Why I Stopped Eating Meat

I have always loved animals. My mom has a photo of me as a baby, sitting in the backyard with our cat, dog, and goat. As an adult, I’ve had up to five rescue cats at one time, and they are spoiled and pampered felines. When I still lived in California, I spent nearly every weekend volunteering for a Humane Society. 

A few months ago, a friend introduced me to a charity goat rescue called Goats of Anarchy. Through GOA’s Instagram posts, I fell in love with the goats rescued and cared for. When they got too sick and didn’t make it, I would feel sad (I was particularly attached to one goat, Lawson, and cried at work when I found out he died suddenly). I love the animals at GOA, even though I have never met them. 

I have been struggling for a long time now with the fact that I love animals and yet that I eat meat. Animal abuse makes me absolutely sick. I could never bring myself to harm a sweet creature just so I could eat it; and yet, I would eat animals killed by other people. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t that bad, because I tried to get my meat from small local farms that treated their animals kindly for the duration of their lives. It was a flawed argument and I knew it, but something still held me back from formally cutting all meat from my diet. 

Over the last few months, I’ve been opting for vegetarian dishes more and more, trying different things to see what I like. Living in Seattle, this is incredibly easy to do: all of my favorite restaurants offer delicious veggie options that I am entirely happy to eat. I still ate meat, though, even though I increasingly felt like I was doing something I didn’t think was right. 

A lot of the time, people need that “Aha” moment to finally decide to make a major life change. For me, that moment was yesterday, when Leanne from GOA went to a local livestock auction in New Jersey to try and save some of the animals being sent to slaughter. The pictures she shared of that awful place sickened me: sick animals packed closely together, stepping over dead bodies and crying. They looked so afraid and defeated. It was hell, utter hell, and that any creature should suffer such torture before ultimately being killed for food just broke me. These were animals that came from small farms, they were living breathing feeling creatures. I cannot believe any human being could actually treat animals this way and still sleep at night. 

I can’t go along with this any longer. 

Yesterday I finally made the decision that I will never eat meat again. I will not support an industry capable of such cruelty. I will never again be the reason that an innocent animal was killed. 

I am not asking that anyone change with me. I am making a decision for myself based on what I believe is right. I just wish I hadn’t taken so long to decide to align my behavior with my beliefs. 

Reflecting on My First 2 Months at WGU

It’s been almost two months since I went back to school, and today I submitted my final paper for a class. If the paper scores highly enough, I’ll have completed my third class since going back to school.

When I first enrolled, I set myself a goal of earning my Bachelor’s degree by December 2018. It seemed like a manageable goal when I was first starting out, but after completing three classes in two months I really want to finish by next June. It’s a very aggressive timeline for completion, but my student mentor agrees that it’s obtainable if I keep working hard.

In a lot of ways, the course work is a lot easier than I was anticipating. I love that all my classes are directly geared toward my course of study, and each one builds on the concepts learned in the previous one. So far, I’ve taken Intro to HR, Employment Law, and Workforce Planning. I can easily apply the concepts I’m learning in school to things that are done where I work. There’s a LOT of reading, but I can do it while sipping my coffee in the morning before work or lounging in the living room on a Sunday. And while the final exams require at least a score of 80% to pass, I haven’t really struggled with any of them. The first time I took one, it did throw me a bit – the exam consists of situational questions rather than memorizing definitions of terms or anything like that, which was not a format I was expecting – but now that I know what to expect, I get through them pretty easily.

I was VERY nervous about submitting my first paper, because I had read about other students’ experiences and it sounded as if it was going to be a somewhat nightmarish process where I had to rewrite my paper dozens of times before earning a passing grade. My first two classes only required a final exam, so I was rather intimidated when my Workforce Planning test had a final exam and two assigned papers to complete. To my surprise and relief, I got the paper back with a passing grade on the first try!

I’m going to give myself a little break from school after this class, but I’ll start back up again with my next one the weekend after Labor Day. I’m especially excited to take the next one, as it’s a Project Management class and I’ll be able to directly use the new information I’ll be learning at work. I recently realized that I had a gap in my resume when it comes to Project Management, so taking an entire class on the subject came at the perfect time!

Overall, I really like the course structure at WGU and school is fitting into my life a lot more seamlessly than I was expecting. It’s really true that with this program, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. I’m really happy that I made the choice to go back and even happier that I decided to study at WGU.

 

A Little Hole in the Wall Place

Ahhh, Saturday morning. I love weekends, especially when they start off with me sleeping in (or, me getting up at 5am, feeding the cats, and immediately going back to bed – those spoiled animals do NOT wait for their meals).

This past Saturday, I woke up around nine feeling incredibly refreshed. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to sleep in like that and it was amazing. I got up and set about making a pitcher of iced tea for the weekend, thinking that it would be nice to have tea for the warm days. It’s been a minute since I’ve pulled out my iced tea maker, and I had to fish around in the pantry to find the tea bags. When I opened the cupboard, I found that there was water on the shelf. Not a lot, just enough for me to say, “Huh, there’s water in here” and look down at the floor to see if there was water anywhere else.

There was no water, but there were ants on the floor.

ANTS.

I have not had ants in my kitchen since moving to the Northwest and had (falsely, I now know) believed that ants don’t attempt to take up residence in kitchens around here. In California, they’d make their way in every summer, usually dining on cat food before drowning in the water bowl. I would wake up to a little trail of them going across my living room more often than I care to think about, and I got very good at being careful not to leave anything out that would attract the little bastards. Here in Edmonds, I never worried about it, and to be fair there wasn’t much around that ants would like besides the cats’ breakfast.

My zen totally shattered, I set about removing the ants from the kitchen by way of spraying everything down with Windex and then cleaning up the carnage. Sorry, creatures, we have enough freeloading animals in this house already – we have no room for more. I will not go out of my way to kill bugs and things when I’m outside, but they come in my kitchen and they’re toast.

Once I finished de-bugging my kitchen, I went about my day, forgetting about the water in the cabinet that started the whole debacle. Well, forgetting for a couple more hours anyway, until I heard something dripping in the kitchen. I went to investigate, and found water dripping out of the wall and down the pantry. Although it undeniably created an ambiance, water definitely should NOT have been cascading down my pantry door.

As much as I yearn to be a homeowner again, I cannot deny the luxury of calling property management as a renter when things in my home are broken. We are incredibly spoiled where we live, as our manager and maintenance are beyond kind and responsive whenever we need anything. As the developing situation in my kitchen was one of the more immediate problems we’ve had, maintenance was out within the hour to investigate.

The maintenance fellow was very nice and jumped right in to attempt to locate the source of the leak. He went upstairs to the apartment above ours and turned on the bathtub faucet, but couldn’t duplicate the problem (we did take a video of the dripping water when we noticed it, which came in very handy since by the time maintenance arrived, the leak had stopped for a time). Apologetically, he turned to me and said, “I’m going to have to cut open your wall.” Since I was not going to be paying for the creation or subsequent patching of said hole, I was not too concerned, and set to leaning on my counter and watching this unfold.

Adds a certain something to the decor, n’jes?

Once we had a good-sized hole in the wall, it was apparent that our pantry cabinet was totally waterlogged, and that there must have been a previous water leak in the pipe above the cabinet because there was putty that has now fallen away. The maintenance man was hopeful that the water we were experiencing in our kitchen had been trapped previously by the putty and that there was no current leak, but I was skeptical. After giving us instructions on what to do should water come gushing out of the newly-exposed pipes, our new friend left with the promise to follow up with our property manager.

Of course, on Sunday while we were sitting in the living room the pipe began leaking again, confirming our suspicions that the water from the day before was not from an old problem but from an existing one. We stuck a towel underneath to catch the water, knowing that nothing much more could be done until a plumber could be called on Monday. This morning I was assured that the problem would be fixed in a day or two, but I’m bracing myself to wait this one out for awhile until all repair efforts have been coordinated. In the meantime, I will be amusing myself by telling anyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with me that my kitchen is just a “little hole in the wall place” and laughing at my own joke.

V Goes to College (Again)

This week is a big one for me, as I re-join the academic world as a full-time undergraduate student yet again. I’m no stranger to the full-time student/full-time employment combo, so it’s not new territory for me. I do remember how much work it is, but I’m ready for this new journey. Finishing my degree is something I’ve always wanted for myself, so here I go!

I dropped out of community college after only one full semester, and ultimately earned my Associate’s degree online while working full-time. It ended up being a good thing for me, because I was able to use my company’s tuition assistance program and graduated debt-free in 2010. Since then, I’ve stopped and started a few times as I worked toward my Bachelor’s degree. I tried University of Phoenix, but didn’t like the group-work format (why on earth an online school requires so much group collaboration is beyond me). After taking some time off I enrolled at Washington State University, only to find that it’s really difficult to be an online-only student at a school that is really designed for full-time students who can attend classes. At most, I was able to manage two classes at a time, and ultimately it just felt like I’d never graduate and I tabled the whole idea.

The idea of finishing my degree never really left my mind. Last year, after being with my current company for a year, I became eligible for their tuition assistance program. It would have probably been a good idea to jump back into school right away, but I was busy planning a wedding and taking classes was NOT in my plans. Now that the wedding is over, I feel like I can handle balancing work and school, and I’m ready to try yet again to finish college.

Since my real goal is to just be DONE already, I decided to enroll at Western Governor’s University. The courses are online, the classes are individual and completing them is based on a competency assessment, and there are no traditional class schedules. I can take as many courses as I’m able to per semester, and each semester’s tuition rate is flat – meaning that the more classes I complete, the less I pay (or my company pays) for school in the long run.

The enrollment process at WGU wasn’t a walk in the park, I admit. When I decided to move forward, I applied online and was accepted, but never heard anything further. I did some research online about next steps, and proactively ordered transcripts from my previous schools to be sent to WGU. I could see online that they’d been received, so when I still hadn’t been contacted I reached out and spoke with an enrollment counselor. Although he was very nice, he wasn’t a lot of help in the subsequent enrollment process; I did a lot of researching online until I figured out what I needed to do.

Financial aid is no picnic, either. In the past, I’ve always had company tuition assistance programs that issued Letters of Credit to the university I was attending, so I never had to pay. This time, the program is tuition reimbursement, so I have to pay upfront and then seek reimbursement after the semester ends and I pass my classes. Not wanting to drain my savings to pay upfront, I decided to apply for student loans, knowing that they will come due six months after I graduate and that I can simply use my tuition reimbursement money to pay them off. While this sounds simple enough, you can’t just apply for loans – you have to apply for financial aid first. I knew this was going to be a waste of time; my husband and I make far too much money for me to qualify for assistance. Still, the rules are the rules, so I filled out my required FAFSA and got my reply that I qualified for $0 assistance, then was finally able to move on and apply for my loans.

Once I got through all the admissions requirements, things got a lot easier. Yay! I was paired up with my Student Mentor, a former student who has successfully completed the program herself and who will check in with me weekly throughout this process. She got me set up with my orientation, and helped me with a road map for what my degree program is going to look like. She gave me a bit of an overview of what I could expect in the next year and a half (hopefully I can be done by then!). I completed the online orientation, and I’m all set to start my first class. Whew!

I really want to finish this time. Wish me luck!

 

My Tips for Great Hair

Ever since chopping off my long locks three years ago, I have become very particular about my hair care. Now that I’m currently in yet another phase of trying to grow out my pixie cut (I’ve made it to bob length twice, only to chop it again after seeing one too many perfect pixie cuts on Pinterest), I’m especially careful to be kind to my hair as I coax it to grow.

Whether you have the shortest of pixies or waist-length strands, there are things you can do to keep your hair looking great….and bad habits that can harm it. Here is my comprehensive list of tips to keep your hair looking amazing.

Do bring photos with you when you get your hair done. Anyone remember that episode of Friends when Monica asks for Demi Moore’s haircut, but Phoebe gives her Dudley Moore’s instead? Don’t let yourself fall victim to a mistake like that; bring photos of the haircut and color you want. Even better, bring photos of both styles you love AND hate…it’ll give your stylist a better idea of what will make you happy (and help them avoid what will make you cry).

Do invest in good styling tools and products. It blows my mind when someone spends upwards of $150 on getting their hair cut and colored, only to stop at the dollar store on the way home to buy shampoo. Even though high-end products are more expensive, the good news is that they’re also more concentrated, so you don’t need to use a ton of product every time you style your hair. I recently made the change from traditional shampoo and conditioner to New Wash by Hairstory. It doesn’t contain detergents and is much gentler on my hair, eliminating my need for conditioners, masks, and detanglers.  When my hair is wet, I protect it from heat styling with TGI Bed Head After Party, and I like to finish my style with Ion Styling Solutions Texture Spray Wax to give it a bit of a piece-y look.

Along with using quality product, I upgraded my heat styling tools so that they are easier on my hair when I do need to blow dry/flatiron it. I recently scored the Bio Ionic GoldPro Speed Dryer for 50% off at Ulta, and I like to style my bangs with my LumaBella Dual Touch straightener (I also use this great tool when I curl my pixie cut!).

Don’t lie to your stylist. When your stylist asks you questions about your hair care routine, ESPECIALLY when you’re getting your hair colored, be honest. It’s okay if you’ve only used box dyes up until now; a good stylist isn’t asking you these questions to judge you, they’re asking because different dyes and chemicals will react differently, and they don’t want to inadvertently turn your black hair green. Being upfront about your hair’s history will help you get the look you want, without having to endure any unpleasant hiccups along the way.

Don’t cheat on your stylist. Once you’ve found a stylist you love, who makes your hair dreams come true, don’t ditch them just because of scheduling issues. A good indication that your stylist rocks is that his or her calendar books up quickly. It’s always a good idea to schedule your next appointment as you’re leaving the salon to ensure that you can get in when you need to. Schedule changes definitely happen – I recently had to move a cut/color appointment so that I could attend a family gathering – but be prepared to wait a few weeks with some root grow-out if you do reschedule. Trust me, it’s always worth the wait. Going to a different salon just because your regular stylist can’t see you, like, yesterday, is probably going to end up with you getting a cut you’re not in love with. I would much rather veer into sheepdog territory for a week or two than have my hair butchered.

Do get regular trims. Even though I’m trying to grow my hair out currently, I still get my hair trimmed regularly. Your hair will look much healthier and will hold its shape much better if you go for regular cuts.

 

Red Hot Dance

Seven years ago, a coworker invited me to her favorite Zumba class, led by her good friend Nancy. It was a life-changing night for both of us; for her, it was the night she officially weighed 100lbs less than she had nine months before, and for me, it was the night I discovered a passion for dance.

I loved Zumba, and attended three to five classes a week. I would rearrange my work schedule to make sure I could go. I brought friends with me and got them hooked too.  In 2013, my friend Kate and I even got certified to be Zumba instructors and led a class together (she went on to be a favorite instructor alongside Nancy).

After moving out of the area, I did still attend Nancy’s Zumba class every now and then, but it was ultimately too far to drive. I found Beachbody On Demand, which I love, and it was a great tool for keeping me consistent in my workouts. Still, I missed Zumba terribly.

A few weeks ago, my friend Kelly was telling me about Harbor Square Athletic Club, the new gym she and her husband had just joined. She encouraged me to get a six-day pass to check it out, and I’m glad I did. I love working out with her, and I cannot say enough nice things about Harbor Square. Everything is so modern and clean, the studios for group classes are spacious, and the women’s locker room was recently remodeled and is absolutely beautiful. There’s a smoothie bar, tennis courts, and a pool for lap swim (and you can reserve lanes for swimming!). I loved it instantly, and after taking Husband with me to check it out we ultimately became members.

When I looked at the group class schedule, I was a little bummed that there were only a couple of weekday morning Zumba classes, but I was intrigued when I saw an evening class called Red Hot Dance. The schedule described RHD as a “fun, exhilarating, calorie-burning dance party”.

Kelly and I went, and I was instantly hooked. The class was SO much fun! The dance steps were similar to the ones I loved at Nancy’s Zumba classes, the songs were fun to dance to, and I felt so happy dancing again. Some of the moves were pretty challenging (my body is 15lbs heavier now, and let me know it all through class) but I’m hoping that with time and practice I’ll get my former groove back. I am so happy to have dance in my life again!

 

Back in the Saddle (See What I Did There?)

After a six-month bad-weather induced hiatus, my husband and I dusted off our bikes last Saturday for our first ride of 2017. It felt so good to be biking again. I knew I had missed it, but I didn’t realize just how much until I was back on my bike with the warm breeze in my face.

For our ride, we chose to start in Kenmore at Log Boom Park, and take the Burke-Gilman trail down to Seattle’s University district. We stopped at Agua Verde Cafe for a nice lunch and enjoyed both our burritos and the view of Lake Union. Once we were full of delicious Mexican food, we rode back to the trail and continued on to Ballard, where we treated ourselves to a refreshing beer on the patio at Stoup Brewing. It felt so nice to sit in the warm sun after enduring months of chilly weather!

It was mid-afternoon by then, so after our visit to Stoup we decided it was probably time to head back to the car. We did take one detour along the way, cruising down to Magnuson Park. We had hoped to visit the infamous ‘A Sound Garden’ sculpture. Soundgarden named their band after the sculpture, so we were curious to visit it after Chris Cornell passed away last week. Unfortunately, we found out that there is no weekend access to the sculpture, but we were able to see it from a distance and it was decorated with balloons, flowers, and other items left by fans.

We left the park to bike the last seven miles to our car, and by then I was beyond tired. My legs were totally fatigued and it took some stern conversations with myself in my head to keep me going. I was a little surprised at how much weaker my legs were; I know I haven’t been biking regularly, but I felt like I was in pretty good shape from the Beachbody workouts I’ve been doing in the mornings! Apparently those exercises aren’t helping the leg muscles I need for biking.

After what felt like an eternity, we got back to the park where we’d left the car. In total, our ride on Saturday was 32.8 miles – not bad for a first time out after a long stretch of not riding, but about half of what I’d like to be able to do by the end of summer. Now that the weather’s nicer, I want to spend my weekends on my bike!

Before We Disappear

This morning, my husband broke the news to me that Chris Cornell has died. That in itself was upsetting, because Soundgarden was one of those bands I would blast so loud that my ears would ring later when I was a teenager. When I moved to Seattle, I was excited to be living in a place that had produced such epic bands as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. The music Chris has made over my lifetime has inspired me, it’s spoken to me deeply, it attached itself to memories of moments in my life. But then I found out that Chris Cornell apparently took his own life, and that makes me even sadder still.

Sometimes I think that this world is too cold and unfriendly for sensitive, creative people. I know there are times where it feels like far too much for me; when I feel like I don’t want the things I’m supposed to want, that I’ve strayed from a clearly marked path off into the seeming chaos of the surrounding forest. Most of the time, I’m okay with that. But there’s another side to it: being this way means that I feel things deeply, and sometimes that’s very overwhelming. Like this morning, when I held back tears because I saw two raccoons along the side of the road that had been hit by cars. I had looked away as quickly as possible so as not to see the details of what had happened to them, but the fact that they had been violently killed made me so sad. It always does. So I can understand how others would feel this way. Would feel like going on for even one more day is an impossible task. I understand.

Five months ago, a dear friend of mine took his own life. This weekend I will be attending a celebration of his life, a life so incredibly worthy of celebrating. We will be remembering yet another creative, beautiful soul who for whatever reason felt that this world was just too much, or that he was not enough, or both. I will never know his motivation, I only know that I will never stop wishing that he could still be here. My feelings and emotions as I remember him mix and intertwine with how I feel about the loss of Chris Cornell. It seems wholly unfair that the people who make this world so much better and brighter are the ones who feel driven to leave it.

This life may be crazy and at times it’s damn hard, but it’s all we’ve got. Both Chris Cornell and my friend made my life so much better for touching it, and when it’s my turn to leave the world I hope I can do so knowing it’s better than it was before I got here.

 

Reclaiming My Optimism

I haven’t been doing much writing lately, mostly because over the last few weeks I have been in a funk of epic proportions. I suspect my mood was mostly due to the fact that the weather in the Northwest has pretty much sucked since November, and I am so sick of cold weather. I readily accept that winters are tough here: the days are very short, and very gray, and very gloomy. The weather is cold and damp. But usually, by mid-March we will have some hints of spring and a promise of warmer weather. As day after day passed without even breaking sixty degrees, I began to despair of ever enjoying being outside again.

Thankfully, the first week of May brought with it some warmer, sunnier days (and even a thunderstorm!), and it has started to feel like Seattle may have summer after all. My spirits rose with the temperatures, and I started feeling better. I also started feeling like I needed to rediscover things that keep me feeling optimistic and happy, so that I can hold onto feeling better even if the weather doesn’t hold.

One of the things I love the most about my office is that it’s located directly next to a trail that runs beside a little creek. I love walking that trail. There are frequently ducks and geese by the creek, and occasionally I’ll see a nutria or a little turtle who likes to sun himself on a tree branch that drops down into the water. I hate being cold and had all but abandoned my walking ritual, but last week I decided I needed to re-commit to it. Not only does fresh air make me feel cheery, but the breaks from my desk are a necessity.

Speaking of my desk, I got new photos printed to display at work. Looking at photos of my husband, our fur kids, and our families reminds me of why I work hard when I’m feeling stressed at the office. I hadn’t put out any new photos in quite awhile (a framed one of Bill and I was actually the first photo anyone took of us together!), so I swapped out some of the older ones with new ones from our wedding.

Aren’t we a good-looking group?

I also added some newer photos of the cats, including a really cute one of our newest baby, Ernie.

Ernie Monster!

I also decided I needed to resume writing in my Gratitude Journal. What better way to brush off a lousy mood than to sit and think of things that make life good? My journal has evolved a bit since I started writing it; currently, I write down three things I’m grateful for that day and three wins. The wins can be anything from merely getting out of bed to a major accomplishment like completing a stressful project. The point is to remind myself daily that I have a lot in my life to be thankful for and that I am accomplishing things, even if those things are small.

Got any other tips for shaking free of the blahs? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the People Who Ask Me When We’re Having Kids

An Open Letter to the People Who Ask Me When We’re Having Kids:

Since my wedding last month, you have taken to asking me when my new husband and I plan on adding a baby to our family. You probably don’t notice that this question makes me a little uneasy.

We see each other often – by the coffee maker in the mornings, in meetings, in passing in the hallway. Let’s be honest, we probably see each other more during the week than we see our own families. And so I know you aren’t trying to pry when you ask me about my plans to expand my family. I realize you have good intentions. Believe me, you aren’t the only one asking. I think a personal record is being asked by three separate people during one workday.

To answer your question, children are not in the cards for us. You may want to interject here, to ask me my reasons and to try and overcome them. I do have my reasons, but they are my own, and there’s really no productive reason to go into them here.

The thing is, I wish with every fiber of my being that you would not ask childless women this question, and am requesting that you consider refraining from this line of questioning in the future. I’m not asking this for myself necessarily, but for the women who desperately want children but cannot have them. When you ask me when I’m having kids, it makes me feel uncomfortable. But when you ask a woman who is struggling with infertility when she’s having kids, you’re reminding her of a heartbreaking challenge in her life that hurts her deeply. When you ask her this question, you only see the plastered-on smile. What you don’t see is that she goes to the bathroom and locks herself in a stall. You don’t hear her sobs, because she’s mastered the art of crying silently to herself. You don’t see how much your seemingly innocent question is tearing her apart.

I cannot even begin to describe you some of the crazy situations I’ve been in when someone decided to demand of me when I’m “going to get knocked up” (and yes, it’s been phrased this way…crazy, right?). I’ve been asked in the middle of a staff meeting, by strangers at a bar, by people I met in the pool on my honeymoon. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to be asked such a personal question in such a public environment. Please keep this in mind, and do not put women on the spot like this. It makes us feel SO awkward.

I hope you can appreciate that family planning is a personal matter. I can assure you that if a woman does want to discuss it, she will initiate the conversation and tell you all about it! But for a lot of us, we would prefer to have our teeth drilled without Novocain than to be faced with that question, so please respect our privacy and do not ask us. Instead, ask me how my kitties are doing – that’s a question I’m always happy to answer!