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What Matters Most

16 May

I’m not gonna lie … While everyone smiled and said things were good or great with enthusiasm and shared happy faces on social media, it was just all right for me.

Not a 24-hour marathon of spectacular. But I did have moments, and at the end of the day, when other people had tried to bring me down during the day, or made backhanded comments, or strangers were just rude, irritating, or projecting their negative attitude onto me, I still was able to remember those feel-good moments.

I settled in for the night and realized it wasn’t really a failure of a day, if I had moments like these.

You see most Mother’s Days are supposed to be stress free. They’re the one day you’re not supposed to do stuff. No dishes. No chores. No stress. All day something good, to know … Hey … I know what you do is hard and you’re appreciated. And at the end of the day when I found the cool side of my pillow, I realized the most important people in my life gave me moments like that, so it didn’t matter what other people said or did. My kids gave me something genuine and I stopped long enough to realize it, and that felt good.

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In the midst of things not falling into place this weekend and it not being a Facebook worthy adventure (even though I don’t post anything on there to begin with) I was grateful for the bowl of awesome Honey Nut Cheerios that was fixed up for me by my Nick Jr. Squad here. I was thankful for the cards created out of paper and crayon, written in their best fourth and first-grade writing. I was happy to see the ceramic purple and turquoise uneven masterpieces that melted my heart. I was glad it stopped sprinkling and the sun came out just as we got to the baseball field, just in time to enjoy Plan B and watch the players take the field.

These were the moments that I thought about at night. They might have seemed small to other people but turned out to be Big Time for me. I hope moms out there were able to find something in their day to hold onto, even if it was just one thing. It’s hard to find it sometimes, especially when you’re surrounded by everyone’s spectacular, amazing adventures caught online.

But don’t worry about what you see out there, sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes it’s just for show. It’s all flash and no substance. Thinking about what you’re grateful for and finding the moments that made you smile or pause throughout the day will be what fills you up. It will be what matters most, and what you remember.

So Buen Camino my friends! I hope all the moms out there had a good weekend.

 

 

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Alternate Universes

7 May

It’s interesting, once you get older you realize the standards you set way back in your younger years may have softened, and sometimes circumstances of life set them in stone. Standards of what kind of life you wanted, what you would tolerate in relationships, what you would do once you had that corner office, what kind of parent you would be, what your Plan A would be, all these expectations of yourself sit on your shoulders.

I thought about all these expectations and standards recently, after hearing an interview with former Duke basketball player Jay Williams. Now I was a big Duke fan and I remember seeing him play ball back in the day, but sort of lost track of him after the NBA and then saw him pop out as a commentator. I didn’t realize what had happened in between.

You see his life didn’t turn out the way he imagined it would, circumstances changed the standards in his life. A motorcycle accident, on a motorcycle he wasn’t supposed to be riding in the first place, changed everything. An alternate future existed. Plan A was no longer in effect and there never was a Plan B. There was no plan for something like this.

But he found one.

It was a long road I imagine, having everything taken away from you. A choice you made contributed to that and now you were faced with picking up your life and starting over again.

In the interview Williams began talking about expectations and life and how angry and embarrassed he was that it had all been taken away. He’s in a better place now and has come to peace with where he is and feels that this was where he’s supposed to because had it not turned out that way, he would have just been another ball player that succumbs to the temptations of most professional players careers.

But what I found amazing was how he changed his perspective on standards. I mean I guess he had no choice, but how is that that you do that? How do you wrap your brain around the fact that you will no longer be able to meet the standards you set for yourself? How do you change the blueprints when the building is already built? People who you thought were your friends abandon you and you found yourself betraying your “I will never allow this to happen to me,” scenario. You fall into the never say never it happened to you club.

Williams talked about all this happening to him and says that he eventually turned the corner. He found acceptance of his new situation through a spiritual journey. He flipped the switch.

Then I wondered, could I do that if I had to?

And then remembered I already had.

You see my future was taken from me, one of my futures and I had to accept something I did not want to because I had no choice. But I wasn’t driving a motorcycle. Just a sports injury that had taken me down my senior year, the year that was supposed to be Big Woman on Campus. I went through this terrible depression at the time. I mean I didn’t even know what it was and I didn’t have a label for it, and no one seemed to understand it, but I felt like the person I was supposed to be was gone. The person I saw myself as, my future, my Plan A was nonexistent. I would have to live by a new set of standards and I didn’t know how to do that. People didn’t seem to understand why I was feeling the way I did. Most of them dismissed me, told me to get over it. But I found it difficult getting over the one outlet that made me feel successful, the one thing that I identified with, the one thing that made me believe in myself, the one outlet where other people saw me the way I saw myself.

It was a long time before I could find the lesson in that one. I don’t think it happened until college and then I found another outlet that made me feel that way I found something intrinsic that helped me flipped the switch. It wasn’t a spiritual journey or relationship that made me turn the corner. It was knowing that so much time had passed and I was still standing, and that somehow on a daily basis I found the 2.0 version of myself.

Time, pain, and humor.

After hearing the Williams interview I was reminded of this struggle and of the standards and of where I thought I would be, and how life was supposed to look. I don’t know if I would have been here at this moment writing this story in the alternate universe, but the experiences along the way made for a roller-coaster journey that I’m still learning from.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

Discovering Family Table Stories

25 Apr

It was a booklovers epic weekend, and I was lucky enough to catch some good stories.

Walking from tent to tent and under the realization that IT was possible was inspiring. All kinds of authors with stories to share, and I was among them. Poetry slams, murals, art demonstrations, book signings, and guest lectures yielded creative nooks and crannies for everyone to absorb.

All this positive energy continued to hold its grasp on me all weekend long. I didn’t get a chance to catch a couple of the journalist or novelists as the kids wanted to explore their own lively storytellers. But I did enjoy the humor and honesty of Mike Epps’s journey. My favorite however, were the stories I discovered on the cooking stage.

The Smollett Family featured some of the recipes from their book The Family Table. The intertwining of food, stories, and family made me want to join in at their table. I had never heard of them before, but was glad to have experienced their story. It was a fun peek into the lives of these siblings and the importance of  how food played a role in keeping the bonds of family stronger.

Stories were the backdrop to every dish, like the oyster po’boys and how that dish reminded them of New Oreleans and their family roots. How every dish they learned to cook originated from the times spent with their mama in the kitchen, and the love she gave them.

It wasn’t happiness I was seeing, but joy. I had forgotten what joy looked like in the kitchen because it’s been a madhouse rush for me for a long time during meal times. But seeing this helped me remember to find time to slow down, maybe not every day, but definitely on weekends.

I enjoyed seeing the stories, laughter, and love come through their recipes. I thought … I hope my kids think of me like that. I hope they remember their favorite dishes, aromas, tastes and the stories that came with them. I hope they feel that way — that stories and food go hand in hand, that stories bind you at the Family table.

I was hoping …

One day at a time … one day at time.

I’ll find out in 20 years.

 

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

How The Story Ended

18 Apr

It ended the way it was supposed to.

You see, when I got there, I took a moment. During the morning rush, chaos of leaving my kids, driving through traffic, and feeling overwhelmed and nervous with emotions, I stopped and took a moment. During the whole process of rising to the top, I took a moment when I saw the poster and I had it.

I had the something-bigger-than-myself emotion running through me. I had the gratitude and humility of the amazing kindness shown to me by my supporters who contributed to my cause. They helped me raise over $1000 for the American Lung Association in honor of my father, and they helped impact someone else’s life.

I had my dad’s spirit watching over me, knowing I haven’t forgotten him, knowing that he’s part of the reason I am who I am.

As the race began, I had the why in my heart and it helped my get through the how.

You see, there’s something that’s always certain about this race. It’s NOT easy. It never is, no matter how hard I train. It tests every muscle in my legs. It doesn’t make it easier to know what’s coming. I was still anxious and nervous. But I looked up to the sky and knew the reason why. So, I turned on the music, heard Los Polifaceticos bust out Camaron Pelao and took the first step. But never fear La Chona was track #3 and Footloose was on the horizon.

Then, right there on the eighth floor was a randomly placed poster of my father, there he was smiling, sitting next to me and my sister, with the title Why We Climb. There were posters of a lot of loved ones on the way to the top, and it tugged at my heart. The Rocky Balboa spirit surged.

 

As I climbed, my breathing slowed down and my legs felt heavy, my body became acutely aware of the claustrophobic dynamics and inner architectural workings of staircases. Once again, they appeared to lack the free-flowing breeze of the outdoors, which apparently is extremely necessary to oxygenate my muscles. My Randy Macho Man Savage strength was severely tested by the time I hit the 14th floor and I knew … I knewwwwwwwwwwwwww I’d be using that CVS three-dollar coupon for a tube of BenGay and that ice packs would be my knees’ best friends. No amount of pre-or-post stretching would have helped. By the time I reached the 31st floor my calves were not happy. They were intensely screaming profanity at me … in Spanish. There were a lot of people feeling that wrath as I passed some of them on the stairs resting, sitting, hunched over, drinking water, or in need of an oxygen mask.

But I never stopped.

I kept my Dad on my mind, and in my heart, and when I saw floor 61, I sprinted up the stairs like Usain Bolt until I saw the sunlight and reached the roof.

I made it to the top … 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

15 minutes and 28 seconds of intensity, of hard work, of sweat, of emotion, of heart, and of will. 15 minutes and 28 seconds of honoring a man that sacrificed so much for me.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

But Why Do You Do It?

13 Apr

I always get a little nervous before it happens.

Anything can happen … and some people don’t make it.

I’m lucky.

Knock on wood. I don’t want to jinx myself.

But it’s an important day for me, may be not for my entire family, but definitely for me.

Well … why do you do it?  I mean I understand it’s a race and it’s for charity, but why do you do it? Why do you have to climb all those stairs?

No one had ever asked me that. They seemed to understand the why and the girl asking me also seemed to understand the why, it’s for my Dad. She was just confused as to the why of the location. Why scale 1,393 steps? Why go up 63 floors in the name of the American Lung Association?

It’s a metaphor, I thought.

It’s for all those people who couldn’t breathe, who felt the heaviness in their chest, the gasping for air, and the claustrophobic sense of not getting enough oxygen. It’s putting yourself in their position, in people like my dad, who died from Interstitial Lung Disease, or people with COPD, or lung cancer, or asthma. It’s putting yourself in their shoes and fighting your way past the challenges. It’s about feeling an ounce of what they feel and rising to the top, because they fight for every breath, just like we’d be doing.

It’s hard. But that’s probably why I do it, and why it makes me nervous. The difficulty level of it all. But it’s also the reason why I get the strength to go forward, because I got him in my heart. I got him on my shoulder. I got him and other supporters watching my back and cheering me on from a far. It’s hard but I got a good reason behind my motivation.

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🙂

For the sixth year in ‘ll be taking on the Fight for Air Climb this Saturday, racing 63 stories, 1,393 steps, in hopes of raising enough money to help others suffering from lung disease.

It’s 1,393 steps. And I feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel them every single one of them when I climb. But I make it to the top, scared, nervous, or Gatorade-Commercial ready. I make it because I think of the  1,393 times my Dad was there for me, when I was in diapers, or the 1,393 times he was there for me when I was kid, or the 1,393 times he was there for me when I was away in school. He was there … the good, the bad, and the ugly he was there. And that’s not to say that we had our fair share of blowouts, we probably had 1,393 arguments, but he was still my Dad and still my friend. And that’s why I climb.

I climb to honor his memory, his hard-working life to provide a better future, his tireless days of clocking in and out of a job he may not have dreamed of, but showed up because it’s what helped keep us afloat.

So why do I do it?

I climb because everything I am I owe to him, and it’s the very least I could do.

Buen Camino my friends!!

 

 

 

Finding My Storyteller Again.

4 Apr

I’d been inspired to be a better person. I’d been inspired to be a better parent. I’d been inspired to make a difference. Books, movies, documentaries, and shows have all had the power to affect this kind of change. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been inspired to be a better storyteller.

See the last time I felt this way, was when I finished Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. That amazing book inspired me to be a better person and  better dreamer. It uncovered the importance of being a good storyteller and passing on those life lessons and anecdotes to the people who mattered most. And of course, it came at the right time … You know, just when I needed it. The universe helping me out, trying to get me on the right track.

That was a long time ago … And then Mitch Albom resurfaced.

You see, I hadn’t felt like a better storyteller in a long time, but this book … this book turned up the gears and found its way onto my path. And it found me just in time.

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The first time I read Mitch Albom, his book Tuesdays with Morrie, changed my trajectory. It helped me look for the lessons and wisdom that were passing me by, helped me listen to the stories and advice that my Dad, my mentor, and other good friends were trying to pass onto me. It helped me appreciate.

The next book I discovered, helped me to chase my own stories, make-believe and true. I was caught up in Frankie Presto’s story and his amazing life. I hadn’t heard of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, but I was so glad I went looking for “something,” to read. I found it. Now that I’ve read it, I feel sad that I might not have come across it. It’s one of those amazing things you’re so glad happened that you get a little sad, because it could have almost never happened.

But it did. And I’m glad.

As a storyteller, I can appreciate how it is so beautifully crafted, woven with hints and clues and then everything connecting with the big reveal. I loved the mixing of jazz legends, musicians, and artists that came into Frankie’s life and how Frankie changed their lives. I enjoyed the different points of view and voices. I thought it interesting that Music, itself, was a character, the narrator.

Frankie’s journey across the globe, his musical and love adventure, drew me in right away. I loved this character, his passion, his humble kindness, his quest, his life lessons, his love for his guitar, the magic behind the six strings, and his love for Aurora. I rooted for him. I wished for things to happen for him. I wished for him to find his story, to know about his father, his teacher, his past, and his future. I rooted for his redemption and for his love of Aurora.

Throughout his journey I was inspired to find any lost stories of my own, stories of my father, of his childhood, stories that I never knew that could tell me something more. I was inspired to write something new. I also felt like writing my own stories, so that my kids would know my own adventure, so they could fill in the gaps when I was gone. I wanted to leave them something.

Frankie Presto reminded me how important stories are, and the importance of passing them onto the people that matter. Frankie Presto helped me find my storyteller again. When a book can do that, it’s pretty awesome. I hope he does something magical for you too.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

Wake-up Stories

23 Mar

Lately I’ve been searching for stories that move me. You know, like a judge on Star Search, looking for talent that inspires me. I’ve been roaming the Netflix, Amazon, cable television for stories that take me away or help me unwind at the end of the day. I’ve found a lot of good stories, definitely. But in this search I’ve also found inspiration in Podcasts.

It’s strange because when I was growing up I used to hate talk radio. I thought it was for older people. I thought why listen to people talk when I can hear music while I’m in the car. But I’ve found that I’m gravitating more to these podcasts than to what’s on the radio. I’m intrigued by people interviewing all kinds of artists and leaders in every field and the inspiration behind it all.

Now granted, there are some people and actors, who go out there and record ridiculous why-waste -your-time-listening-to-this-crap sessions and you have to sift through a massive amounts of crap to get to something good. But when you do it pays off.

It’s like getting exposed to all these autobiographies with insightful tidbits of wisdom for different parts of you life. And for some reason I find something I can takeaway from each session.

For the inspiration-you-can-do-it times I particularly enjoy Tim Ferriss, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, Eric Thomas’s Secret to Success Podcast and Tony Robbins. They interview so many people from so many walks of life and I always feel better after listening to their session. I walk away feeling like something is possible as long as I keep working at it, whether it’s my professional life or just life itself. I had never heard of Debbie Millman before, and I probably would never, considering she was a graphic designer and I had no interest in that field. But what she had to say about life made me pause.

I’ve touched bases with spirituality by listening to stuff from The RobCast where some of my favorite guests have been Elizabeth Gilbert, Pete Rollins, and Mike Lewis the 112th Best Squash Player in the World. His interviews and stories help bring a lightness of being and grace into my existence. Something I always need to work on when dealing with difficult people.

The Moment with Brian Koppelman make me think about my future as a writer and I was actually introduced to Brian through Tim Ferriss’s podcasts. As a writer, I find it extremely beneficial to hear about everyone’s process and problems and how they were in such a horrible bad spot, but managed to turn it around emotionally and artistically. It’s something I find inspirational when I’m losing the umph, which I had been as of late.

These stories … all of them, help push something in me. Something that goes missing on random days. But something I can get back after I go running, or boxing, or biking … that feel-good feeling. I get an extra dose of that, a push of encouragement from these stories.

I feel like I can’t start my day with that spring in my step if I don’t hear my feel-good song and a podcast. These stories aren’t like the winding down of the day Netflix at night sessions. These are wake-me-up-in-the-morning-because-this-is-your-life stories. You got one shot. What are doing? Get on it! They’ve become part of my morning routine and have helped me see possibilities when I’ve been emotionally or professionally sidelined.

So it may not be the same as the talk radio I grew up with, or it might be. Maybe I just came around to realizing that songs are not the only way to jump start your morning. Stories. Podcasts. Talk radio … can make it happen too.

 

 

The Next Time For Everything

17 Mar

What happens when you thought you gave it everything, but realized you had some left in the tank?

I don’t think this has happened to me in a race … like ever. I give it 100%. That’s a lesson I learned in sports, relationships, and life. No half measures, because then everything is off. And I thought that was embedded in my brain, my conscience.

I thought I had it.

I thought I was prepared … until it started raining.

 

 

 

 

The unexpected has always turned things upside down and tested whether I could adapt to the social conditions. And I’m not gonna lie … it sort of put a chink in my chain. For safety reasons, like creating an avalanche of cyclists tumbling onto the pavement and requiring ambulance transportation, I sided with caution. A slower pace so that I would not injure my already clumsy body.

However, I had reserved more in the tank than I really needed, and was unaware of how much until I crossed the finish line. I was all smiles and breathing normally. I wasn’t tired at all, but during the course of events I definitely felt the weight of my muscles and the rapid pace of my breath, especially during the swim. But once I crossed I wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be, or as I’d seen other athletes become. I thought to myself, perhaps I was just really well-conditioned, but then I saw my time and realized I could’ve gone faster during the cycling portion. I mean with slick roads and rain, there’s still a safe way to go fast. Unfortunately I was unaware of it.

I was disappointed in that fact. But I was grateful and proud to have accomplished so much. I was happy that during the running portion I passed the elite-looking triathletes with their stretchy pants and six-pack abs. While they walked, I ran. I never walked, not even during the incline, and that’s something I took pride in, but for some reason the bike killed me.

Now granted, maybe I should have prepared a bit more, conditioned my quads for that cycling movement and prepared my butt muscles for the bike seat. But I should have stepped it up on race day, regardless of the rain.

Now normally finishing a sprint triathlon in a little over an hour and half seems pretty badass for me, but I couldn’t help be a little disappointed in my time. I didn’t think I was going slow, but then again I don’t remember hauling ass either.

A tough lesson for any athlete to learn. But I got it. Reminder … check! So for the next race I’ll be ready to end it like an Olympian.

I was still proud of my achievement, as were my kids, but I felt the pang in my stomach when it was over knowing full well that I had some juice left in the tank. It wasn’t a dump-gatorade-on-my-head worthy moment. But the universe was making sure I listened next time. And not just the “next time” of a race, but the next time I wake up in the morning and I say ‘I got this!”, the next time I write a story, the next time I’m in full fledged morning routine, the next time I’m a friend, the next time I’m in parenthood existence, the next time for everything.

So now I know … haul ass during the bike ride.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

Doubt

7 Mar

I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was still a little worried.

You see, at the end of last week something unexpected happened. A friend of mine informed me that she ran into this when logging onto my site:

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Now after a couple of days, the situation was cleared up and my site was back up. Apparently my site got mixed up with a spam site and I got voted off the WordPress island for a couple of days. The entire explanation was weird, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. However, the reason I bring it up was because when I saw this, it kind of freaked me out a little. Even though I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, a little bit of doubt began to creep up. Had I said something wrong? Had I posted a picture I wasn’t supposed to? Had I written something offensive?

No. The answers were all no, and I knew that. But doubt was there.

Why is it that that happens?

Why do we doubt ourselves, when we know we haven’t done anything wrong? Or better yet, why did I doubt myself? It was just an instant reaction. It wasn’t confidence or assurance in the fact that they were wrong, it was … wait a minute … let me think … did I do something wrong? And that reaction bummed me out a little.

Normally, if it was a person-to-person, face-to-face encounter I think I would have reacted differently. I would have been more aware of my behavior and been positive that nothing I had done was wrong. But in this case I was in the wrong mind set, something was off and I let The Outside dictate my emotional state. That bothered me a little. I was stressed out over something I was sure I hadn’t caused, yet I was still stressed out.

That happens a lot in relationships, I guess. You know, someone accuses you of something, or makes a comment and it sticks with you for the rest of the day, or week. It makes you question little things about you, maybe taps into something you were insecure about, or something that you were absolutely sure you hadn’t done, but still plants that seed of doubt.

Now granted I was gifted the I-knew-it! moment when I got the email apologizing for any inconvenience this error may have caused me. But I thought, man, I shouldn’t have to wait for an email to have that moment. I need to gear up my confidence level a bit. But don’t get me wrong … I know that people make mistakes and you can be wrong at times. I know. I get it. But when you’re careful and meticulous, and in the present, in the moment, when you’re doing something you’re less likely to make these mistakes. You’re less likely to intentionally cause someone harm.

So I took the moment to make a mental note, and remind myself that … I. Got. This. I’m emptying the tank everyday and at night, I lay my head on the pillow knowing that no matter how things turned out, no matter what some jackass said trying to tear me down, I used what I had, to do the best that I could. Now some days I have more in the tank than others, but nevertheless, I tried. Sometimes I fail, but I always went about it with good intentions, clear eyes, and full hearts. And with that, there should be no room for doubt. Not even a little bit.

I’ll work on it some more.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

Running and Writing

28 Feb

In truth I’m pretty impressed with myself for finishing the second novel in my 12 of 12 literary quest  this year.

As you all know I’m the slowest reader, who’s a writer, on Earth, and I put this challenge forward as a way to expand my reading beyond my kid’s reading list and discover some new and exciting stories.  I enjoy the a-ha moments, or just the little tid-bits of advice that come to me throughout the chapters, something that helps me shift something inside me and keep me on the yellow-brick road, no matter how rocky the path.

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Now I hadn’t heard much about Murakami so I don’t know what that says about my literary chops, but I’m trying. I mean the cover alone made me think I was about to go on an epic journey.  I was really looking forward to reading this as it came highly recommended by a writer I’ve recently discovered through the awesome world of Podcasts. When he mentioned it the book centering on writing and running, I was like … yes. Someone else gets it! Someone can see how these two are intertwined and I embarked on this can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens enlightenment session.

However, it wasn’t a life-altering experience, which was disappointing. I was thinking it would hit me like a bolt of lightning, but it was more nuanced than that. It did have its moments though.

The narrative seemed to pick up around chapter six for me, when I felt he got a little deeper with meaning behind his running and writing, and what happens when we get older and the facts of life we have to accept. I enjoyed the parallels he made between both passions, and the goals and life lessons he learned along the way.  I especially enjoyed the last paragraph of the book, as it captured the essence of the journey. He championed himself as a runner, someone who was always determined to finish, and never give up, someone who never walked during a marathon, and I found that quality admirable. That metaphor applied not only to running, but to his his life.

I feel the only reason I was able to make this connection was because I was a writer and runner myself. If you are not a runner or a writer, this book may not be for you, you might not enjoy the details of his marathon training, long runs, or writing process. I had never heard of Haruki Murakami before this recommendation, but considering he had some bright spots in this novel I might give another book a chance. It’s always interesting to read something, even if it’s not mind-blowing, that adjusts something inside of you, no matter how small. You’re just a little bit different from the day you started the story.

Buen Camino my friends!