Monday, June 27, 2016

All Around the World: Costa Rica and Nicaragua (Plus Some Engagement Photos...Wooo!): PART 2

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

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Trying to create a resource manual at work when you're going on vacation to a place called manuel really messes everything up. Anyway...

To get to Manuel Antonio you have to fly into Quepos (I'll fill you in on all of that fun later). We stayed at Arenas Del Mar while we were there, a rather expensive resort. We'd heard it was the best of the best and had tried going a year prior, but it's so popular that it was booked solid. Therefore, this trip was a full year in the making. But if a resort books up that quick it must be amazing, right?

Upon arrival you're given their "Welcome Drink." It's this ridiculously good pineapple-mint-coconut drink that I then had to order every single day like some coconut crackhead. The day I came home I recreated it because I was kind of, sort of, maybe addicted. Here's the recipe- you're welcome. Arenas Del Mar is a sustainable luxury hotel, which means they're all about saving water, eating organically and healthfully, and being a good, responsible hotel line. Right up my alley!

At the resort you have two beaches: one public and one private. The rooms are very comfortable and the mini bar food/drinks are free- wooooo! There are two restaurants on-site and they are expensive, however, they have a ton of gluten free options. Unfortunately, the food was very hit or miss for both gluten free and "normal" food. One meal would be awesome, the next would be pretty terrible. That being said, breakfast was pretty kick ass aaaaaand it's free! With breakfast every morning you also get a huge tray of fresh fruits like pitaya, pineapple, mango, and berries.

Public beach
Private beach
I have to give a round of applause to the staff because those folks were super sweet and crazy hard workers. Seriously, the staff made the place. There was one older gentleman, Luis, who I just adored. He was our server most of the time and he always had something interesting to say, not to mention a huge smile on his face.

All in all, I must say the resort is gorgeous. Views for miles...

Now, here's the trick about the rooms: You don't need the ocean view, so save your money. We did one night ocean view and then the rest of the time in a regular bungalow, which was $100 cheaper and three times the size. Sure, the view was nice, but we were out and about the whole time anyway enjoying the view in person and up close.

Your activity options in this tropical paradise are endless! Water activities, hiking, and shopping are just a few, but one thing you should do is visit a rainforest- a rainforest with suspension bridges. Costa Rica is known for these gloriously green forests, however, not all rainforests are created equal. Some are cloud forests, other wet forests, and then there are true rainforests. To get to a real rainforest (and the suspension bridges) you're going to need a tour. We booked a rainforest hike through the resort. We had a private guide and spent a great morning hiking, learning, exploring, and swimming in a mini-waterfall.
Suspension bridges
Looks scarier from this angle, right? 
You know what else you should do while in rainforest country? Go ziplining! We had a full day of zipline and ATV adventures and, honestly, it was amazing. There were more waterfalls and whooshing through the forest and then, the must, the Superman line- a full minute of endless ziplining awesomeness!
The Superman zipline
A true Superman
ATV rides + Being covered in dirt = This
Waterfall time
The wildlife in Costa Rica is pretty impressive. We saw iguanas, monkeys, a cutie Toucan Sam, and two sloths! You've seen the movie Zootopia, yes? Sloths really are that slow. 

Example: This dude who was crossing the street because he saw a tree he liked better on the other side. I know it looks like he's waving at us, but he's really saying ""  Makes me think of a joke. Why did the sloth cross the road? We'll never know, he's still crossing it! JK, LOL. Stand Up Comedy career, here I (do not) come. Don't worry, this little fella is fine. We stayed to make sure no cars would hit him while he made his slow, slow journey to the other side of the street. 

We also spent a day in Quepos, which is an awesome little town with good food and plenty of shopping. Here, you can find all the goodies your little shopping heart desires. There's also plenty of shopping in Manuel Antonio, but it's more expensive.

Overcome with shopping joy
As mentioned, we took an opportunity to have some engagement photos done at a beach because we're never at a beach. Plus, if I'm being totally honest here, we're awkward and we need all the practice we can get. It was a great idea, until we realized it was super hot with tons of humidity, so we ended up just being more awkward with frizzy hair. I make awesome decisions, clearly.

And just because this place is so doggone beautiful, here are a few more pictures.

This was high tide. It was hilarious to walk through- try it

 A bear on a beach
My favorite shot

Before I can end this story about this lovely, lovely place, as promised I must first prepare you for the flight you have to take to get here (and to the San Jose airport to fly home), because holy is terrifying in fresh and new ways. But, um, don't let that scare you...

To get from Nicaragua to the Quepos airport, which is the closest one to Manuel Antonio, it only takes about one hour. Unfortunately, you have to take a teeny tiny 12 seater plane. I'm sure on days when there's no wind the flight(s) are perfectly fine, but when there is wind it's like being on a roller coaster in the sky. A gust comes this-a-way and the whole plane lifts up suddenly. Another gust comes that-a-way and WHAM, the whole plane moves to the right. My butt literally lifted out of the seat entirely several times. There were screams of terror followed by delirious laughter, then more screams- over and over. 

"AHHHHH!!! Hahahah! We made it, we ma- EEEEEEEK!!!! Oh no, ohnonononono...HAHAHA! We're alive!"

Like that.

The flight(s) home was worse. The first plane that we were supposed to take had landing gear problems, so we had to hire a private plane with some other folks because we were desperately trying to catch our other fight. (Didn't make it, for the record. Worst flying day ever in all of my traveling life) The plane we hired was a six seater, mind you. Landing was the most terrifying part of the ride because it's important to, you know, ensure you land smoothly and not all lopsided so one wing doesn't break off on the tarmac.

I should mention that at no point on any of these flights were any of the pilots scared. Nope, not even a little. Just us tourists. The most exciting/terrifying plane ride(s) of my life, I tell you. You thrill seekers will love it! Also, the airport in Quepos is the tiniest, most adorable airport you will ever see. It has two whole terminals all housed under one building the size of a three car garage. Enjoy yourselves. *wink wink*

Some of these pictures can be found on my Society6 page.

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

Dog Food and Coconut Oil for your Furry Family Members

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 (you know, mom instincts) that something else was going on. While I love our vet clinic - and all the wonderful vets there who have taken care of Samson since he was a baby bean - and trust them completely, I had to also trust those instincts. 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 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.