Who needs to go to Africa when you have a safari ranch three hours from your house?

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch just outside of San Antonio, TX is full of some major awesome.  Where else can you make friends with a face like this?

Very polite water buffalo.

Or get your car attacked by this?

Batshit crazy, angry ostrich that almost pecked my eyes out. And actually tried to eat my car door. True story. *Photo by Rhonda Rubin*

When I wasn’t squealing like a little girl, I was in animal photography Heaven.  I’ll definitely be going back to this place again.  Perhaps sometime after Spring of 2014, since it looks like they’ll be growing the herd and adding more animals.  The photographer in me would really like to expand upon this black and white series.

You can see all of my images from the trip here.

New Lifestyle

A month ago I posted about doing a ten-day raw food detox.  It was about as difficult as expected.  The first four days were extremely tough, but it got easier from there.  By day seven I was getting very sick of the food prep but not the food itself.  Days eight through ten were almost as mentally excruciating as the first four.  But we did it!  And my body became healthier for it.  All in all, I would highly recommend this detox from the book “Detox for the Rest of Us.”  The one major complaint I have is that each meal is extremely specific and the book doesn’t explain why.  I wish I knew why the meal plan had us eating specific foods on specific days and if my taste buds wished for a substitution, what could I use?  Why an orange instead of a lemon?  Why red bell pepper instead of yellow?  What if I don’t like sesame seeds?  Because they were in some form in damn near every dish.  I’d like to know the bodily benefits of each ingredient.  But regardless some less than informative details, the cleanse did its job.

Since the completion of the cleanse, I’ve actually kept up with a great deal of the raw lifestyle.  Part of the cleanse included the elimination of coffee (and basically all caffeine) from my diet.  A month later I’m still essentially caffeine and coffee free.  I say essentially because some of the herbal tea I drink has a little caffeine in it.  And occasionally I’ll break and have a decaf coffee.  I’m also allowing myself one cheat soy latte every Friday night for Craft Night.  Where giving up caffeine cold turkey was a mother fucker, I have to say I’m loving the caffeine free lifestyle.  I’m sleeping better, I’m less jittery and anxious, and I’m much more alert in the mornings.  It no longer takes me two hours of grumpy grunting and gallons of coffee to get me functioning first thing in the morning.

My new morning routine is fixing up a 32oz smoothie.  That’s my breakfast along with some gluten free cereal or granola if I’m still a little hungry after the smoothie.  But generally I’m not.  My smoothie is different every morning.  I use 3-5 fruits plus some leafy greens (usually spinach or kale), pure pumpkin, almond milk, coconut, cinnamon, hemp protein, pressed juices, almond butter, ground flax seed… etc.  I just play “mad scientist” every morning and make sure all of the essentials are represented.

My lunch every day is raw.  I’m still putting salads, fruits, and dinner inspired raw dishes together the night before so that I have a good meal every day at lunch.  Before the cleanse I skipped lunch a lot.  Mostly because I don’t have anywhere healthy around my office to grab food.  It’s pretty much all drive-thrus and processed God-knows-what.  Those things make me sick.  So I used to opt out of eating at all if I was rushed and didn’t bring food with me to work.  Or sometimes I’d just be so into my work I wouldn’t stop to eat a full meal.  I’d have a granola bar and a banana.  By dinner time I was ready to consume an entire village and their pet elephants.  NOT a healthy way to eat.  But now?  Now I have truckloads of food with me every day.  And it’s good food.  Good for me and tastes amazing.  But most importantly I don’t feel sick during/after eating.  I’m becoming less and less afraid of food and that’s amazing for me.  When you suffer from chronic nausea, food is pretty much your mortal enemy and every meal is a mental struggle.  But not when I eat raw.

Click image for larger, easier to read view.

When it comes to dinner, I just make sure it’s clean and healthy.  I’m not eating all raw at dinner because Rhonda is not keeping up with the all raw diet, and that’s a tough thing to do: preparing two separate meals in a two person household.  Plus, I know my limits.  Where I very much enjoy this raw diet, I know it’s unrealistic for me to think this is all I could eat for the rest of my life.  If I eat meat it’s generally chicken white meat, lean turkey, or fish (or tofu as substitute).  I’ll eat cooked vegetables.  I’ll eat starches. I eat dairy, but now I try to stick to vegan cheeses.  My big goals in the evenings are eating lots more vegetables than meat, keeping my grains as gluten free as possible, and cooking everything without processed spices or sauces.

It’s only been a month, but I’m seeing some incredible progress in my health.  And I know it’s going to keep improving.  I’m sleeping better.  I have more energy.  I’m less worn down and exhausted from fighting my body all day (because I’m not having to as much).  My skin is getting clearer and cleaner looking.  My digestive system is happier.  And I’m not under weight, nor am I struggling to maintain a healthy weight.  Eating this way keeps me there.  The results are pretty incredible.  So much that it makes me wonder why it took me so long to get to this point.

Proof That Dogs Are Far More Soulful Than Us

Photographer and artist, Martin Usborne‘s series: Dogs in Cars

When I started this project I knew the photos would be dark. In a sense, I was attempting to go back inside my car, to re-experience what I couldn’t bear as a child. What I didn’t expect was to see so many subtle reactions by the dogs: some sad, some expectant, some angry, some dejected. It was as if upon opening up a box of grey-coloured pencils I was surprised to see so many shades inside.”

Read about and see the whole series HERE.

 

Because Ultimately I Just Like to Torture Myself

It’s not news that my health is pure crap.  I have Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, Interstitial Cystitis, Pelvic Wall Dysfunction (domino effect to SI Joint Syndrome, Piriformis Syndrome, and Sciatica), IBS, Migraines, and an overall immune system of a goldfish.  I’m constantly juggling ways to help my body better function so that I may have some semblance of a normal life.  My brain calculates basic human functions as if each day were the most intense chess game of my life.  Every move counts.  Every ounce of sleep.  Every bite of food I take.  Every activity from watching paint dry to playing in a softball tournament.  I have to prepare my body for everything I do, or my body crashes and I end up either bed ridden or in a hospital.

I digress.

In the name of perhaps working myself ahead of my body, attempting to eliminate symptoms over living a life of constantly treating them, I set the proverbial ball rolling on a ten-day Raw Food Detox.  Rhonda was totally on board from the get-go and in a fit of momentary insanity, our dear friend, Becky jumped on the bandwagon.  We are currently on day two, which means all we can think about is eating deep fried cheeseburgers wrapped in pizza and dipped in peanut butter.

Going into this I knew the first few days would be extremely tough.  I’m actually eating more food during the day than what I’m used to, but the design of the what and when I’m eating is boosting my metabolism (as well as, eh-hem, cleansing my system).  So I pretty much think I’m perpetually dying of starvation.  Dramatic?  Absolutely.  But I also gave up coffee/caffeine cold turkey, and whoa buddy the withdrawals!  Last night I had a dream about that old coffee commercial starring that Columbian guy and his coffee bean toting donkey… you know what I’m talking about, right?  I’m pretty sure dream me tried to ride off into the sunset with that donkey.  Which is beyond ideal because then I’d have a pet donkey and two baskets full of raw caffeine.

Where was I?  …Right! Detox!

I know if I stick with it it will get better.  Even day two is easier than day one.  And each day, more food is added to the meal plan.  I can absolutely do this.  And the food IS truly enjoyable.  I love everything we’re eating and I’m already experiencing some interesting results as well as noticing some changes in my body’s functionality.  I’m growing more hopeful with each meal that this process will teach me so much more about how to manage my body, and how to get it feeling better on a more consecutive and long term basis.  I just need to get through this first handful of days.

Ugh… I’d kill for a mother fucking BLT right now.

*If you’re interested: The plan we’re following is Chapter 3 of the book “Detox for the Rest of Us.”

Here We Go Again

About a week ago I made vague public mention that I was dealing with a new serious health issue.  My exact words were, “I am the valedictorian of rare and unusual ailments and illnesses. –  Processing. Research. Decisions. Treatment.”

In July I began experiencing fluctuating symptoms that would suggest that I had a urinary tract infection.  Between July and October I saw my doctor three times about this and we couldn’t seem to properly get it treated.  Three sets of full lab cultures have come back completely clean.  I followed a course of treatment for a UTI as well as a yeast infection, just in case.  Neither treatment worked and my symptoms continued to worsen.  Certain activities and other outside elements seemed to make the symptoms unbearable.  Other activities and outside elements seemed to, at times, ease the symptoms a bit.  But still, I had no idea what was going on and when the symptoms are at their worst, I’m in a great deal of pain.  In the “down there” area.  NO ONE WANTS TO BE IN EXCRUCIATING PAIN IN THEIR “DOWN THERE” AREA.

Defeated, my doctor sent me to a Gynecological Urologist.  Long story short: I’ve been diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis (IC).  Which, wouldn’t you know it, is directly related to all of my back problems.  Which were a result of Pelvic Wall Dysfunction.  Apparently a great number of my other chronic health problems are actually an effect of this Interstitial Cystitis.

Upon receiving this diagnosis, I was sent home with many research materials as well as some time to process.  My Urologist wanted me to understand what I was dealing with as well as have some time to decide how aggressively I’d like to treat the symptoms.  IC is something you live with for life.  There is no cure, only symptom management.  However, when caught early and treated aggressively, there’s an exceptionally high chance of living symptom free for a very long time.  So that’s exactly what I’ve decided to do.  I’ve talked to my immediate family and friends and they all agree that attacking this full force now is the best course of action.  Unfortunately what that means is that I’m going to be pumping my body full of oral medications, as well as once a week installations (cocktail of medications inserted directly into the bladder via catheter) for anywhere between two – six months depending on how my body responds to treatment.

Starting tomorrow morning.

Getting this diagnosis was initially a huge blow to me.  I only just graduated from physical therapy for my SI Joint/Piriformis/Sciatica pain and I was so happy to feel like I was getting my life back.  My back has been pain free for weeks and as such, my energy levels have been lifted drastically.  So the thought of jumping into another aggressive, arduous treatment process is one of the most deflating things in the world to face right now.  But I’ve had a week to process and talk about it.  And yesterday I took a much needed mental health day to get myself feeling as zen as possible before diving into treatment.  So I feel ready.  And I’m positive.  And I’m just going to take this one day at a time.

One of the Rare Occasions I Actually Voice A Political Opinion

I’m not one to jump on the political bandwagon.  I’m an Aquarian, so I pretty much avoid conflict where I can.  I don’t ruffle feathers.  And I genuinely respect differences in opinion.  It’s the differences in opinions that make life interesting, so long as all parties are respectful of one another.  It’s how we learn points of view we otherwise might miss.  It’s how we grow and evolve as human beings.  So when it comes to politics, I’m not the first to jump up and go “grrrrrrrr.”  I listen.  I absorb.  I’m willing to learn something.

This last week however, I’ve become increasingly heavy hearted about a particular popular political topic.  And if I let it go without saying anything, then I have no right to complain about my feelings getting hurt. And if I’m going for broke honest here, my feelings are more than hurt.  I’m broken hearted, actually.

At this point I believe it’s safe to say we’re all caught up on the issues and current candidates’ stances on said issues.  I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone for me to say that my vote is going to Obama.  That doesn’t mean I believe he’s the end all, be all of presidents.  And it’s not to say that I agree with absolutely everything he does and how he does it.  But the no holds bar issue for me here is that no matter where Romney or Obama fall on hundreds of thousands of issues, there’s one, singular issue that trumps any and all gray areas for debate for me: equal rights.  Why this topic is even up for such  poorly invested, gently (and not so gently) long-winded debate is beyond me.  It makes me question what the hell happened to humanity.  At the end of the day, it’s our job as human beings to regard one another as human beings.  Everything else is just details.

That being said, I’m having an extremely difficult time resting my emotions in the faces of the people who claim to support and love me as a gay woman.  The people who watched me marry my wife with nothing but good blessings.  The people who every day, refer to Rhonda as my wife, as their in-law, as a positive addition to their life because of my relationship with her.  And these people still claim to love and support my relationship and the rights that should accompany that relationship with the woman I love, yet have (or are planning to) cast a vote for Mitt Romney.  A man who is hellbent on destroying what few rights I do have in regards to sharing my life with another woman.  I understand and I’ve heard just about every argument for why someone would want to cast a vote for Romney.  And I’m not here to say that those reasons are wrong merely because I disagree with them.  But at the end of the day, what you’re saying to me is that any number of those reasons are more important to you than my civil rights.  Your vote for Romney, regardless the reason, means that you’re putting a reason before my civil rights.  And that breaks my heart.

I’m not saying to my friends and family who vote for Romney that I’m going to stop loving you.  I’m not going to ostracize you from my life.  I’m not going to request that you unfriend me on Facebook or otherwise tritefully judge you for your political decisions. However, I am saying that I’m going to feel very emotionally distant from you.  For how long, I don’t know.  I’m going to feel a sadness when I look at you and remember that when push came to shove, you didn’t stand up for my rights as a human being.  It’s an incredibly hard pill to swallow, particularly in the face of some of the people I love most in this world.  When it comes down to the bare bones of it all, nothing is more important than the welfare of our fellow human beings, especially the human beings we love and care about.  If you don’t support gay rights or equality in general.  If you know me personally and don’t support my marriage to Rhonda.  Then heck, vote for the guy who wants to keep me from visiting my wife in the hospital.  If that’s how you feel, I’ll respect your decision because it’s your decision to make.  But don’t tell me that you DO support me and then vote my rights away.  That’s what I find so damn heart breaking and hard to swallow.  So, please excuse me if I seem a bit emotionally on edge lately.  I’m working extremely hard on being accepting of the people who apparently don’t fully accept me.

 

Went Missing

So yeah, I haven’t blogged in over a month.  You know, the usual: Health crap.  Personal crap.  Projects.  Traveling…

I know.  I suck at this.  I’ll be better.

I’m brewing up a post about some recent travels and other stuffs.  Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean stuff hasn’t been happening.  It’s all happening.  And I’m making notes.  Until I’m able to get my post down, you should jam out to some of my favorite tunes with me.  No matter what’s going on in my life, the music never ceases to drive me, inspire me, move me, and keep me sane.

 

Gone Country

My Mom and Step-Father, Steve recently closed on a 1960′s dump of a property in New Ulm, TX.  The wooded eight-and-a-half acres with trails and two lakes are absolutely amazing.  The house?  Needs A LOT of work.  But Mom and Steve are into that sort of thing and the pair are currently up there remodeling the whole joint.

I’d been feeling pretty sick the last few days and almost considered cancelling today’s preplanned “Betty and the Bear” shoot and overall photographic christening of the entire property.  But I figured if I could just get my butt out there, some fresh air would do me good and I could direct my focus on shooting instead of feeling cruddy.  It totally worked.