That Which Brings Me Joy

Joy is an interesting concept. It can happen because of tiny little things or we experience it because of huge and delightful things. I’ve been tackling a lot of serious subjects lately, so today, I thought I’d talk about joy, and how being happy and thankful can be possible when you live with Chronic Pain and Invisible Illness.

I have a hummingbird feeder that I recently added to my backyard. Apparently, I also have a wasp nest nearby. Right after adding the hummingbird feeder, a swarm of wasps took it over, preventing these tiny birds from having a chance to use their new feeding station. I was mad. This was NOT why I had put the feeder out, so I started brainstorming ideas about how I was going to correct the situation. I went online and one of the ideas was to put out a food source for the wasps and then to move it away from the feeder a little bit each day until it was far enough that the birds would feel safe to eat again. That was all well and good, but it didn’t get rid of the wasps, it just relocated them further down my patio. I wasn’t sure where the nest was, and I wanted the wee pesties to go away completely.

Still, I put out a dish with a super concentrated nectar for them and sure enough, they started leaving the hummingbird feeder alone and going to their own dish. Some of them drowned but what mostly happened is that a bigger swarm of wasps showed up, now that they had a food source. Even more frustrated, I bought a wasp trap and hung it near the bird feeder, hoping to confuse the little buggers and trick them into dying. Oh yes…I can be very mean when I need to be! And yes, this too worked…but obviously the nest was nearby because even more wasps showed up!! So, where is the joy in all this? Well, I watched as the wasp trap did its job…many of the new swarm were attracted to the extra sweet nectar and flew into the trap, but then found themselves unable to get out again. I watched in joy as they struggled to figure out what to do, eventually getting tired and dropping to the bottom where they drowned in the treasure that had called to them in the first place. And my hummingbirds were able to enjoy the feeder that was meant for them in peace.

Not only that but Ray was able to find the nest and give it a good spray with wasp killer, so hopefully, we’ve eradicated them and won’t have to deal with their swarming any longer. Another cause for Joy.

The hummingbirds make me happy. Their energy and the buzz their wings make when they’re at the feeder brings a smile to my face every time. The colours they wear on their jewel-toned bodies flash in the sun, and each one brings a bright start to my day. In the same way, a good cup of coffee and a cuddle with my cat Dorie starts the morning off right, even if I haven’t had much sleep at all.

 

I think that often, people with Chronic Pain forget that it’s okay to feel joy. We’ve been so used to feeling the negative emotions that come with being in pain all the time that we forget there are positives in our lives as well. When you hurt, your focus is on the hurting. There is often desperation around pain because it’s never-ending. We can have a tendency to catastrophize it with phrases like “I’ll never get better” or “this is the worse pain I’ve ever had” yet when good things happen, we don’t do the same thing: “this is the happiest I’ve ever been” or “I’ve never been so happy”. It’s almost like we’re afraid to accept the joy in our lives for fear it’s going to go away and we’ll never experience it again. The thing is, we make our own joy, or we find our own joy…nobody does it for us. So, if you want joy…you have to look for it. Think about it for a minute…what are some things that might bring joy into your life? Here’s a list of 20 items that might get you started:

  1. Watch a sunrise or sunset
  2. Send someone you love snail mail
  3. Volunteer
  4. Get crafty
  5. Bake something
  6. Keep a journal
  7. Take a walk
  8. Do a good deed
  9. Read a novel
  10. Go to the museum
  11. Sing
  12. Take a class
  13. Enjoy a power nap
  14. Log off Facebook
  15. Practice positive affirmations
  16. Mentor someone
  17. Plant a garden
  18. Have a warm bath
  19. Go to an art gallery
  20. Give more compliments

Most of these ideas cost nothing but reap huge benefits in the joy department, and you deserve them! Not only that, but the more joy you bring into your life the more you fire up the endorphins that release the body’s natural painkillers, so you’re physically doing good to your body as well as mentally doing good to your body. That’s a 2 for 1 special you won’t find in any store!!

You are worth every joy possible. With everything your body goes through on a daily basis, it’s natural to feel beat up and unworthy of happiness. Those are your brain weasels talking. Brain weasels are the voices of depression that come with chronic pain and those weasels lie to you all the time.

BrainWeasels

They don’t want you to be happy so they’ll tell you all sorts of lies to try and convince you that you don’t deserve joy in your life, but THEY ARE WRONG. You have every right to be as happy and joyful as the next person. So take a chance on happiness EVERY chance you get and see if it doesn’t start your day off on a better note. And tell those brain weasels they can go the same way as the wasps!

There is always hope!

 

A New Piece Published!

Wow!

I’ve just had a new piece of writing published on the Pain News Network as a guest columnist. I wanted to write about how we grieve when we lose so much of our lives to a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, MS, Ehler-Danlos, Lupus and other Invisible Illnesses.

Now, I saw information about the Pain News Network on the blog of someone I follow. I looked them up and saw that they accept articles from guest writers. I contacted the Editor to see what the requirements were and he told me that basically anything to do with real life and pain, as long as it hadn’t been previously published. So I sat down, thought for a few minutes and literally banged this out. He thought it was good enough and voíla, it was done!

Here is the link, and I would love your thoughts about it in the comments below. I guess I’ll have to update my “I’ve been published” section…this is my first publication outside of The Mighty!!!

I’m so excited and I’m really damn proud of myself!

https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2018/8/8/grieving-a-former-life

There is always hope!

Good Advice…

I want to share with you some valuable advice from another Pain Warrior. This is a person who lives with Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and his name is  Tom Seaman from The Mighty.  He just shared these thoughts recently and they struck such a chord with me that I had to share them with you.

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I used to blame myself for having Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain and not being able to do things like everyone else. I figured there must have been something I had done in my past to cause it. I was a pretty rebellious teenager and did a lot of heavy partying, including drinking and drugs. I was in a very abusive relationship with my first “love”, the man who became the father of my two children. I have no doubt these things may have contributed to the stresses in my life, along with a huge and ugly surge of hormones when I started my period at the age of 13 (and turned from a normal young girl into a rage monster…no lie, you can ask my sister!).

As other stresses entered my life, my Chronic Pain got worse. So did my Osteoarthritis and my Chronic Fatigue. I was a single parent for a period of time and worried about my kids being on their own so much while I commuted three hours a day and worked at a job I loved. There were other relationships including a marriage that didn’t work out before I finally met my (now) husband Ray who is the finest man I could have ever hoped for. All of it took a toll on my health though, and I believe that a surgery I had in 2004 was the catalyst for my real downfall.

I had been suffering from severe Gastric Reflux Disease…GERD. I thought it was normal to eat a handful of Tums at a time and so had done nothing about my heartburn until Ray convinced me to talk to my doctor. She sent me for tests that showed I had a very severe form of GERD and recommended that I see a surgeon to have a surgery called a Nissen Fundoplication. It was named after the doctor who invented it, and basically what they do is take the top of the stomach and wrap it around the bottom of the esophagus, effectively preventing anything from backing up into the esophagus again. This means no more acid reflux and no more heartburn. It also means you lose your ability to vomit, so if you ever come down with the flu or become pregnant, you are in huge trouble. If you are dry heaving or attempting to vomit, the strain on the Fundoplication can stretch it enough that it loosens so you do bring up the contents of the stomach, and need to have the surgery redone. In my case, I need to go to the hospital and have an NG tube placed down my nose and into my stomach to empty the contents…a procedure I’ve had done 3 times now, so I’m a pro at swallowing the NG tube now.

I went ahead and had the surgery, and for what it was done for, it worked extremely well. I’ve had no problems with heartburn except a very rare exception every now and then. Unfortunately, I suffered nerve damage in my sternum area where an incision was made to hold one of the instruments in the surgery and which caused me tremendous pain for many months afterwards. I was drugged up on morphine pills (plus pills for nausea and itching) for so long that my friends could barely recognize who I was. It got to the point that I had to be hospitalized to wean off the morphine because I was hallucinating that I could hear a band playing, and I kept looking behind my computer to try and find them. The doctors were at the point they were going to crack open my chest to try and find the problem when the Thoracic Surgeon suggested trying Gabapentin for nerve damage and it worked. Unfortunately, that 11 months of pain and misery put me into such a Fibro flare that I don’t think I’ve ever properly recovered from it.

I went into quite a depressive spiral during that time. I was off work for months…I tried to go back but had to take more time off. I missed working…it’s always been my passion and to not be there with my team was hard. I was missing church and my Lifegroup, and missing my friends and times of social gatherings…I was just miserable. Eventually, I got better – well enough to go back to work, etc. but I’ve never felt 100% again. A year later, my body decided to go rogue on me and I ended up in 2006/2007 having 3 separate surgeries in a 6 month period of time; my left ovary burst, my gallbladder gave out and then my right ovary burst, putting me into surgical menopause (I’d had my uterus out at age 28). That in itself was traumatizing, so again, my Fibromyalgia kicked into high gear and I was flaring badly. I had one more surgery in 2007 that actually had to be cancelled while I was on the operating table as the Anesthesiologist couldn’t find a vein for the IV. I have tiny crappy veins and I’d been left waiting all day without liquid. No wonder.

So, my poor body went through the wringer during that period between 2006-early 2008 and I blamed myself so much. I don’t know why, there was nothing I could have done to prevent anything, but still…it just seemed like I was constantly ill or recuperating and I was never able to go out with Ray when he wanted to. All I wanted to do was sleep or rest and I felt like the worst wife in the world. All the chores were left for him, I had no energy to do anything…and yet he never once complained. He truly is the most remarkable man, and I know God picked him especially for me. Ray takes the best care of me and I am so grateful.

When I read the words that Tom Seaman posted, I was reminded of all of this all over again. It’s easy to get into a “blaming yourself” mindset but nothing we’ve done is our fault. Fibro picks its own victims (ooh, I hate that word) and we have to live with the consequences. I know we all try our best to live with it and make the most of life, but we have a tendency to try and fault ourselves I think. We feel guilty that we can’t be there for our families, our friends, our employers, our volunteer work. We drop hobbies and things we enjoy because we just don’t have the energy to do them anymore. We see others picking up the slack for us, and there can be a sense of shame. And often, we retreat because depression kicks us hard.

Today, I say NO MORE!  We have been dealt an ugly hand, but IT IS NOT OUR FAULT. If you are feeling these feelings of guilt, shame, anger, depression or other negatives, STOP. Nothing you have done has caused your Fibro. If you are living with Chronic Pain or Chronic Fatigue, accept it. It is what it is. You can’t change it so you have to accept it. The only other alternative is to wallow in misery and I don’t think that’s an acceptable alternative…and neither do you, honestly. Take Tom’s words to heart, and my words too…

THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE!!!!

Talkin’ Bout My Ment-al Illness

Did you automatically sing that title as “talking bout my Generation”?  That’s what I was aiming for!

I want to talk about Mental Illness today and the meds I take. I’m not ashamed to say I have Bipolar Disorder but I know there is a huge stigma around having a mental illness and talking about it. There are far too many people who grew up believing you should keep things like that hush hush because it would ruin your reputation, and that of your family if you said anything. People were put away in homes and hospitals who were severely mentally ill, or stories were told about “crazy Aunt Gladys” or “weird Uncle Marvin” and you knew you weren’t supposed to either hear them or repeat them.

Things are changing thank God, and I’ve never been afraid to just come out and say “I am Bipolar” in conversation. It’s a part of me, so why would I hide it? It was actually a relief to finally have a diagnosis because then I knew what those manic highs and depressing lows were all about. Do I like the highs and lows? Sometimes. They can be exciting, and energizing and fun. They can also be ugly and messy and scary. But the overall thing about having BD is that it’s uniquely a part of me. Take it away, and I would be so different. Less courageous. Less outgoing. Less interesting. Less, less, less….

One difficult thing about having a mental illness is the issue of being on medications. What you’re trying to do is balance the chemicals in your brain called Serotonins. Finding the right balance is a tricky business and can sometimes take years. I know people who have been on up to 17 different medications at various times, just trying to find the right combo that works for them. I’ve been lucky in that I was put on Seroquel when I was first diagnosed and it worked well for me for a long time.

It wasn’t until late 2016 when I started experiencing the auditory hallucinations  – I could hear music when others couldn’t, and I knew something was going on. I saw a Psychiatrist to rule out any new mental illnesses, and then Dr. Leong recommended the MRI and EEG I’ve talked about in earlier posts. We also decided to switch the Seroquel to something new and that’s when I started taking the Abilify.

I was nervous about taking it at first because of the list of side effects. I am bolding the ones I’ve experienced so far:

Common Abilify side effects may include:
  • weight gain;
  • blurred vision;
  • nausea, vomiting, changes in appetiteconstipation;
  • drooling (mild, at night);
  • a headache, dizzinessdrowsiness, feeling tired;
  • anxiety, feeling restless;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat.

Now, why can’t Drug Manufacturers automatically make a drug with weight LOSS as a side effect??  Why is weight GAIN always the big one listed (haha). Seriously…what are they putting in there…hot dogs?? Milkshakes?  Okay, I’d take it in milkshake form (I LOVE milkshakes!), but I just don’t understand this. It must be a filler of some kind. Then there’s drooling. What the hell kind of side effect is that??? DROOLING??? Who thinks these things up?

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“Hey Ron”

“Yeah Charlie?”

“Do ya think we should make people drool with this one?”

“Oh yeah…we haven’t added that one in a long time. I bet people miss that side effect…yeah, let’s add it”.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*snork*   Right!  Okay, so now, I’m fat and drooling. How else can we make this attractive? Oh, I know…let’s make me constipated too! And then we’ll make me super tired, but add in insomnia, so I can’t sleep!! Mwaaaahaaahaaahaaahaaaaa

WitchesBrew1

Yeah…that’s about what it feels like. Seriously, I don’t understand why half these side effects are considered acceptable, but we go ahead and take them, because the side effects are worth the overall benefit of the drug itself. And what benefit am I getting from the Abilify? Well for one thing. I have energy again. And an interest in life. I’m not spending 90% of my day sleeping. I’m doing the household chores again. I’m getting together with friends again – socializing. I’m still in chronic pain, but my brain is in such a better place that I’m managing my pain better. Could I go back to work in this condition? No,  not a chance. My pain and fatigue still wipe me out, and I can only manage small chunks of all of these things, broken up throughout the day, but the fact is, I am able to do them again.

I don’t know how long it went on for, but most of my days on Seroquel were spent either in bed sleeping or in my recliner, playing on the computer. I would aimlessly shift between Facebook and a select few other websites I frequent, like Pinterest, some contest sites and game sites where I enjoy solitaire or various slot machines (not for real money). I still do that now, but it’s in between all the other things I’ve found interest in again. I also tend to do a lot of online shopping. Too much, and this can be part of my mania cycle of BD as well. My husband never says anything as long as I record my transactions in our financial system. But I’m doing other things like crafting again, and I’m making cards again for birthdays and stuff, and I want to learn to crochet again (I was just starting to learn and then boom!, totally lost interest when I started having trouble with the Seroquel and didn’t KNOW I was having trouble with it).

Now, here is the list of SEVERE side effects of Abilify. Again, I am bolding the ones I’ve experienced so far:

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe agitation, distress, or restless feeling;
  • twitching or uncontrollable movements of your eyes, lips, tongue, face, arms, or legs (very rare and only for a moment);
  • mask-like appearance of the face, trouble swallowing, problems with speech;
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself;
  • severe nervous system reaction–very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, feeling like you might pass out;
  • low blood cell counts–sudden weakness or ill feeling, fever, chills, sore throat, swollen gums, painful mouth sores (I get inflamed tastebuds), red or swollen gums, skin sores, cold or flu symptoms, cough, trouble breathing; or
  • high blood sugar–increased thirst, increased urination, hunger, dry mouth, fruity breath odor, drowsiness, dry skin, weight loss    **oh LOOK! There’s my weight loss, but look what I have to go through to get it!! 😦

Because I have Type 2 Diabetes, I have to be extra careful in taking this medication. I need to check my blood on a more frequent basis, to make sure I’m maintaining optimum blood sugar levels at all times. I currently inject 14 units of insulin at night only and have done so for about 3 years now. If I notice that my sugars are going quite high on this med, we may have to change that up, and that will be hard for me. I like the benefits of this drug, and I’m not sure I want to start experimenting with other medications.

So…what about you dear reader. Do you have a mental illness? Do you talk about it if you do? Why or why not? Do you know other people who experience prejudice because of a mental illness? How are they treated differently? Do you stand up for them? Advocate for them?

It’s a scary world out there for people with mental illnesses. We never know for sure who our allies are or where we can feel safe talking about our lives and what we experience until we start talking to others. I make myself a safe haven. I talk about my mental illness so others know they can be safe and vulnerable around me. If you need someone to talk to, contact me.  Anything said to me stays private, even from my husband. If you’re on Facebook, look me up. Same with Messenger. Just put the words There Is Always Hope in the subject line, so I’ll know it’s not spam.

If you have anything you’d like to share here, please feel free to add a comment. I do moderate them, but only for spam…everything else gets posted. Thanks for reading and remember…

there is always hope

 

Furiously Happy – A Tribute

I’m doing a tribute today to an amazing woman named Jenny Lawson. You may have heard of her. She’s an incredible writer and the author of the books “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, “Furiously Happy” & “You Are Here”.

 

She writes about her own struggles with depression and man, can she write!!! Her sense of humour is incredibly warped and twisted (just the way I like it), she blogs as The Bloggess (thebloggess.com) and there are several Facebook fan groups as well, one of which I belong to. We are her Tribe. We get her. We understand what she goes through and experiences, and even if some of us don’t live with depression, most of us know someone who does. For me, it’s my husband.

I wrote this piece one day when I was feeling overwhelmingly happy that I had found this particular Tribe to call my own. Here goes:

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I live with several health issues that leave me in constant chronic pain: Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis in all my major joints, Myofascial Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Forestier’s Disease, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Diabetes Type 2 (on insulin) and Bipolar Disorder. I had Total Hip Replacement on Feb. 7/17 (with my left hip needing to be done as well and possible knee surgery on my right knee later on) and am having a good recovery. I am still in pain, and always will be.

I used to think that my “furiously happy” would come when I no longer lived in pain. Its only been in the last year or so that I’ve come to realize that will never happen. I will NEVER be without pain…that’s just the nature of my body. And when I realized that there would always be the pain, I thought at first “then I will never truly be happy”. I have an amazing husband, whom I love beyond measure. I have 2 grown up kids that I still worry about and three grandsons that I never get to see because of distance. We keep in touch though with social media, and that’s a good thing, but it’s far from being furiously happy.

Because of my health, I had to give up a career that I adored…Admin Support at the Executive level as well as being a Certified Event Planner. I loved my job with every fibre of my being, but came to a point where I physically couldn’t manage it any longer, and with my chronic fatigue, would never be able to manage again. Everything in my life seemed to be about loss…losing a job, losing my hobbies, losing professional relationships, losing friendships, losing mobility, losing at life.

Hubby and I decided in 2013 to make a move to Vancouver Island from Calgary after the weather in Calgary became too much for my body to handle…too cold, too much snow, too long of winters, too icy…too, too, too. We moved here without a job for Ray or even knowing what our apartment looked like – we rented it sight unseen. Slowly, we started making Victoria our home – walking by the ocean, going for coffee or dinner at various places. I soon realized how much I loved it here, even though there were really no friends to share it with (two couples and one girlfriend and that was all that I knew – and even then we rarely saw each other).

One day, I found the Jenny Lawson book Furiously Happy. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I gave the book to Hubby to read and HE has never laughed so much…and he’s not one to show much emotion ever, good or bad. But he laughed and often. From there, I found her website and her other book and then all of sudden, there was THIS group. People like me. People who were struggling and depressed and suffering mentally and physically and I thought to myself “God, thank you for bringing me home”. Because I realized quickly that I seemed to be good at encouraging other people in their struggles, so I didn’t have to think about mine. I could offer advice or words of comfort, or just the right kitten picture and something would change for the good in that other life. And MY life felt better because of it.

And then I knew, the way that I became Furiously Happy was by being myself and sharing my life with those of you here who needed what I had to offer…a shoulder to cry on, a hug, some understanding, appreciation…whatever you want to call it. I became Furiously Happy because OF Furiously Happy. And now I have my Hubby and my family and my friends and my volunteering AND MY TRIBE!!

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Now, the reason I’m giving a shout out to Jenny today is that she has been undergoing a new treatment for her depression called Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).  It’s described like this: (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective.

Jenny started treatment 2 weeks ago…and people…IT’S WORKING!!!!!

I want you to go to her blog and read all about it. If you know anyone who is experiencing major depression in their lives and no other treatment has worked, then this MIGHT be an answer for them too. I admire this woman so much, and I’m so delighted that this is working for her, I simply had to share. Please go check it out, buy her books (you will laugh, trust me) and find your tribe if you haven’t already.

If you live with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, or Invisible Illness of any kind, you can’t go through it alone. You need to find a support group. If you look me up on Facebook, I can introduce you to the Fibro group I belong to. We support everyone who is in pain. And if you’re a fan of Jenny Lawson and want to join the group on Facebook I belong to, use the contact page on the blog here, and let me know. And remember…

there is always hope

A Classic Christmas Carol – Rewritten (And Other Stuff)

Hello. I’ve been missing in action for the last several weeks due to a deep depression that hit and saw me in bed exhausted and unable to function much beyond the basics. I think it was probably a severe Bi-Polar Disorder low; I was diagnosed with this about 9 months ago after living with it for a number of years. I’ve been on Seroquel since the diagnosis with good results but still have episodes that pop up just out of the blue.

I was worried about this because I also had a flare up of my Trigeminal Neuralgia, and I was scheduled to fly to Calgary on November 18th to visit my dear sister/friend Charlotte to celebrate her birthday on the 19th. Somehow, everything came together, I felt well enough to go, managed the flight okay (with the help of friendly Westjet agents and Flight Attendants and fellow passengers when it came to my carry on bag), and once I landed in Calgary and got my first hug from Charlotte, all was right in the world again! Spent a full week with her and her (my) family, had dinner with my son Troy and in general, just enjoyed a great week “at home” at my second home. Charlotte’s son Sam is 12 now, almost taller than me and continues to amaze me with his accomplishments. Sam is a multiple amputee from birth, missing both hands and one foot. I’ll share a post about him soon because he deserves one all about him, but for now, here he is in his cadet outfit. Sam is the very first multiple amputee cadet in all of Canada!!! We’re all SO proud of him!!!!

saminuniform

After returning home, I ended up sleeping for 3 days, only getting up for pee breaks and an occasional bite of food (Ray makes me milkshakes with Carnation Instant Breakfast in them). I finally started feeling alive again by day 4, in time to realize how incredibly sore and achy my hips are. Which led to the re-writing of the classic Christmas song “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” to my version, called “I Want A Hip Repla-cement For Christmas”. Feel free to sing along!

I Want A Hip Replacement For Christmas

I want a hip repla-cement for Christmas
Only a brand new hip for me will do
Don’t want jewels
No outdoor gardening tools
I want a hip to take for walks
Without pain, that’d be new

I want a hip repla-cement for Christmas
I don’t think Santa Claus will mind, do you
Then he and I can twirl
And I’ll be a giddy girl
So get me to the Doctor
That’s the smartest thing to do

I can see me now on Christmas morning
Creeping down the stairs of wood
I won’t need to use my walker
And I can throw away my crutches
When my hip does what it should!!

I want a hip repla-cement for Christmas
Only a total brand new hip will do
No more aches and pain
To drive this gal insane
I’ll only love a brand new hip
And a brand new hip will love me too!!!!!!!

Thank you, thank you very much     elvisemoji

Check back later for touring dates when I take this show on the road!!

and like I always say….there is always hope!