#LemonFaceChallenge for PCOS!

I’ve been nominated by a lot of awesome ladies to do the #LemonFaceChallenge for PCOS awareness! Many, many apologies that it took me FOR-EV-ER to get to it!

This fun, easy challenge was devised by the wonderful PCOSgurl, a twitter account you should definitely be following by the way. Why lemons? Because women with PCOS are getting a “sour deal,” and when life gives you lemons? Make lemonade.

But Queen Bey has the monopoly on the #carwindowsmashchallenge so let’s stick with the lemon face. Mine’s pretty tame. As kids my sisters and I would see who could remain the most straight-faced while eating a lemon, and not to brag, I was pretty good at that game.

Anyway, I do have PCOS. I’ve shared my story here before, but I’ll sum it up real quick: while being treated for endo, Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS was mentioned in passing, but I didn’t learn much about it until we started trying to have a baby. One symptom of PCOS is irregular periods, and no period means no egg was released, which means no baby. Over two years, we tried a few kinds of fertility medication, at home injections to stimulate the release of an egg, and finally an IUI which resulted in our first son, Junior.

The upside? Hey, no need for birth control, right? Yeah no… because with PCOS, your body can release eggs, just you know… randomly. When it feels like it. Which resulted in our second (surprise!) son, Finny.

And of course, having both PCOS and endometriosis means that periods are god-awful (when they show up) ((which is completely unpredictable)). And frankly, normal periods are a “sour deal” all by themselves that half the world is cursed with. Let’s not play. I mean sure, it’s a beautiful, life-giving miracle, but so is labor and they both suck. So on top of having to have periods in general, PCOS is an extremely sour deal.

Also, having PCOS and IBS means that my relationship with food is rocky. Appetite comes and goes, and it’s really, really difficult for me to gain weight. I’ve been underweight for much of my life. I had a baby a month ago and I’m down to my “healthy” weight, but before I got pregnant I was 10 lbs underweight so

To find out more about PCOS and the lemon face challenge, check out PCOSchallenge.org . I hereby challenge all of YOU to snap a quick pic or video of you taking a big sour bite of lemon and link to your social media/blog posts in the comments!

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Seeing Invisible Illness in Modern Storytelling

Illness is portrayed in many modern stories, and most often, the illness is invisible. This allows for the hero or heroine to remain beautiful – something our society values above all else. The one thing these ten stories have in common is that somewhere in the plot, there is sickness. Illness often appears as an antagonist inside the hero, and only rarely as something the hero must come to live with. Sometimes, the illness is not the hero’s, but it belongs to someone the hero loves. In this case, illness is the catalyst that drives the action. Sometimes it is the villain who is sick, and the illness drives the acts of evil in the story. In any case, the story is somehow about illness, life with illness, or overcoming illness. No matter how illness is used, there are positive and negative social implications.

The Pros

There are many pros to the ways illness is used in modern storytelling. Having illness figure prominently in the plots of films and TV shows has one over-arching positive impact, and that, of course, is awareness. The fact that people hear about these invisible conditions is a huge contribution to the world of someone with an illness. It is much easier to find support and acceptance when people can say “Oh, I’ve heard of that.” Storytelling shows us the trials and tribulations of living with illness. Some may rise to the occasion, like the heroes, and some may become corrupted by it, like the villains. Either way, storytelling offers insight into the world of someone struggling with illness.

The Cons

As great as awareness is, there is also a lot of bad coming from the way illness is currently portrayed in modern storytelling. Obviously, the fact that many villains are driven by some kind of illness does not really paint a pretty picture of those of us who carry the burden of illness. Generally, ill villains become evil by stopping at nothing to get their “cure.” But even the ill heroes and heroines have some cons to them. In these stories, is illness too glamorous? Too melodramatic? Usually it is, at best, unrealistic. At worst, it beautifies being sick until it ranks with hubris or some other trite trait. You know the saying “Some are born heroes. Others have heroism thrust upon them.” This is the way that heroic illness is often presented. What are the implications of equating fighting illness with heroism? Is this a realistic view? What are the problems here?

How To Be Sick

By including illness in the plot of these stories, the author does seem to imply some kind of advice on how one should be sick. In some cases, the author is sick, and in some cases not. Generally, though, an image is painted of how a sick person “should” be. The archetypes are not realistic, and perhaps even harmful to real people who are sick. There are basically three types of sick people in stories:

  • –  The Hospitalized Angel – usually a beautiful and innocent female character who is totally helpless.
  • –  The Tragically Ill Hero – the one who stands up to fight their illness, usually alone, and usually triumphant. Generally finds a cure.
  • –  The Desperate Villain – usually sympathetic and male. Will do anything to find a cure to his illness.

How to Be Well

Inversely, as these stories offer advice, both good and bad, on how to be sick, they also offer advice on how to be well. There is really only one person in a sick person’s life in movies, right? Their hero. Their champion. The person who rides out into the sunset, vowing to find a cure. Sure, when a Western hero does that for his little sister, we all cheer. But there is one thing about this that is very destructive. Say you are a healthy young man, and you have started dating this pretty girl. You like her a lot, and as the relationship gets more and more serious, you find out that she has an incurable, lifelong disease. Suddenly, you realize that the world will expect you to be her hero. Can you devote your life to that? Do you want to? How terrible must it feel to know that anyone you get involved with will have to take that place – the sick person’s champion? Wouldn’t you rather be a Tragically Ill Hero, and go off by yourself to find a cure?

What’s the main problem here? This entire scenario revolves around finding a cure. Rarely, if ever, does a couple in a story learn to live with illness.

Change It

I want people to look at these stories and, after weighing the pros and cons, and examining the stereotypes, decide what parts of the story are valuable, and think about what would need to change. Stories about illness should convey illness realistically, and offer help or comfort to those dealing with it. Some of these stories may not need changes. Others may only need a small tweak. Others still may need to be rewritten completely or altogether thrown out. I want to get people talking, get people writing, and get more stories out there about illness. I want stories that raise awareness and bring light and hope back into the lives of those who suffer.

The Stories

Repo! The Genetic Rock Opera

Synopsis: In a dystopian future, the human race almost died out from an epidemic of organ failure. After GeneCo., a company run by Rotti Largo and his three children, begins financing organ transplants, mankind is saved…but when the repossession of organs is legalized, Repo Men begin hunting their patrons down and brutally murdering them to re-attain the organs.

Nathan Wallace works for Rotti Largo as a Repo Man after the death of his wife, Marni. Rotti, who also loved her, has convinced Nathan that her death was his fault, and uses this to blackmail him into being a Repo Man. Nathan and Marni’s daughter, Shiloh, has the same grave illness her mother had, and has never left her own house. She lives a very sheltered life. She has no outward signs of illness except hair loss, which she hides by wearing a wig.

When Rotti finds out that he has a fatal disease, he decides it is time to collect and exact his ultimate revenge on Nathan for winning Marni. He lures Shiloh away from her home, promising a cure. Shiloh meets him at the Opera, where it is revealed to her that her father is a Repo Man and a murderer.

SPOILERS (skip to next title if you want to keep the ending a surprise)

Not only that, but he has also kept her sick when he could have cured her – he wanted to keep her locked away at home, sick, to protect her. Rotti hands Shiloh a gun and tells her to kill her treacherous father. She refuses, and Rotti kills him himself. As she holds her dying father in her arms, she assures him that all is forgiven, and leaves the theater with her head held high, vowing to find a cure and be the master of her own fate.

How To Train Your Dragon

In a Viking world where dragons fly, a village lives in constant fear of the onslaught of attacks from wild dragons. Children are raised to hunt and kill dragons to protect the village. As a rite of passage, each child must fight and kill a dragon to be considered an adult.

One outcast boy, Hiccup, finds a rare type of dragon sleeping in the woods. Seeing this as his only chance to kill a dragon, he attempts to kill it. He finds, however, that he does not want to. He observes the dragon from afar, and realizes after a few days that the reason it is stuck in the forest is that it’s tail is injured and it cannot properly fly.

Hiccup begins to befriend the dragon, gaining its trust. He starts trying to train him, and at the same time, he works on designing a kind of fan to attach to his tail so that he may fly again. When the Village decides to send a crew to the Dragon’s island, Hiccup shows the youth of the village how to train dragons, and together they help save the dragons’ home.

SPOILERS

In the climactic battle, Hiccup is grievously injured. He ends up losing part of his leg and must build himself a mechanism to walk again. He and his dragon are rehabilitated together, both of them learning to live with prosthetic help.

The Amazing Spider Man

Peter Parker begins snooping for clues about his parents’ mysterious disappearance when he was a child. His hunt leads him to a scientist who his parents worked with – Dr. Connors. Dr. Connors has only one arm, and is working on a serum to help humans heal themselves the way lizards do. He tests the formula on himself, and mutates into a giant lizard-man who terrorizes the city.

Meanwhile, Peter is experiencing new mutations of his own, as he develops spider powers from a spider bite he got at the lab. He rises to fight off the deranged lizard doctor, and bring peace to the city.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Cloud Strife, an ex-mercenary, has been living in isolation after he came down with the geostigma disease. The geostigma is an epidemic that has been raging all over the world. When all the children with geostigma in town start disappearing, he reconnects with his old friends and comes out of self-imposed isolation to try and find them.

SPOILERS

Three mysterious men have kidnapped them and begun to brainwash them. In a clash of swords, magic, and muscle, Cloud and his friends fight them off and save the children. A cure is found, and Cloud and the children bath in a magical pool and are cured.

“Peggy’s Turtle Song” (King of the Hill)

Bobby Hill is diagnosed with ADD and put on Ritalin. (you can read my detailed analysis here)

“Junkie Business” (King of the Hill)

Hank Hill hires a new part time employee at Strickland Propane. When he finds out the man is addicted to drugs, he tries to fire him. The man finds a loophole in the law and enrolls in a rehab. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hank can no longer fire him and, in fact, must actually make ridiculous accommodations for him. In response, the other employees self-diagnose their own disabilities and demand accommodation.

“Hank’s Unmentionable Problem” (King of the Hill)

Hank Hill begins having problems with constipation, and is extremely embarrassed about it. Out of concern, his wife Peggy talks about it with everyone. Hank and his family must bond together to overcome the medical problem, no matter how embarrassing it might be. (check out my video review of this here)

The Secret Garden

After loosing her parents in a tragic epidemic in India, Mary Lennox comes to live with her uncle. She discovers a house full of secrets, a very sick cousin of hers, and a garden that’s been locked up forever. Through curiosity and bravery, Mary opens the garden, frees her Uncle from his depression, and helps her sick cousin Colin to get well and walk again.

The Secret of NIMH

When her son falls sick, Mrs. Brisby must venture forth from their small home and unlock the secrets of her husband’s life and death to save her son’s life.

The Directive

When Lynne, an introverted college student who loves books and reading, is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, her whole life is turned upside down. As she navigates the turbulent new world of hospitals and doctors, she realizes that she must come out of her shell and change herself and her life if she is to now live with Crohn’s. (check out my review of this amazing book here and read my interview with the author here)

Summary

It was actually quite challenging to find illness portrayed in modern stories, and as you may have noticed, I did end up including one story that is not exactly modern – the Secret Garden. I felt, however, that its inclusion was valid, as this book is considered by most to be a “classic” and is still widely read today.

I had a really great time putting all this together. I keep a running list of movies and books I come across that pertain to life with illness, though I was only able to used a few from that list for this particular project. Many of the stories were allegories for illness, and those would simply not work in this setting. Perhaps one day it would be fun to put together a sister collection to this one that is mainly allegories. But for now, I focused on stories that actually featured illness as a big factor in the plot.

I would have liked it if illness was the main driving factor in each plot, but I feel that a collection like that would feature only one type of story – the Tragically Ill Hero story – and it was very important to me to show a variety of ways that illness can be used. Some of the examples are wonderful and realistic, and others are stereotyped and beautified. I am glad I was able to find a good mix, because I think that people in general have mixed up feelings about illness.

(NOTE: I wrote this as a part of my final for my storytelling class back in 2012. What are some good newer stories dealing with illness? Leave your ideas in the comments below!)

My Birth Story: Insert Labor Day Pun Here

So yesterday was my due date, but I already have a bouncing baby boy who is over 3 weeks old!

Since I shared my first birth story here, I wanted to share this one as well. Did I really write a FOUR POST series the first time around? Geeze. (See here, here, here, and here)

This will just be the one post. Spoiler alert: this time around went MUCH quicker.

So rewind to September 3rd, the day before labor day and the day of my baby shower. We cut it close, to say the least.

It had been an eventful weekend, as we’d also just moved into a new house. After spending the day at my parents house, we came home to box land to go to bed on a mattress on the floor. Junior was having trouble sleeping in our new house, so dada was showing him cat videos on his phone while I showered. And in the shower, I started having contractions. Not the usual ones, either, these ones hurt. In fact, I thought to myself about how water was called “the midwife’s epidural” and how that must be some crap because I wasn’t even in labor and the water was doing nothing for me (ha. ha. I never think I’m in labor when I’m in labor).

I got out of the shower and immediately started timing the contractions. Right off the bat they were 30 seconds long and two minutes apart.  I was miserable. I wanted to call the doctor right then, but again, I thought there was no way this was labor. I’d give it an hour to stop. Well, that was one of the longest hours of my life, and by the end of it the contractions were still consistent and I was beginning to think this was indeed labor.

So it happened that the moment my husband laid our son down to sleep, I opened the door and told him sorry, but we gotta go.

He insisted on packing a bag and even had the audacity to ask if I wanted to put some pants on. NO. NO I DID NOT. DAMN IT.

We arrived at the hospital just after midnight. It was officially Labor Day.

Exactly like last time, I didn’t think I had hit transition yet. This time, however, every nurse I encountered tried to tell me I was. But I’d only been in labor for an hour and a half, and it seemed like there was a long road ahead. Spoiler alert: there wasn’t.

I demanded an epidural PRONTO. I thought I’d get in a nap and be refreshed and ready when time to push rolled around. But while they set the epidural, my water broke and the nurse said call the doctor, it’s time to push.

All the while I’m still quite certain we have a ways to go. When I arrived, I was only at 4 centimeters! It had only been 30 minutes! Well bam, they measured again and in half an hour I’d gone from 4 to 10. No wonder I was in so much pain! Dang!

So I was totally bewildered. At this point we were just waiting on the doctor. It was pretty easy to resist the urge to push thanks to the epidural, but I also had a cold, and I could not resist the urge to cough. Every time I did, the whole room jumped. “WHOA, whoa, eeeasy!” One nurse said he didn’t know what would happen if I sneezed.

My doctor wasn’t on call (of course). When the on call doctor arrived, lo and behold, it was the same doctor who had delivered Junior! I guess they have her working all the holidays.

I pushed for one contraction. Everyone exchanged looks and the nurse said “ok, we might need you to do a half-push next time. Just listen really carefully, we might ask.” and I’m like “ok…I don’t know how to do a half push…” and one of the guys shook his head and smiled. “She’s going to have this baby without pushing.”

And I don’t even know what to tell you. At 3:08 am on Labor Day morning, my baby just arrived of his own accord. Most of my laboring was in my coughing, which sounds like I’m kidding but it’s true. I looked down and saw a baby. He wasn’t crying because this labor wasn’t weird enough already. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but it was very loose. The NICU people looked him over, suctioned him, weighed him, still no crying. He didn’t even cry when he got his vitamin K shot. I just kept asking “is something wrong? Is he ok? Why isn’t he crying?” the doctors just said they’d checked him over, he was healthy, seems happy… he must just be a very chill baby.

I guess so. He’s healthy as a baby horse. He just didn’t cry for the first 24 hours of his life. I guess because he didn’t feel like it. Or he enjoyed freaking me out.

So TA DA. That’s the end of the story. I just had a baby all of a sudden. Obviously, very different from my first son. He had a special yellow hat at the hospital to signify that he was late preterm, so that nurses would know to watch him extra close. He was tiny to us – 7 lbs 4 oz. But whenever we marvel out loud about how small he is, everyone is quick to say “he’s actually kinda regular size, even big for a preterm baby.”

We always joked with Junior that we “never had a newborn.” He was so big and strong. He was chubby, had hair, he didn’t look like a newborn or flop around. This time, we had a newborn. A preterm newborn even! Honestly it really scares me sometimes how small he is. He doesn’t have a lot of baby fat (he’s got a lot of baby fur though!) and you can feel how small and fragile his little bones are. For the first week of his life, we were at the doctor every day to monitor his weight gain. He had a lip tie and a tongue tie, breastfeeding got off to a really rocky start, and he was slightly jaundiced so he was a hard sleeper. So hard that it was often difficult to get him to eat, he was just so sleepy!

But we had his tongue and lip ties corrected early on. He got better at eating, his jaundice went away, and he passed his birth weight. He really is quite strong – he was lifting his head from day one! Sometimes I think he could roll over if he really put his mind to it. And I knew when he was still in the womb what a strong kicker he is – he used to wake me up with it! But to me, he still seems really, really, REALLY small. I love it as much as it worries me.

So that’s the story of Finny, named for the character in A Separate Peace. He already seems as precocious, innocent, and spontaneous as his namesake.

I’ll try to write more soon. As of now, I’m very sleep deprived, I’m still unpacking and getting settled in our new house, and I’m already feeling some endometriosis and IBS and anxiety things sneaking up on me. This is easily the craziest time of my life so far, and my husband said it’s honestly a good bet that this will be the craziest time of our lives ever – having a toddler and a newborn, moving, and did I mention my husband just switched careers too?

Yeah spacing that stuff out would have been good. But! Here we are. So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, you know why. But the blog is not done.

Book Review: Calm the F*ck Down

This is a real book entitled “Calm the F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need” and it is written by a real person named David Vienna. This was gifted to me by my son’s godmother. I’m blessed beyond reason to have godparents that send me and my child gifts monthly, and this particular month I had called with some catastrophe. I don’t actually remember which catastrophe this was – life with a toddler involves a lot of them. But I think it was when he got his finger caught in the pedal of our kitchen trash can.

He pushed the pedal down with his hand, and when he stopped his finger was caught and the mechanism and got sliced open. We got him out and his hand was gushing blood and he was screaming and I was surprised to find my mind was blank. What… what do I do? One does not simply put a band-aid on a toddler. He’d pull it right off. And that’s a lot of blood, why is there so much blood? How can you tell if he needs stitches? Oh man there’s blood on everything, uh, quick, lets put him in the bathtub. Of course, a bath on the best day makes our son scream, so this upset him quite a bit more than he already was, and he was still bleeding, and my mind was still drawing a blank on what to do. So I called and his godmother said put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. A piece of knowledge that did, in fact, reside somewhere in my brain, but that I was unable to call forth in the heat of the moment.

Anyway the moral of this story is that often, new parents aren’t under-educated or uninformed. Often, our questions and need for advice stem from simply being freaked out. Dear godmother had not actually read this book before sending it and prefaced it with “this might suck” but the title had grabbed her attention and it alone was very good advice. So let’s take a look!

Like many parenting books that I’ve reviewed before, this one seems to not be intended as a cover to cover read. Rather, it’s split up into topics like “my child does not understand consequences” or “I’m not the kind of parent I thought I’d be.” However, there’s no reason not to go ahead and read this one cover-to-cover. Why?

  1. It’s REALLY short. I read it in one sitting while I was having my hair done.
  2. Each topic listed has 1-2 pages devoted to it – that’s it. And there’s pictures.
  3. It’s really funny. Even if a topic isn’t specific to your situation, you’ll probably get a chuckle out of what it has to say.

I mean I basically don’t have anything bad to say about this book. It’s an entertaining, light read. It would actually make a pretty good bathroom book. It’s broken up into short, sweet reads, and maybe it’ll make you not want to hide in the bathroom to escape your kid(s). Maybe. No promises.

You can probably guess from the title alone that the book’s advice for most of the topics is to “calm the f-ck down” (abbreviated in the boot as the CTFD method). So you know when you flip to “my boy likes girl toys” or “my baby ate something off the floor,” you’re going to be told not to worry about it. But it’s more than that. A lot of this book is about empathy, and understanding that these things happen and usually have no long term effects. But it’s also empathetic about the fact that you’ll still worry anyway, because you’re a parent and that’s your job. It validates your feelings. And it also taps in to the fact that even if you’re not worried about a topic, someone you encounter probably will be. Your mother in law will be appalled you let your son have a Barbie, your aunt will act like you need to call 911 when she sees your baby eat a dust bunny they happened upon. People freak out, you freak out, but we all need to practice the CTFD method.

This is not to say that every section is just things not to worry about. One that caught me by surprise was this one pictured: “I haven’t kept up with CPR training”. I’ve taken CPR classes a few times over the years, most recently when I had my son. But before that I had taken it for being a babysitter, a camp counselor, a life guard, I think we even did it in girl scouts once. I have not been worried about it. Can I recall exactly what to do, and the numbers, and every step? Uhh… I dunno. No? Not really? But I’ve taken the class several times, I know basically what to do. So imagine my surprise when this laid-back book took the hard stance that you MUST take this class EVERY YEAR. It never uses scare tactics like some other parenting books (I’m looking at YOU, What-To-Expect!), but it just says hey, go take these classes. I hope you never need them, but you’re going to want that info fresh in your mind if you need it. That’s a good point, book. So I’ll be heading back to class soon. Well, yeah, it’s partially because I’m pregnant and they make you. But next year? It’ll be of my own volition.

Another thing that caught me by surprise is that this book is for dads! I guess the language might should have tipped me off, as moms are, generally speaking, a little more fluffy touchy feely in their diction when talking about babies. But what’s strange is that I never got the inkling that this book was specifically for dads until the second to last section, titled “Parenthood.” Which is still gender-neutral. But here there were topics like “I don’t feel like a dad,” and “I don’t plan on taking paternity leave.” The advice here is, of course, applicable to both moms and dads, but the language only specifies dads and paternity. Again, the entire rest of the book didn’t specify one way or the other really, and it’s not a bad thing. I was just surprised when I got to the very end and it was suddenly talking to dads so specifically. Still, both moms and dads should give this a read. Even the paternity-specific topics apply to both.

That about covers it! Like I said, I read this cover-to-cover in one sitting, and it was a very enjoyable read. Good for a gag gift that doubles as a whoa this is actually useful gift. If you’re a stressed out new parent who loves to read but doesn’t really have time to get through a traditional chapter without interruption, this is a light, interrupt-able read that will make you smile and leave you better equipped to handle those moments your mind goes blank. Buy it by clicking here. Give it a read and remember to CTFD.

Murder in a Public Bathroom– Just Kidding This Post is About Poop

I have a story to tell. It’s not the story of me murdering someone in a public bathroom and hiding the evidence, but I wish it was. That would have probably been less traumatic.

Anyone played Indigo Prophecy? If you answered yes, I’m sorry.

So let me take you back to when this actually took place: I was in college, living in a one-room apartment with my husband. I had decided to investigate my gastrointestinal problems, and my new gastro doctor needed a stool sample. Ok. So I scheduled a day to go to the diagnostics lab. I’m thinking it’s a lab, they do this all the time. I’ll go and do it there, just like when you do a urine sample. Right? Right?

No.

I can’t blame them for not wanting this dirty work done on the premises. But I don’t want to do it in my one-room apartment either. We don’t have an outside trash can, I’d have to transport everything to the dumpster. And that was one trek I didn’t want to make with this particular cargo. Plus, I was, ahem, prepared. I didn’t want to drive all the way home.

And at this point, I am still pretty naive about what all this will entail. Well, next door to the lab is a gas station. I think, this is an industrial restroom that has probably seen worse. I will go here.

And now let me just flip over to talking about murdering someone there because like I said, that would have been less traumatic.

Of course, when committing murder in a gas station bathroom, you’re going to be scared someone will walk in the entire time. So adrenaline levels are running high to begin with. You also pray it will be quick and quiet, but no matter how well you prepare, you just can’t be sure.

Once the deed is done, the real work begins: disposing of the evidence. There’s a lot more evidence than you might initially suspect. Even with an industrial-sized trash can and a near-infinite supply of toilet paper and paper towels, it’ll take time and craft to get it not only in the trash, but hidden and without staining yourself with any suspicious materials.

And once it’s all done, you must rush out and try to avoid turning your face towards any security cameras.

I delivered the goods to the lab and went home and took a really long shower.

I stand by the idea that this would have been just as traumatic at home. I would have had to tell my husband to just stay on campus and not come back until I give the word. A diagnostic lab should be equipped to handle this, really that’s the only solution I can come up with.

Am I just going to go radio silent and then post every few months about weird things like poop? Um… that’s not my plan, but I can’t rule it out.

More posts coming soon.