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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for my girls.  Thank you for ears to hear their voices.  Thank you for eyes to see their beauty.  Thank you for arms to hold their bodies.  Thank you for a heart to feel their girly love.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for my wife.  Thank you for the beauty of her heart.  Thank you for the strength of her passion.  Thank you for the enveloping love of her affection.  I cherish her.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for my church.  Thank you for people who love your kingdom.  Thank you for friends who support me.  Thank you for a place where I feel freedom to be me.  Thank you for a body that loves wonder.

Thank you for my life.  I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pastor and Person...

Being a pastor and a person sometimes seems mutually exclusive.  The reason I know this is because I'm inordinately conscious of the difference between the two on most days.  Oh, there are small bits of time when I live in a pure stream of consciousness that blends the two together seamlessly.  But on most days, I find myself torn between the two, asking God to give me fresh ways to be both without canceling either one out.  The neutralizing/neutering of either would honestly break my heart.

This could be one of many reasons why I'm deeply intrigued with the God-Man Jesus, not that I'm equating myself with His Majesty, but you see what I'm getting at.  How can you live in the one role without losing the other.  How can you be fully both instead of working out some 50/50 deal?  How can you feel "today" and yet live in the realm of "forever".  How can you feel people's emotions in the moment all the while knowing the future?  How do you walk the tightrope holding that pole, with those polarizing polarities, without overcompensating and consequently losing balance.  I know they aren't enemies, but sometimes it seems so.  It can't be easy to be God and Man.  

I'm not implying that I relate to the God/Man Christ Jesus on all levels, but sometimes the peculiar nature of Pastor/Person seems to carry a similar tension.  The Pastor in me knows truth.  The Person in me knows temptation.  The Pastor in me is drawn to people.  The Person in me is cautious of people.  The Pastor in me leads.  The Person in me needs.  The Pastor in me is happy.  The Person in me is crappy.  The Pastor in me feels high.  The Person in me feels dry.  The Pastor in me can't help myself from caring.  The Person in me can't help myself from falling.  This juxtaposition is ever reminding me of its existence.

There were days when I wasn't so aware of these schizophrenic personalities.  I lived with a solidarity filled with unknowing altruism and innocence.  I hate admitting that.  I feel so sullied by years of expanding awareness, like a kid that thought his city block was the whole world only to find out that his house was on a block in a town outside a city within a county that was part of a state in a region of a nation on a continent of a planet in a galaxy within a vast and infinite universe.  All the sudden the simplicity and wonder of the city block prunes up, taking its place in the great circle of life (reference the the epic animation "Lion King").   Things that used to be wonderful slowly become wonderless.  It's funny how knowing less actually led to living more.  It seems that the opposite would be true, but I guess that's why I've increasingly used the word "seemingly" to begin sentences when explaining life.  Oh, to return to the boyhood neighborhood where the world was your oyster, and life wasn't lost in the explanation of it.

But I digress.  I only speak of the wearing down that happens over time making you painfully aware of things that break you into pieces; pieces like Pastor/Person.  And yet, there is something in me rebelling that division.  I'm fighting tooth and nail to be both simultaneously.  I'm fighting to not lose my personhood in my priesthood.  I'm fighting to hold tightly to each role knowing the loss of either invalidates both.  The church has suffered greatly from Pastors who forgot they were People.  I think the opposite is also true, that we live in a world filled with People who have forgotten that God has called them to be Pastors (caretakers, sheep-tenders, shepherds of humanity).  There's a bit of holy and human in us all, really.  The disregard of that reality spirals us into a tailspin of madness.

I am a person. I am human.  I love being human.  I love my frailty, my fragility, my finicky fascinations and fetishes.  I love my weaknesses as well.  I'm a sucker for feeling things deeply to my own detriment.  I love that.  I love that I can't help myself from being swept up into the stew of story...whether it's a love story, horror story, or sob story.  I'm undeniably and irresistibly human through and through.  "Fearfully human" as Anne Lamott eloquently says.  If someone is looking for chinks in my armor or chips in my character, they will surely find them.  The reason being I love my life and I stubbornly refuse to treat myself inhumanely for the sake of image.  I know a good many pastor-posers who have fallen hard due to this self-destructive/seductive inhumanity.  

I am a pastor.  I love being a pastor.  I love caring for people's souls.  I love seeing life change and being right there when it happens in real-time.  I love listening to people share their struggles for the first time.  I love expelling the darkness with truth.  I love reminding people of their glory and taking their hopeless grope and attaching it to a gropeless hope.  A hope that isn't something you touch with your senses, for hope that is seen is no hope at all as it says in the Scriptures.  Helping people toward hope is what I live for.  I love being a see-eye dog for the blind, a crutch for the cripple, an IV drip for the famished, a hug for the hurting, and hand for the amputated.  And it is this divine calling that compels me to give when I have nothing left.  And I will not treat myself indivinely which is just as detrimental as treating myself inhumanely, in my humble opinion.  And so I seek to cling to the one without losing the other.  And herein lies the dilemma that led me to write this in this first place.  I've come a full circle now, haven't I?  

Maybe this is the circle of life.  If so, I suppose I shall be running in circles the remainder of my earthly life.  But if keeping both alive means feeling like I'm running in circles, I will embrace this dizzy discipleship. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bright Star, John Keats...

I went to a movie a couple days ago, Bright Star.  It was a beautiful depiction of the life of John Keats, the luminary of romantic poetry.  This particular poem was quoted in the movie and it stirred my blood so deeply.  I would encourage anyone who loves romance to find where this movie is showing within a 200 mile radius and take your heart's companion. 

Read and weep....



Bright Star 
by John Keats 

 
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-- 
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death. 


Friday, November 13, 2009

Aly's last Daddy/Daughter dance...

The time had come to dance again

You could feel it in the air,

I saw it in my daughter’s eyes

As she practice-primped her hair.

 

“Are you getting excited?” Aly said

as she hugged me ‘round the waist,

“You better believe it!” I replied

as I picked her up with haste.

 

I swung her clockwise in the air

And sang a made-up song,

And as she smiled with girly glee

She sighed, “It won’t be long.”

 

I laid her in her fluffy bed

And hugged her with a cleave,

She shot-gun giggled with delight

on this Daddy-Daughter Dance Eve.

 

The whole day long my mind would drift

To dancing with my princess.

As she gathered with her giddy friends

All dolled up in their dresses.

 

Before I knew it, the time had come

to head toward my home,

where Aly was prepping for the night

with her makeup-artist-Mom.

 

As I turned into the gravel drive

And pulled up toward the garage,

I saw my girls off to the left,

And it felt like a mirage.

 

All preened and prissed was Aly Grace

With a mother’s custom care,

She stood there proud inside her dress

With her curly brunette hair.

 

She posed against the maple tree

As her mother snapped some shots,

I walked toward her with a smile

“I love you lots and lots.”

 

“I love you, too, Daddy!” she said

nasal toned and nostrils flaring,

I needed to go and change my clothes

But couldn’t keep my eyes from staring.

 

My little girl was growing up

Right before my aging eyes,

These moments won’t be here for long,

You get no second tries.

 

I hustled to my closet space

And fetched my nicest suit,

I combed my hair, put on cologne

That smelled like passion fruit.

 

I went downstairs and presented myself

As my daughters “ohhed” and “ahhed”,

They love it when I get all dressed up

And become the handsome dad.

 

We packed the family in the car

And headed out to eat,

Aly wanted for everyone

To enjoy this special treat.

 

Logan’s Roadhouse was the chosen spot

For our little pre-dance meal,

We ate free peanuts like elephants,

While Kami said, “What a steal!”

 

We finished up and headed home

To drop off her mom and her “sissies”,

And then we traversed o’er to Meijer

To get a surprise for “Miss Prissy”.

 

We parked the car and Aly said,

“Daddy, what are we doing here?”

I told her she had 10 dollars to spend

On whatever would bring her heart cheer.

 

She picked out a Webkin, I think that makes 12,

It was a Reindeer with antlers and fur,

She decided to name it Rudy for short,

I said that was entirely up to her.

 

We left the store and turned toward the school

She hugged her new animal tight,

The weather was perfect, the sky was clear

This was gonna’ be a glorious night.

 

When we walked in the school she skipped to the desk

Where they handed out tiaras and sashes,

Just like you’d see in a Miss American pageant,

Where the whole place sparkles and splashes.

 

We hit the dance floor like two butterflies

Spinning and swirling around,

No happier couple in the town of Lowell

Could possibly ever be found.

 

Between my legs I swung her frame

Then I snapped her to her feet,

Jigging back and forth like squirrels

We swayed to every beat.

 

The faster songs she danced with friends

And I would bow it out,

But when a slower song came on

I’d hear a little shout.

 

“Dad!” she cried with her little voice

“It’s time for us to dance.”

She’d grab by arm and lead me out

Where we’d assume the stance.

 

I took her little hand in mine,

she hugged me around my waist,

And bending down to cradle her,

I softly kissed her face.

 

The slower songs would settle her

And sedated in romance,

I’d pick her up; she’d straddle me

we'd spin as if entranced.

 

She’d bury her head into my neck

As I kissed her peach-fuzz ear,

I’d quietly whisper, “Love you, Grace”.

While I shed a fatherly tear.

 

Crying happened throughout the night

As I’d watch her lost in life,

There’s nothing better than innocence

To cut me like a knife.

 

As is the custom the night would end

With a love song for each date,

Aly knew it was coming really soon,

Like predestinated fate.

 

And when it came the song rang out

Like a spell was cast upon us,

I closed my eyes and took it in

Like a first encounter with Jesus.

 

“The smile on your face

lets me know that you need me

Theres a truth in your eyes

sayin youll never leave me

 

The touch of your hand

says youll catch me if ever I fall

You say it best

when you say nothing at all.”

 

I rocked her back and forth that night

Remembering her birth,

When I took her in my loving arms

And heaven came down to earth.

 

As time stood still her life had passed

Before my mindful eye,

And as the song came to an end

My heart began to cry.

 

These moments in a daddy’s life

Are fleeting as a mayfly,

Here today but gone tomorrow

How quickly time goes by.

 

I kissed her neck again and again,

She snuggled on my chest,

I tilted my neck toward her ear

And said, “Gracie, you’re the best.”

 

We pulled away that cool fall night

She sighed and held my hand,

“I hate when this happens,” she blurted out

I completely understand.

 

When we got home, she brushed her teeth

Preparing herself for bed.

I was downstairs upon the couch

Resting my weary head.

 

When all the sudden I heard a sob

That spoke of a broken heart,

Aly was weeping to her mother upstairs

Falling helplessly apart.

 

I heard her coming down the stairs

To give a goodnight hug,

She climbed upon my manly chest,

As snug as a bug in a rug.

 

She started to weep with sorrow deep

Like my little mourning dove,

I clasped my hands around her back

Embracing her with love.

 

I told her that we’d always dance,

We didn’t need an event,

We only needed our heart’s to seize

The dance in each moment.

 

With swollen eyes she smiled at me,

and I kissed her salty face,

This ends this story of my second born,

The adorable “Alyvia Grace.”

Vintage Marriage...

check out this article on vintage wine...

________________________________

Vintage Wine

Generalization can help the wine lover grasp wine complexities to a certain extent. The weather conditions (mild winter, frost, hail, rain before harvest) undergone by the vines and grapes give collective traits to the wines of a certain year in a given region. Here I am thinking about a cool climate such as in Oregon, France or Germany. Here below are examples.

In France and the Italian Piedmont, the 2003 spring rain deficit and the ensuing summer heatwave often resulted in wines that lacked freshness.

In practice, wines of a given county - if bottled at one or two months interval - may share some features:

  • They are difficult to taste for the same length of time (a few weeks for the 1997s in Burgundy and the Loire Valley, a few years for the 1998s);
  • They share an acidity tendency: most of them taste fresh (1996 and 2001 in France) or most of them taste flabby (2003 in Europe);

  • They are rough (1998 in France) or smooth (1996 and 1997 in Burgundy);

  • A fine wine in an "exceptional" year (1989, 1990, 2000, 2005 in France) is a keeper: it will reward being cellared longer than a wine from the same plot in a "difficult" year (2003, 2004 in France). 

    ________________________________________________

    Vintage as a word hails from vineyard antiquity.  It is used for a variety of things in our culture, but it's origins are found in the vineyard field of interest, which makes sense based on its root word, "vine".  I've often thought of vintage meaning old, precious, priceless, seasoned, valuable, rare, etc. ... which would be accurate in some senses.

    I love the idea of weather conditions (mild winter, frost, hail, rain before harvest) in a certain season affecting the vintage nature of the wine in good or adverse ways.  I can think of seasons within my marriage where we've undergone inclement seasons that have produced a more vintage texture and taste within our relationship.  There have been very cold seasons, early frost even, that directly impact the wine produced in that year, for the good or bad.  There are certainly exceptional years followed by a "cellared" aged wine that makes me think there isn't a rival glory in all creation to marriage.  However, there have been certain very "difficult" years that have produced a very different product.  Some of those days and years are ones that you wonder if you should bulldoze the whole vineyard and call it quits.  

    I'm reminded that the care of a vineyard, much like the care of a marriage, is deeply reliant on an outside source, a Chief Vinedressor to provide the weather patterns that produce vintage wines.  You can do all you can in your own power to care for the vine, but if "Mother Nature" (or "Father Vintner" rather) isn't providing rain and shielding frost, it won't matter.  

    The absolute collaboration with God is essential to producing vintage wines.  These seasons that we go through Rough/Smooth, Fresh/Flabby (I love that one!), Difficult/Exceptional . . . we won't survive unless we are praying to the Vinedressor/Vintner of Heaven to send rain and to protect from heatwaves.  He has to be an intimate part of the marriage for it to produce vintage wine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Song of Solomon for Literalists...

Just click on this image and watch what happens when an analogician meets a logician.  Literalists slay me....



Kierkegaard does it again...


Here is a quote from Kierkegaard that will hopefully do your heart some good.  I received it from a fellow warrior/poet who used to be in my Student Ministry in Ohio, Caleb Barrows.  It's text has burnt itself into the tissue of my soul.

"What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music.  His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalais imprisoned in a brazen bull and slowly tortured over a steady fire: their cries could not reach the tyrant's ears so as to strike terror into his heart.  When they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music.  And men crowd about the poet and say to him: "Sing for us soon again"; that is as much as to say; "May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be formed as before; the cries would only frighten us, but the music is delicious."  And the critics come too and say; "Quite correct, and so it ought to be according to the rules of aesthetics."  Now it is understood that a critic resembles a poet to a hair, he only lacks the suffering in his heart and the music upon his lips."

May new sufferings torment your soul today, my poet friends, and may the blood that flows be the transfusion this fainting world is fainting for, is dying without.

And may the Ecclesiastes that pour forth warm the cooling, leaking, hardening arteries of this watching world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2 Buck Chuck...

This is a note I received from a brother in my Talmidim that meets each week, Dave Talcott.  Our brotherhood is exploring this "vineyard" theme together and I must say that I'm nourished by the sunken treasure we are discovering.  I decided to share his email to our band of brothers just this morning...

________________________________________________

Vinedresser--Vinters,
Here is a excerpt of a rather timely e-mail that I recently received. Check this out...

Dear David, 
Perfect for holiday gifts and entertaining, the $49 2005 Diamond Terrace, Diamond Mountain Cabernet is a fantastic deal!  Made by Thomas Brown, the winemaker for Schrader Cellars and Turley Cellars, who has achieved two 100 point scores from Robert Parker and two 99 point scores from Wine Spectator in the past, the quality of the Diamond Terrace is sure to exceed your expectations.   

Diamond Terrace is a micro-production, family owned winery.  Its wines are priced at a fraction of Thomas's other wines, but are made with the same passion and dedication to his winemaking philosophy.   

The 2005 Diamond Terrace Cab is indeed a gem from Diamond Mountain. 

Winemaker tasting notes -  
The wine has really blossomed in the bottle. First you notice the saturated garnet color and then you are hit with super expressive nose of graphite, white flowers and cassis. The blue and black fruit dominated palate contains crushed blackberries, blueberries, liquid mineral and wet gravel notes. The finish showcases its hillside fine-grain tannin component without turning dry. The drinks well now, but will continue to develop nicely for 5 - 10 years.

Sincerely,
Aabalat Fine & Rare Wines

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This thing just seems to be so ripe with metaphor to the marriage relationship as I have been reading it through this new lens of Husbandman/Vinedresser, Winemaker/Vinter. I've noticed that the name of the winemaker, his status or renown is directly related to the quality of the wine produced. The quality and value of the wine is derived from the passion and dedication of the winemaker. However, it is ultimately the wine that defines, not only the Vinter, but the Vinedresser as well. Because it all starts at the vine, it is the time spent in care of and cultivation of the vine that determines it's fruitfulness and quality of fruit produced. It reminds me again of the verse in Jeremiah 31:22 "...For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth-- A woman shall encompass a man"

Then there is the Winemaker's tasting notes. As the Vinedresser 'loves' his vine, so the Vinter 'knows' his wine. As he pours it out into a long stem crystal vessel, long before he ever takes a sip he gazes deeply into the wine and is captivated by its color, its character and body. He is overwhelmed by the diversity of its aroma and he affirms that his wine has really blossomed in the bottle. Next he takes in the fruit of his labor of love and is once again captured by all of the subtle nuisances of the wines taste and finish. And although he declare's that the wine drinks well now, in anticipation he knows that the taste will continue to develop and become even finer for years to come.

Wow, put in this context I have to wonder how well do I 'love' and 'know' my wife, am I even getting close or am I behaving as one merely looking for a cheap buzz from out of a brown paper bag. If the Husbandman is known for the fruitfulness of his vine; and the winemaker for the essence of his wine; when it comes to how well my wife has been loved. What will my name's renown be?  Will I be a 'Mr. Chardonnay' or more of a '2 Buck Chuck'? The honest pursuit of that answer is proving to be very sobering indeed.

In the apprenticeship of the Master,
'Cellar Rat' dave

Friday, November 06, 2009

the vintner...Mr Chardonney

Their is a vinedresser, and their is a winemaker.  The winemaker is traditionally called a vintner.  I love the following article that speaks of the humble beginnings of a "cellar rat" who studied the trade and craft of winemaking becoming a world renowned "vintner".  I love the nicknames that attached themselves to him after years of refining his wine.  Mr. Chardonnay, the Godfather of wine, the Winemaster.   And I especially love how this article ends..."he enriched the wine world with his outstanding work and is now passing the torch to his son Matt."  Oh, that this could be said of me.  I long to enrich the world with my delicate treatment of marriage.

__________________________________


Here's the article...

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with legendary winemaker Chuck Ortman, “winemaster” at Ortman Family Vineyards. After talking to him for more than two hours about his 40-year career in the wine industry, I think calling him a winemaster is an understatement of his career achievements.

Ortman, whose passion for wine soon overtook his career in graphic arts, began in 1968 as a “cellar rat” (I love that...that's where it always starts as husbands) for legendary winemaker Joe Heitz of Napa Valley’s Heitz Cellars.

During my visit, I was able to taste many of his offerings, including the 2007 chardonnay from Edna Valley.

I can see why Chuck Ortman was nicknamed “Mr. Chardonnay” (my emphasis) in the ’70s as a pioneer of barrel fermentation. It is a balanced chardonnay in true Burgundian style.

I moved next to two 2006 pinot noirs, one from Fiddlestix Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills, the other from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. They were different but both outstanding. The Fiddlestix pinot had the classic big fruit while the Oregon pinot was earthier and more of a French Burgundy style of pinot.

The last wine I tasted was the 2007 Rhone style blend called CuveƩ Eddy; a blend of syrah, grenache, mourvedre and petite syrah, it was excellent.

Chuck Ortman, the Winemaster, Mr. Chardonnay and The Godfather (my emphasis)— a nickname bestowed on him by tasting room staff — has enriched the wine world with his outstanding work and now is passing the torch to his son Matt.

__________________________

The vintner spouse.  Mr. Chardonnay.  Wouldn't that be a great way to be described as a husband.  "Here is a man that produces a great tasting wife (wine)."  She sparkles.  She glows.  She's smooth.  She's soft.  She's colorful.  She's irresistible.  She leaves you smiling.  She leaves everything around her tasting better.  She leaves you mildly intoxicated.  She tantalizes your taste buds.  She has a brilliant beauty to her smile, a gentleness to her eyes.  She is fine.  She is fine wine.  She is the wife of Mr. Chardonney...the vintner extraordinaire.  She's loved. 

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Vine then Wine...



I was just thinking... "The health of the vine determines the taste of the wine."  or "As goes the vine, so goes the wine."

We love to drink the wine, but the vinedresser is thinking about the vine first.  He is not rushing to the wine quite just yet.  He understands the idea of putting "first things first".

So many men just want to enjoy the wine.  They are winebibbers instead of vinedressers.  They want to enjoy the fruit without the labor.  But the passage in Psalm 128 says, "then he will enjoy the fruit of his labor..."  Interesting.  The foreplay (or forework in this case) become crucial to the unfolding story.  Rush to the end without thinking of the means, and things will surely come to an end.  

"If a man won't work, he shouldn't eat" as it says in the New Testament.  I find this to be true across the board.  The principle is this... Invest/Harvest.  Without investment, there is no harvestment.   And when their is reaping without sowing, it is more akin to raping without knowing.  You cannot continue to pick fruit if you're not interested in the plowing, planting, pruning seasons as well.  Invest then Harvest.

The labor with the vine leads to the ardor of the wine.  I see this time and time again with my wife.  As I elevate her as the primary interest, the wine follows.  Oh, does it follow.

Just some more thoughts from the demented mind of Jason...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

God and Trailer parks...

I asked my daughters a question last night at supper, "What would you think if we sold our house and moved to a trailer park?"  The conversation that unfolded lasted almost an hour.  They climbed up on the kitchen table and sat there with Indian-crossed legs as we talked about possessions, what is important, what we think we deserve, where Jesus would be if he lived in Lowell, why we think we need more, what clothes are really supposed to be (stuff to cover your privates) instead of what they've turned into (stuff to adorn you in order to get people to look at you with either jealously or contempt or lust or comparison), what life is like in Africa and what kinds of homes they live in....

IN fact...

I took a sheet of paper and drew out the floor plan of a trailer.  I then drew out our house in comparison to show how much bigger it is.  Then I drew a little hut off to the side and showed how much bigger the trailer is than most houses in the world.  They sat there stupefied.  

I then did a dramatic monologue of what can only be described as a "california hollywood girl" who is spoiled rotten and who lives in a huge house but is miserable cause her parents have been divorced and remarried four times.  She has the coolest stuff, but she is spoiled and bratty and unhappy.  That went on for about 10 minutes.  They laughed and yet I used the humor to crack open their hearts to the sickness of our society, and worse yet, our Christianity.

I couldn't believe how much they absorbed this line of logic.  Though they pushed back with the perceived embarrassment (much of which comes through false ideas peddled at school) of living in a trailer park, and the "making fun" that they would get from their friends, I turned that into a teaching time of how we view people of lower income, lower position, lower social status.  "Who do we think we are?"  I said that about a hundred times.

Later that night, after I had put her to bed, Kami wrote a letter to Heidi and I that started like this: "Mom and Dad...I am so thankful that God has placed me in our family.  I love you both so much!  Make sure that when you go to be you turn the fan toward me feet.  The End."    She underlined the words "God" and "placed"...which are, in my opinion, the two most beautiful words in this note.

I share this to let you all know that the "rabid rabbi" would have been having these conversations.  They are not pleasant, but they are pleasurable.

I don't know where to go from here, but I'm sure glad I'm here.