I’m Baaaaack!

Yesterday was my first official day back in the office. I am one of the first people on the floor and it was lovely to see one of the other early birds whom I have not laid eyes on in over a year. After the pre-requisite elbow touching in place of a hug, the first few minutes are spent catching up. It was a routine repeated as others came in. I spent the day in a bubble of working, reconnecting and organizing as we also make ready for a floor wide restructuring.

Some of it was very familiar: Coming in early, jumping into work, plugging up to my music to focus, not taking a proper break for a few hours; rolling my eyes at the one colleague who insists on wearing ill-fitting shoes that squish and clomp noisily as they pass my desk, staying late to work with a client having an issue, even the extra-long commute home was an annoying comfort of the familiar.

Still, for all its familiarity something about yesterday that felt off and I could not identify it until today.

Yesterday… 🎵 Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so fa… 🎵  

Huh? Oh, wait sorry, sorry… brain wandered off for a musical moment, I’m back.

Yesterday, because I was distracted by several things, I had not taken my mid-morning coffee run.

Today I remembered. So off went I to my home away from home, away from home.

While the trip itself was done by almost by rote, it was once I was back at my desk and sipped that did it.

My Starbucks special order, the one thing I cannot get in my neighborhood, was in my grubby little talons once more.

There was a new staff from when I was there last; no familiar faces at all. I handed my phone to the barista and watched her face as she glanced from the phone to the register to place the order and then gave me a silent but definitive are you fucking serious(?) look as she handed the phone back. I especially enjoyed the look of resigned yet annoyed belief when I informed her of the irony that it was a former Starbucks barista who worked at that location, which gave me the recipe.

Starbucks cup
Yes, I erased my insane recipe from the image.
It’s MY recipe! 😝

I have a Keurig with Starbucks k-pods at home, and I love it, but it’s still not quite the same thing because I have that ridiculous order. Yes, my favorite order is one of those orders. When I cannot mobile order, I amuse myself by watching every new barista I hand my phone read the order and then tries, but inevitably fails, to not make a face as they re-read it a couple of times before they make it.

Whether it’s the fancier machines or their precise measurements for the base, it’s just something that I cannot duplicate in my kitchen.

As that first sip slid past my palette and settled oh so warmly in my tummy, I felt it. It’s a small thing, but a needed one.

Ah yessssssssssss! I was back…


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Slice of Life – Tuesday Writing Challenge – Two Writing Teachers

Come see how others are slicing it up today.

Wasted Time?

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Though often (mis)attibuted to John Lennon, the earliest certain source of the popular quote was by Marthe Troly-Curtin in her novel “Phrynette Married” (1912).

I used this exact opening a couple of weeks ago when I attempted to have a day vegetating. Today I use it response to a complaint.

“God! Every time I call! Why are always writing a story, or working out a poem, or you’re painting something. Pick something, ONE thing and be good, really good, perfect at it. Maybe you could make money off it and stop wasting your time.”

My pithy response: “I write and I paint because I like it and because I have no space for carpentry workshop and a kiln.”

Oh, there was so much to unpack with that loaded statement and her not understanding why I was offended by it.

What is with limiting a person to one form of expression? The whole pick one thing and be good/perfect at it nonsense, is in a word nonsense. Dion Sanders and Bo Jackson excelled in both baseball and football in their heydays. Venus and Serena Williams are both phenomenal tennis players and wonderful clothing designers. Several of Hollywood and UK actors also excel in other creative outlets. It’s Art. You know that thing like beauty is in the eye of? So who determines what’s good or God help us perfect creatively anyway? Who determines its clock value? Is the pursuit of a second passion for pleasure only limited to those those who can afford it? If it’s not making money, it is waste of time?

As I understand it Art students study other art to learn what’s good. Though they both use pointillism, no one is going to confuse a Seurat with a Lichtenstein, but they’re both good. Rembrandt, Warhol, Monet, Max, Michelangelo, Haring, Picasso, Van Gogh, Pollock, are all amazing artists, not one looks like the other and none of them did what they did to be “good.” The artists painted what they wanted, the way they wanted – period. That others cottoned on and made some of them renowned during their lifetimes was a lucky bonus. Some of the names mentioned were not famous, until after their deaths. It likely wasn’t perfect, to some of them. It may not have even been “good” to them, but you know what it was? Good enough to make them happy or they tried again until they were. They did it for they were inspired, because it pleased them. I am 10,000 percent sure someone had said to each them at some point “stop wasting time.”

Why must damn near everything in life sans breathing, and bathroom functions, can only be considered worthy of one’s time if it can also potentially line one’s wallet? Stop that nonsense! Elizabeth Barret Browning, Alex Haley, e.e. cummings, Arthur Conan Doyle, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Octavia Butler, Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, Andrew Wilmot, Amanda Gorman: none of them wrote their very first stories and poems, because they were out to make money, they wrote because they had stories to tell. It just so turned out that eventually others liked the stories as well. The rest is the luck, ill or otherwise, of the draw. But we know their names in the first place solely because they had a story they needed to tell. The story got told. It was not a waste of time.

We blog, and some of have regular followers, but the mass majority of us are not, nor have any intent to be “influencers.” Still, we blog because we have stories to tell, in words or in art or both.

I create because it pleases ME. The moment it becomes something I have to do to make money, it becomes a job. And knowing me – it will no longer be something I enjoy. I create the ways I do because I want to. I’m not trying to be good, I am having fun. That others enjoy it is wonderful, but is never the impetus for me to type out pixels or pick up my pencil or brush. It is always time well spent, even if I hate the result. On the outside I am an adult exuberantly expressing my creativity through mixed media. On the inside I’m a four-year-old happily making a mess scribbling and finger painting. Ask any preschooler…

…That is never a waste of time.


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This Time Together…

I spent most of this day wondering how I would close this month out. March has, as it does each year, dragged and flew. At the beginning of the month I knew I would make it to the end. Granted, I also knew there would be some very late night close encounters, which there were. And 2021 will forever hold the asterisk for when I published yet fell asleep before I could post as hubris, but I did it.

Most of all WE made it!

Whether you made all the way through all the slices, or missed a slice or two, or more, as always…

🎵 I’m so glad we had this time together… 🎶

* tugs on ear * [Some of you will get this]

We have survived an entire year of Life in the Times of Covid! It has not been an easy year for any of us. But with the vaccinations happening slowly but surely we can finally see the better days coming ahead. I imagine next year’s challenges will be sprinkled with the things we get to do again compared to now and it will be great.

Being that today is Tuesday, it seems fitting as we know return to our usual Tuesday slices.

It’s Day 31 of the 2021 Slice of Life Writing Challenge. And then there were none.

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A Quiet Morning

I wake up to a nice quiet morning. Well “quiet” is relative given I live in New York City and it’s a weekday morning, but you know what I mean. I say quiet because in the past couple of years there are three multi-unit dwellings are in some process of construction within a block’s radius of my building. A three blocks away, people have begun to move into a new building that must house at least 50 apartments units. Another mixed-use construct rises across the street from it promising even more housing units, plus ground floor commercial space from the size of it.

Because Covid delayed much of for months, once they were allowed back it was with a vengeance. The usual 7am – 3pm became 5pm and later depending on where they are in the process. While clearly loud it was never so egregious to disturb any of the virtual training classes I hold remotely as I work from home. Suffice it to say, these days, any morning I wake up and am not immediately inundated with a wall of construction sound that has but become a form of white noise to my day is noteworthy.

So I enjoyed this moment of Zen. I rose, showered, dressed, made a light breakfast and sat at my desk prepared to work. Still quiet. Excellent. At 9:30am I begin my usual what I call “pre-boarding check” before each session to ensure I have everything I need at the ready. My screens display the correct information. I do not have spinach in my teeth etc.

9:45am I open the virtual training session in case there are early birds and sure enough at 9:50 someone logs in. I chat with the student as others sign in and at 10:00am on the dot all are ready to begin and…

CRASH! BANG! – RATTLE!
THUD! – RUMBLE!

“What? On? Mother? Earth‽ Was‽ THAT‽ ‽ “

[Oh, my natural tendency to cuss like Martin Freeman (it’s safe for work I promise), becomes amazingly rated G when the audio is on for training. My students, all adults, don’t necessarily have that restriction and give a Samuel L. Jackson character a run for the F-bombs that I hear dropped in reaction.]

Oh, did I forget to mention the public school right behind my building? The public school that is closed as its denizens learn remotely? The closed public school which is surrounded by scaffolding and netting? The closed public school which is surrounded by scaffolding and netting that now is in the first stages of refacing its brick façade? The LOUD first stage where they break off chunks of bricks and dump it down a plastic and metal chained chute to land in a huge commercial dumpster oh so conveniently located right outside my [please stand by while I insert Martin Freeman’s imagined, albeit still impressive, string of foul verbiage here] window? Yeah, apparently that is going to be a thing in my life for a while; at least while they work on this side of the building. Grrr!

It could be just my over-active imagination, but I do declare all of the constructions workers had a pow-wow this morning when it was quiet. It must have ended just before 10am because every room in my flat has construction noise seeping or thundering in from outside.

The quiet morning is done.

And then was one.

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There’s One In There After All

Just because I’m presumin’
That I could be kind of human
If I only had a heart

— Jack Haley [The Tinman] / “Wizard of Oz”

I so often joke about the black hole, empty echo of space, where my pulmonary organ should be. Today I proved the utter fallacy that jest. At least the physical manifestation of said organ, though the emotional/psychological variant thereof may still be in question.

I chose today to finally get around to filing my taxes. I have never filed taxes this late before, even when I owed the IRS. No idea why I chose this year to be so lackadaisical with it, but C’est la vie. I mentally chastised myself for it and got down to business. I file online and it took the little over an hour the it usually takes to get it done. All was fine until I needed to verify myself by providing the document numbers on my state ID or license. I have a lot of things memorized – that is not one of them. So off I go to my bedroom to retrieve my purse and wallet.

Bedroom? Check. Purse? Check. Wallet? Wallet? Bueller? [insert Ben Stein followed by tumbleweed and crickets here.]

Oh! DUH! I didn’t use my purse yesterday. I must have…

…dropped it on the console when I came in? Nā.

…forgot it in my jacket pocket when I hung it up? Nee.

…placed it on the dining table? Nein.

…left it on the bed before it was made and it’s under the cover? Non.

…put it inside the drawer when I took off my jewelry? Nyet.

[That’s a negative in Bengali, Dutch, German, French and Russian for those who weren’t curious.]

Let’s just say I cycled between languages, rooms and locations in said rooms. I bought the wallet in a bright color so that, though small, it stood out among things and be easy to see. So why couldn’t I see it? I even checked the refrigerator, okay? Each negative added to the increased panic. Was I wrong, did I lose it while I was out and it’s all GONE? I was daunted by all the things I’d have to replace in my wallet: credit cards, ID cards, insurance cards, etc. All while being simultaneously glad that while I have most memorized; I also have photo copies of everything, including contact info, so I could begin that arduous process.

Forty-five minutes, and do not ask about the state of my bedroom, later. I plopped down in the club chair in my living room, head lowered in hands, another maybe fifteen minutes from tears of frustration when I spy a splotch of bright colored leather wedged between the side of the sofa and the broken paper shredder waiting to be picked up for refuse. That was when I remembered I had laid my jacket there before I hung it up, not knowing my wallet had fallen out and slipped down but did not make it to the floor I had checked.

The resulting emotional WHEW! was when I noted the palpations that began to ease. I hadn’t noticed as my heartbeat ratcheted up in my increasing panic, but I sure felt the release valve engaged. And me, being me, only had one thing to say for myself as I finished my taxes and put the rooms Hurricane Raivenne ransacked to rights:

I’ll be damned – there’s one in there after all!

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Wasted?

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Though often (mis)attibuted to John Lennon, the earliest certain source of the popular quote was by Marthe Troly-Curtin in her novel “Phrynette Married” (1912). <– And that right there folks is the most productive thing I’ve done today other than this slice.

Yesterday and today were NOT wasted days. Yesterday was so busy that I was out my door at 7:40am and was not done for the night until after 11:30pm. Saying I was exHUASTed didn’t cut it. I could barely keep my eyes open, but I was determined to get my slice in even if was only a couple of lines. At 11:58pm I published my slice and immediately jumped to the Two Writing Teachers site. With bleary eyes barely able to stay open typed my blurb, pasted the link in comment box and pressed Post. I start to mentally congratulate myself for just getting it done just in the nick of time when an error message popped up informing me I cannot post. What? I immediately look at the time; it was 12:17am. WHAT‽‽‽ Somewhere between 11:58pm and midnight my barely able to keep open eyes had shut on me that fast. When they opened I pressed Post unaware that any time had passed until that error message informed me otherwise. I had never seen that before. To be fair I had never been that close to the wire before. It doesn’t count to only get it done on my side, the slice has be checked in at TWT. I missed the post. All I could do was take the very disappointing L for the day, tuck my tailfeathers and take my over tired butt to bed.

And today, because I clearly am a glutton for punishment, I hit the ground running again this morning. That was a mistake and by the time I dragged myself in my body let me know it. Swollen ankles, sore muscles, aching joints. I haven’t done that much movement since before Covid. My body is not used to it back-to-back. All I could do was grab my Tylenol like a junkie needing a fix and crash. I tried to at least stay up long enough to season meat to marinate overnight for me to cook tomorrow. I had to stop, rest for a moment then go back and finish it. I could not even sit in my ergonomic chair at my computer, my body protested. It wanted to lay down. It was either on my sofa or my bed but I had to lay down and do nothing but heal.

So I did nothing but barely remember to slice. So here I am cutting it close yet again.

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Surprise…?

A friend will have been has been working with her company thirty years this weekend. Like all long termers at a company friendships old and new have developed over time; some close. As such she knows her friend/colleagues well and said to me over the weekend because we are in the time of Covid, she just knew they were going to try to surprise her with some sort of Zoom party. On Monday she commented on how a couple of people casually asked about her plans for the weekend. People who normally would not. We both grin in the knowledge that yes, they are definitely plotting something.

I happen to be passing by front door when I hear giggles approach from the outside. Recognizing it I wait and seconds later my door bell rings. It is my friend giggling like a mad woman as she shows me her cell phone. More precisely she shows me the text message she was reading. I read the message and shook my head laughing as I read it. One of the work friends chose an infrequently group text to announce the plans for the celebration this Friday evening. It includes the zoom link and everything. So why is my bestie laughing at being proven correct? Only one teeny-tiny problem…

It was supposed to be a surprise.

Apparently, the person who sent the group chat text completely forgot that my best friend is part of the said chat. We now have a pseudo bet going on when, or if, the person notices their faux pas. There was a question on if she should let them know or play it off. I told her I will hand her an Oscar for her acting. Mistakes happen all we could do was laugh.

Although I do think I will print out a picture of an Oscar to present to her for Outstanding Performance in Obviously Fake Surprise once its over…

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On Stage

A friend and I were speaking on missing how we were missing live theatre. Watching productions of lived filmed plays and musicals has soothed the ache, but nothing will heal it until we can enjoy live productions again. Naturally, that segued into hits, misses and surprises. I won’t go into hits [many] and [thankfully very few] misses here. However, there were three performances that have stood out for me.

A few years ago I had the pleasure to see Josh Groban on Broadway, as the titular Pierre, in “Pierre and Natasha: The Great Comet of 1912”. There was not exactly a stage, per se. The theatre was styled in such a way that elevated paths and performing pits were woven throughout the venue. While the audience on the main floor were the crux of where the performance was focused; all in the audience, even those in the bleachers had their turns to be as much participants as voyeurs. I still have a “love letter” handed directly to me by one of the actors during the performance, it was delightful. What made this performance stand out was a scene in the musical where the stars and the muses aligned as one for one magical space in time and laid their blessings upon Mr. Josh Groban. Something ineffably sublime was happening as he played and sang. Groban had complete command of the moment. He knew it. We in the audience knew it. He knew we knew he knew we knew, you know? It was visceral and awe in the true sense of the word before over use conflated its meaning. It was magnificence! I had never felt anything like before, I do pray I get to enjoy such again.

On the flip side of that was Broadway standout, Norm Lewis. Mr. Lewis was using his talents as the titular role in an off-Broadway production of “Sweeney Todd”. He was the draw and you understood why. He was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. All the way up until the near opposite of what happened to Josh Groban fell upon him. Lewis broke out in visible sweat and had completely lost his voice on the end note of “A Little Priest” just before the end of Act One. I suspected it had become really bad around “Epiphany”, the first really off notes I noticed from his usually melliferous voice. To his credit he barreled through to intermission, but all could see it was close. It was the first, and thus far only, time I have attended a performance where the lead performer had to be replaced betwixt acts. And this was on opening night to boot. It was reported he was out sick for another couple of days before he was able to return to the stage.   As elated as Josh Groban had to have felt on his magical night; I imagine was the despondency of Lewis on that night. 

Next was the a revival of “Godspell”. It’s a personal favorite, much like “Pippin” where I will watch each any revival that I can catch so I have seen several performances. Thus, I can say it was not the best, nor the worst production of the play I’ve seen.  Still, I knew I was in for something a little different when the actor who portrayed Jesus walked on water [in a wonderfully executed special effect] only for the actor in the dual role as John the Baptist/Judas who followed immediately behind him and fell into the pool. Notice how I state ‘the actor’ for each? That is because I do not remember their names. Lovely actors, sure, but not one that stood out to me. However, there was one member of the ensemble who did. A dynamic actor I still remember wore leopard print leggings, a black tank top and her hair in Bantu knots. She garnered my attention from the moment she stepped onto the stage, but it was her rendition of “By My Side”, what until that performance had always been one of my least favorite songs in the musical, that seared into my soul with her rich voice. During final bows we locked eyes, I blew her a kiss and touched my heart for the gift of that song which was my introduction to the talent that is Uzo Aduba. If you’ve watched the TV series “Orange is the New Black” or the limited mini-series, “Mrs. America”, you understand why the woman now has three Primetime Emmy Awards under her belt. 

Finally, and the first live theatre that taught me to never underestimate the understudy. Powerhouse Debbie Allen was in the lead role in a revival of  “Sweet Charity” on Broadway.  I have followed Allen’s career off and on since her appearance on the television show “Good Times” in the 70s. It was the now a decade later. She had received good reviews for her performance. My late-husband purchased tickets as a birthday present for me. I was very much looking forward to seeing her live. Regrettably, I never got to see Debbie Allen in that role. She was unable to perform the night we had tickets. The role was being performed by her understudy, an eventual Tony award winning turn as co-star in the show, but that night I knew nothing of her, so I was very disappointed to say the least. The understudy was excellent and I enjoyed the show, but I was there to see Debbie Allen, not whoever she was, I didn’t bother to keep the playbill I was that upset. Still, I went from not wanting to know her, from not being able to forget her. 

Years later the same actress appeared on what eventually became a signature television role for her. This was years before one could easily check IMDB for an actor’s resume. Her character on television was very different from the Broadway role in which I was introduced to the actress. In fact, it took her second appearance on the show for me to make the connection and I was both impressed and flabbergasted because Dr. Lilith Sternin (eventually and formerly Crane), was no Charity Hope Valentine that’s for sure. Fans of the TV show Cheers are likely smiling already knowing I’m speaking of the phenomenal, singer-actor-dancer triple-threat that is Bebe Neuwirth. No longer anyone’s an understudy, I’ve since seen her as the marquee star on Broadway as Velma Kelly in the revival of Chicago. As much as I adored the movie, I cannot hear “All That Jazz” and not think of Bebe Neuwirth first. 

There’s just something about live theatre that movies and television cannot touch. I have seen Pippin, in various incarnations on and very off Broadway at least a fifteen times live since I first was implored to “come and waste on hour or two” by the Lead Player in a what I now know is a sanitized high school production, but my preteen self was enchanted and have loved live theatre, and especially musicals, ever since. 

I (im)patiently wait for Broadway to open again.

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Not Banking On It

Most males, especially over 50 are familiar with the semi-joking “I could’ve been rich, but my mother threw away all my (fill in the blank)”. I say men because in the 80’s-90’s the majority of baseball cards/comic collectors were males. It certainly was surprise, to my late-husband when he learned I had become a reader of them in the mid to late-80s. I knew I was a rarity among my friends, a girl who was into comics, my favorite being Marvel’s X-Men series. Yes, I wanted to be Storm – what female into comics didn’t?

I enjoyed the art and the stories, but I was not a collector. I did not purchase with the intent to collect. Still, there were some that I kept for whatever reason. The ones I chose to keep were properly cased in plastic sleeves with backing board. Regrettably, doing so with comics was not a thing when my late-husband was a boy buying them. It was not until he saw me preserving mine that I learned he had comics of his own stacked in box at the back of a closet. He saw how I protect mine, he chose not to go through his and they stayed in their box. A box I did not look in until our third move. Let’s just say when I finally opened that box for the first time I was glad I wore gloves, a good two-thirds of what was in that box was trashed. We did not try to salvage it. As for what was left? Aged, yellow pages, dog-eared pages, cockling, etc. This was the 90s, AOL was still mailing mini-CDs; the Internet had taken off, but it was not the monster we have now. There was no no way to determine the value, if any, of what we had without dragging the entire collection to comics retailer. That never happened. The box was repacked with his hodge-podge of Captain America, Daredevil, Ku Fu Masters et al, and my Spawn and X-Men where they remain untouched through three more moves until yesterday.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I spent the evening going through my comic collection. I say ‘comic collection’ with a massive grain a of salt considering the condition of most of what’s in it and I was not the most conscientious of collectors. Essentially, I finally grouped them by proper title and number. Where 30 years ago I would have had to drag them to a store, last night I used my phone to check the value of a few. There are many I know I bought back in the day, but I was the mom that dumped. However, an unexpected gem, or few, have survived…

Photo of X-Men #266 comic

X-Men #266

One day back in August 1990 I became the owner of Marvel comic’s The Uncanny X-Men #266. I spent one whole whopping dollar for the privilege. I know it’s not in pristine condition 9.8 on their grade scale, but it is a decent 7.0 one. At minimum I would get $100 for it according to a random website I checked even if booted down to a quality of 6.0. I have learned that if I had purchased this issue at a newsstand or retailer rather than the comic subscription service I had at the time would be worth. I’d love to know the logic behind that, but whatever.

The banker box of comics that has existed for nearly twenty years in my possession is now gone. All comics are properly categorized in a filing cabinet. I haven’t gone through each comic and researched their values. Of the random few I checked I know I could pay rent for a couple of months, so that was cool. That’s a project for another, knowing me sunny, day.

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I Down – 1 to Go

I was scheduled to get my 1st Covid shot next week. Late yesterday I was called by the clinic and asked if it were possible for me to come in today. Luckily, I did not have training and accepted the change of schedule with a definitive “Is Amos famous?”. My best friend and I scheduled together so she had received the call as well. We both were free.

This morning we arrived at a little before the appointed time because I know there’s paperwork. Best laid plans, my best friend was fine, but no one could find my name. Long story made short about twenty minutes later one of the assistants had started his shift amidst the kerfuffle. It turned out he was the one who made the call and remembered speaking with me because of the silly Famous Amos comment and I was finally given the paperwork and received my shot.

Since I had now taken the day off work to have the shot – because I did not know how I would feel, I now had a free day. Before the schedule change, my bestie and I were going to go to Michael’s, a craft store, after my work shift. All I wanted one thing: a couple of cans of Mod Podge. Go there get it and come home. We were both feeling fine, so we decided to go ahead with the shopping plan.

Neither of us knew the Michael’s in that mall had closed. Well, what are two gals at a mall going to do? Some nearly $200 a piece at Target later, none of which contained Mod or Podge, answers that question. All was fine until I got home, put everything away and laid down because I felt sleepy.

Guess who just woke up about twenty minutes ago? Guess who put it down to side effect of the shot? Guess who still needs Mod Podge? And guess who just remembered to slice?

1 down was not supposed to be me!

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