Friday, June 24, 2016

The Reflection of Shadows: Love Me

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Love Me

Love me now or love me later,
Love me when my spirit’s faded,
Love me in my darker moments,
Love me when I think I’m broken.

Love me when the tide is rising,
When the good times keep us smiling.
Love me when the loving’s easy,
Love me when you want to leave me.

Love me, love me, love me more,
Love me when your heart is sore.
Love me when there’s nothing left
But love me, love me never less.

Monday, June 20, 2016

In the World of Wellness: Health for Furry Family Members

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" in those ways and also as a means of defining a life free from dis-ease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you. Being more informed = better decisions for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: It's time to re-think your dog food
The Boys, from our engagement photo shoot

Let Food Be Your Medicine
The health of our furry family is just as important as our own health. I'm very particular about what I feed my boys because I've seen what a tremendous difference a change of food does for them. Let's use my little guy, Samson, as an example.

About a year ago he started developing acid reflux problems, causing him to regurgitate food he'd just eaten. After many, many, many tests of all kinds, and having ruled out everything else, the vet decided Samson's esophagus was failing him. This, apparently, happens more than you would realize. The solution was to put him on a medicine that would regulate a particular acid function that causes the esophagus to react that way. The medicine, however, had a huge downside. Animals could develop involuntary spasms that would never go away, even after the medicine was stopped. This made me very uncomfortable. On top of that, I had a very strong feeling that something else was going on. So, as I always do, I turned to food.

While I've always fed him a high quality, natural, nutrient rich dry dog food, I had a feeling if we changed it to a new version that required a soaking component this problem might go away. I tried a couple of different brands, but with no luck. After talking to my friend Cheryl at work one day, she mentioned Sojos, a type of dog food she'd been giving her dog who had seizures. Within a rather short amount of time on the new food, her dog's seizures stopped. Remarkable, right? I immediately switched Samson to it.

Within a couple of months, all the problems he'd had with regurgitating food were gone. He never had to go on the medicine and he hasn't had any problems since. Not to mention, he LOVES Sojos. It gets crazy here at at breakfast and dinner time.

Recently, I added in Dr. Harvey's Veg-to-Bowl grain free dog mix for an extra fiber boost. I top the Sojos off with a little of the veggie mix at each meal and we're good to go! While Sojos alone is great, Samson has always had extra fiber needs, so this is an excellent addition.

Samson has always looked young for his age, and I attribute that to a very healthy diet. While he's actually 13, he looks much younger and people are constantly in shock of his true age.

What's That Smell?
Rocco, our other furry baby, is quite the smelly beast. I tried everything, you guys. Baths, more baths, all natural dog cologne, special shampoos- EVERYTHING. I had this feeling that it had to be food related, so I've recently switched his dog food to a grain free version and it is making a tremendous difference. I would've switched it sooner, but he's technically The Fiance's dog and we have different ideas on dog food. However, I'm slowly winning Rocco's devotion as Favorite Hooman and proving a point about the effects of food, because now that he's been on this new dog food for a while, things have improved significantly. Aside from normal it's-time-for-a-bath smell, he doesn't have the weird smell anymore.

The research I found showed that dog's bodies can't process all the heavy grains we feed them, which can cause a number of negative effects, including smell. For a full change, it takes 3-4 bags worth of the new dog food to kick in. However, you should notice a difference after the first bag. Keep in mind it might take a couple of tries to find the right grain free food, but if you're patient and give it time you'll see a huge difference as well.

Coconut Oil Cure-all
Coconut oil isn't just great for us hoomans, it's great for the furry babies too. My little guy has seasonal allergies that cause him to lick his feet, so when that time rolls around I coconut oil him up and it helps reduce the itch and discomfort. And just like coconut oil is great for our hair and skin, it's great for theirs too. Living in a desert means dry skin, so when the little guy needs it I put a little bit of oil in my hands at night and rub it on his fur. It's like a before-bedtime-massage. He loves it.

You've seen those lists where coconut oil apparently does 94 different things, right? Well, you can add this next topic as one more very awesome thing it can do. Every once in a blue moon, for who knows what reason (probably allergies too, he's like his mom- allergic to everything), he starts to lose a little bit of hair on his ears. When that happens, for about two weeks I put a hearty amount of coconut oil on his ears once a day before bedtime and whatever was happening- poof. Gone. The hair grows back thick and shiny.

Coconut oil is magical, you guys. It is. It's my favorite food medicine.

Remember, your furry babies are like people. They have vast and differing needs, so make sure you pay attention to what's going on with them to ensure they're getting the diet best suited for their needs. The answer is very often in the food.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Reflection of Shadows: More

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments


                                                     I have given and you have taken
                                                     I have sacrificed and you have demanded
                                                     I have bargained and you have stolen
                                                     I have nothing and yet you still want


Monday, June 13, 2016

In The World Of Wellness: Helping Others Heal

Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" in those ways and also as a means of defining a life free from dis-ease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you. Being more informed = better decisions for your own well-being.

In the World of Wellness: Helping others, helping ourselves

Laura Bolter Design
In one of my former psychology classes I learned an important lesson of which I'd never heard before: to not interfere with someone's healing process. I realize this sounds obvious, but the example given in class was one that most people wouldn't assume was an interference, more so an act of kindness. The example was this:

Our teacher asked us what we would do if we saw someone crying. Responses in the room ranged from going over to them and offering them a tissue to hugging them and/or holding them. To our shock, she informed us that we were all very, very wrong. While, she said, this was a normal act and what most people do, the best way to let people heal is to not interfere with their healing process. Since we all heal in different ways, assuming that someone may need a tissue or may need to be comforted is really just something we do to comfort ourselves, to help us cope with them being sad because we don't know what to do with ourselves while we watch someone else suffer.

She went on further to explain that while crying is a release, most definitely, it is also many times something that leads to a breakthrough for that person. However, if they're interrupted, well, so is the breakthrough, so is the healing.

Let's apply this in a different way.

Have you ever walked up to a door the same time as, say, someone in a wheel chair and offered to open the door for them? This is obviously a nice act, a kind gesture. Often, it is met with a 'thank you' and sincere appreciation. Have you ever considered the alternative? That maybe this person would prefer to open their own door, for a variety of reasons. That maybe, while of course you're being nice, they don't want to be treated differently than anyone else?

This way of thinking is tricky. You want to help, but should you? Is it the right time, is it appropriate, is it what's really optimal for the other person? The best way to approach situations like this - whether someone is crying or someone may need a door opened - is to ask: Is there anything you need from me? Is there anything I can do to help? Would it be alright if I assisted you? Even just letting them know, "I'm here if you need anything, but I won't assume you need X or Y unless you tell me" is a very kind gesture in and of itself. I assure you, people will tell you what they need.

I'm still not very good at this. I still catch myself "messing up" and forgetting to ask. Sometimes, though, sometimes I get it right and every time that I do that other person surprises me. Sometimes, they want me to just sit there with them in silence. Sometimes, they do want that tissue. Sometimes, they want me to help plot a plan to kidnap their ex and bury them in the desert get them some ice cream. It varies.

This weekend was full of sadness across the US. A former contestant from The Voice was shot, as were many people in Orlando at an LGBT club shooting. Two completely different acts of senseless violence. A lot of people are going to be hurting. A lot of people will be taking steps to heal.

Your part in this is important, even if you completely forget to ask if they need you and instead run right up and hug the heck out of them. You being there for someone who is suffering is vital. It is helpful. It is kindness and humanity coming together when it seems like there is neither kindness nor humanity left in this world. While you're hugging the heck out of them, I still suggest asking what it is you can do to help. Their answer might surprise you, but their answer is what they truly need to help heal.

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another." - Charles Dickens

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Reflection of Shadows: Dragging Me Down

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

Dragging Me Down
(written to a tune)

You’re holding on so tight you’re dragging me down,
Pulling me under, making me drown.
You’re holding on so tight, you’re blinded, can’t see
The truth of our demise, my desire to be free.

Let go.
Let go.
I can’t carry on this show.
Let go-
Let me go.
If I loved you, you would know.
Let me go.

You’re holding me close and gripping me tight,
I can’t breathe; I’m fighting for my life.
You’re grasping for something that just isn’t there,
I’m trying not to suffocate, gasping for air.

Let go.
Let go.
We’ve gone too far down this road.
Let go-
Let me go.
If you loved me, you would know.
Let me go.

I’m starting to remember, starting to recall
What love should feel like when you fall.
I’m hoping and I’m praying, asking for a break,
I need to escape this before it’s too late.

Let go.
Let go.
There’s no room for love to grow.
Let go-
Let me go.
If love lived here, you would know.
Let me go.

I’ve shattered and broken, pieces of my heart.
I’ve sewed and I’ve mended all the little shards.
I’m trying – I’m trying – to find us both an out.
But I’m sorry – I’m sorry – there’s nothing here but doubts.

Let go.
Let go.
Before we both turn hollow.
Let go-
Let me go.
If I loved you, you would know

Let me go.
Let me go.
Break the bond that holds my soul.
Let go-
Let me go.
I am dying in your hold.

Let me go,
Let me go,
Let me go, 
Let me go. 

Let me go, 
Let me go.

Let me go.

Monday, June 6, 2016

All Around the World: Costa Rica and Nicaragua (Plus Some Engagement Photos...Wooo!): PART 1

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.

Granada, Nicaragua
When I know I'm going to one specific country, I look at a map and see what other countries are close by and try and fit at least one more in. I'm a maximizer of travel, what can I say? If I'm going to be on a plane for hours on end, I want to make the most of it. Thus, when I knew The Fiance and I were heading to Costa Rica, I decided we could fit a couple of days of Granada adventures in too.

Calle La Calzada
A quick PSA: There's something about third world countries that enthralls me. I love the culture, the food, the experiences. Going to London, for example, is awesome. I adore London. However, it's getting to a point where a lot of places are starting to look alike, thanks to the advancement of technology and global business.

Sometimes, when I've traveled thousands of miles, I find the same stores, the same food, the same looking things that I have back home. That's unfortunate, because each country has such unique roots. This is one of my biggest gripes and fears. I hate the idea that one day all of these fantastic and once very diverse places will look alike. It's already happening. I can't even imagine what it will be like in 20 years. Therefore, for me, getting to places like Nicaragua is a must. PSA over.

While we had a wonderful time in Granada, I must say that our two days there were plenty. Things to do within the city limits are, well, limited. We did pretty much all the sightseeing possible, plus got massages, napped and slept in, shopped, did two tours, and we saw every single thing we wanted. That being said, there are many options outside of the city, so a longer stay would be appropriate if you've figured out all of the activities.

So what do you do while in the city? Eat, shop, relax, and take in the sights.

First things first...where to stay? There are a lot of hotel options in Granada. We opted for Hotel Xalteva. It's a 10 minute walking distance from the heart of town, which I actually loved. It was nice to have the peace and quiet. The walk itself is totally safe. The Fiance, who had never really been to a third world country at this point, for sure thought we were going to get shanked on our walk, which was hilarious. It didn't take him long to realize we were totally safe and that streets just look different than in good old America.

The hotel was awesome, and only slightly odd (I say that with love). We had a living room, fully functioning and fully equipped kitchen, a DVD player (for which we had not one single DVD - this is why I'm telling you, be prepared), bed and bath, and an enclosed patio. The hotel has a pool, an awesome breakfast, the cutest tiny pineapple I've ever seen in my whole pineapple loving life, a hammock, and AC (mucho importante)! The hotel will give you an entire jug of drinking water to use for a very small fee. The tap water, however, is safe to drink. They super chlorinate it, which can be rough for our stomaches that aren't used to that level of chlorine in water, so we still opted for bottled water only.
Our "condo"style living room and dining area at Hotel Xalteva
The Hotel
The baby pineapple. Ooo...ahh.
Now, the odd thing I mentioned? In our living room we had three little windows that went into some other room not accessible to us. We had no idea what, but when we heard water sounds coming from that space we assumed it was a kitchen from the condo that shared a wall with us. The Fiance decided to confirm what it was, by way of stepping on a chair and looking, and it turned out to be the bathroom of the condo next to us, not the kitchen, not at all. Luckily for them, we're not peeping toms. Well, except for that one particular moment.
The updated alley with all of it's beautiful art work.
All of that being said, the staff was AMAZING. Every single person was fantastic. The breakfast, as prior mentioned, was great, especially for me and my gluten free needs (think lots of awesome fruit and juices and tea), and it was beautiful. Also, bonus: about 10 minutes away is a grocery store, so one night we bought some food and cooked dinner in our super decked out kitchen. The grocery store didn't have a ton of options, but enough for a chicken dinner with corn and rice.

Last, but not least, almost right across the street-ish is an old alley (formerly, a prostitute alley if we're keeping it real) that has been transformed with beautiful art work and leads to a church and some other cool things to check out. The down side of the hotel was that the bed was pretty hard and, of course, the window weirdness.

Shopping and Sightseeing
The main part of town has everything you need. Getting there from the Hotel Xalteva means you get to pass by La Merced Church. Definitely stop there for 15 minutes to check it out and if you want, you can pay a small fee to climb some stairs for a view of all Granada. To be honest, however, you won't see too much. A lot of roofs, actually. But it is still kind of a pretty view in its own way.

La Merced Church during the day
La Merced at night. Just for fun.
The view from La Merced lookout tower.
Before you get to the central part of town you'll come upon a bustling Central Park. Right next to the park is the famous and beautiful Granada Cathedral. From there, your options are endless. If you go left (facing the cathedral), and up a couple of streets (another left) you'll find the Chocolate Museum, a co-op store selling local art, and right around there is also the most magnificent cafe/store/place - The Garden Cafe. Definitely go here.  You can get lunch (salads for us GF peeps), get a solid wi-fi signal, relax, read a book in their mini-library, or do some kick-ass shopping in what I thought was the coolest store in town. Here, you'll find hand crafted goodies galore. Ornaments, jewelry, hats, towels, art, coffee, clothes...the list is long and mighty.
Central Park
Cathedral of Granada
The Garden Cafe
Just one sitting area inside the cafe, with the shop right peeking through the opening.
Back to the central part of town. If you take that same left, but go down a couple streets (right) you'll find what I thought was a pretty awesome spa PURE. This is where we got our massages and they were excellent. You can take a yoga class here or workout at the gym or just hang out in a rocking chair with their rescue turtle, who now has a very awesome life thanks to the folks that saved her.

Back to Central Park. If you want to go where absolutely every tourist ever goes, you'll take the main street straight past the church- Calle La Calzada. Here you will find restaurants, more spas, and a handful of places to shop. Soy Nica, a local leather store, is a must see. They handcraft every possible leather item you could ever imagine in pretty much every color your little shopping heart could ever dream of. I must recommend Super Frutto Gelataria for your gelato eating pleasure because let me tell you, when it is somewhere in the 90's and you're walking all over town, all you want is some ice cream and this place was awesome.

As for resteraunts and being able to eat gluten free, Pizzeria Don Luca was really quite yummy. I had a steak and some veggies and was very pleased. We also ate at Restaurante El Marlin, which was crazy good and had amazing service. On our last night we ate at El Zaguan, which was pretty expensive for Granada, but also quite delicious. All in all, I stuck with proteins, veggies, and salads and was good to go the whole time.
Soy Nica - Handcrafted leather goods.
Just one of the many beautiful buildings around this area.
If you walk this street all the way down you'll find the Guadalupe Church and, eventually, you'll hit Lake Nicaragua. While there isn't much to do at this point, there were some nice gentleman filming what I believe was the nightly news and we somehow ended up on it. You should know, the entire interview was conducted in Spanish and we only understood 3.6% of what they were asking us, so it was the most awkward interview ever. Also, it lasted FOREVER given that none of us had any idea what each other was saying. Our lack of dialect didn't stop these friendly people from interviewing us, no sir! I'm pretty sure we ended up on the news as the dumb tourists who need to learn more Spanish. Accurate.

Guadalupe Church
Lake Nicaragua
On our second day there, we took a tour of La Isletas, the many tiny islands that sit right off of Lake Nicaragua. This, I highly recommend. We spent several lovely hours riding around in a boat, learning about the residents of the islands and monkey island, a little piece of floating paradise where Michael, the star of the show, lives with a few of his friends.

Starting point of the tour.
Those, my friends, are bird nests in the tree.
Michael on Monkey Island
One of the homes on one of the many islands.

One of my favorite things about Granada is all the different colored buildings. It really makes everything bright and beautiful. Before you scroll down to look at them, something important to note: You don't need to order foreign currency. Like, at all. Stores, and even street vendors, label everything in US dollars. The only time you would need local currency is for a taxi ride. You're welcome.

Granada - You definitely are most fresh. Thanks for hosting us and putting up with our minimal Spanish speaking skills. I hope all the local residents enjoyed our obviously amazing interview.

Part 2: Costa Rica and the engagement photos coming soon! (Basically, I need to go to bed. Just keeping it real, friends.)

Also, I've got some pictures up on my Society6 page, but I'm working on the rest. Because, sleep.