Friday, December 26, 2014

Sayonara 2014

It's that time of year once again where I get to mourn the passing of one year and welcome the begging of the new one.

Except this year I'm not really mourning the passing of 2014.  I'm somewhat rejoicing in it.

It was a really tough year for us.  I don't even care to relive it by talking about it again, but we struggled.  Financially, physically, mentally... I am beat.

I am so ready for 2015.

I began 2014 by going Paleo and I am doing something similar for the beginning of 2015, believe it or not.

I am going to aim to be "as Paleo as possible", with my cheats consisting of healthy cheats - like brown rice, black beans, some dairy, etc - instead of unhealthy cheats - like cheesesteaks, cheeseburgers, etc.  I've had a lot of time to think about what I did right and wrong this year when it came to my diet.  I have seen how eating too much grains affects my waist line and I really don't like it.  Even when I thought I was eating things like brown rice in healthy quantities - it doesn't do me any good.

So anyway.  That's where I'm going with my diet.

I'm still lifting and I still love it.  I had another session with a trainer recently who increased my heavy squats and dead lifts by 20lbs each and yikes.  I have noticed so much muscle definition in my legs and my arms.  But now I'd like to focus more on my back and my core.  My trainer is helping me do that.  My trainer - might I mention is like maybe 5'2" and she can squat 200lbs.  TWO HUNDRED.  I can't even imagine...

In other news, this blog will no longer be in a little while.  I've been working on a somewhat secret project for the past few months and will spend the next week getting ready to launch a new blog.  Stay tuned for more information.  I trust you will like it.  :)

What are your plans for 2015?  Resolutions?  Anything big happening in your lives next year?

For me....

  • I think we are going to try and make a visit out to see our west coast family.  So excited!
  • We have some friends and family coming to visit us next summer, YAY!!
  • One of my resolutions is to read a book each month.  I'm tired of being sucked into my phone.  Plus I take the train now so I have about 50 minutes a day to read, at the very least.
  • Another resolution: keep eating healthy, keep lifting.
  • I'm in the market for an SUV.  Either in the next week or sometime next year.  This is mainly exciting for me because then I never have to be scared about driving in the winter ever again.
  • My daughter will start kindergarten next year!  ARGH!

I hope this post finds you well.  Love and good wishes to all of you.  xoxoxo

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My, how things change...

Something has clicked inside of me.  Something has really changed.

About six weeks or so ago, I started strength training.  I worked with a trainer who gave me upper body and lower body exercises that I could fit into my normal workout which included calisthenics and fasted cardio.  The plan was to start slowly and increase the amount of strength training per week to 2x/week upper body and 2x/week lower body.  Over the past several weeks, I have been doing these exercises religiously - to the point where if I have to miss a workout (because of meatheads who leave plates on the Olympic bar that I can't for the life of me remove), it legit ruins my day.  I get PISSED.  ROID RAGE!  Only I'm not on any roids.  hahahah

Anyway.  I have lost complete interest in calisthenics and cardio at this point.  I don't want to do anything except lift weights.  Over the past several years, I have killed myself with different kinds of cardio and calisthenics all for very meager visual results.  In the few weeks I've been strength training, I have noticed more results than I ever did with cardio.  This week I am changing my routine to be doing whole body strength training 3x a week, with cardio and calisthenics on the other two days.  And I'm excited!  You guys, I've been getting up at 5am and working out at work at 7am for ELEVEN WEEKS now.  I have never stuck to a routine this long.  Working out first thing in the morning is meant for me.  And I like that strength training allows me to continue to reinvent my workout and get noticeable results.  My arms are really taking shape.  And my legs are getting so strong.

But aside from this continued motivation and excitement about going to the gym, the way I know something has truly clicked and truly changed.... is because I'm working out on vacation.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I went to Vegas for our 10 year wedding anniversary.  The first thing we both wanted to do upon landing was get to the hotel gym and workout.  We couldn't though, because we were way too early for check-in.  So we wandered around and had lunch.  Cheeseburgers, fries, cocktails, and a frozen hot chocolate for me.  We made our way back to the hotel to check-in, got into our room, and promptly changed to hit the gym.  Even after imbibing.  Crazy.  I have never worked out on vacation before.  I have always viewed vacation as my break from the drudgery of working out.  Not in Vegas!  We even aimed to eat healthy while there.  I mean - we ate what we wanted, when we wanted, but we really did not overdo it.

Later this week, we leave for Virginia Beach for a week.  We got this gorgeous house with a pool and of course we are bringing Maraea and my sister Caitlin is tagging along too.  I have been borderline-freaking-out about where I am going to get my workout in next week.  Because it can't be just cardio.  I can't just go for a run on the beach.  That won't satisfy me.  I MUST LIFT WEIGHTS.  Luckily I found a rec center nearby that we can go to for $8 a day.  But seriously?  I have never done this before.  Found a local gym to continue my workout routine?  Like I said, normally vacations were my break from working out too.  Not this time.  Also, we will be eating healthy breakfasts and lunches (yes I have already planned everything out), and normal dinners that are okay to eat as long as you are working out too (steaks, potatoes, burgers, fries, going out to eat, etc).  When I was in Vegas, I felt so much better about splurging a little if I wanted to, if I'd already worked out that day.  I'm sure Virginia Beach will be no different.

Another update - I quit Weight Watchers.  I got really discouraged in my last several weeks.  Even though my eating has been on target except for my cheat meals, I was gaining weight.  Now, I am SURE that it's because of strength training, and building muscle.  But that didn't stop me from feeling discouraged and bummed out.  I woke up one Thursday morning excited for weigh-in because I felt so good and I looked so good.  And I'd gained 3 lbs!  I just want to stop focusing on that number so much.  I don't want to care what I weigh - I never have.  I just want to feel healthy, and feel good about myself.  I feel amazing right now.  I have never felt better in the past 4 years since I started working out, than I do right now.  And I just didn't want WW to be the Debbie Downer in my life.  I want to continue working out and eating right and not focus on that number.

I don't want to be skinny - I want to be strong.

Do you know I even started researching CrossFit gyms in the area?  It still kinda scares me.  But I might be heading towards that.  I'm not sure yet.

Anyway.  I'm so excited about exercise now.  I love where I am and I love where I'm going and I only want it to continue and get better.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

(Other People's) Kids are Shit

Maraea is being bullied at school.

There are three different girls that are targeting her.

Really, ladies?  It starts this early?  I figured I'd be dealing with this at some point in her life but not in pre-K for goodness sake.

Girl #1 - let's call her Zeze - has actually gotten physical with my daughter.  She's punched her in the arm, tugged at her shirt and her hair, they get into screaming and pushing matches.  Clearly two personalities that clash.  The teachers are thankfully all over the situation and manage to keep them separated for the most part.  To cover all our bases, we talked to the center director about it, who assured us that she was aware of it at her level as well, and that "the process" (of documenting behavioral incidents and issues) was already well underway.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Zeze has something going on at home.  The director was obviously not at liberty to elaborate, but it sounds like some drastic change and now Zeze is acting out at school.  It's very sad and Zeze I'm so sorry but could you keep your paws off my kid please?

Girl #2 - let's call her Nene - has also gotten physical.  The most recent incident happened yesterday.  Maraea is the line leader this week, and apparently when you're standing in line you're not allowed to talk.  So Nene was standing behind Maraea and was trying to tell her something, and Maraea was not responding (because she's not allowed to talk).  Nene kept bothering Maraea, so Maraea covered her ears, which prompted lovely little Nene to punch Maraea in the throat.  WTF IS WITH THESE GIRLS AND THEIR PUNCHING.  FOR FUCK'S SAKE, I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO PUNCH.  Anyway.  The teacher asked Maraea why she didn't just tell her that Nene was bothering her, and Maraea said "I'm not allowed to talk in line".  My kid, following instructions.  Grrr.  There have been other physical incidents in the past too.

Girl #3 - let's call her Lele - has not gotten physical but is highly manipulative.  Maybe she's not really bullying Maraea.  But it's one of those - "Hey Maraea, I really like your ____________ maybe you should let me have it."  And then Maraea comes home telling me that Lele now has all her stuffed animals at nap time and she needs to bring in more, and that Lele is stealing food from her lunch, and when Maraea tries to tell the teacher, Lele covers Maraea's mouth and holds her in her seat so she can't tell.

Real gems, all three of them.

I'm shocked that this started so early.  And what's really frustrating is that I can't tell my daughter how to fight back against these little shits.  She's not old enough to understand when it's ok to fight back and when it's not.

I tried telling her - with Zeze - to look her straight in the eye, and be very brave and strong, and say "Zeze, LEAVE ME ALONE."  Loud enough so her teachers could hear.  Sadly that turned into her taking that stance with me sometimes.  She'll get an attitude with me, because she doesn't know that it's ok to stand up to Zeze but not to mommy like that.

She's been throwing ridiculous temper tantrums since this all started about 3-4 months ago.  RI-DIC-U-LOUS.  Like, thrashing around kicking and screaming, hitting and kicking me and Aaron, hyperventilating and throwing things.  All over the smallest things - she doesn't want me to brush her hair.  She doesn't want to go potty before bed.  Last night, it was because she asked me "Mommy, was I on punishment last night?" and I answered her "Yes".  She flew off the handle.  And for what?  The day was already over.  It was in the past.  She wasn't on punishment anymore.  WTF?

Awesomely enough for me, so many of these tantrums have happened in my presence only.  In the mornings, trying to get her out of the house for school.  In the car on our way home.  One day she sat in the backseat kicking and screaming at the top of her lungs for about 40 minutes straight - threw things at me from the backseat, reached up and around and smacked me on my chest.  Such a treat.  An awesome treat.

We're supposed to be past the temper tantrum stage.

We are trying to talk it out with her as much as we can.  When we see her starting to head down that path, we try very gently to get her to talk about what might really be upsetting her.  Sometimes she bites, sometimes she will furrow her brows at us and stomp her foot and be defiant.

If you ask me, it all ties back to this bullying shit.

You ever want to scare another kid that's fucking with your kid?  Sometimes I daydream about going into that classroom and twisting Zeze's or Nene's or Lele's ears and getting on their level real close to their face and telling them to leave my kid the fuck alone.  Haha.  We all know that won't solve anything though.

When it first started we tried being very diplomatic about it.  "If so-and-so doesn't play nice with you, maybe you should play with some other kids."  Because you know how kids can take something you say and completely misinterpret it and then go into school and spit it back out.  By now, I'm straight up telling her to stay away from those 3 girls.  Don't play with them.  They're not nice girls.  The sad thing?  She still thinks they are her friends.  After Lele stole her Doritos from her lunch one day, Maraea said "Lele is still my best friend though."  And I had to get real with her.  I said "You think Lele is your best friend?  Do friends steal from each other?  Would you steal anything from Toni (her BFF that lives next door)?  Friends don't hurt each other and friends don't steal from each other.  Lele is not your friend at all."

I'm kind of at the point now where I'm ready to move her to a new school.  There's a place by me that's much cheaper, it's closer, they have longer hours, Aaron could pick her up if needed, I would get my car rides to and from work back to myself again.  Sure, she may run into some shit kids there too.  But maybe not.  I suppose you never know.  I'm just tired of paying $285 a week and my kid is coming home and telling me about all these kids that pick on her and punch her and are mean to her.

Nothing makes me want to move to the middle of Oklahoma and homeschool her more than this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Look Up

In a recent random perusal through Facebook (which I rarely do these days), I happened upon this video and you need to click on that link and watch it.

It made me cry, legit.

That video speaks to all the reasons why I ditched Facebook in the first place.  But it also brought me into awareness that it's not just Facebook.  I'm on Instagram like all the time.  It wasn't a problem for me because it's not negative to me like Facebook can be - but it's still something that's disconnecting me from my life.  And I'm playing games like all the time too.  And I need to stop that.

Why are we so addicted to our phones and technology and social media?

I hate that I'm a part of it.  And I want it to change.

So I'm going to work on that.

On a similar vein, and also in a recent random perusal through Facebook (seems I've got two good things out of it lately), I happened upon this video, for Colbie Caillat's new single, Try.  This made me cry too!  I immediately added it to my Spotify playlist and let Maraea listen to it.  This is the message I want her to hear as she grows up.

Speaking of Maraea, I need to vent about some stuff there too but I just can't tonight.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe tomorrow there will be a resolution I can tell you about.  We'll see.

Kisses ya'll.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

100 + 5k

This is my 100th post!  Whoa!  I actually had 100 semi-important things to share with the world from this blog.  That's pretty astounding to me.

Well, today is no different.  My baby sister Caitlin started a blog of her own to document her progress towards running her first 5k.  Check it out here.  Today I am here to declare that I am going to cross something off my bucket list this year and do that 5k with her. 

I know, I know - last year I tried it and royally effed up my knees and was out of commission for weeks.  But but but.... since then, I have been incorporating short-distance jogs and sprints into my walks outside.  I think my issue last year was that I was trying to do it on the treadmill (ps, I just started to type "TREATmill".... wonder what's on my mind?), and my doctor pretty much forbade me from ever doing anything on the treadmill except walking.  But outside, for some reason, I can handle more than walking a little better.  The only issue I run into is my lungs, which to me, means I have endurance issues.

I have endurance issues with everything I do though.  I am very easily beaten from a mental standpoint when it comes to exercise.  Especially on the rowing machine.  I really have to focus on something other than the time or distance remaining to really put in my full effort, because as soon as I see that I have 800 meters left or 4 minutes left or something, I immediately become mentally defeated and start to slow down and my performance suffers.  I don't know how to fix that.  I suppose people who row for a living or something find a way through that mental block, but I have never been able to.

I have confidence that I can do this 5k. 
a) The loop around the park at my house is 2.71 miles and I can (quickly) walk that in about 35-37 minutes.  A 5k is only a little longer than that.  I know I can at LEAST walk the 5k at a fast pace if needed, but I know that I can also TRY to jog or sprint some of it.
b) Caitlin and I probably have very similar levels of fitness.  So it will be awesome to do a 5k with someone whose fitness ability matches my own, as opposed to other people I know who run 5ks like it's their job, or they are just way better runners than me.  Together, we can do this!

I have until October to train.  And with going back to the gym this week and building back up my strength, I feel as though I could comfortably start a couch to 5k workout regimen sometime later this month.  NOT ON THE TREADMILL!  I promise.  This is very exciting.  We must get special team shirts made or something, because that would be the dorky sister thing to do.

Yoohoo!  Go follow my sister.  <3

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Fun

In an effort to spend the rest of my roll of Kodak 400TX (the only bad thing about film, in my opinion: you might not burn through a roll during your shoot but you have to spend the rest to get it developed), I took some photos of my daughter and her friend next door, Toni, and Toni's brother, Leland.  This was one of the first days this summer that the pool was out so they were quite happy to be splashing around!

(In fact as I type this, Maraea is resting after an afternoon in the pool.  It's a wonderful way to get your kids tired enough for a nap!)















Eastern State Penitentiary II

Some more photos from my recent trip to ESP.  This place photographs really, really well in black and white.  I didn't even get to use a color roll there - and I didn't even feel the need to.  All these shots are straight out of camera.  Film for the win!




My beautiful friend Courtnee




Tuesday, June 24, 2014

One year later...

It struck me the other day that it's already almost July.  Like where did the late spring/early summer go?  I blinked and missed it.

But it's almost July, and I realized that it's almost a year now since I started Weight Watchers.  And I'm only just over halfway to my goal loss of 40lbs.

I started thinking about everything that has happened in the past year as far as my diet is concerned.

Last July, I made a commitment to work out every single day - and I think I only missed one day.  I was also borderline psychotic about tracking my food and my calories/fat/sugar/etc intake.  By September I had decided to start 'eating clean'.  I found some happiness and success in that.

And I realized, that was the last time I found happiness and success in what I was eating.

Let's face it - Paleo was fun and all.  And it was helpful in that I dropped 10 lbs.  But sticking to it has been damn near impossible.

For one thing, to truly be Paleo, I needed to be spending a lot more time in the kitchen.  Time that, quite frankly, I didn't have before I started my Paleo journey.  Also, I don't like nearly enough of a variety of proteins or vegetables to sustain me as a Paleo follower for a long period of time.  Not having any variety in my diet means that I end up cheating.  When you eat the same stuff (chicken, pork chops, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc) over and over and over again, you get bored very quickly, and suddenly cheesesteaks sound good for dinner.

So for a while now I've been "claiming" that I'm "Paleo" "most of the time" but that I "allow myself cheat meals".  Unfortunately what that grew into was the cheat meals were what was putting the variety into my diet.  And after a while I just started feeling icky again.  Sick of my bad food choices and tired of not being in the gym (still being repaired). 

Granted, Paleo led me to try plenty of new foods. Foods I never would have ever tried otherwise (cauliflower, anyone?)... but something kept nagging at the back of my head, preventing me from falling head-over heels in love with new vegetables and stuff: I don't need to be Paleo. There is no medical or dietary reason for me to subscribe to the Paleo diet.  There is no reason that I can't have brown rice.  Or cous cous.  Or white potatoes.  Or organic whole wheat bread.  Or peanuts, for Pete's sake.  I got tired of looking at foods and thinking "I can't have that unless I cheat".  I got tired of denying myself of food items that are otherwise perfectly healthy in moderation, for fear of failing, or not being 100% Paleo.  I got tired of trying to identify myself with any group of dieters - including Weight Watchers.

So enough's enough.  I'm done with restricting myself.  I'm done with trying to identify as one type of dieter or another.  I just want to get back to basics.  For me, that started with clean eating.

Eating clean, I think, for me, is the best path forward.  I adopted some habits when I started clean eating that I still keep to this day - shopping the perimeter of the store; making my own versions of processed foods, like mayonnaise; reading labels and eating more whole foods.  But going Paleo took just enough variety out of my diet that it sent me chasing cheats far more often than I did as a 'clean eater'.

I think this will also be my last session of Weight Watchers.  I feel as though I'm obsessing too much about food.  I don't want to live my life like this anymore.  It actually adds another layer of exhaustion to my life that I just don't have the time or energy for.  What I really want to focus on is eating real, whole foods, and exercising.  I don't want to obsess anymore about how much I'm eating or how many points it is or how many calories it is or whether or not it's Paleo.  I just want to eat real food that I love to eat, regardless of its adherence to one diet plan or another.

(Except for pasta, though.  I learned my lesson with pasta.  Pasta is not for me.  I will miss it dearly, but honestly I don't even want to cheat with it anymore.  I might try orzo again, but even my most favorite, healthy dish of angel hair with garlic and parsley is off the menu, pretty much for good.  Sayonara pasta!)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Film is not dead.

I love taking pictures with my film camera.  I will never, ever give it up.

I love the grain.  I love the look and feel.  There's just a mood the film gives to photographs that digital can't, unless you photoshop them.  (And if you know me, you know how I feel about photoshop.)

The pictures below were taken with Kodak BW400CN film at Eastern State Penitentiary.  It's only half the photographs I took there, because the other roll was a black & white roll that has to be sent away for processing.  I should get it back within a week or two.  Can't wait!

These are my favorite shots from ESP.  ESP, by the way, photographs really, really well in black & white.






I guess I liked photographing everything in Portrait at ESP, ha!

Incidentally, I found a few old pictures on this roll from when I went day-drinking and bar-hopping with Aaron and my BFF Jackie back in February.  Here's a pretty cool shot of a random street by Jefferson at night:







Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Really Don't Like Facebook.

Like, really.

I have had my love-hate relationship with Facebook for a few years now but I have been swinging wayyyy over into the hate camp for the last several months.  I don't think I can really pinpoint what I find so aggravating about it though.

I have tried to hide and scroll past and ignore the people and posts I'd rather not see.  I've made lists for if I wanted to share something with, say, one group of people but didn't want another group of people to see it (similar to Google+ circles).  I made many lists actually and it just got to be too hard to maintain.

And then I started to ask myself, why would I share something with group X but not with group Y?  And I started to get to the root of the issue... that I felt that I was oversharing my life.  That I felt like it was more impersonal to share my life that way.

(Says the girl with a blog.)

Yeah but, I have to think long and hard and deliberately about what I want to share on my blog.  Facebook makes it so easy for you to put your every thought or feeling or emotion up there, even if it's really better left unposted.  And I think to some degree, this takes away from human interaction.

Hey, you know, I haven't talked to my friend Bubba in a while.  I wonder what he's been up to?  Let me go have a gander at his Facebook page.  Oh!  Look at that!  He got a new girlfriend!  She's pretty.  I hope he's happy.

Wouldn't it have been nicer if Bubba and I had an actual relationship where I didn't need to find out about his new girlfriend on Facebook?  Where maybe he and I had seen each other, or talked to each other, and we actually shared what was going on in our lives with each other?

I guess in my old age I am just starting to prefer more personal interactions.  Especially with my friends.  I decided that if I wanted to know how my friends were doing, I would contact them directly.  And likewise, if they want to know how I am doing, I am sure they will contact me directly as well.

Life is actually so nice and easy without Facebook.  I still have Instagram and Twitter but to me they are different.  For one thing, there is pretty much zero negativity in both places.  What a weight that is!  On Instagram - who doesn't love looking at pictures?  Plus I follow a lot of food accounts.  On Twitter - there's just not enough room to be negative!  140 characters is not enough for a Debbie Downer to really get everything off her chest!  I find that not being surrounded by so much negativity means that it doesn't weigh on me.  I dig my Facebook-free life.

In other news... good news left and right this week, keep it comin' Universe, I ate the proverbial toad at the beginning of this year and am ready to start seeing some good.  Signs, signs, everywhere signs...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting My Fight Back

You guys!

I'm so excited.

Aaron told me over the weekend that he is going to start working out again.  He does P90X.  He does it in our basement, which is really small.  But he goes through phases where he does it like every single day and then something happens (injury, life, what have you) and he stops and then he picks it back up again.  So the other day, my already-studly hubby said he is on a mission to have a beach body by the time our September vacation to Virginia Beach rolls around.  (But, if you've met my husband, you know he already has a beach body.  Guys get so self-conscious about the little stuff.  Like, if all the fat I had in my abdomen could be pinched between my thumb and forefinger and be about as thick as an Eggo waffle, then I'd be pretty darn happy with myself.  But guys are way different than girls.)  I have kind of been on the same mission, but I've been in a holding pattern.

My gym at work is out of commission.  A water heater broke or something and flooded the whole gym.  In fact, the irony of the situation is this - JUST as I was rebounding from starvation mode - I walked into work that day and thought, I think I am ready to go back to the gym next week (it was a Friday).  Then I open my email and BOOM - "The 1701 gym will be closed for repairs for at least 1 month, possibly more".  Wah. 

(Why doesn't Blogger have emojis?  This post is ripe for emojis.)

That was so long ago now that I don't even have the email in my deleted items anymore.  It was definitely over a month ago at this point.  They offered us a 30-day membership with the possibility of extension at Philadelphia Sports Clubs next door, for $30.  But I am cheap and didn't want to pay for it.  (Plus, PSCs are nice, and what if I fell in love with it?  Then I'd want to join, and then I'd start rationalizing the normally-$70/month membership in my head... no.  Best not to ever go.)  So I've been sticking it out, trying to eat well (*cough* when I'm not eating cheesesteaks or Mexican *cough*), just waiting for the gym to come back. 

I suggested to Aaron that he go Paleo with  me, so we can get back on a healthy track of eating, and he says I'M READY.  LET'S DO IT. 

Eeeee!

So I did some menu planning for the next couple of weeks (we will have to start on June 1st as I have already done my shopping and menu planning for this week) and I will be making some new recipes that I'm excited about.  Mmm food. 

Speaking of food - I have three (yes three) Instagram accounts now.  @sasmstr is my personal account; @thesasmstrcooks is my food accounts; and @sasmstrphotography is my duh photography account.  I have gotten tons of love on my photography account.  It makes me really happy.

But anyway.  So yeah.  I will be incorporating some lessons I learned from the last time I went Paleo - I am going to allow myself 1-2 cheat meals per week.  If I restrict myself too much and then cheat, I go way overboard.  So allowing myself 1-2 meals per week where it doesn't matter what I eat will definitely help.  I will also be making things that I can eat for lunch as leftovers, and I will also be doing a fair amount of prepping on the weekends.

And hopefully at some point I can get back in the gym, but until then, I have some workouts I can do at home, and I will just have to keep an eye on my food.  It's exciting to go back to Paleo and have Aaron totally on board.  Nothing compares to the support of your spouse!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.

For the longest time, I have been feeling as though I'm in limbo. Like I'm not "where I'm supposed to be". Like I'm not "doing what I'm supposed to be doing". 

It leaves me feeling restless and dissatisfied. 

I step back and look at my life and think, this is it? Is this all there is to life? A taxing, stressful job and a little row house in northeast Philadelphia? This is what I've worked so hard for up to this point? My college degree and his skilled trade and our six-figure income only get us this? This is the best we can do for us - for our daughter? This can't be all there is to life. 

Don't get me wrong. I know I'm blessed. I have a beautiful, spirited, amazing daughter, and I have a strong rock of a husband. I have a large, crazy, loud family and my friends are true anchors. I have a job, and my husband has a job, and we have a place to live. I am blessed, and this is not lost on me. 

But there are still areas of my life where frustration and dissatisfaction remain. I need to fix this. 

About a month ago we had a realtor out to give us some input on putting our house on the market. The feedback was discouraging. We would likely have to bring money to the settlement table and essentially pay someone to buy our house. So we made the decision to wait a year and see where we were. We talked about renting the house and moving in with my parents to save money. We talked about renting the house and getting a second mortgage for a new house. We even talked about letting our house go into foreclosure. 

But I really don't want to do any of that. All our plans, put on hold. We were being held hostage by this little row house in northeast Philly. There was no bright future for us. All the options were risky, undesirable, or time-consuming. 

We were hostages. Stuck. 

I drew up a meager budget and savings plan for the next year. If we stuck to it, we'd have over $10k saved to do something next year. Key words: "if we stuck to it". Anyone reading this knows that the middle class struggle is real. The reality would probably be that we'd save nothing at all. 

But yesterday, my rock of a husband called me at work to pitch a solution to me. As he spoke, I could feel the hope rise up into my chest. I saw that light at the end of the tunnel start to flicker into life. For the first time in a long time, my future did not seem so stressful and bleak. There was an end in sight. We hung up the phone and I broke down in tears. The solution he proposed would require him to make a sacrifice, and the fact that this man would make this sacrifice for me, and his daughter, just to get us out and get us started on the path we are supposed to be on... It brought me to my knees. 

So now, my dream is alive again. The light is on at the end of this long and winding tunnel and I am racing towards it. There are so many other things in my life that have become more bearable, knowing that the end is in sight. I really feel like I'm standing on the brink of something big, and my life - the life I am supposed to have - where I am supposed to be - what I am supposed to do - is about to finally come together. 

I can finally see it. And that light is so bright and so beautiful. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Random Ramblings

Hello!  It's been a while.

Like a month or so.

I haven't had a whole lot to share.  Things have been busy.  Who likes hearing about that?

I've been addicted to Candy Crush.  I have actually beaten all the levels of the regular "world" and the dream "world" with the owl.  I don't know if I'm proud or embarrassed to admit that.  When I say things have been busy, let's be honest.  I've mostly been busy conquering Candy Crush.

Squirt continues to be super snuggly.  She is purring next to me now.  And has even started to greet us at the door when we arrive home from somewhere, like a dog would.

I sold Moko's crate.  It was a little bittersweet.  On the one hand - a relief that it's gone and no loner a standing reminder of her absence.  On the other hand - the empty spot behind my couch is just a different kind of reminder of the doglessness of our house.  I find myself thinking about getting another dog almost daily.  But I know we should really wait till we move.  I want two dogs.  Big dogs.  It's so strange to me now to not have a dog in my house.  And I really do miss the layer of (albeit perceived) protection that she offered.

There have been several times I've been laying in bed at night and I think I hear someone on my stairs.  And I think about how if Moko were still with us, if there really was someone on my stairs, I would know for sure because she would be barking her head off.  Now I wouldn't know till it was too late.

I miss her.

So, I've been gaining back some of the weight I lost.  Actually, I gained back what I lost while my body was in starvation mode.

Oh yeah - starvation mode - that was fun.  I got to a point where I was eating so little, that my body started to hold on to weight and I started to gain.  I didn't even get there intentionally.  I think that the drastic reduction in carbs from my diet led me to be satisfied on less than I would be on a carb-rich diet.  My stomach probably shrank.  My diet wasn't changing much and I was pretty close to being on-plan with Paleo, yet I was gaining.  It also stumped me because almost every time I ate, I felt nauseous.  (Several people thought I was pregnant - but several pregnancy tests proved them wrong.)  I started tracking what I was eating to see if I could figure out what was making me nauseous.  And I plugged it all into My Fitness Pal one day and found that I was eating about 800-900 calories a day.  Totally unintentionally.  And I just wasn't hungry for more.  My Weight Watchers counselor figured out that I was gaining because I was in starvation mode.  So I talked to my trainer, and we figured out how to get me back to normal.  Around that time, I dropped 5 pounds in 2 weeks.  But as I worked to return my eating habits to normal, I also gained those 5 pounds back.  So I'm kind of back to where I started prior to going into starvation mode.  By the way, anyone who tells you starvation mode isn't real, or is a myth - is deluded.  That shit was real.

I've been pretty much Paleo during the week and on the weekends I am a little more free with my food choices.  I've had a lot of social stuff going on the past several weeks so I've been a little more off-plan than usual, but I am getting back on track now.

I started a new Instagram account just for the food I make.  It's called @thesasmstrcooks .  Check it out if you dare.  Maybe it will inspire me (as this blog does) to hold myself accountable and stay on track.  But I will not just post pics of diet food.  I will post pics of the totally slutty food I make too.

My allergies have been killing me.  Anybody else?  I don't know about any of the other cities, but Philadelphia has it pretty bad this year.  This is the worst allergy season I've ever experienced in my whole life, no joke.  When I wake up in the morning I feel like death.  And I can barely breathe at night and my eyes are red and sore from being rubbed all the time.  Ugh.  Go away pollen.

My BFFPIC Courtnee was just here for a weekend visit from Indiana.  I took her to NYC and all around Philly.  Yesterday we went to Eastern State Penitentiary, which I'd never been to before.  I took my film camera and can't wait to get the film developed.  I will be sure to post the pictures here when it's done!

I miss her already.  And so does Maraea.  She can't wait to go visit Courtnee on her farm.  Maybe next year.

I have two vacations this year.  Vegas in August to renew my vows, and Virginia Beach in September with my family.  Every time I start to zone out anywhere, that's what I'm thinking of.  I can't wait to go on vacation.  I must really need a break.

So I have pretty much quit Facebook for good.  I had deleted the app from my phone and wasn't missing it one bit.  Then I got an email from Facebook - one of those "Do you know X, Y, and Z?" emails - and X and Y were my therapist and my chiropractor.  How in the hell would Facebook know that I know those two people?  A friend of mine pointed out that it's practically a HIPAA violation - and I agree.  So that sealed it.  I am probably not going back to Facebook.  I will leave my account up because I can stay in touch with others that I have no other way of getting in touch with, but that's it.  I can't stand it anymore.  Later fb.

I think documenting a life in pictures is more attractive than documenting a life in status updates anyway.  Instagram > Facebook.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love

Have you ever been so worked up internally for one bullshit reason or another, and then look over at your child's face and soften inside, weakening, melting to a puddle of nonsense as the love you have for them rises up and overpowers what's boiling inside?

That's the kind of day I had today.

Things have been stressful lately, and I have been short on patience with Maraea, sadly.  I try.  But I'm the type of person that wears it all on my face.  It's really hard to hide.

The past two days I've been at work late dealing with production issues for one of my applications.  It's frustrating on so many levels.  I won't bore you with all the reasons here but suffice it to say that the later I'm at work, the more I hate it, the longer my commute home will be, the more irritated I get.  I should be happier when I pick her up from daycare but by that point my patience is fried and I just want to get home and zone out and do nothing and not be needed by anyone or anything.

I finally made it home today, and I sat down to eat dinner with Aaron while Maraea waited on the couch for her dinner to finish cooking.  I looked over at her on the couch and her face - it's just so perfect.  I weakened.  All the day's worries melted away.  I felt better.  

Thank God for my kid.


My cat is super snuggly lately.  I like it.  She's also been spending a lot of time in Moko's crate.  Which is really odd.  

I know, I know.  It's time to put Moko's crate away.  I'm getting there.

Annnnnd there I go.  Tearing up about my dog again.  Oh, Moko.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

2014 can suck it.

2014 is just not my year.

One has to wonder just how much worse it can get.

My husband's car got smashed up by a public transportation bus.
We had to put my dog down.
Maraea's KinderCare is doing away with kindergarten, so there goes our backup plan.
We want to sell our house but will probably have to pay someone to buy it from us.
I'm not healthy - my body is in starvation mode and I'm doing what I can to get it out of it, but the past two weeks have been hell on me physically.  Maybe more on that in a future post.

We owe the IRS money - a lot of it - let's just say it's 5 digits.

Last year Aaron and I both made more money so I think we got bumped up to a higher tax bracket (sucker!  Stop doing better for yourself!).  And, despite what our previous accountant had told us, we apparently should both be claiming 0 on our W-4s instead of Aaron claiming 3 and me claiming 0.

If only this stupid country could adopt a flat tax rate.... wouldn't our lives be easier?  No matter what I make, just take 30% of it.  Here.  Take it.  I could live with that.

Also awesome?  Because Aaron and I made "so much money" (PS, according to the IRS, we fall into the "wealthy" category... did you know wealthy people live in brick rowhomes in NE Philadelphia?  Me neither.  If I'm wealthy, what the heck category do REAL wealthy people fall in?) last year, all of the deductions and credits I was counting on to reduce our tax bill - child care, education expenses, etc - we qualified for none of it.

I just want to know how wealthy do I have to get so that I can get some tax breaks for being so darn rich?

Sorry middle class sucker!  You don't need this free money.  What YOU need to do is PAY US MORE!

I hate tax time.  I don't know what we do wrong.  Other than go to work every day, live paycheck to paycheck, go to school to try and better ourselves, and do everything we can to make sure we aren't living off the government.

I could totally quit my job.  Have a whole ton of kids.  Get my daycare paid for.  Get some free milk and bread and cheese and eggs.  Get me some free healthcare.  AND STILL probably get a tax return.  But noooooo.  Silly me and my pride and my drive.

I'm a middle class sucker.

Oh well.  I can't give them what I don't have, right?  They'll get my largest state refund ever (go figure).  They'll get all the money I set aside specifically to pay them because I figured I would owe.  They'll get all of what's currently in my savings account - that was supposed to be to pay someone to buy my house.  And they'll get all of our future vacation checks for this year (that was supposed to be to buy a new house).  If I'm lucky, maybe I'll have them paid off before December so we can have something of a Christmas this year.

Sometimes it really just feels like I'm not ever supposed to do better.  Like I'm always supposed to live here and never have anything better.  Despite my degree, my salary, my husband's salary.  I mean jeez, we aren't living the high life here.  The assumption would be that since we owe so much money, we must have been living large last year.  False.  If we were, trust me, I wouldn't still be living in NE Philly.

Chuck it in the fuck it bucket and move on.

Friday, March 28, 2014

This too, shall pass.

I cried myself to sleep the other night.

I got to thinking about my poor dog.  You don't even want to know the things I was thinking.  I don't want to put those thoughts in your head.

But as I tried to contain my sobs, I remembered something one of my friends once said while we were both in the throes of early toddlerhood with our girls and weren't sleeping through the night and teething and ear infections and one thing after another:  This too, shall pass.

It struck me the other day how Moko is just a memory now.  Did you ever sit with a friend and go through old photos from their childhood, before you were a part of it, and see a picture of a pet that is no longer?  "That was so-and-so, what a great dog."  Moko has now become that for Maraea.  She will be that dog that her friends will see pictures of, a pet that existed long before Maraea came along and not so long after she arrived.  Maraea will have very little memory of her, most likely.

I got a collage print made on Snapfish of some of my favorite pictures of her.  I'll frame it and hang it somewhere in my house where we can see it and remember her.  I'm running out of wall space.

I need a new house.

I want another dog.  It feels so weird not to have one in my house.  There are things I don't miss - the ferocious barking when the pizza man comes, trying to get her not to jump on people as they come in the house, fur, everywhere, fur, and of course all the health issues.  But her empty spot next to the TV is currently replaced by hampers full of clean clothes and towels and I'd much rather have her there, snoozing, than laundry that I have to lug up the stairs and put away.

I hear noises at night that I know, previously, I would have attributed to Moko rustling around in her crate.  I don't know what they are now.

My cat is going bonkers.  Twice in the last couple weeks she's been running around like a spaz at night, meowing and yowling.  She did that for a while after Buddy left us.  But I can't believe she misses Moko.

Poor Squirt.  The smallest one outlived them all.

But this will all pass and it will get easier, as everyone tells me.  I never in my wildest dreams, never had an inkling of how hard I would take this.  Never, ever, ever for a second I would have thought it would have been this tough.  I think I just always felt like we would have made the decision in our own time and it would have been to put her out of her itchy misery, and we would have been more at peace with it, and relieved in a sense that she wouldn't have to suffer anymore.

Ugh, you stinky dog.  I miss the heck out of you.  I hope you're jumping on people and eating peanut butter and chasing tennis balls in doggie 'kevin' with all your doggie friends.

Friday, March 21, 2014

That Void, Though...

I want to write something, but I don't know what.

I want to find the words that appropriately express how much I miss my dog.  Even though most of the time I was annoyed with her or telling her to go lay down or get out of the kitchen or stop barking or stop scratching.  Even though while she was here I felt like she was such a nuisance and a burden because of her condition.  Beneath it all I obviously still loved her because I was way more of a wreck than I ever imagined I'd be last weekend.

You know, for all her "faults", she was a really good dog.  She obeyed well and was calm.  She didn't drool or pant or beg for food.  She didn't run ahead or run away on walks or in the park.  I could let her out front to go to the bathroom, completely off leash, while another dog was walking down the street and she would stay right on our lawn and not go anywhere near the other dog.  She was so well trained and other than her skin issues, she was pretty low-maintenance.  She was excellent with Maraea from the time she was a baby.  Maraea would dress her up and pull her tail and her ears and just generally push her around like most little kids do and Moko would take it without flinching.

It's sad how you realize these things once they are gone.

Maraea:  What are we gonna do now without our protector dog, mommy?

I've been thinking a lot about getting another dog - not to replace Moko, but to fill that void - and I find myself thinking, "What if she doesn't train as well as Moko?  What if she's not a good listener?  What if she pants and has stinky breath?  What if she drools?  What if she barks nonstop at anything that moves?"  I find myself thinking, "What if she's not like Moko?"

Two weeks ago I never would have bet I'd ever say something like that to myself.

There really is a void in our house though.  It just feels so much like - there once was four, now there's three.  There's a void.  A new level of quiet.  An absence of life.  Missing energy.  I didn't know it was there when it was there, but I know that it's gone now.  It's painful.  Coming home to her crate standing wide open, empty.  Her spot next to the TV, now free, begging for something, anything to fill its void.

As Maraea and I were leaving the house the other morning:
Maraea:  Bye bye Moko!
Me:  Awww...
Maraea:  Maybe she can hear me, mommy.

There has been an amazing outpouring of love during this time.  Cards, texts, phone calls.  I couldn't appreciate it more.  I realize now how insensitive I may have been to others who have lost their pets in the past, if I'd only given them a minimal response.  I couldn't understand it then.  Honestly, I wish I never had to understand it, but now I do.  It's like I'm part of some club now.  People who know, well... they know.  People who don't... I hope you don't have to.

I can't even think about her without getting choked up.  A friend warned me that this would happen for some time.

They really do become a part of your family.

Hug your pets tonight.  We only get to have them for so long.


Monday, March 17, 2014

The After

Some things I am noticing...

My house has a new version of "quiet" now. Sort of like when Maraea is gone for the weekend, only different. Last night was eerily quiet. And the random noises I did hear, I could no longer contribute to my dog in her crate. Oh, Moko. I never thought I'd miss your noises keeping me up at night. 

The sweatpants I wore yesterday still have her fur on them. I don't want to wash them yet. 

There is a void in my heart and my house right now. And I'm having a really hard time imagining my life without a dog. 





Sunday, March 16, 2014

Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts

I'd like to tell you all about my dog Moko.



After Aaron and I got married, way back in 2005 when we were still living in Spokane, we decided to adopt a puppy.  We went to the SPCA and went to the puppy room and we spotted this cute little puppy that looked like a baby rottweiler.  She was in a kennel with three of her sisters; she was mostly black with two little tan dots above her eyes and a white belly.  We asked to interact with her and they put her into a separate kennel, where she cried and howled for her sisters.  They all responded to her cries, by howling back at her.  It brought tears to my eyes and I told Aaron that we couldn't break up their little family unit.  He said, "Nobody adopts four puppies at a time.  If we don't break up their family, somebody else will."  I realized he was right.  We put in the papers and got approved and just a couple weeks later, she was riding home from the SPCA with me.  She sat in a little crate in my backseat, howling and crying the whole way.  I kept one hand stuck back there, fingers poking through the crate, so she could smell me and know that I was there and that she would be okay.

Boy did we adore that puppy.  At the time I was working from home so I kept her close by me during the day.  I potty trained her, fed her, she snuggled in my lap.  Having her around was so sweet and so easy.  My cats - Zeke (Buddy) and Zeneka (Squirt) - weren't fans.  But Moko was plenty interested in them.  She really just wanted to play.  But the cats were like, oh hell no.

They never really got to be snuggle buddies.

Moko grew into a long-legged, floppy-eared, jumpy, hyper, crazy, sweet dog.  When we moved back to Pennsylvania, we put her into some dog training classes.  She was ridiculously smart.  She learned commands very quickly and had so much energy that we started her with agility classes.  She did really well, jumping through hoops and walking on planks and zig-zagging in and out of obstacles.

Then we bought a house in the city, where we were pretty far away from the training school, so we stopped going.  But that didn't matter - we lived a stone's throw away from Pennypack Park and we had a little spot of a yard of our own now.  We owned our own little piece of the world.  Me, my husband, my doggie dog, and my two cats.

Within about a year, Moko got sick.  She started scratching all the time.  She started chewing on her paws, licking herself incessantly, licking so much that she would lick bare spots into her coat.  We took her to the vet, who diagnosed her with food allergies.  I remember standing in the vet's office and he recommended that we start her on a limited-ingredient diet - "You know, like rabbit and potato" - and I started having visions in my head of buying rabbit meat somewhere and having to butcher it up and feed it to her with cooked potato.  When he brought out the bag of dried food (rabbit & potato dried food), I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought, thank goodness.  How big of a deal can this be?  So she has to eat special food.  No big.

Except after a few months, she built up a tolerance to rabbit & potato.  So the vet switched her to something else.  Then something else.  And something else.  And finally we decided to get another opinion.  The new vet recommended allergy testing.  Four hundred dollars later, they were able to tell us that she was allergic to something, but they didn't know what.  So we decided to tackle her allergies from another angle.  We tried steroid shots every few months and those worked for a while.  But gradually, Moko even built up a tolerance to that.

For the past few years, we have been at a loss of how to treat her.  When her allergies got real bad we'd take her in for a steroid shot.  We tried to manage it with food.  We kept her as clean as possible (understand that she would get so dirty that a bath every few days probably wouldn't have done the trick).  I bought organic cotton blankets for her crate and for her to lay on elsewhere in the house.  We stopped feeding her human food/treats.  We would give her Benadryl if things seemed especially bad.

It's hard to think of anything else we possibly could have done for her.

Then earlier this year, when I decided to go Paleo, I had the brilliant idea for Moko to go Paleo with me.  The idea was, if Paleo can "cure" humans of diseases and ailments, perhaps it could also work for dogs.  So I researched how to go about switching her to a raw diet, and what else I could supplement her diet with.  I started with raw, bone-in chicken.  It took a few weeks to get the proportions right, but she sure loved the food.  I don't think I've ever seen a dog so excited to eat in my life.

Everything I read about a raw diet helping with skin allergies said that it would take several weeks - up to at least 6 weeks and as long as 12 weeks - to notice any kind of change in the condition.  Around the 4 week mark, I decided to take her to the vet for a checkup.  A friend had recommended her vet to me and she felt that he would probably be open to a raw diet (many vets are not) so I decided to take her in and see what he said.

So on February 1st, I brought Moko to Ark Animal Hospital in Chalfont to see Dr. Johnson.  She hadn't been looking very good.  She lost a lot of weight on the raw diet.  He was concerned about her weight and wanted me to supplement her diet with carbohydrates.  He also said that this was the worst case of skin allergies he'd ever seen in a dog.  He recommended an aggressive (and expensive) medication to treat it, something he'd seen a lot of success with.  But first he wanted to take a few weeks to calm her immune system down.  He recommended some OTC shampoos I could use that would de-grease her coat.  He also prescribed some prednisone and hydroxizine, as well as a vitamin supplement to help with the itching.

She stopped scratching the day I brought her home from that appointment.

Now that had happened before with meds, but it had been a LONG time since the meds had lasted as long as they did this time.  I was very hopeful that she was on her way out of the woods.  I started supplementing her daily serving of bone-in chicken with things like sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and celery.  She gained weight.  Her skin improved, at least in the sense that she was not itchy at all, and was not greasy anymore either.  I was able to pet my dog without my hand turning stinky or flaky or greasy.  Three weeks after that vet appointment, I had a party at my house and my friends remarked on how healthy, happy, and energetic she looked.  How much better she looked from the last time they saw her.

Things were looking up!

But about two weeks ago, she started chewing on her tail.  She would take her tail and drag it through her teeth, shredding the fur off.  She'd end up swallowing her fur and then vomiting up gigantic hair balls, leaving her without much appetite for anything except abundant amounts of water.  This was not the first time she's done this; it's a common behavior that always indicated to us that her skin allergies were flaring up.  So I knew it was time for a follow-up visit.

I thought about when I could take her in.  The soonest would have been Monday March 10th.  But I took that day off for my birthday and didn't really want to leave the house.  I wanted to stay at home and veg all day.  So I made the appointment for Saturday the 15th.

For my birthday, we'd planned a little family road trip to West Virginia to see my favorite college basketball team, KU, play WVU.  I had off on Friday the 7th so we could leave around noon.  All morning I was home, packing, cleaning, etc.  Moko was unusually anxious.  She kept whining.  I thought she had to go potty.  So I kept letting her out but she would go down the stairs and turn around and look at me until I opened the door for her to come back in.  "What is wrong??" I was saying, frustrated.  By the time we left though, my frustration had turned to concern.  Was Moko sensing that something was going to happen to us?  Does she not want us to go because we might not come back?  I would spend the next 5 hours on the road watching Aaron's speed, keeping a close eye on Maraea at rest stops, and checking my phone for shifts in the weather.  We arrived in West Virginia around dinnertime, safely, and my concerns started to dissipate.

My sister arrived at my house that night to stay with Moko for the weekend.  She said Moko was unusually happy to see her.  I told her about how weird she was acting before we left.  Caitlin said that Moko was more excited than she normally was to see her.  My concerns returned.  What was going on?

Saturday, Caitlin told me that Moko was throwing up and not eating.  I thought this was strange; but not too strange.  When I'd prepared Moko's veggie/fruit breakfast mix for the week, I put celery in there.  The last time I gave her celery she didn't like it, but I thought maybe she'd feel different about it this time around.  But when I fed her before we left, she ate all around the celery.  So I thought, that snobby dog.  She just doesn't want to eat the celery.  I told Caitlin that the vomiting is probably fine because she's been chewing her tail, which always makes her vomit.

But Sunday, she said she'd thrown up more and still hadn't eaten anything.  Now I was getting more worried.  What if Moko wasn't eating because she was still nervous about something happening to us?  I asked Caitlin to give her a banana.  She ate it!  I felt relieved.  Good.  She's gonna be fine.

We got home safely on Sunday and I began to see for myself that Moko wasn't eating, and was throwing up.  I decided to fast her for a day.  Maybe something wasn't agreeing with her, or her stomach was upset.  Her temperament was otherwise fine.  She was drinking plenty of water so I knew she wasn't dehydrated.  She was vomiting a little here and there, leftover bits of food that were still hanging around in her stomach.

On Monday, I'd had a grooming appointment scheduled for her.  It couldn't have come at a better time either, because when I woke up, I saw that she'd thrown up in her crate.  I wrapped her blanket up in a towel, and scooped everything out of her crate.  I put the dirty linens in the laundry room to wash later, and washed her crate outside with soap and water.  This dog, I thought.  When is she gonna quit barfing?  She needs to stop chewing her tail.

On Tuesday, I tried giving her her medicine wrapped in a piece of cheese.  She turned her head away from it.  Moko?  Turn down cheese?  Huh??  So then I started thinking that something else must be going on.

Tuesday night I came home and she was eating kibble that I'd put in her bowl the day before.  YAY!  She was feeling better!  She was also jumping around and extra excited to see me and Maraea.  Yay, my doggie was feeling better.

But on Wednesday night, I went to wash her blanket, and I noticed that she had chewed a big hole through it.  Oh, great.  Here we go again.  Her skin improves only for her to start chewing on things again.  She didn't eat on Wednesday, and now I was starting to put some pieces together...

She probably chewed that hole on Friday after we left, because she was so anxious.  She probably swallowed a wad of blanket that hung around in her stomach for a couple days, causing her to puke and not want to eat.

Even still, I wasn't too worried.  Moko had eaten pieces of towels and blankets before and had always barfed them up or pooped them out.  This had happened before, and had gone on for a few days even, where she didn't want to eat because she ate something she wasn't supposed to.  I was glad I had that vet appointment coming up on Saturday so I could mention it to Dr. Johnson.

So Saturday morning rolls around and I'm so excited to show Dr. Johnson how much her skin had improved.  I thought we probably needed to get her on another round of prednisone to curb the chewing of the tail.  And as soon as she passes this wad of blanket in her stomach, she will eat again, and gain some more weight.  But Dr. Johnson asked when the last time was that she'd pooped, and I couldn't remember.  It wasn't unusual though - Moko usually pooped when Aaron let her out at night; not when I let her out in the morning.  But come to think of it, no, actually, I don't even think I'd seen any piles on our lawn.  Hmm.

Dr. Johnson seemed concerned.  He examined her stomach and he said it didn't feel tender, but he wanted to do an x-ray to check on her intestines.

Half an hour later, he had bad news.  There was definitely some kind of obstruction in her intestines.  He could do the surgery to go in and get it, but it's not as simple as cutting open her stomach and taking it out.  This thing was in her intestines; and because of where it was, and how long it had been there, it would be a very complicated surgery that would likely include having to restructure some of her intestines entirely.

The simple, cut-her-stomach-open-and-remove-it surgery was about $3,000.

I didn't even have to ask how much the more complicated, restructuring-of-the-intestines surgery was.  I knew we wouldn't be able to afford it.

After crying and pleading with him for anything else we could do - wasn't there any medicine to get her bowels moving?  Anything we could give her to make her throw it up?  Couldn't we give it a few more days to see if she would pass it?  She's always passed this stuff before - he informed me that if we could not afford to do the surgery, the most humane thing to do would be to put her down.

Shock.

No.  NO.  But her skin was finally better.  She was finally improving.  She just needed some more steroids till we could start her on the aggressive skin treatments.  THIS was not supposed to happen.  She was GETTING BETTER.

I asked if I could take her home and bring her back on Monday, so my husband could at least be there.  He said we shouldn't wait that long.  So we made an appointment for 10am the next morning.

This morning.

Maraea:  Mommy what's wrong with Moko?
Me:  Moko is really sick.  And tomorrow we have to bring her back here so she can go to sleep and go to heaven.
Maraea:  Oh (chokes up).  Ohhh.  (Hugs me.)  But I don't want Moko to go to kevin (heaven).
Me.  I don't either honey.

They gave her some fluids and some anti-nausea medication to help keep her comfortable overnight.

I cried the whole way home.

Maraea:  Mommy, are you still crying?
Me:  Yes.
Maraea:  I don't know what you're so upset about.  We can just get another dog and name her Moko.

Unfortunately kiddo, it's not that easy.

So what do you do when you know it's your dog's last day alive?  After a very long, very tear-drenched, very comforting conversation with a wonderful friend, I decided to take Moko to the park to run around and play off leash.  I suddenly had an idea though.  A while ago, I had given Moko some pieces of tripe treats and they'd given her diarrhea.  Well what if I gave her a whole bunch of them now?  Maybe she would have diarrhea and poop out this wad of blanket.

I gave her three whole tripe treats.  She gobbled them up happily.  HUNGRILY.  Good, I thought.  She's eating.

Off we went to the park.  We walked the path and I let her sniff everything she wanted to.  We weren't in any rush.  Every so often I asked if she wanted to go potty and she would just look at me.  No, duh mom.  I don't have to go.

About an hour and a half later we made our way back to the house.  I was texting another friend at this time who suggested we try giving her raw pumpkin.  It just so happened that I had a can of that in my pantry.  I spoon-fed her half of the entire can.  She gobbled that up hungrily too.  I plopped the rest in her bowl, and she sort of lost interest in it.  She went back to it several times though, lapping it up.

We had dinner plans with friends.  So we put a blanket in the kitchen and blocked Moko in there while we were gone.  I was seriously hoping hard that I'd come home and find diarrhea and a wad of blanket all over my kitchen.

No such luck.

She slept in our room last night.  I didn't sleep hardly at all.  I was listening for her to vomit or signal that she had to go to the bathroom.  But she did neither.

I woke up early and took her for a long walk.  Nothing ever got her bowels moving like a long walk.  Sometimes I'd take her on the 2.5 mile loop around the park and she would go like 4 times.  So off we went.  I was going to turn this thing around.  We were going to go to the vet and tell him that she pooped it out and look here's what it was and can you do another x-ray to see if there's anything left?

No such luck.

At the vet's office a couple hours later, it started to hit me and Aaron hard.  They had set up a room for us.  Moko seemed fine.  You'd never know there was something lodged in her intestines, slowly, painfully killing her.  Aaron was a wreck, and this clearly worried Moko.  I don't think she had ever seen him like that before in her whole life.

Aaron and I both expressed how guilty we felt for being so frustrated with her while she was sick.  Skin allergies in a dog is a terrible situation.  As a fur-parent you just want them to stoppppppp.  STOP!  Just stop scratching!  But you know they can't help it.  You just want them to be healthy.  But it's extremely frustrating knowing that no matter how much money you spend or how much effort you put forth, the allergies won't ever go away 100% and the dog will never get better.  It was a terrible situation for all of us.

We always thought that we would have to make the decision to put Moko down because her skin condition was so bad, that she had very little quality of life left.  We always thought we would decide when the time was.  It honestly never ever crossed my mind that something else could happen to her, and the decision would be out of our hands.  And, in a cruel twist of fate - that the decision would be made for us, when the very condition we thought we'd have to end her life for, finally seemed to be improving.

It was not supposed to happen like this.

We never should have left on Friday.  She was trying to tell us to stay home.  Or I should have given her something to calm her down.  I should have not been such a lazy asshole and made that vet appointment for the Monday I was off.  I should have washed her blanket the day I took it out of her crate so I could have seen the damage then.

There are so many things we could have done differently.  But all the would haves, should haves, and could haves can't change the past.

They gave her an injection to make her a little drowsy and left the room.  Within minutes she was staggering around the room and collapsed.  Her breathing slowed.  She laid between us and stared straight ahead.  Her jaw relaxed and her tongue stuck out.  She blinked a couple times.  We stroked her ears, her cheeks, her chest.

They came back in and gave her the injection that stopped her heart.  Seconds later, she was gone.

We cried over her for a while.  Stroked her fur.  Closed her eyes and kissed her goodbye.  I swear she smelled exactly like she did as a puppy.  She was soft.

I miss her.

Afterwards we went to my mom's for a little bit.  It helped to feel a little distracted.  We came home in the middle of the afternoon and... her crate was empty.  Her blankets, unoccupied.  Her food and water bowls, empty.

I was angry.  I sat on the basement floor and sobbed.  Why did she eat her blanket!  UGH she hadn't done that in so LONG!  Why now?  Why now when everything else seemed to be getting better??

I was sad.  I'm still sad.  I'm very sad.

It doesn't feel natural to play God with another living being's life.  Now I know - when people talk about putting their dogs down, and how upsetting it was - it's because they had to watch their dog die.  That's not natural.  Nobody should ever have to watch any other living thing die. ever.

This was hands-down, without a doubt, the worst weekend of my entire life.  I don't wish this on my worst enemy.  I hope this never has to happen to anyone else I know.  I had no idea how hard this would be, or how hard it would hit me.  I always knew this would be sad, but I also always thought that we would have time to come to grips with the decision.

I'm sitting here on the couch and I keep looking over at her spot next to the TV, wondering where that little black hump of her back is, the way it used to pop up out over Maraea's table from this angle.  Twice since I've been home I could have sworn I heard her grunt at me to pay attention to her.

I don't suppose that's going away anytime soon.

RIP Moko.  12/26/2004 - 3/16/2014.

..........................

I hope this doesn't sound weird, but I just want to thank those of you who talked me through my hope and my grief this weekend.  It meant a lot.  It served as a distraction and helped me keep my head on straight.  And for everyone that checked on us today - especially asking about Maraea and how she was handling it - I am honestly so thankful to have such good people around me.  I love you all and you really made a hard time for me much more bearable.  <3  Today I discovered that Moko has a soul-sister that she's probably running around in "kevin" with.  A soul-sister just like I have.  It's a truly comforting thought for me.

I have the best friends.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No. I am not ready for this.

Oh boy. 

You know, I really don't like being a quitter. I really don't like admitting failure. I like this blog because it helps to keep me accountable - but I also don't like this blog because it helps keep me accountable. 

I'm not ready for a Whole 30. I'm just not. 

I'm in a bad place with food at the moment. I am really hating eating healthy these days. I am so bored of it. Mostly I am bored with vegetables and roasting them or sautéing them. I am not sick of my proteins at all, thankfully. But everything I put on the plate with them? I could care less about it. 

I have also been eating off plan a bit lately. I'm still losing weight (I have finally crested the 20lb mark), but the lingering temptation of sugar and carbs haunts me for days after even the slightest cheat. And the cheats happen because I'll be in the car thinking about what I'm eating for dinner later and I just can't stand the thought of staring into another plate of chicken and green beans. 

So I am less than thrilled about restricting my diet even further for a whole month. 

I've been talking through this problem all day with my friend - who's on an even more restrictive diet than a Whole 30 - and she suggested I take a week off. She's not suggesting that I spend that week cheating like crazy and turning into a monster of gluttony - she simply suggested I let myself have some of the things I feel deprived of, in moderation, within reason. After a week I will most certainly start to feel like crap again (it is truly amazing how fast that happens when you are grain-free for the most part), and I will be eager to start a Whole 30. 

I think she's exactly right. I think it's a brilliant idea. And I know I can do it without gaining a ton of weight, too. I will just relax my restrictions a little for a week and start my Whole 30 the next week. I am confident that I will feel better about it then. 

Now I'm a little more jazzed about next week. :) Oh, to enjoy food again.... !

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whole30 Countdown

If you've been keeping up with me, then you know that I've been planning on doing a Whole30.

(Says the girl who just ate a slutty cheesesteak for dinner.)

(Look.  Life happens.  Cheating happens.  It was insanely delicious.  I don't regret it.)

I've been "mostly Paleo" for the past several weeks.  Stepping up to a Whole30 won't be too much of a change for me, as far as what's forbidden from my diet.  The biggest things I'll have to eliminate from what I'm allowed on Paleo is white potatoes, and maple syrup.  Also, Whole30 discourages you from eating "Paleo-fied" foods, like pancakes, and muffins, and waffles.  Just because the ingredients are Whole30-compliant, does not mean that I should have them.  Their philosophy is that doing a Whole30 should be about trying to break bad food habits.  Are pancakes a bad food habit for me?  Eh.  Not really.  I don't really eat them all that often.  But it's nice to know they are there for a variation in my breakfast rotation.  Removing pancakes and waffles is no big deal, especially since I can't have maple syrup anyway.  (Who wants pancakes without syrup?!)  Really the biggest thing I'm concerned about is - not cheating.

When I say I'm "mostly Paleo", what I mean is that the meals I have culinary control over - the meals I prepare for myself - have been Paleo.  Going out to eat or ordering takeout - obviously I've not been Paleo compliant.  So for my Whole30, my biggest challenge will be a) not cheating in those situations and b) when those situations arise, finding something Whole30 compliant to eat.

I learned some lessons during my month of Paleo.  The biggest thing I learned was that I over-planned.  So I'm not making that mistake this time.  I'm only planning two weeks at a time, which is no more than what I'm doing now.  Let's be honest - if I can get through the first two weeks of a Whole30 without cheating, then I better kick myself in the ass to make it through the last two.

I am planning on starting my Whole30 on March 10th.  This is the day after my 34th birthday.  I will spend the first 30 days of my 34th year completely clean.

I hope.  <3

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Planning for a Whole 30

I know I just posted yesterday, but I'm really inspired by my Paleo results and have been re-motivated and I'm thinking about doing a Whole 30 soon.  Like probably in April.

How is a Whole 30 different from Paleo?  It's basically the strictest form of Paleo possible.  The foundations stay the same - no grains, no sugar, no dairy, no legumes - but, it's a little more strict on the "no sugar" part.  No maple syrup, no honey, no agave nectar, etc.  Now, I had my fair share of pancakes and waffles covered in maple syrup last month, and some assorted baked goods with some honey in them.  But I don't think it should be too tough to cut out that small amount of sugar for a whole month.

Also, when you do a Whole 30, they say you should avoid Paleo-fied versions of non-compliant foods - so that means my pancakes and waffles are out for breakfast.  Which puts me back into a breakfast conundrum for a month.

Of course I could just eat poached eggs with my smoky sweet potato hash every morning for breakfast.  I could, but I don't know that I'd want to.  I could do all-fruit smoothies, but I would need some kind of protein or fat to get me through till lunch.  I will figure something out.

Lunch and dinner won't be a problem.  I can pretty much just keep eating what I've been eating.  I might start to experiment with some salad dressings in the next couple of months to have some rabbit food variety when I do the Whole 30.

So that's the next big thing I'm planning and I'm so excited.  The only thing is - can I go a whole month without cheating?  I learned a lot of lessons last month doing Paleo.  And I think I can apply them to my Whole 30 month and be more successful.

Monday I go back to the gym.  THAT'S IT, IT'S FINAL, IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN.  I even bought new Asics that are dying to be worn.  I miss the gym.  A lot.  I need to get back on track.  Plus maybe it will help boost my weight loss some more.  :)  That's the plan anyway.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Moment of Truth

It's the moment we've all been waiting for!

Ya'll get to see me half naked in yoga shorts and a sports bra!

Just kidding.

Let me just say - if I wasn't so thrilled with my results, these pictures would not be up here for all to see.  I am not the type that bares it all.  I have never worn a bikini in my ENTIRE LIFE.  I always hide when I need to get dressed or undressed in front of others (even my husband).  I am not the type of person to come on my blog that people I know read, people I used to work with, people I used to work for, people I used to be friends with, people I AM friends with, relatives both distant and close... who knows who's reading this thing... but I'm not the type to post pictures like this for all to see.  I wouldn't post them unless they would be worth it!

So without much further ado, please see below (before on the left, after on the right):


WHAAAATTTT!!!!!!

You know what's stunning about all this?

I didn't even think I looked all that bad before.  Probably because I thought it was damn near impossible to get much smaller.

You know what else is stunning about all this?

I improved THAT MUCH without even being 100% Paleo.  You'll recall, I cheated quite a bit.  But I changed my diet mostly by cutting grains out, and secondarily, dairy.

I wonder what I will look like in another month?

Now, for the final numbers:

Weight:  185 >> 10 total pounds lost
Ribs:  34.75 >> 2.25 inches lost
Waist:  33.5 >> 2.5 inches lost
Hips:  40.5 >> 4.5 inches lost (WHAT!)
Neck:  14.5 >> 0.5 inches lost
Thighs:  25 >> 1 inch lost
Arms:  12 >> 1 inch lost

HOLY COW!  11.75 inches lost in ONE MONTH.  One month of changing my diet - not even 100%!!

I don't think it's possible that I could be happier with these results.  I am ecstatic.  And I'm super motivated to keep on with the better food choices I've been making, with some cheating in moderation.

I want to do another "after" set of pictures and measurements at the end of February.  Stay tuned!!