Friday, June 29, 2012

Why I Teach Memoir Writing

I'm teaching a memoir writing class tomorrow.  I'm beyond excited.

This is a new class.  It's given me a chance to reverse-engineer my writing process and figure out why certain things work and others don't.  It hasn't even happened  yet, and already it's been a great experience.

My Dad was a teacher, and he always thought this would be a good career option for me. He was right, but I ignored him (the way teenage daughters often do).  Back then, the only image I had for "teacher" was someone standing in front of a chalkboard in a school, talking about the same math problem, frog dissection, or French verb conjugation over and over and over again each year.  It sounded kind of...dull.

Here's what I didn't know(and I'm still not sure if this applies to math, but there's never been a danger of me teaching math to anyone, so let's not worry about that here): teaching changes, each time you do it.  First, YOU are different - your perspective, what you've seen and learned in your own life, how you've grown. And second, because YOUR STUDENTS are different.  Each group brings something new to the table.  It keeps things unpredictable, and that's often where the gems are hidden.

Of course, there are certain topics in any field that will always come up. I doubt there has ever been a writing class where questions about how to navigate the forbidding world of publishing weren't raised...nor should there be.  But there are other questions--ones more personal to a specific writer's struggles or challenges--that move teaching beyond the instructive aspect, making it interactive.  That's the sweet spot.

I teach writing because it helps me write.  It re-fuels my love of stories, reminds me that as much as life tries to lump us all together into a few homogenous groups, each of our journeys has remarkably unique elements and surprises worth reading about.  And THEN it forces me to move beyond all of that wonder/amazement and focus on basics: How does one construct a scene?  What's the goal and how do you know if you've reached it?  What do you do with those scenes once they're written?  How do you finish the job?

I'm excited about tomorrow: as a chance to share what I've learned, encourage new memoirs (as a reader, it's my favorite genre, so it behooves me to keep the pipeline stocked!), and refuel my own excitement about what it means to share your story.

If you have a chance this weekend, consider: What do you love to do? Why?

(And if you're looking for a chance to write about it, come join me in class!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Travels

I'm over at the Changing Seasons blog today, with more great summer reads...and proof that I'm a dork.    Come on by!

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Managing My Season

My deep love for all things Olympic was re-kindled this weekend as I watched parts of the U.S. Track & Field trials.  In particular, I loved watching Sanya Richards-Ross, winner of the 400m.  I love her style--it's nice to look so fabulous while accomplishing so much.  But what really caught my attention was one of the commentators, who said, "She's done a great job managing her season."

I'd never looked at track through this lens, although of course it makes sense that peaking at the right time is what sports training is all about.  Athletes know they have seasons, and each one is a new beginning, a chance to try new approaches, reach for new goals, and be better than the season before.  Early seasons are building blocks to establish what comes later.

And as Sanya flew around the track, I wondered: Am I doing a good job managing my season?

We regular folks have seasons too, even if they're less clearly delineated.  We have:
- Seasons of preparation (school, starting a new job/relationship/family status/project)
- Seasons of getting things done (when we're in that sweet spot where talent & capacity collide with opportunity)
- Seasons of recovery (either because we've accomplished a goal or been swatted down by an obstacle or foe);  and
- Seasons of starting over.

In every season, I tend to wish for that sweet spot season of getting things done.  Those are my favorite.  And there's a HUGE temptation to feel like a slacker whenever I'm not in that season.  Which is ridiculous.  I don't feel like I've failed when I can't hold the weather here in New England steady at a constant Indian Summer/September (my favorite season).  Why should I feel weird when my own life has changing seasons, too?  My job isn't to prevent or control the's to manage them well.

That, my friends, feels like a revelation of Olympian import.

Knowing the goal of a season helps:

- If the season is preparatory, the goal is to learn.
- If the season is getting things done, the goal is to DO.
- If the season is recovery, the goal is to find the wounds & get them patched up, then give them a chance to heal.
- And if the season is starting over, the goal is to listen to God as He tells me, "Wait.  Okay, start here. Try this.  That's it...keep going..." And act on what I hear.

We can't change our seasons or rush through them.  But we can manage them so that they build something solid to stand on in seasons to come.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The power of negative thinking?

I've been thinking about this video since yesterday.  I found it via Maria Popova's blog, Brain Pickings. It's the trailer for a book called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking.  It won't be out here in the U.S. until late fall, so I'm left to wonder about the author's thesis -- that the happiness we seek comes from embracing the negative -- without getting to read the book.  Always interesting.

Here's the video...check it out:

Part of me finds this concept scrumptiously brilliant.  The idea that constant positive thinking tricks your brain into thinking that you've already achieve the goal, thus keeping you from feeling the hunger that propels you forward to actually get stuff done, makes sense to me.  I've lived it. And he's right: I've read THOUSANDS of self-help/actualization/pep talk books, and they're like scarfing down a huge mound of ice good when you start, a bit overwhelming toward the middle, and by the end you just feel vaguely nauseous, a failure with no clear sense of what to do next.

For all the babble about "being not doing," it's doing that gets stuff done.

BUT, I think perhaps (again, I haven't read the book) he might swing too far in the opposite direction with his suggested embrace of negativity.  I don't want to "bathe in insecurity and uncertainty and failure in order to confront my mortality."  Not because I resist these things; they're part of life.  But I don't buy that I'll find "enormous potential for happiness" lurking therein, anymore than I believe that I can make myself more loved because I give myself a hug or say, "Wow Trish, you sure are beautiful!" in the mirror.  Attitude matters...but effort does, too.  (And self hugging is just plain silly.)

And yet, the idea of embracing uncertainty (rather than negativity) intrigues me.  In my experience, being okay with uncertainty (along with its fab partners risk & potential failure!) opens life up in interesting, unexpected ways.  It gives me permission to look at impossible circumstances and wonder what else might be possible. I don't have to pretend to know for sure that I'll succeed or declare my intentions to the universe.  I just have to start, try... and pray.

The idea of positive thinking comes from the Bible. But the distinction that's often lost in translation is that God wants us to have our absolute faith in Him, not ourselves, our human potential, or our decisions about the next grand adventure.  With absolute faith in God can come days and months (years even) of uncertainty.  We can freak out about this, or we can trust and keep asking, "Okay, this the mountain you want me to climb? Is today the day I should start?" 

If we ask, He'll answer. Not right away, necessarily.  There's still uncertainty around the details, which may be what this author is suggesting we make peace with.

All this said, I am SO EXCITED to read this book.  The trailer did exactly what it was designed me thinking about this book months ahead of time.  Nicely done, Mr. Burkeman!

What do you think of this idea that negative thinking has it's benefits?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ignore the OR, figure out the AND

My tour of this summer's BUMPER CROP of great new books continues! Today I'll share with you another novel that not only had me up late into the night laughing and turning pages to see what would happen, it also prompted me to break out my pen and underline some seriously brilliant life advice.

Stacey Ballis' OFF THE MENU has everything I love in a novel: entertainment + inspiration.  When you put that together with a dog named Dumpling (*squee*) and a behind-the-scenes look at life at the Food Network, you have a winning read.

First I'll share my favorite piece of advice from the book, and then I'll tell you about how you can win lunch with Stacey.  (Wisdom first, then food!)

In one scene, Alana, the main character, is trying to decide between two options.  Both have pros and cons (you know, the way things work in life) and there really isn't much for her to grab onto to make an obvious decision.  As she talks over this either/or dilemma with one of her more audacious friends, the friend asks her, "Why are you so focused on or?  Why not and?"

It's an interesting question.  Sometimes life throws us a bunch of things at once.  They feel mutually exclusive based on what we think we can handle - how much additional pressure we believe our lives can withstand.  And yet this scene confirmed something I've suspected for awhile: that God designed certain areas of our lives for AND, not OR. We're built to be stretchy.

Don't get me wrong: some things require a OR.  I'm all for one spouse, for example :)  But other areas of life -- how many people we can help, how fully we can share our gifts and talents, how many businesses we can start or ideas we can chase down and bring to fruition -- sometimes the challenge is to get over our conviction that we have to choose.  As Alana's friend tells her, "You have to figure out how to have BOTH.  You have to ignore the OR and figure out the AND."

It's something to think about, right?

Okay, now let's talk lunch.  Stacey is running an incredibly cool contest...if you preorder her book & contact her with receipt info, you'll be entered to win lunch with her AND (see what I did there?) her best friend, Jen Lancaster (author of JENERATION X, the book I loved all over last week) in the city of your choice - they will come to you, you can go to Chicago, or you can all rendez-vous at some other destination (might I suggestion BOSTON?!?).  I cannot imagine a funner afternoon than this, and the book is well worth the investment.

Here's to a day of AND!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Celebrating on the road

I'm over at the Changing Seasons blog today, celebrating (okay, marveling over) 8 years of marriage. Come on by!

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Do You Believe About You?

I needed a feel-good story this week, so I dove into Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman.  Oh, how I love this book!  It was simply splendid, a happily ever after story populated with women who are witty, loving, smart, and hilarious.  They band together to help a little girl get back on track, a theme that has a special place in my heart right now.

This book was also HIGHLY quote-worthy.  About every 5 pages, I was stopping to jot down some pearl of wisdom (Beth Hoffman, if you decide that novels aren't for you, I suspect you could have a VERY lucrative career in self-help)  One that's had me thinking ever since I read it (on page 249) is this:

"It's what we believe about ourselves that determines how others see us." 

It sounds a bit wish-fulfillment-ey...but the more I think about it, the more it seems true.

On the negative side, I'm always amazed by how narcissists get what they want.  All the time.  From people who know they are narcissists, are exasperated by them, and hate being under their influence.  And yet because narcissists believe that what they want is the only thing that matters, it's remarkable how people line up to give it to them.

On a more positive note, though, this quote also explains how, when we say yes to what Jesus offers, we become new.  As the Apostle Paul put it, "the old has gone, the new has come."  If we BELIEVE that we're forgiven for our screw ups, loved by God, created for a purpose (even if we can't yet see exactly what that looks like), and able to do & and be WAY more than our natural abilities allow through the gifts & power of God working in us, that changes our perspective.  Which changes how others see us.

It's not a manipulative thing; we don't control others' perceptions.  Rather, as we see ourselves as God does, they see us as God does, too.  Kind of neat how that works.

Of course, it doesn't mean everyone RESPONDS like God to what they see.  Some folks don't like it at all.  But it makes it a whole lot easier to navigate life when your perspective on this one thing is lined up with God.

Thank you, Beth Hoffman!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Discovered: Why I Can't Walk the Talk

This week I learned that I cannot walk and think at the same time.  Hilarious, embarrassing, true.  Sure, random thoughts pass through my mind while I'm trotting along from point A to point B.  But it turns out I can't follow them to any conclusion without stopping (and preferably sitting down).

For some folks this lack of multitasking ability might be tragic, but for me it's been a boon.  As many of you know, I've been on a quest to learn how to relax, which has coincided with a bizarre pedometer obsession.  Who would have guessed that the two would go hand-in-hand?  Because of my pedometer, I'm walking about eight times as much as before.  When I'm walking, I'm not thinking about anything, really, other than "Oh, look at the pretty flowers," or "Wow, I hope that guy has that big dog on a leash..."  So aside from the time that the guy did NOT have his big dog on a leash, my walks are remarkably...relaxed.  It's been totally fabulous.

I'm not usually a fan of practices that tell you to "clear your mind" or "erase your thoughts."  (If you think about it, those are rather terrible ideas.)  But I'm surprised how nice it is to have a small break in the day when no new thoughts are accumulating, when I can step outside the swirl for a bit and just see whatever is going on around me.

Suddenly, I understand why I instinctively refuse whenever a friend suggests that we go for a walk to talk over some situation or catch up.  If I can't think while walking, how on earth would I participate in conversation?  (If you're one of those friends who has wondered for years why I'm always saying, "um, how about we get coffee instead?" now you know!)

Admittedly, some of this relaxation is negated by my slight mortification over adopting the fitness regime of a 60 year old.  But in the event that (God willing) I live that long, I'll be ready!  So now as I'm walking along and not thinking, not only am I relaxing, I'm PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE!  How's that for lemons into lemonade?

And to capture the true hilarity of all of this, let me confess:  I have a song I sing as I walk.  Think of the tune to My Preogitive.  Got it?  Okay, now instead sing, "It's my Pedometer!" There are all sorts of lyrics about getting up off the couch and people walking on my's quite a tune.  It's going to re-re-re ignite Bobby Brown's career with the AARP crowd, I just know it!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Raining Day Reading Recommendations

It's raining again here in Cambridge, so you know what that means? More book recommendations!  There are SO. MANY. AWESOME. BOOKS. out this summer.  Seriously, my nightstand & Kindle runneth over.  I'll keep the reviews coming as I finish each new section of the pile.

For today, here are a few to check out that will be spectacular additions to your beach bag:

Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster.  Jen is one of my favorite memoirists.  She has distinctive voice & perspective on life that is snarky, poignant and hilarious.  Her new book is my new favorite.  Every chapter will make you think AND laugh (no small feat), but the ones about her pets  - three dogs and I don't even know how many cats - are also amazing stories of love.  (Also, if you were born in the Generation X years, the pop culture references will bring you heaps and piles of delight) (and yes, delight DOES come in heaps & piles: think ice cream/pillows/snowmen)

The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick.  Keeping with the pet-lovers theme, this is an adorable tale of a girl who has a knack for matching people with dogs waiting to be adopted.  I loved every minute of this book and was sad to see it end.  This is a fun escape for a rainy day, or when you've had a long day at work and need something entertaining to revive you.

Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook. I read this during the Celtics - Heat NBA semifinal. I needed the assurance of a happy ending and it didn't look like my beloved Celtics could promise that (Don't worry guys...I still love you!)  Claire came through.  This is the story of a woman who works for her brother, a famous new-age guru.  Through a series of odd circumstances (including a night with A LOT of alcohol) she ends up on Dancing with the Stars.  Loved it.

And my nonfiction favorite:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  This was a VERY cool book.  It's not prescriptive/self-help; it didn't tell me that if I followed 47 simple steps, I'd be transformed.  Instead, it dissected how habits form, how they sometimes get out of our control, and researchers' best sense of where we need to start if we want to change a habit.  I closed the cover and wished my living room was filled with other readers I could discuss it with.

Happy reading, friends!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Relaxation on the road...

I'm over at the Changing Seasons blog today, with my latest discovery on relaxing when it seems like the last thing I could ever do.  Stop by & say hello!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Resolved: No More Head Banging

"Life is too short to spend your days banging your head against someone else's wall."
-Jonathan Fields

I found this gem in my in-box this morning and thought, Wow, this should be carved in gold on a statue somewhere.  It's kind of brilliant.

Nothing messes with my relaxation like banging my head against a wall someone else has built.  It's horrible.  Whether it was a guy who decided he just wasn't into me, a mentor who stopped supporting my work, or a governmental organization that is doing more harm than good, the walls are all pretty much the same:  Once the mortar sets around the bricks, they're there to stay, and there's not much I can do with my skull to change that.

Of course I don't literally bang my head against these walls. (That would be easier.)  Instead, the banging is, as they say, "all in my mind":  I get lost in thought, going over and over how things should/could/must/absolutely have to change.  I consider (& then discard) 1,001 possible ways I might make things better.  Then I return to how things should/could/must/absolutely have to change, equipped with all this newfound proof that there's nothing I can do. It's a vicious cycle. And when it's over, my forehead is bloody, I'm all tense and upset, and not one single thing has gotten any better.

Here's what I've learned: There are always plenty of walls to bang my head against.  Some of those walls are horrible and need to be knocked down.  But when I was taught, "Use your head" to solve problems, I'm pretty sure all this senseless banging was not what the teachers had in mind.

The Bible isn't into head banging.  It suggests prayer, and then this whole "wait & see, but in the meantime, get on with life" thing which is just... exasperating.  I like to feel like I'm doing something to make things better, and when the waiting goes on too long, suddenly that head banging looks mighty productive.

Today, I'm going to fend off that urge.  I'm going to relax, because I KNOW that when God wants me to do something, he will let me know.  Until then, I will enjoy the things there are to enjoy, not wasting a perfectly nice forehead on a bunch of ugly walls.

Here's to pretty foreheads :)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Discovering Delight

I'm still learning to relax.

One of the things I've noticed this week is how much joy my new pedometer brings me.  It's embarrassing. (As I noted on Facebook, I now look like a 90s-era drug dealer with a pager always clipped to my belt.) The purchase was inspired by Claire Cook's novel, The Wildwater Walking Club, about a woman who is pushed out of her job and deals with the stress by walking.  It's an inspiring, fun story, and it got me thinking: 10,000 steps a day...could I do that?  Turns out, I can! But there's no rational explanation for how much fun I'm having doing so.

I wonder if part of relaxing is a willingness to be delighted in whatever delights us, rather than trying to drum up excitement about things that are cool and trendy?  I feel like I'm supposed to be delighted by new art exhibits, important articles in the New Yorker, and (according to the seemingly endless foodie craze) balsamic vinegar.  But I'm not.  I love the New Yorker, but it rarely delights me.

My pedometer delights me.  It's inexplicable, and perhaps that's part of the fun.  So I've been looking around to see what else brings me more happiness than reason might suggest.

I'm delighted by BarePaw slippers. They feel just like Uggs but you can sometimes get them for $25 or so at Famous Footwear if it's off season and you have a coupon.  That way if you spill a full cup of coffee into your slippers when you're not wearing them, you can replace them rather than kid yourself into believing that shearling drenched in Starbucks can ever be restored.  That makes me happy!

And as you can probably tell from my approach to slippers, I'm totally delighted by bargains.  I LOVE finding a deal.  If it's especially good--the $35 dollar shirt I bought for $3, or the $65 dollar necklace I found on the Ann Taylor sale table for $11--I'm tempted to save the price tag, just to preserve a bit of the feeling I have in discovering such a find.

Not everyone shares my delight in pedometers, inexpensive slippers, and bargain shopping. They're all, truth be told, a little bit embarrassing. But they relax me, and help me feel for a moment like life is a serene pool in which I'm floating on a pretty raft (rather than a tumultuous ocean in which I'm being tossed haplessly about.) That's worth paying attention to.

If part of the relaxation equation is noticing delight, I'm happy to look like a drug dealer in cheap slippers :)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Other "F Word"

That's what a friend of mine calls failure.  "I hate it," she says.  I don't blame her.  My fear of failure is a giant, grotesque monster that keeps me huddled under the covers rather than out doing stuff and enjoying life.  More specifically, in terms of this month's mission, fear of failure makes it almost impossible to relax.

Which means, of course, that it must be banished!

Two neat things fell into my lap recently to help me slay this dragon.

The first was an article cut from the Business Life section of the Financial Times called "Setbacks can set you on the path to success." It fell out of a library book I was reading. It talked about having a healthy appreciation for failure: "Obsessing about past errors is not wise but to imagine that [life] is an unbroken series of victories is to court disappointment," it said.  It pointed out--in the way that only a British publication can--that "We can all expect our fair share of cock-ups in the future."  (There you have it!)  It went on to say that failure is rarely as devastating as we anticipate.

As someone with extensive experience with failure across almost every sphere of life, I can attest that this is true.  More good has come of my failures than of many of my successes.  Weird, right?  It sometimes takes awhile--years, even--but it's never not happened.  (Which is why I can still read the passage in the Bible that says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose without collapsing in hysterics.)

The second thing came yesterday, in a blog post by an entrepreneur  (I can't find it this morning but I'll be back w/a link when I do) She shared how growing up, their family dinner conversation often started with her father asking them, "What did you fail at today?"  This wasn't to make the kids feel like losers, she assured us, but rather to make them consider whether they'd stretched far enough in the things they'd tried that day to bump into failure.  He didn't want his children to grow up playing it safe.  

I LOVE this!

I don't fail often enough these days.  But I suspect that making that "bump" -- the place where my plan collides with the outer reaches of my ability -- a goal rather than a fear will change things, allowing me head out into each day planning to stretch, reach, and try, rather than hedge my bets.

Hedging produces tension...have you noticed?  Reaching and stretching is (counter-intuitively) a more relaxed way to live.

So (for this month, at least) I'm into it.  We'll see how it goes :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Relax is a verb!

(Yesterday, over at the Changing Seasons blog, I admitted that my project for June is to learn to relax.  If you haven't read that, click over and check it out so this post will make sense.  I'll wait right here 'til you come back!)

Last night when I went to bed, I was a bundle of tension.  I felt like an uncooked noodle, where too much pressure in any direction would cause me to snap right in half. It was awful.  I tried breathing, focusing on happy thoughts (have you noticed how at night when your head is spinning with stress, happy thoughts just FLEE???)  Finally, I climbed out of bed, grabbed my Bible and my Kindle, and headed downstairs.

Lest you get the wrong impression, I didn't plan to read the Bible.  In moments like this when I'm exhausted & frustrated, I like to have it with me, even as I refuse to open it.  It's as if I'm telling God, "I need Your help but I'm too upset right now to sort through all those pages to find it, so proximity will have to do..."

I opened my Kindle, and felt compelled to read from a book about, well, praying. It has prayers for each day of the month. Do just one, God said.  It will help.  So I did.  Most of my tension was worry about the safety of someone I love. My frustration was from the circumstances surrounding people in positions of authority are making choices I'm afraid will cause her harm.  As I prayed that one prayer, God opened my perspective just a notch, showing me the role HE plays in her life.  He created her, has a good plan for her...and my prayers can be part of helping her stay connected to Him (whereas my worry accomplishes exactly nothing at all). It was a tiny bit of amazing. I was able to see a glimmer of hope, whereas before I'd just seen black.

I'm a If some is good, more is better! kind of girl, so I spent the next hour praying through every single prayer in that book. And in that time, I relaxed.  My noodle was finally cooked.  I went upstairs, thanked God, and fell asleep.  It was glorious.

My first lesson in Project Relaxation?  Sometimes to relax, you need to DO SOMETHING.  (There's a metaphor here somewhere about adding water & turning up the heat, but I'm not quick enough to find it right now.  I guess I'm too relaxed ;) )

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Field Trip!

I'm over at the Changing Seasons blog today, sharing about how FINALLY seeing the moving Bridesmaids inspired me to figure out how to relax.  Click over & leave me suggestions!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Can you take the good & leave the bad?

At the gym earlier today I was watching ESPN on the giant screen.  The commentators were all fired up about Tiger Woods' unexpected tournament win this past weekend.  They played a series of clips of him in different tight situations over the years, talking about the intense focus he brings to the game.

I was jealous as I watched Tiger sink an impossible shot at one tournament: it was after dark, the ball was behind a tree, and it was raining.  And yet he was so dialed in on what he needed to do. He just got to work and put the ball in the hole.  I'd love to have that ability to execute.

But this also raised a spiritual question I've been wondering about for a few years now: how much good can we take from a person whose overall approach to life isn't something we want to emulate?

I'm not asking about Tiger, per se, but rather about how we choose who we watch, listen to, learn from.  On one level, I believe that when we choose to "follow" someone, we shouldn't be surprised when we end up where they are.  I don't want Tiger's life, so I don't pay all that much attention to what he does.  But can it really be all that bad to read up on his game techniques to see if there might be some pointers that could translate into my life?

There's a rule in criminal law called "The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" that keeps coming to mind for me (complete with horrid flashbacks to my first year of law school).  It says that if one part of an investigation was illegal (searching your home without a warrant, for example), all evidence found as the result of that search (the 47 mountain lions you're training to do ballet in clear violation of your town's ban on dancing animals, for example) is excluded from the case against you.  The whole investigation has to be clean for the evidence to be considered.

Obviously, it's a bit of a stretch to apply this to watching Tiger for tips on focus. And it's an impossible standard to apply in terms of mentors in any capacity, as They'd have to be perfect. We're all human, which means we're all a mess.  But where is the line at which point following anything someone says becomes a bad idea?

For example, would you take putting tips from Charles Manson (he's had some time...his game might be quite good...)?  How messed up can a tree be before you'll stay hungry rather than eat one of its oranges?

I have no idea what the answer is.  Just thought I'd include you as I wonder :)