Sunday, March 18, 2012

To Stone or Not to Stone? That is (not) the Question.

It's the Lord's Day and I've been thinking about religion a lot lately.  We are living in strange times.

I think I've talked a little before about my spiritual journey on this blog - how I was raised in a secular home but in a religious society - how I longed to be part of the private club - how I joined and then left the club - and how I am now trying to raise my own children in a secular home that exists within an increasingly fundamentalist society.  I'm hoping they won't feel that "longing to belong" that always nagged me growing up.

As homeschoolers, we are even more saturated with religion than the average Texan.  Most people here homeschool for religious reasons.  Even so, we have found a circle of friends who accept us and love us for who we are....some of them are religious and some are not.  But the Culture of Homeschooling here is definitely religious in nature.  There is a definite feeling of families homeschooling to protect their children from what they see as evil secular influences (although honestly, the public schools here aren't exactly free-thinking hot spots), or to raise Christian soldiers or prepare for the Rapture or because they were "called" to homeschool by God Himself.  Families homeschooling for these reasons do not tend to be a very welcoming bunch. 

For example:  On Facebook I belong to a group that consists of local homeschoolers.  They post activities, seek advice, share information, etc.  And the general assumption among them is: If You're Homeschooling You're Christian.  But the group, itself, is secular.

Recently, a woman posted about a field trip she was organizing at a trampoline place.  It was a great price and sounded like something Camille and Jasper would want to do - so I read the info.  This caught my eye:

Disney music will be played. There will be no secular music!!

Do I need to point out the obvious error here?  No?  OK.  I won't.

Next it said:  Invite all the Christian Homeschoolers you know!

People immediately began asking know...normal questions like dress code questions.  They wanted to make sure their sons would not witness shoulders, etc.  Because that would drive them mad, I guess.  Make them begin raping and pillaging and plundering - and it would be all because of those bared shoulders or the possible glimpse of cotton panties up the leg of a jumping girl whose mother didn't think to dress her modestly for a trampoline place.  We are all Eve, after all.  We're is our responsibility to make sure we do not cause evil thoughts in the minds of men with our nasty, filthy shoulders.  Wait...I've digressed.

So I posted a simple question.  "Is this field trip open to all homeschoolers or is it just for Christians?"


All posting about dress codes and secular music ceased.  If we're all very quiet, maybe she'll just go away.

Later, I was told that the original poster responded with four comments, one of which began with, "I'm not trying to start a faith war, just plan a field trip..."

Before I could respond that I also was not trying to start a faith war, just wanted to know if we were welcome to come jump on the trampolines because it's an hour-long drive for me and if we were going to be asked to leave when we got there because we don't go to church I wanted to know that up front - well, before I could say that - she'd deleted all of her comments.  I didn't get to see them, but I'm betting that each one became more and more defensive and hysterical.

Needless to say, we didn't go on the field trip.

So this woman had been totally, completely, and thoroughly blown out of the water by me.  She hadn't expected me. I'd surprised her.  How can you be constantly worried about the throngs of evil atheists who are waging a war against you and persecuting you and trying to take away your rights - how can you claim to exist in the middle of this Huge Majority of Evil People - and then freak out when you actually hear from one?  Either we're everywhere you look or we're not.  And all I wanted to do was take my kids to jump on trampolines.  It was way more likely that your kids were going to try and indoctrinate mine than the other way around. 

I have really nice kids, by the way.

So that irritated me.  And then this irritated me:

A young man who had recently announced on Facebook that Liberals Are Hitler, took offense when someone else (not me) made a joke about something from Leviticus in regards to Marriage Equality.  The post didn't call anyone out, didn't use insulting language, and it was obviously meant to be humorous.  The young man took it as a personal attack on his faith.  A conversation ensued about what from the Bible was to be taken literally and what was not.  A man not lying with a man IS to be taken literally.  Other things, obviously, are not.  Like not wearing mixed fibers, for example. This is all nonsensical to me, but I can relate to how it might not be nonsensical to someone else.  Like I totally GET the fact that people have a right to their faith, and a right to live their lives according to their faith, as long as their faith doesn't dictate that they make me do the same (which is obviously where the problem currently lies in our country).  Anyway, I brought up the stoning of adulterers and how the Bible dictates that we should, you know, do that....and I knew full well that this young man would have a Biblical explanation for why we shouldn't stone people in this day and age.  He was not a casual Bible-Reader - it was obvious from his language and the lengthy discourse that he was very educated about his faith and the Bible.

I was right.  He launched into 3 main reasons why we don't stone adulterers.  They were detailed and involved a deep understanding of Torah and Talmud and Rabbinic Law.  He went to a lot of trouble to explain all of this to me - and honestly - I appreciated it because at least he could make a valid argument, as opposed to someone who really doesn't understand his own faith while he's trying to defend it. 

But after he made all of the points, all I could think of was:
I think we shouldn't bash people's heads in with rocks until their brains ooze out their ears because it's MEAN and amoral, not because we are living outside the borders of Israel without a jury of Biblically Ordained Aaronic priests. 

People wonder how atheists can have a moral compass...yet if you read the Bible, you wonder how religious people can.  Obviously, religion isn't the cause of morality, and often, it is the cause of atrocities.  And while I know some great religious people who walk the walk - they would be good people regardless - they're not good BECAUSE of their faith. 

I'm a good person and I'm raising good people.  We will not exclude you from coming on our field trips.  We will not try take your faith away, we just ask that you not force it on us (and I realize that the basis of many Christian faiths is spreading the Good News and saving people and such - and so yeah - makes it hard on folks like me for you to live out your faith). 

And I don't need to look up the answer in a book and ponder it at length when asked if people should stone other people.  My moral compass is just too firmly grounded for that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Story #2: Holed Up on President's Day

I told you I'm going to do a post per day this week!  This is Day 2 and here I am!

Stories.  I'm still on blogworty stories.

Jeff had the day off for President's Day last month even though he doesn't have a government job.  He works for a Japanese company and they take take this President's Day business seriously.  For some bizarre reason, *back when we used to homeschool, we would do all sorts of craftsy crazy dorky homeschooling activities on President's Day. This year we just went hiking.
*back when we used to homeschool....a phrase used by my sons when they talk about the "early days" of our homeschooling adventure.  they actually remember very little of it, which is why I quit that nonsense.

We headed for Enchanted Rock, which is a huge chunk of granite jutting out of the ground.  Like HUGE.  Not Half Dome Huge - but big enough to be fairly impressive in the Texas Hill Country where we're talking about, you know, hills.

On our way, we stopped to pick up Austen - so right away - things were bound to be exciting.

As you can see, he's always upside down.
 After a picnic, we headed up The Rock.  I mentioned it's granite, right?  And it's all uphill.  Parts of it are slippery.  If you fall, you are going all the way back down in a fraction of the time it took you to get up. So when the teen boys said, "Later..." and took off, I was hoping they weren't going to roll past me as I made my way up.  The three of them are more than a little adventurous, but I had Jasper with me so I couldn't waste a lot of time worrying about them.  Jasper, at the age of 7, began to run up the hill as if he were being chased by a herd of lions.  Now then....I CANNOT RUN UP THE HILL.   Jeff took off after Jasper, but he's just not as good at being neurotic as I am.  I disapproved of his calm demeanor in light of Jasper's full-speed jaunt up the rock, but I was too out of breath to properly express my discontent.  Camille also headed up at quite the pace, but being a girl, she LOOKED WHERE SHE WAS GOING as opposed to RUNNING BLINDLY AND INSANELY UP A STEEP AND SLIPPERY CHUNK OF GRANITE. 

I forgot all about the teen boys because I was entirely focused on being ready to catch Jasper in the event that he stopped, dropped, and rolled on down my way. 

Did I mention I was a tad out of breath during all of this?  'Cause I was. At one point, a little kid took a tumble and came up all kinds of bloody and started the wailing and although Jasper saw the poor kid I could tell he drew no conclusions as to what that could mean for him if he continued running across/up the granite - so I was trying to yell, "See what happens?" but it came out as a sad little whisper and he didn't hear me.

Did I mention that I did this climb without oxygen? Nor was I strapped to the back of a Sherpa.  I know, it's impressive.  I give all the credit for my being able to reach the summit to Jasper and his perilous climb.  It's what kept me going.

When I finally reached the summit I plopped down and pretended to appreciate the view of the clouds while my pulse thundered in my head and I heaved for breath.  I heard some commotion and lifted my head to see the SAS Shoe Crowd heading my way.  If you're unfamiliar with the SAS Shoe Crowd, let me just say that SAS Shoes are a type of shoe manufactured in San Antonio that is favored by the senior crowd.  You see SAS Shoes retirees running all over the damn place and they're hardly ever out of breath and it's freaking annoying.
"Lovely day!" they said as they stepped over me. Since I couldn't speak I opted for a friendly finger gesture behind their backs.

Eventually, I managed to stand up, but it was probably a little too soon because I immediately suffered a hallucination.  In the hallucination, Joel ran up to me and said, "Jules is in the finals!"

"The finals for what?" I asked.

"The Limbo Contest!" Joel said.  Then he ran off.

"Aha. The Limbo Contest," I said to my hallucinating self.  "Of course."

I looked across the top of the chunk of granite, past the SAS Shoes Hikers, to where it appeared a group had gathered.  In my hallucination, it looked a lot like this.

You can't make it out, but two kids are indeed holding a limbo stick, and three people are still in the running and one of them is Jules. That's right - you make it to the top of Enchanted Rock and there stands a Church Youth Group (like the SAS Shoe Crowd they're freaking everywhere and also hardly ever out of breath) and they've already indoctrinated your kids by luring them into the fold with a freaking limbo stick.  You can't turn your back for ONE MINUTE. 

Seriously, these were some nice kids.  Jules came in 2nd, and then we all went our separate ways.  And when I say we all went our separate ways, I mean that the three teen boys screamed, "We're headed to the cave!" and then disappeared on the Other Side of the Granite Rock.
Jasper yelled, "Me too!" and took off.

I yelled, "JEFF!" and he yelled, "I'm going!" and Camille said, "Can I come?" and then they all disappeared and I brought up the rear.  By the time I arrived at what is known as The Cave, I found Jeff and Camille staring at a hole.  Jasper was climbing out of the hole.

"What's that?" I asked.

"That's the cave," Jeff said.

"That's not a cave, that's a hole."

Jeff pointed to a sign that said The Cave.  Jasper said it was very dark in there and that he lost the boys.  Hmmm...I looked at Jeff.  "They said they'd be out in ten minutes or so."

About that time, Jules comes climbing out of the hole.  He looks a little panicky - he's claustrophobic.  "I'm not going back in there," he said. "It's pitch black and I could barely squeeze through some places."

I looked into the hole.  I am not claustrophobic, but I do have a strange and intense fear of being crushed by boulders.  I immediately broke out into a sweat.  "So they get to the end of the hole and they come back out, right?" I asked Jules.

"I don't think it ends," he said. "It just goes on and on and you can't see anything and you have to crawl through tight spaces..." he stopped there so he and I could share a spontaneous shiver.  At that point I yelled into the hole.  Nobody answered.  I looked at Jeff and he looked guilty in the way that he always looks guilty when the boys are having fun.

"Give them ten minutes," he said.

I gave them ten minutes.  Then I gave them ten more.  And ten more. Then I started to get a little excited.  I was perfectly reasonable with the excitement.  I began walking in circles and repeating over and over, "Oh my God, they're lost, they're never coming out..."

Jeff took a swig of water and said, "I'm going in after them."  It was dramatic.  I would have been turned on except my boys had disappeared in a hole.

He squeezed on in through the hole....and disappeared.  He didn't come out.  Jules had a dark, faraway look in his eyes as he said, "It just goes on forever and ever..."

I started yelling into the hole again.  No response. I began the pacing business, and Jules, being the little barometer that he is, became alarmed and began pacing, as well.  We began feeding on each other's panic.  I yelled down the hole some more.  Jules yelled down the hole.  Jasper offered to go in after them.  I finally took in a deep breath and yelled one last time and then I heard a faint response. "Oh my God...WHAT? Would you stop yelling at me?!?"

Jeff was still alive! And he was bringing out my boys! Jules and I did a happy dance.  We'd been so silly.  Hilarious. Ha ha...we'd laugh about it later.  We thought the boys had disappeared into a hole - how ridiculous!  Jeff climbed out and he had an adorable smudge of dirt on his face. I threw my arms around his neck.  My hero! I looked expectantly at the hole. 

Nobody else came out.

"Seriously?" I shouted. "You freaking LOST MY KIDS IN A HOLE? Who told them they could go in the dang hole in the first place?  You dared to come out without my boys? Really? AGAIN?"   

"They're not lost," he said with a grin.  A GRIN. "They're down there in that hole."

"You mean the way Baby Jessica was not lost because she was down there in that well?" I shrieked.  Yes folks, I shrieked.  Then I started mumbling a bunch of nonsense and insisting that Somebody needed to Go Get Help.  "Find the Baptists!" I shouted.  "Send them in after my boys!"

"Dude, I think you're having an actual Panic Attack," Jeff said.  "Like not a fake one.  An actual panic attack! Cool!" Then? He tried to hug me.  And then? He began describing to Jules how he'd crawled down multiple levels and had to use the flash on his phone in order to keep from falling and dying.  He had thoroughly enjoyed himself.

"My babies are trapped in a hole," I said through gritted teeth. "And one of them isn't even mine.  YOU call Nicole and tell her we lost her kid down a hole."

"They'll come out eventually," he said.  That made me crazy.  "You want a granola bar while we wait?"  That made me crazier.  Camille and Jasper each took a granola bar and settled down as if they were at the circus.  They were not alarmed at all - I've completely desensitized them to trauma and I feel badly about that, believe me.  But what I feel worse about was how Jules was spinning and looping and worried as hell.  I couldn't help him at the moment, though, because his brother and friend were MISSING.  In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am not anybody's idea of a Calming Presence.

I started to cry.  And then?

"Hey guys, what's happening?"  Joel and Austen stood on a ridge above us.  They had come out a DIFFERENT HOLE. 

They were quickly filled in on the drama they'd missed.  They found it amusing.  As we climbed back down the rock, yelling at Jasper to slow down the entire way, I told Jeff, "You have to promise me, PROMISE ME, that if I die in a fiery crash..."

"Because it would totally be in a fiery crash," Jeff said.

"When I die in a fiery crash, you will not let the kids jump off a cliff because they think it might be fun.  I have to know that someone will be responsible for their safety."

"Sure thing," he said as Jasper climbed up a boulder with his full approval.

I just have to live forever. No problem.

Here's a picture of Camille heading back down the rock after a full day of hiking and hysteria.  Because that's how we roll.

The boys were waiting for us as we approached the trail head.  See how close to the edge of that boulder Jules is precariously balanced? I was all out of adrenaline so I just shrugged it off.
Until tomorrow,
Signing Off as Sardine Mama, the Fairly Lame Protector of Teenage Boys

Monday, March 12, 2012

It Takes Some Balls

So during my blogging break things kept happening and I would think, this would be funny to blog about, only I wouldn't because I was taking a blogging break.  I probably can't remember all of them, but I can remember a few.  Since it is Monday - I'm going to try to do a M thru F Things I Should Have Blogged About And Didn't series.  What do you think?

I'm spinning my Mental Wheel.....and I've landed on what I shall call the Balls in Politics Story.

Oh! And I'm NOT going to blog about Rush.  I'm so totally not going to do that.  Although, if I WERE going to do that - I would say he's an A-Hole.  Right now, at this very moment, I'm strongly resisting the urge to talk about Rush.  Like....trying REALLY hard not to. 

I resisted! I did!  My pulse is still up a bit - but I resisted.  I'm going to talk about Texas Politics as I experience it on a daily basis.  Here's my blog-worthy story:

I had pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store and was gathering up all of my Liberal Commie Canvas Reusable Bags.  My door was open while I did this, and a gentleman approached me.

He had an impressive ZZ Top beard, a gimme cap, and a big smile.  I wasn't alarmed at all - he was grinning from ear to ear.  Honestly, I thought he was going to ask me if I had jumper cables or something ridiculous like that - I mean - I'm sure I have some but honestly.... 

"Howdy," he said, tipping his gimme cap and grinning.

"Howdy," I said.  Because we're in Texas.

Camille pokes her head over from the back seat.  And we wait, expectantly, for this gentleman to ask us if we have jumper cables or possible $1 for the Mad Dog Fund.

He chuckles a little, winks, and says, "Girl, you got some balls with them bumper stickers."

I had not expected that.  He walked off, shaking his head and chuckling, and when he drove off?  He had Honest To God Balls hanging from his truck.
I wanted to shout, "No, dude! YOU have balls!"  But I was kind of in shock from the attack on my bumper stickers.  Now then, unless this guy has something against large families or the Red Hot Chili Peppers...

I think he might have been talking about these...
They're old and I need new ones.  But seriously, I think this is what he was referring to.  'Cause we're in Texas. And this was seen as unusual and alarming.  And it's just the beginning, because once the Republican primaries are over - I'm going to start getting The Finger on a regular basis and I really hate that.  Especially when I have my kids in the car and people whiz past (often with a Christian Fish Symbol) and flip us off with all kinds of class and whatnot.  At least the parking lot guy didn't do that.  He just said "balls" in front of my precious 9-year-old daughter.  By the way, when telling this story, I am often asked what I said in response.  I do not recollect saying anything, but Camille assures me that I said Thank You.  I can believe this because, when push comes to shove and I am speechless, I can totally see myself falling back on my sweet southern girl manners.

"You've got balls, little lady!"

"Why, thank you sir!"

Yeah.  Apparently, it went something like that.

While I'm bizarrely posting pictures of my bumper stickers online, let me show you the rest.  This here is PROOF that I didn't wait until Rick Perry made a national spectacle of himself before withholding my support.  I voted for Bill White for governor - and I keep the sticker up because I'm: a) too lazy to remove it and b) just a tad bit obnoxious.
Signing Off With Balls,
Sardine Mama

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Remember Me?

Someone begged me to blog today. So here I am.

I wasn't kidding when I said I wasn't going to be blogging as much, was I?  Like I totally wasn't bluffing.  It was not an Idle Threat. I mean, I haven't blogged since Jan 14 and now it is March 1 and that is crazy.

Really, it's been so long since we've spoken - it's a bit awkward, no? 

Whenever I have time to write - I work on my manuscript.  Or I sit and think about working on my manuscript.  Or I read writing blogs or e-mail my writing buddy about how much writing sucks or I read books that I like to pretend are worse than mine. And really, that's kind of all I've been doing.  Ask the kids, they'll tell you.

Well, maybe I've been doing a few other things:

I've gone vegan.  For reals. I'm having a soy mocha at this very moment.  Watched Forks Over Knives and that did it for me.  I dropped 14 pds - easiest weight loss of my life.  Jeff's dropped about forty - which is insane.  Speaking of vegans and the Red Hot Chili Peppers - oh my - were we talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers?  Well, we are now.  Look at this pic and see if you can spot the vegan!

Since we are now talking Chili Peppers - you guys know we have floor seats for the upcoming concert, right?  The one that is supposed to be next week?  Well, it's been postponed due to an injury Anthony obtained from the Stadium Arcadium tour (a million years ago) that never healed.  I'm telling you - OLD ROCK STARS SUCK. I should dump those guys. But who wants to start all over?

Speaking of concerts - last week we went to see Matisyahu.  We took Joel because he's a big fan.  My sister got the tickets without really paying attention as to what they were for - which is no big deal because we'd go see him regardless - but I wasn't prepared for a theater full of Chabad Lubavitchers and an Acoustical Evening of Inspiration.  This was a fund-raiser in an extremely small theater - really amazing.  It was just Matisyahu and his guitarist - awesome, awesome, awesome.  I could have done without the opening act, which consisted of rabbis talking and talking and talking and talking about what I can't tell you because I'm really not an opening act sort of girl - I'm a let's do dinner and miss the opening act kind of girl. And then the one time I show up on time it's a bunch of rabbis.

So now I have a God Awful Confession.  I really do.  You're going to hate me after you read this.  While we were watching everyone stream into the theater for the concert, I couldn't help but notice two young men walk in who looked different from everyone else.  I wasn't TRYING to look for people who stood out.  I was innocently minding my own business and trying not to stand out myself.  So yarmulke after yarmulke strolls in and then, as I said, these two guys and they are definitely Middle Eastern but not Israeli Middle Eastern.  One of them was wearing an Actual Members Only Jacket.  And all I could think of was that every Jew in S. Texas was currently in this theater - trapped in this tiny theater - crammed into this theater - and you know, these two guys walk in and I started to sweat.  They sat four rows in front of us.  I didn't say anything because DUH - that would make me a HORRIBLE PERSON.  Well, I didn't say anything at first.  But remaining silent (about anything) is not something I've ever quite gotten the hang of and so I leaned over to Joel, who was sitting silently next to me staring straight ahead because that is what teenage boys do when they're sitting next to their mothers, and I said, "So..."  and that's all I said! I swear! And he says, "Don't be a racist."  Which technically makes him a racist or he wouldn't have know what I was going to say.  But anyway, I told him I wanted to trade seats because they had a clear shot at him, and he's my baby, after all - and he refused to trade seats with me but did promise to reach over and use me as a human shield if the need arose and that, of course, made me feel much better.  I forgot all about those young men as soon as the music started.  But still - yeah, I carry the Shame.

It reminded me of the time Jules and I were in line to go through security at LAX when a Middle Eastern man was pulled out of line. He looked extremely irritated, as he had every right to be, and I went on and on to Jules about how his human rights were being violated and it was racial profiling and somebody should do something and we shook our heads and felt all indignant and outraged over the injustice being inflicted on that poor man.  We talked about it all the way to our plane.  And we talked about it as we sat on the plane, waiting for a final passenger, about how awful it was and what we had just witnessed and we were maybe going to write some letters and then the final passenger got on and it was The Poor Middle Eastern Man and I leaned over and said to Jules, "God, I hope they did a cavity search...."  I KNOW! I already said I'm a horrible person! Go ahead, I said you could judge me.

I'm on a roll now.  Just free-writing, as they say.

We had an anniversary! Our 26th.  Remember last year's? It was not that exciting.  Thank God. We rented a little house in the Texas Hill Country that was supposed to resemble a tiny chapel, and it did.  These were the front windows.

There were angels at the tops of the windows.

The chapel part isn't what drew me (although it was a lovely little home), it was the private hot tub on the deck.  From the hot tub you could look out at a flowing creek with a small waterfall.  It was quite lovely from that angle.

From that angle.  From the other angle? I had to look into the house whose backyard we were in!! Argh. I hate that.  I said I wanted secluded, and the agent told me this was secluded.  Dude - we live on 150 acres so I guess my idea of secluded is a little different than other folks' ideas of secluded.  Mostly the couple in the Big House just watched TV.  I know because I couldn't stop watching them watch TV.  Jeff would say, "Just come sit over here. Stop looking."  And I was like, "I can't.  Look, she made popcorn." And then he would look and we would both agree that she had made popcorn.

There was a guest book in the house.  I refuse to sign guest books because it just seems weird.  But I read every page.  People wrote where they were from, why they had come, what they did, where they ate....yada yada.  Everyone who wrote in the guest book talked about how nice the owners, Pat and Sandy, were.  Pat and Sandy were so nice! Loved Pat and Sandy! Hope to keep in touch with Pat and Sandy! So Jeff and I couldn't relax at all because we kept waiting to be ambushed by Pat and Sandy. Anytime a twig snapped, we thought it was Pat and Sandy.  Seriously, you know, do you want to be in the claw-footed bathtub celebrating your anniversary when Pat and Sandy finally decide to make their move???  It was nerve-wracking. It was a relief when it finally happened, although I don't think it was a relief for Pat. Or maybe it was Sandy.  Those are very sexually ambiguous names.

Jeff was running around the creek bed at 2 in the morning with a headlamp on, you know, like most normal men do...looking for kindling to keep the fire going in the fireplace.  And Pat (or Sandy) saw the light and thought maybe it was suspicious and he came sneaking up behind Jeff to see what he was doing and they startled each other and I'm not entirely sure that Pat/Sandy believed that he was looking for kindling instead of burying a body but nobody came looking to see if I was dead, which come to think of it, Pat/Sandy should have because he very well could have drowned me in the hot tub while they were busy eating popcorn - and then he was trying to dispose of the body because HELLO - it was 2 am and he was wandering around the creek bed with a flashlight strapped to his head!

Although, after 26 years, I think I'm safe.  If he was gonna do it, he'd have done it by now. Jules took this picture on our anniversary when we took the kids hiking.  And I like this picture.

Other News:
Camille danced in Copellia.  Here are pics. I hated being backstage - I am not good at it. She was precious and beautiful and perfect and I cried. 

Here are some pics of Camille - backstage.

And that is all....For Now. Let me know what you've been up to.