Friday, April 15, 2011

J is for Joke of the Day...

Two nights ago I dreamt of dressing up as a clown. As most dreams go, it was a strange dream. I knew I was dressed up as a clown but I did not put on the red nose, painted smile and big red wig. Only the outfit was of a clown. I hadn’t even worn the big floppy shoes. In the dream, I thought to myself, I must find a big red nose and paint my face. But I didn’t get to it because of some happenings that I can’t recall right now. I asked my husband what the dream could mean. He told me it meant I have been spending too much time on my blog. :/

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Yesterday, I was at peace. After eons of looking and asking every person I met, we finally FINALLY (I love repeating words at least twice. Have you noticed?) found a fulltime housemaid. I was so so happy (There. I did it again.) I sat back and rested. Playing leisurely with my kids, entertaining and feeding them, without worrying about cleaning up and kitchen duties. Aaahh.. the bliss. I started to dream about hours and hours of passionate writing (what else?) undisturbed. I could get my life back on track. I could work. I could write. I could visit the beauty salon. I could get a new haircut. I could join a gym. I could go for walks. I could take taekwondo classes if I felt like it someday.

This morning arrived and fate decided to show me what my clown dream was about. Apparently the joke was on me. When I walked into the kitchen the new maid told me that she had had a bad dream in the night and she wanted to go back to her family in Kolkata. She apologised lightly saying that she liked living here but the dream had shaken her up and she just had to meet her little daughter. I looked at her blankly and walked out of the kitchen.

Yes, the joke was on me.

I couldn’t stop laughing when I realised what my J post was going to be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I is for Ink...

Zainab’s new toy is a MS Word document. Whenever she sees me typing away, she asks me to open a new page for her.

“Mamma, I want to write my name.”

She then gets comfy and locates Z on the keyboard and presses it. Her forehead creases when she sees the tiny z.

“Mamma, make it big.” So I increase the font size from 11 to 36.

She tries again... “z.. a...”

The creased forehead returns. “Big A please, Mamma.”

I turn caps lock on.

She then proceeds to type the rest of her name. Then she types randomly, hitting some Ls and Xs and Gs, and tells me she is writing a story.

Yesterday, as I watched her perform this daily ritual, I felt depressed. I should be teaching her to hold a pencil and write the alphabet. And here she is aping her parent’s version of writing. Whatever happened to good old ink and paper?

My trusty journals, the ones I kept under lock and key, and lovingly wrote on every night had magically transformed into a web log. A blog. This blog. My thoughts and hopes and dreams spilled, for the whole world to read (I wish). Yikes.

When I started this blog in 2009, I just wanted a platform where my work could be viewed easily. Read my first few posts and you will see how painfully journalistic I thought my posts were going to be. Slowly, I learnt to be a blogger and just went with the flow, pouring my heart into my posts.

Do I miss the actual writing process, with ink and paper? Hell no! I have no idea how to spell check, hyperlink and google for information with a pen and paper.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

H is for Happiness...

My dear friend Kavita had once put up a story on her blog that was very well received and also made it to the top 10 finalists in a blog contest. It is a sad, yet inspirational true story of what led a woman to divorce. The woman (named Kyra in the story) has picked up the pieces of her life, remarried and made the choice to put the past behind her. The best part of the post is its title - Happiness is a choice, not circumstance.

I have met many Kyras, many strong women who have it in them to break free from painful experiences and memories. These women have truly believed that they deserve to live a better and happier life and have worked towards that goal, rather than wallow in self pity. I am proud to have several of these women as my close friends. You know who you are. *BEAR HUGS* to all you beautiful, amazing women. Your strength, courage, determination and the choice you made have made ME a better person.

Happiness is a choice. Every single day, life gives us this choice. What have YOU chosen today?

G is for God...

Dear God,

Today, when I went to pick Zainab from school, her teacher asked me how her speech therapy session was. I told her about it and how, miraculously, Zainab had reverted back to almost perfect speech. Almost as if the stammer was a figment of our imagination. Though the problem still needs to be worked on, I never imagined that the results would be seen so soon. She said, “I guess it was just God’s way of teaching you some parenting.”

It is true. I always knew that when my second child would be born that we would continue showering Zainab with love and attention, the way she has always received it. Nothing would change. She would never feel neglected. And I believed that that was what I was doing. Until she started stammering.

Suddenly, we stopped telling her off when she was being naughty, began patiently explaining things to her, bending over backwards to keep her happy and humouring her demands. My husband started coming home early from work to spend time with her. Sundays and holidays are now mostly about her- story telling time, playing games and taking her out.

And we’ve seen the change. The crankiness has reduced. The trantrums are fewer. We had never noticed before how delightfully polite and well mannered she can be – thanking me when I say she looks pretty today, apologising for whacking her brother while playing with him...

But she’s a nifty little child. She’s caught on that we have been behaving extra nice recently and she is milking the situation for all its worth. Yesterday, she was back to her tricks, naughtiness and hourly demands for chocolate. Thankfully, we now know how to deal with it better.

So we are tenderly trudging the middle path, learning everyday how best to treat our kids. How to display our all-consuming love for them and how to stop short of over pampering them. How to teach them and how to learn from them. It’s an exhausting and pain-staking process. But it is the only way forward.

So thank you, Allah, for this lesson. We have only gained from the experience. I know we crib and cry and blame and complain whenever our supposedly well laid out plans go hay wire and we encounter a hurdle in life. We don’t realise that there is a reason for everything. We refuse to believe that there is a grand scheme being playing out in the background. We might not recognise the lesson or the reason, at that moment, or ever maybe. Thank you again, for this speck of realisation from your infinite wisdom.

Sincere apologies for the cribbing,

A Humbled Mother

Sunday, April 10, 2011

F is for Fluency...

I thought long and hard about whether I want to write this post. I decided it was not something I wanted to shut out or hide from others. I believe such experiences must be shared. You never know who will benefit from the knowledge. If this post helps even one disfluent child, writing it will be completely worth it.

Wikipedia tells me that Fluency is a speech language pathology term that means the smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together when speaking quickly. Fluency disorders is used as a collective term for cluttering and stuttering. Both disorders have breaks in the fluidity of speech, and both have the fluency breakdown of repetition of parts of speech.

Over three weeks ago I didn’t think much about the word fluency. But over these past three weeks I have been living, eating, sleeping and sweating the word fluency. Or rather disfluency.

Three weeks ago I noticed that my perfectly fluent daughter had occasionally begun saying ma-ma-mamma. “Why are you saying ma-ma-mamma?” I asked her. She would then repeat her sentence without the stutter. And my frown would disappear. But then after a while she’d do it again. She started saying da-da-dadi a few days later. Was I the only one noticing it? Why wasn’t anyone else at home saying anything about it? Maybe I was just being paranoid. But it stayed at the back of my mind. I mentioned it to hubby and he brushed it aside saying she was doing it on purpose.

Okay, so I was only being paranoid. A part of me told me I shouldn’t be ignoring it. But I turned a deaf ear to this voice. I blocked it out because I didn’t want to hear what it was saying. I realise now that I was in denial.

Then one Sunday he noticed it too. It was appearing in every fifth sentence or so that she spoke. And my daughter talks All.Day.Long. His confirmation of my fear was a terrible realisation. Our limited and false knowledge told us that we had done something to cause this. We had emotionally hurt or scared or neglected our daughter which had turned her into a stutterer.

I remembered a book I had read ages ago, when I was in school, about a woman whose son stuttered only around her, but never did when she wasn’t around. I think it was a Sidney Sheldon novel. I don’t remember anything else about the story except that the woman was a manipulating b*@#& who had instilled so much fear in her own child’s heart that he had begun to stutter. But I wasn’t that woman. Then why did this happen to Zainab?

I began to blame myself. My mind went over every single time that I had scolded her, told her off, snapped at her, smacked her, spoke to her angrily, told her she was being naughty, told her to apologise for being naughty... I went over it all over and over in my head, hating myself more with each memory. Was she feeling neglected after my son was born? Was she jealous or angry? Was she scared of something? I convinced myself that I was a terrible, terrible mother and my bad deeds had finally come back to haunt me. Except my innocent little baby had to pay the price.

I got over that stage too. I decided to look at things rationally. We had a problem. Now we had to fix it. If it could be fixed, that is. I spent hours and hours reading all that I could on the internet about stuttering or stammering. Searching the web for information on the subject was a highly frustrating experience. There were so many theories and contrasting views on dealing with stuttering in children. There were also numerous cases mentioned on the discussion boards of parenting sites about children aged between 2.5 and 3 years who suddenly started stuttering. But they were fine in 3 to 6 months. Apparently, it is a developmental stage, where the child’s brain is absorbing so much information that it tends to get taxed, but learns to overcome the pressure in a few months. This information was so reassuring. I breathed a sigh of relief. She was going to be okay.

But then I tried to find out how to deal with it or react to it as parents. Unfortunately, nothing was helpful. While some sites mentioned ignoring the problem, some said that we must ask the child to speak slowly. Some sites said NEVER ask the child to speak slowly. Some sites said therapy is not needed for such a young child, while some insisted that the sooner the child receives therapy, the better. All this while, Zainab’s stammer worsened. She was stammering at every sentence and every morning I realised with a growing sense of panic, it was getting much, much worse.

My chirpy talkative baby girl was struggling to speak. She couldn’t understand what was happening to her. She asked me once, “What’s happened to my voice, mamma?” And I had no answer to that. It was heart breaking. I mentally winced and cried for her everytime I heard her struggling to express herself. But I kept up the smile on my face, determined to never let her get any inkling of our worry.

We spoke to her teacher at her playgroup, to other parents, we met doctors and therapists. To a cut a long story short, we decided to go to a speech therapist because we needed an expert to tell us what to do. I’m so thankful to God that we didn’t delay any further. We learnt that there are so many theories about why disfluencies occurs in children but no concrete proof. That means science has no idea why some people stutter. The therapist said that a popular reasoning is that children in this age group are learning and absorbing so much information and their language is in the crucial developmental stage, that their brain gets overworked, manifesting itself as a stutter.

Obviously, there was no point in beating ourselves up about it and instead we had to focus on solving the problem. We were told that we were to bring Zainab for weekly sessions but mostly it was important for the parents to continue this model at home and have similar daily sessions with the child. Miraculously, after just 2 sessions, Zainab underwent a major change overnight. Today, all of the sudden, she was almost her old fluent self again. Nobody will say she has any problem with her speech. But rather than get complacent, we know we have to patiently work with her to remove the problem completely and stop it from recurring.

It is mind numbing to realise you child has a problem. Especially one that is difficult to comprehend. For a while I could feel my world shattering around me. Because of Zainab’s charm, intelligence, quick witty speech and her confidence we had dreamed big dreams for her. I had even pictured her as an active participant in the school debate team one day. These weeks have strained our nerves and I wondered where Zainab’s life would lead her.

But today was a promise of a better tomorrow. It was a reminder that nothing is constant. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Zainab is a fighter. She is not ready to let something like this get in the way of what she loves to do. TALK!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

E is for Escape...

I took up this ABC Blogging challenge to push myself to write every single day. I’ve only reached E and I can already feel myself ready to throw in the towel. How do I write when every time my little girl sees me working, she says, ‘Mamma, don’t work. I want to see Itsy Bitsy Spider on youtube.’? How does one write when my little boy needs feeding ten times a day and changing another ten times a day? Not to mention, the time that goes into preparing the meals for the aforementioned toddler and infant. And taking the toddler to and from play school. And bathing and dressing and singing to sleep and playing and dancing and laughing. And on and on and on it goes day after day after day. You get the picture.

So E is for Escape for me. The husband and the two tykes are snoring away as I type this because it is way past my bedtime. I’m imagining I have escaped to a beautiful island paradise solely to collect my thoughts, undisturbed, and to write, write, write, all day long. But sleep is slowly overtaking the senses right now. I decide to escape into the land of slumber instead. And add my own sleep induced noises to the gentle snores in the room. Good night, all.

D is for Dreams...

I’m running a day late in the ABC challenge so I’m going to try putting up two short posts today.

I googled for quotes about dreams and the search results threw up a long list of interesting quotes by famous people. Some were funny, some were preachy but mostly they were just blah. Nothing connected to my perception of dreams. That maybe because an individual’s dreams are something so personal that it would be difficult for another person to relate to them. Only one worthy quote comes to mind impromptu. In the words on Cinderella, “A dream is a wish your heart makes”.

I used to have a wonderful collection of animated movies, right from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Cinderella. The stories contributed hugely to my day dreams about my future – meeting my Prince Charming, good conquering evil, living happily ever after in a palace (I was ready to settle for a mansion though.) Some years later, when I was still in school, I read a lot about how these traditional fairy tales were so politically incorrect. Why did the hero and heroine of the story have to be fair and good looking? Why was good and evil so contrasted? Why couldn’t there be grey characters with insecurities and bad habits, who we can relate to? I pondered on this too and tended to agree. We didn’t really need these stereotypes moulding our dreams, telling us what our ultimate aims and hopes must be. No wonder I always like the Beauty and the Beast story – I found it endearing that Beauty fell in love with the Beast despite what he looked like.

I always hated it when people discussed looks and complexion. It sounded petty and superficial. I vowed that when the time came to choose a husband (yes, I actually imagined there would be several suitors, each falling over themselves asking for my hand in marriage!), appearance would be secondary in the decision making process. What mattered was what lay in his heart. I’m convinced that my thoughts on the matter pleased the Lord so much, that He decided to reward me with what I didn’t even ask for, but probably what my childhood dreams were about – a handsome husband, with a heart of gold.

So I still, kind of, root for the politically incorrect fairy tales. And, it looks like they are back in fashion too. Check this out. Apparently, it is now all good to believe in those lofty, dreamy story tales we grew on. And, here is the alternative. You decide what you want your kids to hear. And dream about. :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

C is for Cat...

When I was telling my husband that I did an A is for Ache post and B is for Blah Blah post, and asked him what C should be, my daughter looked at me perturbed. She said, ‘Mamma, B is for ball, not bleh bleh.’ :) I said ‘Okay, B is for ball. And what is C for?’ She said ‘Cat!’ I was going to do a C is for Cricket post, but now, I’m going to do a post on cats.

At various points in the first 20 years of my life, I have had a cat as a pet. I adore cats. I have pictures of me as a fat little toddler with a beautiful golden cat sprawled beside me, as a 7 year old with a tooth missing, and a tiny white and grey kitten in my lap, and as a 12 year old playing with a feisty black and white cat.

This black and white cat is the one that has stayed in my memory. Though I’ve had cats after it too, they weren’t as special to me as Tabby was. My best friend Roohi and her brother came home one day with a tiny kitten in their arms. Their cat had had kittens and they were giving them away. I remember Tabby scrambling under the cupboard with the fear of being in a new environment, away from her mother. She refused to come out for a long time and only when hunger struck did she come out to drink some milk from the bowl we had placed for her.

She soon got used to her new home and her new family. My older brother, Faheem and I cuddled and played with her, showering her with love, hugs and lots of goodies from the kitchen. My parents did not display their love for Tabby as physically as we did, but it was apparent by the way they spoke to her. She was like a new little child in the family.

Tabby’s favourite place to sit in the whole house was my mother’s lap. I always wondered why this was, especially since mom never went out her way to pet and cuddle her. How come she didn’t prefer my lap? I figured she truly saw herself as a child of the home and mom as her mother. My younger brother Akbar was around two or three years old at the time. Tabby saw him as a rival because he often sat in my mother’s lap. She went up to him and tapped him with her paw, needling him to get up from what she considered her place. It looked like she was gently spanking him. At first we were concerned that she would hurt him. But we realised that she was always careful around Akbar, never once displaying her claws anywhere near him.

We would never let her out for fear that she would pick a fight with the neighbourhood cats. But when a stray tom cat came serenading her through the grill door, one particular mating season, she slipped out a couple of times when the door was ajar.

We didn’t really notice at first when she was pregnant. We just assumed that her big appetite made her fat. It dawned on us when we realised that her belly was abnormally big compared to the rest of her. She had become moody and jumpy. She started getting exhausted easily and wouldn’t play rough and tumble about when I prodded her to. Then one day she crept under my bed and didn’t come out for a few hours. We heard tiny baby meows and rejoiced the day Tabby became a mother.

She gave birth to six kittens but one of them died a few hours after birth. She mourned her dead child but soon got her wits together to tend to her other kittens. We buried the tiny kitten outside our house. Life went on and we had kitten running amok in our home.

It was hilarious and touching at the same time. I saw that Tabby had undergone a change in her demeanour overnight. Gone was the feisty little kitten who jumped and played silly tricks with us. She was suddenly serene and majestic, guarding her brood and humouring them as they played and tumbled about her.

It was obvious that we couldn’t continue having so many cats in our home. We thought about giving them away but couldn’t muster the heart to separate the feline family while the kittens were so young. So my dad suggested that we relocate them all to his office yard, till they are a little older. I was sad to see them go but I got to visit them a few times before each of the kittens found new homes. One day dad gave us the sad news that Tabby had died in an accident. I was devastated and cried for hours into my pillow.

It’s funny I hadn’t thought about her for a long time. But as I wrote this post, the warm fuzzy feeling of hugging a cuddly cat came rushing back. I got transported to those days when I would come home from school and Tabby would jump on my bed waiting for me to cuddle her in my arms. She is one of the many ‘persons’ who have touched my life fleetingly and left lasting pleasant memories.

Thank you Zainab, for saying C is for Cat.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

B is for Blah Blah...

I have never been big on talking. My mother says I started talking very early and just wouldn’t stop. I would talk and talk and talk but only in the comfort of my family circle. In front of guests or outsiders, I would be one of those children who would speak only when spoken to.

The years rolled by and even though I would talk a lot among my friends and on the phone with them, I was not a confident talker. I was bad at telling stories and I usually didn’t know how to come to the point. More often than not, when I tried to debate with someone on a topic, the reasoning came out all wrong. Not the way it was in my mind.

Ironically, I loved participating in speech competitions. I used to work hard at preparing for them, practicing for hours in front of a mirror till I got every line and expression perfect. I have won a couple too, not because I’m a good speaker, but because I practiced so hard. It gave me a thrill to stand in front of a listening crowd and deliver my speech. I would be extremely nervous and feel faint even, thinking of what I’m going to do, but ultimately it was like getting a high. And I loved that.

Around this time I came across a prayer in the Holy Quran - Chapter 20 (Surah Taha), verses 25 to 28. The Almighty God commands the Prophet Moses to go the Pharoah to call him to the right path. It is believed that the Prophet had a problem with his speech, and hence before going to the Pharoah he prayed to God.

"O my Lord! Expand my breast; Ease my task for me; And remove the impediment from my speech, So they may understand what I say.”

This prayer touched a chord with me the moment I read it. Since that day I have recited this prayer every single day of my life, randomly and particularly, when I have something important to say, either to a crowd or to an individual.

I’m a listener. I love listening. I would remember my friends talking about how they get so bored in those boring dinner parties where their moms and the other aunties would just talk and talk. But I remember enjoying those times. I would happily sit at the periphery of such groups and hope that no one asks me anything. I would be content in just listening to them talk. It was fascinating to study the different people and the various personalities that society holds. I rarely took note of what they wore or how pretty they looked. I’m not a very good observer like that. But I would take note of the way they spoke and how they spoke it. I could make out honesty and the lack of it. I would notice subtle hints in their talk about what their lives were about. It was fascinating.

Today, I don’t attend such dinner parties because the social life I have after marriage is vastly different from that of my younger days. My best friends, the ones I would speak to for hours in my school days, now live far away. We’ve all gotten so busy with our lives that those long conversations have become few and far between, but thankfully are still alive. I’ve come to realise that I have no patience for chit chat anymore. I can manage a few minutes of polite conversation but mindless banter annoys me. I also have no patience for people who repeat things – again and again. It is such a huge waste of time. There are just too many people out there who painstakingly spell things out, things that are understood and don’t need to be put into words. I get so annoyed when that happens, I wish I could hurry the person up. The only people who are allowed to get away with spelling things out are kids.

When my daughter Zainab started to talk, I realised she was going to be very different from me. She also began early and started talking and talking. Her vocabulary grew in leaps and bounds and she spoke clear grammatically correct sentences in Hindi when other kids her age were still learning to say Mama. More than her vocabulary, her thought process amazed us. She was a keen observer and would use new words in her speech all the time. Even if she doesn’t know what some word means, I have found her trying to use the new word in almost every sentence, till it became a part of her speech. Sometimes she will be busy playing with her toys or watching television while her father and I will be having a conversation, and a little later she will mention something that we spoke about, even though we had no idea she was paying attention to us.

Zainab is turning 3 in May. Someone told me recently that Zainab has the vocabulary of a 10 year old. That might be an exaggeration but is it very close to the truth. Just a few weeks ago her playgroup teacher said the same thing about her though process and how bright she was. She also said that Zainab is quite a composed child because she often sees her ‘explaining’ things to the other children or helping them with their games. She is composed at home, at least not most of the time. She is like a regular boisterous little toddler who needs constant attention and entertaining. When she paints, she paints her face and hands more than she paints on the paper. When she’s making ‘towers’ with her building blocks, she is also throwing the blocks right across the room in order to make a big mess, just the way she likes it. When the ads appear on television she watches awe struck, and has now learnt to sing/speak along with almost all the ad jingles and brand tag lines. I’ve often heard her say which she is deep in play, “Dil jo chahe paas laye.” Or “I’m lovin it!”

She started speaking English a few months ago. We consciously chose for her to learn English as a second language because we wanted her to be fluent in her mother tongue first. That achieved, we began speaking to her in English. My husband and I speak to each other in English, so Zainab already understood the language. She loves speaking English. She tries to speak in English all the time. Even if she can’t find the right words she will say something to get her point across. It’s wonderful to see how she is learning the language, almost on her own.

Out of the blue, a few days ago, we found that she suddenly developed a speech problem. We are not sure if it is something to worry about or something that will solve on its own. We are going to speak to an expert about it and see how we can help her overcome it as soon as possible. It breaks my heart but I know we have to be strong about whatever it is. Until then, I find myself constantly reciting my favourite prayer.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A is for Ache...

When I became a mom for the first time, it was like opening the doors wide open for all types of aches and pain to set shop inside my body. I suddenly felt like I was in someone else’s body. It felt old, tired and abused. The C-section was traumatic because I never expected something of that sort. And apart from the surgery pain, which stayed for a loooooong time, my muscles were all weak and devoid of energy. And this blasted hip ache started that continues to plague me.

I went through the new-mom-depression phase for a while too. I wondered why people want to go through all this to have kids. Why do they want to kill their strong bodies by putting themselves though the crazy pregnancy-delivery process? Why do they want to completely change the lives they were leading and devote every moment to a screaming tiny newborn? Why do you want to forsake sleep and leisurely baths and other fun stuff to this human being that came out of your body? And to top it all, it is a thankless job. You are supposed to do it. Because you are a mom.

At the same time, I was horrified at myself for having these thoughts. Why didn’t I naturally love being a mom? Why didn’t my love just overflow from my heart and banish all these negative thoughts? Weren’t moms meant to be made of unconditional love? What was wrong with me??!!

Thankfully, that phase lasted for only a couple of weeks and I was converted when I finally fell in love with my baby. My beautiful baby girl Zainab. She slowly taught me what it meant to become a mom. She taught me unconditional love. She gave me all the answers to why people have children. And slowly everything became worth it. The sleepless nights, the constant crying, the fussy meal times, the physical exertion, the absence of a social life... it was all worth it. Because I was a mom.

Now apart from the physical aches that were present, I realised another ache. One that hurt much much more. The aches in my heart that I got when my darling little girl got hurt. Or when she struggled with something. Each time I would wish I could wish away her pain. Or physically remove the pain from her body and place it in mine. Her vaccination days made me weep long before and long after the pricks. Every tooth that sprouted through her gums made me instinctively place my hand on my own jaw wondering how bad it must be for her. When she was around 10 months she had a bad case of constipation. It broke my heart to see her body go rigid and her face all contorted as she cried out for me to do something to help her. It’s heart-wrenching to see your child suffer. And it’s amazing that parents suddenly become so vulnerable to aches when it comes to their child.

Every day is a test when you are a parent. Today I have another reason for my heart to get all knotted up with pain and fear. Another reason to have the tears spilling over my cheeks at the most inconvenient of times. I won’t get into the details in this post; I’ll save it for another time. But when Zainab is older, I want her to know that her mom is going to be there for her every step of the way. It’s all just part of the surprises life keeps throwing up. Like hurdles in a race. This too shall pass, sweetheart.