What Are You?

Jan 13 2016

Hi, friends.

I’m working on swimming my way back to the surface. Watching my meds carefully. And my sleep. And trying to give myself a break for being human. Depression sucks. And it lies. And it sucks. But mostly right now it just makes me weary.

I’ve begun a dozen letters to you in the past 2 weeks. I haven’t finished any, but beginning them feels like a step on the way to the surface.

I’ll be back with you soon. Swearsies. In the meantime, I’m doing what’s necessary, letting everything else go, and painting my toenails blue because it’s the color of the water, where I wait, but also the color of the sky by daylight, which I seek.

With love — and always waving,

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P.S. My daughter texted me this morning.

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“What are you?” she asked.

I think she meant to ask where I was, but I decided to answer her question anyway because I’m rad.

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“What are you?” she asked, so I told her I’m human. And partly divine. Magical and messy. Most days heavy on the mess. Weird and wonky. Also, wild and wonderful, although I have to remind myself of that a lot, and sometimes I don’t belive me. I am incredibly complex and also very simple, and I spend a lot of time being simultaneously sad and content, and giddy and joyful and bone deep exhausted.

P.P.S. Abby thanked me for the recap, and noted she just wanted to know where I was in case I wanted to bring her coffee. So at least I raised a kid with the right priorities. COFFEE. Coffee is always the priority.

P.P.P.S. When I told her I wasn’t getting her coffee, she texted me back sad faces. IMG_8338

And I reminded her it’s part of the human condition to be sad and happy. Both/And, friends. Both/And.

I’m pretty sure she liked that reminder as much as she would’ve liked free coffee.

In conclusion, I give and I give.

P.P.P.P.S. What are YOU? I’d like to know.

How to Put Away (and Set Up) Your Christmas Tree in 20 Minutes

Jan 3 2016

This is our Christmas tree this year.

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It took me 20 minutes total to set up, light and decorate, and you want to know why?

Because I am a GENIUS, that’s why.

A freaking GENIUS, I tell you.

A freaking GENIUS, I tell Greg especially, who thinks I’m more annoying than smart, but what does he know?

Just in case you want to be a genius like me, I’m going to let you in on my system so you, too, can half-ass Christmas decorating and half-ass the clean-up and make it look like you used your WHOLE ASS.

I started a year ago with this project and did follow-up testing this year to be sure it works, and it does, so I’m sharing something tried and true, here. You can take this to the bank! Except not literally because taking your Christmas tree to the bank would be weird. And God knows we’re not weird around here. We are GENIUSES.

Last year at this time — the end of the Christmas season when it was time to dismantle everything — it occurred to me that we assemble, light, and decorate our tree every year, followed in rapid succession by undecorating, unlighting, and unassembling the same tree. No offense to people who do things the Right Way or the Best Way, but this method does not match our family personality very well, so I told Greg we were done with it.

“We’re done with it,” I said to Greg.

And Greg said, “What are we done with this time?” since I’m regularly done with things Normal People do. Things like putting away clean laundry and making beds with top sheets. Done, I say. No one has time for these things. Why do we keep doing them?

“We’re done decorating the Christmas tree and then undecorating it 4 weeks later,” I said. “We do this every year,” I said. “We are suckers,” I said. “This is just busy work,” I said, “and we do not have time for unnecessary work around here,” which is the God’s Honest Truth, friends. The God’s Honest Truth.

Greg rolled his eyes, because he’s heard this speech a Time or Two, and he said, “OK, Beth. Whatever. But you get to explain to the kids why we’re not having a Christmas tree anymore.”

And I said, “No. You misunderstand. We are SO having a Christmas tree. We can’t NOT have a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is IMPORTANT, Greg. I can’t believe you’re even suggesting we ditch the tree. It’s in Bible that we have a Christmas tree. Or at least it’s strongly implied. We can’t celebrate the birth of the Christ child without a pine tree, Greg. I mean, DOY. I’m just saying we don’t have to do all this work with the damn tree, you know? All this assembly and lighting and decorating and undecorating and unlighting and unassembling. It’s ridiculous, Greg, and you know who ends up doing it all? ME. Me is who. Because the kids SAY they want to help, but they LIE, Greg. They lie and LIE. They do NOT want to help. They want to spend 5 minutes putting candy canes on the tree and criticizing what I do with the balls. I know what to do with balls, Greg. I am not a Ball Novice. I do not need to begin the Christmas season with Ball Handling Instructions from kids who do not know what they’re talking about.”

And Greg said, “Ooookaaay. No decorating the tree. You can handle all the balls. Got it.”

But, “Nope,” I said looking at the tree we were about to disassemble. “We are SO having a decorated, ball-laden tree next year. It’s what Jesus would want. Go get the plastic wrap, Greg.”

And Greg did, because Greg is smart and he knows there comes a time when, if the wife is discussing ball handling and plastic wrap, it’s in his best interests to just follow directions.

And then we did this:

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Yep.

That’s right.

That’s what we did.

We laid the Christmas tree down. WITH its lights. WITH its balls. WITH its ribbons. And we wrapped it in plastic wrap.

The whole entire thing.

As is.

Greg HATED it.

I was giddy.

He almost left me.

I just grinned.

“This is not going work,” Greg said. “This is the stupidest idea you have ever had,” Greg said. Which just proves Greg’s memory is very, very, very short.

This year, we got down the plastic wrapped tree and we unwrapped it.

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AND IT WORKED.

I kid you not.

TWENTY MINUTES LATER (I timed it), our tree was up and looked like this:

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Yes, I had to rearrange a few balls.

And yes, we broke one,

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…because I accidentally left a glass ball on the tree last year when I thought they were all plastic.

But overall?

SUCCESS. And GENIUS. And WE’RE NEVER LOOKING BACK.

 

I mean, Greg’s looking back because Greg’s a Back Looker and against innovation.

But HALF of Greg and me isn’t looking back. And this half thinks this idea is RAD.

I even improved it this year, man, ’cause two ropes and a sheet work even better than plastic wrap.

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One rope for tying the branches up tightly.

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A sheet to wrap around the tree:

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And a second rope to secure the who shebang, all of which I did with a nine-year-old boy child while his daddy grumbled in the corner.

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Voila!

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PLUS, this method will work for wrapping a body, should I ever need to dispose of one surreptitiously. So, LIFE SKILLS, am I right?

In conclusion, I am a genius, and you can be just like me. Take that, Pinterest.

Love,

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P.S. Those pictures above were selectively taken not to show the mess. This is what the room actually looked like throughout most of December.

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P.P.S. Word to the wise: don’t make fun of the “mess” above. That’s actually what “pristine” looks like in this house.

P.P.P.S. I’ve been very hidey the last few days, working hard on my mental health because apparently this is another season where I have to do that. (Hooray for mental illness! It’s a BLAST!) I’ve alternated between Having Things to Say, wanting rather desperately to write to you, and feeling emphatically that My Words are Stupid and I should just shut up already. I’m busy, busy, busy trying to turn up the volume to the voice that says Weird Me is OK, Weird Me is Enough, Weird Me is Important, and Weird Me is Exactly Who I’m Supposed to Be; and Wild and Wonderful, Too. And I’m fighting to turn down the voice of depression because depression always lies. Always. Always always. In the midst of this, while I work my way to the surface and wave in the dark and wait for the dawn, I want you to know I’ve read every single response to the last post on how it’s going, and I’m sending love fiercely to you all. Thank you for waiting for me.

How’s It Going?

Dec 29 2015

I’ve been a little quiet this week because I’m under water.

Not a LOT under water.

Just a bit.

Probably.

Maybe.

Although, to be honest, as a person with mental illness, I wouldn’t really know if I was all the way under water, so I’m historically unreliable on the whole self-assessment thing. I mean, what do I know about how I’m doing? NOT MUCH, friends. Not much at all.

Still, as best as I can tell, I’m just a little under water. Like, the kind of under water where I yelled at Greg on Christmas Day because he didn’t put his pants on fast enough.

Merry Christmas, Greg!
With Love,
Your Sweet and Darling Wife

In my defense, Greg put his pants on really slowly that day. Really, really slowly. As in, really, really, REALLY slowly.

Because it did not matter that the children left the front door open and the dogs escaped.

And it did not matter that those canines were gleefully running roughshod over the neighborhood.

It did not matter that Greg’s wife was fresh from the shower, soaking wet and naked, and therefore not as well positioned as he was to chase said dogs.

Nope; those things were irrelevant, and it was not possible to simply grab pants, throw them on and chase three dogs down the street. That is not how Things Are Done. There is an Order, after all. A Queue in Greg’s scientific mind. A Specific Process from which a properly ordered man shall not deviate. And Pants-Donning is faaaaarr down the list, it seems, after lots of other things that have to be done first.

First, for example, Greg had to source a pair of socks. Not the pair of socks laying next to him. No; he had to find a clean pair of socks as though we suddenly have sock standards at our house. And then a shirt. And then another, long sleeved shirt to go over the first shirt which, turns out, was just an undershirt and not a shirt shirt because God Forbid you chase three giddy, sprinting dogs with dirty socks and without an undershirt. That would be wrong. 

Eventually, Greg put on his pants.

And then he had to find a belt.

And then he latched the belt on the wrong hole so he had to redo the latching of it.

“DEAR, SWEET, BABY JESUS, HUSBAND WHOM I LOVE AND WHOM I SHALL THROTTLE. THE DOGS ARE IN CHINA BY NOW.”

“I only see my slippers,” said Greg. “Where are my shoes?”

“GO. GET. THE. DAMN. DOGS.”

Next time, I’m chasing the dogs naked. So let it be written. So let it be done.

So I’m under water a little, if you gauge drowning on the Yelling at the Spouse Scale, which I do, I guess, even if the yelling wasn’t yelling so much as, you know, me helping Greg. Helping him become a better person, really. I give and I give.

Still, I’m under water a little.

A little breathless sometimes these days.

A little emotionally gaspy lately as I surface for a minute and drift back under, not weighed down so much that I can’t see or participate in the joy which surrounds me, but weighed down enough that I’m not as gentle with my people or with myself as I feel I should be. And not gentle about not being gentle, either.

I have Things to Say, though. Things to Write. Thoughts about the year almost past and the year swiftly coming. Ideas about how we might lay this one to rest and welcome the year almost upon us in ways that are more full of freedom than fear, more graceful than grim, and more mindful of relief than insisting on rigor. But I’m under water a little, so I’m not sure how to start. And I’m metaphorically naked and wet, too, and rather sure someone else should go chase the thoughts that keep running roughshod through my head; certain others are more equipped than me to run them down.

I don’t know how to unstick the log-jam when I’m under water. I’ve never been good at this part. I don’t have neat endings or lessons learned when I’m in this place. The best I can do is kick for the surface every now and then. But I made a promise a long time ago — to you and to me — that I’d write anyway, even from here. Even badly. Even unsure. Even when I’m simultaneously yelly and breathless. So here it is, friends. The truth as far as I can write it from here.

That’s how it’s going around these parts. And what I really want to know from you — my companions above and beneath the water, who sit in the mud with me, and wave in the dark and wait for the dawn — how are you? How are YOU these days? And how can we hold hands in the dark?

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It’s Christmas Eve Eve Eve

Dec 22 2015

Tonight is Christmas Eve Eve Eve, which means Christmas is 25% closer than it was last night on Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve, a puzzling fact, since I’m certainly not 25% more prepared.

Perhaps I’m not better prepared because I spent a good chunk of last night in the bathtub, having snagged two packages of Cheez-Its from my kids’ snack shelf in the pantry and one Stella Artois from the top shelf in the fridge so I could lay in classy, naked, boob-floaty splendor, reading my latest trashy, magic-laden novel by candlelight whilst dropping crackers into the bog and dredging them back out to eat their soggy goodness because if you get them fast enough, they’re still crunchyish, and therefore totally edible, as every mom knows.

My bathtub ecstasy lasted 8 minutes ’til I was caught, literally red-handed, up to my wrist in crinkly Cheez–It plastic, whereupon my child cried because I stole snacks that were not mine and ate them all gone. “You ate them ALL GONE, MOM,” my child cried when he caught me. And I, wise and mature, countered, “DID NOT. There are, like, two whole crackers left in here and at least that many floating in the tub, although you’ll have to work to fish those out if you’re hoping to eat them.” And my child said, “EW, gross; you STOLE them and then you RUINED THEM.” Which is what’s wrong with kids these days. No work ethic, expecting others to steal and fish for them. I, though? I am here to provide a better example. You’re welcome, kids.

It’s 7:08pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve, and I have Things to Do. Things to Finish. Things *ahem* to Start. Like cooking and cleaning and creating meaningful gift experiences that show my kids they are worth every extravagance while giving them a global perspective that helps them become well rounded, not entitled, and productive members of society. No pressure, though.

It’s 7:10pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve and I should be Better Prepared than I am right now, which is how I feel about life, really, and not just about Christmas.

I should be better prepared, right? I’m pretty sure I should.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have spent my day sitting at my desk with my chin propped on my hand, staring at my rain soaked backyard while the dogs tackled each other and dragged every puddle into the house, and hitting the refresh button on my Facebook feed, hoping TipHero would post videos faster so I can see all the ways I’m failing to hack my life.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have spent my day hollering at my kids to quit hollering at each other because one copied his brother’s Minecraft creation and so the other hit him in the face with his knee but by accident. 

Perhaps I should’ve had the kids do their chores and their reading.

Or perhaps I should’ve done the laundry.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have slept in.

Perhaps the kids should have.

Or, at the core, perhaps I should’ve done more, and done it before now. At Christmas time and Always.

Perhaps I should’ve done more and done it better, you know? Bigger and brighter, maybe. Bolder.

And perhaps I shouldn’t have been so overwhelmed by All the Things and snuck that box of Cadbury cookies into my bed to eat in secret. The hazelnut ones are the best, by the way. The hazelnut or the shortbread; it’s hard to choose.

Perhaps I should’ve.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps it’s OK to have it partly together this year. Partly together and no more.

Perhaps it’s OK to have it partly together and to be imperfect.

Perhaps it’s OK to do Some of the Things and not All of Them.

Perhaps it’s OK to have dog mud on the couch and not enough Cheez-Its in the house.

Perhaps it’s OK to have wanted to give my kids everything and a global perspective, and to not quite have done either, as though their lives are partly up to them and they get a say, too, in how they turn out.

Perhaps it’s OK to give my kids the few things I can afford and with those my heart, my soul and my life, such that it is, poured out in full.

Perhaps it’s enough to sit in this season of Advent– of waiting in the dark for the Light to come — of Hopes Realized and Hopes Unrealized — and be OK with complexity of it all.

It’s 7:48pm on Christmas Eve Eve Eve, friends, and I have Some Things ready, but not Everything, like I’d hoped, but I’m here, anyway, to say Merry Christmas, and perhaps it’s OK, complex momrades. Perhaps it’s OK anyway.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve,

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How to Decorate for Christmas (Using the Very FIRST Christmas as Inspiration)

Dec 18 2015

Let’s be honest. Christmas has drifted a teensy, tiny bit away from the meaning behind it all. From the Reason for the Season. From the very FIRST Christmas. But I? I AM HERE TO RESCUE IT, friends, and you? You’re invited to join me.

Christmas these days seems to be full of beautiful things. Bright, shiny stars perched atop twinkling trees. Children in pristine, pressed clothes going to church. Lovely, hand-carved nativities nestled in ivy decorating dust-free mantels hung with stitched stockings. You know? You know that Christmas?

Well, we’re ready for Christmas here at my house, too. Real ready. Real, REAL ready. Except with more of a vintage feel. An authentic feel. A Back to Basics Because We Care about the FIRST Christmas feel. And JESUS, you know? We want to relive the First Christmas from the Jesus and Mary and Joseph perspective. As much as possible, anyway, in our 21st century home.

Which is why this year we’ve committed to going for more of a “the cattle are lowing” decorating scheme.

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And a motif that screams, “Yes! Yes, we were born in a barn.”

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We’re into authenticity, see, not sanitized versions of Scripture.

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Because WE CARE ABOUT HOLINESS, amirite?

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I mean, not to say we’re more Godly than you, or Christ-like, or have the Favor of the Lord upon us, but we do live and smell pretty much exactly like shepherds of old, all sleeping-with-the-animals, and no-showers-for-days, and at-one-with-the-grit-and-the-grime, and I am saying the angels appeared unto them, so they must’ve been doing something right, man.

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I don’t share any of this — or the pictures of our home, decorated to perfectly match our theme for the year — to make you feel badly about your Christmas preparedness or to hold myself up as better or brighter than you.

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I’ve simply been doing this Keeping House and Holiday Decorating and Parenting gig for a long time now, and feel I may have some tips and perspective to offer.

In conclusion, if you’d like to join us for an authentic FIRST Christmas feel this year with all your Christmas decorating and preparation, please do feel free. We’d love to have you on board.

Merry Christmas from my barn to yours,

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P.S. For a truly authentic tree topper, I suggest stealing your daughter’s favorite stuffed animal — a sheep, handmade by a friend who felted old sweaters — and impaling it at the top. It’s a real conversation starter, I tell you. And also another reason it’s so important to raise your children to be self-sufficient enough to pay for their own counseling. Win/win, I tell you. Win/win.

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8 Days of Giveaways! Day EIGHT: Just Short and Sweet

Dec 15 2015

Hello, friends, and welcome to…

8 Days of Giveaways:
Day EIGHT!

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Just Short and Sweet

Here we are! Day EIGHT already of 8 Days of Giveaways, and we definitely get to go out on top, because today I get to give away a fun, trendy, brass necklace with thanks to my childhood friend, Blythe Rhoads who makes cool things AND is working to make life better for our friends across the world in Africa through her work with Ever Increasing Children’s School in Bukasa Village, Uganda. I cannot easily express how incredibly inspired I am by people like Blythe — and so many of our other artists featured this week — who seek to love our neighbors well and who remember we’re all neighbors.

blythe&stephcraftworkshopAbout Just Short and Sweet:

We are Blythe & Stephani…roommates & friends who love Jesus, pizza, estate sales, and all things crafty & handmade. We live in sunny Southern California. We opened an Etsy shop in January 2015 out of an unceasing desire to make pretty things that inspire and bring others JOY. This October, we hosted our very first Craft Workshop, where like-minded lovers of handmade goodness gathered together and expressed their creativity by making three quality crafts…to gift or keep! We can’t wait to host more workshops in 2016.

The Giveaway: A Just Short and Sweet brass necklace (as pictured above). This unique brass necklace is lightweight and super versatile. It will go with everything in your closet, and will soon be your go-to necklace! It makes a super chic (and affordable) gift, and is made from three pieces of hand cut brass pipe and waxed cotton cord, making it both nickel-free and vegan. The cord measures 33″ around at longest length and 16″ around at shortest length, and the brass pendant is 1″ wide by 3.5″ long. Simply adjust the size by *carefully* sliding the knots closer together to make it longer, or farther apart to make it shorter. They are double knotted for extra security, and lightly burned to seal the ends and protect against unraveling. This necklace is available on a black or brown cord.

TO ENTER, simply leave a comment on this blog post anytime until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Thursday, December 17. (Psst… don’t enter on Facebook— though I LOVE comments there and read every one, I’m using the blog comment string to randomly select a winner). Any comment will work to enter, but if you’d like a prompt, let us know what prayer or wish you have for a place in this world that stirs your heart. For example, I’d say, “The Syrian refugee families are in my prayers,” or “I wish for peace and rest from the violence we see around the world.” It’s a way of waving in the dark, I think, to see each other’s laments and offer a piece of our heart to them.

This giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Alison of the Hairline Fracture Blog! Check your email for all the details.

Do Note: For those of you who wish to purchase a necklace, $1 of each sale will be donated to Ever Increasing Children’s School in Bukasa Village, Uganda, Africa and will be used for school supplies, meals, and teacher salaries. For more information on Blythe’s work with her dad in Uganda, check out their other Etsy shop here and blog here.

Also: You can also find Just Short and Sweet on Instagram, Facebook and the World Wide Web, and you can always contact Blythe and Stephani by email at justshortandsweetshop@gmail.com.

Also-also: The artists selected for this giveaway were hand-picked by yours truly. They did not pay for these spots, nor do I benefit in any financial way by hosting these. Emotionally? I get a HUGE benefit. ‘Cause this stuff makes me happy. Each artist received a spot on the right sidebar (or, if you’re viewing on your mobile, at the bottom of the page) to advertise his/her stuff (hint: you can catch a preview there of what’s coming over the next few days), which is my gift to them to thank them for partnering with me. They’re rad.

8 Days of Giveaways! Day SEVEN: Blossoms by Branching Out

Dec 14 2015

Hello, friends and welcome to…

8 Days of Giveaways:
Day SEVEN!

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Photo Credit ©Nanci Imagery

Blossoms by Branching Out

Blossoms8Blossoms4Blossoms7I stumbled across Christine at a bazaar a few weeks ago, and I was completely enchanted by her hair blossoms. From teeny, tiny blooms in neutrals to HUGE, full, colorful flowers, I loved every one and bought my fair share because they’re afforable ($2-5 each), and I decided they’re perfect as stocking stuffers. Of course, that was before I decided to keep most of them for myself, but theoretically, they’re ideal to give away.

I tracked Christine down after the bazaar — and after wearing mine and finding them the perfect balance of pretty and durable — and asked her if there was any way she’d want to participate in this giveaway.

She said yes, and here we are! Thanks, Christine!

From Blossoms by Branching Out: My name is Christine and I LOVE flowers! It all started off with a sweet little girl who captured my heart. She came into my life when she was 7 months. She is now 7 and has been “officially” my precious little girl since she turned 3. I am SO grateful!

She loved ‘pretties’ in her hair, and so I started the search. I found the ones in various stores were too flimsy and thin. I really wanted something that was more full and unique. I started looking for various blooms to turn into hair blossoms. My blooms are layered and much more full than those you will find at a store; they have more unique centers and a sturdier clip, too.

I really enjoy custom orders, as well as events. Local customers set up private showings where they come and are able to look through my stock. Most of all, my desire is to provide a fun, cute product that is excellent quality, as well as affordable!

Blossoms by Branching Out offers 5 different sizes of blooms, and I can custom make blooms to fit your needs ranging from the size of a quarter on up.

Our blooms are very versatile. Not only have the adorned sweet little girls’ hair, but all ages of ladies. They can also be used as a brooch, corsages, clipped to a purse, jacket lapel. A couple of others have used it for their flower girls and bridesmaids at their weddings. They can be clipped to sashes of dresses… some gals even used them to embellish their flip flops! If you prefer, we can attach a pin onto the back instead of a clip if you prefer to use it as a pin.

Blossoms10Today’s Giveaway: a Blossoms by Branching Out headband with your choice of either 1 large bloom or 3 mini blooms as pictured right. OR, if you have different colors in mind, Christine will work with you.

TO ENTER, simply leave a comment on this blog post anytime until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Wednesday, December 16. (Psst… don’t enter on Facebook— though I LOVE comments there and read every one, I’m using the blog comment string to randomly select a winner). Any comment will work to enter, but if you’d like a prompt, tell us what small things — like hair blooms or a cup of coffee — make you happy.

This giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations, Pam Zercher! Check your email for a message with all the details. 

You can find Christine at the Blossoms: By Branching Out Facebook page here. For the month of December, Christine is also offering FREE SHIPPING. WOOHOO!

……….

Do Note: Multiple giveaways are going simultaneously — one every day for 8 days and each of them open for 48ish hours, so check back every day to see what new giveaways there are!

Also Note: This giveaway is open worldwide. None of this “America only” crap. We do not have time for America Only in this ComeUnity. Nathan Rhoads is providing two art prints and U.S. shipping; I’ll supplement shipping if one of you wins from elsewhere.

Also-also Note: The artists selected for this giveaway were hand-picked by yours truly. They did not pay for these spots, nor do I benefit in any financial way by hosting these. Emotionally? I get a HUGE benefit. ‘Cause this stuff makes me happy. Each artist received a spot on the right sidebar (or, if you’re viewing on your mobile, at the bottom of the page) to advertise his/her stuff (hint: you can catch a preview there of what’s coming over the next few days), which is my gift to them to thank them for partnering with me. They’re rad.