The Return of Trader Joe’s

Seeing how long it’s been since I have brought some Trader Joe’s treasures your way, and what an outright tragedy that is, I’ve decided to remedy that today.

I would like to blame the seductive and tantalizing Sprouts that was built on the corner, as it has lured me in with it’s home baked muffins and fresh fruit on the daily. Though I must admit it, it is no TJ’s.  So back to my old stomping grounds we go!

Hatch Fire Roasted & Chopped Chiles

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First of all, I’d like to say, there is nothing like true New Mexico hatch chili.  I was brought up on the stuff as a staple ingredient, to the point where we’d actually be looking for something to go with the chili rather than the other way around.  That being said, I found this little gem in the frozen food aisle, and it comes pretty close to the real thing.

Now, the trick with this guy is to slow roast for at least an hour after thawing, preferably one and a half.  You don’t want to skimp on the time. Then just add a bit of seasoning and crushed garlic if it suits you, and you’ve got the most delicious perk to just about any meal.

Honey Butter Potato Chips 

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These babies don’t need anything but your fingers to eat them. They seem to have the perfect pairing of sweet to salty, and sort of just melt when you eat them. I suppose I should give some sort of forewarning with these: If you don’t like the taste of butter, you probably won’t enjoy them. My husband took one bite and looked at me like I’d fed him dirt. But who doesn’t like the taste of butter??

Don’t let his non-buttered spirit stop you, go get yours 🙂

Sigh. Moving on.

Cruciferous Crunch Collection 

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This may not look like much, but I promise it’s worth picking up a few bags.  I’ve never been a fan of what I call ‘flimsy greens’ or salad, which usually consists of a handful of ice berg lettuce and a few chopped up tomatoes. No, that sounds like turtle food to me.  This stuff is hearty and full of flavor, great cooked up with chicken or fish, or just used as a great salad mix.  (and added perk, no cilantro! High five to my fellow cilantro hating friends)

Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce 

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I really don’t know what drew me to this little jar in the first place, but I’d like to believe it was the mustard fairy. This stuff is incredibly tasty, and good on just about anything. It’s like the queen of mustard. Ok, that sounds weird, but just try it. Put it on chicken, in a sandwich, dip for veggies, on a cheeseburger. Yum yum yum yum yum.

Boffo and Quasar Bars

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And last but not least, I grabbed one of the boffo’s whilst waiting in line because, well, thats what you do when you’re staring at chocolate bars and it’s 6pm and you’re starving.

Ok I grabbed 3. I think they were only a dollar a piece, don’t judge me.

Until next time my friend, happy Trader Joe-ing!

Mr B’s Golden Years

It’s strange the way a creature can work their way into your heart to a depth you hardly even knew was there.  It feels as though I’ve blinked and turned to find my dear friend has aged overnight, leaving me feeling helpless to turn back time.

Bear hasn’t just been my dog.  He’s been a constant, through the most beautiful and  darkest days of my life. He never failed to come up beside me, lean his face into mine and let me cry into his fur until there were no more tears left inside.  Then he’d turn and do a little twist and grin the way he does, just waiting for me to laugh, because he knew he had enough charm to do it.

He walked me down the aisle and gave me away, knowing he had carried me as far as he needed to and that I was safe now.

When we walk, he reminds me every day that it’s not about getting from here to there, but enjoying the journey. It’s about smelling the green grass on the side of the road and noticing the beauty and intelligence all around, not rushing by it.  He reminds me to stop and look, to be curious about everything, and that life is for living, not getting through to the weekend.

He reminds me that nothing on my phone is ever as important as what is in front of me. He does this in a not-so-subtle  way, usually by placing his entire face on top of the screen and pushing down, which effectively renders my phone useless in the moment. Mission accomplished.

And he teaches me to love like there is no tomorrow. Never does he miss out on an opportunity to be part of every human greeting that occurs, trotting over and squeezing himself between mike and I when he hugs me, or making himself known to every stranger we walk by. Unless he senses ill intent, he is their friend. Immediately. Even if they don’t want him to be.

I have been up with my precious kiddo since 4am this morning.  His hips are now ridden with arthritis and he wakes me up to tell me he’s in pain, imploring me to sit with him.  I rub his aching back and legs until I can’t stay awake any longer, and we both fall asleep hoping for another day together with less pain.   Its the least I can do, and it breaks my heart that I cannot save him.

This week he starts physical therapy at a brand new vet rehab facility in our area, which I’m hopeful about. Water therapy, underwater treadmills, exercises, laser treatment, and body massages. Our goal is that we will build up his muscle in combination with pain medication he’s on, ideally reducing inflammation, pain and strain on his body overall.  The team there is excited to work with him, they say he’ll be their biggest guy yet in the program.

Until he lets me know he’s ready to rest, I’ll never stop fighting for my boy. Because, when all is said and done, he never stopped fighting for me.

Would you like some common sense with that cheeseburger?

For a long time I wanted to believe that human beings were guided by their mind. I don’t think that any more.

Despite what some might say, I strongly believe we are driven ultimately by our heart, and what we actually care about will invariably be followed by action.  It is just how it works.

I really don’t think people need to be told to follow their heart, that’s going to happen notwithstanding our self direction.  But I do think we need to be reminded to use our mind to consider what our heart’s about and reform it as needed. Let’s face it, human beings are both a beautiful and a wicked bunch. Our hearts can be pretty damn selfish, and in all honesty, more often than not that is our default.

Me.

My world.

My coffee

My lane. Hey, what is that car doing coming into my lane?  Get OUT.

We follow our heart by natural instinct, it takes no effort.  But I think it takes a measure of thoughtfulness and patience to recognize that our heart is pliable. And that we are meant to ply.

And if you’re wondering, I did not just make up that word, haha!  It’s a real word. I guess we don’t use it any more.

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And just to be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with following our heart per se, it’s wired that way. But I don’t think we need to be told to do it.  That would be like telling me, ‘Hey Jen, don’t forget to breath today, or don’t forget you like In-N-Out and hey, lets be mindful to keep that heart beating, ok?’

Yeah thanks. I’ll be sure to do that.

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Gosh, I hope I don’t forget I like In N Out. 

What may be more adventagious for us to contemplate is, what is my heart about? Am I constantly thinking about myself and what will serve me?  If so, maybe my mind needs to step in and remind me that I am not the sole person on this planet and no, the world is not orbiting Jen.

Exaggeration? Maybe, but maybe not. Think about it.

Are you thinking about cheeseburgers now?  Because I am.

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But in all seriousness,  I think it takes a level of attentiveness, honesty and self control to actually take a look at one’s heart and work with it instead of just getting up and going on default mode. There are seasons I do it, and there are times I don’t. And trust me, there is a difference.

And when it comes down to it,  I don’t want my heart running wild without my mind, thats just cray cray. And despite what Disney may tell you, really not very sexy.

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So let the world see that magnificent mind of yours seeping through your heart. It’s a rare thing in this world, and a beautiful one.

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Confessions of a fortuitous fanning

Ok, so you know those weddings people reminisce about, where everything is so perfect and immaculate and amazing that they just want to cry?

Yes well, my wedding made people want to cry too (and perhaps maybe some did) but for very different reasons.

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Take me, for example- I experienced some tears during a hysterical fit of laughter just before going down the aisle. Oh it was a hoot, so much so that it might be considered an absolute waste of humor not to tell you about it.

It all began about a week prior to the thing actually happening.  Perhaps I should preface this by admitting that I really didn’t care all that much that the wedding was flawless.  It’s not in my nature to demand perfection from the world, for I find the most beautiful (or amusing) things in this life are far from that. So, the wedding itself was rather on a loose leash….or maybe no leash at all, I’m not sure.

I don’t regret this.

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So back to how it all begins- my sister breaks her leg in 2 places, 6 bloody days before the wedding whilst attempting to help build an arbor for the ceremony, which later becomes a story all it’s own.  She’s the maid of honor and still has a list of things to get done that week, which of course either consequently don’t happen or are passed down to me, the girl who will use a paper bag to replace the peanut butter lid and call it good.

So the sister shows up to the rehearsal dinner hobbling out of the car with a massive hot pink cast up to her thigh and waves with a funny cringey look on her face.

What the…wait. OH. That’s her smile now.

Apparently, the combination of  high levels of pain and strong drugs in my sister make her look like the Cheshire Cat.  I realize this just in time and avoid stupid questions like “whats going on with your face though..”

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That night my sister and I stay at a lovely hotel nearby, along with Mr B who, of course, must be part of everything.  I lie down and the next thing I know it’s morning and time to get ready for the wedding, which, as it turns out, also happens to be the hottest day of the year on record.

So, while my beautiful bridesmaids start arriving, one of them informs me that traffic is horrific and that today is Comic-Con. Aaaannnnnd the wedding is in San Diego.

Now, for the record, until this moment, I have no clue what the hell Comic-Con is and don’t really care. Now I care.  I care very much and want to murder all the little Comic-Conians for taking up the  entire city of San Diego.

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I find out later that all the little nerds and their friends cause so much traffic that it takes most of our friends roughly 6 hours to get from LA to San Diego. Some don’t make it all and get lured into the Comic- Con world, never to be seen again.

So, I’ve just put on my dress and accepted the fact that the only people who may be watching me get married are my bridesmaids and the Cheshire Cat, when suddenly Mr B sees something  through the window that catches his eye.

It’s another dog.  Now, at this moment, my sister and her swollen leg in the hot pink cast are the only things in-between that window and Mr B.

Before I can blink, he’s soared across the room in a grandiose attempt to leap over my sister sitting in her wheelchair.  In a disturbing way, it sort of reminds me of watching some distorted rendition of the cow jumping over the moon, only in this case, the cow slams into the moon and creates a great big bloody implosion.

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In horror I watch as he runs smack dab into her freshly broken and swollen leg, sending her flying backwards in her chair,  a flash of hot pink mess and black and white pile ending spattered across the floor.

After I yank him off and making sure she’s not dead, I stop myself from asking if she’s alright because clearly, um, no not at all.

The tip of her foot is poking out from the cast has gone from a pinkish, rosy hue to a deep, plum purple.  And her face, oh her face….  The Cheshire cat is gone and has now transformed into something akin to, well, a raisin.

A raisin with make up running down it’s face.

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Oh its bad, it’s so very bad. I’m pretty sure at this point my sister wants to murder Mr B, and I don’t blame her.

After taking some time to get her breathing again, we, a strange company of bridesmaids, photographer, large dog with jumbo bow-tie, drugged up- purple footed girl with pink cast and a cherry on top, march out the door to the cars.

We are asked many questions along the way, many of which involve assumptions that we are part of some strange TV comedy.  Sometimes I tell them yes, we are, just so I can see them wave at the photographer’s camera and imagine they’re famous for a moment.

By the time we get to the site, a lovely little grassy hill overlooking the ocean, sister has doubled her medication and it’s difficult to tell if she is coherent most of the time. Also, we are given word that everyone and their uncle are, of course, running very late because of the Comic-Conians, and my coordinator tells me we are just going to start late.

So we wait.

And wait

About an hour and a half later I am starting to suspect some sort of mischief is afoot, and I am not buying the ‘guests are running late’ line anymore because I can see them from where I am standing.

Finally some brave soul, who also happens to be my sister’s boyfriend, spills the beans.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “so whats going on down there.”

Abel : “well, you know, Trey isn’t here yet”

(Trey is our officiant, the person that is supposed to, you know,  marry us)

Me:  “Aha, I see. Any word on when he’s supposed to get here?”

Abel:  “Well, I think he is out of the handcuffs now so hopefully they won’t arrest him”

Me:

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Abel: “Oh..yeah, um. He was pulled over going 80 in a construction zone while blasting ‘love is a battlefield’ by Pat Benatar and-“

At this point I just start laughing, hysterically. There is no stopping me.  He sort of stares at me wide eyed, and nervously asks if I’m ok.  He thinks I’ve gone mad, maybe I have. But I’m enjoying myself so much I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass. After about 10 minutes I finally get a hold of myself and tell him that this day is going to make a great story.

I realize at this point that I’d better have a second plan in place, just in case dear sweet Trey ends up in jail that night, and casually ask a few people if they wouldn’t mind taking his place.  Then, as if on cue, Trey comes bounding down the street towards us, shirt un-tucked, hair askew, tie flapping wildly behind him in the wind.

He has talked his way out of getting arrested and even the ticket itself, and is here at last to start the ceremony.

As the bride, I am, of course, in the back of the line and, consequently, get a front row seat (so to speak) to the events that are about to follow.  First, you must know that in order to get ‘down the aisle’ towards the edge of the shore where the ceremony is, we must all descend down a small, grassy hill.  For most, this is not a problem, but for one poor sweet soul I am sad to say that is not the case.

I’m sure you can guess who that sweet soul is.

In horror I watch as Abel attempts to push her down the hill in the wheelchair, but gets stuck in some unseen and devious hole in the ground. The chair tips forward, pitching my sister forward towards the ground below. She holds on for dear life, but as she does I watch as Mike’s ring goes plummeting out of her lap and down the hill.

This in turn sends sister-in-law, also wedding coordinator to this mad circus (bless her heart) flying down the hill after the thing, arms flailing behind her as she shouts, ‘the ring, the ring!’

This is when I lose it. All of it.

People tell me afterwards that they’d never seen a bride with that bright of a smile walking down the aisle.

Oh, I’m sure of that. And I’m sure they’ll never know how close they were to watching a bride go completely out of her mind crazy with hysterical laughter. You know, according to Mary Poppins you can die laughing.  I think I almost did that day.

We get through the rest of things fairly smoothly without too much of a hiccup, and then it’s time to take pictures, which leads to the finale of the day.

It is at this moment a friends asks me if I’ve stubbed my toe. Why no, I say, why?  I look down to see that there is blood across the front lining of my dress, of my dress, of my dressssss.

Turns out, poor Mr B had developed some sort of sore on his bum that day, and at some point had sat down on the hem of my dress, leaving a rather messy mess behind him.

But of course, of course there is blood on my bloody dress, why wouldn’t there be?

And thus ends the hilarity that was our wedding.  I really can’t say it upsets me, aside from what dear sister endured.  After all, it gave us something to laugh about and a story to tell later.

Who wants a boring, stoic story about how perfect everything went?  Perfection is dull if you ask me, and life and love are messy and abrupt and beautiful. You can’t plan things like that, they just are.

So here’s to broken legs and messed up people and real life and loving people more for it.  Cheers.

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Because they’re our dog

Tomorrow Mr B turns 7, which in Great Dane years basically means he’s an old man. I love him so much it hurts sometimes, as he’s somehow bumbled his way deep into my heart where few have ever reached.

How do dogs do that?  They spend their lives sitting on our couch, trying to eat our food, destroying random things that don’t really matter but were, after all, ours not theirs.  They make us worry when they’re sick and make us sick when they’re pups, leaving little gifts in night when they just can’t hold it anymore.

And yet, they have this way of stealing our hearts.  Taking the parts of us that are most vulnerable, most guarded, and wrapping their little mucky paws around us.  Silently, they listen when no one else can, and sit with us when our world is overturned.  They look into our eyes when we can’t look into any one else’s, and they love us. They don’t care what we’ve done or not done, how much money we make or mistakes we’ve made. They love us through and through and want, more than anything else in the world, for us to know that.

Because we are their human, and they are our dog.

They spend every day waiting for us to come home so they can be near us.  It doesn’t matter much what we’re doing, as long as they can do it too.  They mope when we leave and cheer when we return.  They guard us as if every creature who walks past the door must know they cannot harm their precious human.

We are not always fair to them, yet they forgive and forget, never reminding us of any injustice, but only of their unchanging devotion and delight in who we are.

They slobber, and bark, and leave fur on our clothes.  But they find their way into our soul, never to be removed. They give us our greatest joy with their life and our deepest sorrow when they leave this world.  And they are worth every moment.

Because they’re our dog.

Happy birthday, dearest friend.

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The story of us

About a two months ago, a boy asked a girl to marry him.

Oh, and I’m her.

Since it seems that the older I get, the less I am able to remember details of any sort, I thought it might be prudent to tell our story before it becomes just some story that no one really knows. So here goes.

It began one unsuspecting morning in May,  May 15th to be exact. I only know this because I am a nerd and have kept a daily journal since the age of 10, giving me liberty to look back upon life like some obsessive historian and see exactly what day something occurred. I don’t know why I do this, really, other than the fact that I am nerd and nerds do that sort of thing I suppose.

So anyway,  it is May 15th, and I am sitting by the pool reading the paper. Glancing up,  I see this guy with tattoos up his leg, across his chest, and up his left arm walk over to a chair across the pool and sit down to read.

Upon first glance I realize I’ve seen him around before.  I go back to reading, making mental note that I really need more ink. Maybe something across my shoulder would be nice.

A few minutes later, before I have a chance to stop it, a gutsy little breeze comes whooshing through, quickly taking my newspaper with it and dispersing the entirety of it’s contents across the deck.

Mischievous little breeze it was.

I jump up in an attempt to grab the scattered prints before they end up on the bottom of the pool and notice Tattoo Boy is helping me.  I smile and thank him, and he says something about no one reading the paper anymore. I respond with some comment about being too old to be so young in the world we live in these days, which makes him laugh and  we continue talking.

And talking.

I honestly remember very little about the rest of our conversation, until, of course, he asks if he can see me again.  People never really forget that moment, do they.  The moment we realize that something real we feel isn’t just inside of ourselves, but experienced by another person at the same time. Perhaps in the same way.

I am not sure what it is I feel at the time, but I feel something.  Something about the way his eyes shine and flash, like an afternoon in the fall when the sun is still so bright and clear, but you know there’s a storm coming. There is such life and joy and sorrow all at once there, the depth of which I know I’ve seen somewhere before.

So I give him my number, just like that, and he picks up his book and leaves.  I wonder if maybe thats what he came here for.

Slyyyyy.

Or not so much

That evening I get a text from him asking me out to coffee.  Turns out, he doesn’t play the  wait-two- days-to-call-game, which is nice because neither do I.  I mean really, a girl who knows what she wants will go out with a guy if she likes him, and no amount of waiting will change that.  Unless, of course,  she likes playing passive aggressive games, in which case, run for the hills.

So anyhow, he asks if he can take me out,  but since I’m getting ready to leave for Hawaii in a few days, I tell him we will have to wait till I get back.  I find out later he actually reads this as a probable indicator that I’m not actually interested in seeing him at all and that I am, in fact, one of the aforementioned passive aggressive females we both try to avoid.

Fortunately I know nothing about this, and send him a photo of myself under the Hawaiian sunshine to say Aloha and to let him know I am thinking about his sparkly eyes.

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Ok, I don’t  say that last part.  But that is the photo I sent him.

Apparently this gives him the assurance he needs,  so when I get back we go out……to go  do a WOD (workout of the day) together on a hill across the street.

Ok, so it’s not the most romantic first date, but it is the most unique, and it intrigues me.  This is the first time I get to wear running shoes and gym attire on a date. Kind of spectacular.  It’s memorial day, so we do a hero WOD, which are workouts done in honor of men  who have given their lives in the line of duty.

Second date, coffee shop.  We walk there, because he has no car.  He sold it when he got out of the military so he could ride his bike more often and put less filth into the air.  I find this strange and charming.

Third date, he asks me to go star gazing across the street on the hill where we first went out.   He kisses me. He’s very good at kissing me, so I kiss him back.   It’s quite romantic until a drunk man comes stumbling past us and the sprinklers turn on out of no where, sending us running down the hill laughing our heads off.

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And those two crazy kids have been together ever since.  We are best friends more than anything else,  friends who really enjoy kissing each other.  We have good conversation, make each other laugh, fight and make up, and play well. He brings energy where I bring calm, and we both learned to truly trust someone, maybe for the first time.

Then one day he asks me to be his best friend forever, and I tell him I will.  Not because I want to be someone’s wife, because honestly that was never my goal. But I do want us to be what we are, for as long as we have, because I think that is love. And love like this doesn’t come every day.

Just once in a while, beside a pool, on an unsuspecting morning in May.

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Living Life again, (almost) Lupus free

It’s been six months since I began my treatment for Lupus, and while intuitively I was quite hopeful it would have good results, the truth is I really didn’t know.

As unbelievable as this is for me to say, my body feels better than I can recall it ever feeling. My energy is up, my pain is down, and my number of incidents (visits to the hospital/urgent care, etc) have been significantly decreased.

Whoohoo! Is this for real?

While the change was gradual, and it did take some amount of courage for me to really hold onto the fact things were actually changing for the better, I am absolutely ecstatic with the results.   The sleeping 3 hours before bed just to eat and go back to sleep, the sleeping through my lunch hour just to get through the day, the 2-3 hot baths a day to minimize the pain, frequent rashes, the loss of life. Most of that doesn’t happen anymore.

It’s changed. I feel like a person again, and to someone who’s been in that for so long, everyday sort of feels like Disneyland after that.  I’m running again, I’m in school, my hair is growing, and my body is allowing me to do the things I love again.  It’s difficult to explain, though I’m sure to those who are or have been there, you can truly relate to the significance of what I’m talking about.  You don’t realize what you have sometimes until you don’t have it for while.

Not to say I don’t still have bad days, and to be completely honest with you I think I probably don’t handle them as well now as I did before when I faced them on the daily. Because I’ve sort of developed an expectation of feeling well, when my body struggles I am tending towards a stronger feeling of frustration. It’s not supposed to be that way anymore, I know what life can feel like now and I’m hooked.

I’m sure it’s good for me to be reminded that life is not something to be taken for granted, that it is a precious gift we never know how long we’ll have.  How quickly we forget.

At my 3-month check-in with my rheumatologist last week, I swear he was as excited as I at the results, and I continue to find myself overwhelmingly grateful  that I was placed under his care.   I am still trying to reconcile how it is that my blood-work remains abnormal and increasingly so, while my body feels as good as it does.  Apparently that is to be expected, as treatment addresses the symptoms but is not a cure for Lupus.  They just haven’t gotten there yet, though I’m sure they will someday.

In the meantime let me encourage you if you need encouraging.  There is hope in what feels like the hopeless, endless night.  The morning always comes.