Coffee Shop Office Hours; #WriterWednesday, #coffee, #amwriting, #wheretowrite, #writinglife, #NaNoWriMo, #WW

Coffee and chocolate drinksToday, I had a coupon for an oil change at one particular place, but as they were being difficult to schedule, I spent $5 more to hit the Monroe I normally go to. I was perfectly fine with that, as it’s closer to my local Starbucks.

Mind you, hands down, I prefer and go out of my way to patronize local coffee shops and small businesses. (Hello, Sturbridge Coffee Roasters!) That said, there is a lot of good to be said about Starbucks – particularly my local one, which has excellent customer service and baristas who know my name.

But, back to my oil change and why that inspired my #WriterWednesday post…

I have yet to get an oil change anywhere that is done in the 15-20 minutes they promise. That’s why I prefer the one by Starbucks; I pack my computer and I know I can get work done in a fairly comfortable setting with readily available caffeine and at least semi-healthy snacks – depending on my resistance level to not-in-the-least-bit-healthy for you snacks. (Salted caramel fudge block and s’mores squares, I’m looking at you!)

When I’ve interviewed writers for my non-fiction articles, or when I get interviewed as a writer, there is almost always a question about rituals and what one does to “get in the zone” to write. I laugh at that. My requirements: somewhere to sit semi-comfortably and either a functioning machine with a word-processing program or just plain paper with pen or pencil.

And that’s all you should need, too.

Life is hectic. Writing time needs to be fought for and protected fiercely. That’s why writers should get into the habit of writing anywhere, anytime. Always have pen and paper, and whenever possible, bring a netbook, tablet, or something like that (because it’s way easier to transfer work via email or thumbdrive than actual transcription, IMHO).

Now, when it comes to coffee shops in particular, if you haven’t ever explored that old cliché of a writer in a coffeehouse, you’re missing out.

(There’s also the cliché of writers in bars; I have tried it with varying success. But that will be another post.)

The coffee-shop-as-office is becoming a ubiquitous trend. I see people with their laptops all the time – and not just writers. There’s a unique vibe to the indie and Starbucks-esque coffee shops that I haven’t found elsewhere. These havens work as both a place to be alone in a crowd or part of a community – sometimes both in the same visit.

When someone’s looking at their computer intently, usually, they don’t get bothered. (Usually: YMMV). But if you’re stuck and looking around, sometimes you’ll meet eyes with someone and strike up a short conversation. Or, someone you know might be eating, relaxing, reading,.. or staring into space rather than their computer screen (especially if you frequent this spot a lot). Sometimes just that brief conversation will reinvigorate you about your topic; sometimes that person might have useful information for you.

Today, for example, I was pushing through email when two local police officers walked in and were chatting at the table next to me. My current short WIP includes some things that police officers would be uniquely qualified to advise me on.  I kept smiling and trying to catch their eye during lulls in conversation, and finally, one of them addressed me.

With a shy smile, I started, “This is really weird, but I’m a writer and I’m working on a piece that I want to get right in how the police might handle a situation…”

“What do you write?”

“Science fiction, fantasy…”

“My favorites! What do you need…?”

I asked about a particular plot point, got useful information, and we bid each other good days. It was great!

In my coffee shop office hours, I’ve met pastors, teachers, lawyers, other police officers, mechanics, and all sorts of folk from whom I’ve had the pleasure of learning. I’ve ended up getting speaking and book signing gigs based on our conversations. At the very least, my writing time has included delicious beverages and food.

Most importantly, having “office hours,” even if they’re at someplace public, in and of itself, can be a tool to help productivity. A change of environment, the white noise of conversation, the general “coffee shop” style music can push your brain out of a stuck mode. Or, if you are set on having rituals and practices to help you write, setting aside a place and limited time might be just enough to get you started.

Have you tried coffee shop office hours? How did it work for you?

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I’ve never wanted to end my life… #holdontothelight, #alwayskeepfighting, #akf, #mentalwellness

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I’ve never wanted to end my life.

I’ve been sad, angry, lethargic, overwhelmed to the point of being unable to get out of bed. I would never use “depressed,” though, to describe how I felt. Part of it, I’m sure, is stigma. Another part, however, is knowing my friends who have been depressed – clinically or situationally – and who at one point really did want to end their lives.

I was bullied through a good part of school. In first grade, my best friend told me she was leaving me to hang out with the cooler kids. In fifth and sixth grade, my best friend and I were belittled by teachers and physically threatened by classmates for being different. I became the lead drummer in junior high because I spent every lunch hiding in the band room, practicing so I could avoid the lunchroom where no one would sit with me and I’d gotten shoved and told “Stop following us! We don’t want you around us!” by a group of girls I’d thought were friends. In high school, things changed because there were over 2000 kids, so enough of us outcasts and geeks found each other and made our own group – but we all knew we should never travel alone. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or if we were Magic the Gathering people or Dungeons and Dragons players, we employed the buddy system and made friends with the librarians who let us stay there rather than the more dangerous realms of lunch rooms and study halls.

Through all that, I never came close to wanting to end my life.

My emotions didn’t go to the dark level I saw in others, so I didn’t want to take that term “depression” from them. I was worried about appropriation before I’d even heard the word “appropriation.” I loved these people, and I respected what they were going through – even when it made me feel helpless. It wasn’t about me feeling helpless; it was about them. People who were hurting the way I’d hurt – only much, much worse.

I’m going to get into a confessional that some people might just consider “woo-woo” or “New Agey” or some other diminutive term that downplays the intense levels humans can connect. This is a #sorrynotsorry moment where I think such people are wrong.

A friend of mine, also a writer – keeping names confidential – and I regularly share how we both are deeply affected by others’ emotion, and how that affects each of us in our writing  and working lives. We remind each other to protect our energies – because if someone is very excited, we get that way. And if someone was hurting, we take on that pain in hopes that it made them hurt less. Often unconsciously. Often to a level where we need time to physically, mentally, and emotionally recover from a particular conversation.

When I started learning about energy work in my adulthood, I’d been told by more than a few people I needed to protect myself better when it came to energy. I did. Somewhat.

Until I didn’t.

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I was visiting another dear friend of mine who was going through an especially difficult time in her life. She was successful, happily married, brilliant in literary gifts as well as science… And for the first time, she was actively thinking of ways she might end her life. She was even planning ways she might do so with as little impact to others as possible – because she didn’t want to hurt anyone. I listened, we held each other, and I just wanted to do something to help.

Perhaps I did. I don’t know. I know she is still alive and at least posting happy things on social media.

I also know that I was more drained than I’d ever been. And a few days later, I was feeling things I’d never felt before.

I didn’t want to kill myself.

But I didn’t want to do anything. I hurt. Everywhere. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt utterly and completely empty, like there was nothing inside and nothing good would ever happen again. My brain was spinning its logic wheels; there was no reason for me to have these emotions. My work and money issues were actually doing well, I was writing a story I really enjoyed, no one I knew was terminally sick or dying or dead…

I was sitting in the car while my husband had run into the store and I was just sobbing uncontrollably.

Not only were there all those negative feelings, but the fact there was no logical reason for me to have those feelings, feelings I’d never felt before, was utterly terrifying.

Fortunately, I do have a wonderfully supportive husband who took how I was feeling very seriously and spent the day doing things with me. He looked online for ways to help “reset the brain” while I napped. Then we went walking in the woods. After that, we visited our long-time friend, apothecary, and “kitchen witch,” who smudged me and suggested foods with garlic, tumeric, and chocolate. My husband drove to all this so I wouldn’t have to, and he listened to me going on and on while he drove.  Then we went home and I took the “day off” and snuggled with him as we binge watched Supernatural.*

The feelings alleviated as the day passed, but not entirely. It was not an immediate fix. Not for a week, maybe two, did I feel even close to my usual self. And the memory still chills my stomach and grips my lungs so I feel I need my asthma inhaler.

Those feelings – the combination of them all at once – that is how I understand depression.  It’s not just one thing. It’s everything all at once at the loudest volume and THE HIGHEST PRESSURE. And no strength to handle it.

I’ve never been diagnosed as clinically depressed. In fact, I even got turned down for a weight study because, during the interview, I had no signs of depression whatsoever.

But it happened to me.

It happened to me, and it can happen to anyone. It could happen to everyone; you don’t need a diagnosis.

Do I know what my other friends with depression know? Certainly not. I know enough about emotions that they are not the same for any two people. And everyone has a different pain threshold. Can I speak for people who suffer clinical depression or any other type of depression? Absolutely not.

But I can say how I felt. And I can share the stories I’m permitted to share. For those who are suffering, you aren’t alone – even if someone might only share a moment or a piece of that pain – someone has felt desperation and depression.  Someone believes what you say you feel. Someone wants to help.

For those who don’t understand, can’t imagine…perhaps my short moment will give you pause, will describe it in a way you can understand and help you empathize. It happened to me; it can happen to anyone; so everyone needs to be aware and everyone should be more compassionate. I hope that adding to this conversation, we can build a better support system and a kinder, more aware culture.

If you are experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts, here are some resources for you. Remember, you’re not alone and people care about you:

http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#  – 1-800-273-8255

http://suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html – has a list of numbers for specific states and regions.

http://www.nami.org/ – The National Alliance on Mental Health has a lot of resources you can call for emergency help, to educate yourself,  to find community support, and more.

* When I had my writing colleague who has confided about me about her depression beta read this article, she gave me a lot of great feedback, but one thing she told me was that I needed to detail what I did to get through my depressive episode. I was reticent to do so because I get infuriated at all the “inspirational” posters, memes, messages, etc. that say “You don’t need pills; you just need to walk in the woods.” I want to slap the people who post them because it’s insulting and outright deadly. Period. Long explanation short: Sometimes natural, herbal, cognitive-behavior methods work; sometimes they don’t and medicine does. There are good reasons to take medication and there are good reasons to not take medication. Respect what works for each individual, share information and techniques, but NEVER shame someone or belittle their choices or needs.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

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Round Up Time #authorevents #outandabout #blogging #holdontothelight

trish-with-mister-fuzzypantsWhile October is usually extremely busy for me, being that I tend to write dark fantasy, dark SF, and horror, October 2016 is especially so! I’m back in my blogging saddle, so let me give you a quick round-up of things to expect (some of which do make blogging challenging because I’m not at home much). Here you go:

This week, I had a most wonderful time being on The Taco Society Presents television show!  You can see the whole thing here.

I also had a great dinner/marketing/shop-talking evening yesterday with the Massachusetts SciFi & Fantasy Authors.

TOMORROW, October 22: I’ll be at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival! I’m super excited about that, AND I will have a limited (only 18 copies) run of a glossy softcover edition of “Tea with Mr. Fuzzypants” for sale. They’ll be numbered and with some surprise original drawings inside by me! Besides myself, there are about 35 other amazing horror authors who will be signing, a great set of panels, and all sorts of Halloween surprises, so do come and check it out.

On Monday, October 24, I will have a special blog post as part of the #HoldOntoTheLight movement, where over 100 authors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror talk about their experiences with bullying, mental illness, and more. Find out more about this important movement on their website, and check out my Monday blog for my experience.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

On Wednesday October 26, I’ll work out another #WriterlyWednesday post about…National Novel Writing Month and be at The Children’s Friend with the Worcester Writers Collaborative, getting in some fiction or poetry words before the big push of NaNoWriMo.

On Thursday, October 27, I’ll be running my Group Tarot Workshop at Generations in Oxford, MA. If you are interested in learning Tarot for divination or writing or your own personal interest, come join us! I’ll be looking at the “scariest” cards in the deck, and sharing a little surprise.

Then on Saturday and Sunday, October 29-30, I’ll be in the Salem Open Market festival with the New England Horror Writers, where we’ll be having a launch party for our latest anthology, Wicked Witches!

And then, Monday, October 31, it’s Halloween, and I plan on snuggling up to the hubby and watching scary movies and getting cheap take-out. Because that’s how you romance this girl, right here. ❤  (Also, due to our location, we don’t actually get trick-or-treaters… which is sad.)

What are you folks up to? Hopefully the rest of your Halloween Month is as full of treats as mine has been so far!

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Back in the Saddle #WriterlyWednesday #BabySteps

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I’m Blogging Again…

I’ve written and re-written my “Hey, look, my blog is alive again” post so many times it’s sickening.  I’ve revised some of my published short stories fewer times.

Why is this post so hard? It’s not more personal than what I pour into my fiction nor what I give to the authors I edit.

If I’m to guess, it’s because I’m afraid I won’t keep up a schedule, that I’ll fail. I’ve dropped blogging so many times – though I do enjoy it – to make time for paying projects and such. And when you drop or fail something…and take a long time to get back into it, it’s So. Much. Harder.

That’s why, in horseback riding, when you fall off, you should always get back on right away. The longer you wait when it’s been a failure, a hurt, a fall, the more difficult it is to get back into the saddle.

Well, this is hardly the first, nor will it be the last blog post where I intersperse some riding wisdom with writing wisdom.

Here’s another piece, just for today:

Even a short ride or short interaction is worth it.

In writing, once you’ve been away from a project, you lose passion. It’s easy to forget it and keep putting it off. Same lesson…

Sometimes just making yourself write one sentence, edit one paragraph, re-read one page is a good start. Just keep at it.

I had one author friend who could only squeeze in one sentence a day. That’s all. Then she finished the story.

If you want to write, if you want to market, if you want to accomplish anything… baby steps are okay. Just keep making them.

My awesome/torturous/awesome-because-she-is-torturous riding instructor once had me dedicate an entire class to mounting/dismounting. Calico and I were having issues…and that was the baby step we needed.

So, here is my short #WriterlyWednesday blog post. To get me back in the saddle.

It’s okay to take baby steps; it’s okay to only write a little.

Just keep going.

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Happy 2015 – Part 1 – Looking Back

Best RidePerhaps I’m a wee bit late on this, but it is the first WORKWEEK of 2015, and honestly, one of my resolutions is to make sure I get enough rest.

After all, a lack of rest and overdoing it was my biggest fall in 2014. We learn from our mistakes.

So, here’s a quick review of 2014 with my plans for 2015.

Accomplishments:

THREE FREAKING NOVELS OUT!!!

A KICK-ASS WEBCOMIC WITH AN AWESOME ARTIST!!

I HAD A SIGNING AT BOOK EXPO AMERICA!!!

Those are three biggies. There are more!

“Steadfast in the Face of Zombies” finally came out in Once Upon an Apocalypse

“Oprah Funds the End of The World” was sold and came out in Demonic Visions 5

Speaking, paneling, signing, tabling at:

Arisia

Conbust

Wiscon

Book Expo America / Bookcon

Pi-Con

DragonCon

Rock & Shock

Bookstore, Library & other appearances:

Enigma Books, Astoria, NY

Books & Boos, CT

Generations Gifts and Herbal Apothecary, Oxford, MA

Nashua Public Library, NH

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester, MA

Booklover’s Gourmet, Webster, MA

Bigelow Free Public Library, Clinton, MA

Jacob Edwards Library, Southbridge, MA

Sturbridge Coffee Roasters / Girl Power!, Southbridge, MA

I also edited a whole bunch of books in 2014—mine and other people’s.

And Calico and I had a good year together, with a good amount of riding, especially this summer. (See the blog pic!)

I also celebrated a lot of wonderful weddings for family and friends—and I was honored to be the matron of honor for two very good friends at their beautiful ceremony!

There was also a lot of difficulty in 2014, though.

I’d thought my 2013 autumn had been difficult with death and illness. This 2014, it ended up being even worse. I won’t list all those who I lost or who I was worrying over, but there were a lot. I fell behind on a lot of deadlines for myself and for other people, and I had to drop some of my projects. And then I got sick, myself, pretty badly. I ended up with a serious kidney infection on top of some larger issues that came to a head right at the same time. I’ve still got a bit of a journey to go through with tests and such, and there are some life decisions I need to make, but I have information—and that is the best tool and best weapon anyone can ask for!

There were other big changes and upheavals during the year, too, but I’d rather not focus on those for this post. Some things over which I have no power.

I only have power over my own choices, my own decisions.

So, what I need to work on after looking back on 2014:

I need to take care of my own writing career. I need to do the promo, I need to blog, and most of all, I need to do my own writing and editing.

I need to make and meet some hard deadlines in January for leftover 2014 work. I know what these are; I need to just do them.

After January, I need to make a better schedule for the year.

I will do these things.

I shall do these things.

I’m starting fresh again, my New Year’s blog. I have a fire ceremony to do tomorrow as the moon STARTS to wane; there are a lot of things I need to be rid of.

Tonight, I simply light a candle, post a blog, and get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

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OMG—IT’S A COMIC! COMING SOON!!

Aurelio - posters-1So, some years back, I had an idea for a vampire comic book, and I worked on it for a couple of years with another artist friend of mine. Unfortunately, that friend really didn’t love comic art, so we parted ways and this project has lived in my head without an artist for more years.

And then, upon having my cover redone by the amazing and talented Slake Saunders (some NSFW art there)—who has a wicked comic sense to her art—I had the chance to hang out with her and tell her about my sad, artist-less comic.

She loved what I was describing!

So, I sent her character descriptions and what I had for a script. Email after email, I got to see these characters come to life through Slake’s art. Really, it was like she plucked the faces and pictures right out of my head! She sent me thumbnails of Aurelio’s and Sophia’s expressions for some of the scenes, and I was like, YESYESYESYES!!!!!

Now, after almost a year of prep, we’re finally ready to announce AURELIO!

The comic pages will start going live as of Monday, October 27, 2014, and we will be hosting the comic through Patreon. You can get to it via http://www.TheVampireAurelio.com

Aurelio Sangreleyes is a Justicar, a vampire whose job it is to police vampiric relations with humans and other magickal creatures. He’s been sent by the Council of Matrons to Boca Raton, Florida, to investigate a new street drug that is being made with vampire venom. During his investigation, he grabs a bite to eat from the wrong witch and finds himself cursed by her blood—he is now the sole protector of the witch’s 15-year-old daughter, Sophia. And the girl’s father is a fallen angel, a creature vampires are forbidden against acting against. Now Aurelio must deal with the black market venom trade while also protecting Sophia from being kidnapped and dragged to hell by her unholy father. Oh, and Sophia has her own plans about this mess, too.

The comic, itself will be free, but if you want to help us and get more awesomeness, be a patron for as little as $2 a month! We’ll make it worthwhile with bonus art and writing.

And if you’re going to be at DragonCon this weekend, I’ll have special Aurelio postcards at the HWA fan table and wherever I am around the con!

Thank you, in advance for any support you can give!

Love,

Trish and Slake

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Pouring a Bucket of Ice on #IceBucketChallenge

alsa_logoGo ahead, call me a spoil-sport. I’ve got some calling out to do of my own.

First, some time ago, I wrote a blog on stupid “Awareness” campaigns for breast cancer, where people Vague-booked stuff to supposedly raise awareness of breast cancer. You might remember the color-of-your-bra campaign (which bothered several breast cancer survivors who no longer wore bras, I may add), the “where I put my purse” posts, or the random fruit posts.

Wait, you forgot about them? Great awareness, huh.

In any case, we’re going through another bout of “Awareness” raising.

Do you know what ALS is?

It’s also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. And from ALSA.org, here is the definition:

Just what is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons  die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

It’s a horrible disease, and there is limited treatment. It is a good cause to support. I’m not arguing any of that. In fact, if you want to actually make a difference, here’s a direct link to their donation form!

Taking five minutes to donate five dollars and sharing that you donated $5 goes way further than, say, daring someone to pour a freaking bucket of ice on their head. Really. After this fad is over, who will still remember what ALS stands for? Most people have forgotten that it’s the same thing as Lou Gehrig’s disease and what this awful disease did to him. There will be a memory of people pouring ice over their head, not what it’s for.

So, no. I don’t accept your damned #icebucketchallenge.

I’ll write a blog post that explains the disease and gives people ways to actually help. I think that is more useful than pouring ice over my head.

Furthermore, what gives you—anyone—the right to demand I give $100 to a cause not of my own damned choosing?

This is what gets me the most about this. Do you know that I’ve supported ALS already? Several times, in fact, through staying up for 24 hours blogging? Sharing other information? And even if I didn’t, do you have any idea how much money I’ve given to animal rescue? To cancer research? To hospice care? To individuals directly who were dying of cancer, families who have lost their breadwinner, authors about to lose their homes because we get sh*t for pay and insurance? Have you any idea?

No, no you don’t. For the individuals, I give anonymously. For the stuff I keep receipts for because it can be deducted for taxes? None of your damned business.

So don’t demand I give $100 that I do not currently have if I don’t decide to do some silly action.

You want to go on a 5K to raise $ and awareness for ALS, if that’s your preferred charity, I’ll dig into my wallet and support what I can. Same for hunger. And, because I’m selfish and know even more people affected by cancer, more than a few who have recently died, I’ll give even more if you’re doing a cancer walk. Hell, I might even join you. That gets something accomplished. And that’s YOUR choice; you’re just asking me for support. And I support a lot.

Just don’t freaking TELL me what I have to donate for! Don’t give me a freaking “do this or else” ultimatum. Don’t guilt me over it.

Then you’re just pissing me off.

I was at a party recently with someone who had a form of ALS. The person said something to the effect of, “If people wanted to really help ALS, they’d film themselves staring at the bucket of ice and then making the $100 donation.”

Do you have the spare $100? Can you do that? Then don’t assume I can, either!

I refuse the #icebucketchallenge, and I certainly am not challenging anyone to do that.

If you want to help, here’s the donation link again. ALSA has a 30% overhead for running their organization, which is a % I can live with supporting. (And if you don’t know the overhead of the charity you’re giving to, find out. Some non-profits have 80%-90% overhead, so a whopping 10 cents of every dollar actually goes to HELP PEOPLE. Research!)

I’m all for people helping fund research for a cure or helping those afflicted with the disease get through their life. Go donate.

Leave the damned ice for chilling drinks.

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