Elyse’s mom underwent mega-major surgery for the second time in two years, and Elyse faced down the second surgery with a portable bag of self-care and attention. We talk about what she packed to bring with her to the waiting room and to her mom’s post-operative recovery, with a side trip to call blocking apps, video games, and evil squirrels. Then we return to methods of coping, tools for self care, mindful attention to one’s anxiety, and, of course, how romances help with soothing ourselves. We talk a lot about the upcoming Mary Balogh novel, and the dosages of plot that work best for us.
Alternate title for this episode: Boiled Hearts and the Iron Goddess of Mercy
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Each and every new podcast receives a transcript, which are thoughtfully handcrafted by Garlic Knitter each week – thank you, Garlic Knitter!
And we have a podcast transcript sponsor this week which is most excellent.
The podcast transcript for this episode is brought to you by Tracy Ewens, who would like you to know about her new contemporary romance, Brew – A Love Story. You might have seen her ads on the site – her covers are very unique. Brew is the ninth in her Love Story series, but it’s a standalone sweet contemporary romance with smart, clever characters and plenty of snappy dialogue.
Boyd McNaughton is working on balance. He’s a father, brewmaster, and the oldest of four brothers. When he’s not running his family brewery, his days are busy with carpools, teen angst and drama, and well-intentioned friends determined to set him up with the perfect date.
Ella Walters is working on connection. She moved to Petaluma to escape her past, to slow down, and to give herself space from her less-than-affectionate family of distant overachievers.
When Boyd’s son Mason seeks out Dr. Ella for advice, and Boyd stumbles all over her newly-healed heart, Ella finds herself longing for more than she expected. But family is messy, and both Ella and Boyd will need to let go of the past to find a better future together.
Brew – A Love Story comes out on September 19th, and it’s only $3.99. You can find Brew – A Love Story by Tracy Ewens wherever books are sold.
This podcast is brought to you by A Covert Affair by Susan Mann.
Transcontinental pursuit, daring rescues, intense covert flirting and chasing stolen rare manuscripts from India. A typical day’s work for your average librarian, right? It is if you’re Quinn Ellington, a young research librarian who gets pulled into the super spy world she’s always loved reading about by a very handsome visitor to her library. Now using her librarian mind, she must assist him to uncover clues and stop a global disaster.
Shelve under: Travel, Romance, Art Theft, Hostages.
Librarian and CIA agent-in-training Quinn Ellington and her handsome spy boyfriend James “Bond” Anderson find themselves in the middle of an international incident when the Indian ambassador is kidnapped from a Library of Congress event. The key to saving the ambassador is tangled up with a long-lost sacred library, a desecrated temple, and some very modern machinations. At least their cover as blissful newlyweds isn’t too hard to pull off . . .
A Covert Affair by Susan Mann is a perfect mix of library nerdiness, romantic tension and spy thriller action that you won’t want to miss! Pick up A Covert Affair anywhere books are sold – or ask for it at your local library. For more info, visit KensingtonBooks.com
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Sarah Wendell: Welcome to episode number 264 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and today with me is Elyse! This episode is titled “Portable Self-Care and Evil Space Squirrels,” for many reasons. Elyse’s mom underwent mega, mega-major surgery for the second time in two years, and Elyse faced down the second surgery with a portable bag of self-care and attention. So we talk about what she packed to bring with her to the waiting room and to her mom’s post-operative recovery. We take a side trip to discuss call-blocking apps, video games, and evil squirrels, and then we talk about methods of coping, tools for self-care, mindful attention to one’s own anxiety, and of course, how romances help with soothing ourselves. We also talk a lot about the upcoming Mary Balogh novel and the dosages of plot that work best for us. My alternate title for this episode was “Boiled Hearts and the Iron Goddess of Mercy,” and you’ll have to let me know if I should have chosen that instead.
This episode is brought to you by A Covert Affair by Susan Mann, and hold on to your books and digital readers, ‘cause you’re going to want to hear about this. Transcontinental pursuit, daring rescues, intense covert flirting, and chasing stolen rare manuscripts from India: a typical day’s work for your average librarian, right? It is if you’re Quinn Ellington, a research librarian who gets pulled into the superspy world she’s always loved reading about by a very handsome visitor to her library. Now, using her mind, she must assist him to uncover clues and stop a global disaster. A Covert Affair by Susan Mann is a perfect mix of library nerdiness, romantic tension, and spy thriller action you won’t want to miss. Pick up A Covert Affair anywhere books are sold, or ask for it at your local library. For more information, visit kensingtonbooks.com.
Gosh! That was, like, all my catnip! All those words in a row, I was just like, yeah, uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah, keep going, uh-huh. Okay, so I’ll be right back. [Laughs] I have to go, like, do something right now. Extra-big, mammoth thank-yous to Kensington for sponsoring this episode.
And, as you probably know, each and every podcast that we post gets a transcript, which are each thoughtfully handcrafted by garlicknitter [waves], so thank you, garlicknitter, for all of the transcripts. [You’re welcome! – gk] This week, we have a podcast transcript sponsor, and this is most excellent! This podcast transcript for this episode is brought to you by Tracy Ewens, who would like you to know about her new contemporary romance, Brew: A Love Story. Now, you might have seen her ads on Smart Bitches; her covers are very, very unique and are very eye-catching. Brew is the ninth in her Love Story series, but it is a standalone, sweet, contemporary romance with smart, clever characters and plenty of snappy dialogue. Boyd McNaughton is working on balance. He’s a father, brewmaster, and the oldest of four brothers. When he’s not running his family brewery, his days are busy with carpools, teen angst and drama, and well-intentioned friends determined to set him up with the perfect date. Ella Walters is working on connection. She moved to Petaluma to escape her past, to slow down, and to give herself space from her less than affectionate family of distant overachievers. When Boyd’s son Mason seeks out Dr. Ella for advice and Boyd stumbles all over her newly healed heart, Ella finds herself longing for more than she expected, but family is messy, and both Ella and Boyd will need to let go of the past to find a better future together. Brew: A Love Story comes out on September 19th, and it’s only $3.99. You can find Brew: A Love Story by Tracy Ewens wherever books are sold. And thank you again, Tracy Ewens, for sponsoring the transcript for this episode!
Now, I have compliments! Compliments are fun. Yay! Today’s compliment is for Katy R.
Katy: All of your friends and acquaintances took a survey, and the results show that you are the person most likely to make everything better than it was two seconds ago. Good job!
And if you are wondering, what? Have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. You can support the show for as little as one dollar a month, and there are different rewards for different levels of pledges, and some of them include artfully handcrafted, genuine, heartfelt compliments from me, because it’s really fun!
The music you are listening to is provided by Sassy Outwater. I’ll have information at the end, and I’ve also added a little extra to the end, so if you want to listen all the way to the end of the outro – which, by the way, is totally a word – I have a little extra thing, stupid, silly thing at the end.
Now of course I will have links to all of the books that we discuss in this episode, and I will have links to the knitting patterns that Elyse discusses in this episode, because I’m not a complete idiot and that would be travesty if I didn’t link to the knitting stuff, right?
You can also find recent episodes and links to books in the iBookstore at our iTunes pages at iTunes.com/DBSA.
And one more thing: if you would like to email me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Sarah, S-A-R-A-H at smartbitchestrashybooks.com [Sarah@smartbitchestrashybooks.com]. Either way, that email ends up in the same place, or you can call and leave us a voicemail at 1-201-371-3272. We love to hear from you! Specifically, I love to hear from you, and the cats really enjoy all of the voicemail that I get, because then it makes the computer start talking, and then they’re kind of like, whoa! So, you know, hey! Call, leave a message, say hi to the cats. I would love to hear from you. If you have a request or a suggestion, or you want to ask me for a book recommendation, or you just want to tell me about a book you really liked, please feel free to email me or call or both. That would be cool.
And now, without any further delay, on with the podcast!
Sarah: So where we are today, your mom had surgery last week, almost a week ago, right?
Elyse: Yes. It would have been Tuesday of last week, so a week ago.
Sarah: Tuesday of – so about a week ago. And this was some, like, minor outpatient, like, thirty-five minutes in and out crap, right?
Elyse: So, my mom had a major surgery. To give you some history, my mom had a major surgery last year where she –
Sarah: I think we talked about it! We talked about that, right?
Elyse: Yeah. She had a full, yeah, she had a full spinal fusion. And –
Sarah: So they fused her spine, and they put some titanium in there, and because your mom is some kind of superhero, she broke the titanium rod.
Elyse: She fell in November and broke a titanium rod, which caused, because there’s then pressure on the second rod, because the first rod isn’t doing its job, both rods broke. So she’s an overachiever. So she –
Sarah: Yeah, and she broke titanium rods in her back.
Sarah: That’s really impressive.
Elyse: It is really impressive. So she went, she went in on Tuesday to have surgery to replace both titanium rods, and then they extended the fusion up to her C7 vertebra, so kind of the lowest vertebra in your, in your neck.
Elyse: So it was –
Sarah: So the lowest vertebra in her neck is now fused.
Sarah: Any higher and she starts moving around like C3PO, right?
Elyse: Pretty much. She can turn her head, but that’s about it.
Sarah: Okay. And part of this is because her spine is collapsing in on itself because it is not an overachiever.
Elyse: My mom has scoliosis kyphosis, so that’s a curvature of a, your spine. So scoliosis is kind of like your spine is S shaped, and then kyphosis is when you hunch forward, kind of like a shepherd’s hook. So her spine actually was twisted because it was moving in two directions that it shouldn’t.
Sarah: Right, and then falling down on the whole job of holding her upright.
Elyse: Right, right, because, you know, as you get older, you get shorter, and your vertebrae kind of start to collapse, and she’s got osteoporosis, so all of these things combined are very, very bad. And then –
Sarah: So, she had surgery one last year to put titanium rods in her back, broke both –
Elyse: It was actually, it was, last year was two back-to-back surgeries, each was two hours, and then this year –
Sarah: Oh, piece of cake!
Elyse: Right, and then this year was just the one surgery on Tuesday that was about fourteen hours.
Sarah: Oh, yeah, you know, no big deal. Luckily, she didn’t have to do anything except sleep through it. But you –
Elyse: Right. I think she, she was under anesthesia for a total of ten hours, I believe.
Sarah: That’s a good nap.
Sarah: It’s pretty decent.
Elyse: So it’s, it’s pretty restful.
Elyse: So, but for the rest of us, we sat –
Elyse: – in a waiting room for fourteen hours stressing out about how this was going to go.
Sarah: And last year when she had both of those surgeries, the surgery itself, and then the second surgery, and then the recovery were really, really difficult for everybody, right? I mean, I remember you telling me this was really stressful and difficult.
Elyse: I think last year we didn’t know what we were getting into, and we were a little more prepared this year. So, last year they warned us after her surgery that the pain would be pretty much uncontrollable and that there’s not a ton that they can do about that, and I think you hear that and you think, okay, but she’s going to be in the ICU, and they can do a lot for pain, and then you see your mom hooked up to all of these machines, and she’s got a, you know, they, they don’t even bother with an IV; they just put a line in her neck so it goes straight into the arteries in her neck to get her medicine faster.
Elyse: Sorry. Richard!
Sarah: That was fun!
Elyse: Do you want me to ground my husband?
Richard: It was a robocall!
Elyse: Mute your phone, dude!
Sarah: Tell Rich that I had to install an app on my phone because my phone, my cell phone number is my business number, so of course that gets distributed to people who I don’t want to have it? I now have an –
Sarah: – I have an app on my phone now to stop junk calls. All right, so I’m just going to rant for a second, ‘cause this has been pissing me off. Verizon tries to sell me this extra add-on to tell me that the phone calls that are coming through to my phone are spam, and they are pretty sure that they’re spam. There’s even a little dial that says, oh, yeah, this is a bad phone call. Like, you’re the fucking phone company! You stop the phone from ringing, because it’s junk and you know I don’t want it. But no, I have to pay for this service to block calls?
Sarah: And I’m like, fuck that! I am not doing it! So I found this great app, it’s free, and you can donate if it works, which I totally did. It’s this little octopus, and when there’s a junk call, the little octopus shows up, and he’s pissed! [Laughs] And you –
Elyse: Okay, wait, wait, what is, what is the name of this app? ‘Cause I need this.
Sarah: Okay, first of all, I have an Android phone.
Sarah: So it is an Android – [thunk] oh, excuse me – it’s an Android app. I do not know if it is available for iPhone, but it is called Should I Answer, and it’s brilliant. It’s a little angry octopus. He, there, you also, when you log into the app, you give a whole bunch of permissions, and it’ll talk you through allowing the phones, phone calls to be blocked, but what Should I Answer does is stops the phone from ringing, so the phone call can still leave you a voicemail. That way, if you block or stop a call and then they actually need to talk to you, you’ll get the voicemail, but the voicemail’s a lot less intrusive, especially if you can read your voicemail, and then it’s like, hi, this is Clare from Cardholder Services, and you can be like, fuck you, Clare, I don’t need any cardholder or any service, but the best part is that it comes with a database, and so as you block calls, it says, would you please leave a review? Now, asking me to leave a review? It’s like my favorite question you could ask me! Like, I’m totally fine to leave you a review! So I leave these long, eloquent, angry rant reviews about the junk calls that I receive, and then those reviews are added to their database, so the more I use it, the more it knows what junk calls call me, and then it adds those numbers so that those junk calls don’t call other people using the app, and then their reviews affect my call log, so I get fewer and fewer junk phone calls, and I love this thing so much.
Elyse: See, I like that. I don’t know that it would necessarily work for me because my work phone, or my cell phone is also my work cell phone –
Elyse: – and I get so many random phone calls from all over the US and Mexico and stuff like that that I don’t know if that would even –
Sarah: You can, you can make the settings – there are so many different adjustments. You can make it, like, low-level security or high-level security. You can say, never let it ring if I don’t know this number; never let it ring if it’s a number from outside the country, that kind of thing; or you can just –
Sarah: – say, only block the calls I tell it to block, but they still get through to voicemail, so if you make a mistake, it still goes to voicemail, and then you can –
Sarah: – then you can go in and be like, oh, yeah, I’ve got to talk to this asshole. I mean, he, he sucks, but I’ve still got to talk to him. It’s a very adaptable program. It’s, I love it so much.
Elyse: I have been getting, and, and they always come in on a different number from all over the US –
Elyse: – these voicemails from fucking Megan at Cardholder Services. Right?
Sarah: There’s Megan, there’s Rachel, and there’s Clare.
Elyse: It’s the same –
Sarah: I hate them!
Elyse: Some-, someday I’m going to, I’m going to, like, accidentally run into the woman who, the poor woman who just did the voice for this?
Sarah: Oh, my God.
Elyse: And I’m going to want to punch her.
Sarah: You know, I remember talking about this on Twitter with people, like, over a year ago, about how much I hated Rachel from Cardholder Services, and somebody, like, spontaneously wrote a romance about her, about how she, she needed the money to just get this one voice acting gig on her resume, and now she’s the most hated woman in America, and I was like, I still wouldn’t read it ‘cause I hate her so much.
Elyse: Well, yeah.
Sarah: It’s Rachel from Cardholder Services. Nothing’s wrong… Yeah, a lot of things are wrong, Rachel. You called me, for one thing.
Sarah: So let’s go back to talking about your mom, now that we’ve talked about junk calls. I’m totally leaving this in because, well, why the hell not?
Elyse: Yeah, why, why wouldn’t we?
Elyse: Where were we?
Sarah: So, so this time around, you knew going in that this could be really brutal, and so you did a whole lot to prepare. Tell me the things that you did to prepare.
Elyse: So, basically, I wanted to make sure that going into the surgery and the recovery, which is substantial, that I was preparing myself to be relaxed and in a good emotional space, because I think last time it really took me off guard how big of a surgery this was, how lengthy the recovery was going to be, how much pain she was going to be in, and because of that, there was a lot of compounding stress. We did not realize how much help she would need when she came home. She basically needed someone there with her every day during the day for four weeks, and that was something her insurance was not going to cover, so we had to scramble last time to schedule basically someone being there with her all day, because she couldn’t get out of bed by herself, she couldn’t get off the couch by herself, she couldn’t get off the toilet by herself, and those are pretty important things –
Sarah: Just a few.
Elyse: – you know, that, you know, you can’t wait eight hours for someone to come home from work. This time, we know that she’s going to need more care, she’s going to need more help, so at least proactively we’re able to plan for that, but then the other thing I wanted to do was create a self-care bag for myself to bring with me, both to the hospital when I was waiting for her to get out of surgery, when I was sitting with her during her recovery, and then also when I’m going to stay with her to help take care of her during the day.
Sarah: We’ve talked about our similarities in personality, that you and I are both the type of people who look at a problem and are like, all right, let’s figure out how to fix this. If we fix it now or we just adjust right now and then make sure it doesn’t happen again later, here’s the problem: we’re going to fix it. And this is something we both do when we encounter a problem, and so I know for you, last year and then looking ahead at this year, you can’t fix this problem. Like, you can’t do anything about it. That –
Elyse: Yeah, I –
Sarah: – and that adds to your stress, right?
Elyse: I am not a natural caregiver at all, and I am very much a fixer, and by a fixer I mean not just fixing the immediate problem but drilling down and figuring out, okay, what is the root cause of this, and how do I correct this? That doesn’t work when you’re taking care of someone for a week –
Elyse: – and I’m also someone who likes to have a very firm schedule, and I like to be able to accomplish things and then tick off the box that says I accomplished them, and when you’re taking care of someone who’s sick and in pain and recovering from surgery, you’re kind of flying by the seat of your pants, and you’re doing things with no schedule, based on what they need and how they’re feeling at that particular moment, and you really can’t plan, and those are all things that stress me out, and so I needed to figure out how I was going to both acknowledge that that was something that was going to stress me out and then also compensate for that.
Sarah: And also, first of all, that’s, that’s really smart to, to, to know that your, to know that your problem-solving inclinations are a bad match for this situation, but then you’re only going to look at how you can change your reaction. Otherwise, if you, if you don’t sort of examine your own reactions, you’re just going to react in the same way and be miserable yet again.
Elyse: Right. I think, you know, you did a, a really good podcast interview with Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso on mindfulness, and that’s something that I’ve been exploring a lot too, and a big part of mindfulness is just acknowledging that you can only control how you react to certain things. You, you really can’t control the situation at hand, and trying to do that leads to misery.
Sarah: Yes. And, and accepting that the only thing that you can change is your own reaction is, is both daunting and a little freeing. It’s like, I’m not, I don’t have to take care of any of these other things that are happening. I don’t have any control of them; I can only control how I react, which is probably why my inclination is to organize and prepare and to examine the situations in which I feel the most in control. But when you’re sitting in a room with your mom, who is completely just unable to move because she’s in so much pain and dealing with an enormous amount of painkillers, that’s a lot of stress to have to manage. So, obviously, really well done, creating a, a self-, a portable self-care bag. And it’s funny, you know, there’s a, there’s a really good episode of the podcast Still Processing with Jenna Wortham and – oh, my goodness, I can see his picture, and it’s pissing me off. Hang on. Sarah, I am very sad about your brain, that you can’t remember who this is. Still Processing with Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris! I’m sorry, Mr. Morris; I’m a bad brain. Anyway, they talked about the history of the concept of self-care and how it’s come to mean just, you know, indulgence and comforting, whereas self-care is actually a very fundamental human need that gets pushed aside, especially if you are in some way marginalized and care is not normally extended to you. But I think this year especially, and they talked about this in the episode, which of course I will link to – seriously, Elyse, you need to listen to it; it’ll blow your frigging mind, it is so well done and so interesting. They talk about the mental healthcare involved in dealing with bigots. Like, like –
Sarah: – the mental toll of trying to convince a bigot not to be bigoted. It’s just, it’s a really brilliant episode. Like, I’ve listened to it twice. Anyway. The idea that you’re going to examine what soothes you and then make it a portable bag is really, really smart. So what did you put in your bag?
Elyse: I don’t want to shock you: there are romance novels in this bag.
Sarah: Well, I just, I, I just don’t even know what to say right now. I’m shocked and appalled. I – you read, you read –
Elyse: I know.
Sarah: – those books?
Elyse: I read tho-, in public.
Sarah: Oh, geeze. Without, you – aren’t you, I mean, they’re just porn!
Elyse: Right. I, I’m just basically, I like to read them in public in a constant state of sexual arousal.
Sarah: Oh, my God! You just, your –
Elyse: I know.
Sarah: – your wayward, aroused vagina is just wandering around with literature all the time?
Elyse: Just wandering around. Right.
Sarah: Oh! I’m really embarrassed how easily the condemnation comes to my brain because it’s been, I’ve been subjected to it so much?
Elyse: ‘Cause you’ve heard it so many times.
Sarah: It’s like, gee, which one do I pick?
Elyse: I know.
Sarah: They all ran to the front of my brain at the same moment.
Elyse: Whenever I get, like, a, oh, you read those books –
Sarah: Like, fuck, yeah, I do!
Elyse: – it’s like my, yeah, my, my first instinct is, what about the female orgasm upsets you? Is it just, like, an intimidation thing? Do you, what, what –
Sarah: Are you just afraid of how-, howling orgasms? ‘Cause let’s work on that.
Elyse: Right. Let’s, let’s talk about our vaginas. No. So –
Sarah: [Laughs] Room full of truckers, and you’re like, listen, we’re going to talk about vag. Ready? Okay.
Elyse: Right. So, I have a tote bag that is kind of like my go-to knitting tote bag, because it’s got all kinds of pockets in it and I love pockets, and, and sections that I can put stuff in, and I have turned it into –
Sarah: Are knitters as obsessed with the proper bag as, like –
Elyse: Oh, fuck, yeah.
Sarah: – like, the knitting bag is as key as the yarn and the pattern and the stash?
Elyse: I have three knitting bags –
Sarah: That’s it?! I would have expected more! [Laughs]
Elyse: No, no, no! I’ve got, like – back up; slow down. I’ve got, like, I’ve got, like, twenty, but there are three that I use consistently. I have two by this company called Yarn Pop, and I can send you the link, and they have one that’s a big tote bag, and it’s got pockets, and it’s got a strap, it looks like a purse, but it’s got, the, the bags have these little holes in them that you can feed the yarn out through, so you can sit there knitting, the yarn is still in your bag, and your bag is closed, and you don’t have to worry about it getting dirty or flying out of the bag or getting tangled up, because you’re feeding the yarn out through this little hole. So I have their big –
Sarah: Ohhh, that’s cool.
Elyse: – I have their big tote bag, and then I have a smaller one that I use for making socks, and then I have my –
Elyse: What, what, why are you laughing ‘cause of my socks?
Sarah: And a smaller one that I use for making socks, because that’s a completely normal series of words for someone who knits, but someone who doesn’t knit is going to be like, wait, what? [Laughs]
Elyse: Well, you don’t need as much yarn or equipment just to make a pair of socks, so it’s, like, smaller.
Sarah: Right, of course.
Elyse: And then I have, I have the big bag that sits next to where I sit on the couch that I have all of my shit in, so, like, needles and notions and patterns, and that one doesn’t necessarily go with me everywhere, but I cleaned it out and brought it to the hospital and had all the things in it, including romance novels!
Sarah: So you had some romances in there and then some knitting.
Sarah: Now, if I remember correctly, ‘cause you were texting us during the day, you actually had to go back to your house and get more knitting.
Elyse: I had to get more knitting. I, I failed as a knitter –
Elyse: – and when I told, when I told people this on Twitter, like, there were audible gasps from the knitting community that I was at a hospital and had run out of knitting. Like, I, I think there, there were knitters around the world who were like, I will FedEx you something. Like, where, who do I call? But, no, Rich, Rich ran home and got me more knitting. I actually finished my Joji mystery knit-along. It’s a big, long, rectangular shawl; it’s called Starting Point.
Sarah: You took a picture of it; it’s mammoth, but it’s gorgeous.
Elyse: It’s huge. It fits, like, the whole back of the couch. So, I finished that, which was a good project; it has a lot of – it’s not TV knitting? It’s, you’ve got to pay attention to what you’re doing, so that kept me pretty distracted. And I had some really, really beautiful soft yarn by Miss Babs and really bright, vivid colors, so it was very kind of uplifting and springy. It was all oranges and pinks and golds, and that, that kept me occupied, but then the next day I was pretty sore from knitting for, like, ten hours straight. That maybe wasn’t the best decision I ever made.
Sarah: [Laughs] Yeah, you have to, you have to count, you have to factor in your fibro when you’re going to knit for ten straight hours.
Sarah: But at the same time –
Sarah: – you had really, all of your senses were involved. You had the colors of the knitting; you had the softness of the yarn; you had the soothing repetition of the actual knitting process; you had the distraction of the pattern. I mean, you really engaged all your senses, didn’t you?
Elyse: Right. So when I was putting together the bag, I wanted to hit all of my senses, which is another thing about mindfulness, is really focusing on your senses and making sure that you’re, really, really making sure that you’re engaged in experiencing things? So I’m not just going to slam this cup of coffee; I’m actually going to really focus on tasting it and enjoying it and enjoying the moment I’m in. So in terms of color, I picked yarn that I thought was going to be vibrant and uplifting and kind of the opposite colors that most hospital waiting rooms are, which is, like, taupe and gray, so I had very bright colors. And then the yarn itself, I was using Miss Babs Yummy 2-Ply, which –
Sarah: Wait, is that the proper name, Yummy 2-Ply?
Elyse: Yes. I will send, set the link, or send you the link to include in the podcast.
Elyse: It’s really, really, really soft, and so that’s a very comforting texture. And then I didn’t want to listen to any kind of music or anything while we were there because they were calling us about every two hours to let us know how surgery was going? But just the, kind of, I found that the click of the needles when you’re knitting is a very soothing, repetitious kind of, almost white noise.
Sarah: And it’s also like an auditory signal that now is an okay time to relax. It’s an audible cue that you are now doing something that will put you in sort of a, a semi- or almost meditative state, because you’re focusing and you’re, it’s a sound that’s like, okay, relaxing time.
Elyse: Knitting is very meditative. Knitting and crochet, I think a lot of people would agree, you’re repeating the same motions a lot, and a lot of it gets into muscle memory so you’re not thinking necessarily about what you’re doing, and it, it does kind of allow you to go to a very Zen place.
Sarah: So you packed your knitting –
Elyse: Packed knitting.
Sarah: – went back, got more knitting.
Elyse: I packed –
Sarah: Tell me about the books you packed, and, like, did you take a break from knitting to read? Or did you, or were you like, Rich, read this, read this to me while I knit?
Elyse: Rich actually brought his laptop and was playing Galactic Civilizations?
Elyse: And were, were you fighting the evil squirrel empire?
Rich: I was the evil squirrel –
Elyse: You were the evil squirrel empire. Okay.
Sarah: [Laughs] Oh, my gosh, he was the evil squirrel empire. I mean, that’s, like, the best waiting room activity!
Elyse: He was the evil, he was the evil squirrel empire. So then my sister, when, she, she was kind of in and out throughout the day. She stopped by with my, or with her, her partner’s daughter, and she’s six and was like, what’s Rich doing? And Rich is like, well, I’m evil space squirrels, going to try and take over the universe, and she was just, like, transfixed. So they played Galactic Civilizations together for a while, and it was adorable.
Sarah: Aw! So the evil space squirrels were victorious because of Rich’s attentiveness.
Elyse: I think they actually died horribly, but – according to my husband, squirrels are not actually very good at taking over the universe.
Sarah: You know, I could see that. I, I, I can, yeah. That makes sense.
Elyse: So anyway, back to books –
Sarah: Anyway, back to books. Hey, wait, hold on, hold on, hold on.
[ballpark-style organ music: CHARGE fanfare]
Sarah: I love that I have built-in sound effects.
Elyse: You have sound effects now?
Sarah: I, I need to add more – all I have is a ballpark, and then I have this one: [rimshot]. So, like –
Elyse: We need –
Sarah: We could totally use that one. But anyway – sound effects, I, actually, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll us the sound effects for when we go off topic, and then I’ll be like, all right, rimshot: [oral rimshot sound effect]. Now, back to books! [Laughs]
Elyse: I love it. You’re going to use the rimshot a lot. We have to tag this podcast evil-space-squirrels.
Sarah: I will write that down right now.
Elyse: Thank you. So back to books, I, I kind of planned on two things, because I wanted whatever I was reading to really kind of pull me out of the moment, out of my head. I’m really, really good at catastrophizing because I have anxiety, so if they were supposed to call us every two hours and it’s been two hours and fifteen minutes and they haven’t called us, it’s not because somebody lost track of time; it’s because something horrible is happening, so I needed to really be pulled out of my headspace. So I picked two categories of books to bring: one are books that are comfort reads that I know that I will enjoy by authors who are some of my favorite authors, and then alternately, books that are super suspenseful that I’m going to get so immersed in, I’m not going to think about what’s going on.
Sarah: You know, that’s a pretty tall order for a book. I mean, with knitting, you kind of know, okay, I can look at the pattern, I can see where it, you know, what skills are going to be involved. Is this too much for me to keep track of? Is this going to be the exact level of distraction I need? With a book, you can’t necessarily see that far ahead, so that’s, that’s, that’s very challenging. I mean, you can rely on an author that you know always delivers the type of books that you like. You can reread a book, which if I’m really stressed is exactly what my brain wants to do, because it doesn’t have to do a lot of work. It’s like, oh, we’ve already done this; we’ve already built this world. Okay, hang on. Let me, you know, let me access that part of the hard drive and pull up this world and all those voices, and we’ll, we’ll do this book again. But reading a new book that you don’t necessarily know how well it’s going to work as a distraction is really challenging, so what did you pick?
Elyse: So, first of all, I think you and I have talked about this: I cannot reread –
Elyse: – if I’m stressed out, because my, my brain goes, well, we’ve been here before, so we’re going to half pay attention, and then we’re going to wander off into crazy anxiety land, so I needed new books. So I realize I am very, very spoiled, and I want to apologize to all of the listeners. I have the new Eloisa James that’s coming out in October and the new Mary Balogh that is coming out in November, and I brought those with me.
Sarah: Aw! Look, if there’s ever a time to grab your ARCs, that would be it.
Elyse: Right. So, yes, and the new, the new Mary Balogh – I don’t know if it’s bay-log or bay-low; I apologize if I’m mispronouncing her name.
Sarah: It’s, it rhymes with Kellogg, so Mary Balogh. Balogh.
Elyse: So Balogh. Okay. Someone to Wed is so. Good. It’s so good.
Elyse: And she’s an, she is an author who, it’s weird calling her a feel-good read, because she’s very, very emotionally intense and her books tend to be a lot about healing, and so you feel a little bit like you’ve been through the wringer when you read them, but they are so cathartic, and I think, I have all this anxiety built up in me and tension for what’s going on with my mom that I was in a place where I knew everything was going to be okay in the end because it was a romance novel, but I could still experience that emotional catharsis –
Elyse: – and it felt so good.
Sarah: And she’s very good at – how do I put this? She writes characters in situations that can be deeply poignant and, like, give you just intense empathetic commiseration for whatever the problem is, but the, but the problems are never so dark and so filled with anguish that you can’t recover from them by the end of the book.
Elyse: Right, and I think the other thing that I really like about her is that in her books, the healing isn’t just about the hero and heroine coming together. It’s also about a community of people, a found family, a –
Elyse: – actual family, friendships, and so, so much of her books, the, there’s a significance to all of the Regency social routines: making calls, having tea, these things that kind of get overlooked as maybe, like –
Elyse: – background decoration in other historicals have really significant meaning in her books.
Sarah: I love that because it, it explains the ways in which society at that time would give you space to be together but also have very, very specific rules about how to stay apart.
Elyse: I love the idea that there was a time limit that was acceptable for visiting someone?
Elyse: And after that, you left.
Sarah: Oh, my gosh. Does everyone have friends that just don’t leave?
Elyse: Yes. Everyone does.
Sarah: I, yes. Having a, having a time where it is socially prescribed? Like, okay, and now it is time to go.
Elyse: And that was actually part of my job when my mom was in the hospital. She was telling me, I’m very flattered that so many people love me and want to come see me, but I really –
Elyse: – just want to sleep now, and so –
Sarah: Did you have a signal?
Elyse: You know –
Elyse: – we had a signal. So if, I mean, if I was there or my sister was there or Rich was there, I mean, she didn’t feel like she had to be awake or entertain us or – you know what I mean. You’re, you’re family; it’s fine. But her friends and, and people she knew would come and visit, and it was really exhausting, and hospitals are not good places for rest in general?
Elyse: They wake you up a lot? So some of it was kind of running interference a little bit to make sure that she was getting the rest she needed, but then, like, conversely, you also have that one friend that, that’s not company, if that makes sense? Like, my best –
Sarah: Yes, totally.
Elyse: – my, my best friend will, will text me, like, when she knows my fibro’s bad and be like, do you want to lie on my couch with my cats and no bra on just for, like, a change of pace? And I’m like, yes, yes, I do.
Sarah: Yes! Yes, I do.
Elyse: So, so, yeah, she was pretty exhausted. But going back to the book, Someone to Wed, just like –
Sarah: Wait, hold on! Going back to books: [rimshot] Yes, go ahead!
Elyse: Wait, I thought we were doing the, the stadium thing for going back to –
Sarah: Oh, I’m sorry! Going back to books: [CHARGE fanfare]
Elyse: There we go! Charge.
Elyse: So, the, the heroine in the book is twenty-nine. She is – which makes her an old maid – she has a large purple birthmark on one half of her face, and it’s something that’s troubled her since childhood, and so she’s been kind of a recluse? Or very much a recluse. And now she is a very wealthy heiress; the aunt and uncle she lived with have both passed, and she realizes that she doesn’t want to be a recluse anymore. And the neighbor – her country neighbor, so this is like eight miles away – is an earl who recently came into his inheritance with no money to repair and get the country estate that he inherited up and running, and she has bunches and piles of money, so she invites him over for tea one day and basically proposes that they have a marriage of convenience wherein she will supply the funds he needs to get his estate up running, he’ll give her some kids, everything is going to be really great, but because it’s Mary Balogh, it all happens in, like, very subtle and significant ways, and he tentatively agrees to what she is proposing but also wants her to not be a recluse, because she’s going to be a countess if she marries him, and so a lot of it is –
Sarah: That comes with a certain set of social expectations and responsibilities.
Elyse: So, some of it is her learning how to have friends for the first time, and –
Elyse: – just very, very slowly coming out into society, and the heroine is – the hero, I’m sorry – is very, very sensitive to how traumatic and difficult this is for her, and he’s also aware that for her to have this level of pain and insecurity, something else must have happened besides just, you have this birthmark, and –
Elyse: – and a big part of the book is kind of coming to that story and her finding closure for that, so it was just really, really beautiful and cathartic and emotional, and it, it hit all my catnip buttons.
Sarah: It also sounds like it has just the right amount of puzzle where, you know, there are some books that set you up with a conflict right away. Like, for example, a Harlequin Presents does not have a room, a lot of room to get things done, so you need to know the characters and the conflict, like, within the first five pages; you need to get that in, to get that stuff in gear. But when you have a lot more space, this is sort of the right amount of puzzle. Like, okay, there’s clearly something more going on here; if I keep reading I’ll figure it out. So there’s enough to sort of tease your brain forward, but you also know that it’s going to be okay, because Balogh’s books generally end in a very satisfying way.
Elyse: Right, and so you know that she went to live with her aunt and uncle when she was ten and that bad things happened before she was ten, but it’s, Balogh doesn’t, she’s not a dark author, so I wasn’t afraid that I was going to go into a really ugly space of, you know, child abuse or anything like that.
Elyse: And so, you know, you felt confident, even as the mystery was unraveling, that it wasn’t going to be super traumatic.
Sarah: And she’s also the kind of writer that I think of – there are some writers who give you the plot in heaping tablespoons. Like, here is a whole bunch of information! Plop. And here’s another dollop. And they, they give you, there’s a lot of plot and exposition, and sometimes that’s really useful, and that’s sometimes the kind of pace that my brain’s like, yes, this is great! It’s just what I wanted! Balogh is a one-eighth of a teaspoon at a time.
Sarah: Maybe even, like, I have it on, I have two sets of teaspoons, and one’s an odd measure, and one is, I believe it’s, like, just a pinch; I think it’s maybe –
Sarah: – one-sixteenth of a teaspoon? She’s that kind of writer. You get a tiny little bit and a tiny little bit and a tiny little bit, and it, it, it’s so satisfying when you can keep the pace with that writing. I love, you know, sixteenth-teaspoon writers, if that makes sense.
Elyse: And everything in her books is significant. Everything.
Elyse: So –
Sarah: Yes, yesyesyes.
Elyse: Even –
Sarah: I just read a book like that.
Elyse: Even these little scenes where she is having tea with, you know, his second cousin are so important to the overall book. Like, nothing, you – I love her books because you can’t remove anything. The whole book is, is significant.
Sarah: Everything has a purpose. I just finished A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas –
Sarah: – which is book two of the Charlotte Holmes series, and Sherry Thomas has always been a writer who (a) writes in tiny sixteenth-of-a-teaspoons of development, so you have to sort of follow along and pay attention, but every scene that Charlotte or the other characters are in, there’s a reason that scene is there, and it adds up to a much larger whole? It’s so enjoyable to read that. I love that feeling. So were you able to, were you, were you able to read while you were in the waiting room for how many hours? Fourteen hours?
Elyse: Well, actually, it was, I think it was longer than that. We got to the hospital at six. She had to be there at five. They took her back at seven, and by the time she was in ICU and awake, oh man, like, nine, ten o’clock at night?
Elyse: It was a long day.
Sarah: Oh, yeah, that’s a lot of time.
Elyse: Right. I watched a lot of weather channel, ‘cause –
Elyse: – that’s what was on. I could tell you where all the low pressure systems are going to be.
Sarah: Oh, absolutely.
Elyse: Yeah, no, I was able to read. I was able to fall asleep a little bit in very uncomfortable chairs. So I had the Mary Balogh. I also had the new Eloisa James, which I have not cracked open yet. I also brought some scary not-for-Sarah books?
Sarah: Oh! I love hearing about those. Not reading them, but hearing about them.
Elyse: So I brought a book that someone on Instagram said was so scary she had to get it out of her house –
Sarah: Oh, dude!
Elyse: – that I have just started. It’s called The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, and it’s set both in present day and in the early 1900s in Vermont in a very rural area, and it is a book that involves basically people coming back from the dead!
Elyse: So, the book opens with this girl in 1908 Vermont playing out in the woods and seeing kind of like a shambling figure coming through the forest, and looking up and realizing it’s a little girl who passed away maybe a couple of weeks ago, and she remembers being at the little girl’s funeral, and then the little girl’s mom comes running through the woods and pulls the little girl away and says, don’t tell anyone. That’s how it opens.
Sarah: Oh, that’s not creepy.
Elyse: Super creepy.
Sarah: So did you finish that one?
Elyse: I have not finished that one; I’m kind of in the middle of it right now, and it is incredibly creepy.
Sarah: Are you going to have to get it out of your house?
Elyse: I can handle whatever. The, the zombies, they don’t move fast; we’re fine. You just need a shovel.
Sarah: Right, or something to really confuse them, like, oh, circular staircase.
Elyse: Right, exactly! Exactly! So I had that, and then I have also not started, but I have a book called Friend Request, which is –
Sarah: I saw this in a – oh, please tell me about this. I saw this one.
Elyse: It is a book about a woman who gets a friend request on social media from a former classmate from the ‘80s who she believed was dead, and there’s, like, the, the synopsis of the book is that this classmate would know things about this woman that could destroy her life, so you have a creepy, I-thought-this-person-was-dead thing and also a what the fuck happened that you’re worried this person’s going to destroy your life. And that’s Friend Request by I don’t know whom. We’ll link to it.
Sarah: So you haven’t finished that one either.
Elyse: That’s the next one on the list. So, I have, like, a whole –
Sarah: Oh, you haven’t started that one.
Elyse: I have, like, a whole list of reading that’s, that I’m working my way down.
Sarah: That is really impressive.
Elyse: I, I always have a list of reading I’m working my way down.
Sarah: No, no, not the list of reading; it, the, the, the books that you read would scare the living shit out of me. Just hearing the, the, the super-brief summary makes me go g-g-gah, I need to go sit in the sun with a cat for a while.
Elyse: See, and I’m over here like, and I need to know all the things about what’s happening.
Elyse: I need answers.
Sarah: Well, of course! Duh! So how overall, how would you say your, your portable bag of space squirrels, how did it work out? Was it a, did it work out for you?
Elyse: It worked out really well, and I think that knowing what I was getting into this time was helpful. My mom may need another surgery in about a month. She may elect not to have it. Regardless, I’m probably at some point going to be spending about a week at her house taking care of her. The bag is going to come with me. I had a couple other things in there we didn’t talk about.
Sarah: Bring it! Tell me all about ‘em!
Elyse: Bring it; tell you all about it. Okay. So one of the things that I find very comforting and also very soothing for my fibro is heat. I have this, it’s a heart-shaped hot pack, like the kind where you, there’s, like, a little disk inside, and you snap it, and then it gets really hot –
Elyse: – and it’s like the size of my, my palm, so it’s, like, perfect travel size?
Elyse: I got it from one of those Pure Romance parties, ‘cause it’s supposed to be for sensual massage, but I use it for fibromyalgia.
Sarah: Eh, yeah, same difference.
Elyse: Right, and it’s also pretty cool, because in order to get it back to the gel shape and reactivate it, you have to boil it, so I send Rich texts sometimes like, would you boil my heart? So I brought that with me.
Sarah: [Laughs] Honey, I need you to boil my heart for a little while; could you come in – okay, that’s hilarious.
Elyse: That’s true love, right there, when you ask your spouse to boil your heart.
Sarah: Really, it is.
Elyse: So I brought that with me to kind of ease some of the muscle pain and tension that I knew was going to be there. I also brought tea, because tea is very, very important, and I have two teas that I’m super into right now. One is an Oolong tea called “Iron Goddess of Mercy.” That is its actual name. It is delicious. And then to kind of go with the soothing, relaxing aspect, I also have been drinking a lot of either straight peppermint tea or, like, a peppermint-chamomile blend.
Sarah: So you have boiled hearts –
Elyse: Boiled hearts and an Iron Goddess of Mercy.
Sarah: Also a good title for this episode.
Elyse: We could, that would be – you have to do that now.
Sarah: I don’t know; I had “Self-Care and Evil Space Squirrels.” Yeah, it’s going to be a tough call which one I use.
Elyse: You know, it really is.
Sarah: It’s a really challenging decision right there, titling this episode. So if you, if you go through a week of care with your mother or another surgery, is there anything that you would add to your bag?
Elyse: I think it, it worked out really, really well, to be honest. I mean, I think – obviously, I finished my shawl, so I need new knitting, but I have no shortage of that.
Sarah: I was going to say, I don’t think that’s really going to be a problem.
Elyse: That is not going to be a problem. And I think the combination of, like, feel-good reads and then also really suspenseful reads worked out really well, because the la-, ‘scuse me, the last thing I wanted was to sit down and pick up a book and just realize I was not going to be into this, like, ten pages in. I wanted it to be kind of curated beforehand.
Sarah: Up, excuse me, up to read next is Friend Request, right?
Elyse: Once I finish The Winter People, yes. And then I have the new Eloisa James, Wilde in Love –
Elyse: – where the guy is coming out of the pond and he’s all wet, and I’m going to probably save that for when I’m staying with her.
Sarah: That’ll definitely absorb you, ‘cause I know that she’s one of your catnip authors.
Elyse: She’s totally one of my catnip authors. I also have three of Sarah Morgan’s Manhattan series books?
Elyse: She’s an author that tends to work really well for me, but I like that her books have a very strong sense of place, because that pulls me out of where I am.
Sarah: Yes. When you get to read about a place that is pretty much a character, when the setting is really well built, it’s, it’s really enjoyable to escape into that world.
Sarah: I like that a lot.
Sarah: And that is all for this week’s episode. I want to thank Elyse for hanging out with me. If you are looking for an update, her mom is doing so well. Like, it’s ridiculous. She was out of the hospital and home and doing very, very well much faster than anyone expected, and Elyse is doing very well, I think, in part to the preparation she did knowing what it was like the first time around, so yay to y’all! Good job! Go be healthy and stuff!
This podcast was brought to you by A Covert Affair by Susan Mann, and if you by chance skipped the intro or you missed it or something, you want to listen to this, ‘cause this is a really great assembly of words here. I really like all of these letters in the alphabet in this order. Here we go:
Transcontinental pursuit, daring rescues, intense covert flirting, and chasing stolen rare manuscripts from India: a typical day’s work for your average librarian, right? Sure it is, if you’re Quinn Ellington, a research librarian who gets pulled into the superspy world she’s always loved reading about by a very handsome visitor to her library. Now, using the powers of her librarian mind, she must assist him to uncover clues and stop a global disaster.
A Covert Affair by Susan Mann is a perfect mix of library nerdiness, romantic tension, and spy thriller action that you will not want to miss. You can pick up A Covert Affair anywhere books are sold, or you can ask for it at your local library. For more information, visit kensingtonbooks.com. And thank you, Kensington, for sponsoring this month’s episodes! You’re all excellent and have excellent taste and are very well dressed.
Now, each podcast also receives a transcript which is handcrafted by garlicknitter each week. Thank you, garlicknitter! And this week, we have a podcast transcript sponsor, which is very, very awesome. This week, the podcast transcript is brought to you by Tracy Ewens, who would like you to know about her new contemporary romance, Brew: A Love Story. Now, you might have noticed her ads on the site, because her covers are very unique in terms of contemporary romance, so definitely go check ‘em out. They’re really interesting, and I really like the way they look. Brew is the ninth in her Love Story series, but it is a standalone, sweet, contemporary romance with smart, clever characters and plenty of snappy dialogue. Boyd McNaughton is working on balance. He is a father, brewmaster, and the oldest of four brothers. When he’s not running his family brewery, his days are busy with carpools, teen angst and drama, and well-intentioned friends determined to set him up with the perfect date. Ella Walters is working on connection. She moved to Petaluma to escape her past, to slow down, and to give herself space from her less-than-affectionate family of distant overachievers. When Boyd’s son Mason seeks out Dr. Ella for advice and Boyd accidentally stumbles all over her newly healed heart, Ella finds herself longing for more than she’d expected. But family is very messy, and both Ella and Boyd will need to let go of the past to find a better future together. Brew: A Love Story comes out on September 19th, and it’s only three dollars and ninety-nine cents. So you can find Brew: A Love Story by Tracy Ewens wherever books are sold, and thank you, Tracy Ewens, for sponsoring this week’s episode’s transcript! That’s so cool!
Now, three more things to tell you – yay! – and then I have a silly thing at the end, ‘cause, well, one of my kids suggested it.
First, we have a podcast Patreon, and I am deeply humbled if you have had a look and if you’ve become a podcast patron. Patreon.com/SmartBitches – you can make a pledge of one dollar a month to help support the show, and I have started transcribing older episodes. You can have a look in the archives, and each time there’s a new podcast transcript posted from the early, early days – I think I just did episode, like, 8 or 9 – there is an announcement on the site, so if you go to Smart Bitches you’ll see podcast transcript announcements for the early, early archive transcripts for the early, early archived podcasts. Very cool!
Now, the other thing about Patreon is that there’s a patron feed, and I regularly post outtakes, goofy things I do, pictures of my animals, and I ask for requests and information and suggestions from the Patreon group, so if you would like to get in on that, have a look! Patreon.com/SmartBitches, and thank you very much!
You can also email me if you’d like to ask me a question, ask for a recommendation, tell me about a book you read, suggest a guest, all that good stuff! Sbjpodcast@gmail.com or Sarah@smartbitches.com – no, that’s not right. God, I can’t even get my own URL right – Sarah@smartbitchestrashybooks.com. Yes, that’s the right email address. Either way, they both work. [Laughs] You can also call and leave a message at 1-201-371-3272. I love hearing from you, so if you choose to do so, thank you! Don’t be scared! You’ll sound great. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.
Now, as always, our music is provided by Sassy Outwater. This is the Peatbog Faeries! This is from their album Blackhouse. This track is called “The Chatham Lasses.” It is one of my favorites from this album. You can find them on Amazon and iTunes and on their own website, peatbogfaeries.com.
All of the books that we talked about, along with knitting patterns, links to tea and yarn and the app that I talked about that I love so much with the angry octopus who blocks my calls that I don’t want – oh, I love this app so much – I will link to all of those things in the podcast entry at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast. And you can find recent episode and iBook links at iTunes.com/DBSA!
Okay, and now the silly thing at the end: my children suggested that I tell a bad joke, and since I like to send them lots of bad jokes, I have a great store of them, so here is this week’s bad joke. Are you ready? I need a drum roll sound effect; I’m going to have to go find one. Okay.
How much does a hipster weigh? Give up? How much does a hipster weigh? An Instagram!
[Laughs] Terrible joke, right?
On behalf of Elyse and me and everyone here, we hope you have a very, very good weekend. Have the very best of reading, and we will see you here next week.
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
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