With All Her Heart

Living with congenital Heart Defects

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Every Writer Is Different

Every Writer Is Different

CalvinandHobbesOne thing that fascinates me about writing is that no two writers are alike. No two writers will come up with the same story even if given the same exact prompt. I was talking to a friend of mine recently and she said, “Don’t tell me, or I might use those ideas of yours.”

I said, “Honey, even if you did, you wouldn’t turn out the same things I do.”

The reason she wouldn’t? We’ve both lived…

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The Chronic Rift - My Very First Podcast!

The Chronic Rift – My Very First Podcast!

Orbison Alphonse

The fine folks at The Chronic Rift Network: Finding the Culture in Pop Culture were kind enough to interview me about my book,    Tortellini. :D It was my very first time ever doing a podcast. I knew what a podcast was (sort of) but I’d never listened to one, so I had no idea what to expect. I knew there was a section for podcasts on my ipod, but I never had used it before.

I spent most of the…

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How to Kidnap A Princess In One Easy Step

How to Kidnap A Princess In One Easy Step

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This is an excerpt from Oops We Broke Our Brother way down the road.

~*~

“Your Highness, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Bellan,” Eric said, finally giving up and beckoning his friend from the shadows.

Jenna turned to look, “Hello.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Highness.” Bellan said. “May I have the pleasure of seeing your beautiful eyes? I have never gazed at the beauty of a princess before.”

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How Tortellini Came To Be

How Tortellini Came To Be

Alphonseandmesmall
Tortellini was originally intended to be just a couple of blog posts. Writers are told over and over again to blog. Because blogs sell books. The more you post, the more people you reach. But a lot of writers write about writing. And I didn’t want to give the same advice that everyone else was giving.

So what else could I write about?

Dragons, of course!

The intent behind the story was a dragon…

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Oops, We Broke Our Brother - WIP

Oops, We Broke Our Brother – WIP

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1”][vc_column_text]potionbottle“Hey wait a minute,” Ava protested as Jenna put the pot on the stove. “I should be the one to make this potion! You’re not any good at cooking. You’ll do it wrong.”

“No I won’t! Making potions and cooking aren’t the same thing. Besides it was my idea and I’m in charge,” Jenna said.

Ava couldn’t argue with that point. “Okay, but if we have to call the…

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There’s Gravel In My Sandwich Excerpt

There’s Gravel In My Sandwich Excerpt

Max sat down at the second grade table and scanned the lunch line of people with pizza, looking for just the right person to help him sell his sandwich.

He didn’t have to look very long.

Lynette Quillin sat down next to him. Max normally didn’t like Lynette at all. Not only was she the sort of girl who knew everybody else’s business, she was mean and bossy.

Today she was just the sort of person…

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How To Write An Effective Book Review

By Tim

Amazon has a lot of good things going for it, and one feature that I use often is the customer reviews. Standing in a brick-and-mortar store and comparing two products side by side, it’s often hard to tell which is going to do the best job of meeting your needs.  If, however, you can access the experiences and advice of people who have purchased and used each product before, you’re much more likely to be confident of choosing the right one for you.  Many retail websites offer customer reviews, but it’s the big players like Wal-Mart and Amazon who have a large enough customer base to get lots of reviews, numbering in the thousands on some products, giving potential buyers a meaningful and well-rounded picture of how satisfactory the product is.  A product with 200+ reviews averaging 4.5 stars is much more attractive to me than one with a perfect 5-star rating based on only three reviews.  Unfortunately, on those less-frequently-reviewed items, ratings can be badly skewed up or down either by someone’s unscrupulous manipulation or by people’s genuine ignorance of how to properly participate in the system.  Believe it or not, there are people out there who sell positive reviews to Amazon vendors, propping up bad products by overwhelming the accurate negative reviews with positive hogwash.  And maybe some people have other reasons for giving tons of utterly worthless 5-star reviews, I don’t know.  But it’s disheartening to see someone like this—assuming it’s even an actual person rather than a bot—clumsily abusing the customer review system and yet somehow getting an 86% ‘helpful’ rating along the way:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1141DEY00149Z/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp

Meanwhile, some of the most annoying and least helpful reviews on Amazon are those in which the writer uses the *product* review page to gripe about a problem with shipping or other issues unconnected to the quality of the item for sale.  As an Amazon Marketplace seller, I’ve experienced the reverse situation – I received a mediocre review because the idiot buyer didn’t enjoy the used software I sold them, even though they freely acknowledged that I had described it accurately and shipped it quickly.

I don’t know any way to fix these crummy reviewers, but I do know we shouldn’t be adding to the problem by leaving gushing, insubstantial reviews for our friends’ books.  Wanting to help out a friend or family member by leaving them a good review is a laudable instinct, but there’s a right way to go about it, assuming you really want to help them.  Some things to remember:

1.) Leaving a review does matter.  Not only do other customers actually read reviews and have their purchasing decisions influenced by them, but Amazon itself uses the reviews to choose what products to highlight.  There are certain threshold numbers of reviews that trigger Amazon’s algorithms for featuring or recommending a given product on the pages of complementary and/or competing items.  You know those little lists that say “Customers who viewed this item also looked at…” or “Customers frequently bought this item with…”?  The number of reviews influences the likelihood of that happening with your friend’s product.  Another reason good reviews matter is that many of us will sort our search results in descending order by customer rating, meaning that the highly-rated items will be featured most prominently on the page and be more likely to get our attention.

2.) Base your review on an actual use of the product.  In other words, don’t post a 5-star review of a book you haven’t read (or a 1-star review, for that matter).   I shouldn’t even have to say that, but I do.  One recurring trend I’ve noticed on Amazon is the posting of reviews for highly-anticipated products that are still in the pre-order stage; you have a glut of customers who want to express an opinion on a product even though it is literally impossible for them to have had any experience with it.  This dilutes the real reviews that come afterward and undermines the usefulness of the system as a whole.

3.) Nobody cares that you know the author.  If you are a friend or family member, there’s nothing to be gained by mentioning that.  If the author is already well-known, this will just come across as name-dropping; if (in the more likely scenario) the author is an unknown, it just seems pathetic.  A 5-star star review that says something that amounts to “Great job, sweetie!  Your dad and I are so proud of you!” is worse than no review at all.  The fact that your mom likes you and thinks it’s super neato that you wrote a book is NOT a convincing reason for me to purchase your work.  In fact, the presence of such a review will make me suspicious about the other positive reviews you have—I’ll wonder if they’re written by your cousins who are simply less lame at concealing their bias. If you’re going to review a book, REVIEW THE BOOK.  Don’t tell me what a great person the author is.

4.) Make an effort to use decent spelling and grammar.  Nobody is going to give you a grade on it, but a badly written positive review (e.g.,“if u dont like this book your a looser lol”) can actually reflect poorly on the book itself.

5.) Give a fair review of the material.  If you think it’s only a 4-star book, give it four stars—your review should give the author fair feedback, and give potential buyers your honest recommendation.  If you really hated it, feel free to give a low rating, but at least provide reasons for your dissatisfaction (see the next point).

6.) Be specific and substantive.  What would you want to know before spending money on a book by an unknown author?  Talk about the quality of the writing.  Talk about whether you found the story or character arcs interesting.  Talk about memorable scenes, or mention similar better-known works by way of comparison.  Don’t post spoilers, but feel free to comment in general terms (e.g., “the ending was pretty predictable”).  Does the work seem to have been properly edited and proofread?  If it’s targeted at a particular audience—kids, for instance—address how well you think it connects with them, or whether your own kids enjoyed it.  Mention things that might turn off certain readers—profanity, political slants, stereotypical characters, poor pacing, gimmicks, ‘Mary Sue’ protagonists, etc.

7.) Go forth and review books.

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How to Write an Effective Amazon Review for your Friend’s Book

by Tim
image

Amazon has a lot of good things going for it, and one feature that I use often is the customer reviews. Standing in a brick-and-mortar store and comparing two products side by side, it’s often hard to tell which is going to do the best job of meeting your needs.  If, however, you can access the experiences and advice of people who have purchased and used each product before, you’re much more likely to be confident of choosing the right one for you.  Many retail websites offer customer reviews, but it’s the big players like Wal-Mart and Amazon who have a large enough customer base to get lots of reviews, numbering in the thousands on some products, giving potential buyers a meaningful and well-rounded picture of how satisfactory the product is.  A product with 200+ reviews averaging 4.5 stars is much more attractive to me than one with a perfect 5-star rating based on only three reviews.  Unfortunately, on those less-frequently-reviewed items, ratings can be badly skewed up or down either by someone’s unscrupulous manipulation or by people’s genuine ignorance of how to properly participate in the system.  Believe it or not, there are people out there who sell positive reviews to Amazon vendors, propping up bad products by overwhelming the accurate negative reviews with positive hogwash.  And maybe some people have other reasons for giving tons of utterly worthless 5-star reviews, I don’t know.  But it’s disheartening to see someone like this—assuming it’s even an actual person rather than a bot—clumsily abusing the customer review system and yet somehow getting an 86% ‘helpful’ rating along the way:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1141DEY00149Z/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp

Meanwhile, some of the most annoying and least helpful reviews on Amazon are those in which the writer uses the *product* review page to gripe about a problem with shipping or other issues unconnected to the quality of the item for sale.  As an Amazon Marketplace seller, I’ve experienced the reverse situation – I received a mediocre review because the idiot buyer didn’t enjoy the used software I sold them, even though they freely acknowledged that I had described it accurately and shipped it quickly.

I don’t know any way to fix these crummy reviewers, but I do know we shouldn’t be adding to the problem by leaving gushing, insubstantial reviews for our friends’ books.  Wanting to help out a friend or family member by leaving them a good review is a laudable instinct, but there’s a right way to go about it, assuming you really want to help them.  Some things to remember:

1.) Leaving a review does matter.  Not only do other customers actually read reviews and have their purchasing decisions influenced by them, but Amazon itself uses the reviews to choose what products to highlight.  There are certain threshold numbers of reviews that trigger Amazon’s algorithms for featuring or recommending a given product on the pages of complementary and/or competing items.  You know those little lists that say “Customers who viewed this item also looked at…” or “Customers frequently bought this item with…”?  The number of reviews influences the likelihood of that happening with your friend’s product.  Another reason good reviews matter is that many of us will sort our search results in descending order by customer rating, meaning that the highly-rated items will be featured most prominently on the page and be more likely to get our attention.

2.) Base your review on an actual use of the product.  In other words, don’t post a 5-star review of a book you haven’t read (or a 1-star review, for that matter).   I shouldn’t even have to say that, but I do.  One recurring trend I’ve noticed on Amazon is the posting of reviews for highly-anticipated products that are still in the pre-order stage; you have a glut of customers who want to express an opinion on a product even though it is literally impossible for them to have had any experience with it.  This dilutes the real reviews that come afterward and undermines the usefulness of the system as a whole.

3.) Nobody cares that you know the author.  If you are a friend or family member, there’s nothing to be gained by mentioning that.  If the author is already well-known, this will just come across as name-dropping; if (in the more likely scenario) the author is an unknown, it just seems pathetic.  A 5-star star review that says something that amounts to “Great job, sweetie!  Your dad and I are so proud of you!” is worse than no review at all.  The fact that your mom likes you and thinks it’s super neato that you wrote a book is NOT a convincing reason for me to purchase your work.  In fact, the presence of such a review will make me suspicious about the other positive reviews you have—I’ll wonder if they’re written by your cousins who are simply less lame at concealing their bias. If you’re going to review a book, REVIEW THE BOOK.  Don’t tell me what a great person the author is.

4.) Make an effort to use decent spelling and grammar.  Nobody is going to give you a grade on it, but a badly written positive review (e.g.,“if u dont like this book your a looser lol”) can actually reflect poorly on the book itself.

5.) Give a fair review of the material.  If you think it’s only a 4-star book, give it four stars—your review should give the author fair feedback, and give potential buyers your honest recommendation.  If you really hated it, feel free to give a low rating, but at least provide reasons for your dissatisfaction (see the next point).

6.) Be specific and substantive.  What would you want to know before spending money on a book by an unknown author?  Talk about the quality of the writing.  Talk about whether you found the story or character arcs interesting.  Talk about memorable scenes, or mention similar better-known works by way of comparison.  Don’t post spoilers, but feel free to comment in general terms (e.g., “the ending was pretty predictable”).  Does the work seem to have been properly edited and proofread?  If it’s targeted at a particular audience—kids, for instance—address how well you think it connects with them, or whether your own kids enjoyed it.  Mention things that might turn off certain readers—profanity, political slants, stereotypical characters, poor pacing, gimmicks, ‘Mary Sue’ protagonists, etc.

7.) Go forth and put this into practice: http://www.amazon.com/Tortellini-Lauren-Orbison/dp/150015900X/

 

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"Mommy"

By Lauren

Mother’s Day has always been a struggle for me. The most obvious reason being, I’m not a mother. I wanted to be one very badly most of my life.  The only reason I liked the holiday at all and didn’t loathe it was because my mother is a wonderful, godly woman who sacrificed a lot for me growing up to keep me alive and she deserved to be honored.  My mother was my hero growing up. I wanted to be exactly like her. I wanted to teach like her. I wanted to have a family with the same number of kids like her. I wanted basically to copy my mom in every possible way I could. Knowing my Mom deserved it made the day a little easier.

But jealousy still clawed at me. 

I grew to hate and resent  Sunday on Mother’s Day, to where I was glad if I was sick because I could have an excuse that was perfectly valid to stay home and no one would ask me uncomfortable questions or look at me with pity.  I wished it fell on some other holiday because God deserved my worship no matter what day it coincided with. But at the same time, I was mad at God, too. For not giving me the fruit of the womb which was supposed to be a blessing from the Lord. But what I hated the most were sermons about motherhood and how to be a better mother on Sunday mornings. 

When I did come, I girded my loins, pasted a smile on my face, and had a backup plan if the sermon was about motherhood. I’d let my mind wander wherever it wanted. I’d read other passages, or think about something else entirely.  When the sermons weren’t about mothers, and applied to being a godly wife as well, I was eternally grateful.

But it’s impossible to know in advance before you get to church what the sermon will be about. (Unless you call the preacher ahead of time, or happen to peak over his shoulder reading his notes, both cases of which are unlikely.).

In my head I knew that we’d made the right choice not to have children due to being a carrier of my genetic mutation and the enormous possibility of bring a child worse off than myself into the world, that didn’t erase the longing.  The yearning I’d always had for someone to cling to my skirts and call me, “Mommy.”

Things are a little different now.

It still hurts, but not as deeply. I still weep but the tears aren’t enough fill a rain gauge.

Why not?

Clara and Philip.

Most of you know that I went to my sister’s house for a few weeks to stay with their family. My sister has two toddlers. Clara is four, Philip is two.

They were wonderful to play with. They were so excited to have me there and wanted me to come do everything with them. But shortly after I arrived, I became sick. I developed a 100.0 fever, which for most people isn’t significant, but for me, it saps me of any and all energy to function.  I played with them as best I could, and slept or sat staring into space the rest of the time, totally devoid of energy.

This went on for about a week until finally Leah took me to the doctor. As it turned out, I had an ear infection. I got some medicine and within a couple of doses was well on my way to feeling better. But as I was trying to get better, I had to rest a lot. As I was lying there on my makeshift bed of an air mattress and I thought about what it must be like for Leah everyday. Two people to feed, clothe, make sure they’re happy, healthy and whole. Whether you feel like it or not. And you don’t get to send them home to somebody else. If you’re lucky, your husband might be able to help take care of the kids, but he might not.

We talked about it together and she said, “Being sick is the worst part of being a mom.”

I thought about that for awhile. Babies are fun to hold and snuggle with. But they need care 24 hours a day. So do toddlers.  Leah’s life was busy and hectic with two rambunctious children all the time. Even when sick.

What must my mother’s life have been like? Caring for me while I was in the hospital. Working so we could have insurance so that I would be able to have the medical treatment I needed, whether she felt good or not?

ALL THE TIME. 

The longer I thought about it, the more I realized the life I thought I had wanted would never have been sustainable. Even if my children had been perfectly healthy, I wouldn’t have been. And they would eventually get sick and need me to care for them. And my poor immune system means I would catch what they had,  nine times out of ten.

Tim would be left alone to do it all. That’s not a helper. And my body would have eventually collapsed from the strain.

And suddenly I realized, I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to be like my sister, either. My mom was still my hero. But I was perfectly happy to be me.

I’m perfectly happy to be able to sleep in. I’m perfectly happy to have peace and quiet. I’m perfectly happy to have four cats in the bed to snuggle with and a husband who loves me who can take care of me and the house when I’m sick. 

My life isn’t the same as theirs. Mom is a teacher. Leah is a mother.

And as for me, I’m a writer and proud of it.







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Blessing In Disguise

By Lauren

Everyone’s been asking me about my secrets to all the weight I’ve lost.  I still have a good way to go before I reach my target weight. But I thought it was time to tell my story about how this journey all began.



So when we last left off, which was admittedly a long time ago, my mom posted about how often I was at the doctor and wondering if things could change for me. Well. After the last several months, I finally have an answer for her.

Some things can change and will change for the better. Some things won’t. There is a lot I can do to help myself. I’m not as helpless as I thought I was. How did I realize this?

Enter TMJ.

For those who do not know, TMJ is short for Temporomandibular joint dysfunction. What is that? Well short explanation: my jaw joints no longer work the way they’re supposed to. This was confirmed by MRI testing. The meniscus on both sides are displaced. One permanently, the other moves in and out.

What does that mean in layman’s terms?

I had to drastically change my way of eating. I was banned from crunchy foods. Crunchy foods include cookies, ice, chips, croutons, anything with nuts, my favorite candy bars, you name it, I couldn’t eat it.  To say I was upset about it is an understatement.

But it was a blessing in disguise. It sparked the beginning of change. It rewired my brain. A marvelous blessing.

One of the best things to ever happen to me.

If you have intense pain upon eating something, you sure will think twice before putting it in your mouth ever again. I dropped my 30-year-old ice crunching habit cold turkey on the spot. My parents had tried everything short of breaking my jaw to get me to stop this habit as a child. Nothing worked. I chewed all the sealant off my teeth once. They gave up after that.

All the things that I had loved as comfort foods were crunchy and horribly bad for me. I was eating way too much sugar and nothing at all resembling a healthy diet. I lost ten pounds alone just on the soft food diet.

Then I bought a writing workshop. That wouldn’t be too big of a deal, normally. I buy them fairly often. But this one. This one was different. This one changed my life.  What was it?

Holly Lisle’s workshop,  “How to Motivate Yourself.”

My writing was feeling a bit lackluster at the time and I needed something to get me going again. This was a writing workshop of hers I’d wanted to take for a while and in that course she took what she learned about weight loss and applied it to writing to show how your brain works to trick you into doing what’s bad for you.



What REALLY got my attention was her own brutal honesty and that she realized at some point she was suffocating herself and for what? A few potato chips and some candy because they feel good and she didn’t want to give them up? That was a huge whack on my head.


I can’t describe the feeling that came over me then.

I read the words in black and white on the video transcript. They were there on paper right in front of me. The video itself was in my ear at the same time. The same excuses she’d been using, I’d been using.

I was doing the exact same thing.

Suffocating myself for nothing.

That workshop plus some cold, hard science about my genetic condition made me really understand that I had to change. 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome varies a lot among patients. I began to research my condition more.  In my research, I read that our lifespan depends a lot on quality of care. With good quality of care, we can have a normal lifespan. I have the best surgeons in the world at UAB. They are excellent. But excellent quality of care did not mean being 70 pounds overweight.

I began to be really uncomfortable. But what really was the real kicker was that with poor quality of care, the median age of life expectancy was 41 years.

41 years!!!!!!!

When you’re a kid, 41 years old seems ancient, but standing on this side of 32, I gulped. That was only 9 years! That wasn’t nearly long enough to write all of the stories in my head and to have the career I wanted! 70 pounds of extra weight was definitely poor quality of care. Even the best of surgeons couldn’t fix that for me! We’d looked into it before. Because of my extensive medical history already, the fewer surgeries I have the better. Gastric surgery is irreversible and my doctors did not want me doing it. The only one they would approve for me at the time was the lap band, because it could be taken out in the future if necessary. But the lap band severely limited the medications I could take.

Surgeons weren’t the answer to fixing this problem.

Only I could.

My breath left me. (Temporarily.)

I knew I had to change. And change drastically. I’d lost the first ten pounds without trying.

The rest, I lost the hard way.

I began eating lots of protein. Chicken being my preference because it is soft and easy to chew. I used the canned stuff at first, which helped with portion control. Then I started looking at the sodium counts of everything in my food. Yikes!! They were terrible! I began to read labels. We started swapping our pantry items for low sodium stuff. It had been doctor ordered by my cardiologist years ago but I’d ignored it at as unimportant at the time.

I gave up Dr. Pepper. It took several weeks of gradually weaning off it, going little by little, until I was finally pouring the can just out of habit and throwing the rest away. When I realized I was doing this, I decided it was time to drop it completely. And I did.

Now I drink water.

I gave up most sugar. My one small treat has been mints. Because they’re soft and mint has the added benefit of calming me down.  I can eat a couple of them and have just enough to have a little something sweet.

I gave up junk food, microwaved dinners, most bread, and pasta.

Let me tell you. THIS WAS HARD.

The withdrawals were horrible. It was an emotional roller coaster. My panic attacks became even worse.

I fortunately had a dear friend help guide me through this intense process and hold my hand to hold me accountable. She pushed me to better myself. My family members had tried their very best to get me to do the same thing. My parents had offered me a trip at one point to anywhere I wanted to go in the world, if I lost the weight. I never took them up on it. I had to hit rock bottom before I could begin to climb up.

I started exercising.

Starting exercising was very difficult. When I first began exercising, I had so little arm strength I could barely lift a pound. I used green bean cans in the kitchen and began practicing lifting those. I walked for a few minutes standing in place also in my kitchen. I put up a load of laundry piece by piece. I couldn’t carry the basket, it was too heavy.  But I did it.

And gradually, over time, I got stronger. I graduated from 1 pound hand weights to 3 pounds. Now I can carry a small load of laundry. I can do a very small load of dishes.

Within the last year, I’ve lost 36 pounds. I’ve gone from 187 to 151.

I was wearing size 18. Now I’m at size 12.


Here is what I look like now. The picture on the left is Before. The picture on the right is me Today. :)  For the record this is the exact same shirt. I did not order a smaller size for this photo. I did put my hair up in a ponytail, though. :)



 

For years I convinced myself that I didn’t need to eat healthy. My body was so messed up with its missing parts, my diet wasn’t going to fix anything. But it has.


Losing weight hasn’t solved all my problems. I still get sick a lot. For weeks at a time. I still visit the doctor fairly regularly. But it has helped a lot. I have more positions to sleep in at night, now. I can move around more and I don’t have to spend all of my days sitting in bed like an invalid.

With the increase in energy, I’ve had more energy to write. I’m working on my books. I have at least three projects in various stages of progress on my desk.

 I’ve been posting on Twitter and making friends with other writers, teachers, people who love science fiction and fantasy as much as I do, agents and editors, too.

Sometimes bad things happen, but they can turn out to have good results. They can be wonderful blessings in disguise.

"All things work together for good for them that love the Lord."  Romans 8:28.

_________________

@miaokuancha said: I’m so overjoyed to see you blogging again! Look at you shining in your picture, too. You go girl!

Thanks!! It’s not been easy. Neither has been trying to figure out how to reply to comments on tumblr, lol. I’m still fairly new to using this. I’m more familiar with Livejournal.

It’s so good to see you and know you’re still reading! I’m on Twitter, too, btw. :D I post there much more regularly. I’m lmorbison on Twitter.


@bookishdea reblogged this from you and added:

You look wonderful! How are you? I’m sorry to hear that about your jaw, but I am glad that you’re feeling

Thank you so very much. It was definitely not fun and I kinda get the point now that I need to eat healthy and would like my jaw back. :P It’s pretty difficult to find vegetables that are soft enough I can eat, too, but I’m managing. :) I’m pretty stubborn and it helped rewire me, so it wasn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things. :)

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