each kid, and I’d only finished the first. I had to repeat the whole process all over again.

Deep breath.  Proceed forward.  It’s not about perfection.

I ordered batting online and a large reel of thread and waited for them to arrive.  In the meantime, I went to Joann Fabrics and found some materials that I used for the back.  They didn’t have exactly what I had imagined, but I found some cute Santa hat patterns and since they didn’t have enough for the entire back of the quilt, I paired that with a black and white polka dot pattern.  Good enough.

At  home I connected those pieces together in strips to make up some sort of more attractive pattern in order to cover the entire back of the quilt.  Again, it wasn’t how I originally envisioned it, but it got the job done.

I added a border to the patchwork in order to give it a more finished look and to add onto the dimensions making it closer to a true twin size.  

The next phase was ironing the batting and lining up both the front of the quilt and the back of the quilt.  I was still unsure how the thick materials would fare in my basic machine, but I didn’t want to outsource the job.  It was very important, for sentimental reasons, for the job to be done 100% myself.  

I laid out all the materials and batting and sandwiched them together, pinning the layers so they were connected.  I used to large drapery rod to help me roll the material onto one another, but I’m not sure if that helped all too much.  

Once I had the layers bound, it was time to test my machine. I cannot described the anxiety I felt as I fumbled through the process of actually quilting the layers.  I was slow and steady – and it worked!  The show would go on.  I did have a backup plan of hand stitching the quilt, but that would have taken a lot longer and not have created the look I wanted, so I was thrilled when this worked.

I put many more hours into quilting.  My fingers took a serious beating, but finally I completed the quilting.  And just in time too!  We were headed down to Florida for the holidays the following morning.  I had not completed the quilts, but I was very close.  My mom said that she had two machines at her house (hers and my sisters) and I was welcome to use either to complete the job.  Wonderful.  So, I packed up the quilts along with my material and needed supplies in the suitcases and headed to Florida.

I still was unsure how to do the binding.  And to be 100% honest, I did not nail the process.  I realized after I had cut the material that I had messed up, but it was too late and I was pretty much out of time, but I knew I could complete the job – the corners just had a little more character than I anticipated. Lol.  I finished binding two of the four sides of each quilt by Christmas Eve and decided that was good enough to wrap and give to the children.  It wasn’t worth being sleep deprived.

Oh, I should also mention that in addition to the quilts that I made from the adult pjs, I also used the kids pajamas to make stuffies.  I figured that adding a toy to the quilt would increase my odds of the kids truly loving their Xmas gifts – spoiler alert – I was right!

Christmas morning was a little bit of a challenge.  We decided to focus on less tangible items and toys and focus more practical items – books, gloves for skiing, gear for hockey and ice skating, healthy treats and snacks, and the quilts.  Needless to say, when the kids opened their presents in tandem with their cousins – think toys, toys, toys – they were less than excited.  I saw them put on their brave faces and try to hide the look of disappointment, but I felt crushed and questioned this parenting move.  Had I just ruined Christmas?  I knew that they would have loved their presents if we were home by ourselves, but they just didn’t seem to size up compared to their peers.  I felt crushed.

Then, they opened their quilts.  Thank goodness I made the stuffy, because having a toy on Christmas morning was needed.  They LOVED their quilts and even more so their new soft and lovable sleeping toy.  Success.

Later that day, when the kids were playing outside with the relatives I snuck away to the bedroom to complete the quilts.  I finished the binding and packed up the machine.  I was done.

That evening the kids bundled up into their beds, tucked snuggly in their quilts, while we read them the first chapter of their new books (Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew).  They squeezed on their stuffies and proclaimed that this was the best Christmas ever.  Ahhhh, exhale and smile.  

I had a moment of doubt that morning that I had made the wrong decision in my gift purchases and suggestions for extended family, but now a month later I’m certain that they were indeed the right ones.  We are still reading nightly chapters from the book series, the kids use their skating gear weekly, and the gloves have worked perfectly for skiing and snow play.  And of course, they sleep in their quilts every night.    The excitement of a new toy wears off pretty quickly, but the quilts are now possible family heirlooms.

As silly as it may sound, I am really proud of myself for completing the quilts.  It was a lot of hard work, but I finished both quilts in a month’s time.  My time to work on them was limited because I didn’t want the kids to see me working on them.  I look at the quilts now and it seems foreign to me that they started off as pjs.  They look so good!  I really can’t believe I made them.  

I believe that you can do just about anything that you put your mind too if you believe in yourself, start the task, and just keep going until the job is complete.  It’s time for us all to start manifesting our desired outcomes.  I am definitely working towards more goals this year, so hopefully I’ll have more positive outcomes to share as I continue to work towards completion.

What projects have you been dreaming of completing – and what stops you?

GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, LIFE CHANGES

Old Dogs // A Dedication to My Fur Babies

01/25/2018

Over 16 years ago a little six week old cocker spaniel entered my life and changed it forever.  A short year later, an eight week old golden retriever joined our little family.

I had wanted a dog since I was a child, but the situation of having one never quite worked out ideally.  My parents tried on two occasions to provide us with the experience, but both attempts fell short of living up to my idealistic dream of owning a dog.

The first dog we had, Lucky, a white, fluffy bichon frise, was great and everything I had hoped it would be.  Sadly though, my mom became ill not long after we got him, and overwhelming fatigue made it difficult for her to care for a new dog.  Much to our heartbreak, my parents decided that it was better to give Lucky to a friend to raise, rather than keeping him ourselves.  So off on a plane he flew – across the US to my mom’s close friend to live with his new family.  I can still remember the  anguish and loss felt leaving the airport that day.

We begged my parents continually for another dog for years, but “No” was the constant response.  Finally, on my seventeenth birthday I got a card from my dad that went something to the liking of “We know this year has been ruff for you, so how about we get a dog”.  I was elated.  Now, it was made very clear that although this was written in my birthday card, it was not going to be my dog, rather it would be the family dog.  But I did not care, I was so excited.

My parents decided on getting two dogs so that they would have each other for company during the day when we were all at school.  They found a breeder and we eventually took home two beautiful golden retriever puppies.  After much deliberation and some helpful suggestions from friends, we named them Tiger and Lilly.  We were all excited.

Well, everyone but my eldest sister who was away at college.  She was allergic to dogs and upset that we would bring them into the home, which would undoubtedly affect her negatively when she came home for visits.  So as a compromise, my parents cleared space in the garage putting up walls for a partition so they’d have both room for the dogs and for their storage.  They added a doggy door to the outside and gated an area of the yard so that the dogs could go in and out as they pleased.  It seemed like a good compromise, but the reality is that because the dogs were now outdoor dogs, they never truly assimilated into our family.

When they were puppies we were all eager to go out and play around with them, but to be quite honest, I never really grew attached to the dogs because of the separation.  The garage was musky and uninviting.  There was no real draw to stay out there with the dogs for prolonged periods of time.  After a while it felt more like an obligation and from my perspective, Tiger and Lilly never quite became members of the family like I had hoped they would.  It didn’t help that within a year and a half of getting the dogs, I went off to college and started a life of my own.

So, despite my parents good hearted attempt, I never truly felt as if I had a dog and the yearning for one continued. I daydreamed often about the day I would have a pup of my own to cuddle with and love.  To sleep in my bed and be my best friend.  And if I’m being frank, someone to love me unconditionally.

Entering into my third year of college, one of my best friends and I decided that we would share an apartment off campus.  This was my chance!  We found a pet friendly complex not far from the university and put down our deposit.  I discussed getting a dog with her – and although I cannot for the life of me remember the dialogue – she must not have said no, because not too long after, I found a breeder and bought the dog I always dreamed of – a golden haired cocker spaniel – just like on Lady and the Tramp.

Unfortunately, timing was not perfect as my friend could not move into the apartment until fall and I needed it for the summer, so my sister – the same one from above, who is allergic to dogs – came to live with me during her summer break from law school.  I do not have too many memories of this time together – probably due to too much drinking and not enough sleep paired with the blocking out of less than stellar memories – but let’s just say, she was not thrilled to have a dog in the apartment.  I’m sure that my sister and my best friend, whom luckily is still one of my dearest friends to this day, would have plenty to say about my poor roommate skills during this time of my life.  Luckily for my husband – I am a much better roommate now than when I was as an egocentric – only viewing the world from my point of view, not to be confused with egotistical – 20 something.

All that aside, I had my puppy. Her name was Kayla and she was my world.  I loved this dog more than I could have ever dreamed.  She was my baby – and I treated her as such.  I took her around with me where ever I could.  I hand crafted toys and bedding for her, dressed her up in clothes, and took pictures of her, just like a new mom.  Once when I went on vacation for a weekend I even dropped her off with a diaper bag of sorts and a three page detailed letter on how to care for her.  Oh geez. I still get teased for this.  Owning a dog was everything I had ever longed for and my love for Kayla was immeasurable.

A year later, I graduated college and bought my first home.  Now that I had a space of my own with a back yard (and a doggy door to be installed), I decided to get a second dog.  I know, I know – 22 with two dogs – what was I thinking?  At least, this is the dialogue I had with my father, lol.  The second breed of dog that I had always wanted, after spending time with my cousins’s dog in Connecticut, was a golden retriever.  So again, I found a breeder and put down a deposit.

The timing wasn’t ideal on this decision either, as my boyfriend at the time was not too thrilled with the dog that I already owned and purchasing a second was the nail in the coffin on that relationship.  But who needed a guy to love when I had the unconditional love of TWO dogs?!?!

I had my little happy family and I was thrilled.  I loved my dogs.  They slept in the bed with me.  We took regular trips to the dog park.  And they kissed away more tears over the years than I’d like to admit.  The love and joy that they have provided to me in my life is unable to be captured in mear words.

Over the years the dynamics with the dogs have changed a bit.  Having human children often does this.  They soon lost the privilege of sleeping in our bed and the visits to the dog parks became few and far between.  But we moved into a bigger house with a larger back yard and gave them two children to love them just the same.

Now, I sit here, 16 1/2 years after getting Kayla and 15 years since Saydi, knowing that my days with these two incredible girls are numbered.

Up until about a year ago, their health was good and the idea of them passing on was only there due to their age and a continued stream of Facebook posts of others losing their beloved pets who were around the same age as our sweet girls.  But in this past year, Saydi has struggled with her mobility after being diagnosed with idiopathic vestibular disease and having a wicked episode that left her immobile for weeks.  Luckily we nursed her back to health and are past the year mark since her episode, but we have seen a steady decline of her mobility since then.

And Kayla.  My poor sweet first born babe.  After arriving home from our travels during winter break earlier this month, I noticed a large mango sized tumor on her throat that was not apparent before we left for our trip.  My baby has thyroid cancer.  An immovable large tumor that will no doubt be her demise.

We have decided against treatment due to her age and although she seems to be in continued good spirits I have witnessed many changes.  She suffers from short bouts of challenged breathing.  She needs her food softened.  She has extreme incontinence and will periodically have blood in her urine and stools.  Her lip and side of her face is swollen due to the tumor, which causes her to drool.  And she smells.  Bad.  Really bad.

But she still seems happy and loving.  She still hangs out at my feet wherever I am and cuddles with me. It doesn’t feel like it is time yet.  And perhaps this is me not ready to let go and perhaps it is a bit selfish, but until the day comes that it is so apparent that she is suffering, I will not be making any decisions otherwise.

So it leaves us with all the frustrating nuisances of having old dogs.  We live on the tenth floor of our building at the end of a very long hall and have begun to carry Kayla downstairs while walking Saydi on the leash in order to prevent accidents in the hallway or elevator.

Just to get a glimpse into this exciting period of our lives –  this week while carrying Kayla over my shoulder, Saydi had a poo poo accident halfway to the elevator.  I put Kayla down so that I could clean up the mess Saydi made and within moments Kayla was urinating in the hall.  I laid down paper towels (which I regularly carry with me) to mark the mess, walked back to the apartment, dropped off the dogs, and proceeded down the hall to remedy the situation.  When that was done I got the dogs and tried again to make it downstairs so they could finish their business.  But alas, Saydi squatted midway and relieved herself in the hall.  At this point I wanted to cry.  I was tired.  Hot (with layers of clothing for the freezing temps outdoors).  And riddled with guilt over my frustrations with the dogs.  As I put Kayla down yet again to clean up Saydi’s mess, she too squatted and went #2.  At this moment, all I could do was laugh.

I gave up, walked the dogs back to the apartment and brought back with me all the cleaning supplies needed to fix the mess.  When I finally got them downstairs, they of course did not have anything left.  This was just the first of many accidents of the day.  And if you are wondering about my walk schedule.  I, or my husband, take the dogs out last thing before we go to sleep and first thing in the morning when we wake.  I also walk them several times throughout the day, as I am home most of the time.  These accidents can be within 30 minutes of walking them, so there isn’t always a rhyme or reason. We use diapers too, but sometimes, like right now, they are all being washed because we have too many small accidents in a row.  The only way I keep myself sane is by understanding that they are just old dogs and this time is temporary and a git.

When I first got the dogs, the idea of them passing was so foreign to me, but now it is something I think about constantly. I check for their breathing regularly, wondering if today will be the day that I have to say goodbye to one of them. In addition, I am tormented by my mixed feelings and emotions about this period of their lives. I am stressed out by the smell, constant accidents, and the strain it has on my relationship with my husband who does not have the same bond with the dogs. I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t going to be some relief once we are past this part of our lives, but the heartache I feel for even having these thoughts is indescribable.  I have cried myself to sleep many of nights recently, knowing at any moment I may have to say goodbye to my girls. That I will never be able to hold them and love on them again.  That they won’t be there to kiss away the tears that will undoubtedly flow once they have passed and to mend the feeling of heartache and void that I will feel once they are gone. And there is so much pain admitting that there is a part of me that is at the same time ready to let go.  It hurts even writing that.

I am beyond grateful for the generous amount of time that I have had with my girls and I will continue to be thankful for every moment with them that is gifted to me, even if that includes less than ideal conditions.  Kayla and Saydi have brought more joy into my life than I could have ever expected and they each taught me to love in new ways.  I am glad that my children have had the privilege of loving them as well.

Only time will tell how this story ends, but I am forever grateful for each chapter.  Even the final ones.

 
BEST SELF, HAPPINESS, LIFE CHANGES

Fun with Clippers // My Adventures in Haircutting

01/16/2018

It may sound silly, but one thing I have always wanted to do is cut my own hair. There’s something I find really liberating about the idea of taking scissors to my own head, but it’s also terrifying because cutting your own hair in a straight line is not an easy task. I’ve had plenty of bad haircuts before, so even a trained professional can screw it up.

This time last year, I decided that I wanted to go blonde. This was a task I took on myself as well. Several boxes of blonde hair dye, or should I say bleach, later I was relatively blonde and I was pretty impressed with the job I did. I left the blonde in for a short while, but I didn’t feel like the color suited me and so I decided to get another box of dye and go back to my roots.

I think over a 6 week period I probably used 4-5 boxes of hair dye or bleach. Needless to say I destroyed my hair. Since then, I have tried to take care of it the best I can using Beautycounter products and DIY natural hair masks and remedies, but there’s no real coming back from that type of damage.

I decided that a haircut was a necessity. I spent some time asking around about hair salons in the area and also pinning ideas of hairstyles I was interested in. But I never pulled the trigger. I really enjoy having long hair. I feel like I have mermaid hair – a little out of control, never quite in place, slightly hippyish – and I feel like it’s part of my identity. But managing the fried ends has become a little bit too much. So, again I decided it was time to get a haircut.

Last week I spent a little too much time playing on hair apps trying to get an idea of what I would look like with really short hair. I mean, really short hair.  I’m not sure if the pixie cut is really for me since I have slightly bigger ears that stick out a bit and in my opinion, a bulbous upturned nose, but I still haven’t completely ruled it out. I tend to really like the stacked wedge/bob cut too.  Either way, I knew a good amount of hair was coming off in order to bring better health to my hair once again.


I have already decided that I’m not going to dye my hair again with conventional hair dye do to the toxins within the products, so I felt like a good haircut would give me a fighting chance for healthy hair.

Instead of going straight to the stylist and chopping it drastically short, I decided I wanted to go in phases. I know it may sound counter-intuitive being that I write a blog about myself, but I really don’t like a lot of attention – and a new hair cut, especially a drastic one brings just that. So I figured if I cut it shorter, in gradual steps, it would draw less attention.

So I came up with a brilliant idea of cutting it myself!  Something I have always wanted to do!

My hair is a bit wavy, so I figured I had a little room for error in regards to cutting it perfectly. I also figured if I did a really bad hack job I could always go directly to the salon to get it fixed. I was definitely not cutting it too short as compared to the styles I like, there I was leaving plenty of room for them to work their magic without compromising the end result.

Instead of using scissors, I used the electric clippers that I used to do the boys hair. I cut my daughter’s hair with this recently and it worked well.

It was a lot of fun.  Not necessarily something I would recommend for others, but definitely something I wanted to do at some point in my life and I’m glad I did. I’m really happy with the result and doing it myself bought me some time to figure out what hairstyle I actually want without having to spend extra money at the salon for my in between look.  The end result is not perfect and I’m sure a hairstylist would have plenty to say about my attempt and technique, but I’m happy and at the end of the day that’s what matters.


I’m glad I wasn’t too scared to do it. I can’t say that I will necessarily do it again, but I’m glad I scratched that itch!

What have you always wanted to do but fear keeps you from doing it?

GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, HEALTH, MY TRUTH

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

01/09/2018

2017 brought much to be thankful for, but health and happiness have certainly topped our list.  At the end of last year, I was struggling with the recovery from my explant surgery and was unsure what the future of my health looked like.  Today, I stand here with full health and feeling better than ever.  Grateful would be an understatement.

This year also left my husband and I with a  major life decision which I feel has brought a level of happiness to our family that we had been missing in the early half of the year.  The decision of whether to stay in a less than ideal work environment or leave with no plan for future employment meant walking away from a home we were in the middle of purchasing.  We abandoned all set plans for the future and chose happiness.  Three months of unemployment was scary, but we worked together to take full advantage of our time together and ended up having one of the best summers of our lives.

At the completion of summer, the kids went back to school and my husband found a new job that puts a smile on his face.  I have personally received several phone calls during his lunch break, where he tells me how thankful he is to work for his organization and under such great leadership.

To close our year. we flew to Florida to celebrate Christmas with my entire family.  Ten grandkids  running around meant a little chaos, but a lot of joy in the air.  And a few days after Christmas, my husband and I slipped away to Jamaica for several days to celebrate our 10 year anniversary, sans kids.  We spent our entire trip reconnecting with one another and planning for the future.

 

I love that our anniversary falls so close to New Years because each year we naturally plan for the following year of our marriage and what better time to start implementing new goals than around the new year?

I would not necessarily call my 2018 goals resolutions, but I am certainly going to focus on reawakening my soul, refocusing on love, recommitting my efforts, reinvigorating my drive, and rejuvenating my spirit.

So, what exactly does that mean?

I am going to continue making efforts to live a very conscious and intentional life.  I want to come from a place of love in all that I do.  I want to be conscious about my decisions and intentional in my actions.  I know there is a great growth edge here, but practice makes perfect.

I have also decided to commit 2018 to being a dry year – which means no libations for this girl.  I have goals that I want to reach and I am not going to let wine or cocktails distract me.  And for those of you out there thinking that seems silly – I know myself well enough to know that I am more productive without allowing myself a glass of wine at the end of the day or even that occasional cocktail here and there.  So, decision made – no booze of any kind.

Physical fitness is another one of my focus areas for 2018.  Now that I have my health back, I want to exploit it – just kidding.  But seriously, I want to take advantage of feeling good and focus on working to feel even better.  I am signed up for the 2018 Marine Corp Marathon in October and I want to be prepared to run it uninjured.  I also want to focus on increasing my functional fitness – so pushups and pullups.  The goal is to be able to keep up with any physical obstacles or opportunities that come my way!

With the focus on fitness, nutrition naturally hits the spotlight as well.  We have been diligent in crowding out less healthy food options in 2017, so 2018 we will just continue our focus on whole food plant based eating.  We have been eating some fish and eggs in 2017, but after watching a documentary (What the Health) with the kids, we are working on crowding those out too and truly going WFPB.  I am going to focus on finding and creating new recipes to entice our pallette and enjoy the natural flavors mother nature brings us.  I will also be continuing my journey of safer beauty products through Beautycounter, which I kind of lump under nutrition in a way since it is in a sense feeding your largest organ.

Furthermore, I want to focus more on my  spiritual journey.  I had started A Course in Miracles when we first moved here, but life got in the way and it ended up back on my bookshelf.  It is my goal to complete at least the first part by the year’s end.

And lastly, I want to focus more consistently on my writing.  I have a few works that I have let slip into the shadows as of late and I want to recommit myself to finishing them.  Whether or not they ever see the light of day is a different story, but I certainly think there is power in completion.

That about sums up the major focus points for 2018.  Realistically I will be reassessing and refocusing depending on what comes my way, but ultimately these are the areas of importance to me at this point in my life.

I am beyond grateful for my life thus far.  2017 was no exception.  I have a wonderful and supportive group of friends and family, two amazing children, a dedicated and loving husband, and two wonderful dogs.  This doesn’t mean that life is all rainbows and butterflies – it certainly comes with its dark moments, but I am learning to let go of the petty things that slow me down and focusing on being present and grateful for what I do have.

Life is about balance and it takes some pretty solid core strength and a strong foundation to stay balanced during rough winds.  Balance is a continual process as I am learning, but with practice it becomes less work and more of a natural reaction to situations.

I hope you have been able to have an attitude of gratitude through 2017 and look forward to all the opportunity the new year brings.  I’d love to hear what is on your agenda for 2018 if you are open to sharing!