Life

  • Lucy and I have quickly gotten adjusted to life without Fred. I miss him tons, but it helps immensely that I’ve gotten regular updates. Fred is thriving and that’s what makes it all worth it.
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Oldie, but a goodie

  • It looks like I will not be running – let alone racing – the Broad Street Run in 2 ½ weeks. I’ve had some aching around the spot in which I had a pretty severe stress fracture seven years ago. It’s likely a stress reaction – a precursor to a full-on stress fracture. While I might be able to run the race because it’s mostly an ache and not sharp pain, 10 miles of pounding is not a smart idea – that’s how I wound up with a stress fracture all those years ago in the first place. I’m bummed because the race is a historic one in which you can pretty much only gain entry via the lottery (professionals and fundraisers are the exceptions, I think); the odds were slim to be picked and yet I was and now I can’t run it.
  • My goal is to be healthy to run a Vineyard run in mid-May; I ran it last year and while I’d like to be faster this year, that’s clearly not going to happen with any serious training on hold. So, the ability to run four, pain-free miles will be my goal.
  • I signed up for a partner CrossFit competition in New Jersey in early June; a friend and I are partnering up for a Barbells for Bullies competition. The group primarily supports pit bulls but also fundraises for all bullie breeds, so obviously it was a personal cause for me. I could care less how I do. I’m in it for fun. Truly.
  • No real vacation this summer; trying hard to save money to buy a condo/house by November of 2019. I had hoped to buy this November (my apartment lease is up each December), but I think another 18 months to save money is the smarter move, especially considering I will need a new (used) car in the not-so-distant future and I’d like to pay cash for it.
  • Speaking of saving money, I started a new, part-time job this past Friday. I am working (very) part-time at a local winery storefront. It’s very few hours a month – maybe once a week, max. Clearly, I’m not in it entirely for the money, but it doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. I love wine and combined with the fact that it’s minimal hours, it is a perfect fit. I just have to make sure I don’t buy more wine than the money I’m making from the job.
  • Lucy has her annual physical next month; we have a lot of work to do in four weeks to get her weight down…

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    Yeah, everything is currently a bit tight on Lucy…

And that’s recent life in a nutshell.

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Lucy Turns Six

Lucy turned six today. I haven’t a clue how (almost) six years have passed. She’s at the age where I’m now starting to look for signs of aging – gray hairs (she already has some), sleeping more (ha, that would be near impossible), stiff joints, etc. Six isn’t terribly old by dog standards but for a bulldog it’s certainly not young.

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Yeah, she could have used a larger size…

Lucy is the best decision I ever made. I brought her home when I was in a relationship, but I was the one who desperately wanted a bulldog, so I saved up, did my research, and brought Lucy home. Now that I’m no longer in a relationship, she means even more to me. I genuinely don’t know what I’d do if I went home to an empty apartment every night. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I don’t think I’d be functioning very well if I didn’t have Lucy.

She has been such a trooper – she’s been through nine fosters, several doggie houseguests and one big move. It’s a lot and while she certainly has her bitchy moments, she’s been great through it all. I’ve been lucky to have such an easy dog; she was housetrained in two weeks, she’s always slept through the night, she never chews anything she shouldn’t, she knows where she’s allowed to sleep and not sleep, she’s great with all kids and adults, is great on car rides…I can literally bring her anywhere and know she’ll be fine. Except if she has to walk to get there…

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Pretty obvious this body doesn’t do much walking.

I’d have a lot more money saved if it weren’t for Lucy and I could not care less. She’s worth it 10 times over.

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So here are a few of my favorite Lucy pics:

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Baby Lucy!

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Hoppy!

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Bringing Lucy home

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I mean, come on! They were best buds.

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Ready for 2018

Merry Christmas! Lucy and I had a great few days back at home with my parents and family in New Jersey. It was way too quick of a trip but a great holiday weekend.

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And now, 2017 is about to come to a close – it’s on to 2018. I don’t necessarily want to forget 2017, but it wasn’t my best year. Granted, career-wise it was an exciting and refreshing year. It was a needed change and I simply love the area to which I moved and I’m still really liking my new career. Personally, though, it was the lowest I’ve been in a while. A lot of things helped me get through the year – CrossFit, my CrossFit family, my parents, Lucy, Lady and Kramer, close friends. My newfound commitment toward running and running goals. Wine.

And I’ve been working toward embracing being alone. I don’t mean completely and totally alone, but without a partner to lean on during the tough days. Fortunately, I’ve always been pretty comfortable spending time alone. It’s the hard days, though – days where work sucks or someone pisses me off – that make being alone a little more difficult. But this year, I’m going to make a point of continuing to do the things I want to do whether I have someone to enjoy them with or not!

I’m not setting any lofty or cliché resolutions for 2018 (as in, I will lose “XX” amount of pounds or write in a gratitude journal every day), but I do have some goals in mind. Some goals are work related or not for public consumption. Some goals, though, I’m totally comfortable putting out in the open:

1. Run a sub-22 5k. I ran a 22:00 on the dot late last winter and since then the closest I’ve come is 22:22. Unacceptable. In an ideal world, I’d run closer to a 21:30 than a 21:59 on my way to achieving that goal, but I’ll settle for anything sub-22.
2. Foster. It does add a lot of stress, especially handling two dogs on my own, but it just makes me significantly happier.
3. Save money in eight out of 12 months. Certain months – December (hello, Christmas shopping), the month I pay my insurance (I pay my insurance in one lump sum) or need emergency car repairs – it won’t be possible to save money. But if I can save in all but four months out of the year, I’ll be happy. I put a large percentage of my paycheck into retirement so I’m not losing money, but I’m definitely not saving as much cash as I should be. I went a little shopping crazy this past year and 2018 needs to be different.

That’s it. Three reasonable, achievable and important (to me) goals. Hopefully in one year I’ll be reporting back about achieving all three goals!

Reverse Bucket List

Given that it’s Thanksgiving, this post seemed appropriate.

So what is a Reverse Bucket List? From here: “Think of a reverse bucket list as an exercise in grateful recounting: You’re basking in the pride of your experiences and accomplishments, and you’re taking time to get thankful for them.”

Let’s just say my life is not where I thought it would be at this point in my life. I’m 33, single, never married (and I’m the girl who subscribed to bridal magazines at the age of 12), no kids and one year into a new career after going to undergrad for what I thought would be my forever career. It’s really easy for me to default to thoughts like, “everyone else my age has done more than me” or “everyone is living the life they want.” It’s A: not true and B: not really a productive line of thought.

Thus, when I stumbled on the idea of a reverse bucket list, it struck a chord – so here is my reverse bucket list, in no particular order:

1. Graduated high school with honors
2. Graduated college magna cum laude
3. Competed in the Junior Olympics (twice) for fencing
4. Brought Lucy home

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My all-time favorite picture of Lucy

5. Fostered eight times (and counting, I hope)
6. Earned my Master’s degree (while working 60-plus hour work weeks) with zero debt
7. In fact, I have zero debt of any kind right now
8. Achieved a director position in what (I thought) was my dream career field
9. Ran two half-marathons
10. Competed in three CrossFit competitions
11. Overcome an eating disorder
12. Accepted a new job in a new career field
13 Traveled to St. Croix
14. Been a bridesmaid (twice)
15. Bought my first car

Fifteen “highlights” doesn’t really seem like a lot but these are the bigger ones that came to mind (winning a bookmark-making contest in elementary school didn’t seem to qualify).

I thought this was a worthwhile exercise. My life is not what I pictured it would be at this point (far from it) but that doesn’t mean I’ve nothing with my life to this point.

Crazy Dog Lady

The first step in getting help for a problem is admitting you have a problem. I don’t want help for my problem but I fully admit I am a crazy dog lady. I am utterly obsessed with Lucy, all bulldogs (including those I’ve never met) and my foster dogs.

But here’s some more reality – I am single, do not have kids and I consider dogs a passion of mine. If that makes me a loser, so be it. But I foster and actively assist with various volunteer efforts for SNORT and there are worse things I can choose to devote my free time. It makes me happy and I have the (limited) resources and time to devote to that hobby.

But even I have reached a whole new level of crazy. This evening, Lucy (and I) had professional photos taken.

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Anxiously waiting to start!

A photographer named April Zielger took the photos. I’ve followed her on Facebook for years; I’m not even sure why I started following her, but she does absolutely wonderful work and she’s very experienced in pet photos. Plus, she has a slight affinity for bulldogs. When the thought first crossed my mind that this might be something I’d want to do, I really didn’t consider anyone else.

How did the session go? Great! I absolutely cannot wait to see the pictures. And it’s now indisputable – Lucy just doesn’t like me all that much. Any time April tried to get a picture of Lucy and me, Lucy wanted nothing to do with me. Walked away time after time after time. It is quite clear I love her far more than she loves me.

Anyway, despite now cementing myself as crazy, I had a few valid reasons (at least they were valid in my own head) to do this. First, I adore this dog. Obviously. Right now, she’s pretty much the most significant thing in my life (besides my job – no job means no Lucy). I consider her part of my family; my lifestyle is based around her and I’m more than okay with that.

Second, I am really interested in photography. I have a DSLR camera of my own, like to shoot photos whenever I travel and LOVE looking at professional photographers’ work. So, I was highly interested in having a few really good photographs of Lucy. I appreciate good work and to me it’s worth the investment. These will last forever.

And speaking of forever, Lucy won’t be here forever. Not to be morbid, but a lot of bulldogs don’t reach double digits. Many do, but many don’t. She’s already 5 ½. Statistically speaking, that puts her on the back nine (golf metaphor for you). She’s active, healthy and happy – she’s not going anywhere soon; at least, I hope not. But I don’t see anything wrong with having some really good photos to remember her by and cherish forever.

And lastly, the least important reason: I don’t have many pictures of myself and Lucy and almost none I’d consider good. I am the least photogenic person ever. It’s a fact. I’m not a hideous creature but you wouldn’t know that if you saw pictures of me. It’s bad. So, if April got even 1-2 pictures with Lucy and me in which I look something like a normal human being, it’s worth it.

Plus, you know what feels good? Really not caring what other people think. I’m sure the general consensus is that I’m nuts. For someone who’s normally pretty stingy (that would be me), this is probably seen as a waste, not to mention flat out weird. But I don’t care. and that’s absolutely freeing.

Meet Kramer

Forgive me – it has been a whirlwind of a long weekend so this will be brief; more to follow in the coming days!

I spent a long weekend in NJ with my parents so that my mom and I could attend the Fleetwood Mac concert at CitiField. Hands down one of the best experiences of my life. Simply a phenomenal performance. My second time seeing them and this was even better than the first time.

I left NJ this morning (running on six hours of sleep which is just not enough for me!) to pick up my latest foster, Kramer.
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He is an Amish puppy mill surrender. He came with no records, no name, nothing. So I got to name him (Seinfeld is my absolute favorite shows so Kramer it was).

I will have a lot more in the coming days about this guy. The short story? He is a pug through and through. Snorty, affectionate, energetic and ridiculously sweet.

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You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In many cases, that’s a good thing. Sometimes it works out well to be semi-oblivious when embarking on something new, unknown, different, etc. If I let the unknown hold me back, I would not be where I am in life right now and while life is up and down, I’m largely in a good spot.

This morning, one of my Facebook memories was of my first foster, Nellie (fka Cindy) from four years ago.

I look back on that experience and realize I had absolutely no freaking clue what I was getting myself into. It’s not a secret that when I started volunteering with SNORT, I had no intentions of fostering. Lucy was still a puppy – probably around seven months old or so. Our apartment had space but it wasn’t huge. My job hours were nuts (and remained nuts for the next four-plus years). ­

I’m not even sure what prompted me to change my mind about fostering. Because Nellie was a puppy mill dog, there were no photos of her (the Amish don’t allow people on their property to take photos of dogs they are surrendering). There was zero information about her besides she was a puppy mill mama who was being given up because she could no longer have litters.

But something in me just had to take her in, so we did. I picked her up sight unseen on a super cold, cloudy, depressing January morning, took one look at her, thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?!” And promptly fell head over heels in love.

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Meeting Nellie for the first time. Love at first sight.

Now with seven fosters under my belt (and hopefully more in the near future), I’ve come to realize there’s a whole list of things I didn’t know I didn’t know before I embarked on this adventure. I was clueless about a lot.

I Didn’t Know:
1. I had such high levels of empathy and patience.
Patience has never been my strong suit. It’s why I’ve remained up in the air about wanting to have kids. But my level of empathy and patience has been practically unlimited with each foster. I don’t even have that much patience with Lucy. But with the fosters? Sure, I got upset when they crapped on the carpet or flipped the heck out during thunderstorms and kept me up for hours. But the amount of poop I cleaned up or the time I spent in the bathroom with a certain foster (Isaac!) during thunderstorms rarely fazed me. I’m not saying I’ve become Mother Teresa, but I’ve learned I have a higher capacity for patience and empathy than I previously thought.

 

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This handsome boy was petrified of thunderstorms.

2. There was so much medical lingo to learn
Entropian. Cherry eye (which I actually learned about with Lucy). Interdigital cyst. Pyometra. Thyroid levels. Seasonal alopecia. Unexplained alopecia. Spina bifida. There isn’t a single foster I’ve had that hasn’t underdone surgery or had a major medical issue. Nellie – heartworm, lyme. Violet (fka Snowy) – spay, entropian, dry eye, bladder cancer scare. Buddy – neuter, dental. Isaac – puppy Prozac, alopecia. Novalee – spina bifida. Blossom – spay, dental (I think). Lady – spay, dental.

I don’t know everything, but I’ve sure learned a lot.

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Novalee had spina bifida but you never would have known it.

3. I’d have to learn to not be squeamish
No sooner had I laid eyes on Nellie than I realized she was leaking…down there. And not pee. It was a…thick goo. Leftover from an infection or a recent litter, probably. But that poor girl just left a trail of gunk everywhere she went for a few days/weeks.

Many fosters have not been housetrained so there’s been countless pee puddles and piles of poo to clean up. So much laundry. Wiping of all bodily areas. I’ve seen tons of incisions, ears filled with wax and countless eye boogers. And let’s not talk about post-surgery poo…

Novalee once ate an entire bag of raw almonds. Let’s just say it became quickly apparent she hadn’t chewed said almonds when she spent three days walking around inside our apartment like a giant pez dispenser of almonds.

I’ve developed a stronger stomach over the past few years.

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Buddy the Pug may have peed on me (and Lucy) a time or two. #maledogproblems

4. That I would handle adoptions better than I expected
Don’t get me wrong, I was a disaster when Nellie was adopted. And tears have been shed every single time a foster has been adopted. I miss them all. But I absolutely love the experience of fostering. It gives me a sense of purpose, something to keep me busy and selfishly, it feels so good be a part of saving a dog. If I had an unlimited budget and a bigger home, at least a few of these fosters would have probably wound up as “foster failures.” But I know going into each foster that I really can’t have two dogs – not enough money, not enough space – and that reality helps when it comes time to find a forever home for each foster. Now, there hasn’t been a foster in which I haven’t uttered the words, “I think I’ll keep him/her,” but deep down I’m fully aware it’s not the ideal option for either party involved.

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Lady, my first foster all on my own.

5. It’s a total team effort
Six of my seven fosters came when I was living with Marty. While the interest in fostering was 100% me, actually fostering was a different matter. When more than one person is impacted by taking on a foster, it becomes a team effort. Maybe not with the equal distribution of work and time, but each person in the home has some added responsibility and stress.

It also takes help from my employers – days I may need to leave early for a vet appointment or even take an entire day off to shuttle a dog to a vet appointment or surgery.

And travel impacts everyone – most holidays I’ve had a foster so that impacts every family we visit over the holidays. Each foster is different and because each was not my own nor raised as my own, their quirks don’t necessarily make them ideal houseguests. So it does indeed take a village.

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Backseat roadtrip buddies.

6. It’s stressful
I believe I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it is stressful to bring a foster home. The days leading up bringing home a foster are anxiety-ridden. What will he/she be like? Will they like Lucy? Will Lucy like them (probably not). Are they housetrained (probably not)? Will they eat (probably not)? Where will they sleep? Are they super sick? And then once I get them home? What does that bark mean? Are they scared? Why don’t they lie down and sleep? Is that cough normal?

I’m an anxious person by nature so the early days surrounding a foster are really stressful for me. Everyone’s different but stress is one of the overriding emotions for me when I’m fostering.

I’ll never forget one of the biggest sources of anxiety with Nellie – she refused to eat. I tried everything. Dry food. Wet food. Chicken and rice. Wet and dry food mixed. Straight bouillon. Nothing worked. Until it was suggested from a fellow foster mom that she probably had no clue what a bowl was or how to eat out of it. So, I scooped some food into a super shallow frisbee and voila! She was eating like a champ. But I was just so stressed out during those first few days when I could not get her to eat.

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Making a mess; we soon progressed to a frisbee. Baby steps.

7. I would have a hard time saying “no”
I’m kind of a selfish person. Hence the reason I’m not sure I want kids. I like setting my own schedule (when work allows), taking naps on the weekends and essentially doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Fostering puts a crimp in that. Having a foster is double the work, often triple the work. After Nellie was adopted, we were going to take a break and reassess whether we wanted to foster again and how quickly. We’d had Nellie for about six months, I think, which is a pretty substantial amount of time. But roughly six weeks after her adoption, I got a phone call about Violet, saying she needed a new foster home and wondering if I was interested. “Yes” may have slipped out before I could give serious thought to it. Oops.

So despite being a self-proclaimed “selfish” person, I’ve found myself saying “yes” a lot more when it comes to fosters.

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I’m not quite sure how you say “no” to that face.

All of this is to say that fostering is a big (and important) commitment. But there isn’t a single foster experience I regret. Each dog has meant so much to me and I can’t emphasize how much the benefits outweigh the stressors.

St. Croix, Take II

Almost exactly two years after first vacationing in St. Croix, I was back again last week. My parents are down there for five (!) weeks; they usually spend roughly 10 days in St. Croix each time they visit but since my dad retired in April, they decided to stretch it to five weeks this time and I joined them for one of those weeks for my own vacation.
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And it was wonderful. A perfect mix of relaxation and exploration. I was there for a total of seven full days, including Father’s Day and my birthday, which made the whole week a bit more special. Of those seven days, four were beach days and three were touristy-type days which was the perfect mix.

The beaches were fantastic, as was the water, and the historic sights we visited were fascinating. I also must have read four books all in one week and went through wine just as quickly. Hey, it was vacation AND my birthday week.

My dad joined a gym down there and I tagged along with him for four of the days I was there (I have a CrossFit competition at the end of July so I couldn’t afford to slack on my training too much) and also dropped into the CrossFit box down there twice (shout-out to 340 CrossFit). Holy heck, no AC + CrossFit = near death. I have never, ever sweat so much in my life. And each time I went, running was involved, so in addition to lack of oxygen inside, we were subjected to ungodly hot temps outside. I still had a blast, though. It was CrossFit, after all!

All in all, it was so good to get away. I did not check work email once and was really able to disconnect and relax. Lots of time to reflect on the past year, especially on my birthday. Year 32 was the most eventful year I’ve probably ever had – some good, some not-so-good. I’ve taken steps forward in some areas of my life and steps back in others. Such is life, I suppose.

Anyway, here’s a photo dump of my wonderful week in St. Croix! And for those of you wondering, an update on what Lucy was up to while I was gone is at the end!

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Estate Mount Washington

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View from Hams Bluff

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Whim Plantation

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The only way you’d get me on a bike would be after stopping at the full bar

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And Lucy? She was being dog-sat by a wonderful friend who stepped up big time when I was in a pinch. Lucy had a blast and was spoiled beyond belief. She honestly didn’t seem all that excited to see me when I got back!

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Yes, a pool was bought for Lucy and the other resident dog. #spoileddogs

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Told you, spoiled

In a Funk

The past two weeks or so, I’ve been in a definite funk. Not sure if it’s the fact that vacation is so close but still so far. And while it is vacation and I. cannot. wait., there’s still stress involved – making arrangements for Lucy, traveling solo, packing, etc.

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Cannot wait to be back here.

I have managed my (diagnosed) depression well for quite a few years now but there are still ups and downs with the downs being probably a bit lower than the average person’s and this is just one of those down times.

But it also hit me the other day – I’ve been without a foster for just about three months now, one of my longest stretches. It’s been a conscious decision – I knew I needed to wait until after vacation – but fostering gives me such a sense of purpose; I feel lacking in purpose without a foster. So I am definitely going to foster again, I just have to find the right foster. I live in such a small apartment (680 square feet) that I’m limited to dogs who don’t need a ton of space and aren’t overly energetic (there is absolutely nowhere to burn off steam in this apartment and with it getting to be hot outside, outside time will be limited for short-nosed dogs for the foreseeable future!).

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Foster #6, Blossom. Her dad sent me this photo a few weeks ago – clearly living the life!

There are still far more good days than bad days and I am loving life in my new home. I feel more refreshed than I ever did at any point during the 10-plus years in my previous career field. To be blatantly honest, it’s wonderful not being the boss anymore! Some people are meant to be bosses and while I’m not saying I’ll never be a boss of anyone again, right now it’s so freaking nice to not be in charge of anyone.

And Lucy has, of course, kept me sane and happy. I just love spending my weekends with her and while she won’t show it, I think she likes our new arrangement.

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Celebrating National Best Friends Day.

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There’s been a lot of this going on.

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Spending lots of time outside.