Morning lovelies. (It is not might not be morning by the time I publish this, but I’m trying to stay optimistic.)
I thought I’d chat about things being not-quite-finished today. The Nine of Wands, if you will. I have a couple of meaty blogs in the works (a brick phone update and a post about the school work I found when I was clearing out recently. Some of the pieces I found are historic treasures aka completely ridiculous and deserving of photographic preservation for future generations. A one page biography of Frank Iero in French, anyone?) but they deserve a bit more polishing. I’m working on a couple of short stories too, and some dragonnovel stuff, but they too need more polishing before I can justify an entire blog post… or even a tweet, to be honest. Not-being-quite-done feels like a bit of a slogan at the moment. Lockdown is not-quite-done. Covid is definitely not done, but with a few bajillion more vaccinations we might be able to stop using the phrase ‘R rate’ with such regularity. My diploma is not-quite-done, but it’s close enough that I want to skip the final three assignments and be finished.
I don’t love that feeling where the end’s in sight but too far to see the details. Stop taunting me, deadline days! I overworked myself in spring term, spent all of Easter in a not-quite-sleeping-properly-because-I’m-still-stressed-from-the-last-deadline fog and now the deadlines are closer but I have no energy to open a document and talk about presenting business data.
It does not help that two of these last assignments are very boring (yes, one topic is analysing and presenting business data. The subject itself is quite interesting, but the assessment is a kind of academic vampire hellbent on sucking the enthusiasm out of it). One assignment is less boring but very long winded. Except you can’t spend too long on it, because the word count is absolutely miniscule, but you’re so limited with space that you have to decide which parts of your research are worth including and which aren’t when, actually, they are all worth including and the assessment criteria is nonsense.
Oops, I was not expecting to one-sentence that. I am not friends with these last assignments. I want to yeet them into the Suez Canal then spend approximately six weeks on a tropical island, eating noodles and doing Pilates outside. I want spring to come back! Why did it snow when we just had a heatwave? Why did I put away my big scarves? I’m not even sure if I’m on speaking terms with my career at the moment. Why can’t I finish a short story in forty five minutes and have it edited within two days? Why am I assuming that a forty five minute story is even possible for someone who uses 8,000 sentences in every piece of work? Seriously, what was I thinking washing and putting my woollen garments away after two days of sunshine? Oh, and the anxious bit of my brain is freaking out because I’m under 30 and had the AstraZeneca vaccine. The contraceptive pill I’m on carries a risk of blood clots and I’ve happily eaten that for several years, and the vaccine risks are miniscule compared to the ‘dying of Covid without immunisation’ risks , but does my brain know that? No.
So I think it’s fair to say I’m a bit overwhelmed. That’s the thing with Nine of Wands: it’s not the Ten. It literally represents being ‘nearly there,’ or ‘enough that you could stop now if you really wanted to.’ I don’t really want to stop now. I want to yeet those assignments into their respective upload boxes, smug in the knowledge that I’ve completed every part of my diploma, knowing I’ve polished each assessment until it shines. I want to stop using the word yeet as though I’m a 15-year-old who knows how TikTok works.
I think the solution might be a cup of tea. It usually is, innit. I know that in a few weeks I’ll have most of this diploma finished, those short stories will, for better or worse, be floating around my patrons’ inboxes and we might stop talking about snow? Oh, and we can go about beautifying ourselves again. I’ll probably feel better when my eyebrows don’t look like Troy Tempest’s and my fringe is cut properly. I just have to hang on until then, and try to find coping mechanisms that aren’t a) mindlessly reading Reddit or b) coming on here to talk about tarot. It’s just occurred to me that the whole of civilisation is sort of living in the Nine of Wands. There’s a route out of this pandemic, but the road is winding and some people are in cars driven by imbeciles. Some roads are tarmacked and some are full of potholes and bad lighting.
I’m going for a cup of tea. I can’t believe I’ve turned a post about ‘feeling a bit tired’ into a metaphor about governments as terrible drivers.
What are your coping mechanisms for when you’re burned out and struggling with motivation? I know most students have some form of deadline approaching. Except for GCSEs and A Levels? They’ve cancelled those, haven’t they? Have they? God, no wonder I’m all over the place. Anyway. Tell me how you’re coping! If you have a work deadline on the horizon, or you’re barely clinging to sanity while you wait for lockdown to ease, I want to know how you’re doing. Let’s cling to sanity together.
Look after yourselves,
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I started writing this early on Thursday and finished it on Friday evening and there was a bona fide plot twist while I was editing, so I wrote more and added to the first part and now it’s twice as long. I’ll add headers and random photos to break it up. ENJOY.
On lockdown easing, or, the original post
My hands are stiff from working on a report for college, so I thought I’d use the computer’s speech recognition software to write this. The system isn’t used to my voice, though, so words kept coming up as the @ symbol, or asterisks or an ampersand. Then I turned the screen to greyscale.
2021 in a nutshell, then. (I am typing this.) (I don’t know how to get the colour back on my screen ahaha.)
I can’t even remember what I wanted to talk about! I’ve started, now, though. Okay, let’s try this again. Let’s talk about lockdown easing.
How is everyone feeling about the possibility of a Return to Normal in June? I am… more anxious than I thought I would be. I wrote in the first lockdown about how I thought I’d be okay in isolation because I was already an introverted little hermit, but that even I was finding it hard. And I definitely still am – I had a dream the other night that I got a takeaway with some mates. My cousin moved house a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to see her new place. I miss mooching around charity shops and being rude about other people’s discarded clothes. I miss popping out. I want to get cocktails with my friends and gossip about colleagues and try to figure out if we know the person at the next table.
I’m not sure if I’m ready for noisy pubs with tipsy people jostling you at the bar, or big family barbecues with forty people and lots of cheek kissing, or buses with squished-up queues. I know that even with hospitality reopening and easing of household mixing restrictions, we’re meant to still distance. But we won’t. Drunk people can’t. Anti-vaxxers and Covid-deniers won’t wear masks the moment they think they can get away with it. When lockdown eased in the summer, some of my family threw a boozy house party. Was it distanced and considered? Was it fuck. I know people who aren’t taking up their vaccine offers, or are sceptical that the pandemic is even a real thing. Will they do normal-things-plus-distancing or will they go back to 2019 behaviours, like elastic that’s been stretched and let go?
I went to Greece in the summer with family (not the house party family. I have, like, eight strands of family). I was anxious, but it was for a long-planned family event and on balance, when I’d done the reading, I reckoned it was safe enough to take the chance. No one I was with caught or transmitted Covid as far as I know, and although social distancing was less strict than here, Zakynthos felt safer than the UK (I’ve also never seen such clean aeroplanes). There’s been a lot of non-Covid family stuff over the last year and I’m grateful we got to do something normal for a week when the rules allowed it. So I’m not advocating for national lockdown and no fun until we hit zero new cases. But Southend’s pubs felt more disgusting and less safe on a personal level than Zakynthos’ bars before the pandemic. I don’t know if that speaks more to Southend’s grottiness or Zante’s friendliness. I’m digressing. Have a nice photo.
I don’t know if I can deal with coming out of lockdown again just to go back in when cases rise. I guess the theory is that with mass vaccination, cases can’t spike. But still. I think I’d rather stick out a longer lockdown and know what the rules are than yo-yo between tiers like we did in autumn. The constant changes made me anxious, but I know what lockdown involves. I know how to do it now. Southend’s been in lockdown since just before Christmas when we went into Tier 4, but I’ve been really busy so I’ve coped quite well. Better than first lockdown probably, because college and book promotion are keeping me occupied. I’ve got less time to spiral into doom thoughts. On the other hand, I can’t really remember what it’s like to not be in lockdown? And this roadmap whatsit seems like a lot of changes very quickly. I know the ‘back to normal’ date is in June and I’m writing this in February, but it feels soon. I was expecting to ease into ‘normal,’ the same way you dip a toe into a hot bath and acclimatise before getting in. Maybe start with a coffee on a park bench and work my way up. I guess going to Zakynthos was dipping a leg in? I’ve been there a dozen times, so visits are less like going to a foreign country and more like taking a really long journey to see old friends.
Then there’s the whole question of what ‘normal’ involves. I don’t hate what my life has been since Covid started. I hate lots of parts of it, but I feel like I’ve made progress with my mental health in the past year or so, probably because I can’t ignore issues when I’m stuck indoors. I’ve reconnected with friends over Zoom, done a tonne of reading, written a series of short stories, gone back to school. Published a book. I’m not mad about those things. So do I want things to go back to precisely how they were at the start of the pandemic? No. Plus, surviving 2020 feels like a badge of honour. I’m ready for parts of my life to start back up, while keeping hold of the good bits from Covid. I’m just not as ready as I’d like to be?
Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I’ve had a vaccine. And I think some people’s behaviours have changed permanently, for the better. I feel like it’s going to be really normal to see people with hay fever wearing masks, and it’s going to be more acceptable to call in sick to work when you have a cold. Hand sanitiser is going stay in people’s bags when they use public transport. More people will wash their hands before they eat.
The second aspect of The Return to Normality that’s giving me nerves is money. As in, I don’t have a lot since I went back to college. It hasn’t been that big of a deal, because what is there to spend money on? Except I’ve promised at least three groups of people that when this thing is over, we’re going for dinner or drinks or suchlike (and I want to do it properly, with a nice outfit and cocktails with an umbrella). I looked at a restaurant menu the other day and thought ‘shit that looks pricy. Was it always this pricy?’ Everywhere’ s going to up their prices to make up their losses. I don’t blame them, and I do want to buy from my favourite places. God, I miss browsing bookshops. It just feels like a lot to commit fifty quid to a night out or a dinner I don’t feel completely safe going to.
Oh, and the sudden ‘maybe’ of concerts going ahead is nerve wracking. I don’t think MCR’s tour will happen, at least for the UK, because their UK shows are in a stadium that seats 30,000 people and their run finishes the day before the legal limits are removed. If I were any of the dozens of people involved in the tour, I’d want to postpone. Just to be on the safe side and reduce the risk of getting stranded if a country’s rules change suddenly. But if it does go ahead, I (and presumably 30k other people) have to weigh up safety versus, you know, the return of Jesus. Also, I thought I had a while to save up for inane merchandise (that baby is me at a merch stand) and finish making my Killjoy jacket. JUNE IS TOO SOON.
Part two, or, plot twist
I took a break from working on this (and somehow turned the greyscale off, ha) to get lunch. I was faffing about when I got a text from my GP asking me to call to arrange a vaccine appointment. I have never made a phone call so fast. I’m the youngest person I know who’s been offered it (I’m 25), and I’m not completely sure why? It might be because I had asthma for a bit as a child, or more likely due to the respiratory issues I had when I was born. I was in A&E the Christmas before last with heart palpitations (did I ever tell you guys about that? Christmas Eve on a hospital ward, what a treat). Or maybe I’ve been up the doctor enough times in the past couple of years with my IBS and shitty wrists that I flag up on their system. Maybe I’ve got points on my loyalty card.
Seriously, though, I’m not sure how to feel. I mean, there was unrelenting joy and relief once I booked my appointment, followed by crushing guilt that I’ve been offered it when people with learning difficulties have had to fight to be moved up the list. I guess I’m in the ‘everyone over 16 with a health condition that increases their risk’ bracket, even if this is the first I’ve heard of it. Do I deserve the vaccine more than people who have been shielding for a year? No. As we’ve established, I don’t go out much. I’m not a key worker, I don’t see many people day to day. I’m not a huge risk to others, nor am I necessarily at risk of a bad Covid experience. But I didn’t turn the appointment down, because I have a responsibility to protect everyone who is at risk. If popping up the vaccination hub next week contributes to The Return of Normality, it’s the literally the least I can do. I’m just not sure if I’m quite ready for The Return of Normality. I gave myself a day to think about it before coming back to this post, and although I think getting the first vaccine will make me less nervous about socialising, I’m still not sure about pubs or crowded indoor gatherings. I’m definitely not sure about an open air stadium with 30,000 people. And by ‘not sure’ I mean ‘will probably refuse to unless I’m reassured by the data we’re given closer to the time regarding vaccinations and new cases.’ Obviously I’m hoping that things will continue to go well and by the time places open up, I’ll feel more confident. But we’ve been in lockdown-easing territory before, you know? Nothing’s certain until it’s happening.
I wasn’t sure whether to talk about being offered the vaccine. Bragging about getting it at 25 when I’m not even certain it’s for a current health issue is not a good look when so many more people are more deserving. Then I watched a Royal Institution livestream (which is now on YouTube, check it out!) about vaccination myths and the panel talked about how young people might be more inclined to get vaccinated if influencers were getting it. I hope to never, ever be considered an influencer, unless I’ve influenced you to read a book I’ve raved about or some shit, but it won’t hurt to add my voice to the number of people talking about their experience. So I’m due to get vaccinated on Thursday, and I’ll pop in over the weekend to talk about what it was like, and discuss any side effects. If it’s anything like the flu jab, I’ll have a sore arm and take a nap… which is really not that different from a normal day. Might take a selfie with my little cotton arm swab for Instagram and caption it Be The Change.
So, yeah. This was a weird post to write: I’ve never had the topic I’m writing about have such a dramatic plot twist half way though! Editing was harder than it should have been. I’m not sure what tone I’m going for. Reticent? Nervy? Not looking forward to the possibility of getting yelled at on Twitter for getting the vaccine when I’m healthy and young versus not looking forward to listening to people talk about how if the pandemic was real, there would be bodies in the streets (real quote from a very intelligent human being). I’m still conflicted. About all eight billion words I just wrote. I usually end with a question, so I guess today I’m asking: if you’re under 30 or so, have you been offered the vaccine? How was it? Regardless of age, how are you feeling about going back to ‘normal’? If you are also an anxious neurotic who isn’t sure about hugging people, please let me know. Day to day I’m mostly surrounded by people who can’t wait to go partying and take off masks and pretend this shit never happened. Speak to me, my people…
Oh, I feel like you guys would appreciate that I celebrated booking my appointment by ordering a new bra. I mean, I was thinking about it anyway because the one I was wearing the day I began this post was literally falling apart at the seams and wouldn’t survive until the shops reopen. It had sort of begun garrotting my back. I figured it’s a very 2021 experience to celebrate one’s vaccination from Covid with the purchase of a (non-wired, obviously) bra. We’re supposed to celebrate the little things in life, right?!
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I almost didn’t finish this post, although I started it days ago, as I’ve been mulling over both what to say and how to say it. The last thing the world needs is another white person saying, ‘I’ve been educating myself this week,’ or ‘I have signed X petition,’ or ‘I have quite a few BAME characters in my last book,’ as that implies I’m off the hook. I’m not. I also don’t want to tell readers which funds to support – we don’t know each other’s financial situations.
That said, I started Indifferent Ignorance to discuss just that. Little Me saw a lot of ambivalence in society and couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t understand why no one was throwing tables and screaming their lungs out about topics and issues that were so obviously dodgy or horrible and relevant to the lives of millions of people, if not all of us. How did anyone manage to learn about these things and just shrug? So I like to think I’m mindful of the notion that if I don’t speak up about something I perceive as wrong, I’m complicit in allowing it.
So, for the record, although I suspect I will have to say this a great number more times: to my BAME readers and customers, I am so sorry that our realities are so different in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I hope to spend several more decades on this planet, and I’ll do my best to spend them learning how to be a better person than the individuals previously and currently in charge of so many of our governmental and societal systems. I’ll do my best to understand the privilege I was born into. I don’t expect your patience (I’m from a country that’s spent 400 years pretending the slave trade didn’t have any impact on modern-day America; I wouldn’t tend toward patience in your shoes, either) but I hope you’ll let me listen and ask questions where I can, and allow me to learn from any fuck ups as opposed to announcing my ‘cancellation’ on Twitter.
I was going to list some of the ways I’ve been trying to actively help out and educate myself this week, but I sort of feel that implies, once again, that once the protests have ended and the news cycle has moved on, that I will be off the hook because I made a bit of effort for a few days. Anyway, you can all find the relevant petitions and media in about five minutes.
That said, as a novelist I’m never going to stop shouting about how important ‘fictional’ stories are for education-disguised-as-entertainment. So if you’re looking to expand your horizons but also have a break from straight-up news, please consider looking up the following. They are all fantastically interesting, thought provoking insights into someone else’s life even before you consider the race-related commentary:
Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo
Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series (the TV show is also *chef’s kiss*)
Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
I very much plan to decolonise my bookshelf and expand that list. There’s another book I can’t remember the name of that I read in primary school and stuck with me. It may have been by Malorie Blackman but I’m not sure. I’ll have to do some serious Googling because I think I read it circa 2004.
Another note on reading: I looked up a lot of non-fiction books I’m planning to read in my local library catalogue, but they aren’t stocked. It took about 15 minutes to look up half a dozen ISBNs and request them, because they should be available to all of us (I’m fully planning to buy my own copies anyway, but I am limited on money and space, as I suspect we all are). Even if you own a copy of a book you think is really important – and you can do this with any old book, really – it’s worth searching it up on your local library site or shop wish lists, and requesting it if it’s not there. The powers-that-be might then stock it, and will at least know which topics their customers care for, thus helping them improve their displays, marketing, etc.
Finally, a photo of an electricity box (is that what they’re called?). I live in a mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly well-it’s-not-in-our-bubble neighbourhood. I hadn’t seen most of my neighbours before the Thursday night NHS clapping, and I’ve lived here on and off since 2005. But someone thought it worth pasting these posters over every available bollard and box at the local row of shops/cultural-epicentre-even-if-it’s-mostly-coffee-shops-and-estate-agents:
I never thought I’d see a civil rights poster in my neighbourhood. I didn’t notice last time I was there if they’d been taken down. I suspect someone will have considered them out of place. But I looked up those books, you might look up those books and my neighbours might have too. That someone took the time to put them up, knowing that they might be completely dismissed as unnecessary or inappropriate, deserves immortalising. I also love that they used FRAGILE tape.
I am off to bed… I can’t believe I thought it’d take me half an hour to finish this. When will I learn that posts always take double the time I expected? Blogs are like building work.
Electronic planes are on the cusp of becoming a reality. Fast, convenient travel without polluting the planet? Sign me up mate. Okay so perhaps it’s not quite on the cusp of reality… more like the cusp of the cusp. But I am confident that with funding (anyone know a billionaire? Someone who invested in loo roll stocks and shares? Or just invested in loo roll?) it will happen.
Right, I’m mentioning the C word for a minute. There’s a website called Covid Mutual Aid, which helps you find a local groups of people volunteering to help others during these batshit mad times. The groups organise shopping runs for those in isolation and help link people up with goods and resources if they need them (been stockpiling loo roll since 1982? It’s your time to shine, my friend). I’ve joined my local one because if you can’t volunteer to get someone’s shopping when they’re in isolation, then a) you’re a dick and b) seriously what do you do with your life.
Following on from that, a lady named Becky has made coronavirus postcards. Pop them through your neighbours’ front doors and let them know you’re there if they need you!
I may use some of this distancing time to finish up some blog posts I’ve been sitting on. I’ve been thinking of a post about working from home, since I am a seasoned pro at spending the day indoors? Let me know if you’d like my accumulated wisdom. In the mean time, look after yourselves and make sure your grandparents stay at home!
I’ve got a heart monitor on this week, and I had to make a note on my little diary that yesterday morning I wasn’t having an episode or doing exercise, I read that Nicholas Parsons had died. Good thing I wasn’t wearing one in 2016 or I’d have been admitted.
Instead of a minute's silence, you must now talk about Nicholas Parsons for one minute and you know the rules.
How is everyone this week? I’m fine, except for the minor inconvenience of a heart monitor and the potentially major inconvenience of bad results from said monitor. I’ve been having heart palpitations, which are not that big of a deal unless they are. I suppose the results are something to look forward to? Best case scenario, it’s a bit of stress and I have the excuse to book many, many holidays. Worst case scenario, I might be writing to you all using fun medical acronyms and asking for advice on how to wear a hospital gown properly.
Just kidding. There’s no way to wear one of those things with dignity.
Anyway, it is fair to say I am ready for January to finish. I don’t object to 31 day months per se, but January always seems to be double that. It’s been made longer by last Friday’s MCR Ticket Day, which became No MCR Tickets Day. But tomorrow could well be MCR Ticket Day! Say a prayer for those of us who are scraping the ticket barrel, and a curse for those who resell on Viagogo.
I don’t have much else to share, except I hope you’ve all been enjoying my most recent stories. I think in the last four weeks we’ve covered cake, revenge, personal growth, superheroes, depression and magical antiquities. Such versatility! Patrons and non-patrons alike, by the way, have a cool thing coming this weekend. PREPARE TO HEAR FROM ME DURING FEBRUARY. Pledge for early access to stories here, et cetera et cetera.
I’m absolutely knackered (heart? Cold? January blues?) so I might spend the rest of the afternoon scratching away at stories because they’re paid work but don’t require any sort of communication with the outside world.
Evening! I feel like I haven’t spoken to you guys since… last decade…
How are the roaring twenties treating you? I’ve got a cold and my Hugely Cool Christmas Present Boots gave me blisters of legendary proportions on one twenty-minute walk, so it’s been a pretty standard January in that respect. In the spirit of looking on the bright side – and providing some much-needed balance to the apocalypse that is the evening news – I thought I’d do a quick bullet point list of good things I’ve encountered so far this year:
There’s this cool quiz you can take to learn about your clothing-related carbon footprint. Sounds depressing (was a bit of an eye-opener) BUT it suggests loads of things you can do to improve it, and they don’t all involve you eschewing nice things for table cloth dresses. I don’t want to just hear how hellish the world is, I want to know how to make things less hellish so more, please
I couldn’t find my old school certificates and was so sure they were hiding in my bedroom that I accidentally Marie Kondo-d every cupboard, shelf and folder I own. I cannot believe how much paperwork I thought was an acceptable amount of paperwork
The certificates turned up in my mum’s shed
TV is actually really good in January, it’s like they know we’re all indoors
My friend Robyn got a new job
Little Women is still showing. Even if you’re not a film nerd/classical book person/raging feminist, Little Women is a banger. The costumes! The beautiful settings! Meryl Streep roasting the entire cinema with an eyebrow! Highly recommend it for soul-warming purposes.
I think I need to go and stick my head in a bowl of steam if I’m going to stay awake long enough to watch Silent Witness. Nothing warms me more than a murder mystery and a nice bit of gruesome forensics.
I quite enjoyed making this – I might do another one in February? Or next week if I have to look at more footage of fires/impeachments/the inside of one of my bloody cupboards…
I just read an article about vagina steaming and I cannot unread it, so here you go. I understand the theory – I am a big fan of sticking my face over a bowl of hot water when I’ve got a cold – but I feel like a lot of people need to have a conversation with themselves about differing areas of skin on the human body. As in, one of those things is not like the other so don’t fucking steam it.
I had something to actually write about earlier, and I can’t even remember what it was. Climate change, I think. But I can’t form coherent thoughts any more because what on earth possesses people to steam their vaginas???
I have to think about something else. Um. I have an mild infection in one of my wisdom teeth. If left alone, I imagine the infected tooth probably looks a lot like a scalded vagina. GOD I CAN’T STOP.
It’s now been 15 minutes.
I mean how do you even go to A&E with that sort of complaint? ‘Um yeah hi I decided to indulge in alternative medicine and I appear to have caused such severe damage I couldn’t sit down properly to drive here.’ ‘Yes ma’am don’t worry, take a seat.’ ‘No I really can’t.’
It’s been several weeks since I shared good news and as it’s the first day of spring, I thought I’d share a few headlines that have cheered me up lately.
More than 100 cities get most of their energy from renewable sources
I don’t think I’ve seen a news segment that doesn’t involve plastic, the Paris Agreement or plastic and the Paris Agreement since last year, but it’s not 100% bad news for the environment (just, er, 99.9%). According to the latest statistics, 101 cities now get over 70% of their energy from renewable sources – that’s more than double the number of cities in 2015. What’s more, 40 cities are operating on 100% renewable electricity. None of those cities are in Britain, but it’s a start.
Girl eats cotton candy and the world is transfixed
No, seriously, watch it, she deserves to be on Newsnight discussing her skills.
This has been in the works since the referendum results, when even my most right-leaning family members started to ask why Nigel Farage was still on TV, but UKIP as a party might be about to implode due to bankruptcy. The party owes £175,000 in legal fees after it was sued by three Labour MPs over a libellous speech, so this could be the actual end of UKIP as opposed to the spiritual end. HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING YOU GUYS!
See, there is good news out there if you look for it. I want to try to do one of these every month or so, so send me good news as you see it!