guest post

Coffee Date

Since I’ll be away in Toronto for a whirlwind 2-day trip, I asked two lovely ladies to step in and share some of their wonderful writing with you all.  Today I bring you the lovely Hannah Katy from  As Simple As That, one of my newer blog friends, but somebody I’m so glad I found.  Hannah’s writing is beautiful, moving and thought-provoking, and she definitely provoked some thought in me with this one! I hope you enjoy her writing as much as I do.  I’ll be back next week post-trip and post-Valentine’s day, and there shall definitely be a debriefing then 🙂

When Miss Emily Jane first asked me to be a guest blogger I was absolutely honored. My mind started spinning with potential posts that would do her blog justice but my mind kept coming back to one recurring thought: Emily and I would undoubtedly have an outstanding time if we ever sat down over a cup of coffee.

I love nothing more than the sharing of stories with a freshly brewed cup of French Vanilla sitting between my hands. Perhaps it’s the steam, or maybe the environment; something about coffee dates has always been magical to me. An enchanted ingredient, outside of the cup, has always propelled me to believe that all of life’s problems can be solved in between a few delicate sips.

Confession time: I am a coffee date addict. My planner is filled with little drawings of coffee mugs with a different name scribbled on the inside of each cup. Each little cup, doodled from Sunday to Saturday, represent a different coffee date I have made with someone. I average a good four or five a week. Sometimes in a newly discovered coffee shop, other times in good ol’ Starbucks. Sometimes with old friends, other times with complete strangers.

I know you are probably asking, why does this girl ask complete strangers to have a cup of coffee with her? Call me crazy, but I believe I am onto something.

Our lives are so busy, sometimes there are days when we swear we never found the chance to look up from that pile of papers on our desk or finish thumbing through those millions of emails sitting restless in our inbox. We can very easily get into a habit of shutting the world out, or potentially worse, shutting out anyone who is not already a supporting actor/actress in the movie that is our own life.

We have our friends, our family and our significant others. We have the coworkers and the fellow bloggers, the professors and the clients. What about the strangers? The people we don’t know yet.

Do we set out a sign outside our hearts that reads “No Vacancy”? Do we turn away people who could potentially fit quite nicely in our heart or leave us wondering what our life would be without them?

Enter my never-ending series of coffee dates. These coffee dates have shifted my perspective on life and have sculpted my purpose here on earth. They have taught me a simple truth that I hold dear to me: Every person we encounter in this life serves a purpose, either as one whom we learn from or one whom we teach. Every individual has a stunning story to tell, a moral for us to hear; I genuinely believe some people come into our lives because we were meant to tell them our story.

We cannot be so sure that that friend who grew up knowing our favorite snack food or that love who knows the way we position our pillow at night will be able to teach us everything we need to know in this lifetime. We might just be destined to learn from a perfect stranger. So that is why I make room in my life for a great hobby called “coffee dating”. Because I am depending on these coffee dates to serve their purpose, to leave me being a different person from when I took that first sip, to drop a pearl of wisdom into my cup as I listen to the story of someone else.

Perhaps one day Emily and I will Skype over a cup of coffee, or maybe you and I can chat over a cappuccino, but I am leaving it up to you now. Is there someone you have come across and you are intrigued to hear his or her story? If so, why haven’t you asked them out for coffee yet?

Blog Travels: The Solitary Panda

Image from Lara Fairie

Today, I’ll be guest-posting over at Solitary Panda – Floreta is a wonderful new blog-friend who, in 2010, is going on a soul-searching journey to the Philip­pines, volunteering in the Indian Himalayas for two weeks, as well as spend­ing a week in New Delhi.  While she’s off travelling the world, she’s hosting a guest blog series on the topic of personal development, identity and finding yourself, and today I’m contributing my story of overcoming what seemed like a lifetime of self-doubt, tackling the discrepancy between where I was and where I wanted to be, and taking steps to get to where I am today.  Head on over – her blog’s definitely going to be an exciting one to read this year.   Tell me some of your stories about person growth and soul searching – it’s a topic very close to my heart!

And I’ll be back this weekend – looking forward to catching up with everybody then 🙂

Holiday Guest Blog 1: It’s La Midge!

Brittney from It’s La Midge is one of my absolute favourite bloggers (and new friends). She’s married, a mother to five pets (please pray she and her hubby find their missing cat – it’s breaking my heart), lives somewhere far warmer than I do, and her wicked sense of humour along with her enormous heart just make me smile and feel very lucky to have her in my life.   She’s helping man the fort while I’m away this week – and you can (and definitely should) read her blog over here.

As long as he has a dog, he has a friend;
and the poorer he gets, the better friend he has.” – Will Rogers

Emily is one those rare “awesomes” in this world. She has a sense of humor, she’s humble and she’s gorgeous – yet still down to earth enough to embrace her inner nerd. From the first time I poked around here, it was obvious she was actually as genuine as her writing portrays; the warmth in her heart pours from every post.

So when she asked if I’d like to guest post on her blog, I was ecstatic. What could be more flattering than someone having faith in your ability to be interesting enough that their readers won’t stab out their eyes from sheer boredom?!? Then I took a look at the other fantastics she asked to guest post — a handful of fabulously eloquent and hilarious bloggers – and it feels like a party where everyone is bringing three-tiered cakes and I’m the awkward kid who showed up with a half-eaten brownie I managed to sit on during my drive over. Chocolate anyone? 😉

After agonizing over what to write about (make it count, Brittney, MAKE IT COUNT!) I gave up on trying to be the most witty or most amazing and decided it might be fun to post the first of something I have been meaning to write about over at my own site.

For those of you who know me, I worked for several years at the Los Angeles SPCA. I had varying roles, from kennel staff to behavior analyst, and each allowed me to experience some of the most heart-warming connections between pet and man around. Too often, shelter animals don’t get their day in the spotlight, so I’ve decided to share some of their stories on their behalf! First up, one of my most fond memories is the Tale of Tater Tot.

It was my first day working the field with an animal control officer. I’d always worked the shelter side of things and was excited to test the waters. I was assigned O.B., a level-headed woman with a tough exterior and a heart of gold. Our first call was to pick up an owner surrender, and shortly after 9 a.m. we pulled up to a small yellow California Bungalow. The owner stepped out to greet us, a tiny woman in a pink sweater who could’ve easily played the role of my grandmother. She explained she was no longer able to properly care for herself, and her children were electing to relocate her to a nursing home where she would not be able to bring her shepherd mix. She was heartbroken, and you could feel her heart crumble with every word.

Before taking us inside, she glanced quickly through the porch screen, and then took O.B.’s hand in hers. In barely a whisper, she looked at us both and said, “I’m not a silly old woman, I know how it works. I know she’s old. I know she isn’t a cute little puppy anymore and she isn’t the sweetest thing on the block, but she’s been a good dog. When you put her—” and she lost her hold on the sentence. A few gulps of air to regain her composure (and a few gulps for us to not break down with her), she finished, “When you put her down, can you tell her I loved her? That she did nothing wrong and none of this was her fault? Now come inside, meet Tater Tot.”

Cue heartache. Doing our best to maintain our composure, we ducked inside to meet Tater Tot – and a Tater Tot she was! A blonde shepherd mix, stout and wide as her namesake, she was graying on her muzzle and sat surveying the situation from a giant chair in the corner of the room. She wasn’t friendly, at all. In fact, getting her to the truck was nothing short of a quick unexpected lesson in how not to get eaten alive. After we locked her compartment, we promised the woman that Tater Tot would be adopted and we’d look after her.

On the drive to back to the shelter, out of earshot of Mrs. Clause, we openly discussed the tough situation Tater Tot faced. She was missing all the most “adoptable” qualities folks melted over at shelters: She was older than 3 years old (she was 8), she wasn’t necessarily gorgeous and, thus far, she wasn’t coming across as the type to win anyone over with her charming personality.

The way our shelter worked, all dogs were given one week to get adopted on Side One. Then, on day 8, whichever dogs were deemed to be super adoptable by upper management were moved over to Side Two for essentially unlimited time to find a new home, so long as they remained mentally stable. We spread Tater Tots mother’s message throughout the staff like wild fire. But a touching story didn’t make for an easily adoptable dog, and Tater Tot was in no mood to assist. We spent the first three days trying to get her to show us her good side; she spent it lunging at the bars anytime someone walked past. She had to be lured to one half of her kennel before the other side could be cleaned without her in it, for safety. On Day Four, she exchanged lunging for sulking in the back of her kennel, but let out a throaty growl at passersby. Team Tater Tot kept up our half of the bargain, pleading with her to just let someone in her kennel. The morning of Day 7, a breakthrough!! I was able to get into her kennel and change her blanket. She made it to Side Two!!

The progress stopped there. Though she no longer growled, she didn’t blossom. She didn’t approach potential adopters who tried to engage her through the bars, and when volunteers took her out to socialize, she sat in the corners of the play yard, seemingly blind to the balls and toys that were rolled past her face. She began lunging when children passed her kennel and we were forced to add, “NO CHILDREN,” to her info card. As she pulled further into her shell, we began to worry she was slipping into the mentality that would require us to issue to her that final message from her beloved owner.

Seven months into joining our shelter family, and without a single potential adopter viewing her, I was walking through the kennels when I noticed a small boy with his hand in her cage. For a moment my heart stopped, until I saw Tater Tot leaning intensely against the bars and into his loving hand. He looked up and grinned. “She’s COOL!” he proclaimed. “She IS cool,” I replied. A few moments later, a big burly man approached us and asked if his son could see her outside the kennel. ARE YOU KIDDING ME BUDDY!? I was doing my best to not get my hopes up and pee my pants.

As we entered the play yard, an amazed crowd of staff formed around us. The little boy noticed a chewed-up tennis ball in the middle that must’ve been left behind by a volunteer. He lit up. Grabbing it, he brought his hand back to throw. Sigh. Would she watch it roll past before sitting in the corner? How heartbroken would this little boy be when he realized Tater Tot had zero interest in something like fetch? The ball shot forward and… OMG!!! SO DID TATER TOT!!! She snatched it, doubled back and dropped it at his feet.

We couldn’t contain ourselves and our cheers were contagious! As the little boy continued to play fetch with an energetic and tail-wagging Tater Tot, we explained her story to the father. He misted up. He couldn’t handle it any more than we could. Tater Tot hadn’t been picked, she’d picked them! I can’t even write this with the gooey goosebump-ness it deserves.

While he finalized their paperwork, O.B. and I smashed into the only office that had speakerphone. We had a very important call to make to a little old lady. When we broke the news that Tater Tot was on her way to her brand new home with her very own little boy, all three of us burst into tears.

Tater Tot went home that afternoon, touting not only a brand new leash but a brand new spirit. The father and son visited the little old woman a handful of times, and the last we heard, the three of them were doing famously.

Tater Tot reminded me that sometimes we all need a little time. That, sometimes, it takes the right people to bring out the best in us. The right people to look past the gray in our muzzles and the sadness in our eyes to see a new best friend.

Sometimes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks — but they can certainly show you a thing or two!

Guest Post: The Power of Choice

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic journey of over 75 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

2009. What a year, huh? As December winds down, Christmas and New Years on the Horizon, we take time to reflect on the year that was. Throughout the year we get so caught up in our fast paced lives that we neglect to see how much has really happened. But as it all draws to a close we reminisce over the good times and the bad, the obstacles we’ve overcome and challenges that have come before us. And then, at least for me, I give myself a pat on the back, because odds are, the year behind me was a lot more productive than I thought.

This year has been especially difficult and also extremely rewarding for yours truly. If I used one word to describe everything that happened, it would be “transition” – changing jobs, changing homes, getting engaged, leaving friends and family and making new ones. There’s been a lot of change – it wasn’t easy – but I can sit where I am today and tell you that I’ve learned more about myself in the past year than I have in the past five.

I’ve reflected on life lessons learned this year over on my blog – but I wanted to take a different approach and share with you one of, if not the single most important and empowering thing I’m taking away from this year: The power of CHOICE.

We talk so much about a belief in fate versus free will. Fate will tell you that when you’re born, your path is pre-determined, that no matter what you do, the man upstairs has his mind made up for you – and you’re simply here to serve in that purpose. Free will takes the opposite stance – encouraging that you have the power to do anything you want in life, that your fate it what you make (Terminator, anyone?)

I believe in neither.

Instead, I believe in choice, the only thing that we CAN control. Let’s face it, we don’t have a say in everything that happens in our life. But it isn’t about fate – I’ll never admit that my path is predetermined. Life is going to throw you a shit storm from time to time, it’s not all slow pitches over the plate, there are going to be curves and sliders – things that will throw you off your game and keep you guessing – sometimes even striking out.

But what we CAN control is the choices we make every single day. Options are put before us and we have the power to make the right (or wrong) decisions – to mess up and learn from our mistakes, to overcome great obstacles through perseverance and persistence. Once you start believing in yourself and the power you have to make those choices, the sky is the limit for what you can achieve.

2009 has been an amazing year – not an easy one – but one I will never forget as a turning point in my life. And I know that I will never regret the choices I’ve made that have gotten me to where I am today.