Determining wants and needs through my tiny house/living fascination

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If this house looks familiar, that’s because it belonged to Dee Williams!   Photo taken by Tammy Strobel.  Attribution:  By Tammy – Weekend with Dee, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11211685

 

I’ve been obsessed with the idea of living simply and living in a tiny house for many years now, way before it became trendy. Thinking about living in a tiny home helps me to stop myself from buying things I “want” but don’t necessarily need. Kind of like when I was getting ready to move cross country.  The way I made decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of was to ask myself, “was there room for both this thing and my animals in the car?”  The animals were definitely going – that was not even a question.  It was more a question of whether there was room for this additional thing.

So now I sit and think to myself – is this object I’m perusing, be it a second-hand shirt or pillowcase, or whatever, something that I would definitely want to move into a tiny house when I finally achieve that dream?  Or when I move into a small bachelor-type apartment? If I can’t picture it, I don’t buy it.  Do I already have something at home that can fill the “need” it would otherwise cover?  Usually, the answer is yes.

When I first got out of law school, I should have done what I advise all students to do now.  When you get out of school, don’t live any differently.  Continue to live like a student while you pay off your debts and get started with your life.  Just because you’re no longer in school doesn’t mean your home needs to look like it just walked off the pages of Dwell magazine.

So these days, I live frugally.  Like a student.  I have a roommate and it’s a one bedroom apartment, so my bed is in the living room and I’m totally fine with that.  Every morning when I wake up, I look at the Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque.  It’s a beautiful view, especially when the clouds are so low they obscure the tops of the peaks. I have a large picture window that lets in lots of light.

Speaking of beds, mine is on a platform of milk crates. Guess what?  It’s pretty supportive on my back.  It’s also a good way of creating some built-in storage in a very inexpensive way.  My mattress cost me all of $129 from Walmart, and I bought it online so didn’t have to deal with transporting it in my small car.  It came in a box and once it was opened, my roommate rolled it open, and voila, in an hour or so, it was ready to go up on top of said milk crates.  And instead of buying heavy, hard to move bookcases, I have, guess what?  Milk crates!  When you have to move, you just turn them, your stuff is in them, and voila, no need to get lots of extra boxes to pack your stuff in, because it’s already packed!

You  know those plastic white bin type of drawers you can get at Walmart or Target? I bought those to organize my stuff in the fifth wheel I owned in Utah.  Still got ’em.  The old me of several years ago would have gotten rid of them as soon as I could afford a nice “dresser.”  But you know what?  It’s hard to move heavy furniture on your own and when you have a small hatchback type car.  Plus, these white drawers can be configured in a multitude of ways.  I can see everything I have in them.  When they’re too full of crap, it’s time to downsize.  Looking at them now, I see that yes,  it’s time for me to get rid of stuff again.  You really do only wear 20% of your stuff, 80% of the time.

I’ve been thinking of what I would want in a tiny house.  I honestly don’t need much, aside from room for me and my animals. I think about whether I would want a flush toilet or a composting toilet.  To not have to deal with a black tank would be awesome, so I’d likely go with the composting toilet. I’d like to do solar and have as  much of my energy needs filled off the grid.

Would I want my tiny house to be on wheels?  I sometimes think so, but then realize a shed that could be insulated, etc., might be a more economical way to go.  Just have to find a place to put it (and oh yeah, be able to afford that place/land.)  So I have begun to save.  It’s a small amount right now, but that online savings account is named “Tiny Home.”

You might wonder how all of my animals will fit into a tiny home.  If my roommate and I go our separate ways, Morgan will likely stay with him.  She does very well with training – her brain likes to be challenged, and she helps him in a great therapy-type way.  He has PTSD and a few other problems from having been in the army and Iraq.  Also, since Snuggles is so possessive/obsessive of me, he has become “her human.”  (It is a trait of weiner-dogs to be super possessive.)  Morgan adores him to the moon!   Yes, I’m her momma and the one who feeds her, but he’s the one who takes her on lots of walks, and snuggles with her and plays with her in the yard during the day when I’m at work.  When he is feeling down, she stays close to him.  Every time she hugs him, I see the bond that has formed between them.  It makes my heart feel good.

So in closing, if you started reading my blog because of my tiny house posts, never fear, I’m still very interested in them!  I still watch tons of YouTube videos about simple living and tiny houses.  Yes, I used to live in an RV and that one didn’t work out for me, but I feel like a tiny home is different and can be made much stronger and much better insulated than that fifth wheel was!  I haven’t given up on the tiny living dream, so don’t give up on me!

And yes, in case you’re wondering, I don’t like that they’ve become trendy and that the prices have increased so drastically over the past few years.  I think they can still be built economically, and I’m willing to put in the elbow grease on mine, if someone is willing to help me figure out what the hell I’m doing!

Are you interested in living more minimally?  In a tiny home?  Or an RV?  Let me know what you think, what you would prioritize, if you’d want it to be on wheels, etc., in a comment below!  And if you’ve liked the post but prefer not to comment, please hit that like button or share it! 

And as always, thank you for reading!

 

Torn…

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I’ve spent a lot of time at the beach lately, contemplating my next steps.

Even this post has been like pulling teeth, trying to think of how to put into words what I have been feeling lately…

I started writing it a few weeks ago. One morning, I decided to not go for a run, but opted for a good walk to a “sit and just be” spot off the beaten path about a five minute drive from where I live. I did not take my phone with me, because I didn’t want to be torn from the present moment while I was there. But I didn’t go so far that I couldn’t get back to my car on my own volition if something happened. And therein lies one of the things I am torn about in life right now.

I think a lot of us feel these internal pushings and pullings inside ourselves but don’t feel like we can talk about them.  If you’re unhappy about something, you don’t always feel like you can complain or vocalize it, especially if from all outward signs, it looks like everything in your life is going all so swimmingly well. So, I hope this post can help some of you out there who might feel the same. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m not afraid to share uncomfortable things sometimes. Even if no one ever reads that post, it helps me to get it out there.

A friend of mine asked me last night if I was doing ok – he thought I sounded like I was feeling down a bit lately. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my life, what really drives me. I’m trying to figure out what is going on in the present, and trying to be present in the moment, but also working on what could make me happier in the future. Looking back, I feel like I may have made some rash decisions, or had tunnel vision, but then when i look at those decisions in a different light, then I think, “well maybe not so much. It did take me over a year to figure out where to move when I  finally decided Boston was not the place for me.”

I’m torn about a few things lately:

1.I found out I am able to work full time at the resort through the winter. I’m thrilled about that for financial reasons – I know it will allow me to keep earning a salary and be able to save a bit of $ right now while also paying down my credit card debt (yes, I have a balance now I can’t pay off within a month, I’ll write about it in a separate post.)  While I like working in a place that is absolutely gorgeous and a place that some folks only get to spend their vacation at, it’s not a job which I see as being the one I would want to do for the rest of my days on this earth.

I  love some of my coworkers and the people we take care of, who, for the most part, are really good and appreciative of our efforts.  However, occasionally, I hear someone complaining and I find myself wanting to smack them upside the head and say to them “don’t you realize you have such a BLESSED life? You’re not dying of some terminal disease, you’re able to afford your vacation, so stop complaining that the person’s camper next to you is too close, or you don’t have enough seclusion or enough shade in just the right few square inches of space where you want it, or the wifi isn’t strong enough!!! You’re on vacation! You’re getting to do something not everyone gets to do, and you’re in a campground, not out in the wilderness, for god’s sake!!!” (Phew, that felt good to get out!! But then I feel guilty for having judged them in such a way because I wonder, is it our society turning people into ingrates?)  On the other hand, I just finished reading When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, about a neursurgeon who ended up with lung cancer that spread to his brain and died within 22 months. I really want to recommend that book to everyone, and especially those who seem to complain about the smallest, most minute problems.  It gives you an entirely new perspective on how lucky so many of us are in life.

In our store, we sell lots of prepackaged items. As I read more about our environment and global climate change, and conscious consumerism, the effects of garbage on all of these issues, it kills me a little bit inside every time I sell something that is contributing to those problems. I realize those problems are not gonna go away overnight, but how can I start doing something to slow down or reduce those problems? It’s a huge company so I don’t think they would take kindly to one of their employees telling people “you know, you really shouldn’t be eating meat for this, that and another reason….” So, I shut my mouth on those issues and sell them what they want and thank them for their business. But I think I am going to talk to the person who is  in charge of the retail side and see if we can work with more vendors willing to provide different alternatives that are more healthy. Right now, I think there’s only one that has some healthy alternatives, so I’ve been steadily trying to buy from her for our merchandise.

I spent a few hours online yesterday morning, looking into certificate programs and other programs related to fields where I could see myself genuinely invested – natural resource policy and management (my love of trees and the outdoors, so then I got thinking about forestry related degrees), sustainability, as well as animal welfare and of course, voluntary simplicity or minimalism. I get excited at the thought of learning about these areas, but then I get frustrated when I see how much they will cost in terms of money (my big concern) and time investment (I’m already 43, how much more schooling can I truly handle, if any?)  I can’t really afford to take out more loans (huge understatement) so then I think of looking at internships, etc., but those can be costly in that I would need to (1) relocate at least temporarily and (2) be able to live on a very small stipend, if there is any. With pets of my own to care for, and my student loans and car payment to worry about, it is very hard to make those numbers work. But I’m gonna keep trying and looking and thinking of solutions.

So here is what I have come up with so far. I know this blog doesn’t have a lot of readers (the stats don’t lie) but I plan to start writing on a variety of issues that are near and dear to me. I will have to start networking (at least online) somehow, connecting with others who feel the same way, and maybe get the word out that way. Every minute I’m online, I am using up precious cell data to connect to the internet via my chromebook, so it makes me use my time online in a more concerted manner.

The same friend who asked me if I was ok (he’s so awesome, please show him some love by checking out his youtube channel: Wander Dano) said he thought maybe  I taken the step forcing myself to find myself, by all the changes I have made, rather than just staying in one place and being “meh” about my life. I know he meant it as a compliment, and I think he is right. I have definitely done that, and many days, I wish it was easier to deal with, but then again, I think by the rough times or times when I doubt myself, that is when I learn the most. Right?

If you’ve been a faithful reader of my blog, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and hope you will stick with me. And if you are new, well, welcome, and I hope you will stick around as I continue searching for what makes me happy, what makes me feel like I’m here on this earth for a reason, and what that reason is. In other words, “what is my why?”

 

I just wish I had a better handle sometimes on what are my simple dreams.

Any thoughts and comments on this post are greatly appreciated, as with all the others.

Adjusting….again

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Can’t remember when this was taken, but I love looking at these rocks/cliffs across the lake.

Six months ago, I didn’t think I’d be in this spot of being the “newbie” all over again, but I am. I got in my car, drove cross country with five cats, and all my stuff, and my dog Osito on my lap (yes, it was INSANE), and thought “this is it, this is THE big move. The one that  changes my life.”

Well, it did. And it was A big move, but not the last one ever. But it got me closer to where I am today, so yes, it did change my life. Just not in all the ways I thought it would.

People ask me why I moved cross country to an area where I pretty much knew no one. People asking sometimes sound like they don’t understand how I could do that, or that they think I’m brave for doing it, or that they think I’m crazy, “Oh, I could NEVER do that…” And I realize when I start telling my story (I’ve tried to abbreviate for folks as much as possible but inevitably, when the words “Harvard Law” come out of my mouth, there’s a bunch more questions that follow), just how crazy it sounds. Leave a job at a premier law school where I was making more money than I had ever made, using both advanced degrees I am still paying for (and likely always will be until I hit retirement age or die), to take care of animals who poop all day (an average of 360 times, to be exact), and then start working at a campground as a supervisor. I now have much more responsibility than I think I ever have in a job before (except for maybe when I was a lawyer and that came with its own sort of craziness.) It does sound a bit insane, doesn’t it? 

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Photo taken at the “bewitching” hour, i.e. right before sunrise. 

So I find myself again not completely sure of what I am doing at work, but as I mentioned to one of my team leads yesterday, I have learned to embrace change more than i ever had before the past year. I used to be afraid to take chances. To make big choices and then deal with the consequences. I was most DEFINITELY afraid of failure.

This is not to say that any of that doesn’t scare me now. It still does. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. It’s just that I can put things in a different sort of perspective. I told my Team Lead that whereas before, something might have super stressed me out, I now try to think to myself as to whether something will still really matter a year from now. Or, I think of the changes I’ve made in my life in the past year and try to compare the change or choice I am about to make, and see how they match up. And, not for nothing, but I’m 43, and I keep hearing about health problems that some of my former high school classmates are going through or have gone through, how many have already died. So, it kind of puts things in perspective.

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My most recent pre-sunrise photo. Made getting up so early so worth it.

 

I will admit I’m a bit nervous about doing a good job at the job I’m at now. There is a ton to remember – everyone keeps telling me eventually it will all make sense. (I hope that’s the case, like how all of a sudden the mental block I had about giving sub-Q fluids and keeping the needles sterile, gave way, and I  “got it.” Now it seems like second nature to me to give fluids to Bonkers.)

Someone will show me how to do something and at the time it’s explained to me, it makes sense and I can do it. But trying to retain it all is a bit daunting. At times, I feel like a brand new reference librarian all over again – like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, I might freeze when you asked me the simplest question.  Or, how I used to freeze when anyone asking a question would involve business terminology like stocks, equities, securities. You could ask me to find a law or treaty for you in a language I couldn’t read, no problem. But ask me a business-related question and I would sheepishly call for help from my old officemate who was super patient with me all the time. (God, thinking about her now, I really miss her a lot.)  Sorry, tangent there for a minute….

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I took this a few hours before a storm rolled in. Just loved seeing the weirdness of the colors of the sky. I thought it almost looked the color that a sky would look before a tornado hits. Also loved how dark blue the lake appeared. I’ve always been enamored with storms.

I’ve been trying to calm myself down when moments of panic or self-doubt occur, by remembering I used to be a reference librarian, and if I do so say so, a damn good one too. I was  persistent in finding things, even when I had very little to go on sometimes.  I felt confident in my skills. And now, well, it’s just hard being the one asking all the questions again, not having the answers, and knowing that at the same time, I will have people looking to me for answers. I’m going to have people reporting to me who are trying to figure me out, what kind of boss/supervisor I am going to be. Maybe that is the part that stresses me out the most, knowing I will have people looking to me to be a leader, while I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell I am doing, and how to navigate the large organization I’ve just joined. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just not feeling like I have my feet firmly planted underneath me just yet. 

I’ve always been a straight shooter and one thing I’ve never been is the person who plays politics. I don’t kiss up to people, that is just NOT in my nature. But I know that others do, and I know that others will try to stab you in the back. Some friends in the past have faulted me for being too trusting. Maybe I am, but I would hate to be cynical and negative all the time as the alternative.

One thing I am not used to doing is saying “no” to people. When you work at Harvard Law, you don’t say no to professors often. There are always rules and there are always exceptions to the rule that are granted. As a librarian, you always want to do your very best to satisfy the patron. You look and look and look for the answer, or the way to show them how to find the answer him/herself. I know I will sometimes have to say “no” to staff and their requests and/or a customer (although  I will try my best to accommodate as many as I can.)

The girl training me at my job is the outgoing supervisor and a person with whom I wish I had spent more time working. She’s very cool and seems to really have the respect of the people underneath her. She works very hard also. She told me I am doing well and that she thinks I might be placing too much stress on myself right now. But that’s the Type A personality in me that got me through law school. The part of me that always feels like I need to work harder than anyone else, just to stay up there with them. It’s the part of me that always felt, when training for a marathon, like I had to run just one more mile more than anyone else. I really did. Ask my training partner from back then. Some days we would have 14 miles on the training plan and I would tell myself to go home and run just one more.

I know things will eventually calm down. If you’ve read all the way through this, then you’re either on a mission from God, or a glutton for punishment. Either way, I thank you.

I do hope you have enjoyed some of the photos sprinkled throughout this post. I’ve been running a lot more lately, with the gorgeous sunrises that I am treated to almost every morning.

And now, I’m going to take a deep breath and hit “publish.” Some posts are just cathartic for me to write, whether or not they ever get read by anyone.

Writing is HARD

Just one example of the beautiful places I get to visit on my day off. This is Lake Powell which is in both Utah and Arizona.
Just one example of the beautiful places I get to visit on my day off. This is Lake Powell which is in both Utah and Arizona.

Hi folks, just wanted to let everyone know I’ve not forgotten about the blog this week, but I’ve been really trying to get my writing going, book-wise.  So I’ve been getting up early, like usual, about 4-4:30 a.m., and instead of going to the gym every day, have sat at my chromebook and let whatever thoughts I had in my head come out onto paper. It’s very hard to not edit myself all the time, but that’s a skill I am working on shutting down.

The good news is that I have two different projects going. The first is a non-fiction one, self-help, kind of work.  Also, a fiction book. Not sure which one will win out and be my first finished project, but we shall see. I’m finding that the more I write, the more I want to write.  However, I still find it more difficult to fill up a blank sheet of paper, or white screen, than with my blog editor. With my blog, I find the words sometimes flow much more freely.

So, stay tuned, as I plan to put up a few posts very shortly about some other hikes I’ve done in the past months at Bryce Canyon National Park and at Zion National Park. Also, I have some great photos of Lake Powell I can’t wait to share with you (above is a teaser). I’m so lucky that these places are so easily photographed, as I don’t have any special talent, that’s for sure.  In fact, with my cheap phone, sometimes I can’t even see what I am taking a photo of. 🙂

As always, if you have liked this post, please hit like or subscribe or drop me a line below!

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Wants vs. Needs

Now that I am making roughly 25% of my income from last year, I really have to know the difference of needs vs. wants. It’s a necessity for me to be able to make this distinction, not a luxury. I know the four walls concept of needs: food, shelter, transportation and utilities. But of those, what is really necessary? Read more

Happy

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I see views like this every day – it just blows my mind.
Rainbows are so amazing out here - you can usually see a full one.
Rainbows are so amazing out here – you can usually see a full one.
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I love the way you can see rain far off in the distance out here. Loved the contrast between the dark and white billowy clouds off in the distance.
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From my walk on the K-Hill Trail the other day. I often find myself just looking at the clouds and scenery in amazement. I have to pinch myself that this is around me every day now. It’s not just a vacation where i have to try to soak it all in and take back the memories until the next year.
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Yep, another shot of the Grand Canyon from my trip there two weeks ago.

That one word sums it up. How I felt last night. How I feel when I am at work these days. How I feel when I’m home in the evenings and take little Osito for a walk down past the RV park near me and we check out all the big fancy motorhome rigs that have set up camp for the night. How I feel when I sit outside of my RV and just have a good book to read, and I marvel at the wonderful, fall-ish, dry air of the southwest. How I feel when I see a rainbow so often these days. It’s just amazing.

There were definitely days over the past year or two when I thought this time would never come, and when I thought I would never figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew that what I was doing at the time was not it. My good friends would listen to me tell them about my newest idea, or newest place I wanted to move. They never laughed at me, but would chuckle with me as I said, “ok, so here’s what I am thinking this week.” I just always had that date of Aug. 2015 in my mind and knew it would come to me by then. Every change in thought brought me closer to where I needed to be in the grand scheme of things.  My life is much simpler now, and I’m so grateful for that.

I remember the days when I would have to listen to people throwing all those questions/roadblocks in my way, saying, why would you want to give up everything you have to go and scoop animal poop all day long? There were days when people would send me job descriptions for jobs similar to what I had  but in different locations. As if the change in location was all that I needed. It was definitely a test of patience, and I had to remind myself that people were projecting their own fears onto me. I always needed to remember the source of the concern. Their fears, and their love for me. It wasn’t a criticism of me.

I’m doing the online dating thing now. Some might find it weird that I signed up for it so quickly after having moved here, but I purposely didn’t date for the last few years because I didn’t want any person to distract me from my goals. I didn’t want to take the chance that someone might want me to change my mind and stay put, in Boston. Because I knew in my heart, staying put was not an option. I’m hoping it works out, but if it doesn’t, I’m also ok with that too. At least I will know I’ve tried. And if I meet cool people along the way, and maybe make some friends out of it as well, then it will be one more positive experience for me. The thing is, I’m not looking for someone to complete me or fill a hole in me or feel like I’m lacking or deficient being by myself. And that’s how I know I’m ready. I’m happy with me.

I hope you have enjoyed the pictures. Not sure why they all loaded into my page the way they did, all together, but anyway, there you go! If you ever have a chance to get out to the southwest, do it!! Your stress level will go down remarkably. I promise you. (And a PS to those of you who know I have been weaning myself off of Prozac now for the past few months. I’m down to half the dosage I was on for several years. I’m doing it, and feel great. It’s just a matter of time until I’ve got it completely cleared out of my system. I’m no longer afraid of the “what ifs” that held me back from doing this before. If you’re new to the blog, you can read more about that here.)

As always, thanks for reading, and if you have enjoyed this post, please hit like or subscribe or leave me a comment below. I love to hear from you (seriously.)

Settling In, and Coming to Terms with My New Life

Um, yeah... The Grand Canyon is 78 miles from where i live.
Um, yeah… The Grand Canyon is 78 miles from where i live.

So I’ve just started my third week at my new job. I have to say, it’s some weird feelings that I go through sometimes.  A little bit of shock and disbelief.  Happiness. Some scared moments when I think ” how am I gonna do this on this new salary?”  The excitement of seeing new and amazingly beautiful places, the feel of trying out some new hiking shoes, meeting the ladies who work out in the morning at my gym and realizing, wow, they lift heavier than me!  (I still need to find my local “tribe” but I’m working on it.)  It’s just very hard to put into words. I mean, I went from living in a studio that cost me $1100/month in rent to an RV lot that costs $215 plus an RV payment of $82. How does this reconcile in your head?? Ever??

Another shot from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  i can go as often as I like!!!
Another shot from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. i can go as often as I like!!!

I got my first paycheck yesterday. Only for one week of work because of the way the pay periods fall. Needless to say, it’s less than I have ever earned.  I think, like, EVER. Yesterday, at work, as usual, I found myself cleaning a bunny’s butt. Yes, I have a law degree and a masters in library science, and there I was, pulling poop out of a bunny’s butt. (Have you ever heard someone make that statement before?? If so, WHO was it, and HOW can I meet them??!!) And then later on, I found myself cleaning the bathroom. It’s one of our weekly chores to do – no maid service for us. Again, I was wondering, um, is this really my life??!! (Not in a bad way, mind you. Just….it’s….. how do I put this? Surreal? After all this time and planning and thinking of making such huge changes, I’ve actually DONE it.)   But you know what? It’s all good. I knew coming out here my life was going to change in every aspect possible. And I take a look at my surroundings every day, even just the drive to work, and I cannot honestly believe such beauty exists. But don’t take my word for it. Just take a look at some of my pics. That is all.

This is from my walk the other day. Yes, my walk!!
This is from my walk the other day. Yes, my walk!!
A larger shot of the image that is my header on the blog now.
A larger shot of the image that is my header on the blog now.

A good friend of mine said he hoped I would still continue blogging after moving out here, as he said I had inspired him. (He’s even going meatless some days of the week and considering changing to vegetarian!!) Oh hell yeah, I’m going to keep blogging! (I wasn’t so sure about the inspiring part – I just write what makes me feel good to write and on topics that I think resonate with some folks.)

So yes, folks, I will keep talking about getting out of debt (just a different kind now) and chasing simple dreams, and all that good stuff. Please stay with me! Thank you for reading!