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December, 2014:

The Undeniable Recap of 2014

Wow – 2014 was a year for change for me. I never would have predicted that so much would be different in 12 months’ time – mostly for the better. It has been a tumultuous ride but I think it’s allowing to lay the foundation for more good things to come.

I keep a running document for The Undeniable Recap from the beginning of the year and it’s so fun to look back and remember everything I did in the last year. It’s always hard to come up with the top 5 events for the year but here goes.

Photo by Julia Kolsrud

Photo by Julia Kolsrud

1. We Moved! I’d been living in my parents’ second home since I moved to Phoenix and I decided it was time for Rosie and me to get our own place. After months of searching, I found a condo that I fell in love with at first sight. It’s less than half the size of our old place – just 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, an office, and an open kitchen/dining/living room. It’s the perfect place for a girl and her dog.

2. The Packing Party. I read about Ryan Nicodemus’ “packing party” in the book Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn. I’ve been an aspiring minimalist for a few years now and moving gave me a chance to step it up a notch. When I moved, I put everything in boxes and only unpacked what I needed when I needed it. It took 72 days to go through all my boxes and a lot of my stuff is going to charity. It was eye-opening to see how little I need to be comfortable.

3. Week in Wickenburg. At the recommendation of my therapist, I spent 5 days in Wickenburg last spring at a workshop at The Meadows. It was an intense experience where I got to do a lot of personal development work and look at who I am, what’s important to me, and when I’m in a hand basket. And with no computer or cell phones allowed on the campus, it was a valuable centering experience.

Post-Brunch Handstand - Photo by Erika Brown

Post-Brunch Handstand – Photo by Erika Brown

4. Birthday Stories. I had the most awesome birthday this year. I always take the day off on my birthday to do whatever I want. This year I asked my friends to send me stories about something related to our friendship. Dozens of people responded. I spent a few hours curled up in front of my laptop taking a wonderful trip down memory lane. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to thank each of you who contributed individually but know that your stories were very much appreciated!

5. Lindsey’s Wedding Weekend. The best trip I took in 2014 was for Lindsey’s wedding in the Bay Area. I’ve known Lindsey since she was probably 7. We were gymnastics teammates and we’ve been friends for decades. It was great to get back to my old stomping ground where I crammed in as many people as I could in a 72-hour period – teammates, coaches, and other friends. And to top it all off, I got to see Lindsey get married. Of course we had a post-wedding handstand contest.

Photo by Jeff Moriarty

Photo by Jeff Moriarty

Firsts in 2014
Aerial Yoga class
Polar Plunge
Encyclopedia Show
Yelling at a server at Buffalo Wild Wings (not my best moment)
Performing at the Orpheum
World’s Largest Pi Fight
Mass mailing for Carter Law Firm in honor of Captain Kirk’s Future Birthday
Virtual Presentation at a Conference – ABA TechShow 2014

Poolside Rosie

Poolside Rosie

Batting cages
Getting crapped on by a bird
Day trip to Jerome
10K race that I ran the whole time
Visit to the big dinosaur in Gila Bend
Ice Bucket Challenge
Overnight trip to Sedona w/ Rosie’s first hotel stay
Buying real furniture for my new place
Ignite Phoenix After Hours at The Mint
Driving myself to Prescott
Hiking the Wind Cave Trail
Local Events: Arizona Wind Symphony Performance, Art Detour, Scottsdale Arts Festival, Tempe Arts Festival, Heard Museum, and Zoolights

Hanging with Peter Shankman

Hanging with Peter Shankman

Medical Firsts: Cardiac ultrasound, Beta blocker, Anti-depressant, Stress test
Food Firsts: Pho, Rutabaga, Matzo ball soup, Sugar cookie in a mug,

Celebrity Sightings
The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
The Oatmeal – aka Matt Inman
Chris Guillebeau
Peter Shankman

Marathon Training Week 15 Recap: The 20-Mile Run

0015_1 by Andreas Cappell from Flickr

0015_1 by Andreas Cappell from Flickr

About a month ago, I started getting chest pains after my long runs. A few weeks ago, my cardiologist told me that I have 2 holes in my heart. These holes may or may not be related to my pain. My doctor needs to refer me to a surgeon who can further evaluate my situation and determine whether the holes in my heart should be patched. For the time being my doctor said I’m allowed to run as long as I can handle the pain and I don’t have a stroke.

With his blessing (sort of), I’m back to running, and thank goodness for that because last week had my longest run of my training cycle – 20 miles. I did not want to walk that. Here’s how this week of training went.

Monday: Rest Day.

Tuesday: I had my first run in the real world since beginning to deal with my health issues. I ran 5 miles and it felt so awkward to run on pavement again. I felt like a baby deer just learning to walk, though it got better as I focused on my running posture. I had a touch of chest pain during mile 1. I worried it might continue throughout the run, but it seemed to settle down by the end of mile 2. I felt like I was running more slowly than before my running hiatus but I also felt like I could easily increase my mileage.

Black Cherry GU Chomps

Black Cherry GU Chomps

Wednesday: I ran 10.5 miles – 2 laps around Tempe Town Lake. I wanted to get used to this route because I planned to run 4 laps for my 20-mile run on Saturday. I had a bit of chest pain during miles 1-2 and 8-10 but it wasn’t bad enough to make me stop. I also had some pain in my left leg during the second lap. I could definitely tell I was slowing down by the end. I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage 20 miles on Saturday.

I also discovered my new favorite flavor of GU Chomps: black cherry. These things are caffeinated candy. They’re an awesome pick-me-up.

Thursday: I ran 5 miles while listening to the Dr. Drew Podcast with guest lawyer-turned-comedian Paul Mecurio. I laughed out loud several times during my run. It was a good run but I had some calf pain because I hadn’t been as diligent about my post-run stretching earlier in the week.

Friday: Rest Day.

Saturday: I was reminded that I don’t like running in the cold. I ran 20.5 miles – 4 laps around Tempe Town Lake – starting at 7:45 am on Saturday. It was 35 degrees when I started, and I was dressed in shorts, shirt, hoodie because I knew it would get warmer by the end. One of the upsides of running laps around the lake is I get to stop at my car every lap to get water and a snack if I need it.

My sweatshirt came off after first lap. It was still chilly in the shade but otherwise just a bit cold. During Lap 3, I refueled a bit with some strawberry GU Chomps and an apple pie Larabar. I kept myself entertained with an episode of the Dr. Drew Podcast during lap one and listened to my race day playlist the rest of the time. I finished my 20 miles in about 3.5 hours. I had some calf and quad pain in both legs by the end. It was definitely an act of masochism, but the pain was manageable.

I think there were some other runners who were training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and running laps around the lake. Every time we passed, we’d smile and wave. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one torturing themselves that day.

Sunday: Rest Day. I was supposed to cross train today, but I’m freakishly tired. I’ll hit the elliptical at the gym tomorrow.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 41 miles

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 10.5 – Finished the Packing Party!

End of the Packing Party: Boxes for Charity, December 21, 2014

End of the Packing Party: Boxes for Charity, December 21, 2014

Put a fork in me. I’m done! My packing party is over.

In the last 72 days, I moved to a new condo and left all my things in boxes and suitcases until I needed them. During the last month, I went through each box and bag and decided what remaining things would “survive” and what would be donated to charity. I finished the last box this morning.

Last week I had three boxes and a few clothing items in my suitcase to go. Many of the books survived because they are resources I’ll use at work, like my Blue Book for legal citations but most of them are in a box with a 1-year limit to read and/or donate them to charity. All of my remaining clothing items survived, mainly because they’re professional clothes and I’m joining a law firm next year. Besides, I do a systematic annual closet clean-out which will show me what I am and am not wearing.

There is a stack of 9 boxes and a few other items that will donated to charity. I had 9 boxes of things to give away after I did my big minimalism project in 2013 and got rid of a bunch of stuff before I moved. This process really showed me how much stuff I don’t use and what types of things I keep around “just in case.” I need very little to be comfortable. And having an uncluttered home helps me feel calm and focused on what matters.

So what’s next?

  • The humane society will be picking up the charity boxes to sell my stuff at their thrift store.
  • I’m moving into my new office in January so the baby gate, office dog bed, office boxes, and many of my framed wall hangings (i.e., diplomas) will be going there.
  • I ordered an oversized reading chair for my home office and a dining set. They’ll be delivered after the holiday. I’m still considering getting a swivel chair to put next to the couch, but I want to see how the condo feels once the boxes are gone and the furniture arrives first.
  • I want to hire my handy man to install a big 4’x6’ white board in my home office and a wall or ceiling-mounted bike rack to get my bike more out of the way.

Like I said last week, minimalism is an ongoing to process of putting my time, energy, and money into things that add value to my life and clearing out the things that don’t. I’m excited to see how I feel and if anything shifts once all the boxes are gone and the furniture has been delivered.

Here’s how the place looks now. I’ll shoot another video after the next furniture delivery.

Thank you to Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists for inspiring me to do my own packing party. I enjoyed reading about your journey in Joshua Field Millburn’s book, Everything That Remains. I look forward to seeing the documentary about minimalism and your book tour.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 8
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 9

Marathon Training Week 14 Recap: Getting Back in the Saddle

14 by Steve Bowbrick from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

14 by Steve Bowbrick from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

For those of you who have been following along, my marathon training program for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2015 has not been going to plan. So far there has been chest pain and night sweats, medical testing, finding out I have 2 holes in my heart, 2 new medications, and walking my mile for the last 3 weeks. Many of my teammates have suggested that Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona 2015 isn’t my race, but it looks like my race might be salvageable.

Last week had a disappointing start. I tried to walk 5 miles on Tuesday but I was so tired and weak that I could only manage 3. I didn’t even bother trying to walk the 9 miles on my marathon training program on Wednesday.

Thursday morning had me back in my cardiologist’s office for my test results. That’s when I found out that I have 2 holes between my atriums and he put me on a low-dose beta blocker and referred me to another cardiac specialist to determine if having atrial septal defect is causing my problems. He also said I could run again. I managed to run/walk 5 miles on the treadmill that evening in just under an hour.

I was scheduled to run 14 miles on Saturday and my plan was to run on the treadmill at my complex again so I wouldn’t be far from home if it got too hard to I started having chest pain. To my dismay, both treadmills were not working. (What are my HOA fees paying for again?) I opted to do my miles on the elliptical in 2 sets of 7 miles. My toes were numb and my legs were a little wobbly by the end but otherwise it was fine. I finished in just under 2 hours. My pulse never felt like it was getting excessively high.

I’ve become such a wimp about the cold. Earlier in my training I was off cross training on my bike at sunrise, but now it’s chilly in the morning. It was sunny and warm by the afternoon but unfortunately I had other obligations then. (I should probably adjust my schedule when I can if I want to work out outside.) Instead I hit the gym at my condo again and did 7 miles on the elliptical.

Next week, I’m scheduled to do 2 5-mile runs, a 10-mile run, and a 20-mile run. My plan is to run/walk all of them in the real world, but I’m considering finding some type of loop for the 20-mile run so I won’t risk getting into trouble and being 10 miles from home.

Totals for the week:
Running/Walking/Elliptical: 29 miles
Biking: 2 miles

I Still Have a Defective Heart

Atrial Septal Defect - Image from Wikipedia (Creative Commons Image)

Atrial Septal Defect – Image from Wikipedia (Creative Commons Image)

Let me start this post with a correction: I misheard my cardiologist last week. I thought he said I have a ventricular septal defect. He actually said I have an atrial septal defect. Today when we went over the results of my tests, he told me I have, not 1, but 2 holes between my atriums.

The human heart isn’t that big. How is it possible that I have 2 holes in one little area?

The rest of my tests were unremarkable. Nothing unusual showed up when I wore a heart monitor for 24 hours and my stress test looked good. Overall, my doctor is unsure what’s causing my symptoms – the chest pain, the fatigue, and the night sweats. He prescribed me a low-dose beta-blocker and said I can go back on ibuprofen for pain. (Yay!) My beta blocker dose is so low my pharmacy had to special order it. Since I’m so small, my doctor’s having me only take half a pill every other day for the first five days to see how I adjust to it. (He said it could make me tired.)

My cardiologist also referred me to another heart specialist to evaluate whether my heart defect is causing my problems and whether they should be surgically sealed. Apparently this guy specializes in these types of defects. I hope it doesn’t take weeks to get an appointment. If my defect should be patched, they go in through the groin, not open heart surgery. That was good to hear.

My doctor said I’m allowed to try running again. I was pretty nervous to see how my stamina is after not running for nearly 3 weeks. I was slated to do 5 miles today and I opted to do it on the treadmill where I could control my speed. I ended up doing a run/walk combo and finished in 53:58. I think that’s a good start. My chest hurt a little bit at first but settled down by mile 3.

I’m scheduled to do 14 miles on Saturday and I think I’ll do it on the treadmill again where it will be easier to manage speed, take breaks, and have snacks. For now, my plan is to keep following my marathon training program, but modify it by walking and running my miles as needed.

Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 9

Minimalism Boxes - December 14, 2014

Minimalism Boxes – December 14, 2014

And then there were 3.

I have only 3 boxes left in my Minimalism in 90 Days Project.  I worked my butt off during the last week to go through my remaining boxes. From each box, I’d say about half the contents survived and half was added to the charity pile. I added quite a few things to my kitchen cabinets that I’ll use on occasion – like a hand mixer and a casserole pan. I ended up with an extra box to go to charity just of kitchenware. I also went through my stationary and got rid of a ton of postcards and ugly stationary that I’ll never use.

I started throwing out empty boxes. The stack of them was getting close to the ceiling and they were adding to the clutter. I need to make arrangements to have the charity boxes go to charity soon because they’re just taking up space on the office floor at this point.

It is challenging to know what to keep and what to throw out from the last remaining boxes. Two of them are mainly filled with books I haven’t read. Some people would say if I haven’t made it a priority to read them yet, I never will so I should probably donate them. I’m going to set them aside but then give myself a year to read them and decide if they will stay or go. If I haven’t read a book in a year, it will be donated so someone else can benefit from it.

One thing I keep saying to myself is “Minimalism is a process.” This packing party isn’t the end all be all of my minimalism. It gave me an enlightening glimpse into how few things I use on a regular basis, and it’s given me the opportunity to get rid of a lot of clutter. But it will be an ongoing process where I’ll regularly ask myself, “What makes my life valuable?” In general, it’s not my stuff. My possessions make my life comfortable and they provide the means to activities I enjoy, but I’m pretty sure I’m not a better person simply because I own an object.  Conversely, I’m a better person when I keep my life simple.

Other updates from the Minimalism in 90 Days project:
What was Unpacked During Week 1
What was Unpacked During Week 2
What was Unpacked During Week 3
What was Unpacked During Week 4
What was Unpacked During Week 5
What was Unpacked During Week 6
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 7
Minimalism in 90 Days Update from Week 8

Marathon Training Week 13 Recap: Walking Sucks

This was a challenging week of training. I saw my cardiologist on Monday and he said I could only walk, not run until we got the results of the tests he ordered (ultrasound, stress test, and heart monitor). There are two main challenges with walking: (1) it takes a lot longer than running and (2) it’s boring!

Walking with Heather

Walking with Heather

I’m still sticking to Hal Higdon’s marathon training program for novices, but walking my miles. I hope I can still do Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona in January.

Monday: Rest Day.

Tuesday: I had work commitments early in the morning so I opted to do my 4 miles in evening – on the treadmill. That thing still feels like a human hamster wheel. Maintaining a 4 mph pace was pretty challenging.

Wednesday: I walked 9 miles today. It took 2.5 hours. It’s so frustrating that I can’t run. I think it’s starting to make me batty.

Walking with Lawton & Oscar

Walking with Lawton & Oscar

Thursday: I was scheduled to walk 5 miles today but I ended up walking 5.4. I did it first thing in the morning which made it less painful. I also had my stress test that morning, so I had to be caffeine-free for 24 hours and not eat for 4 hours before the test, so taking a walk kept me occupied.

Friday:  Rest Day.

Counting Loops

Counting Loops

Saturday:  I walked 19 miles today, and it took over 5.5 hours to finish it. I walked from my place to ASU Tempe campus, walked 4 loops around campus, and then home again. My friends Heather and Lawton (with her adorable dog Oscar) joined me for part of the walk which made it much more bearable – Thanks so much! Every time I finished a looped, I marked it on my wrist with a Sharpie pen so I wouldn’t lose track of myself. I kept myself energized with water, GU Chomps, and an energy bar.

Here’s another reason why walking sucks – when you’re walking long distance, you feel the pain of your first miles before you’re done with your last mile. When I run, I’m done after a few hours and I’m home before the pain sets in. My hamstrings were killing me by the time I got home.

Sunday:  Yesterday’s walk gave me heat rash on both my feet and ankles – sexy I know. The last thing I want to do is put on socks or shoes. I’m technically supposed to do cross training on Sundays, but I walked 19 miles yesterday. I’m not doing anything today. (I think the heat rash is nature’s way to saying I’m not meant to be a long distance walker.)

I’ll see my cardiologist this Thursday. So far he’s said I have a hole in my heart and that my heart skips beats. I hope he’ll know what’s wrong with me and that he says I can run short distances so I can alternate running and walking for the rest of my training and through the race.

Weekly Totals:
Running:  0 miles
Walking:  37.4 miles
Push-ups:  0 push-ups

I Have a Defective Heart

Who has two thumbs and a heart defect?
This guy!

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) - Creative Commons Image from Wikipedia

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) – Creative Commons Image from Wikipedia

I feel like I’ve been living at my cardiologist’s office this week. I was in this morning for my stress test when my doctor pulled me aside to share some news about my ultrasound. (That raised a big red flag since I wasn’t expecting any results until next week when all my tests were done.) He told me that I have ventricular septal defect (VSD), better known as a hole in my heart. It’s a genetic defect where there’s a hole between the ventricals of your heart. My doctor said ~10% of the population has it, and not everyone has health problems as a result, so we don’t know if mine is causing or contributing to my chest pain at this point.

(Of course you know the moment I got out of my doctor’s office, the first thing I did was call my parents and say, “It’s all your fault.”)

Then he reminded me not to run this weekend – I can walk instead.

Once I was done talking with my doctor, I got to have my stress test – that’s the one where you run on the treadmill with electrodes attached to your chest. They gave me a half gown thing to wear over my electrodes, but I was in a sports bra and I have no modesty issues so I opted to run without it. I had 8 electrodes on my chest and a blood pressure cuff on my arm where my tech periodically took my blood pressure. We had to go up four levels to get my heart rate up high enough – the speed and incline increased with each level. At each level, the machine produced an EKG printout. When it got challenging, the real issue wasn’t the speed, it was the incline. My calves and hamstrings were burning. I’m glad it only took 14 minutes to get through this.

The worst part about doing a stress test is you can’t have caffeine for 24 hours before the test. I popped a caffeine pill the moment my test was over.

My Holter ECG

My Holter ECG

After my stress test, they stuck a Holter ECG on me for 24 hours. It’s a heart monitor with 5 electrodes that connect to a recorder box that clips to my hip. When I saw the box, my first thought was “1990 called. They want their pager back.” With all these cords hanging off me, I feel like I’m wearing 5 iPods. For the duration of this test I’m not allowed to shower or sweat and they gave me a log to record any pain, dizziness, or other symptoms. I ‘m afraid one of the electrodes will come loose so I keep pushing on them. I probably look like I’m molesting myself. We’ll see how easy it is to sleep with this on my body.

I’ll see my doctor next Thursday to get the results of all my tests and hopefully he’ll have a proposed plan of action to deal with my pain. Until then, I’ll still train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, but I’ll be walking my miles.

Ultrasound!

Heart and Heartbeat by ThrasherDave from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Heart and Heartbeat by ThrasherDave from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

No, I am not with child.

I had an ultrasound on my neck and heart to try to figure why my chest hurts and why I wake up in  a puddle of my own sweat halfway through the night.

Getting an ultrasound is a pretty simple procedure – you just lay there while the tech puts goo on the ultrasound wand-thing and slides it over your skin. They had me take off my clothes from the waist-up and put on a paper tank top that was open in the back. (I wonder if they only give paper gowns to women.)

The tech started with the ultrasound of my neck arteries. Because I had to have my neck stretched, I couldn’t watch the screen. He periodically turned the sound on to listen and/or capture the sound of my heartbeat. The first time he did it I giggled. I instantly realized this was probably the only way I was going to hear a heartbeat during an ultrasound of my body because I have no plans for procreation.

After he finished scanning my neck, I asked how it looked at he only said, “I think you’ll live through the weekend.” We moved on to my heart ultrasound and I got to start laying on my side, which was awesome because I got to watch the monitor. The female tech put some electrodes on my chest that monitored my heart too, which was cool to see my heartbeat going across the screen.

Of course, I couldn’t understand anything I was seeing. I swear sometimes my heart looked like the face of a deep ocean fish and sometimes it looked like The Blerch from The Oatmeal. I’ve decided I have an alien in my chest.

We finished the scan with an ultrasound of my chest while I lay flat on my back. It was interesting to hear the differences in how my heart sounded depending on how I was laying and where the tech was holding the ultrasound wand.  Sometimes it sounded eerily similar to a theremin. (Think of the original Star Trek theme song.)

Hat tip to the Cardiovascular Institute of Scottsdale for handling female modesty well. When the tech needed to scan my chest, he just ripped a small hole in my gown instead of asking me take it off. Modesty is a non-issue for me, but I can see how other patients would appreciate this.

Of course the tech couldn’t tell me anything from my scan, though when I told him I was getting all my test results next Thursday, he said, “Good.” So maybe he saw something on my ultrasound, but if he did, it can’t be that bad because he didn’t seem to mind that I’ll be waiting 10 days to get the results.

New Mystery: Why Does My Chest Hurt?

My new drug of "choice."

My new drug of “choice.”

As many of you know, I’m training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Arizona in January. Unfortunately, I haven’t run a step since November 29th. I feel fine when I run but I started having chest pains after my long runs. After the second time it happened, I felt like a giant lumberjack stomped on my chest while wearing his work boots and then kicked me in the ribs. The night sweats are a bitch too. I woke up soaking wet halfway through the night last night.

I saw my general practitioner who referred me to a cardiologist. They couldn’t get me in for a week so I had to walk last week’s miles. Do you know how boring it is to walk 8 miles?

My friend Bill warned me that I would look very out of place at the cardiologist’s office – and he was right. The only person who looked close to my age was a woman who was there with her father. All of the patients were at least 25 years older than me.

My doctor seems like he knows what he’s doing. He asked a ton of questions, took lots of notes, and listened all over my torso. To my dismay and frustration, he didn’t have any answers for me yet, and if his has any hypotheses regarding what’s wrong with me, he didn’t share them. He created a solid-sounding plan of action to figure out what’s going on:

  • Ultrasound of my neck and heart
  • Stress test (that’s the one where you’re on the treadmill)
  • Heart monitor for 24 hours
  • Prescription for Prilosec in case there’s an acid reflux issue
  • He told me to switch from ibuprofen to acetaminophen (Tylenol)

I think taking me off ibuprofen is evil. Every woman I know (except those with stomach issues) swears by it. It’s the cure-all for everything – headaches, cramps, sore muscles, etc. I was not happy to hear that instruction. When I filled my prescription, I bought the biggest bottle of acetaminophen in the store. Between the headaches I’ve been having and the pain I get in my legs from working out, I’m going to need it.

My doctor echoed my general practitioner’s instructions that I can walk but I shouldn’t run until we figure this out. All of my testing is this week, but I won’t have my follow up appointment to get the results until next week. So I will be walking for the next 10 days – including the 18 miles I’m scheduled to do this weekend. 18 miles of walking?! This is going to suck.

Since I deal with the world and my life through blogging and social media, I’ll be documenting this whole process.