A woman's body is not your political playground

Stop policing a body that is not yours

     Approximately 830 women die per day all across the globe due to pregnancy complications. A mortality rate this high alone is enough to dissuade future moms, not to mention all the other struggles that come along with pregnancy. Being a mother is a choice that is going to impact you for the rest of your life. It's emotionally, physically, and economically taxing to care for another life in addition to your own. Many people would, and do, take time to decide if they believe parenthood is a good option for them. However, no matter how much planning goes into life, sometimes your plans get turned on their heads. Unplanned pregnancies happen, it's a part of life. But what do you do as an accidental mother in a world where people are actively campaigning against your rights?

     Everyone is entitled to an opinion: shown by the people who back anti-abortion, called the "pro-life movement". The issue comes when your entire movement is based on oppressing and shaming women to further your religious and political agenda. 

     Abortion is an issue of equality. How can women be considered equal when they are denied the right to decide when and how they'd like to build a family? Access to a safe and legal abortion is basic women's reproductive rights. There is no reason why men in positions of government should be standing up and trying to police something they will never be able to experience or understand in their lives. No, abortion is not a man's decision, nor will it ever be. The one person who can decide if pregnancy is the right option for them is the one carrying the child. 

     Also: who says that women are obligated to build a family in the first place? Women are not obligated to reproduce just because their body allows them to. Some people would rather work on their career, some would rather adopt, and some just don't want children. All of these reasons are valid. As such, reproductive freedom goes hand in hand with sexual and social freedom. In unplanned pregnancies, all the blame falls on the girl: "she should have used protection", "she shouldn't have sex if she doesn't want a kid", "she shouldn't be such a slut". Why are we not holding men accountable for their actions, as well? The argument against abortion is not out of concern for a child or the sanctity of "traditional" families, it's about finding ways to police women and enforce antiquated status quo. With putting the pro-life movement to rest, we would be leaps and bounds closer to dismantling outdated ideas on how a family "should" look (ex; nuclear family).

The theoretical rights of a bundle of cells does not outweigh the rights of a sentient human being. If you don't like abortion, don't have one. It's as simple as that. Feel free to have your own opinions, but keep your politics out of my uterus. 

 

 

 

How to Properly Tailgate a Baseball Game

It's spring, which means a few gems of good news for this gal: nice weather (shorts! Birkenstocks!), concert season (see ya in a few weeks, Xfinity Theatre), and the return of ice cream shops all the way from Niantic to Salem. One thing that is new to me, however, is baseball. I've never been an avid baseball fan. The sport seemed too long and too boring for my short attention span. Before this spring, I'd been to one minor league game, and saw the school team fall to Notre Dame at state finals last year. It was pretty cool, but sitting in the stands was a little lackluster on top of an already slow game. The day I discovered the tailgate, however, changed everything. Students camped out in junior running around, blasting music, and eating game day food seemed like the perfect solution to counter the pace of baseball. Here are some of the ingredients crucial for a perfect tailgate. 

A Truck

Self explanatory. The truck is not just any old part of a tailgate: it is THE tailgate. The truck is the home base for all your lawn chairs, speakers, food, and any other party supplies. For the best results, line up as many trucks as you and your buddies can find and turn this tailgate into a PARTY.

Good Music

The grainy music coming from the press box between innings is not going to be enough to fuel your tailgate. Bring some speakers and place them strategically around your setup for maximum noise. Better yet, you could just play music straight from the stereo in your truck. Make sure your music matches the spring baseball atmosphere: aka, loud, rowdy, party country music!

Game Day Food

High school baseball games average two hours, so you've got to be prepared for anything. And by anything, I mean lots of hungry high school boys and girls. Considering most 17 year olds brag about how much food they can put down alone in one sitting, you're going to need a LOT of provisions. Perfect foods are small, finger foods that come in high numbers to a pack. Examples: wings, steak fries, chips, and sodas, of course. Be sure to locate the nearest trash can and consider dragging it over to your area.

 

Happy Tailgating, East Lyme!

Fruits Ranked in Order of Superiority

12. Cantaloupes

Cantaloupe has too thick and tough of skin, and gross seeds in the center when you finally get it cut. Too much preparation needed, and I'm far too lazy of a gal for that.

11. Pineapples

Pineapple falls for the same reasons cantaloupe did, too tough of a skin to enjoy on a whim. Also, pineapple has the tendency to make your mouth feel raw and prickly after consuming due to a combination of enzymes (which can serve as a natural meat tenderizer!).

10. Grapefruits

Seriously, who eats grapefruit? The grapefruit is the orange's ugly cousin. This is only above cantaloupe and pineapple because it has more easily peeled skin.

9. Pears

I think the only time I've ever seen a pear is in the assortment of plastic fruits people keep on their dining room table. Has anyone ever gone to the store with the intent of buying pears? In what season does one buy pears?

8. Cherries

Perks of cherries: they're delicious on top of ice cream, in drinks, or straight out of the jar. Downsides to cherries: the bright red, sweet cherries that you're probably thinking of are Maraschino cherries, which are pretty unhealthy for you (yay, corn syrup!). Real cherries are admittedly less sweet and have a pit, which is pretty inconvenient. 

7. Peaches

I don't have much that's negative to say about peaches. However, the realization that the undeniable presence of a pit in your peach makes the actual edible portion of the peach in comparison to the size smaller is always heartbreaking. 

6. Grapes

Grapes are pretty good, but points detracted for being difficult to eat on-the-go without looking weird. 

5. Watermelon

Watermelons are very deserving of their top 5 position because of their taste and convenience. Their skin basically provides a handle to hold onto when you're eating it! Watermelon's one drawback is the amount of preparation it requires to get the the red, fruity goodness. 

4. Bananas

Easy to transport, come in their own "packaging", and delicious. Bananas are the full package, but fall short of a higher placement due to the feeling of pure awkwardness when eating one in public.

3. Strawberries

Strawberries are like chips: you can't have just one and before you know it, you've accidentally eaten all of them while binge watching TV. Only downside is the crown of the strawberry (the leaves). What do you do with it? Cut them all off beforehand? Bite it off as you go? So many options, so little time. 

2. Oranges

Oranges, simply put, are amazing. They're pre-cut by nature, have the coolest texture of any fruit, and have a super easily peeled skin. Oranges have a permanent spot in my heart, if my collection of stickers from Halo clementines is any indication. 

1. Apples

Apples are the granddaddy of all fruits. You can bring an apple anywhere- I mean anywhere- they're hands down the best fruit to bring on the go. There's a multitude of apples to fit any taste, and they're one of the most easily accessible fruits year round. I can't think of anything wrong with apples. You go, apples!

 

 

You don't have OCD, you're just a neat freak

"I'm so OCD!"

This three word sentence is a phrase I hear almost weekly at school from my peers and some teachers. however, I am willing to bet none of them have been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by their doctor. Normally, it's used when someone is sharing how they need to color code all of their binders or they can't stand when their room is messy. While this doesn't seem menacing at all, the bigger problem is ignored: undermining the seriousness of a mental illness by using it to describe normal urges. It's human nature to want to live in a clean environment: it has been drilled into our brains by evolution that we should be clean because disease and infections spread easier in a dirty environment. The difference between someone with OCD and someone who likes to be neat is just that: people suffering from OCD don't enjoy it. They don't want to need to do these things, but they have to. There isn't a choice, like a neat individual has.

Why is this such a concern? Shouldn't we just ignore this as a cultural evolution of language? No. When we trivialize a mental illness, people fail to understand how serious they can be. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by repetitive actions, called compulsions, used to ward off bad thoughts or images, called obsessions. No matter what the obsession is, or how irrational, someone suffering from OCD feels the need to preform said compulsions. For example, an individual with OCD may spend a significant amount of time turning off their stoves, lights, and other appliances and rechecking them to make sure they are off, in fear of a house fire sparking if they leave the house with them on. OCD is debilitating, and certain compulsions can take up to or over an hour each day. Although therapy can be helpful, OCD is not curable, and can last for years or be lifelong.

When someone who is simply neat trivializes OCD, it can be extremely upsetting and frustrating to those who suffer with a real, difficult mental disorder. The next time you hear someone throw a phrase like this around, use it as a chance to educate them and let them know why they should be more conscious of their word choice.

If you think you or someone you love has OCD, here is a help site where you can get more information: https://iocdf.org/supportgroups/online-and-phone-ocd-support-groups/#General

Cheap things to do locally when you're bored

It's 12pm on a Sunday. Being the overachiever that you are, you finished all your homework Saturday night. Now you're stuck with no plans and because you're only a high school student, a little strapped for cash. If you've ever been in this situation, let me educate you on the best impromptu plans that are cheap and local.

Walk the boardwalk

As East Lymers, we have the privileged of living right on the coast. At most, it's a 15 minute drive (from the opposite end of Flanders), and for the truly blessed- it's a walk out to their backyard. Take advantage of having the ocean as our neighbor! The Niantic Bay Boardwalk has a stunning mile-long view of the Niantic Bay and Long Island Sound, and provides many benches along it if you need a rest. This is the perfect spot to grab a friend or two and catch up as you enjoy the sights and sounds of Downtown Niantic. Plus- access to the beaches and boardwalk is free! Score!!

Get some Frosty Treat

Frosty Treat, to some East Lyme residents, could be categorized as it's own food group. It's culturally significant to us, and the whole town seems to go there the exact day you decide to. Take it from the four boys who trekked through a snowstorm to get some ice cream on opening day: this is a place you don't want to miss. With an abundance of picnic tables and umbrellas, there's room for your whole gang to take a study break and take in one of East Lyme's finest ice creameries. 

Go Letterboxing

Letterboxing is, in my humble opinion, a very underrated activity. Letterboxing is an outdoor activity where one uses clues or a GPS to locate a letterbox someone else has left behind in a secluded area outside. The actual letterbox itself contains a "guest book" and a rubber stamp, so you can keep a log of all the letterboxes you've found. Some letterboxes are more sought out than others, and there are entire online databases dedicated to providing information on active and retired boxes. 

There are so many things to do and explore, East Lyme!! Go out and look for some fun instead of paying for it!

 

 

Challenged books are important and our freedom to read is even more important

The Scarlet Letter. The Great Gatsby. Of Mice and Men. To Kill A Mockingbird. Their Eyes Were Watching God. The Catcher in the Rye. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. These are just a handful of the books I've read in my high school career. Aside from all being culturally and historically significant novels, they all have something else in common. They've been challenged- which means an attempt has been made by an individual or group to have a piece of literature removed from a public library or school curriculum.

Most books are challenged because someone has decided that the subject matter is not suitable for the audience it's being geared to. The majority of challenges cover three claims, the material is too sexually explicit, the material contained offensive language, or the material is unsuited for the age group, as stated by the Office of Intellectual Freedom.

In some cases, this can be understandable. I wouldn't want my fourth grader reading books with heavy violence, either. The issue comes, however, when you try and ban mature (more or less) high schoolers from reading culturally significant books, such as the ones I listed above. While there may be some instances of violence and profanity in Of Mice and Men, it is worth ignoring so one can digest the important part of the text- the point that Steinbeck is trying to make- about the struggles of the human condition, using migrant workers living in the Dust Bowl as an example. This novel was essential to my understanding of Steinbeck as an author and human, and to find where his priorities lied. Because I read it as a freshman, I already have a grasp on the Dust Bowl as I now learn about it in history class junior year. Also, studying some of Steinbeck's texts when I was younger now allows me to compare the books of his I'm currently reading to the one I already read, and track patterns and growth in his works.

Also, in the case of books that are challenged due to uncomfortable subject matter- like racism, slavery, and other controversial topics- there is even more reason to preserve them. While reading these things may be upsetting, it is dire to us as a nation to have physical evidence of these times and to have something that reminds us of our past and how far we have, and still need, to come. These texts about slavery and racial issues are essential to educating children about life and history. Nothing will teach students better than a book written by someone who lived through the experience, and even if the book is fiction, the emotion and fact are still as present as they would be if the book were a recounting of true events.

All in all- sometimes, the books that garner the most controversy are the ones most essential to read. We can learn a thing or two from our past, and high school students are more mature in handling sensitive topic matter than they're given credit for. Now is the time to stop trying to ban and hide away the things that scare us. Today, go out and exercise your intellectual freedom- read a challenged book!

Pre- and Post- blood donation thoughts

Blood, as you may imagine, is a crucial part of being a functioning human being. Every 20 seconds, someone in the US is in need of blood for some reason or another. As a result of this, blood donors are in constant, high demand. Which leads me to my story, and why I'm currently sitting in first block with a pass to get a fresh pint drawn at 11:15.

Pre

As a foreword: I am extremely squeamish. Needles freak me out beyond belief, and I could fill this entire blog post with just stories about my less than ideal experiences at the doctor. When I got my appendix out in the spring of my freshman year, a pediatric nurse was called in to insert my IV after I slipped into a panic attack looking at the size of the needle. To this day, all of my doctor's appointments start with a nervous, "Am I gonna have to get a shot?" and a blind prayer that the answer will be, "No, you never have to get any shots ever again!" So, you might be wondering why after all of this I decided to sign myself up for a completely optional blood drive. The answer is, as it often is, I don't really know. After learning how much blood can be needed during a single transfusion (around 100 pints for some car-crash victims!), I came to the conclusion that getting over my fear of needles for an hour was worth helping someone in greater need than I.

Post

After panicking over the size of the needle, I got a few odd looks when I started taking selfies the minute I calmed down.

After panicking over the size of the needle, I got a few odd looks when I started taking selfies the minute I calmed down.

The needle was huge. I am convinced that was the biggest needle that gets manufactured legally in the United States. However, the brief moment of pain while they stabbed me with a giant needle was worth the pride that remained for days after. Admittedly, like I do after every encounter with a needle, I thought "Wow, that really wasn't that bad." and let go of the now-crushed hands that were holding mine to provide emotional support (Thanks Maddie and Holly!). The toughest part side from the needle was arguably having to look at my arm after. Sore, covered in Betadine, and still bleeding a little, my arm post-donation was not a pretty sight. However, even while shielding my eyes from the blood as I changed the band-aid, the profuse thanking from the Red Cross staff rung in my ears. Now, I'm finding myself impatiently waiting for the 56-day period between donations to be over. All in all: blood was meant to circulate. If you're like most potential donors and use the excuse "I don't like needles," then try and remember that a brief moment of pain can save 3 potential lives! Who knows- someday, the life you save may be your own.

Underrated websites

Every once in a blue moon, the insanity that is the internet can spit out something actually really cool. Here are a few gems from the vast expanse that is the World Wide Web:

sleepyti.me bedtime calculator - http://sleepyti.me/

This site is a precious tool for students with an unpredictable sleep schedule. It provides two services; 1. letting you know when to go to bed to wake up for a specific time, and 2. letting you know when to set your alarm if you go to bed right now. This calculator is based on sleep cycles, drawing from the fact that the most effective amount of sleep is 5 or 6 cycles, and that you'll wake up more refreshed by getting up at the end of a sleep cycle and not the middle.

Gnoosic - http://www.gnoosic.com/faves.php

Gnoosic is a website which allows you to explore different music artists based off of your current preferences. The site prompts you to enter the name of three singers you enjoy, and then it spits out an endless stream of similar bands or artists. To improve its algorithms behind the scenes, it also asks you to indicate whether you like, dislike, or are indifferent towards the options it offers.

snopes - http://www.snopes.com/

In a world of social media and easily spreadable false news, what can you trust? Snopes makes it easy. This site filters hundreds of urban legends, myths, and rumors that everyone and their mother has heard and researches them to place in a variety of categories, mostly falling in "true", "false" ,or "partially true". With an entire section dedicated to politics, this site has the potential to be anyone's best friend for the next 4 years.

 

Change

As I've stated in previous blog posts, junior year is weird. Not quite young anymore, but not quite old either. We're mature enough to start considering some "big kid" things: college, working, more challenging classes, etc. But still, we're seen as too young to enjoy the privileges of seniors. Halfway through my junior year, it dawned on me that I have a whopping three semesters left of high school.

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Post Super Bowl thoughts from a less-than-casual pro sports fan

As a foreword- I don't know much about professional sports. I've been through many seasons of watching the Super Bowl (because it seems like the right thing to do) while I truly have no idea what's going on on the field. The following Mondays are filled with conversation I don't exactly understand (what is a strip sack???). This year I was determined to change this. I went through our high school football season spending most games right on the sideline taking pictures, where I picked up some knowledge... with a lot of help from the players who fielded "what just happened??" questions every play.

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A short collection of school haikus

Time

School. I hate you so.

7:30. 2:10. Why.

Please just let me sleep.

Lunch

Pushing, shoving, screams.

Kids fighting over lunch trays.

Sorry for freshmen.

Clocks

Tick, tick, tick, tick tick.

Each minute goes by slower.

Why are you a screen?

Green

Maroon. Vikings. Us.

But hallways covered in green.

Who was your painter?

An open letter regarding Amelia Earhart

To whom it may concern-

Why do we still perpetuate the idea that Amelia Earhart and her plane vanished into thin air?

Everyone knows the story of Amelia Earhart. In 1932, she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. After she was shot to super-stardom, Earhart began up up the ante- namely, participating in long distance competitive flying and completing more trailblazing solo flights. Among those she attempted to achieve was a round-the-world flight spanning 29,000 miles.

Earhart set out to complete this flight, and never returned.

As a society, we have crafted this idea that Earhart vanished in some strange Bermuda Triangle or Illuminati-esque fashion. No evidence of any mortal death or disappearance is the most notable quality behind this myth. Except, we do have evidence of her crash. And too add on top of that- we have a pretty good idea of what caused her plane to go down, and what happened afterwords.

Scientists have found evidence of human life- items such as a pocketknife, shards of a cosmetic jar, the remains of a campfire, and even human bone fragments- on an island in the South Pacific called Nikumaroro, which is the area where Earhart lost communication with the world. Even more compelling, pieces of an aircraft which matched Earhart's Electra. The theory widely held by the scientific community is that Earhart crashed and lived out her final days on this island with her navigator, Fred Noonan.

All in all, I'd like us to stop pretending that Amelia Earhart was snatched by aliens or sucked into the Bermuda Triangle while attempting her worldwide flight. Remember her for the facts, (like how she was a trailblazer in aviation for women) people!!!

Adjusting to short hair

Mid December, I cut off 8 inches of my hair to donate to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret it for a second. If someone else can make better use of the hair I can so easily grow back, I would choose donating any day over keeping my hair long. However, having my hair be the shortest I've ever had it in my entire life has opened me up to an entirely new set of experiences. It's a double-edged sword; sometimes I love my hair, sometimes I hate it. Here are some things I've learned by getting chopped. 

It's an extremely liberating feeling.

I like a good haircut as much as the next person. However, getting almost all of my hair cut off in the middle of the commons during peak lunch hours was a tad different from the normal, relaxing treatment you get at a hair salon. Regardless, the immediate weight lifted (literally) off my shoulders was heavenly.

I can't put it up in a ponytail.

As a generally lazy girl who lives for throwing her hair up in a bun, this came as a culture shock. What was I supposed to do when I wake up with my hair in a frizzy mess? Straighten it?? I don't have time for that! Life hack: if you put your hair into a man bun and then only straighten the half that's down, it takes a lot less time. 

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Post-haircut regret is REAL.

No matter how much you love your new hair the day you get it cut, or the week after, or even the month after, there will still be a point in time where you regret cutting your hair with every fiber of your being. Looking back at old pictures of myself from the summer, I was hit with a wave of sadness as I looked at how my hair was barely skimming the band of my bathing suit top- a goal I'd set since November of freshman year. The frustration again shows itself when I angrily try to throw my hair up into space buns to no avail. Post-haircut regret is all a part of the cycle.

At the end of the day, I know cutting my hair was a good thing. Being the first to donate for our hair drive set an example for the 50+ girls and boys that followed, and knowing my hair can be put to good use is very comforting. Don't be afraid to take the leap to short hair- it'll grow back eventually.

Things to do when you don't know what to do

Bad days. Everyone has them. Sometimes you don't really know what to do, but you know you don't want to do nothing. Here's a list of things you can do when you're feeling lost:

  1. Go to the nearest state park and have a picnic.
  2. Walk the entire Niantic boardwalk at sunset.
  3. Take a picture of the sunrise coming over the railroad tracks.
  4. Go into every store downtown, even the one you swear nobody ever goes into.
  5. Bake something with your family, bring in the goodies to your friends the next day.
  6. Eat at every family-owned restaurant in East Lyme. 
  7. Explore the back roads of Salem.
  8. Find an officially marked "scenic route" and take it. 
  9. Go to the beach in the winter.
  10. Have a beach bonfire. 
  11. Buy a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and eat it all in one sitting. Don't feel guilty, we all do it.
  12. Try hot yoga.
  13. Take a solo road trip with no destination.
  14. Visit every beach in Niantic and take a souvenir from each one.
  15. Go on an animal hunt in Salem. Take a picture of every cow or horse you see.
  16. Go to an away sport game, and make a friend from the opposing town.
  17. Call a friend you haven't seen in a while.
  18. Buy tickets to see a professional sport you've never watched before.
  19. Go to Starbucks and buy the most obscure drink you can find.
  20. Clean your room.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Be kind to yourself and take it easy, Vikes.

Why you should spend way more time on Naviance

Being a junior is like being the awkward middle child of the family. You're not as chill as your older (senior) siblings, and are way more worried about the implications of the real world than your carefree younger (freshman and sophomore) siblings. 

Just about every conversation I've had about college with my junior peers has gone one of three ways: 

1. "Of course I know where I want to go to school. I've visited 8 schools in the past two months, have my college essay written, and took the SAT two times. Wanna come with me on my next visit?"

2: "I'm sort of looking...I know a few I'm interested in...I went on like, 2 visits. Have you started looking?"

3: "No, we have so much time! It's only junior year. I can deal with that when I'm a senior."

So, everyone's college priorities are scattered in just about every direction. So what control do you have over the beast that is planning for college?

Naviance.

As a junior, Naviance should be your best friend. In addition to helping you direct your career and high school academic plan, Naviance is has a wealth of information about college for the searching student. Here's some key functions on Naviance you should look into ASAP:

College Profiles

When you log into Naviance, there's a helpful "college" tab that acts as your control panel for all things college related. On the left hand side of the screen, there's a search bar that can bring up a profile on almost every college in the United States (And Canada!). When you find the college you're looking for, the profile can tell you all types of useful information: an overview of a school's stats including graduation and acceptance rates, information on student life, lists of majors and minors offered, and everything you could need to know about admissions or costs. 

SuperMatch College Search

SuperMatch College Search is basically the e-harmony of college searches. You can input your characteristics of a perfect college in 23 categories, including location, majors, and school size. after you've decided exactly what you want, the search brings forward a list of schools that fit your criteria. The schools are ranked in percentage as to how closely they follow your preferences. For example, if you input the size and location, SuperMatch can show you schools that have your location but maybe aren't quite the size you're looking for- so the percent match will be something under 100%, depending on how different it is from your preferences. 

Scattergrams

Scattergrams are featured in the "Admissions" section of any college you search on Naviance. This will show you on a graph how you compare to other students that applied to that college as well. The y axis is your GPA, and the x axis is either the ACT or the SAT on a 1600 or 2400 point scale. The graph will show you the average scores and GPA for the school, in addition to automatically adding you in on the graph when your scores are linked to Naviance. The key shows where the other student's applications ended up: accepted, deferred, or denied. The scattergrams do a good job of letting you get an idea of where your scores need to be to get into a certain college.

All in all, Naviance is your friend, juniors! Make college searching easy. Use Naviance!!!!!

A Chris Pratt gif for all your post-Thanksgiving emotions

Andy Dwyer. Owen. Peter Quill. Just a few roles that my idol, Chris Pratt, has transformed himself into. While not everyone can have pictures of Pratt taped to the wall behind their computer (and a few on their computer), I'd like to impart some post-Turkey Day comfort in the form of Chris Pratt gifs to match every one of your moods.

When Grandma brings out the food on Thanksgiving:

Eat, eat like you're never going to eat again.

When someone asks you after break if you regret messing up your sleep schedule:

Binge watching Parks and Rec until 3 AM was worth it.

When none of your teachers give homework the day after we get back:

Thanks for being sympathetic!

When you're trying to keep your teachers at bay the day you come back:

If you don't move, they won't see you...

When someone reminds you there's still a month before winter break:

Thanksgiving Break is such a tease.

Despite the odds, stay motivated this December, East Lyme!