Health Update Time: It’s All Good… Well, Mostly Good!

Howdy Readers, Friends, Loved Ones.

Much like the President and his State of The Union, I feel like coming here and posting a big ole update about my health and where it stands is something I like to do, and I do on a sorta regular basis.  I mean, it’s totally as legit at the State of the Union, right?

I mention my health in passing, and for the sake of advocacy, understanding, and information – I like to be an open book.  It’s been more than eight years since my battle against Stage III Lymphoma played out publicly in college – but my own health issues and ordeals are not over.  In going through all of that in front of so many others, I realized that by being open, I was helping others.  So many people who’ve dealt with cancer have reached out to me, and I’ve helped how and where I can.   Yes, it’s in small and tiny ways, but good ways nonetheless.  So, when I can… I’ve been able to offer compassion, support, empathy, and love.  And now with my sweet ole blood disease, I am just doing what I know how to do: be a blabbermouth, and if anyone needs help, I’ll do my best.

I have porphyria.

It’s a blood disease.  It’s genetic.  There’s no cure, and you have it forever.

It’s complicated, weird, hard to explain, hard to understand – yes, it’s all of these things… but, it’s manageable.

By far the biggest, best, and most amazing breakthrough in my life as a person with acute porphyria was the DNA test I had done in Hawaii.  I know the exact mutation in my genetic code that causes the blood disease I have.  And if you think you’re special – allow me to trump you.  I am, to date, THE ONLY person to have ever been tested with this exact mutation.  Talk about ONE OF A KIND!

Now.  I know I’m not really all that unique.  The likelihood that members of my family share this specific mutation is very high.  We are likely a one-of-a-kind porphyria family.  And given how genetic diseases and mutations work, well it’s not really that fancy.

So… onto the good stuff:

HOW AM I DOING?

I’m okay.  I’ve had some attacks lately.  Triggers-and-attacks is the cycle of my disease, with lovely periods of calm remission in between.  Triggers for me include stress, illness, medications of certain kinds, alcohol, preservatives, lack of sleep, and more. Around the holidays I was eating tons of processed meat and cheeses, which I love, but which are oh so bad for me.  Add to that the ole Santa Pub Crawl I couldn’t miss out on, and a lot of travel and staying up late, and well – I created my own little perfect storm, didn’t I?

At the Santa Pub crawl we held in Fredonia, much like the real giant Santa pub crawl that takes place in Buffalo every year!

at the santa pub crawl we held in fredonia, much like the real giant santa pub crawl that takes place in buffalo every year!

a totally weird and silly pic from that night

a totally weird and silly pic from that night

i did too much of this

i did too much of this

and delicious as it is, i ate way too much of this kind of stuff during the holidays.

and delicious as it is, i ate way too much of this kind of stuff during the holidays.

i stayed up all night while visiting my sister for christmas eve.  d'oh! i need sleep!

i stayed up all night while visiting my sister for christmas eve. d’oh! i need sleep!

 

I did.  I made some bad choices… and I payed up for it.  I felt pretty crummy for a good chunk of December.  I modified my behavior though, because I love my body and want to give myself the best shot possible.  Even though some choices seem tough in the moment, in the long run they’re important.

so i abstained from booze for the rest of the holidays, even christmas day and new year's eve!

so i abstained from booze for the rest of the holidays, even christmas day and new year’s eve!

outfit repeat, but really - here i am as the d.d. on new year's!

outfit repeat, but really – here i am as the d.d. on new year’s!

After a while of clean living and good choices, I seemed to have really pulled out of things.

at duggs' work's winter party - we had a blast, and i felt pretty good.

at duggs’ work’s winter party – we had a blast, and i felt pretty good.

I am feeling better now.  At last month’s visit to my docs, we adjusted my meds.  I am now happily on a new form of medication that I get through a patch.  Isn’t technology rad?  Since porphyria affects my liver and its enzymes and red blood cell production, getting meds into my body without bothering my liver is excellent.  Yesterday I went back again, and we tweaked the doses a bit, so once those get filled and I regulate out… I’m hoping my day-to-day will be even better.  It’s really nice to be on meds that don’t have so many long-term effects on me and side effects, etc.

I’m seeing a couple new doctors, too – and they are really wonderful and very committed to helping me get the treatment I need, when I need it.  I’ve just recently opened up the lines of communication with my local in-town doctor, so the next time an attack happens – I can get into a hospital nearby and get the IV treatments that help me stop an early attack in its tracks.  And now the meds I need, should a serious attack occur, will be known and available (in Hawaii, this was pretty serious – they didn’t have ANY of these meds on the island before I got there… eeks!).

Coming from the military system to civilian world of medical care has been… well, halting.  The expense of my meds alone was enough to crank up my stress to attack-inducing levels.  Finding the right meds, that my insurance will cover, has been a task.  It was pretty crazy there for a little while, but things are looking up for me now.  It’s also been hard to piece together a communicative team of experts.  In the military system, all my docs could see each other’s notes, save for my primary care – they were all in the same building.  So the convenience factor has shifted a bit, it’s been a learning process, but it’s getting there.  I am happy with the team I have now, and I trust their expertise and compassion – very much so.

Otherwise, nothing really new or crazy or wild to report.

I’m still me.  I’m still human.  I try and live life just as me, weirdo wacky Rose… and not as a person afraid to experience life and deal with the affects on my body.  It’s a balance though.  And in every attack I experience, I wise up about my triggers and the lifestyle choices I need to, and should, make to avoid bringing issues upon myself.

So, there you go.

I still have Porphyria.  It’s not going anywhere!  But, everyday I think I get a little better at navigating what it means for me and coping with it all.  And umm, I’ll give a shout-out to my handsome life partner, Duggs (my husband) because he’s been an awesome man to have by my side through all of it.  My whole family is very supportive, and once again – I find myself feeling very blessed to have access to competent medical care.

so this is the most recent pic i could find... oh boy, not so flattering, haha.  but as you can see, i look normal and i'm outside and being wacky.  so, life is good!

so this is the most recent pic i could find… oh boy, not so flattering, haha. but as you can see, i look normal and i’m outside and being wacky, laughing, etc. can’t really ask for more than that… so, life is good!

 

Thanks for reading!  And thanks for following along the wacky and weird and up-and-down journey that is my health.

XOXO,

HHR – Happy Hippie Rose

PS: Just because I share what I go through, please don’t think that my porphyria is all I am or all that I focus on.  I’m a real, breathing, dynamic person.  And since my health is something people who know me worry about… and by being open and posting about it publicly I can help add to the available points of view out there on porphyria (since there aren’t many), reducing stigmas and encouraging others to talk about it, learn more, and so on… I do tend to mention it more often online than I probably do in real life.  But it’s just like anything that’s in a persons focus – real, but only one part of a whole, multifaceted life.  

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I Killed A Deer, And I Liked It. (No graphic images, just philosophy about hunting.)

Disclaimer: So I drafted this one a while ago.  And because of all the gun-related drama that’s been going on, I’ve been a little shy of publishing.  Is that lame?  Maybe.  But after careful thought and consideration, I’m okay with posting this and being who I am.  So, take it or leave it.  If you’d like to read about the philosophy of a self-titled “hippie hunter,” well then, read on.  And if you want to hear more about me twiddling my thumbs, read this.  Now, without further ado…

I Killed A Deer, And I Liked It.  

Yes, I went hunting this past fall.  And yes, I killed a deer.  And when I killed the deer, I liked it.

I was proud of myself (still am), and I was – for lack of a better word – happy about it.   And well, if you happen to know about some of my personal beliefs on animal testing, captivity, factory farming and how much I LOVE animals in general… this new hobby of mine probably seems a bit on the conflict-of-interest side.  But hear me out, I can explain… Continue reading

Sandy Relief: NYC-ready, Generosity of Others Has Helped Me Pack!

It’s official.  Any grown man who kindly chuckles when you refer to the industrial strength push brooms inside a Home Depot as, “elephant toothbrushes,” should probably be nominated for sainthood.  Or at least get some kind of Newbery Medal or something.  (Oh calm down, I know what the Newbery Medal is… and seriously, I believe that push-broom humor is way better than Across Five Aprils – just sayin’).

the only feasible use for such an item is cleaning the teeth of an elephant.

What the HECK am I rambling on about? The final hours of prep are behind me and I’m all but ready to hit the road and head down to NYC and pitch in where I can to help with any Sandy Relief efforts.  I’m a little bit loopy (last night’s all-nighter is catching up with me, yes) and a lot excited.  The past week has been a really amazing time for me… and for humankind.   In just a few short days my idea to help a little with the Sandy Relief efforts going on downstate have evolved into a full out movement, with support coming in from so many directions.  Strangers and loved ones alike have been digging deep to give all that they can, trusting me to make wise choices and do as much good as possible, the most humanitarian bang for their buck.   And here we are… it’s just about go time, and I’m simply dazzled by the goodness of people and the love all over this.

I mean, I know it’s not all rainbows and puppies, of course.  I have kept in mind why on earth I’m doing all this in the first place.  Hurricane Sandy was a whopper.  And while she was slamming the coast, and in her aftermath, there’s been the entire gamut of human emotion left in her wake.  We’ve heard some stories in the news, on social media, and through the grapevine about people being pretty nasty to one another (and well, it’s election day tomorrow – so we’ve been hearing about the worst of humanity in smear campaigns for months now)… but right now I want to pay attention to the shinier side of that coin.

Tonight friends, this is a story about hope. 

(And even if it’s kinda wordy and long, I think it’s really a good read.)

This is a story about the kindness and heart of people who want to help, and who mean well, and who are willing to do good.

I really had NO idea what I was getting myself into when I volunteered to start pooling together donations.  Truth be told, I thought I’d be shipping some boxes downstate and that would be that.  But now as I know I have a car chock full of love, a new friend for the journey, plenty more to meet before it’s all said and done, and a race against time and mother nature to do as much good as we can – I’m just honored to be a part of this.

Skip is the man I was talking about up top.  He’s a saint.  He just so happened to be working his usual post in our local Fredonia Home Depot tonight when I came in with a long list of ideas and very little clue about the specifics of what I needed.  When I was on the phone asking silly questions about the kinds of masks and what type of broom, Skip decided I needed some help.  He grabbed a cart, did all the heavy lifting, and walked back and forth across that Home Depot with me so many times.  And when I made my ridiculous jokes, he had the wonderful decency to laugh.  He downright chuckled a couple times, like when I suggested splurging on the hot pink duct tape and letting the homeowners deal with it.  Heh.

After Skip helped me to find the best deals, and explained to me the subtle differences between hand cleaners and crow bars, and plastic vs wood handles on tools – I had to sprint out to the parking lot.

skip, helping me shop with good natured patience

 

skip is the best!

 

Because, simultaneously, as I was getting goods at Home Depot to help in the hard labor (all covered through donations, mind you) – out in the parking lot I was meeting up with an Angel.  Kathy, from a local Catholic church in town, went so far out of her way to help me.  I called around to churched today to see if any places had stores of clothing or blankets, and while mane did not – a lady who happened to be working at one such place offered to do me one better.  “I can clean out my house when I get out of work tonight.”  She brought EIGHT  GARBAGE BAGS… yes, EIGHT full bags of winter clothing, boots, and more.  Kids sizes of all kinds, and stuff for teenagers and adults too.

Yup.  Kathy and her family are going down for Sainthood as well.

kathy, thank you so much! tell your kids we appreciate their work and generosity as well!

And this, she explained to me, was her just getting started!  She said she could do more with some extra time… (speaking of which, hold that thought, we have some ideas in the works for long-term projects to keep taking care of those hardest hit long after the media circus dies down and their lives are still left in pieces).

Skip and Kathy are just two of the amazing people who are making this journey possible.  The kind and generous owners, Edward W. Pagano, Jr. and his wife, of our Fredonia Sears hometown store – they’re sending me to Staten Island with 50 pairs of work gloves, and at least 30 dust masks, water bottles, and more.  Sears as a company already donated to Sandy, this is from two small-business owners in the community, just wanting to do their part to help.  The folks at Smith’s True Value in Irving donated a lot as well, gloves and masks too, plastic sheeting, and other supplies.

the first store to get into the spirit and donate to me

peeking into one of the bags from smith’s true value

 

My friends have been putting money into my paypal account, offering to help in any way they can.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE, Y’ALL.

And just being at the epicenter of so much love, hope, teamwork, and true humanity is honestly one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever experienced.  

I’m meeting a brand new friend tomorrow morning at about 6:00am.   Her name is Kate, and she’s going on this adventure with me! About forty miles from here she’s been experiencing the good of her own “village,” getting donations and all kinds of items ready to go as well.  She’s keeping me company on the ride down and then we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.

Others have called to talk about rides if I go again, or more items I can bring back next time.  I’ve been asked where to send things to, and people have just been WANTING to help.  It’s all so… AMAZING.

Don’t get me wrong.  Hurricane Sandy and the destruction she’s brought to this state, the coastline, and our nation is just jaw-droppingly devastating.  We didn’t stumble upon a gold mine of warm fuzzy feelings unprovoked;  I’m sure that tomorrow as I set eyes on the aftermath for myself, it’s going  to take all this positive energy that’s been percolating to keep me going.  I’m sure there will be tough times to come, and for so many of our fellow brothers and sisters living in the thick of it all right now – they are in some of their darkest days.

All together though, we’ll help brighten things up.

With the thoughtfulness of the Skip, and the encouragement of Eddie (another Home Depot worker who was really kind and helpful, wishing us the best), with the love and nurturing of Kathy, and the warmth from Mary (a local church lady who’s donated some gorgeous handmade blankets for me to bring down)… the resourcefulness of Edward Pagano, Jr., his wife, and the folks at Smith’s True Value for finding so many items they could afford to spare, with the planning of my pal MJ who’s organizing street teams in Staten Island to get the work done… with all these efforts combined, and added to the countless other acts of love, giving, help, thoughtfulness, support, and hard work we are able to create our own force of nature.

home depot = success!

 

from handmade blankets to gas cans, tools, water, boots, and more – the buick is packed full of donations to hand out

We’re leaving very early in the morning, so I’ll just end things on a fabulous and inspiring note for now.

To everyone who has pitched in: THANK YOU, it means so much to me, and I KNOW it will mean so much to the countless lives we’re going to help as best as we can once we’re down there.  If you’ve been hard hit by the storm and you’re at your wit’s end… know that we love you, we’re thinking of you, and there are so many people – people you’ll never know and will never meet – that are doing all they can for you, and will keep at it until your needs are met and life as it should be, is restored. 

and here i am tonight, whizzing out of home depot – an excited (and yes, very very blurry) bundle of happy energy

Still interested?  We haven’t even left yet – gas and other costs are certain to come up.  Just simply wire me some funds via paypal using happyhippierose@gmail.com.  Any donations are appreciated, and I’ll make sure to post about how the money is spent and how much we’re able to do once we get into the hardest-hit areas.

Good night, God Bless, and tune back in to find out more about how this project all plays out!  I’ll post better pictures of what we’re brining when it’s light out tmrw, and of course you can always track me down on Fb or Twitter!

XOXO, HHR 

Sandy Relief: How I’m helping, what you can do, lists, info, + more.

It’s been a busy weekend of emails, calls, and pulling things together.  My little mission to help out Sandy Survivors is actually coming together.  I’m pretty impressed with myself, not gonna lie.  I think that after living in Florida for two and a half decades, dealing with hurricanes is just in my blood, it’s a normal part of life to me.  And well, if you don’t know by now that I tend to be the take-action-do-gooder type, well then you hardly know me at all.

Generous hearts make the world go ’round.  And coming into contact with truly generous people who are so excited and happy to give is a truly humbling experience.

i’m so grateful to anyone and everyone who’s pitching in to help.

When I started the tiny idea to see what I could do to help the Sandy Relief efforts, I had no idea what to expect.  The call for supplies, donations, and any kind of help went out all over the Interwebs.  I’ve posted on Craig’s List Buffalo, reddit, Facebook, all kinds of organization’s Fb pages, Twitter, and more.  And well it hasn’t been a downpour of support, there’s been more than a trickle and it’s really exciting.

i stand by my cheesy lil’ logo!

A few people have chipped in some financial support, I have a pal for the car ride down who will be staying in the NYC-area long term to do clean up work wherever she’s needed, and I have a couple helpful people found out about my plans online and have been putting together donations that we can bring with us.

TWO AMAZING STORES have generously donated items to the effort as well:

Smith’s True Valu in Irving, NY and the Sears Hometown Store here in Fredonia (just down the street from where I live) have been super awesome.  Once we get this whole thing underway, we’ll give them official shout outs and post photos of the items they provided.  We’re hoping in the next day or so to find some more stores will to donate supplies, or at least cut us a break on the cost of items.

NEEDS LIST:

thanks to mj for the link to this awesome list!

The clean up efforts are paramount right now, and thus some things in huge demand are:

  • dust masks
  • gloves – rubber, work, leather, all kinds
  • mops, mops, mops
  • paper towels, regular towels, shop towels
  • tools of any kind, the smaller and more mobile – the better (and remember, power in nonexistent or limited), crowbars, screwdrivers, hammers
  • work boots in all sizes
  • contractor-style garbage bags
  • tarps, plastic sheeting
  • duct tape, rope, zip ties
  • garbage bags
  • gas cans
  • food, formula, water, snacks, OTC meds
  • winter clothing, blankets, bedding
  • and finally – stuff for kids to occupy the boredom and help life their spirits: toys, games, etc.

If you have any desire to get these items to me, I’m more than happy to take them to NYC for you.  There are plenty of grassroots efforts of people who I personally know can use and need these items right away – with zero overhead going to “operating costs,”  just straight from the shelves of stores into the hands of those who need them.  If you trust me, paypal some cash money my way: happyhippierose@gmail.com is my paypal handle!

If you’d like to send your own care packs, there are several places that you can ship stuff to:

Warehouse donated as in-take center

New York Container Terminal
Attn: Sandy Relief Warehouse
300 Western Avenue
Staten Island, NY  10303
or

Staten Island Recreational Association
599 Fr. Capodanno Blvd.
Staten Island, NY 10305
Attn: Megan Delmar

….

she seemed so nice at first, but woah did she turn out to be a super bitch!

As many of you know, Duggs (my husband) grew up on Long Island.  His family and friends have been seriously impacted by this storm.  My brother-in-law, and mother-in-law are both still displaced, and unable to return home,  In fact, since we have so many loved ones from Long Beach it’s crazy to try and name everyone and explain the carious states of disarray their lives are in right now.   If you’d like to give money to the Long Beach recovery effort –  here’s a great group:

City of Long Beach Relief
One West Chester Street
Long Beach, NY 11561

There are TONS of groups using Facebook and Social Media to get the word out.  Some great resources to learn more are:

So. Whatever you end up doing – be it making a huge donation to the Red Cross or just sending well-wishes and prayers to those affected, every contribution is wonderful and they all work together and come together to help put things all back together.  Major disasters like this are so terrible, so many lives are just ripped apart, and millions of people are experiencing high levels of stress, sadness, anger, devastation, and more.

Yet… time and time again we see in the darkest of days the most startling displays of true beauty.  Strangers coming together to help each other out, true generosity and kindness, we see helping hands and warm hugs given out freely.   There’s no time machine or magic eraser that can un-do the tragedy… sadly, what’s done is done.  But when given the option of HOW to react, seeing everyday people pick the good, noble, wonderful choice – is an amazing thing to bear witness to.

For everyone who is suffering: you have my warmest thoughts and prayers, as well as my sincere encouragement.

For everyone who is helping:  you have my gratitude and thanks, you are awesome and inspiring.

For everyone who doesn’t know what to do: listen to your heart and you can’t go wrong.

Thanks for reading, y’all!  The donations, support, and well wishes my little caravan have been given are truly inspiring.  And my only hope is that we do some good and help out as many people as we possibly can.  Want to help?  Paypal me some moolah, and I promise it will go to great use:  happyhippierose@gmail.com 

XOXO, HHR

Fun Times With Family and Friends

In the month or so that I took a blogging break, things were downright nutty around here.  I mentioned that we had some family come in town, and now I’ll elaborate.  In yesterday’s post I talked about my weekend trip to Jax for a surprise party – so I figured with all the family and friend fun times, I could just mash up the visits together and make one big photo dump post to catch everyone up on what’s been going on.

One on hand, I totally realize this is kinda cheap and corny (to throw it all into one post).  But on the other, I’m trying my best to achieve a balance that’s tough to strike, between wanting to cover events that are fun and important to me, without boring the pants off everyone reading.  I know that the minutia of my personal life isn’t nearly as fascinating to y’all as I find it – and with respect to that, I’m trying to not drown you in lame-o posts about very ordinary things.  I do realize, however, that for people who know me in person and hang out with me, there’s a certain expectation of making it into the blog when we hang out.  Or least a nervous reluctance that you probably will end up on here at some point.

So.  With all that meta debate established, I’m cool with going ahead and mentioning a little bit about several different events and then slamming y’all with a photo dump.  Cool? Good.

First up, my cousins Justin and Nicole came up here from Florida.  I hadn’t seen them in over a year, and having them come up to New York (and Canada) for a while was awesome.  They’ve grown up so very much, and realizing just how different they’ve become in 15 months makes me sad to be as far away from them as I am.  I knew both of them in vitro, and have seen their growing up firsthand, until I moved to Hawaii.  We had a great time and made sure to squeeze in as much as we could – like going boating on the lake, doing arts and crafts, cooking out, etc. etc.  In addition to having them up here, my sister Anna and her boyfriend Jared drove over to come visit with them as well.  They live north of Albany, so it’s not too much of a hike.  Having everyone all in Fredonia was both awesome and crazy.  It was a lot of moving parts to keep track of, that’s for sure!

All in all, we had a great time – and I was super sad to see everyone go.

Like less than a week later, my Dad and Step-Mom (Anna) came up here to see us!  They took a big trip up from Florida and we were their first stop.  Neither Duggs or I had seen them since they came out to visit us in Hawaii (remember that post?), so hanging out with Viper and Anna was long, long overdue.  We had an awesome time.  Lots of hanging out, some rambling, we went shooting, hung out with other family members that live in the area, went out to eat, and who knows what else.  Oh yeah, Dad took me to a doctor’s appointment and got to meet one of my new docs up here.  We dedicated a lot of their trip to just spending quality time together, not necessarily focused on an event or an activity.  And that was good, it was just great to hang out all together.

So that covers the two big events of us hosting folks up here.

As y’all already know, last weekend I flew down to Florida to go hang out and get crazy with my old college pals.  I went to UNF in Jacksonville, FL from 2001-2005.  After graduating, I stayed in town for several years (like four?) where I worked and lived and kept partying with my college friends in some weird pattern of extended adolescence.  It was very rad, and I loved the years I spent in Jax.  The beaches are great, the community is great, I loved riding my beach cruiser everywhere and getting to surf after work.  It was just an awesome place to live, and I miss it often.  Well, I miss the friends most of all – but Jax too.  It’s a very rad town!   I didn’t get a ton of pics (partying + mob mentality + not having a flash = lame, blurry, too dark photos), but a couple of the ones that are okay I threw into the photo dump here.

As much fun as I had reuniting with my pals, and wishing one of my dearest dudes, Cory Lee, a happy birthday – man, there is NO place like home.  And at this point in time, I’m confident to say that Western New York sure does feel like home.  I’m glad to be back and I’m happy to be here.  I was just going through some pics from this summer- snap shots from runs I’ve been on, photos of the dogs being silly, and I can easily say that I love my now-life.

Thanks to everyone who hung out this summer and contributed to some super fun times!  Hawaii was amazing, but it was lonely – so seeing loved ones again is a very very nice thing.  It’s wonderful and fills my cold little heart with a whole mess of happiness.

As always, thanks for reading my blog!!  XOXO, HHR

Without further ado… THE PICS:

Accountability, Speed: Glad I Joined Now!

This past weekend was my second ever experience with the new running group I’m in.  And let me just be very clear: Week two was markedly, crazily, way better than week 1!

I still got lost, but at least this time I wasn’t lost alone, haha.  I actually made the acquaintance of some really nice ladies and jogged near and at times, with, them!  The added advantages are not only social and navigational.  Turns out that when running with people, my pace time improves like woah.  Yeah, I may have shed about 20 minutes off my 8 mile time.  Ha!  How’s that for crazy?  Turns out when left to my own devices I dawdle, who’d have thought!

Anyways, aside from running faster, I also felt much stronger.  I completed the run feeling strong and the soreness has been minimal now in my post-run days.  So, all in all, really nice and I’m just so pleased with my current progress and commitment.  It feels good to be sticking with it.

In other news, we stumbled across this INCREDIBLE hippie neigborhood.  I met my peoples!  I was just running along, and I noticed the signs started to feature buzzwords that caught my eye:

“co-op”

run… run… run… 

“local produce”

running still… 

“yoga”

“organic”

“music shop”

“handmade”

“repurposed”

FREAK OUT!!! 

It was just so much, I could have exploded.  MY PEOPLE!  So after the run, Duggs and I headed over there for brunch and to scope out the area.  After a tasty meal and some nice conversation, we made our way over to the Farmer’s Market.  It was AWESOME.  They take EBT/Food Stamps at the Farmer’s Market!  It was all too rad, I cannot wait till next Saturday now.

I did have my phone with me, but I was in a very in-the-moment kinda mood and I just hardly so much as snapped a pic.  I do promise that next weekend we’ll bring the good camera and actually take some nice photos of the area.  Man oh man, downtown Buffalo totally stole my heart this weekend!

The rest of our time was spent with relaxing, stretching, some cleaning and organizing, light chores – nothing major really, but the lazy down time was much needed.  It rained a lot of Sunday morning – but by mid-afternoon it was blazing hot and sunny again.  I even got a couple hours on the lounge chair out back with a good book.  I’m telling you, yesterday was luxuriously lazy!   I was hoping for more rain though, our garden ain’t looking so good these days… Ugh.  Oh well, time will tell what’s to be!

I hope y’all had a great weekend too.

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

Western New York: I Feel Home.

Western New York is a beautiful place to live; constantly I’m awed and surprised by the bounty of this land.   After being here for about three months, I’m beginning to feel settled.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to live in versatile and dynamic places – I mean, Florida and Hawaii – does it wackier than either of these tropical touristy havens?  A Floridian childhood is special in its own ways, yes.  But there was always the part of me that would jealously eye the neighborhoods in John Hugh’s movies, wishing I lived in a northern suburb somewhere – dreaming of White Christmases and houses without stucco.

Western New York is a rich, amazing place.  In the outdoor activity department, WNY’s cup runneth over for sure.  Season to season there is so much to enjoy outside.

Summertime brings swimming, boating and all kinds of water sports on the ample lakes and waterways – specifically Lake Erie – there’s fruit to pick, festivals to go to every weekend, cook outs, camping, hiking, horseback riding, and on and on.  The weather is sunny and warm most days, varying between balmy and mild, the latter giving way to gloriously cool evenings.  This far north the days are long, with dusk’s light fading out at almost 10:00pm sometimes.

As Indian summer fades into Fall, we’ll head into different picking seasons… the grapes first, then apples, pumpkins.  The length of daylight and the level of mercury will both sink.  Hunting season will open up, hiking and camping become more enjoyable with fewer bugs and the festive beauty of the autumnal color show.  Winter snow and the iced over lake will bring even more to do: snow mobiles, skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, sledding, skating – all things winter.  Thanks to the lake effect snow this region is known for, winter sports and activities are almost always a go ahead (last year was a particularly weak winter, so I’ve been told).  And then as the spring thaw happens, the whole cycle kicks over again, baby animals and wildflowers bloom as warmer days grace this land.  Gardens are planted, the trees extend soft green leaves out of their barren branches, and the desire to run outside and play is felt by all.

More than just a pretty face who’s good for a fun time, Western New York is deep – her rich and dynamic history, specific to my family, has me enthralled.

You see: I’ve always been a transplant.

Growing up in Florida was awesome, don’t get me wrong.  I could swim before I could walk, I’ve seen my fair share of crazy critters, gorgeous sandy sunrises, Mickey Mouse ears, shuttle launches, big cities and sleepy country towns.    Nice, but in ways I’ve never identified before – often hollow.   I’ve never felt like I “fit in.”  Rest assured, I know this is a broad and baseless complaint experienced far more often than people convinced that they’re popular.   But it’s true nonetheless.

Now being here, in the land of my family, where our roots go so very deep (well, American deep, haha) – it’s a very different experience.  An intangible comfort is omnipresent here; I have the confidence of my ancestors encouraging me every day, something in my DNA guides me and tells me, “YOU ARE HOME NOW.”

Being related to so many people in a proximal area is really rad.  Both immediate and extended family are here – and I can hardly go anywhere in town without there being a long-established family connection in place.  And not in a grease-the-palms kinda way, just in a friendly, “Oh! You’re Kathy’s daughter!” kinda way.  My Great Uncle is something of a living legend here too, so that always makes me proud to be known as a Gioia ’round here too.

In Florida, my last name never held currency.  No one cared, no one knew who we were (save for the small immediate circle of my Dad’s co-workers and perhaps the people who did community service with my Mom).  But familial love and long standing relationships bred into generations of families in a small town is something indescribably nice: there’s nothing like the easy acceptance and welcome I feel here.  (Okay, anonymity is nice in its own ways too – especially if you have some wild oats to sow and would like to be able to do just that without seven hundred years of shame brought on your house; my hat tips to Florida for that!).

We’ll go out to eat and there’s a story, many stories, of how one such family member was close with the original owner, and on and on.  I love that the history of this area relates to ME.   My Aunt Patty is always telling me these connections, the old stories, and I’m 100% fascinated.

More than ministrations and tales, it goes deeper, down to something instinctual and primal – something that eludes a direct understanding – that pulls me to this land.  I just can say I “feel” it.   My sense of direction here is flawless –  I grew up in a sleepy beach town with a grid system for roads and huge bodies of water to serve as glaring directionals – Yet, on twisty country roads that weave through hills, I feel like I know my way around.   Sometimes I have this (morbid and) strange vision of late relatives guiding me, walking alongside me, smiling with familiarity as I travel paths they’ve undoubtedly walked along countless times before me.

Weird?

Yeah, I know.

I’m being super weird.

I’ve been mulling over this feeling for weeks now and this is merely my feeble attempt to put the idea into something digestible.  There’s just this massive looming of emotional connection to the actual dirt and trees, the wind and weather here, that I cannot put into words (although I’m trying damn hard as I reach nearly 900 of them in an attempt to suss out an understanding of the feelings this place evokes).

Sigh.

It’s just lovely is all.  I’m happy to be here.  I feel safe, welcomed, wanted, and normal.

Oh!  I can elaborate on the feeling of normalcy, actually.  Growing up in Florida you’re living with a mixed bag of snowbird transplant families.  When I was in college there was legit stat that 30% of Floridians were born in Ohio!  It feels like everyone merely lives there but actually considers New York or Boston or stinky Ohio (sorries! my Dad went to UM, so I gotta hate a little) to be “home.”   Of course I know that there are long-standing Florida families, and that the expansion of the mid-1900s is now making way to third and fourth generations who’ve called the Gunshine State their own.   The vast majority are though, relocated folks from the great white north.

For me, I always knew we were not of that land; I felt like a visitor.   And now – only after living here – do I understand some of the quirks I was raised with that always felt so odd to me.  They’re cultural norms up here!  Little things, like ordering a strawberry shortcake and having it served on a heavy drop biscuit, the exact way my mother always made it.  I’d never in my life had a strawberry shortcake made that way by anyone other than my Mom.  In FL the norm would be angel food cake, pound cake maybe.  Taking a bite of the slightly salty and dense biscuit covered in local strawberries and whipped heavy cream – it was like childhood relived.  “Oh!” I literally exclaimed at seeing the biscuits next to the strawberries last night at Tops (supermarket) – “this is why my Mom does it this way,”  realization of this region’s influence dawning.

The list of little silly habits goes on.

And while I know it seems minute and weird, after nearly three decades of assuming I was just a sore thumb raised by a pair of quirky, wacky (albeit very loving), nut jobs – there’s something so reassuring about being normal.     Yeah, I do think I almost fit in here.  Now… If only I could rid myself of the gentle lilt that betrays me every time I open my mouth.  That and ditch the tie dye, fanny packs, legwarmers, bandannas and other fashion statements akin to wearing a neon “I’m not really from here” tee shirt….

Hahaha.  I kid, I kid.

Yeah, I know I’ll never be run of the mill – a happy realization and one that I’m proud to own.   Don’t worry, I’m not seeking cultural assimilation by any means.

It’s just a nice realization to be able to piece things all together, is all.  And of course, it should go without saying, Florida will always be “home” in so many, many ways.  (I’m actually terribly Florida-sick lately, missing the sand and saltwater more than ever before.  Oh yeah, and all you people who live there too – I miss y’all as well.     But that’s another post for another day.)

For now, wrapping myself in the dichotomous distant familiarity of a land long inhabited by my own blood is just new, fascinating, calming, and … nice.   My induction to Western New York has been altogether charming.

Okay, that’s enough waxing poetic for now!  You get the point, yeah?  (haha, Hawaiian joke.  See, I’m still a regional grab bag).

HAPPY FRIDAY and HAPPY WEEKEND EVERYONE!

xoxo, hhr 

Happy Birthday to Me and to The USA!

What a busy week it’s been!  My birthday is July 3rd, America’s is the 4th, I had a whole mess of family in town for the festivities and it’s just been a lot of good times and fun.  Oh, and food!

So my mother (Krazy Kathy) came into town on the 2nd.  I hadn’t seen her since she visited Hawaii almost a year ago! Yowzers, that’s probably the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing her.  So it was a much overdue visit and it was so nice to have her up here!  We ran some errands together (go figure), hung out, discovered an awesome sandwich place a stone’s throw from my cousin’s house, visited the family cemetery, went out to eat, caught up, so on.

my mom, at my great uncle’s house

dinner pics from our evening at the brick room in downtown fredonia – awesomely great food!

The night before my birthday Kath took us out to eat at this great little Italian place in downtown Fredonia: The Brick Room.  Our food was incredible and it was the perfect ambiance for our very inappropriate and bawdy dinner table talk.

I think it’s easily safe to say that a good time was had by all.

going out to dinner on the 2nd with my mother, husband, and great uncle

love this billabong maxi dress!

Then on the third of July, my actual birthday, I spent the day with my Mom.  Well, I worked a bit in the morning – Duggs worked all day (stupid weird mid-week holiday is such a bummer!).  Then I hung out with Mom.  Once it was dark out we headed over to Uncle Bobby’s – my cousin, his wife, and their kids are up here visiting too, so we got to go see them and hang out.  Sadly the fire works for the third were cancelled because of crappy weather!

mom

and me

this is very funny to me for some reason!

 

 

Alright, so my Mom and I had a nice time on my birthday.  We ran into my Uncle Chris and Aunt Betty who were also in town for the 4th, at the cemetery, how wacky is that!

Oh, the sunset over Lake Erie on my birthday was awesome:

light em up !

pretty paper lanterns

Fourth of July Fun!

The fourth was a busy holiday.  We started the day hanging out at home and getting food and treats ready.  I baked a boatload of festive red, white, and blue cupcakes.  You can flog me now for my flagrant use of food dye, I know I’m terrible!  This is the summer of hypocrisy or something, lol.  Anyways, at least I did bake some without dye (and in the stash I kept home for us I included plenty on un-dyed options).  After getting everything ready, we went over to Uncle Bobby’s for a big ole picnic and cookout.  We played some ladder ball, laid out on the beach, had some delicious steamed clams, hung out with everyone there, I ate some of the best potato salad I’ve ever had… and then we wrapped it up and headed over to my Aunt Patty’s house for a nice cookout!  Al cooked up some awesome steaks, Aunt Patty made ribs and mac’n’cheese, and we all hung out and had some cocktails and cold beers.

Busy, but an awesome holiday for sure!

sweet treats from the 4th

4th of july at uncle bobby and miss peggy’s house

the good stuff!

collage from the cookout at my aunt patty and al’s house

And in case you were wondering, I wore red, white, and blue ALL week.  Haha, just to clarify in case there was any doubt.

It’s been an awesome week, that’s for sure!  And we still have a weekend to go now (okay, maybe I take back what I said about mid-week holidays being stupid).  I hope to get back into a more normal routine come next week, that’s for sure!

As always, thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr

Bullets, Boooze, and Berries

Sounds like the perfect day, huh? We had us a good ole Redneck Sunday this past weekend! Yee-haw!

Note: Always practice firearm safety, use weapons responsibly, and never fire a gun for fun while intoxicated.  Guns are serious weapons and should always be respected for how powerful they are.

My cousin Nick, his son Austin, my husband Duggs, and I went over to Aunt Ruth’s house (EZ’s younger sister) for some target practice.  Aunt Ruth’s house is known for being THE spot for deer sightings around here. With plenty of property, not a lot of neighbors, and some good areas to set up target practice – it’s the ideal location to go shoot some guns!

loading the bed of the truck with all of our guns

nick, austin, duggs

I mean, if we’re going to be able to hunt successfully at all this upcoming season, we gotta get the practice in now – right?

nicky showing austin how to do it just right

i did awful with my pistol accuracy this weekend, some of my worst shooting ever

austin and the pistol

success!

here’s a sweet little action collage of me with two guns and my fanny pack on. aww year!

he always catches the shell between shots, so hawt!

i could look at this all day long. the man looks good with a gun!

comparing their groups – nick had the top target, duggs used the lower one.

lookin good hot duggs o’ mine

yeah nicky! nick is great at shooting standing up, more sensible than prone position for hunting.

my cousin nick, hittin’ bullseyes all day

i made him pose for this and he was so annoyed

i love using duggs’ rifle, i did way better with it than with the pistol

sassy prone position

my shoulder got beat up. bad!

i’m a gun slingah… in leg warmers, neon tie dye, and a fanny pack.

All in all, we had a lot of fun.

It was a super hot day, which was a mixed bag: I was thankful for the break in the rain we’ve had so much of lately.  But man, it was really hot out – like muggy, humid, hot.  I know that come winter I’ll be longing for these sunny hot days, but after Florida and Hawaii, the cooler weather of New York has been nice.

Hunting and shooting are two hobbies that I’m okay with.  I think that if you’re going to eat meat, getting your meat via hunting is far more humane, healthy, and natural than the factory farming system we have here in the US.  I know that for some of my animal-loving pals, the act of hunting is hard to understand.  If you ever want to know why I feel the way I do, just ask!

Strawberry Festival!

After a couple hours of target practice, Duggs and I headed over to the local Strawberry Festival!  Put on by a near by winery, Merritt Winery, the strawberry festival was a grand ole time.  We swung by mostly to pick up some food for lunch, so we didn’t stay long.

It was a pretty small set up though, so even in about 30 minutes – we were able to at least see everything there was to see.

The festival is home to their world-famous “Sangria Slush” – as soon as I heard that, I was just dying and begging to go all week long.  And trust me, I was not let down.  The red sangria in slushie form was oh so tasty!

After a hot afternoon in the sun, this hit the spot:

What to do after you’ve been shooting all day? Why, shoot some more of course!

The festival all went to benefit jeuvenile diabetes research (great cause, and local too). One of the tables was a small Glock range, and for a few dollars you could fire off seven rounds.  With a beer in hand, Duggs just had to go and shoot some more.

Shoot a bullseye, and win $5 off your food!  Since we were buying burgers and hot dogs to bring home – this worked out perfectly! Good job Duggs.

The fine boardwalk of booths and sundries:

And of course, the classic car show!

the car show portion of the festival was pretty swanky! 

General Lee

little me in the general lee

Strawberries and other fine foods!

strawberry shortcake, the old fashioned way with a heavy drop biscuit

We actually got way more food than this… including some NY state 100% pure maple syrup, a homemade spice and herb mix to cook with, and all the hot food we brought home for lunch.  I should have grabbed some pics of that!

The festival was cute, but I didn’t mind not hanging around for a long time.  There was a band, and the singer was pretty good – but she was just doing covers mostly, and it was nothing epic.  My cousin told me the line up for Saturday consisted of some great local bands that he’s heard before and really likes.

This weekend seems to have kicked off “festival season” – all summer long, just about every weekend around here is some kind of festival or fair.  I am SO EXCITED!  I love fair food, I love the atmosphere, the fun vibe – I want to go to as many as I can (if Duggs actually read my blog, this is the part that would just fill him with dread, lol – imagine going to a fair every weekend? haha).

We had a really fun time.  The sunny hot Sunday outdoors more than made up for how rainy Saturday was and the outside time we lost because of it.  I can’t wait to see what else summer in this new place brings, hopefully more good times and neat stuff to see and explore.

Do you have a lot of festivals in your area? Do you go to them?

ready to head home after a wacky fun day – arms full of treats and awesome

As always – thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

I Love The Crazy 80s! (Octogenarian 80s)

A weekend ago, we celebrated my Great Uncle John, Zio Giovanni’s, 81st birthday.  Can you believe it? 81!  And this past Saturday, we had the pleasure of celebrating Nick’s Grandma, EZ Lyman’s, 85th Birthday!

Both are incredibly talented, wonderful, kind people – who’ve both been these crazy family legends that I’ve heard tales of my entire life.  These octogenarians know how to get down, that’s for sure.

So yes… around recently, we’ve been kickin’ it crazy 80s style.  Let me re-cap the two most recent birthday parties I’ve attended:

EZ Lyman, Happy 85th Birthday!

EZ has always been a tomboy-with-class idol of mine.

happy birthday to ethelyn

She’s Uncle Bobby’s Mom and you can so tell: Ethelyn is long-known for going hunting and fishing with the boys, keeping up with their outdoor antics and being able to hold her own.  The flip side is that she’s a wonderfully warm and sweet woman, known all over the region (and probably farther than that) for her incredible landscape and nature paintings.  She’s won awards and prizes for her ability to capture the charm of Western New York scenery – whitetail deer, sugar houses, snow covered trees, glens and dales and that sort of thing.  Everyone I know in my family (except for myself *pouts*) has some of EZ’s paintings displayed in their homes.

I’ll have to do a whole post about EZ’s artwork, it’s just wonderful.  Even as I was Google-ing her the other day, I found some awesome old newspapers with photos of her artwork, or articles listing the prizes she’s won.  Maybe I can even sneak over to her “studio” and get some action shots of her painting.

So Happy 85th Birthday, EZ!  It’s so nice to be up here and able to get to know you better.

EZ’s spice cake with fishy candles

fish candles

spice cake with birthday cake ice cream, delicious

I was a derelict on Saturday, and spent far more time eating pasta (along with Uncle Bobby’s incredible venison meatballs- perfectly seasoned, they tasted just like Italian sausage, and not gamey at all), and laughing as we were shooting the breeze and telling crazy stories, than taking photos.  So I don’t have too many from this past Saturday’s birthday afternoon.

yeah, we were hittin’ the hard stuff

duggs, all full after a big ole pasta dinner

some old photos were busted out, including this gem: uncle bobby, holding chad and nick, his sons and my cousins – and then me, in the pink. oh precious!

Uncle John, Happy 81st Birthday!!

My Great Uncle John celebrated his 81st Birthday at his home, a rustic log cabin (his dream cabin) out in the country… kinda near Cherry Creek, but mostly near some dairy farms and Amish folk.  He requested a birthday bonfire, so that is exactly how we celebrated. (Hence why I’ve been eating microwave s’mores lately, we brought home the leftovers).

you gotta love this man, jean overalls and everything!

happy eighty-one to you

Now, my Uncle John is a very special man.  He’s our family patriarch, and really has been my entire life.  Dynamic, witty, sassy, outstanding and incredible – there is no one on this earth like my Uncle John.  A former Marine who fought in Korea, the first ever Brut model, a Broadway star, a television actor, world-traveler, biker leather daddy, Italian-speaking, chef extraordinaire – he’s amazing.

Really amazing – and just always himself, be that cheesy, or silly, or a little bit country.

my great uncle john, blowing out his 81st birthday cake

He used to teach drama for years and years, and although recently retired from that – he’s still acting.  In fact, he has a play coming up this fall that we’re excited to see.  He’s brilliant on stage, always stealing the show.

Ahh my Uncle John.  I just smile when I type his name.  I’ve always held such a special place in my heart for him.  He’s the brother of my late Grandma Rose, whom I was named for – and who I’ve never actually met (she passed away before I was born).  I’d have to dedicate an entire blog (not just a post, an entire blog itself) into chronically properly the life and times of the one and only UJ.

So for now, I’ll just post a ton of photos I took at his 81st birthday bonfire:

gathering the fire wood

making the fire

UJ’s property, out in the quiet near cherry creek. Austin, Aunt Patty, Matthew (Duggs) + Nick

now that’s a fire

After building the fire, making s’mores, and hanging out in the cool air by the warm burning wood for hours… we decided to let it die down so we could head inside for cake and birthday gifts + cards.

side view of UJ’s cabin, his “hideaway”

uncle john’s sweet pooch

oh sweet girl – UJ was dog sitting this sweet one

oh jeez we’re silly

take two? austin, great uncle john, me and nicky

nice family pic (third time’s a charm)

austin, doing his best UJ impression

austin and UJ

playing with the doggies, go figure

It was getting late, and we were all getting loopy… so we decided to call it a night and let UJ enjoy some birthday peace.  All in all, it was a fun evening and I’m glad I could actually be up here to celebrate one of my Great Uncle’s birthdays with him (I don’t think I’ve celebrated an actual birthday with him since his 75th?).

Happy Birthday to both EZ and UJ, it’s been a blast celebrating with you Crazy 80s – but more so, it’s been a pleasure knowing you and spending time with you, always.

As always – thanks for reading! xoxo, hhr