Category Archives: Random Musings

Rapt awe

Yesterday, in my (much needed) yoga class, our instructor read a quote from Albert Einstein that I hadn’t heard before:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

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Although I’m sure Albert meant for his quote to inspire others to explore the heavens and take on grandiose projects to better mankind (i.e. something for geniuses to worry about – mark that N/A for me), our yoga instructor issued a challenge for each of us.

She said, “Every day, find something, anything, and take a moment to stand in rapt awe.”

Um, excuse me?

How could that be possible on a daily basis? Everyday life, for me anyway, consists of early-morning alarms, coffee, dishes, work, trips to the grocery store, maybe some exercise if I’m lucky, cooking dinner, wine, and more dishes.

Is it just me, or does none of that sound particularly glamorous, much less rapturous?

Just as I was about to dismiss the instructor as delusional, she went on. I’m paraphrasing, because we were in Warrior 3 and I was mostly concentrated on not falling over, but she said something like this:

If you’re like most of us, whose daily lives are not what we would think of as profound or rapture-worthy, remember the miracle that is your body. Consider the thousands of tiny miracles happening in your body right now, at this moment, to hold you in this pose. Stand in rapt awe of your body’s ability, of your body’s strength.

And then she let us go into child’s pose and I was so happy I could cry, but I also couldn’t believe how much I needed to hear that. Life is rapture-worthy. Getting out of bed in the morning is extraordinary. All these things we think of as mundane and tedious and tiresome are actually remarkable.

I get caught up in the daily grind, the minutiae of moving from one day to the next, without stopping to appreciate that each day is special and precious and profound in its own way. So now I have a new goal – to find something incredible about each and every day.

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A beautiful sunrise is a pretty good place to start.

Currently. April 16, 2016

This morning, when all weather reports indicate we’ll be snowed-in for the day, I’m poking my head out from under my mountain of work to catch up on the blogs I’ve missed over the past few months. Inspiration for this post comes from the Currently series I recently saw on Iowa Girl Eats.

Time and place: 7:36am, Saturday morning, in bed with a cup of coffee, watching the snow fall through my bedroom window. Since January 11th, I have spent precisely 16 nights in my own bed. Traveling for work is fun and exciting, at first, but it gets old in a hurry. I absolutely cherish mornings like these, when I can relax in my own space.

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Experiencing: the beginnings of hunger pains. I am ready for breakfast (and coffee) the second I open my eyes in the morning. It doesn’t help that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day or that my husband hates when I disturb him before 8am on weekends. I don’t blame him, but when do we get to eat?!

Craving: aside from this breakfast, a vacation. I have been working and traveling what feels like non-stop since mid-January, and I’m finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My to-do list is now simply overwhelming, rather than absolutely paralyzing. My husband says I say this every year, but this has been the worst busy season yet. My firm fired a manager, and another one quit, leaving the rest of us to pick up the slack. Thank the heavens above that I’m getting paid hourly. I know all this work I’m doing is good for our family (we funded my retirement account for the entire year after only 3 months of work), but at some point, enough is enough, ya know?

Awaiting: my first shipment from Trunk Club. After reading a review on one of my favorite blogs, I decided to give Trunk Club a try. At face value, it’s just another personalized shopping service (which seem to be a dime-a-dozen these days), but it’s different in that it’s not a subscription service, i.e. you request clothes (“trunks) only when you want. I also spoke to my stylist directly over the phone, which I liked. I hate shopping in person, but frequently feel overwhelmed and indecisive when shopping online. I was able to preview my trunk before it shipped, and it looks like my stylist made good selections, so I have high hopes.

Reading: Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. I read Born to Run by the same author last year, and it inspired me to sign up for my first half-marathon. I’m only a few chapters in to Natural Born Heroes, but already I love it. It’s vaguely centered around the heroic Crete resistance forces during World War II, but also ties in other stories of unlikely heroes. It’s inspiring and helps me focus on the big picture.

I leave tomorrow for Pittsburg (weather permitting), followed by two weeks in Washington, D.C, followed by a week in Chicago. I’m not out of the woods yet by any means, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Currently

I saw this series on a food blog I love, Iowa Girl Eats, and thought this would be a fun prompt for a Friday when my brain is mostly mush.

Time and place. 6:16AM, curled up with a blanket and coffee on our new living room chair, waiting for the sun to rise.

[EDIT: as I was typing this, my husband (who usually does not wake up until 7AM or later), stumbled out of the bedroom and demanded that I cuddle him on the couch. So now I’m sitting on the couch in our living room, scratching his back with one hand while I try to type the rest of this post with my other. Is this what it’s like to have children?!]

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Barcelona (photo source)

Reading. Spain guidebooks. Although we originally planned to visit Spain and Portugal this fall, I finally looked at a map and realized that Spain is a freaking big country. In order to spend more time in each destination, we’re focusing just on Spain and will save Portugal for another trip (although I am trying to sneak in a few days in Paris at the beginning of the trip).

Cooking. At the moment, nothing. Usually, I cook eggs and some sort of leafy green for breakfast, but recently I’ve been turning to smoothies instead. We are having homemade pizza for dinner, though, which reminds me – I need to take the dough out of the freezer to defrost.

Awaiting. News of the winter storm that’s supposed to hit the East Coast this weekend. I originally planned to fly to Washington, DC for work on Sunday, but at the “strong recommendation” of the airline, I moved my flight to Monday. Here’s hoping they have everything sorted out by then and I can make it across the country without being stranded in any airports.

Experiencing. Warmth! After learning (the hard way – i.e. sky-high electric bills) that our house (built in the 60s) had minimal (as in, 1 – 3 inches, we’re supposed to have 18) insulation in the attic, we bit the bullet and paid over $2,000 to have the proper amount installed. That’s a lot of money, but I can already see a huge difference in the way our house holds temperature, and I know it’ll pay off in the long run. Owning a house is expensive, y’all.

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Isn’t he the cutest? (photo source)

Listening. To a “Hive Management” seminar from our local garden and agricultural club. That’s right, folks, we’re getting bees in our backyard this spring! Even though we’re in a neighborhood, our county has very relaxed rules on which animals you can raise in your backyard. We eventually plan to add ducks and maybe even a goat, but bees are the first step. In addition to feeling good about helping offset the declining bee population, we are thrilled to have fresh honey at our fingertips.

Craving. May. My work schedule is extremely hectic from February – April, and normal to slow the rest of the year. I’ll be traveling for work every week from now until the end of April, flying out on Sunday and back on Friday, with only 1 full day at home. Since I’m an independent contractor paid hourly, I make the bulk of my salary during the next few months, but that doesn’t make it much easier come March when I’ve seen too many airports to count and just want to sleep in my own bed.

Hating. The state of American politics. I’m just going to leave that there.

Loving. Agriturismo Cretaiole. As soon as we returned from our honeymoon, I informed Adam that, for our 5th anniversary, we would be renewing our vows in Italy. Since we’re about to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, obviously the time has come to make concrete plans (kidding). I recently stumbled upon this magnificent agriturismo in the middle of two of the most famous Tuscan wine regions, and it looks like a dream come true.

Anticipating. My next cup of coffee! (And maybe some leftover fried rice for breakfast, because there’s nothing better than cold leftovers in the morning, am I right?)

Things I’ve been doing other than blogging

  1. Traveling for fun. We took our family trip to Germany and Belgium back in October (over 2 months ago – how crazy is that!) and I promise I will get around to blogging about that soon. Traveling with my parents was different, in a good way, as our budget was rather higher than what Adam and I usually have when we travel on our own. I discovered that Germany wasn’t my favorite country, and that I never care to go back to Brussels. But Bruges – that my friends is a magical city. I’m already planning our next trip; I’m thinking either Spain/Portugal or back to Italy (the country of my soul).

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    In summary, we did a lot of this.

  2. Traveling for work. In addition to my normal trips to DC, my company picked up a new client in Las Vegas, and I was there for two weeks – which, as you can imagine, is a looooong time to spend in Vegas. It’s hard for me to complain though, as the flight to Vegas is less than half of my flight time to DC, and Las Vegas restaurants are exponentially more enjoyable when someone else is picking up the tab. While we didn’t eat on the Strip every night, we did get to try several highly rated restaurants in different casinos, which is an experience in and of itself. One night my boss came to town and took us to Emeril’s Delmonico restaurant which was over-the-top delicious (with a price tag to match – not something I could ever afford on my own dime!) and served me the absolute best ahi tuna I have ever had in my entire life. I’m still dreaming about that meal.

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    I also got to drunkenly spend time with this stud, who is an exact replica of the original David, even down to the marble used. #onlyinvegas

  3. Hiked my first (and possibly last) 14’er. In Colorado, hiking a 14’er is a rite of passage. These routes are so named because they climb to an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. The “easy” 14’ers take about 5 hours round trip and are only 5 miles in distance. They go up in difficulty from there, with some covering 10 miles and requiring an 8+ hour time commitment. Because, in the words of my husband, “hiking is just walking, but for longer” (wrong – nothing is ever “just” at 14,000 feet altitude), we were over-ambitious and chose Mt. Bierstadt as our first mountain (ranked 38 out of 53 in terms of difficulty), rather than the much friendlier Torrey’s Peak (ranked only 9 out of 53). As we quickly learned, a 6-mile, 2,000 ft. elevation gain is nothing to laugh at, and 1/2 way into the ascent, neither of us were remotely pleased with life. But we stuck it out, were rewarded with Clif bars, buffalo jerky, and excellent views at the top, and I can cross it off my bucket list.

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    Reached the top! Finally smiling.

  4. Hosted my first Thanksgiving. Although I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for Adam and I for the past 4 years, it’s always been only the two of us, so the quantity of food isn’t that different and the pressure was never very high. Usually, we just grill Cornish game hens rather than doing a full turkey. This year, though, my parents came up from Florida, and even though they have to love me no matter what, the stakes were raised a bit. Fortunately, the turkey turned out wonderfully – even I thought so, and I’m not a turkey fan. I dry-brined and spatchcocked it for more even cooking. Served along with traditional Thanksgiving sides, it was a wonderful meal, and of course it meant so much that my parents made the journey out. My mom spent most of her time cleaning, reorganizing, and helping me complete house projects I’d been meaning to get around to, but we also took some time to play in the snow, grab Starbucks peppermint mochas, shop, and pick out a Christmas tree. It was a pretty perfect week of vacation.

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    My mom is loving this. My dad is wearing long underwear, two sweaters, a scarf, a hat, gloves (with hand-warmers), extra-thick socks, and is tolerating this.

  5. Waking up earlier to enjoy morning coffee and sunrises in a quiet house. I used to be a huge morning person – even in college I was up before the sun (and everyone else) 98% of the time. I was that weirdo who purposely scheduled 8AM classes – and liked it. But since I started working from home, I slipped into a bad habit of sleeping until my husband’s alarm clock went off at 7:15. I make him breakfast every morning, and he needs to be out of the house by 7:45 to make his daily 8AM meeting. Waking up that late kept stressing me out, and even though getting out of a warm bed while it’s still cold and dark isn’t easy, I’m so much happier overall. My alarm goes off at 5:45AM and I have time to make coffee, do some dishes, catch up on emails, and watch the sun rise. It’s the perfect routine for me and I’m glad to have rediscovered my inner morning person!

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    Trees on fire

  6. Trying to compose a Christmas list like a gosh-darn adult. Here’s what I should be putting on my Christmas wish list: a new faucet for the kitchen, snow tires (as we just got another foot of snow here in Denver and we’re on track to have one of the snowiest winters in recent memory), furniture (right now our TV is propped up on a chair from the kitchen table and we have a spare mattress doing stand-in duty as a couch in the basement), Home Depot gift cards, money to pay someone to put insulation in our 50+ year-old home (see the part about the snow), a snowblower, and so so many other things we need for our first home. What I want to put on my Christmas wish list is a little different: a jewelry subscription from Erin McDermott (you know, because I toooootally get dressed and wear jewelry when I work from home #not), overpriced gym clothes (but they’re SO CUTE – send help), money to put towards our next Europe trip, cozy sweaters, and a gift card to our favorite pizzeria in Denver, plus a bajillion other superficial things that I just don’t need, dammit. Adulting is overrated.
  7. Ordered new blinds. The front of our house has two large sets of windows – my husband pulled one set of blinds down within 2 weeks of us moving into the house, and a foster dog shredded the other set when we left her alone in the house for too long and she escaped from her crate. They were the cheap, plastic variety, so I don’t mind replacing them, but talk about the least fun thing to spend money on in the history of ever. I suppose it’s a small price to pay to spare our 80-year-old neighbors the shock of seeing us walk around less than fully clothed.h5qsgltx6rzmzr9y8xvrwc1dcuspc2itfdldryckbpaizqd4mvgbj-dvjwqhs3gtwbaaemf1bi-q_5-2po_td3zdfnch_6sxda68ttvhzh-tc_gy5x49c3rrva1

And that’s about it! I was trying to get to 10, but I simply haven’t done enough fun/cool/blog-worthy things. We leave for Florida next week to spend Christmas with my family, which will be a weather change from this snowy tundra, to say the least. Denver is predicted to have a white Christmas while Florida is….predicted to be 85 and sunny. I never thought in a million years that I’d be saying this, but after spending the past week bundled up like an eskimo and shoveling snow from our driveway, sidewalk, and walkway, I might not might a bit of warm weather.

On being a foster (dog) parent

On this woman crush Wednesday (that’s still a thing, right?), I’m dedicating this post to my current foster dog, this lovely lady Lucy.

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Can #wcw apply to dogs?

Just when I thought I’d gotten over my jet lag from our two-week trip to Germany and Belgium, my foster dog decided she needed to wake me up at 4AM to go to the bathroom. After she chased a bunny in around the yard. After I let her out, wrangled her inside, and crawled back in bed, I started thinking of all the things I need to get done today and couldn’t fall back asleep. So, naturally, I crawled back out of bed and instead of doing any of those things keeping me awake, am writing this blog post.

My husband and I foster dogs through the Safe Harbor Lab Rescue organization, based out of Golden, Colorado. I started fostering dogs when I lived in DC (and my husband – then boyfriend – lived in Connecticut) and long hours during busy seasons kept me from having a dog of my own. After we moved to Colorado, I did some research and submitted a foster application to Safe Harbor, and I’m now on my 5th Colorado foster. To paraphrase Dickens, it’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times.

Lucy is my current foster and she’s amazing. In addition to being adorable, she’s fully house-trained, knows lots of commands, and likes to snuggle but isn’t glued to your side 24/7. I suppose I should counter all this praise with reiteration of the fact that she might also wake you up at ungodly hours of the night/morning to take a bathroom break, but I’d much prefer that to discovering a puddle by the door later. Plus, I can’t make it through the night without a trip to the bathroom, so it’s hard for me to criticize.

And this face! How could I ever be mad at this?

Here she is with her stuffed duck

Here she is with her stuffed duck

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the dog fostering process, here’s a quick breakdown; it’s pretty similar across most organizations. When the organization (in my current case, Safe Harbor), takes in a dog (this could be from another shelter, the pound, or an owner surrender), the dog is vetted and screened to make sure they don’t have any serious behavioral issues (aggression towards people or other dogs, food guarding, etc.) that would need to be addressed by a trained professional. The dog is tested for any diseases or illnesses (heartworms, rabies, all the good stuff) and is proscribed medicine if necessary. Safe Harbor pays for all vet bills and medications. Another volunteer evaluates the dog to (try to) determine whether the dog is potty-trained, good with other dogs, knows any commands, and other information that a prospective foster parent or adoptive family would need to know. Then foster volunteers (like me) are matched with a foster dog.

Foster parents are responsible for paying for food, treats, and toys, and are charged with providing their foster dog a safe place to call home (temporarily), teaching them basic commands and manners, and – most importantly – giving them lots of love. Lucy is an owner surrender and hasn’t been majorly traumatized, but some of the other dogs I’ve fostered have come from deplorable circumstances.

Jack, my first Colorado foster, was left in the care of a mentally-handicapped family member after his owner died. The family member was utterly unqualified to care for a dog and simply didn’t feed him for weeks and kept him locked up inside. When a neighbor finally realized he hadn’t seen the dog in a while, Jack was rescued and brought to Safe Harbor 20 pounds under weight. Despite having been horribly misused by humans, Jack was loving, sweet, and pretty perfect. I managed to add 10 pounds to him in the week he was in my care, then his adopted family rechristened him “Waffles” and proceeded to feed him and love him back to his healthy weight.

The day Jack was adopted, I cried for 2 hours. Happy tears, sure. But also selfish, sad tears. I fall in love with these dogs and then they leave. I’m now on my 10th foster. It doesn’t get any easier. Every time one of my fosters is adopted, I tell the family how happy I am for them (and I wholeheartedly mean it), and then run inside and sob. The rewards outweigh the heartbreak, for sure, but man that heartbreak is real and it is painful.

My current baby, Lucy, is no different. She’s going to be hard to let go. We’ve had her for just over a week and my husband and I are pretty smitten.

This is my husband's work glove. She appropriated it from the garage and when he's at work, she carries it around. I'm pretty sure she buried the other one.

Here she is with my husband’s work glove. She appropriated it from the garage, and when he’s at work, she carries it around. I’m pretty sure she buried the other one.

I always try to go into fostering with the mindset that this is not my dog. This is someone else’s dog that I’m babysitting for a bit. I cannot have a dog right now because of XYZ. Sometimes these mantras work. Sometimes they completely fail.

Does anyone have any tips for hardening your heart against adorable labs?

At the end of the day, though, we foster because we know that we are making a difference. We’re taking in dogs who might have run out of time in a kill-shelter, who might have languished in a kennel, who might have never been rescued, and allowing families to see their true potential so they can find homes. Forever homes. With amazing families. And if heartbreak is what it takes to get them there, then heartbreak is worth it.

Lucy + hubby

A man, his (foster) dog, and his scotch. Pure love.

With that, I’m going to stand on my soapbox just briefly.

If you are planning to bring a dog into your life, please, please, please consider a rescue dog. Go through your local humane society or another rescue organization. There are dogs of all ages, backgrounds, and dispositions available, just waiting for you. If you’re interested in a certain breed, there are breed-specific rescue organizations for almost every breed under the sun – just do a quick Google search to find one in your area.

If you have any questions, about fostering, about labs, about adopting a dog, about what I’m going to eat for breakfast, about whether Lucy was able to fall back asleep after waking me up at 4AM (spoiler alert: she was), I’d love to answer them!

Memorial Day Murph

One mile run

100 pull-ups

200 push-ups

300 squats

One mile run

Complete while wearing a 20-pound weight vest, in as little time as possible

We’re now just one day away from one of my favorite holidays of the year. While most people associate Memorial Day with cook-outs, pool parties, and beach days, the thing I look forward to most is the workout above, named “Murph” in honor of U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. “Murph” Murphy.

If you’ve seen the movie Lone Survivor or read the book by the same name (I haven’t), you’re already familiar with Lt. Murphy and his story of heroics. Or maybe you remember hearing his name in the news back in 2005 when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Or maybe you’re like me, a year ago – completely new to this workout and this man’s story.

His acts of courage and valor are well documented on the internet, so I don’t feel the need to recount them here. I doubt I could do his story justice. Suffice it to say that the man gave it all for his country, and died in order to save his team.

When you read the workout, you might be like me and think – hm, that doesn’t sound so bad. Then, Memorial Day arrives and you start the workout. At the 15 minute mark you’re only 1/10th of the way through the rounds of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats, and you think – wow, I’m never going to finish. At the 30 minute mark, you can start to see the finish line, but your legs are burning, your shoulders are like jello. Eventually, eventually, slower than you even thought possible, you finish the 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats. The last push-up took all of your strength. But now. Now you run another mile. You’re not even sure you can walk any more, but you head to the door and on to the sidewalk. You take a right, following the designated 1-mile course, and start to jog, slowly, painfully, legs moving awkwardly because your body has no idea why it still has to be moving, after all those squats.

And somewhere along the way, during the 1+ hour workout, after your 50th pull-up, or your 227th squat, or maybe after the first 1/2 mile of the first run, you realize – this man, Lt. Murphy, did this workout. All the time. In a 20-pound weight vest. In the dessert. And that wasn’t even his biggest accomplishment.

He didn’t do this workout to look better in a bikini. He didn’t do this workout because a bunch of his friends were doing it, and there was a cook-out after it. He didn’t do it on his day off and then limp home to recover poolside with a few cocktails. He did this workout to survive.

And there are thousands of men and women, all over the world, away from home, away from family, away from almost anything familiar, doing similar workouts, in similarly horrible conditions, so they can survive the demands of combat. To protect this country. To protect me. And if you’re anything like me, and a good workout gets you a little emotional, you have tears streaming down your face as you finish that last mile. Tears of pride, tears of gratitude, tears of sadness, for all the Murphs who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom.

Tomorrow, all over the country, gyms, Crossfit “boxes” (a weird Crossfit term for gym), and community centers will host the Memorial Day Murph challenge. Thousands of people will participate, and (hopefully) thousands of dollars will be raised for scholarship funds, PTSD research, and other veteran’s programs.

“Murph” is a long, grueling, painful workout, but it is do-able and infinitely scalable (I do ring rows rather than pull-ups and use a box for push-ups). Most people forgo the 20-pound weight vest, myself included. Other scaling options include half-Murph, and no-run-Murph. It’s not about doing the workout as written, it’s about gaining perspective and completing the workout, in any form, with a grateful heart.

You certainly don’t have to do this workout, or any workout, in order to properly observe the holiday. But all too often, we, myself included, seem to treat Memorial Day as a holiday dedicated to shopping and grilling, without giving pause. Tomorrow, let’s all take a moment to remember, to reflect, and to be grateful. If you can, please consider donating to the Veteran’s charity of your choice (the Wounded Warrior Project is ours).

And then go out and enjoy that pool party 😉

(Click for source)

Wednesday recap

Another day, another blog post. I’m on a roll! I attribute it to being burned out at work – after working 80 hours last week, I just can’t bring myself to stay at the office later than 6:30, and rather than doing more work when I get home, I’m ordering glasses of wine from the hotel bar and binge watching the Food Network.

It’s ok, I still love her.

I guess I could be going out and exploring new restaurants rather than eating takeout in my hotel bed, but I’m in Arlington, also known as the Soulless Suburb, where hoards of families and tourists stay to avoid the crushing hotel prices of DC. If I’m going to spend $15 on an appetizer and $20 on a glass of wine, I need there to not be screaming children running around in the background. After a long day of mind-numbing work, I need to be able to enjoy my alcohol in peace, so hotel room it is.

Speaking of work, my job is especially tedious this week. Accounting is decently interesting at the best of times, but this week my job is to make sure a client is allocating expenses correctly. To make a long story very short, they got in trouble with the Department of Labor a few years ago for charging too much in expense to their retirement plan and now they get the pleasure of allocating expenses based on minute details – like the amount of bandwidth used (in terabytes) on each of their websites.

Y’all, I didn’t even know what bandwidth was until I looked it up on Wikipedia this morning. Technology and I don’t get along.

Fortunately for me, my hotel was offering free drinks in the lobby and the sweet man behind the bar didn’t even bat an eye when I asked for two glasses of wine to take up to my room. According to the signs posted, the free drinks were supposed to “give guests a chance to mingle and connect”, but I’m just not that social, even with free alcohol.

Between the wine and all the computer mumbo-jumbo I dealt with today, I might actually be lulled into sleep at a reasonable hour. Which would be great, because there’s a sunrise yoga class with my name on it. All this work/travel is wrecking havoc on my poor body, as my posture is horrendous. I blame it on being short and never being able to touch my feet to the ground, but it’s really because I’m lazy. I’m sure my poor vision and slouching over my computer doesn’t help either. I’m hoping a few sun salutations can work miracles tomorrow.

It’s time for me to wrap up this post, finish my glass of wine, and fall asleep to the sound of Guy Fieri stuffing his face with America’s finest bar food.