Category Archives: habits

Day 365: Mission Accomplished! Looking Back At PostADay 2011 Challenge

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This has been an amazing challenge! Thanks for joining me!

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.’ John Wooden

With a great sigh of relief, I’m posting my 365th post this year!  I’ve imagined this day many times.

In mid-January, I was ready to quit posting when WordPress spurred me onward.  They highlighted my blog so that I gained new friends and followers.  My audience is not large, but they are patient and encouraging.  Knowing that someone reads my daily posts keeps me writing.

Setting goals makes life fun, but knowing what goals to set is most difficult.

Here are my reflections (as suggested by WordPress) of completing these 365 days and my reasons for doing it:

  • Why did you start the Post a Day/Week Challenge?  I was looking for a challenge last December when I happened upon the daily challenge by WordPress.  They suggested we get a blog (which I didn’t yet have) and tell the world that we would be posting every day.  That’s how I started.  I told the world that I was starting what I have found to be a very long, but exciting, challenge.
  • Describe the state of your blog at the time you started the challenge.  As I mentioned, I had never created a blog but did have a website when I began the challenge.  I didn’t even understand posting at the time.
  • How did your blog evolve over the course of the challenge? Initially, I wanted my followers to join me in creating something every day.  I tried to challenge the readers to do an activity with me.  Over time, I simply posted about things I had noticed with my camera or during the day’s activities.
  • Did you post as often as you had hoped? Why or why not?  Yes, I posted every day.  On a few occasions, I posted something very simple because of my schedule that day.  Generally, I tried to write a post that connected something tangible with something intangible.
  • What type of blogging strategy works best for you?  I fell into a pattern which helped.  I would first look at a picture and choose my topic.  Then, I would search for a quote about the topic and include it in my post.  From there, I could compare my topic with my thoughts.  I often looked for related links to put into the post.
  • If you could go back to the beginning, what would you do differently? I’m sure my first few posts would be more in line with my other posts.  As it stands, I’m happy with how it went and wouldn’t change it.
  • What are you most proud of accomplishing this year?  I’ve met some great people this year.  I’ve learned to post, and I’ve enjoyed other blogs.  Finally, I completed this daily task all year long.
  • Name 3 great blogs you discovered through the challenge.  I have enjoyed Fruitful Words, Julia’s Place, and Savoring Today.  I felt especially connected to Susan and Julia.  We’ve befriended one another during this process.
  • What surprised you about the challenge?  I found that this daily post made me look more closely at my day-to-day activities.  I started taking pictures of interesting things, and I noticed more of the little details I often overlook.
  • What advice would you give to others who want to blog regularly?  I highly suggest the PostADay initially.  If you can make yourself commit to that long length of time, it will change your daily thinking pattern and make you more vulnerable.
  • What are your blogging goals for 2012?  Basically, I have no blogging goals this year since I thoroughly blitzed myself out in 2011.  I’m in the process of putting together a BrainCaviar for Educators site.  It’s just starting up.  I will not commit to posting daily, but will post at my own pace.

Now, I must thank many of you!

  • Thank you Julia, Ruth, Susan, Cooky, and Brad for being my top commenters this year.
  • Thank you to those who have “followed” my posts.  It made the journey worthwhile knowing that someone was reading!
  • Thank you family for putting up with me during this crazy year when I would have to rush home to finish my post of the day on many occasions!
  • Thank you to the readers who put up with my ramblings and who laughed with me all year long!
  • Thank you  WordPress.  You supported me daily, sent weekly photo challenges (which helped a lot), gave me this free place to post my thoughts, and connected me to a wonderful blogging community.

If you’ve stopped in this year at BrainCaviar, please leave a comment!  I appreciate each one!

Goodbye to this PostADay 2011 Challenge!  I promise never to take another one, but I will pop in at BrainCaviar from time to time and share my latest thoughts…just not every day!

Decent Guys Who Skate

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Birmingham skatepark demolished to make room for the Birmingham Barons.

“I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport.” Tony Hawk

With the recent demolition of the downtown skatepark in Birmingham, Alabama, one might question the city’s prejudices.  Baseball certainly has its place, and Birmingham enjoyed the season when Michael Jordan brought more fans to see the Barons.  However, in choosing the new location for the minor-league ballpark, we’ve demolished the site where Birmingham’s skateboarders go to get noticed and hopefully to become pro-skaters.

Other than monetary gain, our stereotype for skateboarders might be a part of the problem.  We often see these guys as a bunch of vagabonds who wish to destroy the town by riding the stair rails, doing drugs, and plastering graffiti on downtown brick walls and tunnels.  Who cares about them anyway?

So I ask you, dear Birmingham, where will these skaters go now?  The Birmingham Railroad Park built what they considered a skatepark, and since it didn’t meet their needs, the skaters made their own park right across the street.  This park, however, included appropriate ramps, bars, and rails that the skaters could use to practice tricks, jumps, and grinds.  In essence, they made a place to contain themselves so that they could get the practice they needed without vandalising the city.  They don’t require an audience like the Barons, but they do need certain types of equipment which were not considered by the Railroad Park.

Since I was born and raised in and around the Birmingham area, I consider myself in the know about our city.  My son, however, is just now developing a love for Birmingham since he has spent his years in the big city of Bangkok, Thailand, where he enjoys skateboarding with many of his friends in several of our public parks.  He has worked with our slum ministry and loves helping people.  He is a decent guy who skates.

Birmingham, would we consider a place where both minor-league baseball players and minor-league skateboarders could both excel and practice?  Could we once again look past your prejudices and see the skateboarders as a group of decent guys who skate?  Could we provide a place for them just as we are providing for our baseball players?

We’ve worked through difficult times in the past, and here’s another chance for us to shine.  What do you say?

Day 363: 5 Things To Throw Out Before the New Year

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This chandelier once lit a beautiful hall.

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” A.A. Milne

If I could walk back in time, I’m sure I’d catch a dazzling view of this ritzy theatre with shimmering lights, people parading in their Sunday best, and lots of anticipation for a romantic evening.  As it stands, there are two families waiting to see a cheap show.  The chandelier hangs but is partially lit.  The adjacent golden fixtures are putting their green faces forward with the energy-efficient, yet ugly, bulbs.  All good things must come to an end, but this one is fighting to its death.

What could be a more perfect time to get rid of those things that no longer dazzle?  The new year is around the corner, and I love change that I initiate more than change initiated by someone else.   To get myself going, I checked out two e-books from the library and both are telling me to throw things out.  One says to Throw Out Fifty Things while the other tells me I’ll need to demolish the old in order to start with the new.  Both authors have great ideas.  Both are challenging me to rid myself of too many things.

Here are five things that I really must throw out before the new year:

1. Throw out the junk food – I talked about this earlier in the year, but all Halloween candy must now be thrown away.  If we don’t at least start eating healthy in the new year, when will we ever?  Even if we don’t keep it up daily, we must start somewhere.  My friends told me about a lady who has lost so much weight they don’t even recognize her.  I surely don’t want to go that far, but it is now time to address this stomach bulge.  Are you with me?

2. Throw out the idea that I can’t accomplish what I start – In the second book I’m reading, I’m hearing that one of the best ways to complete a task is to understand the motivation behind it.  If we know of  a reason to accomplish the goal and it has a long-term positive impact on life, we are more likely to accomplish it.  I challenge each of us to choose a great goal and write down the reason we want to accomplish it.  Then determine how that will impact a positive future.  Let’s try it.

3. Throw out the broken things – If I haven’t fixed them yet, I’ll need to fix them now or throw them out.  These intentions can hang around and keep me bogged down.  The quicker I rid myself of them, or fix them, the better.

4. Throw out the overwhelmed feeling that holds me back – I sometimes don’t want to start because my mind tells me I’ll never get there.  Well, why not get started?  That’s the worst part for me.  So what if I don’t throw away 50 things?  I can throw away 5 for sure.  That’s 10% that gets me on a roll.  Today, I choose not to feel overwhelmed.  The goal is mine and not for someone else.  If I don’t make it to 50, I’ll still make it to 5.  Goodbye overwhelmed feeling that keeps me from starting what I want to start!

5.Throw out one fear –  I love what God can do in our hearts when we refuse to fear change.  God never changes, yet He is in the changing business.  If we are to be more like Him, we have to trust Him with our futures.  It’s important to throw out anything that is keeping us from moving in the direction He needs us to go.  Throwing away one fear can get me moving in a new direction.

Now comes the decision. We can keep this beautiful chandelier as it is and let it take up space in our lives even though it is not shining beautifully. We can fix it or throw it away.  Yes, it seems too valuable to throw away, but will it free us of space needed for something more practical?  Will it free us to enjoy life in a different way?

Are we ready to throw away 5 things?  What will they be?  Are they physical or mental?  Please share your list.

Day 361: Things Remembered – Things Forgotten

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A sparkling ornament holds a memory to shine or to put away.

“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Aldous Huxley

Seeing the tiny elves again drew a smile on my face.  I’m not even sure of the memory I associate with it because it has grown in size.  I don’t know where to start thinking back.  With the ornament in my hand, I embrace feelings of hope, joy, and warmth.

A box of Christmas ornaments holds more than decorative pieces.  As we hang each one, a plethora of memories flow through our heads.  The associations are likely different for each person.

Recently, my children shared how they hung ornaments for their grandmother.  The tree was completely weighed down, yet the memories behind the ornaments were important to her.  None could be left in the box.

Today, we will begin taking down the tree.  We’ll keep the ornaments safely in their places.  What sorts of inspiration will they provide for our new year?

Family – Some ornaments remind me of my family and of the close connections we shared.  It reminds me of simple times when we ate cornbread, cream potatoes, and sat together at the table.  Like an ornament, we choose which memories are best to keep and which ones are best to throw away.

Friends – We came across an ornament of our first year of marriage given to us by a special friend.  It reminded me of a different period of life.  How exciting that time when we were working and learning to love each other daily.  We had another set of friends then.  We are still connected with many of these friends.  It made the difficult times easy to forget.

Hopes – Sometimes ornaments remind us of a hope we have lost.  Perhaps we’ve lost the joy that we once held daily.  Ornaments can trigger a memory that can help us change our present.  Bringing back the hope into our lives can be a gift in disguise.

Dreams – As time moves onward, we often abandon dreams which were either foolish or forgotten.  With each ornament, the dreams we wish to shine up and pursue again can be a treasured challenge.  We can also realize our need to abandon a dream for something even better.  Age and wisdom can help us know which to keep and which to discard.

If these ornaments connect our past and present, they are meaningful.  Yet, if we allow an associated memory to propel our future, then we have captured their great value.

What ornament holds special meaning for you?

Day 357: Honesty Can Be An Interesting Policy

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Don't expect a lot from the coffee. After all, they share a garden cafe with Starbucks!

“Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” George Burns

There are several signs around town that amuse me.  This one is quite honest.  Basically, if you want coffee, they have it, but it’s not their specialty.

Sometimes I like honesty.  I’ve found it interesting to listen to stories told by different people.  When I was about 30, a friend of mine died, and his wife, a great story-teller, began to give me the details.  Each time she told the story, it was different.  I found myself completely frustrated, because she was still working out how to tell the story in the best light, and I wanted the real facts of how my friend died.

Stories, though believed to be true by the teller, are usually told in one of these ways.

1. An Honest Story – I’m not a great story-teller, probably because I tell them as true to the fact as possible.  Facts are important to me, and I suppose I don’t like hearing a story that leaves me wondering about its truth.  Inspirational true stories, like the story of Helen Keller, tend to motivate me.

2. An Embellished Story – The great story-tellers tend to stretch the truth.  For some, it’s not that they mean to stretch the truth, it’s just that if the story keeps to the heart of the truth, the details don’t matter to them. That’s fine for me, as long as I know it’s embellished–and I usually do.  I’m closely related to a great story-teller, and it works for me when I know how to separate my emotions from the story.  When I listen to these kinds of  stories, I try to think about the purpose.  Often the story-teller wants to play on our emotions in order to help us see our need for change.  If these stories help us to make needed changes, I can agree they are needed “truth” in our lives.

3. An Honestly Detailed Story – Some people cannot tell stories because they give so many details that they have forgotten the story part.  In essence, we never hear the meaningful part of the story because we lost interest when the story-teller and the spouse got into an argument about a detail.  Yet there are times, like when someone dies, that the correctly presented details are very important.  In these cases, the more honestly detailed the story, the more it is appreciated.

So what kind of honesty will it be?  I guess it’s a matter of mood or need.  If we want to hear a heart warming story, we’ll choose a different kind of person than if we’ve been diagnosed with a dreaded disease.  Children instinctively know who to go to for fun and who to go to for truth. Many stories seem to have truth, but the kind of truth we need might change based on our situation.

What kind of honest story do you tell?

Day 355: 7 Kinds of Patterns That Spur Us To Create

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A beautiful pattern, even with its flaws, can inspire.

“A palindrome is a word or pattern that instead of developing in different directions it folds in on itself so that the beginning and end mirror each other, that they are the same.” Todd Solondz

The word ISUZU irritates me every time I get stuck behind it in a traffic jam.  I’m sure it has a memorable meaning for its market, but I see it as a word falling short of its potential.   You see that the S and the Z can be written backwards, and the U in the middle is fine.  However, the I and the U are not balanced.  Had the owners looked artistically at the potential of the word, they might have called it ISUZI  or USUZU or something that could potentially be flipped forming a palindrome.  Instead, it simply annoys me.

Creative people don’t like to follow patterns, but they do look for patterns that inspire.  We are often spurred onward when we are not bound.

While working through my new resolutions, I’ve been looking at patterns to inspire me for 2012.  Here are a few pattern types that motivate me to create.

1. Patterns that puzzle – Tessellations, made famous by the artist M.C. Eschler, are interesting creations.  Like puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly, making a nice tessellation requires a creative jolt in the brain. When forced to find a new way to make a repeating pattern, we might come up with amazing combinations.  Check out the tessellations.org website and start creating your own tessellation today.

2. Patterns that work – My relative is obsessed with football.  When he watches it, he believes that the way he holds his head, the position of his arm, and various other superstitions has some sort of impact on the game’s outcome.  It’s a bit funny to watch except for the scary fact that he seems to believe it is real.  On the positive side, though, I find that when a certain pattern causes a positive end result, we should probably give it some attention.  For example, last year, I was able to complete two of my New Year resolutions for 365 days (almost there).  Now, I’m focusing on what pattern made those resolutions work and how to repeat the pattern for my new resolutions.

3. Patterns that guide – I find that I often want to create something but simply have no idea how to start.  This is a time when a pattern really helps guide me.  Had I never used a clothes pattern, I may have never been able to produce things when they come into my head.  Those basic patterns give my brain some structure and guidance.  These basics allow me to build ideas and to create beyond the guides.

4. Patterns that limit – I like a project that limits me by time or by resource.  Honestly, when lots of ideas are floating around in my head, it’s hard to  pin one down and focus.  Sometimes I love a contest that gives specific parameters.  Within these limits, I can create let my brain go wild.  Here’s an example where a basic pattern can explode into creative genius.

5. Patterns that break – Last night, I found that one of our nice dishes had broken.  Here’s an opportunity to make something interesting.  I wouldn’t want to break the dish on purpose, but now that it’s broken, I’ll be able to try a mosaic. Sometimes, we find a break in a pattern that draws our attention.  That’s where our creative juices start to flow.

6. Patterns that continue – I’m a science lover because since is so often about looking for patterns.  It interests me to no end that we can find a huge model like the universe and see its repetition in a tiny model like an atom.  It’s amazing how nature mimics us and how we mimic nature.  Patterns that continue can give us the “stuff” we need to start a new creation.

7. Patterns that are memorable – A good thing about patterns is that they often help our memory.  Think of a great poem from childhood.  We likely remember it because the pattern was predictable enough that our brain enjoyed keeping it around.  Of course we often have to take the time to store it in our brains and then bring it out to rehearse it from time to time, but the joy of its pattern often keeps it there.  Good advertising seems to base its plan around a memorable pattern.  Connecting creations with a positive and memorable experience can spur us onward.

What are some new creations you are cooking up for this new year?  I’d love to know.  Are there patterns you’d like to use to encourage your creative juices to flow?

“I like rhyme because it is memorable, I like form because having to work to a pattern gives me original ideas.” Anne Stevenson

Day 353: Resolving 2012 – Making A Good Plan

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The plan didn't go as we expected.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso

My husband and I thought we had a great plan.  We went early to the wedding which was several hours away.  We stopped and successfully found supplies that have been missing in Bangkok since the flood.  What could pass the remaining time more perfectly than a relaxing meal on the beach?  The food arrived and was made with some old crab.  Having experience to draw on, we knew that we needed to pay and leave.  Though it was an expensive mistake, at least we didn’t add to it a trip to the hospital with food poisoning.

With 2012 right around the corner, I’m trying to make a new plan.  This year, I had several resolutions, two of which I’ve kept.  This PostaDay 2011 was one of the challenges I kept, and now I’d like something new and exciting to start 2012.

Here are some things I hope to consider when making my plan.

1. Something that stretches me: A plan I consider good is one that I know will be good for me.  This PostaDay challenge was perfect, and I took it on because writing is not my forte.  It forced me to be vulnerable and stretched me in many other ways too.  (I’ll share more about this in my final post this year.)

2. Something that’s doable: A good plan will be one that I know I can do if I set my mind to it.  The PostaDay challenge was measurable, and WordPress gave us good support.  Having other people doing the challenge gave me courage to continue.

3. Something that allows me to create: I find I’m happiest when I’m making something new.  This year, I was able to make a new post every day.  Some days I was very unhappy with my entry, but I was able to be creative in a different way than ever before.

4. Something that helps me learn:  Besides creating, my plan should include learning something new.  I’m thinking of getting back to my computer languages.  My plans aren’t complete, but I know they’ll include learning.

The time is ticking, and I could start the year without a plan. I know, however, that I tend to accomplish what I plan to do.  What kind of plans are you making for the new year?

Why We Do What We Do

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Here's the way we cut our pineapple...

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Thomas Paine

When my son was born, my mom made him a wonderful sock monkey we called “George.”  Though it’s full of holes, it’s one of the things he kept from his childhood.

While talking to my daughter on Skype, I noticed her roommate had a crocheted blanket in a zig-zag pattern that I’ve seen at many a grandmother’s house.  I knew that someone she loved must have made it for her.

Traditions, whether oral or customary, are passed down from generation to generation.  The more we learn about other cultures, the more we are aware of the traits the people deem important enough to transmit over time.

Here are some interesting ones I’ve found while traveling around the world:

How to seriously multitask  – There seems to be no limit to what an African lady can balance on her head.  I’ve seen  a woman carry what looked like a house on top of her head, a baby on her back, and her knitting in her hand.  These tasks kept her busy as she walked down the road.

How to cut a pineapple – There are many rules about fruits here in Thailand. I just accept them and don’t even attempt to compete.  I stopped a lady in mid-process to take this photo of how a pineapple should be cut.  There are rules for how to peel a pomelo, how to wrap a banana, how to take the seed from a rambutan, and how to properly display a guava.  Don’t even think about fruit decorating.  This is just the basic stuff.

How to tie a shoe  – You may think there’s just one way to do it.  Try asking people from three or four different countries and watch what you get.  You may be surprised to see that some people make Mickey Mouse ears on both sides and then tie them together–or you may find something even more interesting.

How to put a rubber band on a bag – Here’s one I thought was a simple procedure, yet again, it’s the little things that can disturb.  I’ve cut many a rubber band off of a bag because I cannot get to the bottom of how it’s done.  Some of you won’t understand this tradition, but if you do–you are probably with me on this one.

How to say thank you – In Indonesia, the sweet lady who kept the nursery came to tell us that she was sorry that she had not done as good a job as maybe she could have.  Oh, no.  We tried to tell her how wonderful she was and how we appreciated all she had done for us.  We didn’t understand at the time that this was the way to part in that country.  It caught us off guard.  In the States we write thank you notes.  In some countries, we give gifts for all kinds of little and big things.  In many countries we bow appropriately.

We value tradition, though we often rebel against it.  As our world is growing smaller, though, it is important to tread lightly when getting to know people.  Traditions and values walk hand in hand, and if we hope to do the same, we will learn to open our eyes before we open our mouths

What are some of your favorite traditions?

My Top 5 Ways To Avoid Good Health During The Holiday Season

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My attempt at a healthy breakfast...

“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” Thomas Fuller

In my case, pride surely comes before a fall.  While teaching, I’ve always prided myself in the fact that I have never called in sick, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been sick.  In fact, on several occasions, the students have asked, “Shouldn’t you be at home, Mrs. Claudia?”

I will openly confess that I’ve been quite sick for about two months now.  There it is.  It’s out there.  Sickness does come to all of us, and it brings many lessons to be learned if we are willing.

Here are 5 mistakes I’ve made that have extended my time of sickness:

1. Don’t stay in bed just because you have a fever.  There’s work to be done and things to be accomplished.  Keep on moving.  Don’t let your body stop you from accomplishing “important” goals.

2. Don’t go to the doctor for meds.  Doctors appointments take time and money.  Just treat your symptoms, and you’ll eventually get better.  This was my bad choice.  In the end, I ended up going to the doctor 3 times because the infection moved to several other organs in the body, which would have been avoided if I had gone to the doctor initially.

3. Don’t keep a regular exercise schedule.  After all, it’s the holiday season.  Who has time to exercise?  This healthy habit may have kept me from getting sick, but as my health deteriorated, I could barely make it walking to the top of the street.  I am envious every time my husband goes out the door to exercise.  I’d love to do it, but because it’s not my regular habit, I’m too sick to join him.

4. Don’t take vitamins.  My husband swears by zinc and takes a handful of vitamins daily.  It seems funny to me, but it’s interesting that he’s the only one who avoided the flu this year.  Maybe there is something to it.

5. Don’t partake of health foods; they are for the birds.  Who needs to eat all of those nuts, oats, and seeds?  Birds will be hungry this winter if I eat all of their food.  Donuts, cheese grits, buttered toast, and coffee probably aren’t the best breakfast foods to help me avoid sickness.  Yet, they all sound better than the oats I had this morning.

I hope your holiday season is full of good health.  As for me, I’m eating humble pie.  I can see that I’m approaching good health again just in time to finish off the holidays. Should I get prideful about my health again, I’m recording my 5 mistakes for posterity.

Do you ever feel smug when you see a sick person, taking pride in your own good health?  Please feel free to amuse me with your stories.

“Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them.” Mahalia Jackson

Is Your Mood Ring Stuck On Black?

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The natural colors and designs in nature are free for those who notice!

“The earth laughs in flowers.” e.e. cummings

Back in the 70’s, I was enamored by the faddish mood rings.  Whenever I put one on, though, I found it often turned a shade of gray or black.  At the time, I was horrified because as a sixth-grader, I wanted others to see me as passionate.  Of course now I know the reason.  My hands were almost always icy cold in the wintertime at our school.  I would see people working on the school furnace, but it seemed that none of it was piped down to Mrs. Blalock’s room.  Unfortunately, the mood ring didn’t reflect the idiom, “Cold hands–warm heart.”

Our moods come in many colors, but if we’re seeing too much black, perhaps we haven’t taken time to enjoy nature’s design.  Think to yourself, what did I notice on the way to work today?  If it was the changing colors of nature, the details in a leaf, or the shape of a mountain, chances are that our mood ring would show a vibrant or a dark blue.  In mood ring language, that may mean relaxed or even passionate.

Do we often find ourselves so busy that we run out the door without noticing the weather, the flowers, or anything about the nature around us?  If so, it’s time for a change of pace.

Stop and smell the roses.  That song was written for a reason.  When we are too busy, we fail to notice the miracles all around us, and we forget to count our blessings.

Just dance.  Lady Ga Ga might be a little strange, but she does understand the value of a bit of exercise.  In a gym or wherever you enjoy working it out is just fine, but I like exercising in the park.  With nature all around, I can’t help but give thanks for God’s natural wonders.

Come together.  I love to spend time with a friend over a cup of coffee. It’s even more fun if that person is passionate about life.  There are some people I love being around.  When I leave them, I usually leave with a smile.

The next time we find ourselves stuck on black, let’s get out and enjoy the natural songs of nature and of friends.

What do you do when you’re in a bad mood?