The last sunset

I was washing my bike when it happened. Completely immersed in the detail and stunning badassery of the machine I call Spartacus. I almost didn’t even notice the darkening.  Right over the horizon it went. It was, frankly, rather unremarkable. It just happened like it does every single night. Except tonight, the sun set on my 40s. Whoa.

There was a time I couldn’t imagine being 50 years old. It seemed so…OLD. Of course, on the eve of the half-century mark I know what horse crap that is. Perspective is everything, right?

I thought I would dread the day. I thought I would spend the whole year of 49 thinking, “OMG, I’m about to be 50! How is this possible?” Instead, I’ve kinda been too busy to get too worked up about it!

Life is like that, right? It’s what happens while you’re busy making other plans. It’s what happens between the dashes that are left when it’s over. As they say, whoever “they” are, time flies. Catch it while you can, I say. Use every 86,400 seconds of each day you’re given.

So tomorrow, I’ve taken the day off of work. I’m going to climb on my bike with one of my very favorite people and I’m going to ride. It’s a birthday tradition we have — riding as many miles as years. This will be my first ‘milestone ride.’ I’m going to feel the wind on my face, and be grateful that my body still moves well enough to do it. I’m going to ground myself in gratitude for a remarkable life full of amazing souls.

And when the sun sets on August 10, 2017, I’ll toast it as the start of the next half century. Look out. Here I come.

 

Tribute to the Best Dog Ever

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Emmy girl 

There have only been two times in my nearly 50 year old life that I can remember uncontrollable crying. The can’t contain it, can’t stop it once it starts, can’t breathe kind of crying. The guttural, overwhelming sadness kind.

This — was the third. I’m not a crier. So when the tears come from the deep, dark, depths, it’s very unsettling.

I had been cramming this cry down for 312 days. Holding my breath. Knowing it was coming. Thinking I could outsmart it, outmaneuver it, outwill it.

April 12, 2015 was her diagnosis day. I heard the words – kidney cancer. The options? None of them good. No chemo or radiation option. Major surgery to remove the kidney would maybe, if there was a miracle, buy her a year but most of that would be spent recovering from such a brutal surgery. For an 11 year old Golden Retriever, it was hardly a viable choice. So Emmy and I had a talk. And we agreed .. go for as many good days as possible. When she didn’t want to ride in the car anymore, that would be my sign. I trusted her to tell me. She trusted me to help her go when it was time. It was our pact.

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For 312 days, she (we) fought that demon like hell.  Just when I’d think she was declining, she’d rally. We changed from kibble to a homemade diet and an incredible supplement invented by our good friend, Nancy Seymour. Emmy had all but given up and she came back to life!

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Processed with MOLDIV

We learned what foods fought inflammation and we cooked for her. As she lost weight, we’d try some other food combination. Constantly making adjustments to keep her quality of life. There were days we cooked three meals for breakfast to find one she wanted.

Second Mommy Cindy Sink deserves a ton of admiration and appreciation for her excellent care! TeamEmmy was relentless. Taylor, Curry, MaryAnne, James, Grandma, Aunt Laurie. All of our family who loved her so dearly.

If you’re reading this, you’re also part of TeamEmmy — cheering her on Facebook, shouting your encouragement from near and far, heeping her with compliments. She loved you. She loved everybody (well humans, not necessarily dogs.)

When she climbed out of that sleeping pile of puppies and into Taylor’s lap 13 years ago, we all won the lottery. She chose us.

 

And we adored her every day of her life. She was the happiest dog. The Walmart Greeter of dogs. Took us forever to train people coming to the house how to not be bowled over by her enthusiastic greetings that included flopping onto her back, whipping you with her tail and knocking down the less sturdy.

Emmy finally got everybody trained though and her greetings became the absolute best. She was patient. Smart as a whip. A pleaser who worked until she mastered the trick.

She went everywhere with her boy, Taylor. She especially loved golf cart riding around her Timberlake neighborhood. Snuggling with him. Being at the pool. Playing ball. And riding in his truck. Such a playful companion.

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She had a stunning life. A gorgeous dog who melted hearts everywhere she went. A nearly human soul who was a demand for your attention. An expressionist. A fashionista. A gentle spirit full of delight for life. And that SMILE!

She loved unwrapping Christmas presents, but only when she was told it was okay!

As our family went through hard changes, Emmy was the constant. She was always there with a hug, a nudge, a cuddle and a kiss.

She was a generous girl who, after 11 years as an only dog, welcomed in a homeless pit bull who desperately needed a pack.

 

She helped teach Lola her tricks.

To our delight, she was the maid of honor in our wedding this past August. Walking down the aisle with Lola and our good friend Mary Lou.

 

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Shelly and Cindy’s Wedding 08.27.16

And the car rides. Oh the wonderful times we had driving around town and road trips.

 

Emmy outlived every single prediction. She beat cancer 3 times. The vet called her the WonderDog. After 13 years, 2 months and 9 days, she looked at me and she told me she was ready. She had done all she could. We had done all we could. We had a deal. I promised we would let her go when it was time.

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Farewell, Emmygirl. Until we meet again. You were the greatest dog ever. Know we’re okay and we’ll be waiting for your spirit visit. We trust you’ll know when the time is right.

You always did.

 

You made a movie on your honeymoon?

As a Creative Director, I spend most of my time collaborating with a team, guiding the brand messaging and graphics for a local television station. After spending 17+ years as a writer/producer/videographer, it’s stunning how little I actually create with my hands anymore. I sure do miss it.

During my recent 3 week sabbatical, I had some time, and I happened to be in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen on my honeymoon in the Abaco Islands, Bahamas.

The Abacos are 120-mile-chain of islands and cays (pronounced keys) due east of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, known as “The Boating Capitol of the World.”

I must tell you, it was stunning. The clarity of the water, the blue green hues are barely describable. It was also a little bit like being on an episode of “The Amazing Race.” Though we weren’t in any kind of hurry, we did have to forage a little bit for our food! And I’m pretty sure we used every single transportation source on the islands. We traveled by taxi, bike, fishing boat, ferry and golf cart.

There were those moments of kismet, fate, and divinely inspired direction that last a lifetime. The stingray that came from the deep to swim along the shoreline with us, the fish we needed for dinner that found their way into our boat, the rain always perfectly timed, wrapped up in the magnificent rainbow that graced our beach on our last night. It was truly magical.

Creative inspiration  + my person + that water(!) = that spark in my bonfire heart. Special thanks and music credits to Paper Kites (“Bloom”) and to James Blount (“Bonfire Heart”).

I had an iPhone, macbook pro and iMovie, which doesn’t have nearly the finesse I wanted in an editor, but then again, I may not be much of a professional editor any more.

WATCH HERE: Honeymoon in the Abacos

 

Tears at the top of the stairs

The day I walked into Maybrook for the showing I knew it was the one. Not the house I’d always wanted, but the one I needed at that moment. The one that would get me to my son the fastest. The one that would occupy my mind and my time. The one that I could afford on my own.  I sat at the top of the stairs to feel the house to be sure. It was a confusing time, my mind was jumbled, and I was making a choice that would change my family forever. That spot at the top of the stairs seemed to be the energetic anchor of the house. I could feel it.  

I vividly remember moving day, after all the commotion of movers and people, I sat. Alone. At the top of the stairs. Broken. Physically exhausted. Emotionally spent. This was day one. The hardest day of my life. 

This is what I wanted and yet, I was crushed. Each day I would go to work and when I got home, I would sit at the top of the stairs and cry. Uncontrollable, ugly crying. I’ve never been a crier so this level of crying was not okay! 

At some point when I was a kid, I decided no one could make me cry. I learned I could control it. So I’d never experienced that depth of sadness or allowed that level of emotion to take over. It was terrifying. I think I cried for seven straight days. 

I decided this was a transition house. I would only be here for 2 years, while my son finished high school and moved between my house and our family home which was just a few miles away. I need not get attached to it. Oddly, I described it as my transition house when I talked about it.

When the housing market crashed in 2008, the neighborhood was hit hard by foreclosures and my notion of a two year stay disappeared quickly. Okay, okay, I’ll stay 2 more years but that’s it. 

In the meantime, I was putting myself back together, keeping my focus on my family healing and learning how to newly be together apart. And I was returning to the person I was born to be. At almost 40, it was the first house I’d bought on my own and the first time I’d lived alone for more than 6 months. 

I could move the furniture when I wanted. I could paint a wall orange or a room red. I could rearrange the dishes in the cabinets. I could fold the towels inconsistently. I could stack the dishwasher inefficiently. I didn’t have to make the bed. No one to please but me. God, I was lonely. And…I was, for the first time in my life, learning how to live with myself, how to find comfort in my own company, how to just…BE.

Years passed, and the relationship I thought would have to be a secret forever became too big to hold down. She moved in one drawer at a time. And together, we built a life together, with our families and children, that neither of us imagined could ever be possible. Seriously, our being together, out in the world, was never.going.to.happen.  

Today almost to the day, nine years after that first move-in day, I walked out of Maybrook for the last time with my soon-to-be wife. As I thanked the house for holding my amazing journey, I realized how many transitions had happened here. Not just mine. 

Despite my efforts to stay disconnected from it, the transition house became, “The House That Built Me.” 

As fate would have it, the buyer of the house is recently separated and trying to rebuild a new life for his little girl, who’s just a bit younger than my son when I moved there. Perfect.

So today the tears flowed again as I sat in that go-to spot at the top of the stairs. I left it better than I found it and it left me better than I was when I arrived.

Kicking cancer’s tail: The Superfood Dog Diet

So many people have asked me how my 12-year old dog, Emmy, is whipping cancer. She’s  transformed over the last four weeks. Here’s how we’re doing it.

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After a kidney cancer diagnosis, and a less than one year survival prognosis — if we removed the kidney and followed with chemo — we decided to fight it with science and nutrition. The goal, no suffering, and good, happy days for as long as possible. So far, we’re winning.

At diagnosis (4/12/16), Emmy had periodic vomiting, very little appetite, and lethargy. She was losing weight, was disengaged and mostly wanted to be alone, which is very unusual for my girl. I knew she didn’t feel good. Was she leaving? My first goal was to see if I could get her eating again.

The day after diagnosis I changed her diet from Simple Formula Wellness dog food (which I believe to be a high quality food) to an all human diet plus a superfood supplement. We started with scrambled eggs cooked in a tiny bit of coconut oil. She went for it.

My friend and animal healer, Nancy Seymour, inventor of the superfood supplement I’m using, is using her years of nutrition experience and guiding me every step of the way.

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“We just want her infused with clean, healthy, easily digested food to not tax kidneys.  My supplement will boost her immune system. We can build on that.” – Nancy

We started with foods that fight inflammation and are high in anti-oxidents: sweet potatoes, blueberries, pumpkin, coconut oil. I blend them in the Vitamix so they’re super easy for her to eat and digest. Each day we added new foods: Greek yogurt, butternut squash, green beans. Smaller meals, more often. Each meal, I add the Shining Star Pets supplement (dosage by weight).

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What’s in it?  My well dog, Lola, also loves it!

“It’s all chemistry and nutrition fueling her immune system. Appetite and poop are important to us. We tweak… She eats.” – Nancy

Her appetite immediately improved, but she was losing weight, down to 52 pounds. So we increased the carbs. I alternate oatmeal and brown rice at meals, always sweet potatoes, plus a small amount of protein. A snack can be cottage cheese mixed with canned pumpkin. Peanut butter on mashed banana. I make greek yogurt blueberry pops as a superfood treat. We limit the protein to no more than 20% of her diet so we don’t tax the kidneys. Anything that isn’t processed (meaning — you can see it in her poop!), I put in the blender. Easier to eat, easier for her body to digest. Every nutrient of the food is used by her system.

To be clear, this isn’t a table scraps diet. It’s a low salt, good oils (coconut and olive), good fats, good carbs and a controlled amount of protein. It took me about a week to get the hang of it.

Our results so far: She’s jumping up and down when it’s time to eat. She rolls around in the backyard. We walk 2-3 times a day.

That doesn’t look like a dog that’s dying to me. The cancer is still there, but she isn’t suffering. She’s happy, engaged and making the most of every day.

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It makes me think, if we can transform a dog with cancer in just a few weeks using whole foods and nutritional supplementation, shouldn’t we be considering that option for people in the same predicament?

Have you ever tried a whole foods diet with your dog? Would love to hear about it.

Life Lessons from a Pit Bull

Pit bulls are the poster children for discrimination. They’re mean. They’ll rip your face off. They’re fighters. 

Two months ago, we adopted Lola, an American Staffordshire Bull Terrior, otherwise known as a Blue Staffy Bull. Judgment started when we started telling our family and friends we were considering adopting a “pit bull.”

What? Why in the world would you want that kind of dog? Aren’t you scared of it? Won’t it kill Emmy (our Golden Retriever?)

We felt the discrimination from a neighbor, who had always been friendly towards our Golden, who threatened to poison our dogs if they did their business in his yard. Coincidence?

We felt the breath-holding gasp when we took her into the vet waiting room the first time. I could feel the “Uh-oh pit in the house. Be careful!”  stares.

Pit bulls have gotten a bad rap. They used to be known as the “Nanny dog” for their gentleness with children. Credible canine organizations call them “eager to please, faithful and enthusiastic friends.” Yet, people are afraid of them. Somewhere along the way, gangs, dog fighters and thugs chose the pit bull as their dog of choice, and danger and fear replaced adoration of the bull.

Are some dogs just inherently “bad?” Consider a dog whose ears were butchered with kitchen scissors, presumably to make her look mean, a dog who was used as a breeder for 4-5 litters of puppies in three years, a dog who was then discarded…THAT dog, the one found emaciated, with broken ribs and a broken shoulder…THAT dog is the sweetest, most trusting, loving, snuggle muffin dog I’ve ever met. Are pits inherently mean? I think not. 

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Lola changes hearts and minds everywhere we go. Starting with mine. I wasn’t totally for this adoption in the beginning. Not because she was a pit bull, necessarily, though it did give me pause. I had an 11-year old “only dog” I’d had since she was weeks old. How would she adapt? Would she welcome another dog?

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To learn about the breed, I started watching Pit Bulls & Parolees on Animal Planet. Host Tia Torres is a force of nature. She says she rescues pits and people, and is on a mission to change the perception of the world’s most misunderstood breed of dog. While she’s at it, she’s giving both people and dogs a second chance. Tia’s tattooed, pierced and hard looking family and her parolees began to soften my heart. I started noticing my unspoken fears and judgment, and I completely changed my mind about these dogs and the people saving them.  I opened my heart and Lola came right on in.

Pit bulls, like people, can be trained to be mean. Like people, they can learn bad habits. But what if they, like people, are born wonderful, loving, trusting souls? What if those inherent qualities are there no matter what’s happened to them? What if they’re here to teach us these life lessons? Our Blue Staffy Bull has done just that. Lola has rocked my world in the best possible way.