Even while we dated, Tyler and I always knew we would have dogs.  We would talk about what kinds of dogs we liked, how we saw them fitting into our lives, and how great it would be once we finally had a dog of our own.  We also talked extensively about how we had no sensible reason to get a puppy.  Tyler and I both work full time, and while all dogs require time, love, and commitment – a puppy requires SO much more time and care initially that Tyler and I simply did not have to give.  This makes us ideal candidates for adopting dogs that are out of the puppy stage.

Lucy 3


In our first year of marriage we found our dog Lucy at the Hermiston Pet Rescue in eastern Oregon.  When we got her, they guessed she was about seven years old.   She lived on a farm before we got her, and her owners foolishly decided that because she was older, they would abandon her to get a younger dog.  Truly despicable, in my opinion.  Dogs are not a commodity that you upgrade to get the newer model.  To us, dogs are family.  Lucy was a wonderful dog for us.  We loved her warmth, her calm nature, and her constant cuddles. And we loved her every moment we had her, and we will keep loving her even though she is gone now.

Lucy sleeping

Many of you mourned with us when we lost our dog Lucy this winter.  We went a few weeks without a dog.  I anticipated spending a few months in mourning before we got another dog.  But here’s the thing – those few weeks were torture for me.  I woke up in the morning wanting to let someone out for their pee break.  I went to fill the dog bowl – but nobody was there.  The absence of Lucy stared me in the face every moment I was home.  It was agony.  I felt like a dog owner without a dog.  I decided to start looking at Petfinder to see if there was a right dog out there for us.  And I knew that if we found the right dog for us, it wouldn’t be a disservice to Lucy.  While she was alive, Lucy got all the love we had to give her.  And now that she was gone, it was time for us to give our puppy loving to another dog.  To me, there are just too many dogs out there that need homes for me to sit for months and wait until I feel ready.  Because I was ready the very next day.

The first week in January, I started actually visiting shelters.  We knew already that we were hoping to move to Seattle, so we were looking for a smaller dog (smaller than 25lbs), and hopefully a younger dog.  The year and a half we had with Lucy simply was not long enough, and we wanted our next dog to live long enough to meet our future children (which is still several years away, in case you were wondering).  We wanted younger, but still a dog out of the potty-training puppy stage.  We went to Out West Pet Rescue in Prosser, WA looking for a dog named  “Speckles” we had seen on Petfinder (Tyler actually re-named him before we ever met him.  We both hated the name Speckles.  The mask he sported reminded both of us of Two Face from Batman.  As soon as I showed Tyler a picture of him he said “If we get that dog, we have to name him Harvey”).  He was picked up as a stray in Sunnyside, WA.  They guessed he was a cross between a Papillion and a Springer spaniel, and weighed about 15lbs.  Out West started out as (and still is) a dog groomer, who kept having people drop off strays they had found, saying “You deal with dogs.  Think you can find a home for him?”  Their dogs live in foster homes (not cooped up in kennels), are up to date on shots, spayed/neutered, and healthy.  By the time we got to Out West, we had seen and met over a dozen dogs that morning at other shelters.  Some were nice enough, but just didn’t connect with us.  Many didn’t have the right energy level or weren’t the right size for what we are able to provide for a dog.  We were a bit worn out by the time we got all the way out to Prosser.  Then this little guy jumped into our laps.

Harvey Boy Face

We were done for.  That face!  He immediately started licking our faces.  He had the wiggliest little bottom and the happiest little face.  He was a bit younger than we were hoping for, but he was potty trained and crate trained.  And he was awesome.  We went to get some lunch so we could talk it over, but ultimately, we knew.  We were his and he was ours.  Just like Lucy before him, this dog had been without a home for several months just waiting for someone to scoop him up and love him.

Harvey Boy Sleepies

This little guy fits so well into our lives.  He is mostly very sleepy.  This is how he spends most of his days, curled up on the couch or in a bed.  Or asleep in the sun.

Harvey Sunbathe

Because he was so young (about a year old), we got him while he was still very much into chewing.  We definitely lost a few shoes at first (and underpants.  Why is that such a thing for puppies?).  Then we discovered rawhide.  Sweet, sweet rawhide.  Our shoes have been safe ever since.

Harvey Chews

Probably my favorite thing about our new little guy is how he loves being active.  He’s such an energetic little guy!  He is always up for a walk – or a run – any day of the week!  He LOVES playing with dogs at the dog park and chasing tennis balls (not so great at bringing them back, but we’re working on it).  He is SUCH a blast to take adventuring around Tri-Cities, and I know he will be the perfect adventure puppy in Seattle, too!

Harvey Running

We can even take him off leash and trust him to come back to us when we call – something we were never able to do with  Lucy girl (likely because we adopted Harvey boy at a much younger age).  He makes me happy every single day and I love him to pieces.  He is there to cuddle with when we miss Lucy.  He is there to go on an adventure when we want to.  He runs to the gate when we come home and jumps up and down like a maniac when he first sees us – no matter if it’s been five minutes or five hours.  He may be a totally different dog than Lucy was (seriously, night and day), but that doesn’t mean he is any less perfect for us.

Harvey Crazy

So here’s where we tie the title back in.  This is why we rescue dogs instead of buying from breeders.  If I could have this little man in my life from a shelter, why on earth would I buy a puppy?  Sure, there are breeds that Tyler and I know and love (he’s crazy about Beagles, I’m in love with Yorkies).  But a yorkie puppy is absolute minimum $1,000 (up to over $3,000) – and that’s probably from a puppy farm.  Both of our dogs cost less than $150, came potty trained, crate trained, spayed/neutered, and well cared for.  Neither of them have had emotional scars or abuse that makes them difficult dogs.  Both have been very sociable with both people and other dogs, no problems around children, and have been perfect companions for us.  If you are thinking about getting a dog, please, please, please, look at shelters first.  If you work full time, please consider adopting an older dog (there are so many and they are so great).  If you have your heart set on a puppy, please still look at shelters first.  Often when people have  litter of puppies that they can’t keep, they end up at shelters or on petfinder.com.  Buying from breeders only encourages breeders to keep producing more dogs, and there are so many wonderful dogs out there that need homes.  Dogs are awesome and everyone should get one – but please get one that really, desperately needs you from a shelter.  Pretty please.

Seattle

If you’re not in the mood for the long version, here’s the short one:  We are moving to Seattle in June.  Tyler took an exciting new job that he starts today and after this school year is over Tyler, Harvey and I are bound for the west side of Washington and we are very excited!

This is not news to all of you, but I would guess that most of you did not know this was on our radar, or that the decision has been made for a while now.  Here’s the long version:

Tyler has a good friend who used to work with him here in Tri-Cities at Robinson Tech.  This friend started working for TrustCC –  a security consulting agency based out of Seattle, WA.  Since this friend started working for TrustCC he has been telling Tyler how fantastic the job is and how great Tyler would be at this work.  In fact, when we moved to Kennewick last summer, we partially did so because the job required Washington residency.  At the time, we thought he could work from home in Kennewick and I could continue to do the job I loved in Umatilla, OR (we found out three days after we moved that this was not the case – the job could only be done from Puget Sound).  But we loved our year in Kennewick.  We got to spend time with my family, particularly special because it was my sister’s senior year in high school and possibly the last time we would live in the same area ever again.  I got to work another year in Umatilla (which has been phenomenal) and Tyler got to work another 9 months for Robinson Tech.  We are both glad that we got to work quite a bit longer in our jobs to really feel like we completed the work we had started out to do and make sure that our workplaces had good replacements for us (still on the search for an awesome teacher to take over this awesome program here in Eastern Oregon!)

TrustCC Tyler

Tyler actually starts training at his new job today and will be in full swing of that work shortly.  He may have to spend a few days at a time up in Seattle in the next couple of months, but we know that this is just part of the transition and helpful for us to get used to.  As part of this new job, Tyler will be spending some time on the road to different parts of the country (about a week out of every month) and I think this is a good time for Harvey and I to get used to living just the two of us on occasion.  I think it will make all three of us even more grateful for the time we do get to spend together.

As far as work for me on the West Side is concerned, there are several leads I am pursuing.  I went to the Tacoma Teacher Job Fair over spring break, handed out 30 resumes, interviewed with a few districts and found out about a few potential jobs.  Most of them are not official or posted online yet (much like the position I am vacating), but I will continue to keep a look out and keep my name on the minds of districts on the other side of the mountains.  The beautiful thing about being an educator is – worst case scenario – we can always make rent with me subbing.  I hope we don’t have to resort to that, but it’s there – just in case.

 I told all of the teachers and students today about our transition.  It was a difficult day.  Some were sad, some disappointed, some very angry.  I just had to remind them (and myself) that teaching is entirely temporary.  If I stayed until all of them graduated, then I would still be “abandoning” the students who are younger than them.  Teachers will come and go through their lives, students will come and go through mine.  I can tell myself that until I’m blue in the face and it is still unbearable to think of leaving these students who I have come to know and love so dearly.  But I know that there are many more fantastic, hard-working students on the West Side that I have yet to meet and grow to love, too.  And I can’t wait to meet them.

This one has actually been a long time coming.   We haven’t talked about this publicly, because it’s hard to talk about.  How can you expect someone else to understand the bond you have with your dog?  Even if they do have a dog, can they really get where you’re coming from and understand the choices you’re making?  Regardless, the time has come to share the story of what we’ve been going through with our sweet dog, Lucy.  This is not a short story.  And it does not have a happy ending.

Lucy 9

This is Lucy when we first adopted her from the Hermiston Pet Rescue.  She was a happy dog, always wanted to be wherever we were. She followed  us from room to room.  If there was a spot next to  you on the couch, just try to stop her from finding it.

Lucy 3

Oh, you’re building a dresser from IKEA?  Let me help.

Lucy 7

Oh, your husband is stuck working on Valentine’s Day?  Let’s go on a walk and have fun.

Lucy 2

Sitting outside on a summer day eating breakfast?  Can I come, too?

Lucy 1

She was a major part of our everyday lives.  She was always ecstatic to come running inside when we got home from work.  We took her with us on every possible road trip.  She LOVED the car.

Lucy 5

She loved coming to the Oregon Coast with us.

Lucy 4We even brought her with to our first anniversary photo shoot.  She was such an important part of our little family, we both agreed that she just had to be there.

Lucy 6

She’s been a part of our friends’ lives, too.  In fact, some of our friends would argue that they looked forward to seeing Lucy more than they looked forward to seeing us.  And that was really fine by us, actually.  Who could blame them?  She was a great dog.

Lucy 0

She never had any behavior problems.   She loved people, loved cats, and no problems with other dogs.  She was always so mellow.  She even got body slammed by an 18 month old child and barely noticed.  We adopted Lucy after we’d only been married for 9 months, so you could say she was our honeymoon baby.  From March of 2012 until October of 2013, she was our girl.  We rolled down the window for her to sniff all the things as we drove.  We held her quivering body on scary 4th of July’s and thunderstorms.  We brought her to dog parks, the ocean, friend’s houses, visits to the grandparents.  We bought her fun collars, dog beds, name tags, corn-free food.  Whenever we couldn’t take her with us on a trip, we spent a good deal of time thinking about how “I’m sure she’s fine, she’s just playing with my parents’ dogs.  She’s happier there.  We’ll be back soon.”  Every day for a year and a half, she was been a big part of our lives, and our marriage.

Lucy 10

In October of 2013, something started to change with Lucy.  She stopped following us from room to room.  She stopped cuddling with us on the couch, and in bed.  She would go upstairs to curl up in her bed, even if we were downstairs watching TV.  She removed herself more and more.   We didn’t know whether it was that she was getting less exercise in this house, or maybe if she was just depressed.  But it didn’t seem dramatic at first.  We noticed she was walking laps in the back yard and had very specific tracks in the grass.  There were less cuddles.   We figured she was just adjusting to the new house, maybe a little anxious or depressed.  But she still seemed herself when we took her for walks. But she just needed some time and some more exercise – she’d get better.

But she never recovered.  She not only did laps in the yard, but also around our house.  Constantly.  By mid-November, she only two states:  pacing or sleeping.  And she didn’t sleep well.  Since October, she had not cuddled with us once.  Instead of actively seeking snuggles, she actively avoided human contact.  When you reach down to pet her, she ducks away and trots off on another lap.

My mom called us while we were out of town for Veteran’s Day weekend and told us, “Lucy is not well.  Her tail is always down, she seems very lethargic and she just paces in and out of the house.  She’ll walk up to us and just whine, and we don’t know why.  I think you need to take her to a vet.”  We took her in, and she was a wreck.  She was always so great at the vet, but here she just couldn’t sit still.  I had to take her on  laps around the parking lot while Tyler waited for our name to be called, otherwise she would just whine and bark.  When the vet checked her out, he said he wanted to run some blood work to see whether or not it was something physiological going on.  If the blood work came back clean, it was either behavior or something possibly going on in her brain.  The blood work came back clean, but Tyler and I just weren’t convinced that it was just behavior.  We took her to a second vet and they said that it was very likely that she had a lesion in her brain.  The only way to diagnose that, though, was to take her to WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for an MRI, about a $2,000 cost.  If they did find a lesion, surgery would be another $3,000, minimum.

We went home and wept.  We wept over the fact that it was just so much money.  We grieved the fact that we had already lost our sweet, cuddly dog – the dog who lived in our house was a pacing, anxious, howling shell of who Lucy used to be.  Lucy was gone, and we never had the chance to say goodbye to her when she was still her.  We held each other and realized that we had no idea what to do here.   So we held each other.  And wept.

I made an appointment for WSU for a few weeks later – the soonest they could get us in.  We thought about it and talked about it a lot.  We ultimately decided to cancel the appointment.  Getting the MRI was a lose-lose situation.  If they did find a lesion, we knew we wouldn’t put her through surgery.  Lucy was so frail, we didn’t think she could withstand the anesthesia for surgery, much less the recovery from such intensive surgery.   If they didn’t find a lesion, then we were left with more questions than we would have dollars left in our bank account.

She did not gotten better.  She now howled  most nights, for up to 45 minutes at a time.  We used to be able to pet her while she was howling, the only time that we got to touch her.  She would stop for a minute and just breathe.  After a few weeks, she wouldn’t even let us do that.  She fought through the love we try to show her, and howls – even screams – through the night.  We gave her a sedative to help her sleep, but her body still fought through it and she stumbled through her laps, pacing through the sedation.  There were a few weeks in a row where we couldn’t get a full nights sleep.  During the day she seemed alright.  She wasn’t herself, but when she was pacing her ears were up.  She seemed to be okay.  Our job at this point was to watch her, love her from a distance, and keep her as comfortable as possible.  We even took her to a professional photographer to have a Christmas portrait taken, knowing that this is our last Christmas with her.

Lucy

There were so many times that I wanted to ask her what she was feeling, and what she needed from us – but with a dog, you just can’t.  We talked to some close friends who had been through a similar situation before about the fact that we didn’t know whether or not she was living a good life and if we should help end her suffering.  We just couldn’t tell how much she was hurting.  They said “If you’re not sure, then it’s not time.  Something will change, maybe a dramatic event will happen, or something will become drastically worse.  And then you’ll be sure.  And then it will be time.”  This week, something dramatic happened.

We were getting worried about our semi-annual trip up to the San Juans to spend with my extended family.  We were going to be gone for a week.  We couldn’t bring her with us – she absolutely panicked in the car, and the house doesn’t allow dogs.  So we had to leave her in my parents’ house with her dogs.  We brought her over to have a trial night-stay to see how she would do.  But in order to get her there, we had to put on her harness so we could tie her down and keep her (and us) safe in the car.  This was not a simple task.  Whenever you try to stop her from pacing, she freaked out.  At first she would flail and scratch with just her feet and nails.  But that day, she started using her teeth.  She bit me three times while we were trying to keep her safe.  Then, later this week when we tried to put her in the car again – this time only using her leash – she couldn’t even handle that.  Even holding her collar for one second made her immediately bare her teeth and lash out.  She struggled against her leash so hard that she easily slipped out of her collar.  Yesterday, when she started to slip out the door and my mom grabbed her collar to keep her safe in the house, she bit my mom.  It became clear that Lucy’s life had very little left.  She was scared all the time.  She doesn’t recognize the humans that have fed her, loved her, and walked her for the last year and a half of her life – and she attacks them.  The dramatic event we weren’t sure about had happened.

Lucy sleeping

So today, it was time for Lucy’s final vet visit.  We gave her a mild sedative so she wouldn’t hurt us when we took her to the car.  We spent about an hour and a half at home just sitting with her and crying – from a distance.  It killed me that I couldn’t hold her close in those final hours.  So we watched her fall asleep and cried.  We told her how much we loved her.  We talked about all the wonderful memories we had with her.  We apologized that there was nothing we could do to save her.  Tyler even went out to get her a burger from Zip’s for her last meal.

Lucy's final meal

When she was calm enough, we gently loaded her to the car (even on that last heavily sedated trip she tried to bite Tyler.  It reminded me that we were, in fact, doing the right thing).  The vet clinic was so wonderful to us.  The professional photographer who took her Christmas picture happened to be at the clinic today.  He recognized her and snapped a few shots of her before we went in for her appointment at no cost.  The vet tech and the doctor gave us lots of time to spend with her while she was heavily sedated so we could actually hold her close and breathe her in while she was still alive.  Then, all too soon, she was gone.  We apologized to her again that we couldn’t do more for her than bring her peace.  They will give us an ornament with her pawprint on it that they made as the piece of her that we keep forever.

Our house feels so empty now.  The dog bows, beds, doghouse in the back, all feel foreign without her here.  All I want is for my Lucy girl to come running in the room for cuddles, but the dog we said goodbye to today was not my Lucy girl – and we knew she never would be again.  Rest in peace, sweet girl.  Chase some birds in doggie heaven and think of us.  We love you so much.

Well it seems that sarahlovestyler.com has had it’s first hiatus  from the Internet.  Rather than apologize or get too defensive, I’d just like to paint you a brief picture of what life has been like since our cruise in August.

  • The week before school started in August, I contracted a nasty cold (with laryngitis) that turned into bronchitis.  Because I was a fool and didn’t take any time off, this lasted for SIX WEEKS.  I couldn’t sing, I coughed constantly, even had some nasty chest pain that forced me to make an emergency doctor’s appointment (which I still refused to do until after school was over).  Needless to say this whole experience just screams “Rookie Teacher” and I’m going to do my best to never repeat that.  It was literally my hell.
  • This seems minor, but has effected my daily life – In September while at a wedding in Eltopia I dropped  my beautiful smartphone on a dirt road (which apparently had a rock underneath it) and shattered the screen, rendering it useless.  To replace the part itself was $300 and to purchase a new one outright was $600, neither of which we could justify.  Thankfully, a dear friend agreed to give me her old Verizon smartphone which, though it has been a welcome gift, is much slower and frustrating than my last phone.  But until our upgrade in July I am making do (but am daily infuriated).
  • In mid-October while driving to see Disney on Ice with my mom and teenage sister, the check engine light in my van went on and the temperature gage flew off the chart.  Thanks to several kind men who were my knights in shining armor, I was still able to get to Disney on Ice (a breathtaking experience) but my van did not live to see another day.  The little blue egg, tragically, said her goodbyes to this world.

Thankfully, we were able to replace the blue egg with a 2002 Honda CR-V which we love and adore (and still haven’t named, now that I think about it).  We are so grateful that we are able to replace our vehicle so quickly with a car that we really wanted.

  • However, our joy did not last long.  Within a week of having my van die, someone broke into our house.  It was a day that Lucy was at the groomer, and we happened to leave our kitchen blinds open that day.  They went through our back gate, threw a rock through our bedroom window to reach the latch, climbed in through the window, took the iHome and iPod right next to said window, dug through my jewelry box (though didn’t take anything – not much to take anyway), grabbed the laptop that was within view of the kitchen window and walked out the front door.

All said and done, it could have been much worse.  If Lucy had been home, they might have done something to her to keep her sedated while they robbed us.  They could have taken much, much more or done more damage to our house.  We are grateful that it wasn’t worse, but the invasion of privacy and more costly tragedies to our life was a lot to take all at once, and it shook me.  It also didn’t help that our property management didn’t get the window fixed for three weeks, a constant reminder that a stranger walked in through that hole in my house and helped themselves to our belongings.

Suffice to say, Team Butler has had a rough fall of 2012.  Another major contributing factor to my despair was that I was pouring myself into my job.  As a first year teacher last year, I had been warned to steer clear of burnout – to go home on time and leave what work was not done for the next day, which I dutifully did pretty much the whole year.  And though the job was overwhelming at times, I did successfully avoid feeling burned out for most of the year.  This year, however, I decided that the “First Year” excuse was over.  “Sure, teachers get burned out, but there is way too much to do at school for me to just leave at 4:00pm every day.  It’s just not being the best teacher I can be.”  So I stayed until 6:00pm.  Every night.  I was working 11 hour days, every single day.  Especially after the break-in, being home by myself at night was not appealing, so I would just stay at school for however long it took for Tyler to get home.  I wrote an entire blog post about how burned out I was feeling, but it was too depressing, so it stays in the archives.  Here’s a little snapshot of what that chapter of my life was like, quoted from October 12th (before the car-tastrophe or the break-in):

Lately, I just feel like I’m stuck in neutral – revving my engine and trying to get somewhere, but my car isn’t moving.  If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be rundown.  I wake up late, get to work barely in time, pour myself into my job for 11 hours, go home, watch some TV, eat something that’s heavily processed, fall into bed, wake up late (again) the next morning and start over.
That’s it.
I’m so exhausted all the time.  I’m sleeping fine, but somehow I’m just not well rested.  I’ve been at work from 7:00am until 5:30 or 6:00pm every day this entire week.  And even though I feel like I live at work, I still feel so behind.  I still haven’t finished selecting music for our next concert, my desk constantly feels so cluttered, and I can’t remember if I finished grading those practice journals yet.

By the end of October, I was really in bad shape.  I hated my job, I hated where we lived, and I just wanted to get out.  Life was pretty miserable, and I felt so alone in all of it.  My saving grace came in early November when we had the District 6 Honor Band and Choir event.  While my students had the opportunity to work with outstanding peers and exemplary conductors, the rest of the band and choir directors mostly get time to spend with each other.  I was open with my colleagues about how I felt and they were all gravely concerned.  I was so moved by how much people really, truly, cared about me.  I was able to set up appointments with other directors to go observe them in their classrooms, arrange for additional performing opportunities for my students, as well as organize some much-needed social time with the directors who live closest to me.

It may be a bit early to call, but I feel that I have come through the other side.  I still stay late at work often, but it’s no longer every day.  I again feel connected to other band and choir directors who know exactly what I am going through and want to see me succeed (as I want them to succeed).  My car is replaced, my window is fixed, my cell phone is functional, and my voice has completely healed from my six week illness.  We even bought a treadmill off of craigslist so that we (and Lucy!) can be active during the dark winter months.  Team Butler is eating healthier, working out more, and trying hard to be well-adjusted people in the midst of this madness.  And we might just make it yet.

So, as I’m sure most of you saw on Facebook, Tyler’s Grandma and Grandpa Jelsing celebrated their 50th anniversary this week, and took the entire family (all 18 of us!) on an Alaskan cruise!  We were completely overwhelmed with gratitude, and I had the most relaxing week of my life.  But there were several things that I did not expect when we went cruising, so I thought I’d briefly outline what it was like onboard the Golden Princess (pictured above).

First and foremost, a cruise is what you make of it.  Many of the kids/teenagers said that they were bored at sea and there wasn’t enough to do.  False.  Our cruise had tons of opportunities, it was really about what you take advantage of.

We took ballroom dancing classes, participated in game shows (Jeopardy, balderdash, the Newlywed Game), attended a martini demonstration, a vodka tasting, I sang in the karaoke competition, and we attended the main shows in the evenings (comedian, illusionist, singers and dancers, etc).  There was always several things going on, and we found ourselves always busy, even on days at sea.

There were a couple things about the cruise that really caught me off guard.  When traveling in a group of 18 people, you don’t realize just how dependent on cell phones we have become until you don’t have them anymore.  You had to establish times and places you were going to meet early in the day, and occasionally have chance encounters with people on the ship.

Attire was also a bit different than I expected.  I brought mostly denim, casual skirts, and tee-shirts.  While off the boat in Alaska, we really needed the warmth and casual clothes for walking around the glacier parks and towns.  But on the ship, especially for evenings, people step it up.  I knew we had a formal night, but once we got on the ship I found out there were actually two formal nights, and the rest of the nights dress was “smart casual” where they would let you in with nice denim, but you were definitely under dressed.  I really regretted not bringing a pair of slacks, dressier footwear, and dressier tops.

The Staff on our ship was absolutely fantastic!  We read that there were 1100 staff members onboard the Golden Princess, only 25 of which were from the USA (this includes the bulk of the entertainment staff).  533 were from The Philippines, the rest from a wide variety of countries.  Even though sometimes their English was difficult to decipher, everyone was so friendly and helpful!  We easily had 10 wait staff assist us with every meal.

By the way – it wasn’t far from this waterfall that a 1 year old male black bear walked right across our path, about 75 feet in front of us!  It was the most exciting and terrifying moment I’ve ever had.

How to Lose It while you Cruise It:  Many people who cruise choose to eat at the buffet, lay by the pool, and generally exclusively relax and take it easy.  We decided to approach our cruise a little differently.  While we had access to insane amounts of desserts, beverages, and all kinds of unhealthy food, we also had access to a gym and fresh fruits and veggies 24/7!  We established rules for ourselves so we could both avoid gaining weight on the cruise.  Here were our rules:

 –  Always take the stairs.  I didn’t realize how enormous cruise ships were!  It really is essentially a skyscraper turned on its side floating in water.  We lived on deck 5 and the buffet was on deck 14, but most of our activities were on decks 5-7.  Still, we only took the stairs when I was hurting from a workout, and the rest of the time we always walked.

 – Avoid the buffet.  While we went to the buffet a handful of times on our cruise,we definitely preferred the sit-down restaurants – gourmet at least 4 star caliber food included in the price!  The selection was fantastic, changed every meal, and was in gourmet sized portions (relatively small) but we were served four courses at every meal, and we were rarely disappointed.  We had the chance to try decadent foods we’d never be able to afford normally (caviar, escargot, lobster tail, king prawns, quail, pheasant, duck, etc).  We always each had a dessert, but only one per meal (it’s incredible how easy it is to eat desserts all day long) and tried to lean towards the slightly less-bad options (like the blueberry frozen yogurt that changed my life).

 – If you do eat at the buffet, study your enemy.  Whenever we approached the buffet, we looked at every single item on display, so we didn’t just start grabbing everything that looked good.  We also always started with a salad to fill up on veggies and fruits before the other stuff.  And again – even with all of them on display in front of you – only one dessert per meal.  Pro tip – it’s not cheating to try your husband’s dessert if he gets a bite of yours, too.

 – Take advantage of opportunities to work out in new ways.  Tyler and I loved taking ballroom lessons (we learned basics of waltz, tango, swing, salsa, and merengue) which did actually work a bit of a sweat.  I did workouts on the treadmill and took classes in yoga, total body conditioning, and zumba, all of which I don’t currently have access to without a gym membership.  I also saw lots of passengers getting their workouts in by walking/running around the outer decks of the ship.

Fun fact:  Canadian pubs are bigger on the inside.

Following these rules, I managed to actually lose a couple pounds during the two weeks I was gone (one week at the coast, one week on a cruise)!  After a couple of months either gaining or maintaining weight, it was so encouraging seeing the number on the scale go down again, especially after a cruise!  We really did not feel deprived, we enjoyed the full extent of our cruise, just kept a handle on it rather than use it as an excuse to go crazy, and that one week did not leave us with loads of extra weight we’d have to work off later.

If we had that kind of money, we would definitely go cruising every few years.  Because it really is a complete disconnect from reality that allows your to just immerse yourself somewhere else and leave everything else behind.  We loved our experience, and we don’t regret a single minute of it!

The community that I teach in is a community of big families.  Not exclusively, mind you, but we have lots of families with lots of kids.  We also have lots of high school students who have babies every year (two of my students will deliver next winter, one of whom already has a three year old).  Babies are a very natural part of life.  I have students at every grade level that ask at least once a month “Do you have kids?”  or “Why don’t you have kids yet?” and the ever cringe-worthy “Are you pregnant?”  It simply doesn’t make sense to them that I would be married at 23 years old and not be reproducing yet.  From the kids is one thing, but what’s astonishing to me is how many people we’ve just barely met who feel the need to ask, “So, when are you guys going to have kids?”

Believe me, it’s not that I don’t want to have kids.  I love kids.  In fact, I just dug through Facebook to find pictures of me holding babies, and unearthed this evidence, in reverse chronological order:

Ruby Pearson, June 2012

Newborn Ellie Kippes, June 2012

Karis Weiser, April 2010

Lydia Buerer (and her sisters, Katie and Patty), Summer 1996

So for someone who showed a love for babies so early in life, you’d think I wouldn’t mind people asking me when we’ll start a family of our own. Believe me, we’re going to have kids.  Tyler and I often talk about what it will be like when we have a family, and even what kind of parents we might be.  It’s going to be a wonderful, exciting, challenging part of our lives together – when we get there.  But somehow, it is a little uncomfortable when someone asks us about when that time will be.  Especially if I don’t know someone very well, I feel like that is a very personal question to ask.  Yet, I find myself asking similar questions of others (though, I admit, I try to avoid the ones about babies).

There are certain stages in your life that merit certain questions.  When there’s a lull in the conversation, one feels obligated to ask a

  • Senior in high school, “So, where are you going to college?  What are you going to major in?”
  • Dating as an adult, “So, is he/she the one?  Are you going to get married?”
  • Senior in college, “So, what are you doing after graduation?”
  • Engaged, “So, when’s the wedding?”
  • Married, “So, when are you going to have kids?”
  • Once you’ve had one kid, “So, when do you think you’ll have your next one?”

I have to wonder, once you’re really truly done having kids, are there any more questions that people feel obligated to ask you?  I haven’t gotten to that stage, but I have a feeling it will be nice not to be asked by everyone about what major life change is coming for me, and to not feel uncomfortable if I don’t have a good answer for them yet.

But as my dear friend Sophie reminded me, while those moments are uncomfortable when you don’t have a good answer, we look back on them later with fondness and remember that we did eventually figure it out.  We did figure out what college to go to, we figured out our lives after graduation (even though it was scary as heck for awhile).  Since this blog is a documentation of my first year of marriage, I will print our answer so that I may laugh on it later when it completely didn’t work out this way:

“We’re wanting to wait a few more years before we think about having kids.  Once I become a mom, I will be one for the rest of my life.  And I want to enjoy my time pre-mom while it lasts.  Once I’ve finished my Master’s degree and my fifth year of teaching (and marriage, all of which coincide beautifully), then it will be time to re-evaluate and see whether or not it’s time for that big, exciting step.”

I am well aware that life does not often go the way one plans it out, but it certainly doesn’t stop me from making plans.  And I think this is a good one for us.

Though I have not expressed so publicly in this blog yet, it may have become apparent to those of you who see me regularly that I have recently had an unexpected passion for living healthily.  This not only includes the running I’ve been doing, but also has included being more intentional about the quality of the food I put into my body and where it comes from (More on that later.  Every time I try to write that blog post, it ends up being an exceedingly long rant about the government.  It’s a work in progress).

Though I am much better about the foods I eat, and especially the ones I bring with me for my school lunches, I have not been great about cooking healthy recipes at home for dinners.  Honestly, most nights I end up having whole grain cereals with either almond milk or greek yogurt for dinner (much to Husband’s chagrin).  But because my dear friend Laura has been posting so very many healthy recipes on her blog, it made me feel very guilty that I wasn’t doing enough cooking with the healthy food we’re buying.

So today, I made a recipe provided by Finley’s Fresh Produce (more on them later).  I give you, my first cooked spinach recipe – Spinach with Linguini!

Tyler said when he ate it that it made him feel very fancy – that the flavors were light and subtle, and very unlike what we normally eat.  I was very pleasantly surprised as well.  It was delicious!  I was worried the plain yogurt would make it taste tart, but it just gave it some texture.  I wish I’d had more almonds, and I probably will put a bit more Gorgonzola in it next time, but it was delightfully light and summery just as is!  We will definitely make it again.

I could not BELIEVE the recipe called for an entire pound of spinach!  But again, I was later astonished to see how much it cooked down, and actually I might use more next time.

Because of the immense quantity of Spinach, I chose to break out the big guns and use our enormous stock pot.  Because it cooked down so quickly, I will likely use a normal size pot next time.  Also, I am a big fan of this Barilla Plus pasta – added protein and Omega 3’s make it even more nutrient rich!  We always use Thin Spaghetti in place of Linguini, because it’s Tyler’s favorite.

First, it overwhelms the pot, and then POOF!

Cooked down almost instantly.  I will definitely use a smaller, less heavy pot next time.

The finished product!

SPINACH & LINGUINE

1 lb linguine
1 lb spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons 3xtra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ounces Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheese mashed with a fork
1 cup whole milk yogurt
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup coarsely ground unskinned almonds
Fruity extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.   One minute before the end of cooking, drop spinach into the pot.   Drain  pasta and spinach, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.

In the same pan, warm olive oil over medium heat.   Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.  Add pasta and spinach, cheese, yogurt and about ½ cup or more cooking liquid, enough to moisten pasta.   Add salt, pepper and almonds and toss well.

Serve in a warm bowl or platter.   Drizzle with fruity olive oil if using. Serves 8

Long before we ever got married, Tyler and I knew that we wanted a dog.  For years, we’ve talked about what kind of dog we would get (Yorkie, Beagle, Jack Russell Terrier and Blue Heelers were the main candidates), all the reasons that having a dog would be so awesome, but we had to wait until we were married and had a house with a yard in order to get one – and even after we got all that, we needed a landlord that would let us own a dog.  Right before my spring break, we got permission from our landlord to have a dog at our property, and it was all I could do to contain myself.  We had said to ourselves over and over again, “Let’s wait until summer when I’m not teaching so the dog can get accustomed to us before I go back to school in the fall” but the promise of a week of spring break was too tantalizing.

We’d gone to the Hermiston Pet Rescue a few times before, and had a couple dogs that had caught our eye, but nobody we just had to have.  Honestly, the most important trait I was looking for in a dog was sociability – a dog that was great with kids, great with other dogs, didn’t freak out about cats and was just overall a nice dog to be around.  When we talked to the owner of the pet rescue about what we were looking for in a dog, he recommended that we take a look at a Springer Spaniel/Border Collie mix.  She was six years old, spayed, and sounded like she met all of our criteria.  So we took her for a walk.  She honestly wasn’t that exciting.  She pulled hard on the leash, didn’t respond to her name, and didn’t really seem to care that there were people on the other end of her leash. But when we sat down on the grass, she just plopped down on our lap.  The more time we spent with her, the more she warmed up to us (the picture above is from that first walk we took with her).  She did admirably with every person and animal she interacted with, and I couldn’t believe that I had walked right past her at least three times without giving her a second thought.  I was ready to sign papers and take her home that day, but Tyler (being the sensible one in this marriage) said we should take the weekend to think about it and maybe get some supplies to make her feel welcome.  I reluctantly agreed, but we were back as soon as they opened up again to take her home for good.

Lucy isn’t who I always pictured we would have, but I have no doubt in my mind that she is the perfect dog for us.  She is the perfect running buddy, has been training beautifully, and is the cuddliest dog I have ever met.  I feel so incredibly fulfilled and rewarded now that we finally, finally have a dog to call our own.  Lucy is wonderful for my health and our marriage.  Now that school has started back up again, Lucy and I are in a great routine of waking up at 4:45am, going for a walk, eating breakfast, and getting me to work before Tyler even opens his eyes.  Poor Tyler was always being heckled by me for not hanging out with me enough, not waking up early enough, for being on the computer too much, pretty much anything that took his time away from spending time with me.  But now that I have Lucy, he and I are both much more calm and relaxed.

I found out last week that Lucy actually used to belong to one of my students.  They said that she was kind of old and hard of hearing (she’s not) and so they decided to get rid of her and their other dog so they could get a different one.  I was floored.  Lucy is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met, and she was abandoned at a shelter for almost three months.  I love her so much, and wouldn’t give her up for anything, but I am appalled that someone could leave her to fend for herself just so they could upgrade to a newer model.  But the fact is, Hermiston Pet Rescue has at least 30 dogs that are looking for homes.  If you or someone you know is looking to get a dog in the Eastern Washington/Oregon area, please go look at a shelter first.  I know it sounds preachy, but seriously – it’s the most rewarding decision we’ve made since the wedding.  It’s only been two weeks, but I honestly can’t imagine our life without her.

Tyler and I had our first weekend trip to IKEA a couple of weekends back, and it was one of the best things we’ve done.  Sure, we blew a bigger chunk of paycheck than we had anticipated, but we had a great time roadtripping, daydreaming of the way our future houses will look, eating delicious Swedish food and working to furnish our home with some extra odds and ends that we’ve been missing.  One of the first things we wanted to work on was our bedroom.  The temporary nightstands we’d been using were rather college-dorm-y, and the walls were quite bare.  Here’s how it looks now:

The nightstands and the flower pictures are the latest additions from our IKEA venture.

Husband tends to lurk in pictures.  He also tends to think that I’m silly for taking pictures of our house and posting them on the Internet.

This is a dresser that belonged to my great grandparents, and that I inherited:

Here’s what our bathroom looks like (I’ve done my best to restrain the purple in our house to the bathrooms):

Still looking for better ways to store my endless amounts of hair and skin products, there’s essentially no storage at our removed sink.  But we do have this hand towel, which makes me happy every single day.

The other great part of our IKEA trip is was the writing desk we got for the guest room.  When I have things I need to be working on, this little desk is a great haven:

Our kitchen and living room are some of my favorite parts in the house.

Behind the couch is our “season table.” My mom had one growing up, where she would always keep it decorated for the current season or holiday coming up, and I love doing the same in our house.

The piano was a lovely gift from the Butler clan which I spend lots of time practicing and preparing rehearsals on.

Fun as it is to buy new pieces from IKEA and such, I love our antique tea cart, wooden dresser, piano and couch and all of the other pieces that we’ve been given by friends and family over the years.  What makes our house a home is not the things we buy, but the vision of the home we want to have and the loving people we fill our home with.

As Labor Day draws to a lazy close, I find it’s an appropriate time to re-cap on this weekend as well as having finished my first week of teaching.  We’ll start with teaching.

The short version:  It was a good week.  There were ups and downs, fun moments and stressful ones, but as far as first weeks of one’s career go, it was a pretty great week.  Getting used to the rhythm of teaching three classes, switching buildings, then teaching four more, working until sundown and then going home took some time.  I find myself bringing work home nearly every day, and Tyler helps me work through some of it and talk through things as I prepare for the next day.  I am tired every day when I get home, and sleep for what feels like both far too much time and not nearly enough.  It seems like there is literally not enough hours in the day to keep up with the house, prepare for each of my seven classes, and be a good wife to my husband.  Teaching in two buildings with four content areas has certainly been stressful for me, because I didn’t want to plan any concert music until I knew what the students were capable of.  Now that I’m getting a feel for that, it’s time for me to start choosing music – which is a large task (and one that nearly every first-year teacher does poorly).  Once I have some pieces decided, I think things will ease up, I will have a direction, a goal, and specific teaching points to work towards, instead of thumbing through my song books and picking something that will open up students’ voices and that they will (hopefully) enjoy.

Also, here’s a few pictures of Tyler and I getting the middle school room ready – a fairly intense task.

Tyler moving the timpani by the struts, like a good husband

Washing old dirty chairs was not my favorite part of the day.  In fact, I had Tyler take a picture for this purpose, “One day, when I’ve been working here for years, and I never have to do this again, I will look back and be so grateful.”

Once the week was over, it was time for us to host a group of friends from all over the Pacific Northwest!  Fels from Clarkston, Charles from Seattle, Michaela from Tri-Cities, Andy from Portland and Sophie from Boise all convened at our house on Friday and stayed until Monday!  As much as Tyler and I love starting our married life in a new city full of potential, it also means that we have no friends our age in this area, so this weekend was a much needed hiatus from being boring grownups.  One of my favorite activities when I have girlfriends over – let them play dress-up with me and my current wardrobe and make-up.  Fresh eyes help pair together clothes and colors I never do on my own!  And these girls are all marvelously fashion-forward.

Parking on the lawn was the best way to accommodate all of the five extra vehicles that had come from five different cities.  It made me so happy to have all these cars and all these people at our house!

We hit up the Hermiston Farmer’s Market for the first time.  Fels was delighted.

So happy to facilitate these two lovebirds being in the same place.  They are so very perfect for each other.

We also went wine tasting in Benton City.  What a delight!

And everybody knows the best part of going wine tasting is meeting all of the winery dogs.  Tyler is good at making friends with them.  This dog lives at Terra Blanca.

It was emotional to see everybody go at the end of the weekend (especially the one that’s moving to England in two weeks, sniff).  But we were thrilled to have them for the time that we did, and we can’t wait until we get to see them again.  It’s going to be legend – wait for it –

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