Archive for June, 2012

No dogs allowed


I am leaving next week for San Francisco to try to land an apartment. Watching Craigslist and talking to previous and current residents of the city by the bay has already created a good deal of anxiety about this, as place rent fast and apartment owners can afford to be choosy. Not only do I have the house in foreclosure, but I also have one large dog. I was heartened to find many places don’t have a weight restriction, but a breed restriction.

This week I started actually calling places (earlier emails told me I needed to wait for July because places only require 30 days notice) and asking about the “pet policy.” I had to call because websites over and over again said “Call for info on breed restrictions.” Which I found odd, especially after calling five places that all said the same things to me. Why not just publish it? Do the marketing people think I’m going to love their place so much I’ll ditch my dog? How silly is that?! Except this is what I heard when I called:

The breed restrictions include, but are not limited to Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas or Chows. Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepard, Great Dane, Mastiff, Old English Bulldog, Presa Canario (Canary Dog), Rottweiler, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Dalmatian or any mix of these breeds. To be true to the spirit of this rule, a dog cannot even “look like” one of these breeds.”

Well,” I said, Bodhi’s a mix. How will I know what you think he looks like?”

You’d have to bring him in.”

Oh, yes, ok, well, that’s not going to happen,” I chuckled, “since I live in Boston. What if I send you a picture?”

Oh, no, that won’t work. I’m sure you are honest but someone could send us a picture of a dog that wasn’t theirs!”

Right, but…”

And if we rented to you and the dog turned out to look different, well, then there’d be a problem.”

Yes, ok, I understand. What I’m saying is, I could send you a picture now, then I’ll be out there next week. I can show you the hundred pictures on my phone, so you’d know it’s really him. Kinda hard to photoshop all the pictures…”

She didn’t laugh.

I love Bodhi, and I never intended this for him. I always expected that he’d be home in MN with the ex until it made sense to move them (before the ex was the ex, obviously). I knew moving from place to place with a big dog would be hard and I never actually meant to do it! To me or to him.

About a month before I left MN I considered giving Bodhi to a woman who was a real big dog lover that my very cool vet recommended, but then her dog got sick with cancer and, well, she couldn’t take him on at that time.

After sitting here making all these calls, I feel like giving Bodhi up to someone else is a real possibility (in my mind – I don’t actually have anyone who wants to take him at this point). And it is a possibility that I am pretty uncomfortable with. I feel responsible for him. I remember soon after we got him – he was so spastic then – that the ex said, “Can we take him back to the shelter?” I was outraged. I felt that having picked him up and adopted him meant that we made a commitment to him, and you don’t just give up when things get tough!

But things have gotten tough over and over again with Bodhi, and now they are again. Maybe it’s time. Maybe I really ought to be looking for someone to take him who will give him some peace and stability. And maybe a fenced in yard.


Four Hour Body – Week…what?

So, tomorrow will be the start of my official Week 5. I haven’t posted since Week Two. I wrote a whole blog about my non-progress and semi-cheat week with a friend, but I decided that most of that really feels bad to me, so I’ve decided on this instead.

  • Released 2.2 lbs since Week 2

  • Became a slave to the scale

  • Cheated a little most days while my friend was in town

  • Discovered sugar cravings I’ve long denied

  • Discovered that bread and potatoes make me congested

  • Remembered how much I like structured food rules

  • Decided to do fake kettle bell exercises with my dumbbell

That’s all I got this week, y’all. 

“Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?” sneers Hudson.
Vasquez, “No. Have you?”

Comment – please!

Most of the time, I write because I feel a strong drive to put things down in words. I think better when I write. Something about writing helps me clear my mind. But tonight, I’m writing because I’d like some feedback.

Something I like to do when I’m making a decision is talk about it. When I’m planning something big, I’ll talk about it to pretty much anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. I think it’s like writing, in a way, in that as I try to communicate my thoughts to the other person, I’m forced to bring order to my ideas. In some ways, though, it’s even better than writing, because the other person will often ask questions or bring up things I never even considered before. 

Well, I don’t have much access to other people right now – except online. Yes, I see 6-8 clients every day, but somehow I don’t think it would really be fair to spend their hour talking about my issues.

The issue at hand? I’m moving (again). I think I have the actual trek across country more or less figured out, and I do know where I’ll be working.

So, I’ll be moving to San Francisco, working near Visitacion Valley. What I really want to talk about (with lots of people) is where to actually set up house. I’ve only every been to San Francisco once, and that was just for two days. I’ve done a lot of research, and I know that the different neighborhoods have different flavors. I’ve heard a little about transportation issues and the BART. All of that is fascinating, but my big question about what kind of housing I should focus on while I’m there in July. I’ll only be in town five days, and I need to leave with some kind of agreement in hand. 

Daly City on the left, Visitacion Valley where the marker is…

My co-worker tells me I have to live IN San Francisco, because driving is a pain. Another co-worker says living in the city is much too costly, that I ought to live in Oakland. One of the current interns says Oakland is no good because the neighborhoods are too “scary.” Another intern says Oakland is the only place to live.

For me, the question seems to have come down to three options. I probably can’t actually live in San Francisco, as the cost of housing is so high. I could probably swing a studio in Daly City. A realtor told me that it’s an ugly part of town, no charm what so ever, but I might get 500 square feet. Parking my car would be easier in Daly City, although if I want a garage or a space I might have to pay extra for that. Daly City looks really close to where I’ll be working on the Googlemap, but also according to Googlemap, the commute would be significant. While parking at the school might be reasonable, parking at the hospital twice a week will cost something like $30.

Visitacion Valley on the left, Oakland on the right

If I live in Oakland, for the same cost I might be able to rent a little house, like 900-1000 feet. I might actually have a little driveway for my car. Googlemaps says the commute would be 30 minutes by car, one hour by BART. It would be pretty important that I rent something close to a BART station, because the 30 minutes by car probably isn’t accurate at rush hour. Living farther away means that Bodhi has to wait longer each day. But it would also probably mean that the place would be quieter (no neighbors sharing walls, anyway) which keeps his anxiety down. One of my favorite parts of renting a house is that I could have my own washer/dryer.

Fridays at the ‘mat work now, but when I’m working more hours…?

Another option is finding a roommate situation. After my fiasco here in Mass, this has been the least appealing to me up until now. I mean, I hate to think of moving across the country only to discover my roommates are loonies. But then I saw a terrific ad on Craigslist for a cooperative, and I kind of love that idea. First, I do like having people around in my house. I like solitude, but not too much. I gain energy from interacting with other people, and tend to be more depressed when I can’t do that. Also, if it was a real cooperative kind of situation, I could expect to have some help with Bodhi on days that I’d be gone a long time. At least someone who can let him out and let him hang around. Given the ads I’ve seen for such situations so far, the cost would be significantly lower, too. There was a time when I was living in CO that I was trying to figure out if I could buy a townhouse type place that was part of a cohousing. I love the premise, but I don’t know anything about the reality. And in that situation, each person in the house is a wild card. How would I choose a healthy one?

So, there you have it. An apartment in an ugly part of town, a little house with a long commute or a cohousing situation with a number of absolute unknowns.

I am asking those of you who read the blog to comment – on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter – any way you like, really. You can call, text email or write me a snail mail. Share with your friends and ask them to comment! I’m interested in hearing opinions, options, and questions. Bonus points for anyone who knows anyone who lives in San Francisco, Oakland, or in a cohousing situation. 🙂


Come into my circle…

I am a Deepak Chopra fan. It’s true. Although I would admit that freely a few years ago, now I feel I need at least a tiny disclaimer. I love much of what he wrote all the way up to his 1995 book, The Way of the Wizard: Twenty Spiritual Lessons in Creating the Life You Want. I don’t think I made it through that one, and I’m sure I didn’t manage the next few. I know he’s written many books since then, and I’m not saying I don’t like them, just that there just seemed to be so many – I got overwhelmed. I saw him speak in person at Mile Hi once and was completely wowed.

One of the simple books I really liked was Creating Affluence: The A-to-Z Steps to a Richer Life. If you are familiar with Deepak and Science f Mind, none of this will seem new to you. If not, just briefly, the idea is that we create our experiences through our thinking. His book was a way to use simple mnemonics to remind yourself to stay focused on the affluence in your life – the kind you have already as well as the kind you’d like to increase.

As you’ve probably heard me say – words are important. Go around saying, “That’s just too hard for me” and it probably will be. Walk around saying, “Everyone around here sucks” and you will be all set to recognize the worst in people. It’s not that the words/thoughts are MAKING other people crabby, but your perception of them is filtered through your own crabby lens. Conversely, if you are having a great day, just got a raise or had a great time with a loved one, you are more likely to be thinking, “I can manage this” and “the staff at this place really do a great job.” And voila, your perception of them will be more positive.

Again, it isn’t that you thinking that they were great necessarily improved their service, but your brain is hooked on that confirmation bias – you are looking for evidence that the staff is impressive. Just one quick caution. If a person is feeling particularly down, no amount of positive phrases is going to “snap them out of it.” Telling someone to “look at the bright side” might just get you a nasty glare and bad reputation. These things work best when they come from within the person – when they are ready.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Facebook asking for someone to talk to me about my dissertation. My committee chair is not particularly touchy-feely and sometimes I feel dumb asking questions (which is my own thing). I have never written a dissertation before, thank you very much, and I don’t know many people who have and no one in the same field. A friend I hadn’t spoken to in at least a couple of months volunteered, and that conversation provided me with some real momentum.

Next, a Twitter friend offered to look at my dissertation. For those of you who don’t know, a Twitter friend is someone you only know on Twitter. She is a freelance editor and her offer was even more important because it came at a time when I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed frequently when it comes to the details of completing my doctorate, and my situation often leaves me feeling all alone in the world. I know that I am not, in fact, all alone in the world, but that fact does not necessarily keep me from feeling that way. If you’ve read the blog, you’ll know that feeling alone is kind of a theme for me lately.

Back to Deepak. As I said, the book uses simple mnemonics to help you to keep your mind focused on abundance. He has a catchy phrase or two to go with each letter. I liked the book, then listened to the cassette tape, later bought the CD which I eventually put on my ipod. I’ve heard it many times. I have some of those phrases memorized. I usually don’t listen when I need it most (note the caution above), because when I’m pretty low I tend to say all that is just a bunch of hooey (or the term I learned just a couple of years ago, “woo”). One of the mneonics that he offers for the letter T is that it stands for Talent Bank. The first time I read that, I think I started to think of all the things I’m not talented at and thought, well, that’s not very useful. Luckily I read on.

Talent bank – In order to maximize creativity and offer the best service, it is good to develop a talent bank or a coterie of individuals with unique and diverse talents and abilities and whose individual talents, when added together, are more than the sum of the parts. -Deepak Chopra

That’s good thinking, man. That makes sense to me and is such a relief! I don’t need to be ultra-talented at everything – I only need to remember to gather around me individuals with differing skill sets, so that I can lean on them when I need them.

Thanks, all you talented people in my life, for helping me do whatever it is that you do best, better. I appreciate each and every one of you, and hope that my talents add to your lives.

The Procrastination Pay Off

This is me, working on my dissertation. Get it? It’s a joke. Obviously, this is not my dissertation. The truth is, I really like writing. Since I was a little kid I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’m a voracious reader and whenever I get to the end of a great book (great as determined by me) I always think, “I want to do that. I want to give other people those feelings. I want to inspire other people, take people to other places, help people see things from a different point of view, pull people’s imaginations. I do do this from time to time with spoken stories, but I haven’t yet done much on that mystical object – The Novel. I kind of always expected that what I’d write is fiction, although I am a huge fan of memoirs and these days one of those seems like a possibility, too. But you know, not even as good a possibility as, say, a meteorologist predicting rain. More like a completely abstract possibility, fit for daydreams.

What? He could be daydreaming. It IS day time. And it’s my favorite chair for daydreaming…

As you may have guessed, my dissertation is neither fiction nor a memoir. And certainly not the stuff of daydreams. Which is why you find me here. Today I thought maybe a quick blog post would help get me going. My goal for today was to write as much total crap as possible on the conclusion section of my dissertation. It sometimes help if I start by saying it’s ok to write total crap, otherwise perfection paralysis sometimes kicks in. I did get some much needed help this week from both a kind friend and one of my committee members, but I’ve been sitting staring for something like…let’s see…16 hours over the last two days and wrote – wait, I can actually tell you – 147 words. I have about 3 more hours to write before I plan to leave the house. At that rate, I might be able to get another…27 words written!

But that wasn’t actually what I came to blog about. I came to blog about…

This may only be amusing to me, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I typed the previous bit in about 4 minutes (quite a bit faster than my dissertation speed) but when I got to the topic I wanted to talk about, I couldn’t remember. I had to take the dog out, gather some sticks in the yard (the neighbors said they are going to put in a firepit) and go to the bathroom before I remembered that I wanted to talk about money.

Ah, the firepit….


Way back last year, my go-to plan for money was to pay for everything in advance that I possibly could. I put the down payment on the place I rented in May. I paid for my CSA farm share in June for October. I paid my car insurance up for the whole year. I tried to pay for my Uhaul in June. I knew that I was going to be very broke once I got to my internship. I knew that rent would be high and, well, I’m not even really getting paid a wage. I’m pretty sure it’s so low it would be illegal to call it a wage, which is why it’s called a stipend. I knew also that the cost of my food and Bodhi’s food was still going to be high enough to keep us pretty broke. And here’s the thing, I kind of enjoyed that strategy, the pay-it-all-up-right-now philosophy. I like the feeling that things are done and paid for, that I don’t need to worry about certain bills. And I always have.

In fact, as a kid, I regularly lost at Monopoly, and having played it as an adult, I think I know now that most of the time it was just that strategy, attempting to buy things outright, in full, all in one go that often bankrupted me. I never bought ONE house to put on a place, I’d pay at once to get all four houses and get a hotel as soon as it was my turn. Which meant that if I hit anything the next time around, I’d be too broke to pay the cost on their little property with the one measly house. I never figured that out then, and if I played today, I’d probably still do it.

All this came up for me recently because I realized that for this next move, I need to do something very different. Since I’ve been here, my policy has been, “spend as little as possible” (except when my mom sent me money for my birthday, in which case I spent it all, mostly on running gear). I also got some lotion making supplies when my loan came though, but that was really my only other major expenditure this year. I recently found a place downtown near my therapist’s office that sells running gear at ridiculously low prices. I wandered in originally wanting to see if I could look at some Vibram shoes in person, then I saw these clearance racks. I looked a while, but I knew I really didn’t have money for gear, so I left. Every time I go down there, though, I think about stopping in, “just to see what they have.”

I was looking at CSAs in the San Francisco area and was excited to see the different offerings (avocados, for instance, and blood oranges). Some places don’t even require that you sign up for a season, rather you just pay per box. I think there is some small savings if you do it all up front….but this is another area that I am thinking, “Just pay for it all right now!” But no, I thought, you can’t do that. You can’t spend any other money right now.

Live Earth Farms says this is a typical summer box

Then last week sometime, I was looking for new sandle-y shoes (mine are getting a hole) and I was stressing out about the cost. It was then that I realized – I need to do more than not spend money. That strategy tends to make me feel, well, poor and deprived. As some of you might know, feeling poor and deprived creates a strong push towards some kind of spending fiasco. So it’s time to change my mindset.

The new strategy needs to focus on future spending. Like, when I have a job and an actual wage. I mean, yes, I could use a new running bra, but the new spending strategy asks this question: Can you wait until, say, November? With the inches I’m releasing, maybe it doesn’t even make sense to get that running bra yet. Maybe I’ll want a smaller size by November! The new spending strategy says, buy NOT today, what you can put off till tomorrow. I mean, I will want to eat food from a CSA, but hey, couldn’t I just buy that, say, when I’m actually IN San Francisco? How nice will it be to ask other people what CSAs they like? And what if, by chance, I live somewhere where a farmer’s market is readily available? Maybe I’ll even prefer that! Yes, I think I’d like to buy a Kindle 3g, but really, will I even have time to read it in the next 3 months? Or buy books to put on it? Yup, I’d like a new earring to replace the one I lost, but really, am I just, not going to make it if I wait till, say, Christmas to buy it?

Yes, I have finally found a way to make procrastination pay. No pun intended.

Four hour body – week two

Here we are, two weeks into my personal experiment with the Four Hour Body (Tim Ferriss).

First off, having a plan for eating has always worked better for me. Trying to stick to the meal plan has forced me to plan ahead and prep meals – something I used to do but fell out of the habit. I manged to eat four meals every day, usually with the “early dinner” consisting of a Muscle Milk prepared protein shake. I just don’t have the time between clients to eat an actual meal.

Muscle Milk pretty much goes against everything I believe about food. It’s a box filled with chemicals, essentially. And, it’s icky.

Earlier this week (I think as I was trying to decide if it was ok to eat corn) I came to the realization that the Four Hour Body fat loss plan has no sugar in it. Which is pretty cool, especially since my recent interest in sugar. Back about ten years ago I did go off of all white sugar for a while, and I think that did make me feel better, although at the time I was very focused on losing weight and so when I didn’t see any weight loss, I stopped being so attentive.

Recently I saw a very cool video about sugar. I’ll share it with you – but it’s an hour long, so I’ll also share the short version.

So, at first I was assuming that Tim was getting some sugar in, because he admits to drinking some kind of diet soda. And there’s 3 grams of sugar in the Muscle Milk, so I was kind of counting that as fair. One day last week I went to drink my muscle milk and couldn’t get the stuff up the straw. Anyone who’s every drank this stuff knows that those attached straws are not all that great. If they get a hole, you can’t use them. Anyway, I pulled it out to check the straw and it was covered in gloppy goop. Blech. This made me think, once again, about the nastiness of Muscle Milk.

Sun Warrior

Trying to come up with another way to get in a quick shake made me wonder again about how much sugar is in diet soda. Because I have some protein powder that I really like – and by “like” I mean that it fits with my ethical principals. I like Sun Warrior natural protein powder – but dude – it doesn’t really taste good. Back when I was using it more frequently, I sometimes put in an Oreo for flavor. So, I really needed to know how much sugar is in the diet soda so that I can not go over that amount. Have I mentioned I don’t drink soda? Yeah, you probably know already that there is NO sugar in diet soda, but I was surprised by the news. And bummed out. Because Sun Warrior needs…something to be added if you want to be able to swallow it.

After some thought, I came up with a plan. I decided to get some sugar-free pudding mix to add to my shakes. Yes, well, sugar-free pudding also goes against my food morals, but you know, you gotta do what you gotta do. I am intent on following this plan through. I mean, hey, I’m eating meat, for pete’s sake. How bad could a little sugar-free pudding be?

Oh good grief.

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