Monday, December 31, 2018

Choosing Joy Over Fear

I've been pondering a lot of things as I sit thinking about the year that is leaving and the year that is to come. 
It's been a not so fun year with all my crazy health issues that lasted through out most of 18 months. My last living grandfather went to heaven this year. 

Some dreams got worked on.  Some dreams died. 

Abby's been with Jesus for almost 4 1/2 years now and our family is doing alright. We've actually done well, I'd say, with all that has happened to me. 

Recently though I started connecting some of the dots to key areas we seem to struggle with....It mostly boils down to allowing fear to dominate.

Several times it has come up in our grief therapy. I can see it in my children.  It's much harder to identify in myself. 
It hit me this past week. 

Beings I have been so ill, we had made the choice late this past fall, to stay home from our yearly trek to spend Christmas with my parents and siblings in South Carolina.  It was hard. I was sad.  My children just about couldn't fathom Christmas with out Nana.

It turned out amazingly. 
Pretty near perfect. 

We had a friend's wedding on Saturday and hosted Lowell's mom, aunt and siblings/families on Sunday. Then it was just us.  Just us, uninterrupted for 2 whole days. We played games, laughed, relaxed, ate fun food and stayed in our jammies. I realized a bit in, that making our own traditions wasn't half the work I had thought. 
I can not remember the last time my husband and I laughed so much or did so much dreaming together. 
It was refreshing. 

As I lay down to sleep one night, those old emotions started knocking. 

Our last 21 years has had its share of tough times. Sometimes I have really missed the fun we had before all the hard stuff hit. We used to laugh more.  We hosted people and enjoyed it immensely. We planned things together and had the most fun seeing them through. Looking at old photos, shows the laughter in our eyes and not the deep underlying grief and sadness. 

 It seems life is full of seasons and the last real magical time was the family trip to Edisto beach.  The ocean greeted us with open arms. All 5 of us have expressed feeling the magic of that time with my parents and siblings and their families.  We took a gazillion photos, ate seafood hammer down, played games and built sandcastles. We rode bikes around the island and ran after the ice cream truck. We took a huge family photo on the beach complete with Pawpaw dancing around to keep the tears at bay. 

2 months later Abby went to heaven and joy seemingly left, leaving grumpy tear filled days in its place. 

Our Miss Kendra has explained many times that in grief, it may be hard to allow oneself to enjoy life, to laugh, to live fully. 
Like I said, I see it in my kidos. My youngest in particular goes bananas, usually ending up hiding under her pillow when we watch a funny show as a family.  Laughter is almost frightening.
Her young mind and the trauma she has experienced put up a wall that make the joy in daily life painful.

As I lay, trying to sleep, pondering the thoughts slamming through my brain, it suddenly hit me. 
Coming through the magic of a few amazing, seriously enjoyable days serves as a breeding ground for a heavy feeling of doom and almost bracing myself for another tragedy and losing another soul I love. 

I can not and will not live there. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am not naive. I know that life is full of good days and bad days, happy and sad, blessing and tragedy. 
I am well acquainted with grief.  My rose colored glasses have long since disappeared. 
But, God is faithful.  He is good.  I can indeed trust HIM in the easy and the hard.  He is with me in the valley and on the mountain top. I am also fully aware that the trauma we have faced as a family will continue to affect how we see things. But, I know that when the hard emotions come along, He will walk with me through the working through them process.

Do I then have it all together?
Absolutely not! 
But I know He does....

So as I set off into 2019, my conscious thought process is to allow joy to seep in and bring the gifts of laughter and dreaming along with it, thus defeating the monsters of fear. 

Who is with me? 

My favorite fridge magnet 
 

I would love to hear about your choice selections for 2019. I would also like to hear how I can pray for you!
 Drop me a comment below or pm me.  I LOVE to hear from you!
Happy New Year to you all!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Let The Real Church Arise


Today was a very different day then I had planned. I baked some treats to deliver to friends and neighbors. 
It was supposed to be quick. I'd be home again in 20 minutes.  
I took Lexi and as we made stops she'd jump out and run to the door, pink Santa hat bobbing. If the folks were home she'd hand off her chosen treat, wish them a Merry Christmas and head back to the warmth of the van. 
We had just a few bags left and suddenly I found myself turning down a road I hadn't planned on going down. I thought for sure no one was home. As we waited briefly, my neighbor, whom I know just in passing, came to the door and seemed very glad to see me when she figured out who I was. We shouted polite pleasantries back and forth until I realized she wanted more. I climbed out in the cold and sat down beside her on her cement front steps. As the conversation moved along my heart broke and I watched as what seemed to be a huge dam in her heart crumble as she wept over pain many decades old. I awkwardly patted her back whispering prayers for wisdom. She'd been hurt bad by organized religion. God had let her down and she built walls high in a heart riddled with grief at the death of sibling at a young age. Christianity had recited well all the trite pious nonsense typical for those who are not well acquainted with pain and loss.
She kept thanking me for listening and kept excusing all of my time she took. I kept assuring her I was just fine and invited her to my home for a visit.  I also asked her if I could pray with her before I left. She obliged. 
As I drove home, my heart kept breaking for her pain and for the pain of others so wounded by the organized church full of those of us who are supposed to represent the name of Christ.


As I arrived home a return call was waiting for me from another person I have not seen in some time. I'd left several messages on her machine and was praying for strength to do the right thing. I'd been feeling for several weeks that I needed to apologize to her as I know she has been deeply hurt by a grouping of Christian people I am a part of.
This dear one came into our midst as a brand new believer. She was eager to learn. And she loved Jesus! Instead of encouraging her and coming along side her we showed how good we were at spouting massive amounts of judgement and harsh Pharisee like righteousness at her at every turn. Needless to say, she didn't stay with us long.
Now I was never openly mean to her, but I didn't step in and stop the ridiculous happenings. And to my shame I joined the mean gossip about her all to frequently.
So recently, when a similar un Christ like incident happened that I of course in typical Dorothy fashion got involved with, God started gently pressing on my heart the importance of calling her up and replacing that bad experience with grace and standing in the gap for the group collectively in asking her forgiveness for how she had been treated.

Now I did not wave a magic wand and fix her pain. I am not achieving some level of holiness and am not working on brownie points with God, but my heart keeps breaking repeatedly at the crass cruelness we as Christians exhibit to other persons God created and loves! 
When will we get it?
When will our focus change to what's truly in the heart of God and his will for each of us?
When will we grasp how short of a time we have left here and become passionate about taking as many as we can to heaven with us?



My friend Russ took this picture of my son and his friend at our last communion. I love it on so many levels.


I wonder when we will learn how to roll up our sleeves and serve each other in love, leaving harsh judgement, criticism and un Christ like attitudes where they belong?
I wonder how many will take a stand with me and repent for the sin in our midst (even if we don't see ourselves as guilty) and learn what exactly it means to be Jesus with skin on to those around us?  And I really wonder what could happen if we joined forces and stood together as an organized body and follow God truly? 

Time is short. Let the real church arise!



In as much as you have done it to the least of these...you have done it unto me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

You Asked For It...Installment 1: Making Kombucha

As you probably have figured out, I love cooking, baking and pretty much anything to do with food!  For the next few posts, I will be sharing recipes and how to's that you, my loyal readers, have asked for. 
That said, I am not the queen of cooking!  I do not have all the answers. But I do love the process and am always honored when you want my recipes. 
 If you had told me a few years back that I'd be brewing up weekly batches of Kombucha, I would have laughed in your face.  Me!  I hate sour fermented things like vinegar, dressing and even ketchup.  My hubby makes fun of me because I am a fairly simple girl that way.  My parents always said we had to taste something once and if we didn't like it we wouldn't have to do it again. I always figured it wasn't all that bad to eliminate the extra calories and sugars that dressings and toppings add but that's not today's topic.  
Back to my newest project, kombucha. I have read many different opinions on the brew.  You can see everything from it is indeed the miracle cure all to the claim it does nothing at all.  Because of my year plus of antibiotics I figured I would at least give it a try. I have discovered I kind of really like it and it does seem to aid in the digestion gut issues I have had. 
So, here is my how to!
Start out with clean sanitized containers, preferably new. It is extremely important to make kombucha in a clean environment to avoid bad bacteria.
 This pic is from my first set up. I bough clear gallon glass jars that I use now.  If you prefer a carbonated beverage, I highly recommend the swing top bottles shown below. I will explain more about those in a minute. 


Next,  a good healthy brew needs a healthy scoby. 
Often you can snag one from a friend who has been brewing for a while who will most likely have a small scoby hotel going. Personally, I did some research and loved what I learned about fermentaholics.com and bought several of my last endeavor's start up from them including my scoby.
You will also need to get some good jar covers to keep the gnats and fruit flies out of your juice. 
These are my favorite and come with rubber bands to secure them on the top of your container. 


Now, for the actual brew. I have tried various teas, plain ole black was my main stay until I found this! I got it off Amazon and one small bag makes a whole bunch of brew, like 5 gallons!


I boil up about 6 cups of RO water.  When it's boiling I get one of those handy dandy tea strainers and fill it with 2 T of this tea, and let it soak for about 20 minutes. While the liquid is still hot I strain it over 3/4 c of raw organic cane sugar and stir till it's all dissolved, then let it set until it's cool. 
After it's cooled properly, I add it to the jar in which I have the scoby and the starter tea it came in. Cover with the cloth and let set in a warm dry place for 7 to 14 days. 
At this point, I strain out all but about 2 cups of the tea and the scoby into another glass container. You can consume at this point or add flavor. My very favorite thing to do is add about 1/2 a cup of fresh or frozen raspberries and let that set for 3 to 5 days. Then I get my bottles ready by putting 1 t of sugar in the bottom of each. After I strain the berries out of the juice, I use a funnel to pour the brew into the bottles. This will then set on the counter and carbonate for a few days (I usually plan 3 or 4) 
Warning: If you don't get good quality swing top bottles they can fizz and bubble right out in the carbonation process....They have also been know to explode up to the ceiling and create a royal mess. Ha!  The best, safest method is refrigerating before opening carbonated bottles. I honestly open mine out on my back porch as I have had 1 to many bad experiences. 


 
That's my kiefer experiment peeking out of the corner.... 



The next step is to break out the pretty glass and the ice and enjoy! I always strain mine when I get a bottle out as the scobies are alive and growing at all times and I often find remnants in my bottles which I do not enjoy tasting. 

I usually try and have mine earlier in the day and sometimes have as my beverage with breakfast. 






I love it when you comment!  Ask questions! Let me know how it went for you and it there are more recipes or tips you'd specifically be interested in. I'm grateful when you share my blog  with your friends!
It's the little things....

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Best Ever Scones

Year ago I worked at a wonderful little tea room where the owner made the most delectable ever scones. Since the place closed, the recipes also are seemingly forever lost. 

So, I went on a quest to find THE perfect recipe. In my mind, I remember my dear amazing chef friend telling me that the secret to a good scone was heavy cream and butter.  Real butter. 

I tried various recipes but none of them fit what I had in mind and the happy sweet memories of hers which just melted in your mouth...until I stumbled on one from an online source called Katie's Cucina. It met all the criteria for ingredients, simplicity of putting together and taste! I added my personal touches and bam!  I had a personal favorite and it became the most requested thing I have ever put together.  I have since supplied scones for many different events/get togethers. They are a treat that my kids all enjoy and are a quick breakfast or snack. Now that I am not currently doing gluten, the next thing on my to do list is figuring out the delish in gluten free but for now, I will share the love!



*2 cups flour (See note below on flour)
*1 T baking powder (yup you read that correctly!) 
*1/2 t salt
*2 T sugar (I prefer raw sugar)
*5 T butter
*1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Mix all dry ingredients together well. Add butter like you would to a pie crust (crumbly and pea sized in shape). Add enough of the cream (at least 1 cup) to make a wet sticky dough that is not runny. Depending on the add in items I find that 1 and 1/4 cups are about what I need.  Press onto tray. I usually make mine about 3/4 to 1 in thick. 

Bake at 450 for 15 to 20 min until lightly browned.  Do not overbake! 



Mix in your choices of flavor.
Here are some we love!

Blueberry: 1 1/2 c blueberries (fresh is best but frozen works, just eliminate a little of the liquid in recipe and be prepared to bake a little longer. Some enjoy lemon in this so you can add 1 T lemon to the liquid in the dough and top with lemon glaze. (Recipe below)

Lemon Poppyseed: 2 T poppyseeds and 1 T lemon juice added to the dough. Top with lemon glaze. (Recipe below)

Cranberry/Orange: 1 c fresh or frozen cranberries chopped. 1/4 c orange juice substituted for part of the cream. Can add chopped pecans to this combo for some real delish! Top with orange glaze (recipe below)

Kid's Favorite - Chocolate Chip: 1 c chocolate chips or 1/ 1/2 if you really like chocolate. Top with plain glaze. (recipe below) 

My Sister's Favorite - Raspberry Lemon: 1 c raspberries.  1/4 c lemon juice subbed for part of the cream. Top with lemon glaze (recipe below)  Raspberries are messy so it is best to just press them into the dough after you have it pressed onto the tray. 

Bacon and Cheese: Omit sugar from recipe.  Add 4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled to the dough. Mix 1/2 to 3/4 c cheese into dough. Sprinkle more cheese on top. ( I do not use glaze on this one obviously)

Cinnamon & Peaches:  Add 1 t. cinnamon into dough.  Slice 1 peach into thin slices onto the top of your dough. Gently press into the dough.  You can omit the cinnamon from the dough and gently sprinkle on top of all to avoid what looks like whole wheat dough and makes people suspicious (Ha!). Top with plain glaze (recipe below) 



Glaze recipe: 
I am bad about using a pinch of this and a bit of that so this is sketchy.  If you start out with the powdered sugar and not the liquid you should be fine.
I usually start out with about 1/2 c powdered sugar and add liquid slowly till its the consistency we like.
For lemon or orange add about 2 t lemon/orange juice to start.  Mix until no longer lumpy.  You want a smooth not to thick appearance.
For the plain start with 1/2 c powdered sugar and 1 or 2 T cream or milk. 



Other tidbits
*I have found King Arthur Unbleached to make a totally different, light and fluffy scone then the other flours I have tried. (varieties of white and whole wheat flours)
*Berries and fruit in general can be messy and make the scones runny/sloppy.  Handle all berries with care and try not to smoosh them as you mix them or press them into the dough. 
*I love making one batch and dividing in half as not all of us like the same kinds.  1 batch feeds our family of 5 and when I use for breakfast it is the main item on the menu.   
*You can make them in any shape you want.  I usually do them round. You can fit 2 small circles from the one batch onto one regular size pampered chef jelly roll pan.  
*Make sure to use a pan with sides if you don't want a buttery mess in your oven. 
*These are super simple and I can get from start to finish in about 30 minutes!



Most of all, get a cup of coffee ready and ENJOY!








Saturday, August 11, 2018

Discounted Miracles

We as Mennonites are real big into discounts.  The cheaper the better.  There's nothing inherently wrong with that...
I do think how ever, that we do a tremendous disservice to the name of Christ when we "discount" the miracles He does in our lives.
Like the most recent "big miracle" in my personal life...
Don't get me wrong. I think miracles happen around us daily but we must have the eyes and mindset to realize them.....
Back to my big one.
Roughly 3 and a half months ago I was hospitalized for what we know now was sepsis (infection that somehow got into the blood) and an ugly kind of staph. I knew I was sick.  But because I had been sick for so many months prior I did not realize the seriousness of my condition till after I was on the mend. 



I will never forget the parts of the day I can remember. I had been hospitalized the night before. I knew they were fighting to keep my temp down. I was not in ICU but had all sorts of monitors and wires connected to every part of my body. I knew I was running a fever because I kept asking for just one more blanket.  That cold is unlike any other.  In the afternoon my friend Connie was standing by my bed and though I knew she was there, it took every ounce of effort in me to even open my eyes.  I could hear some of her words and tried to respond but it felt like I was trapped in a tunnel.  My arms would not obey my commands to lift in response to commands of the attending drs and nurses. My tongue felt like it was about 10 inches thick and would not cooperate to form words.  They pushed me somewhere in a wheel chair to do a brain scan and it was all I could do to muster up enough energy to get from the bed to the chair.  I know they were trying to get me to chat with them cause they told me so later, but all I could do was sit with my pounding head in my hands.  I was dizzy and cold and just wanted to sleep and I wanted them to stop their endless chatter because it really hurt my head.  Connie, in the meantime, being a nurse, saw and understood the gravity of my situation and called my pastor's wife and told her I needed urgent prayer.  Apparently that is the exact text that went out on our prayer hot line. At the very exact moment my text message ding came through on my phone which was laying close to my bed, which I heard and comprehended that I heard,   my fever broke.  It was like waking up.  I could talk and move my limbs.  The headache was nearly gone and my very concerned doc was standing at my bed asking me if I knew my name.  I giggled at him and said of course. He told me he had been extremely concerned the sepsis had spread to my brain and wanted to do another kind of scan to confirm which we did and it came back just fine.   (Of course...)


                                              Rocking that very attractive hospital gown - post fever...


At first and many moments since especially when my doctor has introduced me as that patient that nearly died, I have though wellllll, it probably wasn't quite so bad. I really wasn't all that sick.  But this week a member of our extended family was hospitalized with septic shock and the statistics released on some of the prayer requests messages that came through were reminders.  Basically 50% of people who get sepsis die.   That's half!  Half of the people don't survive. 


                                               I went home with a picc line (not fun!)


But I did.  Yes the 5 different antibiotics coursing through my veins helped but God still has a plan for me and He chose to step in and show off at the very moment my church family got on their knees to intercede for me.  He provided my miracle. And you know what?  He has a plan for you too if you're alive enough to read this! 
The miracles in our lives aren't always the big splashy kind.  Sometimes it is the quiet reassurance of God's love through the touch of a friend. Sometimes it is the unexpected anonymous check that shows up just when you need it most.  And then sometimes it is the prayed for healing.  But either way, MIRACLES HAPPEN!  It's our job to notice them and then acknowledge the divine design of a Creator God who loves us more then we can fathom. HE is good!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

2 decades plus...







21 years ago I said I do to the man I had dreamt of marrying for several years.  
I could not believe when my prayers were really truly answered and he called and asked me out that September night in 1996.  We dated for 3 months (yup...truly)  and got engaged during the 1997 New Year's Eve fireworks in my parent's yard in rural Abbeville county South Carolina. 
6 months later, 9 months to the day from our 1st date we got married in a little church in Greenwood, SC with about 200 of our closest friends, family members and 500 plus fresh roses. 



 Then began our life together.  We often refer to those first 5 - 7 years as the magical ones though sometimes sadly the sadness and tragedy of the latest decade dims the beauty and the happy memories that I am glad to have recorded in photos. We had infertility which was hard and consumed a lot of moments but other then that we really did have fun.  We traveled somewhere fun for every anniversary, something I really do miss now sometimes. We had 8 anniversaries before God answered our baby prayers. 

If we are truly honest, each of us married folk will admit several things.  First off, no marriage is perfect. We have ups.  We have downs.  There are, like our marriage vows stated, good times and bad.  We have health and then sometimes sickness.  Sometimes we have plenty and sometimes nothing...
Our last decade of marriage seems to showcase those worsts. But God has always remained faithful.
We lost everything we owned (home, van, dignity..) in a failed business venture.  Through that process we nearly caved  and lost us too. But God was faithful and glued us back together. Our reunion after nearly a year apart produced what we called our 2nd honeymoon baby. 



That was the only pregnancy we took professional photos to preserve.  Abby was born 9 months after we got back together and aptly named Abby, meaning Father's joy.  She brought joy from the father and to her earthly father and all of us in ways we could not understand. 
Then God decided He needed her back and our hearts were broken into millions of tiny pieces.  But we held on  despite the statistics that showed higher then fathomable divorce rates after the death of a child. And God was faithful.
Through Abby's death, several people came to know the Lord in personal ways including Lowell who came to a fresh and new salvation in October of the year she died.  You can see the joy evident in his face in the pictures from that time...



The next year my mom was diagnosed with end stages colon cancer and I and the children spent 3 months once again apart from Lowell, caring for mama.  Hard hard times as our grief from losing Abby was still so very fresh.  But God was faithful.  Mama survived and is thriving...




Last fall (2017) we became well acquainted on a personal level with the "in sickness and in health" part of our vows when I became ill with sinus infection which became super bugs and resulted in surgery after which I was hospitalized with sepsis (a serious through out the body blood infection...often fatal) and staph infection.  My recovery road is long and discouraging.  9 months from my initial illness, I still am fighting off stuff that Dr's are trying to figure out how to best treat. I have very little energy some days and sleep a lot. I am trying to go on with life but my physical limitations are restricting and I am told the recovery window for the stuff I have most recently encountered is 6 to 12 months. 
On days like today when I want to be able to feel up to celebrating I instead must focus on that faithfulness from Father God that we are well acquainted with and think with gratefulness on the blessing of simply sitting with the man I love! 
We recently enjoyed going through our wedding songs. They are all favorites however the one that stands out to both of us as a testament of what commitment really looks like.  
We hope to be able to get our very old VHS put onto a more permanent DVD or other digital format but until then we got this song uploaded to You Tube.  I think you can see it by clicking on the words below.



Enjoy! 



 Happy Anniversary to my handsome hubby...here's to 21 more.






Friday, October 13, 2017

Real. Different. Real Different...(and all that entails)

I have always had my quirks, those things that make me me.  I cherish the unique, the stuff that sets me apart. Sometimes it's been simply clothing. I love my multi colored shoes from 10th grade and my black and white dress that had both stripes and polka dots on it. I derived a sense of freedom and immense happy each time I chose them from my closet. Other times it has been embracing an idea no one else gets or cheering for the underdog...
So when different doesn't pan out to be the most coveted spot in the planet, where does the quirky, proud to be odd turn?
Life is full of seasons.  As a woman, I am not blind to the fact that many factors from our female properties make some of those seasons a bit crazy.
My writing and just being me in general has always been real. I really have nothing to hide. But sometimes I really see that real setting me apart to the point of crazy being the sign over the door and then I wish I could be not quite so open. As I age that real me has seen some real lonely. Some days, like the one I just lived thru, remind me of being the 3rd grade odd ball.  I wonder if I have horns growing out of my snout and if I am crazy for feeling like everyone on the planet has a problem with me.  Wow.  Did I really just say that out loud?    ***Here is where I could easily hit delete or close and walk away with out exposing any more of my vulnerable soul. But due to some strategic conversations recently I will plod on along...
Life sometimes sucks. Yup I said that out loud too.
For some close to me, harsh realities and unexpected not life planned out have turned normal day to day into worry central.  We are busy. And tired. We run and race to get to all we need to do.  Rest evades us. The urge to please exhausts us. We are islands to ourselves trudging through the crowds as alone as a lone ranger on a dessert path.
Yet, there is a common thread that connects us all, a God designed plan of being here to do life together. I don't have some great profound method or plan for carrying out that plan but I have sure pondered more deeply what other women and folks in general are saying when I really stop to listen to their hearts.
My children for example,  are grappling with the concepts of growing up and many times recently as they have done new things they come around with the same old nagging question that has plagued us all since the beginning of time..."what if they don't like me?" or "they don't like me.."
I wonder how I can teach them to be confident in their God given quirks when I at 42 years of age am most insecure of all. I think they are amazing perfectly wonderful gifts from God (and I see some of my quirks coming thru). Often my oldest will say "but MOOOOMMMM, you think that because you're my mom..." "Yup kido I am indeed your mama but God created you to be you...accept it.  Love it.  Embrace it." 
It's those conversations when my heart is bursting with love for my children that I am reminded how my Daddy God sees me.  I am sure his heart breaks when I believe the lies hammering in my ears..."you are unloved...unimportant...uncared for...ugly...worthless...annoying....


So back to that God designed plan, I was recently reminded of how important encouragement can be among us in this thing called life. My inbox stays fairly clean but the kinds of things that stay are those such as a love note from my man and a short paragraph of complete unexpected encouragement stating I was a good mother that is dated Feb 15, 2014 and is from a friend I haven't seen in probably 20 years.
It didn't take this friend much effort, I assume, to type a few words that have had such a profound impact on my soul.  I know I can offer that same gift to others and that is something I really want to work on doing more of. But so often I am to self absorbed and busy being me to care enough to show it.
Doing the together thing isn't always that simple and sometimes requires more of us. We may have to get sticky, dirty and more exhausted. We may have to jump out of our comfort zone.  We may have to get really super uncomfortable.
Sometimes I think the levels of pain in our lives and in those around us walking around breathing (breathing is a connecting factor...we are alive and have purpose despite) has reached epic proportions.  Life is hard enough with out all the extra trash we throw and accept into our deepest being when it's pitched our way.  So I will wrap these rambles up with a question or two (and I'd really love active discussion...) In what ways are you being real and different and what is your contribution the bettering the together?