First Anniversary!

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Whoa. Exactly one year ago I created From This Side of the Sun. I had zero clue how to use WordPress, let alone how to blog, and no idea what would happen once I let this baby out into the world. All I knew is that I had to do it. I had to create an outlet for my voice.

Since then, it’s been nothing short of an incredible adventure in itself, and my saving grace in its own right. I’ve been able to share my stories of traveling, my struggles and accomplishments with running, my poetry, and even opened up about my health issues. I’ve written about my passions and my most embarrassing moments, from wild adventures to every day life. I have connected with so many individuals across the country, and surprisingly enough, this blog has brought me even closer to those already here at home.

So a massive THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for following along these past 365 days, being an instrumental part of my continuous growth and support of strength, and letting me share my world with you.

New here? I got ya covered. Here’s a snapshot of  some of my favorite memories (both old & new) of posts from August 2015-now. Time really does fly when you’re having fun, huh?

 

Can’t wait to see what’s next!

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Anddddd, she’s off again!

I just did the craziest thing.

I threw caution to the wind, and booked a flight to Peru that leaves exactly ONE WEEK from today.

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Can’t wait to see this in person!

Borderline insane? Probably.

This wasn’t completely out of nowhere, though- I’ve been wanting to travel to South America for almost 5 years now. I created the opportunity, I got the time off work, and I didn’t let anything (or anyone) hold me back. I took the leap.

If you know me at all, you know I crave adventure. You know I love spontaneity. And I’m also a walking contradiction, because I also have to plan everything and be in control of knowing fully what’s going on. (So putting a trip together in under a week is going to be interesting.)

I’ll leave Pittsburgh next Thursday, July 14th, and after a couple years of no big international trips, I’m more than itching with excitement for my next solo journey!

Traveling alone isn’t new to me. Roughly 3 years ago, I boarded a plane to Barcelona with a dream to make my way around Europe. I was by myself, I was scared, I was nervous, I didn’t know what to expect. (Read about it here.)

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But, similar to this moment, I also knew I had to do it. I knew I wanted to explore all the corners of the world and dive headfirst into the unknown more than I’ve ever wanted anything. I wanted to indulge in the food and culture of a new place, meet new people, and see what I’d only ever seen in breathtaking photographs. I needed to understand the world around me and realize what a small place I took up in it.

Looking back, it was the best decision I have EVER made. I’ve met some of the greatest friends, not to mention really began to discover myself. I was surprised at my own strength. Cliche as it sounds, take my advice: Sometimes when you’re the most lost, you find who you are.

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Since then, life has been a whirlwind of small trips, working, training for races, surgeries, etc. I’m ready to get back out there.

Traveling shocks me in a way I can only describe as coming alive. Strange as it may sound, I feel the most at peace when I’m pushing through the London underground, getting lost in the streets of Barcelona, or jumping from the Alps. It truly makes me feel like I am LIVING life, instead of existing in this world.

There is so much more out there than you can imagine. Don’t get me wrong- starting a career or a family and planting roots are all wonderful things! I have a great job, live in a cool city, and am dating the most wonderful guy. But I also yearn for what’s outside my little corner of the universe, and I think a small part of me always will.

So, who has two thumbs and is finally going to South America? This girl! And I can’t wait to write & tell you guys all about it.

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Have you been to Peru? What are your recommendations? I’d love to hear from you about what you’d do again (or differently). Help me out, amigos!

*Lima
*Cusco
*Machu Picchu
*Sacred Valley
*Lake Titicaca

 

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25 Things I Wish I Knew Before 25

  1. You will actually miss nap time when you’re older. Milk it.
  2. Your mother will become your best friend. Treat time with her like the treasure it is.
  3. Quit wishing for happiness, create it.
  4. Every second you spend wondering what someone else is thinking is a second lost.
  5. Next time your mom cooks dinner, let her show you how.
  6.  Just stop trying to sneak out- you get caught every time.
  7. The more you chase boys, the more they elude you.
  8. It will take a LOT of failed attempts before you find your way, don’t worry.
  9. Sometimes your accomplishments will not make other people happy.
  10. Crush those goals, anyway!
  11. Remember when your brother bit his nails? Don’t try it. You won’t be able to stop.
  12. Never, ever stop writing.
  13. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life. Learn to let them go.
  14. Hot Pockets are not dinner. Neither are Reese’s Cups. (See #5.)
  15. Start and keep a journal. Take pictures. Your memory is terrible.
  16. Drinking isn’t always fun.
  17. Those things you hate: taxes, bills, insurance? They’re frustrating, but important.
  18. Learn to love yourself before you give so much love away to the wrong people.
  19. Someone is always prettier/smarter/luckier. Stop comparing, you still have things they don’t.
  20. Friendships ending can hurt worse than breakups. Despite everything, you’re worthy of the best love.
  21. Take that damn trip!
  22.  Stop spending so much money on stupid shit. Seriously.
  23. Start running. It will teach you more mentally & physically than you could ever know.
  24. You are never too young or too old to change your life. Do what your heart wants.
  25. You’re going to be just fine. Laugh it off or learn from it- it’s all going to be okay.

 

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The Post-Op Post

Exactly two weeks ago, as many of you know, I went to the hospital to get a pacemaker. It came as a shock to my 25 year old/heart healthy/marathon training self and many others.

I arrived at 9:30 a.m Friday, March 18th. A million things were running through my exhausted mind. I hadn’t eaten anything for over 12 hours, so I was already hangry. Immediately they took me back to prep me, although my surgery wasn’t scheduled until 12:30 p.m. I changed into my gown and clutched the gaping back to cover my bare ass, as not to give a show to everyone else in the room.

A urine sample, IV insertion, and EKG test later, after my vitals were checked and paperwork signed, I waited in my corner hospital bed with my mom and JJ until they came for me. At this point I just wanted to get it over with.

And then, it was time. I ignored the way my voice cracked when I said, “I love you,” to my two favorite people as they wheeled me out of the room and down the hall. I could not look at my mother. I knew she was already crying. Instead, I looked at my feet, took a deep breath and recalled many of the messages you guys had sent, along with the comments,  words of encouragement, prayers, and well wishes. I was still completely overwhelmed with all the support and love I’d received when I first revealed what’s been going on with my health. I knew everything was going to be fine.

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Before surgery.

 

As soon as I shifted onto the operating table, I was already feeling the anesthesia kick in. One of the male nurses said, “Are you a NASCAR fan?” I looked at him like he was drunk. Why was he asking me this now? “Um, not really,” I replied. “Why?”

“Well, you know when the car pulls in to the pit, and there’s a lot of people working really fast? That’s what we are going to do.” Suddenly, there were bodies in scrubs and face masks everywhere, grabbing things, moving around me, and then- blissful sleep.

When I woke up in the recovery room, I instantly knew something wasn’t right. Was it just my body adjusting to this foreign device? I was having spasms on my right side- it felt like being kicked in the stomach. I panicked, of course, because my breaths were coming out weird.  The nurse shouted for my doctor, and then there were three middle-aged men around my bed. One of them put his hand on my side to time out the pulses as the other recorded it on a machine. I (unfortunately) remember joking, “It’s because you’re all so handsome, it’s taking my breath away” or something cheesy of the sort.  (I was a little out of it, okay?!)

Anyway, they knew exactly what it was: One of the wires from the pacemaker was against a nerve that was pushing into my diaphragm. I would have to go right back in so they could redo it and move the pacemaker over. So, anesthesia took me off to dreamland once more.

After what I’m told was another hour and a half, I came out of surgery again. And I had the dreadful realization that I had to pee. Bad. I called for the nurse, and she brought over a bedpan. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?

“Have you ever used one of these before?” she asked. I shook my head no. This was going to be interesting…

I still don’t really know how I did it, or managed not to spill it on myself or the bed. And then, I heard the best words: “Do you want me to bring your family back?”

Minutes later, JJ and mom were in the room with me. Our reunion was brief, as they had to take me down for x-rays and other testing. “This is like a less fun roller coaster,” I said awkwardly as a nurse wheeled me away on the bed.

I don’t know if it’s then that reality set in, or if it was just the anesthesia wearing off, or a combination of the two, but they put me in a hallway next to two elderly men watching Judge Judy and it was miserable. It felt like I was stuck there for an eternity. Finally, I was all done and brought to a different room for out processing. They were letting me go home! I ate small bites of a turkey sandwich and cried when I saw these two enter the room.

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All done & waiting to go home.

*Side note: About .02 seconds after he took this picture, JJ dropped his cell phone right on top of where the incision was made for my pacemaker. Ouch.

The rest of that night and the weekend basically consisted of me sleeping, throwing up, trying to eat, and not moving. I got very sick Saturday because of the pain medication, so I stopped taking it Sunday and felt less nauseous, but obviously was in more pain. I read poetry, watched movies, and ate Chinese food.

My mom had to help bathe me, as I couldn’t move my left arm or get the site wet. (I was advised not to raise my left arm above my head, make repetitive movements, or lift much for a month after.) How humbling that was… I’m 25, an adult. And here I was, not being able to do this on my own. We had to wash my hair in the kitchen sink. Monday afternoon was my first time leaving the apartment. Mom and I went to a couple stores and had lunch while JJ was at work. She left later that evening and we both bawled. It was such a blessing having her there with me.

From there on out, JJ was my saving grace. Dressing me, propping my arm up with pillows, getting groceries, rubbing my back, etc.

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The incision site a few days out.

 

It’s been two weeks, and all of the gauze and bandages are off. I am going for much longer walks, and I’m pretty much back to normal. I still keep my arm in a sling at times- just because for this next month I know I’m going to forget to not use it in the capacity I am used to.

I still get winded going up a flight of stairs, and I had to sit down in the middle of Wal-Mart while grocery shopping because I thought I was going to pass out, but the incision is healing nicely and I hope to be 100% in no time, and (hopefully) even running again.

Thank you again to everyone who wished me well and kept me in their thoughts. And a word of advice: be really, really nice to your mom and to nurses. You can’t imagine what they’ve done for you or what they may have to help you do in the future.

Oh, and find yourself a guy that will help blow dry your hair and put it in a ponytail even if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. You won’t know that kind of love until you’re shown it.

 

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The Beating From Within

As I sit here, I am still processing what has transpired over the past couple weeks… I debated sharing something so personal this publicly, but it is the easiest way to let my friends & family in and inform them.

As I mentioned in an earlier post here, there were several reasons why my presence on this blog has wavered recently, and the main reason is this:

On a Monday evening in late January, I passed out after getting out of the shower.  Fainting was never uncommon for me (as I have passed out maybe once or twice a year since high school), but back then it wasn’t made into a big deal. When it first happened, they took blood work to see if I was anemic, and I wasn’t. I didn’t really follow up, and neither did they. People fainted all the time, right? So, so what? It did not happen enough to interrupt my everyday life, and there was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for what caused it in the first place.

But this Monday night was different. Luckily, this particular time, my boyfriend JJ was there with me and witnessed the episode. (Usually, I am by myself.) He actually caught me before I hit the ground. From that point, he said I went into a seizure, and then stopped breathing. He immediately did CPR and within a couple breaths/pumps I was okay. When I finally came to, I knew where I was (lying on the bathroom floor) and could sit up.  We called my mom and told her what happened. The fainting was obviously familiar to me, but to stop breathing? Maybe JJ was mistaken. Maybe he was scared and just overreacted, I wondered. As I felt a little weak but otherwise fine, I went to bed and into work the next day.
Later on that next afternoon, I went to my doctor for a procedure. I passed out from the pain of the procedure- not much of a big surprise as pain can trigger fainting, but it took me a long time to recover and feel well enough to sit up. I could not do anything for nearly 20 minutes. They would not let me leave to go home alone, so I called a friend, Debra, to drive me home. However, after I told the doctors what happened to me the night before, they thought it best to go straight to the ER.

At this point, JJ had left work and had arrived to the ER, along with Debra. After taking my vitals, they did an EKG test and a CT scan on my head. Everything came back normal, but they still wanted me to see a cardiologist and follow up with my PCP. So I did that, more EKG tests, and had an echo cardiogram (ultrasound, basically) done on my heart. Again, everything was coming back normal. I was getting frustrated. Maybe nothing was seriously wrong, and we all just overreacted.


My cardiologist still wanted to do a tilt table test as a next step. During this, you are strapped to a table and moved slowly into an upright position. They monitor your heart rate and blood pressure and try to induce fainting so they can see what happens. I had this done on President’s Day, Feb. 15th. I passed out shortly into the test (a good thing, actually- otherwise they wouldn’t have found anything). But when I fainted, my heart stopped for 20 seconds. Because of this, my doctor recommended a pacemaker. He said that my blood pressure is fine, and normally my heart is fine, but when I faint, there’s something that is not sending the signal to my heart to keep beating. It is a necessary precaution.

As you can imagine, I was in shock. I am 25 years old, with a completely healthy heart. Pacemakers, I thought, were for the elderly and people with severe heart conditions. And then the realizations hit me in waves. I’m in the middle of training for the full marathon on May 1st, so I have to stop running? I was working so hard to accomplish that, and had wanted to cross that finish line so badly… And for travel, can I still go through metal detectors? How will this limit me? I know I’ll have a visible scar spreading across my chest someday in my wedding dress. The thought of something being planted inside my body to keep me alive freaked me out, and as I am writing this I am still scared, but I’ve decided I am ready to take it on. My health is not something I am willing to gamble with. Pacemakers have been around for many years, and in my condition, the potential benefits outweigh the risks. My doctors are incredible, and my family & friends have been wonderful. Not to mention JJ, who has been there through the entire ordeal. I made an awful joke about it over Valentine’s Day weekend after we got the results, but he really does keep my heart beating.

So, after a second opinion and a lot of thought, I have agreed to get a pacemaker, and will undergo surgery this week.

Since coming back from Minneapolis, reality has begun to set in. I can no longer push this to the back of my mind, but I still have tried my best. Last night, JJ and I attended PostSecret: The Show in Cleveland. (You can learn more about PostSecret here.) It is something that has always been close to my heart ever since I discovered it. We made a last minute decision to go, despite how tired we’d be (especially thanks to Daylight Saving Time) and how big of a week we both had to prepare for. Since I will be cooped up in my apartment recovering, I want to do as much as I can before the surgery.

In the bathroom at the theater, there were post-it notes decorating the walls and lining the mirrors and stalls, exposing secrets of strangers.

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Some were funny, some haunting, some sad. What I love about this is that it is okay to be vulnerable- we all are. And yet, we are all in this together.

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You never know what someone is going through. You also don’t realize sometimes how blessed you are. I am nervous for Friday, and that’s okay. I’m allowed to be. And while I could easily sit here and feel sorry for myself that this is happening to me and that I can’t run the race I’ve been training for, I’m lucky to have run at all, and to have the chance to keep going.

In closing, while I don’t know how a pacemaker may or may not change my life, I know if it is what I need to do, then I have to get it, even if it seems unfathomable at 25.

My surgery is scheduled for this Friday, March 18th. Four days from today. It’s simple and I’m sure to be successful, but I’d appreciate your prayers nevertheless. They’ll keep me overnight, and I’ll be released the next day if all is well. Some people have asked, and yes, of course- I’m dreading it. I don’t do well with hospitals, IV’s, any of that. There’s no guarantee that this will even work, and I have to be aware of that fact.  My amazing mama is coming down to stay with me for a couple days, as I’ll be out of work for some time. I will do my best to give an update when I’m feeling better, but this is probably the last I will write for a while.

 

 

Before signing off, I want to give a tremendous thank you to both my amazing boyfriend and my wonderful parents, who take such great care of me and help me always. I love you more than you’ll ever know. 

I’ll see you guys soon.

 

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Six months later…

Hard to believe that I wrote my first blog post just a little over six months ago.  I had zero clue what the hell I was doing, and constantly asked my friends Sara at Californyinz and Marissa at Ampersand Creative to help guide me through the process. (Check them out, they’re amazing!)

Originally, I was searching for a home to recount my traveling adventures both past and present and create an outlet for my passion for poetry & nonfiction. In doing so, I’ve found an incredible community of other writers and travelers, and received a surprising amount of support from friends & family. I now have over 4,000 followers and growing! I have also discovered that keeping up with a blog is not always easy…

If you are a regular follower, or even an occasional creeper, you can see that I have not written a post in exactly a month. While I’ll elaborate on those reasons in a later post, I thought I’d check in to bring readers up to speed on what’s going on now.

-I am still taking Madwomen in the Attic classes. I’m currently in a poetry workshop that proves itself to be more than overwhelming at times, but forces me to churn out new writing every week.

-Marathon training is underway. Those 26.2 miles are coming for me May 1st, whether I am ready for it or not! Check out A Year of Races to see where my love/hate relationship with running all started.

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-Next week I’ll be in Minneapolis! Getting accepted to present my work at the Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention was one of the highlights of my undergraduate career, and I’m thrilled to be going to the City of Lakes soon to do it all over again, this time as an alumna. Prose Before Bros tells it all. Got suggestions on things to see/eat/do? Send them my way!

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-All writers are used to rejection, and I had come to expect it. Imagine my shock when I found that two poems and one creative nonfiction piece of mine were accepted for publication! Once all are available for purchase and/or accessible online, I will provide the links so that you can read up 🙂 Excited to be making some progress, however slowly.

-My next international travel excursion is hopefully taking place in the fall of this year, with Southeast Asia (Thailand) or South America (Peru) as my top two picks. However, I’m doing my best to still travel within the states as much as time allows. Some upcoming cities on my list: Chicago, Atlanta, and Seattle.

-I got Beyoncé tickets. This has nothing to do with my blog specifically, but EVERYTHING to do with me since I’ve loved her since Day 1. My homegirl Catherine & I will be getting in formation on May 31.  Conclude fangirl rant.

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For all those of you that read and follow my blog, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate it. You must be just weird enough to find my ramblings interesting, and I thank God for that! Not to mention the way you support and promote my blog and my written work with the likes, comments, and shares…I am grateful you care enough to see things From This Side of the Sun. And I’m so glad you’re on this journey with me.

 

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Prose Before Bros

Yes, I said it.

I thought I was in love when I kissed my first crush, Seth, on the cheek when I was seven. We were behind a tree during a family camping retreat for the Boy Scouts, which both he and my brother were part of. (Smart girl-learning to break hearts at a young age.)

…But it wasn’t exactly a fairy tale ending.  He immediately straightened his glasses, gave me a weird look, and ran away. We didn’t speak after that. But that’s okay, because I learned a different love- escaping with a book instead of chasing boys.

Since then, writers from Sylvia Plath to J.K. Rowling paved the way for my love of literature. Teachers from elementary school to college classes taught me to create my own by nurturing and guiding my craft. I couldn’t ever explain it, but words empowered me. I mean, who needs a man when you’ve got countless characters to fall in love with? There was nothing quite like losing myself entirely in a story, or better yet, discovering myself between its pages in the process. And when I wrote? Indescribable. It was like I held the power. Let’s get real here- The last lines of Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus are a perfect example.

“Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”

Come onnnnn. It still gives me chills! But somewhere between that first kiss to writing poetry in my bedroom to getting my first apartment, I lost touch with the paper and pen. When I wrote in college, it was only for an assignment. I stopped reading for pleasure altogether. In fact, I stopped reading. I skimmed, or would use Google. And I definitely couldn’t remember the last time I sat down to write for me. I was caught up in relationships and social life,  and then just trying to get a job like most college grads. Then I got a job and an apartment, and was trying to figure out happiness and paying the bills but still traveling, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know.) When I finally wrote again, it was hard. It sucked. I wasted years not reading and writing, and all I could see was how far behind I was.

Which brings me to the here and now. I created this blog to keep writing, and as a place to bring my stories of travel. I joined a writing class. I’ve been submitting my work.

I delayed posting until this week because I was waiting to hear whether or not I got accepted to the 2016 Sigma Tau Delta’s International Convention, and I am THRILLED to announce that I received the e-mail last night. I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and in the middle of peeing (yeah, I’ll admit it) when I opened it. I may or may not have let out that high-pitched scream I do when I’m excited into the receiver, right into poor JJ’s eardrum, and dropped my phone in surprise. Guess it was a good thing I was still sitting down.

So hold on. What exactly is Sigma Tau Delta, you may ask? First off, it is not a sorority. It also isn’t a sexually transmitted disease. Although that is, in fact, what the acronym implies. Ha. STD is an International English Honor Society.  (And yes, believe me, we tried to get “Prose Before Bros” or “STD: Gotta read ’em all!” as our T-shirt sayings, but it didn’t stand a chance against administration.)

I joined Sigma Tau Delta in 2010, and, in my junior year of college, presented at the 2011 Convention March 23-26th in Pittsburgh, PA (shown below). The convention theme was “Beyond Words.”

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With friends Samantha and Laura, exploring the ‘burgh and attending presentations (below).

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Practice makes perfect!

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I presented an original poem, “Discoloration” which I wrote about my father.

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 A year later in 2012,  I had the time of my life at the convention, which was held in New Orleans, LA from February 29-March 3. The convention theme that year was “Reawaken.” New Orleans was a beautiful city, and I heard such beautiful writing in the sessions I attended. I was a senior in college then, and even now I am amazed by the memories I made there, from Bourbon Street to friendships I stumbled into. I hope to go back someday.  I’m still craving beignets from Café du Monde…

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Some classmates/fellow STD members with our professor, Dr. Andrew Ade (above) and below at the Red & Black Gala Dinner and Convention Awards.

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I told you I take eating seriously.

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Presenting poetry from my collection “The Art of Baptizing.”

Now, it has been over three years since I graduated college. I rediscovered Sigma Tau Delta recently and joined the Alumni Epsilon Chapter. Shortly thereafter, I realized I could still submit, and if accepted, present at the convention. Naturally, I was stoked and submitted as soon as I could pull something together. I have been racking my brain waiting these past couple months to see whether or not I would be accepted. Seriously. Not knowing was brutal, and so was trying to prepare myself for rejection.

But, this has a fairy tale ending after all. I am so happy to announce that this year, I am one of 24 Sigma Tau Delta alumni that will present at the convention in Minneapolis, MN from March 2-5, 2016. The convention theme is “Finding Home.” I will be reading ten poems from my collection “From This Side of the Sun.”

Are there any other Sigma Tau Delta members out there? Would love to connect with you!

 

Stay classy readers,

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P.S. I went to Minnesota when I was younger and all I remember is the Mall of America. What is at the top of your list for things to see & do in the City of Lakes?
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