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This is a little overdue, I realize, but … meet Hollie!

cute dog

Hollie, January 2010

Is it any wonder we fell in love and decided to keep her?

(On another note, yes, it appears that, should we have children, I’ll get around to sending out the announcements somewhere around the time said child goes to his or her first boy/girl slumber party.)

Compared to what we’ve always looked for in a dog, Hollie is not a good fit. She’s short and little (about 35 pounds), with light, fluffy fur. And, you know, we’ve always been kind of partial to the big black dogs (what, you didn’t notice?). And, she’s not going to be a terribly active dog — she has some major hip problems which will, eventually, require surgery. Don’t tell her that — she pounces and plays with Rudi, running around the yard as much as we’ll allow. But, I don’t think she’ll be joining Rudi and me on our five- and six-milers.

One of the rare quiet times around here. I forgot what having a puppy was like. (It's LOUD.)

Her wonky hips give her a unique little wiggle, which, if you can get past the fact that it’s not really a funny issue, is pretty damn cute. She’s got a tongue that’s about the length of her whole head, and if you get close enough you’re going to get licked. Don’t try to fight it.

She’s only about seven months old, so we’re still working on obedience (well, let me rephrase — we SHOULD be working on obedience. But — spoiler alert — I’m lazy.), but she’s amazingly well behaved for a dog so young. No shoes have been harmed in the training of this puppy. (Though, if both these mutts would stop barking their heads off at every other dog on the street, I’d be happy. Very, very happy.)

Plus, oh my god, how do you not snuggle up with all that fluff? Just try to resist. Seriously.

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My job isn’t always easy, and it’s very rarely glamorous, but some of the people in my virtual office make it pretty damn easy to show up every day. Usually, like in any office, we talk about work, but other times (like in any office), we get … a little off topic.

Today, I was instant messaging with Susan during lunch, and we now have an (amazing) idea for a theme restaurant: Celebrity Head Salads.

me: I just ate a salad the size of Ben Affleck’s head
Susan: I am picturing your salad served IN Ben Affleck’s head
also, is his head larger than your average head? or salad?
me: he’s got a giant noggin. and i’m opening a restaurant. like, you could order in sizes: Reese Witherspoon, Bradley Cooper, or the GIANT Ben Affleck
Susan: Celebrity Head Salads!
me: awesome
Susan: i cannot stop laughing
or pituring various celebs with their heads in salad
me: it’s HILARIOUS
think about John Malkovich!
HUGE!
Susan: the Toby McGuire salad would be both small and vegan
me: laughing SO LOUDLY now
Susan: wondering what would be in a Puff Daddy salad
which would also be smallish, yes?
me: Tom Cruises would be short, and filled with weird Scientology veggies
Susan: Mark Anthony = small
me: definitely
JLo = HUGE
me: but JLo would be HUGE
hahahahaahha
Susan: hhahaahah

me: and with croutons of gooooold
well, shavings, maybe
and truffles!
Susan: snorting
SNORTING! OMG
me: and caviar, for SURE
Mel Gibson’s would be served with a jug of wine, and would NOT be kosher
(I’m so blogging this, btw)
Susan: god I hope so
NOT KOSHER! HAH!
—————–
Can you imagine if we worked in a real office and could actually go somewhere? Like, with alcohol? It might be safer to be in different parts of the country.

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Just over a week ago, I turned 30. This is a big deal, but, on the whole, not exactly unexpected. (I’m no psychic, but this, I totally saw coming.) And actually, it was fun — my fabulous cousin flew down from Michigan to help me celebrate, and there was good food and drinks, and honestly, no room for complaint. I mean, hell, there was Mexican food and a tiara. Oh, and also? My husband was back from Hawaii and had bought me a really beautiful necklace that I didn’t even have to pick out. NO COMPLAINTS FROM ME.

Then, a week ago today, we sent Holly (our latest foster pup) to the vet. I suspected some hip issues, and I was right — degenerative hip disease, which will likely need surgery. Which means that her chances of getting adopted were, more or less, zip. Jared and I were both totally in love with her (big surprise), so, although the news was sad, it helped us make an important decision — we’re keeping her. So, yay! We’re back to being an official two-dog family!

That night, after I went to bed, the phone rang — it was my parents’ ring tone, and I just knew something was wrong. It was. My Grandma Sara had passed away.

Like the birthday, this wasn’t a huge shock. She had turned 91 the week before. She’d been battling Alzheimer’s for over a decade. And for the last couple of weeks, she had become more and more jaundiced. We knew the end was coming, but didn’t know if we were looking at days or weeks or months.

It’s never easy losing someone you love, whether you expect it or not. And though not everyone will understand this, in some ways, a sense of relief accompanied her passing. She died peacefully, in her sleep — she hadn’t experienced much pain, and someone had been at her bedside moments before she died. Our greatest fear had been that her death would be slow and agonizing, that the strength of her body would betray her and drag out the pain. It didn’t, and though I’m not particularly religious, I have no doubt that the prayers we had been sending up made that transition easier.

Additionally, though I wasn’t there for those last moments, I had seen her just days before — my cousin, who had spent lots of time with her as a child, was there as well.  I don’t think she truly recognized me, but I know for a fact she was happy to see us both.

In so many ways, we lost her years ago, but it’s still hard to know that she’s gone. No more visits. No more feeble hopes that she’ll say something, or give any indication that she knows who we are. No more stumbling over my words, trying to find something interesting to say to the grandmother I had spent so many afternoons with and watched as she deteriorated year after year after year.

Grandma Sara taught me so many things, but I think the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is this: It’s inner beauty that counts, and being kind is far more important than being gorgeous. But, a little rouge and some bright lipstick never hurt anybody, either.

I remember swimming in Lake Michigan one summer as a teenager. The waves were bigger than I’d ever seen them, and the warning flag was flapping brightly in the breeze. I went in the water and felt the undertow pull me down, and it was strong. Really, really strong. I was stronger. I pulled myself out of the water, but ended up probably 400 yards down the beach from where I’d entered the lake.

I remember thinking about how easy it would be for someone smaller than me, or someone who was a weaker swimmer, to just be swept up and away. It would be easy for someone to get tired, and, if nobody was watching or helping, they might eventually give up.

There has been a lot going on here. Some sad things, some scary things, some things that will improve and others that simply are what they are, and there’s nothing to be done. When I can look beyond these things, there are a million wonderful, beautiful things, too — amazing things are on the horizon. I’m lucky. We’re lucky. I know this.

But sometimes, it’s hard. Sometimes, if I didn’t have somebody watching or helping, I can see where it could drag me down beyond where I could pull myself back up. But I do have people. I have family and friends and a whole incredible support system. Plus, I’m tough. I am strong. On a good day, I might even be a bit of a bad ass, if I do say so myself.

Being strong doesn’t mean things are easy, but it means I can do it. In fact, right now, I’m not just pulling myself out of the waves; I’m swimming. It might be hard, but I’m moving in the right direction.

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So, I’ve got a feeling 2010’s going to be good, good year. In fact, I’m making the decision, right now, that it will be. Actually, I decided that a few months ago.

You see, in less than three weeks, I’ll be turning 30. Thirty. XXX (oh, wait, that might give the wrong impression …). That’s a big one, people. I’m not saying it’s old (because it’s not), but to quote one Posh Spice, it’s mayjah. Until now, I’ve been able to say that I’m in my twenties, which, theoretically, could lead people to believe I’m in my early twenties — still in college, even. Hey, maybe I can’t even legally drink! What’s that young lady doing with a vodka tonic in her hand! Call the authorities!

When I tell people I’m thirty, well … that kind of gives it away, doesn’t it?

But, back to the main point — why I decided it would be a good year. For one thing, the last couple of years have been hard. Jared and I have both had professional victories, and many, many wonderful things have happened. But we’ve had some really big, really horrible things happen, and those will forever be the events that define 2008 and 2009.

Barring any tragedies (and I’m knocking on wood with one hand while typing with the other), I feel like I have two options when approaching the big 3-0. I can whine and moan and continue celebrating the __ anniversary of my 25th birthday, which is what I’ve done since I turned 25. Or, I can embrace it. I can acknowledge the fact that I kicked some ass in my twenties, that in some respects, I’ve accomplished more by now than I ever thought I would, and feel my heart start to pitter patter at the thought of what I might do in my thirties.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one logical choice.

Don’t misunderstand me — I’m a little nervous about the fact that 30 is my official Grown Up age. As a kid, I always pictured 25 as the age at which I’d begin growing up and do things like get married and get a real job (I was only a year or three off in both), and 30 was when I imagined I’d settle down, have kids, and become successful. I’m not so sure about the kids part, but the rest? Abso-freakin-lutely. It’s gonna be great. I mean, I already have plans to go on a cruise, go to Austin, and go to New York (more on all this coming later, I SWEAR). And that’s just the spring and summer. How bad can it be?

Now, just check back with me on January 24th and see if I’m still this optimistic …

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This New Year’s Day is a particularly big one for me, both because of what this year will bring and because it brings a major, MAJOR decade in my life to a close. On New Year’s Day in 2000 (omg, 10 years ago!), I was a student at Michigan State, and had come down to Florida with two of my girlfriends to watch the Spartans play UF in the Citrus Bowl. And holy cow, did I ever hate that stupid Florida Gators “Gator Bait” chant (I’m still not a huge fan).

It was that trip that really set my life on its current path, and it blows my mind to think about it. I had no idea. We didn’t even plan on visiting Gainesville, but we ended up spending a couple of nights there, and that was all it took. And so, here are a few of the more noteworthy events of the last 10 years. You know, in my life, not in the world. Because I’m pretty sure that my accomplishments don’t mean too much to most of the world.

I packed my life into a car and drove from Michigan to Gainesville, Florida, where I (sort of) knew all of two people.

I met a boy at a country bar who wasn’t afraid to be goofy. He asked me to dance, then he asked me to marry him. I said yes to both.

I got a college degree, and realized I didn’t have a damn clue what to do with it.

I was accepted into my husband’s family, and grieved more deeply than I knew possible when my father-in-law passed away.

I learned to golf.

I was a salesperson, a bridal consultant, a dj, an after-school counselor, a volleyball coach, an administrative assistant, a blogger, a writer and an editor.

I adopted two amazing dogs, lost one, then fostered and found homes for two others.

I was in seven weddings (eight counting my own) and attended lots more.

I battled depression and anxiety. For a while, with meds, and now, with running.

I gained and lost (and gained) 15 pounds.

I became a godmother.

I completed a half marathon and several sprint triathlons.

I bought a home.

I think I became a grown up, and I think I’m okay with it. But this past decade makes me wonder — if this much happened between ages 19 and 29, what in the world do my thirties have in store?

I can’t wait.

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What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

I saw this quote for the first time a couple of months ago, and it’s stuck with me — no, plagued me — ever since. Because I just don’t know the answer.

I mean, there are a few obvious things. If I knew I couldn’t possibly fail, I’d find cures for horrible diseases, and bring about world peace, and probably make a bunch of money doing it. But those things all require skills I don’t actually have (unless you count knowing which bras create impressive cleavage, because that, I’ve got down pat). No, what’s really getting my goose is the fact that I’m not quite certain what I would attempt that’s even somewhat within my grasp. But I have a few ideas, and I hope you’ll share your ideas with me, too.

Yes, I would write a novel. A really funny one that would make people smile. I would come up with great fundraising ideas for my favorite causes, like PHF and the Alzheimer’s Association. I would train to be an impressive athlete. So why am I not doing that now? Am I that concerned about failure? Because I don’t really think I am.

I think the thing that’s getting me all worked up is that I’m not sure how I define failure. My parents raised me to believe I could do anything, and a part of me really holds on to that. Like, with a white-knuckled death grip.

Like, at present, I’m not working a novel, but I am writing and editing for a living, and even being called an expert (I KNOW!). I wouldn’t have guessed that possible five years ago, but, there you go.

I’m not able to pull in millions for the charities close to my heart, but I did help raise a few hundred bucks for the Alzheimer’s Association this year, and I’m currently heading Silent Auction efforts for next year’s Puppy Hill Farm Gala. Plus, we’re fostering our second adoptable dog, Millie, and I’m sponsoring Knudley, a Sanctuary dog at PHF. It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps.

I’ll probably never run a marathon, but I’ve completed other races I’m proud of, and I’m training for another one. I mean, there are millions of people who would never even dream of setting foot on a start line, so that’s something, right?

It seems to me that, if you don’t put a static definition on failure, you don’t have to fail. Working toward your goals should never feel like failure, even if your dreams and reality never quite meet. Even those setbacks you experience in that journey generally serve a purpose — you learn, you grow, you move on. I’m only 29 (for a few more weeks, anyway) — I plan to have many more years of not failing before I’m through.

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I have an answer for almost everything. Yes, it’s entirely possible that my answer is purely fictional, and that, by the time I’m finished, I’ll be fighting back the giggles because I got you to believe whatever I’m saying, but still, I pride myself on coming up with answers. And, when the question is about me, you’d better believe I’ll have an answer for you.

Hey! That's me! With new short hair (and Jared and Rudi)! And yes, we're tailgating. How did you guess?

Except for one question: Why did you cut your hair?

I’ve been getting this question a lot (understandably, because my hair is now considerably shorter than it’s ever been), and I’ve been giving a lot of answers, but at the risk of sounding pathetically philosophical, none of those answers really, well, answer the question. I mean, I’m not lying when I say that I’ve been drooling over Michelle Williams’ hair on the cover of Vogue (it’s a wig! did you know that?), and it’s true that I was certainly ready for a change. But, I think the reason I gave the go-ahead was a little deeper than that.

Other people seem to be able to define me a little better than I can define myself. People say I’m athletic, or preppy, or a fashionista, or a million other things. And they’re all true, but I swear to god, I learn something new and surprising about myself every day. So, I guess I wanted a haircut that made people, even the people who’ve known me my whole life, take a second look at me, and maybe see the edgier side of me, or the fact that I can, on occasion, be spontaneous (you know, with the right planning and as long as I know what’s going on …).

Is it completely insane that I’m putting this much thought into why I chopped my hair? I mean, I don’t know why it’s not enough for me to just answer, “Because I thought it would be cool, and IT IS.” But hey, that’s just another side to me — I’m also complicated, apparently.

(In other news, how cute is Rudi in her little t-shirt there? It’s one of my old ones, but let’s be honest — it looks better on her than it ever did on me!)

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So, my morning routine is getting up, pulling out the Wii Fit, and weighing in. I do this before I get dressed and before I eat breakfast, for consistency’s sake. And, for the most part, I’ve been rewarded.

You know, other than the part where the Wii says, in the most dejected voice ever, “That’s overweight.” And then my Mii hangs herself.

I’m a smart girl. Whether I’m aware of exactly how many pounds I weigh or not, I know I’m not petite or skinny. I’m big boned, and I carry a lot of muscle, and at the moment, there’s a little layer of pudge on top of that. And it’s okay — I’m working on it, and charting my losses and gains on the Wii Fit is super helpful.

But sometimes, the Wii can suck it.

For example, last weekend, I went for a long run before weighing in, and, because I’M HEALTHY, I drank a bunch of water while doing it. And so, the Wii chastised me for gaining an apparent 2.2 pounds. Overnight. It also had me set a new goal because I OBVIOUSLY didn’t reach the original one, what with the gaining so much weight over night.

So, the next morning, I followed my regular schedule, and was happy to see a significant loss from the day before. And at first, Wii was happy, too.

“Wow! You’ve reached your goal! That’s great!” it said in its squeaky little voice. But then, it got all concerned, like an overprotective mother. “You reached your goal a little too fast. I’m worried. Do I need to come to your house? Are you eating? ARE YOU?”

Ummm … I pooped. Seriously. That is all. So, apparently, the way to meet my Wii goals is to spend less time running and more time doing my business. Good to know.

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Thanksgiving is coming, folks. Like, fast. In fact, since I work for a holiday blog, I’m pretty much already onto Christmas!

This week hasn’t been a bad week, but it has been challenging. It’s been my first full week of scheduled training for a race in February (which is now going to be a 15k and not a half marathon — more explanation on that later), so not only is it adding about an hour of things I have to do onto my days, but it’s requiring a lot more physical effort (and making me really, really hungry). Fortunately, I think it’s starting to become habit, which, as any runner will tell you, makes all the difference in the world.

Yesterday, I was talking to my friend Metalia and feeling a bit whiny. She admitted that she had been having a shiteous week, but, that she’d decided to do something about it. (She also shared this with me, and I scored 5/12 — my 6-year-old self would be so disappointed, and also confused.)

Anyway, I list things I’m thankful for each night before I go to bed. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but it helps me calm my mind and remember why I’m excited to wake up the next morning. So, now, I’m going to share a few of those items with you, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments!

The Internet – Without the internet, my profession wouldn’t exist. Not only do I hold jobs that I love, but I also love the people I work with. There’s stress and pressure at times, like in any job, but I laugh enough to more than make up for it. Also, in addition to the internet being the reason I’m friends with quite a few amazing people, it’s also helped me keep in touch with old friends. Internet, I love you.

Kind Strangers – For a couple of weeks, we fostered a beautiful lab mix named Blackie. He was adopted after the first week, but returned, and I started to wonder if I’d be able to give him up. But, the following weekend, a wonderful couple came in and fell in love with him the way I knew somebody would. And when I cried while handing him over, they didn’t scoff — instead, they hugged me.

Options – Our Publix grocery store is about 1/2 a mile away from our house, and I love it. However, when I went in to order my turkey (15-18 pounds, fresh, and free-range), the woman looked at me like, I don’t know, a free-range turkey had just popped out the top of my head. She asked me to explain what I wanted again, so I told her, “Free-range, you know? Cage free? They’re usually organic?” After that, she asked me to just write the terms down. And so, I think I’ll be going to our hippie supermarket for my turkey — sorry, but if the person in your meat department is unfamiliar with those aforementioned terms, I’m thinking another location might be a better choice.

Funny shirts – I’m currently wearing a “Check Meowt” tee supporting Feral for Life, which helps rescuers help cats. Every time I look down at it, I giggle. Some outfits make me feel good because I think they’re pretty, or flattering, or have a good memory associated with them. This is just pure fun.

Rest days – While I actually feel great, my knees are really, really happy to have a day off from running. Five miles on Saturday — anybody want to come with me?

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