10 October 2016

I'm out for those who can't be

I haven't been blogging lately (obviously). I haven't been doing much of anything.

The end of September and beginning of October was difficult for me. Because depression lies. Even though I had an editorial calendar to help prompt me to blog when I didn't want to, I just couldn't get myself in front of the computer. Because depression lies.

But I'm coming out of a dark personal storm, which coincides with coming out on the other side of Hurricane Matthew* and on National Coming Out Day.

Oh, yeah. And we're moving at the end of the month. So that's fun.

I try to write about National Coming Out Day each year for a lot of reasons. Yes, I've been out for a while, but it's important for me to keeping coming out because there are a lot of people who can't. They might lose their jobs. Or their homes. Or their lives.

This blog is a safe space.
Yes, our nation has marriage equality. Yes, there have been improvements in anti-discrimination and efforts to improve equality for queer** folks.

But it is still dangerous to be queer in a lot of places. And even in places you'd think it would be safe, like Orlando, being queer can be dangerous.

It doesn't surprise me that there are people who are fearful of being out. Truly.

Because they can't, I will. I will be out and an advocate. I will be vocal about fighting for equality and protection for others (including myself). I will give voice to the voiceless and let them know that there are people fighting their corner, even when they can't.

I'm an out lesbian.

Happy National Coming Out Day.

*We live in central Florida, so we did get hit with some of the weather; we were safe and didn't have any damage.
**My use of the term "queer" is intended to encompass all LGBTQIA orientations.

12 September 2016

Now that summer is over....

Now that we're into September, I'm shifting gears mentally into the fall. There's a lot we're looking forward to for this fall.

I'm launching a website.

I'm expanding my freelancing work to include specialized marketing services, so I'm building my website. I was hoping to have it up by the beginning of the month, but I ran into some complications, so now it'll be up at the end of the month instead. Either way, I'll have the website up and running soon, along with content to generate inbound leads.

I'm looking forward to it, and I think it'll be good for my career to get some private clients. I've kind of reached a plateau with the clients I currently have. So I'm ready to take the next step with my work and build a client base creating content marketing for a niche market. It's a demographic I'm passionate about, and I'm looking forward to immersing myself in that community in order to build clients and help businesses build their own customer bases.

We're taking a family vacation.

I graduated from college ten years ago, so this year's Homecoming at my alma mater will be a reunion Homecoming. I thought it would be a good opportunity to take Bo up to Illinois to meet the rest of my family, some of my friends, and to see the town I consider to be my hometown.

The original plan was that it would be a trip just for Bo and me, but now that the munchkins are homeschooled, they're coming with us, and we're turning it into a big field trip for school. Bo and I are making booklets for the kids to take with them that will include worksheets (math problems, geography, etc.) and activities (mazes, puzzles, journal prompts) to do each day. By the end of the trip they workbook will be complete. When we get back we'll print some pictures from the trip and the booklet will be part scrapbook and part workbook for school.

We're continuing to homeschool.

The kids have been out of public school since April, and we started officially homeschooling on June 1st (though we started unofficially before then). Now that it's autumn and public school is in full swing, we're continuing to push forward with homeschooling. Bo handles math and science, Monty handles social studies, and I handle Language Arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar, etc.).

It's a dynamic that works well for us, and I love being able to teach what Puck needs to know by allowing him to write short stories. The kids are thriving academically, and we have the flexibility to do things like taking a family vacation in October since we can make workbooks to take with and continue their education even when they're in the car.

Autumn is going to be busy, but happy.

05 September 2016

Reconnecting with family

Wifey and I had a mini-vacation over the weekend. We spent part of Labor Day weekend at my sister-in-law's house with her, her husband, and my parents-in-law. It was a quick weekend, but very fun. We went to the local museum of science and history where there happened to be a dinosaur exhibit. (We took lots of pictures for Puck!) We only stayed one night, but it was nice. We got away for a little bit and got to spend some time with family.

Sometimes those kinds of trips are the best for me. Between my introvert-ness and fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, short trips are just about all I can handle. I get the benefit of reconnecting with family and friends (and leave the apartment) without overwhelming myself or doing too much.

Sometimes those kinds of trips are just what I need. They give me a break from the chaos of the everyday without taking too much time away. I can recharge, but I don't have to plan for a vacation away from work.

It's one of the advantages to having family leaving nearby enough for weekend trips. I can take little trips and recharge and I don't have to leave the state.

That doesn't mean I'm not really excited about our upcoming family vacation, It'll be our first big roadtrip as a whole family, and even though it'll be taxing and take a lot of planning and organization and preparation, it's going to be a wonderful trip.

24 August 2016

Your brain is tricking you

Pre-anxiety attack
Puck struggles with anxiety in some similar ways that I do. Some of his anxieties work in different ways in his life.

Sometimes he struggles with contamination fears, especially surrounding food. If he gets food or anything he considers "dirty" on his hands, he is much more susceptible to an anxiety attack. He often has to leave the bathroom door ajar to pee. He doesn't like being in the bedroom on his own, especially when the sun starts to go down.

Some of his anxieties deal with sensory issues. For example, he had a panic attack before school one day because his shoe was "bothering him." He almost didn't make it to school that day.

So we've been trying to help him with his anxiety by giving him the tools to recognize and deal with triggers, and tools to recognize and get through anxiety attacks.

One thing we keep telling Puck is that his anxiety is his brain tricking him, and that's what causes his anxiety. It works remarkably well in order to appeal to his logical side.

There is nothing to "get you" in the bathroom. Your brain is trying to trick you.

And he's able to close the door almost halfway.

There's nothing on your shirt. Your brain is trying to trick you.

And he doesn't have to change into a different shirt.

It doesn't always work. But it works enough that we keep trying it.

One of the advantages Puck has is that his mama's brain tries to trick her a lot, too. So I can relate to him on that level, and sometimes I can talk to him in a way that he understands. Sometimes he sees that I really do understand how he feels because I've felt that way, too. I've been scared for no reason. I've had to change shirts for no reason. I've had moments where I'm upset and flustered and can't breathe, and I don't even know why.

My brain tricks me, too, sweet boy. I understand.

It's hard to have a high-needs child, especially when those needs are anxiety needs. There are so many times I see him anxious and there's nothing I can do to help, which breaks my heart.

But we're doing the best we can for him every day. So we remind him that his brain is tricking him, and we're here for him every step of his path.

22 August 2016

Observations from my apartment

Clara is an introvert, too. We get each other.
I spent the majority of my time in our apartment, usually in my office space.

Part of the reason for that is my anxiety. I hate driving, and I get anxious in groups of people, particularly in public settings. I get overwhelmed easily in crowds and feel like I have no escape. So it's "safer" for me to stay home as much as I can.

I go out for my appointments and the kids' appointments (and client meetings, of course). Other than that, I spend most of my time in the apartment.

There have been some consequences from my intense desire to stay in the apartment.

The most pressing consequence is that my vitamin D levels are very, very low. So low that my doctor prescribed vitamin D pills to help and instructed me to spend more time in the sun (which is the exact opposite of the instructions given to me by my dermatologist due to my rosacea....).

But there are good things that have come from staying in the apartment, too.

I get to people-watch. Because of where my office space is, I can see out the patio door (and the kids' bedroom window). So I see people walking back and forth every day, often with their puppies. I like seeing people going about their lives. Some of my favorite characters in the coffee house book have come from people-watching.

I should probably get out more. Be social a bit more.

But, for now, I can use the heat as an excuse to stay indoors. And we'll see how things go this fall.

18 August 2016

They're never too young to learn consent

Consent is a big deal.


And it goes both ways because men can be assaulted, as well. And women can assault women.

So one of the things that's really important for Bo and I is to teach the kids about consent. Both that they must receive it and give it for things to happen, like physical contact (hugs and kisses).

There are a few reasons we want them to know this, even as kids. First of all, we don't want the kids to feel obligated to give hugs and kisses to people (like family) so that if someone, whether family or not, tries to touch them inappropriately, they will know they are not obligated to consent.

My body, my choice.

Even with family.

Another reason we want the kids to know this is because they need to know and accept that "my body, my choice" extends to others, as well. Yes, Tink, it is your body and your choice. But it is also Puck's body and his choice whether or not he will accept hugs or kisses from you. And when they get older, they'll know that they must also make sure that the person they want to be intimate with or even hug or kiss more casually wants that contact.

My body, my choice.

With everyone.

Tink is an extrovert who loves hugs and kisses. So sometimes she gets so excited she forgets. At this age, we gently remind her, and usually she apologizes (to the person she had physical contact with) for not asking first. And those instances are getting fewer and further between.

Even at five and seven years old,

my body, my choice.

16 August 2016

The scribbling family

One of the reasons I wanted to meet Bo was because I knew she was a writer. I thought that, if nothing else, we could become writerly friends. I lucked out and ended up with an amazing wife instead.

But there has always been the writing.

Life has been chaotic in the last couple years, especially with the kids' health and my own health. So writing has taken a back seat a bit (outside of my work, at least). But now that things are finally settling down and we have a good routine, Bo and I are both working toward making more time for writing. We've set up a desk for her in the bedroom, and I've adjusted my daily schedule a bit to give her a few hours every afternoon during which she can write (or do whatever else she wants to do).

Sometimes you have to be
a superhero to write a story.
It's not only Bo and I that write stories. Puck is a writer, too.

In order to teach elements of stories (protagonist, antagonist, etc.), I had Puck fill out worksheets to develop characters and a plot, and then write a story. He loved it. He's written two stories (about dragons), And last week, he saw a toy gryphon and said, "I have an idea for my next story."

I think he's a scribbler, too.

I love that our family is full of writers. I love seeing the creativity when Puck and Bo are developing their ideas. I love sharing story ideas with them and talking about how to make them better.

Most of all, I love seeing the pride and joy on Puck's face when he reads us his latest story.

I'm so proud of him, and I can't wait to see what else he's going to come up with this school year.

In the meantime, Bo and I will be scribbling away, as well.

09 August 2016

I am her first and best advocate

Photo by Brandi Gilbertson
If you've been following this blog for a while, you probably already know about Tink's health concerns. They've been going on since her birth (well, before her birth, really), and sometimes I feel like we're going in circles trying to figure out what's causing these problems.

Right now, the most important issue we're dealing with is failure to thrive. We've ruled out any physical GI problem. Her blood work (almost) always comes back perfectly normal. So we're taking her care in a different direction: psychological.

Tink's pediatrician has referred her for behavioral therapy for a probable feeding disorder. We're optimistic that the treatment plan will help her, and we'll be able to get her healthy.

The problem is that my mama-sense is still tingling.

When Tink was still in infancy (a little over a year old) we took her to see a pediatric geneticist. While he didn't find anything at that time he could diagnose her with, he had a few conditions in mind that she could have, but was too young to meet the diagnostic criteria for. There were also a couple of conditions he was thinking about, but they would have required specialized genetic testing to diagnose, and he wasn't prepared to do that at that time.

As Tink has gotten older and (somewhat) bigger, the geneticist's report keeps echoing in my mind. I've done a little research (I know), and I can see signs of one of the conditions the geneticist mentioned all that time ago.

I'm reluctant to say, "I think Tink has this" to a pediatrician or other health care professional because I don't want to sound alarmist or that I'm looking for something more serious to be wrong with her. I don't want that at all. I want my daughter to be healthy. And the key to getting her healthy is finding out the cause of these problems.

As her mom, I know I am Tink's first and best advocate. I know what's normal and abnormal. I know if she's okay or not okay. And I have to follow my instincts when advocating for her.

I do think she might have one of the conditions the geneticist mentioned. But she might not. And I definitely think the more pressing concern is addressing her probable feeding disorder. Once that's out of the way, she'll either get better or we'll move on to the next round of diagnostic testing.

And I will always advocate for her as fiercely as I can.

08 August 2016

New changes, new structures

A typical day of homeschooling
Photo by Brandi Gilbertson
My life has changed a lot in the last four months or so.

We began homeschooling the kids, which changed our dynamic with Monty so that we have the kids every day when he's at work on his timesharing weeks.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, so I'm trying to manage all the complexities that come with that.

Tink may have a feeding disorder (we're still figuring out her myriad of health problems).

And Puck has been referred to physical therapy which may help, but may point us in a different direction for his health needs.

In order to manage all these changes, it's been imperative for Bo and I to develop a clear daily structure and expectations for the kids as well as for ourselves. The structure is especially beneficial for Puck; he struggles with anxiety, so having a predictable routine every day helps keep him from becoming overwhelmed and anxious. It's also beneficial for Tink. She's very securely in the extroverted camp, and tends to get distracted easily. Our schedule keeps her focused until her schoolwork is done for the day.

It also helps me plan for work. One of the great benefits of my career is that it's built around flexibility. I work when I have to, but I can also work when I need to. This type of career allows me to go to the kids' appointments (and my own), homeschool, and spend lots of time with the munchkins. Having a set schedule with the kids gives me a framework for work. I know that Bo does homeschooling with the kids in the mornings, so I can use that time for work.

I like how our life is set up. I like knowing I can adjust my schedule for field trips to the science center or library or unexpected blood work. Not only am I working in my field, but I have a successful career (that's continuing to grow) and am doing what I need to do so I can be present for my family.

Yes, our life is full of chaos. But our structure makes it manageable. And I certainly do love my life.

05 August 2016

Happy Birthday, Puck!

Photo by Brandi Gilbertson
Tomorrow my sweet boy turns seven.

I can hardly believe it.

Puck has grown and changed so very much in the last seven years. We've had some challenges and successes, but overall he's healthy and happy and on his way toward becoming the person he wants to be.

Puck is smart. When you give him something to do, he'll pick it up quickly and effectively. He likes being a helper, and he likes knowing how to do interesting and useful things. Some of his favorite toys are puzzles and anything he has to build.

Since we've started homeschooling, he's excelled in math and science. He's passionate about science, too. He reads non-fiction books (particularly those about animals) nearly every day. He can recall facts about animals easily, and it has given as a way to nurture a love of learning in him. He's an excellent student.

Photo by Brandi Gilbertson
Now that he's securely in the "school-age child" portion of his life, other aspects of his personality are starting to emerge. He's funny, and has a very sarcastic sense of humor. He loves to trick people (playfully, of course), play pranks, and tell jokes.

Puck is clearly his own person. He does things his own way, even if it means he sometimes does things the hard way. Eventually, though, he figures things out on his own or asks someone for help to figure it out.

I am honored to be his mom and to get to be a part of his growing up.

I'm eager to see everything that's still to come in his childhood. I'm eager to see the teenager and young adult he grows into years down the road. And, for now, we'll celebrate seven.

Happy Birthday, Puck. Mama loves you.

Photo by Brandi Gilbertson