Category Archives: MomDay Monday

The End of an Era

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Last week it all ended. High school is a thing of the past for The Girl. In a mercifully concise 1 hour & 26 minute ceremony, she & 315 of her closest friends walked across a stage set up on the school football field & accepted their proverbial “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

The week leading up to that day was a flurry of prom, visitors & enough family togetherness to last me until The Boy’s graduation in three years.

And then it was over. And all was quiet.

The Boy still has a couple of weeks to finish up his freshman year & I will admit it’s strange to get him out the door on his own although it was just a year ago that they were in separate schools with different start times. But memory fades & it seems like they have always made that 7 am walk to the bus together.

It was bittersweet for The Girl. While she was happy to have made it, tears were shed on the way home. “I’ll miss everyone,” she said simply.

And now she’s on to new things. She’ll still be at home. She’s not entirely sure what path she’s heading down, so she’s opted to attend the local community college (my bank account thanks her). She also signed up for a summer EMT course which surprised (and impressed!) all of us.

Meanwhile, I follow a page on Facebook catering to the parents of teenagers – particularly those who are moving on to new ventures. I have read post after post about the sadness that comes when your kids start moving on with their lives & away from yours.

Only I’m not sad.

Isn’t this what we’ve worked for? Wasn’t this our goal? To raise our kids so that they could stand on their own. For their entire lives, The Kids have heard me say that my job is to make sure they are able to live on their own. And while their laundry & cooking skills could still use some honing, they’re getting there. More & more they are independent of me. As The Girl works on getting her drivers license at the same time she’s getting her EMT license, The Boy spends time out with friends. Which leaves me time to do the things I want.

We still connect during the week. There are still dinners & game nights & movie nights & honestly, I’m still surprised every time I suggest doing something & they say yes. But do I expect them to always be available to hang out with me? Absolutely not.

This was my goal. This is what my parenting was about. To get them to a point where they can be their own person.

I remember a parent/teacher conference with The Girl’s History teacher in her freshman year. As we waited in line to see this particular teacher, there was a form we were supposed to fill out about our child. The first question was “Do you check your child’s homework every night?” I wrote, “No” (probably in Burt’s Bees “Hibiscus” colored lip balm because I can never find a pen). When it was our turn to talk to the teacher, she noted my answer.

“So you don’t check her homework?” she asked, one eyebrow raised askance.

“I do not. She is 15 years old. She’s perfectly capable of knowing what her assignments are & getting them done,” was my reply, slightly appalled that this was even a question at the high school level. When she’s 30, am I supposed to call & ask if she did the work her boss gave her? Am I supposed to ask if she’s paid her bills or fed her pets or put gas in her car?

I love my kids. I want the best for them. But I also want the best for my life. And I have plans for my future as well. Does that make me a bad mom? Maybe. Do I care? Not in the least.

When I had them, it was with the understanding that I would do everything in my power to keep them safe. And it was with the understanding that I would love them unconditionally.

But it was also with the understanding that they would someday be their own person. That they would be on their own & lead their own lives & not be present in my life every day.

“Oh, they’ll always need their moms,” say some.

Maybe. But it’s okay if they don’t.

It means I’ve done my job.

Lou Graduates

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You Down with MDD?

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You Down with MDD?

Yeah, you know me!

It’s like walking through high tide toward the shore. Everything drags. Nothing moves quickly or gracefully. Wind rushes through your ears. Only it’s not wind. It’s the perpetual thoughts running through your brain that never stop. Sometimes it’s song lyrics. Sometimes it’s a constant to do list. Often it’s a list of ways that I’ve failed.

It’s depression. Technically Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD.

Not a bad day. Not “the blues.” Not just “feeling down.” Full blown, crippling, clinical depression. When the bootstraps you’ve been pulling yourself up by finally snap.

But no one talks about it. It’s uncomfortable & awkward. “Why can’t they just cheer up or think happy thoughts?” (My goodness, why didn’t I think of that!?)

When the chemicals in my left breast decided to gang up on me & form a cancerous tumor, I wrote about it. Friends & family rallied & sent cards & casseroles. They helped clean my yard & took my kids places so I could rest during treatment.

Now the chemicals in my brain have decided to rage against my machine & I hesitate to tell anyone. Why? Is it not the same thing? Why can I tell people about cancerous chemicals in my boob & have them support me & help me heal but if it’s chemicals in my brain that aren’t working correctly, well, clutch my pearls, we don’t talk about that.

It’s a chemical imbalance. Just like cancer. Something in my body isn’t working right. I need medication & treatment to fix it. Whether it’s my left boob or my frontal cortex should make no difference.

Listen, people, we’ve all heard the discussions about mental health in this country. How many mass shootings have had in their wake a conversation about access to mental health care. “Everyone knew the shooter was unstable. Maybe he should have gotten some help.”

But how do you ask for help when No. One. Talks. About. It.

So I’m trying to talk about it. Because maybe if everyone starts talking about their struggles with depression, anxiety & mental illness – whether theirs or a loved ones, it will stop being such a taboo subject.

I don’t know what reaction I’ll get from friends, family & colleagues by writing this. There are those around me who will wonder why I never mentioned it to them. Honestly, it’s just recently that I’ve realized there’s a problem. Two teenagers – one of them graduating high school in 8 weeks; a large old home that is amazing but way too big with way too many things that need fixing; a job in an industry that someone recently described as “relentless” & well… “I’m not depressed,” I tell myself. “I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed.”

But then everything started folding around me. I can see the piles of laundry. I just can’t move to do them. I can see the dirty bathroom sink. I just can’t seem to do anything about it – except yell at The Kids to stop spitting their toothpaste directly onto the mirror. (Seriously, how does that even happen?) I crawl into bed at 9 pm hoping that a good night’s sleep will help.

And it does. A little.

Until it doesn’t.

Until the day I wake up & wish I hadn’t.

That morning, I somehow got The Kids out the door & got into the shower. There was a litany of crap screaming in my brain. Non stop, exhausting crap that I couldn’t shut off, couldn’t quiet. And I couldn’t stop crying.

That’s when I knew I needed help. The past few months have been up & down but I always thought it was the normal up & down of a something-aged woman with two teenagers, a boyfriend, a large house & a demanding job. But it wasn’t just that. I’m grateful that I had the presence of mind to call my doctor & felt the panic rise when I was told she wasn’t in. Thankfully another physician at her office was able to see me. And the little doctor with the polka dot glasses was a life saver.

I’ve been down this road before. I was successfully treated for depression in the past. Looking back I seem to have a 7-8 year cycle of depression & not depression so I’m no stranger to this. But I’m surprised every time at how long it takes me to realize what’s happening. And if it takes me this long after having dealt with it before, how much scarier is it for someone who knows something isn’t right but doesn’t know where to start to fix it.

Let’s talk about this people. I know I’m not the only one.

Signs & symptoms of depression include:

  • Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
  • Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
  • Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
  • Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation
  • Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide
  • Weight: weight gain or weight loss
  • Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts

If you or a loved one show signs of depression or any mental health issue & you don’t know where to turn, start with your doctor. If there is an imminent emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Other resources include:

  • National Helpline for treatment options: 800-662-HELP
  • Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK

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Evil Creeps Closer

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The phone rang with the number of The Kids’ school. At the same time, texts start coming in from The Girl. She left for school that morning feeling less that 100% so I assumed it was a call from the nurse & rejected the school phone call while finishing up a phone call with a client.

When I finally looked at my phone I felt the color drain from my face.

“We’re in a shelter in place” read The Girl’s text.

Cursing myself for not answering the call from the school, I fought the urge to drive there knowing that whatever was happening, the last thing the school staff needed was a group of anxious parents getting in the way.

I’m sure every parent from Parkland or Columbine… every loved one from The Pulse in Orlando or The Borderline in Thousand Oaks, CA… thought it couldn’t possibly happen in their world. We all think that. We all desperately want to believe that. Whenever there was a lag in The Girl’s texts, I wondered. Just like all of those other families.

Just 6 days ago, last Wednesday, a threat to The Kids’ school was found in a bathroom. It was deemed “not credible” & extra police were on hand for the last two days of the week. The Kids were with their dad that night & we discussed via text whether or not he should keep them home like they wanted. We decided, as The Ex so eloquently put it, that “we would not be emotionally manipulated by some mouth breather with a crayon.”

Heading back into school on this Monday morning, it seemed like a lifetime ago & we didn’t give it a second thought.

The Girl tells of being in math & having the teacher suddenly go to the door & pull a couple of kids in from the hall, shutting off the lights & locking the door as they rushed into the room. At least she had her phone with her. The Boy was in gym with his Medical Assisting shop which is 99% female. As the girls were ushered into the women’s locker room, he was pushed into the men’s locker room with a group of seniors that had been working out nearby. No phone, no way to communicate, not knowing anyone. He puts on a brave face but when we went to the store tonight, he stuck by my side instead of his usual routine of going off to see what was new for PS4 or XBox games.

My kids are growing up with evil getting closer.

Someone pointed out tonight that it was a good thing they practiced active shooter drills because at least they knew what to do. “It’s like the fire drills & evacuations we used to do in school.”

Only it’s not.

A fire can happen any time, true. But a fire – with rare exception – is not an intentional act of violence. Staring down a fire & trying to get away from it can’t come close to the terror of facing down evil with a gun. In your school. These kids are growing up with a heightened sense of fear for exactly this reason. We wonder why anxiety is rampant among teenagers. We blame mounting academic pressures, the 24/7 culture of social media & the violence of video games. Have we ever considered that it’s because this generation – born during & after 9/11 – have been raised on high alert. They have been raised to know that they are not safe, even in their own schools.

I remember the first time The Boy came home from his new elementary school in 3rd grade & told me about the drill they had. The teacher locked the door & turned off the light & they all crawled into a vent at the back of the classroom & had to sit really still. That same year, their first in public school, The Girl came home & told us about a lock down drill they did in middle school that day. One of the kids said something during the drill & the teacher looked at that kid & said, “Thanks. You just killed us all.”

This is how they have to live now. This is how we all have to live. With evil creeping closer.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t even really know what questions to ask to get to the right answers to end this. I trust my kids’ school. I trust the systems & protections they have put into place. I trust my kids to be smart & alert & to do what they need to. No, I don’t want to be emotionally manipulated by some mouth breather with a crayon. I also don’t want to see evil in my kids’ school or any school. And I feel helpless watching it creep closer.

The evil didn’t get to them today. The school was evacuated & the kids were sent home. The school was swept by bomb squads & dogs & deemed safe so they will be going back tomorrow.

But “safety” is kind of relative now, isn’t it?

It’s Been a Minute

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It’s been a minute & I officially now have two high school students. In less than three months, The Girl will graduate high school. Soon after that, The Boy will finish his freshman year.

A few years ago I ruminated on The Girl ending her middle school career (To My Daughter as She Finishes Middle School).

Middle school was very different for The Boy. Other than one “spawn of Satan” as The Boy refers to him (I’m looking at you Jack Toohey), my kids had very different middle school experiences. The Girl struggled through it while The Boy seemed to sail – other than his math grades. Case in point: Their texts from their 8th grade class trip to Washington, DC…

The Girl’s: “Can you come get me?”

The Boy’s: “This place is pretty cool. And some girl broke her knee on the Potomac River cruise so we’re all waiting for the ambulance.”

My cocky, sassy, full of spunk (I hate spunk) boy has turned into this amazing young man who is now cast as Narcissus in a new musical written by one of his music teachers. He’s learned to play drums & piano & has a group of friends who are straight up amazing kids. They all congregate at the library for old school Dungeons & Dragons. And when they have to be at their own homes, they’re usually on line together playing TF2 or Fortnite (or as I unfortunately called it, “Frontline.” I may be turning into my mother).

And they’re TEENAGERS. With a capital TEENAGERS. They have opinions & they’re finding their own voice.

And it’s the best.

A coworker is struggling with her two year old… or twouchebag as I recently heard it referred to. And I remember those days. This particular coworker has one just like The Boy who pushed buttons that I didn’t know existed. I just keep nodding & telling her that it gets better. But much like when the doctors used to get annoyed with me worrying about potty training (“No kid has ever gone to college in diapers!” Bitch, please…. I’m trying to get through preschool!) I’m sure she can’t even see that place right now.

But I can.

And my first born is almost grown & flown.

The Girl isn’t sure what she wants to do when she graduates. Maybe biology. Maybe marine biology. Maybe forensics. Maybe chemistry.

So she’s charted a course for community college to help her figure it out. In my panic, I watched other parents post on Facebook about their kids’ college applications. I made her apply in November only to receive a post card in the mail from the local community college that may as well have said, “Slow your roll. We’re working on the January term. We’ll get back to you about next fall.” And here I was all prepared with my FAFSA.

It’s not the road I thought she would choose. Her focus at the technical high school was graphics. But according to her, she loves art & doesn’t want to do it for a living or she would hate it (sort of how I felt about working at Target). That’s pretty mature. I also expected her to choose a small, private, four year college. We toured a couple… okay, one… and I thought it would be a good fit for her. But she is my level-headed one. She knows enough to know that she doesn’t really know what she wants. You know?

I guess my point is that every kid finds their way eventually. I watch my friends post about their kids’ college acceptance letters & cheer them on. And I know that they’re cheering on The Girl as she embarks on her path to figure out what she wants.

The Boy recently had to choose his shop at the same tech high school that The Girl is graduating from. He chose Medical Assisting. And much like his sister, it’s not the road I thought he would choose. But he’s got three more years to figure it out before graduation.

And at the risk of sounding cliche’, it’s not the destination. It’s the journey.

And this is a great journey.

Stay tuned. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

 

MomDay Monday – The Face of Failure

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A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, but this one leaves me with none. It came up on the Facebook memories of a friend yesterday & he posted it because, as he says, “This one never gets old.”

A little back story: This is The Ex & me at a kindergarten open house for The Boy in 2010. I can’t begin to recall what infraction caused this icy show down. Who knows… someone forgot to do something or did something they weren’t supposed to. I don’t remember. But a year after this was taken, we would be well on our way to divorce.

I can see why our friend finds this funny. On a lot of levels, I do, too & in past years (because he posts it Every. Year.) I laughed along with him. But yesterday it hit me a lot differently. Yesterday, I captioned it “The Beginning of the End.”

At first I wanted to lash out at our friend & write something scathing to him about reminding me what a failure I am at relationships. After writing several drafts of my scathing comment (that I’m grateful I never posted) I stepped back. Lashing out would change nothing. I do fail at relationships. And not just the romantic ones.

Because that’s what bothered me about this picture. For some reason this year’s posting made me take a harder look at my part in my failed relationships. All of them.

That little blondish head staring at me in the bottom of the picture is The Boy. He was 6 at the time. And damned if this picture didn’t make me regret every time I’ve failed him & his sister.

And that’s where I had to stop myself. Yes. I have failed my kids on a number of occasions. I have failed my parents & family, my friends, my coworkers, my bosses… There’s probably a few fellow drivers on the roads in my town who qualify, too. But I can’t wallow in it. All I can do is recognize when I’ve failed & take whatever steps I can to correct it.

And that’s huge. No one wants to admit when they’ve failed let alone do the hard work of fixing their mistakes. It’s easier to sweep them under the rug & hope nobody notices. Taking the blinders off & facing that reality sucks – and makes you want to lash out at your friends for posts that are actually pretty funny. I was going to say that in the past, that was difficult, but hell, it STILL is. Always will be.

But it’s worth it.

PS – That 6-year-old blonde kid in the picture? He’s 13 now. He’s taller than me & I just bought him a men’s size 10 pair of sneakers. He made honor roll, is in a band & was one of 20 kids in his school of 500 who was asked to join Art Club. Despite his long hair & propensity for sweatpants, the failure couldn’t have been that bad. 

PPS – At the risk of outing my friend who posts this picture every year, I’m going to direct you to his website. If you want to read an unflinching look at dealing with & overcoming mental illness – the ultimate staring failure in the face & making it blink – read his blog: http://www.theocddiaries.com

 

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MomDay Monday – Wait For It

Today was not a good day.

It was the first day back from school vacation. And the two weeks before that were filled with enough snow days to keep them in school until July (Here’s your red, white & blue outfit, kids. Enjoy your class Fourth of July Party!). Trying to get two teenagers up & out the door on a good day is work enough. Today involved trumpets & a system of weights & pulleys to hoist them out of bed & on their way.

The rest of today’s schedule was:

  • 8:30 am – 5 pm: Woooooooooooooooooork – which was the Monday of all Mondays.
  • 5:30 pm: Get The Boy. Bring him to band practice
  • 6 pm: Get The Girl. Bring her to volunteer program kick off event
  • 6:30 pm: Bring The Boy home
  • 7:15 pm: Bring The Girl home
  • 7:30 pm: Make dinner
  • 8 pm: Ignore laundry
  • 8:05 pm: Open wine
  • 8:06 pm: Ignore world

The Girl’s volunteer kick off event was for a group that run a number of homeless shelters & low-cost housing in our city. She will be working with an after school program for homeless kids. When I went to pick her up from the kick off event, she was nowhere to be found. My heart sank. She has been struggling with anxiety & depression in the past few months & my first thought was that she got overwhelmed by the amount of moms & kids in the room & was hiding somewhere. Instead, I found her crouched on the floor in the back of the room with a little girl about three years old. They were making shapes out of beads & guessing what the other had made. I watched her for a few minutes then looked around the room. It was filled with moms & kids. Moms like me. Kids like mine. Only we were going home to our big house. Our big, not-so-warm-house-but-only-because-I’m-cheap-and-don’t-want-to-turn-up-the-heat house with the cabinets full of food. They… well, they were not. They were going to one of the designated apartments in the building we were in. Or they were going wherever they could. One woman was in her car with her two kids looking for a laundromat. I offered her quarters & we went on our way.

And I was grateful for everything I have. My job. My home. My kids. My crazy life.

And then I came across this on Facebook….

No... Just No.

And I wanted to scream.

Because I didn’t enjoy my life today. Not remotely. Life took me down today. Life showed me moms who just wanted the best for their kids & couldn’t give it to them. Even in those moments I was feeling grateful I was also feeling like life was harsh & it was hurtful & I wanted to punch it in the throat. Because that’s what life does sometimes. “Enjoy my life today?” I don’t think so, Charlie Brown.

And then it’s topped off with “tomorrow may never come?” For f**k’s sake, really? There’s already enough pressure to “enjoy life today.” Now I have to be concerned that “tomorrow may never come,” too? I’m a reasonably healthy human being. Frankly, I kind of take it for granted that tomorrow IS going to come. It’s true, though – there are occasions where the dairy free, gluten free, vegan who runs marathons drops dead. But for the most part, we’re all going to see tomorrow. (And since it’s 11:57 pm, I think I have a pretty good shot.)

As the lyric goes in the musical “Hamilton” – “Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners & the saints – it take & it takes & it takes. And we keep living anyway. We rise & we fall & we break & we make our mistakes.” (This guy could sing the phone book & I’d listen to it.)

Sometimes we just have to wait for it. Some days, we can’t just “enjoy our life today” on cue because Charlie Brown tells us to. Some days we have to wait for it. Wait for the better days. Wait to enjoy the day. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel bad sometimes. It passes. Wait for it.

Even when someone has it worse than you. It passes & you do whatever you can to help while you wait for it.

Even when you know you have nothing to bitch about. It passes.

Wait for it. It’s on its way.

MomDay Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day. And this year, I kind of wanted to skip it. It’s been a combination of things lately. A new position at work has my brain on overload as I try to learn the ins & outs of the Insurance industry. (Honestly, if you’d told me five years ago that I would find insurance fascinating, I would have laughed at you.) My mom, The Joan, just got back from a week in Arizona visiting my sister, KK, which left me kind of jealous. And frankly, with KK out in Arizona, I miss the old Mother’s Days where The Joan, KK & I would find the most outrageous cards & exchange them around my dining room table while the men folk tried to find something else to do. (There was a flood one year & I think the guys were thrilled to have an excuse to hang out in the basement pumping water.)

I appreciate every kind gesture this year, from the cookout, to the flowers & the gift basket of bath stuff. (BATH STUFF! Seriously a favorite. I haven’t found a body scrub I don’t love.) It’s all beautiful & it’s all amazing.

But I think what’s getting to me most this year is that…..

I feel like a fraud.

I made the mistake of scanning Facebook today. I even tried to find some great pictures of me & The Kids & The Joan to post like everyone else. And I started reading everyone’s posts about their families making them dinner & their handpicked bouquets & their Pinterest-inspired wreath made by their children from discarded Legos & toilet paper tubes. I looked at my children, nestled deep into their electronics in their favorite chairs. And I looked around at my house… it’s a beautiful house… but it’s not a house owned by a person who values housekeeping as a skill set. And I felt like a fraud. Like this idea of “Motherhood” is so overwrought that I will never get it right.

15 years ago, I was handed a bundle of baby girl. There were no instructions. There were only well-meaning people telling me what they thought I should do whether they be friends, family or doctors. So I did it. I fed her. I played with her. I cleaned her after she spit up for the 1,000th time that day. And all the while I felt like somehow, some way, I was supposed to make this bundle into a functional human being. Three years later, I was handed a bundle of baby boy. And if you think you know what to do after having one, God gives you a completely different child & everything that worked with the first one doesn’t remotely work with the second.

I guess my point is…

I’ve been making this shit up as I go along.

For 15 years.

And nothing makes you feel like more of a fraud than to realize that you’ve been just making it up as you go along.

But… and there’s always a but… as The Kids get older, things change. Some for the worse. There’s a lot of teenage attitude. Both of mine have perfected the eye-roll. And we’ve learned some “salty” language as The Girl would call it. (“Seriously, mom. I’m in public school now.”)

But a lot of it’s for the better. Their world views are changing & they’re learning to express themselves & their opinions. And I’m trying to respect that & give them the space to be who they are. And I like to think that making it up as I go along gives me the opportunity to give them that space. The Girl recently had to pick her “shop” for the remainder of her high school career. She goes to a technical high school where they graduate with a degree that can either go on to college or can start a career in their chosen trade. “Are you going to tell me what shop I have to pick?” she asked. “What?! No!” I replied… realizing that there was probably a time in her life where I would have tried to do exactly that.

As I’ve always told The Kids, my job as a mom it to teach them how to live on their own. If I do everything for them, where does that leave them when they venture out? (Except for folding fitted sheets. Screw that. They’re on their own to learn that.) And then I panic. Maybe I haven’t taught them enough. Maybe I’ve been too lax. Should they be cooking dinner on their own now? I have no idea & that’s what gives me the sneaking suspicion that I’m doing it all wrong.

And then I saw this thing going around on social media – the Motherhood Dare. Women are nominated to post a picture that makes them happy or proud to be a mom.

Well I have video. And I like to think that these videos prove that making it up as I go is actually working & gives me the sneaking suspicion that I’m getting something right. These videos show two kids whose eye-rolling & salty language are overshadowed by the ability to persevere.

This is The Girl swimming a 100 freestyle race in her District Championships. And while she didn’t make it to the next round, she worked really hard this year on her sport & that makes me proud.

 

And this is The Boy. He started on drums 8 months ago & was asked to join a band as part of his music school. This is him rocking the drum kit to No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs”. He’s had eight weeks to learn 10 songs before their first public performance. And he’s crushing it. And that makes me proud.

 

Maybe… just maybe… this making it up as I go along thing IS actually working.

I’ll keep you posted.