And Then Some

Hello, My Dears.

To quote a friend of mine, I haven’t posted in my blog for months because I’ve been too busy living it.

Whether it’s bottle-feeding a newborn lamb every two hours for the first 72 hours of life because it couldn’t figure out how to nurse its own mother —

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The best was going to a local hardware store asking for formula bottle tops, and having an overenthusiastic employee say “I have two nipples!”

or having 9 other lambs born within the following two weeks, and 5 calves in the span of a month (including the spawn of that demon heifer) —

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Real cow boys and girls.

or welcoming my dad for a week-long visit to the ranch —

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Trees were felled, rodents killed, and many a fire stoked.

or whether it was battling the elements in my tiny house on top of my lonely mountain, huddled next to the only heater in my house during bouts of freezing rain —

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Did I mention I could see my breath indoors?

or road-tripping all the way up to San Fransisco and back within one weekend —

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My friend named her car Black Betty. I prepared myself for the worst.

or entertaining a group of outstanding individuals for a glorious day on the ranch with Mass, firearms, and good food —

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“Saturday Boom Fest” and “Sunday Gunday”.

or taking a trip to the ER for what I thought was carbon monoxide poisoning (but hey, I knocked off receiving my fifth sacrament #anointing) —

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Sitting in the waiting room for 3 hours before finally giving up and leaving. “If I die, I die.”

or driving up to LA, having dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and driving back all in under 6 hours —

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Chicken pot pie is delicious. That is all.

or having my time on the ranch come to an end as I made the decision to move more than an hour north —

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I find it noteworthy to say that the same goats that crossed my path upon first arriving at the ranch, similarly crossed the road for my final descent.

or living out of boxes and sleeping on a couch for almost 2 solid months, quitting my remote job, getting employed at my alma mater, and being called to show up early on one of my first days off to oversee the aftermath of a hit-and-run —

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I would like to draw your attention to the hanging sign: “Houston, we have a problem.”

or visiting Idaho for the first time —

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Idaho is #AmericasBestKeptSecret

or meeting, dating, getting engaged to, and planning a wedding with my husband-to-be —

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He liked it. So he put a ring on it.

I’ve been a little preoccupied.

But I will transcribe more of my dragonylicious adventures soon. Don’t be surprised if they involve broken ceramics, mouse massacres, and the insanity of HOA development construction.

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The Nose Knows

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Let me issue you a warning, my dears. This post is not for the faint of stomach.

Ever since I moved in my bathroom has smelled of mold.

Nothing drastic, but if the window by the shower isn’t perpetually cracked, it starts to smell musky. Which is great considering all the exposed and compromised positions you find yourself in within a bathroom, and especially when the temperature at night sometimes reaches 33°F.

I couldn’t really find the source of the smell at first, so I put my concern on the back burner so I could more readily tackle matters of greater importance like the water dying my hair rust-colored, since its hardness level was 460% above SD averages. #ColdBucketShowerSolutions

I also noticed the shower drain didn’t seem to work properly, backing up only a minute after running the water, and spilling onto the floor outside the stall, and traveling along the walls, which I assumed was contributing to the overall mildewy smell of which my bathroom boasted. So the on/off faucet game quickly became a thing.

Deep down, I knew what I had to do. I was just procrastinating as long as possible. Besides, I still had to unpack, and get settled, and do x, y, z…

A while back I just plugged my nose and pulled the lever, rhetorically speaking. Although, it’s not too far off from what I actually had to do. I bleached the hell out of every nook and cranny of the bathroom, finding all those little places that spores may have decided to call home. Then, with intrepid heart, and rubber-gloved hands, I removed the shower drain cover. As bad as it smelled and repulsive as it looked I knew it was about to get worse. Especially considering that everything down there probably didn’t belong to me.

After removing the easy stuff (sediment build up, and a razor blade cover? How did they even manage that? It’s literally bigger than all the holes of the drain…) it was time to go deeper. I didn’t have pipe cleaners, or any wires or cables to go fishing down there with, but I did have an ample supply of tinder for my wood stove. So I found a stick long enough, thin enough, and sturdy enough not to break off midway-down which would make the whole problem worse, and dove in.

Oh. My. Gosh.

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The colors, smells, and mucus-like texture of what I pulled out was enough to foster a new-found respect and appreciation for every plumber in the industry forever. (Seriously y’all. I yanked other people’s slimy, knotted, rank, discolored, dirt-and-mold covered hair — etc? — out of the plumbing while having my nostrils violated by ungodly smells for only one afternoon – you all do it every day for a living. Hats off to you, plumbers.)

Don’t worry though, this story ends on a happy note: although it didn’t cure the overall musk of the bathroom, at least I’m not standing ankle deep in other people’s backed up dead skin cells and calcium build ups.

P.S.) This story also ends in a cliffhanger: the next war I will be waging is against the ever-encroaching rodent forces bold enough to issue me challenge by leaving cryptic hints in every room corner of their presence in my home.

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A Pregnant Idea

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For those of you who don’t know me personally and were too lazy to read my bio, I was a Religious Sister for 5 years. The following story takes place during that time…

There I was, sitting up in bed at my local Urgent Care, in my pajamas, staring into the void while one of the Sisters sat at my bedside texted updates to the other Sisters. She had been kind enough to drive me there earlier that morning since I was in no condition to do so myself.

The nurse pushed past the curtain and asked what seemed to be the problem.

I began to recount all that had happened that morning:

From the moment I opened my eyes, I was dizzy. Really dizzy. Like, trying to lift my head off my pillow put the entire room into motion. I was so light-headed and disoriented that I couldn’t gracefully descend from the top bunk like a normal human being; in attempting to roll over to see just how far away the ladder was and whether I should gamble climbing down it, I ended up losing control of my roll and falling out of bed. Luckily my feet hit the ground first, as my hands desperately grasped the fitted sheets above for balance. I slowly let go, and turned around.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all this. It was an entirely new experience for me.

I had to halt my contemplation as a wave of nausea hit me, and I quickly weaved my way like a drunkard to the bathroom. Once more, I literally fell over, this time into the shower. At this point I began to freak myself out a little as I tried to self-diagnose.

Balance is way off — inner-ear infection?

Sick to my stomach – food poisoning?

Mind is foggy – brain cancer? (Oh please, like you all don’t start leaping to drastic conclusions within a single google search of your symptoms.)

The Sister I was currently sharing a room with at the time (due to some convent renovations) was equally concerned and agreed to drive me to Urgent Care. Normally, I’d insist on driving myself, not wanting to inconvenience anyone (let’s face it, why kill both of our day’s productivity with all the waiting rooms and examinations we’d have to sit through in the not-so-urgently-handled Urgent Care?), but even I recognized this was an extenuating circumstance.

I’m pretty sure she even checked me in at the counter, because I didn’t want to risk standing up from where I sat in the waiting room, contemplating my own imminent death six months down the road and coming to peace with the tumor that I knew they’d find in my brain. #melodramatic

Anyway, my story for the nurse concluded with: “So I’ve just been really dizzy, and nauseated from the time I woke up…”

My voice trailed off and the room came to a silent halt.

Too late did I realize that I had not described symptoms of a brain tumor at all. I literally just finished describing “morning sickness” to the nurse.

I scrambled internally in that frozen moment, trying to figure out how to undo whatever damage I might’ve just done. Was there a way to say what I said without it sounding like morning sickness? I felt guilty for basically confirming (albeit unintentionally) what I assumed was her (and society’s) view on religious life — I mean, we’ve all seen the “pregnant nun” costume in Halloween stores. I came to Urgent Care thinking I was going to be diagnosed with some freaky brain cancer (since pregnancy wasn’t even a viable option), and was completely unprepared for this unexpected change in conversation.

“Are you pregnant?” the nurse asked.

“No,” I replied, and tried to explain in more detail what I had felt that morning, but the more I talked, the less it sounded like brain cancer, and the more I was confirming everything I was trying to deny. It didn’t help that in my desperation to clarify, I probably looked even sketchier like I was trying to cover something up.

“You’re sure there’s no chance of pregnancy?”

What I really wanted to say was, “Look, this is how it works: first, I get to have sex, and then you get to tell me I’m pregnant” but I was really trying to weigh every word I said to make sure I wouldn’t give an even worse impression of Religious Life than I was probably already giving.

At this point, the Sister accompanying me in full habit came to my defense. “Look, she’s with us; she’s not pregnant.”

I tensed up even more as I realized that was probably the least helpful thing anyone could’ve done at the moment. Now the story in the nurse’s head probably went something like: Rebellious pajama-wearing postulant sneaks away from the convent by night to meet up with some guy, winds up pregnant, and now has to hide it from her fierce Mother Superior, or else she’ll get in trouble, so she’s lying to the nurse in front of the nun to save her own skin.

With not a little bite in her voice, she asked the Sister to leave the room.

The whole scenario was escalating in all the wrong ways, and I quickly felt things spiraling out of control. I forcibly leapt in at this point, and said, “No. Look, she can stay. I’m telling you she can stay. I have nothing to hide, there is absolutely no chance I’m pregnant, I promise.”

The nurse, not looking any happier, handed me a cup and said, “I want a urine sample anyway.”

I took it from her, less upset with myself now, since I had no control over my illness anyway, and more upset with the nurse for not taking me at my word. AND expecting a disoriented patient to supply a urine sample – honestly, how many of us can do that when the room isn’t spinning?

After I turned in my assignment, I sat in bed again, and waited for the results that I knew would come back negative.

The nurse eventually came back and said, “Test results came back negative.”

I withheld comment.

So she hooked me up to an IV for some fluids, and took some blood samples for the doctor to run some other tests on, and left the room again.

After a while, the doctor finally came in, and confirmed that all the serious tests came back negative. He asked if I was under a lot of stress lately, and I said, “Somewhat.”

When in truth, I had been under some of the greatest stress of my life. It was about this point during my discernment that I began to realize the convent wasn’t actually my vocation. And as is the case with any life-altering decision, there are hundreds of things you have to take into account before doing something that you know will burn bridges and impact forever your already-uncertain future. It leaves you mentally, emotionally, and (eventually) physically spent. In retrospect, it’s no surprise my body decided to start shutting down in new and unexpected ways considering everything I had going on.

The Doctor reassured me that stress was one of the toughest things for doctors to diagnose, because there is no set symptom for it. Everyone embodies, channels, and expresses stress differently. It just so happened that my body decided to manifest all of its stress in the most embarrassing form ever.

One afternoon and a hefty bill later, we finally left the building. Not only did I get the rights to one more incredibly awkward story-of-my-life, but I also walked away with a very valuable lesson. It was a lesson I had learned before, but every time I re-learn it, it takes on new weight and meaning.

Never. Ever. Ever. Judge.

Anyone.

Ever.

Judge actions all you want, sure. A man who drinks until he’s drunk before noon every day is an alcoholic. But never judge why.

A nun who walks into urgent care with “morning sickness” might just be coming to grips with the fact that the convent she’s been a part of for 4 years might not actually be her calling, and she may have no control over how her body handles the internal struggle.

As “obvious” as a situation might look, there is always the possibility of another side of the story, left untold, and one that may not even be your business to know.

Food for thought, my dears. Unless you have morning sickness. Then you might want to let your stomach settle first.

 

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Home Invasion

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Last month, I took advantage of the small break we had from torrential precipitation to do some gardening.

Power tools in hand, I combed the ground, trimmed the hedges, arranged some decorative stone circles, positioned some lawn gnomes, and did a whole lot of bushwhacking. I could tell it had been a while since someone gave my unit a little TLC, and since I was reasonably situated at this point, I dedicated some time to the task.

I was in the middle of using an electric hedge trimmer when I heard a noise. I looked back to see that right behind me on the other side of my wire fence, was a cow watching me.

“Hi.” I said. We stared at each other a few seconds, then I went back to work. Weird.

I moved to a higher part of my yard to continue my work, and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked again and there were more cows, slowly encroaching upon the property line.

“Hey ladies.” I said again. This was the first time I had seen them this close to my unit.

For a little backstory, the ranch came with 7 cows and 1 bull. The bull is usually penned up by himself, and the cows are left to free-graze all over the property, but I had never actually seen the cows venture this far up the mountain.

I returned to hedge trimming. Anther noise, and I look back once more to see one cow find a low part of the wire fence, step on and over it, and begin climbing my hill.

Not just any cow; Black Betty.

(No, seriously, that’s her name.)

“No, no –” I began, taking a few steps in her direction to deter her. But it was too late. The herd animals followed their leader, blindly following suit. Soon, my yard was occupied by 6 of our 7 cows.

You know those horrifying moments in movies where something looks really picturesque or innocent, lulls the featured character into a false sense of security, then proceeds to turn on them and rip their insides out?…

What I thought was developing into a charming rural scene, where I continued to garden amidst the lowing of some visiting farm animals, suddenly turned into a home invasion made by some surly (and for the most part) feral cows.

Black Betty approached. I put my arms out much like how you would stop an approaching horse. She charged.

With limited options, I darted to the left and hopped onto my nearby picnic table. I had a hedge trimmer, but I was not about to resort to using power tools on one of the ranch’s cows.

I hopped off the other side and hastened toward my gate — hastened, not ran. I didn’t want to trigger any aggressive pursuit.

I opened my gate, and approached the nearest cow.

My neighbor had once said that the cows are basically like dogs, and if they start to go somewhere they shouldn’t all you have to do is yell at them and they’ll stop.

I was coming from an equine standpoint, and thought I’d push the barrel of cow to guide her out, and as herd animals, one would go and the rest would soon follow. I thought I’d basically blend the two ideas, yell “get” while pushing. After all, it must be similar to dealing with a horse; if you avoid the kicking from the front end (danger) and the kicking from the back end (more danger), then you’d be pretty safe pushing the side.

UNLESS YOUR COWS ARE FREAKING NINJAS.

This cow didn’t budge but was somehow able to side kick me really high on the thigh. Luckily, she didn’t stick the landing, and I immediately backed off, thankful no real damage was done.

I quickly retreated onto my porch and closed myself in. Later I learned that they only fear the bullwhip, which happened to be in one of the structures at the bottom of the mountain. And at that point there were quite a few angry cows between me and my car. So I could only stand and watch the unruly bovine gang proceed to kick my stone circles, trample my garden gnomes, strip my trees, break some branches, and take hefty dumps all over the place.

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Side note: that day also happened the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and I hadn’t gone to Mass yet. So after retreating further inside my house, I continued to watch them through the window, flipping any off that stopped to stare at me, and wondered if “I couldn’t leave my house for fear of being attacked by a herd of miscreant cows” was a valid excuse for missing a day of liturgical observance.

Thankfully, they did indeed leave my yard in time for me to make my descent down the mountain into town. Since this most unfortunate incident the fence around my property has been rebuilt and fortified properly.

They climbed the mountain not too long after to attempt a second raid, and being unable intrude, they just did some spiteful glaring from the other side of the fence before finally retreating back down the mountain. I stared smugly after them.

Not today, bitches.

From the Belly of the Beast

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I have never understood the concept of gas stoves.

I remember having multiple conversations with people about the “superiority” of gas over electric. All they could ever say was “I hate electric. You have way more control with a gas oven.”

More often than not, they were referring to those electric eyes which would either take forever to heat up and cool down, or would jump between the extreme temperatures of “off” and “heat of a thousand suns”. In my book, a little rigidity is a small price to pay in exchange for the 0% risk factor of almost blowing up your house.

Yes I love my flat, glass-top, easy-clean electric ovens and stovetops. For this domestic goddess, they have been an ever present source of comfort and utility…until now, as I settle in to my new gas-powered abode – and I regret ever taking them for granted.

There I was, one fine November morning, making myself a cup of coffee in my percolator on the front burner, when the oven spontaneously combusted.

It literally exploded, my dears. Exploded.

A fiery blast issued forth from the belly of the beast; the once dormant appliance became, in a moment, an explosive volcano…An electric oven never would have betrayed me so.

But thank God for long pants and a healthy heart. I retreated a fair distance away, unscathed, and called our repairman who came to take a look at it. When he arrived, he recreated the scenario (because who trusts the word of a woman – regarding kitchen appliances, no less?), turning on the same burners as I had going before. We stepped back, exchanged small talk for five minutes, and just when he was going to call it quits, it exploded again.

His advice for me until he could bring a replacement was, “Yeah, don’t use that.”

What I did not say in reply was, “No shit, Sherlock.”

Needless to say, I did not enjoy a cup of coffee that day, and still maintain that electric is safer. I survived off of dry foods like tahin w-selan for almost a week after, until the replacement came. So far it seems to have a much better temperament than its predecessor, which is good because dragons do not tolerate any ferocious fire-breathing behavior but their own.

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The ranch’s repairman escorting the demonic appliance off the premises.

The Dearest Month in All the Year…

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December Twenty-Sixteen (Correct!)

Hello again, My Dears.

Quick shout-out to whoever got the Mr. Fezziwig reference from the Albert Finney rendition of A Christmas Carol. I don’t actually cherish December more than the other months – it’s a’ight – but subjectively speaking for the particularly trying year of 2016, December was probably the high point.

As promised, here is the CliffsNotes version of my month of December.

  • I began to realize that I’d have to leave a few minutes earlier than anticipated any time I was driving anywhere, because there’s a good chance I’ll have to stop for a herd of cows, or slow my roll for a bunch of suicidal goats. You know you live in a rural area when…
  • It rained. A lot. Like, my chickens got their own above-ground pool for Christmas. It kind of put a damper on exploring the ranch’s ninety acres, or starting any hands-on projects in the great outdoors. But it’s given me a lot of time to master the woodstove, and my ability to quote Cool Runnings; “I’m freezin’ my Rastafarian nay-nays off.”
  • I volunteered at AYANA’s Comedy Night, held to raise money for the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor-a-refugee program. There are few things more awkward than when the warm-up comedian doesn’t take into account the fact that the event was held on church property, and sex jokes were probably not the way to go for that particular audience. One of the few things that is more awkward than that though, is finding yourself sitting at a table with a bunch of seminarians when those jokes were being told.
  • My kick-ass friend decorated my place for Christmas when she heard I had no intention of doing so myself. (Cross-country moves make for empty pockets, and I was more concerned with feeding myself than hanging up mistletoe for the Christmas parties I wouldn’t be hosting in serial-killer country.) Needless to say I had everything I needed thanks to her – a tree, Mike’s Hard, and Die Hard.
  • I helped set up for a Winter Wonderland church fund raiser by taking a thousand bags of Halloween cob-webs and shredding them to make decorative “snow” piles. The result was less than exemplary, and left the place looking like a giant spider had the runs all over the lot. #notmyfault
    Anyway, the event was cancelled because of the previously mentioned downpours – which really made the snow look like spider sharts.
  • The best Christmas homily of all time was given by Fr. Michael J. Bazzi on Christmas morning. Those of you who were there know what I’m talking about. The entire church literally laughed out loud a couple of times.
    “Jesus was Chaldean. I’m not bragging, it’s the truth.”
  • Having insight into both American and Chaldean culture can provide a very broad and unique view of life sometimes. Some of the starkest contrasts can be seen from how Christmas is celebrated. My festivities started by having a nice, quiet, 7 o’clock dinner and stimulating conversation with American friends and family on the Eve of, and ended the following night with what was essentially Chaldean-clubbing until 2AM.
    Quiet, cozy brunch at a friend’s apartment, followed by crazy, crowded, food-gorging house-parties later on. This pattern was repeated for about a week until (finally) New Years passed.
  • I smile a little when I explain to Americans how Chaldean Mass marathons go during the holidays as well – between the two parishes in El Cajon, there are somewhere around 16 Masses for Christmas Eve alone. And each one allows me the opportunity to walk a few steps in the shoes of a canned sardine.

As was the case with November, there are one or two very noteworthy December events that are worth chronicling about separately, which I will do soon. Spoiler alert: one of them may involve a home-invasion made by a herd of cows…

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Remember, Remember, My Move in November

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My Dears,

Instead of back-posting the last two months of my life to bring you all up to date, I’ll give you one CliffsNotes blog post for November, and another for December. As can be deduced from the title of this particular post, here’s November:

After a summer of spraining both my wrists, and accidentally dying my hair blue (a story for another time), I moved back to San Diego.

  • Jamul experienced a 3-acre wildfire very close to my new home a few days after I moved in. #perfecttiming
    But I didn’t die. Actually, no one did. And there was no property damage, so that’s the anti-climactic end to that story.
  • I bought my first manual car, which I’m thinking of naming Iroh (Dragon of the West, anyone?). The rear heat shield decided to split and come half-way off only a few days after purchase, scraping the ground beneath the car in the most dreadfully attention-drawing manner possible.
    As I made my way to the mechanic, I was informed by multiple well-meaning passer-by’s of my obvious problem.
    (Thank you, everyone. Without your highly-trained ears, I never would’ve noticed the sounds issuing from the bottom of my vehicle, equivalent to the screaming souls of all the damned in Hell.)
    These interactions were made even more awkward because everything about the car is manual — including the windows. This means that every time someone tried waving to get my attention to inform me of my obvious problem, I’d have to sprawl across my passenger seat to fumble with the turn-handle on the opposite side of the car until the window cracked enough for me to shout a “thank you” and assure them I was perfectly aware of the problem.
  • On an entirely different note, one of my four chickens died. And digging a hole in Jamul is a lot harder than anticipated. (To quote John Wayne: “Now I know why you all have so many rock walls in this country.”)
  • And finally, for those of you wondering if I spent the holidays alone, worry not. I got a visit from the fire department on Thanksgiving — mostly because I called them. There was a massive propane tank leak and I almost blew up my side of the mountain. #notmyfault

Those are some of the highlights of my first month back in sunny San Diego. There are a few other very remarkable happenings from November (e.g. My gas stove exploding. Twice.) but each deserves to have an entire post dedicated to its retelling.

Until then, I’ll be busy recapping the entire month of December for the next post.

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The Lonely Mountain

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Hello, My Dears.

Before you assume that the title of this post refers to my current emotional state in any way, stop. For those of you who caught the Tolkien reference, kudos; that makes me Smaug and Mount Lyon a hoard of dwarf gold — both of which are not far from the truth. But since I’m liturgically Chaldean, I guess that actually makes me Marduk, or Mušḫuššu, and the mountain would be Babylon, or the realm of the gods…or the sea…

This analogy has escaped me.

Regardless, dragons don’t get all mopey in their solitude. No, they’re out there being fierce, breathing fire, and flying free, perfectly content to be their dragony selves. To boot, there are plenty of unexpected life-events that keep this flannel-flaunting dragon on her toes and far from bored.

Why am I writing this blog? What makes me different from the countless thousands of other people shouting into the virtual void to have their opinion validated?

I’ve got a better question. Why are you reading? If y’all don’t like the content I’m creating, go create your own. I love my amazing, remarkable, and (on occasion) supremely awkward life, and want to chronicle the bizarre things that happen during it. I’ve had plenty of family members and friends ask me to start this blog so they can see what I’m up to, and I intend to service them, but most importantly myself in doing so.

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