Cheap Doesn’t Mean Easy

When I was getting ready to move to Colorado Springs, I was told it would be “so easy” to find an apartment to rent, because places were cheap and plentiful. After doing a few searches on Craigslist and, it sure seemed like it. There were lots of places to rent, they were much cheaper than anything in Hawaii and most of them were dog friendly. Many of the complexes also had amenities I wasn’t used to seeing. Heated indoor swimming pool and fenced dog park? Yes, please! Things were looking good. That is, until I arrived in Colorado and seriously began looking for an apartment.

Vue 21 in Colorado Springs, from The complex has a salt water pool, fire pits and monthly events, including cooking classes and wine tastings.

I scheduled my first showing and a friend took me to do a drive-by of the place. The actual buildings of the complex looked greatbut the surrounding area? Not so much. The houses around it were rundown and we saw several sketchy-looking characters walking up and down the street. I couldn’t imagine walking my dog there twice a day. I canceled my showing and moved on to the next one. Unfortunately, it was just another nice building in another rough-looking area, which equaled another canceled showing.

I had one more place I wanted to check out. Third time’s a charm, right? Wrong! Before we could do a drive-by viewing, I received an email saying that the showing was canceledthe apartment had been rented. I continued my search, emailing yet another leasing office. By the time I got a reply (the next day), the apartment had been rented. They wouldn’t have another unit available until next month. What was going on?! It seemed to me that there were two types of rentals: the super cheap ones that no one actually wanted, and the average cheap ones that were getting snatched up in what seemed like minutes after they were posted. I was getting frustrated.

I moved on to searching for a room rental. It would be less of a commitment, giving me more time to find a place I REALLY wanted to live in. I set up a Starbucks meeting with a guy who had a bedroom and bathroom for rent in his three-bedroom home. Once I decided he wasn’t a psycho, I visited the place. It was in a nice neighborhood, and the bedroom/bathroom setup seemed ideal for my dog and I. The owner was OK with the short-term arrangement, so I decided to move forward. He said he’d send over a lease agreement.

Several days passed, and no word. I wondered if he’d changed his mind. Finally, I received an email from himhe wanted my information to run a credit check. Um… what? I had offered to pay two months’ rent upfront, since I was only going to stay for two or three months. Why would he need to run a credit check? I was extremely hesitant. Several years ago, my information was stolen and sold to someone in Bucharest. (Seriously. I didn’t even know where Bucharest was until it happened.) I decided not to reply right away. I had to think about whether or not I was going to cooperate with this so-called credit check.

Fortunately, a text message I received later that night made my decision easy. My best friend in Louisville, Kentucky, asked me to come visit her. “You can stay with us!” her message read. What would I do? I could (a) consent to a credit check to live with a total stranger for a few months or (b) visit my best friend and her family, while checking out a new place I’ve never been to. The decision was obvious. See ya later, Colorado!



What time is it?

It’s been six weeks and two days since my arrival in Colorado. Sadly, after more than a month, my body is still on Hawaii time. Most nights, I go to sleep around 2 a.m. (11 p.m. Hawaii time) and wake up around 9 or 10 a.m. (6 or 7 a.m. Hawaii time). For the most part, this has worked out in my favor. I get a glorious eight hours of sleep in, and by the time I’ve walked my dog, made my breakfast and checked my emails, most of the people I do work for are just getting to their offices in Hawaii. I feel ahead of the game!

If I absolutely have to wake up earlier, I simply adjust my sleeping schedule accordingly. (I can make myself sleep pretty much anytime, anywhere, if I want to. Ask anyone who has traveled with methey think it’s hilarious. I’ll be having a conversation with them one minute, then I’ll look at the time and say, “Oh, I need to go to bed. Goodnight.” About 30 seconds later, I’m out cold.) But even after nights of forcing myself to sleep earlier, I’ll go back to my regular schedule, naturally getting tired around 2 a.m. and waking up around 9 a.m. I just can’t seem to get in tune with the mountain time zone.

I know … BOO-HOO, right? Poor me, who doesn’t have wake up early to get dressed and drive to an office every morning. Trust me, I’m not complaining … I’m simply sharing.

Anyway, this morning threw me for a loop. I woke up and looked at the time on my phone: It was 10:34 a.m. I couldn’t believe ithow did I sleep for so long? It didn’t even feel that late. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and got dressed. As I put my dog’s harness on him in preparation for our morning walk, I glanced up at the clock. It was 10:30. Waitwhat?! I must’ve been half asleep when I checked the time on my phone, I thought to myself. I headed out and didn’t think about it again until I got back and started to make my breakfast. The time on the microwave and stove were the samebut the time on the cable box was an hour ahead. What was going on?! <Key “Twilight Zone” music.>


My friend walked into the kitchen. “Did you know,” I began, “that the time on the cable box is different from the time on the microwave and stove?!” Unfazed, she answered, “Oh yeah, the time went up an hour last night. We didn’t fix the clocks yet. The cable box changes automatically.”

The mystery was solved: daylight savings time. That thing that has been printed on every calendar and planner I’ve ever owned, but I never paid any attention to it because it doesn’t “exist” in Hawaii. Looks like I’m going to have to start paying attention to it now, because it definitely exists in Colorado. Guess it’s time to fix the clocks.

Is everything a dollar?!

Despite seeing signs all over the store stating that everything is a dollar, I walked over to my friend and asked, “Is everything really a dollar? You’re sure?”

It was my first time at Dollar Tree and I couldn’t contain my amazement—a store where literally every item was just one dollar?! This was definitely going to be an experience I couldn’t get back home. In Hawaii, the closest thing to Dollar Tree was probably Price Busters, which closed down a couple of years ago. But even there, most items were priced well over $1.

I began walking up and down each aisle, observing the inventory while taking note of items I might actually buy (Bounty paper towels) and things I’d probably steer clear of (no-brand face wash that was made in China). Then, just after the toy aisle, right before the office supplies, I spotted them: books! Real, new, hardcover and paperback books! (A note to those who don’t know me very well: I own a Kindle and a Nook, but I can’t rid myself of my book addiction. There is nothing in the world that can replace the feel of pages between my fingers while I’m reading a good book. The same goes for magazines—I’ve never been able to get through a digital edition.)

I had to be sure the books were real and fully intact. I picked one up randomly, quickly flipping through the pages to make sure none were missing. Then I stepped back to look at the area as a whole. These books weren’t one-offs, a random bunch of unwanted reads. No; in fact, they were organized—young adult, fiction, cookbooks, etc.—and there were multiple copies of most, like you’d find in Barnes & Noble. I excitedly began picking out the ones I was going to buy. I found my friend a few aisles down and requested price confirmation again. Holding the books up, I asked, “Are THESE a dollar?” She looked at me, slightly weary, replying, “Yes … I’m pretty sure everything is a dollar.”

Long story short, we shopped, we paid, and I confirmed: Everything at Dollar Tree does, in fact, cost a dollar. Actually, let me clarify: Most items are $1, but some are even less. There are also 2 for $1 deals, as well as some $0.89 goodies, like candy bars.


I’m still fascinated by the concept—and I’m not the only one. Several others have written about the many wonders of dollar stores, including what it’s like to live off of dollar store food, things you should and shouldn’t buy there, and how to get things for free from dollar stores by using coupons. I don’t think I’ll start doing extreme couponing or buying all of my groceries there, but I’ll definitely go back. I mean, why not? Every book I got is selling for more than $10 each on Amazon. As you can see in the photo above, $10 can go much further at Dollar Tree.

It’s All About Mother Nature

Being born and raised in Hawaii, there are a lot of things I took for granted. The list is especially long because I was conveniently located in downtown Honolulu, but here are a few of the biggies:

  • The beaches. Specifically, beaches next to the ocean. I found an article about sandy beaches in Colorado that are “pure paradise,” but if you’re from Hawaii and you look at the photos of said beaches—which are next to lakes—there’s a good chance you’ll feel nothing but pure depression.
  • The food. I don’t cook very often—OK… I actually don’t cook at all—so living down the street from Liliha Bakery was like being in heaven. And, just about anything and everything else I craved was no more than a ten-minute drive away. Even if I went to a fast food joint, I could count on everything tasting fairly decent. This brings me to the next thing on my list…
  • The water. Everyone knows the tap water in Hawaii is among the cleanest around, so I certainly didn’t expect to find the same quality of water in Colorado. However, I also didn’t expect to learn that the water here may be unsafe for drinking because it contains abnormal amounts of a chemical found in Teflon and Scotchgard. I should’ve known something was up, though, because I purchased fountain drinks from three different places here and they ALL tasted funky. Needless to say, both Koa and I are now strictly bottled-water drinkers. (Can you believe I have a dog who drinks SmartWater?!)

Today, as we walked to the dog park in 32-degree weather, I thought about these things. I looked down at the dirty, slushy snow beneath our feet and wondered why I left the warm beaches, the delicious and diverse food, and the drinkable water. But then, I looked up. I looked up and saw what I think was the first real photo-worthy thing I’ve seen since I got here. I saw how beautiful a barren tree looked with the bright blue sky in the background and I remembered one of the big reasons I came here: To experience mother nature as I’ve never done before. I want to play in the snow, climb up the mountains, and yes, swim in the lakes.


There are things I miss, but there are so many new things I’ll be able to experience. Now that the snowstorm is over, it’s time to get out and start doing just that.

The Meaning of Dog Friendly

In addition to the low cost of living and the change of scenery, another reason I chose Colorado as my next home is because it’s known as being very dog friendly. In fact, ranked Colorado Springs #3 on its “2015’s Best and Worst Cities for Pet Lovers” list. Honolulu came in 70 spots later. As far as I can tell, there are indeed lots of dog friendly places to go here: restaurants, hotels, parks, hikes and even random dog friendly attractions, such as the Ghost Town Wild West museum. Most apartment buildings and homes for rent are also pet friendly.

This brings me to the conclusion that pet friendly means exactly that: pets (presumably dogs) are allowed in many more places here than they are in other cities. That’s it—nothing more, nothing less. Here are some specific lessons I’ve learned:

  • Just because a place is dog friendly does not mean the dogs themselves—or their owners—are friendly. It is unwise to allow your dog to greet (a.k.a. sniff) other dogs unless their owners are clearly OK with it. In Hawaii, most people want their dog to meet yours; few pull their pets back. Here, it’s the opposite.
  • Though dog parks may be abundant, it doesn’t mean they’re safe. Thanks to a couple of locals I’ve spoken with, I now know that Palmer Dog Park is OK, but it’s best to avoid Bear Creek Dog Park, since “dogs get bit by rattlesnakes there all the time.” There’s even a Rattlesnake Avoidance Clinic sponsored by a local dog trainer—for $60, they’ll teach you how to keep your dog safe from rattlers while on the trails of Colorado.
  • Hypothermia in dogs is very real and sounds incredibly scary—especially since I’ve seen Koa shiver when we were outdoors. The best way to prevent it is to “avoid extreme cold for extended periods,” but he has shivered after only a few minutes. I guess the cold may be too much for my Hawaiian pooch.
  • Your dogs’ paws should be “winter proofed.” After seeing Koa excessively lick his paw following a walk in the snow, I did a quick Google search and Cesar Milan taught me that salt and deicers can be toxic to man’s best friend. Feeling like a terrible pet parent, I cleaned Koa’s paws then went out and spent $50 on boots that he hates but will be forced to wear.


This brings me to my final lesson:

  • Dog friendly definitely does not equal wallet friendly. After spending $134 on food, treats and yes, those dang boots, I can safely say that dog goods cost just as much here as it did in Hawaii.

Well, at least I know my spoiled little mutt is happy and safe.



Shoveling Away

In the past few days I haven’t seen much of the outside world, with the exception of a quick Walmart run for dog treats and a stop at Culver’s for a butterburger and frozen custard. (To all the Hawaii natives: Culver’s is a chain that serves delicious, made-to-order burgers between buns that are apparently cooked in butter. And the best part? No calories! Wink, wink.)

I think being cooped up is prolonging my jet lag. I’m still sleeping at 2 a.m. and waking up around 10 a.m. It’s not helping my appetite, either—for some reason, I don’t feel hungry and have to remind myself to eat. Back home, if I was stuck inside all day, I’d take Koa for a walk or run just to get out. Unfortunately, he’s still in the “do my business and run back into the house” mode; I can’t get him to stay out in the snow for more than five minutes.


So, when my friend told me she was going outside to get the snow off and away from her car, I said I’d help her. After being indoors for several days and not really engaging in any physical activity, I figured I could use some exercise—even if shoveling snow in the freezing cold wouldn’t exactly be my activity of choice. But after about an hour of talking story, scooping and scraping, the ice and snow were off her car and the driveway was cleared. And you know what? It wasn’t that hard.


I don’t understand women who refuse to do it, insisting their fathers or husbands do it for them. True, people have dropped dead doing this winter chore (as with any physical activity, older or out-of-shape people should be cautious…), but I agree with Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist. We need to close up the snow-shoveling gender gap, people! If this snow newbie from Hawaii can shovel a driveway full of snow, anyone can. So to all the healthy, able-bodied, non-pregnant women out there in this white winter: Get a grip, get out, and grab a damn shovel!

I Wanted to Build a Snowman

When I decided to leave Hawaii, one of the determining factors in choosing Colorado Springs as my new residence was the cost of living. According to CNN’s cost of living calculator, you’d only have to bring in roughly half of your Honolulu income to make a living in the Springs. To put this in perspective: If you’re raking in $100,000 annually in Hawaii, you’d only have to earn $51,620 in Colorado Springs to maintain the same lifestyle. Housing costs—which are 66 percent less in the Springs—obviously have a huge impact. But, why? What could possibly justify such a disparity? On day three of this adventure I call moving, I believe I’ve found the answer: The cold! The freakish, ridiculous, heart-stopping cold!


I made the discovery this morning. As forecasted, the snow began to fall in the early hours and when I awoke, I looked out the window to see every roof, every driveway and every backyard covered in glorious white. I dressed myself and Koa, then headed out the door. It was time to build a snowman! Or so I thought…

The fun stopped about 30 seconds into it. I wasn’t just cold; I was freezing—and Koa was shivering. I quickly realized I was the only person outside on the entire street. How can this be? I thought. This isn’t like the movies! Where are all the kids running outside, sledding and making snow angels? There wasn’t a single child in sightIn fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were watching the crazy brown woman from their windows, in the comfort of their heated homes.

I was determined to make a snowman of some sort, albeit a small one. But once I touched the snow with my bare hands (I know…  I need gloves), I stopped to reevaluate the situation. I could either (a) continue to attempt the snowman construction and possibly freeze to death or (b) go back into the house like a sane, normal person would. After thinking about how tragically embarrassing being found frozen on the front lawn would be, I retreated back into the house like a sad, defeated child. And now I sit in front of my laptop, typing this story while donning fleece-lined leggings, jeans, fleece-lined socks, Ugg boots, a long-sleeve thermal shirt, a fleece jacket and a hat, while Koa has burrowed himself under the blanket. (We’re hiding in my room so my housemates, who are walking around in T-shirts, can’t see how insane I look.)


So, this is why I suspect homes are so much cheaper here: You’re constantly forced to stay inside of them. There’s no running off to the beach or the mall or the park anytime you feel like it. According to my housemates, it can take three to four hours for the roads to be cleared after heavy snow—on a good day. On a bad day, schools close down and companies tell their employees to work from home. That means you can be stuck in the house for days on end with kids, dogs and work you need to get done. So of course you need a big, (cheap) house. Doing all that in an average Hawaii-sized home would feel even more like imprisonment than it does now. On the bright side, I’m all caught up on my emails.