Monday, October 29, 2007

Telling Stories . . .

When our children were small, we often had to wait -- in line, or in the doctor's office, or in the car. "Tell us a story," they would ask, or "Would you like to hear a story?" I would offer. Sometimes, familiar fairy tales got a new twist, or I'd tell the story dramatically, complete with voices and faces, just to keep their attention.

Now that our kids are older, the stories have changed. The grandchildren still hear about three bears, or the troll under the bridge who scared those nice little goats, but our children are more interested in hearing about how we bought our first house, or why their grandparents moved from one place to another.

Telling our stories about “who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way” is, as Frederick Buechner says, profoundly important.

As parents and grandparents we have the opportunity to enrich our children and grandchildren's lives by sharing stories about our experiences, our hopes and dreams, our failures.

How do we do that? How do we know our children and grandchildren want to hear those stories?

Storytelling is an art, one that storytellers practice – that is, they work at making their stories artful, interesting. We can do the same thing, too, by being aware of the difference between preaching and telling a story, by working at being artful and interesting, by listening as much as we talk so that our stories are pertinent and welcome.

We can share stories in different ways: directly, as in “When I was your age . . . “ or indirectly, by weaving them into our everyday conversations. It is the sharing of stories that is important, not necessarily how we share them.

Sometimes a familiar object – a quilt, a necklace, a cooking utensil – might trigger a story. Sometimes a chore we are doing together might remind us of something we can share. Other times a difficult situation might stir up a story we are willing to tell.

In his book Telling Secrets, A Memoir, Frederick Buechner doesn't shy away from sharing difficult stories – secrets - because in them he sees God at work.

And isn't that one of the ways we learn to recognize God at work in our lives, in the good, in the bad, in the everyday – because of the stories we tell about ourselves and our lives?

What stories do you want to share?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Something Sweet for the End of October . . .

All the littlest people in our family are excited – Halloween is coming. By next Wednesday, our family will include a couple of hula dancers, at least two vampires, a princess, a puppy dog, a hippie, and a fairy, all of whom hope to score at least one bag of candy while trick-or-treating.
While we wait for the big day, a good book helps us all calm down. Here are some fun reads to share with your own little ghosts and goblins.
Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda White, illustrated by Megan Lloyd, is the story of Rebecca Estelle, who hates pumpkins. When a smashed pumpkin on her lawn bears fruit, Rebecca Estelle can hardly bear what happens – but she figures out a way to cope that everyone can appreciate. You will, too!
Grandma's Trick-or-Treat, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, is an “I Can Read” book for level 2 readers, but anyone who will fit on your lap will enjoy this story of Grandma Nan (very strict) and Grandma Sal (not so strict) who come to visit with different ideas about how to enjoy Halloween. How they resolve those differences is a treat for everyone who reads this story.
If there are older children in your family, read an old favorite togther, something like Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or something by Edgar Allen Poe. They are guaranteed to cause a few shivers!

A Sixth Key to Good Intergenerational Relationships

When it comes to intergenerational relationship keys, the sixth key, prayer, is one of the most important.
It's hard to overestimate the power, the value of praying for our children, their spouses, their children, their in-laws, their friends. Prayer is a profound way of loving our children.
But what sounds simple can be more difficult than we think. How do we discipline ourselves to pray regularly, honestly, humbly for the people we love best?
A lot of books, seminars, and other resources are available if you want to learn more about prayer, but in my opinion the best way to learn is simply to begin.
Prayer is a conversation with God. Usually I don't have trouble talking! Most of the time I try to begin with a recognition of Who it is I am talking with. Often this involves praise and thanksgiving. I concentrate on God's best qualities – His faithfulness, His strength, His kindness and mercy – and how I've seen those qualitiies at work in my life, and in the world around me.
Then I focus on my requests for those I love: I pray for their safety, their relationships, their opportunities, their spiritual growth, their joys, their concerns. All that keeping in touch with them pays off now; I have some idea of what to pray for. I remember that Emma has an algebra test or that Kristen is dealing with a teething baby and I pray for them. I think about Scott's stressful work, or Natalie's unreliable car, and I pray for them. I pray for Carrie in pre-school and for Erica's new job. I think about Nathaniel's career choices, or Katrina's health, and I pray for them. I go through my heart's list one at a time, and think about what is going on in their lives. I ask God what they need, and I pray for them.
I try to finish the way I began, by praising and thanking God. What a privilege it is to pray for the people I love!
My intention is always to pray daily, but my practice falls short. I don't let that stop me, though, or discourage me – I pray whenever I think of something I want to pray about.
The important thing about all this isn't that I do something, but that God does. He answers prayer. I see it all the time. It's not always exactly the way I thought He might answer but He answers, because He is faithful, and He loves us.
And that's what matters.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rent A Grandma . . . ?

I wonder why there isn't a “Rent A Grandma” franchise somewhere.

Think of it – a grandma you could rent, who would come in bearing cookies and smiles to give you a little relief on a stressful day – no advice (unless you asked specifically), no complaints, no criticisms.

She'd wear a sweater, carry a pocketbook, and ask if you wanted to take a nap for a few minutes while she washes up a bit.

She'd love your kids, spoil your husband, and go home to grandpa at the end of the day, leaving your house clean, cookies on the counter, and you, smiling.

I think there might be a possibility, here . . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Forgiveness -- A Little Key

There are several small keys on my keychain, but their size doesn't reflect their importance. One very small key opens our safe-deposit box – not a key I want to lose!

One of the “small” keys to intergenerational relationships is equally important. Forgiveness may seem insignificant, but this key opens a treasure. When we lose this key, relationships become stuck.

Every relationship will eventually experience difficulty; it's inevitable: the wrong things are said, or the right things are said the wrong way. Someone is insensitive or even deliberately mean. We forget to pay attention to what the other person is feeling, or needs, or wants from us.

Someone don't listen, doesn't call, doesn't seem to care.

Occasionally there is thoughtlessness, or jealousy, or competition. We neglect to nurture a relationship we claim is important to us. Or we simply give up, overwhelmed by the work required to deal with a difficult person.

All kinds of things can go wrong: the end result is a damaged or broken relationship.

Forgiveness opens the door to a renewed, refreshed relationship.

That doesn't mean it's easy, though.

Sometimes forgiveness requires us to overlook negative things – a grouchy conversation, a forgotten birthday, a lack of thoughtfulness. This requires discernment: when is it important to speak up honestly and gently about something that bothers you, and when should you simply forgive and forget, bearing the cost of the offense your own self?

Other times we need to confront another person, with a willingness – even an eagerness – to forgive.

Then there are times we ourselves need to ask for forgiveness. Whether we have deliberately offended or inadvertently offended another, asking for forgiveness isn't easy, especially the part about asking without offering excuses or explanations to subtly justify our own bad behavior.

This requires good communication skills, humility, and grace. It means loving someone other than our own self. Forgiveness is about setting things right, and sometimes that requires heavy lifting.

Sometimes our apologies aren't accepted. Sometimes we don't feel like asking for forgiveness. Sometimes someone who has offended us doesn't apologize or act as if they are sorry for what they've done.

In those cases, love is our only resort. Love calls us to forgive, to ask forgiveness, to turn away from our own hurt, to turn away from hurting others. In Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, he says, Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut. Doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always “me first,” doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end . . . we have three things to do . . . trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, 13 -- The Message

Love enables us to forgive when we need to, and to seek forgiveness when we should.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Working Yourself Out of a Job . . .

Someone observed that mothers work themselves out of a job, and I think that's true, at least in one sense. We work to train our children to become independent, to be able to live on their own, without our help.

In another sense, though, I think once our children are grown, we are blessed if they invite us back into their lives, not as someone they need, but as someone whose presence and help they want.

If – when – this invitation comes, we have to be careful not to fall back into our old mothering patterns of teaching and training. The relationship changes when our children take on adult independence.

Even if it looks to us as if they haven't quite accomplished maturity or independence, once they become adults, a healthy relationship is not the same as it was when they were children.

It's hard for me sometimes – OK, most of the time! - to refrain from telling my kids what I think they still need to know. I try, but often I'm in the middle of a “lesson” before I realize I've started talking. I'm trying to do better!

How about you? How do you maintain a healthy relationship with your adult children, respect their independence, while still remaining available to help when they ask?

I'm just wondering . . .

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More about books . . .

Board books make it easy to read to babies and toddlers.

They are almost always sized for little hands, and if a reader chews the pages it doesn't really hurt anything.

At our house, favorite board books include Margaret Wise Brown's Big Red Barn and Good Night Moon. We also enjoy a little set of four books from Baby Einstein: Babies, Dogs, Birds, and Cats. Each of these four books includes a picture of an appropriate baby, dog, bird, or cat drawn by a child, as well as a variety of descriptions with accompanying art: babies crying, or dogs chasing Frisbees.

A lot of the books older children enjoy have been adapted to a board book format. In some cases the text has been shortened but the illustrations are often the same. Look for stories like Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could.

Whether you have regular small visitors or just occasional ones, board books make a good addition to your home library.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Fourth Key: Constructive Help

A fourth key to intergenerational relationships is constructive help.

At first glance this seems pretty easy: our kids need help, so, if we can, we help them.

On the other hand, sometimes it's not as simple as all that.

When our granddaughter Elsie was just starting to walk, her mommy, our daughter Amy, regaled us by phone with stories of her first steps. I was happily excited, thinking about Elsie toddling around in a pair of ankle-high white walking shoes, just as her mommy had done years earlier.

At that time, Amy and Jack lived several states away. I knew I wouldn't be able to go shoe-shopping with Amy and Elsie. Since I couldn't be there myself, I carefully explained the importance of choosing good shoes.

"Oh," she said, "I don't think Elsie needs shoes just yet."

"Sure she does," I said. "Now that she is walking you want to give her feet and ankles plenty of support. Those little white walkers like the ones you wore are perfect. I know just where to get them."

"No, but thanks, mom," said Amy. I could hear her choose her next words carefully. "It will do her more good to go barefoot. Our doctor says that will help the muscles in her feet develop properly. I don't think I want to put her in shoes just yet."

In my mind's eye, I could see a little parade of white walkers, from the ones my younger brothers had worn right through the pair I'd bought our youngest son not so long ago. What I heard in my daughter's voice convinced me that the parade was over, and it wouldn't do any good to argue the point.

Whether it's a major holiday celebration or simply an everyday tradition like a first pair of shoes, change is difficult. We invest a lot of ourselves in choosing how we give meaning to significant times in our lives. It isn't easy to erase or amend those choices, or to stand by and smile when our children seem to diminish them by easily giving them up.

As our children marry, form new families, and begin new family traditions of their own, our attitude can be one of condemnation and criticism, or of blessing. We can guilt them into doing things our way, or we can bless their efforts to incorporate our values into their traditions. Insisting on our own way of doing things, demanding their presence at traditional family events, or complaining when things change is not the path to blessing; it is, instead, a good way to alienate the people we love most.

So that afternoon on the phone, I reminded myself that the issue of white walking shoes was not a make-or-break issue in Elsie's development. I quickly thought about the times I failed to take my own mom's advice about various child-rearing choices. I decided this would not become a bone of contention between my daughter and me.

"Going barefoot will certainly strengthen the muscles of her feet," I said, and smiled to myself at the picture of that tiny barefoot girl.

Offering constructive help to our children as they parent means, first of all, listening and watching carefully for what they really want and need from us. We need to be sensitive to our children's need for encouragement and support even while we respect their independence and their right to make decisions for their own children.

Sometimes we simply have to ask: what could I do that would be genuinely helpful to you? Other times we need to just pitch in: mopping up a flooded basement, or caring for our grandkids so they can accomplish errands or go out for dinner.

It's important for us to recognize that while, most of the time, our children may be managing so well they don't seem to need help, there may still be times when they could use help but are shy about asking. We also have to be honest with ourselves and with our children about what we are able and willing to do to help them.

Learning when to ask, when to offer, and when to simply pitch in is just another “learning objective” for us as grandparents.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kindness - The Third Key

Kindness is a virtue often underrated, but when it comes to intergenerational relationships, this third key is one of the most important. Kindness builds warmth and affection, and expresses our love. With imagination and love, we can find so many ways to be kind when it comes to our adult children!

Sometimes it's little things: inviting them over for a meal, or offering child care so they can have a day or an evening out, or it might be an affirming note or phone call, even a gift – something as small as a favorite candy bar or magazine can be a kind gesture that speaks of your love.

Other times kindness is more costly or significant: listening carefully, sympathetically, without offering answers (this one is always hard for me!)

Kindness can be speaking well of, and being considerate of your child's in-laws, her “other family.” Kindness might mean graciously accepting your child's decision to do something different for a holiday, even if it means they won't be home with you.

Sometimes kindness is more about what we don't do. Some problems can't be solved – illness or loss – but they can be eased by the kindness of allowing your child and her family space and time, without hovering, trying to “fix” things. Kindness may mean we listen sensitively or simply spend time together without bringing up painful subjects.

Remember that hospitality is not just for holidays! Kindness is often expressed when we create opportunities for friendship in our family. It is important for us to adapt old family traditions to our new reality of married children, in-laws, grandchildren, and give everyone opportunities to spend time together in a relaxed, loving setting.

When it comes to special occasions or the holidays, be kind: relieve stress for your family. Remember that an invitation is not a command performance. Explain to your family that if it REALLY matters to you for them to come to an event or do something, you'll tell them so they don't have to wonder!Even then, if they can't come, or choose not to come, kindness keeps us from complaining or nagging.

Hospitality is often as much a matter of the heart as it is what we cook or serve. Inviting her over spontaneously for coffee, sharing everyday activities, making a meal together to share, staying in touch with pleasant news and ideas and not just problems and complaints – these can all be everyday ways of showing kindness.

Does your child enjoy it if you just drop by? Be sensitive to this, and if she does, then drop by, either in person or by phone, or note, or e-mail. If she prefers you call first, then call first!

Kindness really involves a giving of yourself, or a giving up of something that matters to you for the sake of the other. A pattern of kindness sets the stage for a good relationship, and helps heal a damaged one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Together, Wherever We Go . . .

I love it when my kids invite me along on an outing with their kids!
A trip to the zoo is fun so many ways: watching my grandchildren as they interact – or don't! -- with animals they don't see regularly, watching my kids as they parent their kids, remembering trips to the zoo we took when they were small themselves, and, of course, watching the animals themselves!

We've gone hiking, shopping, to the zoo, to the state fair, to various programs and sporting events with our kids and their kids – it's always interesting and fun to be included this way.

We provide an extra pair of hands and eyes, the kids provide the fun!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums are loud, scary, and frustrating.

Sometimes it's a small person (also known as “the grandchild”) having a big tantrum, and sometimes it's a big person (also known as “the grandma” -- that is, me) having a small tantrum. No matter who it is, it's no fun.

Surprisingly, the causes are often the same: a feeling of frustration or lack of control, being overtired, boredom.

Whatever the cause, the important thing is to bring the tantrum to a quick, satisfactory end. You need to remember whatever instructions your grandchild's parents have given you about how to deal with the child. But, having a few tricks up your own sleeve can't hurt.

Here are some tricks to stash up your sleeve:

If the tantrum's cause is your grandchild's frustration, make your voice and demeanor quiet, get her attention, and ask if she can tell you what the problem is. Listen carefully to her answer, and help her deal with whatever frustrates her in a constructive way. If she isn't able to articulate what's bothering her, “lead” her with simple questions she can answer with yes or no.

Occasionally, especially in a younger child, the out-of-control feeling she experiences is scary. Not only do you need to defuse the tantrum, you also need to comfort and reassure her that everything will be OK, she is safe, and she can learn to manage her frustration.

If you are dealing with an angry tantrum, use physical activity to draw off the anger's energy. Have him go outside and run a few laps around the house, or do jumping jacks in the basement. Then, deal with whatever made him angry in the first place.

If the tantrum is the result of an overtired child, have her take a nap, rock her quietly in your lap, or choose a quiet, restful activity for her to do. Again, your calm quiet will help soothe her.

If boredom causes a tantrum, devise something interesting and difficult for him to do. Building a house of cards is usually both quiet and absorbing. A good conversation can be an antidote to boredom and will often stop a tantrum in its tracks.

Don't forget the power of a good sense of humor, wisely deployed. If it's possible to help your grandchild laugh at her situation, you may defuse a tantrum – just be very careful not to make her think you are laughing at her.

Occasionally, it's a grandma tantrum – a rare, but serious problem. That's when a calming cup of tea, a solitary walk around the house, or even a nap can help a great deal. And don't forget the power of chocolate - even a handful of M and Ms can help a grandma's tantrum!

Tantrums are no fun for anyone – tame them!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Perfect for a Fall Day . . .

On a fall day like this, what could be better than baking cookies? Especially since, last week when our granddaughter Carrie was here, the cookie jar was empty!

Pumpkin Harvest Cookies

Combine ½ cup softened butter with

1 cup packed brown sugar and

¾ cup granulated sugar.

Cream thoroughly.

To this mixture, add: 1 cup pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Beat together til light and fluffy.

Add 1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Mix thoroughly.

Stir in ¾ cup raisins

¾ cup chopped pecans or black walnuts

¾ cup uncooked (quick cooking) oats.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet;

bake at 375 degrees for 12 15 minutes. When cool, frost with Spicy Frosting.

Spicy Frosting

Combine 1 cup powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons softened butter

1 Tablespoon hot coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Beat together til fluffy. Spread on Pumpkin Harvest Cookies.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Algebra and A Second Key

Our granddaughter Elsie is just getting ready to start a unit introducing algebra. She is apprehensive about equations and how to read them, how to understand them, how to solve them.

Listening to her, I was instantly transported back to the stuffy math classroom I sat in every day as a high school freshman, trying to make sense of the same things. Suddenly I could understand her apprehension very well!

It can be scary to learn new things. What if you don't understand it? What if you fail?

One thing algebra taught me is that failure isn't fatal, and it often isn't final. If you just keep trying, most of the time you'll master whatever it is you are working on.

Maybe that's the most important equation of all: (2)T +E(P) = S. Or to put it another way, (Lots of)Time + Effort, multiplied by Perseverance = Success.


A second key to good inter-generational relationships is to show interest in your adult child and in your grandchildren.

This sounds like a no-brainer, until you start to think about how busy you are, and how busy your children and their families are. We get caught up in our responsibilities for our own aging parents, our jobs, and our volunteer work; our children are busy with their own work, school activities, soccer practice, band lessons, and all the other things that go along with parenting young children. It's a wonder we can make time for one another!

And for a lot of us, it's so easy to show interest in our grandchildren that we forget our adult children still enjoy knowing we care about them, too.

Sometimes our interest seems more like intrusiveness to our children. Instead of encouragement, we dispense discouragement and criticism.

Or perhaps we insist it's too difficult to learn about the technology our children and grandchildren use to stay in touch, or we fail to use the technologies we are familiar with.

Here are some ways we can show interest in our children and grandchildren:

* Make time. Pencil it in on the calendar. Invite them for regular family meals if you are close enough, or schedule a regular family phone call if you aren't.

* Educate yourself about things they are interested in. If your granddaughter is playing soccer, read up about soccer. If your son-in-law is interested in woodworking, learn the difference between a jig-saw and a table saw.

* When you call, talk to your child first, before you ask to talk with the grandchildren!

* Look for ways to affirm what is good in their lives. Think before you offer critical comments, or before you share advice that hasn't been asked for.

* Share things you are interested in or have been doing. Ask questions about their lives, but be sensitive to their privacy.

* Learn about new technologies you can use to stay in touch – e-mail, a family webpage or blog, a video phone, instant messaging. Model a willingness to keep on learning and to stay involved in life.

* Use other ways to stay in touch, too – everyone likes to get a real letter or an interesting postcard in the mail.

In the long run, what's important is that we demonstrate by what we do that we care about what's happening in our children's and grandchildren's lives. Our interest and caring is an affirmation of our love, and helps to keep inter-generational relationships meaningful to everyone.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Self-Awareness, Key #1

One key to a good relationship between generations is self-awareness. We need to be aware of what we want from a relationship, as well as what we are willing to give to it.
When we think about our relationship with the parents of our grandchildren, what exactly is it that we want from them? Do we want to be included in their everyday lives, and if so, how do we want to be included? As a mentor? a helper? a cheerleader?
Or do we prefer a bit of distance?
What are we willing to give to the relationship? Are we willing to set aside activities we might otherwise choose so we can be more involved in their lives?
And what do they want from this relationship?
All the skill in observation, communication, and negotiation we've acquired over the years should be helpful as we navigate this part of a good relationship!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Books and Boomer

One thing moms and grandmas usually agree about is the importance of introducing children to books. The best way to stimulate a love for reading in a child is to share a good book with her.
A good illustrator adds to the pleasure and fun of a book; often small children “get” the illustrations even before they understand the words of a book.
One of my favorite illustrators is Mary Whyte. A painter from South Carolina, Whyte has illustrated Constance W. McGeorge's series about a lovable dog named Boomer, among other children's books. Her illustrations advance the story and add visual details that make each image feel familiar, as if you could walk into the story and inhabit it.
In Boomer's Big Day, Boomer's family is moving. Whyte shows Boomer, crammed into the family van under boxes and lamps. Using soft colors and careful detail, her illustrations of the difficulty Boomer has figuring out the new back yard, and his happiness when he finds his dinner bowl, his bed, even his old green tennis ball in the new house invite the reader to imagine what it's like to move even as Boomer explores his new situation.
The other Boomer books – Boomer Goes To School and Boomer's Big Surprise – are equally fun as Boomer romps his way through days filled with surprises and fun. The cover illustration of Boomer Goes To School, with Boomer on the school bus, ears flying as he leans out the window, will delight any child – and the person reading to her.
And the expression on Boomer's face when Baby finds Boomer's favorite old green tennis ball in Boomer's Big Surprise might remind you of the expression on the face of any child who has to make room in her life for a baby.
You should be able to find the Boomer books at your local library, through an on-line bookseller, or at your local bookstore. Curl up with someone you love, and read!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Generational Mother conference

Last week-end Julie and I had the privilege of speaking at a conference about The Generational Mother at St. John Lutheran Church in Burlington, Illinois.
Our friend Cheryl Pacilio was the morning's keynote speaker. She talked about the Proverbs 31 woman. Her presentation has changed the way I think about the Proverbs 31 woman – is this passage a description of a paragon or a mom's wish list? Cheryl convinced me that the Proverbs 31 woman is the woman every mother wants her son to marry, not necessarily a woman to be intimidated by.
Then Julie did a workshop for moms while I did one for grandmas. Julie talked about why generational connections are so important to us and to our children. She talked about some of the things that keep us from connecting well with one another, brainstormed with the moms about ways to improve those connections, and discussed how we might react when those connections prove challenging.
In the workshop for grandmas, I talked about six keys to a good relationship between us and our now-adult children: self awareness, showing interest in our children and in our grandchildren, kindness, offering constructive help, forgiveness, and prayer.
After a break for a delicious lunch we gathered for one last workshop. Julie and I spoke together, going over ways moms and grandmas can forge a good relationship. The hour flew by!
We so enjoyed meeting the women who were there, and thought the event organizer, Beth Knief, did a great job organizing the conference. We were especially impressed with the banner her mother-in-law Marita Knief created for the event, using the theme verse “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” -- Proverbs 31:26
Conferences for women are a great opportunity to take time away to reflect, be restored, and to renew your commitment to your faith and family – if you get a chance to go, go and be blessed!