Thursday, February 28, 2013

love.this.human. -- angie edition

Meet Angie, the most inspiring person I know.

For seven years, Angie's uncle was my pediatrician and we did not know each other.  On my last doctor's visit before college, my doctor asked me where I was going.  "Miami University."  He said that his niece was going to Miami too and that we should hook up sometime.

I know I've kicked Facebook out of my life, but I do have to thank Mark Zuckerberg for this... I looked Angie up and friended her, asking if she was the niece of my doctor.  When she replied and said that she was, in fact, the person I was looking for, we started a friendly exchange and over the course of our first semester at Miami University, tried to meet for lunch or dinner or a show.  Things didn't work out.

Second semester, I was sitting in my Spanish 201 class and a girl walks in the door (I think she was late, which is likely, but I could be making that up).  She looked familiar.  "Is that Angie?" I thought.

After class I approached her and from that point on we became fast friends. Sophomore year, we lived in the same dorm.  Senior year, we ended up living in an on-campus apartment with two others - one, our good friend Lauren.  She is the friend I have had the longest and she has been by my side through everything.  She's a saint for that alone.

Why Angie inspires me (in no particular order):  

1.  She appreciates everything and everyone and shows that everything and everyone has something about them to be appreciated.

2.  She is a funky, 80s revival kinda girl.

3.  She isn't afraid to stand out.

4.  She is very open about her struggles with the purpose to help others.

5.  She is so generous and charitable.

6.  She has awesome taste in music.

7.  Every conversation we have, we end up laughing.  She is one of the most cheerful people I know.

8.  She cries at everything, even commercials.  It's a testament to her empathy.

9.  She has room for everyone in her life.

10.  She appreciates and supports diversity of all kinds.

11.  She practices and encourages personal growth and never gives up.

12.  She'll try anything once.

13.  She's just so damn fun.

14.  She's thoughtful and full of purpose.

15.  She's the embodiment of all that is positive in this world.

These are only 15 of a thousand ways Angie inspires me.  I owe this girl so much.  When I entered college, I was small-minded, shy, and judgmental.  Angie is responsible for so much of my growth and I am forever grateful to her.  Pretty much every good quality I have has been because of her wonderful example.  She is strong and has the biggest heart.  She's hilarious and always makes me smile.  Much of my happiness is due to her presence in my life.

Everyone should have a friend like Angie.  She makes the world a better place. -- a pep talk

Sometimes we need a pep talk to get through the week, maybe even just to get through the day.  I know I do.  Sometimes I need a reminder of who I am, what I am all about, what I want to accomplish in life, what my purpose is.  Sometimes I just need a little motivation.

Thanks, Parker.  This made my day!

Monday, February 25, 2013

love.this.goal. -- on losing it

I have struggled with weight my entire life.  Obesity runs in the family, at least on my father's side - I'm not using this as an excuse, but you could imagine the eating and exercise habits I observed growing up.  It was completely normal for me to eat out of a microwave.  When Mom wasn't cooking, I would throw a Totino's pizza into the microwave and eat the whole thing.  Pizza rolls, tater tots, corn dogs, taquitos, french fries... anything fatty that could be thrown in a microwave or oven and be forgotten about - that was the diet I had growing up.  Occasionally my mom would make fantastic Korean food, but that wasn't as often as I'd liked and it's easy to eat Korean food and be unhealthy (I had no portion control).

I was a very introverted child and all I wanted to to was read and stay inside.  I didn't really have friends and I didn't play outside or go to anyone's house.  I was always ashamed of my body; how it was built, how much I weighed.  My body has always depressed me.

Sophomore year of college I was the heaviest I had ever been.  The following summer, a lot of negative things were happening in my family's life and I just wanted to get away.  I made some friends that weren't really positive influences on my life and ran around with them.  I was so angry at my life that I would go to work, drink Monster energy drinks all day, only eat Arby's, and then I would go home and run my anger out on a treadmill, no matter how much it hurt.  I never slept.  I played a lot of pool.  I dropped 50 pounds in one summer, drained my savings, and was totally unhealthy despite the weight loss.  I told myself I was happy, but it was a synthetic happiness.  Deep down, I knew that I had gone about things the wrong way.  It was a bad time for me.  I did a lot of painful growing after that summer.

I did, however, love fitting into smaller clothes and not looking like Jabba the Hut in photographs.  As the anger went away, the weight packed back on.  I had stopped drinking Monsters and expanded my diet to more than just roast beef sandwiches.  By the time I had gotten into graduate school, I'd gained about fifteen pounds and now, four years into graduate school, I have gained about 35 of the 50 pounds I had dropped.

I'm ready for a change.  I've been ready for a change.  I've never had control over my body.  Eating has always been emotional for me.  My life embodied live to eat rather than eat to live.  My social live revolved (and still kinda does) around food.  Food occupies too much of my life and I want it to be sustenance, not entertainment, not a solution for boredom or stress or depression.

I've been in a very good place lately and decided to try the HCG diet.  I feel I need an extreme way to lose weight to get me started and then be motivated to keep up the momentum.  Clearly, this is a much healthier, safer diet than my Monster/Arby's diet.  This one is much more thoughtful and controlled.

I am on day 3 of this diet.  The past two days were my gorging phase and today was my first day on the 500 calorie plan.  It was actually manageable.  I was surprised at how much I could eat with 500 calories, more than I had imagined.  I think that the HCG is working because I do not feel starving.  I made it through a birthday party with all sorts of pizza and fruit pizza and cookies and ice cream without dying or feeling miserable.  I was proud of myself.  I am drinking a lot more liquids and relying on herbal iced tea and stevia. That is the only way I can get my sweet fix.  But I'm not going crazy, my stomach doesn't hurt, and I feel like I got through the day quite smoothly.  I believe that I can keep this up for a month and I intend on doing that.

I know that losing weight and making my goal weight would contribute to my happiness enormously.  I must remember that this is a process, just like everything else, and results are not always immediate.  The trick is to be patient and to endure.

I had no bread or corn products today.  That is unheard of for me.  And no chocolate - holy crap.  I had no oil, no butter, no sugar... I did this for a day.  Small victory, yes, but big motivation.

I'm ready for this.  I have made so many big changes in my life as of late.  I know that it is not recommended to take on too many changes at once, but I feel ready.  I can do this - I AM doing this.

My goal is more than just weight loss.  I want to not be tempted to the point of action.  I want to view food as sustenance and not comfort or fun.  I spend way too much money on food, so this will help me save money too.  My goal is to make my life better.  There are a lot of projects going on to make that happen, but this is my season.  I can't let it slip away.

Encouragement is welcome!  Although today went smoothly, I don't expect every day to be like that.  But I will try my hardest to make every day as smooth as possible.

love.this.research. -- the early bird gets the worm

Though it is often suggested not to make too many changes in your life at once, one thing that I have changed over the course of the past year or so is how early I wake up.  I have realized that the earlier I wake up in the morning, the more productive I am and the happier I am.  I suppose part of this also has to do with sunlight... early to bed, early to rise, there is less darkness and though I used to be a night owl, sunlight does bring me more happiness than darkness.

I'm the girl who used to schedule her courses around waking up around ten o'clock.  Now, I am usually awake between 4am and 6:30am (crazy, I know) and I am usually cleaning or getting work done by 7am.  The thing is, I am not waking up by alarm.  I still set an alarm on my phone just in case I have one of those days where I am completely out, but lately, it's quite normal for me to wake up at 4:30 in the morning.  I figure if I am up, I might as well be useful.  Dishes get done, laundry gets done, I knock a few things off my to-do list, have breakfast and plan my day.  This sets the stage for a good, productive day.

I came across this Psychology Today article: Early Risers are Happier, Healthier and More Productive Than Night Owls.  Last year, in the APA journal Emotions, a study reported that early risers are more happy than night owls, in general.  The sample consisted of over 700 individuals ranging from 17 to 79 years old.  They were surveyed and asked questions concerning their health, emotions, and preferred time of day.  Morning people reported feeling happier and healthier than night people and researchers thought this might have something to do with the 8-5 work day that caters more to morning people.

Other researchers have found that morning people tend to be more proactive and are successful in business.

This is not to say that if you are a night person, you are screwed.  According to one researcher, there are advantages to being a night owl, such as the tendency to be smarter, more creative, funnier, and more outgoing.  The article delves into more and you can look up the actual journal article as well.

Just from personal experience, I do agree with the findings of this study.  Granted, I have not read the actual study (that has too much to do with what I do for a living... let's keep this light, people).  I am sure there are limitations to the study, as there always is, but I think there is something to this.  I have noticed a difference in how I operate my life when I am the early riser opposed to the night owl.

Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you find any challenges or benefits in your life either way?  I'm curious. -- maximize life by minimizing

I am still de-cluttering.  When I come home, I still ask myself what I can get rid of next.  Believe it or not, the movie-lover and the bibliophile just got rid of a ton of movies and a bunch of books.  I'm pretty sure I decreased my movie collection by 75% and my books by 50%.  There a lot of books I have to keep for school purposes.  Some movies I really could not part with either because (1) they are difficult to find anywhere, or (2) I really do watch them often.  Some of my fiction books, I couldn't bear to get rid of because (1) I started my children's book collection with a purpose and (2) some were gifts.  Even by keeping all those, I greatly decreased my belongings!

So I come home and I open closets and assess whether or not I am satisfied with the amount of things in it and the organization.  If I am not, I go back to de-cluttering.  It's definitely a process.  Some things, you really have to think about whether or not you want to keep it.  A few rules of mine:

1. If I didn't realize you had it, I have lived without it, so you obviously I not need it.  Toss it.
2. I am allowed one Sterilite container of keepsakes.  No more than that.  This keeps things under control.  After a while, I might digitize some of my keepsakes, like cards people have given me with messages that have touched my heart.  I really don't need the cards; I want the messages.
3. I am a single individual.  I do not need ten water bottles, or eight bottles of lotion, or an economy-sized pack of post-it notes.
4. Before donating, ask if a friend needs anything you're giving away.  Sometimes you have just what they are looking for.
5. Out with the old, in with the new.  If I have something old that is not operating as it should, replace it but do not keep the old item!
6. Sit and stare at an area for five minutes.  Does anything about that area bother you?  Does it begin to stress you out?  Do something about it!
7. I ask myself, "In three days, will I desperately miss this?"  If the answer is no, I toss it.
8. I like to focus on the results of de-cluttering.  When I move, there will be much less to deal with, making a less stressful move.  When I clean, there is less to deal with.  I save time and there is less stress.

Whenever I imagine my life without all the stuff I can part with, happy feelings brew inside me.  I was just bouncing around the internet the other day and I found this awesome blog: Becoming Minimalist.  I poked around and realized that this was the lifestyle I wanted to achieve.

The blog features a post that lists 21 benefits of minimalism.  Click >>here<< to read it.  I want all 21 of those benefits.  I want to spend less, to have less stress, to be more productive, to have more freedom, to help the environment and to be happier.  I have found that this is the key for my happiness.  Simple living.  Minimalism.

I have important things in my life that I don't treat as important as I should.  I need to focus more on my faith and charity and spending more quality time with the people (and puppies) that mean the most to me.  I think that making a minimalist lifestyle the goal is going to help me with that.

What I like about this whole minimalist thing is that it is pretty subjective.  Yes, own fewer things, consume less, etc.  Each person has a different beginning point.  I know before I even started this whole process, I had waaay less than a lot of people I know.  The minimalist point is different for everyone.  We don't all have to have white walls and no television and no electronics to become minimalist.

Minimalism for me is to have as little clutter as possible and to ensure that all the belongings I have are purposeful.  Does this picture on my wall bring me happiness? No?  Then take it down.  I want to go shopping and not be lured by everything I see.  I want to be focused on my list and only get what I went there for.  I have spent so much money in the past - this whole process contributes to my financial well-being as well.

I think everyone can do things that make them more minimalist.  Everyone might not be comfortable with this lifestyle, but I think everyone can focus on one aspect of their live and minimize, whether it be one closet, one room, one bookshelf, limiting any type of consumption... it all contributes to positivity.

I am doing this.  I know my goal and I am going for it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

love.this.documentary. -- my dog: an unconditional love story

I promise this blog is not just about dogs.  As the tagline says, this is a blog about love, happiness, and joy.  But how can I NOT talk about dogs when discussing love, happiness, and joy?

I had no intention of watching two documentaries in one week.  I have work I must accomplish.  But I saw this on Netflix and couldn't help myself.  I also happen to be blessed with a secondary job that allows me to watch television sometimes and bring my babies with me (I know, right?!)

This documentary is on Netflix and is also free to watch if you are an Amazon Prime member.  I believe you can watch it on YouTube.  It is short, only 50 minutes, but totally worth watching if you are a dog lover like me.

I loved the way those who were interviewed described their relationships with their dogs.  I have relationships with my dogs, Opie and Maizy.  They are not just pets or accessories to my home, but they are my family.  They are my babies and much of what I do revolves around them and their needs, much like a parent to their children.

Here are some things that were mentioned in the documentary that I really connected with:

Dogs give unconditional love.  Sometimes we expect unconditional love from people, but we don't get it.  Dogs are such wonderful creatures that the love they give is boundless.

Dogs have pure intentions.  I never thought about it that way, but I totally agree.  They aren't mean, manipulative creatures that are looking to use you.

The relationship that you have with your dog is a spiritual connection, "an inter-species bond" that cannot be matched.  I love all animals, I really do, but I do have a spiritual connection to Opie and Maizy that I do not have with my fish or my tort.

Alone time with your dogs is zen time.  Peace comes with them and follows them wherever they go.  I love that.  I actually just returned home from walking my dogs and it was definitely zen time.  I watched them at the end of the Take Two leash, their bodies bouncing off each other as they trotted down the sidewalk in perfect synchrony.  Their tails waved together - they were in tune with each other and I was in tune with them.  They were leading me, but I was leading them at the same time. Though snow and ice still covered the grass, it had warmed just enough to make for a pleasant walk where the dogs weren't shivering.  It was a perfect, zen walk.

Dogs bring you comfort and benefit your health.  For example, dogs can help lower your blood pressure.

Dogs help cancer patients emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  When my mom was battling breast cancer, her mini dachshund Winnie was her rock.  I truly believe that if she did not have Winnie, my mom would have given up and let the cancer take her over.  Winnie gave her love, happiness, and joy.  Winnie passed away from her own cancer last year.  She was young, only six.  My mom is not the only cancer survivor I know who has found great comfort and healing in dogs.  They are remarkable creatures.

There is a common language among dog owners.  Having a dog is like having an instant connection to complete strangers.  You know the moment they smile at you and say "awww" or stop to pet your dog that you have a connection with this person through animals.  You can tell when a human does not like dogs or animals because as they walk past you, they pay no attention to the cuteness at your side.  I stay away from those people, haha.  When you meet another dog owner, you exchange stories like mothers exchange stories about their children.  Instead of "Johnny said the funniest thing yesterday," it's more like "Opie left a piece of broccoli in my office chair, my living room chair, and in my bed.  I think he is trying to tell me something."  That's a true story, by the way.  Dog owners talk about Kongs and dog food and dog parks and the best doggy day cares.  We discuss breeds and preferences and how our dogs understand English.

Here is a sad fact, but I had to share it.  Three to four million shelter dogs are euthanized every year, according to this documentary.  This totally broke my heart.  Personally, this is the reason I only adopt from shelters or humane societies.  I also have a rule that I only adopt mixed breeds.  There is an abundance of animals that need homes out there.  We don't need people to breed and we're still struggling with people getting their animals fixed.  If you have room for more love in your life and can afford to take a sweet creature into your home, what are you waiting for?  They give more than they take.  Unfortunately, many of the dogs that need forever homes are not puppies.  People want puppies because they are cute and relatively customizable.  Don't be afraid to take an older dog into your home - many of them are well trained and super loving.  This was one of my concerns adopting Maizy since she is three.  Opie was a tiny puppy when I adopted him.  But as soon as I met Maizy and we spent some time together, I didn't care that she wasn't a puppy.  She was meant for me.

Here is a little joke from the documentary to close on a more positive note.  Coming from a man: "If you want to know who loves you more, lock your wife and your dog in the trunk of your car for a while and see who is happier to see you when you open it."

If you are thinking about giving a forever home to one of the many dogs in need, please contact your local shelter or humane society.  You may also check, which is how I came across Maizy.  Most shelters and humane societies post their animals there.  I'm going to go all Bob Barker here and remind you to have your pets spayed or neutered.

love.this.pic. -- the last thing i see

This is the last thing I see before I leave my apartment.  Good reminder. -- climbing out of my hole

Yesterday was a bad day for me.  My spirit was down, I was feeling a bit depressed and quite upset over things that really do not matter.  I fell into a hole.  Like always, my dear friend Kirsty offered me her hand and helped me climb out of the hole.  She did this with words of encouragement and advice, but she also did this with a video:

This guy is crazy, and I say that with the utmost respect for him.  He's crazy in a good way.  I found this video totally inspiring.  It reminded me of my purpose, why I am here and who I want to be.  I want to see that the glass is always beautiful, not whether it is half full or half empty.  I want to feel pronoia, always!

And then... Angie emailed me and a few other friends this video:

How can you NOT feel love, happiness, and joy after watching these two videos?  I felt these things, but I also felt inspired and I realized how tightly bound inspiration is to me feeling love, happiness, and joy.  Being inspired is a beautiful thing because it takes those lovely feelings and turns them into actions!  Feelings can motivate us to inspire others and help them to feel love, happiness, and joy.

Needless to say, I got out of my hole.  Of course, with the help of my friends.

Yesterday, before I had really fallen in that hole, the Sister Missionaries came over and we chatted for a bit.  I shared some of my current thoughts and feelings on life, told them about this blog, and also shared my conversion story.  We read a few scriptures from the Book of Mormon that are just inspiring: 2 Nephi 31:13 and Alma 13:24.  And then they challenged me - the 10-Second Challenge.  Basically, if I am out and about, stand next to someone, sit next to someone and just strike up a 10 second conversation.  This challenge reminds me of the ball-pit video.  What if we didn't need that ball-pit?  What if we just randomly conversed with people to intentionally make a connection and find our commonalities?

It can be difficult and scary, but I think it is something we can try.  I know I am going to.  Minus the ball-pit, of course.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

love.this.documentary. -- searching for sugar man

I love movies, particularly indie films, but I also love documentaries.  Not all documentaries excite me, but this one really hit me.

I took my friend Kirsty's advice and watched Searching for Sugar Man.  Click >>here<< to see what she has to say about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary.  It inspires a moment for you to stop and take stock of your life and your priorities.  It's a film that you will tell other people about, one that will randomly pop into your mind one day.  After you watch this, you must download the soundtrack, featuring songs by Rodriguez.  Great album; find it >>here<<.

I don't want to say much more because you need to watch it.  Fantastic.  Inspiring.  Two thumbs way up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 -- february edition

Periodically, I will post on how my life is going.  Thoughts I have had about my life, the things that I have been doing.  These posts will be titled "" and will be more journal-esque.

An update on Maizy: She is FANTASTIC!  Her transition into the family has been a miracle.  Usually dogs have a rough transition, especially when another dog is involved, but I think, through her past fostering, she is a pro at transitioning.  She and Opie get along great and my friend Holly noted that Maizy acts as if I have had her all along.  It really is that way.  It's like Maizy was the missing piece to my life.  She has filled a hole in my heart that I thought was supposed to be filled with something else... my heart is full.

I have to say to all the skeptics out there - having two dogs (in terms of burden) is really no different than having one.  I believe this.  When I walk my dog(s), I use one leash.  Two dogs just happen to be at the end of it.  It doesn't matter how much poop I have to clean up, I still have to pick up the poop.  Yes, another dog is another body.  Another personality to deal with, another mouth to feed... BUT!  The amount of joy that comes from having a second dog (if you are a real dog-lover like me) completely outweighs any extra work you have to do.  Twice the mouths to feed, twice the poop to clean up, twice the vet bills, but also twice the tails wagging when you walk in the door, twice the kisses, twice the warm, furry bodies cuddled next to you on the couch or in bed, twice the cute faces, twice the puppy eyes -- one hundred times the love, the joy, and the happiness.

Life has been good and it is only going to get better.  Come March 1st, my dear friend Kristin will be here with me.  She has never been to BG, no big loss, but she has never seen me or my life here.  I look forward to introducing her to so many of my lovelies and favorite places and favorite BG foods. I also look forward to introducing her to Maizy.  Opie loves Kristin, so this will be a great surprise for him.

Then, just a few days later, I leave for Cali.  So very excited.  My plan is that I have no plan.  I want this to be as organic an experience as possible.  My base will be reading novels on the beach.  If anything else comes up or if I feel the need to explore Hollywood, I will do it.  I know this will not be the last time I will be in Cali so I don't feel the need to plan my days away.  I want to relax and have a true vacation.  I will be there for a week, so there is time to do things, but I just want to absorb the environment and enjoy the peace of my first, non-service project, non-going home, destination spring break.  I just want to BE there.  Recently, Angie and I were in Oxford, that wonderful place, and we were just busy BEing there.  It was like we were in college again.  And it was perfect.  I want this trip to be perfect also.

Aside from really focusing on all the coding and paperwriting and dissertation-researching that I am supposed to be doing (it all gets done, promise), I have really been focusing on my happiness.  I have been thinking a lot about happiness, in general, but I am really focused on my happiness, what makes me happy, and how to get that done.  This list will grow, but this is what I have found makes me happy.

Decluttering.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have cleaned and reorganized my apartment.  I have made countless trips to Goodwill.  I've been doing this for months.  In realizing that I want to live a more simple life (simple in materials, not experiences per se), I noticed all the clutter around me, a result of trying to make myself happy with materials in the past.  I don't want to be materialistic.  It doesn't make me feel good.  Retail therapy is dangerous.  It feels good at the time, but what good does it do?  The feeling doesn't last and you are buried under a pile of temporal happiness.  If you are a neat-freak like me... this is not good.  I realized, I have too much flipping crap.

Cleaning is a great DE-stressor.  I am THAT person.  When I get stressed out, or if I want to really procrastinate, I take to cleaning and organizing.  I have had a LOT of stress built up in my life, so I decided to tackle it head-first by cleaning and decluttering.  You should try it.  It's physical.  It occupies your mind.  I cannot recall obsessing over graduate school while trying to scrub the crap out of a pot that has four-day-old-food stuck to it or while trying to re-organize my food pantry, or even when trying to decide if I really need these Vera Bradley purses.

Decluttering gets rid of stuff.  Well, duh.  But what does that mean?  My closet can be organized how I like it to be.  I don't have things in random places because there is no room where I want it to be.  My apartment begins to take on the look of a page spread in my beloved Real Simple magazine (okay, maybe-not-really, but those page spreads never advertise clutter).  I also realize how much clutter stresses me out so that extra stuff that I feel guilty for not using - out the window.  No more guilt because...

Donating feels good!  Now I know that all that stuff that I bought and don't need, someone can buy for dirt-cheap and possibly really need it.  I haven't just been donating to Goodwill.  I have given a lot of stuff away to my friends (especially those with children).  Let's face it - when children are involved the life span of a product cuts in half, at least!  A lot of times, what I am getting rid of fulfills the need of a friend just at the right time.  And this stuff is not crap.  It's good stuff, but I've just realized I can live without it.  It contributes NOTHING to my happiness.  If it doesn't contribute to my happiness, maybe it isn't worth it - this is the conclusion I have come to.

I'm looking around my apartment right now and it just seems bigger and cleaner ONLY because I have gotten rid of things.  That contributes to my happiness and my peace.

Music.  I have been exploring new artists and downloading music like crazy.  I am a music-lover.  I always have been, but as of late, its presence in my life has been crucial to my happiness.  Some artists that I have come to love recently: The Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart, Walk the Moon (Cincinnati!!!), She & Him, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons.

I have also expanded my spiritual music collection.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  They have amazing voices, and it does move me, but... churchy-sounding music isn't my style.  The organ doesn't hit me quite like a guitar can.  I like acoustic, earthy, folksy music.  For a while, I've worn out my Nearer album.  I absolutely love it.  It hits me.  It moves me.  I feel the spirit.  So I've been searching for more of that kind of music.  Hymns, but embracing every bit of beautiful simplicity that the gospel is.  Yes, the gospel is amazing and can be celebrated with grandiose performance that moves many people, but I prefer the most organic, raw expressions.  Enter The Lower Lights.

My favorite is the song played last in the video, Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy.

Good-bye Facebook.  Yes, that's right... I deleted my Facebook account, so that little icon at the top of my blog is now useless, haha.  I thought about removing it, but I like it as a reminder of why I gave it up.  Part of my happiness process has been purging my life of negativity and replacing it with positivity.  Facebook was definitely a negative force in my life.  It wasted my time and contributed very little to my life.  Some of the things I read on Facebook birthed some very negative feelings that would follow me around for days.  I came to the conclusion that I could live without it, and I have.  And I love it.  I feel free from Facebook.  I am no longer a slave to Mark Zuckerberg.

Going Green.  I have had many positive influences in my life that have encouraged me to live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.  Recently, staying with my dear friends, the Richardsons, I've been inspired to step it up a notch.  So I replaced my paper towels with microfiber cloths and cloth napkins.  I replaced my plastics with glass.  I got serious about recycling.  I said goodbye to brands like Lysol and Clorox and Tide and hello to Seventh Generation, Grab Green, Mrs. Meyer's and Method.  I feel like I am doing a good thing and supporting a good cause, but I am also simplifying and cleansing my life.  It's made such a difference.  At the very least, green cleaning products smell very pleasant and do not make you feel as if you will faint.

Growing up, my family was not environmentally conscious.  As close as they got was to not waste water, but that was more about the water bill than preserving natural resources.  I left my family of origin completely environmentally un-conscious.  It has been a dream of mine to buy organic, all natural foods and to be as "green" as I can afford to be.  I am starting to make that happen.  I am not my family.  I am a pioneer, paving a positive lifestyle for my future family.  Speaking of family, I switched from brand name dog food to all natural.  I can totally tell the difference.

Photographing life.  I have never been one for pictures, but I have always admired those who have a penchant and talent for visual documentation.  With my handy-dandy iPhone, and awesome apps like Day One and Instagram, I have increased my photography and I'm really pleased at the result.  I don't necessarily have any talent, but I appreciate capturing moments of my life that I would otherwise forget.  I do more photo-journaling than anything.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  If I don't have the picture, I don't have the words.

Adopting animals.  I am ridiculous.  I am THAT girl.  I have 1 betta fish, 1 Russian tortoise, and 2 dogs.  If I had it my way, I would have more animals, but I am just a grad student who lives in a one-bedroom apartment.  I've said a lot about Maizy and Opie in this post, as well as the past few posts, so I won't say much more.

Blogging.  Grad school really takes the love out of writing.  Well, I'm taking it back!!!

These things make me happy.  What makes you happy?

Friday, February 15, 2013 -- maizy *update*

I picked Maizy up on Wednesday and she has just been a joy to have.  Much to my shame, Maizy is much better behaved that Opie... It's a good thing, but all of a sudden my boy has become quite annoying.  Maybe Maizy will rub off on her.

Her first nickname is "MooMoo" since she is black and white like a cow.  She is such a gentle creature and I have yet to hear her make a peep.  She is great on a leash so I don't have to buy one of those special harnesses that I had to for Opie.  She is just down right perfect.  Maizy completes my family.  For now.

The big UPDATE for today is that... (drum roll) ...


We just had a vet appointment today where she was poked and prodded.  She got a couple vaccinations as well and her first heartworm prevention since being heartworm positive.  In a few more months, Maizy will have one more test to confirm that she is good to go, then she will be spayed and then she will be mine.

Props to Wood County Humane Society and Jones Veterinary Hospital.  They do such good work!

Maizy has had a rough morning, so she's napping now.  I wish I could join her but I have a LONG day ahead of me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

love.this.quote. -- on happiness

"The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open." 
 -- Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

The past few years have eaten me alive.  I have been beaten, shoved, drowned, hanged, shot, and suffocated by life.  I have been completely cut open.  

It is easy to complain, to whine, to cry "Why me?!"  It's harder to recognize the growth that comes after the forest has burned.  And it's okay, because we're human, after all.  But if you can get to that point where you are standing on the line of darkness and light and you tip into the sun... life is illuminated.  You feel the warmth, the love, the joy, the happiness... and you realize that you survived.  And that is more than some can say.

Being completely cut open hurts.  Duh.  But it is not about the damage that was done, it's all about the healing.  You have to be broken to be mended and sometimes it is the only way we are repaired.  Some of us are born broken.  Some of us are broken young.  Some of us have caused our own brokenness... whichever way you are broken, it is because you need to be healed. 

I have been broken.  I hit my rock bottom.  I don't know what yours looks like, nor do I expect anyone's rock bottom to look the same, but mine was a pit of sorrow.  No bad decisions, no alcohol, no drugs, no homelessness, etc.  Just complete sorrow.  My heart had broken into a million pieces, along with my will and my hope.

What's interesting about healing is that sometimes, the pieces don't fit together the same way and sometimes you've lost and replaced some pieces.  Oftentimes glue or tape, or a hammer and nails are needed to get you back together.  Oftentimes, you do not look or feel the same after healing.  And that's okay.  How can we expect to be a static being when life is so torturously dynamic?

I really feel Chuck.  I feel like this quote is the best description of the journey I have been on as of late.  A lot of relationships have fallen away, new ones blossomed.  For the first time in my life, instead of dealing with everyone else's crap and trying to solve their unsolvable problems, I have the time to solve my solvable problems.  Though I'm not 100%, I'm on my way and much further than I was at the close of 2012.

There were a lot of tears, a lot of pain.  Emotional pain, the kind you feel build in your throat and pound in your head.  And it was all worth it.  For the first time in my life, I know who I am, where I am, who I want to be and where I want to be.  That is priceless.  No one else could do it for me.  I had to do it myself.  

Would you allow yourself to be completely cut open in order to obtain happiness?  Sometimes it isn't a decision you make, sometimes it just happens.  

There are casualties.  There has to be.  No war was ever fought without casualties.  It's part of the process, part of the healing.  

Interestingly, after writing this, I realize how tightly wound happiness and pain are.  Something to think about...  Thoughts? -- maizy

I will admit, I am quite a spontaneous person.  I have an intense need to plan, knowing full well things will not go as planned.  Sometimes my spontaneity has gotten me into trouble (of the retail therapy kind), but some spontaneous moments in my life have brought me great joy and happiness.  My best example is Opie.  Adopting him was a greatly spontaneous moment in my life.  This weekend was a bit of a repeat...

I have been dying to adopt a second dog for years.  For one, I love animals.  I currently have 1 fish, 1 tortoise, and as of tomorrow, 2 dogs.  I just love them and if money were no object, I would have many, many more.  Secondly, it makes me sad to leave Opie all alone at home.  I have come to realize that adopting two animals at once is often a good idea.  I want Opie to have a companion.

Enter Maizy.

Last week, I visited the Wood County Humane Society on a whim.  They only really had large dogs, ones that I would not be able to keep in my apartment.  I was there for no more than ten minutes.  A couple days later, I was searching on Petfinder because I got it in my mind that the time was now to get a second dog.  I happened upon Athena, who was at the Humane Society, but I hadn't paid much attention to her listing because she was a special needs animal.  Her back left femur was broken and it was in a cast with a rod.  I got to thinking that I could take care of a special needs animal.  My heart was in it.  I visited the Humane Society again.

Just as I was walking in, an attendant was taking Athena outside.  She was a beautiful dog, but confined to a cone and hopping along, dragging her poor broken leg behind her.  I asked the attendant to tell me more about Athena and Athena's friend Maizy was mentioned.  Something clicked in my mind.

Maizy... I remembered looking on Petfinder a while ago and seeing her listing, remembering how adorable she was.  For some reason I thought that she had been adopted out.  I asked if they still had Maizy and when the attended gave me a positive response, I asked to see her.

The attendant put Maizy and I in the bonding room and I fell in love this this girl.  She was calm, beautiful and so sweet, and the perfect size, a terrier mix.  I asked all sorts of questions and then brought Opie in to meet her.  Opie and Maizy sniffed each other for a while and there was no growling, no freaking out... I was determined to have her.

Like Athena, Maizy is a special needs dog.  This is her listing (click on it to make it readable):

I pick up Maizy at 3:30 today and Kristen is going to come with me.  I am so excited for Maizy to join my family and to give her some love as she gets treated and heals.  I know she will be a great addition and will fit right in.

I will update soon as Maizy adjusts to her new home and new family.

Friday, February 8, 2013 -- opie

"Happiness is a warm puppy."  --Charles M. Schulz

This is my baby boy, Opie.  He will turn 5 years old in March.  He has been with me through the worst times  of my life; he has been my rock.  I'm not quite sure what he is.  Everyone asks.  He is definitely mixed.  I call him "Brown Dog."  That is what he is.  He is a burrower and a cuddler.  He absolutely cannot live without blankets.  Sometimes he will stare at me, like in this picture, and whine.  There are only three reasons he does this: (1) he needs to go outside to do some business; (2) his water bowl is dry; or (3) He wants me to get a blankie for him and lift it so he can curl up beneath it.  Opie has obsessive compulsive disorder.  If you come to visit us, or if you are someone he hasn't met yet, he will bark at you until you allow him to smell your hair, your armpits, and your breath.  He gets very close, almost mouth to mouth, but he won't lick, he only sniffs.  Yes, he is a weirdo.

Opie has many nicknames, most of which he will answer to:  Monster, Munchie, Booger, Ope-Canope, Opie Canopie, Opus, Opie-Won-Kenobie, Pig, Dinosaur-Pig, Piggie, Son, Punk, Puppy... I am sure I am missing many more.  I would have to say that Monster and Munchie are the ones I use the most.

I've loved dogs my entire life.  When I was very young, I wanted to be a veterinarian because of my love of dogs, but that did not last, thanks to an Animal 911 video my parents borrowed from the library.  I think it was the vet's arm down the horse's rear end that did it... or maybe it was the bowel obstruction...

Opie came into my life in 2008, just when my parents' marriage was majorly deteriorating and my siblings were dealing with a lot of difficult issues.  I went to PetSmart to buy a toy for the family dog, Winnie, who has since passed, and instead, I walked out with a little brown thing in my arms.

On Saturdays, the local Humane Society set up camp and craftily so... they know that if you are walking in to buy something for your pet, you are most likely a sucker and will end up with another mouth to feed.

There was a huge crate in the center of the aisle with eight Jack Russell-Collie mixes.  They were all chunky and had white and tan fur.  But there was this super tiny little brown thing among them, in the center of the crate.  I picked him up and I could NOT let him go.  People came up and oogled over him and I wouldn't let anyone touch him.  I was determined to walk out with this puppy.  

And I did.  And I got in trouble, though there is only so much trouble you can get into when you hand your mom a puppy as cute as this one was:

Needless to say, I was banned from PetSmart by my mother.

I swore up and down that this dog was going to be unlike any dog we'd ever had in the family.  Our past dogs were not so well-behaved, had severe social anxieties and very little socialization with other animals.  Opie was going to be the best dog.  I was determined.  He would know tricks, he would be obedient, he would be sociable.  My mom didn't believe me.  I had the opportunity for my big "told-ya-so" moment later on.

Opie is obsessed with food.  He lives to eat.  He does have a few favorites though, things that make him go absolutely crazy... carrots, popcorn, chicken jerky.  His favorite room is the kitchen.  No need to ask him.

Opie is also the first dog I have ever known to appreciate ALL of his toys.  He prefers stuffed animals and squeaky things.  He thinks tennis balls are boring.  Kongs are boring unless they are filled with peanut butter. Much to my shame, Opie has at least 40 toys.  I am not responsible for all of them, but I am for sure responsible for most.  Sometimes Opie will just jump up and stick his head in the toy bin, finding something he hasn't played with in months and then plays with it as if it were brand new. Whenever I bring home a new toy for him, he has to show it to anyone who comes over or is in the room.  

I love my dog.  He brings so much joy to my life.  I often find great enjoyment out of just observing him and his mannerisms.  I spend a lot of time just watching Opie... an amount of time that has me scrambling when I catch a glance of the clock.  One of my favorite parts of his body is his chin.  It's smushy and cute.  He has perfect teeth and sometimes I like to pull his lips apart just to see the cute little things.  When he was a puppy I pulled and tugged on his body so he would never be bothered by being touched and he isn't, which is definitely good.  It helps when kids are around.  If I could take the perfect picture of Opie, he would be sitting regally in the passenger seat of my car, the sun beating down on his face and his eyes closed in pleasure.  His facial expression never changes, but he has the most expressive gold eyes.  

He is my little traveling buddy; the best car dog.  Everything in town is within ten minutes so if the car is running for more than ten minutes, Opie knows we are on a road trip and will just sleep in the back of the car.  He's the best boy.

I found this great graphic about 38 Benefits of Owning a Dog and I wholeheartedly agree with them all.  Some of my favorite benefits, as mentioned in the graphic:
  • Children with dogs have better self-esteem.
  • Dog owners often recover faster from illnesses.
  • Playing with dogs can elevate your levels of seratonin and dopamine, making you feel good and calm.
  • Dogs can raise your spirit and sense of well-being.
Some of my favorite quotes about dogs:
  • "Dogs are our link to paradise.  They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.  To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring -- it was peace."  --Milan Kundera
  • "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."  --Josh Billings
  • "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."  --Will Rogers
  • "If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life."  --Roger Caras
I don't know what I would do without Opie and I dread the day that he will no longer be with me. I know that wherever I am, however old I will be, I cannot live without a dog.  It's just a fact of life for me.  

the blog

I have always wanted to have a blog, but lamented the fact that my life was SO boring that I would have nothing to talk about.  I'm a PhD student.  The only thing I ever have to talk about is my work.

I used to laugh about quarter-life crises because they sounded so ridiculous, I was sure they didn't exist.  How could a 25-year old have a life crisis?  A mid-life crisis, I get.  I can understand how that can happen.  But a quarter-life crisis?

Well, guess what?  I'm 25.  I'm in crisis.  Crises?  I'm crising?  However you would put it, the quarter-life crisis is real.  And the need for a blog has become more important than ever before.

Within the past month or so, this crisis has brought me to a point of contemplation over my life.  Just a little background to set the stage for the rest of this post...

I am working on a PhD in Sociology.  I love sociology, I really do.  And I think that EVERYONE should love sociology.  If they did, I truly believe the world would be a better place.  People would have more perspective, more understanding.  My minor is demography.  Go here to get an awesome, applied example of what demography is.  Demography is a word that everyone should know and understand.

I have come to realize, however, that I am staring down into the world of publish or perish.  If I go through with this career choice, I will be a slave to writing and pleasing reviewers.  I can't believe I am saying this, but graduate school has made me hate writing.  It's sickening to think about because writing is how I endured my childhood traumas, how I medicated myself... I survived on writing.

In my opinion, nothing takes the joy out of writing more than graduate school.  I know plenty who would beg to differ, and that's okay, but for me... grad school took the fun out of it.

I was in the middle of a breakdown and my wonderful friend Amy was talking me through it.  She helped me realize that if I were to continue to pursue this publish or perish lifestyle and make that my career, I would be unhappy for the rest of my life.

After this realization, I wept at the fact that my life was over, that I would be homeless and live on the streets in a cardboard box.  Amy reminded me that I had a Master's degree and that it was WORTH something.

Quick tangent.  The person responsible for the best parts of me, Angie (best of friends since freshman year of college at the beloved Miami University), and I used to discuss that because we were in the thick of graduate school and had not used our Bachelor's for anything, it felt as if our degrees were non-existent.  We would forget that we were college educated and that only about a quarter of the U.S. population had Bachelor's degrees.

Fast forward a few years.  Here I am with a Master's degree, which only approximately 7% of the U.S. population have obtained, and I am whining about my future.  Because I have been drowning in this doctoral world, I forgot that there are two degrees hanging on my wall.

A text to a friend, my dear, lovely, beautiful Kirsty at Momedy - "So... I am really toying with this idea of not getting my PhD... I realized that I would be unhappy writing in a publish or perish world for the rest of my life.  I am trying to find my destiny... I want a 9 to 5, another dog, free weekends, an eternal companion (LDS lingo for spouse, to give the coarsest of definitions)... That is what I want to accomplish before I am 30... I want to devote myself to church and building a family and developing hobbies, which at this point I have none.  I want to be a real person, not a grad school zombie.  I would rather shape academia than participate in it, honestly... I want substance.  I feel like my life has no substance.  I am only on this earth once, and I want it to count.  I want my time here to be happy and worthwhile... It just seems silly to dread my future career.  I should be excited about it... My priorities need to take a more central position in my life.  My dream is to build a family, a family that is a unit, one where people take care of each other and pray before leaving the house and have family and friends over and embody happiness... I know I can make my future and family everything that my past was not.  Work is secondary.  Family first.  Love first... I realized that I never really wanted a PhD.  My mom wanted me to.  It has been pounded in my head since I was a child.  I am starting to live for myself now... And some of the reason that I was motivated to get a PhD was revenge on my family.  Now I don't care.  All I care about is being happy with my beautiful liberal Mormon family."

Please pardon all the ellipses.  The above is a combination of multiple text messages.

Getting a PhD is not, by any means, a bad thing, nor is it an undesirable thing.  There is logic in my mother pushing me to get a PhD, but I am now realizing that it can greatly contribute to my unhappiness.  I am okay with being mediocre educationally (haha).  In all seriousness... I could be very happy with a job that I obtain with only my Master's.

So here I am... realizing what makes me happy.

Like I said, I have always wanted to have a blog, but lamented the fact that my life was SO boring that I would have nothing to talk about.  I was letting school take over my life and eat away at my happiness.  It's over.

So welcome to the blog!  This is a blog about love, happiness, joy, and finding myself, as well as my future.  The title of this blog is because the one thing I love the most in this whole wide world is my dog, Opie.  Opie is the definition of unconditional love.  For you dog people out there, you get me, but for those who are not, for all you cat people (just kidding, haha) and anti-animal people (maybe not so kidding)... you can't understand pure love on this earth without a dog.  Yes, this is my opinion, but when it comes to Opie, my opinion is fact (haha).

There is this place called Poco's that I take Opie to occasionally so he can romp around with other dogs... they have a dog-bone shaped sign that reads:


True that.

Anyway, each post in my blog will be about something I love.  And of course, my first post will be about Opie.