My Life

Does the vague name make it sound more edgy?

Take a Step Back

To kick off the new year, my church participated in a 21 day fast. In lieu of certain food groups, I opted to delete social media from my phone, as I felt that it was one thing stealing more of my attention than necessary. And while I expected a bit of habitual reaching for my phone, and the mindless skimming through apps in search of Instagram, Twitter or the like, I did not expect the real, physical withdrawal I felt.

While at first I thought it was just frustration, FOMO, this sense that I must be missing out on something big, I soon began to realize I was actually feeling a little afraid. Unbeknownst to me, social media had become a bit of a crutch—a coping mechanism that I’d been using for whenever I was sad, angry, lonely, jealous, or confused. If I felt a feeling I didn’t like, I’d take a scroll through social media to find a new one. And now that I didn’t have that option, many of the feelings and thoughts I’d been avoiding were all demanding to be felt.

I lay awake almost every night of the first week, unable to fall asleep, unable to quiet my brain the way social media had been doing. It had become such a habit to scroll through whichever app until I got tired, never sure what I was looking for, but always hopeful it might be in the next post, or the next. But it never seemed to be there.

Having time away from social media, I’ve given myself space to think, space to wonder, and space to just listen.

Reaching for my phone is still a habit. I still catch myself tapping at the screen, hoping something pops up that might make a bad moment better or a long day easier, but I am also doing better at looking for things offline that can help. I’m reading more, I’m praying more, I’m being more creative. I’m feeling all of the feelings that come naturally each day, and I’m allowing them to pass through me rather than attempting to shut them out.

I will admit, I thought this fast would be harder for me than it was. And after those first few nights, I was convinced I would never make it. But having come to the end of the 21 days, and not feeling even an inkling of the relief or freedom that I thought I would, I realize how crucial this fast was for me—even when I was someone who would have considered herself not to be addicted to social media.

And so, I’d encourage anyone to take a step back. Just to see if there’s anything you might be missing. Take a step back and feel the feelings that you might be avoiding. Take a step back and listen for the things that have always been inside you but have been muted by the endless scrolling. Take a step back and breathe. Exist in the real world and simply in the real. You don’t have to leave social media behind forever, but it’s important to remind ourselves that social media is a place to visit, not a place to live. Take a step back, log off and look around. There’s a lot more for us out here than there is in there, and out here it will last a lot longer.

A Lactose Free Poem for Your Birthday [Repost]

In honor of my sister’s birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d bring back this post. I originally posted it in 2015, back when we were sharing a room at our parents’ house, when I was just starting to post consistently on my blog, and when the world was really obsessed with infinity scarves.

I thought about changing a couple of the lines to make it more current, but I kind of like seeing how much has changed (in good and hard ways) and how far we’ve come. She was my person then and she’s my person now, so here’s hoping this poem can ring in her birthday with a smile.

Happy birthday Natallee!


Natalee my Natalee,

I hope you like this rhyme from me

You’re used to them by now I’d think

So enjoy this one and down a drink

Not too many though because I don’t like barf

I loathe barf like you love a good scarf

Which is why we have 57 in our closet

Okay not really, 58 if I’m honest.

Sometimes I think about burning them all

But don’t worry I’ll at least hold out until fall

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Today is a day when we celebrate you

A day that I’ve celebrated since I was two

That year was rough, when you arrived on the scene

Before that there was just brown hair, brown eyes, just me.

But I suppose you ended up being pretty cool, slightly valuable

Beautiful actually, smart, compassionate and admirable

One of the only people in the world to always make me happy

And to infuriate me to no end when we’re feeling cross and sassy.

But that’s a rarity now since we’re both essentially flawless

Always wondrous, always mature, never strange, unintelligible and lawless.

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You’ve listened to every song that I’ve wrote about our dog

And every whiny jingle on why I won’t go for a jog

You listen to the sighs, the cries and the rants,

You let me crank up our music and dance around with no pants

You’ve made me laugh too many times to count

And made me proud an intangible amount

You’ve seen me through it all and so many would agree

You fought through some of the hardest times and come out beautifully free

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So remember on this day as I thank you for your you-ness

That I say it with a sincerity and a gratefulness of the truest…

…nature, but not the kind with all the trees and the bugs

More the kind with all the cheesy, sentimental, tear jerking hugs

So eat cake (without eggs) and ice cream (without dairy)

That way your birthday can be diarrhea free and quite merry.

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Love you!

Red Heart on Apple iOS 14.2

I Went to the Chiropractor

Last year, after much deliberation, an appropriate amount of drama, and just enough neck pain to push me over the edge, I decided to go to the chiropractor for the first time.

My mom and sister had been going for years, forever trying to convince me that you would not in fact die on the table, but I could not be persuaded. Surely there had to be the occasional slip. The slight miscalculation that went from a vertebrae adjustment to a full-on decapitation. Surely an experience that is centered around cracking your bones could not truly be enjoyable.

But alas, they kept going. And miraculously, they kept returning fully mobile, wholly satisfied and, you know, with heads.

So, I decided to give it a try.

If there was ever a benefit of having to wear masks everywhere we go, it was to hide the pure fear I felt as I was walked into the room. The chiropractor—who knew both my mom and my sister—had heard that I was nervous, so she tried her best to put me at ease, but I still sat wondering if this was the end. Wondering if in a few moments she’d pull my arm off or crank my neck so far to one side that I would scream as if I was being exorcised.

What I didn’t expect was that she’d point out something before we even started.

“Let’s talk about your posture,” she said, “It is pretty good in your shoulders but your head is too far forward.”

She demonstrated how my head poked out, most likely from leaning towards a computer screen at work. Oh my gosh, I thought, looking at her, is that what I look like all the time? I look like an upside down golf club. I look like a putter. I am a walking, talking, standing putter. I should be a staff. A skyscraper. A redwood. But I am a putter.

As the chiropractor got to work, feeling the tightness in my neck and shoulders, she explained that they were doing all they could to keep my head up. Poor neck and shoulders, I thought, humanizing them. The little engines that could. Or could barely. They were not being paid enough for this. Not to hold up this brain that was obviously big and heavy and full of boundless knowledge. I can’t even imagine the kind of weight they’d been bearing all this time.

And so, we agreed—me and the chiropractor, me and my neck and shoulders, me and the fear that still whispered that if we were quick we could slip out the door and get a McFlurry instead—we agreed that we’d give this a go. So, we took a deep breath, and then the chiropractor began. She pulled and cracked and pushed and there were a couple of times when I glanced down at my fingers and toes and wiggled them *just in case* and then she told me to sit up. All in all, it is probably the most violent four minutes I’ve ever experienced. But it was definitely worth it.

I’ve been back a few times since then, and I now make a conscious effort to pull my head back during the day. Turns out, if anyone was trying to decapitate me, it was me. After that first appointment I imagined that if I’d never come in, maybe one day my head would have gotten too heavy and simply just fallen off. Ripped at the roots. Tumbling to the floor with all of that knowledge.

This obviously wouldn’t have happened, but more importantly it won’t happen because I faced my fears, went to the chiropractor and set out on a new life’s mission: to be a skyscraper, not a putter.  

In Case You’re Looking for a New Thanksgiving Staple

When I was little, my maternal grandparents used to host Thanksgiving every year. And just like any other holiday, I would arrive looking for a few key staples: the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the pre-meal black olives that I would place on my fingers and pretend I got a manicure, and the cheese filled celery sticks that I would lick the cheese out of and throw the celery away.

When I got older and my parents starting hosting Thanksgiving, I wanted to find my own staple to bring to the table. Something that people could look forward to and rely on me for, and something that I could pass down to my kids when my mom passes the turkey down to me, so I can undoubtedly take on the job as if I am precisely diffusing a bomb for five hours. 

One year, I decided this staple might be rolls. As the turkey cooled for carving and the final touches were being put on the side dishes, I volunteered to butter and bake the rolls, which to some members of my family are arguably the most important part of the meal. I thought it was a can’t lose move. But it turns out, when you reach in to grab your cooked rolls and accidentally light your oven mitt on fire, filling the whole kitchen with smoke and a burnt smell that begins to overtake every other pleasant smell, just as your guests start to arrive, you put yourself in a can lose situation.

So I ditched the rolls. Or rather, gave them back to my aunt, who’d failed to ruin them or set off a smoke alarm even once. Show off.

Then, after a solid year of pouting and self-deprecation, another year of Internet research, and then a tentative shopping trip for cheeses I’d never heard of, I found my side dish. My staple. My claim to Thanksgiving table fame.

This Martha Stewart Macaroni & Cheese recipe.

I will admit, it’s not a walk in the park. And while I’ve gotten into a good rhythm over the years, I still usually sit down at the Thanksgiving table looking slightly weathered and a little sweatier than I’d prefer, but it’s always worth it. So if you’re looking for something to spice up your Thanksgiving, your Christmas, or even just your Tuesday, might I recommend this recipe. It’s DELICIOUS.

Plus, if you make it enough, people start to forget that Martha Stewart created it and start calling it “your macaroni”, allowing you to feel like an innovative culinary queen (or king.) And that, my friends, is a can’t lose situation.

Also, pro-tip: grate your cheese before you start.  

The Solvang Postcard

In the fall of my senior year of college—which as I type this I realize was nine years ago, YIKES—I studied abroad in Australia. While there, one of my absolute favorite things was to write and receive letters from friends and family back home.

I love mail in general, but being a whole continent away and receiving things from the people I loved back home not only made the first few weeks easier to adjust, but made the remaining five months all the more fun. I was practically a regular at the post office, and there was an entire drawer of my desk filled with envelopes, stamps, and handwritten letters that I still have to this day.

One that stood out was a postcard from my grandpa. “You’re not the only world traveler!” the note on the back started, “Grandma and I went to Denmark. Played golf & ate at Anderson’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant. Quite a trip – took 1hr & 15min each way. Saw lots of Danish shops & houses. Took 3 days so we were exhausted when we got home. Love you bunches – Gma & Gpa”

Maybe it was the startling opening of my grandparents being in “Denmark”, maybe it was the note explaining it had taken them one hour and 15 minutes to get there—from California—or maybe it was just because I hadn’t head of Solvang before, but I never forgot this postcard. It made me smile thinking about my grandma and grandpa on vacation, golfing and exploring this strange and—judging by the pictures on the front of the postcard—very cute town.

A few years later, after my grandma passed away, this postcard became even more sentimental. I felt like it was a tangible memory from their marriage and of the life they lived together—a little piece that they wanted to share with me, that I could have forever. And so just as I kept the postcard, I kept a constant curiosity about Solvang—wondering what it would feel like to stand where they stood all those years ago. And this past weekend, I finally got the chance.

To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, our family of five spent the weekend in Solvang. We walked around and saw all the Danish shops and houses, we ate split pea soup at Anderson’s, and though we didn’t play golf, we did go wine tasting and feed some ostriches. (Yes, you read that right.)

We did Solvang our way, just as my grandma and grandpa had done it their way. And even though our trips were almost a decade apart, I still felt like they were right there with me. I still looked for the two of them walking down the street up ahead of me, and imagined them sharing split pea soup in the booth next to us.

Being where they had been made the postcard come to life, and caused it to hit me in a different way. It made me sad knowing that when my grandpa wrote that note to me, none of us had any idea we’d be losing grandma less than a year later. It made me wonder and worry about what might be coming in this decade to follow my own trip to Solvang. But then, it also made me think again about their trip. About the forethought they had to grab a postcard for me, one of their 11 grandkids and 3 great-grandchildren (at the time), and about how much that said about them and the love they had for each and everyone of us. It made me happy to think that they went on this trip and so many others, building their lives together and sharing it with us.

On our last day in Solvang, I grabbed a small, souvenir windmill that is now sitting on my desk. Maybe one day someone will ask me about it and I will pull out the postcard to explain where it all started. Maybe that will inspire another generation to take that trip, and as they walk down the streets and eat split pea soup they’ll look for me just as I looked for my grandma and grandpa, and just like that we’ll all be together again.

This Post Was Brought to You By Amy Grant

The living room is empty.

My dad is at work and my mom is in the other room, maybe cleaning or reading or talking on the phone.

I am eight years old, and I am in the mood to dance.

I sift through the CDs on the shelf, press the power button on the stereo, and open the tray of the seven disk CD player that I have already flagged as something I need in my own house when I grow up.

Amy Grant’s The Collection goes in the disc one spot. I turn off shuffle.

I hear the CD start to spin and I wait, wiggling my toes on the large oval rug where I usually spend my Saturday mornings hunched over my favorite yellow controller playing Zelda on the N64. The moment the music starts, I skip to track seven. Then I scoot back to the center of the room and place my hands in front of my face—my fingers spread wide.

The opening notes start and I wait, holding my pose, until Amy Grant starts to sing Emmaaaannnn-uel, upon which I start moving my hands up and down and around my face, assuming I look as poised and mysterious as the high level contemporary dancers at my dance studio—while in reality I probably looked like I was trying to swat a fly away from my face in slow motion.

When the chorus hits, I throw my hands in the air and jump around, singing my heart out, free, though never distracted enough to miss the next round of Emaaannnn-uel’s and their corresponding hand choreography.

When the song ends, I consider starting it again, but then skip forward to track 11, like always. There is no choreography to this song, just slow swaying around the room. I hold my hands out in front of me as if I’m dancing with someone, and move from the living room to the dining room and back, unaware (and unfazed) that a good portion of the song is in Hebrew.

As the last few notes fade out, I return to the rug, preparing for my big finish. I Have Decided comes blasting through the speakers and I begin to march around, agreeing with Amy with animated fingers that point to the ceiling. I close my eyes and wave my fists, willing her words, her decisions to be true for me too, and it makes me feel grown up. At the end of the song, I walk over and turn down the music, then lay down on our green couch.

The next song starts and I bob my head but I don’t stand up. I turn over on my side and look at the doorway leading to the hall. I know that if I turn left through that door I’ll find my baby brother’s room and the room I share with my sister, and if I turn right I’ll find my mom and dad’s room, where I’d spent last Sunday night sleeping on the floor because I had a nightmare. But I don’t move, I just lay there for a while, bobbing my head without a care in the world, already wanting to start the CD—or my version of it—over again.

I Need to Get New Running Shoes

I am just about ready to retire my running shoes, but just like an old pair of jeans or a sweatshirt that is broken in just right, they are making it hard for me to officially let them go.

I am someone who, when I find something—especially shoes—that fit me just right, I will only part with them if they physically fall apart, are taken away from me by a concerned friend or family member, or if, in their demise, they stop fitting just right.

I like for clothes and shoes to feel like a part of my body, like something I don’t even notice I’m wearing, and might even force me to glance down and ensure I got dressed that morning.

Which is perhaps why I have hoodies hanging in my closet that are so offensively thin and worn out, but I still can’t manage to get rid of them because I’ve upcycled them into “summer sweatshirts” that I can wear when the temperature dare dips below 75. And it’s definitely why, even though the recommended replacement rate of running shoes is four to six months, I am going on year two, with this blog being my biggest step towards considering to consider getting a new pair.

But I can’t help it. They’ve been through a lot with me.

They’ve been up and down and around the streets of my neighborhood, running and jogging and walking, panting and gasping and fist pumping and dancing.

They helped me train for and finish the LA Marathon.

They’ve gone from machine to machine at the gym, trying to make me look like I know what I’m doing.

They’ve hiked up dirt trails and squeaked on tile floors and dried out missteps in rainy day puddles on back porches.

They’ve been covered in wet grass, slipped in wet mud, and run through the rinse cycle more than once.

While the laces are tired, they still let me triple knot them tightly, and while the tread is fading, I still run up gravely hills without fear.

The thought of having to break in a new pair of shoes, to listen to them squeak out the fresh and take the time to wiggle in the comfortable, is enough to make me (literally) run these shoes into the ground. But then I suppose a new pair of shoes offers a new set of miles, a clean slate of adventures, and a fresh round of compliments that I haven’t heard since I got rid of my last pair of shoes.

So maybe I’m writing this to hold myself accountable. Maybe I’m writing this as a breakup letter to my shoes. Maybe I’m wearing those shoes right now. Maybe I’m going to go on one last run—or five. But I’m definitely going to get some new shoes. I definitely need to get some new shoes. And I will.

Soon.

How to Snooze Your Alarm in the Morning

Before we start, I just want to make sure you read the title of this post right, as there is a very important word missing if you are looking to improve your morning routine, balance your sleep pattern, or build healthy habits. Because yes, I am here to give advice on how to snooze your alarm, not how not to.

This is terrible advice, a terrible habit and an overall terrible way to start your morning, but I do it absolutely every day and see no signs of stopping, so, I figured if anyone wants to join me on this (mis)adventure I thought I’d give you some tips:

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1) Set your alarm for at least 30 minutes before you absolutely must wake up. This gives you 30 minutes (or more if you’re feeling dangerous) to press snooze.

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2) If your phone is your alarm clock, get a wireless charger. This prevents you from reaching to turn it off and accidentally pulling the cord out of the wall or the power strip, which could possibly make noise and fully wake you up—a nightmare.

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3) Continually make empty promises to yourself that you’re going to stop pressing snooze, as this will make each time you do feel like you’re working towards something better “one day.”

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4) When your alarm goes off, internally (or externally, should you want to risk that burst of energy) pout that you are required to wake up and convince yourself that you deserve to press snooze “just once.”

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5) Always keep your eyes closed when pressing snooze, this prevents you from accidentally seeing any attention catching notifications on your phone, or the sun, which will likely be almost all the way up, letting you know that it is probably far past the time you should have gotten up.

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6) Decide a random press of snooze is “your last one”, but keep your eyes closed and decide to give yourself a 30 second “countdown” in your head until you have to really get up.

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7) Fall back asleep on second 15 every time.

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8) Occasionally decide to “get up on time” and unlock your phone to scroll through your emails, but always always make sure you remain lying down. Sitting up will guarantee a natural wake up pattern and ultimately derail your entire plan.

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9) On particularly late mornings, tell stories that no one around you believes anymore about you “never hearing your alarm”, or you feeling “so confused by how it got so late so fast”, even though you’re well aware you woke up with your phone in your hand under your pillow.

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10) Once you have reached “crunch time” and slowly open your eyes, knowing your phone will reveal a time that requires you to get ready with particular haste, audibly gasp in shock, and then blame the late hour you went to bed, so as to avoid taking any responsibility first thing in the morning.

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11) Every once in a while, forget to turn your alarm off on the weekends, so you can press snooze with power, authority, and misplaced entitlement that validates this entire process and ensures you continue.

Finding Focus with Your Senses

With so much going on and so many reasons to both worry about the future and get lost thinking about the past, it is easy to lose sight of the present.

I know I have a tendency of focusing on the if/when’s of the future or the “if only’s” of the past, and at times I can think and worry about them until I spiral down to a point of near paralysis. As a result, I often look for ways to reconnect to the present moment, as it’s the only thing I have any control over.

Recently, on an episode of the podcast The Next Right Thing, host Emily P. Freeman shared an exercise geared to get you back into the present moment by focusing on the senses. She said, “senses bring us back to the present moment, reminding us what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

The exercise asks you to notice and/or write down the following:

Five things you can see

Four things you can hear

Three things you can feel

Two things you can smell

One thing you can taste

As I write this blog in a low sitting chair on the beach, this is how I would go through the exercise:

Five things I can see

  1. The waves moving in and out
  2. A ship far off in the distance
  3. My brother’s sandy feet
  4. The freckles on my knees
  5. A feather stuck in the sand

Four things I can hear

  1. The ocean
  2. Kids playing and laughing
  3. An airplane overhead
  4. A seagull squawking

Three things I can feel

  1. A slight breeze
  2. The sand between my toes
  3. The heat of the late morning sun

Two things I can smell

  1. The ocean
  2. Fresh (non smoky) air

One thing I can taste

  1. The bagel I ate for breakfast

What I love about this exercise is that it can bring you into the present both to diffuse a stressful or anxious situation, or to magnify a good one. It can bring good things into focus so you can appreciate them and it can bring negative things into focus so you can move away from them. It can also act as a good distraction from intrusive or anxious thoughts, and give you something to do for a few minutes besides just breathe—which sometimes just doesn’t cut it.

This exercise can be a great go-to on anxious days, long trips to the DMV, stressful family gatherings, slow moving traffic, mornings when it’s hard to get out of bed, nights when it’s hard to fall asleep—really any time when your mind needs something to focus on…other than what it’s currently focusing on. Or, on good days, it can be used to focus and perhaps memorize the things around you that make this moment perfect so that you can remember it forever.

How My Family Watches Postseason Baseball

Postseason baseball is in full swing (pun intended), and in my family that means there is a lot of pacing, a lot of swearing, and a lot of yelling that makes our dog hide under the table.

And since I can’t invite you over to watch baseball with us because playoff sports are a borderline intimate experience that not everyone can (or should) experience together, I thought I’d give an inside look (and listen) at the goings on inside our house when our favorite team is in pursuit of a championship.

Superstition

  • At the start of the game we all choose a seat, and though it’s unspoken, it’s a well-known rule that these are our seats for the rest of the game—no matter how long it may last.
  • Rally caps are a must when we need to score runs. Generally this means turning our Dodger hats backwards, but depending on the need or the overall intensity of the game, creativity with and interpretation of “rally cap” may reach unexplored territory.
  • “Nervous pee” is a thing, as is “lucky pee” and “unlucky pee” and it is up to the owner of the bladder in question to determine what decision can most benefit the team.

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Trash talk

  • This is a full family effort, and often builds into full fledged bullying, which I only condone because it takes place inside the walls of our house, never to be repeated…until the next game, upon which we only build off our ruthless ~creativity~ and whittle you down to your very bones.

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Friendly fire

  • When our boys are performing poorly, it is not uncommon for us to begin trash talking them in our best not mad but disappointed, or at times not disappointed but furious tones of voice, because it is important for us groaning couch blobs to let the elite athletes competing at the highest level know they could try harder. And honestly I think they would agree.

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Unexpected affection

  • This is mostly my mom and I. While brutally loyal to our team, if you put an underdog, a comeback story, or just a kind humble man in front of us, a small part of our heart will melt and we will mumble good luck to them—not in this moment or this game, but in the future, far away from us and our championship, where we hope they will thrive and be happy.

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Endless jabbering, clapping and apologizing to the dog

  • At a certain point encouraging anecdotes like “let’s go” or “you got this” become as easy and mindless as breathing. If given a nickel for every time one of us mumbled a cheer to ourselves, the room, or to a player by their first name, we might be able to buy season tickets for life.   
  • Our dog, Meeka, is not a fan of yelling or even minor bursts of enthusiasm that aren’t directed towards her, so there is a good portion of time dedicated to calling her over to apologize for all the screaming—only to scream again a few minutes later. As a result, she usually spends games under the table or outside barking at passing dogs, probably saying things like, “my family is crazy!” or “please take me with you on your walk, baseball is on again!” or maybe “Go Dodgers! All other teams are inferior!!”

No matter what, every game is an emotional nightmare journey, one which I’m sure will turn us all grey before our time—but I love every minute of it.