New Years Resolutions

I don’t like New Years Resolutions, but I do them anyway. But to me its more of an “After Christmas Resolution” as I LOVE Christmas. I spend all year waiting for Christmas, and then when Christmas comes I eat whatever I want and do whatever I want “Because its Christmas!” This year this was compounded by a vacation 2 weeks before Christmas. Christmas + Vacation + a well intentioned Mother in Law giving you way too many sweets is a bad combo! 

Anyway, Christmas is my time to fall of the bandwagon, on EVERYTHING (well, at least I didn’t get drunk). So this is the week I pick myself off, dust myself off, and think “How am I going to fix this?” This year as a family we really have one major focus, becoming more self-reliant. We want to earn our own money, grow our food, buy our own stuff, take care of ourselves. There are two focus, finances, and health. 

Financially we are better off than most of the world. I realize this. We are in a good place. But we want to take better care of what we have, and make our money go further, so that we can do more, and help more with what we have. Ace has the goal of either doing music full time or opening his tea shop. My goal is to actually outright own our home, both take a lot of money.  I am working on a budget, and keeping track of ALL our spending. Our biggest waste by far is eating out, followed by entertainment and buying stuff we plain old dont need. 

Our second goal is to take better care of ourselves. I’m going to hit this one from many angles (most of which will benefit the first goal). First, we plan to grow as much of our own produce as possible. That means we have lots of healthy (organic, heirloom)  choices we will be excited to eat. We have a long growing season here, with lots of plants that do well. Our yard already has 2 kinds of fruit. Soon I will be starting, lettuce, tomatos, cherry tomatos, watermelon, strawberries, and peppers. I hope to add to those as the season goes on. I am also building an aquapoics system to grow fish and food together in a soiless medium (more on that in my next post). 

Second we are taking more walks and bike rides. I try to take Mark out everyday to walk or bike for a half hour (or more). I take one of the dogs along and we all get some good free exercise. So far, this has been really great! In the summer I hope to find some parks and hiking areas and bring lunch with. Its a great way to wear out Mark for his nap and help me stay active. 

Finally, we are tracking our weights. I made a chart and every sunday we are going to weigh-in. In 6 months we are going to take a little 1-2 night trip and who ever loses the biggest percent of weight is going to pick where we go. I’m pretty excited. 

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Working Towards a New Lifestyle

Since moving we kind have been floundering in our everyday life. With no job, school, or even scheduled hobbies to structure our life things have been…. laid back… to say the least. Its been nice though just spending time with each other and exploring our new city and neighborhood. I’ve learned the Public Transit, been to the zoo, countless food carts, finally figured out a grocery shopping routine, even had issues (now resolved) with the neighbor. We’ve had visitors for the first time now and that really marks the end of our time of settling and now its time to get into gear.

There are several changes that seem to be happening quite naturally. The first is that our baby is no longer a baby, and we are starting to treat him a little different because of that. Its nothing we really planned its just happening naturally. Mark is wanting and we are allowing him to have more time by himself. Often he wants to just play with his cars or his trains, sometimes he ‘reads’, or draws or just wanders around our front yard. I check in on him from time to time, and remind him to use the bathroom, but more and more he’s just doing his own thing for periods of time. We are also letting him fuss more and are not catering to his every want, or just making him wait a minute. We don’t make him wait just for the sake of waiting (we do love him, and that’s not cool to do to anyone you love) but we let him realize that we also have needs and wants and that he needs to learn to respect all people (and their things). This in itself could be a whole blog post, but lets just say Mark is moving from baby, to child.

We also seem to be moving away from screen time. Part of it is the great climate and culture here, we just want to be outside or other places, not sitting around in the house. Part of it is that we are all trying to read more. You don’t have much time for the TV or computer when you are trying to read every extra minute of the day. Whatever the reasons, moving away from screen time is a good thing. My migraines have totally stopped since I lost my phone a week ago and stopped staring at the tiny screen and my son isn’t constantly asking for TV. Its nice. Right now he’s sitting on the couch “Reading” a book of poetry.

Another change we would like to implement (we haven’t succeeded yet) is eating at home more. We said that when we moved to Portland we were going to “get in shape” and “be healthy”. Well, with all the delicious, not great for you food out here, that hasn’t happened. Ace stopped losing weight and I started gaining weight. There are tons of healthy options to eat out with here, but the BBQ, noodles, and sushi, are often too tempting. I love a good pulled pork sandwich or a slab of ribs covered in sauce with a big piece of cornbread, but its not exactly the lunch of champions… So we are trying to get better. This week I planned to eat all our breakfasts at home and planned out 3 lunches and 3 dinners. We have food for a little more than that, but I know I will be cooking 3 dinners at home this week. That will be the best since we moved (yeah.. there have been a lot of pizzas and burritos the last few weeks). Hopefully we can save a few dollars this was too, but the quality of the food I’m buying makes eating at home just as expensive most of the time.

We are also becoming more relaxed. That’s just how things are around here. The neighbor across the street runs a garage out of his…well, garage… and he works at his own pace. It was a little annoying how long it took him to look at my car, but I learned a bit about how Oregonians work and live and became a little envious of him. He said “I work on farmer time, but I’ll only ever change you book time, probably less” (in fact he did my car for free that day). Somedays he takes all day to get one car done, other days he’ll push though four in a few hours, but most days are the former. Its importnat to note that its culturally acceptable to drink beer or smoke pot pretty much anywhere at anytime, so that certainly helps people to relax. Our mechanic neighbor has offered me beer as early as 10am. This isn’t to say there aren’t busy people, but here in SE Portland they are sparse, and I like it.   I’m learning from the neighbors how to relax and not always be in a hurry, this is causing us all a lot less stress. Somedays we just sit around in the front yard. I’m take the bus places, which means walking (sometimes 6 blocks to the 19 route), waiting (up to 20 minutes), then riding (up to an hour), all opposed to a 20 minute car drive. Making life slow down a bit. But when you have time to spare its not a big deal. You meet interesting people and expose yourself (and your child) to new experiences. Our pace of life is just slowing down and I like it, a lot.

The last part the puzzle that needs to fall into place is making money, and becoming more self sufficient  I’ve already started by trying to do my own minor repairs and installations around the house. Some I’ve succeeded in, (refurbishing a table, installing curtains), some not so much (like that shelf for the bathroom that is now in the closet). I never leaned how to use drywall mounts or fix a toilet or make compost as a kid, but thats not going to stop me. With books and the internet I can do almost anything. Once I can buy a saw I’ll really be set. Its looking like Ace is going to get an awesome part time job teaching guitar and piano, between that and renter income we should be set. If I can make a few bucks here and there building or fixing something and then selling it, even better.  I’m considering trying to build basic skate ramps and selling them. In our neighborhood alone, I know that would be a hit.

Our lifestyle is changing a lot, but its for the better and I really like it. I’m hoping along with these changes means more writing and regular blog posts too, so keep checking back.

On the Road

Here I am sitting in our kind of gross hotel in Draper, Utah. A suburb of Salt Lake City (I think…). All I know is that this almost tops the list of places I like the least of anywhere we visited (but beating LA is gonna be hard for any city). Its a weird climate that I don’t like much. I’m pretty sure this is still considered “Semi-arid” like most of the places we’ve been recently (Nebraska, Wyoming), but whatever it is I don’t like it. Its weird feeling, and too high up… and well just a strange place where every family is gigantic and has strange values. Where instead of having left turns they make you turn right, then have a U-turn lane. 0.o Its hot, and kind of dry, and kind of mountainy, but not that much. I’d take Vegas over this any day. Can’t wait to leave and head to Portland, but my planning wasn’t the greatest so tomorrow we have over 12 hours of drive time. We hope to leave by 7am Mountain time.

The trip is actually going EASIER than I expected. So easy I’ve driven the whole thing! The drive has been more scenic than I expected and the dogs have been very well behaved. They have been in the car over 8 hours a day for 3 days and in small hotel rooms at night (sometimes split up between two rooms). They are doing well with being walked and have gotten to run around off leash twice, once Toby ran off chasing a bird, but besides that they have been well behaved. Mark is handling the car well, so well we didn’t even use the DVD player at all the first day. The only downside is that the car puts him to sleep so he’s napping 2-3 times a day then staying up late when we all need to sleep.

I’ve learned a few things on this trip. Here are a few random ones: Don’t waste space in your suitcase for kids PJ’s because they won’t want to put them on anyway. Snacks, you can’t have too many snacks. Hotel ice buckets make good dog water bowls in a pinch! Cabalas is a great place to stop on the road, especially with dogs. They have outdoor dog kennels and water available. And they have walking paths and some even have enough outdoor area for a game of catch with your pup! We had all 5 running around at one! They also sell dogs supplies if you need any! 

One more day and we will be at our NEW HOUSE. 

Mutt Monday: Josie!

I’m starting a series of blogs about each of my dogs. Each monday I’ll do a little post on one of my pups for “Mutt Mondays!” I’m very excited to share more about my family with you. I’m going to start with our first dog, Josie.

Josie

Josie was supposed to be a surprise. We were newly married with 2 cats and Ace wanted a puppy, BAD. He said he’d never lived in a house without a dog. I decided to secretly look around. He insisted he would have a dog named “Josiah” I hated that name, at least for a dog. After some prying I discovered that the name “Josie” would be acceptable for a female, and we both wanted a corgi. Then, fate happened. I popped in “corgi” and “young” to pet finder and this adorable chihuahua/corgi named “Josie” popped up! It was too good to be true, but I went and visited here and she chose me right away.

I got her for Ace on Valentines day. We had no idea that really she had picked me.

Josie and I

The day after we got her.

She was so happy. After being brought to a shelter for “Behavior Issues” and then transferred to a no kill shelter she finally ended up with us and she was over the moon. So were we. I had no idea I wanted a dog so bad, but I LOVED her. After a little trained she turned out to be one of the most well-balenced dogs I’ve ever met. Her and I are very close and even though she was meant for Ace she is my little girl!

Two days after she came home.

Josie is confident, loyal, loving, sweet, and gentle. She became the cornerstone for our ever growing dog pack and she is still my little shadow, even sitting with me as I write this. The joy she’s brought into our lives has been more than I ever could have imagined and she helped me realize that I totally am a “Dog person.” Since getting Josie we’ve saved 5 more dogs. I’ve worked at a doggie day care and volunteered at shelters. We’ve done obedience classes and agility classes. And Josie is AWESOME at agility.

Josie at agility class.

Josie hanging out at agility class.

The scariest part of Josie’s life was the day we almost lost her. It was April 2009 and I was gearing up to go to an income tax protest and even had a special bandana picked out for Josie! I went to get her to leave and she wouldn’t come out of her crate. She threw up and the collapsed. She couldn’t stand. I freaked out. I threw her in the back of my car and rushed to the vet calling them on the way. I was worried she was going to die in the car. They rushed her back into the OR as soon as I got there and only told me she was in shock. Eventually I had to leave to go to work. At work I got a call telling me she was bleeding internally and they didn’t know why, but they had done everything they could and I needed to come get her and take her to a bigger animal hospital an hour away. The day only got harder from there. At the animal hospital they took her to the doggy ICU then told us they would need a very large sum of money for her to stay. Thank God I had enough in my bank account to cover it! She was my baby and she was the best dog ever I would do anything for her! She had to stay there 2 nights before she was stable. Our vets had removed over a pound of cat litter (Tidy Cats) from her stomach and the hospital considered removing her gall bladder but was eventually able to stop the bleeding without doing that, so we actually got much of our money back. The only thing any of the vets could say was that either the cat litter poisoned her, or she also got into something poisonous. I agree with House M.D. in that I don’t like coincidences and I’m going to assume it was the cat litter. Josie made such a great recovery that most people don’t even believe this story when I tell them, and we have since switched to all natural cat litter and I highly suggest everyone else does the same!

Josie, Waldo (RIP), and Cedric (my mom's dog).

Josie, Waldo (RIP), and Cedric (my mom’s dog).

 

Since Mark was born, Josie has become second in our life but she’s put up with it well. She (mostly) respects Mark as above her in the pack and puts up well with him beating on her (Yes, I do stop it as quick as possible). The first 6 months Mark was alive (and the month before) she was kicked out of our bed because we planned on co-sleeping. Once mark was bigger though we allowed her back in and now she happily shares space with him.

Mark and Josie sleeping on me.

Mark and Josie sleeping by my legs.

Mark and Josie sleeping in my armpit.

Josie is the best dog anyone could ever ask for. I never thought I could love a little dog this much but I do. Oh! And after having her a little while we realized that if she has any corgi in her its very minimal. We believe she has Chihuahua, jack russel, and pug in her. Heres a few more cute pictures from the last 4 wonderful years.

Showing off her fantastic athletic abilities running in the yard.

Josie my shadow sitting with me at the kitchen counter.

Josie jumping for beer!

“Aren’t you proud of me!?”

Our house is SOLD! NOT!

This happened a while ago, but I’m a pretty mediocre blogger, I apologize.

After we got a contract on our home we rushed to get plane tickets to Portland to look at a house we loved and wanted to buy. After we bought the tickets, we got a call that the house had been sold to someone else. It was disappointing, but since we had already bought non-refundable tickets we decided we needed to go look at other possibilities.

We flew to Portland on a Tuesday, with Wednesday and Thursday to look at houses. We were going to fly back Friday. We spend Wednesday driving from house to house (8 in total) getting more and more disappointed as none of them were quite what we wanted. That night in the hotel we broadened our search on-line and found a house that was a great deal and looked like a good fit for us! The next day we went to see it and found out there were already 9 offers on it! We decided to put in a nice high offer (I think it was about 5 grand over asking price) in hopes we could snag it. We signed the offer and walked out to the car, where I checked my e-mail. There was a message from our lawyer that said, in thick legalese, that the buyers backed out of the contract. No explanation why. Here we are in Portland, just signed an offer on a great house, and now we have no buyer on our house. I was ready to cry.

We quickly called our Relator and found out some more details. They didn’t like the location of the house. Seriously? They couldn’t figure that out BEFORE signing a contract? I was so angry. I was just done. We went to the city to drown our sorrows in drinks and sushi. Luckily stumbling on a great sushi restaurant cheered us up a bit, but we were still in a funk.

We went home and had a break for a weekend. No showings, no nothing. We just needed to relax and regroup. Monday we signed the paperwork to relist the house. After shifting into packing mode and packing most of my office, I had to shift back to organizing and purging more. Thinking about this house in the long term again.

After all was said and done we could see a lot of good in this. One, we didn’t have to rush to pack. These buyers wanted in the house in four weeks! Thats fast! We were very overwhelmed with the idea of having to be out in four weeks. If the deal had gone though we’d be packing the moving truck this weekend! Now we can slow back down and focus mostly on training the dogs again.

Second, we can get a better house. We were surprised to find that we didn’t qualify for a very good mortgage and that my credit had dropped. The mortgage banker is helping us to raise our credit score as quickly as possible so that when our house sells we can get a better mortgage. Also, we hope our moving date will be more flexible this time allowing us longer to find a house and put in an offer (or more than one if needed). This trip there were no houses, we really loved. We are hoping when we actually need to buy there will be one.

Finally, this may allow us to move closer to our goal move date (not months before). We are hoping to move near the end of July, around the same time as my sister, so that the boys can play together as much as possible.

All in all, we did learn a lot from this experience, and we hope it will help us down the road. Can’t wait to sell our house!

The hardest week: Part 2

February 11th, my second dan test. I trained for that day for months. Push ups, and cardio, and sparring, and hours of forms a day. I was going to be ready. But I forgot, the point of the test is to break you, and Master Peterson will push as long as it takes. This time it happened to be about 5 and half hours. 

This was only six days after putting Waldo down, after a weekend of sitting on the couch with my sick dog… NOT TRAINING. This test was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m still not really sure why I did it. I guess I just needed a challenge. Logically, I did it because we are moving, and I didn’t want to test under a brand new instructor or curriculum (part of me never wants to, I wish I could stay a Key’s forever, I love it there), but there really was no need to do it now, most people wait much longer than the minimum waiting time, I just barely waited the minimum. 

I had to learn and entire set of forms plus my form for my belt PLUS make up a form. I found all this out about 3 months before I tested. The last few months have been pretty hardcore, going to Tae Kwon Do everyday there are classes, going to FIT class 3 days a week, and doing forms every free moment in my living room. 

Its interesting being the first one from a young school to test for second dan, I felt like I was a bit of an experiment, but at least it was me and not some kid. We know how it works now and can much better train the next group to test. 

The test itself was hard. Extremely hard. Much much harder than my black belt test. The only thing I’ve done that was more exhausting was labor and birth and only because it was 24 hours of regular contractions followed by major surgery. This 5 hours was about as exhausting as that 24. I really don’t remember the order of the test well… but we started with some cardo, basically we jumped a lot, then we did forms. We did all our forms, then did all our forms as fast as possible, then did all our forms in a straight line… then we did tons of kids on paddles while he brought us up one by one to do our high forms. I was doing ok till we started doing jump kicks (this is where Ace got some amazing pictures) that was exhausting!!! 

We also did, kicks down the floor, combinations, then made up our own combinations of kicks, combinations of hand techniques, and combinations with both. We did self-defense, sparring, board breaking… and more that I know I’m forgetting. The test ended with us balancing a staff on our thighs while we were squatting. After being totally beaten into the ground (wrenching at one point) we had to squat till our thighs were parallel with the ground not let the staff roll off. Every time it did 25 push ups were added to our total (less that 20 minutes earlier I had finished the last of my 120+ push ups). I dropped it 5 times. We were given a big speech about working together and how we bonded as a group… it basically meant one thing… we were all doing more pushups. Now we all were doing the highest amount of anyone in the group, 175. I gave it everything I had, crying as my left arm kept cramping up and giving out, soon only able to do one at a time, on my knees. 

Those helping administer the test came out to help encourage us to finish and it was really encouraging, but that didn’t give my arms strength. I got to 142 when we were told to stop. I was extremely disappointed. We were then told to pose for a picture then dismissed. I cried as a chugged water. I couldn’t do it. But.. that kind of was the point. My instructor said he was proud, and it took me days to believe him. I seriously thought I had failed him and our entire school the whole weekend even though I had passed. Eventually I accepted that I actually did a really good job. Seeing the pictures helped. they are bad ass. 

Go like Ace’s Photography page on Facebook to see them all. 

Hardest Week: Part 1

I haven’t written in a few weeks because the week of feb 6-12th was the hardest week ever. Last I posted Waldo was still with us…

When I took him back to the vet monday morning on the 6th I heard the worst news possible, he had cancer and only had a few days at most to live. I took him home with pain relievers and anti-nausea pills in hopes of having a good day or two with him. All we got was that afternoon. I was determined to make it the best day I could. I settled in in the living room with him with water and some rice and chicken broth if he felt up to eating.

He got worse and worse all day and would barely raise his head when someone came in the room. I cuddled with Waldo and my son Mark on the couch for hours. We decided we needed to let him go that day, that we didn’t want him to suffer though a long night has he had the night before… we knew we wouldn’t get any sleep anyway, but stay up with him all night.

We had a few visitors come by to say their goodbyes to as my sister put it “One of the greatest dogs in the world.” Mind you this dog, bit her two year old son and she still thought this about him. He was really an awesome dog, who just had a rough start to life (we didn’t get him till he was 2.5). At 4:15 I took all 5 dogs out back with Ace, Mark and I, the whole family playing in the yard one last time. Waldo did have enough energy to chase the ball for a few minutes. God he loved that ball… At 4:30 I made the hardest drive I’ve ever made. My last drive with Waldo. I cried the whole way.

I refused to leave his side the whole day, even till the end. We had to wait nearly an hour at the vet because I wouldn’t let them take him back alone to put in the port and they wouldn’t let me back while other dogs were back there.

Around 6pm Waldo very peacefully breathed his last. The vet had only just started the injection when he stopped breathing. I really don’t think he would have made it anther few hours and was glad we let him go. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my adult life. How do you chose to end another life? How do you let one of your best friends leave forever? You hope, you hope the rainbow bridge or something like it is real. You hope in a new heaven and a new earth where every person and every dog that has every lived are happy together.

RIP Waldo. You are loved. Image