Back to the Grind, Dammit!

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I didn’t sleep well last night. I have no idea why. I do know that I had a smidgeon of coffee this weekend. My esthetician noticed that I had some redness on my face. “What is that about?” she asked. Was I doing something different? There was nothing I could think of that seemed to matter to her except that I had coffee for the first time in awhile an hour before. I had a shot of coffee Sunday, and when I looked in the mirror I could see it. My face was flushed. Just like some people flush with alcohol, I am now flushing with coffee.

I woke up anxious this morning. Even a 45-minute yoga nidra did very little to calm my jittery disposition. So, I’m committing to soothing green tea this morning. At least I didn’t have sugar yesterday! I’m over three weeks off that evil powdery drug. I’m starting to feel better and more energized every day.

As much as I love my crazy, high-energy new job, I don’t want to go in. I want to sit here and drink my tea curled up with my furbabies. Then I’d like to go out for walk in the sunshine or hike for a bit on the North Country Trail. I could fix a nice smoked whitefish salad for lunch and take a long nap after. A few things around my house need to be done. I could lazily go after those after my sleepy self wakes up. But, alas … it’s time to wake up from this idyllic fantasy. I have to get dressed and herd cats for approximately 8 hours.

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I’ll leave you with a resource I found this weekend. I went to the Mason Jar Cafe in Benton Harbor, and they have superfood lattes. There’s no coffee in them. They provide a jolt of energy from healthy ingredients designed to stoke your immune system and soothe your nerves. This morning I made one with homemade almond milk, some cacao and matcha. Yummy!

What’s it going to take to get your Monday game face on? And, if you are retired, go out and have fun. Just realize how damn lucky you are!

 

It’s Friday, Y’all!

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It’s Friday! I did not want to get out of the bed this morning. I hit the snooze twice which is not a habit of mine. Ashok stood there nose-to-nose with me until her cold little nose irritated me enough to crawl out of bed. Now I know I’m going to struggle getting off this couch to go to work. But it is Friday. I can do this.

I have to run tonight. I could have run yesterday, but I put it off. We’ve had highs in the 30s, and I’m pretty much done having to layer up and run in the cold. We have snow in the forecast today and almost every day until next Tuesday. No April showers for us this year. Tonight I will need to bundle up, protect myself from the gale force winds and hit the pavement. I’ve waited until the deadline for this run, and it is upon me. I will survive.

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I’m having a steaming hot matcha/chocolate latte to kickstart my morning. I would kill for a cup of coffee, but I’m feeling so much better without it. I’m sleeping like a champ. I don’t get sleepy in the afternoon. I’m not craving sugary foods for their burst of energy. I’m starting to crave green tea, and I can drink it all day long with no ill effect. In fact, my acupuncturist tells me it’s actually good for me!

Tomorrow I make my quarterly journey to Chicago to get my hair done at the Devacurl salon. Surrounded by women with beautiful curls, I’ll get my locks trimmed, my roots colored and have a nice long chat with my hairdresser. And, as a perk, I get to meet my friend Nancy for coffee. I haven’t forgotten about my coffeehouses. I’ve got one in the bank. I just have to write it.

Curled up with my furbabies, I am cozy and content. I need to do my 20-minute meditation, wash my face, touch up my curls, get dressed for the day and head out into the cold. Let’s get this day going so we can get to the weekend!

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Sunday Night Check-In: Pseudo-Spring

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A week or so ago we had an almost 60-degree day. The rains came, the snow melted, the rivers rose. Ever since then, it shocks me that its cold outside when I go out. I expect it to be warmer even though my weather app says its still in the 30s. In fact, last week, we had four days of sub-freezing temperatures. It is NOT spring by any stretch of the imagination, but my imagination is running wild.

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I ran Friday night after work. It was much colder than I thought. The sun was out, so I ran down to the lighthouse, through downtown and through the lakefront park. It felt so good to kick off the weekend that way. I got home, curled up in bed and continued reading The Great Alone.

I spent a lot of time reading this weekend. After living a couple of winters up here, I could relate to the snow-covered Alaskan scenery. If I really stretched my imagination, I could even imagine the long period of darkness with the cold, brutal winters. I couldn’t relate to the characters. Or maybe I related too well. The alcoholism, codependency and out-of-control rage really got under my skin. And the mother who thought she was some kind of savior for standing by her man while he was beating the crap out of her and scarring her kid made me sick to my stomach. I wanted them all to get eaten by a grizzly bear. But I did finish the book. It was relaxing to be taken away into a fantasy land that is not of my own making.

The Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery….

I hiked the dunes and the Lake Michigan beach yesterday with a friend, and I made a conscious effort to leave my camera behind. I’ve gotten tired of social media. In fact, I’ve even been struggling a bit with blogging. It was time to re-up my membership to my blog site this week, and I seriously debated justing deleting it. But I decided to push through and continue. Maybe I’m just in a slump. If I feel the same way next year, then it may be history.

The time change took a lot out of me, and I didn’t feel like running today. I loaded up Ashok, and we drove to the Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery to pick up some artisan cheese. It was such a nice day, so we did a little exploring at the nationally significant New Richmond Bridge. A little boardwalk and a walking bridge crossed the beautiful Kalamazoo River. We walked around for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine. Ashok even spotted a muskrat which caused a great deal of canine excitement.

I stopped at a couple of coffeehouses today. On the way out, I stopped at the Phoenix Coffeeshop (#11 for my tour) in Benton Harbor. It had closed for a bit last fall but has now reopened under new management. Japhy, the new owner, told me this is actually the third rising of the Phoenix. He didn’t really intend to open a business, but when the old shop closed, he felt it was a big loss for the community. They serve Dagger Mountain coffee and a limited but delicious lunch menu. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, so he suggested the homemade chai, and I ordered the Power Bowl for lunch.

The chai was phenomenal, and the Power Bowl was a great combo of quinoa, black beans, spice and bell peppers. While I ate, I enjoyed the bookstore atmosphere. Japhy said they are working on their own menu of bakery items, so I look forward to that in the future. I’m glad they reopened. We have a few coffee shops here, but I do like the location of this one, and the light streaming through the windows was really cozy.

The owner Japhy and my Power Bowl!

I will enjoy the longer daylight hours after work. I’ll be starting some trail running soon as part of my training plan, and I look forward to having enough daylight to do it after work. Winter may not be over, but I think the worst of it is behind us. The next few months will gradually bring warmer temperatures, spring flowers and loads of sunshine. I’ve already booked a spring camping trip, and I plan to outline a few backpacking trips real soon. It’s not spring yet, but I’m going to spring forward into the thought anyway.

P.S. I’ll review the other coffeehouse later this week!

 

There Are No Words

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Here we are again. There are just no words.  Actually, there may not be enough words. I keep wanting to write, but I can’t process it all. And I’m not just talking about the immediate crisis of the Parkland shooting. The complex processing that I can’t adequately express in words started with the Harvey Weinstein stories and the resulting cascade flooding the news cycle.

I walk in circles where people heal their wounds, so I know the silence around abuse. I have heard loud and clear that the abuse is horrible, but the silencing by others who should be protecting them is often much worse than the event itself. Women – and men – whose lives and relationships who are ravaged by the impacts of early abuse of any kind tell their mother, their father, the authorities to only find that they are not believed. Or maybe they are believed, but they are told to keep quiet. It’s just too INCONVENIENT to confront a spouse … or an uncle … or a friend … or a teacher.

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So now we have a tsunami of words that have been silenced for far too long. Then we have the horrific doctor here in this state who systematically abused children and young women in his care in front of parents and others because his words describing his “technique” was unfathomably legitimized. Yes, there were complaints, but those words were explained away and covered up. Every one of these women’s lives will be horribly impacted by this abuse but most of all by the silencing of their voice by the people who should have protected them. I LOVED hearing their words to their trusted perpetrator.

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We have the 18th school shooting this year. Eighteenth… and it’s not even the end of February. Parkland is the tip of the iceberg. And yet the rallying cry of some is that these children should not be speaking up. It is not their place. They are not old enough, wise enough to express themselves. These kids just lived through an event where they were targets of a man with a gun. Whatever age they were before this happened is irrelevant. They were forced to grow up real quick. Youth over. Life changed. Grown up.

I am sick of this silencing of people who have been abused. I am especially sick of white men in power who silence people with their money, their shaming and their lies. There is a cultural shift in this country going on, and it’s about damn time. I am horrified that there was a systematic silencing of women in the workplace who had to endure ridiculous behavior in order to work. I am saddened at the lack of compassion and understanding to the plight of children who have to fear gun violence in their schools. There are just no words that adequately express my feelings around all of this.

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This is who we are, America. Make excuses all you want. Marginalize the victims. Squash them if you can. We are one big dysfunctional family. Protect the perpetrator. Ignore the problems. Pretend we are normal. Keep the status quo. Do not feel. Do not speak. Do not tell the truth. I don’t know the answer to any of the problems we have as a country, but I know the path out is paved with words. Find them. Say them. Listen. It’s the only thing that has ever healed.

Seeking Comfort: It’s Monday

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In the January 22nd reading of Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart, she provides a perspective on comfort. She keeps one of her favorite blankies in her Jeep. She doesn’t use it to sleep with because she doesn’t sleep outside, but she throws it in her vehicle to remind her of how important it is to seek comfort.

Our collective obsession to “be the best we can be”, “live out our passion” and “stay positive” has become a new way to push ourselves.  It seems softer than having to work ourselves to death for The Man, but it can have the same effect of driving us to succeed. We are not machines.

Even Elizabeth Gilbert realized that she was passion shaming people when she spoke about the importance of finding your passion and committing to it. After a confrontation from a fan about how shamed she felt after hearing her speak because she couldn’t name her singular passion, Gilbert realized that her path might have been different. She found that most people grow into their passion by the choices they make. Not everyone has the same driven life experience that she had. And both approaches are completely normal.

Gilbert says there are two kinds of people. There are the jackhammers and the hummingbirds. I like to noodle things. I try out new things to see if I like them. I see a shiny object, and I totally dig getting distracted by it. This kind of lifestyle brings me comfort. Yes, I feel a little unfocused at times. I give in to my depression on occasion. There are days when I’m not being true to myself. I wasn’t always this way. I was taught to power through and excel. I was raised on the mantra “be the best at something, or don’t do it”. And it about killed me. I am NOT a jackhammer.

I’m approaching Monday by easing into it. I’m curled up with my kitties and Ashok under my favorite blankie. I’m sipping green tea instead of coffee. In a moment, I will have some greek yogurt and granola with fruit. These are some of my favorite things. And I will probably be a few minutes late for work because I hate dragging myself out of my house in the morning. Luckily it’s not too cold, and I don’t have to shovel snow. I have time to seek comfort this morning, and I believe I will.

What brings you comfort? Do you spend time seeking comfort, or do you drive yourself? What feels better to you? Are you a jackhammer? Or a hummingbird?

 

 

It’s the Degree of Enjoyment That Matters

 

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My sister texted me: It’s snowing!

WTF? In Louisiana? I looked out my window, and we had nothing. Not a flake was stirring. I pulled up the Weather Channel, and, sure enough, it was snowing in Cottonport and Baton Rouge. And I guess the whole south ended up with some degree of the white stuff yesterday.

“Well I guess you are off today then,” I stated the obvious. Louisiana would be officially closed down with even the threat of snow much less actual flakes flying through the air. The temperature was below freezing, so I KNOW the bridges were closed. And since every person in the state lives on the other side of some bridge, there ain’t no way to slip-slide to work. With the exception of my friend Ray who got to work before it started. Since he’s driving a sissy sedan instead of a truck, I hope he got back across the bridge okay.

It was fun to see all Southern snow pics on social media. Even this morning – long after the snow had melted – images of bayous and live oaks covered in snow were still populating on social media. This day will go down in history, and I mean that quite literally. It may not snow again for years if not decades.

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When I let Ashok out early this morning, we had a dusting of snow on the ground, and by the time I left home for my errands we had at least a few inches. I was able to back out of my driveway with no problem, but it kept piling up. I felt a little rusty driving, and I cautioned the car behind me to “Get off my *ss, Yank. I’m a Southerner. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” By the time I left the Saturday morning Weight Watchers meeting, the roads were really dicey. The snow removal teams better get out of their summer sleep and wake up to winter, because it is snowing sideways out my window. We will need to dig out in the morning.

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By the time I got home, there was so much snow in my driveway that I got stuck. Some good samaritan had cleaned my sidewalk, and I saw him coming toward me down the street. He helped me get my driveway cleaned off, and he helped me extricate my car from the snowbank. We have 10 inches more coming tonight and snow in the forecast every day through at least Friday.

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Whether it’s a touch of Southern snow or a lake effect snow event, my tummy starts calling for hot chocolate. Buying hot chocolate on the town is out of the question because those drinks have upwards of 40g of sugar in them – almost 10 teaspoons. I’ve discovered that I can eat about 7-9 grams of sugar in one serving without any adverse effects, but anything over 10g sends my blood sugar over the cliff. It makes me feel so bad it’s just not worth it anymore. I’ve had to accept lately that eggnog lattes (unless they are really small) are now out of the question.

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So, I’ve been experimenting. I’ve made vegan hot chocolate with almond milk, almond butter and cocoa. I’ve used different cocoas and low-sugar hot chocolate mixes. They’ve all been good. But I think tonight – during the first snowmaggedon of the year – I have discovered the secret recipe to low-sugar hot cocoa that is as good as the high sugar variety. It has cocoa, just a few dark chocolate wafers that will melt into chocolatey goodness, 2% milk and stevia. Of course I topped it with whipped cream. Perfect! 

I hoped to take Ashok for a walk under the Christmas lights on the bluff, but the weather outside is truly frightful. I think I’ll stay hunkered down inside and read a nice book. I’m pretty excited about the snow myself. I’m only a year and a half away from being a southerner. It looks like everybody got snow this week. It truly doesn’t matter the degree of snowfall that you get, what matters is the degree of enjoyment you get from it. And Southerners may just have Michiganders beat on that count.

Go grab some hot chocolate and enjoy a nice winter night. Wouldn’t it be fun if everybody got a white Christmas in 2017?! And, don’t worry, Louisiana friends, you’ll be in shorts by the end of the week, I’m sure.

Summer … It’s Back!

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For some reason, it’s now in the mid-80s in Michigan. I had already mentally and emotionally moved on from summer. I even packed up my summer clothes and got out my fall wardrobe. My heavy winter coats still hang in the closet upstairs for it’s not time for that yet. It’s time for fall. The leaves are turning yellow, orange and red, and I’ve spent most of my outdoor time in jackets the last few weeks. But, this week, 80-degree temperatures returned with a vengeance. Everyone is complaining up here… and sweating.

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Ashok likes it cooler, too.

I’m not a fan of summer. I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in Louisiana where summer was present for 6 months out of the year, or if my constitution is just not suited for it. It doesn’t really matter why. I’m just not a fan of hot, humid and extremely long days. I don’t sleep well in summer, my energy flags and my mood tends to err on the irritated side – especially when I can’t breathe.

I have to admit I’ve liked my temperate northern summer more than my southern summers of the last 10 years. The season is very short, so it almost feels novel after winter and a longish spring. And I’ve been productive this summer. I’ve established a solid meditation practice, met many new people who may eventually become friends and joined a book club. In fact, I’ve been so busy living my new Up North life that I’ve slowed my writing pace significantly. I’m distracted … and in a good way.

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Summer vacation in Copper Harbor

The meditation practice has made me more mindful, and I’m working on changing a number of habits. I’ve started running again, making homemade almond milk and have cut out coffee and sugar yet again. I don’t sleep well in summer because the long days upset my circadian rhythm, but my new habits have helped me get better quality sleep. I actually don’t even feel like I need as much sleep as I did before because I’m so rested.

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Summer Road Trip – I think this one is in Holland?

My gal pals at work are complaining about the heat, and I roll my eyes at the thought of the mid-80s being sweltering. All the while, I’m saying “WTF” as the sweat rolls down my face on a 5 AM run. Yesterday, it was very hot with very little breeze, and I was reminded of Louisiana for exactly 5 seconds. “This is not Louisiana,” I laughed to myself. And I thought cooler thoughts.

I’m ready for fall. I’m dreaming of cozy winter sweaters, knee-high leather boots, hot chai and chili. I discovered a shop downtown that makes a mean chicken and sausage and gumbo. I saw it on the menu, and I asked the lady behind the counter if it was good. I warned her I was from Louisiana, so my gumbo bar was set pretty high. She said it was really popular, but she was telling people that it had jalapeños in it until she was corrected. “It’s okra, I think,” she said. “Do you want to try it?” I did and was very surprised at how good it was.

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We have several more 80-degree days ahead of us. I’m visiting my friend Nancy in Chicago this weekend where we will see Hair. Supposedly there’s live nudity. That should be interesting! The concrete will make it hotter still, so I need to get some of my summer clothes out of hiding for the weekend. I’ll need to call on my new mindfulness practice and accept that summer has not yet breathed its last gap. One day in January, I’ll look back at this with longing.

Have a great weekend, y’all!

 

The Ugly Reflection in the Mirror

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I am noodling some thoughts this morning, and I don’t quite yet know what to make of our world at this moment. I have more questions than answers, and I wish all of us had more questions than answers right now. Perhaps we’d be better off questioning than trying to solve problems that aren’t even clearly defined. We are lost as a society. And, I am fearful about it.

Yesterday’s shooting was the making of a madman, but is he any madder than almost any of us? This morning I listened to the Daily, and they discussed our political environment and our leaders. It has been speculated that the play of Julius Caesar in New York which has an obvious reference to our President could be an instigator in this shooting. And it could be. As a madman with a fuse, any match will do.

But I ask you to think about the meaning of the play of Julius Caesar. My sister and I saw it last summer. Caesar isn’t assassinated at the end. That is not the ultimate lesson of the tragedy. Shakespeare’s play is about the fall of a society because of the actions of people who succumb to mob mentality and try to solve problems by murder instead of working together to heal their society. It is about people who are driven to do things they would never do because of fear and power.

The signs of abused power are all around us. Bill Cosby sits accused as an old man of abusing power over women who looked up to him. The people in power in our White House are sickening examples of narcissism and greed and power run rampant. Uber is falling apart because of men in power whose sexism and greed make victims of their workforce. And Fox News is bleeding from its own radical sexist culture. Mass shootings proliferate as grown men get carried away with the sense of power that they hold in their hands when they fondle a gun.

The seven deadly sins are running rampant destroying our civilization and common decency. If it weren’t for laws protecting those of us with less power, where would we be? It scares me as a woman that there are still workplaces that function like Uber and Fox News. It makes me sick that Bill Cosby – and many of my other less famous childhood male leaders – have been exposed as sexual predators. Then we elect a man for President that makes light of sexual assault in his language. The fact that these things happened undercover for years and went unexposed because of secrecy and fear tells me this is not new. This is old, old behavior.

The lesson of Julius Caesar is much deeper than the assassination of a President. I googled the play this morning, and there was an article in the New York Times about how the play illustrates the issues between our Congress and our President – in 2013. Do not pretend this is new. The Roman empire fell because it chose to blame one person instead of looking inside themselves to understand and heal their own narcissism. Caesar was merely a scapegoat, and his death solved nothing.

It will not solve anything to destroy our earth, tear down our society, make victims of the poor, arm ourselves just to go play baseball or make ourselves feel better by keeping someone else down. Karma is real. We reap what we sow. There are consequences to everything. And I hate to say it but I think we are paying the price for our greedy capitalistic agenda. We hate the media because the media is holding up a mirror. Look at us. It is not pretty… and it’s not fake news.

Podcasts That I Love

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For over a year now I’ve been listening to hiking podcasts. I love listening to the stories of thru-hikers. One of the podcasts is made up of interviews of hikers while on the trail. The background noise of the wind and their steps kicking up dirt accompany the rehashing of their daily ups and downs. On on The Trail Show, they are just as interested in reviewing craft beers and through the course of the three-hour show they usually end up very drunk and very silly. All of them review trails and gear. They all make me laugh and show me a different way to live.

I also listen to an Alanon podcast which helps me get recovery support in an area that is rural and doesn’t have a big community like Memphis or Baton Rouge. I’ve listened to a Christian Counseling podcast for many, many years where listeners call in and ask questions of the counselors on the spot. And, my favorite these days is the Daily – a New York Times podcast that features reporters commenting on the news of the day. These don’t really make me laugh but they do help me to learn and to improve myself.

I decided I wanted to find some other podcasts. So, today I sat down and googled some suggestions. I found this article that featured 16 podcasts of all kinds to keep you engaged while working out. The cool thing about podcasts is that many are free, and there are shows that cover almost any topic of interest.

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After choosing a few from this list, I spent some time searching for podcasts that might interest me on iTunes. I found some on the outdoors, health, yoga and meditation, humor, journalism and recovery. I even found several different types of podcasts on history. I listened to one from this outdoors podcast called Out There about a scientist finding an unusual collection of birds buried in boxes in the basement of a high school. It was a fascinating story, and I learned how they discovered that DDT was killing off the bird population by comparing modern eggs with some very old collections of bird eggs. Sometimes saving useless things can turn out to be a good thing. You can listen to it here.

I’m looking forward to listening to more of these podcasts. I’ve gotten bored with listening to music when I’m driving around. I’d rather be learning or laughing or being entertained. Who knows, maybe I could make my own podcast if I could figure out what to talk about. What is your experience with podcasts? Do you have any favorites?

Here are some of my favorites:

Trailside Radio

Sounds of the Trail

The Recovery Show

The Trail Show

The Daily

New Life Live

Out There

My New Red Baby

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I’ve been thinking about buying KitchenAid’s Nespresso Espresso Machine ever since I landed on Whirlpool soil. I get a great price with employee pricing, but I couldn’t really decide if I’d like making my own lattes at home. I love coffee shops, and it’s so much more than a cup of coffee for me. I went back and forth, and I promised myself I wouldn’t buy until I was totally sure that I wanted it.

I’d go to the KitchenAid webpage and look at the Nespresso one and then the larger version that had its own built in milk frother. The Candy Apple Red was calling my name. At first, I dreamed of getting the “big daddy” one, and I read all of the reviews and watched the videos on how it worked. How do you pass up that sexy English accent on that video? Just think how classy this country girl would be with that heavy piece of machinery that percolates coffee gold! Then I got to thinking that for one person that was probably a bit of an overkill. It’s not like I’d be making five lattes at a time.

When I finally made peace with downsizing, the decision became less of a big deal. I was a little worried about those Nespresso pods. For some reason, I was thinking of Nestle, and I was thinking that wasn’t really much of a great coffee name. Did I want to be stuck with one brand of pod to use? What if it wasn’t all that good? I talked myself out of it about three times. But, week before last, I was once again breathing heavily as I watched that beautiful brown liquor pour out of that red flashy machine on the video, and I decided I was going for it.

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I texted Michael and asked if the coffee was really good. He said I would love it, so I ordered coffee off the Nespresso website and ordered my coveted machine. I got the coffee two days later. It would be another three days before my baby arrived. Luckily, I work at Whirlpool!! Our kitchens are stocked with these machines, so I took my pods to work and started drinking the most divine coffee I have ever tasted. I even drink it black frequently, and I NEVER liked my coffee black. It is silky smooth, and all I need is a touch of milk if I want any at all.

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The pods come in ristretto (a small espresso shot), espresso and lungo (a larger espresso shot) sizes. I’ve been making Americanos, Espressos and Lattes all day long. I even had to place a second order for decaf because there’s no way I can drink this much coffee without blowing my mind. Right now, I’m having a decaf Americano topped with frothy milk. Yum! Who needs dessert?

And I’m saving lots of money. My $3.50 – $4.50 daily latte at Starbucks or at work has been replaced by a 70 cent to $1.40 cup of fabulous brew. The other day I bought a coffee at work, and I could barely choke it down. It can’t hold a candle to this stuff. I have no idea how I lived this long without this candy apple red toy. For a second the other day, I thought it was broken. My heart hit the floor until I realized I’d forgotten to add water. Whew! That would have been a disaster.

She’s so beautiful!!