On Dasher, On Dancer, On Darwin, and the New Year

When I checked my blog this morning, I realized that I hadn’t written an entry of quality since Doc passed away.  It’s true that the news hit me pretty hard, but life has been going on despite all of that.  I’ve been seeing his partner in chiropractic, and actually doing fairly well as far as that goes.

Christmas was a wonderful affair this year.  My mom threw a party at her house where I got to see my brother, his girlfriend, my parents, and my grandma.  We had fun and joked and just enjoyed each other’s company.  The gift exchange, however, with my family wasn’t until after the holidays, since Jeffrah and I headed up to Canada to celebrate with them this year.

The Canadian shindigs were even more fun this year than in years past–at least for me.  I knew more people, they had seen and heard of me more often, and I didn’t have to stick to Jeff’s side like I might sink if I didn’t.  His aunt trimmed my bangs, I managed to pop Jeff’s cousin’s boyfriend in the face with a cracker (still sorry, Shelley!), and Jeff’s parents were really generous this year.

While I missed my family (as always), I really felt integrated into his family and it was really nice.

So there’s the recap of the holidays.  What I *really* wanted to write about, though, is our experience fostering a pit bull.  I won’t mention the shelter that we went though, because I refuse to endorse them, but I did want to encourage folks to foster–overall I would definitely do it again.

I filled out a foster application after not clicking with any of the currently-available dogs at the shelter.  I really wanted a dog to focus on so that I could get my mind off of the miscarriage, doc’s death, and all of the other bad things that were going on in our lives.  I was getting pretty depressed, and I thought that being needed by another living thing could help pull me out of it.  Darwin came to our house as a stray that had been picked up by Animal Control.  They didn’t know anything about his history, but surmised that he must’ve been destined for a dog-fighting ring.  The good news is that he was still a young pup, so he had absolutely no signs of aggression at all.  He was not neutered, though, and hadn’t been trained, and so his manners were also sorely lacking.

On the advice of the shelter, we kept Darwin in a kennel almost exclusively for about 2 weeks.  He hated it, and I hated doing it.

The idea is that the kennel would give him a chance to get used to the routine of our house, the smells, normal sights, sounds, and rhythms without actually needing to participate in them yet.  We let him out of the kennel as often as possible, but even then he was on a leash exclusively.  When he did start gaining freedom, he also started gaining a personality.  Darwin was a sweetheart who loved to be with his humans–whether it was playing, training, or snuggling.  There were problems, too–remember how I said he didn’t have manners yet?  He jumped on us constantly, and his nails dug into our skin and it hurt.  He also had a tendency to mark in the house, which was really rather irksome. Both of these behaviors simmered down after I took him to the vet to get ‘fixed.’

The great part of  fostering is that the shelter, at least in this experience, paid for all medical expenses for the dog.  they also provided the kennel, his first bed, a few toys, a few treats, and dog shampoo so that we could keep him presentable.  Of course, being animal lovers, we quickly spent over $200 on new beds, new toys, new treats, bones, antlers, and cleaning products.  We wanted to see him happy!  It was working.  He was a smart dog, took to training well, loved to play, and loved to snuggle.

The trouble came when I granted Darwin too much freedom, and also asked too many times about what to do about his less-than-desirable traits.  See, Darwin hated his crate, and we had been thinking about adopting him, so we were graduating him from his kennel to have more freedom in the house.  It started with the guest room, and he did fabulously and was a happy and less cabin-feverish dog.  Then I left him in the guest room and the living room and it was good again!  Until it wasn’t, and he knocked a baby gate down and tore the whole house apart.  Darwin also liked to do a lot of things that I don’t like dogs to do–Digging in my couch, jumping on me from a full-charge in the yard, nipping during play or trying to bite while being corrected–when I’d use his collar to tug his head out of the couch, for example.

Of course, it’s my fault that I didn’t follow the shelter’s directive to keep Darwin in the kennel during the day while we’re gone at work–I took full responsibility for that, and I was having a great discussion in the group about how to help him to enjoy the kennel more so that we could defeat pancake mode.  Then, there was a guy who came in guns blazing and was a real jerk about the whole thing.  I got snippy with him and challenged him to come up with a ‘positive only’ training method for the bad traits listed above, and to my surprise he actually did!  I had also sent an e-mail to the trainer about how to deal with the charging/jumping, and she had sent me recommendations for that too–including blowing bubbles, leaving the scene if he’s  too interested in jumping on me, etc.  I felt really empowered that we could go in the right direction with Darwin–especially since he’d be starting training on 1/25.

We had Darwin for 7 weeks before it was determined that he should be relocated to a different foster–one with experience raising responsible pit bulls, so that his bad manners could be tamed in a productive environment, and he was immediately removed from our care..  I don’t want to re-hash that drama, but suffice it to say that the way that they handled that scenario is why I am not endorsing them here.  What I do want to say, though, is that if you have a love for dogs, and room in your home and your heart to help one get started on a good path in life, I *highly* recommend fostering.  The benefits for all involve definitely outweigh any heartache that you might feel when it’s time to say goodbye.

Good things about fostering Darwin:

  1. The shelter provided everything we needed to care for his immediate needs — including basic training, treats, food, collar, leash, training collar, crate, mat, and toys.
  2. We were able to connect with other dog-lovers and start expanding our network of acquaintances*
  3. We were able to focus on the needs of Darwin instead of sulking in our own depression.  For me, at least, I loved having the opportunity to play tug-of-war with Darwin, or just chill with him.  Taking care of him made all of my problems seem a little smaller.
  4. We were forced to set a routine–meaning no more late nights at work.
  5. We will have stories to tell forever about the white pitty puppy that made us laugh and shook up our routine that one December in 2014.

Granted, it was also a big challenge.  Taking a powerful animal into your home who doesn’t have manners yet is quite a commitment, and it may test your patience and your virtues.  It’s not something that I would recommend blindly.  If you’re good with dogs, though, and looking to help one find a forever home, I’d recommend looking into shelters and fosters in your area to see how you can help.  The programs near me offer temp fostering, outright fostering, sponsorship, volunteering, and more.  There are ways you could get involved, even if you can’t bring a dog into your home right now.  *The network of acquaintances collapsed due to the poor end to our foster-care, but I am sure there are other, better networks available in different shelters.

Darwin is currently available for adoption.  You can find his online profile HERE.  It should be noted that, while the end of my foster experience was horrible, the adoption experience through this group has had nothing but positive reviews.

Do you have questions about our foster experience? Have you ever fostered? Leave a comment to start the discussion!

“National Respawn Day”

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  I found this blog post just hanging out in ‘draftland’ from December 2nd.  I’m sure I had more to say, but I’ve got a new post in mind, so please enjoy this snippet.]

I just had an email pop through from Nerd Fitness, and it is exactly what I needed to hear.  We cleaned out our refrigerator last night and threw away too much food that was allowed to spoil. It was better than we used to be, but not as good as we wanted, especially when groceries can be so expensive.

This morning, a Facebook friend posted that he’s gone a whole year and a half without a cheat meal. His goals are current than mine, but I think the dedication needs to be the same.
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I was thinking about this when Respawn Day was delivered to my inbox:

” In video games, we die when facing a particularly tough bad guy or challenge, and so we respawn – coming back to life and rejoining the battle from just a short distance away.

When we hit a terrible shot in golf when playing amongst friends, we shake it off, make fun of ourselves, and use a ‘mulligan’ to hit another one.

But in life, when we try to get fit and struggle…we call ourselves losers and give up. We’re ashamed that we tried and failed.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sometimes died in the first goomba in Mario. I’ve died so many times playing Guild Wars 2 that I know the respawn soundtrack as well as the environmental ones.. maybe even better.  It’s the same with weight loss–each time I go through it, I get a little better.

Don’t break the facade, it’s fragile

This month has had a lot of ups and downs that have left me feeling so drained.  There’s been good and bad news with the house, good and bad news with adopting a dog, good and bad with work, school, and our social lives. 

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There is no good, though, in this badness: my chiropractor has passed away, and I feel his loss tremendously.  Doc saved my life when all I could feel was agony.  He helped me find my balance, my strength, and my physical fitness again.

For the past few years, Doc had shared in all of my joys, and all of my sorrows.   I saw him weekly, and his genuine warmth and optimism made my bad days better.  I’ll always remember his kindness, and strive to be as honorable.

Rest in peace, Dr. Pennebaker.

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3..2..1..Paleo!

We’re getting back into Paleo eating, now that we’re in the new place.  We’ve done pretty well in the last week, but tonight, we’re gearing up for the Squeaky Clean Paleo plan featured in Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. Note: this is NOT a sponsored post.

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Pumpkin cranberry muffins, pumpkin pancakes, spaghetti squash bolognese, ribs with green beans, pineapple teriyaki chicken, home made cranberry sauce

Call me crazy, but I feel like eating healthy should taste good.  The recipes that I’ve tried from this book hit that mark. Jeff is excited about cooking again, too, but not about the dishes…because cooking every meal requires lots of dishes.

Tonight I’ve dirtied up a few mixing bowls, some knives, pans, spoons, cutting boards, and towels cooking up some meals for tonight and tomorrow.  I’ve got stuffed cabbage rolls with a cranberry tomato sauce in the oven, along with a “swirly crustless quiche” made with carrots, zucchini, and about a dozen eggs.  I’ll be making mustard glazed chicken thighs shortly, and tomorrow we’ll have a braised beef dinner.

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Our fridge is fully stocked with yummy foods and I’m ready for this adventure.

What is your favorite thing to make in the fall? Share your favorite crafts and recipes, below.

First Time Home Buying Experience

My last post was made before we closed on the house–I’m sorry to have been away for so long!! The month of October absolutely flew by.  We are only just now starting to really feel settled into our home.  The closing went really smoothly.  I took half a day off of work and met up with Jeff and our Realtor at the office where our closing was being hosted.  We met the previous owners who seemed like really kind people.  The woman was dismayed to find out that I didn’t like pugs as well as she does, and the man let us know that the electrical update was just a partial update.  The signing of the paperwork flew by–it took less than an hour to go over everything and then we were presented with our very own keys!  Just like that we were home-owners.

We knew going into it that there would be some things to fix around the house, and, being first time home-buyers meant that we didn’t have any of the essentials that we would need to take care of the property.  Off we went to the housing store to get the essentials.  Mom and Keith picked up a new lock set for us, and we picked up rakes, shovels, ice picks, a furnace filter, broom, push broom, dryer vent cleaning kit, extension cords, paint, rollers, edgers, etc.  Over the next few weeks we’d make so many more trips to the hardware store.  We had to buy joint compound and mesh tape, hammers, scrapers, chisels, wrenches, dryer vent kits (x2, one of the expandable semi-rigid metal, and another of straight pipe style aluminum).  Just when we thought we could afford it, we splurged in a snow blower and a couple of leaf blowers… half an acre isn’t going to take care of itself.

Then we moved in.  We had a ton of help and really appreciated all of our family and friends who came out to support us.  Our driveways were full of the cars from all of the volunteers.  Shout outs go to Eli, Nickola, Wes, Gloria, Mike, Mom, Keith, and Michael.  Steph had to work, but sent good vibes anyway :D  And to our long distance friends who totally would’ve schlepped boxes on our behalf: Corine, Lori, Ross, Ray, Anne, et al. Thank you so much for sending us your happy vibes.

The first week, things started falling apart.  First, it was the water main.  The seller’s disclosure said that they had to snake the main every other year for roots… so, I don’t know why, but I expected to be able to wait to do that until next year.  Nope.  We had water in our basement on day one.  On Day 2, we went to clean the dryer vent only to find it so stuffed with lint that it really was better to replace it–and luckily we found it because it was burned through on the back.  On Day 3, I had a technician out for our stove which was irreparable, and the home warranty company decided not to cover it.  I blew up at my Realtor for misleading us, and she helped us to get a new one.  Since I was home, we also had the internet service provider out–who found wires to be chewed through and that’s outside of his scope.  When it finally came time to install the replacement stove, I ended up coiling the gas line in on itself because I was a schmuck who didn’t know that you had to use two wrenches.  Then we had to buy a new service door because we couldn’t get the new lock set to fit on the old one, which had been rigged.  Needless to say, being home-owners was stressful!

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We got all of those issues taken care of (thanks go to my very flexible employer for allowing me to work from home while figuring this crap out).  That brings us to today.  I am working from home because I have (yet another) contractor coming out to take a look at issues that we’re having with this house.  When the stove was replaced, it was discovered that the floor was sinking underneath it.  This rang alarm bells quite loudly in my head and I told Jeff that we need to prioritize the fix immediately.  We knew that there were structural issues with this house, but we didn’t appreciate just how extensive or expensive they would be.  The home inspection said that there were “missing or insufficient” supports in our basement, but that we probably wouldn’t have to repair it immediately.  The logic was that the house has stood this long, it’s not likely to just fall down tomorrow.  The previous owners had lived here for 28 years, and so we listened and thought that we’d eventually fix the structure, but we’d save up for it first.  Seeing the floor bowing under the weight of the old stove frightened me, though–what if the new stove falls right through?? And with it being a gas stove, that could cause an explosion on top of it! (I have a really active imagination…)

We brought in a structural engineer to take a look at the place, and he made a lot of recommendations.  He even made some thinly veiled suggestions that were outside of his paid scope on things we need to seriously consider for the future as well.  I’d say it was worth every penny paid to be able to talk to someone who knew what we would be in for.

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Here is one of the photos that was included in the engineer’s report for us.  It shows the I-beam (with surface rust), a 6×6 support beam that has been cut to make room for the duct work, and the (empty) masonry pocket that the beam should be sitting in.  This is all right below where my stove sits.  What adds to the crisis is the fact that there is another 4×4 post that supports a whole corner of my house that has recently been discovered to be splintering at the bottom.  And splitting in the middle.  And there are two other steel shores that are missing from this set-up.

Now, the United States is a very litigious society.  In fact, when Jeff originally moved here, his Canadian insurance provider advised him to seek greater than $1M in coverage in case someone sues him.  It’s well documented that our first instinct is to sue.  So when these issues became revealed to us, I started plotting my court case.  I called the city to get a history of permits pulled on this property, I called my Realtor to explain the situation that we’re now in, I studied both the seller’s disclosure and the inspection report to find problems.  I found that the sellers indicated that the structure to this house had *not* been changed.

So here I was, all rarin to go.  I was worked into a tissy and determined that the sellers were going to help us shoulder this burden, come hell or high water.  And then Jeff piped up.  Are we blind? (no.) Stupid? (no.) Naive? (well…)  He didn’t ask all of these questions to make his point, but he essentially said that we knew that this house had issues coming into it and that it’s our problem now.  We noticed ourselves that there were missing supports, I noticed myself that the beam was cut when we were doing the walk through.  Just because we didn’t appreciate how much it was going to cost at the time doesn’t mean that it’s not our fault for buying this house when we knew it had issues.  He is of the opinion, and I am in agreement with him, that we bought this house with eyes wide open.  We should have done our research before signing on the dotted line, and now it is our responsibility to make sure that it’s done right.  To take responsibility for these repairs is not to let the previous owners “walk all over us,” as I had argued, it is merely to own our mistakes and acknowledge that we made the decision to move in here.  We’re not stupid, we’re not blind, and we’re not incapable of research, and so there’s no reason for us to try to pin this issue on the sellers when we were aware of it before moving in.

This, dear reader, is where I’ve been all month.  I’ve been moving in and cleaning, but mostly fixing our new home.  The issues have made me just a tiny bit bitter about the experience, but I am trying to take it for what it is:  experience.  This is still a lovely home and it will be a great home for many years once we get these issues out of the way.  I love the peace and sophistication of my dining room.  I enjoyed taking our outdated bathroom and making it our own.  The rooms echo with our laughter already and the cats have really settled in–running amok all over the place as often as they like.

If I had a piece of advice to offer a 1st time home buyer (or any home buyer for that matter), it would be this:  Get an inspection report and pay close attention to it.  If there is no cost for remediation, or if it’s out of the scope of your inspector, take the time to look online (at the very least!) or call around to get an idea of how much a repair is going to cost.  It was $168 to have our drains cleared.  $120 to have our stove looked at.  $1000 to have it replaced.  It would’ve been $300 to have it installed if I hadn’t taken on that project.  I’m getting bids on it, but it’s going to be close to, if not upwards of $10,000 to have the structural issues fixed… and that doesn’t even begin to cover the electrical or the plumbing.  Will it be worth it?  Emotionally, sure!  It’s a great house that we can really make ours.  Financially?  Who knows.  These are issues that should’ve never been a problem in the first place, so I can’t say that we’ll see a return on our investment.  What I *can* say, though, is that fixing these issues will make sure that they don’t count against us if we ever go to sell this house, and having these issues fixed will make us that much more comfortable while we’re living here.

United Way 2014 opening ceremonies: VIP Lounge

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Mom and me, livin' it up, VIP

This week stands to be one of the best ones of the year.  United Way events are in full swing and the team has done a fantastic job coming up with a theme that is fun for all.  They went with a “Hollywood/VIP” theme and the opening ceremonies included VIP Lounge with bubbly*, appetizers, and lunch.  It was a formal affair with men in tuxedos, women in gowns, and everyone looking and acting their best.

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The way that this works as a fund raiser is that the company puts up the money for events and activities, and then sells tickets to the events and activities.  For $20, I got to step away from my desk, walk the red carpet (complete with paparazzi), and be escorted to the VIP Lounge where I schmoozed with other VIPs, ate appetizers, and drank bubbly* while listening to the opening ceremony.

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After the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies, myself and other VIPs were treated to a fine meal, and gifted a swag bag.

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It had play dough and chap stick included :) and a glitter gel pen. Haha! I’m thrilled.  It also came with wet wipes and airborne, I assume, because flu season has started.  It was totally random, but it was so unexpected that it made me laugh.

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All in all, I had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!

*bubbly=sparkling pear juice :)

Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream

 

The title is inspired by the track that is playing in the background as I write this post.  I am such a lucky person.  Gainfully employed, completing my degree, happily in love and married, and about to buy my own home…. what’s not to love?  Life really could be a dream.

This morning when I came to work, my mom was approaching my desk with a gift for me:  It’s a binder with copies of execises that she’s collected from her experience at the gym.  There are BOSU workouts, bootcamp style interval workouts, etc.  And on the cover: a Post-it note that says “Because you are loved!!”

I told Mom how I’m getting back into fitness and ready to really hit it hard, and this is her way to encourage me.  :) I definitely have the warm fuzzies at this point.

Yesterday, I signed up for The Academy with Nerd Fitness:

 

The premise seems to be that it will guide me back into the fitness lifestyle by enticing me with the opportunity to level up my real life person instead of a digital character.  It plays like an RPG, except you get experience by doing things in real life.  The quest lines that you see there (General, Academy, Warrior, etc.) correlate to the type of training that you want to be doing.  I want to get started with the basics, so I’ll pursue the general quests first, then progress to The Academy and eventually start tackling some of the Ranger class quests.

I got 25 exp points for taking my ‘before’ photos, and I’ll get 25 more for taking my measurements.  The general quests start with small, easily accomplished goals and then work up to more challenging ones.  It’s just the inspiration that I need to get going without diving into the deep end and getting injured again.

We move in 2 weeks (if I’m lucky) and I have been dreaming about setting up a basement gym.  I’ve got images of rubberized flooring, inspirational posters, and blaring music dancing in my head.  Jeff wants to burst my bubble by reminding me that we have low ceilings, but then I remember that I’m short and go back to dreaming ;)

Can I have it? Pretty please?

So that’s what we’re up to :) I’ll be sure to keep you posted.  Stay classy!