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Super huge news

16 May

Our blog has suffered from a bit of neglect over the past couple of months. I’d like to say that it was because we forgot the password or forgot to pay for the hosting fees, but the truth is that we were just too busy.

Our bad, blog. Sorry.

However, part of the reason we’ve been so busy is . . . because . . . we’re preggo. Well, technically, S is preggers, but you know what I mean.

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S is currently in her 17th week and, knock on wood, everything has been going splendidly. No morning sickness and no weird food cravings, except a hankering for the occasional fish and chips. S has been a champ. Everyday I catch myself in a moment where I’m amazed by what her body is physically doing and what she’s mentally and emotionally doing for us.

When we first found out the big news, we started looking for a house. It was overwhelming, so we decided that we’d stay in the condo we love, at least for a little longer before the little one is really starting to move around. So if anyone has any great tips for living with a baby in a condo, feel free to email us.

 

Mexico!

16 Feb

The day after Christmas, J and I woke up at approximately 3am to board a plane to Mexico.  In short, we had the time of our lives.

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We landed in Puerto Vallarta and met our friends in the airport, who had waited an inordinate amount of time while we trudged through customs; in the meantime, they snagged cheap cab info (across the street from the airport) by using our gent friend’s trusty Spanish skills.  We hopped into the slightly rusty beater, windows down, sun setting, ready for adventure.  We got to Sayulita when it was dark.  We heard the ocean waves crashing across the street.  The next morning, once the sun rose, we saw our rental house (above) in all its ocean-view glory and pinched ourselves to see if our luck was real.  It was.  For the record, this fancy-pants crash pad cost $140/night.  Total.  Split amongst 4 people.  Good deals exist.

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This little stairway to heaven led us to our open-air yoga class overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  If you find yourself in Sayulita, walk past Villa Amor, through the archway to the (shockingly colorful and beautiful) cemetery.  Across the way is a set of stairs.  Ascend into workout heaven.

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See?  Heaven.  Not that it was completely perfect.  There may have been strange critters stretching their limbs along with the humankind on the smooth cement ground.  But they came in peace.  And humanity-loving yogis gently pushed the critters along their creepy-crawly way.  Namaste.

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We hiked through a mini-jungle (forest?) to find an incredible stretch of beach with less than 10 humans in sight.  Brilliant.  We climbed through an abandoned home that had fallen down the cliff.  Maybe not brilliant.  Saylita was lovely. 

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After Sayulita, we took a bus to Puerto Vallarta and a water taxi to Yelapa.  Our water taxi carried tourists, sacks of limes, onions, avocados, a captain and his toddler son clinging to his back and 1 mate.  The ride took about an hour and featured jumping dolphins and lots of giddy laughter.  Magic. 

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Rounding into the cove that houses Yelapa is an experience that must be had on a sunny day.  The sapphire and teal water sparkled.  The buoyed yachts lazed about.  The perfectly-hued sand and umbrella-lined beach was a set for a Corona commercial.  We jumped off the boat, into the ocean, waded to the beach, threw on our huge backpacks, and walked barefoot to our beachfront hotel.  The magic continued when we opened the door to our thatched-roof palapa.  The only thing separating us from the jungle and beach was a piece of linen hanging on a rope.  Rustic meet romance.  But be sure to zip your bags and check your sheets every.single.time.  We never saw a scorpion, but our friends killed one in their room.  Not very yogi of them, but I would’ve done the same.  Obviously.

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We had to wade through the river that connects to the ocean to get into town.  This made things interesting, but ultimately uneventful, on New Year’s Eve.

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We rang in the New Year at the most amazing outdoor “Yacht Club” (below) with seemingly every person aged 1/2 to 100 who was planning to sleep in town that night.  And every person in town was planning to stay that night, since Yelapa ingress and egress is strictly limited to water taxi during daylight hours.  There was fireworks, good luck lanterns, and enthusiastic dancers galore, some of whom clearly left the U.S. in the 1960’s and likely haven’t been back since.  Well after midnight struck, we said goodnight to the donkeys tied up outside, the primary means of transportation other than on foot, and waded back to our hotel room.  And then, the rain started.

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We cut our trip to Yelapa short since it was raining in our room and the rain was pooling on our floor.  The entire draw to Yelapa is to sit outside and do nothing but stare at the beach or take a long hike through the forest, so frankly it was fairly useless to us during the storm.  That may sound harsh, but we’re Seattleites and we didn’t travel to Mexico in January to see the rain.  It’s not supposed to rain like that in January, they claimed.  But rain it did.  So flee we did.  And it was terrifying.  A boat already far over capacity, with far too few life jackets, that was stuffed to the brim with locals and their luggage covered in plastic garbage bags, which ran out of gas as soon as we “boarded,” led by the fearless captain and entirely frightened mate that were maybe 35 years old between the two of them; this is how it started.  After about 30 seconds in the open-air water taxi that had been glorious 2 days prior, we realized we were soaking wet, our backpacks were imminently close to bouncing overboard, the look on the mate’s face suggested he had already soiled his pants in fear, and everything I knew about maritime law was exceptionally unhelpful as I knew we would not travel beyond the 3-mile boundary to international waters and I know zero about Mexican maritime law.  But I did tell J that that the Death on the High Seas Act precludes recovery for pain and suffering.  So that was one helpful tidbit of information in case we went overboard and the sharks slowly ate us to death.

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Needless to say, we survived.  We showed up to our all-inclusive resort dripping wet.  Actual droplets were falling from our shirts, pants and shoes.  The Barcelo felt like nirvana.  The drinks came free and often, the tacos were never-ending, and our super-spacious, bug-free, mosquito-net-free room had TWO televisions with access to CNN.  And Keeping Up with the Kardishians, if I’m being honest.

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We spent the next four days laying next the pool, eating, drinking, and trying to muster enough energy to eat and drink again.  We never made it to the nightly shows because we were busy trying the fancy restaurants that are only open for dinner.  Somehow, we managed to entertain ourselves for 4 days with a swimming pool and swim-up bar, several novels, and bottomless tacos.  When it was time to head home, we left the resort at least 10 pounds heavier and happy as clams.

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Mexico was exactly what we needed.  And we felt about 1 billion times less guilty for our amazing trip when we found Runaway Stella (who is back to her happy, opinionated, sweet self) a few days after arriving in Seattle.

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Snow Camping Part Deux

14 Jan

As I previously admitted, I first learned about camping when I moved to Seattle. My first camping experience was terrible. I had no blanket, no pillow, no sleeping bag, and a questionable “tent.” I’d like to think that I’ve tried to embrace sleeping outdoors. Recently, I went snow-camping again with some friends. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a lot like regular camping, but a crapload colder.
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As far as I can tell, there is no real agenda in snow camping. We essentially drive out to the mountains, throw on our snowshoes and backpacks, and walk up a hill until we are A) too tired, B) lost, or C) have snow up to our waists. Next, you try to make camp, which consists of stomping down the snow until it’s flat enough to set out your tent. After you’re done planning your sleeping quarters, it’s time to dig out a kitchen/sitting area. Lastly, make dinner, have a drink, go to sleep. So the net effect here is that you hike up into a mountain only to shovel a bunch of snow.

The weatherperson called for 10 inches of snow. Apparently, he low-balled it. It was snowing so fast that we had had to constantly dig out our tents every 10 minutes. Waking up the next morning was . . . surprising. As I opened my tent door, I was found nearly 3 feet of new snow that fell throughout the night. Except for our tents, it looked like we hadn’t even placed foot on our campsites and our trails into the site were completely covered with waist-high powder.

Below is a photo of the tents before I headed off to sleep. There is a second tent somewhere under all that snow. See if you can find it.

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Just keep running.

2 Dec

I’m not a good runner, per se. And I don’t mean that in the humble, “Oh, I’m a really good runner, but I don’t want to brag,” kind of way. I mean that I’m decently fast, but on the whole, I hate running and I get winded really easily.

So, it came as quite a shock, especially to S, when I decided to run in the Seattle Marathon.

When asked why I decided to do this, I didn’t have a good answer. The truth is that I’ve never wanted to run a marathon. I hate running. I have a great deal of respect for marathon runners, but I never wanted to be one. I wasn’t running for a cause. I’m just not a runner.

As I thought about it a bit more, I realized that running a marathon was really a line item on my bucket list. I wanted to do it because I can. Because at some point in my life, I won’t be able to run anymore, which makes me sad, so I might as well do it now. It was something that I never thought I could accomplish, and that made me angry, so I wanted to prove myself wrong.

When I went on my first training run, I didn’t even know how long I was supposed to run for. How fast should I run? Should I time myself? Should I be this tired?

Like most people who have no idea what they’re doing, I downloaded an app on my phone. The program seemed easy enough – run three times per week with the mileage getting higher and higher each week.

After I started logging a few longer runs, people started asking me when the marathon was. “Oh, I’m not running in one. I’m just going to run 26.2 on my own.” I was told by a few folks that this was a stupid idea. The Seattle marathon, as dumb luck would have it, would occur in a couple of months, so I should just run that I thought. The problem was that I would have to speed up my training by a month. Yep . . . my great idea was just to jump a month ahead in my training schedule. This meant that my long run was 10 miles on one Saturday and then 16 miles the next Saturday.

As my runs got longer, I actually felt like I was getting weaker and more tired. I stopped working out at crossfit. In fact, the only time I went to my beloved crossfit gym was to borrow their weighted vest for short runs. In my twisted logic, I decided that doing short runs while wearing a 25 pound vest was a good idea to speed up my training. It turned out that it was a good way to get strange looks from people at 6am.

November 25, marathon day, a day that seemed so far away snuck up on me. To be honest, I was really, really nervous. This was odd considering my only goal was to finish the marathon. I had zero aspirations to actually do well. I just wanted to finish . . with a minimal about of walking breaks. . . and without any major injuries.

As the race started, I was filled with a ton of energy. I was going to complete something I never thought I could achieve. There were so many people excited to run. And so many friends and family woke up early to cheer them on. Much to my surprise, I found myself running way ahead of my pace. While training, I found out that I’m a very slow long distance runner . . . like 10 minutes per mile. But for the first 14 miles, I found myself running at around 8 minutes per mile.

I was going to finish in under 4 hours… Ha, no I wasn’t. 

Unfortunately, I started to crack at mile 14. My left knee felt like it was going to explode, my right calf was on fire, and my mind started to wander. Why is 26.2 miles so far?  The pacing groups that I was ahead of quickly passed me and I found myself falling further and further to the back.

At mile 20, I wanted to quit. Screw this, I’m not a runner. I wanna take my ball and go home. As I was running, I’d periodically get encouraging texts from S, who knew I would occasionally look at my phone to change music. Her texts kept me going. I knew that she’d be waiting at the finish line and I wanted to run through it and give her a big, sweaty hug. I did not want to quit. I thought that if I quit, then I’d just have to enter another marathon to finish this pointless goal, so I might as well trudge through and finish.

When I hit mile 24, I knew I’d be ok. I had visions from training where I conjured up mental images of how far 2 miles was between two points. Seattle, in its silly way, is made up of a ton of hills. So, as luck would have it, the last leg of the course is up a hill. As I forced myself up that last hill, I saw one of our friends, let’s call her K holding a sign. I must be delusional, I thought. Why would K be here? Then I saw her husband, C, jump off the sidewalk and start jogging along side of me. Around the bend and into the final stretch I saw another good friend, A, and a few feet later I saw A’s wife, B, and, of course, S. Does this paragraph seem like an algebra problem, yet? Seeing good friends and S was the perfect motivation to sprint through the finish line. Funny tangent about sprinting through the finish . . . turns out that the race organizers video taped the finish. What felt like sprinting, looked more like painful trotting across the finish line.

After I finished, I nearly hugged the military member who congratulated me and adorned me with my token medal. S came running over to congratulate me along with our friends. The feeling was sort of odd. On the one hand, I thought about how I could have ever doubted myself. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. On the other hand, I was completely satisfied in myself. I took a challenge I had no genuine interest in, made a plan to achieve it, and did, in fact, complete it.

I likely won’t run another marathon again. It just wasn’t my cup o’ tea. I do, however, have a new respect for runners. But more importantly, I have an additional reason to be confident in my abilities to achieve whatever whacked out goals I put my mind to.

Coffee and a Cupcake

13 Nov

Coffee shops are a dime a dozen in Seattle. There are actually times when I can’t decide which one to go to because there are so many to choose from. S and I have a several favorites – some we like for the atmosphere, some for people-watching, and some for nostalgic purposes.

Verite Coffee in Madrona has some of the strongest nostalgic memories for me. As a recent New York transplant, S introduced me to Madrona, Verite Coffee, and cupcakes from Cupcake Royale. During college, we frequently escaped the chaos of the University District to go study at Verite. And during law school, when I needed to escape the stress of my fellow law students, I often drove over to Verite instead of walking to the other coffee shops that were much more conveniently located across the street from school.

S and I recently made a trip back to Verite and it was nostalgic as ever. We even got to sit at one of my favorite tables by the window. The purpose of this shop has changed for us over the years, but as far as I’m concerned, it’ll always remain a quintessential Seattle coffee shop.

Transition.

28 Oct

I stepped off the plane after spending 11 days in Alaska, where the fall colors made their final brilliant showing against the barren mountains, followed by a light blanket of snow that painted the Sleeping Lady’s hair white.  I watched the frost set in, dusting Bristol Bay with a light sparkle of ice that, I suspect, will remain stubbornly in place until spring.  It felt like a real privilege to witness the changing of Alaska’s seasons.  Upon returning to Seattle’s first weeks of truly fall weather, the air felt downright tropical at 56 degrees.  Thirty six hours after my plane landed, I was in the car with J and a very good friend headed to Leavenworth to celebrate at the last weekend of Oktoberfest.  We had snacks and party pants packed, ready for a wedding 10 years in the making. 

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We had great fun at the wedding.  Partly because the couple we were celebrating is comprised of two incredible people.  Partly because we stayed in a big, beautiful log cabin with some of our closest friends.  It was cozy and easy and just really lovely.  After a big, long, exhausting, on at. all. times. because you never know who might be a potential client or important business contact trip to Alaska, it was so nice to just be with people we love and who love us back.  It was pretty simple, really.  The backdrop of bursting orange, red, yellow and green only made it lovelier. 

I am embracing the opportunity to slow down a bit, wear wool socks and create a Sunday schedule that includes nothing more than relaxing in coffee shops (hot apple cider with cinnamon whipped cream!), strolling with J through a few stores, grocery shopping, and pumpkin carving.

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Aang!

19 Oct

Aang (welcome, hello, and so much more)!  Much of my trip to Alaska was spent learning about the people and culture I grew up referring to as Aleut.  During my time in Alaska, I learned that the Aleut people don’t even have a word for “Aleut” in their native languages, two of which are currently surviving.  They refer to themselves and their way of life as Unangan.  There is a clear blend of modern and traditional in the 2012 way of life for Unangan people.  The folks I met were individually humble, capable, and proud of their people and heritage.  Many of them also had incredible talent in skills that relate to a subsistence way of life.  For a point of reference, below you will see a photo of a tiny woven basket in a master weaver’s hands—that basket, much smaller than a thimble, took 2-3 hours to weave.  The baskets that are of a useful size take a master weaver 50-60 hours (!) to create. 

Throughout my 11 days in Anchorage and King Salmon, I mostly focused on sitting still with open ears and an open heart.

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Seen in Alaska.

17 Oct

Baby moose!  For the record, I was with a (new-found) friend in a convertible BMW (yes, in ANCHORAGE in OCTOBER) with the top down when we happened upon this creature.  He did not jump in our car and his mama moose did not show her face.  We sat for awhile and admired him (her?).  Did you know all moose have light legs and a dark body?  Me neither.  Also, I’m not sure if that’s true.  But that’s what my friend told me.

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Girdwood, they said.  Take a 45 minute drive to Girdwood.  You’ll be impressed.  We were.  The colors.  The water.  The nature.  The Alaska license plate proudly supporting Obama (in an H3, of course…we can only win so many battles).  Apparently there is more to Girdwood than a gas station with a few attached “restaurants.”  We missed the “more to Girdwood” when we failed to continue driving beyond the gas station, but J and I thoroughly enjoyed our 1/4 pizza pie each.  One slice for $6.  What’s the name of said pizzeria?  Hell if I know.  But I guarantee there is only one pizzeria on the way to Girdwood from Anchorage.  That pizza slice made my day (I was at the epitome of hangry—so hungry I might have started to get angry).  J and I both looooooved that pizza slice.  Maybe for different reasons.

Let me introduce you to Chugach National Forest.  I promise you she’s pretty, even if we only saw her breathtaking, raw edges.

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Then I went to the furthest point I’ve ever been in western America.  Let me introduce you to my new favorite salty SOB (that’s Grandpa speak and it fits perfectly here) villages, King Salmon and Naknek.  It’s where some of our nation’s fisheries are situated, where fisherman roam and work hard/play hard (but apparently not in mid-October) and where the sporty types go to hunt their game and reel in their fish.  I’m neither a hunter nor a fisher, but I gained invaluable insight into a culture that is new-to-me.  I nearly pulled it off with my hunter orange Eddie Bauer flannel and grey fleece purchased 12 hours before my 30-person flight to the edge of the world.  But it turns out that my white pashmina scarf gave me away.  Out in these parts, white is a color reserved for the snow.  People don’t wear white.  It’s 100% impractical.  Lesson learned.  The game/fish guides still hanging around after the season ended, with their scruffy beards and smoky smells and Carharts and non-ironic trucker hats and stories bigger than life, knew I didn’t belong.  But they seemed willing enough to chat.

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The coast is more barren than I anticipated.  Maybe made more so with the fresh snow.  It’s flat in Bristol Bay.  Hardly any rolling hills, definitely no mountains.  There are shrubs and there are rivers.  One called Eskimo Creek!  There was blue sky, mixed with a healthy dose of grey clouds.  There were a lot of collected (read: abandoned) cars, trucks, and buses dotting yards/acres/lots of land surrounding homes/shacks/converted trailers (so it seemed to the potentially undiscerning city folk among us).  There were colorful buildings painted every color of the rainbow, which I sort of adored.  There was a restaurant on the second floor of the Naknek hotel called the D&D.  It was not for the faint of heart with its smoke-filled entryway and menu filled with fried goodness intended to stick to the guts of fisheries folks working long days in shit conditions in their Xtratufs.

Also.  There appeared to be dried blood surrounding the D&D door handle.  Can you tell the difference between human blood and fish or game blood?  Me neither.  I left it to my colleague to open the door and hoped for the best for him.  He seemed unscathed by the experience.

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And then there is this:

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The sunsets last forever here in King Salmon, I was told.  The sun angles down, making the colors linger in the twilight sky.  Likewise, my first trip to Alaska will linger for a long while.

It’s sure cold here.

13 Oct

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S went to Alaska for a two week business trip, so we decided that business trips could only be made better if I came for a visit. For me personally, it started off a bit stressful. I’ve been in the midst of negotiating a case for the past two weeks. Trials are a lot like a game of chicken – both sides act tough until one person gives in, realizing they don’t want to risk losing it all. For a variety of reasons that I can’t discuss, I learned that this current case would be continued, which meant that I would not have to think about it for the weekend.

Here are some things I learned over the past few days while staying in Anchorage:

1. It’s cold. We had an oddly long summer in Seattle, and switching from 70 degrees to 40 degrees in a few hours shocked my system.

2. I love my Patagonia Down Sweater. See #1.

3. Despite it being 10am on a Friday, some coffee shops aren’t open. In fact, each time I found myself walking around the streets, I felt like the city was abandoned.

4. The architecture is a bit bleh. I love tall buildings. I love buildings that are more than rectangles. Anchorage has a lot of short rectangular buildings.

5. Screw the architecture, look at those mountains! The city is surrounded my mountains. Some are still snow-capped while others are barren. The coolest part is watching the sun set over the mountains, causing the peaks to change color.

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Flapping my wings, flapping my wings.

6 Oct

I went to lunch with a partner at my firm to hear advice on how to best market myself and the firm on an upcoming business trip.  He had a lot to say, but most of it was rooted in one of his oft-used idioms: everything you need to know is what you learned in kindergarten.  Be nice.  Be genuine.  Be polite.  Be smart.  Listen.  Use good judgment.  The rest will take care of itself.

He said I am at the stage in my career where I have been working very hard to get some air under my wings and I need to keep flapping until I’m flying high.  Then, it’s maintenance.  Continue to be ethical.  Follow up.  Take care of the details.  We ended our quick lunch and he reminded me to keep flapping my wings.

What he couldn’t possibly have know, and what I didn’t realize until 5am this morning when I was tossing and turning in bed despite the fact that I desperately wanted to be asleep and catch up on my lack of rest from the exhausting week before, is just how poignant and meaningful his advice is during this chapter in my life.

J and I have been through a lot this year.  I’m not quite “there” yet in terms of processing everything good and bad and in between, but I know this much: we’ve worked as a team, we’ve relied on each other (sometimes rather heavily) and we continue to turn to each other for support every. single. day. 

During our trip to New York in the spring, we experienced a lot of sadness.  But we tried to make the most of it  and enjoy our time together in a city that we both love.  During one of the lighter moments, we strolled through Central Park, stopping to lay in the grass and watch the few puffs of clouds in the big blue sky.  It was exactly the release that we needed from grieving and high stress levels.  That Central Park moment was one of my favorites all year.  I’m certain it was one of J’s too, even though he’s never expressly said as much.  There was a small butterfly that kept flittering around us, leaving for only a few seconds before it inevitably returned to hang out.  Ever since that moment, when we spontaneously made up the butterfly song (“I’m just a butterfly, flapping my wings, flapping my wings”), we sing the silly verse to each other in tense situations to lighten the mood.  Sometimes arm-flapping is involved, which is simultaneously embarrassing and awesome.  I think it’s an important reminder to each other that even in dark times, there is lightness and love to be found if you look close enough.

Our butterfly song often pops into my head when I feel stress.  It’s ridiculous, that song, but it’s helped me remember to take a deep breath and move forward many, many times over the past several months. 

Work has been very, very good.  Spectacular, the managing partner told me as I helped him prepare for trial.  It’s also been very, very stressful.  I suppose the spectacular and the stressful go hand-in-hand when things are good in the legal profession.  Luckily, that combination suits me. 

Personally and professionally, my plan is simple.  I’m going to keep flapping my wings, flapping my wings.