Monthly Goals: July 2020

This post is sponsored by KINTO, a Japanese company that focuses on bringing tableware, drinkware, and interior items that bring its owners a sense of joy. Each of their items are heavily considered for the ease of integration into one’s lifestyle, without sacrificing the beauty of everyday things. 

A few days late, but better than never. In May, I shared how daily habits can help get goals achieved and in June I wrote about how creating time blocks can facilitate getting goals done.

For July, I wanted to do something a bit different and separate goals from habits. Habits are tiny daily steps we take to create a particular lifestyle. Hopefully the habits feed into your future goals but let’s not get the two confused as being the same thing.

This month’s goal formula has monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily habits listed separately. I consider monthly goals to be TRUE GOALS – one time events that occur after reaching a certain thresh-hold. In contrast, daily habits are tiny wins that we wish to accomplish so as to create a particular lifestyle. They are not true goals in that there is no end point. You do them daily, so it’s not like you drank 8 cups of water today therefore you’re done with that goal. Habits should be things that never leave you. You still want to do that again tomorrow in order to maintain a certain lifestyle. Lastly, weekly goals are somewhere in between. They’re goals that you can cross off and forget about for a few days, until a new week begins. They create a repeating habit over time. Below, you will see the difference between the three.

Monthly Goals:

  • Increase Instagram followers to 800 people, which may not seem like a lot but for a non-socialite such as myself seems like such a huge feat! If you like this content, perhaps you might enjoy a follow😉
  • Get a podcast recording in the books. It’s been a while since I’ve shared my story or put myself out there. After a few years of going down this loan repayment path, maybe some people can glean valuable info from my mistakes and my successes? I will try to see if there’s a space who would be interested in hearing the story thus far.
  • Finish online continuing education courses for dentistry and plan future live CE’s. Since we are spending a lot of time quarantining, I might as well use this time to knock out 25 of my 50 required continuing education credits. As a frugalist, I always do 25 of them online for FREE, which is the maximum allowed remote courses one can take.
  • Upgrade bathroom. We recently re-painted our bathroom in June. I wanted to upgrade the rest of it to make it feel like a brand new space without breaking the bank. I will be brainstorming a frugal way to upgrade a bathroom and will be sharing the project as we continue along.
  • Pantry declutter project. Every month I try to check the pantry for soon-to-be-expired items that I then integrate into meal planning. I like a minimalist fridge and pantry, getting rid of ingredients before buying more. We have very little pantry space in our small home, so it’s kind of a necessity, but also, a fun challenge for me.
  • Digital declutter project. For so long, I keep telling myself this will be the time I will digitally declutter. I have tons of files, photos, emails, subscriptions … I’d love to tackle this today!
  • Break $500 with the blog. I just recently started making money from the blog in the hundreds and my goal is to continually increase my blogger income. This month, I hope to break $500 in extra cash. One way I do this is by getting affiliate sponsored posts or by making affiliate links.
  • Explore 2 new places. It’s always good to have goals that nourish the soul. I love to explore and experience new things so this month, I wanted to explore two new places that we have never been before.
  • Bake 1 new recipe. I typically try to learn a new baker’s recipe every month using a variety of cookbooks or bloggers as inspiration.

Weekly Goals:

  • Stay offline one day a week. This means no blogging or social media for one entire day. This will be the day I spend with Mike, friends and family.
  • Deep clean house including bathroom, kitchen and floors.
  • Run 3x/wk. We have been pretty good about running a few days a week and I am proud of my abilities now (running up to five miles) so I want to keep this up. Hopefully it naturally turns into a habit so that I won’t have to keep making it a goal.

Habits:

  • Stretch/yoga10 mins every morning
  • Wake at sunrise
  • Use Headspace every morning
  • Skin care routine every morning
  • Wear TBC eyewear when using screens
  • Make bed every morning
  • Read 20 pages every day
  • No social media after 7pm
  • Drink 8 glasses of water
  • Turn on humidifier every evening
  • Wear a nightguard every night
  • Sleep at a decent hour every night
  • Write at least 30 minutes a day
  • Get outdoors 30 mins per day

I love to check off goals when I complete them. As for habits, I love to track. My favorite printable habit tracker download is by Unbound, which you can buy here.

I hope your month goes swell! See y’all in August.

Small Space Living

Tip 13: Mason Jar and Ceramic Pitcher Vases

The one thing about living in a tiny home is that there is not much storage room. It isn’t such a problem when there’s not much to store, and for some people, therein lies the rub. I have friends who are affronted by the suggestion of living life without simple “essentials”. Case in point: vases. On the flip side, I have other friends who roll their eyes at such frivolity. Both sides get along just fine with each other and that’s the whole point. It doesn’t matter much which camp you sit in as long as whatever lifestyle you have matches your space. Well, rather, whatever space you have matches your lifestyle.

If I am being completely honest, I own one vase. It’s a tall, cylindrical, long-stemmed glass vase that was given to me by a friend from dental school years ago. I’ve tried to de-clutter it a handful of times, but to no avail. It holds no more than 6 tulips, and funny enough, I have never used it. I suppose this means de-cluttering it definitely requires a revisit…

Which, in my opinion, puts me in the latter camp. When flowers find themselves in our home, I am more likely to grab a mason jar or a ceramic pitcher that we bought during our honeymoon in New Zealand than that darn vase. I have an affinity for assigning twenty functions to household items, if possible, so both solutions actually make me appreciate the bouquet more. There’s something gleeful about re-purposing stuff. Maybe THAT’s why I never use my actual vase. It’s too singular in purpose thus making it unattractive.

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Either way, look. It doesn’t matter whether you like a lot of stuff or a little stuff. It matters more that you love what you do have and use them often and well. It’s important that your things are beautiful in your eyes, even if it’s “just” a mason jar in other people’s eyes. To you, it could be a storage for bulk items, a container for a new candle, a get-together-party-favor holding your famous enchilada sauce, a jar holding homemade jam, a refreshing water glass (or lemonade or wine), or a vase. Maybe I’ve spent too long making do with what I’ve got. It sure as hell isn’t a bad way to live.

Nothing gives me more joy making something out of nothing – vases included.

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Thank you to Sonia for the lovely flowers. 

If you happen to be a vase person, East Fork Pottery is releasing a new bud vase today at 12pm EST. Hand-thrown in their beautiful soapstone glaze, they are a perfect addition to a ‘minimalist’ home.

Play Pretend: Bread Baking

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

To say that I live in a bakery is kind of an understatement. Even though the operations of Aero have gone from our home, we still churn out sourdough loaves, baguettes, cookies, scones and teacakes weekly – if only for ourselves, friends, and family. I have easily baked a thousand loaves in the last three hundred and sixty five days. On top of bread and pastries, discarded starter has gone into pancakes and breakfast items. Even now, as I sit and type this post, I am getting up every thirty minutes to do bread turns. Mike stands behind me making flour tortillas from scratch and I can hear the squeaking of our tortilla press. He’s even wearing a linen baker’s apron! He has gone down a different path, experimenting with ramens, noodles, and tortillas. All things that I can get behind.

I may have let go of the bakery but the bakery never let go of me.

Far from getting tired of our kitchen floors being covered in flour dust, what we have as a unit (roommate included) is an equal appreciation of jam, butter, and avocado toast, which we connect over cups of coffee in the mornings. We share the justification of munching on teacakes by going on group runs. Japanese ramen and Mexican dishes run rampant on our weekly menus.

There was a time when we were the only ones dishing out gluten products from scratch. But during these troubling months, I’ve seen more and more people turn to bread baking and I can’t help but rejoice on the inside. Visiting the grocery shelves these last few months has shown me that people are hanging onto bread flour and active yeast lately. Hopeful me is standing by the sidelines with jubilee cheering on a healthier reformation around carbohydrates. For those who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, here’s a bit of pretend. Or for those thinking of starting, a worthy wish list to consider.

+ A mill to get the freshest quality flour.

+ A Cast Iron Combo Cooker that’s affordable but also quality stuff.

+ A reliable rolling pin to ease the process (if you know, you know).

+ A linen apron, so that you can do turns right before work.

+ A Kitchen Aid Mixer, a.k.a. a baker’s best friend.

+ A tough bread knife that can cut day old sourdough (arguably the best kind).

+ A decent cutting board.

+ A bread box, for those who don’t freeze their bread (we do).

+ A marble pastry slab to keep dough cool while rolling.

And of course, jam, decent butter, and market avocados.

Any questions regarding bread baking, I’d love to help. Say hi on my Instagram.

Small Space Living

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

Tip 12: Introducing Color

For the past few years, I have been quite averse to introducing color into my life. Not that my life has been any less colorful. It’s just, I learned through my de-cluttering of closets  that a minimalist earns more success by sticking to a neutral palette. And it’s true. I’ve lived a simplified life that has allowed me to blossom in other, more prioritized aspects by sticking to a curated few guidelines: Less is more, clutter-free is productive, and neutral reigns supreme.

Prior to my minimalism journey, I was a person in love with color. My closet was an exploding rainbow tucked into drawers. My duvet cover was a painting printed on fabric, and I myself painted and hung up my art on the walls. I had a hodge-podge of jewelry and accessories and my signature bag was Kate Spade – the funky kind. But when I graduated from dental school with a huge student debt, I found all of that to be overwhelming – which is what initially led me to de-clutter, whittling down all I owned to nothing but white, black, brown and grey. And for three years, that decision and lifestyle carried me through some very tough times. For that, I am grateful.

After what I would consider to be a wild success with my loan repayment journey, we are finding ourselves entering a new stage in life – one wherein I do have a little more space to allow a tiny bit of myself back in. And when I turned to making the house a home these past few months, the items I was attracted to had, well, color.

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Which is what this post is about. Introducing color is absolutely scary for me. Mostly because, I have found that color tires the eyes. It disrupts the space. It can be loud and encroach on the mind. And to be honest with you, I will get sick of a color after a while. That’s just the way it is. Unlike whites which last forever (especially with the help of bleach), colors will likely only be loved for a few years. They will fade, both physically and metaphorically. And for a very long time, this fact is what stopped me from introducing color back into my home and my closet. Because I didn’t have money to waste on a few year’s worth of joy.

But what I’ve learned is that, life without joy is not really living. I keep re-learning that intentional living is as much the frivolous little things as the journey to get there.

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There will be many a blog space and minimalist person chanting the pros of an all-white space. I mean, Jenni Kayne has certainly proven the timelessness of blanched walls and bleached linens. And small spaces can appear larger with white everything. But the truth of the matter is, we all have a calling to certain colors. Who’s to say that a formula fits all? There are colors that, for whatever reason, are subconsciously reminiscent of a previous lifetime – and for every person, these colors are different. In fact, for the same person, these colors change over time. Whatever the science is behind all of this, I am going to say that as a small space occupant and minimalist writer, I am giving permission  (mostly to myself) to introduce color.

Everyone’s tolerance will be different, and one should aim for the amount of color that works for their particular space, but if you are like yours truly and are hesitant (or afraid), may I suggest the following guidelines that have helped me?

  • Start with a section of the color wheel.
  • Begin with smaller items; Accessories in blue rather than a full-on velveteen couch.
  • Choose “color neutrals”, as coined by my dear friend when speaking about this Parachute bedding of ours. An undoubtedly terra cotta color, but its closeness to brown makes it more neutral. Other color neutrals would be seashore blue or dusty rose, a pale yellow or olive green.

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  • Start not necessarily by adding color, but by knowing your emotions toward certain colors. Which ones are exhaustingly loud? Which are depressing or make you moody? Which ones give you energy?
  • Don’t choose a color because of a trend. Trends will change come next season.
  • Before making the purchase, find similar examples online and check-in on how they make you feel.
  • Lastly, follow your gut reaction. You know more than you think.

For the curious, the wool pillows are from Territory Design

Gift Guide: Father’s Day

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

I have always had a close connection with the celebration of Father’s Day.  One reason is that I  share the date with my birthday every six years or so, and my dad and I would always celebrate together. The second reason is perhaps related to a similarity to my dear pops and the close relationship that results. When I used to work down the street from my parent’s home, one of my favorite moments of the week was the hour prior to my workday when dad and I used to stand around the kitchen island sipping coffee and talking about whatever. When I first graduated from dental school, I invited my dad to breakfast at his favorite diner and over eggs and a cup of joe, I asked him for finance advice. And when there is trouble brewing between myself and my mom or my sister, guess who the first person I talk to is. That’s right. Dear old dad.

I know there are different types of dads out there, but mine in particular is the great listener type, and provides good, practical advice. He is my number one sounding board. I’m sure many daughters can relate. Still, there are fathers who fill other roles – the errand running type, the babysitting type, the cook for large gatherings type, the adventurer type, the handyman type, the chillax type … well you get it.

For those wishing to shower their fathers with gifts this year, I put together a collection of ideas which can all be ordered online. Just make sure to account for the extra time it takes to ship during these times.

+ A dutch oven for the dad who loves to cook or bake.

+ The most versatile coffee mug and a coffee subscription to match.

+ A pair of sneakers for the errand-running, dog-walking, on-the-go type of dad.

+ A new tumbler for dads who love a good workout.

+ Packing cubes for the frequent flyer or backpacking adventurer.

+ Blue light blockers for weekdays and sunnies for weekends.

+ New speakers for music and movie loving dads.

+ Organic undies for carefree, lounging dudes.

+ Finally, a good night’s sleep, which every dad deserves.

These are my personal picks that I imagine different types of fathers would enjoy.

I hope you find one that suits you.

Small Space Living

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

Tip 11: Finding Cable Solutions in Media Consoles

I am really adverse to adding furniture to our small space, especially if it entails taking up floor space. It pains me to clutter up a home, and for this reason I have been fighting the urge to add anything but a couch to our living room. So why did I buy a media console?

To be honest, the media console stemmed from my contempt regarding cables. I wrote prior about how I detest the sight of wires running along walls like snakes, connecting different gadgets throughout the home to each other so that they may work in harmony. It isn’t the tech itself that I despise. It’s the inability to make the tech look neat and tidy and clean.

Currently, we have an amp near the kitchen area that connects to a projector behind the couch that wires to two speakers and a record player, and somewhere in the vicinity sits a Switch console. Don’t ask me how they interplay with each other. The moral of my story is that the unsightly array of wires drives me crazy. And we came down to the solution of trading our five speaker system and amp with a sleeker, minimalist pair of Sonos 5 speakers (in white, of course), which can plug directly into the record player and the projector. Wire management is the name of the game here.

And with a media console, I would have the ability to hide both speakers behind sliding doors. I could connect them to the record player that sits atop, and run the wires out of holes around the back where a plug remains hidden. The Switch consoles and controls can also be tucked safely inside, and the only thing to hide is a single wire connecting the projector to one of the Sonos 5 speakers. Everything moves from the kitchen to the living space and it brings me such peace to know that, finally, the cables can be nearly invisible, even if it means at the expense of floor space.

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However, outfitting a home with media consoles that are sustainably sourced or ethically made is near impossible, barring the case that you know of a particular woodworker who would be willing to custom create you a shelving unit at an affordable price or that you do woodwork yourself. Thankfully, West Elm provides a few options that was aligned with a mid-century style. The particular one we bought was a narrow and short (48″) low profile console which was barely deep enough to house the speakers. All of the wood is FSC-certified and therefore sustainable sourced and the product is a fair trade product. Additionally, it is GREENGUARD gold certified.

There were only a few things I did not like about the console. First, it’s very narrow, so if you were considering hiding a few vinyls behind the sliding doors, then you’ll be out of luck. However, it holds coffee table books well. Secondly, the color was a bit darker than pictured, which isn’t too much of a bad thing. All furniture from West Elm comes with white glove service which is a mandatory additional fee, but the service was actually very good. Plus the delivery came two days from ordering, a few weeks in advance from when we would get the speakers.

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Speaking of the Sonos 5 speakers, we used a perk for being a healthca[;’pre worker during this time, as Sonos is offering a discount of 20% to all medical professionals and first responders. To learn more about potential COVID-19 perks for certain professionals, check out my post here. It could serve to be a very frugal opportunity until the end of 2020.

Ethical Furniture and Home Goods

I know that ethical and sustainable options are few and far between when it comes to home goods. While slow fashion is starting to garner attention, slow homes are lagging behind. Here, I list a few of my favorite go-to sources.

Furniture

Home Goods

Intentional Living: Headspace

In a world where misinformation disguises as truth, it is hard for me to know what to believe anymore. There are, however, a few things I know to be true.

A lot of people are in pain, suffering, frustrated, and afraid.
Many feel isolated or alone.
Information is overwhelmingly readily available and largely unchecked.
What we see, hear, and learn is largely influenced by another party with ulterior motives.
There are, however, still a few things in our control.

We can still act, react, and live according to our individual values.
We can think for ourselves rather than follow trends or what other people are doing.
Instead of spreading other people’s posts and ideas, we can create original content.
We can choose to ignore all forms of social media propaganda so that we can process information as we experience it ourselves.
We can prepare our best self for tomorrow by focusing on self-care and our own internal health.
We can trust that our daily work is the change we need – that mundane tasks such as caring for patients, helping neighbors, and checking up on loved ones make the world a much better place.

I was disappointed with Instagram yesterday. I woke up to a feed full of blacked out squares. There was not a single piece of original content. The entire world was silenced under the ruse that we are allowing other people who have something to say speak.

I saw nobody who had something to say.

Which makes me wonder – who spread this idea of muting people for a week “a thing”? Could it be possible that someone who ultimately did not want people to speak up created this trend under the pretence that more will be heard? Whose voices will we really hear? Why are people reposting the same few stories and posts? Have we all just become lemmings? Why is there an us and they? Are we not one human race?

So I did the only thing that was in my control.

I deleted Instagram. I decided to retreat to my own space here, where I am not serving anyone else’s agenda but my own. I suggest others do the same.

If you haven’t already, Headspace is offering their meditation app for FREE until the end of 2020 for all of LACounty, the unemployed, and other groups of people. The first month is free for the public at large.

I think we all need to return to our own head space, instead of be blinded by the media and social media. I was disappointed with the platform, but I recognize now that the disappointment lies mostly in me and my subscription to Instagram. This is where I live now.

I will not be muted or silenced or blacked out.

It is the media that I will choose to mute.

Monthly Goals: June 2020

This is my second monthly goals post, but before we get into the thick of things, I just wanted to take the time to ask how everyone’s May went? For me, I’d say rather quickly. Compared to April, May kind of got away from me. Yet there were many accomplishments that I wanted to share.

May Accomplishments

  • I decreased phone use  significantly, thanks to my habit of deleting Instagram after blog work every day and docking my phone when I got home. I also had added a nighttime lock on all apps between the hours of 9pm and 7am. Lastly, I limited screen time to an hour a day.
  • I’ve developed a new habit in the mornings.  I somehow couldn’t get myself to keep the humidifier on every night so I’ve actually reverted the habit to mornings and it’s worked better for me. I wake up, light a candle, fling open the windows, and turn on the humidifier, adding a few drops of essential oil. It holds enough water to run until the evening.
  • For the blog, I received more views than the previous month (despite failing to post five times a week). I added over an additional 2313 affiliates, of which about 50 are well-aligned with my blog.
  • I completed 6 dental CE courses, despite aiming for 16.
  • I kept the home tidy and neat. Mike has helped me make the bed every day, and we’ve worked as a team to do a weekly cleaning of the entire space.
  • I’ve run five weeks in a row, and have achieved consistently running 5k in under 35 minutes. To give perspective, my lifetime “record” of a 5k was 45 minutes prior to this month. Embarrassing, but true. My fastest mile for the month was 9 minutes and 30 seconds, which is a lifestyle achievement for me. I have only my roommate and husband to thank for pushing me to get out there.
  • I reached the goal of increasing my income without increasing the number of days I worked. I made an additional $4,000 this month than the previous month by increasing my production at work. Due to COVID-19’s restriction on dental care being lifted in California mid-May, we were swamped with all sorts of neglected dental care that needed urgent attention. I don’t think I left the office early all of May.
  • We stayed under our spending limits this month. This was helped by the fact that Mike’s dad and grandpa live in a 55+ community and receive a weekly box of groceries. Since they have food preferences, Mike and his sister benefited from the left-over excess, which then reduced our grocery bills.

There is one thing in May that I did not accomplish and that was to start writing a book. I planned to create a habit of working on it thirty minutes a day, but my short-coming was that I never scheduled that 30-minute block into my planner. I still want to write a book, so this month, I will try to make it a point to block out 30 minutes a day to just write. I find that the best way to get myself to do something is to do it first thing in the morning. Therefore, I aim to start each day writing at 5:30am to 6:00am.

The Importance of Blocking Out Time

Last time I wrote about habit creation in order to achieve goals. Today, I will briefly note the importance of blocking out time.

My time is greatly structured and organized, which isn’t to say it isn’t fluid. However, it is mostly adhered to and taken very seriously. I set aside blocks for everything I do, even spending time with my husband or family. I know it seems boring to have your whole life planned in such a way, but it is necessary to living a full life. When opportunities present themselves, it doesn’t mean you have to turn them down. It only requires the extra step of prioritizing and pivoting if need be.

In the mornings, I set aside time for tasks such as exercise and breakfast. But I also set aside time for making coffee, turning on the candles and humidifiers, and listening to a podcast. These are things people don’t usually block out time for. I have found that without putting even the most mundane things into the calendar, they can be forgotten or missed. However, the effects of self-care tasks such as these are crucial to the overall picture. If I don’t set aside time to turn on the candle, then I don’t give to myself the calm atmosphere that I thrive in, thereby impeding the quality of my work. Whatever it is you prioritize, you need to set aside time for. Not only does this ensure that your highest goals are at the forefront of your life, but it also makes life easier for you.

You see, when things are scheduled into the calendar, you relieve yourself from the need to remember to do something. You free your mind from spending energy on recall which then allows it to calculate other functions. Additionally, you take away the stress of deciding whether you’ve done enough towards a particular goal. And you can visually see that you have set aside enough blocks for the things that matter. This makes it easier for you to get 1% better every day.

With that little diddy, here are my goals for June.

June Goals

PERSONAL:

  • Schedule an hour of Mike time a day.
  • Block out time to see family once a week.
  • Block out time to unwind every evening without technology in hand.

WORK:

  • Aim to publish 3 blog posts per week by working on the blog one hour each day.
  • Schedule an hour of CE courses four days a week in order to reach 16 CE courses.
  • Get one podcast on the books for the blog by applying to two a week.
  • Make the dental office as safe and efficient as possible by grouping certain procedures together.

HOME:

  • Schedule an hour a week to clean the entire home.
  • Focus on maintenance rather than improvements.

HEALTH:

  • Schedule an hour of running three mornings every week.
  • Schedule forty minutes of yoga two days a week.

FINANCES:

  • Do not spend any fun money this month, especially since my birthday will likely yield a few new items to love.
  • Increase savings by opening a high-yield savings account.
  • Earn more income by funneling more time into the blog.
  • Create spreadsheets to analyze where money will be best “invested” – funneled into loans bringing us closer to financial independence or into a rental property to set us up for early retirement?

OTHER:

  • Work on a book 30 minutes every day.

I know that the world is hurting right now. It may seem as if I don’t care about the current state of affairs perhaps by posting this but that surely isn’t true. I live in the heart of downtown Santa Ana. We evacuated our home yesterday because we didn’t feel safe. The shops on our street are boarded up and graffitied. My dental office closed early to protect our patients from the protests. I am not above or outside of this. If anything, I am in the midst of it all. I am very active in helping where I can. I messaged the owners who I delivered bread to for a year. I texted my boss to make sure the dental office was safe overnight. We drove around the area this morning to make sure our neighbors weren’t broken into or robbed. I sent positive texts to fellow business owners within a 1 mile radius. I continue to go into work every day as a dentist to treat the marginalized and the lower income community  which I proudly call home. I may not be speaking much publicly about what’s going on, but I am listening. At the same time, I don’t believe in being muted for a week so that the online space can work some algorithm. I think the government or an organization will find ways to spread their propaganda regardless of some app equation, and being silent only helps them to do so. 

In posting this, I go back to one of my core beliefs that in order to create change, we must start at home and with ourselves. Forgive me for being trite, but writing goals is how I know to make the world 1% better. Because I cannot control what happens outside these walls, only how I act and react. The only way to improve the world is to improve ourselves. That’s what I know how to do. 

Meanwhile, I will continue to live believing that my hands are doing daily work. This space included. And that whatever statement that I make about the political state of things online is what’s truly trite. Rather than coming to a full stop, I’m going to keep dealing with the world the way I always have. Through writing. If you do not want to be in this space, you do not have to be.