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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

Christmas Part 1: Patrick’s Concert

I had so much fun being in Rev. Patrick’s Christmas Concert at the Community Church of Hope last week. At the end of the show, I got one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my singing career: “You looked so happy up there.”

Even though I don’t really celebrate Christmas, I love Christmas music. I can listen to it all year. The only person who loves it more than me is Patrick. When he asked me to be in his concert, I immediately said, “I’m in!”

Then I asked, “What am I singing?”

I’m a classically trained soprano so I figured he might want a classic Christmas ballad. He asked me to sing “Night Before Christmas” but then he also said he wanted me to sing “Welcome Christmas” from The Grinch and a new song – “Santa’s Solar Sleigh.”

Only Patrick can get away with asking me to sing such a ridiculous song. I practiced it so much I couldn’t walk my dog without running lyrics in my head.

Then Patrick said he wanted me to be dressed as Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch for the first half. I responded with “Do I get a petticoat with that?”

Singing in Patrick’s Concert 2016

Yes. Yes I did – a pink one.
(For the second half, I got to be a human and wear a simple sapphire blue velvet shift.)

The concert was so much fun. Unlike other shows I’ve done for Patrick, he had the vocalists on the stage the whole time. His piano was at center stage and the other vocalist, Joey, and I were off to the side on stools. I felt like we were the two old guys from The Muppets (without the jokes, just the occasional sideways glance at each other). When we weren’t singing, we had the best view in the house. From my vantage point, I could see Patrick’s eyes over his music, his foot on the pedal, and I could see inside the piano which is basically a reflection of his fingers. I was mesmerized when George played Ave Maria on his violin – his fingers and bow weaving a tapestry of sound. And it was all Christmas music so I knew every word, every note. I did everything but mouth the words – it was a fully body experience.

And then there was the sing-along. Patrick never rehearses this part with us in advance. They’re songs we all know so he plays and we sing with audience. I threw in the harmony whenever I felt like it. After the concert, a friend said even when everyone was singing, she could hear my voice over the crowd. (I’m not sure she knew that Joey and my microphones were on for the sing-along.)

I had as much fun experiencing others performing as I did singing in this show, and I can’t help but sway when I’m wearing a fluffy petticoat. I’m glad Patrick’s already put me on notice that he wants me in next year’s show.

My other favorite holiday tradition – Christmas Part 2: Phoestivus!

Does Biotin Work? | 6 Weeks Later

Me and my Hair - October 1, 2016

Me and my Hair – October 1, 2016

A neighbor suggested I try biotin to get my hair to grow back in faster. I shaved my head (number zero clipper) over Memorial Day weekend and while the rest of my hair is growing back fine, my bangs are taking forever. It took them nearly three months to grown an inch!

My hair is weird.

Yesterday, grabbed my tape measure to check on my progress. In the 6 weeks I’ve been taking this bioin, my bangs have grown just under half an inch. So far, it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

For comparison, my neighbor claimed her hair grew three inches in a month when she tried it. I think she may have been exaggerating.

While I don’t think it’s making a difference, I’ll finish the bottle (120 pills – 1 pill per day). Perhaps the effect takes 2-3 months to kick in. If it’s snake oil, meh, no big deal. It’s a $10 experiment.

I Want my Hair Back | Experiment with Biotin

Photo by Devon C Adams Photography

Photo by Devon C Adams Photography

I shaved my head over Memorial Day Weekend – number zero clipper. I’m going back to my natural hair color after dying it for 10+ years and I didn’t want to deal with the grow out. And I thought it would be awesome – every woman I know or know of that has shaved their head had no regrets.  I didn’t need hair products for at least six weeks except for spray sunblock. It was refreshingly cool in the Phoenix heat.

I felt powerful, strong, and beautiful with my buzzed head, and I liked having a fuzzy head while it lasted. I pet my head daily for the first month.

And then the awkward grow out period began.

biotinGrowing my hair out from no hair to short hair may be as annoying as growing my hair out from short hair to long hair. I measured my bangs today; in the nearly three months since I shaved my head, at most they’ve grown an inch! The side and the back feel longer so I’m afraid I’m inadvertently growing a mullet. I’m not sure what I want my style to be for now so I don’t want to cut it yet. I just want it to grow out faster so I have something to work with.

Let’s do some science!

A neighbor claimed her hair grew faster when she took biotin. Being a man of science, I’m willing to do a $10 experiment. I picked up a bottle of biotin – 120 pills with 10,000mcg of biotin in each one. The directions say take one pill per day.  We’ll see if there is a positive correlation between biotin and hair growth. It would be great to have a proper hairstyle by the end of the year.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.

Adventures in Adulting – Arizona Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did people live in Arizona before air conditioning?

Love this Dog

Love this Dog

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

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

90 Days of Hustle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Nobody

Rosie approves of this fire.

Rosie approves of this fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sober Morning Rave

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

Laser Lights and Balloons

Laser Lights and Balloons

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

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

Groovin'

Groovin’

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

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

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

My Friends Are Awesome

My Friends Are Awesome

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

Photo credits: Liesl Pimentel

Going Dairy-Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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