The Gift Of: Fitness

I finally blended my blogs together into one – this one, that you’re reading right now.

Welcome, oh ye few.

Most people who follow me here actually know me from “real life” but I still have quite a few fellow bloggers that never met me in person that might be wondering just what in the heck is going on with me. I mean, to change my website from From Fit To Figure to The Joyful Celibate with absolutely no warning is a little strange. Well, good news is, I answer most of this question in the “About” page right up there at the top of the screen.

Before I go on with my post today, just so everyone is aware, despite the name change, my fitness posts are all still available here and searchable. So if you’re looking for something regarding meal planning or workouts I’ve done or diet tips I’ve written about, simply search!

My website for online coaching will also remain linked here and above. And I’m still available by email at fromfittofigure@gmail.com.

As for today’s post, I thought I’d debut my new site with what I believe to be one of my gifts: Getting people in shape for life.

First of all, I did not start my own personal training business thinking I’d be “set for life” financially. On the contrary, I knew this would be a huge pay cut from working in a health club or gym. In fact, shortly before starting my biz, I was trying to find ways to detach from material objects, and money was the first to go! And the service I wanted to provide never changed – I wanted to help people. But I wanted to do it on my own terms, such as:

  • I could be picky about who I would train: I wouldn’t have to sit in front of people and try to “sell” them on something they had no interest in, as this was common at the gyms where I worked. The members usually wanted a tour of the place and be on their way. They were not about to pay extra for training, especially if they were already investing over $100 a month on a membership they could barely afford. I really wanted to train people that actually meshed well with my personality and training style.
  • I could charge a rate based on the client’s budget without de-valuing my services and without the pressure of hitting a monthly goal: Finally, no more pressure from my boss as to how much money I was bringing in this month. No more dialing for dollars in a last ditch attempt to hit a goal. Yes, goals are necessary, especially in sales. But that was it: I didn’t want to be in sales! I wanted to be content with the amount that I had in the bank. (Hint: I am.)
  • I could be honest and direct with clients without worrying about toeing the company line: The biggest need for fitness professionals, I have found, has been addressing the behavior and mental aspect of dieting. But many gyms, celebrity trainers and coaches come out with fancy heart rate monitors or apps or quick fixes just to make money and promote themselves, ignoring the underlying issues of their clients. If we are to be taken seriously, trainers should be willing to say, “Not all diets work for all people. The best diet is the one that you can adhere to without feeling restricted and still see results. So let’s figure out what that looks like for you.”
  • I could make my own schedule, allowing plenty of time to focus on the most important people in my life: It should go without saying by now, that God, my family and my faith are my priority. And when you have a flexible schedule and do what you love, and you detach from material things (this was key for me, personally) you start to see life differently. I started to look for more chances to be a gift to others. Sidenote: Being single really turned this from an opportunity, into a priority for me.

While the blog served its purpose for a long time, I am finding the passion to write about health and fitness growing a little stale. I still need to promote myself, but I would like to do it mainly through referrals and word of mouth. So this meant for me (because this might not be the best idea for others) no more progress pictures on display, no more Facebook or Instagram and no more YouTube videos. These were becoming distractions and a hindrance to more than anything else.

So there you have it. That’s what I aim to do with this blog: To show how I can be a gift to others. And not just with fitness. That was just the teaser for you. There will be more posts about how I plan to do this. Because we all have gifts.

And when readers find themselves here, I also hope to show them how THEY can be a gift to serve others as well.

I plan to provide the gift of fitness and health to my clients as long as I am able.

Think on it: Who do you know that needs the gift of health? You don’t have to be a fitness guru or dietitian to provide this gift to someone. Keep it simple. How about the gift of mental health (relaxing day at a spa; renting a movie at home and staying in); spiritual health (giving someone a book that helped you grow in your spirituality; taking someone to daily mass that normally can’t make it); physical health (a fitness DVD to do at home; making someone a healthy meal who can’t afford it), etc. Endless possibilities!

 

Voices of Reason

A super short post tonight to kick off 2016. Hope you all like it!

While having lunch with a friend of mine, she remarked, “Michelle, I hear your voice in my head every time I think about my diet. You said something that has stuck with me over the years: It’s not all about cardio and exercising all the time. Your diet matters more.”

I was telling her this while I was training for my bodybuilding competition. It’s something I have told clients repeatedly and most of them listen to me. But some still don’t believe me.

While exercise and working out is important for overall general health, it’s not the end all be all. What is most important is what we are feeding our bodies. What do we consider our fuel?

What do we shop for at the grocery store and put in our cart as the “best” we can do for ourselves and our families?

What do we consider a “once a year indulgence” and is it really worth it?

It’s interesting that my friend hears my voice in her head. Because I hear voices in my head (it’s healthy, I swear) from people in my past that have said similar things that have stuck with me.  A few that I think are worth sharing:

  • “Don’t focus on the number, (your weight, the weight on the bar, number of days, number of weeks you’ve been trying this) focus on the task at hand and conquer THAT.”
  • “If there’s a food or snack that you know isn’t all that healthy, why do you keep buying it?” (and if you say it’s for your kids, why isn’t their health as important as yours?)
  • “Not every occasion/get together/event is a reason to EAT something.”
  • “Start working out before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it.”
  • “If you’re tempted to eat that garbage food, think about how you felt the last time you ate it.” (Garbage in…garbage out)
  • “You’re not supposed to feel guilty if you screw up. Guilt is for criminals. You just made a poor choice. Choose wisely next time.”

And the most important voice…

“Sleep trumps all. So get plenty!”

 

 

 

4 Moves To Become a Morning Person

Ugh, Monday. What’s worse than Monday? Sunday night. Sunday evenings have always been the absolute worst for me for as long as I could remember. Back when I was a child, I would have the worst anxiety on Sunday nights. Pretty sure this caused me my insomnia that I had for decades.

But now? I LOVE Mondays. Not only that, but now I’m a morning person!

How does a night owl with anxiety become a Monday loving early morning riser?  Train for a marathon!  Okay, so that’s extreme. But honestly, that’s how the early mornings started for me. But for those that can’t just decide one day to train for a race, you can start an Early Morning Routine.

For most people, the mere ACT of getting up early IS their early morning routine. For those that have mastered turning off the snooze button, your next step is to MOVE. Out of the bed is preferable. For those who are super lazy, I suppose you can stay in your bed and do these moves but…yeah, you should probably roll onto the floor for these.

  1. Iron Cross
    If you can’t straighten your leg in the first picture, try bending one (or BOTH!) as pictured here.

    2. Glute/Hip Bridge

    Squeeze the glutes together at the top of the movement; hold it for a few seconds before lowering down.

    3. Bird Dog

    Alternate opposite arm and leg. The challenge is to keep the head, shoulders, back and hips all in alignment. Very challenging, especially first thing in the morning.

    4. “Sneaky” 30 Second Plank

    Rest for 10 Seconds; then Hold a Plank for 10 Seconds. Repeat 2 more times. Adds up to 30 seconds. Clever, eh?

    There you go. A simple Monday morning (or any morning) “Just Move” routine anyone can do by just rolling out of bed. There’s no mention of reps except for this last move because you can do as many or as little as you want. Enjoy!

 

Your Body Tells a Story

A wise person once said:

You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

If I AM a body and it is not something I have, then why or how could I possibly consider changing it?

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was also a statement I’ve been hearing these past few months.

I can’t help but agree.  I talk to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.”

Either:

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We don’t value our bodies at all and think ourselves unworthy.

Or:

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off and become completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies. We don’t understand how some people just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

 

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. How?

Simple: How you live your life through your body tells your story.

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, let’s pretend this is the 50’s and he lights up a cigarette after telling me this. That would be lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.

So how do we use our body to tell the truth?

I think the most obvious example, for me personally, is posting my progress pictures. (I know I’m in need of posting updated ones). But you’ll always notice I never even add so much as a filter to the pictures. I let it all hang out, I don’t do any re-touching. I merely admit that I get a spray tan to cover up some minor “flaws” that I’m honest about.

Other ways we tell lies and how to tell the truth:

You see someone at the gym using a piece of equipment completely incorrectly to the point that they are probably going to injure themselves or someone else. Lying with our bodies would be to say nothing and walk away knowing full well we know how to help them. (I am guilty of this).  Telling the truth would obviously going over and explaining what to do to that person so they won’t hurt themselves again.

(I avoid confrontation because I’m intimidated by people sometimes. If I took my own advice, I would see that I don’t need to be afraid to let someone know they are using their bodies to HARM or cause an injury.)

Or:

We see some good looking person at the gym and we want to show off a little bit. So we grab a set of heavier dumbbells (Men do this ALL the time, I am convinced) and lift just a little heavier than we normally do. We know we cannot and shouldn’t be lifting this heavy but we really want to catch someone’s attention. That’s lying with your body. Even if you manage to get a few reps out, you’re deceiving others by making it appear that you are stronger than you are.  Don’t be a hero Johnny. Stick to your usual weights.

With diet and food this is much easier to slip up and lie. How?

Let’s say you’re on a diet. Let’s say you actually signed up for sessions with a personal trainer. And let’s say you know that since your trainer/friends can’t see you every minute of the day, you take it upon yourself to sneak a few “cheats” in here and there. After all, no one will know! But you made a commitment to be true to yourself. To be true to your body and try to stick to this diet or this workout plan. And you know full well that “cheating,” even once in a while, is going to make your trainer look bad, it’s going to make you feel worse and it’s and not going to help your health. This is one of the more common “lies” we tell with our bodies. When asked, “Did you indulge this weekend at all?” and we answer, “Of course not! I was “good!” we lie right to our own faces/trainer/people who care about us and want us to succeed.  When it comes time to step on the scale, you can’t act surprised when it’s not where it should be.

 

Start to think of your body as more than just this “thing” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. It’s who you are.

You are telling a story every minute of the day with your body.

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

 

 

Running With The Rosary

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“The ROSARY is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Way to Inner Peace)

What does the Rosary have to do with running or fitness and why am I writing about it, you may be asking? Well, see I’ve had a problem for the past few months – I’ve been trying to find a way to blend two of my favorite things together – my faith AND my love of fitness. I have a co-worker, Val, who does an amazing job with this. She’ll have prayer cards that serve as motivation for her clients, she’ll recite scripture passages as they workout together, and she just exudes holiness and a Christ-like life thru her actions and her words. It’s very inspiring. There’s also a few brands/companies that have blended these two worlds together.

Some examples:

What Would Jesus Deadlift? They are all over social media, especially Instagram where followers take pictures of themselves in WWJD gear. (Of course, I’ve bought a two shirts myself as soon as I discovered them). From their website:

Have you ever finished your set and thought, What Would Jesus Deadlift? Wear this comfortable shirt at the gym to motivate you and those around you while you workout to meditate on what Jesus lifted. That weight on that cross was all of our sins, yours and mine. Just as Jesus picked up that cross, you can pick up that weight!

Our Vision: We are not here to just sell shirts and become rich. We are here to help send a message with this design. God has called us to challenge others to put some thought to “What Would Jesus Deadlift?” What does that mean? How does that relate to my fitness lifestyle? My spiritual journey? Am I taking what Jesus did on that cross for granted?

Think about it. Make others do the same.

Our Mission: We are here to give back. With every purchase you make, we make a local impact here in Fresno, CA as we reach out to others by giving them a free t-shirt, help with food, talking and ministering to others on “What Would Jesus Deadlift”. We hope you can be part of it!

PrayFit MinistriesThe mission of PrayFit Ministries is to help the collective church with humble, bodily stewardship, and to help those in the health & fitness industry toward a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

In The PrayFit Diet, NYT best selling author Jimmy Peña shows us how faith is the most powerful tool we have to conquer all of life’s obstacles, and that includes our health. More importantly, God wants you to be at your best, physically and spiritually. By combining perfectly proportioned meals with Biblically based motivation, The PrayFit Diet will give you all the tools you need to live a life that will both inspire you and honor the Lord.


So what about me?  I don’t have a clothing line…I’m not a best selling author….I’m not a professional figure competitor with a large following.

How can I use my faith to promote a healthy life and help others do the same?

At first, I started a separate blog – Nothing like separation of church and state right? I literally split the two worlds and just started more of a “faith-centered” blog called Fitting in Faith.

Well that’s all well and good but that doesn’t solve my problem of actually BLENDING the two.

But this morning, I discovered one small way during my long run.

I’m training for a marathon in October and I was scheduled to run 8 miles today. I started out listening to music from iPhone which I normally do to keep me motivated. To run in complete silence is definitely do-able but not ideal when you have a run longer than a couple miles.

Today, it was about 80 degrees during my run which means I probably felt like it was around 85-90 degrees. To say this was challenging would be an understatement.

After 3 miles in this time, I decided to try something different. I stopped the music and started my Rosary App. (Yes there’s a Rosary app, there’s an app for everything isn’t there?)

The app is pretty simple; it has simple graphics and an audio (voice) that goes through the entire rosary. You choose which “Mystery” you’d like to pray and just hit “play.”

I grabbed my Mom’s rosary that she had with her for the final years of her life while she fought lymphoma. It was a perfect way to pray a rosary because, as you can see from the picture, it fits right around your thumb!

I made it from mile 3 to mile 7 praying through the Luminous Mysteries as well as the Sorrowful Mysteries. Each Mystery takes about 25 minutes to pray through so for me, given how slow of a runner I am, that equated 2 miles.

The Pros:

I was actually able to meditate and pray without getting distracted too much. Anyone who knows their rosary knows getting distracted while reciting the same prayer over and over again is a common occurrence. But I think because I was actively moving (running, in this case) I was surprisingly able to stay focused.

The time it took to get through this sweaty run went by very quickly. While most of the time, listening to music DOES kinda get the blood flowing and the legs moving, it still seems like it takes FOREVER for me to complete my miles. This time, I felt motivated by the words being prayed. Kind of like a chant? Whatever it was, it helped pass the time.

The Cons:

Due to the heat and the fact that I didn’t have a water belt on me, I was SUPER thirsty. This was increased due to the fact that I was trying to SAY the Rosary out loud along with the app. Of course, even though I’m not that fast of a runner, I still couldn’t quite get the words out. So it was more of a breathless whisper instead of speaking out loud. But even just this whisper caused me to feel like I constantly needed water. I took a few walk breaks but I attempted to time them when I finished a decade which I found to be kind of a good “break.”

I think Running with the Rosary has some potential. But, I would probably be hesitant to promote it as the BEST way to pray it. I think any super Catholic would suggest that you should really be still and silent or at least in a chapel to pray the rosary “best.” But, for those who say they are too busy to pray or too busy to say a rosary, why not just say one Hail Mary while you’re running? And then if you feel like you can do more, add a few more. Then you might add more until you’ve said a whole decade.  My personal feeling is that as long as you show Mary her proper reverence and can get in a few rosaries while running, I think she would say, “Run with me! Just don’t run FROM me!” 🙂


For those who have no idea how to pray the rosary, or how to stay focused when distractions come up I have a few good resources listed here.

From: Understanding the Rosary – A Wake Up Call by Kat Franchino

Tiny Cheat Sheet: Rosary Edition

  • The word rosary itself is Latin and translates along the lines of “a garland of roses.” The story goes that St. Dominic developed the Rosary sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries after having a vision of the Virgin Mary, but prayer beads and cords were used way before St. Dominic’s vision.
  • The Rosary is divided into decades, with each decade starting with a mystery. A mystery is a short reading that focuses on an aspect of Jesus or Mary’s life, with the word mystery meaning “a truth of the faith.” Still a little baffled by that translation of mystery. There are three traditional mysteries (Joyful, Sorrow and Glorious mysteries), as well as the Luminous mysteries, added by Pope John Paul II in 2002. When praying a decade of the Rosary (the Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory Be and the Fatima prayer), Catholics meditate on that decade’s mystery.
  • The Rosary is said for a variety of reasons. We say it because of our devotion to Mary who intercedes on our behalf. Saying it gives us an opportunity to meditate on key moments in Jesus’ life. The Rosary also helps us become more intentional and thoughtful in our prayers.

From: The Beginner’s Guide to the Rosary

Offering Intentions

Practically everyone who prays the Rosary “offers” the Rosary to God and Our Lady for an intention. Some people offer particular intentions before each decade. You can ask God to grant you a favor, heal a sick person, or convert a sinner. Some people offer the same intention every day–sometimes for years on end–especially when asking the Father for the conversion of a particular person. Intentions are as varied as the people who pray.

Ask for big and small gifts. Be bold! In this sense, the Rosary is an exchange of gifts between friends.

It is widely known that Our Lady answers seemingly impossible intentions to those who are first beginning to pray the Rosary. This is her way of drawing you closer to Her and to Jesus. If you are praying your first Rosary, or returning to the Rosary after years of not talking to Our Lady, ask for something big, spectacular, “impossible.” She’ll often surprise you.

Put Down Your Phone and Pick Up A Book

A popular saying among fitness people and gym rats is, “Do you even lift?”  This is usually directed towards the male  population in a mocking tone to those boys who don’t take strength training too seriously.

But lately, I think the bigger question is, Do you even READ? Do you even do research? I’m not quite sure anyone does when it comes to working out. Why would they? Why would anyone when we have social media to instruct us on how to work out and eat and diet…and live. Right?

No..not so much. Books are still relevant, in my opinion. It’s still the best medium to get a message out there, and it’s especially useful for longevity. People need to refer, quickly, back to a resource. And what’s quicker than just flipping through a book? Yeah yeah, you could download a book to your electronic device but doesn’t anyone else just LOVE to hold a real book in their hands anymore? Plus, I LOVE to highlight in my books. And you can’t really do that on a Kindle. At least not the old fashioned way.

In an effort to get everyone back to reading the old fashioned way, and as way to keep myself from repeating myself a bazillion times on social media, I wanted to put together an easy way for my readers to see what I’m reading and what I recommend, especially when it comes to diet and fitness. Theres a ton of misleading information out there and I feel it’s important to share the relevant and well-researched information. Not just copying a workout you saw on YouTube. Let’s get back to really researching what works best and calling out those quick fix, hokey, quackery looking, scamming authors who just put out books to sell garbage and make a buck.

So without further ado, I present to you my Amazon.com Store! (I included an extra page at the top of my site as well as a link on the sidebar. And I’m including it here so you have no excuse not to give it a visit. What am I recommending?

Four categories:

Fitness Books

Diet and Healthy Living Books

Fitness Gear: All my favorite products that I own/use on myself and my clients

Miscellaneous Faith-Based Books: since my faith is huge part of who I am, I thought why not show you what I’ve been reading and what has changed my life

That’s it! Simple.

Also, if you missed my post about Periscope from last week, be sure to follow me if you are on Twitter (@fromfittofigure) and download the app. You will become quickly addicted, I promise! 🙂

 

-Michelle

 

An Apple Versus A Doughnut: How Science Helps Me Avoid Junk Food

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Back when I started studying to become certified as a Personal Trainer, I came across an article that sparked something in me.

Ever have that feeling? Have you ever read something or saw something or heard something that struck a chord in you or resonated with you in such a way that you never looked at anything the same way again?

Yeah, for me, with regards to junk food, it was this article.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I hate science. I’ve never had a knack for understanding science, math, chemistry, pretty much anything with numbers and letters. 😉 But food? I understand food.

So when I read this article, I remember thinking it was a tad too “science-y” and so I had to read it about 3 or 4 times to truly get it. For those of you who aren’t into this whole biology thing, I have summarized the main takeaways. My point with today’s post is that perhaps those of you who are addicted to things like donuts and all around crappy foods and can’t seem to stop, maybe if you READ or UNDERSTAND how these foods differ, you’ll be more likely to make the healthier choice.

  1. An apple contains good nutrients like Vitamin C but also has calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A and a healthy dose of potassium. An apple skin contains a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that reduces cardiovascular risk.  The flavonoids and phytochemicals that it contains seem to help fight against cancer. AND the skin contains lots of fiber, which helps to improve bowel function and reduced cholesterol absorption. Woohoo! Lots of good stuff right??
  2. A doughnut contains none of these nutrients.
  3. The doughnut is loaded with saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugar and is largely devoid of any nutritional value, other than energy, which it has in abundance.
  4. The digestion process of the doughnut is quite lengthier than the apple. Healthier fats generally are absorbed via the liver, whereas saturated and trans fats pass through the villi and are converted into triglycerides, the main form of fat storage in the body. They are also coated in cholesterol (from the liver) and hence the fats in a doughnut will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the good (HDL) component.
  5. Trans fats do even more damage. They have been shown to wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and massively increase your risk of heart disease. They also get into the outer lining of our cells, causing them to harden.
  6. We shouldn’t be too harsh on the doughnut, some of their trans-fat containing friends are deep fried foods, such as French fries, cakes, cookies, biscuits, some breads (especially croissants and pastries), processed foods (especially pies, sausage rolls etc), snack foods (potato chips, some muesli bars) and margarine.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t had a doughnut since reading this post back in 2008. But I can honestly say I know I have had 3 in the past 7 years. Why? When I was presented with the option of having one, I ALWAYS remember this article. Like I said in the beginning, it was one that resonated with me. Maybe it will make an impact with you or someone you know that you think MIGHT take Doughnut Sunday at church just a little too far. 😉

As for the progress that’s been made since this article came out, the USA has taken steps to ban trans fats in most foods so it’s not as popular as before. But you can bet not ALL those popular doughnut chains are trans-fat free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows companies to round down to 0 g in its nutrition facts label even if the food contains as much as 0.5 of a gram per serving. Some popular donut companies use the words “Trans Fat Free!” in their advertising legally even though they DO in fact, contain trans fats.

That’s just an FYI for you. I’m not the food police but trans fats are not something anyone should be eating on the regular. If you care about your body and your health, take the time to research what you’re eating.

In good health,

Michelle

P.S. I recently did a consult with a woman who found me through my other blog that has little to do with fitness. In case you wanted to read what truly matters to me, you can read my ramblings there too.