Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm Not Dead Yet...

...but it's not for lack of wishing over the last several days. I've been down and out with whatever hideous illness Kate's had, wishing for death or something equally dramatic so I could stop going to work and feeling like a zombie. I even began to talk of going to the doctor. When one does not have health insurance or any knowledge of one's friendly neighborhood health professionals, this can be an adventure, and is not done lightly. However, I woke up yesterday feeling remotely human again and rather less like a zombie. I'm sure Jim is especially thankful for this, as I am not exactly one to suffer silently. I still don't feel what I would consider anywhere near "good," but I don't long for death or the invention of better cold drugs any more. I also missed Dad's birthday cake and ice cream Sunday night because I was in no kind of shape to travel back home. He and Momolla and Jim and I have a date on Saturday, though, so that will be nice.

There has been some knitting, while I have been wallowing in misery. Nothing complicated, mind you, because I have also been drinking NyQuil straight from the bottle as soon as I made it home from work. I've discovered the hard way that I get over being sick much faster if I just give my body rest and sleep, so if I wasn't at work the past week, I was in bed, drinking some juice or another. And man, I ate a lot of chicken soup. I defrosted some of the frozen soup from my last cold, I ate lots of the canned stuff, I had Jim cook me noodles in broth and call that soup. I had tons of it. The local chicken population may never recover. I have had about as much hot tea as the average British household consumes in a month, and I have gone through a gallon or three of various fruit juices. My theory is that my body was in need of fluid because all moisture in said body was being turned into mucus or other gross things. But the bottom line is, I feel better. See, Mom? I can be taught! (mom used to try to make me stay home from school when i was sick. note the use of the word try. i seemed to think that if i just exhausted myself more, the sickness would go away faster. no, it didn't work. but it seemed like such a good idea at the time) I forget who it was that said a pregnant woman is never alone in her pregnancy, that everyone has advice and stories and such. Well, a sick person is also never alone. Everyone told me about a favorite cold medication, and most had stories of illness to share. One especially comforting customer told me that I had to watch that cough, as the death toll from the flu has risen to thirty-three this winter. Sweet, no? And several people gave me cough drops.

I've been reading blogs the past week, but I haven't really been coherent enough to understand what I was reading, so I will be back to leave some comments and catch myself back up on everyones' lives. Once I find my camera, I will show you the dishcloth I made (grandmother's favorite pattern, which i found on bells' blog) and the dish towel I am working on(my own pattern, with lots of garter stitch). When the bribe sock is completed soon, I will show you what they both look like as a happy pair. At the rate I knit, that should be sometime around August.

I spend a lot of time and energy talking about how horrid my job is, and how much it frustrates me. I thought, in the sake of fairness, I'd share an amusing little interlude from about a week ago. Mostly, my job is to make people who are unhappy because their cars are broken into people who are happy because their cars aren't broken any more. This is usually a pretty prosaic, matter-of-fact thing, but sometimes, there's a little drama. Sometimes, you get to live in your very own daytime tv drama, like this instance. I spoke to a woman who was having car troubles.

Woman with Car Troubles: My car, my car has a problem, I think it's the battery. Can you fix it? Please? I need my car tomorrow.

Me: What has the car been doing?

WwCT: (distraught) I was driving and the lights dimmed and my radio turned off and I came right here for help. I didn't know what else to do!

Me: (calm and authoritative) Well, that doesn't sound like a battery problem, but we'll definitely run a diagnostic on the car and let you know what's causing this issue.

Woman with Car Trouble's Strange Daughter: (stage whisper, directed to mother) can you ask the lady if they have a bathroom?

WwCT: You ask the lady.

WwCTSD: (stage whisper, to me) do you have a bathroom?

Me: (stage whisper --it seemed appropriate) we do, it's right back this way. Follow me

WwCT, while Strange Daughter is in restroom: So, what do you think is wrong with my car? Tell it to me straight, I can take it.

Me: Well, from what I've heard, it doesn't seem to be your battery, but rather, (dramatic pause) your alternator.

meaningful music plays

WwCT: My alternator? What does that do? Can I drive the car?

Me: I'm afraid not. And there's a possibility the alternator might have killed the battery. But don't worry, we'll run more tests. We'll see what's going on. But (dramatic pause) is there anyone you can call? So you can go home? (thinking, because we close in an hour, and i can't afford to pay your cab fare)

WwCT: Only my cousin. Maybe he can help us. Otherwise, what are we to do?

Me: (stands, looking thoughtful and sympathetic, wondering why child is still in restroom. hopes nothing inappropriate has been flushed down toilet)

dramatic music, fade out

Ah, the little dramas. At least she was nice about the car needing to stay overnight. But anyway, sometimes the job gives me these little moments of humor, when all the drama and stress are blown way, way out of proportion to the problem.

And I'm learning to appreciate the small moments of the sublime. Actually, I'm trying really hard to recognize that in any given day, in any stressful situation, there are moments of humor and moments of grace. And if you look for those moments, and recognize them, then everything else is a little easier to bear. You know those moments, they're the ones where, suddenly, your shoulders drop down from your ears, and your breath is a little deeper, a little steadier. They're the moments when you smile because you mean it, even though you're smiling at someone who just ranted about you and the job you did and the horse you rode in on. And those moments are there when you aren't stressed or angry, too. They're there when you watch that shaft of sunlight through the clouds and you feel full of life and connected to the world. The moments that you would love to just crystalize and hold in the palm of your hand forever, because they are so perfect, so pure. The feeling of sun on your face and wind at your back, the safety of settling into bed with your beloved after a long day, the comfort of watching the flowers every spring, the perfect peace of the world when it's snowing at three am. So. Those moments are there, and all we need to do is recognize them and find them, and appreciate the sublime in the madness. That's what life's about, the order in the chaos, the beauty in the storm, the sublime in the mad. Because, well, we are all mad here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

7 Random Things and some more thoughts about chocolate...

Bells tagged me for this meme, so let's see what things I can dredge up to share with you all tonight. In accordance with the rules, here are the rules.


1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Post THE RULES on your blog.
3. Post 7 weird or random facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

1. I can still walk at a perfect eight-to-five step size. This mostly only makes sense if you were in a marching band, which I was for my four years of high school. You have to make all your steps a certain size so as to march correctly. Even though I haven't actually marched onto a field in four years now (and why that should make me a little sad and nostalgic, i don't know), I can still make my strides the perfect size. Totally useless, but interesting.

2. I have to buy Nokia cell phones, or else I destroy them. I am hopelessly tough on cell phones, and somehow, they are the only ones that hold up to me. I had one that was literally missing big chunks, and it still worked. I managed to glue the current flip phone together (yeah, only me. i know), and once I pried the crazy-glued pieces apart and cleaned them, it still worked.

3. I don't know how to ride a bike. I've just never managed to learn. Colleen recently gave me a bike, though, and has promised to teach me. Knowing Coll, though, she's going to set me up on a bike at the top of a hill, give me a good shove, and tell me to learn.

4. I'm really very bad at being a girl. By this I mean, I'm terrible with most of the stereotypical girl stuff. I like to play with engines and get dirty, and when I'm not at work, I'm wearing jeans or men's sweatpants and some kind of big, comfy shirt. I don't wear makeup much, I don't style my hair. I live in a pair of Dansko clogs or bare feet. Also, I'm allergic to hairdryers. I just can't use them, they baffle me. I do have a certain fondness for shoes, though, and sparkly things.

5. I'm unusually sensitive to Ny-Quil. I took the children's dose once, and Jim had to literally carry me to bed, because I was falling off a chair within twenty minutes of taking it. At least, that's what Jim tells me, I have no recollection of this. Witness reports corroborate the story, though.

6. I own three hammers. What can I say? I collect tools like some women collect earrings.

7. I am constantly looking around for escape routes in case of zombie invasion. I've already planned how to zombie-proof the house here, and how to escape from work. When the zombies come, I am ready to save the day. The trick is to get to a Wal-mart, they have weapons, ammunition, and supplies.

Okay, there you have my seven random facts. Now that it's my turn, I'm going to tag Kate, El, Georgie, Mom (that's right, do it AGAIN!!), Amy Lane, and RoseRed. If you've been tagged before (momolla), suck it up and do it again! Please? These are fun!

And now for something completely different. Let's ponder some more weighty issues, shall we? Well, let's keep pondering the most recently discussed weighty issue, since what's more interesting than talking about one's favorite luxury item?

As Momolla, who has done her own research, has pointed out, the government of Cote d'Ivoire has recently gone through a bloody, long, horrible civil war. Even having come out on the other side of that war, the new government has implemented extremely expensive taxes on cocoa farmers. Many of these farmers are paid below subsistence level wages annually. This poverty, this desperation, means that children born of the farmers go to work on family farms. Many of the smaller farms are staffed by family members who are not paid. These children don't go to school, they don't play, they work. They work from a very early age, so they can help support their family. This horrifies me, but I can understand the decisions the farmers and children are facing--pay to send children to schools you can't afford, or keep them at home to help work and maybe make a little more money.

What bothers me are the farms that do use children who aren't related to them--who actually pay recruiters a small fee to find a poor child, lie to that child, and then bring the child to a farm to work. Unless a human rights group or a government finds out about these farms, child workers aren't paid. They're small, and they're young, and they're starved and beaten and exhausted to the point where they can't protest any more. They can't leave, and runaways are beaten nearly to death to serve as an example. And there are thousands of children who are forced to live like this. That, above all, horrifies me. That there are children who are being starved and beaten and abused. The farmers will tell you that boycotting cocoa products will ruin them. That may be the case. The companies will tell you that they have no control over how the cocoa they buy is produced, that they can't monitor these things. That may also be true. But I can't help but think that if the larger companies were willing to pay more, to lose a little of their profits, so that these farmers weren't so poor, this would be less of a problem. If the price of cocoa were a little more reasonable, then perhaps these poor farmers could afford to pay for adult laborers to come in and work, or at least to pay the children who work, rather than beating, starving, and threatening them. And yet, chocolate companies, though aware of these problems, are not willing to part with some of their profits in order to help these children.

And that is why, in good conscience, I can't buy chocolate made from beans harvested in Cote d'Ivoire. The whole issue is a mess of blame-passing and lies and greed. Until something reasonable can be done about it, or is done about it, I will simply not buy Hershey's chocolate. Or Nestle. Or Godiva (not that the budget allows for that at the moment, anyway). Or any other chocolate that can't prove to me that it wasn't made with slave labor. My goal isn't to hurt the chocolate economy, nor is it to further wound the farmers who are trying to survive. My goal is just to be more conscious of what I buy, and what went into the production of the things I buy. I will buy chocolate from these folks, and these. I've been trying for a little while to be more aware of what I buy, of what goes into it. I'm doing some research into other fair-trade products and more natural products, as well. I'll let you know how that goes, eh?

Right. That's quite enough pondering of serious things. How about we talk about some knitting? Yarn is nice. We all like yarn. And yarn (to the best of my knowledge) is not subject to bitter controversy. So. It turns out there's a little yarn shop (not local yarn shop--little, right kate?) down the street from me. I will be checking their store hours and visiting there soon, I think, depending on the state of the budget. After all, yarn is nice. But it's just not so effective as a roof and some walls are at keeping the rain off. I wonder if a homeless knitter has ever felted himself or herself a little homeless box to live in? It would be warm, and water repellent. That reminds me, I have to find a place up here I can knit caps or blankets for so as to cull the herd of acrylic some. I have a trunk full. Completely full. Of just acrylic. So some knitting is in order.

The paint can is calling me again. I'm really almost done painting the room (just a touch more of the ceiling left, and then i will call it good), but since I've been working so much, I just haven't felt like coming home and doing it. You may not have noticed yet, but I'm something of a procrastinator. At any rate, I hope your week goes smoothly and graciously, and that there's some pleasant knitting time. And that wherever you are is getting at least a little less rain and wind than we are.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's been a rough week...

...first, I found out I couldn't eat Hershey's, Nestle's, Lindt, or M&M's/Mars chocolate any more. Then, I had to rescue my beloved roommate Mike, who totalled his truck Tuesday night, which meant driving in an ice storm (i wanted snow, not ice--i have never been more afraid while driving on-road or off. my wipers were frozen solid and i couldn't see worth a damn and none of the roads had been salted or plowed) on what was supposed to be my "sick day" for two hours. Yesterday, I locked myself out of my car while it was running to defrost and had to wait over an hour for Jim to turn around on his way to Jersey (which i had to call twice and literally beg him to do, because the local police were too busy with real emergencies to come open my car) to bring me a key and then have him take me to buy a gas can (the gas cans at target all specifically say "not for refueling on-road vehicles", though they are in the automotive section) and some gas and found out my phone company took their money two days too soon and I was well past broke, got into work wayyy late and got yelled at about all manner of things by my boss at work. He then asked me why I wasn't staying later to make up my time. So. Right. Bad start to the week.

First things first. My favorite chocolate companies buy their cocoa from the Ivory Coast. Many of the farmers there use child slavery to produce their beans. Since I don't support child slavery, I can't really buy their chocolate in good conscience. Lest you think I have no references and am just crazy, look here, here, and here. Some of the information is old, but it's relevant. Basically, when it came to light eight years ago that most of the world's cocoa beans (forty to fifty percent by most estimates) were produced and harvested by farms that employed or enslaved children, the entire industry, at least in America, committed to "solving the problem." This was meant to be done three years ago, but for one reason or another (civil war, trusting a multimillion dollar industry to regulate itself, etc) the goals were not reached. A three-year extension was granted, which brings us up to this summer for the new deadline. There's not much progress still, but there seems to be less press coverage. To be fair, I don't remember hearing about this the first time around, but then, I was a kid at the time, and news coverage wasn't my deal. At any rate, there are a lot of options for chocolate made without child slave-labor, but they're all more expensive. Organic and free trade chocolate are safe bets, because of the standards required to be certified in either of those categories. This website has a list of chocolate that is organic or fair trade, and some of them are available in Australia, too. So. Now that I feel like I'm over-reacting, I'm going to remind myself that, well, slavery is bad. Especially child slavery. And buying chocolate from these people is basically supporting child slavery. I can't do that, not even for a bag of M&M's. And I've really had to re-think my buying habits in terms of food products in general, not just chocolate bars. I'm not really comfortable buying cake mix or brownie mix or chocolate syrup or ice cream (though ben&jerry's is okay) or hot cocoa or cookies or cakes or a whole lot of food products any more. I mean, where did that cocoa come from? I'm not eating slave baby cookies, any more than I'm eating slave baby candy!

I feel a little silly doing this, what will one person's boycott do? But, then I told Colleen, and she's changing her chocolate habits. And I'll keep telling people, and maybe they'll keep telling people, and eventually, enough people will know and care to really make a difference. Or, at least, I can eat chocolate without thinking of it as "slave baby candy." Not that I'm saying anyone who buys chocolate from these companies is a terrible person, and not that I'm going to refuse to talk to people who buy chocolate from these companies. But I am going to share this knowledge and hope that I can have some kind of small, positive change. And I am not going through my house throwing out anything with cocoa in it (dude, it's chocolate. we don't waste chocolate. ever. even tainted chocolate.). But as these things are consumed, they will be replaced with brands and types I can buy without feeling like a bad person.

Wow, that was a lot of talking about chocolate, none of which I have in the house right now (waiting to get paid tomorrow to buy some). How about something more upbeat than luxury-related social activism? I know, I'll show you romance, Jim style. It's Valentine's Day, and this is what was waiting for me when I got home today. Yup, that's a dozen long-stemmed red roses. Yup, they're in a plastic pitcher. To be fair, Jim bought them after his shift at his first job and before his shift at his second and he didn't realize we don't have a vase, so he improvised. He also wrote me a note, folded on a piece of notebook paper that says (careful, this is mushy stuff)
"a pitcher of love for you
cause I couldn't find a vase,
a white line letter
cause I forgot to get a card,
and a thousand "I owe you dates"
cause we can't go out tonight."
This, to me, is classic Jim--a bemusing mix of the sweet and the clueless. The thought is there, just, well, not all there. He makes me smile, and he really is a sweetie. Plus, when it counts, he comes through for me. Anyway, look, pretty flowers! And my car keys. You can't see it, but at that point there were three copies of my car key on the table--the original, plus a spare for Colleen, and a spare to keep somewhere in the house. Sometimes, I learn my lesson the hard way.

So, here's hoping that the last wee little squidge of week goes by well and gracefully for all you folks out there and that your weekend is full of nice things like knitting and yarn and good company. Speaking of knitting, I'm working the heel flap on the bribe sock, finally. I sat down on Tuesday and watched Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version, and I thoroughly loved it. Every delicious, brain and eye candy moment. Mirri approves, too. She actually sat on the back of the couch watching me knit and purred. Colin Firth has multi-species appeal. I wonder if he knows...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I am Really Terrible at being an adult...

...because I should be cleaning the kitchen up from dinner last night, starting the soup for dinner tonight, painting the bedroom, doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and handling some more boxes. But I think I'm getting a cold, I'm all sniffly and tired. So, even though I made myself a deal that if I was productive today, I could take Tuesday off of chorse to sniffle and be miserable (i have no immune system, so by tuesday, i will likely be a sniffling, snot-filled ball of misery. i'm hoping to curl up on the couch and look pitiful enough that someone will feed me hot liquids and pet me and say "there, there, you poor sick baby") and hopefully knit. I would very much like to finish my bribe socks before it's too warm for them. It won't happen, I'm much too slow at knitting yet, but I'd like to be done them. So, even though myself and I have this deal, and I have a bunch of chores to do, I am sitting here blogging. Yup. Myself just blew the deal off. And this is why I'm terrible at being and adult. I'm pretty sure that any day now, some members of the local Bureau of Adulthood will come and take me away and torture me with some Advanced Adulthood Training until I start acting more like an adult. That would just be too horrible. I might have to start being responsible and doing chores instead of knitting and playing online.

In other news, I turned down the job offer I was given. I tried to negotiate with the manager dude, and all he was willing to offer me was a guaranteed bonus for sixty days and after that, I was on my own. Well, if they want me travelling two hours a day and working sixty-six hours a week, they had damn sure better be paying me enough to cover my bills. And they wouldn't. So, it looks like I'll be with Pep Boys at least a little longer.

In knitting news, I've sort of ground to a screeching halt. On everything. Seriously, I've done pretty much zero knitting in the last several days. I've been too short of time to do it on my lunch break at work, and too tired to do it after work. How terrible is that? On the bright side, Jim stopped by my parents' house when last he went to Jersey and brought me back another copy of my Conwy pattern. I'm thinking I'll work on that on Tuesdays, when I don't have work and don't feel so compelled to do chores (saturdays were always chore days at my house growing up, and so even now, i feel compelled to clean things on saturday. thanks, mom.) and maybe I'll take better notes about where I am in the pattern. Maybe then, the socks will be appeased, and we can continue on together in a merry way. And maybe I'll give some lifelines a shot. Anybody ever used them in socks? It probably sounds silly for a sock, but this yarn doesn't adhere to itself much, so if I have to pull a repeat out, so many stitches get dropped that I may have to pull out a lot of repeats just to pick up all my stitches. You know, I'm sure other people are perfectly fine working this pattern. I can't decide if it's the yarn, or I'm the anti-knitter and just am not meant to use Nancy Bush's pattern.

Goodness, look how much I babble when I take cold medicine. Actually, that's probably not the medicine, I seem to tend to ramble by nature. Okay. Time to go make some tea and do some chores, before the Society for Adults Acting Like Adults starts petitioning me or something dire. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, darlings.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Startlingly Obvious...

... is the realization that hit me on my way home from work today. To lead in to that, I should say that I aced my interview, and that the district manager for the company offered me a job on Tuesday. He offered me a certain sum which seemed good at the time (i should say i am awful with numbers) but which is only barely more than I am currently making. A large part of my pay would be bonuses, which are by no means guaranteed. Now, the commute will be considerably longer, because I will be taking a section of highway that is mentioned every day on the traffic reports during rush hour without fail. Normally, this drive would take me twenty-five to thirty minutes. With the sorts of traffic I'll be dealing with, I'm looking at at least twice that. For an extra twenty dollars a month? Not happening.

So. Right. I was thinking of all that on my way home to call this manager back today. I realized that I would feel bad about leaving Pep Boys, especially because my manager thinks I have a lot of potential. And that I would feel bad about turning down this job offer because it's really not worth it. And yet, I deserve to be happy. Yup, there it is. My revelation. I deserve to work in an environment where I'm not harried, angry, and frustrated every day. And at the same time, I deserve to be compensated for the hours I will be dedicating to a job. I do not deserve to be lowballed by a manager and promised some bonuses that may or may not show up. This will sound greedy, but "bonus" means extra. I need to know that my base pay will be enough to cover my bills and make it worth driving two hours a day and six days a week. I can't go to my landlord every few months and say, "sorry, no rent for you. I didn't make my bonus this month."
So I'm bargaining. I talked to the district manager and laid it out on the table. He's going to "see what he can do" and I'll talk to him again tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath, because he didn't sound particularly thrilled that I'm asking for more cash. I can see where he's coming from, he's got to keep payroll low and profits high in order to make his own bonuses. And yet, I've gotta eat, you know? With the hours I'm looking at picking up with this job (sixty-six one week, fifty-five the next, rotating back and forth), there won't be time for a second job. This will be my only income.

Right. That's enough of that. Sorry to babble so much about the work situation, it's been stressing me out a lot lately. Tonight, the yarn comes out of the freezer and gets to defrost while I look for signs of infestation. I'm fairly sure I'm safe, but I'm looking into bug-proof storage methods, nonetheless. I'm pretty certain my roommates won't tolerate me taking up an entire shelf in the freezer every time I get panicked by the local insect life. Of course, if they were knitters, they'd get it. So away goes the yarn, into something airtight and safe. At least, the wool does. I so like looking at my big basket of pretty yarn, too. Jim suggested plastic containers and moth balls, but I detest the smell of them. And besides, who wants to knit with something that smells like chemicals?

I'm being a bad adult and springing for pizza tonight, since I don't really feel like cooking. I'm not even picking it up, I'm having Colleen do it while she's out and about. But, lest you all think I am not a good, reliable adult type who slacks off of adultdom at every opportunity, I am going to do some chores. Eventually. Really. I swear.

Here's hoping the last day between everyone and the weekend goes quickly and without too much insanity. Here's hoping, as well, that the weekend is long, pleasant, and relaxing.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A (relatively) Short One...

...because I need to eat breakfast and get ready for work and call a store manager about a job. I'm particularly putting this last part off, because if I get this job, I will feel bad about putting in my notice and leaving my current job. However, I won't feel too terrible about it, all things considered. I like my co-workers, but I feel like nobody listens to me. Also, Jim's just been hired at a different store, making more money than I. Now, I have way more qualifications for this job. Jim is talented and smart and a good employee, but he doesn't have the experience or the skills that I do--I've been in the industry longer. So, yeah. I don't feel too terrible that I may leave.

All of my wool products are in the freezer, because I may, perhaps, just slightly, have panicked. See, I saw two (not just one, two!) moths in my house, in the space of a week. I'm not an entomologist, so my tiny brain sees moths and thinks "oh, no, they're eating my yarn!". Thus, my unbeliever roommates are a bit miffed at the plastic bags of yarn in the freezer. They'll be really miffed when I also microwave it all. I figure that I can't replace most of that yarn, so I'm not really over-reacting. It's better to be safe than yarnless.

In the interest of Jim not being publicly flogged or beaten or shot (though, those are all good options), Mom is mailing me a copy of the Conwy pattern. Now I just have to try to figure out where in the pattern I left off. Ah, this should be fun. Get ready for some more ranting and obscenities, I may just have to pull the whole thing back out again.

I have a plan to knit each of the unbelievers something (probably socks, though that could be difficult for Mike, he has big feet!) in an attempt to make them converts. I may even be able to teach Colleen the joys of knitting, she shows some very promising signs. She can tell the difference between natural fibers and acrylics, and she also fondles yarn and talks longingly about how soft it is. Ahhh, yes. Soon she will be one of us.

The painting in the bedroom is almost done. It's taking a while because we couldn't really move any of the big furniture out, and so just crammed it all in the middle of the room. It's a good thing neither of us is very large, we'd never have been able to fit. And to clarify things for the Aussie contingent--most places, at least around here, will let you paint your rooms. This depends on the landlord, but even the very strict ones usually allow it as long as the house is restored to "neutral" colors when your lease is up. Thankfully, our landlady probably won't even ask us to paint the house back when we move. She's been absolutely amazing and incredibly attentive to us.

Okay, enough distracting myself. This is already rather longer than it was meant to be. Time to go face the music and make my phone call. Wish me luck!