Home renovations, pt. 1

Hard to believe it’s been since April that I’ve posted here. My entire summer, except for one glorious week of vacation on the Oregon coast, has been consumed by home renovation projects. Like 50 of them going on simultaneously. And, as I’m sure any of you know who have renovated your homes yourselves, it has not exactly been fun, although I have enjoyed certain parts of it. We’re coming up on October here real quick and we still have projects left to finish and a couple, mainly one massive one, that we haven’t even started yet. Anxiety? Yes. Some doubt that we’re really going to pull it off? Yes. Sleepless nights and some avoidance of reality? Check and check!

Entry/Kitchen BEFORE
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Entry/Kitchen AFTER

This process has provided me with a lot of “opportunities for growth” in the areas of patience, acceptance, compromise, and letting go. Let me just say that my default when things do not go as planned is denial, blame, and negativity. I have to fight real hard not to let those things overtake me, and I’ve been up and down with this a lot lately.

When we started planning for these renovations back in December we were relying on misinformation from a moron at the bank who over promised on some things. Like WAY over promised. By the time everything was finalized, I had already had to let go of my dream bathroom remodel with a soaker tub, my hardwood floors, my cedar hot tub on the back deck, and later my new kitchen appliances. And as projects started to run over budget, I’ve had to let go of a few more things I had planned to get done. And while I may sound somewhat ungrateful, I really do love what we’ve been able to do so far. It’s kind of amazing to scribble plans out on paper and then see them come to life. There is just a part of me that revolts against having something I want taken away. Maybe that just means I’m a big baby. HOWEVER, I CAN actually reason like an adult, it just takes me a beat or two. So basically, starting in the Spring, I have been going through a cycle of 1. Outrageous excitement 2. Disappointment 3. Acceptance 4. Gratitude. I guess the universe just thought I could use some practice at this? Thanks, universe. Now leave my remodel the f*#% alone!

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Living Room BEFORE
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Living Room AFTER (for now)

What we have been able to do so far is:

  • Install new wood-look laminate flooring and new custom baseboards throughout the common areas upstairs
  • Replace carpet on the stairs and in the downstairs bedrooms
  • Modify cabinetry in the kitchen to make it more open
  • Install quartz countertops in the kitchen along with new kitchen sink, faucet, and light fixtures
  • Remove walls in the kitchen and entry and reconfigure closet in the kitchen
  • Tear off and rebuild a new deck and staircase on the front of the house
  • Stain front deck and stairs
  • Order custom metal railings for deck and staircase
  • Modify cabinetry in the living room
  • Install new French door from living room to back yard
  • Tile master bathroom, paint existing cabinetry, install new hardware and accessories
  • Tile new backsplash in the kitchen
  • Remove shrubs in front of house and replace with pavers
  • New area rug in the living room
  • New ceramic planters for front stairs
  • New baseboard heaters in living room and kitchen

So yeah, really does seem I’m an ingrate when I look at that list!

Like I said, there’s still more to do, but the inside of the house is basically done and that’s a giant relief for me. No more microwaving shit in the living room. No more having to hang out in my bedroom because it’s the only place we have furniture. And most importantly, no more sharing a bathroom with boys!

Stay tuned for home renovations part two…….

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A surprise message of hope from the Pope

It’s been a while since I posted last. I’ll be honest, I’ve been going through a “weary” phase. I’ve grown tired of waking up every morning, and checking my Facebook to find news of whatever new terrifying atrocity our White House has been responsible for. The attacks on our environment, our healthcare, on immigrants and refugees, on Muslims, among others. I’ve grown tired of calling, writing, and emailing my legislatures to receive back confirmation that my republican legislatures do not actually give a shit about representing me. I kept asking myself every morning, how much worse can it get? And then the next morning finding out and asking myself again.

I took my personal Facebook app off of my phone a couple of months ago, because, honestly, I needed a break. And I’ve been having an internal struggle with myself ever since. On the one hand, I felt it necessary for my own sanity. On the other, I kept feeling like I was just avoiding reality. That it’s my duty as a citizen to stay informed (of actual facts), to inform others, and that I was shirking that responsibility. However, I’m a true believer in self-care. I know that I am not capable of being of service to others if I’m not taking care of myself. So after a much-needed break, I reinstalled my Facebook app with a renewed sense of healthy self-care. I cut back on a lot of the news and political accounts I was following so I could have a better balance between actual social interactions with people I care about and staying informed on news and current events. I don’t have cable, I don’t watch the evening news and I don’t order the newspaper, so Facebook has become my main source of news and events. This makes it very important to me that I only follow reputable news organizations that report facts and, in general, I’m trying real hard to keep shit positive.

I’m also trying real hard to figure out what it is that I can do to make a difference. Because, I can tell you honestly, that contacting my republican legislature in Idaho is not making a damn bit of difference. Enter, this guy…..

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Don’t you wish this guy was your Grandpa?!
On Facebook this morning, I watched a great TED talk of Pope Francis titled “Why the only future worth building includes everyone”. I’m not Catholic, I’m not even religious, but I’ve admired Pope Francis since he took the throne at the Vatican and I think he carries a great message for all of us humans. He brings up three messages in his talk:

First, that we are not alone, we are all connected. That “we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone…….everything is connected….even science points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else”.

Second, is the importance of solidarity and hope… “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion…How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods, but first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people”. He says, “We have so much to do and we must do it together…Through the darkness of today’s conflicts each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around”

Third, Revolution! “The revolution of Tenderness…..Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other…..to listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need…..Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you and will ruin the other. Through humility and concrete love….power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.  The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, or great leaders, of big companies. Yes they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.”

Now, I could get all judgey and argue that our White House, our President, and it’s supporters could really use this message (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), but I have a feeling that is not the point of what the Pope is saying. What I hear him saying is that we have to practice humility on all fronts. That we need to see all others as equals, as a part of the ‘us’. That includes the President and his supporters. If we keep falling into the “us versus them” trap, we are just further harming ourselves.

I get so upset when I think about how our administration is trying to put policies into place that put white, wealthy Americans and profits of corporations ahead of human decency, and the protection of our planet. In my mind, there is one race. The human race and we are all part of it. Equally. There is no religion, no skin color, no economic status, no nationality that is more important than any other. And there is one planet. There is no planet B! If we destroy this planet, it doesn’t fucking matter who lives where and who’s right or wrong. We’ll all be toast together. So this is where it get’s tricky for me guys. Because it kind of looks like I’m saying my ideas are better than theirs. I’m right and they’re wrong. And isn’t this just another form of us versus them? Or…. is there some transcendent, universal, cosmic right and wrong? And don’t I want to be on the right side of that? This is what I still struggle with. How do I stand against oppression without standing in judgement of the oppressor? Is it enough to just have compassion for the oppressor? For is not the oppressor in some way suffering? Oppression, in my opinion, is a symptom of fear, and fear is a form of suffering. There are many other symptoms of fear and we all have fear in some form or another, not one of us is completely free of it. And it follows that we all have symptoms of fear in some form or another. My fear makes me judgey and self centered. How is that any better than oppressive? Well….

These are answers I don’t have. I’m just asking the questions. And I guess I will keep asking them until I find the answers or until I no longer feel that I need them. In the meantime, I will take what Pope Francis says to heart and I will try to practice more humility, more tenderness, and more solidarity that my candle might burn a little brighter and snuff out a little more of the darkness. I cannot control another’s willingness to practice humility, tenderness, solidarity. Only my own. And for now, that is something I feel I can do to make a difference. If even a small one. 

Practicing Meditation

Establishing a regular and sustainable meditation practice is something that does not come easily or naturally for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to me, and during the times in my life I have had a consistent practice, I have reaped the benefits; I have felt more calm, more grounded, less anxious, more creative and more balanced. This is a common theme for me, though. I start something that makes me feel really good about myself, about my life, and I do it long enough to feel like I don’t need to be doing it anymore.  It doesn’t matter if it’s exercise, prayer, practicing my recovery program, meditation, meal planning, or cleaning. And once I stop doing whatever it is that’s working for me, I eventually get into enough pain to motivate myself to pick up the practice again.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to put forth more of an effort in reestablishing a regular meditation practice and I’ve finally taken some action around it in the last few weeks. The effects are pretty instantaneous. Meditation, for me, is a way to tap into that inner resource which is available to us all. This inner resource is like a direct line to the collective consciousness of the universe. It’s infinite, it’s boundless, it’s peaceful, it’s sanity. And once I tap into it, my thoughts and actions become more inspired, my intuition elevated. I feel more loving toward, and less judgmental of others. I feel more hopeful, more creative, more motivated, and more forgiving of myself and others. It’s really quite magical.

When I decided to make more of an effort this year at a regular meditation practice, I thought about the things that have helped me establish and sustain one in the past. For me, the most important thing has been to have a designated spot in my home for my practice. It doesn’t have to be a large area. When I was most consistent at it, I just had a little table in my bedroom next to the wall with a cushion I stored underneath. And I did not have the ginormous bedroom I have today. It was actually quite small. But it worked. Having this sacred space for my practice made it so much easier to actually sit down on a regular basis and actually use the space for it’s intended purpose.

As a beginner at meditation, I found it really helpful to use some guided meditation CDs until I got the hang of things. I kept a portable CD player and earphones in a drawer in my meditation table along with a few different CDs that I found helpful. This was before the time of phone apps – there are so many meditation apps you can get on your phone now. It didn’t take long for me to memorize a few of these guided meditations, and then I was able to do it on my own, although I still like to use the guided ones.

Also helpful has been the use of candlelight and incense. There’s just something about what this does to my senses that helps me enter a meditative state of mind so much easier. I’ve been using a sage smudge recently and every time I smell that burnt sage, I feel more relaxed. It’s like a mental cue for me now.

I’m a big believer in energy. Like, in the energy of things. The energy of people. Also, I like rocks. They’re cool. So I have a small collection of rocks, gems, and crystals that I use in my practice as well. There are so many different beautiful rocks! And, if you’re open to it, they all seem to have a different energy. They’ve been a good tool to just kind of elevate things.

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meditation zone

Right now, my meditation zone is set up around the coffee table in the seating area of my bedroom. I have a vintage rattan table filled with things I love and things I use for my practice. I keep my rocks and crystals in a brass framed glass box that I bought at a rummage sale. I have a porcelain tray that I bring my rocks out onto. I also have some candles that I light, a small round wooden box my husband gave me for a wedding anniversary that I keep my sobriety coin in, and a ceramic pedestal bowl that a dear friend made for me that I use for my sage smudge. I recently added a plant to the mix, a shed antler that was found in our forest, and some vintage brass coasters that my sister in law gave to me for Christmas. I have two options for seating: a low woven footstool and a woven meditation pad I recently scored at the goodwill. There’s a Himalayan salt lamp on the dresser I usually turn on and I still use my little portable disc player. Lately I’ve been listening to some chants recorded of the Dali Llama that a friend gave to me several years ago.

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rocks!

It’s been such a wonderful thing to get back into a regular meditation practice. I don’t do it every day, but I also don’t beat myself up for not doing it every day. I do my best. And my best today is much better than it was just a few weeks ago. The rewards are plentiful, and it usually takes me no longer than 15 minutes. Not a huge commitment, especially considering the return on investment.

If you’ve been thinking of starting up a meditation practice, I highly recommend it. Set about finding a sacred place for your practice, include the things you find most helpful and meaningful to you, and get after it. It’s pure magic! And tell me how it goes!

The Fox and the Rabbit, a book review

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. My first book was titled “The Fox and the Rabbit”. I was five years old when I wrote it. It had an illustrated book cover, a title page, and everything. I remember it taking days to write it, it was a secret project I would work on at night in bed after my parents thought I was asleep. I wanted it to be a surprise. When I finally finished it, I took it out to my parents to share it with them. I still remember where my dad was sitting at the dining room table after dinner that night. My mom came in from the kitchen to listen to my dad read it. As he started reading, I thought my dad was going to die. I had never seen him laugh so hard in my life. He could barely continue to speak the words from the pages he was laughing so hard. I remember being impressed with myself that I was getting such an emotional response to my story, but I couldn’t understand at the time what he found so funny. It wasn’t really meant to be a funny story. But when I read the story today, it’s pretty clear what he found so humorous. First of all, my spelling as a five year old. I spelled squirrels “scwrs”. Secondly, the banter between this fox and rabbit was pretty comical coming from a five year old. That rabbit was a total asshole.

This story ended up being one of those childhood memories that no one in my family ever forgot. The story goes like this…..

There’s a fox. And a rabbit. They live together. The fox is, according to the story, clumsy and the rabbit is smart. The rabbit orders the fox around and the fox goes out to do the rabbit’s bidding. Here’s where it gets interesting……The fox, as I interpret it today, appears to be pretending he’s stupid in order to defy the rabbit’s wishes and do whatever he wants. The rabbit sends the fox out for “scwrs” for breakfast. The fox brings home fish. The rabbit scolds the fox, the fox plays dumb, like he really thought they were squirrels and the rabbit sends him back out. The fox comes home with candy (from a candy shop downtown) and gets scolded again. Again, the fox plays dumb like he really thought the candy was squirrels, and gets sent back out for squirrels. The fox goes out one more time and finally brings home the squirrels. He acts like he’s really proud of himself, like he didn’t think he could do it. The rabbit agrees that he didn’t think the fox could do it either because of his being so dumb. And stupid.

On page 4, we find rabbit yelling at fox to wash the dishes after their squirrel breakfast. Fox washes the clean dishes instead of the dirty ones (but did he really?) and gets reminded by rabbit of how dumb he is. I’m wondering if fox washed any dishes at all or just said he did. When fox denies he is dumb, rabbit wants to make him a bet, which fox refuses, and so rabbit calls him scared. Am not. Are too. Am not. Are too. The end.

I told you that rabbit was an asshole. He’s also a bully.

I do not recall ever having been bullied when I was five, except perhaps by my older sister who was kind of just being an older sister. I do find it interesting how my five year old brain came up with a coping mechanism for this poor fox. It seems to me that the fox was actually the clever one and the rabbit was getting played. I’m guessing that the fox didn’t like squirrels. He liked fish. And candy. He’s like, “hey asshole, if you want me to go get you shit for breakfast, we’re getting what I want first!” And his playing dumb, I’m guessing, spares him the wrath of a rabbit who would ever suspect the fox could be cleaver enough to knowingly deceive him.

Upon further analysis, this reminds me all too much of a negative voice I continue to hear in my head today. The one that tells me I’m not smart enough, I don’t work hard enough, that I’m just not enough. Thankfully, after a lot of growing up, a lot of work in recovery (and therapy), this voice is much quieter today than it was in the past. But it will always be there, just waiting for an opportunity. A weak moment. When I fail at something. When I feel rejected or dismissed. After reading this story again, I’m inspired by my five year old self. My plan of action when this moment of weakness occurs is to outsmart it. Like the Fox. That clumsy and clever fox.

Here are the original pages, if you can decipher them…..

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Love and tolerance in the face of oppression

It’s been four days since the election and it’s finally sinking in. All of the changes I need to make, all of the action I need to take, and how tragic this really is not only for my country, but for my family. Relationships with people I love have been forever changed by this. This election was about so much more than the economy, than politics. Yes, the stock market is up 60 points. I don’t give a shit. Not when a gay student on campus has his car spray painted with the word “faggot” a day after the election results, not when all of the spiders in our society start crawling out from beneath their rocks thinking they have a free pass for hate crime. Do you know why they think they have a free pass? Because 60 million American people gave them one. 60 million American people expressed with their votes for Trump that they will look the other way when they see racism, sexism, hatred, and discrimination. They expressed with their votes for Trump that the economy, and their finances, and our broken political system are more important than human decency. And many (but not all) of them expressed with their votes their hatred for people who differ from them.

I have done a lot of work around forgiveness during my life. Through my recovery, I have learned that carrying resentment is fatal to me. We have a process in recovery for identifying our resentments, analyzing what they stem from, how they affect us, and most importantly, what part of them we need to own. So I’m looking closely at this. My part is that I have allowed myself to live inside a bubble. Shielding myself from reality, because I guess it was just too painful to watch. I don’t like feeling anger. It’s uncomfortable, and so I unfollow Facebook friends when they post right wing bullshit that makes me angry. I am responsible for that. I have sat silently while injustice is happening around me, because I don’t like confrontation. It’s uncomfortable. I am responsible for that.

We all have a set of core values that guide our decisions in life. Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and many others…..people with great influence in our society stand opposed to all of my core values. Support for these people stands opposed to all of my core values. This is not just about how I think our country’s money should be spent. I’m talking about the core values that guide my decisions in life, that make me who I am. My instinct in reaction to the people and policies that stand opposed to my core values is one of abhorrence. And that feels really uncomfortable. It keeps me up at night. I experience physical anxiety over it. And I’m pretty sure the only way through it is acceptance and forgiveness. Not revenge. Not discriminating against Trump supporters. Revenge is not justice.

My spiritual views are always evolving and they’re often not clear, but a muddled collection of ideas I don’t fully understand. One thing that is clear and always will be, is that we are all connected. We are all part of the same universal energy. We are all from the same source. Even the Trump supporters. Even the bigots. Even Donald Trump himself. I believe these people and their policies and beliefs and fears are the broken parts of our collective. Broken does not necessarily mean good or bad. There is no judgement, it just means broken. Usually where things are spiritually broken, there is spiritual pain. There are parts within us all that are broken. And my job now is to find those broken parts of myself and heal them. And what I have learned, again through my recovery, is that the way I heal them is through action. I have to find the capacity within myself to accept and forgive. To not stand in judgement of those broken pieces. I have to choose love and tolerance. I have to find within me compassion for those in pain. And when I do, when I identify and heal these broken parts of myself, I’m helping to heal the collective.

Healing myself will help, but it is not enough. I will no longer sit silently when I see injustice. If I see sexism, I’m calling it out. If I see racism, I’m calling it out. When I see hatred or discrimination of any kind, I’m calling it out. If we do not make visible these broken parts of our collective, they cannot heal.

We will survive this presidency. We have, as a nation, survived worse. It’s going to be painful, and our hearts are going to continue to feel broken every time we see in the news another hate crime spurred by the outcome of this election. But we will survive. And I have tremendous faith that the world is changing. This election has brought out and shined a light on all of the fear around this change, but fearing the change will not stop it.  It is already in motion. And it is too powerful to be persuaded by fear. Just ask the millennials. I have faith that this election has been the last gasp of a generation that is terrified of change. Is terrified to lose the privilege it doesn’t even consciously realize it has.  

I went to my first protest today and it was deeply moving.  There were hundreds of people peacefully gathered in Friendship Square in downtown Moscow. People took turns speaking to the crowd. People stood up and said I love you. No matter who you are, no matter your sexual preference, the color of your skin, your gender, or your immigration status. I love you and I will stand with you in the face of oppression. On my way back to my car after the protest, carrying my Love trumps Hate sign, a truck full of Trump supporters yelled at me “Go Trump, Fuck you”. This was a test for me. And one I feel I passed. Instead of yelling back at them, which was my first instinct, I was able to pause. I practiced restraint of tongue. I reached within myself to find compassion for them. After all, it has to be painful for them to carry that much hatred.

The biggest challenge for me right now is that I have to somehow find a way to stand up to oppression without standing in judgement of the oppressor. I do not know how to do this. As soon as I figure it out, I will let you know! Until then, may the force be with you.

The hygge life

I only this year learned of the Danish word and concept of hygge (pronounced “hoogah”). I have no idea how this information escaped me for my whole adult life (especially considering my Scandinavian heritage), but I’m pretty stoked I finally have it. For those like me who made it to 2016 before discovering this word and it’s meaning, I’ll do my best to explain. While there is no direct translation, the closest word we seem to have in the english language is “coziness”, although it means so much more than that. In essence, it means creating a warm and cozy atmosphere to enjoy life’s simple pleasures with the people you love. The Swedes and Norwegians have their own translations of hygge. It’s an important part of the Scandinavian culture. And it makes sense. It’s from these Scandinavian cultures with long, dark and cold winters that this concept was born. It’s a way not only to cope with, but to actually enjoy and delight in the circumstances of those long winters. A group of friends and family gathered around a table full of candlelight and lively discussion, enjoying some mulled wine and a warm meal. Curling up with a book and your favorite blanket in front of the fire, a perfect cup of coffee in your hand. That’s hygge.

I wish someone had told me of this sooner! I’m closing in on my fourth winter in Northern Idaho. The first one was brutal. The last two have been a bit more mild, but still long and dark with plenty of snow. All three have found me at some point feeling depressed and hopeless. When it’s dark at 4:00 in the afternoon and zero degrees outside for like months, my perspective on life changes. And not in a good way. By mid March, when the snow is still falling, I start weeping a little on the inside (and sometimes on the outside). It’s usually followed up by a bitter Instagram post with some expletives. And while I’d love to be able to order some resort wear online and fly off to some tropical paradise for a couple of weeks, that’s just not in the budget for me right now. So perhaps a new attitude and a shit load of candlelight will do the trick. I’m willing and ready to give it a go.

I’m not sure what this winter has in store as far as weather is concerned (they’re saying it’s going to be a wet one here in the Northwest which means a lot of snow up here on the ridge), but I can tell you that I plan to fully embrace the hygge life. I’m determined to keep a mindful and positive perspective. My candles have been purchased, my vintage inventory has been raided for all things cozy, my living room and dining room have been rearranged, my sewing room is ready for me to craft the shit out of something, and my mind is prepared to embrace this long, dark and cold winter.  Maybe I’ll even get into the Holiday spirit this year (it’s been a while).

If you want some hygge inspiration of your own for this winter, check out my pinterest board. It’s full of all things cozy and warm. If you have any hygge inspiration for me, I’d love for you to share! Leave your comments below. And if you’re looking for candlestick holders to live out your hygge dreams, I almost always have some in stock so check out Douglas Vintage.

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So my home is ready for winter, my mind is prepared for a new perspective, and the snow should be arriving soon, so it looks like I made it in time. I’ll let you know in the spring how it turns out.

 

On Productive Procrastination

There occasionally arises some task in my life that, for whatever reason, I really dread doing.  It’s usually something pretty simple, like making dinner or doing the laundry.  Sometimes it’s exercising.  The dread I feel around doing these things ebbs and flows, meaning, I move in and out of acceptance that these are things I need to do as a human.

The thing I have been dreading more than anything the last several months, the thing that makes laundry seem fun, is going to my basement to take product photos for my Etsy shop and subsequently listing said products for sale.  When I opened my shop over two years ago, I loved taking photos of my inventory and getting it all listed.  It was enjoyable. I don’t know why or when my enjoyment crossed over to dread, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really have to do with the task itself, but this has become the mother of all dreaded tasks for me. I will gladly perform all of the other dreaded tasks in my life to avoid this.  I will make up new dreaded tasks and complete them to avoid this.

This is what my husband and I refer to as “productive procrastination”.  You know, where you procrastinate so hard on something and so willfully avoid the thing you’re most needing and most dreading to get done by being insanely productive in other areas of your life? Do you know how long I have been wanting, thinking, talking about starting a blog?  Long, long time.  And here I am, so willfully avoiding getting my ass out of bed and going downstairs to shoot product photography that I’m finally starting the blog I’ve been wanting to start for like ever.

And so it is.  And so here it is.  The Blog.