The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

Ruth Carter

My Dog Smells

Rosie StickThis is my dog Rosie.

We go for walks every day.

She likes to rub her head on stuff.

It makes her happy.

I let her do it as long it’s not poop.

There’s one plant Rosie loves to rub her head on.

This plant smells so bad.

It makes her head smells bad.

Then we go back in the house.

And she gets that smelly plant smell on her bedding and the carpet.

But she’s happy so I let her get away with it.

My dog smells.

Arizona Independents: Declare a Party for the Presidential Primary

I am a registered Independent – but not for long.

Registered Independents are the largest group of registered voters in Arizona – 35% of eligible votes the last time I checked. By our sheer numbers, we have a lot of influence – but we can’t exert that influence in the Presidential Primary unless we register as a member of a political party.

Image by DonkeyHotey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Image by DonkeyHotey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

That’s the rule. I didn’t make it.

Our Presidential Primary is on March 22nd, so that means we have until February 22nd to register with the party whose primary we want to vote in. It’s easy to change your party affiliation on the Service Arizona website.

I’m pretty sure I know which party I’m going to declare for the primary election. It’s too bad that only 4 states will have had primary elections prior to the Arizona registration deadline. For this election, I’ve been mulling over whether it would be better to vote for a candidate I want or against a candidate I don’t want. (I still wish Jon Stewart was running for President. Perhaps he’ll launch a campaign as a write-in candidate late in the game.)

There has yet to be a political party that doesn’t done something that is a major turn-off for me. When pollsters call and ask which party I’m for affiliated with, I usually say, “None of them. They all suck.” If they follow up with a question about whether I’m more conservative or liberal, I like to respond with, “I’m sane.”

Despite my distaste with members of every political party, I’m a big believer and advocate of the idea that you have to vote to maintain your bitching rights. If you want to bitch about the candidates for President, you have to vote in the primary. If you don’t vote, shut up.

I will declare a party for the Presidential Primary in Arizona and then change back to being an Independent once the primary election is over. I don’t have to be affiliated with a party for any other votes in Arizona.

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.

New Year, New Minimalism Projects

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is an awesome year for you.

Flipped Hangers in my Closet - January 2016

Flipped Hangers in my Closet – January 2016

It’s the start of a new year, so you know what that means – Closet Clean-out 2016 begins! On January 1st, I went through my closet and flipped all my hangers. When I wear a garment, it will be hung up the normal way when I put it away. At the end of the year, I’ll be able to tell at a glance what I haven’t worn. The general rule is – if you haven’t worn something in a year, you’ll probably never wear it again – so get rid of it.

My wardrobe has shrunk significantly since I started minimizing my life in 2013. Since then, I’ve whittled my wardrobe down and built it up with garments that I love. The goal is to feel beautiful and comfortable in any setting.

Donation to Charity - January 2016

Donation to Charity – January 2016

I also have a shelf in my linen closet for items that need to be given away to charity. When I moved into my condo, I did a “packing party” that resulted in eliminating over 9 boxes of stuff from my life. Since then, I filled my charity shelf with more things to be given away. This week, the AZ Humane Society is coming over to pick up 2 boxes and 2 garbage bags filled with stuff for their thrift store. One box is almost all books – books I’ve read in the last year and books I’ve kept and will never read. One of the bags is filled with clothing – jeans, socks, t-shirts, and dresses that didn’t survive last year’s clean-out.

My other minimalism challenge for the year is eliminating and controlling paper clutter. I have a perpetual influx of paper into my life – bills, business publications, handwritten notes, etc. My goal for January is to eliminate my existing paper clutter and to keep incoming paper from piling up for the rest of the year. A few years ago, I challenged myself to process every new piece of paper within 24 hours. Perhaps I should try that again.

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

Learning to Live with Less

As a minimalist, I’ve removed a lot of the physical clutter from my life. My new challenge is learning to not take on so many commitments and becoming more of a mental minimalist . . . and being ok with it.

Day 162: Country Swing by Loren Kerns from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Day 162: Country Swing by Loren Kerns from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

In the last few years as I’ve gotten my depression and anxiety under more control, it’s become apparent that I have some ADD tendencies. When you pair that with my perfectionism, it can be quite a challenge. I often find myself thinking that I can and should take on more because it will lead to positive attention and/or I could be badass at it.

Being ADD sucks – easily distracted by “shiny objects.” It’s hard to stay focused on projects for more than 15 minutes, and too frequently I find myself saying “Who am I; where am I; what’s going on?” That’s when I know my brain is being pulled in too many directions. One of my friends who is much more ADD than I am has a prescription for PRN medication that helps him. I saw my psych nurse recently and I asked her if I was a candidate for this medication too, and she told me I wasn’t a candidate and that I need to stop doing so many things.

Fine. Don’t let me take the easier softer way.

It’s probably a good thing that she said, “No.” When I asked my friend what it feels like to take ADD medication, his first response was, “Have you ever done blow?” I don’t think he was insinuating that his meds make him feel like he’s on uppers, but it that the rest of the world falls away and he can focus on the task at hand. Knowing me, it’s too likely that I’d take this medication daily and use it as a reason to do even more – just because I could.

My life is managed with to-do lists – color-coded annotated to-do lists. It’s what I need to do to manage my life. I don’t get things done without them.

Looking ahead to 2016, one of my goals is to be more ok with doing less. I am certain I will be working as hard as ever, but the scope of my work and my total commitments will hopefully to drop significantly. I plan to travel less, take on fewer speaking engagements, and probably not take on any more community activities then I’ve already committed to.

On the flip side, I hope this will give me more – more energy, more sleep, more time with friends, more non-work adventurers, and more time just to think. I definitely don’t give myself enough time to mull over ideas with no expectation of a final product. The biggest challenges with this plan is to let myself be okay with doing less, knowing that I could take on more.

I think this is the next step in the don’t-have-a-heart-attack, be-more-balanced plan.

First Race Back

Last January, I DNFed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. After taking a few months off to figure out some health stuff, I decided it was time to get back in shape. I started jogging a few days a week and as I built up my stamina, I decided to sign up for another race – the Runner’s Den/Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon.

Race Day Shirt - One More Mile

Race Day Shirt – One More Mile

My goal for this race was “Just Finish.” I tried not to care about my time. I just wanted to get a race under my belt.

The race started at 7:30am. I had to get up extra early to walk the dog, put in my contacts, and get breakfast into my stomach by 6:30am so I’d have plenty of time to drive to Scottsdale, check my gear, and find my spot at the starting line. I was so grateful they had heaters near the starting line. It was only 40 degrees outside before sunrise, and I was cold standing in my shorts and race shirt. I opted to wear the same race shirt as Rock ‘n’ Roll to re-christen it with a good race.

My half marathon PR is 1:52:04, but I opted to line up with the 2:00 pacer. Given my training, 2 hours was the best finish I could have – maybe. By Mile 2, I wasn’t cold anymore. By Mile 4, my pacer had passed me and was out of sight. I tried not to think about it, reminding myself, “Just run your race. This race is just the beginning.”

I Finished!

I Finished!

As I jogged along, I started thinking about my ideas for 2016. Some of the theme words that crossed my mind were “simple,” “adventure,” “sunshine,” “dirt,” “happy,” and “calm.” I suspect next year will be just as busy as this year, but I want the scope of my activities to be more narrow, with more time and energy for recreation and seeing my friends.

I finished the race in 2:03:49 – averaging 9:28 per mile. Beside sore quads and toes, my body felt good coming across the finish line. As I was getting my stuff from gear check another racer thanked me for being a good pacer for him. I think I passed him around Mile 10 and he must have stayed with me for the rest of the race. I love that part of racing – using other racers to keep pace.

When I got back to my car, the thermometer informed me that the temperature had only risen to 48 degrees. My fingernails were purple. It felt so good to get home to a hot shower and a nap.

Thoughts about Fashion and Minimalism

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter - Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter – Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

About a month ago, a friend asked me to comment on Joshua Becker’s post 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. This article brings up a lot of good points – if you have a personal uniform (i.e., Steve Jobs and his turtleneck and Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt), you save time and energy getting dressed in the morning. And you save money by not having an expansive wardrobe.

It appears the capsule wardrobe is catching on – a wardrobe of interchangeable pieces. Some people who are trying to be more minimalistic with their wardrobe do Project 333 – wearing a wardrobe that consists of 33 pieces for a 3-month period. I understand the concept of these ideas, but they’ve never appealed to me.

Being a minimalist has never been about limiting myself to owning a specific number of items but limiting myself to possessions that add value to my life. When it comes to the role of fashion in my life, I love this quote from Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists:

Now nearly everything I own is my favorite thing. All my clothes are my favorite clothes. All my furniture is my favorite furniture. All my possessions are my favorite possessions—all of which I enjoy every day of my life.

I love wearing clothes that make me feel good – soft fabrics, comfortable cuts, and items that make me feel beautiful. If I’m not seeing clients, my everyday outfit tends to consist of jeans, a t-shirt, comfortable shoes, and a hoodie or cardigan if it’s chilly. When I’m speaking, I’ll trade in my hoodie for a blazer. If I’m seeing clients, I may take my outfit up a notch to dress pants, a button-down shirt, a tank top, and dress shoes.

Here are two of the things I do to make sure I’m mostly keeping the clothes I love:

1. The Hanger Flip. At the beginning of the year, I reverse all the hangers in my closet. When I put a garment away after wearing it, I flip the hanger back to the proper direction. After a few weeks, I can see what garments I’m wearing the most. By fall, I can usually tell what I should get rid of because I can see what I haven’t worn through the previous warm and cold seasons.

2. Select the Day’s Outfit in a Vacuum. I don’t open a drawer or step into my closet in the morning until I’ve decided what I want to wear. I don’t use visual cues but rather my knowledge of my wardrobe and that day’s calendar to select my outfit. It forces me to go with my gut feeling about what I really want to wear instead of getting lost considering all the possibilities.

The size of my wardrobe has diminished substantially over the last few years and I love it. (There’s no reason to own 15 sweaters when I consistently wear only 4 of them.) I love that my wardrobe is simple and filled with mostly classic pieces and awesome t-shirts. It makes getting dressed every day so much easier. I know that everything I own fits, serves a purpose, and feels good against my sensitive skin.

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.