Tag Archives: grown-up struggles

They Came in through the Bathroom Window

This is the sequel I never wanted to write.

As some of you may remember, my apartment was broken into when I was living in Bologna, and many things were taken.

Well, it’s happened again.

Last week after work, I got a call from my landlord. “Come home now – all of the other apartments in your building have been broken into and we need to know if yours was hit too. The police are already there.”


I’m pretty sure I made every wrong turn possible during the quick drive to my apartment, as scenes from the last time this happened replayed in my head. At least you had forewarning this time, I kept telling myself. At least the police are already there.

When I walked past the 3 police cars parked in front of my building and in the door, everything looked deceptively normal. Maybe everything would miraculously be OK after all.


As soon as I walked into the main room, I saw an empty case where my computer had been. Then I looked up and saw the giant mess in my bedroom. It looked like a cyclone had ripped through.

And there was a draft from the wide-open bathroom window.

Trying to fight back tears as several policemen watched me frantically sift through the wreckage, I began to get a sense of what was missing. I didn’t even have time to be embarrassed that my underwear was all over the floor.

I lost my computer and charger, an iPad, several pairs of headphones, and my favorite gold backpack. They even emptied my piggy bank and took all of my pennies (although – creepily – they sorted through and left behind the few Euro coins & Polish złoty I had in there).

Just as important as what was taken, though, was the inventory of what they left behind. Unlike the Italian thieves, these ones left my jewelry, my backup drives, my camera, and my passport (so I get to go to Ireland after all!). They also left an old iPhone, my speakers, and my Internet router and modem. So there is a lot to be thankful for.

The next several hours were spent making statements to the police, digging my makeup out of the snow where it had landed after being thrown from the window, and trying to stay out of the way.

My neighbors and I retreated to an upstairs apartment, where we popped cheap beers, ordered pizza, and traded phone numbers and stories about past break-ins. Occasionally a policeman would come in to ask a question, collect a DNA sample, or pass out contact info.

As always, it could have been much worse. No one was hurt (including the 3 cats that live in my building), my passport was spared, and I bonded with my neighbors. Also, unlike in Italy, when my room was the only one touched, this time I was the lucky one. The lock on my bathroom window was broken, but my landlord nailed it shut that evening. My neighbors had to contend with broken glass and kicked-in doors that will take much longer to fix.

Plus, the thieves made it very easy for me to come up with a title for this post.

Here’s to hoping this is the last time I ever have to write a post like this. Although, as they say: “Nothing bad can happen to a writer. Everything is material.”

At least there’s that.

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In Which I Discover I’m an Adult

As I was working on my lesson plan for the book discussion I’ll be leading in Ireland in a few weeks, my mind started wandering.

Before long, I found myself thinking, “I really need to get some sensible waterproof walking shoes for the trip.”

Yes, it’s happened. I am officially becoming my mother.

But you know what? I do need comfortable waterproof shoes for the trip! Ain’t nobody got time for cold, wet feet when there’s an Irish countryside to explore, and ain’t nobody want sore feet from walking on cobblestones all day.

And that, my friends, is how I discovered that Nordstrom has a whole section of their website devoted to comfortable – yet stylish! – shoes. Several…erm…hours later, I finally settled on a pair I quite like (although not from Nordstrom):

Agnes Shoe

This pair of monk-strap Doc Martens is durable, waterproof, comfortable, and…dare I say? stylish enough to wear out. And, oh man, just look at that non-slip rubber sole.

Shoe Sole

The episode with the shoes is just the latest in a long line of small moments that make me step back and admit to myself, “Whoa! I’m an adult!” Here are a few more:

  • When browsing Birchbox the other day, I skipped right past the jewel-toned eyeliners and lingered lovingly on the pages for fancy face washes and high-SPF moisturizers. Hey man, you gotta take care of your skin. (Although I do love me some jewel-toned eyeliners.)
  • In the same weekend, I turned down an invitation to a house party and multiple invitations to Mardi Gras (St. Louis has the second-largest celebration in the country) to stay at home and Get Shit Done. It feels so good to finish a weekend well-rested and with the dishes done. Fancy homemade cookies and a (nearly) finished lesson plan are pretty great too.
  • The other night, I was lucky enough to not only meet one of my favorite musicians after a concert (Kishi Bashi – look him up right now), but to hang out with him and a very cool crowd at a house party after. It was on a Wednesday though, and I was driving, so after turning down (well, just tasting) several cocktails made by a bartender for the exclusive St. Louis bar Blood & Sand, I was the first out the door at 1:30. Aaaaand the next day I didn’t have a hangover and I made it to work on time. #worthit

So yes, I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years. And you know what? I love it.

Get at me, 25.

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Of Conversations & Concealed Weapons

Recently, I was spending the evening at a friend’s place, along with a few other people. It was a typical night, enjoyable and nothing out of the ordinary. We were sitting around a table, listening to music, discussing our plans, and teasing each other. Somehow, the conversation turned around to the subject of guns. Two of the guys I was with were joking around with another, telling him he should invest in a gun, get a concealed carry permit. He wasn’t interested, laughed it off, and that should have been that. In every other situation I have been it, conversations about firearms have never been more than hypothetical.

But then, as if out of nowhere, there were two sitting there on the table in front of me.

I had never been that close to a gun before. Not a real one. Sure, I had seen plenty of firearms – usually antiques that seemed somehow quaint with their bayonets and single shots – locked safely up in museum cases. There was even that faintly alarming incident on the city bus when a gun fell out of a man’s pocket when he was getting off. Even that didn’t seem real though. It happened so quickly, and was such a combination of the surreal and the predictable, that the gun that ever so briefly fell at my feet never quite entered into the realm of reality. It just felt too much like fiction.

But those guns on the table, those were real. And they had both come from my friends’ pockets.

I realized suddenly, unsurprisingly, how much I really hated guns. Their presence made me edgy, and even though the owners were treating them respectfully and adhering to the rules of gun safety (don’t point it at anyone, don’t treat it like a toy) I wanted them away. Far away.

What made me even more uncomfortable than the guns themselves though, was the fact that they had been hidden. I had spent time with both of these guys before, on many occasions; I had been sitting and chatting and laughing with them all evening. I had never had even the faintest idea that either of them not only had guns, but had concealed carry permits and carried them regularly.

The next time one of them came over for a small gathering at our apartment, I found myself eyeing his pocket, searching for an outline.

That night was an eye-opener for me. Sure, I have always hated the idea of guns and have never been interested in seeking them out in the slightest. I am wholeheartedly for stricter gun control in this country, and I firmly believe that the second amendment in no way grants the inalienable right to a semi-automatic weapon to anyone who so chooses. I was even aware, in that same sort of hypothetical, theoretical haze that had always characterized my relationship with firearms, that guns in America are pervasive.

What I had failed to grasp is exactly what that means.

That night in with friends, it became shockingly clear to me just how easy it is to conceal a weapon on one’s person. And to do so legally.

I’m not trying to use this post to craft a coherent and compelling argument against the currently lax gun regulations in this country; there are plenty of articles already out there that do so much better than I could (like this one, and this one). I am just trying to express the disillusionment I felt that night, in all of its exhausting inevitability.

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The Apartment Hunt

So I know I said that I would post about the apartment hunt a while ago, but I was superstitiously afraid to jinx my living situation by sounding too confident about where I would be living before I knew for sure.  Since the process is finally drawing to a close and I am (98%) sure where I will be living, the time has come to publish!

A few weeks ago, Joe and I realized that we were going to need somewhere to live until we move into the building* once it’s ready.  After deciding that our best option would be signing a six-month lease, we looked through apartment websites upon apartment websites, created a list, made some calls and set up appointments to view several buildings (all the credit for those calls goes to Joe).

Predictably, at most of the visits I instantly loved everything and wanted to sign immediately and Joe was—very prudently—more cautious.  The one notable exception to this rule was a building right next to the Barnes-Jewish Emergency Room.  The rent was high, the rooms were small, and the whole building smelled musty and looked like the décor (and appliances) hadn’t been updated since the building was built in the fifties.  The only positive thing that Joe and I could come up with when we left was, “Well, there was a pretty nice view from the roof.”  Oh, and there was also a tanning bed in the basement.  Because nothing is as enticing as being able to get your fake tan on in a communal bed in your basement, right next to the 1950s laundry room.  All in all, that viewing was a pretty depressing experience.  The only thing that saved it was the fact that the guy who was showing us around had been to several of Joe’s shows (if you haven’t heard them already, check out his band Kid Scientist).

Eventually we found a building we both loved.  The Metropolitan Artist Lofts are located over by Saint Louis University, right across from the Fabulous Fox Theatre and next to a sculpture garden.  They’re also a quick walk from the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company and Plush, an awesome restaurant/venue that Kid Scientist plays at fairly regularly.  As the name implies, the Metropolitan is also an intentional creative community, meaning that everyone who lives there is somehow involved in the arts in St. Louis.  Part of the application process is a portfolio review in front of a committee; the other part is maybe 20 pages of complicated forms to fill out and a background check.

Joe and I first looked at the Metropolitan on a Saturday, but the other Artist Loft location downtown did not have weekend hours, so I ended up taking an early lunch break on Monday and running (almost literally) through apartment units at the downtown and midtown Artist Loft locations and speedily throwing down my (massive) pile of paperwork and deposit check on the way out the door.

Speaking of paperwork…there has been a lot of it since I officially became a Real Adult.  Piles and piles of paperwork before I could start my job (not counting the application itself), paperwork before I could make a doctor’s appointment, paperwork before I could make a dentist appointment, and now piles and piles of paperwork to wade though so I can be approved to fill out more paperwork so I can move into an apartment.  For six months.

The other thing about all of this paperwork is, it’s hard!  I’m not sure if I just need more practice filling these things out or am destined for a lifetime of confusion caused by small print and even smaller blanks to squeeze in complex information.   So far, each of my attempts to accomplish paperwork has gone something like this:

Step 1: Faced with a giant pile of papers and armed with a pen, I am confident.  I am ready.

Step 2: Fill out personal information.  Name, address, I’ve got that down.  I even know my social security number!

Step 3: Feeling strong, I turn the page, only to find at least one Highly Perplexing Question.  Deciding to come back to it later, I press bravely onwards.

Step 4: This brave pressing onwards lasts approximately as long as it takes to read the next question.

Step 5: Call home.

Step 6: Read almost every question out loud to whichever parent was kind and patient enough to willingly commit to secondhand paperwork and mumble incoherently while trying to squeeze long answers into short blanks.  This step usually results in me asking my mother whether or not I have had a headache in the last five years or what my previous landlord’s middle name was, as if she would somehow know better than I would.

Step 7: Thank whoever is helping me repeatedly and profusely.

Step 8: Sign my name 15 times and flip back through to make sure I didn’t miss a page or something.

Step 9: Promise myself that next time I will be mature and independent and work through my own paperwork.

Yeah right.

In any case, I eventually did make it through the forest of paperwork (seriously: a whole forest was probably sacrificed to produce it), and since we have found and applied to The One, I have become obsessed with the “home décor” section of Pinterest.  I am trying to be realistic in terms of picking out projects that I can actually accomplish, but we’ll see what ends up actually happening.  I can dream, right?


*Joe’s friend Dave designs and builds custom furniture, and he is buying a building to relocate his shop from the basement out of which he is currently working.  There will also be a display room, plenty of space for Kid Scientist’s musical endeavors, and an apartment upstairs for Joe, Dave, and I once the renovation is complete in (hopefully) six months or so.

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A Real Job

Mi manca Bologna.

The view from my window.

I appear to have somehow ended up with what is commonly referred to as a “real job.”  The kind that requires you to wake up at 6am and put on a pencil skirt.

In the past month, I have battled with my alarm clock repeatedly, stocked up on pencil skirts, and moved in to my little corner of the office (now complete with dinosaur).

Can you find the dino? He’s shy.

Here are a few things I have learned while being a so-called adult:

  1. Snacks are a newly hugely important part of my life.  They not only fill the hungry void in my stomach caused by my inability to eat a filling breakfast a) right after I wake up, especially if that’s at 6:30 in the morning, and b) quickly enough that I have time to both do the dishes and catch the Metro.
  2. It is very hard to find remotely healthy snacks that you can keep in a desk that won’t go bad.  Right now I’m operating primarily with dried apricots and wasabi peas.  Loooots of wasabi peas.
  3. School pictures are back!  I guess they’re not called school pictures anymore, but the concept is the same: take a few minutes out of your day to line up and smile before heading back to the daily routine.  I’m just waiting for the company yearbook.
  4. American ideas about air conditioning don’t make any sense.  For the past few weeks it has been pushing 100 degrees (sometimes from above) outside, but being inside for an extended period of time requires a sweater.  Or a parka.  At least a snuggie.
  5. Oh yeah, my work gave all the employees company logo-embroidered blue snuggies during the company-bonding week that happened right after I started.  The snuggies themselves are awesome, but the ability to wear a snuggie a) in public and b) in a business meeting in front of your boss’s boss is even more awesome.
  6. I have begun to say, “Have a Great Day!” compulsively, even when I’m not at work, which is a horribly insincere habit (once the line between polite and automatic has been crossed).

I have also learned what it means to do the same thing all day, every day (well, if we’re really being specific, for eight hours a day five days a week…but after a while it starts to feel like all day every day).  I am claiming no credit to an original discovery here, as I’m sure nearly every working adult has felt similarly.  It’s not called the daily grind for nothing!  But wearing it certainly is.  I miss the constant and varied stimulation inherent to college life, and, more broadly, I miss constantly using and stretching my brain.  Here, there is always a niggling fear that if I’m not careful, the creative and analytical capabilities of my brain will atrophy, even as my typing fingers and wrists gain new strength.  I am secretly a little bit afraid of becoming some sort of squishy automaton who forgets to take vacations if I stay at a desk job for an extended period of time.

I slightly more afraid of leaving the (only moderately!) reckless fun and late hours of my college years behind and becoming A Responsible Adult.

I find that I need to continually remind myself that while it may be more difficult for me to go out at night now, I have much more time to read books of my choosing and cook more elaborate meals (I’ve even seen a few movies!).  I’m trying to read books in Italian and German and bike as much as possible to keep my brain and my body in shape.  After all, it’s not so much that I have less time than I did in college (let’s be real—when I was in school I was always complaining about having too much to do) as it is that I am being slowly nudged towards patterning my life differently.  While I may not be able to go out all night anymore, I can now afford to go out for dinner more frequently.  So really, all that remains for me to do is take the time to find a sense of balance in my current routine, while still remembering not to settle in completely and forget about where I want to go next.

Have a Great Day!

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The Bunny Ate Our Internet

The Cookie Tree Mansion (as my house is affectionately known) is FULL this summer.  In addition to my six roommates and I, there is an adorable black bunny named Dracula and a semi-nameless, oft-forgotten fish.

It is also HOT.  Like, full on sweating and inability to move hot because it’s 106 (feels like 111!) degrees outside and the air conditioner can’t keep up.  The coolest room in the house is the downstairs bathroom, which is holding steady around a balmy 80.  Upstairs is averaging around 95.  After several weeks of double fans on high in the bedroom and being in a constant heat-induced state of lethargic grumpiness while at home, I realized 1) I could never hear Joe over the fans and all they did was blow the hot air around anyway and 2) it didn’t have to be this way.  So, Joe and I decided to move downstairs to the living room, which we now share with Dracula and the man on the mantelpiece.

Painting credit to Rachel Sacks (torso) and Alexis Boleda (legs)

Background:  In the confusion caused by three people moving out and five people  moving in, there was some miscalculation and forgetfulness surrounding the number of beds in the house, leaving us with an extra double bed in the downstairs living room area (which, by the way, is directly adjacent to the entryway of the house, right at the bottom of the stairs, and open to the dining room).  After a month or so of grumbling about how the bed blocked the only functioning air conditioning vent downstairs, Joe and I decided to just bring some sheets and pillows down and take it over.

The new arrangement doesn’t lend itself to much privacy, but has been excellent in all other regards.  It’s certainly spacious, and my mood has much improved (the effect has been much as if I began doubling my caffeine intake and regularly taking happy pills), as has my ability to function at a normal level without making a supreme effort.  One of the best parts of the new arrangement is the proximity to bun, as Dracula is more commonly referred to.  All it takes to create a little ramp up to the bed is opening the door to his pen, which has led to much wonderful morning playtime.  I would have preferred snuggletime, but Dracula is independently minded and can’t be bothered to snuggle with me.

PS: If you’re wondering about the title, that’s in reference to the time that Dracula managed to chew right through our router cable.  I was on the internet at the time, and it suddenly cut out.  The Cookie Tree internet has never been especially reliable, so I assumed that it just needed to be reset.  As I got up to turn the router off and on again, Joe jokingly said, “I bet Dracula ate it.”  I went over to take a look and, lo and behold, he had.

Fortunately, I had a router from my old apartment that we were able to connect without too much trouble.  The tough part was figuring out a way to barricade the cables so Dracula won’t be able to get to them in the future!

PPS: The power went out on our block for a while later that day too.  We’re thinking that Dracula got to the main power supply and chewed through that too.

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How to Place a Customer Service Call

  1. Begin by saying “yeessss” in a drawn-out and ominous way.
  2. Proceed to explain your problem as longwindedly as possible, preferably without pauses that would allow the customer service representative to begin helping you.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Refuse to provide any information that the representative asks for.  They may say that they want to help answer your question, but you know that they’re really out to steal your identity.
  5. Respond to continued requests with anger and/or confusion.
  6. Do not have paper, a pen, or anything like an order number.
  7. Pause for long periods of time and mumble to yourself as you continue to contemplate your problem, but by no means let the representative hang up.
  8. Remember, no problem is too small to make a big fuss about.
  9. Pause for a bit to chat about your grandchildren and/or take a call on another line.
  10. Resume fussing about your problem, and remember that there was actually something else you had been meaning to ask about too.
  11. Realize that there either was no problem or it was really all your fault to begin with, and hang up without saying goodbye.
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This friend project has so much potential

One of the first feelings I was overwhelmingly hit with upon returning to Saint Louis after my whirlwind post-graduation trip to Maine and the subsequent drive back, (well, OK, one of the first feelings post-hibernation week, during which I think I fell asleep at seven almost every night and wasn’t feeling much of anything other than exhaustion), was missing all of my friends who have moved away.

Over my four years at Wash U, I was fortunate enough to make a wonderful group of close friends.  I had been away from them before, for summers and semesters abroad, but there was always the sense that we would all be reunited.  When I arrived back in Saint Louis and felt their absence this time, I also felt its permanence.  I know I will see my friends again, most likely in wonderfully strange and unexpected situations and places.  However, I also know that the probability of all of us being in the same place at the same time again is slim to none, and that even if such a miraculous event were to occur the dynamic will never be the same.  So, I had a mild breakdown.

Fortunately I have a wonderful boyfriend who has had (rather too much) practice getting me to stop crying and a mother with much sage advice to offer, so I was able to get my act back together and approach the whole “making friends” thing with a clearer head.

Naturally, being me, the first thing I did was make a list—aided by internet searches—of places and activities in the Saint Louis area that might allow me to meet people (preferably people reasonably close to my age with an interest or two in common), like $1 beer nights at the Contemporary Art Museum, which fortunately not only exist, but occur monthly.

I also found the Saint Louis Stammtisch, a weekly meet-up for German speakers in the city.  It turns out that the next meeting was going to be happening at the rooftop bar over the Moonrise Hotel only a few blocks from where I live.  So, thinking fondly back on the adorably awkward weekly Stammtisch in Göttingen, I decided to take the plunge.  Or rather, the elevator.

It took me forty minutes (and a reminder to myself that if I didn’t go I would have nothing to write about other than my shameful cowardice) to work up the courage to actually get on my bike and ride over to the Moonrise.  When I arrived, I realized I had not the faintest idea of what the group would look like.  So, naturally, I lurked uncomfortably close to every table I passed until I overheard a few words of German.  Then I went up to the bar the get a drink.

Armed and ready, I stepped back over to the table.

“S-s-seid ihr hier für…das deutsche Meetup?”

All five people at the table looked over at me, and for a brief moment I was convinced that I had made 1) a terrible mistake and 2) a fool of myself.  Fortunately the feeling didn’t last long.  The five or six people at the table welcomed me and made space while I pulled over a chair.

The conversation was slow at times (speaking a foreign language with people several decades your senior tends to have that effect), but after a bit I settled in and started to have fun.  I didn’t think it would happen, but three beers and one vodka soda later I was one of the last to leave.

Moral of the story?  This friend project has so much potential.

PS:  Yes, I know.  The title is (almost) straight from an Of Montreal song.  But given that I hear this internally whenever I think about having to make new friends, I don’t feel too bad about borrowing it.  Think of it as a shout out.  And go listen to The Past is a Grotesque Animal.”  Now.

PPS:  I still profoundly miss everyone who is not here.  I hope you know how irreplaceable you all are.

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How to be a Grown-Up

Now that I’ve graduated from college, my life has become instantly more ordered and sophisticated.


So I feel eminently qualified to present:

How to live like a college student even when you’re not in 8 easy steps:

Step 1.  Come home from work carrying a bottle of “Irish Cream” that you picked up on the way to the Metro.  You know, because it was way cheaper than the Bailey’s.

Step 2. Lie in bed and read a British crime novel for several hours in your underwear.  You know, since air conditioning is expensive and none of the windows seal completely.

Step 3.  Put some clothes on to go downstairs and grab the last of the leftover pasta.  You know, since you’re hungry but not enough to bother to cook something (and have six male roommates so walking around in your underwear isn’t really an option).

Step 4.  Eat the aforementioned pasta in bed while continuing to read the aforementioned crime novel.

Step 5.  Pull out the laptop mysteriously entrusted to you by your place of work and obsess over organizational tips on Pinterest.  You know, about how not to have a kitchen with have a perpetual pile of dirty dishes in the sink and a floor so dirty that it’s frightening to cook barefoot.

Step 6.  Eat an egg sandwich with jam and goat cheese on a kitchen stool because a roommate has spread Biology textbooks and papers all over the table.   You know, because you’re not a college student anymore.

Step 7.  (Re-)open that miniature box of wine from that time you went to see Shakespeare in the park a few weeks ago and drink it from a travel mug while continuing to look at Pinterest.  You know, since you don’t have wine glasses (other than that one Chi Omega champagne flute left by some past resident of the house).

Step 8. Retreat back to bed (wine mug in hand) and decide that all of this will be acceptable once blogged about.  You know, since then your haphazard living situation becomes entertainment for the masses and can therefore no longer be slightly sad.

So, done.  Check.  Remember, I’m just doing this for you, and totally not because the only grown-up part about my life since graduation has been a sudden inability to stay awake past 11pm (…on a weekend).


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What’s that? It’s a blooming artichoke!

It’s also some sort of metaphor.  As a recent college grad attempting to figure out “the rest of my life” (or at least what is acceptable to wear to work and where on earth one of my six roommates hid the ¾ cup measure), I like the idea of having someplace (read: this blog) to store my thoughts, which will ideally turn into something to look back upon and laugh at once I have figured out this whole “gainful employment” thing.

Hence, the artichoke.  “What’s that?” you may be thinking, “why an artichoke of all things?”  Well, the answer would be that it’s just something that popped into my head late one night (read: before midnight but still long after what has become my bedtime).  Artichokes are kind of ugly, and prickly.  Sometimes the prickles get caught in your mouth when you’re trying to eat an artichoke, especially when you get down near the heart of it.  But artichokes are also kind of beautiful, albeit in a unique, thistly sort of way, if you just let them alone and allow them to continue to grow and bloom.  I know all this because I’m a master gardener (read: I have managed to keep the plants Alexis left me alive for almost a month and one has even produced new leaves).

In other words, a blooming artichoke is sort of like life.  It can be tough at times, and just when you’ve almost figured it out something unexpected pops up just to keep you on your toes.  But it’s also a wonderful, surprising thing, and fascinating to watch unfold.  A little bit silly, too.  Just like a blooming artichoke.

So relax, grab some melted butter, and bear with me as I let my thoughts unfold here.  I promise to pepper it with book recommendations and pie recipes to make it worth your while.

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