Wraparound Boot Skirts

I got the creative, money-saving idea to make my next costume for the Austin Writers Roulette “Walk in Another’s Shoes” event. At the time, I hadn’t received my federal refund to rent or buy used outlandish shoes. So, I brainstormed wrapping my boots in decorated cloth.

Foolish me actually thought the decorating would take more time. I envisioned hand-sewing the cut ends of the cloth while watching TV. I even contacted a friend who loves crafting. She put me ahead of the game by sewing most of the hems on the two wraps and 12 ties, which really deluded me into thinking I’d have the entire costume sewn up, so to speak, in a matter of hours.

I feared making buttonholes by hand; so I put off the task for a week. Since I’d planned to attend a creative meetup where a costume designer would be present, I figured I’d get her opinion. In the meantime, I consulted one of my sisters who used to be an avid seamstress about making buttonholes by hand. Since she lives in another state, she talked me through the whole technique and answered my naive questions. During this conversation, I began to have an inkling of what I’d gotten myself into.

A few days later, the costume designer schooled me on a couple of things. First of all, the “wraparound boot skirts” were officially called “gaiters.” Gaiters are defined as protective gear worn over the shins. Since my creative endeavor was in no danger of being protective, I felt that my poetic name for them was better.

Secondly, the costume designer suggested the time-saving tip of removing two of the six ties on each wrap in order to sew them closer to where they could tie for a snugger fit. That way, I could avoid the whole handmade buttonhole business!
wrapSomehow, I became illogical after completing this first hurdle. I honestly thought I could decorate the gaiters in less time than I’d made them. I even researched how to attach the feathers, which was a a good thing since none of the research showed anyone using a hot glue gun…my original thought. In the end, I used a combination of heavy-duty double-sided tape, used to hang stuff on the walls, and HAND-SEWING!

Fortunately, the AISD superintendent called a snow day, which meant my evening Adult Basic Education class was canceled.  I spent over 5 hours arranging those feathers, taping them down, then reinforcing the entire shebang by hand-stitching the taped feathers to the cloth.

Oh. My. God. From threading the needle to driving that needle through layers of material with a thimbled finger, never has sewing been such a torturous endeavor!decoratedGranted, it was all worth the effort. After all, I’d spent less than $10 on materials, but that’s not counting my time.  As usual. 3 host's shoes

One of these days, I’m going to be compensated for the time I put into my art. Until then, I’ll just keep accepting donations for my monthly spoken word and poetry show. 14 boot attack

My wraparound boot skirts were a big hit that transcended species.  An adorable English bulldog puppy named Lily could barely contain her enthusiasm. In my yoga class, the instructors often talk about “English bulldog determination.” I got to experience first-hand, thanks to my footwear costume.

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Avenging Angel of Literacy

Avenging Angel of Literacy I hardly ever pass up the chance to dress up. So, when one of my coworkers solicited volunteers to help her run the Literacy Coalition information table at a local comic book convention, I got very excited. Now, this wasn’t the BIG, internationally famous comic book convention, but since it would be the first one I’d ever attended, I started dreaming up costume choices.

Given my enthusiasm for carrying a toy sword, I knew that accessory had to be a part of the ensemble. I took my black wings out of hibernation, along with my long black gloves, figuring they’d help to warm my arms if it was breezy in the lobby. In reality, if I had been cold, my shoulders would have suffered. Fortunately, the temperature was an inviting 61 degrees.

I called myself “The Avenging Angel of Literacy”. My backstory was I spoke up for all the literature (I’m using that word rather loosely) which had not been read since literate people are increasingly apathetic to making time to read a book.

I arrived before my coworker, who I lent my Storm wig and cape. I checked in and requested a table near an outlet. For some inexplicable reason, GPS had drained the hell out of my phone. No one had a compatible charger. Once a guy loaned me a gadget, which had multiple phone prongs, I discovered the coveted outlet didn’t work! Most of my original incentive for volunteering for this gig was the photo op. Thankfully, my coworker came to the rescue with her pictures. I certainly learned my lesson about not carrying my charger.

I stayed 5 hours to recoup the loss of wages during the “snow day,” where AISD had cancelled classes. As usual, the day turned out to be beautiful and sunny. I spent most of my time off getting another costume ready for the Austin Writers Roulette.

Storm & AngelA series of paneled discussions with cartoonists took place in the theatre. The only one that interested me was “Hire This Woman!”.  I’m always interested in how pioneering women in a male-dominated field strategize and derive inspiration. The four women were interviewed by a local female cartoonist. They all made references to comics/graphic novels and creators who I’d never heard of, which was not surprising since I’m not an avid reader of either. I loved their quirky, creative energy and passion to follow their art.

I was surprised how next to no one, including the cartoonists, dressed up. Certainly, the crowd looked interesting, but not in fantasy character.

I role-played a little after smelling cigar smoke while sitting in the lobby. I exited the lobby with a determined gait, looked around and found the culprit. I yelled, “You!” and unsheathed my sword and stuck it in the offending guy’s chest.

Although he immediately pleaded, “I didn’t do it,” all the while puffing away, I informed him that he was smoking just outside the door and his cigar smoke could be smelled in the lobby. Even the organizer, who was puffing on his cancer stick a few feet away, told the guilty party he had to be 15ft away from the door.

Justice was served.  Thank God I had my sword!

 

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Flame Retardant

The energy shifted

Her expression contorted

Pointed finger wagged in my face

Words shot out of her mouth

As I sat confused

Then the magic word

RETARDED

Slowly

Fresh oxygen circulated

I took a deep breath

Explained I’d said the R-word

In reference to

An assbackwards TX educational policy

Not a person

Never would I say it

About a person

Yet

I’d stepped onto

An IED

Invisible Emotional Detonator

I shrank as she

Towered over my

Educated fool’s ignorance

Schooled me that the R-word

Was the bully’s go-to word

Years of parental advocacy

Had finally changed ‘mentally retarded’

To ‘intellectually disabled’

How dare I use the R-word

EVER

Sitting in awe of the

Human explosion

My creative mind

Failed to conjure

A peaceful resolution

An olive branch to

Make this

Less painful

Not all right

Not all equal

Not all better

My apology

Disintegrated

Amongst the flames of her words

I was the umpteenth

Insensitive person

How many more

Would she have to

Clue in

Through verbal attack

To penetrate the

Thick skull of ignorance

The privilege of intellectual

Wellness

Tossing around the R-word

Reminding her of all

The closed doors

The low expectations

The lack of funding

The lack of services

The lack of understanding

The lack of empathy

IF YOU EVER MET MY SON

YOU’D SEE HE’S

THE NICEST GUY

Once she’d stormed away

A sympathetic woman

Beside me

Confessed her use

Of the R-word

Only in reference

To things

Such as

Flame-retardant

Silently I nodded

In agreement

I’d needed a flame retardant

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Pubic Hair Cornrows

The pursuit of seeking logic behind anything the women’s fashion industry does is foolhardy since its sole purpose is to convince as many women as possible that she’s not wonderful the way she is, but can come closer to achieving the ideal beauty if she buys into their nonsense through buying their overpriced, sweatshop-produced clothing and accessories. Of course, ideal beauty is an ever-changing target that fashion-conscious sheeple perpetually hunt.

Becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer straight after graduating from college cured me from the nonsense of women’s fashion. As a matter of fact, I now wear secondhand clothing, except for shoes and underwear, and blend in just fine within the crowds where I normally find myself—for a fraction of the disposable income spent on such depreciable goods.

Yet, there’s an even more sinister fashion trend afoot. No, I’m not referring to the Cinderella glass-heeled stilettos since those have been around for a while. Nor the rise of the “plus-size” model being a size 8, which, by the way is my size. I could be a plus-size model if I wasn’t so short, according to the fashion industry, at a mere 5’5”.

What I’m referring to has no size nor height restrictions and lies beneath all the overpriced, sweatshopped-produced fashionista clothing. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about pubic hair.

I’ve long known that we American women feel compelled to shave underarms, arms, legs and up until the last couple of years a mere waxing around the bikini area. Oh, sure, we all joked about the Brazilian bikini wax for years, but now that has become the new fashionable pubic hair normal.

A trend, which is my latest afflatus: my pubic hair prediction is now that all the fashionable women have lasered or waxed it all away, the pendulum will swing the other way. You see the fashion industry won’t sit still and allow all women to denude their nether region. Cutting-edge, trend-setting fashion means that the new thing has to be what most women don’t already have.

Hence, I proclaim that the next nether fashion will be pubic hair cornrows! That’s right. It won’t be good enough just to grow a natural tangle of pubic hair. Why, that doesn’t cost any money. No, in order to cornrow pubes, women must buy extensions. Some women may need pubic hair implants since all that waxing and lasering has left them permanently deforested.

So fashionable women can go into a salon to get her eyebrow, eyelash and pubic hair implants. This will be the season of hair reforestation!

And since men have pubic hair too, there’s no need for them to be left out in the fashion cold. After all, men and women are both mammals. With matching cornrows couples can do it better than they do it on the animal channel. They can caress each other between the cornrows. Add more sensual hairy friction to the bump and grind. The possibilities are as endless as the fashion industry’s craziness. Get your southern route cornrows today!

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The Hullabaloo

Her scream startled me awake. I listened. More noise meant I had to get up. Silence, I could linger in bed. Regardless, I closed my eyes again. I held the irrational belief my mosquito net protected me from all danger and hullabaloo.

Hullabaloo defined by my Merriam-Webster word-a-day calendar as “a very noisy and confused situation.” Of all the frivolous words that calendar had displayed, hullabaloo was the most applicable. Unlike many of the things Mom sent in her care packages.

No matter how detailed my longhand written letters described my life in this developing country, nothing seemed to penetrate Mom’s gargantuan happy bubble. She meant well. If nothing else, my letters provided her with exotic entertainment and bragging rights. Her smart, worldly daughter doing good in the world.

Far more useful would have been a Swahili word-a-day calendar. At least hullabaloo sounded as lyrical as Swahili. I bought green peppers at the market every week just to say, pilipili hoho. Beyond musical attributes, hullabaloo accurately described daily life.

The volume level of my rural, local neighbors equaled the noise of suburbs in the States. Lively, energetic conversations in sing-songy Swahili, regardless of happiness or anger. Lethargic packs of dogs during the day transformed into growling, barking mongrels at night. Roosters crowing all times of the day. Cows in labor. Bats flapping wings in the crawl space against our corrugated iron roof. And three distinct sounds of beating: the hoe against the earth, the machete against the crops and the small child-size wooden pestle against food held in its mortar.

Fully awake, my eyes refused to remain closed. The frantic shuffling of my roommate’s cheap plastic sandals against the concrete floor traveled into the kitchen. The clang of pots. Opening of drawers.

No need to get out of bed. I heard it all. Even through a closed door.

I’m an analytical thinker. A real problem solver, if you will. That could be a dangerous personality trait. Foreigners like me tended to rush into a country like this, roll up their sleeves and try to fix everything. Making a bigger mess than the original situation.

First thing we were taught in training: “Don’t just do something. Stand there!”

My roommate walked among us as if she was smarter than everyone else. Myself included. And the way she condescended to our local neighbors. I marveled at how they could still address her with such warmth and glowing smiles in their sing-songy accented English. Perhaps another cultural difference was their inability to pick up on condescension, as was the case with sarcasm.

However, her elitist attitude worked in my favor in this case. She’d try several solutions before conceding and knocking on my door for help. For my part, I gave her the time to resolve it. Whatever it was.

Whatever it was, ground zero was not in the kitchen. The shuffling had just traveled into the bathroom. Seconds later, clang-banging wrenched me from a supine position swifter than the most obnoxious alarm clock. Blood-drained induced stars dazzled before my eyes. If ever there was a time to do much of nothing, now was precisely that moment.

I leaned in closer to my mosquito net. Not that it improved my hearing. It just felt a little more comforting to be slumped to the side. My muscles relaxed into a sitting sloth’s position. My heartbeat slowed down. I continued my descent, hugging my knees and resting my chin on them.

She tapped out an erratic rhythm accompanied by guttural unintelligible chanting. My best guess: a long wooden spoon against the porcelain, Westernized toilet basin. Minus the toilet lid. Minus the toilet seat. Usually minus the running water through the pipes to flush it. With such a lack of comfort and utility of a true Western toilet, we didn’t even refer to it by its English name. No, the Swahili name was more appropriate: choo.

Short, quick and efficient. As one’s trip to a developing country’s bathroom usually was. If questionable food hadn’t caused harisha (doesn’t that sound more beautiful than saying “diarrhea”?), then the high oil content most locals used in their food meant it slid out as fast as it had slid in. Depending on the quality of the bathroom situation, one learned not to linger too long, especially when not using one’s own substandard choo at home. Some foreigners even became anal retentive about where they deposited their waste. After a while, their nervous system no longer supported such hyper vigilance and they went practically anywhere.

The arrhythmic beating stopped. I hoped that was a good sign. Now that I was up, I needed to go. The shuffling advanced in the direction of my bedroom. It stopped in front of my door. Illogically, I held my breath, willing her away. Yet, she knocked. At first hesitant, but a few seconds later, a little louder.

I sighed, reluctant to give the verbal cue for her to enter. “Karibu.”

The door squeaked open.

“We have a rat in our choo!”

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Couponing Rediscovered

By the time I resigned from teaching full time at the end of March 2014, I still had stars in my eyes. I’d dutifully paid off all debt, saved up six months’ worth of money and had big dreams of launching my freelance writing/editing career.  Although I’d landed a couple of lucrative writing/editing contracts, there was always some delay in receiving payment, which turned out to be par for the course.

I analyzed what to do more efficiently with invoicing.  I became more proactive when searching for more work before one contract ended.  Yet those lucrative writing/editing contract jobs trickled by.

My reality check came when my dependable freelance work ended the first week in December 2014. There were some minor-issue payment delays. By then, I had started looking into part-time teaching jobs and entered the new year with three interviews lined up.

After the first two interviews, I landed the job I’d wanted the most out of the three, teaching adult basic education in the evenings. Although I knew I’d have no social life, I figured since I’d nearly flatlined financially, I’d save money from teaching in the evenings Monday through Thursday.

Call me optimistic, but much later than I should have, I stopped throwing away all those valuable coupon-containing “junk” mail. I hadn’t needed to maintain a strict budget since my early days of teaching and grad school debt. Even though I watched my savings slowly deplete, I kept telling myself that since I wasn’t extravagant with my money and had some income, I’d be OK. The first week I sorted through that “junk” mail to retrieve valuable coupons, I saved nearly $20! I could’ve kicked myself for not doing this months earlier.

I also changed my cooking habit. I’ve always known that eating at home was more economical than dining out, but I was still under the illusion that I could go through my recipe books, choose a recipe for the week, and write out the needed groceries to make it. While that scheme had served me well in the past, being chronically underemployed did not cater to such middle class luxuries.

The best strategy to use when so dependent on coupons is to build a meal around the available coupons. No matter if the best deal is a 16 oz can of flavored beans, EVERYTHING will taste delicious when fresh, sautéed vegetables and freshly ground spices are added.

I used to boast about being a “guerrilla cook” when I lived in developing countries, then a “blender chef” when I discovered how time-saving using a blender to make dry spice powders and pastes as a base for a meal. Now, I’m the “coupon culinary artist.” The challenge is to save the most money through buying and cooking meals based on the available coupons, bulk items, fresh produce and spices, and my cooking creativity.

My delicious coupon meals remind me with every savory bite I’m not a poor starving artist.

 

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Valentine’s Day Vasectomy

6 penis pop nurse

Men, are you facing yet another Valentine’s Day bad date? Can’t bear another year of giving the cliché gifts of assorted chocolates, a bouquet of flowers and reservations at some crowded expensive restaurant? This year, do you want to do something unconventional and guaranteed to get your woman interested in having lots of sex months and even years after this Valentine’s Day? Then schedule your Valentine’s Day vasectomy today!

With this outpatient procedure, you can give your woman a gift she’ll cherish the rest of her life. Image sparing your partner the surgery, complication and expense of tubal sterilization, or protecting her health from the danger of future pregnancy. A vasectomy is also a good choice for men who want to enjoy having sex without causing pregnancy, don’t want to have a child biologically in the future, think other methods are unacceptable, or don’t want to pass on a hereditary illness or disability.

The best part is with a vasectomy a man can still get an erection, feel sexual pleasure and ejaculate. This procedure only affects his sperm cells, which are produced in the testicles. And since we use the no-scalpel technique, one tiny puncture is made to reach each vas deferens, the sperm tubes. The tubes are either tied, cauterized or blocked. The tiny puncture heals quickly without stitches or scarring, resulting in less bleeding, less pain and decreases the probability of infection, bruising and other complications. Men, you’ll be back in sexual action in 3 to 4 days!

With a Valentine’s Day vasectomy, you and your woman can take playing sexy nurse and horny patient to the next level. Act now, and we’ll even throw in a free tube of lubricant and a handheld masturbatory pleasuring device. After three months of consistent manual stimulation and sex with other forms of birth control, your doctor can confirm that all traces of sperm have been cleared out. And for the rest of your life, the playground will be open!

  • Disclaimer: Valentine’s Day vasectomies are only intended for men who do not wish or no longer wish to procreate and seek a permanent, non-hormonal birth control solution. Vasectomies do not protect against any sexually transmitted infections. Although the risk of infection due to surgery is low, if you experience a fever over 100°, blood or pus oozing from the site of the puncture, excessive pain or swelling, then see a health care provider. Other potential problems, which usually clear up on their own include bruising, hematomas, hydroceles, granuloma, and pain or discomfort in the testicles. Very rarely, the cut ends of a tube grow back together, which may happen within four months of the operation and allow pregnancy to happen.

[I was inspired to write this spoken word piece after watching several versions of a hormone-replacement treatment for women. All the women made a point to mention how they were driving their husbands crazy wanting sex. Initially, I thought why aren’t any of these women driving their boyfriends, girlfriends or wives crazy wanting sex? Then I thought, what would be the male version of some treatment that would entice a wife or girlfriend to have more sex with her man?]

 

On Valentine’s Day 2015, I emailed this piece to several male friends. Here are their anonymous responses. I’ve only edited out words that would have identified the respondent.

1st respondent: So, this is your way of asking me out tonight by trying to deflect it as a group email, eh. You could just call me, y’know. I might be free as I have a throng of women all waiting for me you see, but I can easily make room for you my {term of endearment}. It’s still winter, it still gets cold at night. :)

2nd respondent: Thankfully women of childbearing age are no longer attracted to me.

3rd respondent: You are to funny!  The story is insightful and to photo is a hoot and a holler! You know how to make us laugh — and wince in pain at the thoughts of surgery “there” — all at the same time! Thanks for sharing!

4th respondent:

Wow! I loved your article! I admire a woman who endorses vasectomies. Getting my vas snipped was the best decision I’ve made. All it took was a small puncture to my scrotum and a couple easy steps to remove two simple pieces of vas.

I have no qualms about shutting the ‘sperm factory’ down. Even more satisfying knowing that my testicles won’t be getting any woman pregnant! Not every ejaculation needs to have a name!

Women have to go through hormone pills and birth control pills, it would be easier for me to keep my ‘baby batter’ in check. I’d rather castrate myself than make a woman face an abortion!

Now that I’m shooting blanks, my sex drive has increased. Getting vasectomized has no effect on the quantity of semen I ejaculate! My seminal vesicles are still producing ejaculate.

Thank you for writing this article! I feel liberated. It’s so sexy that I can’t hurt a woman with a unwanted pregnancy. And my testicles still produce testosterone. Getting my cords clipped was done out of respect for the ladies.

Ciao!

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MLK Weekend Celebration 2015

I find celebrating MLK Day to be just another day in my life. Since graduating from college in 1992, I’ve dedicated my life to teaching math and science to mostly nonwhite populations, starting with my Peace Corps assignment in Tanzania. Additionally, I read books about African American history, current events and participate in African diaspora culture throughout the year.

Yet, for this snapshot of one weekend where the national focus is a concentration on the African American phenomenon, both our struggles and triumphs in the US, I danced for nearly three and a half hours in four different African-inspired genres of dance classes, spoke of my international experience of wearing dreads at an open mic, and texted friends and family, “Happy MLK Day! Be sure to hug a black person.”

As a result of the latter activity, I received updates from two older friends who are recovering from surgery, got several virtual hugs, and one laugh-out-loud response from a friend, who joked about the possibility of being arrested for hugging a random black person at Home Depot.

I strutted into my bikram yoga studio and wished the instructor a Happy MLK Day and followed up with asking her if she’d hugged a black person yet. She said no, but enthusiastically came around from the front desk to receive a hug and the receptionist followed suit.  I ended up hugging six people.

Hugs can be as meaningful as the giver. I often marvel at how small changes in one’s behavior produce big changes in the long run. If you ever want to know the power of hug, all you to do is hug someone who has not received human touch in a while. Or hug someone you don’t normally hug. I’ve never celebrated MLK Day in this manner, but after the positive reception I’ve received, I think I’ll incorporate it in my yearly observation.

 

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Redemption Coupons

“Redemption” means “being saved from sin, error or evil” and it also means “getting the possession of something in exchange for payment or clearing a debt.” So thanks to the craziness of the English language, Jesus redeemed all Christian souls through his sacrificial blood in a related manner that customers redeem coupons. Granted, one deal was far more tremendous than the other. Or, if you’re an atheist, one deal exists and the other doesn’t.

Yet “redemption” transcends religious belief in all people who are willing to act in return for the possession of something. People work to possess everlasting life, a clear conscious or a depreciable good. But, what good does any of it do?

Given the fact that the sense of “redemption” is a human construct, it’s no wonder the religious and atheist alike share this notion. Part of being human is to inevitably make mistakes. And it’s also human nature to love getting something for less than what we usually pay.

Now let’s say, you’re a stand up, normal person aware of his or her faults. Your first impulse is to right the wrong or at least provide some semblance of “paying for your sins.” Does that smack too much of religion? Then let’s say, you want to “make it up” to someone. That’s merely swapping one monetary analogy for another.

And to extend that analogy, what I’m suggesting are redemption coupons. I’m not talking about some prefabricated, Hallmark greeting card “Oh I’m so sorry” type thing. Nor something that’s legally binding and “take it to the judge” kind of thing because if you’ve done something that bad, the law’s eventually gonna catch up with you anyway. Neither am I talking about a ritualistic ceremony where you must consult with a holy person to perform a symbolic redemption.

Envision, if you will, those colorful enticing coupons that come within the Sunday paper. They’re written in bold, simple words and usually they have an attractive image printed on them. That’s how your redemption coupons should be, figuratively speaking. Now, you can actually make a coupon if you want, but the spirit in which you offer someone a redemption coupon should be a declaration in bold simple words of how the recipient can redeem it and obtain the attractive possession, which is what you’ll do to clear the debt of your wrongdoing.

When you offer someone a redemption coupon, you must honor it or else you’re guilty of false advertising. On the other hand, if they refuse to accept your coupon, then it’s time for negotiation. The first rule to negotiating is to listen to what the other side wants. Depending on your situation, you may discover that all the other person wanted was to be heard.

You must never offer a coupon that has a greater value than the possession. Think about it: even when a business offers a coupon for something free with no purchase necessary, in the long run, they will still make a profit. The profit you make off your redemption coupon will be a clear conscious.

Your coupon should never expire. Putting an expiration date on your redemption coupon signals to others that they must forgive you on your time rather than theirs. Any manipulative, ultimatum strings just invalidates your coupon. For redemption to work, you must offer your amends, then step back. Everyone has his or her own time frame. Even those businesses that publish their coupons in the Sunday paper know that not every customer will rush out to redeem them at the same time. Most businesses even show how good they are by honoring expired coupons.

Finally, the most important person who must accept your redemption coupon is yourself. If you deem yourself unworthy of forgiveness, then you have no reasonable expectation that anyone else will. Past transgressions cannot be undone just like harsh words cannot be unsaid. What you can do is take a deep breath and begin again.

 

 

 

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Farewell to 2014

my outfit

 

I boldly limped into you

With the ambition to end a few things…

My second novel

My horrible job

My insomnia

My doubts

I painted novel scenes

Climbed Machu Picchu

Worked from home

Worked out of my comfort zone

Derailed my train of thought

Blurred my lines

Dangled my participles

Argued against Oxford commas

Obeyed the Laws of Physics

Removed myself from the machine

Became a new part for an innovation outside the box.

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