feels (updated)

Guys, get ready to dig deep.  I’m not going to distract you with another blog about my dog – we’re going to talk about my feeeeelings.

C.S. Lewis said a thing.  And he said it far better than I ever could:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I meant this to be a blog about how heartache is the yin to the universal yang of love.  However, in the last couple days, as I’ve kicked it around my chest its emerged looking like something different.  While I do feel like I am at a place where the heart-casket seems like the best option, I realize that isn’t who I am.  Is it exhausting and painful?  Oh.yeah. But it has never occurred to me to be any other way.  Romantic relationships, in my life, have been like a game of musical chairs and for all my efforts, the music has stopped and the chairs are full.

Let me take a short detour here – and stay with me – I promise it’s all going somewhere.

I was listening to a podcast today that got me thinking.  The subject was ‘what do you wish your grown-ups said to you when you were a kid?’  Essentially, what troubles you now that might have been saved with words back then?  You guys know, cause I’ve told you plenty of times, that my grown-ups are amazing.  In fact, my mom is always asking me if she did something to mess me up (she probably will after reading this) and the answer is always “no”.  So I asked my people two questions: 1.) how they would describe me as a kid and 2.) what the challenges were in raising me as a consequence.  They did not even skip a beat before telling me how perfect I was (my dad actually used the word angelic) and what a joy it is to have raised me.  Now, it’s not quite what I was looking for but it’s endearing that even given the opportunity, their only truth is kindness.

I know what they said is not entirely true.  I was a sensitive child.  Embarrassingly sensitive.  Exhaustingly sensitive.  I worried about death all the time.  I worried about war and starving children and abandoned animals.  My mom said I worried about the seals turning brown (did I read that somewhere?) and the polar bears not having enough to eat.  What she said next is what changed the course of this blog post.  She said: “you told me you loved me every five minutes. You would stop what you were doing and come to the window and through the screen you would say “love you mom”.”  Now that can’t have been easy.  I was an insecure little thing and I didn’t have the words to understand my emotions which is how I ended up having my feelings hurt very easily.  What I took from that though, is from the time I was young, I was never afraid to put my heart out there.  In fact, I was constantly giving it away.  I even used my love for others as a way to fill them up on the off-chance they were empty.

That explains.so.much. about who I am today and how I navigate the world.  My default setting is and always has been heart-forward.  It’s my gift as well as my detriment.

See?  Brought back around, as promised.

I’m not going end this on optimism because that’s not what I feel.  I’m accepting that it’s okay.  So often I try to push through the bad stuff and pretend like it’s all okay; put on a good face.  I’m learning that sometimes it’s okay to just spend time in the heaviness.  So I’m giving myself permission to do that for a bit.

**Edited for clarity: I’m worried I haven’t done a good job communicating here. I’m not waiting around, as I have done, for *someone* to come along and validate the gifts I’ve possessed since I was a little Ryan. I realize there’s a very real chance that may not happen, and that’s okay (honest). I can still be me without that. I wanted to say that I love, I have always loved, I will always love. While I’m giving myself room to be “not okay” in this season of being, I will recharge and keep doing what I do. It may just look different than I thought and that’s okay.

There. Optimism.

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it’s not your dog, it’s mine

There are two camps in the domesticated animal world: cat and dog.  I am firmly (and have always been) in camp dog.

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Even before I got my pupper, Sala, I had a certain naïveté when it came to dogs.  I believed they were all friendly and should be stopped and petted whenever possible.  We (the dog and I) lock eyes, I speak ONLY to the dog and when their tails get going, I die a little bit from cuteness overload.

When I adopted Sala, I thought for sure she’d make me more social.  I had lofty dreams of dog park dates with friends (so I could meet more dogs, obvs), taking her on car trips where we’d hike our way through places like Colorado and West Des Moines, going to the pet store together to get treats and toys; just really enjoying having a co-pilot.  While she’s proven to be an amazing dog (who I feel lucky to be blessed with), I’ve had to rework a bit of my plan for our life together.  See, I’m not sure what shifted in her or what happened in her life before me but she became a bit of a dog-aggressive-dog.  It has definitely changed my ignorance-is-bliss outlook when it comes to pups.

In the last two-ish years with Sala, I’ve read a lot about how to be a better dog mom, how to work with her, how to understand her; I’ve bought a lot of stuff – and returned a lot of stuff – in an attempt to help us.  Not once didn’t occur to me, though, that this might be something other dog-parents deal with.  Until I started following some dog trainers on Instagram.  I can’t.even.tell.you how it changed my perspective knowing there are other people who have dogs who basically defy their dog-ness and can’t be around other dogs.  Reading other dog owner’s pleas for help was something I understood all too well.

I find myself wanting to apologize whenever we see another dog on a leash (yes, I do apologize to the dogs too).  It’s this clumsy exchange of me uttering a surprised “oh” and then trying to refocus Sala while we turn the other direction.  There’s guilt in that for me.  I want to wear a sign that says, “it’s not your dog, it’s mine”.  I know what I can do now is avoid situations that make her uneasy (because they make me uneasy too).  I’ve learned that (while I struggle with how it feels) it’s okay for me to avoid other dogs while she’s on-leash.  I’ve learned that maybe there’s stress she feels which is brought on by other dogs.  I’ve learned that with time and dedication, I may be able to change the way she responds to dog friends.  There are things that can be done and that gave me some hope that she and I both can change (I do love action items).

I know there’s still a lot of work to be done for the both of us.  I’ve understood as well that we’ll never really be the dog park type but that doesn’t diminish what an awesome dog I have.  I just wanted to offer up the perspective of a person with an anti-social dog.  So if/when you see someone like me scamper away with my dog in-tow, please know that it’s not you – I’m just taking care of my pup.

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Look at this good girl in her bandana

who are you?

“Who are you?”

What a simple question, right?  But when you take it apart and really consider it, it’s a pretty huge idea.

It seems like everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction of digging in to that idea.  Quick aside in all seriousness: I love the phrase “digging in” so much that it might be on my headstone when I die.

I digress.

This idea grew from a conversation with my therapist, then took root when I stumbled on an Instagram post by Melissa Hartwig (the amazing, kick-ass woman behind the W30).  I found myself thinking: I want to know who I am and own who I am.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it means for me to do that.  I have always owned the fact that I’m moment by moment, feelings fluid, ever-absorbing my environment, tough to pin down.  That’s not near enough of an answer for me, though.

As you know, it started with that same simple question, “who are you?” posed by my therapist.  Out of my mouth came the canned response, “I’m an auntie, a friend, a good listener, a fiercely loyal member of my family and I like to read.”  Those are all words I typically use to identify myself and she came right back by telling me that those words don’t say much about ME and who I actually am as a person.  That answer doesn’t reflect my values, my personality or what gets me out of bed in the morning.  Everyone is a daughter, auntie, uncle, mother, father, son, friend, sibling or a combination of those words.  Those are identifying words that we all fall back on and while there is likely a lot of pride attached to those words, it doesn’t really say who you are at your core.  I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I should know the answer to that question – but I don’t.  I have been so busy avoiding myself that I’ve been focused on helping those around me answer that question for themselves.

Melissa Hartwig wrapped it up in a nice little package called “self-love”, which is a concept that feels foreign to me.  She says everything in life can be taken away (preach, girl) except who we really are.  So why not OWN who we really are – not just those identifiers that are easy responses or the things about us that can be taken away in a moment?  We need to have our identity wrapped up in OURSELVES – not who we are to other people.  Do not allow outside factors to define who we are, she says, and I was completely feeling that.  I’ve often handed a partner the reins in determining who I am; my value; my identity.  I have been stuck waiting for life to happen TO me instead of me happening TO life.  I’m just now starting to grasp this concept.

After much thought and consideration, this is me, as I know me in this moment…

I am strong.  Every day I show up for my life and live it heart-forward.  Sometimes it really, really, really hurts but I’ve never been sorry for my scrapes and bruises because of the lessons I’ve learned in the process.

I am caring.  I have no off-switch in this regard.  I almost care too much.  I’m a very soft person – much too soft for this world – but I’m owning it.

I am dedicated, loyal and determined.  I was once told that I only work under pressure but I think a more correct statement reflecting who I am now is that I work hard despite pressure.  I have shown myself again and again that I can keep my eyes down and continue moving through something till there’s nowhere left to go.  Looking back on where I’ve been, I can see the little rest stops where I might have veered off and taken another path – or more likely should have – but I know that my loyalty is often in the driver’s seat, so we go on.

I am open-minded (and open-hearted).  It’s not too often that I take a hard line about anything.  I’m very malleable in that I listen to other perspectives and give them time to work in me.  Outside opinions often help me get to the heart of my feelings (like this blog post) so I always try to stay open for the wisdom to come.

I am always working to be a healthier version of myself.  This is both at face value and metaphorically.  I don’t strive for perfection I strive for healthy.  I don’t always get it right and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing, turn around, and go back.  My ultimate goal is to be healthy from the inside out.

I am curious.  I have a SERIOUS thirst for knowledge of all the things.  I like to know the reason behind human motivations and it’s not unusual for my friends, family and really any acquaintance to be met with probing questions from me in an attempt to understand them better.  I speak in feelings and understand emotion.

***

It’s hard work, figuring out who I am and what I’m about.  This isn’t where the notion ends for me – I’ll keep digging and refining.  I would just encourage you, friends, to really think about who you are at your core… after you’ve gotten past all the easy responses, what are you left with?

hello. it’s me. (have i used that title already?)

As many of you who know me IRL have likely surmised, and to confirm those of you who know me virtually, things have not been great on this side of the screen.  It’s nothing to worry about, just stress levels in the consistently-higher-than-usual category.  Being a person is really HARD sometimes.  Plus, it doesn’t help that I’ve been binging some pretty depressing stuff lately – looking at you ’13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Big Little Lies’ – and have been reading a lot of non-fiction (mostly about this).  I’ve also been trying to practice some self-care and have been learning a lot of *new* things about myself.  We already know when I have nothing good to say and don’t want to talk about myself, I say nothing.  I’ve been lost in my own thoughts and as I have mentioned many times, these feelings lead me to shut down from pretty much everything.  I get “over myself” really quickly because I feel like I have all the tools to “fix” whatever might be broken inside of me.  Exhibit A: I spend so much time in my own mind – analyzing all the things.  Exhibit B: I don’t like drawing any attention to myself.  I become a less-effervescent person which then makes me feel bad so I hide out even more.  Talking about silly things when my life is basically consumed with serious always feels disingenuous to both you and me.  So if you’re still out there: I’m sorry.   Someday, maybe when I’m out of the woods I’m in, we can talk about it.

Until then, let me talk about some of the more non-serious happenings in a little internets roundup of things I’m really feeling right now.

  • I am currently feeling the Bulletproof way of life.  I’m curious about bio-hacking myself mostly because I do feel like good health starts at the cellular level.  There is a prevalence of stimuli in our world today and I like to buck the trend of our just-take-a-pill society.  Pretty soon I’m going to take the plunge and rock my own Bulletproof coffee.  First, I need to get through the book.
  • In a similar vein as the above, I got both myself and my gorgeous sister some of these Mala prayer beads.  It’s something physical to channel my intention to.  The Malas represent certain qualities based on the stone they are made with.  My sister’s is made of Volcanic Stone meant to channel strength and clarity; and mine is made of Labradorite and Malaysian jade meant to channel our spiritual counterparts.
  • Trying to be an adult and get on a budget.  Ugh.
  • Oh!  I became a Rodan + Fields consultant because I believe in the power of good skincare.  And I’m obsessed with skincare so that says a lot.  If you’re equally obsessed, we should chat.
  • You guys.  The Marco Polo app is amaze.  It helps me stay connected to my family without the hassle of having to hang on the phone with FaceTime.  It’s like if FT and texting (my favorite) had a baby, it would be Marco Polo.  The videos stay in a thread like texting so I can go back and watch videos of Avery on replay.
  • Lastly, podcasts.  Almost as much variety as television right now.  I devoured S-Town and man was it DARK but it made me feel things.  Also, I’m going through withdrawal from Accused, Undisclosed S1 & S2, Up & Vanished (now that it’s mostly “solved”)… but true crime is really something that keeps me engaged and able to listen and still get my work done.

Thanks for reading and be well, friends.

my earring

Today I lost one of my most favorite possessions: one of my Tiffany pearl earrings.  I lost it in that way in which I (barring a miracle) will never see it again – not just misplaced it.  Guys, I love these earrings.  If you look at almost any picture of me at any point in the last six or so years, you’ll see me wearing them.  They class up any outfit and they don’t make my sensitive        ears go all weird cause they’re made of cheap metal like most of my other earrings.  They’re pretty much my I’ll-die-in-these earrings.

After I realized I lost it, searched frantically for it and realized it was gone, I started thinking about it.  While I was certainly upset, I didn’t cry about it and I certainly didn’t let it ruin my day.  I’m not pleased that I’ll have to buy another pair but I realized that it’s just stuff.  It wasn’t an irreplaceable heirloom I’d lost.  I definitely have plenty more important things in my life to be upset about that the pearl earring just didn’t seem like something to lose my head over.  It’s just “stuff”.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t be upset if it hadn’t been something else I’d lost – my Tiffany floating diamond necklace, my grandmother’s class ring, my dad’s wedding ring – but those things are irreplaceable to me.

RIP pearl earrings.

i did it: cryotherapy

If you’re like me, you get emails from Groupon pretty much on the regular.  I think the best part of Groupon is that I’m able to try out new stuff without paying too much to do it (knife-less lipo, anyone?).  Every once and a while there will be something in the email that catches my eye.  A few months ago, it happened to be cryotherapy.  I’d seen it before on the internets and Instagram and it’s with a minimal amount of sarcasm that I say to you all, “if it’s good enough for a celeb, it’s good enough for me.”  So I bought a Groupon for a local cryo place for three visits for the price of one.

This is your standard 5 w’s and how.

Who?: Me!

What?: I did cryotherapy!  The when/where was really irrelevant but I went three days in a row.  They recommend keeping your appointments more *together* than not and if you’re going twice in the same day, you have to separate it out by several hours.  Since I was going after work, it was just better for my schedule to go three nights in a row after work.

Why?: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but I had done enough research on the benefits to know that cryotherapy is known to ease muscle aches (good for athletes), helps weight loss (speeds up the metabolism), and encourages blood flow (which makes skin look clearer) among other things.  I was definitely curious about the weight loss part and (spoiler alert) I can tell you that in three days of going, it wasn’t one of the benefits I experienced.  However, that could vary from person to person and I wasn’t expecting a miracle in three days.

How?: So the gist of it is is that you strip down to the under-essentials (putting it delicately) or you could wear a swimsuit if you like.  You put on these tall fluffy socks that are provided, some clog looking rubber shoes and some gloves.  The more sensitive extremities are covered.  You step into the tank (with the aid of the little operator – my gal was super nice and chatty.  2 minutes, 40 seconds goes by quickly when you’re talking about Game of Thrones…) and it raises so just your head pops out.  You’re encouraged not to breathe in the magic coldness which is why just your head is out of the tank.  The gal told me a lot of people walk in place and as soon as she turned on the cold, I understood why.

Guys, it.gets.cold.  Like -110 degrees cold.

The weird part is that you just feel it on the surface of your skin.  I wouldn’t say the experience was *pleasant* but I definitely went back the other two times and would gladly do it again – so it’s not that miserable.  Right after I got out of the tank, I actually started to sweat (which the cryo people said was good).  It was a super weird feeling to have my skin be cold to the touch but sweat at the same time.

Verdict: I would totes do it again.  I don’t know that I experienced the full *benefits* of it but I can say that I noticed I slept much better those three nights and my skin did look clearer after all three treatments.  The place I went to offers “packages” for cryo.  While that’s not something I feel like I need in my life right now, it would be interesting to see if that provides more of the benefits touted.  All in all, I’m super glad I tried it.

 

mornings.

Morning is definitely my time.  It’s the time of day I’m most creative and productive; my mind is the most open to receiving ideas and making plans.  My mom has forever gotten up before the sun and had her morning coffee, in the dark, and called it her quiet time.  It’s a chance to think all the thoughts that need thinking, to organize her day, to consider the days and tasks to come.  I love the idea of quiet time but the execution is where I falter.  It’s truly a shame that I love sleep too much to actually take advantage of it before heading in to start my actual job at 7:30 am.

Nevertheless, I start every day feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow.  Why GP?  To me, she is the pinnacle of all the things: mother, entrepreneur, brand, woman.  Some people choose Beyonce – who is also incredibly fierce – GP just aligns more with things I could actually accomplish (my dance moves are outdated and I’m not really the Queen of anything).  In the morning, I feel like there really is nothing I can’t do.  Write a cookbook?  Okay.  Three?  Sure.  Workout for two hours?  Easy.  Organize my home and life?  Done.  Start a successful business and brand?  Pssshhh…I got this.

I’m writing this blog because of the things that happen the rest of the day.  Throughout the reminder of the day I’m met with little obstacles meant to diminish my GP-ness.  These are things as simple as doughnuts in the next cube and as complex as laziness or lack of motivation.  Each obstacle I meet, I make the active decision to let it defeat me or not.  Though, until now, I didn’t really think of it in those terms because I didn’t really think of it at all.  Now it’s all I think about.

I’m going to try to work with the potential and promise I feel in the mornings because it seems a shame to waste it.  Even now, there are sticky notes all over my desk; lists I’ve made in my Moleskine (with sticky notes on those lists); there are blog ideas and lofty dreams being dreamed in my head; there are mental vacations being planned and dinner ideas floating around.  I think that’s how my creative side works: ideas will meander in my brain, waiting to be found and focused on. Waiting to be brought to fruition.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even start waking up earlier to make my lists over some coffee?

a dog story.

Hey guys!  A lot of you who follow me on Insta and FB will likely know some of this story already – but for the rest of you, I was inspired this morning to share some happenings in my little family.

I’ve already mentioned on a couple occasions that I love animals.  I take after my dad in that regard; it’s in my DNA to *always* live in a house where I’m outnumbered by animals.  When I came into the picture, Dave already had two dogs (Jack and Charlie) and then we Brady-Bunched together with my two cats and added one more for good measure (Marty).

In mid-February, sweet Charlie was diagnosed with lymphoma.  The diagnosis to decline was too rapid.  His little lymph nodes were huge and he went from being the Charlie we knew to being completely disinterested in food or firetrucks – two things that previously excited him.  We did everything we could to adjust and prepare for his struggle ahead.  There were quite a few good days we were lucky enough to share with our friend, but unfortunately the disease was more accelerated than we anticipated and we lost him early last month.  It was so much harder than I’d anticipated and anyone who has lost a furry family member knows what I mean.  We had less than ZERO plans to add to the pack since the loss hit us so hard.

Like all good things in life, what happened next was not planned.

A good friend of Dave’s is affiliated with/works for an animal shelter in Elgin, IL.  He had posted on FB about some dogs they went to retrieve from a shelter in Oklahoma.  One thing led to another and we got talking about one of the dogs.  She had such a heartbreaking story but a strong spirit and a very hopeful future since she’d been rescued.  Once we heard her story, there was no way she couldn’t be ours.  In her very short 9 months on this Earth, she’d been through the unspeakable.  Despite that, she still had a lot of love and sweetness in her heart – a testament to the resilience of dogs.  We realized we were able and ready to give her the life and love she deserves.  She joined our family last week.

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First time on Iowa soil

With Jack and Marty we have something that works well.  They get along with one another and the cats, we are able to leave them alone during the day without incident, they are trustworthy in the yard – so naturally I fretted about whether or not new dog would fit in with our dynamic.  I realized that I worried the same way when we got Marty and that all worked out well.  It just takes time, training, consistency and patience.

She’s fit in so well already that I can’t imagine not having her around.  The boys are still adjusting, as are the cats.  She’s so good-natured that she approaches them playfully with no aggression whatsoever.  I truly believe that rescues make the best dogs.  As we’ve heard more than once about her, she truly is the definition of a rescue and I’m so glad she’s a member of our family.

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She’s soooo good in the car.

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That bed makes her look small but she’s actually the size of a mini-horse.

 

thoughts on caucusing, etc.

Guys.  A long, long time ago, in high school Civics class we learned about voting.  Mr. Marozzi could not have been more clear that it was important as an 18 year old to go to the polls and cast your vote.  It was effectively step number one to becoming an adult and claiming my place in the world.  It was with passion that I happily declared my chosen candidate to anyone with ears.  That first year, I went to my polling location not knowing much beyond what my parents had told me and proudly made it official.

I’m not sure I’ve voted since then.  Somehow, for me, politics became something I didn’t want to shout about from the rooftops.  Over the years, it had morphed into something that I identified with being a free American to something that I should keep secret and be ashamed about.  People – strangers even – are apt to point fingers that if you voted for so-and-so you’re part of the country’s problem.  No choice ever seemed good enough when the truth of the matter is, aren’t we all just choosing the best that we can?

Things began to change this year for me when I *finally* took the last step toward Iowa residency by actually getting an Iowa driver’s license (I held onto that Ohio license as long as I possibly could – as a sort of bastion of my former Ohio-ness preferring to live in that fluid visitor status.  I took pride pointing out my dates of birth every time I was carded because the cashier didn’t know how to read my pretty pink foreign license, and I relished in the “Oh, you’re from Ohio?” question.  Now I’m just another Iowan. Blending in.)  When I was filling out my licensing paperwork, I was asked if I wanted to be registered to vote.  Despite the drawback of jury duty, it was something I realized I wanted to do.  It is more than simply my civic duty, casting my vote in this election is something I want to be part of.

Before moving to Iowa, I don’t really know if I knew what the caucus was.  Dave told me I would see what it was all about in 2016 – how media from all over the United States converge on our tiny little city in our flyover state.  And now here we are, in 2016, and I am EMBRACING this caucus business.  He wasn’t kidding.  The Today show was broadcasting live from West End Salvage this morning; Tom Brokaw was at Scenic Route this week (the very location I’m blogging from today); there are candidates and staffers all over this city; there are motorcades and blocked off roads and people outside hotels holding up signs for their candidate.  This is nothing short of inspiring.  All these young people with hope for change in our country, paying attention to our tax dollars and healthcare and government spending and military budgets and treatment for Vets.  It’s suddenly become the thing to do – to vote.  And here in Des Moines, in the lovely state of Iowa, it’s all around me.

The decision of who to caucus for feels overwhelming.  Like it’s the most important decision I have made in a while.  It’s not even a real vote yet, Ryan.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman, or I’m a tax-payer, or an American citizen but I’m taking this quite seriously.  I implore you, dear reader, to go and cast your vote when it’s time.  It’s one of the most important things we can do.  Yes, the outcome isn’t always what we imagined it to be but it’s worth it to go declare your name and declare your decision on who will effectively have the most influence over our lives for the next four years (if not more).

2016.

I like to take the beginning of January to compile my list of New Years Resolutions. I was just telling a friend this week that I like to ruminate on the feeling of possibility and subsequently see what shakes loose as a priority. 

I know people have a lot of feelings about the resolutions which inevitably accompany a new year. I can see the argument for both sides and I am firmly in camp ‘it’s an individual preference.’ Personally, I love resolutions. Not because I’m especially successful with them, but more because I enjoy making lists and being introspective. The way that I look at resolutions is more as a theme for the upcoming year; who do I want to be in the year to come? 

Today I reread my 2015 resolutions. While I was about 50% “successful” it was nice to reflect on the priorities I had at the beginning of 2015. Some themes are the same from year to year (weight loss/healthy living) while some really show my focus in that moment (make purchases with intent/learn how to use my DSLR). 

I’ll share some of the resolutions I have this year here and whether you have resolutions of your own or even if you simply resolve to be your best in 2016, I’ll say I hope we’re all successful in the days, weeks, and months to come.