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Rosie the basset hound

Recycling Plastic Prescription Bottles

We are just over halfway through Plastic-Free July! So far so good. I think the only thing I’ve bought that may have come in or with single-use plastic are two items I ordered online.

One area of my life where I can’t avoid single-use plastics are my prescriptions. I take four prescription medications every day. (Yay drugs!) I have to get refills on two of them every month, and for the other two, I can get a 90-day supply from the pharmacy.

These are my Prescriptions.

As part of my efforts to move towards a zero-waste lifestyle, I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my life, but the pharmacy won’t let you bring your own containers. I am in the process of switching my vitamins from plastic containers to glass (preferably with a metal lid) as I run out of each one and buy a replacement.

I decided to look for ways to keep my plastic bottles out of landfill and continue to be used as a bottle.

The Pharmacy Won’t Take Prescription Bottles Back

All my medications are tablets, clean simple tablets. You’d think it would be easy to bring my empty bottle back to the pharmacy so they can remove the label, clean it, and reuse it, right?

Wrong.

I called my pharmacy’s customer service line, and they said they don’t allow customers to return their bottles. But the rep said they have an agreement with the recycling services in some cities to get their bottles back after people recycle them.

A spark of hope! Did they have an agreement with my city?

No.

<Sigh> Back to the drawing board.

I Found a Charity that Recycles Prescriptions Bottles

After digging around on the internet for organizations that take empty prescription bottles, I found Matthew 25: Ministries. It appears to be a reputable charity.

Matthew 25: Ministries accepts prescription and over-the-counter pill bottles, and uses them to help distribute medical aid in developing countries. Many times, when medication is delivered as part of humanitarian aid to developing countries, it comes in a big package, and they don’t have containers in which to distribute the medication. Instead, people are given their pills wrapped in paper, which provides little to no protection from moisture or other elements, and sometimes they’re just put in the recipient’s hand. Our donated pills bottles can have a second life and help someone get the medication they need.

Donate your empty pill bottles Matthew 25: Ministries by sending them to 11060 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, OH  45242. Be sure to check out their detailed instructions in advance. If you don’t follow them, your bottles will be shredded and recycled.

In preparation of sending my first donation to Matthew 25: Ministries, I keep a cardboard box from a previous Amazon delivery on a kitchen chair, where I toss my empty bottles as they are emptied. It looks like it’s full enough to ship now.

Bottles to be Cleaned and Shipped.

I’m pleased I found a charity that takes my prescription bottles and my other bottles for pills that I can only find in plastic, like ibuprofen, antacids, and Rosie’s supplement.

Rosie, my basset hound, is also on medication. (She’s old.) I called our vet, and they said they’d be happy to take back her empty prescription bottles. It feels good to find a way to use these unavoidable plastics to help others and the planet.  

Blind Dog Living: 90 Days In

When Rosie lost her right eye to glaucoma and became a pirate pup in 2015, our doctor said it would only be a matter of time until the illness took her other eye. They said most glaucoma dogs lose their second eye within a year of the first one.

Rosie made it 3 years and 9 months.

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Day 1: Sudden Blindness

Monday, November 19, 2018 (the Monday before Thanksgiving): Rosie woke up blind. When we went for our morning walk, she stumbled when the surface of the ground changed from sidewalk, to gravel, to grass. That’s what tipped me off that she wasn’t just tired. Not that she could see much before then – between the glaucoma and her eye drops, Rosie’s view of the world was like looking through a straw after her first eye surgery.

I called our puppy ophthalmologist’s emergency number (it was before 6 a.m.). The doctor gave the go-ahead to give Rosie’s emergency meds and told me to make an appointment with our regular vet. I mixed glycerin with milk and slowly poured down Rosie’s throat with a big syringe. This dehydrated her and hopefully brought down the pressure in her eye.

How About Today?

I got an appointment with our vet just before noon where they confirmed what I already suspected: Rosie was blind. Her glaucoma had spread and the pressure in her right eye was too high. It needed to be removed.

I asked our vet if they had availability on the schedule to do Rosie’s surgery the next day. She went to the back to check the surgeon’s schedule. When the vet returned, she said, “How about today?”

At 12:30 that afternoon, I left Rosie in the trusted care of our vet where the same surgeon who did her first enucleation would be performing her second one. The hardest part was not being able to explain to Rosie what was about to happen. I couldn’t tell her, “These nice people are going to put you to sleep, and when you wake up, your head isn’t going to hurt anymore, but you’ll never see again.”

Support from the Blind Basset Community

One of the first people I reached out to after leaving Rosie was Daisy the Blind Snowflake – an all-white blind basset I knew from Instagram. Her mom told me that adapting to blindness is harder on the human than the dog and gave me some tips. That was reassuring.

Sarah and Thomas to the Rescue

I picked up Rosie from the vet at 8 that night. The vet tech was very sweet. She told me while Rosie was in recovery, it was just her and another dog in that area, neither one in a kennel or cages. At one point, Rosie randomly walked over to the other dog and gently bumped her head into them.

I snapped Rosie’s protective cone from her first surgery around her head, loaded her into the car, and drove her home. Newly blind and still groggy from surgery, she didn’t want to move much. When I unloaded her from the car, she refused to walk, even with a gentle tug on the leash.

I had a moment of mild panic. What was I going to do? I can lift my 68-pound dog, but I can’t carry her the 100ish feet from my parking spot to our condo. I immediately called my neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, who bolted over to help. Thomas scooped up my potato sack of a dog and carried her all the way to her bed.

It turned out, Rosie was freaked out by the cone. As soon as I unsnapped it, she was fine. I made her a deal that she could have breaks from it while I home, nearby, and awake, if she didn’t scratch at her stitches.

Day 2: Surreal

The day after surgery was surreal for me as I looked at my beautiful dog with her swollen purple eye and thought, “My dog is really blind. This isn’t going to change.”

She can’t see shapes. She can’t even see light. She literally has no eyeballs. Her world is dark.

There were some sad moments for me that day, but I found comfort in reminding myself that adapting is harder for me than Rosie. As I was experiencing these thoughts, she was comfortably relaxing on the lawn.

Day 5: You’re Killing Mommy

I often participate in Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday, but I had to make an exception. I was working in my home office, and Rosie was crashing around the living room in her cone.

Bang bang bang bang bang!

I try to be patient with Rosie, especially in times like this where she can’t help it, but the noise was making me insane. I think at one point I actually said, “Rosie, you’re killing Mommy.”

A quick run to Ryan’s Pet Supplies saved my sanity. I got Rosie a soft inflatable doughnut to replace her plastic cone. I think we were both happier for it.

Imperfect Navigation

Basset hounds are scent hounds. I figured navigating as a blind dog would be easy for Rosie. I was surprised to see her that she couldn’t beeline toward a scent.

For example, Rosie’s bowls are in the kitchen. You have to go around the counter to get to them. When she walks to meals, I have to watch to make sure she doesn’t walk into a chair that’s under the dining table. There’s plenty of navigation space. Sometimes she sniffs at her water bowl before realizing that her food bowl is next to it. Even though she has a top-notch sniffer, she’s still navigating in the dark.

Going for walks is a daily adventure for us. We switched to walking with her car harness after her second surgery – a suggestion from the vet tech. At first, it was like walking a marionette. I always have to be on the lookout to make sure she doesn’t inadvertently walk off a curb. When I let Rosie lead, she frequently walks in ovals in the parking lot. I’m not sure why she does that.

I learned that other owners taught their glaucoma dogs verbal commands for “right,” “left,” “slow down,” and “hard stop” while they still had some vision. Yeah . . . Rosie and I didn’t do that. She spent the last 4 years mostly being self-directed on our walks and often walked off-leash. Going back to wearing a leash has been quite the adjustment for her.

One thing I do during our walks is I let her bump into things. Not hard. When we’re approaching a car or a wall, if she wants to keep walking toward the solid object, I’ll slow her down and let her gently bump it. I figure she’s not going to learn how close things are without experiencing it.

Rules for Blind Dog Living

Here are some of the rules I’ve learned for living with a blind dog:

  1. Don’t move the furniture. (I’m not one of them, but apparently there are people who recreationally rearrange their furniture.)
  2. No clutter on the floor. Don’t leave things like shoes out where your dog can trip on them.
  3. Open doors slowly. You never know where your blind dog is on the other side. Your dog cannot tell how fast the door is moving and get out of the way.
  4. You can help your dog navigate by tapping on the floor or wall near where you want them to go.
  5. Protect your blind dog from approaching dogs. During our first week of blind living, a rambunctious dog came up too fast on Rosie. (He just wanted to play.) That was the moment I learned to step in front of Rosie to physically block her from fast approaching dogs. 
  6. Use a harness to walk your blind dog. You don’t want to pull at their neck.
  7. Use a “blind dog” leash.* Rosie has the leash and collar.* This way, anyone approaching us will see that she’s blind and be more thoughtful.
  8. Use scent-based play. We like to play hide-the-treat where I’ll hide pieces of dog treats in shoes, in her bed, behind doors, etc., where she has to sniff them out. Rosie also loves pushing around her Kong treat ball.*
  9. Give all other treats directly to the dog’s mouth. For dental sticks,* bully slices,* and Milkbones,* I hold one side of the treat near her face, and let her grab it with her mouth.

Day 90: Getting the Hang of It

I’m still getting used to having a blind dog. I’ve seen a big improvement in how well she navigates our condo and our complex. She’s gained a lot more confidence in the last few weeks.

She often sticks close to walls and furniture both when walking and laying down. Whenever she lays down at home or in the office, her butt or side is usually touching something. I think this gives her a sense of security about where she is. Whenever I’m looking for her, I scan the edges of the room.

One of the things that gives me the warm fuzzies is seeing her recognize familiar people and dogs. Her tail wags like crazy when she realizes she’s found a friend, sometimes followed by happy whines.

Over the last 90 days, Rosie and my lives have changed a lot. She doesn’t need eye drops anymore. We walk slower. I have to get out of her way, because she’s not getting out of mine. I try to be careful about scary noises like the food processor and vacuum.

On the flip side, a lot of things have stayed the same. Rosie is still my baby. She’s still as stubborn as ever, and probably now even more spoiled (as she should be).  

Undeniable Recap of 2018

It’s been a busy year, and I’ve barely blogged a thing. Sorry about that. I’ll do better in 2019.

I’m glad I keep my jar of happy memories next to my bed to remind me of all the good things that happened this year. Sometimes with everything that was happening in the world, it was challenging to remember that everything doesn’t suck all the time. So many good things happened that I had to do more than a top five list:

Top 5 Events

1. Non-Binary Birth Certificate: I am officially legally non-binary! I had my California birth certificate corrected and re-issued, so now it states that I’m non-binary. For now, I can’t get a non-binary driver’s license in Arizona, but I’m working on it. I hope to influence the State to pass a bill that will allow non-binary birth certificates and driver’s licenses next session. Having a non-binary birth certificate also makes me want to go to states that have passed “bathroom bills” and ask where my restroom is.

2. First Marathon and Triathlon: I finished a marathon this past January. By Mile 20, I was hurting but also planning for my next race (which will be in February 2019). During the off season, I had Coach David add biking and swimming to my workouts for cross training. A few months later I signed up for my first sprint triathlon – just to see if I liked it. Less than 100 yards into the swim I thought, “Yeah, I like this.”

3. Christopher Creek Lodge Vacation: I shipped Rosie and myself away from society for a few days to stay at a cabin with bad wi-fi. We spent a lot of time reading, watching nature, rejuvenating, and getting my creative energy flowing again. It was what I needed.

4. Open Water Swim with the Jewish Swim Club: When I started swimming this year, Coach David asked, “What’s the goal?” I responded that I wanted to hold my own “with the Jews.” (Note: When I started my swim workouts in April, the furthest I could swim the first day was 75 yards.) During the summer, David and his friends swim in the ocean off Brighton Beach, sometimes a mile or more.

By the end of June David asked when I was coming to visit. I did a whirlwind trip, flying across the country on Thursday, to go swimming at 7am on Friday, and be back home in less than 24 hours. It was an awesome trip, including the swim. This was my first real open water swim, and I had a bit of a panic attack at the start. Once I realized I would never find my cadence in the waves, I was fine.

5. I Became an Oggy:  A few months ago, my sister had a baby. (I can’t wait to meet the little human.) If they don’t post photos of the little one for seven days, I send my sister and brother-in-law an email that says, “Send proof of infant.”

I had to figure out what I am to my nibling (collective term for niece/nephew). There is no gender-neutral term for aunt/uncle. I adopted a term from another non-binary person: “Oggy” (rhymes with “doggy”). I like being “Oggy Ruth.”

Honorable Mentions

Seeing Dan Savage Live: If you ever get the chance to see him speak, go.

Blind Rosie: Rosie went blind a few weeks ago, and we had to remove her other eye. She was in surgery a few hours after waking up blind that day. When I brought her home, she was bit freaked out by the protective cone she had to wear, and she refused to walk. My neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, came to my rescue and helped carry Rosie into the house when we got home. Since then, we’ve both adjusted to blind basset life. She’s such a trooper.

Rescue Dogs at CMWorld: Last year at Content Marketing World, I asked for rescue dogs in the expo hall. (Everyone loves dogs, right?) This year, they made it happen! One of the happy hours was “Yappy Hour” where, for a donation, we got to pet adoptable dogs from City Dogs Cleveland. I hope it becomes a standard part of the event.

Skateboarding: Last year, the crew at Content Marketing World bought me a penny skateboard. This year, I learned how to ride it – with lessons, pads, and the whole she-bang. I also bought a proper board. I love riding my board. When I’m skateboarding, I literally can’t think about anything else, otherwise the risk of falling is too great. I’ll tell you the whole story next year.

Firsts in 2018

Fostered a dog for a week – and learned that Rosie’s meant to be an only child.

Peleton class – at the flagship studio

Ebay listing – sold my BarBri books

Rubber bands on my Invisalign trays

SlotZilla Zip Line

Settlement conference

Deposition

Garmin watch

Amazon affiliate link

Seeing Chicago’s Second City perform

Visit to Bart Simpson Bust

Being told I look like a young Richard Gere by the clerk at JJ Hat Center

Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Erie, and Tempe Town Lake (Yes, I was up-to-date on my tetanus shot. No, I didn’t get super powers.)

Events: Intelligent Content Conference, American Alliance of Museums conference

Attempts to be a Better Human (affiliate link): Reusable produce bags and jars, Bringing my own container to the store for Rosie’s chicken, Zero waste deodorant, Bamboo toothbrush, Menstrual cup

Foods: Making beans from dried, vegan pancakes, Daiya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac (not bad), Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie – Chocolate Chip (not worth it), overnight oats, Just Desserts vegan chocolate midnight cupcake (delicious but soooo sweet), chia seed pudding (meh), Café Indigo vegan carrot cake (yum)

Celebrity Sightings

Margaret Cho

Elizabeth Smart

Dan Savage

Tina Fey

In Memoriam

Stephen Hawking

Harry Anderson

Larry Dolan

Kate Spade

Anthony Bourdain

Aretha Franklin

Elena Shushunova

John McCain

Mary Sigler

Burt Reynolds

Jay Bottomlee

Stan Lee

Penny Marshall

Thoughts about the Fire . . .

Recently, area around my hometown was hit hard by wildfires – the worst reported in California history. Over 5,700 structures burned and at least 40 people lost their lives. People on site said it was like a bomb went off.

For about 5 days, I watched the updates from inside the fire zone – both the official reports and the personal stories of the people who lost everything and those did what they could to help their neighbors. (Special hat tip to the Wilking Way crew who stayed behind after the evacuation order to protect their neighborhood with your own water truck. You are an inspiration.)

I love this photo of Jeff and me. Photo by Brandon Larkin. (Creative Commons License)

I wondered what I would grab if I were ordered to evacuate, knowing that anything I left behind could be destroyed. As I looked around my little condo, I knew I would grab my laptop, my passport, my dog, our medications, and not much more.

I don’t feel emotionally attached to my possessions. They’re just things. Many of them make life more comfortable, but it’s nothing that can’t be replaced.

I am not my stuff.

Memories don’t live in sentimental items.

People and actions matter more than things.

 

Bar Prep Is Officially Stressful

Studying for the bar exam is challenging. Balancing work and studying is brutal.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

Ruth is Stressed
This is what I posted on Facebook at 8am yesterday morning:

Dear God:

They say you don’t give us more than we can handle. Thank you for your faith in me to handle:
1. A high-stress job,
2. The California Bar Exam,
3. A car accident,
4. Questioning everything about my gender, and
5. A maternal figure [childhood gymnastics coach] with terminal cancer.

My hair was already turning gray without your help. Now, there are times I want to tear it out. [And I’ve shaved my head before.]

If you do anything to Rosie in the next year, I will fucking kill you.

Me

Photo by Roger Griggs

Needless to say, it’s pretty stressful in the Land of Ruth, and that was before the opposition filed an unexpected memo in one of my litigation cases. So, I spent the day writing our objection to that instead of working on the client work I currently have on my plate: drafting a motion for summary judgment, reviewing a client’s contract, drafting a custom contract for a professional creative, and submitting a demand for arbitration.

My day was hijacked. I planned to leave the office by 1pm to keep up on studying, but I didn’t settle in to watch the lecture on civil procedure until 4:45pm. This week will be the first time I’m officially behind on the Barbri schedule. I had to submit an answer for a performance test question (like writing a legal memo) for grading and I took way more than the recommended 90 minutes to do it. I hope I can catch up this weekend.

I got an extra fan for my office to keep me cool while studying. Rosie approves.

One of the challenges of bar prep is there are no days off. I can’t “push through” and do a late night tonight because I’ll set myself up to be too tired to work and study effectively tomorrow. There are no days off, so it’s best to be mindful of diet, exercise, sleep, and avoiding distractions each day.

Speaking of exercise, I miss it. For me, not exercising is not an option, except for times like now when I’m recovering from a car accident that messed up my neck and back. Running gives me the outlet I need to keep my stress in check. During my last bar prep, I ran, rode my bike, or did yoga every day. Thankfully, I’m finally feeling like my body is healing from this accident. I hope my doctor releases me to start jogging again soon.

Rob sent this photo from St. Petersburg. He said it’s the view of an Orthodox church and the Museum of the Battle of Leningrad taken from the café where he was studying.

Rob says Hello from Russia with Love
Rob-tastic is still across the pond, in St. Petersburg, Russia for the last week of his trip. He’s dealing with his own type of stress over there, as he said he hasn’t slept much in a few days because one of his roommates at the hostel, “snored like he was laying down suppressing fire.” He “coffee-zombied” through some studying, but mostly went sightseeing.

One thing Rob and I both noticed this week is that having experience doing litigation makes it easier to understand this subject – especially for Rob because he has experience in both Arizona and Federal Civil Procedure. (I only have experience litigating in state court.) It’s easier for him to differentiate between the two rule sets and understand the corresponding vocabulary.

Civil procedure was challenging for both of us in law school. Having real-life experience to draw from makes studying for this portion of the test less challenging than when we studied for the Arizona Bar Exam.

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about what we’re doing or how we’re doing, leave it as a comment below. If you want to send us good vibes via snail mail, that’s always welcome – especially as our stress kicks up. Send us postcards at Ruth and Rob, c/o Venjuris P.C., 1938 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016. (If you have a friend taking a bar exam this summer, send them one too. They’ll appreciate the love.)

Long Days of Bar Prep – & Some Fun

One of my contacts at Barbri asked me how I’m managing to study and continue to practice law. The only phrase that came to mind was, “Not gracefully.”

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

Presenting at Phoenix Comicon 2017.
Photo by K Royal, used with permission.

Busy Life of Bar Prep
I’ve never said that I was graceful or eloquent, and it becomes more apparent when I exist in a state of stress. My days are full, and even fuller than I originally expected because a few weeks before I started studying for the bar exam, I was in a car accident. So, instead of having a schedule of client work, studying, and exercise, I have client work, studying, chiropractic appointments, twice daily sessions of icing my back, communications with my attorney, and dealing with daily pain.

My days are long: up at 4:45am to walk and feed the pirate dog, ice my back, and get ready to be at the office by 9am, work until 2pm on client work and upcoming presentations, go to the chiropractor, get home by 3:30/4 to walk and feed the pirate dog, study for the bar exam, ice my back again, and hopefully be in bed by 10pm.

On the days I don’t have the chiropractor, I try to be out of the office by 1pm to do a longer day of studying. It’s comforting when I see that I’m ahead of the schedule set by Barbri. I try to stay about 5% ahead of where they say I should be.

One of my flaws is I’ll push too hard too fast and burn myself out. My tell-tale signs of stress are purple under my eyes from lack of sleep (“black eye syndrome”) and my tongue will have little groove marks along the edge from my teeth. I try to be careful not to stay up too late and whenever I feel stress taking a hold of me, I try to shake it off with a deep breath and think “I got this.”

Meeting the Minions!

Hurray for Phoenix Comicon
Thankfully, I got a respite from studying this past weekend at Phoenix Comicon where I spoke on two panels: Comic Creator Rights and Copyright and Fan Art/Fiction. It was wonderful to see and hug some of my friends, and the people watching was fantastic. There are some talented cosplayers in the Phoenix area. (No, I don’t dress up when I speak.) I was giddy happy when I got to meet the Minions. (Did I mention stress makes me more weird than I usually am?)

This was the last big thing on my calendar until the BlogHer conference in late June. I’ll still see some friends on occasion, but those will be special events for me. (It’s for the best. As I get more stressed, I get less tolerant of crowds, noise, and annoying things.)

Church in Budapest
Photo by Robert McGee, used with permission.

Rob on the Road
Yay Rob’s alive! After a successful INTA conference in Barcelona, Rob-tastic sends his best from Budapest where’s he’s alternating between studying California law and geeking out over the Hungarian architecture. Rob sent me an email and said, “The most difficult part of studying on the road so far is, predictably, the lack of books. Listening to the lectures and taking notes as I go is great, but I’m more of a visual learner than an auditory one. I did bring a book of outlines relevant to California law in particular, so I’m not totally without my preferred medium, but it limits my ability to review the bigger subjects.”

Rob’s doing the attorney’s course with the diagnostic pre-tests that gauge how much you recall from your last bar exam. He said these make it “easier to pinpoint the blank spots in your good subjects, while letting you know what your bad subjects are more efficiently. I dislike admitting when something is difficult for me, or when I don’t know something. It’s a character flaw. These tests don’t care, they’ll tell me exactly what I’m doing wrong with all the loving tenderness of a machine. It works.”

That’s all for this week. If you have any questions about what we’re doing or how we’re doing, leave it as a comment below. If you want to send us good vibes via snail mail, that’s always welcome. Send us postcards at Ruth and Rob, c/o Venjuris P.C., 1938 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016. (If you have a friend taking a bar exam this summer, send them one too. They’ll appreciate the love.)

Reconstruction Packing Party

A little over two months ago, we had a flood at Castle Carter that destroyed my wood floors. Before Rosie the basset hound and I moved into a hotel for a week of urban camping during the reconstruction, I reduced the repair crew’s workload by emptying the shelves in my entertainment center. One of the upsides of not having many things, there tends to be plenty of storage space in my bedside tables and bookshelf. All of my DVDs and music books easily fit with room to spare, even with the rest of my possessions.

Rosie’s happy to be home again

We’re home again, and all the furniture is back where it’s supposed to be. However, the shelves in the entertainment center are mostly empty. Instead of putting everything back, I’m using the reconstruction as an opportunity to have a mini packing party.

Packing Party Explained
A packing party is a term coined by Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. In his packing party, he boxed up everything he owned as if he were moving, and didn’t unpack anything until he needed it. After 21 days, whatever wasn’t unpacked (with a few exceptions), was sold or given away.

When I moved to my condo, I did my own 72-day packing party. I ended up getting rid of about a third of the items I thought I might need in my new place.

Mini Packing Party
This time around, I’ve cleared the shelves in my living room, and I’m not going to put things back on it, until I need/want them. (I know I have a set of figurines that will survive this mini packing party. They’re one of the few sentimental items I have.)

My 8 DVDs

So far, I’ve only unpacked a few reusable tote bags that I use for shopping and 8 DVDs. My rule for the DVDs is I can’t open the DVD drawer and contemplate what I want. I have to decide what I want and then go get it. If I don’t remember what I own, it’s probably not adding value to my life.

I have several music books from the days I studied voice, but to be honest, I haven’t needed most of them in years. I suspect most of them will be going away at the end of this mini packing party. If I return to going to singing lessons, I know what songs I want to work on.

I don’t know how long I’ll continue this process, but probably a few months. I figure if I don’t use something within 90 days, I probably don’t need to hold onto it long-term.

Potential Long-Term Plan
I can see myself designating a drawer in a bedside table as the packing party drawer as a way to regularly review my possessions and get rid of things that don’t add value to my life. One thing I’ve learned since beginning the process of paring down my stuff is I tend to be happier, calmer, and more creative when I keep the excess stuff out of my world.

Urban Camping = Lesson in Minimalism

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

Minimal Needs = Minimal Stuff

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

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

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

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

Minimal Distractions = Hotel Hackathon

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

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

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

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

The Undeniable Recap of 2016

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

Working the Red Carpet at BlogPaws

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

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

Two of the Cool Kids on our Couch!

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

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

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

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

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

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

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

Celebrity Sightings
Gloria Steinem
Mark Hamill

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

Learning to Value Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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