February 03, 2014

Resolution Resurrection: Emergency Repair for Broken Pledges

Even back in 1909, people totally sucked at keeping resolutions
By Crabby McSlacker

For those of us who were nutty enough to make official New Years Resolutions January 1st, or set some other sort of goal, formal or informal...

Well gosh, a month has gone by now, hasn't it!

Is it time for a little smug celebration? Some minor tweaking? Some major re-thinking? Or perhaps some hysterical WTF-was-I-smoking laughter?

Well, here's the thing: no matter how hopeless you feel about your progress now, if you are able to force yourself through this entire post, I can solemnly swear be pretty darn sure you will be feeling much less crappy and much more hopeful about the state of your goals by the end.

Wait, how can I be so optimistic? I'm hardly ever "pretty darn sure" about anything!



It's a  simple trick, actually. You see, this blog post is purposefully selecting for people who are about to make a shift away from wussing out and giving up, and towards doing something positive to put together pieces of their former resolve.

Because you are still here reading, right?  And you did not run screaming away from a blog post that has "Resolution" at the top of it?

This means either:

1. You didn't make any resolutions, so my job is done here. 
2. You did make one or more resolutions, but are doing reasonably well. Yay you, you rock! Let's keep that going! or,
3.  You did make a resolution or two, and all is not going as hoped, but you are willing to actually take a minute or two and reflect upon why the heck that might be, and perhaps even to contemplate modifying your goal or doing something differently.
In case you are a #3 person and are not giving yourself sufficient credit?  This is HUGE!

In fact a recent lifehacker article reminded me that some Harvard Business Dude named Chris Argyris has a theory about what he called "double loop learning," one that the New York Times slobbered all over itself praising last year, calling it the "secret ingredient to success."

But best I can tell it's kind of an obvious thing we all know anyway: if you're not getting results, stop reflexively doing the same things over and over and ask yourself why it's not working.  Question your assumptions and beliefs and methods.  Shift your goals or approach to something different.

Duh?

But people or businesses that do this are apparently exceedingly rare. Go figure.

If you're still here and are willing to do some navel-gazing?  You too can be a double loop learner!


Double loop learning requires stepping back and actually digging up and examining some of the assumptions you may be making about where you want to go and how you want to get there. Some possible questions:

Do you even have the right goal?

You may be assuming that because a goal is worthy, and everyone agrees it is good, i.e. to lose excess weight if you are obese, or quit smoking or get more sleep or get more exercise or whatever, that it therefore is always an appropriate goal and a good time for you to tackle it.

But maybe deep down you don't really care all that much right now?

photo: Pierpaolop

Are you assuming progress will be linear and predictable and that it will correlate with the effort you expend?

Ha!

Sure, the fitness experts and more cheerful health magazines and websites will imply that if you work hard and stick to your plan you will inevitably get results.  But seriously, don't count on it always being obvious, or any time soon.  Bodies behave differently, and yours may be a more stubborn model with its own agenda. And if somehow all does go as it's supposed to, count yourself as lucky and don't get too used to it, because plateaus and valleys are gonna eventually be part of your journey--especially as you get older.

No, it's not fair.  Yes, it does suck.

But if you don't question this assumption, then your subconscious is gonna be all "hey, I'm working my ass off here and I'm not seeing the results my friends are getting, and so therefore this is all a stupid waste of effort and I quit!" Your subconscious loves to have little spoiled brat temper tantrums. And yet you may not even be aware that they are happening and it may feel like a total mystery as to why you ate that quart of ice cream or drove right past the exit where your gym is on the way home.

It helps to step back, recognize that you are feeling ripped off and pissy, and perhaps smash a few breakable objects and scream a bit.

Then, you may have to come up with tweaks to reward effort and process and healthy behaviors more than results in terms of physical abilities, blood test results, or pounds lost.  And perhaps even reframe your goals to keep process at the forefront.  Rather than "My goals are to lose 20 pounds by swimsuit season and 50 pounds before I turn 50!" you might be better off with: "My goals are to keep a food diary, to average 10,000 steps a day, and to eat X servings of vegetables each week."

There are as many possible hidden assumptions as there are goals and people, so your questions to yourself may vary, but the point is: ask yourself a couple!

Back to the Single Loop

Even a little "single loop" trouble-shooting can be pretty helpful without getting all deep and philosophical about assumptions.  Instead of running away from your shattered resolution in shame like most people do, just taking a few moments to salvage a small bit of progress and build on it can make all the difference.

Is there anything you managed to do this month you felt proud of?  How could that happen again?

Is there a smaller, more specific change than what you initially envisioned that feels more realistic and doable?

Would a list of pro's and con's help you feel connected again to why you wanted to make the change?

Does it help to know you have a lot of company, and that it's a whole fresh new month?

Whine! Complain! And Get Back on that F--king Saddle and Ride, Baby!

And note: yep, this is one of those Cranky Fitness "goal support" blog posts.

So I'm hoping folks who are working towards any sort of goal might take a moment in the comments to let us know how it's going. And, even better, you might want to encourage others in their quests by replying to their check-ins and offering up some sympathy or congratulations or thoughts.

It is weirdly helpful when trying to be virtuous about something to know that there is anyone out there who gives a crap.  Here at Cranky Fitness: we actually do!

And I'd especially like to encourage any lurkers out there.  It's easy-- Just hit the "name/URL" option and pick any name you want--well, except Crabby McSlacker--and you can leave the url blank. No need to sign up for anything, or stick to the same name each time, or do anything that feels too constraining. A pair of initials will do, a pet's name, whatever!  Because I'd love to hear from you.

Anyone working on any self-improvement type stuff, or have any advice for those of us who are?

55 comments:

  1. Setting goals is scary because then you have to measure your success or failure. I hate setting goals, I prefer to wander around aimlessly and eventually get to my mark. Just being really honest here. It is the artsy, slacker in me - ruled by emotion and feelings - great at planning and follow thru but suck at goal setting....

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    1. Anew, nothing wrong with wandering your way to your mark without pressure! Though I do hope you give yourself lots of Credit for positive steps a long the way. I think goal setting is kinda over rated, but I can't help myself!

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    2. Artsy and slacker...two of my favourite words.

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  2. Cool about double loop learning. I didn't know the name, but taking a different approach to get things working is a great idea. I'm all for looking at things differently.

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    1. Leah, from all I can tell over the years, you are a natural double loop learner!

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  3. Falling squarely in category one, I will just say that Bored Now! is how I'm feeling about identifying goals, after a year of effort. (Reporting on the Day Off thing: last week my boss at Job 2 said "I know you need a day off, but [newhire] is having issues….")

    Double Loop Learning: it seems to me that obvious things aren't obvious until some academic has given them a cute name.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. So agreed on the "cute name" phenomenon!

      And hmm, there are no exciting goals you can think of? I think we got a vicious cycle thing going, because if you had some time off, your brain could relax and daydream and say the heck with the boring stuff!

      Is there any point at which the decision to work less is yours to make and not theirs? Or is it a "do whatever they say or be fired completely" sort of scenario? Seems like you have been waiting forever for them to be reasonable!

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    2. Sometime soon I just have to. (Writing this from my sickbed where I'm staying home from Job 1 with a cough, painful bronchi, and total fatigue.) But I can't afford to cut out two days of work yet, and I want to leave still friends with everyone there.
      Exciting goals? No. Exciting things to do, yes, but the concept of goal-oriented planning is really not my style. I've been picking goals from the longlonglong list of Things that Must Get Done so I can have some focus, but: Nah!

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    3. (To put "afford to" in context: I like being able to afford health insurance again!)

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    4. Mary Anne, I know you accomplished a LOT last year with all those goals! But sounds like you could use a break. Just always appreciate you popping in here, with or without aspirations!

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    5. Sorry to see you are not feeling well, Mary Anne. Hope you are feeling better soon!

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  4. So I originally had a long whiny comment but I'm gonna edit because it was a little bit of a case of "Flu-pression" talking. Because the stupid bug came roaring back on friday right after I posted that I was feeling better, and I haven't been to the gym in over a week or done anything but walk, which I think has be a little more discouraged about things than was warranted. I'm hoping this thing has about run its course, dang it, 'cause I'm ready to have my energy back!

    (And by the way, kind comments you guys have left while I was feeling at my most crappy were really, really wonderfully cheering, thank you!!)

    Because actually, after a self-pep-talk reminding my own illogical unconscious about the lumpy nature of effort and reward, I realized that I actually made good progress on a couple of important January goals.

    I've been trying to build the blog back up, and while it's going to take some time, I'm posting more often and finding other writers to exploit..er, feature, yay! And I've started to start address some creeping weight gain around the belly by instituting a food tracking system and so far, I'm still sticking with it. Which, have no fear, will be the subject of probably several tedious blog posts.

    And then there were a bunch of other resolution-like pledges I made that I totally ignored! Some of them fall into the "not the right time" camp, but one or two others really could use some attention. Smaller more realistic goals, I'm thinking.

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    1. Food tracking posts?! YAY! I love food tracking! It's like a video game, except productive, so I call it Nutrient Tetris or Macro Juggling. Good stuff.

      I totally sympathize with you on the gym thing. None for me this week either, and it's driving me mildly insane. Fortunately I have plenty of work to do. Just wanted to pop in and say yay. Hang in there, you'll kick that bug soon!

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    2. Thank you heather!!! And after spending all f--cking morning in a waiting room, I now have an Rx for bronchitis... not sure if that makes sense given it came from a virus, but wtf, if I can take SOMETHING I figure the placebo effect will be worth something!

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    3. Oh bummer! Glad you got drugs though! They should help with the coughing pretty quick. I suspect it's like this...

      Virus rampages through the system and then bails.
      Bacteria amble along and go, "Hey, some asshole left the door open! Let's party!"

      And thus bronchitis is born.

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    4. Not a bad analogy :-) Once you have the mucus sitting in the lungs, bacteria can colonize there and thrive.

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    5. Oh heck to the crap! I am sorry you are not feeling so hot...when I had the flu, I also got a bonus secondary infection. I hope the meds kick in quickly and that you are on the mend!

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    6. Thanks so much guys, got my fingers crossed, and that had to be the most awesome medical explanation ever Heather! :)

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  5. I've rarely set goals! I do consider myself what I call direction oriented. For example, I don't say, I want to lift 100 pounds, I say, I'm going to lift as heavy a weight as I can and keep doing it until I can lift a heaver weight. Once when asked by my boss what my 5 year plan was, I said to be the best doctor I can be.

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    1. Sounds like your "directional" approach gives you great results Dr. J!

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    2. It sounds like me. (Not a doctor; ;) )

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  6. I just check by to the comments from January and guess what? I didn't make a resolution! Dodged that one. There is the problem with goals and me right there. I have hundreds of things flying through my head most of the time so I don't even remember what specific item I am supposed to be working on. Uppermost in my mind is the idea of improving my health, being mindful of my stress and keeping the junk food out of my mouth but staying on plan is tough with so many distractions. I think I have more of a corkscrew of learning rather than a double loop.
    I have to work on this idea of what I did that I was proud of and how I can work with that. I found myself proud of this or that BUT, BUT, BUT I could have done more or better.

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    1. Wait, Cindy, you snuck outta here without a resolution? Very clever of you! "improving my health, being mindful of my stress and keeping the junk food out of my mouth" actually sound like very sensible goa... er, ideas, whether the are official anythings or not.

      The thing I like about a small but concrete goal is that it helps a little with the "BUT, BUT, BUT I could have done more or better" thing. Because yeah, there is NO winning on that line of thought!

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  7. For me it's #1, so your job is done here. But will you stop posting a new blog after I done already commented here for the day. Making me come back twice. Damn you!!!!

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    1. I did it just to annoy you Yum Yucky! :)

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  8. Somehow, i find myself doing things i've known for a while i should do. How? Well, i quit thinking it had to wait for the right time to start, and just began with a few of them. And i have a calendar i write it on, and i play the "don't break the chain" game. My exercise is more on track, i'm getting through those Spanish lessons, and a few other things are getting done regularly.

    There's no way i'm going to be great, or an expert, or the "best in the business," but i've realized i can do these things, and that's enough.

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    1. Wow, messymimi, thats wonderful!!! And how cool that it just seemed like the time was right! And yeah, that "dont't break the chain" notion can be pretty darn handy!

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  9. Are you assuming progress will be linear and predictable and that it will correlate with the effort you expend?

    I'm swooning over Crabby using 3 statistical terms in one sentence!

    Self-improvement type stuff: slow, but at least forward, progress

    LynM

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    1. Oh shoot Lyn, had I known you were dropping in I would have tried to work in a few more. I'm thinking if my "adult" logic fails to kick in and continue to have childish temper tantrums, that would be a most unfortunate multiple regression! And don't groan too loudly, that would be MEAN. :)

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    2. If I was in mean mode, that would probably be true.

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  10. My goal is actually simple (and doable!!) - get a video done involving wine and exercise!!! The weekend didn't workout quite like I hoped but since tomorrow is looking like a snow day it's a total bonus day!!! (and what's better on a bonus day than wine and fitness?!)

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    1. Kim, I can not WAIT! :)

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  11. Dear Crabby - You have an actual/bona fide "itis" and anything that keeps you from hacking half a lung out is a good thing - so, take that Rx!! Anon

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    1. Thanks anon, and I appreciated the official "itis" excuse for all my whining!

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  12. I just double checked to confirm I did not make any resolutions. Confirmed!

    I am working on letting go...so much to let go of, so hard to decide what to hang on to...the decisions that need to be made on a moment to moment basis seem to be endless.

    I am still meditating every single day, so I think I really nailed that! Cheers to me!

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    1. First off, I don't think you can be applauded and congratulated enough on the mediation, it really helps those of us who are flakier to be reminded that it is possible!

      And "letting go" is a really fascinating goal, because all the usual "goal" type strategies are about chasing after things, which is kinda the opposite of what you're wanting to do. Will be really curious to hear about your experiences!

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    2. Applauding here!

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  13. The sucky adage of "fake it till you make it" is about the only thing I keep hanging on to here. I HAVE managed to walk 10 or more minutes per day since January 1st. That is my only resolution. I have stayed smoke free since the first too, but I don't think I can keep that up all year. However, so far, so good!
    I am working on getting back with a trainer I had over a year ago. Until then, I still do my yoga classes twice a week. I suck at exercise these days. I forgive myself for that. I am not giving up. In a future posting on my blog though, I will be talking about how there IS a part of me that does not believe in myself.
    Goals….good to have. Not giving up… better to have. :)

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    1. Yay on the 10 minutes since January 1 Sherri! And the smoke free... however you are managing to do that, it is huge!

      And I'd love to see how you deal with that part of yourself who does not believe in you. What is she afraid of? What is she trying to protect you from? She may have your best interests at heart but sounds like there's a larger part of you who can take her messages of caution and put them in a more realistic perspective.

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  14. Really a great post Jan!!! I think my biggest hurdle is that I am not sure I trust my gut anymore.. I have made more mistakes that set me back by doing that so I am trying to figure out how to move forward with a mixture I know my heart wants to do & some I don't want to do & find the middle ground.

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    1. Sorry to hear that Jody! Actually, my "gut" is fairly useless, I am not a particularly intuitive person, so I'm stuck with just my regular thinky brain. Maybe we need some sort of a woo woo workshop or something!

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  15. I love this post. So reasonable. But what does reasonable have to do with anything????? I SHOULD be model thin, not middle-aged, gorgeous, completely successful etc. :)

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    1. Frances, I don't know, you sound pretty fabulous to me! :). And I agree, REASON and FAIRNESS have nothing to do with the real world.

      OTOH, those young skinny-ass gorgeous model types aren't very fun to hang out with, I'm guessin', and they probably subsist on sprouts, cigarettes, and diet pepsi. While we middle-aged crones totally know how to have a good time!

      Thanks for stopping by!!!!

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  16. I never make a new yrs resolution....just an added pressure. If everyone is honest with themselves they know exactly what they need to do....but then comes the 'can't be asked' hurdle, human nature in a lot of cases needs a trigger to get you over that hurdle....which can be an insult, a moving/motivational article, a weight, a financial predicament, a health scare.....at this point it is the most important reaction....do you do something about it!? Really the only goal you need to set....is the one that screams 'Yes' when the trigger comes!
    oooh hark at me!, have I gone off on one?

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  17. Death Ride GrandmaFebruary 4, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    No new years resolutions. Just the usual bike goals, plus that elusive pull-up/chin - up one. That is coming along, although at a glacial pace. The bike is tricky just now. I need to eat more while riding & learn to tolerate more fullness when working hard. At the same time I would be OK with losing 3 or 4 pounds before the Death Ride. So - eat more but eat less? Oh, well. As long as I manage not to gain I'll be ok.

    By the way, we are on an expedition that includes some car time in Internet access territory, and I am rather disturbed by how exciting that is!

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    1. Yay on pull-up progress DRG! I seem to be holding steady but can't seem to add any to my whopping tally of: One.

      Interesting about dilemma about training with a fuller stomach while simultaneously dropping weight... guess it's a timing thing? To do more eating when it's gonna make you totally miserable, and less when you'd actually enjoy it? :) (This is not the first time I've thought to myself, SO glad I'm not an actual athlete!)

      And hooray for internet access! I fail to realize how completely freakin' addicted I am until there isn't any. :)

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    2. And I'm just gonna pretend I typed "about dilemma about" ON PURPOSE to show dlamb that typos are a natural and inevitable byproduct of a busy, thoughtful brain. :)

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  18. January has been tough. Tiredness, husband was ill and needed more support, plus lousy weather. So no progress on my health and fitness goals. But I'm awarding myself bonus points for cooking, relaxing and learning the saxophone. More focus on physical fitness when (if?) it stops raining....

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    1. Oh shoot Fliss, sounds like a rough month. But yay on the cooking and sax and general stress reduction ideas!

      Sometimes I find crappy rainy weather is a good nudge to focus on neglected flexibility stuff, which tends to go by the wayside when more interesting exercise options abound. But I'm also lucky in having a gym where it almost never rains indoors, so I don't have the excuse of crappy weather. :)

      Good luck in feb and hope you get some decent weather!

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    2. And I feel that learning the sax counts towards exercise if you play jazzy enough.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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  19. Thanks Mary Anne and Crabby! I'm certainly exercising the wrists and fingers with holding an alto sax.
    And I noticed the comment thing ate my earlier post - I suspect this is because of posting using a Kindle ? Problem doesn't seem to happen when using a standard PC.

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    1. OK, that's WEIRD fliss, it was just here a few minutes ago!! SO sorry, l'll go see if somehow it got flagged as spam??

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    2. Yep, god knows why as YOU of all people are not a spammer! But there it was. Should be back now sorry!

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  20. Recent lurker, new poster here. My inbox has been a much more interesting place to go these last couple of months - thanks for that!

    I didn't make any official goals for New Years, but sort of went "Ack! Gotta do something about my stress!" ...And maybe start buying myself a new lipstick on the really bad days instead of Hagen Daas. (But ice cream is still better than the booze option, right?) :-)

    Read this post just in time to remind me before I hit the store on the way home - will look for frozen fruit instead.

    I have been fitting in walks, so all hope for exercise is not lost! I'll take what progress I can get. :-)

    Feel better soon,
    S

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    1. Hi Selinarah!

      So glad you delurked and welcome to the weirdness that is Cranky Fitness!!

      Walking is excellent both for exercise and stress relief, right, so you get double credit on that! And love the idea of treats that don't make you feel crappy after consuming them.

      So smart to go after stress, because it seems to be linked to just about every disease, syndrome, problem or life complication I've ever read about.

      But easier said than done, right?

      Oh crap, no lie, I just dumped an entire cup of coffee over, and we had the carpets cleaned three days ago. SH*$(%T!!! Gotta go...

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