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The Undeniable Ruth

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

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.

Save Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary in Gilbert, Arizona is home to 100+ animals (horses, donkeys, cows, alpaca, goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats), many of which have or have had special needs.

There’s Adorabull, the calf who, last summer, was found abandoned in a ditch, umbilical cord still attached. When he came to the farm, he was so weak and sick he couldn’t even be bottle fed. He had to be tube fed. I laid with him for hours one Saturday morning, dotting on him like his mother would.

Now, he’s a strong happy cow, who’s able to frolic with the other cows in the pasture. I call him “Addy.”

Sweet Baby Adorabull

One of the more recent additions to the farm is a lamb named Grace. Born with a crooked neck, she came to the farm sanctuary all the way from Texas. With cold laser therapy and massage, her head becoming more in alignment with her body. She doesn’t let her disability prevent her from running zoomies around the farm. She’s so cute!

Grace always looks like she’s smiling!

This farm is also a healing place for the community – people with various physical and emotional disabilities. Aimee regularly posts on the farm’s Facebook page about the how the farm helps its various visitors. She also offers tours and cow hugging sessions.

Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary is a healing place for me. My depression and anxiety are always better after spending a few hours at the farm. It’s always calming to visit the farm – whether I’m shoveling manure or singing to animal cuddled in my arms. I happily show up with my boots and gloves asking, “What do you need me to do?”

I love this place. I love it so much that one of my requirements for my future dream house is that the property has to be closer to the farm than where I live now so I can visit more often.

I want to help save this farm. Aimee’s landlord recently informed her that he sold the land to a developer. Aimee and the 100+ animals need a new home.

Thanks to generous contributions and fundraising efforts, Aimee has raised close to $100,000. She’s researching possible properties every day. The more money she can put down for a down payment, the more options available for the farm’s new home.

Photo courtesy of Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

Here’s how you can help Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary:

Direct Donation

You can make a donation directly to the farm through their website or PayPal. You can also send money using Venmo (@Aimeesfarm).

The farm sanctuary is 501(c)(3) charity so all donations are tax-deductible.  

Smile.Amazon.com

You’re already shopping on Amazon. When you shop through Smile, you can designate a charity to benefit from purchases that are Smile eligible. You can designate Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary as your charity here.

If your workplace purchase supplies on Amazon, please ask them to use Smile and support Aimee’s Farm as well.

The Farm’s Amazon Wishlist

The farm always needs supplies. Please check out their Amazon Wish List if you want to purchase one of the many things the animals need.

The farm regular puts out requests for towels and blankets. If you’re cleaning out your linen closet, please see if the farm sanctuary could use them.

Special for Law Firms: CLEs for Charity

I want to do whatever I can to help save the farm. I’m offering an hour of continuing legal education  in exchange for any law firm donating $500 to the farm. Yes, some of the CLEs I’m prepared to do fulfill our ethics requirement. If I’m in your city, I can do a CLE in person; otherwise, I’ll present it over Skype or Zoom.  

Please follow Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary on Facebook for more opportunities to help and updates about what’s happening at the farm.

How I Manage Stress

Yesterday, my coach asked me how I manage my stress. I instantly responded:

Poorly.

That’s actually not true all the time. When I feel solid and secure, I can be so confident it’s uncanny.

I know that feeling.

I’ve felt that feeling.

Just not lately.

Always Been High Strung

My standard response when someone asks me how I handle stress is, “Not gracefully.” Usually, I find a way to muddle through, but it’s not pretty. I’ve been living with anxiety since I was a wee one – like before age 10.

For as long as I can remember, my modus operandi has been to have a plan for escape – physically, emotionally, and/or chemically.  A lot of my -isms (alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, and self-injury) were ways to self-medicate. When I got into recovery and took away those vices, I still had to deal with my emotions and life’s challenges.

Here are some of the things I do lately to manage my stress.

Sweat

Starting in gymnastics and now as a triathlete, I workout 5-6 days per week. Working out gives my brain an endorphin boost it needs, and it gives me a break from the rest of my life. There’s not much I can do while I’m in the pool except swim.

It also gives me a safe way to vent emotions. The day after I got my California Bar Exam results (I failed), my coach had assigned a 17-mile run. I ran one of my fastest paces to date and I got flash of inspiration about how I was going to tell my friends. Pounding pavement for those hours gave me the much-needed break I needed.

Sweat keeps me sane.

Lists

My life is managed with lists:

  • Weekly to-do lists – x2
  • Daily to-do list – on my whiteboard
  • Medication checklists – one for the hooman, one for the hound
  • Workout checklist
  • Program checklist

If I didn’t have my lists, I’d never keep track of who took which medication or whether I did everything I needed to do on any given day. My stress is related to anxiety and depression, both of which make me forgetful.

My lists also give me a semblance of control over what I’m doing, which is reassuring since lately I’ve been feeling out of control. There are days I wish I could emotionlessly work through my lists without dealing with my feelings. Thankfully, I have loving people around me who remind me that I’m not a robot.

I love this photo of Jeff and me from an Ignite Phoenix #17 Speaker Bootcamp. Photo by Brandon Larkin. (Creative Commons License)

Selective Peopling

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an avoidant and an introvert. I’m not a fan of people in general, particularly in crowds or places with a lot of noise. However, I selectively like individuals. These are the people I want to spend time with, and from whom I’ll ask for help. It’s so reassuring to be around and/or text with people I love. They get me.

Every year, I have my jar on my nightstand and I add happy memories to it throughout the year, and then on New Year’s Eve, I read through them. One thing I noticed when I reviewed the memories from 2019, was that a lot of them had to do with hugging people.

Hugs keep me sane too.

Short-Circuit

On rare occasions, my stress gets so bad that I emotionally crash and burn. I panic to the point where I have trouble focusing and I can barely eat. (That’s how I managed to drop 10 pounds in law school.) When my appetite drops out, that’s my tell that I need to take swift deliberate steps to counteract my stress.

Sleep

Sometimes the best thing I can do when stress hits hard is sleep. When I’m asleep, it means my muscles are relaxing and I’m taking deep breathes – two things I need when I’m stressed. (A friend recently suggested I add massage to my self-care routine, probably for the same reason.)

Stress is exhausting.

An hour-long nap can make a world of difference.