Life and Ice Cream

Things have been busy, hectic, and there are lots of changes on the horizon. That’s really all I can say about my absence from my blog. One cool thing to report is that Chad and I are back on the wagon with our low-carb lifestyle. I’ve taken off 55 lbs, Chad is closing in on 40 I think. I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. Sometimes this means taking a “regular” recipe and seeing if I can make it to fit what we’re able to eat.

There’s a video recipe floating around on social networks for “No Churn Unicorn Ice Cream.” It’s pretty and colorful and looked easy enough. The problem? Full of sugar. But you see, once you’ve done this long enough, you start seeing where you can make substitutions to make it more “legal.” I wondered if I could adapt this recipe as well.

Before I go any further, I want to put this disclaimer right here. I don’t know how many grams of carbs are in anything I adapt. There’s math, ways to figure it, but I’m lazy. I analyze what in a recipe isn’t allowed on my eating plan. I try to figure out if there is some way I can substitute ingredients for the ones I can’t have. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For all I know, some of my cocktails may end up being higher in carbs than I think. It’s all in moderation anyhow.

Here’s my recipe for my Sugar-free, lower carb, no-churn Unicorn ice cream.

  • 4- cups heavy whipping cream (divided into 2, 2-cup portions)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar substitute of your choice (I use Splenda)
  • 2 TBSP salted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • Food colors of your choice- 2-3 drops for each color

**IMPORTANT** The very first thing you’re going to want to do is make one of the key ingredients. The original recipe calls for a can of sweetened condensed milk. I’ve not found a sugar-free alternative, so you’re gonna have to make the stuff. DO THIS EARLY- it takes time and will need even more time to cool.

Combine 2 cups of cream, butter, and sugar substitute in a shallow pan. I used a frying pan. Heat mixture to boiling then reduce the heat and let simmer and reduce for about 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid boil over and scorching. Once the mixture has reduced about half, transfer to a container and let it cool thoroughly. I cooled mine on the counter for about an hour and then put it in the freezer for about half an hour while I worked on the next step.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the other 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, vanilla and salt until stiff peaks are formed.

Gently fold the condensed sweetened milk into the whipped cream with a spatula. Mixture will thin a little, but that’s fine.

Divide mix evenly into 4-5 smaller bowls. Add 2-3 drops of food color for each bowl. Mix gently just until color is somewhat even.

Use a spoon to place random spoonfuls of the different colored mix into a larger bowl for the ice cream to set. You could use a loaf pan, I used a shallow reusable plastic storage bowl with a lid for mine. See the photo. Rotate through the colors until all of the mix is in your setting bowl.

Use a spoon handle to swirl the mix to marble the colors together. Don’t over mix, but have fun with this.

Cover and freeze for about 4-5 hours.

And that’s it.

The texture is a bit “dry” if that makes any sense, but the flavor is good. It’s rich for sure, so a little goes a long way. Hope it works for you!

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Rebirth

I witnessed something the other day that I had heard about, and had heard would possibly happen. It was amazing to see.
Last month, we traveled up through the mountains to see the damage that the wildfires had done. Things looked alien. It’s funny how you get used to seeing things a certain way, but you don’t realize it until it’s changed. That’s how this was. It was sad to see trees that should at least have the remnants of leaves still, standing bare and charred. Areas of rock that are normally covered in thick green moss and surrounded by brush lay exposed and appeared cold. As we wound along the mountain roads, we could see the spots that the airborne embers had laid to waste, decimating some areas, leaving others untouched. The damage seemed so random, but knowing how it spread, it made sense.
This weekend, we took another drive up through the same roads. The bare, burnt trees still greeted us. The rocks still lay exposed, the black patches on the mountain ahead still very much a visible reminder of what had occurred. But then we started noticing something else.
Green.
Grass, foliage, moss.
Green.
Think about the richest brightest shade of green you can imagine.
It seemed brighter than that.
At first, I thought it was just so bright against such a barren landscape. That it just stood out more against the browns and blacks of everything around it. No, it was definitely bright green.
I needed to know after the fires had happened what would happen next. I read about how the ash would fertilize the ground to promote regrowth. I read about areas that intentionally did controlled burns just to enrich the soil. I knew that the regrowth would happen, but I had no idea it would come so fast or look so vibrant.
I stood and looked at the overlook. The burnt, black tops of the mountain in the distance. The patchy, sparse trees in front of me. And the rich, bright green grass beneath my feet where ash had settled. I turned around and saw the trees behind me still standing with their bases and roots colored black, their bark white and leaves long gone. And yet, I was standing on grass that was more lush than I’d ever seen in any spring or summer of my existence.
As we traveled on up the mountain, things changed once more. As we got beyond the areas that the fire had touched, things looked as they always have. There was grass, but it wasn’t as vibrant or thick. The trees still held bits of their browned leaves, the rest of the leaves carpeted the floor around them. Rocks were barely visible underneath brush and moss. It looked like an average winter day. It looked nothing like the rebirth below.
Witnessing this did me a lot of good. It has reminded me that no matter what happens, life does continue. Horrible things happen and there’s no denying the seriousness of the situation. But sometimes after tragedy, parts come back even more beautiful than before. Just as the ash nurtures the soil, our experiences provide us with wisdom that promotes the new growth. Pretty soon we see rebirth hat emerges lush and full beneath our feet. The scars are still under it all, but we can heal beautifully.
I can’t wait to see what the mountains look like next month.

Anna’s List of Gratitude

  1. I’m thankful for Chad
  2. Smacky
  3. Photography
  4. School
  5. Wolves
  6. Squirrels
  7. All of the animals that come to visit out back
  8. That despite all of the concern and worry this year, I am healthy
  9. I have a roof over my head
  10. the lights from our Christmas tree
  11. My friends, old and new
  12. Godzilla and other old sci fi films
  13. warm blankets
  14. warm homemade sugar free snickerdoodle cake
  15. my computer- my art machine and sometimes lifeline
  16. All of the little things, cards, letters, and gifts others have sent or done for me
  17. People who check in just to say hi
  18. The time I’ve been able to take off
  19. Being able to laugh at tough situations
  20. Hot baths
  21. Concerts and music
  22. Having been able to meet some of the people that I have admired for ages and being able to thank them for the influence they’ve had on my world.
  23. the ocean
  24. the mountains
  25. the opportunities to photograph in the wild
  26. The love in my world
  27. People who “get me”
  28. People that I “get”
  29. Getting lost in a book
  30. purple
  31. being able to do little things for other people that mean a lot
  32. compassion and understanding
  33. knowing that everything is “okay” even if it only seems like it is for the moment. The moment is all that matters.
  34. snow
  35. my raccoon slippers
  36. bubble baths
  37. my family, biological and those I’ve adopted
  38. alone time when I need it
  39. long drives in the country
  40. gadgets and gizmos
  41. cheesy old cartoons
  42. watching ducks
  43. big stompy boots
  44. seeing how far I’ve come
  45. A snakebite at the Jig and Reel
  46. cobalt blue
  47. seeing a rainbow
  48. photographing a full moon
  49. nice surprises
  50. That I have completed this challenge in the allotted time 🙂

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 15 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2016, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. You may find that if you use numbered mode, and just type what comes to mind, like me you will have enough time for more than 50. When the timer’s done, stop writing. Finish whatever sentence you’re on, but don’t add more. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful!

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste these instructions into your post) 2) Click here. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. (folks have trouble with this, but it’s not that hard. 4)Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 3, 2017. After that date, no blogs can be added. Scan to the bottom of this post to find the inlinkz.

Sunday Morning Glitterfetti Cockroaches

They say that glitter is the herpes of the craft supply world. I’ve always had the tendancy to agree with that. Although, now that I think about it,  I don’t know. I’m thinking more along the lines of it being right up there with leprosy. I do think that exposure to the stuff, very well could contribute to the loss of a limb.

I’ll just come right out and say it here. I hate glitter.

Let me explain. I worked at a card shop for two years. We all do desperate things in desperate times and this was one of my hours of need. Yes, before you ask, I was asked on more than one occasion by shoppers if I had gotten sucked into some kind of satanic cult, to which I always smiled, nodded and assured them that I wasn’t harvesting souls that day. I didn’t really fit in there, but I did a good job, had some great coworkers that “got me” and it paid the bills until something better came along.

One thing you must know about a card shop is that everything, and I do mean everything is covered in glitter. You may not see it at first, but it’s there. Trust me, it’s there. It’s waiting in the wings, ready to pounce at any moment. It will attack when you least expect it. There is no way to exit a card shop without at least a smattering of glitter somewhere on your body. In fact, if we did see someone who had somehow escaped the wrath of the wild glitter in  the store, we pulled out all the stops and released the glitter bombs at the door as they exited. Finely cut metallic death rained upon the hapless victims who smugly believed they had escaped unscathed.

Okay, so we didn’t really have glitter bombs. I sort of wish we had. I’d have put them to good use.

Anyways. Card shop. Glitter. Yes. Not one day did I leave my shift without being covered. Cards, knickknacks, ornaments, they all had it. One of my major duties was the shipping and receiving, so I was into it from the time it entered the building until it ran through the registers on its way to its newfound beginnings. I’m serious when I say that this stuff finds its way into your body. All of the people who worked there had skin issues from time to time. The finest glitter would get into your pores. No joke. You’d breathe it in and sneeze it out. Never mind what got into your hair, your clothes, the washing machine, the seat cushions of anything you sat on- even on your days off. Yeah, it was bad.

Glitter and anxiety don’t really mix. I’m feeling my skin crawl just writing about the stuff.

I’m lucky to be married to someone who feels the same about the stuff as I do.

Once upon a time, when he was a late teenager, early twenty-something, my dear husband, Chad went clubbing with some friends. One of his friends dumped an entire bottle of glitter over his own head in the back of Chad’s car. Said friend thought it was cute. Chad never did get the damned stuff out of the upholstery. Chad gets neurotic around glitter to this day. Just the other day, I was putting up the Christmas tree. I sat a box of ornaments on Chad’s side of the sofa. Apparently some glitter had leaked out. See,  I like to live dangerously at the holidays, so I actually own a few ornaments that are covered with glitter. I figure it’s the holidays- time to face our fears and aggravations head on. I mean, this is why we gather with family isn’t it? I don’t really have any family to deal with, so I bought glitter ornaments instead. Just as annoying. Somewhat quieter. The glitter ornaments at least keep their opinions to themselves. I digress once again. Let’s just say that Chad’s anxiety spiked when he saw the glitter on the sofa that I had neglected to notice. It wasn’t pretty. It’s cleaned up now and my marriage is still intact.

We both hate glitter.

Now, one could argue that metallic confetti is not glitter. I would choose to challenge that point. It’s nothing more than huge-ass glitter. It’s just as persistent as it’s minuscule counterpart, despite its size. Hellbent to take over the world.

I have proof. With photos.

On May 8, 2015 I had the opportunity to see Marilyn Manson in concert. This was something that I had wanted to do for a very long time and I was extremely excited. So excited in fact, that the occurrences that happened later in the evening did not faze me until much, much later. The show was awesome. I had a great time. Chad and I went with our friend Kev, were packed like sardines close to the stage and survived the pits and other mischief that permeated the evening.

Towards the end of the show, the glitter-fetti was released. Tons upon tons of little silver pieces of foil were dumped on us. We were happy. We didn’t care. This wasn’t real glitter. This was confetti. Much different. Or so we thought.

Let me share some images…

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Here you see Chad and I as the metallic snow begins to fall.

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Chad, Kev, and I accepting our fate as the target of this little foil madness. Look at my Chest for crying out loud (by the way, that’s the only time I will ever demand that you look at my chest) That’s all glitterfetti!!

11255023_10153058828440668_1470022275457595022_nThis was me after we got home. I looked like a freakin’ disco ball. And that weird shine on my neck and chin? FROM THE GLITTERFETTI!

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I gotta hand it to him, that night, Chad truly showed his commitment to Sparkle Motion.

We literally peeled off what we could and let the rest take its chances in the shower. I’m sure our pipes are now lined with shiny happy goodness. I picked what I could out of my wig. The opening act had spit Sunny Delight (claiming it to be some kind of hard alcohol) into the audience and my wig caught the biggest portion of it. So yeah, sticky, glittery, orangey mess. That was fun. At least it wasn’t my real hair.

I did our laundry a few days later…

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This went on for weeks.

My bathroom was covered in the stuff. We began finding it in the car. The vacuum was much used at this point in time. Bits would show up in the living room. The kitchen.
It soon became apparent that this “fun” confetti that was dropped was nothing more than the big brother of your ordinary, run of the mill, cockroach of an art/party supply… glitter.

Keep in mind that this has been a year and a half ago. I may not be the best housekeeper on the face of the planet, but I do clean. I have cleaned our house multiple times in that year and a half if you can believe that. Not quite two weeks ago, I gave the bathrooms a good going over. I pulled everything out of the cabinets, purged, cleaned, restocked.I took out the heat/ac vents and vacuumed them out.  I cleaned the floors and around the fixtures on my hands and knees. I used scrub brushes, steam cleaners, and the nifty drill bit cleaner brush that Chad discovered online.

Then this happened.

I woke up on this fine, quiet Sunday morning. Went into my nice still semi-clean bathroom and proceeded to take my shower. When I finished and was hanging my towel back up to dry, I looked down at the floor. Now, I’m extremely nearsighted, but something caught my eye.

No.
It can’t be.

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Oh hell.

Manson Glitterfetti.

I don’t know where it came from.

I’m scared.

If you don’t hear from me, it’s the glitter. It’s finally gotten me.

Help!

When Your Brain Tells You To Buy Berries…

I’ve made a pact with myself that for a week, just a week, I was not going to post anything with a negative slant online. I’ve had some negativity enter my life recently and I’ve found myself buying into its influence more than I’m comfortable with. I felt like if I could watch what I post online, it would be a start.

Let me first say that I already avoid confrontation and drama. There are certain topics that I will not discuss in a public forum.  I learned my lesson on that a long time ago. The conversations that Chad and I have on any given Wednesday? They would make heads spin, but those conversations are not privy to public places. This system has worked well for me, so it will continue.

There are things, however that do come up where I want to, and do say “Ugh!” or “Yuck!” or “WHY??” Those are the things I’m trying to rein in. They’re little things that nobody probably cares about anyhow. Sometimes, I just have to vent. I’ll never understand the phenomenon of such, I don’t think we’re meant to. Life goes on. Upon realizing this, and knowing that my brain very well may explode if I don’t “get it out” somehow, I’ve decided to challenge myself to find the positives in the situation and dwell on those instead.

So let me wax positive on today.

I had a great doctor’s appointment. She’s proud of how well I’ve come off of my medications and a screening showed nothing underlying that the old medicine may have been masking. She has deemed me good to go for now and instead of three months, I see her again in six. That alone is a sign of progress. My bank account sighs in relief.

On my way home, I had a few minutes layover between buses. The stop is at one of those big box grocery and television emporiums. As we pulled into the stop, my brain started talking.

“Hey. You forgot strawberries at the store yesterday. You could go get some. Oh, and some almonds! You’ve been wanting those. Would make a good lunch.”

And I told it no. I had spent enough on the doctor’s visit (the joys of having a doctor you trust, but who does not take your insurance.) and I should just wait for my bus outside. Don’t take the chance of missing it.

“It’ll be fine. You have half an hour, dummy. Go buy some strawberries. And almonds. OOOOOH the CHOCOLATE ones! I’m talking lunch here!”

No, brain, there’s leftovers I can microwave for lunch. And burritos- those frozen burritos that petrify easily but are still rather tasty, I have those at home.

“Well, then. Okay. But you’re at least going to have to go inside to go to the bathroom.”

No, I’m… Dammit. I forgot. You control everything. Even my bladder.

It was then that I heard my brain snicker. It knew it had won.

So of course, I went inside. First, I took care of my needs. Then, I bought the strawberries and the almonds and made it back outside in time to catch my bus home. Home. I was ready to curl up on the sofa and relax.

I opened the door to an oven.

Chad had mentioned that it felt warm this morning. He was up writing in the night and said the thermometer read seventy-nine degrees. We always turn the air conditioning down at night, so he didn’t think much of it. He just opened the back door and wrote in the cool of the night air. He’s smart like that. Remembering all of this, I looked at the thermostat. Seventy-four. The thermometer? Eighty.

Shit.

Here is where I could have let everything go sideways. We’ve had issues with our air conditioning almost as long as we’ve lived here. Maintenance finally  found the key issue a few years ago and we’ve been comfortable ever since. This has been the longest we’ve gone without a problem. I spot checked all of the normal things that have gone wrong and called the landlord. She said they’d be by this afternoon to make the repairs. I began to panic because someone was coming into my house. There was a problem, I was hot, there were dishes in the sink and SOMEONE WAS COMING TO MY HOUSE! THEY’LL SEE THE DIRTY DISHES AND THROW US OUT AFTER THIRTEEN YEARS!! AND IT’S TOO DAMN HOT TO LIVE!!

Then I took a deep breath. Shut up, brain. Let’s look at this positively. While my brain did make me have to go to the bathroom again (jerk) I was able to come up with the following:

I’m positive about what kind of things to look for to convey to the maintenance man regarding the problem. I’ve checked the breakers, know that nothing is iced up, that everything inside is operational and everything outside is not. That will be a help.

I’m positive that the problem will be fixed.

I’m positive that my kitchen is now clean. Trash is out, the few dishes in the sink are done and put away and it doesn’t look like a band of rogue squirrels could emerge at any moment to steal your soul and finish up your carcass.

I’m positive that it wasn’t that bad to begin with.

I’m positive squirrels wouldn’t do that anyhow.

I’m positive that opening the back door and the living room windows will air out the house and be refreshing. Heaven knows how long it’s been since they’ve been open. I hear fresh air does a person good from time to time.

I’m positive that the carpet looks much better vacuumed.

I’m positive that despite the fact that it’s hot in here, I have a nice, cool lunch in the form of berries and almonds waiting for me. I could even add cream if I wanted to. That’s just how awesomely positive I am right now.

And I’m positive that the next time my brain says “Go buy some strawberries!” I’ll listen a bit closer.

Right now, it’s telling me I need to go back to the bathroom.

Jerk.

Little Black Raincloud…

The doctor said it would happen. Not “it might happen” or “be on the lookout just in case…” she said it *would* happen and it has.

The little black rain cloud has shown up for it’s turn to test me. It finally got word that I had made it off of my medications successfully, and while it had to rearrange some appointments it had elsewhere in the universe, it made it to visit and I can’t seem to get it to go away. I know I need to be patient. It will do it’s worst, get bored and head off to it’s next client. It will chuckle as it leaves, as rainclouds are wont to do, and will admit to itself that I passed the test.

Right now though, I wish it would take that emergency call from the guy in Oswego. No, I don’t know the guy’s name or wish him ill, only that it’s been awhile since the Little Black Raincloud paid him a visit and it’s about time for him to realize and appreciate the sunshine he’s had for so long. He’ll make it through too. Little Black Rainclouds are hardly lethal. It’s their big brothers you really have to watch out for.

Anyhow.

I’ve known it was here. For about a week or so, I’ve felt like pulling into my shell and finally becoming the turtle I always knew I could be.

“You’d make a good turtle, you know?” Little Black Raincloud has told me. “You don’t have to let anyone in around you. The things that make you sad and upset right now will bounce right off of that shell. Right off of it with hardly a *ping!* Why, you’d not even notice.”

Little Black Raincloud has talked to me about being a failure. About not currently working. “And wow, that’s a good thing because how much stuff could you mess up if you were? Think about it- messing up someone else’s stuff for a change! I mean you’re all the time messing up your own affairs. You’re the reason we can’t have nice things around here, you know.”

I wish that the Little Black Raincloud would shut up.

I’ve tried to get it to go away. Ignoring it only encourages it to go into its closet and pull out the loud Hawaiian shirts and strobe lights to gain more attention. Confronting it makes it that much louder. It pulls a giant megaphone from the inside of its long black coat and shouts back in my face exactly what it thinks and how wrong I am.

The doctor said that when the raincloud came around, not to necessarily outright fight it, but to be patient and not let it get to me. I guess that’s a form of fighting isn’t it? I wonder if she knew that I’d get this particular Little Black Raincloud or if they’re all alike. I’m trying to heed her advice.

I wish the Little Black Raincloud would let me sleep. I don’t like being awake at three in the morning wondering if I should even consider bothering with the continuation of my studies. Telling me what a fraud I am and reminding me of the patronizing smiles and the “oh that’s nice-es” from the past. The little Black Raincloud is capital at convincing me that I have no idea what I’m doing and laughs at me for sharing my “work” (“Is that what you call it?” he says haughtily) and points out all of the flaws in what up to now I’ve been proud of.

Little Black Raincloud shakes his head in scorn and scolds me for spending so much money on things that will ultimately go nowhere. He tells me that my dad was right when he told me long ago that “It’s not worth doing if you can’t make money at it.” His laughter becomes thunderous when I tell him that it’s just something that I enjoy. “You don’t get to ‘enjoy’ anything, silly girl. Grow up!” he booms.

It bothers me the most when Little Black Raincloud tries to talk to me about other people. How nobody really cares. He tells me that I’m a pest to everyone and if I had half a brain, I’d just leave people and things well enough alone. He’s amazing at making me feel embarrassed for the things I’ve done and the kind of person I am. “Turtles are nice,” he reminds me. “Nobody is embarrassed to associate with a turtle.”

He’s cruel. At least he doesn’t rain like his dangerous big brothers. As long as no part of him touches me, I’m okay. I’ll cry, I’ll brood, I’ll take too much of what he says to heart and yes, I’ll pull in and away from people and things. I already have. That’s where I am right now. I know that it’s a matter of gritting my teeth and trying to press on to get out from under his shadow. I don’t know how much time he’s allowed for me, but it can’t be forever. I’ll survive his visit and things will continue.

I’ve met his brothers in the past. The Big Black Stormclouds reached out their spidery electric fingers and caressed my hair. They bathed me in their own tears and took me dangerously close into their dark layers of fog where I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. The Big Black Stormclouds tricked me into believing all they had to tell me and how the darkness that they had created was a better permanence than the existence I was trying to maintain. I lived with them for years, I was their consort; servant; slave. I know that the Little Black Raincloud could call them back at a moment’s notice and they’d be here ready to reintroduce themselves all while smiling huge, sharply toothed grins. They’d try to get me to take comfort in the return of old friends and the cycle would begin again.

This is one Little Black Raincloud. One that’s probably as afraid of his brothers as I am. They don’t give him any credit after all, just push him along while they take over his work. He’s not even going to rain. Just threaten a downpour. I know he’ll be gone soon and if I’m lucky, I’ll get a rainbow when he leaves. I just need to be patient. And while turtles are nice, I don’t really want to turn into one. At least not forever.

Today, I realized…

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I had a really odd day today.

I woke up sick as a dog. So sick that I was sure I had the flu. Not now, I can’t be sick. We have a show tomorrow that we’ve been looking forward to for months. Our anniversary is Thursday. School was this evening. I. Cannot. Be. Sick.

I realized that even though I felt horrible, that it was as a result of that time of the month. I wasn’t truly sick in the sense that I might be down for a couple of days, and that was a good thing.

As a result, I spent an hour in the tub. While I was relaxing, I put the color on my hair I had gotten to even out my roots. Halfway through the process, I noticed that the color was quite a bit darker than I thought it would be. I didn’t want to go back so dark. I had worked really hard to strip out the old color…

I realized after the process that it actually matched the ends of my hair It was still  lighter than the black that I had worked so hard to strip, and it looks really quite good.

School was to be at a different location tonight. Somewhere I had never been. I’d have to take a different bus that I’d never taken before and I’d have to hope to heavens that I managed to signal somewhere around the right stop. The bus driver was filling in for the regular driver and while she was very sweet, she admitted that she didn’t really know where it was I needed to go.

I realized that I didn’t have to leave any earlier to get to school at the different location. I realized that I had a little bit of extra time to get some food and something to take with me to drink during class. I didn’t feel as rushed. And that felt good.

I  also realized that the transfer to the new bus was painless and I found my stop quite easily. I had no problems finding the studio and it was nice to be someplace outside of the normal classroom. Different was good.

I forgot that I was to bring my gear with me tonight to practice lighting techniques. Ordinarily, we don’t bring our equipment and in not feeling well, it slipped my mind.  There was no way to go home and get mine, but I figured I was at least there, I could observe and make notes. Understand what was being taught and would hopefully retain it until next time.

I realized it wasn’t so hard to let my teacher know that I had forgotten my gear. It wasn’t the end of the world that I was the only person there without a camera for the evening. He had an extra and it gave me an opportunity to try something new. While there were a few settings on his that I wasn’t sure how to change, I did my best and I realized that for never picking up that calibre of camera before, I was doing good.

I felt myself become nervous at the end of class when the teacher began talking about our going to the baseball camp to practice technique. I didn’t want him to know that I had transportation issues. I didn’t want to let him know that I’d pretty much decided to not take part in that one session of class simply because I wasn’t sure how I would get there and I felt embarrassed to admit to anyone that I didn’t drive. I felt my cheeks flush when another student that I had talked to innocently mentioned to him that she knew I didn’t drive and might need some assistance getting there- could anyone help?

And then I realized that this wasn’t a horrible thing. Nobody laughed at me. Nobody stood with their mouths wide open chanting “why don’t you drive?” The teacher understood and said we might be able to work something out and other students actually seemed like they would sincerely help me out. I know the other student didn’t mean to embarrass me, she honestly wanted me to have my chance to go as well. Knowing that other people cared, and that the one thing that I do fear judgement on, wasn’t a factor.  I actually felt better with this out in the open. My classmates’ care and acceptance felt really good.

When I got home, I decided to treat myself to some strawberries and cream in a monkey shaped bowl. I went to put a little sugar on the strawberries and it poured out like mad, drowning them. I cursed a little.

I realized that the strawberries were a little too tart after all, and the extra sugar made them taste…really good.

While eating the strawberries, I got to thinking about everything that happened today. How many things there were that kept popping up, seeming like obstacles. Making me feel like maybe I should just go crawl back into bed, turn out the lights and try again tomorrow. I got to thinking about how my anxiety felt more present today. How I felt like certain things were a chore that I was working through rather than enjoying my day.  How scared I was to take a different bus to a new place, to learn something I’d never done. How that was probably affecting my stomach this morning too. How nervous and disappointed in myself, and somewhat embarrassed that I had forgotten my camera. And did my hair look anywhere near normal? It wasn’t too dark again was it? How could I not have controlled the sugar bag? Now they know that I don’t drive…. and….and…and…

And then I realized, that I did it.

I realized that this was *me.* Doing the thing. *I* moved forward. There wasn’t a medication controlling my reaction the anxiety i faced and felt. This was all my doing and nothing caught fire and burned… well, except for the baseball bat my teacher used for our technique lesson tonight. (Which was awesome by the way.) This was my facing my fears, feeling and accepting the emotion that came with them and choosing to control my outlook on how things turned out.

I realized that nothing really had been that bad today.

In fact…

It all turned out pretty good.

 

 

Let’s think about happiness…

So can I rant for a minute?  Generally, I try not to weigh in on anything too heavy, but I saw a graphic today that spoke to me. And while it was posted in regards to a very popular game right now, it got me thinking and I wonder how crazy I am.
Let’s set up some disclaimers on this before I begin. I am *not* talking about anything life threatening. I’m not talking about the state of the world, we’re not talking politics, violence, religion, civil rights, ANYTHING along those lines. Those are very real, scary topics that deserve discussion, debate, etc. That is *not* what this is about. Nothing where anybody is in danger, getting hurt, none of that.
Now, with that out of the way, let me set up a little scenario for you. Yes, this will sound silly, but bear with me- it’s the best way I can think of to get my point across.
Say when you were five years old, your aunt had some handmade pottery on a shelf. You never gave much thought to that pottery until the day that it fell off of the shelf. Being that you were five years old, it knocked you for a loop when it fell on your head. You were okay, but you obviously had a bad taste in your mouth regarding handmade pottery for the rest of your life. It’s understandable. You have a very real personal reason for disliking pottery. Maybe you can overcome it, maybe you can’t, who knows, doesn’t matter. I would expect you to be vocal about your dislike for pottery. Truthfully, I wouldn’t expect you to really even want to discuss it. But if you do- that’s okay. You’re allowed.
Now, we’ll talk about a totally different you. You never had an aunt with a violent piece of pottery. Got it? Good. Anyhow, you wander into a shop. Could be any kind of shop really. For the sake of making this really off the wall, let’s say it was a toy store. But the shop owner also dabbled in handmade pottery. You go into said store to look around and there’s a small display of this pottery. Maybe you don’t “get” pottery. Maybe you’re having a bad day. Maybe you’ve been in seventy shops already and all of them have had a small display of handmade pottery. We don’t know, doesn’t matter. But, you start actively complaining to the shopkeeper (who is very proud of his hobby-maybe he has struggled and feels that it’s something he enjoys, that he’s good at, that takes his mind away from his troubles for at least a little while) that you are SICK and TIRED of handmade pottery! Do you mean it personally towards the shopkeeper/potter? That much probably hasn’t even crossed your mind. Just for whatever reason, you really feel the need to release negativity on something that someone finds joy in.
Think of how that shopkeeper would feel. He might be hurt and ashamed for showing off his craft. What was he thinking putting it out there for others to see? He might get angry and want to scream and hit at you. All negative reactions. True, Mr. Shopkeeper/Potter might be secure enough in his world where he truly does not feel bothered at all. It’s a very real possibility, but I know more people who would probably feel hurt and anger than be indifferent.
What would have happened had you just ignored the pottery and gone on your merry way? It wasn’t hurting anyone, it certainly wasn’t hurting you in any way, and it made *someone* out there happy. You didn’t expend the energy on getting angry and blowing up over it. The shopkeeper is still having a good day and the world keeps turning. See how easy this option was?
I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to their opinions. I’ve had my moments, I know. I’ll be the first to admit. I just feel like whether it be games, or tv shows, or movies, art, whatever people find happiness in, there’s too many people who can’t just let others be happy and find their own happiness elsewhere. Let’s face it, we are in no way supposed to like the same things. I like being surrounded by people with interests different than mine. Sometimes I might even try something I didn’t think I’d like and be pleasantly surprised. Other times… not so much. Despite how I feel about the topic, I can still appreciate it and be grateful that it’s made someone else’s world a better place.
Isn’t that what we should be striving for anyhow?
So I challenge you. Discuss the big stuff. Have opinions- have very loud opinions if you wish, but try not to give into the negativity that takes away from someone else’s simple pleasures and escapes.
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April 25, 2016

I’ve tried most of the day to sit down and write. I’ve not been successful, but I know that if I don’t get this down, I’ll lose a lot of the newness. I don’t want to lose that. I have a field trip for class in two and a half hours. Dinner is done, Chad is playing a game and I’m determined to push past the happy haze that my brain is still floating around in and get this done.

Ordinarily, my posts are more introspective instead of “here’s what I did today.” This is a pretty big “what I did,” so I think it works. I still have my wristband on my arm. I don’t know how long it will stay there but for now, it’s keeping me reminded of it all.

If I can back up a little bit, I’d like to back up to Saturday. I feel like this is important. Saturday night was not good to me in a lot of ways, but it was necessary. Chad and I had a few drinks at home. Nothing major. We listened to some music and got to talking. Throughout conversation, I had a flashback of something that happened as a teenager. It wasn’t a happy something, and it took me down. I started remembering details, I felt like I was there again. I haven’t had flashbacks in a very long time. I wasn’t prepared for this, and I’ve got that fear that there will be more. There haven’t been more and chances are, there won’t be another. At least for a very long time. It was exhausting and I pretty much slept all day Sunday to recover.

Now, back to happy-land.

We’d had this trip to Nashville planned for some time. We are both huge Peter Murphy / Bauhaus fans and Peter was going to perform at City Winery. This would make the third time in three different states that we’ve attended a show. Both times before, we were up front and always got a handshake or something from the stage. Last time, he nearly broke my hand, but that’s another funny story for another time. He’s been known to do meet and greets, but I’ve always missed out on getting to go to them. They’ve sold out before I’ve had a chance to get passes. While it’s been disappointing, it’s never really ruined anything. I’ve always been happy to just have been in the crowd.

We arrived at the winery last night and were taken to our seats. We knew we would not be up front for this one, but that was fine. It was a more intimate acoustic set and there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. I had taken cash for a t-shirt (we don’t want to talk about my obsession with t-shirts, but yes, I needed one from the show) and noticed at the merch table that they were selling meet and greet passes. The bad news? Cash only and I didn’t have that much with me. I was told that there was an ATM outside the venue. Score! More bad news- my PIN number wasn’t working on my credit card. I called and was told that the only way it could be reset was to send me something in the mail or I could go to a bank and get cash in person. Neither option was going to work.

I hold this great belief that things happen for a reason. It’s not a religious thing, or even spiritual. Maybe it’s just a coping thing. Even if things don’t work out how I want, life will go on and maybe I’ll have learned something about the situation. In this case, make sure that my PIN number is set up properly. I was a little disappointed in myself that I felt bummed about it. I finally had the opportunity and it wasn’t meant to be. I looked at my phone before going back into the venue and saw where Chad had texted me wondering where I’d wandered off to. When I went back inside he was at the merch table himself. He wasn’t upset, heck, we were at a great venue for an awesome show- how could anyone be upset? Well, unless you’d just argued with your bank about your PIN number. But that’s beside the point.

We went back to our table and I told him about what had happened. How close I felt to being able to get passes. About the ATM and the PIN number and the letter they were going to mail me to give me a number that wouldn’t help me out at the moment. He casually remarked that he hadn’t seen an ATM, where had I gone? I told him where it was. In a minute he excused himself. I had this feeling, but for all I knew he had gone to the restroom. I became anxious in a good way but I kept telling myself that if he wasn’t doing what I thought he might be doing, it was ok. All in the whole “meant to be.”

A few minutes later he was back with a wristband.

Yes. Tears.

He hadn’t gotten himself one, he could have, but he wanted this for me. So that I had a really good memorable experience. I told him I’d transfer the funds to him and he refused. This was a gift. (Dammit. And I had done such a good job with my makeup!) He told me that the meet and greet would be after the show, that I was to report to the merch table.

Maybe this will sound dumb, but I had printed off some prints for class yesterday afternoon. There was one that I made an extra copy of and put in my purse. I told myself “just in case.” It hit me that I could make this a reality. I talked to Chad about it. He said of course I should gift the print. I wanted to, I just hoped that I wouldn’t chicken out. I mean, who am I? This… person who picked up a camera for the first time seriously about a year ago. It was a butterfly though (and I’ll tag it onto this post) and somehow it seemed appropriate. He’s used butterflies in imagery in the past. And for me, this weekend was probably a moment of shedding a cocoon. I decided to at least try to do it.

I pulled myself together, brushed my hair, fixed my face, and enjoyed the hell out of the show. Towards the end, the anxiety started creeping in. The good kind. Excited, but a little scared that I was going to be doing this thing on my own. Chad found a random pen on a table and I wrote a short note on the back of the print. Just a “thank you” with my name and where I was from. Before I knew it, I was being ushered into the room for the meeting.

I’ve said it. Others have said it. The man has energy. The kind you can feel just being in the same room. We were encouraged not to form a line, to just socialize- to take his time within reason. He was there for us. This was our time.

I was the second person that he turned to. I almost couldn’t say my name. We chatted for a minute just… small talk. To be honest, I can’t remember much. He signed my CD and hugged me. I asked him if I could give him something and he looked surprised. Of course it was fine and he accepted my print. He silently looked at it and said “this is beautiful. Do you know the photographer?” I admitted I had taken it. He hugged me again. He wanted to know where it was taken and wasn’t that a monarch? He thanked me. I forgot to ask for a photo with him. Gah! I started to step back to the sidelines when one of his assistants asked me if I had wanted my photo taken. I admitted that yes, I did but I didn’t have anyone to help me. She took my phone (my camera battery had already died) and retrieved Peter. He apologized for not making sure and told her to make sure that she got more than one. He thanked me again for the print and then someone else approached him and got their experience as well.

I stood back for a minute and talked to another woman there. Just watching his interaction with everyone. It was truly magical. He was extremely gracious and personable. He was in no rush whatsoever. Yes, we had paid to be there, but he was there for us.

Finally, I knew things would be wrapping up, so I slipped out and back to Chad who was beaming. I felt sort of bad that he hadn’t gone, but I know him. I know that he wanted that for me and as long as I had photos and good memories, he was happy. I have the best husband in the world.

We got home around two a.m. We talked the entire way, listening to Bauhaus and existing off of our excitement and adrenaline. Somewhere about halfway home, it hit me that I had shared my art. That my doubts and insecurities about what I’m doing took a back seat for one brief second and I had shared with someone that inspired me.

It’s been an awesome ride. butterfly

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The More You Know…*

I’ve been bad. Ok, maybe not “bad,” just busy. School, life, saving the universe one squirrel at a time. Plotting demise of universe with said squirrels. Being too lazy for my own good. Anyhow, I’m still here. I have a million drafts saved where I have an idea and then forget to go back and finish it. Truth be told, my mind has been in a million places lately. It’s weird having that occur when nothing’s really wrong on the outside. Maybe my brain has been used to it for so long that it’s conspiring against me. In short- being in a funk isn’t fun. It’s the same word with a “k” tagged on. That “k” is a real bitch. Don’t let it fool you.

This morning, I read a post by Ms. Rara that I thought would be a good exercise in getting back to this writing thing. 50 Little Things You Might Not Know About Me. I’ve been thinking it over. If you know me in the real world, you know that I’m an open book on a lot of things. And I love sharing obscure things about me that I’ve experienced, thought and done. (Note to self: remember what you were thinking about on the bus yesterday and draft a note on that… try not to forget about that note. I know you will, but at least pretend like you won’t.) So yes, if you know me, some of this might not be surprising. Humor me. I’m writing.

So without further babble- 50 Little Things You Might Not Know About Me.

  1. I feel more comfortable around almost any animal than I do around people. Except snakes. I respect snakes and they have their place in the universe, but I still get creeped out seeing them in the wild. Want to show me your python or boa? Cool. Garter snake in the wild slithering away from me in mortal fear? I’ll claim I saw an anaconda that had just eaten an elephant and was hungry for my liver. You don’t want to know how I view people in a similar manner. Humans, as a whole petrify me.
  2. I’d rather be spontaneous than plan something out. I’ve come to accept that this is an anxiety thing. The longer I have to go over the “what ifs” the more anxious I will be about the situation and will find a way out of doing it. I will more likely do something out of my comfort zone on the fly. Incidentally, that’s how I’ve faced a lot of my demons and been able to heal from them. Plus, it looks like I’m brave and a badass. Score!
  3. I once self published a book of poetry.
  4. I lived in an extended stay motel for a couple of years; until I could get back on my feet from breaking up with my ex. It wasn’t so bad. I couldn’t get a bank account because I “didn’t have a permanent address” but somehow there was a freedom and gypsy-like feel to it.
  5. No matter what, I end up looking back on anything negative that’s happened as a learning experience and realize I wouldn’t change anything. I call it being a “Closet Optimist.”
  6. I met my best friend the summer between second and third grade. We were partners in a computer programming class at the local college in a program for kids. Yes, this was 1982. I’ve always been a nerd. BASIC is dead, our friendship is not.
  7. Squirrels are not my favorite animal. (Insert shock and awe here) Wolves are. My dream would be to work or even just volunteer at a preserve. The wolf is also my spirit animal and I have one tattooed on my left foot.
  8. I don’t use my dishwasher. It is evil. I do my dishes by hand.
  9. I love working on genealogy. My biggest thrill is finding all of the black sheep in the family line and learning what I can about them. The lily white do gooders bore me. I will proudly tell you about my great great grandfather assisting his stepfather in an axe murder. I seriously become addicted to research. I’ve done the DNA thing as well.
  10. I have a scar over my left eye from having a cyst removed when I was three. I was born with the cyst and had it kept growing, it probably would have covered my eye. I called it my “knob” and after the surgery, I told everyone “I had my knob tookened off.”
  11. I once helped my grandfather build a motorbike. I still have it in storage at my in-laws and aside from a brake cable, it works. I’m definitely the fixer and constructor in my household. My grandfather could fix/build anything, my mom learned it and I learned it from her. I *love* putting furniture together or taking the sink apart to fix something. I wanted to take auto mechanics in high school, but it never happened. I’ve also built and upgraded more computers than I can count. I can’t fix everything, but I’m more mechanically inclined than you’d expect.
  12. Speaking of school, because of severe anxiety, I was on county based homeschool for the majority of grades 7-10. In 11th, my parents withdrew me from the system. I started studying for the GED, but decided that wasn’t what I wanted. Within months, I was enrolled in a self-paced independent homeschool program and completed my last two years of high school in six months. I graduated a whole year early with an A average. Not bad.
  13. Raccoons and deer came to my wedding. The deer were a little late, but that’s their nature. Damn things can’t tell time for shit.
  14. When I was a little kid, I was afraid of KISS. I actually had a photo of Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolfman on my bedroom wall to scare away the members of KISS if they ever decided to kidnap me in my sleep. I was a weird kid. I’m a weird adult. Go figure.
  15. I hate eggplant. I’ll eat baba ganoush, but that’s it. The smell of eggplant makes me gag.
  16. I own land in Scotland and can legally use the title of “Lady Anna Shaver.”
  17. I have a mark on my left thigh where I sat on a pencil as a kid. I joke that this was my first tattoo.
  18. I got my nose pierced on a lark the same time I got my second tattoo. (See #2 on our list)
  19. I pierced my own ears. Ten times in one night. Four holes still remain. I can’t remember the last time I wore earrings. Just to put this out there, I swear I was never one to self harm. I was bored and on an adrenaline rush from the first set. (see #2, once again)
  20. I am the only person who knows how to make my grandmother’s super secret recipe banana cake. And I’m not telling.
  21. I have an abnormal attraction to cobalt blue glass.
  22. I love being barefoot. Even in winter. And I hate flip flops.
  23. My favorite perfume at the moment is Inis from Ireland.
  24. I played trumpet in my elementary school band.
  25. I learned to cook in the kitchen of a Catholic school. No, I’m not Catholic, nor did I go to school there. We had a friend in the Brotherhood and we had gone to visit for one of his ceremonies. I was like 6 or 7 and he let me help make scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast. I thought I was a big deal. I still make awesome scrambled eggs- the same way Brother Bob taught me.
  26. I am easily creeped out by museums but I love them. A museum with an old town set up in life-sized display? I almost can’t handle it. I still have nightmares about the giant taxidermied beaver I once saw in a museum in Michigan. It wanted to eat my liver.
  27. I was Miss Barbie Parkersburg 1983. Again, I thought I was hot shit. It was a random drawing sort of thing from Mattel though, I’ve never been in pageants nor did I want to be. I got a ton of cool stuff though.
  28. I’m very non confrontational, but I’ve been known to defy someone when I know that it’s the right thing to do. In tenth grade, my teacher wanted me to entirely rewrite a short story I wrote for the county school’s student publication. I refused and took a bad grade on the assignment. I submitted the story anyhow and won second place in the entire county. I was also the only sophomore to be published that year, let alone on home study. My teacher ended up amending the grade.
  29. I’m my own worst critic.
  30. I grew up around circuses and carnivals. My very first job was at a concession trailer when I was a teenager. I make a mean cone of cotton candy. Sometimes I miss that.
  31. Peanut butter is nectar of the gods.
  32. I believe in energy existing in all things around us. Transferring and constant. It can’t be created nor can it be destroyed. A Sunday School teacher once taught me about that. He wasn’t a Sunday School teacher for very long. I  loved that man.
  33. The same Sunday School teacher surprised me with a public display of some of my art pieces he “borrowed” when I was a teenager. They were on display for a month at a local bank. I cried when I saw it.
  34. I’m selectively emotional. I feel things immensely but I hate to show it. I’ll write about it all night and day, but I even have trouble in showing happiness around people I don’t know or trust sometimes. Despite this, I always try very hard to express gratefulness.
  35. I hate when I’ve gotten too deep.
  36. My favorite drink is a snakebite. They really do want to eat my liver.
  37. I could live on pizza. In fact, I have. Not that healthy, new fangled gourmet topping stuff either. Greasy, good pepperoni laden pizza. The only “traditional” topping I won’t eat is anchovies, but I don’t think I’m alone there.
  38. I like silver over gold. White gold is ok. My engagement ring is white gold with two black diamonds and a traditional diamond in the center. My wedding band is channel cut black diamonds. I love them. Even though I’ve been told “I always did have to be different.”
  39. I like being “different.”
  40. If I decided to stop dying my hair it would be snow white. Part of me wants to do this. Having roots makes me crazy though and it would take too much to strip the black to white.
  41. I love to laugh. I want my sides to hurt afterwards. I love wicked humor.
  42. I read Alice In Wonderland and The Hobbit at least once a year. I never really plan it- it just happens.
  43. Little gestures/tokens mean a lot to me. I love getting a random postcard, a little kid giving me a sticker. I appreciate it fully when someone has thought of me.
  44. On the other side of it, I love doing things for people. Paying for a stranger’s meal anonymously, helping someone on the bus. Sending a card to someone for no real reason. Seeing a trinket that makes me think of someone and getting it for them. That gives me the best feeling ever.
  45. I don’t play video games nearly as much as I used to (to Chad’s chagrin) but I love Diablo 2 and 3 so much. I can’t count the times I’ve played through them. I love strength based characters who charge into a mob and kick ass. I kinda see that as a metaphor for how I deal with things. (See #2 again.)
  46. I used to hate the color yellow until I was a florist. Then I saw how it can make things pop. I’ve loved it ever since, not as my favorite color but just to add that bit of happy. This also taught me that even though something may not be ideal, it’s got it’s place in the order of things and in the right situation makes all the difference. I guess snakes are like that too. I guess. When they’re not out for my liver.
  47. I try to stick to a low-carb sugar free diet. Lately, it’s not been easy. Because Pizza.
  48. I have realized in the past several years that I use a good amount of words in everyday talk that are Appalachian dialect. I say “I’d just as leave.” “I swan.” I eat “catheads”, enjoy watching “fairydiddles” and I’m on the alert for “catamounts.” Aside from what little I’ve picked up in Tennessee, I have no southern accent. I’m from the Ohio river area of West Virginia. We sound more Ohioan and maybe even a bit of PA influence, but no drawl. Unless I’m tired or nervous. Then I sound more like a local. (Fun fact: remember the story that the teacher wanted me to rewrite? I had used some of my dialect. She wanted all of that gone. The judges loved it.)
  49. I still count on my fingers sometimes. I’ve always sucked at math.
  50. Despite the things I’ve gone through, I will *never* consider myself a victim. Trust me. I have my horror stories. Some, I very rarely discuss outside of certain circles. They’ve affected me in ways I do still carry, and I will for a long time. Probably the rest of my life. I still suffer from anxiety and depression. I have PTSD. I’ve been agoraphobic, barely leaving my home for months at a time. I’ve been suicidal. However, I’ve somehow found the courage to face my demons, and those who have introduced those demons to me. Some of them I’ve literally had to come face to face with in human form. I’ve found the strength and wisdom to allow me to heal from these things. I’ll never be completely unscathed. Wounds leave scars, but I’m not ashamed of my scars. They’re there for a reason. The scars remind me that I’m still here. That I’ve made it this far. And yeah, there will be more. That’s life. I don’t know that all of that might not be a drop in the bucket compared to what’s to come, but I’ll live through that as well. In my mind (and this is *only* my opinion for *myself*- I am in no way trivializing anyone else’s experiences or the effects thereof) to consider myself a victim would be giving in and letting those events win out over me. Giving them a title would, to me, be the same as giving them a trophy. It’s telling those demons “Look what you’ve done! You really messed this one up good! Tell your buddies that this one here is an easy mark, to come on over and get their share of the spoils!” I’m not about that. Scars are a reminder that yes, I was hurt and left vulnerable but healing has happened. I am stronger from the experiences I endured. I would rather be alive and covered in scars than no longer walking the earth, taking in the pleasures that I can and helping others on their walk through life. I realize that I’m lucky. Through no shortage of courage, some people’s demons refuse to be put back in their corner to behave themselves (and sometimes, mine continue to try to misbehave and I have to crack the whip until they’re back where they belong. They’re still demons after all.). I have nothing but empathy, respect, and understanding for those fighting their battles. I guess that was a biggie, but it’s important.