We’re Going to Hawaii- A Rough Outline of Our Trip

For our Hawaii trip, I’ve done my best to be educated, but not over zealous in making an itinerary.   Neither A nor I have been to Hawaii before, but we both know that our best vacations are the ones that don’t involve an Excel Spreadsheet of our itinerary that one of us ::cough, cough, me:: has created mapping out every 1/2 hour block of our trip.  I’ve done really well with this up until now, but when I see our countdown getting smaller and smaller, a little voice inside me says, “You slacker, get on that spreadsheet woman!”

Aulani Countdown

So, I’ve decided that instead of breaking out my spreadsheet (which I refuse to do for this trip, its like a bad omen) I’ll put a bit of pen to paper and do a rough outline of our trip.  This way you can tell me if I’m missing any “must do’s” and I can feel like we’re not just going to wake up the day we’re leaving and think, “Gee, were we actually in Hawaii?”  

Because school is winding down for both E and I (I have one final left tomorrow that I don’t even technically have to take) we made a trip to the library today.  I wanted to see if I could find a kids book that could give her a background on Pearl Harbor and why the memorial (which we are visiting) is so important.  While she’s young, and while we are vacationing at Disney, she’s at an age now where I feel it’s important to start exposing her to the historical events that shaped our nation.  I don’t expect her to fully comprehend the events of December 7th, 1941, but I do hope that it will help her understand why it’s a place where we remain reverent and respectful.  While we were there I also picked up two (outdated) travel guides to flip through as well.

IMG_7361The travel guides didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know (which I take as a good thing).  They did reaffirm a few places that were on our “maybe” list that are now on our “must do” list.

Thursday, Day 1:

Well, it’s arrival day.  We’ll get our rental car, go to Costco & Target, check into Aulani, and just hang out and settle in.

Friday, Day 2:

Taking advantage of our jet lag (and the fact that the T Family is not by any means one that would be described as early risers) we made this our Pearl Harbor tour day.  Our tour is at 9:00 a.m. which means we have to be there to get our reserved tickets by 8:00 a.m.

After Pearl Harbor I scheduled us for a complimentary tour of Maui Divers Design Center.  We plan to let E pick a pearl and make a nice piece out of the pearl she picks as her big souvenir for the trip.

Saturday, Day 3:

We have reservations for a character breakfast (it is Disney afterall) and nothing else.  I expect Day 3 and Day 4 (Saturday and Sunday) to be spent enjoying everything the resort has to offer.

Sunday, Day 4:

In the evening E has her excursion with Chip and Dale and A&I have our sunset anniversary dinner (all taking place at Aulani).

Monday, Day 5:

We hope to hit up North Shore (earlier in the day) and maybe scope out some sea turtles and just check out all that North Shore has to offer.  After that I hope to venture to Sea Life Park as the travel books all say it’s a “must do” with kids and I think E would love it.

Tuesday & Wednesday, Days 6&7:

Aulani days (hoping to get to enjoy the resort during non-busy week days, or less busier than weekend days.)  I hope to see Aulani’s Starlit Hui one of the nights we’re there as we are not doing a traditional luau.

Thursday, Day 8:

We head home.

I’m hoping this itinerary provides us a mix of seeing some cool sites in Hawaii, but getting to relax as well.  If we like Hawaii, it’s easy for us to return, so I’m in no big hurry to hit every tourist attraction on the island.  We want to keep it fun and relatively age appropriate for E (minus Pearl Harbor which was a must do for A & I).  From what I understand, you could spend an entire week at Aulani and not get bored, so I’m certainly not worried about running out of things to do.  And I’ve certainly collected enough swimming suits for E over the past year to provide for hours upon hours of ocean, pool, and lazy river time.

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What can I say, most of them were on clearance and my girl has super sensitive skin, so I wanted to make sure we allotted for multiple bathing suit changes each day without having to do laundry every night.

Am I missing anything that you think is a “must do” for our family while enjoying our week in Oahu?  Let me know!

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Hawaii on a Budget- The Before Post

Hawaii on a Budget: The Before Post

Accommodations: Timeshare (fixed monthly expense)

Airfare: $1666.50 ($555.50) per person after taxes/fees

Car Rental: $236.85 Standard Car 1 week rental

Parking: Free for DVC Members (Normally $35 a night)

I know it sounds ironic, Aulani (or Hawaii really) on a budget? But that’s what we’re aiming for this trip.

This wasn’t our original plan, I mean, we certainly aren’t millionaires (not even close) but we do save and plan for a nice vacation every summer. However, a few “hiccups” (read: medical bills) and my reduced work schedule due to nursing school have caused us to modify that vacation budget. I thought it would be nice to make a “before” post of all of our money saving ideas and then compare the before thoughts to what was actually executed in post after we return from vacation.

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As I stated before, I own Disney Vacation Club (I bought it 3 years before I even met my husband) and it is paid off. We pay monthly maintenance dues, but as my husband the accountant says, “that’s a fixed cost”. Because of this our very nice accommodations that would normally run over $400 a night were not factored into our budget (only the slight transient tax Hawaii requires which shouldn’t be more than $100). Obviously this helps tremendously in making a vacation to such a nice resort fit our budget, as accommodations are easily the most expensive part.

Another large expense is airfare. Because we live in a major west coast city, we had two options to fly direct from our hometown to Honolulu non-stop. One was on a domestic carrier I’ve flown routinely for years and usually only have “neutral” things to say about them (if they didn’t offer me so many non-stop flights, I’d probably have more negative things to say, but it’s the nature of the beast I guess) and the other was Hawaiian Airlines which I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about.

We opted to try Hawaiian. Their airfare was lower than the normal domestic carrier we fly and we’ve heard great things about their customer service. This is why we ended up modifying our dates. We saved $200 per person (so $600 total) by flying in on a Thursday instead of a Friday. Originally, there was not a room available at Aulani (through DVC or cash) so we had booked a room in Waikiki because even after paying cash for one night stay, we still netted a positive gain of $400. Thankfully, I stalked the DVC website and was able to add on our first night at Aulani using DVC points (no cash out of pocket minus the transient tax).

Because we are so used to vacationing at Disneyland (where we drive and have our own car) or Walt Disney World where we use Magical Express and resort transportation we weren’t quite sure what our best option for transportation in Hawaii would be. Aulani does not offer an airport service (yet) like Magical Express. You can take a taxi or charter bus, but it comes at a hefty per-person fee. We also knew we’d want to leave the resort for various outings and to purchase groceries and items I didn’t want to pack. We opted to rent a car for our stay. I price checked various websites, but in the end using Costco Travel gave us the best deal for our rental car (pickup/drop off at the airport). We are executive members, which give us a deeper discount on travel programs.

Note: If we were not DVC members I would not rent a car for our Aulani trip from the airport. Parking at Aulani is $35 a night, but is waived if you are a DVC member. You can rent a car directly at Aulani for various amounts of time including just a day rental (avoiding parking fees).

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Speaking of my love for Costco, there happens to be a Costco (and Target) about 5 miles from the resort. Our flight lands in Honolulu around 11:30 a.m. Our plan is to collect our bags and rental car and then hit Costco on our way to Aulani to pick up water, snacks, breakfast/lunch items, sunscreen, and maybe towels (they take up SO much room). This will also likely be our first meal in Hawaii, because who doesn’t love Costco pizza?  There also happens to be a Target located next to Costco for other incidentals. We had groceries delivered to our room on both of our recent trips to Walt Disney World and it worked out to be a great time and money saver (plus, I really appreciated having more options for fresh fruit/juices and to be honest, Dr. Pepper).

During our trip, we plan on spending most of our time at the resort. Aulani is beautiful and offers a lot of items complimentary to resort guests. If we like Aulani, it’s easy for us to return and actually cheaper than Walt Disney World since we’re on the west coast (even airfare was cheaper). We do have a few excursions planned, but most of it will be a “wing it” (that’s right, I have no excel spreadsheet for this trip!). We made reservations for Pearl Harbor, but since it’s a national park it only cost us a nominal $4.95 reservation fee for the three of us. We also plan on taking a drive up to North Shore and stopping at Laniakea Beach to hopefully see/swim with the sea turtles (if you know E, you know she adores green sea turtles). Other than that a few maybes include: Sea Life Park, Dole Plantation, and The Kualoa Ranch.

Chip Dale Aulani

We do have a few splurges planned for our trip since it is Hawaii after all. Because E’s middle name is Pearl and I think she’d really enjoy it, we’ll be taking E to Maui Diver’s to pick a pearl and have it set in a piece of jewelry as her main keepsake of this trip (I prefer souvenirs that won’t get trashed in a few weeks or months even if they are a bit more spendy). We also booked an excursion for E at Aunty’s Beach House. 99% of Aunty’s activities are free to potty-trained children of resort guests (it’s like a kids club you’d find on a cruise ship), but you do have to beat the rush to sign your children up each morning for activities. At the time of our booking there were two activities you could book in advance for children at Aunty’s (IE: babysitting). E will be participating in the Surfs Up with Chip and Dale. She’ll have dinner with Chip and Dale and learn to surf (in grass) and paint her own (miniature) surfboard63-AMA-AMA all while mommy and daddy enjoy an anniversary, sunset, beach side dinner at the resorts signature restaurant Ama Ama.While we are there, I hope to take advantage of the award-winning spa and if we can get E signed up at Aunty’s one of the days we’re there, have A join me.  Aunty’s beach house was a big selling point to me on vacationing at Aulani and while the excursion for E is a bit pricy, around $70 after tax, I’m looking forward to having 10486042_10103794270633131_726757707039634678_na nice, grown up, adult dinner with A while we’re in paradise.  We’ll be at Aulani over our wedding anniversary, just as we were in Walt Disney World for our 5th wedding anniversary (though our day looked much different).

So far, these are our “budget friendly” plans for our Aulani vacation. I’d love to hear other budget friendly ideas as well as any Oahu must-do’s from you!

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Exactly Where I Need To Be

It’s been quite easy for me to recently lose focus.  As the modern philosophers, Florence and the Machines, would say, “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.” And that’s just how I’ve felt, that at every turn, every gasp for air he’s been there, pulling me back down trying to turn me, trying to show me how good jealousy, and greed, and envy can feel.  Aside from my recent head issue and subsequent downfall from that, nothing huge or life changing has been happening, just minor things that seem to be falling down around us while it feels like the world is rejoicing and celebrating.

I’ve never wanted to be that person, you know the one I’m talking about, the one who down plays and is bitter about all the happiness other people have, the one who makes excuses or turns green with envy when goodness presents itself to others, but it’s such an easy person to slump into.  It’s so much easier to be resentful than it is to be grateful.

But these trials, these adversities, as much as they pain me (literally and figuratively) they are so good for me.  My life is messy friends, so messy, and I’m always trying to run around and clean up the proverbial mess instead of just letting it show itself.  So, in an effort to save my own sanity and just let it all hang out, I present to you, my mess.

Motherhood.

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Y’all, most days I feel like I’m sucking at motherhood.  And taking developmental psychology (required for my nursing degree) is really making me think that I have royally messed up my child (why did I not take this her first year of life?)  She talks back, I give in way to frequently, she still sleeps in my bed 5 out of ten nights, and she loves to talk about poop.  When she’s sleep happy, she will literally scream poop/poopy/smells like poopy/some form of the word poop that is not the S word (phew) which is then followed by what literally sounds like insane hysteria.   Every Tuesday and Thursday (and every week night I’m up doing homework) I feel like the world’s most selfish person for sending her off to school while I go to school, knowing that if I simply wait a few more years, she’ll be in school full-time anyway, but instead I’m taking away from my time with her to pursue my selfish dream, my ambition.  And it makes me feel about an inch tall every.single.time.  And every year, around Mother’s Day, I wonder, how many more Mother’s Days I get to be about me, before she starts thinking about Sam* on this day too.  Before she starts scheduling the day 1/2 for me, 1/2 for Sam* (and Lord don’t even get me started thinking about her having a Mother-in-Law too).  And that’s selfish, and it’s petty, but it’s my mess.  But she’s amazing.  And she calls me mama.  And I may not be the perfect mama, and she may not be the perfect child, but together, we are perfect for each other.

Marriage.

1916951_756587799921_261660_nMost days, I’m a pretty junky wife.  I don’t cook, I rarely clean, I go to school, I work, I do homework, I spend way more money than I should, and I’m bat poop passionate about things that shouldn’t matter, but this man, he loves me anyway.  We’re not the perfectly married couple, we fight, we disagree, we don’t always have the same priorities, but y’all we FIGHT for our marriage, every single day.  And when stuff hits the fan, like it has been recently, we lean in on each other instead of drifting apart.  This man, he fights like hell for me, and when I’m doing everything in my power to push him away, he pushes right back.  We lean in.  We fight for each other.

My House.

299804_10100794110488111_1456105002_nYou will not find my house on Pinterest.  It’s messy, literally.  It’s small.  It’s not in a bad part of town, but it’s not in an area that makes headlines.  It’s a stucco, tract house.  But it’s our home.  I used to say that I never wanted people to be able to walk into my house and know I had kids, now, it’s a badge of honor to have an array of toys spread throughout my home.  Sure, I wish my tile often had fewer stains on it than it normally does, but man, in six years, we made this house the home we never thought we would.  Sure, it’s starting to show wear, and it’s starting to need upkeep, and yes, I would REALLY appreciate it if this could be a gradual process instead of everything giving out all at once, but it’s our home.  We came home to this house the day after our wedding, we brought our daughter home from the hospital here.  It’s not going to win any awards or be featured in any magazines, but I tell you what, you’d be hard pressed to find a house made more a home than this little 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom 1500 square foot piece of paradise.

Friends.

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Most of the time, I’m kind of a junky friend.  I mean, I’m the friend that sets up reminders to text friends to follow-up on things important to them.  This sounds good in theory, but these are things I should just know.  I also have ridiculous expectations, so when I find friends and keep them for more than a few years, you know they’re pretty much the greatest people on the planet.

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The kind of people who you should fight like hell to keep, the kind of people you would fight like hell to keep.  The kind of people you look at and think, how on earth did I get so dang lucky to be friends with these people.

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The kind of people who you don’t have to talk to every day, even every month, you can leave off for a few months while you both do some soul-searching, and then simply reconnect, catch up, and resume friendship like it never paused.  These are the friends I have.  Friends who honor my insane emotions and love me anyway.  I may be able to count the friends I have on two hands, but they’re the kind of friends that I hope and pray my daughter grows up to have.

This is just a piece of my mess, there’s truly so much more to it, I could probably go on for weeks, but this is the piece I’m focusing on because regardless of how messy or ugly it may be, I am incredibly proud and grateful for it.

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We’re Going to Hawaii!

Look, I’m blogging, two days in a row, and about something happy!

A and I started planning our summer vacation about 2 days after we got home from our Walt Disney World Vacation last June (which was amazing).  Originally we intended on going back to Disney World and we had such rave reviews that my best friend and her family decided they’d join us as well.

I’m sure you’re probably saying, but the title of this post is “We’re Going to Hawaii” not “We’re going to Walt Disney World.”  I am a member of Disney Vacation Club (Disney’s timeshare yes, its expensive, but if you vacation at Disney, it’s totally worthwhile, and we do).  My home resort is one of the many resorts in Orlando, Florida, and I can begin booking trips there 11 months from my vacation date.  After our two trips to Disneyworld last year, we learned a key element, staying at a monorail hotel is crucial (at least with a toddler/preschooler).  My resort is not a monorail resort, which meant I couldn’t book at a different DVC resort until 7 months before our vacation.

When A and I discussed this, he stated that if we couldn’t get the hotel we wanted for the week we wanted, he wanted to try something else, he wanted to go to Aulani, Disney’s resort on Oahu which is also a part of Disney Vacation Club.  I had previously mentioned going there to A, but he never wanted to take the 6 hour flight with E.  After our flight to Orlando last year ended up being over 9 hours in travel time due to a delay and E handled it like a champ, A decided she could handle the extra hour in travel time from our home town to Honolulu vs. our hometown to Orlando.

Copyright Vivid Fotos  http://vividfotos.com

Copyright Vivid Fotos http://vividfotos.com

Well, at our 7 month booking window the resort in Orland we wanted wasn’t available, but Aulani was!  I told A that if we were flying across the pacific, I wanted an ocean view room (it required more points, but I wanted to hear/see the ocean from my balcony) which he reluctantly agreed to.  When I logged in, the room we wanted for the week we wanted was available, so we booked it!

We originally booked our stay to arrive on our Wedding Anniversary, June 12th, and check out the following Friday, June 19th.  However, we’ve since had to alter our travel plans (I may have postponed buying our airfare thinking “I’d find a better deal”- one day I’ll learn).  And I broke the news to my best friend (who had already booked her trip) that while she was heading 2500 miles east, we were heading 2800 miles west, thankfully she was understanding.

This is the first time that both A and I have vacationed to a destination neither of us have been too which if I’m being honest makes me nervous, but knowing it’s a Disney resort, gives me much more confidence.  I’m hoping the resort is the perfect blend of Disney magic (’cause this girl loves her some Disney magic) and lush tropical relaxation that this family needs!

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Because Sometimes You Just Need To Write

I get that my blog has become more of a random place to throw even more random thoughts out there.  It’s been on my to-do list for a while now to start regularly updating and even update my cover photo, considering my child is now 4 years old, not 4 months old.  But alas, every.single.time, life happens and sure enough, life has been happening a lot in these parts.

First, I should probably let you know that I don’t have ovarian cancer.  They didn’t even remove my ovaries (not that I would have complained if they did).  I did have two, read that two, epithelial tumors (one superficial, one internal) bi-laterally on my ovaries.  I still get to go in for routine ultrasounds because I still have my ovaries and while I am BRCA negative, that only accounts for about 4% of ovarian cancers.  But, I am cancer free and assumed this would be my last “token” hospital visit of the year.

I was wrong.  So, very wrong.

Friday, April 17th, A and I took sweet E to the drive-in for the very first time.  She was SO excited as we had been pumping her up all week about getting to watch a movie in our car (and might I add, a Prius is a super awesome car to take to the drive-in!).  I was excited that we got to see a double feature for $15 total and that E got to watch Home and I’d finally get to see Cinderella.  The plan was perfect and flawless, so I thought.

When we arrived at the drive-in, I had a dull headache, but I’m a nursing student not to mention a mom, I get headaches, I brushed it off and enjoyed the first movie (super cute by the way) and loved watching E take in the drive-in experience at the same drive-in I frequented as a child.

11026_10104935361268351_851872459067392028_nAfter Home finished, we got E tucked into her car seat, pulled the headrest off the seat in front of her (she’s still rear-facing) so she could see the screen to “watch” Cinderella (she was out before the previews were over) and I laid back next to her as my head started to ache quite a bit more.  I made it through Cinderella, just barely, and told Aaron we needed to high-tail it home (with good reason, it was now after midnight).

The entire drive home I had a severe, stabbing, throbbing pain about the size of a quarter above my left temple that penetrated about 2″.  My vision became extremely blurry and I began seeing double which made me nauseous the entire drive home.  I doped up on Ibuprofen, left over Percocet from my surgery, an ice pack, and still could find no relief.  Finally my incredible husband gave me a pressure point massage until I passed out Friday night, thinking I’d sleep it off.

I was wrong.

I woke up Saturday with the same pain, but more severe, now causing severe left eye pain.  I called my doctor, who is amazing, and his concern was for Temporal Arteritis which if not treated immediately can cause blindness.  My Mother-in-Law met us at the Emergency Room/Tiny Hospital and took E back to her house while A and I sat in the ER.  Thankfully, when you have head pain accompanied with other Neurological symptoms they get you back quick.  This trip resulted in lots of drugs, a CT Scan with Contrast, lots of lab work, and finally, an okay to go home with the promise of seeing my doctor first thing Monday morning or coming back if it got worse.

11150359_10104939456256961_5212384276281929615_nIt got worse.  I didn’t sleep Saturday night.  So, Sunday I returned to the ER after speaking with my doctor who told me to prepare to be admitted overnight.  I packed a bag, called my Mother-in-Law, my mom, and my best friend who sat with me so I wouldn’t be alone and headed back to the hospital.  The ER doctor tried to do a Lumbar puncture, but was unsuccessful.

Let me stop here.  Being an adoptive parent I have obviously never gone through childbirth.  How in the heck you stay perfectly still through the pain of someone sticking a needle in your spine AND contractions is beyond me.  I could barely do it with no contractions, so to women everywhere who have made it through an epidural, you’re my hero.

At this point, nothing would touch the pain, in fact I even asked the nurse if she was giving me saline or medication.  The ER doctor, who thankfully was the same doctor I’d had the night before, came in and said I needed to be transferred to the main hospital, a world-renowned Neurological Institute that shall remain nameless, and he wanted me transferred by ambulance.  Can I just say thank goodness they gave me nausea meds because riding backwards in an ambulance almost made me throw up.

IMG_7170I could write probably 15 entries about my hospital experience.  But I won’t.  I will simply say there is a reason I am leaving the “World Renowned Neurological Institute” nameless because it was not pleasant.

After 26 hours in the second ER (even though I was admitted to the hospital from the first ER- they’re the same hospital) and 7, count that 7, chair/room/bed moves in the ER I finally found myself on the Neuro ICU floor, where I got to stay for about 12 hours.  I was not responding to any of the medications they threw at me, and they threw a ton of them at me, so they put me on the “last resort migraine medication” otherwise known as DHE.

Now, I want to say that at 31 years old, I have never had a migraine, ever.  I’ve barely had headaches, certainly never a headache Ibuprofen didn’t mend.  I’m not well versed on migraines, but in the entire time I was in the hospital the pain I had never changed.  Quarter size section on the left temple, about two inches deep, throbbing, stabbing pain, not light, sound, or smell sensitive.  To me, that’s not a migraine, but I’m not a Neurologist.

I experienced my 8th move to the Neuro/Telemetry floor as my new medication required round the clock heart monitoring.  I then seeped into the black hole of the hospital and looked like this until Thursday morning only coming in and out of consciousness.

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I was never alone in the hospital.  A, my mom, my Mother-in-Law, my incredible family, and my amazing friends always made sure someone was by my side.  E’s Hulk Build-a-Bear and my YoungLife Snuggie were saving graces (hospitals are cold y’all, and their pillows stink).  E came to see me each night for about an hour, always before my DHE dose, so she didn’t see me in that horrible state.  We had chocolate ice cream and watched Frozen together each night, but after 4 nights away, on Wednesday evening, she was very upset that I wasn’t going home.

I was too.

My Wednesday night dosage of DHE was my last.  I suffered some terrible side effects that made the doctors decide it was time to come off (let’s just say there was an EKG and an echocardiogram involved and I have never had cardio problems).  Thursday afternoon I was discharged as a “migraine” and given 3 prescriptions of high dose medications with instructions to come back in a month for Botox injections.  I didn’t fight it, I wanted out.  The first place we went after we left the hospital was to pick up E.

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Sunlight, upright, holding my baby, no IV’s.  This was happiness.  When she saw me waiting in the parking lot (I’ll be honest in saying I hadn’t showered since Sunday, so I didn’t go into the pre-school) she ran to me and gave me the biggest hug in the world.  In the deepest concern a 4-year-old could have, she asked me if the hospitals were over.   Thank God, they were.

So, here I am, a week after discharge, still with the same pain.  I stopped the meds, they made me numb and comatose.  I’m a mom, and a nursing student, and a 31-year-old woman, I can’t live my life like that, I’d rather be in pain.  I’m seeing my PCP and we’re trying to figure this out.  I had an MRI today, and it was normal, which is great, but at the same time, defeating.

So, here we are, back to square one.  Tomorrow we’re trying a lidocaine injection and I’m on my 4th day of steroid therapy, along with some amazing essential oils a dear friend gave me last night.  I’ll be seeking out an Ophthalmologist and a new Neurologist this week as well, but I’m happily seeking any sort of suggestions you may have, please don’t be shy.

So, that’s how life has happened recently.  I’d like to think I’ll be back to blog about happier things considering my last few entries have been health related, putting my cat to sleep, and the state of my horrible state, but I make no promises.

I certainly hope life is happening much less eventful for you!

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Simba, My Lion King

One hot July day back in 2000 (I was not yet 17), my mom and I went up to PetsMart to get her the tuxedo kitten she had always wanted.  While she was playing with the litter of kittens, I wandered into the room where the adult cats were being held and casually walked by glancing at them, stopping to pet them if they seemed accepting.  While browsing, I saw this sweet face staring up at me.

That face!

That face!

When I extended my hand to pet him through the metal bars of the kennel he was being held in, he willingly accepted my touch.  After a few minutes I left to check on my mom.  Seeing as she was still playing with the kitties, I went back to see my friend.  As soon as I entered the room he threw himself up against the metal bars and started purring louder then I’ve ever heard a cat purr before.

That was it.

The next thing I knew, I was unlatching the gate to his kennel where he willingly fell into my arms.  I walked out of the room holding that cat and my mom knew we weren’t leaving without him in tow, and we didn’t.

It was unknown how old Simba was when we got him, but they estimated he was about a year old.  July 30th of every year we celebrate this sweet boys birthday, this year he’ll be turning 16 years old.

Simba isn’t like any other cat, and I don’t say that with a bias, I say it because it’s true.  He has without a doubt one of the best personalities you’d ever find in a cat.  He loves to have his belly rubbed, car rides, and his favorite thing on the entire planet is to be brushed…yep, you heard me correctly, he loves being brushed.  In fact, he’ll love anyone anywhere (even the vet) if you’re willing to brush his fur for him.

Happy at the vet because they brought us a brush to use while we waited for test results.

Happy at the vet because they brought us a brush to use while we waited for test results.

If you can see it, he’s wearing a harness.  Simba hates cat carriers, but loves to be walked, in fact he’ll walk on a leash if you’ll let him (like a dog).  He also has the coolest mustache that always attracts comments.  Simba is also a lover.  He’ll willingly jump into anyone’s lap that’s offering it up.

Together, we’ve been through a great deal.  Simba was the leading man in my life for a very long time, and if you promise not to tell my husband, sometimes he still is.  When I think back to some of my hardest, most emotional moments, he was there, always willing to snuggle next to me through my tears, listen, and accept me for who I was.  (He also loved participating in the joyous occasions too, I’m telling you, Simba is people).

He was weary when E came home, but accepted her because she was a part of me.  He’s very tolerant of her, though not always thrilled when she makes very loud noises or tries to tug on his tail.  But, alas, through years of teaching E that the quickest way to Simba’s heart is by offering to brush him, he’s warmed up to her…sort of.

My two babies.

My two babies.

1464759_10103069783321511_2104327788_nFor a very long time, Simba never aged, so much so that I used to say he was the “Green Mile” cat and I wondered if he’d ever age.

He did.

And honestly, it was a pretty rapid progression.  Simba got very skinny, very fast and stopped grooming himself (which is not who he is, this cat used to be full of static because he groomed himself so much- hence why he loves being brushed).  He also started losing large amounts of hair.  After consulting with his vet we switched him to an all wet food diet of a specific brand (he has thyroid and digestion issues, so he needs very simple, easily digested, all natural food).  When we made this switch he put on some weight, grew all his hair back and was starting to look like his old self.

Until he didn’t.

Simba now has lost even more weight (which I didn’t think was possible), has stopped grooming himself, has a hard time making it all the way into the litter box, and is having a hard time standing without leaning side to side of walking straight.  He’s still eating, but minimally, and he still loves that damn brush, for now.

Today, I made one of the hardest phone calls of my life.  I called his vet and explained the situation.  While we scheduled it as a consultation, I think his vet, myself, and Simba know what the next steps are, and I hate it.  While I’ve lost pets before, none were pets that I have been so intimately bonded to.  None were pets that picked me as he did on that fateful July day.  None were as special and unique as my Doodle bug, Simba.

So, as we prepare for his appointment next week, we’re spending our days with lots of sunshine (he loves to sunbathe), all his favorite food selections (he prefers giblets with gravy over pate’s), and lots of brushing.  While I know the likely outcome of that appointment is what’s fair and humane for my sweet boy, thinking of a world void of my Doodle bug, isn’t one I’m looking forward to.

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My Open Letter to Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey, “I Am Arizona”

Governor Ducey,

You don’t know me, you’ve never had a reason to know me, but you should.  I’d like to tell you that you should know me because of my awesome personality, incredible intelligence, or even because I make a mean rhubarb pie, but truth be told none of those really apply to me.  You should know me though, because I am Arizona.

I was born at Phoenix Baptist Hospital in the scolding summer of 1983.  In 1985 my parents, both transplants from the mid-west, bought a modest, humble home in the farming community of Peoria, Arizona long before “spring training” and other venues even put Peoria on the map.

In 1997, I graduated from the elementary school I spent 9 years (Kindergarten through Junior High) attending.  I didn’t know it then, but the education I received from educators I didn’t yet realize how lucky I was to have prepared me for the world I live in today.  They prepared me to write this letter to you and they instilled in me the courage to stand up for what I know is right.

I am Arizona.

In 2001, I graduated from high school again in Peoria, Arizona.  I went on to attend Glendale Community College and Arizona State University unsure of what exactly it is I wanted to do in life.  As the child of parents with “blue-collar” careers, they instilled in me a great work ethic, but desired I achieve an education neither one of them had the opportunity to pursue.

In 2002, I purchased my first piece of property in El Mirage, Arizona.  It was a brand new home and the first piece of land I purchased.  I loved that house.  I sold it in 2005 during the real estate bubble while working as a Quality Assurance Analyst in Mesa, AZ.

In 2005 I bought my second home in Tempe, Arizona, again during the real estate boom.  I was certain I’d make just as big of a profit on this second home as I did my first, that I disregarded the somewhat shady terms of my 80/20 interest only loan the bank assured me I’d be refinancing with absurd amounts of equity in two years.  Then the bottom fell out.  I no longer own that home now, I was hit hard by my own ignorance and the greed of shady mortgage officers.  But much like the state that raised me, I bounced back.

I am Arizona.

In 2009, I married my husband who is also a Phoenix, Arizona native.  We bought our modest home in Laveen, Arizona together and he graduated from Arizona State University.  I continued to work as a Regional Manager in Telecom and we began our “American Dream”.

In 2011, we brought home our daughter through domestic infant adoption, she too was born in Phoenix.  Shortly thereafter, I left my professional role to be a stay at home mother to my daughter and our family adjusted to being a single income family while my husband pursued his career in finance with a locally owned construction company.

I am Arizona.

In present day, my daughter is now 4 years old and Kindergarten is on the forefront of our minds.  Having watched the education system decline rapidly over the last ten years, we realize public education isn’t an option for our daughter as she won’t receive the quality education both my husband and I received.  I worry about how I’ll be able to give my daughter the education she deserves as a single income family in a state where public education seems to diminishing the minute.

As I began thinking about my daughter starting elementary school, I realized it was also time for me to return to school to attain my long sought after Bachelor’s Degree.  After a successful business career, I decided my heart was no longer there, and enrolled the concurrent enrollment program through the Maricopa Community College Program and Northern Arizona State University to obtain my BSN-RN.  I began my program in August 2015 and obtained a 4.0 GPA my first semester back as a 31-year-old college student.

Now, with my nursing degree in grasp, I worry how I’ll be able to pay for my increasing college education as you propose to cut funding from the community colleges in this state.  Furthermore, I find it impossible to see how I can fund my own education while funding my child’s.  Obtaining my BSN-RN not only benefits myself and my family, but it benefits my community.

I am Arizona.

My husband recently achieved his CCIFP (Certified Construction Industry Financial Professional) and was given approval by the locally owned construction company he works for to pursue his CPA.   As a member of his local CFMA chapter, he is avidly involved in the construction community  that forms the backbone of this state’s economy as well as improving the community he lives in.

He is Arizona.

Between my husband and I we have over 50 family members in the valley, not including friends.  We are rooted in Arizona, having spent a combined total of over 60+ years here.  And now, because of the floundering education system, we find ourselves realizing that maybe Arizona is not our forever home.  Between sky rocketing college education costs for me due to looming budget cuts and funding a private education for my daughter as public education is no longer suitable the numbers simply don’t work for our family.

Furthermore, I am down right scared to think about the future of this state where public institutions already considered rock bottom (as in, lowest in the country) continue to fall coupled with unobtainable higher education.  What kind of Arizona are we breeding?  Do you, Governor Ducey, and our legislature hope to breed a new Arizona of uneducated people?

In your first 90 days as Governor, your commitment to education has become crystal clear, and if you’ve torn it apart this much in 90 days, I don’t know that my family (or my pocketbook) can survive another 3 years and 256 days.

I urge you to review the Constitution of this great state, the Constitution you swore to uphold on January 6th, 2015.  It states, and I quote:

“The legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.”

and

“The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible.”

Please consider this my letter of intent to vacate the state that has been my home for over 30 years.  The state I grew up in, the state that holds my family, my friends, the people I love and hold most dear to me.  You see Governor Ducey I’ve realized that I no longer am Arizona.

Sincerely,

JT

Posted in Personal Reflection, Political Junkie, Taking Care of E | Leave a comment