WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

I asked for engineering failures and terrible poetry, and everyone delivered. In fact, you all delivered so well that I’ve been debating the same six poems back and forth for a few hours.

Since our literary failures do not mean a literal catastrophic result, however, I’ll leave you in suspense no longer. The winner is Bruce Goodman.

Thou wert my gate

by Bruce Goodman

Thou wert my gate
in the fence of life;
a doorway in the
corridor of existence;
a hole in the
wall of being

Now you have shut the
entrance to your heart
and I am shattered into a pile of quaking reinforced concrete .
No more will I hear your euphonious voice
wafting over the plastic barrier of time;
no more will my nostrils sense the scent
of your hair on the yellow brick road of vivacity.
Oh the audacity!

You have become an engineering failure,
a total engineering failure;
in fact you are the biggest engineering failure
I have ever encountered in my life.
And you are fat.
I wish you all the Botox you can lay your hands on.
You need it.

Strumpet! Strumpet!
You have no reason to blow your own trumpet
for thou art a total engineering failure!
Thou wert my gate
in the fence of life
but now you are just a pile of rocks –
to say nothing of your choice in tasteless frocks.

Like I said, many poems were contenders at the end. I liked the short and sweet of a few; the long and rambling of the others. I like the lessons taught, the meters distraught, and the rhymes that were naught …good.

Bruce’s contribution ultimately won because it sounds very serious and poetic in many ways: word choice, alliterative references, more serious meter. Then, we’ve got the completely misplaced “And you are fat. / I wish you all the Botox you can lay your hands on. / You need it.” His final stanza returns us to the original serious poeming with the humorous element he dropped on us like an indigestible rock.

Again, not that the other poems didn’t give Bruce a run for his nonexistent money. I loved them all, and know you will too:

An Engineer’s Lament

by Deb Whittam

Oh let us lament
The failures we must confront
Oft it is not us
The engineers proclaim
It’s that other thing
Which is to blame
We see your look of doubt
But let me tell you with clout
It’s true you see
It’s the pressure valves fault, not me.

—–

Untitled piece

by Trent McDonald

They once built a bridge to a star
Oh, that’s so incredibly far
But relativity it seems
Is more than bad dreams
So the warped space time continuum over the light years, uhm, yeah, uhm, made it hard to reach by car?
yeah, that’s it, made it hard to reach by car.

—–

Untitled piece

by Trent McDonald

I once built a bridge, that is true
One to reach from me over to you
But my skill was too weak
So it fell in the creek
And now I’m terribly blue

—–

First Thing’s First

by Peregrine Arc

I built a
Boat.
At first it wouldn’t bark
Then it wouldn’t hark
To anything I said.
It swam there, tarried there
And drove me to Timbuktu
When I wanted to go to Malibu.
So I shot it
In the hull
And now the problem, I think, is solved.
Glub, glub, glub.
Oh dear. What whim.
There’s only one thing for it: Can I swim?

—–

Casey Jones

by Michael B. Fishman

Casey Jones, you big dummy.
You drove the train too fast and you crashed.
And then you died.

(Note to reader: insert head shake here)

What’s that?
This poem’s apposed to be about engineering fails
and not engineer fails?

Well color me stupid.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket
and I guess I can’t read directions so just…

…don’t buck it.

—–

The New Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

by Larry Trasciatti

‘Twas a springtime morning out in old Lindenhurst when Tommy O’Leary decided to make him a car.
So he put on his very bestest greenest threads as he burst out with joy to all his assembled friends: ‘My Chitty Chitty Bang Bang moment awaits, I tell you!!’

The local townsfolk have sworn since then, that a raven and peacock flew by flew by, that a raven and peacock flew by.

‘Within five weeks my five step process’ , says he, ‘will yield a spectacular car, a car. It will yield a spectacular car.

To his shame he made it of light balsa wood and that didn’t bode well in a crash a crash. No that didn’t bode well in a crash.

—–

Bhopal

by H.R.R. Gorman

The December morning air smelled cool, fresh,
Coals of industry a faint background scent.
Bhopal contained an old pesticide plant
That employed locals and brought in money.

Poisonous intermediate
The methyl isocyanate
Built pressure in the old vessels,
But the aging pipes and valves failed.

They thought the meter
Failed and went on home
To leave the pressure
Building on and on.

But then
It popped
Poison
Leakage

Breath
Pain
Death
Vain

Agony of 3,787 deaths
Many more injuries, some severe

No litigation could repay this woe
But it failed to bring justice anyway.
Innocents were killed, but money was made,
Fulfilling the prophecy of profit.

—–

Untitled piece

by Ruth Scribbles

The master designer has failed
He really should be put into jail
He gave her six toes
And a long pointy nose
She now wears a long dark veil

—–

Untitled piece

by Ruth Scribbles

The DNA put in her body
Was very very naughty
It made her get sick
Turned her muscles to ick
That is the end of this story

—–

Anatomical Mars vs Venus

by Violet Lentz

purported as divine creation
supposedly perfect in every way
I have reason to believe, the plans were drafted
on the of’t disputed creators, off day.

with the parts over here
being just enough off
from the parts they’re
to connect with over there

practice and patience
are often required-
which could take till long after
the ‘use by date’ had expired

so ‘creation one’ took the problem in hand
and after a hormonal cocktail or two
one upped creation with video porn, so now we look good-
doing what we still can’t figure out, how to do.

—–

Untitled piece

by Ruth Scribbles

Epic fail I declare
The engineer used defective parts
Was he not aware
Of the pain I must bear
Or does he really not care

—–

Dear Nigel

by BereavedDad

Normally
I see the best in folk
Giving the benefit of doubt
Eagerly seeking the good
Leaving the bad to one side

F*** it in this case
A complete bellend
Raving racist
Arrogant and spiteful
Greedy and self serving
Egotistical political parasite

—–

Fail

by Joanne the Geek

This entire project was always quite cursed

There’s a crack in the dam it’s gonna burst!

As engineers go, I’m definitely the worst

They may as well have hired Fred Durst

So I’m off with my suitcase full of money

Off to the fabled land of milk and honey

In a way you could say it’s almost funny

Now I’m off to a place that’s quiet and sunny.

—–

Thanks everyone, you terrible poets you! Come back tomorrow for next week’s prompt!

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Bruce: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Well; hi, there! Do you like to poem? Yes? No?

Either way, you’re in the right place. This here’s The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. We’ve been in business for 26 weeks. Check out the somewhat informative post on terrible poeting for some tips and tricks, then read this week’s specifics:

  1. Topic: Engineering fails. You can write a lament dedicated to an actual, catastrophic, historic fail; or limerick about a fanciful one.
  2. Keep the Length between 9 and 199 words.
  3. Rhyming is purely optional, but intentional misuse is always a great way to destroy a potentially great poem.
  4. Most of all, write terribly! I want the engineers studying failures throughout history to read over your creation, shake their heads, and unanimously declare your poem to be the worst disaster the world has ever experienced.
  5. Keep the wording at a G-rating, for the impressionable members of the research team.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (May 24) to submit a poem.

If you wish a week’s worth of anonymity, use the form. Leave me a comment saying that you did as well, so we are sure it was submitted.

To be more social, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Whatever you do, have fun!

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Photo credit:
Amogh Manjunath

The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It’s that time again: time to cure our depression. Way back in January, I proposed that curing isn’t exactly possible -BUT I listed 14 ideas that will help. We’ve talked about 8 or 9 others; like connecting with people, eating right, talking to a doctor or therapist, medicating, and doing happy things.

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Today, I’d like to get into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. At least, I thought to get into it. I opened my hand-me-down laptop, typed that big, impressive-sounding word into a search, and then thought, Holy flipping crap! (Yep, I don’t swear often.)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is LEGIT. It has its own, lengthy Wikipedia page.

Aaaaand I’ve just barely heard about it.

Hopefully, that means that all of YOU readers are nearly as clueless as I was, and will be impressed and amazed at the paltry light I’ll be shedding on this topic.

So, first: What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often abbreviated to CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (hereafter referred to as “CBT,” for the laziness of the writer) is simply a bunch of exercises to teach our brains better habits.

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Second: Why do we need it?

Let’s say that you’re a little kid playing with a hose out in the mud. You, sweet little unsupervised thing, have full command of an entire patch of mud and have decided to make trails and paths and mountains and mudpies. It’s a glorious, messy afternoon!

Using only the best sticks you find laying around, you begin digging waterways. The hose water follows. You’re a kid, so are not quite the best at design and such. Some of your water pools at places, overruns its banks at others, and ultimately empties right into the neighbor’s back fence and washes away their freshly-planted flowers.

Oops.

An adult comes over to help. He says he’s Dr. Civil Engineer and is also licensed in psychology. “Let’s turn off the water first,” he says. “Now, my good friend and trusted colleague, CBT, is going to gently help you with mud-forming.”

You aren’t exactly sure what a colleague is, or CBT. You just want to play in the mud, and get the neighbor to stop yelling at you about flowers. Don’t flowers need water? You shrug, and watch what CBT starts doing with your mud. CBT builds up a turn, repairs an overflow area, and (most frequently) digs new paths into less destructive directions.

What’s more, CBT tells you what it is doing and how you can do it, too.

Third: We need this. Professionals say so.

My paid friend keeps telling me that my brain has learned behaviors (almost all negative) and I need to stop and complete them with the more-positive truth when negative thoughts come up. Psychologists refer to these learned behaviors as cognitive distortions. Like the mud and water analogy, our mind forms automatic reactions to situations or thoughts or feelings in order to handle them next time; and, like our first, unguided attempts, they’re not always the best.

These automatic reactions are like cringing when hit in sensitive areas, crying when our nose gets hurt, or kicking our leg when the tendon below our patella is hit.

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CBT is training to get over knee-jerk reactions. It’s still having the jerking, but toward somewhere that doesn’t actually kick someone and, especially, with the result of leaving us feeling happy that we kicked our leg instead of then kicking ourselves for reacting.

Fourth: How does one CBT?

Doesn’t CBT sound fantastic? I think it sounds a bit difficult, myself. How do we get started? Can we actually change how we think? I am not very successful at self-run things, and (yep) I tell myself that I’m not very successful.

I highly recommend getting someone professional to run this for you. CBT is the most common therapy of its kind. However, like many major startups, it has spawned subgroups of more specific subjects, die-hard zealots of original teachings, and side-therapies of similar names run by leaders who couldn’t get credit for starting the first one. Some professional navigation of those twisty roads will help you.

If you’re poor, shy, or just starting out, there are self-help options. A blog I somehow found recently lists online worksheets. Other sites exist, as well as books you can purchase.

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Fifth: No, really: does it actually help?

CBT really does help. My counselor is of the camp that minor mental issues are wholly the result of years of negative thought processes and reactions. Psychiatrists advocate for mostly medical measures, no matter how minor. I think the farmer and the cowman can be friends and meet us halfway.

Most health professionals agree that medicine and therapy, together, are the winning combination for fighting mental health issues.

Our bodies become resistant to medications and substances. Our hormones and brain chemistry change with time and stressful situations. Our motivation becomes dependent on that boost we get from outside stimuli, like prescriptions, drug overuse, and stimulants.

CBT is very nearly the silver bullet of therapies. It empowers YOU. It teaches you how to better handle your own brain -which is great because that’s what you’re stuck with all the time! Even doctors, as empathetic or sympathetic or knowledgeable as they are, cannot EVER understand exactly what you feel and experience. They have their own brains, not yours.

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Sixth: How about a run-through?

I’m getting a bit long here, even with shortening Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to CBT so many times, but can’t leave without some practical advice for all y’all. Here’s one type of CBT method you can run through, from wikihow:

  1. Notice when you’re negative.
    My therapist had me make a list what I know about me. It was about 80% self-critical and even the positive items were less-complimentary.
    Or, meditation is an option. Take at least ten minutes without distraction and pay attention to where your thoughts and feelings go.
    Think about a situation in the past that was negative.
  2. Recognize the connection between your thoughts and your feelings.
    Obviously, if you were dropped from a speeding airplane by members of the mafia into a boiling volcano, you had little control over feeling dead afterwards.
    But most situations, even sucky ones, do not cause our bad feelings at the end. WE cause them. YOU cause them. Your natural, poorly-designed mud paths caused the overflow of emotion.
    See the connection, and tell yourself that you felt bad because you had bad thoughts.
  3. Notice automatic thoughts
    All during the day, stuff happens. Automatically, we have some sort of reaction to the stuff.
    Let’s say I went to the store and realized I forgot my credit card. It’s back home in the freezer or whatever. An automatic negative thought from my brain would be, You’re always forgetting things. Further, I would think, Now you have to put all the groceries back. You should never come back to this store again.
    ALL THOSE are not good.
    I need to stop, drop and roll -er, *ahem* I need to stop that thought, way back when it started. Then, I tell myself it’s negative. Finally, I decide to tell myself something more like, Oops! I’ll look for some cash. I’l ask the cashier to hold these for me while I look, or drive home. Heck, I’m not the first person to forget payment; they’ll work with me.
  4. and 5. Talk about core beliefs. Specifically, about tying the automatic cognitive distortions to faulty internal beliefs.
    I’m not in favor of this step, because it’s self-analyzing. Getting into my terrible self-esteem and my potentially-damaging childhood without assistance sounds like a worse idea than the ones my mind comes up with.

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  1. Identify cognitive distortions. This may help with stopping the negative thoughts. Like, you can tell yourself, “I’m not a terrible person! I’m just overgeneralizing. It’s a typical misconception.” Common distortions listed on wikihow are:
    -Catastrophizing by predicting only negative outcomes in the future
    -Having all-or-nothing thinking
    -Discounting the positive
    -Labeling something or someone without knowing more about it or them
    -Rationalizing based on emotions rather than facts
    -Minimizing or magnifying the situation
    -Having “tunnel vision” by seeing only the negatives
    -Mind reading in which you believe you know what someone is thinking
    -Overgeneralizing by making an overall negative conclusion beyond the current situation
    -Personalizing the situation as something specifically wrong with you

Hopefully, this first method of 6(ish) steps works as a starting place for you. The wikihow article lists two other methods as well.

Seventh: A different initial approach is also helpful.

Besides these suggested steps, I’m a big proponent of creating an initial positive environment. I feel like I’m constantly in a negative haze, self-protected and negatively-pressured to the point of not sticking a toe out into the world.

A suggestion from my counselor was to think back on a time when I felt happy or good. Then, I was to keep asking myself, “Why?” until I traced it to a core emotion. For example: I said I’d felt happy driving to the appointment. Why? It was sunny and warm outside and I was alone. Why did that make you happy? I like feeling warm and comfortable. -Holy crap! I like being comfortable. Comfort was my core emotion.

One may also repeat a mantra each morning and evening. Something like, “I am of worth. I love myself;” or reciting an uplifting poem.

Morning meditation is good as well, or prayer.

Whatever activity you do, the goal is to create a positive atmosphere. We want to start our thoughts in a better direction and keep them going that way. Over time, your brain will form better neural pathways. You won’t flood anyone’s flower beds. You’ll have the practice and skills to handle past habits and fight new triggers.

And don’t get discouraged. You’ve had your entire life to build these habits; you can’t change overnight but you can change.

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Photo Credits:
Artem Bali
Pixabay
Pixabay
Sharon McCutcheon
Pixabay
Wikimedia Commons
Tyler Nix

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

To Potter or Not to Potter?

It’s time to really let the fur fly around here, because I am going to ask the question no one ever should: Is Harry Potter a good book?

If you have been living in a bubble or under the age of twenty for the past 21.5 years, you might not know what I am referring to. In that case, I speak of a book series published by an unknown woman (at the time) that EXPLODED into ultimately selling more than 450 million copies worldwide.

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I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the recommendation of my former sixth-grade teacher. I really liked the book. It had interesting characters, magic, an unseen parallel world, and enough British elements to tickle my anglophiliac bones.

I purchased and devoured each subsequent book as it came out, and cried on opening night of the first film.

A few years after that point, however, my English professor in (my return to) college ran us through an interesting exercise. “What makes a good book?” he asked, and wrote our responses on the white board. After looking over the items listed, he announced, “Harry Potter is not a good book.”

Since I do not live in a bubble and am not under the age of twenty, I was also not completely ignorant to the idea that others didn’t love Harry Potter as much as a large pocket of Potterheads. As a consequence, I was not floored at my teacher’s conclusions.

I instead experienced a wider perspective. His announcement released me from the godlike worship I had for authors everywhere and allowed me to acknowledge the series as one written by a human, with flaws. It was written by the first and only billionaire author human, granted, but still had flaws.

In turn, I was able to grasp the hope that someone like me could write. Someone like me could even write something that another person might read, or purchase.

Which is all very interesting, but doesn’t answer the main question of this post.

Is Harry Potter a good book? Why or why not?

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My own husband dislikes that J.K. Rowling neglects a basic rules structure for her magic system, that Dobby exists, and that most of the stories are just not interesting.

For myself; I notice some literary no-no’s in her writing like adverbs, POV changes, and …say, a rule she introduces about non-verbal magic spells that she seems to abandon in later novels. I also think (and thought) that it’s really not feasible for a young wizard who can shout two spells to consistently beat someone who literally murdered older, gifted wizards.

But maybe I’m being nit-picky with that last one.

Ever the devil’s devil’s advocate, though, I say that J.K. Rowling’s series could be considered perfection. She hit the sweet spot across age, race, gender, nationality, and class. She wrote characters REALLY well. I’m just a medium-level admirer and would gladly jump on a train, attend Hogwarts, marry one of the Weasley twins, and go out to lunch with Tonks.

As a final thought to any still in the haters camp: last year, my son’s doctor complimented my son because he was sitting in the waiting room reading a novel. I believe it was Magician: Apprentice. “When Harry Potter first came out,” the doctor noted, “I used to come out and find kids’ noses stuck in books. I haven’t seen that since.”

Say what you will, but I’d love to bring that sort of book love back. Wouldn’t you? Perhaps there’s a spell for that.

Until then, do you say it is a good book? Do you only say so because you love it?

Do you only disagree because you hate it?

—————

I solemnly swear that you may read below to see what I wrote for the last two weeks:
Wednesday, February 6: We discussed the deep subject of baths vs. showers in “A Serious Question Concerning Hygiene.”
Thursday, February 7: “The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid MEDICAL Friend,” the slightly-third suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 8: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest involving Nursery Rhymes. Congratulations to Violet Lentz!
Saturday, February 9: Announced the twelfth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, with a prompt of love poems.
Sunday
, February 10- Thursday, February 14, plus Sunday, February 17: Various terrible poetry contributions of my own on the subjects of my backup camera, my absent appendix, black clothes, a first date, Costco, and Half-Price Chocolate Day.
Thursday, February 14: Wrote “Freddy and Teddy’s Valentines” for Susanna Leonard Hill‘s Valentiny contest.
Friday, February 15: Posted the WINNER of the love poem Terrible Poetry Contest: Geoff LePard.
Saturday, February 16: Announced this week’s Terrible Poetry Contest prompt. PLEASE ENTER IT!!
Also re-blogged Peregrine Arc‘s creativity contest.
Monday, February 18: Shared a quote from Joseph B. Wirthlin about finding a direction in life.
Tuesday, February 19: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Two.”
Wednesday, February 20: Today

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I Finally Donned the Sorting Hat

I remember when Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was first published. My former sixth grade teacher said to me, “There’s an excellent book that’s just come out on the market. You have to read it.” She has good taste, strong opinions, and more than a little experience with literature.

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It was she who read our class The Turbulent Term of Tyke TylerThe Log of the Ark, and The Wheel on the School. She allowed us to pick our own spelling words to be tested on and held us to a self-chosen monthly book-reading quota. In her classroom I read nearly every book on her shelves -and that’s saying something.

Knowing this, I read the book she recommended. I loved it. I read the others as they were released as well, pouncing upon them as soon as I could.

I know there are many to whom the series is not so impressive. My own husband has only read the first one. He and his sister began reading the second together, and he hated Dobby so much he hasn’t continued from there. One of my college English professors told us the Harry Potter books were only ‘good;’ not ‘great.’

I also know there are many to whom the series is life. They know the characters, creatures, spells, and trivia by heart. They know which floor of Hogwarts one might find: the Room of Requirement, Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, or the entrance to Slytherin’s common room. Those Potterheads’ greatest wish is that they will get a letter in the mail announcing them as accepted pupils to the greatest school of witchcraft and wizardry…

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If I had been introduced to the series after its popularity, I’m not sure I’d be so fond of it. Hype and popularity ruin a thing for me.

Whether or not that’s the case, I will admit to falling more into the admirer category than the hater one. I’d love a wand and magic powers, yes; but much of my love for the series is Anglophilia. Blame my ancestry, perhaps. For that reason and the …insanity of the die-hard fans, I hesitate in admitting my affection.

So it is that, last night, I finally took an online quiz to determine which house I would be in. I did not get a song sung by a hat nor a voice in my ear; I instead answered a few questions regarding personality.

Out of curiosity, have you a guess to which I was assigned? I had. It wasn’t what I expected.

I definitely had two that I preferred not to be placed in. -Which is another thing I still do not understand about Potterheads. If you’ve read the series closely and if you are such fans, surely you would not want to publish to the world that you were placed in Hufflepuff. Right?

Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o’duffers. -Hagrid

Back to me. I’d like to think that I’d be sorted into Gryffindor. I’d like to think that maybe I’m less brave now because I have more self-preservation as part of being a mother, so that would be a possibility at the age of admittance (eleven years old).

But really, I was even quieter and more self-reserved then -unless someone ticked me off.

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So I’m in Ravenclaw. ‘S probably right. And, that result’s better than the time I took the Which Disney character are you most like? at Disneyland and was given Maleficent.

Perdu and Dod o Hyd

Suitcase

Henri couldn’t believe his luck, stranded at Aberystwyth with only the clothes on his back.

“Don’t worry; you’ll only need your carry-on,” his wife had said. “You can even put your wallet and passport in there.”

He stared up at the station timetable, trying to make sense of the ridiculously long Welsh words, and sighed.

Gwilym, meanwhile, couldn’t believe his luck. As a pickpocket, he needed to be careful working the stations; and yet, he’d not lifted a single wallet for today’s find.

Once outside the Hereford station, he opened the battered suitcase. “Henri, eh? Merci, mon ami.”

 

Carrot Ranch Literary Community Entry

“The first four months of writing the book, my mental image is scratching with my hands through granite. My other image is pushing a train up the mountain, and it’s icy, and I’m in bare feet.”

-Mary Higgins Clark