Thursday, November 28, 2013

Words - A Reason for Thanksgiving

Words 

"Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap." ~George Bernard Shaw

Since I let Wednesday slip away without posting last night, I'm writing this early on Thanksgiving morning. So of course, it is about being thankful. I have so many blessings to count, that I could write them down all day and then nobody would get to eat those mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese I need to cook. The turkey is in the oven and I made the cranberry sauce and chess cake last night. Stay tuned for my very simple chess cake recipe - as long as you're not dieting. :)

But last night as I got ready to go to bed I was thinking about what I could have written if I hadn't forgotten it was Wednesday night and the thought came to me that I was thankful for words. I am so very thankful that I have been given, in some small measure at least, a gift for words. I like words. I like to put them together to make a story. I like reading the way other people put them together to make stories. I like hearing people speak those words to tell a story. I like the sound of words when you read a story aloud to a child whether the words are ones in the dictionary or some arrangement of letters that make up nonsensical words for fun. 

A Big Dream

I am so thankful that I have been able to live my childhood dream of being a writer. That was such a big dream for a little girl growing up on a tobacco farm who had never even met anyone who was a writer. It was such a big dream that even after I had several books published I had a hard time claiming the title of writer out loud. It was as if I thought it might vanish if I became too sure of it. Last Sunday at church we were being thankful for our beautiful fellowship hall that seemed an impossible dream for our little church when we first thought about building it. But now it's built and paid for and a blessing to our church. There's no dream too big for our Lord. 

So that's how it was with that little farm girl who did become a writer with the help of the Lord. Now all these many years of writing later, I can say, without hesitation, I am a writer. I have been blessed by the characters who have come to life in my imagination. And I have been blessed by the readers who have also let my characters come to life in their imaginations. Words are a writer's tool. And I am thankful for those tools. 

"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for." ~Ray Bradbury

A Simple Recipe Everybody Likes

Now here's that Chess Cake recipe:


1 C butter or margarine
2 C brown sugar, packed
1 C granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 C self-rising flour
1 C chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and flour and then the nuts. Bake in a 13 x 9 inch dish at 350 degrees until lightly brown - approximately 35 minutes. Slice into squares and enjoy. 

Now to Announce the Winner

Melanie Backus is the winner of Jan Watson's autographed novels, Skip Rock Shallows and Tattler's Branch. I'll be in touch, Melanie. Thanks to all of you who commented on Jan's post and on the ones since. A special thanks to those of you who have offered encouraging words and shared your own journeys down the hard path of caring for a loved one with dementia. I'm thankful for each of you. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!



Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Saddest Disease - Dementia


"I want to go home." That's my mother's constant desire these days as her dementia continues to worsen. She's not talking about heaven as some people might think. She's quick to say she's not ready to move up to heaven just yet. Most of the time, the home she's talking about is her mother's home where she grew up. This is a picture of Mom when she was around sixteen or seventeen with that mother she wants to see and her older sister, Evelyn. Mom's on the right and Evelyn is on the left. Evelyn went to business school after high school and she looks very business like in this photo. 
 
Sometimes, but not as often, the home my mother wants to go to is the home when I was a kid. At those times, she might be thinking my sisters and I are young and playing out in the yard. She needs to watch us and cook supper for my father. She can't understand why people keep telling her she is at home when she recognizes nothing around her. She no longer remembers where the bathroom is in this house where she's been living for over twenty-five years. The furniture is new to her, even those pieces that she's had since her early married days. She has no idea where all the knickknacks sitting around on the shelves came from. She's forgotten how and where she gathered them or inherited them when others in the family passed on.
 
Harder to explain, she thinks the pictures in the magazines are real at times and the people on television are actually right there in the room with us. She gets irritated at them when they keep talking and ignore her. Last week when I was here, I started watching the UK ballgame with her. By the end of the first half she was saying she thought it was time for those boys (the ballplayers) to go to bed. Usually by the time darkness falls, she's tired and resigned to staying at this house one more night.
 
I've quit trying to tell her that she is at home and just say we have to stay at this house. It's nice and warm. Has all the conveniences and yes, it does have bedrooms and her gown is in one of the bedrooms. That's always a relief for her. Of course, there have been times when she refused to put on her gown and wore her clothes to bed. I assume so that she would be ready to go when somebody finally remembered to show up to take her "home."
 
At first it was difficult for me to lie so blatantly to my mother. But now I say things like Dad's working late in the fields. Perhaps picking corn by the harvest moon. Or he's getting the hay in before the rain. We tell her that her mother is visiting relatives out of town. I tell her that we'll have to wait until tomorrow to go "home." When she says she drove the car down this morning or was just at the grocery store, I nod and pretend that very thing happened. When she says Ann came and got the kids, I say, that was good. 
 
I lie over and over again. But as I wrote on here once before, the truth no longer matters to my mother. She has lost all the truths of her life except for that dream of going back to when she was young. To when she was needed. To when life was fresh and easier. To when she can almost remember how things should be. She doesn't remember that time right either. It gets all mixed up with what's happening now and even what she sees on the TV when it's on. We often have to avoid or turn off the news so she won't identify with the bad things happening. 
 
So we continue taking it one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time. And it is so very sad. I think it is harder for my sisters and me than her other caretakers because we know what Mom has lost. We know what we have lost. And we're sorry, so very sorry to have lost our mother this way. We still have her with us, but we've lost the mother who was our friend, our biggest supporter, our encourager, and maybe the mother that someday we will wish we could go "home" to be with.
 
I don't write about Mom too often here because it is so sad. But I know many of you have prayed for Mom and for me, and I appreciate that so much. Prayer has been the "medicine" that has worked best for Mom when things were really going south. So thank you all.
 
On a lighter note, keep in mind you can check out the Bookfun Network site and leave an answer there to one of my easy questions for a chance to win a copy of my book, Christmas at Harmony Hill. More opportunities to win the book or other prizes will be showing up so stay tuned or sign up for my newsletter if you haven't already. Also, you can still leave a comment here until Wednesday to throw your name in the hat for Jan Watson's books.
 
Thanks for reading! Hope you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Love, Trust, Tolerance and Tenacity - Threads in the Fabric of Life


"The heart of marriage is memories; and if the two of you happen to have the same ones and can savor your reruns, then your marriage is a gift from the gods." (Bill Cosby)

The picture is fuzzy, but it is the first moment of my married life. We got married in the little country church my husband's family attended. We still go to that church these many years later. That's where a lot of those shared memories that we can rerun happened as we got up every Sunday and went to church, first as a couple and then as a family when the children came along. 

But of course, we have many other memories too. Working on the farm together. Figuring out how we were going to make ends meet when the refrigerator died or the car quit running. Nursing our kids through all the childhood fevers and illnesses. Sitting in countless church pews while Darrell sang with various Southern Gospel quartets through the years. Building a house and then building on more rooms. Watching ballgames. Freezing at track meets and band competitions. Being proud when our kids graduated high school and college. Sharing the ups and downs of a writer's life. Seeing our kids find good partners to begin their own married lives. Caring for our parents as they grew older. Grieving for loved ones who went on ahead of us. Feeling blessed each time a grandchild was born. Sharing family reunions and holidays. Celebrating anniversaries. 

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” (Paul Sweeney)

We just celebrated one of those anniversaries yesterday. My romantic husband sent me flowers, but I had to laugh when I opened up the little card to read the note. All it said was "Dear." I guess when you've been married as long as we have, the words run out. What I really thought perhaps had happened is that the flower shop people got distracted and forgot to finish the note. But no, that wasn't it. My first comment about the words running out is closer to the truth. Darrell says he told them to put "Happy anniversary, dear." But the card already had Happy Anniversary printed on it, so all they needed to add was the dear. Made for a few smiles and who knows? Maybe another one of those memories that will get rerun at times. 

Do you have some of those rerun memories? Stories that have been told a zillion times but one more telling is still fine. You know, like the day we went out to get a cow trying to have a calf to the barn and Darrell goes to the barn to call the cow from there and leaves me to head the cow that way. The cow was having none of it and decided to charge me instead. A bit bruised and battered later, I inform Darrell if he wants the cow in the barn he'll have to herd her there himself. So many stories. So many years. So many threads that make the fabric of our life together. 

"Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years." (Simone Sigornet)

Thanks for reading and thank those of you who wished us Happy Anniversary yesterday. We even got a card in the mail from my 97 year old church friend, Loretta. She is an amazing woman who has five children of her own and heaven knows how many grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, but she remembers our anniversary and my grandchildren. And on top of that she's one of those prayer warriors that unless you really want it to happen, you'd best not ask her to pray about it. 

Remember, you still have time to leave a comment here to have a chance to win Jan Watson's books. New comments on a new post gets you a new entry. I'll draw for the winner on November 27. Also you can throw your name in the hat over on Thoughts of a Sojourner to win a copy of Christmas at Harmony Hill. Check out the rules Mark posts after his review of my book. Heather, Gideon and Sophrena are making the rounds on a blog tour now with Christmas at Harmony Hill. So the reviews will start showing up and I'll hope for good ones. 
 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Books Are Still In Demand

Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King
 
That's obviously a magic a lot of readers are still looking for as they came out to the Kentucky Book Fair in large numbers yesterday to find some of those magical stories. And most of them did carry a book made of paper out the door with them. I did have a few are your books on Kindle questions, but I also had a great time signing books for readers to carry away with them. Some were buying them as Christmas gifts. Sometimes for themselves. Books are great gifts to buy for yourself.

I had a great time sharing a table with fellow Anderson Countian, Jennifer Johnson. Jennifer and I are here posing for a picture, but we both have some to learn about publicity photos. :) Note that neither one of us thought about making sure our hands weren't covering up the titles of our books. I took another photo with Virginia Smith and Allie Pleiter that was posted on Facebook. They carefully held their books so that their hands weren't covering up the titles or the cover. So live and learn. This was Jennifer's first Kentucky Book Fair even though she's been writing and publishing for a number of years. She enjoyed meeting readers and talking to her students and former students when they stopped by her table. She teaches seventh grade and actually has one of my granddaughters in her class this year. She was a great table companion. You can check out her books at her website.
 
 
I love Book Fair. I love meeting readers and talking to other book lovers like me. I like seeing the kids carrying around new books like they've been given a prize. I like how there are so many different kinds of books at the Book Fair. There were histories and mysteries. Travel books, calendars and kids' books. Inspirational fiction like mine and Jennifer's. Then you could take home some spooky stories by my buddies, Roberta Simpson Brown and Lonnie Brown, and ghost stories by storyteller and friend, Thomas Freese.
 
Thomas is also an artist with wood. Check out the neat pins he's wearing. Here's a close up of them for you. I love the mini-tombstone that reads, "I told you my feet were killing me." Thomas is always smiling and someday I'm going to get to hear him tell those stories in person. Here's his website link if you want to check out more about him. 
 
 
But back to the fair. Santa Claus was there and so was bestselling author, Sue Grafton. Coaches Rick Pitino and Joe B. Hall showed up to sign books. And of course there were UK books for the Big Blue fans. Dave Shuffett was there with his golden retriever. My grandkids, along with a few hundred others, got to give the sweet dog a pat. And then Woody, the dachshund writer who has a little help from his friend, Leigh Ann Florence, was signing books with his paw. I got to take a photo with Woody and it's on my Facebook page. I posted one of me with Santa too. I could have given him a long list from all the books I'd have liked to take home from the Fair.
 
So, from all appearances yesterday, it seems that books and readers are still doing fine in the state of Kentucky at the Book Fair.

"I don't believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book." ~J.K. Rowling 

Jan Watson was at the Fair yesterday too. Remember, you can be in a drawing to win autographed copies of her latest releases, Skip Rock Shallows and Tattler's Branch by leaving a comment on a post here before November 27. Those are the books Jan had at the Fair yesterday and the people who carried them home are in for some good reads.

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Meet Jan Watson and Win Her Books



My Friend, Jan 

"Watson's success lies in her ability to create characters that are endearing and timeless. . . ." Romantic Times Magazine.
 
One of the best things about writing in the inspirational market has been the friends I’ve made of other inspirational writers. One of those friends is Jan Watson who also lives here in Kentucky and writes historical Kentucky novels. So sit back and let me tell you a little about my friend, Jan

Jan Watson was a registered nurse and peri-natal loss counselor before she retired and began a second career as a writer. She got a great start by winning the 2004 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest for her first novel, Troublesome CreekShe's won many awards since then including being voted 2012 Best Kentucky Author by the readers of Kentucky Living Magazine. Her books are set in the Appalachian Mountains and have a great mix of history, romance and suspense. Jan says that while she has always loved books, she never had the dream to write a book of her own the way so many writers, including yours truly, did. But then she remembered a story her grandmother told her once about a terrible flash flood that swept away a baby whose body was never found. Thoughts of this baby stayed with Jan for fifty years before she decided to save her, if only in a fictional story. 

Troublesome Creek and More

After she began to toy with writing a book about that baby, the first three sentences of what became Troublesome Creek came to her as she waited in a drive-thru line at McDonalds: “Girl! You’d better get to the house. If your mam catches you in that creek again she’ll skin you alive.” When the words wouldn’t stop coming after that and she was scribbling them down on any and every scrap of paper she could find, she knew she was going to write that story. Turns out, that story became more stories as she kept following her characters down their life paths. Her first series about that baby and her family include Troublesome Creek, Willow Springs, and Torrent Falls. I’m sure you’re noting the water connection in all the titles. 

Jan’s Loyal Writing Companion

Jan and I are both dog lovers. That gives us even more to talk about than writing. Her husband brought Maggie, a Jack Russell, home to her when the puppy was a few weeks old. Several months later, they realized Maggie was deaf, but that didn’t seem to slow her down much. Jan says Maggie understands doggy sign language, but if she doesn’t want to mind, she just turns her head and pretends not to see Jan.

Jan sometimes writes with Maggie sleeping on a pillow on her lap. But she says the best thing about Maggie is that she reminds her there’s fun to be had every day and that it’s best not to take life too seriously.

Jan’s Newest Series

In Skip Rock Shallows, Jan begins the story of Lilly Corbett, Copper’s daughter. Copper is the baby rescued from the flood in Troublesome Creek. But now we’re getting to know Lilly after she graduates from medical school and takes an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock–a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. You can follow Lilly down some romantic pathways in this Appalachian town as she begins to earn the residents’ trust.

Tattler’s Branch follows up Skip Rock Shallows. Lilly, married now, loves her life in Skip Rock and the people who are like family to her. With her husband away for a few months at a mining job, Lilly has her hands full with her patients and a younger sister visiting for the summer. Then an abandoned baby plunges Lilly into a struggle between what is right and what is safe. She must discover the strength of her country neighbors, her God, and herself.
Check out more about Jan’s books at her website, http://www.janwatson.net/
  
Win Jan’s Books

I have autographed copies of Skip Rock Shallows and Tattler’s Branch to give away to one lucky person. To throw your name in the hat, just leave a comment here with a way to contact you please. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada, but you must be eighteen or over to enter. Deadline to enter is midnight EST, November 27.

And if you don’t want to wait that long to read one of Jan’s books and you have an e-reader, Tattler’s Branch, is available right now through Saturday, 11/16, for the great download price of $2.99. Check it out at your favorite e-book distributor. Here’s the Amazon link.
Kentucky Book Fair Saturday, November 16
If you’re in the area, you can come meet both Jan and me at the Kentucky Book Fair at the Frankfort Convention Center this Saturday, November 16, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We’ll be signing our books there along with about 150 other writers including inspirational fiction writers, Virginia Smith, Jennifer Johnson, Allie Pleiter, Shelley Shepard Gray, and others. Of course, I hope you’ll come by my table way in the back to say hello.The fair is a great place to pick up some unique gifts for the booklovers on your Christmas list.
As a preview to the fair, Virginia Smith and I will be talking about our books and writing at the Frankfort Senior Citizen Center, 202 Medical Heights, Frankfort, KY, at 10 a.m. on Friday, November 15. The event is open to the public, senior citizens and younger citizens too. So come on out and get a jump start on the fair.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Saluting Veterans Day

 
"From the world wars of Europe to the jungles of the Far East, from the deserts of the Middle East to the African continent, and even here in our own hemisphere, our veterans have made the world a better place and America the great country we are today."
 
November 11 - Veterans Day
 
I have often set my stories in war times. When you're writing historical stories as I do, then you sometimes look for eras when the history was dramatic. War times certainly fit the bill for much conflict and character growth. But in the process of writing with so many war backgrounds I've done a lot of reading about wars and about the soldiers who fought those wars. It's one thing to make up characters to fight in wars. It's quite another to read about those men and women who actually did the fighting and serving and get a glimpse of the hardships and horrors they endured while responding with steadfast courage. Veterans deserve our thanks and gratitude for standing in the gap to defend our country in times of war and peace.
 
The War to End All Wars
 
I researched World War I for my novel, Angel Sister. In that story we relive many of the experiences of Victor, the father in the story, and how the war continued to affect his life years later. In my research, I kept coming across how everyone expected that war to be "the war to end all wars." It is because of the armistice of that war that we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11. The Treaty of Versailles wasn't signed until June 28, 1919, but fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice went into effect between the Allies and Germany on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. And so that is the date generally regarded as the end of that war to end all wars and why we celebrate on November 11.
 
Armistice Day
 
At first the holiday was called Armistice Day. But then that war did not end all wars. Not even two decades passed before we were embroiled in another World War. I've read about those soldiers too. Young men, some only eighteen or nineteen, flying bombing raids, storming beaches, doing what had to be done for our country and for the world. So, after that war and the Korean War, the name of the holiday was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
 
Keeping the Date November 11
 
The Uniform Holiday Bill was passed in 1968, changing the observance of many of our holidays to Mondays. Beginning in 1971, Veterans Day was officially changed to the last Monday in October. Many believed changing the date lost the historical significance of the holiday and they refused to change their observance of the day to the new date. After several years of confusion, in 1978, the holiday was changed back to November 11, preserving the historical significance of the date and keeping the focus of the celebration on honoring America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
 
Thanks to Our Veterans
 
"The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognize for their commitment."  ~Judd Gregg
 
Thank you, veterans and families of veterans too.  
 
 
For more information about the history of Veterans Day, you can check out this link - http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sunshine and Mirrors

"Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves." ~James M. Barrie

Sunshine

"Sunshine, sunshine in my soul today." Don't you just love the sunshine songs in the church hymn books? Don't you just love the sunshine, especially in the winter time? 

The change from Daylight Savings Time this week has me noticing how the night comes quicker. Too quick, most people say. I know that we actually have the same amount of daylight today as we did last week. It's only our clocks we have messed with, but somehow when it starts getting dark an hour earlier, according to those turned back clocks, you notice the night coming more. But we do have plenty of sunshine if you can get outside to enjoy it before the daytime slides away. I took the above sunny picture last fall. Plenty of bright sunlight then. 

The Norway town of RJukan

But it's not that way for everybody. Enter this little town in Norway, Rjukan, tucked in between some mountains so that for six months out of the year, the residents have to take a cable car up the mountain to see any sunshine. The town has quite a history. It was established by industrialist Sam Eyde to provide workers for a hydroelectric plant he located at the foot of a nearby waterfall. 

Mirrors to the rescue


Photo by Terje Bendiksby, AP
A hundred years ago, Eyde came up with the plan to put mirrors on top the mountain to reflect sunlight down into the town. He never saw that idea come to fruition, but now it has. On Wednesday, sunlight reflected off three 183-foot mirrors reached the town square and for the first time ever the residents felt the winter sun in the town. The residents cheered, wore sunglasses, played volleyball and some even brought out their lounge chairs to sit and soak up the reflected sunshine. 

A Town with a History

This wasn't the first time this little town made the news. The town was occupied by the Germans during World War II and Hitler was using the factory to try to develop the atomic bomb. Twelve Norwegian saboteurs parachuted into the nearby tundra and survived the freezing temperatures to destroy the factory's "heavy water" plant. Their bravery inspired a Hollywood movie in 1965 and now a TV series is planned. 

The Surprises of Research 

You start out looking for one thing and then oftentimes, you find something even more interesting that you weren't expecting. I'd heard the mirrors reflecting the sunshine down on their town square mentioned on the radio last week, and then I find out the role this little town and its people played in the history of the world. That's the way research is and what makes it fun for the historical writer.   

So the town has known dark days not related to the lack of sunshine, but they've also known dark winter months every year. But now, the sun shines from the mirrors down into their town square. The lady I heard on the radio said the townspeople would be willing to share the spot of sun with one another.

 Some days you just have to create your own sunshine. ~Sam Sundquist

If you want to read more about the little town of Rjukan, here are a couple of links where I found my information.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/30/norway-town-sun-stavanger/3313105/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/rjukan-norway-sun-mirror_n_4177006.html

Again, thanks to all of you who played my mystery photo game. I have one of my winners, Sharon, but I haven't heard from Mary Preston. Mary, if you read this, please either leave info here on how to contact you or contact me at annhgabhart(at)yahoo(dot)com. If I don't hear from you before Sunday, I'll have to draw a new winner. 

Thanks for reading. Wishing for plenty of sunshine to shine down on you. And me too!  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cows, Pigs and Dogs and a Captive Audience

The Mystery Revealed 

 The guesses were fun. All of you were ready to be out on the farm. And I finally fooled some of you. That made me smile. But a few of you were right. It wasn't a cow. Or a pig. My daughter-in-law knew who it was on first glance, but she privately messaged me her guess so as not to mess up the fun. Above is the "rest of the picture." Meet my neighbor dog, Roxie. She's a sweet dog but she does have a drooling problem and when she shakes her head you have to dodge those "slingers."

A Cow Picture for the Cow Guesses

For those of you who guessed cow, here are the color cows we have. But I could almost see what you were seeing in the mystery photo. Almost. I was really expecting somebody to say panda bear. Maybe I need to go look at a panda bear picture myself. And the pig guesses, well, there are black and white pigs, but I don't have any pictures of those.
On to the Winners

I did draw for the two winners of Orchard of Hope. Susan from CA and Mary Preston. So far I haven't exactly been able to contact them. I'm having trouble with that lately. But I have sent Susan a Facebook message and I'm hoping Mary will send me a message on Facebook or leave a way to contact her in a comment here. If I don't hear from them, I'll draw more winners next week. 

Meanwhile - You Might Win Christmas at Harmony Hill

You can hop over to WFBC Media Center Blog to read my Christmas themed interview there and leave a comment on that that blog for a chance to win Christmas at Harmony Hill. I shared a couple of recipes too. One for the Christmas punch my aunt made when I was a kid and I've carried on the tradition and another for Hummingbird Cake. Don't ask me why they call it hummingbird cake. I have no idea!

A Captive Audience 

Tomorrow morning I'm going to one of my granddaughter's school and talk to some school kids. That's why they're a captive audience. Their teacher will insist they listen to me or at least I hope they will. Two first grades, two second grades and two fifth grades - in three different sessions. I love talking to kids but I'm a little worried I won't be able to keep their attention for the time the librarian has scheduled for me. And three sessions is a lot of talking. I'm hoping I won't let my second grader granddaughter down. Pressure's on! Prayers appreciated!