15 minutes

Start time: 7:00am

I was in the middle of a dream about listening to a Chris Martin song when I heard, yelling into my ear, “Rebekah! I have a problem! Rebekah! I have a problem! REBEKAH!!!”

I opened my eyes and there was little brother, in his pajamas, jumping and wriggling all around. He saw my eyes open and once again yelled at me about his problem. My alarm clock happened to start going off as soon as I opened my eyes.

I expected the worst- perhaps the entire container of orange juice was spilled on the kitchen floor, or the stove was on fire, or a squirrel was running around the house. So I took a second to wake up, and told little brother I’d help him just as soon as I put my contacts in.

In went the contacts and little brother pointed down a flight of stairs to his problem: a hairy black spider, probably 2/3s the size of my hand, hanging out on the wall.

This is what I got woken up for?!

“You’re going to have to wait a few minutes, I need to change out of my pajamas.”

As was changing, my phone rang. It was the man who transported my car- I was expecting his call. “I’ll be there in 30 minutes,” he said. “There” meaning a place that would take at least 20 minutes to get to. And it was the beginning of rush hour, so who really knew?!

I made a quick call to my Dad who was just outside the house. He needed to drive me to where my car was being dropped off. And we needed to leave five minutes ago. As I was talking with my Dad, I had an incoming call from Mom. I transferred over to her to hear “Beck, Sarah’s bus is 40 minutes late. I just left her at the bus stop so I can get Levi to school on time (juggling 3 schools between 4 siblings) … you and Dad need to drop her off at school right now please.”

Oh, so now we needed to leave 15 minutes ago.

I ran down the stairs (the spider was no where to be found), found Dad, explained the situation, and ran across the wet grass to pull his truck around to the front of the house. He made sure little brothers wouldn’t hurt the house while we were gone, and we drove a short distance and then stopped.

“Here’s the problem, Beck, Ty (dog) was watching the sheep, and I know he was just right here, but now we need to find him … TY! TY, HERE! TY! TY! WHERE ARE YOU?!” Ty appeared, we put him in the truck, and headed down the street to pick up Sarah and get her to school.

End time: 7:15am

Thankfully, I am a morning person. How do you handle busy mornings?

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The Watch

I received a gift this past Christmas from an employer I had been with for three months. I received this gift after wrapping and labeling almost every present that was exchanged in the household of eight people. I wrapped presents that arrived from Skymall with expedited shipping two days before Christmas. I wrapped presents that entered the house after a $1500 shopping trip to Target. I wrapped a cashmere scarf after taking off its expensive price tag, only to find later that it never actually made it to the recipient. I wrapped presents for the dogs and cats. I wrapped presents for all of the other close employees to the family. I almost wrapped my own present, until it was found in a pile last minute and taken to another room.

I later received my present unwrapped.

It was in a simple black box containing a massive amount of unspoken words- a simple black box that easily gave away its possession at first glance. (I had seen the other presents in the house, after all.)

“I noticed you don’t wear watches …” These were the first words vocalized upon handing over the little black box to me. My thoughts were confirmed.

I was actually happy that some attention had been paid to me and who I was. Be it my character, my mannerisms, my style of dress, or the tiny fact that I do not wear watches … at least my employer paid attention to some detail of my life- I don’t wear watches.

But if that was the only detail you ever noticed about someone, if it was the only thing you were ever able to deduce about someone- would you buy this someone a watch?

I didn’t think so.

“… so I got you one … see … this is my favorite brand of watches, I’m wearing one right now!”

I feigned something nice about her watch and held my breath as I opened the box containing my own. Perhaps it would have at least been taken into account how petite I am. Her watch looked huge on her wrist, and she was much taller and more filled out than me. Maybe this brand of watches made something, anything, that could look alright on a tiny wrist. And hopefully it wasn’t sparkly silver with lots of diamonds or rhinestones. I had already seen that watch and wrapped it for someone else. Hopefully it wasn’t being re-gifted so soon.

The first glance at my watch provided no sincerely thankful words to the gift-giver. Luckily, they weren’t necessary, as said employer just started raving about how much she liked it. She had a thing for big, and chunky, and plastic-y. The face was essentially as large as the flat of my wrist (okay, slight exaggeration, but not by far). I had no business owning such a piece of jewelry.

“Do you like it? Will you wear it?”

There was so much enthusiasm behind those sentences that I lost my own words for a moment and finally stumbled into saying thank you.

I brought that watch home with me over Christmas break and had my uncle take all the removable links out so that I could go back to work with a watch on my wrist.

And I did that exactly. For two or three long workdays in the course of three weeks, I was bothered by this bulky piece of jewelry on my left wrist that was still even a bit too large.

When the job ended, the watch lost its purpose. The little black box was its only home. And so the hopeful selling began. Multiple ads on Craigslist have elicited only spammers. No friends or acquaintances have need for such an inconvenient article. And so for eight months this watch has sat, hidden away, on a shelf.

The problem with this watch is that it retails for $200. And while I didn’t spend that money, it is worth a bit too much for me to justify just giving it away to anyone or anywhere. But at the same time, it is not fancy enough to sell to a jeweler. It is made out of something called “plasteramic.” No precious metals, no sparkles, no worth to some high-end place that buys to re-sell. This watch is stuck in the middle. And I’m stuck with it until I can find someone else in the middle who suits it.

Would you like a watch?

downsizing, simplifying, and letting go

September 20, 2012

This life in LA is now becoming this life in PA. A simple change of that first letter brings a not-s0-simple change for my life as I currently know it. This not-so-simple change means getting rid of things that will weigh me down on my trip back across the country. Simplifying what I own, in an effort to simplify the thoughts running through my head.

That to say, I don’t own very much to begin with. I’m not a hoarder, and I typically do not buy things unless I need them. When I came out here a year ago, everything I deemed necessary for living fit into the back of my Ford Fiesta.

Yes, it still looks like a lot.

But keep in mind it’s a compact car.

But now that Fiesta is being shipped across the country and federal law prohibits personal items from being stored in shipped cars.

And checking bags on a domestic flight can become a bit pricey.

So, out with the old.

But it’s really something I’ve not very good at doing in the past.

I’ve tried getting rid of things time and time again. I got rid of plenty in an effort to fit all of the above into my little car. I left many of my belongings scattered across the country- some in my parent’s basement, some in Jeremy’s parent’s basement. I gave away a few replaceable items. But I held on to a lot.

This time around it’s different. I suppose that in the difficulty of letting go of what I emotionally hold dear, it’s much easier to let go of what I tangibly have. Most of my replaceable items have been sold or given away. I’ve been scouring freecycle boards to see if there’s anything people need that I can give them. I’ve been posting and reposting on Craigslist daily. I’ve taken a trip to Goodwill with a full car trunk of clothes and left with it empty. I do still have some pricer items that I can’t happily just give away, if anyone’s interested (watch, silverware, looping pedal), but all in all, I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been able to let go of.

I do hope that I’m able to continue this mindset of downsizing once I am in PA and go through my belongings that were left in the basement. I am not sure I could ever have the true minimalist mindset or successfully employ the 100 Things Challenge, but there is a lot to be said of living with only what you need.

September 25, 2012

And I have been trying to hold on to only what I need. But what does “need” mean, really? I’ve (male) friends who have moved  with only a backpack or two. Maybe one checked bag at the airport. It seems so simple. But how could I do it? I have a violin. I have a laptop. I have various music electronics- a microphone, a mic stand, a looping pedal, an m-box. I have shoes (and I don’t own as many as most females I know, but I still have six or seven pairs of shoes. Is even that many pairs necessary?) I have clothes and I have hangers to go with those clothes. I have a small floor fan. I have kitchen utensils. I have a small food processor. I have bedding and two pillows. I have toiletries. I have miscellaneous office items. I’ve let go and gotten rid of so many things over the past month. But was it enough? Am I still holding on to things I don’t actually need?

My car does not look half as full as it was when I drove across the country last year. From the outside, you can’t even tell there is anything being stored in it. But a big help for that was two 50lb checked bags at the airport, and an overstuffed carry-on. So perhaps I’m leaving with the same amount of “things” I came with. At what point is too much too much?

I intend to continue to be aware of what I own and any purchases I make. I want to keep whittling down my tangible items to what I actually use and need.

Is there anyone else out there trying to do this? What constitutes an item’s need? What constitutes letting go of something?

revisiting the 2012 LA Marathon

Six months ago I completed the LA Marathon.

I say “completed” because I can’t say I ran it. I ran some of it. I can’t say I walked it, either. I walked some of it. I also stood still for durations of time during it. So, I completed it. In six hours and seventeen minutes.

This race was in no way competitive for me. Calling it a race doesn’t actually make sense for my purpose of the marathon. I had two goals.

1. Raise awareness and funds for Love Without Boundaries, an organization that is doing FANTASTIC work in the lives and families of the poor, impoverished, and orphaned children of China.
2. Start and finish within the timeframe allotted. Cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

The first goal was the reason I signed up for the marathon in the first place. The second goal was established upon realizing what exactly I had done by signing up to run a marathon. Being someone who’s only memory of running is that of loathing the presidential fitness tests in high school because it required running a mile, signing up for a marathon was quite the undertaking.

So, how did I do it?

I bought running shoes. In fact, I bought barefoot running shoes, and to this day I am exceptionally pleased with them. Perhaps a post on my barefoot shoes will come in the near future. I started training in September 2011. I remember managing to jog 3/4 of a mile and feeling fine for the duration of it. And that was actually a surprise. I’ve tried running on and off for the past few years and never could get a feel for it. And there I went jogging 3/4 of a mile with no problems. That’s when I realized that running could actually become something I did, if I wanted it to be.

I credit my consistent, healthy lifestyle: a sleeping pattern that rarely changes, with enough sleep for me to be rested for the next day and eating three healthy meals a day. I also specifically credit eating quinoa at some point every day, and also including chia seeds in a glass of water with my daily breakfast. I read the book “Born To Run,” and was incredibly encouraged by it.

I started following a training plan, and I stuck to it. For two months. I built up to regularly running 3 miles every other day, and my long runs got up to 8 miles before I “deviated” from the training plan. And I suppose that here “deviated” means “stopped.” Life got in the way- a 10 day trip to China, relocation to Florida almost immediately upon my arrival back to LA, visiting PA for Christmas and New Years, heading back to Florida where I didn’t want to be, and finally finding my way back to LA at the end of January. For three months I couldn’t make structure for my days, and without that structure, I was unable to make the time to run. Yes, I could have found a way to make it, but I didn’t have the mental energy to fit it in. And then from February until March 18th, I ran here and there, still enjoying it, but feeling very non-committal because I knew there was still no way I could be prepared for 26.2 miles.

I may not have been a runner at that point, but I was still a walker. I love to take walks- and speed walks at that- and my job offered me the benefit of pushing around two children in a double stroller every day. I did take full advantage of that. I just wasn’t running.

In the week leading up to the marathon, I started reading about other people’s experiences. There are a lot of us out there who have attempted long-distance running with minimal training. I do not condone it, but hey, it has been done. By plenty of people.

The things I learned in these articles and blogs I put into practice on the day of:

I drank water whenever it was offered. I walked up hills. I ate every banana and orange slice available to me. I carried and used Clif Bar Shot Bloks. I walked when I couldn’t run. When I could run, I took it easy. I didn’t allow myself to be competitive (which is VERY difficult for me). I listened to my body and didn’t push myself too hard.

A huge help was running the first half with Jeremy. His knee unfortunately started hurting very early on, and he had to really take it easy. I was dead-set on staying with him and so I went a lot more slowly than I felt I needed to for the first half of the race. He decided to not finish once we got to the half-way mark, and I was feeling so energized and normal that I took off at a decent jog. That decent jog lasted two miles and then my legs decided they didn’t like working anymore- this was something I have never experienced during running, as I usually wimp out because I am tired in the sense of my inner body, not my muscles. Of course, this was to be expected, as I was attempting a very large amount of miles without enough training. So I am incredibly thankful, I suppose, that Jeremy’s knee was bothering him as much as it was. If I had jogged the entire first half, like I wanted to, my legs probably would have given out much sooner than mile 15.

Of course, that still left me with 11 miles to go, and this time entirely “alone.” I alternated between jogging, walking, and stopping to stretch my cramped legs for most of those 11 miles. Towards mile 22 or so, my knee started becoming an issue, so I stopped jogging and walked, very slowly. I was on a stretch of road that had a wide grassy area for the duration of it, so I walked on the grass to lessen the impact to my joints. I started limping; whatever was happening with my knee was not something I was able to stretch out. So I just listened to my body and didn’t push it. After a painstaking two miles of limping, the pain in my knee disappeared, and so I started a slow jog once again. Upon the quicker pace, I somehow realized that if I went back down to a walk, my knee would act up again. So I jogged the last two miles of the marathon. I listened to Sigur Ros’s “Hoppipolla” on repeat. I watched the ocean get closer and closer. I gave random people high fives. And I crossed the finish line. With a smile on my face.

And as soon as I started walking after the finish line, that magical pain in my knee flared up again, and stuck with me until after the 11 hours of sleep I got that night.

Is there a life lesson involved in this? Sure: Be prepared for whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. And if you’re not prepared, at least be prepared to put effort into it.

concepts of being on time

As may have been made apparent in my lazy day post, I have a fairly straightforward “type A” personality (while being introverted, yes. It’s fun to be both of those things, I catch people off guard if they do not know me well). This plays in to a lot of areas in my life, one of the big ones being Time- I like to be on time, I refuse to be late.

Some dear friends of mine got married a few years ago, and I was involved in the festivities. I will never forget what the bride’s father said at the beginning of the wedding weekend while talking about the schedule to all of us playing a role in the day: “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” I know that wasn’t the first time I had heard those words put together before. But when I heard them at that moment, it was all I could do to keep from jumping up and down and screaming because I had found someone like-minded (yes, that someone being the bride’s father). Those specific words have stuck with me day in and day out ever since.

When I am expected somewhere- if it is a matter of someone waiting for me- I am Always early. Being early gives me time to prepare for whatever it is that is about to happen; I am able to scope out what is going on in my surroundings. If I am meeting friends for dinner, this means I can get a table and choose the seat at the table that best faces the door. If I am going to an interview this means it may be noted that I am prompt. If I am arriving at my job it gives me time to sit back and breathe for another few minutes before working. If it is rehearsal with other musicians, I then have time to tune my violin and warm up.

I have never been to a job interview less than 15 minutes early (at which point I wait in the parking lot and then make my presence known 5 minutes before the interview is scheduled). I leave for work every day at exactly the same time. Most days I get to work 15-20 minutes early and I wait until 8:58 and then walk into the house. I leave myself so much time because of the darned traffic here in this city. There have been days when I’ve arrived and had only enough time to park my car and get into the house at 8:58am. But Never any later than that.

The time that everyone decides on is supposed to be the time that event begins. Not the time that everyone arrives to start preparing for the event.

Now, if it is a large social situation, it is the opposite for me. Unless I am hosting a party (rarely happens), I am a good half an hour late, typically. I allow myself more leeway for a few reasons-

1. I am not good in large social situations, nor do I particularly enjoy them.
2. People rarely arrive at parties early, and if they arrive on time, they are normally the only ones. I do not like to be the only person present at a party. It makes need for small talk. I do not like small talk.
3. I can arrive unnoticed, most of the time, if I am late. Then I can find a couch or chair in the corner of the room and do what I do best- observe. Observing is my favorite form of engaging in social activity.

However, if said social situation is starting at a specific time for a reason other than “let’s get together and eat food and maybe eventually play games or watch a movie,” like perhaps a surprise party, or a get-together with a purpose where everyone realizes that timeliness is necessary, then I go back to my “early is on time, etc.” mantra.

—–

I was privileged to spend two weeks in Northern Ireland at the beginning of August, and one night we were all at a get-together  to meet my brother-in-law’s very large extended family. The festivities were due to start at 8pm. We arrived around 8:45, I believe. Late, yes, but at least I already understood two things:

1. This is how my sister and her husband work, most of the time.
2. This seems to be the Irish way of thinking to begin with.

And then I got to talking with Ted, my sister’s father-in-law, after meeting one of his sisters. I either apologized for being late or at least made reference to it (it wasn’t in my control anyway), and Ted laughed at me. He pointed to his sister. “She got here at 7:45! The house was dark! My wife and I were not even here yet!” (Ted is one of 12 siblings, or some other large number. His youngest sister was the one who got to the party at 7:45. Not a single other soul, including the hosts, arrived at the house until at least 8:15pm, if I am not mistaken.)

WHAT?! The hosts of the party were not even at their house 15 minutes before it was supposed to start? It wasn’t like they just needed people to arrive. They had food to put out and tea to make and other sorts of get-together things to do.

I laughed with Ted and his sister, and then explained to him my way of thinking, which seemed to be his sister’s way of thinking. “Ted, what do you think if I say ‘Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable?'”

Lots of chuckling. That’s what he thought.

“You mean to say, Bekah, that getting somewhere early is a benefit?” … more chuckling.

“Well, Ted, how would you phrase that statement?”

He pondered for a moment, and then threw out this re-phrasing: “Early is unnecessary, on time is early, and late is on time.”

So there you have it- a clashing of cultures, or perhaps just personalities. I can appreciate it. But I cannot implement it.

What are your philosophies for being on time? How have you found it in other cultures? How has this been a problem? How has it been a good thing?

a lazy day

I am not the type of person to lay back and take a rest. I like to make my days as productive as they can be. I always have something to work on and finish, and there seems to never be enough time in a day. I give myself 9 hours of sleep a night (yes, I realize this is high compared to most people. It’s what I know I need, so I get that but no more. If I could function off of 6 hours, that is what I would allow myself). I always set an alarm for the morning. I hate sleeping in. I wake up an hour and a half before I need to leave for work every morning just so I can make the most of my mornings instead of rushing off to work. I do not take naps. I do not sit in front of the TV. I like to be productive, and I like to be efficient. I hate doing nothing.

Point in case- I was on the phone with a friend the other day. In this phone conversation we were just catching up, talking about normal day-to-day goings ons. Before hanging up, she said to me “You should take a nap before getting to your to-do list for the day.” Hah- she knew me so well that she just figured I had a list of things to accomplish for the day. And she was right. So perhaps I am like this to a fault.

That to say, I woke up this morning, after 10 1/2 hours of sleeping and waking up at the late hour of 9am (unheard of), sat on my computer for a few minutes, and promptly moved from my bed to the chair in front of the TV. What?! I then watched an hour and a half of The Office season 8 (it will never be as good as when Steve Carell was on it), and then made myself french toast for a late brunch. Double what?! My normal routine is to wake up and get dressed. Then make an egg sandwich almost immediately. Breakfast is Important! And sugar should not exist with breakfast! And pajama days do not happen for me! Well, my friends, I didn’t bother changing or putting in my contacts until 2pm. I ventured outside at that point to walk to the store and back. I changed back into my pajamas upon my return. I sat back in front of the television. I ate chocolate ice cream. I ate chocolate candy. I watched way too much of The Office. I talked to five different people on the phone. I accomplished next to nothing today.

Around 6pm I realized I couldn’t do this for the rest of the day (which, for me, lasts only until 10pm or so. I love early bedtimes.) What could I do to feel like I accomplished something of worth today? I could cook something for dinner that looked and tasted amazing!

I recently cancelled my CSA subscription due to all the transitions in my life at the moment. But the other day I made some falafels from scratch (Yum! First attempt, and they were so good!) and had fresh parsley left over. I also bought some cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods recently because they were on sale. I had on hand some feta packed in brine. I had sunflower oil and lemon juice. I had half a box of pasta. I had a variety of dried seasonings. So I got to work.

At 6:45 I sat back down in front of the television (seriously, what?!), but this time with a large plate of goodness.

Wheat pasta shells, cherry tomatoes (halved for texture purposes), feta, fresh parsley, sunflower oil, a hint of lemon juice, dried oregano, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and a dash of garlic powder. All organic. I just cooked the pasta and added everything in once the hot pasta was on the plate.

 

I suppose my day was productive after all. At least I’ll keep telling myself that.

What do your lazy days look like? What do your productive days look like? What else would taste good with this dish?

 

Music Monday- Mumford & Sons in Monterey

Gentlemen of the Road- Monterey Stopover

Saturday was a wonderful day spent in Monterey, where Mumford & Sons put on their sixth of seven world-wide music festivals. It was my first time up in Monterey and I thoroughly enjoyed being in that little touristy beachy town; I will save those details for another post.

This was apparently an “intimate evening,” kept “small” so that everyone could really enjoy themselves. Well, “small” meant a sold-out 10,000 capacity for the Monterey Fairgrounds. Might I also add that it was sold out within one week of the show being announced? These guys are big.

Small and intimate, just the way I like things. (Hah. Despite the crowd, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.) This picture was actually taken during Gogol Bordello, the band right before Mumford and Sons took the stage. As you may imagine, the venue just got more full once Mumford began playing.

This is the third time I have seen Mumford & Sons live. The first time I saw them was at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in May 2010. It was one of their earlier shows in the United States, they were still newer to the music scene here. The TLA’s capacity is a mere 1000, compared to the 10,000 fans Mumford serenaded on Friday. I count myself lucky to have been at that first performance, just as they were starting to become known. There was a magic about that one that can only be found as a band is first reaching stardom. The four of them were so enthralled by the crowd’s excitement that they were getting emotional about it at times. They were still working out kinks and learning things that you can only learn after performing live many, many times. It wasn’t the best presented show, but the music was spot on.

The music was still spot on during their performance on Saturday night.

After a long day of openers on two stages who included Slow Club, Haim, Apache Relay, Two Gallants, Grouplove, Gogol Bordello, and The Very Best (who actually ended the festival after Mumford & Sons), Mumford took the main stage at 8:50pm. One of the (many) wonderful things about this festival is that every show started on time. Gogol Bordello even started a few minutes early. I have a feeling many follow up Music Mondays will include reviews of Slow Club, Apache Relay, and Gogol Boredello. I’d heard of the first and the last before, but Apache Relay was new to me- and as they are from Nashville and have that sort of vibe, I thoroughly enjoyed them as well.

Mumford opened with a song from their yet to be released new album Babel (September 24th you can’t come soon enough!)- Lovers’ Eyes. They immediately followed with the crowd pleaser that is Little Lion Man (language in the chorus). This was Mumford & Son’s debut song from their first album, “Sigh No More,” in 2009. It was nominated for the 2011 Best Rock Song Grammy (though it lost out to Neil Young’s “Angry World.”) It hit prime positions on music charts in 10 different countries, including #1 for US Alternative Songs.

Throughout the show they played a wonderful mix of old and new songs and did it all with the vibrancy and tenacity that I’ve come to see in them time and time again. They also could not have closed out the set any better. After initially ending with Dust Bowl Dance (from their first album), they walked off the stage and then came back for the obligatory encore. Opening the encore with Winter Winds got the crowd going wild (again). And then came the best song of the night (sure, I’m biased)- The Cave. What a wonderful, beautiful song. It has long been my favorite from “Sigh No More.” They closed out the night by bringing all of the day’s musicians onto the stage to play The Weight by The Band. There was no better song to end this epic show with. No. Better. Song. As Levon Helm of The Band passed away in April of this year, I’ve been hearing his music more and more in the circle of artists that I enjoy. Some of you may remember my loving rant posts about seeing Glen Hansard in June. He ended his show with two songs by The Band, in honor of Levon Helm. This is a perfect song for a collaboration of artists, and Mumford & company  played it beautifully on Saturday night.

during the second half of Lovers’ Eyes

One characteristic that draws me to Mumford & Sons is their authenticity. They are really doing this because they love it. They write music and perform it for the fans out of sheer enjoyment. They seem to have no ulterior motives. Let me put it this way- I actually left for 10 minutes or so during one of the other bands, I just walked around and explored the fairgrounds (and, yes, took advantage of smaller lines for the bathrooms). That is not something I do. Music is to be enjoyed. But I left during one of the bands because I was frustrated with their stage presence. The content of their songs and their chatter between them had an air of assumed authority. Sure they were enjoying playing their music, but they (to me) also seemed to be enjoying (to a fault) the fact that all eyes were on them. And that it somehow made them better than the rest of us.

For all the talent and fame that Mumford & Sons has, they exude no air of assumed authority. They never appear to believe that they are better than anyone they are playing their music for. They are playing it to share it. That is what should be done. That is one of the many reasons I follow this band.

Were you there in Monterey also? Let me know your thoughts! If you are reading this and have not listened to Mumford & Sons before, I’d love to know your initial reaction to their music- here is the official audio for their new single “I Will Wait,” which will be found on their album “Babel” to be released on September 24th. Enjoy!