How am I not myself?

This blog serves as personal therapy, stress relief, information sharing, and the occasional sanity check. Enjoy!

New blog! November 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Dysfunctional Life @ 6:06 pm

Well, since Apple has migrated all .Mac users to MobileMe, my blogging life has been hell. The comments don’t work, the links don’t work, and random addresses show up when you conduct searches. So, I have decided to ditch MobileMe, and move to WordPress. I like the design better, and I can use HTML for my posts now. Yippee!!

I have reposted all of the posts from the old blog regarding the adoption, and a few others. You can search for old articles in the archives (link is in the green boxes). I have kept all of the comments you have made over the years since they mean so much to me. I’m not sure if I can add those comments back in here without them being tagged to me, so I’ll skip it for now.

Make usre you bookmark this new blog, and subscribe to my new RSS feed, if you are a feed-reader. Those of you who link back to this blog, please update your links. Feel free to comment on anything, as before. Thanks, and enjoy!

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Ben Stein

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Dysfunctional Life @ 5:06 pm

My dear friend Kathy sent me this article via email today. It’s from Ben Stein, a writer, actor, comedian, and all-around smart guy. If you don’t know the name, you would know the face; he was the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who said, “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…” He also had a show on Comedy Central called “Win Ben Stein’s Money” where he tested people on their knowledge of history and current events, in exchange for monetary prizes. He currently gives commentary on CBS Sunday Morning about random thoughts, values, and events.

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

The following was written by Ben Stein and
recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary:

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees..  I don’t feel threatened.  I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are:  Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, ‘Merry Christmas’ to me.  I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year.. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu.  If people want a crèche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too.   But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different:  This is not intended to be a joke;  it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’

In light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said OK.

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.

Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.  If not then just discard it….. no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein
*   *   *

He brings up some excellent points here, and I often wonder about how we will handle such things as we are raising our [future] child. I guess I’m old school…I don’t think kids should be hit, as in beaten, but sometimes a spanking is a necessary evil.

Kids need to be responsible for themselves; whether it’s their words, their actions, or their inaction. They need to know that we are all a part of something bigger, and what we do affects others. How our actions affect others is OUR responsibility, as well as our kids’.

Let’s face it– kids are a reflection of their parents; what they are taught, whether good or bad, is usually learned in the home. Instead of coddling kids, as is the current trend, we should be teaching them right and wrong, how to be a good and responsible person, and how to be accountable. Accountability is the key, and it’s not something I see very often anymore.

It’s nice to know there are people out there who still think like this; too bad there aren’t more of them.

I’m not a very religious person, but there are some values that everyone should have, whether Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, etc. Be nice to each other, treat others as you wish to be treated, and be responsible for your own actions. Oh yeah, and thou shalt not kill/steal is a good one, too.

These are things usually learned in church, wether it’s Sunday School, CDD, or classes for your Bat Mitzvah. If the family doesn’t belong to a church, then these things need to be learned at home. Unfortunately, they often aren’t.

It’s funny that this letter came to me now…I have just recently rejoined the leagues of the churchgoing. I hadn’t been to church in 20 years except to attend a wedding or a funeral. Truthfully, I’m surprised lightning didn’t strike me as I walked through the front doors. I was a churchgoer until my parents got divorced, then I kind of figured, what’s the point?

Now, as a future parent, I see the point. I want my child to be raised with these values and a sense of community. I want my child to know right from wrong. And I do know that, ultimately, the responsibility for educating my child on these things falls to myself and my husband, but reinforcement from other sources can only hit these points home that much harder. So I joined a church, and I go (almost) every Sunday. When we adopt, that child will be baptized, and attend church as well.

Once they get a certain get to a certain age, they don’t listen to their parents anyway, so hopefully, the lessons learned elsewhere will stick with them when the words of Mom and Dad seem ridiculous. It’s funny how the prospect of parenthood makes you see things differently….

Another perk…I love to drink wine at 10am on a Sunday morning! YUM!

 

New MacBook

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Dysfunctional Life @ 5:01 pm

Original post: Saturday, November 8, 2008

So I broke my own rule and bought a new computer on the first day  the new models came out. I couldn’t help it…it’s so cool!

I got the next generation of Mac laptops: a new MacBook. Here are the details:

When you pick up a new MacBook, you immediately notice the difference. The entire enclosure is thinner and lighter. Here’s why: a precision aluminum unibody enclosure.

Until now, all notebooks were designed the same way – by assembling multiple pieces to create a single enclosure. But once you include all the necessary parts, you add size, weight, complexity, and more opportunities for failure. So my genius pals at Apple devised a way to replace many parts with just one. That one part is called the unibody – a seamless enclosure carved from a single piece of aluminum.  Let me tell you…this is not only lighter, but it feels more sturdy than my 2-year-old MacBook Pro. I would feel more comfortable throwing this laptop in a backpack and  heading on down the road than I would with my MBPro in a padded laptop sleeve. No, really.

The seamless, remarkably thin design of the LED-backlit display is also a fantastic feature. When I life the lid, I am instantly greeted by glorious full screen brightness. The aluminum enclosure is perfectly integrated with a glass overlay that stretches to the edge of the notebook, providing an unobstructed picture. The LED-backlit display is more power efficient; a full charge on this baby lasts 5 hours! And it’s mercury- and arsenic-free, so it’s green, which gives my inner hippie good karma.

Many notebooks skimp on graphics performance in favor of a smaller design, but the new MacBook uses a graphics processor that economizes space. A traditional computer logic board contains multiple components: the CPU, two chips that control communication throughout the computer, and the graphics processor. The logic board in the new MacBook contains only two components: The CPU and a graphics processor with all of the core logic built into a single chip. That graphics processor is the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, and it helps expediently render graphics and produce kick-ass gaming graphics and video without sacrificing battery life.

Here’s something new: a Mini Display Port. The Mini DisplayPort is a brand-new, industry-standard port, or so Apple says. It delivers a digital connection to external displays quickly, and without multiple-pin connectors with unwieldy screws. Also, it supports VGA, DVI, and dual-link DVI connections, too. We’ll see if this is adapted by other manufacturers.

The coolest feature, by far, is the touch pad. The amazing new trackpad doubles as a button – just press down anywhere and consider it clicked. No separate button means there’s 39 percent more room for my fingers to move on the silky glass surface. Yes, I said glass. It has all of the gesturing functionality that is available on the iPhone. Use two fingers to scroll up and down a page. Pinch to zoom in and out. Swipe with three fingers to flip through photo or document  libraries. Rotate to adjust an image with your fingertips. Using the new four-finger swipe gesture, I can swipe up or down to access Exposé modes and left or right to switch between open applications. And the best part: I can right-click with two fingers! No more control+clicking if I don’t have a mouse handy. I love it! I find that I would actually rather use the trackpad than a mouse since it has so much functionality. This thing actually knows what part of my hand is touching it; if I’m typing and the heel of my hand brushes the touch pad, it doesn’t make the mouse jump all over the screen…it just ignores it. Flippin’ sweet!

For my fellow nerds, here are the specs:

Size and weight

Height:
0.95 inch (2.41 cm)
Width:
12.78 inches (32.5 cm)
Depth:
8.94 inches (22.7 cm)
Weight:
4.5 pounds (2.04 kg)1

2.4GHz MacBook

* Built-in full-size illuminated keyboard with 78 (U.S.) or 79 (ISO) keys, including 12 function keys and 4 arrow keys

Processor and memory

* 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB on-chip shared L2 cache running 1:1 with processor speed
* 1066MHz frontside bus
* 2GB (two 1GB SO-DIMMs) of 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; two SO-DIMM slots support up to 4GB

250GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard disk drive

Connections and Expansion

* MagSafe power port
* Gigabit Ethernet port
* Two USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps)
* Mini DisplayPort
* Audio line in
* Audio line out
* Kensington lock slot

Communications

* Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking2 (based on IEEE 802.11n draft specification); IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible
* Bluetooth Built-in Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
* Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)

Display

* 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen display with support for millions of colors
* Supported resolutions: 1280 by 800 (native), 1152 by 720, 1024 by 640, and 800 by 500 pixels at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1024 by 768, 800 by 600, and 640 by 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 720 by 480 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratio

Graphics and video support

* NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory3
* Extended desktop and video mirroring: Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to 2560 by 1600 pixels on an external display, both at millions of colors
* iSight Built-in iSight camera
* Mini DisplayPort

Optical drive

*8x slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

Maximum write: 8x DVD-R, DVD+R; 4x DVD-R DL (double layer), DVD+R DL (double layer), DVD-RW, DVD+RW; 24x CD-R; 10x CD-RW

Maximum read: 8x DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-ROM; 6x DVD-ROM (double layer DVD-9), DVD-R DL (double layer), DVD+R DL (double layer), DVD-RW, and DVD+RW; 24x CD

So Apple delivers a perfect blend of form and function, as usual.

 

New baby on the block

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Dysfunctional Life @ 4:59 pm

Original post: Thursday, November 6, 2008

My friend Lisa had her baby on Halloween! AND she was only in labor for an hour and fifteen minutes. I’m so glad it was over quickly for her.

Joshua Charles is a beautiful baby boy…I can’t wait to watch him grow!

With this new addition to the neighborhood, we officially have a baby posse. My friend Melissa had three identical triplets, 11 months old now and adorable, and now we have baby Josh. I think I’m going to get t-shirts made for them…Deer Springs Possee…West side!

Congrats, Lisa!

Maybe ours won’t be far behind…

 

The REAL Great Depression

Filed under: Uncategorized — My Dysfunctional Life @ 4:40 pm

Original post: Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Depression

Depression

This article was sent to me in an email, and I thought I should share. It’s quite interesting…thanks Ang!

The Real Great Depression

The depression of 1929 is the wrong model for the current economic crisis.

By SCOTT REYNOLDS NELSON

Editor’s Note: I caught up with Professor Scott Nelson at his office at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia last week. As I write my book on the economy and where it’s headed I’m always glad to talk to a historian to get a professional’s perspective and share notes. I assert in my book that as serious consumer demand and financial crisis led depressions go, the one that is developing will be epic. However, our current period is unlike the pre-1930s depression era. That depression was triggered by the crash of 1929 but primarily caused by bad monetary policy that exacerbated the debt deflation that followed from consumer over-indebtedness. Weakly structured consumer lending and manufacturing sectors led a sudden decline in consumer purchasing power. Demand crashed. The US depression was then quickly transmitted throughout the world via financial markets, then more slowly through disturbances in trade, which were multiplied by politically motivated disastrous trade policies, and finally war.

Our current episode has more in common with the 1870s depression which, as Nelson notes, was considerably worse. It was primarily caused by over-indebtedness in the commercial real estate sector, which mortgages were based on new forms of financing which were intermingled on the balance sheets of commercial banks with less rarefied assets that the banks added by making business loans. The era, as the poster to the left depicts, was one of broad based public participation in credit financed asset price inflation and speculation. When the commercial real estate market crashed, it took down the banks and caused the market for commercial credit to seize up, much as we are seeing today. Small businesses were hit especially hard. Unemployment spiked and a severe and lengthy depression ensued as financial markets throughout the world suffered, followed by international trade. The crisis emanated from Europe. It was the beginning of the end of Europe’s dominance as the center of global economic power. Read on for the full story. Sign up here to be notified when my book is published. – Eric Janszen

As a historian who works on the 19th century, I have been reading my newspaper with a considerable sense of dread. While many commentators on the recent mortgage and banking crisis have drawn parallels to the Great Depression of 1929, that comparison is not particularly apt. Two years ago, I began research on the Panic of 1873, an event of some interest to my colleagues in American business and labor history but probably unknown to everyone else. But as I turn the crank on the microfilm reader, I have been hearing weird echoes of recent events.

When commentators invoke 1929, I am dubious. According to most historians and economists, that depression had more to do with overlarge factory inventories, a stock-market crash, and Germany’s inability to pay back war debts, which then led to continuing strain on British gold reserves. None of those factors is really an issue now. Contemporary industries have very sensitive controls for trimming production as consumption declines; our current stock-market dip followed bank problems that emerged more than a year ago; and there are no serious international problems with gold reserves, simply because banks no longer peg their lending to them.

In fact, the current economic woes look a lot like what my 96-year-old grandmother still calls “the real Great Depression.” She pinched pennies in the 1930s, but she says that times were not nearly so bad as the depression her grandparents went through. That crash came in 1873 and lasted more than four years. It looks much more like our current crisis.

The problems had emerged around 1870, starting in Europe. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, formed in 1867, in the states unified by Prussia into the German empire, and in France, the emperors supported a flowering of new lending institutions that issued mortgages for municipal and residential construction, especially in the capitals of Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. Mortgages were easier to obtain than before, and a building boom commenced. Land values seemed to climb and climb; borrowers ravenously assumed more and more credit, using unbuilt or half-built houses as collateral. The most marvelous spots for sightseers in the three cities today are the magisterial buildings erected in the so-called founder period.

But the economic fundamentals were shaky. Wheat exporters from Russia and Central Europe faced a new international competitor who drastically undersold them. The 19th-century version of containers manufactured in China and bound for Wal-Mart consisted of produce from farmers in the American Midwest. They used grain elevators, conveyer belts, and massive steam ships to export train loads of wheat to abroad. Britain, the biggest importer of wheat, shifted to the cheap stuff quite suddenly around 1871. By 1872 kerosene and manufactured food were rocketing out of America’s heartland, undermining rapeseed, flour, and beef prices. The crash came in Central Europe in May 1873, as it became clear that the region’s assumptions about continual economic growth were too optimistic. Europeans faced what they came to call the American Commercial Invasion. A new industrial superpower had arrived, one whose low costs threatened European trade and a European way of life.

As continental banks tumbled, British banks held back their capital, unsure of which institutions were most involved in the mortgage crisis. The cost to borrow money from another bank — the interbank lending rate — reached impossibly high rates. This banking crisis hit the United States in the fall of 1873. Railroad companies tumbled first. They had crafted complex financial instruments that promised a fixed return, though few understood the underlying object that was guaranteed to investors in case of default. (Answer: nothing). The bonds had sold well at first, but they had tumbled after 1871 as investors began to doubt their value, prices weakened, and many railroads took on short-term bank loans to continue laying track. Then, as short-term lending rates skyrocketed across the Atlantic in 1873, the railroads were in trouble. When the railroad financier Jay Cooke proved unable to pay off his debts, the stock market crashed in September, closing hundreds of banks over the next three years. The panic continued for more than four years in the United States and for nearly six years in Europe.

The long-term effects of the Panic of 1873 were perverse. For the largest manufacturing companies in the United States — those with guaranteed contracts and the ability to make rebate deals with the railroads — the Panic years were golden. Andrew Carnegie, Cyrus McCormick, and John D. Rockefeller had enough capital reserves to finance their own continuing growth. For smaller industrial firms that relied on seasonal demand and outside capital, the situation was dire. As capital reserves dried up, so did their industries. Carnegie and Rockefeller bought out their competitors at fire-sale prices. The Gilded Age in the United States, as far as industrial concentration was concerned, had begun.

As the panic deepened, ordinary Americans suffered terribly. A cigar maker named Samuel Gompers who was young in 1873 later recalled that with the panic, “economic organization crumbled with some primeval upheaval.” Between 1873 and 1877, as many smaller factories and workshops shuttered their doors, tens of thousands of workers — many former Civil War soldiers — became transients. The terms “tramp” and “bum,” both indirect references to former soldiers, became commonplace American terms. Relief rolls exploded in major cities, with 25-percent unemployment (100,000 workers) in New York City alone. Unemployed workers demonstrated in Boston, Chicago, and New York in the winter of 1873-74 demanding public work. In New York’s Tompkins Square in 1874, police entered the crowd with clubs and beat up thousands of men and women. The most violent strikes in American history followed the panic, including by the secret labor group known as the Molly Maguires in Pennsylvania’s coal fields in 1875, when masked workmen exchanged gunfire with the “Coal and Iron Police,” a private force commissioned by the state. A nationwide railroad strike followed in 1877, in which mobs destroyed railway hubs in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Cumberland, Md.

In Central and Eastern Europe, times were even harder. Many political analysts blamed the crisis on a combination of foreign banks and Jews. Nationalistic political leaders (or agents of the Russian czar) embraced a new, sophisticated brand of anti-Semitism that proved appealing to thousands who had lost their livelihoods in the panic. Anti-Jewish pogroms followed in the 1880s, particularly in Russia and Ukraine. Heartland communities large and small had found a scapegoat: aliens in their own midst.

The echoes of the past in the current problems with residential mortgages trouble me. Loans after about 2001 were issued to first-time home buyers who signed up for adjustable rate mortgages they could likely never pay off, even in the best of times. Real-estate speculators, hoping to flip properties, overextended themselves, assuming that home prices would keep climbing. Those debts were wrapped in complex securities that mortgage companies and other entrepreneurial banks then sold to other banks; concerned about the stability of those securities, banks then bought a kind of insurance policy called a credit-derivative swap, which risk managers imagined would protect their investments. More than two million foreclosure filings — default notices, auction-sale notices, and bank repossessions — were reported in 2007. By then trillions of dollars were already invested in this credit-derivative market. Were those new financial instruments resilient enough to cover all the risk? (Answer: no.) As in 1873, a complex financial pyramid rested on a pinhead. Banks are hoarding cash. Banks that hoard cash do not make short-term loans. Businesses large and small now face a potential dearth of short-term credit to buy raw materials, ship their products, and keep goods on shelves.

If there are lessons from 1873, they are different from those of 1929. Most important, when banks fall on Wall Street, they stop all the traffic on Main Street — for a very long time. The protracted reconstruction of banks in the United States and Europe created widespread unemployment. Unions (previously illegal in much of the world) flourished but were then destroyed by corporate institutions that learned to operate on the edge of the law. In Europe, politicians found their scapegoats in Jews, on the fringes of the economy. (Americans, on the other hand, mostly blamed themselves; many began to embrace what would later be called fundamentalist religion.)

The post-panic winners, even after the bailout, might be those firms — financial and otherwise — that have substantial cash reserves. A widespread consolidation of industries may be on the horizon, along with a nationalistic response of high tariff barriers, a decline in international trade, and scapegoating of immigrant competitors for scarce jobs. The failure in July of the World Trade Organization talks begun in Doha seven years ago suggests a new wave of protectionism may be on the way.

In the end, the Panic of 1873 demonstrated that the center of gravity for the world’s credit had shifted west — from Central Europe toward the United States. The current panic suggests a further shift — from the United States to China and India. Beyond that I would not hazard a guess. I still have microfilm to read.

Scott Reynolds Nelson is a professor of history at the College of William and Mary. Among his books is Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American legend (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Republished with permission of the author Scott Reynolds Nelson and the publisher The Chronicle Review.

 

Adoption Update

Filed under: Adoption — My Dysfunctional Life @ 4:37 pm

Original post: Thursday, October 2, 2008

I know I haven’t blogged in a while, but I haven’t been motivated lately. Sorry.

So, how’s the adoption thing going? Well, not so good.

We were profiled by a mother in Texas three weeks ago, and another in Albany, NY two weeks ago. We’ve been waiting to hear whether we were chosen for either one. Now those of you that have known me forever know that I am not a church-going person. But let me tell you, I have started going these last three weeks, and have found some peace in it. I have prayed long and hard that one of these situations would work out for us. Well, I just got the call that neither mother chose us.

You would think this would get easier at some point, but that just isn’t the case. With each month that passes, it gets harder and harder. Other people are getting chosen…why not us? I mean, people are throwing babies in dumpsters for god’s sake! Is there not one out there for us?! It seems that everyone around me is having babies…I just wish that one would find it’s way to us.

I have to keep believing that the baby that was meant for us will find us. That this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. My hysterectomy was cake compared to this.

Ok…I’m done whining…sorry you had to endure that.

Those of you who still have your bracelets on from my shower, I appreciate that you have kept these on, even though they are getting pretty nasty; mine is all pilly and scratchy. But keep wishing on those for us…maybe the next call will be the one!

 

Adoption Poem

Filed under: Adoption — My Dysfunctional Life @ 4:36 pm

Original post: Monday, September 15, 2008

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God’s very own hands.

-Kristi Larson