What do I stand for??

It seems of late, the things I am noticing that I want to document are not just the moments I share with others, but moments I seem to have alone. The part I like best about my age is the self-awareness and willingness to take a hard look at myself and enjoy the things I am learning about myself, even those that are ugly and really suck to realize.

Lately, I’ve been really confused. I’m realizing I have made a huge mess of things and have absolutely no idea how to fix it, how to clean it up, or how to abandon it if that is what I need to do. It has rattled me a bit, because I thought I was on the right path, headed in the right direction, but more and more I’m realizing that I have been settling and living a lie.

It makes me question what it is I really stand for. Then, I start thinking of all the huge things that I want to stand for and it is overwhelming. I feel like I’m drowning when I try to process it all. The big question, “Who am I?” is really one that takes decades to figure out.

I don’t usually back away from the hard and challenging things. I’ve have faced some hard battles and demons and been the victor many times. Some, I have faced totally leaning on God, and others I have fought myself. (In case you are wondering, the ones holding onto God’s back are much easier to fight. Why I try to fight some of these whoppers on my own is beyond me. Mostly, I’m sure, is because I’m stubborn and stupid.) But, this huge question, "What do I stand for?" has me running scared.

So, because I’m trying to bit this off in smaller pieces, I started looking at the little things I stand for at the moment, and the little things I want to stand for. Then, I heard a song that seemed to lay it out almost perfectly for me.. The lyrics are:

When you ask me, who I am
What is my vision?
And do I have a plan?
Where is my strength?
Have I nothing to say?
I hear the words in my head, but I push them away

'Cause I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me
I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe there's a better place
I don't know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway

And I don't know
What tomorrow brings
The road less traveled
Will it set us free?
Cause we are taking it slow
These tiny legacies
I don't try and change the world
But what will you make of me?

'Cause I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me
I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe there's a better place
I don't know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway

With the slightest of breezes
We fall just like leaves
As the rain washes us from the ground
We forget who we are
We can't see in the dark
And we quickly get lost in the crowd

'Cause I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me
I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe there's a better place
I don't know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway
(I Stand, Idina Menzel)

I wish I had the passion and fire I see in some of those I care about. To be able to be so strong in their beliefs, opinions, logic. All that intelligence, fire and power behind their convictions. I too have that kind of fire, but I seem to focus more on matters of the heart than matters of the world.

My strongest opinion at the moment is the belief in the power to change. I battle the fear of the unknown more than any other thing in my life. Yes, there are times I take huge steps back to find the place of peace when it gets too uncomfortable, but I don’t stay there long. I can’t, nor do I want to. To really change I have to keep moving in the direction I want. Every road has a predetermined destination. Standing still is worthless.

Nothing will drive me to distraction more than someone staying in the victim role, or hearing how a person cannot change. It's such crap. You just have to want it. I do have the power to change. I can change myself for the better and change the patterns of the past. Change my life. Be healthy, whole. The trick is finding the courage to deal with all of the consequences. Which, is another matter altogether.

For now, I’m focusing on the fact that I do have the power to make it happen.

The Cage

I was reminded of a story I heard about a tiger tonight. In the story, a Bengal tiger was stolen from the wild as a cub and sold to a small traveling circus. He was kept in a cage most of the time. In the cage he was fed, and watered, but also abused, starved, electrocuted, disciplined and tortured. But, the confines of the cage were what he knew and found comfort in. After a few years the tiger was rescued and sent to a wildlife refuge. There he was cared for, given medical attention and even a little love from human hands, something he had never known. As he healed and grew strong, the handlers moved his cage to the opening of a large enclosure. The enclosure was similar to his native habitat, it contained grass, trees, sunshine and even a small river. The opening of the cage was placed at the door of the enclosure, so the tiger could see, hear and smell all it had to offer. The tiger stayed in the cage.

The handlers tried for weeks to lure him out. Finally, after putting his food and water outside of the cage for days, the tiger slowly and cautiously stepped out of the cage and onto grass for the first time in his life. It was easy to tell how uncomfortable the tiger was in his new environment. The grass felt funny under his feet and he lifted his paws high to avoid the odd feeling. After he had eaten, he ventured out a bit further eventually rolling on the grass and even basking in the sun. After a short while, he got up and returned to the cage where he stayed. Each day he ventured out, staying and exploring the enclosure a bit longer, eventually learning to play in the water. Sadly, as good as the sun, grass, water and freedom felt, he always returned to the cage he knew so well.

After almost a year, his handlers decided to cut off access to the cage to encourage him to find safety and even joy in the enclosure. He ventured out for his daily romp and the handlers pulled the cage back and closed the door to the enclosure. Almost immediately, the tiger began to become agitated. Pacing, rocking, roaring in front of the door where his precious cage had been. He laid down, miserable. The handlers did all they could to encourage him to find some peace in the enclosure, but the longer he was denied access to the cage, the more agitated and dangerous he became. Eventually, he stopped eating and drinking, became self-destructive by chewing and scratching himself, leaving the handlers no choice but to give him access to the cage once more. He spent the rest of his life giving himself some access to the joys of the enclosure, the grass, water, sun and freedom. But, always returned to cold, metal square he knew and despite the history, found comfort in.

This beautiful, brave creature was completely captive to the familiarity of the confines of the cage.

When relaying the story to a friend of mine I couldn't stop the tears, because I realized just how much like the tiger I am. It frustrates and angers me to no end. Absolutely beyond measure.

I want so very badly to be brave, to enjoy all that life has to offer, laughter, true love, walks on the beach, deep conversation with close friends and loved ones, grass, sun, playing in the the water.... Freedom. To let the door to the cage shut and live life out in the open, with my arms stretched out, taking it all in, feel the joy and take the risks willingly and never look back at it. But, the realization I am having tonight, is that I will never be able to. Not completely.

I will never really be able to give up the cage and all it encompasses. The fear, the doubt, the belief that I'm not worth it, don't deserve it, that I will always be broken in some capacity. The parts I hate most about myself and how I deal with things, will always be there. I'll run back to the cage when any small inconsistency pops up in an ideal situation, or I'm hurt in a way that surprises me.. or as small as getting stuck with a rose thorn forgetting they exist because the beauty of the gift of the flower overwhelmed me. I'll run to the cage when dealing with the potentials that life brings. The potential of getting hurt, of losing family members to illness, and a variety of other things.

Like the tiger, the cage is my safety net. I can walk further from it, stay out of it for longer periods, but deep down, I will always need it. It is part of who I am. My past, present and future. I can't help but feel it doesn't do anything but make me a coward and I hate that.

I know that there are those that love me that want and believe that they can help me give it up and move forward. But, the reality is that they can't. Circumstance, appropriateness and capability are all part of the reason why, but the truth is, I'm on my own with this one. I love them for it. I know they love me, and want all the things for me that I want for myself. That gives me an incredible amout of comfort in all the frustration and anger.

As hard as realizing something like this is, I'm grateful too. There are many that go through life never really knowing themselves, or worse, trying to hide who they are. They never really learn their capabilities to love, change, or accept who they are completely. Or, they are never willing to believe that those who love them really do accept them for all they are.

I am not one of those people.
That alone just may make it all worth it.


True heroes are such a rare thing these days. I remember growing up loving Wonder Woman, and running down the street like mad pretending to be the Bionic Woman with the neighbor boys all attempting to be the Six Million Dollar Man. But, really considering someone to be a true hero to me was hard at that age. It meant having to trust and trust did not come easy for me then. (Still doesn’t, but I’m getting much better.)

With my birthday approaching I can’t help but think of my favorite cousin Kathy. Our birthdays are just 3 days apart, so no matter where we were, we always tried to contact each other around that time. It is so painful to realize that I can no longer just pick up the phone and say hello, hear her laugh and talk about her latest adventures.

11 years older than I, she was someone I always looked up to. We had an amazing connection. At family gatherings, you could always find me by her side. She never made me feel like an annoying child like many of her siblings and other cousins. I was always included in every conversation as an equal party when she was involved. In many ways she was the big sister I never had but always wanted. I was her “Monnie Ann” and that was all I needed. My happiest childhood memories almost all include her.

There were times in my life, I had to keep my distance as our methods for fighting similar demons were very different. Her fight included gang involvement, drugs, and abusive relationships. A lifetime of running and bad choices. I remember one drunken night in her kitchen very soon after my first husband abandoned our marriage. I was lost and trying to find some direction. She and I started playing a dangerous game of comparing traumas. I knew we had similar experiences and thought we were on similar levels. What I heard of her experiences as a child, teen and even a married woman rocked me to the core. It still rattles me a bit to think about her words as I write this. Her pain was unending. All of her choices made sense that night. Although I constantly worried about her, I always made sure she knew how much I loved her.

Our birthday conversation in 2005 was a tough one. She was total wreck. Addicted to a variety or drugs, in a really bad relationship, and living in Las Vegas. She was severely depressed as her beloved son, having had enough, had left her to move back home away from the chaos. For the first time in a long time I was settled, content. I had been working hard at putting a lot of my demons to rest and it showed. We talked for hours about getting clean, healing and working it all through. I begged her to come home, get clean and heal. But, she wasn’t ready yet. It was the last lengthy conversation I ever had with her. There were a few short calls, but nothing more.

In early 2006, my phone rang at 2 am. Kathy had been found dead in her car that afternoon, in a parking lot. She had finally left her deadbeat, long term boyfriend, packed her bags and was finally coming home. Clean and sober for the first time in years, she was ready to begin her journey on the other side of the pain. Her heart gave out after a lifetime of drugs, attempting to protect herself with huge weight gains, weight loss from the drugs and fighting the battles of her memories, trauma and self-loathing. She was just months from her 50th birthday.

I was awakened last night by an odd dream. Really more of a memory. Those can be frightening at times since usually it is some traumatic memory attempting to surface and getting a grip and facing it as an adult is not always easy. When memories come, the feelings and body responses that usually accompany them are those of the moment the original fear was experienced, but this was different.

I was little, maybe 5 or 6, and Kathy was holding my hand. She was holding me behind her back, her legs in a wide stance. I do not remember the circumstance nor do I care to. I just remember feeling safe at that moment, knowing she was protecting me. I let my mind run and more images of her watching over me came into my head. Many I had never ever realized before. At that moment, I knew she is one of my true heroes. Her presence in my life is greatly missed.

I think of her so often and pray that she is in heaven and finally knowing a peace she never knew here on earth.

Kathy, your Monnie Ann misses you.

Who's fabulous??

There are many who can take a compliment and genuinely accept it for what it is worth. I would really like to be one of those people. It drives those who care about me crazy to hear me devalue or deflect kind words with humor or sarcasm. It isn't that I don't enjoy a compliment, in fact, I love them. It just isn't always comfortable to hear.

Along with my fears, I attempt to also hide my insecurities. I have to chuckle as I write that because I also wear my heart on my sleeve and it is simple for those who know me to know what I'm feeling the moment I feel it. My fear, anger, hurt, joy, love, happiness are all so exposed, so the notion of hiding anything is really a big joke, but I do like the genuineness of that. It is one of the things I like best about myself and who I am.

The insecurities are another matter. After a lifetime of seeing myself in a certain way, dealing with issues and attempting to brave a traumatic past, insecurities just seem comfortable. In a crazy, broken way, I think they keep me grounded. I know them, I trust them, they are familiar. Often, because I am comfortable with them, they are easier to believe than the compliment someone may be attempting to give me. Just like that line in Pretty Woman.. "The bad stuff is easier to believe." It really is easy to push away the acknowledgements and focus on the insecurities. Which I'm realizing are just lies I seem to tell myself.

Today, someone I love seemed determined to make me really hear a compliment. At first I could feel the urge to deflect, but because of the nature of our relationship, I knew the words were genuine and I did my best to accept the words even though it made me very uncomfortable. But, the more I listened to the words, the more I realized this is how he really sees me. How is that possible? Don't all those crazy, broken parts of me show through? How is any of that lovable? Even likable?

The more he spoke, the more I found myself really wanting to hear and believe every word he said. I wanted to be the person he was talking about. Not broken, strong, loving. Fabulous.

With love and support like that, it just might be possible to put those familiar insecurities aside and venture into the scary unknown and actually believe it.

Fear and Faith

Fear is one of those things people don't really talk about. We are sometimes willing to discuss our daily fears, like the project we have worked for months on not being accepted, being gossiped about by co-workers, being embarrassed by something silly that slips out of your mouth in a moment of stupidity. But, the big fears big we have, we keep close to our hearts and seem to guard fiercely. It is almost as if bringing those fears into the light will expose the very core of who we are. That completely vulnerable center that we protect from harm at all costs.

There are many things that scare me. From rats and mice (yes, I'm one of those girly girls that will jump on a table, holding up my skirt to avoid them,) to close spaces, to being rejected. My deepest fears are those that I don't always discuss openly either, but when they come to light or the potential to have to live them becomes a close reality, it is difficult to keep them from constantly rolling around in your head and heart.

Having had a medical scare in the recent past, I'm not a stranger to the wondering and waiting that occurs as the process unfolds. Thinking about upcoming procedures, waiting for test results, and letting your mind go to the worst case scenarios in the middle of the night. The fear of the unknown can be a bit hard to control. You do your best to stay busy, stay positive, productive and not focus on the fear that is completely consuming you. I had hoped I would never have to experience that again. I guess I'm just not that lucky.

I'll admit I'm not proud of my first reaction. The very thought of going through something like that again was a bit much for me to take after a really bad day. I walked along the beach gathering my thoughts and trying to get a grip. I left feeling better, but still overcome by fear.
In the morning after speaking to several of my close friends and loved ones, I realized what a fool I had been. What had happened to my faith? My faith in the people who love me. The new ones in my life and those who have supported me before. My faith in my doctor, who was right there for me every step of the way the first time. But, most of all, my faith in God.

It has been in that faith where I have healed, loved, trusted, believed and drawn an incredible of strength from. The moment I took a deep breath, and leaned back into it, the peace came, along with the positive attitude and the strength to take this on again. Someone that I love dearly reminded me that God's love is perfect. That there is a plan and purpose in everything and I just need to relax. Trust. Have faith.

I just needed to remember.

Celebration of Life

It isn't often that we truly get to celebrate the life of a loved one. Sure, we have birthday parties, gifts at Christmas, BBQs, nights out, etc, with those we love. But, how often do we really celebrate those we love? It is hard to realize that it really doesn't happen until we lose someone.

We lost a very close and dear friend last October to a horrible battle with cancer. He was a lover of life, people and was a a prime example of living life to the fullest. The way he touched his students and inspired them to love learning. Passing on his love of surfing and turning a group of students into a winning surf team. Taking his family to see the world or taking chances in his last days to serve the God he loved. He was one of those friends who always lifted you up, and wanted what was best for you, and was willing to tell you what he thought whether you wanted to hear it or not. His zest for life was infectious.

Tonight we celebrated his life. A lover of the ocean and the surf, he wanted a simple paddle out. To have his ashes spread in his beloved ocean. What began as a simple ceremony with just some close friends and family became a huge celebration. Standing on that beach and watching the army of surfboards arrive was nothing less than touching. Groups and groups of students, teachers, parents and friends. All coming to celebrate the life of one man and how he touched them.

I stood on the beach with my camera in hand at sunset, watching all of those people head out to the break line to send our friend off on his final surf. They entered the water separate, at their own pace, but at one point they all gathered together, in the distance under the setting sun. Spreading ashes, laying flowers on the water as the waves passed around them. I couldn't help but smile. There was no one who could motivate a group to work together like Keith Michael, and here, as we celebrated his life, he was still motivating them to work together.

I had expected this evening to be one of sadness, tears and a final goodbye. I was so very wrong. It was a night of laughter, joy, reflection and community. I was reminded as I watched his wife, one of the few people on this earth I call a close friend of mine, hug their daughter in the surf, of just how precious each moment we have with the people that we care for really is, and it reinforces to me how important it is to me to keep looking for those pure moments. After they parted, I joined my friend at the shore and hugged her tight. Reminding her just how much she meant to me.

I want to remember what it was like to be in Keith's presence when he was on a roll, living life to the fullest. You couldn't wait to join the ride. I read recently that people may not remember what it is you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. That is how I want to be remembered. Celebrating what the people in my life mean to me, and making them feel so very special.

In the Company of Women

Growing up and in my early adult years I always believed that the value of girlfriends was overrated. I did not have many girlfriends growing up and the few I did have always seemed to be the type that were competitive, mean, catty and I spent way too much time healing from the betrayal. The result was preferring the company of the male species.

As a kid in my neighborhood, the streets were filled with boys that always accepted me. Their simple way of dealing with issues intrigued me immensely.
-Have a disagreement
-Beat the heck out of each other
-Go grab a soda from the store.
Girls were so different. We held grudges, gossiped about each other, said things that meant to hurt. Badly. The battles could go on for weeks, months and in some cases, years.

Through my teens I was much more careful in choosing friends. I did not have many and most were male. I was guarded and didn't always open up, but there are still girlfriends from high school and beyond that I happily stay in touch with. Connecting with them from time to time is like going home, but there is no regular contact.

It wasn't until recently that I really began to understand the true value of having girlfriends. Slowly, a small group of women captured my heart and I relaxed enough to let them in. Let them know me and got to know them in return. The connection I feel from these ladies is one I never expected, but have come to enjoy more than I ever thought possible. The support, help, friendship and love is still difficult to accept whole-heartedly at times, because of my own fears and insecurities, but these relationships are not at all demanding and there is a mutual respect of each other's hearts, circumstances and life. It is special to spend time with them one on one, but to be able to just relax and spend time as a group is a very rare treat. One, I got the opportunity to enjoy this evening.

I experienced a large letdown today that left me hurting and feeling like a fool. I thought about avoiding the evening and just going home and shutting down for a bit, but as I drove, I thought about being in the company of those women, and made the decision to attend the gathering. Halfway through the evening, I looked around the room at these women who I had spent the last few hours laughing with, teasing, crying with and even getting angry with, and the moment came.

There are few times when we as people feel truly accepted for who we are. Or, at least accepted for the parts we are willing to show others. Sitting around that table and looking at these women I happily call my closest friends, I felt accepted. My presence was desired there. Not for anything I could give them, but simply because I'm me, and as the conversations flowed for the remainder of the evening I was grateful for the blessing of each one of them in my life.

Yes, there are still times where I prefer the ease and simplicity of my male friends, but the value of my girlfriends is nothing less than precious.

A Child's Chatter

There are certain sounds that bring us great joy. The sound of the waves crashing on the beach, the rain on the roof, a loved one's sigh of contentment are just a few of my favorites.

But, as a parent, sounds that might drive other adults to distraction, are simply nothing less than pure joy. As a new mom, for some crazy reason, I loved the sound of my baby crying. It meant she was healthy, normal. As she got older, certain sounds she made would literally give me such joy, I would tremble. Listening to her little voice sing every Disney princess song written, her sweet giggle and belly laugh, feeling her little hands on my face to look in me in the eye and say "Momma, I love you."

Now that she is a teen, I look at this tall, beautiful girl-woman and am overwhelmed at the person she is becoming. The sweet sounds of her fairy tale songs and imaginary friends have been replaced by attitude, opinion and quiet defiance. The sense of pride I have in her as I watch her grow is overwhelming.

She just returned from a 4 week visit with her Father. So happy to be home, her excitement is expressed in the endless amount of words tumbling out of her at an astonishing rate. It is dizzying to listen to and attempt to follow. From the realization that her absent father really might not be the prince she wanted him to be, to the joys of being at home in her own bed. The chatter has not stopped since she arrived.

Coming off the realization from yesterday and making a conscience effort to look for those pure moments I long for, I discovered one this morning. Listening to her chat about all the joys of being home. The smells, comfort, and familiarity of home, to no one in particular. I couldn't help but smile, especially after looking at the dog cock his head at excitement in her voice.

At her age I was already inhibited. Held my feelings in, swallowed the pain, pushed down the joy to keep things on an even keel. Yet here was this child, my child, not holding anything back. Her arms outstretched and her face full of the sheer joy of being home among all the things she knows and loves. So different than I was.

The moment was so clear. I had made things different for her, and those little changes resulted in my daughter's ability to simply express how she feels. Openly, honestly, genuinely. For this mom, it doesn't get any better than that.

Suddenly, my child's chatter has been added to my list of certain sounds that bring me great joy.

Riding on the train

Riding the train home was a new experience for me. A lover of my car and the freedom of driving where I want, when I want has become a need rather than a luxury. But, out of convenience for my family, I agreed to take the train home today. I wasn't angry or resentful. To be honest, I was thankful for the change and the chance to experience something new.

It is rare for a moment to catch me off guard. I have always had a boy scout mentality. Always be prepared. I can't control the situation, but I can be prepared for it. A worrier by nature and always trying to figure out what lies ahead, being caught off guard is rare. It happens, but I avoid it at all costs when possible.

There's no way I could have been prepared for the moment I saw today, or the way it effected me. It was the first time, in a very long time, that I was completely swept away in a moment that was not even mine. It was completely captivating and I don't want to lose the emotion it brought. So, I'm writing it down. Hopefully, it will become one of many, now that I am aware of the impact these moments can have on me.

The crowded train was full of people and as usual I was on the phone. Filling the empty space with converstions with someone close to me. After a few stops it became impossible to hear and I had to say goodbye. It was then that I noticed them. Just a few feet from where I stood, holding on to the rail as the train rocked me gently from side to side.

They couldn't have been younger than 17 or older than 22. She was sitting in the window seat, he on the aisle. He was leaning into her, his head on her shoulder, her arms wrapped around his neck cradling him into her. They were not moving, except for the occasionally intertwining of fingers, or stroking of exposed skin on each other's arms. Both of their eyes closed, just lost in the moment of being close, completely oblivious to their surroundings. The look of peace on their dark faces made it hard not to stare.

It was such an intimate moment. Not at all sexual in nature, but watching them made me uncomfortable. They were so very beautiful. Beyond description. I was witnessing a naked, pure moment between these two young people, surrounded by strangers. I longed for my camera to capture it. To burn the beautiful image somewhere, so that it wasn't just a passing thing. A moment of chance. And even though it effected me so strongly, the image is fading in my memory as I type these words, and I find it frustrating.

I watched them for a long time behind my sunglasses. Looking around to see if anyone else happened to see the beauty I was looking at. But, the moment these two shared seemed to be lost on the people around them. Mothers disciplining children, teens lost in conversation, young men bouncing their heads to the rhythm of the noise coming from their headphones, seniors clicking their tongues as they judged everyone around them. How could it be that I was the only one who noticed, the only one effected by it?

As their stop was announced and the train approached the station, she gently rubbed his forehead and the two of them stood, holding hands sharing smiles and small kisses as they walked off the train. Without thinking, I picked up my things and moved into the seat they had just occupied. When I realized what I had done, I had to laugh out loud at myself. A complete hopeless romantic, always dreaming of the fairy tale was somehow hoping that by sitting in that seat, some of the magic of that moment, their moment, would rub off. Silly notion for a woman my age, in the circumstance I am in. Absolutely ridiculous.

Yet there I sat, and I couldn't fight the tears. I was so saddened by what I realized. I have taken looking for, creating and sharing those moments for granted. I have pushed them aside because I was busy, or feeling responsible for something else, or even because those precious moments seemed an inconvenience at the time. Even worse, avoided them for fear of the pain that may come later from taking down the walls that protect my heart. I remembered that I have recently shared some naked, pure moments with a loved one very similar to what those young people shared, but when I look at where we are today, I realize the same pattern has ensued. The moments are shorter, life has gotten in the way. The emotion may still be there, but the expression has gotten buried in the hustle and bustle. It breaks my heart. I long for what those two young people have. Do they realize what they have and how very beautiful it is? Is it lost on the simplicity of their youth? Do they realize how blessed they are to have the freedom, circumstance, strength and courage to love so openly without reservations?

But, even in all the sadness and the emotion seeing this moment caused. I still can't help but feel hope. Hope that as long as I keep my eyes open, my heart open, I can see and experience more of those moments with the people that I love. Not push them away because I'm scared, guarded, busy. To make them a priority, but without forcing or rushing them. Perhaps, even have the courage and strength to create them, rather than just letting them come on their own.

I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I witnessed that moment for a purpose. If anything, maybe it is just to remember how precious they are and not to take them for granted. To be brave and take them all in. I'm not sure. But, I do know that I want to remember them as they occur. I want to remember how I'm effected by them, and how they strengthen the connection I have to those I love. I'm hoping this space is filled with them, so I never take them for granted again.