Be the Kicker

Sunday morning Cooter came into our room, bouncing on the bed.  It being a day of rest, the Fella and I were trying to stretch it out as long as possible.  Cooter is a morning person, me–not as much.

He was excited about the upcoming Falcons game, and he and his partner in all things football talked about the games from the night before.  I may have zoned out a tad during this bit.  Eventually the conversation caught my attention again–when I heard the Fella say, “Yeah, I don’t know if I’d want to be the kicker.  You have to be on standby, ready to be called in at any time.”

The conversation lost my attention again at that point, as I thought about the kicker.  I used to imagine stress as like being the catcher in a baseball game–ready for a ball to come from any direction.  But a kicker, sitting on the sidelines, not knowing for sure when he will be called in…..and expected to help the team out in a big way when he is?  Bless.

Because that’s the thing about football–there’s never a time when you tell the kicker, “Eh, just whatever, man.  It won’t matter.”

Anything and everything that kicker does matters.

That night I was in my think tank (some folks call it a shower), and I started pondering on who the kickers are in my life.  Those folks who are there, on my team, ready to step in whenever, wherever I need them.

Like Mess Cat making the time to come out after dark to pick up our Princess because I was with our drama king, Cooter, at his dress rehearsal.  (Coming out after dark is a whole ‘nother level of showing up, y’all.)  Or my Aunt who picks up the phone and listens and shares laughter and wisdom and “poor baby’s.”  Or my Cousin who answers my SOS texts when I’ve sliced my finger open, cutting up the cabbage for supper.  Or Aub who hangs out with her siblings so I can go do what needs doing.  Or the Fella who takes time from work when things go awry.  Or my brother who listens so well or my neighborfriend who picks up oyster crackers for my sick one or steps up in so many other ways…..my friends…..family…..And so many more–all these wonderful kickers, who are there, waiting, willing to be called into “the game” (and chaos) of my life.  Present, interruptible, loving, wonderful people.

I think we are called to be kickers in this life.  Doing our own thing, sure, but never forgetting we are a part of a Team, sharing the same goal, same dreams.  Helping each other out whenever need be.

Kick on, my friends.

Love to all.

Don’t Go It Alone

I remember a sermon my sweet friend who introduced me and my Fella shared.  Actually it’s an image that she shared that has stuck with me all these years. I believe in looking back that she read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 from the Good Book.

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The picture she painted with her story, of the dark and traveling together and the stumbling, but someone always stopping to help another up.

Powerful.  So powerful.

We are not meant to travel alone, y’all.  To do this life with no one else around.  I am not saying we are not meant to live alone, but I do think we are not meant to LIVE alone.  Sharing a house and sharing a journey are two different things.

My life has been changed for the better because of the folks who are around me and the ones who listen and love and care about my story and I theirs–in fact, so much so that our stories become intricately interwoven.

Through messages and late night phone calls and texts about silly things and all the important ones too.  The being interruptible and sitting with me in the hard places and the holding me in the light and hoping for good to come.  The sitting quietly and laughing loudly.  The road trips and waiting rooms and bowls of soup and handmade aprons and letters in the mail and cards left on the front porch.  The shared tears and the reverberating laughter.  The hands to hold and the hugs to envelop every little bit of what is going on.  The “I’m on your side” and the “well, have you looked at it this way…..” The “let’s go do” and the “let’s just be.”

All of it.  Every single bit of others in your life and mine…..they save us.  They make us better.  They keep us from falling in a pit of despair and believing the lie that no one cares about us or that it is all about us and no one has ever had it this.  BAD.

They walk alongside, and they pick us up when we fall.

And the coolest thing about this journey is that as we share it with those who circle the wagons close and stay there beside us is that one day we will have the chance to do that very same thing for someone else.

It’s a beautiful ebb and flow of life.  Today I needed picking up.  Tomorrow it might be you.  Or you.  Or maybe even me again.

We all stumble.  Most of us fall.  But it’s the knowing there’s a hand that will be there to help us back up…..that’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

Our posse.

Find yourself a good one.  Find the folks who are walking carefully and maybe even a little slowly, hanging back.  Leave be those who are darting around and ahead of everyone else.  The best way to find a friend, the old saying goes, is to be a friend.

Go and be.  Reach out your hand.  And you’ll be amazed at who comes to stand beside you.

Love and best wishes to all.

The Packing Up and the White Shoes

Twenty-five years ago today I graduated from college.  I don’t remember a lot of the particulars but there are a couple of things that stand out for me about that day.

The night before, Sister had come up to spend the night with me.  Though she is three years my junior there have been times in my life when she has taken over and helped me through a hard time.  This was one of those times.  We visited while we packed my things–something I had been putting off.  About midnight we ran over to Denny’s for some sustenance in the form of fried mozzarella sticks and nachos.  (Two of the basic food groups for us back then.) When we got back to the dorm, Sister told me to go on to bed, rest well for my big day, and she would keep packing.

Which she did.  I should probably call and tell her thank you for that again.

The next morning I woke up and hurriedly put on the special one piece dress/culottes outfit that I had splurged on from Karats and Keepsakes–the only way to describe it is to say it was completely and totally ’90’s.

And I loved it.

I threw on my white shoes, because they matched it best, and because well-it WAS after Easter.  As I ran out of my dorm heading towards Porter Auditorium, one of my classmates pointed out my white shoes (“yes, thank you, they are pretty awesome, aren’t they?”) and kindly “reminded” me that all graduates were supposed to wear black shoes.

Oops.  Did I miss that memo?

Nowadays all information at my alma mater seems to be disseminated by e-mail.  Back then I am sure this was announced in a meeting. I can pretty much guess which one it probably was.  Only my mind was in a million different places about that time…..my future plans, moving back home, saying goodbye to sisterfriends I would miss dearly, and how to leave this place I had begun to call home.

Two thoughts for the young women I know who are about to graduate soon–actually no, this is a message for all of us.

Pay attention.  Listen up.  Don’t get so bogged down in worrying about your future that you miss out on what’s going on in your present. You might miss out on something important.  And it might be more than a fashion faux pas.

And here’s the other, even more important thing:

Have each other’s backs.

No matter what.

See, my sisterfriend who called out to me about the shoes–she was in a hurry too.  She had her mind on the BIG THING about to happen.  But she took the time to notice and to help me out by pointing out my mistake.  Kindly, I might add.

It’s so easy in this world where pushing ahead and success are so valued to just focus on ourselves, isn’t it?  But I challenge each one of us to take the time to notice.  To make the time.  And to help.  Offer a kind word.  Let someone know something they might have missed before.  It doesn’t take anything at all away from me to take a minute and say, “Hey, those are cute, but today we’re all supposed to be wearing black shoes.”

And it sure gives a lot to the one who hears those words.  (Seriously, what was I thinking? While the white shoes matched the outfit UNDERNEATH my graduation gown, they stuck out like a sore thumb with my black cap and gown.)

Two days ago I helped my rising junior finish packing up her things so we could move her back home.  Home from the same dorm where my journey at Wesleyan began.  As I moved around her room, consolidating and packing, I remembered Sister and gave thanks.  Paying it forward seems only right, you know?

Tonight I’m thankful for Sister and my sisterfriend, both of whom were interruptible.  Both of whom set aside what they had going on–for a minute, for a night–to help me.

That’s humbling right there.

May we all be so fortunate to have such a gift in our lives.

May we all strive to be that gift to someone else.

Love to all.

Throwing Down Those Nets

Tonight at Evening Prayer, the story from the Good Book* where folks were asked to throw down their nets and follow was read.

And discussed.

While we were listening, the thought came to my mind–

What am I supposed to be throwing down “my nets” and doing?  

What?!

That’s a hard question.  I really wish I wouldn’t ask me things like that.

It is rare that I can throw down what I am in the middle of doing now and answer a question or need right away.

It’s usually–“Okay, hang on” or “Okay, in a minute. Let me get to a stopping point.”

Yeah, I don’t think that was the answer given in the story from the Good Book.

I think they just threw down their nets, were open to change, and went.

And while I realize that it might be a little unrealistic to think of doing that right now, I wonder–

what could make me stop what I am doing and GO?

Move?

Act?

Grow?

Oh, not as in leaving this life I lead, but instead, what could make me change my priorities?

What would I make myself interruptible for?

What could make me give up some of my creature comforts and take action that will make a difference in the world?

What can I give my heart and my all to?

I don’t know, but as we turn the pages of the beginning of this new year, I’m aiming to find out.

I want to throw down my nets and go and see.  And do.

And change the world for the better.

Even if that just means changing the path I’m on.   Sometimes slowing down and listening can mean a change for the better too, I think.

Change is hard, and I’m genetically predisposed not to take to it very well either.

Wishing you all a reason to throw down your nets and good people to go and see and do with.

Love to all.

 

*John 1:39-50

Mark 1:16-20

Partying at the Pit

To tell this story, I need to share some background information.

First of all, last Monday the Fella took the day off from work to build me a fire pit.

A fire pit!

I’ve been thinking about one for quite  a while now, and I finally decided to drop that as my official hint as to what I wanted for my birthday.  (Subtle ones, you know, like sending him how-to-build-your-own-fire-pit youtube videos and website links and coming right out and telling Aub and the littles, “I want a fire pit for my birthday.” Very subtle, and yet it somehow worked.)

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He went and got the supplies from the getting place, and they even had a kit to make it a little easier.  When he got home he had all kinds of help in the form of the zoo crew.  They dug, plotted, placed, and poured.

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And we had us a fire pit.

Only we had no firewood or roasting sticks, so we decided to hold off until we got those things.

It’s been a fun week of imagining what it would be like.  Our Princess wants her big sister to bring home her guitar and for us all to sing songs around the fire.  She’s the idyllic one.

We made to another trip to the getting place to finish our list, and then–today was the big day.  The First Ever Wienie Roast at Buckingham Bottom.

I don’t know who was more excited, me or the littles.

Or their neighborfriends.

We had a yard full by 9:30 this morning and they were still playing strong when the Fella went out to start the fire an hour later.  Of course our Princess excitedly told them what we had going on.  About 11:15 she came to the porch door and called me over.  “Chloe has something to tell you.”

I walked over.  “Yes ma’am?”

This little eight year old peered in through the door and said, “Well since I haven’t had lunch yet, can we–well, I can’t speak for the rest of my friends, they might have had lunch, but could we roast hot dogs too?”

Oh me.

A simple Sunday was all I was after, y’all.  Lunch with the family, wrap up laundry necessities for the week, and then a nap.  Yep, that was all I was hoping for.

And yet–

As though lit up in lights, my “words” for the past couple of years came to mind–interruptible, intentional, open, with.  How could I turn away someone who was hungry?  Or at least fascinated by the idea of cooking hot dogs over a fire?  I once told someone who asked “what I was” that “well, I love Jesus and how he led his life”…..not trying to be cliche’, but I knew what Jesus would do.  And I was sorely ashamed.

I told Chloe I needed to wrap up what I was working on, and while I was thinking about it, what would her Mama think?

“Oh, I have a walkie-talkie, and I can just call and ask her.”

Brilliant.  Do that.

After making sure the Fella was okay with us adding to the guest list, I told our Princess to have all her friends run home and ask their parents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to invite them or that we didn’t have enough food, I think it was that I didn’t want to be responsible for other people’s children around a fire, handling hot roasting sticks, or for feeding other folks’ children.  (Food allergies can really make you paranoid, for your child and for others.)

But once we committed to it, I felt at peace.

Which is what You were aiming for up there, huh?

I cut up apples (I cannot feed other people’s children just hot dogs, save that lack of nutritional balance for my own crew) and put everything we needed on a tray.  When I walked out they were so excited; they were all sitting by the fire on logs from our old tree, empty roasting sticks already in their hands.

Bless ’em.

They were too sweet.  No one except mine had actually roasted hot dogs much if at all.  Chloe said she didn’t even like hot dogs until today.

Well there you go.

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There’s something magical about a fire, isn’t there?  The flavor it adds to food, yes.  But the camaraderie of sitting around it and talking and cooking over the flames, watching the smoke chase the “pretty ones,” and mouths watering in anticipation–it takes us back to our roots, doesn’t it?  Cooking outdoors, over a fire.  Yep. Magical.

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And I could see it in their eyes.  Everyone wanted to keep roasting, they each ate two hot dogs, with the exception of Chloe (but she did enjoy the one!)–only the second one was with no bun.  I know that they would have kept roasting many, many more if we hadn’t made the rule “You roast it, you eat it.”  I’ve felt the same way over many years of wienie roasts.  The roasting is the best part, but you can only eat so much.  The struggle is real.

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When we moved on to the marshmallows, I was faced with giving them a number, their limit of the max they could roast and eat.  We came up with four, and I honestly have no idea why.  It just seemed like a nice round, even number.  I didn’t want anyone to get too hyped up or go home sick from all that sugar.  So four was it.

And again Chloe was brave and tried one.  One.  She doesn’t like marshmallows, but she found out she does love roasted marshmallows.  Awesome.

Listening to them as they sat on the logs they’ve rolled around the yard for months now, realizing that I almost missed out on this fun and fellowship, I knew some church was going on around that fire–and not a word of sermon preached.

Of course there was some smack talk going on about who could cook the best hot dog ever, and I might have been the one to start it.  I finished it too.  After all had their fill, I sat down by the fire that was, by this time, dying out.  I found a sweet spot over white ashes and sat and sat and waited and waited.  Yeah, the roasting is definitely my favorite part.

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And after a long time of sitting and waiting, I had the perfect hot dog.  Maybe that’s what folks who love to fish feel.  All that sitting and waiting coming to fruition…..

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By this time the children were all running around the yard playing “Mother, May I?” and “Hide and Seek” with occasional breaks to build their “earth” in the sand/water box.  I called them over to see my perfect hot dog.  One wrinkled up her nose in distaste and said, “That’s burnt,” but her brother looked at me incredulously, “We could cook them that much?”  I nodded.  “Okay then, next time, I’m going to cook mine that long and I’m going to win.”

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In the end we decided by a show of hands that everyone had fun and everyone loved the food, so we all were wieners–I mean, winners.

Yeah, I like that.

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This afternoon I saw this quoted by Advent Conspiracy.  And my heart breathed a sigh and said, “Yes.”  And I knew what this is saying, because I lived it today.  I got to reclaim my own real life today. And oh, was it a glorious one!

Tonight I give thanks for a family tradition started by my Granny years ago and continued on by my Aunt and all of our family still.  There truly is nothing else like it.  I am grateful for my family and their gift of time and energy in making my dream a reality.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a little girl’s question that turned my day on its end, and for an unplanned journey that wound up being the best one after all.

Who can you be interruptible for and be with? What can you be open to and intentional about?  It just might make your day. Go reclaim your own real life.

Love to all.

Because Life’s Too…..

Such a treat was in store for me today, and I had no idea.

This afternoon my oldest and I headed out to run an errand.  The littles were off with the Fella, so it was just the two of us.  We were off seeking treasure–the last five jars of No Nut Butter that Aunt had seen at the Big store.  After we finished there (got ’em), we decided to pop in at the GW Boutique across town before heading home.

And it was there that we came upon a second treasure.  Quite unexpectedly.

We had scanned shelves and flipped through some of the clothes racks.  It’s always fun to ponder what one could wear or how something would look and to search for new crock pot lids.  But that’s a story for another time.

As we traveled down an aisle, headed to the check out counter, we crossed paths with a lovely looking older lady.  She said something about how much she liked the skirt we’d picked out, and before long we were chatting and visiting like old friends do when they meet up at the library or the grocery store.

She told us a little of her story, widowed twice over because of that horrible cancer.  After her second husband died nearly twenty years ago, she started on her bucket list.  She will be 82 in the fall and still has two things left on her list.  One of which she plans on doing on her birthday.  As she told of her adventures, long waterslides, ice skating, skiing, there was a sense of peace and grace about her.  Such a beautiful person, inside and out.  We shared some of our story too.  About Aub’s upcoming sophomore year and post-graduate plans.  About how I was looking for a dress to cut off and make a fun top out of.  As we talked she looked at me intently and said, “You have the loveliest complexion.”

Oh my.  I was surprised.  I thanked her.

“Well if I do, I give my great Aunt credit for that, I guess,” I told her.  “She told me two things that I’ve carried with me all through my life.  First, don’t hold my nose every time I went underwater–it would make my nose pointy.  (too late)  And second, don’t wear makeup–she told me the sooner I started wearing it, the sooner I’d need it.  And so I just didn’t.”

This sweet lady smiled and gave a melodious chuckle.  (I told y’all she was lovely–everything about her.)  “That reminds me of my son and daughter-in-law when they got married.”

She shared the story with us.  This was many years ago, and the day of the wedding, her daughter-in-law’s bridesmaids decided to empty the bride’s suitcase of many things and pack it instead with rice or something like that.  Of the things they removed, her makeup was included.  The newly married couple traveled to Atlanta to spend the night, ready to fly out early the next morning for their honeymoon.  When the bride woke up and started to get ready for her day and the trip, she couldn’t find her makeup.  She was distraught, but her new husband looked at her and said, “You are beautiful just like you are.  You don’t need makeup to be beautiful.  You already are.”

Y’all.  Yes, we swooned.

That Mama raised a good boy, didn’t she?

And to this day, our new friend told us, all these many years later, that bride has never worn makeup again.  And from the way her mother-in-law described her today, she’s still just as lovely as she was when she was a newlywed.

Love.  This.  Story.

What an impact this short visit had on us.  Miss R (we are on a first name basis now) somehow looked my girl straight in the eyes, though she was a head shorter, and told her to get her education.  That if any fella came along, she just needed to tell him to hold on, that she was going to finish her education FIRST, so they could have a better life together after.  That no one should talk her out of that.

Then she looked at both of us, then back at Aub.  “Enjoy your life,” she said.  “Find something you love to do and do it well.  Because life’s too…..important.”

Oh how my heart sang in agreement with those beautiful words!

I had been so sure she was going to say life is too short, and while I am definitely in agreement with that, my soul rejoiced.  This. This is what I’ve been feeling.  Life IS too important.  To let the little things get us off track.  To let the big things derail us for very long. It’s too important not to just love on every one we meet. Too important to just accept things as they are with a shrug and a “I’m just passing through.”  It’s too important.  Beautiful, broken, and important.

Truth.

We left Miss R today, after reassuring her that her children and grandchildren were not wrong when they told her she could get away with outfits like the one she was wearing today.  She was adorable and elegant and graceful all rolled into one.  At one point I felt like she might be channeling my Mama in some of the things she said.  I just wanted to hug her.  So I did.  Twice.  Turns out she knows Aub’s godfather’s parents.  I love how small this world is sometimes.  And I love that there is a connection with this beautiful soul.

After our reluctant goodbyes and Aub and I were in the go-mobile headed home, we shared our thoughts on our visit.  We both were touched by this sweet lady who took time to visit with two strangers in the GW Boutique.

“That story about the makeup.  I LOVE that.  I think that should be a new tradition.  All bridesmaids should take the bride’s makeup,” my girl mused.

I agreed.  She then shared that she hadn’t worn much makeup all summer.  And she sounded happy about it.  Good on you, baby girl.  You are beautiful, and you don’t need it at all.  And one day you will find a lucky Fella who will think so too.

In the meantime, go and do exactly what Miss R told you to do today.  Live, laugh, do what you love, and enjoy life (“but not by doing things you shouldn’t” ahem).

Wishing you all an unexpected treasure or two.  Love to all.

 

In the Rain with Padme and Boba Fett

Last Sunday on the BigTrip, Cooter was in hog heaven.  His smile couldn’t get any brighter, and I’m pretty sure his face hurt from smiling so much.  I know mine did, and I was just smiling from seeing his joy.

Does it get any better for a Mama?

My little guy is perhaps the biggest Star Wars fan there is.  At least in the four-foot and under crowd.  And last weekend was the Mouse’s last Star Wars weekend of the whole year.  We were there for the very last day.

Wow.

They pulled out all of the stops.  Within the first forty-five minutes in the park, my littles had met Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  When our Princess met their Princess, it was a photo-op on the grandest scale.  The excitement was as palpable as the humidity in the air.  And this is the South.  We don’t play when it comes to humidity.

Cooter meeting Luke Skywalker.  They had quite the conversation. What a moment!

Cooter meeting Luke Skywalker. They had quite the conversation. What a moment!

When it was his turn to meet Luke, my little Jedi walked right up and said, “Hey I can teach you to be a Jedi Knight.  Even better than Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He killed your father.”

Luke looked taken aback.  He was a great actor.  “Really? No.  He’s my friend.  He doesn’t kill my father.”

Cooter nodded and proceeded to share some other details of what happens in the story that were above my knowledge.

Luke crouched down in front of my little guy.  He looked him in the eyes and said, “The Force is great with you, young Jedi.  You know the past…..and the future.”  Cooter nodded, quite serious.

*sigh*  If only he were as enthusiastic about learning real facts.

Check out that cool blue dude.  Yeah I don't know who he is.  Cooter's already asleep so I can't ask.

Check out that cool blue dude. Yeah I don’t know who he is. Cooter’s already asleep so I can’t ask.

March on Stormtroopers!

March on Stormtroopers!

One of our very favorites. Bless him in that heat.

One of our very favorites. Bless him in that heat.

 

It was delightful.  Have I mentioned that already?  And hot.  And crowded.  As all good celebrations do, they had a fantastic parade with lots of characters that I had to keep asking my seven-year old who they were.  We drank water and held tight to little fans spraying water on our faces and continued on through the day, continuing to be more and more excited.  And impressed.  And happy.

My crew was happy.

Then we were sitting, waiting to see the Indiana Jones stunt show.  I’d heard it was really good, and I knew it could get packed.  We found our seats in the middle of a downpour.  Thankfully it was a covered shelter.  Not so thankfully they cancelled the last show of the night due to the inclement weather.  Ah well.  Win some, lose some.

Not to be brought down by the storm, Cooter asked if we could go to the Indiana Jones Trading Post.  We dashed over in the sprinkle that turned into another full rain.  As we were waiting it out, I looked over.  And I tried not to stare.  I leaned down and asked Cooter, “Who is she?  Is that Padme?”

He looked over.  And nodded.

Wow.

No lines.  We were all just waiting in the open air shop, avoiding the downpour.  Well, good deal.  I smiled and she waved with a shy smile.

I am my Mama’s child sometimes, not afraid to approach a stranger.  Especially when it comes to my children.  “Is it okay if we come over?”  She smiled bigger and nodded.

Padme and Boba Fett.  Our paths may never cross again but they are forever in my heart and I am thankful for them.

Padme and Boba Fett. Our paths may never cross again but they are forever in my heart and I am thankful for them.

Standing with her was another young woman, dressed as Boba Fett.  With hat, shirt, shorts (okay–it’s hot, I get it), and artillery.  They both had official Planet (fill in appropriate one here–I can’t remember) name badges.  We excitedly talked with them and then we asked if we could get their autograph.

Padme seemed hesitant.  “I mean, if it’s okay?  I don’t want you to get in trouble.”  I wasn’t sure if they were allowed to when they weren’t in an official line.  I mean, who could know what their rules were?

“No, it’s fine.  I just wouldn’t know how.”  Y’all, I was still in the dark.  She was dressed as Padme, had a badge, so she was their official Padme, right?

Oh wait.

Turns out she wasn’t.  You could purchase similar badges in some of the shops in the park, according to my oldest, Aub.  *sigh*  Okay.  These were two very enthusiastic young Star Wars fans who lived not too far from the mouse house, and they had dressed up to attend the closing day for the Star Wars celebration.

Ah well.  I hated that I’d bothered them.

And yet they stayed in character.  They talked with my children as though they were paid to be Padme and Boba.  Two of my crew’s favorites.  They did sign their “names” and did a really good job of it.

 

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But what they did best?

Shined light brightly on that dark, rainy Sunday evening.  Do my children believe they met the “real” Padme and Boba?  I think so.  One day they may read this and learn the real story.  And that’s okay too.

Because what I really want them to carry away from the moments with those two beautiful spirits is–

Make yourself interruptible.

Especially when you have the chance to bring someone else some joy.

They gave of their time.  I expect we interrupted a conversation they were having.  At any moment, they could have looked at me and said, “Look, crazy lady who looks like you’ve had a LONG day and have very few brain cells left–we are not the characters you are looking for.  Move on, and take your little ones too.”

But they didn’t.

They talked and smiled.  And signed names they had likely never signed before.

And they made little ones smile and feel happy and made dreams come true.

To my littles and anyone else who’s stuck with me this far–

anytime, you have the opportunity to do that.

Yeah.

Just do it.

The joy you share in a moment given freely and completely–

that’s the best.  That’s the real Force.

Love to all.  And may the Force be with you.