Monday, April 30, 2018

You are the vine

This reflection is brought to you by
John 15:1-8.

You are the vine
and we are the branches.

Apart from you
we don't exist;
we are nothing;
we have nothing;
we can do nothing.

But since you are everything,
and have given us all that we need,
we can bear your fruit
in our reaching out to others,
in our love for those on the fringes,
in our care for creation,
and in the hope you give that we can share with the world.

In other words, we're MUCH better than fine.

Thank you for choosing us to live in you.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Garden blessing

For the last several years, each Spring, I've followed a simple ritual to bless my garden. It started because I didn't really know what to do with my old blessed palms from previous Palm Sundays. I'd heard that if you didn't put them into the Ash Wednesday or Easter fires, you should burn them, but somehow that didn't seem like enough.

So I made up a little garden blessing ritual of my own. On a calm, windless day, I take my old palms out to the garden, dig a little pit, put them in it and light a match. I sing This Little Light of Mine (or other spiritual songs that have to do with light or fire) while the palms burn down to ashes. Then I sprinkle little bits of the ashes in the many corners of my garden, and finally the four corners of our yard. And I say little prayers aloud, that go something like this:

thank you for your abundant blessings.

Thank you for this soil,
which you have given,
and for the seeds
that you will make to grow here.

Bless our garden and help it to flourish:
bless the tomatoes and the berries,
the potatoes and the squash,
and all the others,
along with the birds, butterflies,
bees, spiders,
and other creatures who visit
or live here.

(I hope the hummingbird comes back again this year!)

Give us all warmth and sun,
and rain when we need it.

Please protect this garden,
and all our gardens,
from drought or hail or damaging pests.

(And if you could keep the mosquito population to a dull roar,
I'd really appreciate it!)

Protect our trees from strong winds,
and the birds
who come to splash in the birdbath
or nibble the snow peas.

And if we should have one of THOSE storms,
may I be as gracious as Job and say,
"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away;
blessed be the name of the Lord."

(Oh, look, the first lady bug!)

And bless the farmers,
whose gardens are so much bigger than mine!

Please bring us all to a happy harvest,
and help us to share our abundance with others who need it.

Thank you for all the life
that lives in this sacred space.

Bless it,
and bless us,
and help us to remember
that your whole world
and all beings within it
form a beautiful and blessed garden
that deserves our love and care.


And once I've scattered the ashes and wandered around the yard, looking for little points of green, I fill in my little fire pit and go look for the packet of sweet peas I ordered from the garden catalogue.

Let the planting begin!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The gift of diabetes

It dawned on me, just the other day, that I've been living with diabetes (Juvenile or Type 1) for 35 years now. If it weren't for these pen needles (and all sorts of other paraphernalia which has evolved since 1983), I wouldn't be here, nor would my kids. If not for Frederick Banting and Charles Best, millions of people like me would have very short and tragic lives. You could say that I'm grateful to be on this side of the grass every day.

When I "came down with" diabetes back in 1983, it was kind of like coming down with the flu. I was sick with some sort of virus for a couple of days, and then went back to "normal" -- except for an unquenchable thirst. The thirst meant that I had to use the High School bathroom (where the smokers hung out) more often, and when I finally complained about it to my mom, she decided I should see our family doctor. He gave me a diet to follow for a day or two, and sent me for a blood test, which I took early one morning, just before heading to my university orientation day events.

I'll never forget my mom's relief when I got home late that afternoon. The blood test had come back with extremely high blood glucose results, enough for the doctor to call my mom immediately, concerned that I could drop into a diabetic coma at any moment. In those days before cell phones, Mom had no choice but to worry until I walked through the door at the end of the day.

What Mom told me when I arrived home was a shocker, but I did my best to take it in stride, spending a week at a diabetes clinic, learning about how to eat wisely, take insulin, test for blood sugars, and treat insulin reactions. My biggest worry at the time was missing a week of math class and not being able to catch up (and sure enough, I barely passed the course). Otherwise, I managed pretty well, or so I thought.

Being the only person with diabetes out of a large extended family, I've often been asked if there's a family genetic disposition toward it. I usually reply, "Nope, I just got lucky, I guess." But really, I have been lucky. For the first 8 years that I had diabetes, I was living in semi-denial. I took my insulin, but I wasn't particularly careful with my diet, even though I had met people with diabetes who were much younger than me and already having problems with their kidneys or eyesight. Complications are a big deal for people with diabetes. Heart and kidney disease often come with it, not to mention nerve damage, blindness and a host of other issues. Fortunately, I come from parents with pretty good genetics to begin with! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

It wasn't until I met the love of my life and we decided to have a family that I got really serious about my "regime." It took a lot more blood testing, constant insulin adjustment, and up to eight needles a day in order to have three healthy kids. If I'm honest, it's having my own little family who was counting on me that really shook me out of my denial and made me the healthy diabetic I am today. My acquaintances always seem to be surprised if my diabetes somehow comes up in conversation.

My comment about just getting lucky, having diabetes, might seem like a flippant one, and honestly, it was for many years, but now, it's true. My diabetes has been a gift in many ways. Not that I wouldn't be thrilled if someone came up with a cure and I could live without my 5 shots a day, finger pokes, and tingling feet (I'm starting to get some neuropathy, and I blame the vertigo that I've learned to live with for the last six years on it). I'd love to eat anything I want without worrying about my blood sugar levels, too. But at the same time, I do see where my diabetes has made my entire family live better in many ways. My intimate knowledge of the Canada Food Guide from my youth means I've always been one to cook pretty balanced meals, and the general lack of sweets in our home means my kids have grown up healthy and cavity free.

Not that there haven't been challenges. Switching from beef and pork (belated thanks, cows and pigs...) to newer synthetic insulins was tricky, and there have been times when my life swung widely between highs and lows until things evened out or a new insulin came along. For a while, my blood sugar control was too tight, and one time my mom grabbed the wheel, shouting, "HIT THE BRAKE! HIT THE BRAKE!" and saved me from a certain car accident because of an unexpected low blood glucose level. But for the most part, I have a pretty good sense of my body, probably better than I would have if I didn't have to poke my finger regularly and pay so much attention to how I'm feeling.

But the real reason that I am moodling about this topic today is that I wouldn't be a healthy person at all without the help and support of dozens, if not hundreds, of people. I owe a huge debt of thanks to my parents and sisters, my husband and kids, many friends, and hundreds of health care professionals who have shown me how to live well with a chronic disease. My GP, Dr. M, has helped me to stay on top of things for at least the last 25 years, and I absolutely love my present endocrinologist, Dr. H. And, of course, I have nothing but deep gratitude for Banting and Best -- and all those who are working in medical research and development to cut the impact of diabetes in our world. Diabetes doesn't have to be a death sentence, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Thank you from the bottom of my pancreas and the depths of my heart to all those who have been so supportive for these 35 years! And, of course, the deepest gratitude to my God for sustaining me and blessing me with good health... one day at a time.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Celebrating Earth Day Sunday

It's Earth Day Sunday today, and what is my church doing about it? Not much that I can see. But that needs to change.

Almost three years ago, Pope Francis wrote  Laudato Si, a letter to the world about how human beings have to change our ways for the sake of our sister, Mother Earth, and I was very hopeful that it would be the catalyst for major ecological efforts in Catholic churches, and, at the very least, lead to more prayer and reflection designed to make our communities more aware of environmental issues. But while our Catholic liturgies often give passing mention to human beings affected by poverty, oppression and natural disasters, they still ignore the plight of our planet's other zillions of creatures. Praying "for our good and the good of all creation" isn't really on our radar, and I have yet to hear a priest give a homily on something found in Laudato Si.

Other churches have been on the Earth Day bandwagon for years, and do all kinds of things on Earth Sunday and other Sundays to raise their communities' awareness of the importance of reducing human impact on our planet. Here are just a few ideas adopted by other Christian denominations:

--Art and Garden shows (a bit too early to do that here this year, though we could do the art part!)
--Seedy Sunday Gardeners' Gatherings where seeds are swapped and composting is taught
--Speakers about Indigenous Spirituality and Creation Care
--Walk, Bike or Bus to Church Day
--Community litter collection on church grounds and in local parks
--Church energy efficiency audits
--Nature walks
and even solar panel blessings!

And these are just a few ideas. Lots more can be accessed by clicking here. Personally, I would really love to hear a good homily on how being good to our planet is part of living Christ's imperative to do to others as we would have them do to us, and encouraging us to reduce our impact on the earth. And not just one homily on Earth Sunday... many homilies, on many other Sundays throughout the year, with bits and pieces taken directly from Laudato Si, backed with solid ideas for environmentally friendly actions that individuals can undertake. In fact, it's been on my mind so much that I'm tempted to write some Laudato Si homily helps and post them here on a regular basis, if only I can find the time.

Today I might write about how our Good Shepherd looks at every being in creation, not only people, as his sheep. It wouldn't be theologically correct to suggest that God worries as much as I do about the 76 remaining Salish Sea Orcas whose existence will be even more threatened by tanker traffic and potential oil spills if the Kinder Morgan Pipeline goes through. However, I'm sure that nature would be better off, and we along with it, if we could find ways to rely less on fossil fuels for the sake of all of God's amazing creatures. So my homily help would include a recommendation that we find ways to cut our fossil fuel use for at least one day this week. It might mean extra effort or inconvenience on our parts, and it might not have a huge impact on our planet, but if enough of us do one small thing, small things add up.

It's all been said before, but it needs to be repeated until it really makes a difference. Our churches have been so focused on our souls and the things of heaven for so long that it seems we're forgetting about the things of earth that we're also supposed to look after. What's the old saying? Act like everything depends on you, and pray like everything depends on God. Catholics seem to be good at the latter, but the former needs attention too!

Here's my favourite prayer from Laudato Si, below. Pray it with me? And then think of and carry through on your own action to live more lightly on our earth in the week ahead...

 from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Update #2 -- Noticing time for ME

ME time view at the Dirt Bag Café
With home renos underway, my new job as "baking coordinator" at L'Arche Day Program, the greenhouse going full tilt and a number of other projects underway, it's been really challenging this month to find any ME time in this ME year. Even finding my way to my prayer chair is impossible this week as it's covered in painting cloths! And meditation while dog-walking doesn't seem to work. The birds' spring songs and mating celebrations are too distracting... or maybe they are my meditation! Oops, watch out for the puddles!

Even so, yesterday, while chauffeuring my daughter to an appointment, I had a lovely hour of ME time with a latte and some letter writing at the Dirt Bag Café. And wouldn't you know it, in the evening I ended up there a second time, listening to my kids perform at the Café's "Open Mic" evening.

Perhaps the thing about ME time isn't setting a time and place for it, but just recognizing it for what it is as it happens -- acknowledging a moment of happiness, peace or goodness in the moment. And if that's the case, life is full of ME time... the lunch I had with a friend, the light in the sky after last night's board meeting, seeing the sun on the trees when I got up this morning, and enjoying Shadow dog's perky little jog in the spring sunshine (finally!)

ME time can be seconds, minutes, or hours. The trick is to notice when it happens, and to live the moment!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On the 107th of January

It's official. This is the longest winter on record in Edmonton, by a few days already. We're on our 171st day of sub-zero temps, but hopefully Spring won't delay much longer. Yes, we're getting more snowflakes today, and the kids down the block have built a brand new snow fort (in the park, to the right of the trellis). Last night I made my own snowman-sized snowballs just pushing a shovel.

But we're making the most of these extra winter days. We've been busy with minor home renos that take a major amount of effort. 7 hours of painting our hallway on Saturday; yesterday, today and possibly the rest of the week, the living room. Shadow has been rather confused by all the furniture in strange places, and I was going to bake bread today, only to discover that my bread book is in a cupboard covered over in newspapers!

In spite of this long run of snow and cold, there's always hope for Spring. It will arrive any minute, say my little baby tomatoes. Spring, and salad, coming soon!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Burning hearts

What does it feel like to have a burning heart?

To be consumed with love
when the voice of God speaks?

I think it happened to me this morning,
several times
as various words from scripture
filled my eyes with tears
and a longing for your presence...

Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord...

You gave me room when I was in distress...

The Lord has set apart the faithful for himself...
the Lord hears when I call...

I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord,
make me lie down in safety.  (Psalm 4)

Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us: 
make our hearts burn with love when you speak. (Gospel Acclamation)

Peace be with you... (Luke chapter 24)

And the second verse of  "Sing of One who walks beside us"

"Strangers we have walked beside him
the long journey of this day
and have told him of the darkness
that has swept our hope away.
He has offered words of comfort
words of energy and light,
and our hearts have blazed within us
as he saved us from the night.

I'm not sure why all these words hit me as they did,
but I am grateful
that you still speak to us today
of light, love and peace
in a world that so needs them.

Thank you, O God.


Friday, April 13, 2018

"I think I've changed my mind!"

My life with the L'Arche Community is shifting. Instead of spending most of my time on administrative tasks, I'm working with the core members more, much to my delight. They always make me smile.

Yesterday afternoon was no exception. It was cookie time. The gang and I made 'Oatmeal Cookies with a Purpose' from my old copy of the Mennonite More with Less cookbook. It's a recipe for a soft, easy to work with cookie dough that my Day Program friends with and without disabilities could easily shape as they pleased and decorate. Most opted to press m&ms into their cookies before baking, but a few cookies were baked un-decorated, so we iced them and put on sprinkles, as you can see in the picture.

The best moment of the afternoon was when when everyone, core members and staff alike, were joking around and happily nibbling warm fresh cookies. But my favourite anecdote occurred earlier, as I was helping to put aprons on each core member, asking if they were willing to help shape the cookies. Some I didn't even have to ask -- they were "all in" from the moment I started putting ingredients into the mixing bowl. But Lark* and Mariette* said no. They're older ladies and they usually prefer to sit and watch everyone else do things.

Not wanting to leave them out, I turned to Lark and said, "Are you sure you don't want to make cookies? If you don't make some, what will you do when the rest of us are enjoying our treats?"

An assistant piped up, "If you don't make cookies, you don't eat cookies."

I could tell that the wheels were turning as I watched Lark's expression change with the idea of no cookies. "No one else is going to make them for you," I said.

Lark paused a moment, then grinned and announced in her high, reedy voice, "I think I've changed my mind!" Mariette begrudgingly agreed with Lark, and as soon as I gave them their cookie dough, they both got right into it!

Everyone enjoyed their cookies when they were ready, and Mariette even hung in with me until the last cookie was iced and sprinkled, insisting that I deliver the pink-sugared one to her favourite staff member friend, who works in an office down the hall. Vinh, don't forget to thank her!

It was a delightful afternoon, and it was fun to see everyone in a happy mood, enjoying their cookies together. I much prefer baking with Day Program to working at a computer!

* I use pseudonyms for my L'Arche friends.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Simple Suggestion #275... Join your organ donor registry

This is pretty much a rerun of Simple Suggestion #83, Carry an organ donor card, except that now life has gone all high tech and even more of our personal information is online. This suggestion is still fairly obvious. Once we die, we don't need our organs anymore, but others might.

Some years ago, I hesitated to sign my card, thinking that no one would want any part of me since I've had Type 1 diabetes for so many years. But a nurse friend suggested that I let the experts decide on my organs' suitability since I'm basically a pretty healthy human being. My kidneys might be questionable, but I might be a perfect match for a recipient who needs other organs.

And good things have happened to people in my life because of organ donation...

Two people can see better now because my girlfriend, Pauline, who died of heart surgery complications when she was 20, was an organ donor. Her Mom got to meet one of them, a young mom who was so very grateful.

Mina's husband, Kevin, lived an extra year and got to enjoy a little more time with his wife and infant daughter because someone carried a donor card. Mina has since worked for many years with an organ donor network so that others could have the same opportunities as her little family did.

My dad's vision was saved because someone donated their corneas, and our whole family is grateful that Dad has his eyesight.

Logan Boulet, a young Humboldt Broncos player from Lethbridge, is expected to save the lives of six people because he signed his donor card just a few weeks before Friday's fatal accident, God bless him. When death comes unexpectedly, sometimes there's a little bit of comfort for families who know that someone else's life has been saved or improved because their deceased loved one registered as an organ donor. If anything positive has come from Logan's death, it's those lives that he saves and the fact that he has gotten more of us thinking about offering the gift of life, and hopefully, signing up to be donors, like he did.

Click here to link to the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry, or look up the registry closest to you. On the website above, all you need is your health care number and basic personal information to register. It's that simple.

Why put it off for another minute?

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Simple Suggestion #274... Go beyond what's expected

Back in February, I celebrated a special anniversary. It was 30 years since I met and stayed with a wonderful couple in Belgium, whom I have moodled about before on several occasions. Although they are far away, Gaby and Yvonne have been constants in my life through letters, Christmas cards, and several visits -- most recently my solitary visit with them in October of 2016.

So when I realized that the anniversary of our meeting was approaching, I decided to send them some flowers to mark the days of February 21-23, 1988, the days I first fell in love with them. I found a florist in their vicinity, placed an order for a purple orchid, and supplied a simple message about celebrating 30 years of friendship.

A week later, Gaby (who is 91) responded with an email that amazed and delighted me:

My very dear friends Lee and Maria
Yesterday when I came home at 12 h , a wonderful surprise was waiting for me .The florist had delivered it by the neighbours while I was not at home : A magnificent pink orchidee with 30 flowers in commemoration of our 30 years friendship since 1988 .  We were exceptionally touched by this affecting “ beau geste “ .

I was very happy that Gaby was so pleased, but I was even more amazed by the thoughtfulness of the florist to send an orchid with exactly 30 blossoms. Perhaps she or he knows Gaby, and that he is the kind of man who would think to count them! Or perhaps this is just someone who appreciates symbolic gestures and goes above and beyond to delight and surprise through the kind of deep attention to detail that makes for true "beau gestes."

I sent a note of thanks to the company from which I ordered the orchid, and received an email in return saying that they would forward my compliments to the florist who filled the order. Since then I've been thinking a lot about the extra things we can do, those little gestures, beau gestes that show we are paying special attention to the details of someone else's life.

So today's suggestion is to try to go above and beyond what's expected -- to pay attention to details and really make someone's day!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday Reflection: A Spirit of Peace

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio
A prayer for peace to surround the families and friends of the Humboldt Broncos and the truck driver... and all who grieve...

You return to us
after your ordeal

Put your finger here and see my hands,
you say,
because we will recognize you by the marks of what happened to you,
and because we need to feel your warmth and solidity,
your presence among us.

Reach out your hand and put it in my side,
you say.

Are you telling us that it is possible to live with our own woundedness
as you live with yours?

Do not doubt, but believe,
you tell us.

We look at our own lives
and the many moments
when we have been wounded
by things beyond our control,
by others,
and by personal struggles,
foibles and failures.

And you stand among us
as we are wounded
by things beyond our control,
by others,
and by personal struggles,
foibles and failures.

You dare to tell us that
peace is possible.

Peace be with you,
you say.

Do not doubt, 
but believe.

In the face of horrendous accidents,
the deaths of friends,
and our mistakes and insecurities
you breathe your peace on us,
Receive the Holy Spirit. 

Blessed are those who have not seen 
and yet have come to believe.

In these days of grief and loss,
we believe.
Help our unbelief.
Fill us all with your peace.


Friday, April 6, 2018

An emotional wringer of a week

This week was tough and emotionally wearing. Yesterday our L'Arche community said goodbye to our dear friend, Anthony*, and on our way home from that funeral, we learned that another dear friend had just died. It would be too much to handle if we weren't Easter People who believe in the resurrection.

Today we held a first farewell gathering for our second friend, Tim. Plenty of tears and laughter, and lots of funny stories, one of which I had completely forgotten from back in November of 2010. I'm remoodling it below, because it's such a good one.

* * * * * * *

It didn’t take long for the members of Little Flower house to get tired of doing dishes by hand when the old dishwasher broke down on the weekend. Tim, honourary home maintenance guy and core member, drew a picture of a new dishwasher, showed it to everyone in the house, and they all signed their names to what became a rather effective make-shift petition.
Tim brought his petition to the General Body Meeting on Monday night, and showed it to the entire L’Arche Edmonton community, finally giving it to the community leader, Sister Pat. She showed it to the Board Chairperson, Wendy, who surprised everyone (including herself, we suspect) by announcing that she would take the petition to a few appliance stores the next afternoon, and see if perhaps she could convince one of them to donate a brand new dishwasher.
On Tuesday morning, Wendy told her curling team the story of Little Flower’s dishwasher petition, and showed it to her friends at the rink, explaining her intended errand that afternoon. She was surprised again when one of her teammates wrote her a cheque for a new dishwasher, asking only that a charity receipt be issued to her husband’s business. 

Tim’s efforts got results faster than any other known petition!

* * * * * * *
God bless you, Tim. We miss you already.
*I usually use pseudonyms for my L'Arche friends. Tim is an exception to the rule.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Simple Suggestion #148 revisited: Naturals of the World, Unite!

It's been a year since my hairstylist/neighbour put some natural plant-based dyes into a small swatch of my bangs. Since that bit of silly blue hair, I've decided that I'm done with all haircolour, and I've been delighting in the folks I know who are leaving their hair to be its natural tint. As my hair moves beyond ash to glacial grey, it's nice to know that others are comfortable with colour changes. We are aging gracefully, or something!

And there are solid ecological reasons to leave our hair in a natural state. To put it simply, with places like Johannesburg living with water shortages, droughts in other parts of the globe, and what's sure to be another dangerous wildfire season in parts of Canada again this year because of climate change, the idea of spoiling our local freshwater with all those chemicals for the sake of haircolour seems just plain wrong. I can live very happily with what Mother Nature has given me, even if it isn't trendy.

In an effort to encourage others to live more simply and less chemically, I thought I'd offer a poem I wrote almost ten years ago. Feel free to share it with all the Naturals you know.

Naturals of the World, Unite!

Naturals of the world, unite!
Those whose tresses have some grey or white,
All who are whom they’re meant to be,
Join in uncoloured unity.

We refuse to join the throng
who sit in salon chairs all day long
In chemicals and net and foil
while stylists all around them toil.

They say, “Hair that is ash or white or grey
makes you look like you’ve had your day.
Auburn, burgundy or maroon
will have you looking younger, soon!”

The beauty business stole my mind.
It brainwashed me, but now I find
that a haircolour “personality” quiz
can’t tell me what my true colour is.

Mother Nature seems to know best
the colour I need, so here’s the test:
Can I accept Nature’s reality
as party of my “personality?”

Why so much stress on eternal youth?
What’s so wrong with living the truth?
Does grey hair make me less than the ones
who live by the adage, “Blondes have more fun”?

My head may not look as young as theirs,
but I’ve worked hard for my grey hairs,
and I don’t feel the need to be
masked like a celebrity.

Greys like me used to be the main target
of the hair colouring industry market
but things have changed in the last ten years.
Now it’s going after my teen daughters and their peers!

“But Mom, everyone is colouring their hair,
and if I can’t do it, that’s just not fair!”
The incidence of hair colouring is up 50 percent
but the hair industry won’t tell us how much we’ve spent.

So Clairol, L’oreal and Garnier
over my head will have no say.
Nor will I give them a single cent
for their brand of hair luxuriant.

For when I think of the water I drink
running through the beautician’s sink
full of chemicals and dyes,
I ask myself, is colouring wise?

Where does that coloured water end?
How many ecosystems do I spend
to have that manufactured look
we see in many a beauty book?

If I want to be treated or pampered,
the planet’s environment shouldn’t be hampered.
And neither should I be with chemicals
or with psychological pressure from hair-dye commercials.

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free
from chasing my roots eternally.
So friends, please join me in my quest
to lay these hair colour demons to rest.

I am who I am, I’m real, I’m free
in voluntary simplicity
I’ll forgo hair dye’s needless mask,
and am sure to tell others, if they ask:

Naturals of the world, Unite!
Those with tresses dirty blonde or mousy brown or plain black or silver or white
All who are whom they’re meant to be
Join in uncoloured unity!


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!

This song is God's little chat with Job, and Job's response. And it's perfect for today. Thanks to Cathy for bringing it to my attention!

Happy Easter, my friends!