Think Of Your Closets

If I had to choose one piece of advice to offer young people at this very moment, it would be: Don’t be a pack-rat. And if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to be a pack-rat, make sure to be an organized one.

Because one day you might find yourself eight-months pregnant, with two small children to care for, sifting through box after bag after box of your worldly possessions to make room for your mother-in-law and all of her worldly possessions.

You might find yourself putting all of your (admittedly, modest) energies into this work (and laundry – there will always be laundry), only to look around and count no less than 20 boxes and bags left to go. Just in one room.

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It looks more organized than it actually is: that cedar chest is packed full of junk.

And you’ll know that you can’t simply chuck all the boxes and bags, because for years you had no discernable organizational system and you have no idea what’s in them. You might recall that you once found your high school diploma in a box of junk mail.

You’ll likely realize that you won’t actually finish the task on this, your 26th round of attempting it, but you have to try, because with the impending addition of the mother-in-law and the baby, you’re running out of places to hide your stuff.

You might, ten years or so down the road, finally learn to rein in your pack-rat tendencies. They might not even be obvious to your future friends, because you’ll be so determined to be rid of them (the tendencies, not the friends) that you’ll refuse to allow clutter a permanent home in your main living spaces.

But your spare rooms and attics and closets will tell on you.

For once you build up that backlog of stuff, only moves and additions to the family and New Year’s resolutions will push you into tackling it.

Take it from me, the so, so tired pregnant lady who’s done eight loads of laundry today (in case it makes me seem any less ridiculous, please know that some loads included things like basinet and car seat liners) and who has at least another ten loads waiting in the wings.

The same tired pregnant lady who needs to figure out where to temporarily stick a dozen boxes and bags o’ junk (plus a big pile on the floor) so that furniture can be rearranged tomorrow. And who will, once all the furniture is in its proper place, still need to either sift through the junk or find permanent hiding spaces for it.

Trust me, this is not how you want to be spending your last days before welcoming a new baby (and a mother-in-law) into your family. This is not an oh-so-sweet round of “nesting.” There’s nothing fun about boxes of credit card offers, old magazines, and expired coupons.

Do yourself a favor and take my advice: Don’t be a pack-rat. Resist the temptation. Think of your future moves and babies and mothers-in-law. Think of your closets.

You’re welcome.

Sweet, Sweet Progress: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 12

I thought I’d take a brief break from the land of Making-Preparations-For-The-Impending-Arrival-Of- Mother-In-Law-And-New-Baby to sit down and type out a little progress report on that whole thing and a couple of others.

The good news is that we are, in fact, making progress. And oh, how sweet it feels. There’s nothing like productivity to tamp down the sense of panic rising in my chest.

We found out about the change in Brennan’s mom’s move-in date (from the end of May to the end of March) the weekend before last. At the time, our house was pretty much a wreck. The future nursery was so full of stuff that you could barely walk through it (which was problematic, as you have to pass through the room to get from one end of our second floor to the other). Our bedroom was overflowing with baskets of clean, unfolded laundry and my (absurdly large) handy-dandy laundry sorting unit was overflowing with heaps of dirty laundry. Our long-dead Christmas tree was still up and mostly decorated. And the rest of our main floor was also decked with dusty Christmas décor.

But now…

{pretty}

Look! Nothing Christmasy! This room is as ready for spring as I am.

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The tree is down and out, its ornaments have been packed and stored, and nearly all the rest of the Christmas stuff has been put away too. Thank goodness. How good for the spirit, to not be constantly dragged down by seasonally-inappropriate reminders of just how behind you are.

{happy}

Our Room O’ Junk has been turned into… a room o’ less junk. In just over a week, it (the future nursery, that is) went from this:

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To this:

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Laundry has been washed and folded and put away, too-small children’s clothing has been sorted, baby clothes have been pulled out (still awaiting their own turn in the washer), items have been removed to their proper places, (some) papers have been gone through, and (most of) our baby gear has been stacked in one corner of the room. I’ve got a couple more days to finish clearing out the space before Brennan’s buddy comes over this weekend to help him shuffle furniture between four different rooms on three different floors, and the garage.

Speaking of help… though I really, truly didn’t intend my last post to be interpreted as a plea for help (I meant it more like a, “Hey, people to whom I write about my life, guess what BIG things are going on in it right now?”), several dear friends offered help anyway. Krista and Mary and lovely, non-blogging others offered to occupy the boys so I could get things done. Betsy watched my two-year-old (yet again!) while I helped at my three-year-old’s preschool – and she even did my dishes. Another friend brought us lunch and carried heavy, bulky things up and down the stairs for me. She and others will take care of the boys during my slew of upcoming doctors’ appointments. And yet more folks will help us with the grunt work of moving things around before and after Brennan’s mom arrives.

These people are wonderful.

I admit that receiving so many offers of help makes me feel a little awkward and uncomfortable. It’s humbling. But it also fills me with so much gratitude. The fact is, I really am tired. And we really could use the help. When I offer help to others, it’s because I really want to help them. I’m genuine in my offers and I want them to be accepted. So I figure I should assume the same of others. (Note: Never offer me help just to be polite. Ha!)

I am so happy to be part of a family and a community of friends who don’t hesitate to lend a hand when one is needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear ones.

{funny}

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This is the antique dresser we bought the same weekend as the boys’ beds. Due to Brennan’s mom’s impending move, we’ve had to rethink a lot of furniture placement in the house. One of the funny (but really, very happy to me) results was to put what was to be the boys’ dresser in the dining room. (To which I say “Yay! It looks so pretty in this room! And Yay! Storage for dining room linens! And YAY! A non-plastic surface off of which to serve food!”)

The dresser’s marble top has been sitting upstairs in the Room O’ Junk ever since we bought it. I’ve been asking Brennan to bring it downstairs so I can just check this room off my list, already, but he doesn’t seem to think the task is anything near a priority. So the other day, I set this lamp on (in?) the dresser, hoping B would get the hint.

I think I’m going to have to just ask again.

{real}

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It’s all how you look at it, isn’t it? I still have so, so much to do.

{more progress, more phfr}

There has been progress on other fronts too. For one, there’s this very pretty, very happy little scene:

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How could I help but include it? I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see crocuses in my life. I’ve certainly never before waited on spring with such anticipation. This week we had days in the 60’s and even the low 70’s. I don’t care that today was blustery and back into the 30’s. Progress is progress!

Of course, there’s also the pregnancy. Here’s my latest belly pic – 35 weeks, taken last Sunday after mass.

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Besides the obvious size and weight progression, I’m really starting to feel like I’m getting close. I feel good,* but close. At yesterday’s ob appointment, my doctor reviewed my most recent sono results (big ol’ baby), noted the (big ol’) size of my last baby, and said that as long as I’m sufficiently dilated, they’ll plan to induce me at 39 weeks.

Exciting stuff! (I’m totally fine with an induction. I needed Pitocin for both of my boys and did just fine with it. I honestly won’t know what to do with myself if contractions begin on their own this time around.) Also – ACK! I’ll be 36 weeks tomorrow, so I’m facing the real likelihood that I’ll be having this baby within the next three weeks, or thereabouts.

Between Hilde’s arrival in just over a week and that news from my ob, this is all starting to feel very… real.

*I think it’s funny that I’m still feeling (mostly) so comfortable this go-round. Though my weight is tracking right where it did with the other two pregnancies, and though I popped out very quickly this time, I feel like my expansion has slowed recently. Or at the very least, I must be carrying this baby and much of my weight differently than I did with the other two, because I just don’t feel as large. I can turn over in bed, I can sit comfortably, I can (even 50 pounds up from my wedding-day weight) still wear my wedding rings, I can cross my legs, and (this is the real kicker) I can still breathe. I swear, this still-breathing-normally-at-36-weeks thing is just… amazing… liberating… wonderful.

Thank goodness. It’s hard enough slogging through most of your random, pushed-aside possessions while you’re dragged down by fatigue. What a relief that my body is otherwise cooperating!

Okay, that’s enough from me. Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for other, less rambling looks at the {pretty, happy, funny, real} this week had to offer. And take care!

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The Thing About Having A Full Plate

This past weekend, my situation was clarified for me: I have quite the full plate at the moment. It’s not full of bad things or scattered, abstract things or things that are worth wasting time worrying about. It’s full of two big, hearty, substantial portions of meat, if you will. Two portions that simply must be dealt with. Now.

Here’s the deal: I’m due to have my third baby in a little over five weeks. And like all expectant couples, my husband and I have a lot to do before the little guy arrives. Here’s our (conservative, whittled-down-to-the-bare-minimum) list, because I’m a list-maker:

  • Finish the bigger boys’ Big Boy Room.
  • Transform this mess (I’m not even exaggerating, am I?) into a nursery/guest room/laundry sorting space/catch-all room.

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  • Do all that baby-readying stuff like washing baby clothes and linens, digging the baby gear out of the attic, cleaning it, etc.
  • Clean out the minivan and rearrange the seats and car seats.
  • Pack overnight bags for myself and the boys.
  • Put away the Christmas decorations. (What?! It’s only March.)
  • Deal with no fewer than a dozen boxes of papers and junk.
  • Move/construct no fewer than 20 pieces of furniture. (That job is reserved for the hubby, which would be obvious to you if you could see the way I’m waddle-limping around the house these days.)

What’s with the last two, you ask? Why would any sensible person tackle tasks like that a month before having a baby? Well, it’s because having a baby is just one of the Big Life Changes we’re preparing for right now. It’s just one of those substantial pieces of meat I was referencing.

We’re also about to welcome my mother-in-law into our home. Permanently. Brennan’s stepfather passed away in January, prompting Brennan’s mother’s need to find a new place to live. So she’s moving here, all the way from Minnesota.

While we’re aware that this new living situation will involve a tremendous adjustment for all of us, we’re confident that we’re doing the right thing. And we look forward to many wonderful things about having Hilde (pronounced “Hildy”) living with us. (First and foremost, our boys will actually get to know their grandmother! Currently, they only get to see her once a year. Also, you know how newborns want to be held at all times? Solution: Grandma!)

The original plan was for Hilde to arrive at the beginning of June. But now it looks like she’ll be here in… two-and-a-half weeks. So it’s not like we even have five whole weeks to accomplish the tasks on that list. For most of them, we’ve just got 2.5.

Two! Point! Five! To ready our home and household for two new people. With one of the primary workers partially incapacitated by third-trimester fatigue, a big huge belly, and a bum hip joint. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a full plate.

But the thing about having a full plate, I’ve found, is that it tends to do what it did for me this past weekend: clarify things. All-of-a-sudden, necessary things are made more obvious and unnecessary things fade into the background. You (or at least I) become more business-like, more matter-of-fact about what you need to do. Those tasks that have been swimming languidly along in your mind for months are suddenly lined up, alert, standing at the ready.

So, despite my fatigue (and another annoying post-nasal-drip, sore-throat thing), I’m ready to get this thing done. Yesterday afternoon, I finally finished up a task that I’d left hanging for months. A handful of more afternoons like that and we’ll be in good shape.

At this point in the game, I’ve got to believe that all this is doable. I don’t have the luxury of worrying about it or letting it overwhelm me. I’ve just got to move forward with purpose and determination… and love. We’ll get there. And we’re doing it for a good reason, for people we love.

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Also, do you want to know a little bonus about having this particular kind of a full plate? I’ve been thinking so much about logistics in the past few days that I haven’t had any time at all to devote to the subject that had been lurking in my mind, making me uneasy: labor and delivery. Let’s just put that one off as long as possible, shall we?

Big Boy Room in Progress: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 10

Before I was married, whenever I moved into a new place I felt like I needed to get settled right away. No sooner had the moving truck pulled away, than I’d be unpacking boxes and figuring out where to hang things on the walls. But now that I have a husband and two (soon-to-be-three) small children, I no longer have the freedom to do what I want in that respect. I’ve got to, you know, make sure my household actually functions before I can decorate it. And even once we’re functioning normally, the decorating and unpacking of pretty stuff has to take a back seat to the care of little ones and the availability of my built-in handyman (a.k.a. husband).

So, a year-and-a-half after moving into this house, we still have a long way to go before it’s arranged the way I want it. We (and by “we” I really mean “Brennan”) have painted three rooms, re-finished the floor in another room, rolled out two new rugs (no carpeting in this house! zilch!), and hung precisely one art print. (We do have a few other things on the walls, but only where nails already were. Eventually, we’ll likely move those things around.)

With every step forward, I experience a little thrill of delight.

So this week? Thrilling. Work on converting the boys’ haphazard nursery into a Big Boy Room has commenced! Here are some “before” pics. Note the sickly green walls with nothing hung on them, the still-packed boxes and bins, and the bare floor.

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This past weekend I took the boys up to my parents’ house to give Brennan a little space while he worked on the room. He completed the drywall in the closet, he moved things, he cleaned, he painted, and now…

{pretty}

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Isn’t it pretty? Okay, maybe it’s not actually {pretty} to anybody but me, but I just about swoon every time I walk into that room now, even though it is still full of messy tarps and other painting gear. And even though all the furniture (which will be moved to the new nursery before long) is still shoved to the middle of the room. The new color (Valspar Oat Bran) just seems so much fresher and calmer and more dignified to me. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the boys’ new beds and bedding and rug and art prints and reading chair and toys. I! Can’t! Wait!

{happy}

Besides the paint color (which, in case you didn’t pick up on it, makes me so happy), there are all the other elements of the room that are so close to coming together. There are the beds. (Update: Brennan’s now acquired the stuff he needs to build the sideboards. Hopefully he’ll get them together soon.) There is the rug (fluffy! soft! wonderful to play on!) and the bedding (bright but not babyish!) There are a couple of fun art prints (though there’s a good bit more to do in that department.) There’s the big, comfy reading chair that my parents sent home with us this weekend. {Happy, happy!}

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{funny}

The boys and I (especially the boys) had some good fun at my parents’ house this weekend. My dad, who is exceptionally good with kids (we used to joke that he’s like the pied piper in grocery stores: all the little kids would ditch their parents and follow him around if they could), was a great sport as usual. He wrestled and tickled and played ball and allowed himself to be buried under pillows, jumped on, and half-smothered by his excitable little grandsons. That last part was so {funny} that I could barely bring myself to stop the boys, I was laughing so hard. (I was doing that whole silent laugh thing, where you can barely catch your breath, let alone speak.) It was good for all of us, that fun time with the grandparents. (And cousins! My nieces came over too, leading my older son to proclaim them “Da BEST!”)

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Grandpa triumphs!

Grandpa triumphs!

{real}

Just in case the glimpses of spattered paint tarps and jumbled furniture weren’t {real} enough for you, here are some more photos of the fallout from the big painting project. I don’t care, though! It could be five times worse (don’t tell Brennan) and I wouldn’t care. Because the boys’ room is being worked on! And progress is being made! And soon the boys will have a completed room, designed just for them, with plenty of comfortable space to play.

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I’m so excited.

Be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter to get a look at other’s contentment this week. Though I’m sure none of it is nearly as exciting as tarps and paint cans and a new color on little boys’ walls. Consider yourself warned.

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An Honest Little Vignette of Home

I had a good but exhausting day today. We seem to have spent most of it running in and out of the car in frigid temperatures. (The boys actually, literally cried this morning when we left the house, they were so cold.)

We went to preschool, to home, to preschool, to pick up lunch, to drop the boys off at my grandparents’, to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment, to my old workplace, to my board meeting, back to my grandparents’ to pick up the boys (who were melting down for reasons like “I can’t believe you drained the water off my mandarin oranges!” and “I know I lost my mittens but you must make them materialize immediately! I am absolutely bereft without them!”), and then back to home.

By the time we came home at 9pm and I had lugged the 40-pound three-year-old inside, upstairs and into bed, I was DONE. I laid down on the sofa with the annoyingly-still-awake two-year-old and waited for Daddy to come home to put him to bed. My husband then woke me up at 10pm from my sofa-slumber for leftovers that he had lovingly heated up for us. Ah, this is the life…

Just now as I walked through the kitchen to put the leftovers back into the fridge, my eyes scanned my counters, completely covered with dirty dishes, empty cans, and boxes of food; my sink, full-to-the-brim with disgusting, days-dirty dishes; my floor, bearing piles of vomit-clothing, pee-clothing, toys, and stuff. And I thought of my family room, which is coated with a layer of toys and dust and dusty toys. And the rest of my house, which contains yet more piles of vomity laundry, not to mention a still-half-decorated, supremely crispy Christmas tree.

Why in the world am I telling you this?

Probably, in part, because I’m suffering some sort of exhaustion-induced delirium. Also because I thought tonight’s scene provided an honest little vignette of life in our home. I offer it up for any time I seem too preachy on self-help or something similarly nauseating.

Also – and this is probably the most sincere answer – because I want your opinion: A kitchen so covered in dishes that you can’t function in it means just one thing, right? One simply must take one’s children out for breakfast in the morning. The poor little dears shouldn’t suffer such a sight, should they? Rather, they should be strapped into their car seats as soon as they wake and whisked off to some fast-food establishment, where they can be stuffed with breakfast-appropriate fats and sugars. Right? RIGHT?

Please leave your answers in the comment section. But only if they’re in the affirmative.

P.S. Don’t worry, aunts and other worriers – I promise I’m nowhere near a breaking point. I’ve actually had some lovely little breaks lately, including the several child-less hours this afternoon. I’m just tired. Normal tired. Now, off to bed with me!

Monday Morning Miscellany (Vol. 6)

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I promised myself that I would stick something, even if just a bunch of miscellany, on the blog every Monday morning. I like myself some fresh reading material on Monday mornings, when I’m working to recover from the weekend and gear myself up for the week ahead. I thought perhaps you good people would too.

But more Mondays than not lately, it seems, I’ve written nothing. I blame morning sickness. And boys. But mostly morning sickness. Now that that fog is (hopefully? please?) beginning to lift, I’m trying to get back into it. I’ll start with a couple of updates:

— 1 —

That whole fiery, electrical knives stabbing me in the side of the head thing? In case any of you (maybe as many as two or three?) were wondering, it’s been resolved. I gave in and took myself to the doctor’s on Friday, who diagnosed my usual nemesis: sinus infection. She said that the faulty sinus was probably pressing on a nerve, thus all the burning, shocking, stabbing pain. Three days into my five-day antibiotic, I’m feeling worlds better. What a relief!

— 2 —

I still haven’t read that America piece on the Pope. Maybe this afternoon? After I’m done I’ll have to read a handful of the reactions/explanations, to get a little lay of the land on the controversy. I’ve been holding off on these pieces until I take a look at the original. Which is, I think, a good thing to do. Except that by the time I finally get through it all, I’ll be a good week behind everybody else. Such is how I roll.

— 3 —

My three-year-old had a massive temper tantrum on Sunday – possibly his worst ever. It couldn’t help but make me think of Ana and her girls’ expert tantrum-throwing abilities. (My sympathies, Ana!) But I have to admit that, ugly as it was, I couldn’t help but find some humor in the whole thing. Mostly because of the underlying reason for this tantrum: he did not want to be home.

This kid never wants to be home; every time we’re out somewhere, whether a play date or the doctor’s office, he wants to stay. In fact, he has never once asked to go home. Ever since he was a baby, he has fussed and whined (or worse) as we drive into our neighborhood. He knows the signs: x scenery = almost home. Nooooo!

This Sunday’s tantrum started on our way home from church, when the little guy asked, “Can we get wunch on da way home?” He didn’t like our answer. So we heard variations of “Wunch! I wan wunch out! Not at home! Don’t go home! Picnic wunch! Wunch at park! Paaarrrk! Go back! Not home! Stop! Stop dwiving, Mommy!” (when I wasn’t even the one driving) punctuated with sobs, for our entire twenty minute drive. He grew absolutely desperate as we came up the driveway: “NO! STOP! DON’T! GO BACK!”

We had to wrestle him out of the car seat (he tried to stop us from unbuckling him) and drag him into the house while he tried to throw himself on the ground and/or escape down the driveway. It only got worse when we came inside. He was inconsolable: lots more shouting and sobbing and thrashing around on the floor and trying to get out of the house.

I suppose I’m fortunate in that tantrums have no power over me. I think I see them as something distinct and separate that (so long as no one is getting hurt), I can just ignore. I tend to just zone out and wait for them to end. But I could tell that this one was starting to get to my husband, so I tried to calm my boy down. I held him on my lap and did my sweetest best, but it was no good. I finally had to carry him upstairs and put him in his crib. (Yes, he’s still in a crib. Yes, he’s three. I like to keep them contained as long as possible.)

Anyway, to make a long story less long, I’ll just say that the crib only served to kick his tantrum up a notch. He went wild. I’ve never heard him scream like that: I thought he’d lose his voice. But he also began to tire himself out. So after a while, I was able to bring him downstairs and start feeding him his “wunch” and the tantrum finally, finally broke. Whew.

— 4 —

There were, however, two upshots to the tantrum. First, this:

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They almost looked drugged, don’t they? My mom says it looks like I slipped something in their milk. But on my honor, I swear that it was nothing more than a missed nap on the little one’s part and The Big Tantrum on the big one’s.

— 5 —

But better than that short-break-because-the-boys-fell-asleep-on-the-sofa: we got a dinner invitation out of the tantrum! Woo-hoo! I complained about it on Facebook (of course) and one of my aunts commented something to the effect of: “Don’t make dinner tonight, Julie. Come over here. We’re eating at 5:30.”

Seriously? I complain about a tantrum and a boy who doesn’t want to be home and we get a dinner offer out of it? Yes, please! It was great: lots of yummy food, adult conversation, and lots of space and toys and cousins for my boys to run around with. I love this living-near-family thing. I did not grow up with it, but I feel oh so lucky to have it now. Thanks again, Aunt Barb!

— 6 —

To shift gears quite a bit here, what awful news we got this weekend from around the world, didn’t we? First (and still!) the attack on the mall in Nairobi, Kenya. And then yesterday, the attack on the Christian church in Peshawar, Pakistan. At least 60 people have been killed in the former, at least 80 were killed in the latter. Such horror. To suffer a shocking, sustained tragedy on what you thought would be a cheerful Saturday? It’s almost unimaginable. And worse yet, to be targeted in church, while you were worshipping God? It’s a special kind of horrible.

Do you know what I regret at this moment? I regret my reactions to these two terrible events. I normally feel such things acutely; they normally get to me regardless of how far away they seem. But this time, my reaction was muted. I said a few prayers, but mostly, I didn’t want to think about it. I was tired of tragedy. After Egypt and Syria and the anniversaries of September 11 and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, after the Navy Yard shooting last week, after hearing of a few very sad local deaths and incidents, I guess I was just tired of grieving.

I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to be numb to sad news and indifferent to others’ suffering. There’s quite a lot I need to work on right now, spiritually. I’ll be adding this one to the list.

Please, join me in praying for those affected by the awful attacks in Kenya and Pakistan.

— 7 —

Have a good week, everyone. I’m hopeful for a brightness, a lifting of my own mood. And I hope to be back in this space a few times in the coming days. ‘Till then, be well.