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52 Things - Write a love letter to my husband

Here’s this week’s thing:

6. Write a love letter to my husband and mail it to him

I wrote a love letter to my husband back in June (it was another one of my june projects) and gave it to him as a Father’s Day Card. I didn’t mail it to him but I stuck it on his computer in his office when he wasn’t looking.

The card was inspired by this art by Dana.

I used the same card for my catalyst for creative therapy:

and here’s the back

the letter inside was two pages typed. Yep, I typed it. I’ve learned over the years that I can express myself more deeply and more eloquently when I type.

I’m afraid the contents are too personal to share but suffice it to say I love and adore my husband and I am very thankful he is in my life.

52 Things - Make art for Yona

This is one of those projects I tackled back in June but I know my sister reads my blog so I didn’t want her to see this before I gave it to her.

31. Make art for Yona

I wanted to do something about love. But I was stuck until I saw these stitched pieces by Donna which inspired me.

I wanted mine to be much more subtle, so I made the pieces from similar shades of linen:

a few details:

and here it is in the frame:

i hope she likes it.

52 Things - Create an art journal and fill all the pages

I know I’ve done this before, but this last month of art journaling also meant that I finally finished the art journal I started back in 2008. So I decided it would be fun to to do a recap post about all of them. So here’s the item:

56. Create an art journal and fill all the pages

So, as I mentioned, this journal was started in 2008. It was an old 7gypsies album I had and I covered it with a photo that I loved and with my word of the year for 2008 which was journey. Here’s an image I took early this year:

This year, I bought a journal kit from Rebecca Sower and added the hodge podge pages into this book. So it ended up with some scrapbook paper, some water color paper, some copic paper, tags, envelopes, etc. I then glued the cover so it was one piece. That failed at some point, so I punched some holes and put ribbon through them. Not sure that worked so well, either. But it held up. So now here’s a look at all the pages I did this month:


and more.

and one more set.

And here are some pages from July and before.

remember the trees from months ago?

and more

And here are some shots of the album before and after:

And finally here’s a top-down look for you.

And there we are. I can’t believe this journal is done. I think for next year, I will make another journal and do pages once a week. Maybe I can keep it up.

52 Things - Find a decaf coffee I like..or how I Started to Change my Life

Here’s this week’s item:

40. Find a decaf coffee I like

Well, that’s not really the item I ended up doing but it morphed into something much bigger. I originally put this item on there because I was nursing and I really wanted to be able to drink several coffees a day without causing any harm to the little one.

But I tried a bunch of different coffees and didn’t like any of them. Except for the one I was already drinking, which is this:

Yes, I know, not real coffee. But it’s the only one I like and since I don’t think any soda or juice or anything else besides water, this was my one joy.

So months passed as I looked for alternatives. Other decafs. Teas. Herbal drinks. I tried a lot of different things. My friend Lori, intelligently, pointed out that decaf coffee likely had a lot of harmful things for the little one, too.

I’d pretty much given up on this item for the year.

I’ve always had a problem with my weight. Since I can remember. It only got worse in college and went downhill from there. I was never supremely overweight but always had a lot more fat than any person needed to have. The more important part is that my self-worth is wrapped up too much in my weight. I’ve dieted for pretty much most of my teens and twenties. I even lost 26 lbs with Weight Watchers in late 1990′s. In fact, I was doing relatively well until 2004 when I got pregnant with David. David and then Nathaniel meant that my weight is now back to the pre-Weight Watchers numbers and those are not pretty. Not to mention now my belly never recovered from baby number two.

Even when I did lose weight, it had always been due to change in diet. Or mostly not eating. Never through exercise. Ever. I never did sports as a kid (except for a few ski trips) and exercise is not something I do.

Really. It’s not.

For this reason alone, while inspired I’d frequently read Donna Downey’s weight loss posts with dismay. When it came to Cathy Zielske, I stopped altogether. I moved her blog out of my Reader and refused to read. But of course, every few weeks, I’d sneak a peek and feel terrible all over again.

I am not entirely sure where it came out of but suddenly, in October, I decided enough was enough. I was prioritizing everything else in my life except for what supposedly was the single biggest factor in my unhappiness and lack of self-worth.

So it was time. If these women could do it, so could I. Yes, I could.

I didn’t want to wait until January. Dates are arbitrary and now is always the best time to start anything. Even though it was already October 1, I decided I would start walking the very next day. I’d already bought a Nike+ device thanks to an older Cathy post so the next morning I put my shoes on and got to walking.

And I’ve walked every single day since: (that first Tuesday, my nike+ didn’t work for some reason.)

My goal was to walk somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes each day. Ideally between 1 to 2 miles a day. I cannot run. I just told myself to start where i was. Walk. Even if slowly. I can only start where I am and move from there.

The daily-ness was more important to me than the ability to do longer stretches at a time. I work well with routines and I know that if I give myself one day off, I will quickly start sneaking more days here and there. Everyday is not negotiable. It’s not something I can interpret differently or cheat on. It’s simple. Consistent.

In the last 23 days, I’ve walked daily and i’ve even started running very slowly for one minute or so every 6-7 minutes. Just slowly. Every now and then. I am not forcing myself. The goal is to keep doing this. That’s more important than anything else. Even if I just walk 2 miles a day every single day for the rest of this time, I will still shed the weight. It will happen.

So for the first few weeks, I only added these walks. I didn’t change my diet at all. But then two weeks in, I’d lost five pounds and I decided if I am walking this much, I should at least eat better, too. I don’t eat too much but I eat bad things. Not fried or fast food, but things with zero nutritional value. I also wanted to get my kids eating more veggies. At least Nathaniel who’s still malleable.

So I started a new food regiment last week. I still drink my coffee once (and sometimes even twice) a day. But for lunch, I eat a wrap with broccoli and low fat cheese and heirloom tomatoes. My snacks are a bunch of fruit and some plain yogurt ( I love plain yogurt and I spent a long time at the store comparing ingredients of all of them and bought the Greek one.) My mid of the day coffee(s) has been replaced with this tea:

Courtesy of Cathy’s blog. Thank you Cathy.

My dinners are very light. I generally used to only eat coffee and 2 graham crackers for dinner. Now, on days when I don’t drink another coffee, I eat a bowl of yogurt with some fruit. If I am really hungry, I’ll have more fruit and some water.

This weekend I discovered that Nathaniel will eat pretty much anything if it’s on my plate and not his. So now he’s had sole fish, heirloom tomatoes, summer and winter squash, green beans, and cucumbers just in the last three days. Progress.

I would say that I don’t know how long it will last but I do. This is going to last. Because I’ve decided that this time it’s a priority. I am doing this. I will get healthier, thinner, and have a better diet. Less processed foods. More moving. Healthier will equal happier in this case.

Just last week my wonderful parents bought me a treadmill. Hopefully it’s going to get here end of this week. Which is just in time for the winter. I went out for 25 minutes in the pouring rain today. I will not stop. It will be slow. But I will not stop.

This matters.

And that’s how my plight for the decaf coffee went away. (In the meantime, the little one pretty much stopped nursing, too.)

52 Things – Find something to volunteer with

Here’s this week’s thing:

42. Find something to volunteer with

Before we moved to the West Coast, I used to volunteer a lot. During 2000, I took two of my work days and spent them volunteering full-time. (I worked 3 days a week and volunteered two). I worked at a non-profit book store, I worked with the deaf and helped them find jobs. I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, and several other organizations. I then quit my job and became a corps member in Teach For America. I got paid but it was still volunteer work to make the world a better place.

I love volunteering. I really, truly do.

However, when we moved west and I couldn’t drive I stopped. Then I had kids and it got worse. And now I don’t volunteer at all. I wanted to fix that this year. I wanted to work regularly with a cause I believed in. And yet, so far I haven’t been able to do that still.

But there is an area where I’ve made some small progress. I became the room parent for my son’s class. I’ve also volunteered in his classroom and art class. I am the photographer for the class so I go to many of the events to make sure there are photos. I am also planning on volunteering with the local education foundation that helps raise money for all the schools in my area.

I also volunteer at work. I create all the posters for all the authors events. This might sound small but it’s a significant contribution to a very valuable and all volunteer-run project.

I still yearn to find ways to volunteer more one on one. Ways that feel more tangible to me. In the meantime, these are the small ways in which I’ve brought in more volunteering into my life.

I will keep seeking more opportunities in this area. But I feel like even if it’s small I have made some progress so I am taking that for now.

52 Things – Clean up the Garage

Here’s the item I did over the last few months:

60. Clean up the Garage.

When we first moved, I wasn’t sure how I was going to arrange everything so I decided that things that didn’t already have a known home were to be placed in the garage and we would slowly open the boxes from there as needed. Which meant that our garage ended up looking like this:

We left the right side empty just in case were going to put the car in there.

So the left side got all the boxes.

here’s a closeup

The photos do not do it justice. I cannot tell you how terrible it was. We could not get into any of the boxes. The door could not be opened. A few months ago I decided that was that and I was going to tackle it. I was told getting it professionally done would be around $6000. There was no way I was paying that.

So I found some metal shelves on Amazon and we measured the garage and I went to town. I bought one just to see if it would work. And when it did, I bought four more. Jake helped me move the boxes. We opened nearly all of them, threw out and/or donated a ton of stuff and then ended up with this.

I cannot take photos that do it justice. Especially since I didn’t have my wide-angle lens.

But trust me when I tell you that everything is 100% organized now. One section for less used stuff like luggage, camping gear, etc. Another section for office supplies, toilet paper, etc. Everything has its place and I can easily get to it all. Jake has his own area now too with two tables, lots of space and both garage doors open without problem. No smell. We still need to sweep in there but otherwise it’s completely happy and it was done for exactly $300. More money than I wish I’d spent but considerably less than the $6,0000 I was told.

The best part is that the garage is now 100% usable. And I feel so much more peaceful. Isn’t that what it’s all about after all.

52 Things - Walk in a 5K…and finish.

Here’s the item we did last weekend.

4. Walk in a 5K…and finish.

There’s a yearly walk/run around my neighborhood that Jake did a few years ago. I knew it was in the fall and coming up. So when I scanned down my list and saw this item was still undone, I decided to sign up. A few weeks later, I talked Jake into signing up, too so last Friday, the four of us drove to Palo Alto for the annual moonlight walk/run. We were registered for the 5k walk which started at 7pm. They also had a 5K run and a 10K run. When we got there, they were playing pumped up music and the place was already full.

We walked in the line to get our numbers.

Here’s the little boy.

And all the boys.

And their crazy girl who is the reason they were here.

I’ve never entered a race in my life. Ever. This was the first time I had one of these so I was really excited. (My number is different cause I still have my own last name and the numbers are by last name it looks like.)

We even got tshirts.

I took a few photos and then it was time to line up.

They were playing Rocky music, of course. Don’t they always at these things?

For the next hour, we walked (mosly slowly) as the sun set and this incredible full moon rose. (I tried really hard to capture that but there were too many moving people and I had no equipment with me.) I had never before seen the moon rise and it was the most stunning view ever.

All four of us finished and it was a wonderful time. I must admit, I wore absolutely the wrong shoes and no socks so I still have a huge blister between my toes but all in all it was truly a wonderful family time and I am really really glad we did it.

52 Things – Document a Day in my Life

Ok this one I did a long time ago and already posted but since I am trying to keep track of my items, I am reposting, apologies if it annoys you. I did this for a creative therapy prompt.

57. Document a day in my life

It’s funny to see how different our days are already since I made this. but i guess that’s exactly the point. I’ll have to redo it again some time…

Journaling Reads:
5-5:30am: Nathaniel wakes up right around now. Most days Jake’s already on his way to work so I rush into Nathaniel’s room and try to get him before David wakes up. We then go downstairs and I struggle to wake up while I nurse him. I might watch some TV or check my mail while I nurse.

6:30am: David comes down sometime between 5:30 and 6am and by 6:30, I am fully awake and lately I’ve begun regularly working on some sort of creative project so I get the kids set up with breakfast and sit at my table. Nathaniel eats some bread, cereal, or graham crackers with cheese and a banana. David eats oatmeal and sometimes a fruit, too. I might be scrapping, sewing, crocheting, or painting. I work at this feverishly for about an hour or hour and a half, taking a break to get Nathaniel down from his high chair so he can walk around and play with duplos or David’s toys.

8am: When David had school, this is when he’d start getting ready but school’s over now and Kindergarten hasn’t started yet so they just keep playing until I’m done with my project or until Nathaniel is whining cause he’s really tired. I then put Nathaniel down and clean up around the kitchen a bit while I make my coffee. When it’s ready, it’s officially quiet time. David plays legos quietly while I drink my Cafe Francais and eat my graham crackers. I might check more mail, read blogs, message boards, or read my book.

9am: I officially start work. I check my mail, start triaging issues and go back and forth between tasks until Nathaniel wakes up. Once he’s awake, we hug a little and make sure he’s calm and then he plays alone or with David while I work some more.

12pm: Time for lunch. Nathaniel eats veggies mixed with yogurt, and cereal. David has his green beans and maybe meatballs. I might or might not eat lunch. Generally I at least grab a banana. After lunch we play together for a bit and then I clean up and get back to work. The kids play together, laugh, and make a lot of noise. I might or might not put Nathaniel down for a second nap depending on what time he woke up from his morning nap.

4pm: Time to start dinner for the kids. David eats a cinnamon raisin bagel and yogurt. Nathaniel has more veggies, fruit, oatmeal or bread and some cheese or yogurt. For now, he’s more interested in trying new foods than David is. Tonight we tried beets and he liked them. After dinner it’s bathtime, books, getting dressed, and nursing. David is there, too, and makes noises and entertains Nathaniel and they peek behind the curtain together.

6pm: The kids are in bed. Nathaniel is likely sleeping and David’s playing with legos in his room. He tells me his two things he’s grateful for and then I give him a hug and a kiss. He goes to sleep somewhere between 6:30 and 8pm.

6:30pm: I put another cup of coffee, grab some snack on the go and it’s time to process my photos from the day. I then post my Daily Diary entry and write about my day on my blog. I write 3 things I’m grateful for and 2 things David’s grateful for. Then it’s time for the second art project of the day. Right now I am making all the catalysts that are scheduled to come up for the rest of the year.

8pm: Once the art is done, I generally surf a bit, read a bit and then it’s time to go to bed. I go upstairs and kiss David and fix his covers. I turn of Nathaniel’s video monitor and go to bed. Jake might or might not join me depending on when he’s getting up the next day. I struggle to fall asleep and then I wake up and do the whole thing over again. Gratefully and lovingly.
– June 2010 -

52 Things - Create an art journal and fill all the pages

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to do an art journal and for how long. Three-four years? I’ve done so many versions. All of which are half done. Just like a written journal,this is something I can’t seem to make a habit of. A month or so ago, I was in a really bummed mood and I said something about it on Facebook and the amazing Caroline of Maya Road sent me some Maya Road goodies in the mail to cheer me up (and cheer me up they did!) and just a few weeks ago my awesome friend Katie had also sent me a few things. So I dug into my stash of other MR stuff and since Caroline had sent me two awesome books with canvas and I religiously watch Donna’s amazing inspiration wednesdays, I decided this was all a sign to tackle this task again:

56. Create an art journal and fill all the pages

I took the binder and pockets from this album and the canvas pages from this one. Since I love color lately and I am trying to choose joy I decided to focus my album on happiness and went hunting for quotes around happiness.

I printed a bunch of them, painted my album and the pages in colorful colors and just had fun.

For the cover, I painted it with teal fluid Golden acrylics. Then I put it back on. I attached a prima flower I’ve had for a long time and painted the letters with magenta and then covered them with stickles. A little tag with the year and it was done.

I removed the rest of this cause this minibook is being published. Will bring it back in January

On the back, I put a reminder that I get to “choose” my days and to choose joy. And a little part of a doily.

I like the way the branch goes across my cover.

I originally painted the inside magenta. But then it felt too loud so I covered it with offwhite, seethrough cute tape I had so now it looks magenta but also a bit more interesting.

I painted the pages with Claudine’s paints, which I love. This quote says: “Some pursue happiness, others create it.”

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.  ~Robert Brault”

“The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.  ~William Saroyan”

“But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?  ~Albert Camus”

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.  ~James Openheim”

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.  – Anne Morrow Lindbergh”

“The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.  ~J.D. Salinger”

“You need to learn to be happy by nature, because you’ll seldom have the chance to be happy by circumstance.  ~Lavetta Sue Wegman”

this one was for fun. i wanted it to look like two people were lying down, holding hands, looking up at the stars.

another just fun page with no quote.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.  ~Mahatma Gandhi”

“A sure way to lose happiness, I found, is to want it at the expense of everything else.  – Bette Davis”

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.  ~Robert Frost”

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.  ~John Barrymore”

“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.  ~Janet Lane”

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  ~Marcel Proust”

a little detail.

I covered the inside here with tape, too.

and finally a top look:

I can’t believe I finally finished an art journal. Not your typical one but I love love love it and it sits on my desk and reminds me to choose joy every day! Thank you so much, Deb!

52 Things – Do Something Special for Jake’s Birthday

I decided to do this a few months ago. In my family, we have a tradition of giving big, thoughtful presents for important birthdays like we made a video of all of his friends for my Dad’s 50th and a website with messages and photos from all her friends for my mom’s 50th and I made a book for my sister’s 30th. Even though Jake turned 36 this last week, I decided I didn’t need to wait until his 40th to do something special for him.

59. Do Something Special for Jake’s Birthday

Since I’ve started scrapbooking, I’ve learned the value of preserving memories. Actual stories from our lives. I think they are magic in every sense of the word. So for his birthday, I wanted to give my husband the gift of stories. Stories from his life. I made this long list of people from his life. Here are the categories I made:

  • family
  • elementary + middle school (he went to the same school for 9 years)
  • high school
  • college
  • job 1, 2, 3, etc. individually
  • friends of parents (people who knew him as a little baby, people who’ve been family friends for a long time)
  • disconnected (people he met unrelated to any of the above but are still significant in his life)

My first task was to grow this list of names. I’ve been with my husband for 16 years so I knew a lot of the people from each of the categories except elementary school. I emailed some of the people I knew and asked for ideas. I then had to figure out everyone’s emails. This, too, was a big task. I went through his Facebook account and messaged some of the people to ask for their information. I didn’t want to add them as friends as I worried he might notice some trend. For the few disconnected people left, I randomly dropped sentences into conversation like “oh have you talked to so and so lately, what’s their email?” It sounds too obvious but i did it very rarely over a month so he didn’t notice it.

Once I had my list, I emailed all of them explaining what I was doing, telling them it was a surprise, and giving them ten days to do it. This is one of those favors where it takes about ten minutes to do but you put it off forever so I figured the longer the deadline, the more people will put it off.

Then I waited. And then I emailed “this is almost due” email about 2-3 days prior and another “you’re now officially late” email about a week after the due date. I then emailed “this is my drop-dead-date” emails to the few people who still hadn’t done it. And finally “you REALLY need to do this” emails to the few people I thought were really important to have in the book. After months of emails, followups, and gathering, it was finally time to put the book together.

A few years ago, in anticipation for Ali’s BPS class, I’d asked Jake’s mom to bring me childhood photos of him. So I had them scanned. I took a bunch of them that I loved and mixed them with a bunch of recent photos of him with the kids, etc. and I had my words and my photos. All in all, I’d emailed around 100 people and heard back from around 75 of them. Not bad at all.

I decided to do the book using blurb so I went to their site and downloaded their software. I decided not to do anything in chronological order. I mixed the photos and mixed the people. Just laid it all out the way I thought looked most fun. I feel like at any moment in time, we’re a mix of all of our past so it made sense to mix it all together.

It took me two-three solid days to put it together and another week to adjust it. I then uploaded and ordered and it was here a few weeks before his birthday.

A typical layout. This one is one person’s story. Some spreads had two people, one in each page.

I gave it to Jake at 1am on his birthday. I wanted it to be private, just the two of us. I think he really did like it. My hope is that it showed him how amazing he is and how he’s left a trace in so many people’s lives.

Here’s what i put on the dedication page:

My love, I know that special presents are supposed to be saved for big birthdays but I decided that the round numbers were overrated and that the best time to give a gift from the heart is now. Every year with you is special and your 36th birthday is just as important as any.

One of the things I’ve always loved about you is that you are one of those people who leaves an impression. People don’t forget you. You touch their lives in a way only you can. And, this year, I wanted you to see just how many people’s lives you’ve touched. Just how many people care about you and just how much.

Life is a collection of memories and I wanted you to have a little book that shows you some of the stories other people have with you. The dents you’ve made in their life. We all love you so much.

All of our lives are better because you’ve been in them Jake. Thank you for being you.

Happy Birthday!

and on the next page, I added this quote I’d found on Ali’s page a long time ago.

Our lives are a flood of images and we are collectors who keep a strange assortment of images: moments of extreme emotion, pain, beauty, and fear stand out. Events we’re taught to remember: weddings, graduations, births, deaths. Then there are the millions of images that we can’t shake out of our heads, that come to us at strange times – things we can’t remember why we remember: the gold threads in an old stereo speaker, the way the light hit a thousand cars in a parking lot by the water, the face of a stranger in a restaurant, a friend standing in a pool – you can’t remember where, slapping the water with the flat of her hand. Memory is a sieve that holds curious things. A life is a trail of strange, colorful memories. – Risa Mickenberg

In the end, I loved how it all came together. As could be expected, I did make some mistakes and leave out two people and had a third one with a story sent too late and there was one small portion with white text so I will fix all that and get the book reprinted (another wonderful side effect of having done it digitally like this.)

But I am truly glad I didn’t wait another 4 years. This for me to remember not to save my “best” ideas. Do them now. There will be more.

Here’s to the power of stories.

I love you my amazing husband. Happy thirty-six and to many many more.

52 Things - Go camping with my whole family

We did this back in July but I just realized that I never checked it off the list, so here we are:

36. Go camping with my whole family

Back on July the 4th, we went to Samuel P Taylor State Park. I wanted to go for one night to see if Nathaniel could go through with it. We went about 90minutes north of where we live. It was supposed to be a quiet spot and I figured if things go badly, we could always pack up and go home. Here are some of the photos I took and posted around then:

We had a really great great day. David loved every single moment of it and so did Nathaniel. Jake and I slept really badly but the kids snored like champs. I think there’s definitely more camping in out future. Or maybe some cabin-staying since I am not so sure my back can handle the ground as well as it used to.

All in all, I am really really glad we did it.

52 Things – Sew something for myself

I did this one during my June Projects:

32. Sew something for myself

I thought a lot about what I wanted to make for this project. I would love to have made something to wear but my sewing talent really doesn’t extend that far. Then I wanted to make a tablecloth but I promised myself I wasn’t going to buy more fabric and I just don’t have enough large pieces to make a tablecloth, and it’s a huge project. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I have no patience so I needed a quick-ish project.

I found this bag and really wanted to do it but it looked complicated and I wasn’t sure I had enough of the fabric I wanted to use. I definitely didn’t have enough interlining and interfacing.

But now I was very interested in making a bag. I have this large camera bag but it’s huge. And I have this tiny bag that I carry my cash and cards in but it doesn’t hold my book reader. So I needed something in between that just held my small purse and my book and my keys. So I searched and searched and when I stumbled upon this tutorial I was in heaven!

Being impatient as I am, I did the whole thing in just a few hours and made SEVERAL mistakes. But I still love the way it turned out.

In case you do plan to make this bag, i will note that the measurements aren’t fully accurate! the distance on top on either side of the handle should be equal and I should have figured that out but I didn’t until I’d already cut everything. So I had to cut off the handles and sew them back on in the middle. And let me tell you they do not meet on top properly. One is considerably wider than the other. I could have fixed that but it’s a reminder that it’s ok for things not to be perfect.

There’s a pocket inside which is also totally crooked.

I love this black polka dot fabric and was saving it for a project. Now I get to use it and see it everyday.

Nathaniel likes my bag, too.

And it fits all my stuff perfectly. It even fits the huge camera if I want to carry it with me.

One day I might aim to do something more sophisticated or even make this one over so it’s not so imperfect, but for now I am loving it.