I don’t know about you…

…but I’m feeling 22.

Yup, I turned 22 this week, and being that a few of my friends aren’t even 21 yet, it’s safe to say I am kind of a grandmother. Instead of going downtown and dancing the night away, I stay in at night to watch TV or read a book (or 12).

Of course, there is usually wine involved, but that’s beside the point.

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We all know (or rather, you know if you’ve been around the blog long enough) that I really care about birthdays, especially mine. Every year that I’ve made it past middle school and high school is a year to celebrate. Even though I’ve come such a long way in my recovery, I’m still shocked that every time August 14th rolls around, I’m here to experience it. Kinda crazy, huh?

So much has happened to me in the last year, and I’m incredibly grateful for all of it. I studied abroad and had the time of my life–as if you didn’t know that already. I had a rough transition back to normal life, but I got through it. I started dating a pretty fantastic guy. I quit my job and got another that allowed me more time to read and write. I finished Book 2 and have started research and notes on Book 3. It’s been both the shortest and quickest year of my life.

And now I’m 22 and I feel like I’m supposed to be an adult. I didn’t go out the night of my birthday, other than a few drinks at dinner; I stayed home and watched a chick flick (Miss Congeniality, a classic). I woke up and remembered about all the responsibilities I have, like school. I completely forgot that school starts in a month. I have prep for recruitment and my classes and whatnot. Senior year is about to begin, and that will be followed by graduation. And then the real real world.

I have learned a lot in my 22 years on this planet, and I know I’ll continue learning and growing. Obviously that’s cliche, but that’s what this life is for me: growing up and figuring it all out. And for once I feel like I might not be failing at that latter part. Still totally freaking out about the future, but I’m confident that I’ll be happy.

I am excited for the year ahead. And all the wine I’m going to drink. I got a lot of it for my birthday–and not the less-than-fancy Barefoot I always pick up at Campus Bottle.

I know soon my birthdays are going to be something to dread. You know how adults get when kids ask them how old they are–wait, I am and adult now, too–but that’s not me yet. Maybe in three years when I can no longer say I’m in my early twenties. I still feel like a kid sometimes. A little naive. When I was younger I used to think I’d have my life more together by now. I mean, I have a nice job (though, it’s no career), I’m in a pretty serious relationship, and I’m happy. I hoped I would have those things, but they’ve only just recently kind of fallen into place. I guess that’s kind of lucky.

Cal Poly and SLO and college in general has kind of been like a dream, compared to the hell high school was for me, at least. I feel like I can do anything. Maybe I actually believe that now, too.

So catch my twenty-second year being filled with books, writing, wine, and indie movies. Oh, and school.

Thanks for riding this rollercoaster with me.

Ash

Something Special

I’ve been coming to Bass Lake my entire life (save for a few summers in high school and college), and I have a million memories. The last two years on morning walks, my mom has pointed out just about every house we’ve stayed in throughout the years–even the ones from when she and my dad first got married.

I remember a lot of them by little memories from when we stayed there. Like one house right on the main road, I remember being there a long, long time ago because that was the year our parents decided to let us get a sugary cereal at the store–Lucky Charms, to be exact–and my brother ate all the marshmallows out of it, so we were stuck with just the cereal bits. I know, how rude!

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One year, there was a big thunderstorm that ruined part of our fun-filled week. Mitchell, Chelsea, and I were sleeping in this little room with two sets of bunk beds. It was early in the morning–since none of us knew how to sleep in back then–and we were listening to the rain and thunder. It was the first time I’d ever experienced a storm like this, and I was afraid. Somehow, to take away from the fear, we pretended that a thunderstorm only meant that there was a big bowling party going on in heaven. We would listen for the thunder, which meant that the bowling ball had knocked down the pins, and then wait for the lightning. One flash meant that it was a spare and two mean it was a strike (because a spare is represented by one slash and a strike by an X, for those of you who don’t bowl). It was backwards, since the lightning comes first and the thunder second, but we didn’t know that as kids. It made us less afraid, and that’s what mattered.

Even now, I think about that memory whenever there’s a thunderstorm.

But I remember things like wearing my sleeping bag as a dress and sliding down the falls and seeing a shooting star for the first time. Bug bites and sunburns and lake water. If it’s not a bathing suit, I’m not wearing it. If it’s not junk food, I’m not eating it (except now in my life when I’m craving vegetables all the time–seriously, who am I?). And it’s not a real week at the lake without watching Shark Week–or being constantly caked in sunscreen, lake water, and dirt.

Here, I’m carefree.

The real world doesn’t matter at the lake. It’s like I’m in my own little bubble–a blissful bubble. The memories I have mean nothing without the feelings that come with them. I’m home when I’m here. I’m loved and happy and complete.

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I come home with a bag of cute clothes, unworn. Untouched, actually. I live in my swimsuit while I’m here, and nothing else. My face gets a break from any kind of make up. And as uncomfortable as I can be with my body, I’m perfectly content walking around in my bikini and a t-shirt. Not even my body image issues can touch me at the lake. It’s a very special place.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to go this year, with all the traveling I’ve been doing this summer. I thought I would have to work, and my job is not always something I can ask for time off from (which isn’t a problem, since it’s all during the week). But lo and behold, fate worked it’s magic, and I got to spend four and a half days in my favorite place. Once I got a whiff of pine and lake water, all the not-so-good things on my mind faded away and the only thing I had to stress about was remembering not to fall asleep in the sun without reapplying sunscreen.

Like I said, the outside world doesn’t exist.

On top of this freedom, I get to see Edie! It has been over a year since I last saw my built-in best friend, and I have (tragically) not been able to make it out to visit her in Arizona like the rest of my siblings have. I remember when two weeks without each other was an eternity. A year is far too long. And now we’re both 21 and can finally hit a happy hour together–although, as a wise t-shirt at the surf shop says, it’s always 5 o’clock at the lake. And honestly, there’s no hour I’m not happy, so it works both ways. I’m extra happy to hang out with Edie.

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I know I’ll have to face the real world as soon as the pine trees disappear from view, but I don’t mind it too much. I know I’ll be back. I always dreamed about living at Bass Lake forever, and sometimes that dream still creeps up on me, no matter how much I grow up. Across the street from the house we’ve been renting lives a couple named Kenny and Ginger. They used to rent out their house (to us sometimes), but when they remodeled it a few years back, they live in it mostly full-time. I hope I end up like them–in a big beautiful house on the lake, watching the sun set over the hills and playing Cards Against Humanity with the vacationers.

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No place has felt more like home to me than Bass Lake except maybe London. It gives me hope and faith and safety. It’s like stepping into a perfect world.

Until next time…

Ash

[Queen] of the Weekend

I expected to have a pretty laid back and boring summer this year. I had a nice, easy job, my friends were around, and I started, like, three Netflix shows as soon as finals were over. We’re closing in on the end of July now, and I can definitely say I was wrong.

I’ve spent almost every weekend this summer in a different place: Burbank, San Diego, San Francisco…and when I’ve been in SLO, I’ve been a busy bee.

Matthew (remember that boyfriend I mentioned before? yeah, that’s him) came to visit me for a whole week over the Fourth of July. The next weekend I was in Burbank–mostly to get my haircut. I love my hairdresser and always get a great chat when I see her. That was followed by a weekend in San Diego for Country Fest (which honestly is whole other story in itself *insert eye rolls here*), with a stop in Santa Barbara on Sunday to see my cousins from Massachusetts and to steal some brownies I knew my mom would bring. Last weekend I took my first real trip to San Francisco (well, Santa Clara really) to visit Matthew, and then this weekend I’m off to Bass Lake. Exciting and exhausting stuff, here.

I want to talk about that first real trip to SF for a bit though. Because, yes, it was my first. Wait, you mean I’ve lived smack dab in the middle of LA and SF for three years and I’ve still only been to one of them? Yeah, that’s right.

Well, I went once when I was three because my aunt and uncle were living there at the time. Do I remember anything? Not at all. Then when Natalie lived in the bay, I flew up to surprise her for her birthday, and we took BART into Union Square for the afternoon. And we took a boat ride under the Golden Gate Bridge. But that’s it. So when I got the chance to visit Matthew for the weekend before he started his new adult job and he suggested we spend a whole day in the city, I couldn’t say no.

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#tbt am I right????

So Thursday afternoon I drove my little car up to Santa Clara and got to Matthew’s before dinner time. He lives in a tiny little studio right next to the university, and it was easy enough to find. It was small and quaint and perfect for my low-maintance boyfriend. And that’s kind of how the night went: low-maintenance. Matthew cooked dinner and we watched some TV. We had to have an early start the next morning so it was an early night for us.

The next morning Matthew and I took the CalTrain into the city for a full day of exploring. We started at Matthew’s all-time favorite sandwich place–and I have to say it was pretty darn good. And much needed for the day ahead. We did typical touristy things like seeing the seals on Pier 39 and playing games at the antique arcade. The arcade was like stepping back in time, and it reminded me of The Princess Diaries movie because of the arm wrestling machine. Then we went to Ghirardelli Square and got a root beer float, which was delicious. Up next was the famous Lombard Street, which is the zigzag road. It was up a hill and my hip was unhappy with all the walking so we just looked on from the distance. It was enough.

The day was mostly spent walking, but the few breaks were worth it. Matthew took me to a really cool book store and Chinatown, and then we sat in Union Square for a while. He wanted a cliche picture in front of the heart statue. I gave him some crap for it, but I wanted one too. Natalie and I took a picture there all those years ago, so why wouldn’t I want another?

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Got to be honest, it was pretty cute. Maybe not as cute as Natalie and me, but ya know.

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After seeing Union Square, it was time to meet Matthew’s brother, Reed, for drinks before the Giants game (uh, yeah, trust me, that wasn’t my decision). But it was fun to hear emabrrassing things about Matthew. Plus, Reed took some good pictures of us that were Insta-worthy. I didn’t even mind third-wheeling the two of them. And while the Giants were doing very well in the first half of the game, the Padres ended up winning.

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Peep the Angels hat 😉

My hip had started to hurt around Chinatown, and by the time we were climbing to our seats at AT&T Park, it was pretty bad. I mean, I could walk, but it was fairly painful. An hour and a half train ride back to Santa Clara sounded like the perfect solution–only I sat sideways so I could talk to Matthew and that hurt it even more. I had a limp!! Finding a good sleeping position was incredibly rough, but I would be fine by the morning. I wanted to tour the Winchester House the next day, after all.

When I woke up it still hurt a lot, but I didn’t want to give up my plans. So I stretched a little in the morning, Matthew made pancakes, and we watched a little more TV until we were ready to actually get going. Until I could fake it enough with my hip pain. And really, it wasn’t that bad.

Touring the house was really cool. I’ve been wanting to go for years, and Matthew living less than ten minutes away was the perfect excuse. Everything was so old and confusing and maze-like. There were regular stairs and shallow risers and tight spaces and secret doors. It was hot, for sure, and there were some slightly obnoxious poeple on our tour, but I thought it was pretty great, all the history and everything. We all know how much I like history.

I’m going to do some research about it and then hopefully go another time with Chelsea. Maybe with less people. I joked that I was going to save up and reserve all the spots in one tour so I can’t be bothered. And because I hate people. (Kidding, mostly).

But after the tour, we ate dinner at Pluto’s and saw a movie. War for the Planet of Apes was not the movie I was expecting. I saw the first one in this trilogy at Steph’s a long time ago, and missed the second one coming out altogether. But Matthew wanted to see this one, so I was game. I actually really enjoyed it. Some stress and a little anxiety (not the bad kind), but I was very entertained. And now I feel like I need to watch the second movie. Maybe the first one again too because of James Franco.

I was supposed to leave later on Sunday, but I didn’t want to drive home in the dark, which would have been the whole second half of the trip. Self-sabotage, I’d say, so I could have one more day with Matthew. He started his job on Monday and I worked at 1:30, so I had to leave relatively early. Worth the slight time-crunch to not have to worry about driving at night.

All in all it was a great weekend, and I’m glad I got to get away–even though I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. I’m happy I got to finally see San Francisco, and that I got to see it with one of my favorite people. Even with the hip pain.

Now my blog is three years old, I’m on my way to Bass Lake for a lazy weekend, and I’m pretty blissful–yeah, I said it. Things are pretty good right now.

1,095 days and counting…

xx Ash

The Middle

Summer days mean a sweltering sun and lazy days, and even though I work most days of the week, I would say I’ve definitely been a model for this classic image. Catch me at the beach reading a little Stephen King or on my couch drafting my way through my novels. It’s a rough life, ya know?

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In reality, I have to start at least thinking about my future. My snap answer to “What are you doing after graduation?” is “Oh, I’m moving to New York!” Yes, that’s still my dream and no, I’m not giving up on it, but now that I am starting my senior year of college in less than two months, it’s daunting. I know that is still my dream–and I will make it happen–but I have to start looking for jobs and places to live and publishers. I’ve been hanging onto my book for so long that I’m terrified to put it in anyone else’s hands. Forty more pages and it might be time to send it into the world…

What a terrifying feeling.

It’s late on Tuesday night–or should I say a Wednesday morning–and I’m on the couch with Kristin, watching That 70s Show and talking about her latest Tinder date, our family issues, and boy things. We bought some nicer-than-Barefoot pinot grigio and are distracted by boy band videos on Facebook.

It’s kind of wonderful and it’s been distracting me from the major anxiety I’ve been feeling the last few weeks.

It’s not major, hyperventilating, crying in public, unable to control any kind of emotion anxiety. It’s more like under the rug, creeps in during a slow Led Zeppelin song, driving up PCH alone kind of anxiety. With so many wonderful things happening in my life, it’s difficult to believe that I could be feeling anything but happiness right about now. But I know very well that no moment is guaranteed bliss when you’ve been fighting a demonic mental illness since you were ten years old. And lately I’ve been trudging through an uphill battle.

I had relatively low levels of anxiety when I started grade school, but it really kicked into high gear when I was in fifth grade. I didn’t know my intense nervousness was more than that yet. It began affecting my immune system and taking over when I was a freshman in high school. Still didn’t have a name or reason for it. I didn’t know what that sickening, sinking feeling was until junior year.

It’s been hard for me to let go of that terrible, fluttery feeling in my stomach. Every day that I worked at Victoria’s Secret the last year, I felt nauseous. I walk into the store and smell the slightly-comforting scent of Bombshell and prepare myself for the inevitable stress of impatient customers who passive-aggressively snap at me when something goes wrong. Something out of my control. Retail is so important, but it is also a major stress. I quit that job for the anxiety it gave me–which is no one’s fault but my own. But now I’m a glorified Uber driver. I drive a couple of high school girls to and from summer school and tennis practice. I enjoy it, I do, and it causes me so much less stress than any retail job could.

But somehow anxiety gets to me anyway.

I can’t talk to people as easily about little things that might get to me, about a kind-of-unsafe driver who switched lanes recklessly on my way home, about how I can’t see a car that may look like a cop car without convincing myself I’ve done something wrong, about how I’ll drive through an intersection and panic because I can’t remember if the light was green (even though it was). Driving has always given me so much anxiety, but I act like it’s the normal, everyday activity it is for most people.

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I am Ross every time I’m in the driver’s seat.

I’m almost twenty-two, and I have the same sinking worries that I had when I was ten: do these people I care about actually like me? Do they think I’m worthy of their friendship? Are they going to stand by me when I can’t stand myself? Despite the evidence that they will continue to be my best friends and support me through my rough days, I still can’t help but grind my teeth in fear. Fear I’m not warranted to have.

I read a Teen Vogue article about anxiety today that completely represented how this illness has ruled my life for a decade–and how it has continued to impact me since I have completely embraced recovery from Depression. The article was mostly just a compilation of quotes from people with anxiety about the things they are afraid to tell their friends. Even though I do talk to my friends about my anxiety sometimes, these quotes hit the nail on the head on everything I can’t say to them.

“I already feel like a huge burden, I don’t want to add to it. And I honestly 90 percent of the time I can’t explain why I’m anxious. So I’d rather not say anything and just get through it on my own.”

This was one that really stuck out to me. Most of the time I can’t tell you why I’m anxious or depressed because I simply don’t know. It’s just a feeling that creeps up on me. I can’t stop it. There’s nothing anyone can really do to help, either, so I just don’t mention it. Instead of reaching out for any help (because to be honest, that doesn’t do anything for me) I shut myself away from everyone for a while. I have to let myself fall into it to get out of it.

When I was in Burbank in May and my dad was driving me to the train station to come back to SLO, he brought up the ever-difficult topic of anxiety. I know my parents read my blog sometimes–so does my grandma–but it doesn’t make it any easier to talk to them about any of this. It’s my way of putting everything out on the table, but we never talk about any of it when we see each other. Except this one time.

My dad told me that he used to struggle with anxiety. I guess I wasn’t surprised, but I just didn’t think about it. I’ve always felt so distant from my parents that it just felt like they would never understand what it’s like in my dark little world. But my dad did. He said my grandmother struggled as well–I never got to meet her, but I’m so much like my dad and his family that I guess it makes perfect sense. He said that if I ever have bad anxiety to talk to him and my mom about it. It’s probably the nicest sentiment, to actually talk to the people that can help me, but it’s far easier said than done. And like I said, it’s so much easier to get through an episode on my own.

Maybe one day, Dad.

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I’m trying to find a point here. Maybe it’s that I need therapy–which is something I mentioned to Kristin during our wine-induced venting session. I’ve made a lot of progress on my own, but it’s still hard. I mentioned to my boyfriend (yeah, you read that right) that I’m so much less responsive, talkative, and emotional when I text him when I wake up because sometimes I still can’t feel anything in the morning. I wake up and I feel numb to the world. It takes a little while for actual feelings (of any kind) to kick in. That’s why it takes me so long to get out of bed every day. That’s the Depression in me, but it all stems from my anxiety. Sometimes it’s still hard to be a real person, even with the people I care about the most. Every day I try to be better at it for those people and for myself.

I hate that all of this still gets to me, but at least I can feel now. At least I know that there is more than the numbness. And when I feel (or not feel) like everything is hopeless, I remember that it’s not. I’m better than that.

See? All I need to do it write it all out to find that silver lining. I’ll see you when I’m out of this little funk.

Thanks for listening.

Ash

Midnight Memories

June 18, 2017. Six months after December 18, 2016. Aka the day I left London.

Okay, okay, you all knew this was coming. You know how much I loved London and how much I miss it every day. It is my favrotie city. I completely fell in love with it, and that love hasn’t decreased the least bit in the last six months. It’s probably grown actually.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Yeah definitely the case here.

Speaking of absence, I have been away from the blog a bit lately due to school and whatnot, per the usual. But now it’s summer, and I have time to read for fun, write a bunch, and Netflix without guilt. It’s an exciting time, summer vacation. It doesn’t quite feel real yet…that or the fact that I am about to be a senior in college. Weird…

But London. Yes, I talk about it a lot. So much. I sound pretentious and people get annoyed, but can you blame me? It was the best experience of my life!! Three life-changing months of traveling, exploring, and learning more than I ever could in a classroom (but yes, I did spend time in a few of those). I see Benjamin a lot, and we talk about it constantly. And then whoever is around us rolls their eyes and makes fun of us. Do I care? Not really.

So to commemorate six months away from my city and six months back in my little nook of the central coast, some of my favorite memories from studying abroad:

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The Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Brothers! A classic and *~magical~* experience. I relive this day in my snapchat memories all the time.

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Sipping coffee on the shore of this gorgeous loch at the edge of the Scottish Highlands. The sun was bright and shiny, but it was still coooooold! This was one of my favorite days. The Highlands are UNREAL. “Ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye…”

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Check my Instagram to see about a dozen pictures of me at the Cliffs of Moher…all from this same trip. I cannot get over how beautiful it was, even in the gloom. There is no feeling like being on the edge of the world!!

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AmsterDAMN…I could talk about this weekend forever…so I’ll just leave ya with this pic. So many bikes. So many trees. So much beauty!! Okay, I’m done.

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And obviously walking the famous Abbey Road crosswalk. I got to do this, like, three times, and it was both incredibly awkward and touristy and equally fabulous at the same time. I was so embarrassed at the time to do something so utterly cliche, but it’s Abbey Road. It’s classic. It’s iconic!!!

So many spectacular memories…unforgettable. I promise I’ll try to stop talking about it all the time, but living in London completely changed my life. There’s no way to stress it enough. I grew into a whole new person! I still can’t believe I got to study abroad, and I am thankful every single day for it.

Wait…do I talk about London the way vegans talk about being vegan??? Oh, my gosh, I am going to be so much more aware now…(nothing against vegans, ya know?)

And to balance out all the fantastic European mems, some good ones since I’ve been back!

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Being incredibly extra human beings and hosting a Groundhog Day Redemption party. And wearing matching (faux, obvi) fur to it. Honestly, what a bash, and what a way to kick off the next two quarters of being reunited!!

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A weekend Mammoth trip with Danielle and Madeline. They skied. I read. It was a win win, even though everyone says I was being lame. Hey, I came up with the plot of Book 3–it was a win! It’s fun and mysterious and Ally Carter-esque. I’m so excited. And it was more than worth the freezing temperatures to frolic in the snow.

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Hiking to see this incredible view…enough said.

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Tori’s big 21st!!! Super exciting for the first roommate after me to turn this magic age. Her sign is cute, too, huh? Yeah, we left it at Taco Bell…but we got it back!! The night was a roller coaster, but the nacho cheese from my crunchwrap DID end up coming out of my shirt. And Tori killed downtown!!

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Pozo Stampede: where we drank beer and margaritas, blasted country music, and got very bad sunburns. Worth it!

See? I can still have adventures in America. I’ve got a pretty cool backyard out here on the central coast, and I need to explore it more. Now that it’s summer, thought, I can! I have a pretty cool job that doesn’t limit my adventuring power much, so catch me doing fun things in the next three months.

It won’t be the same as country-hopping and wandering aimlessly around cities and museums and parks, but that’s okay. If I’ve learned anything in the last six months, it’s that there is so much more out there in the world than I gave the chance. I can’t just sit around and wait for life to happen. I need to make life happen–which (I hope) is what I’ve been doing. I got a new job (and lined one up for the fall), I’ve made spontaneous mini-adventures, and I’ve been so motivated this quarter.

So many good things are happening in my life, and as much as I want to crawl into my brain and relive my Autumn in London, the present is calling. This whole adulthood thing means taking calls now, right? So I guess I have to answer it! Yeah, that was soooo cheesy. Please don’t hold it against me.

Hmmm…six months back in this country…wow. It’s kind of been forever, kind of been the blink of an eye.

Life’ crazy sometimes, right?

Right.

xx Ash

((PS peep my latest Insta on the sidebar for a little fun piece of news in my life *wink wink* *nudge nudge*))