When Life Turns Upside Down

What do you do when your life upends on itself? How do you handle a major shift (or even multiple ones), for which you likely hadn’t planned?

Much as my life is open on Twitter, Facebook and the like, there are certain things about which I am deeply private. Upheavals in my life, stresses I am enduring and tough things I am going through are things I do not share as I go through them, except with those closest to me. These are not for public consumption. If I do share them, I do so after, as a testimony.

However, Dear Readers, I’ve been grappling a lot with the questions I started this post with lately. I cannot say I have every definite answer on them. So why share such stuff now? Because as is my usual way on this blog, all I can do is share my journey and where I am in it, and hope it helps you in yours.

It all started on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the end of April. The weather was cool and the sky was cloudless. It was the kind of day that, when you woke up and looked outside and saw how gorgeous an early spring day it was, it made you happy to be alive in it. To make things better, we were attending a gathering that day with a group of our Life Leadership partners in Syracuse, NY, about a 3-hour drive from our home. It was a fun event, a reward for hard work and a time to spend relaxing with some of our favorite people.

On the interstate on the trip home, I was dozing in the front passenger seat of our minivan. I was tired from an exhausting week at work, and grateful I didn’t have to drive. My husband Bob was driving. Daughter Beth was in the middle seat, playing a game on her phone. Son-in-law Tom was in the back seat, sprawled asleep.

I woke to the rumble strip under us and saw the van speeding into the median strip on the left side of the road, heading toward scraping the guardrail. In a moment of panic, Bob yanked the wheel right, abruptly swerving us back onto the highway. Temporarily. The force of his yank caused the van to continue to careen to the right, swerving and tipping the van to the right, toward my side. I covered my face with my hands, and began to breathe the only prayer I could think of in such a moment, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!

I stopped praying when the noise and movement stopped. I moved my hands from my face, shocked to be alive, and not in the Eternal presence of the One on Whom I’d called in my moments of greatest danger and need. I was upside down, pinned in place between the remains of the van’s roof, dashboard, and my seat, held firmly in place by my seatbelt, but I was alive!

I heard Bob asking everyone else if they were okay as he helped them out. I heard another voice, who I later learned was a woman who lived nearby, asking the same questions. I saw blood all over me, but quickly realized not much of it was mine. As far as I could see or feel, I just wasn’t cut that badly. I was, however, still pinned, and having a panic attack over it. The woman (who I learned was a nurse practitioner in her professional life) told everyone to let the paramedics and firefighters get me out. But I moved my arms and legs, hands and feet, and determined my spine was not damaged. I was just stuck!

Overriding her protests, Tom crawled in and released my seat belt’s buckle, freeing me and assisting me out. The woman insisted I go to one side away from the van and sit down on the grass there while we waited for the police and paramedics. Happy at being freed from my prison, I was grateful to comply.

I looked around and realized the van, which we’d just paid off a few short months before, was a total wreck. But we were all walking, talking and none of us appeared to be seriously injured! The paramedics looked at the scene, checked the cuts and road rash on Bob’s arm, and told him it was a miracle it hadn’t been torn off as we skidded upside down across the pavement and grass. My hands were cut where the smashing glass from my window and the windshield on my side cut them, but because I had put them up to pray, they took the damage, and my face did not. Beth’s shoulder was sprained where Tom had grabbed her by it and her hair as we started to flip and she was about to fly out the shattered windows and be crushed by the skidding van, saving her life. Tom’s bad back and Beth’s and my bad knees were made worse by the crash, but we walked away.

God protected us all that afternoon in so very many ways that are miraculous. In that 20-mile stretch of road, there was only one place where such an accident could have happened, and we could have skidded across 2 lanes into the grass on the roof. Everywhere else, there are guardrails, embankments, steep slopes ending in ravines and/or trees, hillsides and all the other things traveling on an interstate through hilly country involves. There was no traffic around us to hit us. The road behind us was empty when we skidded across it.

When Bob and I went to where they’d towed the van the next day to gather the remains of our belongings that hadn’t been lost or destroyed, we realized the back 1/3 of the vehicle was completely undamaged. The roof above my seat, my door and the passenger door on my side had taken the worst of the damage and had held just enough in place to save our lives, particularly mine.

God protected us even to our clothes and belongings. The only items of permanently damaged clothing were Bob’s shirt and Beth’s jacket, his with its asphalt stains and small rips, showing the force of the scraping along the pavement, and God’s protection of his left arm, and hers with its multiple rips from broken glass. And the shirt was easy to replace! Even the blood stains came out of all our clothes, including to my white turtleneck. The only items (aside from the van) lost forever were a plastic cup I’d been using and a small stuffed Tiger Beenie Baby named Stripes on the dashboard.

God protected our grandchildren. We could have brought them with us that day. Other people had, and the option was open to us. But we’d decided to leave them home with a sitter. So other than some emotional trauma because the sitter had the phone on speaker when Tom called to say we’d be late arriving and why our oldest granddaughter heard it. It took almost a week to reassure her that we’d be okay every time one of the adults walked out the door! (We now have a rule that no one answers the phone on speaker anymore!)

The paramedics and police arrived, and things moved rather quickly after that. They bandaged Bob and mopped up the rest of us. Tom initially objected to being transported to the hospital, but relented when our friends (who were following some miles after and would bring us home later) informed him they were not stopping to pick him up! (It was a good thing they did. His concussion needed further treatment the next day.) They brought us to the hospital, and we went through an evening of the usual Emergency Room “hurry up and wait” that non-life-threatening injuries have to endure. We didn’t mind. After rounds of tests, multiple bandages both large (Bob’s arm) and small (my hands), volumes of paperwork and what seemed like a million questions from marveling hospital employees, we were finally allowed to leave. We went to the nearest fast food drive-through, got food for all of us and our dear friends who’d waited so patiently for us and who we’d scared so badly (and who were bringing us home!), and went home.

We had minor concussions (everyone), several large cuts (Bob), multiple smaller cuts (mostly mine), 1 strained knee (Beth), 2 bruised knees (mine), 1 road rash (Bob), 2 bad backs made worse by the crash (mine and Tom’s, his being the worst) and multiple bruises (everyone, but mostly me because of hanging in the seat belt). In the hours and days to come, we also discovered a bit of post-traumatic stress as well among all of us. And we are alive.

Yes, I know, I keep repeating that. It’s the first lesson I learned from this. When your whole world turns (literally, in my case) upside down, find something or some things large or small to be grateful about. In a near-death episode, alive is a good place to start! We are also grateful for the other miracles, saving Bob’s arm and my face, the preservation of our belongings, the timing and location of the crash. We are grateful for our friends who came to us at the hospital, and who called our Life Leadership leaders and let them know, so they could pray. We are grateful for the prayers of our church family when they found out. We are grateful so little was injured, and that most are already healed and restored. We are even grateful for our insurance company, who was so quick with settlements and whose paperwork processes were so simple to navigate.

I took the next day off from work, to deal with the remnants of my concussion, get the stuff from the van and recover somewhat. We spent a lot of time over the next week with one another and our grandchildren, reassuring the children we were okay, and that we return home again whenever we left the house. Family time was more important to us than it ever had been over those days. When your whole world turns upside down, you get a chance to assess and perhaps even reassess your priorities. The traditional North American priorities of money and stuff can seem rather pointless when your paradigms get shifted so radically. We got a chance to affirm our faith and our family, from our immediate to our extended members, are some of the highest priorities in our lives.

Our lives have changed since the accident. Because Bob’s inattention (which caused us to go off the road to the left in the first place) was likely caused by a medical issue that had been previously unknown, Bob went the following week to his cardiologist, who is now doing tests and may send him to a neurologist for more tests. Until he gets a firm diagnosis and treatment, Bob is not allowed to drive. That leaves all the driving to Tom, Beth and me, and we’re now down one car. It makes life more inconvenient for everyone. In the inconvenience is the second lesson I’ve learned from this. When your whole world turns upside down, tolerance, patience and striving for excellence is required of those of us who live a life in service to others. You don’t have to fall into the trap of perfectionism when more weight falls on your shoulders than you are used to carrying. Perfect isn’t demanded. Your best is required.

There’s another lesson in Bob’s medical tests and current inability to drive.  These add uncertainty we didn’t have along with their inconvenience, creating a “new normal.” I grieved for our old “normal,” expressing my fears to my best friend (the same one who came for us that night). She reminded me fear is not from God, Who promises differently:

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

When your whole world turns upside down, living with uncertainty is almost always a sure thing. Being uncertain is normal. Having a transition to a “new normal” and understanding grieving for what used to be “normal” is acceptable. Dwelling in it is fruitless. I tried that for a few days. It got me nowhere. It was only when I accepted the uncertainty as being part of the “new normal” and accepted it as “normal now” that I began to find peace in my situation.

We also grieved. When Bob and I went to get our stuff from the van the next day, as we left, I looked at it and silently said, “You were good to us. You did not deserve the death we gave you, but I thank you for it, that in your death our lives were saved.” Yes, it was just a thing. But saying goodbye to a vehicle in a culture that depends on and almost worships transportation can be emotional in such circumstances.   We remembered what was, and thought a lot about what could have been. In the end, with counsel from friends, we chose to set the event as a time of what did happen, instead of what didn’t. In Joshua 4:6 – 7, God commanded the people crossing the Jordan River to take up stones from the bottom and set them as a memorial to His power for stopping the river in flood so they could cross it on the far side. This was counsel I got from our friends: When your whole world turns upside down, the hardships of yesterday and today become the memorial stones of tomorrow. We pass that site going back and forth at least a couple of times monthly in our travels for Life Leadership. The first time was incredibly difficult for me, and I had a panic attack. On the way home, I decided to ignore it. It was on that trip we got the counsel, though I did not receive it well at the time. The second time, I took that counsel from our friends and made a memorial stone in my mind there of God’s grace and protection. On the way home, the memorial stone was there. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The memorial stones of our lives are proof to us of it.

So, where are things now? We still face the uncertainty of Bob’s tests. The insurance settlement sits in savings, awaiting the day he will (hopefully) be allowed to drive again, so we can replace the van. If the tests never allow him to drive again, we’ll eventually replace my car with it. We are living a life of uncertainty, and just grateful to God to be living it. Because when your whole world turns upside down, remembering Who is in ultimately in charge is essential. As we are learning now, He Who saved us is also He Who continues to sustain us. And when the One who sustains you has saved you from something like what we went through, trusting Him to sustains you becomes a whole lot easier to do . . . 

Are You Laughing With Me, Or At Me?

Did you ever do anything just for the fun of it? You know, just to make others laugh, even if it might be at your own expense?

This year on Halloween, I did exactly that. I deliberately dressed for the fun of it. I dressed to make people smile and laugh along with the fun of my outfit. I wore a tam-o’-shanter (that’s a type of beanie, or hat, for those who don’t know) that looks like a large orange pumpkin (including the green stem out the top), black cat earrings and a white sweatshirt with Jack O’ Lanterns and the words “Trick Or Treat” embroidered on it. It’s my traditional Halloween outfit if it’s not a workday, and the only time of year I wear orange. (It’s not a good color on me!)

The shirt usually doesn’t cause much comment. The hat, however, can only be worn by a person who has what my late mother once described as a generous sense of humor and a hearty dose of chutzpaChutzpa is a Yiddish term which means, “shameless audacity, boldness, temerity, cheek, nerve, and guts,” all of which my mother often said described me!

As a business owner, I don’t often get the chance to break out of my professional mold and do crazy stuff. Halloween is a rare chance to get a little goofy, and invite the world along for my slightly crazy ride. I donned my shirt, hat and earrings with pride, and off I went as if I was dressing for just another normal Saturday of errands.

I got my hair cut, ran errands at 4 stores and finished the night with going to dinner and wandering the mall with my husband. Except for when I had to take if off to get my hair styled, the hat stayed firmly planted atop my head, as if there was nothing abnormal about it, and it wasn’t there at all.

I got looks. Did I ever get looks! Fellow shoppers looked at me. Some stared. Others smiled, and a few chuckled. Some commented they liked it. Even other drivers did double-takes as they passed me in parking lots! As I moved through my day, I looked for reactions. Sometimes, I was disappointed. Most of the time, I was not.

Normally, when I go through my day, I try to brighten it for the people I encounter wherever I go. I tell people I like what it says on their shirts, or that the color is flattering to them, or I like their shoes (women get that one a lot), or how much I appreciate their customer service or helpfulness. Wearing the Halloween shirt and hat wasn’t a rebellion against wearing a costume, as much as it was giving in a little to the spirit of the day while doing it in a way that would brighten others’ days as well. While laughing at myself, I encouraged others to laugh at me and with me, making them happier in the process.

In a deeper sense, it’s also good to remember sometimes we are seen as fools and laughed at, not for celebrating an innocent day with the world, but for going against it with our convictions. I Corinthians 4;10 talks about being made fools of for the sake of Christ. In I Corinthians 1:25, it says,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The world often laughs at and mocks what it cannot understand. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is definitely something the world cannot understand! The world is befuddled and bewildered by it and uses mockery and derision as a defense against what it can neither defend against nor explain away. 

As a Christian, I cannot allow the mockery and derision of the world to cause me to falter or fail in my faith. I must always keep in mind that Jesus was hated by the world, too, and He is my example. As He said in John 15:18,

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.

“Hate” is such a strong word, isn’t it? We almost want to modify it to “Ignore” or “tease” or something more innocuous. But in every translation I checked in English, those words of Jesus Himself are translated to “hate.” It’s because often we have to step up to the harsh reality of the world that completely opposes Jesus and decide on which side we’re going to stand. It’s a choice we all have to settle in our minds and hearts once we are clearly confronted with the salvation message and its truths.

Once we settle where we stand, what the world thinks becomes unimportant to the point of insignificance. Settling where I stood took care of knowing where my place was, who my “Daddy” was, my identity as my Heavenly Father’s daughter and my security of belonging to His family in the Church. Settling issues like these freed me emotionally from needing to desperately belong anywhere else, or with anyone else. Wherever His people are, I am home, due to the acceptance found in the knowledge of who I am in Christ.

And when I settle such deep human needs like those, I am then free to satisfy an impulse to indulge my whimsical side, such as I did this Halloween, with a pumpkin tam-o’-shanter to make people who saw me all day smile and laugh. Because when they were laughing at me, I was laughing right along with them!

Loving Respect

I was recently reading a Fox News Editorial online about spouses disrespecting one another.  Some of the comments just flabbergasted me!!

Some folks tore down marriage in general, saying the institution is messed up and needs to be abolished. Others said they do things differently in their relationships, and are “honest” with one another, even to the point of disrespect. Others spoke of marriage being a contract of mutual ego gratification. Yet another said if a spouse will say, “Yes, Dear,” to everything, all will be well.

The comments reflected a staggering ignorance regarding what a loving Biblical marriage is really like. There were only a refreshing few who started to scratch the surface and address these things.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I will admit, I likely made my mistake by being there at all, but I was there. Since I’ve learned my life’s purpose is to speak the truth in love whenever and wherever I see untruths perpetuated, I spoke up. I said the following in a couple of different comments, which I’ve combined to make the point of this post:

Part of the problem is our culture is so caught up the the “Love is a Feeling” trap. Well, folks, if love was really a feeling, I wouldn’t be sitting here still married after 35 1/2 years! We would have divorced long ago!

Love is NOT a feeling. Love is a daily decision to ACT, to DO loving things, to SAY loving things and BE a loving person to the one to whom you have committed yourself.

Gratifying your own ego has no place in love. Self-sacrifice does. Being a doormat has no place in love. An equally-yoked partnership, where each brings what they can uniquely offer in gifts and talents, does. Independence has no place in love. Love is interdependent, causing each to become as much a part of the other as one side of a coin is to another.

Why would I treat him with disrespect if I expect him to treat me with respect? And why would he treat me with disrespect if he expects me to treat him with respect? Why would we WANT to treat with disrespect the person we vowed in front of all our families and friends to love, honor and respect??? It makes no sense!!!

The emotions behind our words are expressed. The things that displease or hurt us are voiced, as well as why these things displease or hurt us.

Disrespect comes from the “Love is a Feeling” crowd. It’s easy to disrespect someone when you don’t “feel” loving toward them. But if you are committed to the daily decisions of acting out love, respecting your spouse gets a whole lot simpler. it just becomes part of the package at the point, gang. I won’t tell you it’s easy. But after 35 1/2 years, it’s worth it.

Our Family Portrait, 2008

Our Family Portrait, 2008

All I can add is some recommendations as to how to get your marriage toward that goal. It’s how we did it. Love and Respect by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs is a book that helped our marriage out during a tough spot. We learned men and women have different needs in marriage, that neither is more valid than the other and both need to be met. The DNA Of Relationships by Gary Smalley was another book that helped us through some very tough places. It showed us what each of our needs and hot buttons are, how we can avoid our spouse’s hot buttons and meet their needs when we interact with one another.

Books like His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Harley, Jr., The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, both by Gary Chapman were great resources for helping us in communicating. Through them, we learned we each communicate our needs to be loved and say we’re sorry after we’ve messed up differently, and we have to communicate in ways so our spouse understands the way they hear best, instead of our own.

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer  (or a similar book, Positive Personality Profiles by Dr. Robert Rohm) was invaluable to figure out how each one of us was wired at heart, and how to communicate to our spouse. And believe it or not, Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People helped us both to learn people skills we lacked, to be able to practice on each other. Leadership And Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace, both by The Arbinger Institute, taught us volumes on communication and conflict resolution.

All of these resources are available from LIFE Leadership, as is The Marriage Pack of CD’s from LIFE Leadership, another great help for learning communication and how to have a happy marriage.

LIFE Leadership Logo

Not So Fast Food

A lot of comment has been made recently on social media regarding the decision by the New York State Wage Board to recommend a hike of the wages of fast food workers to $15 per hour incrementally over the next 6 years. I have a few comments and questions about it.

First, I want to address it from my personal perspective. Sorry, gang, like everyone else, I’m just a tad selfish, and think of my own interests first at times.

I work at a job that requires a minimum of an Associates Degree and prefers a Bachelor’s Degree. (I actually have about 1/2 of a Master’s Degree, but that’s beside the point.) I work in a business office setting, dealing with peoples’ confidential information. My work requires skills in multiple computer software products (including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Office Suite and work-specific software), high-level typing and data entry skills and dealing with the public. While it is not a professional position, it does require skills I needed to train to acquire to get the job, as well as experience in the field.

My starting salary was less than the Wage Board’s recommended $15 per hour. After almost 10 years with my current employer and multiple raises for high performance, it’s still less than $15 per hour.

Where will it end? I know professional teachers, health care workers, first responders and members of our U.S. Armed Forces who make even less, despite the incredibly higher stress levels of their jobs, let alone the greater physical demands placed on them. These people deserve much higher wages than I make and often make less, and in the case of our military, much less. But where does the “Me, too!” attitude stop??

Something isn’t quite right with a system that demands fast food workers are paid higher wages than employees on jobs that demand higher levels of training and skills. Fast food has always been meant to be an entry level position for a teenager, a stop-gap someone older might get while training to get a better position, or a job a retired person might get to supplement their pension. It was never meant to fund a lifestyle, which is what the demands for a $15 per hour wage really is when you look at it realistically.

I am not meaning in any way to criticize families who are caught in a minimum wage trap through no fault of their own. I know some of them. They are good people, caught in a circumstance beyond their control. They are making the best of their situations, and working to get out. Such folks deserve all the help we can give them. I’m just not sure $15 per hour is the answer. It’s too broad a brush to paint across too many different lives and circumstances.

Many fast food corporations have training programs for ambitious young people to move up within the company, to take on more responsibility and make more money. McDonald’s Mike Andres started as a manager of a family-owned store. and is now its U.S. Corporate President.  McDonald’s Charlie Robeson started as a crew person and is now its U.S. Corporate  Chief Restaurant Operations Officer. Restaurant Brands International’s David Clanachan started as a crew person for Tim Horton’s and is now the Corporate Vice President, as well as President and Chief Operating Office of the Tim Horton’s chain.  (Their bios are easily found on the corporate websites.)  These are just a few of the corporate success stories available.

How are businesses going to afford this? Before you tell me, “Out of their corporate profits,” may I remind you of something? Fast food restaurants are generally operated as franchises. Corporate owned stores are the exception, not the rule, and the corporations tend to try to get these back into the hands of franchise holders as quickly as possible.

This means the corporation offers its name, training, and supplies and leaves management up to the franchisees. The corporate profits of an entity like McDonalds come out of franchise fees and a percentage of the daily take. The rest of the daily take is what the franchisees use to pay their bills for lights, heat, taxes, salaries, supplies, food, losses, improvements, training and whatever else is needed, and eke out a living for themselves and their families. When the employees or managers don’t show up, franchisees have to be ready to fill in. When there is a crisis at a store, the franchisees have to be available to fix it, or arrange for it to be fixed. In other words, franchisees, like all other small business owners, take all the risks, and don’t really net all that much in profit.

Speaking of risks, are you aware of how much it costs to become a franchisee in the first place? A simple internet search yielded some astonishing results! Someone wanting to take such a risk must have a minimum of $100,000 for a smaller franchise with low returns on investment. To buy into McDonald’s, a minimum of $1.1 million is required, and often you need to have extra for the land, and you don’t get to decide where you’re putting it. They do. The returns on investment on one franchise are so low, most own at least 3 to eke out a living wage for themselves and their families.

It is from these people the NY Wage Board wants to take the $15 per hour. Not corporate entities like McDonald’s or Burger King. But the owner of the store down the street, who must raise prices and/or let go staff, and/or find other ways to cut costs to meet these demands.

So where will these wage hikes come from? If these business owners don’t cut staff or otherwise cut costs, then the only pockets these raise hikes will be coming out of will be those of the consumers. Because sure as I am sitting here writing this, prices must go up to accommodate it if nothing else goes down proportionally. This means fewer people will be spending less at fast food places, and more will close for lack of business, causing job loss and business closures, leading to these workers making less money, instead of the more for which they petitioned so vigorously.

Do you want some proof? Here’re a couple of links: Fox News Article and Give Away Pundit Article.

Getting back to my own (perhaps a tad selfish) perspective, with this decision by the NY Wage Board, my already stretched budget just stopped including any fast food place that pays its workers $15 per hour. On my salary, quite frankly, I just cannot afford it. And the problem is, I don’t think a lot of others can, either.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate!

Have you ever had a complete failure to communicate with someone? What did you do about it? How did you solve your communication problems?

A few years ago, my husband and I were attending a party at a location in a nearby town. We’d never been to the place. We were told it was easy to find, just across from the WalMart. In the rush of getting ready, neither of us thought to look up the location online, so we could find an exact address to program into our GPS.

Instead, we sat in our driveway and asked my iPhone adviser Siri where Youth for Christ was. Siri replied she did not deal with ecclesiastical matters. I rephrased the question. Siri responded she dealt with things silicon, not spiritual! Frustrated, but realizing the humor of the situation, I tried yet again. Siri then asked me if I wanted her to find me a local pastor or another minister with whom to discuss my questions!

It was only then my laughing husband remembered about the WalMart. So I asked Siri where it was. There are 3 nearer to us than that one, and Siri tried to give me the closest. Finally, I thought to add the name of the town to the WalMart and told Siri to give me that one. Siri finally figured out what I wanted!! Our GPS armed with the information, laughing all the way, we finally left the party, somewhat later than we’d planned!

What Siri and I had that day was a failure to communicate. I believed I was clearly stating where I wanted to go. However, Siri’s global database had never heard of where I wanted to go, or her programming only chose certain words (like “Christ”) from what I said to interpret what I wanted. The resulting disconnect both amused and frustrated us. It amused us because her answers were very funny! It frustrated us because it left us clueless about where we were supposed to be going. It was only when we revised our end of the conversation (twice!) that we got the answers we needed.

Failures to communicate happen daily within human relationships in friends and family, and even among strangers. We may think we understand what we are saying, and think they do, but if they aren’t really understanding us, a failure to communicate is inevitable. As LIFE leader Chris Mattis says,

It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t matter what you meant to say. It only matters what they heard.

Failures to communicate can damage relationships, destroy marriages and families and even cause wars in extreme cases. There are some historians who say the War of 1812 was to at least some extent a failure between Great Britain and the United States to communicate.

So how do we deal with this issue? How do we work past these challenges and speak to people so they hear us? 

In a college public speaking class, I learned 4 basic rules by which we were to mold all our speeches. I’ve since heard many public speakers use them, and I have personally found them helpful in my daily living when I use them. They are

Be bright. Be brief. Know your audience. Be gone!

Be Bright. One of the first keys in communication starts with having something to say.  The Bible talks in many places about people who speak endlessly with nothing to contribute, and we’ve all experienced unfortunate episodes with such special individuals personally. LIFE leader Terry Franks defines such one-sided conversations as

the slings and arrows of outlandish gerbilling! Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak!

I am always reminding myself not to talk to hear myself speak or because I feel I need to add my voice to a conversation. I want to contribute productively to it. As my father used to say,

Silence is not an indicator of intelligence or its lack. Sometimes, speaking is.

Be Brief. Okay, I will confess this is the one with which I struggle the most. (I know, not a shock!) A mentor of mine is often reminding me to say the most with the least amount of words, and none if at all possible. As St. Francis of Assisi is attributed to saying,

Preach Christ, and if necessary use words.

It was in the area of brevity where Siri and I failed to communicate. I said, “Youth for Christ,” meaning the organization its regional location. Siri heard, “Christ,” and understood I wanted to discuss religious matters, something a computer program isn’t designed to do. I gave the briefest inquiry appropriate. Siri didn’t have the information I wanted.

Know Your Audience. Are they a close family member? A friend? A complete stranger? Is your language their first language, or is there a bigger communication gap than what we’re dealing with here? Are you unintentionally about to push buttons with ill-chosen words?

My conversation with Siri was lacking in this regard, too. I didn’t know, until we hit on the WalMart in the correct town, how to phrase my inquiries in a way so Siri would understand. Siri didn’t understand the nature of my original request, either. Siri didn’t hear or wasn’t programmed to hear the entirety of what I’d said. Siri only caught bits and pieces. And it was in her bits and their lack that our failure to communicate started, and escalated.

When I consider my audience, I have to be aware of certain things. Are they children? I tone down my vocabulary closer to their level and use simpler words and concepts, explaining myself more. Are they professional people? Jargon might be appropriate, or maybe not, depending on the group and situation. I will admit a definite distaste for buzz words!

Two books available from LIFE have truly been helpful to me in understanding people. The first is the classic Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. It speaks of peoples’ different social interaction styles, and how to know which styles you, your friends and family have. Each different style blend requires a different way of speaking to them so they will hear what you are saying. For example, I would not give the same information to my daughter in the same way as I did to my husband if I wanted similar reactions from them, because I know their style blends are polar opposites.

The second book is another classic, Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People.  Before you think, “Oh, I have lots of friends!” please let me remind you we’re talking about successful communication with everyone. This book goes into volumes more than I can begin to get into in a blog post, and I highly recommend it.

Be Gone. How many times have we yearned to hang up on (or walk away from) a conversation with someone who just refuses to let go? The introductory pleasantries have been dealt with, the subject matter discussed and now it’s time to end the chat, but the other party just won’t let you get on with your day! Unfortunately, this is another sin to which I must lay claim to being guilty. It has taken the loving insistence of my friends to let me know of this bad habit, and to work to curtail it. I have to remember the time of the people with whom I am speaking is just as valuable as mine, and if I want them to value my time highly, I have to do the same for them.

So, rather than going on with a long-winded close, I will Be Gone for now to let you, dear readers, contribute to the conversation. I’d really like to know your thoughts and stories on communication, or its lack. The floor is yours!

Charlie, Get OFF My FEET!

Dear Readers, over the years on this blog, I’ve introduced you to various members of my family. There is, of course, the long-suffering Bob, who is not only my dear husband of almost 35 years, but also my editor. He patiently puts up with the life of a husband of someone obsessed with words and getting them down and out of my head before they drive me nuts with their clamor. His thoughtfulness of others gives him the right to edit all my work, suggesting less offensive ways of saying things, as I can tend to be too blunt many times. And he does all this with a gentle and sweet spirit, loving and easy going in his ways. Besides being my husband and editor, Bob is also my business partner and the steadfast emotionally stable rock of our family. He puts up with me when I go off half-cocked on some new wild scheme, and often just watches and enjoys the ride, preparing as needed to help clean up my mess after. (I can’t say enough good about him!)

Our oldest is daughter Beth, married to (acquired-by-said-marriage-son) Tom. Yes, we view Tom as just as much one of our adult kids as the two we birthed. They are, if you will recall, parents of our 4 remarkable grandchildren, Keyna, Ariel, Tommy, and Samantha. Beth and Tom have recently started a business in collaboration with ours, and we are rejoicing in their early successes. We adore the times we get to spend with our grandchildren and know our grandchildren are our rewards as parents for allowing our kids to survive when they were such seemingly impossible beings when we were raising them!

Youngest is our son David. David is in the process of launching into the world and leaving home. He has found a roommate, a job and they are now looking for apartments together. He had some struggles to find his way for a while, trying college and flunking out only one semester before graduation, but he finally seems to have found his niche, and a job he enjoys. We are pleased to see him finally find his feet in life, and now are just hoping a nice girl will catch his eye soon, so he can start giving us a few more grandchildren to spoil . . .

There are a few family members I know I haven’t introduced you to yet. These are our fur babies, 3 cats named Simba, Boots, and Charlie. We adopted them from a local animal shelter a few months after a couple of other of our former cats had died, when the time seemed right to do so. I went in that day with the intent of only getting one, but when I saw the trio in the cage and began to interact with them and saw how well they got along, I just couldn’t stand to break up the set! Poor Bob was at the gym working out that afternoon, and had no clue what I was doing (or how much I was donating to the shelter for them!) until I got home with the 3 borrowed cat carriers in the back seat of my car! He took it all in his usual affable stride, removing the carriers from the car and helping me bring our new acquisitions into the house.

Simba came with the name of “Red” originally, but it just didn’t suit. He’s not red. He’s a caramel and peanut butter colored tabby, with virtually no white. He’s our shy guy and avoids the noisy grandchildren like the plague! He has decided he is my cat, and I am his person, and we’re both content with that arrangement. He’s very playful, and always game for a string chase. He’s young, healthy and athletic though he’s very timid of loud and sudden noises. It took Simba the longest to get used to us, hiding for weeks before we managed to coax him out. Simba likes to sleep at night on our bed, near Bob’s feet.

Boots came with the name he still has. He’s a traditional orange tabby, with a white chest, belly, and feet. Nothing flusters Boots. Grandchildren don’t phase him. He puts up with their fumbling attempts at affection until he’s had enough, and then leaves. Boots prefers comfort above all things and a full belly. He is also young, but not tremendously athletic. Honestly, he’s fat. Really fat. His nickname is “Lard Fur.” Boots likes to sleep at night at Bob’s side.

Charlie is our elder statesman. He’s a few years older than the other two. Charlie is a muted toned dark traditional tabby, with white highlights. He came with the name of “George,” but my father (of the same name) had died within a year or two of his acquisition, and we knew it would freak out both my mother and us to hear us refer to the animal with my father’s name. He got his name the first night home, when he crawled right up on our bed with Bob, purring and cuddling. Bob said he was a Good Time Charlie, and the name has stuck. He is also good with the grandchildren, and mostly very affable and easy going.

However, Charlie has one particular quirk that drives me nuts, and thus the reason for this post. Charlie likes to do what cat experts have termed “cat piling,” meaning he likes to rest against something else for warmth and comfort, preferably another cat, although any warm body will do. He will also snuggle the back of the couch, or a pillow if there are no bodies available.

Charlie’s habit of cat piling with me has led to some memorable skirmishes between he and I over the years. Due to chronic sciatica issues, I sleep with a pillow between or under my legs, depending on my position. Charlie likes my pillow. He likes it so well, it’s his favorite spot to lie down in our room, cat piling next to it as it sits under the covers. When I am not in bed, I’m fine with it. However, I have a bit of a quirk of my own, which runs completely counter to his — I cannot in any way stand to have more weight than the covers and pajamas on or adjacent to my legs or feet when I am trying to sleep. I’ve had cats park themselves on my stomach or chest (one tried my face, but that was a bit much!) while sleeping, and been fine with it. But Charlie and I go through almost nightly battles for dominance of who will be sleeping where when I lie down. These often involve me pushing him away from under the covers, with ever-increasing fervor, using my legs and feet, until he gets the hint I truly mean business yet again. Grumbling at him on my part is another important part of the ritual, whether aloud or silently.

So, why am I telling you all this? It’s not to complain about it. Nor is it to hear from you, dear readers, how horrid I am to Charlie about my own quirky likes and dislikes. It’s because last night, as we battled yet again, something occurred to me. My battles with Charlie over the dominance and position on our bed are remarkably similar to the battles we all face when dealing with faults and failings that so often beset all of us.

The Bible talks about these things, calling them “besetting sins.” Our modern language might refer to them as “nagging issues.” The meaning is the same. Hebrews 12:1 – 2 has quite a bit to say about it

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.

We’re surrounded on a daily basis by people who witness our lives. Oh, I don’t just mean the people with whom we interact, and neither did the writer of Hebrews. The writer was talking about a crowd in a Heavenly stand, of those gone in faith before us, who now cheer us on as we run our daily race of life. Yes, the ones we interact with daily are visible, but that doesn’t make the Heavenly ones any less real.

The writer likens it to a runner who has tossed off everything unnecessary to the completion of his race. We’ve all seen Olympic competitions. The runners are seen prior to the race, wearing warm-up suits and often have a towel around their necks, and possibly some other gear to keep warm and dry. But just before the race starts, everything that isn’t his or her minimal uniform and sneakers is shed. The runner doesn’t need the weight or drag on them as he or she moves. Can you imagine trying to run an Olympic sprint wearing weights? It would be impossible! In the same way, we are called to daily toss off those besetting sins to run that day’s race with our best efforts.

There is also the issue of the goal. In an Olympic race, the goal is the finish line and the prize is a gold medal. While as a Christian my eventual eternal goal is Heaven, there is a goal here on earth, too. Evangelist and theologian Charles Finney called it the striving toward personal sanctification in this lifetime. The way the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it is to keep Jesus in our view at all times, seeking to live in His Father’s perfect will moment by moment.

The writer of Hebrews is saying just like Olympic runners shed everything unnecessary to their goals, it’s the same with us. Just as I work nightly to shove Charlie from my legs and feet so I can sleep in peace, I need to examine my life on a daily basis to see what is holding me back, to be aware of what is hindering me, to repent of the sin entangling me, so I can move forward freely in peace with myself, God and others once more.

And just like my nightly battles with Charlie, some sins will take longer to throw off than others. Some will be blind spots, for which I will need the wisdom and grace of a mentor and trusted friend to point out what I cannot see. Some will be deeply ingrained, requiring God’s Holy Spirit to completely renovate my character. And some, though unfortunately very few, might just be as simple a solution as encouraging Charlie to cat pile on Bob . . .

I pray you are able to see your goal, throw off your weights, and come run with me!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Simba (top left), Boots (bottom left) & Charlie (right) cat piling with my pillow on our bed:

Here’s a cartoon I found, just for fun!

A Girl Worth Fighting For?

What kind of expectations do we place on ourselves? How about what we expect of others? Are they true and real ones, or are they more often based in fantasy or unreality?

I’ve been exploring this topic for myself lately, and I’d like to share a few thoughts about it. While sick with a horrible cold, I decided to take a couple of hours over a few days and watch the charming Disney movies Mulan and Mulan II. There is a song in Mulan that reprises in Mulan II, and it became the subject of my thoughts, and thus this post. Here’s a video link to the song in the first movie: A Girl Worth Fighting For

The song is charming, expressing the longings of men heading into a dangerous situation, who only want to know what they are about to face is worth it for someone back home. They express their hopes and dreams of what each believe is their ideal female, and how much they want the presence of these ladies in their lives when they go home. In the second movie, the song is taken further, by heroes come home who still don’t have the women of their dreams by their sides.

At first, I listened to the music and just enjoyed it. It speaks of what Wild At Heart by John Eldredge details. It says how all men really want is a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and to be a hero. As a woman, I find these concepts somewhat foreign, but I’ve studied enough on the differences between men and women to understand these compelling needs. After all, as a woman, I find myself often yearning to be the beauty to be rescued, to nurture my hero and guard and care for the helpless, particularly those closest to me.

The problem came as I thought more about the song. Because as I did, I started to change the lyrics. I started to make them personal. Instead of a man wanting a girl worth fighting for, I wanted to be that girl worth fighting for.  I started to think of whether or not I was worth fighting for, if I wasn’t slender enough, pretty enough, smart enough or just enough of whatever. I started to wonder if I was too much of whatever. I started to think the expectations of the lyrics to be a girl worth fighting for were on me.

It was then I realized I was giving in (yet again!) to our culture’s domineering critical nature against women, and my own self-doubts and fears I battle daily. I next realized as a daughter of God, a born-again Blood of Christ covered repentant sinner, I am enough! I am enough in the sight of God, and if HE says I am enough, it ends the matter.

The problem next happened that I started to put it on my poor long-suffering spouse. Now, instead of thinking why I couldn’t be a girl worth fighting for if there wasn’t a problem with him seeing me as a girl worth fighting for. So I started ladling unrealistic expectations on him, instead. I wanted him to be instantly something he is not, instead of who he wonderfully is and allowing him the same process he allows me daily to change and grow.

How often we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others, instead of simply realizing we’re all a work in progress and being patient with everyone’s process, including our own!! It’s so subtle and sneaky, too! I thought I had it beaten, but then this darn song went and proved me oh, so wrong, giving me yet another opportunity to repent, change and grow. As I realize what happened and what I did to both of us, I feel so absurd. But then, that’s what unrealistic expectations are, really. They’re absurd, and the sooner we recognize them for what they are, the happier we’ll all be.

Now, I need to go watch another movie and find a new song, so I can get this dratted one out of my head!!

Listening Or Talking?

Who talks to you the most? Who has the most influence over you? To whose words do you listen the most?

If you think about my questions, you might come up with answers such as your spouse (or domestic partner), best friend, sibling, parent or child. But I want to invite you to look into it a little deeper.

Think a little harder. Whose voice do you hear most often? If you are like most of us and think about it for a bit, you will realize quickly the voice you hear is none other than your own.

Our inner voices are our constant companions. We think with them. We use them as our inner creative muses. We consider decisions, process information, work through feelings, remind ourselves of things and think about what to say to others.

Our inner voices can be quite busy at times. In times of stress, our thought lives can run rampant with “could have, should have, would have” scenarios. When we are processing emotional events, good or bad, they are equally busy. And when it’s quiet, if we have a tendency toward it, our thoughts will get busy when we are not.

The most important thing to pay attention to about our thought lives is what our thoughts are saying to us. Are they contributing to situations in life, or detracting from them? Are they building others we are thinking about up, or tearing them down? Are they viewing the world through a positive lens or a negative one?

Once we understand what the tendency of our thoughts usually is, we can take steps toward controlling them. In other words, instead of just listening to ourselves, we can take positive and productive steps toward talking to ourselves!

What do I mean by talking to ourselves? The first step in talking to ourselves is one I’ve already outlined, being aware of what the general tendency of your thoughts. If your thoughts tend toward the negative, be aware of it. Understand that of yourself, and realize you will need to work toward a healthier thought life. Most of us need to do it to some extent or another, and some need it more than others.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Pattern Interruption. When you notice your thoughts tending toward the negative even slightly, say “STOP!” to yourself. Throw up a mental stop sign, or a hazard warning or whatever works for you. Do it as quickly as you notice it.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Re-framing. Take the situation or emotion that’s bothering you, and reword it into positive terms. See the good side of it, however small. If someone was cruel to you, realize your mission in life might not include that person, and know you are doing all you able to be polite and pleasant, despite their bad behavior. If it is raining, and you wanted to have a picnic, think about how good the rain will be for the plants, and how you can have your picnic indoors. You get the idea!

The final step in talking to ourselves is to do just that — Talk to Yourself! Look at what you can do, instead of what you can’t and change your focus to that. Tell yourself things only look impossible until someone does them. Instead of listening to your inner critic, tell your inner critic to be silent!

Most of us have an inner critic resulting from experiences from somewhere in childhood and as we grew up. Maybe a sibling or parent told you that you couldn’t do something. Maybe you failed at something you tried and the kids at school laughed at you. Maybe you weren’t attractive enough, or smart enough, good enough or something enough to get the attention of a special someone. The more negative experiences we had as children and young adults, the louder our outer critics, the louder our inner critic will likely be for us. 

Quite frankly, for many of us, if someone outside of us talked to us the way we allowed our inner critics talked to us, we’d sever all ties with them! Think of your relationship between yourself and your thought life the same way as you would between yourself and a friend. Would you allow your friend to talk to you that way? If not, then why are you allowing yourself to do it?

Using these techniques of being aware of our thoughts, Pattern Interruption, Re-framing and Talking to Ourselves are vital steps in silencing our inner critics. Once you start to master these steps, you will find you have a healthier thought life. And a healthier thought life leads to healthier relationships, and more happiness in your life overall.

That Ought To Be A Crime!

Recently, I overheard some folks discussing how people shipped things overnight places to hurry processing of their items. Often, people pay substantial fees beyond normal postal rates for this service. However, all it does is get the item to its destination faster. It does not promise faster processing once it reaches where it is going. The difference is 100 times regular cost in some cases! When one of them realized how much it cost, they said, “That ought to be a crime!”

While I am aware the person was speaking for emphasis, I immediately realized at least some of the holes in their argument. It is these holes, and the paths down which they lead, away from our essential freedoms, I want to discuss.

To decide to regulate and criminalize how we spend our money is to violate an essential freedom we have as human beings. The person who spends 100 times more than someone else to get his item to its destination overnight (instead of the 3 to 7 business days for normal postal delivery) is spending their own money. They’re not spending my money, nor yours. It’s theirs. As such, the right of property ownership means they get to decide what happens to their property, so long as it does not harm others. If I use my property, like my car, to deliberately hurt or kill someone, that’s a different story. We can all agree the law would be right to step in such a case.

Our freedoms guarantee we have the right to live, work and recreate as we choose, within the confines of a sensible legal system. They give us the ability to think, create and invent. Without freedom of choice and property, there is no creation, no invention, no innovation. The most repressed societies of the world have contributed the least in scientific developments, except for military applications. The greater the freedom in a society, the greater the creativity, in all walks of life.

The inventor Albert Einstein said,

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

I considered these thoughts during the debate over Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s declaration sodas of a certain size (or larger) would no longer be sold in New York City. His decision to do it was for the health reasons of the people of his city, and its visitors. But I kept wondering what right he had to decide how much soda my family and I drink? Yes, sugared soda is harmful, when consumed over the long-term in large amounts. To me, as a diabetic, it’s even harmful (in more than very small quantities when I am having a low blood sugar episode) in the short-term. But it’s also my right as an adult to drink this legal beverage, in as large of quantities as I choose, and take the consequences of my behavior upon myself.

Is a 32 ounce cup of sugared soda sensible? Probably not. But our adult son buys and drinks them occasionally, and when he does it with his own money, all I can do is casually mention our family history of diabetes (besides me, both my parents & several of my grandparents), and the risk he’s taking of it. But it’s his choice, his money, and if he wants to spend it foolishly, it’s his business. My husband occasionally drinks them, too, as do our daughter and son-in-law. Not sensible, but their choices. Our grandchildren, however, drink water or milk when we’re out with them. We can control the behavior of 1, 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 year olds. Well, not the behavior, but at least what they drink! 😉

When it come to each choice, the consequences generally also fall on the people, or those closest to them. To say we must criminalize some behavior because of its potential for long-term damage is to remove the consequences of both the behavior and the damages. As humans, we all instinctively know our actions have consequences, whether we like them, or admit it, or not. By removing all consequences, we remove all personal responsibility, and thus remove all personal choice.

My father died of esophageal cancer, caused by being a smoker most of his adult life. Was it sensible for him to smoke? Of course not! He tried to quit many times, and failed. It was only in the last few years before he died that he succeeded. Does that mean I want smoking criminalized so other families don’t have to go through the pain he and we as his family did? Of course not! His personal choices, determined by his personal freedoms, lead to his personal consequences, and thus our own personal consequences as his family.

To remove all personal responsibility, and thus all personal choice, is to remove all freedoms. For each freedom criminalizing and regulation removes, we are a more restricted people. Yes, there needs to be a rule of law, to dictate things a society considers inappropriate, like hurting or killing one another or stealing from each other. Yes, there needs to be laws about how what side of the road to drive on, and what to do when emergency vehicles are seen. These are sensible, and good, and we can all agree on such things.

But to go to extremes, to remove all personal responsibility, and thus all personal choice, is also to remove much of what makes us human. We instinctively want to choose our careers, our lifestyle, our cars, our homes, our clothes, our food, our life partners, whether we have children (and how many), how we school our children and ourselves and so on. Even the world’s most repressed peoples have some choices in life, no matter how tiny they seem to us in the “free” societies of the world.

As toddlers, we understand instinctively the rights of free people to have property and choice. Watch small children at play if you don’t believe me! Even if an adult starts them by encouraging coöperation, the play among toddlers normally quickly descends to a “Gimmie! That’s MINE!” level, unless an adult stops them. And if an unsuspecting adult tries to force an unwilling toddler into a situation, outfit or activity in which the child has no interest in participating, this instinctive want of personal choice becomes all the more clear, and loudly verbalized!

With each cry of “That ought to be a crime!,” we have that many fewer freedoms. A free society is loosely regulated. The more regulations and laws, the less free the society becomes. We are moving closer to less and less freedom, and more and more restrictions daily. All because so few are stopping to think that just because it’s not sensible, doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be regulated or criminalized . . .

Little Decisions Can Have Big Consequences

What is it about little decisions that they can have such impact on our lives?  How can we know when we make a decision what the consequences might be for us?

In the article Turning Points for LIFE, TEAM LIFE leadership guru Chris Brady talks about the long-term consequences for our decisions.  From his own life, he shows how to correctly treat them for their most beneficial long-term effects.

Chris Brady

What may seem like little decisions at the time can have massive and lasting impact on the course of our lives. We change direction and go down a road from which we can never return.

The interesting thing about major turning points in our lives is that they are not always obvious. Let’s face it, we make thousands of decisions a year. Some that seem major sometimes don’t turn out to be. Some that seems minor can sometimes change the course of our lives forever. It is sometimes impossible to tell if the next decision will be a big one, leading to a turning point, or just another miniscule moment that will soon be lost under the dust of time and faded memories.

The lesson? Choose well at each decision. Never underestimate the potential of tiny things having big ramifications.

The lesson within the lesson? There really aren’t that many major turning points in life. If you don’t believe me, map out your own life by moving backwards through your circumstances. How did you end up living where you’re living, working where you’re working, married to whom you’re married, etc.? If you trace it back, you’ll likely find somewhere between 3 and 10 major turning points in your life, many of which you couldn’t have seen coming.

An observation on these lessons: The most successful people (such as my buddy Tim Marks) seem to make decisions the quickest and with the least amount of angst, but then stick to those decisions with more tenacity than others. To me this is a strange paradox, but I’ve seen it demonstrated so many times I believe it to be the rule.

Conclusion: Turning points are rare but significant in your life. Choose wisely from the myriad of choices proffered to you each day, as any one of them could have unforseen and lasting implications. However, it is not necessary to become paralyzed or burdened by the decisions you’ll face. Perhaps the worst thing to do is  over analyze. Go with your gut, pray for guidance, and stick to the directions you choose.

In my life, I seldom treated my turning points this wisely, or at least recognized they so quickly.  I did what seemed right, with little thought to long-term consequences.

One was to accept an offer to sing at our church.  It led to performing with a man I’d met recently.  After church, he asked me out.  Several years later, I married him.

Another was deciding what college I should attend, after I graduated junior college.  My choice led to meeting Cindy, who grew to become one of my best friends, and my mentor.

I’ve had others, but these are enough.  What turning points have you had?      

English: Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Take some time, as Chris suggests, to write them down.  Consider the path your life has taken, where your choices have led you.  When you are faced with a decision, treat it with the care and thoughtfulness Chris suggests.

Cathy