Deal Breakers

There is so much strength and beauty that come with knowing who you are and what you want in life and in love. Everything I’ve been through in the past year and a half has made me acutely aware of who I am as a person, what makes me happy, what I want and deserve, and the type of life I want to live. It’s incredibly empowering to walk through life with this knowledge, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. As per usual, I’d like to talk a little bit about the shitty side of self-actualization…

In my twenties, things seemed so easy. I was still figuring out who I was, but ever the optimist, I was certain everything would magically fall into place. Fun fact: that’s just not how life works.

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal. Image via theproptank.com

In my thirties, with a 7-year relationship and subsequent divorce under my belt, I can walk confidently through life with a clear understanding of who I am and what I want. In terms of dating, this has translated into a series of what are commonly referred to as deal breakers. So here are a few of mine:

  1. Babies. I want kids. This is the big one. I want to be a mother. I am 99.9% certain this desire will never go away.
  2. Equality. I’m looking for an equal partnership. Someone who is as career focused and ambitious as I am. Someone who is willing to be an equal partner in all things, from child rearing and life responsibilities to social interactions and career goals.
  3. Dogs. This might seem dumb, but dogs will always be in my life. I will always and forever treat my dogs like family. I will always want to adopt all the dogs. The person I end up with needs to accept this and find it endlessly charming. I demand it.
  4. Religion. I’m an atheist and just cannot fathom getting serious with someone who is super religious. I don’t think I need to end up with an atheist (though I’d prefer it), but I won’t get married in a church, baptize my kids, attend church, etc. The person I end up with needs to be okay with this.
  5. Politics. I don’t necessarily have to be with someone who agrees with all my politics, but let’s just say that I could never take a Trump voter seriously, and therefore would never date someone who voted for that racist old pile of orange, rotting flesh that currently occupies the oval office.

Deal breakers are important. They help us set boundaries for ourselves and help us protect our hearts. But what happens when you meet someone who checks all the boxes except one very important one?

It sucks. That’s what happens.

Few things in this life will make you feel more like you’re trapped in an adulting nightmare than making the decision to walk away from something amazing because your rational brain knows it will just hurt you in the end. Sure, everything feels fabulous now, but eventually you know everything will go to shit because you just cannot get on the same page about something that means the world to you.

So you talk about it, like adults. You cry about it alone in your bedroom, in a way that would put 14-year-old you to shame. You spend hours and days attempting to rationalize the inclination to forge ahead—deal breakers be damned—but ultimately you come to the conclusion that there’s no way to make this work. And that sucks.

Because this is what adulthood is. It’s setting boundaries and cultivating responsible relationships that ultimately support the life we envision for ourselves. It’s protecting our heart from the kind of anticipated pain that can only come from the shitty life experiences that have shaped who we are and who we will become.

So what now?

Now, I start over. Again. I try not to lose hope. I attempt to gain some sort of life lesson from this experience. I remind myself that I’m only 32 and I have my whole life ahead of me. And I channel my inner optimist, then remind myself to be grateful for all the good in my life.

Posted in Dating, Finding Happiness, Not Dogs | Leave a comment

#metoo

Over the past several weeks, the #metoo movement has gained serious momentum. From celebrities and high-profile figures to regular women, my social media feeds have been inundated with personal stories of women being harassed and assaulted by men. As a survivor of sexual assault and a woman who believes very strongly in the importance of gender equality, this movement has been especially difficult for me, and here’s why…

I was raped ten years ago, and I shared my story publicly for the first time a few weeks ago on my Facebook profile. Before I posted my #metoo story, only a handful of people (besides law enforcement) actually knew I was raped. A few close friends, my (now) ex husband and my nuclear family. I felt compelled to share because since the rape, I’ve built a life for myself that I’m really proud of—one that encourages personal growth and honesty. That incident does not define me, and I really do believe that courage is contagious. I thought maybe my story will help someone else find the strength to come forward about their own trauma.

So I shared. For those of you who missed it, here it is:

#metoo Facebook Post

How We Talk About Rape

Now, I don’t regret posting this publicly. In fact, I’m really proud of myself for finally putting it out there. I view myself as a strong, capable feminist. I don’t see myself as a weak person or a victim. So I wanted the world to see that this can happen to anyone. It’s not about what you wear, how promiscuous you are or aren’t, what you look like, whether you’re physically or emotionally strong enough to prevent it… none of that matters. Rape is about power and privilege. And I’m proud of who I am, who I have become and how I handled myself through the entire ordeal.

I’m also grateful for the support I received on Facebook from friends who saw the post. I have some seriously badass women in my life, and I’m absolutely a better person for knowing these women.

That being said, you may have noticed that I only referenced women, just now. That was not a typo, or a feminist declaration. I only reference women because the only people in my life who reacted to or commented on that post were women. To say that I was shocked by this is an understatement. I was blown the fuck away.

This movement has inspired HOARDS of women to come out of the woodwork, bare their souls to the world, and share their deep personal traumas with complete strangers, and for the most part, we’re only being supported or heard by other women. We are preaching to the choir. Women know harassment and assaults happen to us. This is not late-breaking news for us. Unfortunately, almost every woman I know has experienced it firsthand or seen it affect a woman they’re close with.

#metoo isn’t just supposed to be an opportunity for women to talk to one another about our experiences, it’s supposed to be an opportunity for the men in our lives to hear our stories and hopefully reflect about the behavior that created the pervasive rape culture we live in. So why isn’t this happening?

Now, I’m absolutely not saying that all men are to blame for rape culture, but many contribute to it—whether they know it it or not. Just because you’re not attacking women on the street doesn’t mean you don’t contribute to the problem. I don’t expect every man to understand this and change these things about themselves just because I said so. I’m just asking for a little self awareness and for them to join the conversation.

Step 1: when a woman says she’s a victim, let her know she’s heard. And guys, if you’ve logged into Facebook in the past month, I promise there are multiple #metoo stories you can start with.

I realize that self reflection is hard. It’s not easy to look inside yourself and try to understand all the ways you’ve failed as a decent human being. I’ve done this quite a bit over the past few years, and here are some takeaways:

  1. I am a middle-class white woman who is privileged in ways I never even realized. Because of this, I try to be more aware of how my privilege affects both my situation and the situations of those around me—be it people of color or less affluent communities.
  2. Everyone is probably a little racist. Even me. I hate this about myself, and I hate it about our culture. I’m liberal and engaged and would never actively discriminate against someone because of their race. I was also raised by pretty open-minded people who constantly reminded me I’m no better than the next guy—for any reason. Unfortunately, racially charged stereotypes are ingrained in people from an early age, and I work hard every day to fight back against those thoughts, notions, actions, etc.
  3. I am guilty of sexism. This one is weird for me… I’m a feminist, but I still have these weird, antiquated views that I just can’t seem to shake of girls and boys, men and women, heterosexual relationships, gender roles, etc. It’s like the rational side of my brain is like, “gender equality, duh,” but something else in there is screaming “But my innate femaleness is inconvenient and I should apologize for that!” Again, I work every day to ignore the parts of me that give any energy towards feeling like I’m less than just for being a woman. But it’s hard work, man.

None of this is easy. I know that. But guess what? Neither is walking around in a world where you feel constantly on guard because you literally don’t know which men you can trust and which men feel entitled to your body (and will do whatever it takes to get it). Neither is living with the trauma of being raped or assaulted. Neither is being a victim whose voice isn’t heard or respected by law enforcement—the people we’re supposed to turn to for help.

I know I’m on a soapbox here. I know this is precisely the kind of feminist rant that many men tune out because it’s not fun to hear. And I know that I can scream and shout my story from the rooftops, but at the end of the day, I can’t force someone (let alone an entire gender) to hear me. I don’t have a solution—only a glimmer of hope that there are good, decent men out there who are on our side enough to do something about it.

/rant

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Posted in #metoo, Activism, Feminism, Finding Happiness, Not Dogs | Leave a comment

On Being Single: Part 2

Let’s talk about dating, shall we? As I’ve discussed previously, earlier this year I discovered that I’m now a 32-year-old woman, single for the first time in about 7 years. And OMG so much has changed since the last time I was single.

The Good News

Here’s the thing—everyone I know is married. Well, like, almost everyone. So, gone are the days when I could reasonably assume I’ll meet someone through mutual friends—because again, LITERALLY EVERYONE IS MARRIED. I suppose that’s what happens in the Midwest… The good news is that dating apps make it super easy to meet people.

The options seem limitless—which sounds like a good thing—but as someone who is paralyzed by anxiety every time I have to make a decision, the online dating thing can be incredibly overwhelming.

I will say this about the whole situation: I’ve met a ton of people and had a lot of fun, for the most part. And as an extrovert, I’m always up for a cocktail and (hopefully) decent conversation. I get to learn about all sorts of new stuff, and I can honestly say that dating has broadened my horizons quite a bit.

Why Online Dating Makes Me Insane

I got stood up last month. By a guy I met on Bumble. We chatted for a few days, he asked me out and we agreed to meet. I showed up and messaged him that I was there, and instead of replying with LITERALLY ANY EXCUSE, he deleted our conversation on Bumble so I had no way of getting in touch with him. I almost wrote this post after that experience, but decided against it because this was the first thing I typed when I got home…

I got stood up tonight. Seriously. As I write this, I am actually considering closing up shop and declaring a commitment to spinsterhood. Because dating in 2017 is the worst, and as far as I can tell, most single men are currently floundering in a perpetual state of adolescence.

So yeah, ghosting is a thing I’m dealing with now. And it happens all the damn time. Here’s a PSA to the entire universe: GROW THE FUCK UP. Seriously. Be a decent human being and have some personal accountability. I don’t care if you changed your mind, or if something came up, or you’re just not that into me—say it. I’m an emotionally evolved adult human. I can take it.

It’s also become very clear to me that there are “types” of guys on these apps. Here are a few…

The Pen Pal | This guy just wants to message back and forth forever without ever asking you out. WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?
Stage 5 Clinger | This guy has already named your future children in his head before you even meet in person. True story: I was recently chatting with a guy who one night got drunk and texted me that I’m “very special to him.” I immediately cancelled our first date and told him (politely) to never contact me again.
Married Dude/Couples/Guy with Fetish | Oh you’re married and looking for something discreet? Fuck you. Couples looking for a third don’t bother me, but I’m not interested. And if the only picture on your profile is a graphic that says, “I heart sucking toes” I assure you, I’m not the woman of your dreams.
The Quick Date Maker | This guy’s opener is an invitation to drinks or dinner. Slow your roll, man, I don’t even know you. What makes you think I’d be interested in meeting you—a stranger—face to face without even a little small talk?
Look at my Dick Guy | “Oh, weird, you can see my junk through my pants? Totally didn’t mean for that to happen… how embarrassing!

Actual screen shots from Tinder…

Match.com

After getting stood up, I decided to give up on Bumble and Tinder entirely. It felt like a lot of work, and it wasn’t going anywhere. The way I see it, these apps are too full of people who aren’t totally sure if they’re ready to meet someone for real yet, but basically nobody is willing to explicitly say, “Hey, I’m here for sex-related purposes.” And the ones who DO say that are definitely the kind of guys no self-respecting woman would hook up with (I’m talking to you, foot fetish guy).

So now I’m on Match. And while it can be ROUGH sorting through the losers who message me as if they have a snowball’s chance in hell at dating me, I honestly feel like the decent guys are of a much higher caliber than the Bumble/Tinder lot. The problem with Match is that anyone can send you a message, whether you show mutual interest or not. And you should see some of the messages I’ve gotten… I don’t have the time or energy to go through them all, but here’s a little rundown of some of the men who have shown interest in me and/or messaged me on Match…

The Elderly (c’mon…I’m only 32)
Men from Other States (wut? and also why?)
Bible Thumpers (my profile is very clear about my atheism)
Trump Voters (my profile is also very clear about my unwillingness to date a Trump voter)
3s (listen, I know I’m not a 10, but I’m sure as shit not a 3)

Guys, I’ve been on match for like 3 weeks, and I’ve received 361 messages. I’ve responded to probably fewer than 10 of them. It’s EXHAUSTING. When I moved back to KC and told a friend I was interested in trying online dating she said to me, “Good luck. It’s like having a second full-time job.” And boy was she right…

So this is my life now. A seemingly unending search for a decent man. Wish me luck—I need it.

Posted in Dating, Finding Happiness, Kansas City | Leave a comment

On Being Single: Part 1

As it turns out, one of the side effects of divorce is sudden and undeniable singlehood. As a 32-year-old woman who spent the past 7 years in a relationship and has considered myself—for the most part—a serial monogamist, the thought of being single again was terrifying for a few reasons. First, being lonely sucks. Second, dating culture in 2017 was totally foreign to me. Third, it sounded like SO MUCH WORK.

I like to think that over the last several months, I’ve come to terms with each of these things in my own special way, but that’s not to say it isn’t an ongoing struggle. Some days I love being single, and others I wish I wasn’t, but the good news is I no longer wish I had my old life back. That feels like a step in the right direction!

I decided I want to write about the ups and downs of single life because it seems like a topic not many people are willing to discuss. In the age of social media, the only things we tend to talk about publicly are the good things that happen to us. And don’t get me wrong—I’m guilty of this too—but for some reason I feel compelled to talk about the bad shit. Nobody’s life is perfect. Mine certainly isn’t. So here’s a little dose of honesty from me to you…

Being lonely sucks.

This is not a shocking or controversial revelation. Most people don’t like being lonely. I consider myself a lucky divorcée, though, because my divorce wasn’t a situation where one day we were together and the next we weren’t. Loneliness crept into my life long before my marriage was over. And probably before it even began, if I’m being 100% honest. So I had quite a while to come to terms with feeling alone.

Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression can be tough. It’s lonely and isolating for both people, especially when neither person is well equipped to navigate the situation. Add to that my anxiety and constant need to control and fix everything, I’d say our relationship never really stood a fighting chance without some serious therapeutic and medical intervention. The good news? I think we’ve both spent a lot of time addressing these issues on our own terms. The bad news is it was too little, too late on his part to keep our marriage together. And that’s okay. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think this divorce was a “blessing in disguise” as they say.*

So yeah, I felt alone at times when we were dating, but I REALLY felt alone after we got married and he was traveling all the time. Then, just 18 months into that situation, we separated. And that was a whole new level of loneliness. It was loneliness compounded by debilitating hopelessness. But throughout that separation, I took full advantage of therapy, antidepressants and wine. So much boxed wine, you guys. And over time, I actually learned to love and embrace being alone. I even took a solo hiking trip to Colorado last fall because I’m a badass independent woman. And as it turns out, I wasn’t ever actually alone. I had my dogs, my friends, my family, my passions, my work and a thousand other things to occupy space in my life. So when I finally decided that divorce was my only option, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for the loneliness of singlehood, and it was so much less scary.

Nine months into officially living alone again, I admit there are still lonely days, but I truly have the most incredible support system, so the negative feelings don’t stick around too long. Plus, Cyrus and Bill are always there to remind me I’m not alone. Sure, this mostly involves Bill begging for food and Cyrus farting at me, but I’ll take it.

Next time, I’m gonna talk at you about what it’s like to date in 2017. Buckle up, buttercup—it’s gonna get weird.

*Serious question from an atheist who loves words but is sick of using bullshit phrases rooted in Christianity: Is there a colloquialism that means the same thing but doesn’t reference god?

 

 

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A Fresh Start

So you may have noticed I haven’t posted anything for more than a year… I swear I have a totally valid excuse: I got divorced!

Last year my life was turned up-side-down in ways I never could have imagined, and the last thing I wanted to do was drag my friends, family and total strangers into what was easily the worst year of my life. Since then, I’ve opened up to most people about what was really going on, but I figured I’d spare my small-but-mighty blog audience the depressing details.

The important thing is that I’m finally on the other side of it, and I’m here to share a few things about my new life!

  1. I moved back to Kansas City in January! As you may recall, the move to Des Moines was difficult for me for a lot of reasons. Being back in my hometown has been so good for me. I’m renting a cute little house in Prairie Village and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be back! (But I do miss my amazing friends in Des Moines!!!)
  2. I’ve got my boys with me. Obviously. Anyone who knows me probably knows that someone, even Chris, would have had to pry these dogs out of my cold, dead hands. They are my whole world, and I cannot imagine my life without them in it. They may be total weirdos, but they’re my weirdos.
  3. I’ve discovered therapy is truly the best gift a person can give themselves. There are absolutely no words to describe how useful it was for me—not just to help get me through a divorce, but to help me better understand who I am, what motivates my behavior (spoiler alert: debilitating anxiety) and how to create a life for myself that I’ve always wanted.
  4. I’m not angry or sad anymore. For all the valid reasons I have to be upset with Chris about blowing our lives up in such a spectacular way, I’ve made the decision to let those feelings go. It doesn’t do anybody any good to dwell on the negative, so why bother?
  5. I’m happier than I’ve been in years. It’s funny what a little time and perspective can do for a girl. The second half of last year was truly a nightmare for me. It was physically and emotionally draining—I wasn’t eating or sleeping or functioning at 100% capacity in any way. And I truly couldn’t imagine a world in which I ever felt happy again. But even before that, I know now that I wasn’t really happy in that relationship. Although that is sort of sad and weird to admit, it’s the unfortunate truth. But ever the optimist, I’m looking back at the past seven years of my life not as a waste of time, but as a very valuable learning experience.

So for those of you who were wondering if I gave up on the blog, the answer is NO! In fact, I really feel like I need this creative outlet, and I look forward to writing even more about my new life.

And believe me, there’s plenty to discuss… I’m dating again, which is weird and fun and scary and exciting—but mostly weird. My dogs are still awkward AF and murdering critters when they have the chance. I got a new bike and I’ve been riding a lot more which makes me super happy. I finally get to be a hands-on “aunt” to all my friends’ kids! I plan on traveling more—sometimes alone, sometimes not—which should definitely provide some entertaining stories… Most importantly, I have a very real sense of contentment with the way my life has turned out so far, and I’m genuinely looking forward to what my future brings. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride!

XOXO,
Ashley, Cyrus & Bill

Posted in Bill, Changes, Cyrus, Divorce, Finding Happiness, Kansas City | 6 Comments

6 Things I’ve Learned After a Year of Working from Home

Working from HomeYou guys, I’ve made it a full 13+ months of working from home full time! So I thought it was a good time to reflect back on everything and share what the whole experience has taught me…

  1. Working from home is an incredibly isolating experience. As I’ve mentioned before, this was a really difficult move for me. My whole world was turned up-side-down and I felt stuck inside our old apartment almost all of the time. I’ve said from the beginning that if we were still in Kansas City, working from home would be a breeze because my friend/family network is so close by that I would have never felt stuck or lonely. But being in a city with no real social network to speak of at first was very difficult for an obnoxious extrovert like me (just ask my incredibly introverted husband—there were days I thought he might kill me for focusing all of my social energy on him). The good news is that in the past five months or so, I’ve made some really lovely friends here in Des Moines, and I don’t feel nearly as isolated as I once did. I’m so grateful for that. And I actually don’t really feel isolated at all anymore, because I have so many opportunities to get out of the house and spend time with real people—as opposed to talking to my dogs all day…Home Office
  2. Creating a separate work space is really important. For eight of the past 13 months we lived in a 0-bedroom loft apartment where I REALLY struggled to separate my work space from our living space. But now that we have a house with actual rooms in it, I’ve been able to create an office where Chris and I can both have our own space for desks and all the accoutrement that comes with a home office. When I walk into that room, I feel like I can automatically switch to work mode, which is a welcome change from hating my office “space” in the apartment and often rejecting the desk to work from the couch surrounded by dogs.
  3. Bras are totally optional. This also applies to makeup, styling my hair, showers, shoes, pants not made for exercise/lounging purposes, etc. I mean, listen, I’m not saying I never wear a bra or make myself generally presentable anymore. I’m just saying that a person can get away with a severe lack of appearance-related shits given most days when nobody actually knows what they look like (except Chris when he’s in town, and frankly, he’s legally bound to me now, so deal with it, babe).Do What You Love
  4. If you’re going to work from home, you better love what you do. There are a lot of distractions when you work from home. On any given day I could be compelled to stop what I’m doing to watch TV, lay on the couch, do some laundry, clean the kitchen, make dinner, run an errand or play with the dogs. And don’t get me wrong, I will do these things sometimes if my workload allows it or I plan on making up that time in the evening or over the weekend. But the fact that I really do love what I do for a living, and that I respect my clients and coworkers makes it easier for me to not give in to those temptations. I truly do want to do great work every day, and that often requires giving my job my undivided attention.
  5. It’s actually not as amazing as you think it is. Those of us who work from home hear this a lot, “Ugh, I’m SO jealous. I wish I could work from home!” And I totally understand where these people are coming from, but I tend to respond with, “I mean yeah, it sounds amazing, but I promise it gets old…” Here’s why I say this:
    • As a highly social person, being so disconnected from the people I work with day in and day out makes my job a lot harder in a lot of ways.
    • Most days I feel unkempt.
    • I am fairly certain my neighbors think I’m a stay-at-home dog mom and/or a serial killer.
    • There’s a misconception that working from home is a leisurely endeavor, when in reality, most people I know who work from home are constantly busting their asses to prove that they’re working just as hard (and often harder) than their coworkers.
    • Because my office is in my home, I struggle to walk away from my work. I work way more now than I ever did when I went into an office each day.
  6. I’m starting to love it. It’s been a rough year, but all things considered, I’m finally happy with my unique situation. Working from home is not for everyone, and I hope it’s not my forever situation. But right now I feel like I’ve adjusted to this lifestyle and feel highly successful doing what I’m doing. I’m super grateful that I have been given the opportunity to continue working for a great company and with people I really enjoy—even if I am three hours away from it all.
Posted in Changes, Des Moines, Not Dogs, Our Home, The Move, Work | Leave a comment

Another Day, Another Maimed Critter…

Bill & Cyrus

The faces of pure evil.

So I’d say my dogs are cold-blooded murderers, but if my years as a crime-drama aficionado have taught me anything, it’s that if there’s no body, it’s not murder.

Let me catch you up:

First, let’s go back a few months to the weekend after we moved into our new house. It was early December and we were still far from settled in—boxes everywhere, furniture askew, etc. That Sunday night we let the dogs out to go to the bathroom, and they beelined for a raccoon that was meandering through our yard at the time. As you can imagine, the scene was something out of my nightmares.There was a lot of hissing and growling (mostly from the raccoon). Bill had its neck and Cyrus had its tail/back legs, and I couldn’t tell if they were trying to kill it or if they had no idea what to do with it now that they caught it.

Chris and I ran out into the yard and pulled them off the raccoon, which was laying on its back making gurgle sounds that haunt my dreams, to this day. We got the dogs inside, and they had some scratches on their faces which drew blood, but were otherwise fine. I cleaned them up as best I could, then turned to Chris and said, “Dude. There’s either a dead or dying raccoon in our yard. We need to end its suffering and get rid of it.”

Ever the rugged outdoorsman, Chris valiantly grabbed his bb gun from the dining room table (why was there a bb gun on our dining room table?!?!?) and we crept back outside to take care of the raccoon. The plan? Bludgeon the dying critter hard and fast to end its sad little life as quickly as possible. I felt so bad and didn’t want it to suffer any longer. So he did that. With the butt of his bb gun. Because we didn’t even have a shovel or bat or anything more useful in this very specific situation.

zombie raccoon

I googled zombie raccoon…

A few minutes after we got inside, I realized Cyrus’s cone of shame had busted off in the critter scuffle (the reason for the cone is another story for another day). So I went back out to grab it and discovered something horrifying: the racoon wasn’t there.

After the very graphic, but well-meaning, attempt at racoon euthanasia, it was motionless and emitting a sound that could only be described as a death rattle. But now it was GONE. Had it just been playing dead? Did it crawl away to die a slow death in a neighbor’s yard? IS THERE A ZOMBIE RACCOON ROAMING THE STREETS OF DES MOINES? There were so many unanswered questions.

So since this incident, we’ve implemented a very normal routine of not allowing the dogs to exit the back deck at night without us stomping around, making noises and shining a flashlight out into the yard to scan for anything that might be considered prey (I can only imagine what our neighbors think of us…). We haven’t seen a single raccoon since that night, but we do have a lot of rabbits in our yard. And they always manage to escape under a fence when they hear the dogs coming. Until today.

A little background: We had about 4 inches of snow on the ground until yesterday when things started to melt, slowly. Then, early this morning, there was a thunderstorm and lots of rain. This turned our yard into a slushy, muddy poop soup, because it was slowly melting and uncovering all the frozen dog poop. (I know what you’re thinking, and YES, my life really is this glamorous all the time.)

So when I got up this morning, I let the dogs out onto the deck, where there is a closed gate, preventing them from entering the yard. I scanned the yard for critters, saw no movement, and opened the gate. Once again, the dogs beelined for the back of the yard, behind some trees, where there was a rabbit. When the rabbit realized it was being hunted, it darted away, but couldn’t manage to find an exit point and was just racing aimlessly around the yard with my two dogs chasing it down, and ultimately, catching it.

I’m of course yelling at them to stop, but it was falling on deaf ears, so I ran down into the yard—in the rain, in my slippers. Like last time, I couldn’t tell if the dogs were trying to kill it or if they genuinely had no idea what to do with it now that they caught it. I pulled them both off by their collars and let the poor little bun bun escape. It wasn’t bleeding, but it was NOT walking right. It kind of hobbled away while I dragged my dogs back inside through the slushy, disgusting yard.

When I got them inside, I walked back out to see if it was up to me this time to play the role of the angel of mercy, but I couldn’t find it… I’m still not sure if it managed to escape or if it flopped under a bush to die.

So this is my life now. I’m the mother to two blood-thirsty creatures who I’m fairly certain are slowly and deliberately creating an army of zombie critters in our neighborhood.

Also, I haven’t let the dogs out again yet today, but I think there’s going to be a leash involved next time. Wish me luck.

They may look innocent now, but they're probably dreaming of their next kill...

They may look innocent now, but they’re probably dreaming of their next kill…

Posted in Bill, Critters, Cyrus, Des Moines, Our Home, The Boys | Leave a comment

This Hasn’t Been Easy…

So the blog has been silent for a bit, and I’d like to say it’s because we’re so busy falling in love with our new city and making SO MANY amazing new friends, that I just haven’t had time to write anything. The truth is, that yes, we have gotten out, explored, met a few people, but overall, this transition has been more difficult for me than I expected it to be. And I’ve struggled to find the motivation to do much of anything.

In the past 12 months, Chris accepted a new job and started traveling for the first time in our relationship. He moved to Iowa two weeks before our wedding. We got married, went on a honeymoon, and when we got back, Chris was working out of state 5 days a week and coming home only on the weekends. Meanwhile, I was getting our house ready to list, putting it on the market, facilitating showings and ultimately selling the house—all while working full time and wrangling the dogs.

Then we moved to another city. From a three bedroom home with a yard to a zero bedroom loft with no outdoor space. And I started working from home. And Chris continued to travel about 50% of the time, leaving me alone in our new home in a city where I knew no one and worked alone in our home.

Basically, my world has been turned up side down in the past twelve months—in ways I couldn’t have ever even imagined. And I’m not sure that I’ve been handling it well.

Kansas City

My beautiful hometown.

I grew up in Kansas City. My family, friends and even my work are all still in Kansas City. I am writing this blog post from Kansas City because I come back often for work (or in this case, for a spa day with my very best friend). I have one foot here and one foot in Des Moines. And I’ve worried that it might not be a good thing.

I like to think that I’m a generally positive, happy person. But in the past 7 months or so, I’ve been really down. And not like “having a bad day but I’ll be fine in the morning” down. More like “maybe I should see a therapist because I really need to get my shit together and also maybe take a goddamn shower at some point” down.

It’s weird. That’s not typically who I am. So in addition to all the change, I started to feel like I was losing myself. Who is this sad, lame person? I wondered. And some days I still wonder that…

New House

Our new house!

But I think it’s getting better. We bought a house! And it’s lovely. And yes, it’s more permanent, but it has given me something to look forward to and get excited about. And it means an easier routine with the dogs.

And armed with this new knowledge that we will, in fact, be in Des Moines for at lest the next few years, I’m more committed than ever to meeting new friends and creating some semblance of a social life for myself.

So there it is. I share because I haven’t always been super forthcoming about this with everyone in my life. When people ask how Des Moines is, they absolutely do not want me to respond by sobbing and telling them how hard it’s been for me and how badly I miss Kansas City and all the wonderful people there. They don’t want to hear about how living in a loft is, for some reason, ULTRA depressing for me. Or how I feel like we’ve taken a huge step back in our adult lives because while all my friends are having babies right now, I’m barely holding my life together in a downtown loft apartment I don’t even want to be in.

But that’s how I have been feeling. And it’s probably not super interesting to read, but I guess a part of me just wants to put it out there because people deal with stuff like this all the time, but not everyone wants to talk about it or hear about it. I’m not going to say with any amount of certainty that I’ve been depressed. I know for a fact that I have struggled with anxiety in my life, and that it’s been rearing its ugly head lately for sure…

So I suppose what I’m saying is that I just want everyone else who has felt or is feeling this way to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes even the happiest people get sad. And it’s okay. Be gentle with yourself. Take things one day at a time.

I still have bad days every once in a while, but I know this too shall pass. And I think it helps that every morning I repeat a new mantra to myself:

 Get Your Shit Together

Posted in Changes, Des Moines, Not Dogs, Our Home, The Loft, The Move | 1 Comment

How I Met My Doggy Soul Mate, Part 2: Adoption and Heartworms and Butt Worms, Oh My!

If you want to read part one of Bill’s adoption story, you can do so here.

The day I finally tracked down the elusive, stray Westside pooch, I took him to our vet to get scanned for a microchip. When that was a dead end, I called Chris and BEGGED to bring him home. He eventually agreed, but we were both nervous about the prospect of me bringing a new dog into the house while Chris was at work, in case a dogfight broke out.

So because we couldn’t go home, Bill and I spent the day together, getting to know one another. We took a walk at Penn Valley Park and he got a bath and nail trim at Brookside Barkery & Bath. Despite their policy to have vaccination records in order to book grooming services, the staff at Brookside Barkery & Bath was more than happy to take care of this sad, skinny stray I had just taken in off the street—they are seriously SO AMAZING.

That evening, Chris came home and we introduced the two dogs. Cyrus was his usual pushy, dominant self, but we were honestly shocked that there weren’t any real issues between the dogs, besides Cyrus physically blocking doorways and access to us humans with his enormous body…

Bill joined us at Chris's parent's house for Christmas dinner a few days after we took him in. He was not interested in the gift-giving process...

Bill joined us at Chris’s parent’s house for Christmas dinner a few days after we took him in. He was not interested in the gift-giving process.

Eventually we realized there really wasn’t anyone looking for this dog, so we asked The Animal Rescue Alliance (T.A.R.A) if he could be available for adoption through them since we were willing to foster. Because all rescues are desperate for foster homes, and because we met all the requirements, they were happy to help us out!

A few days into his stay with us, I started calling him “Little Bittle” because it rhymed and because he was literally half Cyrus’s size, so he really was little to us. One morning, Chris asked me, “Are you calling him ‘Little Bill’?” To which I replied, “Nope, but I’m gonna start!” And that’s how he got his name…

As Bill got settled into our house we learned SO much about stray dogs, the special health issues that often result from a dog not being properly cared for, and most of all, we learned about fostering! Here are some of the takeaways:

  1. Stray dogs eat garbage (and who knows what else…). This results in parasites. Deworming a dog isn’t a big deal most of the time, but I didn’t know that. When I saw his poop move for the first time, I was beyond freaked out. And you can imagine my reaction when I saw a tiny worm actually crawl out of his butt and onto our duvet one day… I may or may not have called Chris crying I was so upset by it.
  2. Bill had either been neglected his whole life then was dumped, or was a stray most of his life. We know this because we found him in December and the vet guessed he was only about a year old, but he had fly strike all over his ears from the hot summer months. He also has, to this day, thick, dark calluses on his elbows, which I can only assume came from laying in the dirt or concrete every night…
  3. Bill was heartworm positive —another indication that he was neglected or just a stray. We learned about heartworm treatment and how dangerous it is. We took Bill to his appointments and I cried when I dropped him off for treatment and overnight stays at the vet. We hated that we had to keep him separated from Cyrus for a month because elevating his heart rate could have dislodged dead worms from vital organs, killing him, but we did it because we knew the risks. We learned Bill hates crates, so we turned our office into Bill’s room for a month, going so far as to inflate our air mattress in there and take turns having sleepovers with him so he wouldn’t feel so isolated. And finally, we were beyond relieved when his heartworm test eventually came back negative!
  4. We even walked in a St. Patty's Day Parade with T.A.R.A. to try to get Bill adopted... How could you resist that handsome little pooch?

    We even walked in a St. Patty’s Day Parade with T.A.R.A. to try to get Bill adopted… Can you believe nobody wanted to adopt that smiley face?

    Fostering is hard. Once Bill was heartworm free and up for adoption, I took him to adoption events almost every weekend, and nobody seemed interested in him at all. It was heartbreaking and frustrating. How could anyone not fall in love with that sweet face? I’d wonder. A few times I dropped him off at an adoption event but couldn’t stay to volunteer, and I’d hear his cries as I walked away. My heart ached and I felt like the worst foster mom on the planet.

Between December 2011 and June 2012, a lot changed for us. We nursed Bill back to health, bought a house and moved out of our apartment, changed jobs… And all the while, Bill was slowly and seamlessly integrating himself into our family.

Over those six months, we saw an incredible change in Cyrus. He was still reactive on leash, but at home, he was more gentle and easier to manage. He had this amazing little partner in crime who didn’t egg him on, but instead, brought his energy down a few pegs. They played together and wore each other out, which took that burden off of Chris and I to walk/run/bike with him multiple times a day—and everyone knows that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog!

I’ve always said Bill is an old soul. He is sweet, calm, sensitive and loving—a perfect companion for Cyrus whose personality almost demands a calming presence.

One evening in June, I snapped a picture of the two dogs sharing a dog bed—despite there being another empty dog bed next to them—and I texted it to Chris. He responded, “We’re adopting him, aren’t we?” So we did.

 

This sort of bed sharing still goes on in our house...

This sort of bed sharing goes on in our house ALL THE TIME.

Posted in Adoption, Bill, The Boys | Leave a comment

How I Met My Doggy Soul Mate, Part 1

Mr. Bill holds a most special place in my heart. But the way in which he came into our lives is a bit involved, as it took us nearly 6 months to realize he had already adopted us. Here’s part one of the story about meeting Bill, getting involved in animal rescue and giving into the love of an amazing pooch.

You may recall, by the fall of 2011, we had lost a lot of hope that Cyrus was capable of being around other dogs—despite glowing daycare report cards to the contrary.

And for a lot of reasons that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with our giant, misbehaved bundle of joy, I had started to get really interested in animal rescue at this point, so I consulted the craziest dog lady I knew about how to get involved. My dear friend and fellow freelance writer, Jill, was an amazing resource.

We sat down over coffee one afternoon and she told me about all the incredible opportunities that were available in the world of rescue. She warned me of the joys and heartaches that came with the territory, but assured me it was all worth it. I was excited to get involved, but with the holidays quickly approaching, I sort of put it off and told myself I’d get involved after the New Year.

In early December, as Chris and I were taking a walk in the Westside neighborhood of Kansas City where we lived at the time, we saw a stray dog. He was just sort of minding his own business—barking at some dogs through a fence—but he didn’t have a collar or anything that would help me find his people. It was a chilly Sunday afternoon and I begged Chris to let me bring him home to figure out how to help, but he refused my pleas, arguing that Cyrus would lose his mind if we brought another dog into the apartment and that someone was probably looking for the dog. Not being the savvy rescuer I am now, I went home and didn’t think much of it for a while.

It still breaks my heart to see him so scared...

It still breaks my heart to see him so scared…

A few weeks later, the Westside Community Action Network Center, a neighborhood community resource, posted the stray dog’s picture on their Facebook page, asking if anyone recognized him. The only comments were people saying they had seen him around the neighborhood for a few weeks and they assumed he had been dumped there. So I commented that I’d be more than happy to pick him up in the morning and take him to get him scanned for a microchip on the off chance he had one.

The next morning I show up to get the stray dog, and was told he had escaped. Apparently they kept him outside in a fenced-in area behind the office overnight and he managed to crawl out under the fence somehow. So I set out to find this elusive pooch—dog food and leash in tow.

Mr. Bill in our back yard the day we brought him home

Mr. Bill hangin’ in our back yard the day we brought him home.

I drove around the Westside for at least two hours and even stopped strangers on the street to ask if they had seen him. Just when I was about to give up, I saw him trotting happily up the middle of the street, a few blocks from where he escaped. I stopped the car, opened the passenger door and waved some dog food around at him. Before I knew it, he had hopped right into the car, scarfed down the food and looked at me smiling and panting as if to ask, “Now where are we going?”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Bill’s story: Adoption and Heartworms and Butt Worms, Oh My!

Posted in Adoption, Bill, The Boys, Uncategorized | Leave a comment