one month of finding balance.

two full months on the road based out of our van, moby clit. aptly named by my auntie because ryan insisted that our big white van was not big enough to be called moby dick. plus all cars are ladies right? you can call her moby or mc for short.

month one…

our first destination was red rock canyon national conservation area, just outside of las vegas and part of nevada’s mojave desert. we spent three weeks there hanging with a gang of lovable canadians. it was a gentle ease into van life with such a major city only a 15-minute drive down the road. with friends for ryan to climb with, it also allowed me to keep up my full time job and not feel guilty that he had no one to belay him.

that is one thing that i am realizing about van life, it is hard to keep up on all the work i have to do. before when i was on the road, i had multiple clients who only expected a few hours of my time each week. but now, i have one main employer who expects 40 hours of my time each week. so just like everyone else working the 9-5 grind, i am basically a weekend warrior. i might switch out a tuesday for a saturday, but i pretty much only climb three days a week. and i’m sure ryan is getting over the fact that we need to wake up at 7am and find cell service for a couple hours before we head up the rock and off the grid.

but welcome to real van life. it is not all play, but it is worth it.

it is worth it to experience things like the stark juxtaposition between city and nature. las vegas is a weird town to begin with, but when you seclude yourself amongst the rocks for several days and then saunter into a casino covered in sweat and dirt, you really feel out of place. we treated ourselves to one night in old las vegas, but otherwise, we tried to stay out in the wilderness.

since this was our first destination, we had to get back into the swing of climbing. our fingertips needed to turn red and raw before callousing. our forearms needed to tire out entirely. our calves and gluts needed to get used to the long, uphill approach hikes. our minds needed to reacquaint themselves with the innate risk that comes with climbing.

but eventually, our bodies adjusted. our brains adjusted. and our way of life adjusted.

we spent our days climbing the red rock and our nights playing cards or sitting around the fire. and on rest days, we filled our bellies with cheap mexican and unlimited wifi. it was wonderful.

then, the clouds rolled in and the thunder roared. it was time to move… the climbing life is always dictated by the weather.

the whole group relocated to one of my favorite small towns in california, bishop. it is at the foot of the sierra nevadas and near mammoth lakes. although most people go there for the bouldering, we found ourselves hanging out on the beautiful granite cliffs of pine creek canyon.

i had to remember how to trust my feet on tiny granite crystals. i had to remember how this magical rock could be sticky and slippery all at once. i had to remember how to crack climb. (i had to do this in red rock as well.) and i had to remember why i love to climb.

it is easy to be unmotivated when you live on the road. since there are no time constraints, there is no pressure to cram it all in. leisurely mornings (sometimes too leisurely) have become our standard. we’re lucky if we have put on our harnesses by noon. some days, i am all for this, but other days, i wish i could find a little drive. a little more excitement to conquer the rock.

“wherever you are, be all there.” – jim elliot

this quote is on an old tea bag tag taped to the back of my phone. so far, i am finding it hard to heed these words on the road. when i am on the cliff, i am worried about missing important emails. when i am staring at my computer, i am worried about missing epic climbs.

but, there are moments where it all comes into balance. even if it is just that one minute where i am at the top of a climb looking out over the canyon below with my best friend by my side realizing how lucky i truly am. or that one minute where i am sitting in bed catching up on emails next to a campfire realizing this is an amazing life i lead.

but back to bishop…

aside from the amazing rock climbing that is in and around bishop, the town is one that we could see ourselves spending a bit more time in. it is close to skiing, climbing, hiking, hot springs, and lots more. it is four hours to los angeles and las vegas, give or take. now if only the ocean were a little closer and had good surf, i don’t think ryan would ever leave…

before heading north to catch my mom in san francisco for mother’s day and visit my aunties, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at whitney portal.

wow. what a stunning area. with views of mt. whitney, unique rock formations in the alabama hills, and gorgeous pine trees lining the bottom of giant granite walls, this detour was well worth it. and so was the taco truck and pub in lone pine, population 2,035.

now if only i had starred in one of the hundreds of movies filmed in this area

coming up in month two: san diego, joshua tree, and yosemite

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van life: red rock canyon (video tour)

we left portland at 9pm on thursday, april 12th with red rock canyon, las vegas, nevada set in our google maps. we were so excited to hit the road and sleep our first night in the van, that we didn’t even care that we would only drive about three hours before needing to pull over and go to sleep. so excited, that we totally didn’t even think about the fact that the pass over mt. hood might have snow… which it did.

despite the chain requirement warning, we slowly pushed through the pass and safely found our way to the redmond, oregon wal-mart, our first home away from home.

it was freezing. we didn’t think about the whole snow thing at all. we curled up close in our new cozy bed, too lazy to unpack our extra sleeping bags.

in the morning, we woke up and hit the road again. i worked for 10 hours while ryan drove for 10 hours. and then, we arrived in vegas. our first climbing destination.

we met up with some friends who were in town from hawaii and were treated to a true las vegas luxury dinner (from a famous chef that i can’t remember the name of) after a full day of exploring red rock canyon state park. it was so great to share our home with some good company. plenty of space for four… thanks nate and nancy!

after a few days of climbing and a few nights camped out in a casino parking lot, we met up with some other friends and moved out to campsite closer to the canyon.

it’s been almost two weeks since we landed in vegas and since we moved in our new van life. these first couple weeks have been full of learning. learning what works, learning what doesn’t, learning what we’re missing, and learning what we love.

life is pretty great. i am so proud of ryan and the home he has built us. it is cozy and has everything we need for the life we love to live. it is a blessing to wake up every day and look around at the beautiful creativity of my partner. thank you ryan.

and now, what you’ve all been waiting for… a super awkward video tour of the final product!

beginning van life: week 8-10

so it turns out that ryan isn’t great at documenting a van build… since i was working full time (and overtime) while we were stationed in portland for the past two months, i could not help get footage of the amazing process ryan underwent to produce our new home.

since my last blog post, we have completed the van!!!

it took about 4-5 weeks of full time work, and i am still totaling the expenses, but probably around $8,000 for everything including the vehicle. more details on expense breakdown to come soon.

in the final weeks of the van build, a lot of things came together…

ryan framed the kitchen and modified a piece of bamboo donated by my boss for the counter top and pull out table/desk.

he built out the cupboards and drawers. complete with soft close hinges! and then, he gave them all a couple coats of oil to protect the wood and make the grain pop. our van is majorly cedar, including these beautiful cupboards.

 

as everything came together, some of the last details were finished up. we added a vent fan over the bed to draw air from the front windows throwout the van, and ryan finished up all the electrical.

the sink was custom made from a bowl to minimize depth and allow space for our pull out table/desk.

 

and then there was the one thing that i contributed to the van… the curtains. i will admit that i cannot even take full credit for them since a friend of mine did assist with the sewing. thanks elana!

and then, we unpacked our storage unit into the van and moved in…

now, to hit the road…

beginning van life: week 1-7

the number one question from everyone these days has been, “how’s the van coming?” so, i guess it is finally time to do our first update on the pending #vanlife chapter of our lives.

it has been seven weeks since we arrived in portland, and we have been super busy. ryan thought he would have all the free time in the world while on a break from work, but he was very wrong.

our first three weeks here were pretty mellow. lots of craigslist searching and alert setting, checking out various vans, and daydreaming about creating our new home. since ryan was not working full time like me, there was also a lot of boredom and anxiety to get started on this next adventure. that boy does not like to sit still for more than a day or two at a time…

we joined a climbing gym in portland, which gave him something to do while we continued to scour the internet for our perfect van. we needed to get back in shape anyways. our forearms and fingertips were definitely not up to climbing road trip status. but, after seven weeks, they are starting to get there.

after about two weeks, an alert popped up in my inbox: 2004 chevy express 2500, 164,000 miles. i forwarded the info to ryan, and he went to suss out if this could be our glass slipper.

turns out that it was. but it also turned into a hilarious example of a craigslist fiasco…

after getting the van home and getting ready to register it, we realized that we had the wrong title. what?! for the next several hours, my brain thought about every possible scenario. was this a stolen van? did we just get swindled? it turns out the answer was no. we bought the van off an electrical company that was selling off a couple vans from their fleet; we just had another van’s title.

during this time, ryan also realized that the transmission could use a little work. lucky for us, the owner had to meet us to exchange the titles. when we picked up the new title, we learned that the vehicle we had purchased was actually a 2003, not a 2004.

this was used to our advantage as i tapped into my schneider debate skills and negotiated a partial refund due to the less than perfect transmission and older than expected vehicle. threatening legal action (without actually knowing anything about the laws surrounding craigslist purchases and bill of sale stipulations), we got them to agree to a partial refund.

with the actual title now in hand, we registered the van in our name and dropped it off at the transmission shop for a makeover while we headed down to lake tahoe for a little snowboarding fun with friends for week four.

we returned to portland in early march, and ryan got straight to work. he joined a community workshop space, so he had access to all the tools he would need. and now what you’ve all been waiting for…

week five:

  • removing the stickers from the outside
  • stripping the inside of shelving and cage divider
  • insulating the walls and floor
  • sanding the wood wall panels
  • waterproofing the wood wall panels (the only thing i have done to contribute thus far)
  • starting to install wood wall panels

 

 

 

week six:

after endless hours researching and unsuccessfully finding a van bubble topper for a decent rate and reasonable turnaround time, we abandoned the idea of adding a higher roof onto our van. at least for now. standing up in the van is definitely a very exciting luxury, but in an effort to save time and money, this part of our plan has been postponed.

  • finishing installation of all wood wall paneling
  • insulating the roof
  • installing wood ceiling boards
  • wiring the van for our ceiling lighting and mood lighting
  • online research and ordering of parts

week seven:

  • installing LED mood lighting
  • prepping holes for ceiling lights
  • building bed frame
  • oiling wood wall panels “to make the grain pop”
  • designing (and arguing about) under the bed storage compartments
  • designing and planning out the kitchen
  • more online research and ordering of parts

and there you have it! three weeks of hard work and ryan has already created an amazing new home for us. i can’t wait to see what else he has in store for _______! (we are taking name suggestions. “rowdy” has been suggested as a throwback to the previous owner’s company “gowdy electric” but we’re still open to ideas…)

mahalo.

with the amount of adventures we’ve undertaken in the past two years, you’d think that my blog would be filled with endless entries. but since we moved to hawaii at the beginning of february 2016, the weekly excursions never found their way to the page. and now that we are gone, i feel like i have so many stories to tell. as i scroll through my hawaii folder of photos, i am overwhelmed by this life we live and the love that follows us wherever we go.

what started as a way for ryan and me to live together in the same place for more than three months at a time, has ended with a place we will always call home.

our last weekend was filled with socializing and saying goodbye for now to the wonderful friends we have created over the past two years.

the friends who slacklined with us until the sun set over waikiki beach. the friends who hosted “sunday suppers” complete with homemade pizza, sushi, and other utterly messy food creations. the friends who made absurd mock reality tv show intro videos. the friends who are smart enough to get us out of an escape room in under an hour.

the friends who taught us how sharp volcanic rock is and tried to turn us into boulderers. the friends who almost swigged a bottle of tequila full of dead fruit flies. the friends who made me feel extremely tall and pale and loved. the friends who supported and amplified my rockstar karaoke dreams.

the friends who saved me from drowning at rockpiles when my surfboard leash broke. the friends who know the seriousness of spike ball. the friends who love taking massive group photos touching each other’s butts. the friends who know how to light up a dance floor (even in costumes). the friends who know how to reap the benefits of a fishing trip.

the friends who lived across the pond. the friends who fed us way too much european wine and delicious food. the friends who embraced the full moon’s excitement. the friends who took us to hidden tide pools and unpopulated waterfalls.

and of course, the friends who started as family. ❤

yes, hawaii is awesome. yes, we did a lot of epic shit. no, i didn’t lay on the beach everyday. no, i don’t have a killer tan. but, yes, we have made some amazing friendships on these little islands in the middle of the pacific. and yes, i now own an obscene amount of bikinis and rashguards.

for now, that is all. but don’t worry, i am sure as the nostalgia sets in even harder, our stories of hawaii will come to fruition, and we can relive the memories together. mahalo.

30 days of gratitude: day 19 – sue

day 19

while living in grand rapids, michigan, i was introduced to this crazy woman and instantly fell head over heels. every young woman needs a mentor, and every mentor needs a young woman. the two of us have been unstoppable ever since.

i am grateful…

  1. that the wilsons thought we should meet each other
  2. for attic chats and brainstorming sessions on how to conquer the world
  3. for every healthy and delicious meal you and roger have prepared for me
  4. for your nut yogurt (so damn good)
  5. that roger has never forced me to try his pepper powder collection
  6. and for the joy it brings me when ryan accidentally sprinkles too much of roger’s pepper on his meal
  7. that i know i always have an adorable old farmhouse to call home when i’m in grand rapids
  8. for your motherly advice
  9. and your unmotherly advice
  10. for the amazing, boundary-pushing literature you’ve created for youth covering topics like artificially insemination and incarceration
  11. that you potentially come up with more crazy ideas than i do
  12. that i tagged along for the 300-mile bike ride from grand rapids to chicago to share tillie anderson’s story with hundreds of youth
  13. for your encouragement of my writing and interest in youth
  14. that i have a twin a few decades older than me to lead me through life
  15. that you are unafraid to tackle difficult issues in our society
  16. for every hug
  17. and every tear
  18. for your continued investment in my career development
  19. for teaching me that it’s okay to not have everything figured out
  20. for roger’s secret comedic side
  21. to have your marriage as an example
  22. for sipping mocktails in the sunshine in your epically beautiful yard and garden
  23. that you’re someone i know i can say absolutely anything to, with no filter
  24. that i’m your chosen daughter (is that the name we landed on?)
  25. for supper clubs and your continual creation of community
  26. that you ride alongside me on our emotional rollercoasters
  27. for your reminders to be kind to myself
  28. for your love and care of german shepherds (and all animals)
  29. for the handmade greeting cards you send my way
  30. that i have such a fierce, unstoppable, ever-changing female role model to look up to and share my life with

30 days of gratitude: day 18 – the grants

day 18

dear grants,

what a blessing it has been to get to know each of you more and more over the past four years. when you find someone you love, you’re not always guaranteed to love their family, but you are all amazing! i cannot wait to continue to grow my relationship with each of you, and potentially become an “official” grant one day. (no pressure ryan.)

i am grateful…

  1. for the time i completely fell off of my bike, skinned my elbow and knee, and had a super wet bum the first time i met steph and dale (and they still accepted me)
  2. to have witnessed the amazing transformation/renovation of the tugan units (wish ryan had gone in on that one…)
  3. for our first hawaiian new year’s eve celebration at the outrigger club, especially our on-stage dance routine and seeing travis hungover for the first time in my life
  4. for the first several months, where i didn’t get that everything out of gordon’s mouth is leading to a punchline (boom, boom)
  5. and for the endless amount of bad “dad jokes” that i now know (i might regret saying i’m grateful for this…)
  6. for heather’s deep love for her three wonderful sons and her adopted daughters
  7. for the time dale let me beat him wrestling, only after informing me he was going to kill me
  8. that steph and dale let us crash their mini-moon and adventure on fraser island with them
  9. and that steph was there to save my life as the spa jets sucked my hair into them (no thanks to ryan)
  10. for that time i tried to keep up with the boys in darwin and drunk dialed dale to tell him i liked him better than ryan (i still do dale)
  11. for the endless similarities in every grant boy and their unique differences
  12. for the two years we’ve spent in hawaii and the time growing closer to travis and blair
  13. for heather’s anzac cookies, perfectly timed cups of tea, and loving hugs
  14. for steph’s signature dance move, intense hatred of horses, and extreme love of dogs
  15. that both grant brothers married such amazingly beautiful, strong, smart, and supportive women that i hope to call my sister-in-laws (aka SILlies) one day (including carly)
  16. that i now know that travis is entertained by literally anything and thinks the smallest things are absolutely hilarious
  17. for steph and blair’s understanding of what it means to date a grant
  18. that blair was the first american to steal a grant (made it a little easier for me to do the same)
  19. for getting to spend the first year of hugo’s life by his side and ensuring he likes to dance
  20. for all the boys’ lively, carefree, simple, fun, and hands-on approach to life
  21. for all the amazing accomplishments that have landed each of you the “best grant award”
  22. for gordon’s delicious brekkies and seafood cook ups on the barbeque
  23. for the amazing friends of all of the grants (seriously, what a fun crew!)
  24. for room beers and slope adventures in niseko with steph, dale, and that awesome crew
  25. that there is another baby grant to call me auntie on the way (fingers crossed for a girl)
  26. for that time gordon couldn’t process that my mom doesn’t drink, “are you sure i can’t get you a wine sherry?”
  27. that i know i have a home in australia and a home in hawaii no matter where we are
  28. for every time that all the grants get to reunite in one place, even if only for a few days
  29. for the fact that heather and gordon were in the circus back in the day (like for real, best story ever)
  30. that my someday in-laws are all people that i love, respect, and adore

30 days of gratitude: day 17 – new england literature program

day 17

i don’t remember how i heard about it or what the application was like, but i do remember the profound impact that university of michigan’s new england literature program (nelp) had on me. the people, the place, the reading, the writing. seriously one of the most unique and memorable six weeks of my life thus far.

i am grateful…

  1. that i was sober enough (just barely) to receive the director’s last minute phone call on st. patrick’s day freshman year of college telling me that although i had been waitlisted previously, a spot had opened up for the spring 2006 new england literature program
  2. and that i was able to sober up even more to get myself over to her office for an interview immediately
  3. for six weeks in the maine wilderness with absolutely no technology or external influences
  4. for my kingfisher cabin family, including the lower half (love you anna, alex, shae, paloma, erin, and drew)
  5. that paloma let me shave her head and tape a piece of her hair into my journal (the first true bond of a lasting love)
  6. for the 39 other students and 15 staff who challenged little 19-year-old sara to grow the fuck up
  7. for every unexplainable bruise that seemed to appear on shaelyn’s bum (yes, i have photos but i will spare you)
  8. for the natural beauty of camp wohelo and lake sebago
  9. for the stunning sounds surrounding me always, usually coming from anna or andrew or nels or hannah or one of the other amazing musicians in our nelp
  10. that i got eight college english credits to hang out in the woods with some of the best people i know reading and writing and hiking and dancing and laughing (even if it did totally wreck my chances of getting into the english honors program sophomore year)
  11. for team fire, basically the best food group known to nelp
  12. that i now have frost and dickinson poems eternally memorized and set to song in my head
  13. that i survived hiking into 90mph wind and rain while submitting mt. washington (seriously, rain hurts like hell when it is going that fast)
  14. for alistair’s bright blue rain pants (and the dance moves that came with them)
  15. for the opportunity to explore my love for public art experiments
  16. that my fellow nelpers helped to break my default white food only rule
  17. for quiet early mornings alone on the dock with my journal, followed by abrupt morning dips with paloma
  18. for the moment when my amazing journal group leader took me aside and said, “sara, you are very intelligent, but if you don’t take yourself and your ideas seriously, no one else will” after i had read a jewel poem during a group read-around #bestjournalgroupever
  19. for the hilarity of hannah and kevin and sensor and schlitts and the other crew of comedians helping me not take life too seriously
  20. that i participated in the mass streaking of the staff meeting (even if we did get in trouble…)
  21. that i spent six weeks reading the works of the transcendentalists in the exact landscape about which they were writing
  22. for alex’s butterflies-in-your-belly inducing hugs
  23. and andrew’s rendition of every bob dylan song, but especially “she belongs to me”
  24. for stolen bowls of ice cream with my favorite lady clan
  25. for night walks void of artificial light and filled with wildlife squeaks and scatters
  26. for aric’s nelp vocabulary flashcards #bestgiftever (these still get hung up in every house i live in… narma)
  27. that i have two fat journals full of literary reflections, self journeys, and meandering musings that will live on forever to remind me of the amazingness of my time at nelp
  28. for every single letter and care package that my friends and family sent me while i was banned from technology
  29. for nine day weeks, talent shows, contra dances, wunder kammens, and every other nelp-y thing not yet listed
  30. that more than ten years later, the relationships i made at nelp are still some of the most meaningful relationships that exist in my life

30 days of gratitude: day 16 – brian

day 16

dear brian,

since that day amanda and i saw you in our high school math class, i knew you were someone special. double accelerated and a head of long dirty blonde hair. over 15 years later and i still revel in the friendship we’ve created.

i am grateful…

  1. that i befriended the little freshman in our math class sophomore year
  2. and that you could help me with all the math homework i never understood (and never will)
  3. that you introduced me to victor wooten at 16
  4. and for constantly introducing me to new music that i absolutely love
  5. for your ridiculous musical talent and ability to play every instrument in existence
  6. that my interest in country/folk music finally wore off on you
  7. and that i can now tell you in earnest that i love dancing to your band (i mean chafo was great and all…)
  8. for every time you call me seeking advice about a new girl
  9. that you can still surprise me (kind of) with your complete life upheavals
  10. that i know i can tell you anything
  11. for your intelligent mind, academically and philosophically
  12. that you’re as crazy as i am
  13. for the times you’ve talked me out of doing something stupid
  14. and the times you’ve embraced me doing stupid things
  15. for the long pauses of appreciation you take after a bite of well-crafted food
  16. that you hurt your foot and got ada camping at bonnaroo
  17. and that you mailed me the bonnaroo schedule (with acts i have to see circled) to me at nelp since i didn’t have access to internet
  18. that i’ve gotten to see you perform on several occasions, in several locations
  19. for our long talks over good beer
  20. that i got a local tour of puerto rico complete with the world’s best ice cream

  21. and for that time taylor, you, and i cruised around san juan’s finest hotels
  22. for the opportunity to live vicariously through your adventures over the past 15 years
  23. for your amazing mom, dad, and sister
  24. and that we still both get jealous when the other one does something epic
  25. for the bonding experience that was “pippin”
  26. that your dreadlocks phase came to an end
  27. for getting to spend time with the beautiful maysa

  28. that i know you’ll be my best friend forever (yeah, bff)
  29. for how well we understand each other’s highs and lows, and how to help each other deal with them
  30. that you’re my b-ri

30 days of gratitude: day 15 – my stc boys

day 15

dear adam, cooper, curtis, patrick, peter, and timothy (in alphabetical order),

although all of you deserve your own day, you would take up an entire week, so you get to share a gratitude post. and truthfully, i am equally as lucky to have each and every one of you in my life.

i am grateful…

  1. for freshman and sophomore english classes (vant and schaeffer really brought us together)
  2. that pete was impressing girls (like lindsay brady) with his gentlemanly wiles way back in 7th grade
  3. that i have endless video footage of patrick singing show tunes and cooper explaining historical events to me (i won’t post it here…)
  4. to adam for the depth of my understanding of how to play fifa and a slew of other video games
  5. for your legendary saints night out boy band performance
  6. for that time you visited curtis and i at michigan and somehow got on television pretending to bleed maize and blue
  7. for the time i visited illinois state and got all adam’s frat brothers wasted on homemade wine, and the time we all went down for dumelle’s big 2-1
  8. for the time i visited princeton and knew as soon as i met her that daniela was the one for petey (mainly because she instantly started making fun of him with me)
  9. and for the many times i headed over to east lansing or down to champaign-urbana
  10. that you all put up with me, even if at times i’m probably like an annoying little sister
  11. and that you all look out for me (and judge the people i date) as if i were your sister
  12. that your families are all amazing and that i’ve had the opportunity to get to know them well
  13. that you have all remained such a tight knit group of friends over the years and distances
  14. for ridiculous nights being drunk and disorderly at duerr’s house
  15. and for ridiculous nights being drunk and disorderly in john’s garage
  16. for cooper’s magic ability to turn serious when i actually need to talk through something
  17. and his magic ability to make deep dish pizza appear at 3am
  18. for the beautiful, intelligent, and witty women you have found to start your lives with
  19. for all the times you’ve let me crash on your couches, guest beds, and floors when i am back in chicago or passing through los angeles
  20. that when my grandpa just passed, a few of you were some of the only friends to personally reach out and see how i was doing
  21. for that time tim and i embraced our love for jam bands at bonnaroo
  22. for my first real lesson in love, heartache, and the meaning of “hardwork” from our state champion athlete
  23. for that time that i got to perform alongside the best pippin ever to take the norris stage
  24. for tgi fridays friend dates
  25. that we all get to say we are friends with the leader of the teenage mutant ninja turtles
  26. for that cow mailbox and the one time when i couldn’t find the cow mailbox, got confused, and walked straight into a complete stranger’s house instead
  27. that i have gotten to watch all of you boys grow up into such amazing men (my motherly pride is seriously disgusting)
  28. that you let me be part of your voxer group for a short while (even if you had another one that was boys only)
  29. that i know if i really need any of you for something, you’d be there for your “schneids”
  30. that some things just never change with you boys…