The best compliment I ever got…

 

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I went to college and graduated many, many years ago. Choosing my life focus and “major” area of education was not a decision made lightly or without due process. I wanted to go into something that I would enjoy, since we spend an awful amount of time working in this life, and something that would give me an “adequate” income. In other words, I DO like to eat, and I particularly enjoy a roof over my head. For me, that choice was pretty simple. I got the first part of my goal right – “doing something that I loved.” The second part, however, “making an adequate income,” should have been looked at a little more closely – just sayin’…For you see, I chose the field of social work as my life profession. It was important for me to choose a profession in which I felt I could positively impact other people’s lives. I wanted to change the world!!! I wanted to find my “purpose” for being here!

It was my intent to work with juvenile delinquents; however, I could not find a job opening anywhere! A friend of mine heard that I was back in town from college, and that I had a degree in Social Work. She asked if I would consider interviewing for a job at the nursing home where she worked. I am pragmatic, if nothing else, and knew that I needed experience in my field to further my career, as well as pay for my living expenses. I interviewed, they liked me, and we argued that I should get a dime per hour over minimum wage since I had a college degree. I got that dime, and started at $2.35 an hour.

As they say, “the rest is history!” I absolutely had found my calling! I fell head over heels in love with those elders. That’s the background, here’s the story…

My love for old people began at an early age – with my grandparents. My grandmother and I had such a special bond. I don’t know that I could have loved anyone better or deeper. She taught me so much! And loved me beyond reason! My Dad also pastored little country churches, and if you know anything about country churches, you KNOW they are filled with old people. I just loved them all! We had such a connection that came so naturally! When I began at the nursing home, that love was evident to all in my care. And yes, I DID have favorites – no one ever knew, because I treated each one the same, but oh, there were some that just made my heart overflow.

One of those individuals was a tiny lady by the name of “Miss Mary.” She was 98 years old, and we simply “fed” off of each other. The day was not complete without a visit to her room, where I always got a hug, kiss, and a ready smile. There were times when she could sense that I was struggling, either with work or life, and she would always give me a little “extra” attention. I hope that I gave as much to her as she gave to me. My day was not complete until I saw this precious woman.

On one occasion, we had a particularly wonderful visit as I was about to leave the building for the day. She said, “I think I will walk with you to the front door.” We continued to talk and walked very slowly, her holding onto my arm for support, but also for that physical, caring contact. As I got ready to walk out the door, she gave me one more hug, told me she loved me, and then she put her sweet, soft hand on my cheek. She looked into my eyes rather intently and said, “If you were a pin, I would wear you every day!” My eyes flooded with tears as I hugged her again, and thanked her for the compliment. To imagine that someone would want you around so much that they would WEAR you!!! To this day, I have never received a compliment that was more meaningful than that one. It was so heartfelt and genuine. Sadly, later that year, she passed away, and left yet another hole in my heart. But that compliment? And Miss Mary? I will remember both till the day I die.

Do we give compliments anymore? Did you know that your body produces endorphins when you compliment someone else? So, not only do you make them feel good, you also make yourself feel good! Compliments don’t cost money, and don’t take anything from you – they are totally free. But what a true, sincere compliment does for the other person is like the commercial…PRICELESS! Why not try giving out compliments this week? Make a difference in someone else’s life, and in the process, make yourself feel better! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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I heard from my Mama today…

Most of you knowimg_3031 that I began this blog as a result of the sadness I felt from my Mother’s journey into the world of Alzheimer’s Disease. She has been gone from us for over four years now. Some days it feels like a lifetime ago, and on others it feels like it just happened yesterday. The hole in my heart is just as large, and the loss is still unfathomable. If you have read many of my posts, you probably also know that I struggled because I no longer felt her near me. In my head, I had thought that because of our closeness, she would find a way to let me know she was still around, close to me, after she died. That did not happen, and I was distraught. That changed a while back, and here is the story…

Here is the background…my Mama was a seriously happy and positive woman! She would get up every morning singing. The songs were either gospel or, because she and Daddy loved the musical, “Oklahoma,” she would sing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” In fact, she loved that song so much that we had it playing at her wake as one of the background songs to her “Memories Video.” We loved to hear her sing that song!

Now to the present…I speak at a lot of different conferences across the United States. Usually at those conferences, they will have an evening banquet/awards dinner, or an awards luncheon.  And almost always, there is some kind of entertainment at those events. I don’t always get to stay for the festivities, but sometimes, due to flight schedules, I can at least eat a bite before I take off for another location.

On this particular trip, I had been the keynote speaker for a large conference in New Jersey. I love going to this particular conference because over the years, I have met and made some lifetime friends in this state. They bring smiles to both my face and heart. I had finished with my speaking commitments, and had to leave for the airport. Fortunately, for me, I had a later flight and was able to stay for the Awards Luncheon (and get something to eat). I was sitting with two of those very dear friends, who knew of my loss, and knew that I was still desolate.

As we were eating, they had a DJ playing my very favorite kind of music – 70’s disco! All of us were singing along with the songs, and “chair-dancing” between bites of food. He played song, after song, after song – and we knew ALL the words to every song! We relived where we were, who we were with, and what we were doing when the songs were popular. We were having a great time when, all of a sudden, he played a song that was NOT disco, NOT 70’s, NOT anything relative to his theme. Right smack dab in the middle of his playlist was……you guessed it, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” Everyone looked up as if to say, “What in the world??? That’s not disco!” I was already crying because I knew the song was from my Mama. Everyone at my table knew too, and they were crying also. They kept hugging me and saying, “It’s a message from your Mom.”

Now, you may say, that just doesn’t make sense…that I am trying to put meaning and “message” to a “happenstance” occurrence to meet an emotional and psychological need for myself. You may have a point, but….you should ask yourself these questions: just how many times have you heard a song from the musical, “Oklahoma,” played in the middle of a DJ’s 70’s disco playlist? And what are the odds of it being the very same song that my Mama sang most mornings? I choose to believe that somehow my Mama got a message to me – to let me know that everything was going to be OK, and that she was still close by. The thought comforts me, and I can almost hear her saying, “It will be alright, baby.” I continue to be amazed at the wonder and mystery of our universe, and always believe that the impossible is possible! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

How do you know all of that???

I live in a very small town in east Tennessee, and absolutely love living there; however, there ARE a few drawbacks. The one that I have the biggest adjustment problem with, is the lack of restaurants. We only had two…that is, until recently.  The sweetest couple from New York (by way of Florida) opened up a little pizzeria/Italian place, and the food is simply wonderful. That, along with the fact that they treat me like a queen when I walk in, assures that I will be a life-long customer! I eat there about once a week, and eating so much Italian food got me to thinking about another Italian restaurant in Georgia…

My best friend’s cousin was getting married, and the entire family was invited, not only to the wedding, but to the rehearsal dinner as well. It was going to be a fun, family time (with lots of talking and laughter) at a wonderful restaurant named Maggiano’s. The tables were reserved for us, and decorated beautifully. They had placed all of the cousins at one large table, so we knew it was going to be fun. The menu was simply unbelievable!! They had decided to give us a sample of almost everything on the menu for our meal! Scrumptious!!

My friend’s first cousin was sitting next to me, and we were visiting, talking, and eating. Each time they would serve a new sample, he would look at me and ask,” What is that?” I replied, “Spinach and Artichoke al Forno.” He commented how good it was! They served the next item. Once again, he looked at me and asked, “What is this?” I said, “Tomato Caprese.” It went on like this all night…he would ask, and I would reply, “Shrimp Fra  Diavolo,” or “Four-cheese Ravioli,” or “Lobster Carbonara.” You get the idea. Finally, he looked at me, and said, “I am some kinda impressed! You know ALL the names of the food dishes. Just HOW do you know all of that?” I smiled sweetly, and said, “Well…it’s all printed up for us on this little menu sitting in front of your plate.” We all just busted out laughing!!! He had never seen the printed menu laying there in front of him! He was a good sport and joined in with all the laughter.

There are times in life that we simply do not know the answers to any of the questions. We immediately begin asking others for advice and information; however, sometimes the very answers we need are right in front of our eyes. All of us possess innate skills and abilities, but far too often we are convinced that we are inadequate, or even inferior, to the knowledge, education and experience of others. We sell ourselves short! And I have found that when you continually compare yourself to others, you can ALWAYS find someone who has more expertise or knowledge than you do. On the other hand, there are also many that do not have the knowledge or experience in areas in which you excel. So why are you comparing? Look deep inside yourself first, do the research, really look at what is around you before you begin asking others for those very necessary “answers.” Sometimes the “menu” is right before your very eyes! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

 

 

 

Her knows her numbers…

I have had the love and support of wonderful family and friends throughout my entire life. They have given me complete and unconditional love. While most family members are connected by birth and genetics, some are connected by choice. This week’s post centers around one of those “choice” family members.

My best friend has been one of those forever friends…46 years and counting…Her family has been my second, adopted, family – by choice. And my family has become her second family; again, by choice. In fact, when we would meet someone new, my Mother always introduced my friend as a daughter, saying that she had been her “easiest” birth. We always laughed each time she said that. 

You share quite a few spectacular moments in that many years of friendship! One of the privileges and honor that has fallen my way, is that I get to be an Aunt to her nieces and nephews. Today’s post is about “our” niece, Sarah Adison. From the moment that she was born, we knew she was going to be exceptional. She was so adorable…an “easy” baby; good-natured; always smiling; and never demanding. She was such a little conversationalist as a child. She was so smart that we all thought we might need to take some educational refresher courses just to keep up…

She and her Mom would occasionally stop by our offices to visit. We always kept a CD of Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh stories for her enjoyment. On one particular visit, when she was 3 years old, we were about to watch “Green Eggs and Ham” on my computer. Sitting in my lap, as the computer was booting up, she turned to us and said, “The computer is reading the CD so that we can watch it.” Over her head, my friend looks at me in astonishment, and mouths, “Is that right?” Of course, I responded with a shake of my head…YES, that’s right!! And only 3 years old…

We knew when she started school, that she was going to absorb every morsel of knowledge available…and then some!  She was taught in Pre-K by her own Mother, and a little boy from their church was in the same class. He was mesmerized by Adison. He came home from school one day, and talking about Adison to his mother, said in awe, “Her knows her numbers!” We got such a laugh out of this sweet little guy’s words.

We have watched these past 12 years as she grew and matured into a dynamic, well-balanced, young lady. She had apparently established educational goals for herself (since the 7th grade), and certainly, she exceeded them. We attended Class Day last week, and WOW!!! The number of accomplishments and honors that she received were simply overwhelming. As a family, we learned of her perfect scores in national and state tests…maintaining a scholastic score of 95 or better since the 7th grade!! We teared up when she was announced Valedictorian…and welled up again when it was publicly noted that on campus, she is simply known as “Friend.” That’s her nickname!! So you see, she seems to have it all…the smarts and the heart!

She will graduate this coming week and I wanted to honor her publicly. She will never know the depth of our joy, pride and love.

So yes, her DOES know her numbers…and her A, B, Cs…and her Calculus, and her Physics, and her Latin, and her Greek, and pretty much anything else in the world!! This lovely young woman was told from the very beginning that she could do anything, be anything…as long as she was willing to work for it. And, oh my, did she work for it! And why not excel? She was given love, support, guidance, prayers, and faith by her family. Now she is ready to begin the next “phase” of her life – college. What an adventure!! Won’t you join me in celebrating her accomplishments and the beginning of this next chapter in her life? Just for this week…Sarah Adison, you ROCK!

You’re going to Barney Fife this; aren’t you??

It’s a good thing I just have a little more than a month of my commitment to this blog…It seems that I am finding it more and more difficult to hit that Sunday night deadline. Please accept my apologies, once again, for being late.

I have had the same best friend for 45 years! Throughout the years, I have gotten her into more “snafus,” embarrassing moments, and humiliating situations than she expected, or was prepared for. She is the Laverne to my Shirley…the Ethel to my Lucy…Given our history, I am amazed that she will still go anywhere with me…We travel a great deal in our business, so this is one of those travel stories…

Unfortunately, after the September 11th tragedy, we had to fly to Minneapolis, MN…only about three weeks after the incident. Anyone flying during this time was pretty apprehensive and a little fearful. We entered the airport with armed military personnel standing at all entrances, and scattered throughout the airport. For the first time, we were almost strip-searched at security. (As an aside, you need to know that I am not the world’s best air traveler to begin with, even though I have to fly quite a bit. I am quite aware that the machine I am flying in, could go down in a huge fiery ball, at any given moment. So, when I get on a plane, I do several things to take my mind off of the “obvious.” I will play trivia onboard, if that is an option, or soduko; but mostly, I get a good book and read the entire time that I am in the air.)

We made it through security, and boarded our first flight with no problems. Of course, our connection was in Atlanta, so we had a little layover before boarding the next flight. All passengers had been told to be “alert” and mindful of the “goings on” around you…that if you saw anything “suspicious,” it would be better to err on the side of caution, as opposed to doing nothing. So….as we were sitting at our gate, two separate individuals caught my attention. Yes, I WAS profiling…whether you agree or disagree is not a factor…you weren’t the one flying three weeks after the terrible tragedy in NYC! At that point in time, here was my thought…if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…it probably IS a duck! The two individuals, who got my attention, were not seemingly together. Both were pacing back and forth around the gate area, and talking very “furtively” on their cell phones. To me, they DID look and act a little suspicious…I did not say anything to my travel partner at the time. I just continued to observe, and process…

The agent announced that it was time for us to board the plane, so we gathered our briefcases and books, and lined up to enter the jet bridge. As we were in line, I turned around to get one more look at my “suspicious” characters. Much to my dismay (or relief), I saw that both men had been pulled over by security, and were being asked questions. I thought, “Aha! You called that one right!!” I was extremely relieved to know that they were not getting on the plane with us! We got to our seats and got settled in. I happened to be sitting in the aisle seat. We put our briefcases under the seats in front of us, buckled our seat belts, and calmly began reading our books. I took that moment to comment that “those men that I had been watching” had been pulled out of the line, and were probably not going to be on the plane with us. The comments and questions began.  “What men?” “Who were you watching…and WHY were you watching them?” “And what do you mean, they have been pulled out of line?” My friend patiently listened (as she always does when I seem to be overreacting or panicking), and reassured me that everything was going to be OK…to stop worrying. I felt a little sheepish that I might have been a little overly concerned…that is, until I saw the first man enter the plane. His seat just “happened” to be directly in front of mine. 

As my brain was processing this new turn of events, I began thinking of how I could subdue the man if he began any “terrorist” actions once we got up in the air. I was trying to remember all of those wrestling “choke holds” that my little brother used on me a number of times as we were growing up. I was trying to remember how to use a pencil or pen as a deadly weapon if you hit the “right” spot on someone’s neck! I was planning out my moves, step by step, “just in case…” Just as I thought I had everything under control, the second man entered the plane and sat in the seat, across the aisle, right beside me! Of course, I was thinking…I am going to have to take both of them out at the same time!! Naturally, I did NOT mention any of my meandering thoughts to my traveling buddy…

The plane took off, and we were on our way! Everything seemed as it should be, and I relaxed a little and began to read my book. Unfortunately, I finished my book about 30 minutes before we arrived in Minneapolis, so I had a little extra time for “observations.” Minutes before we began our approach into the Twin Cities, the man in front of me got up and went to the rear bathroom. Within moments, the second man got up and went to another bathroom, also in the rear of the plane. After a while, I thought maybe I should mention this situation to my friend. It went something like this… Me: “Both of those men went back to bathrooms quite a while ago.” Her: “What? What are you talking about? Which men?” Me: “The men that I was watching at the Atlanta Airport…the men that got pulled out of line for questioning…those suspicious men!! They have been in the bathrooms long enough to take care of whatever business they needed to do!!” Her: “You’ve finished your book; haven’t you?” Me: “Yes, but that does not negate the fact that they have been back there too long! I timed them! I think I need to alert the stewardess.” Her: “You are going to Barney Fife this; aren’t you? You’re going to make a Citizen’s Arrest!” Me: “No, but they told us to speak up if we observed anything suspicious, and I have observed quite a lot of ‘suspicious’ this trip!” Her: “Just give it a few more minutes, and if they have still not returned to their seats, then talk with the stewardess.” Me: “Ok, I will wait a few moments longer.” It’s a good thing I waited! Both men returned to their seats, and we landed safely in Minneapolis…Me, without making a Barney Fife Citizen’s Arrest, and my friend, with no humiliating or embarrassing moment where I drew unnecessary attention to us. As always, the story now is so much funnier (and safer) than it was when in the moment.

Fear can control our lives if we let it. It can cause us to misinterpret someone’s actions. It can paralyze us to the point that we can do nothing, when action is absolutely vital. It can keep us from taking on new challenges, and make us unwilling to try “new things.” It keeps us from being adventuresome. What are you afraid of? And how does it impact your life? I want to live a life without worry and fear of what “may” happen. I will certainly exercise good judgment, but I will NOT let fear control who I am, or who I want to be. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

Are YOU talking to ME????

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of going to every state within the United States, with the exception of Alaska (on the bucket list…). Within each state I have found wonderful, caring people, who have been supportive and loving throughout the years. I have NEVER met anyone, from any part of the country, that “fit” a TV stereotype. I think that most people are inherently good and honest, and will treat you, and respond to you, in a like manner if you extend your own warmth and hospitality. However, I do have some stories…

We were traveling around the country on business in our motor home. We were in one of the states that won’t allow you to fill your own gas tank. You must wait in line, the attendant will motion when they are ready for you, you pull up, and they will fill your tank. We had been driving for quite a while, and as we were motioned up to our “spot,” I got out to stretch my legs and talk with the female attendant. As we were talking, a couple in a convertible BMW whipped out of line, went ahead of several other cars, and pulled into the spot right in front of our motor home. As they did this, the attendant said something under her breath very derogatory about the persons in the car, and their actions. The female passenger in the car heard the comments, and thought I had said them. She almost did not wait for the car to stop…she hopped out with a look of pure hatred and anger on her face…and strode right up in front of me. She did not even give me a chance to say hello or any other type of greeting. She began “cussing” me up one side and down the other. As I stood there listening to her ranting and raving, I began to get angry myself, and thought, “just who does she think she is?” and “I did not do or say anything…” So as she was ranting and raving, I realized I had a choice. I could get caught up in her anger and negativity, and let it ruin the rest of the trip for me, OR I could have a little fun with the situation. 

When she got through with her tirade, I looked at her kinda perplexed and went into my “dumb Southerner routine….” (You already know I have a southern drawl, but did you know I can ACCENTUATE that particular “asset” when necessary?) I looked at her for a moment and said, “Ma’am, Ah am soooo sorry, but Ah dint quite ketch whut you sed. Cud you tell me agin so I can get it?” She was so startled that she began repeating everything again!! She was so upset, spittle was spewing forth from her mouth! When she got through with the second tirade, I scratched my head, a little like Forrest Gump, and said, “Ma’am, Ah don’t mean to be stoopid, but Ah still dint get everthin you sed. If youns would tell me one more time, I promise to concentrate really hard and try to get what your sayin.” She threw up her hands and walked off! As she walked off, under my breath, I said, “Got cha’!” It has been a good story and a lot of laughs throughout the years.

Every day we make choices about how we will act or respond to others. Some times they get the best of us, and drag us down to their level. Other times we take the higher road and choose not to let the other person impact our day negatively. Understand this, you are ALWAYS in control of your reactions and responses. You are the only person making the choice. I don’t know about you, but I will NOT be driven to make choices that are not my own. My actions will NOT be determined by another person…that will ALWAYS be up to me! I think I will continue to take the “high road.” I will sleep better each night, and I will always have something to laugh about. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

No, HERE’S What We Are Going To Do, “Mister” Policeman…

I will need to make a disclaimer for this week’s story. I have good friends who are policemen/women, and they are good, honest, caring, and the kind of honorable professionals who would truly give their lives to protect you. This story is NOT about them and should not be considered as my opinion of this particular profession.

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I DID NOT WANT HIM!! I was doing just fine being the baby girl, and then, suddenly, one day, they brought him home. They tell me that I went out to the carport, sat on the steps, placed my head on my arms, and sobbed my little heart out. At least that’s what I did until Grandma came out, scooped me up in her lap and arms, and whispered the words that I so badly needed to hear…”You can be my baby…” And that was that! My world was fixed for the moment. Of course, I was still going to have to deal with him…

As you can tell by the expression on my face in the photo, my feelings for the little fella changed…I grew to adore him. He ended up being “my baby,” and I have loved him all of his life. I am his fierce protector and friend…ALWAYS looking out for him and taking care of him….no matter how old he gets…and tomorrow is his birthday. He is four years younger than me, and do we have stories…

As most of you know, my Father was a minister, which made us four children “preacher’s kids.” Out of the four of us, my brother was the only one that rebelled against everything that he was taught. From the period of high school to early adulthood, he was into everything…especially alcohol and drugs. My parents tried everything within their power to help, guide, and attempt to get him to realize that he had a huge problem. After one too many incidents and car accidents, my Mother told him, “No more! If you are involved in any other type of altercation or accident, do NOT call me of your father. We won’t be coming to help you!” We knew they meant it! I tried to help him with everything that was in me, but it fell on deaf ears. I tried to get him to understand that there would be no “next time” with Mother and Daddy. I could not, for the life of me, understand how this precious child/young man, who I loved more than life itself, had gotten so messed up.

I happened to be home visiting with my folks on this particular weekend. My brother left for a night of partying with his friends. At 1:00a.m. Mother got the call from the hospital…my brother had just wrapped his car around a telephone pole, right at the entrance of our little town’s hospital. In fact, the hospital was using emergency generators, as his wreck had knocked out their electrical power. I found out later that the emergency room staff had been listening to the police chase on their radios before the accident occurred. Mother came to my room and woke me up with the news. She said, “I’m not going to the hospital. I told him that if he did not straighten up, I would not come the next time.” She was crying as she spoke the words. I was shocked, even though I knew it was the right decision, and she and Daddy had to stand firm. So I got dressed as quickly as I could, and dashed out to the hospital.

I got to the hospital and they let me in to see him as soon as I arrived. Fortunately, he only had a few cuts and bruises. God had spared his life one more time. He was crying for Mother, and I explained that she would not be coming. He cried harder, repentant and asking forgiveness…with both of us knowing that he would not change…At that moment, one of the policemen, who had been chasing him (quite a few times…not just this particular night) asked to see me outside. We stepped out into the darkness at the entrance of the emergency room. He brought out a little white bag of cocaine and said, “We found this in your brother’s car. I’m going to have to arrest him.” In that moment, I remembered that little baby boy being brought home, all of our loving times together, and now this policeman was telling me that he was going to prison. I then did something unexpected. I looked at that cop, and said, “NO! You are NOT going to arrest my brother! You are going to let me take him, away from this town, and you will never see him again!” He said, “You know I cannot do that. I have to take him in!” And I said, “If you arrest my brother, I will tell your wife (a friend of mine) about the affair you are having with…(and I spoke the name of the young lady with whom he was involved).” He knew I was speaking the truth, and that I would not hesitate to follow through. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I waited for his answer. He slowly put the bag of cocaine back in this jacket, and said, “Get him out of here!” I did!!

And as they say….the rest is history…I did take him away from that little small town, and he did live with me for a number of years afterwards. There were “slip-ups”…I would find the occasional bag of marijuana…he had my car impounded while I was away on a business trip…but the end result was what I was hoping and praying for. He ended up getting his life together. I got to introduce him to the lady who became his wife. Together, they have been ministers for most of their lives. A happy ending after all…He will never know the number of prayers that were whispered for him by literally hundreds of people…CONSTANTLY! He was given that “second chance,” and has worked hard to “make it count.”

Don’t ever say “never.” If you had asked me beforehand, if I would ever blackmail a policeman, I would have thought that you were out of your mind…preposterous! However, in that moment, realizing the ramifications of my brother’s choices, and how those choices were going to impact his future, I acted in the only way that I could…The only way that my heart and love would allow. (And just for the record, I found out about 10 years ago that my brother did NOT have any cocaine in his car, or on his person, that night. He had every other kind of drug, but not cocaine. It was a setup!) My message for this week is this: keep having hope and believing in miracles. Don’t ever give up! Remember, someone, somewhere is whispering your name in prayer…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….