There are certain types of friends we all have. The Drama Queen. The Beauty Queen. The Chats With Everyone and Kind of Embarrasses You But Really You’re Just Jealous and In Awe Of Her Queen.
But this post is not about any of those friends. This is about The Flake.
You know who I’m talking about. The friend who bails on your dinner date. And then does it twice more. And then you find yourself trying to schedule plans with a new friend, and saying things like “Well, I technically have a dinner next Thursday, but she always cancels so I doubt it will actually happen.”
I wrote that very sentence to a new friend today and she said something that really struck a chord. She described this flaking species as “People who have the potential to be very dear friends but you just don’t trust them to actually follow through. … And if they don’t care enough to stick with our date (or at least give ample notice when stuff comes up) then how do I feel valued enough to tell them my deepest darkest secrets or ask them to help me move?”
And yet, flaking has become more and more acceptable. Even expected.
Last Sunday, I had plans with a newish friend. At 10 that morning I called her. An hour later I texted. (I am not a stalker, really. But given the current state of phone calls I wasn’t sure she’d get the voicemail.) She called back soon enough and told me that since we hadn’t spoken to confirm she didn’t think we were still on. I told her not to worry, that once I make a plan I put it in the calendar and stick to it. “Ooooh, that’s good to know,” she said. She seemed surprised. We ended up going on a glorious walk.
As someone who assumes we’re on unless told otherwise, I couldn’t believe I was the one who had to give the disclaimer. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the bailer be the one wearing a warning sign?
There are plenty of common courtesy elements I need to work on—namely, returning phone calls and emails in a timely manner. And canceling plans isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing better than having someone bail on you at the last minute. The gift of a free evening is no small thing.
But it’s worth noting that, as my friend pointed out, when you become The Flake, people often stop trusting you to show up. Even when it counts.
Do you have a Flake in your life? Do you mind it? Do you agree that if someone continuously cancels at the last minute, she probably doesn’t value your friendship as much as you’d like? Or is flaking nothing more than the product of the crazybusy world we live in? And, is the “just confirming we’re on for tomorrow” email just standard operating procedure nowadays? If you are The Flake, speak your piece below!
50 responses to “Frosted. Corn. Bran. Flakes Come in All Varieties.”
Okay, guilty as charged! Seriously, I’ve been both the flake and the flaked on, so I think I can speak to both positions.
I’ve found that I can spot a flake right away (yes, it does take one to know one). In fact, I’m so experienced with flakes that I’ve come to accept them in my life. I look at it this way: at least there’s always a surprise. Either I’m surprised when said flake doesn’t flake on me, or I have, as you put it, some free time I hadn’t counted on. That’s a win-win in my book!
As one who has also been the flake, I’m going say this: At least I’ve been polite about it! I have broken plans with certain people on a regular basis and I realized something about myself: when I do that, it means I really don’t value that relationship. I don’t think it means I’m a bad person but it goes back to my comment on your last post about being genuine about who you are and who you want to be with. If I don’t feel like a true connection is there, then neither one of us is going to learn or grow or gain much of anything by spending time together. I’m at an age where I’m less charged up about a night out than I am about forging genuine connections. And so, yeah, I’ve flaked on plans that I probably never should have made but I’ve always given ample time for the other person to make other plans. In my defense, I really haven’t done that in a long time. I’m getting to know myself better as I get older and have learned how to avoid saying yes to something I know deep down I’m just not that into from the start.
I’m not a huge flake, but occasionally I do…but I think I’m the opposite of what you describe. When I flake, it’s almost always on someone who holds a very important position in my life. I think the logic there is…well, we’re close, she’ll forgive me, and I’ll totally catch her later.
Probably not the best line of thinking, and after reading your post I find it interesting that I put more effort into meeting with acquaintances than I do bffs.
I was a flake. The biggest of them all. I think Jack Johnson wrote a song for me.
And then … I grew up. I honestly believe that’s what happened. Because I’ve come to think that flakeness is the ultimate sign of immaturity. Mature people do not flake. Mature people may avoid plans or become hermits, but they do not make plans and then bail on them. Immature people do that. Annoyingly immature self-absorbed people. I can say this because, again, I was one.
Until I grew up.
I don’t have flakes in my life as much as I have commitment-phobes in my life. The people who say they want to get together, but cannot for the life of them nail down a specific time. The people whom, when I ask them to do something very specific, cannot commit. The people who are afraid of letting me down by not committing, so just say nothing at all. Nothing grates on my nerves more than the commitment-phobes. I’m seriously OK with rejection (you’re busy, you’re not interested, you don’t like me), because I move on quickly and find someone else who is interested. But, that limbo thing is a true buzz kill.
WORD! I totally agree. And yet, I’ve totally been this noncommittal person. Here’s my new approach. Say no because of blah blah blah reason, and then say, “But is it OK for me to call you/still come if something changes?” It makes me feel better, at least.
I used to HATE flakes. Back when all I had was free time, and my number one priority was my social life (you know, before I had a job or a serious relationship), I could not understand why people would flake out, or be super-late, etc…
Once life got busier, it got harder to make the time or energy to keep up with plans. And priorities change; I would much rather watch a movie at home with my husband or play with my kid for an hour than go out with someone I’m not really that in to. Unless its someone I really like, or may potentially really like…I no longer like going out just to go out.
I agree with JenD—if I flake on plans with someone frequently, it usually means I shouldn’t have made those plans. Sometimes I feel cornered into agreeing to “meet for coffee”, and then conveniently “something comes up”.
There have also, more recently, been times when I WANT to see the friend, but I genuinely find myself too tired or busy. I’ve had to cancel at the last minute plans I was looking forward to all day because I literally couldn’t keep myself awake a second longer… I try to be very honest and nice about it, and plan to reschedule, but I’m sure its a turn-off.
You’re right Rachel, it seems to have gotten much more acceptable over the years to ‘flake out’. I’m with you, when I make plans – I assume they are made! But I’ve started making a follow-up confirmation call the day before to deal with the epidemic!
I confess, I can be the commitment-phobe that Nilsa mentions. But I think it’s a product of not wanting to be a flake! It really is a lose-lose either way (flake out at the last minute or never actually commit). As JenD said, it’s most likely because the plans shouldn’t be made in the first place.
So I guess the deeper issue is deciding which plans are really worthwhile and rewarding, making them and sticking to them! Kind of like cleaning out your ‘plans clutter’ so you can focus on what makes you feel good…
It’s interesting the reason you give for your commitmentphobia… With the anti-commitment folks I know, I always feel like they aren’t committing because they want to remain open in case something “better” comes along. Your reason seems much kinder…
I love the concept of plans clutter…. It’s totally spot on!
Other people’s flaking is rarely bothersome to me, probably because I’m guilty of optimistically over-scheduling and then having to backpedal. When someone does the same, I feel sympathetic rather than annoyed.
However, I’m learning to be more realistic about my juggling abilities so that I don’t have to be THAT person calling the day of to say, “Um, can we re-schedule?” I don’t want to be the unreliable friend just because I can’t get my daily act together.
I really hope I’m at least a delicious frosted flake.
I don’t think I know anyone any more who ISN’T a flake. I try not to get too upset about it because everyone I know, myself included, is perpetually overscheduled.
However, I’m one of those overly responsible, painfully punctual people who will drag myself out to a social event that I’ve committed to even if I’m exhausted, crazy busy, had a bad day at work, am feeling down or otherwise antisocial, etc. So I can’t help getting a little sad and resentful when others don’t extend me the same courtesy. I would rather they be honest from the get-go and say they are too busy or don’t want to, rather than agreeing to plans and then backing out!
I have no patience for the chronically late, but more patience with the last minute cancellation, as you said sometimes a free evening is a real gift.
I never flake (unless it seriously cannot be helped) on a friend who is reliable. But I have NO problem flaking on a friend who has bailed on me a number of times. I see their behavior and then I follow their lead. But for a reliable friend, I’ll always be there. I think that’s a fair way to handle it.
Flakiness has been really high on the list of pet peeves until just recently. I just had a baby a few months ago and suddenly I can’t remember anything! I have all the empathy in the world for the accidental and incidental flakes.
This being said, I still will never understand the habitual flake. My great-grandfather had a saying I often think about. He said, “Either you care and you remember, or you just don’t give a damn.”
I think that flaking is fine if both people in the friendship are okay with it. But I think that it’s really hurtful to do it to someone who IS expecting to spend time together. Or to do it over and over.
I spent a lot of years exhausted from my schedule. My family suffered. My health suffered. And I finally gave in to my limits and found a pattern that was more humane all around.
I had to learn to look at my WHOLE WEEK instead of “Oh, I have time that day so I can say YES.” I had to accept my limitations. And it’s SO AWESOME when I do.
Of course, I’ve had to reschedule and I fall back into old habits some times. But I realize that my time is no more or less important than someone else time. And when I cancel or can’t show up on time, I’m saying that my time IS more important. And I think that it’s just as disrespectful to say yes when I should say no.
That being said, I have good friends who have gone through LONG flaking periods. And I’ve never throw away the friendships. I just back off and put the onus on them to make plans with me. And eventually they either do or we just aren’t that close today. And that’s okay too.
I know a Flake! She hardly ever pulls through. It’s maddening.
We all (especially when our kids are little) have to flake sometimes, but for some people it’s just the way they operate.
Alas, my memory is so bad that I flake more than I used to. Embarrassing!
If we make plans, I don’t need a confirmation e-mail. BUT, I am guilty of being the flake sometimes. It’s not that I don’t value the friendship, it’s just that sometimes I am not going to be good company.
I find Flaking really annoying because, like many of the above commentors, I have a very jam packed schedule. If I have managed to fit in something and the person flakes, I may not be able to fit them in for another couple of weeks. And there was more likely than not something else I could have been doing that I cancelled or put off for that person.
But I also find annoying those who don’t respond to calls and texts. Did you get the message? Are you busy? Do you just not like me?
I agree that there has been a rise in the number of Flakes.
This comment is good for me to hear. Makes me realize I really have to be better about phone calls. The calls I get are usually the catchup kind from old friends, and the reason I don’t call back right away is that I feel like I need to wait until I have a good chunk of time. If it’s a great friend, I want to wait till I can give her my full attention for at least 30 minutes. Well, those half hours where I have nothing to do but talk on the phone are few and far between. Now I am going to resolve to call back promptly. I certainly wouldn’t want my friends to think I just don’t like them!! Yikes. Thanks Nadine!
Rachel, my first time to your blog (I came over from Penelope loves lists) and I’m LOVING these posts.
I’ve been going through lots of friend transitions lately … from infertility friends to pregnant friends to friends who are mothers… and so been thinking a lot about what I value in a friend.
Anyway, lovely blog – I’ll be back but I wanted to say about this chunk of time thing. If I have only 5 minutes while mixing the babies’ bottles, I’ll return calls but I do say “I only have 5 minutes but wanted to say a quick hi” – everyone is clear and no-one gets upset if I have to run because a baby is crying.
Yes, the communication flakes drive me nuts! How hard is it to send a text message back? Even to say you’re busy but you’ll get to me later. Hate feeling ignored.
I’m SO glad someone else feels this way. I’ve been thinking that we’re witnessing the death of friendship as we speak, since it’s just now OK to forget plans, cancel at the last minute repeatedly and still be considered “good” friends. I have been told my standards are too high, and I demand and expect too much when I get upset that friends repeatedly bail (no, I don’t freak out if it’s once, but REPEATEDLY is hard – like, how do I know you really care at all if you keep blowing me off!). I’m not perfect, but I definitely try to keep my plans – I even go out of my way to make time for friends and it’s more than I can take that there hasn’t been one single friend I’ve been able to find willing to even reciprocate, let alone initiate. Sorry to use this as a dumping ground for my woes – I really just wanted to say that I love that you posted this, and that I feel some solidarity with you here! 🙂
It’s interesting you write about this, as my husband and I were just talking about a couple we adore, but who constantly flake on us.
As you say, our lives are busy, when we commit to dinner, that means we’re getting sitting for the kids, making reservations, figuring out what to wear that’s not jeans and a t-shirt. No small task.
This couple has flaked 3 times on us and now, we just don’t care to invest more time in them. If we see them out and about, great. But we won’t be spending time planning to see them. Because it probably won’t happen.
But, I gotta say, my #1 pet peeve in life in general is people who don’t do what they say they’ll do. So, it’s no surprise that “flaking” really irritates me.
If someone is consistently a Flake, I get really annoyed… and yes, it doesn’t feel like our friendship is valued. Once in a while is fine, I even do that, but it does seem like it’s getting to be more acceptable – and I don’t like it at all! But I’m a little prudeish about that sort of thing… I also don’t like to be brushed aside in person for a cell phone 😉
If your friend is not reliable for a planned date, then is this really the person you’re going to call last minute to meet you and give you their opinion on the dress you’re trying on (the pictures you took on your phone in the dressing room by yourself aren’t doing it). You need a reliable friend. You’re not going to call her last minute when you don’t even feel comfortable making normal plans with her.
This BFF search allows you to be picky. You don’t want to feel let down. It reminds me of He’s Just Not That Into You…..was there a chapter on The Flake?
I have to admit I used to flake but let me tell you why. I hate it when plans change last minute! I used to associate with a large group of girlfriends and one girl deemed herself “queen bee” since she wasn’t in school with us. I would suggest to do dinner or something at X time. So we’d get an evite and that said dinner was at 5. Then she would make plans to do something at 5 and then push the dinner back to 8. Well no, now I can’t make the dinner that I originally planned bc I have something else to do (usually with my boyfriend who of course was not invited to dinner). So I would flake. I am not a “change the time at the last minute” kind of person. Of course I was raked over the coals for changing my mind and was called a flake, but honestly it wasn’t my fault. I have since been “exiled” from the group for being a flake (this happened on numerous occasions) but i truly feel like once plans are set they shouldn’t be changed to accommodate people unless everyone is in agreement. Obviously she didn’t care about my time so why should I care about hers? Now the other members in the group will still text me plans from time to time but it will be that they are doing something in 10 minutes and wanted to know if I could come…well no since I have already made other plans. I don’t know maybe I am doing something wrong or I have the weirdest mindset ever, but I don’t think that I was always in the wrong here. Yes, maybe I should not have scheduled to do things with my boyfriend so close to dinner with them, but when you’re in school and only have a day here or there to go out you try to accommodate everyone. Why should I flake on him when they are the ones that aren’t considerate of me?
Erin, I don’t think this qualifies you as a flake at all. You can’t make plans for 5, change them to 3 hours later, and assume that that will work for everyone. I agree with you completely! Sounds like you got a raw deal here.. which sucks. But I don’t think you have a weird mindset or were in the wrong, for what it’s worth.
I am much more likely to be flaked upon (that sounds like some sort of viral dandruff condition) than to flake. I think that the omnipresence of technology makes many of us less respectful of others’ time (e.g. I can always call you to tell you that I’ll be late or need to cancel, so it’s not really a big deal, right?) and perhaps more focused than we used to be on what we want to be doing in that exact minute. And I think your new friend makes a very interesting point about the connection between trusting someone enough to respect our time and trusting her enough to respect our secrets.
So pleased to have found your blog and to see so many of my favorite blogging friends commenting above! (Is your header photo taken on the Highline on the West Side of Manhattan?)
It is! Though I can’t take credit, I was given permission to use the pic by the good people over at Sweet Fine Day.
My two requirements for friendship: “loyalty” and “reliability”. By reliability, I mean, I can trust that you’ll “make” time for me, as I would for you. I’ve come to accept certain “flakes” in my life, too, and some are family, and close friends. They’re unpredictable in predictable ways, but it’s frustrating, nonetheless. I don’t believe in the excuse of “crazy busy world”– we “make” time when it’s important. We calendar it in, and follow through. However, I accept them, because they’re still loyal, and try their best in their flaky ways. But, should I God forbid need a friend to drive in to comfort me in a life and death crisis– I wouldn’t call them. I wouldn’t have the energy to deal with wishy washy non-committal nonsense. And, that thought makes me so disheartened, by the reality of these friendships. 😦
Being a “flake” doesn’t end at canceling on dates, but is so symbolic to me. It extends to being reliable, stable, and with the ability to commit, and being a comfort to friends, rather than an additional stress. It’s a pity when I plan for a party a year in advance, and can’t be sure if they’ll commit (they tend to show up last minute), making me wonder all year long. Truth be told, I’ve “flaked”, too. More often, with casual friends, because well, as much as I deny it, it’s not as important. I rarely do it, and apologize profusely afterwards.
Again, great topic!
I just wanted to give a shout to Erin who mentioned people who change the plan last min on you and then you are the flake! I TOTALLY had that happen before and it sucks. Especially if the person who changed the plans is a flake already. Then it’s double infuriating. If a plan has a time set, I assume that is the time as well…unless you give plenty of notice that it changed. In this fast paced society, multitasking rules the world and many people need to not only plan something, but also plan around said thing. You are soooo off the hook for flaking in that situation.
I remember dealing with this frequently a couple years back. The feeling I got from this friend was that she would think, “Okay, *if* I manage to get XYZ done and nothing else comes up, I’ll be able to meet for drinks/a movie/dinner/whatever.” Whereas my mentality was more like “I *have* to get XYZ done so I can meet for whatever.” Frustrating to no end! I totally understand that things come up at the last minute and we can’t plan for everything, but when you’re obviously treating plans with me as optional, a reward *if* you can fit it in, or a placeholder to bail on if something better comes along…yeah, I sort of take that as an insult. It’s like, if I give you higher priority in my life than you give me in yours, we’re going to have problems.
And I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of flaking as well…which is why I try not to make it clear that I’m not making a firm commitment unless I’m SURE I can make it work.
I have the WORST flake in my life. I’ve about given up on the friendship because it’s very one-sided (talk about feeling like a stalker!).
I’ve bailed before – we all have, right? Things DO come up, and I agree that getting a free evening is a gift sometimes. But enough is enough with the flaky “forgetting” “double-booking” “last minute work thing” on a regular basis.
I am one of those people who when we makes plans I write it down (in pen) and am looking forward to getting together with you. However, I have learned the hard way that if a friend becomes a flake then you just can’t count on her.
Maybe I am being old-fashioned. I was raised that if you make plans then you follow through unless an emergency comes up.
I don’t have a lot of free time to hang out with my friends, so flakes really bother me. It’s not always easy for me to set up another time to hang out because of my work schedule, so if people cancel plans at the last minute we might not get to hang out again anytime soon.
She’s just not that into you…
I despise it when people cancel at the last-minute or worse, when people just don’t show up at all.
Occasionally, big (usually bad) things happen that require a cancellation or a no-show. But almost never.
“I decided to visit my mom” isn’t a good reason not to show up. “My mom had a heart attack and I was in the ER with her” is.
I used to continue to make plans with flakes. I don’t now. Everyone has a lot going on, and if I’m going to carve time out for you, you can at least do me the courtesy of carving out the same time.
I work full time. I am starting my own business. I blog daily. I work out 5-6 days a week. I play in a community band. I am trying to maintain a marriage and friendships. I don’t have time or patience for your flakiness.
I think flaking or being flaked on every once in awhile is excusable if that person well and truly forgot a date/event/other kind of tah-dah. But after a certain amount, it’s just too much.
I admit, I have been making a lot of excuses for some people the last few years. Things get busy, and I’d like to be understanding. More specifically, if I give a reason for flaking, it’s the truth, and I give the same kind of understanding I’d like in return. But obviously, some people don’t feel that way. My bf reminded me that my friends have an obligation to be friendly. That means picking up the phone, keeping in touch, and answering e-mails. (Am I crazy? Do people not answer e-mails these days, either? *Oy vey.*)
Maybe I’m old fashioned. I’m 24, but I guess I might as well be 80. Because if I make plans to be somewhere, 99% of the time I show up.
My assumption when someone flakes is that I’m not important to them or they don’t like me. I find it really disrespectful of my time when people don’t show up or cancel on me at last minute. And I end up VERY hurt when someone does this too me. However, this of course comes with caveats. I of course understand that people get sick, have emergencies or rough days where they just want to be in bed early. I have some minor health problems that get in the way of me being social sometimes, but I always make it clear WHY I’m flaking if I have to. And I’m also fine with telling people no. I don’t overschedule myself.
It does seem like something comes up that keeps me from keeping my plans as often as I would like.
For one thing, I don’t have m/any friends that would be totally fine with me showing up to brunch with four kids because Husband got called in to work.
Or who live close enough that isn’t a major hassle to just please come over because I need the company and it’s just not easy to get out of the house for any length of time.
Or who don’t mind that I am a bit of a space cadet and I tend to get lost in my own thoughts.
Or who think an afternoon spent together in different sections of Border’s constitutes an official outing.
Or who can take it in total stride that is, in fact, NOT CHOCOLATE on my arm. Gross.
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Late to the party but my friend is a total flake. Worse yet, she doesn’t realize it.
More than once we’ve made tentative plans to do something. It’s tentative but when I call days in advance to confirm she just won’t answer my calls or my texts. I remember one time we had plans to do something on my day off and that entire day I couldn’t get in touch with her. She ended up calling me that evening and asking me to meet her for dinner somewhere I didn’t really like. I went because I was mad at her and I wanted to tell her in person why. I actually confronted her about her behavior and she apologized. Things were good for awhile but she’s slipped back into the pattern.
I don’t mind people having to cancel plans even if it is last minute. What drives me absolutely insane is if when I make the overture to confirm this person can’t even make the effort to respond in a timely manner so I can at least have time to make alternate plans. Especially if I’ve set aside a big chunk of time for supposedly firm plans when I could’ve been doing something else.
And it does make me feel like my friendship isn’t valued. If I make plans with someone I assume they’re firm and I do everything to ensure I can keep the plans and it drives me nuts when other people don’t put that same effort into the friendship.
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I know this is an older blog but this completely speaks to me. I have a friend who consistently shows up late or sometimes never at all. And when I say late, I mean LATE. We will have dinner events and they will show up over an hour late, well after everyone has eaten, causing people to feel awkward and the event go on much longer into the evening than people originally intended.
I recently made the decision to no longer even try with her. She’ll cancel last minute and often never even responds to texts or calls. It makes me feel like a fool to be chasing someone around, so I’ve made a conscious decision to stop. I sometimes wonder if the flakes know how frustrating they are?
I have a flakey friend, I come up with suggestions on things to do “Hey, lets go on a cruise/wine tour/concert etc” she’ll say yes and then nothing more is mentioned. If I bring it up I get “I’m really busy right now, we can do it in a few mths when I’m finished studying/have the money/have the time” so after this happening a few times, I gave up. I still ask her to do stuff, she still says yes, but I leave the ball in her court and if she was really interested, she would follow up. But she doesn’t. And thats what irritates me, why say yes when you have no intention of doing it. Just don’t say yes! If you’re face to face with someone and they ask you to have lunch or dinner with them, you should say yes and then if you really don’t feel like it, do it anyway because its not fair to the person to say yes and then not follow through. It hurts them. I know because I’ve been there many many times before.
This was a big big problem for me before but right around my 30th birthday, I decided to do a friendship detox. To me, if someone is a flake, that means the person isn’t interested in being friends or good friends. So I stop initiating and only get together when the other person initiates (and if I want to). If the friend’s behavior improves, I give more. Problem solved! I have been much happier ever since!
To answer your question: The “just confirming we’re on for tomorrow” email IS STANDARD. It also arrives in the form of a text, call, etc.
I didn’t realize how much my flaky friends really upset me until it came to them missing important milestones in my life. I can handle an unreplied email and a canceled dinner here and there, but not when it comes to teh big things. And there are certain kinds of flaky friends who are just this way by nature, but mean well– like my girlfriend that missed her train and, as a result, my bridal shower. She was still waiting for us in the hotel lobby with a bottle of champagne for my bachelorette party that night.
It’s the other ones that really make me sad– the ones that are too busy/self-important/flaky to even RSVP to these events, let alone attend. I had 3 friends who forgot to RSVP to my shower, bachelorette party, AND wedding. It’s a horrible feeling to have to email and call your good friends and badger them about whether or not they are attending (and why they couldn’t proactively send an email or mail back the pre-addressed and stamped envelope). It’s an even worse feeling to find out that they aren’t coming at all.
These girls aren’t a big part of my life anymore and I can’t say that I mind all that much. As I get older I understand that you need to be accountable for your own actions. If I can’t count on you to be there on the biggest day of my life or to even mail back your RSVP then when can I count on you?
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