Get Your Brave On

When I was at my lowest after first Daddy and then, fifteen months later, Mama passed, my baby sister Mess Cat sent me the song “Brave” Sara Bareilles, and said, “I just want to see you be brave.”

Brave?

BRAVE?!

I love her, but I just couldn’t hear that.  I wasn’t ready to.   Being brave was the furthest thing from my  mind.  Anger?  Yes. Despair?  For sure.  Pain?  Absolutely.  BROKEN and shaken to my core?  One hundred percent YES.

I was fairly for certain sure I had nothing remotely brave left in me.

And yet–

Today the song came on the radio.  I was singing along.  Where I once almost loathed the song because it required something of me that I just didn’t feel prepared to do, I now really, really like the song.  It was uplifting.  I was dancing along as I tidied up around here.

And that’s when it hit me.

All those days that I spent crying as I washed the dishes or stopping in the middle of moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, lost in thought, or the nights that supper was a sandwich and applesauce–all of those days, I was brave.  We all were.  We woke up to the knowledge that things had changed and would never be the same again, and yet–we didn’t run.  I might have stayed in bed a little longer.  Some days I didn’t change out of my hoodie and sweatpants.  Some days I left dishes in the sink until the next day.  (Okay, most days.)  Once I broke down crying in the middle of the grocery store and had to stop and check out and go home without getting most of what I was there for.  And as the years stretch out, the “some days” are farther apart, but they STILL happen.

But I haven’t given up yet.

I might have felt like it, I might have closed my eyes and taken afternoon naps for a week straight, but I never gave up.

And I think maybe that’s what my sister was saying.  She didn’t like seeing me give up.

Today I read the lyrics.  Not all apply to what we have gone through, but these lines stand out for me:

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

I have some dear friends who are going through dark times and hard things–some of the hardest–right now. Today is our first time remembering my sweet friend’s birthday without her here.  I’m thinking about her family and how brave they are today and have been for so long now.  Another sweet friend is remembering her husband she misses with every breath.  She is so very brave. And yet another friend just said goodbye to her sweet Mama.  How brave is she, remembering her Mama with pictures and stories and loving on her children, smiling through her tears.  And then there’s my friend whose son just passed.  I hold him and all of his son’s family in my heart as they are all kinds of brave, doing the unthinkable.

You are brave too.  All those things that might have taken you down, but didn’t take you out–BRAVE.  There’s a meme going around about how you’ve made it through all of your hard times 100% of the time so far–YES.  YOU.  THAT.

BRAVE.

Mess Cat, I’m sorry I didn’t hear what you were saying back then, and that it has taken me three years for it to sink in.  But thank you.  It has indeed sunk in.

Listen, y’all.  We have all made it through 100% of the hard things–the broken and sad and devastating ones.  We are all still on the journey.  Even if you are sitting on the bench taking a break, YOU ARE DOING LIFE.  Let the light in.  We all have earned the right to wear this badge.

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Go forth and get your brave on.  You are amazing.

Love to all.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…..But I Tried

Being the oldest of four siblings in the dark ages before internet access, I got to make up a lot of stuff. Stuff that may or may not have been true.  Stuff that the ones listening to me really couldn’t verify or denounce without going to Mama and Daddy.

Yeah, there were days that I was that sibling.

Summers get long and hot in Georgia, y’all.  Without AC you kind of have to make your own fun.

Mostly I would tell my sisters, especially Mess Cat, about celebrity relationships.  I don’t know why it mattered, but on those hot summer afternoons when we tried to do as little as possible since sitting still you would still sweat puddles, it was Something. To. Do.

It started with true stories.  About who was married to whom, like Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) and Connie Sellecca.  Or who had been in what movie with whom way back when before they became famous.  Then the imagination would take off and I’d be making up all kinds of stories.  Inevitably, I’d cross a line–it always happened.  That line that would cause Mess Cat to glance at me sideways and cut her eyes just so, squinting, thinking.  I would hold my face still and just about hold my breath, hoping she wouldn’t see through my stories.

But she did.  Some days it took longer than others, but she always did.  Sometimes I’d continue to feign innocence for days, but eventually she found me out.

Oh the fun of the good ol’ days.

So it was that yesterday after the ball game (I watched that whole fourth quarter of the Seahawks/Panthers game–I’m a fourth quarter kind of girl, but that’s a story for another night), the TV was still on, and I was focused on what I had been working on.  I think I was crocheting another  stripe on my temperature blanket.  Whatever it was, my attention was not on what was on TV until I stood up to turn it off and leave the room.  It was then that I saw two men on the screen with the same last name.

My mouth dropped open.

It actually fell open.  I was frozen in place for a moment.  WORLDS COLLIDED.

Growing up we did watch CHIPS.  My favorite was not Erik Estrada’s “Ponch” character or Jon Baker, though they both were entertaining enough.  My favorite was Robert Pine’s character.  For whatever reason, I just really liked him best.  When I looked up at the screen yesterday, Robert Pine was pictured there. But it was the young man next to him that made my mouth drop.

Chris Pine.

What the what?

I have loved him since his Princess Diaries 2 days.  That’s one of my go to movies.  Yes.  If it’s on, I’m watching it.  As a matter of fact, it came on one of the channels the other day, and Aub said, “Mama, it’s like they know you.”  And we all sat here and watched it.  Again.

And so you might can understand how surprised I was when it all clicked and I realized that Robert Pine is Chris Pine’s father.

Of course he is.  I can see the resemblance now.

Wow.

For a moment though, I looked around to see if my sister Mess Cat was anywhere around.  She would have loved the poetic justice in that moment, I’m sure.

It’s fascinating when life surprises me with new stories, new things I didn’t know, things I never even considered before.  Even when it’s trivial things like who’s related to whom in the acting world.

Tonight I’m thankful for all the happy and lazy memories that yesterday’s discovery brought back for me. We worked hard, played hard, and lazed around hard all those summers so many years ago.  And we laughed and loved hard.  That’s what brings me the greatest joy.

Love to all.

Elvis Had Left the Building…..and the Yard

Cooter and his cousin Shaker were talking on the phone yesterday–mostly about that ever-loving Minecraft game.  (Do NOT get me started.  They weren’t even playing it–just talking about it. They can do that FOR HOURS.)  Then Shaker cut it short, saying, “I’m sorry.  I have to go.  Elvis is missing, and me and Dad have to go look for him.”

Elvis had not only left the building, but he had left the yard, and possibly the whole neighborhood.

It was quite distressing to hear.  Elvis is Leroy’s, my sister Mess Cat’s, and Shaker’s black pug.  He is adorable but he can’t hear a lick.  And although he can tell when it is time to eat to the very minute, his sense of direction is not very good either.  Bless him, he had gone outside and, in the words of Cousin Wash on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, “RUNNOFT.”

On one of the hottest days of our Georgia summer.

My heart was heavy for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.  Texts to my sister telling her I was thinking about her got no replies.  Elvis is no longer a young fellow, and he can’t handle the partying like he used to.  I was worried.

We all were.  He’s been a member of the family for so long I’ve forgotten what he looked like without the white hairs on his muzzle.

When the littles and I got in last night, Aub asked if Shaker had called me.

“No, why?”

She announced with much fanfare.  “Elvis has been found!”

Well hallelujah.

I called to get the details.  Prayers and wishes had been answered.  Elvis was home.

Shaker answered and was quite pleased.  “Yes, I’m glad he’s here.  I don’t know what I’d do without a dog to ignore.”

Oh me.  That cracked me up.  Elvis is an old man, y’all, and he doesn’t enjoy playing with the little people much anymore.  Plus the whole not hearing well thing only convinces Shaker that Elvis is ignoring him as well.  He even told his Mama, “And Elvis wouldn’t know what to do without a boy to ignore.”

Excuse me while I wipe my tears…..from laughing so hard.  Bless him.

When I finally got to talk to Mess Cat, the story got even better.  And I laughed even harder.  First of all, my sister, bless her heart, rushed home from work when she got the call, so she could help look for him.  So there she was, walking up and down their road, knocking on doors, asking if anyone had seen Elvis.

Y’all.  I can only imagine the looks on folks’ faces.  Too funny.

This is the road we grew up on since we were very young, long before they paved it.  There are only two neighbors who still live there who have been there for a long time.  One of them is Miss Helen.

Miss Helen lives next door to Blackberry Flats where we grew up and where Mess Cat and her family, Elvis included, live now.  When Mama was in the hospital, Miss Helen, a few years older than Mama, helped us out with things like checking the mail and feeding the cat, Rev.  One evening, Mess Cat decided to go back and spend the night at Mama’s.  We called to let Miss Helen know that my sister would be at the house, so she wouldn’t be worried when she saw the lights.  “That’s all right with me,” Miss Helen replied.  That brought us joy, and wondering if something would be all right with Miss Helen was sure to bring a smile during those hard weeks.  It still does.

So yesterday afternoon as Mess Cat was asking folks if they’d seen Elvis, she was also telling folks she lived next door to Miss Helen.

And not many folks looked like they knew who she was talking about.  Which means that not many folks are making sure things are all right with Miss Helen.  Perish the thought!  I cannot imagine.

Turns out Elvis had made quite the “Family Circus” trek through and around the neighborhood.  Starting with Miss Helen, who said she had seen him earlier.  Unfortunately he didn’t check things out with her before heading over to the house next door to her and then the next and then the next.  Mess Cat had started knocking on doors of houses where there were other dogs, but in the end, he was found “chilling” on a back deck at a house with cats.

Yep.  That sounds about right.  Elvis has always been a pretty cool cat himself.

We are all so happy this little guy is home safe and sound.  And look at him bringing all the neighbors together!  Folks who might not have met otherwise.  He’s quite the social facilitator, bringing strangers together looking for him.  Elvis has always been pretty good at that too.  Leroy told me he got another call today in response to the sign he had put up.  A dear lady said she’d had an Elvis sighting but when she went inside, he left her yard too.

That Elvis.  Steeped in mystery.  Not the first time Elvis has disappeared after being spotted.

And today–he was so exhausted.  When we went in to see him and give him a welcome home pat on the head today, he was curled up on the couch in his favorite spot–Leroy’s.  He was OUT.  I mean, I realize he couldn’t hear me call his name, but couldn’t he sense someone was there?  I patted his head.  No response.  I immediately moved my hand to feel if he was breathing.

Relief.  Not only was he breathing, but he was also SNORING.  All that partying yesterday caught up with the old guy.  He was worn out.

Elvis home today where he belongs.  Love this little guy.

Elvis home today where he belongs. Love this little guy.

Tonight I’m thankful for this little dog who came into our life years ago, with the name that never fails to bring us a smile.  He is as much a part of our story now as any of us is, I guess.  I give thanks for the people who saw him and welcomed him, a stranger, into their lives without questioning it much.  There’s a lesson there, I think.  I am especially thankful for the ones who called after Leroy put up the sign, and that Elvis is home snoring away tonight.  In his own home.

Most of all, I’m thankful for a happy ending.  I expect Miss Helen’s all right with that.  I know I am.

Wishing you all a happy tail with a happy ending and an Elvis sighting that brings you joy.

Love to all.

And the Award Goes To…..

What a beautiful day!

I hope it was a sunshine-filled day where you are too.  We’ve had our fair share of cloudy/cold/gray/rainy days, and I love those too, to be quite honest, but today the sunshine and blue skies just suited.

It’s been a day of taking care of business.  (More cleaning out of things that belonged to those I love.  Today it wasn’t as hard as it has been, and that tells me I can do this.  It’s not easy, it’s not fun, but it’s doable. Which is good, because it has to be done eventually.)

It has also been a day of laughter.

My sister Mess Cat and her little guy Shaker mixed in with this crew?

A blast.

While my Fella and Leroy were hauling the heavy things from over yonder back to the house, we watched the children.

Ahem.

Well, we did.

And we talked about silly things like TV shows and things our children have been up to.  We talked about serious things like worries and the like.  And we talked about books we have been reading.

Mess Cat and I both LOVE books.  We both love to read.  Over the years we’ve shared many a good book back and forth and enjoyed talking about them.  (Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, I’m especially looking at you. #tearsofsorrowandjoy )

Hey, Mess Cat, I think we’ve had our own little book club going and didn’t even know it.

But that was before.

Before the heartbreak and pain and grief.

It was interesting and somewhat comforting to me today when Mess Cat said that she really hasn’t been reading like she used to.

I was worried it was only me.

And since she’s making a concentrated effort and being intentional about picking up a book and reading it, I am encouraged.  Maybe we will get back to being the avid readers we were before the grief and anxiety took over.

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As we were talking, I hopped up from my Roost and found the book I picked up for a bargain price the other day.  I had to buy it for the blurb on the back alone.  HILARIOUS.  I shared the first chapter with Mess Cat and my oldest, and we were all three laughing until tears were rolling.

Good stuff that.

I’ve missed it.

Aub said that her Psychology professor has used some of this writer’s material in her classes.  I found that fascinating, so I read the author’s biography on the book jacket.

And this grabbed my attention.

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I read it aloud to my sister and my firstborn, and again we laughed.

It felt so good.

Mess Cat said through the laughter, “Self-awarded!”

And then the question came that simply had to be asked.

“So what award would you give yourself if you had that power?”

We laughed some more and batted around ideas.

After much contemplation this evening, I decided I would give myself the “most likely to compliment a stranger in a checkout line, at the grocery store, or anywhere else in the general public.”

In addition to this, I also award myself, “Mama who can frustrate her children in 10 seconds flat using less than fifteen words and no body language.”

I’m just that good, y’all.

Tonight I am thankful for the laughter.  For the feeling of not being alone in this journey of raising children, missing parents, cleaning house, and not reading books, I am especially grateful.  I’m also happy that I could find some things about myself that were “award worthy.”

What about you?  What award would you give yourself if you had that power?

(and here’s the thing–you do have that power)

So go ahead.  What’s your award?

Wishing you a day of appreciating all the wonderful and quirky things about yourself.  Name them.  It’s a good thing to love the person you spend most of your time with.  It just makes you a kinder person with everyone else.

Love to all.

 

True Confession and the Comfort of the Familiar

Earlier this week Mess Cat told me she was listening to the radio, and the DJ asked the question, “What TV show do you watch and wish your friends did too so you could talk about it?”

She said a woman called in and said, “The Young and the Restless.”

The DJ laughed and said, “Well, yeah, because it’s not 1994 anymore.”

Bless her.

I understand.

Only I always had someone to talk about it with.

My first experience with the soap operas was when I was much younger, and Mama took us to Macon to visit my great great Aunt.   After our dinner with them, she and Mama sat in the living room watching the noon news and “Date with Del.”  After Miss Del said her trademark, “Trody tro,” the soap operas began.  Mess Cat and I were laughing the other day about how we all froze and were very quiet, in the hopes that they wouldn’t realize the soap opera had come on and we could watch it.  Sometimes it worked.

I was in college the first time I saw “The Young and the Restless.”  It was on during everyone’s free time of the day–from 12:30 to 1:30.  I remember the day that something bad happened to a fan favorite, and the cries of disbelief could be heard up and down the dorm hall.  We all wandered out of our rooms, crying and talking about how it just could. not. have. happened.

When my oldest (and only back then) and the Fella and I moved to Japan and I knew NOT ANOTHER SOUL, one day I turned on the TV and there was a familiar face.  A person I had known all through college.

Reva Shayne.

From Guiding Light.

That was the only CBS soap that was on the TV over there.  And it meant so much to have something that hadn’t changed in a life where EVERYTHING else had changed.

That’s kind of the nice thing about soap operas.  Not much changes year after year and if it does, it doesn’t take long to catch back up on it.  And besides, it’s storytelling.  Maybe not at its finest, but it’s storytelling nonetheless.  Those writers can have me go from barely tolerating a character to rooting for him faster than you can say, “As the World Turns.”  That’s pretty good writing in my book.

So the irony of Mess Cat bringing up Y & R the other day is that, though I haven’t watched it in years on a regular basis, I like to record the episodes around Christmas and New Year’s each year.  I don’t have the time to watch it regularly like I used to, but around the holidays…..The decorations are so lovely and everyone is so kind and the music is beautiful.  I think my love of jazz came from watching restaurant scenes on soap operas over the years.  At Christmas it’s just–

comforting.  An escape.  Heartwarming.

And when I had questions about how two of the women who had been rivals were sisters?  My sisterfriend who has always enjoyed watching the show and sharing with me caught me up to date.  In about three sentences.

And that’s another reason why I love them.

On the Christmas Eve episode, a woman, her husband, and her son were gathered together for the holiday meal.  After a few minutes of conversation, the husband said, “Well, let’s address the elephant in the living room.  What we are NOT talking about.”

He has cancer.

I had no idea.  Last I knew I thought he was about to go to jail maybe?  But then, it’s been a while.   At least a month in soap opera time.

He then proceeded to get his family up and dance around singing out the word.  Cancer.  Naming his enemy.

Bless it.

That made my day.

Oh, I know it’s not real.  I know it’s all fiction.

But still.

I wish we had done something like that.  Stood up to cancer, looked it in the eye, and said we weren’t afraid.

Only we were.

But I digress.  Anyway–

I know that many folks, like the radio DJ, think soap operas are a thing of the past.  And from the looks of things and the number of soaps that have been cancelled, it looks like that might be a valid argument.

But *true confession* I sure hope not.

In this life of so many things changing and so many folks leaving without a good goodbye, I sure do like to flip on the channel every now and then and see Victor, Nikki, Paul, Jill, Jack, and the whole Newman and Abbott clans.  I’ve known them longer than a lot of my real life friends.  And while I know the difference between real and make-believe friends, there is still comfort to be found in the familiar.

Tonight I’m thankful for things that don’t change and for story lines that touch the heart and the funny bone.  And for friends who can catch you up on things when you’ve fallen behind.  On story lines and on real life stuff.

Wishing you all a friend to talk about your favorite show and life in general with.  And if you’re a closet soap fan, know you’re not alone.  It’s okay.  As my friend wrote me today, “There’s a whole lot worse things to be addicted to.”

Truth.

Love to all.

Selfie with Superman

Tonight was our Princess’ Christmas dance recital.

Precious.

From the little ones dancing to a song about having chicken pox at Christmas to the precision of the older girls as they performed their jazz number, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the season.  I am thankful over and over for my children being able to attend this dance studio and gym.

Our Princess was thrilled that her aunt Mess Cat and cousin Shaker and Aunt and Cousin came to see her perform.  I was tickled pink too.  I got to hug and visit with some of my favorite folks in the world.

My Cousin and I were talking about Julie Andrews and “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” and his high standards in viewing live theater.  The conversation then shifted to talking about movies we’ve seen over the years and the fact that they still have their Video Disc Player.

Oh me, the memories of that VDP!  We had some awesome movie nights, all of us crashed out in their living room, watching “The Man from Snowy River” or the original Star Wars movies.  Or so many others.

Turns out they still have those Star Wars movies.

I think it was my Aunt who mentioned “Superman.”

And my eyes glazed over and I left the room for a minute. Or two.

I was at least thirty-five years younger, and there was Christopher Reeve on the screen.

And I was in love.

I spent YEARS in love with the man.  Superman, yes.  Oh, that movie.  The flying scene.  Most.  Romantic. Scene. Ever.

Okay, I’m telling a tale.  There’s also that dancing scene in Sound of Music and every single scene in “Somewhere in Time.”  (Also Christopher Reeve–in case you didn’t know. And Jane Seymour.  #perfection)

My crush was no secret.  Daddy often teased me about my undying affection for, as he called him, Christopher “No Lips” Reeve.  I don’t know, Daddy, who looks at his lips…..I mean, really?

It was so widely known about that even Santa was in on it.  There was the year that Santa put a small figure of Superman in my stocking.  If you pushed his legs together, he did something but I can’t remember what.  No noise, just moved his arms or something.

And he was awesome.

I wonder where he got off to.  Isn’t it odd how some things just drift off over the years?

But I digress.

When I came back to the present this evening, I looked at my Aunt, and I was so thankful she reminded me of my infatuation.

Y’all, I really hope we can take selfies in Heaven.  (You know, those pictures you can take with your phone of yourself and someone else.  Or are they “ussies” when you include another person?)  I mean, because I really want to take a picture with Superman for sure.  I cannot bear the thought that such a photo opportunity can never happen just because he’s left this world.

And I’d love to snap a photo with Michael Landon.  And Whitney Houston, bless her heart.  And Maureen O’Hara.

And of course–if he wouldn’t mind a really quick one–

Elvis.

All of these people who have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  How cool would it be to walk up, hug their necks, say thanks for all the joy over the years, snap a photo, and then get back to partying with my people there?

Ah.  Silliness, I guess, but in the words of someone I hold dear, “I think we’re all going to be surprised.”

So maybe I will be able to take a selfie or two.

Tonight I’m thankful for the really great movies of my growing up years.  The ones that bring back all the feelings and emotions and memories from way back when.  I give thanks for sugarplum fairies and littles ones dancing their hearts out and smiling so big as they do.  I’m thankful for family gathering together to make little ones feel special and for conversations that remind me of what I used to love and really, that I never stopped loving.

Ah, Christopher Reeve.  Tonight I’m especially thankful for a visit to my youth and a dream planted in my heart.

One day–a selfie with Superman.

(And the REAL one please, not all this “remake” junk–and yes I know CR wasn’t the first–just step away if you don’t think he was the best Superman ever–we simply canNOT be friends.)

It could happen, right?

Wishing you a joyful memory from the past to make you smile today.

Love to all.

Photo of my favorite fella growing up via http://justicebulletin.com/articles/suit-me-up-superman-pt-2/

Photo of my favorite fella growing up via http://justicebulletin.com/articles/suit-me-up-superman-pt-2/

 

A Grateful Heart

Whoo, y’all.

Today has been a busy one.

And I wish my poor Mama were here so very much right now.

Besides the obvious reasons, there’s this.

I’d set her down, bring her a glass of tea, whatever book she’s reading, and–

I’d rub her feet.

And back.

And shoulders.

All those years she put a veritable feast on the table, and all we could do is eat it.  In such a small fraction of the time it took for her to prepare it.

And then we children would work out the details about who was cleaning up what–I’m using “work out” as a euphemism here.

Bless her.

She could cook circles around me, as my children often lovingly *ahem* remind me.  Still, I know she was worn out from all the Thanksgiving dinner preparations.  Today I’ve only done about half of what she did, and I am one whooped puppy.

So tonight I’m calling it a night with a tired body reminding me how old I am and a mind already ticking off what needs to be done when I get up in the morning.

But first–

I am thankful.  For a body that can still do and a mind that can still plan.  I am thankful for the bounty of groceries that I have gone through today and yet, there’s still plenty more to cook from the next day and the next and the day after that.  I am grateful for the sanitation folks who picked up our trash this morning and will pick up from all this from my meal preparations next week.  I am thankful for the farmers and the growers and the folks who packaged and shipped and transported and shelved and sold me these groceries.  I appreciate the laughter of my children today while I was cooking and prepping and trying to figure out if I could find one more baking dish…..

Tomorrow we will celebrate and give thanks together once again at Blackberry Flats–our homeplace for right at 37 years now.  It’s been several years since we gathered together around Mama’s good cooking, and tomorrow, while she and Daddy and all those who have gone on up to the House will be missed–it will be a celebration of what is good and right to be back “home” eating Thanksgiving dinner.  The littles will climb trees and pet kittens and play good guys and bad guys or Star Wars or something like that, while all of us grownups will either watch football or try to figure out if anyone will notice if we close our eyes for just a minute…..or both.

Tonight I am thankful for so many things, and one big one is you.  Thank you for stopping in and reading my stories.  Whether this is the first time or the 622nd time, thank you.  When you read what flows from my heart and soul through my fingers to this keyboard and screen, you bring them to life.  And I thank you for that.  A story wants to be heard.  Thank you for listening.

Most of all, I am thankful that, as I picked up one of the potholders my Daddy made for my Mama years ago and I went over to the oven to peek in on my pies, I heard my Mama’s voice.

 

“And grant us, Lord, a grateful heart,

For these and all our many blessings.

Amen.”

Whether it’s original or not, I will always think of these as her words.  It was her prayer and how she lived her life.  No matter what happened, she always looked for something to be thankful for.

Is it any wonder that, despite all the cooking she did, this holiday was one of her favorite days all year?  She just wished we’d celebrate and give thanks year round.

Thankful to you and for you.
Love to all.