Winds of Change

I’ve never met Will Humble. I never passed him in the hall of ADHS and stopped to chat about a strategic goal for public health. I never had the opportunity to directly collaborate with him on a grant, public health campaign or new CDC guidance. I never exchanged emails about the difference between rural and urban public health challenges. I never joked with him about the latest public health meme @jgarrow posted. I never knocked on his office door to ask his opinion about the latest statistics from some public health journal. But I feel like I have.

I suppose after hearing someone’s name for 8 years and collaborating on the same projects while on different dimensions, you get to know a person without actually knowing them. Or maybe it’s knowing that Will Humble rose through the ranks of a state agency, all the way to the top, that builds a sense of camaraderie, even when you weren’t comrades. Maybe it’s just the plain fact that his last name is Humble and that leaves you with a sense of understanding. Whatever it is, I feel a kinship to this public health leader and I am a little sad that he is leaving the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Will Humble recently announced that he was stepping down as the director for ADHS. Granted, there was speculation amongst my friends and co-workers as I’m sure there was in the media. Was it because we have a new governor? Is there a sick family member? Is he sick? Is there some turmoil in the agency?

Turns out, the reason was much simpler. Will was quoted in the Arizona Republic, “There’s not an individual or particular reason that I’m leaving,” he said. “The honest truth is I was at the gym last night. I walk out to the parking lot, the breeze is blowing and something came over me and said ‘it’s time’.” The funny thing is, I felt that same breeze and it struck me as a very refreshing breeze. A lively breeze. The kind of breeze that comes with a sunset on a warm May evening in Arizona: cool and warm at the same time. February is not the month for a cool/warm breeze so it stuck with me.

The winds of change. Inspiration came on those winds for Will Humble and I wish him the best, wherever those winds blow him. Maybe, just maybe, those winds will linger in public health a little while longer and we can one day pass each other in the hall, offering nods of concordance, and continue on in our public health ways. Good luck, Will Humble.


Dude, I got the best parking spot today. Right by the elevators in my parking garage. That saved me like 20 feet worth of walking.

Don’t laugh. When the clock says 7:58 and you just pulled into the garage, that 20 feet is an eternity. Suddenly you feel like a Hobbit going on a long adventure, hoping to make it to your meeting with Gandalf only to discover the wizard is running late. Like 2 weeks late because he just had to stick his big nose all up in Sauruman’s business and got himself stranded on top of the tower. But it doesn’t matter in the end because a wizard is never late. He arrives precisely when he means to.

Gah. Freaking wizards.

Not that clever

So, basically, I love my job. That probably doesn’t surprise anyone since I’m doing almost the exact same thing I did in La Paz County. Just less of it. Fewer hats and responsibility. It’s nice to be able to sit down and do one job function all day instead of splitting my time switching back and forth between duties. However, we all know I like chaos so let’s see how long that lasts.

I’ve got this running list of things to accomplish before I consider myself a Phoenician. Yes, John Wright, I used that word. Here is my list so far:

Shop at the Phoenix open air market on Saturdays.

I already do this but I want to be that fully invested hippy that “only” shops at the farmer’s (or is it farmers’) market for veggies and craft goods. Ha. That will probably never happen. I will just end up going for their breakfast burritos.

Join a Gym.

This actually happened. Like, I literally joined a gym. It was amazing. —I think Greg hates all those words.

Drink lots of local craft beers.

Since I joined the gym and mostly gave up beer, this is going to be a problem. I might need to modify this to drink local craft beer and take the “lots of” out. So sad.

Take a spin class.

I have no idea what this is but Phoenician women talk about their spin classes so it must be awesome, right?

Find “my place”

Greg has a place. It’s been his place for like 8 years. I’m totally jealous and I want a place. I just hope I don’t end up liking a place that smells like musty books. Books smell good but musty books smell musty. Well duh. But they smell like musty, moldy things. I’m afraid “my place” will smell like that. “Hey babe, I’m going to my place for a couple of hours. Don’t wait up,” I will say one night. “Just make sure you fabreeze yourself before you come home. I don’t like that musty, moldy smell,” Greg will someday reply. That’s gonna make me sad. Now I have to find a new place.

Get a coach purse

Actually, I’m not going to do this. I just noticed that all the cool girls have one. I’m not mainstream enough for this nonsense. Although I did get new glasses. Coach glasses. They are badass.

161In other news, the kids are adjusting well. The boy’s school is fantastic. Madison is the best district in Phoenix and his school is only a few blocks away. He has a specialized team that works with all his special needs and they love him as much as his Parker team did. How could you not love that curly haired cutie pie?

The girl had a bit of a hard time adjusting at first. We originally enrolled her in North High, the Phoenix Union High School in our district, but with 3,000 kids, she couldn’t find herself. Literally. Greg and I remembered the Madison was opening a brand new high school so one day we checked it out. The principle and staff treated us like royalty and quickly wooed Darbs into enrolling. The school is very hands on, uses a hybrid of traditional and online learning and is very focused on STEM curriculum.

Darby CheerShe ingrained herself immediately. Now, she is Captain of the cheer squad, President of the Future Business Leaders of America, and all around awesome. Engineering is a required class for the students and she mock designed a set of hand weights that women can carry during nighttime walks. Already been done you say? Well her hand weights have switch blades inside. Yeah. Come at me you nighttime stalker, I’ll cut a man!

That’s my update. I thought I would be blogging my Urban adventures but between the new move, a dippy dog, a marriage, the kids and my Master’s program, I’m a bit busy.

Oh, and I got married. But I’m saving that for another entry.


Yes, I’m finally moving.

After almost 14 years with La Paz County Health Department, I am saying goodbye to my wonderful co-workers, colleges and friends and hello to new experiences at Maricopa County Public Health. I’m a huge jumbled mix of emotions: sad, elated, anxious, excited, wondrous. Yeah, I know that’s not the proper use of wondrous but I like saying it.

You know what is another awesome word? Petrichor. Doctor Who fans know what I’m talking about. The rest of you, look it up. It’s a wondrous word.

I will still be working in the realm of public health emergency planning and response, planning for public health emergencies, assisting with training and exercises. OH, that reminds me of a funny meme by emergency management consultant Todd Jasper:

get me that form


The kids are excited to enroll in new schools. Darby’s school actually has dance classes! No more paying for dance lessons. Well, I will probably still do that but, how cool! She is thrilled!

Carsten’s school will have more opportunities for assistance with ADHD and is only a few blocks from the house. Double cool!

My fiance, Greg, is excited as well. After years of prepping, we finally get to make this happen.

Finally, words cannot express how blessed I am to remain in my lifelong career of public health emergency preparedness.

There will probably be more later but right now, I have to find boxes and start packing.

Take More Time


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Take More Time!

Quick! Make a choice. You are walking in a forest near a tree with gnarly, tangled roots when out of the corner of your eye you see… one of those roots slither. What do you do?gnarly tree roots

A. Freeze

B. Jump back

C. Scream

D. Bend down and examine the roots

Answer: According to Risk Guru, David Ropeik, most people choose one of the first 3 answers.

Our brains are wired to make quick choices. We’ve evolved to the top of the food chain because our sympathetic nervous system helped us avoid danger. It goes a little something like this…

You Fight or Flightare walking in a forest near a tree with gnarly, tangled roots when out of the corner of your eye you see one of those roots slither. Your amygdala sends a signal to your hypothalamus which begins a chemical reaction in the body. Your heart rate speeds up, your mouth gets dry, your body gets a surge of adrenaline, and your stomach feels like that dude from Aliens who was implanted with an adorable little alien baby. Everything in your body is preparing you to either run, or stand your ground and fight. It’s pretty awesome and, as David Ropeik explains: our brain is a survival machine built for quick reactions based on emotions, not facts, in order to get us through the dangers of lions and tigers and bears in the dark, oh my! This system worked well for getting us out of danger and to tomorrow but it doesn’t work so well now that we need our brain to rationalize risks.

So here we are, enlightened beings, making too many decisions based on emotions and not facts.

David Ropeik goes on to brilliantly explain concept by using a vaccine example.

Remember HPV vaccine? What was your first response? Let me trigger some memory. “We are pleased to announce the release of new vaccine that will target cervical cancer. It’s given to young girls as early as 11, before they start having sex.” That’s basically what many of you heard. Admit it; you had an emotional reaction, didn’t you?

Your first reaction may be to the word vaccine. Vaccines are created by scientists and many risk studies show that people are adverse to things created by humans and more accepting of things that are natural. Think about it. What is more scary (or risky), coal fired power plants or nuclear? Would you rather get the flu or receive anthrax (weaponized by humans) in the mail? Some of you might even recall the false vaccine/autism study that has been debunked by scientists over and over. Yet it’s easier to espouse it because autism is scary and we don’t know where it comes from.

Your second reaction may be to the words cervical and sex. I’ve heard parents say, “I’m not giving that to my daughter. If these girls would just keep their legs closed and not have sex until marriage, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

We feel first and think second. Our brain jumps to conclusions based on key trigger words and emotions flowing through our sympathetic nervous system. VACCINES!  OH NO!

The problem is that our first reaction, or our first choice, might not be the best or healthiest one. It’s certainly not the most informed one.

So what does David Ropeik suggest? Take more time….

30 minutes        an hour           a day

Just take more time.

Start gathering facts. Not just facts from sources that agree with you but gather information from trustworthy sites. Look up the benefits to having the HPV vaccine from Look up the prevalence (how many people have it) rates of HPV in your community. Research cervical cancer, treatments and death rates. Make an informed decision, not an emotional one. Use your rational brain. Don’t jump away from that vaccine just because you think it looks dangerous.

Take More Time

Oh, and watch David Ropeik on YouTube. (I have a bit of an academic crush on him.)

Parenting ADHD style.


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Exploring nature very seriously.

Exploring nature very seriously.










When you are the parent of a child with ADHD, life is different. After a couple of years you no longer notice how different life has become. You get use to the routines. You now longer notice that your life is divided into blocks of time on the weekdays and that what seems like a free for all on the weekends is still on routine. You adjust to your child’s anxiety, take over more chores than is good for you and plan out 5 or 10 minutes of alone time just to regain your sanity. You forget that you are constantly on edge and worried that at any moment, your son may dash out the house and run down the street because he thought he saw his friend all while you had the audacity to use the bathroom and shut the door and come back out a quick 2 minutes later to find your house empty, no sign of the little escape artist anywhere so now you have to search the entire neighborhood calling his name loudly like he’s a lost dog but thankfully you find him 2 blocks away playing with a friend you never knew he had, but it’s OK because it’s his very best friend that he just met 1 minute ago (true story).

Still, it’s all part of the norm for a parent with an ADHD kid. Until report card time…

At report card time, you open that little manila envelope, rejoicing that there are no Ds or Fs and being totally surprised that there is a B along with a smiley face from the teacher. You jump for joy when you read the note that says, “your son is making progress.”

Then you open up Facebook.  What do you see? Dozens of posts from your friends with perfect children getting perfect straight As and making the honor roll with their perfectly happy cherub faces smiling at you with captions like, “Isn’t she so smart” or “proud mom here” or “look at Johnny, he is such a genius getting straight As and taking after dear ol’ dad.” And you can’t help but be bitter all while “liking” the post because that is what you do on Facebook.

That’s when you are reminded that your child has to fight and struggle for a C. That you fight and struggle right along with him. That even though you love him dearly, you secretly mourn the fact that he isn’t a genius who tested into the gifted program and will land a nerdy job that will gain him riches, comfort and let him solve world hunger problems. That sometimes you fear for his future education. That you don’t even know what to do to help him so you try every suggestion possible, ending up in a helpless heap of motherhood on the floor while your child tries to explain that his brain just doesn’t know how to read that big word.

You cry.

You pray.

You despair and wallow in self pities of, “why me,” and, “why my child.”

And then, you remember all the quirks that come along with ADHD: the hyper-focusing, the obsessing on physical details of a peregrine falcon verse a red tailed hawk, the ability to think a million thoughts at once and sometimes, nothing at all. That’s the moment when you realize, your child’s ADHD isn’t a disability, it’s their super power and your job as a parent is to foster it. It may not manifest itself in straight As’ or Honor Roll. It may come in the ability to see grand designs or details where others do not or simply in their loving nature.

Parenting a child with ADHD is different. Because it is so different, you can’t just expect your child to measure up to a certain society norm or educational goal. You have to help them find their meaning, hone their superpower and sharpen their tools of survival. So, to all the other parents of children with ADHD, I feel ya. I understand ya. I’m with ya. And for goodness sake, get back up off of the floor and run outside because your little one probably escaped while you closed your eyes for a moment and chances are, he’s down the street, playing with a dead creature he found, trying to understand how it works.

Something wonderful with a little BS.


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Something wonderful has happened and it has only taken 17 years.

It actually happened two weeks ago but I was too embarrassed and a little ashamed to announce it to many people. Mostly because it’s something that should have happened 13 years ago.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Business Management.

Because of choice that I made right after High School (yeah, that means I got married waaaaaay too young), I’ve started and stopped and started and stopped and stopped, and paused and whined about my higher education. I started at the junior college in 1996, right after graduation but I got sidetracked with dating. Then I got back into the game in 2005 with an AA. Finally, with support of my family, co-workers and most amazing boyfriend, I started on my BS in 2011.

I’m both jumping for joy while being extremely sad. Like a juxtaposition of thoughts laid side by side, opposing but still in harmony with each other.  Or maybe it is just cognitive dissonance that I’m not fully aware of yet.

I do know that I feel as though I should have had this finished 13 years ago. It’s my own personal shame of not facing my fears (cost of college, fear of leaving home, introversion, blah, blah, blah). But then again, dammit, I struggled for this degree. There were days, weeks, when my humble trailer was cluttered and dirty. My kids ate hot pockets and we all did homework together. And I did it for some very important reasons. 

1. I wanted it. For myself and for my kids. I really hope that the example I’ve set of sacrifice and determination will stay with them when it’s time for them to make choices about higher education.

2. I didn’t want to live in poverty forever. The stats were against me: rural working environment, poor economy, single mother, woman, and no degree.

3. The constant barrage of  comments from my Epidemiologist. Melanie has her Master of Public Health (also BA in English from Harvard) and while I didn’t need a degree to keep my current job, she knew I would need it if I ever decided to move. I complained about her constant prodding but I’m so very grateful for her encouragement (especially in those early years).

4. It was a dream that my mother had. She always wanted us to have college educations but didn’t know how to do it. Her genetic DNA provided me with a jumping off point. I’m naturally smart because of her (and naturally nerdy because of the Turnbow side of me but that’s another blog post).

5. I don’t really have a 5th reason but doesn’t 5 sound better than 4.

I’ve learned that there is no “best way” to go about earning a higher education degree. Just like there is no “best way” to run a marathon (all my marathon runner friends would probably disagree). All that matters is that you do it. That you finish your goal. That you may stop and start and stop and pause and whine about the process but in the end, you’ve stuck to it. You’ve finished the race. I also wonder if marathon runners are just as sad when they finish a race. If they too feel disappointed that they didn’t run as fast as they thought they should.  I’m reminded of Philippians 3:12-14 and indeed, many times it felt like I was trying to strain ahead for the goal.

So here I go, starting a new goal, with higher stakes. I’ve enrolled in a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing. I’ve found a new prize and I am racing ahead at my own pace.

Thank you to my mother for her 35 years of support and to my co-workers who constantly pushed me forward and most of all, to @PIOGreg who gives unending support and encouragement.

Let’s do this!

Inspiration: close to home.


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I’ve spent the past two weeks looking at some pretty dismal health statistics for La Paz County. We are second worst in AZ for premature deaths (under the age of 75). We are the worst county when it comes to being physically inactive and excessively drinking. You are more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash in this county than most other counties in Arizona. Almost half of all families in La Paz are single parent families. We are the second worse for teen pregnancies (age 15-19). Almost 1 in 3 adults lack insurance and are obese. A few months ago I was presenting these statistics to a Rotary Club when someone chimed in with, “So you are saying that we are the oldest, laziest and drunkest count in AZ?” Well, we are also the poorest.

How depressing. How dismal and bleak. Why do we live here if it’s so bad? If these numbers are representative of who we are then what is our future going to be like? Statistically speaking, I am a single, obese mother who doesn’t get enough exercise. I will probably die of coronary artery disease before the age of 75 and I will likely die without insurance. OH MY GOSH! Why am I even trying to diet and exercise if this is my future here?

Because, it isn’t our future here.

Inspiration is in short supply. It’s rare. And, if you look at our statistics, we are not really being inspired to make healthy choices. No, I’m not going to get into work related stuff and talk about some of our fantastic programs like Healthy LA PAZ here on my blog. Instead, I’m going to talk about how a few people in our community were inspired to make a change and provide new opportunities in Parker, AZ.

As the poorest and second smallest county in AZ we often feel like we are left out of big, exciting things that happen across our state. March 25th, that all changed. That Monday I attended a dedication ceremony for a new baseball field in Parker, AZ. Not just any field but a brand new, professional, Little League approved, bare feet compatible, green, luscious Diamondback sponsored ball field.

Introducing the Aaron Hill field. Paid for by the Arizona Diamondbacks, APS and Aaron Hill himself.

Aaron Hill speaking to the Town of Parker.

Aaron Hill speaking to the Town of Parker.








New Aaron Hill field

New Aaron Hill field.








It's the greenest thing in Parker.

It’s the greenest thing in Parker.








But what you don’t know is what it took to get this field. We all know grants and programs are hard to come by. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a give back program in partnership with APS, but it took the hard work and dedication of these people below to make it happen.

Town of Parker Council

Town of Parker Council.








Over a year ago the Town of Parker council started working with the Diamondback foundation to get a new field for our youth. It didn’t look like it was going to happen when one of the players (Upton) passed up our town for a location in the city. As I was taking pictures of the event, I heard a comment about this lady here.

Town Council Member Marion Shontz.

Town Council Member Marion Shontz.








She was thanked for her hard work and dedication to bringing in a ball field. Tenacity. Marion Shontz is a Town of Parker council member who fought for this field. Born and raised in Parker, AZ, a graduate of Parker High, she contributes to the improvement of our town. Marion Shontz is inspiring. She believes in giving back to the community and inspiring others to do the same. If you need an ounce of inspiration, look no further than your own community. It’s here and it’s growing faster than our health stats.


PS: In full disclosure, Marion is my boss but has no idea I wrote this.

PPS: The ball field really is awesome.

Honestly, the best feeling grass in Parker.

Honestly, the best feeling grass in Parker.


What do you love?


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This weekend I spent some time doing some serious thinking. Deep thinking. Like Deeeeeeeep thinking.

Yes, this is deeeeeeeep thoughts with Katie Handey.

You know what’s a good idea to keep on your porch in the summer time? To keep mosquitoes away from you and your guests? A big bag of blood.

OK, ignoring the big bag of blood, let’s get back to the topic on hand. There was a question that was asked of me on Friday afternoon. “What do you like about being a PIO?” Like? How about LOVE!

So, with this question in my mind (What do you like about being a PIO), I set out for a hike to clear my mind and think about life changes and the answer to the question.

Incredible view from the top of Buckskin Mountain

Incredible view from the top of Buckskin Mountain

For those of you who don’t know, PIO stands for Public Information Officer. We are the spokespersons for our agencies, the stream of information to the media during an emergency and the clearinghouse of knowledge for the general public. Being a PIO, at least a good PIO, means taking facts or raw data, molding them around and presenting to your audience in a way that they can understand. If I say, “my agency has a 33% vaccination rate amongst school aged children,” do you even know what that means? But, if I say, “1/3 of all kids have been vaccinated by us, helping to stop the spread of (insert disease),” you have a better picture of what I am trying to say. I LOVE THAT! I love taking information that is confusing, or statically heavy and molding it in such a way that the audience can understand it and make a healthy choice because of it.

“Washing your hands can prevent the spread of flu.” OR

“You touch your face about 800 times during the day. Think about where you hands have been. Wash them often with soapy hot water.”

Which statement affected you more? They are both saying the same thing: hand washing is important and helps to prevent the spread of diseases. But, only one of those statements makes you really think about where your hands have been and gives specific action to take.

“Winter Storm Warning: Be Prepared.” OR

“It hasn’t been this cold in over 10 years. Visit (insert website) to learn how to be prepared.”

OK, so there isn’t much direct information in the second statement but at least there is action and a clear message that it’s going to be really cold. The website should have plenty of information available on how to prepare for the winter storm. The messages are clear and concise. The training I’ve taken through Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been incredible in message crafting.

Equally invaluable, a presentation by David Ropeik, Consultant in Risk Communication, opened my eyes and inspired me to be a better PIO by learning about the risk perception gap and how people measure risk. It’s too much detail to go into on this blog but if you have the chance, watch this video:  In fact, I think I will watch it again. Right now…

I love the solitude of the mountain. Even with my 7yr old sun throwing rocks.

I love the solitude of the mountain. Even with my 7yr old sun throwing rocks.

K, I’m back. So, I feel as though I’m staring down Robert Frost’s wood once again. Making a decision on which path to take. The one well worn and trampled or the one less frequently traveled. And, the point of Frost’s poem is not to always take the road less traveled but to take the road that appeals to you the most. To make a choice that is right for you at that particular moment in time.

I feel like this is important and ties in with why I love being a PIO. It’s as though I see two career paths in the forest. One is well worn by others, there are set standards and guidelines of conduct and little creativity. The other is bumpy and exciting and sometimes a little dangerous with loads of creativity.

Which way?

Which way?

And before I make the choice of which path to go down, I needed to reflect on why I love being a PIO. Indulge me in a little more poetry… If I may, rewrite a poem by Emily Dickinson and not upset the literary gods…

If I can help one family in preparing,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can show one agency

How to be emergency trained

Or help one mother

To get her flu shot again,

I shall not live in vain.

I feel like I need to make the proper prostration to the literary giants now.

Back to point!

My path is the one that I love. The rocky, exciting, twisted path of a PIO. One lined with reporters and cameras and the worried public in an emergency. And I will carry my talking points and my books on the theories of risk perception gap. And I will be happy because I’m doing what I love.

It's the appeal of the unknown, right over that hill.

It’s the appeal of the unknown, right over that hill.

The next time you are staring down Robert Frost’s wood, take a few moments to reflect on what it is you love doing. Remember, it’s not the road less traveled that is so important, it’s taking the road that is pulling at your heart the strongest.


Winter is coming… (but it doesn’t feel like it).


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A few months ago Greg and I took a trip to Flagstaff, to see the Aspens. This trip was a long time coming since he had been promising me for two years. Each year, there was some conflict that kept us in our individual homes during the change of colors. We are both Arizona natives but only one of us (guess who) had never seen Autumn in action. That’s right, I had never seen the changing of the colors. Unless you count the desert turning from dark yellow/brown to bleached out yellow in the summer time… then yeah… I’ve seen.

So in October we escaped the still blistering heat of Summer (it still felt like Summer even though it was Autumn), and climbed the mountain.

It was breathtaking as always. I really do love Flagstaff. You know, for having grown up there, Greg isn’t much of a hippie. I find that odd.













I could see some of the colors from a distance but nothing prepared me for the raw beauty of seeing the Aspens up close. The way the leaves flutter in a breeze remind me of cottonwood trees.

Aspen grove








Unlike cottonwood trees, the leaves don’t just turn brown and drop off, they turn all sorts of yellows and golds and oranges.

Yellows and Golds



























My son loves to ham it up for the camera.










There was even a bit of snow on the ground from the last storm. Finally, it felt like Autumn. In fact, the snow reminded me that Winter was coming. I could picture Eddard Stark leaning against his longsword, Ice, exclaiming, “Winter is coming.” Only Winter no longer feels like it is coming. We are in December and the temps are still in the high 70s, low 80s. Way to go AZ. Way to go.










By the way, doesn’t it look like the Aspens have eyes? You know what else has eyes? The Weirwood in Game of Thrones. :D

heart tree









Have I really not updated my blog for months?

Call me laaaaaazy. Sounds like a Carly Rae Jepsen song doesn’t it?

Between working full time, finishing my bachelors, chasing my crazy kids, and starting new projects… I’m not laaaaaaaaaaaaazy… I’m busy. If anyone has found the secret to perfect organization, please share it with me (I actually think the answer has something to do with IKEA. Have you seen how perfectly organized their showcase sections are?).



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