My Dog Is Weird

My Dog Is Weird

My dog is weird.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know Brie’s origin story: starving, mangy Puerto Rican street dog boards a private jet to a new life in Northern Virginia, where she is nursed back to health, cared for, and adored. You know she’s the most loving, pure, friendly little golden fluffball – anyone who’s met her can attest to this. Here are a few facts about Brie that are a little unusual.

She gives hugs. We call them “Brie-hugs.” A “Brie-hug” is something she does for maximum body contact with you. It’s when she puts her front paws on your forearms, then spins around so her back is against your legs and abdomen. If she’s really excited, you’ll feel the fur of and wind made by her tail wagging between your legs. It’s a high honor to be given a “Brie-hug.” 

She loves – I mean loves – to be held like a baby. If you’re sitting, she knows she is only allowed on furniture if she’s completely on a human who is on it (so the allergens in her fur don’t get on/in the furniture as much, since my mother is allergic to dogs), so it’s likely that, if she likes you, she’ll jump onto your lap. From there she spins so her back is to you, and then you can position her on her back, cradling her upper body in one arm and rubbing her belly or holding her back legs with the other. I’ve never met a dog who not only tolerates this, but enjoys it. 

She loves kisses and hugs and being the little spoon. She likes hugs, if they’re not too long. She’s a great little spoon (sometimes I let her in my bed, okay? She knows she’s only allowed up there with permission), though she does require belly rubs as you cuddle her. She loves kisses, and when she jumps on your lap facing you for the first couple seconds, she regularly puts her silky little head down to be kissed. 

Though she is insanely friendly and crazy cuddly, Brie is actually an introvert. She’ll bask in attention for a good while. But, eventually, her need for peace and quiet wins over her need for attention and affection, and she’ll go to her bed or her crate for it, and nothing will get her out of it. 

What strange things does your dog do? Do they do any of the things Brie does? Let me know in the comments below!

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Learning to Love (Myself)

Learning to Love (Myself)

Awhile ago, I posted that I had never been heavier, and that I was trying to lose weight. Well, I haven’t lost much. But I have been steady, and haven’t gained any either. Recently I was placed on a medication that has a possible side effect of appetite suppression. This is opposite the effect of a different medication that I was taking for three years that grossly amplified my appetite, among other things, and led to all this weight gain. Because of the old medication, I was constantly hungry, and when I was hungry, the hunger was unbearably painful. It led to my eating a full meal every three or four hours. Though I have been off this med for over a year, I still felt its effect – that is, until I began taking this new medication on Monday. I haven’t been hungry, and when I am hungry, it’s manageable. It’s refreshing to not feel obligated to eat so often. The other effects and side effects of the medication are positive, as well, but it’s only been a week or so. 

But besides this, I’ve been doing my best to be nice. I’m trying to be nice to my body. I walk my dog longer, triple the distance I would previously. I choose healthier foods when I am hungry or am not but know I need to eat, because nothing tastes that great anyway, so my calories may as well come with nutritional benefits. 

Most of all, I’m trying to love. I’m trying to look in the mirror and like what I see. Even though most of the time I’m still picking my body apart piece by piece, I’m doing so in a positive manner, instead of in a negative way. For now, all I can bring myself to do is ignore what I don’t like, and point out to myself the things I do. Occasionally, I’ll like almost the whole picture, and that is the most freeing and happy moment of all. 

I’m trying to love my body, of course. She is my temple. I’m trying to love what she can do, and how she looks. I’m increasingly nourishing her and training her. I’m trying to dress her in ways that flatter her assets and disguise her “weaker” features. But I’m also trying to love the woman I am, while I improve her. I’m loving her affectionate nature, her optimism, her kindness, her eagerness to learn. That’s me. I have all of those traits. I am all of those things. I’m trying to reign in a little of her impulsiveness, her insecurities, and her occasional thoughtlessness. I’m trying to teach her to say no, not feel badly about saying no, and not apologize so much. I’m teaching her to be grateful for everything.

It’s a journey, that’s for sure. Some days it’s a battle. But it’s mine, and I think it’s worth it.

Secrets to Shopping without Buyer’s Remorse

Secrets to Shopping without Buyer’s Remorse

Have you ever gone shopping, either for something you needed, or just for fun, and realized that you’ve paid and come home with a lot of stuff you didn’t need or really even want – stuff that you wouldn’t have missed if it wasn’t there? I can’t say I’m innocent of this, though it doesn’t happen to me often. Here are my secrets for shopping without buyer’s remorse.

My mother, growing up, always told my sister and me that when it came to purchasing something, whether we were purchasing it ourselves or she was purchasing it for us, there was one rule: Either you loved it, or you needed it, or both. 

What does that mean? It means that when contemplating purchasing something, ask yourself, “Do I love this? Do I need this?” If the answer is yes to one or both of these questions, move forward and put down your hard-earned money. If not, don’t buy something that you’ll never wear or use that will just gather dust and eventually get put in a trash bag to take to Goodwill. It’s a waste of your money. 

Let’s break that advice down. Needing something does not mean “really really really wanting” it. Needing something means it will significantly improve your life and quality of living. You need food, shelter, clothing. You even need fun! If your favorite band is in town and you can spring for a ticket, do it! If you haven’t been to an amusement park since you were thirteen, go!

Loving something doesn’t mean loving it now, or ironically. It can be something that makes you laugh, but hilarity isn’t always love. By loving something, I mean that the item in question should be something that, were you to leave the store without it, you would be sad. Loving and needing something is the ultimate win!

The second secret is this: it is better to spend on experiences, rather than things. Let’s say, for example, that you were in Paris. Now, you could either buy an item from a boutique, or you could take a tour of a museum, gallery, or landmark (Being a DC girl myself, I’m horrified at the notion that to enter such places, there must be payment.). While you may love and/or need the item, if the choice is between the two, pick the one that will ultimately bring you more joy. Experiences and the memory of them tend to bring us more joy in the long run than physical things, though this is not always the case (Like if your dad buys you a necklace in Florence, reminding you of the trip every time you wear it.). 

The next secret is the best way to determine if you actually want something. This is not a need, but a want. If you’re on the fence, perhaps because of the price or any other reason, hold that item in your hand and walk around the store looking at other things for a few minutes. There are a few possible outcomes to this. The first is that you forget about the thing, look down at it, and fully fall in love with it. The second is that you forget about it, and when you look at it again you’re underwhelmed. The third is that the thing is always on your mind, whether in a positive or a negative way.

The last secret is something that saves me money every single time I shop. Especially when shopping with friends (Five Below is our usual vice), I know I for one can get swept up in the fun of it all and end up with twelve five-dollar items in my cart. The secret is, while I’m in line, I take stock of everything in my basket. If I’m eh about something, it goes. If I’m excited about it, it stays. Very quickly twelve things becomes six, and I save thirty dollars with just a minute of thinking and consideration. 

These are my secrets for shopping, especially for fun, that prevent buyer’s remorse. This way, you save money, and don’t have to go through the hassle of getting rid of something that you never loved or needed. You don’t have to return it, or donate it, or sell it. Happy hunting!

Thoughts on Grief

Thoughts on Grief

This article was made possible by the wonderful people at Heart in Diamond. Heart in Diamond is a company that turns tragedy into beauty. They can be found here.

Grief seems like such a simple concept, but the truth is, it isn’t. It isn’t simple at all. Many of us think of grief as something that happens only when a loved one dies. While it is true that grief occurs when a loved one passes away, grief can also occur for other events.

Grief can occur at the end of a relationship or friendship. It is similar to death, though not as final; it is the loss of the presence of someone deeply loved. It is the loss of the way things were when that person was around. Suddenly, one cannot turn to that person anymore, in good times or in bad. They have exited one’s life, sometimes never to return.

Grief can occur at any major life change. This can include a move, graduation, a job change, etc. The reality about grief is, it can occur when anything monumental happens in one’s life. This could be a happy event, like moving to a new city for a dream job, or it could be a much sadder event, such as the death of a loved one.

I believe there are two key ideas to keep in mind when speaking about grief, or when grieving. The first is this: the ending of one thing is also the beginning of another. The end of an era in one’s life is the beginning of a new one. The ending of a relationship or friendship is the beginning of freedom and openness to new people and experiences. In some religious traditions, the end of a life on earth is the beginning of eternal life in another state.

The second idea I have about grief is that you don’t have to forget. You don’t have to forget the good things. In fact, I encourage you to remember them. It is important to respect the memory of a person, a friendship, an era, by remembering them. The key is to let go enough that you can move on, but to hold onto the good. Our pasts make us who we are. We never lose who we once were – who we were when that person was alive, or was our best friend, or when we attended that school. We respect who we were by remembering. We carry those memories with us as we continue through life.

I’d like to recommend Heart in Diamond to anyone grieving the passing of a loved one. Heart in Diamond is a company that specializes in cremation jewelry. They use the ashes or hair of your loved one to create gorgeous diamond jewelry for you to wear, so you can carry with you the person you love. Heart in Diamond’s cremation jewelry makes it possible to keep some of the closeness of your loved one with you at all times. It commemorates their memory in the most beautiful way possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, please feel free to explore the links below.

Mental Health America

Mayo Clinic

National Institutes of Health

For those of you who are grieving anything at all, I love you and I am thinking of you.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

For those of you who didn’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. In honor of the last day of that month, I have written this post.

My name is Grace. I am a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a dog lover, a kind person. I also have seven mental illnesses.

That sounds like a lot. On the one hand, it is. Seven is a lot of mental illnesses. One is a lot of mental illnesses. On the other hand, it is important to remember that mental illnesses are very much related to one another. Sometimes one causes another; sometimes they just go hand-in-hand. I don’t think of my mental illnesses as separate entities, but rather as roots of a tree that spring from each other and cross paths and come from the same basic source.

I live a happy life. I live with the parents who support me, am almost done with college, have a loving boyfriend, work two jobs, maintain friendships all over the country, and have the best ESA in the entire world. Things have been worse for me, many times over the course of my life. I don’t feel like rehashing all my trauma, and I don’t have to do so. Even if I didn’t have suffering and trauma in my past, my mental illnesses would still be valid. Brain chemistry doesn’t care how happy you “should” be.

If there is anything I have learned over the course of my short twenty-three years on this planet, it is these: mental illness is not like a cold. It will most likely be with me my whole life, hopefully with me spending the rest of it in remission. The best I can do is the best anyone can do; I handle it as best I can. Everyone has their cross to bear, and this is mine, so all I can do is carry it with as much grace as possible – and maybe with a bit of good humor.

I have also learned that while there is pain and suffering in the world, much of it senseless, there is so much more that is beautiful and good. We are more attuned to the negative, not because it is more prevalent, but because it is the exception. It affects us so deeply because our innate and automatic assumption is that this world is beautiful, and people are basically good.

So, if you are silently – or even not-so-silently – suffering from mental illness(es), I leave you with this: yes, there is pain and suffering in the world. No, it isn’t fair. But no one ever promised life would be fair. But more important than that is the fact that love is infinite. It does not end, or run out – not true love, anyway. Love is the root of all that is good – the flowers love the sun, which loves them in return. The mother and the offspring love each other. It is true; it is unconditional; it is infinite.

So, love. If you cannot love yourself, try loving others. Try loving the puddle you splash in on a rainy day. Try loving the friend that makes you feel secure. Loving and being loved by others can teach us how to love ourselves. There is always, always, always a reason to love.

Most important of all, remember that you are not alone. You are not alone. You are never, ever alone.

I love you.

Tampa

Tampa

Well, my travels continued this Memorial Day weekend. On Sunday morning, I flew from DCA to Tampa, Florida, to meet the boyfriend. I arrived a little after noon, and he arrived soon after that. I had to wait in the hotel lobby for almost an hour, but I had a good book and some Starbucks, so I wasn’t upset about it. I was too excited to be upset.

A brief interlude: I am so grateful to him for paying for my flights, and for the job he does that makes all this travel possible. Plus, he is doing what he loves, which is the best part of it all. It stinks that we’re apart so much, but I know he is happy, and I get to travel, so there are perks.

But I digress. Tampa was hot as Hades on Sunday. It was so hot and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky or even the slightest hint of a breeze, we abandoned our plans of walking the Riverwalk and touring Ybor City. We got lunch, and dinner, and hung out in the relative cool of the hotel suite in between.

Monday was our beach day. Love is not a strong enough word for the constant longing I feel for the sea. Maybe it’s based in the heritage I received from my mother’s family, who came from Naples in the 1920s. We picked up the rental car and drove about an hour to Pass-A-Grille Beach.

Pass-A-Grille Beach is south of St. Pete Beach, in the larger St. Petersburg area. If you drive there, drive down the coast until you can’t anymore. Right where the Tampa Bay meets the Gulf, you’ll find the spot where we set up camp. The parking is pay, but there was still a spot for us on the last day of Memorial Day Weekend. There is more parking down at that end, and less people.

There was a pier to our left, where the Bay met the Gulf. Just some hundred yards down the beach, people were packed next to each other, but we found a spot on our more sparsely populated stretch of beach to ourselves, with no one between the water and us. It was hot and sunny again, but there was a breeze that day. The water felt a little like bathwater – I would’ve liked it touch colder, but it wasn’t hot. The water was clear and turquoise, the waves largely gentle. We talked and played in the water, baked in the sun, and started the cycle over again.

We dined early at a seafood restaurant on the bay side, then headed back to the hotel, where we flipped between the last Lord of the Rings movie and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My flight was early the next morning – and delayed two hours, which I was notified of after arriving at the airport (you were supposed to text me, American!). I was still home by one, and went on my merry way to work half-past four.

Tampa was fun. We didn’t take as many excursions as we did in Portland, but I’m just so happy being with him that it didn’t matter to me what we did – with the exception of the beach. The beach is of paramount importance. Still, it feels glamorous and fun to jet off on little notice, even for two days at a time.

Portland, Oregon: Also, 100th Post!

Portland, Oregon: Also, 100th Post!

As stated in my April goals post, in the last week of April I flew to Portland, OR, to visit the boyfriend on his days off. It was his birthday present to me (my birthday is the 22nd.). It was a wonderful trip, though my second flight there was a less than ideal.

Honestly I had forgotten all about that flight until now. As usual, the night before my travel day, I could not sleep for excitement. I had been at work for eight hours that day, and my flight was just before six in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep. It always happens, so I don’t know why I’m always surprised and frustrated. I was in an aisle seat, which I hate, but can deal with, as flights are only a few hours long and the aisle won’t kill me. But the man in the middle seat was a manspreader, and also snored disgustingly the entire flight, so I couldn’t sleep at all. It was physically painful. Another thing was that the man in the window seat had closed the blind and fallen asleep. He stayed asleep the entire flight, and I missed the bird’s eye view of Mount Hood. But I lived.

I forgot all that as I got in the car with my driver, who made my morning much better. The weather was gorgeous, and it was projected to continue my entire trip. At the hotel and famished, I ordered food and waited for Ben to show. He did, and I saw him first. He joined me, and we shared my flatbread and discovered that he hates figs.

We went upstairs to nap, then walked to a coffee shop, where we sat and talked and drank before walking to Powell’s. DSC_0334Powell’s was a labyrinth of books, some new, some used. I bought the new book composed of a collection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s inspirational tweets, a used copy of one of my new very-favorite books, The Sun Is Also A Star, and a copy of a book I had begun in another bookstore but never bought, Bittersweet, by the author of one of my other favorites, June. DSC_0341We had a snack at a pizza place catty-corner from Powell’s (Sizzle Pie) and decided to go to the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden was stunning! I couldn’t help laughing aloud sometimes because I could not contain my joy. It was a perfect storm; I love to be outside, to travel, in nice weather, with my love. We climbed up many flights of stairs set in the side of a steep hill, which had some pretty plants along it as well. It was the perfect time of year to visit, and the perfect time of day: golden hour. There was even a vista where we could see Mount Hood, finally. The International Rose Test Garden was much less impressive, as the roses are not yet even budding, but still delightful.

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We dined at Kell’s Irish Pub. I had a barley risotto with pesto and butternut squash, which was delicious. Dessert was at a Salt and Straw.

The next day, we picked up a rental car and some Voodoo Doughnuts for our ninety-minute car ride to Cannon Beach.

Upon our arrival, we drove the Pacific Coast Highway for a short time, then walked on the beach for awhile. I found a shark tooth.

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We walked through some stores, and lunched at a pub on the main street. I got some candy at a candy store, and we headed back to Portland, where we dined outside at a German place called Prost. My flight was a redeye that night, and I arrived at Reagan National before noon the next day.

Thank you, love. It was my best birthday yet.us japanese garden