A Summertime Trip to the Rockies

A couple of weeks ago, we took a 10 day trip to Colorado. The kids and I spent most of the trip in Summit County, at 9,000+ feet elevation, right in the middle of the Rockies. Robbie spent half the trip up there with us (and his parents and brother’s family), and the other half working at Red Rocks outside of Morrison, where the band did a 3-night show. (The kids and I also went down to Red Rocks for a couple of the nights, which was a special treat.)

I used to live in Leadville (fairly close to where we stayed), and this part of the country holds some magical memories for me. The people in my life who I consider to be my best friends in the world were met during my time living there. And it’s truly one of the most physically beautiful places in the world. It was really wonderful to see some of my dearest friends, and to spend so much time with Robbie’s family as well. The kids had so much fun hanging out with their cousins. It was an easy, comfortable trip (well, aside from the flights with Emmett, who thinks sitting still on an airplane is the worst idea ever – but that’s a whole different story to tell).

This was also one of the only trips I’ve taken in the last few years where I took a real chunk of time off work. I’m so grateful for that time I had to recharge in such a tranquil place – especially because the morning after we returned home, one of my best friends in the world passed away after a year long battle with ALS. It was intense and beautiful to have just been in the place where he and I first met 23 years ago, less than a day before we had to say goodbye.

I miss living in the Colorado high country, but I also know that where we are now is where we’re meant to be. We hope to make this summertime trip to the mountains an annual thing though. It’s nice to get that mountain fix and then come back to home sweet home.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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This Rescue Dog Rescued Her Owner!

Cynder the Dog

Photo Credit: The Plymouth Herald

Sometimes the shyest dogs are the bravest. Cynder, a normally docile German Shepherd, saved her mom this spring when a man mugged her near their home!

Michelle Fowler was walking near her home in the city of Pymouth in Devon, England this March. Suddenly, a man approached from behind her. He insisted she give him her bag, then punched and kicked her. Michelle fell to the ground but managed to call for Cynder, her eight-year-old dog. Michelle later described Cynder to reporters as usually afraid of her own shadow, but that evening Cynder realized that Michelle needed her. The dog came running up, barking, and scaring off the attacker.

Although he managed to escape with Michelle’s bag, Michelle was saved from further injury because of Cynder’s quick response. In light of the incident, Michelle’s fiancé is staying in her home and they have changed the locks on the house as a precaution. The real hero is Cynder – the dog who Michelle once rescued turned the tables and rescued Michelle in return.

At Halo we believe that every animal carries a halo that shines brightest when nurtured in a genuine, heartfelt, two-way, human-animal bond. It’s obvious that Cynder’s halo is shining bright after her heroic rescue of Michelle. Every year Halo, Greater Good, and Freekibble feed more than 1.5 million bowls of cat and dog food to rescue pets like Cynder every year. We’ve been told by shelter professionals that Halo food increases adoption rates. This means that more pups like Cynder will have a chance to unleash their inner hero for their adoptive families. Our pets do so much for us, Halo believes in doing everything we can for them, starting with high quality food. We’re sure that Cynder is receiving a hero’s reward of delicious food and treats from Michelle and her grateful family.

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How To Create Storage in a Small Space

(Click here to shop everything in this photo!)

Last week, I shared a remodel reveal post of our laundry room/mudroom. I mentioned several times in the post how one of the main motivators for us to redo the room was a severe lack of storage. The only storage options were a wire shelf and some stackable drawers that we borrowed from one of our closets, which resulted in a room that felt constantly cluttered and overflowing. Because the room itself is quite small, we brainstormed ways to incorporate the right combination of cabinets, shelves, and storage containers to create a space that would be as efficient  – and visually attractive – as possible. Ultimately, I think we came up with some great solutions. Today I’m teaming up once again with our favorite brand for home improvement, Lowe’s, to show you exactly how we did this!

The two images above give a basic idea of what we were working with in terms of storage in the room before the remodel. We were cramming necessities into cardboard boxes on top of the wire shelves and the stackable drawers, which we also used for shoes. (As you can see, there wasn’t enough room in them for all of our shoes, so they ended up spilling onto the floor.) There was also nowhere to fold laundry, so it was piling up in baskets. It felt chaotic, and even smaller than it was.

I’ve mentioned before that in my relationship with my husband Robbie, when it comes to home design, I am the visual/artistic person, and he is the practical/numbers person. I loved the idea of all open shelving with everything on display, and he loved the idea of functional cabinets where we could hide potential clutter. We sketched out some possible design ideas and agreed to put two rows of cabinets above the washer and dryer, and three rows of open shelves to the right of the cabinets. We also decided to create a counter for folding over the washer (which eliminates the need to take up more room with a folding table and allows space for baskets/additional storage), and to build a bench for changing shoes, under which we could keep two large baskets for shoe storage. For the cabinets, I chose White Shaker Door Wall Cabinets from Lowe’s (this 30-in W x 30-in H x 12-in D size and this 30-in W x 14-in H x 12-in D size), along with some pretty Stainless Steel Cabinet Pulls, also from Lowe’s. I also found this gorgeous Wood Wall Mounted Shelving that would be a perfect complement to the butcher block counter and bench.

After the counter and bench were essentially built and the room was painted (I talk more about these projects in the before and after reveal post) we got to work hanging the cabinets. Neither of us had ever hung cabinets before, but it was much simpler than we anticipated. We recruited my dad (who had experience) to help us, did a little research online and followed some simple steps:

1. Prep the room by looking for studs with a stud finder, measuring, and marking guidelines. (You can see my dad and Robbie doing this in the photo above, where we temporarily put the counter in place to determine exactly where we wanted the cabinets to hang.)
2. Using a level, attach a 1×4 into studs to use as a brace for cabinets.
3. Remove doors from cabinets. (This makes installation much easier!)
4. Starting from the left, measure from the edge of the cabinet to the stud, and transfer the measurement to the cabinet, accounting for the front frame.
5. Use a drill to drill hole in the back of each cabinet. Do this at top, middle, and bottom rails of each cabinet, with the top and bottom around 3/4 from the edge.
6. Hold the cabinet where it will be positioned and drill mounting screws into the wall, just tight enough to keep the cabinet in place.
7. Check to make sure the cabinet is level and plumb and shim behind it if needed. (We did.)
8. Now take the second cabinet and hold it in place, lining up the front so they’re even. You can now clamp the cabinets together if you want to keep them in position. Drive mounting screw into wall and use shims if needed.
9. Drill through the cabinet face frames and connect them with screws, then drill in the rear screams.
10. Take off the clamps and 1 x 4 board on the wall.
11. Repeat with next row.
12. Reattach doors.
13. For the handles, pulls, or knobs, measure and mark where each pull is going with a pencil, drill a hole in each door, then attach with a screwdriver and screws. (This was actually the very last thing we did in the room, but you can do it any time after the cabinets are hung.)

(Click here to shop everything in this photo!)

Once the cabinets were in, the counter and bench were installed, and then we hung the shelves. Hanging shelves is a really simple process, and only took about half an hour.

1. For rows of shelves, begin with the bottom shelf.
2. Using a level and tape measure, make sure the placement is straight and centered (we measured between the cabinets to the left and wall to the right.)
3. Mark guidelines with a pencil or painter’s tape.
4. Ideally you’d like to screw into a wall stud (which we did), so use a stud finder, then attach shelf to wall using screws and wall anchors (these were included in the shelves we chose).
5. Repeat all steps for any additional shelves.

We also cut down a dowel rod and used white shelf brackets (we painted one black) to make a laundry rod for hanging clothes.

And finally, once the main storage items were installed (the cabinets and shelves), we focused on creating storage using smaller objects: Large storage baskets for housing shoes, smaller storage baskets to sit on the counter for rags and miscellaneous objects, and storage jars for clothes pins, dryer balls, and pocket change (you can make similar ones with mason jars and chalkboard paint, or get these cool vintage looking storage jars).

Through this remodel, we learned that it’s easier than you think to create essential (and visually beautiful!) storage in a laundry room/mud room (or any smaller room) with the right combination of cabinets, shelves, and smaller storage accessories like baskets. For any of you looking to optimize storage, I hope this proved helpful! And as always, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

LIST OF PRODUCTS USED TO CREATE STORAGE FOR REMODEL
Large Cabinets: Diamond NOW Arcadia 30-in W x 30-in H x 12-in D White Shaker Door Wall Cabinet
Small Cabinets: Diamond NOW Arcadia 30-in W x 14-in H x 12-in D White Shaker Door Wall Cabinet
Cabinet Pulls: Brainerd Bar Pulls Center to Center Stainless Steel Cabinet Pull
Shelves: allen + roth 24-in W x 1.5-in H x 7.8-in D Wood Wall Mounted Shelving
Level: Johnson Level 48-in I-beam Level
Stud Finder: Franklin Sensors ProSensor 1.6-in Scan Depth Aa Metal and Wood Stud Finder
Shims: Nelson Wood Shims Shim (Actual: 1.25-in x 7.75-in)
Drill: standard drills
Screws: standard screws
Screwdriver: standard screwdrivers
1 x 4: 1 x 4 wood board
Dowel/Laundry Rod: Madison Mill Round Wood Poplar Dowel (Actual: 72-in L x 1.25-in dia)
Shelf Brackets for Laundry Rod: Blue Hawk Plastic 2.05-in D x 2.05-in L x 0.77-in W White Shelf Bracket
Large Storage Baskets: RGI HOME 18-in W x 12-in H x 14.25-in D Natural Fiber Basket
Small Storage Baskets: 11-in W x 9-in H x 10-in D Natural Water Hyacinth Milk Crate

Huge thanks to Lowe’s for partnering with us on this project and post! 

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Good shepherd

anka

I always thought I’d be a golden retriever person. And I still am. Indeed, I am still very much into the gun dog breeds. I will always have one around.

But I’ve added to my canine tastes an entirely different sort of dog. Well, they aren’t entirely different. I really like the working shepherd dogs from the European continent. They are into retrieving, too, but their natural tendency is to retrieve with a very hard mouth. Half-wild sheep or cattle living on the North European Plain need hard tending.

Anka is a working German shepherd, whose ancestry I’ll never know, but I know she is from working lines. Her dark sable color predominates in those strains, and she is only 64 pounds.

She has decided that I am her main human and with me is as demonstrative and fawning as a golden retriever. With strangers, she is merely aloof. Aggression towards people really isn’t her thing. She loves children and will even adjust her wild playing to meet their needs.

I suppose now I will always have a dog of this type too. The two types of dog are an interesting juxtaposition to each other. Both are about seeking the approval of mankind. Both are about marveling at our species. As flawed as we are, there is something oddly comforting to look into the brown eyes of a dog like these two types.

A German shepherd is a wolfy enough animal for me to think of them as something truly primitive. But their primeval appearance is illusory. They were made wolves out of herding stock, and though they may have a bit of Central European wolf blood coursing their veins, they are working herding breed.

I suppose that as I gain more experience meeting dogs, I will have new ideas about them, and I have the right to change my mind as new facts and faces come to the fore.

I never thought I’d feel this way about a dog of this type, but I really do like her. I love her soft sensitivity, which she avails only to a select few, but it is so different from what I’ve seen in other “macho” breeds.  The boxer and working bulldog types I’ve been around are not like this at all. They are many things, but sensitive souls they are not.

I feel so embarrassed that I was wrong about this breed. Dogs barking like maniacs in backyards or the ones that you pass at the park that growl at you as their owners hold their leads tightly are not truly representative of the breed.

In fact, those same dogs in the right hands might be the most stable working dogs. and with their owners, they might be biggest babies that cower before the Yorkshire terrier or cat that lives in the house.

Anka has this odd sense of humor. It is developed and refined. She greets me with a lick on the face, and then when I’m not looking at her, she will pop her jaws just an inch from my face. I will flinch, and she will look back at me with this goofy grin. Her eyes are so soft and gentle, yet you cannot readily see them through her black mask.

And the way those eyes look at me, I know that I am hers and she is mine, and all will go right with the universe so long as we can be together.

 

 

Natural History

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To the water

ian casting

Bluegill aren’t the prized fish of any big-time angler. They are pretty easy to catch, and in some not particularly pressured bodies of water they will happily nail unbaited hooks.

But they have a special place in my heart. I’m fairly certain that the first fish I ever landed was a bluegill, and if I’m feeling that I can’t catch anything, I’ll always try to for the bluegill. I’ve never gone bluegill fishing and failed to land at least one, and if you’re just looking to cast out and drown some worms, they provide a bit of relaxation and hint of Zen-like meditation.

And they are beautiful fish. The males in spawning color have the most spectacular turquoise marking around the heads and gill-plates. Were they not the banal fish of every little fishing hole, they would probably be prized as a sort of temperate cichlid and cost at least $ 25 a pair.

The current project around the house is setting up a native fish tank. It’s a birthday gift to my partner, and what’s more, my partner’s son is spending a few weeks with us.

And I get to share that childhood joy of landing that first bluegill, which he did this week. I wanted to make sure he got the fundamentals of fishing before we went out “for real,” when we were going out deep in the quest for our new tank specimens.

I taught to cast using a Zebco reel. The Zebco was the reel I first learned to use, and in a about a half hour’s worth of casting practice, he was doing the job well.

So we went to the lake at a little state park not far from here. We threw some night-crawlers and mealworms in the blackness of a summer lake. The bright orange bobbers floated like alien craft on the surface of the water, and every once in a while, the bobbers would tense up and shift, sure sign that a creature was nibbling at our bait. And then the bobber would go below the surface, and I’d say jerk and reel, and we’d miss.

But then we didn’t. The little bluegill fought his hardest against the line being spooled back towards the shore. He was so small that I was certain he’d gotten unhooked, and the boy reeled in his line, expecting to be left with a bare hook. Instead, he pulled in the little blue.

And his eyes beamed with pride at having landed that fish. It was prize every bit as a great as that record-breaking muskie or that giant flat-head reeled on a hot summer night’s fishing foray.

To the water we have gone.  And we have gone in search of beasts. We cast our lines into the murky universe that we can never fully enter. We hope that our baits are good, that our hooks are sharp, that our knots are steady, and that we reel just right.  Our big brains and dexterous thumbs have made us masters of the land, but when it comes to the life aquatic, we are mere amateurs. It matters little if we’re casting into little farm ponds or into the deep swelling sea. The fish have the answers. We can only hope that we ask the right questions and hope that luck swims in our way.

I hope I have passed on some of this mystery to Little Ian. I know that I have given him a chance to have some fun and think about the world that is not ensnared in steel and concrete. To consider the organic world from which we all descend is a gift I wish every child could receive.

So now we’re ready to collect our first specimens. I hope we get some bluegills or, even better, some of their related sunfish kin. These are the beauty fish of North America, but they are so common that we never consider their beauty fully. They are bycatch for bass and crappie anglers or bait for the flat-head hunters.

But they are still marvelous. And yes, they are tasty.

ian catches fish.jpg

 

Natural History

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Ohio Cat Caught Carbon Monoxide Leak and Saved His Family

Mr. Boo the cat

Photo Credits: Kecskes Family

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and potentially lethal gas. Although many families now have carbon monoxide detectors by their smoke detectors, not everyone has the life-saving alarms. Luckily for one family that didn’t have an alarm, their cat, Mr. Boo, alerted them to a gas leak and saved the lives of all four family members.

According to daughter Ariana, her cat Mr. Boo “never meows. He usually just squeaks or doesn’t meow at all. It’s actually kind of a joke in our family” she said. Thankfully he meowed as much as he could when his family was in danger.

David Kesckes, his wife, daughter Ariana, and son were all asleep in their home in Green Township, Ohio. “I woke up to my cat meowing,” said Ariana. Mr. Boo then did more than meow. “He was sort of stumbling down the hallway and he just kept meowing. He seemed to kind of want us to get out of the house. He passed out so many times trying to wake us all up and that just amazing because he’s never really meowed before,” Ariana said.

Fox19 played part of the 911 call. You can hear David tell the dispatcher, “my daughter fainted in the hallway, my son fainted on the back porch, and our cat fainted in the living room.” David got his son up to carry Ariana outside. Ariana’s mom got Mr. Boo out. Even Mr. Boo’s feline friend, the family’s other cat, did his part. “Our other cat actually walked in and kind of revived him because he was knocked out…[he] sniffed him like ‘Hey, get up,’” explained Ariana. The reporter later tweeted a photo of Mr. Boo resting with Ariana.

Photo Credits: @Fox19_Mike

“That cat’s a hero for sure,” said David. According to Local12.com, Ariana said that Mr. Boo is a rescue cat who has been part of the family for seven years. Not every rescue pet will be a hero, but we know that they all have the potential to be amazing. That’s part of why Halo, GreaterGood.org, and Freekibble donate over 1.5 million bowls of Halo food to shelter pets every year. Shelter professionals have told us that more pets get adopted from their shelters because the animals thrive on high-quality Halo food. The more pets who get adopted, the more families like the Kesckes, can have their own heroes.

“Had this situation gone on much longer, the outcome could have been different,” said Green Township Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Hummeldorf. Firefighters detected lethal levels of carbon monoxide in the house. “We’re celebrating the fact that we’re all alive,” David told reporters. Boo went missing after the ordeal but was thankfully found that afternoon, hiding in the family basement. The whole family, Mr. Boo included, were okay in the end.

Our pets do so much for us, Halo believes in doing everything we can for them, starting with great food. We hope Mr. Boo is getting a hero’s reward with lots of love and healthy treats. Reflecting on his heroic meows that fateful May morning, Arian said, “It’s like he’s been waiting his whole life to do this one heroic thing.”

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Grooming Fail

Donkey fauxhawk! A new trend perhaps? Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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New life

birth

The hours passed on nice summer day. All day the mother dog has panted and stared. Her maiden litter was on its way, and I was there to watch them come.

A sweet little golden retriever, she was too sensitive to push unless she knew her people where there to stroke her ears and tell her what a good girl she is.

As the night drew near, she climbed on the bed between us and then began her long night of pushing and pushing. A wave of contractions would rise from within her, and she would rise in discomfort and turn around. Then she would go prone again against the bed, but the next wave would have her rise, pushing and turning in her primal mammalian dance of parturition.

At one point, her vulva was just inches from my face, and in her pushing, I could see the coming amniotic sack, and then I saw the head of a golden retriever puppy emerge from her body cavity. It was perfection just wrapped in a sheet of biological plastic wrap.

Another push or two, and the bitch screamed as the puppy passed from the prenatal state into the breathing and screaming existence that we call life.

Then the membrane that held him so securely then split away from his face,  and as the oxygen filled his little lungs, he inched over to the milk-filled mammaries and helped himself to a good helping of colostrum.

But he was still connected to his placenta and for what seemed an eternity to me, he was both nursing off his mother and tapping into her blood supply. He was trapped between both states, but one was about to let him go and sink into the other.

He suckled ravenously, and the mother dog expelled the placenta. And thus the first of a litter of seven little puppies entered the world. Through the dark hours of the night, two little girl puppies and four more little boys lurched forward into the great bursting of existence.

And the mother dog shared it with me. She, a beast perfected over the eons to serve mankind, needed us to hold her as she began to force her progeny into the world.

I have never before been privy to such a spectacle. I have no interest in producing a child of my own, and all of my experiences with dogs whelping have been fleeting memories from childhood, where the bitch whelped black crossbreeds in the back of the garage and I hoped that the daddy was a Labrador and not the fierce boxer from up the road. And obvious flattened muzzles exhausted those hopes very quickly.

But to know a dog like this one, one that trusts me enough to share this intimate aspect of her life, is a moving experience. I am better for having been privy to the entire spectacle.

And I am happy. I am content. And I am free.

 

 

Natural History

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Ask Paris: My Dog Doesn’t Want to Pee Outside!

My two-year-old Golden Doodle is reluctant to go in the backyard to do her business. I coax her to do so but she seems afraid to venture out unless I stay with her. Also even though she gets taken…



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DogTipper

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Saying Goodbye to a Best Friend (+ Feelings On Being An ‘Influencer’ In Difficult Times)

Saying Goodbye to a Best Friend (+ Feelings On Being An 'Influencer' In Sad Times)

When I posted back on July 2nd about taking a break while we were in the mountains of Colorado, I fully intended on the blog being nice and full this week. I did share a really fun post about my favorite summer snack food, but shortly after hitting publish on it, I got a call that my best friend of 23 years, who had been battling ALS since early last year, had just passed away. I knew that call was coming any day now. But it didn’t make it any easier. It hurt really, really bad. I’m crying as I type this, to be honest. I feel very depressed. It sucks. So I just couldn’t post about anything else today (or yesterday) other than what is happening – yet I struggled with whether or not to post this too. And I want to explain why.

I get more emails and messages asking how I became an “influencer” (so not a fan of that term but “blogger” sounds outdated these days) than any other topic. And honestly, I don’t have an answer. It’s not something I planned by any means. I worked in the fashion industry for 14 years as an eco-friendly designer, and then I started this blog as a side project to promote a new Etsy shop I’d opened back in 2010. Much to my surprise, the blog took off more than I ever imagined, and eventually evolved into a full on lifestyle site (which was completely different than how it started). A few years later I had Essley (my first babe), and shortly after that I decided to close the clothing line and work full time on my blog and social media accounts. In the past year and a half, they have become a solid way to support my family. I work a lot, and I work hard, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a really great gig. I get to stay home with my kids and still support them monetarily through creative work. I get to partner with some really great brands. I get some seriously fantastic opportunities for projects and campaigns. There is a lot of work and a lot of reward. I am very grateful.

In times of loss or tragedy, however, I feel torn about how to go about things around here. The weird thing about being an “influencer” (again, not a fan of that term) for a living is that even when you keep the vast majority of your life private (which I do), you want to remain authentic. (Or at least I do, and I know most of my friends in the industry do as well.) Yes, I partner with brands when I tell my stories, but I am always genuine, and I always incorporate my true self. And that makes it really difficult when something really shitty happens in your personal life. Blogs are not journals like they were 10 years ago. But they also aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be, in my opinion) commercials that lack soul or substance. When something like this happens, do I just keep posting and treating this like a job in an effort to be professional, even though my friends and I are heavily grieving? Do I not post at all and just allow myself a break, even if that means risking income my family depends on? Or do I find a place in between, where I am sharing with my followers (who over the years have become friends!) what is going on, and pay tribute to one of the greatest people I ever knew, without getting too personal or crossing a line?

Really, I can’t pinpoint the “right” thing to do when it comes to my weird job in times like these. So I’m just going with my gut. I pushed back some sponsored posts, and some happy-go-lucky posts, because even though this is a job, the most important thing in my life right now is focusing on this great loss, and sending all of my love to the beautiful inside and out wife Marissa, absolutely amazing 2 year old daughter Mika (seen in the photo above), and wonderful parents that Goki left behind when his battle came to an end on Wednesday. Because this isn’t about me or my completely insignificant ramblings about what I should share here. It’s about them. His close friends are really hurting right now, but they are the ones who were really left behind. (I can also confidentially say that Goki would be shaking his head and laughing at me reading this. He always made fun of me for overthinking everything. He was/is a true free spirit. I’m just a wannabe.)

I want to share with you guys something my 4 year old daughter said to me yesterday morning when I woke up: “Mommy, don’t be sad. Goki is fine! When he died yesterday, the universe sent a bubble, and it took him up to the stars, to heaven, and he feels much better. I promise he is so happy! Mika knows this too.” Those were her exact words. And I believe her. He suffered for a long time, and now he is free. If any of your happen to be grieving a loss, I hope her words help you as well.

I’ve been thinking about addressing this subject here for a while, and my mind is so overwhelmed right now that I needed to address it, but I don’t want it to overshadow the main reason I’m posting – and that’s that the world has lost one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. Goki, thank you for years of adventures together (all over the U.S., Costa Rica, Mexico, the Bahamas, etc. etc. etc.), phone calls that lasted for hours (and always with wine), endless laughs (usually late at night), and for always being so protective of me. I love you forever.

And to all of you, thank you for letting me ramble on with my thoughts, and share pieces of my life and heart here, in between the posts about pretty things and family projects and food and fashion and the things that make life fun but ultimately aren’t nearly as important as relationships and love. In the end, those are the ONLY things that matter.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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