Fancy Coffee Friday: A Little of This, A Little of That

Four score and seven years ago… oh wait, not the Gettysburg Address… Traumatic memorization memories from middle school.  Anyhoo, four years and seven hours ago (give or take, but for the sake of this post that’s what I’m going with) I signed up for a blog with WordPress. Huzzah!  And the masses rejoiced!

*pause*

Rejoice, dammit, you ungrateful bastards!  Bask in the glory that is my writing!  Behold its wonder in your… minds!

Just kidding.  If you were doing what I was when I read that (eating the last of the Lebanese Potato Salad in the fridge for breakfast – I think it’s my new favorite potato salad), you probably just shrugged, gave a slight, upward movement of the corners of your mouth and thought, “How very interesting, please, tell me more.”

Though I know you were only being polite and you really don’t have time nor the inclination to keep sitting there politely listening to me ramble on about all manner of things, I’ll bring up a topic of conversation from last night between my massage therapist and myself.

So, there I was in my birthday suit, face-down on the massage table with the sheet over my lower half, when my normally very calm massage therapist who really doesn’t say a whole lot during the massage started talking.  And talking a lot.  And talking fast.  It was a few seconds after they began where I thought, “Hmm, they are worked up… agitated even.”  The kernel of the agitation was that their significant other did not trust them.  They brought up how their significant other looked through their phone, their Facebook messages for their work and personal accounts and has accused them of “looking” among other things.

I know what you’re thinking, well, I’ll pretend that I know what you’re thinking: “Sarah, what did you do?  What did you say?”

And there’s the hitch in that get-up – they weren’t asking for my advice, only for me to listen.  I kept my big yap shut and let them do what they needed to do, after all, if I was someone with whom they felt comfortable enough to divulge their relationship issues, the least I could do was listen to what they had to say even though every fiber of my being wanted to shout my thoughts on trust issues and insecurity.  But, they are an adult, and it’s their life, and like I said – I was picked to listen.

So, when finally the riptide of venting had ended, and things got back to their usual quiet, they asked me what I thought.

I asked, “Are you happy?”

There was a moment of quiet, thoughtfulness that even though my eyes were closed it was palpable, they said, “Yeah, and I know a lot of this is due to other stuff going on, and the stress we are under because of…”  And they continued to talk about all the reasons they were both stressed and what was going on and how it would all work out some way.  I continued to listen and at another long pause I stated, “Never give up your happiness for someone else.”  The words hung there for a moment and they quietly said, “I know.”

So folks, what this all comes down to is that I forced myself to be quiet and listen to hear this person, who I consider to be someone with whom I’m in the early stages of friendship, and not listen to respond to them.  Sure, I could have commented on their relationship about which they were venting, but we all vent from time to time – often it’s just so we can hear ourselves work things out aloud and not just in our heads.  Sometimes we do it for validation from someone else of our feelings, sometimes we want advice and we ask for it.

As much as I wanted to give my knee-jerk response at every moment I formed my thoughts – it wasn’t my place, nor was it the time, to offer up unwanted ideas about how they should be doing this or that.  The skill of listening is something that more and more people seem to missing.  And, in this case, when I truly listened to what they were saying what it came down to is asking if they were happy.

So, on this Fourth Anniversary of the Blog and Fancy Coffee Friday, go forth and truly take time to listen to hear people, not to respond.

And, if you’re sending gifts for the anniversary…

Traditional:  Fruits & Flowers
Modern:  Linen, Silk or Nylon
Alternate:  Appliances

I’m in the market for a few fruit trees, don’t really need any linens, but I could really use one of those commercial kitchen-sized food processors or a Vitamix (or BlendTec) blender.  Just sayin’.

Oh… you’d need my address…. I KNEW there was something I was forgetting!

Posted in Blogging, Fancy Coffee Friday, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Wisdom?

I’ll start my post today saying that I know I said in my last post that I’d write about my camping and hiking experiences from a month ago (was it only 3 weeks?), but I got a bit side-tracked.  Last week was Mr. Muses and my 16th wedding anniversary, plus – we had a house guest – plus, we had a get-together grill-out with friends for their visiting family.  Their family seems to have become our extended family so, therefore…

But I digress…

As I sit here in my screened porch basking in the final rays of the sun and sipping a Bee’s Knees, I feel compelled to write about a message I received via Facebook from a young woman of 18 asking me about modeling.

She wanted to know what I modeled, did I make any money, and ultimately she disclosed her desire to get into modeling as a way to make a living and get out from under the rules of the house with her parents.

Now, let me remind you that I’m 39 – old enough to be this young ladies mother – and I found myself staring at my computer screen, shaking my head at what I was reading. Sadly, I told her that most models lose money and the likelihood of her making enough to live off of was very slim.  She said she’d been told the same thing by a couple of other people she had asked and then said that she’d probably look into dancing at a gentleman’s club.

I advised against it even though I admitted that some dancers have been able to make quite s a lot of money.  She retorted that I probably have never done it based upon my response; I admitted she was correct and while one day I may entertain the idea of jumping on stage for amateur night, the idea of being a dancer at a gentleman’s club had not even entered my mind at age 18.  The conversation effectively ended with me saying that while I appreciated and admired the dancers’ athletic prowess, the fact is that most of the these women are objectified and that went against my “code”.

Later, I pondered this conversation wondering how it is that a young lady would even seriously consider the idea of, for the sake of shortening a few words as we go along, a stripper?

I went to college when I was 18, and I picked a degree I felt I would reasonably enjoy:  Agri-business.  By my second year, I decided to double-major, adding History to the Ag-biz, simply because I had so many credits in History.  But stripping?  I didn’t know anyone who did and only one guy in the dorm who would make the multi-mile drive to the closest strip joint in a seedy part of the city in which it was located.  He would come back with stories of dancers ridden hard and put away wet, for lack of a better analogy.

Twenty years ago, so many of the stories I had heard about stripping were about desperation and last resort moves.  They were about a lack of options.  Eighteen seems far too young to have a lack of options.

And now?  Now, I still think there is a whole world of opportunities before this young lady – but admittedly, I don’t know her whole story.  I don’t know her reasons for so desperately wanting to get out from under the house rules or for entertaining the idea of a career, however long, where the statistics for sexual assault, abuse, drugs and sex trafficking are so high.

The world is your oyster – no matter your age.  When opportunity comes along, I’m a firm believer in grabbing the door handle, opening the door and saying, “HELLO!”  So, normally I would end my posts with a question, but rather than continue to speculate upon what I feel are rash decisions by the young, I will take  a more positive route.

What is an opportunity that came your way which you were unsure about that you took and now know it was a great idea?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: …and then I looked up and saw Yoda.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, sooner or later you’ve come to realize (or you will at any rate) that I am a ponderer.  I spend most of my waking hours inside of my head, rolling ideas around.  During formal meetings at the office I have a tendency to look down at my note pad and doodle as I listen.  Informal meetings, those caught-in-the-hallway-need-your-thoughts-on-this moments, find me with arms crossed, head down.

I think best without the distractions of eye contact.  Generally, I respond with my head down, my gaze averted and with a lot of hand gesturing (I’m a “hand talker”) and arm motion, though when I lock gazes it’s my way of driving home my point or making sure I’m completely understanding a question or situation.

Outside of the office?  I tend to do the same things, and even in my day-to-day pondering and conversations with myself I continue to be a hand talker/arm waver/doodler/downward looker.  My lunchtime walkabouts at the office typically find me watching the sidewalk pass under my feet, my ears piqued at the cacophony of sounds and my nose catching the scent of whatever is in bloom in the yards I pass.  These same things apply when I’m on a hike.  While I do tend to look up more when traipsing about the woodlands, I’m a fungi fan and so I’m usually looking around for interesting specimens of which to take photos.

Last weekend, Mr. Muse and I were camping with friends in Southeastern Minnesota (more on that later) and as the miles of trails went by I discovered some minuscule red fungus at the edge of the path.  Some were just sprouting up and were smaller than a grain of rice, but I caught the blazing red color amidst the dead leaf litter.

It had been a wet week in the Midwest and there was an abundance of fungi, many of it just having grown within the last week as many varieties still had their veils attached or they had just detached.  I was hoping to see some slimes or jelly fungus with the rather damp and chilly conditions but had no luck though I did see numerous other plants flowering, a large millipede about 6 inches (15 cm) in length and we managed to catch on the camera phone a video of a spider wrapping up a just-caught fly in its web.

But down isn’t the only direction in which I allow my gaze to fall.  Mr. Muse and I spend, and have spent, a great deal of time working on improving the health of our woodlot so we look at trees a great deal.  We noticed that all of the maples along the trails all seemed to be black with a mold, mildew or fungus that didn’t appear on any other trees.  There was a massive cottonwood that was “43 Sarah Steps” around at the base or just shy of 38′ (12.66 yards/11.7 meters).  The rest of the forest appeared to have a great many trees about the same age, easily over 100 years, and little undergrowth which made walking a pleasure.  There were birds of numerous species, a huge variety of plants, and when the sun finally showed it’s face, thousands of butterflies flitted about.

And those weren’t the only treats we beheld.  Since I have a background of competing in horticulture for years when I was younger, I was asked about the identity of a variety of plants.  I was just finishing up taking a photo of a rather hilarious find in the middle of a trail in the woods (a photo for another post) when I was asked what a plant was.  I looked up, scrunched my brow for a moment as I looked at what was being pointed out and then gasped with delight.  It was a Greater Yellow Lady’s-slipper Orchid!  I was beside myself with joy at being so lucky to see a rather large grouping of them immediately next to the trail that when I heard, “Holy shit…. it’s Yoda“, I had to look up.

And sure enough…. there he was.  Considering the day had been overcast, damp, drizzly with pockets of mist and fog and a lot of boggy ground and running water everywhere – it was as if we had been transported to Dagobah.  We were just missing the bogwings.

Sometimes it’s good to look up, you might just find a pleasant surprise.

Oh great and wise Yoda, show us the way.

Oh great and wise Yoda, show us the way.

Posted in Blogging, Hiking, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: The Price of Admission

The Price of Admission - you're no prize yourself.

The Price of Admission – you’re no prize yourself.

A few weeks back I had watched a not-too-long video of Dan Savage discussing relationships and doling out advice to audience members.  The answer, or rather – question, he focused on in the clip was from a woman who lamented that she couldn’t find a man with whom she was willing to have a long-term relationship because of all the “little things” she found that annoyed her.  Mr. Savage ripped into her, pointing out how she appeared to be the most common denominator in these failed relationships and then brought out the analogy, “The Price of Admission”.  The price of admission to be with someone you love may be that you will always have to pick up their dirty socks from where you object of affection has left them lay.

The Price of Admission - Knowing you're going to be annoyed.

The Price of Admission – Knowing you’re going to be annoyed.

I have mused upon this idea frequently since watching the video and I began to see direct correlations between the price of admission and a variety of other things, be they work and career to just daily life in general.  For instance, Mr. Muse and I live “in the sticks” by choice.  When we were shopping for this property, we know going in that we’d have admission costs that many other people wouldn’t even want to consider or could not fathom, such as the need to have mouse traps laid out in the house every day of the year and putting out extras at other times.

Friends love to make the drive out from Madison for visits, but frequently remind us that they couldn’t live “so far out of the city”.  Now, before everyone begins to think we live hours from civilization – I assure you that our daily commute is under an hour.  It’s even close to 30 minutes if I don’t stop for a fancy coffee or to drop of dry cleaning.

But I digress…

Most recently I began to look at my admission prices for other things like traveling.  Mr. Muse and I (mostly “I”) have livestock.  We have housepets as well, but when you have livestock, going away for a vacation, or even just an overnight, takes on a whole new dimension.  No longer can you cram clothes and toiletries into a bag and hit the road – things must be planned and prepared for in advance.

The Price of Admission? Yeah, I'd miss you.

The Price of Admission? Yeah, I’d miss you.

Traveling, one of Mr. Muse’s and my favorite things to do (and the reason we both work full-time), went from tossing things into a bag and hitting the road, to a lengthy checklist including everything from getting the caretaker keys to making sure we couldn’t run out of food for anyone while we were gone.  It’s leaving the names of the veterinarians (both for large and small animals) to who to call if there is a problem with the honeybees.  But, all of that is our price of admission to living where we do, having a variety of animals, and loving to travel.

Once I began to think of these things as my prices of admission, be they for being in relationships with people to living out here in the sticks, I began to be a lot less uptight about certain things.  I am, of course, by no means perfect on letting everything go and chalking it up to admission prices, but I’m getting better.

So what are some of your “price of admission” items?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Unmentionables

Last week during a conversation with a dear friend of mine I made the offhand comment that I didn’t want to be someone they couldn’t mention in polite company.  They responded immediately, “No worries.  I talk about you all the time.”

I was taken aback, stammered a bit to myself as I thought of how to respond to this revelation as my mind was reeling with information that was suddenly new and different from anything else I’d ever experience.

You see, my dear friend is someone I’ve been chatting with for over seven years now and I’ve yet to meet them in person.  My response of “You do?” would have been squeaked out had they been in the flesh before me instead of punched into my phone.

Of course, this got me wondering:  How often do friends, those met online or not (though, more specifically those met online) come up in conversation if mentioning them would be pertinent to the topic being discussed?

So Why The Weirdness?

I approached two other long-time friends with whom I’ve chatted for over 15 years (let us remember that the Internet has been around for the masses since at least 1994), and have met in person, with the question of whether or not they talk about their “Internet friends”?  I was curious if these two people that I admire and for whom I have affection openly spoke about friendships they developed online.

Results of my Officially Unofficial Poll?  They did, but seldom.

Why?  Because a lot of people wouldn’t understand and there would be too many questions.

Where do I stand on the topic?

I do not draw distinction between people I consider friends whether I’ve met them online or in person for anything other than clarifying context, such as the case with this post.  Chatting online seemed to me a natural transition from the hand-written pen pal letter relationships that I had in grade- and middle-schools.  In fact, many of my closest friendships are online, most likely because I’m not being judged upon appearance and my responses don’t have to be “shot from the hip”.

My normal day-to-day conversation with Mr. Muse typically has a mention of at least one, if not more, friend with whom I’ve chatted or texted with that day.  I’ve never been what I called “a closet chatter”.  Mr. Muse was fully aware of my online chatting when we started dating and it wasn’t expected to stop after we got married.

I speak of my online friends in the same capacity as I would anyone else I consider a friend.  It’s not taboo or something to be ashamed of – if we’re friends, we’re friends.

So why was I taken aback?

I’ve been chatting for over 20 years and for the first time in all of that time, someone who I considered a dear companion disclosed, without prompting, that I was not “unmentionable”.  My existence was acknowledged, and even admitted that I was someone in the great unknown of the Internet, and yet – I mattered and they didn’t hide it.

I puzzled this new information to Mr. Muse, astounded as I was, and he pointed out that for the first time I was friends with someone who wasn’t trying to hide their online activity from their friends or family.  Sadly, closet chatters appear to be the standard online.  People who are afraid of getting caught by friends or family for socializing online.  This was also seconded by DazyLady.  I suddenly was faced with the reality that there was another person out there in the “great unknown Internet” who treated people the same as I do.

It has never occurred to me that because I may have met someone in an online venue that their value as a friend, let alone a person, would be less than if I’d say, run into them at a donut shop.  And yet, I have friends who have developed great working friendships with people at their jobs whom they have never met in person – only spoken to over the phone, who roll their eyes at mention of friends made in chat rooms.  To me it’s all one and the same.

And so… now what?

Now?  After a week of thinking about how cool it is that someone I’m friends with online actually discusses me the same way I discuss them, I’m both happy and a bit sad.  I’m happy for the acknowledgement and I’m sad that A) it’s taken this long, and B) there are still people who I consider friends for whom I will always remain “unmentionable”.

So, my ideological bubble that all things were equal has been burst.  But that’s okay.  Honestly, it allows me to focus on those people for whom I do exist and matter.  The people who put forth the effort.   It’ll also allow me to reevaluate those other relationships that by all appearances do not matter nearly as much to the other people.

As as for people wondering if they are “unmentionable”?  Oh no, if we have a good conversation – I talk about it.  Here, on Facebook, on Twitter, in person – it’s all conversation fodder.  You exist and you matter.

So, how about you? To you, are people online “unmentionable”?  Do you bring up conversations from online, be they in Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms or otherwise?  Why or why not?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Resting on my Laurels & Deep Thoughts

I think it’s been nearly a month since I last published a post.  I’m sure it’s very possible that I’ve lost some subscribers as they’ve given up hope that I’d never post again and didn’t know where to send the search party.  Fear not those of you who have stayed vigilant and kept the light on like Motel 6!  I’m still here, alive and kicking, but it’s Spring and this past month has found Mr. Muse and I afflicted with extra-strong cases of “busy”.

Between baby goats and honeybees, there is a lot of bleating and buzzing going on at the homestead.  Most nights have found Mr. Muse and I out at the barn, dealing with one baby with a gimpy leg (large baby at delivery, contracted tendons from being cramped up in utero) to a first-time freshener (first time giving birth) with a raging case of mastitis.  Her baby we’ve had to have nurse on the other two does as she refuses to nurse from a bottle.  So my mornings are spent making sure that little Mila gets a belly-full of milk in the morning to hold her over (mostly) until we get home and can get her another belly-full.  One doe stands still, begrudgingly, for being a wet nurse; our other doe, the largest one at 120#, does not want any part whatsoever of being a wet nurse (even though she puts out enough milk for at least three growing babies) and it turns into a wrestling match between she, Mr. Muse and myself to get her under enough control that Mila can latch on to nurse until she literally almost falls asleep.

It’s then that I can take the temperature of Mila’s mother, get an aspirin in her, check her udder again and get myself in the house, hopefully, before 8 PM to have some dinner, before working on all of the “inside the house” things that have to be done like washing dishes and cleaning.

So, that’s where I’ve been most recently, and even now, racked with guilt for neglecting the blog, I’m sneaking in some writing time (when I should be working).

Which brings me to an observation made this past weekend, and therefor caused me to muse over it and what it means, or could mean.

On Saturday morning I was sitting in church attending the funeral of a beloved grand-uncle.  I’d known the moment I heard he’d passed that his funeral would be a very large event, as not only was the family rather large, but he was involved in various church boards, civic groups, businesses and youth organizations.  The night he passed away, he was supposed to receive an award from a local FFA group.  The community was rattled and my Facebook news feed was filled with articles about my uncle.  A talk radio host announced the death of my uncle on his show the day afterwards and spoke of how appreciated and how influential my uncle was.

As I sat in the pew, I listened to my cousin give the eulogy and it wasn’t until the end of it when he choked up, that I shed a single tear.  I could hear the shuddered, suppressed sobs of those who were able to fit inside the church for the service (there we so many people they were also broadcasting the service outside of the church).  It wasn’t all sadness, though, as my uncle had been a jolly, happy man, and there were moments of laughter as wonderful times and turns of phrase were recalled.  It was when his grandchildren were brought up to the pulpit to say their goodbyes that something my uncle had said to me, and which I’d heard him say to others, gave me pause:

“Have you been hugged today?”

It was a moment of profoundness than something so simple suddenly had the whole of the attendees in church smiling, nodding, laughing through tears and yet, altogether choked up with grief at feeling the full weight of the loss of my uncle.

Image - Hugs!

Image – Hugs!

I’ve written before about how I’m not what I consider a “hugger“, and yet, after those words were spoken I wondered how true it was that I wasn’t a hugger.  As I drove back home I pondered upon my self-imposed label of non-huggery.  Was I a non-hugger or was that just something I said to avoid the visceral experience of physical contact because it was an act that got me “out of my head” – a place I very much enjoy being?  How did denying the expression of affection by someone, or for them, affect them – let alone me?

I knew that hugging Mr. Muse made me slow down and each time I’d find myself becoming “quiet” in my head, my thoughts settling down for the duration of the embrace.  As I drove I thought about how many other people there are who I hug.  How many are “one-arm hugs” and how many others are “the full embrace” – which of them get the cheek-press or the hand-on-the-head and held tightly.  Some are a full-embrace with the side-to-side rocking.  Each person is a little different, and no – I won’t hug everyone.  I’m a relationship person and the general rule-of-thumb is hugs go to those with whom I have some sort of relationship.  It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, however, as hugs have been given to console complete strangers, with me initiating by asking, “Do you need a hug?”

Image - Shel Silverstein "Hug O' War"

Image – Shel Silverstein “Hug O’ War”

Hugs can be scary – they “expose our soft underbellies”.  We express our vulnerability, our frailness.  For those of us who have been described as “The Rock”, the person who holds it, and everyone, together – hugs can feel like an expression of weakness.

But, hugs do seem to make the day a bit brighter.  The air a bit sweeter.  Grief a bit less oppressive.

So, maybe by asking, “Have you been hugged today”, my uncle was working at making the world a little better, brighter, sweeter, less oppressive.

Perhaps that is the lesson I’m supposed to learn right now – hugging isn’t such a bad thing and maybe we all shouldn’t be so stingy with them.  In allowing myself, ourselves, to be vulnerable, we get stronger. Perhaps if we all hugged more, maybe just one more hug a day, we’d make the world a little brighter, the air a bit sweeter and perhaps we could lessen the grief someone – even a stranger – is going through.

So, have you been hugged today?

Image - Have you been hugged today?

Image – Have you been hugged today?

Posted in Fancy Coffee Friday, Musings, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: The Dawn of Middle Age

The other week I found myself over at DSW looking for work shoes.  Specifically:  Flats.  Comfortable flats.  Wear-them-all-day-and-my-feet-won’t-hurt-flats.  No cheap, Old Navy flats with elastic backs that dig into my heels would do.  I’ve got a couple pairs of those and believe me, I regret the purchases.

I ended up buying a pair of Easy Spirit flats as well as a pair of LifeStride loafers and have been wearing them frequently since bringing them home.  They are comfortable, don’t pinch my toes and my heels are overly-tight-elastic-marks free.  Goodbye, cheap, Old Navy flats!

The next week after pulling my beloved pair of black stiletto heels out of the “I need to get rid of these” pile once again because only black high heels would do when it came to my chosen outfit, I decided it was time to replace that pair, too.   I headed back to DSW (because I still had a coupon…. damn those coupons!) and marched straight over to the high-heel aisles and like a puma I walked the aisles slowly, stalking the shoes.  I found one pair that was a very close match to the pair I was retiring and with glee I found my size, took off my booties and socks, and buckled those babies on for a stride.

I stood up and stopped.  The only thing similar to the pair they’d potentially replace was looks – they were uncomfortable, had no “give”, and after a few steps I found myself wrinkling my nose in disgust.  Back onto the shelf they went and I went back on the prowl.

I had my mission.  Closed-toe, black, at least a 3″ heel (because let’s not get crazy in the heel department anymore, okay?) and with a strap either over the metatarsals or around the ankle.  That first pair I tried on was the only one that fit that description and as they were so uncomfortable I knew I wasn’t willing to spend money on being tortured all day, even if my job is mostly sitting at a desk.

A little lost, I stood in the middle of the aisle and gazed about.  Perhaps I am shopping in the wrong season, I thought, it’s heading towards sandal season after all.  And I had my answer as I gazed about me at all of the open-toe, strappy sandals.  Fine, I nodded to myself, sandals it is.

The criteria changed, I was now on the hunt for black, dressy sandals with at least a 3″ heel.  I could do this.  There were lots of sandals on display.  I tried on one pair – too stiff.  I tried on a second pair – cute, but not right.  I walked past a third pair and gave them a hard look.  Dare I try them on?  Has it come to this?

I walked out of the store with a new pair of black, dressy sandals with at least a 3″ heel… and they were Naturalizer brand shoes.  When I put them on in the store and took them for a spin down the aisle I thought, “Hot Damn!  These are comfortable!”**

When I got to the car and slid in behind the wheel, I thought, Sarah, that’s three pairs of shoes in two weeks and they are all ‘comfortable’ shoes.  Apparently my days of wearing utterly impractical footwear are falling fast behind me and I’ve now entered into the phase of comfort above nearly all else.  (Sorry, Crocs… you may be comfortable but can’t get past how awful your original version looks.)

So, it was with a laugh that I told Mr. Muse about my observations on my shoe purchases of late and he said, “Perhaps these are signs you’re entering middle age?”

Probably, Mr. Muse… Probably.

**As an aside, my massage therapist commented that they were “sexy” shoes.  I agree with him.

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