#26. Shouldn’t I Be Doing Something?

Here’s a glimpse of what we did yesterday:

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We spent it as a family in the great outdoors, soaking in the sunshine and the heat from sandy orange rocks. We hiked up the stream shown above. We purchased local apples and taste-tested fresh cider. We went grocery shopping together. We were busy. We were adventuring. We were doing!

Here’s today in contrast:

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I went running, ate breakfast, helped Sam get started with his schoolwork, and downloaded a new book from Kindle Unlimited… and since 9 AM or so I’ve done basically nothing. Which maybe sounds perfect from the outside, but for my brain, doing nothing is an intensely discomfiting proposition. Kicked back like this, how am I using my life? What am I offering to the world and my family? Shouldn’t I be working? Using my Ph.D.? Earning money? Developing my supermom skills? Taking my kid somewhere educational? Getting dressed and leaving the RV, at least?

This series of questions represents a well-worn line of thought for me, and I prefer that my mind not have the opportunity to even start down that path. Today, it’s too late.

A friend posted this article on Facebook the other day, and I’ve read it at least four times because it was clearly written just for me: To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind in Life. Especially on days like today, when my brain is roaming too much, I do have a gnawing sense that I am falling behind… Worse, that I fell behind a long time ago, and there’s no catching up now.

So I’m comforted by the author’s words: “You don’t need more motivation. You don’t need to be inspired to action. You don’t need to read any more lists and posts about how you’re not doing enough.”

You’re right. I most certainly do not. Thank you.

And, “You’re not a robot. You can’t just conjure up motivation when you don’t have it.”

Stop right there. Really? Do I have permission to feel that way? Because I really WANT to feel motivated to do the things I think I should be doing. I really want to want to teach science, or coach people in proper health (which I thought I wanted to do, and sometimes I still want to do), or learn some new skill that would allow us to bolster our income (god, that would be nice).

But my motivation in those areas is touch and go at best, if not completely nonexistent.

I know what motivation feels like. I recognize it in my life: getting up at 5:30 AM to run for 20 miles, or spending hours researching travel routes and RV parks, or starting a blog post and looking up a while later only to discover than two whole hours have passed by while I’ve put words on the page and moved them around. I don’t think about whether to do those things because I’m too interested, too obsessed/obsessive to even consider debating the issue. I just go.

And then: …Excuse me, my brain squeaks, do those things even count? 

Again from the article: “You don’t need more motivation or inspiration to create the life you want. You need less shame around the idea that you’re not doing your best. You need to stop listening to people who are in vastly different life circumstances and life stages than you tell you that you’re just not doing or being enough. You need to let timing do what it needs to do.”

So although I can’t say I totally, 100% believe it, I’m telling myself that for today, this is my best: sitting around in my leggings in an Arizona RV park, reading a book, letting my kid play Minecraft for hours, not earning a single cent but knowing that, in the big picture, I’m on an adventure with the people who matter most to me. And one day maybe something else will come out of this, or maybe it won’t, but it doesn’t really matter because this is enough.

#25. Near but Not Quite In Sedona

We’re currently parked near but not quite in Sedona, as the title of this blog suggests. The boys are down at the campground pool (where apparently it’s warm enough for swimming), and I’m slurping leftover potato soup and staring out the window at a sunset coming down over flat layers of orange and white rocks.

We’re here for a week, and then we’re headed back to Flagstaff. Flagstaff is going to be a problem. Have you ever arrived in a place and looked around and been like, “Why hello. I believe this may be home”? Because that’s what happened to me, and this feeling worries me. I do not have a job in Flagstaff. I have no connections or friends in Flagstaff, and neither does Trent. And most importantly, we cannot afford Flagstaff. As it turns out, it’s yet another gorgeous town where the cost of living far exceeds most people’s budgets.

I love traveling. I love RVing. I love that everything I own fits into the trunk of our car + our 29-foot class C Coachmen. I love (love, so much love) not having to purchase furniture. I love field trips, I love adventures, I love trying local craft beers everywhere I go.

But.

I know community is going to be an issue for me – if not now, eventually. RVers form a community of sorts: most of us are active on social media, keep in touch via Facebook and Instagram, and even meet up for rallies every now and then. But I’m talking about people-you-see-every-day-or-at-least-once-a-week community. Go-for-a-run-together community. People-I’ve-known-for-years community. For Sam, friends-other-than-his-parents community.

I don’t have any answers at this point, other than knowing that for now, I love what we’re doing. We’re committed to at least a year. But it’s something I’m thinking about and something I know will keep cropping up as we adventure across the country.

#24. A Run at Buffalo Park, and Doing More

Yesterday I went for a six-mile run at the most breathtaking urban park I’ve ever seen.

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These pictures don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of Buffalo Park. I was seriously ready to stake out a little patch of ground next to a tall fir tree and declare it my home forever and ever amen. Someone bring me cookies and a blanket.

Yesterday’s run was probably the best one I’ve had throughout this entire marathon training experience. Not to say that it was easy: it wasn’t. I felt slightly out of breath almost the entire time. That makes sense, considering that the park is at a higher elevation (~7,100 feet) than any other route I’ve run over the last few months. But what made it so great was that I still managed to maintain a sub-10-minute-per-mile pace. I would have never been able to do that a year ago, or even five years ago.

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I may be totally delusional – a distinct possibility in many areas of my life – but I just keep thinking that I’m capable of so much more when it comes to running. With respect to pace, I may get a little faster, though I’m never going to be super speedy. Where I think I can really push myself is in distance. Throughout the last few months, there hasn’t been one run that has left me feeling like I’d hit a limit. Even the last 20 miler. This marathon will, ideally, be part of my training for a longer race. Like a 50K. Or maybe even a 50 miler one day.

We’ll see, though. Tomorrow I’m supposed to run 20 miles here in Flagstaff. I’m excited – it’s my last really long run before I start tapering – and slightly terrified, because again, we’re at elevation and there’s a little voice in my head going, “Ummm, you do realize you’re not actually capable of doing this, right?” But so far the voice has been so very wrong, and I’ve proved it every single week. I’m going to assume that tomorrow will yield the same outcome.

#23. Rainy day downshifting

It’s our fourth day in Flagstaff, and here’s the current view from the bedroom window:

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It’s pouring, sometimes so hard that the rain sends pinecones toppling onto our roof. The Weather Channel indicates that it’ll be like this on and off for the next 24 hours.

So we’re going to lay low: get our homeschooling assignments done (Sam’s got reading, math, and grammar on the docket), read, update the blogs, pay bills slash adult, maybe bake some fall treats in the toaster oven, maybe head over to the camp playground later if we get a break in the weather. Downshifting for a day sounds refreshing to me. We’ve been on the go lately, and I’m feeling a bit exhausted. On Saturday I ran 16 miles, followed by a family field trip to the top of Sandia Peak in Albuquerque. Sunday was the six-hour journey to Flagstaff. On Monday, we spent the entire day at the Grand Canyon, and yesterday, both Trent and I and our unacclimatized lungs went adventuring on the Fatmans Loop Trail.

Seasoned full-time RVers are always trying to warn the newbies: Slow down. You’re in absolutely no rush. Don’t exhaust yourself. This isn’t a monthlong vacation. You have all the time in the world to do all the stuff you want to do. If you don’t see everything you want to see at a particular location, you can always come back. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll burn out before a year is up.

I am not good about following this advice. I’m afflicted with what I’ve diagnosed as Traveler’s FOMO: Traveler’s Fear Of Missing Out. When I’m in a new place, I have a deep-seated need to see and do it all so that I can really know the place I’m in. It’s a well-meaning obsessiveness.

But I remind myself that’s just mental self-trickery. Nobody is grading us on How Many Things We Checked Off Our List While Living In Our RV. Nobody is docking points for staying in.

A rest day it is, then. Biscuit, for one, seems fine with this plan:

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Whether you live in an RV or not, what are your favorite rainy day activities? How do you force yourself to slow down?

#22. Thoughts from the Fatmans Loop Trail

After last night’s debate (debacle?), I knew I’d need to get outside, run off some frustration, and commune with nature. Luckily, the ~2.5-mile Fatmans Loop Trail passes right behind our current campground here in Flagstaff. Perfect.

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I’ve done very little running on unpaved surfaces throughout this marathon training, so the dirt singletrack was both a challenge and a treat. The US Forest Service describes the route as “an easy walk.” I don’t know if I’d go that far: plenty of jagged rocks, loose gravel, and gnarly roots make this prime tripping territory for those of us who are less than graceful on our feet. And it was drizzling when I left, so certain sections of the trail were a bit slick. Nevertheless, it was certainly beautiful, and the ubiquitous boulders were eye candy for this obsessed geologist.

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Did I mention the views? The trail ascends to ~7500 feet and affords a birds-eye panorama of Flagstaff below.

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I can see why people would visit this town and then decide to stay forever.

Speaking of which… We’re now almost four months into our RV journey, and for me, thoughts of place, community, and roots come up more and more often. I knew this would happen, which is part of the reason we committed to at least one year on the road. If we’re going to end up somewhere for good, I want it to be absolutely the right place for all three of us, and I want us to think it through and be 100% sure.

I can’t speak for Trent, but for me, the community in which we end up (if we end up in one spot) needs to have plenty of outdoor recreation areas, walking and biking paths, a great running scene, and a diverse population. According to these criteria, Flagstaff would be a strong contender.

Then I look at home prices and I’m like, Nevermind.

For now, these views are good enough.

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# 21. Running long

The day before a long run: I eat a lot, especially carbs. I consume plenty of whole grains (rice, beans, maybe quinoa), several pieces of fruit, and at least one big salad. Processed foods like chips, crackers, and energy bars are sometimes part of the mix, too.

The night before, I lay out all my gear: socks, shorts, shirt, sports bra, water bottle, gels, snacks (to keep in the car for afterward), headphones, license. I examine the map and choose my route. When deciding where to start from, I take into consideration the type of surface (pavement? gravel? dirt?), elevation change, safety (will there be other people around? because that’s what I want), location of restrooms and water fountains, opportunities for shade, and overall length of the trail. I pick out a couple of podcasts and some Spotify playlists. I set my alarm and make sure my phone is plugged in before I go to sleep.

The day of: When the alarm sounds, I get up and dress. I eat some granola bars and a banana. I guzzle a strong cup of coffee to get my digestive system moving before I leave (ahem). I give my family a hug and let them know where I’ll be going, what my intended route is, and approximately how long I’ll be gone. I drive to my starting point and stretch a bit (I’m currently learning about dynamic stretching). I apply sunblock, have another quick snack, put my keys and gels into the little “backpack” on my water bottle, and make sure my shoes are tight enough but not too tight. I secure my hat and slide my sunglasses onto my nose.

Then I hit the “start” button on my running app, and I’m off. My current strategy is a run-walk approach: run for 0.9 miles, walk for the last tenth of a mile, then start running again. It’s during that last tenth of each mile that I guzzle water and eat something.

During miles 0-6 of the long run, my thoughts go something like this: “Geez, this is going to take forever. That’s okay. Don’t think about it. Just take it mile by mile. What do you want to listen to first? Podcast? Music? Let’s start with music. Okay, now just go. No. No. NO. Agggh, not that fast! Slow down. Slow waaaaaay down. You’re playing the long game here. Literally. Okay, that’s better… Except my shoe feels weird. I’m going to stop and adjust it. Done. Go. Wait, what’s up with my knee? Is it okay? Just a twinge, I think. Please just be a twinge.”

Between miles 6 and 13 or so, I’ve worked out any minor aches and have found my stride. If I’m going to experience runner’s high, it’s usually during this section of the run: “This is so great. What a beautiful day. Look at the flowers! And the trees! And the cheery hot air balloons in the crisp blue sky! Is that a roadrunner? Wow. Man, I feel great. I love running. I love running so much that I probably don’t need to slurp those gels or drink that water because love alone will get me to the finish line.”

In other words, I become elated and slightly delusional, which is why I need to have a game plan in place well ahead of time. “Listen,” I say to the executive part of my brain before I get going, “not everyone is going to be okay with this. Just override any objections.” And it usually works. My executive brain is a tough cookie.

Around mile 15, I start to feel it in my legs. The mental monologue turns into something like this: “Ugh. Right leg is sore. That’s okay. Keep going. Water break in half a mile. Try moving to the gravel part of the path. How’s that? Better? Okay, great. Just be sure to pick up your feet so that you don’t trip. That wouldn’t be pretty. Want to change up the music? Want to listen to a different podcast? That’ll help. Hey! Walking time. Walking is nice. So is drinking water. And eating. These gels are tasty. Mmmmmm. Chocolate espresso. The best. Damn, it’s gone already. I should have brought some chips… Just three (or four, or five) miles to go… UUUUUGH. WHYYYYYY. That’s like forever. I’m hobbling. I don’t even look like a runner at this point. I look like I’ve sprained my ankle or like I really, really need to go to the bathroom. Another runner approaching. Smile! Look alive! Pretend you’re having the time of your life!”

By the end of the long run, I’m often physically uncomfortable – which is, well, uncomfortable – but mentally, I’m laser focused. I’m not thinking about politics or the 2016 presidential election. I’m not worrying about the environment (sorry, environment – give me an hour and I’ll start stressing again). I’m not wondering about career stuff or whether I’m a good parent or if I’ll ever pay off my student loan and buy a house. My brain has shifted into a mode of, “Ouch. Food. Water. Almost done. Food. Water. Nice scenery but food. Hurt. Pretty mountains. So close. NEED CORN CHIPS NOW.” To be in a place where you’re focused on just a few things, where there’s no room for anything else, is oddly liberating and maybe even slightly addictive.

I eventually make it back to the car, where I stretch as best I can, guzzle more water, eat every food I’ve brought with me, and start daydreaming about the contents of my refrigerator.

Tell me: What do you think about when you run or work out?

Susanne

#20. Exceptional things

I’ve been feeling under the weather. Down. Wanting to just sleep and stare into space and read. To some extent I have the freedom to do these things, but I also have a nine year old who, you know, needs to receive some sort of an education and a partner who doesn’t want or need to do all the chores alone (and a cat who likes to have girl talk at 3 AM and won’t let me go back to sleep unless I chat with her and act like it’s fun for me). So I’m muddling through.

In spite of me, a few exceptional things have transpired over the last few days:

1. Sam completed Life of Fred: Farming as part of his homeschool math curriculum. Closing the cover on a textbook is a rather arbitrary means of measuring progress, but the fact that he’s done with this book indicates to me that we’re getting somewhere with homeschooling. It’s not always fun for him and it’s sometimes challenging for me to figure out what he needs – but we’re doing it. I’m proud of him for showing up every day to do the work.

2. We applied for our 2016 presidential election absentee ballots. Not so exceptional, you’re thinking? Well, considering that I am one of the least organized people I know and get distracted when dealing with tasks that involve multiple steps (SQUIRREL!), this was a feat. I had to locate the absentee ballot forms online, fill in the information for both myself and Trent, drive to the Kinkos/FedEx place, communicate my need for a computer and printer to the FedEx people (social anxiety makes basic stuff like this seem difficult), download and print the forms, find a location to which the ballots can be mailed so that we can pick them up, fill out the ballot request forms, place them in envelopes, write the clerk’s address on the envelopes, find the stamps, place the stamps on said envelopes, and walk them across the RV park to the mailbox.

Victory. I get chocolate now.

3. I found a recipe for world’s best tempeh marinade, and then I proceeded to make a list, drive to the grocery store, purchase the ingredients, and combine them in the correct proportions. Again, here we have a task involving multiple steps, one of them being a trip to the grocery store, aka Hell. More victory.

Tempeh marinade is not the official name of the recipe. It’s actually honey-miso salad dressing, and you can find it here. I mixed it all up, poured it over diced tempeh, shook the container, stuck it in the fridge for a day, and then baked the tempeh at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes or so. We’re going to be eating a lot of honey miso tempeh, I can tell.

4. I continue to stick to my marathon training plan. Running 20 miles is not easy. Running when your legs are aching, the sun is beating down, and you’ve run out of water is rather painful. Running long in unfamiliar places is challenging. Yet the act of running is one of the most straightforward, focused things I do right now. I’ve been a runner for 18 years and it’s as if I’m falling in love with it all over again.

#19. How I recover after a long run

Last Sunday, I ran 18 miles. Today – only six days later, which is kind of blowing my mind – I covered 20. My legs were aching by mile 16, but I was surprised by just how good I felt given the short time span between these two long runs and the fact that my right knee has been rather cantankerous during previous marathon training efforts. This time, it seems to be on board with the entire thing. KNOCK ON WOOD.

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My favorite picture from today’s run. I’m seriously falling in love with ABQ.

Based largely on conjecture and personal observation, I’m crediting this feat to my plant-based diet and my post-long run recovery strategy. The recovery strategy is one I’ve cobbled together using previous experience and advice from other runners. I don’t pretend that it’s entirely scientific, but it’s working for me so I’m sharing it.

It looks something like this:

1. Immediately after the long run, I hobble to my car and spend several minutes stretching, rehydrating, and chowing down on whatever comestibles I’ve packed into my running bag. Today it was salty crackers, a banana, an apple, a granola bar, and water spiked with grapefruit-flavored Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes.

2. By the time I get back to the RV, the main thing I’m thinking about is food. I eat everything that isn’t battened down. This afternoon I inhaled leftover potato-bean stew, celery, some crackers, and a protein shake (and that was just Round 1). If possible, I gorge on leafy greens, too, because they’re full of antioxidants and help combat inflammation.  

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Protein shake with high quality ingredients. I’m generally an advocate of whole foods, but this is one supplement I regularly use to support my running.

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Greens! Powerhouse food right here. 

3. I squeeze myself into compression socks. According to at least one scientific study, compression helps with recovery. Also, I just like how they look and feel – basically as if they are holding my calf muscles together, which at that point is a comforting sensation.

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Purple.

4. I ice my knees and sometimes my ankles, usually using whatever bags of food are available in my freezer. As far as I can tell from an embarrassingly quick Google search, experts disagree on whether it’s a good idea. I don’t know. It works for me.

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Kale: the most helpful of vegetables.

5. I rest and elevate my legs. This step involves a little more frozen kale, more snacks (MOOOORRRE FOOOOOOD), plenty of wasted time on Facebook, and a healthy dose of Netflix.

6. I drink a beer. I’m going to take this Runner’s World piece as the definitive article on beer as a helpful recovery tool.

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7. I stretch. I’ve been trying to up my yoga game in the last few weeks as a way to help develop flexibility and strength and aid in recovery. It feels great and really seems to make a difference in my mobility the next day.

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8. I exercise the next day. That usually involves walking and some form of strength training, particularly core work. Sometimes I go on a very short run – three miles or so. The main goal, though, is simply to get the blood flowing.

Tell me: What are your tried-and-true recovery tips?

Run on,

Susanne

#18. Easy InstantPot Beans and Rice

I’d like to preface this post by acknowledging that my cooking skills are relatively basic. If I were to write a cookbook today, it would be called something along the lines of “Glop: A Collection of Decent but Unsurprising Recipes.” It’s okay. We don’t all have to be exceptional cooks.

I will also say this, though: the super-simple beans and rice dish I concoct in the InstantPot is fast, inexpensive, and tasty. Moreover, it requires some of the cheapest ingredients at the grocery store and yields enough to feed a small family for three or four days. If you’re on a budget, this one’s for you.

And let’s talk nutrition. What does 1.5 cups of cooked rice and beans (in a 2:1 ratio) get you? 13 grams of protein and about 11 grams of fiber. In other words, it’s a nutrient-dense meal. It’s also a meal with a relatively low carbon footprint, so you earn a biodegradeable blue ribbon for your Earth-loving ways when you make this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup dry black beans, rinsed (can I tell you a secret? I never rinse them…)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup salsa, any kind

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Instructions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in the InstantPot and give them a quick stir.
  2. Put the lid on the InstantPot. Make sure the valve is in the sealed position.
  3. Hit the “Manual” button and reduce the time to 25-26 minutes.
  4. Drink a beer while you wait.
  5. When the cooking cycle has ended and the InstantPot beeps, wait 10 minutes before releasing the valve. You can release it before then, but based on personal experience, your impatience may cause your cat to jump about 10 feet in the air and hightail it to the front seat of your RV to cower in fear and dismay.
  6. Serve with whatever you want. One evening, we had rice, beans, and tortilla chips (it was a chips kind of night). The next day I fancied up the leftovers by using them in tacos.

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What’s your favorite way to doctor up your beans and rice?

It’s bean real,

Susanne

Postscript: We have an Amazon Affiliates account. If you’re interested in purchasing the InstantPot – my current favorite kitchen gadget – consider using this link. Amazon will throw us a few pennies, and we’ll be grateful for it!

Instant Pot IP-LUX60 6-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6-Quart 1000-Watt

#17. Announcement: Lifestyle Reset Workshop! (Sept. 17 – Oct. 1)

Need a reset on healthy eating, movement, and/or self care? As part of the launch of my health coaching business, I’m offering a free online Lifestyle Reset Workshop from September 17 through October 1. If you’re looking to kickstart some healthier habits, this workshop is for you.

What the Lifestyle Reset Workshop will entail: The Lifestyle Reset Workshop will take place entirely online, using a private Facebook group as our platform. The workshop will focus on three main areas:

  • Whole foods, plant-based eating
  • Movement
  • Stress management and self care

During the workshop, participants will have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Review health and wellness information gleaned from scientific, peer-reviewed studies
  • Connect and engage with other workshop attendees via daily online discussions
  • Complete workshop-related challenges
  • Reflect on current lifestyle habits and develop strategies for adopting new ones
  • “Test drive” those strategies with the support of the entire group

In addition to group support, I’ll also be checking in with each participant on a regular basis and providing individual coaching as needed.

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE:

Part 1: Connect, reflect, evaluate, and strategize

  • Saturday, Sept. 17: Introductions and pre-workshop survey
  • Sunday, Sept. 18 and Monday, Sept. 19: Self-evaluation of current habits
  • Tuesday, Sept. 20: Benefits of movement
  • Wednesday, Sept. 21: Stress management and self care
  • Thursday, Sept. 22-Saturday, Sept. 24: Benefits of whole foods, plant-based eating. This portion of the workshop will include a pantry/fridge makeover, recipe sharing, and meal planning.

Part 2: Implement

  • Sunday, Sept. 25: Planning for a new week, including meal prep and goal setting
  • Monday, Sept. 26 – Friday, Sept. 30: Strategies in action
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: Reflection, post-workshop survey, and next steps

Please note: Participants should expect to engage in discussions on a daily basis and spend an average of 30-60 minutes per day on workshop-related activities.

I would love to have you participate in the workshop. To sign up, or if you have questions, comment here or email me at susanne.m.mcdowell@gmail.com.

Hope to see you there!

Susanne