Life in a Military Hospital

By: Kevin

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After working in civilian hospitals for the past 5 years, I thought it would be interesting to note the differences as I start working in a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). There are many similarities between civilian hospitals and MTFs, like the fact that MTFs are accredited by The Joint Commission and other civilian accreditation organizations. They are, after all, a hospital at the core. That said, there are many differences between civilian hospitals and MTFs. This starts with the very fact that in addition to being a hospital, they are a military command. This means that there is a very specific and traceable chain of command at any level. You can very easily determine who you report to and who reports to you. There are also specific jobs assigned to people in key positions. That means if someone is responsible for a task, such as the unit schedule, the other department leadership will defer to that person instead of “making this change for them” and “letting them know”. This actually does help communication because there is one specific person for certain tasks and things don’t get lost in the shuffle between multiple managers.

One obvious aspect of a military command is the defined hierarchy and rank structure. I am currently an Ensign in the Navy, so I am a junior officer. That affords me certain rights as well as responsibilities as an Naval officer. One of these is the time-honored tradition of saluting. All enlisted members of the military salute officers of any rank. As an officer, I outrank around 90% of the Navy, even though I have not even completed my orientation yet. That also means the Command Master Chief, a seasoned veteran with around 20 years in the military, many more ribbons on his or her uniform, the senior enlisted person at the command, and his picture posted on the wall in various places around the MTF salutes me…a junior officer that has been in the military for a few weeks. This is the way the military operates, but makes me take a moment of pause, as in any other setting, (while I may not be saluting) I would be the one giving respect to the more experienced person. It reminds me what responsibility I have to live up to the respect my position as an officer holds within the military and society in general.

Another aspect of a military hospital versus civilian is that in the military, (with very few exceptions) no department is ever really “closed”. There is always someone on-call, on recall, or on duty that can be contacted if someone needs assistance from that department. That is a big difference from some civilian facilities that departments simply do not function for any reason between 5pm on Friday and 8am on Monday morning. I have tested this fact, and was pleased by the availability of the on-duty personnel.

 

I am also enjoying working at such a large facility. The MTF is big! Like really big. Here are a few statistics to help quantify how large of a facility at which I work.

STAFFING:

  • More than 250,000 are eligible for care
  • Nearly 100,000 beneficiaries enrolled
  • Staff is comprised of more than 6,500 military, civilian, contractor and volunteer personnel
  • Personnel proudly deploy to support US Military Hospital Kuwait, the I & III Marine Expeditionary Forces, numerous humanitarian missions afloat and ashore and as individual augmentees.
  • Personnel deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Djibouti, and aboard the USNS Mercy
  • The staff has been recognized for excellence by such organizations as the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Athena International.

FACILITIES:

  • A 272-bed multi-specialty hospital and ambulatory complex
  • 1.2 million square feet located on 78.4 acres
  • 2 libraries
  • 18 operating rooms
  • Full Blood Bank collecting 15,000 units per year
  • 11 primary care clinics offering active duty and family care
  • 10 Dental Clinics caring for active duty
  • Helicopter Landing Pad for Medevacs
  • Medical and Surgical Simulation Center
  • Virtual Reality Lab for PTSD treatment
  • Recreational facilities on-site include: 2 gyms, 2 pools, volleyball and basketball courts and softball field

SERVING OUR NATION:

  • 24 Graduate Medical and Dental Programs, of which 97 percent of graduates become board certificated
  • Affiliated with 19 civilian nursing schools, training more than 400 students per year in their clinical rotations
  • Only DoD site for Prosthetic student training

AVERAGE DAY:

  • 6,500 prescriptions filled
  • 4,000 outpatient Medical/Dental visits
  • 1,000 immunizations distributed
  • 170 Emergency Department Visits
  • 150 pairs of glasses made
  • 50 Operating Room cases
  • 45 new patients admitted
  • 10 babies delivered

 

Note: All of the statistics and specific numbers were obtained from the hospital’s public website.

From sea to shining sea

By Heather

We have been doing a lot of driving lately. From Florida to Ohio to Rhode Island, back to Florida and now to California. I feel like I need a three week nap after all of this! But alas, the reality is that these kiddos are growing fast and they might be grown and gone if I napped for three weeks!

In all honesty thought the trip to California was not as bad or tiresome as I had dreaded. Our goal was to drive approximately 500 miles a day. We arrived in Daytona Beach early early early on a Sunday morning, around 2am but then we lost an hour to the time change that same night. After a few hours of sleep we were up and moving. There was so much to do! I had to completely unload the van (to get our deck box in) and put everything away from our three week stay with relatives. Everything had to be put where it would not move or slide, tied down, or boxed up. Nothing could be left out. We rearranged, rearranged again, and finally had everything sorted out where it should go. I even got all of the Lego bins to fit into our half loft! Neighbors needed to be hugged and hugged again. Tires and lugnuts were checked. Hoses and cables were stowed. We finally rolled out of the campground at 1:30pm but were not really on our way yet. It took us an hour and a half to get the vehicles and trailers weighed while trying to navigate around a large amount of bike week traffic and congestion at the local truck stop. When moving for military one must weigh their possessions before and after the move to prove one actually did move that weight of possessions. This is because the military pays travel expenses based on weight.

The first part of our trip was mostly uneventful. We encountered some heavy rain while still near the east coast. Visibility was heavily compromised. Thankfully the rain only lasted a short time.

I quickly realized that my van was going to be the limiting factor on how frequently we needed to stop. She usually has a range of more than 400 miles with a full tank of fuel but that was cut to less than 200 with the weight and resistance of the loaded box trailer behind her. Still, we made better time than expected and arrived in Texas to visit friends almost a full day before expected. We were able to spend all day Tuesday resting and visiting and enjoying good company!

Wednesday we took a small detour to visit Waco, Texas. We don’t watch a lot of TV, but Fixer Upper is one of our favorites when we do. Unintended, we arrived in Waco the day before Magnolia Market’s big Spring at the Silos event. We were quite worried that we would not be able to find any place to park at all since the place appeared packed, and we had both the RV and box trailer in tow. Thankfully some friendly police officers directed us to a parking area that was mostly an empty field and was only about 4 blocks away, which we were more than happy to walk. We were even able to park in the shade!

After waiting in line to get in we were able to peruse Magnolia Market. The kids were so excited, jumping and pointing, “Mom that’s just like what we saw on TV!” They really wanted to go into the cupcake shop but we were just not willing to wait in the line that stretched down the entire block. Instead we grabbed some lunch at a couple of food trucks on property and enjoyed eating in Magnolia’s green space. On the way back to the RV we stopped into a pie shop and had some pie for π day. Yum!

After Waco we had a long long drive on smaller highways through low hills of west Texas. As it got on toward evening the landscape was changing to be more desert-like with small scraggly bushes and prickly pear cacti. It brought back fond memories of our two assignments in San Angelo but it wasn’t long before I was reminded that nearly half (or more!) of the vehicles in San Angelo had cattleguards installed, and the reason why. As dusk faded to darkness and we trucked on across the state with blackness all around except for our headlights and the numerous stars, we had to have passed more than 100 dear watchfully munching on vegetation at the edge of the highway in small groups. This part of the drive was quite nerve wracking for me as I tried to see and anticipate which deer might throw itself into my path while I traveled past at 65mph. Only a couple of them jumped toward the road before deciding against it and turning back and I think only two actually did jump out in front of us. One was a narrow miss for Kevin. Finally done running this gauntlet, we found an empty picnic area in which to spend the night.

Thursday was spent finishing out Texas and going through New Mexico and part of Arizona. The van’s transmission was not especially happy with the long up-hills and the beating sun. Visibility was not great either with a large dust storm in New Mexico. The van was quite a bit happier when I started buying higher grade fuel. We stopped this night to squeeze into a packed Arizona picnic area and woke the next morning to an almost empty picnic area surrounded by beautiful scenery, saguaro cacti, and a wonderful sunrise.

Friday was our last day on the road. We were all sore and tired of being in our seats by now. Bug, had he not been restrained by his seatbelt, would have been bouncing off of the walls and ceiling. Little Miss Kicky Feet was getting a diaper rash from having a dirty diaper almost every time we stopped on this last day and the rest of us were just ready to be done. This day was spent driving up and down mountains topping out at around 4,000 feet. The van did well at keeping up with the truck though she did develop a crack in her windshield that grew almost a foot throughout the day. I was surprised it hadn’t happened much sooner with the number of rocks that had been thrown from semi tires and made a direct hit on the windshield. Not to mention the falling ice that was melting off of trees in Rhode Island as we drove under them! Finally though, we made it into San Diego, spent some time getting weighed again and were finally able to go find a campground. We were too tired to really enjoy much that night. At 8pm we felt like it should have been 11 and were sound asleep. Even now 2 weeks later we are still having dinner around 5pm (8pm on the east coast) It is a nice change for us to not be eating dinner after dark!

Officer Development School

By: Kevin

The past five weeks have been anything from ordinary in the Ready household. First off, we were once again a household divided. Heather and the kids remained behind while I traveled to Rhode Island to complete Officer Development School for the US Navy.

This five week course helps to prepare new Navy staff corps officers to meet the expectations of both the Navy and the American public. It involves classroom instruction, physical conditioning, technical training, and ethical & moral development. We lived, ate, and learned together as a group, which fostered both unit cohesiveness and personal accountability to each other. At first the time seemed to creep by, but by the end of the five weeks we all couldn’t believe we were already at the completion of the course. The culmination of the five weeks entailed a very professional graduation ceremony complete with a guest speaker. The graduation ceremony was especially enjoyable for me since my father, a retired Navy First Class Petty Officer, was able to attend the graduation in uniform and render the first salute from an enlisted sailor to a commissioned officer who has completed this training.

During these five weeks, Heather and the kids were having an adventure of their own. They spent some of the time in Daytona Beach, Florida, the location of my last travel nursing contract before my departure for training. They then traveled to Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, which boasts a 1:1 scale replica of Noah’s ark. They then headed North to Ohio for some quality time with Heather’s mom, sisters, and grandparents. After this visit, Heather and the kids, in addition to Heather’s mom and grandparents, all made the drive to Rhode Island to attend my graduation as well. Of course this drive would not have been complete without them driving straight into a Nor’easter snow storm which reduced their travel from freeway speeds to a crawl across ice and snow-covered roadways.

As I write this we are rolling down the interstate in transit from Rhode Island back to Florida, to once again reunite with the RV we have called home for the past three years. After some rearranging and a decent night of sleep, we will be pulling out, with the RV in tow, and heading west to face our new adventure as a military family. Stay tuned for further updates as we traverse the United States enroute to our new duty station.

Canopy Woes

By: Kevin

As many do, we have a canopy attached to the side of our 5th wheel RV. These canopies vary in size from about 10′-25′ in length depending on the model of RV. Since our RV measures in at 32′ from tip to tail, the original owners opted for the whopping 25′ x 8′ canopy. This canopy has been great. It provides a large outdoor area under-which we can sit, play, or protect items from sun, dew, or rain. However, having a canopy this large has some inherent problems as well, as we found out. Back in August 2016 we made a day trip from RI to New York City and neglected to change the pitch of our canopy prior to our departure to ensure proper rain drainage off of one end. This turned the canopy into a large rain-catching bowl effectively. A few hundred pounds of water later, and the roller tube of the canopy snapped in half. We learned from our mistake, purchased a replacement canopy, and moved on.

Fast forward to November 2017. We left for the day again, this time noting that the canopy was a bit lower on one end than the other to allow rain to drain off. It had rained a few times in this canopy position and we did not experience any problems. However, it did not simply rain that day…it monsooned! When we returned later that evening we were greeted with ankle-deep water in our campsite and, you guessed it, a bent canopy roller. Not again! Obviously something needed to change because we are not prepared to replace our canopy on an annual basis.

There are two types of canopy hardware available. The hardware we had up to this point was the standard metal hardware that stays where you put it. This is the only hardware available for the 25′ canopy due to the weight of 200 sq. ft. of canopy material. On shorter canopies one can elect for a different type of hardware that incorporates pneumatic shocks and a truss-like design which allows the canopy to flex automatically if too much water builds up on it, dumping the water from the top of the canopy. This is done automatically, and the canopy returns to its original position without damage. This! This is apparently what we need. But, as stated above, it is not an option on the larger canopies due to weight restrictions. Therefore, we decided to split our canopy. Instead of a single 25′ canopy, we have elected to have a 13′ canopy and a 12′ canopy side by side. This would allow us to have the new-style hardware and help protect us from further canopy damage.

I found a deal online at one of the RV suppliers and ordered two canopies. I had already had one canopy delivered to Rhode Island, so I expected a simple delivery of the canopies. How wrong I was. The freight company arrived to deliver the new canopies, except they only had the hardware kits…they had apparently LOST the actual canopies. I rejected the delivery and called the shipper, PPL Motorhomes. A second shipment was generated, and when the same shipping company arrived with all four pieces on the invoice I was dismayed to find both canopies were damaged. I again called the shipper and they generated a third shipment to correct the issue. The catch at this point was that I knew I would soon be leaving for Navy training duty, and I would shortly be running out of time to get the canopies installed. Luckily the third time was the charm and I received and installed two functional & undamaged canopies. I can’t say enough about PPL Motorhomes and the lengths they went to to ensure I got what I originally ordered.

Along with the new hardware kits we opted for power canopies instead of manual. This has been amazing. The convenience and simplicity are well worth the added cost. The kids have even extended and retracted the canopies unassisted.

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Christmas Day with the Ready Rovers

By: Kevin

img_5802The long-anticipated day had arrived. Christmas Day. Tradition says we should open presents, eat ham, and visit with relatives. But we aren’t normal, and we like it that way.

Our Christmas morning started with a trip to Waffle House. We were actually surprised how many people were there when we pulled in the lot, but that didn’t phase us. We were on a mission to bless a stranger.  We waited about 20 minutes for a table, ordered, ate, and conversed with our waitress which was doing a fantastic job keeping up with her section of the bustling diner full of people. She asked the kids if they had opened presents yet, and was quick to attend to any requests we had. She did a great job waiting on us. Once we paid our bill I walked back to the table, as our waitress was beginning to clear it, and handed her a tip well in excess of our total bill amount. She was so surprised and teared up a bit as she thanked us. She even gave the kids hugs before we left. After we left and were headed home in the van we explained what we had done to the kids and why. On a day many people focus on what gifts they are receiving, it felt great to give a gift to a total stranger. Whether our waitress was in NEED of the money, or if she was simply mandated to work Christmas morning is no matter. In either case, she was working, and we were able to bless her. The reaction and gratitude were real, and that is what mattered.

Once back home we opened a few gifts and the kids started playing with their newly acquired toys. We did not have a huge stack of gifts, in part to the fact that we had already celebrated Christmas with both sides of the family already, so these gifts were just from each other and not extended family. We did some laundry and relaxed for most of the rest of the day. In the evening Heather made a turkey roast in the Instant Pot, which was quite delicious, even if it didn’t go quite according to the recipe directions. We started watching “A Christmas Story” on TV, but grew tired of it and watched E.T. instead. Gotta love classic movies! E.T. is actually older than Heather or I, not that ‘The Christmas Story’ is any younger of a film.

Once the kids were in bed Heather and I got to spend a while sitting in front of my chiminea stocked with Cedar wood. The smell of cedar and the crackling of the fire were nice and relaxing. We didn’t spend any time with extended family or eat traditional Christmas Day fare, but we were perfectly ok with that. We spent the day together and happy.

Daytona Speedway Magic of Lights

By: Kevin

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During my parents’ visit to Daytona Beach this year we took the opportunity to visit the Daytona International Speedway “Magic of Lights Holiday Display”. It was a drive-through light display with a local radio station providing Christmas music as one drives through the 1.5 mile-long display. It took us about 25 minutes to get through the whole thing. Everyone, both kid and adult, enjoyed  the display of LED and incandescent lights. The display featured both secular and religious displays, and both static and animated displays. They even decorated the Speedway ambulances with lights. The kids liked it well enough that when they learned that our neighbor was planning to take them to it a few days later, they were more than happy to go through the display again.

The best part was that while there was an admission fee for the display, a portion of the proceeds went to the Florida Hospital Foundation for the betterment of the community.

As an after-thought I remembered that I had recently installed dash cameras in both of our vehicles, so I pulled the SD card from the dash camera and saved the video of our drive through the light display. It actually turned out pretty well 🙂

Speedy Trip to Ohio

By: Kevin

Looking back at our post history, we have been silent for a while now. Sorry about that; we were off enjoying our experiences. So, prepare for some catch-up as we post multiple blog posts over the next few days.

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As many of you know, we are changing our speed of travel a bit by joining the US Navy. My first assignment will be in California for the next three years. In preparation for this move we wanted to make a few visits with some key family and friends prior to our westward departure. Of course, some of these key people are located in Ohio, where both Heather and I grew up. So, a trip to Ohio was in order!

I found a few days in a row that I was off work, and we made plans to make our rounds. Heather’s family decided they would like to have Christmas for the kids while we were in the state, since they were not planning to visit Florida this season. We packed up the van, and after I got off work at 3:00am, we piled into the van and headed North. We were on the road by 4:00am. Logically, I took the first shift driving as I was still wide awake from working, and the iced coffee by my side helped keep me awake too.img_5722

Once in Ohio, some 15 hours and two fuel stops later, we enjoyed “Christmas Dinner” before heading to bed. Over the next day and a half we made our rounds and visited family and friends as well as a rather crazy present-opening frenzy with the family. The kids received loads of presents and were overjoyed! They even got winter coats, hats, and gloves for when they make their way to Ohio and then Rhode Island later this winter. We were very thankful to be able to make the trip and see these special people before we head west.

 

San Francisco

By: Kevin

During our whirlwind trip to San Francisco over the past two days we did find about 8 hours to explore the area before having to return to the airport for our return trip. While we would have liked to explore the area more, we had limited time to fit this trip in between days of work back in Florida.

Our first stop was at In-n-Out Burger for lunch. For anyone who has not had In-n-Out before, it seemed pretty equal to Steak-n-Shake, except I found it to have a much smaller menu than Steak-n-Shake. Small menu or not, we enjoyed our lunch at an outside table before moving along to our next stop.

img_5545From there we ventured further North to It’s-It Ice Cream shop. Their claim to fame since 1928 has been an ice cream sandwich with 2 crispy oatmeal cookies and one of many flavors of ice cream that has all been dipped in dark chocolate to create a shell. Bug chose pumpkin, Pie chose mint, and I chose strawberry. Heather decided to simply sample all three of ours.

Our next stop was the Golden Gate Bridge! We stopped at the visitor center and while they do not have an official Junior Ranger program, one of the rangers was more than willing to lead us around on a guided tour of the artifacts and displays around the visitor center. At the conclusion of our personal tour the kids received Junior Rangers badges, however they were not specific to the Golden Gate Bridge, but rather a generic wooden Junior Ranger badge. We also visited some outdoor displays around the grounds that showed how the bridge is engineered to withstand earthquakes. We finished our visit to the Golden Gate Bridge by driving across it and back.

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Our final stop before the airport was at the Fisherman’s Wharf and the piers along the San Francisco bay. There were plenty of shops to explore, including one nautical shop that I really enjoyed. There were eateries with fresh-catch seafood as well as a few tap rooms. We strolled the piers a bit looking at the fishing boats and walked out the Aquatic Park Pier. From the end of the pier we were as close as we could get to Alcatraz without actually taking a boat to the island. If we had had more time we may have ventured out to Alcatraz, but there simply was not enough time this trip. The kids enjoyed some free time running around the grass at the Maritime National Historic Park before heading to dinner.

For dinner we had some very good soup, salad, and sandwiches at Boudin Sourdough Bread Company. The kids opted for pizzas atop sourdough crust. The bread is baked on site, and one can observe the bakery through a 30-foot long observation window. We also found it neat to watch baskets of fresh bread cruise along a track affixed to the ceiling on their way to different areas of their building. Along the observation window they had a 7-foot alligator made entirely of sourdough bread.

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After dinner it was time to return to the airport and fly back to Florida. It was a quick trip, but a fun one, and once we are settled in San Diego, San Francisco will be within driving distance for future explorations of the area.

navy blue to Navy Gold

RN to Ensign

by: Kevin

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Today was a big day for us. We joined the United States Navy! While this may sound like a complete change of course for us, it is really just an adjustment in the direction in which my career is going. I will still be serving as a nurse; however the next three years will be served at the naval hospital in sunny San Diego, CA.

Today a year of paperwork and preparation has come to a close. I have been working for some time now to lose weight and build stamina in an effort to meet the physical fitness requirements of the US Navy. As my current travel nursing assignment schedule is from 3pm-3am, this has entailed running (sometimes up to 3.1 miles) at 4am after returning home from work. I run during the day or in the evening on my days off as well, but sometimes you just need to take a 4am run to keep in shape. I have passed their physical fitness requirements.

I have also done TONS of paperwork over the past months including multiple interviews, background checks, degree audits, nursing license audits, and both peer and management reviews. I have passed all these requirements. I have received two thumbs up from the selection board as well as the Secretary of the Navy.

It has now come time to sign on the line and raise my right hand. Today, with my wife and children present, I completed the final steps of the process and have been commissioned as an Ensign, a US Navy Officer.

The next step is for me to attend a training program that will teach me the ‘Navy way’ of doing things and better prepare me to serve as a Navy officer. I have received many questions about this, and I can tell you, No…this is not boot camp, this is officer school.

Heather and I are very excited about what the near future will bring as I start active duty. We still plan to RV and explore, so fear not faithful followers. Our travels are not ending, but rather just beginning.

“Flying” trip to San Jose, CA

[Written by Kevin on May 25th, 2017]

Since October of 2016 I have been talking with a Navy officer recruiter about the possibility of joining the Navy Nurse Corps. I first learned about the program via Facebook on which a fellow travel nurse made the conversion to Navy nursing along the same path as I am currently pursuing. I have sent many emails back and forth, scanned and sent documentation and certifications to her, and filled out online questionnaires for security clearances. However, some things you just cannot do over long distances. I had come to that part of the process and needed to fly to California to complete the physical exam and processing as I prepare for entry to the US Navy. At this point, I have not yet shared my plans with the majority of my friends and family, so this trip would be covert in nature. I found a gap in my work schedule and booked the flights. The only people that knew that I was making the trip were my kids and my wife, and since my kids are elementary school aged, censoring electronic communications proved pretty easy.

I drove from my current assignment in San Angelo, TX to Dallas to reduce the cost of airfare, then flew direct to San Jose, CA. I spent the night in a hotel (courtesy of the federal government) and arrived at the processing center at an early 5:45am local time. I then spent the next 8 hours being examined, tested, and giving samples for analysis. After successful completion of the medical exam I ventured upstairs to complete the remaining paperwork which I needed to sign in-person. And then I was done! Everything had been completed, and was now just waiting on the selection board to approve or deny my application packet.

I returned to the hotel to waste a few hours in the lounge before heading back to the airport for the short flight from San Jose to Los Angeles, and then a longer overnight flight from Los Angeles to Dallas. Upon arriving in Dallas I retrieved the van and started back to San Angelo. From the time I left Dallas to the time I returned to Dallas, only 40 hours had elapsed, and I was tired! Along the way to San Angelo I stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast, where the staff commented on my very tired appearance and offered me a LARGE coffee instead of a standard mug. They exchanged small talk with me over my meal and gave me a 25% discount since I told them I was in California for military processing. I did not request this discount, nor did I show them any military ID, but I appreciated the gesture none the less.

I found it rather interesting that I took a trip to a city 1,500 miles away and only 2 other adults knew that I was making the trip. During the trip I sent and received text messages with family who assumed I was still in Texas, while in reality I was in a different state and time zone than they thought.

On a side note, I realized that I really enjoy flying. I love watching the scenery scrolling by underneath me. I like the thrill and thrust of take-off and landing. These are a few pictures I was able to take during my trip to California.

I also found this at the LAX airport. I found it surprising that in such a liberal area of the nation that even the water fountains were segregated ;-P

[In actuality, the bathrooms were on either side of the frame of the photo, but the positioning made me laugh]