Belfast Pride 2014

Belfast Pride finally took place on Saturday, quite some time after Pride Week for some reason! It was my first ever pride, and I had the pleasure of volunteering at it. One thing I’d say to anyone else who gets the opportunity to be in or volunteer at a parade: Do it.

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My role as a volunteer consisted of walking alongside the parade and making sure nobody was drinking or doing anything which would hurt themselves, somebody else, or pride as a whole. I was also instructed to try and prevent conflict with protesters by advising people to avoid them where necessary. To be absolutely honest, I’m almost glad it rained as much as it did because while I’m definitely improving my interpersonal skills in social and professional situations, I don’t know how I’d react when faced with conflict and potential violence. My guess is “not very well” but it turned out not to matter as the miserable weather meant that fewer protesters bothered to turn up, so there were no major problems.

While the rain seemed to have an effect on the number of spectators that turned up, it didn’t change the bright colours and high spirits of the parade. Scantily clad angels and cowboys roamed the square, rainbow-coloured capes were visible in every direction and when the rain came down, the rainbow umbrellas went up.

Ponchos. Ponchos everywhere.
Ponchos. Ponchos everywhere.

I ended up walking next to my university’s LGBT Society, which was an odd bonus to my day, and got to catch up with a couple of members of the society afterwards. The entire society seems to be lovely, and I’m definitely going to make an attempt to go to more than 5 meetings next year! Another upside to this position in the parade was that it meant I spotted the president of our Student’s Union marching in the parade, strengthening my belief that I voted for the right guy – long live Cap’n Gallagher!

To sum up an already short post, Belfast Pride was fantastic. I can’t wait until next year, when I will hopefully go to more events and will definitely volunteer again. Here’s hoping that it’s a little drier next time, though!

Damp.
Damp.

Welcome to the Job Market

Hello, readers! It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything here because I haven’t had access to my computer, but I’m going to try and start posting regularly again.

Summer is here, and I am broke. I’m desperately searching for a job, but nobody seems to want to employ me. NOBODY! I’ve discovered that the “job market” is less like a market and more like a void into which you throw all of your hopes and dreams (and countless copies of your CV) and pray for a positive outcome. And, to be frank, there has been no positive outcome to speak of.

I’m currently living between sofas, which is a new experience. Officially, I am living with my sister in her flat but as I have no money to help out with rent, I don’t stay there every night. That’s fair enough, I think – if I’m not paying rent, I have no claim to the flat. She’d have every right to kick me out fully if she wanted to, but I can trust her not to do that! I just hope that I manage to find something by September, when the lease to my own flat begins! (Eek!)

All is not lost, however. In late June/early July, I managed to get a short job working at the summer graduations for my university. It earned me about £130(ish) which I have pretty much spent at this stage, but also earned me some all-important experience in the field of events catering. The job consisted of setting up for graduation garden parties, plating the food, directing guests, handing out platters (I didn’t know it was possible to get stressed out about strawberries and cream!), making tea and coffee, asking guests not to pick at food from the platters on the table when it was very clear that they were to take one platter each, cleaning equipment, litter-picking, fetching, scrubbing, tidying and just generally running around following orders – and it was fantastic! I was always worried that I wouldn’t be any good at that sort of job, since before then I’d only worked in a hospital and a newspaper, but I actually did really well!

Rocking the work clothes!
Rocking the work clothes!

So, not to blow my own trumpet, I actually rock at catering jobs. I am the queen of systems and orders. When I’m around people I don’t really know, I automatically become extremely polite, which is exactly what is required when you’re working with the public. When I eventually get a job, I might be a little wobbly for the first day but after that, I will absolutely own it. The problem is, my potential employers don’t know that. I look horrific on paper – unexperienced and therefore unskilled. There are people also looking for jobs in this city who have years and years of experience in establishments exactly the same as the ones I’m applying to, so who could blame the business owners for choosing them over me? Not me, that’s for sure.

I’m afraid that this is just another pointless ramble with no conclusion.

If you want a conclusion, I guess it’ll have to be “I’m probably not going to be employed any time soon” or something along those lines. But oh well. It’s the business owners’ loss – they don’t know what they’re missing out on!

But hey, if one of you happens to own a business in Belfast, feel free to employ me. I won’t let you down!

Keep smiling, posting will return to normal very soon.

Monksilver Scouts

Taking a break from study for an hour or so, I’m currently working on a set of badges for my scouts for when they injure themselves on trips. Sort of like a Purple Heart that recognises grazed knees. Only now I realise that I haven’t actually written about that (fairly major) aspect of my life on this blog, so I’m going to back up a little bit.

For a while now, I’ve been involved with a project called Monksilver Scouts. Monksilver is a very small village which does not have a scout group of its own, so if the children of the village wanted to join scouts it would have involved their parents driving for about an hour each week, which isn’t really an option when you take into consideration long school runs, low incomes, rising fuel prices and full-time jobs. So what we’ve done is set up a small, independent scouting group which at present has only five members (not including myself) but has attracted interest from other families in the village.

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The plan for the group was that it would be an organisation run for kids, by kids. This is where I come in: I have been in the village for long enough to be friends with the families of the kids that are involved in the group. This means that I’m friendly enough with the kids that they consider me to be a “kid”, like them, while still being considered an adult by the adults of the village. By this reasoning, all of the scouts are equal and there is no “leader”, per se, but I am still old enough to be the “responsible adult” of the group (until more members join, at which point I may need a second adult).

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As we are an independent group, we have no funding, and I do not like asking parents for money unless it is completely unavoidable. For this reason, I took it upon myself to make all uniforms (so far consisting of a t-shirt with our logo on it and a neckerchief) and achievement badges. I also plan our outings and activities. The troop has a weekly newsletter, “The Monksilver Paper Scouts Weekly” (named by one of the kids), which everyone takes it in turns to write. The general format is a lowdown on the week’s activities, a section of a running short story, an idea for an activity we can do, a recipe and a puzzle.

So far, we have had camping trips, a journey on a steam train, a day of orienteering, and a mock-survival mission. I’m currently working on plans for a “Survival Grade 2” badge, which will involve all the normal things like building a shelter, lighting a fire and cooking something, but also a rescue mission (with a doll, not an actual person) and possibly some first-aid practice. I’m also trying to make plans for our (hopefully) annual day out, which will probably be a picnic on the beach or something like that – nothing too extravagant.

My scout troop is absolutely fantastic, a real mix of characters. Some are mostly interested in fire and rough-housing, some are genuinely interested in learning as much stuff as possible, and some simply want to get as many badges as humanly possible (“If I do X, will you make me such-and-such-a-badge?”). They’re a pleasure to sort-of-work with, and I hope that we can keep it running for a few years to come!

For Want of a Better Blog: Talking to Strangers

For reasons unknown (though most likely due to the fact that I currently have guilt-free free time for the first time in 7 months), I have had no motivation to write this week, and no inspiration when it comes to what I should write, so this week’s post comes from my trusty little green book of blog topics!

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Pardon the hair!

In an attempt to improve my communication skills to increase my likelihood of actually getting a job this year, I have been working on that impossible task, that scourge of the socially anxious: Talking to strangers. It’s a seemingly simple task which many people take for granted but for some, it is something to be dreaded and avoided at all costs.

Some things were pretty obvious. For instance, it is much, much easier to talk to people online than in person. It’s not a matter of being able to lie about yourself and pretend to be someone you’re not. For me, my main fears when it comes to talking to people face-to-face are making eye contact, stuttering, and the ever-terrifying risk of the person stabbing me, punching me, or worse. The last one isn’t all that likely, I’ll give you that, but it’s still something I struggle with every time I talk to someone, in many cases even if I know the person. Talking online solves all of these problems: There is no eye-contact to be made, the closest thing to a stutter is a typo, which everyone makes, and it’s pretty difficult to stab someone via the internet. I’m not talking about Omegle or any of those websites, I’m just talking about talking to people (even those that I meet every day) on Facebook or Twitter. Little smiley faces are an added bonus 🙂 🙂 🙂 😦 🙂 >:)

Surprisingly, in my case, talking to people over the phone is the most stressful experience. One would expect that the removal of eye contact and of the possibility of being murdered would be cause for celebration, but telephone conversations freak me out. The only person I can comfortably talk to on the phone is my mother, and this is a very rare occasion because it costs an arm and a leg to call the UK from Ireland, or vice versa. Sorting out bank details over the phone? Horrific. Student loans? Even worse. Take-away? Near impossible. The upside of this, of course, is that it means I don’t follow the student tradition of endless take-aways because for me, cooking a meal from scratch is much, much less stressful that calling for a Chinese or a pizza. Sadly, talking to shopkeepers is not much better for some reason. If I’m ordering something, I have to clarify with whoever I’m with exactly what it is I have to say, word-for-word. If I’m buying something, I am in a horrific state of panic until I’ve purchased the goods and received my change, because for some reason not having quite enough money and having to choose what to put back is a fate worse than death. And don’t even get me started on Subway. 

A shocking discovery I have made, however, is that I can talk to people in pubs and clubs (without even drinking). While many people who go out stick to one extreme or the other – either staying glued to their friends and pretending nobody exists or else actively going in search for an attractive young man or woman whose throat is ready and willing to have a stranger’s tongue thrust down it in an act of pure romance – I seem to just go out and make friends. I think the reason I can talk to these people is that even if I’m entirely sober, the chances are that they are not and as a result will not be in a fit state to scrutinize and judge what I say. There are even people who I’ve met on nights out who I talk with on Facebook, or bump into time and time again in my more regular haunts and continue the conversation. Somehow, it’s a stress-free method of socialising which is not entirely centered around a screen. 

The only other thing I’ve learned in my adventures is that when it comes to people with whom you will be in regular contact whether you like it or not, first impressions mean little or nothing. I made a pretty terrible first impression when I first met my flatmates back at the start of university, but they don’t hate me (I hope). While I’m sure many of them still think that I’m strange, or awkward, or backward, I have some very close friends among my flatmates, friends who probably did not expect to get along with me when we first met. I hope that with this knowledge, I will get over my fear of talking to people. Someday. Possibly.

Every Day I’m Tumblin’

Ah, Tumblr. The quick-and-easy blogging site which is essentially WordPress’s nerdy little cousin who’s less interested in actually reading and writing and more interested in this and that, and whatever the devil this is:

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Something fantastic about tumblr is that because its users are predominantly young people, they are constantly changing and as a result the wesite is constantly changing.

When I first joined Tumblr, I would have been about 14 or 15 years old. The website was a treasure trove of ridiculous posts – words misspelled for comedic effect, inside jokes from every ‘fandom’ possible, GIFs of puppies, everything I could ever have dreamed of.

By the time I had turned 16, however, the website had transformed. I received my first bit of “anon hate” as Tumblr changed from a land of hilarity to a website filled with hate messages and the romanticisation of mental illness. I did not like this version of the website. Honestly, the anonymous hate messages were the least of my worries of that time – it was the idea of this “beautifully broken” characteristic that made me sick to my stomach, the “thinspo” blogs, the rise of the self-diagnosis. The movement served to make issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders both a “big deal” and “no big deal” simultaneously, ultimately making it even more difficult to deal with these problems because there was pressure on you to feel the exact same all the time, to write heartfelt posts about how everything affected you, how everything was awful, how Tumblr is the only place you feel safe, etc etc etc. I was not willing to blog or reblog any of this nonsense. I did not, and still do not, want to be considered “beautifully broken”. Just let me slam on a “damaged goods” label and get on with my own life as I please.

I left Tumblr because I was sick of being told that I had to be sick to be interesting, but that I had to be completely normal to be allowed to have opinions on anything else. And the thing about me is that I am one hell of a lot more interested in Doctor Who and music and cartoons and comics than I am in any of that stuff.

But anyway.

I just recently returned to Tumblr (hey, I need something to mess about on while all my flatmates are out having social lives!) to find it majestically transformed yet again, this time for the better. Not only am I constantly stumbling on posts clearly left over from the end of the Great Mental Illness Fad saying things like this:

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But it would also appear to have been taken over by LGBT+ people, straight allies and social justice bloggers (or social media activists).

While SMAs get a lot of criticism for being oversensitive on some matters (tw: mild negativity) without actually /doing/ anything (tw: reality), I think that, overall, they are a good thing. The SMAs of Tumblr preach acceptance and equality for all sexualities, all genders, all races, etc. While their views and statements can seem a little extreme at times and give cis-white-males no other option but to “check their privilige”, it is an extremeness that will no longer be required if/when society eventually reaches full equality.

So well done to the people of Tumblr for turning from a community of depression-glorifying health-shaming teens to one of (slightly extreme) social activism. And well done for keeping up your tradition of cat GIFs. I’m excited to see where our online adventure will take us in the future.


Stuff I’d recommend checking out:

Hope you all had/have a great day, wherever you are!

Tx

 

Tiny update

Progress has been made.

Today, I sat in front of four people and tried my best to explain why I should be chosen for an internship with the Belfast Telegraph. And I didn’t die.

The thing about interviews is that they do not display to potential employers whether or not you would be suitable for a job. They show potential employers whether or not you do well while sitting in a room full of people whose sole purpose at that moment in time is to analyse and judge you. They show potential employers whether or not you are any good at trying to convince people that you are better than other people. They don’t show employers how good you are – they show them how good you think you are.

If interviews are anything to go by, nervous people are no good at any jobs. Modest people are useless people. Introverts are vastly inferior to extroverts. None of these things are true.

But another thing about interviews is that although a bad interview can destroy your confidence for anything between 5 minutes and 5 days, it can also teach you and help you to improve in the long run. The very first interview I ever did, which was about 2 years ago now, I got so worked up that I had to leave about half-way through the interview. Needless to say, the interview was not successful.

So whether or not I get this internship (and I really hope I do), the very fact that I stayed until the end of this interview is an achievement. It feels like a small victory over my own ridiculous self.


I’ve made this tiny little post because I feel bad for neglecting this blog over exam time. Hopefully, posting will go back to normal after Saturday!

 

Lean, Mean, Alcohol-Induced Anxiety Machine

There are certain things that I don’t let myself think about because I know that I’ll send myself into a full panic if I do. It is by blocking these things out that I maintain a level of functionality, this is especially important in social situations (come on, who wants to hang out with someone if they think there’s a chance they’ll have to sit through them having an anxiety attack?). Since turning 18 (the legal age to drink in this country), I have discovered that alcohol is especially useful in these situations. Without getting drunk, a small amount calms me down just enough that I function like a normal person. All hugs and dancing. All fun and games. Wonderful… to a certain point.

All of my flatmates go out at least once every week and get utterly plastered. They love it. The poison in their systems makes them think, say and do ridiculous things that are hilarious at the time and make fun stories for the next day. They all have stories from the start of the year about how they barely knew such-and-such-a-person but they were super drunk so they went together to such-and-such-a-place and had some sort of kooky adventure that made them best friends to this day. Alcohol is a big part of their lives, and has been for quite some time.

I have a rather more complex relationship with it, however. It helps me to such a brilliant degree in social situations (I must point out here that I only drink once a week at most) that I certainly count it as one of the more positive changes that have taken place in my life in recent times. But the second I get actually *drunk*, something that has only happened two or three times and hopefully won’t happen many more times that that, the effect is the exact opposite. I think about all the things I shouldn’t, and I start to panic. What’s worse is that when I’m drunk, I don’t even think to get away from people when it happens, because I can’t feel it coming like I can when I’m sober. I can have a full-on freak-out in a bar, and all my friends can do is look on in horror.

All of my friends, that is, except for two. Because it is in your lowest moments that you discover who your real friends are.

Since moving to Belfast and actually developing a social life of sorts, I have had three of these public panics. The first two are referred to here and here. The third happened this Thursday past. On all three occasions, it was one or both of two people that looked after me and helped me calm down. These people were Nicole and Michael.

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On Thursday, we were at Kremlin, an excellent club full of lovely people. It is my favourite place to go out, which is odd considering I don’t generally go for clubs. Because we’d gone out in a big group (usually, if we go to Kremlin it’s just 3 or 4 of us), we had had predrinks beforehand. I was… jolly. Let’s call it jolly. Thanks to £2 drinks and the obsession of my comrades with “seeing Tabitha drunk” (which is quite a let-down really, I think they expect me to a completely different person somehow), I quickly became more than “jolly”, and then quickly descended into the drunken panic-state that is the reason I do NOT generally drink in excess.

Thankfully, however, both Michael and Nicole were out that night and they both pounced on me almost straight away. And they calmed me down. And they helped me enjoy the rest of the night. And they didn’t complain once that I was causing a problem.

Thinking back to the events of that night, I am not sad that I can’t socialise in the way that everyone else can. I’m not sad that I can’t risk getting drunk like everyone else does. I’m not sad that I have wasted all these hours of my life in a state of panic.

I am happy, very happy.

This time last year I felt all alone in the world and did not feel like there was any real reason for me to stay. Now, I have a large circle of friends and a small circle of close friends who I know I could trust with my life. I have people I can talk to when things get too much. I have a place in the University of my Dreams. I have a mother who loves me and a sister who I can hang around with as if she’s just another friend.

So, so what if I have problems with socialising and communicating? I have everything I could possibly want, and I couldn’t be happier.


Stuff for you to check out:

  • Michael’s music (youtube/soundcloud)- he’s a super-great musician and a lovely person. Would you be so kind as to check it out and maybe give a little feedback? Even just the listen would be a great help, he needs a signal-boost! (No, he hasn’t asked me to post this. I’m just trying to help out!)
  • This blog, because it’s great.
  • This lady’s twitter account, because it makes me smile.

I hope you all have a great day!

Tx

Growing up too quickly?

Hello! I’m back!

I missed my last week-or-so of posting because I was staying in my grandfather’s house, which has neither an internet connection nor a computer to write on. Shockingly, I did not die due a lack of screens (though I came close).

I love spending time at my grandfather’s house. He lives in a tiny little village in Somerset, on the farm he owns with my uncle. My uncle lives with his family in a house attached to my grandfather’s house, which used to be a mill.

My uncle has two daughters, Izzy and George. These are the cousins I grew up with, so I’m as close with them as I am with my mother and sister. However, because for the past few years I have only seen them for a week every couple of months, they seem to be growing up with the sped-up quality of a stop-motion animation. One minute, they’re begging a 12-year-old Tabitha not to turn into a grumpy teenager like her sister did (a phase she has now passed through and come out the other side of, thank heavens). The next minute George, the younger of the two, is about to turn 13 herself.

Despite being 12 years old, George is more similar to me than anyone I have ever met (though I hope that she is not too much like me – to see her develop mental health issues like I have over the years is just about the worst thing I could possibly imagine. Because of this, I may be slightly overprotective of her.) A regular mini-me, she loves rock music, sci-fi and horror movies, reading, camping, pretty much everything I love. I’m thrilled to call her my cousin.

George and another girl that lives in the village are at that odd age of both knowing and not-knowing when it comes to the facts of life. This means that at every given opportunity, they make giggling remarks like “that sounds dirty!” before arguing over whether or not it did sound dirty, and if so how it sounded dirty, and if not how it could be changed to make it sound dirty. More often than not, the things that they decide do sound dirty do not sound dirty at all, but I don’t really bother telling them that. Whatever makes them happy, right? It also means that my baby cousin, who is six years younger than me, has had more boyfriends than I have. That’s just depressing.

The downside of this fascination is, of course, when they get things right. On several occasions, they have appalled me with real dirty jokes. In some instances, they seem to have more knowledge on these subjects than I do (which I guess is unsurprising – “sex ed” in a tiny school in the middle of the Irish countryside is never going to be all-inclusive). It’s scary how these young girls can so quickly switch between making these references and pretending to teach their stuffed toys about multiplication and division.

(I’m taking a break here to go to Tesco to buy my student supper of baked beans and bread. Unimportant information, but there you have it.)

Izzy, on the other hand, is 15 years old and I have finally accepted that she is a teenager. It only took two years (well, almost 3)! She’s finally got through her early-teenage phase of obsessing over sex and “hot” boys, and has settled down into just being her. It’s great, because she’s one of the loveliest people you’ll ever meet. She jokes that she and her friends are all dreadfully immature, just running about and being silly rather than talking about boys and makeup and all of that stuff, but really I think that she’s very mature. Certainly, her mental age is higher than my own.

I can’t wait to go and visit them as soon as possible (though it could possibly be as late as July). The pair of them are growing up so quickly, I sometimes worry that they’ll soon be older than me. But through all the jokes and the boys and the worries that this and that and the other might be “dirty”, I can’t help but see them as the kids that I grew up with. 

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The Importance of Exercising your Zygomaticus Muscles

I’m a smiley person by nature. Unless I’m thinking about something particularly unhappy at the exact moment you look at me, regardless of what sort of day I am having, I will be smiling.

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Laughing, smiling or just passing gas?

I’m not a happy, floaty positivity blogger that believes in a one-size-fits-all solution for all problems ever. I don’t believe that if you have a cold, smiling and thinking about kittens will make it go away. Similarly, I don’t believe that if you’re not in the mood for smiling, forcing yourself to smile will change that in any way. If anything, you’ll feel even less like smiling because you’ll be angry at the injustice of having to smile when you don’t want to.

I do, however, feel that smiling for no particular reason does have its benefits. If I’m walking down a street and I see someone walking in the opposite direction, smiling uncontrollably, I will smile too. The fact that that total stranger is having a good day and feels like smiling will put me in a better mood too. And generally, when I’m walking down a street, I’m on my way to class. So I really appreciate that sort of pick-me-up. It makes sitting in a steamy room and talking about cultural capital in contemporary literature just that little bit more enjoyable.

Speaking of class, I have a fantastic lecturer for my skills module. His name is Malte Urban (I know, cool name, right?), and he’s the only member of staff in the School of English that I feel comfortable approaching with questions. You know why I can approach him? It’s because the second he sees someone approaching him, he beams at them like he’s having the best day of his life. It’s a though no matter who walks towards him, it’s always the exact person he wants to talk to. “What luck! This student whose name I am not entirely sure of wants to talk to me. This is the BEST DAY EVER.”

The positive impact of this way of regarding students makes me wonder whether I might have better luck with my education if every tutor smiled that much. I mean, I’m pretty sure that if my other tutors looked a little happier to see me, I wouldn’t have such a problem when it comes to taking part in tutorials. I might even have the guts to ask my context tutor what the devil this exam next moth entails, and as a result know what exactly I’m meant to be doing over this study period (or am I just meant to learn these seven novels off-by-heart? Yes? Okay.)

So what makes me smile? Well, pretty much everything.

Music makes me smile. Music makes me smile a lot. Which is a good thing, since I’m listening to it pretty much all the time (Right now, for instance, I’m listening to Royseven. Royseven makes me smile a lot). It doesn’t have to be overly happy music, pretty much any type of music works. If it has ridiculous lyrics, I’ll smile. If it has a happy little tune, I’ll smile. If it’s incredibly catchy, I’ll smile. If it has a lot of different parts that I have to replay and replay in order to take note of every last little note, I’ll smile. If it’s an old song that I listened to growing up, I’ll smile. If it’s a new song that I only just discovered, I’ll smile. Basically, if it has any qualities at all that allow it to be considered music, I will smile while I listen to it, and then I will play it over and over again until all of my neighbours hate me (J). Right now, my absolute favourite tracks are this and this and this (and this and this).

Cartoons make me smile. Right now, I’m a big fan of Adventure Time and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. I just find them hysterical, partially because of the outrageous nature of their story lines, but also because they also mirror the stupidity of pretty much every thought I have ever had.

Above all, it is the people in my life that make me smile, my family and my friends. And I like to think that sometimes, I make them smile too. If that is something I can achieve, I know that there is some point in my existence (and that makes me smile).

NaPoWriMo: When Minjung Slayed the Dragon

There was a town upon a hill
Where the trees were green and the lakes were still
And the people lived in peace until
There came a mighty dragon.

Then every night it came to burn –
The sight would make your stomach turn –
Every man who’d tried to learn
How to slay a dragon.

The villagers, tired of its claws,
Tried oh so hard to make it pause
But soon learned just how cruel it was:
It was a brutal dragon.

But in this village, thankfully,
There lived a girl named Minjung Lee
Who wanted to live peacefully
Without a fearsome dragon.

The elders, they began to laugh
When she offered to slay on their behalf
The beast that shrank their village by half
And went by the name of dragon.

So up she stood without a word
And chose a sharp and deadly sword
And her footsteps were never heard
By the smug old dragon.

So, at the dragon, Minjung rushed
And soon its treacly green blood gushed
For, at last, someone had hushed
The deadliest of dragons.

So now they sing in voices gay,
Though centuries pass, they always say
It was quite the most joyous day
When Minjung slayed the dragon.

This post was written as part of NaPoWriMo, but also for The Daily Post’s “Time for Poetry” writing challenge. Check them out!


> I’m very touched that this post was selected for Freshly Pressed – Thank you very much!