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To ‘C’ or Not to ‘C’, That Is the Question

“My husband said ‘show me your boobs’ and I had to pull up my skirt… so it was time to get them done!”
~Dolly Parton~

In a red-neck version of a Gomer Pyle accent; “When God was giving out brains, you must have thought he said boobs and asked for double! Hahahaha.” Very funny. Very witty indeed. This was the kind of thing I heard every.single.time. I saw my uncle and one of my more educated neighbours just as I hit puberty and my breasts were beginning to ‘blossom’. Hooray for small town livin’.

I grew up pretty rough and tumble, and by that age, nothing surprised me any more. I was taught from a very early age to stand up for myself and dish talk like that right back to whomever had sent it my way in the first place.  It was common for older male relatives (cousins), and classmates to make fun of you the first few weeks you had to wear a bra. They snapped the strap, tried to unclasp it, and made public announcements in an effort to embarrass you. I was embarrassed, but I was even  more irritated that my body had betrayed me in such a way.

Now I had to wear an extra layer of scratchy, sticky clothing. Thanks a lot boobs! I resisted wearing a bra as long as possible after I made my first humiliating trip to the pink and white section at the local Woolco. I remember my mother making me try the darn thing on and then reaching under the band to make sure it fit properly. I hated her for that, but it’s the very thing I would do today if I had a daughter.

Until my mother finally put her foot down and said I was NOT allowed out of the house without getting the girls under control, I was still innocent and free. The first day I wore a bra to school, I was in grade 6. I wore a white polo shirt and my favourite pair of yellow cotton pants. My hair was dirty blond and tightly Toni-permed to  my head. I still had a gap between my front teeth, and enjoyed playing marbles and baseball  at recess. I could not stand pig-tails, dresses or leotards. Needless to say the addition of an over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder was not a welcome addition to my wardrobe. I wore it in  the same indignant way that I wore rubber galoshes. It took years before I frolicked in lingerie stores and loved wearing frilly things that made me feel sexy and confident. 

 When I was 11, a brassiere was torture. All of a sudden when I was bent down with my hands in the dirt eyeing a shot, vying for someone else’s pretty or biggie it became a big deal that at girl was beating the boys at marbles. I was the only kid at school who had two whole McDonald’s happy meal buckets full of the spoils of my shark-like marble playing. Who needed boobs when I had two buckets of marbles?

But soon the subtle brassiere line in the back of my shirt started to part the sea of the sexes even further. I’m sure it was an ill-timed bra snapping that instigated the garden hose incident with my Grandma’s neighbour boys. They were around the same age as my cousin and I (we both had big boobs at an early age). We wrestled them to the ground and tied them together with an outdoor electrical cord, and then stuffed the garden hose somewhere in the fray, turned it on, and ran like heck, leaving the two boob commentators to reflect on their boyscout knowledge of knots. My grandmother likely watched what was going on from her kitchen window thinking, “Them’s my girls!”. My grandfather would have given us the dickens, except my grandmother scared the bejesus out of him.

And so it went. My breasts became my primary identifier. You know, that girl with the blonde hair and big boobs. Not the girl who worked at the store, the girl who wrote for the newspaper, not the girl who was the astrophysicst….oh wait, I’m fantasizing.

Throughout  the years I spent partying in clubs with my friends who said they were going out with me and ‘the girls’ to get a few free drinks, my breasts were front and centre like good little soldiers. It was a rare night that some inebriated genius wouldn’t come up to me and say, slurring and slobbering, “You’ve got great tits.” Really? I hadn’t noticed. Someone give this guy an honorary degree to the University of Dumber than Doorknobs.  My usual response was, “Well, don’t just stand there! Buy the girls a round,” and they did. Round after round of Gin and Lime, Cosmopolitans, Double Martinis and Ameretto Sours were bought in an effort to get a feel of the glands that balanced in my overpriced, hard to find super-duper cup-sized bra.

In the past, while trying to have a serious discussion with a (male) coworker, leaning across the photocopier in heated debate, one of my nipples touched the ‘start’ button, startling us both, and making a zillion unwanted copies. I have sat through meetings with buttons popped open from boobs too huge for buttons. Imagine trying to design an entire wardrobe around shirts that don’t button?!  I have been pawed by all ages of babies thinking I’m the milk truck, and almost tempted to punch drunks in the teeth for reaching out to touch them. Big boobs take on a life of their own.

To be honest, my experience in being over-chested is that people think you’re; sleazy, fat, lazy and easy. Sometimes, people would have been right, because we’re all a little of those things once in a while.  But I’m tired of carrying them around.  A number of women in my family have chosen to have breast-reduction surgery, and I can relate to wanting my girls cut down to size.

Just tonight two women of the blue-perm set approached me at a meeting to make small talk, and even their eyes bowed to the girls first. 

I’m tired of running every day and having my boobs feel like bruises when I take my over-priced, size flipping-huge bra off. I’m tired of paddling with my left tit sticking out the armpit of my life jacket so I don’t get chafed. I’m tired of my neck popping and hurting, and carrying around this natural blessing that I didn’t ask for…AND…I’m also damn thankful I have healthy ones.

I’m not sure what going under the knife would mean, but I am pondering it. To ‘C’ or not to ‘C’, that my friends, is the question.

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Keep Your Rose-Coloured-Horny-Rimmed Glasses On!

“Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” ~Samuel Ullman~

I had a chat with my girlfriends today. We were sharing stories about our week over a glass of wine and some yummy seafood. Inevitably, our conversation touched on work, kids, politics, fashion, and of course, the men in our lives. 

One woman had nothing but praise for her hardworking, romantic, and most importantly responsible as a father, husband. He’s a dolly, and I count him as a dear friend. Another was contemplating the havoc leaving her husband might wreak on her children and whether or not she could start dating again at ‘this age’.

This age….hmmm…..I wonder, at this age, why we still seek partnership? Actually, I don’t wonder. I think the answer is pretty simple – everyone enjoys the comfort of having someone to cuddle up with when the rest of the world goes mad. Even if it is just for one night.

 There have been times when it seems the sea had dried up, and there were no more of those ‘fish’ there were supposed to be too many of. It has always been some recollection of blissful union that kept me thinking  there must be someone out there for me.  So, to my girlfriend out there who is contemplating the benefits and drawbacks of dating again, I offer you some of  my very own inspirational experiences that have helped me carry on, even at this age.

1) Being whisked away (with much protest ) for a surprise romantic weekend at a five-star inn, complete with massages and a hot springs.

2)Hiking for two hours in the snow to get to a waterfall and fire pit where we ate a simple packed lunch and drank fabulous wine on a tarp in the snow.

3)Making love completely naked in the great outdoors, and then rinsing off in the lake.

4)Dancing the night away in Montreal, and then driving through the townships and into the beautiful hills of Vermont for lunch on cobblestone streets.

5)Drinking too much wine and laughing until we couldn’t breathe.

6)Having him show up after a very long week with all the fixings for a gourmet Italian dinner, cooking it for me, and then settling in to watch a baseball game. What a thorough seventh inning stretch! Woo-wee! Play ball indeed ladies!

7)Being serenaded by guitar and song. There’s nothing quite like a man with a silken voice singing just to you.

8)Being courted at a dance by a man in disguise and getting to take it apart one piece at a time, only to find a 6’3″,blonde, blue-eyed, six packing God underneath.

9)Being sick and taken care  of by a man who shows up with tea, magazines, books, and strong arms to wrap me up in (ok, so, that wasn’t really a date, but it was pretty hot…and not just because of the fever).

10)Learning about 50 Shades one subtle tie at a time and being able to teach the author a thing or two as a result.

11)Meeting at the CNE, and doing the rides together, followed by candy floss and snuggling under a sky sparkling with fireworks.

12)Having a man kiss you, stroke your face, look into your eyes, and then kiss you again – all over your body.

The romance and silly stuff is exactly the point at this age. At any age!  I am fortunate enough to know that well. I also know that the older we get, the less inhibited we are.  Most people have slithered out of a few layers of ego, and don’t care so much about how they might look like completely naked. Let’s face it, if it still works, we shold all be rejoicing with our naked bodies, and getting as much love in as possible. Facial expression and body contortion get a little grotesque if you analyze it without your rose-coloured-horny-rimmed glasses on, but in the moment, it’s magic.

So, I say to the happily married friends of mine – good on ya! Go crazy – have fun, be silly, be wild, be passionate with one another and bare your soul and kink. To my single friends, I say – let your memories serve you well. Remember all of those times your heart skipped a beat, you looked at your partner/date and felt like the happiest person in the world. Life is short, why spend it alone if you feel lonely?

Oh yah, and do it with the lights on.

Go on. Get out there and make your memories.

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Teaching a Pig to Sing

“Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and besides, it annoys the pig” ~ Robert Heinlein~

I wish someone would have pulled me aside when I started attending Dharma classes at my local Buddhist temple and told me that I was at risk of losing the smart mouth I’m so well known for. I wish they would have told me that eventually, I would no longer feel it necessary to give a verbal firestorm to people who irritated me.

If someone would have told me that, I may have reconsidered my desire to become a better person right there on the spot. After all, I had a reputation to keep up. Had I known about the possible side-effects of ‘practice’, I may have shook my Sifu’s hand, bowed awkwardly, pushed wide the heavy wooden doors,marched off into the Saturday morning sunshine, and given the world the finger.

Instead I was welcomed and tutored in temple etiquette, meditation,Buddhist theory and history. At the same time, as I was being tutored by my brown robed, and bald-headed smiling Sifu, I also had a bad relationship for a teacher.

 Constantly fighting and feeling exhausted, I was distressed at how this person brought out the very worst in me. I used to come to the temple on Saturday mornings, quite often upset from something he said or did, and one of my classmates would ask in the cute way that we all did, “How is your practice?”For someone with beginner’s mind, it’s akin to asking a golfer about their swing after they just shot 10 over par. My response was almost always the same, I would shrug and say, “It’s coming along”, feeling terrible about myself and how I was handling the relationship.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sit at home, legs crossed, ommmming myself into some state of entitled bliss. Subtlety is not my strength, nor do I desire it to be. I am straightforward. I have contemplated the person I was in relationship with. He was an unhappy man and not a good match for me. He had some good qualities – he was intelligent, and he was a great cook. He’s not a terrible person. He was just terrible to me. Life goes on.

Years ago my friend gave me a card with a funny photo of a pig on it. Underneath the photo, the text read, ” Never try to teach a pig to sing. It frustrates you and annoys the pig.” ~Anon.~. She said that it sounded like advice I would give. To the point, a bit comical and true. I was flattered.

I thought of that card yesterday.  You see, yesterday while cleaning strawberries and listening to Bob Dylan tunes, I had the unpleasant surprise of a phone call from a woman who truly is a blessing. You see, Buddhists believe that the people we struggle to relate to in a positive way are our greatest blessings – teachers in disguise.

Just flipping fabutastic! I thought, slicing the green tops off the red, ripe flesh of the berries. I cradled the phone against my shoulder and continued my work as this woman (and I use that term loosely, because I really want to refer to her as an orifice, but that would be insulting to the orifice) ranted for over an hour. An hour. An hour of my life. An hour of my life I will never get back. An hour of my life devoted to her own selfish, manipulative and mean ways. An hour when I was acutely aware of my practice.

I calmly continued cleaning my berries, occasionally popping one in my mouth, giving the odd, “Uh-huh.” or “I see” as she continued to rape my ear. If you put your ear to a garbage chute for an hour you I’m convinced you wouldn’t hear as much trash.

Anyway, my point is this; without continuing to try to be a more gentle, kind and strong person through my practice, my reading and my relationships, I would have reacted in an entirely different way. I would likely have come out with something like, ” Oh yah? Well you’re a manipulative, mean, f-ed up old sack of crap. And you know what else?! Nobody gives a rat’s hairy rump about your cock-eyed sense of reality and psychotic sense of entitlement…..(and then the classic, when you just can’t possibly come up with any more insults)…Who the heck do you think you are anyway?!”

“BREATHE”…..I told myself when she told me her reason for calling, “You are your thoughts”. I went back to these thoughts as I continued to clean the berries. What on earth I was going to do with her madness??? Then, out of nowhere, quietly stumbling into my consciousness and climbing peacefully onto my shoulder was a little, brown cloaked, smiling Sifu. She scared the hell out of the menopausal devil woman sitting on the opposite shoulder. I decided I liked the little brown smiling one, so I  listened to her.

“You don’t have to do anything. This is not your trash.  It’sher trash.” The little rolly monk reminded me. 

 This anger belonged to the raging mad woman on the other end of the phone.  Her crapstorm of garbage blew by like the wind, and was gone. “Thank you Sifu,” I said, and fed her a tiny bit of the strawberry I was cleaning. We bowed to one another and she disappeared.

By listening without reacting, I had done two things. I had not betrayed my own sense of self, and I had not done any further damage to her than she had done on her own.

I will have to address some of the things that she said, because I believe she is hurting a dear friend of mine. To not discuss it would be unkind.

I have to admit, using the f-word, raging a bit and letting someone have a taste of their own medicine is often very satisfying. But I don’t want a bad taste left in my mouth any more. Yesterday, despite my unpleasant interruption, I enjoyed every sweet drop of fresh strawberry flesh, and I was happy.

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He Used to Eat Glue

“I don’t at all like knowing what people say of me behind my back. It makes me far too conceited.”
~Oscar Wilde~

How many times have one of your pals said they were going to do something outrageous, and you rolled your eyes, took a sip of your drinky-poo and thought silently and cynically to yourself, “Yah, rrrrrrrright!”?

Isn’t it ironic that just last night I was having a few drinky-poos myself? I was with two of my friends. One, my best friend, I’ve known since I was 12, the other, a friend who has known me since I was blissfully floating in utero. In fact, this friend was my ‘kindergarten mentor’, and helped me get in trouble for the first time from a teacher – for talking and harmonizing Beach Boys songs during nap time. These ladies know me well, but do we know one another too well?

If you’re one of my friends, you’ve rolled your eyes and “yah-righted me” many times. Who can blame you really? In my teens I was going to have six children with my high school sweetheart. Three boys. Three girls. All with alternating first names starting with Z,A,Z,A,Z,A . I failed miserably at that, and the universe saved six kids from a lifetime of hating their own names.

In my early twenties I was going to have four children and home school them while raising chickens in my back yard. I even sent away for a catalogue of exotic chickens that were said to lay eggs in a rainbow of different colours. Martha Stewart did, why couldn’t I?  Shortly after that I was going to finish my PhD in liberation theology. Nope.

In my thirties I was going to give having a family one last kick at the can and settle for a man who had two wonderful children of his own but was very unhappy with himself. I came up empty handed on that one too. More eye-rolling. Yah-right

I should have listened to my school-friends when they told me; you’ll have lots of boyfriends, six is too many, those are stupid names. I should have listened to my mother in-law when she told me to just enjoy my family. I should have listened to my older and wiser friends when they told me that the guy was an ego-maniac and they were worried about me.

Le sigh indeed. They knew me too well.

But what if we didn’t know one another that well? What if you’d just met your best friend, or your brother, or your mom, and they told you they were applying to graduate school, or having their sixth child, or getting really excited to finally meet the man of their dreams after years and years of being alone?

As long as you’re not a world-class gold-medalling arse, you’d likely choose one of the following;

“Oh my goodness, that’s great!”

“Wow, that takes a lot of guts, you should be proud of yourself.”

“I’m sure you’ll… get in/be a great parent/have a happy marriage.”

“Congratulations.”

You see, you wouldn’t  know them that well, so your instinct would be to believe in them.Why wouldn’t you? I mean after all, only psychopaths and blog writers bullshit complete strangers.

When I told ‘people’ last fall that I was setting out to write a book, there was significant eye-rolling and yah-righting. Except from one friend. One, new friend whom I was just getting to know.  They got out their pom-poms, put on their cheering-skirt and belly shirt and said,” Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah, Hem-ing-way, has nothin’ on ya!”….or something like that. I was too distracted from seeing a grown man in a cheerleading skirt and belly shirt doing the splits to remember the exact cheer. The novel is in the works, and well on its way to completion.

It was a novel written by this friend that got me to thinking about knowing one another too well. Ironically, the novel is called Empathy. Ok, so, I’m not so cool as to have ony been reminded of this concept of, ‘knowing someone too well’ because I’m a writer and I have friends who are writers. My sore-bum-on-a-church-pew-humiliated-because-my-husband-just-walked out-and-I-was-on-the-Christian-Life-And-Education-Committee at our small community church, also knocked on the door of my conscience. In a very nice church-lady voice it reminded me of a sermon of the same name delivered by my minister. Don’t worry, it’s all ok, my bum, my ego, and my spirituality have recovered.

Empathy – so much more satisfying than pathetic sympathy, and way, way harder to really feel. After all, when we’re not happy with ourselves, it’s hard to be gentle with others.  It’s the failures of those close to us that we remember. Very few lives have victories that are noteworthy enough to endure forever as our public ego. We know one another’s failures, shortcomings, and birthrights. These ego-baring experiences are often what truly bond us.

Even after almost forty years of knowing one another, last night, my two friends and I talked and laughed and revealed more of what has built our characters over the years. The same thing we all share in this experience soup called the human condition; abusive parents, substance abuse, bad relationships, body image issues…the list goes on. Despite the hardships, there was new respect around that patio table; for one another, and the incredible resiliency we have developed throughout the years.

You know it and I know it; every family socialize their own, as does every village, town, city, school and community group. How often have you heard someone trying to achieve something, and another from the group say something like, “Oh, ya-right. That’s John’s kid. Didn’t he eat glue in grade school?” Just like that, John’s kid has an unspoken, yet understood, unanimous group vote against him.  He swallows his dreams with a slice of church supper pie and a sip of instant coffee. There is no empathy. There is no encouragement. After all,  everyone has known John’s kid forever. They know him too well. But when that John’s Kid does something great, makes headlines, gets the revered PhD after his name, or walks on the moon – everyone knows him, and damn, isn’t he great? After all who woulda thunk it,?! John’s kid made a name for himself. Hot diggety-dog-and-kiss-my-petunia.

We’re all just John’s kid to most of the people who have known us for our entire lives. We’ve all been the community voice that punches the cheerleader in the guts and gives someone else’s dreams a double dose of Valium. Shut the hell up for crying out loud! Don’t embarrass yourself by talking about your dreams. Who do you think you are???

Well, I say, I’m sure as hell not John’s kid and neither are you.  In my case, my father would get a disgusted look on his face, and the elite of the town (if that’s possible with a population of under 1000),might say, “You haven’t got a pot to piss in. Who do you think you are?”

In my mind I would also ask, “Who do you think YOU are buttgrease?”, and then I’d envision one of their nipples falling off.  But, what I would say outloud is, “I’m me.” And that’s enough folks. Just be you; run the marathon, write the book, take the course, lose the weight, sing karaoke, fall hopelessly in love, do it again if you have to, bake, cook, laugh, dream, and  remember to cheer on the person next to you whom you know too well. Let your empathy for others be a reminder that you too have dreams. Just keep your history of glue-eating on the down-low.

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Jesus & Jam

“Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”
~Hunter S. Thompson~

As I sat in the clear Caribbean sunshine this winter, with nothing  doing but my mojito, a well-packed prepared bartender, and a fitness instructor named Jesus, I contemplated life and all that it had to offer. Actually, I first eliminated all of the cosmic waste that had accumulated up there in my small but mighty mass of grey, and then I contemplated life. It was less crowed that way.

Stretched out by the sea, being served delicious food and cold drinks I noticed first of all something that was relatively surprising; I was happy. You see, in the past I was too busy getting what I wanted to enjoy what I have, and I, after a mojito or two, and a sweaty blast  of body blitzing with Jesus, noticed that I was a happy gal indeed.

You see, I’m about middle-aged at this point. Well, sneaking up on middle-aged based on the longevity of my grandparents.  Throughout my entire adult life I have desperately wanted a husband, a family, a thriving career, two cats, a dog, a fabulous figure, and a fail-proof retirement plan. Well, that is, I thought that’s what I wanted despite a long line of very entertaining Jesus’s. That’s what we’re supposed to want right?  That’s what’s inspired this crazed, self-rebellious “mommy war” crap that the rest of my generation has bought into.

Unlike my peers, I started early. No better way to get a leg-up on the capitalist dream and fuel the global greed machine than being the early bird right? So, instead of  taking time to ‘find myself’ after a mediocre, but overpriced Canadian university education, I jumped right into marriage and childbearing. Wee-ha!

That ambitious plan has landed me smack in my umpteenth year of single-parenthood, living as a single, in my own home, sustaining my own living, and quite frankly, enjoying it all quite a bit despite failing miserably at the capitalistic driven dream.  It wasn’t as if I just aimlessly sailed here without working toward what I was supposed to want. I tried. I really did.   After one last ridiculous non-relationship which would have required astrolinguistic interpretation, I realized that he was a turd. Not a surprise right. What was surprising was that through his turdishness I discovered that what I wanted had changed.

GASP! What I want is something different from what I had been socialized to want! This went against every two-car-garage-mortgaged-to-the-hilt-two-point-four-child-married-to-a-man-who-knew-nothing-but-what-his-mamma-told-him-and-who-gives-a-damn-about-relating-in-a-relationship-so-long-as-we-live-in-the-right-neighbourhood article and news item I had ever read. Holy hell catwoman, get your nose outta the milk bowl!

What I wanted was what I wanted before training bras, and first kisses, and newspaper subscriptions. I wanted to be happy.

Resting on a lounge chair in the sun, skin glowing under the perfect Caribbean sunshine, glistening with salt water,I realized that I was happy. Hmm… Imagine that. My decisions about relationships and commitment in the past had all led me away from that dream of coupledom, but closer to what my heart was singing about.  So, for many days I marvelled at how wonderful life was. I swam with bright fish, sailed, laughed, listened to great latin american music, and quietly gave thanks for the joy that I had created in my own life. My relationship with Jesus didn’t hurt either.

I no longer yearn to feel my belly swell with life.   My child is almost raised; taller than me and better with electronics than I am. Surely this is a sign that it’s time to seize the day and enjoy every succulent second. I am a mother, regardless of the number of children, and it is an honor.  My dreams have changed.

My extended time in the sunshine of the south lead me to contemplate how I had achieved this elusive happiness despite not having, owning, and being mortgaged. No, I did not let Jesus into my heart, I simply contemplated summertime. You see, it used to be the fall that wooed me. I always had a school-girl heart, and the shorter days, and watery autumn skies made me nestle in, sharpen my pencil crayons, get organized, and ready to master another year of study. But now it is every season that I savour, and having the advantage of being sun-soaked and refreshed in the dead of winter got me to thinking – this ain’t so bad.

So, instead of taking time off during our beautiful summer and rushing madly about,  I have decided to indulge daily in what our beautiful seasons have to offer. This is a summer of baseball, boating, running and celebrating each fresh crop of produce that we are so fortunate to have. This is my summer of simple things which I have missed so much, and are so dear to me; not rushing to get home after a ball game, sleeping with my windows open, reacquainting myself with old friends, training on the river and running every day. Most importantly I will  not be catering to someone else’s dreams or demons.

Last weekend I kicked off my summer by winning my very first medal in an athletic competition. This weekend it will be picking strawberries and making homemade jam; something my grandmothers and my mother did every year, and something I feel punctuates the start of a season of freedom and wonder.  But don’t fret dear readers, I am not lost in complete sanctimonious bliss. I still love the word jack-ass, and have little patience for stupidity, meanness, and turdishness. This will not simply be a weekend of domestic jam making. It will be made after a girls’ night of champagne and strawberries in the pool with my friends. Giggling, sharing stories and making new memories together, followed by crashing of the party by husbands and potential husbands. Yes, there is a waxing story here, a bathing suit story, and a set-up in the works. But that is all the side dish to my entrée of  reaquaintance with the leisurely summers of the past, spent with friends, laughing, discovering, and feeling whole.

Perhaps after the jam I will head to the art gallery, take in some wine while looking out on the park, or taking my chance with synchronicity at the little movie shop I’ve fallen in love with on Baldwin street. My writing beckons, and I know that there is a studio at the end of a country road waiting for my art to seduce it.

I am back my friends, and I am so happy to be able to share my silliness with you again as the summer begins. If all else fails, I will seek solace in the fact that this winter, I may once again find Jesus.