2018 in Review: The Year of Loss

Yet another year has come full circle, meaning it’s once again time for my annual reflection. This one is going to be a little different and a little less upbeat than past reflections because, honestly, 2018 sucked. It was full of heartache, disappointment, and saying “goodbye”…which is why I’ve dubbed this one “The Year of Loss.”

The first major blow hit me in March, when I got laid off from my blogging job at CharityUSA.com, LLC (AKA GreaterGood). It was all so sudden; I never saw it coming. And especially because I was a respected member of my team, it came as an enormous shock that shook me to my core. Then, of course, came the stress of filing for unemployment and searching for a new job.

The second major loss came when my parents sold the house I grew up in. I’d long since moved out and gotten my own place, but until August, it had always been there, a safe haven to which I could return if needed. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy for my parents, as they have moved into a condo that they love. But it was still the end of an era.

The third loss was undoubtedly the worst, most painful one of all: the man I loved broke my heart. While he was far from perfect, he made me happy. He was so kind and respectful, and we had so much fun together. Five months ago, I was 100 percent confident that I’d have a ring on my finger before the end of 2018. I even had a date in mind for our wedding: September 7, 2019.

Then everything changed so fast that it nearly gave me whiplash. Less than a month after our relationship suddenly plummeted south, one week after our first anniversary, he stood me up on a date and broke up with me via text message. I was left angry, confused, humiliated, and devastated. Four months later, I’m still dealing with the disappointment of shattered expectations and the hurt of losing someone so important to me.

Of course, there were certainly good things that happened this year. But, especially since many of them happened because of Jared, they feel much less sweet to me than they would have, were we still together. We went on several fun trips together—to Chicago, to Traverse City, and to various concerts—including that of my all-time favorite band, Daughtry. He was the one who encouraged me to follow my heart and apply for a job that was truly meaningful to me.

And even though what he did to me was inexcusably wrong and showed his true colors—that he was actually a total jerk—thinking about the laughter and love we shared in the past year makes me miss him so much.

But even in the midst of my losses, there has been joy and comfort. I’ve received so much support and kindness from so many people—some of whom were actually strangers (i.e. the amazing staff of Embassy Bar and Grill, who supported me when I received that damning text from Jared and gave me my meal for free)! To those people who have been there for me through the hard times…I want to sincerely thank you.

On another happier note, this year I started working in a group home for four disabled men. While it’s certainly been stressful, it’s also brought me incredible joy and new friendships. I have grown as a person, becoming braver, stronger, more patient, and more compassionate. It is a job that gives me a feeling of meaning and purpose; it’s good to know that what I do truly matters and is important.

A few other random things that happened to me, both good and bad:

  • I took my first-ever ambulance ride a couple weeks ago when I randomly passed out at the grocery store one night. I’m seeing my doctor in a few days to follow up and see if we can figure out what happened. Fingers crossed that I get a good report!
  • In addition to seeing Daughtry in concert, I saw another favorite band of mine, Skillet. I got to high-five the lead singer and his wife as they passed by my row. It was awesome!
  • I got the immense scare of hearing that my dog had melanoma. Luckily, her prognosis is promising, so hopefully she’ll still be here for a few more years.
  • I got to see a sloth at the Chicago zoo.

As for my expectations in 2019? I’m hoping to start planning a trip through Europe—an adventure that’s been on my bucket list for ages now. Other than that, I only wish that next year will be less of a disaster.

Don’t let me down, 2019. Please.


Positive Self-Talk for the Anxious Writer

“You are your own worst critic.” This is a statement that is often shared in creative circles when an artist expresses feelings of self-doubt. And it’s true. For some reason, artists and creative people seem particularly vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy surrounding their own work. And for those of us who already carry the extra burden of a mental illness, I can imagine that this phenomenon is compounded. It can be crippling.

So how do we overcome this? Psychology’s answer, at least in part, is positive self-talk. That means taking a negative thought and turning it into something more rational and balanced.

Before I give you some examples, let me clarify what positive self-talk is not:

  1. Wishful thinking
  2. Duping yourself into believing something that sounds nice yet is false, simply for the sake of emotional comfort
  3. Over-inflating your sense of confidence to the point where you can no longer accept criticism or look at your work with a critical eye

Positive self-talk is:

  1. Rational and balanced—the kind of stuff you would likely hear from an outsider’s perspective
  2. Self-compassion: acknowledging that flaws in creative works are part of the process and do not define you
  3. Hopeful and encouraging

Another disclaimer: I am not a therapist and have no formal training or education as such. However, I have been a therapy patient for several years now, so I am drawing on what I have learned and practiced.

Here are some common, negative thoughts that I have had as a writer, paired with more positive replacement thoughts. Hopefully you will be able to benefit from this list, too.

  1. Negative Thought: This chapter/story/paragraph/section is terrible. I suck at this.
    Positive Replacement Thought: This chapter/story/paragraph/section is not where I would like it to be, but with work, I can get it there.
  2. Negative Thought: What if I mess this up?
    Positive Replacement Thought: What if I succeed?
  3. Negative Thought: [Insert name of writer] is so much better than me. I’ll never be this good.
    Positive Replacement Thoughts: I may not be the best of the best, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m bad.
    Every writer has their own unique style. Just because mine isn’t exactly like [insert name of writer]’s, that doesn’t mean it’s lesser.
  4. Negative Thought: Everyone hates my work.
    Positive Replacement Thought: Just because my work isn’t another’s cup of tea doesn’t mean everyone hates it.
  5. Negative Thought: My work has been rejected so many times; maybe I should just give up because it’s obviously hopeless.
    Positive Replacement Thought: Every single writer faces rejection. Twelve publishers rejected JK Rowling’s pitch for Harry Potter, for example. I believe in my work and will refine it and submit it as many times as I need to in order for it to be published.
  6. Negative Thought: They say my work is good? Ha! Either they’re just saying that to make me feel better, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.
    Positive Replacement Thought: You listen to their constructive feedback. Why shouldn’t you listen to their praise, as well?

You may be reading this list and thinking, “I don’t even believe those positive replacement thoughts about myself.” The good news is, it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t. Hammering away at those negative thoughts with the positive ones has the power to change your patterns of thinking over time. So even if you’re not feeling it initially, keep at it. With lots of work and practice, it will eventually start to stick.

Happy writing!

Working in a Group Home, as Told by GIFs

For four months now, I have been working in a group home setting, providing care to adults with developmental disabilities. Though I’ll occasionally pick up shifts in a home with six women, the main home I work at consists of four men, all of whom are basically nonverbal.

I love what I do. My clients are amazing and make it all worthwhile. But, as you can imagine, it can also be a very challenging job. But never a dull moment!

Wondering what it’s like? Allow me to explain…with GIFs!

(All GIFs courtesy of GIPHY)

1. Poop.


We deal with poop, pee, and other bodily fluids on a pretty regular basis. We talk about it, we document it, and we clean it up. It’s never something you come to enjoy, and it’s always going to be gross, but it is something you eventually get desensitized to.

2. When you find out you’re working with someone awesome…


Not all group home staff have another coworker alongside them, but in many cases, direct care is a real team effort, and a strong coworker can make all the difference. And such relationships are really valuable because you know you’ve got each other’s back. You find yourself not just building working relationships but also friendships.

3. Alternatively, when you check the schedule and find out you’re working with someone you don’t like…


…And that’s all I have to say on that matter.

4. When you tell someone about how a resident hit you and they say “Did you smack them back? I would’ve!”


You do realize that, even if I wanted to hit a resident—which I don’t—I would be fired for doing so faster than you could say “recipient rights violation,” don’t you? That doesn’t mean we have to be doormats and take all the physical abuse they can throw at us; we have methods in which we can protect ourselves while also keeping them safe. That’s what our mandatory Mandt training is partially about.

5. Every single client you work with is totally unique, so when you have to care for someone new, it’s like you’re starting from square one all over again.


I find it truly incredible how collected and in-control I feel when I’m working at my base home, but when I fill in at the other home, my brain basically goes “POTATO.”

(I’m getting better, though!)

6. If you’re not already a parent, you get to experience what it’s like—and practice for it.


A group home worker advocates for, encourages, and protects clients. At times we have to say “no” when they want something that isn’t good for them. And that leads me into my last point…

7. You deeply love your clients as if they’re your own kids.


You discover that love and relationship-building does not necessarily require words because communication is so much more than that which is verbal. My residents may not be able to speak much, if at all, but they absolutely communicate—sometimes through sign language, sometimes through pointing, and yes, sometimes through behaviors of all sorts. And through time, you get to know them and love them.

There is something exceptionally and mysteriously beautiful about seeing a nonverbal client smile or laugh. There are moments that melt your heart, like when a resident comes up to you and gives you a hug or kiss.

Of course, there are difficult moments. Sometimes the clients do something that pisses you off or leaves you feeling exasperated. But when you love your job like I do, you find that those moments are shadowed by the positive ones. And you want to give them the best care and life possible—not just because that’s technically your job, but because you genuinely love them.

And in spite of the difficulties—which are certainly nothing to sneeze at—it’s that aspect of the job that keeps me coming back day after day, week after week.

How to Drive in Winter Weather

This is for all those in the South who have been experiencing snow…and far too many in the North who still don’t seem to understand how to drive in the winter, in spite of the fact that it comes every single year.

The Most Important Rule:


This means drive under the speed limit when there is ice and/or snow on the road.

How slow? It depends on what the roads look like. In a 55 MPH speed limit area, here’s what I typically do:

Unpacked snow covers the road: 25 – 35 MPH
Packed snow covers the road: 30 – 40 MPH
Packed snow covers part of the road while the rest is clear: 35 – 45 MPH
Tire tracks have been cleared with a streak of snow in the middle: 40 – 50 MPH
Road is clear but wet: 50 – 55 MPH
Road is slushy: 35 – 50 MPH, depending on how slushy we’re talking

This probably sounds really conservative, perhaps even to seasoned winter drivers (pun not intended). But I believe it’s always better to play it safe rather than take a risk.

But what if you’re in a hurry? Sorry, but you’re just gonna have to be late to whatever you’re going to. When you drive fast in bad weather, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk. It’s just not worth it. Seriously.

Along the Same Vein:

Every move you make in your car needs to be slowed way down in the winter. That means

  • Accelerate gently.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to stop, and gradually apply pressure to the brakes.
  • Make all turns as if you’re a scared, little old lady.

Interacting with Other Drivers

Give cars in front of you two or three times as much space as you normally would. Most importantly, never, ever tailgate someone in inclement weather, no matter how slow they’re going. Keep your distance and then pass if/when it’s safe.

This should really go without saying, but apparently it still needs to be said: Use your blinkers! This is important to do all the time but especially important in the winter so that drivers behind you can prepare themselves accordingly with the road conditions.

If You Start to Slide…

  • Stay calm. Easier said than done, I know, but panicking could cause you to over-correct, which will make things worse.
  • Take your foot off both pedals. In other words, DO NOT BRAKE!
  • Grip the wheel tightly with both hands.
  • Experts recommend turning into the skid, i.e. turning the wheel in the same direction your back tires are facing.
  • I actually find that really confusing and hard to remember in the heat of the moment, though, and I instead think of it like this: turn your wheel in the opposite direction of where you’re currently facing.
  • For example, if your car is sliding to the right, you need to veer more to the left to correct this, so turn your wheel left.
  • Do it gently; don’t over-correct!

Other Tips

  • Give yourself extra traveling time.
  • Even if the road appears to be clear, it might not be clear, so proceed with caution. Black ice is a very real thing that needs to be taken seriously.
  • Even if the stretch of road you’re currently on is clear, it could be snowy farther up. Always stay alert.
  • If you’ve hit an unexpected patch of ice or snow, take your foot off the accelerator until you’ve slowed down to a reasonable speed. If you need to slow down now, brake very, very gently.
  • A 4-wheel drive does not make you invincible. You still need to go slower than usual and drive with extra care.
  • Distracted driving is never okay, and especially not now when the weather is bad.
  • If you find yourself stuck in the snow, do not slam on the gas pedal, as you’ll likely just drive yourself in deeper. Instead, rock your way out by alternating between putting your car in reverse and in drive.
  • If you’re driving at night and snow is pelting down, turning on your brights can actually make visibility worse.
  • Do not let other drivers bully you into going faster than you’re comfortable with. It’s sometimes tempting to speed way up when someone is tailgating you. Don’t do it. If they don’t like the way you drive, that’s their problem, not yours. Let them pass you and go on to drive themselves into a ditch.

Hopefully this helps! Stay safe out there.

2017 in Review: The Year of Independence

Yet another year has come to pass, and that means the time has once again come for me to engage in one of my very favorite traditions: my end-of-the-year reflection.

I love this time because it never fails to lend me the perspective that I think we all need at times. Living in the present moment is important for mental health, but pondering the past and future can also be good for our growth as people. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t stop to consider where we came from and where we’re going. And New Year’s is the perfect time to engage in that healthy reflection.

Following a somewhat recent tradition, I have given 2017 a title: the Year of Independence.

I’ve named it this due to the biggest, most life-altering event of the year: I moved out of my parents’ house and started living on my own.

Toward the beginning of 2017, my dad sent me a Facebook message, telling me that one of the women he worked with was subleasing the house she rented. The place was in Allendale and rent was $250 per month plus utilities. Would I be interested?

Since late 2015, I’d been looking to move out of my parents’ house and set out on my own. The address, conveniently located within 10 minutes of my workplace, paired with the astoundingly low cost made me send back a resounding, “Heck, yes!”

So I took a visit, met some of my soon-to-be roommates, and quickly decided that the situation was right for me. I made my move in early March, and the rest is history. I love having my independence, I love my roommates, and I love how close it is to work.

Other notable events of 2017:

1. I traveled to Thailand.


In April, my workplace granted me the incredible and unforgettable opportunity to visit Thailand. There, we got to visit some of the charities and companies we partner with. It was beautiful there but sweltering. My co-workers and I lived in a state of being drenched in sweat that entire week. I was also off my ADHD medication, so I was clumsy as heck and had the attention span of a fruit fly. But it was also incredible. One of the biggest highlights: when we visited the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, a little girl, probably about three or four, ran up to me and threw her arms around my legs and then scurried off.

2. I got out of a very bad relationship…and into a much better one.

Around the time I moved out of my parents’ house, the guy I’d been dating for nearly a year and I broke up. It was mutual, ending completely after a short “break” I’d initiated. Breaking up with him was one of the greatest decisions I’d ever made. He treated me like crap, gaslighting and disrespecting me. In addition to the fact that he was an asshole, we were also far too different to be compatible.

A few months later, I met another guy online. We’ve been together for four incredible months now, and he’s truly one of the most amazing guys I’ve ever met. He is caring, compassionate, funny, respectful, sweet, interesting, intelligent, hardworking, and talented. And we have a great deal in common, too. I’m excited to see what the upcoming year will bring us!


3. We took in some kittens!

A stray cat moved into a hole in our chimney and gave birth to four adorable little kittens—three black ones and tortoise shell female. My crazy roommates managed to capture all four of them so that they could be socialized and given to loving homes. One escaped somehow early on in the process, so we were left with two black males and the one female. The tortoise shell girl was our favorite and the sweetest thing; we called her “Cali” because we initially thought she was a calico. The other two were a little less friendly, but they also eventually warmed up to people. All three of them now have their forever families. The whole “kidnapping and socializing” thing seemed insane when we first started the venture, but the turnout warmed my heart.


4. I said “goodbye” to old friends…and “hello” to new ones.

One of my co-workers—the one who took Cali the kitten, actually—ended up leaving us and moving to Atlanta in September. It was really sad for me to see him go because I’d grown particularly close to him in the past couple years I’d been working with the company. He became very much like an older brother to me, encouraging me and helping to give me confidence in my talent as a writer.

However, I also made new friends, both at work and at home. I regularly eat lunch with a couple lovely ladies I work with. We even did some holiday baking outside of the office, which was tons of fun! I’ve also gotten close to my roommates.

As such, my social circle has expanded, chasing away the loneliness that had been a companion throughout much of my life. And now, for the first time in a very long time, I have close female friends outside of my family.


5. I got invited to my first wedding ever!

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. I’d been invited to weddings within the family, and I’d been a plus-one to my sister a couple times. But my name has never been personally written on the invitation, until this year. It may seem small, but it was a big deal to me.

6. I sprained my foot…somehow.


It was in the midst of a nasty cold, too, and I seriously don’t know how it happened. I climbed into bed without any pain, fell asleep, and then woke up in pain. At its worst, movement of just about any sort caused me to break out into a cold sweat with nausea. Needless to say, I visited urgent care the next day for an x-ray.

Luckily, I’m doing much better. However, I now have pain in what my RN boyfriend says is my latissimus dorsi muscle—on my right side, a little below my arm. Likely strained it or pulled it or something. Ugh.

7. “Corgis in the Park” happened

Over the past year, I’ve grown obsessed with corgis. They’re such cute, derpy dogs with the fluffiest butts around. When I found out that there was an annual gathering of corgis and their owners in my neighboring city, I was ALL. OVER. THAT. I had to go. I spent months looking forward to it. And the day it happened was cold, wet, and rainy, but utterly magical.

8. I got to attend Art Prize for the first time

Art Prize is an annual art competition and festival held in our very own Grand Rapids. I’d heard about it for years and wanted to go, too, but I never had the guts to brave the traffic of the busy city. Luckily, my wonderful boyfriend is very used to driving in city traffic, so I got to experience Art Prize for the first time. The talent portrayed throughout the event was stunning.


9. All the bad things…

Though things went really well in my sphere of life, a lot of terrible things happened in the world around me. Donald Trump becoming president…and pretty much nearly everything he’s done since his inauguration. All the horrible hurricanes and wildfires. The Las Vegas shooting. There were a lot of times when I’ve lost hope for this world. Hopefully 2018 will be a little better? Maybe? Maybe?

10. I started a new blog!

In case you haven’t heard, it’s called Thoughts from the Black Hole and is a web comic. Check it out!

As for the Future…

It’s hard to say what 2018 will bring. I know that I’ll be celebrating my golden birthday—I’m turning 25 on March 25! Which also means I’ll be a quarter of a century old. Goodness…

There will undoubtedly be some hellos and goodbyes, as my roommate who has been here since I first moved in will graduate from GVSU and leave us to take a long tour of South America (which means there will be a new roommate moving in!). My sister will be visiting her long-time boyfriend for the first time in India. I hope to read more in the coming year, too; my goal is about two books per month. And, as always, I hope to get fitter and lose a couple pounds and stop eating so much sugar (blah, blah, blah…).

Other than that…it’s pretty much a matter of “Let’s wait and see!”

Here’s to 2018, everyone!


Thoughts I Have While Grocery Shopping

Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house in March and started living on my own, I’ve had to start grocery shopping for myself, something I have come to deeply loathe. But just about every week, I find myself writing out a grocery list as I go through the chore of trying to figure out what I’m going to cook in the next few days to come. I load up my reusable shopping bags into the car and drive the fifteen or so minutes to my nearest Aldi, and when I’ve found all that I can find there, I sweep by Meijer to buy the last few things on my list.

It goes a little something like this.

  1. Alright, I’m off. Hopefully things won’t be absurdly busy at this time.
  2. Aww, crap. The parking lot looks packed.
  3. Let’s get this over with.
  4. Why do people always have to be standing in front of the things I need?
  5. Better pretend to look for something else while I wait for them to move.
  6. Oh. My. Gosh.
  7. People are EVERYWHERE.
  8. I hate this.
  9. This sucks.
  10. Power through, Allison. Power through.
  11. Oh, geez. A screaming kid.
  12. Why do they always have to have their fits in grocery stores?
  13. Honestly, though, I feel ya, kid. I want to go home, too.
  14. Someday, you’ll learn to cry about it on the inside, like I am right now.
  16. Excuse me, please…
  17. UGH.
  18. Sorry, am I in your way? Sorry, sorry, sorry!
  19. These bags are getting so heavy, ugh!
  20. Screw this.
  21. Screw my life.
  22. Okay, do I have everything I need?
  23. I think so.
  24. WAIT, NO I DON’T! Aghhhhh!
  25. Alright, time to go to checkout.
  26. Annnnndddd it’s packed.
  27. At least the line is moving pretty quickly.
  28. Too quickly.
  29. Gahhh, stop moving, conveyor belt! I’m not done loading up my groceries yet, and there’s a person in front of me!
  30. Alright, my turn.
  31. I’m going to say that yes, I found everything okay, even if I didn’t.
  32. Should I start re-bagging my groceries now?
  33. Should I go ahead and swipe my card?
  34. No, I’ll wait.
  35. Alright, time to gather my stuff now.
  36. Need to hurry, need to hurry…without letting anything get crushed…
  37. Gahhh, this is so stressful!
  38. Cashier and person behind me, I’m sorry I’m being so slow.
  39. Whew, I’m done! Okay, gotta get my keys and go back to the car.
  40. Pulling out of the parking space is so stressful.
  41. Off to Meijer now.
  42. Ugh, traffic. I hate traffic.
  43. I hate people.
  44. This parking lot is a pain in the butt.
  45. Oh, gosh, the greeter at the door is saying hello to me.
  46. I don’t know what to do.
  47. I’m so awkward.
  48. They probably think I’m rude…
  49. I’m sorry, I’m just shy!
  50. Annnnddddd…it’s packed here, too.
  51. Fantastic, more screaming kids.
  53. This is the problem with working a 9 to 5 job. I have no choice but to go grocery shopping at the same time as everyone else.
  54. Power through, Allison. You can do this.
  55. This sucks. I want to go home.
  56. Okay, checkout time.
  57. Great, there’s a line.
  59. Stores need two different kinds of checkout lanes: one for people who have their sh*t together, and one for people who don’t.
  60. Alright, there’s an empty lane over there.
  61. Time to hit “I brought my own bag” like three times before the machine finally registers what I’m trying to do.
  62. OMG, the item is in the bagging area, you limp potato!
  63. “Unexpected item in the bagging area?” OH, FOR THE LOVE OF…
  64. Alright, look around. Is there a store person nearby who can help?
  65. Yay, thank you store person!
  66. These automated checkout machines are so annoying.
  67. Alright, I’m done. Thank God! Time to get out of here.

Why You Need to Sacrifice Even the Good Parts of Your Writing

As I was trekking along on my typical evening walk, I started thinking about my book and how I had recently decided to shift it from a first-person perspective to a third-person limited omniscient perspective.

It hadn’t been an easy decision, but it was one I didn’t regret. It fit the story much better, and I knew it would be far less pressure on me to constantly think in my characters’ voices (writing in first person, for the record, is really, really hard). However, I was hesitant because I’d written some pretty darned amazing scenes in first person, and I was reluctant to give those up. Besides, it was what I’d grown used to, and the thought of narrating the story from an outsider’s perspective seemed…weird to me.

In the end, though, I think it was the right choice.

Writing is about making sacrifices, I thought to myself on my walk. Sometimes you have to give up the things you really like in order to make your work better.

With that thought, reality b*tch-slapped me across the face. Oh sh*t, I thought.

Because there was a sacrifice I knew I needed to make that I really didn’t want to make. I’d sensed something was wrong for years, and yet I shoved it away and tried my hardest to ignore the truth.

See, two of my main characters are Jerry and Jamie. I realized I was going to have to change “Jerry” to “Gerry” to avoid confusing readers; heck, how many times have I misread their names and gotten them mixed up in my head? And if that wouldn’t work to properly separate them, I’d need to change one of their names entirely.

And holy frick sticks, this is going to suck.

Those two characters have had their names since the beginning of my book series all those years ago. Even when I considered changing the spelling of Jerry’s name, it didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem to quite fit him—probably because I’d learned to associate his name with his very distinct, unforgettable personality.

But it’s not like I’m changing his name entirely—mostly just the spelling, and of course replacing “Jerome” with “Gerald”—but either way, he positively loathes his full name, so it’s not like that will make much of a difference.

Still, I was reluctant to make the change, though I knew I was right in thinking it needed to be made. Sometimes I hate being right.

But see, this is the thing about writing. You really do have to make sacrifices. You might have to slice out the best thing you’ve ever written if it doesn’t work with the story at large.

Writing is definitely a sentimental practice, and we can grow attached to pieces of our work. But when you’re trying to make your work the best it can be, you have to be completely cold and detached. You’ve got to be ruthless about it. If it doesn’t work, it’ll have to go. If it’s not quite there yet, it’ll have to be tweaked. If it’s great, it can stay for now, but that status could be revoked at any time if there’s a good enough reason.

So now I’m off to do a big “find and replace” session on my document.

Stay ruthless, friends.