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Thoughts from a Small Island

Random words from my mind

Tonight Matthew I’m Going To Be?

Tired

Unless you’re as old as I am (which is pretty old in my daughter’s eyes) then you will have no idea what the title of today’s little rambling means. There was a TV show which put ordinary people in the spotlight as they impersonated a celebrity entertainer (a singer) to try to gain the public’s attention as someone with a great voice. It was sort of the X-Factor of its day but without the boring sob stories and terrible auditions.

The person would be introduced to the audience, and then through some basic clues and video they would then walk off through a smoky door and say “Tonight Matthew I’m going to be *insert singer’s name*”. It was the height of Saturday night entertainment and our family would try to guess who the person was going to impersonate, before ultimately getting it completely wrong.

Now, this brings me to the point of today’s blog if there actually is one (there often isn’t but somehow I manage to tie it all together at the end).

It is the Easter school holidays which also brings along the start of the main tourist season here on the small island. This brings along coach loads of people who have invariably never heard of the small island until now and think they have to change their money and bring their passports with them. Tourism is a big thing for our island in that it brings money to the local shops and people to our shores. It helps keep the island afloat (metaphorically speaking of course) through the winter months and provides a source of employment throughout the ‘season’.

At this time of year a lot of the tourist attractions open up again and there is a general buzz in the air as the streets and roads get busy again. Like any place that relies heavily on tourism there is a love / hate relationship with people coming here. On the one hand we are grateful that people want to come and view our beautiful island and take in all that it has to offer. They spend money in our local shops and pubs which in turn helps to provide employment for a great number of people. On the other we (I use the royal we) get fed up that the roads get busier and frustrated that the places we like to go for peace and quiet are now full of people wearing crocs and Hawaiian shirts (sometimes together!!!).

This combination of school holidays and grockles (what we call tourists here on the small island) means that my working day is extremely busy as there are a lot more people on the small island who will go shopping and want something to eat while they are out.

I usually walk to work, I’m on my feet all day, except for my lunch break, and then usually I walk home. My daily walk to and from work is just over a mile and a half each way, plus however far I walk at work while in the process of doing my job. This means I walk a lot. Every day.

My feet hurt.

My knees and joints ache.

My body just wants to stop.

I have lost all motivation to go out for a run in the evening at the moment because of this exhaustion and that, in turn, is affecting me mentally. Not in a bad way, just in the sense that I don’t have that time on my own right now. I will get back out there again when I can as I love running and the freedom it gives me but for now it’s not top of my list.

Which brings me back around to my original train of thought. See I told you I’d tie it all together in the end.

I don’t have a smoke machine behind my door to give that sense of wonder but as I walk up my stairs tonight, I will turn around and give the audience (you, dear readers) a hearty wave.

Tonight Matthew, I think I’m going to sleep well.

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I Always Feel Like……….

“…….somebody’s watching me

I’m just an average man, with an average life.
I work from nine to five; hey hell, I pay the price.
All I want is to be left alone in my average home;
But why do I always feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone”
(Rockwell, 1984)

For some reason today I have felt uneasy. I can’t explain why or what has caused it but I have felt (like the lyrics above) that someone has been watching everything I do.

My morning went o.k. and I got up at my normal time and helped my little girl (she’s 12yrs old but still my ‘little girl’) get ready for school. I had some breakfast once she had left the house to get the bus to town and sat and chilled out downstairs before getting dressed and ready for work.

I had a lovely walk in to town and popped to the chemists quickly to pick up my medication.

Once at work I went through my usual ‘routine’ with the added bonus of handing over a commissioned picture I had done for a friend whose son is getting married soon. I felt incredibly humbled to be asked to do such an important (in my eyes anyway) thing but I was also proud of myself for doing it. My friend loved it and explained how it would be the perfect gift for the happy couple due to the detail I had put in and the fact it was all hand done and ‘one of a kind’.

The morning at work was steady and then lunch time went its usual busy way. Nothing really any different from a normal day (if there is such a thing as a normal day where I work).

However, after I had my lunch and returned back downstairs I had this uneasy feeling that I had upset somebody and was being watched as a result of it. In my mind I went over all the conversations I had with colleagues wondering if I had said something by mistake. I then thought about the things I had done during the day to see if there was anything I had done that had upset anyone.

I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t done or said anything to anyone. People were still talking to me. I wasn’t being avoided or pushed to the sidelines.

So why did I feel so flat?

I have no idea but it was beginning to unnerve me and make me feel anxious. What if people were just being nice to me for the sake of it? What if I had upset someone so much that they couldn’t even talk to me? What if they were all talking about me when I left the room? What if they were watching to see if I made a mistake?

What if?

What if?

That old chestnut was beginning to lodge itself in my head again and I was unable to shake it out. I began to retreat to my ‘safe’ zone and immersed myself in the end of day tasks I still had to do and spoke to people only when I absolutely had to. On the outside I was calm and collected so nobody would think any less of me but inside I was struggling to understand the most basic of things.

6pm came and I couldn’t wait to leave. I said my goodbyes and thanked the team for their hard work and went to get my things from upstairs. Once in the staff room I felt relaxed again and I put my trainers on, put my name card back and began to walk home.

Now that I’m home I have the radio on, curtains closed and I’m switching between typing this and bouncing around the living room like I’m the crazy front man of my own imaginary band (I can imagine you all trying to picture this) playing to an audience of 1 (me).

So what was it?

Genuinely I have no idea.

Maybe I just need a day off, in which case it’s perfect timing as I’m off tomorrow.

Until next time have a good evening and thank you for listening to my waffle……………………………

Mum, Mummy, Mother, Mom, Mam, Ma

In Ninewells Hospital born and raised
In Scotland is where I spent some of my days
Chilling out max and relaxing all cool
And playing with my friends outside after school

Then after some years that were really quite good
We went and moved into a new neighbourhood
I went through high school and I grew my long hair
And said “I’m a teenager and I really don’t care”

Now, if you’re like me you will have actually read the above lines in your head along to the tune of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and you can thank me later for now having that tune stuck in your head. Much like the family in the show, I like to think that my family has a similar dynamic (except for the fact we don’t live in L.A. and my cousin doesn’t live with us) in that we are a pretty close family who look for out each other. We have no need to phone each other day or text all the time as we all know that if anything happens to one of us the rest of us will be there in a heartbeat to pick up the slack. Some find it strange that I barely talk to my siblings but, in my eyes at least, I have no need to as I know that they are alright and if anything is wrong I will be told straight away.

With it being Mothering Sunday tomorrow here in the U.K. my focus today is on my mum. I know she reads my blog so I’ll be very careful not to embarrass her too much (I hope) but this is my own way of saying thank you for everything that you have done for all of us.

My childhood growing up was what I would call ideal. We lived in Dundee until I was 5yrs old and then in Gullane (nr. Edinburgh) until I was 10. Then we moved to Somerset and I lived there for 10yrs and finally settled over on the small island where I have been ever since. We were by no means rich in monetary terms but we had everything we needed and I have a huge amount of very happy memories from my childhood years of camping holidays (in the rain), visiting relatives in the school holidays, being given the freedom to play with my friends and just generally enjoy being a kid and if you count all these things together then I am richer than I could ever have been.

My mum through all of my life has been a constant source of reassurement, laughs and love. She has never questioned any of my decisions in life (even the time I grew my hair long and thought I looked really cool) although I’m pretty sure with some of them she has rolled her eyes quite frequently. She has always been a hard-working mum and, along with my dad, has made sure that our family had just what we need. Through my years growing up I always knew that she had my back and would be there with hugs and kisses if I fell down ready to pick me up again.

I am proud to say that she has an awesome taste in music, partly down to my influence. She listens to most things and has, on occasion, come in to my room when I lived at home and had something loud and heavy on my stereo and said that she loves what I’m listening to. This has ranged from Metallica, White Zombie, Nightwish, Deftones to softer bands like Neds Atomic Dustbins, Carter USM and The Cranberries. I am even more proud to say that I have been to some awesome concerts with her too. We have seen Bon Jovi 4 times together and I even took her to an Alice Cooper gig once and she loved it!!

In recent years my mum’s health has had a few knock backs and she has had 2 strokes and some mental health issues which I won’t go in to here as I feel this blog is for me to talk about my mental health and not anyone else. In my eyes this has made me realise that as much as we don’t like to think about it, our parents are not invincible. When I was young I though my parents were superheroes (I still do really) but as I have grown up I see them ageing and slowing down.

What I do still see in my mum is that little sparkle in her eyes when she’s doing something she loves. She has a daft sense of humour which along with my dad ‘s humour seems to have rubbed off on me and subsequently on to my daughter (poor little thing).

Mothering Sunday to me is for everyone. Whether it is for mum’s who are still here or those who are sadly no longer with us. It is for anyone who has acted in the capacity of a motherly, caring figure in your life whether it be a friend, relative or someone who has stepped in to look after you at some point.

I will finish today’s little offering by just saying one thing which I don’t think I actually say enough to my mum (or my dad even) but they know that I mean it every day.

I Love You xx

 

Where Did it Go?

On Thursday of this week I came to a decision. Not a massive, world-changing decision but a decision nonetheless.

For years I have a bit of a hairy faced being but this week I made the decision to get rid of the big bushy beard I have been growing for the last year.

So far I have had people do a complete double take and then realise something is missing before commenting on my newly bald face. Some say I look 20 years younger, some say they prefer it to the bushy beard of before. Some look at me as if I am mad (well, we know I am) and then expect me to say, “…don’t worry I’ll grow it back again” (I won’t).

The reason for the change?

I think the main reason was that I no longer ‘need’ it. By that I mean that I had probably come to rely on it as some sort of mask or comfort blanket (albeit a hairy one attached to my face). Since the age of around 16yrs old I have had a beard of some kind and have come to rely on it. I got rid of it a while ago due to my job but when I went off sick with my mental breakdown I grew it back again. This was probably my way of bringing the ‘safe’ me back and it felt good. I then decided that because the rules on facial hair at work had relaxed I would keep growing it. In hindsight this was probably my way of rebelling against the system and it’s policies. I felt that by growing it longer it made me stand out and almost the person I thought I should be. It made me feel stronger (in a Samson kind of way) and if I was to get rid of it then I would crumble again.

But……..

Guess what?

I’ve cut it and I still feel the same.

Compared to where I was mentally just over a year ago I feel that now is the time to let go of another bit of the past and make another step forwards. The security blanket has been put away and I now have a clean (ish) face.

I had actually been considering getting rid of the facial fuzz a little while ago but the thing that finally made my mind up was on Thursday on my way to work. It has been snowing here on the small island and most of the big island too. It was our turn on Thursday for the ‘Beast from the East’ and ‘Storm Emma’ to come together and cause mayhem to many. I found my wellies in the garage and put my woolly hat, my neck scarf and gloves on. I zipped all 3 zips on my coat (yes, it has 3 zips) only to discover that I couldn’t actually do my coat all the way up. So my supposedly warm beard led to me being colder than I should have been. Something had to give and so that evening I found my trimmer in the cupboard and just went for it.

The only downside to having no bushy beard anymore is that it moves the focus to the hair on my head and I now see how big my forehead is due to the gradually receding hairline.

Maybe it’s time for that hair to finally go too?

Stay tuned for the next installment…………

Another Year Older

Today is my birthday (yay me) and I am now officially a year older than this time last year.

I am also officially a bit more mentally aware of myself than this time last year.

One thing I have found though is that I have become a bit more artistic and creative than I think I was this time last year. I doodle, I scribble and have even given a try at general drawing. Am I any good? Well art is subjective and what I like, you might not. What you like, I might hate but that is the beauty of it. There is no right or wrong. You are entitled to your opinion.

A particular style I seem to have aligned myself is a slightly abstract kind of style. Now, you could say that I have found that style because it probably represents me best (I am a little odd if I may so myself) and it is my comfort zone. I have always had an interest in the alternative styles of things, be that art, music, lifestyles and think that by broadening our horizons even just a little bit we create a more rounded self. My music taste is eclectic to say the least (currently listening to a Rage Against The Machine) and my iPod is on permanent shuffle mode so I can listen to Motown one song, Heavy Metal the next and then switch to cheesy 90’s pop. My clothing taste can be a little odd and I am no stranger to funky socks and mish mashed colours in one outfit.

Abstract art seems to be a style that encompasses everything from landscapes to portraits, sketches to painting and it is something I am keen to explore a bit more even if only for my own enjoyment (that’s what it’s really about anyway). My drawing skills are limited and I am no expert in sketching a skyline or the outline of an animal. However, I do have a knack for making odd shapes look cool. I am not talking about modern art (unmade beds etc…) as in my own mind I don’t find that interesting. Although if unmade beds and messy tables are your thing then come around to my house as it has modern art in it everyday. I like making regular things look irregular and making the eye / mind work hard to see the bigger picture *no pun intended* as, to me, that is what I think art is about. It is about seeing what you want to see.

Today I received a wonderful present (amongst the other fab presents I received today) of some art materials from my mother in law. Included was some watercolour paper, canvas boards, watercolour postcards and a set of watercolour paints (the tube variety. Now I find myself trawling through YouTube watching videos on how to mix the paints properly and prime the canvas / paper. I have also discovered that I should tape the paper down to stop it bending while I ‘paint’. Who knew?? I’m going to have a go and see what my brain can come up with.

It won’t be perfect, but it’s going to be good enough for me.

Until next time…………………….

It’s Good To Talk

If you’re old like me you’ll remember a series of tv adverts for British Telecom (BT) where they constantly reminded us that it is good to talk. Well, fortunately today’s blog is not about the virtues of telecommunications or about tv adverts of the 80’s (even if there were some cracking ones…..Um Bongo anyone?)

No, todays blog is all about a thing called ‘Time to Talk’ day.

Now, this does not mean going up to random strangers on the bus and telling them what you had for breakfast (although that could open up interesting conversations in itself).

To me today is all about gently supporting and encouraging each other to talk about how you might be feeling if someone asks. It is about being honest with yourself.

It is also a day that can remind us that in this world of texts, IM’s and GIFs we are still able to actually speak to each other using proper words and not just shortened versions to fit in to our 120 character limit. Sometimes just saying hello to someone can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. Just asking how someone is can show genuine compassion and may encourage that person to open up about something they might otherwise not talk about.

Personally I have been guilty of keeping things inside and doing my best to avoid confronting things. On reflection I have suffered with anxiety issues from a young age but never really realised what was going on. When people asked me how I was I would answer with the obligatory ‘not bad….you?’. I now realise that this has been a part of my problem and have made a conscious effort to change this. I now consider myself a fully paid up member of the ‘1 in 4’ club (this is not an actual club, just referring to the fact that 1 in 4 of us are affected by mental health problems) who deal with mental health issues daily. I am still cagey of who I open up to but those I trust I am honest with and I hope that those people can be honest with me in return. I have had days where I just want to close the shutters and stay in my own little world within my head but then someone has asked me how I’m doing and it has made me realise that not everyone has an agenda. There are people who care and there are more of them than I thought.

It can also be a day to reflect on things in a good light.

One thing I have been grateful for this last year has been the wonderful ‘Anxiety Cafe’ that I go to every month (and occasionally on Wednesday mornings when work allows). This social group has introduced me to new people who I like to think of as friends now. There is no set programme for our monthly catch ups and we just talk about what we feel like. Sometimes there is very little chat, other times we can’t get a word in edge ways but it is this sense of ‘safety’ that we all enjoy. We talk without fear and we listen without judging.

Unfortunately the world isn’t always like this and is hopefully through days like today that we can gradually break down those walls of awkward silences and the stigma surrounding mental health.

So there you have it. This is me (in case you didn’t realise), this is now and it’s good to talk.

Have a good day and until next time………..

When Did We Stop Having Fun?

On my way to work this morning I was reminded of a time when everything was carefree and there were no real consequences to anything. Things were done for us and we had no responsibilities such as bills, jobs and life. That time (for me at least) would be nearly 40 yrs ago when I was a toddler.

Whilst walking to town this morning I saw something that put a massive smile on my face (and on the Mum coming towards me). There were 2 small children aged about 3 yrs old who were all wrapped up in big coats, woolly hats and wellies. They were racing each other towards the next puddle on the pavement so that they could be the first to jump in its still waters. Each time their feet made contact with the water there was a big splash followed by giggling. Then it was on to the next puddle. As I got nearer I smiled to myself and the mum of the 2 kids saw me smile and just smiled back to me.

Further on in to town and I saw a child watching the raindrops racing each other (please tell me I’m not the only one who used to do this too when they were little) down the window of the car he was in and getting excited as his drop got nearer to the finish line (the bottom) and then won the race.

Then, while at work there was a little boy going around waving to everyone who looked at him on his way out the cafe with his mum. He had the biggest smile on his face as did the people he was waving at.

All of this made me think that as we get older we have less fun.

Life gets in the way of almost everything now. If we have a day off it is usually taken up with either doing the laundry, paying bills or doing various bits of shopping in town. It is rare for us to just ‘get up and go’ somewhere as we all have responsibilities to sort out first. If we do anything off the cuff we usually make ourselves feel guilty about it afterwards don’t we?

But why should we?

Aren’t we all just big kids inside screaming out to jump in a big puddle?

At what point in life do we slip into corduroy (I’m not knocking corduroy but it is usually seen as old people’s material), put on the big comfy slippers and stop playing?

Is there something inside us that switches on the ‘no fun’ button at a certain age?

I want to be that child again. I want to jump in puddles. I want to race raindrops down the window. I want to wave at people I don’t know and make them smile.

So what’s stopping me?

The answer…………………Me

I’m beginning to make more use of my evenings for myself and do more drawing, reading and such but the days off are still an issue. Well, not an issue in itself because I do understand that being a grown up does come with some grown up baggage. But, what if I can begin to use maybe half of my day off to do something I want? It’s not that hard to work out and I’m sure I’d feel better for it.

Maybe that’s something I can work on in future.

Until next time…………………………………………..

 

p.s. I haven’t forgotten about the blog I said I’d do about my glass making day . I just need to get my bum in gear to sort out the photos of it. I will do it, I promise

Happy Anniversary

Apparently today marks exactly a year since I started using WordPress to do my blogging and let my thoughts loose on the unsuspecting public.

(How do I know this? I’m not psychic, I got a notification when I logged on)

That means that for one whole year I have been informing you all of what I have been up to and how I’ve felt at various times. I’m not sure if it has helped anyone else but I know in my own head it has certainly cleared away some cobwebs and made me view myself a LOT differently than I used to.

My main worry now though is do I have anything left to say? I can honestly say that the answer to that is a resounding YES. The blogs may not be as regular as they may have been as I have also been getting back into using my spare time for myself. I think I will always have something to report on and it will be as honest as I have always been.

Today has been one of those days where I have been thinking. Not about anything in particular but a few things have sprung to mind. One of these thoughts came about whilst cleaning out the garage (rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of mine). Since we moved house we have slowly been unpacking and putting odds an sods in the garage out of the way because we no longer have a use for the leftover items. We previously took a few boxes to the charity shop but there was still more to go. Well, today we filled up the car (twice) and took the remaining boxes from the front of the garage to charity shops and it felt good. Like one of those motivational posters that always seem to do the rounds on the internet this was one of those clear space / clear mind type of situations. We can now safely walk around the front area of the garage and get to the fridge freezer without tripping over things. We cleared out the old lady shopping trolley that was hiding in the rafters and got rid of the original 2-bar electric fire that looked like it was leftover from when the house was built. All the rest of the ‘junk’ is now in the car and will be taken to the tip tomorrow morning and I can genuinely say I’m glad it’s gone. Like one of those cheesy Disney movie analogies I feel like the junk has gone from my mind and I am now ready to fill it back up with useful things.

I have identified an area that I will be able to use as my little ‘man-cave’ area so I can sit in there with some lights, a heater, a radio and my art materials. Bliss.

There is a down side to all of this though (there has to be a negative to every positive doesn’t there?) and that is that we will have to do a bit more work on the rest of the garage before it fully becomes my own little haven. We have boxes that have come out of our old loft which we probably have never looked at in 9yrs but will now have to go through them ‘just in case’. Most of them are full of our daughter’s old clothes and the rest are just bits of nostalgia that we have held on to. My question though is that if we haven’t looked at them in 9yrs do we REALLY need whatever is in the box. If I’m being honest (which I am) I will probably shed a tear or two at some of the items but the reality is that they are just things. The important items will be the memories of them as they will live with us always (here I go with the cheesy Disney emotion again).

The other thing that has been niggling me this week is that I still haven’t been out for a run since the end of December. Running gives me the freedom to not think about things and keeps me sane (if that’s possible) but due to this horrible bug that has been doing the rounds I have been short of breath and coughing like a 40-a-day smoker which has meant no running for the time being. I’ve kept active by walking to and from work but I miss the solitude of running the streets at night. It’s getting better but I’m my own worst enemy when I’m ill as I just want to do stuff and get frustrated when I’m not able to do what I want.

Still, I can always write this month and think that there’s always February to look forward to………………………

Holy Shit….What Just Happened?

*WARNING – This blog may contain details of my life that some people will find uncomfortable to read about me. It will probably contain some bad language too as I think the mood fits*

I had a bit of a plan to write a blog about how far I’ve come this last year but I think (for those who may have only recently found my blog) I should probably quickly explain where I was first.

If I’m being honest, most of 2017 was pretty fucking awful for me in one way or another. The first part of the year saw me in a bit of a mess in that I had changed my medication and was in the grip of terrible depression and anxiety. I was scared to leave my house, I was seeing things that weren’t there and I was starting to believe my mind when it was telling me I was useless. At one point my wife even had to staple a cover on the top of a table because I thought the knots in the wood were evil faces telling me I was worthless. I genuinely felt I was a burden to EVERYONE around me and had thoughts of ending my life. I honestly had no intention of carrying the thoughts out but I had the thoughts in my head about what I could do to ease everyone’s suffering. I self harmed for a while as it drew the pain away from what was in my head but the relief was only short-term and the pain in my mind returned with a vengeance. I was unable to accept help from those closest to me as I felt they were only doing it because they had to, not because they wanted to. In the end, I had an emergency referral to the mental health team at the hospital and was given a good talking to (in a good way). In short, my mind was fucked. However, that evening was to be the beginning of my recovery. I began to realise that the things I was upset / worried / anxious about were things I had NO control over but I had no idea on how to let these thoughts go. I was referred for group sessions and at the start of the summer I began to attend these, only finishing the last session 2 weeks before Christmas.

I am still anxious (I always will be and I accept that now) and my depression is on the back-burner for now but I am always acutely aware that either of them have the ability to flare up and scare the shit out of me when they want to therefore giving me no time to prepare for the event.

But what about the rest of the year? Surely something good must have come out of all this?

Well……….in no particular order I thought I would list some of the positives this year has brought me:

  • I turned 40 and went for a birthday meal with my parents, my wife and daughter only to find that one of my best friends from college was there with her partner their daughter.
  • I joined the ‘Anxiety Cafe’ and began to regularly attend their monthly meetings and I have met some amazing people.
  • I returned to full-time work after 4 months off sick and although incredibly anxious at first I overcame my fears and gradually got back in to my usual position.
  • I realised that I am loved and appreciated by more people than I ever imagined I was.
  • My wife and I bought our first family home together after years of renting.
  • My daughter started secondary school and has settled in brilliantly.
  • I began to read books again (I’ve always been able to read, I’ve just never felt compelled to sit and do it)
  • I made a paperweight after being given the chance to do it as a birthday present from my work colleagues (yes…I will do a blog on that properly in future….I promise).
  • I went camping in Cornwall for a week
  • I went to the theatre to see one of our favourite comedians
  • I rediscovered my love of art again and began to ‘doodle’ as a way of distracting my mind
  • I sold 5 of my pictures and began to finally accept the compliments that people gave me about my work
  • I continued with my running and notched up nearly 500km this year
  • I grew a beard (which a customer told me the other day was looking “…rather luxurious”)
  • I took part in some of the morning sessions the anxiety cafe was running and even had a go at some interpretive dance which pushed me so far out of my comfort zone.
  • I began to finally accept who I am and what I am
  • I watched my daughter taking part in swimming galas and beating her personal best times in some of her races.
  • I spent more time doing things that I wanted to do as opposed to things I thought I had to do

This is only a snapshot of how my year has gone but in my current unhealthy state of coughing and spluttering with what seems like a horrible sore throat and chesty cough (it’s not serious enough to have turned into man flu………yet!) that is all I am able to think of off the top of my head.

I hope you all have been able to find some positives in this last year and I wish each and every one of you all the best for 2018. I am under no illusions that it is going to be a ‘happy’ new year but I feel a little more prepared at least to tackle things as they appear than I did at this point last year.

Thank you xxxxx

 

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