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This Doesn’t Happen In Real Life!

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I have been having a particularly stressful day. Lots of “blah” stuff not worth going into.

And I open my email and see THIS in my inbox:

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 2.38.15 PM

 

Can I just reiterate how much I love working with “University A” (teaching based job)!!! Not only are they saying that I’m getting a raise (totally unheard of for adjunct faculty! Who’s even heard of this?!?), but they are retroactively dating it so that, even though I’ve already signed a contract agreement for the semester, they’re going to go ahead and start the raise effective immediately!!

I teach two classes, so this is a raise of $1,000 for the semester (approximately an extra $250/month). Not too shabby! If I continue teaching at a rate of 2 classes per semester (3 semesters: Fall, Summer, Spring), then this equates to an extra $3,000 per year. I’ll take it! : )

I needed this little ray of sunshine today!

Hope you’re all having a good Tuesday!

Seriously, though (I know many readers are in academia) – has anyone even heard of raises being given to adjuncts??? I’ve been teaching for 7 years (4 different institutions) and never once received a raise! This does not happen!!


August Budget Update

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The month of August has gone pretty well budget-wise. Although we still had a couple overages, they were tiny in comparison to last month’s overage (due to the $1600 root canal the husband needed). If you want a reminder, see my budget posts for July and August here.

Place  August Budget August Actual
Rent  1055 1055
Electricity  251 251
Water  65 54
Natural gas  17 17
Sprint (2 lines) 115 115
Cable/Internet  100 35
Car Insurance 104 104
Health Insurance 350 350
Trash  35 35
Gym  0 0
Debt 2609 2610
Miscellaneous  300 339
Groceries  400 337
Baby Purchases  2000 1889
Gasoline  100 102
Saving for Irregular Expenses  440 440
Total Budgeted  8136 7733

 In terms of the overages, we were a little over in the miscellaneous category (which consists of entertainment, eating out, personal maintenance, and other). The overage was due to eating out (budgeted $100, actual $123) and “other” (budgeted $150, actual $208), but some of the overage was off-set by being under in the other two categories (entertainment budgeted $20, actual $3; and personal maintenance budgeted $30, actual $5). In general, I think this is the closest I’ve come to the budgeted amount in the miscellaneous category since I started blogging. I’ll call that a “win.”

If you recall, we had $8322 to budget for the month of August, so this leaves us with money leftover. The plan was to apply extra funds toward an additional car payment. Ultimately, though, I’ve decided to save the extra money and put it toward our September funds.

Why, you ask?

Weeeeellllllll, August turned out to be a bit of a dud in terms of our income. I knew this would be the case for me (remember, I didn’t draw a single paycheck from University A this month due to the schedule of payment). But the big surprise was that husband’s income was pretty crappy this month, too (despite working a LOT). Thus is the life of a small business owner. Some of the reason for hubby’s lower-than-expected income was that he had to do some warranty work, for which he still pays his employees, and pays for replacement parts, but he does not earn any money from the job. Additionally, he’s waiting on a paycheck that was supposed to come through this month, but won’t end up making it to his bank account until September (it was supposed to be deposited on Friday, but now looks like – due to the holiday weekend – he won’t get the money until Tuesday). And, finally,  he’d had a huge commercial job that was supposed to be in August that just kept getting pushed back and back and back. This happens a lot when dealing with corporations (as opposed to home-owners. Hubby is licensed to do wood flooring for both residential and commercial, so he deals with both). Commercial properties tend to net more money, but they can be a whole lot more hassle, too. Hopefully that job will come through in September.

Soooooo, yes. I’ll share the details about our September budget plans tomorrow morning. But suffice it to say, we will need the leftover money from this month to be applied to next month (remember we’re living on last month’s income, so the money we made this month will actually be used for expenses occurring in September).

This is a major bummer. I was secretly hoping to get the car paid off between December and January. To do so, we’d have to be paying $3,000/month between August and then (plus a snowflake payment here or there). Well, only $1500 ended up going toward the car in August, and its looking like even less will be applied toward the car next month. So we can kiss that Christmas time-frame goodbye.

Instead of lingering on the disappointment, I want to look at the positive side of things. We are still doing really well financially and have been ever since I started blogging here! We’ve vastly reduced the interest rate on the car loan (from 7.75% to 2.49%), and have been making big dents in the balance. We’ve got a good sized emergency fund that has been able to buffer us from life’s happenings (like all of last month’s unexpected expenses) so we are no longer in danger of having to use credit if anything unanticipated arises. It feels great to no longer use credit cards as a means of survival (literally – several years ago I had to rely on credit cards to pay our rent one month, not to mention groceries and gasoline).

Even in spite of my tremendous amount of student loan debt (and our other debts that we’re whittling away at), I feel like we’ve come so far and we’re in such a good financial position to continue kicking some debt-booty.

This minor monetary set-back won’t hinder my determination or resolve. We’ll still kill this car loan. I’m just as motivated as ever!

How did you do with your August budget? Have any set backs this month?


Balance

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Warning:  This is a super long post. I’ve put a lot of thought into it and although I realize it isn’t directly debt-related, I think its highly relevant, as it discusses the importance of finding balance between work and the rest of life, broadly defined. Time is finite, so extending hours in one area necessarily means cutting back in another. This has a big impact on income, finances, and budgeting. So grab a snack and prepare for a monster post. If you only want super debt-related posts, check back this afternoon and I promise to have something more relevant for your interests. Thank you!

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The work-family-friends-personal time-life balance is such an elusive thing. Over the years I’ve read lots of articles about how to “have it all,” so to speak. And the main thing I think I’ve taken from the things I’ve read is that “having it all” is a total myth. You simply can’t have it all. No one can.

Former-BAD-blogger, Adam, pointed me toward this article that goes into more depth about the choices we have to make between work and family, and the sacrifices that are inherent in those choices.

When I graduated with my Ph.D. I had a mentor (who happened to be a female, late 30s, no children) who highly recommend that I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I checked it out from the library and was excited to dive in. The book had won all kinds of awards and the author has quite a successful business career (current COO of Facebook, former VP of online sales and operations at Google, former chief of staff for the US Secretary of Treasury). I thought the book would be empowering – motivating me to launch my career and be the strong academic professional I’d always dreamed of being. It didn’t. In fact, it did the opposite.

Let’s back up. You don’t know this about me, but I was a bit of a rock star in academia in my early graduate schooling years (*insert mental image of me brushing my shoulders off*). I routinely worked long hours and was proud of the fact that I was often the first one in, last one to leave nearly every day. I practically lived at the office. I’d keep a gym bag and take an hour break in the evening to have dinner, work out, and return to work. I decorated my office with pictures and plants and flowers and made it a lovely work environment. During this time I also killed it professionally speaking. I attended all the conferences, organized symposia, met all the big wigs in the field, and even forged many professional friendships over drinks. I published a lot. My first first-author publication was accepted in my first year of my doctoral program (nearly unheard of). I published often. I was a work-horse. And all this time I pushed myself because I wanted to buy myself options. I wanted to be the best so that, when I was done with graduate school, I would be competitive enough to land a job and slow down to a more realistic and sustainable pace.

Of course, that’s not how things went. In the second semester of my third year of my Ph.D. program (out of 4 years total), I got pregnant. Maybe it was the hormones. Maybe it was just a big wake-up call. But I looked around and all I saw was misery. Looking at the faculty, I noticed that only the males had children. Any females who had children had come to academia much later in life (they were not in academia when they had their kids). Most of the women in my department didn’t even have children and had no desire to have any. They slaved away day and night. Though I was physically at the office the longest they, too, were always working. I could send an email at 10pm or 6am and always get near-instant replies. This. This was their life.

A mentor invited me to a party he was throwing to celebrate he and his wife’s 25th wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful party. Toward the end, there were toasts. His son, 17, stood and took the microphone. He toasted his Dad, saying that his father was the smartest man he knew. His father (my mentor), beamed with pride.

I felt sick.

Is this seriously the best thing your son can think of to say about you? That you are brilliant? Do I want my kids to grow up and commend me on my intellect? Is that the end-goal in life???

Not for me.

I want to side-note to say that we are all free to make our choices and I do not look down on or condemn anyone for making the choice to throw yourselves into work with all your passion. That’s your right, and someone has to do it. I don’t want to vilify anyone for their choices or the sacrifices they must make along the way to achieve their goals. Also, one commenter pointed out that working long hours is not always a choice at all, but rather an economic necessity. Let’s be sensitive to others’ views. It is not my intent to degrade anyone by this post. I’m talking only about myself.

Back to the book Lean In.

One of Sandberg’s main messages in the books is that many women, upon getting pregnant, start leaning out of their job. She calls it “leaving before you leave” (as in, maternity leave). She argues that by leaning out, women are crippling their careers. If they would just lean in, then they’ll be in a better position to come back to work and hit the ground running once their maternity leave is over. Of course, Sandberg also talked about how she was working even from the hospital room immediately after having her kids. Although she didn’t jump right back full-time, she’d go to the occasional meeting and was working throughout her maternity “leave.”

That’s not what I wanted for myself.

When I was pregnant, I started looking around me and realized how unhappy and miserable basically everyone was. There was no “break” that came after landing a position. Then you work like crazy to get promotions, then tenure, and then grants, and so on (keep in mind, I attended a Research-1 university, so experiences are very different from a teaching-oriented university or even a smaller, lower tier research school).

One thing I learned about academia:  The only thing between you and success? Time investment.

My peers and I were taught to invest heavily.

Want to know why I went into academia? I wanted to be a professor. I love to teach and I love the college-age, so I thought teaching them (instead of primary or secondary schools), would be the best! I also thought the hours seemed pretty incredible. In my own undergraduate experience it seemed as though professors traipsed into campus to teach their classes, hang out a bit for office hours, and then went home. They worked, what, like 5 hours a day? And summers off! A dream job for a Mom (which I always knew I wanted to be one day). Oh, how naïve and uninformed that undergraduate-version-of-myself was!

So when I got pregnant, I leaned out. Way, way out. This was when the honey badger videos were everywhere. My new motto: Honey badger don’t care! I cut back to a bare minimum of work just to get by. Even that work was typically done sub-par. I skated by on the fact that I knew I could. People knew I was a hard worker and was having kids. They’d cut me some slack. And they did.

And now here I am.

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So what does “balance” look like for me?

I loved this article I read about a year or so ago (I googled my heart out and, for the life of me, cannot find it and do not recall the author – if you find it, please leave a comment so I can link to give credit!) Instead of the same, depressing message that you can’t have it all, the author took a different perspective. Of course you can have it all…just not all at once. There are different seasons in life. Four years ago my season was butt-kicking in academia and being an avid runner. I was competing in races and killing it professionally.

Fast forward four years and today I’m focused on debt-reduction. I’m also making time to bake again (something I once loved to do and forgot all about during my graduate school years), and spending time with my babiestoddlers. I put a lot of effort into enriching my girls’ lives, be it through attending story time at the local library, making homemade experiments at home, or simply burning off energy playing at the local park. I’m also trying to balance as much work as I possibly can and make money so I can pay down our debt as quickly as possible. This is my reality today.

Where will I be four years from now? I suppose only time will tell. But I can give you a guess.

My hope is to be working full-time again. My ideal would be to work at a teaching-based university (so I can still have a strong focus on my family, but would be working a full-time position – a nice balance to the two). Even if I never land that coveted professor position I could still teach at a community college and keep increasing my online teaching portfolio for extra income. I want to own a home. Preferably back in Austin by family. I want to have a garden where I learn to grow beautiful flowers and fresh fruits and vegetables. I will still strive to be the best Mom I can be, but I’ll have more flexibility, as my girls will be older. They can work beside me in the garden and I can teach them the things I have learned. I won’t feel guilty for working outside the home because they’ll be in school during the day anyway. It’s a win-win.

Hopefully four years from now we’ll be nearly debt-free (aside from the house I hope to have purchased). A week ago I mentioned that if we kept our nose-to-the-grind we’d be debt free in 2-3 years. So why don’t I say that we’ll 100% for sure be debt free 4 years from now?

It’s a new season, my friends.

This is something I’ve thought a lot about. Even in my very first introductory post, I mentioned how I long to own a home. It’s something hubs and I have talked a lot about.

So, although there’s no telling what the future may hold, I’m thinking we will slow down our debt-reduction goals within the next year. Right now my plan is to continue throwing 100% of extra income toward the car debt, and then possibly to keep on until the license fees and highest APR student loans are gone. But at some point, we’re going to let up. Instead of putting all our extra money toward student loans, we’ll be splitting the cause between student loan repayment and savings for a house. I don’t know when that will be. I don’t even know what my job will look like this time next year (remember, I’m still on the job market and could miraculously land a position at any time which may or may not cause us to move). But this is my balance. Today = full steam ahead on debt reduction. At some point next year…..half and half between debt-reduction and saving for a down payment for a home.

I wanted to be open, honest, and transparent in my hopes, dreams and goals. They may affect the future of me blogging, or stopping blogging, depending on the “season” of life.

But right now I’m living in the moment, and at this moment in time I’m on a race to 20K. So buckle, up this train is going full steam ahead. Choo Choooooo!!!!!

 


Car Loan versus Student Loans

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Thank you, as always, for your many thoughtful comments on my August Debt Update. It has given me a lot to think about and I’ve made a decision that may shock and will almost certainly not be favored. Unfortunately, that may be a theme for today because the next post I have planned will probably be a bit controversial, too. So before I get into it I just want to preface this by saying that I really do appreciate all of the constructive criticism I have been given. I almost prefer the comments from those who disagree with me because they always support their opinions and allow me a chance to view the situation from a different perspective. Really, truly, thank you.

All that being said……let’s get into it.

There were a couple of comments on my last post, in which I asked for your opinions on paying the car versus student loans, that I wanted to respond to here for future reference.

  1. A few people of mentioned paying off the higher interest student loans to get rid of that line item on our list of debts. Using this as a reason to focus on the student loans really does nothing for me. The main reason is that I have a TON of student loans. The ACS loan in one, single $20,000 loan (the balance is actually more now because of accrued interest – recent debt update here). But Sallie Mae was a series of several $5,000-$10,000ish loans so there are a lot of them (about $66,000 worth). The reason I have separated the two is that they are the only ones with 8.5% and 8.25% interest rates. All the rest have the same interest rate (7%) so I have grouped them all together. But, basically, I just wanted to explain why the “lowering the amount of debts” rationale doesn’t really do it for me in reference to eradicating the student loans.
  2. Several people also brought up the extreme amount of car debt that we have (over 20 grand) and suggested selling the vehicle and downsizing. I’ve heard this advice before, but for some reason this time around it was a game changer. No, we do not have plans to sell the SUV (and I gave a good explanation of my thinking and rationale on the decision in the comments to this post, so scroll down and check it out if you’re interested). But I kept stewing over the decision to keep our car and the knowledge that many of you think it’s irresponsible and unreasonable given our other debts. Then it “clicked.”

Screw the license fees. Screw the student loans. Screw the difference in APRs and balances and all that stuff. This car debt is G.O.N.E.

I have to pay it off!!! Not only is it a huge monthly payment ($411/month), but it’s the principle of the thing. We can keep making minimum payments on my husband’s license. It makes no difference in our day-to-day lives. Plus we still owe $4,000 on it! And we owe roughly $5,000 on each of the higher-interest student loans. All together that’s $14,000! By the time we’re done paying for all that, we’d nearly own our car outright! We’re getting rid of the car debt now! If for nothing more than simply not having to justify why we have such a large debt in the face of our monstrous student loan debt situation.

Being as I am known to frequently re-write our plan of action, we’ll see how long this holds. But one thing everyone seemed to agree on in the comments was to focus on whatever we’re most passionate about.

I’ll tell you with 100% certainty what I’m most passionate about – owning our car outright! I want the title locked safely away in our home safe, not held by a bank somewhere. This is happening. It’s happening now. Prepare yourselves. : )

Just FYI – this was also part of the budget discussion that I had with the hubs on Friday. Still working on a budget update, and hope to have it up later this afternoon.

What debts are/were you most passionate about tackling and why? For those who are debt-free (or have paid many of your debts), which debt was most satisfying to pay off?


Eating Out

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I was listening to an old Dave Ramsey radio show podcast this past week and heard an incredible couple who were doing their debt-free scream (side note: this is now a secret dream of mine. I’ve always wanted to go to Nashville. Wouldn’t it be grand to plan a trip to celebrate being totally debt-free!!!! It still feels so far off, but a girl can dream! While there, I would totally stalk sit-in on The Bobby Bones Show, too #fangirl)

Aaaaaanyway, this couple was asked the usual question, “What was one of the hardest things about the process of becoming debt-free?” Their answer was probably the #1 thing I also struggle with…..eating out. The husband joked that his in-laws probably thought he was abusing their daughter (his wife) because he was so adamant about never eating out. They laughed and talked about how worthwhile it had been, blah, blah, now it’s all rainbows and butterflies.

And….it totally made me feel like crap about myself.

Generally I find these calls to be so motivating and uplifting. But these peoples’ dedication and will power left me feeling….weak and quick-to-cave.

It’s no secret. Since I first started blogging here in March I have gone over on our “eating out” budget every.single.month.

On my best month, I was $12 over. On my worst? Well over double my $75 monthly budget.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have the luxury of working from home, so it should be easy for me to prep dinner during the day and get it going so we can all eat at a reasonable time (it’s not like I can get stuck in an office, battling traffic, etc etc). I meal plan, we have food in the house….and I just lack the will power. There’s no other excuse.

What’s really weird is – I KNOW I can do it. I’ve only briefly mentioned this in passing, but as my husband was recovering from his mystery illness, his little brother had moved out from Texas and lived with us for a couple months. While here, he helped around the house and helped Chris with work and, in exchange, we covered all of his living expenses (including food). Having another grown man in the house to feed was a BIG change for us. Suddenly I was having to buy more food, there were never any leftovers, and probably the biggest change….I refused to eat out. In the two months he lived with us, we maybe ate out twice. Simply because I was so cheap frugal that I didn’t want to pay for another meal.

No matter what was going on – whether I was tired, sick, busy, whatever – I would make dinner every night, rain or shine. And many of those busy-don’t-wanna-make-dinner nights when I’d have to pull on my big girl britches and do it anyway, I found that it was totally no big deal. I’d have it done within 20-30 minutes, we’d eat, and I was fine.

All this to say, I know it can be done. I know I can do it.

But then why am I struggling so much?

What do you do when your will power is wavering? I would say that “eating out” has certainly been my biggest obstacle. I don’t find the same will power issues with my entertainment or personal maintenance budget categories (even though they have also been reduced from my pre-blogging budget). But eating out is like my kryptonite!

Please give me some advice! What do you do to encourage yourself and build back up your will power? How do you persevere against your biggest budget weaknesses?


Work or Pleasure

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In sticking with the spirit of this morning’s post of feeling overwhelmed, I have determined that I need to give myself a break. On the way to gymnastics practice this week my son was mad at me for making him leave playing with the neighborhood boys to go to practice and he angrily spit out at me “Do you want me to just work all the time? Don’t you want me to have fun?” Now as a logical adult I see the ridiculousness of that statement…he goes to practice 3 days a week, 4 hours a day. With our summer schedule, he is pretty much free any time he likes to play. The math states that the choice between working all the time and playing is not an accurate assessment.
However, as a parent, I recognize that even just a few short hours feels like an eternity, especially when playmates are involved. I responded to him that he had chosen to join a competitive team and as a result he was committed to practicing for both himself and his teammates, and that if he ever chose that this was not what he wanted to do, I would support it, but he could not be wishy washy, he’s either on the team or not on the team. I’m not sure he followed my words in total but I think he got the point and did come out of practice that night smiling.
The conversation has brought up multiple thoughts on my own work life and how I am so blessed to love the work I do. Having worked jobs out of necessity for most of my life and then working as I do now not just out of necessity but because I truly love what I do has made a big difference in my quality of life.
With that being said though, I find myself ALWAYS working. When the kids were little, I hired a sitter once a week to give me a break. I felt silly having a sitter here and not going to do something so I would get out and go to a movie or dinner or something. Now that I no longer need a sitter, I don’t do that, and I think between My Cluttered Life and this fact, I am floundering. So my question is…what are something I can do as an adult, single woman that don’t cost money that will give me the “break” I need from both work and my kids. (I do not drink and I have absolutely no interest in dating.) Everything I think of…well, costs money, and I look forward to when I am debt free.
cade-says-what

Fascination Advantage Assessment

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Note:

This post has nothing to do with debt. I was meaning to have a post about last month’s budget, but it would appear that is wasn’t meant to be. The program that I use (Quicken Home & Business) is on my laptop, which is currently unaccessible to me. Hopefully either this weekend or next Tuesday I should have up.

Today I want to talk about something that some of you might find interesting, others will not. This weekend on my way to one of my contracts, I was listening to podcasts (I tend to listen to around 20 hours of podcasts per week.) And on one of my favorite podcasts Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas interviewed Sally Hogshead, a branding expert and leading authority figure on the science of fascination, about her newest Book, How The World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value through the Science of Fascination.

I was first introduced to Sally back at the end of last year when John interviewed her the first time. I immediately fell in love with what this woman is doing. After reading her first book, Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, I started understanding how to start using the right triggers to make anything become fascinating.

Back when I listened to the first interview, Sally gave John a code to be able to get a free Fascination Advantage Assessment for the first 500 people. Well I guess I wasn’t fast enough because by the time I went to redeem the code it was already sold out. I was a little bummed, but I figured I would get an assessment when I could afford it.

Well this weekend, while listening to this podcast and LOVING what Sally was bringing to the table, I happened to be driving past a Barnes and Noble and without hesitation when and grabbed myself a copy of the book.

When I got home I tweeted out

During the podcast there was mention on the Free Assessment again. I did that first. And I must say I was completely blown away with the results. Sally nailed my complete essence when I read my assessment. After taking the test there was an auto tweet that I sent out explaining what I got and how the world saw me. Sally tweeted back to me…

This totally intrigued me, because of how well she nailed me and I totally think people will see value in this. So I joined…

So What is The Fascination Advantage?

It is the first personality assessment developed based on the science of branding, rather than psychology. Unlike traditional tests (such as Myers-Brigss or StrengthsFinder, which I have taken), this isn’t measuring how you see the world, but how the world sees you.

Sally started Project Fascination in order to celebrate all of the insights she’s learned over the past decade of research. Her goal is to show 100,000 people how their personalities add value. That is why she has given me the special code BL-ElementalUnity to give the first 100 people who use it her Assessment for free. This offer lasts until July 25!

How Do You Take The Assessment?

Simple. Go to www.HowTheWorldSeesYou.com/You and use code BL-ElementalUnity. Once you’ve taken the assessment, Sally’s team will load 100 assessments into your account for you to share as well. Note: I don’t think this happened for me till I signed up for Project Fascination.

This Assessment has less than 30 questions and it literally takes less than five minutes to complete.

Now note the code I provided does have some value to me. I didn’t sign up for any benefits, but they are included. I will explain here what is on the table if I hit goals. I highly doubt that I will reach any of these and these are really not the reason I am sharing this. The reason I am sharing this is so you can learn a little about yourself.

There are three prizes noted in the advocates page on the website.

Prize #1: Once 50 people use your code, the team will send you a pre-release copy of How the World Sees You for free. (First the book came out on July 1st, so I am not even sure if this prize is still available. Second I already own the book, so I really don’t need it.)

Prize #2 When 100 people use your code, the team will give you a top-line snapshot of your audience’s results using your code. (Not sure what this means.)

Prize #3 When 1,000 people use your code, the team will create a custom heat map for your audience. (Again not sure what this means.)

So once again note, I am not doing this for the rewards. Now if they were including a way to create my anthem, that is a complete different story.

Well that’s it, I hope at least a few of you will like this.


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