Something Amazing

Guys! I did something horribly amazing- I gained ten pounds in a very short amount of time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until I was back to my “Oh no” weight. (Does anyone else have a hierarchy of weights? (Mine are happy, okay, watch it, oh no- do something)

After finishing the half, I continued to eat as though I was still running twenty miles a week. Liam decided he did not want to continue with Laid-Back Fitness. (Nothing happened, he just wanted a break.) Without Liam’s parent discount and the time for me to workout while he is in class, it didn’t make sense for me to continue. I hurt my calf doing speedwork and couldn’t run for over two weeks. It got ridiculously hot. Then we went on vacation for a week, following the mantra “do what you want” for eight days.

My view for a week during our annual trip the beach house.

I was up five pounds the day we went away. When we returned, I was up ten. That is what eight days of eating cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast will do. I am not a huge drinker, sometimes going weeks without even having a single adult beverage. While on vacation, Mike and I drank beer each night while sitting outside, listening to the waves, watching the stars, and chatting away. With beer came cheese and crackers and, before we knew it, we were indulging in a day’s worth of calories after Liam went to sleep.

When I returned home, I fearfully crept on the scale, learning I was up five pounds in eight days. Time to get back on track! This week marks the official start to training for my second half marathon. Now that I know I can run thirteen miles, I want to focus on getting stronger and faster.

I’ve worked too hard to only come this far. It’s time to hit the reset button and get back on track.

Week Six: Things that Block You from Happiness

This one hits close to home. This past month has provided countless opportunities for reflection and perspective. Being asked to reflect upon what stands in your way is especially fitting this week.

Self-doubt and Worry I have it. I continuously question my abilities. Am I a good parent? Am I a good teacher? Am I a good wife? Am I good enough friend? Do I have any business writing about running? Am I spending enough time playing with Liam? Am I hovering? Do I check in my friends often enough? While doing all of these things, how do I keep my own head above water? Running and weight-lifting have taught me that I am stronger than I think, but I am always doubting myself.

Not Asking for Help Mike is a saint when it comes to this. Somehow, it has come into my mind that being a good wife means taking care of as much as I possibly can. I get home before he does and get laundry, dishes, lunches, cleaning, and dinner taken care of before he gets home. By the time he gets home, I’m exhausted. Mike tells me to leave stuff for him to do, yet every day, I feel the need to take care of it myself. I take care of holidays, birthdays, and events without asking for help, then get overtired and grumpy. It’s a vicious cycle, one in which Mike does a fantastic job of tolerating from me. I fight the same overwhelming meltdown several times a year, and Mike gets me through each time.

Social Anxiety Maybe I hide this. Maybe I don’t. I fear silence in small talk and talk too much then I worry that I dominated said conversation. I try to make a point of asking more questions while talking. Then I get together with a group and, for fear of dominating the conversation, don’t say much. On those rides home, I worry that people thought I was disinterested and won’t invite me in the future. I avoid certain social situations in which I know there will be a lot of small talk for fear I will talk too much or too little. I replay conversations in my mind, searching for spots where I may have messed up.

Usually, I ask Liam the same questions in the weekly prompt. It makes for interesting conversation while walking Banjo. This week’s topic is not one I want to ask Liam to reflect upon. We sometimes say he is his own worst enemy. He gets worked up about problems and spends more time worrying about them than it would take to fix them. He will spend a half an hour arguing that he doesn’t want to do math homework or clean his room, only to admit defeat and get the task done in less than ten minutes.  This is part of being a kid. Overall, Liam is a thoughtful, intuitive kid. He’s is going to get himself right where he needs to be.

Week Five: The Best Choices I’ve Made

This has been the week of weeks!

Mike had his gallbladder out.

Liam wasn’t feeling well; he tested positive for thyroid antibodies, most likely caused by Hashimoto. We have a referral to an endocrinologist. I am relieved to know what is the cause of his symptoms. As someone who also suffers from thyroid issues, I am confident in my ability to help him manage the condition.

I pulled a calf muscle, leaving me unable to run for two weeks.

Our bank accounts were hacked twice. We knew we would get our money back, but it is time consuming to get everything back in order.

I had oral surgery and, according to doctor’s orders, should only be eating soft foods (scrambled eggs, pasta, etc.) This lasted less than a week before I went to eating softish foods on the other side of my mouth.

If nothing else, this week served as a reminder about the importance of perspective. It was a reminder of how well Mike and I work together. We could have buckled under the stress, but it brought us closer. We made time to chat. We laughed and giggled. We finished the week reminded that we chose the best possible partners for this life of ours.

So this brings us to this week’s topic: What are the best choices you’ve made?

Marrying Mike is at the top of that list. I am thankful I met him when I did; my previous self would have played gamed and ruined the relationship. He supports me, argues fairly, and is an amazing dad! I am beyond lucky that Mike walked into my life when he did.

 

Going back to school. Now that I have been teaching for fifteen years, other jobs feel like they were in another lifetime. After a few years of working odd jobs after high school, I started college when I was twenty-one. It took me five and a half years to earn my Bachelor’s degree, but I did it! I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. Going back to school and fulfilling that dream was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Being picky about friends. My friends are amazing! I’m glad I chose not to settle!

Stepping out of my comfort zone. Running, traveling to California, starting a blog (then sharing it with people). Some of my greatest joys in the past few years stem from doing things that scare me.

 

Liam is a little young to be in a position to analyze life decisions. I asked him about some good choices he’s made.

Making good friends. He’s at an age in which he is realizing that, while most people are friends, not everyone fits that description. It’s not that he has enemies, he’s eight. But he has learned that it’s easier not to try to be best friends with everyone.

Loving to read. Liam loves to read! He is struggling with math, but the boy loves to read. He will read whatever he can find: magazines, chapter books, graphic novels, resource books. I love that he loves to read and I’m willing to do what I can to nurture that love.

List 2: Routines

Week two asks to list routines in personal life and work. This is totally my jam! Most of my life revolves around routine and organization. It is comforting and helps maintain order in all of our lives.  In random order, here is a list of some of my routines:

Meal planning on Sundays, even if only for lunches. Knowing we do not need to scramble each afternoon or evening makes weekdays less hectic. I simply refill Liam’s lunch box when he gets home from school and put it back in the fridge until the following morning. This week, we made chicken breasts, rice, salad, and whole wheat pasta to mix and match into different meals this week. I made buffalo chicken pasta salad to eat each during lunch.

Setting out mine and Liam’s clothes the night before. Again, knowing that Liam’s clothes are clean and ready to go and I have all the parts of an outfit together makes the mornings easier. Since Liam wears uniforms, his outfit planning is pretty easy. I look at the weather report on Sunday and decide which days to wear skirts versus pants and which days I can run after school.

Ordering Liam’s lunches a month at a time and noting his hot lunch days on the calendar. This makes life so much easier!  I am thankful that Liam’s school allows this service.

Mornings with Banjo. Even Banjo has this down to a science! He knows who takes him out when and whether he is out there for “business” or play. He knows that if he goes out to the backyard, we are going to play with him. If we take him out front, he is to make a deposit and go back in the house.

Mornings in general. I keep a mental list of what time I should be at each step of in my morning. I won’t bore you with the breakdown, but trust me, it’s good.

After school. Come home, play with Banjo, homework, chores, dinner, play.

 

 

 

 

When I asked Liam about his routines, he was too excited to explain his morning routine:

Wake up

Get dressed

Eat breakfast

Clean my plate

Walk Banjo

Play outside with Banjo

Bush our teeth

Give Banjo love

Go to school

I asked him to describe some of his routines a few days ago and let it simmer. This morning, while sitting a the swingset playing with Banjo, he randomly told me, “I have a lot of routines at school, too. Do you want me to tell them to you?” He proceeded to explain his entire day. Liam has always thrived on routine. Even a good surprise, if it changes what he expects is going to happen, makes him uncomfortable. I am beyond thankful for Liam’s teacher, who creates many routines and is very much cultivating the organization skills that will make him successful throughout his academic career.

First Half-Marathon Recap

I don’t even know where to begin when talking about this weekend!

             

Liam made his first communion Saturday morning. He did such a great job! I am beyond blessed that he is a part of such a fantastic school community. I love his school and the fellow families who attend. After the church service, we went back to our house for a cookout. It was perfect: low-key and casual. Liam was thankful for his day!

I went to bed early Saturday night because the half began at 7:30. I planned to be out of the house by 6. Liam woke up with me at 5:15. We tried to be as quiet as possible. Because he wasn’t sure if he would wake up with me, he left me a note for the morning with the bagels Mike picked up from Panera.

I was trying my best to be organized, but nerves were starting to kick in. In being hopelessly proactive, I applied Tiger Balm to my calves as I got dressed, only to panic when realizing I had not yet put in my contact lenses. Somehow, I managed to put in my toric lenses into my puffy, allergy-hating eyes one handed! My goal of getting out the door by 6 was only off by six minutes.

One the ride down to the race, I decided to listen to Hamilton, my go-to “Let’s do this!” music. The Spotify account was set to the Kitchen Echo. Luckily, people slept through the music blasting through the kitchen speakers for four seconds while I wondered why it wasn’t playing in my car.

The atmosphere before the race was calm and cheerful. We chatted and laughed until it was time to gather by the starting line. The gentleman who coordinates the races explained a few things about the race and the course, beginning with, “I don’t give a sh*t who comes in first as long as everyone finishes.” His cell phone number was on every sign; if you couldn’t finish, he informed us to call for help. He would come get us and provide free admission to any future race.

We started off together, separating by the time we made the first turn. My friend Kerri and I stayed together. We were hauling! My goal was to finish the race in three hours, requiring a 13:42 pace. Kerri assured me I could do that. My first mile was 11:36! I became scared of burning out. We slowed down, clocking our second mile at 12:46.

Our third mile was back in the 11’s.

“Should we slow down?”

“We’re good. Our goal is 2:45. You can do this. You are stronger than you think you are.”

So, three miles in, my goal changed!

The course was beautiful. We ran to Charlestown Beach and back through country roads. Kerri and I stayed together for the first ten miles, then she went ahead. At the next mile, I encountered a girl I “knew” from a Facebook running group. On the way out in the race, I stopped and hugged her, then let my social anxiety kick in, worrying that she thought the worst of the crazy, sweaty random person who hugged her. The next time I checked my phone, I had a friend request from her. I saw her again just after Mile 10. She took pictures and shared them with me, including one of my favorites of Kerri and I high-fiving when we reached double digits!

Just after Mile 12, I hated everything! I was done running, my shoulder was sore, I was gross and sweaty and wanted to be done.  As I turned the corner, I saw two of my Rhode Runner buddies! I have never been happier to see anyone! Ignoring how sweaty I was, I left into each of their arms and expressed my love for them both! I began to cry as I ran up that final hill, overwhelmed by the support and the fact that I was actually about to complete this huge accomplishment. Hold it together, I told myself, you can’t run if you’re sobbing.

After that encounter, I was recharged and ready to finish this race, pushing myself through the last bit. When I turned the corner towards the finish line, my friends cheered me. I was at 2:44, I still had a chance to reach my goal! And I did, finishing in 2:44:59!

I don’t even care if this picture is flattering. It was taken immediately after finishing the race! I was ecstatic!

 

I was deliriously happy! My friends surrounded me and cheered for me. Then I realized the problem with finishing fifteen minutes faster than I planned: Mike and Liam were not yet there. I had told them to get there for 10:30; I finished at 10:15. They arrived a few minutes after I finished.

My friends are amazing! In this entire process of becoming a runner, they are my favorite takeaway! They make terrible runs tolerable and push me.  They are supportive and silly. We gathered and ran in with the rest of our group.  We stayed for over an hour after the end of the race, eating and celebrating.

Many times, I consider running a solo sport. Because of my schedule, the majority of my training was done by myself. However, races are what bring everyone together.  We made friends with others in the parking lot before the race and at the finish line. People we have never before met cheered for and supported us.

I’m still riding the high that comes from reaching a goal. My next half is in October, allowing a few weeks to regroup and decide the next goal. I’d like to work on speed; I think I doubt myself and fear burning out at the end when I need energy the most. It’d be great to take a minute off of my 5K time.

For now, I need to thank my husband and son for supporting me. For screwing up weekends by filling them with long training sessions. I need to thank my running friends, now simply known as my friends, who pushed me out of my comfort, convincing me to accomplish what had previously seemed impossible! I don’t think you will ever understand how much I appreciate your support and friendship!

Random Things Making Me Happy

Baseball is back!

We look like babies in this picture!

I love baseball! Loving the Red Sox was a non-negotiable while Mike and I began dating.  We can compromise in other areas, but the man I married needed to be a Sox fan. Baseball played a huge part in our dating. One of our first dates was to Fenway; we’ve been countless times since. Mike and I even had Red Sox undertones at our wedding. We took Liam to his first game when he was only a few months old. While he appreciates the excitement, fanfare, and $5 hotdogs more than the game itself, Liam enjoys visiting Fenway. Opening Day signifies that summer, with her long, warm days, is quickly approaching. We are attending our first game of the season this weekend. I am beyond excited to continue our Fenway traditions, even if we are supposed to get some snow that morning.

Assumptions are never a good idea!

Yes, Liam did line up the garbage cans

Through my years of teaching, I’ve learned to meet students where they are and help them fill any gaps in their learning. I’ve also learned not to make assumptions about what they know, as backgrounds and learning experiences vary. Wednesday afternoon, Liam, Banjo, and I walked home from school. As we walked into our house, I asked Liam to grab the trash bins from the curb and line them up by our house. He lined up the trash bins, just as I asked. I giggled, reminded the importance of explicit directions. As I finalize my last project of the year, I am reminded to not only be clear with my expectations but also to remember the importance of modeling and support each step of the way to help my students achieve.

Rainbow clouds!

While I was pregnant, Mike’s Aunt Char was very sick. She tried to hold on long enough to meet Liam but passed away when I was six months pregnant. After her funeral, I saw rainbow clouds for the first time. It seemed like a sign. Since then, I have only witnessed rainbow clouds a handful of times. Once was at Mackerel Cove while we were all playing on the beach. Once as I drove to Target to get Liam new pajamas the night before he had to have his ear tubes surgically removed (I was a nervous wreck), and once the other morning while driving to school.  I am a big believer in signs but cannot figure out why I saw rainbow clouds at that moment. I know about science and such, obviously, but I just like to think of such occurrences as signs.

I learned to make GIFs!

animated

Banjo manages to sit moving just his tail. It is the cutest thing to watch. I managed to get it on video and loved it so much that I downloaded a GIF-making app and made him a GIF.

My Own “Ride or Die” Group

I just finished reading Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes. After being accused by her sister of never saying yes to anything, she agreed to every invitation and opportunity she received. During this year, she played with her kids every time they asked, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and The Mindy Project, and gave several keynote speeches.  While sharing her experiences, I  wanted to be best friends with her.  In one of the later chapters, she discusses losing two close friends over this year. Her other friends informed her that they were never really “friends” and seemed to be upset over her transformation. Shonda (because we are on a first name basis now) categorized her closest friends as her “ride or die” friends. I immediately decided to steal the term for my own. Since entering adulthood, I’ve lost several old friends. Some were toxic and needed to be cut, others just lost touch and, when space became too great, drifted apart.

The result of my many offers to perform flower girl duties at my friend’s wedding. I still giggle when I think about this picture.

I used to mourn the loss of these people quite frequently. As they were replaced by amazing, supportive friends, I realize that some of the breaks were definitely for the best.  The current people in my life are my own “ride or die” group. They showed up even when I claimed I didn’t need them. They check in frequently and remember things that are going on in each others’ lives. We are silly, inappropriate, and supportive. We keep group messages going. After spending time with them, I will remember silly things we said or did and randomly laugh, causing Mike to glace over and humor me by listening to me recap our shenanigans. Sometimes, our sessions actually hold up and are hilarious to others. Usually, these recaps end with Mike shaking his head and smiling.

 

I’ve said that I had to meet Mike when I was older; twenty-two-year old me would not have appreciated him. The same is true for my friends. I needed friends who expected more of me than they were willing to give, belittled my life choices, and made catty comments about me when they thought I was out of earshot. I needed these people to understand that I hit the friend jackpot as I grew older. My yoga girls, mommy friends, and running buddies slowly became my “ride or die” group.  I thoroughly enjoyed Year of Yes and believe it should be required reading to anyone who has ever doubted themselves. Her ideas about friendship are one of my favorite takeaways. Shonda reminded me how important it is to have a “ride or die” crew. I am eternally grateful for mine!

When Your Kid Sets the Example

Part of being a parent is the constant worrying about whether or not your kid is doing okay, which is a direct measure of how you are doing okay as a parent. Liam is a great kid. He is kind and thoughtful. He was a trooper during the second half of February break. We spent three days running errands. By Friday, we were both done. To make matters worse, Friday was the day or errand errors.

Happy dog at his check-up Wednesday!

 

This kid and his giggles get me every time!

 

We took Banjo for his interview at a dog daycare.  Before adopting him, we booked two trips, so we need to find a place to take care of him while we are gone. The plan was to take him to his interview, once he passed the initial trial period, we were to leave him for three hours. We could then go up the street to get the oil changed on the car.  The problem was, he didn’t pass, causing us to drive back across town, drop him off, then drive back across town to get my oil changed.  (He had a second interview Saturday and passed with flying colors!) After forty minutes of driving, the dealership informs me they were running an hour and a half behind. We went somewhere else to take care of it, frustrated that I drove all that way for an “express” oil change.

 

It took two trips to the blood center before I could donate. Liam is always happy to eat warm post-donation cookies with me!

After the oil change, I drove to pick up the boots I had dropped off to be re-soled, reheeled, and stitched.  (I cannot find boots to fit my calves so I’ve been fixing these bionic boots for six years now.) My shoes that were promised to be ready by Friday, were not. At this point, I was ready to cry out of frustration. We could have been doing so many better things on this beautiful day. We passed playgrounds, libraries, and other attractions. I put my eight-year-old in the car for errands that, for reasons beyond our control, weren’t following through. We got to the Blood Center when they were not yet opened. At our next errand, replacing Liam’s sneakers, we discovered that the place where I always buy Liam his shoes closed. Yes, I completely understand that these were first world problems. What kicked me the most was the Mama guilt, mostly brought on by Facebook posts of our friends visiting Boston, New York City, and doing all sorts of fun adventures while we failed at task after task. 

Liam still smiling at the end of a terribly unproductive day!

 

If I were not with Liam, I would have followed my usual routine for handling stress: crying and eating junk food. As we walked back to the car from the shoe repair, two blocks up because we couldn’t find parking, I apologized to Liam multiple times for messing up our last day of vacation. He replied, “It’s okay. I’d rather be here with you.” When I told him how much that remark made me happy, he continued, “You told me I needed to clean my room when we got home. I’d rather run stupid errands than clean my room.” Liam proceeded to perform what he called his “errand fail dance.” While I was ready to cry and get frustrated, Liam found the best of a yucky situation. He managed to have the same effect on me that Mike does when I am upset. I often joke that Liam managed to inherit all of Mike’s best traits and all of my terrible characteristics; I love seeing Liam share Mike’s ability to keep me giggling, even when I wanted to scream. Liam has a gift for always seeing the positive; I hope that talent remains as he becomes an adult.

Valentine’s Day

I love the idea of Valentine’s Day. A day to demonstrate your love for others is great, especially if it involves being cheesy and silly. However, the idea of going out for dinner and buying expensive, overpriced flowers never seemed necessary. Early on, Mike and I adopted a goal of “non-romantic” Valentine’s Day. Through the years, we have gone to Denny’s, visited the Chinese buffet (while using a coupon), ordered pizza, and made breakfast for dinner at home. This year, we are going to make heart-shaped pink pancakes. Liam is very excited to help make the dinner, asking if we can make one for Banjo.

Even though Mike and I don’t exchange gifts, we bought Liam a stuffed dog.  It’s fun to watch Liam get excited about “telling people I love that I love them.” He made Valentines for his classmates and neighborhood friends. He gave me hugs every chance he could this morning.

 

Liam giving his mama some snuggles in hope of avoiding getting ready for bed.

 

Liam is a kind child. He thinks of others and tries his best to be a good person. He gives me hugs before bed and at drop-off but is overall is not an affectionate person. His daycare teachers considered Liam hugs a big deal. Even when he is not feeling well, he wants to sit by himself. Only when he is trying to avoid bedtime does he truly snuggle. Even though I can see through his ulterior motives, I take them, especially when he reminds me that he “won’t fit in your lap forever.” (Seriously, he doesn’t even play fairly!) However, his stinginess in physical affection is more than made up for when it comes to verbal affection. He is more than willing to randomly tell me he loves me or something he enjoys about spending time with me or being my kid. He makes cards for no occasion and slips them to me. He proclamations are so honest and forthcoming, they melt my heart.

I let Liam stay at school a little longer so I could go for a run. I did get to see the Patriots plane take off, which was cool after only seeing it on the tarmac. Liam was happy to have time to play with his friends. It was a nice day so they could finally play outside.

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day dinner was a hit! Liam loved his heart-shaped pancakes! After dinner, we took Banjo for a long walk.  Mike’s folks sent all of us, including Banjo, Valentines. Liam sat with Banjo to read him his card, explaining, “This is from my grandparents. They can’t wait to meet you.”

I love our low-key and easy Valentine’s Days. We don’t need grand gestures to show our love; we find ways to show our love every day.

More Random Thoughts

Every so often, the universe lets you know that your adulting skills are on point. Sunday morning, I romantically got up with Liam and Banjo, allowing Mike a rare morning to sleep a little later. When he came downstairs at 8:45 and asked time I got up, I explained that Liam and Banjo let me sleep until 6:35.  When did waking up at 6:35 on a Sunday become sleeping in!?!?That night, I brushed my teeth while Mike let Banjo out one last time. I need to get to bed, I thought, it’s almost 9:00.  Ten years ago, I would have thought nothing about going out at 9:00. Now, just being up that late is bothersome.  Being an adult involves many challenges, but I am usually caught up on sleep and well-rested.

Banjo is adjusting more and more.  He’s such a smart dog.  We have a great routine in the morning. When we go outside for our last play session before putting him in the crate and heading to school, we had to convince him to come inside. Now, he follows us when we walk to the dog, dropping his ball in the spot where we have been putting it. He’s a really good dog, so intuitive and quick to learn. He’s getting better and better on the leash.

My favorite part of having a dog is seeing Liam flourish. Liam is a typical eight-year-old. He’s learning and trying to test boundaries and see what he can accomplish. Having Banjo in our family gives Liam another purpose. He takes pride in taking care of his dog. He imitates Mike’s commands, trying to support training efforts. We often have to remind Liam several times to keep Legos off the floor. Since adopting Banjo, this has not been an issue. “You need to keep your floor clean. Banjo can’t tell the difference between Legos and dog food. We don’t want him to get sick.” Keeping his room clean is no longer about his parents telling him what to do; he has a responsibility to keep his dog safe.

I forgot how much I enjoy our morning walks. It gives us a good chance to really talk. Today, Liam told me all about Math Slicer, a game he purchased this weekend. It is similar to Fruit Ninja, but a math problem appears on the screen. Two possible answers pop up; the object of the game is to “slice” the correct answer. It is comparable to flashcards. We have been practicing addition and subtraction during our walks, quizzing Liam as we walk the neighborhood. Today, Liam spent most of our walk talking about how much he enjoys the game and that he is getting better and better and remembering his addition and subtraction. I appreciate the time to simply talk to Liam and, during our evening walks, Mike. I also enjoy getting out and seeing our neighbors. Having a dog gives us a great excuse to get to know our neighbors.

One of my favorite Fenway pictures from 2007, when we went to Fenway as often as possible!

On one of my first dates with Mike, I took him to Fenway. At this time, he didn’t know much about baseball. That would soon change. Every year since that first date at Fenway, we have made it several Red Sox games each season.  The Red Sox have been a significant part of our lives; we have had a Red Sox themed wedding. This is the first year that we have had no interest in buying tickets. The cost keeps increasing, the team is not getting any better. I am hopeful that Alex Cora will bring some enthusiasm to the team, but we will not attend unless we happen to get tickets from someone. Even though it is a conscious decision, it feels unnatural to not have a game on our calendar.

At our wedding, we asked guests to sign a jersey, which is now framed and hanging in our dining room. 

A few months ago, I wrote about how writing is helping me deal with anxiety. It’s also helping my perspective. I find myself focusing on the positive parts of my days. I’m blessed in the fact that I am pretty fortunate in terms of the life I have. I have a healthy, happy family, a job I enjoy, and an amazing group of friends. Writing and reflecting on this life allows me to focus on the positives, think about the things that are going well, reflect on what I need to improve, and formulate plans for next steps. After years without writing, I’m thankful something pushed me to return to the hobby.