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Onwards & Upwards

A Little About Life

Ever get stuck in a rut? You can’t tell which way is up and you begin to feel like you’re in a continuous circle. Well that is exactly how I feel at the moment. Since coming home it has been go..go…go..! At first a huge amount of my energy went into finding a job, now I am nearly two months into my new job and I have a chance to breathe again.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about A Little About Life and the direction I should continue in. When living away from home everything was so new and exciting and as the saying goes ‘worth writing home about’. My instagram has even felt the hit! This being said I have decided to continue with my blog keeping the tone nice and light. I am also going to to do some posts about my time in the states as I am getting a lot of questions from friends and friends of friends looking for advice and wanting to know about my experience.

By nature I am a person that likes to continuously challenge myself. Sometimes it is something small like committing to go to the gym five times that week, other times it is something more substantial like enrolling in a html class. What can I say… I like to keep busy :)! At the moment I am not keeping busy enough… but that is about to change.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you ― Fred DeVito

For those of you who know me know that I am extremely interested in the tech industry. My family often slag me saying if there is an app for something I already have it. Not going to lie when in San Francisco this was definitely true. I think I currently have over 90 apps downloads on my phone…most don’t work in Ireland but for some reason I can’t bring myself to delete it. With this in mind it is something that I am going to put a lot of focus on over the next few months and you never know that interest could make an appearance here too!

Stay tuned!

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Settling Back Home

Reflecting on 2015

It’s hard to believe I am home nearly 3 months and it’s almost 4 months since I left San Francisco. Time has flown by, when thinking back about San Francisco it feels like it was all a dream. As expected when coming home I received a lot of ‘Are you delighted to be back?’ questions, this of course only adding to the upset of coming home. I am beyond jealous of those only starting out on their adventures overseas.

When coming home I decided to become more conscious about spending time with my family. Christmas served as the perfect opportunity to do this. My family and I have a tradition of going away for a night or two between Christmas and New Years. It is something I really look forward to and this year was no different. This year we went to Seafield Hotel and I have to say it was one of the best places we have been to yet.

Before Christmas I made a short trip to Galway to spend time with my younger cousins, as I knew once I started working full-time I would not have the opportunity to do this. The trip was great I got to attend my cousins gymnastics competition (a whole 4 hours of it) and visit the Christmas Market on Eyre Square. Believe it or not I even enjoyed helping with homework, although I can’t say the same for my two younger cousins I was helping. Quizzing them on their times tables through Irish was a struggle in itself.

Now as many of my friends know I don’t do well with not being busy. The day after I arrived home I already had booked myself in to get my driving license replaced. It probably wasn’t my smartest move booking it for 11am but sure look it got sorted. I was eager to get straight back driving. One little problem was that my car had been given to my younger sister. Within the week I had bought myself a FIAT Panda, the whole sharing a car wasn’t going to last in the long-term.

Only after buying the car did I found out that since I had let my car insurance lapse for more than 3 months I was considered an unexperienced driver. The fact I am 25 with nearly 5 years driving experience and no claims made absolutely no difference. I was receiving minimum quotes of 2,000euro. Long story short I ended up going with company Boxymo (underwritten by AIG). Boxymo installs a device into your car that monitors your driving providing you with weekly updates. Their target market is young inexperienced drivers, however, when talking to their engineer who installed the device into my car he said over 30% of the cars he works on are owned by people that have come home after living abroad. The cost of the insurance is a fraction of the price I had previously been quoted and will stand to me when looking for quotes in the future.

One of the biggest things I have had to adapt to since moving home is having other people dependant on me. I became so accustomed in doing everything myself, not depending on other people and going places without question. Now obviously I have moved back in with my family and with that comes a certain expectation. Now it’s not half as bad as I’m making it sound, sure there is always food in the fridge and someone to have a chat with. I know it sounds spoilt and believe me it’s not like that at all, it is more being aware that during your free time there may be things other people need help with.

My gran has a theory, that since I now have my own car, a job and money there is no need to ever leave Ireland again. We shall see how her theory plans out but for the moment I am settling back in and looking forward to see what else 2016 has to offer.

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Looking Forward to 2016

Beautiful Ireland

2015 has flown by, it is hard to believe I kicked it off living in California. Although I have been home less than 2 months it already feels like it was all a dream. Since coming home I have been catching up with friends and spending time with my family. It is funny how it is the little things you miss while living away from home and how quick you fall back in place as if nothing has changed. There of course has been an adaptation period which I will talk about in a future post, but for now I am going to look at what lies ahead for 2016.

Travel was a huge part of 2015 for me and I hope it continues to be going forward. Last year saw trips to Seattle, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York. Along with many the road trips around California. I was fortunate enough to visit some fantastic places and experience other cultures first hand.

Americans often comment on how beautiful Ireland is and it is not something I really appreciated until I moved away. It takes coming home after being away for so long to realise Ireland is a beautiful place. Growing up my family would rarely travel abroad for a holiday, the first decade of my life was spent in beautiful places such as Cork, Cavan, Kerry and Galway. This year I plan to take advantage of the beautiful country I live in.

Wanderlust (n): a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

Beautiful Ireland

Growing up I have always had a low immune system, it wasn’t until last year I realized how valuable my health is. As my parents would always tell me ‘your health is your wealth’. As it turns out I am gluten and dairy intolerant. This is something that I have known for a while but have been reluctant to take seriously. After seeing different specialists in both the US and Ireland I have realised I need to make it a priority for 2016. The reason I am posting it here is to make myself more accountable, cause once you put it out there there’s no going back or making excuses.

It is health that is the real wealth – Mahatma Gandhi

I’m sure you have all heard of the well-known saying by Richard Branson; ‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later’. Many people turn down opportunities cause they think ‘they can’t’ or ‘they’re not able’. Fortunately I have never been that person and I am certainly not going to start being that person either. As I start the search for new employment these words could never be more true. I am determined to take on every ‘amazing’ opportunity presented to me in 2016, both professionally and personally.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish – Steve Jobs

For Christmas my sister gave me an empty jar with a small note attached. The note read; ‘Memory Jar. Start 2016 with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen and memories. Then on New Years Eve empty the jar and remember all the great stuff that happened during the year’. I think it is such a lovely idea as we often get caught up with day-to-day life and forget to reflect on the good things that happen.

From my family to yours I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope all your wishes and ambitions come true ❤

Reflecting on 2015

Adapting to the New Normal

While Ireland is the place I will inevitably return to and a place I will forever call home, it was always known I would spend my first few years after graduation abroad. Leaving not because I had to, but because I wanted to, something not all of my generation and generations before me are lucky enough to say.

Since leaving Ireland, I have exchanged birthday and Christmas wishes via Skype, been kept updated through plenty of whatsapps, Facebook posts and many Snapchat’s. I have watched my youngest sister complete her leaving cert, finish secondary school and start Art College. My other sister has turned twenty-one, spent five months in Finland, and passed her driving test and these are only the major milestones I’ve missed.

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I come from a very close-knit family. Growing up I would always know where my siblings were and through the years this didn’t waiver. There is very little we don’t share with each other, which unfortunately, includes my entire wardrobe. This is why it has come as such a shock how quickly I have adapted to the new normal.

The new normal I am referring to is celebrating all these events from afar, yet feeling like it was only yesterday when I was there in person. On a recent phone call my youngest sister, I commented on how it didn’t feel like that long since I’d left and I regretfully admitted that I was no longer missing home.

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Don’t get me wrong, like everything the bad comes along with the good and on these occasions I find myself longing for home. Varying from the cravings for a decent bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, to a good ole chat with a friend I’ve known longer than the stamp on my passport. The moment that made me realize all the life events big and small I was missing out on, occurred during one of our frequent family skype calls. My mum mentioned an event that occurred three months previous to which I had no knowledge of. Looks of disbelief crossed their faces, they couldn’t believe that this was something I didn’t already know. With a quick summary I was brought up to speed, however, it wasn’t the same. Moments like these have been the toughest part of being away from home; these are also the moments people back home don’t get to see.

As the time approaches for me to return home I do so looking ahead to my next adventure. My gran recently expressed a sigh of relief to hear that I would be coming home, ‘well hopefully that’ll be traveling out of her system for a while’. To this my dad smiled, ‘I don’t think she’s done quite yet’.

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Curing a dose of homesickness

Over the last couple of months I begun to have a real bad case of homesickness. While a flight home was out of the question, a flight to NYC was more within my reach. Everyone I know in San Francisco I  only know as long as I have been here myself, however, in New York there are a lot more ties to home. I am very lucky that the company I work for has an office in NYC and was very accommodating in letting me work from their NY offices to facilitate my 12 day trip.

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I stayed with Maria, one of my very good friends from secondary school. We must have only been with each other a little over an hour when I noticed her ‘tunnel’ ear piercing. Without thinking I said in disgust ‘what is that?’, she immediately turned around and laughed, followed by an ‘I’ve missed you’. Similar to me she moved to NY without knowing anyone. We have both become so accustom to people filtering the truth or being too polite to say what they really think.

During my first week I met up with an old friend from Irish college. At one point in the evening he started to roll a cigarette, a habit he has had on and off for years. Me being me, not so discretely said, ‘you’re not at that again’. He quickly told me off. It was so refreshing to spend time with people who told you exactly what they were thinking without it being put through a filter.

Friends Abroad

The day before I left NY the question was asked ‘do you still feel homesick?’. My answer at the time was of course as sarcastic as ever, but truthfully on reflection those 12 days away spent with friends and family was exactly what I needed. One of my biggest fears when moving abroad was that I would lose touch with those at home. This trip amongst other things has taught me how blest I am to have some really great friendships, that no matter the length of time between when we see each other, things always fall right back into place.

Today I am 9 months in the US of A, something I cannot believe. Time has flown by and continues to do so. One of my closest friends is coming to visit in just 5 weeks!! When she originally booked her flights it felt like it was forever away (fabulous use of the english language there) and now it is just around the corner.  That looming visit will be an adventure of its own…

Taking some time out

#BeMyYes

On Saturday the 9th of May, members of the Irish community in San Francisco gathered together to encourage those back home to use their vote in the upcoming referendum. It is estimated that there are over 1 million Irish citizens living abroad. That is 1 million Irish people that can not vote in the upcoming marriage referendum. The #BeMyYes campaign was launched at the start of May encouraging people in Ireland to ‘be the voice of those who cannot be heard’.

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With this in mind, on Saturday a group of us gathered together beside the picturesque Golden Gate Bridge to take a photograph encouraging our loved ones at home to get out and vote. The turn out was fantastic and we even managed to convince some Scottish/Australian tourists to hold some letters for us. As mentioned on Saturday, ‘it doesn’t take a lot to show up’, the real credit goes to Adel for organizing such a successful event and putting together the short video below.

Be My Yes

After the main photo a handful of us made our way to The Castro, one of the first gay districts in the United States. This is where we took one of my favorite photographs of the day, at the rainbow flag cross roads. We waited for the lights and then in order of height quickly ran halfway across the road and posed for a quick photograph. I have to say this Saturday was one of my best days in San Francisco to date.

It has been difficult watching all the campaigning being done in Ireland from abroad. It has been inspiring seeing people of all generations stand together in the hope that their voice is heard. One of the best stories I read online is to do with a secondary close to my home in Dublin. ‘No’ posters were placed outside the school grounds and students responded by painting a rainbow on the ground at the school gates. Now bare in mind the voting age in Ireland is 18 years old which means over 80% of the students are unable to vote, however, they are aware of what is happening and want their voices to be heard.

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I was also delighted to see Dublin City University revised their exam timetable so students can be at home to vote. They are also proudly flying the Rainbow LGBT Flag on the main campus building. Another reason why all students past and present should be proud to be associated with a university standing strong and leading the way once again.

Here is a short video that pretty much sums up our day on Saturday. Please go to your local polling station on the 22nd of May and be our yes! ❤

From the dance studio to the GAA pitch

Dance

I remember the day I walked into my very first ballet class, excited and hopeful that this would be the same class my neighbor and childhood best friend attended. Our teacher Marie Cole walked around the room with her remote gently tapping our knees when our first position was over turned. I remember drawing an imaginary line on the floor, pretending it was a tightrope, and playfully fell over, as I prepared for our performance in the National Concert Hall.

I remember the day I arrived to class upset over homework, Ms Cole took my hand, thinking I was upset due to my friend missing our weekly class and lead me to my place. I remained with the ‘Irish Ballet School’ throughout primary school, secondary school and during my first couple of years in university.  Weekly classes became bi-weekly and increased further before the occasional performances.

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I contemplated joining a dance class when I first moved over, while also looking for other opportunities. To my father’s delighted I found a GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club to join, Clan Na Gael. My friends back home find this concept hilarious… and tbh so do I!

Growing up sports were just not my thing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people that dance and take part in competitive sports, I was just never that girl! However, in my opinion there is no better time than now to change that. So much has changed over the last year so why not give this a shot!

I have to admit I have not been as dedicated as I would like to be, but I plan on changing that. We train twice a week and have the odd match on the weekend against the only other ladies team in SF.

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I love the feeling of accomplishment after training, the fitness aspect of it and the community the club offers. The only thing that has been holding me back is the feeling I get during training… It reminds me of when I returned to dancing after being out with a knee injury. Everyone had learnt a new dance for an upcoming performance. I had sat in on some of the rehearsals to avoid falling behind, but watching and actually dancing are two very different things. My first class back I messed up the steps and found myself getting extremely frustrated. At training I feel like I am reliving that dance class, over and over again. I know with time and practice I will improve (I really can’t get any worse) and I am determined not to give up! Sure I’ve already been told I have the ‘spin’ defense move down 😉

My Enactus Experience: What’s it all about?!?

Students of Ireland’s top universities are busy preparing for this years National competition, competing to represent Enactus Ireland in this years World Cup in South Africa. In 2013, myself and five other students from Dublin City University (DCU) represented Enactus Ireland in Mexico for the 2013 World Cup.

Following the competition I was asked to write a guest blog for Enactus Ireland on my experience of Enactus. I recently came across my blog post and with minor changes I have decided to share it here.

Good luck to everyone in this years competition!

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I got involved with Enactus in my final year of university and I can honestly say it was one of my best and most rewarding experiences in university. People often ask me ‘What is Enactus?’ or ‘What’s so great about it?’ both questions I struggle to answer, however, in a few words I will try! Enactus for me is, students from across the world seeing situations that need to be changed, these students realise they have the power to make a difference! I have always enjoyed helping other people and Enactus gave me the opportunity to continue helping others.

I initially got involved as a dance teacher for one of DCU’s projects, HeadstARTS. HeadstARTS is an organization that enables and empowers people with intellectual disabilities through the arts. I really didn’t understand the impact this project was having on our member’s lives and to be honest I still don’t think I do. We enabled and empowered, similar to all Enactus projects! Our member’s lives were changed and we gave them a creative outlet in the arts.

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I am proud to say I went on to represent DCU at both the Irish National Competition and Enactus World Cup in Mexico. The whole experience feels like a dream and trying to explain it to others is close to impossible. I was astonished to see how students from all corners of the earth shared the same passion and excitement for helping other people as myself and team. The joyous atmosphere was contagious. Everyone dressed up in their traditional clothes, music was blaring, people were dancing and exchanging gifts from their native countries. We even taught the Egyptians a few ‘one, two, threes’!

Because of Enactus I have learnt that I am not alone in wanting to make a difference in the world and anything we may do alone or together will make a difference. As Mother Teresa said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Enactus has also given me the opportunity to meet some inspiring and wonderful business leaders.

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Although my college journey has come to an end I hope my Enactus journey has not! If the opportunity arose I would love to be a judge not only in Ireland’s National competition but also in the World’s. I have been so inspired with what I have seen this year, Enactus students see opportunities to make the world a better place and instead of overlooking the problems, they make it their mission.

If I could give one bit of advice to students, business leaders and companies, it would be… get involved! You will not be disappointed!

The 6 month mark

Last Sunday marked the 6 month anniversary since I moved State side and I have loved every minute of it so far. I’m not going to lie, I do occasionally get quite homesick. In fact if my parents hadn’t paid a visit this month, there is a very good chance I would have booked a ticket home.

To mark the occasion here are 6 of my biggest highlights/accomplishments over the past 6 months…

1. Moving into my own apartment… and surviving!

Growing up in Ireland’s capital, Dublin, allowed me to live at home throughout my education and the years that followed. Although I really hate being referred to as spoilt, I did however live very comfortably at home. Growing up my Mum would go to the moon and back for each of us (and still does), we would wake up to breakfast, return from school to food on the table, received  help with our homework and we always had freshly cleaned clothes.

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Moving into my own apartment was going to be accomplishment of its own, never mind the fact the apartment was located in a totally different country. I am happy to say my clothes remain clean (although rarely ironed), home cooked meals still occur, and I am still alive (always a bonus).

2. Christmas

Having moved over at the end of September going home for Christmas was not feasible. As my family pointed out, I had just said goodbye to all my friends and family, was I really going to return 3 months later for a visit. With this in mind I accepted an invitation to spend Christmas in Philadelphia with my friend Erin and her family. I was a little apprehensive about going as I see Christmas as a very family orientated time of year, this concern quickly disappeared on entering her home and saw a stocking hanging at the fireplace with my name on it.

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The whole experience was better than I ever could have imagined. After celebrating the new year together we took a trip to New York to spend the night with some friends. It was a brilliant ending to a fantastic Christmas, that being said, I don’t intend in spending next Christmas without my family.

3. Weekend Brunch

This is a weird one but there are so many nice (mostly healthy) places to eat. Having a reservation is not a thing here… however, standing in line for two hours is! I know for Irish people we do not like waiting around and certainly don’t like standing in a line for hours in order to be fed. So if you feel like you’ll be hungry at 11am, grab your place in line at least an hour before that.

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Ok, so i’ve made brunch sound like an awful thing, but trust me it’s not! There is lots of places to choose from so you never get bored of the same food or run out of places to try.

4. Spending time with my parents 

I always knew my mum would come to visit, however, I was unsure about my dad. Now don’t get me wrong I know he would want to, however, when working in a family business taking holidays is not always an option. Shortly after I arrived in SF my mum told me she was planning a visit in the new year, to which my dad replied that she was not going without him. March 11th, they both arrived!

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To say we did a lot during their visit is an understatement, we packed everything in. So much so my dad teased about why would he visit again as he has seen it all. The highlights of their visit for me where little things, Dad trying to pay cash in an Uber, Mum’s face when I brought her to Mixt Greens, Dad’s dancing on St. Patrick’s Day and then Mum threatening to stay up night cause she didn’t want to go home!

5. Discovering California

It took a while but I finally started to tick off the tourist attractions one by one. I’ve cycled the bridge, climbed up Coit Tower, Baker’s Beach, Pier 39 and the likes. I still have a lot to do such as Alcatraz at night, Japanese Tea Garden’s and much more. But what I like the most is discovering the hidden gems outside of the city. Point Bonita Lighthouse, Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods and Napa are all short drives out of the city and are all equally breathtaking. Another bonus point for most of the places out of the city is that the weather is a lot better, it’s really a win win!

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6. Passing my driving test

Although I have absolutely no need for an american driving license I thought it would be fun to do the test and get myself another card for my wallet. I sat the test on the 23rd of March without any lessons and am glad to say I passed first time round (something I haven’t been able to say before). Once passing the test I quickly realized it has its benefits, I now can rent a car at an hourly rate from ZipCar, which will make my weekly grocery shop that little bit easier

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Health & Fitness & all that Jazz…

Photo taken at Fort Mason, San Francisco, California

Culture in Ireland is slowly but surely changing. People are becoming more conscious about what they eat and making a conscious choice to exercise.  When I was in secondary school I would come home and make pasta with cheese. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t cause I wasn’t able to cook something fancy, but it was the mentality of what was the point when I was only cooking for one. My youngest sister now comes home from school and makes herself a sandwich, with chicken, pesto, sundried tomato’s and goats cheese. Now she may be the exception, as she is quite the chef, but I do feel younger generations are more aware of healthy eating. As Operation Transformation makes its way back onto Irish television screens, we see communities getting together to come out and get fit! Local supermarkets advertising weekly deals on fruit and vegetable, all ready to give us that kick we need to get started.

I recently bought myself an UP Jawbone, for those of you who do not know this is a fitness tracker. It tracks how many steps you take daily, your sleep and you can also record the food you eat through the app. December 2013, myself and my sisters bought one of these bands for my dad and to this day I am surprised he religiously wears it (expect for last week when he momentarily lost it, but that’s another story). It is suggested that you aim to take 10,000 steps per day and I am finding myself getting disappointed if I do not surpass this target. Another thing that gives me a slight nudge in the right direction is that I have ‘teamed up’ with my dad and a close friend back home, which has released my competitive streak… I must beat them on a daily basis, although I don’t think they are aware of this competition.

I have also joined a gym close to work and try to go every day after work and if I am feeling super motivated sometimes on a Saturday too. I am not going to lie, the steam room and jacuzzi have a huge pull on that motivation, but that only happens if I commit to an intense 45 plus minute workout beforehand. I find my peers here are very focused on eating healthy and keeping active, some go as far as eating lunch at their desk as to have time for a 40 minute run during the day. People take pride in their health/appearance going for their bi-weekly manicures and I have even heard of people in the gym talk about their weekly massages!

Shortly after moving into our apartment we bought a Nutri-bullet, something I had never heard of before and was convinced I was also never going to use it. Now, I have two juices a day, one for breakfast and another as a mid-afternoon snack. One day in the office my manager walked by and saw me drinking my dark green drink, he asked did it have kale. As I nodded he began to reply, ‘Oh you certainly are a true Californian now’! A statement that made me laugh, people at home eat Kale too!

On the odd sunny occasion in Ireland you will hear the phrase, ‘the sun comes out, clothes come off’. You will see young girls wander around as if they are in the south of Spain, and men wandering around the city centre with tops off as if they are at the beach. Imagine if Ireland was always guaranteed that sunny weather throughout the summer/year, I feel people would be more health conscious, similar to how people are when they are prepping to go away on holiday – getting beach bod ready! I certainly know I became more aware of what I was eating and ensuring I got that gym session in once I booked my one way ticket to California.

Ireland may be years behind in a lot of things (roads and transport systems to name a few) but it is catching on quickly when it comes to the importance of fitness and healthy eating. Gyms and fitness classes are popping up across the country and there are more healthy options available when eating out. I hope by the time I move back home that Ireland will be on par with the way of living over here (maybe leaving out the weekly massages), hoping that people will invest in their health and see the benefits of staying fit!