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Adventures in Adulting – Arizona Style

It’s 5:30pm on Sunday. What’s that puddle in the hallway?

Saguaro Monsoon Sunset by Michael Mifall from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Saguaro Monsoon Sunset by Michael Mifall from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Oh shit! The air conditioner is dripping! That can’t be good. Quick – turn off the clothes dryer and the other heat sources in the house. Turn up the ceiling fans!

Thank god for home warranties. I can place a service call 24/7. Should I call them or use the website? Definitely calling – this is an emergency.

The polite call center worker submits my order to dispatch and informs me, “Someone will get back to you within 24 hours.”

24 hours?! It was over 110 degrees today! What are you talking about 24 hours? I want someone here now! The operator says it can take up to 24 hours, but sometimes dispatch responds within 5 minutes. There’s only so much she can do from behind her screen, probably in the midwest somewhere. She thanks me for not yelling at her.

Thank goodness we’re past the worst of the heat for the day. Will we have to stay in a hotel tonight? I hope not, but just in case, I find a dog-friendly hotel on Bring Fido. Rosie is priority number one. I can take a lot more heat than she can, than I would ever subject her to. Wasn’t there a guy who opted not to use his A/C for a year? I’d never ask Rosie to do that.

I have appointments tomorrow. I can’t leave Rosie at home. I leave a voicemail at the vet which is also our kennel.

How did people live in Arizona before air conditioning?

Love this Dog

Love this Dog

It’s 6:45. The sun’s going down. It’s only 85 degrees in the condo. We’ll be ok tonight, but tomorrow Rosie’s going to “camp” until the A/C gets fixed. She’ll have a temperature-controlled indoor kennel with extra bedding, playtime, and puppy happy hour.

It turns out the soonest I could get an appointment is Wednesday morning. It’s so weird to be home without Rosie. I don’t mind that I’m covered in sweat. Spritzing my head and shirt make it more bearable. Hopefully it will only be one more night before I’m relaxing under the gentle whirl of the air conditioner and Rosie laying at my feet.

90 Days of Hustle

Last year, I declared that June-August, 2015 would be the 90 Days of Awesome. That was a good exercise for me – helped me maintain perspective. This summer, Rosie and I are staying in Arizona again (at least that’s the plan so far) and we’re calling it 90 Days of Hustle.

In case you missed it, I shaved my head. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

In case you missed it, I shaved my head. Photo by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

By “hustle” I don’t mean the Gary Vaynerchuk work 18-hours/day hustle, though I admire his tenacity and work ethic. My hustle has more of a holistic focus – personal and professional development – working on being the best version of myself.

More and more, I realize the most valuable asset I have is time, and I want to use it well. I want to get up early and go running at sunrise. I plan to read more books and see more friends. Even though I say I hate it, I want to do more stretching so, if nothing else, I can do more as a model. (I did two awesome photo shoots over Memorial Day weekend. I can’t wait to see the images.)

I’m going to be working on new creative projects this summer. I’m not being obtuse by not telling you what they are; I’m still mulling over where I want to put my energy first. I am giving myself the gift of time and space to develop ideas and write more.

This summer will be about quality, not quantity. (This also means I won’t do daily posts like I did last year, but I still want to do weekly posts.)

And, of course, during the Olympics, everything gets put on hold when I’m watching the gymnastics . . . because it’s gymnastics.

End Gender-Based Socialization & Segregation

We can all pee in the same bathroom.

With the recent wave of anti-LGBT laws considered and passed in the U.S., and people losing their minds about which bathroom people should use, I’ve been thinking about the concept of gender. Besides the fact that sperm and egg are needed for reproduction and biological, hormonal, and chromosomal differences between the various sexes (there are more than two you know), why is gender even an issue? Why do we have social differences, segregation, or even gender identity in any aspect of life?

Why can’t we just be people?

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy. Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Is this a boy or a girl? Who cares? Let the kid be happy.
Hop, Skip and a Jump. by peasap from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Look at babies. If a baby is wearing clothes, I can’t tell what type of genitals it has – and I don’t care. All babies have the same basic needs: food, shelter, care, and love. The only difference I can think of between the sexes, is the location of their urethra because some brands of diapers have extra absorbent sections based on that. Beyond that, there’s no difference between a male and a female baby. I’m going to carry it around like a football until it cries, and then it goes back to the parent.

It’s amazing to see how kids are socialized differently based on gender at such a young age. Looking back, I wonder why schools make students line up by gender. Why segregate when we can integrate.

Speaking of segregation, prepubescent kids have the same body shape. Why do we have different sections for boys’ and girls’ clothing? Just have a children’s section and let them wear whatever they want regardless of color or style. There’s nothing wrong with a boy wearing a dress or a girl wearing a Spiderman costume. Ditto for toys. I’m so glad Hasbro adopted gender-neutral marketing for its easy-bake oven because a little boy who loved to bake was too embarrassed to play with a “girl” toy.

I’m pleased to see that some people are more progressive and accepting. My friend’s sons go to dance class and for the performance, each child got to pick their costume – pants or a dress. One boy opted for the pants, the other picked the dress – and he was so cute!

And does anyone else think it’s weird that was have different size charts for men’s and women’s shoes? There are gender-neutral shoes – like my Converse Chuck Taylors – and apparently stores have to re-label the boxes to help customers avoid confusion. It’s strange that my foot is a size 8.5 but if I had a penis, it would be a size 7. I have no issue shopping in the men’s section for any garment or accessory if that’s where the store put the product I want.

To circle back to the “bathroom issue” (as long as you wash your hands, I don’t care which bathroom you use), I think every public place should have gender neutral bathrooms with water closets for stalls. Each stall has walls that extend from ceiling to floor and regular lockable doors. Liberty Market restaurant has this arrangement and they have one of the coolest bathrooms in the U.S.

Gender-neutral bathrooms will eliminate problems related to helping a loved one in the restroom, men’s room without changing tables, and long lines for the ladies’ room while there’s no wait for the men’s. We’ll also reinforce the notion that boys and girls, men and women, are equal.

Living ADD-esque

In the last year, thanks to the makers of my anti-depressant medication, my depression is more under control. What’s emerged as my depression subsided, is that I have significant attention deficit tendencies. I was tested for ADD/ADHD and I’m not ADD enough for a formal diagnosis, but without deliberate external forces, I am ADD-esque. My psych nurse calls it “ADD lite.”

Twirl by pixxxie_girl from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Twirl by pixxxie_girl from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Being ADD-esque can be problematic since I also have anxiety. I can be easily distracted and too much stimulation is overwhelming. I have a low threshold for large crowds, rush-hour traffic, and shopping malls. I mentally and emotionally short circuit if I’m in an environment with too much input.

I’ve noticed that I already employ several behavioral techniques recommended to people with ADD. Last year, Peter Shankman did a webinar called ADHD Superpower about how he uses his ADHD for professional and personal success. This was eye-opening to me towards acknowledging that I can be somewhat ADD when I don’t manage myself.

Peter compares ADHD to the engine in a sports car. It can be a lot of fun when you know how to use it. When your brain is faster than the average person’s, you have to harness that power to use it to your advantage or it will cause problems. Here ae some of the techniques I use to manage my ADD-esque life: Here are some of the tricks that work for me.

Eliminate Choice
I’ve always struggled with indecisiveness. In high school, I burst into tears on two occasions buying sneakers because of the internal pressure around picking shoes. Now I eliminate choice whenever possible. In regards to my clothes, I decide what I’m going to wear that day before I get out of the shower. That way, I can walk into my closet, grab what I need, and get on with my day.

When it comes to what I eat, I cook on the weekend and that’s what makes up the bulk of my meals throughout the week. My meals are redundant, and I don’t care. Many nights, I pre-pack my lunch so everything is portioned out before I go to bed. If I’m going to a restaurant, I look at the menu online and decide what I’m going to eat in advance. Otherwise, there’s a high probability that I’ll hem and haw over choices, and it’s agonizing for me as well as my dining companion.

Mandatory Exercise
For me, not exercising is not an option. I shouldn’t skip a workout unless I’m sick, injured, or too tired to the point of exhaustion where working out will cause more harm than good. I suspect my years of being a gymnast, training three hours a night plus my perfectionistic nature, kept my ADD tendencies under control throughout high school. I’ve seen a running shirt that says, “I run to keep the crazy away” and I get that. If I go more than two days without doing cardio, I start to feel “off.” It helps burn off the excess energy so I can sit down and focus.

I don’t always like going for a run, but I see it as important as taking my medication.

Lists
I wouldn’t get half as much work as I do done if I didn’t have lists. I have a goal list for the month that breaks down into to-do lists for each week and each day ends with me writing my list for the next day. Lists give me a visual reminder of my goals, they help me break down big projects into manageable chunks (or else I’ll freeze up with anxiety), and I get the validation of crossing the item off when it’s done. Lists are a big part of what keeps me productive – it’s not that I don’t have goals, but I need reminders to keep myself on task.

Peter Shankman started a podcast called Faster Than Normal where he interviews all types of successful people who have ADD or ADHD. They talk about their stories and the tips and tricks they use to unlock the secrets of the ADD/ADHD brain. I listen to it during my workouts and I love it. Every episode has useful suggestions and validates my ADD experience. I recommend it if you have ADD/ADHD or want to understand it.

And definitely check out the ADHD Superpower webinar if you want to hear what Peter does to make his ADHD work for him.

 

Rosie the Pirate: Beating the Odds

Rosie and I had an appointment with her puppy optometrist over the weekend – just a 6-month check-up to check her remaining eye. Rosie has been such a trooper since getting glaucoma and losing an eye last year. She’s on 3 medications – 5 eye drops a day, and she never fights or fusses about it.

Happy Rosie with her Stick - May 2016

Happy Rosie with her Stick – May 2016

We had a good appointment. The pressure in her eye was 9 (anything below 20 is good), and her current medication regimen seems to be working. The vet reminded me that glaucoma is a progressive disease, and it will be only a matter of time before the medications stop working. We can try other medications, but eventually she’ll lose the other eye.

Thankfully, Rosie is beating the odds. The vet said most dogs with glaucoma lose the second eye within a year of losing the first one. It’s been 14 months since her diagnosis, and her sight has been mostly unchanged. Of course, I’ve been super diligent about her medication – yes, she has a check sheet to track her meds each day.

When we travel, we always bring a cooler and stay in places that have a refrigerator in the room because one of her meds has to be refrigerated. We always bring her emergency glycerin in case she goes spontaneously blind. The glycerin has to be mixed with milk, so that means, even though I’m a mostly-vegan, there’s always a pint of milk in the house just in case Rosie needs it.

We’re lucky that Rosie can still see. Even when she goes blind I’ll still be dedicated to making her life awesome, but how we define “awesome” will probably change. If you want to see more of Rosie, follow her on Instagram.

Minimizing Debt

I recently listened to The Minimalists’ Podcast episode about money. It inspired me to review my thoughts and plans about money in my life and revise my current plans.

Day 178: Almost Full by Tom Small from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Day 178: Almost Full by Tom Small from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Minimalists say, and I agree, “There is no such thing as good debt.” I took on a considerable loan when I bought my condo in 2014. I regularly pay more than my mortgage payment to pay off my loan faster. After listening to this podcast, I was inspired to play around with an online early mortgage payoff calculator. It showed me that I can pay off my loan significantly faster and avoid paying a substantial amount of interest by paying a bit more than I currently am each month.

As a minimalist, my overhead expenses each month are not that high. I don’t mind foregoing some temporary luxuries if it means saving over $25,000 in the long run.

Listening to this episode also made me revisit some of my other financial goals for the year – like fully funding my retirement account. I usually wait until the end of the year to do this, but there’s no reason to delay if I can do it earlier.

To date, my savings have been part of my personal and business checking accounts; however, after revisiting my financial goals, I want to open a separate savings account as well. This will be an account to deposit money that is “spoken for,” like my quarterly estimated taxes, charitable giving, retirement, as well as building a “rainy day fund” that contains at least six months worth of expenses. This can also be the account I use to set aside funds to pay off my mortgage faster and to save up for big purchases and travel.

Separating out my savings will make it easier to see how much I can save month-to-month and how much I really need to fund my life and run my business.

If you want to know more about my experience with minimalism, I suggest you read about the “packing party” I did in 2014 and got rid of everything that no longer added value to my life.

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.

Bigots Pay More

I’m frustrated about the slew of anti-LGBT laws that have passed and are under consideration all over the country. I was happy to see celebrities responding to the transphobic bathroom law in North Carolina – Bruce Springsteen cancelled his show and Mumford & Sons donated the profits from their North Carolina show to a local LGBT organization.

SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I don’t live in North Carolina or Mississippi, but I want to respond to these anti-LGBT laws too. I’ve been reading the labels on products in my kitchen and bathroom to make sure I’m not buying things from those states. Originally I considered adding a “bigot fee” for any speaking engagement in a state that has an anti-LGBT law in place, but then I had a better idea.

I raised my speaking fee and added the opportunity for discounts for those that qualify:

  • Equality Discount – for states, cities, and counties that don’t have anti-LGBT laws in place: $1,000 discount (Companies that opposed these laws before and after these laws passed also qualify – it’s not their fault the people in power are closed-minded jerks.)
  • Gender Neutral Bathrooms Discount – must be at hiring company and venue locations: $500 discount
  • Equal Pay Discount – if the hiring company can demonstrate they give equal pay to all genders in comparable positions: $500 discount
  • Non-Discrimination Discount – if the hiring company lists sexual orientation and gender expression in its non-discrimination policy: $500 discount

If a company wants to hire me and they qualify for all the discounts, it’s a $2,500 savings. These are issues that are important to me and I’m happy to give discounts to those who share my views enough to implement change and stand for equality.

Mad at Sugar

I’ve been trying to eat a healthier and more conscientious diet. Since January, I’ve been a gluten-free vegan at least 90% of the time. This significant shift in my diet hasn’t been that hard. There are lots of options for wonderful flavorful fresh foods. I hope I make my co-workers jealous with how awesome my lunch smells every day.

I like to joke and say that I have palette of 5 year-old. I like simple foods and I like foods that taste sweet. I used to be the person who put 4 spoonfuls of sugar in their coffee (now down to less than 1) and eat candy by the handful. But then I noticed that my sugar intake was affecting my mood. Around the office (where we have a sugar-laden snack counter) I frequently said that giving me sugar is as dangerous as feeding a Gremlin after midnight – usually while helping myself to more jelly beans.

Sugar Kills by Juhan Sonin from Fickr (Creative Commons License)

Sugar Kills by Juhan Sonin from Fickr (Creative Commons License)

I decided to be more thoughtful about my sugar intake. I’ve seen documentaries that discuss the impact of sugar on health – particularly Americans – like Fed Up. Annoyingly, the nutritional information on food labels doesn’t include what percentage of added sugar that food item contains. But, the American Heart Association recommends that women have no more than 25 grams (100 calories) of added sugar per day (no more than 37.5 grams for men).

Armed with this information, I started to be more diligent about reading food labels in my kitchen. Holy crap there’s a lot of sugar in seemingly nutritious food!

The vanilla almond milk I was using as a substitute for cream in coffee had 13 grams of sugar per cup! (Thankfully its unsweetened counterpart has zero added sugar and no artificial sweeteners.) At first, I was happy when Cheerios changed its recipes to be gluten free. Honey Nut Cheerios are delicious – hey, maybe that has something to do with the 9 grams of sugar it has per serving! (For comparison, Lucky Charms has 11 grams per serving.) Who knew it was so hard to eat breakfast!

I’ve since changed my breakfast from cereal to kale-and-fruit smoothies. Screw you Kellogg’s and General Mills.

Last week, I had an upper respiratory infection. I was coughing so much, my throat felt like it was on fire. I thought some whole fruit popsicles or sorbet might be a nice alternative to drinking copious amounts of ice water. I walked the freezer section of the store, reading the back of every healthy-appearing item. To my dismay, the first two ingredients in every option in the store were water and sugar.

Bah! Sugar is everywhere! Even in “healthy” options.

I don’t mind making most of my food from scratch, but geez, I’d like to enjoy some processed stuff. I don’t disagree that a lot of these foods are delicious, but it pisses me off that companies promote these toxic foods as healthy. Now, I have to be that guy who is meticulous about reading ingredients on food labels in stores.

I’m frustrated that food manufacturers can’t be trusted to be forthcoming about what they’re pushing. It’s hard to know at a glance what’s actually good for me. This is another reminder that most companies are more interested in manipulating us to benefit their bottom line, rather than create quality foods.

Major to Minor – Chase Holfelder

I love music that is strong musically and has a powerful message that’s so real it’s a bit eerie. Those are two of the reasons why I love Chase Holfelder’s Major to Minor work. He takes a song where the original is written in a major key and transposes it into a minor key. With this treatment, songs are still familiar and take on a completely new meaning and feeling.

I became aware of Chase’s music when his rendition of “Amazing Grace” was used on an episode of Deadliest Catch. I had to buy it on iTunes immediately. (And I’m not a religious person.) Chase takes some latitude with the lyrics, but it fits with the tone of this song.

Earlier this year, Chase released a Major to Minor version of “Over the Rainbow.” I love this version so much, I never want to sing the Judy Garland rendition again. I wish Chase would per out a karaoke track for this song.

“Over the Rainbow” is gay anthem and this version captures the pain and perseverance that sometimes comes with coming out. It’s scary to be reminded that there are people who would kill us or deny us our rights for not being gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise not conforming to the hetero-male/female norms.

I want to do a photoshoot inspired Chase’s music. I’m envisioning a plain black backdrop, jeans, white tank top, bare feet, and capturing whatever feelings come out while listening to his music – hopefully something strong and raw.

The first Major to Minor song Chase did was “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s gorgeous. I would support a national movement to perform this song in the minor key during times of war or conflict. It would still represent national pride, but the minor key would remind us that members of our armed forces are putting themselves in harm’s way to fight for our freedom.