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    An ode to the books of our youth

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    Cooking Lessons as Life Lessons

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  • camp

    Family matters: a Cajun story

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The ROI of having a pet (Hint: it’s huge)

Four amazing dogs

Four amazing dogs, and best friends

When my friend Leslie proposed the topic for the first round robin for a select group of bloggers, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a slam dunk: “Is having a pet worth it?”

Where do I begin?

Asking someone who has had dogs since she was six years old and who is known to many people as Corgi-obsessed if having a pet is worth it may be like asking anyone if they need air to breathe. You may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Take one look at my Instagram feed, my Tumblr, or previous posts about the passing of two of my dogs (here and here), and it will be easy to see that my answer is an emphatic and absolute YES.

As my dad said the other day, “It’s why they say ‘dog’ is ‘God’ spelled backwards.” I actually hadn’t heard that phrase before, but I do believe it’s true. And I’m not religious. Despite what the research says, I firmly believe dogs have and express emotions similar to humans (I’ve seen my dogs laugh, cry, and grumble). I do believe they are our best friends, perhaps even more faithful and dedicated than humans. And I do believe that dogs serve a unique purpose in providing us with joy, showing us the depths of love, and serving us with loyalty and unconditional devotion. The number of times I have laughed while watching my dogs play, or cried to see them in pain, or hugged them fiercely when I needed comfort, are too many to count. Dogs are great listeners, and they keep us active. They don’t let us get too into a funk or lose track of time because they have to be fed and walked and put to bed. They are constant reminders of the simple pleasures in life, like laying in the cool grass on a summer day, lounging on our backs and dreaming, and making time for play. They are sensitive to pain, and eager to please — just as we are. At the end of the day, they are happy to see their loved ones, and grateful for a warm bed — also like us.

Studies have shown again and again that having a dog boost our mental, emotional, and physical health. And although it may seem like getting a new dog soon after one has passed would be too difficult, people commonly find themselves looking for a new four-legged family member pretty quickly (we have, more than once). I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that a beloved dog is not only a companion, but truly becomes a part of the family forever.

As I have never owned a pet other than a dog (a total of five so far), I can’t speak to the benefits of having a cat (I really don’t like them anyway) or a fish or rabbit. But I do know plenty of people who have also enjoyed owning these other animals. My personal opinion, of course, is that dogs reign supreme.

In case you still aren’t convinced, read 13 Reasons Why A Dog Will Make Your Life So Much Better, which is validated by adorable gifs of dogs, including my dream combination of Tom Hanks and a Corgi (Corgi count in this article: 3).

This post is dedicated in honor of Rocky, Harrison, and Casey, and to my current companions, McGee and Abbey.

***

To read the rest of the responses to this month’s round robin question, visit the following blogs (and come back in a month for the next topic):

Leslie Farnsworth: http://lesliefarnsworth.com

Joan Johnson: http://onefishtaco.blogspot.com/

William Pora: http://williampora.com

Rebecca Harvey: http://bayoucitypostcards.blogspot.com/

James McPherson: http://jalmcpherson.com/

Jon Lundell: http://therealmil.blogspot.com/

My next 30 years…

30th birthday

I’ve always loved birthdays. So of course, I started thinking about the upcoming milestone of my 30th birthday several months ago…okay, maybe a year ago. Thirty is that nice round year when I’m supposed to be solidly into a career, perhaps be married with kids, and own my own home. So they say.

As I turn 30 today, the most I can hope for is that people will stop thinking I’m still in college, or tell me that I still have plenty of time to find my soulmate. But then again, I don’t think that will change anytime soon, either.

On a serious note: I may still be in between careers, I may be living with my parents, and I may still be single — but these are all actually extremely wonderfully great things. They also say that 29 is supposed to be that crazy, upside down year, and I think a lot of it was. But it (and some of 28) was a year that could have gone differently had I not had the support of my parents, and had I not taken a giant leap out of everything that was comfortable in my life and looked for something more. So for that, I am grateful, and I am thankful that I am turning 30 with two amazing, inspiring, and devoted people at my side, urging me to create a fulfilling life on my terms, and no one else’s.

A few years ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to make a 101 Things list, or as he calls them, Life Lists. I never finished making the list, but when I came across it a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover how many of the 50+ items on it I had completed already, and even more surprising, how many just in the last several months. To name a few: learn to make beignets, join a running group, become a tutor, see the Walk of Fame, visit the San Diego Zoo, visit California (I think I went overboard on that one), learn to create and edit short videos (thanks, Dad!), plant a garden (thanks, Mom!). I was glad to see I had checked off some of the important to dos in DC, and was okay with deleting a few items that no longer held significance.

So, now comes the next part: updating the list and getting it to 101, and then working through it, perhaps this time with a plan. But perhaps more important than the list is focusing on the big picture. Creating memories and experiencing life’s moments are more than just checking off an item on a list. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year — heck, in my 30 years — it’s that it’s within your control (mostly) to create the life you want. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get there. Sometimes it takes fallings out with friends and family and lovers, and sometimes it takes rediscovering why you are meant to do something, or be with someone.

Some things never change, like the fact that I still like lists. So with that in mind, here are a few things I’m looking to accomplish in my next 30 years:

  • Run a marathon
  • Publish a book
  • Sew a quilt for my future child
  • Meet Tom Hanks (I am dead serious)
  • See a show on Broadway
  • Do a literary tour and and royal castle tour in England

Delighting in discovery

My first car!

My first car!

 

When you hear or see the word “discovery,” you may automatically thing big, bold life-changing things, like finding new species, coming up with a scientific equation, or unearthing centuries-old artifacts. But as I’ve learned in the last few months, discovery can also mean the everyday little things that we might take for granted until our life situations force us to look at them in a new perspective. Discovery doesn’t necessarily have to mean completely new, and it doesn’t have to be important to everyone or even understood by everyone; it can be something that’s just for you to marvel at and cherish.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered recently:

  • Getting your first car ever just before turning 30 can be just as exciting and life-changing as it is for a teenager. When I drove home in my newly leased reflex blue Mazda3 two weeks ago, I had that feeling — the one in songs and road trip movies. It’s been a long time since I drove around town in a car, and now that I am doing it in one that’s all mine, well, it’s just wonderful.
  • Volunteering at a library does make you more well-read. Heck, even having a library card makes you more well-read. I hadn’t used a library since college until about a year ago when I moved to California, and now I’m volunteering at my library in town, keeping the books in order on the shelves, and cleaning the gross ones. It’s unbelievable what’s out there (many times I ask myself, “Why did someone write about this? Why would someone want to read this?”), and it’s making me expand my reading horizons a bit more each week. A library is a perfect place for discovery.
  • Meeting people in a new city in your late 20s is harder than it looks. Especially when you start out without a car (problem now solved) and you live 45 minutes from downtown. You have to make things happen yourself. This means going on Meetup.com and joining running groups (have done one run so far), or signing up to be a volunteer (check), or taking on a part-time gig (check), or joining Match.com again (reluctantly, check). It’s not like arriving in the city fresh out of college when friends fall into your lap at networking events, happy hours, and work gatherings. This is where “pounding the pavement” becomes a thing again.
  • Your parents are always going to be worried about you. That’s their job. After living away from mine for several years, they got used to not knowing every detail of my life. But now that I live with them, things get scary again, when you throw in driving around a new city, meeting new people (men!), etc, etc. Best way to work through it? Talk it out, and get everyone on the same page about feelings, expectations, and needs. Then just know that they’ll still worry, and you all have to live with it.
  • It’s easy to get comfortable. But it’s better to challenge yourself and be true to yourself. Between moving forward in my new career path, making choices about people from my past, and not falling into old habits and emotional setbacks, I’ve been constantly reminding myself to keep my eye on the prize. So I cold called a tutoring center down the street and convinced them I would be a great addition to their team despite having no educational background — one step in the right direction for following my passion. I’ve turned down consulting projects that don’t align with my interests or my availability. And I’m striving to stay true to my needs when it comes to relationships of all kinds.

As I continue to explore my new world and my new lifestyle, I’m sure I’ll continue to make more discoveries, big and small, that play a role in what happens next. What are some things you’ve discovered?

Remembering my motivation

fortune cookie

In high school, the goal was to get into college and get scholarships. In college, the goal was to get on the newspaper, get internships, and get a job after I graduated. Once I moved to DC, I needed to find a place to live (a few times), find a new job (a couple of times), pay rent, let relationships go, and make friends and connections.

And for all of these things, I was motivated to do them because, essentially, I had to. You work to eat to live, and you find ways to make it all work.

In the year I’ve spent in California, I’ve been really lucky. I don’t have any obligations other than to pay a couple of bills. I still don’t even have a car. I don’t have to pay rent, and I’m still making money as a consultant. I’ve had the freedom — the privilege — to take my time and explore what I want to do with my life, and how I will get there.

But there’s a funny little thing about motivation: sometimes, when you don’t have to do something, it’s easier not to do anything.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been lazy. As I said, I’ve been working with multiple clients for a year, I’ve been working on my health and fitness (10 lbs. and counting down to prove it), and reconnecting with people from my past to feed my emotional growth.

What about THE thing, though? The whole “figuring out what I want to do with my life” part? That’s where it’s been easier, many days, to think and stew and be afraid, rather than to act. I’ve journaled, I’ve whiteboarded, I’ve talked things to death with family and friends, but the getting shit done part has been the challenge. Recently, I got the reminder (again) that there is no better time in my life than now to try to make my life what I want it to be — this is the big chance I get — the chance that many people never get. That ripe age of 29 going on 30 with no kids, no mortgage, no debts, no health problems, nothing.

What do I have? I have a lot of opportunity, and I have a lot of support. I have things I care about, but caring only goes so far. It’s time for action, and it’s time to act like I have to do these things — like there’s no other choice.

It may not work out, and then I’ll have to try something else, but like before, I figured it out. And what’s worse than trying and failing? Not trying and then never knowing and being stuck in a continual cycle of what ifs and self-doubt. That’s my motivation.

To all my motivators out there — thank you for reminding me why I’ve made these choices, and what I’m capable of.

What have I done in one year?

whiteboard

 

A week ago was my one-year anniversary since arriving in California. When I stepped off the plane, I was excited to spend a few months in Central Coast’s wine country with my parents before diving into being a writer and consultant full-time. I figured I would end up in San Francisco, and life would be somewhat similar to what it was in DC, but with enough changes to suit my needs.

Talk about a change of plans.

A month in, I wondered if I was crazy for leaving a city I loved, a great job, and many friends. Three months in, after a visit back to DC, I was more comfortable with my decision, but wasn’t so sure about the plan to write full-time. Six months in, I had become a bit of a red wine snob, read more books than in the previous two years combined, and still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That’s when I threw all plans out the window.

My parents and I started going stir-crazy at the same time, and as a family, we decided to move to San Diego. They had lived here for two years previous to Paso Robles, and I had enjoyed my visits, so I said, why not? Nothing else was calling to me, and it made the most sense. Who could turn down beaches and consistent sunshine?

So I’m here now, and still not quite sure what’s next. Sure, I’ve been writing, doing a fair amount of consulting (I still need an income), and still running and reading more than ever. But what’s next? There are days when I look at this past year and wonder what the hell I’ve been doing, and where I’m going. There are many days when I wonder if I’ll make friends like the ones I had before, and others when I realize I may not quite want all the friends I had before. I question why I can’t figure out what I want to do, and wonder if I’m making it too hard.

And yet, it’s easy to get comfortable. It’s easy to become okay with being stuck, to not make any movement, because it’s not as scary as making things happen. Which is what got me here in the first place, right? If I had stayed in DC, doing what I was doing…would I have grown? Would I know what I know now about my relationships, about my interests, about what and who makes me tick? Probably not.

My biggest weakness is still my fear of things not happening in the way that I imagined them for so long. The fear of turning 30 and still not having met the love of my life, of still living with my parents and not figuring out my career, and of starting over. But then I remind myself that my parents essentially did this very thing (for the most part) – they changed careers, they found love again, they moved and started over. A few times, in fact. And they made it work, far beyond what they ever imagined.

So it’s been a year and I haven’t figured it out yet. My ideas and feelings and passions are a bunch of sticky notes on a whiteboard. But what have I done? Run hundreds of miles, read dozens of books, written thousands of words, reconnected with people from my past, and imagined a few new ways to live.When you look at it that way, I’ve done a lot.

Here’s to year two of my new life. Surprise me.

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