Saturday, January 27, 2018

February Fast

February, I see you coming.  You look all clean and sparkly new to me right now.  You look like a good thing waiting to happen.  I like your style: short and to the point, pretending to ignore the soul crushing bitterness of your wintery depths. 

But I'll take your highs-in-the mid-nothings weather with the chance of snowsleethail and sun for a few minutes here and there.  I loathe your weather but I like your get-to-it determination: 28 days and done. 

That's a reasonable amount of days to do what I have heretofore declared to be a fasting month for get behind me gigantor credit card bills!  This whirling confluence of money-down-the-drain needs to end and NOW.  It's not like there haven't been good reasons for spending money in the last year.
*pre-moving costs money
*moving itself costs money
*post-moving costs a shocking amount of money
*life continues and pretends that you didn't move and, oh yes, also costs money

We've had some expected stuff do its expected thing and happen.  We've had some unexpected stuff make me grumble. And it's a good time to have neither of those happen for a whole month.  So I omnisciently declared to the boy today that February was going to be our return to equilibrium.  If I say it, will it no be so?  I've no faith in my divining skills, but I've got a feeling in the words of the prophetic Black Eyed Peas that this month's gonna be a good good month.

But, I've also said that before.

I declare there shall be no more cracks in teeth that need to be replaced.
I declare that there shall be no more washing machines that leek everywhere only to stop leeking once their replacement has been hastily purchased.
I declare that there shall be no more please-pay-large-lump-sums-up-front payments for a bit of early morning drop off supervision.
I declare that there shall be no more conversations with the boy when he says "We need to buy 4 new tires and we need to do it 6 months ago."
I declare that there shall be no more 3-year-rabies-shot-and-we-should-probably-do-senior-bloodwork vet appointments. 

All valid.  I begrudge none of them.  But this is taking more trickery to stem the tide than usually happens. 

Oh, and our first true winter electricity bill for a 2-story house (read heat-sucking, how-do-we-manage-the-different-temperate-zones?!? house) landed today.  Sometimes I groan when I get a bill.  And then sometimes, I laugh (because the children were around and I can't afford the therapy when I traumatize them with my massive sobbing).  I might have, in all honesty, entertained the thought for a brief moment that maybe we should move back to a more conducive heating situation.  But that would just promulgate the pre & post moving expenses.  So that idea got chucked quickly. 

We're digging this new arrangement, we really are.  The sticker shock is taking some getting used to, so BRING IT ON FEBRUARY.  Hello, (c)old friend.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cheers to you, new year

2017 started out like this.  And color me old and set in my ways, but 2018 'aint lookin' much different.  But here's what I'm thinking this year:

*I really dig the concept of the "word of the year" for people.  Even if that word has something of a negative or lacking connotation like "NO" or "LESS" or "SILENCE," it still screams of introspection and repositioning, which is what I like to believe is what resolutions are all about.

*A few days ago, I was chatting with my person (i.e. once-a-year-for-20-minutes-while-we-do-all-the-prodding-and-poking confidante) about what's transpired since I last came in, and she asked me why I started running.  And who knew...I still don't know.  A year later, I still don't really like it.  But I also don't hate it. I don't enjoy sweat in my face and a shirt sticking to my back and tired, heavy legs.  But it always puts some pep in my step when I have that surprisingly easy, extra long run.  I like the routine and I like that I can feel ab muscles.  But otherwise...SHRUG.  It just seems like the next part of adultish behavior and pulling myself out of the viscous morasse that was the third of my thirties.  It was an ugly four years, and I like me boatloads more right now, so I guess I'll just keep pounding that treadmill pavement and watching some episodes of Property Brothers and Sunday football.  (It also helped that I had a gym membership for DIRT CHEAP through one of the schools that I'm associated with - the perks of being an adjunct wallflower. 

*I need to figure out balance better this year and trust that saying no right now isn't shutting off all opportunities forever.  I taught 10 classes last semester between my full-time gig and my part-time gigs (plural...crazy town). 

*Green tea is what it is, but it's a habit now and so there's that.  I'm still not going to pay top dollar for what is surely better tasting tea leaf bits.  But I am a fan of the citrusy varieties.

*It's OK to spend money on experiences.  We need to do this more.  And, my child needs to get over throwing up in the car on the way to/from these experiences.  That's always a drag.

*I need to take the first step.  No one else is.  I'm too willing to be passive in a new situation and wait for the masses to land at my doorstep.  They won't.

So that's where I'm at - still dipping the toes in some unfamiliar waters and finding them tepid and generally comfortable.  It's been overall delightful to have new scenery and new situations to figure out, though.  We're probably not at our forever solution but rather our next chunk of life situation.  I'm OK with that.  The boy is OK with that.  And the girls are thriving with that.  I'm cheering you on, 2018.  Don't drop the ball 'cause the momentum is on our side.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Feeling all the shades of grey

I never admitted this to our real estate agent but... of the most attractive parts of the house that we bought was the grey slathered everywhere.  For me, this is zen-chocolate-happiness in textured wall form. 

Here's the shallow skinny: I love the color grey.  I have a hard time visualizing changes that I would make to a space.  So, when the grey is all up and everywhere, I see things.  Shiny things.  Pretty things.  Whispery moment things.

And the trim is all white.  ALL OF IT.

There's just so much warm fuzzies in the many shades of grey, especially the medium-ish, charcoal-ish ones.  Color me mellow and subdued.

But herein lies the greyge rub.  When we are furnituring a few nooks and crannies, my eye still draws itself to the greys.  All of the beautiful greys.  Greys are just delightfully homey and neutral.  And if I'm a'gonna put down a few hundo on a chair or loveseat ('cause I don't do used fabric things with other peoples' skin cells and pet hair and who knows what all stuck in the creases and crevices), then I am hesitant to commit to crazy color and patterns are my no-go-thanks-but-not-today.  Because I don't know how to do them.

My space is the very definition of greyge (which is, apparently, one of the terms that "kids these days" are saying...even when my very outfit is exactly what they're making fun of), and I'm all in.  Do come over.  I have tea and warm blankets (and wait until I write the sequel to this very exciting update about paint colors, all about how the upstairs is warmer than the downstairs...scintillating reading), and I have comfortable chit-chat at the ready.  Give grey a chance and let it wrap you in a warm, velvety hug.

Also, I am almost 1 week into my no-grading-for-all-of-winter-break respite, and the things I can do with my evenings...!!!
1.  read
2.  crosswords
3.  stare at my grey walls
4.  pet something soft
5.  watch as many episodes of TV shows that I've already seen before but am getting caught up in again
6.  luxuriate in the feeling of what nearly everyone else must feel on a regular basis

That's living large in greys-ville. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

What I know now and will subsequently share

Good peeps, it's been a while (again), but now that I've unearthed myself from the constant onslaught that is grading for 8 writing classes, I'm here to boldly share forth some pearls of wisdom overt understandings that probably everyone else know but to which I am probably late to the game.  I've been dwelling on some of these lately in my morning get-ready-to-go time.  At 5 in the morning, they're bound to be insightful.

1.  My children will be happily playing or busy on a completely different layer of the house (I've been told that most people refer to these as "floors," but as this is my first 2-story that I've ever really lived in and I'm learning here), but as soon as I close my door ever so quietly in order to change (morning or evening), there's a little person who needs a) me, b) the cat or c) nothing at all, but they obviously don't agree that I need some space occasionally.  So, I've learned that my children have super sonic hearing.  They are able to hear the sound of me thinking about changing.  I'm wondering how to use this to my advantage.

2.  I only have 1 pair of jeans, and frankly, this is usually more than enough seeing as how I wear them about once every other week for "payday Friday jeans day."  But then comes the difficult we're-gone-for-three-days-visiting-family-over-the-holidays situation, and I'm trying to decide what the best situation is when considering other pants situations need to be casual but not work-out casual, cohesive to the shoe situation so that I don't have to take an entire array of footwear, and not too tight because holiday food.  So, I've learned that 1 pair can do 'ya if you consider the whole situation.

3.  At the in-law Thanksgiving event, a great-aunt-in-law was there, and a delightful, kind woman she is.  But like so many people of a certain age, the talk inevitably came back around to "Don't work so much because your kids will only be young once."  And this was when she misunderstood me to say that I am teaching part-time.  The boy, who is actually related to this woman and who naturally works full-time as well, was standing right beside me and didn't get "the talk."  I was reminded that we (unfairly so) assume that a person (inevitably a woman) who works is forsaking her family time; I feel pretty strongly that my 5 AM grading time doesn't negatively influence my appreciation of my daughters' childrenhoodness and our time together.   So, I've learned that these things don't always bother me because I KNOW BETTER but still, here's to hoping that I won't do that to other women-people someday (knowingly).

4.  The other day, the Younger was beside me, looking at a picture of me holding her up & both of us laughing when she was 1-year old.  She studied that picture a moment and finally, we had this conversation. 
The Younger:  "I like your face." 
Me:  "I like your face, too."
TY:  "I mean I like your body."
M:  "I like your body, too."
TY:  I mean I like how you look in that picture."
M:  nothing because my heart melted a bit
So, I learned (again) that kids are fantastic and honest and five is a really great age.

5.  My mom got a dog.  This is NEWS.  I have known this lady for coming up on 35 years now and not once before 2 months ago can I recall hearing her mention "Gee whiz, I really wish that I had a dog."  No, no.  I would promise you ten times out of ten that my mom is a cat person because guess what we've always had since I was a scrappy little 3-ish something?  Fine, furry felines.  And my mom, she has loved her cats.  But, she got a dog.  She searched and researched until she found the perfect little mutt for her, and Sadie is a keeper.  However.  My children, namely The Elder, has a I-love-them-deeply-but-only-from-a-distance obsession with dogs stemming from the warring emotions that come from being a true lover of animals but also a girl who still harbors that guttural fear of having a BIG Saint Bernard WOOF in her face when she was 2 and having a neighbor's frisky German Shepard full-sized-puppy chase her when she was 6-ish because he thought they were playing and she disagreed.  My children truly sequestered themselves in the opposite side of the house when forced to came to terms with my mom's utterly lovable 6-month old miniature schnauzer (or "snauzsher" as The Younger says), a true love-you-to-death-with-hugs-and-kisses kind of a dog.  But, we prevailed and talked about the correct way to approach a dog.  AND, once The Younger had had enough of following The Elder's lead and boldly determined that she was just going to have to meet this little pups, The Elder tucked tail and followed.  Lo and behold, the girls a-d-o-r-e Sadie, and the feeling is oh. so. mutual.  We are now drawing pictures of Sadie.  Talking about Sadie.  And, planning Christmas presents for Sadie.  So, I've learned that my children can be brave after all.  We had faith in them all along.

6.  My new gym (because cold weather, folks & these lungs aren't made for that) comes complete with a 30-something white male who thinks that a good workout is about an hour's worth of running AT FULL SPEED (right around a 9 or 9.2 out of the highest speed of 10 on the treadmill - as a point of comparison, when I am well warmed up and running at my fastest, I'm usually top out my run around a 6.7 or 6.8 and that's around a 9-minute mile).  Except that he doesn't run the whole time but stands there for 30-seconds or a minute looking intently at his phone after every 2 or 3 minutes of running.  And, he's really loud.  Plus, sweat flies off of him.  It thoroughly distracts me from my enjoyment of whatever HGTV shennanigans and ESPN hijinks are on.  So, I've learned to avoid the 5:00-6:00 hour like the plague.

7.  One night, I psyched myself out from running when it was cold and 7:30 and I'd had a full day already.  The boy convinced me to use his yoga for runners DVD instead.  I love me some yoga on many a day, but never in my very existence will down-facing-dog bring me joy and inner peace.  It is death.  So, I've learned to never trust a yoga instructor who chirpily adds that "This is a resting position..." AND to understand that my shoulders will be sore-baby-sore after that sess. 

8.  Since we've moved here, I've paid almost a month's mortgage in late fees at the public library.  So, I've learned that living 10 minutes away from the library means I never go there now.  Or something.  This may really be our new norm.

And that reminded me that I had books due today.  And didn't renew them.  So wrap it up, Eunice and get thee to an online renewal option.  Oy oy oy vey.   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Little Miss Spunk

Well, the boy and I took the next big step in our relationship and committed to join the last decade, and we get iPhones.  I know, good people of the techno-webs, I can’t believe with our fast-paced track record of committing to all things up and coming that we only waited 10 years go fall into one of these smart phone situations.  It’s still kind of a shiny and weird, unfamiliar thing in my hand, but it was helpful that one time I took it grocery shopping.  So there’s that. 
(Imagine this…a portable, hand-held device with these crazy little application thing-a-ma-jigs that let you do things like remember your grocery list.  On demand.)
But piffle...who wants to hear about my gold, glittery case that I found on clearance.  That makes for super exciting dullsville reading.
Instead, I have a story about my favorite 5-year old. 
One day, the little squirt wasn’t in the pick-up line where she was supposed to be, but we quickly found her on her bus ready to go.  She had a sub in her class that day who accidentally got her transportation situation mixed-up.  The principal found her and brought her over to my car, but she was just holding it all in. 
The next day, I did need her to ride the bus home.  Her teacher was double checking to make sure that my little bit was getting on the bus but missed her in the organized chaos that is a hundred kids getting on buses.  She called in back-up (the principal – a really great guy), who got on the bus to personally ensure that my child was where she needed to be.  He called her name and my child, my little Spunky McGee who was at the back of the bus, stood up in the aisle, put her little fists on her little hips and loudly stated “My mommy TOLD ME I’m supposed to be on the bus today!”  He smirked (I’m sure), replied “Okay!” and reported that all was well to the chiclet’s teacher. 
My kid.  My second born.  My little mini me.  She’s got some sort of spiff about her that already defies my logic. 
This will be one of the pinnacle moments of my parenting life to hear my child first stand up and declare herself present and aware.  I have no doubt that this will be one of those moments I repeat to her again and again when I’m old and shriveled-y.  
And on that note, I will share that I’m full-on developing wrinkles.  I may not have grey hairs yet, but ye olde face isn’t as young and smooth(ish) as it once was of yore.  I think the good remembering things like a plucky daughter are bunching up and making me smile more.  It’s hard not to smile.

Monday, October 16, 2017

DC-ing is hard work

Well.  This weekend didn't go as planned.  We're in the middle of Fall Break right now (capitalized, of course...should maybe be FALL BREAK!!! though), and this was that weekend that I've been looking forward to since I knew of its very existence back in the middle of August.  High expectations, I guess, are bound to flame out.  But, le sigh..., I really needed a mental break. 

Here's what I know.  I was set-up to enjoy essentially 3 days more or less by m-y-s-e-l-f to explore museums.museums.museums unencumbered by whining or anyone else's schedule.  It was 3 days of me-time to do me-time stuff however me wanted to do it.  I mean...SIGN ME UP, EUNICE. 

The boy was selected to attend and present at a 3-day conference for research educators in DC, which if you're reading between the lines as you should be, means that you too understand what I'm getting at here: free hotel room for me.  How fast can I buy a plane ticket for that situation?  Plus, he was getting fed all weekend, so it was really alls for me. 

While I didn't devote a lot of planning time prior to the trip to figuring out all of everything, there was some amount of pleasure in knowing that I could just go and figure it mostly out when I was there.  When I travel with kids, we're pretty scheduled so that we don't run into the unintentional melt downs that occur when you forgot to pack snacks for the impromptu trip to the wherever.  I keeps lists on top of schedules for kid-trips.  And that's cool.  BUT THIS WAS GOING TO BE COOLER.

I've never been to DC, mind you, and my recon work involved asking a couple of co-workers what I should do.  They all said "Go to the Holocaust Museum."  To which I thought "And, pray tell, what else shall I do with the other 66 hours of my weekend?  Give me more input, please."  The answer I should have gotten and will no give to any and all who ask is "Go to ____ and you won't be disappointed.  Really, just go to _____."  Let them fill in the blank because it is all, all so very worth it.  And the free-ness that abounds!  I do love me some free-ness (even if that means having your things frisked every time you walk in a building). 

Put on your walking shoes, though.  At one point on Sunday afternoon while the boy was waiting to catch his flight home and I was just getting to Arlington, I texted him a picture of my dress/legging/tennis shoes get-up which gracefully by default added 15 years to my age but comfort to my tootsies.  The much cuter leopard print flats were relegated to the backpack for that afternoon.  I knew that this would be an issue all weekend, but I'm still in my 30s sister-thren of the interweb!  Unite with me that cute feet are still a something to be wanting!

I did get a blister from those leopard print flats.  Sacrifice.

I'm all wonky right now in my timeline.  Back up with me a moment.  Here's a fun breakdown in 60-seconds or less. (but probably more)

Friday, 3:30 AM:  youngest daughter begins throwing think to yourself, "I have to get up in an hour and a half anyway, so I guess I'll just pretend to sleep"
Friday6:20 AM: get out of the house 20 minutes late with some amount of guilt at leaving your mom behind with 1 sick child, something she didn't sign up for but for which you assured your daughter that "Grandma knows how to take care of a sick little girl"
Friday 7:15 AM:  can't sign in at airport & are quickly told that you missed your flight
Friday 7:16 AM:  email confirms that your flight left 20 minutes ago & you mistakenly had in mind that the landing time was the departing time; begin to understand that this weekend is going to have issues
Friday 7:17 AM: agree to be on standby on 2 different flights (Indy-->Houston-->DC because that makes sense) in order to get in only 6 hours late rather than 10 hours late from original arrival time
Friday 11:07 AM: find good guac & chips because HOUSTON
Friday 3:38 PM:  trying to find boy, who's asking questions and am almost in tears because METRO
Friday 3:40 PM: find boy, get a hug, suck it up and begin the museum-ing
Friday 6:12 PM: boy walking quick-quick-quick back to hotel; trying to find food that's not from a chain restaurant but can easily be taken back to the hotel room to veg
Friday 8:22 PM: finish running on hotel treadmill which is noisy & has no closed captioning on the TV...blerg
Friday 9:00 PM: boy is done for the night with conference, says "Let's wait until tomorrow night for a date in the chic hotel bar"
Saturday 7:04 AM:  boy starts throwing up (see above, Thursday 3:30 AM); work to get the heck out of that hotel room ASAP-er than ASAP while covering ears with hands because gag
Saturday all the day: try not to feel naseous
Saturday all the day: 5 museums, 1 National Mall, 1 Capitol building, 1 Supreme Court building, 4 monuments
Saturday 6:18 PM: text boy (who's feeling better after updating vomit reports throughout the day...doesn't help in fighting the nausea) about internet check concerning burger & fries joint because maybe-maybe-maybe am hungry enough & that sounds better than anything else
Saturday 6:18 PM (concurrently): slogging back from furthest point of the day on sore-sore-sore feet while alternating between nausea/food/gag and hmm/supper/maybe?
Saturday 6:32 PM: opt for strawberry shake/cheeseburger/fries - walking all the day, deserve it, right?
Saturday 6:49 PM: halfway through shake, burger gone, fries not looking so great but f-r-i-e-s so give them a go
Saturday 6:53 PM: don't finish fries for the first time in this history of histories
Saturday 6:57 PM: tell boy to get the heck out of the bathroom, empty the wastebasket & bring a cold washcloth on the double hurry
Saturday 6:58-8:32 PM: alternate between cold tile of bathroom floor and uncomfortable pillows of bed watching Houston beat New York (great game!)
Saturday 8:33 PM: decide emergency is over and will live
Sunday 6:01 AM: made it through the night, happy sigh
Sunday all the day: worse nausea...not cool, universe
Sunday all the day: please-let-me-not-throw-up-in-____ [public location] & locate closest trash can when entering new room
Sunday all the morning:  cute animals at zoo! kids would like
Sunday 12:37 PM: drag out "lunch" with the boy so that he'll just sit for company a little longer before he has to catch his shuttle
Sunday 1:25 PM: decide to visit Arlington because it's on the way and then collapse at airport for whatever time is remaining...give in
Sunday hours of the PM:  glad am at Arlington where trudging is OK and silence is pervasive, also pleasant breeze, shadowy trees & occasional benches
Sunday 4:01 PM: figure out can't make it all the way back to airport on Metro as it should be because of maintenance and have to figure out a new shuttle situation
Sunday 4:52 PM: {on shuttle] driver: You in a hurry?  me: fortunately, no...  [traffic is vile; bus almost sideswipes or otherwise damages many, many vehicles...crazy DC driving]
Sunday 5:57 PM: not fun figuring out the maze of the huge airport while weary and bleck
Sunday 6:02 PM: order hummus and pita chips in hopes of keeping it down prior to flight, which is place that always induces weird nausea-y ness
Sunday 9:32 PM: missed shuttle stop...trudging again but in the dark and 20 degrees colder
Sunday 10:17 PM: home at last, home at last...youngest daughter just threw up again after 3 days of being all-clear

I give up.

It was a slog of a week to get to the weekend, which was supposed to be the relief.  It wasn't terrible but it wasn't great.  There was little fun food on a trip when I should have been having all of the fun food.  There was some fantastic art and history experiences but also the mobs of middle schoolers, which is just not where I was at, mentally.  And today, we let go of our fuzzy boy, and I've been highly weepy. 

So it's just an moment-by-moment situation right now, and all of it seems like too much work and too much thinking. 

But, I saw pandas for the first time, and I affirmed that yes, while I can figure out everything on my own, I really prefer to travel with the boy if for no other reason than I don't have to slog through the women's bathrooms with all of my stuff every time.

Also, my calves and right side continue to be surprisingly sore.  Figure that one out.

So it was a I'm-glad-it-happened-but-boy-was-it-work kind of weekend.  And even though finding a decent breakfast was just about the hardest thing ever, it'll be great to go back with the girls someday.  I think? I hope? I have faith that this can happen.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Shipt Wrecked

Sometimes, things seem great.  Sometimes, things seem to be worth the cost.  Sometimes, things make you think "Well, technology, you're becoming more worthwhile in my life." 

SHIPT.  You did seem great.  You did seem to be worth the cost (and perhaps then some).  You did make me reconsider my on-again-off-again love affair with technology (mostly off-again...seriously, I try to get over you and you keep hanging around and hanging around and making me think twice/thrice/fourthice about how much I should love you.

But bite.  Big time.

First blush - $100 a year to have someone else pick up my groceries for me and then deliver them to me?!?  I'm just about as cheap as they come with new-fangeled doo-hickies and thing-a-ma-bobs, but this seems like moolah well spent. 

We be cheap around this here place.  I do not own/use a smart phone.  The boy does not own/use a smart phone.  I hear that there's a new one coming out.  $1000.  That (doesn't) make sense.

Second blush - My new grocery store situation has expanded by a couple of possibilities, none of which are regularly not busy.  And, I don't have the luxury of much kid-free time to stroll happily up & down the aisles in my pixie chinos & wedges like one might see in a happy-camper advertisement.  My kids enjoy racing the shopping cart up and down the toothpaste aisles, talking LOUDLY even if I'm standing right behind them, and engaging in games of we'll-pretend-that-Mommy-can't-see-us.  I maybe pretended that they weren't my children and calmly went to the frozen section & found 2 pints of ice cream just this week.  Hypothetically speaking.  Basically, it's a bit of a hassle to take them, and we're a 1-small, 1-medium trips a week kind of family now.

Third blush - The price went down a few weeks ago.  Really down.  Like 50% down.  And I signed up.  I'ma never gonna take those kids to that place again, at least for a year while someone else endures the struggle for me.

Fourth blush - I hated it.  I hated the mark-ups on just about everything (1-lb. of grapes for $14? a box of basic Puffs for $2.49?)  I hated the limited selection (for the love of a bag of organic carrots...I know they're lurking somewhere!).  I hated the time it took me to scroll endlessly through too much I'm-never-going-to-buy-this stuff in order to find the 1 kind of yogurt that I want.  I figure that the time spent scrolling would go down the more I used the service and could just reference back against my previous orders.  Admittedly, I like that part.  But it took a s-w-e-e-t forever to get my $35 order when factoring in cost & actual want/need.  Even taking my children with me, I can do that quicker.

Fifth blush - Hidden costs are for the birds.  I didn't know that there would be mark-ups.  Silly me to think that once I paid for a service, I would then pay the cost that the brick & mortar store charges.  And for someone who has never had pizza delivered and who almost never tips when it is optional because seriously, a $35 haircut doesn't need to have an additional charge, I did not see the tipping of the Shipt person coming.  That was it for me.

I had it for about 48-hours.  I made one order with it.  I like it in theory, and I think that there are other slightly different services that may be more worth my time/money, but this one just is NOT.  But, the person I talked with via live chat on a Sunday afternoon was lovely and refunded the service fee without question.

Props to those who are making these grocery services work.  Back when I was a teenager and helping my grandparents with their grocery shopping, I had a couple of thoughts about how cool this kind of a personalized grocery shopper could be.  But gag.  If this is the best it can be...pass.