Today, March 22, 2020 there are 26,747 cases in America and 138 in Alabama. We have been quarantine like most of you reading this blog. Last week we officially closed our small business. Other than a quick run to the pharmacy, doctor office or grocery store I have stayed home. I have washed my hands and kept my hands away from my face.
Today I realize that I have been a carrier. A carrier of fear. And people around me catch what I carry. We are all carriers. What are you carrying? Is it worth catching? What I have been carrying the past week is not worth catching?
I made the decision to put on a worship video. I listened as I cleaned some junk drawer and cabinets. For 2 hours I worshipped and prayed. My fear was replaced with faith, love and hope. This is what I choose to carry The Good News. Worry and anxiety is contagious, so is hope. Fear is contagious, so is peace. Hate is contagious, so is love.
In the New Testament believers were contagious. The Good News spread. Believers were faithful, loving and had hope. I didn’t spread this last week. I realize that I have been lukewarm. I have been comfortable. I have been so busy with life that I have allowed my fire to grow dim.
This is a wakeup call for the church. My hope should not be in the government. My hope should not be in doctors, though I appreciate all they are doing. Nor should my hope be in spiritual leaders. My hope is in the one who spoke all things into being. My hope is in the one who died for me. My hope is in Jesus. He is our shelter in a time of trouble. In his presence demons flee. He is the resurrection and the life.
God is not surprised by this Wuhan virus. God is always good. And good news spreads. While the world is growing dark, Jesus is the light. Whatever we are facing, look to Jesus. Jesus is here. Jesus is good. Jesus is with me. Jesus is with you.
I am a carrier and so are you. May we spread faith, love and hope today. May we be a light to the world. I believe something good can come out of this time. This is our opportunity to spread faith, give love and hope.
It’s Turkey day and you, my friend, are bound for duty. You have a responsibility, an honor to get this bird on a table. This is your time. Be bold, be brave, be swift. Its go time.
X hour: Good morning, sunshine! Pull the turkey and stuffing out of the fridge/cooler and place on counter. Get another hour of sleep, shower or have your devotional. A prayer time for the day will certainly help!
X-hour +1:Turn the oven on to turkey cooking temp. Get that turkey in the pan, stuff it, truss it and season it.
X-hour+2: Put the turkey in the oven.
Peel the potatoes and get them boiling on burner #1. Prep the salad and the dressing and refrigerate them separately. Finish your appetizers if guests are not bringing them. If you’re going to make gravy from scratch now is a great time to make the roux and the stock (burners #2 and #3). Once they’re done,throw them into bowls or Tupperware and set aside until later. When the potatoes are done, whip and/or mash them, then cover the pan, but do not refrigerate.
Get on with the cleaning/getting ready part of your day because the only thing you need to remember is basting, and you can set your phone alarm for that. From here on out, we’ll be talking about time as it relates to dinner.
The Final Countdown
This final portion of the dance can be done without stress.
Dinnertime -3 hours: Start checking your turkey; sometimes they get done early. Now is a good time to clear the kitchen and get your serving dishes, carving tools, trivets and oven mitts out. Remove any casseroles, sides and cranberry sauce from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature.
Dinnertime -1 hours: An hour before the meal (or when your turkey is done, which you can’t really control), take the turkey out, and immediately reshuffle the racks in the oven to the top and halfway. Turn oven to 350℉ if it’s not there already.
Move the turkey onto the carving board and cover it in foil. Pour all the turkey drippings into a fat separator and get it into the freezer. Put the casseroles and sides into the oven, with denser items like potatoes/sweet potatoes on top, and veggies on bottom.
Put the turkey pan on the stovetop over burners #1 and #2 and deglaze it. Add your roux and stock, grab the separator from the freezer and add the drippings from the pan. Pour it all into a saucepan, and place it back on burner #1 on low, with a lid.
Are you making vegetables that aren’t in a casserole? Now’s the time to steam them or saute them on the stovetop (since they’re already cut/prepped from yesterday) on burners #2-4.
Dress the salad. Have guests move completed dishes to table.
Move the stuffing from the bird to a serving dish. Carve half the turkey and cover the rest with foil. If heated through, send side dishes to the table on trivets or towels. Put the second wave of each dish into the oven, set timer for 30 minutes. Turn off the gravy burner, pour it into a gravy boat and send all the remaining dishes to the table.
You can now enjoy your dinner. When the timer goes off, there’s an additional wave of food. Your guests can help pull them out, and even carve more meat if needed. Once those dishes come out of the oven, your pies and any other desserts can go in. Ice cream can now come out of the freezer to soften on the counter.
Loadout and Clean Up
After dinner, a magical thing happens- everyone starts to pick up dishes and napkins in an attempt to help, and they deposit them in your kitchen in Dr. Seuss-like stacks that defy logic, gravity and utility, as if merely getting things to the kitchen is the heavy lifting. I’ve found that with a little direction, you can maximize the help guests are willing to give, doing as little work yourself as possible. Here’s how:
Have vacuum bags, cheap Tupperware, or large Ziploc bags ready. People will want to help, but they’ll look to you for instructions, so start by only bringing dishes of food to the kitchen. Meanwhile, ask one guest to collect plates, scraping all the scraps into compost or the trash, a second to collect silverware in a large pan, and a third collects linens that go right to the washing machine. Everyone keeps their glasses. Ask for 10 minutes to organize before clean up.
Use the 10 minutes to parse leftovers into bags for guests and for yourself so all the food is put away before dishes start. Throw any turkey carcass parts into a big pot of water on the stove for stock. At that point, let your guests take over. By then it should be straightforward; the food is gone. Anything they don’t know where to put back, they can stack on the now clean table for you to put away later. Playing a little music is a nice touch, and it’s helpful to have plenty of towels, sponges, and soap so no one has to look for supplies. Meanwhile, assume your throne on the couch to drink sweet tea and accept compliments.
When a daughter loses a mom the world changes. You realize that no one will ever love you like that again. I always knew that no matter what I did, good or bad, she loved me anyway. Not to say that my husband or son’s love isn’t great, but it’s not the same as the love of a mother.
A mother’s love isn’t judgmental. It’s kind and forgiving yet bold and endearing. It’s the love written about in I Corinthians 13. And when you can’t see or hold that love anymore the world is different.
The early morning I got the call that my mom was ill I pleaded with God and prayed all the way to the hospital…”God, please don’t let my mom die today.” Over and over the same prayer. My request was not to be. I didn’t even get to tell her goodbye. It was her time to go.
A year ago today I lost a chunk of my heart. Today is the last first. Her first birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, my birthday, etc. has passed. Today is bittersweet. On one hand I know I’ve made it through some of the really tough days so I know I will survive. But after a year, I still feel “okay, that’s enough time to wake up not from this terrible dream.”
I don’t think a daughter can be prepared for the passing of her mother. I thought I was. I’m an educated, intelligent, successful woman. I read plenty of books on death, dying and grief. I spent years in full time ministry. I thought I was ready to face it. My mom and I spoke tenderly about my life without her. She was a devout Christian and ready to go. But I wasn’t ready to lose her. Oh how I wanted more time.
Sitting with her for an hour after she passed, I called my husband and my son who was an intern in DC. Walking out of her room for the last time felt so surreal. Kissing her forehead. Covering her with a blanket. I actually felt weird leaving her alone.
My son Matthew was home sleeping when I woke him to share the news. The day was filled with calls to my siblings and other family members who lived out of town. In a blur I went to the funeral home to make arrangements. I chose the dress she wore to my wedding. I chose her lipstick. I planned her after funeral luncheon. I wrote her eulogy. It only took me 10 minutes but I believe God gave me the perfect words.
The memories of August 2, 2018 will stay in my heart forever. So here I am one year later. I don’t feel like I have crossed a finish line on achieving any type of closure. I don’t feel healed. I still have my grief with me. It is a part of me now. The past year has allowed me to find a way to accommodate my grief, like a sudden and permanent limp that doesn’t stop you completely but will forever alter the way you move through the world.
Today I learned about an old friend that committed suicide. I have a cousin fighting pancreatic cancer and a dear sister in law newly diagnosed with cancer. I have a friend in a difficult marriage. A single friend who really wants to be married. A friend newly divorced. A young man fighting the demons of addiction. These are just a few that come to mind.
There’s that wonderful quote that says “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. You’ll find a few versions all attributed to a few different people, but the sentiment is exactly the same. And it’s the best advice anyone can give someone else, and it’s one of the best ways to live your life.
Imagine how much better the world could be if everyone on the planet adhered to this…?
I don’t want to make this post a sad one, but at the risk of sounding melancholy, life is difficult. It’s wonderful and hard. And we all need kindness.
As much as I’d like to think I’m a Christian and treat people fairly and kindly, I have
to admit I’m the sort of person that gives people the benefit of the doubt – until they cross me. Or hurt my family. In the words of the Hulk, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”. I’m not as bad as some people I know, and I don’t pout or harbor grudges like some people I know, but I have been known to unleash my wrath on those that I feel deserve it because “they started it”.
This is NOT a good way to live your life and treat others if you think about the “Be Kind” quote. So, I’m vowing to apply the Be Kind ideology to more people, more of the time. I need to do better. Anger and regret and holding grudges get you nowhere. I desire to be kind even to mean people.
How I’ll apply kindness in more situations in life
I’m vowing to change my behavior in the following ways:
When people wrong me or my family I will not just forgive them but will pray pray for them and choose kindness. I know so many people who are mean and blow people off and yet sit in church each Sunday. I don’t want to be like them.
When people attempt shoplifting from my gallery I will be kind. There will be consequences but I will do it with kindness.
When someone I see on my walks or the cashier in the supermarket don’t say good morning back to me, I won’t get in a huff because they were rude – they may have just been given some terrible news and aren’t up to it.
And when I get cold called to buy a car warranty, vacation or insurance or something else I don’t need I won’t take out my frustration on the caller – they’re just doing their job.
You never, ever know what someone is going through. Even those close to you will likely never tell you.
So there’s the thought for the week: Kindness – all the time, always. It costs nothing. It hurts no one. It helps everyone. You never know, it might switch something in someone’s brain… and even save their life.
DO YOU HAVE STORIES OF KINDNESS THAT YOU WANT TO SHARE? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS…
Recently I learned that someone I loved is dating an atheist. I wanted to speak to her but she refused to meet with me face to face. If I had been given an hour this is what I would have shared.
Please don’t hear my words with a harsh, condemning tone, but with an urgent, pleading one. Listen to my heart. I am deeply concerned for you. If this feels like I’m dumping a bucket of cold water on your head, it’s because I want you to wake up.
Let’s start with who a Christian is.
An atheist and a Christian are not compatible.
A Christian is a person who is now one with Christ. A Christian has been rescued by Jesus out of the darkness of sin and has been brought into His marvelous light—transformed from the inside out. A Christian has the spirit of Christ living inside of them! A Christian is someone whose entire identity has been refashioned around Christ. Christ is their life. Christ is the reason they are now accepted and beloved by God the Father.
An atheist, on the other hand, denies that God even exists. An atheist is a God-hater, just as you and I were until God graciously opened our “eyes” to our need to be forgiven and cleansed of our sin, to be reconciled to our Creator, and to be given an “alien” righteousness so we could live with a holy God forever.
An atheist and a Christian are not compatible. How do I know this?
Well, years ago, the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, urging them not to enter into any kind of a close partnership with an unbeliever. After telling them not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (picture an ox and a donkey trying to plow a straight row together . . . fail! It won’t happen—they’ll each want to do their own thing), Paul peppered them with the following questions:
“What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?
“What fellowship has light with darkness?
“What accord has Christ with Belial (Satan)?
“What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols?
“For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty’” (2 Cor. 6:14–18).
One way we can apply this to our lives today is that we should not marry (and therefore we should not date or long to date) someone who is not wholeheartedly pursuing and delighting in God. King Solomon made this mistake, and we’re told in 1 Kings 11:4 that,
“His wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God.”
You will have to choose between God and this man. You can’t have both. If you choose to date an atheist your heart will be turned away from God, His church and other believers. James warns,
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Let me be clear about this, though. If you choose God over this man, God will not love you any more than He already does. It won’t earn you extra points with God. If you truly trust in Christ Jesus as both your Savior and your Lord, you are already His 100% dearly loved child.
Does that mean that you have the freedom to date this man? No way! Besides, why would you want to, when Christ has revealed Himself to you as the greatest treasure there is—both in this life and for the life to come?
I get it that you have strong feelings toward this man. If you are sleeping with him there is a physical connection. However what you’re feeling isn’t true love, but something closer to romantic desire or lust. Looking to a person to “make” you happy is not real and will not last. I encourage you to:
Explore whether you truly have been born again, and whether Jesus Christ really is both your Savior and your Lord (He can’t be one without being the other!). One sign of real Christianity is feeling conviction over sin. Do you feel this? If not you may very well not be born again.
Tell an older, godly woman about your struggle. Be completely honest with her, and ask her to help hold you accountable.
Break off your relationship with this man. Stop spending time with him. Don’t talk to him. Don’t text him. Run!
Pursue Jesus through His Word. Get to know Him. Learn to enjoy Him the way He delights in you.
I love you and aways will. My desire is not to see you in pain but I promise a relationship with an atheist is not going to end well for you.
I’m getting older, but still learning. Jesus is a good teacher as long as we are listening. The title of my most recent lesson is, It’s a Wonderful Life. No I have not been suicidal as the main character of the popular movie, but in the journey of life one can lose sight of the wonder.
In October of 2016 I lost my vision. Surgery restored it. In February 2017 I lost my vision a 2nd time and surgery restored it. On Good Friday, I lost it a 3rd time. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of suddenly not being able to see your family, read, put on makeup, see TV, cook, drive, etc. At this point I had 2 options. The best surgeon in the world for this surgery is in Memphis. He could do the surgery or I could wait for a year and see if my eye might heal. The Greatest Physician prompted me to give it a year. I could write a whole series on the humor and lessons I learned during this time. So as not to bore you I will suffice it to say life really is wonderful. So are people. In the beginning Todd attempted to help me with make up and hair. Don’t tell him but I think I looked better without his help. God healed my vision a year later.
My husband retired from serving as a pastor and now works as a recruiter. In the event of a hurricane or other disaster his company hires help for FEMA. He continues to help out the local Christian radio station a few mornings a week. In addition he does framing at our art gallery. Todd leads a small group Bible study for men on Wednesday night. Todd is the hardest working person I have ever seen. His office is at the gallery and we spend more time together than any couple I have ever known. To be able to be with someone almost 24/7 and still love each other is God.
Last August my precious mother died. Todd and I moved her to Fairhope almost 4 years ago to give her a better quality of life. She was a huge part of our lives and we loved her deeply. I miss my visits with her every 2-3 days. She was the most Christ-like person I have ever seen. Never have I known a person so full of love, forgiveness & gratefulness. At her funeral the Holy Spirit showed up and many people who have been estranged reconciled. God is good and it is a wonderful life. Please pray for the few remaining in my family who still suffer with anger and bitterness so that they might experience more of Christ.
Matthew graduates from USM in May. We look forward to seeing what God has ahead for him. My first-born son is loyal, sensitive & kind. He still loves sports. I love that he adopted an elderly couple after meeting them at a restaurant a year ago. He helps them when he can. Matthew went to see them on Thanksgiving because they don’t have any family nearby. We hope they can share Christmas dinner with us.
Aaron is in his 2nd year at Auburn and his goal is to graduate after his 3rd year there. He recently finished a summer internship in DC and is involved in local & national politics. He was actually interviewed on CNN a year ago. Aaron is driven, goal oriented & a servant. He loves hiking and keeps me on my knees with his dangerous adventures.
I love working as an art curator at the gallery Todd purchased for me in downtown Fairhope. Everyday I get to listen to Andrea Bocelli surrounded by beautiful art. Fairhope is a quaint artistic town on Mobile Bay with a population of 20 thousand. It attracts many tourists year round and the most in March with 250,000 visitors. It’s delightful to meet locals and tourists. In 2010 I came kicking and screaming to South Alabama when God wanted to bless me with his best.
Todd & I celebrate 25 years of marriage in March. Before marriage I honestly thought if we had conflict that we would settle it by praying together on our knees while holding hands. Laughter. I would describe the 1st part of our marriage as a roller coaster. Today it feels more like the log ride. Remember that ride? A lot of beauty but on occasion a hill and drop with splash. We enjoy life together & encouraging other married folk. Marriage can get better with time if Christ is the center and you don’t quit. A good marriage is a wonderful life and is worth fighting for. This is our message to young adults.
May the Lord richly bless you and yours this holiday season as you experience the wonderful life God has given.
They always warn you about the firsts after someone dies.
The first holiday. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Mothers Day. The first birthday. The anniversary.
I miss my mom on her birthday today. She would have been 88.
My mom was named Dorothy.
We lost her last August 2nd. She was 87. At 4 AM she woke up talking, smiling and singing at the skilled nursing care facility where she lived. She entered eternity at 4:20 AM.
It felt so surreal driving to the nursing home after her passing to see her one last time.
Mom loved cake. Every birthday possible (and every one while I lived near) I took her the biggest birthday cake possible so that she could share it with friends. My mom loved to give and I guess I got that from her. We took multiple wrapped gifts to her every year. Today I feel so grateful I was able to spoil her. She deserved it more than any person I have ever known.
So today I felt the tug to go back to the cemetery. It was my first time since the day she was buried. I wanted to take poinsettias like I gave her every year. I wanted to say Happy Birthday mom. And to say goodbye again. Only there is no final goodbye when someone dies. You keep saying goodbye over and over. Just when you think you can’t feel any more sad, it knocks you over like a wave you didn’t see coming.
I stood at the headstone. I sang Happy Birthday to her. It felt silly but it made me smile at the thought that she would appreciate being remembered. Strange that I feel very grateful that we had her as long as we did.
Then I drove past her last home and wished I could stop by for coffee and birthday cake with her today. Happy Birthday mom.
Both of my sons have always been close to mom. They have visited her on a regular basis and is the reason that she remembered them even with dementia. Matthew often stopped to see her on his way back to college. He is at ease with elderly and they love him. Aaron visited mom with me when he could during his breaks from college.
After Todd I told Matthew. He was home asleep. I didn’t want him to hear from social media or anyone else. He sobbed when I told him. It was tough to be strong for him but I was. Aaron was working in DC and I informed him on the phone. It was the first time I heard Aaron cry since he was a little boy.
Next I called my older sister who is my mother’s first born. I called 5 times and got no answer. No one wants to leave a phone message or text that their mom died. I called my youngest sister. No answer. I called her again with no answer. My sisters and I had not spoken for years and they never answered the phone when I called. Even when calling from my mom’s room. My sisters were not speaking to each other either. I hesitated calling my brother because he travels with his job and makes presentations. No one wants a call like that before public speaking. As a last resort I called him. He was upset as any son would be. My mom loved him deeply. She loved looking at his photos and usually recognized him and asked how he was. She talked about him often. I made other family calls. Each time going through what had happened.
I had a dental appointment 5 hours after my mom died. I don’t know why I went. My dentist would certainly have understood. I don’t think I was ready to verbalize that my mom had passed so I decided to go and not talk about it. Really thought I could do it. As I was in the dental chair I burst into sobs.
Todd called my two best friends. Angie and Jodi are two of the most amazing women you will ever meet and I am blessed to have them in my life. They stepped up to the plate in more ways than anyone would expect. He also called my friend Connie who worked in our art gallery. She offered to work for me while I was out.
The first few days after your mother dies are going to feel like a blur. You will function only in that you will make funeral arrangements, contact relatives, console family members, and go forward taking care of necessary tasks. Numbness is the perfect word for this time. I went to the funeral home alone. Nothing prepared me for that. Going into a room full of caskets to choose for my mom was emotional. Picking out her burial clothes, makeup and jewelry and dropping them off as if that was a normal thing to do.
As I was in the room of caskets I made a decision. My funeral plans would be made prior to my passing so that my sons would be spared.
Thanksgiving is a supposed to be a time to give thanks.
For some, Thanksgiving feels overwhelming.
My mother passed away in August. Many friends I know have lost a parent this year. Two couples I know recently divorced. One friend and his son will eat Thanksgiving dinner at a church because the wife/mom left them. A couple in our community lost their only son in a car accident. Some of you reading this have a rocky marriage and wonder if this might be your last Thanksgiving together. Some of you are estranged from family members. Maybe you are overwhelmed because of the the lengthy to-do lists. You keep busy planning meals, shopping for food and preparing your home to host families and friends. The bottom line is that you feel overwhelmed.
It is possible to make your Thanksgiving more joyful and meaningful. Scripture and brain science tells us gratitude and appreciation are essentials we should not overlook. The benefits of gratitude can stay with us for months. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5 to, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (19-20, NIV) Do not worry if you aren’t a singer or worship leader, you can express your thanks by appreciating the people and God’s gifts in your life. Start some joy this Thanksgiving with a short exercise around your Thanksgiving table.
Take turns expressing appreciation for the people around you. Share one quality you appreciate then express a heartfelt blessing for them. “Bob, I appreciate how you always care for those around you. May God bless you with an increase in peace.”
Share something from your year that brought you joy. For example, “I enjoyed the second day of our summer vacation when we were all together sitting on the beach watching the sunset.”
Mention one quality about God you appreciate, share why you appreciate this quality. For example, “ I am grateful that God is faithful. This year God helped us have the funds for a new roof.”
As you practice the exercise notice how you feel. At the end, invite friends and family to share what they noticed from the exercise.
Take a moment to give thanks!
To continue this start a Gratitude Journal and write one thing every day you are grateful for.
Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like to lose your mom. I’ve had many friends throughout the years who have lost their own mothers. I felt sad for them and offered words of comfort. I cooked a casserole and bought cards to help my friends “get through” the grief. I had absolutely no idea though how excruciating it is to no longer have your mother with you.
No matter what I write in this blog, if you haven’t lost your mother, you won’t fully understand the depths of grief one goes through. The pain is crippling, and it hits you at random moments. One minute you might be fine, and the next minute you are curled up in a ball on your bedroom floor in inconceivable pain. If you have lost your mother, then you’re probably sitting there nodding your head in agreement.
“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.”
My mother passed away on August 2, 2018. THE CALL came at 4 AM. I jumped up to answer and was told something was wrong with mom and she was being taken to the ER. I threw on some clothes and arrived at the hospital within 10 minutes. I waited but the ambulance never showed up. The ER was empty. I called the nursing home and was told on the phone that my mother had died. I made the 20minute drive to see my mom in her room one last time. She was on her bed without a blanket and I covered her. I hugged her and kissed her forehead. Then I did what I had done many times in that room. I sat with her for an hour as I waited for my husband to arrive. Mother had lived in a skilled nursing facility for a couple of years but she was doing well. In fact she had improved. I tried to visit her every couple of days. We talked, laughed and looked at old photos together. Though my mom had dementia she knew me. Most of the time she knew my husband and sons. Mom did not remember people who rarely visited her.
The staff told me that mom had woken up early as usual. She was talking, laughing and singing. After a few minutes my mom passed quickly into the arms of Christ.
I thought I was prepared for Mom’s passing. I’m an educated, intelligent woman. I went into fulltime ministry in my early 20’s. I have been a Bible teacher, counselor and pastor. I have spoken on grief. I read all the books on death, dying, and grief. I knew it would be hard, but I figured I was ready to face it head-on. After all, losing a parent is a fact of life that millions of people before me have faced. Mom was very brave and was ready to die. I was going to be brave too. Because of my experience I thought I would grieve for a while, and then I would move on with life. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
What I have learned is that God is faithful. Especially in grief. He is my healer. The grief is deep but his grace is deeper.
The following posts are based on my experience. Your experience might be completely different, but I’ll bet most of you can find some similarities between my experience and yours.