Monthly Archives: January 2015

Undeveloped & Unreal: Camping on the Beach

boca chica sunrise van

It was thrilling to leave the comfort and known of the studio behind.  Just being out on the road felt great. There is something especially stirring when the road is one’s home. When there is no place to be. Freedom, with all its unknown potentials, is a wellspring of joy.

I got out here to Boca Chica Beach expecting it to be deserted for the most part, as it was last time. I suppose the sunshine and warm temps is what brought all the people out. There were people fishing, tanning, and just enjoying the summer-like heat on the beach, but the dunes still held the promise of solitude and an incredible 360 deg. view.

After carefully selecting a path through the soft sand so as not to get stuck, I headed a little ways down the beach and found a spot to camp. I spent the day laying in the sun and meditating out in the dunes on my trips to the use the only facilities here. (bring your own t.p. people!  😉

What I love about the beach, especially when you are alone, (not difficult at an undeveloped beach 20 miles from town like this one) is that it is easy to be in a meditative state all day long. The oceans lullaby, the wide open sky…there is a lot to take up one’s awareness. Like the forest, it can quiet the mind.

I decided a campfire would be cool, and despite the absence of any trees, started collecting what pieces of old firewood I could find. I managed to get quite a bag full of driftwood, half-burned pieces of another camper’s fire, and dried out pieces of the brush that grows in the dunes. I saved it all for dusk.

It was a great day. I felt at peace, and so very grateful for the warm sunshine and the breeze. I did not go in the water past my knees, despite wanting to jump in naked under the stars later that night. It was just a bit too cold out, it seemed. I wanted to be warm in my bed in the van, and not get the jersey sheets salty or sandy.

People started leaving by 4, and by 6 o’clock I was alone on the beach. I felt like this huge stretch of beach, with it’s dunes and wide open sky, was my own personal Walden Pond for the night. I was excited, grateful, and very much at peace.

The sunset was unbelievable. Blood red at it’s climax. I am so grateful that moments like these literally call to me. It is hard to explain, but I can be doing something else and suddenly I feel like there is a fleeting moment  there for me to catch. I love the hair-raising awe I feel whenever I heed that voice.  I have goosebumps writing about it now. I love how nature can call me home, connecting me to the profound beauty that is the Universe, that is Love.

boca chica sunset

My jaw was open for much of that sunset, and my heart was full of joy and excitement. I thought of Chris McCandless, (Into the Wild) and what he wrote to Wayne. “ I think I will live this life for quite some time. The beauty and simple joy is too good to pass up.” I felt the same way.

It took some effort, but I got a great campfire going. I called Melissa back after enjoying it alone for a while. I felt sharing it would make it even more special. It did. I love sharing moments I know we both appreciate. She is a treasured connection.

As the sun set fully, the moon and stars took over the stage that was the vast sky.The western sky had a dim orange glow from the city, the rest of the sky was black and deep blue, with the half-moon lighting up the clouds that hung in the eastern sky.

As the night deepened, my excitement and profound gratitude for what I was seeing only continued. I sat by my cozy campfire and enjoyed what looked like a black hole around the moon. It was a lunar halo, when the moonlight and the moisture create a dim rainbow of cloudy color that encircles the moon. Inside that ring it was black, with very few stars visible. Outside the ring the stars burned through the moonlight between a spiderweb of clouds.

It was breathtaking. I laid on my beach chair staring up at, the flickering light of the fire playing tricks on my eyes, causing a few of the stars to appear to wiggle and the moon itself to flicker. A great sunset and now this?! I was felt smiled upon.

Eventually the fire died down, and I went to sleep. There is nothing like being outside all day in the sun and ocean breeze to get one good and tired. My bed in the van was comfy and warm, and the sounds of the surf put me right to sleep.

I woke up to pee a couple times, and had no problem going back to sleep. When I woke up at 5:30 or so, and poked my head outside, my jaw dropped again, and there was no going back to sleep.

The clouds were gone, as was the moon. It has been a long time since I had seen so many stars. I bundled up for the breeze, and took a walk south down the beach. It was especially dark that way, and the stars were everywhere. I had hit the trifecta of night time magic!

All alone on the beach, under a truly breathtaking night sky. It doesn’t get much better than that for this soul. The stars always make me feel expanded, and this was one of the most expansive sights of my life. I wondered for a second if the sunrise would have much color, as I didn’t see many clouds. That thought went quickly…look at how things had gone so far.

I got back to the van and had some water with lemon and cucumber. I started some yoga stretching just as the first inklings of light began to separate sky from sea. As the minutes passed I began to see a cloud bank on the horizon. I smiled. Color was coming. The sun would begin to paint another masterpiece soon.

There is something profound, it has always felt to me, in waking up my body while watching a new day break. It is like attuning the body to the flow of nature. To capture the beauty of dawn with the eyes fills the heart with possiblity and potential. These are the moments it is easy to connect with the Divine. To know peace, and remember who one really is. Gratitude flows over, and there is nothing else to need.

boca chica sunrise me & van

PS. There is a private company called Space X that is beginning construction on a launch pad not far from this oasis of nature, so if you want to see it without that dominating the view to the northwest, get there this year!

Oh, and the second day I couldn’t resist, and jumped in the ocean! The ocean here in January is a couple degrees warmer, it seems, than the beaches in NE in August!

boca chica swim

Out To The Edge

south padre island jetty

It seems to me most of life’s magic happens outside our comfort zone.

It is 3 pm, and I am at Isla Blanca State Park on the Southernmost tip of South Padre Island.  It is nice here, the sun has come out, and despite the breeze it must be in the mid to upper 60’s.

There is a very long jetty here. I decided to walk out to the end. Who doesn’t want to go to the edge, of anything? I always feel driven to know what it feels like, “all the way out there”. It doesn’t matter the place. I suppose in many regards that explains my current journey into so many unknowns.

It was a long walk, and the jetty is made of huge blocks of stone, and once you get half way out, they are not flat or smooth. It was challenging to my legs and feet, and I wondered how sore my feet would be after all of it. I would say it was almost a mile out there from the car.

More than once I stopped, wondering if I should go back. That’s when the symbolism hit me. This is a snapshot of my life these days. It was getting harder, and more slippery in places, and I knew I had to walk all the way back too. But the edge was calling, and the deep green water beckoned. Only out at the end, in the distance, did the ocean look anything but brown, as here the heavy surf churned the sand below.

I wanted to be where the water was green and blue. I wanted to be out on the tip, where I could feel the waves crashing against the rocks, shooting white tipped water 10 feet into the air. I wanted to be surrounded by the force of nature, as far from the known safety of shore as possible.

It always seems like there is magic in such places. Mountaintops, cliffs, deep forests. There is, but it is we who bring it there. We savor the edge of the unknown. When all there is is the known, where then lies the thrill of new experience? I made up my mind and felt the rush of excitement that comes with a bold decision, even a small one.

The sounds of this trek were alone worth the effort. The sea has carved out caves and tunnels below and in between the rocks. The waves crashing into hollow spaces below and spurting out the cracks and crevices was a constantly surprising, sometimes startling cacophony of sound beneath my feet as I pressed on. Water bubbled and hissed out of small holes, and splashed about more freely in bigger chasms between the giant blocks.

It got more slippery as I neared the end. I went as far as I could without being in the splash zone, which would have been a soaking deluge of sea water and spray every time the bigger sets rolled in. I sat and closed my eyes, dangling my legs into a gap between stones. The water was only a foot below my feet, and rose with the surge of the waves.

A huge set rolled in, and the water rushed up over the rocks in front of me to within 5 feet of where I was, smiling with the excitement of being right on the edge of getting cold and wet, and at the mercy of an unusually big wave. To close my eyes became an exercise in trust.

I smiled, and did just that.

When I opened them again, I saw a dolphin emerge for air right off the rocks in front of me. It was about 30 feet away. I stood up, enthralled and with my mouth open in amazement, and two more, one a very small young one, also came up for a moment. I scanned the surf, hoping to see them again, but the moment was gone.

The walk back from a place like this always seems shorter, I guess. Going back to the known is always in some respects an easier road. We take some of the edge back with us, don’t we? What called us is now part of us. In knowing the edge we are expanded.

The cold ocean served as a nice ice bath for my aching feet on my return. Thick wool socks feel good now on my feet as I recline in the van and write out my thoughts. I glance back out to the jetty, and smile. I have taken it’s gift. It is the edge no more.





Actor or Director?

What is the one thing you want to be able to look back and say about your life when its, well, time to say goodbye to it? If I asked 10 people I might get 10 answers.

I made a difference.

I gave my children every opportunity I could.

I had the courage to follow my dreams.

I was a good person. 

I did my best.

This of course is a deeply personal reflection for which there is no right or wrong answer. For me, I would say, I found my way back to Love. When I say Love, mean both loving others, and loving myself. More precisely, being love. Being joy. Emotions are frequencies, vibrations. And love is the highest state of being we can achieve.

To me, when we connect to our true self, we connect with Love. We connect with the Divine. At the soul level, we all are Love. The notion of our souls being stained by “sin”, and in need of redemption by a God who stands in judgement, it seems to me, is to give God an ego, which is absent in Love. It is only our fear that separates us from the endless flow of Love and power that we call God. Those same fears keep us feeling unworthy of being happy all the time.

But I digress. More on all that in the next post.

Love. Joy. It seems to me, these emotions will always lead to all the different responses I offered to the opening question. If we can simply be happy, we will lead the lives and have the impact we all want to have on those we love and the world as a community.

We all have the a lot more power than most of us realize. In fact, you have some abilities that when harnessed can not only bring you and keep you in a state of joy and love more often than not, they can literally change the world.

Self-awareness. Focus. Perception.

We are all self-aware to some degree or another. What a gift this is! Think about it. I can step back and observe myself. I can notice how things in my world make me feel, and adjust my behavior. More importantly, I can observe the inner world of my thoughts and emotions, and change them. And the more I do this, the better I get at it!

Sure, things happen around us that we will piss us off, or make us sad in the moment. But the more self aware we can become, and more we leave behind our addiction to playing the victim  (what? yup…that’s what I said) the faster we can use another awesome ability to move out of those survival emotions back into joy and peace.

Focus. Another magnificent yet underutilized gift! This one is like the remote control for your eyes and ears. And how great is any remote? Imagine if the only channel on TV was C-Span? Ughhh. Or Keeping Up With the Kardashians 24/7?  You have even more of a selection in life than those 700 channels you get from the cable company! Choose what makes you happy!

I for one am so grateful I have the option of ignoring the media, and its obsession with stressing the shit out of me. I mean, almost daily even the weather is served up with a huge side of potential catastrophe. Especially in New England.

I also used to be one of those talk radio junkies. You know, that guy at work you have to be careful not to say anything positive about the gov’t around, for fear of the Gov’t Sucks 101 lecture you are surely to get. Then I woke up one day several years ago and realized I didn’t want to be angry all the time. It was time to change the channel.

And the last gift: perception. Here is where you can flip the switch on the things that do in fact demand your focus, at least some of the time: work, relationships, the challenges of parenthood, etc, etc. And it goes hand in hand with focus.

You know how people always say “there’s always a silver lining”? You also know how when someone says that before you are ready to hear it, you want to strangle them. But we know it’s true. April showers do, in fact, bring May flowers. No one is forcing you or I to focus on the rain. No one has a gun to your head compelling you to be an expert in your boss’s faults. Or, more importantly, yours.

Perception is reality. The aspects of a particular person, event or idea we focus on determines this. And it can change, in a hurry, and shake us to the core as it alters our death grip on reality. (See Deflate-gate and we Patriot fans 🙂 Why do we have such tight grip on things? Even the opportunity to improve our perception and therefore our experience is often met with resistance. Why is that?

Well, no book has helped me understand this better than “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself- How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. It is a book on both neuro and Noetic science. It brings quantum physics into mind/body beliefs like Law of Attraction. If you really want to break the grip your subconscious mind has on your perception, open your mind, gather your courage, and read this book.

If you still labor under the weight of the widely accepted belief that your genes control your destiny when it comes to talents, abilities, and the big one: health, labor no longer! Free yourself from the “cancer runs in my family” resignation! You are not a victim of your genes. There is so much out there in the emerging science of Epigenetics that will set you free from that thinking. The aforementioned book, as well as Dr. Bruce Lipton’s information packed video “The Biology of Belief” will shift your perspective forever, or at least present the opportunity for that.

It’s up to us. We can become self-aware to greater degrees. We can use our ability to focus and change the channel. In doing so we can alter our perception of the world, and more importantly, our Self. We can occupy both our place on the stage and the directors chair in the epic tale that is our life.

And aren’t those director chairs cool?












Hands in the Clay


manifesting your dreams big size

“There are no happier people on this planet than those who decide that they want something, define what they want, get hold of the feeling of it even before its manifestation, and then joyously watch the unfolding as piece by piece its begins to unfold. That’s the feeling of your hands in the clay.” –Abraham-Hicks

Yes! I love this quote! Every time I read it with an open heart I smile broadly and nod my head knowingly as a breath or two of laughter comes out.

If you don’t know me you may have wondered what the title of this blog was all about. There you go. I love the imagery, the allegorical nature of the phrase used here. The clay is my life, and my thoughts and emotions are the hands shaping it.

Hands in the Clay is a life motto for me. When I first explored the implied truth behind this quote about 10 years ago, it was life changing. In it I found empowerment, love and gratitude. There you have the blog tagline. Three gifts I intend to share more about in the next three posts 🙂  The impact of the paradigm shift this idea brought me was so great I found myself wanting a permanent reminder of the joy and freedom found there. I did, and have a design tattooed on my shoulder that does just that.

I am not writing this post, or any others in this blog, to convince you of anything. There are infinite paths to joy and satisfaction in this experience we call life, and I have learned to honor them all. I write, well, for one, because words are one of the ways we share our experience, and sharing, as we all know, feels great! And who knows, perhaps my words can give to someone else a measure of the joy I have been given through what others have written.

It was in fact the Abraham-Hicks books, such as “Ask and It Is Given” that first introduced me to the idea that my thoughts affected my reality. Of course, like most others I saw the short movie “The Secret” when it first came out. This movie referenced new discoveries in quantum physics, so being the critical thinker I am dove into a little of that. I mean, lets make sure this create my own reality stuff isn’t a bunch of New Age hooey, right?

It didn’t take a very deep dive to learn of the famous Double Slit experiment, first conducted over 200 years ago. This experiment, replicated many times since then with increasingly more modern equipment, is what birthed the “quantum” study of physics to begin with. If you want an excellent yet short (5:04) visual explanation of what happened, I would suggest the following video. .

The experiment concluded, in the super simplest of layman’s terms, that subatomic particles like photons and electrons, weren’t in fact particles at all, but possibilities. What? Yeah, that’s right. They could be observed, isolated, shot out of a “gun” as a particle, yet then behave, not as a particle would, (the particle they just were in order to be shot out of the gun)  but as waves as they passed through the double slits designed to direct their direction.

Holy sh*%#t!.. I think is what the physicists were likely thinking. Waves, that is, and here’s where it really gets cool….until they were observed. (cue the Twilight Zone music). Then we saw what we expected to see. What our beliefs told us should happen.

Doesn’t that just make you smile and laugh? For me it was like learning the most amazing, mind blowing thing ever and remembering a long known truth at the same time. It just makes sense, even in it’s non-sense. Ha. Seriously, watch the video, you’ll get it.

This became known as “collapsing the wave function.” The observer collapsed possibility into matter at the subatomic level. Think about that! And we knew this 200 years ago!

“It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the conclusion that the content of consciousness is the ultimate universal reality.” – Eugene Wigner, 1962 Nobel prize winning physicist.

The content of consciousness is the ultimate universal reality. Hmmm…wait a sec. But I can’t stop an apple from falling to the ground with my thoughts. Clearly it doesn’t work outside the realm of the subatomic.

Hold on there. Hold an apple out and prepare to drop it. Can you honestly tell me you believe you can prevent it from dropping? Why not?

Ah yes, the power of belief at work against my desire to suspend that apple in mid-air. Or my desire to heal my body. Or to create a life that isn’t a struggle for survival. It is amazing how deeply our subconscious holds on to “reality”. Kind of a bummer, huh?

Well, it could be. I certainly have learned that the hands immersed in the clay that is my life are not the easy daydreams of my conscious mind alone, but my entire mind. 85% of which, is my subconscious.

Deeply held, fear-based coping mechanisms and thought patterns, learned early on in life and reinforced throughout, have made for a long journey back to health that continues today. Re-wiring the mind doesn’t usually happen overnight. Especially when the old wiring is loaded with judgement and struggle.

After a Western medicine diagnosis of an “incurable” degenerative arthritic condition had me for years taking unholy amounts of pain meds, both prescribed and OTC, I was faced with the prospect of long term disability instead of working as things continued to worsen. It was this idea, the notion that I could effect change in my outer world by changing the inner, that gave me hope, and the courage to face my greatest fears.

As I said, the long journey continues. But its length only adds to the wisdom it offers. I am profoundly grateful for all it has brought me.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” -Albert Einstein.

Indeed. Higher consciousness. Love. Empowerment. More on that come!


Got momentum?

momentum shift Pats

If you are a football fan, (or the lucky spouse of one ) you understand the idea of momentum as it relates to team sports….and how fast that can change.  One team can be marching up and down the field, controlling the line of scrimmage, and simply imposing their will on the other. The confidence of the players of the team with the “momentum” grows, and this feeling spreads to the fans in the stadium. If it’s the home team dominating, the place is rockin’! If it’s not, it’s either pin drops or boo birds.

Let’s imagine it’s the latter, and it’s a playoff game. Loser goes golfing. The stadium is a sea of tension and waning faith. The commentators note the anxiety they can feel in the place.

You are a fan of the home team, and you’re on the couch, biting your nails between deep breaths. You are exhausted from standing and yelling at the TV, pleading with your guys to get their shit together.

All fans have seen the following unfold: a big play, pass interference call or a huge mistake leads to a score for your team. They have a pulse. They kick off, the return team fumbles or the QB throws a pick, and bam, another quick score. 21-zip is now 21-14.

YEAH  BABY! You’re on your feet, high-fiving your buddy, no longer exhausted but suddenly ready to lift the couch off the floor during a commercial to retrieve the popcorn you knocked over leaping out of your seat. Hmm….Maybe you’ll vacuum the entire room after the win. The wife would like that. You might get lucky. Your mind is alive with possibility.

The commentator states the obvious: the momentum has shifted.

And how often after this type of momentum swing do you see a defense that had you letting them know, emphatically, that they couldn’t stop the local high school team, suddenly start playing like a bunch of Pro Bowlers? Or an offense that wasn’t converting a single third down start making plays?

No changes of personnel on either side. No change in weather. No trick plays even. They just start winning the matchups. They raise their game. They compete harder.

The opposite starts to happen on the other side. Receivers drop balls. The QB makes a terrible decision. 3 and out. Punt. The line, who was previously opening holes your grandmother could run through, is now getting manhandled. Your team ties the game. You are loving this. You now have the courage to mock the opposition through the TV.

The mood in the stadium changes completely. It is now alive….and loud. The visiting QB had no problem calling plays before, but now on a key 3rd down the thunder from the fans is so loud…you guessed it, false start.

What is happening? Why are things going so differently? Why are players and even coaches performing so much better…or worse?

In my humble opinion, it is simple. Beliefs are changing. And there is great power in that. Our thoughts and beliefs in a given moment drive our emotions, which in turn spawn more thoughts equal to that emotion. A cycle. Momentum…one way or the other.

From the players, to the coaches, to the fans in the seats…beliefs have changed, and it is empowering some and weakening others. It is a dramatic thing to watch, is it not? It can be thrilling or heartbreaking.

My life’s journey of late has given me opportunity after opportunity to see the same power of belief at work. It amazes me how a single empowering decision, even one regarding something of relatively little perceived importance, can completely change my outlook.

I’m too tired. I’m too weak. I don’t have the discipline. I don’t have time. I don’t have the money. My body won’t allow it. Someone may laugh at me.

Limiting beliefs come in shapes, sizes and depths, and stepping through them gives our lives momentum.

Doesn’t it feel great to stop procrastinating and decide to clean out that junk drawer, closet or garage that you’ve been meaning to get to?  How often has the momentum of that decision led to another? You got off your ass, mowed the lawn, and suddenly felt inspired to winterize the pool? Or take out the chainsaw and cut…anything.

Do you remember deciding to ride that bike for the first time without training wheels? The moment it became ok for Dad to let go of the seat and let you ride? (If you are my age perhaps it’s easier to remember this with your kids.) How quickly did doing circles in the driveway turn into riding all over the neighborhood?

Empowerment. It expands our world. Possibility appears out of thin air.

Deciding to talk to that girl. To kiss that girl. Propose to that woman.

Finding the courage to stand up for yourself.

Finding the courage to say no to yourself.



If your life lacks the momentum of joy and gratitude, you can change that. If you just feel stuck, bored, old or downright depressed, you can change that.

If you are tired of finding distractions to avoid the feelings of fear, anger or disappointment that greet you every time you stop thinking, take heart.

Momentum is a decision away.


perks of wallflower

The signature scene from one of my favorite movies, “ The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is just that because we are right there with Charlie as he has a transformative moment in his young life. (This scene alone makes the movie worth watching, if you haven’t.) Having found desperately needed new friends, and having the best night of his life, he sees in Sam and Patrick a freedom and love for self that he has never known. This inspiration has been growing since the day he met them, and on this magical night he watches Sam have a connection with utter freedom and joy as she stands, arms outstretched, in the back of the pickup truck as they break out from a tunnel into the predawn light. It is the tipping point. Charlie lets go of his old life, and who he knows himself to be, and embraces another destiny. He connects with the idea of limitless possibility. He is awash in silent emotion, and the narration lets you know what he is feeling. Infinite.

If you haven’t seen this flick, I am sure you remember Jack Dawson, on the front tip of  Titanic, up on the rails. “I’m the king of the world!” If you were really present watching that movie, you can probably still stop and remember that scene, and feel his emotion. Or perhaps the more internal moment when Neo realizes he is the one, and thatThe Matrix is indeed an illusion. This realization, as it always does, inspires Neo to action in the form of great change. He begins to be the cause, not the effect. To say he is empowered is a gross understatement. Then there is Chris McCandless in Into the Wildstanding on the mountaintop in Alaska, feeling his connection with something greater, with the camera panning 360* and Eddie Vedder wailing away in a soundtrack that stirs the soul deeply. wow…

I could go on and on. I trust you get my thought.

Is our life any different? Have you had moments where you for whatever reason became awake to a degree you hadn’t been before? Where you suddenly connected to a realm of possibility that seemed out of reach just moments before?

We have all had these moments, or at least I hope so. For many they come on that proverbial mountaintop, or out in some part of nature. (“The clearest way into the Universe is through the forest wilderness.” –John Muir)Others find it in meditation, or prayer. (that is, if the judgement and subsequent guilt that comes with most religion doesn’t block this flow :))  For some a measure of it is found in a visceral moment of unconditional love from another.

These are, to me, the best moments in life. I have come to humbly live for them. When we connect to the reality that anything is possible. When we step into our power and into unison with the energy that creates worlds. When we feel love, and support not just from our external world but from a place within. 

So my question is: Are you awake? Awake to possibility? To your unlimited potential? Do you feel your connection to the Universe and the Energy that flows through it? Are you aware of the Love that is there for you?

For many these moments are elusive.  And when they happen the effects are short lived. Why can’t we remain in this state of mind? Is it possible to create a state of being where this is how we feel everyday?

Of course it is. We are just too conditioned by keeping our attention on “reality”. Instead of spending more time focused on the 99.9999% of our selves that is energy, we focus on the .00001% of who we are that is matter. We are creatures of habit, both in life and in thought, and we don’t make time to find this state of being.  We think too much, with our thoughts coming from our observation of our external world. These moments come in awareness, not from within our analytical minds.

I say this without the slightest bit of judgement. I spent most of my life doing this. Fear is a powerful thing. To let go of all we know, all the external emotional attachments that provide the construct for who we know ourselves to be, for any real length of time,  is more than unsettling.  To go within and face our greatest fears, not just for a moment, but for as long as it takes to transcend them, is the work of uncommon greatness.

What is the greatest expression of yourself?  There is no right or wrong answer to this question, and it is a question for no one to answer for you. No one. You are worthy of deciding that for yourself. Isn’t is interesting how much our state of mind influences the answer?

Back to where we started. Charlie in the truck, Jack on the bow tip and Neo freeing himself from within. My hope in sharing these thoughts is that you will remember what it feels like to connect with who you truly are, and you will give yourself the gift of that connection in increasing measure, and, from there, let something greater inspire you to greater joy.

Find your mountaintop.

In love and gratitude. Todd