What Happened When I Stopped Using Social Media for a Month

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About a month ago, Colton came to me and said that he was deleting his social media apps from his phone.  That month, the President of our church had given the youth a challenge to give social media a break for one week.  I had been spending SO. MUCH. TIME. on my phone at that time, especially since Luke’s birth and maternity leave.  I thought it would be a good idea, and I had only intended on one week without it.  Because Facebook and Instagram are necessary parts of life, right?

The first day was hard.  I know…I’m such a millennial.  I found myself getting onto my phone and clicking to where my apps used to be ALL THE TIME, especially while in bed. Literally…my thumbs would automatically go to where my apps once were! There were things that happened in my life that week that I was dying to share with other people.  Let’s be honest, mostly to show off.  I had a two month old baby!  There is always something cute to share!

When I logged onto Facebook one week later, I was surprised at how I felt.  I instantly felt jealous of every single person that I was “friends” with.  Friends, family, acquaintances.  Didn’t matter.  Suddenly, I felt angry at the entire world.  I felt uglier, fatter, poorer, less fit, less perfect.  Less than everyone and everything.  I spent the good part of my 30 minute session comparing myself to every single thing that I saw.  The rest of the day was spent in a terrible mood, and I didn’t even realize why at first.  I was more sensitive to others’ comments, less patient with my family, and more temperamental than usual.

I couldn’t believe that my mindset had changed so much in a week.  The worst part about it is this: I had probably been feeling that way for YEARS and had no idea. 

That day, I decided to quit social media…at least until I felt that I could handle it again.  It’s been about a month since that day, and I haven’t put the apps back on my phone again.  It might be a long time, if ever, that I decide to reload them.  I’ve logged into Facebook a handful of times on my computer, only to feel the same way as before.  I leave feeling worse than I did before I logged in.

After a month of reflection, I wanted to write out the best parts of not having social media at my fingertips, mostly to journal it for myself.  Here they are:

I made serious life goals…and followed through.  I asked for a change at work, and I got what I wanted.  All I needed to do was ask.  Before that, I was too scared because I thought I wasn’t good enough.  I also signed up and started studying for the GRE, researching Master’s programs, and made plans to apply by December.  Before quitting social media, I didn’t think I was smart enough. Instead, I spent more time wishing that I could be like my friends who were doing the same thing, thinking that I wasn’t good enough/had the time.

I shopped less.  I didn’t even realize that this was a problem for me.  I was so much less tempted by the people/products that I’m following on Instagram because I wasn’t looking at all of their stuff all day!  I spent more time focusing on buying what I needed, and not what I wanted.

I felt closer to my husband.  Instead of spending our nights in bed looking at our phones before going to sleep, we talk.  Instead of one of us driving and the other sifting through Facebook posts, we talk.  I’m so grateful for more time with my husband, because it’s precious at this busy time in our lives.

I spent more time with my baby.  I spent a large amount of my maternity leave holding my baby….while simultaneously holding my phone and looking at social media/catching up on Netflix/taking endless pictures of him that would be “perfect to post.”  Going back to work full time after having Luke has made me realize how precious my time with Luke and Colton is.  There are only a few hours before he goes to bed after I get home, and I wanted to soak all of that time in.  Being off of social media has allowed me to do that and build my relationship with him to be even stronger.

I stopped comparing myself to others.  I had always compared my worst to someone else’s best because, let’s be real, we all only post our best on social media.  I wasn’t being fair to myself.  Instead of choosing to focusing on everyone else’s bests, I chose to notice my own.  I have learned to be happy with my little victories, and proud of everyone else’s.

I put my health and fitness higher on my priority list.  Less time on my phone = more time for myself.  I started waking up at 5 am so that I can feed Luke, read my scriptures, and head off to the gym early before work.  And I’m pretty consistent…which is a miracle.  These early morning gym sessions have been amazing for my mental health.  I used to spend at least 30 minutes going through my phone in the morning.  Those were 30 minutes that I could have been spending bettering myself.  All of these changes inspired me to also begin really focusing on my eating habits, thus…

I lost weight.  Yes, I believe that there was/is a correlation between quitting social media and losing weight…for me.  Less comparison to others meant more confidence in my own progress.  Also less emotional eating of ice cream.

I read more.  We finally got library cards and checked out as many books as we could carry out of that place.  Colton has really spent more time reading than I have, but I’m proud of my little changes.  I wanted to spend more time reading for pleasure after I graduated, but everything else seemed more important.

I felt happier with my life.  This is the most important change.  I didn’t realize how much social media was sucking the life out of me.  I honestly feel more satisfied with myself and the progress that our little family is making.  I’m more grateful for the little things and am more forgiving of others.  I’m learning to say no more often instead of trying to please others all the time.  I’ve made a lot of progress with my emotional and mental health, which has been crucial in my postpartum days.

I love that I can connect with old fiends and family that live far away, as well as celebrate with my closer family and friends on social media.  It will always be an awesome tool for me in that way.  However, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to learn how to use it cautiously.  Social media will be a once-in-a-while thing for me from now on.  And that’s ok, even if I’m a millennial.  🙂

Luke’s First Vacation

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For once, I got to travel for work.  It was two weeks after I had gone back to work since having Luke.  I think we decided that getting a work trip paid for is awesome, but kinda hard when you have a baby and are breastfeeding.  Colton was really limited as far as time and options, but he really did a great job being patient and working around mine and Luke’s schedules.

Now that we have visited the four major National Parks in Utah, I can officially rank them:

  1. Zion
  2. Bryce
  3. Arches
  4. Canyonlands

It’s always nice to get out of Northern Utah and get a little bit of red sand between your toes.  Those four National Parks have been some of our favorite trips to date, mainly because of the hiking.  Zion National Park will always be my favorite because of Angel’s Landing.  Bryce Canyon is like Zion and Canyonlands had a baby.  Arches is a staple for anyone who lives/visits Utah.  The hiking is just not as great.

Bryce was so beautiful, and it was really therapeutic to get out of Salt Lake for a little while.  Utah is seriously beautiful anytime of year, anywhere you go.  We have some really fun trips planned for the rest of the year, but this one will always be remembered as Luke’s first!

The Story of Luke

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We have no doubt that Luke came to us right when we needed him.  We had no intention of having babies for a few more years.  We both wanted to wait until Colton was graduated, to make it easier for me to work and support him through school.  With Colton graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering, we knew that he would most likely get a well-paying job upon graduation, making it easier for me to stay home with our babies and work if I wanted to.

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Every once in a while, one of us would turn to the other and say, “I want a baby!” with the response being, “Not yet. It’s not the plan.”  We had just moved into a really nice apartment in a nice town, I had landed my first big girl job with a big girl paycheck, and we were happy on our own.  We wanted to be set before adding anything else to our lives.

I remember coming home from work one day, the day after we had come home from a family dinner in which everyone was harassing us about when we were going to have kids.  We spent the car ride home talking about how people should mind their own business and how our plan was perfect.  When I came home from work that day, I hugged Colton, gave him a kiss, and told him that I hadn’t stopped thinking about the conversation from the night before.  I had felt so strongly that entire day that we should start thinking about a baby, but I was nervous to tell Colton.  I knew he would say no.  He wasn’t baby hungry in the slightest (at this point).  After I got up the guts to tell him, with tears in my eyes, he looked at me and said, “I feel the same way.”

Somehow, overnight, our plans changed.

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Four weeks later, I took my first positive pregnancy test.  It was a week before our second anniversary.  I will remember that moment forever.  I was way too impatient to wait until I got home to buy a pregnancy test, so I took my lunch break as soon as I could and went to Smiths.  I ran back to work (because you can’t find out you’re pregnant in a grocery store bathroom!), and there, I found out that I would be a mother.  In hindsight, it might have been a lot more comfortable/picturesque if I would have done it at home with Colton.  But anyone who knows me knows that I can’t stand surprises, and I could control this one!  I sat on the floor crying (mostly out of disbelief) and fighting off the urge to call Colton and tell him the news.  Before I could follow my impulse, a slew of kids ran into the bathroom, ready to start program.  I thought about how I would tell him all day.

I’ll never forget Colton’s reaction to finding out about the pregnancy.  It was probably one of the most sacred experiences of my life, therefore I won’t be sharing the details here.

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My pregnancy was pretty much a dream.  I was fairly active the entire time and had little-to-no morning sickness/pregnancy-related illnesses during the nine months.  I worked until I couldn’t anymore.

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I believe that my pregnancy was a tender mercy, considering all of the other things that we went through as a family during those nine months.  Colton suffered a huge relapse, we made a life-changing decision about his medication and another huge decision about work/living situations.  We moved into my in-laws home on my 35 week mark.  Work came with its own set of challenges, including an extremely busy schedule full of incredible opportunities.  By the time I hit 38 weeks, I was absolutely done.  My body was exhausted.  My mind was exhausted.  I was ready for the light at the end of a fairly dark tunnel.

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At my 38 week check-up on April 12th, I was told that I had been slowly developing preeclampsia .  My blood pressure had been rising for a few weeks (I think it’s because I was pretty stressed/really let my diet go, let’s be honest), and there was protein in my urine that day. I had been dilated to a 1 for two weeks already, so the doctor decided that it would be a nice preventative measure for my own safety and health to have the baby sooner rather than later.  She set up an appointment for me to be induced the next day at 8:00 pm.

That night, Colton gave me a blessing.  I believe that was the first time that I had ever asked him for one, and he was honored to do it.  I remember him telling me that Heavenly Father loved me so much and would support me through the birth.  He told me to remember that the Savior had felt every pain and feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane that I was about to experience in the delivery room, and that He could support me through it.  I felt so much love for Colton and the Spirit that he brings with him wherever he goes.  I also felt so overwhelmed to be welcoming a little boy into this world who would hopefully grow into a strong priesthood holder like his dad.  I am so overwhelmed by Colton’s spiritual power and example in my life, and that blessing solidified those feelings even more.  I cried before, during, and after that blessing, knowing that it was going to be our last night as a childless couple and feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of being parents.

That night was one of the longest of my life…notice that I said one of the longest.  I was basically up all night, thinking about all of the things that I wanted to get done before this baby came.  The next day was also torturous.  We spent the day cleaning and trying to stay busy.  At 7:15, when I was asked to call to check in before leaving for the hospital, I was told by the nurses on call that there had been a huge influx of women coming in who were already in active labor, and I would have to wait and call back at 9:00 pm.  At 9:00, I was told to call back at 6:00 am.  THAT was the longest night of my life.

At 6:00, I was told to call at 9:00, and so on and so forth every two hours until 5:00 pm.  By that point, Colton and I were over it.  We were bored out of our minds and couldn’t stop thinking about how unfair this was!  I had walked all day, trying to get the labor to jumpstart on its own, with no success.  I was exhausted already.  But, when the 5:00 call came, we were so excited and out the door in about 30 seconds! When we got there, all of the nurses were SO nice to me.  They obviously felt bad about having to put off my induction for so long, and I got really great care. At 7:30, I was induced, and the countdown was on.

The night was long and hard.  It was then that I found out what a true contraction feels like.  I had a plan to had an unmedicated birth, unless I had a medical reason not to do so or I felt that I needed an epidural.  Honestly, I was more terrified of the epidural than the pain of natural childbirth, which it why I elected what I did.

The induction drug that they used (it wasn’t Pitocin, and I can’t remember the name) was meant to ripen my cervix, which would kickstart labor.  After four doses and 7 hours of extremely painful contractions every 2-5 minutes, and still being dilated to a 1, the nurses told me that what the drug actually did for me was kickstart labor instead of ripen my cervix.  The only thing we could do was wait.

I practiced the techniques that I had read and studied about to deal with labor pains, with success.  I was feeling good, but frustrated that I wasn’t dilating as quickly as I wanted to be.  At 5:00 am, my water broke on its own.  That was one of the most odd sensations of my life.  I heard a popping sound and instantly my entire bed was wet.  It really felt like peeing your pants, but the amount of liquid was insane.  It was honestly a relief!  I felt great for about 10 minutes afterwards, and then the real labor pains began.

I can’t begin to describe the pain of a contraction.  Mine were mostly in my back.  It felt like someone was taking a serrated knife to my muscles and then pulling my back apart with their hands.  It was as close to searing pain as I have ever experienced.  I was able to make it 12 hours without an epidural, which I’m proud of.  I’m glad to know what labor pains and contractions actually feel like, but I am also really, really, really  grateful for the relief that I felt as soon as I had the epidural.  Colton held my hands and didn’t freak out when he saw the ginormous needle going into my back, which I will forever be grateful for.

After the epidural at 6:00 am, things really got going.  I started to feel really cold, shaky, and dizzy.  The baby’s heart rate started to drastically drop during/right after each contraction, which were still coming every 2-3 minutes.  The nurses gave me oxygen at 7:30 am to support the baby’s supply, and that also provided a lot of relief to my symptoms as well.  I was also given a shot to slow down the contractions, since I was only dilated to a 2 at this point.  The baby was obviously very stressed about contractions/labor and wanted to come out, but my body wasn’t ready yet.

After not sleeping through the night at all (hello…contractions), I was able to basically sleep through the rest of my labor.  I’m telling you…epidurals are God’s gift to women.  I felt so much relief and was excited to meet my baby.  At 9:00, I was at a 5, at 11:00, a 6, and finally at 12:30, a 10.

Giving birth was an incredible experience and something that I will never, ever forget.  I felt so strong and empowered. Colton was so amazing and supportive through the whole thing.  We always joked about how he would be queasy during delivery and pass out, since he doesn’t do well with blood.  But he stood next to me and held my hand, amazed at what was happening.  He watched the entire thing and encouraged me every step of the way.  It was his excitement/awe at the birthing process that made me agree to watching the birth through a mirror, which I am so grateful for.

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After 10 minutes of pushing, Luke was born at 1:03 pm.  Those 10 minutes were some of the most sacred of my life.  The room was filled with love, and I felt the Spirit so strongly. The second I saw him, I almost screamed, “HE LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU!” I am so excited that Luke is Colton’s twin.  I was able to do skin-to-skin with Luke immediately after birth.  The best moment of my life was when I spoke to him for the first time and he turned his head and looked at me.  He clearly recognized my voice and was soothed by it.   After a little bit of skin-to-skin, he was whisked away to see a respiratory specialist because of his dips in heart rate  during labor.  Colton went with him, and they did the other routine testing at the same time while they stitched me up from my stage two tear. When they came back, I was able to breastfeed Luke for the first time, and he was a rockstar.  He latched immediately and has had zero trouble ever since.

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The next two days in the hospital were really amazing.  Colton and I had about an hour of alone time with Luke in the delivery room before moving to the maternity ward.  Soon after we arrived, my family came to meet Luke, with Colton’s family right behind them.  We loved seeing everyone in the hospital and are so grateful to those who came to see us.

Huge shoutout to the LDS Hospital Labor and Delivery/Maternity staff.  The labor and delivery floor is so sacred, and the nurses and doctors who aid women and children in the birthing process are truly heaven sent.  I’m so grateful for them and the encouragement that they gave me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire birthing process, thanks to them.  Luke and I were so well taken care of.

Colton and I can’t believe that we have been blessed with such a perfect baby.  He really is the most beautiful baby that I have ever seen, and he has such a sweet temperament.  He is Colton’s twin in every way, and I don’t mind at all.  He only cries when he’s hungry, and he sleeps pretty well during the night.  He is growing so quickly, which breaks my heart/makes me really excited to see who he turns out to be.  It’s been a beautiful five weeks, and I’m grateful to have Colton home with me during maternity leave.  I know that not everyone has that luxury, and I am truly grateful for it.  I never knew that I could love Colton more than I did before, but watching him become a father has been an amazing experience.  I’m so honored to be Luke’s mom and Colton’s wife and to watch both of them grow.

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Relapse

I’ve had so many people reach out and ask how Colton is doing/what happened.  It’s hard to be clear through social media, because the problem was so complex and takes a while to explain.  I hope that this post clears up some of the questions/confusion and can also serve as a history for our own family!

During the month of December 2017, Colton was feeling a lot of sensory symptoms throughout his whole body.  This isn’t unusually abnormal, however, most of the time Colton spends symptom-less.  When he does feel symptoms, it’s because he’s eating something contrary to what he should, overdid it on exercise, or is feeling an immense amount of stress.  Since December is a stressful month for most everyone (millions of holiday parties, less sleep, finals week/end of the semester, Christmas financial responsibilities, etc.), so we didn’t think too much of it.

December/January have always been scary to us, since these are the months when Colton experiences the majority of his symptoms for the year/had a relapse two years ago in January.  The most important thing when looking for signs of a relapse are NEW symptoms.  At this point, nothing was new.

On Christmas morning, he woke up with a numb knee (a symptom that he hadn’t felt before).  As the day went on, the numbness started spreading.  Of course we called his doctor, and they said that they would have the doctor on call contact us with instructions for what to do.

Two days later, the numbness had spread to Colton’s upper chest and continued down to his toes.  We still hadn’t heard back from a doctor.  He was extremely fatigued and frustrated.  He could barely walk to the bathroom (about a 4 foot walk from our bed) without feeling exhausted.  I remember him standing to brush his teeth and having to sit down halfway through because he didn’t have the strength to do it standing up.  For me, seeing Colton like this is extremely hard.  We have always pushed each other to do physical things that we never thought possible.  It was his idea for me to start running marathons.  I encouraged him to sign up for his first triathlon.  We hike nearly every weekend.  He normally takes the stairs two at a time up to our apartment (we live three floors up).  He easily spends an hour at the gym every day and craves any type of outdoor activity.  We had just spent two weeks in October walking our way through Norway, Denmark, and Boston.  To be unable to stand at the sink for two minutes to brush his teeth speaks to the invasive and destructive nature of this disease.

We continued to call the doctor’s office (you can’t go to the ER for something MS related, unless you believe the symptoms to be life-threatening) with little to no response from anyone.  Finally, on the 28th, we were able to get an appointment to get two steroid infusions over two days.  These infusions (Solumedrol) stop the inflammation that is damaging the myelin causing the symptoms.  They are time-consuming (two hours per infusion).  They leave Colton with many symptoms, such as extreme back pain, exhaustion, and a metallic taste in his mouth (along with the experience of his MS symptoms).  It takes a few days for the steroid to wear off, and he usually starts feeling better.

This time, it didn’t help at all.  His symptoms continued, even worsened.

On January 9th, we went in for an MRI of Colton’s brain, c spine, and spine (which should have happened the two weeks prior, but everyone was trying to meet their deductibles before the end of the year), which unveiled three new lesions (two on his spinal cord, one on his brain).  When the doctor told us the news, my stomach dropped.  He hadn’t had any new lesions for three years, almost from the time that he was diagnosed.  We had worked so hard to change our lives to fight this disease, including cutting sugar, gluten, dairy, and trans fats from out diet, focusing on exercise, learning how to manage stress, and learning to say “no” more often.  Since we had made those changes, Colton’s health had significantly improved.  In fact, at our last yearly MRI, the neurologist told Colton that, because they had seen no progression of the disease in almost two years, he didn’t need to come back for an MRI in January; he could wait until summer 2018.  To hear that he had not just one but THREE new lesions was NOT what we wanted to hear.

The neurologist let us know that the reason for this relapse and progression was the failure of Tecfidera, the twice-daily pill that Colton had been taking since being diagnosed in spring of 2014.  Since it was only 50% effective in the first place, she wasn’t surprised.  This happens.  We were presented with three new medications and asked to choose between them.  She encouraged us to be as aggressive as possible, since Colton is young and otherwise healthy.

An important detail: when Colton was diagnosed with MS, they did a blood test to check for something called the JC Virus.  It’s a common germ that more than half of all adults have been exposed to.  It isn’t too much of a problem for most people, but if someone who has been exposed to it takes certain medications, the virus can develop into a brain infection called PML.  50% of people who develop PML die within the first few months of developing the infection.  It can also cause blindness, dementia, paralysis and seizures.  Colton has been exposed to the JC Virus.  When he was diagnosed, he was told to stay away from any medication that could cause PML, which is why he chose Tecfidera.  Now, the neurologist was presenting three different medications, all of which run the risk of developing PML. 

I swear, we talked to the doctor for hours (in and out of the office) about what we were going to do.  I have never, ever felt so connected to a doctor in my entire life.  She is heaven-sent to us.  She has spent countless hours on the phone with us, answering every question, listening to our concerns, and giving us the confidence to pick the best option, all without charging us a dime.  Although being able to talk to family about MS is a nice release, talking to our doctor is so satisfying because she knows and treats hundreds of people with MS.  Throughout the time that we were making this decision, I felt most strongly that we should trust her judgment and recommendations, and that if we did that, we would be ok.  Still, it was an agonizing decision.

The rest of that week was spent getting three more steroid infusions, because two was not enough.  We also decided to move forward with Tysabri, a medication that is 70% effective and highly recommended among MS patients.  The chance of developing PML in the first year is 2/10,000.  Our plan is to be on this drug for a year and move on to another drug that is a bit more aggressive (we couldn’t choose that one right now for insurance reasons).  After a year, the risk doubles.

We were so worried about our choice.  But after weeks of prayer, fasting, and temple trips, we felt most calm about Tysabri.  We can’t predict the future, and not knowing if this medication will cause PML is still scary to us, especially considering all of the things that we have coming in the near future (baby #1, Colton’s graduation, buying a house, etc.).

I remember when Colton told me about his diagnosis through an email when I was on my mission.  I had no idea what to think.  I knew nothing about MS, and I couldn’t study about it.  It was my sole responsibility to preach the gospel, listen to the Spirit, and be obedient to the commandments and mission rules.  That night, I prayed and asked God to bless Colton with comfort and strength.  I asked Him to bless Colton with a healthy body and mind.  I felt immediately comforted and knew that Colton would be ok.  I’ve hung on to that feeling for years, and still feel it on an almost daily basis.  I had no idea that we would get married one day and that this would be part of our daily life.  MS has taught us to be faithful and hope for a greater future through the hard times.  It’s brought us very close together and taught us to cherish every healthy day.  It’s taught us to be grateful for the miracle that are our bodies, given to us by a loving Father in Heaven.  There are so many more positive and miraculous things that our bodies do on a daily basis than we could ever imagine.

Colton’s body has been healing slowly each day.  It can take months to recover from a relapse, especially a severe one.  His first infusion of Tysabri was Valentine’s Day.  He has another in March.  And hopefully one more before the baby comes.  He should be feeling really good by then.

To say that it’s been a stressful couple of months is quite the understatement.  We’re grateful for friends and family who have reached out to us and asked what they can do to help.  When something like this is happening, the best thing that anyone can do for us is seek to understand the situation and express love and concern!

We are grateful to have wonderful health insurance through my work (one of the reasons that working for the government is the BOMB) and an income that helps us pay the bills.  I’m grateful that through this whole experience, my pregnancy has been incredibly mild.  I’ve had little to no symptoms since the first trimester, except maybe a little bit of exhaustion/nausea at times.  We are grateful to have this awful chapter behind us and are ready to open a new one with a beautiful little baby boy!  Most importantly, I’m grateful for Colton’s strength.  In my eyes, he is perfect.  I would never wish this disease on him for even a second.  I would do anything in my power to take it away from him.  His strength is inspiring to me.  He loves his life and works incredibly hard to better himself each day.  I truly don’t understand why he fell in love with me, let alone chose to marry such an imperfect person!  But I thank God for our marriage and Colton’s example every single day.

A Personal Goal Made Public

I really should pay more attention to this “blog.”  Since being pregnant, I’ve felt a push to be writing things down, especially for our children to read when they are a little bit older.  I keep telling Colton to “write that down!” and then I never follow up with myself.  I’ve never been consistent at journaling, especially since coming home from my mission.  There are so many things that I would like to document, but I think that I have to accept my millennial-self and blog it.  I am also making a vow to myself that I will take more pictures of my daily life.  I feel bad that I haven’t taken more pictures of my growing bump, and now I feel that it’s too late! Is it?  Anyone? Anyone?

I’ve also seen so many old friends lately, each of whom has asked me to clarify a few of the things that I have been posting on social media.  I feel like this blog would be the absolute best way to accomplish both of my goals.  So, here it goes. I’m making myself publicly accountable.  Help me.