Transition Friday with a BIG Dose of Good News

library coffee shop 004I flew in from Iowa last night and landed in Michigan at 11:15 pm. My friend Susan picked me up at the airport and brought me to her house where my van had been parked while I was gone. Three weeks ago, I spent the night at Susan’s place before we headed out early for the trip to the airport, and last night, I again spent the night there before heading out this morning back in the direction of my current residence.

However, since there was a fair amount of distance to cover, along with errands (like groceries and a potential visit to my daughter’s), I planned a leisurely route that would get things accomplished and get me home by evening–a day of transitioning from my time in Iowa to my life back in Michigan. This plan was workable largely because my classes don’t start until next week, and my private tutoring also got put on hold until then as well.

The plan had been to visit my daughter around lunch time, and I planned to stop somewhere along the way (about a 55 miles driver to her place) to have coffee and finish the revisions on my co-authored paper which is due Monday.

I decided to stop at a coffee shop that I’ve visited many times in the past, but not since my return to the US in late July. Today was the perfect day for it. I ordered a latte and a muffin and settled in to work on what I hope is the next to the last time I have to look at this paper.  😉 While I was working, my phone rang. It was one of the faculty from the university where I work. She was frustrated trying to put her course materials on our online platform, so I arranged to stop by before going to my daughter’s.

This colleague is the same one who is letting me stay in the house that they are planning to put on the market in the spring. But there has been something happening in the background. They also have a rental house that happened to become available around Thanksgiving. But they were trying to decide whether to rent it again (after a frustrating broken lease) or to just put it on the market again.

In a bit of a joke, she said, “too bad we didn’t know. That would be an even better location for you.” (Although at the time I moved here, I hadn’t started the tutoring yet, and my income was still a little iffy to take on rent.) But right before Christmas, she sent me an email and asked me if we were serious about it. Dave and I talked about it and of course, we were interested, but we were concerned about how much rent we could afford at least until he got here and we knew more about what we could expect as regular income. At our ages, we aren’t fooling ourselves about finding full-time jobs, but we’re both good at cobbling things together to create income.

So, I responded to the email, saying yes, we’d be interested if we could work something out rent-wise. Then we didn’t hear anything. I sent another email a couple of days ago, but no answer as of yet.

But after working on her course stuff, she brought up the house again. I gave her the timeline Dave and I were looking at, and she said she was willing to work out a rent that just covered their expenses plus a bit–and not a big bit. The end result was $20 less than my best hope for what we could get. I was delighted. Even if Dave didn’t get a job for a while, I could manage it if we cut our spending to not much.

Dave was planning to get a small truck to bring back a few of the pieces of furniture his sister doesn’t want–things we didn’t give to Salvation Army because they are things that we could use to reestablish a household again. And it looks like we’re going to have a place to put those things, and we can set up the lease on the new place to coincide with his arrival with the truck. We are quite excited!

I also got a call for doing three weekends work of music at then end of January and the first two weeks of February, so it was a rather awesome day. And I still got to see my daughter and spend time with her.

And a bonus? I will be able to move my piano out of my brothers’ house into my own place. A darn good day, I’d say!  🙂

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This post is part of JusJoJan

jjj-2016

 

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Finding My Way Back Home

Aug 25 grants and stuff 025It may not look like much to you, but I’m thrilled to have half of this wonderful corner room in my parents’ basement. Now I have space for my books, files, and other work-related odds and ends. I also have a desktop (and one of the file drawers in the desk) to call my own.

My parents have been awesome about letting me move back in with them while I get on my feet. I live in the guest room with access to half of the closet and three dresser drawers that were vacated for my arrival. I appreciate these arrangements immensely, but it was clear to my parents and to me that the bedroom wasn’t going to allow me to get much work done. (Although, I did have this cute mini station figured out, where I put a TV tray in front of the chair in the guest room. My lightweight netbook fit very well on it, but it didn’t allow for any materials to be on a surface next to me.)

libraryaugust5 001Luckily, my parents have two tables in the dining room, and we cleared off one of them for me to have a temporary space. During the last few weeks, I worked there in the evenings, but it was an adjustment for both my parents and for me to have me in the living space. After all, they’re accustomed to it being just the two of them. Going to other locations, such as the library (remember this cool place?) or a coffee shop or even a bookstore(!), worked well. It gave us all a break, and I got reacquainted with some of my old haunts. But I’m not always quite as productive as I’d like to be, because of the travel and set-up time. OK and all the amazing things to look at when I’m at the library or bookstore.

A few days ago, when I came home from one of my outings, my parents told me they had a surprise for me. And they took me downstairs to show me the space you see above. My dad had sorted things that were stored in the room and on the desk to make this space for me to work. (My mother and I have been sorting through other areas of the house in preparation for a rummage sale at the church, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say, we’ve been quite productive!)

Over the last few days, I’ve been moving my books and work-related things to this basement space. In the meantime, I was still working on my netbook either upstairs or at one of my neighborhood haunts. Yesterday was productive, with major progress on three different writing projects. And today is my first day in my new space. It’s quiet and comfortable, and all of my stuff for my projects is within arm’s reach.

admin-ajax.phpI just had a lunch break with my parents. With a cup of coffee, I’ve just returned to “my office” to work for a couple more hours before heading out with my mother this evening. Since classes (and other work projects that will be discussed in a future post) will limit the time I have to work here, it’s nice to know that I have a place where I can work without reconstructing my workspace each time. Now back to finish my syllabi for next week.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!  🙂

58 days to 60: If We Were Having Coffee with the Japanese Students

58If we were having coffee, I would tell you:

Today marks 58 days to 60. And since the Japanese students left last week, I thought I’d feature them in this week’s IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE.

There is so much I could say about my time with the students from Japan. Teaching them was a special treat, and while I enjoy this program every time I do it, this year’s group especially touched my heart. I’d tell you that even though, I’m grateful to be able to catch up on rest and simple tasks like thinking, I really miss them already.

I’d tell you that in addition to the 14 hours of instruction that each of the two groups of Japanese students received from me, I had designed an extra activity for them before they even arrived in Taiwan. The idea was that I would take each group of ten students to the Tuesday night writing group at the coffee shop that hosts us. Ten students each night with a few of our regulars, and it would make for a nice group.

The plan:  Week 1 – Group B; Week 2 – Group B; Week 3 (just the regulars again)

The reality:  Week 1

Week 1-1Yeah, you might say my estimate was a bit conservative. What happened is that some of the students in Group B wanted to have their friends from Group A with them. I knew we could pull it off just barely, but then their English speaking TA’s ALL decided to come along. As you can see, the results were rather overwhelming for the space.

week 1-3I’d tell you that we survived it, and much fun was had by all. It took a long time to get drinks ordered and even more to take dumpling and noodle orders for the place two doors down that would deliver the food to us in the meeting room.

I’d also tell you that I knew with that many people (we had a total of over 30), we couldn’t actually do any writing activities. So I announced that the English TA’s could have dinner with us, but then they would have to leave except for the TA’s who were already assisting me. I told the departing students they could join the group in three weeks when the Japanese students were back home, but that the time was for them right now.

Whew! After dinner, eight people left. It may not seem like much, but it opened up just enough space at the tables that we could have some actual writing activities. By the end of the evening, we had agreed that now that we had the bugs out, maybe we’d do it again for week 2 with both groups. No point bringing Group A alone, when Group B didn’t want to come without their friends. Tomorrow, we’ll move on to week 2. Stay tuned.  🙂

58 days to 60!

 

 

60 days to 60! (And a Poll!)

Photo credit: balloonpower.com.au/

Photo credit: balloonpower.com.au/

Today is important for several reasons. First, after 540 days of counting, I am now 60 days away from my 60th birthday. I am making plans for a rather unusual celebration that coincides with a chance to say good-bye to friends, colleagues, and students. You will learn more about the plans as they progress, but I will tell you this: I’m working on a bilingual invitation.  🙂

I’m not going to be fanatical about this (famous last words), but my goal is to post something every day for these last 60 days, leading up to the big festivities. I will revisit some types of posts that I’ve done before, as well as a few unusual things. And there are a few fun announcements I plan to make.

My first post is going to be related to the second reason this is a special day. After three weeks of classes and other activities, the students from Tottori University in Japan boarded their plane back home. Even though the teaching load during those three weeks is rather exhausting, I miss them already. But having them on top of my regular teaching load is the reason I’ve been gone for a while.

One of the interesting things that happens during those three weeks, is that our classes are photographed more than a first grandchild. It would be no exaggeration to say that in the last three weeks, there are at least 100 new photographs of me. Sometimes, they’re posed with various combinations of students for various group photos, but there are many candid shots taken of me in various stages of “teaching.” As often happens with candid photos, some are decent, but many of them are kind of duds–as you will see over the next few days.

So in honor of the completion of the Japanese program, today’s post is going to be one of the photos that was taken last week. This was one of those candid shots taken of me teaching. Now I KNOW that everything thinks that learning about compare and contrast essays is one of the most exciting topics known to humanity, but I was rather impressed with this photo sent directly to me by my TA, with a comment on how dramatic I look. My response to her is what I am now going to turn into a poll for all of my readers. I’ve never done a poll before, but I thought it would be a good thing to start off these 60 days.

Here’s how it works. I’ll post the picture. Underneath is the poll where you get to guess what I’m doing in that picture. You have three options, but feel free to add others in the comments below. Your rationale for your choice is also welcome.

casting spells

Thanks for playing along.  Answer revealed tomorrow!

 

60 days to 60!

 

If We Were Having Coffee: Year of the Goat Edition

year-of-the-goat-with-icons_23-2147502885I missed the gathering last week, but I’m back today to share what’s been going on lately and all the things that are gearing up to keep me busy.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you:

That the celebration of Chinese New Year is winding down. Each day, a few more businesses are open again and the streets get a bit busier, and by Tuesday, life returns to normal for just about everyone. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying extra hours at the coffee shop. Tomorrow, Dave and I will go to Taipei to meet friends for lunch.

My new semester begins on Wednesday. Since Chinese New Year fell on almost the last possible day that it COULD fall, we are getting a later than usual going back to school. My new 18 week semester starts on Wednesday.

Two of the Tottori students from the 2013 visit.

Two of the Tottori students from the 2013 visit.

Weeks 2-4 of the semester will be especially exciting and busy. Twenty students from Tottori University in Japan will be visiting our campus for a three-week intensive English program. During that time, I will teach 14 hours of writing each to two groups of ten students from that University. This is in addition to my regular teaching. This is the third year Tottori University has brought students to Ming Chuan University for this program. It’s also the third year that I’ve taught the writing portion. I love the challenge of trying to change students’ attitudes about English writing in the tight time frame. 

admin-ajax.phpSpeaking of teaching, it’s a good thing that I like to use PPT (PowerPoint) presentations, because I was informed by the doctor last week that my shoulder is deteriorating, and that writing on the board is not something I should be doing for the next few weeks. So, we’re managing pain and resting it and using heat. So fun. I guess I’ll look for alternative ways I can torture teach students about writing.

Did I mention that I suspected this doctor is likely younger than my oldest son? Not only that, he had the nerve to tell me This degeneration is due to aging! AGING! Who does he think he’s talking to? I finally asked him at our third encounter how old he was, what do you know — I was right on. He’s the same age as my second son. Geez!

I’m in the final stages of preparing my job application for a job in the US for the 2015-16 academic year. For now, think good thoughts and I’ll tell more when I have more information, and maybe an offer.  🙂

This is an interesting birthday time in our family. My two youngest children, were due two years and a day apart. So their birthday are one week and a day apart, and they were both late! So yesterday (Saturday) was my son, Tom’s birthday. Next Sunday (March 1) is Kate’s. She’s the one who usually tries to talk me into doing some kind of Kate-friendly post for her birthday. We’ll see what happens.  🙂

It’s been great having coffee with you and catching up. Wishing you a great week.

Thanks to Diana for hosting our gathering:  https://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/4149/

 85 days until 60!

To Blog or Not to Blog: The (Late) Trick or Treat Post

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog. School started, publication deadlines stepped up, and taking a couple days off from blogging seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Days, turned into weeks, and it’s now been 6 1/2 weeks (45 days) since a post.

I did think about posting on Friday, October 31. Actually, I almost posted this picture on Friday. It’s from last year, but I like it. But thinking about posting it wasn’t the same as posting it. So Halloween came and went without a post from me.

When I first stopped posting, I still read and commented on a few blogs, but it got to be less and less until the last few weeks, when I’ve only read a small handful here and there. I followed two a little more reliably–one because I’m hooked on the story that is evolving on her blog, and the other because I dream of someday doing some quilting again.

But today, I got daring and opened a couple other posts, and what should hit me but this from Not a Punk Rocker. Her post: Ten Reasons I’m Taking On Two Challenges [(1) a blog post each day this month and (2) exploring photography through a photo a day]. Well, the photo thing is pretty much beyond me, but it was interesting that I would run across a daily blogging challenge at a time when I’ve been struggling about taking the plunge.

So I started my own list of ten reasons, with a twist. Five reasons why I should join the challenge to post every day in November and five reasons why I shouldn’t. Before I started writing this post, I asked my husband if he thought it was a bad idea to get back into it. Although he knows I get a lot out of blogging, he thought with everything else going on, such a commitment might lead me to be a bit suicidal. While suicide is nothing to joke about, I did appreciate that he made me laugh.

And now, on to my lists!

 

Reasons for blogging every day in November:

1. It keeps me connected with some interesting people and their writing.

2. It gives me an outlet for some of my thoughts.

3. It builds up a body of writing that doesn’t happen when I’m not blogging.

4. I like it.

5. It helps keep me balanced, i.e., when I’m blogging, I can’t work as much.  🙂

 

Reasons for not blogging every day in November.

1. I am so far behind, it seems like an indulgence that I can’t afford.

2. It adds another layer of pressure to a life already kind of full of deadlines and stress.

3. There are other things that might have a higher priority in the overall scheme of things.

4. I don’t really need it.

5. I already missed November 1 by the time I found out about the challenge.

 

The Middleground

And then I realized I need to take my own advice. I often tell people that things don’t have to be just black and white–lots of shades in between. So having gone through this process of weighing pros and cons, I realized that I didn’t need to make the list at all. What I really need is to just jump back in with this crazy post–nothing snappy or exciting, just something that gets me back in the water.

If I only write once a week, it’s 4 times a month more than I’m writing now.

So my challenge is to write once or twice a week for November and see how that goes.

I look forward to reconnecting with my blogging friends.

 

197 days to 60!

Returning to Rome

Photo credit: nuchylee at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo credit: nuchylee at freedigitalphotos.net

Apparently when I leave Rome, I make it worth my while. I haven’t posted the last two weeks, so let’s start with a report for August 18, which was the last time I was here. Two weeks ago, things were real quiet in Rome, so I held off. Then last week, I had decided to take a blog break. I may actually post about that elsewhere, but for now it’s time to get back on track.

In spite of the extra time, I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped. That might just be a good indicator that taking two weeks off from posting isn’t necessarily the best plan. Oh wait! I didn’t actually plan it that way. But you get the idea. On the other hand, with three weeks since I made this list, the report is bound to have lots of progress, right?

REPORT FOR WEEK OF AUGUST 18

(and including the weeks of August 25 and September 1)

1. Complete 12 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:

  • editing project 1 (2 sections) (I actually finished the first run-through of editing on a major project!)
  • complete 2/3 of new editing project (that was a stupid way to set it up. I don’t know which fraction is done. Maybe 1/2.)
  • 2 sections of a work project (Sort of–I did more than two sections of a work project. Does it count if it’s not the same work project that I intended to do when I wrote this? If it showed up in my to-do pile, and I switched gears to meet a deadline?)  🙂
  • writing two sections of the mapped-out writing project  (I drafted one section and designed a worksheet)
  • make a basic plan for upcoming webpage (I have something REAL basic, but it’s a start)

2. Meet with J to plan collaborative project (done, and have actually completed a couple of the tasks)

3. Sew blocks for Clue 3 of Summer Mystery Quilt (done, I even sewed about a third of the blocks together to start the quilt top)

4. Continue visiting my fellow builders. (not really. The first week, there didn’t seem to be anyone building.  The second week, I was on a break.)

5. Write a post about decluttering; schedule launch.  (NO. and it’s really starting to annoy me. But it will be more of a priority soon!)

6. Plan out the next two weeks of the blog. (No, I decided I’m not doing any genuine planning until at least October. Just going with the flow for now.)

7. Catch up on 20 of my unanswered comments.  (Just no.)

8. Attend Friday dinner. (A lovely time was had by all.)

HABITS TO MAINTAIN:

  • CURVES – 3 times a week; walking 3 times a week. (one week Curves was only 2 times, but I did extra walking)

 

GOALS FOR WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 8

1. Complete 12 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:

  • finish the paper editing project
  • start editing a thesis (if I hear back on it)
  • finalize syllabi and first week lesson plans (Classes start next week.)
  • complete writing Project A
  • submit proposal for upcoming webpage

2. Travel to Taipei to attend faculty meeting Wednesday.

3. Sew some more of the quilt top for the Summer Mystery Quilt

4. VISIT my fellow builders.

5. Write a post about decluttering; schedule launch. (PRIORITY)

6. Catch up on 10 of my unanswered comments. (Decide how important this is.)

7. Complete three 20-minute decluttering blocks.

HABITS TO MAINTAIN:

  • CURVES – 3 times a week; walking 3 times a week.

Good luck to my fellow builders. May this be a good week!

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This post is part of the Building Rome Project:

http://greenembe.rs/2014/09/08/building-rome-week-37-embracing-pain/

More Sharing of My World

Thanks to Cee for Hosting Share Your World

Here are the four questions for this week. It’s fun because the questions are always unusual. Consider joining in the fun.

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If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be? (guest can be dead, alive, famous or someone you just know)

  • My maternal grandmother.
  • Carly Simon
  • Tom Hanks

What can you always be found with?

Coffee. Right now, I have a thermos of iced coffee next to me as I’m sitting at the computer desk.  I mean there are times when I don’t actually have coffee within ten feet of me, but aside from sleeping, it doesn’t happen very often.  🙂

What is the most fun thing you did in school?

I guess I’ll go with college and say the most fun I had was being a Roberts Fellow. I had a year of extra courses and special activities culminating with a 2-week trip to Asia. That trip was pivotal in ending up with my current position in Taiwan. I learned so many things, met great people, and had lots of fun. To this day, I am still part of the group, an in my position in Taiwan, I meet each year’s new Fellows when they make their trip to Taiwan (and other parts of Asia).

What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

I probably grade my writing students differently than most people. I don’t take off points for grammar (because of an cultural overemphasis on being “correct.”  Since students try to hard to write without any mistakes, they have no idea how to just create and write something for the sake of expressing themselves. So I give homework points simply for doing homework, without taking off points for grammar mistakes. Students immediately relax, and we can start doing some real writing.

 

 

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Feeling Trapped HERE: Stream of Consciousness Saturday (Part 1)

Linda’s Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is “hear/here.” I think I’m going to do this in two parts, starting with “here.”

10530768_10202456215468170_2235054169176470936_nI’ve been struggling for several weeks to feel like myself. The one good thing I know is that I have not been dwelling in the past. And I’m only mildly dabbling in the future — though that is part of my “long-range” planning for heading back to the US next summer. My point is that, for now, I try to be in the present. I try to be here.

The unfortunate thing is that at the moment, here is not an especially nice place to be. I can’t seem to get excited about what to do here. I know this is the best chunk of time I’m going to have for the next twelve months. Yet, I can’t seem to enjoy and explore the here and now.

Luckily, there are moments, when I get little glimpses of motivation and wonder here. And I daresay that those moments might be coming a little more often than they did during the last few weeks. This gives me hope because there are things I want to do in my present here, so that I can make a relatively smooth transition to the future.

I’m not looking for sympathy, or even suggestions. I feel like I’m finding my way out of this. It’s just been a frustration to feel like the moments float by me without my participation. I am not usually this passive — therefore, the discomfort is — haha — uncomfortable. I guess the main reason for following this train of thought in this post is that I’ve learned that these little Saturday exercises often move me to the next level if I let this unconscious part come to the surface. So here I am.

Another reason I can recognize that things are improving is that my productivity is slowly returning to a more normal level. Not quite as good as I’d like, but still — it’s significant. The goal setting I’ve been doing over the past few weeks was supplemented this week by a few “concentrated lists” for a particular day and time. That seemed to make a difference. In other words, I like contests, games, challenges. I need to remember and use that to my advantage, even when I think I don’t have the desire to play.

Because that is the other key: making sure that fun and play are part of my here. It’s important to give myself down time and to really give myself over to the playful side, like when I take time out for Zentangle with coffee, of course (as in the picture above) and a couple finished Zentangles in the photo below.

As August gets into full swing, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about here, and I look forward to having some fun things to show you in the near future.

You might want to check out a whole other angle of this week’s SofCS with my post about HEAR.  🙂

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If you’d like to join in, please do. It’s a great way to meet new people and see new blogs!

Here are the rules from Linda’s page:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people will come and read your post! The way to ping back, is to just copy and paste the URL of my post somewhere on your post. Then your URL will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. For example, in your post you can copy and paste the following: This post is part of SoCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-214/  The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

A question of balance?

Your Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is, end your post with a question. Extra points if you fit an exclamation mark somewhere in the body of your post.

newyear's 2010 002A week to pick our own topic. How to get started. What will I write about? I could write about the fact that this week hasn’t gone according to plan. It hasn’t been a bad week, unless you judge it solely on how much of my weekly list got accomplished. However, there is more to life than a to-do list. I know that. Still, I’d like to be closer to catching up.

On the other hand, today and nearly every day this coming week has social events scheduled. Not my choice, yet they are all important, and they are all time sensitive. In other words, they can’t be put off.

If I had a third hand, I’d be focusing some time on the big picture and what is really reasonable to have on a to-do list over the next 7 weeks. Maybe I should choose just a few significant things (however I decide to define that), and allow lots of down time to do things I find relaxing and rewarding, like more quilting and other creative endeavors.

I realize as I am writing this, that the cloud of apathy that has been my constant companion for a while now might possibly be dissipating. Even if it’s just beginning, that would be great news. It also means that once again, SofCS has helped me make a realization that breaks down the “logjams” that exist in my head (and in my physical environment). Writing is amazing!

So, now I’m thinking that it’s time for a fourth hand that would take a day away from the expected and do some writing and exploring of all the things floating around in my head. In that way, I may discover a fifth hand that I hadn’t thought of. After all, I can let my subconscious mull all of this stuff over for a couple of days, and then see what nuggets of insight it will provide if I just take the time to write and listen to it.

So, I’m taking comments and suggestions. I suspect I know how this will go, but I’ll ask anyway. If you were in my situation, what would you do?

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This post is part of SofCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-2514/