Tag Archives: challenges

End Transmission

There are people who walk among us, special people.  They could be a neighbour, a stranger, a brother, a friend.  They could be white or black, yellow or beige. These people walk the streets of the city and the fields of the country. They are there in the right place, at the right time, to do the right thing.  You might call them Facilitators.

********************

Abigail was picking up the last few items on her list: bottled water, low fat cookies and of course tissues.  One should always have lots of tissues on a long trip. As she was paying for the few items in her basket, she spied a small, one shot, fire extinguisher.  Without thinking she added the cylinder to her pile.  Now she was ready.

Fire.  She could see the car just ahead.  A woman was standing beside the vehicle looking lost.  She wasn’t screaming or panicking, just quietly standing and staring.  Abigail pulled her car over and stopped.  Quickly she grabbed her newly purchased fire extinguisher and raced to the burning vehicle.  It didn’t take much to put out the fire, it was still quite small.  If the gas tank or the engine oil had caught fire . . .  Everything was under control.  The woman hadn’t moved the entire time.  She just stood and stared.  Thank all that is holy that Abigail had come by at just the right time. She wondered what it was that had made her pick up a fire extinguisher at the last moment. It wasn’t something she had ever had in her car before. It was exactly what she had needed today, but how had she known ahead of time?

 

David enjoyed his early morning drives.  It gave him time to decompress, to relax. There was no one pestering him, no one concerned about what he had to say, no responsibilities, no life and death decisions. He relished this time alone.

He chuckled. He was also a creature of habit so everyone knew where he would be at any given moment. Even on his well known drives. And then, without thinking, he turned right instead of left. This was not his usual route but he didn’t change direction. Perhaps he was curious. Perhaps it was an error.  Perhaps he was guided by another’s hand.

There was a bump in the road ahead so David slowed down. As he grew closer, he realized it was a body, no, it was a man and he was alive. David had spent the last 20 years as an emergency room doctor. He had never had to use his skills outside a sterile room but now he was glad he had made a wrong turn.

The man lived. His children kept their father. His wife kept her husband. And their lives continued. All because one man looking for a little peace and quiet made a wrong turn. But did he?

 

Ahmed looked at his paper. He knew he was right. But how to get the others to understand that something was going on. The students in his writing class just thought that he liked Science Fiction. But his Physics teacher was starting to understand.  There were too many incidents.  Documented occurrences.  There was a correlation. There’s something pushing us, perhaps making us better? There was definitely something going on.  Something . . .

 

********************

 

Begin transmission.

Director, we may have a problem. I am getting a red light on Facilitator 439122 at grid 19, section 4.  We have been having problems with this particular model.  It appears that they have a more superior capacity for problem solving than we were initially led to believe. This particular Facilitator is beginning to question the regularity of the designed incidents.  It is important for the validity of our tests and our test subjects, that any and all management be undisclosed.  Otherwise all the results will be useless.  Director, please advise.

End transmission.

Begin transmission.

Administrator, the subjects were chosen for your research based on their innate ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations.  I would suggest that you amend your data to accommodate this unforeseen propensity for disentanglement.  If you feel that your research will be unduly compromised then I suggest you terminate that particular line of research.

End transmission.

 

*********************

It was not an easy decision.  A great deal of time had been spent cultivating the necessary specimens.  But the research had become contaminated.  They were starting to understand. There was no other alternative.   End transmission.

 

 

The end

Auto Correct

  1. Auto correct

For sometime now I have been threatening to write ups about auto correct. Guess what today is? I Wai type using a set of headphones and a program that prints what I say. I must speak clearly and enunciate correctly. But I also must contend with the nefarious auto correct. It doesn’t always like what I say nor does it know the difference between 22 and two or which witch is which. It amuses me and it frustrates me.

There is a wonderful joke I remember about a woman who is texting her boss to say that she is home sick with a cold. The auto correct sent the message at home in bed with a clown. I laughed myself silly. Now I will admit that day I am being super careful to see how much I can get out correctly. And wouldn’t you know it, today the auto car seems to be taking a break. I spoke too soon but we all go through this.

I was doing an art show a few years ago and they asked me for a bit of a biography. Where did I get my ideas for painting and so on. I wrote about how I had canoed in northern Ontario and swim in the ocean off the Atlantic provinces. And you see auto corrected exactly what someone did to my biography. Instead of using the word swim, no my dictation will not take it. There are three chances, I said tenses: swim, swim, swim. Nope my dictation will not take it. So what I’m going to do is I am going to take this a few paragraphs and correct them. Some of the errors are AutoCorrect and some of the errors are my dictation program refusing to recognize words.

Does this frustrate me? Yes. But life is a continual speedbump. Some of them are easy to step over and some are a challenge. But it sure as hell ain’t boring!

 

2 . AutoCorrect

For some time now I have been threatening to write a post about AutoCorrect. Guess what today is? I am typing using a set of headphones and a program that prints what I say. I must speak clearly and enunciate correctly. But I also must contend with the nefarious AutoCorrect. It doesn’t always like what I say nor does it know the difference between to, too and two or which witch is which. It amuses me and it frustrates me.

There is a wonderful joke I remember about a woman who is texting her boss to say that she is home in bed sick with a cold. The AutoCorrect sent the message “at home in bed with a clown”. I laughed myself silly. Now I will admit that today I am being super careful to see how much I can get out correctly. And wouldn’t you know it, today the Autocorrect seems to be taking a break. I spoke too soon but we’ll all get through this.

I was doing an art show a few years ago and they asked me for a bit of a biography. Where did I get my ideas for painting and so on? I wrote about how I have canoed in northern Ontario and swum in the ocean off the Atlantic provinces. And AutoCorrect did exactly what someone did to my biography. Instead of using the word swum, they used swam.  There are three tenses: swim, swam, swum. My dictation will not take it and neither will AutoCorrect. So, I am going to take these few paragraphs and correct them. Some of the errors are AutoCorrect and some of the errors are my dictation program refusing to recognize words.

Does this frustrate me? Yes. But life is a continual set of speed bumps. Some of them are easy to step over and some are a challenge. But it sure as hell ain’t boring!

 

 

 

Merriam Webster says:

 

Swim is an irregular verb; swam is the past tense of swim, while swum is the past participle. Swum is used after have, as in “I have swum in that pool before.”

 

A Perfect Cup of Tea

I am a snob. There I said it. It’s true. Anyone that knows me knows that I am, unrepentantly, a snob. Specifically, I am a tea snob. There are some things in this life that I will not skimp on. And one of those things is a leafy beverage that I enjoy, usually in the morning. No regrets, no apologies.

I once made a joke to a friend that coffee was the drink of the masses, tea was the drink of the elite. It was said in jest. But is it?

As says the all-knowing (sic) Wikipedia:

According to Chinese legend, the history of tea began in 2737 B.C.E. when the Emperor Shen Nong, a skilled ruler and scientist, accidentally discovered tea. While boiling water in the garden, a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot.

I have no idea if this is actually true or not but it is a nice story. And since there is no actual documentation of said incident, it comes down through legend. And we do know that many legends have a basis in truth… China is credited with the invention of tea. It is now worldwide and is grown in many countries. There are almost as many flavours of tea as there are hairs on your head. If you do indeed have hair. There are also a great many customs about the best way to drink said beverage. It is confusing world.

I grew up drinking tea after dinner. It was a family thing. My mother made a pot of tea with Red Rose tea bags. My cup was always heavily fortified with milk and sugar.  When I was in school a group of us used to meet for coffee. Usually the boys would go and get the beverages and I always asked for tea with milk and sugar. My Styrofoam cup would appear with a teabag floating in a milky liquid. I started to drink my tea clear, without the milk and sugar. I still can’t get that image out of my head!  Over the years I evolved as did my taste buds. Some 30 years ago my sister introduced me to loose-tea and I never looked back. It became an obsession. I investigated the correct way to steep tea, to store it, which pots to use for which tea, etc, etc, etc.

Now I use simpler means. I have a dedicated infuser for my black teas, I drink out of glass mugs so I can gauge the steeping by the colour of the tea not the timer. I also only use loose tea. A few years ago, I saw a documentary on tea and the process the leaves go through to be mass produced into those teeny tiny bags. And then I understood the comment about the masses and the elite. If the documentary is true, then those teabags are filled with the dregs after the proper leaves have been removed. Did I feel sanctimonious? You betcha! I am quite sure it’s not as bad as this. I do however believe the flavour of loose tea is richer than the bags. Is it convenient? No. But I can handle a little inconvenience for a perfect cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pandemic Shuffle

It’s two metres to the left,

Or six feet to the right.

Mouth and nose are covered,

And welcome to our plight.

 

Washing hands so carefully,

To the beat of that old song.

Is how we try to save a life,

You know it is not wrong.

 

The entire world is hurting,

A new reality is come,

How many people will be lost?

Before this Pandemic’s done?

 

Businesses are in danger,

Livelihoods are in peril.

The only thing that we can do,

Is pray that hand is sterile!

 

We keep our spirits up,

As we muddle through our day.

Do our best for each other,

And hope we find our way.

 

Help is coming I believe,

A vaccine will make it right.

And then the world will start anew,

With all our human might.

Subtext

 

Recently I was watching an old police drama. One character, that was being interviewed, was obfuscating and it dawned on me that it was all about the subtext. Of course, my little brain went wooooh!  My first thought was that kids today don’t understand subtext and then I realized:  that is how our youth speak to each other.  I am also not entirely sure they understand the art of communication. They can actually have complete conversations in 280 characters!  It used to be 140! And yet the average ‘text’ is usually only about 33 characters.  I can’t say ‘hello’ properly in less than 50.  And that is characters not words. When I was a youth, a text was a book, a sub was either a sandwich or a boat and characters were on the screen. Well, not really but those are the first things I think of.

Our language has evolved as our children have evolved. Today’s kids are in many ways much smarter than we ever were. But they are also dumber. Sorry that’s not fair.  But think about it:  how many have lost the ability to read cursive or tell time on an analog clock?  Good manners are no longer common place, good sense is lacking and good courtesy . . .

A proper conversation was fluid and accentuated with gestures and facial reactions, whole body movements. Dialogues today are via texts.  Heads down, eyes focused on a 4 x 6” screen.  And this is while they are sitting next to each other!  There is no sharing of emotions or reactions.  How can you experience the flavour, the intensity of a language if you are alone or unaware?  People who are blind or hearing-impaired use touch or movement to round out their talks.

Today’s conversationalists speak emoji. Teeny, tiny little figures that denote emotion. I think. I don’t really speak emoji. I know if I see a little yellow face with a smile that’s a good thing.  I have seen people use an entire string of these emoji creatures and they’re actually speaking a sentence. Impressive. But like so many languages, I can only speak a few words. But I can fake it really well!

I am afraid to look too far into the future. Will conversations become soundbites and emojis? Or will we regress to a time when people sat over a cup of tea and had long conversations with gestures and substance. I don’t want to spend an hour over lunch discussing some actor’s transcendental metamorphosis while he was grooming his dog. I like a real conversation about life, the world, the future . . .

For at least a little while we are going to have to be inventive in how we have our chats. But I truly hope we do not retreat to the little glass screen but we keep a dialogue going face-to-face even if it is at a distance. That to me is a conversation.

 

Anticipation

 

What a lovely word. Just the way it rolls off your tongue. An- tici-pation.  When I was working, I loved Fridays in anticipation of the weekend. One can see a cheesecake and anticipate the way it is going to roll around your mouth slowly melting, the sweet, succulent goo sliding down your throat.  One can anticipate the touch of a lover or the ending of a good story. It makes me positively tingly when I am anticipating something exciting. And in many ways, everything is exciting. Until it isn’t.

There is another side to anticipation. There is the side that cripples you with fear when anticipating an activity you do not want to be a part of. When I was a young adult I was terrified of crowds. (To some extent I still am.) Ever a resourceful child, I develop strategies to deal with almost every situation. I did my research on popular topics of the day so if it ever came up in conversation I wouldn’t look like an idiot. I was always afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing something stupid. And quite honestly, I have done both, more than once. I am nothing if not consistent.

Research is a strength of mine. And I put it to good use. I also developed phrases, witticisms that I could pull out at a moment’s notice. When people are amused, they are not noticing.  In University I studied Drama and English. It gave me a whole new set of skills that I could use in my subterfuge. And I was good. When I was performing, I would almost throw up before going on stage but once I got there, I could inhabit my alter ego and act with aplomb. I never felt that I was cheating other people, I was protecting myself. I was protecting that six-year-old child who would be dizzy with panic at having to face someone.

I am older now but that child is still buried deep within my psyche. I may appear to be confident and to some extent I think I am. But that fear will always lurk in the back of my mind. And I am not alone. There are others who deal with the same kind of issues:  crippling fears, lack of self-confidence, all-consuming nervousness. But while as a child I felt I was alone; I know now that I am not. And that in itself gives me confidence.

Like so many things we do, if we do it long enough it becomes a habit.  To this day I constantly have conversations in my head about situations that might arise so that I am prepared, just in case. I think we are all afraid of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. We all want to seem positive and clever to other people. Perhaps it can even be seen as an incentive to learn more about what’s going on in the world, to be prepared.  As a child my family all sat around the dinner table and talked. Most of the time I just listened but I also learned. The topics ranged from what happened that day in a 9 year old’s world to the politics of the time.  This continued throughout my life.

We all have a fantasy about being someone else, or being a better version of ourselves.  That is commendable. But that anticipation can be both exciting and terrifying. And that’s what makes it all fun.

 

 

 

 

 

A Stranger Calls

Bbrrrrrrrnnnnnggggggg

Bbbbbbrrrrrrnnnnnnggggg

“Oh! Shut up!  I’m working!”

bbrrrrnnnnnnnggggg

“Ok, ok, I know it may be important. Who ever invented the telephone should be shot!  Tomorrow I am definitely buying an answering machine! Hello!”

“Thank heavens you’re home Evangelic, I only have a minute, but listen, this is important.”

“Excus . . . “

“The diagnosis was wrong Evangelic; you don’t have cancer!  It’s true!  Some technician messed up the samples.  Don’t give all your possessions away!  Hahaha I’m so happy.  But I have to run, they are about to call for the plane and I have to be in St. Louis by 3. Benson and Hardwick don’t like tardiness.  Evie if this job interview is successful, we will never have to worry about money again.”

“Listen I’m not . . .”

“It’s ok, my love, everything is ok.  You can reach me at the Mayfair and I’ll be home in three days. We can start to make plans now.  Love ya babe!  Bye.”

Lilly held the receiver in her hand for a moment and listened to the single tone that indicated the party on the other end had hung up. She shook her head and then replaced her handset.

“Well, as wrong numbers go, that was a beaut.” She chuckled and return to her computer. After all she had responsibilities too:  the next four chapters of her latest book were due in her publisher’s hands by the end of the week. Except, something was nagging at her:  she couldn’t stop thinking about the strange phone call.  Obviously, the call was from a man who had misdialed.  What’s interesting is he didn’t check to make sure he was speaking to the right person before he imparted his information. Who did that? He was certainly excited; except he was telling someone he loved that she didn’t have cancer.  Which means the party he thought he was talking to didn’t know she didn’t have cancer.  And now she wouldn’t know for at least a couple of days.  He seemed concerned that she find out right away. Well there was nothing Lilly could do about it.  She didn’t know his name and while she knew the woman’s name, it didn’t help her find her.

Lilly couldn’t stop thinking.  It’s what writers did, they thought.  And Lilly thought that maybe she could figure out who the man was.  She knew he was calling from the Toronto Airport, she knew the phone number, and she knew where he was going to be later on that day so maybe the people at the hotel could help her find him.  This is going to be fun!  The writing wasn’t going very well anyway.

So, Lilly made herself a cup of her favourite tea and sat down in front of her computer.  She had a string to unravel and it started in St. Louis.  Stalking was way too easy in the modern age.

With a flick of a few keys Lilly expected all the information she required to be boldly displayed in front of her, it was not. There was no Mayfair in St Louis.  Not deterred she kept at it, something was not right, something didn’t make sense.  Lilly was sure he said Mayfair and St Louis.  She had good hearing and . . .   Then she read: “Built in 1924 . . . The hotel was sold in 2003 to . . .” The mystery deepened. Lilly kept reading. “ . . .  reopened it in 2014 as the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis.That explained one part of the puzzle.

Lilly had a thought.  She looked up how long it would take to get to St. Louis . . . anywhere from 4 hours and a bit to almost seven hours.  Plus time to collect luggage and book into the hotel.  She didn’t have to rush.  But her mind couldn’t get over the urgency in his voice.  She had to do something.  Maybe the Mayfair/Magnolia manager could help. It wouldn’t hurt to ask. So, she looked up the phone number and placed her call.

Now when someone takes the time to make a phone call there are certain expectations. A pleasant voice picks up the phone and an answer to your question is nearly instantaneous, on a good day.  This wasn’t one of those.

“The Magnolia Hotel, how may I assist you?”

“um, may I speak to your manager?  I am calling from Toronto, Canada and I think, there is a matter that concerns one of your guests.”  Lilly could hear the confusion in her voice.  She could only imagine what the young man on the other side of the phone was thinking.

Evidently they train their staff well.  There was no hesitation. “If you will hold the line for just a moment, I will connect you with Mr. Gordon.”

Lilly barely had time to sip her now cold tea when a very cultured voice spoke on the line.

“Vincent Gordon speaking, how may I be of assistance.”

Lilly took a deep breath and explained to a complete stranger how her morning was going. The call, the anxiety in his voice, the concern that someone needed to know that she didn’t have cancer.  Lilly spoke at breakneck speed afraid she was going to be dismissed and, and, and . . .

“Miss Lilly, are you sitting down?

Not the question she expected.

“Yes.  Um, do you think I’m crazy?”

“You are not crazy, just a few years late.”  There was a quiet sigh on the line and a chair squeaked as if someone had settled back into it.  “This may be a bit difficult to understand but we get this call, or one like it, every few years.”

Lilly shook her head, “It was a prank call?!” The quiet inflection in her voice mirrored her feelings.  Lilly was confused.

“It wasn’t a prank. It was . . . It is said that some hotels have ghosts, spirits, leftover energy. I don’t know.  I only know about Elward Harrison and his wife Evangelic.

And then Mr. Vincent Gordon told Lilly a story. It was about a man whose love for a woman survived his death.   ‘April 17, 1972 a man suffered a major heart attack and died while a guest at the Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis.  He is survived by his wife Evangelic.’

Mr. Gordon went on to explain that Mrs. Harrison had received incorrect medical information but the doctor had called and assured her, she was fine.  Mr. Harrison had called the office and acquired the information but did not stay on the line long enough to know that his wife had also been informed.  Evangelic died in 2002.

“I don’t know why he calls.  I don’t know how he calls. But the staff all expect a call on this day.

Lilly’s eyes grew wide. “The date today?”

“April 17.”

Lilly exchanged her cold tea for something stronger. She shivered. Who knows what lives just beyond our ability to understand . . .

 

 

The end

Inspiration

  (for my friends who need a little snow)

I am often asked where I get my ideas for my quips, poems and posts. In all honesty I often get them from you. I read what others write and they inspire me. I am stimulated by people, by circumstances, by life itself. I actually got the idea for one of my favourite posts from the spine of a book in a doctor’s office. I don’t remember what it said or what it was about but the three or four words tripped my curiosity. And then I wrote about the “alligator”.  It was a child referring to the elevator we had just ridden up.  I overheard a conversation about two people who had literally just passed by me on the street and it sounded like they were discussing a murder! They weren’t. But it gave me an idea for another post.

We are constantly bombarded by information. Radios, televisions, our phones, the media. All around us is a cacophony of voices that we almost don’t hear.  Constant input. But within all that noise there are gems of humour, of inspiration. Our brains are like sponges soaking up moisture that we can’t hear or feel or see. It just seeps in.  I find it difficult to turn off and some days I really want to.

At any one time I have at least three or four writing exercises going on in my brain. Stories are percolating. I’ve got one story started about the retirement plan of an old man.  He wants to commit a crime to keep himself in a nice cushy prison for his retirement.  It sounds like fun but I haven’t written it yet. Or there’s one about a multi generational ghost story told from the perspective of a five-year-old. I’m intrigued!  I have two paragraphs written.  And then there’s a story about a woman who receives a phone call and it’s a wrong number but she can’t get the caller to understand that. There’s definitely a story there… What about if she calls… Oh… This could show up next week. Stay tuned!

Do you see? Inspiration is everywhere. We just have to open our hearts and minds to hear it. Sometimes it shouts and sometimes it’s a gentle whisper on the wind. If we would just pay a little closer attention . . .

My Ark

Several years ago, there was a psychological project in one of my psych classes. It asked us to decide who you would want to share a lifeboat with. I actually don’t remember my response at the time but I’m sure it included family and friends. Nowadays I would need a bigger boat. Hence My Ark. And then I started to think a little more. I’m still gonna need a bigger boat.

So how about I change it up just a little bit more. Instead of a boat, let’s choose a world. And what kinds of people would I want to populate that world? Now the question is getting really interesting.

Of course, they’ll always be my family and friends included wherever I am. But who else? And how exactly do I classify a friend? People I care about but are not necessarily friends, I would still want them included. There are people I don’t know and are definitely not classified as friends but still I think there’s a place for them. So, let’s try to categorize this a little bit.

The world will always need its Dreamers. People to inspire us and make us look to the stars. They provide us with incentive. And then of course we will need the Scientists to help us create the perfect world. And scientists are only as good as the Workers that are able to make their ideas come to life. We will also need Engineers and Mathematicians. And Teachers to teach us the mathematics. And I think we actually need Politicians. I know it’s heresy to say that but think about it. We need people who can direct where the need is greatest. Perhaps we can come up with a different name.

We will need people who know how to make things grow and people to make us laugh. We need Doctors and Architects, Botanists and Artists, Writers, Singers, Entertainers. We need people who can play sports and those who can cook.  Every facet of life requires a different skill which requires a different person. We are all interconnected. We all need each other.

It would be easy to say let’s keep criminals off our world but how is that possible? Murderers are not born they are created. How? People commit crimes for a reason. If we take away the reason, we take away the need for the crime. Simplistic? Yes. That is why we need the Dreamers.

Of course, no world of mine would be possible without its animals. We need animals for companionship, for assistance, for food and for clothing. Remember the Bible story of Noah? I wonder what he felt like when he welcomed the mosquitoes on board his Ark? Mosquitoes are a horrible menace to us here and yet they provide a valuable service. They are food for birds, spiders and reptiles. They help to pollinate. It might actually have been a different world and perhaps not a successful one, without them.  There’s a lesson there.

We can’t pick and choose who we want to share our world with because we all have a part to play. All Of Us. This planet, this earth, this world is Our Ark. In order to make it work we all have to come together as one species: The Human Race.

 

 

 

The Domino Effect   

I wrote this back in January 2014.  I hope you don’t mind. I just couldn’t come up with a new post this week.  I hope I will be forgiven . . .

I want to say something profound and memorable.  I wanted my first full post of 2014 to be something people spoke about to each other for days and weeks.  And then I realized I had it all wrong.  It’s not about the words I use.  It’s not about how I feel about what I write.  It’s about reaching out from the isolation of my home to the world. We are not alone.  We never have been.

I’m a big believer in the importance of chance.  You meet a stranger on the street and you smile in an abstract, bored sort of way.  The person you smile at doesn’t realize you are bored and his spirits are lifted just a tiny bit and when he gets home to his wife, he’s kinder.  His wife spends a little longer getting dressed that night because she’s starting to believe she’s beautiful because her husband was kind.  She speaks gently to her child that night and he goes to sleep feeling loved.  The next day he goes to school and does exceptionally well on a test because he feels good about himself.  His teacher is thrilled that her problem student has done well and she feels better about herself thinking she’s the reason.  She goes home that night . . . All of this happened because one woman smiled at a stranger.  It’s a domino effect.

We live on this little blue world made of dirt and water and people.  There are a lot of us.  There are wars and hunger, violence and apathy.  Every day we deal with our own perceived inadequacies, our own diseases.  But there’s one thing we must never forget: somewhere, someone is in much worse shape than we are.  Somewhere, someone is watching their life blood seep through a gaping wound, alone and frightened.  Somewhere, someone is watching as a loved one slowly succumbs to a painful and deadly disease.  A woman is raped and beaten, killed.  A man is shot dead by a stranger for his empty wallet.  A woman feels the hands of a lover on her throat tightening. Children are shot by children, men and women are tortured, planes crash, people are dying of hunger, disease and greed.

You have a choice.  I have a choice.  We can give in, be victims and wallow in our own self-pity.  Or we can take what quality of life we have, embrace it, relish it, enhance it if we can, and live.  Reach out to the stranger next to you and smile.  We are all in this together