Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Scenery Has Changed, But...

Ish was away all last weekend, and I spent my time doing something I almost never do.

I watched hours and hours of television.

For some people, this may seem like a bad thing, or a common thing, or whatever. For me, it was a big step. Usually I spend all my alone time at the computer, futzing around online, reading, trying to write/blog, sending emails, IMing, and generally looking stuff up.

I decided to give myself a break from the internets, though. So I watched Bravo's America's Next Top Model Marathon and peppered my viewing with a few Law & Order episodes. It was rather fantastic.


At one point, I fixed myself a big glass of iced Cherry Vanilla soda. (Note: I did not spike the soda with vodka though I really, really wanted to.) And because the glass was cold, it was dripping condensation.

Better use a coaster! I thought. So I grabbed a coaster and, I seemed to remember, put the glass on top of it. I sat down, got comfortable, and eventually, took my first sip.

But when I went to return the glass to the coffee table, I noticed there was no coaster.

Huh? But didn't I...?

Apparently not. Must be pregnancy brain, I reasoned. Guess I just thought I put a coaster down.

So all deja vu-like, I grabbed a coaster, put the glass on top of it, and went about watching ANTM. (It was the cycle with Monique and Melrose and CariDee and the twins.)

And not until some considerable time later did I realize what had happened.

Do you know what this is a picture of?

No, it's not a picture of my chest with a red wine stain, or a bread crumb, or a piece of popcorn or part of a cracker. No, those are the kinds of things that typically "drip" or "fall off" of whatever I'm eating. Because right. As we've discussed, my boobs seem to have their own gravitational force, and bits of food items that would otherwise fall in people's laps gather in my cleavage.

No, no. In this case, a whole goddamned COASTER! Sitting, stuck on my boob!

And the best part? I DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE IT.


Luckily(?) I had my phone next to me, so I was able to take the photo above. But that shot doesn't do the coaster-on-boob ridiculousness justice. So I had to snap several more to get the angle right (hard to do when you're aiming a camera at yourself and only half-trying to keep the coaster stuck to your right breast).

I eventually managed, though:

Nope. I had NO IDEA this was here.

In conclusion: You can take the girl out of the city. You can put a ring on her finger. You can put her in a nice house on a pleasant street and give her fancy amenities. Like coasters. You can even leave her alone, where she can't possibly humiliate herself and she will still, no matter what, exude breezy elegance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fun Friday! Now With A Cappella!

If anyone asked me to write a "modern" version of Snow White -- and no, there is no reason on earth anyone would ask me to do this, but whatever, these are the things I think about -- I think I would change the whole,

Mirror, Mirror
on the wall,
who is the fairest one of all?

bit around.

I think in these trying times, the scary, breast-implanted, hair-extensioned, botoxed queen would ask a question more along the lines of:

Mirror, Mirror
on the wall,
who is the psycho bitchiest
one of all?

And then as long as Mirror didn't say, "Why, you my queen," she'd be okay. Also in this version, the queen is played by Kim Cattrall and the Mirror is Miss J (J. Alexander from ANTM).

Are you wondering why am I writing this? Me too. There was a reason but I can't remember what it is now.


On a couldn't-be-more-unrelated note, my a cappella group is having our second big, huge performance of the year on May 2. We're part ready for it, part hoping that everyone fills up on free booze before we start.

So in the meantime, I thought I'd embed a couple mp3s of us, recorded live from our last concert. Keep in mind this means we were on stage and that the recordings haven't been "produced" in any way.

As you may know, we're called The Loose Interpretations. Keep that in mind.

Here's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It's pretty, kind of choral-y. (It's supposed to be gospelly, too, but we're a little too white to pull that part off.)

Midnight Train to Georgia. The audience laughter and the uneven sound at the end is due to our "Pips," who provide entertaining choreography.

And our version of "The Adverb Song." It's originally from The Electric Company, and is supposed to demonstrate how different words can end in -LY. We make up our own verses, and we think they're clever.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

29 Weeks+

She still doesn't have a name, but hey -- at least she's looking like a real baby. We had the ultrasound yesterday and got to see her moving around, kicking and yawning, and generally hanging out with her foot beside her head.

Now that we're kind of settled and de-mothballed and all, this whole "we're having a baby" thing is starting to seem real. If only because we're heading into the home stretch, and I am realizing I have less and less time to do things like uh...oh, I dunno...furnish her room? Yeah, well. Oops.

Basically at this point the baby has a handful of pretty dresses, a Beatles t-shirt, a Stanford onesie, and a Broncos warm-up suit. Oh, and cute socks and a lot of books.

Nothing to sleep on or in. No blankets or burping cloths. And, right, no name. La la la...

Physically, aside from continued fatigue, general aches and pains, and a bizarrely sore butt (the muscles right around the tailbone, so weird), I feel fine. I don't look especially pregnant -- I mean, I know I have a baby belly, but strangers don't seem to be 100% sure I'm not just super plump.

Oh! Although the grandmother working the check-out at Whole Foods asked when I was due. That was nice.

Versus the time I ventured into our town's new Wal-Mart back when I was in my early twenties, and ran into a guy I'd gone to grade school with working as a clerk there. He kept calling to me from across the store, which I ignored at first because he was calling me Tracy. Then, when I did realize he meant me, and I looked at him, he shouted, "You pregnant!?!?"

Let me tell you right now, there is no way to kindly, demure, off-handed way to reply -- from across a Wal-Mart -- that no, you aren't pregnant, you've just gained weight since middle school, but thanks for asking.

Anyway. Here I am, ten years later. Pregnant and not gaining weight. Hallelujah.

* * * * * * *

I have no idea what I've been doing with my time. I guess I've been puttering around a lot. I have spent the last four years wishing I didn't have a full-time job getting in the way of my writing/blogging, and now that I don't -- the idea of a blank page and empty hours scares the bejeezus out of me.

Use this time! Use this time! Now, before the baby comes and you never have a moment's peace again! Now! Hurry! It's slipping away...slipping...

So I start a blog draft or two or twenty-three. And then I hate what I've written and start something else and then THAT sucks so I close the computer and make a list of things I need to do "at some point" before the baby. And then I decide to organize my photos, which is a task I've put off for -- and I'm not kidding -- a good 20 years. So far, this has meant shuffling through the various boxes of photos and thinking about them, and then feeling so overwhelmed by where to begin that I wander downstairs and eat a lemonade popsicle.

Somehow I still believe that this process will lead to my writing a novel, but I haven't quite figured out how yet.

Also, I have an inexplicable desire to create decoupage wall art. I don't really know what I'm doing (shocking!) but some of the things I've seen are really quite artistic and amazing. And I have a lot of barren walls that need some new artwork (not that my Marilyn Monroe poster from college isn't still really pretty). I think if you're a fancy art person, you call such decoupage-y things "mixed media." I mostly call it "gluing shit I'm not talented enough to paint onto canvas. In my head."

* * * * * * *

I leave you with this. I assume by now you have all seen the Susan Boyle video, but if you haven't, please PLEASE do. I cry every time I watch, it's maybe the most inspiring thing I've seen online. In a "Humanity DOESN'T suck!" kind of way.

Click the image to go to the YouTube video.
YouTube has suspended embedding.

Here's a great article on her for reference.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Muddy Jeans

{continued, sort of}

After we moved to the "new house," I had even more room to do kid things.

I played in the woods all the time. I would make up entire adventure stories, usually narrated in an English accent. We'd have to escape dragons and all sorts of bad guys, running, jumping, flying over hill and dale -- which usually meant navigating around pricker bushes and rocky streams.

I would explore my neighborhood with my "new" next-door neighbor, a girl a year older than me, and find endless surprises. We had special trees to climb. We discovered these great, hidden hills, which were steep and loose enough with dirt that you could slide down them without sleds! (I don't think my mom ever got those mud stains out of my jeans.)

In the summer, we'd spend almost the entirety of every sunny day in the pool. My mom supervised to a degree, and checked on us often, but she didn't hover. She never hovered. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to remember my mom being in any of my adventure memories. She was around, somewhere...

But no. I was not supervised constantly. I was given tremendous freedoms as a kid. (Frankly, I was given tremendous freedoms throughout my whole life.) I was never on a short leash. Hell, I was never on a leash. I walked to and from school. I'd spend entire days outside, away from the house, without having explicit times to be home and without anything like a kid-Lojack or cell phone.

This, of course, blows my mind.

Times have changed. The world has changed. We have changed.

I cannot picture saying to my child, "Be home by dark!" and then letting her go run off to God-knows-where for the whole day.

But there's got to be an in-between. And I need to write this, to remember, to remind myself. My parents trusted me a lot, and I (for the most part) deserved to be trusted. They also implicitly trusted the world I lived in.

So just because I cannot trust the world anymore does not mean I can't trust my kids. There must be balance, and I want to strive to find it.

That's Lesson #1 I Hope I Remember

But I was also circling around Lesson #2 yesterday.

Here's another memory I can't shake:

When I was somewhere around 10 years old, I was having a conversation with my uncle -- a man I didn't see very often and whom I didn't know very well. He was talking about his car, which I believe he'd just bought. He told me it had a sunroof. He may have asked if I knew what a sunroof was, thus prompting my response, or maybe I just felt it was appropriate to throw in, but I excitedly announced that our van had a HUGE sunroof!

To which he replied -- and this part I do remember vividly: Always have to be better.

This has stayed with me over the last 25 years for many reasons. First, I tried very hard as a child to never, ever do anything wrong. But I had. I'd clearly been "wrong" in what I'd said, and immediately felt horrible shame and embarrassment. It hadn't occurred to me that I would sound like I was bragging about the sunroof, or that it could even sound that way (especially not to a grown-up). I don't think I apologized. I think I just stewed with mortification.

For years.

Until I was old enough to think, "You know what? I was a child," and to realize that my uncle's issues had little to do with me.

Which is the other point I was just barely touching on yesterday.

For the first five, hopefully ten-plus years of a child's life, it is not about bigger, better, fancy, expensive. Things just sort of are. We had one house and then we had another. My address didn't matter to me. Nor did the color of my room or size of our van except in the context of my child-world.

Looking back, our van was hideous. My dad had gotten it about a year before "mini-vans" hit the market, so it was totally obsolete within months of purchasing it. It was an 80s-ized Volkswagen Vanagon -- like a bad "modern" interpretation of the VW Bus. It drove on diesel fuel, and was super loud, and if you were going uphill on a highway, even with the gas pedal totally depressed, you'd be lucky to hit anything over 30 mph. (I'm not kidding; we were once passed by a cement mixer on I-95.)

It came with an 8-track.

Nothing for a grown adult to be jealous of.

But as kids? Are you kidding? It was HUGE! We could STAND UP in the back! And the sunroof was big enough that if you stood on the backseat, as many as 5 of us could stick our heads out of it. Not that this was condoned while we were in motion on regular streets, but sometimes Dad would let us do it in driveways and private side streets (when Mom wasn't in the car).

I nearly died of shame from the Vanagon by the time I was a freshman in high school. But bouncing around in the back of the van with the sunroof open listening to the Annie soundtrack at full-blast (yes, on the 8-track) was simply divine.

And that's all that the 10-year-old self of mine knew. Meant. Thought of. I wasn't trying to be better than my uncle (or than anyone). I was just excited about our big, slow, stupid fun van.

Kids don't know.

Well, okay. Maybe some do, and maybe some know early and maybe some are malicious. But I didn't know, and I'm also going to assume that mine won't, either.

I had no concept of Darien v. Norwalk. I didn't know that cars are used as status symbols. I didn't know what a status symbol was, except maybe if you were The Queen and had a castle and a crown and a magic pony.

But really. Kids don't know. And I say allllllll this (to myself) for two big reasons.

One, because I want to establish firmly in my mind that our peanut will not know the difference between Napa v. San Francisco v. Connecticut v. Arizona v. the rest of the world. Ish and I absolutely made this home decision (and spent a bloody fortune) with baby in mind, but let's be real: she will not care about her home's resale value. She doesn't care that we decided to buy this place versus, say, a loft apartment in the city. Sure, she may notice if one home has a driveway and one home has an elevator, but one won't be intrinsically better.

And two, because holy shit.


It starts now, and I see no end in sight. The boppy, and slings, and bouncers, and 42 trillion strollers and cribs-bassinets-Pack-n-Plays and bottle sterilizers PLUS a bajillion-and-a-half ways you can do irreperable and LIFELONG harm to your baby that never seemed to exist before. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So I keep telling myself: The baby just wants to be comfortable. Everything else was designed for me. But gosh, it's all so crazy.

Except it doesn't have to be. Babies care about status symbols even less than kids do. As I sit and stare at these overwhelming baby registry options, I have to repeat: She doesn't care if her stroller costs a mortgage payment -- because if she doesn't like it, she doesn't like it. She doesn't care what color her room is, or if her lampshade matches her curtains...

Babies, kids, do not have any of the perceptions we do about their surroundings or their belongings. They just want to be loved as babies and as kids.

No matter how much you worry or fret or posture or spend, if you're doing it right? It won't matter what you buy, they'll always just want to play with the box. They will squeal with delight about your ugly van with the super-fun sunroof. And if you let them, they will turn your ugly yard into a giant, beloved sandbox.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

When We Were Very Young

It's not like I'm going to give birth to an eight-year old. I know this. I know I will have time -- years, in fact -- to figure more of this out. But now is the calm before the storm, right? Now is the time to tap into what's left of my rationale and write it down, before I have a child and lose all of my senses.

I haven't raised a child, and I haven't been around children enough to "know" how "they" are. I've therefore spent a lot of time recently thinking about how I was as a kid. How I was raised, how I remember my childhood.

And let's start from the understanding that I was an incredibly happy kid, and I had an incredibly happy childhood. Things changed later, got complicated later, got sadder later. My relationship with my mom ended on a good note, but it could have been so much better (a regret I will live with always and try my darndest not to repeat). But I have nothing but positive things bouncing through my memory about being little.

Now, the moms I do know have all told me that babies come with their own personalities. Some babies are thoughtful and some are exuberant and some are sullen and some are fussy and some are chill and they just are who they are. As a parent, you do what you can to nurture their nature.

So okay, I get that.

But for now, I'm going to assume that my child has a predisposition toward happiness.

* * * * * * *

When I was about two, my parents moved from an apartment in Manhattan to a very small house in Darien, CT. If Darien has a "bad" part of town, we lived in it. The house was on a single-level, with three small bedrooms and 1.5 baths. It was at the end of the street, and had a long driveway that curved around from the front of the house, down a small incline, to the side of the house where the garage led to the basement. It had a tiny wooden deck, with chipped paint and little stability. Our yard was large, but at least half of it was sandy dirt (from where I think the previous owners had had an above-ground pool) and the far end was outlined by a "brook." (We called it a brook. I believe it was really a water main for a sewage line.) And then, up a steep incline on the other side of the brook, were train tracks.

Knowing what I do now about homes, I don't know what made my parents decide to move to that house on Moore Street. I'm sure it was a great deal, and maybe that's what they wanted -- the most affordable home they could find in Darien. But I also know that faced with the same options today, Ish and I would never have moved there. We'd have freaked out about the "brook"'s sanitation and mosquito-attracting properties, and would have been terrified about the dangers of the train tracks (not to mention the noise nuisance). We'd have worried about the non-level yard, the rickety deck, and the likelihood of the garage/basement flooding.

But it's really hard for me to think back to that house and see it through a grown-up's eyes.

I still remember it as my family's house. It was the wonderful place we lived. I didn't know that it wasn't big or fancy, or what difference that would have made. I didn't know that we weren't in a "good" neighborhood or that such a thing existed. I knew that my room, Kiki's room, was at the end of the hall. The baby's room was next to mine on one side, and on the other side was the room where mommy and daddy slept. It had the big closet (with all of mommy's high-heeled shoes) and the tiny bathroom (with all of mommy's makeup).

I realize now that the kitchen had been tiny. But to me, it was just the kitchen. And if you wanted to get the "good" scissors (versus the stupid kid safety scissors that wouldn't cut paste), you had to pull a kitchen chair over, open the cupboard, climb up on the counter, stand on your tip-toes, and reach the top-most shelf...but you weren't supposed to do that. Ahem.

The basement, as I mentioned earlier, was a different story. Sure, it's where the dress-up clothes were stored and where the "playroom" was. It was ALSO, however, where the furnace room was and thus, where the witch lived, so I have mixed feelings about its awesomeness. BUT! When we were lucky enough to have the basement flood, then it was like one giant mud puddle, and what could be better than that?

The sloped driveway was like a pre-schooler's version of a skateboard park. The neighbor kids and Healy and I would take our Power Wheels and tricycles to the top of the driveway, and zoom down it toward the garage over and over and over again. It felt like we were flying we were going so fast. (I'm sure I would laugh at the "incline" if I could see it now.)

My favorite bike was called the Spin-Out 360, which was basically a plastic big-wheel that had a brake on one side; when you were ready, you'd pull the brake, and the bike would spin in circles. Because that's what happens when you suddenly stop wheels from spinning. These days, I imagine the manufacturer would be sued for all kinds of negligence. But I loved it. I mean, I didn't love it when I messed it up, and instead of spinning out I'd topple over and skin my knees, but what an effective way to learn proper timing!

The brook kind of scared me because there were so many bugs in it, but it was always fun to see if you could jump across it or not. And if you didn't, what was a little muddy wetness?

I understood the dangers of the train tracks, which I couldn't have readily climbed to, and had no desire to mess with anyway. The trains going by were certainly loud, but my mom taught me to think of them in a friendly way. The train with the red stripe (that'd be the New Haven line of the MetroNorth) was "daddy's train" and whenever one of those would go by, we'd stop and wave. At night, I remember feeling comforted whenever a train would go by. It told me that there was a whole world going on somewhere out there, even if I was asleep.

And oh, the sandy-dirt pile in the middle of the yard. Good Lord, it must have been ugly as sin to adults. But to me? It was the world's hugest sandbox and it was IN MY OWN BACKYARD. My friends and I would play in there for hours. It seemed so special, and I knew I was super-duper lucky to have such a cool place to play.

We moved to a much larger house the summer I turned six. But the years I spent in our "old house" (for the next 17 years, everyone in our family referred to it as "the old house") remained fond and vivid in my mind.

And here is the point. Or at least, part of it.

I don't know what I wore during those years. I don't know if I had the "best" anything. I knew I had a safe, warm, loving home to live in. I remember what was fun and what wasn't.

I remember that I spent almost every single day with my same-aged next-door neighbor, Bridget. I remember when my friend Emily would get to come and visit. I remember my fun yard and my fun driveway. I remember my fun dogs.

I never got sick from jumping in the brook or splashing around in the flooded basement. I skinned my knees, shins, elbows a million times and survived.

I was a kid, and I was allowed to be a kid and do kid things. And I loved it.

{more on this to come}

Thursday, April 02, 2009

That Time I Wrote About Mothballs

Six weeks ago, I could not have told you what mothballs smelled like. To the best of my knowledge, no one in my family ever used them. I have no recollections of time spent in basements or attics or around old people or old clothing that trigger that mothball-y smell. I've never had occasion to buy them, and have heard enough about their toxicity to never want to.

I don't know how or why, but in the last couple months of our living in SF, we developed quite a moth problem. Perhaps someone who knows anything about "nature" can explain this to me, because I equate moths with attics and basements and porch-light fixtures in evenings in the country in summer. I do not associate moths with concrete urban lofts whose only other mid-winter pests are the drug dealers showing up for our neighbor's raves.

Regardless of why or how we developed the problem, Ish declared that he would do everything in his power to ensure that we did not bring the moths with us to Napa. I supported him in his quest.

He determined that the simplest, most effective course of action would be to throw a few mothballs into any -- and every -- box we packed that contained items of fabric. Clothes boxes, boxes with purses, boxes with blankets or towels or scarves or, well, you get the idea.

Seemed reasonable to me, as long as I wasn't the one actually touching them.

So that's what we did.

I mean, the four seconds I spent thinking about this told me it'd be fine. I figured we'd move into the house, get our washer and dryer set up, and then I'd just open each box of clothes, wash the clothes, and put them away. Tra la frickin' la.

Are you laughing at us yet?

Yes, well.

Here's what happened.

It took us a few days of living here before the washer and dryer were delivered. It took another few days for us to unearth the boxes of clothes and move them toward the laundry room. Needless to say, after a WEEK of living in the same basic sweats, I was more than ready to do laundry. I was positively giddy with excitement.

I opened the first clothes box, I put a reeking load in the washer, I waited for this glorious new machine (which, by the way, was operating without quarters!) to do its magic work.

The wash cycle ended, I opened the washer lid, and BAM! I was smacked in the face with mothball stench.

Huh? I thought. That's odd. Maybe it's the hypo-allergenic detergent? Maybe it just needs two wash cycles? Maybe a pre-soak? I hope it's not the washing machine! I'm going to try this again...

And so I put the load through the wash again, with complete optimism. I assumed the first wash was just a fluke. The washing machine's maiden voyage wasn't meant to do such heavy work or something. I had every belief that the second washing would do it. I was completely surprised when I opened the lid at the end of the cycle and discovered the smell was just as strong as when I opened the box.

I had a sinking feeling. I didn't even want to check the internet. Looking up what might be wrong with mothball-smelling clothes engendered the same kind of fear I'd have looking up horrible medical symptoms on WebMD. The results couldn't be good. What is the laundry equivalent of "cancer"?

But I had no other choice.

Mothballs are the hardest smell to remove from clothing.

Washing clothes that have been stored with mothballs will not remove the smell.

The smell will not go away on its own. Simply taking the clothing out of their containers will do nothing.

This was not the kind of information I wanted to read. I started to slowly, dramatically realize that every article of clothing that Ish and I owned was drenched in non-removable stench. Even if a vinegar soak could remove SOME of the scent (as had been suggested by more than a few websites) surely I couldn't soak every last hat and glove in vinegar. Could I? I'd need bathtubs full!

You can well imagine that I, sick and pregnant and dirty and exhausted AND faced with the overwhelming circumstances of having mounds of unpacking yet to do could NOT also handle the idea that I might never regain any of my clothing from the dark hole of poisonous pesticide vapors.

I completely lost it. Oh, it was ugly. I indulged in the ugly, ugly cry. The phlegmy, eye-bulging, hysterical sobbing, moaning, wailing cry that signaled perhaps I needed a break from the whole "moving" thing.

I needed to do something happy and ridiculous. So, for reasons I don't entirely understand (perhaps my cravings were arguing with my subconscious: You want SUBURBS? I'll give you SUBURBS!), I announced to Ish that he was taking Applebee's.

Perhaps it was the plastic menu, perhaps it was the food items with made-up names, but something about being around so many creatively fried things -- served with a non-diet Coca-Cola no less -- was surprisingly restorative.

When we returned home, I got back online and searched for more viable mothball smell-ridding solutions than vinegar baths. I read several comments from people who explained (in grammatically challenged internet-commenter-ese) that the mothball smell is actually gas and that direct sunlight is the best and easiest way to get the smell out, because it's also a gas.

Hmm. While I am always dubious of internet commenter "science," lots of people seemed to swear by the clothes-outside-in-the-sun theory. And "sunlight" came across as a little more manageable and far more appealing than having my underpants go from smelling like moth balls to smelling like faint moth balls plus Easter egg dye.

So by Sunday afternoon, when the sun had reared its head, this is what our yard looked like:

I like to call this photo, "Welcome To The Neighborhood." I'm sure our next-door neighbor thought we were completely out of our heads. And oh-so-classy!

But this is just a taste of it. The first hurrah, if you will, where Ish and I painstakingly brought every article of clothing and clothing-related things out onto our patio and lawn and outdoor furniture in heaps. Only to have to bring them in again in the evening.

Which meant that by Sunday night, we'd discovered two things. Direct sunlight? Totally works. Simply being outside? Does not. In fact, the contrast was stark. The t-shirt warm from the sun was odor-free, where the t-shirt directly below that, partially covered in shadow still positively reeked.

Thus, for the next FIVE days, every morning I had to take as many items of clothing outside as would fit -- in a single layer -- to get enough air and sunlight as possible. We fashioned a makeshift clothesline across the whole yard, and I'd stick whatever else I could fit on the fence, chairs, and patio stone. Every sock, every pillowcase, every washcloth, every fleece running vest needed its own 4-8 hours of sunlight to smell fresh again.

I guess the good news is that, in the end, it worked. Also, I now know how to get the smell of mothballs out of ANYTHING. (And in theory, so do you.)

But it was still a daunting and superbly un-fun way to spend the second full week of living here. It's all better now, but I definitely suffered my first suburban setback.

Applebee's and all.

Update: Thanks for asking, Rob-bear. We seem to have conquered the moth issue. At least, so far, so good. So hopefully this whole exercise was worth it. (Let's hope so.)