Musings on Impermanence

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Taken in October 2015 as I waited in line to enter the cathedral and get the first stamp of my Camino. I was lucky to arrive in time for mass, and though I’m not a Christian, I felt blessed by the confluence of events that led to being in the right place at the right time. I didn’t know it then, but it was the first of a few important “Camino moments.”

A few things you might not know about me:

  1. I double majored in undergrad, studying both Medieval Studies and Art History, with a focus on medieval religious architecture. I was most interested in Cistercian monastic architecture and fortified/fortress churches, so Notre Dame de Paris wasn’t the top of my list, but who doesn’t love flying buttresses?
  2. My first masters degree was in Historic Preservation, and a portion of my thesis centered on the use of sacred geometry in Western religious architecture – especially in regards to Gothic architecture and the concept of lux nova.
  3. I first visited Notre Dame de Paris in 2005, but I don’t have any memory of that visit, as I was suffering from sun poisoning after an ill-advised trip to the beach in Nice the day before. I am very pale. The sun and I have a tenuous relationship.
  4. In 2015, I walked the Camino de Santiago (with lots of sun block). I started in St. Jean Pied de Port, as is traditional for the Camino Frances, but stopped in Paris on my way. I wanted the first stamp on my credencial (a kind of pilgrim’s passport) to be from Notre Dame de Paris, and so it was.
  5. I first met my spirit guide in the dream realm a couple of years ago. As we walked, it became clear that we were walking along the Seine, and my back was to Notre Dame de Paris. The place obviously holds great significance to me, even if I don’t quite understand it fully.

With these things in mind, you might think that the news today of a great conflagration consuming the beautiful Unesco World Heritage site would break my heart. Instead, my reaction surprised me greatly. I found myself mourning the fact that the Western world can so easily turn its collective energy towards an old building, while the rest of the world burns down around our ears. It’s time to wake up, but it’s not going to happen, is it? Our oceans will be a plastic sludge, we will continue to poison our land and air, our temperatures will soon be too high to sustain animal or human life, and we will use our last breaths to condemn others (pick an imaginary villain – religious OTHER, gender OTHER, nationality OTHER, cultural OTHER, etc.) instead of accepting responsibility for our own evils.

It is a sad fact of the human condition that we have the ability to swim in the currents of time, yet we so fear drowning that we refuse to go easy with the current, and spend our whole lives wasting valuable energy fighting a battle that will not be won. Don’t your hands hurt from grasping at every sharp object that floats by? Letting go isn’t giving up – it’s swimming. It’s thriving. We *can* work together to resolve this, but will we?

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” Everything will eventually age and die – even buildings. We can always build new buildings. We won’t always be able to save the human race. Mourn this beautiful work of genius today, but tomorrow, go to work putting out the real fire. We can’t afford to keep dwelling on the past when there’s so very little future left.

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April Level Up

This month’s goal is colored by a very recent event – my father’s death, a little over a week ago. I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface of the grief process, and it probably sounds a little unreasonable to give myself goals right now, but I know myself well, and I know that having a framework to return to at times of uncertainty will be soothing for me. So let’s get something built now, before I start feeling shaky.

My dad was a hoarder, and to be honest, the jury’s still out on whether my mom was just going along with it, or if she was actively contributing to the situation. Only time will tell. What I know for sure is that the state of the extreme clutter in their house made my anxiety soar off the charts, and watching my mom start to sort through the disorganized mess of my father’s belongings broke my heart. It made me realize that I need to get my own physical shit together, so that if and when I kick the bucket, I never leave a friend or family member with that kind of cleaning job.

This month, I’m going to take the following actions to make things easier on my loved ones if and when I punch the time clock for the last time:

  1. I’m going to be very honest with myself about what physical items I do and don’t need in my life, and significantly pare down my belongings. (Edit: as of 4/20/19 have taken about 50% of unnecessary items to the thrift store, but there’s still a ways to go.)
  2. Create a will and get it notarized. (Edit: will created 4/7/19, request in with the notary to stamp this week)
  3. Get life insurance. (Edit: applied for life insurance 4/7/19, approved 4/19/19, waiting for final paperwork to arrive in the mail.)
  4. Create a secure password list that will be shared with loved ones in case of death. (Edit: ordered I’m Dead, Now What? book on 4/7/19 for password collection, last wishes, etc.)
  5. Organize all of my important paperwork into one, easy-to-find, place. (Edit: ordered hanging file box on 4/7/19, received on 4/18/19, most things filed on 4/20/19)

Oh, and I need to do my taxes. Maybe I’ll get those done tonight. He always did his a few months late. Add that to the lessons learned pile.

 

 

Everything The Same And Different

My dad died.

I didn’t call him “Dad,” though. I called him “Daddy.” If you could hear my Southern accent, it would make more sense, I think. It ends up being two and a half syllables, rather than two: Da-(yuh)-dee. The word was more drawn out when I was exasperated, as I often was when we were talking, as of late.

When I was a little girl, he called me Little Mouse, Mouse, Mousie, Bubula, Boo Boo, Bub, Bubba. He said that when my mom was pregnant with me, he’d asked God to make me have a pug nose and mousie brown hair. He said that God got the mousie brown hair right, but we’d have to work on the pug nose (and then he’d press my little nose down with his big, rough thumb, as if it were possible to retrain a nose). Even when I got older, he would still every now and then call me Mouse or Boo Boo, especially when he wanted to show me some piece of historic information, or a special yard sale find.

He had such respect for history, and old things – especially books. One of the only times I saw him truly distraught was when our house flooded, and an early 19th-century collection of leather bound books (I can’t recall what set it was) were drenched before we were able to move them. He fell to his knees in tears that day, there in the flood water.

My Daddy taught me how to cook eggs (though I perfected the technique on my own, and I believe my skill surpasses his). On Sunday mornings when I was a little thing, we made breakfast together. He’d always put on the same record – “Endless Summer” by The Beach Boys. I’d march around and around the border of our faux Persian rug in rhythm to the songs, and he’d whip up French toast, sausage, and scrambled eggs in the kitchen. When everything was ready, we’d giggle together as we changed the record out to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, turning the volume all the way up. The cannons were Mum’s cue to wake up and come down to breakfast.

He always wanted a big family with sons. He got one child, a girl – me. When I was born, he told my mom that a girl child was a mistake. They’d try one more time, but if they had another girl, they’d adopt after that to ensure they could get a boy. Mum decided that was a sign to stop having kids. He learned to make due with what he got, but it wasn’t always easy for either of us. He wanted sons, and though he tried to teach me to be strong, he never truly believed that a girl could be as capable as a boy. He was known throughout our community for being an outstanding teacher and Scout leader, teaching boys to be good men. He didn’t believe that men and women could be equal. It’s ironic that my strengths were born out of creating coping mechanisms for feeling abandoned by someone who was too busy teaching boys to bother with me.

Don’t misunderstand – I wasn’t neglected. Over the years, he struggled with how to interact with me, and often landed on teaching me how to do whatever he was doing at the moment. So I learned how to use power tools (“You don’t have the ass for this,” he informed me as I struggled to throw my weight into screwing something down), raise drywall, install subflooring, cover a sofa, make buttons, and tie upholstery springs. He taught me how to drive a car, and let me use his truck to drive up and back down our driveway in an endless loop. We bonded over Conan the Barbarian comics when I was a girl, and lately, we’d spent a good amount of time discussing Bernard Cornwell novels. We often went to yard sales, and we truly saw eye-to-eye when talking antiques and discovering forgotten treasures. I can smell silver, and easily identify any of a number of different historical styles because of him. We liked sci-fi shows and westerns, and when the holidays rolled around, he loved the sappy holiday romance movies on the Hallmark channel. The last Christmas I was home, he gave me a little lecture when I scoffed at a particularly unbelievable plot point; he could be a crotchety old guy, but had a huge soft spot for love stories.

When I was a kid, he was a Boy Scout leader, and spent most weekends out camping with the scouts. I didn’t get to go, and he didn’t take Mum and me on any outdoorsy adventures. He missed out on a lot of my childhood. He wasn’t there when I went to my first dance, and never got to see me perform at Quiz Bowl or in AFJROTC drill competitions. He worked a lot, and when he wasn’t working, he was volunteering, camping, or at various meetings for groups he was in.

During those years, I spent the most time with him either at his upholstery shop before and after school, or riding along on furniture deliveries. I’d do my homework in the truck, and we listened to oldies and sang along. I miss those moments the most, I think. I was happy going on adventures with my dad; he treated me like one of the guys when we were out on delivery. I could be helpful carrying pillows and helping pick up small furniture, and I felt worthwhile and capable. I went along on deliveries all the way into high school, as it was the only real quality time to be had with my dad.

It was much later in life – and all on my own – that I realized I loved hiking, camping, and the great outdoors. When I decided to walk the Camino, he wasn’t happy about it. It wasn’t so much that he thought it was dangerous for me to go on a long walk in a foreign country (that was Mum), as much as it was that he didn’t believe I was capable of it. When I got back, he seemed proud of me, but that’s not something he’d ever say to me out loud. Maybe I made that up, I don’t know.

I know he loved me. I don’t doubt that at all. I just wish that we’d had a different relationship. When I was in high school, during the summers and on weekends, I’d stay up with him to talk about spirituality and the supernatural. We’d discuss all manner of gods and ghosts, and no topics were off limits or too weird. Those conversations shaped my brain, and forever altered what I’ll look for in a guy. I can never be happy with a man who won’t REALLY talk with me about his wildest imaginings, or someone who isn’t open to possibility. I’ll never be happy with someone who doesn’t value history, and geek out over yard sale finds. But I’ll also never be happy with someone who doesn’t take care of himself, listen to his doctor, and keep a thoughtful budget.

We are a genetic soup – a little bit of both of our parents’ lines. I look a lot like my mother, with my father’s height and cheekbones. I got his mother’s anxiety and cleverness, and his father’s love of adventure (and knack for getting out of scrapes). I got her mother’s resilience and loyalty, and her father’s reticence and weird sense of humor. I am also a product of my environment and my influences. So much of how I think, talk, act, and react is a result of my upbringing. Good or bad, it is what it is. And I think it’s mostly good. Overall, he did his job. He made sure I lived, and that I never felt abused. He tried to show me that he loved me. On occasion I felt adored. He might not have really grasped what made me tick, but he made an honest attempt, and that’s all that matters.

I’ve lived in New Orleans for the best part of the last 20 years, and our relationship was gradually getting stagnant. He was very conservative, and I am definitely not. We didn’t have much common ground anymore. He lost a leg in 2015, and had remained in his wheelchair even after therapy and getting fitted for a (very expensive) robotic leg. Our conversations for the last three and a half years were typically about how much his life sucked, and how he’d never get to do anything fun ever again. He’d always been on the depressed side of the spectrum, grumpy, cantankerous. Suddenly he was morose, and nothing I said helped.

Instead, I began to realize how much our conversations flavored my personal life after the phone was back in the proverbial receiver. The less I was able to help him, the more I wanted to hurt myself. I began to see the trend – every phone call was followed by a binge. I’d eat anything to wash away the hopelessness, just as I’d been doing for most of my life. Thank the gods for Refuge Recovery and therapy. Finally, I could see what was happening and what was causing it, and I had just enough strength to hit the brakes. I confided in my mom, and she did her best to force him to only have positive conversations, but that wasn’t really in his wheelhouse.

And I wasn’t helping things any. I knew that when he called, I’d feel helpless and it would be an hour and a half of hearing him go on about how sad and pointless life was. So I ignored his calls. The longer I stayed away from him, the healthier I felt. My anxiety has been really low, I haven’t been drinking, and I’ve been able to eat what I like without binges. I currently have a bag of chips in the cabinet that I’ve had for two weeks and haven’t felt like opening. If you don’t understand the momentousness of that statement, you’ve never been a compulsive eater.

Part of my deep work in the last six months has been taking a long, hard look at my relationship failures, and pinpointing my behavioral issues and what I’d done in each case to hurt/hinder/otherwise fail. It’s pretty obvious that I’m codependent. I have a very hard time saying no or doing anything that might possibly make someone sad, angry, or in any way uncomfortable. My personal boundaries are nearly non-existent, and I dislike disagreements of all kinds. I stayed in an eight-year relationship that should have ended after three years because I thought it was entirely my fault for not trying hard enough to please him more. Over the course of the three-year relationship that directly followed, I had two full-time jobs and took care of my partner financially, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to tell him to get a job without hurting his feelings. I’m learning how to stand up for myself, finally, after all these years. It’s kind of ironic that I’d learn by trying it out on my dad first. I guess that was his last lesson, but I wish it hadn’t been that way. I wish he could have saved himself.

What I’ve been learning from all of this is that life really does go on. The world didn’t stop when he punched out. It didn’t even skip a beat. People miss him. I miss him. But things are still moving along. My greatest responsibility now, following my father’s death, is to make sure that I don’t end up following in his footsteps. I need to get healthy, get my end-of-life steps all in order (will, insurance, etc.), and make sure that I’m taking every opportunity to make my life bigger, better, and happier.

I’ve been writing this post for hours now, and could continue for hours more, but it’s time to just hit Publish and move on with my life. Daddy, I miss you. I love you fiercely. I hope to the gods that if there’s still life out there somewhere, you’re finally happy and hanging out with all the people you were missing so much. If we always reincarnate together, like you supposed, I hope that we’ve done the best job we can to help each other level up. Personally, I hope that I’m right and after this, we’re just dead, the end. But I know how much you like the last laugh, so I’m willing to concede if it means seeing you smile.

March Madness

In retrospect, I should have made this month’s focus something much smaller and kinder than paring down my belongings and cleaning my house. I’m not really sure I’m going to be able to make it happen. My schedule is all over the place this month, and I haven’t really had a chance to slow down since Mardi Gras (which of course also wasn’t quite “slowing down”).

I’m not sure that I would be able to see the full extent of how fucking nuts my work schedule is if it weren’t for Tinder. I’ve been trying (in vain) to plan a Tinder date for two weeks now, but since I don’t work a 9-5, M-F, and I also don’t have an actual schedule, it’s REALLY difficult to plan for extracurriculars – especially when I also need to plan for quiet time to recharge and do life shit.

For instance, I worked last Saturday and Sunday, so I took Monday and Tuesday off, but my friend was in town with her kids, so I spent the majority of those days with her. To do that, I put off grocery shopping, going to the laundromat, cleaning my house, and three dates. Now, my next day off is going to be next Saturday, the 30th. This doesn’t sound so bad, until you consider that my typical work day ends up being 9am to 8pm, with an hour commute on each side. Kind of crazy.

I enjoy this life. I like my job and my coworkers. I love my commute. But something’s got to give if I’m going to figure out how to partner up – or clean my house.

KonMari Exercise #1 – Wardrobe Cull

I forgot to take before and after photos of my first major KonMari undertaking. I woke up really late yesterday, and decided to just get started immediately. Before I knew it, I was trying on every piece of clothing in my collection, and photography was the furthest thing from my mind.

It was a very thorough examination. I was careful to try on everything that I own, from old favorites to things that I’d forgotten that I own. I wanted to make a clear decision on every single piece of clothing in my wardrobe – stay or go. I started at the front of the closet and pulled out five things at a time, tried each on in front of the mirror, and forced myself to give an honest opinion. Did I look good or bad? Did this fit me? Did it work for my life? Could I imagine where I’d want to wear it, and did I like what I was imagining?

From earlier attempts at the KonMari method, I know that it’s very tough for me to find any items that “spark joy.” True to form, I only had one piece in my closet this time around that made me start dancing and get happy as soon as I put it on – my favorite leopard print dress. (I’m SO glad it still fits me; it’s a classic little sheath dress that goes perfectly with boots and brings all the boys to the yard, lol.) But I don’t own an entire closet of leopard dresses, unfortunately, and since the whole “spark joy” thing is obviously tough for me, I looked instead for things that DON’T make me happy for any reason. In particular, I kept an eye out for items that were clearly worn out and falling apart, things that were definitely not my size, and pieces that I haven’t worn in I can’t remember when.

I was surprised to find that so many of my clothes are way too big for me now – and that things I was squeezing into not that long ago are just the right size now. There’s one t-shirt that I used to love because it was snug, super soft, slightly see-through, and long enough to cover my hips. When I tried it on yesterday, it hung off of me and was long enough that I can easily wear it as a nightgown. An expensive cocktail dress that I haven’t been able to zip up in at least four years now fits perfectly – and I can’t wait to wear it again. Tank tops that I bought in 2011 to go on a beach trip are now so old and worn out that they’ve lost all shape, and are covered in holes. They’ve been old standbys for so long, but it’s time to retire them. Several pieces of clothing that I bought on a whim, have never worn, and feel an active aversion to when hanging off of my frame – it’s time to let them go. I even tried on every piece of underwear, to make sure that every pair that was old and holey would be tossed out.

In the end, I took three full garbage bags of clothing to the donation bin. I did keep about 15 pieces that don’t fit me, but are nice enough that I’m going to sell them online. Everything currently hanging in my closet is my size and if not amazing, still nice enough. Next items to tackle in the closet, itself, are purses, jewelry, and holiday decorations.

Side note re: my overall Level Up this month (learning how to clean). I went to the store and bought basic cleaning supplies that I didn’t have – toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner, paper towels, degreaser – and realized when I was cleaning my mirrors that I probably haven’t cleaned them in a couple of years. Ooof.

March Level Up

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One of my favorite scenes from this morning’s Krewe of St. Anne Parade. Also, kind of what it looks like in my apartment when the cats get their party on nightly…

It’s 4pm on Mardi Gras Day here in New Orleans. It’s been a lovely party, but I’m ready for it to be over. I’m really worn out (in a good way), so I’ll save the play-by-play of my holiday weekend for another time. Instead, I wanted to pop over for a moment to make my March Level Up intention known. It’s a doozy, and I want to get it in writing before I chicken out – so here goes!

This month’s big focus will be learning how to…drumroll, please…

CLEAN MY HOUSE!

(crickets)

So here’s the deal. Obviously I didn’t get to be this old without having any concept of how to clean. I have a robot vacuum, I keep a stock of Magic Erasers, and I even once took my blinds off of my windows and washed them in soapy water. But literally that’s about it. Like, I can do house clean-y kinds of stuff, but I hate it, and very seldom (read: never) deep clean. My dishes get washed, and I go to the laundromat when I run out of clean underwear, but unless someone really important is coming over, this house does not get scrubbed down regularly.

I can pinpoint two specific emotional barriers that make it difficult for me to do housework (life’s too short to go into it here, but the first one is from my childhood home, and the second one is a controlling relationship with a live-in ex). I’m also really detail-oriented – it used to take me roughly five hours to hand wash my car as a teenager, because I liked to take a toothbrush to all of the panel crevices, just to make really sure I was getting all of the dirt out of everything. Cleaning the tub takes HOURS unless I give myself permission to halfass it. So there are a few factors that are working together to make cleaning slightly more of a process than it probably needs to be. I’m going to work through this in three steps.

Step 1: KonMari that shit. It’s time to get rid of every single thing that isn’t serving me. No more holding onto it for “later,” whenever that might be. If it doesn’t fit me, make me happy, have a place to go, or fulfill a necessary purpose in my life, it has got to be out of the apartment by mid-month. I can sell it, donate it, give it away, throw it away, whatever, it just can’t stay here.

Step 2: Learn how to clean. I grew up in a rather rustic setting, and have some outlandish ways of doing things stuck in my head. I want to find the best tools and methods to clean quickly and efficiently. I already found a cool video series on YouTube called Clean My Space, that has lots of cleaning tips and tricks.

Step 3: Set aside an actual chunk of time (or many chunks, depending on my crazy work schedule) this month to plan and carry out a coordinated deep clean of the apartment. Right now, I think this will be easier to do after I get rid of a bunch of shit, but maybe I’m overthinking that. Let’s see.

Realistically, part of me is thinking I still would rather just hire a cleaning service to deep clean this place and get it over with, but I think that forcing myself to take the time to care for my environment will be an extension of my self-care, and thus an exercise in growth and love. If I suck at it, at least I tried, and I’ll know it’s not in my wheelhouse, moving forward. But better to at least put in the effort and document my growth.

I’m honestly not sure how I’ll get the bathroom tile cleaned, though. It’s historically been nearly impossible for me to get soap scum off of the shower walls. Maybe there’s some sort of power tool that I don’t know about, who knows?

Anyway y’all, happy Mardi Gras, and wish me luck. This place is a MESS!

 

Every Little Thing

Just an FYI that this is my monthly recap of how I’ve been doing with my 2019 Bold Goals. It’s named after a Beatles song solely because my last monthly recap post was named “Ob La Di Ob La Da,” so I figured I’d keep it up. “Every Little Thing” was on the Beatles for Sale album in the UK, and released on the Beatles VI album here in the States in 1965. Beatles VI was one of my first Beatles records, and I listened to it on repeat for years – no joke. I love that album, and this song makes me happy, so here we are.

I’ve decided to update in this format because I was idly looking through my posts and realized that I was already veering away from my stated goals. Time for a course correct. So what’s going on?

  1. Giving up time wasters (social media, television, drinking, emotional eating, and other time sucks): I’m doing pretty well with this, though I gave myself a little leeway in February, just to see what would happen and how it would affect my emotions and mental wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, what I’ve found is that the time wasters drastically affect my anxiety and ability to focus during the day and sleep at night. My use of Facebook has slowly but surely increased over the month, and today I found myself wasting time on memes again, when I really needed to be cleaning the house. As far as TV goes, I watched all of The Umbrella Academy this month, and I don’t regret a thing (but I’m glad my temporary Netflix account will expire any day now so that I won’t be tempted to binge any more shows). I talked about drinking yesterday – very proud of myself there. As far as other time sucks go, as it turns out, drinking less keeps my romantic fantasy life at a minimum. I’m happy with this.
  2. Practicing healthy detachment: I’m getting better at not feeling guilty when I can’t help someone feel better. I might end up swinging too far on this pendulum and avoiding dealing with anyone’s bullshit at all, so I need to guard against giving up on people, period. However, it’s been nice to not feel responsible for the wellbeing of everyone around me, and no one seems to care that I’m not engaging, so I’m going to just go with that while I can, and enjoy feeding my own heart for awhile.
  3. Anxiety: I noticed that I was relatively calm, centered, and able to get shit accomplished without freaking out for the entire month of January (when I was solidly off of TV and social media). The first night that I watched two episodes of TV, I had trouble sleeping. The next day, I spent about an hour on Facebook, and woke myself up with a dream about a work disaster that very night. Drinking also leads to anxious sleep, and a hint of depression the next day. I’ve found that cutting back in all three arenas helps a great deal, as does taking magnesium nightly, and making it a priority to avoid procrastination during the work day (this helps me not feel so guilty about where I am with my workload when I leave the office).
  4. No more manchild bullshit: I’m not sure if avoiding romantic entanglement is healthy or not, but a side effect is that I don’t have any manchild bullshit to report, thankyouverymuch!
  5. Start a creative endeavor: I haven’t started a business yet, but I did reach out to someone tonight to potentially buy a sewing cabinet, so that’s a small step in the right direction.
  6. Take care of my home: Oh man. Let’s not go there. I have failed mightily.
  7. Read one book each week: I’ve read 17 books so far this year, and am nearly done with Book #18. They’re not particularly deep and thoughtful, but I find great comfort in reading true ghost stories, so that’s what I’m doing right now.
  8. Focus on leveling up. Accept my worth and help other people see it, too: I feel like this is happening, one paw in front of the other. I got a really good bonus for Q4, plus the highest possible merit award, and some really nice things were said to and about me at my yearly review. I just danced in a Mardi Gras parade, and sparkled my butt off. I have friends, and am on first name basis with my nextdoor neighbors. I am doing OK with my life.
  9. Publish my memoir. Haven’t even written a new thing yet this year, but I haven’t been feeling it at all. Right now I don’t want to write about the Camino – I just want to go back. I think about getting my Camino tattoo all the time lately, so perhaps I’ll use a little bit of my bonus money to go ahead and make that happen. Perhaps it will put me into the right frame of mind to continue with collecting my memories on paper.
  10. Take care of my health – body, skin, mental and physical well-being: Dancing has definitely helped. Walking four miles a day certainly doesn’t hurt. However, I could do more. Perhaps March will be all about 5k training, or pre-training to start the Body Boss method. I’m going to think about it and make a decision on Friday.
  11. Travel: It’s not an extensive vacation, but I did go over to the Northshore to hang out with giraffes earlier this month. That has to count for something!
  12. Take one honest-to-goodness class per month: I didn’t take a new class, but I continued the class I started in January. This is kind of cheating, but to be honest, I’d already forgotten that this was a goal. Tomorrow I’m going to devote some brain power into finding an affordable class in something REAL (and really fun) this March.