19 December 2016

Prioritizing fiction in 2017

I spent a lot of time on my WIP in 2016, and I made good progress.

But it was also a chaotic year full of obstacles and schedule changes and lots of medical appointments for Tink and Puck. So there were many times that my fiction writing was pushed back and de-prioritized.

In 2017, I am going to continue to make time to write fiction. And, more importantly, I'm going to prioritize my fiction more than I did in 2016.

I've read a lot of articles and listened to TED Talks and podcasts about time management and achieving goals. And one point that comes up again and again is that achieving your goals is not about rearranging your life or quitting your job (though sometimes it is about that). It's about prioritizing your life so that the things you want to accomplish are at the top of your list.

When it comes down to it, we make time for the things we have to make time for. You may think you don't have an extra few hours in your schedule this week, but what a pipe burst in your home? What if your child were ill?

We make time for the things we have to make time for.

So if you prioritize fiction-writing or writing music or starting your business, you'll have the time you need to make it happen.

Yes, that means that things that are less of a priority may have to fall away. But it comes down to priorities. Is it more important to write another chapter in your book or watch the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars?

You only have so many hours in the day. So you have to decide what you do with those hours. I'm going to write fiction with them. (And some other stuff, of course.)

What are you going to do in 2017?

What are you going to do today?

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

03 August 2016

The importance of simplicity

For the past several years, my life has been complex. From the divorce to moving back to Florida to the kids health concerns to everything else, life has been complex. But now that we've been getting things in line a bit more, including diagnoses for the kids, I'm trying to create a new normal in my life.

And that calls for simplicity.

Here's the thing. My life will always be complex, especially with fibromyalgia and having two high-needs kids, but if I can create as much simplicity as possible in the life I lead, it will help counter-balance the chaos of the things I have no control over.

My search for simplicity began with starting a bullet journal. I started my second notebook this month, and I love the system. It's working incredibly well for me. And it has simplified my life considerably since I keep everything (journal, lists, sticky notes, calendar) all in one convenient, fits-in-my-purse notebook.

The next step has been minimalization in the apartment through the Konmari method. Our apartment is cluttered with stuff we need and use, stuff we've acquired, stuff we don't want anymore.... and I'm making a concerted effort to get rid of anything that doesn't need to be here anymore. Once we de-clutter the apartment, we'll have more breathing and living space. Since I spend the vast majority of my time in the apartment, that will make me happy.

I know there will still be complications in my life. I know that simplicity and minimization won't solve our problems.

But I'm hoping that simplicity in some areas of my life will give me the emotional and mental energy to deal with the complications in other areas of my life. And since the complications I experience tend to be pretty significant, I need all the energy I can get.

01 August 2016

What does chronic illness look like?

Since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I've had to make some adjustments in my life. Some of these adjustments have been good, like getting medication so I'm not in pain all the time. Other adjustments have been more of a challenge.

The biggest challenge I've faced so far is adjusting how I see myself now that I'm labelled as someone with a chronic illness.

Fibromyalgia is a lifelong diagnosis. I will always have it, I will always combat pain and its other symptoms. And it may get worse as I get older.

Because of this illness, there are things I have to do differently in my life. For now (maybe not forever), I'm giving up the idea of being able to run a marathon. Or run at all, for that matter. My exercise has to be more gentle to my body.

I'm also adjusting my daily schedule to accommodate my fatigue. I'm becoming a polyphasic sleeper (not to take advantage of the benefits, but simply because that seems to be what's easiest for my body and work/family schedule).

Right now, I'm trying to find a balance between the diagnosis and the identity. Yes, I have fibromyalgia, but I am not fibromyalgia.

One of the ways I'm doing this is by reading Toni Bernhard's How to Be Sick. So far I like her approach to chronic illness.

There is illness here, but I am not ill.

This approach is allowing me to make accommodations for the illness without letting myself get pulled into a black hole of "I can't because fibromyalgia."

I am tired and I hurt. But I still work and I still care for my family and I still do the things I need to do in order to be the woman I want to be.

It's still a process. There are days I let the fibromyalgia keep me from doing what I need to do.

There are days it has to.

When those days happen, I do what I can and try again tomorrow.

I have fibromyalgia, but I am not fibromyalgia.

29 July 2016

I was supposed to go to the doctor today

I've been posting about health-related things lately. They've kind of been dominating my attention.

Like today.

For the first time in my life, I had to cancel something because of fibromyalgia pain. (Well, let me clarify. I had to cancel something beyond hanging out with friends/family.) I was supposed to go to my dermatologist's office this morning for a follow-up appointment. But because of my incredibly high pain levels, I had to cancel.

This is just one more example of how my life and my self is different because of chronic illness. I can't always go and do and be as easily as I once could.

I'm adapting. Trying.

26 July 2016

In anticipation of next week

I decided to make an appointment with a therapist.

My appointment is next week, and it's with a new therapist. In fact, I haven't been in counseling since just after Puck was born.

Since then, I've been able to manage my anxiety on my own. No medication, no therapy appointments. There have been some really hard times. It was hard to get through the divorce, and it was really hard when I moved from Illinois to Florida after the divorce. I felt very alone for quite some time then.

I was mostly okay for quite a while. I had a good balance between my personal and professional lives. Then I met the Wifey and fell in love and had an amazing source of support from her and her family.

But for a while, my anxiety and depression levels have been slowly creeping up to a new normal. It started out so slowly that I didn't notice. But then I started noticing that when I had an anxiety attack, my anxiety levels stayed higher than I wanted for much longer than I was used to.

And it didn't go away.

So after trying to deal with it on my own, I've decided to go back into therapy. Maybe I should have a while ago. I don't know. But I am now.

I'm nervous about my upcoming appointment. I'm glad they were able to get me in pretty quickly, particularly as a new patient. I was worried I'd have to wait a while, and I would have been much more likely to cancel (and not reschedule).

I know it's the right decision for me. If I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of my family. Since I know I've been struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life, I know that I have to take care of myself in this way sometimes.

Depression and anxiety are liars. And things will get better. They are getting better.

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.

27 March 2016

I'm a shy introvert with anxiety. It's the trifecta.

Growing up, I was labeled as shy. I didn't really make friends easily or talk much. I kept to myself, and was more likely to be found in my room reading than playing kickball in the cul-de-sac. My parents, in their attempts to help, told me I should be more active, friendlier, and come out of my shell.

I couldn't seem to bring myself to do it.

Then, when I was in high school and college, it became apparent that on top of the shyness was anxiety, which made it difficult to deal with the shyness. And, in continued efforts to try and help, I was not only told that getting over my shyness would help me make friends, but that it would help me get over my anxiety, too.

It didn't.

Some time after college I discovered the term "introvert." It seemed to describe me pretty accurately. I could handle one-on-one interactions rather well, but after a while, any interaction drained me, and I found myself craving time alone.

But the revelation didn't make the shyness or anxiety go away. It was simply another layer. Another element of myself that I've had to deal with.

It gets hard to have this trifecta. The shyness keeps me from making friends easily, and the introversion keeps me from too many interactions with the friends I do have. And, of course, the anxiety keeps me from asking for help or interaction when I actually need it because of course it does.

In some ways, I think it's advantageous. Because of my shyness and introversion, being alone is helpful to the anxiety. But it also means that when I want (or need) to interact with people, it seems to drain me more quickly than it might other people. I need more breaks than other introverts.

I think I'm managing pretty well. Now that I have a better understanding of who I am and what I need, I can handle it a little better than I used to be able to. I have an amazing wifey that helps when I need help (and gives me space when I need space). I have family and friends who understand, and who love me anyway.

So I'll keep taking breaks when I need them, let online interactions be enough every once in a while, and embrace the trifecta.

22 March 2016

It hurts to be still. It hurts to move.

Can I work like this?
I have chronic pain. I have for quite some time. I've been going to appointments lately to try and figure out what's causing it so I can get it taken care of.

In the meantime, I'm managing as best I can. I'm in the middle of a busy period for work, so my typical day is rarely less than 12 hours. When you have chronic pain, that's a long time to be sitting in a chair at a laptop.

There are a few things I've learned in the last couple of weeks as I've been dealing with my life lately.

1. I need a new desk chair. The one I have is technically fine. It even has a bit of padding. But if I'm going to have to continue balancing pain with work, I need more padding. And better back support. And maybe a better reclining feature would be nice.

2. Naps are okay. Sometimes I need a nap. And that's okay. Some days it takes me a lot more energy to do what I have to do, and on those days I need to allow myself to take naps so I can keep pushing forward. Sometimes naps are part of my self-care, and that has to be okay.

3. My body sucks at temperature regulation. When everyone else is comfortable, I'm either too hot or too cold, and there's no real logic in it. I spend half the day fanning myself with a client's file folder, and the rest of the day bundled up with a hoodie and blanket in central Florida. Because that's how I roll.

I'd love it if I get the answers I need at the next appointment.

18 March 2016

I have rosacea

This week I had an appointment with a dermatologist, and I was diagnosed with rosacea.

To be honest, I've probably had it a long time. But because of the kind of rosacea I have, I didn't realize that's what it was. I just thought I had bad skin, and I dealt with it.

Rosacea flare (September 2014)
My skin was a source of stress for me. It was embarrassing. What's worse is that I also have really sensitive skin (especially on my face), so I couldn't even wear make-up to cover it up. And some days I couldn't even use moisturizer because it hurt. I just dealt with it, and pretended it didn't bother me, and pretended that I didn't assume everyone saw my skin before anything else about me.

But I have rosacea, and that's what's been causing the redness and acne-like bumps all over my face.

My doctor gave me the name of an over-the-counter moisturizer he hopes I can use without a bad reaction to my skin, and a prescription to minimize flares. I'm hopeful that the treatment will reduce the bumps and redness, and that my skin will be healthier and happier for it.

And somehow I'll find a way to manage my symptoms without having to cut coffee from my life. Because, let's be honest. That's just not going to happen.

11 March 2016

I had to get a new Keurig

Two Christmases ago, my sister-in-law gave me a little Keurig. I was ecstatic. I'd been making due with my coffee pot, but I wasn't drinking it fast enough to justify making a pot at a time, and was looking for an excuse opportunity to have a Keurig, since I could make coffee one cup at a time. Dantyelle* had my back, and got me one.

The problem is that because I could make it a cup at a time, I was drinking a lot of coffee. And my poor little machine gave out about six weeks ago.

So Wifey got me a new one.

My new machine is bigger and sturdier than my old one. It even has a reservoir for water so I don't have to fill it for every single cup. It's wonderful.

Wifey also got me some k-cups to go along with the new machine. I typically use my refillable cups with fresh-ground coffee, but I won't say no to the gift of coffee! So I've been drinking dark French roast lately.

A lot of it.

I'm grateful for my new machine. I've used it throughout the day every day since I've gotten it. And, as you can see, Puck has been helping.

It's good to teach kids early about important things.
Like how to make a cup of coffee for Mama.

*Wifey's sister's name is Danielle, so we introduced her to the munchkins as "Auntie Danielle." Tink couldn't say that, and it quickly became "Dantyelle." So that's who she is now. Sometimes "Auntie Dantyelle."

08 March 2016

By way of an update

Things have been a little hectic in my life, both personally and professionally.

In addition to Tink's ongoing health concerns, I've had health concerns of my own. My chronic pain has gotten considerably worse, so I've got some upcoming appointments to try and get a diagnosis. My primary care physician referred me to a couple of specialists based on what he thinks it might be, and I'll be going through some diagnostic testing to see if he's right, or if it's something else altogether. It's been a frustrating process, and I don't know how much longer it's going to last. Not only do we have to narrow down what might be the culprit, but we have to simultaneously eliminate other things that it could be. And then, I can get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan and (hopefully) start to feel better.

Work has been busy, too. I'm getting into a busy season for what I do, and am taking steps to expand my work to include new and bigger clients. I haven't had much free time lately, and what little I've managed to scrounge has been spent with the munchkins and the Wifey. And, you know, sleep. I've heard that's important to get from time to time.

Fortunately, things are getting better.

Tink's appointments are slowing down and her health is hinting at getting better. I have appointments lined up so my health will get better. Work is more organized and I'm settling into a routine.

And I hope this means I'll have more time to blog. Because I have some things I think are worth blogging that I want to share. I have stories and experiences that make me feel alone, and I want to tell my story. I want to give voice to what has happened to me and how it has contributed to who I am today.

Here's to blogging.

12 February 2016

I've been a terrible blogger

I always have the best intentions for blogging. I make an editorial calendar with post ideas that I'm excited about. And then something happens and I get behind and don't post and my blog languishes a bit.

Until posts like this when I come back with renewed energy and the intention to keep posting about twice a week.

Things have been chaotic in my life lately. Tink's health is still an issue, as is mine. So spare time has been lacking and, right now, spare time is what I use for blogging. But it seems like things are settling a bit, so I'm going to once again return to blogging with renewed vigor and the intention to post twice a week.

I'm trying, y'all. But sometimes the non-digital world is what has to take priority over blogging. I'm working on creating a better balance. And having a few posts in the wings and scheduled so I can post more consistently.

I'm trying.

15 January 2016

I remember my childhood differently

Image source
Sometimes my mother will share a story about me as a child that I don't remember. Most recently, this has happened when my mom has been sharing childhood stories with Bo, telling her about who I was before Bo knew me.

But my mother remembers my childhood differently than I do.

Sometimes there are stories she tells about me that I remember happening to one of my siblings. I attribute this to age and working too much and taking care of four kids when she was younger. Just a mix-up.

But sometimes she remembers stories happening differently than I do. She'll tell me about something I did and the aftermath is nothing like the aftermath when I tell the story. Or she'll remember people being involved that, in my memory, were never there.

I have a bad memory. I readily admit that. But I don't think my memory is that bad. So I've begun thinking that my interpretations of what happened have shaded my memories, shaping my memories around my interpretation. After all, it seems that, more often than not, the memories that differ are those that I remember as bad memories but my mother doesn't. So maybe it's that my mind has changed these bad memories so that I don't remember my childhood as poorly as it was.

Maybe it's because I'm a writer. My mind has filled gaps and taken artistic liberties with my memories over the years. So now, when I hear someone else's version, it is not at all my own. Not bad or wrong memories. Just more...fictional.

I've given up trying to correct my mother. She's always sure that her version of the memory is correct, just as I am. And even if I have proof that she's the one who's mistaken, my mother thinks that couldn't possibly be right.

So I let it go.

And try to journal more often so I have a better record of my memories.

12 January 2016

Sometimes all I can concentrate on is pain....

Image source
For quite some time I've been experiencing chronic pain. It is daily, with varying degrees of pain day by day (and within one day). Some days it's manageable, and I'm able to do what I need to do easily. Other days, I can barely sit at my desk because I hurt so much.

Lately there have been more high pain days than not.

Last week was hard. The kids were home, so we had the school/kids' schedule in addition to my regular work schedule. Usually that means late nights and early mornings since I do most of my work after the kids go to bed. And since I pick Puck up from school, I have to accommodate the lost time each day. Sometimes that adds to the stress, which makes me hurt more.

One of the hard parts is that people can't see when I'm hurting, and it's typically stress or lack of sleep or something like that causing the increase in pain. When I'm in pain, outwardly, I look the same as when I'm not in pain. And I worry that if I try to tell people I'm in pain, it will happen so often that they'll think I'm just complaining or they won't take me seriously or something like that.

People who don't have chronic pain don't understand chronic pain.

And they don't understand how taxing it is. Quite some time ago, someone referred me to the Spoon Theory. The idea is that, at the start of each day, someone with a chronic condition has a certain number of spoons. Each task that they complete, from getting out of bed to eating to driving to work, costs them spoons. Some days, pain or illness makes them use more spoons for simple activities, and they may run out of spoons sooner. Or, worse, borrow against tomorrow's spoons to get through the day.

If you don't have a chronic illness, you have an endless supply of spoons. And it can be hard for people to understand that, on a bad day, I can choose either eating supper or taking a shower. I can't do both. I can either pick my son up from school or deal with this difficult client.

And when I'm out of spoons, I'm done for the day. That's just how it is.

I'm in the process of getting more answers and an effective treatment plan. In the meantime, I take over-the-counter medications, use Icy Hot (when I think it will work), meditate, and do whatever I can to be kind to myself.

And I always try to keep a spoon on reserve to read a story to the munchkins before bed.

08 January 2016

Backgrounding the funeral book

I'm in the rewriting phase of the coffee house book, which is awesome but also a little scary and very intimidating.

So while I'm working on the coffee house book, I'm also doing the background work for the next book in the collection, which I'm calling the funeral book. I have my list of characters and the skeleton outline of the chapters, and I'm working on the character biographies and detailed chapter/scene outlines.

I did this for the coffee house book, too. Because of the way the coffee house book is structured, it was necessary for me to have a lot of background work done before I started writing. Well, if I'm being honest, it kind of started as a sort of procrastination technique because I was nervous about the actual writing part. But now I don't know how I would've gotten the story down without it. The character biographies let me create the vital parts of the characters relevant to the story and reference them quickly. The outlines keep the story moving forward once I get into it. And since many characters are overlapping in the different stories in the collection, I've created a file for each character so their stories in different books remain true to the character.

Besides, the funeral book background gives me something to work on when I need a break from rewriting.

That being said, starting the background work for the funeral book is starting to push me into that story's world, which, as you can tell from the moniker for the book, is a little bleaker than the coffee house book. And, in that way, going back to the coffee house book is a much-needed break from teh funeral book background work.

It's going to be a hard book to write, I think.

05 January 2016

Starting the year the right way

Image from
tiramisustudio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I've made some goals for 2016. Some of them are smaller goals that will be easy to achieve, but others are bigger goals that will be more complex, and will establish a foundation for long-term goals.

But I'm trying to be smarter about my goals this year. I'm focusing on taking small steps a little at a time instead of big changes all at once.

I know that it'll be easier for me to be successful if I take it one step at a time, and experience has shown me that trying to do everything all at once is less than successful.

I'm optimistic about 2016. Bo and I have big, exciting short- and long-term plans, and we're finally making progress toward them. we've overcome some big challenges, and we have a plan to overcome some other challenges that have popped up lately.

2016 is going to be a good year.

It already is.

01 January 2016

This year's mantra is...

Two years ago, I decided to start focusing on one mantra to help me in times of anxiety. The mantra was chosen as a result of things I experienced the year before.

This year's mantra is

This is just a moment. Rise above it.

There were a lot of struggles in 2015, many of which built on one another, which was frustrating. Some of those struggles are over, some are still there, and some have gotten worse. So this year, in order to keep me from getting bogged down by anxiety and linking what is happening to what has happened, I've chosen this mantra as a reminder.

I have high hopes for 2016, based primarily on what I have planned, and what Bo and I have planned for our family. There are still great struggles to come, but when we overcome them, things will be very, very good.

Bring it on, 2016. I'm ready.