Monday, October 31, 2011

The Poop on the Pages and Whatnot

Note: There is no discussion of actual poop in this post. 

Has your child ever gotten a raging case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HMFD) from daycare? Mine has. I hope we don't do this again soon.


Fever, mouth ulcers, palm ulcers, foot ulcers, crankiness, miserableness. Not a good time at all. He is on the mend and I don't have it.


Besides the illness gripping the house over the weekend, I carved a pumpkin for the first time ever. EVER. And I'll be 31 in just over a week. Before you think I'm awesome, I totally used a pattern. I also used a very sharp knife. I have no idea what those "safe companies" want me to do with an inch-long wheel perforation tool and a teeny tiny little saw of a knife. I used a real knife and I still have all my fingers.

Due to the illness, my child did not get to attend his daycare Halloween carnival, nor will he be trick-or-treating tonight. He will wear the costume for a family photoshoot next weekend and we will marvel at the cuteness.

Despite the illness, I actually READ A BOOK this weekend. Not a whole one. Don't get too excited. But I did start a book that interested me, which is a massive step in the right direction given my immense slumptitude of late. The book:

I know. This announcement is not terribly exciting given that I said last week (or sometime) that I was going to be reading this. I kind of didn't get around to it, and then Kim mentioned that it really captivated her, and then I thought back to all of Heather's good comments about it. So I dove in. And I am totally interested! Yay for Scarlett Letterness and Handmaid's Taleness!

If you were not in on the RIP VI readalong of The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, shame on you. Kidding. It was a great discussion and made even more interesting when the author, Ms. Lawrenson herself, jumped in on the discussion! She wrote an e-mail to Carl, and then he posted it on his blog, and then there was talk amongst all parties. Well, except me. I didn't get in on it because of the preoccupation with the illness. But it's way cool! Go read Ms. Lawrenson's comments and the discussion that ensued.

Lastly and sadly, RIP VI ends today! I vowed to read four books, but alas, I only finished three. I'm pretty happy with that because those three books were super-fantastic: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, The Night Circus, and The Lantern. I certainly got my creepy, atmospheric fix, and I don't see a definite end to that current fixation.

Stay tuned for a personal challenge with which I plan to flog myself! Woohoo!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inspired by a Softdrink

Thanks to Jill from Fizzy Thoughts for inspiring me so I have something to post today since I'm the slowest, most unmotivated reader in all the land.

Age: 30 (31 in 16 days)

Bed Size: Full...blah. Not big enough for myself and a toddler with his foot in my ear.

Chore that you hate: Dusting. Evil, evil dusting.

Dogs: Yes!!! Daisy is a somesuch mixed breed with radar ears.

Essential start to your day: Coffee or Diet Pepsi

Favorite colors: Red, turquoise, and green. Not together necessarily, but they're delightful on the whole.

Gold or Silver: Silver

Height: 5'3" -- the last to know when it rains

Instruments you play: I played the "recorder" (flutey thing) in elementary school, but that's as far as I've gotten in my classical music training.

Job Title: Program Chair for General Education

Kids: Yep! Greyson is 18 months old, the Rockets are 15 and 13.

Live: Dallas, TX

Mother-in-Law’s name: She passed away last year, but her name was Donna and she went by Dee.

Nicknames: Andi-Bug. EVERYONE in my hometown knows me by my nickname.

Overnight hospital stays: I had my tonsils out when I was six, and the doctor's name was Ripp. Sad joke on the part of the universe.

Pet Peeves: Whining

Quote from a movie: Urrg, umm, well...I love movies but when you ask me for a quote I go all blank.

Right or Left handed: Right, though with a toddler in the house I've learned to use my left hand and both feet, too.

Siblings: No thanks.

Time you wake up: Between 5 and 6am. Every. Single. Day. Except weekends. That would just be sick.

Underwear: Yes!

Vegetable you hate: Bean sprouts. They taste like dirt.

What makes you run late: A poopy diaper at the last minute. Not mine, of course. Little G has a habit of it. He's making it a sport.

X-Rays you’ve had: Hand when I slammed it in a Taco Bell bathroom door when I was four. Both ankles when I broke them BOTH (one of them on two separate occasions) between 5th and 8th grades.

Yummy food that you make: Sopapilla cheesecake!

Zoo animal: MEERKATS!!!! They rule. I *heart* the skittish little buggers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Lantern Group Read - Finis!

Today is the final installment of The Lantern group read for RIP VI. I skipped last week as my brain was fried and I was afraid of giving things away. Today I'm onboard, though.

Thanks so much to Carl, Kelly, and Heather for coming up with the questions!!!

Potential spoilers ahead!!!

1. Now that it's all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?

I liked it! I had parts of the ending figured out.. I don't think Lawrenson's intention was to really trick her audience about what was coming. Given Pierre's character, I don't think it's any surprise that he might've done something terrible. Dom's role in Rachel's demise was a little more surprising. I did not see her illness coming, and I did not see his part in ahead of time. That's the one part of the book that REALLY gave me shivers. What guilt to live with!  I actually thought Rachel got off the hook quite easily. I expected her to be a bit more, oh, psycho! Thought he might've pushed her off a cliff by accident or something.

2. What do you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn't for a while there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?

One of the things Lawrenson does very well is cast doubt over her characters and walk the line between trustworthy or not, truth and lies, good and evil. Her characters are unreliable, conflicted, and I didn't really trust anyone outside of Benedicte and Eve. I even had my reservations about those two in some way or another. Benedicte's mental state was in question, compounded with her failing eyesight. Eve was paranoid and alone. So, yeah, I didn't trust anyone at various points in the novel.

Sabine was unimpressive overall. I found her a very wooden, stock character. Probably my least fave of everyone.

3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness?

He totally killed them. I didn't really see him as conflicted. I saw him as a sociopathic asshole. Harsh?

4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier's writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?

No idea. I haven't read Rebecca. I know! I know! I will. Pinky swear.

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?

I didn't really have any problems with the book. I liked the narration, I liked the plot, but now that I've been done with it for several weeks, I have a hard time remembering specifics. I can remember the specifics if I think about it for a few minutes (like writing this post). I'm not sure it'll be memorable in the long run, but it was a good read in the short run.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?

Boring answer: I was satisfied. No changes necessary. :)

7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?

I kinda skipped ahead on this one and addressed this issue earlier!  I think they were both unreliable in their own ways. I don't think they were deceitful or had any specific agendas, but I think the forces at work in their lives -- health issues, mental stability, stress -- exerted influence that could make them unreliable. I kinda like that about Benedicte and Eve. It made them interesting, mysterious, and multifaceted.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In the Thick of It!

Hello my fellow Read-a-Thonners (and anyone else stopping by). Today has been a rollercoaster. I've spent a good decent amount of time reading. While I spent a while with Alice I Have Been last night, I actually went back to one of my recent reads today: The Night Strangers, by Chris Bohjalian.

I've never read Bohjalian's work before, and it took me a little while to get into his style. He words things in odd (and to me) off-putting ways at times. His sentences can be convoluted and just funky. However, writing style aside, I'm starting to warm up to the characters a bit, and the creep factor seems to be kicking up a notch.

The middle part of my day was a reading wash. I had lunch with my mom, and after that I had a crazy, yucky headache kick in. I took an afternoon nap and must've laid positively wrong, and when I woke up it was worse than when I started. After a few doses of Excedrin and ibuprofen it went away, and I spent a while cleaning and straightening around the house. Now I'm settled in for the night and plan to get back to my reading as soon as I make at pass at Pinterest and visit Group Recipes to find a good spring roll recipe for this week. Don't ask. I've been on a spring roll kick for some reason.

I haven't gotten much bloggy visiting done this Read-a-Thon, but hopefully I can spend a few minutes doing that in the morning. I hope it's going well for everybody! Read like rockstars, ya'll!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Little Early RAT Action

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon is tomorrow, and I'm starting a little early. With Greyson under family care and out of the house, I have unadulterated mom time until Sunday morning!!! I had totally forgotten about the Read-a-Thon until tonight, and it dawned on me I should start early. I'll have a bit of work to do for online classes this weekend, but outside of that, I'm gonna carve out some serious reading time. What's up first?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beat Down Reading

It's just been one of those weeks! We survived the transition from one academic term to the next and things are in full swing. Y'all know this happens every 10 weeks or so that I get tired, frustrated, and generally beat down, only to spring back 'round week 2 or 3 of the term. Same goes this time around.

Outside of reading, things have been a bit of a personal beat-down lately. There's much a-brewing in my home life, and while it's utter suckage right now, it will ultimately work out and be OK. I just have to believe that!!!

But anywho, with the suckage and whatnot, I have not been reading. Not a lick. For a week. I started a couple of deliciously creepy books only to find that I can't concentrate on much for long. The unfortunate victims of my moodiness:

I told you! Two deliciously creepy books that TOTALLY deserve my attention are not getting it.

The Small Hand, by Susan HillReturning home from a visit to a client late one summer's evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow takes a wrong turning and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity, he approaches the door, and, standing before the entrance feels the unmistakeable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own, 'as if a child had taken hold of it'. Intrigued by the encounter, he determines to learn more, and discovers that the owner's grandson had drowned tragically many years before. At first unperturbed by the odd experience, Snow begins to be plagued by haunting dreams, panic attacks, and more frequent visits from the small hand which become increasingly threatening and sinister..

Andi says: This one is really Gothic creepy. It's The Little Stranger creepy, or The Woman in White creepy. And did you know that Dan Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame is going to star in the film adaptation of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black?!  Watch the trailer, if you haven't seen it already.

The Night Strangers by Chris BohjalianIn a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts.
The home's new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain after double engine failure. Unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, however, most of the passengers aboard Flight 1611 die on impact or drown. The body count? Thirty-nine – a coincidence not lost on Chip when he discovers the number of bolts in that basement door. Meanwhile, Emily finds herself wondering about the women in this sparsely populated White Mountain village – self-proclaimed herbalists – and their interest in her fifth-grade daughters. Are the women mad? Or is it her husband, in the wake of the tragedy, whose grip on sanity has become desperately tenuous?  

Andi says: This one is just OH SHIT creepy! I do love a door locked with carriage bolts. Who doesn't?!

In light of not really getting into these two, I think I'm going to change directions.

I'm thinking of pairing When She Woke with The Scarlet Letter in my next Early American Lit online class. Students get a little bogged down and I think an injection of contemporary lit, paired with the classic, could really liven things up. We'll see how it plays. 

Hannah Payne's life has been devoted to church and family, but after her arrest, she awakens to a nightmare: she is lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes — criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime — is a new and sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder. The victim, according to the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she's shared a fierce and forbidden love.

Now I'm off to catch up on my bloggy reading. Have a great Monday, everyone!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Me Again: Blog Tour

Me Again is the story of Jonathan, a man who suffers a stroke in his late twenties and spends the next six years of his life in a coma. When he wakes, his family and loved ones have essentially moved on with their lives. He finds himself in an odd between-place figuring out who he was and who he wants to become. Meanwhile, he meets another young stroke victim in his physical therapy facility. Her name is Rebecca, and she's learning herself over again as well. The more she knows about her former life, the less she likes who she once was. Together, they have to figure out how to live again and what those lives will look like.

I had my doubts when I started reading Me Again. Books about stroke victims usually don't jump up and slap me the way a good Gothic novel might or a Postmodern lit fiction novel. However, given Cronin's interesting background as a speechwriter and drummer (!!!) and the fact that 25% of the profits from this book are donated to the American Stroke Association, I figured it was worth a whirl.

In the early pages of the novel, my doubts persisted. It's an odd thing to read about a man who's had a stroke describe what it was like to come out of a coma in a lucid way. Sure, there's that whole "look back and write" thing, but I felt Cronin, as a writer, was also navigating some rocky between-place in fiction. How lucid should the main character be? How much self-reflection and self-awareness should be present? In short, I just had a hard time believing it in the first stretch of the book. 

What really won me over about Me Again, was ultimately the humor. There is a great deal of self-deprecation on Jonathan's part as he's learning the world and his family and friends all over again--not to mention that whole walking and talking thing. His interactions with Rebecca are also quite humorous at times. The effects of the stroke are different on each individual; for Jonathan that means trouble with numbers when he used to be an accountant. Rebecca, on the other hand, speaks in monotone and has a hard time filtering what she says. 

In one of my favorite passages, Rebecca asks Jonathan why a stroke is called a stroke…
I had wondered about that myself. Perhaps to find a more gentle way to talk about it in polite company? After all, brain attack does sound rather harsh in comparison, and cerebrovascular accident is such a mouthful. And it’s certainly not because it’s considered a stroke of luck, unless you’re counting bad luck. Bottom line: a stroke isn’t gentle, it’s not lucky, and it’s not something you expect to experience in your twenties. (78)
Despite my original doubts, I enjoyed reading about Jonathan's plight to get his life back. It was fun and funny, sweet, and original--certainly a book I would recommend.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour!

A little about Keith Cronin:

Author of the novel ME AGAIN,  Keith Cronin is a corporate speechwriter and professional rock drummer who has performed and recorded with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, and Pat Travers. He is also becoming informally known as "the title guy," having provided the title for Sara Gruen's blockbuster Water for Elephants, as well as Susan Henderson's HarperCollins debut Up from the Blue. Keith's fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, Amarillo Bay, The Scruffy Dog Review, Zinos, and a University of Phoenix management course. A native of South Florida, Keith spends his free time serenading local ducks and squirrels with his ukulele.

Visit his website:

The Lantern Group Read, Post #1

I couldn't help myself and finished the book already, but I have wanted to participate in this group read ever since Carl first announced RIP VI. I'm purposely being vague about the early pages because I most certainly do not want to give anything away for all of you.

1. This may seem like an obvious opening question, but what do you think of The Lantern thus far?

I liked The Lantern right off the bat. Like so many books I've read lately and for RIP VI so far, it unfolded very slowly. I always felt that Deborah Lawrenson had something very special in mind for me as I was reading. I loved learning about the estate and the countryside surrounding it.

2. The book appears to be following the experiences of two different women, alternating back and forth between their stories. Are you more fond of our main protagonist's story or of Benedicte's or are you enjoying them both equally?

For much of the book I enjoyed "Eve's" portion of the book more. I was captivated by her experiences for several reasons, but probably because I felt her whisk-away type of relationship with Dom had something in store from the beginning. On the flipside, I enjoyed Benedicte's story more as the book progressed. The sense of history and "old fashionedness" was appealing to me.

3. The Lantern is a book filled with descriptions of scents. How are you liking (or disliking) that aspect of the book? How do you feel about the lavish description of scents? How are the short chapters working for you?

LOVE the description of scents. I really loved her descriptions of everything. I really felt I got a handle on the area the book was set from reading her descriptions. I went into this book expecting more of a Gothic type novel in the Sarah Waters vein, but the setting really broke that expectation up for me a bit. The sunny, French countryside wasn't as ominous as I was expecting.

4. How would you describe the atmosphere of Parts 1 and 2 of The Lantern?

Progressively creepier.

5. Has anything surprised you to this point? Anything stand out?

I was just looking back through the sections and was reminded of several particulars that struck me throughout these two sections. I was totally captivated by Benedicte's seeing the ghosts in her house. Who wouldn't like that? Pierre's spirit in the space became progressively more disturbing as we learn more background about him. I was appalled by his actions on several occasions (the kitten, the gun) and was truly rooting for him to go away! 

Eve is maddeningly accepting of Dom's secrecy and moods throughout the first two sections. It wasn't maddening to an unbelievable degree, or I believe it would've affect my feelings about the book. I thought she was a believable young woman taking the plunge into her first serious, powerful relationship. She has a very real and unfortunate tendency to second-guess her instincts.

6. What are your feelings about Dom in these first two sections of the story?

Weird jerk!

Bonus question: Did anyone else hear "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" ringing in their ears through the first sections of the book?

Yeah, I have a confession. I haven't read Rebecca, but I want to read it all the more now!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

I Brake for Style, Post the First

In light of the bad news I mentioned below AND the fact that I've been sick, reading has been a wee tad slow at my house. I'm enjoying my reading, and I'm carving out a few minutes every day, but I'm not quite trucking along at the clip I'd like. However, this week is steadily improving, we're in the middle of the changeover from one academic term to the next, and and I'm feeling a good deal better the last couple of days.

I feel well and upbeat enough to post, but I also don't want to keep boring you with the same words about the same books, SO we're going somewhere different today. Style. S-T-Y-L-E. You heard it.

Outside of ye olde blog I'm really interested in style: fashion, home decor, trends. In general, I'm a very visual person, so it's not a shocker. I was even an art student once upon a time. I've always been interested in expressing my personality visually and playing with my look. I've had some very distinct "trends" in my own life and they weren't all good: the high school days when I wore nothing but Nike shirts, my college and grad school days when I expanded my wardrobe a little bit but generally just cut and dyed my hair a whole bunch of colors, and of course, the multiple facial piercings over the years (tongue, eyebrow, nose).

I should also mention, I've always been a plus size, so fashion CAN be a drag at times. After I had Greyson in April 2010, my body was different and like so many new moms I was hella busy, tired, worn out, and generally disinterested in looking good. I lost a bit of my spark for a minute. My hair grew out, the grey started showing, I wore it up in a knot or ponytail all the time, my clothes started showing a good deal of wear, and I tended to fall back on Too Much Black. My mom, being the saint that she is, treated me to a brand new wardrobe for my 30th birthday, and I was back on the scene. I perked up the color, went for better fit. I took my love of What Not to Wear and tried to inject it into my daily life and style. I've also become an avid InStyle reader (don't tell anyone!).

Before I got all of my hair lopped off, I had fallen back into a bit of a clothing and appearance funk. I was wearing the same outfits too often, falling back on baggy and unbecoming. I'm a slave to comfort -- what can I say? And since I get up at 5:00 many mornings, there was a bit of dontgivashit thrown in. Since the hair transformation, I've kind of been on a style crusade! And it reaches beyond clothing to making my home a little cozier and comfier.

Here are some items I've found lately that I just love:

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Y'all probably already know of my love affair with all things owl. This scented oil burner from Bath and Body Works is adorable! Confession: I didn't actually buy this. I bought slightly smaller version that holds a tea light. candle. Right now I'm burning a marshmallow scent in my bedroom.

These pyramid stud earrings from Nordstrom are ridiculously simple but SO FRACKIN CUTE! Especially when they're on. They catch a lot more light than typical small studs given the pyramid shape. I'm tempted to buy them in gold and jet, too! Also, I don't typically order from Nordstrom, but these were the most affordable I found in my searching!

I've also been kind of obsessed with cozifying my bedroom as of late. I bought a new comforter from Target. It's a reversible with a brown/green/turquoise floral silhouette pattern on one side. I've discovered that I really like mixing patterns, and I started eyeing these sheets from Anthropologie. Well, a po' teacher such as myself can't afford to drop $250 on sheets (only 250 thread count!!!) so I went with a little less exciting, but much cheaper version from Target:
My pattern is a little different, but you get the gist. Pretty! I love me some turquoise.

I suspect I'll do more style posts in the future and maybe next time I'll branch out to the clothing department. But for now, that's a sneaky peek at my life outside of Blogville.

Have you done any styling of your home or self lately?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Coming Uppers

Thanks for all of the kind comments on my previous, "Personally" post. I appreciate the pep talks and well wishes and prayers. Today is a new day, and I'm stuck home from work with what the doctor will only call "something viral." It involves streppy symptoms like a wicked sore throat and the worst muscle aches I've ever had!!! I can't wait to feel better (hurry up!) but I though I'd stop in for a quick review of what's coming on ze blog in the near future.

I've actually put Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern on hold for a few days. I'm way ahead of the group read over at Carl's place, and I'm still certain I'll finish it before the first post goes up. That's OK, I like a book that can grab me by the hair.

I dug into Keith Cronin's Me Again for my participation in the upcoming TLC Book Tour. My first thoughts were not good. There was something "off" about the writing for me. I think the bottom line might be that I'm having trouble suspending disbelief that a stroke victim could write this lucidly about his "rebirth" experience. We'll see, though. The further I read, the more thoroughly involved I'm becoming!

I'm still staring down the stacks of books I bought recently. I do believe Tipping the Velvet is floating to the top. I just can't resist a Waters novel sitting and staring at me.

What are you reading?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Personally: Losses, and Hopefully Gains

So I found out on Thursday of this past week that the college where I work will not be enrolling new students on our campus from here on.  I've purposely not mentioned the name of my institution on this blog, and right now I'm very thankful for that. This is one of those issues, that if I don't blog about it, my head might pop off.

Yes, so we won't be enrolling new students, which is just a nice, PC, businessy way of saying that our campus will work with existing students until eventually our campus will close. My job is secure going forward until--well, until I'm not needed anymore. I suspect I have a few months left on the books which is a blessing in itself. I have to make a living for G and myself somehow. I've already bookmarked about a gazillion jobs I need to apply for. But somehow I'm still in that in-between, denial phase of the steps of grief and loss. Blah blah blah.

I cannot imagine not going to work everyday in my office with my colleagues. I cannot imagine not meeting new students this coming term. I cannot imagine not doing what I do now. I can't imagine not being a mentor, a coach, a professor. I cannot imagine not doing all of those things where I am right now. While every job has its icky parts and every company has its flaws, I've really had an opportunity to "grow up" professionally where I work now. I speak differently than I did two and a half years ago. I interact with students and colleagues differently. I am a department chair, for heaven's sake, and when did I think I'd get into the administrative stuff? Never.

It fucking sucks. I cry when I stop to think about it too long. I'm angry that I can't just keep doing what I love where I am now with the people I've hired, the team of instructors I've helped build, and the colleagues around me that I enjoy so much.

Surprisingly enough, I'm not terribly worried about the financial side right now. Given that I am still employed for a bit, I have an opportunity to bulk up my savings. There will be severance or unemployment at the end of the road. Part of me immediately moves into get-another-job mode. But another part of me wants to stay until the wheels fall off. Be with my students until the last day. Until they lock the doors.

I got into education from the very beginning in an effort to help students. To affect them in ways I was affected by my own professors. I got into a career college--a technical school, if you will--purely by chance, and it has changed my life. I have students who might not have survived at another institution because of their lives outside of school or their inability to attend on a more "regular" basis. Some of them need help with childcare, others with transportation, some with motivation, and some with focus. They're like students in other places in a great many ways, but more remarkable and more challenged in some other ways. I admire them, I am frustrated by them, but I love them. More than they will probably ever know.

There is always an outside chance we might be acquired by another institution. I hope for that. I hope that glimmer comes true.  But in the meantime, I'm ducking my head and plowing through like I always have. Doing the same job for the same reasons but with a little crack in my heart. I'm daunted by what will rise up in front of me in the coming months, so please say a little prayer. It'll all work out, and I truly believe that. In the meantime, I just need to know I'm not the only one praying about it.
Images by Freepik