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Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm Still Learning

What would Jesus do?
It's taken me days to finally ask myself this question. And you know what answer rang like a bell in my heart?
Jesus would totally blog!
Knowing that the devil has been traipsing in gleeful circles around me, pouncing on my heart and on my thoughts, I'm finally ready to push through towards resuming some of my regular routines.
I'm blogging again, devil. So back off and be quiet!
Even though I grew up attending church as a girl, when I hit my twenties, for reasons of hurt and youthful rebellion, I convinced myself there was no such thing as the devil. Yeah, that turned out to be a years-long party for the devil and his peeps at my expense. It almost put me in an early grave.
Ahh, but God had other plans, so here I still stand.
In the last line of my previous post, when I mentioned needing the bitter to appreciate the sweet, I had no idea that a metaphoric train was slamming into my family's life just a few days before publishing it. Rest assure, we are all safe and healthy. Unfortunately this is something I can't blog about due to the privacy of my loved ones.
What I can tell you about is what I'm learning. I'm learning that prayer is always truly powerful and God still is beautiful, loving and amazing.
Years ago, when I was an adolescent, I discovered the joys of friendship. At age ten I met my best friend Daisy (maybe you remember her), we exchanged phone numbers and opened our damns of free-flowing chattiness for the next 10,000 plus days of our lives. Of course there were weeks, months and even a few years in between when we weren't talking.
But that doesn't mean we were quiet. We had each found other best friends whose ears we continued bending with all our blabbing. I can't help but chuckle at myself when I think about how much I used to talk. I spilled my guts about every single problem I ever had, from broken nails and laments over my too-small boobs to feuds with my mother and weepiness over elusive mates. Blah blah blah! Yakkity-yak-yak!
Geez-louise! It feels like it took forever for me to hear just how much talking I'd been doing all those years.
Anywayz, today I'm off from work for a second day in a row. Yesterday was needed for scripture reading, loads of praying, some tears, and a few naps. Today is simply my time to relax and regroup.
Someone dear to me recently asked me the "why" question about bad things in life. I didn't answer because it was asked during an emotionally charged moment and I knew I wouldn't be heard or understood. But I can say it here because bad things happen to us all. Everyday we each get turns at feeling lost and seeking answers.
In my older age I've learned to listen more than I speak. I've also learned, as much as I think I know, I still have a lot to learn. Here's where my faith comes in. I've learned there are some things we're just not meant to know or understand in this life. I love and trust my Heavenly Father's plan for my life. 
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. --Romans 8:28
None of us want to suffer through the pains of life, but through faith, we know that our suffering does indeed, come to an end and whether we choose to accept it or not, it always serves a purpose.
I guess the reason I used to talk so much during my younger years was because there was just so many things I didn't understand. I figured if I talked long enough, the answers would eventually come. But I've learned that's not always the case. Nowadays, I get most of my life's answers when I am listening.
God loves everyone of us without exception. We are all His children. We each have a special purpose in this life. Every single experience we have, God has a plan unique to each of us. THAT keeps my heart smiling and encourages me to never give up on the beauty of this life.
In other news, last Sunday a request was made of me to teach the Relief Society lesson just two hours before it began. The scheduled teacher was out sick that day. So I said yes and I did it! And guess who was NOT trembling like a leaf this time? Me!
I know, right?! Shocked myself, too.
I could have said no, but my heart told me I needed to say yes.
During the lesson I was filled with and led by Spirit. As I taught, it felt like I was in my own living room chatting with my family. Ok, I admit to being a teensy bit nervous, but those nerves took a back seat to the love I felt in that room. I'm sure the devil was pouting in a corner somewhere watching the Holy Spirit do Its thing through me and all those women. It was wonderful!
I'm reminded that when I'm feeling discouraged, being in service to someone else can lift me up. Oh yes, sad times can be a win-win for us all. I've missed you. Glad we had this chat. Thanks for being kind enough to read. Now go! Be a blessing to someone else.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Eyes Opened to a Beautiful Life

Do you ever look at your life and wonder how you got to a particular juncture? Sometimes I do. Especially in the last few years. My life is the kind of beautiful I never would have imagined for myself as a child, a young adult, or even a thirty-something year old working mother.

I'm 47 now and I am truly thankful to be alive at this time.

Years ago, all I ever hoped for was that my children would be safe and happy. My thoughts spider-webbed into all kinds of tinier and larger hopes, but that one pulsated at my brain's center. Somewhere in the web I also hoped to find true love, which eventually I did. And then I stopped hoping for any more big wishes because it seemed, between my children and my darling hubby, I had everything I needed.

I was just living my life. And then one day, my babies became teenagers. I started blogging as an outlet and escape from the parenting riddles I'd begun struggling to figure out. Little did I know, I was hoping again, in search of some kind of love-injection into our lives. I felt challenged to sustain my position as a loving parent. My then teenagers were arching eagerly towards the pressure of worldly peers and I felt powerless to stop them. I turned to blogging as an outlet.

In 2008 I happened upon the blog of this feisty, scrappy, outspoken woman who would change my life forever: According to Nikki. She was slapping words onto the page with a kind of fearless passion that was new to me as a writer. Whoa! I was all like, I think I'm in love! Her passion was politics, while mine was unfolding the mysteries of my family life.

It wasn't long before I caught the fever and began writing my own political blog posts. I lived on two blogs: mine and According To Nikki. A friendship was born! 

Through Nikki's blog, I became acquainted with a few more bloggers with similar political views. One of them was Sheila from Pedaling Fast and Trying to Keep Up. I'm pleased to tell you I got to meet her this past weekend!

A couple of months ago Sheila told me she'd be visiting New York City with a few family members, so off I went to meet up with her just a few days ago. 

Me and Sheila at Pellegrino's restaurant in Little Italy

In case you didn't know, both Nikki and Sheila are Mormons. Well that explains it, right? Maybe they talked me into their religion? Nope, not even a little bit. In each of them I found authentic and sincere women dedicated to their families and their country. We got to know each other better through phone calls and skyping. I was curious about the parallels in our lives and outlooks. So I began investigating the LDS church. The rest is history unfolding before our eyes on this little ole blog. Our daughters managed to grow into amazing young ladies, despite my parenting angst.

I take no credit for the loving person I am. By virtue of limited human intelligence, I'm occasionally of the opinion that I shouldn't even be this loving based on a difficult childhood. My loving-ness can only be explained by the grace of a loving Heavenly Father. The only way I make sense of who I became is by seeing His constant touch on my heart. I am His and He has never let me go, despite my wrong perception of what felt like His absence at different intervals of my life.

So imagine my delighted surprise to meet -- on blogs and through phone calls -- these two women gushing their own love in my direction. 
Of course, I'd had friends in my life before. My earlier in real life friends were nice and as kind as they knew how to be. But no one ever gushed! I'm from Brooklyn. We don't gush. Gushers get used as doormats. Gushers get mocked. Gushers do not pour too much love over their friends, it might be considered .... odd. I learned to do my gushing privately, and sometimes even in the safe company of those who indulged me with gentle eye-rolls, and accepted me as a lovable space-cadet. You know? Like I was Gomer Pyle or Chrissie Snow.

I'm sure gushers can be found throughout all religions, communities and cultures, across our great nation. But in MY limited experience, there was NOT ONE gusher (besides myself) to be found ..... until I began blogging. This of course includes ALL my wonderful blog-friends, not just Mormons.

Sheila, her daughter, Krista and me

So I met up with Sheila on a rainy Saturday in NYC. So fun!

We met in Times Square.

Of course we hugged and we gushed!

We went to lunch at John's Pizzeria (very popular spot in Times Square). We were able to spend some time alone before Sheila's beautiful daughter, Krista, joined us. 

We exchanged gifts. We talked about our families, the gospel, how we met and fell in love with our hubbies and other girl stuff!

Sheila is a wonderful photographer and an iPhone pro, so she took time to share a few tips and pointers with me.

We navigated the subway, which was no easy feat, even for a former New Yorker like me. I confess to taking my gal-pals on a wrong turn. But we figured it all out.

I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked because we were often rushing through crowded, rainy streets, trying to get dry. We met up with Sheila's sister and niece in Little Italy for dinner. We were too busy laughing, chatting and eating to take any more pictures. There was so much love around that dinner table! 

I rode home on the bus thanking God for this beautiful life he opened my eyes to. I marveled at my wonderful day and the sweet sister friends I'd spent so many hours with. It felt like I'd spent time with people I'd known my whole life. The only missing link was the girl on whose blog these friendships all began. But my dear friend, Nikki was definitely with us in spirit. 

Hopefully we'll be doing it all over again soon in Arizona and/or Utah. Until then, I'm walking on the clouds of a dreamy life. Oh sure, I still face difficulties and sometimes there's even painful situations to get through. But that's what makes the good days feel so good. We need the bitter in order to appreciate the taste of the sweet.

Life is good.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks- A Personal Review

Why do I enjoy writing so much?

I write because the world fascinates me. I am impressed almost every hour by something in the world and I am definitely amazed every single day by the happenings in the world. There isn't nearly enough time or inclination for me to write it all down, but I capture with letters and phrases some bits of what I see.

Artists are everywhere around us and I love them for capturing their own bits of our amazing world as they see it. I have a particular fascination with people, their behaviors and their motivations. I will never tire of deepening my understanding of how people tick.

I wasn't born into comfort, love and protection. I was born into fear, strife and confusion. Like most children born into that kind of existence, I adapted and learned quickly how to survive through the frequent uproar of my early life. While there were difficulties I loathed at the time to live through, I would not trade any of my experiences. I love the diamond in the rough girl I've become as a result.

For these reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

It will go down in Maria history as one of my favorite movies, I loved it that much. We artists see things that ordinary people with differing talents just see. Now maybe, some people saw this movie and decided, bleh, didn't care for it. And that's quite alright because it's not for all tastes. But for my palate, it was simply delish!

Tom Hanks was excellent in his portrayal of Walt Disney, the business magnate behind the creation of the happiest place on earth. The story's tagline goes, Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen.

Okay, granted, this was not exactly a true-to-life bio-pic, but it was an entertaining story about an author who needed money and a tycoon who'd grown accustomed to acquiring anything his money could buy. Walt Disney is portrayed by Hanks as affable and empathetic to P.L. Travers' cranky and ornery demeanor, acted superbly by Emma Thompson. In reality, word on the (Hollywood) street is, the real life Travers hated the Mary Poppins movie to her last dying day and despite having written eight Poppins books, never made another movie with Disney.

But if we don't mind suspending those realities, we can see the romantic version of events for the beauty it yielded. Our heroine, P.L. Travers was once a little girl with a grand imagination inspired by a charming and adoring father whom she idolized. Unfortunately her father was also an alcoholic whose irresponsibility led to a few job losses, which put a mighty strain on his household. Fortunately for fans, out of this difficult childhood, came a wounded grownup who wrote Mary Poppins and dubbed herself P.L. Travers. 
The movie also has in it the usual suspects of crowd-pleasers: drama, humor, colorful scenes and characters and a little music thrown in. If you're a people-watcher such as I (and I'm pretty sure you are), I think you will enjoy checking out this movie.

Have YOU seen any movies lately which you'd highly recommend? 

Monday, March 24, 2014


I'm an employee and like so many others in the world, I work a 40 hour work week. Except for a few years when I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, I have been an employee for most of my workable life. I got my first job at thirteen, working evenings and weekends as a cashier in Roy Rogers, a chicken and burger joint.

I worked part-time until I graduated from college and got my first "real job." I still remember how excited I was at the thought of working full time and getting vacation days. Ahhh! Sweet innocence, the glory days of youthful hope and eager yearnings to do good things. Paychecks were soooo secondary to the desire to touch lives and put my unique stamp on intellectual properties. day I woke up to the dreaded end of the weekend feeling. Noooooooo! Mondays began showing up and piling on like stalker-ish junk mail. Hate. Mondays. So. Much.

Do I sound like I dislike my work? I don't mean to. I actually love my job. It's one of the BEST jobs I've ever had. I have a short commute (less than 10 minutes), a flexible schedule, my own office, and a great boss. That combination of perks makes a girl like me very happy indeed!

It's just ..... I really love my home life. Everything else pales in comparison. I sleep in the same bed with my best friend. I occasionally have some great conversations with my children. And I have really amazing friends. My love is requited when I'm at home. I can be myself when I'm at home. My dogs look at me like I'm a walking strip of bacon and they follow me around like I'm their personal hero when I'm at home. 

Between my husband and my dogs, I feel like I'm living the life of a princess. 

Whenever Sunday night rolls around, I sigh and think, Time to go back out there: into the world. And once I get to work, I'm quite pouty and a bit petulant. I probably look like the crying toddler who gets left at daycare by her working mom. Don't judge me. I've actually gotten much better than I used to be, thanks to having the gospel in my life. I used to be a bear, ready to rip heads verbally. But now I'm just quiet, albeit stiffly polite.

I used to seethe silently as if I were hungry and sleepless. I've learned to banish my cranky girl. I try to keep a constant awareness of my many blessings and practice a demeanor of gratitude. My co-workers have learned to leave me alone on Mondays. I keep earplugs in for the first few hours, allowing Enya to soothe me as I work. I don't think they like the earplugs, but I can't worry about that. I'm getting old and I need to care for myself as if I'm my own precious infant in a dangerous, unruly world.

Why do so many of us hate Mondays? I guess for me, even though I'm fortunate enough to be in a job that I like, I'd rather earn my living on my own terms. If I could, I'd be working for myself instead of a company. I guess we all would. One of these days I hope to have my dream job, where I get to go to work in my living room and take lunch breaks in my kitchen. Oh! Just the thought of it gives my heart a happy skip!

Is Monday just another day for YOU? Are you living your dream job yet?

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Mellow Cruise-Control

I've been in and out of moods. I've been known to be extremely high or extremely low. But lately I've been cruising somewhere in the middle of my feelings. Let's call it mellow-cruise control.

Of late, I've been juggling things in my head. Our kids are experiencing their life changes as young adults, finding their way through these interesting times we're all living in. And these interesting times are not the funnest or the most creative. Nor are these times spilling with brotherly love or belching out contagious genius. So I've been standing on the perimeter of my children's lives, occasionally peeking in like a spectator.

Some of you remember when I used to write about how they drove me crazy with their teenage antics. And I thought THAT chapter was hard. Ha! I'm not saying that chapter was a walk in the park compared to anything else we've experienced. All I can say is parenting is HAARRRDDDD sometimes. It takes on varying shapes at different levels with no blueprint. And there's been so many walls I've slam into, not unlike bumping into furniture and walls in ones own home, and you wonder Was that always there?

Who can be prepared for the feeling of uninvited-ness to the lives of their own offspring. When the doors of your children's moody heart close against you? That friggin hurts. But you can't say that to them. You just have to remind yourself they're just as entitled to  autonomy and independence as you are, so chill out and let them have it. 

And yet, at least we get to practice other things so we can be good at it. Like bat-swings, push-ups, tennis-swings, and swimming, the more we do it, the better we get. But with parenting? Oh maaannn. That feels like constant on-the-job training, sink or swim, you fool! Flap those arms, little bird, or you die.


And now it's my other family members pulling, pulling and needing, needing. If it wasn't for the gospel, I'd have pulled the covers over my head, put my hands over my ears and sung la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!! It's true, I still fight against standing on the right side of situations every single day. Doing the right thing? Ugh. It's boring and tedious and un-fun! I miss threats to neck and kidney-punch in my fantasies. I want to relish in my mean, selfish thoughts the way pigs writhe happily in mud.

Despite all my mind's mischievous ramblings, I have forced myself to make a few right choices this week. I can't say they were all right for others, but they felt right for me. I'm still a work in progress, thank God for an ability and desire to write it down as I figure life out. Writing brings me such sweet relief. So here I am. I hope to be back here again, sooner rather than later. 
Pictures: The first two were taken on a walk with my hubby two weeks ago. The third is of our daughter, Moonchie, home for spring-break this week. The last pic was taken just outside my office yesterday. Feels like the sun has been M.I.A. here in the northeast, so I grabbed it- so to speak.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Photo-A-Day & A Brother In Jail

It's been 14 days since I learned of my younger brother, Jay's (not his real name) incarceration. I've gone back and forth on whether to write about it. At first I thought, it's not my story to tell. But then I realized, it's just as much my story as his. Because it has impacted our whole family.
See that last sentence? That's grammatically incorrect, a fragment sentence. It's an indication of how my thoughts have been rolling and crashing into each other since I found out about Jay's incarceration. I'm much more composed today than I was about the news 14 days ago, but I'm still adjusting to this new reality.
When I think about the little boy I cared for and tried to protect as a girl -- because I was the hero-child being the oldest sibling -- sitting in a Texas jail, looking at a two year sentence, I pant a little and my heart skips to race. So yeah, I'm still adjusting.
March 4- On my mind
The first week, I could barely focus on things. I forced myself through my life's mechanics. I still had to go to work, cook dinner, talk pleasantries with my husband, touch bases with my kids, feed the dogs, even breathing regularly felt like its own task to get through. As the days passed I've felt more normal. I just try not to get trapped in the dark parts of my mind's labyrinth.
What happened?
Well .... my mother's a cryptic story-teller who has always believed that her phone lines are tapped and everyone on earth will one day end up on trial, having conversations used against them. Since my brother has lived with her on and off all his life, she is my main source of news regarding him. Oh! And in case I may have caused confusion by my recent talk of brothers, this is a different brother than the one mentioned in my last post.
I shall take liberties to flush out her words and help make sense of the story she told me. First is the part I knew about:
Flashback to 1993: Twenty-six year old Jay fancied himself a Casanova, irresistible to females of all types, young and old, tall and short, fat and thin, usually cute. One of his flings was with a 16 year old whose parents found out and pressed charges to teach Jay and their wayward daughter a lesson. Despite being a relationship of consensual sex, statutory rape charges were pressed by the parents.
I imagine Jay learned his lesson and checked i.d.'s after that, but he and we went on with our lives pretty much putting the incident behind us and nearly forgetting about it .... until now.
According to my mother:
(Fast-forward to 2012:) My brother was in love with his girlfriend of two years and decided to move with her from New York to Texas. Upon their arrival in Texas he began filling out job applications. A standard criminal background check found his name listed on the sexual-offender's list inspired by Megan's Law. He was arrested and charged with failure to register with Texas' local police department as a sex offender.
The case unfolded in proceedings over the next two years. On February 14, 2014, my little brother, Jay was found guilty and sentenced to serve two years in a Texas jail. I know he's not some innocent victim. I know he made choices as a young man he'd changed if he could. It's just such a heartbreak for us, you know? And despite the fact that we're all able-bodied adults, I know, my mother, my sister and I are each privately wondering how we may have failed him.
On the other hand, there is really good news in the midst of these sad events. Oh yes! Heavenly Father has already revealed blessings as a direct result of Jay's incarceration. Where once ago we were a fractured and scattered family, living intentionally separate lives, we have pulled together to shore each other up.
My sister and I are calling our mother a few times a week to check on her. I've learned by watching my mother, you never stop being devastated by your children's heartaches or their disappointments. Never. So we call to cheer her with updates on Jay's progress and our letters to him. And we call to let her tell us her stories about flea-market finds and neighborhood gossip. An attention-lean old lady is fawned over once again in her twilight years. It's a lesson in daughterly charity, I confess, I may have been in need of.
I'm writing weekly letters to my little brother, Jay. Say what?! I did not see that coming. Writing letters to a brother I barely spoke to in my middle age? I thought I was too good for him, I thought I was too smart for him. I thought he was a mere peon to my worldly goodness, he making all the wrong moves, while I progressing through life with perfect primness. I thought I couldn't be bothered until he got his act together .... if ever that happened acceptably by my standards.
So thank you Texas court officials for reminding my family and I how much we truly care for and need each other. An Aside: I'm not knocking Texas in any way. All parties did the job they were hired to do. The officials down there have been nothing but professional and sometimes even patiently kind in response to what may feel like thousands of phone calls made to the jail between my mother, my sister and I.
I am so thankful to a loving Heavenly Father knows and loves me. Not a moment goes by when I don't feel His hand on my shoulder.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. -- Romans 8:28

Monday, March 3, 2014

Photo-A-Day and Family Trials

Obviously I've missed a number of days-- like 90 plus! Ha! Better late than never.

March 1- Yellow
March 2- Something borrowed

I borrowed these from the office for my Thanksgiving dinner party. I will be borrowing them again next month for dinner in our home with a few friends from church.
March 3- My name is .....
Have you ever googled your name? I do that routinely just to see what people can learn by doing a search about me. So far, I haven't turned up any real dirt. I'd probably be okay to run for an elected office if I wanted to. Heh.

See that March list for Photo-a-day? I like it! So I'm back to using the photo prompts for my thoughts .... sometimes.

See that header above my pictures? It occurs to me I've left out some of the other hats that I wear. I didn't want the clutter of naming every role I play crowding my blog header. Lately, the roles I feel most active in has been that of sister and daughter. Yeah, I left those off.

Honestly? I didn't want to be in those roles a few months ago. I was feeling self-absorbed and occasionally irritable. Though I hadn't realized it until now, I was relishing those feelings. I have tended to do what is often expected of me, so when I go off track and behave badly I lick it up like melting ice cream oozing down a cone. Yummy badness! 

I think things like, Ya know what? Later for everybody! I'm tired of being the good guy all the soul-crushing time! No more Mr. Nice Guy, doggonnit!

But then, like with ice cream and other sugary treats, I start feeling sick about the over-consumption of yumminess. Ugh. 

My family has needed me recently, so I've put my self-absorption aside until it's needed again some other time. Oh yes, there's nothing wrong with a little self-centered behavior. We just have to use it sparingly, that's all.

In the midst of our recent family crisis, my thoughts have turned to Big A, my oldest brother. Big A packed up and walked out of our lives without a backwards glance more than eight years ago. He would be loathed to know that I not only have the temerity to blog about my private life, but that I would ever mention his name in a post. Obviously I've left him with a smidgen of his anonymity by using his one initial.
I doubt that he would ever read a blog, but here's my short note to him in light of what I've been feeling lately.
Dear Big A,
I hope you're well. We all miss you and the kids terribly. I used to think that I was pretty naive in the face of your choice to shut us all out without looking back. I thought you disapproved of me for not following suit. I have privately struggled for years to hold on to or let go of the same righteous anger you and I held against Mom. Even though in my heart, I have known that we're all meant to forgive each other, I still harbor dark thoughts. Based on our shared history, I probably will always have a few spatters of these dark thoughts. But I know with certainty now, forgiveness is not meant to exist in fragments and neither is it static. We push it forward every day like a big earth ball. We don't get to forgive in pieces. We don't get to say, I forgive this but not that, him but not her, on Tuesday but not on Thursday. With forgiveness it has to be all people, all day, every day. Otherwise we suffer the unforeseen effects in other areas of our life. My wish for you is that you will forgive us all and just come home. You need us and we need you.
Little M

I guess I'm liking March's photo prompts because they resonate with my life right now. This post is a preface for tomorrow's photo-prompt, not that it will be written tomorrow. I need a few more days (weeks?) to transfer the jumble of my thoughts into a coherent post about "on my mind."
Speaking of photos, thanks to my awesome new iPhone, I am now on Instagram. Are you into photography at all? You don't need a smartphone to show off your pictures (ahem! bloggers). And speaking of family drama, do you ever feel like you're counted on too much to be every one's rock? Does it ever get tiring or are you one of the rare super-heroes?
Stay tuned.... ;-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Look At My New TOY!

Hubby and I have finally caught up with the times. We both have the Apple 4s iPhone. I am so totally addicted to this phone, I feel like a teenager! LOL!
For years we resisted getting the smartphones by passing on the upgrade offers and sticking to our basic cell phones. I thought it would be an unnecessary luxury we couldn't afford. But when our carrier offered us upgrades for just 99 cents per phone, we couldn't resist!
Now it feels like it's glued to my hand and my eyes are locked on it like I'm carrying around a new boyfriend or something. Oiy! I'm either in constant search of more free apps or I'm checking my bank account or playing a game ..... man oh man! I got it bad!
Hopefully the newness of it will wear off soon and I can get back to my life.
Do you have a smartphone? Were you as hooked on it as we now are? Or are you still holding out with your basic phone the way we used to?
P.S. Feel free to text me. All of a sudden I just LOVE texting!