10 Quick Tips for an Easy Move

October 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

I read somewhere once that moving is one of life’s biggest stressors, up there with death, divorce, and illness. My boyfriend and I recently moved an hour north to a different apartment (Ahwatukee to North Phoenix), and I thought I’d share some tips that helped us along the way plus a few tips I’d picked up long ago when my family moved six times in three years. I hope this helps you get through a move that is as painless and stress-free as possible!

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~ PACKING ~

1. Fill up the boxes. As I was packing all my books and other heavy items, I thought that I’d save everyone a load of hassle by filling the boxes about ¾ of the way. They’d be lighter, I figured, and thus far easier to move.

Wrong.

Enter the movers on moving day, who attempted to stack all my boxes on top of one another on their dollies and found that a lot of the half-full ones ended up crushed due to the weight of the boxes on top. Empty space = bad. Fill the boxes, heaviness be damned. Otherwise you’ll hastily be wrapping boxes with tape in order to hold them together for the journey.

2. Tape the boxes on top. Coming from the same I’ll-save-everyone-a-bunch-of-trouble department, I folded the box tops neatly rather than tape them shut after I’d finished jamming stuff inside them. This, I figured, saved us a bunch of tape and would keep me from going too crazy during the unpacking process. Again, I was wrong. The movers couldn’t quite keep the exasperation out of their voices when they (politely and professionally) informed me we’d need to tape all the tops on top in order for them to move them safely.

The wrong way to close box tops.

The wrong way to close box tops.

In short? As far as those boxes go, fill them all the way to the top and then tape them shut.

3. Color code everything. As you’re packing, tape sticky notes to each box and clearly label what is inside each of them. Separate each box by room according to its final destination: Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom #1, etc. Then, in your new home/apartment, label the rooms so the movers can clearly see where each box is supposed to end up.colorcoded IMG_7267

This saves an enormous amount of hassle when you’re unpacking. Instead of hunting all over the house for a specific box containing your plates and silverware, you’ll be able to find it easily in your kitchen. And for goodness sakes, put those sticky notes on all four sides of the boxes as well as the top. Once they’re stacked up against the wall or on top of each other, you’ll never guess which one is which just by glancing at them if the side with the sticky note attached is hidden.

4. Put plastic bags around everything questionable. Spices? Lotions? Vinegar? Wrap it up before putting it in a box. You will not regret it.

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5. Get your keys prior to move-in day. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but if it is, it’ll prevent even more stress.

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At our first apartment, my boyfriend and I went into the office on move in day and our movers had to wait in the truck until we had signed our lives away, received our keys, and located our unit within the complex. Then, they followed us up the stairs and waited yet again while we took in our apartment for the first time and decided how we wanted to arrange the furniture.

Figure out how you want your furniture arranged, what each bedroom will be, etc. prior to move in day. And going back to the color coded boxes, get to the apartment ahead of the movers if you can and label each room so your movers will know which boxes go the second they walk in the new place.

~ MOVING DAY ~

6. Hire movers. Repeat after me: Thou shall hire movers for thy move.

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If you only have a few pieces of furniture in addition to some boxes and are moving ground floor to ground floor in the same city, by all means rent a truck and grab a few friends to help you out. It can be done (and I have memories of helping to move college friends in and out of apartments to prove it).

But for all other situations? Namely, if you are moving a bed, two night stands, three bookshelves, a kitchen table, six chairs, two dressers, a couch, two desks, a TV stand, a coffee table, fourteen thousand boxes, and a partridge in a pear tree down three floors and up another three? Movers. Movers all the way. They take 90% of stress (and chances of potential injury) out of moving. I cannot stress this enough: They are worth every single penny.

7. Keep a toolbox on hand. Before the movers get to your house/apartment make sure that one thing is left unpacked: A toolbox complete with different screwdrivers, scissors, packing tape, a box cutter or two, and labeled ziplock bags containing all the bolts, nails, and/or screws from any dismantled furniture. You will use the tools more often during the day than you think.

Example: My boyfriend and I forgot to unbolt one dresser from the wall and he was able to unscrew it during the hasty process of moving thanks to our toolbox being so accessible. Otherwise, who knows how long we would have hunted for the right screwdriver? Yes, I know, worse things have happened. But on move in day, stress can quickly turn small inconveniences into crises.

8. Have snacks on hand. To prevent general grouchiness (and a trip to the ER, if you’re hypoglycemic like me), have some fruit and granola bars out at the new apartment for your family as well as the movers (I also provided Rice Krispies Treats™). Not only do you need to keep your strength up during the day since you’ll be moving up and down stairs far more often than you think, your movers will appreciate the kind gesture. (Just don’t eat anything cold that’s been sitting in a car for an hour. See the bonus tip at the end of this for more details.)

9. Take your jewelry off. This is pure common sense, but I’m including it in this list because I didn’t think to do it on move in day. Behold a necklace that I’d worn every day for almost four years with its chain broken because it got caught on a box corner as I was setting it down:

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Again, common sense. Hopefully you have more of it than I did.

10. Breathe. Moving might not exactly be on par with death, divorce, and illness, but it is nevertheless an incredibly stressful time. Rest assured that all your boxes don’t have to be unpacked on move in day or even the day after. Also, rest assured that the world will not end if your new house/apartment looks like an Ikea store for a while. Relax. You made it from apartment to apartment/house to house. Take a deep breath and have fun turning your house into a home!

BONUS TIP: Don’t attempt to take cold stuff with you unless you have a cooler with ice. Better yet, don’t eat anything cold (i.e. deli ham) that has been sitting in your car for over an hour lest you want to spend your first night at your new place throwing your guts up in your glossy, new bathroom sink.

Introducing…. Theon!

October 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

Oh, hi, blogosphere.

This past month disappeared in a nanosecond. My last blog post featured our move to North Phoenix (exciting, I know) and since then, I unpacked and attempted to make our apartment more of a home, worked around the clock for the days my boss was out of town, turned 24, flew to the Homes for Horses Coalition Conference in Texas, had a friend visit from New York City stay with us for a few days, and all the while started the process of transitioning the ranch into the fourth quarter of our year (read: LOTS of new changes, developments, programs, and fundraising). Needless to say, I blinked and we’re in October.

I have about twelve blogposts I want to work on and post soon but tonight, I wanted to dust off this blog in order to introduce you guys to the newest member of our family….. Theon!

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Alex and I had been talking about getting another cat for months. For the past six weeks Alex had been looking at cats online and we’ve always looked at pictures posted by different shelters, but we never actually made the leap to go look at any of them. Our first concern was that Gypsy wouldn’t want another cat in the house. On raged the debate: Would she like a playmate? If so, how old? What kind? Male or female? We had no idea.

Today when I got home from work Alex had found another shelter online and was looking through the kittens they had up for adoptions. Something felt different as we looked at this batch of kitties. It was pouring rain outside as we sat trying to figure out what we wanted to do…. Finally we decided to brave driving in the storm to go take a look.

We got to the place (the Arizona Humane Society in the Biltmore area) and looked around at the kittens. We talked to the nice ladies there about Gypsy, and which one we thought would be a good fit for a six-year-old ornery cat who was incredibly playful but still the queen of the household. They showed us to the little room where people can go to play with the animals and started bringing us kittens one by one.

The first one was a male named Dexter and he was absolutely wild. Alex and I had a blast playing with him but he was absolutely bouncing off the walls – far too energetic for us and Gypsy. The next one was a less-playful but still fun female, but while she was cute, she didn’t really speak to either of us.

Next came this little gray kitten – eleven weeks old – who nicely started to play with the wand toy that was in the room.

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We liked him a lot, just like we liked the other kittens that had been brought in the room. But then Alex picked him up and cradled him in his arms so he lay on his back with his four paws in the air. He does this to Gypsy all the time, who tolerates it for about 30 seconds before squirming to be free. The other kittens wiggled away, too.

Not this kitten. When Alex gently flipped him on his back and held him to his chest, this little guy curled up into a little ball, happily looked up at Alex, and mewed contentedly. And when he was back on the ground, he wandered right into my lap and looked up at me with huge kitten eyes.

Heart. Melted.

We looked at a few other orange kitties from the same litter and very nearly fell in love with another one, but when we walked out of the room and looked at our little gray friend again, it was pretty obvious who had picked us. We thanked the ladies who’d helped us, told them we’d be back, and went to dinner so we could sit and think about it a little more.

As we walked around looking for a place to eat, we started thinking of names. Nothing really came to mind for a gray cat until Alex said Theon Greyjoy (a Game of Thrones character, for those of you who don’t know). As I started to shout NO he laughed and pointed out how the sky was gray (almost unheard of in Arizona) and it was perfect how we were bringing Theon home on a stormy, gray day and almost before we could totally decide if we were actually bringing home another cat we were referring to him as Theon. He was never anything else.

Also the poor guy was neutered yesterday. Game of Thrones watchers will get the reference.

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As we sat eating dinner and talking about how we couldn’t believe we were bringing home Theon the same day we decided to just go look at kittens, we laughed over how we were going to tell our family and friends about him. Because we don’t plan on posting an actual pregnancy announcement within the next, oh, ten years (if ever), we decided to have some fun with telling everyone we were adopting another cat.

We went back to the shelter (to the delight of the ladies who had helped us), signed the paperwork, collected Theon, and blissfully headed to the car. And while we were at Petsmart picking up another litter box, some more food bowls, kitten food, and a few new toys, I posted this to Facebook:

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I got messages, texts, and phone calls almost right away demanding to know whether I meant a human baby or a kitten baby while Alex and I laughed during the drive home then eventually from the bathroom in the office where we set Theon up with his new things.

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We put some of Gypsy’s toys in the room that she doesn’t play with and he’s had a ball so far. He’s so playful and so eager to jump into our laps and swat playfully at Alex’s shoelaces or my hair.

And gosh, he is sensitive and just sosweet. While we were driving, Theon cried and cried from his cardboard carrier the Humane Society had given us, so Alex took him out (I was driving) and held him carefully against his chest for the entire way from the shelter to Petsmart, then eventually from Petsmart to our apartment. Both times, Theon stopped crying the moment Alex picked him up and settled contentedly against his chest. And as we were halfway home, he actually fell asleep in his arms.

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Gypsy already knows something is up since she hears his little cries from the bathroom every now and then. We’re going to keep the doors to the office and the bathroom shut between them for at least a week or two, then we’ll slowly start to let them peek at each other. If we’re patient and let them get used to each other on their own time, I think these two will be the best of friends some day. Also we’re hoping for some super cute moments of them playing together and even Gypsy maybe grooming baby Theon.

To our Theon – we are so lucky you are ours. You captured our hearts the moment we saw you and we can’t wait to watch you grow. Everything happens for a reason, and while we had no idea we were going to bring you home today, even though we weren’t expecting to suddenly have two kitties, you changed our minds just by being your sweet, loving self. You’re with us for good, sweet baby boy. Welcome home.

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Ahwatukee to North Phoenix: Our Move

September 4, 2015 § 2 Comments

Kitty, boyfriend, and I are moved into our new apartment, and we are all both thrilled that the move is over and thrilled to be in our new place.

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I went into this bound and determined to make this move as painless as utterly possible, because moving has always been a bit of a sore spot with me. My family and I moved six or seven times in three years when I was 12 to 15, and each move was something along the lines of traumatic. Needless to say, when the moving boxes came out a few months ago, so did lots of ugly crying and painful memories.

But then I color-coded the boxes, so it was okay.

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This move really was different than any other move I’d been through before. Moving into the dorms in college was a whirlwind of adrenaline and excitement. Moving back home a year later was both a relief and a downer (but mostly a relief). When I moved in with Alex last October, he’d already been settled in the Ahwatukee apartment we’d picked out together for a few months. Because we moved in at separate times, we still had a relatively clear line as to what was his stuff and what was mine.

But this apartment? Everything in it is ours. And getting everything into it went as smoothly as moving can go. In fact, I might even say it was relatively painless.

One reason our move was relatively painless? Movers.

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When Alex and I sat down to plan the logistics of moving, we both debated for a minute or two as to whether or not we could save money and just rent a truck then move our stuff ourselves. One look at my three full bookshelves (and a couch and two desks and a coffee table and a kitchen table and two dressers and a bed and a TV stand and and and) and knowing the fact that we were on the third floor both ways quickly made up our minds.

Our movers saved us. They were outrageously expensive but they were worth every. single. penny.

 

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Best picture ever – there was another “Two Men And A Truck” team there moving another family into the same complex!

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Color-coding each box was something my mom did every time our family had to pack up and move. Because mommies know everything, I copied her and it was the best thing I could have done. Our movers were great about putting the right boxes to the right room which is saving us a world of hassle now as we’re unpacking and don’t have to worry about dragging any boxes anywhere.

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One thing I didn’t do was tape the boxes shut on top. I folded them and figured it would be good. But one of the movers took a look at them on moving day and said we’d have to tape them up, otherwise they’d be crushed when they started to stack them. Oops. Lesson learned.

Our movers got to the Ahwatukee apartment at ten to eight. Prior to that, we put Gypsy in the bathroom with her litter box and carrier and shut the door so we could keep the front doors open. I think the worst part of the entire day was listening to her cry behind the closed door as she tried to figure out what was going on.

But the movers left the new place a little after 1pm, and not long after kitty was happily exploring away.

IMG_7344 IMG_7317IMG_7315IMG_7312I did learn a few things the hard way. Number one: It would have been a good idea to take off the necklace Alex gave me that I have worn every day for almost four years before we started moving. The chain snapped when it got caught on a box corner as I was setting it down. Luckily I was able to find the key charm and we’re going to find another chain for it soon.

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Another lesson learned? It probably isn’t a good idea to eat ham that’s been sitting in the car for the hour-long commute up to the new place, because even if you packed it in with the cold stuff, it’ll still go bad and you’ll still taste it twice.

Honestly though? Moving day was a good day. We even met our neighbors, a very sweet engaged couple with two cats and a dog of their own. I met one of the women as we were going up and down the stairs with boxes (she was very nice to let us pass first!) and the other when she knocked on our door in the evening to introduce herself and also ask if we had a bottle opener. We ended up chatting for a while about our pets and her work. I’m really looking forward to getting to know them!

As for this apartment, Alex and I are still loving it. We were living in a 700 square foot one-bedroom, so two bedrooms and two bathrooms is like a legit palace to us. We get a kick out of the fact that we have to actually search for each other now since before, we could stand in one spot and see the entire apartment. Even as I’m sitting in bed writing this now, Alex just trekked over from his desk across the apartment to say, “I hate being so far away from you!”
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Alex is excited that he essentially gets his own bathroom and that our microwave has a spinning plate. He’s not excited that he can’t use the kitchen being too small as an excuse to not help me cook anymore.

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I love that I have my very own office now. Half of my job I do from home, and it’s going to be much easier and more efficient for me to work when I don’t have papers spread out over my bed or my kitchen table. Also? I love that our bathtubs are enormous and that we have so much storage space.

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As for kitty? She is just in heaven. She’s been prowling around the place (and on top of the cabinets) like she owns the joint, which I suppose she does.

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This morning, she woke us up because she’d hopped onto one of the boxes just under the window in our room and wanted to see out. I got up and opened the blinds for her and she happily sat down on the windowsill to watch the sun rise.

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We live next to a quarry, but Alex and I are convinced that fake tree is a spy tower and there’s a secret lab underneath that building.

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Now that we have some extra space, Alex and I are seriously thinking about getting her a brother. We’ve wanted to for the better part of a year, but we’re just not entirely sure if she would handle another cat well. We constantly ask her if she wants a sibling, and this is pretty much her response:

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We shall see…..

Meanwhile, it’s back to work for me tomorrow (my weekdays run Saturdays through Wednesdays) but we’ve managed to put together our furniture and unpack a little. We’ll be unpacking for quite some time!

It is so, so good to be home back in the area I know and love – and only 15 minutes away from work as opposed to close to an hour. I’m actually looking forward to my drive tomorrow, and I’m excited to keep making this apartment more of a home for us.

(Just a heads up, for anyone interested, I plan on writing another post with quick tips and tricks for an easy move in the future!)

 

~

P.S. #thecoffeepotisfound

Crock-Pot Homemade Applesauce

August 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

In explanation of the huge bag of apple cores I brought to work for the horses today, I mentioned to a few people that I’d made homemade applesauce the night before. They then asked for the recipe. I can’t take credit for it, as much as I’d like to – I found it on Pinterest here.

But I did take pictures of my attempt to make something from scratch yesterday, so naturally I’ll blog about it.IMG_7049

What you’ll need:

  • 6 apples (I used gala)
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-2 tablespoons of honey

Instructions:

  1. Cut the apples into 1-inch chunks. No peeling necessary!
  2. Throw apples into a Crock-Pot.
  3. As you put the apples in, put the cinnamon stick somewhere near the bottom of the pot.
  4. Realize your Crock-Pot is really small.IMG_7052
  5. Pour the 1/2 cup of pineapple juice on top of the apples.
  6. Drizzle the honey and sprinkle the nutmeg and cinnamon over the apples.
  7. Cook on high for 4 hours.
  8. IMG_7090Mash/stir the apples together.
  9. Marvel at your cooking skills.IMG_7094
  10. Let cool for 20 or 30 minutes
  11. Eat as much as you want, then put the rest in cute little Mason jars.IMG_7096

Enjoy, you guys!

That One Time I Had the Perfect Comeback Exactly When I Needed It

August 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tierra Madre’s benefit dinner and silent auction was a success on many different levels. The ranch raised just under $9,000 for the horses and everyone had a great time. And on top of this, I personally learned a valuable lesson in setting boundaries and standing my ground for well-earned respect.

Our event started at 6pm, and beginning at roughly 5:45pm, I had three or four volunteers manning the registration table just outside the room. These amazing ladies took down last names, handed out raffle tickets and bidding numbers, and made sure all the guests filled out and signed bidding registrations. They got people in rapidly, too.

By 7pm, the room was hopping and the resort wait staff was ready to serve dinner. No one had come up to the table for 10 minutes or so by that point, anyway. I went over to the registration table and sent my hungry volunteers into the room so they could eat, then asked our AV guy to hook up my mic and started releasing tables one by one to go through the buffet. By 7:15, nearly everyone had gone through the line, so I retreated to my table where my boyfriend had gotten me a plate and sunk gratefully into my chair.

Note: The time I sat down to eat was one of two times I’d sat down since about 5:30 in the morning. And just as I started to pick at my plate, one of the servers came over and tip-toed up to me.

“Sorry to bother you,” he said quietly, “But there’s a couple over there who just walked in and they said they’re supposed to be here. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to get food, or if they have tickets…?”

I bit my lip, got up, and went over and greeted the couple with a smile. “Hi, I take it you guys are here for the benefit?”

The man greeted me with, “Yeah, there wasn’t anyone at the check in table, so we just came right in.”

“That’s okay,” I said, still confused. “Are you guys….? So you guys have tickets, I take it?”

“Yeah, we have them here,” the wife responded, handing them to me. The man said again, “It wasn’t clear what we were supposed to do with them. No one was there outside to check us in.”

“Well, let’s get you over there now,” I said, starting to walk them towards the start of the room. At that point one of the people who had donated a few auction items came to ask me a question. I paused to answer it, and the man made an impatient noise and shuffled a bit. I ignored him. Not ten seconds later, after I’d answered the question, we were walking out to the check in, the man noticeably grumpy now.

“Okay,” I said when we got outside the room and I reached on the registration table for a guest list. “What’s your last name?”

They gave it. The man said again, “Yeah, this wasn’t clear at all. You should have had people out here to check us in. We had to come in to get answers.”

My patience started to evaporate. “Well, I sent my check in volunteers to eat at seven,” I said, fighting to keep my voice calm and shuffling through papers to find them on the guest list. “Registration started at six.”

“Yes, I know, I know, we’re late,” the guy said snappishly. “Deal with it.”

“Okay, you can lose the attitude, because I don’t want it,” I snarled at him.

The words flew out of my mouth before I even thought about them. The man looked as taken aback as I felt. But more so than taken aback, I was pissed.

I’d slaved over this event. I’d been working for 12 hours straight at that point and had worked for ten hours each of the two days before (which ironically were the two days I was supposed to have off for my weekend). I was beyond exhausted. I was hungry. My volunteers were tired and hungry and were taking well-deserved time to sit down and eat. And this man who’d come in an hour late had the balls to be snippy because no one had waited around to check him in whenever he felt like strolling in? No, my inner voice screamed in my head. HELL, no.

“I’m not giving you attitude—” the man replied meekly, and I cut him off.

“Good,” I snapped, loudly. “Because I don’t want it.”

He was dead silent as I finished checking them in and fished around for a raffle ticket and a bidding number. I heard his wife mumble to him under her breath, “You did sound like you had a bit of an attitude.”

In the end it worked out well, because he apologized profusely next time he saw me and we ended the night in smiles. He was one of the first customers to check out as soon as our auction ended, and during the time it took for us to get our check out system down to a science, he was nothing but polite and extremely patient with all of us. He’s not a nasty man by any means – I think he might have had a stressful a day as mine.

But I was proud of myself for setting my boundaries. I may be 23, but as the director of the nonprofit that guy and his wife were there to support and as the planner of the entire event – hell, as a human being, for God’s sake – I deserved politeness at the very least. And maybe an apology for being over an hour late.

In situations like these, everything usually happens so fast that I can’t think to say or do anything at all, and then I obsess about what I should have said or done for hours – if not days – afterwards. But not this time. And as far as I’m concerned, I don’t intend to have that problem ever again.

The Wonderful Madness of Putting Together a Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction

August 11, 2015 § 1 Comment

Some time in December of last year, I had the idea of putting together a Big Event for Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary. Something that would get the attention of potential corporate sponsors. Something we had never done before.

I vaguely thought about silent auctions. This Big Event needed to be a fundraiser, and those surely raised a good amount of funds, right? And, well, if people were going to be bidding on items, then maybe we should feed them, too? Amiright?

Hence, the brainstorming for Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary’s First Annual Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction began.

In high school I planned school fairs and ran student council meetings and was responsible for publishing the literary magazine. All small scale responsibilities. I’d never attempted anything this huge before.

But as I tell my new volunteers at the ranch, I believe in trial by fire. I believe the best way to learn anything is to just jump on it and DO it.

Thus this Big Event quickly turned into a Holy Crap I’ve Bitten Off Too Much Than I Can Chew Event and then right into an I Need A Committee Stat Event.

And so 90% of planning this event was me doing this:

and this

and especially this

And as I sit here, three days post-event, I am so in awe of how everything somehow came together.

At the end of January of this year, after brainstorming for a month or so, I started talking to venues. And when I say venues, I really only mean I decided within a matter of instants that the one and only place Tierra Madre would have its first benefit dinner and silent auction was the Carefree Resort and Conference Center. The place screams Wild West. Behind Black Mountain in Carefree and nestled among gorgeous Sonoran Desert scenery, the place is truly spectacular.

I made an appointment sometime during the beginning of February and headed up there to talk business. When I sat down with Emily, the event planner who was working at the Carefree Resort at the time, we were in their Opera House, which seats something like 500 people and has high ceilings, an enormous stage, pillars on the sides of the room, and an overall elegant atmosphere.

“For your first event, I would start small,” Emily gently told me back in February as we sat in the Opera House and I looked around with stars in my eyes. “You’d rather have a few extra people crammed in a small room than an enormous room with not enough people to fill it.”

She talked me into walking back through the main building into Mesquite South, a small banquet room, so we could look around. I somewhat reluctantly agreed upon the smaller room, and over the next week she worked out a deal with me so that we only had to pay a $100 deposit upfront, then pay the full balance on the night of the event. I picked out a date – August 8th – for no other reason other than the fact that I didn’t want to miss hanging out with my sister on her birthday on Saturday, July 25th and Saturday the 8th was the next available date after that.

I told all my staff and volunteers we’d saved a date. It felt like I’d just announced I was planning a wedding. But for all the work that put into this event, I honestly think I could have.

The rest of February and March and April and May and June brought everything. Creating flyers. Creating social media hype. Creating an Eventbrite account and signing up for ticket sales. Promoting ticket sales. Passing out flyers. Getting a committee together. Calling and emailing and pleading for donations. Sending donation receipts and thank-yous and follow up phone calls and emails. Figuring out our room setup. Figuring out if we’d have a band or not. Trying to get my favorite person in the history of ever Kenny Loggins to come perform for the event. (Yes, I actually tried this one and ended up getting an actual phone call from his manager who gently told me they couldn’t make our event without a significant fee.) Trying to get other entertainers. Working with our documentary crew to get a clip up and running for a brief showcasing.

By the end of June, we were gathering basket items. By July, we were putting baskets together. Gathering more items. Printing out certificates. Creating more hype over social media. Spreading more flyers. Meeting at the Carefree Resort every few weeks to go over room plans. Figuring out music. Figuring out AV equipment. Going back to Target for ribbon and plastic wrap and more cheap picture frames than I care to admit.

Sometime in July I decided to Google “How to run a silent auction,” because – as per my gif demonstration above, I walked into this without the slightest idea of what I was doing. You guys. Thank God for Google. I learned all about bidding sheets and fair market values and reserve amounts and bid increment minimums and minimum bid amounts and basket setup and bidding registration and bidding check out. Thus came many frustrating nights of creating spreadsheets that organized all the items and calculating start bids and making bidding sheets and trying to seem as though I knew what I was doing.

And during this ENTIRE process of muddling my way through planning, I had my committee to turn to for help. They were phenomenal. From getting donations from individuals to organizations to helping me put baskets together to keeping baskets at their house to simply texting on a weekly basis to ask if there was anything they could do, the four or five people who were there every step of the way – even if they couldn’t make the benefit itself – were simply amazing. Next year, I’m going to get better at delegating tasks (for the week leading up to the event I was working something like ten-hour days), because I know for a fact they would have helped in a heartbeat had I given them some of the work.

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Making the donor poster.

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Our apartment was a disaster for about two straight months as we put baskets together!

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Putting together the collage (photos taken by http://www.raysquared.net/)

Point is, without my crew, I couldn’t have gotten through the months of planning. No chance in hell.

And then came August. And then I realized The Holy Crap I’ve Bitten Off Too Much Than I Can Chew Event was a week away.

On August 1st, the weekend before the benefit, I spoke on the phone with a wonderful lady named Lanae who is a friend of a Carefree Resort staff member. She is an event planner and graphic designer, and she offered her assistance for the evening as a donation. Um, YES.

Lanae met my friend Amy, my partner-in-crime for the entire event planning process, and me at the Carefree Resort on Wednesday the 5th. We were to meet with Jennifer – our new event coordinator at the Resort – and go over final room setup. Jennifer and Amy and I had gone over room setup at least a thousand times before and we were hoping to confirm everything, including a final headcount.

I might mention at this point that the Mesquite South room at the Carefree Resort – the room we had agreed would be the best one for our first event – comfortably holds 75 people. On our contract and during all of our discussions with both Emily and Jennifer, we arranged to have between 50 and 75 guests.

Probably the best thing ever was when Amy and Lanae and I were chatting in the lobby at 1pm, waiting for Jennifer to join us, when the receptionist called me over saying Jennifer was on the phone. I stood up – trailing dirt and hay all over the lobby as I walked to the desk – and took the call.

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The TV screen at the Carefree Resort!

“Sorry I’m running a bit late, I’m just headed down now,” she said. “But tell me what our headcount is so I can get your bill and bring that down with me.”

“I just realized I never told you this morning,” I said, inwardly cringing as I realized about ten million other things I hadn’t done at that point. “Right now we’re up to a hundred and five.”

Ringing silence on the other end of the phone. Then…

“WHAT?!”

We had expected around fifty. Seventy-five at the very, very most.

But a hundred and five?

We were ALL astonished. Extremely, pleasantly astonished.

The four of us had some major discussions about whether or not that many people would fit in the room. After chatting a bit, we decided – as per what Emily told me back in February – it was far better to squeeze a few extra people in than have not enough to try to fill a larger room.

After our meeting, Lanae had some amazing props to show us. We went out to her car and went through all the things she used at events – fun, Western baskets and pails and burlap everything. She offered to make programs for us as well as table numbers. I was amazed. All the little details I’d been too busy to think about, and here she was offering to swoop in on a 72-hour notice to tackle these things for us.

The big day came, and after running the ranch in the morning, I got to the resort at noon to check into the room I’d reserved for the night so I a) wouldn’t have to drive an hour home and b) could store all the auction baskets safely before bringing them into the event room. Amy met me at the resort around 1pm and the two of us went over the game plan before she went back home to feed her dogs and get ready and I showered and tried to relax.

At 2pm Lanae arrived and started to set up her gorgeous decor. At 3pm, the rest of my setup crew – volunteers of the ranch – arrived on the scene and started laying out the auction baskets. Alec, our AV equipment guy for the evening, and I worked with our equipment for 30 minutes to try to get our documentary clip up and running, eventually getting success.

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The room as we were setting up!

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One of the many things Lanae made for us.

By 5pm, everything was mostly ready to go and the Carefree Resort staff stood by to get us anything we needed and probably started to make the food by then and then all of the sudden it was an hour later and it was go time and my plan for check in went smoothly and I had enough volunteers to man the registration table as people started to arrive and suddenly the cash bar was hopping and the room was filled with guests and laughter and waving and excited talking and hugs and craziness and awe-struck faces as they looked around at the gorgeous setup of the room.

It was absolutely perfect.

The auction went smoothly. The food – according to everyone – was fabulous (I couldn’t eat – I was too full of adrenaline!). After dinner, we had our presentation and the documentary clip went off without a hitch.

I started off the presentation with welcoming everyone and thanking those who had made the evening possible. After talking briefly about the ranch, I passed off the mic to Jim, my boss and the owner and founder of the ranch. He spoke beautifully about the mission of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary and drew both laughter and I’m sure a few tears from the crowd.

And then he thanked me for putting together the event.

And then he announced something that I still am not quite entirely sure is reality or just a really, really good dream.

Jim told the crowd how my dream is to go back to London some day. (My first time was during my study abroad trip in the summer of 2013.) His wonderful sister Jean donated two round-trip tickets to New York City as part of the auction, and I had joked with them earlier that morning about making them tickets to London instead. In fact, I’m always dreaming aloud about London.

And Jim proceeded to announce that as thanks for my hard work in putting together the benefit dinner and for running the ranch, Jim said, Tierra Madre will be sending me back to London. All I had to do was pick the dates.

Astonished doesn’t even begin to cover it. I don’t even know what my reaction was, I was so numb with shock to register a whole lot right then and there. But as the room burst into applause and Jim and Jean broke into huge smiles as they saw my face, I’m pretty sure I cried.

And then I laughed because Shana, who works with her wife Denise at the ranch with me as the manager and volunteer coordinator, respectively, shouted from the back of the room, “Well, we got you flowers!”

It was all too much.

The night ended with us hastily figuring out a system for the check out process, thanking people for being patient with us as we had them do donations through the website instead of putting their cards through our card reader, which was down (damn you, Square app, for being so confusing), and listening to the talented Josh Roy, who came to us last minute as our entertainer for the evening thanks to one of our awesome volunteers.

And at the end of the night, as Amy and I and a few others sat down to count what we’d earned, we realized that we had pulled in a whopping $8,726 dollars for the 33 horses of Tierra Madre.

Almost nine thousand dollars.

Let this just serve as inspiration for those of you out there who get overwhelmed by what seems to be the impossible.

I went from not having the slightest idea of what I was doing to striding around confidently during this benefit with a clipboard and giving out directions to the volunteers.

If I can pull something like this off and raise almost $9,000, you too, reader, can do absolutely anything.

Final thoughts about this benefit:

I have made so many wonderful friends and connections through Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary. The ranch truly brings together people of all walks of life. And that alone was a privilege to witness. Seeing everyone gathered together for a common cause was simply incredible.

Everyone wants to feel as though they are part of a team, like they are part of something bigger than themselves. And as I looked around the room on the night of August 8th at my ranch family and my new friends and then across the room to the collage of the 33 horses that make my world go round, I felt that way.

For someone who has spent her entire adulthood thus far worrying about what her calling should be, I think I have finally found it.

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My boyfriend and I at the benefit

Sick

July 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

I don’t remember the last time I was sick sick. (My minor freak out that led to me going to the hospital in the early hours on Cinco de Mayo doesn’t count.) My stomach gives me issues every now and then, but 99% of the time that’s due to stress.

But a few weeks ago, I flew to Ohio for my cousin’s wedding, and it was a whirlwind few days. I flew out on Friday the 17th, attended the wedding and bombass reception on Saturday, partied with the family on Sunday, then flew back to Arizona on Monday on three hours of sleep. As crazy as it was, this trip was pretty freaking awesome and totally worth what I’ve endured for the past week and a half as a result. We stayed at my Mamaw’s house and I got to see my family I haven’t seen in five years.

 

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Selfie-ception with my mom and brother

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My mom, little bro, little sis, and I at my cousin’s wedding

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Trying so hard to be Daenerys Targaryen

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My mamaw’s house

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The swing that has sat in this yard for years… my aunt and uncle and cousins live up the hill in that white house

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Backyard

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I climbed this tree all the time as a kid!

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Front yard… gotta love rural Ohio!

That all said…. did I mention my sister was battling a cold the whole time I was there?

Add the cold germs to my stress of planning a benefit dinner and silent auction for work (that’s another post for another day) and a lack of sleep, and it’s no wonder my body just broke down.

By that Monday afternoon after my flight, my throat had started to hurt. By nighttime I was sweaty and coughing. And Tuesday, when I got up at 5:30 to go to work, I was a hacking, sniffling, wheezing, miserable mess.

It’s funny, because horses smell weakness a mile away. They were extra ornery that Tuesday. My own horse was wild enough in the arena to almost seriously injure me as I was trying to take her home (I’ve still got rope burn on my hands from when she dragged me). All the others? “SHE’S DOWN AND OUT, GUYS. PARTAY TIME.”

Gosh, those horses are too smart for their own good.

Anyway, after I suffered through Tuesday, my coworkers were kind enough to switch their days around so I could take my weekend early and rest. (My weekends are usually Thursdays and Fridays but they came in Wednesday so I could stay home.) And boy, did I need it.

I had no appetite for most of last week and even had a fever for a day or so. I stayed in bed on my weekend days and either slept or watched movies on my iPad. All the while, I went through enough Kleenex to line the walls of my apartment and about two billion gallons of Vicks VapoRub. Going to work (in 100+ degree weather, naturally) was awful, although it was made better by my amazing volunteers who took up more than their share of the work to let me rest a bit.

On Sunday my chest really started to hurt. And what does everyone do when they’re sick and need someone to swoop in and fix everything? Call Mommy.

My mom told me to go get Mucinex DM, so I miserably started to get my shoes on to go to CVS. Enter my amazing boyfriend, who paused his game (!), told me to sit down and rest, and went out to get it for me.

So now we’re at Thursday of this week, and I’m only going through a few Kleenex an hour and coughing only slightly. I think the worst of it is over.

This might sound weird, but I’m almost glad I got sick.

Life is about to get absolutely insane for a while if it isn’t there already. As I mentioned briefly earlier, I’m planning a HUGE event for work that’s a week from Saturday, and there is still so. much. to. be. done. My boyfriend and I have to move soon. In fact, after about three weeks of debate we finally extended our lease to mid-September so we would know his job status before making a decision on where we’re living (he’s on a two-month trial for his current job and he’ll get a verdict at the end of August). But we have to pack (yuck) and look at apartments. And I’m applying for a graduate program and might potentially be starting school again here soon.

But last week and even now, a little bit, I was and am able to simply take a deep breath and push it all out of my head.

If I’m sick, I’m utterly useless. Everyone is useless when they’re sick. I can’t be of service to anyone else, nor can I do my job well or run my tiny household effectively, if I’m not feeling 100%. Getting better was my number one priority, and it still is. And I’m incredibly grateful to my ranch family, my boyfriend, and my mommy for helping me get there.

Lavendar from Trader Joe's - I couldn't smell it, but it sure was beautiful on our kitchen table!

Lavendar from Trader Joe’s – I couldn’t smell it, but it sure was beautiful on our kitchen table!

Fourth of July 2015

July 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’ve known for a very long time that as soon as I had my own place, every year I wanted to throw an epic Fourth of July party. As epic as one can get in a 700-square foot apartment, that is. (Although the size of our apartment is going to change next month when we move.)

But, I digress.

The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I think it really comes down to my love of summer, history, my country, and the fact that as divided as we are as a nation, we still have one day where we can come together and unite under one flag. Not to mention, I have a dream of getting to watch the fireworks from National Mall in D.C. on the Fourth of July. On Independence Day, I get to relive both my times spent in our nation’s capitol, one of my favorite places in the world.

Plus, the food rocks.

Since I *did* have my own place this year, I set out to plan a cool party, thanks to my good friend Pinterest. I’m a procrastinator at heart, so I forced myself to start the planning process early – like end of May early – so everything would turn out decently.

The invitations were really easy. I copied borrowed a design from Pinterest, designed the invites on PicMonkey, printed them, cut them and glued red and blue stock paper to their backs.

IMG_0108 IMG_0106I also made a bunch of patriotic mason jar candle holder thingys that I saw in a picture while going through Michael’s decorations.

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Required materials:

1. Patriotic ribbon of some kind

2. Spray glue (thanks to my friend Emmery for introducing me to that stuff while we were putting programs together for her wedding!)

3. Scissors

4. Mason jars

5. Sand or soil (I chose soil from my failed garden that had been sitting on my patio for the past three months)

6. That rustic looking string stuff

7. Patience

8. A willingness to have sticky hands for a week

Optional materials:

1. Beer

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Spray glue on the ribbon, slap onto Mason jar, fill jar with sand/dead soil, insert candle, tie string stuff into a pretty bow, and voila.

A few other things I had going for the party were a cool little flag on my door + a banner for my kitchen, courtesy of Michael’s:

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A favors table with red vines, mini marshmallows, red, white, and blue M&Ms, flags, and sparklers:

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Red, white, and blue drinks (plus beer, although my mom and brother insisted Budweiser was gross and brought Corona instead):

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And THIS:

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I blame my mom. When I was little, she threw absolutely epic birthday parties for my siblings and I, with themes and favors and killer decorations and matching food. She actually sewed a Madeline costume for me when I wanted a Madeline themed party one year. She planned a mall scavenger hunt for my fourteenth birthday. And on my tenth, when she and my dad were writing and recording music and had all kinds of equipment in their office, she hooked me and my friends up to microphones and had us record our own album for my party. Not kidding. She burned CDs for my friends to take home, complete with album covers and a track list of the songs we sang.

So yeah. I’m not quite on that level of awesome, but she gave me the party planning bug.

That “land that i love” printable came from Pinterest and the frame from Dollar Tree. My boyfriend had bought me white roses four or five days before the party, and they had held up so well by the fourth that I just stuck two flags in the vase and called it a centerpiece.

As for that fruit flag, that was my favorite. Some blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, a few bananas, and a bigass platter, and bam. I had a flag. I’d seen a fruit flag on Pinterest where the fruit was on kabobs, but ain’t nobody got time for that.

The rest of the food consisted of chips, salsa, brownies, homemade M&M cookies with red, white, and blue M&Ms, pretzel rods dipped in white chocolate and red, white, and blue sprinkles (really annoying fun to make!) and hot dogs and burgers (of course). My amazing boyfriend willingly took those down to our apartment complex’s grills and sat under the burning sun for twenty minutes while they cooked and the rest of us stood eating and chatting in the air conditioning. He also ran to get ice just before the party and was upset he’d gotten blocked ice instead of crushed because he knew how much my party meant to me and wanted it to be perfect. God, do I love him.

And the party WAS perfect. Just the right amount of people came so that our apartment didn’t feel overloaded, we ate and laughed and caught up and sat around playing Apples to Apples and Settlers of Catan. Eventually everyone headed out to either watch fireworks or go home (some of us had to be up early the next day). My boyfriend and I opted out of the fireworks, mainly because we were tired and more importantly, I wanted to watch a Capitol Fourth (my yearly tradition) so I could see the fireworks in D.C.

There were a few sparklers left, too, so we lit those up at nightfall.

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All in all, it was the best Fourth of July I’ve ever had. And in the end, it wasn’t because of the decorations or the food – it was because of the friends and family that came and shared the day with us.

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July, too! Next year I hope we have a bigger place so I can have even more guests over. Let the planning and prepping begin….

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It’s Okay to Not Know

June 15, 2015 § 1 Comment

[Picture is of Sunny after her first painting. She doesn’t have a plan set in stone for her life, either!]

I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb having a plan for my life.

I might even say I know I did.

When I was twelve hours old, the doctors brought me to my parents and told them I had a beta strep infection that – back in 1991 – killed something like 98% of all babies that developed it within 24 hours of birth. I was not expected to live.

Ten days of care from the incredible doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, many prayers from all my family, and some fierce fighting later, my parents brought me home from the NICU.

I had a plan for my life. I had no idea what it was when I was a newborn, and as I sit here and write this close to 24 years after, I have no idea what it is now.

And I think for the first time, I’m realizing that it’s okay not to know.

Tonight, I dropped all my classes for my master’s degree.

I keep looking at that sentence and feeling such contentment.

It’s not all that interesting how it happened. On June 1st, after a three-week break from classes, I was due to start back up again. It was a Monday and by the time I logged in to my online NAU account and downloaded the syllabi for my two courses, it was 7 pm and I’d worked something like a nine-hour day. Half of that was spent in 95 degree weather at the ranch.

I started to read the syllabi for my classes that night. I don’t even remember what they were. One had something to do with classroom instruction analysis.

And as I read, my heart sunk as a I realized that the classes a) required me to already be teaching in a classroom, and b) sounded more boring than all the math classes I was forced to take for my undergraduate degree.

I dropped them. Right there on the spot. And tonight, I dropped the other two summer courses I was due to take starting in July.

Working as the ranch director of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary has sharpened my love for education. Every day I teach new visitors or volunteers something. I love showing people who have never touched a horse before how to approach them. I love showing them they don’t have to be afraid. I love giving riding lessons and I love sharing advice with my veteran volunteers (and receiving it in turn).

My love of teaching doesn’t mean I need to get a degree in education.

In fact, the more I looked at my program of choice, the more I realized it was more appropriate for classroom teachers looking to move up to the role of administrator. Not for someone who potentially wanted to encourage more sustainability initiatives be put into curriculum.

After feeling relief upon dropping my classes, I know it was the right thing to do.

I’ve always had a plan for my life. Ever since I was four, I was going to be an author. (This one I did accomplish!) In high school, I thought I was going to go into theatre for a while. Then I was going to study liberal arts. Then I was going to be a journalist. No, an activist writer. No, a part of government. No, a part of the American University School of International Service. Then I was going to be an international peacemaker. A policy maker. Then I was going to go into public administration. Then the USGBC. Then a teacher. No, then education policy. Sustainability policy. A curriculum developer.

All those plans were either bitterly crushed or I moved away from them because I realized the path was not mine to take. Being a part of government or policy or international relations might have seemed like my calling at the time. But in the long run, they just didn’t speak to me.

Tonight, I requested information from ASU about their masters program in nonprofit management. I love my job and I know I have worlds more to learn about running a nonprofit organization. And ever since Sunny was born, I have daydreamed about founding and running a Premarin mare and foal sanctuary or rescue. I’m thinking pretty hard about that one.

My point? Right now, I have no plan. My plan is simply to not have a plan. I intend to take whatever is thrown at me and accept what comes of my future application to ASU’s nonprofit management program. I intend to take whatever is thrown at me in general.

Right now my boyfriend and I are not sure where we’re going to be living when our lease is up in August. Due to him recently quitting his soul-sucking job, we aren’t even sure if we’re going to be living together come August (which, ironically, will bring our five-year anniversary).

Someone up there really decided to make this whole not-having-a-plan thing interesting. And what’s amazing is that I feel no stress or anxiety over either situation.

I’m simply taking each day as it comes.

Because in the end, you don’t choose your purpose in life. Your purpose chooses you. And when you trust that everything happens for a reason when it’s supposed to, that purpose shines through.

Do I know that for sure? Hell, no.

But from hereon out, I’m going to believe it.

(And now I’m going to go watch The Emperor’s New Groove.)

I’m Free!

May 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

My first semester of grad school officially ended last night after I submitted my last final. And so for the first time since mid-January, I woke up on a Sunday morning (after sleeping in till nearly 7), got out of bed, made breakfast, then sat down and tried to decide what I wanted to do. After four months, I didn’t have to worry about homework.

It. Was. Glorious. It still is.

I finally decided to watch The Nanny (my favorite show – no judging) while OD-ing on Pinterest. Such mindless contentment. It was amazing.

Summer classes begin for me on June 1st, and until then, I have three leisurely weeks to do nothing other than work and wait for our pregnant mare to have her baby. My biggest plan is to de-clutter my apartment, as per my KonMari Method project that I said I was going to start then didn’t because life happened.

Hopefully I’ll have something interesting and noteworthy to post about during these next three weeks! In the meantime, friends and family, let’s meet up now that I have some free time so I can prove I’m still alive. 😉

I’m freeee!

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