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2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge

In about October of last year, I discovered that Goodreads has a Reading Challenge built into the page. You pick how many books you want to read for the year and it tracks them for you. You just have to remember to log that you read the book and make sure it has the date you finished the book. I started using Goodreads years ago to avoid reading the same book twice. I was heavy into mystery/suspense thrillers and I sort of got lost in them.

Anyway, since I was starting in October, I decided that 50 books was reasonable. I did not read 50 books from October-December. I went back and tracked what I’d read since the beginning of the year. Because most of what I read were ebooks, it wasn’t hard to recreate a lot of what I’d read.

This year I decided that 100 books was a good target. I also decided to join a couple groups to hopefully get more engaged in reading with some discussion. One of the groups posted the 2015 Reading Challenge, which is a list of 50 categories of book to read.

I decided to be proactive and add a book or two to each item, rather than figuring it out as I go along. My list is below. The titles in bold are books I’ve already read this year with the date I finished the book. I’m currently reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you have recommendations for the ones I’ve left blank, please let me know!

  1. A book with more than 500 pages The Time Traveler’s Wife
  2. A classic romance Jane Eyre 1/13/15
  3. A book that became a movie Johnny Mnemonic/Divergent
  4. A book published this year
  5. A book with a number in the title Fahrenheit 451
  6. A book written by someone under 30 The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy
  7. A book with nonhuman characters
  8. A funny book Twisted Sisters
  9. A book by a female author Saving Grace
  10. A mystery or thriller
  11. A book with a one-word title Dubliners
  12. A book of short stories Olive Kitteridge
  13. A book set in a different country The Kite Runner
  14. A nonfiction book Me Talk Pretty One Day, The God Delusion
  15. A popular author’s first book Carrie
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet The Woman Who Stole My Life
  17. A book a friend recommended The Talented Mr. Ripley
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book Beloved
  19. A book based on a true story Eat, Pray, Love 1/14/15
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  21. A book your mom loves Little Women
  22. A book that scares you
  23. A book more than 100 years old Frankenstein
  24. A book based entirely on its cover
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t Catch-22
  26. A memoir Infidel
  27. A book you can finish in a day The Quaker Café 1/6/15
  28. A book with antonyms in the title North and South
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
  30. A book that came out the year you were born Cathedral
  31. A book with bad reviews
  32. A trilogy Lord of The Rings
  33. A book from your childhood
  34. A book with a love triangle Taking Chances
  35. A book set in the future Ender’s Game
  36. A book set in high school Anna and the French Kiss
  37. A book with a color in the title The Color Purple
  38. A book that made you cry Anne of Green Gables 1/6/15
  39. A book with magic Vale of the Vole
  40. A graphic novel V for Vendetta
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before A Temporary Ghost
  42. A book you own but have never read Attorney at Large
  43. A book that takes place in your stateMcNally’s Alibi
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  45. A book set during Christmas The Polar Express
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials Final Jeopardy
  47. A play Hamlet
  48. A banned book To Kill a Mockingbird
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV show A Game of Thrones
  50. A book you started but never finished The Inconvenient Corpse

I am really looking forward to working my way through this list. Except maybe for Hamlet. And the book at the bottom of my reading list.

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State of the Marital Union

Mr. Lyndsy and I have now been married for six months. SIX MONTHS. That may not sound like a lot to most of you, but I’m pretty sure that’s longer than my longest relationship (pre-Mr. Lyndsy). Unsurprisingly, all is still well in the union.

I don’t think I had any idea what to expect when I got married. We didn’t live together before getting married, and as you all know, we hadn’t even spent more than 10 days together at one time. But, living with Mr. Lyndsy is a lot like living with a male version of me. His dirty clothes end up wherever they end up. He thinks he’s lost clothes until we go exploring and find them in the bathroom, extra bedroom, and our bedroom. Sometimes they’re hiding in a backpack. The dishes pile up because both hate doing them. In fairness, they’re mostly mine since I’m home all day… eating.

On a more important level, I had no idea what to expect being around Mr. Lyndsy ALL. THE. TIME. Would I get bored? Would he drive me crazy? What would we do? The only other time I lived with someone it was so dysfunctional I can’t use it as a basis for anything. Besides, everyone is different.

To answer the above questions: I am not bored. At all. I have no idea what it is about Mr. Lyndsy that keeps me constantly intrigued, but I love it. He and I will spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other. He is so passionate about his job that it rubs off on me. I love hearing about his day, the struggles he encountered, and the successes.

He does not drive me crazy. Well, occasionally. But I know that I make him a little nuts too. It’s not anything ragey. Just the, “Well, if I’d known you didn’t want to have dinner with me I WOULD HAVE EATEN ALREADY FOR I AM VERY HUNGRY.” Then it’s just the HANGRY talking. Or when the dishes pile up and he will wash only the cup he needs to us. (However, see above re: dishes being mostly my creation.) I eat something or just do the damn dishes and all is right with the world again. And, if I ask, he will do the dishes. I just hate to ask since I made the mess, not even cooking for US. Just for me.

As for what we do, it’s pretty simple. We watch TV shows together. We’re currently watching Season 4 of The Mentalist. He’s seen them all, but is watching them with me since I haven’t. We’ve watched NCIS: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, Hawaii Five-O (the new one), and Arrow. We go to the mall. We go to the movies. We go out to eat together and with friends. More than anything, we’re just BEING. Together.

We moved to a new apartment in a city south of Doha. The old apartment was not great. The toilets regularly didn’t work and the only bathtub had a crack in at the front so you couldn’t stand anywhere near it. Made it challenging to shower. And then there was the mold we discovered when we were moving out. It still gives me the heebee-jeebies to think about it. It ruined the back paneling on the wardrobe and on a bookcase. New apartment is mold-free, in a place where I can go walking, and right next to a small park. I love it.

However, the downside is that Mr. Lyndsy doesn’t come home for lunch anymore and I miss him terribly. I think he’s still amused by how excited I get when he finally gets home at night. (It’s like 7:15pm, y’all. SO LONG.) But I am truly and genuinely excited to see him. Every day.

And I hope it stays like that forever.

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2014 in Review

Yes, I do realize it’s over a week into 2015. Whatever. A writer I follow does this wrap-up every year. I meant to steal it from her last year, but I forgot. I like it so I’m going to do it now.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Traveled to the Middle East. Took a cruise! Made Mr. Lyndsy commit to a lifetime with me. Moved to the Middle East and became a resident of a country besides the US. Became self-employed.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’m not sure I even made any. I’m sure I thought about making some, but I am pretty sure I didn’t actually finish anything. I always mean to write more than I do. I know I wanted to self-publish a novel in 2014 and that didn’t happen either. I was supposed to do a half-marathon which also didn’t happen and isn’t likely to ever happen at this point.

I won’t be making any for 2015. I know a lot of people like them and I have a friend who said it gives her a chance to recommit to things. I appreciate that, but I’m not feeling it this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No. I know people who had kids last year and I see them on the internets – super cute, the lot of them.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not close to me, but a friend’s son passed away and it was really hard to see it happen. He was born with a congenital heart defect and they just couldn’t help him. He was 10 months old and a really happy kid. Everyone who met him, virtually or in real life, was touched by him.

5. What countries did you visit?

Stopped off in the Bahamas on the cruise, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Lyndsy and I were supposed to go to Brazil to visit his family but his work schedule sucked. Hopefully this year we’ll get there and some other places!

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Better health and more peace. I’m getting used to the fact that I can’t pick up my foot (except for tripping a few times in December, landing on your knee in a bumpy parking lot sucks) and the pain that I’m still having in my back and leg. It’s frustrating but I’m really trying to just roll with it. I managed to get my student loans to a reasonable amount so I can stop stroking out about money. Being self-employed is great but the taxes are a bitch.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 3 – Mr. Lyndsy left the US to fly back home and I sobbed forever because I missed him so much.

January 28 – The day my back went out and the last pain-free day I’ve had.

February 22-24 – Fun times at Disney with Joanne and her sister while watching them do a half-marathon!

March 10 – Flight to Qatar to see Mr. Lyndsy

March 19 – Spinal fusion – YUCK

May 5 – First cruise with an awesome friend. Thought I’d had being on the boat for that long but it wasn’t all bad. Quite relaxing actually.

June 28 – Mr. Lyndsy didn’t return any of my calls or texts so I started freaking out that he was run over by one of the crazy drivers here. Turns out he was flying in early to surprise me!

July 2 – Married Mr. Lyndsy!

July 16 – Moved to Qatar

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Yikes, I don’t think I really achieved anything. The half-marathon would have been one hell of an achievement. Perhaps moving across the world counts. Trying to get my life into four suitcases was kind of a big accomplishment for me. OH! I traveled to Dubai by myself! International travel still freaks me out so the fact that I got there and to my destination by myself impressed me.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I found myself turning into a more judgmental person than I like to be. When I saw very clearly what was happening, I pulled myself out of social media and just chilled out.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Oh. My. God. Yes. When my back went out on January 28 I wanted to die. It hurt SO much. I got to the doctor and a massage pretty quickly and I thought things would turn around shortly after that. Not so much. The pain didn’t let up and I started having numbness in my leg, which I knew was a very bad sign. Less than two months later I had a spinal fusion that didn’t go as planned. Now I have foot drop in my right foot and pain in both my leg and back.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Tough call. I’m wearing some really awesome pajama pants from Target, so they come to mind first. The iPhone was great so I could FaceTime with Mr. Lyndsy while we were apart and it’s helped me keep in touch with friends and family since moving. Pretty happy with my Wii U and Mario Kart 8.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mr. Lyndsy, for sure. He was so supportive after the surgery and recovery. He made sure I had flowers on Valentine’s Day (which meant buying a second set since the first got delayed) and a practical gift to make my life easier. He showed up early to surprise me before we got married. He’s also been great as I adjust to living in the fucking desert.

My mom did pretty well with me getting married and moving away. No complete breakdowns or anything.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Mine, for damn sure. I don’t know what the hell happened to me during part of the year, but I did NOT like what I saw.

Also, what the hell is wrong with people? All over the internet I saw people who just have no respect or regard for their fellow human beings.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Fucking student loans. At least that shit is resolved. Also, no more crazy spending on my credit cards.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Getting married, seeing Joanne TWICE in one year!, cruising with my girl S, having so many people come celebrate my life with Mr. Lyndsy, meeting Mr. Lyndsy’s family and his godmother NOT hating me (she still scares me a little), my family being super supportive after my surgery.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

All of Me by John Legend. It was the song that really defines my relationship with Mr. Lyndsy.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • happier or sadder? Happier
  • thinner or fatter? About the same I think but I feel better.
  • richer or poorer? Richer all around.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Taking it easy. Work was really stressful and I focused on that instead of my health. Also, I wish I’d saved money better.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

I wish I’d spent less money. Things are definitely looking up now, but if I’d been better I wouldn’t have been as stressed at the end of the year. However, I wouldn’t take back any of the trips to Disney or the cruise, so, I don’t know.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

My mom flew in for a visit and we did Christmas Eve with some friends of Mr. Lyndsy’s family. It was actually quite a bit like spending it with our family – same gift exchange game. My favorite Christmases are the ones where I go to the movies and just chill out with friends and some family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

Yes-ish. I’d already fallen in love with Mr. Lyndsy, but it still grows every day.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I don’t watch a ton of TV anymore, but Mr. Lyndsy had a bunch of back seasons of Criminal Minds, Person of Interest, Hawaii Five-O, NCIS: Los Angeles, and The Mentalist. I’ve really enjoyed all of those.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No hatred here.

24. What was the best book you read?

That’s a tough question. I read a lot of books and I really enjoyed a lot of them. However, no one book stands out as being particularly awesome.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

John Legend. I do realize I’m behind with him, but it’s cool.

26. What did you want and get?

Mr. Lyndsy is now permanently attached to me. Pretty fucking awesome.

27. What did you want and not get?

Stupid, but an iPhone 6. I miss having a bigger phone. Also, I didn’t get magically healed. That would have been exceptional.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 was AWESOME. I cried. A lot. Also, Guardians of the Galaxy was pretty fucking fantastic. Any film that has the expression “pelvic sorcery” is going to get high marks from me.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Thirty-fucking-three. I went to dinner with Mr. Lyndsy and a friend of ours to a Mexican restaurant with the most offensively hilarious menu I’ve ever seen. Then to Cold Stone for Cake Batter ice cream!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I’m not sure anything would have made it more satisfying. It was a pretty satisfying year. Obviously I hoped for a better outcome with my surgery but I don’t know that it made my life less satisfying.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Lazy and comfortable because that’s how I roll. Most days now I don’t get out of my pajamas. Working from home has its benefits.

32. What kept you sane?

Mr. Lyndsy, my friends, family, Disney trips.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Who are we all kidding? Benedict Cumberbatch.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The killings of black men by cops and the ridiculousness that came after. People need to get their heads out of their asses.

35. Who did you miss?

My friends. After the surgery I wasn’t able to get out and about as much. Less dinners and movies out. Now that I live 8000+ miles away, I really miss a lot of my friends!

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Mr. Lyndsy’s friend N. She is a TRIP and she’s been a great friend since I moved here.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Things aren’t always/ever going to go as we plan/want them to. Even still, if we keep going, shit finds a way to work itself out.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“And even better, I get to be the other half of you.”

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Gifts that shouldn’t make anyone’s holiday wish list…

Since it’s the season for gift giving, I just want to throw some things out there that no one should be buying. Under any circumstances.

1. Haribo Sugar-free Gummy Bears

Sugar Free Gummies

These will ruin your stomach if you eat more than five. And everyone eats more than five, because they’re tiny and delicious. I’m not sure what’s in them that causes such digestive issues, but take it from me and my personal experience. You don’t want to eat these. Unless you’re constipated and desperate to change that.

2. Taxidermy Pikachu Mouse

Taxidermied Pikachu

I appreciate being Pikachu’s fan. But I think this takes things a bit too far…

3. Taxidermy Meerkat

Meerkat Meerkat 2

I think this is actually going to give me nightmares.

 

4. Make Your Own Vagina Mold

Mold Vagina

Uh, right. I haven’t figured out why this exists yet. I also can’t believe it would work all that well or that it could be all that safe.

5. Edible Chocolate Anus (The Anus that Made Britain Great)

edible-anus

(Image)

I don’t think I’ll ever look at chocolate the same way again. Also, was there a model for this anus? If so, who was it? I’m not sure that would change my opinion on whether it should exist, but they’re fair questions.

What have you seen that you wouldn’t give anyone, ever?

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Just Say No to Societal Pressure

Just over a year ago I met Mr. Lyndsy. I was 32 and not sure it would ever happen. I had more or less accepted the possibility that I could be single forever. That sounds bleak, but I really believed that if that’s what was meant to be, my life would be full of other amazing things.

It was hard to get to that place. Something happens to single women when we turn 30. I’m not even talking about the ticking of the biological clock. You look around you and realize that the vast majority of your female friends are either engaged, married, pregnant, or have kids. Well-meaning family and friends are constantly asking when we’ll be walking down the aisle, or, if it’s my parents, “When am I going to get some grandchildren?” (Getting married or a significant other was optional as long as there were grandchildren. My mom even once told me, “Now would be a good time in my life for you to have kids.”) My poor grandmother’s face when my cousins and I are like, “Yeah not sure when or if there will be kids.” You’d think we told her we’d killed my grandfather and added his body parts to a stew we served her.

And the way my dad asked, it was like he thought I was intentionally avoiding finding someone to be with. Like I was purposefully withholding grandchildren. So I got a dog. My mother refused to be called “Grandma.” I pointed out that Buddy may be the only grandchild she got, so she should learn to love it. She wasn’t buying it though she did love the little guy quite a bit.

There is a lot of societal pressure on women to “settle down” and have populate the planet. Yes, we want to propagate the species, but the timeline we’re asked to be on these days is a little crazy. To ask us to have that going on or done by about 30 is too much. We are going to college in record numbers. There are more women in college than men these days. Being 30 and married with multiple children was a lot easier when people weren’t going to college like we do now. College is a process of exploration. By immersing yourself in it, you learn all kinds of things about yourself and it changes what you’re interested in and often what you’re looking for in a significant other. Chances are good the person you’re with then won’t be the guy you marry, especially if you go on to get another degree.

Not to mention that you just don’t have time. I wasn’t one of them, but I knew a lot of people who dedicated significant amounts of time to going to class and studying. When I went to the law school orientation they stated explicitly that if we were not in relationships we shouldn’t get in one, if we could cut ties with people in our lives it would be a good idea. At least one marriage that I know about ended during the first year of law school. Couples broke up. It’s a tough process where the professors try to strip you of your humanity and empathy. It’s probably a little like dating a serial killer. A good friend of mine wouldn’t even consider dating while he was in dental school because of the amount of work he had to do and pressure he was under. I’ve also seen the same when people go to medical school.

That’s how you end up 30 and still single. Once you get out of school at 26, 27, or 28 you get shoved into some crazy job where you work 60+ hours per week to prove yourself, maybe to yourself, almost definitely to your employers. A couple years out of law school I was working 80 hour weeks and was in grad school full-time. Dating was’t so much an option then. Grabbing a bite to eat outside of my apartment became a luxury.

So here we are, 30, single, and maybe getting a chance to start dating. Guys our age aren’t as worried as we are. After all, they can have kids in their 40s and it’s not a big deal. We’re scrambling to find a decent date; see if we can get something going. Also, it’s not like we’re going to strike gold the first time out either. “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet your prince.” Sad, but true.

If we’re lucky, by 32 or 33 we’re with someone who’s got long-term potential. By now we’re attending at least 2 or 3 bridal showers per year. Whether we want kids or not it’s a little like torture because everyone is asking when we’ll be popping out some spawn. We suppress the urge to suffocate everyone who asks with the toilet paper and candy bars that act as diapers and baby poop. Our significant others can’t figure out why we’re suddenly losing our shit when we get taken out for a romantic dinner and there’s no proposal. Or yet another anniversary comes and goes without a ring.

If everyone could back off with the questions we might be able to maintain some semblance of sanity. For those of us who want marriage and children, we already feel it. We get a reminder every year on our birthdays. We’re watching the clock tick down, knowing we aren’t where we want to be. The best thing anyone can do is be supportive of the choices we’ve made and when we freak out, remind us that we’re on the paths we’re meant to be on, and that we’re making a difference being who we are.

 

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When last I checked, I am not cattle

I don’t know if you know this about me, but, I’m not cattle. Despite the obviousness of that statement, it doesn’t appear that the government here gets that. Allow me to explain.

I suppose it all started because fraud was sort of running rampant here in Qatar. It was pretty easy to get a loan and once people had them, they’d take the money, just walk off their jobs and leave the country. There was nothing that could really be done about it. People would go buy a Ferrari for the week or weekend and abandon it at the airport. To fix that, they started requiring Exit Permits before someone could leave the country. The employer has to give the okay which is usually a guarantee that someone is coming back. (This only applies to someone who is working here and sponsored by a company. I will be able to come and go as I please.)

Also, per the rules, expats who come work here are entitled to accommodations or accommodation pay. It’s part of the contract. People who get married get a bump in compensation to cover the cost of housing the spouse and the same thing happens when kids come into the picture.

So we can see how this might cause a problem. “Oh yeah, I got married. More money, please!” Uh, not so fast.

Our certified marriage certificate from Florida wasn’t enough. It had to get certified by someone in the central state government, the Secretary of State, and then someone in the Qatari embassy in the US. That took… a while.

Not only that, Mr. Lyndsy had to send his DIPLOMAS through the same process. What that has to do with us getting married, I have no idea.  It also took a while. We also sent in birth certificates and something else.

That only got us so far. I had to have blood drawn to test for HIV/AIDS and to get it typed (the blood type goes on your national ID card, still haven’t figured that out), and I have to have a chest x-ray to make sure I don’t have tuberculosis. Because they make everyone do this, they have the process down somewhat efficiently. Except that you get processed a bit like cattle.

You go in, get a number and wait to get called to the registration desk. They sent me to “Room 7″ where a woman scanned my barcode into the computer, wrote “OK” on it, and rudely sent me out of the room, without actually telling me where to go next. It probably doesn’t help that her English seemed to be limited to “Okay, go.”

Then I had to go back to the registration window to show that the paper said “OK.” They charged me $28 and told me, in very limited English, to follow the arrows on the floor. I looked at the paper I was holding – Laboratory and x-ray. I asked somewhere where to go and they told me again to follow the arrows. The red arrows indicated the Laboratory so that’s where I went.

I had to check in with someone else who put me in another line. I waited behind a few other women (because well, there are only women in this facility – like in a lot of the medical places, only women are allowed in certain parts, and only men in others), until a scary woman stabbed my arm for blood. She told me to “Go” when she was done. I walked back to the waiting area I’d just come from and asked where to go next. They indicated that I should follow the yellow areas to the x-ray.

In this waiting area they just tell you to sit down, in order, in a row of chairs. We got there early so I was in the front row. By now, even though I was in fleece pants, I was freezing. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so damn hot outside most of the time or what, but a lot of the buildings in here have the AC cranked so low that if you don’t think about it, you’d think it was winter outside. I didn’t have to wait long, and they called all of us into the row into a room. There were about 7 dressing rooms and they had us all take off  our tops so that we could get the chest x-rays. There were a lot of Muslim women in line with me and older Indian women and it was pretty obvious that even though it was just women, they were really uncomfortable.

As we all got into the gowns, they had us line up to wait to go into the x-ray room. Again, we stood in a line as they took x-ray after x-ray. Forget any kind of privacy about this. I got a look at at least 4 sets of x-rays. It was also a problem because the vast majority of the women in line don’t speak Arabic, and the techs don’t really speak anything else. Fortunately, there were some women in line who spoke Hindi (I think), and could help some of the older women who didn’t understand what they were being told to do.

I was thrilled to finally escape into the blazing heat. Poor Mr. Lyndsy had been standing outside waiting for me (since they wouldn’t let him in) and he was melting. We had to drive to a separate facility 15 minutes away to get my blood typing done. Big shocker, I’m still O-.

What’s crazy is that they got my results already and unsurprisingly, I’m totally clear! Now to wait for the fingerprinting. Not sure why they do that since it’s not like they’re going to do a background check on me…

I’d read about other women’s experiences with this and I was like, “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.” But no, it really is. They do treat you like cattle. I won’t complain too much though since it’s been the smoothest part of this process so far.