How’s It Going?

Dec 29 2015

I’ve been a little quiet this week because I’m under water.

Not a LOT under water.

Just a bit.

Probably.

Maybe.

Although, to be honest, as a person with mental illness, I wouldn’t really know if I was all the way under water, so I’m historically unreliable on the whole self-assessment thing. I mean, what do I know about how I’m doing? NOT MUCH, friends. Not much at all.

Still, as best as I can tell, I’m just a little under water. Like, the kind of under water where I yelled at Greg on Christmas Day because he didn’t put his pants on fast enough.

Merry Christmas, Greg!
With Love,
Your Sweet and Darling Wife

In my defense, Greg put his pants on really slowly that day. Really, really slowly. As in, really, really, REALLY slowly.

Because it did not matter that the children left the front door open and the dogs escaped.

And it did not matter that those canines were gleefully running roughshod over the neighborhood.

It did not matter that Greg’s wife was fresh from the shower, soaking wet and naked, and therefore not as well positioned as he was to chase said dogs.

Nope; those things were irrelevant, and it was not possible to simply grab pants, throw them on and chase three dogs down the street. That is not how Things Are Done. There is an Order, after all. A Queue in Greg’s scientific mind. A Specific Process from which a properly ordered man shall not deviate. And Pants-Donning is faaaaarr down the list, it seems, after lots of other things that have to be done first.

First, for example, Greg had to source a pair of socks. Not the pair of socks laying next to him. No; he had to find a clean pair of socks as though we suddenly have sock standards at our house. And then a shirt. And then another, long sleeved shirt to go over the first shirt which, turns out, was just an undershirt and not a shirt shirt because God Forbid you chase three giddy, sprinting dogs with dirty socks and without an undershirt. That would be wrong. 

Eventually, Greg put on his pants.

And then he had to find a belt.

And then he latched the belt on the wrong hole so he had to redo the latching of it.

“DEAR, SWEET, BABY JESUS, HUSBAND WHOM I LOVE AND WHOM I SHALL THROTTLE. THE DOGS ARE IN CHINA BY NOW.”

“I only see my slippers,” said Greg. “Where are my shoes?”

“GO. GET. THE. DAMN. DOGS.”

Next time, I’m chasing the dogs naked. So let it be written. So let it be done.

So I’m under water a little, if you gauge drowning on the Yelling at the Spouse Scale, which I do, I guess, even if the yelling wasn’t yelling so much as, you know, me helping Greg. Helping him become a better person, really. I give and I give.

Still, I’m under water a little.

A little breathless sometimes these days.

A little emotionally gaspy lately as I surface for a minute and drift back under, not weighed down so much that I can’t see or participate in the joy which surrounds me, but weighed down enough that I’m not as gentle with my people or with myself as I feel I should be. And not gentle about not being gentle, either.

I have Things to Say, though. Things to Write. Thoughts about the year almost past and the year swiftly coming. Ideas about how we might lay this one to rest and welcome the year almost upon us in ways that are more full of freedom than fear, more graceful than grim, and more mindful of relief than insisting on rigor. But I’m under water a little, so I’m not sure how to start. And I’m metaphorically naked and wet, too, and rather sure someone else should go chase the thoughts that keep running roughshod through my head; certain others are more equipped than me to run them down.

I don’t know how to unstick the log-jam when I’m under water. I’ve never been good at this part. I don’t have neat endings or lessons learned when I’m in this place. The best I can do is kick for the surface every now and then. But I made a promise a long time ago — to you and to me — that I’d write anyway, even from here. Even badly. Even unsure. Even when I’m simultaneously yelly and breathless. So here it is, friends. The truth as far as I can write it from here.

That’s how it’s going around these parts. And what I really want to know from you — my companions above and beneath the water, who sit in the mud with me, and wave in the dark and wait for the dawn — how are you? How are YOU these days? And how can we hold hands in the dark?

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It’s Christmas Eve Eve Eve

Dec 22 2015

Tonight is Christmas Eve Eve Eve, which means Christmas is 25% closer than it was last night on Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve, a puzzling fact, since I’m certainly not 25% more prepared.

Perhaps I’m not better prepared because I spent a good chunk of last night in the bathtub, having snagged two packages of Cheez-Its from my kids’ snack shelf in the pantry and one Stella Artois from the top shelf in the fridge so I could lay in classy, naked, boob-floaty splendor, reading my latest trashy, magic-laden novel by candlelight whilst dropping crackers into the bog and dredging them back out to eat their soggy goodness because if you get them fast enough, they’re still crunchyish, and therefore totally edible, as every mom knows.

My bathtub ecstasy lasted 8 minutes ’til I was caught, literally red-handed, up to my wrist in crinkly Cheez–It plastic, whereupon my child cried because I stole snacks that were not mine and ate them all gone. “You ate them ALL GONE, MOM,” my child cried when he caught me. And I, wise and mature, countered, “DID NOT. There are, like, two whole crackers left in here and at least that many floating in the tub, although you’ll have to work to fish those out if you’re hoping to eat them.” And my child said, “EW, gross; you STOLE them and then you RUINED THEM.” Which is what’s wrong with kids these days. No work ethic, expecting others to steal and fish for them. I, though? I am here to provide a better example. You’re welcome, kids.

It’s 7:08pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve, and I have Things to Do. Things to Finish. Things *ahem* to Start. Like cooking and cleaning and creating meaningful gift experiences that show my kids they are worth every extravagance while giving them a global perspective that helps them become well rounded, not entitled, and productive members of society. No pressure, though.

It’s 7:10pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve and I should be Better Prepared than I am right now, which is how I feel about life, really, and not just about Christmas.

I should be better prepared, right? I’m pretty sure I should.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have spent my day sitting at my desk with my chin propped on my hand, staring at my rain soaked backyard while the dogs tackled each other and dragged every puddle into the house, and hitting the refresh button on my Facebook feed, hoping TipHero would post videos faster so I can see all the ways I’m failing to hack my life.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have spent my day hollering at my kids to quit hollering at each other because one copied his brother’s Minecraft creation and so the other hit him in the face with his knee but by accident. 

Perhaps I should’ve had the kids do their chores and their reading.

Or perhaps I should’ve done the laundry.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have slept in.

Perhaps the kids should have.

Or, at the core, perhaps I should’ve done more, and done it before now. At Christmas time and Always.

Perhaps I should’ve done more and done it better, you know? Bigger and brighter, maybe. Bolder.

And perhaps I shouldn’t have been so overwhelmed by All the Things and snuck that box of Cadbury cookies into my bed to eat in secret. The hazelnut ones are the best, by the way. The hazelnut or the shortbread; it’s hard to choose.

Perhaps I should’ve.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps it’s OK to have it partly together this year. Partly together and no more.

Perhaps it’s OK to have it partly together and to be imperfect.

Perhaps it’s OK to do Some of the Things and not All of Them.

Perhaps it’s OK to have dog mud on the couch and not enough Cheez-Its in the house.

Perhaps it’s OK to have wanted to give my kids everything and a global perspective, and to not quite have done either, as though their lives are partly up to them and they get a say, too, in how they turn out.

Perhaps it’s OK to give my kids the few things I can afford and with those my heart, my soul and my life, such that it is, poured out in full.

Perhaps it’s enough to sit in this season of Advent– of waiting in the dark for the Light to come — of Hopes Realized and Hopes Unrealized — and be OK with complexity of it all.

It’s 7:48pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve, friends, and I have Some Things ready, but not Everything, like I’d hoped, but I’m here, anyway, to say Merry Christmas, and perhaps it’s OK, complex momrades. Perhaps it’s OK anyway.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve,

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How to Decorate for Christmas (Using the Very FIRST Christmas as Inspiration)

Dec 18 2015

Let’s be honest. Christmas has drifted a teensy, tiny bit away from the meaning behind it all. From the Reason for the Season. From the very FIRST Christmas. But I? I AM HERE TO RESCUE IT, friends, and you? You’re invited to join me.

Christmas these days seems to be full of beautiful things. Bright, shiny stars perched atop twinkling trees. Children in pristine, pressed clothes going to church. Lovely, hand-carved nativities nestled in ivy decorating dust-free mantels hung with stitched stockings. You know? You know that Christmas?

Well, we’re ready for Christmas here at my house, too. Real ready. Real, REAL ready. Except with more of a vintage feel. An authentic feel. A Back to Basics Because We Care about the FIRST Christmas feel. And JESUS, you know? We want to relive the First Christmas from the Jesus and Mary and Joseph perspective. As much as possible, anyway, in our 21st century home.

Which is why this year we’ve committed to going for more of a “the cattle are lowing” decorating scheme.

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And a motif that screams, “Yes! Yes, we were born in a barn.”

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We’re into authenticity, see, not sanitized versions of Scripture.

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Because WE CARE ABOUT HOLINESS, amirite?

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I mean, not to say we’re more Godly than you, or Christ-like, or have the Favor of the Lord upon us, but we do live and smell pretty much exactly like shepherds of old, all sleeping-with-the-animals, and no-showers-for-days, and at-one-with-the-grit-and-the-grime, and I am saying the angels appeared unto them, so they must’ve been doing something right, man.

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I don’t share any of this — or the pictures of our home, decorated to perfectly match our theme for the year — to make you feel badly about your Christmas preparedness or to hold myself up as better or brighter than you.

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I’ve simply been doing this Keeping House and Holiday Decorating and Parenting gig for a long time now, and feel I may have some tips and perspective to offer.

In conclusion, if you’d like to join us for an authentic FIRST Christmas feel this year with all your Christmas decorating and preparation, please do feel free. We’d love to have you on board.

Merry Christmas from my barn to yours,

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P.S. For a truly authentic tree topper, I suggest stealing your daughter’s favorite stuffed animal — a sheep, handmade by a friend who felted old sweaters — and impaling it at the top. It’s a real conversation starter, I tell you. And also another reason it’s so important to raise your children to be self-sufficient enough to pay for their own counseling. Win/win, I tell you. Win/win.

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8 Days of Giveaways! Day EIGHT: Just Short and Sweet

Dec 15 2015

Hello, friends, and welcome to…

8 Days of Giveaways:
Day EIGHT!

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Just Short and Sweet

Here we are! Day EIGHT already of 8 Days of Giveaways, and we definitely get to go out on top, because today I get to give away a fun, trendy, brass necklace with thanks to my childhood friend, Blythe Rhoads who makes cool things AND is working to make life better for our friends across the world in Africa through her work with Ever Increasing Children’s School in Bukasa Village, Uganda. I cannot easily express how incredibly inspired I am by people like Blythe — and so many of our other artists featured this week — who seek to love our neighbors well and who remember we’re all neighbors.

blythe&stephcraftworkshopAbout Just Short and Sweet:

We are Blythe & Stephani…roommates & friends who love Jesus, pizza, estate sales, and all things crafty & handmade. We live in sunny Southern California. We opened an Etsy shop in January 2015 out of an unceasing desire to make pretty things that inspire and bring others JOY. This October, we hosted our very first Craft Workshop, where like-minded lovers of handmade goodness gathered together and expressed their creativity by making three quality crafts…to gift or keep! We can’t wait to host more workshops in 2016.

The Giveaway: A Just Short and Sweet brass necklace (as pictured above). This unique brass necklace is lightweight and super versatile. It will go with everything in your closet, and will soon be your go-to necklace! It makes a super chic (and affordable) gift, and is made from three pieces of hand cut brass pipe and waxed cotton cord, making it both nickel-free and vegan. The cord measures 33″ around at longest length and 16″ around at shortest length, and the brass pendant is 1″ wide by 3.5″ long. Simply adjust the size by *carefully* sliding the knots closer together to make it longer, or farther apart to make it shorter. They are double knotted for extra security, and lightly burned to seal the ends and protect against unraveling. This necklace is available on a black or brown cord.

TO ENTER, simply leave a comment on this blog post anytime until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Thursday, December 17. (Psst… don’t enter on Facebook— though I LOVE comments there and read every one, I’m using the blog comment string to randomly select a winner). Any comment will work to enter, but if you’d like a prompt, let us know what prayer or wish you have for a place in this world that stirs your heart. For example, I’d say, “The Syrian refugee families are in my prayers,” or “I wish for peace and rest from the violence we see around the world.” It’s a way of waving in the dark, I think, to see each other’s laments and offer a piece of our heart to them.

This giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Alison of the Hairline Fracture Blog! Check your email for all the details.

Do Note: For those of you who wish to purchase a necklace, $1 of each sale will be donated to Ever Increasing Children’s School in Bukasa Village, Uganda, Africa and will be used for school supplies, meals, and teacher salaries. For more information on Blythe’s work with her dad in Uganda, check out their other Etsy shop here and blog here.

Also: You can also find Just Short and Sweet on Instagram, Facebook and the World Wide Web, and you can always contact Blythe and Stephani by email at justshortandsweetshop@gmail.com.

Also-also: The artists selected for this giveaway were hand-picked by yours truly. They did not pay for these spots, nor do I benefit in any financial way by hosting these. Emotionally? I get a HUGE benefit. ‘Cause this stuff makes me happy. Each artist received a spot on the right sidebar (or, if you’re viewing on your mobile, at the bottom of the page) to advertise his/her stuff (hint: you can catch a preview there of what’s coming over the next few days), which is my gift to them to thank them for partnering with me. They’re rad.

8 Days of Giveaways! Day SEVEN: Blossoms by Branching Out

Dec 14 2015

Hello, friends and welcome to…

8 Days of Giveaways:
Day SEVEN!

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Photo Credit ©Nanci Imagery

Blossoms by Branching Out

Blossoms8Blossoms4Blossoms7I stumbled across Christine at a bazaar a few weeks ago, and I was completely enchanted by her hair blossoms. From teeny, tiny blooms in neutrals to HUGE, full, colorful flowers, I loved every one and bought my fair share because they’re afforable ($2-5 each), and I decided they’re perfect as stocking stuffers. Of course, that was before I decided to keep most of them for myself, but theoretically, they’re ideal to give away.

I tracked Christine down after the bazaar — and after wearing mine and finding them the perfect balance of pretty and durable — and asked her if there was any way she’d want to participate in this giveaway.

She said yes, and here we are! Thanks, Christine!

From Blossoms by Branching Out: My name is Christine and I LOVE flowers! It all started off with a sweet little girl who captured my heart. She came into my life when she was 7 months. She is now 7 and has been “officially” my precious little girl since she turned 3. I am SO grateful!

She loved ‘pretties’ in her hair, and so I started the search. I found the ones in various stores were too flimsy and thin. I really wanted something that was more full and unique. I started looking for various blooms to turn into hair blossoms. My blooms are layered and much more full than those you will find at a store; they have more unique centers and a sturdier clip, too.

I really enjoy custom orders, as well as events. Local customers set up private showings where they come and are able to look through my stock. Most of all, my desire is to provide a fun, cute product that is excellent quality, as well as affordable!

Blossoms by Branching Out offers 5 different sizes of blooms, and I can custom make blooms to fit your needs ranging from the size of a quarter on up.

Our blooms are very versatile. Not only have the adorned sweet little girls’ hair, but all ages of ladies. They can also be used as a brooch, corsages, clipped to a purse, jacket lapel. A couple of others have used it for their flower girls and bridesmaids at their weddings. They can be clipped to sashes of dresses… some gals even used them to embellish their flip flops! If you prefer, we can attach a pin onto the back instead of a clip if you prefer to use it as a pin.

Blossoms10Today’s Giveaway: a Blossoms by Branching Out headband with your choice of either 1 large bloom or 3 mini blooms as pictured right. OR, if you have different colors in mind, Christine will work with you.

TO ENTER, simply leave a comment on this blog post anytime until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Wednesday, December 16. (Psst… don’t enter on Facebook— though I LOVE comments there and read every one, I’m using the blog comment string to randomly select a winner). Any comment will work to enter, but if you’d like a prompt, tell us what small things — like hair blooms or a cup of coffee — make you happy.

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations, Pam Zercher! Check your email for a message with all the details. 

You can find Christine at the Blossoms: By Branching Out Facebook page here. For the month of December, Christine is also offering FREE SHIPPING. WOOHOO!

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Do Note: Multiple giveaways are going simultaneously — one every day for 8 days and each of them open for 48ish hours, so check back every day to see what new giveaways there are!

Also Note: This giveaway is open worldwide. None of this “America only” crap. We do not have time for America Only in this ComeUnity. Nathan Rhoads is providing two art prints and U.S. shipping; I’ll supplement shipping if one of you wins from elsewhere.

Also-also Note: The artists selected for this giveaway were hand-picked by yours truly. They did not pay for these spots, nor do I benefit in any financial way by hosting these. Emotionally? I get a HUGE benefit. ‘Cause this stuff makes me happy. Each artist received a spot on the right sidebar (or, if you’re viewing on your mobile, at the bottom of the page) to advertise his/her stuff (hint: you can catch a preview there of what’s coming over the next few days), which is my gift to them to thank them for partnering with me. They’re rad.

8 Days of Giveaways! Day SIX: Nathan Rhoads

Dec 13 2015

Hello, friends and welcome to…

8 Days of Giveaways:
Day SIX!

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Nathan Rhoads, Fine Artist

NathanRhoads2I’ve known Nathan since he was in diapers, which I’m positive is the way he was hoping I’d open this giveaway.

Nathan was one of those kids who was sweet and calm and kind; he reacted to my endearing high volume and my brother’s tendency to headbutt sweet, calm, kind children with bewilderment and confusion. But he was tenacious, man, and he stuck with us anyway, which proves there’s really nothing Nathan can’t overcome. Eventually, Nathan added a wicked funny sense of humor to his repertoire and a healthy dollop of sarcasm. Also, he and his wife named their two sons after whiskey, so I feel like we have something to work with, here.

I love Nathan’s art because it’s fantasy and imagination come to life, and I always feel like I’ve fallen into a C.S. Lewis novel or Tolkein’s world or Lewis Carroll’s when I look at his mind and heart in oil on canvas. Nathan’s art reminds me of all that’s wild and whimsical and also that love and joy walk hand in hand with ferocity and freedom.

The Giveaway: 8.5 x 11 in. Fine Art Print, signed by Nathan Rhoads. Description of Painting Included. AND Nathan is generously allowing me to select TWO winners for this giveaway! Winners may select from the following:

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TO ENTER, simply leave a comment on this blog post anytime until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, December 15. (Psst… don’t enter on Facebook— though I LOVE comments there and read every one, I’m using the blog comment string to randomly select a winner). Any comment will work to enter, but if you’d like a prompt, tell us which of the prints you like best.

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to Jennifer Bailey and Missalindadivine! Check your email boxes for details.

Nathan Rhoads is an versatile artist working in Portland, Oregon. He earned his BFA in 1998 from Point Loma Nazarene University. His primary medium of choice is oil. Nathan’s work ranges from abstract to representational. He takes on a lot of commissioned projects, ranging from painting to illustration to graphic design.

Nathan paints live at conferences, church services, private parties, and corporate events around the country. Nathan is also a painting instructor for both kids and adults.

You can find Nathan Rhoads at his website here, on Facebook here and on Instagram here.

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Do Note: Multiple giveaways are going simultaneously — one every day for 8 days and each of them open for 48ish hours, so check back every day to see what new giveaways there are!

Also Note: This giveaway is open worldwide. None of this “America only” crap. We do not have time for America Only in this ComeUnity. Nathan Rhoads is providing two art prints and U.S. shipping; I’ll supplement shipping if one of you wins from elsewhere.

Also-also Note: The artists selected for this giveaway were hand-picked by yours truly. They did not pay for these spots, nor do I benefit in any financial way by hosting these. Emotionally? I get a HUGE benefit. ‘Cause this stuff makes me happy. Each artist received a spot on the right sidebar (or, if you’re viewing on your mobile, at the bottom of the page) to advertise his/her stuff (hint: you can catch a preview there of what’s coming over the next few days), which is my gift to them to thank them for partnering with me. They’re rad.

8 Days of Giveaways! Day FIVE: Sudara

Dec 12 2015

Hello, friends and welcome to…

8 Days of Giveaways:
Day FIVE!

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PUNJAMMIES by Sudara

 

In September, I wrote to you about my successful quest for the perfect pajama pants. It was a quest I’d posed initially and facetiously as “of eternal significance” until I discovered PUNJAMMIES™ which are gorgeous, comfy jammy pants AND are made by Sudara, an organization that works to free women from sex slavery by giving them living wage jobs. “Every pair of PUNJAMMIES™,” in fact, “is named after a woman who is now steadily employed in a stable, living-wage job with a Sudara sewing center partnership.

I mean, who knew buying pajama pants CAN ACTUALLY BE an act of eternal significance? Right? 

Sudara3So here we are 4 months later, and I’m as in love with my PUNJAMMIES™ now as I was then. EVEN MORE exciting is the fact that Sudara eagerly partnered with me for this giveaway so one of you gets to win a pretty pair of the flannel Sara Capris PUNJAMMIES™ pictured to the right.

Gotta say, Sudara gets cooler and cooler all the time.

From Sudara: Let’s get right down to it: No human being should be owned by anyone, anywhere, for any reason — ever. It really is that simple.

We are passionate about India — where some of the highest estimates of slavery and sex-trafficking anywhere in the world are reported. And while it may seem overwhelming, we are hopeful because we are seeing how safe, sustainable jobs are making a way for women to make their way out of the trade- and stay out.

Our PUNJAMMIES™ are inspired by the beauty, colors and textures seen throughout the local culture and are crafted by brave women in the community who wish to remain free from the trade they escaped.

That’s why we say that Sudara goods are made from hope, and made for comfort.

Today’s Giveaway is lightweight flannel Sara Capris PUNJAMMIES™ (pictured above.)

TO ENTER, simply leave a comment on this blog post anytime until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, December 14. (Psst… don’t enter on Facebook— though I LOVE comments there and read every one, I’m using the blog comment string to randomly select a winner). Any comment will work to enter, but if you’d like a prompt, tell us where you’d wear your PUNJAMMIES. Me? I pick Hawaii with all of you.

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to Julia Robinson, winner of the PUNJAMMIES! Look for an email in your box, Julia.

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Do Note: Multiple giveaways are going simultaneously — one every day for 8 days and each of them open for 48ish hours, so check back every day to see what new giveaways there are!

Also Note: This giveaway is open worldwide. None of this “America only” crap. We do not have time for America Only in this ComeUnity. Sudara is providing the PUNJAMMIES and U.S. shipping; I’ll supplement shipping if one of you wins from elsewhere.

Also-also Note: The artists selected for this giveaway were hand-picked by yours truly. They did not pay for these spots, nor do I benefit in any financial way by hosting these. Emotionally? I get a HUGE benefit. ‘Cause this stuff makes me happy. Each artist received a spot on the right sidebar (or, if you’re viewing on your mobile, at the bottom of the page) to advertise his/her stuff (hint: you can catch a preview there of what’s coming over the next few days), which is my gift to them to thank them for partnering with me. They’re rad.