Tell me if it gets weird

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Maybe that was a lot, that last post. One of my best friends told me over a string of text messages from the other side of the country that it was. Sorry Jess.

But I’m not sorry. Not really. It’s how I felt; feel. It’s how I feel. I was going to write an abbreviated, candied version of what the last year going through IVF has been like, but it felt wrong to trivialize it. I thought maybe I’d wait until it was all over and I was pregnant (hopefully) and could write about the whole thing from a bigger-picture perspective that was more optimistic. But that didn’t feel right either. There’s something about detailing the process that is cathartic. And maybe, selfishly, I needed that.

So instead of writing the equivalent of a passing conversation you’d have with someone you hadn’t seen in a while in line at the grocery store, I thought I would instead sit down and write about it as though you and I (whoever reads this) were talking over a macchiato and almond-chocolate croissant in a cafe somewhere in the city instead. Tell me if it gets weird.

I guess I should start with some backstory. I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Ever since this little kid Jake hijacked my heart and there was nothing I could really do about it. At the time I was in college working afternoons at a preschool and he had just transitioned from the three year old class to the four year old classroom where I worked. He was sweet and infectiously happy and had these kaleidoscope blue-gray eyes. He would scout the playground for beetles during recess and when he found one, he’d cup it in his hands delicately and bring it to me like he’d found buried treasure.

It was his first day in our class and the school day was coming to an end. It was time for everyone to get ready to go home. He took his jacket and little back pack out of his cubby and put them on. One by one the kids’ moms and dads arrived to pick them up until it was just Jake left. I sat with him, legs criss-crossed on the alphabet rug, and told him we could play a game while we waited. He rummaged through the toy box and came back with two dinosaurs – a big brontosaurus and a little raptor. He handed me the big one and kept the small one for himself.

“Let’s play dinosaurs”, he said.
“I’m not sure I know how to play dinosaurs”, I admitted.
“It’s easy, I’ll show you.” he reassured me, taking the dinosaurs into his hands.
“Ok, you be the mama and I’ll be the baby”, he said to me.

He moved from the rug to my lap. In front of me, he made the dinosaurs talk and dance in the air. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Kids like to play games like that. After twenty minutes or so, his dad came in – out of breath, rushing, apologizing for being late. I could tell by the way he said it that it wasn’t the first time this had happened. I told him it was no worries, that Jake was great and I didn’t mind. After they left, I was picking up the dinosaurs to put them back in the toy box when the person cleaning the floors came in.

“He’s a good kid”, she said smiling. I turned and looked at her. “His dad’s always late, he works 45 minutes away. No mom either, she died.”

I thought back to the dinosaurs. I learned later that Jake’s mom had been diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer while pregnant with Jake and refused chemo to save him. She died when he was just 18 months old. Over the next two years, I scheduled my classes around spending afternoons in the preschool classroom. I started driving him home so his dad didn’t have to rush. That led to being his nanny while also juggling school and two other night jobs. We would swing on swings in the park, I’d take him to karate class and give him the “thumbs up” on the sidelines, and on his birthday we’d go to the museum downtown that had the giant T-rex skeleton. When I finished my last semester of college and left for San Francisco, I remember leaving Jake’s house for the last time in my old Honda civic. His little hands waving at me from the end of the drive way saying “goodbye”. His dad and his new girlfriend (now wife) standing behind him. I drove away that night thinking “one day I will have a Jake of my own”. One day I’ll be the mama dinosaur.

That’s why all this is hard. It’s hard because it’s something I’ve, we’ve, wanted for a long time now and at the moment seems so far away. One day there will be a little human, but for now he or she is just an idea, a thought, a distant daydream we have to keep reminding ourselves isn’t a reality. Not yet.

The year I hated.

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2016 was hard. We lost David Bowie, Donald Trump was elected president of the free world, and the only princess I ever related to died last week.

2016 got personal. After three years of “giving er’ all she’s got” (unapologetic Star Trek euphemism), we decided to undergo IVF. Little did we know the months that would follow were to be met with one massive failure after another. My abdomen, arms and hips are bruised from 100+ self-administered injections, my insides flooded with hormones that scrambled my brain. I’ve felt lonely, directionless, depressed, angry and then I stopped feeling anything at all. Of all the emotions to feel, numbness is the most disorienting. The absence of feeling. Feeling feelings is kind of all I’ve ever really been good at.

I did make some new friends. A russian fertility doctor in his 70s, a nurse I’m on texting-basis with, a middle aged french therapist, and a pregnant dog I fostered from a shelter that was going through a shitty female situation all her own.

In a slightly masochistic way I thought at first ‘huh, maybe this is the inspiration I’ve been looking for. I’ll write about it. I’ll make this into something’. I mean, some of the best stories are born out of tragedy.

“girl, 30, seeks to procreate with love partner, fails miserably”.

You know, a quirky off-beat love story about two people desperately seeking spawn.

But that was before the emotional asteroid hit and left a crater of psychological ineptitude in my brain, a hemispheric wasteland where creative thought used to live. That was before the familiar voice in my head, the one that’s always present, narrating the world around me in a young Julie Andrews-like voice went silent. And it’s hard to write without her.

I considered giving up. Fuck it, fuck all of it. I don’t need the uterine distress of birthing a turkey-sized homosapien and apparently the universe feels the same. But you can’t run from everything in life. It’s a sick loop, you just end up back where you started eventually.

2016 was the year I hated. I am different from it. And maybe it’ll all turn out to be a good thing eventually, but right now it feels like I’ve spent the past year circling the drain. So here’s to a new year, to the start of another trip around the sun, and to leaving 2016 behind. It will be good.

She said, convincing herself.

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Photo by Phil Chester.

A DIY Bed Frame + Room Tour

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This post was sponsored by BLACK+DECKER. All views and opinions are my own.

A friend of mine was over the other day and asked if I was burning sandalwood, the earthy wood smell that’s all the rage. I wasn’t, it was actually just another wood working project we had going on in the house. She was in fact smelling birch wood, ha. Earthy. Sensual. Birch. Eau de Parfum by Home dépôt.

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We looked at a bunch of bed frames before deciding to design our own. We even considered a Japanese-style tatami mat since both of us have been inspired by nature-y Japanese style lately. We knew we wanted the bed to be low to the floor, simple, and made from light colored wood. I like minimal, peaceful spaces to relax in and wanted a frame that fit that vibe. Using our new cordless BLACK+DECKER lightweight drill, we made a bed frame using birch wood and wood screws. I never knew how much I needed a cordless drill until I got a cordless drill. Game changer. No more extension chords, and unlike the other big bulky drill we have, this one is lightweight and compact. It comes with a built in LED light so you can work in tight or dark spaces too, as well as an app you can download to manage the SMARTECH battery remotely through bluetooth. The battery base also doubles as a portable charger to charge your phone too….just incase your phone needs some juice while you’re working.

Anyway, so.

The bed frames we looked at and thought were cool were at least $200+. More often than not Trey and I say “we can make that” when it comes to things like this. It’s cool to design and make something ourselves. I think the wood + legs ended up costing us around $75 and we made it in about an hour and a half. To make the frame sturdy and strong, we added support slats across the center to reduce the likelihood of it bowing in. For the outside of the frame we wanted to make it look modern and clean, so we used gold wood screws at the corners. Lastly we added some mid-centuryish wooden legs to lift it off the ground about 8 inches. I think it turned out awesome. We’ve been sleeping on it for a few weeks now and really like it. It’s sturdy, just the right height for our space, and has the look we were going for. The walls in this room, if you remember from a while back, used to be a sage-y green color. We painted them white to make it more airy. We also added a vintage trunk for pants/skirts (shirts hang), and a floor mirror. We’re done in this room with the exception of some art for the wall and possibly changing a light fixture. I’m glad we decided to make the bed frame ourselves! On to the dining room…and the kitchen with the salmon colored floors (hmmm).

Here’s what we used to make the bed frame:
7 2x4s
3 8ft 1x6s
15 8ft 1x4s
1 pack BRYNILEN Ikea legs
Wood screws

Here’s how:
Cut the following pieces of wood:
2 2x4s to 78 inches
4 2x4s to 76 inches
15 1x3s to 78 inches
2 1x6s to 79 inches
1 1×6 to 81 inches

Using your 2x4s, drill them together like so:

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Place the slats down, spaced with 2.5in gaps in between. Fasten those in place with wood screws. Make sure to use screws over nails, these slats provide a lot of the side-to-side support for your frame. Center the 81in 1×6 on the foot of the bed frame and screw into place. Next, secure the remaining 1x6s on the sides, flush with the board. Fastened to the foot of the bed. Last, sand the edges to improve the seams.

Morning commute with Stanley-PMI

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A couple times a week Trey and I commute into the city together in the mornings. Trey’s office is in downtown San Francisco, so we’ll brew up some coffee and put it in our Stanley-PMI mugs, turn on NPR’s Fresh Air or a podcast like the Nerdist or Radiolab and drive over the bridge. Sometimes we stop off at our favorite hole in the wall bakery for a blueberry bran muffin (me) and sugar donut (him) to go with our coffee even though it’s out of the way to go to our old neighborhood to get them. We’ve scoped out a few places near us, but none have measured up yet. I’m still looking for the muffin/donut shop unicorn in our part of town. Trey’s been carrying the new black matte insulated mug lately. It’s sleek and durable and seals off so he can skate with it. I still carry the classic green mug most days. Both keep coffee warm for hours, which is good for a commute into the city. I’ve come to really love the days we ride in together. It breaks up the monotony of the bus and Bart, and gives us a way to have “breakfast” together a couple mornings out of the week. Yesterday Jack came too since he had a vet visit to go to later in the day. We stopped off and voted. And, yep, all I’ll say about that is: JACK for president 2020 (you know, someone that’s not sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic or believes climate change is a hoax).

This post was sponsored by Stanley brand . All views are my own. Stanley brand products make really rad presents…Ho ho ho..

Dog People / Bri + Lakota

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I’ve admired Bri’s Instagram for a while now. Not only does she have an awesome blue heeler (Lakota), she also has a horse named Pippin and lives up in the North West. Occasionally a little miniature horse named Mr. Bubbles also pops up in her feed, too!

Name/Occupation: Brianna Albright (Instagram: @loki_toki). I work nights at a restaurant and am a nurses aid during the day!

Dog’s name/Age/Breed: Lakota Sioux, she’s an australian shepherd X blue heeler and is a year and a half old.

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What made you decide to get a dog? There has never been a point in my life absent of dogs, growing up we always had at least two dogs shedding throughout the house and making our lives THAT much better, every single one of my fondest childhood memories includes a dog.
What made me decide to get Lakota, was when my older lab died shortly before I moved away from home, I knew I wanted an active stock/horse savvy dog that could keep up with me both on horses and on the mountains for my next dog.

Tell me about the first time you met Lakota. I loved Lakota before I even met her, a friend of mines uncle was selling her and her siblings on Facebook and I immediately messaged him, asking 1,000 questions about the puppies and their parents, and before I even got a reply to my first question, my last question was “When can I pick her up?!” After working the night shift at the store I worked at, I got up at 4 am because let’s be real, I was way too excited to sleep anyways, drove 4.5 hours to go pick her up, missed my ferry by 2 minutes, (there’s nothing as depressing as watching your ferry leave without you). I think I actually cried when I saw her for the first time. She was super round, fluffy, and tiny and I couldn’t handle all the cuteness. Apparently the guy selling the puppy had asked around about me and everyone told him I would be a great dog owner and he ended up not making me pay for Lakota, though I had cash in hand. So free dog, can’t get better than that, right? I snuggled her on the ferry and she rode on my lap the 4.5 hours home. I’ve been in love ever since.

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What’s the last thing she did that made you laugh? Lakota has me in stitches on the daily, her overly expressive face and eclectic personality are a winning combination. But yesterday we were sharing some pad thai in the car with one of my friends, I gave Lakota a good sized piece of chicken which she happily accepted, and then a few second later we heard the most impressive dog burp I’ve ever heard in my life erupt from her in the back seat, and when I turned to look at her she just had a ‘more please’ look on her face. I’m laughing again just thinking about it. Like, that’s my child.

What are your favorite characteristics about Lakota? My favorite characteristics about Lakota are her bravery and sense of adventure. Not every dog will sit in a saddle by herself on top of a horse, that sneezes, shakes, moves and occasionally spookes. Not every dog will walk up to a horse her person is on, put her front feet on their shoes and be pulled up to ride on that horse with the person. Lakota has ridden 100’s of miles with me both trotting along side with me and in the saddle.
When we go backpacking she carries her own pack with her own food and water and I usually tie her frisbee on to it as well because she likes to bring some entertainment for evenings at our campsite. I love that she’s the kind of dog that can handle a spur of the moment backpacking trip or horseback mountain trip or just lay in bed all day. She really is my other half.

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Does she have a nickname? If so, how did she get it? Lakota has a ton of nicknames, the most recent being ‘Princess Stinky Butt’….but don’t tell her that I told the world that. She also goes by Sioux, Babygirl, Koderz, and LaSioux. It’s an ever growing list though.

Where do you shop for your dog (online shops, stores, etc)? My favorite shop for Lakota is J and B Custom Leather Co. They made her dog collar with real turquoise, leather and personalized name plate and allowed me to customize it in any way I want possible. It’s held up to the abuse of being a farm dog, rowdy player, ocean swimmer, mountain climber and horse rider. If it was to lose any of its stones or anything, J and B Custom leather will repair/replace any damages for the lifetime of the collar. Can’t argue with that. Lakota’s hiking and backpacking gear all comes from RuffWear, I couldn’t be more happy with her pack and frisbee from them! Lakota is a picky eater, we get our treats from Zuke’s Pets because they have some specialized energy bites for long weekends on the trails.

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Are there any dog products you especially love/couldn’t live without? Dog products I couldn’t live without…uhh….Lakota’s J and B leather collar. I have always loved dog collars and the fact that it reflects who Lakota and I are so perfectly and holds up to our lifestyle makes my heart happy every time I see it. I may or may not be planning to get another…

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What does being a “Dog Person” mean to you? To me, being a dog person is a lifestyle. There are people who have dogs and then there are dog people. The people who’s favorite accessory and condiment is dog hair. Who don’t mind the muddy paw prints in the winter and the constant presence of dog hair in their home and vehicles. The people who go the extra mile when traveling to either bring their dogs or make sure their dogs are comfortable and safe staying home. Being a dog person is including that dog in your every day life, not just when it’s convenient or beneficial for you. My dogs wellbeing and happiness is the most important thing in the world to me.

What’s one piece of advice you would tell someone looking to get a dog? My piece of advice to someone getting a dog is to think of it more as getting a child than getting a pet. Your time is limited with your furbaby, take every moment and every chance to make memories and be with that dog that you can, just remember, you are their WORLD!

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Thanks Bri! For more, follow Bri + Lakota on Instagram.

Life with Dogs / Casper

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Last weekend we built a bed frame for our bed (DIY post coming soon!), so in the spirit of new sleep arrangements we decided it was time the dogs got a new bed too. We were so excited to find a new Casper dog mattress delivered to our door. It’s the latest from the popular human mattress brand dubbed the “Warby Parker” of mattresses (for its hip design, easy online ordering, and delivery to your door). Their design and engineering teams came up with a new modern bed for dogs using soft, durable materials that cater to natural canine behaviors.

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The mattress arrived in a light box that was easy to get through the door. The dogs escorted the box in and Jack gave it the final OK inspection before we unpacked it. They sent us a large bed, which was perfect for both of them to lay on. It’s so big I can lay on it (and might have). How’s that for a visual. Putting it together was a breeze. The pressure-relieving memory foam and support foam are so nice and comfy. The outer material is soft and removes to be washed easily. It’s made from one of the strongest microfibers available to ensure it won’t easily be chewed or scratched through. They even added a durable surface layer with excess material on top to mimic the sensation of scratching/digging before laying down like most dogs do. Keeper is a fan of the supportive foam bolsters on the sides, which give the bed that enclosed feel – much like the feeling she gets in the “den” (we call it a fort) that her and Jack have going on beside couch.

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On a side note, ever since Jack’s balancing act went viral a few years ago, I’ve been slowly moving over from studying dolphins to training dogs. It’s been a side gig for a while now that I really enjoy. A few of my other dolphin-studying friends have forayed into the world of canine behavior too since dolphins and dogs are very similar intellect-wise. One common question I get is – how do I keep my dog off my furniture? There are lots of reasons why dogs like laying on the couch rather than the floor (and every dog is different), but one thing you can do first is give them more options on the floor. There are lots of design-friendly options for poufs and floor pillows out there that can be designated as “theirs”. I highly recommend a good bed like the Casper mattress. The design is modern and neutral and it’s durable so you won’t be replacing the bed for years (good for your dog and your wallet). They also give you a 100 night trial to return it if you’re not impressed. Putting their bed in areas that feel enclosed are also good so they feel safe and protected in a space that’s their own. We’ve moved our new Casper dog bed to the area beside the couch where they like to lay and it’s been a huge hit. If they aren’t playing outside, they are lounging and sleeping on it. That’s if the cat isn’t hogging it.

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(they’re serious about comfort).

Thank you Casper!

A road trip to Monterey with Jack Dog

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Jack and I took a solo trip down to Monterey last weekend. On the way down we stopped off and saw some sea otters milling about near Elkhorn Slough, then a huge humpback whale right off the beach at Seaside Beach, and some funny sea lions hanging out on the docks of Moss landing harbor. Then we drove along the coast to one of our favorite spots – Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, and stopped at a yurt in the hills on the way back. Monterey is a place we go at least 3-4 times a year. I always find myself there. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful and one of the best places to take a road trip, it’s one of the only spots in the US where you can sit on cliffs and look at migrating whales below. There’s a deep underwater canyon right off the beach in Monterey Bay where all kinds of animals frequent, especially whales. I’ve yet to convince Trey to go diving in the canyon in the kelp forests here – he thinks they’re too spooky. Diving buddy wanted!

Jack sat on the center console the whole way (his spot), then hopped up front to be closer to the air conditioning while driving the stretch of highway 1 in Big Sur. Whenever he does this I always strap him in with the seat belt like a human. He just stares out the window and occasionally glances over at me like, “you seein’ this?!”. He’s such a little buddha. Eventually he’ll hunker down and fall asleep on the arm rest.

It was nice to get away to one of our favorite places. Lucky us it’s only a couple hours from where we live. I can’t wait to go back…maybe in a few months when the elephant seals haul out. Until next time, Monterey!

See Monterey is giving away (1) complete trip package, including 2 nights at Monterey Tides, 2 tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a wine blending at Joullian Vineyards. If interested, leave a comment to enter. This post is sponsored by See Monterey. All content and opinions expressed are my own.

A little greenhouse

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I’m thrilled to be starting a new greenhouse series here on Wildlandia. When I saw the listing for this house, I thought it was cool that it came with a gardening space. Kind of a fun story, our land lord is this really tall, happy Danish guy who lives up in the hills and fixes up old Italian sports cars. When I called about the listing, we ended up talking for twenty minutes about all kinds of things – gardening being one of them. We all met up and did a walk through, then a few days later went out for margaritas and nachos with him and his girlfriend to sign the lease. He’s been over a few times since then and brought us a tomato plant for the greenhouse that’s currently living in my sink. I’m excited to garden and get creative here. The couple who lived here before us really let the place go, so we’ve been rolling up our sleeves and tackling cool projects like pulling back ivy-covered walkways and finding all kinds of hidden treasures underneath.

I’ve never had a greenhouse. Up until now I’ve mostly had succulents because they are so easy to care for and can go long periods of time requiring little attention. Succulents are like the cats of plants. Or, the Mila cat of plants at least. I had this really great fiddle leaf fig tree once, but Keeper destroyed it as a puppy back when she was an uncivilized little punk (ok she still pretty much is. go girl, do it to it). This past weekend we washed the greenhouse inside and out, got all the spider webs out, and shoveled out the old, smelly, dry soil that was left behind in the planters.  Now we have two raised beds that I plan on planting veggies in, and lots of wooden shelves/sills to grow flowers in. A couple weeks ago I planted some seeds and so far I’ve had rainbow chard, spinach, and heirloom tomatoes start sprouting. It’s so fun to wake up and walk outside to the greenhouse to see what has grown overnight. My grandma used to grow the prettiest flowers in her backyard. I always remember it being such a peaceful place. I hope I can recreate that feeling with my space here.

Here are some before photos…

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At the hardware store the other day I picked up a quart of paint for the door to the greenhouse. I went with a color I’ve wanted to use on something for a while and love how it turned out. There’s something about finding the perfect color. I think it’s called synesthesia, where you think and feel in colors. I’ve always loved thinking in that way. This color was called “abyss” and it makes my brain happy.

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Herbs and veg and flowers here we come! I’m going to get a speaker to play music in there and look for a cool vintage stool to add inside too. One with a wooden seat and antiqued metal legs. And a little rug for any garden buddies that decide to join in.  Jack’s in it for the carrots. They’re his favorite. I already planted some for him. More to come!

 

Around Here

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The fog has rolled in and San Francisco is back to being mostly gray and overcast. It’s nice for working in the greenhouse though, nice and cool. Lately in the mornings when I drive over the bridge into the city, I’ve been looking down at the boats below to see who’s in the bay. I used to know all the captains from talking to them on the radio while out on the water. This time of year used to be when I’d start leading trips out to see humpback whales migrating south by the islands just outside the bay. There’s something about a foggy, cold morning that feels like home to me. I’ve been thinking about those islands and those whales a lot lately. Anyway, here are some things from around here these days…

1. This schoolhouse electric sign makes a domestic necessity a little cooler.
2a. I bought these shoes for a wedding I never went to. I’m not really a wedding person.
2b. I’ve been using Glossier’s ‘supers‘ face serum collection and like it a lot.
3. Sage, for aura cleansing and purifying…or something like that.
4. Mila’s favorite toy, on the sunny window sill, where she likes it.
5. Slip dresses over t-shirts, who knew it would come back?
6. The cashier at Whole Foods accidentally rang these puppies up as .99 bakery items because they were wrapped in brown paper. Oops. Win.
7. Jack is fall-ready with his little Pendleton blanket.
8. The cool-toned SF skyline from the Bay bridge.