Friday, September 7, 2012

Willie Boy

Seven years. On the downside to teenage-dom. This past year I feel like Will grew a lot in terms of shyness. I think school has probably been the biggest factor in that. Although as soon as I write that I'm reminded that there were two times this summer when he sat hesitant on the sidelines watching other kids play, too nervous to go ask if he could join them. So I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went and introduced him to the kids. And what do you know, everyone had a great time together. I guess he is a lot like me that way. He is hesitant to take that first step, but once the hurdle is cleared, he's pretty good at making new friends and being open to new situations. 

meeting new cousins in ID
 friends on the slip n slide
This summer I did something else I'm not a fan of and gave into Will's pleading for me to go on a water slide with him. Maybe it was a year of stepping outside of comfort zones for both of us. He is becoming a lot more independent and moving away from some of his "little kid" interests. Gone is Disney Jr and most cartoons, except Phineas and Ferb. Even Legos have become a side interest to Minecraft. This was the summer of Minecraft. If he wasn't playing the game, he was watching videos on youtube of other people playing the game. There is more resistance on hikes and tries to get him up the canyon with me. Although on my birthday his wish for me was more hikes with him, so maybe I still have some hope on that love of mine. 

I've loved seeing little bits of his personal style come out this year. For Halloween he made my year when he said he wanted to be a royal guard. He may never share my love of hiking, but he does share my love of England. 

When Easter rolled around I wasn't too surprised by his choice in an outfit. A sweater vest, bow tie and the beret he requested for Christmas. This kid has his own style. 

The funnest part of this year was probably watching him at the pool. That first summer visit always has a bit of hesitation wondering if he will have reverted some in the off season or if he'll just jump in where he left off. He definitively jumped in this season! Gone are the floaties, gone is the fear. Maybe a little too much gone for mom's liking. He is convinced he can swim. And he is doing really, really good. But I still need to be within arms reach of him even though he thinks he's too big for that. 

As he gets older it's harder for me to not be involved in his everyday life. But I'm trying to focus on all the exciting things we've been able to do this last year and the small parts of school I was able to be involved with. I never imagined the pride I would feel watching my son in his Kindergarten programs. Each time in the midst of kids needing their lines prompted to them and the quietly whispered lines, Will would go up to that microphone and clearly state his memorized part. We might have a public speaker in our future.

We had lots of fun trips this year that included Zions, Vegas, Idaho, Orderville and local canyons. Lots of new memories this year and time with family. My soft hearted, fun loving kid. Don't grow up too fast bud, mom still needs her cuddle bug. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Climbing of Mount Timpanogos

Yeah. So I kind of abandoned my blog. But I have a weekend that I need to document somehow. Someday I need to re-read this, when I've been able to process everything that actually happened. I'll start by saying I realized tonight that I forgot to put the SIM card in my camera. I'm feeling devastated by not having the photos I thought I was taking. So it turns out the memory will be all I have. So here it goes.

Last Wednesday my good friend Jenny mentioned to me at lunch that she and her husband and son were going to be hiking Mount Timpanogos this weekend. I've never been on that hike and she invited me along. Three days notice to go backpacking (something I have never done), on a 14 mile hike (the longest hike I've been on as an adult was 3 miles). Sure! Why not? I'm up for an adventure!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was nervous the days leading up, feeling stressed, mostly about carrying the pack since I had never done that. I thought I was a pretty good hiker, so I wasn't as stressed about that part. If I knew what laid ahead, I honestly don't think I would have gone. It's a fresh experience and I'm still trying to figure out if that ended up being a good thing or not.

The trail has 2 trail heads, Aspen Grove and Timpanooke. Jenny and her husband Travis decided that we would leave my car at Timpanooke and drive down and start at Aspen Grove. Hike up and camp at Emerald Lake, and then hike down the Timpanooke side, completing both sides of the trail. Sounded good to me, so we started off on Saturday at about 3 p.m.

I wanted to quit the first 20 minutes of the hike. Maybe the first 10. The extra 30 lbs of the pack were making my calves burn. I felt in trouble so early on. Jenny assured me that the beginning is one of the steepest parts and that it would get easier. I'm not sure if easier is a good term, but it did get a little more bearable. I've taken lots of photos of the back side of Timp, but never really knew where the trail went. Three weeks ago I took this photo and commented that I had never noticed all the little waterfalls and wished there was some way up to them. I may be regretting that comment. Little did I know that I was looking at the area of the mountain you hike up, and that I would go by those waterfalls.

My love for photography revolves almost exclusively around nature and landscapes. The one thing I was really looking forward to on this trip was taking photos. But after taking only two photos, I put the camera away. The hike was getting harder and harder. I really didn't think I could do it. I didn't care about taking any photos. I just wanted the hike to be over, even though I was probably only an hour in at this point. The waterfalls along the way are beautiful, but I didn't feel like I could even start to enjoy them because of the emotional and physical struggle I was having with the hike. I can't thank my friend Jenny enough, because without her support I would not have made it. Of course I also wouldn't have gone on the hike if it wasn't for her, so might be a conundrum there. But she was amazingly supportive. I was swearing a lot, and telling her I didn't think I could do it. I didn't want to do it. And instead of telling me to suck it up and hike, which is what I probably would have wanted to tell myself, she was just very supportive telling me I could do it. That I was doing awesome. That she really struggled the first time she did the hike but that she knew I could do it. Half way up she even switched packs with me, and carried my pack the whole way down, I carried her son's, the smallest of the packs.

I realized pretty early on in the hike that this was going to be a battle with my inner self. In my head I was telling myself I couldn't do it, that this was the stupidest thing I had ever done, why I was I trying this? I knew that if I was going to finish this hike, I needed to change that dialogue. I've heard enough motivational stories to know that your mind can beat you. Or that it can help you push through physical limitations. So I tried the best I could to become a cheerleader in my head. I would tell myself, you just have to make it to the end of this switchback, just make it that tree, one step at a time. On the steep inclines I would chant go, go, go, go in my head, or you can do it! Just a little further, you're doing it! There were still lots of swear words coming out of my mouth, but it helped.

The further up we went, the harder it was. Not just because of exhaustion and physical pain, but also because there is about 5,000 ft in elevation change. And my lungs were not happy about it. Even if I felt like I could force one foot in front of the other, I couldn't catch my breath. I would stop for a minute and then after just a few steps feel like I needed to stop again. By the time we started getting towards the top my inner dialogue started changing to things like, Will needs a mom you can't give up. How will they get you down the mountain, you have to keep going. The top is closer than the bottom, don't give up.

A few miles from the top Jenny's husband Travis and son Dominic came back down the trail to take our packs from us. They beat us to the top by several hours. Even though they had taken a wrong trail and gone out of their way about an hour. I'm really not sure if we would have made it to the top without that help. I know they were both exhausted and the fact that they came back and did that was really special. With the packs removed I thought the hike would get a lot easier. The physical pain caused by it definitely lightened up, but by that time we were so high up that the altitude was causing me to go so slow I wasn't sure if we would finish.

Finally reaching the crest of the hill you go through a few mountain meadows which were bursting with wildflowers. We also got our first glimpse of the herds of mountain goats that live around the lake. There was a really cute little baby goat that was peaking out from behind a tree at us. The goats are definitely used to hikers and let you get pretty close before they wander off the trail. It was such a beautiful, peaceful setting and yet all I could think of was being able to lay down. I just wanted to stop moving. Jenny had a nice walking stick that she let me borrow for the last mile or so. I wasn't needing if for hiking stability, but actually used it so I wouldn't fall over. Altitude sickness and extreme fatigue was setting in. When I stopped to rest I felt like I was going to fall over and starting to move again was more painful than just moving. So I tried to stop as little as possible. Tried to will myself to move one foot in front of the other. By this point the upper section of my thighs did not want to move more than a couple inches away from my body. Moving my leg up enough to step over a rock felt like such a monumental task.

When the boys took our packs they warned us that the last little hill up to the lake was pretty brutal. If it was at the beginning of a hike it wouldn't be so bad. But at the end of the hike, it felt almost impossible to climb. The only thing pushing me up it was knowing it meant that we were close and that I could collapse. That I could stop moving. We finally made it to the lake. After seven hours of hiking. I think most websites I have seen about the hike say it takes about 3.5 hours. So that felt awesome. We made our way to where the boys had started to set up camp and I looked for a patch of ground and just laid down face first. I didn't want to move. I didn't understand why there were so many people that we passed on the hike that looked like were just going on an easy hike. I had just hiked one of the hardest hikes in Utah (my own determination) and I wanted to die.

We eventually got some dinner cooked and our gear set up. Jenny and I squished into the two man tent they had just gotten, along with our gear at our feet. When they say two men, I wonder what two men that base that measurement on. I'm not positive if this is when the change happened, but I blame it on having a kid. I cannot sleep well outside of my bed. Part of my issue is that having a kid I became a very light sleeper waking at every sound to make sure he was ok. Because of this I have to sleep with a fan on, for the white noise. I have a little one I take with me when I travel because I've learned through many sleepless nights, I need my fan. It also had to do with some sort of comfort level though being in a different place. Camping is not conducive to either of these issues. The crazy wind up by the lake at night and through the morning didn't help either.

After getting some food in us, and being able to crash in bed, Jenny and I did stay up talking for a little bit. Although I was throbbing in pain, I did feel like the near delusion I had been experiencing an hour before was lifting. Except for the many swear words, I hadn't talked at all on the trail. I just didn't have the energy. So we caught up a bit. There was what felt like an hour of sleep and then I  laid awake for several hours needing to pee very badly and not being able to lay in a position where I wasn't in pain. I would have gotten up sooner, but the new tent was having zipper issues. We'd really struggled to get it partial zipped up and I knew getting out and getting it zipped back up would be an ordeal. Eventually I figured it was stupid to just lay there in pain and went for it. Sadly everyone else ended up being woken up by my struggle to get out, so there we were all awake at 4:30.

Travis and Dominic got up at that time to make their way to the summit. When talking about the trip I definitely was on board for trying to hike up there. After getting as far as I did, there was not going to be any voluntary hiking. It was pure survival at this point. I had some pictures to show where the summit was from our camp, but I guess you'll just have to imagine. Or drag yourself up there sometime. After the boys left Jenny and I talked a little bit more and then fell asleep for a little bit until the boys got back.  Eventually we got something to eat, filled our water bottles (thanks to the awesome water purifier my dad let us borrow. I'm not sure how we would have made it without that. Hiking up that much water would not have added to the fun.) Another note on the water, on the way up and down I went though three bottles of water and didn't have to pee once. That's what sweat does for you!

After packing up we headed off to go down the mountain. Starting the other leg of the hike from the lake you hike along a rock slide. It was a little scary in parts in the daylight on a fresh hike. I was very glad we had not come up that route (our first plan) to camp at the lake. By the time we got up there the night before it was dark. And with the pain and altitude sickness, hiking along a steep rock slide probably would not have ended well. Coming down off of the mountain side you descend into a large mountain meadow. The meadow was overflowing with even more wildflowers than we had seen the day before. Jenny has hiked up here several times and never been there for the wildflowers. If you are going to hike up there, go the end of July, it was amazing. Although you have been warned you're crazy for doing that hike.

Although the altitude was still really bothering me, the descending climb gave me hope that I would survive today. I told Jenny I would regret not getting any photos of this breathtaking area and so pulled out my camera and kept it out the rest of the trip. The hike down was beautiful and after coming through the meadow and to the mountain ridge, you could see the parking lot at the bottom. Although it was really far away, being able to see it was very encouraging. I could do this! I was going to make it through this day! On the hike up and the hike down I was really surprised how friendly everyone was. I've commented before being a little surprised how much people will avoid making eye contact with you on a lot of local hikes. You'll get a few hi's, usually from older people. But everyone we passed was friendly. On the hike up we got lots of comments about our packs, oh that's a big pack! Camping out huh, good luck. You guys are doing great, keep going! Everyone was so encouraging. On the way down we got lots of questions about staying overnight, how was it, how were the flowers, how we were troopers for making it up there with packs. It was a nice break up to the hiking.

We passed a lot more people again that looked like they were on a much easier hike than we were. Granted we didn't pass many people at all with packs, but still. That started becoming a little frustrating. There were at least three groups of people today that passed us as we were going down, and then passed us again as they were coming down. Of course they obviously didn't go all the way up, but it still was a little discouraging. About halfway down my enthusiasm for the downward hike completely went away. I stopped taking photos, I went into zombie mode. One foot in front of the other keeping my eyes mostly on the trail. Where was that damn trail head! My legs which had eased up on the pain, were back to full throbbing and not wanting to move. The downward hike was taking its toll on my ankles. One couple we passed said that we were an hour from the bottom and yet we had gone more than an hour and still didn't feel much closer. Absolute exhaustion was setting in. Jenny and I were quite except for the painful moaning. We were done. I just wanted to go home.

When we finally came around the bend and I got a little glimpse of the bathrooms knowing we were almost at the end, I broke down crying. It was over. We did it. It didn't feel possible to make it to the end. The boys again had beaten us by several hours, it took us almost six hours to go down. But we were there. We hiked the mountain. Part of me wanted to turn around and give the mountain the middle finger, but we just drove away instead, hungry and exhausted.

I have a couple friends that do marathons. I've heard from several people when asked why they do it, they say because of the challenge. To say you did it. I don't think I have that in me, at least not to a great degree. Right now I'm not feeling a sense of accomplishment, although I realize that might come in a few days. Part of me feels like a failure. Yeah I made it, but it was so incredibly hard. I passed so many people that weren't struggling the way I was. There were little kids up on that hike. Now most of them were not at the top, but they were up pretty far. I also thought I was a good hiker. I'm not. I said on Facebook that I now will refer to myself as a mountain stroll walker. Instead of feeling like I accomplished something, I feel instead like I discredited something I liked about myself.

There is a part of me that is proud that I did it. That was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and I did it. But big deal. I hiked a hike thousands of people go on. And I'm sick to my stomach that I don't even have the pictures to prove it. I do have this.

Right now it's painful to stand, it's painful to move. But I'm home and I get to sleep in my own bed. Maybe rest will give me a different perspective on this, but for now I just feel defeated by a very pretty mountain.

(taken by someone that remembered their memory card)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Go Forth and Conquer

My older sister Maiken's college graduation was this morning. She graduated from the Graphic Design program at Provo College. Maiken is the first child in our family to graduate from a post-secondary school and I'm very proud of her and the hard work she did to accomplish this. She has her first job in that field and I wish her a long, successful career in something she enjoys, and is good at. Love ya sis.

I wanted to get her a floral lei to wear at graduation but the places I saw advertising them weren't getting them in till the end of the month. Enter my mom ordering some orchids from work and me feeling adventurous, and a floral lei was made. Not bad for my first attempt.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Land of Zion

The other thing I wanted to do last weekend while visiting my sisters, was to go to Zion National Park. People come from other countries to see this park, and my sisters live 20 minutes from the east gate. And yet I've never been. I have a goal to see all the National Parks, and figured I should probably start with the ones within my own state. I had planned to buy a year pass because you go twice and it's paid for. But on the spot decided to pay a little more and buy the all parks pass. If I go to three more parks in the year it will pay for itself. So that is the commitment I am now making. I will make that pass worth it this year!

I'm really glad I went that weekend because it was the last weekend of the year that you can drive through the full park, starting in April you have to take a shuttle bus around. It was a beautiful day to be there, although a little busy for my taste. As far as photo taking goes, I was there at exactly the wrong time, right in the middle of the day. Early morning, or early dusk is when you are going to get interesting lighting, but even though I didn't get any amazing shots, it was still a nice way to spend a day. And it's nice to have one park marked off my list. There are so many things that I don't like about Utah, but the beautiful spots I have access to definitely help make up for those negatives.

After driving through the park I decided to check out a couple of the easy hikes to see if they would be appropriate for future visits with the kids. My first stop was the Lower Emerald Pools. I have to comment that I was a little surprised by the lack of friendliness on the trail. It's not that anyone was rude, it's just that the vast majority of people won't even look you in the eye. I've had similar experiences hiking around where I live, and have noticed that unless someone is over 60, it's a pretty low chance that someone will say hi, even if I say it first. It made my experience at Best Friends the next day stand out even more because every single person I came in contact with there was friendly to me.

Back to the hike. This is the waterfall creating the lower pool.

From behind the falls

Not exactly looking emerald, but I did get a rainbow which seemed fitting

I loved this little patch of trees along the side of the cliffs lit up by the sun. I smiled when a family behind me was trying to explain to one of the kids that no, someone didn't paint trees on the cliffs, those are actual trees.

I really wished I had a stronger lens on this visit. And also a panoramic lens.

I thought this looked like some creature ready to take a bite out of something

Flowers in the desert have an extra beauty

This little guy was taking advantage of the sun and was willing to let a few of us snap his photo

I looped around to another trail and then walked back to the starting point along the river. Which is a little more green than the water at the pools.

After a couple hours on the trails I had lunch at the Zion Lodge. It was a perfect spot to sit and relax and view the area I had just hiked.

After lunch I drove the rest of the scenic loop and stopped at Weeping Rock for a short hike. The wall was really cool with lots of moss and plants, but the sun was shinning straight on it, so I couldn't get any good shots. From underneath the ledge

On the way out of the park I stopped to take a picture of the area where you drive through a long tunnel. Which honestly is a bit freaky. My friend Wade had mentioned that it has openings that would be great places to take photos, except you can't stop in the tunnel. Going into the park through the tunnel, there was a group of harleys and all the women riding on the backs were taking photos with their phones as they slowed down at each opening. I stopped where I could see the openings to the tunnel and a raven flew down right over me as I got out of my car and circled around me. My camera was not on a setting right for the bright sun in that spot, but I didn't have time to adjust anything.

The significance of the raven the next day at Best Friends was even more special having seen this one the day before.

This is the section of the mountain that has a mile long tunnel through it. Pretty amazing to think about when you see if from this side.

Have to mention here that I love that the road through the park is a reddish brown with makes it blend in more with it's surroundings than a typical black road. I thought that was cool.

A closer up shot of one of the openings along the side of the tunnel.

I really love the beauty that surrounds me here and that I had the opportunity to experience another little section of it. I will definitely be returning to Zions.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Volunteering at Best Friends

I just got back from a weekend visiting my sisters down south, by myself, which was a new experience, and a nice break. I spent Friday wandering Zion National Park for the first time, but I'm more excited to post about Saturday, so I'm going to post out of order. One of the purposes for this trip was to be able to volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary that my sisters Keeley and Alex work at. Because I've always visited them with my son, it limits what I could do, so a trip by myself meant more options.

The trip was pretty last minute, and there was a little bit of confusion about what I needed to do to be able to volunteer, which meant it didn't exactly go as planned. The plan was to be able to split the day and work the morning with one sister and then switch to the other sister after lunch. They have two set shifts that you have to follow to be able to volunteer. It ended up that I hadn't submitted everything that I needed to online, so when I showed up at 7:30 a.m. for the volunteer orientation, I wasn't able to attend. They said I could come back at 11 for the second orientation and be able to volunteer that afternoon. I was bummed, but understand that when you get up to 200 volunteers a day, they have to follow procedures.

So after dropping my sister off to work, I decided to wander a few places she pointed out to try and kill a few hours. The first place I went to is called the Labyrinth. It is a meditation area off the main road inside the sanctuary. The fact that there is a meditation area on the grounds, gives you a very good idea about the founders. I wasn't sure what to expect because my sister had never been there either. There is a large flat area that has a circle path winding around itself until you end up in the center. It was a very peaceful, beautiful place to start out the morning.

To one side of the circle is a tree with prayer flags.

These were some of my favorite drawings

After looking around the area I walked through the labyrinth. Right as I reached the center I heard a bird squawking behind me and turned around to see a raven in a tree.

I can't say in the past that I ever had any attachment to ravens. But I have a couple people in my life who do, and since learning of their fondness for the bird, I have seemed to notice them a lot more, and always in meaningful times. The raven stayed in the tree for a minute and then flew off down the hill. So I decided I should go wander that way. The labyrinth is near the edge of the canyon, and is a beautiful viewing spot.

Just a little bit of the sanctuary land

If you click on the picture you may be able to see the greyish green house right in the middle. That is one of the founders homes. The sanctuary has lots of rumors surrounding the founders and practices there relating to cults and such things. This home is the grounds to a lot of those rumored events. Keeley and Alex said they have staff meetings there now and I would love to be able to walk though, it is very intriguing to me.

After spending some time sitting on a large rock that overlooked the canyon, I wandered down one of the dog walking trails to the second cemetery, which was created because the main one is now full. Here is a view of part of the main cemetery from near the labyrinth.

The second, smaller resting spot does not have the ornateness of the main one, and unless someone told you it was there, you wouldn't know. Walking into the resting spot, I can't express the very touching spirit that flowed in that area. I'm not sure I have ever felt anything that special in a human cemetery. There are simple paving stones used as markers most with just a plain name plate. But every single one of them has stones and mementos left from workers and volunteers that were touched by each animal. Some markers stand out quickly as a very loved animal.

But even these little rats were obviously loved.

Both resting areas also use wind chimes as memorials. There was a slight breeze that morning and I sat for awhile listening to the chimes. I have never heard chimes that had such beautiful tones. It felt like my own private concert. The chimes together with the general spirit of love there left me crying and very touched.

The next place my sister had recommended checking out is called Hidden Lake. It's a popular spot with the local teenagers. We were also hoping there would be some horses in the nearby pastures, but no luck that day. Hidden Lake is a water filled cave, and honestly, gave me the creeps.

The rocks outside of it are beautiful, but it took me awhile to even go near that opening. It's pitch black, you can't even tell there is water in it without getting close. Black cave water, no thanks. I didn't want to regret not trying to see what was inside, but this was the best I could do. I didn't care to try more, I wanted to get out of there. Creepy.

After I killed a few hours, it was time to go back for my volunteer orientation. There were only three other groups of people in my class, but just being around them for a few minutes was a very humbling experience. One group was three ladies from several different states back east who all work for the same company. One of them immediately came up to me while we were waiting for the class to start, and introduced their group. They were all so excited to be there. They had been planning this trip since August and were volunteering at almost every animal area over the course of three days. The excitement and passion of the people coming to volunteer, made me grateful for the ease of which I was able to participate. One of the other groups in our class was a family that came from Canada and made a vacation out of the experience. From staff to volunteers, everyone I met at Best Friends was incredibly friendly and welcoming. That on its own was a nice change from seems to be an ever increasingly unfriendly world.

After my orientation it was off to work with Alex in one of the cat houses. There are over 400 cats at Best Friends. A little daunting to think about. Alex was working in the house called Jill's Diner that day which houses around 30-40 cats I think. It was a little hard to tell because a lot of them are hiding and this might be all you see of them that day.

This house has four runs which all include and indoor and outdoor area for the cats to move freely between. The rafters are open with extra boards added for walkways and houses and bedding in the corners for those cats that want a little less interaction. On the ground there are lots of scratching posts and climbing areas, shelves and other areas for playing and napping. The cats seem very happy there and are definitely well taken care of. I helped Alex clean one of the runs and I have to say, for an area having 30+ cats, it didn't smell. I talked to Alex about some about the struggle between different houses on cleaning procedures and problems and helps that are created just by what products they do or don't use. I was glad I was there on the day she was working in a house where the main caregiver believes in using natural products and cleaners and avoids cleaners that while intending to make the area smell better, end up creating more problems. If I was a cat, I'd want to live in Jill's Diner. Of course you could also get the chance to live in the house where the caregiver has an obsession about all of the bedding and toys being only one color in each run.

This is Papa and he is one of the older cats and he hangs out in the lobby where the caregiver works because he prefers some alone time.

I pet kitties while Alex had to give them fluids and helped distribute dinner. One of the cats that is given fluids is Jasmine. She is 20 years old and the oldest cat at the sanctuary. Alex loves her.

She is pretty much just like a little old lady. Her fur looks like it needs to be combed, her meowing sounds like she's been a smoker for most of her life, she usually has to be shown where her food is, and she walks like every movement in an painful ordeal. But I think she is pretty happy with her home. Besides helping Alex out, I mostly just got to socialize with the cats. There are definitely a lot of cats that don't want anything to do with you, and a lot of the ones in this house are feral. But there were also several that had no problem being affectionate.

This is Phantom.

Two of the friendly ladies from the orientation wanted to take a cat out on a walk, they do have some that love to do that. Phantom loves to go on walks and was just as comfortable on a leash as a dog. She ended up wearing out the ladies.

This is the beautiful Mojito.

He is a very small, sleek cat. He is very adventurous and curious. He loves to chase wadded up pieces of paper. While in a neighboring run, we also found out he had no problem climbing the wire walls trying to get at a cat toy on the other side.

But my heart got sucked up by two sleek black kitties. I've always had a soft spot for sleek black cats, pretty sure I got it from my mom. The first one I met was Jag. I was lucky to get this shot of Jag early on, because after this he was glued to me when I was in the run and it was hard trying to get another picture of him.

Jag and Phantom were both cats dropped off at shelters with notes that their owners had lost their homes or jobs and that they couldn't take care of them anymore. My sisters said that in the last few years the number of animals coming to them for this reason has skyrocketed. Very sad other side to the downturn in the economy. Jag would have easily come home with me if I lived in a cat friendly place. It's honestly amazing that my sisters only have five cats considering where they work.

The next little guy to melt me was Exodus.

He also came right up to me when I walked in and was very content in my lap, making it hard to take photos of him. Exodus's story was heartbreaking. He came from another shelter with a broken jaw which causes his tongue to stick out on the side. They are pretty sure this injury was the result of being violently kicked. Even with that kind of background, this cat had nothing but love to give. It is stories like that which make you want to fill up your car with animals and take them home. But after talking to Alex about it she pointed out that it is important for people to adopt from their local shelter which is most likely a kill shelter. You will be actually saving that animal's life. All the animals at Best Friends will have a comfortable place to live for the rest of their lives, even if the ideal would be for them to all be in homes. Exodus and Jag were really hard to say goodbye to though. Exodus and Mojito who are buddies, got to go on an overnight with the three friendly ladies though. So knowing the love they were going to have poured on them that night made it a little easier. I'll definitely be watching these guys stories and hopefully visiting them again.

Even though I didn't get to volunteer with Keeley this time, I did get to tour where she works and meet a lot of co-workers. I've always been proud of my sisters, but getting to see in person the hard work that they do, and hearing the respect their co-workers have for them, was a great, proud sister moment. Keeley was on-call for the weekend and ended up having to go in very late each night I was there to sit with or check-in on surgery patients. Seeing the animals in recovery and knowing the great care they receive there also made me very proud about the work my sisters help do. Keeley is leaving on Tuesday to go to LA to help in a clinic they have been taking over there. Best Friends is an amazing place, but it can't solve the problem by its self. Other locations like the one in LA, will be a big step towards getting places all over the country that can help do a lot of good things for animals.

The work my sisters do is physical demanding. You don't get paid much, and you have to have a passion for the animals to make it worthwhile. I'm glad there are people like them working at facilities like Best Friends, and everyone else out there doing the work they do to help save animals lives. I only helped for a few hours on one day, but it was an extremely touching experience and one I hope to be able to repeat many times. And in a Price is Right closing, please spay and neuter your pets.