3 Ways to Mark the Milestone of your Child’s Senior Year

My oldest son’s senior year in high school feels like a lifetime ago – and yet, he’s only been a college student for 6 months now.  Living through his last year of high school was a whirlwind , a roller coaster ride of emotions, and that’s putting it lightly.  It was a year that I always knew would come, and yet once it arrived, I was in shock.  It was a year that brought me both immense joy and deep sadness.  It was a year where I  often prayed that I could stop time.  While I was never granted that magical power, I did get to practice being so present in the moment, that it sometimes felt like time stopped.

Now – 6 months later, I feel like the fog is lifting and I can look back with clarity.  I can honestly say that I am grateful for how the year unfolded.  In retrospect – a few things happened that proved to be medicine for my aching heart.  Things that were so powerful, I will intentionally repeat them when I get to relive this  experience with Pete, who is now a high school sophomore.  Here are 3 ways to mark the milestone of your child’s senior year.

SKIP THE SENIOR PORTRAIT

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I’m sure things are different for girls.  They probably can’t wait to do their Senior Portrait (you know – those professionally posed photos involving various outfit changes).  When I first brought up the subject, my son was emphatic that “Senior Pictures” would NOT be happening.  I tried bribing him.  I tried compromising.  I tried begging.  I even pulled the mommy guilt trip on him.  It went something like this; “After all I’ve done for you, for 18 years, you can’t give me just 30 minutes (one outfit / one location) with a photographer so I can have a few darn photos of your senior year?”  Add a pitifully pleading voice to that statement, maybe a tear or two – and it still didn’t work.  No way, no how – he was NOT bending!

I backed off and let it go.

But a few months later I had a brainstorm.  My guy would be celebrating his 50th birthday the same year that our first born was celebrating his senior year in high school.  This was a big year, a milestone year – one that deserved to be captured in photos.  So I purchased a photo session gift certificate from a family friend and photographer as a 50th birthday gift for my guy,  knowing that I would at least get some pictures of B at this milestone point in his life.  He couldn’t argue with my spin on it – and I didn’t disclose my ulterior motives.

I thought this was a viable alternative, but never in my wildest dreams did I think this compromise would exceed my  “Senior Portrait” expectations.  The bonus was two-fold.  First – our family had a fun (and funny) evening together.  We spent an hour at the beach, partly posing for the camera, but mostly giggling and being silly – all of which the photographer captured.  Not only did I get some solo photos of my high school senior, but we photographed every possible combination of the four of us.

I thought I was giving something up by backing off and not forcing the senior pictures – but in turn, I got way more than I could have ever imagined.  There will be NO senior pictures for my Peter!  It’s a family photo shoot repeat in 2 1/2 years!

View More: http://shawnabielat.pass.us/feinmanfamilyphotos2014

MEMORIALIZE THE YEAR

Being a blogger, writing about my experience as the mother of a high school senior last year was kind of a no brainer.  But what began as a form of therapy for me, turned into a year long documentation of  the ups and downs, the realizations and revelations of both myself, as a mom, and my B, as an evolving young man.

Just before his graduation, I intentionally shifted from writing for myself (and you), to writing for him.  I had a vision of giving him a letter filled with my words of wisdom when I left him at his dorm in August.  But the thought of fitting ALL my thoughts and feelings into the confines of a  letter felt constrictive.  So instead I started a journal – dating each entry from early June through mid August.  Sometimes I wrote daily, other times – just once a week.  This letter turned journal, evolved into a 27 page book of sorts, filled with memories of both my childhood and his, lessons I learned as well as lessons I wish I had emphasized more while raising him.  It was both funny and sad, light hearted and deep, but more than anything – it was authentic.

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The end result is that I memorialized both the year, and our relationship, through my words.  But you don’t have to write a letter (or journal).  You could create a scrap book, or a collage.  Make a quilt or paint a mural.  Fill a photo album, or design a slide show.  Write a poem or a manuscript.  Compile all of your senior’s favorite recipes into a cookbook, with mom messages.  Choose whatever form of documentation you are called to.  Let it be personal, therapeutic and fun!  But find a way to both document and memorialize the year.  The outcome is priceless!

KIDNAP YOUR SENIOR

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The pace of the summer following B’s senior year was exceptionally hectic.  He was working full time, preparing for his departure to college and capitalizing on every free minute he could grab to be with friends.  Meanwhile, I was a chauffeur extraordinaire for my 15 year old, who packed his summer with a part time job, community service, pitching and hitting lessons and travel baseball tournaments almost every weekend.  It was obvious early on that it would be close to impossible to schedule our traditional family get away to the Outer Banks.  The only natural alternative was to head out to Colorado a few days early, in order to steal some much needed family time before our family unit as we knew it would be forever changed.

What started as a fall back option, proved to be an exceptional family experience.  One of the unexpected benefits of this plan became clear even before we left town.  Since we knew we’d have B 100% to ourselves for 4 days prior to D-day (dorm move in day), it was easy to let him spend his last week at home, basically not home at all.  His friends took priority, and there was no battle for his time.  This allowed us to freely honor his relationships with his friends – and that felt awesome!

When it was our turn, we were all 100% in!  It didn’t hurt that we were up in the mountains with little to no cell service or wi-fi.  It was 4 full days of family fun; endless card games, adventures white water rafting and ATV’ing, media free days and nights, pick up basketball games, bear sightings and more.  It was beyond perfect!

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I have no idea where my “baby” will end up going to college.  But I do know, regardless of location – we’ll be planning a family escape just prior to his D-day.  There’s just something sacred about that time, and I’m grateful I didn’t have to share B those last few days before he officially became a college student.

Perhaps these aren’t the perfect ways for you to capture, commemorate or create memories for you and your high school senior.  But hopefully they will inspire you to find a way to honor and mark the milestones of your child’s last year of high school (and at home).

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

THANKS – a word not taken lightly

I’ve been revisiting some of my old blog posts lately.  I won’t make a habit of continually re-purposing my vintage pieces – since you can easily read back into the archives if you’d like.  But something about this time of year, the Thanksgiving holiday, is prompting me to recycle what I feel are timeless pieces and valuable reminders.

I can’t take credit for this post though.  Thanks is a poem written by my youngest son in 2012, when he was 13 years old.  It is simple yet profound.  I’d love to see what story his words would tell now, 2 years later, 2 years older and surely 2 years wiser!

Perhaps we should all follow this practice, and pause to put into words; to explain, describe and define those things that we are most thankful for in life.

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Thanks – By Peter Feinman

As my eyes rise from the depths of silence,

Peeking over the warmth of my blankets,

My mind begins to tick,

The rays of the golden sun greeting my sensitive pupils,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I tip toe into the bathroom as I complete my morning routine,

And I slowly scan the room in awe as I notice how much I am provided with,

And how fortunate I am to be able to clean my body,

And wear the clothes I do.

While walking to the bus I hear the crunch, crunch as the gravel rolls beneath my feet,

I hear the honking of car horns,

And I hear the whines of other children,

And at that point I know that I do not have to go to school, I get to go to school,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I feel a breeze of excitement rush past me as I open the school doors,

I feel the loneliness wash away as friends reunite at 8:50a.m.,

I feel the love between the teachers as they watch the students glide by while sharing a cup of coffee,

Then, I realize that I am surrounded by friends and teachers who care about me,

Who I can share conversations and laughs with,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I take a seat in a smooth leathery chair of a yellow school bus,

And as I stare out the window, all I do is think,

I think about how great our nation could be if all men were not just created equal, but we stayed equal,

If race, religion, ethnicity, and social class did not make up who we are today,

If people looked at others from the inside and by the way people act,

If all people were born with the same opportunities and chances in life,

With freedom, a gift from God, people can rise to the highest parts of life,

And I know that because I am free I will have many more opportunities that will come my way,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I sit down and start to turn the slick pages of my textbook,

And the steam coming from the fresh food finds its way to my nose,

And I smell the sweet soap from the upstairs bathroom, and I smell the pumpkin scent from the crackling candle mounted on the counter top,

And I am grateful to sit with my family and taste the warm food melt in my mouth,

Before sipping the ice cold water to wash it down,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

I drown myself with the blankets that rest on my bed,

And I squeeze one more yawn out as I stretch until my body tingles,

And I wonder what adventure will I be in tomorrow,

And I tell myself each day a new story is told,

And it is my job to live each one to the fullest,

And I am grateful that I am healthy and able to live my life,

And I think to myself how lucky I am.

 

So I want to say thank you,

Thank you God,

Thank you Mom,

Thank you Dad,

Thank you Ben,

Thank you Gigi,

Thank you Poppy,

Thank you Pagi,

Thank you family,

And thank you friends and teachers,

For allowing me to be myself,

And standing by me in the lows of life,

And flying with me in times of celebration,

Thank you for the life long lessons you have taught me,

And for the amazing experiences and memories that are planted in my mind forever,

And for the inspirational quotes and ideas that have blossomed within me,

I am grateful for everything you do for me,

And thank you for loving me and showing me how lucky I am.

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Me and my favorite poet!

Happy Thanksgiving!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

Creating a Gratitude Board

When I published last year’s piece  Grow a Thankful Tree , it was with the intention of re-establishing our family’s Thankful Tree tradition.  That’s my cutie-patootie nephew (many years ago!) after hanging a leaf on our holiday thankful tree.

229_2975Given that my boys and nephew’s age range last year was 12-17, I figured the tree idea might be a little too crafty (or like an elementary school art class) for their teenage liking.  So instead of growing a Thankful Tree – I decided to try creating a gratitude board.  I had big expectations, but lots of apprehension that this new tradition would take off.  Nonetheless, I laid out a large whiteboard (approx 34 x 22 inches) and a basket of dry erase markers, and crossed my fingers.  I shared with my family that this was replacing our Thankful Tree, and all they needed to do was simply write down something (or many things!) they were grateful for.

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To my surprise, the Gratitude Board was a HUGE hit, with teenagers and adults alike!

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I left the board propped on a chair in the corner of the kitchen, and as the week progressed, the white space slowly disappeared as the board filled up with gratitude.  Everyone enjoyed reading each other’s gratitude…and I continued to read them long after the holiday ended and my family departed.  Plus I took a photograph so I could read (while literally laughing out loud at our humor) and re-read our 2013 Thanksgiving Gratitude for years to come!

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I bought some fresh new dry erase markers and cleaned the board spotless so we can document and share all that we are grateful for this Thanksgiving 2014!

Below is my post from Thanksgiving 2013.  I hope you have fun with whatever way you choose to record your family’s gratitude.   Feel free to comment and let me know what works for you!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Thanksgiving is one of the two times each year that my dad, sister and her two boys travel south to visit us….and I am counting the days (hours & minutes) until they arrive!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because the expectation is simply to BE with family.  It’s 4-6 days filled with cooking together,  playing board games, sleeping in, overdosing on football, taking walks, eating large quantities of once a year yummies, and watching late night movies.

Each year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving arrives and I’m filled with sadness that the time passed so quickly and my family is leaving.  In an effort to combat this already expected outcome, I’m going to set the intention to be totally present to my family, to honor the relationships and to share my gratitude with them.  This is going to require an awesome action to help me fulfill my intention…..

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In anticipation of next week’s holiday – this awesome action is…..

To GROW a THANKFUL TREE!

When the kids were little we used to create a thankful tree each Thanksgiving.  Sadly, it was one of those family traditions that disappeared as the boys hit double digits.  This is the perfect year to bring back this awesome action and  re-establish it as a family tradition.

I love growing a thankful tree because it’s an outlet for each of us to express and share what we are grateful for, plus it’s a visual representation of our family’s expanding gratitude.

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How to grow a thankful tree…..

1.  Collect fallen sticks or small tree twigs and place them in a vase to create the foundation for the thankful tree.

2.  Cut leaf shapes out of red, orange and yellow construction paper, mimicking the richness of the autumn leaves.

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3.  Set the paper leaves around the base of the vase with a few pens, and family members can write down what they are grateful for.

4.  Punch a hole in each leaf and use a thin ribbon to attach it to the twig tree.

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5.  By Thanksgiving dinner, your thankful tree will be in full bloom.  Throughout the meal, take turns reading what everyone is thankful for.

You can grow your thankful tree, exactly as I described.  Or feel free to take the concept and mold it into something better suited for your family.

*  Thankful journal – purchase a journal and invite your family members to write (and date) their gratitude directly into the journal.  This would be an awesome way to keep the gratitude lists together year after year.

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*  Thankful box – use a shoe box or photo keepsake box to collect each person’s gratitude list during the holiday.

*  Thankful whiteboard (blackboard) – leave a whiteboard and dry erase markers easily accessible, allowing the family to create a colorful graffiti board filled with gratitude.  Before erasing it, be sure to add the date and take a photograph to capture it forever.  Better yet – take a family picture around the thankful whiteboard.

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*  Thankful scrapbook – build a holiday thankful scrapbook with photos, handwritten gratitude and other memorabilia and keepsakes.

*  Thankful chain – cut construction paper into 5 inch by 1 inch strips.  As each person writes down something they are grateful for, curve the strip into a circle (held by staple, tape or glue), creating links that connect, building a chain.  Each year could be an individual paper chain, or add on year after year, creating a growing chain of gratitude.

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Get creative or keep it simple.  The point is to give your family a way to express, share and record what they are grateful for.

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

50 Ways to Celebrate 50 Years

I love celebrating birthdays….OTHER people’s birthdays!

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I have this strange  love – hate relationship with acknowledgment.  Sure, it feels good when a friend remembers or offers to celebrate with me, but at the same time, I do NOT like being the center of attention.  Bottom line, I’d rather celebrate someone else’s birthday than my own!

But here I sit, EXACTLY 365 days away from turning 50 – and I’m realizing it’s kind of a big deal.

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Don’t get me wrong!  It’s not that I’m all of sudden seeking or wanting birthday attention.  It’s just that I can’t stop dwelling on this concept of turning 50 YEARS OLD.

It’s technically not the half way point of one’s life (unless they live to be 100), but it IS one half of a century, and that’s a big number to wrap my brain around.

When I was younger, and turning 50 felt a LONG way away – I had a preconceived notion of what that would look like – frumpy, frazzled, middle aged woman, dressed in a stained apron, baking cookies.  Kind of 1950’s – I know!

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Regardless of the picture in my head, my prior belief was that turning 50 was the beginning of the end, the prime had passed and it was all downhill from there!

The good news is…..NONE OF THAT CRAP IS TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here I am, in the best mental and physical shape of my life!  I don’t for a second view this impending birthday as an ending, but rather a beginning.  I feel a sense of freedom that I’ve never had before.  It’s not freedom based on the age of my children, our financial status or having paid my life dues.  It’s an internal freedom – a freedom to do and go and be ME  – authentically!  A freedom to LIVE LIFE without inhibition.

Why the heck am I writing about this today, when I have a whole year before I turn 50?

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Because I’ve decided to not wait until October 27, 2015, my 50th birthday, to celebrate being 50!

If you think about it – TODAY is the first day of my 50th year.  So I’ve declared this a BIRTHDAY YEAR – as such, I will celebrate throughout the entire year!

That’s a little daunting, to say the least.  But also somewhat exciting, with a bit of liberating mixed in.

Looking at the scope of my whole life, it feels kind of like an intermission; a rest period, a break from the action, time to stand up and stretch before hunkering back down for the rest of the show.

Or as my BFF and favorite Aunt Barb called it – my halftime show!  I won’t be hiring a marching band, pom pom girls or baton twirlers – but that doesn’t mean I can’t fill this year with some HOOPLA of my own!

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50 WAYS TO CELEBRATE 50 YEARS

  1. Buy fresh flowers
  2. Go dancing – with my husband
  3. Go dancing with my girlfriends – because that’s a whole different experience than #2!
  4. Drive somewhere I’ve never been, using an old fashion road map to get there (NO GPS!)
  5. Stay in my pj’s and watch 3 movies in a row
  6. Spend the night at a bed & breakfast
  7. Open up my memory box – and read every card and diary entry from my childhood
  8. Have (or go to) a Sip & Paint party
  9. Get a facial
  10. Keep a journal / scrap book documenting my celebration this year
  11. Visit a vineyard to experience real wine tasting
  12. Go to the theater to see a play
  13. Dig my flute out of the junk closet and PLAY it again (maybe take lessons?)
  14. Plan a girl’s ski weekend
  15. Make a photo wall – blow up and frame my favorite pictures from the past 50 years
  16. See a ballet
  17. Get tickets to a concert (U2, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5)
  18. Experiment wearing new lipstick colors
  19. Go on a weekend bike trip (New England, Colorado?)
  20. Make chocolate fondue
  21. Travel back home to Connecticut for a walk down memory lane
  22. Buy a convertible sports car – a girl can dream, right?
  23. Take a surfing lesson
  24. Go to the park – and swing
  25. See a live comedian perform
  26. Prepare my childhood favorite dish – Chicken Divan – and don’t attempt to make it Paleo
  27. Grow a vegetable garden – this could fall under the “a girl can dream, right?” category too!
  28. Write a letter to my grandparents – recalling memories I had of them growing up, things that have stuck with me and traditions I have passed onto my children
  29. Drink an expensive (relative to my norm) bottle of wine
  30. Get a tattoo!
  31. Visit an art museum (in Norfolk….or New York?) with Peter
  32. Return to Burlington, VT to reminisce on my college years
  33. Watch the sun rise at the beach

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Clearly my celebration list is a work in progress.  Celebrating me and my life is not something I do naturally.  This will surely be an interesting year as I dabble in and practice this thing called CELEBRATION.  Since today is the first day of my 50th year – I better go get this party started!

with Gratitude, Joy & Love,

Awesome Action – LOVE!

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LOVE…..

LOVE is a verb

LOVE is expressed as an action and experienced as a feeling

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Our AWESOME ACTION assignment is TO LOVE!

Don’t just feel love for others, but express your love as an action, actively love your family and friends.  In his book “The 5 Love Languages”, Gary Chapman explains that there are five distinct ways to express one’s love.

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Words of affirmation – acknowledge someone, tell them why they are special

Acts of service – do something helpful and kind for someone

Gifts – give a gift, store bought or home made, as an act of love

Quality time – spend intentional, focused time with someone

Physical touch – hold hands, give a bear hug, sit side by side and cuddle

The idea of LOVE as a verb, not a noun, needs no further explanation.  It simply requires us to be intentional.

DO LOVE – BE LOVE – GIVE LOVE!

John Mayer – Love is a Verb

with Joy & Gratitude,

Awesome Action – Grow a Thankful Tree

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Thanksgiving is one of the two times each year that my dad, sister and her two boys travel south to visit us….and I am counting the days (hours & minutes) until they arrive!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because the expectation is simply to BE with family.  It’s 4-6 days filled with cooking together,  playing board games, sleeping in, overdosing on football, taking walks, eating large quantities of once a year yummies, and watching late night movies.

Each year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving arrives and I’m filled with sadness that the time passed so quickly and my family is leaving.  In an effort to combat this already expected outcome, I’m going to set the intention to be totally present to my family, to honor the relationships and to share my gratitude with them.  This is going to require an awesome action to help me fulfill my intention…..

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In anticipation of next week’s holiday – this awesome action is…..

To GROW a THANKFUL TREE!

When the kids were little we used to create a thankful tree each Thanksgiving.  Sadly, it was one of those family traditions that disappeared as the boys hit double digits.  This is the perfect year to bring back this awesome action and  reestablish it as a family tradition.

I love growing a thankful tree because it’s an outlet for each of us to express and share what we are grateful for, plus it’s a visual representation of our family’s expanding gratitude.

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How to grow a thankful tree…..

1.  Collect fallen sticks or small tree twigs and place them in a vase to create the foundation for the thankful tree.

2.  Cut leaf shapes out of red, orange and yellow construction paper, mimicking the richness of the autumn leaves.

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3.  Set the paper leaves around the base of the vase with a few pens, and family members can write down what they are grateful for.

4.  Punch a hole in each leaf and use a thin ribbon to attach it to the twig tree.

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5.  By Thanksgiving dinner, your thankful tree will be in full bloom.  Throughout the meal, take turns reading what everyone is thankful for.

You can grow your thankful tree, exactly as I described.  Or feel free to take the concept and mold it into something better suited for your family.

*  Thankful journal – purchase a journal and invite your family members to write (and date) their gratitude directly into the journal.  This would be an awesome way to keep the gratitude lists together year after year.

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*  Thankful box – use a shoe box or photo keepsake box to collect each person’s gratitude list during the holiday.

*  Thankful whiteboard (blackboard) – leave a whiteboard and dry erase markers easily accessible, allowing the family to create a colorful graffiti board filled with gratitude.  Before erasing it, be sure to add the date and take a photograph to capture it forever.  Better yet – take a family picture around the thankful whiteboard.

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*  Thankful scrapbook – build a holiday thankful scrapbook with photos, handwritten gratitude and other memorabilia and keepsakes.

*  Thankful chain – cut construction paper into 5 inch by 1 inch strips.  As each person writes down something they are grateful for, curve the strip into a circle (held by staple, tape or glue), creating links that connect, building a chain.  Each year could be an individual paper chain, or add on year after year, creating a growing chain of gratitude.

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Get creative or keep it simple.  The point is to give your family a way to express, share and record what they are grateful for.

with Joy & Gratitude,