Tag Archives: winter

For Now

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“Only those with tenacity can march forward in March.”

~ Ernest Agyemane Yeboah

I am struggling, this winter, to continue moving forward. My exercise program has become anything but “regular.” My daily walk takes me, many days, no farther than to the end of the driveway and back. “Morning Pages,” three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that I recommitted to last year, has fallen by the wayside, beyond a few occasional fits and starts.

This writing, too, has been sorely neglected this year. Since I committed to this blog post – now more than seven years ago – I have published at least one essay every week. I’ve taken on mini-challenges within the larger commitment: there were a few month-long challenges; I wrote a family history, in installments; I dedicated one day per week to a Timeout for Art post; I went through two books of weekly “List” prompts; and I published a blog post every single day in 2016.

It often seemed like I may have run out of things to talk about. I noticed my writing was often devolving into complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. I set a new goal this year. My plan was to work my way through each of the writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Or, perhaps, that task would be better suited for my private journal pages. Does anyone really want to read a ten-minute essay about jell-o? Or dishes? Or nuts? With doubts running through my mind, I contemplated leaving this year’s plan behind, but had no clear idea of what to replace it with. So, my default was to just neglect it altogether.

This morning when I got up, the temperature outside was 13 below zero. The view from any window is snow, snow, and more snow. Under the snow, there is a thick bed of ice, that will throw me off balance if I don’t watch my step. When the sun comes out, gigantic icicles form along the eaves of the house.

The dogs have forged a network of paths leading from the back door, to get to the places where they choose to do their outside business, or where they can bark at the neighbors. Bored with the pace of this cold season, they spend a great deal of time going outside and coming back in, just for the sport of it, and the possibility of a reward. Today, they are sprawled together on the bed, grumbling their displeasure.

The long term weather forecast promises better days. By next week, we should see temperatures in the 30s, and into the forties by the end of the month. Undoubtedly, spring will eventually come. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. That celebration brings big excitement and an influx of visitors to this Irish island. It won’t be long after that before the warm weather residents and tourists arrive.

With that assurance comes new frustration at all the things I have not yet gotten done. Though today’s weather might seem to contradict the statement, time is running short for all of my winter’s plans. It’s time to make the big push, while there is still time. That, along with my feelings about the quality of my recent posts, has brought me to the conclusion that it’s time for a different tack.

“Don’t settle: Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.”

~Chris Brogan

I’m not giving up on this blog; I’m not going to quit writing. What I’m giving up are all previously conceived notions and obligations regarding it. I will publish regularly, but not on a pre-planned regular schedule. I’ll write whatever I feel like sharing, even if that happens to sound like complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. It may take a surprising turn, as I direct my attention more to my health, art, or my home projects. I don’t know yet, but the possibilities are exciting to me. For now, that’s good enough!

This Tail-End of Winter

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Six days into March, we are seeing signs of the winter’s end here on Beaver Island. There’s still plenty of snow along the Fox Lake Road, which is in the woods, in the middle of this island. Still, the trees all have a ring of bare earth around them, where the snow has melted away. My back yard is clear past the wild cherry tree, and much of the ice has melted from the driveway.

Closer to the big lake that surrounds us, in those places where the sun, when it shines, can more easily reach, everything melts faster. In the downtown areas, where paved roads help the process, the snow is nearly gone. This is still winter, though.

At the hardware store, we brought the snow blowers – usually on display and for sale all winter – back down to the basement. I didn’t push them all the way to the back corner where we store them through the summer, though. I suspect we may want them back upstairs before the seasons change. Often, when spring promises to come early, with melting snow and warmer days, winter smiles and gives us a foot of snow on April Fool’s Day.

Two “ice-breakers” came through last week, to break up the ice in our harbor, so that the tug boat pulling the barge loaded with fuel could get in. That barge had been locked into the ice in Michigan’s upper peninsula since late last fall. Guys with ice drills and chain saws have been out working every day, to help them get all the way in to the dock. Even now, a week into March, that ice is thick.

I walked the dogs last evening down a snow-covered trail. Someone had tried to pull in with a car, which drew my interest. Though the trail goes a half-mile into the woods, it is actually a private drive, and I didn’t think any of the owners were here. The car tracks stopped a short way in, leaving ridges more than 12 inches deep. Boot prints in the snow suggested that the explorers continued on foot, in and then back out again.

Rosa Parks had been left at home on Sunday, so yesterday she was eager to show me she was up for a walk, too. Darla wagged her tail and watched as I put on boots and coat; Rosa Parks went right to the door to wait. She had no intention of being left behind again!

My big dog, Darla, loves a walk, and is a calm and steady companion. Her ears flap up and down like bird’s wings, in time to her footsteps. She keeps me in sight as we walk down the road and – while investigating the sights and smells – never strays too far from where I am.

Rosa Parks is often indecisive about the walk. She’ll pause at the end of the driveway, thinking. No matter how much I call, and coax, and beg, she will not come with us. Sometimes she turns, then, and goes back to wait on the porch. Other days, I’ll look back to see that she has ventured out onto the road, though she is making no effort to catch up with us. Then, we have to turn around and go back…in fear that a car would come along while I am far ahead. That behavior is what caused her to be left inside on Sunday.

When the little dog is in the mood for a good walk, she’s a joy to have along. She was in the spirit yesterday. She beat us to the door, and then she beat us to the end of the driveway. “What’s keeping you?” her gaze seemed to ask, as she looked back at us, tail wagging. All the way down the snowy drive, Rosa Parks zipped from one smell to another. She bounded ahead, then circled back to see what Darla was doing. She’d glance my way, then run off again with a grin, and a wag of her tail.

Though the sun – just above the treetops on the horizon – was bright, the day was cold. The surface of the snow was firm, so that I walked on top of it, rather than sinking in, yet it was not icy. It was an easy walk, and a good one, on a beautiful, cold winter day. I think I paid more attention, and was more appreciative of the season, knowing it is nearly at its end.

 

 

 

The Erin Motel

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Before I gave up on the idea of braving the winter – with my daughters – in the unfinished house on Fox Lake Road, we had nearly run out of wood. I was scrambling for a source, and trying to figure out how I’d pay for it. The house was insulated, but still drafty. It was getting cold. I stapled black plastic to the exposed support beams to cover the insulation. I hung blankets over the windows.

The line bringing water to our house from the neighbor’s well froze solid. Then I  begged a $500.00 cash advance from work, in order to hire Bud Martin to put a submersible pump in my own well and complete the hookups to the house. During that time, I hauled water each day in five gallon containers (4) from the public faucet at the township airport, for washing up, cleaning and flushing the toilet. I carried two single gallons home from town for cooking and drinking. Bud tried to hook up the pump, but said it would only draw sand, so he had to pull it back out. He said Mr. Goller must have cracked the screen when he set it.

That’s when I gave up.

Then, it was too late to move into McCafferty’s Hotel: it was already rented for the winter. I talked to my friend Roy, who owned the Erin Motel. He was one of my regular morning coffee drinkers, and also often used the Shamrock to conduct his real estate business. He was an avid hunter, which he knew I didn’t like. Our friendship was based on me serving him coffee, and him teasing me. I told him we needed to find a place to live, and that I’d like to move in to the Erin. I explained that it would take me most of the winter to pay back the cash advance from work, so I was working just for tips. If my [estranged] husband sent money, I’d be able to pay rent; if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to pay until spring.

“That will be fine,” he said.

I told him two adjoining motel rooms would be best, as they were small. That way we could use one for sleeping, one for meals and general living space.

“Okay,” he said, “that will be alright.”

I told him our beagle, Joe, would have to come with us.

“Sure, I accept dogs there.”

“…And the two cats,” I said.

Roy shook his head. His voice was firm.

“Nope, sorry, no cats. I don’t allow cats in the motel,”

I stomped my foot.

“Roy,” I said, “my girls have been through enough already! I’m not going to argue with you about this!”

“Alright,” he wavered,”I’ll make an exception for the cats.”

So it was that my dog, two cats, my two daughters and I all moved – with a few pots and pans, some dishes, one piece of art, a few books and three suitcases of clothing –  in to two adjoining rooms at the Erin Motel. The building is right on the harbor – though our rooms didn’t have a harbor view – so we could walk to wherever we needed to go. The school was two blocks up the hill; the Shamrock was right across the street.

Our rooms were standard motel rooms: square, large enough for a double bed, dresser and chair, with a bathroom and a small alcove for hanging coats. A door near the entry doors linked the two rooms. Roy had two twin beds and a double bed moved into one room. In the other, we had a roll-away bed that we used as a sofa, a couple chairs, a card table with folding chairs, and a make-shift kitchen that consisted of a dorm sized refrigerator and a two-burner range. Each room had a large window in front that looked out onto the main street.

In order to make ends meet, and keep working after the busy season, I was working six days a week: two morning (7AM to 2PM), two afternoon (2PM to 8PM) and two night shifts (8PM to closing time). Business was slow, so it was always okay for the girls to come over after school, once they had walked the dog and taken care of the cats. They could practice piano at the Shamrock, do their homework and watch television. On days when I was home in the evenings, I cooked on the little two-burner stove, and we’d play games or cards after dinner around the card table. Though it was a rough time for all three of us, I remember laughing ’til we nearly lost control, crowded into those small rooms.

The following spring, when I was finally able to pay Roy for our stay there, I also presented him with a framed drawing I had done for him, of an elderly woman fishing off a dock, her large cat dozing in the sunshine beside her. It hangs in his office to this day.

 

Back to Beaver

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The farmhouse on Beaver Island, circa. 1982

It was in the early spring that we moved back to Beaver Island.

Now, springtime on Beaver Island is beautiful. Just like in every other place that experiences winter, spring is welcomed. However, when you haven’t been on Beaver Island for the winter, to experience the transition from extremely cold to not quite so bad…when you come here from a place three hundred miles south, where the grass is already green and the flowers are already blooming…when you land on Beaver Island right in the middle of what the local folks call “mud season” and before the temperatures have risen above 50 degrees (even colder at night!), this is not a pleasant place.

That is what we did, and that is where we found ourselves: in a pretty dreary place.

Our property was not yet paid off; our house was still in the planning stages. The well that was included in the price of our land was not even started. We moved, again, into the family farmhouse.  The girls were switching schools near the end of a school year, with little time to make new friends or get into the swing of classroom activities. Terry’s job was, in fact, still several weeks away from beginning. The Shamrock was in the process of changing hands, and still a month away from looking for summer help. We almost immediately regretted turning our lives upside-down without better preparation.

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Jennifer, trying to keep warm in the living room of the farmhouse

We spent long days driving around on muddy roads, searching for a bit of green, keeping watch for downed trees that we could cut up for firewood. Evenings were spent drawing and re-drawing plans for our house, lining up help and materials and planning the sequence of activities to get a structure up. Until we started working, and generating some income, of course everything was on hold.

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Me, walking the property

Reality was affecting our house plans, too. We couldn’t possibly get our house up in time to move into it before the next winter. Every single thing was costing more than expected. We had to bring electricity down the Fox Lake Road. Even when sharing that expense with the man who had sold us our land, and who owned the property adjacent to ours on the north, it was still going to be a huge out-of-pocket expense. Septic system, plumbing, wiring…we were quickly overwhelmed.

Our house plans were modest: a 28′ x 28′ story and a half structure with a basement and a detached garage. Three bedrooms, one bath. We planned board and batten siding and simple finishes throughout. The house would be laid out to take best advantage of the sun; solar panels on the roof would help with energy costs. A central wood stove would provide heat. No matter how we looked at it, it was still impossible, with our time and money constraints that year.

When given the choice of putting in the basement or putting up the garage – to live in either while we finished the house – I chose the garage. I am eternally thankful that I did, as that is the structure I am still living in today. If I had chosen the basement, I may have been living underground all of these years!

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the stakes set, for the cement slab foundation for the garage

Monday: Report

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With less than two weeks before the official first day of spring, it seems to have arrived here on Beaver Island. After three sunny days, we had rain through the night. My sleep was sound, so I don’t know if it rained hard, or steadily or just off and on. I never heard thunder. Twice through the night, my little dog woke me to let her outside. Twice, I threw off the covers and stumbled sleepily to the door. When I opened it, I could see that it was raining. Rosa Parks poked her little nose outside to assess the situation, shook her little head “no, thanks,” and we went back to bed. So, it rained enough to keep the little dog inside.

It has transformed my yard from “endings of winter” to “definitely spring.” The snow is gone! There are three  curved ridges of snow left in the entire yard. A few tiny clumps still shine out from the woods. That’s it! Even the large, icy mound that the snowplow leaves, that gets packed together and frozen so hard it often stays until June…gone!

This overnight unveiling has revealed all the tasks left undone last fall, when icy winds and cold gave me license to put things off until spring. The last of the fallen leaves are now a sodden mess over large areas of the yard. Winter’s winds have done their usual job of shaking down the dead wood from my old trees. Picking up branches and hauling them to the fire pit is an almost daily task. Still, the snow melt shows all that I’ve missed. The grass, which never did get mowed the “one last time before winter” that it needed, gives a raggedy appearance through the leaves and twigs.

The garden, too, shows a wealth of sins. The raspberries need to be pruned, weeded and thinned if they are going to do well this year. The strawberry bed needs fresh pine needle mulch. Old vines, from last year’s tomatoes, squash and beans, need to be pulled out and hauled away. My compost barrel – which seemed like such a flawless idea when I started it – is full to overflowing. The last two times I carried out the little bucket of kitchen scraps, I had to use a five-gallon bucket as an annex, as the barrel was full. It may compress as it thaws, but it needs to be emptied soon. My wheelbarrows both need repair. The small one has a flat tire; the large one, a broken handle.

Spring fever, it seems, arrived at my house before the season. I’ve been dragging around for weeks, with never enough energy to accomplish all the things I wanted to. The worry of all the things not yet finished keeps me awake many nights, which adds to my exhaustion. Saturday night, we turned the clocks forward, so I’ve lost yet another hour. And now, with the melting snow, my list of things-to-do has quadrupled.

On the positive side, there are daffodils and tulips poking out of the ground in the flowerbeds that flank the kitchen door. The branches of trees and shrubs are heavy with buds that are almost ready to roll open into leaves or blossoms. The wild ramps are already showing green in the woods. The air smells fresh and clean. It’s a little bit early this year, but I think spring is truly here!

 

One Day to the Next

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Some of these mornings, I am not prepared to write.

There are days when I wake up so bursting with ideas of things to talk about, I can hardly type fast enough. Other days where I turn to my writing prompts for inspiration, and work it into a post.

I started doing that this morning: day five of the thirty-day journal writing challenge. I put in the prompts; I found a photo; I even found a good, inspirational quote. Nothing came of it. I am uninspired. I’ll save it for another day.

Winter is finally upon us here on Beaver Island. It’s not one of those extreme winters we’ve grown accustomed to. Not so far, anyway. But the snow has arrived, and looks like it will stay awhile. Our ferry boat quit running before Christmas. Business has slowed.

Time, then, for all of the things I put off…until winter.

I’ve been cleaning, at work and at home: the kind of thoughtful sorting and deep cleaning that never gets done in the busy season.

At the hardware, I’ve been arranging the basement so that overstock merchandise and seasonal products are orderly and accessible. I cleaned up the screening area, hauling out glass and plexiglas pieces, rolls of old screen and metal scraps. I put all the holiday merchandise into one side of one neat aisle. I’m helping to set up a display of new faucets.

At home, I’m incorporating some”Zen habits for de-cluttering” that I recently read about. I never get up from the desk without filing or otherwise taking care of five items that are on it. I never leave a room without fluffing a pillow, wiping off a surface or tidying an area. Last week I thoroughly cleaned my underwear drawer. I threw out every pair of socks with holes in heel or toe. I got rid of anything with worn out elastic. I pitched every single uncomfortable undergarment. Then I folded everything that was left, and lined it up nicely, in rows. One small step, I know…but in the right direction!

In the studio…well, I’m working on it. All of it. The organizing and cleaning. The matting and framing. The actual art making. I just plug away, with the time I have for it, but it is definitely a discouragement.

The list is long, of things to do, wherever I am, and whatever I’m doing. Usually just a bit longer than the winter allows for. All I can do is continue working on it all, day to day.

Days Gone By

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Here it is, the first of September.

Another summer season gone.

Where?

These flowers open and bloom for one day.

Sometimes I notice how beautiful they are.

Sometimes I pay attention to all of the blossoms, and how many buds are waiting to open.

Too often I see how many spent blooms need to be removed.

Maybe that’s the gardener in me.

Maybe it has  more to do with age, or just my perspective of the world.

I find myself – too often – looking with pensive sadness at days gone by, unretrievable, rather than the days ahead.

Rather, even, than this present, precious day.

September is a time of change on Beaver Island.

The Labor Day weekend marks the end of our tourist season. Children are soon going back to school. Summer residents and visitors are packing up and closing cabins. There is a hint of Fall and the premonition of Winter in our cool nights and chilly mornings. The growing season is nearing its end.

This is a time of good-byes.

My birthday, falling near the end of August, gets my mind going to times past and years gone by.

The melancholy persists with the end of Summer and all the changes it brings.

Punctuated, this year, by the death of a dear one.

Bill Cashman was a good friend to Beaver Island. Map-maker, builder, writer, historian…Bill wore many hats, and wore them all with a dapper sensitivity to this island and its people. He had a keen knack for seeing and encouraging the strengths of any individual. He was a champion of lost-causes and long-shots, and often doggedly pursued an idea that he deemed worthy when all around him were prepared to abandon it.

Bill was a long and good friend to me. He hired my husband and took an interest in our family. He supplied some of the materials to build our little house. He supported me early on in my artistic endeavors, and later helped to set up a website to feature my Collagraph work. He visited my house several times to see my new work and  take notes on my processes. Bill encouraged and promoted my writing, through all my lazy, procrastinating tactics to avoid it.

I ran into Bill in the Post Office just two days before he died. Both on the run, we exchanged pleasantries.

He’d been battling cancer for quite some time. He was skinny and pale, but had a bounce in his step and a twinkle in his eye.

“Good!” was his emphatic response to my “How are ya?”

Bill knew how to appreciate the present moment!

As we move into the shortening days of Autumn, through sad good-byes and seasons past, I aspire to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurray!!

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I can’t begin to describe how happy this makes me!

The garden is planted!

I had other things I should have or could have been doing today.

I have to go over my notes in preparation for a township meeting tonight. I was supposed to get to Aunt Katie’s early this afternoon to do her floors (it is now late afternoon). There is much to do in my studio, with galleries opening for the summer. There are plenty of inside chores I’d like to have finished before my work week starts tomorrow. In this year of plentiful mosquitoes, the grass should not be allowed to grow the way it has this Spring.

Still, the garden had to be planted.

We have a short growing season here on Beaver Island. It is especially short here on the Fox Lake Road, where we tend to get the earliest killing frost in the Fall, and the latest one in the Spring. I depend on my garden for fresh vegetables in the Summer, and to enrich my diet through the long months of winter.

I started planting on Sunday.

It rained that night and continued through the next day.

Yesterday, I had errands in town but came home in time to get back at it.

When I quit last evening, it looked like this:

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I snapped a couple pictures of the dogs worrying a garter snake at the fence…

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…and some blossoms from  around the yard and garden…

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…before calling it a night.

This morning, I set everything else aside, intent on finishing the garden.

And I did!

Well, the left side of the plot (not shown in any of these photos) could still use some attention. The perennial beds there – with strawberries, blueberries, asparagus and raspberries – need to be weeded and edged and mulched. The plot for my tomatoes plants still needs to be hoed up and fertilized. Tomatoes and peppers are still in pots. Flower beds need to be raked and weeded.

In the gardener’s world, nothing is ever completely finished (until, perhaps, it is buried under two feet of snow…but that’s when planning begins!)…but I feel a sense of completion today.

The garden is planted!

Catching Up

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Wasn’t it less than two weeks ago that I mentioned we were getting more snow?

I know it was only last week that I woke up to icy frost covering everything.

Working outside today, it’s hard to believe we so recently left winter weather behind!

 In the woods, the Spring Beauties, Trout Lilies and Trillium are glorious. Ramps are ready to be harvested; morel mushrooms are out there, though I haven’t found any yet. In my flower beds, hyacinth, narcissus and tulips are blooming. Asparagus is poking out of the ground, rhubarb is nearly ready to pull and I made a meal the other day with some kale that made it through the winter under all of that snow.

The birds are singing.  Shrubs and trees are budding. Snakes are sunning themselves on the path. Two big flies are buzzing in my window, for heaven’s sake!

Spring has finally caught up with the calendar!

I’m working at getting caught up, too.

This winter was terribly hard on my house, and on my budget. The cost of heat alone was through the roof, with the combination of a long winter and extreme temperatures. Snow plowing was another major necessary expense. On top of that, I’ve had roof troubles, electrical problems and water issues that are just now getting ironed out.

Because the cold weather kept people away, and inside their warm homes, businesses were struggling, as well. My work hours were cut back or cut out. Even with six jobs, I wasn’t putting in forty hours a week.

When the first of May came around, I had annual car insurance, plus a mortgage payment and one credit card payment due. Telephone, propane and electricity bills were all over due. In addition, I had a bill from the hospital for lab work, from the Medical Center for a blood draw, and from the pharmacy for prescriptions. I had a winter property tax bill that was due on Valentine’s Day.

I had less than three hundred dollars in my bank account.

On top of all that, I had no drainage. When the washing machine emptied, it filled the bathtub; one sink backed up into another; the toilet overflowed. For over a month – waiting for the frost to go out of the ground and the snow-melt that was saturating the field to dry up and the plumbers and septic workers to find time – I’ve been taking military showers, washing clothes at my aunt’s house, doing dishes in a bucket (that had to be then emptied outside)and allowing myself one flush per day.

But the weather is changing.

People are coming out of their homes and looking at Spring projects. Visitors are coming to Beaver Island. Business is picking up. With it, my hours at work are increasing.

Friday evening, money in the bank, I sat down to sort and prioritize bills. I couldn’t catch everything up, but it felt good to make progress.

Yesterday, water issues resolved, I spent the evening doing laundry, housework and dishes, relishing my ability to actually put water down the drain. I took a long, hot shower.

This morning, I took time to read. I truly enjoy all the blogs that I follow, and care about the people that write them. I like to know what’s going on with them, just as I do with family and other friends. With work picking up…and other issues to deal with…I’ve been sorely behind. My comments – when I have stolen the time to read and taken the time to comment – have been speedily composed and extremely brief. I have been very lax in acknowledging comments made to my own blogs. Today, I spent a lovely morning turning that around.

Finally, it seems like I am catching up!

Moment to Moment to Living in the Moment

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I’ve been taking quite a few pictures lately, that record the slow crawl into Spring on Beaver Island this year.

The snow is receding, no doubt, but still blankets half of my garden and much of my yard. Temperatures are rising, but the dampness creates a chill. It’s not time, yet, to turn off the heaters.The ice in Lake Michigan is still posing a challenge; our ferry boat  just announced a further delay of their first trip. Flooding and freezing are still creating drainage problems. Every day there are more signs of Spring; every day there are a dozens reminders of the Winter that just doesn’t want to let go.

I am watching…and waiting.

Too much waiting leads to discouragement.

I’ve written about it before.

Waiting is that limbo state that anticipates but doesn’t offer anything. It delays and postpones. I fall easily into it at any time of year; this particular Spring is only one example.

Waiting becomes the place I am in.

When the wait is over, something will happen.

When the house warms up, it will be easier to finish all of my Spring projects.

When the snow and ice are gone, I’ll be able to get back into the garden.

When the snow melts and the water recedes, I’ll be able to get back into a good walking regimen.

When it gets warmer, I’ll feel more like eating lighter and healthier meals.

When…when…when…

What does that leave, right now? This lumpy, lazy, slothful person waiting for the elusive “when!”

No wonder I’m discouraged!

This is an old battle, with me. I’m a procrastinator by nature and have sufficient skills in logic to justify and explain.

I’m also too smart to be misled by my “logic” for long.

Then, it’s time to dust myself off and give myself a good stern “talking-to”. It’s time to rise up out of my slump and get busy. Time to appreciate each moment , frosty or not. Time to mark accomplishments, not just days off the calendar.

Life is too short, really, for waiting.