Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week One of School: Engulfed

The kids have been back to school for exactly five days now, and the sensation is a bit like the time I mistimed jumping up with a wave at the beach and instead of bobbing gracefully over the top, I got tumbled over backwards, ending up with a bathing suit full of sand and sinuses full of salt water. Despite my efforts to prepare over the summer I've made three trips to the office supply store in the last week alone, twice to get book covers because the first ones I got didn't fit son #1's textbooks. So far I can't get a feel for the shape of our weeks, and as a result I am reacting, just staying one step ahead of what absolutely positively must get done.

Son #1 started middle school last Wednesday. I'm trying to keep my own decidedly mixed feelings about middle school to myself so as not to influence his opinions, but I'm not sure I've got much of a poker face. The first day I went to pick him up I watched as enormous eighth graders poured down the front steps of the school. I tried to imagine my son, who is both short for his age and slender, navigating the halls amid this crowd. One girl sauntered by in a skin-tight getup that was only technically within the letter of the school uniform policy, reminding me once again why I'm glad my son is a geek who may take another year or seven to discover girls. Just when I was beginning to panic, wondering where he was, I spotted son #1 by the steps to the main entrance, cell phone out and beginning to text me, just as I had instructed him to do if he couldn't find me right away. Maybe if I can keep my own fears out of his way he'll be just fine.

Son #2 started fourth grade, which at our magnet elementary school is where they really ramp the homework policy into overdrive. Last night my son reacted to a heavier-than-usual homework load by deciding to see how little homework he could fit into the time available. (Which reminds me, I really need to get to the doctor and have my blood pressure checked.) My husband ended up on the hook to finish it with him after soccer practice, as I had to go to a board meeting of son #3's co-op preschool.

I love son #3's preschool, but the older I get the more I abhor meetings. Last year I attended four regular monthly meetings: elementary school PTA, magnet school booster club, elementary school fundraising carnival/bazaar event planning meeting, and the preschool meeting. I find it telling that the preschool meetings regularly clocked in at two-plus hours; since the population of the school is largely composed of first-time parents who haven't logged in hundreds of hours at volunteer meetings already, they are happy to sit and talk in circles for hours about the most mundane details of running a co-op nursery school. By contrast, the parents at the elementary school, especially those with fourth or fifth graders, often wonder aloud if we need to meet at all, and impatiently glance at the clock when a meeting is pushing the hour mark.

Theoretically this year I should be adding a fifth meeting--the middle school booster club--to my monthly list of meetings. I probably will, since parental guilt is a powerful motivating factor. However, I'll be the first to admit that I've exceed my mental bandwidth already. I have a pretty bad case of what a friend of mine calls "volunteer Tourette's" (defined as the irresistible compulsion to jump in and help out with any volunteer opportunity that presents itself, no matter how maxed out you are), and I know that if I show up to a meeting I'll walk out having taken on some new task, no big deal, I'll just give up sleep for a month or so to get it done.

So what does this all mean? I'm afraid that it means that the efforts I have made toward carving any kind of space of calm and sanity in my life, or to making progress in dealing with the backlog of junk cluttering my house, are about to be swept away in the relentless tide of the new school year. I really don't want to spend another year the way I did last year, treating each event (personal or school) as the next hurdle to be crossed on the way to the finish line. It's a great way to turn your existence into a perpetual to-do list, but a lousy way to enjoy life. Do I have an answer for how to avoid that? Not yet. But the first step is recognizing that you have a problem, right?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Progress at last!

The long-awaited trip to Goodwill finally happened today, as well as a trip to drop off hand-me-downs to a friend whose son is a couple of years younger than son #3. The 1,000-Pound Project, which had ground to a halt, is back in motion again! Here's a breakdown of progress since my last report:

7 pounds - Item given to my mom for the social group at her church to use as a door prize. Note to self: it doesn't matter who gave something to you; if you aren't using it, letting it sit around gathering dust isn't going to make you feel less guilty about not using it.
39 pounds - Several bags of toddler clothes given to friend's son
55.4 pounds - Goodwill donation of some of my clothes, some of my husband's, a few old toys, etc.
13 pounds - Old booster seat that I finally threw out (embarrassed to discover it actually said on the back "Do not use after December 2005," and even more embarrassed that I was immediately certain we hadn't; some consolation in that the plastic part of the seat was recyclable)
3 pounds - Trash and recycling from random bag of nonsense in the garage that I was inspired to sort through after disposing of all of the above

Total: 117.4 pounds

The good news: I am making up ground from the several frustrating weeks of no progress whatsoever.
The bad news: It doesn't actually feel like I'm making much of a dent in the mountain of stuff.

The project is now at the end of week 4, with a total of 185.2 pounds of stuff thrown out, recycled, or given away. That puts me about 15 pounds behind where I had hoped to be at this point.

Friday, September 2, 2011


So I had anticipated some return to normality around the beginning of this week. Our soccer trainer departed to head back to the UK on Thursday morning, and my in-laws picked up my older two boys to take with them to Palm Springs. My husband, son #3, and I were set to head out to join them for the weekend on Friday. I had planned that when we got back, this week would be dedicated to (1) helping son #1 complete his vacation homework, and (2) getting back to the 1,000-Pound Project, which had of course gotten thrown under the bus.

On Monday I began what is at least an annual ritual in our house: wardrobe review. I always start with son #3’s clothes, pulling out everything that no longer fits and/or is in poor enough condition to throw out. This usually leaves room to move in stored clothes from son #2 that now fit him. Then I move on to son #2’s clothes, pack away the stuff that doesn’t fit him any more and quietly “disappear” the stuff that looks only fit for costumes in a zombie apocalypse movie. (While I admire my sons’ distinct lack of vanity in their personal appearance, I wish that quality didn’t so often lead to them looking as if they get dressed in the dark every morning.) Finally, I tackle son #1’s clothes. Anything that doesn’t fit him can go straight into son #2’s wardrobe, since they are close enough in age that they tend to be only one size apart at any given time, and then I make a list of what necessities need to be purchased for him or to replenish his brothers’ wardrobes, and go from there. Things that can’t be used by any of them but are good enough to be passed on go to charity or to friends who can use hand-me-downs.

I got far enough to have a little humility lesson that day: discovering a whole trove of size 2T clothes in son #3’s bottom drawer. Since he is now four and a half years old and hasn’t worn 2T clothes for longer than I care to admit, I’d say I’m a little behind in wardrobe maintenance. I had planned to tackle the next stage of the job on Tuesday morning, after a session of monitoring son #1’s progress on the vacation homework. (The only person who likes this vacation homework assignment less than me at this point is my son. However, I have never let him blow off a school assignment and I’m not going to start now.)

As we were sitting in front of the computer Tuesday morning preparing to work on flow maps, son #1 started scratching furiously at his scalp, complaining that his head itched. I can’t say that I experienced a sense of foreboding. As I examined the hair behind his ears, I just felt numb. I already knew what I was going to find. Sure enough, there were lots of little tiny dark spots attached to the strands of his hair.

A word about head lice--okay, maybe kind of a rant. I never had them as a kid, so I have acquired all of my personal knowledge of them over the last six months. Our family had our first encounter with lice when my youngest son got them over spring break, when my husband was out of town. I got to experience the joy that is lice removal all on my own.

First of all, many descriptions of lice and their eggs (nits) claim that the eggs are white or a yellowish color. Bull****. Every nit I have ever seen personally was the EXACT SAME COLOR AS MY CHILDREN’S HAIR. And they are tiny. I found myself, the first time, peering at strands of hair with my poor eyes nearly crossing, wondering if that tiny speck I thought I saw was a nit or merely the result of eyestrain. Son #3’s nits that first time were a caramel color, and son #1’s nits were a darker brown. While I understand the practical value, to a louse, of camouflaging their eggs, I don’t really appreciate it. The lice themselves are much larger, but they don’t hold still for you to spot them; also a quality I understand but don’t appreciate.

Second, if there is any one stupid, time-consuming thing that can be guaranteed to increase the level of whining in my house to epic proportions, it would be lice. Wasting time and extra whining--pretty much the last two things I wanted to add to my dance card this week.

The only good (?) news is that our first Lice-a-palooza in the spring had left me well-prepared to deal with this challenge. Though I don’t believe in bubble-wrapping my kids away from all chemicals/additives/non-organic foods/etc. (we live in Los Angeles, for God’s sake, so if I were going to go nuts I’d have to forbid them to breathe the air), I’m not really a fan of dumping a gob of insecticidal shampoo on my kids’ heads to try to eradicate lice. Thanks to our earlier experience, I was armed with both a fabulous lice comb and a non-toxic method to get rid of lice. The trick to using these two tools wisely is being really REALLY thorough. That means combing. And more combing. And then combing some more.

Now, there are actually salons that will perform this task for you, for an amount of money that might not seem exorbitant if you are really creeped out by the notion of bugs in your children’s hair. I have two personal failings that make me balk at the idea of shelling out what would probably have ended up being in the neighborhood of $300 or more to get all three kids and myself checked and treated--a compulsion for DIY projects and a deep dislike of paying for any service that I can do for myself.

So, in this case, it meant most of the day sitting in the bathroom, saturating the boys’ hair with Cetaphil skin cleanser and then combing it out with the lice comb. (Sounds weird, but it works.) There are many things about being a mother that aren’t particularly dignified--having your toddler wipe his nose on your pants or throw up in your hand, having your children treat your purse like their traveling trash can--but this descent to monkey-motherhood, literally picking through their vestigial fur for evidence of insect life, felt like a weird leap backwards. My kids are all old enough now that my job is not primarily about regulating their bodily functions. If they want a snack or a drink, they can get it themselves, and thank God, nobody’s in diapers any more. To spend a day lice-combing them felt primitive. The rest of the day was spent in laundering bedding and clothes in hot water.

It doesn’t help that my boys hate to have their hair brushed, much less combed. By the end of the session with each kid, I was reduced to snarling at them, “Do you WANT to have more lice? Because if I leave those eggs in there, that’s what you’re going to have!” (I won’t burden you with the details, but I found enough lice and nits in their hair that I got a little compulsive in cleaning up the bathroom where I was doing the lice treatments afterwards, since I was so grossed out. I must have scrubbed the floor five times.)

I can only guess, since it was the older boys who had most of the lice this time, that they picked it up on their one overnight stay at camp this summer, and then later shared it with their little brother, who had only the daintiest little hint of lice on his head. This, however, means at least a week of daily lice inspections and then another treatment a week from the first one. Oh, and lots and lots of psychosomatic itching.

I suppose that the one positive is that sorting through clothes and boxes of old junk is going to feel like a vacation after this. Assuming, of course, that nothing else goes wrong the next time I try to get started...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Life Gets in the Way

Week Two of the 1,000-Pound Project has been a frustrating return to reality--the reality of too much to do and not enough time to do it in. My husband, who volunteers with our local AYSO region, had signed us up as a backup host family for one of the UK trainers who come in to do a one-week camp. He did warn me a day or so before the start of the week that they were still looking for other host families, so it seemed possible-to-likely that we would end up hosting someone. On Sunday, only a few hours before the trainers were due to arrive in the area, we got the official word that we would be housing one of them.

I can't share my exact response to this news, but I can say that yes, it was a four-letter word, and no, I would not care to hear any of my children repeat it. As a result of my efforts in Week One, various piles of debris remained on the floor in the living room, the front hall, and the hallway to the bedrooms. The boys' rooms looked like they always do when I'm too distracted to keep after the boys to clean up after themselves--like the aftermath of a moderate earthquake. Some quick work was in order.

As you can imagine, those piles of debris I had been working on sorting out went right back into bags and bins. There wasn't a chance that I was going to be able to finishing sorting it out, given that I had to quickly clean up Son #1's room (where we intended our guest to stay) and the boys' bathroom. My husband enlisted the three boys to clear enough room in the other bedroom for us to put down an air mattress for Son #1 to sleep on between his brothers' beds. As for the rest of the house--well, I figured that our guest just might consider the accommodations worth what he paid for them, but would probably be too polite to say so.

That was just the start of the week. The rest of the week included going into school to meet the new principal (I volunteer at our kids' school so much that this summer a little girl approached me at the boys' summer camp and asked me if I worked at the school--not a good sign), taking Son #3 to two swim lessons (makeup and regular), taking Son #1 to his social skills group, tracking down a patch for a hole in the air mattress (we think one of the cats punctured it), taking the older boys back and forth to soccer camp at the park, cooking, cleaning, laundry, more cooking, more cleaning, more laundry. I think the reason I hate housework so much is that it doesn't STAY done. I've done laundry almost every day this week and yet the hampers look just as full as they did at the start of the week.

So Week Two was a definite step backwards. I'm hoping that before Week Three is over I will be able to take the row of bags and boxes that are lined up in the hall to my bedroom to Goodwill and feel like I am making some progress again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Week One Wrap-Up

The 1,000-Pound Project is one week old, and I have gotten rid of 67.8 pounds of stuff so far, broken down as follows:

30.6 pounds of proofs from old freelance projects
4.2 pounds of old clothing (thrown out--not suitable for donation)
9 pounds of old papers
9 pounds of trash from garage bins, laundry room, and master bathroom
2.8 pounds of recycling
5.2 pounds of old gift bags
7 pounds of old gift boxes

I had hoped to make a trip to Goodwill on Sunday, to dispose of several bags of clothes that are worth passing along to someone else, but life, as it frequently does, got in the way. They may help to keep this week's total where it should be, because as of tomorrow my extra time will be absorbed by new freelance work coming in.

On the plus side, I did get Son #3's baby shoes sent off to be bronzed (it has gotten a lot more expensive since I had Son #2's done...my own damn fault for procrastinating), and I can actually see the floor of my closet for the first time in a year or so. Even better, I am taking a ruthless approach to the various items I have saved over the years. Yes, it is nice to save gift boxes and gift bags to reuse, but not every single one. My recycling bin was nice and full and my closet much less so. Here's hoping I can keep my resolve over the coming weeks...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Intermittent Positive Reinforcement Is Not My Friend

You may remember from Psych 101 the various kinds of reinforcement that can be used to influence behavior. What has always stuck with me is the explanation of the most effective kind—intermittent positive reinforcement. For example, if the rat in the box gets a food pellet every time it presses a lever, it quickly unlearns that behavior when a lever press does not produce a pellet. However, if you mix things up a bit so that a few lever presses produce nothing, then on the next one out pops a food pellet, that rat will keep on pressing that lever. It is never sure when the effort will pay off, so it keeps on trying. This helps to explain why people keep playing the lottery when they have a better chance of growing wings and flying to the moon than of winning. After all, people do win—just not very often.

This principle is one of the reasons I have such a hard time getting rid of stuff. There have been a few times—not many, but enough to keep me guessing—where some item I have put in storage turns out to be exactly the right thing to have at the right time. The most recent example was a total fluke, reinforcing a couple of types of behavior I should be avoiding.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine called me because her neighbor was having a yard sale that included a large amount of craft items. Knowing that I sew and knit and whatnot, she urged me to come over and take a look. I did, despite the fact that I had more than enough craft materials at home already. I ended up purchasing a random assortment of items, including a basket full of a large number of rather ugly plastic buttons, which I rationalized that someday I could use for a craft project. This collection promptly went into storage, unused.

This spring, I ended up helping out with costuming for my oldest son’s class in the school’s musical revue performance. They needed something vaguely military-looking for their rendition of “Rhythm Nation.” I pulled those self-same ugly buttons out of storage in one of the infamous garage boxes, and discovered that I had 68 of the largest size, and another 68 of the next smaller size—enough to embellish 34 hats and 68 epaulets, once I spray-painted them gold to simulate brass buttons. So that barely-justifiable impulse garage sale buy, coupled with the barely-justifiable long-term storage, ended up being pretty good decisions in the end.

So where to draw the line? That particular acquisition turned out well, but I’m sure not everything I save will turn out to have a purpose that simply isn’t clear to me in the moment.

To offer an example on the flip side, I know the original box from the sewing machine is out in the garage somewhere. My tendency to save the original packaging from large items like that (heavy, awkward to pack, and delicate) is a legacy of my military-brat childhood; when you know you’re moving every two years, you might as well hold on to the box so you can pack those items up again safely for the next move. However, my last move was a decade ago, into this house, and the sewing machine itself is older than my marriage. Unlike the days when I first got the machine (a gift from my parents, and more expensive then my rent at the time), I could probably buy myself a new machine if something happened to this one. Furthermore, if there ever is a next move, it will likely be local, so if I’m that worried about the safety of my sewing machine, I can always load it into the car and drive it to our next home rather than trusting it to the moving company.

So that box is finally going to go...when I can find it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Highs, Lows, and Humility Lessons

Yesterday my husband came home from work to find me sitting on the floor with the contents of three garage boxes in piles around me. After I displayed the various sections—kids’ clothes to be given away, a box of recycling, bags of trash—he suspiciously asked, “Are you pregnant?”

Nesting-like behavior notwithstanding, I am not. (Three kids is more than enough crazy for me.) It’s just that having experienced some early success with the 1,000-Pound Project, I am eager for more. And my sorting had unexpected dividends.

The organizational chaos in my house has frequently meant that things go missing. As I emptied out boxes and bags yesterday, I found three such missing things:

Found item #1: Years ago I bought the boys a Hanukkah Fisher Price set through a catalog. I only put it out for the holidays (mostly because I didn’t want to lose all the pieces among the other Little People sets they had, but also because the main piece plays Hanukkah music when you press down on the menorah and it gets kind of annoying after the fiftieth time or so). Two pieces of this set went missing two Hanukkahs ago. Found them in a bag of junk on the upper laundry room shelf.

Found item #2: A critical piece of our garment steamer—the cap to the water reservoir—went missing some time ago. I searched repeatedly for it and came up empty every time. I seriously considered throwing out the steamer since it was not functional without this piece. Found it in a bag inside a box in the garage. 

Found item #3: Son #3’s first pair of shoes. This was the biggie. Earlier this year we moved Son #3 out of the smallest bedroom and into the big bedroom, which he and Son #2 now share, so that Son #1 could have his own bedroom. (He is eleven and practicing to be a teenager.) At this point I realized that I had no idea where Son #3’s first pair of shoes had gone. This was a huge problem of my own making.

I say of my own making because I had both Son #1 and Son #2’s first shoes bronzed. It is hoky, yes, and one of those ridiculously sentimental things that makes my husband roll his eyes at me, but I did it anyway. To have to tell Son #3 that his shoes were not up there gathering dust on the bookcase with his brothers’ because I LOST them was not a conversation I was looking forward to having. It is bad enough that we have roughly five squintillion more pictures of Son #1 than we do of Son #3, or that almost everything he wears is a hand-me-down. I could envision him in middle age pouring out the whole sorry story to some therapist.

You can imagine my relief when I found those self-same shoes, all scuffed in the toes because he still preferred crawling to walking when we got them for him, buried in the bottom of the second box of outgrown clothes I sorted last night. My goal for today is to find the information to send them off for bronzing before I lose them again.

So those were the highs. The lows and the humility lesson part go hand in hand. I threw out half the contents of the bag of junk Found item #1 was located in without hesitating—so why on earth has it been sitting on a shelf for so long? How embarrassing to think that garment steamer would have ended up in the landfill for no reason other than my disorganization. And clearly we’ve reached the point where non-important stuff is overwhelming my ability to keep track of things that are important, if I spent half the year anxious about the location of those darn baby shoes. Finally, despite having emptied two boxes of old kids’ clothes, I have stacks of other boxes to tackle in the garage. What they represent is a lot of putting off until tomorrow what I should have dealt with in the moment. I may be fighting back, but so far the stuff is still winning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Time to Jump In

I have often thought, over the last couple of years, of starting a blog. (Because really, what the world needs is another blog.) That notion has, until now, ended up on the list of endlessly postponed “it would be nice to do” things. That day when I would inaugurate my blog with a carefully crafted wise and witty post, I have recently realized, is never going to come. So I am going to do the literary equivalent of a cannonball into the pool and just get started already.

So here goes: my reason for starting now, and the focus of this first post, is going to be the challenge I posed to myself two days ago. I live in a three-bedroom house with my husband, our three boys, four cats, two fish, and a whole lot of stuff. The bigger the boys get and the longer we live here, the more stuff we seem to have. I have been making fitful attempts at cleaning out and organizing almost since we moved in, and none of them seem to make any lasting difference against the rising tide of material goods.

Earlier this summer a friend of mine proposed that we mutually work on organizational challenges to motivate us. Her suggestion was that we start by getting all unnecessary things off the floor. I have to say that I failed miserably at this. Part of that was because as soon as she proposed the idea I got a fresh wave of freelance work that sucked up all my spare time. The other part, I realized, was because there is so much unneeded junk in my house that its position hardly matters. I have to take a step back and start by getting rid of things.

So my first task is what I call the 1,000-Pound Project. The goal is to get rid of 1,000 pounds of unneeded stuff over the next 20 weeks—keeping it to a manageable 50 pounds per week. I’ve set a few rules for myself to keep me honest:

1. It doesn’t count until it leaves the house.
Sticking it in the garage doesn’t count. My garage is full of stuff that is ostensibly out of the house but is still part of the “stuff” nightmare—old papers, old clothes, old toys that we crammed in boxes rather than dealing with at that moment. Instead of a spot to park my car I have ranks of boxes full of junk. So this rule is very important—until the item I am getting rid of actually goes in the trash or recycling or gets donated to charity, it doesn’t count toward the total.

2. Things that are regularly dumped out don’t count.
The point of this exercise is not to give myself a pat on the back for good habits I’ve already developed, like recycling the junk mail and the odd copy of the Watchtower that the local Jehovah’s Witnesses drop off the second it comes through the mail slot. Ordinary trash and recycling don’t count. Now, the stack of papers I discover in that box that hasn’t been opened in two years—that counts. That box is sucking up room in my bedroom or garage, and getting rid of it (and its kin) ARE the point of this exercise.

3. Things that have been taking up space without serving a purpose do count.
This category is intentionally kind of broad. Not everything that I have stored for months, sadly, had a purpose at one time. There have been weeks where life got completely crazy and the stack of papers from the dining room table got swept into a bag and stuck in a corner of my bedroom in a faux-cleaning run when I was trying to make the house presentable for company. Nothing is quite as humiliating as discovering that the dust-covered paper bag that has been taking up space in the corner contains nothing more important than a couple of credit card offers, expired grocery coupons, a months’-old newspaper, and an old school flyer for a workshop you never intended to go to anyway. So whether it is clothes the kids have outgrown, toys they no longer play with, books we no longer read, old cable bills from our apartment in Berkeley, or whatever, if it has been taking up space when it no longer serves a purpose in this house, it is on the hit list.

What do I expect to find in what I hope will be a ruthless campaign to get rid of things we no longer need? I can tell you what I’ve already found, in the two days since I started weeding stuff out:
  •        Clothes I haven’t worn since the Clinton administration
  •        PTA papers pertaining to fundraising campaigns conducted four years ago, which nobody (including me) has looked at in over three
  •        Backup copies of freelance work I completed over a year ago
  •      Empty boxes for cell phones we no longer own

And this was all in my bedroom.

Why 1,000 pounds? I don’t know. I can tell you that I’ve already surpassed my 50-pound goal for this week (paper weighs a lot!), so I wanted to set the goal high enough that I still have work to do after all the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Maybe it won’t be high enough. I’ll just have to see.

Why 20 weeks? I have to keep the task to a size where I can fit it into life as I know it. The school year is about to start again, and with it soccer season, which means volunteer work, and homework, and practices, and games, and back-to-school nights, and fundraising. Throw in the high holy days, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, and the time between the first day of school and New Year’s starts to feel like a treadmill set a notch or two too high. I hope that 50 pounds a week will still be a manageable amount with all that going on. (I am going to allow myself to average, however, so that extra progress in one week will help make up for weeks when I may make none at all.)

So if this is all about stuff—too much of it and the need to purge—then why is the blog called “Finding the Eye of the Storm”? It’s because I believe that the ballooning amount of stuff is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. An overabundance of stuff can be remedied with some time and energy, which are two things I don’t have an overabundance of. So how did I get to this point where I feel that my life has two modes: busy and busier? How do I turn that treadmill off occasionally so that I can catch my breath? If I thought I was the only person who felt this way, I’d chalk it all up to poor time management or my notorious inability to say no to volunteer work, but since I’ve just spent a summer with my friends commiserating over the deeply crispy burnout cases we’ve all become, I don’t think that’s it. So the title of the blog reflects what is currently on my mind—how to find some momentary calm in the middle of the craziness that is my life. (I mean, seriously, I have three boys—things aren’t going to be very quiet around here for me until about 2024, unless I go deaf first.)

And why now? So I’ll be too embarrassed to quit the 1,000-Pound Project, of course!