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Rosie the basset hound

Urban Camping = Lesson in Minimalism

We had a flood at Castle Carter (aka my condo) in December courtesy of our upstairs neighbor’s water heater. (We woke up to a lake in our condo on a Saturday morning.) It ruined the floors. Earlier this month, after dealing with estimates and insurance, they got replaced – but Rosie the basset hound and I had to move out for five days during the process. We considered an Airbnb, but opted for a hotel.

Minimal Needs = Minimal Stuff

Our hotel was similar to this, except Rosie’s bed was next to the armchair.

Living in a hotel reminded me how little we need to be comfortable. All I need is a place to sleep, a place to work, nourishment in my body, clothes on my back, a bathroom, and wi-fi. I tried not to bring anything that I wouldn’t absolutely need to take care of myself and work on projects. Even then, there were a few garments I didn’t wear, and I didn’t have time to work on the blanket for a friend who had a baby last month.

Traveling with Rosie is like traveling with a toddler in terms of how much space her stuff takes up. We had her memory foam bed with a comforter and sheet. (She’s nine years old and 67 pounds. She deserves to be comfortable.) We also had to bring food, medications, bowls, and treats.

One thing I did that made the trip go smoothly was pre-pack all our meals. Our room had a little kitchen with a refrigerator and a microwave, so before we left home, I pre-packed all my and Rosie’s meals for this adventure (much like Meal Prep Sunday). Meals and snacks were a snap.

Minimal Distractions = Hotel Hackathon

Rosie’s such a trooper when it comes to traveling.

My life while living in the hotel was pretty structured. After work, my life consisted of walking Rosie, eating dinner, and working. I didn’t watch TV, and thanks to slow wi-fi, I couldn’t easily putz around on the internet. So I worked.

Every night I worked on the online course I’m developing on the legalities of being a professional photographer. It’s going to be twenty lessons with two bonus lessons and an introduction, so that means I have twenty-three slide decks to create. With little else to do, I cranked away at this, and put a substantial dent in this project. I brought a pad of Post-it notes on this trip so I could create a mini Wall of Pain next to my desk.

The reconstruction at Castle Carter is almost complete. It’s so good to be home, but this was a good lesson on what I need to do to get work done (eliminate distractions) and how little I need to be happy and comfortable.

The Undeniable Recap of 2016

Wow . . . what a fucked up year 2016 has been, especially the last three months. I’m glad I do The Undeniable Recap every year to take a break from the current chaos and see that not everything in the last 366 days is terrifying and depressing. So let’s take a look at some of the highlights from 2016:

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

1. BlogPaws with Rosie.  Rosie and I went to our first pet blogger conference this summer. I led a workshop on copyright and FTC rules for bloggers and we had so much fun meeting all the people and their pets. It’s been heartwarming to see Rosie bounce back from last year’s surgery and get her confidence back.

2. I Shaved my Head.  I decided to go back to my natural hair color, and instead of dealing with growing out my red hair, I just shaved it all off. That was empowering. Not having hair made me want to embody even more how strong women can be. My friends did a photo shoot right after I shaved my head and the images were so powerful.

Two of the Cool Kids on our Couch!

3. Cool Kids Couch. During law school, it seemed like one of the Cool Kids (Class of 2011, 2012, and 2013) was always sitting on the couch outside Room 116. When ASU Law announced they were moving downtown, we approached the school about sponsoring a Cool Kids Couch in the new building – and they let us! It’s up on the 6th floor, and apparently the current law students ripped the plaque off our gift to them. Hopefully they won’t do it again to the replacement plaque.

4. Flagstaff Ropes Course. I needed to get away for a few days last spring, so I booked a long weekend in Flagstaff and went to the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course. It was so much fun to climb trees and traverse obstacles. It was exactly what I needed; it got me out of my head for an afternoon. I need to do more stuff like this.

5. Photo Shoots. I got to do some amazing photo shoots this year. On a chilly February morning, Peter Shankman and I got up before dawn to do sunrise photo shoot near Canyon Lake. Those images were gorgeous! In May, I did a photo shoot out at The Domes near Casa Grande where I my chest and face were painted and I wore a 25-foot diameter parachute skirt. We got some dynamic shots right at sunset and some beautiful photos after the sun went down with fire breathers in the background.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Phrase of the Year: “Lawyer Perch.”
When I speak at a conference and there is a table and chair at the front of the room for speakers, I like to plop myself down and sit cross-legged on top of the table. At WordCamp Phoenix, someone in the audience declared that this is the “lawyer perch.”  That works for me.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Firsts in 2016
Court appearance as 1st chair
Trail race (and last)
In-home flood (and second one, unfortunately)
Chest binder
Stay at an Airbnb
Interview on KJZZ (local NPR station)
Replaced the smoke detector in my condo by myself
Foods: Coconut creamer, coconut ice cream, vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, vegan “butter,” white chocolate peanut butter
Sights: The Domes, 9/11 Memorial, Vaynermedia, Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, Telepoem Booth
Events: Women in Travel Summit, BlogPaws, Sober morning rave, Junkyard photoshoot, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage

Celebrity Sightings
Gloria Steinem
Mark Hamill

In Memoriam
Kevin Layton
Larry Grucky
Mike Calcutti (he died in 2015, but I didn’t learn about it ‘til 2016)
Alan Rickman
David Bowie
Prince
Anton Yelchin
Gene Wilder
John Glenn
Florence Henderson
Alan Thicke
George Michael
Carrie Fisher
Debbie Reynolds
The 49 Victims of the Orlando Night Club Shooting

Learning to Value Myself

My personal theme for 2017 is Invest – investing in myself, my health, my relationships, and my business. Last week, I was challenged to put this into action a few weeks early when Castle Carter flooded.

Photo by Bob Johnson from the Junkyard Photoshoot 2016 – Love this Picture!

I suck at valuing myself. (Is anyone else in this boat?) I treat everyone else way better than myself and tell myself I can make due with less. When our air conditioner went out for a few days this summer, I sent Rosie the pirate basset hound to “camp” (the kennel) so she’d be comfortable until it was fix while I stayed home.

Earlier this month, my condo flooded. I woke up on a Saturday morning to a lake in my home courtesy of my upstairs neighbor’s water heater that exploded. The floors in my living room and office were destroyed from the water, along with some of the dry wall. It took the dry-out team about 7 hours to remove damaged flooring and walls and set me up with 12 fans and 2 de-humidifiers to dry everything else.

Living with fans and de-humidifiers running full blast 24 hours/day is like living in a wind tunnel. I could barely get any work done with the noise and the heat, and I was sweating buckets every night in my sleep. Friends offered to let Rosie and me stay with them, but I often feel uncomfortable as a guest in someone’s home. And I know my insurance would pay for a hotel, but I didn’t want the hassle of living out of a suitcase, especially with Rosie. A typical dry-out takes 3 days. We could stick it out.

At day 3, the dry-out tech said my home needed 2 extra days and suggested I get a hotel. I was sleeping for crap, not getting work done, feeling agitated from all the noise and disruption (Did I mention I had to cancel my plans to attend ShankMinds Live in New York that week?), I had plans to do a weekend hackathon of work – and I still balked at getting a hotel. In my head, it still seemed like an extreme reaction.

I forced myself act as if I was investing in my best interests. From that perspective, I deserved quality rest and an environment where I could get work done. Fighting back the excuses in my head, I found a nearby hotel that accepted dogs of all sizes, had a desk and a refrigerator in the room (Rosie’s meds need to be refrigerated), and a complementary hot breakfast. The voice in my head said it would be such a pain to pack up our lives for two days. I had Rosie and I packed in 20 minutes – including portioning out each of her meals and bringing her comforter and memory foam bed.

Airlines say put on your oxygen mask first before helping someone else. Those two days in the hotel allowed me the respite I needed from the chaos at home. I slept on a king-size bed in quiet, climate-controlled room, and someone else was in charge of making my breakfast. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, I did about 5 hours of work on the Copyright Law online course I’m teaching for ASU Law next semester. (I’d been procrastinating on that for weeks!)

Rosie and I are home again. The dry-out is complete, and we’re waiting to hear back from insurance so we can proceed with the reconstruction. So far, this experience is giving me the chance to put myself first. I felt guilty checking in to the hotel, but once I settled into the room, that feeling dissipated. I know when I need a break; I just have to be willing to let myself have it.

Christmas Part 2: Phoestivus

One of the best things about the holiday season in Phoenix is going to Phoestivus! I try to take Rosie the basset hound to it every year. Phoestivus is part farmers market/food trucks, part craft festival, and it has the standard Festivus activities (Feats of Strengths, Airing of Grievances, and the Festivus Pole).

Rosie made friends at the Ruff Life booth

I love taking Rosie to Phoestivus. It’s so much fun to watch her take in all the scents and sounds (she can’t see much with her glaucoma) and watch everyone love on her. There are usually a few vendors with the products specifically for dogs, and this year was no exception. She was enchanted by Ruff Life – a company that sells preservative-free smoked animal chews like bones, pig ears, and chicken feet. She was so tempted to jump up on the table and help herself. Thankfully, I bought her a smoked fish to have on the spot and got a pig ear and a chicken foot for later. (By the way, this is an awesome local company that will deliver their products to your door if you live in Maricopa County.)

Over at Peace Dog’s booth, I got her a bag of human-grade sausage cookies. They are shaped like little bones, the perfect size or using a treat to lure Miss Rosie in the direction I want her to move. (Bassets are stubborn.) She also sold buttons and I found one I had to buy and stick on my backpack.

We were both happy to stumble upon a peanut butter vendor: Peanut Butter Americano. They gave us both samples on popsicle sticks. It was so good – so fresh, so simple – definitely healthier than what I usually buy at the grocery store. I had to keep Rosie from plunging her face into the box of discarded sample sticks. I walked away with a jar of their white chocolate peanut butter. It’s the perfect thing to put on a pre-race bagel.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Phoestivus if we didn’t get our picture taken with Hipster Claus.

Hipster Claus!

This is my kind of holiday fun – connecting with the community, seeing friends, and getting the pirate dog out to experience something new.

In case you missed it – Christmas Part 1: Singing in Patrick’s Concert

Watching Rosie Thrive

My sweet basset hound, Rosie, celebrated her 9th birthday a few days ago. It’s been so much fun watching her regain her confidence this last year.

Rosie running with the kids in the neighborhood

Rosie Running with the Kids in the Neighborhood

When Rosie was 7, she developed glaucoma. She went from being a vivacious dog without any limits (except the inherent ones that come with having 5-inch legs) to being in tremendous pain and going blind in one eye. Our best option was to remove the eye, so my baby girl became a pirate dog. Glaucoma is a progressive disease, so to delay it from spreading to the other eye, we put her on three different eye drops. The medications keep the pressure in her remaining eye down, but they also limit her vision. When Rosie looks at the world now, it’s like she’s looking through a straw.

After her surgery, Rosie had stitches and was in a cone for 10 days before she could roam unencumbered again. She had to re-learn how to navigate, relying more on her sense of smell and being aware that she has a blindside.  On her first day out of the cone, I stood by while she got pummeled by Phoebe the bulldog who ran up on her on her blindside. I knew I wouldn’t be doing her any favors by coddling her, and I knew Phoebe running into her wouldn’t hurt her.

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

In the last year, Rosie has become more outgoing and playful than ever. When most people meet her, they don’t notice that she’s missing an eye. She runs around with the other dogs in the complex at full speed (and bassets can haul ass when motivated). At the office, she has no problem getting in/out of the car or waddling around to get pets or head out the backdoor when nature calls. When we’re in a new place, she’s more likely to hug the wall when we’re walking and to be more aware of where I am at all times.

Taking Rosie to the BlogPaws Conference was a highlight for both of us this summer. It was so cute to see her interacting with everyone – especially Bentley the basset hound who came from Louisiana with his human to attend. Watching those two run and bark together in the indoor dog park was so cute.

I’m excited to take Rosie to the AZ Basset Rescue Howl-o-ween picnic next weekend. There’s usually 30-50 dogs there, and it’s so much fun to watch them run as a pack with their little legs and flopping ears. She wasn’t super social last year, but I hope having another year to adjust to being a pirate dog and being back in the same event space as last year will help her be comfortable enough to let her rambunctious run free.

And in case you were wondering, Rosie is very grateful that I don’t believe in non-functional doggy fashion. No hot/annoying costume for her.

Rosie: Dominating the Dog Park

I live in a dog-friendly complex. A group of resident – including Rosie and me – regularly hang out in the center courtyard and let our dogs play. There’s nothing like the sound of a basset bark or watching Rosie try to keep up with the other dogs with her stubby legs. When they run in circles, she always takes the inside track.

Rosie and the Rope Toy - Trooping Home

Rosie and the Rope Toy – Trooping Home

Often when someone brings a dog toy to these gatherings, it becomes communally owned, and at the end of the play session, it will be left on the grass for other dogs to play with. The same is true for big sticks we find near and around the complex.

Rosie doesn’t care for dog toys except sticks and ice cubes. She loves to chew on these. Besides giving them a cursory sniff, she generally ignores tennis balls, Frisbees, and the like. I was surprised to see her pick up a rope toy the other day during our morning walk. She scooped it up and triumphantly trotted home with it in her mouth where she promptly dropped it on one of her beds and left it there for the rest of the day.

That afternoon, I grabbed the toy as we headed out for her afternoon stroll, and I tossed it back into the grass. Rosie didn’t seem phased by this. She ignored the toy and took herself on a smell tour of the area, until it was time to head back into the house. As she crossed the lawn, she picked up the toy nonchalantly and carried it back to our condo again – where she dropped it on our doorstep.

She doesn’t play with this toy. She doesn’t chew on it. She just brings it home and drops it – almost every time we go out for the last five days. Does she do this to flaunt her dominance over the other dogs? She may not be able to keep it up with them when it comes to running, but she can control their rope toy.

Rosie’s such a funny dog. Follow her on Instagram to see more of her adventures.

Rosie’s Adventures at Camp

Happiness is having Rosie home.

I had to send Rosie to the kennel (aka “camp”) when the air conditioner went out. After the A/C went out on Sunday night, I packed up Rosie’s medications and food, put her in her car harness, and drove her to camp where she got to chill in their climate control environment and enjoy extra playtime and puppy happy hour. It was so weird to be home for two days without having to walk her or watch where I was going. I had never been home that long without her.

Rosie does fine at the kennel, which is part of our vet’s office, and she sleeps most of the time she’s there. I ordered extra bedding for her so her dense 67-pound body would be comfortable. One of the things I like about this kennel is I can always call for an update. At the end of the first day, the tech told me how Rosie used her paws and nose to manipulate her blankets to create a nest for herself before falling asleep. That’s my Rosie.

Rosie's so happy to be home, resting after gallivanting with the neighborhood dogs.

Rosie’s so happy to be home, resting after gallivanting with the neighborhood dogs.

Expecting Rosie to be home by Tuesday night, I only packed three meals of kibble and chopped chicken for her. (Yes, I’m a pescatarian and I still cook chicken for my dog.) Normally when I take Rosie to camp, she gets the standard kibble the staff gives all the dogs whose parents didn’t pack meals. It’s the same brand of kibble she gets at home. I felt bad for her for this trip, so I packed meals for her too.

The tech fed Rosie on Wednesday morning before I picked her up. Apparently, when they put down her bowl of plain kibble, she looked up at the tech as if to say, “What the fuck is this?” and went back to bed. I think we’ve created a precedent that all future trips to camp will include her standard meals, with cubes of baked chicken.

The highlight of every trip to camp is picking Rosie up to come home. I have the techs put her in her car harness before bringing her out. Rosie is a mellow docile dog who sleeps most of the time when she’s at camp, but the moment she sees that harness, she jumps to life and whines to be taken out. It was so cute to see her pull the tech down the hall to the lobby where she bounded through the door, barking her head off. There was a collective “Awh” from the front desk staff as dog and owner were reunited.

It’s so good to have her home again – back to our usual routine of walks, treats, and lots of pets. If you’re interested in keeping up with Rosie’s adventures, follow her on Instagram.

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.

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.

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.