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This was originally going to be the background to my 31 Days icon. I look sneaky. I like that, but I couldn’t get the right color of text that would show up in front of the books and the dark space. The writing group at Andilit helped me in my hour of visually challenged need to pick a better picture, a better font, and better spacing.

Large Icon With Text 2

Ah, yes. Much better.

I also received a lot of encouragement from my other online writing group, the Coterie at Awake the Bones. We had several people participating in the 31-day challenge, so we had a thread every day to help us keep up with each other’s posts.

I am thankful for my friend Michelle, my librarian friend and star of my Fandom Friends post. She will read anything I hand her, and she’s done so for as long as we’ve known each other. I need to clear out a place on my shelf where her books will go someday. You’re all going to love them. Also, I am pretty sure I got the idea of taking shelfies from her. I distinctly remember a picture of her with library shelves in the background, and I thought, “Shelfies. That would be a cute series.” So I’m officially giving you credit, Michelle.

Dear Maggie – here is another post where you are mentioned. It happens so often because, even though you are far away, you are still one of my main sounding boards for rants and stories, and a lot of those turn into longer rants and stories of book-ish length. Thanks for loving my rants and reading my stories and for being my partner in crime for NoHoNoPro (No Honor, No Problem) that one time.

I love being friends with Margarett, and I love that this series is sprinkled with stories from our friendship, from our one shelf of sanity to our obsession with Ethiopian food to our compulsion to acquire large numbers of books in a single bound. Thanks for never telling me I have too many books.

This month has made me especially grateful for my parents. My earliest memory is my mom reading Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer to me. She took me to libraries, encouraged me to read anything I could get my hands on, and made me look up answers for myself. My parents insisted that I go to college, and that experience was instrumental in forming me into the person I am today.

Thank you, dear readers. Thanks for your likes and your comments and your emails and your encouragement. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. You make me make this face:

Excited party face

I wrote 31 Days of Shelfies!

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Let’s Dish

Our prompt this week in the writing community at Andilit was “your favorite dish.”

My favorite dish is not actually mine at all. It’s Mel’s. And it’s adorable:

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I kept it for her after we shared an apartment for a couple of months before she got married. She was downsizing to move into her apartment with Adam, and I was happy to look after her peas-in-a-pod serving dish.

This dish is not merely a dip holder; it’s a conversation starter. Prompted by this dish, guests in my apartment have discussed:

  • Decorating
  • Entertaining
  • Weird dishes our families pass down (and the stories behind them)
  • How adamantly one of my friends hates peas (which I do not understand at all)
  • Gardening
  • The importance of color-coordinating food and dishes (there may have been an excess of wine involved here)
  • Gift-giving (or specifically, how if someone gave her something lovely like this, she wouldn’t have to work so hard to pretend she liked it)

A good dish or a good recipe is one that sparks commentary. While I find compliments unnecessary in other parts of my life, there is not a quicker way to my heart than to compliment my cooking, my coffee, or my presentation. I put a lot of care into creating a good dinner experience for guests, and cute crockery makes it easy.

When I’m alone, I still like festive dishes. Aunt Gale gave me part of her old school Fiestaware set, and I love them.

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(Not pictured – cream and sugar set and gravy boat)

I swear that everything I eat off these plates tastes better. The colors are vibrant and cheerful. These plates are also sturdy. I dropped one of them on the kitchen floor once, and it remained intact and didn’t even chip. They remind me of my family – strong and stubbornly optimistic.

These pieces are little artifacts of my life. Ideally, I would like every item in my kitchen to tell a story or serve as a reminder of a loved one. Perhaps one day, they all will.

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Fishbowl

Andi, our fearless writing group leader, prompted us this week to think about what our book would look like when it is published.  She also asked what the movie would look like. So I thought I’d take a break from my word frenzy on Feast and dream of Fishbowl’s future.

“What size will it be? What weight? What color will the cover be? Hard or soft? What images? What type of font?”

I’ve always pictured Fishbowl in paperback and in blue. I like to imagine people adding it to their laptop bag or their backpack to read on the bus or in coffee shops, so it has to be easily portable. Of course, there will be e-copies of it as well, but I like to believe the majority of my readers still prefer the feel of a real book in their hands.

I am stumped on the picture. It seems ridiculous to put a fishbowl on the cover. Too easy. Their story spends a lot of time in coffee shops or drinking coffee or tea, so the picture could be hot-beverage-related. But that also seems to be a bit of a yawn. I’ll have to think about it some more. And by “think about it,” I do mean, “ask other people who are more visually oriented than I am to give their input.”

“Then, consider this, if your book was turned into a movie…who would play whom? What actors would you cast for what roles? Would it be a documentary or a feature film? Where would it be set, or what would the set look like? Would you make a cameo?”

Ahaha! I would so make a cameo. I would be the girl who gets attacked by the bird when she walks down the street.

It would be set in Denton. Because $$$ for Denton. Also, because it takes place here (currently…that may change in edits if it becomes problematic. I’m willing to negotiate.).

As far as actors, I don’t have a lot of people chosen. Here is a working list…

Bob – Adam Brody is my top choice, but I would be happy with Zachary Levi. Maybe Adam Scott. I love Adam Scott. He’s got to be in it in some role.

Jenny – I really love Olivia Wilde in this role. Maybe Zoe Saldana. I like her in anything.

Mrs. White/Caldwell – The reason I named her Mrs. White (not the final name – just a working name) is because I see Betty White when I write her.

James (the jerk) – Someone beefy. I don’t know yet. I’m open to suggestions.

Stephanie – Emma Stone? I actually picture late-twenties Janeane Garofalo, but you can’t go back in time.

Those are the only ones I have a face in mind for.

Now I need a Pinterest board for Fishbowl…

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Rooster

Yesterday, I was planning today’s invitation post and put out a casual call to my fellow writers in the Coterie and the Andilit community for suggestions of books on entertaining/hospitality or cookbooks written by people of color, and they delivered. So now I’m buried in books and having the best time, and I’ll get back to you on that next week. Today, the group prompt from Andilit ties in nicely to invitation.

Somewhere in my neighborhood there lives a rooster.

He crows every morning between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. He might crow at other times, but I live around ten thousand college students who think they have to yell any time they’re awake (apparently), so if he does I don’t hear it. But at 6:30 in the morning, it’s blissfully quiet, and that’s when I hear him.

During the week, I’m already awake by the time he crows, but on Saturday and Sunday, he wakes me up. On those days, I lie in bed with my eyes closed and pretend that I live on a farm.

I imagine first that the hint of sunlight-to-come teasing the edges of my curtains is coming to me from across a field or a grove of trees instead of fighting its way over the top of the monstrosity of a building next door.

I imagine that my bedroom is in a farmhouse and look forward to having my morning coffee on the back porch.

I imagine what the view from that back porch would be. It’s a conglomerate image of my parents’ farm and vineyards and friends’ gardens and maybe it would look a little like this:

Suzanne-49

And once I had finished my coffee, I would go back inside, and there would be my favorite thing about living in a real house with real space and room to entertain.

My dining room table.

This is the best part of my morning dreaming.

I picture elaborate meals I could serve. I see people sitting around the table.

I see myself dusting off all my serving platters to host parties again. I remember times when I met some of my favorite people for the first time at one of my own parties. I picture the get-togethers I used to have – having as many people as I could cram into the space available – encouraging guests to bring their own guests, because there was plenty to go around.

I miss throwing parties.

I miss having the space to welcome a lot of people.

I miss my guests having somewhere to park.

I miss the peace and quiet after they all left.

It would be easy to forget how much I miss living in a place better suited to my soul.

It would be easy, except for the rooster. He thinks he is inviting the morning, but he’s also inviting me to make some space to welcome people in again.

I am still taking submissions for my Invitation to the Table series. Email me your thoughts!

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My friends in the Andilit writing community are gold. Pure gold. I am pleased to bring you my second guest post from that group from artist Sharry Miller.

Sharry-with-installation

Sharry with her public art installation created with local students out of fused glass for Gilson Middle School in Valdez, Alaska

It never ceases to amaze me the ways in which I can contrive to crush my own spirit.

There’s been a lot of press over the years about how we need to ensure our children’s self-esteem is kept high, how the little things we say to other people inadvertently tear them down, how, essentially, we’re all responsible for creating a kinder, gentler world. Within reason, I totally agree with these sentiments. Who doesn’t want to live in a world in which we all treat each other with respect and care?

What about how we treat ourselves, though?

I regularly read several blogs written by, for, and about writers, as well as belong to a couple of Facebook groups of glass artists. I have a whole library of books with advice about living a creative life. One of the messages that’s reiterated time and again by virtually every author and artist is how critical it is for an artist to be kind to herself.

We are our own worst critics. Every single one of us has that little voice in her head that says, “You’re not good enough.” If you tell me you don’t, I’ll call you a liar. Or be very jealous of you. Ultimately, we do more harm to our creative selves by being too self-critical than anyone else could ever do to us.

That voice in my head screams loud and clear. I have no trouble at all comparing myself to nearly everyone else and coming up the lesser. My art isn’t as artistic, my writing isn’t as literary, or at the very least, I’m not committed enough to my art to spend sufficient time on it so that I keep improving – let alone get good. My rational brain usually tells me to shut up, and reminds me, for example, that as much as I love photorealistic art, that’s not what I like to create and therefore it is not my forte. I shouldn’t, therefore, compare my colorful, playful art to that of artists who specialize in photorealistic art. If I try, I can usually validate who I am right now in my life, even if it sometimes feels like I’m making excuses for myself.

And then there are those times I let something outside me, something totally trivial, derail my ego. Recently, it’s been those 5-day art challenges that were running around Facebook. The idea was that an artist got challenged by another artist to share three pieces of her artwork each day for five days, and on each day nominate another artist to do the same. The amount of artwork being shared should expand exponentially (to use the word metaphorically, not in its literal mathematic sense), giving the artists great exposure and flooding the Facebook world with creativity.

What’s wrong with this? Nothing, except…

No one nominated me (whine, snivel).

I’ve been doing some sort of art since I was a kid, although my early forays into that world are better characterized as crafts. Over the years, I’ve cross-stitched, crocheted, knitted, quilted, woven baskets and textiles, spun yarn, painted…you name it, I’ve probably at least tried it. For the past several years, my focus has been working in glass, particularly fused glass. It’s like making magic: putting hard, cold pieces of glass into a kiln, heating it up until it’s molten hot, cooling it back down, and always, always being at least a little surprised by the results. Colors change, shapes meld, parts become whole. For the first time, I really feel like I am taking raw materials and creating something new and unique from them. I am an artist. (Okay, I admit that I choked a little writing that last sentence, but it’s getting easier. Sort of.)

In my ridiculous little brain, I have translated this lack of nomination to share my art to mean that I’m not an artist, at least not in the world of those I associate with on Facebook. It’s not that I haven’t previously shared enough of my work with those groups to remind them that I exist. Of course not. It’s clearly a personal comment on my so-called artwork and my self-proclaimed creative abilities. I might as well just give up now and start gardening or cleaning my toilets or something.

Holy crap. How is it possible that voice in my head can be so loud and overpowering? My rational brain is allowing me to sit here and type these words about how stupid that voice is, but still…still it’s here with me undermining my confidence.

And as soon as I send this post off for publishing, any future nomination will be undone. I’ll know that the nomination had nothing to do with my worth as an artist, but was instead motivated by pity after someone read this rant. I’m not really worthy of being invited to sit at the real-artists’ table.

(That little voice just said, “Yeah, right. Like anyone’s actually going to read this drivel.” See how insidious it is?)

I didn’t write these words to engender your sympathy or to solicit compliments. My rational brain reminds me regularly how many people tell me they like what I write and what I create (thank you, thank you!), and that I only need to accept those compliments in the spirit in which they were given to believe in myself. Heck, I don’t even need to do that. It’s enough that I like what I create, that it makes me happy – that’s all the validation I need.

I suppose I wrote these words to remind myself that I’m of value whether or not anyone else tells me I am, and to remind you that you are, too. Sure, it’s nice to be recognized by others for our efforts, but not a single one of us needs that recognition in order to be of real value. If you’re not invited to sit at the table of your choice, set your own. Only invite those guests who are going to support you and build up your confidence, not tear it down. Be your own loudest cheerleader, and that kinder, gentler world will be there to greet you.

me and Scout

Sharry Miller is an aspiring artist, writer, and world-adventurer living life to the fullest in Valdez, Alaska. You can follow her creative and life journeys at http://sharrymiller.typepad.com.

She promises to not post too many pictures of her new puppy, Scout.

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Rose of sharon

I met JoAnne Silvia in the Andilit writing community. She knows how to get right to the heart of a matter, so it is perfectly fitting that she is my first guest poster for this series. I am ecstatic to share her words here today on invitation. 

Years ago, when I was still licking my wounds from divorce and the rebound from hell, I was at church and overheard some people talking about a garden party.

My church family is loving and accepting, but I was in a bad place. I wondered if would get an invitation as those childhood feelings of being outside the popular crowd rose from dormancy. The personal invitation didn’t come.

I would have liked to have gone to the party, but when I didn’t get the invitation, I scheduled something else for that same time. I’d been struggling with some health issues that turned out to be stress related, issues originating from the rebound from hell on the heels of divorce. Knowing someone who did hypnotherapy, I decided to give it a try. It turned out she was available on the same afternoon as the party.  Not wanting to sit home alone whilst the party was going on, I scheduled the session. That way, I wouldn’t be able to go to the party anyway, because I had other plans.

The hypnosis session turned out to be an important step in my healing. Lying on the massage table, I remained fully conscious, but in an altered state where emotions of grief and insights of my needs were easily accessible. I cried out my anguish. Water and dogs, two constant loves, surfaced from my subconscious mind as the medicine I needed. Swimming soothed me. Dogs offered unconditional love.

I know I was in an altered state, because, when I came out of hypnosis, it was the same feeling I felt after giving birth: a profound shift in awareness, from an extremely inward focus, to a suddenly acute awareness of my surroundings. The intense emotions evaporated instantly.

The next Sunday at church, a friend mentioned she was sorry I wasn’t able to make it to the party.

“I wasn’t invited,” I stated simply. I didn’t mean to sound so pitiful.

“Oh.” She looked bewildered.

Not long after that, the person who hosted the garden party had another get-together. She came to me directly and looked me in the eye.

“I want you to come to my party.”  She said it slowly with clear intention.

I firmly believe, now, that my not being invited to the garden party, was an oversight. I know how that can happen, I guess. You think you’ve invited someone, or assumed everyone knew they were invited. Did my wounded state lead me to assume I wasn’t invited?

If the lack of invitation happened today, under those same circumstances, I would assume it was an oversight, and dig around to get more information. Provided I wanted to be included, I would fish for an invitation, or maybe just ask, “So, I heard you’re having a party, Is everyone invited?”

But maybe I wasn’t supposed to go to the garden party. Maybe on that particular afternoon, I was supposed to be lying on that massage table, in the dim light, in that quiet place of personal healing.

JoAnne Silvia
http://joannaoftheforest.wordpress.com/

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Obsession

You know those days when you are so stressed out that you just want to curl up and sleep, binge-watch TV, read fashion magazines, and eat your feelings, and you’re mad because it’s impossible to do all those things at once?

That has been the last two months for me.

So when I woke up this morning, and one writers’ group is asking what I need to dismantle in my life to leave room for artistic goals, and another writers’ group is asking what is keeping me from achieving the weekly goals I set, the answer came almost immediately.

Job seeking.

I have been saying forever that I want a better way to earn income – specifically, one job/career that is well-suited to my skills and qualifications and that covers all my expenses. And then I resolved to make finding it a priority this year. And I have definitely made it a priority.

But.

Sometimes when my mouth says, “Make this thing a priority,” my brain hears, “Become possessed with making this thing happen tomorrow.” And that’s not the same thing. One looks like keeping my eyes open and not avoiding opportunity out of fear. The other looks like feverishly searching keywords and applying for anything for which I am remotely qualified without stopping to think about whether it would actually be something I’d want to do. One is freedom; one is obsession.

I’m stopping the obsession.

This goes against everything I’ve been taught about productive job seeking. In seminar after seminar, workshop after workshop, it has been drilled into me that, until you find the job you want to do, the job hunt is your job. You make ten thousand copies of your resume (or ten thousand versions, because a good resume/cover letter will be tailored to the prospective employer) and you send it out to all the places. This method seems like it exhibits a nice, can-do spirit. It certainly looks like good advice.

One problem with this method is that I already have a job. Two, if you count everything I do to earn money. Three if you count everything I do to earn money and the writing that (I hope) will bring in money some day. At any rate, I don’t really have the time or the energy or the sanity to take on another “job,” even if it ultimately helps me to tame my schedule.

Another problem with this method is that my entire professional experience defies it. I have never gotten a job I liked enough to stick to it for any length of time by acting like a go-getter. Every job I’ve ever gotten where I did well and where I thrived? An opportunity arose, and I fell into it. More specifically, I got it by performing well at whatever I was doing at the time and by networking. A professor who led the teaching team for the basic course while I was in grad school was impressed by the way I ran my recitation sections, so she hired me to teach my own course at the community college when she was promoted to department chair. She also enthusiastically recommended me to her colleagues at other schools, and they hired me based on her recommendation. A friend with whom I had planned a conference was in a position to hire someone, and she thought of me. Our interview started with her saying, “So you got the job – fill out this application.” I often joke that I don’t interview well, but the truth is that I’ve never really had to interview well (I’m sure if I had to, I’d be fine). I am most impressive when I am in a position to allow my work to speak for itself.

So I’m looking for the opportunities, but I’m done with hunting them down and wrestling them to the ground. Just saying that makes me breathe more easily.

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A Big To-Do

Andi prompted our writing group this week to talk about lists. I am a list fiend. I love making lists. As someone who is not naturally grand at organization, lists (and extensive training from my mother, who is the list queen) have been my salvation in that area. My genes are missing that one little nugget of an otherwise pristine INTJ personality. I love anything that makes me look good at something for which I have almost no natural talent.

Many of my lists are kept on my phone. I keep a running grocery/home list of things I need so that I can grab them if I’m out and happen upon them so that I don’t have to make an extra trip later. I also keep a list of books I want to read and gift ideas for friends (also something that doesn’t come naturally to me, so I grab all the help I can get). I keep lists of story ideas and blog posts ideas. These lists have saved me from a lot of wasted time, frustration, and writer’s block, and unlike paper lists, which I will surely misplace or leave at home/work or douse with coffee, I always have them.

A few of my lists are old-school, written lists. At the beginning of every season (you can take the girl off the farm…), I make a master list of meals before I put them on my food calendar in my kitchen. Then I file it away with recipes (or notes on where I stashed the recipe online). It makes meal-planning super easy.

If I am making a special trip to the store for a specific event, I sometimes write the list out by hand. I’m not sure why. It could be nostalgia, or it could just be because I’m using my Pinterest app for ingredients and don’t want to keep flipping back over to the notes. These lists sometimes show up in my art journal, because they tell their own story. For instance, this list is for the first testing of Feast recipes.  It’s a notable moment for me. It also might be my most favorite grocery list I’ve ever made.

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Happy.

I also write out goal lists. I have yearly goals, which I divide into quarterly goals, which I divide into weekly task lists. There is something about seeing a goal written in my own writing that makes it mean more to me. It’s weightier. I can’t blame anyone else for pushing it on me. It’s mine. I can tell, because it’s written in my own scrawl. It’s more satisfying to cross them off when they’re finished, too. I used to separate writing goals and work goals and personal goals, but now I put them all in one place, which has helped me be more realistic.

Do you make lists? Are they a help or a hindrance to you?

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Ten-Minute Ballet

This week is crazy.  I am finishing up my 31 Days series. I am getting the next installment of Fishbowl ready to send to Andi for editing. I am also doing all the NaNoPrep that I didn’t do this weekend, because I was busy learning crochet and Italian, eating soup, and buying books. That involves completing my outline (I’m going to try to be a planner instead of a pantser this year…we’ll see how that goes), meal planning, and delegating some tasks that would use the time I need to spend writing.

Oh, and I also have two other jobs.

So this week, the movement will happen, but it will have to be fast.

Enter Michelle Nevidomsky’s 10-Minute Solution video.*

I can do ten minutes of ballet, kickboxing, boot camp, yoga, or Pilates, and then I can move on to one of the other ten million things on my to-do list. I’m going to do the ballet part today.

If you are strapped for time, I recommend this video.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go conquer my week.

I’m committing to 31 Days of Movement.

*Affiliate link

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The word “we” makes me anxious.

My gut reaction to “we” is to feel left out. I’ve been part of that magical twosome, whether romantic or otherwise, that gives me a rant-listener, a breakfast partner, a perpetual plus-one, and a person who will call me out when I’m siding with the melodrama in my head. I also know what it’s like to go from “we” to “just me…again.”  It’s not pretty, even when it’s for a good reason or for the best. That transition makes me want to make friends with more of these:

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But then I breathe and look across the table.

And there’s Marvia and Alison and Kati Rose and Miah.

There’s always a new “we,” and if I don’t remember to say that, I am only telling half the story. God always gives me a new “we.”

I am a textbook introvert.  Read any list on how to approach those who need solitude to recharge their energy, and you’re pretty much reading a manual on how to get along with me. But I also have a pesky characteristic called connectedness.  I see patterns in everything, and I see how they work together. Give me a minute, and I can tell you how everyone’s actions affect everyone else. This can make me annoying at parties (or at work…or to the unfortunate soul sitting next to me on the bus when I first read the article that is going to piss me off that day…). I was once given an actual soapbox as a gift – partially as a nod to my fondness for standing upon them and partially as a jab at my physical shortness (to which I replied, “I don’t need height – I have minions.”). Connectedness is inherently communal.  So while community may not exactly energize me, it does seem to be a habitual, necessary occurrence in my life.

I have a lot of “we’s” –

  1. Online writer communities – I can never get away with not writing, not with Story Sessions and Andilit on the prowl.
  2. Supper Club – Bonded by our love of food, reading, and TV, this is a group who is not afraid to hear what I really think and is not afraid to tell me what they really think.
  3. Christ the Servant Lutheran Church – I’m new to them, so we’re still figuring each other out.  But they couldn’t be kinder or more welcoming, and I am learning a lot.  It’s nice to find a place where I feel both safe and challenged. Also, they let me be on their outreach team.  My first task? Taking inventory of our current coffee supplies and figuring out a budget for us to move toward being more intentional with fair trade purchases. And when I said no to working with the children (I love many specific children individually, but in packs or running about in public, they kinda freak me out. I blame working daycare.), they listened.  The first time. I’m so happy.
  4.  Various friends I met through Christ Fellowship and The-Church-Formerly-Known-As-Normal-Street (after all this time, I still don’t know the current name of the group.  Wow.) – Even though I am no longer meeting with them on Sundays, these are still the people I would call in an emergency. When I think of my very best friends, in Denton and beyond, I can trace almost all of them back to one (or both – love you, Steph) of these groups.
  5. Maggie and Michelle – They get their own space. They are often my first sounding board and my first readers. If you looked at the text messages on my phone, you would see that over half the total messages I send are to one or both of them. If I ever become obnoxiously wealthy, the first thing I’m going to do is pay off my student loan.  The second thing I’m going to do is buy each of them a house and hire Maggie as my personal assistant and Michelle as my social media coordinator so that they can move back to Denton. So, start making plans, you two.
  6. My family – This is the part where I get weepy with gratitude.  My family is my greatest support. My family is the reason I can’t say mean things about Republicans in general (even though the loud, extreme ones in the media really have it coming).  My conservative parents, sister, and brother-in-law are the most generous, most helpful, most supportive, most responsible, kindest, bravest, funniest, and just all around BEST people I know. I am who I am because of them, and I will be who I’m becoming because of them. I am lucky, lucky, lucky.

I might not have a plus-one right now, but that’s okay.  Because I have a plus-twenty.

I have the community I need.

Who’s your “we?” I’m linking up with Marvia’s Real Talk Tuesday – join us!

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