The Loss of a Friend: Saying Goodbye to Frogger

Fifteen years ago, I walked into a friend’s house and spotted the tiniest, most beautiful gray-and-white kitten I had ever seen. He was a stray that had been abandoned on a local freeway. My friend’s mom stopped and rescued him—an act of kindness that ended up connecting me to one of the great loves of my life.
20150724_171915Frogger (full name: Frogger Friend) was always meant for me. It was obvious as soon as we met. He crawled up on my chest, purred, and looked right into my eyes. It was love at first sight. My friend told me he was a girl, and I never bothered to check myself, so for the first few months of his life, I went around calling him my “beautiful princess.” I even gave him a pink collar. Imagine my surprise when it was time to get him spayed, and I found out I actually had a little prince.

Once his gender-identity crisis was figured out, he became my boy. We moved through various homes and apartments together, and he was by my side through so much. I have struggled with depression and other serious health problems, and he provided support for me. Always in tune with my emotions, he would come to me when I was upset. Sometimes, something as simple as his paw on my leg would be enough to keep me going another day.

He did so many cute things that brought everyone who knew him joy. Running across the room and leaping into the piles of newspapers on the floor. Going crazy playing with his toys until he became “overwhelmed” and had to hide behind the living room curtains for a few minutes (he did this every time!). Sucking on his paw and making sweet

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Frogger had a way of looking into your soul.

little noises as he was falling asleep. Sitting and staring at me, sometimes for hours, as I worked at the computer. I never had another cat that would make unwavering eye contact like that. He loved being near me. I wouldn’t even have to be petting him. I could just turn and look at him, and he would begin purring.

There were gaps in our time together. In my late twenties, I had a difficult decision to make. I felt the intense desire to travel, which meant I would have to leave Frogger behind with my family. I spent five years away from home, experiencing many adventures and learning many lessons. Whenever I came home to visit, his eyes would light up, and he would purr. He never forgot me, even when I was away for over a year.

This last year, I decided to come home to California for good. When I arrived, Frogger was much thinner and weaker than he had been the last time I saw him. I promised him that for the rest of his life, I would be here. I wouldn’t be leaving him again.

We shared many beautiful moments during these last few months. He wasn’t the playful kitten he 20150807_131926once was, but he was still my kitten. After the vet told us there wasn’t any hope, all we could do was take him home and try to make the most of our time with him. As the end grew closer, he didn’t want to leave my side. Days were spent with him curled up beside me as I worked at my computer. Sometimes, he liked to rest his head on my mouse pad. Just to make sure I would remember to pet him. Of course I did.

Today, on February 13th at 2:10 PM, Frogger Friend took his final breath and then crossed over into God’s loving arms. I know he will be waiting for me when it’s my time to pass. Our souls have shared many existences, and we will be together again. I feel blessed to have known him and to continue to know and remember him throughout the rest of my days.

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RIP Frogger Friend 2000-2016

Goodbye 2015!

I’m happy 2015 is coming to an end. A lot of unpleasant stuff happened this year, but a lot of good too! I made the long drive home to California after living in Denver for a while, published my first novel, and got to spend time with friends and family I hadn’t seen in ages.

I made a lot of hard choices this year, and I have zero regrets on any of them. It has taken a great deal of effort, but I’m very happy with the person I am, the direction I’m headed, my awesome friendships, and most importantly, the relationship I have with God. I am so blessed to have God’s love in my life.

I also wanted to quickly take the time to thank everyone who has supported EDGE OF SOMETHING MORE this year. Your kind words and positive reviews mean everything to me. You are truly the #PeopleWhoMadeMy2015 and I can’t thank you enough.

Looking forward to starting 2016 off single, centered, and ready to work toward some exciting goals.

Have a safe and happy new year, everyone!

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Happy Holidays!

Another Christmas is upon us, and this year, I’m very glad to say it will NOT be white. Now that I’m finally back in California, my winter isn’t full of worries about crashing off an icy road or making sure I’m stocked up on food in case I get stuck in my apartment for a week straight. As I learned in my years living in both North Carolina and Colorado, California girls are not designed for cold weather. I have no idea what to do when it’s under 70 degrees, let alone when it snows, but luckily, the winters here are mild, and the summers are long and hot.

Not only do I get to enjoy better weather this year, but I also get to be with my family. I spent many Christmases by myself in an apartment far from home, so it’s so nice to be back. I don’t have children, but I have a niece and nephew, and they make Christmas fun again.

Since it’s the holiday season, and a lot of you are hopefully in the giving mood, I just want to remind everyone that authors need reviews. If you want to do something nice for me, please consider leaving a review for my book EDGE OF SOMETHING MORE. If you want to do something nice for any author, a review on Amazon or any other sales site would be the best gift you could ever give. A lot of people don’t realize this, but reviews help people discover books. The more reviews, the more likely it is that a book will pop up in search results. Please don’t hesitate to leave one just because you’re not big on writing. Even a simple rating would be appreciated.

Just throwing that out there. Other than that, I just want to say how grateful I am for everyone who reads my blogs and everyone who has bought my book. It’s a struggle for a new author to get noticed so the support from every single one of you has made a huge difference. I hope all of you are blessed with delicious food and heartwarming times with your families or friends this holiday season.

My WWOOF Experience Part Three: Why I Left Early

Before reading this, you might want to check out the first two parts:

Now, the juicy stuff.

Confusion: What Exactly is My Job Again?

The first major issue on the homestead was communication. There was no clear work time and free time, which everyone found stressful. It wasn’t like we were given a list of assignments each morning and could just work on them on our own—that would have been fine.

There were times when we had a clear assignment. But in between, when I had assumed I was free to do as I wish, I would get the vibe like the owner thought I was being lazy. There was some passive-aggressive weirdness I didn’t understand, and at bird-village-animal-countrysidetimes, I almost felt like an imposition. No good.

Even More Confusion: What Exactly Are the Rules, Again?

There were other confusing issues as well. At one point, when my host was in a good mood, she welcomed me to use the shower at the main house. Seems reasonable, right? I would have understood if she didn’t want us doing that, but I’m a clean person, and if someone tells me I can take a hot shower, I’m going to. The only other option was bathing in the pond.

Everything went fine for a couple of days, but then my host suddenly seemed annoyed that I was showering at the house. She said I was doing it “too often,” but she wouldn’t tell me how often was acceptable. I am happy to follow any rules, but when the rules aren’t made clear, it’s pretty much impossible to stick to them. Especially when you get told different things at different times.

There were similar issues with the food situation. I’ll explain that part using an excerpt from a private journal post from that time. If you ignore all the horrific grammar and rambling speech, I think it sums it up nicely:

“at first it was like.. so confusing about wtf we could and couldn’t eat.. and I’d be hungry a lot and not know wtf to do and there were no clear answers.. I think I wrote about it before.. but for example I took some eggs and she was like “You ate THREE eggs?” and clearly it was like I took too much. And then I took an apple and it was like this big huge deal about how they couldnt afford for us to be eating apples.. I don’t know.”

It wasn’t like we were starved or anything. There was usually food, but it was never clear what we could have. Once in a while, they made food special for us, it was never enough to sustain me. I’m 110 pounds and have the world’s fastest metabolism. I need to eat a LOT more than some people, otherwise I get sickly, depressed, and start having blood sugar issues. I appreciated the food I was given, including a whole organic chicken that my host bought just for me. But overall, the way the situation was set up just wasn’t working for me, and when I coupled that with my desire to be back in Asheville, I decided I’d had enough.

I confessed my feelings of discomfort to my fellow woofers, and they were kind and understanding. It turned out that everyone felt like I did about the unclear boundaries and confusion over food. They told me that many other woofers had come and gone quickly for similar reasons. Two girls had apparently even made up a story about how they needed to go to town to get tampons just so they could make an exit without it being awkward.

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Me looking happy in front of a waterfall in the Asheville area.

Longing for Asheville, NC: Heading Off to Start a New Life

I’m socially awkward. So when it came to leaving my WWOOF homestead, I had two choices: make a run for it or say goodbye. There was a road out by the barn that provided another way off the property, so I could have packed my car and gone without notifying anyone. Instead, I decided to do the right thing and let my host know that I didn’t feel like the situation was right for me. I’m glad I did, because she gave me a hug and was very understanding. It’s always nice to end things on a positive note.

Overall, I am very appreciative of the generosity of my WWOOF host. It wasn’t what I had daydreamed it could be, but it was a special experience I’ll never forget.

 

My WWOOF Experience Part Two: Bees, Barns, and Other Good Stuff

When I arrived at my WWOOF homestead in North Carolina, the owner and another worker were busy tending to a beehive. This made things a little awkward, because I couldn’t get close enough to talk to them, and there was no one else there. Being thankful for any act that could help the bee population stay the course with the rest of us, I was not going to complain!

I explored around the main house a bit, the inside of which was as interesting as I’d imagined an old North Carolina homestead to be. When I was done, they were still busy with the bees, so I sat and watched them for a while. That was when a few of the other woofers showed up. I was relieved. Backpacking taught me how to go with the flow, but it was still nice to be officially welcomed. I had just driven four hours, and I was hungry and ready to settle in.

Plucked from my Imagination: Life Imitates Art

As I was shown around the property, I began to see how similar everything was to the book. Of course the layout was different, but most of the elements were there. There were gardens and forests all around. There were hens. The other woofers were all nice, nature-sunny-summer-yellowwell-traveled, and intelligent in the same way I had envisioned my characters.

The place had a main house, a smaller house, a trailer, a few different garden areas, some hen houses, some grassy areas, and a big barn. The barn was where I would be sleeping—with a dude roommate.

I know this sounds like a good setup for a romance novel, but nothing of the sort occurred. The sleeping areas were far enough apart to be separated but close enough where we could still see each other and talk if we wanted. Yeah, super awkward. He was nice, so it ended up being okay. Not romance-novel okay. Just normal, polite okay. Life imitates art, but not that much.

WWOOF-USA: Roughing it … Sort of

There was a bathroom at the main house, but it was pretty far away and unavailable at night. At the barn, we only had the woods or the compost toilet, which I won’t describe in detail except to say that it wasn’t the most private setup ever. I didn’t mind going out to the woods, especially in the middle of the night. It was peaceful.

One of the options for bathing was a pond not far from the property. Pond water didn’t exactly make me feel clean, but the pond was nicer than I had envisioned. I was okay with it at first, but then I started waiting until I could shower at the house, which I was originally told I could do. There ended up being issues with that, but I’ll get into it on the next blog.

I’ll also wait to get into the food situation. It wasn’t as I’d hoped it would be, but it wasn’t like we were starved, either.

WWOOF-USA North Carolina: The Stuff We Did

My duties as a WWOOF worker were a little unclear at times, but when I was assigned tasks, they were always enjoyable. The list includes things like:

  • Caring for chickens.applegirl
  • Harvesting beans and produce.
  • Preparing food.
  • Building or fixing things.

I don’t remember every single assignment at this point, just that most of them were okay. I liked the core mission of the place, which seemed to be promoting sustainable living.

WWOOF-USA: What I Learned from My Host

There’s a lot I could say about my WWOOF host, but since I decided to keep this anonymous, I’ll just say that she’s a person with many great achievements under her belt, and I respected that very much. Once she was finished with the bees and could actually talk to me, she taught me all sorts of things about cooking and canning food, working in the garden, planting, and taking care of animals. It was inspiring to see the life that she had made for herself.

Check out My WWOOF Experience Part Three: Why I Left Early, where I share the negative aspects of my experience.

For what led up to my WWOOF experience, check out Part One: California to WWOOF-USA North Carolina.

 

My WWOOF Experience Part One: California to WWOOF-USA North Carolina

Disclaimer: Part one doesn’t actually detail my WWOOF story. It explains everything that happened leading up to it.

Other disclaimer: I’m going to keep my WWOOF host and all participants anonymous. This was a really long time ago, and I might not remember everything right. Plus, people change, and I’m no longer in touch with this WWOOF host or anyone involved, and I have no clue whether they would like to be mentioned online at this point.

Setting it All Up: Why I wanted to WWOOF

I wanted to go “woofing” long before I started writing Edge of Something More. The book became an ongoing daydream, a process that allowed me to explore what a (highly romanticized) WWOOF experience might be like. I was too locked in my circumstances to try it at the time, so I spent a lot of time reading WWOOF experiences online. A number of things made it attractive to me.

  • I was fascinated with the idea of showing up at a place and being accepted as a member of a community.
  • I was obsessed with the idea of “getting off the grid.” Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m focused on using the grid to build as much success as possible, but back then, I just wanted to vanish into thin air.
  • I always wanted to learn more about gardening, composting, and other “green” things. Composting in particular.
  • I felt like since I had daydreamed about this for so long, actually doing it would surely mean something amazing would happen to my life. Something like what happened to Devin.

CA to NC: The Journey and Not the Destination

Halfway through the writing process, I took a break to travel for a while. I went backpacking overseas first, and then I returned to the United States to do WWOOF.

When I packed my car and said goodbye to California, I figured it might be a long time before I came back. I didn’t know the experiences I had on the way would be so life changing. I left for North Carolina about a month before I was planning on arriving at my WWOOF location. I should have known better, really—a lot can happen in a month.

lightningJust a warning: If you want an epic experience, the universe will give you one, possibly sooner than you had planned.

I’ve driven across the county a handful of times now, but this first trip was one I’ll never forget. There were so many things.

  • Blasting classic rock during a huge, middle-of-the-night lightning storm in Arizona.
  • Coming over the hill and seeing the golden lights of Albuquerque just before sunrise.
  • Meeting some rapper guys outside my hotel who were following the same path as me on the 40 from Los Angeles to Kansas City. They had their car all tricked out and painted with their portraits on it, and they gave me a CD, but I lost it. I wish I could remember their names!
  • Having the entire front bumper fall off my car in Kansas City and fixing it with duct tape.
  • Stopping a couple weeks to hike and explore around Columbia, Missouri, where I experienced mysterious forests, good food, and some romance I had been hoping for.

All of these adventures were amazing, but they were distracting me from my upcoming WWOOF experience.

Asheville NC: I Didn’t Count on Falling in Love

After Missouri, I got back on the road for a couple more days and met up with another good friend in Asheville, North Carolina.

Although I’ve long since left Asheville, it remains one of the prettiest places I’ve come across. As soon as I saw it, I fell deeply in love. The cascading mountains, the lush woods, the waterfalls, the colorful little city, the pretty, crunchy people—it was everything I had been hoping to find. All I wanted to do was start looking for a job and apartment.

However, I had already committed to visiting my WWOOF location a few hours away, and I couldn’t back out now. I decided to try it for a few weeks, and then I would return to Asheville to get set up for my new life.

Check out My WWOOF Experience Part Two: Bees, Barns, and Other Good Stuff.

 

Tips for Traveling Light: What I Brought to Bangkok, Thailand

Backpacker romances are common, but on my 2009 trip, which took me through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, my only long-term companion was a small Osprey day pack.

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My trustworthy Osprey Waypoint Day–next to Vogue and J-Law for comparison.

The feeling of freedom that comes with having everything you need packaged into one small container  can’t be overstated. Your travel plans will play a big role in what you’ll be bringing, of course. Meeting a lover for a romantic trip around Europe will require different elements than an Australian climbing trip. Either way, lightening your load as much as possible will help you be comfortable.

Flying from Los Angeles to Thailand: Things I Brought

What you need for travel can be divided into two categories: official and crucial.

The official stuff is pretty obvious. Passport, cash, credit or debit card, any important paper work or visas.

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Where will you go with nothing burdening you?

Then there’s the crucial stuff. The stuff you need most. For me, these things included:

Basic Hygiene Products

Dental care, maybe a rinse cup, since you can pack smaller things like earplugs (also a good thing to have) or pill bottles inside of it. A good bar of soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner’s) that you can use for a variety of things, like washing your clothes in the sink.

Leave room to buy new products when you get there! I had a lot of fun experimenting with products in southeast Asia, but if you’re picky about your facial cream, your tampon brand, or the type of condom you like, you will want to bring your favorites from home.

A Few Changes of Clothing

I brought about six pairs of underwear and three pairs of socks, and I rolled them down really tight. You don’t need a lot of socks in Asia; flip flops were best for most occasions. My t-shirts were small and flimsy, so they could be rolled down super small as well. I had two skirts and a pair of shorts, and thank God I didn’t forget a sweater. Southeast Asia is warm, but it can be chilly at times. Middle-of-the-night train rides, for example.

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A Combination Lock

This one is really important! I’m glad I had my lock. There were many times when it protected me or gave me peace of mind. A tool with many uses–you will see!

A Journal and Pen

I had two journals, one that I brought from home, and one that I got in Laos. With my journal, I also brought a few pages from the guidebook I thought might be helpful.

Things I Didn’t Bring that You Might Want

I didn’t bring:

  • Protective stuff (pepper spray, etc)
  • The guidebook, at least in its entirety
  • Makeup
  • Pillows/sleeping bag
  • Extra clothes
  • Phone/camera
  • Computer
  • A rain jacket
  • Medication or supplements
  • Other things I didn’t think of (tell me in the comments, please. I will edit them in!)

What Happened and What I Think Now

If I had it to do again, I would bring a camera, and although I did okay that time, I would never travel without my computer these days.

I’m glad I went without more clothes or makeup. The sea water and sunshine were good to me. Life was simple. During the romantic moments and so many others, I felt beautiful.

Thanks for reading! These blogs are a work in progress, so I will update if I can think of anything to add. If you like this blog or found it helpful, please let me know by commenting or following. I follow back authors on Twitter! 🙂 @ms_andiloveall

Andi

P.S.

I cheated and bought a second bag in Vientiane, Laos, about halfway through my trip. It’s purple with beautiful embroidery, and I still use to this day. I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes it’s good to let baggage go, and sometimes, it’s worth taking on.