Japan Day 4 – Hoot! Hoot!

Alrighty, it’s time for our 4th day of adventure in Japan!

It was a pleasant Sunday. Sis-in-law and I woke up at the crack of dawn (5 AM-ish) and went to 7-Eleven to grab breakfast. After waiting for my husband to wake up, eat, and get ready we were ready to start our day. At some point during this day, or the night before, I realized I left one of my bags at our friends’ house! :O Oh no! We had to make a plan to meet up later to grab it before they left for their honeymoon. Until then we were off to explore beautiful Japan.

Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. When we got off the train, the area was PACKED with people. We did not realize how close it was to the Harijuku shopping area. There was also some kind of protest going on so there were a lot of onlookers blocking the sidewalk. Somehow we managed to get by and found the park where the shrine is located. It was gorgeous! We looked at a map but figured we’d just go where most people seemed to be going. Surely that’s the way to the shrine (it was). Outside of the temple was a fountain and people were getting water. We didn’t know what it was or the meaning behind it because the English pamphlets were all gone. We took a couple of selfies with the shrine gate behind us. As we went past it there was a wedding procession going by. It was a cool site to see. Once they were gone, we kept making our way to the temple. We spent a few minutes people-watching there. We then went out a different way and found another fountain. This one was less crowded and we found a pamphlet explaining the prayer and cleansing tradition. We took a few more photos and were on our way to our next stop: Yoyogi Park to find some cosplayers.

Meiji shrine

Meiji Shrine Gate

Shrine fountain

The fountain

We used GPS on my phone to try and find the actual area where the cosplayers would be. We walked for sooooo long. We found our way out of the park where the shrine is and wandered into the entrance for the actual park area. There were a lot of people once again. Out on the street we thought the protest was still going on, but it turned out to be a parade for Children’s Day. At the park there were many people walking around, picnicking, and just enjoying the day and scenery. There were a few street entertainers who were really interesting. We did some more walking around the park and never came across any cosplayers. By this point, I was getting tired, hot, and grumpy. I tried to keep my grumpiness and disappointment to myself as long as possible but eventually couldn’t anymore. I was done. Hubby and sis kept trying to get me out of my funk but I was having none of that, so we headed towards our hotel because I wanted to nap and get some rest.

We decided to walk and on our way there passed a shopping area. The smell of food was all around us. Since it was about time for us to eat, we looked for an inexpensive place to chow down. In an alley, we found a little restaurant underground. We dined, relaxed, and recharged. I was good to go. I guess I was just hangry before. It’s a real problem guys! Don’t judge. Our next stop was only a few minutes away. I wanted to go to a very popular Japanese stationery store (I don’t know why…). We regrouped and headed off. We found the place and had to cross the street. As we were crossing we heard an alarm go off and just watched as everyone in the street scattered. So what did we do? Run! Follow! Once we were safely across we looked around and laughed at what had just happened. We realized we were just a part of the famous Shibuya Crossing. It’s much like the Times Square of Japan (or so I’ve been told). We took some photos and got to see the Hachiko statue. After our little trip at the stationery store we had finally set up a time to meet up with our friend for my bag. We had some time to kill until then. Fortunately, we weren’t too far from another place we REALLY wanted to visit: an owl cafe!!!

The Scramble

“The Scramble” Shibuya Crossing at night

My goodness y’all. You have not lived until you get to be up close and personal with these precious creatures. It was like being in Harry Potter! Well, probably not at all, but let me dream. We walked through Takeshita Street to check out all the shops on our way to the cafe. If you love fashion, shopping, or people-watching, this is definitely a place to visit. It’s very close to the Harajuku area. We eventually found the owl cafe around an alley and had to take the elevator up a few floors. We were very excited! I mean, who wouldn’t be? Unless you’re a fun-hater. We got to pet, hold, and even feed the owls. There were several kinds of owls, in all shapes and sizes. They were all so soft!! I can’t even find the words to properly convey my feelings for this event. Seriously. It was amazing. Just look at the joy on my hubby’s face in the pictures! We had a hoot! (See what I did there???)

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The largest owl

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The smallest owl

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Schola

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Cool owl

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Hubby with the large owl

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Hubby and his new BFF, Schola❤

After our wonderful owl experience we were headed to meet our friend near his house. We made the trip all the way there and met up at a restaurant. After eating and chatting with him and his family his lovely wife offered to go home and grab my bag on her bike so we could make it to the train on time. In the time it took us to wait for the local bus and get to the train station, she was able to make it home and back. I was so grateful to have my stuff back and to be able to head back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired by this point. Unfortunately, we exited the train station on the wrong side and it took us a while to find our way to the hotel. We went in circles a few times. All in all, it was a fun day exploring the Shibuya area.

Japan Day 3 – A Quick Flashback

As previously mentioned, day 3 in Japan was pretty chill. What wasn’t mentioned in my long rambling were two things I’d love to share with y’all. One: My husband and sister-in-law’s experience trying natto. Two: I found a pine cone!

Ok, so about the first one: Natto is basically fermented soybeans. Apparently my husband watched many videos on the plane ride to Japan that explored various topics about Japanese culture, including food information. This is where he learned about natto. He loves fermented and weird things like sauerkraut, so of course he wanted to try natto! He jumped on the opportunity when we went grocery shopping for the cookout. When we got back to the house, our friend’s wife cooked up some rice to go along with the natto. Our friend’s host dad said that most Japanese people don’t even really eat it. My husband was ready to dig in and somehow convinced his sister to try a good amount herself. Poor girl. We all watched in anticipation of their reaction. Now, this stuff is weird…they picked it up with the chopsticks and this slimy, gooeyness just dripped down. The smell alone was off-putting.

Dustin’s reaction: *chewing* Mmm, not bad. *keeps eating*

At the same time – his sister’s reaction: *chewing* *makes a disgusted face* *immediately looks for a place to spit it out*

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Before picture. I wish I had an after.

Everyone else: Shocked that Dustin liked it!

He made me try it to and luckily I’d already had enough whiskey shots in me to not taste or smell so well, or care for that matter. I was smart and only ate one individual bean though. It was not good! I was quick to wash it down with some delicious, fruity wine. Ugh!

I wish I had a close up photo of it to share but y’all have to settle for Googling that gooey mess.

Continuing the flashback: My pine cone!!😀

Back in February, hubby and I went on our belated honeymoon to lovely Colorado. Looking back through my posts, I’ve realized I never really mentioned it or what we did. One day we went snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. We didn’t get far with my bum knee and it was a very cloudy day so we didn’t want to be stuck out there too long. However, on our way back to the car I saw a couple of pine cones. They were just the tiniest, cutest things ever! I brought one home as a souvenir, because I’m weird like that. So anyway! While we were in Japan at our friend’s house, we stepped outside and sis-in-law pointed out this perfect little pine cone in the middle of the street. I swear I didn’t see that there on our way in and it’s not like it was a street full of traffic. It was more of a dead end kind of street. So for this little pine cone to be sitting there so perfectly was fate! Right? I told you I’m weird. I guess I’m starting a vacation pine cone collection?!

 

Haha, well I hope you enjoyed the two random little stories. Wait for day 4. That’s when it get’s really interesting, maybe.

 

 

Japan Day 3 – A Relaxing Day

Who’s been waiting to read the next installment of our Japan trip? I’m really enjoying writing about our trip one day at a time. It helps me relive the moments and kind of extends the trip in my mind. I think I did a fairly good job of keeping a mental travel journal. The next trip we go on I plan on having an actual journal to write in.

Day 3 started out much like day 2. The three of us (hubby, sis-in-law, and myself) had breakfast at the hotel. We met up with our friend shortly after. His family was going shopping and we were going to be adventurous! He took us a few blocks down to an onsen, or public bath house/hot springs. This was definitely an experience that anyone visiting Japan should try out. Basically, you get naked, wash yourself, and relax in one of many hot baths. There are separate areas for men and women and there were indoor and outdoor baths. Hubby said there was a sauna as well, but SIL and I had no one to guide us through so we were lost little ducklings.

There are a few important things to know when at an onsen:

First, you get nekkid! Everyone is nekkid, so you have to throw any body issues out the window. Embrace yo self! Believe me, I know it’s difficult. As if I wanted SIL and all the little old Asian ladies to see me in my big ol’ birthday suit. No. Not in America. That is not a part of our culture, but we weren’t in America so as I said before: when in Rome… Besides, we’ll never see those people again. I was not about to miss out on the experience over my personal insecurities. Going in, I knew hubby would have no qualms about it. He’s a free spirit and a guy so I figured he’d fit in (I was correct, he loved it.).

Second, no hair in the bath water! Oops. SIL and I didn’t know this little rule but there was a kind lady who quietly came over and informed us. So ladies (and gents with long hair) don’t forget to tie it up. Also, you have two towels: a regular towel to dry yourself off with after (leave that in your little locker with your clothes) and a smaller wash towel you use when cleaning yourself before getting in the bath. This second towel should not be in the bath either. You can leave it near you outside of the bath, or place it on top of your head. It also comes in handy if you want to cover your secret bits while walking around the bath area – as long as you’re small. Otherwise, you have to decide what you’re more comfortable exposing to the cold, cold air after getting out of the warm water.

Third, the baths have different temperatures and colors. That’s because different springs will have different temps and minerals. Us girls didn’t know so we only tried out two baths. One inside that seemed more like a hot tub and one outside. We were probably only in the water about 30 minutes or so before we got too warm and decided we were done. We probably should have cleaned and rinsed the minerals off us after but we didn’t.

The onsen pretty much set the mood for the day. It was a relaxing start to our Saturday. Sis and I waited for the guys at the eating area and found water to sip on. That’s another important tip: stay hydrated! Sitting in a hot bath for a while can make you really thirsty. When they were done we headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff since we were staying in another part of Tokyo for the rest of the trip. But not without a stop at our friend’s house! And a good ol’ cookout!

We all made the journey to the house and walked by a small bakery. I did not pass up the opportunity to try another pastry in Japan. I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for buying items, so I just grabbed a bag of pre-wrapped donut holes? Yes, that’s a question mark because they looked like it but I dunno Japanese. There could be surprise banana for all I knew (or wished…)! Surprise banana – yea, that’s a thing now. Hmm. Maybe not. Before I get too off-topic…they were delicious! We continued onward and checked out the house.

Shortly after arriving we learned that a trip to the grocery store was called for. While I didn’t really want to go (so much walking), I tagged along because that meant more time spent with our friend. I mean, he was the reason we were there in the first place, so this little piggy sucked it up and went to market. The grocery store was cool. The meat section had ALL parts of the animals available. Maybe not all, but a lot more than you’d find at a typical American grocery store. Then there was the deli/freshly made food section…Oh my goodness. It smelled amazing and looked good! We knew it’d be a while before we got to eat so we gathered up some sushi and onigiri. After finishing up our shopping trip and getting back to the house we chowed down. Om nom nom.

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This is what I’m calling Japanese Mike’s Hard Lemonade. 7% lemony alcohol

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Here’s a flattering photo of my handsome hubby and adorable sister in law. Oh, and a not so flattering photo of me. Oh well, at least I look taller than I am.

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Grocery store sushi and onigiri (it was prettier but shifted in transit)

I’ve never been one to try sushi – California rolls are my only adventure into that world. The thought of eating raw fish just never sat well with me. In America. But (repeat after me) when in Rome… I tried several different things. And I liked them all for the most part. Gosh, I’m hungry just thinking of all that rice. I love rice. We watched Japanese TV for a little bit after and headed downstairs to rejoin the family while the food was grilling. Drinks were poured and stories were told. Lots of drinks. It was a blast getting to know our friend’s family better. We even met his Japanese host dad from the time he had studied in Japan a few years before. We also enjoyed some ice cream and smores before we headed out. We still had about an hour of travel to get to our hotel so we kind of left in a rush so we could catch the train.

It was a long day, kind of like this blog post. After getting settled into our room, we all kind of passed out again… Goodnight, Day 3.

 

Japan Day 2 – The Wedding!

Day 2 of our Japan trip was a beautiful, but windy, Friday. Sis-in-law woke up super early and dropped her stuff off at our room since she’d be transferring rooms that night. She went on her own little adventure that day to see Mt. Fuji and the beautiful cherry blossoms. Hubby and I got up and grabbed breakfast at the hotel. I’m used to continental/American breakfasts full of cereals and breads, so walking into the dining area that morning was a shock to me. There was a huge rice cooker, different meats, jelly fish (that’s what hubby said anyway), hard boiled eggs, and other savory items. They also had a very small assortment of more breakfast-y items like fruit, yogurt, and a few pastries. I grabbed my plate and started loading up. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. It was time to try different things, and I’m glad I did because my meal was so delicious! On our way back up to our room we checked out the lobby’s vending machine and found out the canned coffee was hot! AMAZING! It was super cheap, too.

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Hot latte in a can from a vending machine!

We had a few hours before the wedding started that day so hubby and I decided to walk to the mall. Conveniently, it was within walking distance – only about 15 mins away. The neighborhood our hotel was located in was a very quiet area. It was also the beginning of Japan’s Golden Week which is when they tend to travel so that probably added to the emptiness. We arrived at the mall and started wandering around. Japanese people really love their clothing stores! We checked a few home goods stores, a music store, a department store (it had a grocery store on the first floor) and a bookstore. We walked to another part of the mall and ended up grabbing ice cream from a vending machine to eat on our way back to the hotel.

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I REALLY wanted to get this!

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Arcade machine at the mall

To our wonderful surprise, our friend was at the hotel running errands before the wedding. It had been a few years since we’d last seen him and we didn’t know if we’d see him before the wedding started. We didn’t have much to do so we gave him and his fiance a hand taking decorations to the wedding venue. Like I mentioned before, it was a very windy day so on our way to the venue we struggled against the wind. Boy, was it strong! One of the items we were carrying flew into a huge field and our friend and my husband had to run to get it as it kept rolling and flying away. Us girls had a good laugh at their dilemma. After dropping stuff off, we left the two lovebirds and went to get ready.

The wedding itself was short and sweet. It was outdoors so the wind kept messing with the bride’s veil but she looked beautiful nonetheless. I tried taking photos with my phone but it was a recent replacement (as in a day before we left for the trip) and apparently the camera was messed up. It would not focus on anything further than a couple feet away. I was so disappointed, but it also allowed me to be more in the moment and really reflecting and absorbing what was happening. The reception was quite fancy. If I remember correctly, it was a 7-course meal. We had a blast chatting with our friend’s new sister and brother-in-law. They  were a very impressive couple and very kind with super adorable children. The reception went on a bit longer than anticipated but still ended quite early.

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Camera wouldn’t focus on anything further away, so here are some pretty flowers!

 

Everyone headed out and we planned to meet up with our friend, his new wife, his family, and a few of their friends at a karaoke bar next to the hotel. My sis-in-law was supposed to meet us there on her way back from her excursion. Now, I’ve never been a huge karaoke fan because I know I sound terrible so I was hoping to get some liquid courage but that didn’t happen and I only did one song. It was a blast watching everyone else though! Hubby REALLY loves karaoke and he got really into it. He and our friend ended up doing a duet on Disney’s Let It Go from Frozen. That was fun to watch. I even got video of it so I we can enjoy that moment over and over again. HAHA!

The night was winding down, and we still had not heard anything from SIL. Last we had heard, the portable wi-fi unit was low on battery. We assumed since we weren’t getting any responses from her, that her phone was probably also dead. We were getting worried since it was pretty late so I jumped online and tried to find out if there were any problems on the trains. There was one line that was delayed but we didn’t know if that’s the one she’d be on. We headed back to the hotel and hoped to see her there or at least get in touch with her soon. My husband ended up falling asleep knowing I’d stay up and be the responsible one…men…right?? I had to fight off sleep and luckily got a call from SIL. Someone had misdirected her and she was stranded at the wrong station. Her only real option was to catch a cab back. Relieved that she was safe, I stayed up to wait for her to get there. We updated her boyfriend back home and let him know she was headed to the hotel. When she got there, I had lost all tiredness and we started chatting about our days. I think at one point we woke up my husband and he joined our conversation for a while. Slowly it died down and somehow we were all hit drifted off to sleep.

 

First night in Japan!

Our first stop after landing was the bathroom! I avoid drinks on the plane due to tiny bathrooms, so once we get close to the airport I chug water like I’m about to be stranded on a desert island… Desert island? Surrounded by sea water? Do those really exist? Whatever… Hello weird toilets! So at the airport the choices were a traditional squat toilet or a Western-style toilet with buttons. Say what?! Obviously, I’m not about that life for the squat toilet. Shoot, I would’ve fallen on my butt into it probably. No thanks! Western-toilet it was. So in Japan, the toilets have bidets! Clean butts for everyone! Now that we’re back home I think we all have mentioned that we miss the Japanese toilets at least once or twice.

Our next stop was the customs/immigration line. Since we had stopped for a potty break, we missed the long lines (plus I think we were the only international flight at that time). We were done in under 5 minutes. Wahoo! Now what? Gotta get some cash money, yo. After spending some time on the phone with our credit card company to get a PIN number we had some dinero. (It was a new credit card account and I didn’t realize I needed to set the PIN before getting a cash advance). Conveniently, just across the ATMs was a booth we could rent a portable Wi-Fi unit. This thing came in handy since not too many places offered free wifi. There are ways to get free wifi, especially as a visitor, by downloading a few apps sponsored by the government (I think it’s the government). I don’t remember what the apps were but there was a brochure at the airport with information. We picked up our wifi unit and off we went to the area we would catch our train from. After sis-in-law picked up her prepaid rail pass (she was going to be making a long day-trip visit to Mt. Fuji) we hopped on our train. A few stops later we were walking in rain to our hotel. On our way there we saw two Japanese men stumbling about. One was helping his obviously drunk friend get to the station. Oh don’t you know how to welcome people, Japan?🙂

Since we didn’t really have much sleep on the plane and we were tired we almost fell asleep as soon as we got settled down. However, our stomachs grumbled and mumbled and we decided to wander around for food – not really though. Hello, we’re in a foreign country and don’t know the language. We were not about to get lost. We asked the front desk staff for help and suggestions. We chose a little ramen restaurant a few minutes away. Thank goodness for pictures on menus. Our food was out fairly quickly and it was also pretty inexpensive for the three of us. The food was beyond delicious and very filling. One thing about Japan: you do not tip and you still get superb service! We quietly said arigato (thank you) and were on our way. We stopped at 7-11 to get some snacks in case we had late-night munchies and to get more cash out. I bought a delicious looking chocolate mousse thing. I had no idea what surprises I’d encounter when I ate it.

True story (as all of this is): I forgot to get a utensil of some kind to eat the deliciousness mentioned above. What did I do? Well, hubby had fallen asleep and the lights were out so I sat in my bed (we had individual beds) and used my tongue like a puppy to eat the darn thing! There was chocolate mousse, surprise banana, and a little brownie-type thing at the bottom. The banana was seriously a surprise, especially in the dark, haha. The next day I learned how to use the Google translate app to read the ingredients and lo and behold the kanji for banana was on a very prominent sticker on the package. My bad. And that’s how I learned to write banana in Japanese kanji (バナナ).

With full bellies and tired bodies we slept great and were ready for the big wedding the next day!

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Delicious chocolate banana thing!

 

 

Adventure To Japan!

Konichiwa! That means hello in Japanese. It is one of very few Japanese words I learned. Google Translate was a godsend and very helpful tool while on our 6-day trip around Tokyo earlier this month. This is going to be a lengthy post, so I might just break it up over several posts.

It was a dark and stormy night… Actually we left on a Tuesday before the crack of dawn. But it had rained the night before. We were so excited for the trip we didn’t really sleep much. A 3-hour or so plane ride later with hubby and my favorite sis-in-law (HEEEEEY!) we were waiting at LAX for our international flight. We got there a good 4-5 hours before our flight. The ticketing office for our airline hadn’t even opened yet! I don’t even remember what we did to make the time pass by. Oh yeah, we scavenged for food. Ay, airport food is so expensive. They really take advantage of hungry, jet-lagged customers. Eventually it was time to board. I’ve only been on a plane a handful of times and I’m an anxious person, so down into my tummy went the Dramamine. Not only does that stuff help me avoid motion sickness, but it also tends to make me sleepy so I can fall asleep for a bit on the plane. We settled into our seats, “ready” for the 11+ hour flight.

The first few hours were all excitement! We’re off to the other side of the world and going to see our friend get married! We’re watching some good movies on the in-flight entertainment tablet. Woooh! We got some food!

A few hours later, I was feeling restless. I wanted to get up but didn’t want to be bumpin’ and grindin’ against peoples’ arms while walking the aisles. So I only got up when I needed to go to the restroom. And boy was that tiny! Big girl, you are beautiful, but next time we’re slimming you down! I also tried stretching my neck every once in a while. Luckily one of the movies I was watching was boring enough to put me to sleep so I got some rest on the plane. At some point closer to landing we were fed a second meal. We were offered beverages during our flight, but I only drank water. I don’t see a point in drinking if I can’t be loud and disturbing the peace, yo! More flying through the air happened and finally we were in Japan!

Stay tuned for the next post where I ramble on about the various things we saw and did.

 

Namastay In Bed

It’s been a while since I wrote anything. There’s no particular reason, I just have been lazy about it. We are a quarter of the way through the year already, which is hard to believe. Wasn’t it just January??

A couple of things have happened since my last couple of posts. I took my driving test and am now a fully licensed driver. Woopee! I don’t get on the highway yet, but I don’t really go anywhere besides work, grocery store, and gym. I have yet to get back to riding my bike. However, I do think my knee is finally getting strong enough to do so.

I have been to the doctor a few times already this year. I did an at-home sleep study to test for sleep apnea because I have trouble sleeping and wake up more than I’d like. Turns out I’m ok on that front, so my doc referred me to an ENT specialist. I paid my copay and after about a 10 minute visit, I was diagnosed with a deviated septum. It’s probably not the cause of my sleep issues, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. As for one of my other doc visits, I wanted to talk to him about my thyroid. PCOS comes with many, many different symptoms. Many of these symptoms can also be shared with/caused by thyroid problems. Several women with PCOS also have thyroid disorders, so after a lot of webMDing and Google searches I wanted to rule out any thyroid dysfunctions. Luckily, all is well there too. My doctor simply reminded me how important sticking to a low carb diet really is for my health and weight loss. Darn.

As for exercise, hubby and I joined a new gym last month. My membership includes 12 sessions with a team weight loss class that meets three times a week. The gym has tons of group fitness classes throughout the week as well. There are spin classes, yoga classes, dance/Zumba classes, and strength group classes. I’ve tried out a few of them and as part of my New Year resolution to try something new each month, I finally went to a couple of yoga classes. I am in love with them! As a beginner, it was intimidating the first time because I was afraid of being judged for not knowing the pose names or being as flexible as others. None of that happened (that I know of). The classes I checked out were all relatively easy and great for a beginner like me. The teachers talked us through the poses and adjusted us as needed. The lights were also kept pretty low in the room to add to the relaxation. My goal is now to go to at least two yoga classes a week. I sure could use the stretching, especially after sitting at work for hours.

That’s a little bit of what’s been going on around here. I’m slowly working on pushing myself out of my comfort zone because change and growth can’t happen if I do nothing. One of my new favorite quotes that helps is: “Waiting for someone else to make you happy is the surest way to be sad.” – Jeffrey Benjamin. I don’t want to be sad and stagnant. Gotta keep moving and improving. :D