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The story of Snickers the Goat

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My life isn’t what it used to be.

I’m no longer living alone with two dogs in a rental in ‘Aina Haina, only worrying about keeping my basil plant alive.

Now, I’m married, caring for three dogs and two chickens, about to re-start my husband’s aquaponics system — blog on that coming soon — and figuring how to work from home without getting distracted by the laundry and digital cable TV.

And add to that raising a newborn goat.

Yes, I said goat.

IMG_5083Here’s what happened: my husband works on a farm that has goats. And one of the female goats had given birth last week but refused to nurse it.

And then it started to rain.

Now, I’m no livestock expert. But this combination — a baby goat not feeding and now getting rained on — didn’t sound good. We had to do something — and fast.

My husband sprung into action. He grabbed a towel, jumped the fence and started to dry off the newborn kid. Then I got on the phone and called our vet, then Waimanālo Feed Supply for help. Turns out, one of the workers there raises goats and was our Internet of information.

“Did the kid nurse yet?”

“No,” I said.

“Are you sure? Because if he didn’t, that’s not good. He won’t survive more than a couple of days.”

He told me baby goats need to get colostrum from their mother. Found in her milk, this contains antibodies that protect the newborn against disease. And the baby needs to get this in the first 24 hours of life.

It had already been close to that.

Luckily, the feed supply store in Waimanālo had colostrum powder that we could mix into a milk replacer formulated for goats. (It sold that, too.) And within the hour, we were handing over $50 for a bag of Land O’Lakes ProNurse, a canister of colostrum replacement, and two long nipples that could fit over a beer bottle.

The situation was somewhat dire. We weren’t sure if the newborn had taken any of his mother’s milk, and he was already starting to look weak. We dried him off as best we could, keeping him in a warm area in a warehouse, and tried to get him to drink some of the milk replacer.

And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.

I bottle-fed my younger sister when she was a baby, no problem. I figured this would be equally as easy and simple. Just put the bottle in his mouth and make sure he doesn’t drink too much or too quickly, right?

I wish.

This kid was picky. The milk had to be warm. The nipple had to be warm. And he needed a little dab of corn syrup on it to entice him to even take the bottle.

It took a few tries, but we finally found a system that worked.

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I’ll be honest. Before this experience, I knew next to nothing about goats. I knew they ate everything in sight and, by a certain age, they stopped looking cute and started acting ornery. At least the ones I had been in contact with.

Turns out, though, there’s a lot to learn about these livestock animals.

For starters, goats are among the earliest animals domesticated by humans, dating back thousands of years. Neolithic farmers herded wild goats for their milk and meat, even used their poop for fuel and bones and hair for clothing and tools. Goat hide has long been used for water and wine bottle in traveling and transporting them for sale.

This guy — whom we named Snickers after my girlfriend sent me a list of names from her two sons — was a Nubian, a breed of domestic goat developed in Great Britain and bred for its milk, which has a high butterfat content. These Nubians can live in very hot climates and are distinguished by their large, pendulous ears — one of my favorite traits.

They grow to about 135 pounds for does, 175 pounds for bucks. And they live for roughly 12 to 15 years.

That is, if they make it past the first few days of life.

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Snickers was so sweet. He loved when I rubbed his muzzle and scratched his lower back. He loved licking our necks and faces and sucking on our fingers. And his tail wagged. Did you know goats wag their tails? I didn’t. I was completely smitten.

But we couldn’t keep Snickers. I’m unclear about the rules of owning farm animals in residential areas — all I found was that enclosures for farm animals can’t be located within 300 feet from any property line — but we don’t have the space for a goat. We already have a packed house of animals, and there was no way, no matter how cute Snickers was, no matter that we got him to drink milk out of a bowl, we were going to keep him in the house. The dogs would’ve loved it; the humans, not so much.

As it would happen, I was walking the dogs one afternoon — after feeding Snickers and getting goat milk replacement all over my legs — and met a neighbor who has fostered goats before. She agreed — after a martini — to take Snickers, raise him, and find a good home for him. Our only requirements were the new owner didn’t 1) eat the goat or 2) change his name.

“No problem,” she said, with a smile. “And it’s a good thing my husband isn’t home.”

So after a few days of hand-raising the little guy, we packed him up and let him go. Snickers is now living in a spacious grassy area in a nicer neighborhood than ours, playing with other dogs and getting bigger every day. We have full visitation rights, the woman told us, and we will likely take her up on that offer.

I never imagined I’d get up at 4 a.m. to bottle-feed a goat — or to feed two feisty hens every morning and walk a pack of dogs twice a day. I never thought I’d climb to the roof of a house to pick ‘ulu from a flourishing tree or gaze off our deck, past a koa tree my husband planted, and watch the sunset.

I never imagined it — but man, I wouldn’t change it, either.

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5 reasons why I love Christmas

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Look, I get it. Christmas isn’t for everyone.

We’re stressed, we’re cranky, we’re broke — and we’re driving like maniacs.

Who in their right mind would want to stand in line at uncomfortably crowded department stores, then hand over entire paychecks to gifts for people you only see once a year? Why spend your only free time, slaving in a hot kitchen, churning out dozens of meticulously decorated sugar cookies and loaves of fruitcake that will likely be used as a doorstop?

Are we crazy?

Well, yes, we are.

See, I love Christmas. I always have. And it has nothing to do with opening presents on Christmas Day, either.

In fact, my favorite day is today, Christmas Eve. The anticipation of Christmas is still lurking behind midnight, and you can just feel the feverish energy. (Or is that panic…?) The tree is decked, the gifts are wrapped, the stockings are hung on fireplaces made out of cardboard — hey, this is Hawai‘i! — and all the baking and cleaning and Christmas card-writing are finally done.

It’s the only day, really, when you can sit back, take a deep breath, and inhale it all in.

So what, exactly, is it about Christmas that makes me so cheerful, despite the awful traffic, the dwindling checking account, and the dozens of Aleve I’ve popped in the past week and a half?

I’ll tell you.

IMG_40475. Gives me a reason to bake: For a long time, I’ve lived alone — with no one to bake for. So I love any excuse to convert my home kitchen into a commercial facility, pumping out dozens of cookies and bars and cakes for friends, parties, neighbors, ‘opala workers. There’s something so satisfying when you bake, watching the slew of ingredients you’ve combined culminate into something (hopefully) delicious. And it’s equally gratifying to hand these baked goods to people who are really, really happy to receive them. You can’t beat it!

4. Yes, I do love Christmas music: I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I am a self-professed lover of Christmas music. All of it. Pop versions, classic renditions, horrific duets — I will listen and love. Seriously. Put on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” or Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and I’m all good. But here’s the catch: I can only — ONLY — listen to Christmas music during the holidays, starting in December, no earlier. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.

3. Buying gifts for kids: I’ll admit, shopping for gifts can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to find that perfect present (the one they won’t return or regift). But I love buying gifts for kids. I feel like no matter what you get them — aside from boring clothes and encyclopedia collections — they’re always thrilled to get something, anything, even gift cards. (I got my friend’s pre-teen son a gift card once and he loved it. It was like a fake credit card or something.) For the past few years, I’ve bought the kids on my list books. Yeah, I know, that could be the least exciting present under the tree for them, but I feel like I’m 1) supporting an industry that I never want to see go away, 2) promoting a lifelong love of reading, and 3) reliving my own youth through these books. This year, I got some of my favorites — like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and “Calvin & Hobbes” collections. Great reads. I even bought a book for myself! Win-win!

2. Seeing familiar faces all month long: No matter how busy we all get — with careers or kids or three needy dogs — everyone seems to carve out time to get together for the holidays. I mean, there are friends I never see or even talk to all year long — yet, here we are, having drinks with dinner or swapping cookies over afternoon tea. It really makes all the sitting-in-traffic-on-a-weekday-WTF and feeling-sick-because-we-ate-way-too-much-again so worth it.

1. It’s that old Christmas spirit: Maybe it’s cliche — although so is Christmas, I suppose — but there’s just something magical in the air during the holiday. It’s why we open doors for others and drop dollar bills into red kettles hanging outside of grocery stores. It’s why we leave lilikoi fruit on the sidewalk for people to take for free — and include plastic bags, too (top photo). We donate to causes, we buy responsible gifts that don’t hurt our environment, we look for a larger meaning to life, we hope for the best in each other and the world, we hold hands, we sing together, we pray together, we climb mountains to watch the sunrise and paddle out in the surf for sunset. Christmas just inspires us to live, to love, to hope. I just wish this feeling would last past Dec. 25.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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It started with an email

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I wouldn’t consider myself a risk-taker.

Sure, I’ve traveled to third-world countries without getting the appropriate shots and moved to Chicago without even visiting the city. (I am an Aries!)

But in general, I tend to live between the lines. I don’t paddle out if the waves are overhead and I wouldn’t walk my dogs in the middle of the night.

And to get me to go out on a date with someone I’ve never met before falls into that category.

Here’s what happened: Back in November 2013, I confessed to a friend that I was divorced. It wasn’t something I liked to broadcast. In fact, only a handful of people knew that my marriage was over.

I didn’t tell anyone for a variety of reasons, one of which was not wanting to get set up.

Which is exactly what happened.

My friend sent me over a link to the Facebook page of a guy he had known for a couple of years.

“Single,” he wrote.

“Who is he?”

“He’s a professor at UH, works with us on the wetland project, he does aquaculture mostly.”

“Nice?” I asked. Because that’s really, really important to me.

“Nice,” my friend responded. “And hunky.”

“I seriously don’t care about hunky.” (True.)

“Right…”

After a few back-and-forths — and then a serendipitous assignment on aquaculture — I decided I’d email this guy my friend was raving about.

My attitude was this: “If he’s nice and he’s active and he’s not an idiot or a misogynist or a downer or crazy or an asshole, I’m open.”

So I emailed him about the story. He wrote back the next morning, his message full of useful information. I appreciated his quick and comprehensive response. We became Facebook friends and, a month later, he emailed me this line about that story I was supposed to write: “I’m happy to help, too, and maybe we can meet up sometime in person to discuss.”

We agreed to meet on Dec. 14, 2013 in the early morning to surf at Queen’s — and to talk about aquaculture.

We surfed. And we did talk. But not just about aquaculture.

We wound up talking for six hours at Rainbow Drive-In. And before he got home, he texted me about surfing the next morning, too.

We saw each other every single day from that point on. And six months to the day we met, we were married.

And all it took was an email to a stranger.

I’ve looked back on my exchange with our mutual friend who set us up and I always laugh when I read the message he sent me, begging me not taking on this guy’s last name if we ever got married. (And this was before I had even sent that first email.) “Cat Fox,” he said, was just too much.

And yet, here we are, a year after we met on that fateful morning at the beach, and I’m officially — and legally and happily — a Fox.

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Celebrating our one-year anniversary this weekend at the Moana Surfrider.

It’s still so unbelievable to me that our lives intersected last year, that we were both single at the same time, that we would both instantly like each other so much that in six months we made our relationship legal.

It just seems so surreal.

I barely knew the guy at first. (I won’t lie, I did Google him, but not much showed up.) And I’ve never really been the type to just meet someone like that — at 5 a.m. in Waikīkī, no less.

Yet, that departure from the way I usually operate proved to be the best decision of my life.

I met my husband, my best friend. I’m part of an awesome, supportive family. And my two dogs have another sister. Life couldn’t be better or more complete.

I’m still not going to paddle out in high-advisory surf or move to Syria. (There’s no good reason there.) But maybe, sometimes, every once in awhile, I might shake things up, do something that’s out of my ordinary.

Because you just never know what amazing turn your life might take.

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It’s already December and I’m freaking out

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Cursed Christmas.

How did you get here so fast?

It’s already the second week of December — 15 days to Christmas — and I’m panicking.

I’ve bought exactly one present, mailed out zero cards, and just got a tree on Monday. It’s up, but there’s nothing on it.

I’m actually appalled with myself. By this time last year my entire Christmas list was checked off, gifts were wrapped, cards were long mailed out, and I was sitting in Christmas-themed pajamas, staring at a fully decorated tree with a mug of hot cocoa.

I might have already baked, too.

So what happened?

Good question.

In fact, it was a question I openly discussed with my dental hygienist yesterday. She’s a perfectionist — I can tell — and highly organized. By Thanksgiving she’s done shopping, too, and just coasting to Christmas.

But this year, she said, she hadn’t done a thing.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said through her medical mask, panic shining in her eyes. “I’m so behind!”

A part of me blames the Internet.

Not only have I been spending more time on said technological advancement, but I’m shopping there, too. It’s easy to get caught up in the depth of these shopping sites, browsing at items you didn’t even know existed. I mean, did you know you could buy a modular chicken cook from Williams-Sonoma or glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty from Amazon? I certainly didn’t.

So what happened was this: I wound up buying online a dozen Govino stemless shatterproof wine glasses, a Billabong wetsuit top, and a Fire TV stick — all for me.

The sales were just too good.

I bet the revenue generated from online retailers this holiday season — thanks to an extended Cyber Monday that really lasted two weeks — wasn’t solely for Christmas gifts. I’m sure people, like me, splurged on themselves. I mean, it’s hard to resist a deal — and with free shipping!

But now it’s just a couple of weeks until Christmas and I have nothing to show for it. Not even a batch of decorated sugar cookies or a tree with at least lights on it.

My plan now is to wait for Saturday, when it will be exactly 12 days until Christmas. That seems like a reasonable timeframe to get started.

Anyone else freaking out?

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#GiveBack: Fix the hole in the He‘eia fishpond

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It’s Christmas. Everyone’s strapped for cash. I get it.

But one of the best things you can do with your money is support a charity or project that has an ROI (return on investment) that goes beyond Christmas morning.

Look, I’m budgeting this year for the holidays. It’s the first year that I’m solely, completely working on a freelance budget. (And if you know anything about freelance writing, you’ll know that I’m *thisclose* to eating instant ramen every night.) But I still found a way to give back this year — and I hope you do, too.

B39TevMCUAAUX55The one that really connected with me was this: Paepae o He‘eia, the private nonprofit that cares for the historic He‘eia fishpond on the windward side of O‘ahu, needs to raise $100,000 to fix an 80-foot-wide hole in the fishpond wall.

The significance of this campaign — called “Pani Ka Puka,” or “close the hole” — is that once the hole is filled with rock, the fishpond can finally be used. That means, all the work that’s been done since the nonprofit took over stewardship of the area in 2001 will come to fruition.

The 800-year-old ancient Hawaiian fishpond will finally be useable.

Watch and learn here.

“It empowers the Hawaiian to practice in a modern-day setting, being able to restore something that our kūpuna built 800 years ago and provide opportunities for others to do the same,” says executive director Hi‘ilei Kawelo. “There are less than a dozen useable fishponds left on O‘ahu, and this is an important cultural tradition that we have the opportunity to preserve and pass onto our children.”

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On Wednesday the nonprofit officially launched the campaign with a blessing and rock-passing ceremony (above) at the fishpond. The goal is to raise $100,000 in the next 12 months to pay for materials, labor and other support.

The first time I went to the fishpond was back in 2008, when I had joined the marine conservation staff at The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i. We helped cut down invasive mangrove, stacked rocks to build the wall, and removed invasive algae from the water. It was inspiring to see an entire community of people, all of whom felt a certain responsibility to preserving this treasure, come together and work on this project. That feeling never left me, and I’ve since written dozens of stories about the nonprofit, the fishpond and its significance in Hawai‘i.

So here’s a real, tangible chance to help.

I’ve done the physical labor — and would do it again — but now it’s time to give.

So I went to the website and donated.

I’m not saying that everyone should donate to Pani Ka Puka (though that would be nice and I’m sure the nonprofit would love that!) I’m saying find something that speaks to you, that inspires you, that makes you believe in a better world — and support it.

Trust me, it will make your — and someone else’s — holidays that much merrier.

To learn more about Paepae o He‘eia’s Pani Ka Puka campaign, visit here.

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