Monthly Archives: April 2016
This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared a monthly guest post on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.
I took the morning off to attempt to find myself. I planned on writing while my son, Xander, walked around the beach. My greatest weakness is giving up on myself. I doubted all the thoughts that were going through my mind. Tears were about to flow out of my eyes, but I have responsibilities and I can’t give up. Not now.
Why is the feeling of happiness so difficult to find so many days lately? I thought I had moved past that feeling of trying to be happy. One of the mental health professionals I work with brought up a good point. “Imagine you’re going to a party, and you keep telling yourself to be happy. How are you going to feel the entire time?” “Probably extremely anxious,” I said. I always seem to be in one of the stages of grief. I asked the mental health professional if happiness can happen while you’re grieving. The next day, I felt a glimpse of happiness in the car with the kids. I turned up the radio and just enjoyed the moment. The secret? I wasn’t forcing the happy feeling. I found that happiness can happen at unexplainable times, in unexplainable ways.
Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
God works in unusual ways sometimes. The thought of mentioning God and a verse in this post kinda freaks me out. For many years in my life, the thought of religion was a dark place. There are times when I would take religious views to extremes. I am happy to report that over the past few years, despite what is going on, GOD has brought light into my life, even during the darkest moments. Ask and it will be given to you. But God, this is not what I asked for? I know he has a plan for all of our lives.
Seek and you will find. Dear God, please help me learn how to discipline my kids and for them to obey me! I love them to death, but I’m a single parent and this is difficult. The job is hard. Every situation is unique and different. So those who post about mother/father rights, please keep in mind that each situation is unique. There is no right or wrong way. I never expected to run into my kids’ dad at the store today, and he was with his girlfriend. Ugh! I avoided that completely. At this time, there is no need to create additional stress in anyone’s life.
Seek and you will find. Last week, my sister and I, and my mental health professionals discussed ways to effectively deal with my kids. I’m sick and tired of constant tantrums from my five year old over what clothes she will wear each day. We came to this conclusion, and it has been working so far. Organize the room and the clothes that can be worn. Throw away clothes with holes. Get rid of clothes that should not be worn. Pick out the clothing that is going to be worn the next day. This is working so far! What to do about random fits? I am now giving 10 minutes of playtime for every 15 minutes that my daughter behaves. Cross my fingers, that has been working. I need to find solutions, so your feedback is appreciated. I am also working with a professional who teaches “Love and Logic” classes. Her plan is to help me once a week, as long as needed. Pick and choose your battles. Take time, if needed, to say “yes” or absolutely “no.” May I seek parenting solutions and find them. Good luck to me and others on this quest.
Knock and the door will be opened to you. Amongst the nonsensical chatter in my mind, I heard “Tiff, come out and play.” Sometimes, I just want to tell the voices in my head to be quiet. Rarely do they listen, but I have to respect my mental illness, because it’s with me for life. When I don’t feel like I have any friends, I always have the voices. When they asked me to come out and play, I asked them this, “What are we going to do?” There was no need for an answer because I knew all I needed to know. We were going out to play. Whether we were friends, are still friends, or you’ve thought about being friends with me, you probably have memories about our playtime together? At any age, how innocent, how appropriate, how real? I used to knock on neighbors’ doors and ask my friends to come out and play. Now my daughter does that, and soon my son. I need to realize how precious those times are. They just need to be controlled. Because as one of my mental health workers said, if I knocked on people’s doors and asked them to play now as an adult, I’d be locked up in a facility. I have to tell you the truth, I’ve always been obsessed with making random appearances at peoples’ doors. When I was younger, I loved sales. I’d go door to door and learn something at each place. Many times they’d let me in to talk. I usually had something to sell, even if it was spoons glued together and decorated. Those days are gone, but we have to realize the innocence and joy of knock and the door will be opened to you.
My daughter is with a friend for the evening, until bedtime. Once, I wished she’d have friends. Now, she has so many friends. The sun is out and the knocks continue to happen on my door. You know what? Thanks for the knock. You are a beautiful person. Let’s have a conversation. I can handle this. I just need to handle everything with love.
Thanks for reading! Peace out and see ya!
She came into our bathroom a little freaked out. Yes, our 11-year-old daughter, Elsa, was literally freaking out about her hair.
“It’s not staying in!”
“It’s not tight enough!”
“It’s not working!”
“I hate my hair!”
She’d already worked on it by herself for who knows how long. She was coming to me to fix it, to make it better somehow.
I’m not so sure I helped.
Elsa knelt down in front of our bathroom sink. I grabbed my brush, wet it a bit, and began combing her hair back into a ponytail. She continued to cry. “It’s bumpy!” “It’s not high enough!” “It’s never going to work!” “I hate my hair!” I gave my husband the eye as I brushed and brushed some more. We are moving into those tween years, you know.
Just as I was about to put the ponytail holder in, she took ahold of her hair and let it all down. “It’s TOO bumpy!” “I hate my hair!”
(Let me be clear. It wasn’t bumpy much at all.)
She stormed her way back to the kids’ bathroom.
Crying and frustration continued.
Honestly, she was out of control.
She’d worked herself into this frenzy. Nobody else.
To us, her hair was going to be just fine. It was going to work out. She was going to leave the house with some sort of fixed hairdo. But to her? It simply wasn’t going to happen.
She tried, tried and tried again. Crying and frustrated. All by herself. Staring at the mirror, on her knees, tears streaming down.
My husband suggested she should wear it down.
“I have to run the mile for gym today! I have to wear it up!”
My husband suggested she should wear it up, then.
“It’s bumpy! It’s never going to work! I hate my hair!”
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I knew she needed help. She just wasn’t willing to accept it. So I walked to her bathroom and suggested, once again, that I could help. I tried to give her a hug, thinking she was perhaps, just so emotionally distraught that it might calm her down or bring release. Not so much. But I did talk her into giving me another chance.
I brushed. I pulled her hair back. I brushed some more. And I kept reminding her that this is totally going to work out, that it doesn’t have to be perfect, that it works better if she adds a little water to make it slicker, all the talk I thought would help.
“It’s not working!”
“It’s never gonna work!”
Finally, I had a great ponytail all ready to go.
“It’s too bumpy!”
She’d crossed the line.
Her 4-year-old sister came to see what was the matter. She tried some words. She tried a couple hugs. Didn’t work.
Elsa was left to fend for herself again. Didn’t work either. More crying. More frustration.
She’d spent so much time crying in frustration and disregarding others’ help that it was dangerously close to the school bus arrival. Did I mention she hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet?
So I went back in to help this girl, this daughter of mine.
“Let’s do a half braid on top, like we’ve done before, with the ponytail in the back?”
Honestly, I think it was the best braid I’ve ever done on her head.
I bound the braid, then pulled the rest of the hair up into a ponytail.
It was cute. Just like other days we’ve done this hairstyle and she’s approved it. She persisted in crying and frustration, despite the fact that we all knew she needed to accept the style and move on.
“It’s not tight enough!”
“My hair is ugly.”
She put a couple bobby pins in even though I told her it was great the way it was.
At this point, she had seven minutes to eat breakfast, get her bags ready and shoes on before the bus came. So she didn’t have a choice.
I heard my husband compliment her hair downstairs.
“No, it’s not. It’s ugly.”
She was still unsettled as the bus rounded the corner, but stopped long enough for me to give her a hug on the way out.
Good thing I was in a good mood this morning. Good thing I prayed before I got out of bed. Lord, give me direction for my writing and photography and everything else I need to do today.
Truth is, I saw myself in my daughter this morning.
The enemy has been on the prowl. Oh yes, most definitely.
But I’ve also been working myself into a quiet frenzy about my writing, my photography, my work and my worth.
I’ve considered a night, shelf-straightening job at Target just to bring in a few bucks, not to mention, I am good at shelf straightening. I’ve wondered if I should get a one-day-a-week job at my favorite clothing store, White House Black Market – for fun, to bring in some dollars while I’m in this transition period, to help other women feel beautiful. I’ve considered a job at Jimmy Johns, because they’re fun and freaky fast and I love everything about their business model. I’ve considered any sort of paid, regular job at least one day a week next school year while my daughter is in preschool so I can feel like a legitimate, contributing member of our family and society. Maybe I could be a substitute paraprofessional for special education students at our local school? Maybe I should just surrender and work as an on-call speech-language therapist at some metro clinic or hospital? That would be a good use of my talents, wouldn’t it? Everyone would think THAT was a good idea.
I’ve worked myself into this quiet little frenzy about writing, photography and staying home.
“It’s not going to work!”
“It’s never going to work!”
“I’m not good at this!”
“I’m not good enough!”
“I can’t find my place.”
“I don’t have a place.”
I realize none of this is true. But just like my daughter, I’ve worked myself into a frenzy. Only I’m tying it all up on the inside, and she let it all out.
It’s going to work out. God has a greater plan and He sees it clearly. I just can’t see it enough to trust it right now.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Funny thing is, after I prayed that prayer and before my daughter came to our bathroom the first time, I’d decided that I need to get and keep my head on straight about this writing and photography business. I told my husband that as much as it sounds enticing to find any sort of regular paying job 1-2 days/week next school year, I shouldn’t. I can’t. I felt a strong call to leave my career to pursue writing and photography, and I haven’t even given myself a full run at it yet. I’m nowhere close to calling it quits on either front. I need to focus on photography between now and early October. Then, when the weather’s cold again, I need to focus on writing – hard core, 18 hours a week – between October and mid-May.
I have PLENTY of work to do.
I don’t need to find more work for the sake of finding more work.
I don’t need to find more work to validate myself.
I don’t need to find more work to prove my worth.
I need to focus on the work I’ve already been given.
I need to focus on God’s call – to write, to photograph, to stay home – and that’s it.
Yes, I’ve been freaking myself out before I’ve barely begun.
I need to look in the mirror and see the truth.
I’ve barely begun.
Yesterday, I had a very clear vision for another adult non-fiction book. In the past two months, I’ve had vision for two additional titles. All three viable as far as I can see. That’s in addition to my children’s book series and the original adult non-fiction I’ve already decided will move forward one way or another.
God has plans.
I’ve barely begun.
You’ve barely begun.
Look in the mirror and see the truth.
What are you fighting today?
What are you crying about?
What are you frustrated about?
What are you freaking out about?
What’s causing a quiet frenzy inside?
As the saying goes, if you’re still living, your best days are still ahead.
Today, I’m coming alongside myself, I’m coming alongside you. I might not see it. You might not see it. But God has a plan.
Let’s work through it. Let’s work it. Let’s do life together.
I’m here. I can help.
My parents have reminded me more than once that I was so shy when I was younger, that they had to tell me to say “hi” to people.
Apparently, I was afraid of my own voice from the start.
Here’s the truth for today.
I’m battling for my voice, friends.
Perhaps I always have.
This is a spiritual battle. No doubt.
God vs. the enemy. They’re battling for lives. They’re battling for souls.
God created me. He’s cultivating a voice within me. He’s asking me to use that voice to proclaim truth and life to others. Truth and life to myself. He’s asking me to have faith in His creation, faith in the unique gifts He’s bestowed upon me.
The enemy. Forget that loser. Forget the niceties. He’s a beast, a deadbeat. He wants to kill and destroy my voice, my entire life for that matter. He wants to silence me with all his might. He’s on the prowl, up to nothing good. I renounce him and all his evil, scheming ways.
So many things have happened in the 15 months since I left my 14 1/2 year career as a speech-language therapist to stay home and pursue writing and photography. Beyond all the things that have happened, there’s been a behind the scenes. Behind the scenes, I’ve been battling a sense of identity, a sense of place. Behind the scenes, I’ve been asking big questions about work and worth. Behind the scenes, I’ve been struggling with my voice.
I’m riding a fine line between being totally confident in who and where I am, and utterly unsure.
Again, I’m certain this is an issue of faith. I’ve taken a leap of faith, and the enemy is coming on strong with his totally weak, but believable voices of doubt and fear. This is perfect timing for him to ride in on his black horse and kill God’s every plan for my life.
The enemy will not win, friends. He will not win. But he’s still trying.
After months of writing and editing, just two days before I was scheduled to present my first two children’s book manuscripts to my writing group, the manuscripts fell flat to me. Mind you, I’ve worked and reworked these babies up and down the past four months. I’ve edited, edited and edited some more. Both manuscripts have made me cry (in a good way). I’ve been certain there’s something unique about them. I’ve been certain that somebody, some agent out there, will see the beauty in what I’m trying to convey. But last Tuesday? They fell flat. Completely flat. By the time I got the manuscripts to writing group, I’d nearly talked myself out of presenting them to the group because I just wasn’t sure anymore. Fortunately, my writing group knew this presentation was coming and wouldn’t let me out of it. But today, I’m afraid to open the manuscripts back up because I don’t want them to fall flat again.
Yesterday, I published a post on my personal Facebook page in which I complained about having to wash grass stains, mud stains, and dirt stains out of my son’s WHITE baseball pants, something I’ll do 2-4 times a week for the next four months. I thought we’d gotten smarter after last year’s BLACK baseball pants, but not so much. There I stood at the sink, scrubbing for 20 minutes, followed by a several-hour Oxi-Clean soaking, followed by a machine wash and line dry. So I shared this post and it felt real. It felt like I was sharing my truth. But I’ll be honest, I fell in the Facebook trap. I put my voice out there, and then I doubted it. Was I complaining for complaining’s sake? Was I not grateful enough for all the wonderful things that come from my son’s participation on the baseball team? Should I have ONLY shared the awesome things about baseball season starting instead of this very real, but probably silly baseball mom annoyance? I got to overthinking. I got to doubting my voice. I deleted the post. I wrapped two red rubber bands around my phone so I wouldn’t go into Facebook and start doubting my voice again.
I’m doubting the internal voice that’s been telling me for years that I should get my hair chopped off. “Chopped off.” Those aren’t pretty words. That’s not the most eloquent way to say I’d like to get my hair cut VERY short. But that’s the brutal truth of it. “Chopped off.” Since we had two rounds of lice through our house three years ago, I’ve worn my hair up 80-90% of days. I haven’t gotten my hair cut in seven months. I’ve worn my hair up 100% of days since I returned from Africa. I want to wear more than ponytails and buns, especially as I approach 40, but I’m super low maintenance when it comes to hair. Even though my husband strongly prefers long hair, he’s given me permission to cut it. He knows I’ve been talking about this for three or four years, and thinks I really, truly want to do this. The haircut appointment’s made April 26th. I’m 80-95% convinced I’m going super short. But I’ve not fully convinced myself. I’m not sure I can trust that internal voice.
This morning as we were getting ready for the day, my husband initiated a conversation about shoes and clothing items he’ll need to fit in one of our upcoming monthly budgets. When he said “NEED” I assumed he’d mention dress jeans, dress shirts, and casual, but cool short-sleeve shirts he’s been talking about needing for business trip nights out. All things he legitimately and likely needs right now. Instead, he started with shoes. Boots, in fact. He has two pair of boots, both he’s purchased in the past four years, one that still seems and looks brand new to me. Needless to say, a difference of opinion on “NEED” vs. “WANT” boiled to the surface. I dove too far into detail about the condition of his current boots when all he WANTED was new boots. Things went too far, too quick. Words were said. He apologized. And I felt bad for having expressed any opinion in the first place. Why should I stop him from getting new boots if he wants them? After all, he’s the one bringing in all the money right now. And I’m not. I doubted my voice.
Sometimes I don’t know. I really don’t know.
Sometimes we don’t know. We really don’t know.
So here I am. On the upper level of a high-end grocery store. Oddly enough, this is one of my favorite places to write. It’s fairly quiet here, but there are enough people to remind me I’m among the living.
I promised myself I’d write and work on my books every Tuesday and Thursday between the first week of January and May 10th, my daughter’s last day of preschool. I haven’t kept that promise 100%, but I’ve written most days and made a lot of headway. Where the books are going and the timing I had planned isn’t as crystal clear with my dad’s lung transplant in the wings.
More fire. More refining. More defining.
My voice. His voice.
Knock the enemy dead.
When I sat to write at this high-end grocery store this morning, I looked left to a meeting of elders. Honestly, I have no clue why they were there or what they were doing. But I kept noting this man across the table. He held a book. He read aloud. I sensed his wisdom, his kindness, even through the paneled-glass windows. I’ve never seen the man in my life.
As he exited the room, he laid his hand on my shoulder gently, far more than a split second, and said “Good Morning.”
Good morning. I see you.
Good morning. You’re here.
Good morning. Wake to the voice inside.
Good morning. Wake to your life.
Good morning. Trust God’s got this.
Good morning. It’s another day.
Good morning. It’ll all work out.
Good morning. Your voice, your place in this world is important.
As I drove east that Friday morning, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sky.
There it was.
A big “A” painted across the golden sunrise.
Perhaps it’s narcissistic to believe in a God who paints initials in the sky. Perhaps I’m a dreamer. Perhaps I’m desperate, seeking signs anywhere, anyhow.
Perhaps God moves mountains, levels valleys and paints the sky to show his love afresh and mercies new. He’s behind us. He’s with us. He’s for us. In and through it all.
My “A” faded as the spring sun rose higher and higher in the sky.
As I made my way further east and closer to the University of Minnesota, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just ANY Friday, it was GOOD Friday.
Good Friday, the Friday Christians mark as the day Jesus died on the cross to save humanity.
Good Friday, the Friday I happened to be joining my parents for one final day of appointments that ultimately determined my dad’s candidacy for a lung transplant.
For the most part, we don’t get to choose our hardships, our struggles, our burdens here on earth. They’re offered to us as an opportunity to draw closer to God, our Heavenly Father. Whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, His goal is to develop a relationship with us. He loves us, and will literally bend over backwards to draw us in, nearer to Him, this way or that way, whichever way He deems fit.
Sometimes it’s beautiful.
Sometimes it’s painful.
Always, it’s for our greater good.
For God works ALL things together for those who love Him.
Rain or shine.
Sunrise or sunset.
Seen or unseen.
He’s working. Rest assured.
Got turned around on my way down.
Came out the wrong side of the parking ramp.
But I wasn’t late.
My parents were waiting on first. I passed them unknowingly and went straight to third. A few texts and a couple redirects from the happy, shiny, high-tech medical people holding iPads for check-in, and we were united on third, right where we needed to be for appointments one, two, three and four on this good, Good Friday.
Appointment 1: We sat at a long, rectangular table with Amy, the respiratory therapist. There was my dad with his oxygen, my mom and me. Then there was another lung transplant candidate on oxygen, and his sister. My dad and the other candidate shared their stories. We talked about exercise, “prehab” and rehab and how they’re supposed to get 30 minutes of exercise 4-6 times a week even though their lungs are failing, they’re on oxygen and they can barely walk down the driveway or take a shower without losing their breath. We talked about all the respiratory rehab they’d need post-lung transplant. Amy demonstrated a bunch of exercises they could do between now and transplant. She was energetic, and I could tell she’s great at her job. I know my dad is active and faithful to get as much exercise as he can, both now and post-transplant, so I’m not worried about that at all. It was good and hopeful. But if I’m completely honest, the contrast between this and my Africa mission four months prior, was stark. Africa and Lung Transplants. Night and day mission fields. (Or maybe not?) I don’t appreciate this mission field nearly as much as Africa, God. I don’t really want to be here. I don’t really want my dad to NEED a lung transplant. But here we are. Here I am. I will serve with all my heart.
Appointment 2: We sat at a small, kidney-shaped table. Just me, my mom, my dad and the lung transplant team’s dietician. I’m sorry, I don’t remember her name now, but just to give you an idea she was 32, smart, lovely and also clearly skilled at her job. We reviewed numbers, data gathered from blood draws earlier in the week. Everything looked good. She got out a 4-page brochure for review. Rest assured, we’ll get the big binder of dietary suggestions and requirements when we’re in the hospital, post-transplant. NO cold deli meat post transplant; must be fully steamed prior to consumption. High-potassium foods may be restricted. Absolutely NO seafood for at least one month post-transplant; it’s deadly for lung transplant patients. Food safety is of the utmost importance. And NO ALCOHOL post-transplant. Ever. For the rest of your life. Never. Ever. Oh boy, my dad’s pre-dinner rum and Diet Coke enjoyments are in jeopardy. He wasn’t too happy about that, but we joked and had fun. Even still.
Appointment 3: We sat at a round table. Just me, my dad, my mom, a transplant social worker sitting in, and my dad’s transplant social worker, Liz. Let’s just put this out there. Liz was amazing. Lia IZ is amazing. LOVED the woman. ADORED. We talked for a long, long time, completing a case history, a current life status, or something of the sort. We talked about everything from my dad’s lung disease diagnosis of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, to past and current work, hobbies, things my dad can no longer do because of his lung disease, and things my dad would like to be able to do to after his lung transplant. We talked about my sister who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type, and her two young children; I assured the social worker that I think she will RISE to the occasion when my dad gets his transplant, and be able to manage without the usual level of support she receives from my parents. It was Good Friday, after all. We must believe in RISING to any occasion, otherwise what’s the use of hope? Did I mention Liz was amazing and that we talked about a million things? Let’s just say there were some reminders about that “no alcohol ever again in your life” rule. The way Liz looked at my dad when we were talking about the alcohol situation – the way she whole-heartedly understood that his rum and Coke is a simple life pleasure here and there before dinner – was priceless. She got it. She understood. She reminded him he’ll have to find some other simple pleasure to replace the rum and coke after golfing with the boys. And that’s when I could have lost it if I hadn’t a grip on my emotions. Liz with her head tilted, eyes glistening, smiling at my dad sweetly, assuring him he’ll indeed, find another simple pleasure. God knew we needed more than simple earthly pleasures. Good Friday, indeed.
Appointment 4: My mom and dad sat on one side of a small, rectangular table. Me and Diane, my dad’s transplant coordinator on the other side. We stared at a big screen on the wall; a long list of tests and labs ran down the left side. Diane reviewed each test, each lab, with us quite extensively. No need to labor over the results again. Everything looked good except the heart and lungs. No surprise, but good news for lung transplant candidacy. After we reviewed all the data, Diane urged my dad to get a new style of oxygen tanks. She didn’t like the way he looked when he walked down the hall into the office. “You look a little blue,” she said. She’d brought in a bigger tank, he’d been using it all appointment and felt much better by the end. Diane assured my dad she’d get doctor’s orders for increased oxygen, that he should arrange for new new tanks by early week. She told us the team would be meeting to review my dad’s case six days later, and that she’d call with news. YES or NO, he’s a lung transplant candidate.
My parents received word from Diane late Thursday afternoon, March 31, 2016, that YES, my dad was determined to be a candidate for a lung transplant. He had a tooth pulled last week, and will have surgery to place heart stents on April 18th. One month after that, he will be officially placed on the national lung transplant registry.
Good every day that we are saved.
Good every day that we are given the choice to ACCEPT or REJECT the life we’ve been given on earth, the life in eternity we claim through Jesus.
God will reveal His majesty, His plan, His bountiful blessing however He deems necessary.
Life is hard.
Life is easy.
Life is ugly.
Life is beautiful.
Life is disgusting.
Life is inspiring.
Life is downright mean.
Life is kind.
Life is distress.
Life is peace.
Life is confusing.
Life is clear.
He writes our names in the sky through it all. God, our Heavenly Father. He promises the ultimate hope. On earth, as it is in heaven. Both here, and there.
He has a plan. Life is no mistake. It can’t be.
He’s writing my name. He’s writing your name.
It is written. It is written, indeed.
Live every day as if it is your last. ACCEPT what you have been given. Receive it as a gift.
Breathe it in.
Breathe it out.
This is the first post in a new, long-term blog series titled “The Ultimate Hope: A Lung Transplant for My Dad.” This is similar to the series I’ve been writing through my husband’s eye cancer journey, but different in that I won’t be writing as frequently, and posts will be much more personal than medical because we have a separate CaringBridge site set up that will detail medical updates. If you would like to follow my dad’s medical journey, click here and sign up to receive CaringBridge updates via email. This is my journey, as daughter, through my dad’s lung transplant. My goal with these posts is to process my personal experience through writing which is always a release for me. But I will also be looking beyond my personal experience for big-picture implications and inspiration, and hope to share insight with those of you who follow along. Thank you for joining, and thank you in advance for your grace. My words may not always be perfectly poised, as life is not perfectly poised right now. May my words communicate what they need to communicate. May my life communicate hope, help and love.