Category Archives: Human

Mid-Life Crisis? Me? Umm.. No.

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“Girls Night Out”  Me (left) with two of my amazing friends, Natascha and Kate, on my trip to California.

I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”

I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him.  The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex.  He had to have been.  Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)?  The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul.  (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)

“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone.  To me, this phrase smacks of negativity.  As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.

Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.

Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis. 

“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery.  It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.”  So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing.  Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what?  Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us.  If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place.  And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses.  Will we ever come back?  I hope not.

I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough.  I’m a threat.  I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest.  I’m a break from their safe routine.

The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.

So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.

The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well.  So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery….  Cheers!

A Nasty That Can’t Be Cured With Penicillin

You know what it is.  Sometimes it’s hereditary, sometimes it’s picked up from the environment we’re in.  It can be in the air, easily passed along from one person to another.  A lot of the time we’re scratching our head wondering where the hell it came from.  And it’s not gender specific.  Both male and female can be afflicted.

Though there are a few people in the human population who are immune to this, like, say Mother Teresa, most of us are able to steer clear of it, but even the toughest ones can fall prey.

Like me, for example.  I contracted a bout of this many years ago after being around someone with a similar affliction.  It was short-lived, fortunately, but from that day on, I’ve been diligent about keeping myself free and clear.

What is this Nasty?  Pure, undiluted Meanness.

The day it hit me, I had a slap-in-the-face reality check.  After some particularly choice words from my ex over the subject of laundry, of all things, I came back at him with a line so vile, so below the belt, both of our jaws dropped.  Neither of us could believe that I, one of the nicest people I know (okay, I’m in the top 100 of those I know), could have actually said what I did.  It was so out of character, so…so…not me.   All I could do was close my mouth and slink away.  I couldn’t even say I was sorry.  Because I had meant it at the time.  That was the part that shocked me – that I was even capable of saying something so hurtful.  Since that day I have kept my mind and mouth in check, because the look on my ex’s face will burn forever in my brain.

But what about others who do this on a constant basis?  Earlier this week some friends, including “T” from Give Me A Valium With My Latte, and I were talking and the conversation turned to women who were nasty, bitchy, and just plain mean.  We’re not talking about comments in the privacy of our own homes or amongst friends, but out-in-public mean – words intending to hurt, words that travel with such high velocity, they embed in others, compelling the receiver to “pay it forward,” or at least shoot it right back at the originator with intent to maim.  It has a ripple effect and unless we’re skilled at dodging that bullet (which few of us are), many of us tend to get defensive, ball up our fists, and get ready to throw the insults right back.

That is an example of a short-lived case, sort of like the flu or a cold.  As  soon as the offending person leaves our orbit, we’re back to our sweet selves.

I see that situation on a daily basis with my boys.  Separated, they are angels.  Together, I’m packing my bags, ready for a Tijuana run just to avoid their energy.  My oldest asked me once, “Mom, why is he so mean?”  I wanted to shake him into next week and ask, “What do you expect when you treat him the same way?”  But I didn’t.  We’d had that same conversation at least one hundred times.  There was no need to repeat it.  My words obviously weren’t going to be sinking in anytime soon.

Some people, unfortunately, are raised in that nasty kind of environment, so when they step out their front door, they are ready to face the world with a frown and a bad attitude.  They are the ones who suffer with chronic meanness.  They are the ones who have no intention of entering rehab.  They are the ones my friends and I were having a “discussion” about this week.

It’s sad, really.  Friends and family are alienated from our lives because of the words they choose to utter.  (My big brother and I, for example.)  Cultures are separated because of the inability to reach for a positive or grateful thought.

I’ve never understood the concept of being mean to one another, to purposely set out to dig under another’s skin until they bleed.  Perhaps it feeds the need to feel superior.  I don’t know.  Like I said.  I don’t get it.  “T” and I, along with many of my friends, prefer to live in a “no drama zone,” and I think that’s where I’m going to set up house.  Not only is it easier on the body, but just think how much money we’ll save in Botox injections.  Sheesh.

Digging The Skeletons Out Of The Closet

My mind is still abuzz with the editing and book cover design for my soon-to-be-released YA paranormal (the book cover, by the way, is being created by Crystalyn Abercrombie, natural-born artist and expert inker, who should be known the world over – OMG, OMG, OMG – it is fabulous!!!), so for today’s post, I decided to clean out the mental closet – a nice break from the routine.

Following in the footsteps of my fellow bloggers, August McLaughlin, Amber West, Tim O’Brien, Natalie Hartford, and Tameri Etherton, each who have done posts similar to this, I thought it would be fun to do a little Q & A session with you all, at Tameri’s urging, to see if you knew how much of a Goody-Goody I was/am (or not).

Here’s how this works:  I’ll list some things that I may or may not have done.  Your challenge is to let me know in the comments section which items you think are true or false.  In a couple of days, I’ll give you the answers.

This should be interesting.  I wonder what impression you have of me, given the previous soul-revealing posts I’ve written.

So, let’s get started:

1.         In high school, I was a forgery expert.

2.         In the 1980s I made Tijuana runs and snuck bottles of Everclear grain alcohol back across the border.

3.         I helped organize a relief effort for Hurricane Katrina survivors in 2005.

4.         I snuck backstage at a UFO concert back in the 1980s.

5.         In college I cut my hair within inches of my scalp as a dare from my sorority sisters.

6.         I slept in the gutter outside of my college dorm after a particularly wild night.

7.         While working in the Security Department in college, I was a model employee.

8.         I stole a moped.

9.         I used to make cookies and distribute them to residents in retirement homes.

10.       My college roommates and I had were very thrifty and furnished our apartment with stolen furniture.

"Did she or didn't she?" Photo: prevention.com

There you have it.  How well do you think you know me?  Educated guesses and stabs in the dark are totally allowed.

Promises, Promises, Promises…

I gave myself a ring – a promise ring of sorts - a permanent reminder to love and honor myself and to never lose sight of me again.

I promise to hold myself up to the light of truth, to acknowledge my worthiness, and to know that I am not somehow flawed,  but a work in progress.

I promise to go easy on myself on days when my reserves are low and to make it okay to say no.

I promise to praise myself as much as I praise others.

I promise to be grateful for all that I have accomplished and know what I have not yet accomplished is on its way.

I promise to see the woman in the mirror and always find something to be grateful for.

I promise to love without restraint if only for the sole reason that I am capable of doing so.

I promise to trust my inner voice, for I truly do know the best decision to make – the one that works for me.

I promise to use my experiences to my advantage, to learn from them, not berate or minimize them.

I promise not to take myself too seriously, to laugh a bit more, to take a few more risks, and to do things because I want to, not because I should.

I promise not to settle for less than I deserve.

I promise to believe that I can and will accomplish what I intend.

I promise to fix my nail polish if it gets chipped.  It might seem trivial, but it’s also the little things that make the big difference in how I feel about myself.

Angels Do Walk Among Us

I was all ready to do a post about something completely different than what this has turned out to be.  I was chatting with a good friend about what my blog was going to be about and he suggested posting on the insanity of the Christmas season.  My reply was that it was overdone and I had already touched upon it in a prior post.  Besides, I thought later, I really wanted to keep away from the negative side of the season, the side of which my children, the youngest one anyway, seems to have been sucked into – the lists, the wanting more and more – I want, I want, I want – without regard for anyone (me) else.  The whole thing was making me  cranky.   I didn’t need to add to it.

So I set upon a path for a completely different blog, but I kept thinking about a post that Give Me a Valium With My Latte posted on Facebook today, and once again, the direction of my blog shifted, and I began to smile.

The spirit of Christmas had entered the building.

We all know times are tough for many and this time of year adds a little more pressure on those who struggle financially.  The desire to please and the desire to keep a roof over our heads crash in the middle and communication just breaks down.  But we find a way, somehow, with cutting corners here and there, or whatever it takes to make it through.

As it turns out, kind and loving people are stepping in and lending a hand, just because that is what resonates in their heart.  They have been dubbed the Layaway Angels.

These incredible people have stepped up to the plate and hit home runs for many, many people who used the layaway option at K-Mart stores as a way to purchase gifts for Christmas.  Before these people were scheduled to pay off the balance of their purchases last week, many of these earth angels had taken care of the balances for these customers, leaving them in tears – very, very happy tears.  For those fortunate enough to have been touched, this will be a Christmas to remember.

You can read the full story here.   It’s not very long, and well worth your  time.  The video had me in tears.

To me, this is what Christmas is all about.  The giving.  The love.  The reaching out.  It could take the shape of a check, a hug, a plate of homemade fudge, a warm meal, or the gift of song.  Whatever works.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

A Sigh…The Period At The End Of My Thought

We all do it.  Or rather don’t do it.  We don’t always say what we think. You know what I’m talking about.  We’re on the verge of saying something, but then we cover our thoughts with sighs and forced smiles.

We put on that façade because…sometimes it’s just easier.  Easier to slip out of the conversation unnoticed.  Explanations usually only complicate the situation, opening the door to more discussion and blatant exposure of our soul.  We are called on to answer questions that sometimes catch us off guard, tricking us into revealing more than we had ever intended.  With everything so transparent, we are up for scrutiny with emotional poking and prodding and curious interrogation.

So, instead we come up with pretty words, smoke-screen phrases, trick-of-the-light diversions that lead our companions down one alleyway, while we’re running like hell the down the other, looking for the nearest dumpster or empty doorway to hide in until the perceived threat passes.

Photo: comicbookresources.com

Or maybe that’s just me.

Okay, so I tend to hide sometimes.  Even when my heart screams yes, my mind slaps me upside the head and says, “Are you nuts?  What are you thinking?”   For years the tides of emotion in my house began and ended with me, and for some unknown reason, my emotions were law.  Me.  My emotions.  As if I had any expertise in that field.  Go figure.

So, to maintain a steady stream, I dubbed myself the dam keeper.  And it became a way of life.  But it doesn’t serve me anymore, and now I’m working on my letter of resignation.

As part of my “rehab,” I do let loose.  There are playgrounds I let the Wild Child run amuck, giving only a brief show of concern when the Wild Child gets too…wild.  But some neighborhoods are dark and silent, familiar, yet…not.  I tend to explore those with a bit more caution, making sure each step is solid before moving on.  But the Wild Child is always there, egging me to run through those streets barefoot.  Some days she’s so much fun to follow, and I lose track of myself.  Carefree one moment, waking up the next with such an emotional hangover, thinking…Yikes!  Did I actually do that?

Ah, but we’re all works in progress, and I’m certainly no exception.  I would even claim that none of us are the same as we were one, five, or ten years ago.  Shedding behaviors that are counterproductive – just like ridding our closets of the clothes that don’t fit us well anymore – is key, and huge to our growth.

It may be hard to part with that comfortable pair of sweatpants, but, baby, if it doesn’t look good, if it’s worn out and tired looking?  Yeah.  Just give it to the Wild Child.  She’ll know exactly what to do with it.

It Sounds As Bad As It Feels

Joe Veen weeklymoleskine.com

What does it sound like when a spirit breaks?

Is it similar to a snap, a rip, or is it like an explosion?  Maybe it is better described as the imploding of self.

It’s indescribable, actually, but it is instantaneous.  One minute we’re fine, the next minute we’re not.

I push myself hard in all areas of my life.  There are only two speeds – fast and faster.  I choose to pile my life’s plate until it spills over.  It works for me.   It is physically, mentally, and spiritually impossible for me to slow down.

And that’s why I run.  It helps to consume that extra energy that tends to shoot out like missiles in all directions.  Ironically, running is the only way I can get myself to tone the energy down somewhat before it builds back up again.

To top it all off, I tend to soak up the energy around me – positive and negative – and when I am already on the verge of erupting, this can lead to some serious danger levels.  You know, kind of like that contraption that the Ghostbusters used to catch the ghosts?

One day, after a particularly challenging day of listening to my sons fight, their words bouncing off the walls of my small office, I felt the shift.  Something was horribly wrong.  Only once before did this happen, but it was so long ago, I didn’t recognize the signs.

I knew enough to cut the day short, but instead of heading to the sanctuary of my home and seeking refuge there, I instead headed to the lake where I met with a friend of mine.  I knew my walls were cracking and this was probably not a good idea, but I went anyway.

We talked quite a bit about life, relationships, people, our past, and before I knew it, I told my friend things that I didn’t dare reveal to myself.  Things that scared me, things that hurt.  I unloaded it all, grateful that my friend didn’t turn away.  After that there was nothing left for me to purge.

I went home feeling empty and beat up, so I crawled into bed and curled up under the covers for two hours.  My son checked on my every 15 minutes, truly worried for me.  Never had he seen me like this.  Hell, even when I had pneumonia a few years back, I don’t even think the family knew I was sick.  But this…this was more intense, more debilitating.  I had broken.  I had split open my tightly sealed lock box that had been fused shut with the heat from my pace.

My mind and body had told me all that I needed to know.  I need to slow down and let go of some of the pressure.

Will I heed that advice?  Probably not.  I’ll take it into consideration, though.  These things take time.  But at least I know that, though I’m not fragile, I can break.

With all we have going on as writers, bloggers, mothers, fathers, day job workers, etc., how do we know when to draw the line?  Do you take time to decompress before or after the meltdown?  I’d love to hear from you!  I think we all could use a little advice!

Body Art – It’s Not For Everyone, But It Should Be!

Body art is not for everyone.  Many people tsk-tsk the symbols and flashy colors on every conceivable area of the body, shaking their head in wonderment at those of us who adorn our body with varying levels of self expression.  Perhaps it’s the perceived defacing of the clean slate of our skin that shocks them.  Perhaps it’s the fear of committing to something as permanent as ink nestled underneath the top layer of the skin.  Perhaps they feel it somehow diminishes a person’s worthiness.  I don’t know, and I don’t think they do either.  Whenever I ask the reason behind their reluctance to embrace the art of tattooing, the answer is usually “I just don’t like it.”

But every tattoo has a story.  Wherever a person was in their life,  they had chosen a symbol to reflect that particular moment.  It was the missing piece of the puzzle that fit perfectly into their soul at that moment in time.  Tangible documentation – something a person can point to, touch, and remember it by.  And I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who told me that they regretted their choice.

Jill, an incredible woman, very close to my heart, has allowed me to share the story of her tattoos with you:

"These represent my two sons, now both close to my heart. The cobra is from my beautiful son Jon, who passed away. The circle is from my oldest, loving son Raun. The meanings run deep in my soul." ~Jill

"Out with old, in with the new. Peony flower, just the beginning, soon to become a garden. It represents my freedom." ~ Jill

A good friend of my oldest son, got his first tattoo when he turned 17 – a tradition amongst the males in his family.  They’ve had the family crest inked onto their chest, reflecting the pride in their clan.

Starritt Family Crest

As for me, my first tattoo was about 11 years ago.  I had always wanted to get a one because I recognized I was reaching a point in my life when I was feeling a little bit bolder, a little bit rebellious, but was yet unable to make a stand.  An armband with the yin-yang symbol represented my emerging side, but the names of my sons and then-husband reminded me of the commitments I had made.

My second was about a year and a half ago, when I released my first novel, Again.  I had integrated the triskele into my story, and since the entire writing process was such a huge part of my life, I wanted to honor my efforts by having the same symbol inked on my right shoulder.

My third was actually yesterday.  The decision to get another tattoo came right out of the blue.  I was doing the day job thing, wishing that I wasn’t, sneaking peeks at Twitter and blogs, writing and reading comments – basically getting all wrapped up in the writing experience – and I was happy.  Really, really happy.  Not that I’m not normally happy. I mean, I have two incredible boys and a steady paycheck.  I live in a nice community with incredible friends and beautiful surroundings.  So, yeah.  I’m good.  But immersing myself in the world of writers and other artsy-type people just puts me in my really happy place and resonates deep within.  Like I was born to do this.  By diving into this world of writers, by writing my novel, I am one of them.

I write.

I wanted to stamp that on my hand, across my forehead, to remind myself of who I am,and to put it out to the universe and anyone else who will listen (anyone, that is, not already within my own circle of supportive, awesome, incredible brothers and sisters of Twitterville, Facebookland, and Blogopia).  Mostly, though, it was for me.  It was something I needed to do.  So I did it.   Thank you Crystalyn!

Crystalyn - Artist Extraordinaire!

I share with you now my journey of yesterday.  Photos, courtesy of my writing partner, Kathleen Mulroy.  Ink job courtesy of Crystalyn.

The stencil of my artwork

Inking the outline

Outline done

First layer of color done

Second color layer done - Finished product - Writer's quill - "Scrivo" - meaning "I write" in Italian

So stay tuned for my next story.  I’m in the process of designing my next tattoo, a symbol that is coming right out from my next novel.   I just need to figure out where I’m going to put it…

So, tell me…do you like body art?  Do you have many friends who have at least one?  Would you ever consider getting one yourself (if you don’t already have one).  I’d love to know!

Random Acts Of Kindness – Like a Good Meal, It Fills Us Up

Photo: pollsb.com

A post by Amber West started the ball rolling, suggesting we go without that something extra for a week (such as Starbuck’s, eating out, movies, etc.) and instead putting that money towards a greater cause (such as St. Jude’s Hospital, Susan G. Komen For The Cure).

That was followed by another blog by Barbara McDowell about random kindness with giving our time and effort.  It hit a soft spot in me and moved me to comment on her blog, sharing a story of something that happened to me earlier that evening.  Or, should I say, to me and another person in my town.

A cashier at the local grocery store to be exact.

As this cashier was ringing up my purchases, I noticed that she looked like she was about to cry.  I asked if she was all right and her response was a little mumbled, so I didn’t hear what she said.  Of course, now the poor cashier was the center of attention as the others in line waited to see what happened, and rather than embarrass her, I just let it drop.  After she scanned my Dark Chocolate Mounds candy bar, I picked it up and offered it to her, telling her that the chocolate would make her feel better.  After a bit of hesitation, she agreed, but she still looked bummed out.  So, after the groceries were stashed in the cart, I walked around to where she stood and pulled her into a hug – and she returned it whole-heartedly, like she really, really needed it.

And you know what?  I needed it, too.  Offering the only thing I had at that particular moment – human contact and love – to someone who obviously needed it, ironically filled me up, instead of depleting my energy.  And I think we parted ways feeling pretty good.

It happens that way.  The act of giving one’s self, time, energy, money – when given freely, it only grows.  A kind word, a meaningful touch, or an encouraging smile, is sometimes all it takes to keep another person’s head above the muck just long enough for them to reach for a thread of hope.

I’ll never forget an incident many, many moons ago, when I was on the receiving end of such generosity.

When my boys were still very young, I was in a grocery store parking lot (what is it about grocery stores??),  in a major downpour, trying to get the boys in their car seats before loading the groceries into the back of my car.  I was making a quick rundown of everything I had bought, thinking to first grab the things that would be ruined by the rain.  Before I had gotten through that list, a woman had approached and started loading my groceries into my car really, really fast, before pushing her own rain-soaked grocery cart towards her car several spaces down.  I think I put one bag in my car to her five.  Yeah, she was quick.  When she was done, she had never looked back and never said a word.

I didn’t get a chance to thank her.  I really wish I had.

It’s those little things we do for others – like holding doors open, picking up something that was dropped – that shows others that we are in tune with our surroundings, intently aware of them and what they might need at that moment.  What a gift to give.  It shows others that they are worthy of our time and effort.  And who doesn’t love feeling worthy?

Photo: kenlauher.com

And that lady in the parking lot that helped me so many years ago?

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

How about you?  Are you compelled to offer random acts of kindness?  How often do you see kindness around you?  Let’s keep the momentum going, and strive to keep paying it forward!

Please Don’t Close Your Eyes, Because I Can’t See Your Soul

Photo: National Geographic

The eyes – the proverbial windows of the soul.  They reflect a myriad of emotions – fear, sadness, elation, excitement, confusion, anger.  Most novels have some reference to them. Regardless of what the rest of the face is doing, the eyes are what tell the truth.  “…he smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.”  “Her eyes flashed with passion.”

No, these are windows that can never be shut.

Photo: eyebrowtips.org

Covered, perhaps, but never shut.  They hold the light of our soul until we are no more.

Eye contact connects one soul to the other.  How comfortable are we when talking to someone who refuses to look in our eyes?  Or soothed when words are emphasized by a caring look?  Words are strengthened with simple eye-to-eye engagement.  Eye contact also helps us decipher what words can so cleverly conceal.

But not only do these fabulous, expressive orbs transmit emotions, they can transmit something more – the actual soul of a being.

Have you ever looked into someone’s eyes – a stranger’s – and just…known…them?  Were there, within those eyes, years, maybe lifetimes, of friendship?  Perhaps that is what seals the deal between Elena Aitken and her “Besties.”  I’m fairly certain that is what happened between my friend of 30 years, Marie, and I when we met in college.  We were picking roommates in our dorms and with just one look, one “Hi there!” and we’ve been best friends ever since.  Months will slip by without us speaking to each other, but we are always able to pick up where we left off without skipping a beat.  My neighbor, Jill, and I had met about five years ago, but from day one, I just knew her, almost like a sister.  And my cousin, Toria, and I are closer than most, though I didn’t meet her until I was 30 years old.  Same with Kathleen Mulroy.  We connect on so many different levels, I knew when we met six years ago, that our friendship was solid.

Now let me bump up the intensity.  Tell me about your lifemate/husband/wife.  Did you “just know” that he/she was the one?  Like you both knew the same dance, the same rhythm of life?  What was it when you first looked into each other’s eyes that told you that, yeah, I know you from somewhere?

For me, it was a volleyball player from UCLA.  The recognition was instantaneous and riveting. So much so, it scared me.  I bumbled my way through the few words that we exchanged, and I turned that meeting into one of those, “Damn! If only I had said…”  He ended up walking away, and me…I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

That was 24 years ago.  His face, more specifically, his eyes, are just as real today as they were all those years ago.  I still wonder who it was looking out at me.  Was it an angel who wanted to offer me encouragement or perhaps he was my twin flame who wanted to connect?  My nerves and/or shyness had taken over and I had blown it.  Or maybe the timing was off.  Kind of a ships-that-pass-in-the-night thing.  I’ll never know for certain, but that encounter had such an impact on me, I just had to include it in my first novel, Again.

Now here’s a kicker.  We have built such a strong social circle with our followers and those we follow through our blogging, commenting, and connecting through tweets …how would all of that change (if indeed it would) if we could Skype in blips of say, 10 or 15 seconds?  We hide behind our words and profile pictures now, but what if we actually showed our face and our eyes?  (Gasp!)  Not only would we have to make sure our hair is brushed and we are out of our pajamas and slippers (maybe), but we would have to make sure our intentions are cleaned up as well.  Would there really be a difference?  Our fingers type one thing, but is our soul saying another?  Do our words and eyes really corroborate with one another?  After all, there is no “delete” or backspace button and we can’t tweak our eyes.

Sure, there will always be exceptions, but overall, where do you stand?  Come on, be honest here…or perhaps we could have this conversation through Skype…