Pride Month 2021

While I admittedly toe the line with my political ideals as an independent, one thing that you will never sell me on is discrimination of another human being. When it comes to social issues like LGBTQ+ rights, I will always be on the side of consenting adults doing whatever they want as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. I believe people have the right to be happy and in love. They have the right to be married and enjoy the perks that come with that. People have the right to live their lives as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. Have a problem when a gay couple is holding hands? Don’t look. What they are doing has no impact on your life. Have a problem with them making out in public? I have an issue when straight couples do as well, and I just don’t look. My not wanting to see any couple of any orientation making out doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right to do it. Just do you. If people want to be called by specific pronouns, just do it. How does that have any effect on you? Spoiler: it doesn’t.

They will always have to fight just to get an inch while the “normal” people have miles ahead of them. They have to fight for the ability to love who they love. They have to fight to be who they want to be. Who cares if someone identifies as trans? Just let them live their lives to the fullest as you have the right to do. The Stonewall Riots took place back in 1969 and this group is still fighting to be recognized as human beings. To have the same rights that other people have. They just want to be happy and comfortable in their own skin. Why should they be ostracized for that? How is their right to happiness detrimental to you? I just don’t understand the problem. I don’t understand how religion can preach about love and honoring thy neighbor, except if your neighbor isn’t the same religion as you or if they have a different lifestyle than you. I spent a lot of time in CCD and I don’t remember any of my readings saying “Love all people… with the exception of….” I remember love thy neighbor. I remember how important it was to be a servant to the community and offer support and kindness to those who need it. Not those who need it except for ______. How can people be religious and believe that only God can truly judge, while taking it upon themselves to play God and judge and make laws that limit the rights of a group of people that are different than they are?

I know. I normally say that people should just live their lives and if it doesn’t impact other people, why does it matter? But it does matter when you work your entire platform to hate others. That does have an impact. Hate should never be acceptable. People have the right to religion, but not to push their religion on other people and make laws based on those beliefs. Especially when your religion is known for hiding pedophile priests who prey on boys while still saying homosexuality is a sin.

It makes me think that not too long ago I wouldn’t have been able to marry my husband because of laws based around hate. It was just in 1967 that interracial couples were legally allowed to marry according to federal law. Why is this any difference? Just because I am straight? Why does it matter who I love as long as we are consenting adults that love each other and are committed to each other?

The point of this is I am an ally. I will always be an ally. If someone needs a place to be who they are, they can share mine. I will always stand up for people having the right to live their life in a way that makes them happy as long as they aren’t hurting anyone and are consenting adults. We all have the right to be happy and live free and sexual identity or sexual orientation shouldn’t be the exception to that.

This is the World We’re Raising Our Children In

You can be outraged by so many things in the news, including the media itself. I hate to break it to you: many things can be injustice and you can see things from both sides. Liberalism isn’t a disease. Conservatism isn’t a disease. Partisanship is. The problem is the outrage is politically motivated in many cases, not related to justice. It’s people following blindly. I’ve never been very good at following the masses.

I can be both pro-cop and anti-police brutality. Why? Because I don’t buy into notions of sweeping generalizations. I think there are good cops. I think there are bad cops. Just like there are good doctors and bad doctors. Spoiler: in both cases, the bad ones kill people. The problem is that people place these professionals on pedestals and think they are gods. They aren’t, despite the fact I would argue that the bad ones all share a god complex.

Likewise, I can be outraged that a white boy gets shot outside of his house in broad daylight. But I wouldn’t ever compare it to something like Elijah McCain’s death. Never. Why? So many reasons. Did anyone say “What did that boy and/or his father do to cause this tragedy?” Did the person get to keep their job/get paid leave and not get arrested for what happened? Did anyone say “Well, maybe he shouldn’t have been on his lawn because then this wouldn’t have happened.” “Well, maybe his dad was a criminal for something completely unrelated.” No. Because that would be a real shitty thing to do. Because a kid died needlessly for whatever reason and that is tragedy enough. That kid shouldn’t have died because he was innocent and that’s all that matters. But why doesn’t it matter in the other situations? Because people follow the agenda that they are supposed to because it’s easier to follow than think for yourself.

I avoided writing this. I didn’t want to fan flames on topics I’m not as well-versed in. I make it a habit not to write about these tragedies because I feel morally wrong in profiting from them. It’s silly, but I struggle with posts like this because I have opinions. But I’m a white girl who grew up in the middle class and is still living in my station. What does it matter what I have to say? There are more powerful voices of people who experience this feeling of racism every day that understand it better than I could. I see things in passing, even things that happened to my husband and child that were racist incidents. I’m a witness that is outraged for them.

Is there a problem with people not recognizing that racism exists today? Absolutely. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s accepted. Or because they don’t see it. Or it’s because they don’t want to admit that it’s still a problem. Or because the media tells them it’s a fake issue. Racism was a thing of the past, right? It can’t possibly be 2020 and people are still fighting against it. <Insert eye roll here>

I would also argue that this is all a result of our own complacency. We let politicians divide us and say we have to choose whose lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter while picking and choosing which deaths across the country deserve outrage. Instead of arguing “White people are brutalized by cops more often”, maybe think of the common denominator there. Maybe think that more training should happen because why should teachers have to jump through more hoops to teach than the people you are trusting with guns? The minute we start pushing for justice for one person and saying another one is completely responsible, maybe there’s a problem with us. Maybe there’s a problem with the media we watch or memes that we like. Maybe there’s a problem with the people we keep in office.

Would this have happened under Hilary? I’m not dumb or blind enough to think that a Democrat in office would be any better. There would still be a massive political divide. There would still be cases of police brutality. Do I think President Trump is doing anything to make matters better? No. I believe that his past actions have shown that he honestly doesn’t care about anything other than his family’s wealth, his donors, and supporters no matter who his supporters are. Unless it benefits him financially or egotistically to make things better, he won’t.

Do I think Biden would make things better? No clue. Because the problem really comes down to who were are as a country and unless someone can bring peace to both sides, it doesn’t matter who gets elected. I’m convinced the soul of our country has already been long lost along the way and I only hope it can get it’s crap back together before my grandchildren are born.

Growing Up Girl

I saw a post on social media that inspired me. And it was the things that women are taught as girls growing up. I remember those lessons. They are as ingrained in my brain as when my parents taught me to cook or my dad taught me about the various tools and how to fix/assemble things as he would with his sons.

I remember them all. The importance of walking with a tall, confident posture because it makes you a less easy target. Holding your keys in your hand so that you can use it to defend yourself. The importance of a buddy system whenever you go out, especially at least another girl to go to the bathroom with you. While boys are not being taught to not rape, girls are forced to learn how to avoid it. Or at least try to. Sometimes, all the preparation in the world doesn’t protect you.

I remember being taught self-defense by my older brother when I was a teenager, my early teens. I remember he told me that this was one of the most important things I would need to learn in life. Mechanically speaking, I could probably severely injure someone if necessary thanks to those lessons. But we’re always taught to be afraid, aren’t we?

It’s always about being on high alert, that anything can happen at any second. We’re taught to be afraid because the unfortunate reality is that people aren’t safe in the world. The world is a terrible place. I have something I can use as a weapon in every room in the house. Why? Because I was taught that I should be afraid of the world.

This isn’t a bad thing, unless you let this fear control your life. These things that we learn are meant to empower us to be strong in the face of this fear. We’re supposed to take the threat of trauma, or our actual trauma, and take away some lesson from it that doesn’t involve blame. We have to take precautions, but knowing that every precaution in the world won’t necessarily protect you is important to not blaming yourself if it does.

The question isn’t about the lessons that girls learn, but what should boys learn? They need to learn about consent. They need to learn acceptable behaviors and how to properly interact with people. When my oldest became old enough to date, we gave him a talk that is almost as important as “The Talk”; one about how not to be a horrible person. We talked to him about how it’s not just “No Means No” but that it means “No” whether you haven’t even started or in the middle of it. How if you don’t get any actual consent of “Yes, this is okay”, then don’t. Someone who is drunk or under the influence can’t consent even if they did. Maybe we should focus less on teaching girls to be afraid and more about teaching our boys to be more respectful. Maybe that’s what our real problem is.

The Art of Giving Up Before Even Trying

There were a lot of things that I considered writing about. I considered discussing the meme going around about “Underage Women” really just a term for children that aims to mask the horrors of what happened. But that should be common sense. I considered discussing the case where the judge tossed aside a rape case because the boy “had good grades, came from a good family, and had a good life ahead of him”. I decided against that because it was going to be an obscenity riddled post about how that’s a slippery slope of letting a kid off when he knows he did something wrong. But again, that would be common sense. A rapist, who admits to rape and sends the video of it like it’s a joke, should get the book thrown at him. Because too many times, they just walk. It’s disgusting.

I’m tired of disgusting news. I’m tired of reading something every day that makes me wonder why we are even bothering. If criminals can just do whatever they want just because they are rich, then what’s the point? Why should anyone follow laws? Why do I have to keep hearing horrible stories? You want to hear about these things probably as much as I do. So I won’t even bother. Because I don’t think poignant words can even help make a change here. We’re the parents of the next generation. We lead by example. And if the news is to be believed, we are doing a crappy job of that.

My oldest son jokes that he’s my pride and joy. He’s not wrong; both of my boys are. While my oldest may not have some of the struggles as my youngest does, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t manage to get the center of attention as “star athlete” and excellent student. Things have always just been easy for him. He’s the type of kid who can never touch his school work outside of school and still manage a 90 in an AP class. That’s just who he is. Though, I keep reminding him that this isn’t something he’ll get away with in college. But, honestly he probably will. He’s just a natural at most things he does, except tennis. That is something that he doesn’t excel so much at, but he goes out there and tries his best. That’s what he does. He has my determination, drive, and unearned confidence.

That was until he got his National Honor Society eligibility application. He qualified to apply for a spot. I was elated. I was so proud. Until he said “Whelp, not doing it.” What do you mean you’re not doing it? “I don’t have the qualifications. I won’t get accepted anyways.” Just do it. It became a back and forth, that as of writing this he still has avoided the application process. I called my mother, knowing that she would take the same position I did. She did and for a brief few minutes I thought it was going to happen. It didn’t. My husband came home. His response: “He knows what he needs to do.” Then, sternly looked at our son. We got the eye roll, the exasperated “Ugh”, and nothing. I opted to not mention it the rest of the day. Because the more I nag him, the less likely I can convince him.

This is the “Art of Giving Up before Even Trying”. I used to do this. “Why bother going to college? I screwed up so much that I barely graduated high school.” My now husband told me that I wasn’t the same person as I was. He was right. Before, I was more concerned with writing or art than I was with school. I wanted to live in the Berkshires, a studio loft apartment where I would just write and be happy with life. I didn’t need school for that, right? Then, I became a mom at 18. That gives you a dose of reality real quick. That caused me to grow up so much in a short period of time that when I see moms my age today without the same level of dedication and responsibility as I did at 18, I get disgusted. Truly disgusted. How is it that I was 18 with more sense than a nearly 40 year old woman?! Or older! I did end up going to college and I did very well, nearly graduating with honors if not for a glitch that made me get a 0 in a class that took down my GPA. Ultimately, it was my fault and I took responsibility for that. It wasn’t the grade that mattered; it was the fact that I did it.

My son had never shied away from anything. Sure, he doesn’t like failing at his own high expectations of himself, but who does? But the idea that he wouldn’t even try because of this bothers me. We all explained to him that we are immensely proud that he was invited to apply. And if he failed? Their loss. He’s fantastic. But by not trying, that was something that was disappointing. I will never fault him for trying. It’s my job to encourage him to shoot for the stars and beyond, and it’s my job to catch him if he falls on the way. My hope is that he will realize this on his own and that he does try anyways. Because there’s nothing gained from not trying at all.

The True State of the Union

The State of the Union address is finally upon us. This is the day that happens every year, where we listen to our president give his propaganda lines and let us know what agenda he thinks is the best approach to running our country. We give them extra air time to lie to us, while some will follow every word blinding or dismiss it without listening depending on your political affiliation. Then a select member of the other party tells us why the first party is wrong. Both are vague with no definitive fact checks. No one cares. I’ve even considered playing a drinking game where I took a sip every time the entire party stands up to clap, making the thing a lot longer than it needs to be. I like my liver too much for that game. It does remind me of those handful of times where I attended mass though.

That isn’t the actual state of the union. This is a perceived state of the union based on a specific agenda that they want to push. Fortunately, I’m here to tell you all about the real state of our union. How both parties are failing our country and we’re complacent to this. This is my perceived state of the union.

Democratic politicians are boycotting the state of the union. What ever happened to the “When they go low, we go high” approach that Michelle Obama so passionately spoke to us? Don’t boycott the State of the Union address. You can disagree with him without being blatantly disrespectful. Respect the office, even if the President doesn’t seem to. If you want to seem better than the President’s childish antics, fight on another day in a respectful manner. Don’t also be childish. Do not make the divide even more fractured.

And then some Democrats are discussing that Howard Schultz shouldn’t run for president because he will take votes away from the Democrats in the election. First of all, this is a democracy and anyone who wants to run for president should be allowed to. On the same token, the rumors of the President trying to work magic to deter other Republicans from running for president is also something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I will again point out: This is a democracy and anyone who wants to run for president should be allowed to. If the Democrats are that afraid of losing, maybe they should put up a viable candidate that people will actually want to vote for. If you’re that afraid that another Republican will run against you, maybe do a better job so that people won’t want to replace you.

That is the state of the union. It’s a sad state. There is something that we can do about it. We can change it. We can stop blindly following career politicians that feign concern, passion, and ideals for votes. Then they forget everything that they stand for afterwards when lobbyists are tossing money at them. Educating ourselves is the best defense. That is the best way to make a change.

Merry Christmas to All

It’s Christmas today. Christmas morning has passed and you probably have a million places that you are expected to be today. From my family to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Or whatever you celebrate. Or just a really amazing day even if Christmas isn’t your thing. This is posting a little bit early today than normal, as a Christmas treat.

Today, there are a few things I would love for you to remember.

It’s not about the presents you get; it’s about the company you keep. I could get a pair of socks from someone I love and I know that this was a gift that came from their heart. Plus, I like socks. I’m weird like that. When you feel disappointed with a gift, remember that someone probably spent a great deal of time trying to figure out something perfect for you. If they didn’t, it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t care enough but the point is that they did it anyways. Even the most thoughtless gift should be accepted with grace and gratitude. Even no gift should be appreciated because some people just can’t afford to give. Cherish the moments with your loved ones because who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s what’s most important today.

It’s about the family you have, or the one you made. Sometimes people have to make their own family around the holiday through close friends or a spouse’s family. I’m fortunate that I have amazing in-laws and my own family to share this holiday with. People may not be as lucky, so friends become their family for the day (and many other days). Family is anyone who is there for you no matter what, blood relation or not. Appreciate the people who are in your life; don’t worry about the ones who choose not to be.

It’s about the joy on your child’s face, making lasting memories while eating cinnamon rolls and listening to Christmas music. When you become parents, Christmas becomes a day where you create your own traditions that can be carried on by your children. It’s not about politics or unpleasantries. It’s about family. It’s about giving back. It’s time to celebrate as a united group.

So Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or whatever makes you happy. Embrace your loved ones and cherish these moments.

The Overwatch League: All-Star Weekend Edition

As much as I loved Overwatch, when they announced plans to do a professional league that they hoped would be as big as the NFL I was skeptical that they could accomplish that. Still, I was going to watch because I loved the game. I loved reading about Fury, a D.Va I really tried to learn from who ended up on the Spitfire. (Which is why, for those who complain about my having both Spitfire and Uprising gear, I support them whenever they are not playing the Uprising.) I was even more excited when Kraft decided to purchase a team in this new league, allowing my love of the Patriots to merge with my love of Overwatch. And NotE just might have taken over as my favorite D.Va. And Striker makes me want to hug him every time he cries. My mom instincts just kick in, I can’t help it. Avast is the meme king. These are a fantastic group of guys and I really hope to see them all back next season.

The year was an amazing ride and I loved being a part of it every second. I also loved being able to write about it and have people enjoy the posts. I’m sad I have no more OWL to post about for the next few months, but at least I can still enjoy my mediocre play and the fact that my beloved football starts soon. The league exceeded my expectations. It was well-produced, the casters and analysts were entertaining and knowledgeable. My only complaint is that Uber and Mr. X weren’t casting Uprising matches all the time. I bet next season is going to be even bigger and I can’t want.

Now that I’ve wasted your time reading about my overall happiness of how the league played out, it’s time to talk about the highly anticipated All-Star Weekend. I was disappointed that no Uprising members made the main squad, but Neko, Gamsu, and Striker all ended up on the roster as backups. Unfortunately Neko was unable to make it due to visa issues, but Gamsu and Striker made us proud.

The first match of the All-Star weekend was Lucioball, one of the game modes I never tried and refuse to. This 3v3 special map is only available during the Summer Games. After some savage trash talk before the match from the Pacific side, namely Fissure, the Atlantic team beat them in this first head-to-head of All-Star weekend. Next up, was one of the matches that I was the most excited to see: Mystery Heroes. Mystery Heroes is hands-down my favorite arcade mode in the game. In fact, I probably spend more time on Mystery Heroes than anything else in the game. Again, the Atlantic team came out on top in a hilarious show that even pros struggle against the ridiculous comps that come out of Mystery Heroes’ RNG. Then you have the Lockout Elimination round, which I was super excited the it featured Gamsu. The Atlantic team won this, giving them a 3-0 head start against the Pacific.

The Widowmaker 1v1 was something I wasn’t entirely excited about. I mean, how entertaining could this have possibly been? I watched, to write this blog and because I wanted to see Striker show everyone how underrated he really is. I predicted the Sayaplayer was going to be Carpe, because Carpe had the tendency of being very streaky. I was wrong. I then predicted the SoOn was going to come up on top over Architect, which also happened. At this point, it was more thrilling than I thought it was going to be.  Then, the match I was really excited about: Pine vs. Striker. My husband picked Pine, because as much as he loves Striker, Pine plays a lot more Widow than Striker. An accurate call, but I chose Striker anyways because I had faith in him. If he lost, at least it would be to Pine and that’s still respectable. This was one of the most entertaining of the matches, if only because of the hilarious dance-off that they decided to do mid-match. You put 2 pranksters in a map together, you are bound to get hilarity. In a close match, Striker came out on top and Pine could not be happier for his competitor. Surefour, another underrated player who I thought was going to make it to the finals, also came up on top over Fleta. Striker eventually fell to the unstoppable Carpe and Surefour took out SoOn for a matchup that no one saw coming: Surefour overpowering the man who declared himself the best Widow in the league (Carpe), to end up the winner.

Then it was the second match I was the most excited about: The Talent Takedown, where the casters and analysts had their fun playing on the big stage. Aside from Reinforce, none of the talent qualifies as pro OWL players. Reinforce is representing Team Sweden in the World Cup, but despite the walkout and jokes he didn’t actually entirely carry the team. Soe represented well and Semm made me jealous at his D.Va play. This was still easily the most entertaining of all the matches. The Pacific took away their first win with their Talent Roster of Puckett, Soe, Reinforce, Semmler, Hex, Crumbz, and Monte. This was followed by the aforementioned 1v1 Widow final where Surefour brought home the second Pacific win.

The Final match was the actual All-Star game, which saw everyone on both rosters play, including Gamsu and Striker. Gamsu was stoic, with a rare smirk the entire time while Striker, SBB, and Pine were having the time of their life on stage. (Including SBB dancing during the pre-match interviews.) Mickie was also the life of the party, as always. After a easy 3-1 takeaway from Pacific, they played a 5th match anyways that was just as entertaining as the whole event. I would love an All-Star weekend every weekend until OWL starts up again.

Final notes to wrap up. Mickie was the obvious choice for getting the Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka Award, which was awarded to the person who had the most positive impact on the OWL community. He’s always so positive and hilarious to be around  (it seems) that it was definitely earned by him. If he didn’t walk away with it, his former teammate and retired OWL player Seagull would have deserved it as well. Even in his speech, where he said he didn’t want his fans to be sad if he was sad, showed off what a remarkable person he is. He makes me proud to be a fan of OWL.

The fact that OWL ended up broadcast on cable channels live shows that this is growing faster than people anticipated. With the new teams they are hoping to acquire next season and the growing list of sponsors, this could actually make eSports tournaments more mainstream. This makes me happy. If boring sports like baseball, golf, tennis, poker, and bowling can get as much screen time as they do then OWL should get more attention.

 

An Exciting New Announcement

Whenever I tell people about being a writer, I typically get one of two responses: “That’s not a real job” or “Do you write children’s books?” It is entirely frustrating that people assume that I’m wasting away my college degree by staying home and writing and how I’m not making any real money. “What a waste of intelligence.” I think the bigger waste of my talents and intelligence is listening to them.

Recently, my youngest son’s bus driver asked me what I do all day under the assumption that I’m watching soap operas and cleaning the house. When I mentioned that I write, she asked if I wrote children’s books. I explained that I write novels/novellas that are generally geared to younger adults and that I do a lot of ghostwriting for other websites to earn an income in between. Rather than judging me, I got a rare response of excitement and interest that only happens every few years.

I kept thinking about that for a while, then the incident with my son happened. (As seen in “When Racism Attacks“, my previous blog post.) Then it hit me: I’m going to write a children’s book. The story has been written and all that is left is the artwork. I am extremely excited about this. If you want to kept updated about how this process is coming along, feel free to like my author page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrianneKLaRochelle/

 

Remodel: The Kitchen

This one is short and sweet. Just like my kitchen? Har har.

Before

Before

When we first saw the picture of it on the website we were searching for homes on, everyone winced at the picture. I understood; it was pretty tiny and I love to cook. How was this ever going to work?! It turns out there was a name for this kind of kitchen: a galley kitchen. When we saw it in person, we acknowledged how small it was but it wasn’t as small as we thought. The pictures certainly made it look like it was too small for more than one person to stand in it. We can fit most of our family in it at a time, so that was

Before

Before

fine. Being that I am the only one who really cooks in the family, the fact that it was small wasn’t really a big deal to us.

The only real change in terms of remodeling was the floor. It was simple adhesive stick on tiles that you can just grab boxes of at Home Depot. It is both very inexpensive (bought 3 boxes at $27 a box) and it is quite lovely looking. The cabinets received several cleanings before I felt it was ready enough to just leave it be. Originally it was discussed to paint them, but the lovely solid wood was really hard to part with and with the urging of family members, we left it alone. The pass through in the wall is incredibly handy and I love how classic it is. That, along with the shudders on both the kitchen and dining room window, provided a lot of charm that I felt should stay because it’s something you can’t buy in a more modernized house. I love how unique it is.

After, showing off my awesome mixer

After, showing off my awesome mixer

The other big changes are the appliances. The oven didn’t work so we had to get a new one, and we wanted to upgrade to an energy saver fridge

and not leaving the 1960’s appliances in. The 1960’s hood range still exists. We are too poor to replace it, and quite honestly it is still in very much working condition. Which is the same that I could say about the washer and dryer that was left. Old, but in working condition. I’ll take it.

Friday, the living room. Monday, will come the tween’s bedroom clean or not. I suppose showing it a

After

After

mess will give a realistic picture of the tween lifestyle.

It’s Been Too Long

I had hoped that a successful run at NaNoWriMo, that I would be able to get back into the swing of things. I failed to take into account that I spend my day chasing around an active toddler that is an expert climber, while working on editing said novel to claim my hardcover first edition. That has taken a considerable amount of time, as has my yearly holiday baking. Those homemade cookies do not cook themselves, though I wish they did. I hope to get back to my routine after the holidays.
I can’t wait to hold my first edition. I want to be able to hold it, hug it, and show it off. It’s one thing to publish an ebook. I felt really excited when I put both books up on Amazon. But this is different on so many levels. When I came up with this story 10 years ago, that was one of the pushes that led me to college. I put it on the back burner for a long time after that, until I decided to resurrect it for this year’s contest. This was to be my masterpiece. Then, I get to see my masterpiece in my hands. It’s more real than a ebook you have on a Kindle. This is going to be great. This is my other baby. I am proud of it, and extraordinarily proud of myself for completing it.
I am fearful if I spend too much time editing it that I’ll question it and tear it apart unnecessarily because I’m too hard on it. Even the cover has to perfectly fit my vision, which unfortunately my husband has to deal with as my go to photographer. It will work out though, I have faith in the both of us to accomplish this together. And I can’t wait to share it with all of you. In case I don’t get back here until after the holidays, I wish you and your families a Happy (and safe) Holidays.