Be Faithful in Small Things

Never forget the people who take time out of their day to check up on you…

Recently I was listening to a hospital chaplain talking about life and death situations and how people pull together during times of crisis. He noticed that various loved ones waiting for news or maintaining vigils in the intensive care unit of the hospital all did what they could to support each other and surround each other with kindness and compassion. Sharing a cup of tea and listening to each other helped them in small ways to cope a little bit better in sometimes dire situations. Suddenly all the normal everyday worries and stresses were forgotten and nothing really mattered except the well-being of those they loved and those they knew who were hurting.

It made me think about the importance of small things and the things we often take for granted. Very often, it is the small things in life that matter the most. We read so much about self-improvement, learning to love ourselves, how to manifest more of this or that, and how to reach for the sun, moon and stars etc, etc, which is all well and good, but do we really learn how to just let go, be at peace with the world and face the day? After all, today may be all we have.

How do we make the most of today?

What if we made it a habit to embrace and celebrate the small things? Real life is happening all around us while we’re waiting for the big thing we hope is going to give us some sort of inner peace, contentment or joy.

Sometimes the best way to remember the value of small things is to look for random acts of kindness you can do for others. Don’t underestimate the power of taking time to phone a friend you are concerned about, or inviting someone who’s had a bad day for an impromptu afternoon tea, volunteering a few hours a week at a charity shop or offering to drive someone for an appointment if they are struggling.

Forget about the need to be noticed.

It’s so easy to feel like we are being overlooked at home, at work or in our community when we are doing the small, faithful things, because they are usually not the glamorous things. It can feel more gratifying to be the loudest voice in the room, but we need to remember that just because a voice is the loudest doesn’t mean it’s the one making the biggest difference. When we can get to a point where we find value in our contributions, no matter how small, it helps us be secure in who we are and eliminates the need to be constantly noticed.

Take some time out.

Our daily lives move so fast. A hectic lifestyle can cause us to overlook all the little joys life has to offer. Don’t be afraid to make time to (literally) stop and smell the roses. Listen to the sound of your children or grandchildren laughing and actually getting along in the back seat; enjoy the cool, crisp air of the first day of autumn, or take a walk around the block to clear your mind and give yourself a mental break. Work and responsibilities will still be there when you return.

Practice gratitude – gratitude does bring happiness.

Yes, I know, I know, you probably just rolled your eyes at this because it is something you hear so often, but it is true. The more thankful we are for what we have, the less inclined we are to focus on what we don’t have. Gratitude helps us value the small things we often take for granted because we start paying attention to the good things in life. Some days, it can be as exciting as getting rewarded for doing something well, and some days it might just be that your coffee tasted good that morning. I’ve found that my overall attitude toward life in general is better if I make myself think of three things I’m thankful for at the end of each day. I often write them down and put them in a little gratitude jar a kind friend made for me.

There are times in life when we yearn for big moments. Perhaps we hope for events that will propel us into the limelight, even for a short while. But, strangely enough, life has a funny way of teaching us as we go along in ways we didn’t expect, and looking back down the years it’s not necessarily the big moments that made our lives as such, but the everyday commitment to all the things we held dear.

When there is sadness in our lives the world keeps on turning but we don’t notice it. People still go about their daily lives and we may wonder why this can be when our own world is upside down. We wonder why we ever got upset about a petty argument yesterday. What really matters to us? Not the political situations that endlessly play out in front of us. Not the state of the world economy or the latest escapades of those claiming their moment of fame on reality television. What matters to most of us is chatting to our loved ones at the end of the day, sharing a meal with friends around the kitchen table, the light in our partners eyes when they look at us from across a crowded room, and the sound of our children’s laughter. What matters to us is all the small things that add up to the biggest things. What matters to us is love.

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that you find your strength…

How Long is Forever?

They say there is no such thing as coincidence, so that is why I am publishing this blog again that I first published in 2016. Yesterday we visited Claydon House, a country house near Aylesbury, now owned by the National Trust. It is a place I love to visit, partly because of its connection with Florence Nightingale. Sir Harry Verney owned Claydon House and in 1857 came to know the Nightingale family. He married Florence’s sister and following the match, Florence became a regular visitor. She spent many years at Claydon, particularly in the summer. Walking through the gardens I noticed a sundial and took a picture of it for my Instagram page. Underneath I wrote a quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Then, looking through this old post I noticed I’d written the same quote before. It got me thinking again about the passing of time …….

We have just returned home from five days in Devon. We seemed to pack a lot into those five days; travelling, walking and revisiting old haunts. The days were very full, both with a variety of winds and weathers, varying accommodation and, for me, very mixed emotions.

My parents moved to Devon when I was eight years old and we lived there until I was fourteen, so these were possibly the years that had a strong influence on my adult life; my formative years. It was in the early sixties, the era where the country saw a dramatic change. The first teenage generation to be free of conscription emerged in Britain, and young people were given a voice and a certain amount of freedom. I don’t think that freedom had quite filtered down to me though; I was shy, and had been an only child until I was thirteen when my lovely sister was born. But boy did I like the music of the era. I have just been looking at the top 100 most popular hits of 1963. They include The Beatles with ‘She Loves You’ and ‘From Me To You,’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ Gerry and The Pacemakers, ‘Summer Holiday.’ Cliff Richard, and ‘In Dreams’ Roy Orbison. Also on there are Billy Fury, Elvis, The Shadows, I could go on and on ……Who could ever regret being a ‘baby boomer’ with that pedigree of music in the background? Later in the sixties came ‘flower power’ and I remember wafting around Torquay harbour with bare feet wearing a dress with a psychedelic print and feeling like a ‘flower child,’ and a little bit hippie. ( If I am honest, I have always had mild hippie leanings ever since).

Himself was very patient and drove me round all the places I remembered from those long lost days. I found our old house and stood outside the drive and looked up to my old bedroom window. I was pleased to see the house looked loved and well cared for. At the bottom of the road, I stared at the field where I used to go sledging after school on my dad’s old wooden surf board, in the long frozen winter of 1962. How could this now be a mild slope? In my mind it was a tremendously steep hill that I whizzed down with my eyes closed in exhilarating terror.

I tried to remember the directions to my old school; I was sure I knew how to find it but called in at the local shop to check the directions. I was a bit upset to see this was housed in what was formerly the village hall where I had both attended Girl Guides and ballet classes. Gone was the old wooden floor and the pretty sash windows. Only the old pitched roof remained the same. It was now a rather hideously fronted mini supermarket. The guy inside was friendly and gave me directions. He talked about the area and said it had gone downhill, in fact, he called the town ‘feral’, which was sad to hear.

The way to school soon became familiar to me and before long I was standing outside the railings looking at the playground. It had hardly changed and I could almost hear the clang of the school bell calling us in to class. I remembered my stern teacher; ramrod straight, dressed in severe grey with hair in a tight bun, admonishing me for letting my brain ‘go to rust, Lynda!’ Later, though, she must have seen something in me, for she made me a prefect. I guess she was strict, but fair.

We drove around a bit and inevitably some parts of the place I knew so well had changed beyond recognition. The sweet little cafe on the slope up from the harbour and which my mother loved was long gone, and replaced by a betting shop. The small nursing home where my sister was born was now a private residence and the town had a more than shabby appearance.

Does our mind play tricks on us? Do we sometimes remember things differently than they really were? I once heard someone say we should never go back. Maybe I won’t again. But I wondered about my mother. I wondered what she was thinking on the days when she sat in the little cafe by the harbour. She was in her late thirties then. Full of life, full of plans. Really not knowing that before long our family would move and make a new life somewhere else. And then somewhere else again. I looked back and felt a huge wistfulness.

And what is it about time? Why is it that we can sit on a bench looking out to sea and look at the horizon and feel that we last sat there yesterday, when in reality it was fifty years ago? Where do all the thoughts and dreams from all those years ago really, really go? I know someone wise would say treasure every day. And I know that.We all say it so often. It rolls off the tongue every time we hear a bit of bad news. But time still passes, with the good times and the bad. There is more than just going back. There is remembering and taking time to remember. Time to think about what and who has gone before. Time to think about the times, the memories and the people who helped make us who we are. Time to reflect on the old ways that sometimes are lost with the new ways but have a funny way of being repackaged and becoming the next big thing!

Do you dwell on the past, live for today, or do you look to the future? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Alice: How long is forever?

White Rabbit: Just one second.

Lewis Carroll Alice In Wonderland

 

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Nathaniel Hawthorn

Blessings to you ….

 

A Walk in Springtime

Lifting Our Mood and The Rhythm of Life

I often talk about the benefits of getting out into the countryside; the green fields and the chirpy birdsong usually manage to lift the spirits for a while at least. It’s always a comfort somehow to see the same old trees in the woods standing stoically strong; their trunks immovable and their roots firmly planted alongside the path where we often walk deep in thought. How many footsteps must have passed their way over perhaps hundreds of years and how many more still will? I can look at the trunk of my favourite tree in wonder. I can sense a benevolent charm in its being and almost see a kindly expression in the depths of its bark. And then I can look up and see its lofty branches reaching for the light. It knows what to do, my tree, it doesn’t need a set of rules or list of suggested requirements for better tree development.

I am a bit of a scaredy cat – I have even written a book about a scaredy cat. I am a person who has to cling on tight to the things I hold dear in times of strain and here is where I find nature has a way of literally grounding me. We may not find the solution to all our problems, but we sure can get them more into perspective after a walk in our favourite part of the countryside.

Recently I spent a long weekend in Devon. I can’t recall a time the countryside had ever looked more beautiful but maybe the spring has a way of renewing our outlook and refreshing our surroundings so that every time we revisit it is like the first time.

Walking through an apple orchard it was as though I could breathe life from the abundance around me and win hope from all the promise; I could listen to the music of the birds and see the beauty of the surrounding colours. A million petals gleamed and the air was fragrant with blossom as the bees were busy in each open flower preparing for the vital matter of making honey. Beneath my feet there was a carpet woven of many shades of green, shot through with vibrant threads of sunlight, and spiky spring flowers. The bluebells lowered their heads where the ferns were uncurling beside them. Trunks of old apple trees leaned at random angles, blotched with the lichen that Mother Nature inscribed on their ancient barks. From beyond a curtain of apple blossom I could hear a blackbird – who alone of all birds can put imagination into song like him?

Some trees still held their buds tightly clenched, as though half a hundred Springs had taught them to fear the oncoming of summer, yet Mother Nature gently commands, and soon every reluctant bud would open to fulfil its destiny.

So when we are being a scaredy cat – when we have those days when we can’t conjure up much effort to stride forward – it is good to look at all the signs around us and take the reassurance that everything turns and moves and goes full circle. I could almost imagine Pamona the wood nymph who was reputed to be the goddess of fruitful abundance talking to me with all her ancient and modern wisdom. I certainly felt she was making me welcome – her light laugh mingling with the surrounding sounds.

I think she was saying “I do love this time of year best, although I shouldn’t have favourites; it is dear to me because it is all about life – and the promise of good things to come later. And remember, dear one, no winter lasts forever.”

And that is what I feel we need to remember – good things will come.

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Celebrating Our Uniqueness…

It’s time to stop worrying about being different. If you stick with the crowd you will never stand out….

Most parts of the country will have had some snowfalls by the time you read this. Last week, from the cosy warmth of my living room, I stared out of my window and watched the fat, fluffy snowflakes drifting silently downwards, and I got to thinking about snow, and the beauty and individuality of every single snowflake.

In ice crystals, water molecules line up and form a six-sided shape called a hexagon. This is why all snowflakes are six-sided … Even though two snowflakes may form in the same cloud, their different journeys to the ground will affect their shape and size, giving each snowflake its own unique identity.’
Taken from Wonderopolis.org

Scientists estimate that the chances of two snowflakes being exactly alike are about 1 in 1 million trillion (that’s a 1 followed by 18 zeros). Meteorologists think that there are 1 trillion , trillion, trillion, trillion different types of snowflakes. Imagine that!

I think we can liken ourselves to snowflakes. Ok we are not pretty little icy snowflakes but we are just as unique. If you examine two human fingerprints – again no two are the same. How is that possible in a world of billions of people? It is awe-inspiring to think that we are all completely individual.

I love the above quote from Wonderopolis when it talks about the snowflakes being formed in the same clouds but taking different journeys to the ground. Everyone of us has a journey too and we all live through countless different experiences and ups and downs, loves, losses, failures and winning situations. Each experience we encounter shapes us to some degree and makes us the people we are. An individual like no other.

What does it mean to be individual?

Being an individual takes work and dedication yet if only we would stop and think about it we would remember just how individual we really are. Being individual doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand out in a crowd, but being a true individual means having the courage of your convictions and not being afraid to veer off the beaten path. Do you find yourself caring about what others think about you? It may be time to put aside those worries. If you obsess over what other people think then you will never to be able to please yourself; remember, it is impossible to please everyone.

Gossip may hurt us. We all have times when we get hurt, but if you hear something said about you that you don’t like, remind yourself that it is likely to have come from an insecure person who is coming from a place of weakness. Everyone gets knocked – even film stars or famous singers you may admire. No one is immune.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Dr. Seuss

As obvious as it sounds, being an individual means just being you. Not needing to present a front to people. If you show the quirky side of your personality to people they will warm to you. You have no need to present a perfect facade to the world. People are attracted to someone who is a bit different. And most people understand if you are struggling, especially if you admit to being vulnerable. Try opening up and being honest when you are in an anxious situation; admit to someone when you are out of your comfort zone and many times you will be met with sympathy. Often too, people will admit to feeling the same in similar situations. Of course, there are times when it may make sense to conform a little – you would probably present yourself differently to your boss at work than you would to someone at a drinks party. But still, apart from avoiding topics that may be sensitive, it’s good to be yourself and show yourself to be the interesting person you are.

At the same time do not force yourself to be different. Wear what suits you but don’t feel you have to wear super trendy clothes if that’s not your style. Be comfortable with your style. We all know that feeling when you go out wearing something you are not happy with – you can feel out of place all day. You cannot make something right if it doesn’t suit you. If getting a tattoo or changing your hair isn’t for you it doesn’t matter. Being individual comes from inside.

I was brought up to be modest and not to boast about my achievements. Of course, no one is drawn to someone who is too ‘full of themselves’ but at the same time, if you have accomplished something you are proud of, don’t be afraid to mention it. Your skills are part of the person you are.

Build up your confidence.

It took me years to become a confident person. An upbringing where it was important to ‘know our place’ and look up to those deemed to be better than us took years to shrug off. Even now I sometimes find I feel inferior in certain situations. Then I remind myself what a ridiculous and counter-productive feeling that is. I have just as much right to be here and voice my opinion as the next person. A great help in building confidence comes from spending time with the right kind of people. Those who make you feel good about yourself. Also, remembering to use confident body language really helps. Standing upright and looking people in the eye and engaging with them really puts you forward in the best way.

If you are thinking of things in your life you want to change and want to enhance your individuality, perhaps it is the time to think about exploring your creative side or accepting new challenges, or spending time with people you admire. Surrounding yourself with independent thinkers is a great way to start looking at life differently and finding inspiration.
Being comfortable in your own skin.

People who are true individuals just aren’t bothered about what people think about them; they just go through life being happy and comfortable. And if you look comfortable and happy with what you are doing, you are well on your way to gaining the respect you deserve.

So, just like the beautiful snowflake, know that there is literally no one else like you in the whole wide world. Think about this. You don’t have to work at trying to be different, you already are different! No one else has had the same upbringing as you, has the same looks, has had all the same experiences as you or has entirely the same values. No one else sees the world exactly as you do. You can be proud of that fact!

Being authentic

This is something I have had to work on. To be an individual you have to be authentic. You have to say what you feel is right and not what others want you to say. People can spot insincerity a mile off. Being authentic becomes easier the more you try to achieve it. It makes you feel so much better about yourself and the path you are trying to follow in life when you say what you really mean and you stand up for what is really important to you.

Be positive

Be positive whenever you can. Your individual cells will respond far better to good thoughts and feelings from inside you; bad thoughts and bad news from the outside will have a negative effect. We are all bombarded with ‘stuff’ from the media, both good and bad 24/7. Learn to know when to turn off. Turn off and turn away. Yes there are times when we need to be informed but there are also times when we need to say to ourselves that the world can turn without us worrying about it for a day.

Life can be hard at times. We know that. But whatever life throws at you, remember to be like that beautiful, individual snowflake when it makes its own particular journey to the ground – remember to land up in just the place you want to be. Be your own individual self.

Though an ordinary woman, nothing about me is plain; Like a single fingerprint traced in dust, no other is the same.’
                                                  Lyn Halvorsen

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Do you find it hard to be yourself? I would love to hear your comments ❤️.

 

Why We Should All Walk the Brightest Path…

We should all be able to feel safe this Christmas, in all four corners of the world..

This morning we took an early morning walk. The sun had just come up but there was a chill in the air making us hope we have a cold, crisp Christmas .

As we wound our way round the village and walked back up the hill toward the woods behind Dove Lane, the path beneath our feet sparkled in the winter sun. Looking more closely, I could see there were hundreds of glass chips embedded in the tarmac. I had never noticed this before; maybe it was the direction of the sun or the time of day, but the effect was magical. The path glittered like something out of a fairy tale and I half expected to be transported to a different land – maybe if I had wished hard enough I may have seen one of Santa’s elves peaking out from behind one of the trees! I thought about the beauty that surrounds us whoever we are and whatever our circumstances; rich or poor, we are all entitled to walk along a glittery pathway.

We are all created as equals. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. I certainly do. I think most of us, at some time in our lives, have looked up at someone we see as more famous, wealthy or seemingly more accomplished than ourselves and felt a little overshadowed. It is a habit that is hard to shake off. But we all have our skills, our own uniqueness that no-one can take away. We can all have a chance to shine and take a walk along a special path. There are so many unsung heroes we may pass along the way; those who carry on in the most dire circumstances, and still raise a smile.

This time of year, as I rush around crossing things off my long Christmas ‘to do’ list I often stop in my tracks and remember to be grateful. There are so many people without a roof over their heads, both in our country and in foreign lands. So many innocent children caught up in wars that have absolutely nothing to do with them apart from raging in the lands they happen to be born in. How can this be? The contrast between different lives is sometimes overwhelming.

One day, I hope there will be a world where every child, indeed every human being, has a home where they feel safe and secure at Christmas and all through the year – a place where they can stop and look out through the window at the moon and stars, and feel at peace.

I sat drinking a hot chocolate with a friend today and we talked about life; how things sometime surprise us and turn out differently than expected. How sometimes it’s hard to take the rough with the smooth. How busy life can be at times. But would we really want to walk in anyone else’s shoes, however important they are?

I love this Malagasy proverb –

‘ A canoe does not know who is King, when it turns over, everyone gets wet.’

I hope you can walk the glittery Christmas path today.

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Is ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’ Really a Problem?

‘Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things’.

I was thinking about how we go through our days, months and years; how we cope with life and the pressures we bear at times. We try to be diligent and concern ourselves with the rights and wrongs going on the world; what will happen about Brexit – how will the actions of President Trump impact upon us – what about global warming – the economy – the NHS – slipping standards in behaviour – the gloomy news we listen to everyday? I could keep adding to this never ending list…..

Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during that time are the ones that are making a difference.

Last Sunday, I was invited to a service of  remembrance at the local church. This was held in the early evening – and although it was Remembrance Sunday this was an additional service held for all those who had lost someone close to them in the last year. It was a way of honouring the memory of a loved one recently departed, and a chance to give thanks for their life: ‘A gentle service to remember loved ones no longer with us.’

The service was very moving and conducted by the ministers with love and grace. It gave everyone time. Time to reflect and think about those we loved and lost, in a calm and peaceful environment. Towards the end of the service we were invited up to the altar to add a flower to the cross laid at the front, together with a lighted candle. As we returned to our seats and the lights were dimmed we sat quietly in contemplation for a while, before saying goodbye and going out into the dark night.

The service was beautiful for so many reason. As I had watched everyone walking up to lay a flower for their loved ones, I realised again, that all we really want in this life is to love and be loved. Just as the flowers thrive with the warmth of the sun and the gentle rain, so we thrive when we are loved. We may feel bereft when we lose someone very dear to us, but we can reflect on all the love we shared with that person and be glad. Love is at times, responsible for causing us heartbreak and pain as well as great joy, but without it we are lost. And when we show love and receive love we don‘t really need to worry about the bigger picture – the big wide world; it is the small things in life that matter.

I watch cookery programmes often; with each new series of Masterchef or The Great British Bake-Off I get drawn back into the show and get to ‘know’ the latest contestants and their particular way of doing things. I watch as they sometimes dissolve into tears when a soufflé sinks or a casserole burns  and it is easy to get into a cynical way of thinking and judging, and then I wonder why? It’s good to get passionate about cake! It may not change the world but a good slice of cake can make someone’s day!

We are all striving to be the best we can be – to make something of ourselves and our lives and there is nothing wrong with that. If we feel bound to make a difference to the world then we should go for it! Where would we be without explorers and pioneers in every field; those who work relentlessly and discover new drugs and new ways of healing? There are so many people struggling tirelessly to help people and to care for those who need it most. They are often the people too, who still find time to stop and enjoy the small things in life.

So when we focus on the small things, the little things that concern us, I don’t think it is a bad thing. Of course, we don’t want to get stressed particularly, about blocked drains (me at the moment) or being cut up on the motorway or any of the daily annoyances that beset us all from time to time. But stopping to study the new shoots on the trees or listen to the birds can only ever do us good.  Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during the time are the ones that are making a difference.

It’s worth noting that the good feeling we get from taking some freshly baked bread from the oven or watching a child jump and play, is far more heartening than studying a politician arguing in a debate on the news, no matter how important the topic!

The good small things for me:  

Waking up and feeling good – making porridge the Cornish way.

Good hair days! A cup of tea in my favourite angel mug. My sister’s dog, Willow Writing a poem I am happy with. Going to the beach. Cooking a chocolate cake. Listening to Clifford T. Ward – listen to ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’it’s beautiful. Laughing with friends. Messages from my sons. ❤️❤️ Christmas movies. Looking at photos of my mum and dad. Listening to my husband singing along to ‘Sounds of the sixties.’ 🎼 Reading to my grandchildren 📖   Life is made up of moments. Collect them and keep them in your heart.    

The magic of starting to focus on these little, but important things, is that you will gradually change from focusing on what is missing in your life, to what is there. And when we feel grateful for what we have, we gradually add to our happiness levels, bit by bit.

      IMG_0071 What small things make you happy? I would love to hear from you.  

When Things Change ….

Hello again! I’ve been out of communicado for a few weeks due to a house move. It’s been a busy time with lots to do and great excitement as we enter a new phase of our lives. My blog will always be ‘Notes From Dove Lane’ though: this title is dear to my heart and was taken from my book ‘Tea at Raphael’s which was inspired by a favourite lane in Somerset.

No matter how we are pleased with life’s new twists and turns, anxiety can still creep up on us and make us feel unsettled or jittery; its as if the old ‘worry monster’ likes to gain our attention and remind us of those old scenarios that cause us to fret. But it is good to remind ourselves that change helps us move forward and embrace new beginnings, and by engaging in new routines and trying out new surroundings we can move forward, even though we may move tentatively at first.

Today I am sitting in a delightful cafe in my new village – it’s a book shop that serves coffee and snacks – definitely my sort of place! The walls are lined with books from top to bottom and the array of coffee and cakes available is fabulous. I may be here often, (especially as I have no broadband yet!)

Please excuse my short blog this week – there is much to do at home and many deliveries and callers to attend to! One thing I must say though is that the weather has been glorious, and as we look out over the open fields beyond our house and watch the red kites swooping and hear their familiar whistle welcoming us, I am filled with gratitude.

Before I go, I have some exciting news! Last weekend, the Janey Loves Platinum Award Ceremony took place – and I am very pleased to say that my book ‘Best Foot Forward’ received a ‘highly commended’ award. It is always wonderful to know that someone has enjoyed your work!

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See you soon and blessings to you.