Make Your Mind Map for 2018

Here it is, the last day of 2017. It is a day of reflection and relaxation before the onslaught of a few months of work without a decent holiday. Today, between eating homemade cookie dough and watching the Patriots play the Jets, I will be thinking about what I hope to see and accomplish in the next year. Part of this process is revising my yearly mind map. A mind map is a visual representation of things you wish to accomplish in the new year. It doesn’t have to be all inclusive and it doesn’t have to be all new things. It is a good way for you to visually keep the things important to your personal growth in perspective. So while I don’t subscribe to waiting for an arbitrary date or day of the week to start personal improvement, I believe the beginning of a new year is a good time to refocus your goals and direction.

This was my mind map last year:


As you can see, I started with a bubble in the center with the year and branched out into seven main categories of Career, Love, Finances, Education, Family, Health, and Personal Growth. From there, I specified the various things I wanted to accomplish.

(The fascinating part of doing a yearly mind map is having the ability to revisit the last year’s map as you make your new one. I love to see what I thought was important and what I thought I could accomplish. It is both humbling and invigorating to see what I actually did!)

If you wish to create your own mind map, start with drawing out the areas you want to improve in. Some suggestions are “Health” (which could further branch off into mental, physical, and spiritual), “Finances”, “Family”, “Love”, “Career”, “Hobby”…you are not limited by possibilities or even paper. Simply grab more paper and tape your map together. From there, identify at least one specific thing you would like to see yourself improve or continue to rock! Remember, no one has to ever see your mind map, so be honest with yourself. Bare your soul and write the hopes and dreams that scare even you. Expect more from yourself, and when you are able to look back on this mind map, you may be surprised at what you actually accomplished.

This year’s mind map:


Remember, this mind map of yours is only the beginning of your self-improvement journey. A goal is not a real goal until you have steps to accomplish it; otherwise, it is just a wish. If you wish, include how you expect to accomplish these goals through the use of tertiary bubbles. Write the physical steps you need to take to begin tackling this mind map such as “Have automatic paycheck withdrawals for 401k investments” or “Schedule trip to Russia”. Be assertive with your ideas with actions.

You can color-coordinate the categories, you can make different shapes represent different levels within your map, and you can be as crafty or as simple as you need to be to fully map your mind for the new year!

And when you think about whether you should tackle a new goal, remember that the time will pass whether you are improving or not. Where could you be next year?

New year, new you? No, new year, an actively trying and more focused you. Happy New Year, my friends!

Beyond the Bourgeoisie- The Communist America

The revolution to free the proletariat (the class of wage earner who are dependent upon employment; the working class) from the bourgeois (the property owners and the upper classes) is based on 10 measures, or planks, that are laid out in the Communist Manifesto written in 1848. While reading these measures of movement, I began to see that our current society has long emulated many of the communist tendencies that they so vehemently opposed during the Cold War (1947-1991). The American government so opposed communism that they initiated the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to restrict Russia’s communist influences on Turkey and Greece.

It is worth noting that the Russian implementation of communism is not communism in its purest form as written by Karl Marx as shown below.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. While not completely imposed in force, the federal government can retain eminent domain (stated in the Fifth Amendment in 1791 and established by Boom Co. v. Patterson, 98 U.S. 403, 406 in 1879) and take your property at any time while paying you what they deem “just” compensation. So your property is never truly yours, and you are renting the property you own by paying your annual property tax (first began in 1798).

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. This is currently imposed in a graduated tax bracket (established 1913) that ranges from 10-39.6%.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance. This is partially imposed through the United State’s estate tax (established in 1916) that can be upwards of 40%.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. This is currently not enforced (although an argument can be made about the taxation of expatriates that practically becomes a fee to maintain U.S. citizenship without retaining any of the citizenship benefits that come from taxes.)

5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.  The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 to prevent banking panics and to provide more supervision into the banking of America.

6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State. Subsidized communications (think net neutrality) and transport (federal subsidies that impose federal regulations) have existed since the Transcontinental railroad crossed America in 1869.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan. Agricultural improvement of less-than-desirable lands have been in place since the Mayans slashed and burned their fields. This is not currently federally enforced but it is highly encouraged in the agricultural arena.

8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture. This is not applicable for America as not everyone is not forced to work so it is possible for there to be “leeches.”

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country. This is possibly indirectly imposed through the rapid gentrification of our cities, which pushes lower incomes out of the populated areas and into the countryside.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c. Education is imposed on a state level versus federal level with Massachusetts leading the way in 1852 with their compulsory school laws. Child labor was eradicated in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

So most of Karl Marx’s points on Communism (minus the EXTREMELY important #8) have been in place in America for dozens, sometimes hundreds, of years, with the majority of our communist laws in place even before we began dissenting Communism during the Cold War. American has been caught in a half-assed communist democracy for so many years that we don’t seem to see the hypocrisy that we have shown the World since 1947.

It is also worth noting that the current administration is striving to remove or lessen #2, #3, #6, and partially #10.

So what do we do? Do we continue as we have for years (but perhaps humanely enforce #8) or do we strip these laws and allow the Bourgeoise to return?

When Comes The Numb Heart- A Letter To A Friend

My dear friend,

I know you are confused about how numb and overcome with frustration you are right now. You have lack of excitement for anything good and you are keeping fear and sadness at more than an arm’s length. You aren’t happy, but yet you aren’t unhappy; you don’t feel love and butterflies for anything in life, and you can’t associate with anyone who is going through painful things. For you, this is extremely unusual. You have always been wide open about life while maintaining your naivety and innocence. You are goofy and so smart and so willing to go full-bore into activities that push you physically and mentally. And you’ll focus with your brow furrowed with focus until you finish and then you’ll grin broadly. But not now. Now you are practically deadened with a lack of emotion while going through the motions. It is hard to enjoy the highs when you have no lows.

I told you that I would tell you my thoughts on this numbness and here it goes:

Your numbness reminds me of the surgery I had three years ago. I was cut open and put back together to deliver my son into the world. I was warned about nerve damage to the area, so I thought I was well-informed enough to not be shocked. However, nothing prepared me for how I felt, more so, how I DIDN’T feel, when I ran my hands over the area of the surgical cut. I could feel my fingers’ pressure but there was nothing, no receptors that told my brain how it felt to be touched there. The area spanned about two inches above and below the incision. I kept touching the area, willing to feel again, and I was sufficiently freaked out about the numbness.

When someone gets an open wound, it gets sutured by stitches or surgical glue that binds the edges of the wound back together and encourages healing. However, when the person is wounded and has their physical body torn open, the nerve endings of the wound area are damaged. Sometimes, the nerve endings grow back and the area can be felt again. But sometimes the area is irrevocably damaged.

You, my friend, have experienced some shitty times recently. Your heart has been broken, and when a heart breaks and mends, like physical wounds, I believe that it mends with a hardened scar that has no more active nerve endings. So when our heart experiences enough breaks, the scar tissue becomes large and so overwhelming that we can no longer feel, no matter how hard we press on the area and will the feeling to return.

You wonder why you don’t feel. You are pressing on the edges of your heart in confusion and while you know you SHOULD feel something, you don’t.

My friend, it took years for the feeling in my abdomen to return. But this is what the doctors don’t tell you. Yes, you may feel again, but the feeling will not be the same. Something in you has changed and your body has adapted and grown different nerve endings. Maybe your heart is changing and moving away from the innocence and belief in the world that had you so wide-eyed and receptive to love.

This sounds bad. It isn’t. It is a part of life and learning wisdom, I guess. And it happens to people at different ages.

If you want to feel that uninjured innocence and love again, go watch a child explore the world with glee and run back into the arms of their loving but injured parent. Watch how the parent encourages the fun and love and desperately tries to retain their child’s excitement and hope and happiness. The child does not feel the pain that you do. The child hasn’t experienced the pains of the world yet. But they will, and they will yearn to feel that free again. So watch the child and know that you are experienced and will have to grow new nerve endings that make you feel differently. And try to protect those around you from experiencing the pain that wounded your heart.

Please let your scarred heart move from excitement and happiness into acceptance and contentment.

I’m sorry you are experiencing this horrific period of growth.

I love you.

The Swell

The men sat around sipping coffee in their bright yellow windbreakers. They were a familiar crowd of retirees, lazily enjoying their coffee and conversation. The sun wrinkled faces smiled and argued over the topics of the day: the value of hardwork and something they vehemently disagreed with: Bitcoin. One man’s jowls shook as he waved his hands around to argue with the man directly across from him at the pushed together tables.

“Kids these days can’t even count cash anymore! How are we supposed to trust our money to the damn computers?! The end is coming, I tell ya!”

I smiled silently to myself and sipped my Mexican mocha. I sat by the coffee shop’s single window and watched the waves come in as I eavesdropped. Pulling out my phone, I checked my investments, including bitcoin, and felt good about the returns. The new age is here, my friends.

Finally seeing swells of six feet or so, I downed the rest of my drink and scooted to the edge of the booth. I grabbed my notebook and stood up, tossing my cup into the trash can by the door on my way out. Swinging by my car, I dumped my phone and notebook in the passenger’s seat and crawled in the back to haphazardly change into my wetsuit. The water was too cold for me to risk going out without it. No one was around my car in the parking lot, but I liked to go nude under the suit and needed to show some semblance of modesty for the men in the coffee shop across the street, lest they tired from their bitcoin argument and decided to watch the ocean. I struggled to pull the suit up, my legs sprawling into the air as I wiggled the tight material onto my body.

Once my arms were through the wetsuit sleeves, I climbed out of the car, glad of the cold wind that brushed over my face and blew my tangled hair into my eyes. The water may be cold, but the wetsuit made my body hot in the wintery air. I reached behind my back and pulled the long strand of coarse fabric that was attached to the zipper that ran up the back of the suit. The zipper closed the tight fabric up my naked back; I wrapped the velcro seam around my neck closed and my body’s suffocation was complete.

Grabbing my board, I locked my car and tossed the keys behind the right front tire. It was just me, my board, and my wetsuit. Stepping barefoot onto the cold sand, I closed my eyes and deeply breathed in the salty brisk air. I wiggled my toes, sinking a little as the sand moved around my feet. Opening my eyes, I started walking towards the smaller swells that were beckoning me. The water was completely clear, with gold flecks of sand that were reflecting off the early morning sun. It looked like I would be stepping into King Midas’ tumultuous bathwater.

I stepped in, gasping at the sudden freeze that enveloped my feet to the ankles. They went numb rapidly, but the numbness stopped at the beginning of my wetsuit. I kept walking, thankful that my numb feet couldn’t feel the smooth rocks that I was stepping on and scraping against. The water reached my waist, cooling my body down significantly before I threw my board onto its surface. My board was perfect, light orange with white swirls that mimicked the waves I had caught on big island ten years ago. I had gone to the local board maker with my design idea. He had taught me how to carve the board, smoothing out the roughness and ensuring the board’s dynamics were perfect before sending me off to enjoy it.

Front end towards the ocean…

The words of the boyfriend who had taught me how to surf echoed in my head as they always did when I would first go into the water. He had chastised me for walking out with the fin end forward and I had mocked him and stuck out my tongue as I turned the board around. I never failed to chuckle at the memory of him rolling his eyes at my childish behavior as he taught me to surf.

Decades ago…

Perhaps he was why I continued to surf. I felt close to him when I caught a wave, as close as I could get to a man who had disappeared three years into our relationship. He was always a drifter; I could feel his itch to walk out every time we sat too still on my couch. He stayed with me for longer than I thought he would. But that one fight proved to be too much. I never saw him again after he walked out that time.

Jolting back to the present, I swung up onto the board with both hands and began paddling out to meet my warmup waves.

The first few were good waves, solid and easy to ditch when they lost their power to the whitewash. My hair was completely wet, dangling around my face. I was nicely warmed up, my breath was quickened and the wetsuit was a perfect temperature of solid cool. Flipping my hair out of my face, I started towards the bigger swells. They had started to reach eight feet, which was no big deal; they were nothing like the thunderous swells the typhoons brought in.

I reached the right area during a period of calm, and I closed my eyes as I sat on my board with my feet dangling into the water. The water swirled around my feet, making my legs weightless and easing them of aches. I felt giddy and opened my eyes to a large swell. I pushed my board through, relying on my weight to force the board through the wave and prevent the board from popping up and getting dragged to the shore. I sat up and shook the water from my face as I spun my board around to catch the next wave.

I started paddling to stay within the right part of the swell. My right shoulder began to ache with the old injury, but I ignored it as the wave lifted my board and I was able to quickly pop up to my feet. I began to ride with the wind pushing drops of water into my ears as I traveled quickly down the face of the wave. The water was wrinkly and smooth between the wrinkles. I smiled as I gained speed and shot down through the wrinkles. My board rode diagonally across the wave smoothly, and I uncharacteristically felt the need to glance up at the shore.

He was there. He was on the shore, watching me. It had to be him; no one else would be in sandals on this freezing wintery day with a light jacket on. He always said he never felt the cold; years of surfing with the old school wetsuits that didn’t protect him from the elements seemed to have permanently damaged the cold sensitivity receptor nerves of his body.  He watched me surf without any emotion on his face. He simply studied me.

Startled, my body jerked backwards and my board shot forwards. I fell into the wave as it broke over me. The wave had me firmly in its grasp as I tumbled over and over in its break. It held me at the bottom of the ocean, pressing my face and hands into the smooth rocks that were rough with impact. I went limp, willing the ocean to take me in whatever fashion would get me to air the quickest. I had learned long ago, from him, that you couldn’t fight a lost wave; the ocean will always win. If you struggle against the wave, you will lose precious energy in the fight for a sense of direction as you are dragged under, over and over. He had taught me to go limp and let the ocean have me, and hopefully the ocean would determine that it wasn’t my time and let me go. The ocean had always let me go in the past.

My lungs began to burn and in my panic, I started to fight to find my way up to the water’s surface. Scratching, clawing, my shoulder muscle ached with shoots of fire as I tried to swim.

I was able to briefly surface, and as I rapidly drew in a strangled gasp of air, I saw flashes of what looked like a yellow windbreaker running down to the water before I was dragged back under by a second large swell perfectly timed to crush me.

I hadn’t seen him.

My last breath wasn’t enough for me to remain limp during the pull and crashing of the second wave; my body panicked immediately and I tried swimming to the surface again. My nails scraped rock. I was swimming the wrong way with no oxygen left. Panic overrode my entire body as I realized what was happening.

As everything darkened around me, I thought I felt his arms grab me into a strong hug, just like the ones he used to give me as I lay in his arms those many years ago. I thought I felt his body pressed against mine, his naked skin clinging to my wetsuit as he pulled me in tightly…tight enough to be safe, tight enough to return me back to the girl I was when he first loved me, tight enough that I couldn’t breathe, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to breathe anymore.

The gold-flaked waves continued to crash repeatedly, unconcerned, pounding onto the smooth rocks and dragging my orange and white-swirled board to rest alone on the unmarked sand of the shore.

52 Books and Works In A Year (2017)

I had a lofty goal this year; well, I had a few. Besides the typical weight loss that seems to be held at an arm’s length because of injuries and laziness, I had a goal of reading 52 books in one year. Superficially, 52 books doesn’t seem that ridiculous of a goal. However, the minutiae of life became overwhelmingly congruent with my failure in achieving this goal in such a way that I would almost attempt to label it a “future goal” to appease my strive for “perfection”. After finishing grad school in May, I thought I would easily have enough time for this goal.

Life had other plans, as usual.

I didn’t plan on writing my book this year. Of course, I had toyed with the idea of telling my infamous story and was greatly encouraged by the people I told verbally. I never thought I could be a writer as I read the works of the greats like Heinlein and Novakov and Rowling. But when I was sitting in a waiting room in May, I began to remember the feel of the run on that night in Afghanistan. As I placed myself squarely back into those moments, I became overwhelmed in my usual panic attack and pulled out my phone to write what my brain remembered. I felt better for about two hours before I had the urge to write again, to continue purging myself of these thoughts and memories.

I thought it would be a slow process to draw the story back to the forefront of my memory, but it wasn’t; the story has always been right there, forcing me to live a reactionary life full of guilt and pain and hate. In writing the story, I became like a fire hydrant that had been ran over; I couldn’t quell the flow. It felt like I was vomiting the words and experiences and I was vomiting so violently that I couldn’t catch my breath. The only way to breath again in the moment of such violent expulsion is to vomit harder and faster, to get everything out quickly to save yourself because you can feel the end of your oxygen stores coming (if you can’t relate to this analogy, then you haven’t experienced the flu in the truest of ways, you lucky dog).

I wrote fiercely for three months, sometimes staying awake until 3 am or later writing, revising timelines, and talking to people who are in the book. Every night would be a battle of the physical requirement for sleep and the metaphorical need to breathe again. As 2017 went on, the urge to write was always there, and it put a damper on my attempts of this attainable 52 Books in a Year goal.

However, the goal has been reached in a scrambling attempt at the end, and I have learned so much from it as I forayed into the realm of non-fiction seriously for the first time of my life. I am able to speak on events in an educated manner instead of reading a 180 character tweet. The knowledge handed to me from the non-fiction writing, while still draped in the bias of the writer, is more factual and sometimes more relatable than the fictional stories that I have loved for decades. I have gained a new appreciation for non-fiction, but I still love to sneak in a good fictional work like a girl reading with a flashlight under the covers.

So here is my list:


  • Art of War by Sun Tzu (5th Century BC)
  • On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col Dave Grossman (1995; revised in 2006)
  • Lincoln’s Prose by Abraham Lincoln (1860-1865)
    • Niagara Falls
    • The Practice of Law
    • On Government
    • On the Republican Party
    • To Henry Pierce and Others
    • On Discoveries, Improvements and Inventions
    • Speech on the Dred Scott Decision
    • On Slavery
    • To George Robertson
    • On Pro Slavery Theology
    • On Slavery and Democracy
    • On the Struggle Against Slavery
    • First Inaugural Address
    • Speech at Independence Hall
    • To Ephraim D. and Phoebe Ellsworth
    • Emancipation Proclamation
    • To Horace Greeley
    • Meditation on Divine Will
    • To James Conkling
    • Proclamation of Thanksgiving
    • Gettysburg Address
    • Second Inaugural Address
  • Final Report Of The Select Committee On The Events Surrounding The 2012 Terrorist Attack In Benghazi by the Select Committee on Benghazi of the House of Representatives (2016)
  • Team Geek : A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others by Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian W. Fitzpatrick (2012)
  • Toddlers Are Assholes: It’s Not Your Fault by Bunmi Laditan (2015)
  • Loving What Is by Bryon Katie (2002)
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife Diane Ackerman (2007)
  • How To Be A Lady: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy (A Gentlemanners Book) by Candace Simpson-Giles (2011)
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (1989)
  • Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham (2012)
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger (2016)
  • Beyond Landscape (Communist Manifesto) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848)
  • Verizon Communications versus FCC by the U.S. District Court of Appeals (2014)
  • The Over-consumption Myth and Other Tales of Economics, Law, and Morality by Elizabeth Warren (2004)
  • Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous (2006)
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax (2009)

  • Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox (2008)
  • Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens (2015)


  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)
  • The Lost Girl by D.H. Lawrence (1920)
  • Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
  • Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins (1980)
  • The King, the Queen, and the Knave by Vladimir Nabokov (1928)
  • The Magus by John Fowles (1965)
  • The Collector by John Fowles (1963)
  • French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (1969)
  • Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
  • The Jellybean by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1882)
  • The Sons by Franz Kafka
    • The Judgment (1913)
    • The Stoker (1913)
    • Metamorphosis (1915)
    • Letter to His Father (1952)

Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Wheel of Time- The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (1992)
  • Wheel of Time- Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (1991)
  • Wheel of Time- The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (1990)
  • Wheel of Time- Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (1990)
  • End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov (1955)
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1897)
  • Manna by Marshall Brain (2003)
  • Slow Regard for Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (2014)
  • Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
  • Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman (2003)
  • Time Pressure by Spider Robinson (1987)


  • The Shack by William P. Young (2007)
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (prior to 850)


  • Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda (1972)
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (2014)
  • The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (2017)

Historical Fiction

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
  • Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke (2015)

Comic Books

  • Terminal Lance: White Donkey by Maximilian Uriarte (2016)

Currently Reading…

  • The Prince by Machiavelli (1532)
  • Hero Tales from American History by Theodore Roosevelt and William Taylor Adams (1895)
  • Windows at Christmas by Bill Crowder (2008)
  • The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts (2015)
  • The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan (1993)

Awards by Me:

Most Personally Helpful: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col Dave Grossman (1995; revised in 2006)

Most Heart Wrenching: Terminal Lance: White Donkey by Maximilian Uriarte (2016)

Most Relatable: Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)

Most Frustrating: The Magus by John Fowles (1965) or really anything Fowles

One I Would Never Recommend: The Shack by William P. Young (2007)