Tag: Depression

I Keep a Messy House. Can We Still Be Friends?

I’ve been seeing the blog post “I Keep a Clean House. Can We Still Be Friends?” for the last couple of weeks.  Ok, you know I can’t pass this up.   Let’s get to the point: My house is messy (some may say dirty).  I’m happy that you have a clean house.  You may be a clean freak for all I know.  If it makes you feel better, than clean to your hearts desire.  I don’t really know why anyone is concerned because they have a clean house or a clean car or a perfect yard.  I’m not sure I understand why you’re worried about offending anyone.

I am messy, some may say a little dirty.  I don’t always clean up the sink before going to bed.   My truck gets washed when it rains.  My windows get cleaned when I can’t see what my neighbor is doing.  I have a dog that sheds 365 days a year and she is tri-colored so guess what: Her hair shows no matter what color my clothes are!

I wish my excuse was some kind of Spiritual Declaration – “There are starving children in Africa.  How can you spend time cleaning when you could be feeding them?”  Or, an Artsy Fartsy “I live in my creations. Not in my cleanliness.”  Or, “I’m too busy too clean and too cheap to hire help”.

Look, some people just can’t clean. Maybe they weren’t taught to clean.  Maybe they are so depressed that they can’t clean (I think most fit here including me).  Some are not able to physically.  Life is hard and the hard gets in the way of cleaning.  I wish cleaning made me feel better.   I wish I felt relaxed  as some replied to the “other” article but that’s just not me.

If you stop by without warning, I may stand on my (also messy) front porch because I don’t want you to see my messy house.  I hope we can still be friends even though I may be embarrassed.  I might not invite you over for a visit.  Please don’t take it personally.  I just need to clean first.

Matthew 23:26  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.


reference: http://herviewfromhome.com/i-keep-a-clean-house-can-we-still-be-friends/


Ordinary People

I have been writing a new blog on suicide but I am hesitant to share it because it takes my inner publicity farther than its ever been.  There are two reactions that a reader may have when seeing a writing on depression and suicide.  Surprising those reactions are not very different than ANY subject.

We generally like to read and learn about what touches us.  We may not have any interest in the subject of LGBT until someone close to us comes out with their revelation.  It may be difficult seeing people suffer with cancer but once it hits close we devour anything we can to find a way to beat it.

D&S – if you don’t battle depression you may begin feeling that way just by reading how some people feel.  Don’t self criticize yourself – it means that you are probably one of the lucky ones who doesn’t fight it.

On the other hand, if you feel the need to read about others who are depressed or any article bringing light to it – guess what – you may be in that company whether you know it or not.  In 1980 a movie came out called “Ordinary People” that dealt with teen suicide, death and family dysfunction.   I watched it over and over again.  I felt every minute of the pain that EVERYONE in the family was going through.  I was dating Laurie at the time and she hated it.  To her it was totally depressing and she couldn’t understand how I could watch it.  The movie didn’t make me happy – I just understood what everyone was going through and I FELT it.

You may not know how to relate to someone fighting these demons.  You can’t relate to everyone’s challenges – Personally I don’t understand people who fear heights or traveling outside our country.  Those fears are irrational to me and I don’t relate well.

I’m not ready to share more of my journey yet.  Soon, maybe, but not yet.  Just know that the person next to you is battling something.  It may be D&S or it could be OCD behavior.  Don’t bust on them with the flippant “just get over it” or “why do you feel like that”.  We are ordinary people and we are trying to survive.  If you don’t understand what this blog was about, move on to the next subject.  You’re one of the lucky ones.

Psalm 90:13-14

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.



14 years and final

I was reminded again this week how fragile life can be.  Another local 14 year old took her life.  Devoted to God.  Active in a good church.  Active in a youth group.  Home schooled.  Good family.

Don’t bother asking why.  It gets you nowhere.  It is senseless, heartbreaking, earth shattering and most of all . . . it is final.  It’s done and can’t be changed.

I am reminded daily with pictures of my 14 year old.  He would be turning 18 this May.  College?  Military?  Missions? Girlfriends?

Remember 14 year olds.  Your pain is temporary.  Your decision is final.

Psalm 18:3-5

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.




As Christians we are supposed to be full of joy, hope, faith and peace.  We are conquerors.  We have domain over evil and the enemy’s attacks.  We have salvation.  We have been delivered.

Yeah right.

Oh, I believe all that.  I really do.  I just don’t always feel it.  We all have bad days.  But I’m talking about true believers that struggle daily to just get out of bed.  I’m talking about believers who live on the edge of suicide and can’t eat or sleep.  I’m talking about believers who are racked with pain and can’t see the light of day.

If a believer breaks a leg, we understand that there is pain.  We don’t expect them to jump up and down singing Hallelujah!  I just broke my leg!  If they have just suffered a great loss we understand that too.  What if they don’t suffer from a broken leg but instead have a missing connection in the brain that is misfiring?  How long are we willing to put up with a sad sack Christian that is always down?  Do we yell at them and say “Where is your joy?  Where is your hope in Christ?  You are a new creature that should be basking in glory!”

What if they need medication?  What if it is not a personality trait but a real medical imbalance?  On the other hand, what if that person sitting next to you on Sunday isn’t smiling because of Jesus but because they found really good drugs?  Does that change your faith level in Jesus?

I don’t understand the brain.  I don’t know why some heathens seem happy all the time and some believers are miserable.  I don’t even understand why some people can have a cavity filled without novocaine.  I would rather be hit over the head and knocked unconscious then have a tooth filled while I sit there!

I have hope that I will find joy.  I have peace that I am saved.  I have faith that I do walk with God.  I also take anti depressants and I probably should take more on most days.  I don’t get it.  I probably never will.  I’ll say a prayer but don’t take my pills away.

Psalm 143:7-8

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.


The Life of Jocelyn

Many of you are following the “life of Jocelyn” on my blogs and on hers: http://acceptthebullshit.wordpress.com/

Here is her latest post.  It would be great if you could copy her email account and bless her with encouraging notes.

Things Change – an update and contact information

Things have changed in the very short time between the last time I posted and now. Things are almost unbearable, and the idea of being in the real world for potentially another full week feels impossible. Because of that, tomorrow will most likely be the day that I begin this intensive treatment. Our insurance still has to go through a complicated process in order for me to go to the trauma disorders unit that will facilitate much of my stay, so until that can be completed, I will most likely be headed to another psych ward to wait for that to be all clear. I will then be transferred to the program in Maryland.

I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries about whether or not I will be able to receive mail. Honestly, I don’t know if mail can be sent directly to the trauma unit, and I don’t know where I will be going before then. To make it easier for everyone, my mom and I have created a gmail account that she will be in control of. If you wish to send me a letter or message, feel free to shoot an email to that account, and my mom will be able to print those messages out and bring them to me when she visits.

That account is LettersToJocelyn@gmail.com

Thank you to everyone who has read my blogs in recent weeks, and a special thanks to all of you that so compassionately reached out to me during my continued time of need.

I know that eventually, the goal is for me to recover for myself. But until I get to that point, I’m doing this for all of you.


Praying for Jocelyn

For those of you who have been praying for Jocelyn, here is her last update.  I told her that I was re-posting her blogs on mine.  The last time I checked there were over 300 reads to her last post.   I told her that people around the world were praying.

This journey with her has been hard.  I cannot understand mental illness.  I cannot understand self harm.  I can understand wanting to go “home”.  We are called to fight the good fight.  In any battle, some of the good die.  Some are wounded.  None are ever the same.

Thank you for praying for Jocelyn.  Let’s stand together for a miracle.

Living Like You’re Leaving


ImagePhoto credit: Joey Ressler

There are two ways that offer me the option of leaving right now. One, is suicide. Two, is treatment. I feel like I only have two options. I will either die or go to a hospital. Ironically, living like you’re going into treatment is very similar to living like you want to die.

You see, there are two ways to live like you want to die. In Option A, you do reckless things like driving drunk or having unprotected sex with strangers or shooting heroin. That’s not what I’m going to be referring to, so if that’s what you came for, sorry. I’m not about that life. I’m more about Option B. In Option B, you do things like hugging your friends and family more often or saying goodbye or giving people things or hanging out with people for the last time. This is because there’s hope. Yes, there is hope in wanting to die. There’s hope in an escape. There’s hope in the idea that maybe the next time I try to cross the street, a car will come. There’s hope that maybe today will be the day that I cut too deep. But most importantly, there’s hope that when I’m gone, things will be okay.

I am in the bizarre position of knowing that I’m about to go to inpatient. This provides the equally unique opportunity for me to “get my affairs in order”. This is pretty much the same as getting things in order when you want to die. You give everyone hugs, you say goodbye to people, you exchange things with people to remind you of each other, you hang out with people for the “last time”. There’s also hope in going to treatment, even though I can’t see it a lot of the time. There’s hope that maybe this place will really help me. There’s hope that I’ll get connected with wonderful people. And most importantly, there’s hope that when I’m gone, things will be okay.

Living like you’re leaving puts a lot of things into perspective. It helps you realize who would do anything for you, who you’re going to miss the most, and who to use as your inspirations.



Inside Teenage Suicide

The fallout from Isaiah and mental illness continues.  This is a blog from our neighbor – a very special friend of mine.  I was worried about her the night Isaiah died.  Actually, Laurie and I said immediately after calling 911, “we need to go to Jocelyn.”   I continue to worry and pray for her.  This is a very tough read…. Read it at your own discretion.   Please join me in praying for her.

You Are Greatly Loved


Let me begin by saying that this will probably be one of my most serious posts, and I’m hesitating a lot in putting this out there, but I feel like the information is just bubbling inside of me and I’m going to explode if I can’t get it out somehow.

Basically, my life has fallen apart. I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell happened?” Literally nothing. Nothing is different from the time that I was target-free. That’s the weird thing. I relapsed for no terribly apparent reason and I’ve been getting worse and worse still without a cause. Recently, I have had the dosage of one of my mood stabilizers lowered, but I definitely hesitate to put any significance in that.

I’ll break down the week for you.

Monday, February 17, 2014:

I had a meltdown at school. I was sitting in guidance at the end of third period waiting to talk to my counselor. Suddenly, I felt tears start to well up in my eyes. I was like, “Dafuq?” I had no idea why I was crying. I got extremely anxious and depressed. I sat there for a little bit, but I kept spiraling downward. I told the secretaries in the guidance office that I needed immediate help. They said they would try to email and call my guidance counselor because she was in her office with another student. I paced back and forth and my breathing started to get out of control. Suicidal thoughts and shame began clouding my mind. I was flipping shit.

By the time my counselor was free, I was basically sobbing. She asked me what was going on and all I managed to gasp out was “I really want to kill myself.” After we spoke for some time, she called my mom, who came and picked me up. When we got home, my mom wouldn’t let me out of her sight until it was time for me to go to bed. Not long after she left me alone, I cut.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014:

I can’t remember much other than some tidbits of my school day. However, I know that I did cut and burn myself that night.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014:

When questioned on my self-harm at school, I openly said that I had cut and burned. Of course this caused some alarm, but it was known that I had been hurting myself throughout the week as well. Burning just kind of stepped it up. The school nurse checked out my burns and wrapped them. I don’t know why I didn’t expect my guidance counselor to say something to my mom about my self-harm, but she did. I guess I really should have seen it coming. When my mom talked to me about it, I got extremely dysregulated. She really dug into me with points she made about me not putting effort into using skills. The way it came across, however, was more like “Everyone is trying so hard to help you and you aren’t trying at all”. That’s not super far off though.

At that point, something inside of me snapped. For the first time in my life, I decided wholeheartedly that I was going to kill myself. Even other times when I had attempted, it was more “we’ll see what happens” than “this is definitely going to happen”. But on Wednesday I made up my mind that, without a doubt, I would commit suicide on Sunday, the 23rd. I felt almost instantaneous relief. I had an escape. I began planning what I would do. Overdose. My medication and cold medicine I had stashed in my room. Lay on a towel so that clean up would be easier if I threw up. Lock my door and turn on a fan so that if I was having a seizure or in pain I wouldn’t be able to back out and get my mom’s attention. I began writing notes to everyone that was important in my life. These notes would span over 20 people from my friends to my family to my therapist and teachers. I went to bed that night feeling calm and confident despite another aggravating conversation with my mother.

Thursday, February 20, 2014:

I woke up feeling at peace with my decision. I read a text message from one of my good friends saying that I’m meant to do incredible things, and that I’m one of the strongest people in the world. She also said that I would live to be like 105 and then eventually I would go to heaven and have the dopest time together with Isaiah for the rest of forever. That’s when my confidence first started to waver. I was able to accept the compliments and somewhat brush them off.

I ate breakfast. I didn’t want to, but I knew that if I didn’t eat, people would know that something was different. I headed off to school. If I could get through the school day and my following therapy session, I’d be in the clear away from my support staff and therapist. My plan was to avoid my guidance counselor and emotional support teacher. I have daily check-ins with them that I was going to skip. I didn’t go to my first one during homeroom, and things were going okay first period. I was partially paying attention to chemistry, but mostly just writing more suicide notes. I started to get impatient. I wanted to die immediately. Sunday seemed ages away. I decided that I was going to die Friday, the next day.That’s when it occurred to me that another one of my support staff is in my second period. Unavoidable interaction. If I skipped the class, someone would know things weren’t normal. I started getting anxious, but I tried talking myself down. “I can do this.” “I’ve acted before, right? I must have learned something in theater.” “It’ll be okay; its almost over.” I decided that I was just going to try to keep our conversations to a minimum.

I skipped my first period check-in and went straight to second. All I needed to do was keep my cool through second period. It seemed easy enough. I sat down and realized we had a test in that class. Shit. I have testing accommodations in my IEP. She was definitely going to talk to me about that. My support teacher came in and started talking to all the other kids that I guess get testing accommodations too. I thought in a brief moment of hope that maybe she’d forget about me. They were getting ready to leave the room, and I got excited. I thought I was good to go, but then she turned around and asked if I wanted to go with them.

“I don’t know. I’ll probably hand it in blank.” I said less nonchalantly than I would have liked.

She said that that’s why I should come with her. If I turned her down, it would be obvious that something was up. I followed her and the other students to an empty classroom. She passed out the tests. I stared at the paper. I knew the answers, but I couldn’t bring myself to write. Math seems so irrelevant when you’re going to die in a day.

My teacher sat down with me and read me the first question. Without thinking, I said, “It doesn’t matter.” My voice shook and tears began to form. I was surprised and instantly angry. I had no idea why I was about to cry. I was disgusted with my emotion. I needed to die then. I decided to move my death date once again. I would kill myself that night. I took a deep breath and forced myself to maintain composure. She said that she knew it doesn’t matter, and that surviving is what matters for me, but if I wanted to get out of those hallways eventually, it mattered. I didn’t know what to say. My vision got blurry. More tears were coming. FUCKFUCKFUCK is all I was thinking. My teacher got up and brought me a box of tissues. She came around behind me and gave me a hug, whispering “You are greatly loved.”

That’s when I really lost my shit. I felt a pang of agony in my chest. The tears flowed freely. I couldn’t control it. She asked me if I wanted to go to guidance, and I said no. I couldn’t afford letting my guidance counselor see me like that too. Raising alarm was the very last thing I wanted. I thought about all of the people that I love and that love me. It was sinking in that I would be leaving them that night. I thought about Isaiah leaving me. I cried. She asked if something had happened the night before that was upsetting me. I said kind of, but that it wasn’t important. She said “Everything about you is important.” Even more crying.

I sat in that room and cried for a little longer before I stepped out into the hallway. That’s where I began all-out sobbing. After a few minutes, I saw my teacher look through the window in the door to check on me. I’m sure I looked like a complete mess. It wasn’t long after that that the school social worker came up to me. She asked me if I wanted to come into her office.ShitWhat have I done? I’m blowing it! I followed her downstairs into her office. She tried to get me to talk to her about what was wrong. I said nothing. I just cried.

After a bit of her prying, I said, “I don’t want people to care about me.” She asked me why I wanted that, and I just shook my head. I felt like I had already said too much. She said that whether I want them to or not, a lot of people care because that’s what they do. I cried some more.

Eventually, the social worker had to go to a meeting, so she walked me down to guidance. I was very hesitant because I had no idea how I would handle talking to my counselor that I was usually so open with, but again, if refused to go, things would seem even stranger. I was still crying uncontrollably once I was in my guidance counselor’s office. She asked me many questions, trying to get a grip on what was going on. I said “I don’t know” or “it’s not important” to almost everything. I must have cried nonstop for 45 minutes or an hour before I snapped. She asked me what one thought going on in my mind was, and I said “People love me.” I was exhausted from the war that was going on inside of me. Part of me was screaming to shut the hell up, and the other just wanted to be honest. She asked me why that was upsetting me. What felt like forever passed as the argument continued in my head. I blurted out between sobs, “I’m going to kill myself tonight.”

As you can imagine, this sparked a whole ton of shit. At that point, I just started spewing word vomit. The majority of my plan came tumbling out of my mouth. I regretted each thing I said more than the last. She called my mom of course, who came and picked me up early from school. My mom and I went to Friendly’s after that. Kinda weird, I know, but oh well. She was probably trying to cheer me up. There we started brain storming where to go from there in terms of my life. However, I was still not very committed to living at all. We did it anyway. Unsurprisingly, hospitalization joined the list along with dropping out, being a bum, doing the same thing we were (regular high school and potential work), and some other things. We didn’t figure out which one we were going to stick to. I had a therapy session at 3 o’clock that day, so we were going to wait to get my therapist’s opinion. I thought for sure that she was going to hospitalize me. I had a suicide plan. That’s usually a direct ticket to inpatient. My mom said that if I wasn’t completely open and honest with my therapist, we were going to leave her and find a different one. Now, I have no idea what that would do to help. Seeing someone brand new while in crisis seemed like the worst idea proposed so far. Not to mention the fact that I’m relatively attached to my therapist of two years.

So we got to the therapy office and I was anxious as shit. So many things were at risk. My suicide plan, my freedom, my relationship with my therapist. I was freaking out inside, but I tried to stay as calm as I could on the outside. My mom had called my therapist when she was on her way to pick me up, so she already knew about my plan. I told her what my week had been like in a recap that was similar to this one, but with more swearing. We talked about all the options that my mom and I had come up with. She said that if I went to a hospital, it was likely that they’d only discharge me into a longer term program because I had been discharged home in each of my other hospitalizations and time after time failed to remain safe. This was shitty news. A long term treatment program (like a residential or group home) was not going to make me want to live.

At the end of my session, we brought my mom in and talked with her a little bit. Not much was decided for sure except that I would have two sessions the next week instead of one. I wasn’t confident in my ability to even get to next week, so it seemed like a pretty thin plan, but I let it go. My mom said that she would be my one-on-one staff, which means that again I would not be out of her sight.

After I was home again, I began to feel numb. Everything felt so surreal. My mom made me help her clear my room of razors and pills. We found razors that I didn’t even know I had. Each time we found one, I slashed my wrists open in my mind. Holding a box cutter, I knew how easy it would be to cut deep enough to really fuck something up. I knew that my mom would be able to get medical attention there fast though. Death would be highly unlikely, and then I’d definitely get sent away. Not worth it.

Thinking that night, I allowed myself to fall further into my numbness. The thought popped into my head that maybe I was in shock. I had believed with every fiber of my being that I was going to be dead that night, even after I told my guidance counselor. I wouldn’t have gotten as upset as I did if I had had any doubts.

In the days following Thursday, I tried to go about things as normally as I could. I went to a leadership summit on Friday with students from my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Then my friends and I went out to eat. Saturday, I went to breakfast with two of my good friends and hung out with them while they played guitars. My brother and I got a surprise visit from some friends at our house and then went to an auction, a pizza place, and some antique shops. Later Saturday afternoon, my sister came home from college, so that was really cool.

It all sounds great, right? It is great. I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people, but I am plagued by the desire to leave them all. All the while it’s been very much in the front of my mind that I’m not supposed to be here. If my teacher hadn’t said anything to me, I wouldn’t have broken down, if I hadn’t broken down, I wouldn’t have seen my guidance counselor, and if I hadn’t seen my guidance counselor, I really wouldn’t be here. With each person I talk to, I picture them at my funeral. I run through the suicide note that I left for them in my mind. I feel such guilt for wanting to abandon everyone that loves me, but at the same time I feel a crushing amount of disappointment that I haven’t yet.

Today is exactly one year and four months since Isaiah passed away.

It’s also the day that I had originally set out to die.

I have no idea what to do.

We’re at our anniversary

We made it to our anniversary.  1 year.  We are observing it today and tomorrow.  Isaiah died on October 23rd but last year the 23rd was a Tuesday.  Last week I planted a tree for Isaiah and his grandfather who died a month earlier.  Tonight I am helping one of his friends plant a tree in her yard.  She is still hurting and needs a lot of prayer and healing.

Tomorrow Laurie and I are going to sort through all of his belongings and clothes.  We haven’t touched anything in his room for a year.  We’re going to collect his things and donate them to charity.  We hope that they will help someone in need.  We are also applying to renew our passports.  They ran out two years ago and with everything going on we did not renew them.  It’s time for us to travel again.  It’s time for us to reach out to missions again.  Maybe it’s time to work in an orphanage for a season.

We have prayed.  We have questioned.  At times we doubted.  We’ve had anger and frustration.  We’ve had relief.  When we see killings by hurting teens we are relieved that our tragedy didn’t end that way.  Maybe that is a terrible way to look at this but it is reality.  It could have ended much worse than it did.

Last night was difficult.  After a year of dealing with the police we finally got the records from the stolen iphone that he was texting on during his final three days.  That was hard but it showed again the pain and confusion that he had.  How does a child get so damaged and why couldn’t he be saved?  Those are questions that we can’t answer.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to those of you who have stood with us this year.  Your prayers have carried us through it.  You will never know how much that helped.  There were so many times that we talked at night and shared how much peace we felt.  We always said, “it’s because so many people are praying for us.”  Don’t ever feel like you can’t do anything.  The prayers of the righteous are very strong . . .


This IS just the beginning

Attachment disorder – RAD – Abandonment – Adoption Syndrome – Whatever you call it, it is difficult to deal with.  Some are able to pull through it.  Others, like us, are not.  I am NOT against adoption.  I have always been for it.  Unfortunately we got hit very hard with the extreme eye opening experience.

Our prayer is that we can take our experience and use it to help others.  We still hope to get involved in orphanage ministry.  All children need love.  Please don’t use my writings to pull back but to move closer to offering healing to children in need.  This whole area of need is in need of a lot of prayer.


Abandonment #6

The new home.  This home had some differences from the last home but many similarities.  Some things were better and some were worse.  Some of the kids were nicer and some were meaner.  I’m not going to spend time describing the home in detail – it’s not important.  People (at Americans) are so obsessed with living conditions.  How nice is the home?  How good is the food? Do you have hot water?  How is school?  Do you have toys to play with?

Let me tell you, none of that matters.  I would have rather been back with my family in our little block house with no running water (except when it rained) than to be in a new luxury home without my family.

In my later years, I read about the Jews suffering terrible horrible conditions in the Nazi camps of WW2.  Those people faced disease, torture, starvation and death and yet they they wanted to live.  Think about that: why did they have the will to live?  I have everything now but I don’t.  What happened to me?  What crushed the spirit in me that the Jews thrived on?

I learned how to lie.  Lie about everything.  Survive without caring.  Survive without loving.  Lie about how I feel, what I want, what I did.  Lies and more lies.  Cover up.  Blend in.  I did what was expected and go with the flow.  Going with the flow people and people won’t suspect me.  Blend in and stay hidden.  Smile and everyone assumes I’m ok.  Don’t bring attention.  After awhile I didn’t even know who I was anymore.  Smile.  Smile and seem happy.  Smile and do what people want to see.  Lie.  Survive the day, the night, no one really knows who I am because I don’t know who I am.

Boys or girls thrown together in a room are not family.  They really aren’t friends.  We co-existed.  Tell me – if you know any orphans that came out of an orphanage, do they want to see other children that they lived with in the orphanage?  Most don’t.  I’m not attached to anyone.  I’m just surviving with a smile.