Lifetip 4: Disagree with yourself

When young lifetips grow up, I imagine they look up to the successful ones that made it onto tiles, memes or calendars. In comparison to the three life lessons I shared previously, this fourth one has a greater chance of ever becoming an inspirational quote of some sort.

Jesse Frederik first introduced this lifetip to me in somewhat confusing terms:

You don’t have to believe everything you think.

To me it means that it’s OK to let go of ideas you may have had in the past. For example, I used to think vegetarians were delusional, annoying and unhealthy. Now I believe that being vegetarian does not mean forsaking flavor, nor do I have to dress in hemp and grow dreadlocks. Also, it’s just undeniably better for the planet than maintaining a meat-based diet will ever be.

Another interpretation of this motto would start by breaking with the commonplace assumption that a person’s internal thoughts are always a monologue.

I suppose we all know the catholic mantra “What would Jesus do?”. It is a way of internalizing the voice of someone who’s morality you would want to apply to specific dilemma. Without getting too psychological about it, I hope we can agree that every person also has a “What would my mother do?” checkpoint, that pops up at specific moments (not always conveniently).

The happiness gurus of the 21st century might say the line refers to the negative thoughts we all have sometimes. Thoughts such as:

  • I am not good enough.
  • The world is unkind / dangerous.
  • I can’t do it (so I’m not even going to try).

A meaningful (and sad) metaphor that is sometimes used in this context is that of the domesticated elephant, that has been chained and ‘broken’ at an early age. During this time, she may have struggled to free herself but failed, leading her to believe it is impossible to do. Once grown, the elephant obeys orders to move and carry heavy objects. The same chain would be no match for the power she could apply to it as an adult elephant. At that point though, what keeps her from trying, is the belief that she can’t.

So.

Evaluate the thoughts you have every now and then. Don’t be afraid of changing a strong opinion you may have had out of fear of being seen as inconsistent or unstable.

Discuss your insecurities with the ones you love and trust. It will oftentimes be those moments, when you vocalize your thoughts, that you realize that is not what you believe at all. Saying them out loud will reveal their untruth. Just like a ridiculous dream, that makes total sense until the moment you wake up.

Lifetip 1: Believe in goodness

Rutger Bregman and Jesse Frederik are the hosts of my favorite Dutch podcast: de Rudi & Freddie Show. They discuss all sorts of topics, which at one point ventured into their disdain towards self help books. But, as is typical for R&F, they decided to investigate the popularity of the genre and then ended up coming up with their own list of life-improvement tips.

Rutger Bregman’s first tip, also stars in his most recent book “De meeste mensen deugen”. The title is kind of difficult to translate as there isn’t really an English equivalent for the word “deugen”. The noun “deugd” means “virtue”, and the verb means something along the lines of “to be virtuous”, but it’s used in a much more casual way than the English version makes it sound…

Someone could ask me if I’ve met my brother’s new girlfriend. My answer could then be: “Ja, ze deugt”, which is just basically three words to say that I have indeed met her and that I give her a thumbs up.

Long story short, Rutger’s newest book title translates to something along the lines of “Most people are cool”.

The accompanying tip boils down to:

Always assume good intent.

There will always be moments in life when you are not quite sure what “the other” thinks, feels or might do. When you find yourself in such a situation, you can assume the worst and start preparing (mentally) for somebody’s anger, stupidity or deceit. You can also chill out, assume all is well and nobody is out to get you.

Why would you give people the benefit of the doubt?

  • Because it is most often right.
  • Because it is less stressful
  • Because you avoid making it a self fulfilling prophecy

Rutger insists that trust is the water that we swim in. Having your trust broken (by being set up, robbed or swindled out of your money) is collateral damage. The price you pay for mistrust is not worth the amount of negative energy it brings into your life.

True story

A while ago, somebody knocked on my door. The person at the door was a stranger. He told me he lived down the street from me and that never did this kind of thing but that his sister had just been hospitalized and that he needed a couple of euro’s to fill up the tank of his scooter to go see her.

So what were my choices? I could assume the worst and let my fantasy freak me out:

  • He’s a junkie who is going to use the money to get high.
  • He’s never going to pay me back.
  • Next time he knocks he is going to rob me.

The alternative was to assume he was telling the truth and help the dude out.

In all honesty I did a bit of both: I assumed he was telling the truth, but didn’t count on seeing him or the money back ever again (even though he assured me several times he would be back the following week).

I dug through several bags and pockets to collect all the bits of change I could find (because really, who still has cash these days?) and told him it was not necessary to repay me but that he should pay it forward to somebody else some day.

So yah, I may have “lost” 4 euros. Or did I?

  • Maybe he really did come back with the money but I wasn’t home.
  • Maybe the handful of change is still being handed down to people in need, spreading kindness and smiles across the country.
  • Maybe he was really planning on coming back to rob and kill me, but changed his mind after my kindness (or when he glanced into my house and saw that my house was a trip hazard).

Hold on… That last one doesn’t sound quite right. This positive-assumption thing takes some getting used to, I guess…

Society and politics

Let’s try applying the same logic to a larger scale.

Because if we trust the people right in front of us, we can trust people a bit further away as well, can’t we? And if we do that, we can assume whole groups of people consist solely of good-intentioned folks.

What could we achieve as a society if we put full trust in each other? What would our laws look like if we weren’t always basing them on the assumption that people want to take advantage of the system?

That is some radical thinking, I’m telling you…

Trust your friendly neighborhood charlatan

Have you ever been cheated? Good! That means you put trust in someone. Keep it up!

If you haven’t been scammed at least a few times in your life you may be missing out on the good stuff by being too mistrustful.

Odd Jobs #5 – phoney me

When I wrote my first “Odd Jobs”-blog in September 2015 I was just starting to settle in at the job I currently still work at and was still very much in the honey moon phase. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my job and am not planning on leaving any time soon, but things have changed since then, which is logical and good for my development (or so people keep telling me).

full-caterpillar-to-butterfly-transition

Looking back across my CV and the different jobs I’ve done, I see one big trend: the telephone. The odd one out in that sense, is my time at the notorious tax office (aka the most miserable you have ever seen me). And thinking about it now, I think I only said yes to that job because it involved no phonework whatsoever and I had decided I needed to take a big and conscious step away from call centery work if I wanted to move forward.

When I started taking my frustrations from work out on my favorite people, I changed my mind quickly and ran back to the first phone I could find.

My current job involves picking up the phone but is very un-callcenter-like in every other aspect. My previous work experience made this part of my job a walk in the park and very gradually shaped me into the company’s unofficial “phone coach”, as a surprisingly large group of people is either not very good at this or genuinely afraid of the ringing machine… Helping my co-workers find their telephone courage taught me several things:

  • Maybe, perhaps, probably, possibly, could and should are words that express doubt and avoiding them not only makes the person on the other end of the line feel more confident about the message you are communicating, but also has a positive backfire-effect on the person who speaks them.
  • “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer (when it is true) and is more helpful than offering a solution you are unsure about.
  • A sincere “I am sorry to hear that” is sometimes all that is needed.
  • Words are powerful things and should not be underestimated.
  • There are many ways to say “No”.

An interesting transformation I have seen happening in “newbies”, that I recognize now in myself as well, is the following:

  1. The beginning:
    Internal dialogue: So much new information, I will never get the hang of this!
    I feel unsure / hesitant / overwhelmed / Argh!
  2. One month later:
    Internal dialogue: Customers are not calling to make my life miserable and I actually know quite a bit!
    I feel more confident / proud / relieved.
  3. Getting the hang of it:
    Internal / external dialogue: “Yes, yes, no need to finish your sentence, I know what you want. Probably better than you do. Let me get into my flow and tell you everything I know so you can be on your way.” Next!
    I feel over-confident / impatient / repetitive / superior / judgmental.
  4. Slightly frustrated
    Internal dialogue: I’m quite sure I was giving customers the information they needed but now that I’ve been told to try a different approach I feel like an idiot.
    I feel insecure again. I feel like my words sound insincere and unnatural. I feel rebellious.
  5. Telephone zen
    Internal dialogue: First, I’m just going to listen….
    I feel relaxed / open minded / self-confident / ready

What I disliked about callcenter work:

  • most-important-call-center-metricsScripts.
  • Being evaluated using silly standards such as
    • Did you mention the client’s name the right amount of times?
    • Did you ask the client if there were any further questions (even when the client has clearly said he / she had no further questions)?
    • Did you say all the sentences in the right order?
    • Did you manage to keep your average conversation time under 3 minutes?
  • Strict break times.
  • Good hair days turning into bad hair days after constantly getting entangled with headphones.
  • The constant buzz of people talking around you, for 8 hours straight.
  • The unhealthy air / lighting.
  • The clear limit there often is to the amount of critical thinking that is tolerated.
  • Crappy tea (and apparently also bad coffee, but that doesn’t affect me)
  • The fact that I can’t pick up my own phone without automatically mentioning my employer’s name as well.

What makes my current employer different:

  • No real script, apart from the greeting when you pick up. The rest of the “script” consists of general pointers and tips (that by now have mostly been written by me).
  • Break time is very flexible (up to the point that many of us forget to take a proper one).
  • Relatively small budget, so pretty crappy phones & underlying technique.
  • It is encouraged to come up with alternative ways to do things and every idea will be looked into seriously. Disappointment when your plan disappears into the bin after one (or two) looks, is not really allowed though. You must be able to get yourself together quick and move on.
  • No evaluation (or none that I notice).

What I hope to master in time to come (or at some time in my life):

  • Time keeping
  • Making decision with “the bigger picture” in mind
  • Making a plan and sticking to it.

My final conclusion is that call center work is often seen as the bottom of the career food chain, and yes, any slacker could probably do it… but people that are really good at it need to know so much about so many things, starting out with empathy. I think that if every human being would work in customer care for a while and would really make an effort, the world might be just a little more friendly…

Mind Cleanup – Summer 2017

After my recent blog cleanup session, I finally feel there is some room here for a Mind Cleanup post. I moved the posts about Roskilde Festival to a new and separate blog, where they will feel more at home.

This feels so much better. More casual. The Epiphany Blog needs to be a simple place for random thoughts and musings, as intended at its birth.

So, let’s let those thoughts wander and stumble their way into writing.

News

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Besides all Drumpf related news, the one topic that I feel is probably more important than many news outlets are making it seem, is the Qatar boycott. I have been trying to understand what is going on and why, but haven’t come up with something truly satisfying yet. Reporting on it seems foggy; information blurry and inconsistent; fake news? Who are the the good guys (if there are any left at all)?

My thought process might result in a little blog post in the future. Not sure yet…

Self-reflection

mirror

  • A close friend had her birthday at the beginning of July, which I kinda remembered two weeks prior but totally forgot about after that and apparently these things really matter to people. The fact that birthdays really totally completely and whole heartedly mean nothing to me, makes it hard to deal with people who do. It’s hard to empathize. I’m trying (and failing (or maybe I’m still not really trying)).
  • I started a journal, which will hopefully help me put my thoughts in order and live more consciously (and less chaotically?).

And now, it’s time to answer five more self reflection questions:

What are you bad at but couldn’t care less about (even though others may think you should)?

Birthdays. My own as well as other people’s.

Who are the most important people in your life?

There are several people in my life that I value highly and couldn’t imagine living without, starting with my boyfriend. ❤

Next in line is probably my close friend, Z, who is such an inspiring and wise person, I can’t even begin to express her value. She’s awesome. She’s a hero. She’s my guru.

Then there are the people that are important, even if I wish sometimes they weren’t. Or maybe “important” isn’t the right word but something more like “powerful” or “influencial”. But no, my family is definitely an important factor in my life. Can’t even deny it.

How much sleep do you need?

I wake up early, even when I go to bed late so the latter is something I try to avoid. I function best on 7-8hour rest/sleep. I am blessed with comatose sleep.

Are you rich?

I think so. It’s something that I like to tell myself I don’t care about. But it does matter. I have exactly the right amount of wealth. But when it comes to luck and happiness I am filthy rich. Luckily, those two things I can make myself!

What is a controversial opinion you have?

People who can’t have children “naturally” should give up. Nature does not want them to reproduce. Darwin says no.

Movies / Series

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  • I watched the third season of Fargo > So much darker (and less funny?) than 1 and 2.
  • Doctor Strange > We want more!

Music

emoji music

  • Richard Bona > awesome Jazz bassist and singer from Cameroon, who just ventured out into Afro-Cuban territory with his new album (Heritage). Que yummy!
  • Natalia Lafourcade > One of my fave Latin American songstresses with a super soothing voice and a super friendly smile. Her newest project (Musas) – an album and making-of documentary – completely stole my heart
  • Jack Johnson > Spotify just pointed out this new Jack Johnson song. I think we all know who and what he is referring to when he sings:

    I don’t care for your paranoid us-against-them walls;
    I don’t care for your careless me-first-gimme-gimme appetite at all

I don’t care for them either, Jack. I feel you.

Looky here

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Don’t particularly want to analyze this any further, but I thought this was interesting and amusing and thought I should share.

Hasta la proxima!

Mind Cleanup: Shedding indifference

All though 2016 ended with a slight whim of apocalyptic dystopia this new year is growing on me. There are actually more people that do think like me and they seem to be growing louder, which has put my desire to go into fullblown cocoon-mode to rest somewhat.

Self-reflection

mirror

When my boyfriend asked me how I looked back on 2016 and what I expected of the year to come I said 2016 was my Hobbes year and 2017 should be more of a Calvin year.

As many of you surely know, Hobbes is not only the surname of  “one of the founders of modern political philosophy”, but it is also the name that mr Bill Watterson gave the tiger that completes the legendary cartoon duo: Calvin & Hobbes.

Hobbes is the (extremely sarcastic) voice of reason in the equation, whereas Calvin is the type that “demands euphoria” and is shocked when his mother doesn’t honor the ritual of scooping out the peanut butter properly. He’s the kind of kid that does not take “because I say so” for an answer and will call you out on your bullshit. Every. Single. Time. Regardless of your status or position. He will cause a one-man-riot for causes that are important to him and will suffer the consequences of his actions with his head held high. Calvin, despite being named after 16th century theologian, John Calvin, is actually pretty much an atheist if you ask me.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that 2017 is a year in which I hope to be more vocal about what I feel is right and allow my outrage to be heard whenever values I hold dear are under threat. So there.

Time to answer some self-reflection questions from my list!

How quickly do you jump to conclusions about people?

I’m afraid I can actually be quite a judgmental person, all though I am getting better at this.

Which physical feature defines you?

As most of the members of my family I have quite a pronounced chin and tend to duckface a bit when I concentrate hard on something. I also have a relatively large nose. Sadly, no broomstick flying skills, ’cause yes, I would make a great witch. 😛

What is your star sign?

Sagittarius, all the way. And apparently, I am also a skunk.

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Not sure if any of this is true or whatever but it does fascinate me…

What are you good at and what would you like to improve?

Hmm… this is a hard one… I guess I’m a good listener (when I want to be?). I’m pretty good with most animals, does that count?

There was a time in my life when I thought I should improve my public speaking skills. I totally lose my cool in front of a group. As a matter of fact, I think I’m just not much of a group person. Small talk: also not my forte.

I would like to be less awkward in these type of situations, but would prefer to just upload this skill, a-la-matrix, and not have to go to some group therapy to achieve it. 😛

If you could choose anyone living or dead, who would you choose to go on a roadtrip with?

Not sure… Michelle Obama stole my heart big time in recent months, so maybe her? Actually, road tripping with my boyfriend has always been awesome, so he’s definitely also invited.

And…… after giving it some thought…. maybe our most-hated Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. There are so many things I don’t really understand about him and his rhetoric that I would like to ask him about in a chilled out environment. All though there is very little I can agree with him on, I do feel sorry for him as well, as he is forced to live in some bunker with constant protection. A roadtrip might mellow him right down…

Movies / Series

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Recent recommendations:

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: loved it more than I expected. Maybe even more than the Harry Potter series… better acting, if you ask me!
  • Sing: Watched the trailer and feared I had already seen the best bits, but there was more than enough goodness left for me to giggle at during the film itself. My boyfriend even got a bit emotional at some point… no joke…
  • The Bridge: Danish – Swedish detective series, that I enjoyed very much. Only watched the first season. I hope the following seasons are just as cool!

 

Music

I was introduced to Stevie Wonder’s 1995 album “Conversation Peace“, which sadly I didn’t know at all. The first song “Rain your love down” is a heart-warming, head-bobbing song that at first glance may sound like a love song but is actually a plea to god to rid the world of “hunger, hate, war, and greed”.

The song that gave the album it’s title is one that chokes me up just a little bit every time I hear it… When you listen to it, remember it was recorded in 1995…

 

If you are looking for a lighter song, listen to “Tomorrow Robins will sing“, which of course also does point out the world is pretty sucky but hey, tomorrow robins will sing!

(all though I must say the robin in my garden only kinda chirps and doesn’t really sing… but maybe Stevie can’t tell which one it was that he heard. Or maybe I really have to wait till tomorrow…)

Epilogue

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To conclude this mind cleanup I would like to put in my two cents in honor of black history month, and leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

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Mind cleanup : Septem- and Octo- ber

As I gave this blog a title just now, I realized that September and October have pretty weird names, considering Septem and Octo sound a lot like the Latin words for seven and eight but in our calendar actually represent the ninth and tenth month, respectively. O.o

Anyhoo: I cut my hair and donated a 30cm long braid to wig charity, finally fulfilling a point from my bucketlist! It was really really short, making it impossible to put it up in a ponytail or anything of the sort for the last 5 weeks. I have managed to keep it out of my face but can’t wait for it to grow a little more so it actually properly fits in a ponytail again. It doesn’t look horrible on me though; that was a relief. 😛

Music

The music scene has been pretty interesting lately!

A song that is not necessarily brand new anymore but I still feel I should mention is Alicia Keys’ song In common. I am fascinated by this song and the video clip even more so. It’s got and old school feel and sounds pure, ethnic and raw. I’m not always a big fan of the way Alicia uses her voice but this one has been on repeat, if not in my playlist then definitely in my head.

On a sidenote: my goodness, that woman is really beautiful!

A new band, at least for me, is Equador. This song below is haunting and beautiful. Great for chilled out evenings. It’s one of those songs that I plug in my headphones for to hear it in all its complexity.

I don’t know how she does it by Sia always manages to touch a chord with me. Her new song the Greatest is so beautiful and the video is another one that I love to re-watch every now and again. In my mind I dedicate it to my brother, who sometimes needs reminding that he is in fact “free to be the greatest”.

A man-shaped woman called LP came smashing into my living room the other day with her song “Lost on you”. You’re welcome!

Epicurious

Earlier in September I experimented with brownies with date-based dough. Really really nice! The recipe can be found here.

Film

In remembrance of the 09/11 attacks the film Extremely loud and incredibly close was on TV here in the Netherlands and I was quite blown away by it. A recommendation for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

Self reflection

The other day I saw a book called 999 questions to ask yourself. All though I didn’t buy it, I did like the idea. So yes, this cheapo right here did NOT support an upcoming inspirator and author, possibly preventing her to ever publish a book again and instead decided to look up and invent 100 questions of her own. So yes, this may possibly be the answer to one of the questions I should be asking myself: Why might people consider you a sucky person?

What I will be doing is answer 5 open questions and 5 this-or-that questions in every Mind Cleanup blog, starting with this one. So here we go:

What nicknames have people given you?

Name: Epi
Who started it: Maria Isabel, our Bolivian help’s daughter, a long long time ago
About the name: It’s the one nickname that kind of stuck with me and that has always re-surfaced even when I moved or created a new group of friends.

Name: Flavio
Who started it: my brother gave me this name when we could both barely talk.
About the name: My brother still calls me this. Nobody really knows why.

Name: Piep
Who started it: My mother
About the name: This name is actually one of the many derivatives that has come from the first one, Epi. My last name starts with a B, so my mother would sometimes call me: Epi Bee, which somehow got shortened to Peebee, and the finally Piep. In Dutch this translates to squeak, as in, the sound a little chick would make. 😛

Name: Konijnenkont (translates to Rabbit butt)
Who started it: my dad
About the name: I don’t think my dad really refers to me with this name anymore. Probably because my butt is no longer small and cute.

What fills up your heart to bursting level?

  • Baby animals
  • my goofy, kind-hearted bf

Which three things did you not have or do as a kid that you wish you did?

  1. music lessons
  2. a (cooler) tree house
  3. more time

What was topping music charts on your date of birth?

Prince – Purple Rain

Can you handle blood?

Yes, I once aspired to become a veterinarian (before I found out I suck at chemistry and that this was a requirement) and as a matter of fact I donate a pint of my own every now and then.

This-or-That

  1. Overworking or out of a job
    All though I am lazy by nature I did not enjoy being unemployed.
  2. Pizza or pasta
    Tough choice! As a poor cook I am a big fan of both of these options. I think pasta has more variety options though, so I’m going with option 2 in this one.
  3. Hard Truth or White Lie
    Hard truth.
  4. Knitting or Crocheting
    Neither activities are things I know anything about but as a clothing wearer I will go with knitting.
  5. Starters or Dessert
    Starters. I totally have a sweet tooth, but little snacks and pre-dinner bites make me so much happier than ice cream or cake.

And even though October is no where near finished, I am going to hit the publish button on this one. Next time: the moving house edition!

Mind Cleanup – May

 May flew by in the blink of an eye. Time to reflect!

mirror

Self reflection

When I ran into this post on Bored Panda about what introverts love in life I started to wonder about where I fit in. I can identify with all but 3 or 4 of the 20 images on the list, which pretty much proves I am an introvert, right?

On the other side though, I know some of my friends  and colleagues must wonder if I ever shut up and if I have the power in me to not wordvomit every on of my ridonculous thoughts at them as soon as they pop up in my brain. Also, I sometimes feel the need to skip across a room, instead of just regular-walking. Not something you would expect of an introvert… maybe a slight schizo one…?

introvert-me.jpgI also have both an urge and extreme dislike towards being the center of attention. So, what’s up with that? I decided to do a personality test just now and even after answering a trillion questions the result was “right on the borderline for the Extraversion vs. Introversion dimension. We can’t say for sure what your style is for this dimension of personality.” Bleuh, I hate being called “regular” or “average”…

Luckily though, it turns out my personality type does have a name, which I found out after reading this little article about outgoing introverts. So there you have it: I’m an outgoing introvert!

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Epicureous

  • I love elderflower flavored drinks.
  • Jamie Oliver’s so called 15 minute meal recipes actually take about 45minutes to an hour to prepare.

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Movies / Series

The other day I somehow stumbled upon an old episode of the Graham Norton Show, in which guests Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Hugh Bonneville have such a contagious amount of fun that it had me laughing out loud multiple times. If you’re having gloomy day: go for it. It’s bound to cheer you up.

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Music

Last weekend Brazilian guitarist and incredble vocalist, Badi Assad, visited the small village in the North of Holland, where my parents live. Amazing show, lovely lady!

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Cowabunga

Daydreaming about possibility of going on a big trip in 2017/2018.

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Bummerama

The state of my country continues to worry me. We are all doing quite well for ourselves but for some reason little is left of the tolerance and open mindedness we were once known for.

The most recent example is the way a startling number of my compatriots reacted to Sylvana Simons, a Dutch TV celebrity that had criticized the Zwarte Piet element in our yearly celebration of Sinterklaas on several occasions and has now joined a slightly controversial political party to get her point across in a mor substantial manner.  I for one, agree with her and wish her the best of luck. Luck and an extremely thick skin.

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Looky here

As a tribute to David Attenborough, who celebrated his 90th birthday at the beginning of May, Aardman Animations made a trilogy  of small videos, “interviewing” some of the animals he visited. Such a lovely gesture. Happy Birthday, sir David!

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Epilogue

I have quite a few nice things lined up for the month of June!

  • Beth Hart performance this upcoming Friday.
  • Pub quiz next week.
  • Aunt’s birthday celebration on the 4th of June and my mom’s the next day.
  • Trip to Copenhagen at the end of the month.
  • Summer!