25 lessons in my 25th year

  1. Clean as you go. While cooking, while living.
  2. Dallas is diverse, flawed, beautiful, resilient. It’s also not home.
  3. I like audiobooks.
  4. Sunscreen is always a good choice.
  5. How hard it is to move two states away when you’re full-fledged adult who has acquired some stuff.
  6. How easy it is to move two states away. Like all the sudden nothing about your life is the same as it was the week before and you aren’t sure how you even got here.
  7. I don’t need a DVR or cable to be happy. Not even close.
  8. The Bachelor franchise is crap. (Yes, unfortunately I did NOT learn this until the year of our Lord 2016.)
  9. Who Father John Misty is.
  10. Seriously, trust your gut.
  11. Staying engaged in politics is exhausting but worthwhile.
  12. If a fitness tracker motivates you to work out even half the time, it was worth it.
  13. I don’t have to apologize for liking crappy country music or instagramming my glass of wine to people who I would consider “edgy,” and I don’t have to pretend I’m not interested in weird movies and progressive politics for others. Life became so much more fun once I stopped trying to fit in either box.
  14. I like Indian food.
  15. Columbia is definitely still as great as I thought it was. Maybe even better.
  16. You’ll mostly get the jobs you’re passionate about.
  17. Working in higher-ed is a different beast than the corporate world.
  18. The fake succulents aren’t nearly as satisfactory, but at least they last.
  19. Books are always worth the money.
  20. Starbucks is almost never worth the money.
  21. A little self-care goes a long way.
  22. Alone time is a precious commodity to be grateful for while I still have plenty of it.
  23. Plane tickets are getting cheaper. Google flight alerts are handy.
  24. Changing your hair is actually really fun.
  25. I’m a completely different person than I was five years ago. I wonder who I’ll be at 30.
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If we were on a coffee date…

A few bloggers I follow update their readers on the more mundane bits of their lives with posts structured like this, and I like the idea, so I stole it.  (See Rachel Dawson’s blog here.) I miss my Texas people a lot, so if you’re a friend I just moved away from, please call me and tell me what YOU would want to talk about if we were on a coffee date. Since you will have read this, I’ll be able to skip all the parts about me. 🙂

If we were on a coffee date… I’d tell you that all the rain we had this weekend was good for me because I was forced to stay in and organize my apartment a little more. When the weather is good here, I tend to abandon all responsibilities and find any excuse to be outside. Apparently some Mizzou faculty are predicting a drought for many parts of the state this summer, so I’m working on some drought publications for work, and it just feels strange when parts of Columbia are literally under water right now.

If we were on a coffee date… I’d tell you that I’ve been all about audiobooks lately. Literally all household chores are made more bearable if I’m also listening to something engaging. It feels doubly productive, I’m more thorough in my cleaning, and I’m on track to read (or listen) to about 20 or more books this year. I just finished listening to “A Man Called Ove.” It’s a sweet story about a grumpy old man who begrudgingly finds a new sense of community in his neighbors after his wife passes away. If you like lighthearted, sweet, and short, this one’s for you. I’d also talk about “Hillbilly Elegy,” which I’m about halfway through listening to. This one’s a memoir of a boy from rural Kentucky who grew up in Ohio. It’s a commentary on the white working class and upward mobility from his perspective. It’s engaging, funny, and well-written, but some of his comments that are clearly from a conservative perspective certainly make this liberal girl bristle a bit. Definitely worth the Audible credit, though.

If we were on a coffee date… You’d tell me to stop fiddling with my hair and/or stop gazing at my reflection at every opportunity. You see, I just got my hair colored for the first time in ages. As long as I’ve been alive, my hair has never been this light. I’m mildly obsessed with it, and for this, I apologize. I need you all to keep my vanity in check.

If we were on a coffee date… I’d complain about how little storage my new apartment has. I mean ZERO closet space, y’all. I’ve never been called organized in my life, so this is providing all sorts of challenges as I try to come up with a system to fit all my clothes in tucked away places in ways that I’ll actually keep up with.

If we were on a coffee date… I’d say that living alone for the first time ever has brought out the true weirdo in me. I graze on the strangest of food combinations when I’m ravenous upon coming home from work. I talk to myself. I thought I was lazy before, but when no one’s there to judge me, I apparently will live my best sloth life and watch three whole episodes of Shameless, not do the dishes, and proceed to slink to my bed to do it all over again the next day. I’m getting better, though. When your kitchen is barely large enough to fit your wingspan, you appreciate waking up to a clean one in the morning.

If we were on a coffee date… I’d probably talk about a hard decision I had to make since I got here. I’d say that I know I did the right thing, but life still feels different in some uncomfortable and kinda sucky ways (Side note – How is sucky for journalistic vocabulary today?!). I’m leaning in to it all, trying to use every bit of the extra time to my advantage by reading, writing, and getting to know myself in all the necessary and existential ways that come with being 25.

If we were on a coffee date… I’d marvel that somehow, it’s already May. I feel like I just turned 25, but next month I’ll be rounding that birthday corner yet again. Life is weird, man. And since it’s a new month, I have some goals to keep me focused:

May goals:

  • Read (or listen) to four books. This should be easy seeing as I’m close to finishing three different ones already. (Hillbilly Elegy, Help Thanks Wow, The Book Thief, and Between the World and Me are on this month’s To-Do.)
  • Break a sweat at least four times a week.
  • In bed by 10 on weeknights. Mizzou’s 8 a.m. start time has been rough.
  • Successfully pitch an essay to an online outlet. I’ve pretty much already done this, but an approved pitch does not equal publication. That depends on whether or not my submission is trash. Fingers crossed.
  • Save a big ole chunk of change.

I dream real big, don’t I? Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps.

If you’re like, “Oh, real cool, Alex, you write down the basics of what you want to accomplish in a month. We all do that, we just don’t feel the need to share.” I feel you, I really do. I’m pretty insecure about these posts because I know I probably won’t hit each of those marks, even though they are relatively easy, but putting them out into the world help keeps me accountable. If you don’t need that extra push, I am genuinely jealous of you. Please roll your eyes at this and carry on; I promise I don’t blame you.

If you read this, I would love to know:

What are your goals for the month?

Some of my more creative ones have been stolen right from the blogosphere.

If we were on a coffee date, what would you want to talk about?

Shoot me an email, give me a call, or if you’re in Columbia, let’s actually go for coffee.

 

Some things I know to be true

In a few days, it will be two whole months since I kissed decent tacos and high-end shopping malls goodbye and traded them in for a whole new existence in Columbia, Mo. It’s been really good, mostly. But it wouldn’t be a proper major life change without some lessons learned along the way, right? Here’s an update on my life in the only way I seem to write these days, in a list, of things I know to be true since moving back to Missouri:

The road to homeownership is a complicated one.

Several of you know that I was so proud and excited to be buying a house or a condo when I moved up here. I have been saving for this! It’ll be a great investment! It’s my dream to own a home as a single woman and my chance is now here in the land of cheaper real estate! A few of you tried to tell me to hold my horses, but I soldiered on in naivety.

Some things I’ve learned:

  • Condos come with astronomical fees that don’t go into your equity.
  • What a USDA loan is
  • What PMI stands for and why it’s best to avoid it if possible
  • How many thousands I’ll save in interest if I wait until I can get into a 15-year mortgage vs. a 30-year one.
  • Houses in Columbia are cheap, but not that cheap.

If the house is in my price range, it’s either a total Fixer Upper (Do I look like I have the prowess of BOTH Chip and Jo Gaines?) or in a neighborhood where you’ll find heroin needles at the park. I could be house poor, sure, and buy something now, but buying a house just to prove to the internet that I DID IT is not a smart move. So I’m waiting.

It’s cool and fun and empowering to do stuff by yourself.

DD1721E2-B178-4C22-A1A5-5A58D5CB859AI mostly already knew this, but I get reminded every once in a while. In February I knew I wanted to see lots of documentaries at this year’s True/False fest, but I had a hard time coordinating with other people. So I saw a few films by myself. Some of the documentaries require a thorough emotional processing, which I found easier to do while scarfing down a gyro from International Cafe between movies, all by my lonesome. I talked to some strangers in lines, which was a common thing five years ago, but is now so rare to me that I found it ridiculously delightful. I saw the films I wanted to see with zero compromises. I cared less about bursting into tears while watching Dina when I didn’t know the people next to me. If you have the chance, I highly recommend Quest, Step, and Lindy Lou Juror Number 2.

Exercise endorphins are real. Duh.

When I first got to Columbia, I was working out pretty regularly. That all came to a screeching halt when I moved into the guest house (more on that in a minute). Subsequently, I started getting all moody and existential in ways that probably led to this blog post. When will I learn that regularly breaking a sweat is pertinent to my mental health? Here’s a pretty picture from one of my runs, which now feels like it was ages ago. Must get on the trail again soon.

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A lot of things do, but the quad never really gets old.

Moving is too expensive if what you’re actually wanting is a change of scenery. Because the novelty wears off quick. I’ve only been here a couple of months and I’m feeling it already. For instance, Shakespeare’s pizza is good, but it’s not great. Blasphemy, I know, but if you have permanent access to it, you realize just how greasy it is. That said, the quad on a nice day still physically makes my heart feel full. That’s as cheesy as it gets, but it’s just true. It’s a four minute walk from my cube, so on nice days I’ll take a break out there with all the undergrads.

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I draw the line at climbing up on the columns in my business casual, but some days it’s hard to stop myself.

Good friends matter. And I’m lucky enough to have several.

I like to tout a lot about how I’m this strong, independent woman, but the truth is, some really good people have gotten me through the past two months. Quite literally, several people have fed me, housed me, lifted heavy things for me, and helped me do really mundane things like hang stuff on my walls. They’ve asked me how I’m doing and really meant it. They take me fishing. They follow up on the problems I’ve mentioned to them in passing. They do the boring friend stuff, the over-the-top friend stuff and all the in-between. I’m not so strong and independent that I wish I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone, that’s for sure. If you’re a person I’m talking about: Thanks a million. I’m so glad I’m near all you people again.

I like to hang out with this guy.

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I know my grandpa sometimes wishes my brother and I could have grown up a little closer to him and my grandma in Springfield. Seeing your grandkids twice a year just isn’t always enough. But I’m closer now, and I’d like to make up for some lost time as well as I can. I have much to learn from him and about him, still. Like the more intricate rules of baseball, for instance.

The river and its surrounding areas at sunset are as good a reason as any to move here.

Before I moved, I couldn’t stop talking about how Columbia has so much more to do outdoors than Dallas does and how excited I was for that. I’ve been taking full advantage since I got here, and the fun is just beginning as it’s finally starting to get a little warmer. If you follow me on snapchat, be prepared for a full summer’s worth of sunsets, fishing videos, and other outdoor adventures.

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God, or the universe, or whatever, can redeem my recklessness.

As is to be expected, moving cities is emotional, and doesn’t really stop being so in two months’ time. For the first few weeks, I was as high as can be, walking around campus in awe that Mizzou and Columbia are big parts of my life again. But the novelty has worn off a little, and like I said, quickly, at that. Some days home feels really far away, because it kind of is. In my worst moments (that are very brief), doubt creeps in and takes over my thoughts like “Did you really pick up and move your whole life just because you felt like you needed a change and were overly emotional from some election results?” Some of you have also flat out asked me if I moved to get away from my ex. I did apply for this job before I needed to make a certain call to the police, but the timing was such that yes, probably some parts of me were glad to get as far from that situation as possible. Is that a little dramatic? Yes. Maybe even a little reckless.

But then things work out so perfectly that it really does all feel ~meant to be~ namely in the form of my living situation. Right when I needed it, a position that provides an apartment that they pay me to live in opened up. I’m the guest house attendant for the Wyatt Guest House, a place where patients from rural areas who are coming to Columbia to receive cancer treatment can stay, very close to the hospital, at a discounted rate. I have to be in my apartment from 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. on weeknights to answer any emergencies. I have Friday and Saturday nights off. “Emergencies” are usually things like letting someone in who locked themselves out or getting everyone into the basement in the event of severe weather. Rare stuff. In two weeks I’ve had zero calls. And it comes with free rent, wifi, utilities, and cable. So as you can imagine, it puts me in a very wonderful situation financially. Everyone is all, “HOW did you score that gig?” and the truth is, 1. I happened to know the right people and 2. The timing worked out by the grace of God. That’s all.

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My simple, small living room. That needs a rug still.

That’s just one example of many. And I’m not even sure I believe in “one chosen path” and that my decision to move here was either the right one or the wrong one. It’s just a choice I made, with pros, cons, and consequences – both good and bad. I knew I would feel this way a little bit when I moved, but I was on such a high my first few weeks that I thought maybe I’d skip any negative feeling altogether. But nope, I’m a little homesick now.

But whether it’s through the guest house, a gorgeous sunset, or a good conversation with an old friend, I am constantly getting nudges of reassurance. Life is real good, y’all, and I’m so, so grateful.

 

 

One Big Announcement & February Goals

Remember when I said I’d only self-reflect like this about once a month? Well, it’s February 1st. Your rent is due, and it’s time for me to look ahead a few weeks and set some personal goals for February. More on that later. First, to catch you up on my January: In a nutshell, I have never experienced so many emotions in such a short time.

The breakdown:

Jan. 6 – Approached for a possible job by an old friend.

Jan. 10 – Landed an interview with a different job that I applied for in December, scheduled for the 23rd.

Jan. 18 – Had a great but emotional conversation with a family member about what we both can do to improve our relationship. New year, new us, ya know?

Jan. 20 – Caught my ex boyfriend breaking into my car on camera. For no known reason. Knew he had been doing this repeatedly.

Jan. 20-22 – Called police. Filed a report. Got a fancy alarm on my car. Bought pepper spray. Changed my apartment locks. Cried some. Got really angry. Spent the weekend hiding at my parents’ house. Drove myself crazy wondering what he was doing and why and what I should do. Spent too much time thinking about how I could have prevented this. Didn’t really prepare for the interview as much as I would have liked. (Side note: I knew I wouldn’t make it more than two blog posts without oversharing.)

Jan. 23 – Had the job interview via Skype as well as an editing test. It went well, I guess.

Jan. 26 – Was offered the job. (!!!)

Jan. 30 – Interviewed for the job from the old friend.

Feb. 1 – Decided to accept job offer #1. Told my current employer. And now I’m telling you.

Talk about burying the lede, right? I am ridiculously excited to move back to what feels like my second home, Columbia, Mo., for an editor position with Mizzou. I’ll be editing materials developed from MU’s faculty research for the general public to use as a resource through MU’s Extension office. My office will be on campus. IT’S ALL HAPPENING, YOU GUYS.

While I’m so thrilled for this opportunity, I’ve really loved being in Dallas. My apartment and who I share it with has been the joy of my life for the past three years. I love being close to family, and I’ll seriously miss all of Dallas’s delicious restaurants (Eating is just what you do here). My first job, apartment, and city were the perfect places to navigate the first few years of post-grad life, but this move feels so, so right.

I can’t wait to do all the bucket list things I never got to cross off while I was there. Chief among them: Riding a bike on the MKT to Les Bourgeois winery in Rocheport. I’ll also finally get to see a lot of films at this year’s True/False fest. I’ll hike the Pinnacles. I’ll eat at some of the classic restaurants I missed my first time around. I’ll sit on the alumni side of a football game. It’s gonna be good.

And this brings me to February. Last year off and on my little nerdy self would write down actionable goals for each month. (Read two books, make a dentist appointment, work out at least three times a week. I aim real high, y’all.) I liked it. I’ve decided I’ll do it this year, too.

My biggest February goal: DO NOT DIE.

Others include:

  • Get pre-approved for a home loan before moving.
  • Buy a couch maybe.
  • Let myself cry as many times as I want to. Moving = all the feelings, all the time.
  • Make time for alllll of the proper goodbye lunches, dinners, and happy hours. Packing can wait.
  • Visit my Texas grandparents one time before I go.
  • Make sure my current employers like me when I leave by getting all the things done to help with my transition.
  • Continue to be a nice person even while very stressed.

2017 has been a bumpy ride so far, to say the least, but I’ve already seen how the bad was a blessing in disguise and there’s been SO MUCH GOOD, too. Columbia, I’m comin’ for ya.

 

 

 

In 2017 I …

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All posts are better with a photo right? Here’s a semi-pensive one you’ve already seen before.
  • Would really like to surprise myself. I want to do a scary thing, accomplish something I never thought I would. Marvel at my body for lifting heavy or running far.
  • Want to continue to spend more and more time outside.
  • Want to do all the usual things: save more, travel more, exercise more, social media less, read more, write more, travel more, cook more, learn to code, take over the world, etc.
  • Won’t text him.
  • Am looking forward to a non-election year. (Aren’t we all, amirite?)
  • Want to do a much better job of contributing. I’ve kind of gone through the last couple of years as this bumbling post-grad, thinking it’s cute and fine to not have a clearer sense of direction. And maybe it was fine for a while, but not anymore. I am smart. I can work harder. It’s time to.
  • Want to stop and take note of and be grateful for my health and my family’s health a little more often. Or at least, not only as a reactionary feeling upon hearing about someone else’s health struggles. No one I am close to has cancer, or chronic pain, or symptoms with no explanation. So many others are not so lucky.
  • Vow to only spend roughly 12 days of the 365 doing this much self-reflection. Thinking about living a good life and planning to live a good life can take up a good chunk of time and distract us from the actual living of our lives. And, you know, side note: I would do well to remember that even having the means to do this much strategizing about 2017 comes from a place of privilege. Do you think people who are stressed about feeding their kids between now and payday are really having a goal-setting session with their family this January? I’d be willing to bet that they have bigger fish to fry, like just getting through the next couple of weeks. It bears repeating: I. am. so. lucky.
  • Will call my grandpa more often.
  • Vow to never stop searching for truth. In all things. Even though the election is over, and the news makes me weary, confused, and frustrated. I must, I must. I must keep watching, keep learning, I must keep my mind open but sharp, viewing everything with a healthy dose of skepticism. Staying engaged even when it’s uncomfortable is a small but important part of activism.

If you’re reading this, I wish you a happy and healthy 2017. May we all surprise ourselves just a little bit.

In 2016 I…

  • Finally started using my reusable grocery bags consistently. You’re welcome, earth.
  • Visited two new states. If you ever get the chance, do visit the Pacific Northwest. I know I’m glad I did.
  • Learned that I’m mostly aware of my singleness as a negative thing only when I’m struggling to open new salsa jars. I keep hearing marrieds say that marriage is cool because you have this helper for life, and I always think about this as I’m getting hand cramps trying to open stupid salsa jars. All the sudden I’m in total despair for a helper, or at least, a pair of hands stronger than mine. It would be cool I guess if those hands were attached to man who also loved me, but the SALSA is what’s important here. Then, using the warm water trick that my mom taught me, I inevitably open the jar myself, and think “Who needs a man? Certainly not me.”
  • Came out publicly as a Democrat.
  • Felt guilty for all the times in the past I’ve bumbled through earth thinking I knew anything for certain. Because now I’m never so sure.
  • Let the above uncertainty get to me a little too much at times.
  • Turned 25, which is the age that, for me, meant I became mature enough to know the decisions I was making weren’t always the right ones, but not mature enough to stop myself from doing them. This was hard and painful. I saw the person I was becoming as ugly for the first time maybe ever. At times I much preferred the immaturity of 20-23.
  • Failed at something kinda major. The fall-flat-on-your-face type of failure that people say will help shape you for the better. I’m not sure yet that it will shape me for the better, although maybe that’s up to me.
  • Held a newborn baby for a few hours. I breathed in her baby scent and as she slept, I dreamed for her about what her life would be like in the years to come. What would she grow up to do? In those moments, I felt a fraction of what her mother feels 24/7. All the love and all the fear, simultaneously. It was a rush, but one I know I’m not even close to ready for.
  • Appreciated several sunsets and not near enough sunrises, although I’m slowly letting go of the idea that a “morning person” is a thing everyone needs to be. Yet I still think that maybe I have it in me. We’ll see in 2017.
  • Felt stupid when I teared up at a Mizzou homecoming video as I watched it on the jumbotron at Faurot Field in Columbia. Maybe it was just the combination of the beautiful weather, the golden hour, and the beer, but that weekend I allowed myself to actually want to come back there to live, should the opportunity arise. There are worse things, right?
  • Went on a couple hikes and a couple movies by myself and wondered why I haven’t been doing such things my whole life.
  • Lost my grandma. I felt a lot of pain for my father and even more for my grandpa. But since this spring, I’ve also admired my grandpa for still being pretty dang happy, while also acknowledging that his marriage to my grandma was one of the best parts of his life. It’s the small things, you know? Like learning how to stream video clips from the MLB app to your TV from your iPad.
  • Went on a road trip for a week, visiting two friends in two different cities. So, add Nebraska to the new states list. Three. I learned I love driving by myself a whole lot. Spotify subscriptions are worth every penny.
  • Loved Miranda Lambert’s new album so much I contemplated moving to Nashville to write about country music. How could someone write so specifically about her divorce while not actually writing about her divorce, and with words that I felt like I could so acutely relate to, even though I’ve never really loved and lost? She’s a genius, folks.

Hey, y’all!

I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a blog for close to a year now. I keep coming up with a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t start one, but they all boil down to this: I’m afraid. I’m afraid of looking stupid to my journalism friends, I’m afraid of being an over-sharer, I’m afraid of grammar mistakes, I’m afraid of not being “on-brand” enough. I’m afraid I won’t be consistent. The list goes on. I only want to come off as the most smart, poised, eloquent writer a 25-year-old can be.

To be so cliched: I’ve let the fear of striking out keep me from playing the game. And frankly, I’m tired of it. So, here I am, in the arena. Bear with me while I work out the kinks of this page and try to establish what works for me. Lord knows there is going to be some trial and error.

Bailey Jean at Brave Love Blog has been hosting a September blogging challenge, where she has a writing prompt for every day this month, and she’s been so kind as to include a link-up at the bottom of her posts each day. I figured this would be a great way to meet some bloggers and get some easy posts out there quickly. Clearly I’m behind, and I won’t catch up with all of them, but day 1 was to introduce yourself, so a few bullet points about me:
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  • I live and love in Dallas. I grew up in a suburb about 25 minutes north of downtown, and now I live in a little apartment that I’m obsessed with, with my roommate and her super cute pup.
  • I’m a little too obsessed with my alma mater, the University of Missouri, also known as Mizzou. It was such an incredible place to spend my college years. You’ll hear me talking about it on here often, I’m sure. This is a photo of the iconic columns on the quad. I spent many afternoons sipping coffee while studying either in the journalism buildings on the quad’s north end, or when the weather was nice, on the columns themselves. It was just as picturesque in person as in this photo. I can assure you. screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-3-48-57-pm
  • I have a really close-knit group of friends from high school. Most of us know each other from marching band (we were the coolest), and about once a year we try to take a trip to a new city together. This spring we visited Portland, Ore., Mount Rainier, Wash., and Seattle. I’m proud to know them, and I’m so proud of us for keeping in touch through the years even though our lives have put us in a few different cities and states.
  • I’m really passionate about personal finance. I am one of the lucky few whose parents paid for my college tuition, meaning I graduated debt free (HUGE BLESSING. THANK YOU AGAIN, MOM AND DAD), and I want to stay as close to that as possible. Even though I’m single, I have the very real goal to save for a downpayment on a house or condo in the next few years, and slowly but surely, I’m making it happen. Mint.com is my FAVORITE budgeting tool. I can talk about personal finance for hours, so I’ll spare you now and probably write a post on it later.
  • I majored in magazine journalism and am lucky enough to work in that industry post-graduation. I love words and stories and how powerful they are in every aspect of our lives.
  • SEC Football gives me life.
  • Recently I’ve gotten into hiking/backpacking/camping. I went on my first backpacking trip last October to Caprock Canyon in West Texas, and it was magical. I learned so much about myself during that trip, and I’ve been dreaming about my next one ever since. I’m happiest when I’m outside. screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-4-10-27-pm

 

That’s all for now, folks! Thanks for reading.