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Answering the Phone Turned Into a Welfare Check from the Police

When my phone rings and I don’t recognize the number, I assume it’s most likely a spam call for a car warranty or someone wanting to buy my condo (which is not for sale). To entertain myself, I started answering the phone with:

House of Pain. How can we whip you?

Photo by phit2btyd from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’ve been answering the call like this for over 20 years. It’s still funny, but a friend suggested I might want to change it up and answer my phone with:

It’s done. There’s blood everywhere.

I don’t remember which friend suggested this. I would give you credit if I did.

Making an Appointment to Cash in my Stimulus Card

Last month, like many people, I received a $600 stimulus payment from the government in the form of a debit card. I go to the public pool to swim multiple times a week, and I like to pay in cash, exact change, so I can get from the lobby to my lane swiftly. I regularly go to the bank to get $40 in singles. (There’s also a strip club down the block from my bank. I assume they think I’m a regular there.) When this debit card arrived, I decided I wanted all of it, in cash, in singles, so I wouldn’t have to worry about having exact change for the pool for two years.

I didn’t know if the bank had restrictions on how many of a certain bill you could take out at a time, based on the amount they kept on hand, so I called the bank. I went through their various menus trying to speak to a human, only to be told that they were all busy and to try again later. I tried again later – same result.

When calling didn’t work, I decided to make an appointment. That would give me the ability to tell them in advance why I was coming, so they could plan accordingly if need be. I didn’t want to show up and be told that I couldn’t get my entire $600 in singles. I made the appointment for Friday morning at 10 A.M.

Friday Morning – 9 A.M.

On Friday morning, I arrived at the office a little after 9 A.M. As I was setting up my laptop, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number.

It’s done. There’s blood everywhere.

There was mostly silence on the other end. I think I could hear someone breathing. I figured it was a spam call, so I put my phone down on the desk without hanging up the call, and continued on with my morning. If they’re on a call with me, they can’t annoy someone else. I hung up the call a few minutes later when I wanted to use my phone for something else.

A little bit later, I ran the number that called me through the Google machine. It was my bank. Oopsie! I figured they were just calling to confirm my appointment.

Friday Morning – 10 A.M.

I arrived at my bank right at 10 A.M., rushing from the office to get there on time. This was the first time I had made an appointment with the bank and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised that I had to wait for a bit before a bank associate was available to talk to me about why I was there. I mean, they knew I was coming.

The associate essentially said, “Oh, you’re the one who wanted the singles. You can get them from the teller.” I gave the teller my photo ID, swiped my government debit card, and walked out with $600 in singles. It was a straightforward process.

Friday Morning – 11 A.M.

After I left the bank, I went back to my office and was getting work done when my phone rang. This time it was from “Restricted.” I answered it:

Hello.

Yes, sometimes I answer my phone like a normal person. I couldn’t remember if one of my parents had a restricted number.

Photo by Tony Webster from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It turns out it wasn’t a parental unit. It was a Phoenix Police Officer. They had been banging on the door of my condo doing a welfare check. I later learned they were so loud that my neighbor popped his head out and told them I was probably at work.

Apparently, the bank called the police to do a welfare check on me because of “something about blood.”

I explained to the officer how I answer the phone to unknown numbers and apologized that they were taken away from situations that warranted their attention to deal with me. I was very much alive and well in my office.

At 1938 East Osborn Road?

Ok, how did you know that?

We Googled you.

Here’s the weird part – the earlier number that called me was from the bank branch I went to less than an hour later. They saw me in the flesh, with no evidence of blood on me. They saw my ID. They had me on camera. There’s probably footage of me walking to and from, and in, my car, by myself.

Needless to say, I’ve gone back to “House of Pain. How can we whip you?”

Triathlon Training in the Winter

This photo is not of Phoenix, but it can get pretty cold here in the winter. Photo by NOAA Photo Library (Creative Commons License).

It’s 201 days until Ironman Mont Tremblant 2021, just over seven months until race day. There are very few valid excuses for not doing a workout, and “It’s cold” is not one of them. Suck it up, Buttercup. Triathlon training means training in the cold.

My triathlon coach, David Roher, has recommendations for when his athletes can switch from wearing shorts to tights. When I’m doing a long workout, I dress based on the temperature it’s expected to be at the end of the workout. Actually, I like feeling a bit cold when I start my workout. It helps me notice when my body warms up during the workout, and there is less risk of overheating.

Swimming in the Cold

I train at an outdoor pool. Thankfully, it’s heated. They say that the pool thermostat is set for 82 degrees. What’s not heated is the area outside the facility’s door where I wait for the place to open while standing in flip flops.

The most uncomfortable part of winter swimming is the few minutes after I’ve stripped off my sweats and I’m sitting on the edge on the pool putting on my swim cap and googles before getting into the water. That ground is cold against my butt.

A few weeks ago, the heater was on the fritz over the weekend, and when I arrived to swim on Monday morning, the water was only 72 degrees. That was chilly, but still nothing compared to how cold it’s likely going to be in Lake Tremblant on race. The race is expected to be “wetsuit legal” and “booties legal.”

Biking in the Cold

Cycling outside in the winter is when I notice the cold the most. When you ride, you generate your own wind, and then there is also a headwind for half my ride. I also prefer to ride at sunrise (the coldest part of the day), and get my workout done early in the day. The path where I ride has a lot of shadows, and so it takes a while for the ground and surrounding area to warm up.

Coach David’s recommendation is to wear tights if the temperature is below 50 degrees. I’ve been riding up to three hours at a time, and in the cold, that means cycling tights, a long-sleeve shirt, cycling gloves (with full fingers), and heavy socks. Unlike sneakers, the tops of cycling shoes are open. Before I switched to heavy socks, my toes got so cold on these early morning rides, sometimes I couldn’t feel them.  

Running in the Cold

Coach David’s recommendation is to wear shorts until the temperature drops below 40 degrees. I recently modified this rule to allow tights if the weather report says it feels like it’s below 40 degrees. (I live in the desert for a reason. I’m not a fan of being cold.)

Right now, my run workouts are less than five miles each, so even when it’s cold, I’m not outside for very long. It was a different story a few years ago when I was training for a marathon in January.

I have access to treadmills, but I don’t like running on them. It’s so boring. I call them they human hamster wheel. I much rather run outside, even when it’s cold, windy, or raining. The same is true when it’s hot and humid in the summer.

The Evolution of this Vegan

If you told me 20 years ago that I was going to be a devoted vegan, I probably would have laughed. And the reason would have been simple: animal products taste good.

  • Burgers are delicious.
  • Pizza is awesome.
  • Cheesecake can be so good, it’s “orgasmic.”

I’ve never been opposed to veganism; I just didn’t think it was something I would want to do. As a student at Oregon State University, I learned a lot of the basics merely by being around people who were vegan. When “The L Word” came out, two of our friends were roommates and they got Showtime. Every Sunday, we’d all come over to watch it, and everyone had to either bring a dollar to offset their cable bill or vegan snack.

Omnivore to Vegetarian

I love documentaries, and a few years ago, I started watching films about food including, Food Inc., and it churned my stomach to see how factory farming works in the United States. The conditions in which these animals are raised and killed are despicable. I agree with the saying that if more people knew how factory farm animals lived and died, they couldn’t eat them.

After seeing a number of these films, I didn’t feel comfortable eating meat, knowing what I knew about how farm animals went from birth to packages of meat in the store. I thought fish didn’t have feelings, so I decided it was ok to still eat them. When I learned that that wasn’t true, I gave up fish.

Going Vegan

It was actually Dog by Dog, documentary movie about dog breeding that made me think, “If I’m not ok with any animal suffering, then I need to give up dairy and eggs.” I was deluding myself into thinking it was ok to eat these because an animal didn’t die for my meal, but often still live horrible lives. If I wanted to have integrity around this issue, then I needed to be vegan. One thing that I can do is vote with my wallet and lessen the demand for animal products.

I let myself finish the animal products I had in my house, and started looking for vegan replacements. I had already switched out the meat in my diet for more grains and legumes. I replaced the half and half in my coffee with vanilla almond milk. I bought vegan butter. I was grateful to see that my favorite soup base also has vegan varieties. I bought vegan cookbooks and searched the internet for new recipes.  

I am sensitive to soy, so I eat mostly low soy and soy-free products. Sometimes that limits my options for vegan products, but that’s something I mostly encounter when I’m looking into meat-replacement products, which is something I rarely do. The only meat substitute I buy with any regularity is Trader Joe’s Hi-Protein Veggie Burger patties, which are made with pea protein.  

This was the day I knew I never wanted to eat a beef burger again.

Caveats and Exceptions

I used to have caveats or make exceptions to being vegan. Early on in my journey towards veganism, I use to eat animal products if they were from a certified humane source. My justification was that these animals were well-treated and had a good life before they became my lunch. That worked for my for a while, until I spent a day volunteering at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary, cuddling Adorabull, a newborn calf who was brought to the farm after being abandoned in a ditch. He was sick little guy, and as I stroked his head, I knew I never wanted a beef burger again.

Apparently, others who have visited the farm sanctuary have come away with similar thoughts about changing their diets. Aimee doesn’t tell anyone who visits what they should or shouldn’t eat. Merely being with the animals inspires some people to re-think what they eat.

I also used to have an exception when I traveled and I would shift to vegetarianism if it wasn’t convenient to be vegan. I don’t give myself that out anymore. When I go to a restaurant, if there isn’t a vegan option, I look at the menu as a list of ingredients and make my own meal or I end up ordering a bunch of sides instead of an entrée. Thankfully it’s become easier to find all-vegan restaurants or restaurants with plenty of vegan options.

Committing to Full Veganism

It’s actually not hard to be vegan. I usually have oatmeal for breakfast and add in vanilla protein powder, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sliced banana. For lunch and dinner, a common meal for me is rice, beans, and a vegetable or I meal prep soup over the weekend. I’m on a lentil soup kick right now. Between meals I like to have fruit, dried fruit, veggie sticks, almonds, pretzels, and/or chips. It’s rare if I’m craving something that there isn’t a vegan option or something that is “close enough.”

Being vegan has been great for helping me avoid a lot of junk food. It’s easy to say no to things like cookies in the office, or when I get pizza now, it’s just crust, sauce, and veggies, which is much healthier than what I used to order.

About a year ago, I saw this video by Merle O’Neal talking about why she went vegan, and her words embody a lot of why I went vegan, more than what I could put in a post.

When Your Kid Says They’re Non-Binary

A few weeks ago, I received a message from one of my classmates from high school that said her child recently came out to her and her husband as non-binary and said their pronouns are they/them. My friend asked how she can educate herself and what guidance I could offer for dealing with relatives who may be less accepting.

When I responded, I started with, “Oh geez – your life just got a lot more complicated, but in a good way.” I gave her my number and asked her to let her kid know that they have an Oggy Ruth that they can talk to if they need a non-binary grown-up to talk to who “gets it” in ways they’re afraid that others can’t understand. (Oggy is the title I chose since there isn’t a gender-neutral term for aunt/uncle. It rhymes with “doggy.”)

This button is on my backpack.

There’s No One Way to be Non-Binary

If your child was assigned male a birth (AMAB) and they’re actually female or assigned female at birth (AFAB) and they’re actually male, the expected trajectory is more clear and can include a new name, new hairstyle, different clothes, hormones, and gender affirming surgery. If your child is non-binary, it’s best to follow their lead. Invite them to tell you what they need, whether it’s a new name, new hairstyle, or different clothes. They may want some specialty items like a chest binder, stand to pee (STP), or a packer. Ask your child about their thoughts about hormones or hormone blockers. (Hormone blockers didn’t exist when I was a kid, but if I knew I was non-binary back then, I would have wanted them.) They may also want counseling. It’s not easy to navigate a binary-centric world as a non-binary person.

Ask your child what they need from the institutions in their life. They might need gender neutral bathrooms at school. Some schools won’t address a child by their new name unless you legally change it. Your child may want to have their birth certificate and/or driver’s license corrected. Hopefully, you live in a state where you have that option.

In regards to resources, I recommended Free Mom Hugs’ resource page. I love this organization, and this page has a wide variety of resources listed. I love seeing people in the audience at the Pride parade who wear t-shirts that say “Free Mom Hugs” and “Free Dad Hugs.” I always try to stop and hug them.

Dealing with Less Than Accepting Relatives

As the parent, you are your child’s advocate. Ask your kid how they want to tell the relatives, and as long as it isn’t inappropriate, support it.

You may have to have a heart-to-heart with a relative if they are struggling to accept that your child is non-binary. They may have known your kid by a different name and pronouns for over 10 years, and adjusting to the new name and pronouns will be hard. Tell them it’s ok if they make mistakes, as long as they’re trying, and they correct themselves when it happens. Give them a chance to practice by talking about your non-binary child with them. (I have a co-worker who is working on using my correct pronouns. I’m tempted to tell him to talk about me with his family to practice.)

Note: I have a friend who has had a non-binary kid for years. She still occasionally refers to them by the wrong name or pronoun. It’s ok if you or your family doesn’t adapt overnight.

Your relative may have trouble wrapping their head around the idea that a person may not be male or female. That’s ok too. As long as they respect and accept that your child is telling the truth about who they are, I suspect your relative will be fine in the long run. Here’s my favorite video to share with people who are new to learning about what it means to be non-binary. (It’s also quite validating for me.)

Whether your child is a different gender or sexuality than what you originally expected (or both), assume there are going to be inappropriate questions. I tell people that it’s fine to ask me all their potentially inappropriate questions as long as their coming from a place of respect and curiosity. There may be times when it’s best to respond with, “I understand that you’re curious, but that’s a very personal question. My kid will talk about that if and when they decide they want to bring that topic up with you.”

Don’t be Afraid to Go into Mama/Papa Bear Mode

If you have a non-binary kid, there may be times when you need to go into full-on mama bear or papa bear mode on their behalf. It may be with your child’s school, doctor, a relative, or even the government. Going to bat for your kid validates their experience, even if you don’t get the outcome you want.

When your child tells you about a frustrating experience as a non-binary person in a binary-centric society, acknowledge it, even when you don’t understand why something is a big deal to them. Their feelings are valid, whatever they are. Hold space for your child so they have at least one place where it’s safe for them to be themselves and explore what their gender means to them.

Finding Faith

Shortly after Rosie passed away, I said the over/under for when I got another dog was six months. Who had 145 days?

Searching for a Dog and Finding Faith

About three months after Rosie passed away, I was ready to start looking for my next basset hound. The Arizona Basset Hound Rescue didn’t have any hounds available for adoption, so I expanded my search to include my local animal control, basset rescues in southern California, Craigslist ads across the entire southwestern U.S. I was even looking as far as St. Louis, Missouri because the humane society there took in 55 dogs (mostly bassets) from a bad breeder situation.

I spent way too much time on Petfinder, looking at adult and senior basset hounds. I wanted a dog that was past the puppy stage and deep into the lay-on-the-big-pillow-all-day stage. One day, a listing was added for a seven year-old basset named Faith at Priceless Pets in Chino Hills, CA, but there was no picture. I contacted the organization who had her and asked for a photo. This is what they sent.

They say every basset has a hidden heart in their fur. Faith’s is clearly on the top of her head.

I knew she was my dog. They said she was sweet and small, like a miniature basset hound. She was only 33 pounds. (For comparison, Rosie was between 57 and 68 pounds.) I put in an application, and shortly thereafter, I received the email that I was approved to adopt.

The rules of this rescue are first come, first serve. You can’t reserve a pet. The next time they were going to be open for adoptions was Wednesday, December 30, 2020, at noon, so I made plans to take the day off and drive out to California.

Leap of Faith – for a Dog

Chino Hills is about five hours away from Phoenix. Now, I’m not a fan of road trips in general, but the idea of driving five hours for the possibility of adopting a dog did not phase me. I was oddly calm the whole drive out.

I arrived at the rescue at 11:45am, and there were already six people in line outside the door. I prayed that no one ahead of me was there for Faith. When it opened, they only let in a few people at a time, because of COVID. When an animal was adopted, one of the workers would pop their head out of the door and announce that that particular pet was no longer available. By the time I made it to the front of the line, there were at least ten people behind me.

When I made it into the door, the clerk asked if I was interested in a particular dog. When I said, “Faith,” they said, “Did you drive from a long way?” The clerks couldn’t believe that someone drove five hours for the chance to adopt a dog.

The clerk showed me to Faith’s kennel. I sat on her bed and she laid next to me. I pet her while the clerk tended to other would-be adopters. There was no doubt that she was coming home with me that day. She was so small – bony to be exact. She felt like she needed to gain at least five, if not ten pounds.

Taken inside Faith’s kennel

When the clerk came back to check on us, I got up to finish the paperwork to make the adoption official. As I left her kennel, Faith tried to follow me out, her eyes gleaming with anticipation. About ten minutes later, we walked out together, hooman and hound.

Saving Faith

I don’t know much about Faith’s history. She was rescued from Tijuana where she was used for breeding. Now, I want her to live the comfortable life she deserves as a distinguished older lady. I gave her the middle name Helen, after my grandmother.

I put Rosie’s sweater on Faith for a walk on a chilly morning. It’s huge on her!

It’s been about two weeks since her adoption, and the focus has mostly been on her medical care. When I adopted Faith, they told me she had tested positive for a tick-borne illness and gave me her antibiotics. I noticed she was drinking a lot of water, so I took her to our vet to be evaluated. The next day the vet called with the results – Faith was in renal failure and I needed to take her to the emergency room immediately.

It had only been five days after her adoption, and I had to hospitalize my new baby. As the tech carried her into the hospital, I hoped she knew I wasn’t abandoning her. After two days of fluids and medication, she was ready to come home again, with even more medication. The tech said she hadn’t seen Faith so energetic than when she realized I was back.

Faith is so small, she can lay on my lap at work.

Yesterday, we got even more medical news – Faith has tapeworms and giardia. Now, she’s on a dewormer and more antibiotics. On one hand I think, this poor dog cannot catch a break, but on the other I’m so grateful that I got her out of there. Most rescues only do a basic medical overview and spay/neuter before making a pet available for adoption, and when you adopt, you take the pet as-is. I knew the risk when I adopted Faith, and I have no regrets. On the contrary, I’m so grateful that I can give her the love and care that she needs.

Training for Ironman Mont Tremblant 2021

I’m doing my first full Ironman race in 229 days – Ironman Mont Tremblant in Canada. I was supposed to do it last year, but the race was cancelled, and we all got deferred to this year.

I’ve never done heroin, but this is what I say every time I pay for something expensive related to my race.

What is the Ironman?

The Ironman is a triathlon, composed of the following distances:

  • 2.4-mile (open water) swim, then a
  • 112-mile bike, followed by a
  • 26.2 (full marathon) run,

All in under 17 hours.

The race starts at 7am, and you must finish before midnight to be an official Ironman.

Why Are You Doing This?

I learned a long time ago that if I don’t have a race or other athletic event on my calendar, I will not be motivated to work out.

I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to do something I’ve never done before. Races like this take dedication and mental toughness to get through not just race day but also the training to prepare for the race.

In 2017, I hired David Roher to help me train to complete my first marathon. During Mile 20 of the race, even though every part of my body hurt, I knew I wanted to do more marathons. I knew David did triathlons and coached triathletes, so I expanded my training in the off season to include swimming and biking as cross-training. Within months, I was signing up for my first sprint triathlon. About 30 seconds into that race, I knew triathlons were for me. I did the Half Ironman in 2019, and after that went well, I signed up for a full Ironman.

Are You Following a Program, Have a Coach, or Creating Your Own Thing?

Coach David is overseeing my training. Every Sunday, I get a text from him with my workouts for the week. Most weeks, I have two swim workouts, two bike workouts (one on the stationary trainer, one outside), two run workouts, and a rest day. I also have strength work that I do three times a week and stretches that I do every day. 

In addition to this, I also go to physical therapy once a week. I’ve been having long-term issues with my hips and back. My physical therapist is also an Ironman, which is helpful, because she has a greater understanding of my goals as well.

How Many Hours Are You Spending Training, Prepping, and Planning?

Oh geez. Right now, my shortest cardio workout is about 28 minutes (1,500-yard swim), and my longest is about 3 hours (48-mile bike ride). My strength workout is probably around an hour each time. Stretching takes around 30 minutes each day. A physical therapy session can last over 2 hours with all my exercises.  

In addition to all of this, there are other activities like checking on airline ticket prices for the race, bike maintenance, and replacing gear when it wears out like running shoes, workout clothes, and swim goggles.

In terms of diet, I mostly try to eat healthy, avoid excessive sugar, salt, and white flour. I also try to make sure I have enough protein in my diet, which might require more planning since I’m vegan.

Triathlon Shoes: Flip flops for the pool, bike shoes that clip in to my pedals, and running shoes.

What Will be the Longest Training Workout/Brick in Your Ramp Up?

That will be up to Coach David. In passing, he’s mentioned a 50-miles bike ride/5-mile run and a 100-mile bike ride/3.1-mile run.

I’m also planning to fly back East to do a 3.1-mile open water swim with my coach and the rest of the “Jewish Swim Club” in the Atlantic Ocean. During the race, I’ll be able to remind myself that swimming 2.4 miles is easier than swimming a 5k.

What Are You Most Looking Forward to Related to This Race?

So much. I’m excited to be an athlete who is capable of completing an Ironman race. Every time I can go faster, go farther, or see more muscle developing, it’s exciting.

What’s especially exciting about this race is the fact that I’ll be doing it with my coach and almost all of his other triathletes. There’s a strong sense of family and camaraderie in this group.

What Are You Least Looking Forward To?

My race is in August in Canada, but most of my training will be in Arizona. My longest workouts will be in June and July, when the low for the day can be in the high 80s. We’ll have to be careful to make sure I don’t overheat. On my long workout days, I may have to start at 2am or 3am to beat the heat.

Are You Practicing Peeing on the Bike or While Running?

To date, I haven’t needed to use the bathroom during a race. I’ve heard this is a thing. I even heard from another triathlete who was peed on by another racer while they were both on bikes. That must have happened while one was passing the other, because Ironman has strict rules about maintaining a minimum distance from other cyclists unless you’re passing.

Are You Going to Get the Tattoo?

Oh yes! I’m looking forward to getting the classic “M-Dot” tattoo.

Undeniable Recap of 2020

Oh my goodness – I’ve been living in a pandemic-based society for over eight months. All of my in-person conferences were converted to virtual ones this year, and my Ironman race was deferred until 2021. For the bulk of the year, I worked and trained. I only left the Phoenix metro area once since we all started needing masks to leave the house.

Even with the monotony, there were still some important events that happened this year:

Helping Rosie Over the Rainbow Bridge

I’d had a suspicion for months that Rosie wasn’t going to make it to end of 2020, and as her arthritis and doggy dementia added more and more challenges to her life, I helped her over the Rainbow Bridge on August 7, 2020. My eyes still well with tears when I think about losing her, but I know I made the right decision and gave her a good death.

Photo by Lauren Ellis Photography

Officiating Sarah and Thomas’ Wedding

My friends and neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, got engaged last year. I thought they were going to ask me to watch their dog while they were getting married, but to my surprise, they asked me to be their officiant. I had a blast spending time with each of them individually, asking about how they met, their relationship, and their hopes for the future. From their stories, I found themes, looked up quotes about marriage, and wove them into a short ceremony that was customized to them.

I also felt like a bit of a MacGyver that day because at the beginning of the ceremony, I had the bride and groom’s rings on my fingers (because they didn’t have a wedding party), and the bride’s handkerchief tucked into the back of my belt to hand over when she started crying since neither of us had pockets.

Singing at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

I love spending time at Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary. In the winter, I was out there to help with Gracie the baby lamb with the crooked neck. At one point, I was snuggling her on my lap, and I started to sing. Aimee was awestruck and said I have the voice of an angel. Since then, she invites me out to sing whenever an animal needs extra love and attention – like Peanut the pony when he was new to the farm and scared, Duke the cow who was born without elbows, and Wooliam the sheep after he had surgery (neutered). I love when I start to sing to one animal and other animals wander over to listen too. Aimee even had me out on the Fourth of July to help keep the animals calm while the fireworks were going off.

Photo by Aimee Takaha

Releasing the Lights Camera Lawsuit Online Course

It’s been about three years in the making, but I finally finished and released my first online course, Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography. I wanted to create a course that gave the photographers the information about copyright and contracts at an affordable price, so could avoid making the painful and avoidable mistakes that I see photographers making all the time.

This course has been a journey, and probably the start of more courses to come. I had to form a separate business, create the website, hire people to create the logos and slide templates, create the lesson outlines, record and upload each lesson, and promote the course. It felt so good to bring this to market. 

Every Time Miss K Says “Oggy Ruth”

I have a nibling who lives across the country. She’s two and has brilliant blue Disney eyes. She’s so expressive. Now, I’m not a fan of children as a species, but I adore this little creature. If her parents don’t post pictures of her often enough, I’ll send them a text that says, “Send proof of child.” Since there isn’t a gender-neutral term for aunt/uncle, I picked “oggy” as my title (rhymes with “doggy”), and everyone in this kid’s life is completely on board with it. My heart melts every time I hear her say, “Oggy Ruth.”  

There were a few things that didn’t make my top five for 2020 – including going to my friend Cora’s wedding and participating in multiple Love and Compliments rallies. The thing that made these and the other top events from the year so important was that I got to spend time with my friends, even when we had to stay at least six feet apart at all times. Being away from loved ones has been one of, if not the biggest challenge of the COVID pandemic.

Photo by Liesl Pimentel

I didn’t have many firsts or any celebrity sightings in 2020, so they’re not in this Undeniable Recap. Hopefully, they’ll be back next year.

In Memoriam

Humans: Mary Griffith, Maggie Griffin, Katherine Johnson, Grant Imahara, Justin Lutch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sean Connery, Alex Trebek

Other Creatures: Ziggy Moriarty the Boston Terrier, Moonflower Takaha the Cow, George the Corgi

Giving my Dog the Good Death

I knew Rosie wouldn’t make it to the end of the summer this year. Probably starting in June, I could see that her arthritis and canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) aka doggy dementia were slowing her down. She didn’t want to walk as much, and she didn’t want to go to the office with me. She slept so much that many times I watched her to see if she was still breathing. Each time I went to the grocery store to get her more chicken, I wondered if this was going to be the last time I’d cooked chicken for her.

I told her that if she was done, it was ok to let go. There were many nights I’d look at her laying on her bed and pray, “God, please take her in her sleep.”

Making the Decision

Dogs communicate in their own ways, but the message isn’t always crystal clear. When she started stumbling when she walked, I seriously started questioning her quality of life. About a week before she died, I invited Rosie’s godfather over to see her, knowing it was probably the last chance he’d see her alive. A dog owner himself, I knew he’d give me an honest opinion about how she was doing.

In her youth, Rosie used to bolt around the house and bark like crazy when he’d visit. This visit, she wagged her tail weakly with recognition, but it was obvious her energy wasn’t there. When I asked him what he though, he said, “She’s struggling.”

Looking for confirmation that I was making the right decision, I search online for quality of life assessments. One of my challenges was she was still eating all her meals and finishing mine too. I also called our vet to have the quality of life discussion. As painful as it was, I knew it was time. On Wednesday night, I exchanged texts with a mobile vet and made the appointment for Friday morning at 10 a.m. to send her over the Rainbow Bridge.

Good-Byes with Dog and Human Friends

Rosie and I were lucky to have an amazing group of dog and human friends. I messaged some of them to let them know that Rosie would be passing on Friday and invited them to visit one last time. On Thursday night, Rosie’s Aunt Des and Uncle Mike came over with their dog Phoenix as did Aunt Sarah and Uncle Thomas with their dog Brodie. We let the dogs roam on the grass, Rosie mostly doing her own thing, sniffing around.

When Rosie was done being outside, we went back in the house. The humans sat in the living room while Rosie opted to lay by herself in the hallway. I gave Des a lot of Rosie’s treats for Phoenix since we wouldn’t need them anymore. (They were too big for Brodie’s little mouth.) I don’t remember what anybody said, but it was so glad that everyone got to love on Rosie one more time.

Dying at Home

Friday morning was surreal. I didn’t know what to do while I waited for our appointment time with the mobile vet. I sat on the floor next to her in the hallway, petting her while watching YouTube on my phone. I sang her “You Are My Sunshine” which was the first song I sang to her during our meet-and-greet before her adoption – well, I managed to say the words on the song with tears in my eyes. I told her I loved her.

There was a knock at the door at 10 a.m. Tears were streaming down my face as I turned the doorknob to see Dr. Katherine Campabadal. I invited her in and coaxed Rosie into her bed. She talked me through everything she was doing. She had me give Rosie treats as she injected her with the medicine that would make her fall asleep. Dr. Campabadal said it would take 10-15 minutes for the medication to take effect and warned me that it would make Rosie’s tongue stick out.

She stepped out while the medicine kicked in. I scratched Rosie’s head as I sat on the floor next to her and watched as she fell asleep, her pink tongue poking out of her month. I checked my watch. It had only been 4 minutes.  When Dr. Campabadal came back in and asked how long it took for Rosie to fall asleep, she said the fact that Rosie went out so fast was a sign that her internal organs weren’t very strong. That validated that I was doing the right thing. She also said something like it was sad that our dogs went before us, I responded that it meant we could love more of them.

The final shot had to be administered directly into a vein. As Dr. Campabadal injected Rosie, I had the panicked thought, “What have I done?” even though I knew I was doing the right thing. I reached up to her chest, but it had stopped moving. My Rosie was gone.

Time with Rosie

Usually the mobile vet takes the pet after they’ve passed at home, but I opted to keep Rosie’s body home for a few hours. I’m a fan of mortician Caitlin Doughty, who encourages people to spend time with their loved one’s dead body. One thing I learned from her was when someone passes away, it’s not an emergency. You can take the time you need. I found her video about how she gave her cat “the good death” particularly helpful as Rosie was getting older.

Dr. Campabadal slid a puppy pad under Rosie’s butt and showed herself out. I continued to scratch Rosie’s head as I cried. I hoped she knew I gave her the best life I could. I laid down next to her on the floor, petting her soft fur, watching her pink tongue turn a lavender gray. I sat and laid with her for about 90 minutes, and during that time, there was a shift where my brain understood that she was really gone. I think something about having this extra time with her made my grieving process easier.

Last Car Ride

Since I didn’t let the mobile vet take Rosie, I was responsible for getting her to the pet crematory. I’d picked out who our provider was going to be and given them a call the day before, so they knew we were coming.

In life, I made sure I was always strong enough to lift Rosie, but I knew I needed help getting her to the car. I called my neighbor Sarah (Rosie’s Aunt Sarah) to help. I learned the meaning of “dead weight” that day. It’s a completely different experience to lift your dog when she can’t hold herself up. Sarah helped me load Rosie against my shoulder and handled the opening and locking of doors between my bedroom and the car.

As I carried Rosie to the car with her paws flopping against my back with each step, I thought, “I hope none of my neighbors see me carrying my dead dog.” Thankfully, no one popped their head out at that moment. Sarah opened my back seat and help me gently lay Rosie across it. She was on her back with all her paws in the air.

Final Disposition

As I pulled into the pet crematory, I noticed there was a children’s playground directly across the street. Oh, the juxtaposition. The crematory operator was expecting me and rolled a cart to the car so we could easily transport Rosie inside.

I opted for what I call the “buddy cremation” where they put two animals in the machine at the same time. The fire is the same size every time they run the machine and doing two together is more energy efficient. Plus, as the operator said, it’s like they have a buddy in there. Each body is kept separate, so each family gets their own pet back.

The operator showed me what size Rosie’s urn would be. It seemed so small, but if humans are 60% water, then dogs probably are too.

I asked the operator when they’d cremate Rosie, and she said, “Probably today.” I thought, “So soon?!” but then my rational mind kicked in. This is what they do. There’s no reason to keep her in a refrigerator.

I got the call two days later that Rosie was ready to be picked up. The back of her urn has a sticker that says, “Rose Louise ‘Rosie’ belonging to the Carter family, Cremated on 08/07/2020.” For now, she sits on my dresser, but the plan is to sprinkle her at the beach when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

RIP Rose Louise Carter

October 21, 2007 – August 7, 2020

My sweet Rosie went over the Rainbow Bridge on August 7, 2020. This sweet basset hound came into my life in the spring of 2012 courtesy of the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue. When I first laid eyes on her and trotted up my front walkway, I knew she was my dog.

Rosie was such a smart dog. In Carter Law Firm’s infancy, I worked out of the house and had a mailbox at the UPS Store. When Rosie and I would pick up my mail, she’d walk around the counter and sit for a dog treat. Then she’d help herself to another one from the box. There was one time when Mom was visiting, and she made a cheesecake which she left on the dining room table. A little while later, we noticed a bite taken out of the cake and Rosie was quietly laying on her bed smacking her lips. Even at nearly five-feet long and 60 pounds, Rosie could be stealthy when she wanted.

Basset hounds are notorious for being stubborn, and Rosie was no exception. She regularly went “flat basset” while we were crossing the street. When she was on a scent, nothing could pull her off it. On more than one occasion, she got soaked at the park because she followed a scent right into the sprinklers. Speaking of the park, it was so much fun to watch her run with a group of dogs – well, the other dogs would be running as a group, and she’d be chasing after them, fast as her little lets could carry her.

Everyone loved Rosie. She had the best set of human friends and dog friends, and we had puppy playdates nearly every day. I loved when her godfather would come over because of how much she would bark with joy.

Rosie went nearly everywhere with me. I even registered her as an emotional support animal. Whenever we’d go out for a meal, I’d always order something for her along with a meal for myself. When the partners at my current firm announced that they wanted me to join, I responded, “Great. I come with a dog.” We had to have a third interview where I brought her in so they could see she was going to be a non-issue, particularly with a baby gate across my door. Technically, she was only supposed to come in once a week, but no one batted an eye when I brought her in more often.

There were a handful of times I had to go out of town without her, and I had to leave her at the kennel, aka “Camp.” While she was there, I ordered extra bedding and playtime for her. I’d call and check on her each day, even though the report was always, “She’s fine. Everyone adores her. She sleeps a lot.” The best part of taking her to Camp was when I got to pick her up again. She barked like crazy coming through the lobby door, said a quick hello to me, before pulling me towards the exit.

In 2015, Rosie lost her eye to glaucoma, and the vet said it would only be a matter of time before she lost her other eye. Our schedule became regulated by her medication as she was put on a regimen of eye drops to try to sustain her sight as long as possible. Knowing that there was limited time, I wanted Rosie to see as much as she could for as long as she could. We took a long weekend trip to Long Beach, CA so she could experience the beach and the ocean at Rosie’s Dog Beach, an off-leash dog beach named after an English Bulldog. Not a fan of the water, she loved plodding along on the sand, and several times she plopped herself down on someone else’s blanket and looked up at them as if you say, “You shall pet me now.”

As the years progressed, Rosie began to slow down. She wasn’t interested in walking as far as arthritis began affecting her hips and knees. Sometimes she just wanted to walk two feet out the front door and lay down on the cool cement. She began sleeping more. Then, in 2018, Rosie lost her second eye to glaucoma. Her world went dark and I became her seeing eye human. Even though she couldn’t see, she would still wag her tail in happiness when she smelled a familiar person or pup.

As she continued to age, Rosie developed canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) aka doggy dementia. Sometimes she would pace or pant as if she were lost in her own home, and she developed sundowners where she’d flip night and day. She had CBD to manage her anxiety during the day, and our vet prescribed trazadone to help her sleep through the night, which was a godsend. Rosie spent most of her days laying next to me as I worked at my desk and laying next to the front door when I went out.

During the last few weeks of Rosie’s life, I knew her time was short. I arranged for Rosie to be Miss January in the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue’s 2021 calendar, even though I knew she wouldn’t live long enough to see the new year. The photographer was so sweet, following Rosie around, getting shots when she could because older blind dogs do not pose for pictures. Then she invited me to jump in for a few shots. I’m so glad she got a few final shots of me smiling with my baby girl.

Rosie died at home on Friday, August 7, 2020 with the help of a mobile vet. It was one the hardest decisions I ever had to make. I stayed at her side until she took her last breath, hoping she knew, for every moment she was my dog, that she was loved.  

Surviving Social Distancing with Depression

It’s not a secret that I live with depression. As an introvert, social distancing is great – to a degree. However, being alone most of the time means I’m left alone with the thoughts in my head all day. (I’ve been warned that my mind is a dangerous neighborhood, and I shouldn’t venture there alone.)

In order to deal with the social distancing aspect of COVID-19, I’ve created some rules to help me manage my depression:

1. Shower every day.

2. Brush your teeth twice a day.

3. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. Every day. No matter what. This rule has served me well for 40-something years. I’m not going to fuck up my skin now.

4. Put on fresh clothes each day. PJ pants or athletic shorts are fine.

PJ Pants!

5. Put on jeans to walk the dog. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with going out in PJ pants. My PJ pants are men’s medium and drag about 4 inches on the floor. I am not going to destroy them by dragging them around on the sidewalk.

6. Eat a mostly balanced diet, well more balanced than not.

7. Open the blinds every day. There is a sun out there.

8. Do whatever workout Coach David assigns. (I’m training to do my first Ironman in August, and anticipate it will go on as scheduled.) It doesn’t matter if I don’t like it. As Rocky Kees used to say, “I didn’t ask you to like it. I told you to do it.”

9. Try to talk with a real person each day – by phone or from at least 6 feet away.

10. No more than 2 Zoom-based events per day. I have enough challenges with the voices that reside in my head. Pumping in too many extra ones will make me bat shit crazy.

11. When in doubt, wash your dishes. Doing a simple task can make me feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

12. It’s ok to do the bare minimum. Every morning, I create a to-do list on my white board. If I only have energy to do the bare minimum, and I need to spend the afternoon taking a nap, that’s ok.

These are the rules that are helping me survive mostly sheltering in place. Hopefully they’re helpful to you too.

Legal services are considered essential, but I’m limiting my contact with the outside world, trying to do my part to flatten the curve.