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  • Koo at Thirteen

    Koo at Thirteen

    My baby girl. She has no teeth, an enlarged heart, her knee caps seem to slip out more easily, and I'm pretty sure she's got some arthritis going on in her front legs.

    But she is so sweet. She loves to stretch out in my arms in the evening. She's one of the snuggliest creatures I've ever met. Oh sure, she'll wiggle out of my arms if she isn't feeling it, but more often than not, she wants nothing more than to snuggle in.

    If we would spend all day outside with her, she would be the happiest dog ever. Maybe she'd come inside for naps, but otherwise, outside is where it's at. Unfortunately, she lives in a rather indoorsy family. But I try to let her get some wandering in.

    I don't know whether we have any birthdays left with her. The odds aren't in her favor. But she had a good couple of days with us, getting completely spoiled, snuggled, played with, and fed special treats. Our next "milestone" is to get to Halloween. If she can do that, you bet your doggy biscuits she's getting a costume this year.

  • Thirteen years of Koo

    Thirteen years of Koo

    Yesterday Mikenna turned thirteen years old. While I'm usually more wordy, I decided that the best tribute I could think of would be to share some pictures. So I pulled out one for each year of her life. Enjoy!

    2003: Mikenna was born on August 7th, and I brought her home on October 5th. This picture is from that day.

    2004:

    2005: This year, she met one of her favorite people.

    2006: She would probably live outside if we'd let her.

    2007:  Mikenna has always been a good big sister, even if she doesn't ADORE Aeris the same way she's adored.

    2008:

    2009:  Aeris makes a pretty good pillow, at least.

    2010: This girl loves her Matty VERY much

    2011:

    2012:

    2013:

    2014:

    2015: At least when you get a sister who is already grown up, they're more low key. Mostly.

    2016:

    It feels like I've known her forever and for a moment. But she's been an incredible blessing and I can honestly say I've never loved an animal more. Whether she lives one more day or one thousand years, she will always be a part of my heart.

  • Advocating for Change

    Advocating for Change

    There's a calico cat, surrendered to a shelter because the owners can't take care of her anymore. It's summer, which means most shelters are filled to capacity. Adoptions can't come fast enough, rescues can't pull animals fast enough, and so every day, animals are euthanized. This calico cat is one of them. Her papers say that she is sweet, well-behaved, and shy. She did nothing wrong. At 5-10 years old, she could easily have spent another 10 years in another loving home. But there was no room, and she ran out of time.

    I wish I could say that I was making this up, but I watched all this unfold on on of the rescue groups I follow on facebook. Someone wanted to pull the calico, but they were minutes too late. 

    While I'm extremely grateful that our local humane society is no-kill, this is the reality of many, many shelters out there - when they run out of room, animals have to go. Otherwise healthy, happy animals will be killed. It's not an exaggeration, it's simply what happens, and it's heartbreaking. 

    It has to change. 

    I'm not saying that we should pull all the at risk animals from shelters and overcrowd our houses. It's better to take good care of the amount of animals you can care for than to take poor care of too many animals. Also, the problem is much larger. There are behavioral and cultural changes that need to happen, over time, to make a lasting impact. 

    For starters, make sure your own pets are spayed and neutered. Litters of puppies and kittens are cute, but to be honest, this is only exacerbating the problem. Go into any shelter this time of year and find out how many kittens they have. The average cat has litters of 4-6 kittens and can have 3 litters a year. That's potentially 18 kittens that need a home, from just one cat. Imagine how fast the problem grows when those kittens have kittens, and so on. 

    If there are feral cats in your area, you don't need to have them taken to the shelter, where they will likely be euthanized because they are not adoptable. Many places have TNR (Trap, neuter, return) programs that will take care of the reproduction problem. Feral cats are great for controlling pests, and kept in check, are actually beneficial for the environment. If you live in an area without one of these programs, consider going the extra mile and talking to vets and shelters about starting one. 

    If you have an animal that absolutely needs to be rehomed, please don't take the animal to a shelter that euthanizes for space. Surely that animal, your companion for whatever length of time, deserves better. Don't gamble with your pet's life just because you can't care for him/her. If there's a no-kill shelter in your area, start there. For dogs, there are often breed specific rescues that may be able to take your dog in. Rescues are often great alternatives to shelters because the pet will be fostered in a home, which is far less stressful. Some shelters will ask for or require a donation or fee to help cover the cost of caring for your pet while they find your pet a permanent home. This is a small price to pay, considering. 

    Stray cats in particular may not need to be taken to a shelter. The average lost cat wanders a much smaller area from home than a dog, and is better about finding it's way home. A cat taken to a shelter has a very small likelihood of being reunited with their family. The odds are actually much greater that the cat will find it's way home. If necessary, consider putting out food and water for the cat while you try to locate the owner. It's still a better alternative than dropping the animal off at a high kill shelter.

    If the only shelter in your area is a high kill shelter, not all hope is lost. More shelters are turning towards the no kill model, but it takes time. On the whole, shelters will need more space and money to be able to care for the pets, and they'll need community cooperation. That's right - shelters can't do it alone. It takes a village to save and care for animals. If the cause matters to you, see how you can get involved, whether through donating time, resources, or money. Any little bit helps.

    I admit that this is a cause close to my heart. If our local humane society had still been euthanizing for space as it had a few years earlier, my Gwen never would have stood a chance. Now, their save rate is currently at 97% for the year, which is phenomenal. 

    We can do better by our animals, but it takes effort. It takes people willing to step up and work for change. But it's not impossible. Animals who are healthy need not die because their owners can't care for them. We can do better. We must do better.

  • Jumping on the PokeTrain

    Jumping on the PokeTrain

    I liked the idea of Pokemon Go - anyone who has played a pokemon game has surely considered that it would be fun to catch them 'for real'. But I had my reservations - namely my phone battery. It's a great phone, but it already dies fast enough without help from battery zapping games like this. 

    But still. So many friends had jumped on it that I decided to run a free five day challenge on it, and see what happened.

    Truth is, Pokemon Go is a lot of fun. There are problems with it, yes, but on the whole, it's a fun little game that makes me want to get out of the house. I'm also not sure I'll still be playing it in six months if there aren't updates. 

    The premise is neat - go out, fire up the game, and your phone will buzz when there's pokemon nearby. Click on the pokemon, and toss pokeballs at it, trying to catch them. It's simple, which is good, and it's incredibly fun to find something that you haven't seen before. 

    But I imagine that, within six months or so, I'll have caught everything there is to catch in the area. I'm not about to travel overseas for the few pokemon that can allegedly be found in other countries. 

    So I'll be curious to see how the game progresses, whether they keep releasing new pokemon to be caught. If so, I'll probably keep playing. But I imagine the game will get boring pretty quick if they don't. It'll be interesting to see. 

    Now, I just need the weather to cooperate a bit. The heat has been in the low 100's, which has made walking around very unpleasant. Hopefully as it cools down a bit, I'll be able to get out and walk around a bit more.

  • To do, or not to do?

    I've been trying to figure out the best way to get things done. It's not a new project, exactly. I love organization and priorities and lists and office supplies. :swoon: Oh how I love those things. I'm not saying I utlize them well, but I love them just the same.

    Paper planners are where my heart is at. I love writing things down on paper - looking back over the year to see what I've accumulated, the tactile feeling of turning the pages, all that sort of stuff. But here's the problem - paper planners tend to stay put. Either they live on my desk (and it's really hit or miss whether I'll go into my office on a given day), or they'll go in my bag and never get pulled out at home. Either way, what I don't check frequently doesn't get used, which means a lot doesn't get done.

    Phooey.

    So I've started looking at keeping a to-do list on my phone. I'm not a big fan of trial and error - downloading new programs and such, so it was tempting to just use my notepad program. That so wasn't going to work for me. 

    After looking through some of the options, I decided to try out Todoist. It looked easy enough to use, which was critical for me. I didn't want a huge learning curve, or I wasn't going to use it. 

    Things stay in a daily list that's easy to see an cross things off of. You can organize things by projects, add labels, and get reminders pushed to your phone or watch. Todoist works really well with the apple watch - I've come to rely on the little 'ting!' on my wrist to tell me that Mikenna needs her medicine. I love that I don't have to try and watch the time - Todoist just lets me know if I set a reminder. 

    I think Todoist would be even more beneficial if I had an actual, start and finish sort of project going. But it works really well for me as-is, and as I've used it this last month, I've started to refine how I use it, and so it works even better. There was a bit of a learning curve, but it was very easy to get started. The curve was more in mastering the program. 

    One thing I love about Todoist, which is completely unnecessary but awesome, is that it shows me how many tasks I've completed on a given day/week. It also breaks those tasks down by project color, so I can see at a glance what I'm spending my time on. 

    So the good news is that I love Todoist, and it has become my little "get things done" buddy.

    The bad(ish) news is that Todoist as a free app is ... just okay. My biggest grievance with the free version is that it doesn't do reminders. I need reminders. The other perks of the subscription are nice, but without reminders, Todoist is almost useless to me. The subscription for Todoist is $28.99 a year, which isn't bad. However, I find that I'm really getting sick of things wanting subscriptions from me. Adobe switched to this model a few years ago - it's nice that you can pray $9.99/mo for photoshop rather than $799+ or pirating it, but I don't feel like it's actually MY program, and I've lost a lot of love for it. Evernote has had subscription plans for a while, but just tightened the belt and now you can only access Evernote for free on two devices (ie: pc & iphone or iphone & tablet) - that move made Evernote basically useless for me. I had just started using it on my phone, whereas I've been using it on my pc and tablet for years. I'm finding that if things aren't accessible where and when I need them, they're becoming obsolete quickly. So, I moved my evernote files elsewhere and decided I was done with it. 

    So, all that to say, I've been using a free, one month trial of Todoist premium, and I actually like it enough to pay for a subscription for the year. They've got a good product that I'm coming to use daily, and I'm willing to throw them a reasonable fee for that. 

    I don't know whether Todoist will work for you - Matt tried it out, and while he liked it, some other app whose name escapes me actually works better for him. Todoist, however, is definitely my cup of tea. If you're in the market for a productivity/list app, maybe give it a shot. 

  • Better Than Before: LOOPHOLES!

    Habits can be both surprisingly tough and yet, very fragile. There are habits that, once cemented, would take great difficulty to break, and others that require our concentration long after the "magic" 21 day mark. (By the way, 21 days is actually not the magic number. It varies greatly by person, by habit, and how that person forms habits. It's not a bad marker, it just doesn't tell the whole story.) 

    Safeguards help us to aniticipate and minimize temptation. It can keep a lapse from turning into a full relapse. 

    How do we put safeguards into place? Implement "if-then" statements. Put the energy into planning up front - IF they want to go out for coffee, I'll get a small. IF they want to go to a movie, I'll bow out because I need sleep. IF I get a milkshake tonight, then I'll skip dessert tomorrow. Putting energy in up front means that we don't need to think on our feet later. 

    Research shows that when people are forming habits, the earlier repetitions help most to establish it. Start your habit strong, and protect your habit the most right in the beginning, and it will pay off later.

    You can also use planned exceptions. The key word here is planned. Exceptions are best made for something memorable. Skipping the gym to watch tv may not make you feel great later, but skipping the gym to go to a once-in-a-lifetime concert is another story. Think about how you'll feel about the exception later. Will you say "it was worth it!" or not? If it isn't worth it, you may want to reconsider.

    Now, I'm going to run through loopholes. The strategy of loophole spotting can be useful, because for most of us, we will come back to some of the same loopholes over and over. Knowing what we're doing can help us either close the loopholes, or at least make a mindful decision. 

    Moral licensing - Permission to be "bad", because we've been good. "I went to the gym last night, so I can totally have an egg mcmuffin for breakfast" (Note: You can just have the egg mcmuffin without justifying it. It's okay.) 

    Tomorrow - Now doesn't matter, because we're going to do it tomorrow. "I'll eat well tomorrow."

    False choice - Thinking that two activities are in opposition to one another when they aren't necessarily. "I'm too busy to make dinner. Better eat out." 

    Lack of Control - Feeling like we can't control things when we can. "I can't possibly resist buying this book."

    Arranging to fail - A chain of seemingly harmless decisions that allow us to engineer circumstances that we can't resist. "Oops, I forgot to eat breakfast this morning, and I'm right by this bakery." or "I watched too much tv and now I can't do the dishes."

    This doesn't count - Self explanatory. "I can eat whatever I want because I'm on vacation."

    Questionable Assumption -  Weird mental blocks that may or may not be true. "I can't exercise now, I've already showered today."

    Concern for others - Acting out of consideration for others or to fit in socially, whether or not it's warranted. "I have to eat this cake, because aunt Edna would be upset if I didn't."

    Fake self-actualization - Disguised as an embrace of life or acceptance of self. "YOLO!"

    One coin -  The idea that "just one" doesn't matter, whether it's one good deed or one bad. Not realizing that things do, in fact, add up over time. "Why bother working out tonight?"

    Whew. There are a lot of loopholes that we can invoke! What do you find that you fall prey to most often? 

    Next week, we'll look at the strategies of distraction and reward. See you then!

  • Pinterecipes: Parsley Scallion Hummus Pasta

    Pinterecipes: Parsley Scallion Hummus Pasta

    I haven't done a lot of interesting cooking lately. 

    Part of it is because it's summer. No one wants to cook and heat up the house in 90+ degree weather. It's also been busy around here - or, maybe better put, my priorities haven't been cooking. Beans and rice have been a staple around here. Cook up rice in the rice cooker, dump a can of beans on when it's done. Add a little butter and generous portions of a flavor gods seasoning. 

    I know I've said it before, but flavor gods seasonings are AH-MAZING. They're low/no sodium, freshly made, no artificial ingredients, and they taste great. They're a great punch of flavor that isn't bad for you. 

    But I digress. We're here for the pasta. I wasn't sure whether this would be any good. I've made hummus exactly once, and while I've eaten it many times, never have I thought, "you know, we should put this on pasta." But the parsley and the green onion make it magical. YUM. Really. It's a little bit creamy, tastes really indulgent, easy to make, and it's more of a healthy recipe than not. I mean, I used regular ol pasta, but if you really wanted to, you could use rice pasta or veggie pasta, or ... I guess you could try zucchini noodles, but I really think the 'chew' of the pasta is part of the charm.

    If you have a food processor, this one is a winner. Try it out. Let me know what you think.

    Parsley Scallion Hummus Pasta

  • Better Than Before: To do, or not to do?

    Today, we're going to cover the topics of abstaining and convenience. 

    There are people who can have just one cookie and be done. Then there are the people who can't have cookies within a five mile vicinity, or they will eat every. single. one. There's nothing wrong with either, but it's good to know which temperament you fall into. 

    For some people, moderation - drinking, eating, spending - just doesn't work. It's easier for them to resist temptations by just never giving in. To people who prefer to moderate, it may sound crazy, but they actually feel less deprivation when they never indulge than if they do it sometimes. 

    The reason is that abstainers can exhaust themselves asking questions like, "How much? Does this count?" Not indulging removes the need for these questions, which strengthens self control. 

    On the other hand, moderators can get panicky or feel rebellious if they think of never having or doing something. 

    I am very much a moderator. On the whole, I find that I would rather have something really good once in a while than never. Once I find something - say, really good chocolate - it's easier for me to say no to stuff like Hershey's. 
    I'm not so sure about Matt. If we have sweets in the house, he has a hard time staying away from them. I wonder if it'd be easier for him to just abstain entirely, but I don't know.

    Now, as far as making habits goes, we are very influenced by convenience. The amount of effort, time or decision making required, all plays a part on whether a habit is likely to stick for us. This is why, the further away the gym is from either home or work, the less likely we are to go there. It raises too many mental questions: when do I go? should I go first thing in the morning or on the way home from work? do I feel like going? should I pack up clothes to take with me? what's traffic going to be like? 

    So figure out why something feels inconvenient to you. Make it easy to do right, and hard to go wrong.

    On the flip side, you can make bad habits less convenient. Do your dinner plans go out the window when you drive by McDonalds? Take a different way home. Do you eat seven oreos every time you pass by the box? Put them in the cupboard. Do you have the night munchies? Delay gratification by just fifteen minutes, most of your cravings will diminish. 

    We are suckers for convenience. If you want to help bolster a good habit, figure out how to make it as convenient as possible. If you want to get rid of bad habits, make it more difficult. 

    Next week, we'll take a look at safeguards and, one of my favorites - loopholes! See you then. :)

  • Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 4

    Weird Ways I've Woken Up, Part 4

    This is, "So you've had a rough night".

    Mikenna goes through periods where she's really hit or miss for sleep. Eventually we find some underlying cause (usually? mostly?) but until then, it's just a mystery. Because the worst thing about Mikenna not wanting to sleep is that she just sits at the end of the bed and whines off into the night. Like, she doesn't even know what she wants, but she thinks we're going to know what she wants somehow.

    The first things I always try are taking her out and feeding her. If one of those is the answer, it's the easiest and fastest way to get everybody back in bed. If that doesn't work, I end up laying at the foot of the bed and gently rubbing her until she falls asleep. This works about half the time.

    So there are some mornings I wake up at the foot of the bed (practice has given me enough foresight to bring a pillow with me and untuck the blanket from the end of the bed) and everyone else is sound asleep like it's the most natural thing in the world.

    I'm glad they're getting sleep anyway, because they aren't necessarily letting me get much shut eye!

  • Crafts for Koo

    Crafts for Koo

    I'm trying to defray some of Koo's vet and medicine costs, and part of that is getting crafty. It's a two birds/one stone thing for me - it gives me a positive way to try and help out, and it gives me something to occupy my brain. 

    Since we're already a little over $1000 in on Koo's heart failure, I can assure you, that any little bit helps. I'll be posting cards, paintings, maybe other things on my facebook page here and there. If you want something, scoop it up. Most things I can make more of, so if you see something that you really want but has already been claimed, just let me know. 

    So if you're interested in some neato crafty stuff, check out my facebook page. I may put the stuff on etsy eventually, but putting them up on facebook is cheaper for all involved. :)