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2 kids. Memories of Wolf and Boo. Many dear friends. Three siblings. Two parents. Samarra the crazy dog. The Player and Pi the Cat. I love you all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Green Chicago

The Player and I just got home last night from a whirlwind trip to The Windy City.  We left early Monday morning on Amtrak (environmentally friendly not driving our private greenhouse gas producing vehicle, thus green!)  We stayed at the Palmar House (expensive but booked on Hotwire very much the opposite of expensive and thus saving us some greenbacks!)    Yes I know my punctuation is wrong in those sentences but where does the . go with the exclamation points and parantheses for competition?  Help!

I did not take my camera. So this blog will not be punctuated with personal photos, but maybe a few Google Images will appear. You never know what might happen next! As Kung Fu Sammy says, "Expect the Unexpected."

Kung Fu Sammy does not end sentences with exclamation points, being a centered kung fu master of a skunk.    Also he probably has a copy of Skunk and White's Elements of Style.

The trip was a joy.  It was so wonderful to share some of my favorite haunts in Chicago with The Player.  One of the highlights was going on a Monday night to The Green Mill where we listened to great jazz provided by The Patricia Barber Quartet.  (More green!  More punctuation worries!) The music was great, the people watching was fabulous, and we met the owner of the Mill, Dave.  I knew he was the owner because everyone else was dressed in the dark clothing required of jazz club patrons and employees (oh, wait I was wearing a light beige shirt...oops) and he was wearing hunting gear.  Specifically a red and black checked flannel shirt, jeans, and a hunting cap.  No apparent weapons, though.  

The music was sublime.

People-watching highlights included 2 sisters (possibly twins?) who I nicknamed Morticia and Medusa Kardashian.  They were all about the people-watching in a reverse sort of way, as in they were there to be seen.  Medusa had blond streaks in her wild dark wavy mane, and wore a poncho made of some poor little animal that she had probably just found and killed and skinned herself.  She spent most of the evening looking at herself in the mirror behind the bar.  And holding her stomach in.  I wonder if she noticed there was world-class music being made around her.  Morticia was less self conscious, probably because she wasn't worried about snakes coming out of her head or animal guts still stuck to the inside of her new poncho.  I wondered where little sister Minerva was on Monday night?  Possibly out on a date with Mayhem. 

I googled some images of Medusa and then decided I'd rather not frighten you all.

The Player fantasized that Patricia Barber would talk to us and like us so much that she would invite us to her house the next day for lunch.  Unfortunately even though the Green Mill is small and intimate, we were sitting at the bar in the back and could not even see her. 

Except a view like this as we came out of the bathroom which is practically on the stage. 

She could not see us, and so we did not meet her or talk to her or even get to wink at her.  The owner of the bar did buy us a drink, though.  

Only seeing the Chagall mural topped that!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Festival and Farewell

On Friday night we drove over to East Peoria to participate in a traffic jam!  It was delightful, especially in my car with manual transmission, on a big hill, for well over half an hour as we waited to get into FELOPI!!  The FEstival of Lights Of east Peoria Illinois.  Here are some scenes from this years display:

I love the Lightsthip Enterprise!

We debated whether good guys or bad guys were in this Star Wars vessel, finally deciding by popular vote that it was definitely not Santa's sleigh.

This looks like a riverboat but as it turns out, you can use it to go whale-watching, too:

Thar she blows!

Sisi TV arrived last week with a special new show that I think will probably get syndicated, Kung Fu Sammy:

Amazing what that little stuffed skunk can do with "the element of surprise."

This morning the kids flew off in a jet plane with their dad for 2 weeks in Ecuador.  I have not been away from them both that long before.  I've been somewhat melancholy this morning.

I cried at home, before I took them to the airport where I did not cry.  At least not to the point of sobbing and needing someone to bring me kleenex.

I will miss these guys something fierce!  Counting the days until January 6th, Epiphany!! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pie S U

Part One-A:

On Monday evening I found, on the floor of the living room:  12 pieces of cat food, 11 scraps of paper, 10 dirty socks, 9...oh nevermind.   The interesting thing I found on the floor was a little square of paper that had a little girl's handwritten note that said "Rule One:  Never say 'I hate or I don't like pie."

Hmm, I thought to myself.

Part Two:

On Tuesday evening the kids, The Player, and I went to the ISU men's basketball game.  They played a team from Little Rock, Arkansas.  The other team started the game looking like maybe they had found some very tall extraterrestrials who looked like humans but had never seen a game of basketball before.  Or maybe they had taken a little shooting practice but had no concept of the idea of defense and especially of rebounding.  To put it more eloquently, they stunk.  After about 11 minutes of play the score of the game was ISU 30, ETs from Little Rock 11.  Being a math-minded kinda gal, I estimated that at this rate ISU could possibly score almost 120 points.  I wondered aloud if that would be a record of some kind.  Of course it might have an asterick  next to it in the record books since the game was possibly played against extraterrestrial life forms.

Then, something happened and human beings who knew how to play the game or probably to listen to their coach appeared on the court and the game changed dramatically.  I think that some of the ETs also took possession of the referees, as they began to call foul after foul against ISU.  Then they called a flagrant foul against one of the ISU players and another charging foul against ISU immediately afterward. 

Then the devil must have gotten into Tim Jankovich, the usually-pretty-calm ISU head coach, and he erupted out of his seat with poison darts flying out of his eyes and hot lava shooting from his ears...headed for the refs!  His assistant coaches surrounded him in a group hug and the refs gave him not one, but two technical fouls, ejected him from the game, and the other team got 4 free throws. 

This all in the first half!!!

J-dude was fascinated by the whole thing and said to me, "Wow, this is going to be all over the news!".  He was correct, of  course.  Go to www.pantagraph.com and see the story on page one, er, whatever you call it online.

In the second half the Little Rocks from Planet Arkansas actually went ahead 46-44, but then ISU woke up from their hypnotic pissed-off trance, played better basketball, and won the game 72-65.  Rah rah rah!

Part One-B:

Home after the game, little people fed bedtime snacks and heading to bed.  I go into Sisi's room to say goodnight.  She is making a list.  I ask her what is the list.  She says "It's the rules for my new club."

What's the club?  I ask.

The PLC, she answers. 

What is PLC?  I ask.

The Pie Lovers Club, she answers.

I know some people who are going to join that!  I say.

So as it turns out there are 27 rules, in addition to Rule Number One, which I think we should call The First Commandment of the PLC:  Thou Shalt Never Say I Don't Like or I Hate Pie.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another Walk Along the River

For the 3rd Sunday in a row The Player and the kids and I went to Parklands for an afternoon walk along the Mackinaw River.  Today we walked on the South Trail which took us to the opposite bank of the river.  The access to the river itself was trickier, but we eventually succeeded in getting down to the water so the kids could play in it with sticks and rocks.  And their boots and each other. 


This side of the river has a forest of mostly oak trees.

The light was beautiful and the reflections in the river of trees on the opposite bank were spectacular.

Just as I said, please don't throw a rock in the river, I'm about to take a picture, J-dude practiced his selective hearing. 

If not exactly what I had in mind, still pretty stunning.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I Did Not Win

A couple of industrious coworkers made  their ugly sweaters.  That is, they took solid colored sweaters and decorated them to a state of hilarious hideousness with Christmas items such as ornaments, garland, bells, reindeer heads protruding from the back, and lord knows what else.  I couldn't look at them for long, as it was like staring into the sun.   I put my sweater on and then another of my coworkers said she did not think it was all that ugly.  After a few days have passed I will suggest she get an eye exam. 

I did eat a couple really good cookies. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pretty Ugly

Tomorrow is our office Christmas party.  I work for a Catholic organization that actually celebrates Christmas (though we never get Easter to count as a work holiday, go figure.)  There are crucifixes in offices, examination rooms, and probably even by the MRI machine (though not made of metal) if I were to take an official inventory.  Our insurance does not pay for any birth control.  We pray more at meetings at my office than we do most Sundays at my church.  But for our office Christmas party we are having:

1.  a cookie exchange (I am not participating, thank you very chubby.)
2.  a gift exchange (also not participating thank you very cheaply.)
3.  an Ugly Sweater Competition.

I am entering the 3rd activity above, because after visiting every danged thrift store in town that carries clothing items, I finally found a truly ugly sweater to wear.  If you are the person that donated this to the Mission Mart, thinking it would be put to good use, then thank you.  If you thought it was a really nice sweater, then...thank you and also I am sorry.  If you like this sweater and want me to give it to you tomorrow for something other than an ugly sweater contest, then you are welcome to it and I am very very Very sorry.  (Susan?) 

If I win, I will actually model the sweater here on this very blog for you.  But I don't see any reason to be captured on film wearing this item with ...black beads, green and red cherries, squares that make me dizzy and oddly colored unidentifiable flowers, unless there is a prize involved. 

Happy holidays to you,  and to all a good night!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Make Your Own Head

That, according to the Wacky and Bizarre Holiday website, is what we are celebrating today on November 28th.  Also Red Planet day.  You could make your own head out of the planet Mars, or out of Mars bars I suppose.  I have not yet made my own head today, but neither have I lost my head, so I think I'm doing fairly well.

I did go see my financial advisor and finally agreed to get out of the "feel good" socially responsible alternative energy mutual fund he's been whining to me about for a couple years.  I insisted on it back in the day.  Then as solar companies went bankrupt, wind turbine companies came to an end of their government subsidies, and who knows what else (some of the stocks were probably in companies in Greece with my luck), the mutual fund deteriorated to the point where my advisor today said, and I quote, "I've never seen anything this bad before."  Yes, he's young.  But still.  Ok, ok, I went to some bonds and some other safer mutual funds for the moment.  I kept most of my socially responsible funds intact, though, and I feel pretty okay about that.

I mostly feel lucky to work part time and still have some money to put away for retirement/college funds for the little people.  Lucky indeed.

I plan to post my head later...hmmm.  That might hurt!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happenings around the Homestead

The Friday after Thanksgiving is when we put up the Christmas tree at our house.  This year was no exception.  We rearranged the furniture in the living room, did the bi-annual vacuuming behind the couches, and made room for the tree in it's traditional corner.  Lights were strung:

Ornaments were hung and finally, the angel was placed:

You can't really see her in this picture but she's there.  Trust me. 

Sisi was busy taking photographs of the process so she isn't in any of the pictures.  But here she is with a rebuilt version of Truth or Pain:

Details of the launch site for the marbles. 

Saturday morning J-dude said he wanted to cook sausages for breakfast.  He has never used the stove-top without direct hovering supervision.  But this time I gave him a little more space and he did a great job.  Until I took the following picture and then when he had his back to the stove he touched the pan with his finger.  No harm done, but Mom will refrain from photography during potentially dangerous events in the future.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Much for Which to Give Thanks.

I had a surprise visit from an old friend this week.

Darlene was back in town visiting her dad and brother.  It was great to see her and catch up. 

I'm having a busy week at work.  I job share now, a new position with more responsibility, and my sharee is on vacation so I am working more than usual.  And it's a holiday week.  And we are suddenly very busy.  These are my excuses for not only minimal blogging activity but not even checking email for several days.  Ouch.  There was a long list of spam to delete this morning when I finally got on the laptop.  There were other blogs to read, and comments to make, and now there is a turkey to cook and pie to bake.  Another pie, that is.  I made a pie for the kids to take to Oscar the Grouch's house yesterday, too.  So yes, it's been a full week.

I am delighted to report that I have managed to watch several really good movies this week.  The Player loves films.  That's good for me because I love movies but I don't watch them as often as I'd like.  This week we saw Tree of Life at the Normal Theater.  We watched The Illusionist (featuring one of my favorite actors Paul Giamatti) which I rented on Netflix.  Last night we streamed The Republic of Love, based on the novel by Carol Shields.  And we tried to go see Moneyball at the Starplex theater but while it was playing there on Tuesday night, it was gone by Wednesday.  So we will wait for it on DVD.  The Normal Public Library movie collection has been getting a good going over by The Player since he moved here, too.  Movies, movies everywhere!

Sisi has been trying to tolerate her big brother's saxophone practice without complaint, though not without comment of a nonverbal nature.

We've been playing a lot of Scrabble and Monopoly and Sisi also invented a new game yesterday called "Truth or Pain."  If you don't answer the "truth" question to her satisfaction, you get hit with a marble rolling down a track from the second floor to your vulnerable waiting leg on the main floor.  I am hoping she will be an art teacher and not an interrogator for the CIA when she grows up.

Life is so good.  I am so grateful.  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Day of...

The Occult! Yes it's a day to celebrate the occult arts such as palmreading and the Ouija Board.

The Ouija board was invented in 1890 and somehow made a transition from "harmless parlor game" to "divining tool" around the time of World War 1. That's probably because we stopped calling the living room the parlor about that time. Scientific studies have not shown that the Ouija Board is a way to communicate with spirits. But there are many famous cases of it's use including the following from Wikipedia:

Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi claimed under oath that, in a séance held in 1978 with other professors at the University of Bologna, the "ghost" of Giorgio La Pira spelled the name of the street where Aldo Moro was being held by the Red Brigades in a Ouija. According to Peter Popham of The Independent: "Everybody here has long believed that Prodi's ouija board tale was no more than an ill-advised and bizarre way to conceal the identity of his true source, probably a person from Bologna's seething far-left underground whom he was pledged to protect."

Poets and songwriters have been known to use the Ouija board for inspiration or even to write lyrics for them.  One woman claimed she channeled Mark Twain through the board to write an entire novel.  That's a lot of Ouija board time! 

But the most important use of the board is as a way to scare the pants off your friend in 7th grade at a slumber party to predict she would marry the pimply ugly creepy guy sitting by her in Social Studies class.

The Ouija Board is said to work based on a principle called ideomotor effect.  This is what happens when you unconscious desires guide the movement of your muscles.  Like when you find yourself at the refrigerator taking out the ice cream instead of getting on the treadmill. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Forget? Never!

Today, November 10th, is Forget-Me-Not Day.  There are 50 species of these sweet little flowers, but the True Forget Me Nots are myosotis scorpioides.  While they are budding they look like a scorpion's tail, or so some botanist with naming rights believed.  I myself can't quite see it.  Possibly he or she had been eating some plant with hallucinatory qualities.

There are several legends about the source of the popular name.  One German legend tells that when God named all the plants, one little flower that had not yet been named cried out "Forget me not, oh Lord."  And God said, "That shall be your name." 

Another legend says that a knight in shining armour bent over near a river to pick some of these flowers for his lady.  He fell into the river and could not get out because of ... all that armour.  He threw her the flowers and shouted "forget me not!" just before he drowned.

I think she was probably better off without that guy.  Sir What's His Name.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The Player brought many books to our little home when he arrived with Boo Radley the cat last week.  One of the books is now J-dude's favorite item in the entire universe...Roget's Thesaurus.  I have owned a thesaurus for J-dude's entire life but it was not something he discovered.  Nor is it as good as The Player's thesaurus.  Note difference in photo below:

That would be The Player's robust thesaurus on the left and my old sad pathetic version on the right.  The new thesaurus even advertises how much better it is: 

So why the charm of the thesaurus for a 10 year old kid?  He discovered you can look up words like idiot and then read "loon or loony or nut or crackpot or screwball or weirdie or weirdo or kook or flake or crackbrain (all slang). "  And there is one thing 10 year old kids love, it is slang.  

So last night after book group I realized that I had been somewhat curmudgeonly about the book.  I decided to look up curmudgeon in Roget's.  And to my surprise it was NOT in the index.  So I resorted to my old faithful Big Red...which said a curmudgeon is irascible.  Irascible is in the index of the new and improved and revised Roget's.  And it reads:  irritable, cranky, excitable, cross, cranky, testy, feisty, crusty, huffy, huffish, shirty, cantakerous, cankered, crabbed, spiteful, spleeny,...well you get the idea.  So I don't think I was really all that.  Just enthusiastic in my criticism.  Yes, that's it.  I was enthusiastic.  And maybe a little irritable.  I am committed to loving the next book no matter what.  I don't want to be a curmudgeon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Misery of Bliss

Soon I am off to a book group discussion in a Nursing Home...er, rather, a Skilled Nursing Facility, or SNF, usually called a Sniff  but renamed a Snuff or Snurf by Susan. Sweet P-Dub has to do a week or so of rehab due to her broken hip due to her tangle with a wild dog in the middle of the night at the O-K Ryder Corrall.  I know her physical therapist who will not violate her constitutional rights not to exercise (Amendment 74 I suppose?) and she is going to do just fine.

Since P-Dub can't come to the book club, we are bringing the book club to P-Dub. 

Wine, which is kind of required at book club, is not allowed at the SNF.  But juice is allowed.  And P-Dub has a private room.  So we will be drinking some juice (wink wink nudge nudge say no more say no more) out of coffee mugs with lids to keep that special juice aroma from the nurses at the Snurf who might Sniff the juice and end our meeting prematurely.    We will not be dipping Snuff at the Sniff.  I'm sure!  P-Dub will be on pain pills so no juice for the Sweet P.

The book we are dissing, I mean discussing, is The Geography of Bliss.  This book alternately pleased me and bugged me.  Here is an example of the bugging me part, from a chapter on Iceland that I mostly enjoyed except for these annoying interjections of "aren't I clever" by the author.  (He can't help it probably.  His last name is Weiner and at least he doesn't tweet any photos of his body parts, at least not that we have heard.)

Not see the sun?  I don't like the way that sounds.  In the past the sun has always been there for me, the one celestial body I could count on.  Unlike Pluto, which for decades led me to believe it was an actual planet when the whole time it was really only a dwarf planet.

How does this bug me?  Let me count the ways. 
1.  Who cares what you as the author feel about Pluto, in a book about Happiness around the Earthly Plane?
2.  Anthropomorphizing planetary behavior is so 1970s.
3.  I think Weiner is biased against little people and planets.  Probably has some Munchkin Issues.
4.  There are so many I am afraid to go on.

On any page I can find a line or two that delight me, and a paragraph or four that irk me.  Too much of the author and his advertisements for his own cleverness in the book.

Just to be fair here are a couple sentences from a paragraph in the same chapter that I really like:

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but interdependence is the mother of affection....We help other people because we can, or because it makes us feel good, not because we're counting on some future payback.  There is a word for this:  love.

S'nuff Said.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hello Again

Yes, yes, it's been a while.  It's been busy.  The Player has arrived.  There will be no further negotiations.  We got The Player To Be Named Later and A Cat Named Boo Radley. In exchange the other team got...hmmm,  I guess they didn't get anything.  Such a deal for our team!   Here's Boo:

Oh wait, no that's Sisi in her black cat Halloween costume.  Here is Boo the cat:

This was taken before Boo was allowed to go outside.  Now he appears to be living under the deck, keeping the new homestead safe from bunnies and chipmunks.  Or just hiding from the kids.  I can't tell for sure yet. 

Here is another picture from Halloween, this time of J-dude dressed in a hybrid costume.  Energy saving in the sense that we did not have to purchase anything to make this costume.  We just recycled several parts of old costumes and voila...free candy for J-dude!

That is the scariest thing about Halloween:  free candy and a 10-year old boy.  I found the free candy in J-dude's room one night about 2:30 a.m.  I promptly removed said free candy and replaced it with free healthy food.  Biscuits and applesauce if I remember correctly.  Less scary for everyone, indeed.   

Friday, October 28, 2011

Frankenstein Friday

Yes that's right...the 4th Friday in October.  Who knew?

It's also Harvest Day at the kids' school.  They informed me last night they needed to dress in "farmer clothes" and why didn't I magically just come up with jeans (which Sisi has claimed in the past she will never wear), or overalls (which Sisi used to rip off when she was a toddler if I attempted to dress her in them) or flannel shirts (hello? ).  So they are just wearing, well, whatever.  Sisi has an orange bandana on her cute little head.  And a button up shirt.  She looks adorable.

J-dude is still sleeping.  He stayed up late to watch Game 6 of the World Series so he will probably feel more like Frankenstein than a farmer when I go to wake him.  I hope I don't feel like the little guy in the picture when that happens.  Thank goodness my little guy is still...well, little.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side

On Saturday afternoon The Player and I went for a walk at Parklands.  We decided to try a trail there we've never walked along before.  The trail split at one point and though The Player said we should go to the right I said no no we should go to the left.  After a while that branch of the trail came to an end that looked like this:

We turned back and took the right fork which led to the river.  As we walked along I could feel my blood sugar getting a little bit low.  I willed it to stop but it kept falling until I finally said I had to turn back and go to the car to get something to eat or drink.
But first I took some pictures of the fall colors:

Yes yes I should have had food with me for the walk.  But that was my second error of the day.  And The Player was unnerved by my apparent pale appearance.  I won't tell you what he said...ok ok yes I will.  He said I looked like I was in a Wax Museum.  I laughed pretty hard when he told me that, of course by then my blood sugar was back to normal and I had a sense of humor again as well as some pink in my cheeks.  So from now on I will be taking the fork in the road he suggests first and carrying some carbs along for the walks. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rest In Peace Sweet Wolf

Gee, suddenly my bad hips don't seem to hurt so badly after all!

Good day, Sunshine!

Why yes, I do like hummus.  Thank you!

The terrific trio

We love you, Wolf.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Sad Week

On Sunday afternoon Wolf, our beloved old dog, stopped eating his regular dog food.  He eventually gave up eating his treats, cheese, and drinking much water.  When he ate a little pizza out of my hand on Monday evening I thought maybe he was just on a hunger strike for better meals.  But Tuesday morning he wouldn't even fall for the pizza trick.

Tuesday afternoon we made a trip to the vet to see Dr. Matt.  The news is not good.  Liver and kidneys not working well.  He gave Wolf a couple shots to control the nausea he has probably been feeling and we entered the phase of Wolf's life which I am calling "Doggy Hospice."  We have a few days at most according to Dr. Matt, until we need to make that last vet appointment for Wolf.

As if on cue the universe provided exactly the person I probably most wanted to see when we left the exam room and went out to pay the receptionist after Wolf's appointment.  Bob.  Bob my pastor.  Bob the dog lover.  Bob the dog trainer extraordinaire.  Serendipity Bob and his puppy Daisy.  We chatted outside for a while, and then I got in my car and drove to get the kids and give them the crappy news.

The kids and I spoiled Wolf last night.  He got a hamburger, which he actually ate.  He slept with all 3 of us nearby.  This morning he drank a little water and got up the stairs on his own, so I know he feels a little better.  Today is probably not going to be the day, but it will be soon.    And that makes this one very sad week.

Monday, October 17, 2011

If I Won the Lottery

Yesterday was Dictionary Day according to the bizarre holiday website!  I love that there is a dictionary day.  It falls on Noah Webster's birthday, appropriately.  I love my big red dictionary but if I won the lottey I might buy a copy of the OED.  The 20-volume set is only $995 (plus shipping and handling).  I wouldn't actually need to win the lottery to purchase it, but I would need to win the lottery to build a big library with built-in shelves and a fireplace in which to house the books.  And I would have to be able to quit my job because I would just want to sit by the fireplace all winter drinking something warm and reading from the OED.  I would call up my working friends and annoy them with definitions of obscure words while they are trying to write a sermon or perform a play or send someone an important email or fix something broken. 

So maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.  Now that I have a plan for the money.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


J-dude's recipe for jack-o-lanterns.

1.  Whine until your mom takes you to the store on Friday evening to buy pumpkins.
2.  Whine when you get home that night when your mom is too tired to carve the jack-o-lanterns.
3.  Talk back and get sent to your room.
4.  Come out of your room and do not bring the subject up again until

5.  Saturday morning get up and ask your mom to carve the jack-o-lanterns.  Do not whine.
6.  When you meet resistance say "You said last night we could do it today."  Insist.
7.  Do not whine.
8.  Smile really nicely at your mom.
9.  When she says okay, do everything she asks and nothing she asks you specifically not to do.
10.  Remember not to whine.
11.  Spend a long time cleaning out the seeds and placing them in a container. 

12.  Ask your mom to carve the face, because she likes to do that.
13.  Don't complain or whine if you don't like the face she carved. 

14.  Ask nicely if the seeds could be cooked right away.

15.  Yummm!  Don't forget to say Thank You!