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Adventures

Being Nobody

Rosie approves of this fire.

Rosie approves of this fire.

Rosie and I shipped ourselves up to Flagstaff for a long weekend. I found a cozy place on Airbnb where we could start and end our day sitting in front of the fire. I needed a few days to do a self-retreat, to rest and re-charge. This gave me the chance to takes some much needed time to think about what’s important to me and what I want to do personally and professionally during the next year.

The highlight of the trip was doing the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. I love ropes courses. I love climbing trees, and when I traverse the obstacles, nothing else matters except the challenge in front of me.

After a brief orientation with one of the guides to learn how to use the carabiners and attach ourselves to zip lines, we headed out to the trees to take on the course. This course has five levels – Green, Silver, Blue, Red, and Black – each level more difficult than the last. (Apparently only 50% of participants finish the whole course – including me! It’s quite a workout.) The highest platform was 61 feet off the ground and longest zip line was over 300 feet long.

One of the obstacles at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, Courtesy of FLG X.

One of the obstacles at the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, Courtesy of FLG X.

I was the only person in my group who wasn’t there with family or friends. At first it made me uncomfortable, but halfway through the course, I realized that this gave me the chance to be nobody. For three hours, my “job” was to climb trees, navigate obstacles, and sail along zip lines. For three hours I wasn’t a lawyer, a writer, or even a dog parent. For three hours I was Joe Nobody, anonymous, and free to merely be “Ruth from Phoenix.” I just got to be a person.

My friends invited me to do this ropes course with them last year and I’m glad I declined to go. Even amongst friends, I still would have felt pressured to perform. Completing the course alone, I didn’t feel the added stress that comes with the fear of being watched and judged.

In a society filled with job titles, reputations, and expectations, it was a gift to take this break from reality. I felt no pressure to perform, except the pressure I put on myself get across the next part of the course. Going to the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course gave me the opportunity to be a human being instead of a “human doing.” For three beautiful hours, my only job was to put one foot in front of the other.

Sober Morning Rave

I can officially cross “Go to a sober morning rave” off my bucket list!

Laser Lights and Balloons

Laser Lights and Balloons

Last Friday, my friends and I went to Wake Up Call – an all-ages rave hosted by Walter Productions, before heading to work. It was so bizarre to drive across town just after dawn to go dance, but it was so much fun!

We started just after 6:30 and we danced until 8:00 AM in a warehouse with a DJ, laser lights, balloons, confetti, and hula hoops. There was also coffee and snacks to help us wake up and keep us going. I really didn’t know what to expect, having never been to any type of rave before. After I walked in, I put a glow bracelet on one wrist and a flashing light-up ring on my other hand, let one of the hosts draw on my arm with some type of face paint marker, and I was ready to go.

Groovin'

Groovin’

Ever since I heard that sober morning raves were a thing, I wanted to go to one. And I needed it this week. I have been working at my ass off on client work with lots of late nights and early mornings. Even though I was exhausted, I was so happy to get my groove on. I was mostly in my own little world for that 90 minutes, moving to the music, doing whatever felt like the right thing to do in the moment. For that 90 minutes, everything else got to slip away.

I was pretty zoned out – except for when I was dancing on the giant VW bug. Then I had to make sure I didn’t fall off.

What a great way to end a long week. I was tired going into the dance, and exhausted coming out, but it was worth it. Apparently, they are going to do this again next month if you want to go.

My Friends Are Awesome

My Friends Are Awesome

Many thanks to Walter Productions, DJ Ascension, and everyone who came out and danced.

Photo credits: Liesl Pimentel

Going Dairy-Free

Last week, my friend and I saw a documentary about puppy mills called Dog by Dog. It’s expected to be on Netflix later this year, and no, it’s not an extended sad SCPA commercial. The filmmakers showed the reality and prevalence of puppy mills and how many pet store puppies are from puppy mills. (Hat tip to Phoenix for requiring all pet store dogs to come from shelters.)

This film made me angry about how cruel people can be to animals but also hopeful because people are taking action to stop these horrific acts and educate others about these dogs and the lives the pups and their parents lead.

Friendly Moo Cow by  Phil and Pam Gradwell (Creative Commons License)

Friendly Moo Cow by Phil and Pam Gradwell (Creative Commons License)

This film made me re-evaluate my beliefs about animals. I became mostly vegetarian last year because I’m opposed to the inhumane treatment of animals. (I have no problem with eating an animal that was humanely raised and slaughtered or hunted in the wild.) My goal is to be compliant at least 95% of the time. If I’m against the inhumane treatment of animals, then that should apply to animals who are used for food products too – like eggs and milk. You can find eggs from humanely raised chickens, but dairy is a different issue.

I have yet to find a dairy supplier that I trust to be cruelty-free. One article I read said it doesn’t exist. Until then, I’m going to be dairy-free once I finish all the dairy products in my home. In thinking about a dairy-free life, I was immediately faced with some important questions:

  1. What am I going to put in my coffee?
  2. How will I get enough calcium?
  3. What will I use instead of butter on veggies?
  4. What about ice cream?

Thankfully, I have a handful of friends who don’t eat dairy and a bariatric surgeon friend who answer my random food questions:

  1. Almond milk and/or coconut creamer. Terry suggested cold-brew coffee, but that’s too bitter for me. I need my “cream” and sugar. For now, I’m mixing cream and almond milk to ease the transition.
  2. Almond milk has a high calcium content, as do many vegetables.
  3. One friend suggested Earth Balance; another suggested a coconut-based product.
  4. A friend suggested coconut milk ice cream. I tried some strawberry coconut milk ice cream this weekend – not bad, besides being hard as a brick when you first take it out of the freezer. I’m curious to try vanilla. And there’s always sorbet.

I should be mostly dairy-free by the end of the month, once I finish the cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, butter, and cream in the house. It will be a shift, but a good one. I’m looking forward to having more cereal in the morning instead of cottage cheese with fruit. I think the hardest thing will be adjust to a new way of drinking coffee. Almond milk is tasty, but it doesn’t have the creaminess of half and half.

The Undeniable Recap of 2015

Geez! 2015 was an insane year for Rosie and me. I spent over a month on the road this year, and Rosie and I had an unofficial competition to see who could run up the highest medical bill (too bad I can’t claim her as a dependent on my taxes).

Per blogging tradition, I’ve had the joy of looking back over the last 12 months and have compiled a list of the top events from my year.

Visiting the Seattle Troll

Visiting the Seattle Troll

1. The Undeniable Tour. I did a two-week sponsored road trip from San Diego to Seattle, staying mostly at hostels, and speaking to lawyers and law students about how to improve their careers with social media. The Undeniable Tour was an incredible trip – I met so many amazing people, saw so many incredible things, and I got to see a few friends in the mix too. I’m glad I did it – but I’ll probably never do something like this again. Planning the tour was a full-time job by itself. Hat tip to Jason Zook and his course How to Get Sponsorship for Anything that helped me make this all happen.

Love this Dog

Love this Dog

2. Rosie Became a Pirate. My sweet basset hound was diagnosed with glaucoma this year. We had to remove her right eye, and it will only be a matter of time before she goes completely blind. She has been such a trooper with the surgery and taking eye drops every day that cause tunnel vision. Her medical situation changed my life now that she’s on three medications. My daily schedule revolves around her. And with her eventual blindness, I’m more cognizant about making her life awesome. We spent a long weekend at Long Beach visiting the dog beach and dog-friendly restaurants.

3. I Joined Venjuris. At the beginning of 2015, I became Of Counsel at Venjuris – a business and IP boutique law firm. It’s probably the best career move I could have made. By combining forces, I get to take on more complex and litigation cases, and now it’s easier for my clients to get help with their patent needs. I love the people I work with and it’s definitely taken my skills as a lawyer to the next level.

4. Modeling. Starting this summer, I got to do a bit of modeling this year – portrait work, underwater work, milk bath, and bodyscaping. Modeling lets me be expressive in a whole new way, and the resulting photos are amazing. There are some exceptionally talented photographers in Phoenix. As a bonus, one of the photos – a compilation of 13 images of me – is the new postcard for Carter Law Firm.

5. Medical Mystery/Heart Problems. 2014 ended with a medical mystery for me – night sweats, dizziness, fatigue, and chest pain. Three cardiologists, two ultrasounds, and a transesophageal echocardiogram later, they determined I have a hole in my heart – a defect from birth – but this wasn’t the cause of my medical problems. My doctor ran every blood test he could think of and everything came back “normal.” Our best guess is I’m prone to severe costochondritis and anxiety.

6. Seeing Friends. The Undeniable Recap usually lists the top five events from the year, but I want to add a bonus event. It’s not really an event but one of the benefits of traveling so much this year – I got to see so many friends that don’t live near me. That was probably the best part of this year; almost everywhere I went, there were familiar faces. If I had to name my favorite moment from 2015, it would be hugging my former voice coach Richard Weidlich in New York.

With Sheila Dee in London and my Signature Sickle Foot, Photo by Evo Terra

With Sheila Dee in London and my Signature Sickle Foot, Photo by Evo Terra

Firsts in 2015
DNF race
Transesophageal Echocardiogram (with Propofol)
Making Cornbread
Stay in a Hostel
Ride on BART
Skinny Jeans
Couchsurfing
Episcleritis
Sticking Gum on a Wall
Scone with Clotted Cream
Solo International Trip – to London
Sitting Second Chair
Sights: Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Times Square, Central Park, “Free” Stamp Sculpture, Fork in the Road, LucasFilms, Ballard Locks, Seattle Troll
Events: Content Marketing World, Periscope Community Summit, Ungagged, Dad 2.0 Summit

Meeting R2D2 at LucasFilms

Meeting R2D2 at LucasFilms – Still with my Sickle Foot

Celebrity Sightings
R2D2
Anderson Cooper
Michael McDonald
John Cleese
Scott Sigler
Colin Wright

In Memoriam
Leonard Nimoy
Joseph Cherapan
Sandy Askland
Atticus VanSlyke
Trixie Ortmeyer

When You’re Standing Naked Over Phoenix

I’ve gotten involved with various types of modeling since this summer and I’m really enjoying it. In the last few months I’ve gotten to do different types of bodyscaping, portrait work, silhouette work, milk bath work, and even an underwater photoshoot. I love the process of modeling itself and seeing the resulting photos.

Recently, a photographer friend invited me over to do a sunset photoshoot at his downtown Phoenix apartment. Sunsets in Phoenix are gorgeous, especially the way the light glistens against the tall buildings. He got some beautiful shots of me standing just inside the balcony door. Then I decided to step out onto the balcony to do some shots of me overlooking the city, channeling my inner Evita in the pink light.

Photo by Ben Ammon

Photo by Ben Ammon

One thing I learned from this experience was, when you’re standing naked seven floors above the city streets, nobody notices. No one on the sidewalk looked up and I didn’t see any eyes peering at me from the hotel across the street. I giggled knowing that there was a lawyer networking even in the first floor restaurant of that hotel – and not one of them noticed as far as I know.

Prior to this summer, I did some figure modeling for an artist-friend in Oregon who sketched a few portraits of me, but I had never done photography work. It’s really fun to see how photographers work with lights, angles, props, and editing. Given my abuse history, you might think that it would be uncomfortable for me to be naked in front of a photographer. That has never been the case. Every artist I’ve worked with has treated me with respect. There is mutual respect that we are collaborating artists, working together to create beautiful images.

The only time I’ve felt objectified as a model is from some of the responses I get when I post my photographers’ work online. Most people say the images are beautiful, but occasionally someone will say something that makes me feel like they’re treating me like a piece of meat instead of a person. Thankfully responding to those people with “Don’t be creepy,” is enough to get them to keep those thoughts to themselves.

Every photographer I know is also a big nerd. The upside to this is they are almost bashful about working with models and they’re never presumptive about their ideas. I think it’s really sweet when my photographer friend sends me ideas for photoshoots. They always come with the vibe of you-can-say-no-but-what-do-you-think-about-this. It’s cute; and he’s never asked me to do anything that made me feel uncomfortable. At my last shoot, we did some bodyscaping where he spread oil on my torso and then dripped water on me. The water droplets stuck together on top of my skin. The resulting photos were gorgeous.

Too Much To Do - Photo by Ben Ammon

Too Much To Do – Photo by Ben Ammon

This may sound weird, but even when I’m doing nude modeling, I don’t feel sexualized or even particularly sexy. I’m thinking about the body line, angles, and portraying emotions. There is a lot of freedom in photo work to channel different types of energy. The slightest shift of the head, the eyes, or a hand can make a big difference in the final image.

Being a model is a lot of fun too. There’s almost always music playing at the shoot so there are usually a few photos of me dancing around and being silly – regardless of what I’m wearing.

Gardening with a Black Thumb

I’ve never said I have a green thumb, or any other green body parts. If anything, I have a track record of killing plants – including a cactus.

My Little Urban Garden - November 2015

My Little Urban Garden – November 2015

Nevertheless, I decided I wanted to get into urban gardening – just a few herbs and edible plants on my patio which mainly serves as Rosie’s sun porch and stick chewing area. A few months ago, I started a little garden – 6 pots of peas, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, and parsley. It had a good start with little sprouts were coming out of the ground. And then I went on a trip to a conference and I was concerned that they got too dry while I was gone so I soaked them water upon my return – and drowned some of the plants.

I warned you I have a black thumb.

I think I had to replant all of the peas and some of the green beans. The second plant times were outside the optimal planting times so we’ll see if these plants produce anything edible. So far, I don’t have a lot of hope for the cucumbers or the broccoli. They’re growing, but I don’t see them producing anything that looks like food. Conversely, I think I spied the start of my first bean pod the other day.

Oh yes, I’m still a big science dork when it comes to my garden. I’m out there every morning when I get up and every afternoon when I come home from work, looking for new growth.

Other people have said this before, and I definitely agree, that maintaining a garden is therapeutic. Unlike other aspects, gardening is something I can never and will never do perfectly. All I can do is provide sun, soil, and water, and hope that my plants will grow. And there’s something calming about working in the dirt. There was at least one night this fall where I felt extremely agitated but 15 minutes of gardening (replanting seeds after the accidental flood), I felt so much better.

I’m looking forward to seeing if I’ll get any crops to harvest and applying the knowledge from this experience to my winter plantings. I wonder if squash and peppers will be more resilient to neophyte gardener mistakes. My patio doesn’t get as much sun as I’d like so I may expand part of the garden to the area just outside my patio wall that gets more direct sun – especially if I want to try to grow raspberries and cantaloupe.

Finding Ripley

Eleven days ago my friends’ dog, Ripley, went missing. Thankfully, yesterday she was found and now she’s home safe again.

Ripley's Home! (Photo courtesy of the Almaraz Family)

Ripley’s Home! (Photo courtesy of the Almaraz Family)

I can’t imagine a how hard those ten days were for Ripley’s owners. It must have been devastating going to bed every night knowing that Ripley was out there somewhere, worrying if she was okay. I am so glad and grateful that she is home.

To this day, I have yet to meet Ripley. I’ve met their other dog Jezebel, but not Ripley, or “Ripples” as I started to call her in my mind when I was out looking for her. I know what it’s like to love a dog and how powerless I feel when I can’t fix her when something is wrong. When I was at work, I wanted to be out there looking for her, thinking that serendipitously Ripley and I might be in the same area at the same time.

There were days I left the office early just so I could drive around the area where she was last seen. I walked around downtown Phoenix handing out flyers and talking to anyone who might see her. I’m pretty sure I talked to more homeless people in the last twelve days that I have in my entire life in aggregate.

Losing and finding Ripley showed me the difference between a missing person in a missing dog. With a missing child, there are Amber Alerts to get the word out quickly. With any missing person, you can file a police report and the case will be investigated. You can enlist the news media to help you. With a missing dog, it is up to you to put up flyers and use your network and social media to spread the word – it’s very grass roots. You hope that people will listen or see and remember your dog in case they see her. Or you hope that someone will turn your dog in to the humane society or a vet’s office where her microchip will be scanned.

Ripley’s owners did an amazing job getting the word out quickly and disseminating flyers. It was because of these flyers that two samaritans spotted Ripley, recognized her, and called her owners. I was so relieved when I got the message that Ripley had been found – a little thin, pretty dirty, very tired, and with a set of torn up footpads – but mostly ok. It was quite satisfying to put my supply of Ripley flyers in the recycling bin. I’m so glad this nightmare is over for this family.

Greenhorn Gardener

The beginning of my patio vegetable garden

The beginning of my patio vegetable garden

I started a little patio vegetable garden in flower pots about a week ago. I thought it would be fun to try to grow some of my own food.

My expectations for this project are very low. Remember, I’m the person who killed a cactus.

I’m having so much fun with this science project. Every morning when I wake up and every afternoon when I get home from work, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. One of the first things I do is open the blinds to the patio to see if I have new growth on my plants. I’ll stand there for minutes observing the taller talks and emerging leaves. NEAT STUFF!

A few days ago, I had just woken up and in my pre-coffee stupor, I was so excited to get out to my mini garden that I walked straight into the screen door instead of opening it first. That’s how much I love this garden.

I have 6 flower pots in my patio garden. So far I’ve planted cucumbers, beans, and broccoli. The peas and parsley will be planted in a few weeks. The seed packets said there should be sprouts within 7-14 days. I had sprouts within 3 days on the cucumbers. I was filled with glee to see this project off to a good start.

Every day I see new growth. The beans and cucumbers are doing well. The broccoli . . . eh, we’ll see what happens. I was warned growing broccoli from seeds is challenging.

One of the things I’m enjoying most about this garden is the lack of expectations and wonder that goes along with it. Besides providing water, quality soil, and placing the pots in sunlight, there’s nothing I can do to impact the results. Either they’ll grow or not – and since all of this is new for me, it’s exciting to see the progress. And since they’re such tiny plants, there’s a noticeable difference every few hours.

Yup – I’m a big dork who loves her garden.

Day 35/90 – Bodyscaping Photography

Day 35 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to do a photoshoot with Ben Stadler-Ammon, including some bodyscaping work.

I have friends who are amazing photographers. They’ve shot amazing photos of me over the years at Ignite Phoenix and doing flash mobs with Improv AZ. At the last Ignite Phoenix event, Ben asked if I’d be interested in doing a photo shoot with him. I jumped at the chance.

One of the types of photo work Ben does is called bodyscaping. It’s a type of photography that is usually in black and white that focuses on shapes made with lighting and the curves of the body. (Yes, since this type of art focuses on the body, the photographer needs to see your body; therefore, most bodyscaping is done in the nude. And in case you were wondering, when you’re working with a professional photographer – like Ben – there’s nothing sexual about the shoot. It’s just about taking beautiful photos.) When done well, the resulting photos are absolutely gorgeous. Ben does an excellent job of capturing your best angles and making your eyes sparkle. We met for a shoot a few weeks ago and it was so much fun – and the photos were beautiful. Here’s my favorite one from that shoot:

Gorgeous Photo by Ben Stadler-Ammon, June 13, 2015

Gorgeous Photo by Ben Stadler-Ammon, June 13, 2015

We did another shoot today. What made this one special was my friend and fellow model Sara Santiago was there to do some modeling and also learn about taking these types of photos to better understand how to take a good photo. It gave me a chance to learn about what makes a good photo and I got to take some shots with her so I got to see another artist’s perspective. Working with her was different because since this was her first time shooting, setting up shots took longer, which presented me with the challenge of holding still longer.

Here’s something no one tells you about modeling – the most beautiful pictures involve contorting your body into poses that no normal person would use in their daily life. There’s a lot of twisting, back arching, and leaning in ways that no one does naturally. It’s funny at the time and the pictures that come from it are fantastic.

Ben did some “organic” photos of me today too – just me being me. I can’t wait to see the results.

In case you missed it: Day 34 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I finally hung my wall art.

Day 20/90 – I Love to Ride my Bike

Day 20 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Riding my bike!

New bike pic

I love my bike.

I love to ride my bike. It gets me where I need to go. It’s a good workout. And looking at the world at bike-speed gives me a much more complete picture of each neighborhood than when I’m driving.

This morning, I jumped on my bike and rode to the library to return and check out DVDs. When I’m not going that far and if I have the time, I’d rather bike than drive to my destination. I feel so much more free when I ride. I love the feeling of wind whipping past me as I zip along. It also make me feel like I’m more connected with my surroundings compared to when I’m closed up in my car with air conditioning and the radio blaring.

My quads could tell that it’s been awhile since I’ve done a ride but they settled in after the first mile. Today’s ride was 6 miles round trip. It was a gorgeous way to start the day. Every time I ride it makes me think that I should ride more and look into biking to work and training for an all-day ride.

I need to ride more often.

In case you missed it: Day 19 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Lunch with Julia!