Happiness and the Nature of Winging It

Happiness is the easiest thing in the world, and also the hardest. It’s sunshine on your face. It’s battling brain chemistry. It’s as complicated as being in the right place at the right time to see the right person, and as easy as making yourself get in the shower after an anxiety attack.

This weekend, I celebrated happiness in the most tangible sense of the word. I decided on a whim to tag along with two friends to St. Louis Pride, which has been one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I’ve made in a long time. We gathered beads and beer, danced with friends and strangers, cheered on drag queens and yelled “Love Wins” at the top of our lungs. People were so happy. This ruling is a triumph in every sense of the word, but it’s a first step. A monumental one, but a first step nonetheless. There is so much more fighting to be done for LGBTQ+ rights: You can get fired for being not straight, and you can be even be evicted from your apartment. But there we all were, filling St. Louis with color and kissing and battle cries and selfies and hope and stickers and tears and smiling, celebrating a happy, happy victory.

Spontaneity has been on my mind a lot recently. It’s something I haven’t been able to indulge in for quite a while. I had to work. I procrastinated too much and needed to stay up super late to finish a project. I was broke. Usually, summer is my adventure time. After freshman year, I explored Austin with my sister. After sophomore, I ran away to Alaska to work as a camp counselor. Last summer, I hopped the pond to spend a summer in Belgium. This year, I’m off to a slower start. It’s been mostly work, Netflix and going to my favorite bars with friends.

But things are about to pick back up. When your life path is largely “I don’t know,” things are equal parts scary and exhilarating In two weeks, I’m moving out of my apartment and out of Columbia. For good. Which, initially, is terrifying and very, very sad and anxiety inducing in the extreme. It’s also exciting and thrilling and cause for celebration. I get to move on to a new adventure in Austin (which will hopefully soon include full-time employment if y’all could cross your fingers for me). I get to change and grow and go do new things. Meet new people. Find new coffee shops. Find new favorite bartenders. But to do that, I have to be willing to put myself out there.

This is my public declaration and internal plea to let myself take more chances. I’m a people pleaser and also a nervous sort of person. I worry about what people think of me. I don’t like to leave the house without triple-checking my hair or doing my eyebrows. I am also a person who loves adventures and eating at late night diners and exploring where there isn’t cell service. I want the next chapter of my life to focus on soothing this cognitive dissonance.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s way better than it has been. I feel more like myself than I have in ages. My good body image days far outweigh my bad ones. I’m not really afraid of shorts. I’m not afraid to dance in the grocery store. My hair is half blue-teal-teal-whatever.  I am realizing parts of my identity that are exciting and freeing and wonderful. I have a couple ridiculous crushes that make my life so wacky. Things have been really good recently.

Maybe it’s the fact that I won’t have to endure another finals week for more than five years (assuming I ever go to grad school). Maybe it’s the fact that my research project is done and submitted and out of my hair. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel validated in my physical presence. Maybe it’s the fact that people are proud of me. I’m not sure, but I feel more less like a pile of sludge and more like a sunbeam every day.

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Filed under Life Events, Motivation and Inspiration, Social Justice

Not Dead, Just Thinkin’

I haven’t blogged in a while. Instead, I’ve been recording audio messages on my walks home. It looks like I’m talking on the phone, but really I’m just spilling my guts about things coming to an end. I’m going to try to translate some into written words. No promises for how it turns out. 

Every day is a last, even if I don’t realize it. The last time I’ll grab a beer with someone. The last time I see a favorite regular customer at work. The last time someone sees me crossing the street. Last that I haven’t been able to hang onto, to claw at and cling to like sentimental sand.

I have been an up-and-down mess. I am staying out later and later with my friends, none of us wanting the party to end. (even when it comes to us sitting in a silent circle, listening to music a notch too loud). I crawl into hugs and settle there, unable to make myself let go. We’ve become dependent. We’ve become hungry. We’ve become bottomless pits for cheap beer and dance beats.

I sleep late. I roam around my apartment. I open up my journal to write poems, then close it in favor of The X-Files. I am still drinking too much coffee. I am making new friends.I went to a bar alone to say bye to my favorite bartender. I am saying goodbye to best friends. I am crying on my walks home because I am tired of saying goodbye.

I’m searching for jobs that won’t squash my soul. I’m looking at dogs up for adoption. I’m toying with the idea of starting to pack up my apartment. I’m taking naps on my couch. I’m working long hours. I’m singing out loud.

Things are strange and different and changing quickly in my world right now. When I can make sense of my emotions a bit more, I’ll write a more put-together post.

Until then, here’s a list of good things in my life:

  • The dynamic between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully
  • Summer thunderstorms
  • An abundance of puppies
  • Coffee Zone’s playlists
  • I finally snagged the Stila lipstick I’ve been pining after
  • Overwhelming love and kindness from my friends
  • Sufficient alone time
  • Co-workers that make seven+ hour shifts not awful
  • Best friends
  • Supportive mentors even when I’m a mess
  • Ice cream
  • Breakfast potatoes
  • The promise that my next chapter will be just as crazy and sad and happy and weird and wonderful as my last.

Happy summer, kiddos. Read good books and drink beer on patios. Hopefully the sun is out wherever you are.

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Pick Your Platform: I Need Your Help!

Hi, y’all! It’s the middle of finals weeks. I am an exhausted, sappy, why-did-I-put-this-essay-off, stretched-too-thin mess, so real blog posts will resume after graduation (!!!!!!!!!) this Saturday.

In the mean time…

I have been working on a research project this semester about social media behavior and the psychology behind why we post certain content on certain platforms. One of the biggest parts of this project is an anonymous survey about posting habits. It took ages to write, format and get approved, but it’s finally live.

That’s where you come in.

Please consider taking less than 10 minutes out of your day to take this survey. It’s completely anonymous and doesn’t require any critical thinking. It’s simply answering some questions about how much and what kind of ~stuff~ you post online.

You can take it by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/socialmedia_hfj

*forced laughter and general disbelief*

*forced laughter and general disbelief*

Thank you so much for your help! It really means a lot.
Good luck on finals and happy graduation to the Class of 2015! We did it!

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Filed under Adventures in Journalism, Life Events

Bookends and Finish Lines

I always write when things are over. Something about the process helps put my mind at ease. Relationships ending, coming home from traveling, the turning of a calendar year — each tips off my writer brain that it’s probably time to produce some sort of content. I can summarize, analyze and compartmentalize experiences so much more easily in the form of a poem or blog post than with anything else.

But how the [redacted] am I supposed to write about something four years in the making?

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for a while. Trying to figure out how to pay homage to a town that was home for so long without waxing gross-sappy-sobbing poetic about it (probably still going to be sappy). There is no way to talk about it all. No way to adequately describe the soaring highs or disastrous lows, the moments of alienation or of family. The times I couldn’t stop smiling or the times I cried every day for two weeks. A chunk of life this long, this rich in experience is meant to be lived fully, not recounted on WordPress after four years.

But, I still need to write about it.

So I decided on scenes. The characters of my college life. Little things I’m going to miss.
I don’t know how else to say goodbye to a place that has both taken and given so much to me.

***

There’s a man with a yellowing beard and a silver wedding band who has been playing a song on the violin for as long as I’ve been alive probably. He never seems to stop. Never pausing to look at the students streaming by, never breaking the tinny stream of notes. I’ve seen him at coffee shops, but those two times are the only ones I’ve seen him without a fiddle tucked under his chin. Anyone who’s walked past the corner of 9th and University has heard him. There’s usually a hot dog stand there too. He is as much a part of downtown Columbia as any establishment. Few things in life are certain, but I can count on this man playing like it is the only thing he knows.

***

Those good weather days. Columbia humans, you know the ones I’m talking about. Where everything is soaked in sunshine and warm whispers of wind. All of downtown is filled with families and dogs and tiny children clutching Sparky’s kid cones. The Quad becomes a home base, dotted with frisbee games and baseball and how do people even manage to string a hammock up between the Columns? Everything feels good and light and golden. Even on my worst days, when depression and anxiety creep up to settle themselves on my chest, there is nothing quite like a beautiful spring day in Missouri. It lifts my heart in a kind, quiet way, and for that I’m grateful.

***

Wherever I go, I’m going to see someone I know. It’s comforting to know that I can show up at my favorite bar by myself and it will be fine. Jessie will stamp my hand, Joey will pour my drink without asking and half my friends are probably there already. Shake’s will always be full of everyone I’ve ever known. I can walk into a course on the first day of the semester and find out that three people I know are also in it, and none of us knew.

***

 

Bookends. That eerie, wonderful realization that life mirrors itself sometimes (if you’re paying attention).

The boy I lived catty-corner from freshman year, who listened to cool trap remixes and always said hi to me in the hallway, now lives in the unit in front of me. We have the same house number, so if I forget to put “Unit D” on my packages, they’ll be delivered to his door. I made his burrito at work yesterday. I don’t know his name and I don’t know if he remembers me, but the fact remains that we live about as close to each other this year as we did three years ago.

Once, I became friends with someone freshman year in an uncharacteristic blaze of courage (read: “Hi. I also live in Wolpers. Can I sit here and eat lunch with you?”). We run into each other from time to time at the bars or in the library, and it’s always that easy sort of friendship. Friday night, he pulled me into a hug and put his chin on top of my head. I realized that those tiny, brave moments throughout college — as small as introducing yourself to someone — can make all the difference. Somehow, we made it from locking ourselves in the third floor study room and cramming for Sharon Ryan’s econ final to drinking at Piano and going on senior pub crawls. (Hi, Jack, if you’re reading this.)

The concert venue I went to freshman year to see Bon Iver (and when we slept in Julia’s grandma’s basement) is the same one I went to senior year to see Ben Howard with Hannah (who I’ve lived with for three years). Both times, I got a setlist and both times I cried during the show. Also, Julia’s brother’s friend that I went to the concert with was Skyped into my senior capstone class a few weeks ago. A small world, y’all.

The person I sat next to in a psychology course sophomore year turned out to be one of my study abroad roommates this past summer. We found out we are soul sisters and are forever mad at ourselves for not becoming friends sooner. (Hi Shannon. Love you. I would sit on the floor of our kitchen and eat cereal every day if I could.)

***

I’ve already decided that the two weekends I’m coming back to Columbia for the rest of my life at Homecoming and True/False. One is the ultimate tribute to Mizzou and one to Columbia. They fill the whole of this odd little town with vibrant life: unbelievable beer specials and beaming faces and dancing down sidewalks and such palpable pride.

Sorry, future employers. Those are simply weekend that I have to go home.

***

There is so much to talk about. The Diner at 4 a.m. with near-strangers who became good friends. Crying into the phone to my mom in the middle of the mall. Falling in love. The unbelievable monotony of a full-course load. Laughing until I cry, loopy with exhaustion at work. Dying hair in bathrooms. Half-asleep to over-caffeinated in one Coffee Zone cold brew. The powerful crowd mentality that is shouting M-I-Z at Faurot. Red lipstick. Being catcalled at 9 p.m. on a Thursday. Closing down Ellis Library. The post-kicking-ass-on-a-presentation high. Drinking beer on patios. Going on medication. Snowstorms and weeks of rain. Drunk girls in bathrooms. Google Docs. Care packages from home. Cutting your own hair. Being flat broke. Falling asleep on couches with Law and Order on. Loving humans so hard you think your chest might burst. Losing yourself. Finding your voice.

There’s no way to remember it all, but I know I’ll miss it.

***

It’s ending, isn’t it? This huge, pivotal, important experience is coming to a close. Two weeks from today, I will be a college graduate (and my brother will turn 15). I have so much to do before then that my body hasn’t stopped trembling. There are goodbyes that I’m actually dreading — humans who have a permanent place in my heart, who I don’t want to imagine life without. I know there are planes and Facetime, but nothing beats actually hugging people you love. This is a place where I have grown in way I would have never expected, and it feels really weird to know that I’m going to be saying goodbye soon.

I love y’all. To each of the families I have found in this strange, beautiful place: Thank you for everything. Y’all make life so worth living.

tiger hotel

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Won’t Be The Last Time

This weekend has been filled with such incredible amounts of living and loving. I’m still reeling from it.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

So that’s what I’m trying to do.

The weather was lovely and I danced with friends and I saw an incredible concert from the front row and I ate diner breakfast at 4 a.m. and I hugged people I love and I found two incredible books at Adam’s and I bought new shoes. I submitted my senior portfolio and drank good beer with better people and pet dogs and ate home-cooked food and laughed until I cried and ran down the street with friends. I cleaned my room and found shoes I thought I had lost and talked about hockey with my favorite bartender and ate my favorite brunch. I got texts and little notes that filled me with utter joy and I drank good coffee and I listened to good music and I slept in.

I feel full and happy and whole. My body is tired in the sleepy, sun-soaked, you-have-done-something-good way. I have a crazy busy week ahead of me, and I’m going to need the feel-good vibes of this weekend to carry me through.

In one of my classes, we talked about the blog We Are West America, on which two friends documented an incredible motorcycle trip. The “about” page, though, has some of the most incredible prose on it, and it’s stuck in my head for weeks and weeks. Here’s my favorite part:

Family, where ever you find it. Overcoming fears and discovering new ones.  It’s about being nice, stoking out other people, and high fives.  It’s about letting yourself constantly evolve cause you know that you’d have to be an asshole not to. It’s about being rad, and having that full chested feeling of a swollen heart everyday.

That last line. Woof. I know that feeling so well, and I want to spend a minute to thank the Universe for conspiring to make such an experience possible.

Thank you to every person who made this weekend grand. You might not even know how much you mean to me, but I hope I’ve told you at least once.

Thank you to this weird, wonderful little town that’s let me call it home for so long.

Thank you to cheap beer and sunshine and the power of a really good hug.

Thank you to love for making life so damn great.

P.S. I have a big music post coming soon.
P.P.S. In the mean time, listen to this playlist based on colors.
P.P.P.S. Title reference song.

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Listen and Learn: National Poetry Month

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. — Plutarch

April is National Poetry Month, and definitely a month I actively celebrate my love for the written word. I remember being introduced to poetry as a craft in elementary school when we read “The Road Not Taken” by Frost and “Little Things” by Julia Abigail Fletcher. I saw poetry as an extension of fiction writing — carefully crafted and more intentional. You had to pay more attention to phrasing, structure, even (God forbid) rhyming. Poems are often full of beautiful metaphors and synesthesia. There are those lines you read and have to sit back and just say “Wow. So that’s how you put that feeling into words.”

The reason why I like writing haikus so much is the same reason I like writing poetry. It’s like a riddle I’m solving as I go. I’m going to try to write and publish some more creative poetry work this month. Until then, here are some of my favorite poems. Listening to poems is a really different experience, so I’ve collected some spoken words and readings. Send me yours!

  • “Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars” by Buddy Wakefield

  • “Convenience Stores” by Buddy Wakefield (PSA: have tissues ready)

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

  • “The Laughing Heart” by Charles Bukowski (Here’s a video of Tom Waits reading it. I know.)

  • “Lady Lazurus” by Sylvia Plath

  • “Jellyfish” by Andrea Gibson (ugh)

  • “and a new earth” by Wirrow

  • Kai Davis PYPM final (90 seconds of magic)

  • “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (Miss you. Happy birthday.)

Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade.
Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn.
Say autumn despite the green
in your eyes. Beauty despite
daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn
mounting in your throat.
My thrashing beneath you
like a sparrow stunned
with falling.
  • The poem in the movie “Like Crazy” (which gets me every single time.)

  • “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” by e.e. cummings (as read by Heath Ledger in “Candy”)(I’m not crying. You’re crying.)

  • “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” by Walt Whitman (the Levi’s Go Forth campaign is my favorite thing. Complete poem here.)

  • “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe (as recited by MGG. He nearly cries at the end. It’s a lot.)

  • “Bright Star” by John Keats (as read by Tom Hiddleston. Welp, indeed.)

While you’re at it, check out these incredible poets I follow on Tumblr.

I know I forgot a bunch, but there’s a good starting place. Let’s write and read and love poems extra hard this month.

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” — Robert Frost

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Filed under Life Events, Other authors' writing, Re: Writing

Five, then seven, then five again

I think one of the most clear realizations I knew I was a writer at heart was when we learned what haikus were in elementary school. Many of my classmates groaned and rolled their eyes. They already didn’t enjoy writing exercises, let alone adding a math component into the mix. I, on the other hand, could barely contain my excitement within my tiny frame. A writing puzzle! A counting game! This is great! (Note: I was a weird child.)

How do I fit my point into 17 syllables? If you’ve ever read my creative writing or poetry, you’ve probably noticed that I care a lot about line breaks. The visual flow of the words has a very direct connection to the emphasis of the poem. It’s always been my favorite part of writing, and involves a design aspect that I don’t get to play with a lot in my more academic life.

I have been feeling very stuck in my life recently, which directly translates to painful, seemingly incurable writer’s block. So I turned to Twitter and the lovely followers of my writing Tumblr and asked for short prompts. I turned around and wrote haikus inspired by these single words. It’s a poet’s baby step. An easily tackle-able task that gets the gears moving again. I thought I’d share some here, then challenge you to ask for prompts.

Who knows… maybe one will be just the spark you needed.

Honey
My honeycomb love,
Forever stuck to my heart.
Worth every bee sting.

Stars
When you stop looking
For distant bits of light shine:
That’s when things will glow.

Sunflowers
Everything must end.
Do sunflowers cry at night
When the light runs out?

The light hitting just right
Some day, morning light
Will not look like your freckles.
But until that day…

Lilies
White petals, soft like
Your Easter morning heartbeat,
Soft like “please come back.”

Tattoos
“But what does it mean?”
It means that I am going
onward to the end.

Sadness
Tumbled bones, short breath,
Waves of every “I love you.”
Morning will come soon.

Let’s write, kiddos.

Additional reading: One of my favorite poets is Tyler Knott Gregson, and he has a daily haiku series that takes my breath away. Check out his Instagram for some absolutely beautiful writing and poetry.  

© Tyler Knott Gregson (via Instagram)

© Tyler Knott Gregson (via Instagram)

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Filed under Motivation and Inspiration, Re: Writing

Tunesday: Casual Heartache Edition

“These are the days that must happen to you.” — Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

I must have stumbled across that quote a million times in my life. It sits with me like a warm hug, a kind smile. It is comforting — that even Walt Whitman understands that life gets really hard sometimes.

Today just happens to be one of those days. Today, I made a really important decision, said some things and was turned down with unbelievable grace and love. Today, however many hours later, my heart is aching and I feel a little bit numb.

Heartbreak happens in three stages. First, you are clinging onto the hope that maybe that person will love you back like you love them. Then, you come to the painful realization that they just don’t love you in the same way you love them. Finally, you let love back in to save you.

1. James Bay performing “If You Ever Want To Be In Love” for The Sunday Sessions

If you ever want to be in love
I’ll come around

We were young
we were side by side
Don’t know when we started losing touch
If you want we could walk around
Maybe that would be enough

No, honestly. Everything is fine. Everything is totally fine.

2. Bon Iver performing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” at AIR Studios

here in the dark,
these final words
I will lay down my heart
and I feel the power
but you don’t,
no you don’t

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Everything hurts.

3. Bear’s Den performing “Bad Blood” at the Red Room at Cafe 939

All my life
I wasn’t honest enough
and I thought
I would never get over you

But I found love
but I found love
but I found love
but I found love

The world spins madly on, y’all. Everything will be okay.

Reading back over this, I sound dramatic and mopey. It’s fine. I know this aching will fade, and when I look back one day, I probably won’t remember too much about this particular Tuesday.  Today is simply one of the days that must happen to me. 

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Filed under Life Events, Re: Music, Tunesday

TFLNM: Weathervanes

He didn’t understand what he’d done to her, but he would by the time she was finished.

She was bee stings, she was hungry mouth, she was lightning eyes. Coffee-stained everything. Her back arched, somehow serpentine, when she stretched every morning. She turned toward the sun every afternoon, desperate for warmth. She laughed with the genuine sort of rumble that shook her entire body. Restless and impatient and kind.

He was quiet with a loud heart. He played guitar in bed when the sadness seeped into both of their shaking hands. He was morning coffee, he was nighttime skylines, he was feet that never seemed to be warm. His movie watch list was a mile long. Always making hot chocolate. Tucked himself around her every night.

Heartsickness hung on her like fog. She did not know why he loved her, or how. But her heart was bird wings, summer rain, new moon, when he said her name. And, oh, when he told her he loved her. “I love you.” Without condition. Without hesitation.

She was her own hurricane. And he was the calm before her.

He didn’t understand what he’d done by loving her, but he would by the time the storm stopped.

This is a new thing I’m trying on this blog called The First Line’s Not Mine. I’m using a random first line generator, courtesy of Claire, and then letting my creative juices flow, however hesitantly. To write fiction (or fact) for the sake of writing. I hope you’ll consider joining me. It’s hard and a lot of fun. 

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A Very Dumb Blog Post About Nothing

(I have no blog post ideas. Work with me.)

These are what conversations sound like these days:
“Hi! How are you?”
“Doing well. How’re you?”
“Oh, you know. Living the dream.”
“What’re you up to?”

I fiddle with my rings. I breathe in. I respond.

“Work. School. The bars. You know how it is.”

Big smile. Hug. Continue (speed) walking to wherever I’m going.

But how is it? Does that person know how it is? (Does that person care?)
Why are we so shy to be honest with how we’re doing?

Well…

I’m working nearly 30 hours a week rolling burritos for most of MU’s student population. I need to finish a lit review for a research project I’m actually excited about doing. I’m trying to do the thing where you don’t shampoo every day and it’s really stressing me out because I’m terrified of my hair looking greasy. I am putting off laundry for longer than normal because it’s too cold outside to lug my laundry basket down the stairs. My foot is sore and I’m tired of dragging this boot around. I am on some weird cusp between loving my body’s flaws and plunging into despair about the beauty status quo. Dogs are the best. I talk about my crushes entirely too much to anyone who will listen. I’ve stopped doing my eyeliner every day in favor of minimal makeup and I think I like it. I go to the same bar every time I go out and they know me there and it’s an incredible feeling. I miss a human I’ve never met in person. I cried on my walk home Saturday night. My hands are always cold. I have too many crushes on too many cute people. I need to watch more movies. My depression and anxiety are so much more under control and I feel like myself again. I need to buy groceries and toilet paper. There is so much good music in the world. I think I forgot how to write. Still haven’t gone on a date. I don’t call my family enough. It feels like winter will never end. I miss Brussels. Boys still confuse me daily. I graduate from college in 81 days. I don’t know what I’m doing after. I don’t know what I’m doing now.

That’s how it is.
That’s my world right now.

I am going to try to push myself to blog more, and I’m toying with the idea of posting some of my creative stuff here as well? I miss poetry a LOT. Like, a lot. But posting a blog post in my conversation voice is much different than posting my poems (which I am almost always incredibly self-conscious about). So we’ll see if I work up the courage.

Writing has kept me alive for 21.5 years, and God help me if I let that flame in me dwindle down to smoke. If you have suggestions or challenges to encourage me to post, I’m all ears and open inboxes.

Feigned productivity and my favorite latte

Feigned productivity and my favorite latte

Stay golden, kiddos. I’m sure winter will end soon and we can all get some sunshine.

 

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