Random stuff

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I was looking at my calendar this evening and noticed that I circled the 24th.

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I have absolutely no idea why I circled it.  I do not have an appointment anywhere tomorrow, nor does my daughter.  I have nothing noted in outlook or google calendar.  I didn’t circle it as a reminder for my monthly “hurray! I’m not pregnant!” celebration.  I don’t get it.

I also did the same on May 1st and, for some unknown reason, wrote “no” on two other dates next month.

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herp derp. surprise!

Clueless.  I’m absolutely dumbfounded.  I’m either losing my brain or I’m a time-traveler and I don’t yet know it.  I’m not allowed to have face-to-face communication with my present self nor can I state exactly what is going to happen in the future.  I can, however, leave my present self hints that something is going to happen.  However, my future self isn’t helping my present self out much.  She should at least add a stick figure in action to help me out.  And while she’s at it, she needs to jot down the next Powerball numbers.

Time traveler.  Yes.  That must be it.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

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I finally did it!  I donated ten inches of my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths a little over a week ago.

Before:

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Maya wanted me to braid my hair like Queen Elsa’s

Right before the cut, I divided my hair into four ponytails to get an even cut:

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My hair, neatly packaged for the donation:

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And right after Olga chopped it and evened it all out, she gave me a quick blow-dry:

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I feel so FREE now.  I had forgotten how swingy this cut is and how sexy and confident I feel with my hair like this.  I feel like a new woman.  There was a huge, immediate change in the way I carried myself.  I love, love, love it.  Even when I do absolutely nothing to my hair after I shower, it looks like this:

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Bad fluorescent workplace lighting, not a lick of make-up, and not a brush through my hair after my shower, but I have to admit- I look pretty good (even if I do kind of look like I walked out of the late 80s/early 90s in the above pic).  That’s what confidence does to you.  Well, that and the fact that I don’t smoke, I eat fairly healthy, exercise, drink a ton of water, and keep my alcohol to a minimum.  Anyway, after Maya was born, my pin-straight hair turned naturally wavy, so if I want a bit of curl now, I don’t have to do anything.  Crazy.

Ok, enough pictures of my mug and my cool new hair style.  I have been absent lately because I- well, we (Maya and I) have been busy little bees.  As you can see:

I miss my Joshie like crazy now that he’s living in Finland, but life is very full with a four year-old girl.  Keeps me busy.  My days are go, go, go from the moment I awake until my head hits my pillow and I instantly pass out at night.  Work (my job is just nuts right now- and not in a good way), exercise, play, write and work on my screenplay, and then repeat.  We get outdoors as much as we can right now because the heat is coming on strong- and it’s going to be a scorcher of a summer yet again.  Once the heat kicks in full-force, we have to get out before 9 am to play and then we hibernate just as other people do during the winter.  So, very (very) soon my blogging will increase once more and I’ll devote more time to my WP family, catching up with your stories and lives (which I do miss), and I’ll churn out some blogging ideas I’ve had floating around in my brain.

Until then, thank you so much for popping by to say hello!  I do appreciate your time and I’ll be back soon.

A side note: my laptop that has the oven-baked motherboard is still working.  Can you believe it?

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: A Survivor’s Story, One Year Later

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The following post was written by my mother, Lorri, who survived a sudden subarachnoid hemorrhage one year ago.  I think she frequently feels alone in that she doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to about it (especially in our small town), so I suggested that she write about the experience from her perspective to see if it will resonate with any other survivors.  I am writing a follow-up post about the experience from a family member’s perspective because there isn’t a ton of information out there about SAH and how it affects all involved.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to post and I will have my mom respond.  If you are a survivor but don’t feel comfortable posting, please email me at mstodden@gmail.com and I will forward your message to her.  If these posts help even one person, then it’s worth our time.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013 will always be vivid in my mind; a beautiful sunny morning, paycheck week, and I was finally getting a tooth extracted that had bothered me for quite some time.

It was also the day I died.

My friends and I had just gone out to the parking lot behind the medical clinic where we worked, adjacent to the hospital, to have a cigarette before lunch. I knew as soon as the sun hit my neck that something was wrong. It felt like a white-hot poker was being driven up each side of my brain stem, my blood felt like it was boiling, and I felt nauseous. I asked my friends to catch my hands and they looked at me like I was stupid.

That’s the last thing I remember about that day and many to follow. Numerous friends and family have told me repeatedly (to their dismay) about my head bouncing off the concrete. My eyes rolled to the back of my head and I wasn’t breathing.

I thank God every day that Dr. Empey was in the clinic instead of in St. George awaiting the birth of his first granddaughter as his excellent military field training made all the difference. A couple of the physicians at the clinic and the ER staff at the hospital moved me onto a stretcher and rolled me directly into the emergency room not but twenty-five yards away from where I fell. Dr. Empey intubated me as the rest of the staff tried to stabilize me. They ran CT scans and sent me off to Las Vegas via Life Flight within and hour and a half to two hours after my fall.

By 5:30pm, I was in surgery and the prognosis was grim. I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage that required immediate attention and I had another aneurysm in a different area of the brain that would need surgery at a later date when I was stronger. They told my husband to be prepared: if I lived, I might be in a coma, blind, or handicapped.

When I was finally taken back to my room after recovery, all of my loved ones were there trying to get me to awaken. I was busy with my good friend’s sister, Yvonne, who had recently died. We had been walking and she told me that I had to go back for my friend Eileen’s sake. There was no light and I didn’t see myself from above, just Yvonne telling me good bye for now. When I finally did awaken a couple of days later, my husband was telling me good night. The nurses took out the breathing tube and performed all the required neuro tests. The specialists were amazed at my recovery. I wasn’t out of the woods, but it was an excellent sign.

I don’t remember much of the next two weeks and for that, I’m very thankful. I’ve been told that I had numerous headaches and fluid on my brain that kept building up, so they had to put in a temporary shunt to help drain the fluid.

I woke up the day before the permanent shunt placement in the back of my head. I pulled through that surgery with flying colors. However, I realized that I couldn’t see out of my right eye; it looked like several hairs were covering my eye. (Consequently, I do now have peripheral vision in my right now, but can no longer read out of it.) I began rehabilitation in the hospital and I was discharged the first Friday in May.

A word of advice: you need someone to finish your buzz cut before you leave the hospital. I had longer

hair on my left side, buzzed on most of my right side, and I was totally bald where the tubes and staples were placed on the back of head. But none of that mattered- I was still here!

At first, I slept twenty out of twenty-four hours a day. Just walking or taking a shower exhausted me. When your brain says you are tired, you’d best have a comfy place to stop as you will be doing nothing until you get some rest. Also, I couldn’t remember things one day to the next, but I kept working at it and by the first of June, I was back to work for four hours a day. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and tiring all at the same time. I was unable to drive due to preventative anti-seizure medication and that simple lack of freedom increased my depression. It was difficult to see, but while I was at work I could actually focus.

When the neurosurgeon called about the second upcoming surgery, I actually thought I had a choice in the matter and hesitated. After everyone convinced me it must be done, I went in for the second coiling on August 23rd. It was a piece of cake! The neurosurgeon went up through my groin and it all went as planned. It also seemed to quell my increased crying jags.

I’m finally working seven to eight hours a day, but if I overdo it, I’m sick the next day. I’ve even had migraines, so I need to realize my limitations. My daughter gets upset with me for not realizing the severity of what happened and the fact that it’s miraculous I’m even here. I do, but it’s surreal, like a story that happened to someone else.

I always feel guilty that I don’t show appreciation more but it’s harder now. I’m not as spontaneous as I used to be and a little more timid as I’m afraid I will do or say something wrong. I don’t like to say overnight anywhere because I don’t feel secure, but I’m working on that. I will need an angiogram soon to see if coils have packed down. I was recently told I will need these procedures performed about once every five years, which was a shock to me.

For now, it’s one day at a time. I’m trying to lose the thirty pounds I’ve gained from not smoking, depression, and just from being lazy. It will take some time, but I will get it done. My strength and resolve grows more each day.

I’m so thankful for my friends and family that love me in spite of the repetitious questions, the pity parties, and the occasional rage outburst. They take it all with a grain of salt, humor, and somehow make me realize how silly I am. You can have the best physicians in the world, but without this group of loving people by your side, you have nothing.

Once the angiogram is done, I will get back with reports- hopefully all good.

Just remember to be good to yourself, take one day at a time, and act like it could be your last because it could happen at any time.

 

 

 

Getting in the Mood Again

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I haven’t been “in the mood” for a while.  I mean, it comes in spurts (no pun intended), but I haven’t felt like one hot woman since my trip to Austin in late October.  I felt like a sex goddess that weekend (except for the bit where I face-planted in a club) and while a person I was interested in did not make a move on me (possibly due to aforementioned face-plant action), I was approached by a number of men, which boosted this single mom’s inner desirability meter.  Mind you, I possessed self-confidence and that “I’m a sex goddess” frame of mind before I set out about town, so I wasn’t dependent on a man to create that feeling for me; the attention merely reaffirmed that desirably and brightened my glow.  (This has nothing to do with feminism, people.  This is simply about a heterosexual woman feeling attracted to and attracting men.  Because sometimes it just feels spectacular to be wanted.  Very simple.)

Flash forward to the end of January.  Not feeling like a sex goddess.  Feeling frumpy and it was my own doing.  Ah… one holiday season when I let myself go.  A moment of rebellion against my own good judgment, healthy eating habits, and regular exercise routines.  It was my hibernation.  My cocoon before I emerge this spring as a vibrant butterfly (or so I pretend).  The bountiful chocolates, baklava, cookies, hearty meals, wine and cheese were delicious, but was the rebellion worth it?

No.  No, it was not.

However, this was a lesson learned.  I know- we all let ourselves go now and again.  I was never past the point of no return, but my collection of slightly larger-sized clothes were becoming snug and I was beginning to feel sluggish and not the slightest bit hot at all.  I couldn’t even jog a full three miles without stopping at least once or twice to catch my breath.  Plus, the entire situation was affecting my sleep, my self-confidence, my work, my creativity.  I had to fix it.

I shook off the burgeoning feelings of regret.  No point in wallowing.  I readjusted my eating and exercise habits.  I’ve almost dropped down to my normal size, but more importantly I’m sleeping better and I feel like myself again.  It’s astounding how a shitty diet and lack of exercise can completely wreak havoc on your entire being.

Another boost:  I’m regaining my “oomph.”  This is really something for me right now because I am totally, completely, emotionally and mentally free and clear for the first time in nearly eight years.  There are no old “what-ifs” lurking in a closet or past relationships that need closure.  No baggage and no part of me that needs to heal.  I’m ready for all the possibilities the world has to offer. It’s all coming together right now.  Of course, that’s exactly when doors open and I’m drawn to someone; someone who begins as a tickle in the corner of my mind and innocently pervades my thoughts.  I find myself flirting again.  Smiling.  Maybe my mind starts wandering…

This tune plays relentlessly in my head:

I know that (by industry terms) it’s a slightly old song and maybe some of you fine folks don’t care for it, but for me… it just does something to me.  Although, for me, it isn’t about crawling back to someone, but rather allowing myself to be available.  It makes me want put myself out there and not be shy about telling a man I think he’s so cool and I’d love to get to know him better.  I love the beat, the lyrics, the sound.  It makes me move.  It makes me walk different.  Being in that frame of mind motivated me to purchase a sexy, backless dress and lingerie at Victoria’s Secret this weekend (thank you gift card…).

I’m ready.

Except for one thing: I promised myself over a year ago that I would finish one particular screenplay before I would allow myself to dive into a relationship or fall in love or meet my “soulmate” or whatever.  Why?  I honestly can’t recall.  Probably something about making myself finish a project before I use a new relationship as an excuse not to finish it, thereby chickening out on my dreams.  Whatever the reason, it stuck.  My brain and my entire being- hell, even the universe itself- has accepted this as THE TRUTH, and since I am most serious and determined to move forward in my personal life, it’s time for me to finish the sucker.  Plus, I want to finish it.  I want it, period.  Another thirty pages or so and I’ll be to “fade out.”  I’m pushing through.

Let’s see what happens then…

Crushing Our Perceived Limitations

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My laptop died at the beginning of the month.  One day it simply gave me a black screen and nothing else.  I had been having issues with the battery charging properly, so I ordered a new battery with the hopes that it would resurrect my baby.

It did not.

I then remembered that I had a few issues with the power cord, so I picked up a new adapter/surge protector and plugged her in.

No go.  Nada.  Zip, zero, nothing except the constant flashing of lights.

My next step was, of course, google.  It turns out that my flashing lights meant that the motherboard was shot, which basically means that I could either replace the motherboard or purchase a new computer.  This seems to be a very common issue with the HP Pavilions.  Needless to say, spending a few hundred dollars to purchase a new motherboard and have someone install it wouldn’t be all that wise since I can purchase a new laptop for nearly the same amount (barring a high-end model, that is).

And then I read that a few people have taken apart their laptops, baked their motherboards in the oven, put them back together, and presto!  A functioning system once again.  Far too interesting to resist.

Here’s the catch: until my recent battery purchase, I’ve never done anything with a laptop except use canned air to clean it, let alone dismantle the entire system and then put it back together and have it function properly.  However, since I obviously couldn’t hurt it…

Why don’t I just see what happens…  Why don’t I see if I can do it…

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I watched a youtube video on how to dismantle the laptop and went to town.  The tech recommended a lightly magnetized screwdriver, which I just so happened to have.  Definitely handy.

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Sort and label everything properly…

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tastes like chicken

Bake at 385 degrees (F) for eight minutes.  Allow to cool.  Reassemble.  Cross fingers and turn on.

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thou shalt not judge my icons

I honestly couldn’t believe it worked.  Well, for starters, I couldn’t believe I actually took a laptop apart and put it back together properly.  I had no idea I was capable of doing something like that.  Ikea furniture, yes.  Laptops, no.  I was ecstatic.  I actually did it.  And second- oven bake a motherboard?  Crazy.

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method, but if your laptop is fried and you have nothing to lose, why not?  I’m still on the prowl for a new (inexpensive) laptop, but at least I have mine back for a while, even if it only lasts a week or two.

This situation made me realize that more often than not, I don’t have enough faith in myself.  Then I do something like complete a Tough Mudder, repair (even if only temporarily) my laptop, raise a child on my own, and it hits home that I can do damn near anything I put my mind to.  We all can.  Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder.

And nothing to lose.

*Day two and she’s still running.  Glory be.

Life is Not Always Like Moldy Ass

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Before you begin reading this, let me warn you that it will likely be an utter waste of your time and brain function.  If you’ve used too many drugs in your past and don’t have the brain cells to spare, save those critters for something truly important, like watching cat videos on youtube or something.  If you don’t care about your brain cells and you’re in the midst of a procrastination marathon (as I frequently am), then please continue.

Here’s how my brain works when I’m sick and mentally exhausted from taking care of a four year-old who is also sick:

I posted this status update on Facebook:  “I have used nearly an entire box of 160 2-ply Kleenex tissues for my snotty nose today.  Imagine moldy ass that has been stuffed into a WalMart bag tainted with old fish juices and then crammed into a garbage bag that rips open once dumped into a mountain of rubbish, which sends the ripe fish-juice mold ass cascading into green toenail clippings, diarrheal baby diapers, purulent bandages, and cockroaches, both live and deceased.  This is how my face feels, and probably looks like, at this moment.  In case any of you are interested.”  (I should note that no one was, in fact, interested.  Although, someone did ask where the “ewwww” button was, to which I replied that it was covered in snot.)

After I posted the moldy ass bit on FB, I slurped down some chicken noodle soup.  Technically, it was the dry packaged chicken broth with skinny mini-noodles– the kind you make on the stove-top with water– and it was expired, but I didn’t give a crap.  I fed Maya real food so I didn’t really care if I became ill from bad soup.  I was already sick.  What else could go wrong with my jacked-up intestinal and respiratory system?  So, I’m sucking down the expired soup that, quite frankly, tasted just fine since I couldn’t taste anything anyway and I started to imagine that I was having a conversation with Mindy Kaling.  Why Mindy?  Because she’s the shit, that’s why.  Sometimes I channel my inner Tina Fey and ask WWBPD? (What would bossypants do?)  Yesterday, Mindy was my inner voice.  In my daydream conversation (which takes place in my head and not aloud, I should add), we were arguing about scene dialogue.  The main character was ill and I wrote for her to say:

  I feel like moldy ass.

Mindy said that I’ve used that line before and there are other adjectives begging to be used and abused so I should at least pretend to be slightly creative, to which I replied that it didn’t matter, that moldy ass was an accurate depiction of how the mc felt and moldy ass never goes out of style.  Things smell like moldy ass, things look like moldy ass, and situations feel like moldy ass.  “Moldy ass” can and always can be an appropriate response to the myriad questions and issues life springs on you.

She crossed her arms and shook her head “no” and then looked at me like I was a complete moron.  (If you’ve ever seen her in a show, you know the look.)

I made obnoxious slurping noises with the copious amounts of msg and nodded.  “Yeah.  It’s moldy ass.”

This went back and forth for a minute or two.

“LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS LIKE MOLDY ASS.”  I sighed.  Was Mindy right?  I looked over at my half of the mini chocolate mousse cake my mom dropped off for us (meaning me and Maya, not me and my inner Mindy).  Maya gobbled her half and then freaked out from a sugar high, while my half posed seductively under saran-wrap.  It was mouth-watering chocolaty goodness, not moldy ass; however, I couldn’t eat it because I couldn’t (and still can’t) taste a thing, which sucked like moldy ass.

And that’s it.  There isn’t a lesson here really, other than “Life is not always like moldy ass.”  Or maybe it’s my inner creative self chastising me for being lazy lately. I think it’s both.

I am curious though: do any of you fellow writers/readers/daydreamers have “conversations” of sorts with your idols?  And not just when you’re ill?  Because there are times when I think twice about doing something, not because it would cause harm to anyone, but because someone might think I’m an odd duck or whatever (like writing about the aforementioned Mindy conversation), and then my inner Mindy gives me the look that says: REALLY.  You think you’ve ever been normal?  Having that inner idol to push me to write is necessary when all I want to do is sit on my butt, eat a bag of Cheetos Cheezy Salsa Mix-ups (aka: crack), and watch Property Brothers reruns.  (Oh, no!  Will they get the shack they want?  Will they ever agree to stick to their budget?  They found knob-and-tube wiring!  Shocker!  Will Jonathan and his crew complete the renovation on time?  It’s a nail-biter folks…)*

Or do I just have an overactive imagination that happens to serve me well when I need a kick in the ass?

*Predictable show, but I still like to see the renovation and design.  Income Property is my favorite, though.  Maya’s, too.

Arriving at the 2014 Blogging Party Late, As Usual

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I’m not as quick to kick the door shut on 2013 as are many other people.  Yes, I am most definitely happy to move forward and leave the past behind, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on the direction in which my feet have traveled not only this past year but the past decade before I determined new goals.

I revisited some of my old blog posts (even some from a long-deleted blog I had eight years ago) and sifted through random ideas and notes that I had scribbled on scraps of paper and tucked into an old notebook.  I can pinpoint the exact moment while sitting in the pizza parlor at the (now demolished) Oasis casino over seven and a half years ago, the day after my thirty-third birthday, that I made a not-so-brilliant choice, but a choice that would eventually bring Maya into my life.  I refuse to allow myself to sink into regret, but I’ve had days in the past when I’ve wondered… what if I had followed my gut instinct?  I used to say, “well then I wouldn’t have Maya,” but what if I would have had her anyway, just with someone else?  How could I be so sure that I wouldn’t have the same wonderful child in my life?  Am I so wise that I know exactly how the universe works?  Hardly.  At any rate, the lesson I would eventually learn is to trust my gut.  Always.

Always trust my gut.

The years would bring so many struggles that at times I felt like I would crumble into nothingness, yet I didn’t wither away.  I stood back up.  Repeatedly.  Although I couldn’t see it at the time, I grew stronger every time I arose to meet the challenges before me.  Along the way, I s-l-o-w-l-y dropped the baggage, increasing the release from 2010, to 2011, and on into 2012.  To be honest, I am a tad surprised at the level of my personal growth over the years.  I liken it to watching your kids grow.  You don’t notice it so much on a daily basis, but when you glance back on old pictures, the change is dramatic.  My old blog entries are my pictures.  I can see in which areas of my life I have grown and in which areas I’m still struggling.  These years have brought a vast amount of inner growth, which is supposed to happen throughout life, but it is something people frequently avoid because personal growth isn’t easy.  It’s difficult and sometimes painful.  You have to learn to accept yourself, warts and all.  You need to examine your priorities and work through the issues that block your progress.  And sometimes it requires you to take debris to the compost pile, the lessons learned fertilizer for a wiser, stronger, and emotionally and mentally healthier self.     

This past year, I finally ditched the remaining baggage and set myself free.  I’ve been lounging in this calm lately and basking in the lightness that I haven’t felt in ages.  I think that now that I have my emotional and mental life well-balanced and in good health, I can begin to focus again on my creative life.  I’ve been far too easily distracted by certain people and situations in the past, and now that those people and issues are no longer a part of my life, I feel like there’s room for creativity to flow freely.  I feel it again.

This past year, I’ve been trying new things and following through on ideas I’ve had in the past.  I took the kids camping in Flagstaff right before my 40th birthday, and this time it was so much fun (unlike when I took them camping when Maya was much younger).  I flew to Austin for a long weekend and Blogger Interactive at the end of October.  Huge step for me and wonderful experience for everyone involved.

I don’t think I’ve carved a pumpkin since Josh was eight or nine years old, but I finally did this past year with Maya.

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I’ve never roasted a butternut squash, but I wanted to give this fettuccine recipe a try.  So I made it and it was divine.  Try it.  The recipes and ideas at The Kitchn are excellent.  While you’re there, wander over to their sister site, Apartment Therapy, and check out the January Cure for ideas on getting your home in shape after the holidays.

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YUM.

I’ve lived in a small space for years and haven’t had the room for a Christmas tree, so I’ve always wanted to create a wall tree.  I fail to do it every single year.  Except this year.  It was a huge hit with Maya and it added even more warmth to my cozy little home.  She’s already begged me to do it again next year.

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I also remember to hang the stockings every year, but then forget to fill them with trinkets and goodies.  This year, I remembered.  I even found a miniature Pikachu for Josh, which put a huge grin on his face.  Win!

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The kicker: I made a Lego table for Maya for Christmas.  I hate to admit this, but in the past, I likely would have talked about it with every intention of making it, but failed to follow through.  Time would have slipped through my fingers.  I’m so, so happy I made it because it has been so much fun to play with it– for her and for me.

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My new year’s day project. I rock.

Too much party on NYE

Too much party on NYE

I’ve been experimenting with all sorts of recipes, from toffee-chocolate chip shortbread to this cranberry-orange-quinoa salad.  Maya and I have been painting, reading, playing, and we have picnics on a regular basis.

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She looks like she’s meditating. Trust me- she’s not.

Part of opening yourself up to the creative flow is to open yourself up to life.  Try new things.  Live more in the moment.  Be aware.  Maintain your sense of humor.  I didn’t really make any resolutions last year, but I had a sense that it would be filled with personal growth, and it was.  It’s quite something how inner growth changes so many areas of your life.  So, thank you, 2013.

I’ve only made a few resolutions for 2014, mostly concerning creative writing goals, trying new things on a regular basis, and continuing my personal growth, but I think this year is going to be a big year for me.  I’m ready for huge, wonderful, love-filled changes in my life.  Before now, there were a number of times I thought I was ready, but in reality, I was still attached to areas of my past.

I questioned myself as to why I’m so sure I’m ready now when I have previously thought the same, and the answer was immediate and clear: I no longer look back and wonder, “what if?”  I live now and look to the future.

Here’s to the future.

Excise the Cancerous Relationship

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nearly finished

“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.”–Albert Camus

I’ve been quiet as of late, but my mind remains in a state of unrest.  This disquiet has been building for a while, layer upon layer of negativity casually drifting in and weighing me down.  It flows into my life from quite a few people in my atmosphere who chronically complain about their relatively good lives.  I’m not talking about the occasional venting of frustrations or even an off week or two; we all need to release our feelings of disappointment in the presence of those we trust and we all experience ups and downs.  We all experience times of imbalance in relationships.

The negativity I speak of seems to be cemented at the cores of these individuals, and they carry with it a flagrant lack of responsibility for their own actions, which in turn causes more drama and more reasons to whine.  This continues for years.  Should you try a “first-world-problem” joke, they brush it aside.  Should casually attempt to point out that a misstep at point A led to the issue at point B, but their problem can be fixed (usually in a very simple manner), your advice is ignored and they carry on down the road of blaming everyone else.  Should you continue to open yourself up to them and merely listen, they mistake you for a dumping ground.  They deplete you of your energy and joy.  There is no win/win.

Their continual pessimistic views settle into my skin like poison and worm their way into my veins, flushing the lightness out of my system while planting seeds of irritability. I try to let it roll off me the way rain washes down a window pane, but my shield can only withstand so much.  My usual defenses- meditation, exercise, fresh air, funny movies- haven’t been enough lately.  When I’ve left their presence, whether it’s in person, email, text, or phone, I have always felt drained.  Empty.

I’ve spent some time examining my reaction to the negativity; not reflecting on the reaction itself, but the “why” behind my internal response.  Am I unable to sit with someone through their own suffering and offer gentle support?  Do I have unrealistic expectations?  Am I seeing parts of myself in other people and it annoys the hell out of me?  Does my patience “muscle” simply need a rest?  I mean, it has been one hell of a trying year.  Am I hypersensitive at this time?

After much consideration, I acknowledged that this time I couldn’t solve the issue entirely from within; I had to examine the outside source.  I needed to politely eject myself from relationships that are not (and have not been for a very long time) basically uplifting and supportive before I started to view life as a dark shadow and infect others with a jaundiced outlook.

“With some friends, the three poisons keep growing,
Study, reflection, and meditation weaken,
And loving kindness and compassion fall away.
Give up bad friends — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.”Tog-me Zong-po

If you have a cancerous growth, you excise it before the cancer spreads and destroys other parts of your body.  I think that sometimes you need to do the same with ongoing bad relationships before they contaminate other areas of your life, before you turn into someone you don’t want to be.  I decided to completely remove myself from the life of one person and maintain a polite distance from a few others in order to save myself from drowning in their unhappiness.

Distancing myself has helped tremendously, but there’s a slight residue that has yet to fully clear.  The energy of the people in your life can have a profound effect on you, and it is not easy to dispel the negative vibes.  I thought it best to allow some time for contemplation and mental clarity before fully engaging in the world again.  I suppose I liken it to getting the flu: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and try not to spread the illness to others.

It’s taking me a bit of time to return to my previous level of mental well-being and overall happiness, but I’m nearly there.  I feel lighter.  I sleep better.  I’m taking better care of myself and I’m smiling much more.  The weight has been lifted.

Josh Emerald Pools

Be careful of the company you choose.

Movember is Not for Weenies… Well, Actually it is…

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For those of you living under a rock, we are now near the tail end of Movember, the month dedicated to men’s health, moustaches, Maya’s birthday, and turkeys.

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Okay, so the last two on the list aren’t exactly a part of Movember.  However, Maya demands to be a part of everything and since I would like to see the sun rise tomorrow, I allow her to believe whatever she wishes.  Plus, she just had her birthday, so whatever.

I wish Maya and November was called Movember!

Regarding the turkeys:  I’ve heard through the grapevine that they are planning an uprising of their own in November.  I haven’t yet learned of their motive or why they’re so pissed, but their revolt is sure to be memorable.  And tasty, should the humans win that is.  (Update: I saw this as of today.  The revolution is upon us, people.)

So, we are all taking this month to educate ourselves about men’s health issues, right?  Right?  Hmm….  I’ve worked in healthcare for the greater part of my adult life, and this is what I’ve discovered:  most of the men I know can draw and label a random carburetor,

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but they’re not familiar with their own bodies.

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We women… Well, we get a head-start on the whole bodily-humiliation thing in our teen years when we have the joy of spreading our legs so that a strange doctor can poke around with odd tools and extract bits of our bodies for pathology.  By the time we reach the age that most men are going in for their first prostate exam, many of us women have had humiliations galore, especially through childbirth and its delightful after-effects.  We’re pros.  We’ve got this down.*  Men, we’re here to help you through this (and maybe snicker just a tad since it’s finally your turn to received a personalized glove treatment.)  Because even though there are many times we would love to throw you out the window, we do want you here with us, guys.  You are our fathers, brothers, sons, husbands, partners, and friends.  You help make our lives complete, and you fix our carburetors.

Yes, Movember is dedicated to bringing awareness to men’s health issues– specifically prostate cancertesticular cancer, and mental health, but it is much more than that: Movember is the starting point in motivating men– young and old– to take action and be proactive with regard to their health care in general.  The easiest and probably most effective change anyone can make is in their diet.

I know men have a tendency to block out voices once those voices begin their “healthy diet” and “exercise” talk, but your physical health affects not only your body but your mental health as well.  When you eat crap, you feel like crap physically and mentally.  Alright, so at first you have a major food stone going on with your fast food and buffalo chicken wings, loaded nachos, and homemade brews.  However, in the long run, you’ll start to look and feel like Jabba the Hutt and then your energy, sex drive, and mental clarity go right out the window.  Moderation reigns supreme.

If you want to start eating healthier but don’t know where to begin, ask for help.  I know I would gladly show someone the basics and give pointers on cooking healthier.  (Ahem, ahem… Hello, single men.)  Not sure how to decipher a nutritional facts label?  You’re not alone.  Check out this interactive guide from the Mayo Clinic.  Don’t even know how to cook an egg?  There are hundreds of cookbooks or an app to check out.  Try Jamie Oliver or Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

On to the medical bit:  Men, I know that you would rather chew a nail than get a prostate exam.  I get it.  However, like the countless paps throughout the lives of women, digital rectal exams are one of the (evil) tools physicians use for early detection of cancer in men.  You also need to have a regular physical to screen for high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes because the leading cause of death in men living in the United States is heart disease.  The greatest risk factors?  High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking.  Yes, this means someone will stick a needle in your arm, and my experience has been “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”  Unless you are a heroin addict, needles suck.  Promise yourself a milkshake or a pint after you donate your two or three ounces of blood, close your eyes, breathe in and out real easy, and get it over with.  

Lastly, but most importantly, we need to educate the young men in our lives about the importance of their physical and mental well-being.  We need to talk to them about sexual health.  We need to discuss the symptoms of testicular cancer because it is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35.  We must destigmatize mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders, regardless of age.  We need to show that it’s okay to ask for help.  We all need to make the men in our lives feel safe to open up and not shame them for showing emotion.  It’s time to allow men to evolve beyond the stoic creatures we see in the black and white photos from the “good ol’ days.”

Movember was created to highlight men’s health issues, but it is far more than that; Movember is about everyone who wants the men in their lives to be mentally and emotionally strong, healthy, and happy.

Movember benefits all of us.

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http://us.movember.com/mospace/network/view/id/33649

*We know everything, right?

An afterthought here: sexual health is for men of ALL ages.  I wrote this about our aging baby boomers quite some time ago, and I think it applies here.

Curve Ball: Surprise Vegas Wedding

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Because sometimes you wake up, turn to that gorgeous being sleeping beside you, and you say:

I want to be with you.  For good.  I’ve wanted to be with you for a long time.  I don’t want anyone else.  I don’t want to try to make life work with anyone else.  YOU are worth the effort.  I love you.  YOU.  So let’s just do it because life is too short to fuck around.

Or you say something pretty similar to it.  And the other person is like, Are you kidding me?  Hell yes!

You call some people and share the news.  Then everyone fixes their hair and dances around in their undies to 80’s music.  Or maybe just some people do.

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I would never dance in my undies. Especially to 80’s music.

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Never ever.
Okay. Maybe sometimes.

And then you hop in your car and drive here:

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And the kids play and read while you wait.

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Thank heavens I had the foresight to bring Dr. Seuss.

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Then you do it and you don’t look back.  You give your heart.  You give your soul.  You give yourself.  You know it won’t always be easy, but you know that this person standing beside you is the one worth fighting for.  They light a fire within you and make you want to be a better person.  They have since the moment you met them and the feeling grows as time passes.

They just get you.

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So you say, “I do.”

Then you all go out to eat and the kids drive you batshit crazy, as kids tend to do.  The End.

However, there are a few good moments…

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Congrats, brother!

Now…  It’s my turn.

I read this viral posting a few minutes ago and it’s perfect for this particular post:

http://www.viralnova.com/marriage-is-not-for-you/

Blogger Interactive 2013

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My weekend in Austin for the first annual Blogger Interactive was pretty cool.

i love you so much

I did miss Maya tremendously– more than I imagined I would.

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I stayed in quirky studio cottage off of South Congress, complete with a friendly cat and chickens.  Coming straight from the desert of Nevada, my brain nearly short-circuited from sensory overload.  I haven’t been enveloped by so many brilliant greens, vibrant flowers, singing birds, and a general in-your-face abundance of life in quite some time.   

After our BI speaker session with Julian and Chiara, who are crazy driven and creative, I decided to stroll down to the Capitol building to snap a few shots.  Lo and behold! the Texas Book Festival was in full swing.  Glory be.

Keep Austin Weird?  Yes, please.  Here are a few random shots throughout the weekend.  I wish I would have taken more.

One photo that I’m going to enlarge and frame for Maya’s room:

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Down to the meat: Blogger Interactive.  As some of you are already aware, I was reluctant to hop that plane and put myself in the midst of it all.  I wasn’t the only one.  After reading other BI views on our meet-up, I realized that most of us who attended the event are a bit (or a lot) introverted, but we had the balls to just do it.  I am so thankful that we did because not only did I get to meet the people behind the blogs I read, I also met new people who help expand my personal universe.  I can’t wait to bump into all of you again!

Honestly, if I could go back and redo the weekend, I would have put on my big girl panties and opened my mouth and asked more questions.  Not been reluctant to put myself out there, because no one was scary and no one was judging anyone else.  At least, not that I’m aware of.  All the horrific, embarrassing stuff that could happen, like that awful nightmare where you epically face-plant in front of a lot of people, didn’t happen.

OH WAIT.  YES, it did.

Let me begin by saying that I am a klutz.  You know that movie Good Luck, Chuck where the gorgeous Jessica Alba is the biggest goofball and trips, walks into stuff, inadvertently injures others and herself… Yeah.  That’s me, minus the uber-hotness factor.  So by the time BI rolled around on Friday night, klutzy me was running on THREE hours of sleep since Thursday morning.  Add to that three sangaritas (half margarita, half sangria), very little food swimming in my belly, and an unfamiliar dark nightclub, and you have the proper ingredients for an EPIC face-plant.  I smashed into a step (fabulous hematoma still colors my shin) and nearly took a stranger down with me.  Poor Kirk had no idea what he was getting himself into when he allowed me to follow him and his friends around like a lost puppy.  Had he known… I’m sure he would have filmed it.  However, this is par for the course in a night out with me, so should I return to Austin (and I will- especially since Allegiant Air is now offering supa-cheap flights direct from Vegas), I’m guessing someone will have their camera ready.  Along with a first aid kit.

At any rate, I want to give a special thank you to Jen and Becca.  Without you two, Blogger Interactive wouldn’t have existed.  Next year, you guys can count on me to pitch in.  

I was blessed with this opportunity to travel to Austin for BI weekend.  I saved and stayed under my budget (and good thing because my car brakes decided to quit working the day after I returned from Austin).  I know a lot of other people wanted to attend, but were unable to make it, so I feel lucky.  I hope that next year the BI group expands exponentially and we are all able to connect with other like-minded individuals.  It is an uplifting experience.

Speaking of uplifting… I had an odd experience on the flight home…

So, I wandered about the South Congress area in the morning before my flight.  It had just finished raining and the intoxicating scent of wet earth and green was heavy in the air.  I had a cup of coffee and ate a breakfast burrito at Jo’s, and walked away with a fat cinnamon roll to eat as I watched the chickens one last time.  However, as I walked up the street, there was a homeless man who had pushed his wet belongings to the side of a building and was wearily leaning against them.  He politely said hello and I replied the same as I passed by him.  Then I thought about that scrumptious roll and how I could get another one any time I wanted– in fact, I could turn around that very moment and buy five or ten more if that was what I desired.  It was unlikely this man could buy one.  So I offered mine and I swear his eyes lit up.  Made me feel so good that I walked around a bit longer than planned.   I had the intention of showering before I boarded a plane with more than a hundred other souls, but I lost track of time and decided that I didn’t smell that bad, plus I would be home shortly and could shower then.  I was only flying, for Pete’s sake.  What spectacular event could occur that would make me wish I had scrubbed and fixed my hair and put on mascara?

Tall, dark, and handsome walking down the aisle toward the back of the plane.  Seat next to me empty.  I swear, my luck is never so good as when I look like death warmed over.  He sat down beside me and I instantly, inexplicably wanted to touch him.  Weirdest thing ever.  I had to literally sit on my hands so that I didn’t pretend he had something in his hair and I was just trying to get it out.  We chatted about Game of Thrones; he’s reading the book.  He’s a musician.  Educated.  Respectful.  Funny, but not in that in-your-face-look-at-me sort of way.  Sweet.  He’s so damn nice– in a way that you can tell it’s embedded in his core.  And, as usual, I was not on my game, and the bizarre urge to cuddle into him did not dissipate as the flight continued.  In the restroom, I swore I was going to go back out there and act more interested, because I was.  However, he settled into a movie, so I settled into Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  And that… was pretty much it, unfortunately.  We talked for a bit near the end, but…  *sigh*  I had to literally run to my next plane and he was home.  And I don’t know.  Maybe he was flying home to a girlfriend or wife (not all men wear rings).  However, it was the only time I wished for a long layover because he’s exactly the kind of man I’d like to get to know better.

It hit me that you guys exist.  You extraordinary men with good hearts.  You’re out there and you sit right down by us when we least expect it.  And next time, I’m going to find out more about you.

Wonderful friends, new friends, remarkable men, and great food and drinks.  Lovely weekend in Austin.  Thanks to our sponsors, and thanks to all of my fellow BI attendees for making it a great weekend!

Lauren & Michael

John 

Jon

Vyvy 

Kirk

Rachelle

During Year Two, I want to see YOU there!  And maybe you, too, can watch me fall flat on my face.

Bring It

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I’ve been told that if you really want something in your life, you shouldn’t just want it or wish for it and expect it to fall into your lap.  You need to act.  Act, and the universe will follow through.

I kept saying that I wanted to move, but continued to settle deeper into my home.  Time to change that.

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Whittling down.  I need more boxes.  Clothes, books, and toys sorted, packed, and donated.  Magazines dropped off at work.  Old towels donated to the animal shelter.

I have no idea where we’re going, but I have to start acting like we are outta here.  Merely thinking about moving has done nothing for me, although maybe I wasn’t completely ready to move until lately.  So, I think it’s time for some action.

Bring on the changes, universe.

Also, last night I finished another draft on one of my screenplays.  It still needs so much work…  I was thinking about my protagonist and how I could portray his “a-ha” moment without being overly dramatic.  I kind-of received an answer today.

I arrived at work and I was walking to the door when I noticed a woman coming out at the same time.  A soft, bouncy dress swayed around her perfectly; tall, black boots hit just under her knees; a cropped jean jacket made the look more casual; and she had long hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, which curled down onto her shoulders.  I wanted to have that pulled-together look that she had.  Confident.  Happy.  It was just as I flashed a dimpled grin and she did the same that I realized I was staring at my own reflection.

Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing your reflection when you don’t expect it and realizing that the person you are admiring is you is when you recognize the transformation in yourself.  I don’t recall ever not knowing I was staring at myself, so it was on odd, but illuminating experience.

I think I know exactly how I could work a similar situation into pivotal scene.

My Sunday Random Bits on Love… Even Though It’s Saturday

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In honor of Matt and Vildana’s first anniversary (yesterday), I am reposting an entry I wrote last year about their wedding and a few thoughts I have on love.  My brother shared this bit on facebook, and I hope that he doesn’t mind that I’m sharing it here with you.  I think it’s lovely.

One year ago today I was honored to have the most beautiful, intelligent, caring woman place her trust in me to treasure the love she can give and to trust to be loved back in return. I hope the memory of seeing her walk down the aisle and completing the vows that bind us together never fades.
I wake each morning to prove to her she put her trust in the right man and I go to bed every night thankful she has put up with me for another day. I am continuously awed at the patience she has with my antics!
Happy anniversary to the woman who completes my life. I love you and love knowing the love you have for me too. I am yours til the end.

My brother’s wedding was in Las Vegas about two weeks ago (the goofball is pictured above with me and our dad) and the whole love and marriage bit has been on my mind quite a bit since then.  Naturally.

Nearly all eyes were on the bride as she walked down the aisle.  My eyes were on my brother.  I figured everyone else would have dozens of photos of the woman in white, but I would have the only one of the groom as he watched his soon-to-be wife enter the room.

I was right, and I’m so happy I caught the moment.

It was a lovely ceremony, even if my daughter and the bride’s daughter were conspiring to torment us the rest of the evening.  (I would love to say that Maya was the most well-behaved, delightful girl the entire night, but it would be a fantastical lie.  She was a typical 2 year-old.)

The happy couple.

I was never one of those girls who dreamt of a white wedding.  I can’t recall ever pretending I was getting married, either.  (Except to Telly Savalas, obviously.)  I’ve never even tried on a wedding dress.

However, this past week I discovered a few things about myself and weddings.  I’m not conventional.  I would definitely want it outside.  October would be ideal.  Near dusk.  Give me some rust colors on the trees and the distant scent of wood burning.  Say “I do” to the words of Tom Robbins:

Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.

I want a simple silver band with one delicate, round, conflict-free diamond.  Small scale.  This Vera Wang would be my ideal wedding dress (unlimited $, mind you):

I want to sink into wine and cheese and bread and dark chocolate.  I’d rather smash fruit-filled warm brie into a man’s face than color him with the typical white cake.

Am I nuts?  Probably.  Will it ever happen for me?  I’m not sure.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Here are a few things that I know so far about love:

First off:  You must love yourself.  Treat yourself with respect.  Honor your highest priorities.  The whole “love is patient, love is kind” bit from the Bible?  Apply it toward yourself as well as others.  Forgive yourself.

Trust your gut.  Not your heart.  Your gut.  Our hearts can lie and our brain defends our heart’s actions.  The gut doesn’t lie.

Don’t be afraid to be a nerd in love.

Yes, you might look like an idiot and maybe the relationship doesn’t play out how you envisioned, but such geeky actions can bring forth something great into this world.  Like a little girl.

If you love someone, tell them.  I mean, if you think you love them while the two of you are enjoying a cocktail on your first date, I would suggest waiting for a while before declaring your love.  Could look a tad desperate.  Otherwise, we all know that life is too short to dick around.  “I love you.”  Simple, yet powerful.

There are more things I’ve learned, but I’d rather keep you in suspense.  Because I know you will all be waiting with bated breath for my next random bits on love entry.

Until then, here’s an entry I wrote years ago as I babysat a friend’s wedding dress.  I was still madly attached to a certain man at the time, but the theme remains true.  I will warn you, the writing is wordy, but I haven’t the desire to edit it.  I’m too tired.  Plus, I’m not gunning for an award here.  Grimace as I just did and skim through if you wish.

Nevermind.  I can’t bear to post it, the writing is so bad.  These few paragraphs are okay, so…

For me, the wedding dress symbolized a marriage of illusions instead of illuminations- until Juno murmured in my ear and introduced me to an electric soul.  I discovered how delicious life can be when the mere thought of a person sets into motion those dancing butterflies that create a bizarre recipe of nausea, hyperventilation, and uncontrollable perspiration, which somehow transforms into a gourmet feast of love.  I realized that if you are fortunate enough to stumble into that indescribable bond, one that refuses to dissolve despite time and distance, you develop an unyielding desire to nourish and protect that connection- hence the commitment. 

Now, primarily due to senescence, I know that a healthy relationship rooted in friendship, respect, and love, can spring a person from mediocrity to brilliance.  Ordinary to extraordinary.  With positive communication and compromise, a romantic partnership can be beautifully symbiotic.  

I don’t have grand expectations and I don’t expect another person to piece my puzzle; I’m realistic.  Just love me.  In my opinion, if you truly love someone, then you respect, cherish, adore, and fiercely protect them, and that crew of virile verbs pitches the tent that protects and strengthens devotion during life’s many storms.  Yes- we’re both going to screw up from time to time and hurt each other.  That’s inevitable.  

Still, I want to open my eyes to your face every morning and drift off to sleep after I kiss you goodnight.  I want to share my ideas, my fears, and my lame jokes with you.  I want to watch you grow into the person you’ve always wanted to become.  We were hooked from the beginning by an unseen bungee cord that continues to pull us back together, and I’m deliriously happy to be tethered to you, you amazing person, you.

A lovely song to send you on your way:

Two Weeks To Go!

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Getting all antsy in my pantsy for Blogger Interactive!  Couldn’t have arrived at a better time to snap me out of this terrible funk I’ve found myself in.  I feel so… beaten.  I need something wonderful to fall into my life right now.  Hmm… Well, I do get a weekend in the fabulous city of Austin, which is my first weekend to travel without Maya Papaya.  Whatever shall I do?

Oh yeah….

First there’s our meet-up at 508 Tequila Bar.  At least one big hug is on my checklist (and a good hug can always lift your spirits) and then I can stuff my face (good food lifts spirits, too).  There are some delicious items on that menu.  I hope there is at least one other person who loves to share because I want to try as much as I can.  And the beverages… oh, don’t get me started.  Gotta take it easy, though.  In the morning is…

Coffee at Halcyon.  As Maya said when we stopped off at a convenience store during our road trip to see her dad, “You should get coffee, mommy.  It is your favorite drink.”  Miss Smartypants.  Question:  Is 9am too early for a chocolate espresso martini?

Off to the library to meet our fabulous BI speakers and then wander around downtown or venture down South Congress to check out quirky stores, whichever my heart desires.  Maybe I’ll get lost in art galleries or take a stroll along the water until…

Hangar Lounge.  I have no idea what’s going down.  Chatter.  Laughs.  Possibly toss out my elevator pitches for a couple of screenplays and see what sort of response I receive.  I would love to find another person with whom I can connect in that brainstorming-ideas sort of way.  I love that buzz.  I miss that buzz.

At the last minute I remembered to order my free networking cards from moo.com.  I slapped on one of my favorite snapshots I took of a graffito and added the name of my novel (WIP) in place of my business/title.  Thus, I am The Love Larcenist, which is ironic because, sadly, I am the exact opposite.  Anyway, I’m not really sure if networking cards are my thing, but I thought it would be a fun memento at the very least. 

lovered

Lots of things to do, people to see, and food to be in my belly.

Funk, be gone.

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