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Wednesday
Jun112014

[No] Fault In Our Stars

My sister Natalie's 14th birthday was last weekend, and what a celebration we had. This girl is a riot. She was not even 7 years old when we began discovering her unique humor and outlook on life. She cracks me up more than any other person I know. Her sarcasm matches that of any adult. She's one of the most sentimental and caring people I know - and the first who will tell you to go and get back into shape. Her tough love is strong and loyal. She is a gem and enormous blessing to everyone in her life. Especially me.

Natalie is my sister who is determined to find recipes that will result in things that I love. She sees my dietary restrictions as fascinating challenges to overcome. Grain less tortillas? She made them. Grain less and dairy free onion rings? She's brainstorming those too. She is determined to make something delicious no matter the obstacles. She's ambitious too - even considering going to culinary school to make a living out of making food for people like me. She's been a hero and encouragement of mine like none other - in some ways she leads the charge for the other girls of my family to find ways to support me. I am so happy she is my sister!

In hard times, a lot of things are boiled down to the most important. It's when other elects of life are stripped away that you hold tightly to the things that are true. For me that's been family. 

Last week my Honey and I went to a movie that reaffirmed all of that in a very deep and profound way. I had been warned that "The Fault In Our Stars" was a movie that will make you weep in your seat. I'm not accustomed to weeping in a movie, but this basically fit that bill. It's a movie about the realities of pain and sorrow. It's a story about how to live fully even when life seems to constrain and burden and limit you at every turn. 

"Fault In Our Stars" is about a girl with terminal cancer. As much as it sounds impossible that a movie with such a storyline could be uplifting, it very much is. In an unapologetic fashion, watching this movie forces you to confront the painful realities that you face - and the way in which you deal with those realities. 

My reality is this: I am by most accounts, a practically functioning person. My body is broken on the inside and inhibits my energy, my food freedoms, my flexibility, my focus, and the capacity of how much I can handle. But I can walk. I can see. I can hear. I can hug my sisters. I can talk to my Mom. I can work my job. I don't have a terminal disease. I don't have to live at the hospital because my body isn't functioning in vital organs. I saw a perspective that only this kind of a story could convey: That even in the most intense physical conditions you can still experience hope and joy by centering on what is most important to our souls.

I know this may sound lame, but managing my current physical issues has been incredibly challenging from a mental standpoint. I say "no" to more foods every day than I say "yes". Over and over again I see what normal people eat; I see what healthy people eat; I see good food that is healthful. And I simply can't put that in my own body. Food that God intended for humans to have, my body rejects. I watch propel go about their daily lives, racing from one thing to another, and I simply can't keep up. I don't have the energy or stamina to participate in half the daily things that normal people can. That is so discouraging - and oftentimes I go to bed early just because I'm tired from the daily challenges I am facing. 

I was so encouraged when I walked out of "Fault in Our Stars" because it proved something to me; that even in pain and burden and sorrow, life's relationships are worth holding on to.

This movie pushed me to begin something that I had been contemplating for a bit now. Life is all about relationships, and sometimes  those relationships are the only difference between making it out of a situation or not. As I have written about my struggles with allergies and SIBO and weight, I've discovered so many others with similar issues. We are a minority, but we are more than we think. I want to reach out to those who are in need of support and those who understand my story, and band together for strength.
So I started a FB Page called "Multiple Allergy Support Network". I am hoping that this can be a little piece of the internet that will allow people like us to share our struggles, recipes, and life. I won't belittle the support and relationships we have around us - people like my baby sister Natalie who want to help and encourage - but who will understand better than others in the midst of the fight? Then maybe it will be a little bit easier to find Joy in the midst of what we live through every day. 

If you or someone you know has a similar story, you are welcome to this Group. I hope the community will grow and become a blessing.

And if you haven't seen the movie, go. I promise that you will walk away deeply moved.

 

[Know someone who may need a dose of encouragement today? Pass along this article here! What ways do you stay encouraged in the midst of health battles? Share below!] 

Thursday
Jun052014

Save $80k and Ramp up Your Business in 30 Minutes a Day

I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a teenager there was nothing on my radar beyond a vague impression or curiosity. I wanted to be this or that, but at the end of the day I had no idea if I would be a musician or an artist or a writer or business person. For some reason though, books on starting your own business always intrigued me. I remember picking up a business book at 17 and couldn't put it down. I would get stacks of business books at the library and read through them over and over again. For some reason, it all just made sense to me.
Over the years, I have read a lifetime portion of books on Business and Entrepreneurship, but I do have my list of authors who warrant "automatic must reads". These authors include Seth Godin, Malcom Gladwell, and Chris Guillebeau to name a few. As I read these books early on, I am fairly certain that my mind was trained to be an Entrepreneur. Life and Business was natural. And I love every minute of the practical outcome. 
I have had the honor of being a business mentor to help dozens of small business owners develop the mindsets and practical skills to run their businesses. I have no doubt that my arson of business instincts were grown because of this list of books. 
If I were to advise someone how they could become a great business person, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend what may seem too simple to be true. And yet, with 30 minutes a day and a dozen noteable books, I firmly believe that someone could avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in school debt, and emerge quite an impassioned Entrepreneur. 
1. The Education of Millionaires: While this book just came out last year, it was hands down the best business book I have ever read. Mixing business theory and practice to a perfect balance, this book will give you the edge on what you don't know about business - and resources to help you get there.
2. 100 StartUp: I am certain this book will go down in history's list of business classics. While there is not a ton of theory, the main point of the book is to offer individuals the understanding that they can take a talent or resource they have, and capitalize it in a dynamic way. If you want to start a business, this is a must have for your library.
3. The 4 Hour Work Week: Just about everyone knows Tim Ferris now, and this book is why. This book describes specific step by step guidance to building a business, but beyond that, it also provides examples of individuals who have built business that work for them - not the other way around. In a world where Entrepreneur's work a minimum of 60 hours a week, this book gives an excellent perspective on keeping your business from running your life.
4. Tribes: Written by Marketing Ghandi Seth Godin, Tribes is a tiny book about building a following with a meaningful message. I read this book in one single day and when I was done, I could quite literally contain the excitement that it invoked. 
5. Outliers: I am sure most people wouldn't classify this as a business book, but quite frankly that's exactly how I feel about it. Outliers is full of historical stories, illustrating how success is never built on just your shoulders. In fact, there are factors beyond our realm of control that, if we can harness to our advantage, will be the conduit for success. It's genius.
6. The Tipping Point: Oops. Another book by Malcom Gladwell. Yes he is a personal favorite. This book is for someone who wants to understand Social Movements, and  what you need in order to build a social movement yourself and your brand.
7. LoveMarks : I absolutely love the premise of this book. If you want to understand why the great businesses reach their peak, and why we love them, read this book. An amazing example for anyone who wants to build a business that people love for more than just the product.
8. Start. Jon Acuff is an Entrepreneur himself and he knows a thing or two about the long haul of starting a business. But what I love this book is the lists behind every chapter that guide the reader through the steps and processes needed to start your business.
9. Purple Cow: Seth Godin really made his name to me in this book. This was the very first book I ever read that introduced me to what it really means to be a marketer. I know that modern marketing has a really bad rap, but Seth Godin teaches you how to market in such a way that your customers connect with what you offer - because that is exactly what they want and need. 
10. Spin Selling: I have been reading this book and wow. Just go buy it.   
11. Great Work : What is the difference between "paying your dues" and doing the work that really means something? This book gives examples of how you can impact your customers in ways that not everyone may try. If you want to learn how to make the random and ordinary something special, read this book. 
12. Good to Great : Of course, this book is on just about every classic business list, but it is for good reason. More about business theory, this book shows how the great companies made it, and the principles that they applied to get there.
13. Quitter: This is another awesome book by Jon Acuff - just in case you need incentive to start your own business.
BONUS: For Photographers
Fast Track Photographer by my dear mentor Dane Sanders. This book will break down exactly what you need to pull out of your soul and be a successful business photographer.
VisionMongerers: The most vital must read for photographers. Most people don't know what it takes to do photography as a business. And for that reason more photographers will fail than make it in the business. This book will give you a compete reality check on what you need to be a business photographer. 
[What books have you read that made the big difference in your business? Comment below - I'd love to add more to my list! Know someone who is trying to start a business? Share this article with them!]

 

Friday
May302014

How to Survive a Drastic Dietary LifeStyle MakeOver [and avoid a midlife crisis]

Quite frankly, I’m beginning to expect change. 

The way my life seems to be running recently, I should be a “adaptability” pro. I always thought I was decent at adapting and finding solutions. But I can’t lie, its been pretty tough to adapt to the continued changes in my life. Believe it or not, I’m not talking about moving, or adjusting to new friend groups, or even road trips. I’m talking about health challenges. 

Two days ago I received an email from my doctor that started out with “but you're probably not going to appreciate my feedback”. You know there’s something up when you read those words from a doctor. I braced myself for the news and to be honest, I wasn’t surprised by her words. I was pretty disappointed though.

The last month I had been doing pretty well with all the health challenges. I got off my recently discovered allergens (beef, eggs, pineapple, beans, green beans etc). I established a new routine. I was doing really well. Physically my energy was returning somewhat nicely. But I emailed my doctor because the bloating, inflammation, and abdominal comfort continued with a vengeance. I had sent her a log of my diet, asking for suggestions. Low and behold, she had a thing or two to say.

Apparently my joyous experience with SIBO is continuing strong due to the sugar in my diet. Now let me preface that the amounts of sugar I had been eating were on average less than 25 grams per day, including fruits and veggies, and anything else I might consume. I had been really careful to go very low with my sugar intake, but apparently, my doctor thinks its not enough.

In her words, my further healing will be halted unless I cut sugar out of my diet completely. She didn’t mean just sugar. She meant anything that the body uses to turn into sugar: All grains. Fruit. High sugar veggies. And also fake sugars like splenda or stevia. 

I stared at her words and my heart sank. Another huge lifestyle adjustment ahead. My usual morning Green Smoothie / Protein shake with just 1/2 blueberries and only 3grams of sugar? Out. My morning sugar free almond latte? Out. A quick “Kind Bar” when in a pinch on the road? Out. I know these things seem so small, but they were staples that I had worked into my routine. It’s not so much that sugar must be eliminated; It’s the idea that the things I’ve worked into my life - the replacements of replacements - now must go. 

SIBO feeds off sugar. But when it gets really low amounts of sugar, it goes dormant, using the little sugar in the system to just survive even if it doesn’t flare up. In order to get rid of it, I literally have to starve my system entirely of sugar. Otherwise it will remain in my system, and could flare up again later. 

Even still, with this news I know that the Lord is working in my soul, because I don’t feel the intensity of disappointment that I would have felt two months ago. The only intense thing I feel is the possibility that I could go to such extreme lengths and have this not even bring about the desired outcome. It takes so much work to live when you have these kind of conditions. Most people don’t remotely understand what it takes. 

About 10 minutes after the email, my mind went to a very health place. I thought: Yes, I was disappointed but the practical side is what I felt stress from. I needed a plan. If I have a plan, I will have food. If I have food, I won’t cheat. If I don’t cheat, I will feel empowered. If I feel empowered, I will settle into a routine without too much emotional chaos. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it takes a boatload of work. But for all my adapting I think I have finally found a process that will help me get past the Dietary LifeStyle changes without feeling like my life is falling apart. 

1. Realize the situation i.s. a big deal. You will have people tell you that food shouldn’t control your life. You will feel like, if you are fully functioning, can walk, talk, breathe, and live on your own, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Truth is, in this kind of transition, food d.o.e.s. control your life to a degree. For example, having these limitations and being on the road is next to impossible to manage. The amount of mental and physical stress that is caused from having to wonder where you are eating, if they have something that won’t make you sick, or what store can facilitate some organic produce or uncultured meat - those are no joke questions to face every.single.time. you need to eat. With the new changes in my diet, my husband and I are contemplating canceling our great summer road trip - simply because my food lifestyle requires a great deal of planning, and prep, and work.

On the flip side of this, I have friends who have similar conditions to myself, but they have a lifestyle of travel. And they struggle because the two conflict at every single turn. These lifestyles are a BIG DEAL. Acknowledge it and give yourself some grace.

2. Keep It Simple. Now is not the time to find the most culinary adventurous recipes to implement every single night. That’ll cost you an arm and a leg, and produce extra stress - especially when a recipe doesn’t turn out (and trust me, on these diets there are plenty that don’t). You need to think through individual foods you can eat, and then which of those foods work well together.

For example: I love deli turkey with tomato and avocado. I literally smile when I eat that. Simple. Satisfying. I know that if I find a health food store, I can get those things and be ok. These are the things that aren’t gourmet. They aren’t exciting. But they get the job done and I don’t feel like I’m signing away my life to make it, or my pocketbook to pay for it.

3. Realize you eat for energy first and for most. Anything else is an added plus. Phillip is the most laid back eater I’ve ever met. Of course, he has foods he really likes, and food on his favorites list (sushi, sushi, and more sushi); But he will literally eat anything. I didn’t understand this right away, so he had to explain. In his mind, anything that wasn’t an MRE was great. If it had nutrition and substance, he was down. It was that simple. This is one of the most difficult transitions I know. But in my experience it’s the only way to get away from the mindset of what you “can’t eat” to being grateful for what you can.

4. Create a Daily plan and Menu. Above all, make a plan. If you don’t, you will fall. Plain and simple. Ask yourself questions like this: What meats do you like best? What ways can you cook them that are simple and not crazy time consuming? What veggies go well with those meats? What combinations of veggies do you find satisfying? I personally love sautéd mushrooms and onions. If I have those two things with any combination of meat, I’m good. I can’t do food on the fly right now. It doesn’t work. A weekly menu overwhelmed me, so I just create a day by day plan. Sunday night I plan for Monday. Monday night I plan for Tuesday. etc. This eliminates the stress that comes from wondering “what is my next meal”?

5. Do your prep work: Remember the health food stores that have pre-made fresh food in the refrigerated section? Why do we like those? Because when you pick them up out of that fridge, all you need to do is eat it. Doesn’t get any more simple. When you have a full work schedule, you need the ease of that, otherwise no good will come. Nothing feels better than when I’m in between appointments and can reach in the fridge to pull out my quick already made lunch, waiting for me to eat it. You need that. (Check out this incredible post for a detailed walk through of Food Prep)

6. Set up Accountability. I have two friends who play this role in my life - outside my honey of course. My friend Hannah has seen pretty much every health and physical experience under the sun, so when it comes to working through the emotional issues tied to my food lifestyle, she’s the one I call. She helps me know I’m not alone. And when I know I’m not alone, I feel stronger. When I feel stronger, I much less likely to succumb to depression or temptation.

My other friend is the one I text when I fall of the wagon. Kristi is a gem of gems. With similar dietary lifestyle necessities, she knows how I feel when I text her that I just ate something I shouldn’t. The way God works it, half the time we both fell off the wagon on the same day so we can acknowledge our indiscretion, and laugh about it. Then we encourage each other to get back on the wagon, and we know we are getting on together.

7. Find Support. My family is incredible. My mother - a sort of Jedi Master when it comes to food and all things kitchen - trained my sisters to be culinary masters themselves. (She tried to teach me but I gravitated to baking. Defintely should have stayed with cooking). When my sisters and Mom found out the news all they wanted to do was hunt for recipes that would be aligned with my new specifications, but still be delicious. I am so grateful for this. Sometimes having support rather than figuring it all out on your own can be the difference between feeling like you can handle it vs. being caught in a downward spiral of depression. 

Finally, the biggest lesson I am learning about this adaption process is the importance of taking things day by day. To be honest, I can’t think about living this way for 3 days, let alone 3 months. It’s beyond overwhelming. But Jesus tells me that my heavenly Father knows my needs before I do. Jesus tells me that I don’t need to worry about tomorrow. Jesus tells me that all I need to do in these times is cast my burdens on Him. I can’t carry these issues and the repercussions to my lifestyle. But He can. And He will. 

And I am so beyond grateful for that. 

[Do you have experience with dietary changes? Comment below with what works for you! Encouraged by this article? Share it on Facebook! Know someone who needs to read this? Forward on here - you never know the difference it may make in the life of someone going through a similar experience!]

 

Wednesday
May212014

Why I Dropped $2k into a business I hadn’t started yet. [And Why You should do the same]

Life is all about investments.

We’ve all heard the phrase” You make time for what you love”. I think it may also be true that you make time for what you invest in.

That’s why, when I heard about Marie Forleo’s B-School, I jumped in. And I can’t even describe to you how excited I was to spend $2k of my hard earned money.

Marie Forleo is basically the new “Who’s Who” of the business world. Boasting 60 million dollars in sales, her empire is second to none in my opinion. Largely because her mission is about more than making money. Her philosophy is that business is a tool that should enable us to make our world a better place. I love Marie Forleo.

Now, I don’t go out and blow $2k without a good reason. So let me tell you why I decided to join Marie Forleo’s B-School. And why making a crazy huge investment may just be the thing to get you going on your business too.

1. Put your money where your mouth is:

I love business development. I can’t even tell you how much. Every time I have worked on a business or business development project, I have had the time of my life. I talk a lot about knowing this or that about business, but it has been some time since I put it into practice. I needed this to change. I had several business ideas for a while, but I had not acted.

It’s so easy to talk. It’s a lot harder to act. Sometimes when you make an investment, it motivates you. Am I going to waste $2k by sitting around on my booty? No sir! Not a chance! I want to get out every possible ROI that I can - blood, sweat, tears and all! If you have a dream to build a business, you may actually need to make an investment to get yourself from the talk to the walk.

2. Build your dreams:

One of my dreams is to have enough money to travel working on philanthropy projects, and also give a good portion to building orphanages around the world. I have a good job, but that won’t happen on my salary. It’s not a problem that will change overnight. I have to work at it and work hard and long to make it happen.

What dreams do you have? What is stopping you from going after them? For some people having a lack of information keeps them from acting. For others, not having someone to handhold every step of the way and that may stop them. Stop and take a moment to reflect: What do you need to take action? Maybe it’s a deadline. Maybe it’s a scheduled and day by day plan. Whatever the case may be, find not only your motivation, but your start button. Then, do whatever it takes to put that into place. Because once you hit that start, there will be no stopping you!

3. Prioritize what you love:

I have recently acquired a distaste for the tyranny of the urgent. It kills me that I have had such difficulty making time for what I love. If I love business development, if I love starting projects and working through goals, that is what I need to be doing. Life doesn’t often like to accommodate what we love or enjoy. Its so frustrating but true. Sometimes, a hard investment can offer motivation; When we have made a sacrifice for something, it eliminates those moments when you just want to go sip a pina-cololada instead of putting in some quality work time.

How much are your dreams worth?
What would you invest if you know that the ROI would be out the roof and far above what you could imagine??

I can’t give a full description of what I’m working on now - have to build some good old fashioned suspense - but I can promise that every day I am working on something I really hope will change the face of the photographic industry for good. I hope to offer something that, if I had when I first got started, I probably would have taken over the world by now. But that’s ok. I still have time for that. And when I reach that point, I will have Marie Forleo to thank. 

[Check out Marie's website here! Take a moment and write down below: What is y.o.u.r. Start button? Know someone who may need to hear this in order to make that jumpstart? Share here!]

Tuesday
May132014

3 Steps You Must Take to Walk [on Water]

This story is about how I found the path to walk on water.


It wouldn’t surprise me if every kid hears the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water, and then imagines what that experience would be like. It’s like flying - those few things that we humans just can’t do.

But then you read the Bible, and suddenly, you see that Jesus can.

I know I wondered what it would be like to walk on water. But I didn’t realize that it would take me a cross country move to become a Water Walker.

That sounds really cryptic I know. Let me explain.

One week ago today, my honey and I set out to begin our new life. We packed the trailer. Installed our Mini’s tow hitch. Cleaned the apartment. Picked up an audio book. Then set out on the road to drive through the night where we would stop in St. Louis after the first leg of our journey. It didn’t go as smoothly as we expected - we were almost to St. Louis and then found out that our trailer was smoking. No kidding. As it turns out, U-Haul had to give us a new trailer. Something had broke and by the grace of God did not cause a major accident. We spent hours getting the situation under control; unpacking one trailer, repacking the other.  I never in my life thought I'd be sitting on a curb with all my junk surrounding me on display for the world to see. What can we say. It didn’t rain. It didn’t storm. So we dealt with the trailer and moved on.

After a night in St. Louis, we set out at 10am the next morning. It would be another 22 hours of driving straight before we got into Davenport Florida, where we would stay with a friend. It was a long drive, but with so much anticipation I think we hardly noticed it.

Our journey was about 38 hours total.

Let me tell you, that car smelled as it never has before.

What happened on that drive was something that I didn’t expect. Through the countless hours, and miles and miles and m.i.l.e.s. of flat open road, something took place in my heart. I didn’t know this needed to happen, and I didn’t know that it could:

I walked on water.

I did. I promise.

In the most literal-figural sense of the word, I walked on water.

Backstory:

In preparation for a crazy long drive, I picked up several resources to pass the time. I got started on my new obsession - the TV Show Dexter (I promise once you get past the initial morbid nature it is actually incredibly fascinating). I also purchased the new Ted Dekker book called Water Walker. I had heard really amazing things about this book, including this incredible review , and thought a 9 hour audiobook would be a great way to pass the time on the road.

I won’t go into the storyline too much, but ultimately, the book is about how to become a Water Walker. I know you’ll be skeptical about this until you read the book yourself, but basically, the process of becoming a Water Walker is the process of taking responsibility of the way we respond and react to the situations in our lives. It is the acknowledgement that no one dictates how you live, except yourself. It is the acceptance that even when we are abused or wronged, we have a choice to “walk on water”. In no uncertain terms, this book explains that we have the power to let our faith control our life, or let our circumstances control our life.

As I listened to the book, something profound happened to me. I learned what it was to be a Water Walker - for myself.

1. Water Walkers “Let Go” of the past. I promise I’m not being cute here by quoting the song lyrics. I’m completely serious. Through this drive, I became acutely aware that, if I was honest with myself, my move was me running away from the reminders of a very painful season of my life. It was a season that was the fault of no one but my own. Deep down inside, I felt like Denver wouldn’t ever free me from my mistakes. I was constantly reminded by fractured relationships, or awkward meetings, or reminders from places. I didn’t feel at home in Denver, because it hadn’t been a “safe place” for me. But those things that pained and bothered me, they weren’t just in Denver. They were still in my heart. Moving from one place to the next became a very tangible process of actually letting go of the last residual affects of what I had subjected myself to in the recent past.

2. Water Walkers move on through life because they forgive. Forgiveness holds profound power. Did not the Pharisees tell Jesus that no one had the power to forgive sins except God? But yet, the cross gave us that power - through Christ. We can forgive the sins done against us. We can also forgive the sins we commit against ourselves. I have gone though countless forgiveness prayers in the last several years, but some things seemed to remain. I have had a very difficult time forgiving myself for my choices. I have never said to myself, “It’s ok. You made mistakes. And the mistakes are ok. It’s time to forget.” In that long drive, I whispered those words to myself. And I felt a load of immense burden release from my soul. It was a burden I didn’t even know was there.

3. Water Walkers chose a life of Peace. I am not being symbolic here. I am talking about inner peace that completely controls. The wind and the waves of life don’t ruffle them, because it is as if the wind and waves don’t exist. I realized that my life wasn’t according to this. If someone doesn’t like me, or doesn’t want to be my friend, or holds my past against me, it causes tumultuous wind and waves in my soul. If I was sitting in a figurative boat, those situations would capsize my heart. So long as I didn’t chose this peace, so long as I couldn’t forgive myself, I couldn’t move on. I felt inhibited by my previous life; held captive from walking out of my prison into the light. Driving in the quiet and the stillness of my little Mini Cooper, I chose peace. And I promised myself that from that day and every day thereafter, I would continue choosing peace.

Thanks to my Lord Jesus that I can.

Moving across the country from Denver to Florida didn’t provide an escape. But somehow, the journey provided a release. The Lord used a story to lead my spirit to where it really needed to go. As it turns out, that wasn’t an escape from Denver after all.

I’m not saying I wished I hadn’t moved - to be honest I was sitting in the sun on a beach when I found out Denver was getting 8 inches of snow. I won’t miss that at all.  I do believe that our new life in Florida has the capacity to be better than I imagined. But this new life won’t be amazing because I am now away from the reminders of my former shame. This new life will be amazing because the journey here made me a Water Walker.

[Have you experienced a time of deep pain and found it difficult to move on? Share a comment below how you were able to get out of that place. Are you currently having difficulty moving on? Maybe Ted Dekkers Water Walker will touch you as much as it touched me. Know someone who needs to hear my story? Share here:]