20 July 2016

As we near the end of summer

Summer is one of the slow times in my work. My primary work revolves around the academic year, so I have a lull in the summer and in December/January.

Image source: punsayaporn / freedigitalphotos.net
This year I had mixed feelings about getting to the lull. My workload in spring was quite heavy, and I needed the break once it finally came. At the same time, the void left by a lack of work was a bit frightening, knowing that my work is what our family relies on for survival.

Work picked up a little bit this month, and I know that the levels will return to normal soon. And eventually, I'll be looking forward to the break I get at the end of the year.

Despite the lull in work, I've tried to stay productive. I'm working on a few things that have to stay in the background for now, and this has been a good time to do some administrative work, get some elements lined up, and prepare for the fall season of work.

Each week and month that passes, I'm taking steps to move my career in the direction I want it to go. I'm closer to the career person I want to be, and I'm excited about what's coming.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my summer lull, the extra time with the kids, and the chance to let myself rest a bit before the chaos of autumn begins.

How's your summer going?

18 July 2016

I've been in an air-conditioned nest of introversion....

I've kind of been hiding out this month. The family took a trip over the Fourth of July to visit my in-laws. It was fun but draining. When we got back, life was not really settled, and I've been feeling depression and anxiety slowly, steadily pulling a cold, dark cloak over my head.

I was trying desperately to stay ahead of it, but I just couldn't manage to do it this time. I'm having to let it run its course.

So I'm doing the best I can to keep moving, one step at a time, and lean heavily on the people who are always there for me.

Eventually (hopefully soon), I'll be able to shrug my way out of the cloak and move back to something resembling normalcy.

In the meantime, I'm doing what I can.

28 June 2016

Coffee-stained health

Some of you may already know that I've been having some health problems lately.

In addition to the diagnosis of rosacea, I've been dealing with a great deal of pain and fatigue that has been increasing for the last couple of years. So I got a referral from my primary care physician to go to a rheumatologist.

I saw the rheumatologist a couple of weeks ago, and he diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. His exact words were, "Well, you definitely have fibromyalgia."

Okay, then.

In addition, he thinks I also have some kind of autoimmune condition "in the lupus family." So he ordered a lot of blood work to try and determine what else, if anything, I have. Once we know what's going on, we can develop a treatment plan that helps deal with all of my symptoms. The blood work is done and I'll get the results at my follow up appointment in a couple of weeks.

If I warn you that my veins roll, it's for a reason.
This is that reason.
The experience was not exactly pleasant. I don't like getting blood drawn. I always warn whoever is drawing my blood that my veins roll and they have to be anchored. I always bruise. Sometimes (like this last time) very badly. But if it helps get answers, it's worth it in the end.

It was abrupt, this change from "something's wrong" to "chronic illness."

In the progression of what I've been experiencing, along with comments from my primary care doctor, I had a pretty good idea of what's been going on. But hearing the words made it real. I know that I'm going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life.

There is a mental and emotional shift. There are things I just can't do anymore, and things I won't be able to do when I'm in a flare (like right now). The past few week it has been hard to accept that the reason I can't do these things is because of my body, not because of my personality. There are things that I can't change, and instead of beating myself up and getting angry because I can't do certain things, I am having to create and adapt to my new normal.

It's going to be a process. And in the meantime, I'm doing what I can.

23 June 2016

Modifying my green book

I've been using a planner (with a green cover) for quite some time. I call it my green book. In that time, I've tried different things with it here and there, and tried different planners, but I usually returned to some incarnation of the green book.

But it wasn't really working for me. I didn't have the space I needed for notes, and the layouts of the pages locked me in to using the planner in a very specific way.

It just wasn't working.

So as I was wandering around online to try and find some workarounds, I discovered bullet journaling, created by Ryder Carroll. It's a way of incorporating planning, scheduling, notes, and to-do lists all in one place. The foundation of the method is simplicity and flexibility. You can use any notebook and pen and find a way to make it exactly what you need it to be.

Here's the video on Carroll's website:

If you Google bullet journals, the image results will be full of artistically magnificent pictures of layouts and notes and oh, my goddess the pretties. And that's wonderful for those using their bullet journals as an artistic outlet. That's not me. I express myself in words, not visual art.

So I'm sticking much, much more closely to the original method developed by Carroll. I've incorporated a couple of chart-style trackers and I'm using a different method for indexing, but other than that, my bullet journal is very simple.

I can tell you that even using this method just this month has helped me stay much more organized. I have everything in one place, and the method plays into my need to write things down in order to remember them. (I ♥ analog planners!)

Because of the method's simplicity and flexibility, I'm able to make it anything I want it to be. I use it to track projects for work, it includes my blogging editorial calendar, planning and task lists for our upcoming family vacation, and even my "40 before 40" list.

I plan to stick with this planning method through the end of the year to decide whether I really like it or not. If I don't, I can go back to a different planner at the beginning of 2017.

In the meantime, I like it quite a bit.

21 June 2016

On Father's Day

I used to value Father's Day.

I was pretty close with my dad, especially after I moved back to Illinois from Florida, and during the divorce. We spoke on the phone a few times a week, and I prided myself on showing my appreciation to him every year in June. One of the last Father's Days I spent with my dad, I surprised him with a round of golf for the two of us and my younger brother. I like golf, so it was a good morning.

When I moved back to Florida, things changed. Well... I should be more specific. I started dating Bo, and things changed. I told him the nature of our relationship was up to him, and now we haven't spoken in I don't know how long. My father has clearly made a choice based on his religious beliefs about homosexuality.

The good news is that there are aspects in which Father's Day still has value to me.

I have an amazing father-in-law.

My father-in-law looking dapper on our wedding day
October 2015
He embraces me as a daughter (no qualifiers). In fact, it was less than 12 hours after I met Bo that he friended me on Facebook, and there was no going back after that. He loves me and I love him, and when I think of Father's Day, he is the one who comes to mind.

My father-in-law is a good man. He loves his family and would do whatever he could for any of them. There are no strings attached to his love. He has never once told me, "I love you, but I don't agree with your lifestyle." He just loves me for who I am.

I have lost my father by blood by his own choice, which has caused me to also lose the rest of my family on that side. But I have gained so much more in a family by choice.

I think I came out ahead in that.

14 June 2016

We are Orlando.

I live in Orlando. The Pulse is only about a ten-minute drive from my home. And though my wife and I are not clubbers, we know people who are.

We are fortunate that we were home. That we didn't lose anyone. (Our neighbor lost four people Sunday morning.)

At the same time, we have lost them, too. They were are our brothers and sisters. They are me.

I am heartbroken in so many ways and for so many reasons because of this. And while it's important to talk about the big-picture issues that have been brought into the stark spotlight (homophobia, discrimination, gun control, religion, racism, etc.), it is imperative that we don't let other important things be pushed to the shadows because of the big-picture discussions.

Every single one of those involved in the massacre on Sunday morning is important. They deserve to have voices. Those who have survived can use their own voices to take up space, but there are 49 people who must rely on us to speak for them.

Say their names. Remember them. Speak for them.

"To actively do nothing is a decision, as well." --President Barack Obama, 6.12.16

Stanley Almodovar III (23 years old)
Amanda Alvear (25 years old)
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero (26 years old)
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala (33 years old)
Antonio Davon Brown (29 years old)
Darryl Roman Burt II (29 years old)
Angel L. Candelario-Padro (28 years old)
Juan Chavez-Martinez (25 years old)
Luis Daniel Conde (39 years old)
Cory James Connell (21 years old)
Tevin Eugene Crosby (25 years old)
Deonka Deidra Drayton (32 years old)
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez (31 years old)
Leroy Valentin Fernandez (25 years old)
Mercedez Marisol Flores (26 years old)
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz (22 years old)
Juan Ramon Guerrero (22 years old)
Paul Terrell Henry (41 years old)
Frank Hernandez (27 years old)
Miguel Angel Honorato (30 years old)
Javier Jorge-Reyes (40 years old)
Jason Benjamin Josaphat (19 years old)
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice (30 years old)
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla (25 years old)
Christopher Andrew Leinonen (32 years old)
Alejandro Barrios Martinez (21 years old)
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool (49 years old)
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez (25 years old)
Kimberly Morris (37 years old)
Akyra Monet Murray (18 years old)
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo (20 years old)
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez (25 years old)
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera (36 years old)
Joel Rayon Paniagua (32 years old)
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez (35 years old)
Enrique L. Rios, Jr. (25 years old)
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez (27 years old)
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado (35 years old)
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz (24 years old)
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan (24 years old)
Edward Sotomayor, Jr. (34 years old)
Shane Evan Tomlinson (33 years old)
Martin Benitez Torres (33 years old)
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega (24 years old)
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez (37 years old)
Luis S. Vielma (22 years old)
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez (50 years old)
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon (37 years old)
Jerald Arthur Wright (31 years old)

09 May 2016

Today is my birthday

I'm 33 today.

There are days I realize that I'm not where I wanted to be at this age, and other days when I can see just how far I've come. Those are the good days.

I have goals and dreams that keep me pushing forward, and things I want to have done. So, in the spirit of it's-my-birthday, I'm making a "40 before 40" list of things I'd like to do and see and accomplish by the time I turn forty. (Plenty of time.)

Some of the things on my list are small, others are ongoing things. But they are all goals I have that I want to accomplish over the next seven years. After all, it's my list. I can do what I want.
  1. Buy a house.
  2. Finish writing the collection.
  3. Write the waiting play.
  4. Get the semicolon tattoo I've been wanting.
  5. Blog twice a week, every week, between now and my fortieth birthday.
  6. Learn a language (Spanish or ASL, preferably. Or both. Both is good.).
  7. Go to a professional women's soccer game.
  8. Make a quilt.
  9. Buy a new car (to replace our poor, reliable Corolla).
  10. Go on an Alaskan cruise.
  11. Take piano lessons.
  12. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
  13. Cut soda out of my diet for good.
  14. Do yoga at least once a week, every week, between now and my fortieth birthday.
  15. Make a family album/scrapbook (multiple, if needed).
  16. Get the Gallifreyan tattoo I've been wanting.
  17. Go see a ballet.
  18. Get an old fashioned card catalog for my office.
  19. Learn Reiki massage.
  20. Go to a writing conference.
  21. Take at least one trip out of the country (preferably Europe).
  22. Read 100+ books in one year. (I started this before my birthday, but there's nothing saying I can't repeat the challenge.)
  23. Visit the Emily Dickinson Home & Museum in Massachusetts.
  24. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in the Keys.
  25. Get the quote tattoo on my right bicep I've been wanting.
  26. Get the quote tattoo on my left bicep I've been wanting.
  27. Meditate inside a Buddhist temple.
  28. Make an herb garden (potted) either in my house or on my patio.
  29. Get a bamboo plant for my desk. (I had one before, but it was sick to begin with, so it didn't make it.)
  30. Take a self-defense class.
  31. Go see an opera.
  32. Attend a con of some kind.
  33. Go on a yoga/spiritual retreat.
  34. Take a mental health day.
  35. Go to a pride event.
  36. Have a home office with a door that closes.
  37. Write a collection of poetry associated with the collection.
  38. Go to an Orlando Pride soccer game. (Or several.)
  39. Write a screenplay.
  40. Visit the Library of Congress.

29 April 2016

I'm a big fan of fresh starts

Every so often, I need a fresh start.

That's how I've been feeling all month.

April has been chaotic and frustrating, and has been a month of big changes. I'm looking forward to sharing some of those changes on the blog beginning next week.

We're drawing a line at the end of April, and on May 1st, things will be different.

21 April 2016

Sometimes it's too much....

The past three weeks have been a lot for me. For the family, too. And I've got several half-started blog posts. But it's just been too much.

About three weeks ago, Puck's anxiety escalated significantly. Monty, Bo, and I had a serious talk about what we can do to help him, and to help Tink with some of her issues. Part of that discussion included homeschooling as an option (which Monty and I have discussed on and off since before Puck was born). We're working on getting Puck some help so that he can have the tools he needs to cope with his anxiety.

Around this time Tink developed a cold. It wasn't terribly bad, but it bothered her, especially at night when her nose was stuffed up. As soon as she was finished with the cold (we thought it was part of the cold), she was suddenly sick with something else. She had a fever, and the lymph nodes in her neck were swollen. Puck had a low-grade fever, as well, and one swollen lymph node. Turns out they both had strep. Tink's case was kind of severe. We kept them home and in quarantine for the weekend.

As Tink came out of her strep, she developed a stomach virus that she generously shared with her dad. They were sick over another weekend. She was sent home from school on a Friday, and was vomiting over the weekend.

When Bo and I got the kids back, Tink suddenly developed red bumps/welts all over her body. They looked like they could have been hives, but they also looked like they could have been the very beginning of chicken pox, especially because they multiplied so quickly in three hours. So she went back in to the pediatrician, who decided she has a viral infection that caused the rash. Apparently it can be common in kids.

She's been out of school all week because it looks like she has chicken pox or bruises all over her body. Fortunately, she's improving, and will most likely be at school tomorrow.

On top of this, I'm in one of my super busy periods for work. They happen twice a year, and when they come, I work between 70 and 80 hours a week (as opposed to my usual 50-60). This busy period has been a bit more complicated because I have several very large projects with clients. This is a good thing, but it also makes things busy. I've had little time for anything other than work, sleep, and taking kids to the pediatrician's office. In fact, Bo picked Puck up from school yesterday, and will again today, to allow me more time to work.

I keep trying to remind myself that this is just a busy period. In June, there will be a lull, and I'll be able to catch up on all the things that have been neglected lately (like my revisions of the coffee house book).

It doesn't always work, and those are the days I drink extra coffee and turn the volume up on my music and double-check my countdown calendar.

Because sometimes it's too much to have it all at once.

01 April 2016

Apparently my body kind of hates me

Before medication
Almost three weeks ago I was diagnosed with rosacea.

It's something I've been dealing with for a long time. When I spoke with my dermatologist about it, I told him that it seemed to start in adolescence and we thought it was normal teenage acne, but it just never went away. It was frustrating, but I eventually just accepted that I had bad skin.

I discovered things that make it worse: the sun, heat, cold, stress, exercise, anxiety....

When I had my physical, my primary care doctor sent me to a dermatologist not only for the rash on my face, but because I have malignant melanoma in my family history, I have fair skin, and I live in Florida. I should have already been going to the dermatologist for yearly check-ups.

The dermatologist put me on a treatment regimen, which includes an oral medication along with some topical treatments. As of this writing, I've been on the treatment for just under two weeks.

Less than two weeks on medication
I'm pleased with the results.

Of course, I am critical of myself, so I see the redness that's still across my cheeks and the bumps that haven't gone away. But I also see that there is a big improvement. My wife looked at me the other day and said it looked like I was wearing makeup.

I don't expect my skin to be perfect because of the treatment. (Especially because I'm not giving up coffee. Because that's ridiculous.) But I'm so happy with the change that's already happened. I feel more confident in myself, and don't worry that everyone I meet is staring at my face, judging me for my bad skin.

Self-care is good.

Now that my rosacea has been diagnosed and is being treated, I can move on to the next health concern.

I've been struggling with chronic pain for quite some time, and now I have an appointment scheduled with a rheumatologist. The appointment isn't until early summer, but it's at least on my calendar. And I may be able to get in sooner if there's a cancellation.

In the meantime, I'm managing the pain as best I can. I've reduced my exercise goals so I can be a little gentler to myself. I'm taking medicine when I need it, and taking breaks when I need them. There are days when all I want to do is lay on the couch with ice packs on my joints and a Law & Order marathon on TV. Other days, I almost forget that there are bad days.

I know that once I meet with a rheumatologist I'll be able to get some answers. I'll eventually get a diagnosis and on a treatment plan, and then maybe I'll feel as good as I'm starting to look.