Monday, May 30, 2016

Testimonial Stones

These are my memorial stones.
I'm building a memorial.  It's not the type of memorial you might imagine when you think of someone making that statement. I won't be using flowers, gold, bricks and mortar.  I'll be using stones, a set of small stones. They'll be placed in a jar or a vase, and displayed on a shelf in my room when I'm all finished.

Yesterday, in church, the message was given surrounding the book of Joshua, chapter 4, in which God parted the river and they were all able to cross.  In the midst of this miraculous chaos, God commanded them to pick up stones and to build with them.  They were commanded to do so, so that when they were seen, their children and others would ask them what the stones were for, and they were to recount the miracle that was bestowed upon them and testify to the greatness of God.

In fact, we were given the ability to take home our own stones from church.

As I was sitting there paying attention, I decided I wasn't just going to take home a bag of random rocks.  I was going to go home and select rocks myself.  Part of this was because I like the idea of being able to control the color pallet, of course.  But, beyond that, I decided I would likely need more than 12, and I wanted them to be smooth, so eventually, I could write on them.

I took it upon myself to start working on a list of the bits of my testimony.  Our pastor gave many ideas, and I included them all on my list because in one way or another, they all fit.  Included in this list are: Salvation, Healing, Strength, Overcoming Power, Revelation, Faithfulness, Miracles, Provision, Protection, Favor, and Family.

That's a pretty good list to start, I would say.

I will admit, I haven't been having an easy time coming up with words to add to the list that fit my particular testimony and aren't already somehow included in those words, but I am trying.  I want my memorial to be as personal as possible.    There are so many elements that I want to be able to include.

And why be so specific? Why label them?  Well, I want it to be personal, as I said, but I also want the ability to be able to take them out when I'm in a funk or on a dark road, feel like God isn't near, feel the enemy attacking, or just need my memory jogged when I am feeling down.  I want to be able to touch the stones, see the words, and really have a concrete vision of all that God has done for me.  I want to be able to add to it as I see fit.  I would love to see that memorial grow.  I will enjoy my children asking what the rocks are for someday and explaining all the ways that God has been so good to me.

But what about you?  

I challenge you to build your memorial. Maybe you'll use rocks.  Maybe you'll use words on slips of paper and tape them to your mirror.  Maybe you'll write them in your Bible. Maybe you'll comment here and share.  Maybe you'll tell a friend. Maybe you'll just pray your thankfulness privately.

Regardless of how you build your memorial, I really urge you to sit and think about your testimony and all of the amazing things God has done for you.  He has done amazing things for EVERYONE.  Salvation is a big one.  When you've accepted Christ, your testimony is solidified, as you are wiped clean and you are a part of Him. That's HUGE.  Maybe you've overcome an addiction. Maybe you've conquered a disease. Maybe you've been given children.  Maybe you have the most wonderful siblings or friends in the world.  Maybe you've simply been blessed with day after brand new day to take deep breaths, find a reason to smile, and face the world.   No matter what, there are stones to your memorial, and there are layers to your testimony.

My testimony is written all over my blog, if you feel like diving deep into my words.  

But my rocks... well, some of them will say-
Overcoming Power

What about you?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Great Blessings

 I'm sure each of you has heard countless analogies and metaphors about friendships and what a true friend is.  True friends are like diamonds, true friends are like stars, true friends are like mornings, true friends are like angels, true friends are like a high school algebra word problem on the homework you almost forgot to do last night before bed...  So forth and so on.  Yes?  I know that I have.   
There are so many inspirational quotes that tell you how to be a good friend or what a good friend looks like.  If you're looking for some sort of wall art or a nice little closing to a greeting card to let someone know you care, you don't have to look much further than an internet search and you have thousands of sayings to choose from, from Oscar Wilde to Winnie-the-Pooh.

What makes a good friend, I suppose, is in some ways, subjective.  You may think a good friend is one who will give you the answers to your psychology homework, or maybe you think a good friend is one who will help you change a tire when you have a flat.  Perhaps your best friend lets you borrow her dresses or your books.  Whatever you think makes a good friend, I would hope that you have someone in your life who fits that bill.

I have been richly blessed with friendships in my life.  I say that not to brag, but as a reflection after a wonderful, laid back day with my college roommate, one of my best friends in the world, after a year or so of not being in the same room together.  She is one of my "lifelong" friends.  I met her 14 years ago, nearly, and despite the fact that we can go a year without seeing each other or weeks without texting, when it comes down to it, I know she's there and she has been and will be through thick and thin.

But, I am so enormously spoiled that I know it doesn't stop there.  I have a friend from my childhood that I moved next door to in 1991, and she is still one of my dearest friends.  I have friends that I met as an adult that are equally important and wonderful to me.  Some I see nearly weekly, others less frequently, but their love for me and my family is immeasurable, and I am reminded of it often.  I have met friends through my job of 18 months that are some of my closest friends in this life.  I have friends that I only know through the internet and have for over a decade that I consider my some of my very best as well.

And I have blood family that are some of my best friends.

Growing up, I know a best friend could change day to day, depending on whether you like the same boy band, book, color, food... you name it.  Friendships seemed easier to come by and somewhat more trivial as a child.  You broke up and made up more times than you can count, I'm sure.

As an adult, it seems much more difficult to find true, dear friends that you trust with your deepest secrets and your most broken bits of heart.  

Somehow, though, I have this amazing group of best friends.  I can't choose just one best friend like I could as a little girl. I have a handful.  God has blessed me so richly.  He's given me women all over the country who I could reach out to in an instant and they're there for me, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and so much more.  It's an invaluable blessing, when I so often find myself feeling overwhelmed and lonely, living this life of a single parent with such young children.  It's something truly special to have a select group of friends who can read through the lines of a text message and know when you're not really doing as okay as you claim, or that can almost read your heart as soon as you enter a room, even if there's a smile on your face.

I have known this for quite some time, but it seems that as I grow older and as I have gone through so much in the past few years, losing the one who meant the most to me, I see these friendships more clearly and with so much more value and gratitude.  These people chose to stand beside me and stay with me even when the one who promised to stay forever walked right out. They have seen me at my best and my worst and they love me through it all.

I've been told many times that God knows what he is doing.  It's true.  Even when it's hard to trust him, especially knowing that, although he has reasons for what He is doing, you don't always get to know on this side of life.

I'm so thankful to my very best friends for all they bring into my life.  But I am thankful also for each one of my friends, not only the best ones, because the prayers and love that I've been showered with, from friends near and far, old and new, have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

I pray that my own children are equally blessed in their lives, and that each of you are as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I'm As a young girl, thunderstorms absolutely terrified me. I would lay in my room with my pillows mothering my head trying to drown out the light and the sounds. I would run to my parents' room and lay on the floor by their bed trying not to cry.

I hated them.

Once, at my first summer job corn detasseling, probably as a pre-teen, the supervisor made us finish the field in the beginning of a storm. We were soaked and I was anxious as could be. When we were finally bussed back to town and dropped off, I ran to my grandma's house. It lightninged once while I bolted and I felt like my heart stopped and I was paralyzed as the air surrounding me flashed bright white.

As I went to high school and college, I grew much more fond of the storms and was interested in cloud formations, storms, and tornadoes. When I met my former husband, he too was keen on these things, and it became a shared interest.

There were many nights when we were dating when storms were on their way and we would grab our cameras, film DSLR at first and eventually digital, and head out of town or to the highest point we could find, and chase the clouds down with our shutters, attempting to catch beautiful photos of lightning.  We succeeded multiple times.  It was wonderful.

When we were married and shared our home, we would spend countless nights in the dark, watching the lightning dance across the sky as the thunder rumbled our walls.  We spent so many of those nights together.  They were some of our favorite times together.  There was something paradoxically exhilarating and serene in the storm.

Tonight, the sky flashes its magical show and the thunder rumbles.  My children are all soundly asleep, but I cannot seem to calm my mind.  With each flash, my mind also flashes back to the many storms we cherished, and the many storms we weathered.  

I've been through many storms without him in the last two years, figuratively and literally.  I shooed our children into the basement calmly during multiple tornado warnings one summer, and I fought my way through his betrayals, abandonment, and the repercussions that followed.  Storms and I are both old friends and old enemies.

Tonight, I lay awake.  I listen to the show outside as the room lights up every now and again.  I closed my curtains one moment to block out the flashing, and a few minutes later, I turned off the apartment lights and nature's strobe began to take full effect on my walls much like they used to.  I tried to fall asleep on the couch with the lights on and the lights off.  

But the storm of my memory continues on.  I see his smile.  I feel his arms.  I can hear his breath.  But, I am alone.  

It's amazing how I can still possess love for him even after it all.  It's the kind of romantic love that I had for him during our many joyful storms, of course, but the love that prays for his well-being, despite the popular consensus I shouldn't wish for that.  But, God loves him, and so should I. 

And that love that God allows me to hold for him and for his soul makes the storm tonight so much more lonely than I was prepared for.

Thank Heavens God calms the storms.  He has calmed each of the tempests that He helped me navigate or carried us through in the last two years, after all. I am not the strong one, and I am no sailor on the wicked seas. He is the strong one, and He is in me. He is the anchor and the guide. I'll cry out to Him.  I will beg Him to comfort me. These storms shall pass, too.

There are lyrics that resonate perfectly tonight in a song by Casting Crowns...
"As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away


And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm"

One Day

One day. One fine day. One fine day, someday.

Just one. Just one to start.

The past few days, I have been revisiting memories. This time a year ago, things were so rocky and unstable. I was still fighting the fight for my children to have a decent, loving father in their lives. I was still attempting to rebuild trust. 

I know that God calls us not to dwell on the past, but, as I am human as all of you, from time to time, it sneaks back up on me.  Knowing that we aren't supposed to be focusing our emotions and effort on the things we can't change, I make a conscious effort to stop and turn to God and pray when these times arise, but sometimes I don't even notice I'm doing it right away.

That said, the past few days have been emotionally taxing.  I have spent quite a few moments confiding in a few friends and praying, and reminding myself just how much better my life really is this year.  I keep telling myself that it is better to have stability in my children's lives than to have their father sneaking in and out, unreliable, inconsistent, and sneaking his boyfriend around them and sneaking the children around his boyfriend's family.  

But almost every year around this time, for many years anyway, I have had a break.  I have had a few hours to a couple days where I was child free, carefree, and spending time with a friend I see roughly once a year now that we are done with college.  

This year is different, because their dad isn't around.  While I am delighted and excited that our yearly visit is coming up, it brings the trauma back into my mind, remembering how it felt to find out what was happening while my children were away, and the repercussions that followed leading up to their dad being completely absent from their lives in pretty much every way nowadays.

But one day... hopefully... at least one day... someday...

He won't cross my mind at all.  Not once.  Not in a single memory.  Not in any shape or form.  Not a happy memory. Not a sad memory.  Nothing.  Just one day of peace.  

I pray that, anyway.

I know that I will always be bound to him in some regard, because together we created three wonderful children.  I see him in their appearances and their personalities and temperaments sometimes.  And I miss him.   Or I miss parts of him, the idea of the him I thought I knew, and what it was like to have someone around keeping me company in this crazy world of toddlers and preschoolers.

Even the happy memories make my heart ache just like the less happy memories.  They leave me aching for myself and for my children.

One day, I hope that ache doesn't arise even for a second.  

I don't want to forget him.  I don't want to really forget the trauma that lead us to where we are, because it's a part of our testimonies and God has done miraculous and glorious things.  

But, just one day, I would like a break.  

Just one day. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Milestones and Sadness

Yesterday I was emotional.

Collin had his last day in his room at daycare and he brought his teacher flowers. It shouldn't seem like that big of a deal since he's nearly four.

I realized that Norah recently turned two, Spencer just graduated from preschool, and what seemed like all of a sudden Colin was moving from the same room at daycare that he had been in for 18 months to an entirely different floor of the building with new teachers. 

I was overwhelmed.

I had about three good cries in the middle of the night when I realized what it was that was really upsetting me. It was the absence of their father, yet again. I told a couple of friends about it yesterday through teary eyes, and another through a text.

The text was from a friend who has also spent years as a single mom. Even after years of being apart from her former husband, she was still sad sometimes at milestones, like graduations and weddings. Even her husband, who is not the biological father, was sad about it sometimes.

 It dawned on me... I am not sad about the milestones necessarily, although they are bittersweet and pull a mama's heart strings. I am not sad for myself. I am just sad, and it is OK to be sad.

I am sad for my children and the void in their lives.

 I am sad for my former husband, their father, and all that he is missing out on.

I know, however, that I cannot take on that burden for him, or the responsibility of his actions, as tempting (yet unappealing) as it may feel at times.

 He may not realize how much he's missing out on, and that also makes me sad for him. 

But one day, he will realize what he's missed out on- the years, the milestones, the memories, the laughter... and if his heart is softened and his mind is clear, he will be sad. 

That makes me sad too, because I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.

It is OK to be sad sometimes.

I know that I'll always have moments I'm sad about, like these, but I am healing, and it will not bog me down continuously like it had months before. 

God has us. Through all of the changes all along the way, he has been by your side, comforting us and leading us through.

These milestones may produce sadness, but it cannot and should not overwhelm the joy, the accomplishment, the love, and the pride I feel over my children and all that they are becoming. They're beautiful, wonderful little people.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Second First Mother's Day

Tomorrow is my sixth Mother's Day. The year I was pregnant with Spencer, his dad had flowers delivered to me while he was at work.

This year is my first Mother's Day. It's my first one as a single mother whose children haven't heard a word from their dad in nearly a year.

Truth be told, I don't know how I feel about it. Indifferent at the moment, depressed yesterday, empowered this afternoon... 

It is what it is.

I would have never chosen to be the only parent in my children's lives under normal circumstances.

Had I known my former husband would ditch us after we had kids, would I still have started a family with him? 

Why even ponder that question. I've pondered it. There's no answer. There doesn't need to be.

I was created to be mom to these three miracles. It's my purpose. God called on me to carry this beautiful burden.

While it is a difficult, grueling calling, it is mine, and I am blessed. I am thankful. I am terrified. I am confident.

I am Mom. I am Momma. I am Mommy. 

My children are still young and although they created beautiful art at daycare to celebrate, I am not certain they understand Mother's Day. The day is no different to them, I am sure, than any other day.

But, to me... It's a celebration. It's a celebration of all moms of every kind, as well as women who have the heart of mothers and bless children by choice.

But, this year, it's a celebration of me, too. I celebrate how far we have come when we could have fallen further. I celebrate the laughter and joy in my children's eyes. I celebrate the tantrums and struggles and the fact we always get though them and smile not long after. I celebrate the fact that instead of giving up, I stepped up. I celebrate my fight for my children.

Happy Mother's Day to me (and to you)!

Little Graduate

Dear Spencer,

Last night was your first of many educational graduations. Last night, you graduated from preschool! I know that critics may claim it is not a true graduation, and quite honestly, years ago, I would have been one of them. Now that I am your Momma, I feel much differently.

Buddy Boy, I am so proud of you. Ever since you were a toddler and the first color you learned was chartreuse (of all things), I knew you had amazing potential. You learned your colors and shapes very early on, and your alphabet and numbers soon after. My heart was so full of joy, feeling like you were following in my honor roll footsteps. You spent much of your first four years at home with me, and I relished these years and took your education (as) seriously (as I could with your siblings and the assorted chaos of our lives).

It fractured my heart a bit when life's curveballs made it so you had to attend daycare and other women would be spending their days with you. 

I was also very nervous. You are my first born, the one who taught me how to be a mommy, and our bond was special. It was laden with challenges of your quirky personality and hate for change and new circumstances. I was very apprehensive to let you be in the care of strangers who didn't know what made you nervous, what brought you joy, and everything in between.

Last night was your graduation program. While you did not participate in the singing, I am proud of you. Last night, you joined your class in your classroom beforehand, willingly and happily, despite your tears and pleads not to on the way there. At one point, you even agreed to stand up front.

I know many adults may criticize us and my decision to not press the issue of you performing. When you walked in and saw the crowd, you panicked. I know thousands of adults would have done the same. An adult would call it a panic attack, anxiety, an extreme phobia, or other such thing, but when it comes to a little guy like yourself, it's often not seen with the same understanding and grace. I am sure many would be disappointed that I did not try to force you against your will to join.

But I heard your scared cry and I let you sit beside me. We watched the program together while you sang along quietly, and in between songs, I would try to urge you to join.  You would chose to stay in the audience. That was okay.

Your accomplishments, your strength, your intellect, your worth... None of that is measured by your willingness to stand in front of tons of strangers who are staring at you as you perform. Some people love performing. Many don't. Your mom is one who tenses up and gets nervous in front of an audience, so I understand.

I will always encourage you to try. I will work to develop your bravery, and we will continue to pray for bravery and strength in situations like that. I believe one day you will join, and you will be so proud of yourself for doing so.

Until then, know that you're amazing, even out of the spotlight. You know so many things, you can do so many things, you have the emotional intelligence of an elementary school student for sure, you have a huge, compassionate, and empathetic heart, and you bring so many of us such great joy. Many know this of you already, some refuse to see it or understand, but one day, countless people will know.

I am so blessed to be your Momma, my little graduate. You have big things in store for your future!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Children and Light

I have mentioned in the past how grateful I am that my children and I have found a home church- the Church at the Gate.  Due to circumstances surrounding their father's abandonment, it was too difficult for the kids especially to continue attending our former home church, and one weekend last June, I attended CATG for the very first time, and aside from weekends when we were too ill or it was negative 40 degrees outside, we have attended church there every Sunday and many Wednesdays since.

Now, I love our church, and I have started to be a bit more open and friendly with other members, but I still find myself quite reserved, especially with people my own age.  I am not entirely certain why I find it harder to connect with them other than often they're two parent households with young children and I feel in my own mind like I don't fit in.  Even that is a bit of an assumption.  But, I often find myself connecting with people who are a little further along in life than I am, with children older than my own.  I feel more at peace with them, but I think I've always sort of been that way. I remember loving to spend a lot of time with my aunts and uncles growing up, as well as my grandmother.

I digress.

I feel, as I stated a few posts ago, that I'm nothing more than an ordinary, forgettable person who blends into the crowd (unless my kids are being boisterous).  I'm used to this, especially after my former husband was the charmer and charismatic one, and I was just sort of there.  He was the socializer for our family.

Before the message began at church today, as always, we engaged in worship after greeting one another.  As is occasionally true, God speaks to me individually during this time.  Today, He spoke twice.

During the greeting part, I shook a few hands.  I have been challenging myself to branch out further and walk farther away from my seat and to greet people that I don't know.  It's tough, and I do not succeed as well as I would like to claim.  Every Sunday though, there are two people who I always see.  One shakes my hand as I return to my seat, but the other finds me if I haven't found her yet, and for the last month or so as I have been recovering from the pneumonia and broken rib, she's suddenly been giving me hugs.

Another thing about me is that during the last couple years of my marriage, although I love hugs, both giving and receiving, I've found myself questioning whether it is okay, whether I can, or should give a hug to any given person at any given time.  I found myself feeling this way in my marriage, unsure if I could hug my own husband, but not really knowing why.  So, I struggle with that still and overthink giving an actual hug.  But, I will gladly receive one at most any time.

Goodness, I cannot seem to stay on topic today.

So, as is becoming customary, I approached this beautiful and friendly woman who is older than I, as I have many Sundays before, and for the fourth or fifth time ever, she gave me a huge hug.  Today, after asking how I was and I inquiring about her, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're always such a bright light in my day. I love seeing you here."

I stared at her, probably blushing, feeling incredibly shocked, and said "I really don't know how to respond to that, but thank you."  She smiled and hugged me again and I returned to my seat thinking about the moment.  And then I laughed.

As per my last post, you may (correctly) assume I've been exhausted and stressed out.  I feel like I've been in a funk the past few days after a pretty wonderful week all around.  I personally have been seeing myself as closed off, not very friendly, and certainly not full of light.  But then, I felt like God was whispering to me, "You shine."  

I shine?  Me?  No way.

I have Christ in me.   I prayed with a friend this week over my relationship and understanding with the Holy Spirit.  It's a concept I understand less than my relationship with God and Jesus.  As we prayed, I visualized the wall that I had between the Spirit and I formed a door, and with her encouragement, physically stepped through it.  She asked what I felt or saw, and I said something about it being much brighter.  She talked with me and affirmed that I do have the Holy Spirit within me (which I knew theoretically but still do not entirely grasp, yet to day).

Well, I think the Holy Spirit is what gives us our light.  

I don't see my own light.  I really don't. Not often. And when I think I see it I am probably way off anyway, so I try not to dwell on it too much.  But today, someone I see once a week for a few moments at a time told me that I'm a bright light to her.  

The ironic thing is- she's a light in my eyes.  She's one of many I see at church regularly and think to myself "s/he's got Jesus inside."  You can just see it radiate in their face, their actions, and their words.

I then recalled a month or so ago how a coworker that I do not work with often had written me a note telling me that she sees Jesus in me. I remembered tears in my eyes and some confusion as I read the whole note, not understanding how others see that in me when I feel I cannot sense it myself.

When we were singing, and truthfully I do not remember which song at the time, I was contemplating the whole light situation, and my thoughts were suddenly turned to my childhood.  The lyric was about having God with us every day, he wouldn't let us fall, and he never failed us.  He's faithful, always faithful.  That song.  While singing it, I realized that I am one of the fortunate ones who has grown up with God.

My grandmother was one of my best friends, and I am so blessed to be able to say that, because she is the biggest reason, I believe, that I had faith growing up.  I loved to spend time with her, and many Sundays, I would go to church with her.  I went to Sunday School and parochial school for a couple years beginning my education, but after, for the most part, my family went to church on holidays, until we moved into town  and I started going to church regularly with my Grandma.  (At least this is how I remember it, though I believe it's fairly accurate.)  I continued going with her through my junior high and high school years when I entered confirmation classes, taught VBS for one summer, and was confirmed. I absolutely adored sitting next to her in that sanctuary with the bright red carpet listening to our pastor and singing hymns. The sermon notes required for confirmation class were never a burden, they were interesting to me.

I went to college at an ELCA Lutheran college for two years, did youth lock-ins with an outreach ministry, and worked at a bible camp in the summer.

Without my grandma's light, I don't think any of that would have happened.

While I strayed somewhat from time to time, distancing myself from our Father, He never left me, and I never abandoned him.

I have often worried about the effect I have on my own children's faith, and I worry more often than I should that I will fail them or I'm not doing good enough.

And God told me this morning, "One light is enough."  Yeah, because my grandma was the one light I had.  And I can be the one light to my children.

The message began and it was about raising the faithful- raising children in the church.

While I went to a church and "belonged" to it as a child, the church, to me, didn't feel like I believe it feels to my children now.  I had adults there and all, but I wasn't really close to them.  And our church is filled with not only children, but an amazing children's ministry with a loving pastor and countless volunteers who I know help my children feel loved and important and special.

The message was aimed at us adults and how we need to make sure we have inter-generational relationships, and how the children learn scripture and God's word in the classes on Sundays and Wednesdays, but it is our job to share the testimony of his Goodness and Faithfulness in our own lives, so they can see the Word brought to life. Our pastor urged us all to connect with the children and speak Life and Truth over them and share our testimony.

And then I felt overwhelmingly grateful for the adults in my children's lives who have been doing this already for many months.

I'm not alone in this.  Yes, I'm one light.  But my children have many.  So, even when they are not with me, they are at daycare in our church with teachers who have lights.  And they spend time with our dear friends every so often in their home, and I know they speak God's word and His love to my children, and they see them living and striving for a Godly life.

I realize I have many friends and family who are believers, but not a lot of them ever really talk about it, especially with my children.  Most do not urge them to pray, though, or bring God into every day conversation.  

Our pastor spoke also about the children having a strong anointing.  I believe this to be true of my children, though they are so young.  My oldest, I have been told, is an amazing prayer warrior, and he is only five.  It blows me away, because my prayer life is something I am still really working on shaping, and often feel overwhelmed or confused about how to pray, when to pray, which words to use, and so forth.  But, according to some, my son has it in him.  When our pastor spoke of anointing, that's immediately what I thought of- my prayer warrior.  I realized as pastor spoke about the children's ministry in our church how blessed we are to be there, yet again.  There are adults there who notice these gifts in the children and work to strengthen and guide them, which is such a blessing to this momma who worries and struggles on her own sometimes.