February 20, 2017

Whole30: The First Five Days

I wasn't going to write about this, but reading other people's blogs about it has helped me with info and inspiration, so what the heck?

Five days ago, I started the Whole30 diet/eating plan/whatever you are supposed to call it. (Some people get a little snippy if you talk about it incorrectly.) Lots of my friends were doing it, some of my favorite authors were doing it, and I kept seeing recipes on Pinterest that didn't look too bad. But I cannot tell a lie. When I first looked at the rules, I decided it was not for me. No ketchup. No Diet Coke. No Chick-fil-A. No, thank you. But then I decided it was only for 30 days, and I needed some reining in when it came to my eating habits and I can do anything for 30 days, right?

Why I did it:

Last summer, life got little crazy. My disabled dog got really sick and required more care than she already did, my mom got really sick and really couldn't leave the house or do much for herself for months, and I was crazy busy with work, but then even work turned kind of weird and stressful. Then my dog died, and my mom ended up in the hospital for a few weeks, and I think I've been exhausted ever since it all happened. I try to eat low carb most of the time, but I'm pretty sure I existed on chicken nuggets and ice cream during that time frame. And then the holidays and I traveled some, which meant lots of yummy food. After all that I knew I needed to get it together, be healthier, have more energy, etc., and I needed something with some new rules.

The Whole30 plan has plenty of rules. I won't recall them here, but let's just say it took me several hours and approximately $200 (my weekly grocery bill is usually around $60) to figure them out. That also involved visiting four stores and a local farm. That was Wednesday, February 15th. On Thursday, February 16th, I started. Here's how it's going so far.

I definitely recommend cleaning out your pantry/fridge before starting Whole30. Here is my little starter kit.

Day 1 

I have to get up at 4 am a few days a week, and Day 1 was one of those days. Thankfully, I didn't have anything elaborate planned. My mom boiled me a few eggs, and I grabbed a banana for breakfast. When I got home, I slept through lunch, so that was no big deal. By that evening, I was starving. My original plan was to make this Asian salad I found on Pinterest, but it seemed like too much trouble. Instead, I pan-seared some chicken, baked a slice of cabbage, and baked some sweet potato chips, most of which ended up black instead of orange. I hate cooking and am not good at it. That's one strike against Whole30, but the meal was decent and something I'd eat anyway, so no big deal. I kind of wanted a Diet Coke before bed, but I kept downing water and had a cup of hot cinnamon tea, and it was all good.

My first attempt at pan-seared chicken. It was actually pretty amazing.

Day 1: Cabbage, sweet potatoes, and chicken. Not too bad.

Day 2

Day 2 was a stressful day, with or without Diet Coke...and cheese and fried chicken. My plan was to get up and work for most of it. Everyone else had other plans for me.

My dog was having some kind of issue, and she woke me up at 5 am. I took her out, but that didn't help. I'll spare you the details, but I ended up giving her a bath at some point that morning and having to trim a bunch of her hair. I did it all with a terrible headache that was quickly turning into a migraine. While I don't know that there are any Whole30-specific rules about taking medication, I had decided I was not going to take any during these 30 days. But then the cat got stuck in a bag and wouldn't let me catch her, and my mom needed help trying to get into her bank account online, and the ladies at the bank were being jerks, and then my dad had a car problem and I had to go follow him to the repair shop and take him home, and it just seemed like a never-ending day. All I wanted was Diet Coke, but I stuck to it.

For breakfast, my mom was kind enough to fry a couple of eggs and peel an orange for me, plus I had a little slice of leftover chicken from the night before. I skipped lunch again, though I did eat a banana and a handful of pecans. Supper that night was one of my favorites so far - chicken fajitas in lettuce wraps and sweet potato chips, more orange, less black. I went to bed feeling pretty good. I've got this. Except I was craving cheese dip. And spinach dip. And cheese in general.

Sweet potatoes and chicken fajitas - my favorite meal so far
This chicken looked and tasted so delicious. I need to make more.

Day 3

Saturday was another 4 am day. My mom cooked for me again, which has been a lifesaver — more eggs and grapefruit. Then I slept through lunch. Again. Spoiler alert: I haven't had lunch any of these five days. I actually slept until 5:30 and missed a chance to visit with my favorite kiddos which sucked. But this no caffeine thing has me tired, well, constantly. When I woke up, I snacked on a little of the leftover chicken from the night before and cooked up a steak, baked a potato, and stir fried some kale salad with almonds and sesame seeds. It wasn't a great meal. The dogs ate most of the ($18.99 a pound grass-fed) steak, and the kale salad was way too oily. After I baked the potato, I seared the face in the cast iron skillet where I cooked the steak with a little extra ghee and garlic, and it was crispy and amazing with green onions chopped on top. But I spent over an hour cleaning the kitchen that night, after cooking dog food and my food. I hate cooking. Have I mentioned that?  I knew there had to be a better way. So, before I went to bed, I got two packs of Springer Mountain chicken out of the freezer (that's the only kind of grocery store chicken I like anymore), put them in a bag with a bottle of Whole30-approved Lemon Garlic Tessemae's dressing, and marinated them for the grill the next day.

I murdered that poor expensive steak. But the potato was excellent.

Day 4

By Sunday morning, aka Day 4, I was feeling pretty good. I noticed my clothing fit a little better, and the headaches were gone. I got up on my own fairly early and knocked out three blog posts for a client. My mom made me an awesome sausage and onion omelette and cut up some kiwi. It was a gorgeous day here in the ATL, and I had plans to work outside. I planted some sweet peas and lettuce seeds — I swear I will have a successful garden this year if everyone will just stay health and alive — and came back to the house to grill all 14 pieces of the lemon garlic Springer Mountain chicken. I made some more potatoes like I did the night before, and I mixed up Greek dressing to put on my kale salad. So similar to Day 3's supper, but I was all about putting in less effort.

By the time I sat down to eat, I could barely finish any of it. I was tired. I wasn't that hungry. I was in bed by 11, which is highly unusual for me, even on the days I have to get up at 4 am.

Thank goodness for my mom's willingness to make my breakfast is all I have to say. 

Grilled chicken, potato, and kale salad. Could not eat but half of it.

Day 5

Today is Day 5. It hasn't been the best day for Whole30-ing. First of all, I woke up at 5 am in a panic because I forgot to do something for work. After I took care of that, I went back to bed, and then shortly after, my mom called to wake me up. I had to take my dad back to get his truck from the repair shop. After a quick visit with my cousin and her kids who were heading out of town, I came back into the house to get dressed and tried to navigate breakfast, but I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to eat. The thought of food in general made me want to throw up. The plan was to eat leftovers from last night, but that wasn't going to happen. I love meat. It's my favorite food group. But the grilled and pan-seared meat — all I've had so far — offers a similar texture, and I'm so tired of that texture. I'm a picky eater, and a lot of it has to do with texture rather than taste. I need some soups, some tacos, some burgers, something, but that requires more planning and cooking and I don't want to cook anymore.

So, that's pretty much how my morning went. After I took my dad to get his truck, I went to Home Depot and Lowe's to purchase some gardening supplies. It was really my first trip to a store since buying groceries.  The local Home Depot has two restaurants in the parking lot area, and they both smelled so good. And while I was standing in line I almost grabbed a Diet Coke out of habit. I was so hungry and thirsty, but still, nothing appealed to me. On the way home, I stopped by Kroger to grab a few things I was running out of, and suddenly, I wanted fruit, so I picked up some more kiwi an bananas and ate two bananas as soon as I got home. That's all I've eaten today.

I also purchased some La Croix water and kombocha, because I was dying for a drink with some flavor. Normally, I can't stand La Croix, but it was better than nothing. I'm not yet sold on the kombocha. Tonight, I'm planning to eating leftover grilled chicken. I didn't want to cook, so I'm going for easy.

Final thoughts? 

The first five days have been a bit stressful, but all in all I've made it through. I learned so much, and while I don't intend to eat like this forever — a girl needs cheese, so I'll probably go back to low-carb with some modifications — I will take some of these rules and tricks with me into the future and may even do this again occasionally when things get out of control. 

Some things I'll do differently this week:  

  • Eat breakfast daily, even if it's a banana and a handful of nuts. Not eating it today made me cranky and tired and miserable to be around.
  • Make some different types of meals. I found a compliant spaghetti sauce at a local farmer's market store and a friend sent me a recipe to make my own, so I may have some fake pasta dishes with broccoli slaw or spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. I also have some mock fried chicken and soup recipes, and I have a pot roast I can throw into the Crock Pot with some veggies, which I'll probably do tomorrow.
  • Don't feel like I have to turn into a Pinterest-addicted gourmet cook. It's okay to eat boiled eggs and leftover chicken occasionally. 
  • That said, embrace foods I already like. Like sweet potatoes and chicken fajitas...two of my favorites even when I'm not watching what I eat. If I want to eat fajitas every day til I'm sick of them, then so be it. It's not against the rules. 
  • Drink more water. Even if I have to get up in the middle of the night, I feel so much better. 
  • Also, embrace the La Croix water. My biggest craving has been for Diet Coke, not cheese and bread as I thought it would be. The La Croix isn't great, but it mixes things up a bit. 
  • Try to make some breakfast dishes ahead of time or have leftovers from the night before. Sharing a kitchen with my mother at the moment is not ideal, especially for this plan, but on the days she didn't make my breakfast (which was much appreciated) I was grumpier than I should have been.  
  • Five Guys is kind of Whole30 compliant. My original plan was to not eat out at all during this little experiment, but my hatred of cooking had me Googling "what restaurant food is Whole30 compliant?" late one night (and by "late," I mean 10:30 *yawn*). As it turns out, Five Guys does not cook their burgers in any type of oil or butter or weird spices, so I can have some...without the bread, cheese, and bacon. So, I've made a deal with myself that if I'm still doing this on Friday (and I will be), I get to treat myself to a couple of burgers with lettuce, onions, and pickles. 
  • Only 25 more days to go. *phew*
La Croix good. Kombucha bad.

February 07, 2017

The hardest part of farming*...

One of my biggest fears since getting my chickens when they were just a week old has been keeping them safe from predators. We basically live in the woods, and hawks, coyotes, foxes, neighborhood dogs, raccoons, owls, snakes and other creatures who wouldn't mind a delicious free-range chicken for supper are everywhere.

There have been a few near misses. Once, I was at the pool and looked up just in time to see a hawk flying down at them. Once, I walked up to pick them some kale from my mom's garden and came back to find them all curiously surrounding a stray boxer who appeared out of nowhere. The poor things are not afraid of dogs. Last summer I discovered a snake who was about 4-5 feet long in their house, but I think she was just looking for eggs.

Unfortunately, last week, one of those wild creatures was successful in plucking one of my girls from the yard.

The ladies have a nice big house and plans to move into a bigger one this year, and they get to have their freedom for a few hours each day. They put themselves up when it gets dark, and then I go feed them and shut them up for the night, but for some reason they've been lingering outside the door a little when it gets dark, soaking up every last bit of sun they can. I don't blame them. We've reached the part of winter where it's depressing for the sun to go down by 6 pm.

Anyway, last Thursday night, I'd stepped outside to put them up, but they weren't all in the house yet, so I decided to come back inside and get the dogs' food ready while the chickens lingered. The dogs were outside, and I'd just been out there making plenty of noise. I was actually sitting just inside the door in plain view of the coop. There was no way something would grab one of them with all this going on.

Suddenly, I heard one of the chickens scream. If you've ever had chickens, you know they scream about pretty much anything out of the ordinary. But when I got outside, the dogs were chasing something into the woods, and I only counted five hens instead of six. I searched the yard and edge of the woods as best as I could in the dark, hoping she was just hiding. I got up the next morning and saw no signs of a struggle — no blood or feathers. She was gone.

So, now I'm down to five. To be honest, I'm not sure which chicken is missing, because three of them look just alike — my golden-laced wyandottes — and I have to see them all outside together to tell you which is which, based on size and personality. Rose is tiny yet outgoing, Myrtle is a big lazy gal who hangs out with Marigold (the head hen), and Iris is skittish, keeps to herself, and barely leaves the area by the chicken house. 

I'll know which one it was for sure in the next few days when I return them to short periods of ultra-supervised free-range time. In the meantime, I kind of feel like I let her down. I've decided the culprit was most likely a fox, coyote, or stray dog, but what kind of animal has the nerve to approach with humans and other dogs around? I wonder if she died quickly or suffered in pain for a while. I wonder if the other chickens miss her?

When I first put them into their new home, I decided I'd much rather them have their freedom, even if there's a risk, than to spend their lives in a cage and never get to experience digging in the mud for worms and scratching in the leaves and all the things they love to do. And I stand by that idea, but it doesn't make it any easier. Their new digs should provide a larger fenced-in area for that, and believe me, I've read every article online about how to make it predator proof. But given the circumstances of what happened last week, I've decided there's no way to completely protect them from harm unless you keep them inside your home. That doesn't mean I won't try, but it's one of the harsh realities of owning livestock, I guess.

*I realize I am not an actual farmer because I've raised half a dozen chickens and grew some tomatoes last year, but I don't let that stop me from pretending.

February 05, 2017

Yes, I'm on the Falcons bandwagon and proud of it!

If you live in the state of Georgia, even if you aren't a football fan, you probably know the Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl today. The city is electric with excitement. Schools and employers are encouraging kids and adults to wear their jerseys and team colors. The local media has a new angle on the event every few hours. Businesses are offering related sales and deals. Digital signs across town offer encouraging messages to players and fans. I could go on.

Heck, just making the playoffs was a big deal for the locals. A friend and long-time season ticket holder who was at the Georgia Dome for those games said the atmosphere was unlike anything he has ever experienced. On the day of the divisional game when the Falcons beat the Seahawks, I went to pick up some football food at a local wing place, and everyone I encountered, from the middle aged moms to the teenage delivery guys, was talking football. People in the parking lot, people who were obviously from different walks of life, were patting each other on the back and making comments about how the Falcons would "Rise Up" and how they had to watch Richard Sherman. There was a sense of unity I haven't experienced since the days that followed September 11.  That alone makes me love this sport.

You see, the Falcons don’t do this sort of thing often. The last time and only other time they were in the Super Bowl, I was in high school. And forget Super Bowls. The Falcons haven't had tons of great seasons period. Throw in the fact that they will be playing the team that approximately 99% of America loves to hate, and suddenly, they are everyone's favorite.

So, what do I think about all this? Honestly, I'm a little excited. Call me a bandwagon fan if you want, and that's probably a pretty accurate description, but I'm having a hard time staying off of it. Once upon a time, I was a big fan. I went to games. I joked to anyone who would listen that Jamal Anderson was my cousin. I went to autograph signings and Falcons parties hosted by local radio stations. I have all sorts of memorabilia packed away somewhere. 

But then some things happened that I didn't like. A lot of that had to do with Michael Vick. I was never a fan, even before all the dog-fighting stuff. He was constantly in trouble before that, and I felt like the team deserved better. I even met him once at a music video shoot and was less than impressed.  I also hated some of the moves the team made in order to draft him. I felt like Matt Schaub deserved a better chance during those years or that the powers that be could have drafted someone (or several someones) even better for that amount of money. It didn't help that a young man named Peyton Manning, a guy I'd been madly obsessed with since he was in high school, had also reached the NFL and I could cheer for him properly without offending any of my fellow Georgia fans by singing "Rocky Top" occasionally.

And so, I became a Colts fan. I only attended Falcons games when the Colts were in town. I wore Colts hats and cheered them on to the playoffs and Super Bowls and lost myself in a haze of Peyton Manning glory. And then in 2012, I became a Broncos fan. I'd always liked John Elway, and some of my Georgia guys, like Champ Bailey and Knowshon Moreno, were there, so it was a perfect fit. The only time I thought about the Falcons was when I was playing fantasy football and needed a kicker. Matt Bryant's been pretty good to me.  

But as it happened, Peyton — I'm pretty sure I can call him that — was most likely going to retire last year after he won the Super Bowl, and I began to panic. I decided I'd audition new teams to be my favorite. I was leaning towards Carolina because I do a lot of work for people in Charlotte, it's close, and I was becoming a big fan of Cam Newton off the field. But then they did some great things, and I felt like the worst kind of bandwagon fan of a team that already has quite a few of them. I briefly considered following Georgia's own Todd Gurley to the Rams, but let's face it: You can send the Rams to Hollywood, but they are still the Rams.

So, all year I've been a bit homeless. I thought of pulling for multiple teams. If Peyton's pizza commercials with the mascots for both the Broncos and Colts are to be believed, there's no shame in that. I knew who I wouldn't pull for: the Patriots, Seahawks, and Steelers in that order. They are all the worst, mostly because of the havoc they've wreaked on my Peyton — okay, the "my" might be stretching it a bit —over the years. I continued to cheer on the Broncos this year for as long as you could do so with any dignity, and by default I always pulled for the Giants. Hey, at least they have a Manning. But then something crazy happened. Falcons' games became something worth watching. Before I knew it I was getting excited about Matt Ryan, Julio, and Devonta. And Sanu, Coleman, and Beasley. I mean they even had Matt Schaub back.

After years of shunning them, I found myself secretly wanting them to win. I wanted them to get into the playoffs. I wanted them to show cities with rabid sports fans, like Boston and New York, that Atlanta can be great, too. And if the city's reaction to it all is any indication, I'm not alone. So, call me a bandwagon fan if you must. I'm willing to admit that I sort of fall into that category. And unless Peyton gets all Brett Favre-like and comes out of retirement, I'm probably going to stick around this time. Even throughout the seasons when the guys don't beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Yeah, it's so gonna happen.   

August 16, 2016

Learning to fly

I knew it was going to happen. I just didn't know when. Probably sooner rather than later. Maybe before the end of the year. Possibly before the end of the summer.

Before the end of the summer.

That was the nagging feeling I had that I could never voice to anyone or even really acknowledge myself. June has not been kind to my family over the last few years, and when she had a rough day early that month, deep down, I wondered if the curse would continue. But medication and diet changes helped almost immediately. Days later, she was a completely different dog. Maybe those nagging feelings about the summer were just my anxiety running wild.

But, as it turns out, Gabby would not survive the summer. Sometime on July 17th, between 10:30 am and 12:15 pm, she left this world. I'm writing this not to get into the details of our lives together — I've done that, will probably do it again, and if you know me at all you know we were inseparable. I really just wanted to document our last few days together and apart. My parents often make fun of me because I blog or write or post to social media all the time, but because I've been doing that for the last 12 years or so, I have so many memories, ideas, and pictures documented. I just need to add this one to my collection to give my brain a little break. It seems important to remember, but it's exhausting to relive.

I've been working a lot this summer. My dad has been sick and working a lot, my mom has been sick, Gabby has been sick, I've been sick. For a while there, I spent my days running errands, cleaning, and cooking for the dogs and my parents and my nights working until five, six, seven in the morning. I regret that now, but I'm trying not to go down that path of what I could have done better during her last month on earth, because it's not something I can change. That said, I can't help but be sad about the fact that after July 20th, I had plans to cut back on my workload. Some of those reasons were selfish, but one of them was to spend more time with Gabby during the day. The fact that I never got that opportunity will probably always nag at me a little.

Friday, the 15th, was a busy day. I had to take my mom to the doctor, came home for a bit, and left again to buy groceries. That night I worked until about 4:30 or 5:00 am, but the website I was using for work was down for maintenance, so I decided to call it a night. As soon as I got into bed, Gabby got up and began looking for a more comfortable spot in the bedroom floor. I watched an episode of I Love Lucy, sent a few emails, and finally got up and put her back in the bed with me, because I can't bear not to sleep with her. If she's not in bed with me, I wake up countless times through the night in a panic. I can't remember when that started. I'd like to say it was around the time of her train incident, but I know it was before then because the night before that incident she didn't sleep with me, and I couldn't sleep well. And because she didn't sleep with me, she ended up being hit by a train. Another little regret I'll always have.

Around 6:00 a.m, I set my alarm for noon on Saturday because I had so much to do. I currently sleep in two twin beds pushed together, and because of the headboards, there's a bit of a gap between them. Gabby and I always slept on one, and the other served as a catchall for clothing, laptops, medication, toiletries, books, and whatever else I brought to bed at night. When I put her on the bed that morning, she immediately went for the center of the head of the bed where I always slept and put her head on one of my pillows, just like she used to before we moved back in with my parents and everything went a little crazy. She hadn't done that in years.

There was nowhere else for me to go besides on top of that gaping hole between the beds, but I was so tired and so happy that she wanted to snuggle up that I didn't care. Before I could even figure out a comfortable position, Gabby wriggled herself next to me, her head in the crook of my arm, and she was sleeping more peacefully than she has in months. I didn't have the heart to move her, so I didn't. And despite the fact that I was probably in the most uncomfortable position I could come up with, neither of us moved for the next six hours. I had amazing dreams.  It was the best sleep I'd had in months.

At noon, I leaned over her to turn off the alarm, and she flipped over to face me, began pawing at me and acting silly, begging for attention. I petted and played with her for a while before we both got up. I tried to spend a little time in bed with her every morning. Some days she was goofy and wanted to play; some days she was tired and wanted to go back to sleep. Some days one of us was in a hurry to get somewhere, but that morning was good. It was fun. Our last morning together.

On Saturday, I had to run errands and then I had plans to work the rest of the day. I was trying my best to get everything caught up so I cold take some time off the next week. Something kept me from getting much work done, though. When I went to run errands, I knew my mom needed things at the store, and she and my dad were at the pool. Maddie (my parents' dog) and Sadie wanted to go with me to the pool, and I was trying to sneak out without Gabby (she was a pain to take outside when you had other things to do out there), but she caught me, and I took her, too. She ended up swimming for a while, one of her favorite things to do. She got in, got out, rolled in the grass, and repeated those steps. It was like she knew it was the last time she'd get to do it.

I went on to the store, came home and fixed the dogs their food. Chicken thighs and couscous for Gabby. I gave her a little extra that night because she seemed to be doing well. Then I decided to go swimming myself. I sat in the pool and read for a little while, and when I came home she greeted me, sitting at the door to the porch. She knew where I was...that dog always, somehow, knew where I was. Even when I was traveling to another state, she'd start misbehaving about a week before I even started packing because she knew I was leaving. Every single time. That night, when I got back from the pool, I felt a little guilty for not taking her, because I know she wanted to go. My mom said she sat pitifully at the door, scratching on it occasionally. That's another little regret I'll always have: missing our last potential swim together.

I made tacos that night. When she was little, I taught Gabby how to "give me five" in exchange for a treat. Being the stubborn genius that she was, she taught herself how "give me five" nonstop while I ate until she earned herself some table scraps. Most nights she won, though I'd stopped over the last few weeks because she was on such a detailed diet. I gave in that night and gave her some taco meat. That's one thing I definitely will not ever regret. Both of my dogs — even sweet little Sadie who rarely begs for food — love tacos as much as I do.

My mom's been begging me to watch this movie with her for years, so that night, instead of coming straight up to work, I watched it. Gabby rested her head on my foot during most of it. There was a point when Sadie walked by her, and Gabby got up and began kissing her. Gabby mostly ignored the other dogs in the house, but now I wonder if she was telling her little sister goodbye. Sadie ate up the attention as she did any time Gabby paid her any. At one point Gabby began begging for food again, so I gave her a leftover flour taco shell. Her teeth weren't that great anymore, but she sat and nibbled at it for a while. She didn't leave my side that night. I joked that she was annoying me. My mom joked that she seemed so much more like her old self than she had in the last month or so. I remember trimming some tangled hair off her chest that night — I'd been meaning to do it for a few weeks. I commented that I was going to bathe all three dogs the next week. Then she and the other dogs went outside. She kept up with them in the backyard, even running and barking into the darkness with them, despite being nearly blind and deaf. Sadie always stayed with her if they strayed too far from the house.

We came back, and I went into the kitchen to clean up dishes. At some point, Gabby went flying through the room. I ran after her, a habit since her accident four years ago, but she was not having any kind of medical issue. She'd gone into the pantry, opened a box of dog treats, and got one. She was just trying to sneak by without me seeing her. Typical Gabby behavior. I lovingly called her "big dummy," one of her many nicknames. My mom joked again about how lively she was that night, and then, just like any other night, I carried her up to the second floor where I currently reside. I complained about carrying her up every night when I knew darn good and well she could make it on her own, but the truth is I would have carried her everywhere for the rest of my life if I had to.

I put her on my bed and sat down at my desk to work. I decided I didn't want to be up late or leave her alone in the bed for long, so I was only going to do write two blog posts just to cut back my to-do list for the next day. Before I could finish the first one, she was restless. She moved over to the bed we don't usually sleep on and made herself a little nest on a pile of clothes. The corner of that bed practically touches my desk chair while I'm sitting at it, so I wondered if she was just trying to get near me. I petted her a little bit. She slept there for a hour or so while I completed those two blog posts. When I finished, I got up and went to the bathroom to get ready for bed, and she got up and followed.

When I was finished, I put her back up on the bed and petted her for a while, hoping to calm her down. This had been our routine for a while lately and one reason I've been sleep-deprived since sometime in May. I'd work half the night, finally get into bed just before the sun came up, and then she'd get restless. Sometimes she wasn't feeling well. Sometimes she need to go out. Sometimes she was hot or cold or just wanted me in the bed with her. Much of the time it took at least an hour to let her get it out of her system. So, that night, I assumed it would be like the others. I sat in bed and sent an email or two and started watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix, something I've been wanting to do. She slept pretty soundly in the floor during the show, so when the first episode ended, I got up and put her back in the bed.

A while later, she woke me up, flying out of the bed. She wanted to sleep by the bathroom door. I wanted to let her, but I couldn't, so I put her back in the bed. We continued this battle for a while. I finally gave up. When I say I am sleep-deprived, you have no idea how little I'm exaggerating. With all I've had on my plate lately, plus dealing with her insomnia, I was lucky to average two-three hours a night for the last few months, and those two-three hours were not necessarily uninterrupted. There was rarely time for a nap. I kind of trained my body to be okay for an entire day after dozing off in my desk chair for 15 minutes. I can't say it's been the healthiest summer. The lack of sleep finally caught up with me that morning. At first, I was angry about that, that I couldn't stay awake while my best friend was dying, but now I think it was a blessing of sorts.

Sometime, I think around 8 am that Sunday morning, I jolted awake and Gabby was standing by my bed, staring at me. There was something eerie about it. It was dark in the room, and she couldn't see well in full daylight, much less in a dark room. She appeared to be standing up straighter than she has been able to since the train incident. I guess I could have imagined that in my groggy state. Either way, I reached down and found the strength to pull her up on the bed with one arm. The minute she hit the mattress, she put her head on my pillow. I fell back asleep, and 20 minutes later she went flying out of the bed again. I think that's when I officially gave up. I decided we'd probably be making a trip to the vet, either the emergency vet that day or our regular vet on Monday, to see why she was not sleeping well. But at that moment, all I could think about was sleep. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I could not go another moment without sleep. The stressful summer had officially caught up with me. I now think that happened for a reason.

A couple of hours later I woke up. It was 10-something. I was still so exhausted that I couldn't think straight. The only actual thought I remember having was "Where is Gabby?" I surveyed the mostly dark room. She had made herself a little bed near my bedroom door out of a blanket she'd dug out of my dirty clothes pile.  She looked peaceful...sound asleep, breathing okay, relaxed, calm. I thought about getting up and putting her back in the bed, but I was so tired, it was like I could not physically move my arms and legs, and before I knew it I was back asleep. Again, I think that happened for a reason.

My alarm went off at noon. I'd been sleeping so well, and I remembered Gabby on the blanket in the floor. I hit the snooze button. Just 10 more minutes of sleep before I started another long day of going nonstop. When the second alarm went off, I sat up, and my first thought was that Gabby was dead. I kept trying to tell myself that it was just anxiety putting crazy thoughts into my head, but I knew. Even though I had no indication that it would be true, deep down, somehow, I knew. I didn't get up, but I glanced over to the blanket where she was sleeping. She wasn't there but close by. At some point in that short time since I'd last checked on her, she'd gotten up or rolled over on her side, her back against the wall between my bedroom and closet doors. It was a position she slept in when she was totally relaxed and comfortable. I couldn't see her face, because my floor fan was blocking it. I told myself she was just resting peacefully.

I pulled up my laptop, checked my email, checked social media. I remember reading about the officers who had been shot overnight in Louisiana. I read about a little dog at the shelter who needed funds to help with medical care and pledged a donation because it had Gabby's coloring. I debated going back to bed, but I knew I had things to do that day. So much to do. And somehow I knew I needed to go face one of the most horrible things that has ever happened to me. I still can't tell you how I knew.

Slowly, I pulled myself to the foot of the bed. I remember those few moments so vividly. It all seemed to happen in slow motion, even though I bet it took two minutes or less. When I got to the edge of the bed, I could finally see her face. I started to shake as I began to comprehend it all. I got up and went to her just to be sure, the room still fairly dark, but I knew what I would find. I'd known before I even woke up what I would find. I reached down to pet her and I remember saying, "Oh, sweet girl." I remember thinking she hadn't been gone long at all. She was still warm. And the strangest thing of all was the overwhelming sense of peace and calm that washed over me.

I'd always imagined myself having some kind of meltdown when the time finally came, but I felt so peaceful. I felt peaceful for her and for me. I spent every waking moment worrying about that dog from the day I got her, when she was six weeks old. She was sick when I got her and had medical issues like you wouldn't believe throughout her life. It got worse after the train incident. It became even worse over the last four or five months when her health began to decline, and her age really started to show. I constantly worried about whether I was making the right decisions. Given her medical history, I'd decided a couple of years ago that I was going to let her age as naturally as possible with as little medical intervention as possible (as long as she was comfortable and pain-free). That was a tough decision. That also required a lot of extra effort and care on my part, especially in these last few months, but it was worth it. Every last minute of it was worth it, and I'd do it all over again if I had to. If I could. Worrying about her became such a second nature to me that I didn't even realize how much I worried until that moment when I saw that she was no longer with me. It was like the world slowed down. The weight of the worry was gone. She was no longer sick or old. Life as I'd known it for the last 13 years changed at that moment.

After I found her that morning, I went to my bathroom and sat down to kind of catch my breath for a minute. I swore I heard my parents talking downstairs, and that was a relief because I didn't think I had the energy to go find and tell them. Of course, when I actually went out of the bedroom, I looked down from the balcony, and neither one of them were in the den. I yelled for my mom, who was in the kitchen. When I told her, she began to cry and said, "But she was doing so well last night."  I told her things had taken a turn when we came upstairs.

My dad was at the pool, and my mom went out on the porch to tell him. I remember seeing him rise up out of the water and hit the cement with his hand. The rest of that day is a bit of a blur. I remember calling the local animal cremation place but not being able to get in touch with anyone. I found another one, though, thanks to Facebook. My parents were kind of enough to offer to pay for it. I gave the guy the third degree on the phone, and I'm not sure he appreciated it. My mom called my aunt to see if she had a large box. My dad met with the man who came to get her body for cremation. I do remember being in a hurry. I looked high and low for the beach towel I accidentally stole from Tom Petty's house because Gabby was sleeping on it in the car when we last left there, and I didn't realize it until I was a couple of hours away. I decided it should be cremated with her, even though that was a really nice towel. She loved that place, and I know going there was one of her favorite things. I'd never seen that dog happier than when it was just me and her there, hanging out by the pool, the beach, or in the bedroom.

Thank God my dad handled most of the gruesome work that day. I know it was tough on him as they were close too. He was the only other person who could really take care of her with all of her special needs which is why I've had to limit my traveling in recent years. Not to go into too much detail, but I wanted her body out of there quickly so that I didn't have too many memories of it. One thing that made me sad was that I was not with her when she died, but after talking it out with my mom, I'm sort of glad I didn't witness it. I truly believe that is why I was so tired that morning and one reason why she wouldn't stay in the bed. Neither of us wanted me to witness it. I didn't want that to be my last memory.

I slept in my parents' living room for three weeks afterwards. Moved my office down there and everything. I finally moved back to my bedroom last week (tomorrow marks the one-month anniversary), but it's been hard. I put a bookcase over the spot where she died. My dad helped me clean up the bedroom and change some of the lighting around so it would feel a little different. As I cleaned, I realized just how much time I'd been dedicating to her in recent months and maybe even the last few years, because I completely neglected my own needs in a way. I'm currently working on getting used to that.

I still expect to see her at my door or wake up and find her snuggled up to me in bed. I still wake up in a panic sometimes, wondering where she is. When I hear about some special dog food, my first thought is I wonder if that would be okay for Gabby? Sadie sleeps with me now (she'd been sleeping with my parents since Gabby's train incident), and that helps. Having her and Maddie — my parents' dog — around helps a lot. I've gone broke spoiling them with toys and treats. It's like I can't get enough of them. 

When I first realized Gabby was most likely reaching the end of her life, I got depressed. I remember walking down the dog food aisle at Tractor Supply Co. and getting upset. I remember seeing countless social media posts about dogs in need of adoption or rescue and not wanting to see them anymore. I couldn't read or watch anything about dogs. And I've been such a dog person for most of my life that I feared I'd never be interested in them again when she was gone, but it's actually been the opposite. I really can't get enough. I feel so grateful that I had the experience I had with Gabby. She was with me my entire adult life so far, and she moved and traveled with me just about everywhere I went. She taught me so many lessons, and I feel like she made me a more selfless person, because she needed me. She liked to pretend like she didn't need another soul, but she needed me more than anyone ever has. Anyone else would have given up on her 100 accidents and diseases and allergies and pig-headed moves ago. But I needed her just as much, if not more. I miss that bond.

Poor little Sadie has taken a backseat to Gabby over the last couple of years. I thank God that she's so laid back and doesn't mind as much as another dog might. Don't get me wrong - when Gabby became paralyzed, Sadie became my hiking buddy. She got to hang out with me outside (Gabby was not an outside kind of girl), and she gets plenty of attention. But she also loved Gabby so much, and it's almost like we had an understanding. And she, too, was so depressed the day Gabby died. She still isn't quite herself, but we're spending a lot more time together. She's a little cat-like in that she doesn't like to be the center of attention all the time, and that's difficult to get used to when Gabby wanted to be my main focus (and usually was) but we'll each find our way. As a matter of fact, now that I have more time to start focusing on renovating my house, it may soon just be her and me — and the chickens. New beginnings and all that.

This is one of my favorite pictures — it sums up their relationship perfectly.

Gabby: November 2002 - July 2016.

Rest in peace, sweet girl.