Coin Toss

He has a name. Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto is the name of the autistic young man who wandered away from the group home last week in Miami–and the world watched his African-American behavioral therapist get shot attempting to help him.

Ok, technically, the shooting is NOT on the video. What we see is the African-American therapist laying on the ground with his hands in the air, while Rios sits cross-legged next to him. They are in the middle of the street. Rios is holding a toy truck. Charles Kinsey, the therapist, can be heard yelling that he is a behavioral therapist and that Rios is his patient.

It didn’t F******* matter. The SWAT team member shot Kinsey in the leg. He had a report that Rios was suicidal and had a gun. He was actually aiming for Rios. (Because it makes sense to kill a man that might be suicidal instead of actually helping him…No, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s bullshit.)

I have been sick to my stomach for days over this.

Two of my children are African. One of my four children, my twenty year old son, is autistic. Imagine the scenario someday where my two boys are together and my autistic son becomes agitated–possibly aggressive. My African son is with him. What if a bystander calls the police?

A couple of years ago I stopped by my local police department to inquire as to their autism training and intervention plans. The officer I talked to was, well, a total jerk. He took one look at my arms, bruised from a previous bad day with my son. It happens. The officer was ready to press charges and wanted me to sign a form IMMEDIATELY.

WHAT. THE. F***.

I had come there for help. I wanted to know that if I needed assistance with my son, I could count on them showing up and not shooting him; not tasering him; not hurting him in any way. Instead, I realized that this fellow had no idea about cognitive delays, mental health, and autism.

Last week’s shooting was my worst nightmare come true. I understand that not all police officers are incompetent, racist asshats. I do. But shooting Kinsey was completely UNNECESSARY. The thought that the officer actually meant to shoot Rios sickens me.

So again, I pose the question: What if my two sons are in public. Which one are the police going to aim for? The thought sickens me. Both are innocent. Both were born with a set of genes that determined their individual destinies. One: tall, caucasian, cognitively impaired, autistic. One: shorter, strong, African, bright.

Black Lives Do Matter. Deal with it.

Autism exists. Learn about it and deal with it.

Try and show compassion and kindness towards each other.

Peace people.


Driving For Direction (or, Pandas Gone Bad..)

I took my two sons and a visiting friend on a short vacation down to North Carolina to visit my oldest daughter last week. I wanted to see her, I wanted to see some sunshine, and I needed to clear my head.

A ten-hour drive, each direction, will give you some time to think.

I needed to figure out where I am going with my life, my career…was it worth putting the effort into comedy or should I quit now before I get too invested… I was feeling stressed from trying to do it all, from trying to break into formed social groups, from watching the hatred being spewed out on political television… I needed a break.

I drove from Michigan, through the farm lands of Ohio, then through the gentle mountains of West Virginia. We stopped for lunch somewhere there… at some small roadside “town.” We flipped a coin over the two restaurant choices and walked into the winner.

As we pushed open the doors and entered, we found ourselves facing the largest display of the Ten Commandments I had ever seen. Ever. I mean, I have seen smaller billboards on the highway. They were displayed on a table, filled with all sorts of religious artifacts… I wasn’t sure if I had stumbled into a makeshift altar and a sacrifice was about to take place, or a spontaneous Baptism–all I knew was that it freaked me the hell out and before I could stop myself I burst out loudly “HOLY SHIT!!!”

In my defense, at least I said holy. Just saying.

My youngest son’s eyes were as big as saucers… he started to dart them back and forth…clearly out of his comfort zone as well… he whispered to me that he was concerned for his safety… I assured him that we were fine…although I wasn’t entirely convinced myself..

We ate our crappy lunches and beat it. Lesson learned.

Later I was nearly pushed off the road by a semi truck that failed to see me…I drove onto the shoulder and somehow managed to speed up and zip in front of him without rear ending the semi in front of me…this still in the mountains…all very exciting…as my Mighty Explorer is well-known as being a performance automobile (insert sarcasm here..).

The best part of the trip (besides spending time with my children) was going to the science center in Charlotte. There we innocently bought tickets to the IMAX panda movie–a documentary about preserving the pandas in China.


It began innocently enough. Panda preserve, female panda, needs to get pregnant to keep the panda population going. Ok, so far so good… They put her in a pen and brought out this young male panda, who is a bit rough, so she rejects him, so they brought out (and I quote) “an older, more experienced male.” At this point I’m giggling. No shit. The panda lady was like “Get that asshole young kid away from me with his cheap ass beer– I want the older guy with the stable job and the fine wine and a fully stocked liquor cabinet–with the GOOD STUFF–and a good retirement plan. AND that knows what the hell to do in bed.”

Jesus, even PANDAS know this shit.

So the female panda gets pregnant and has twins but she normally only takes care of one. This means that every two weeks some poor worker has to go in and take the panda baby from her and switch it with the other baby that they are caring for in the panda nursery. Except she can get a little testy about this and apparently pandas can kill you with one swipe. I wish you could have seen how fast this guy ran. I mean, Olympic fast. No kidding.

Fast forward–now one of the panda babies is grown up enough to make it and they want to get him ready to go out into the real world. To do this (wait-I have to laugh here…) to do this (laughing again…) a couple of guys put on these really shitty panda costumes, so the panda WON’T KNOW that they are humans coming in to hang out with him. Ummm..

At first I was like WHOA!!! Did this movie just take a wrong turn??? Is this some kind of sick furry sexual film?? WHAT THE HELL???

The costumes were so very bad. I mean, this is CHINA for godssakes. One would think they could find a better costume there for their beloved pandas!!! And, the panda dudes were walking upright! Like Yogi Bear! Or the Country Bear Jamboree! I mean, WTF people!! Even pandas aren’t that stupid!

The best part was that one of the panda guy’s had to smear panda feces and urine all over himself to help convince the real panda that he was legit. I kept thinking that the other guy probably had a double-headed coin for that coin toss…gee guy, sorry, you lost again, bummer but you have to smear that crap all over you again…wow…

The final test was getting the baby panda ready to handle predators. The two panda dudes, walking upright, carried a stuffed cat. This was to be the terrifying jaguar to teach the panda to fear for its life. They smeared the urine and feces all over it and hid behind some bushes…waiting…ummm….

The panda walked by (walking on all four legs, just to be clear…) looked at the stuffed cat (and probably thought “who the hell put a stuffed cat in the middle of this forest? Assholes…”) Just then the panda dudes hit this tape recorder circa 1979 and this loud YOWL was heard. The real panda was like, “HOLY SHIT what the HELL was THAT!!!” and promptly ran up a tree (because he thought “JUDAS PRIEST when did stuffed cats learn to make noises??!!”)

Apparently this was a big success and it was decided that the real panda could now be pushed out of the nest and into the real forest to deal with real predators.

The End.

I have to say that thru the entire movie, my asshole family was snorting and giggling and laughing. Nobody else in the theater was. Sigh. We just could not take this seriously. (Ok, my autistic son was not laughing. So one of us was well-behaved.)

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog. I was thinking of walking away from comedy. I really was.

But after this trip all I could think about was how I could make this into a new bit. Or how I need to write a television series. Or how I need to write some new sketches for the sketch comedy group I joined.

And to clone myself so I can be a mom and do it all.  That would help too.

Peace people.









I wish my teacher knew…

Dear gentle readers. I’m in a poignant mood tonight. Earlier this week I saw a news piece about a Denver teacher that asked her third grade students to write an answer to the question: I wish my teacher knew. The answers were..profound. This got me to thinking.

What would you tell somebody, if you could? I suppose at different times in my life, I might have disclosed different things. In the the third grade…I would have disclosed something about my family..something about the circus that made up my daily life..perhaps..if I had known it was a circus..

But now…what would you write in answer to this question? What do you wish somebody knew? What are your secrets…I know mine…that sometimes I cry in the shower..and sometimes I scream in there, when nobody is home…if it has been a bad week…like the one I had in February, when I thought for a few days that my cancer had returned. I wish that somebody knew that I always get tearful when I hear the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. I wish that somebody knew that I worry that I’m not a good mother–that the imprint of my own childhood is too deep on my own soul..

What do you wish somebody knew?

Aging out of autism

I’ve had a busy morning. Today I visited the Vision’s Center, where my autistic son, Noah, will attend classes this fall. Since we live in Michigan, my son gets education services through the state until age 26. All other states stop providing services at age 21. Here he will learn some job skills–how to pack food in a back pack for children in need, how to cook simple meals, do some laundry, do simple tasks…all in preparation for entry into “real life” at age 26.

When we climbed into our car to drive Noah back to school, the local NPR station was playing. And the subject was autism, and aging out of the education system. I’m not making this up.

Dateline had an episode Sunday, April 12, titled “On the Brink”  which discussed this very issue, and apparently this had struck a nerve with the public. No kidding, and talk about timing. As soon as I arrived home, I watched it. And I cried.

This show should be required viewing for every single person in the U.S. The show featured two mothers and their sons. One son was non verbal and the other son in the more moderate level of autism. Both were aging out of their programs and their mother’s were scrambling to try and find services to help them.

Because here is what happens. Autistic children will get some help until age 21 (age 26 in Michigan)–be it tutoring, physical or occupational or speech therapy and so on–and then oops! now you are that magic 21 (or 26) age and well, sucks to be you, but now you are no longer eligible for the very same services you received the day before.

This means that your adult child is now your full time responsibility. And, unless you have a shit ton of money and can afford a nice private place to send them for the day, or pay for an aide, private tutor, lessons, field trips and so on–you, my friend, will be the one tap dancing, teaching, bathing–setting up a daily schedule and following it minute by minute–for the rest. of. your. life.

Let that sink in.

I love my son. I have fought for him for 18 years. But, unless you also have a child with autism, or some other diagnosis that requires hands on, continuous care…I’m not sure that fatigue comes close to how I feel many days. It’s like having a toddler…one that throws tantrums, or vomits publicly, or yells, or runs away…except that they are 6′ 1″ tall and weighs 200 pounds.

And the thing is…as parents…we look to the horizon for hope. We know that, for example, when we have a newborn, that the 2am feedings don’t last forever, that the toddler years pass, and the pre school years begin, followed by the elementary years, then the pre teen then the dreaded teen, to the college years, young adult hood–we see hope on the horizon. We see an end point. We see a point where we can finally take a breath, sit down, relax, and enjoy life again–like we did before we had children (well for those of you that had that kind of life–I never did. I’ve been having one of those lives my entire existence).

But as the parent of an autistic child…we don’t get to rest. We are constantly on guard, constantly fighting for our kids, constantly waiting for the next shoe to drop. Because we know it will. Our kids only get these much needed services–the occupational therapy, the speech, physical therapies, the technology support, the psychology services–until age 21 in most states, and 26 in my state of Michigan. And then, just like that, a switch is pulled, and these children are handed back to us, we parents, already tired and overwhelmed, to deal with, on our own.

This leaves us to try and pay out of pocket for these services, or to try and find a system of payment. This leaves us to try and find a place to take our children during the day, so that they may continue to learn, to grow, to interact with their peers…don’t autistic people have rights too?? I guess they don’t…not after they age out. There are day programs..if you can find a good one…but they are few and far between.

And we are tired. We parents are so, so very tired. This leaves us to be the teacher, the therapist, the nurse, the everything…to our children…and leaves us staring blankly at the grocery store clerk when she asks us for our debit card, and we are so damn tired that we can’t even think straight, and cannot remember what pocket we put it in, and if one more person asks one more thing we will shatter right there.

We have no horizon. We have no end point. We have only please oh please let me make it to the end of the day. Except that’s when the worst thoughts creep in. It’s when we are in bed…trying desperately to sleep…they start. What happens to your son if you become ill? Old? Who cares for him then?? What happens if he blows up in public? Will the police understand? Will they taser him? What happens if your son gets sick when he is older? How will you know? How will you explain a heart attack or cancer to him?? I know–these are crazy thoughts. But, I’m a nurse and a mom, and well, this is what I think about.

Who will care for him when I can no longer do this? This is the monkey on my back, the albatross around my neck, the anchor to my soul.

With the rise of autism in this country…what is it, 1 in 60 or 68 children will be diagnosed with autism now. Don’t you think we could do better for our kids? Don’t they deserve better than just a few short years of help? They don’t stop being autistic when they turn 21 or 26. I think it was Ghandi who said you could judge the greatness of a nation by the way it treats its animals. I would throw down that we could judge the greatness of a nation by the way it treats its autistic children.

And we can start by continuing services for our autistic children for their entire life. Yeah, I just said that. With a straight face.

In the meantime, I will be here, caring for my son, my beautiful son, who I love more than words can adequately express. I will kiss his nose, nuzzle my nose in his hair, just like I did when he was a baby. I will take joy in his accomplishments, minor though they may be in comparison to neurotypical children. I will find joy.

And I will continue to fight for his right to thrive.

Three Second Rule (or Parasites and Paradise)

I just want to share another vacation story…before I move on to everyday life again. There is this restaurant on Tybee Island called The Crab Shack and it purports to be the “best seafood on the island.” Well it being the week of Passover, and with us strictly observing the rules of the holiday..we promptly jumped into the Mighty Explorer (the proper name of my truck) and drove there for dinner one night.

This place is an event. It is a mini compound, comprised of several buildings. There is an area where the children can buy some sort of bait (I didn’t want to know what it was…) and feed the “pet” alligators with bamboo fishing poles. Because what could go wrong with that???? In fairness…these gators were on the smallish side, only about 3 or 4 feet long..There was another room with caged birds…I started laughing at the parrot cage and asked out loud if the bird was sleeping…alas, none of my children knew what I was laughing about…guess I will have to introduce them to Monty Python in the near future…

We were finally seated, outside, under a giant tree. Under our table was a trash can, and there was a hole cut in the top of the table so we could fling our garbage in there at will. Stray cats meandered in and out, between tables and legs…eating any stray seafood that wound up on the floor. The waitress arrived and we ordered up a ton of crab and shrimp, in keeping with the Passover holiday. (HEY–WHAT HAPPENS ON VACATION STAYS ON VACATION–DON’T JUDGE ME!!!! )

My sons were transfixed by all the animals..Noah especially so…he wanted one of the cats as a pet…he wanted all the birds…As we were eating dinner, my youngest son noticed a raccoon in the tree. I said oh, that’s just Rocky Raccoon…and we watched as the creature climbed down the tree, closer and closer. Other people took notice and began to get a bit nervous. The kids started to get excited..I said that there wasn’t much to worry about unless he was rabid…but I was almost certain Rocky wasn’t…he was probably just hungry for crab legs…still..I kept my eye on him as well..He finally jumped down to the ground and headed over to the boat that was pulled up on shore, as decoration, complete with skeleton pirates on it, for effect…making me wonder if Rocky had decided to run off and look for Jack Sparrow..

Meanwhile, my son Noah was eating away…again, we were outside, and the place was a bit…well, rustic? Somehow Noah dropped some food on the ground, and well this ground was so freaking filthy…you could almost see the filth waves emanating up..And well, being Noah, he just reached right down and grabbed his food up and popped it back into his mouth. I shrieked No!! but too late, and the guy at the next table, who witnessed the entire thing, convulsed into laughter. Noah apologized, I apologized for shrieking, but told he mustn’t ever do that again–especially in a place like that. Meanwhile, inside my head, a conversation took off and it went something like this: HOLY CRAP MY SON JUST ATE FOOD OFF THIS DISGUSTING FLOOR!!! HE IS GOING TO GET SOME HORRIBLE PARASITE AND GET TERRIBLY SICK AND END UP IN THE HOSPITAL!! PLEASE ANGELS DON’T LET HIM GET SICK!! STOP IT YOU STUPID IMAGINATION!! PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD LIVE WITHOUT SOAP AND ANTI BACTERIAL AGENTS AND LIVE! STOP FREAKING YOURSELF OUT! (and finally) IF THAT GUY DOESN’T STOP LAUGHING….

Noah did not get sick, just for the record. And we decided that Sting Ray’s has better seafood on Tybee, and offers a far less chance of becoming ill after eating there, plus there are no potentially rabid creatures stalking you whilst you eat. A much better scene.

Another plus this vacation–no public vomiting by any family members. Awesome.

Gonna miss you Tybee–your palm trees, your beach, your warm sun–even Rocky.

Until next time.

Roadtrip 2015 (or why I may fly next time…)

I am back home from a week’s vacation with all four of my children. And it involved a road trip. Ten hours of driving the first day alone…four hours more the second. I’m still feeling a bit dizzy from the drive home this weekend. I managed to locate some of those car bingo cards we used to play with when I was a child and gave them to my son and daughter for the trip. And I watched them turn into competitive savages. I told them they had to fill in the entire board to win. And then I proceeded to drive and listen to them turn on each other in an attempt to win a game with no prize at the end. It was really kind of fun.

We made it to our rental house on Tybee Island, Georgia. Tybee is a very laid back kind of place..lots of colorful houses, palm trees, the ocean…so wonderful after our brutally cold Michigan winter. The flowers were blooming, and the pollen was so thick in the air, my white Explorer looked yellow. The kids went swimming in the ocean, reminiscing about their first trip to the ocean..back in Africa..when we went there to bring them home. They recalled how scared they had been (I remembered that they weren’t even aware that they lived near the ocean..) and we all remembered the long journey to the beach in Sierra Leone and the adventure we had that beach day. How far we have come since then.

Noah tried to catch a seagull, so he could “take it back with us for a pet.” Then he tried to find some buried pirate treasure on the beach, and finally sat on the bench swing, just relaxing. Swinging is one of his favorite things to do.

On Monday we drove four hours in to Atlanta, so Noah could go to the zoo and see all his favorite animals, and then went to the aquarium. The kids loved both places and we left the aquarium after the Disneyesque dolphin show ended–around 7 pm. We drove just outside of Atlanta and stopped for dinner..which was took some time, for some reason still unknown…and then, around 9 pm…just as the basketball game was about to begin, the television sets all lost cable. I made the comment that they must have satellite and it must be raining, and glanced outside. Sure enough, it was pouring and I thought, crap, we are going to get soaked running to the car. Famous. Last. Words.

I paid the bill and grabbed the kids and tried to run out to the Explorer. Except that Noah doesn’t run so quickly…I was pulling him…he was resisting…we were completely soaked in seconds. We jumped into the car and I quickly realized that being wet was the least of my worries.

I pulled out onto the freeway…a bit anxious, but wanting to get home. We still had a good 4 hours to drive..I got onto the freeway and the heavens opened. I mean, they freaking opened. This was Biblical proportions rain. This was hurricane, typhoon, wall of water, mother of god rain. I could not see a thing. There have only been a few times I have been this frightened driving in the rain. The last time was when I was 21 years old. I remember exactly where I was–that’s how scared I was.


What I said instead was, Oh, I wonder if I should pull off? This seems a bit heavy. My oldest daughter said that there was no place to pull over, as it sort of looked like we were in a construction we just tried to zero in on the tail lights in front of us. Meanwhile, as we could not really determine where the lanes were, semi’s were passing us, missing us by mere inches.

We drove like that, on and off for about an hour…and I think it took about 3 days for my hands to unclench and my jaw to relax. After the Biblical rains stopped..I noticed that we had about 70 miles left on the gas gauge. I remarked that we would have to stop for gas..and we began scanning for exits with gas stations.

We began pulling off at exits, and lo and behold! the gas stations were closed. WTF??? How is this even possible??? This is a freeway people!!!! So we drove on, stopping–still closed. Let me fast forward–it is now freaking midnight, and I now have 2 miles to empty. My GPS and my phone cannot locate a gas station…I pulled off the freeway at the next exit. It was extremely dark out, and I pulled into this abandoned road side store. I called Ford Roadside Assistance and was trying to explain exactly where we were when a semi pulled up.

The driver got out and talked with my oldest daughter. She reported to me that she thought we were all going to be murdered right then and there. Sigh. Roadside Assistance sent somebody right out to help us and put two gallons into our gas tank. The semi driver had his girlfriend/wife? with him and they got out and talked with me and waited with us until the gasoline arrived. They were very nice people and not at all murderers. At least, as far as I could tell.

We made it to the next 24 hour gas station (let me just interject here and explain that apparently, along this particular stretch of highway in Georgia, the gas stations close at 10 pm, and the 24 hour stations are about 50 or so miles apart. Good to know now, and THANKS GARMIN GPS FOR TELLING ME THAT. And that was sarcasm, just so you know).  We finally rolled into Tybee around 230 am…making Monday officially a week long day. Officially.

We ate lots of seafood, and spent much time just hanging out. It was a glorious week. But alas, it ended and I had to begin the long drive home. Now, fourteen hours in a car with children is a lot for any parent. But fourteen hours in the car with my children?? Somebody needs to call Ellen Degeneres for me.

Let me explain a little bit what this is like. My kids don’t sleep in the car. Noah, my sweet autistic Noah, well…he likes to ask questions. Over and over and over. So it goes something like this : Mom. Mom. Mom. I want to be the Joker for Halloween. I want green hair and a red mouth. And the next Halloween I want to be Harley Quinn. And the next Halloween I want to be the Riddler and the next Halloween I want to be Scarecrow and the next Halloween I want to be Sandman and the next Halloween I want to be Penguin MOM WHO DO I WANT TO BE FOR HALLOWEEN???? except that I didn’t list out all 4o of the villains he really lists out and I am expected to remember. And then he switches to a different loop : Mom. Mom. Mom. I want to have polar bears as my pets. And meerkats. And golden barn owls and giant pandas and red pandas and lemurs and lions and tigers and (insert 300 other exotic animals here). MOM WHAT ANIMALS DO I WANT FOR MY PETS???  and then I have to repeat them back. And this goes on. And on. And on. And on. Without stopping. For hours. Sigh.

So just imagine that you’re a bit tired, and trying to navigate thru the hills of West Virginia, in the dark, and trying to answer all of that at exactly the same time.

Which is why I think I need a vacation to recover from my vacation. I’m exhausted.


Marietta, Ohio

I just want to say that, as I write this, I am at the end of a week’s vacation with my children. Which may sound like fun to the uninitiated…and, believe me, I had fun…but…well, I will let the next blog tell you about the actual road trip. This post is about my stop in Marietta, Ohio.

I stopped there, on my way back north to Michigan. I was trying, desperately to make the trek from Tybee Island, GA, to Michigan in one fell swoop…but traffic and fatigue intervened and I finally caved and pulled into a hotel for the night (Marriott, just for the record). I took my three children into our room, tucked them in, and proceeded to pass out. Well, once the drunk dudes trying to get into our room at midnight left–that was some kind of fun–good thing I had the safety latch on the door–and the ability to swear like a sailor, even while semi awake and in mid stride to the door, to protect my children–anyway, I digress.

This is what I want to talk about. The next morning I took my children down to the breakfast area. I got my son Noah, a biscuit and some juice and helped him to sit down at a table. I noticed a woman looking at me. That’s pretty normal–let’s face it–I have an autistic son that is six foot, one inch tall and two African children…I get looks. I made sure the other two were settled in at the table with Noah and I made for the coffee.

The woman was there, pumping furiously away. I said “Oh god please tell me there is coffee!” Maybe it was the slight hysteria in my voice or the blood shot look to my eyes, but she replied that there was, just not decaf, but by the look of me, I needed stronger than that. I looked at her and said yeah, well, with all of those kids,  I needed some strong stuff..and really, where the hell did all those children come from and why do they keep calling me mom??

She froze for a minute and asked me if I were kidding– I said of course. She asked how many do you have? I said four, and I am not even sure how that happened. She asked well, how did it? I said well, I gave birth to the first two and said that’s enough of that, and then adopted the second set, straight from Africa. She said and how is that going? I said’s a bit interesting,  I can tell you that. And I laughed out loud.  She asked how I dealt with all of this…and I said that I drank heavily and exercised frequently–just not at the same time.

And then this magical conversation happened. She talked to me about her childhood a bit, and I disclosed a bit of mine…It’s interesting to me how survivors seem to have this radar for each other…We laughed for a few minutes, but I could tell that if given more time we would have been weeping…

I hope she finds my blog. I told her about it. I want her to know that meeting her let me feel good about making friends again…the blow I was dealt in the friend department recently was really a sucker punch to my soul…this chance meeting…was just what I needed.

We ended our encounter with her hugging me and giving me a kiss….Thank you so, so much for that kiss…I needed that hug, that kiss..I was afraid to hug back as I felt as though I would shatter into a million pieces….so I just laughed and smiled….

We survivors….as she and I discussed…it doesn’t matter how old we are…the legacy we carry…it is always with us. But, as I told her, what we choose to do with it…this…this is where we draw our power, our strength. I said I use my unique background for writing and comedy…It’s so much better to laugh than to cry.

So, if you read this, and you are the woman I met at the hotel….drop me a line…and…to anybody else…any survivors out there…know you’re not alone…anybody can coast thru life. It takes somebody strong as hell to survive and thrive. Let’s thrive. Starting now.