Detroit: Week One

712 miles later, here I am! Snuggled in a corner in my temporary bedroom writing back to all you lovely readers!  It feels like such a blur, and I’ve been on quite the emotional roller coaster, but here’s a few updates about the D and what all God has done since being here!

Housing:

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Well, funny story. It wasn’t really working out budget wise with the girls I had hoped to live with (Royal Oak houses are all bungalows which make splitting rent so bizarre). While I did want to live with them because they were super sweet and fun, financially it just wasn’t possible. Anna and Andy Dwyer (a staff couple on my team who are SO close to finishing their initial support) offered for me to live with them until I found housing, or for the year, whatever. I kept saying the “thank you for the offer” thing until I realized they were serious and I was running out of options. So, here I am! I’m living with the Dwyers + pups until God opens up another door. There’s a door wide open in February, but I have to decide if I want to live in the burbs or the city. :) I’m thinking city. #wheninrome

Team:

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Can I just say I have the best team in the whole wide universe? Not only is one staff couple all “live with us and share our space” but every single person (or couple) on my staff team has called or texted me to invite me to something or has come over to visit. Every one of them. Shoot dog. Talk about feeling pursued and cared for on a team. It’s so needed right now, and I love it.

Ministry:

This week we are going (oh, y’all bless it. I don’t know where we’re going…) somewhere to have a staff retreat and next week we start staff planning for the semester! Wahoo! I’m glad there’s been a little time to adjust without jumping in head first. That would not have been good for me.

While campus ministry hasn’t started, I have been encouraged to see God open up doors to spiritual conversation in the normal things. About a week ago I went to get my oil changed and a man walked in asking for directions then kept talking, and talking, and talking. Somehow he pulled me into the conversation and then brought up something about church and God. So, I began asking a few questions and then the guy at the counter jumps in with his thoughts too. Before we know it, we’re in a conversation about what really makes a person “good” before the Lord. He begins to explain how he’s always been told he isn’t good enough for God and that he’s going to hell. I shared with him the truth of that-that we’re all not good enough and because of our sin we deserve separation from God BUT. God makes us righteous when we put our trust in Him. It’s not us centered. It’s Christ alone who gives us access to the father and who makes us “good enough”. So that was cool! A spiritual conversation and clear proclamation of the gospel in an oil change shop. Haha. I feel so rugged. So Detroit.

Other random things:

My heart was and is still so full from getting to hang with the CalChatt. team while they were in Detroit. It was fun getting to see people I knew, but incredibly sad knowing when they left they went back to a city that I love with a love that overflows from God and community that I so desperately miss. My best friend Elaina said, “It’s okay to grieve the loss of Chatt., but we as believers grieve with hope.” <— that’s why she’s my bestie.

I talked to a good friend Maggie the night they left and we both realized this is the first time I’ve done life without an end point in a long time (close to 15 years). When we moved to Chicago, I knew I would only be there until my high school graduation. College=4 years, but you know five years was fine too. STINT in Senegal=2 year time commitment. Joining staff=however long it took to raise that initial support and then go to my first assignment. This is the first year I don’t have a time cap on life. And that’s very overwhelming. Will God provide sweet community with a church? Will I have that fun friend group of people my age that love Jesus? In faith I say “YES He will,” and He has with my team!

And… I think that’s about it for this update! Prayer points would be: wisdom on housing, for our staff retreat and staff planning week, for community and a church home and…. I think that’s it! :)

Thanks for reading ALL of this.

In Which I Was A Nomad

Wow! Y’all, this season of life is hot, hectic and even when I’m sitting still it feels as though I’m on a moving walk way. 3097 miles, 10 states, 5 time zones, 3 countries and 8 flights in three and a half months will do that to you.

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Sometimes, okay oftentimes, I wish I was a princess and could just snap my fingers to make this move and transition easier. I would have all my belongings that majorly outweigh the space allotted inside my 2001 Honda Accord arrive safely to Detroit. I’d make finding a place to rent less of a complicated matter (really, you need my credit score? Invasive.). But hashtag ADULT LIFE, if Kate Middleton can’t even get a princess title and she’s married to a real life prince, then I suppose the commoner road is the one I must travel. [Sidenote: it is unjust, Kate. I support you.]

So, that’s enough real talk of my exhaustion and subtle frustration over the fact that I have many things when I need little and have little when I need many… Let’s talk about MY EXCITEMENT.

MemphisRenting: PROS: I get to stay somewhere for one year. Not one, 10 month STINT year that goes between countries, one full 12 month year. Praise Jesus! And, if me and my roommates like the living situation we can live there longer. Ministry partner development is amazingly good for my heart and my growth in the Lord, but a year of travel from location to location pursuing people constantly (without being deeply rooted somewhere) is exhausting. I am excited to have roommates, find a church community, get to know my team, and start adult life in America.

Detroit

Detroit: PROS: I LOVE DETROIT. I don’t know why. I can’t wait to start exploring and trying new foods, winter sports, and living in a big city with not as much traffic. I am excited for metro living. Call me big city. Just kidding, don’t do that.

Ministry: Our staff conference was good for my heart. It was good for my prayer life. It was good to be around people who are on the same mission and feel the freedom to dream with one another about what God could do in us, through us and among the nations. I love those people that you can talk about the realities of where things are, celebrate what God has done, and talk about improvements/faith steps that can be taken. It gives no room for complacency and ignites a fire that community gets to fan. It almost feels like a locker room rally. I don’t sport, so I am not positive that it’s like that, but thats how I feel so we’ll go with it.

I’m excited to walk with Jesus and see Him grow me, stretch me, and use me. I’m excited to be on a team of people who are so wonderful. I’m excited to serve them and learn from them as we co-labor alongside of each other for Detroit and for the nations.

Here’s to a safe 712 miles to Detroit that begin tomorrow. And to new beginnings letting my roots grow deep in a city that God loves immensely.

Thanks for riding this ride with me.

Sincerely, your American turned African turned Detroit-ian Princess

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My Declaration of Love for Dirt Cheap

Dear Dirt Cheap,

Your name made me think, “Probably not interested.” Even as I stepped through your doors, I thought, “Chaos. This is total chaos.” I pressed on in spite of my initial overwhelmed heart in search of something I have a definite immediate need for: towels. As I strolled through your aisles I became more and more impressed. All brand new items at 60% off or more? What is this place?

Are those Target office supplies for 60% off?  A Target shower curtain for $5? Wait, oh those winter tights are .25 a piece? Is that a new down comforter sold normally at $299+ for $50?!

I cannot express to you enough how deeply wrong I was about you. I was proud. And prejudice. You have made my transition into adulthood so much less stressful, and for that I am ever thankful. I believe I can now. And it’s all thanks to you.

Even though I didn’t walk out with what I was looking for (towels), I am so incandescently happy.

Yours only when I’m in Memphis,

Mary

BUT FOR REAL THOUGH.

Memphis and Mississippi friends: check out Dirt Cheap. It’s all brand new home goods, clothes, tools, etc that stores like Target, Bed, Bath + Beyond, Kohls, and other stores couldn’t sell. And it’s marked down something ridiculous. $98 total bought me a wall decal/chalkboard from Target, 4 pairs of winter tights, a down comforter, a rug, one shower curtain, two bars of all natural soap, a desk divider/organizer, a window curtain panel, and one large bed pillow. How does that even happen?

Here’s some pictures of a few of the items I purchased that I’m in love with:

Isn't it rustic dreamy?  $4.
Isn’t it rustic dreamy? $4. Ignore the chaos around it. Everything I own is in boxes and bags all over the place.
The Threshold desk organizer. I have a brass wire 2 drawer organizer that sits on a desk, BUT I can't put anything small on it because the wire's so big it falls through. Problem solved! $2.70 for this.
The Threshold desk organizer. I have a brass wire 2 drawer organizer that sits on a desk, BUT I can’t put anything small on it because the wire’s so big it falls through. Problem solved! $2.70 for this.
It's a sheer window panel. This one's gonna take a little work. There wasn't a second match to this, so I'm going to cut it in half and cut the previously mentioned shower curtain in half and have 1/4 sheer pattern and 3/4 white curtains on my window. :) This panel was $5.
It’s a sheer window panel. This one’s gonna take a little work. There wasn’t a second match to this, so I’m going to cut it in half and cut the previously mentioned shower curtain in half and have 1/4 sheer pattern and 3/4 white curtains on my window. :) This panel was $5.
board
So, this is my 2nd favorite purchase. It’s a stand up (or hang up) wooden chalk board with a ceramic vase attached for pens, which I’ll be using for fake flowers. ;) I want to write a monthly word of encouragement, verse, quote or prayer and use that to help me refocus. I love the possibilities with this one. $15

What’s been going on?

I am sorry I’ve taken a blog break without telling you. It wasn’t you; it was me. Scouts honor. Trying to finish up my initial partnership team, briefing, two weeks in Detroit, 6 weeks in Senegal, and then almost 2 weeks recovering from some kind of bacterial infection has made me a little… busy? But I’m back and ready to dive into LIFE with you. So let’s start with the latest.

I just arrived in Memphis a few days ago to pack up the rest of my things that are at my sister’s house so that I can move to Detroit permanently after our staff conference. Annnndddd I’m also here to see my new niece! Yay! My sister had a serious complication during Evelyn’s birth that really had our whole family scared. One nurse fought for the doctors to check on her, which ended up saving her life. My sister is one of my best friends. I tell her everything, pretty much. I know that nurse will never read this, but thank you to that nurse that followed her instincts and fought for the benefit of the patient. You da bomb, girlfriend.  I’d never be the same person without my T.

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And Evelyn, she’s great. BEAUTIFUL. And sleepy. I’ve never been around infants much, so my assessment is that they sleep and grunt a lot. But they sure are cute and smell good!

Evelyn

Summer Mission was…

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challenging, rewarding and not at all like I had expected. It’s funny that it wasn’t how I expected since I lived there for two years and hosted short-term teams a lot. It was a shift from STINT where my direct ministry was Senegalese students to my ministry being mostly on helping American students grow in their faith and win others to Christ. It was great because I got to see a lot of fruit! I got to see a lot of the girls grow in their walks, fall more in love with Jesus, and have their hearts yearn for God’s glory to be displayed among the nations. Super great. :)

What’s next…

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Tomorrow I’m heading out to Colorado for our National Staff Conference, #Cru15. We’ll be there for 10 days doing, well… I’m not exactly sure. Conferencing. ;) I’m super excited to see my Detroit team, New Staff Training friends and Mid-South Cru! :) I’m sure it’s going to be a great time of growth and unity. I’ll let you know how it was in a few weeks.

After I get back from #Cru15, I’ll be in Memphis a few days to say goodbye to family + ministry partners and begin the trek up to Detroit to look for housing. We start back up with planning and campus move-ins in August, so this is going to be a fast paced season. Much prayer is needed, so thanks in advance for praying.

Until next time friends!

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In which a spider reminded me of the battle…

I hate spiders, so much to my dismay when I saw one the size of a nickel navigating it’s way across my den’s ceiling with Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible-esque stealth during my time with the Lord, I freaked out. I gasped and told Tucker (a cocker spaniel), “Ew! Look! He’s huge!”  I jumped up and thought many a thoughts, most of which were, “Lauren just got back from camping; that’s a wilderness spider which means it’s more likely to be poisonous [not true]; it’s going to attack me now or when I’m asleep.”  All highly rational thoughts…

Fight or flight, baby. 

I stood up and thought, “This has gone poorly for me before, but I have to do something!” How many of you have ever tried to kill a bug on the ceiling? How many of you also know from experience that doing so is almost always like painting a ceiling? You end up with it on your face. There ain’t no way in Satan’s promised land that I’m allowing a spider to fall anywhere near my face. I hastily grabbed the closest thing that could spray him to his impending death. That thing was Lauren’s Off brand bug spray. It repells them right? So if I just douse it in spray, he’ll die right? RIGHT.

Beyoncé’s Drunk In Love had nothing on that spider. Drunk on insecticides was what he was singing. He got near enough to the ground, hanging by a thread [literally] and I knocked him with my sisters shoe to the ground and stepped on him. Naturally, my 4″ wedges were available to get him real good, but why use my shoes when I can use hers? [Sorry not sorry, Lo.]

As I sat back down, obviously super enthralled with myself that I just made that mission impossible for him, I thought, “man, what if that were how I interacted with sin in my heart and in my life?”

I recently began a John Piper sermon on suffering with Christ and had to stop it 20 minutes in because REAL TALK: It’s John Piper. I could spend a year reflecting on one 55 minute long sermon about my wicked and deceitful self in light of God’s glory. But the first 20 minutes of that sermon where on the “if you’re continuing in the faith…” John Piper talked about how we can know if we’re continuing in the faith by asking ourselves, “Do we hate our sin? Have we made peace with it or are we actively trying to kill our sin in faith and power of the Holy Spirit?”

I wrestled with that idea this morning because I’ve seen a few sin issues pop up in my heart: unforgiveness, comparison, people pleasing which is idolatry. And can I confess something? I haven’t sought an ounce as hard to put to death some of those “prettier sins” like I killed that spider earlier today. And you know what? That’s ugly.

That’s allowing the deceitfulness of sin to creep into my life and not take a stand against evil, darkness, and welcoming strain in my relationship with God. Hashtag ew. I, as a child of God, am to live redeemed, free from the bondage of sin. I am called to forsake my desires and ask God to fill me with His. I am to love my enemies, forgive graciously and abundantly when wronged. I am to walk in and out of everyday by His power and His Spirit. I am called to put to death the things of the flesh and shed light on sin because it has no place in God’s holy, righteous and glorious kingdom. Allowing it room in the corner of my heart to grow is submitting again to a yoke of slavery. And performance/people pleasing has got to be the heaviest yoke of all people.

I sat back down and continued journaling thanking God for that illustration (sorry PETA), confessing sin and asking God to help spur me on in continuing with him in the faith. Luckily, God has me in the book of Hebrews this season so I got a good scare (LOLZ) and really good application on how I can continue to be spurred on in my walk with him. I made a list of things I read today that I want to dive into in order to understand and know God more. Here’s that list!

  • Learn more about God through studying the life of Jesus. Hebrews 1:3, “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
  • Ask God to reveal where I have drifted in my heart from the foundational truths of the gospel and preach the gospel to myself daily. Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we must pay close attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”
  • Submit all things under His lordship so that He can get glory and I can experience deeper trust in Him and greater freedom knowing He is in control. Hebrews 2:8, “…now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”
  • Ask God to search my heart to see where I am not trusting or believing God for His promises. Hebrews 3:12, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an unbelieving heart.”
  • Abide in the word and allow it to pierce my heart where needed; it is living and active. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • Learn more about suffering and temptations of Christ to see better a Great High Priest who sympathizes with me and offers mercy and grace in my time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

That’s about it! Remembering that the battle against the flesh and sin will be until the day I die. It’s kind of a bummer knowing that the struggle is real, but it’s also kind of hopeful knowing who is on my side and that Christ partners with us. Putting to death sin cannot be done in my own strength. He gives us the Holy Spirit and the body to help us in combat. And for that I am thankful.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

MOO Business Cards

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I was sitting in a meeting with about 23 professionals this week when I realized, “Oh, this is real life networking, and I probably should have business cards for this.” #Millenials #LinkedInWasMyBusinessCard.

I had some down time today after speaking at group meeting and decided to finally get those business cards made. I wanted something eye-catching, yet professional and gave the rustic-industrial feel to Detroit. I landed upon Moo.com’s website {sidenote: Why is it called Moo?}. They have a very large selection of fun designs and a ton of do-it-yourself options.

I chose to order 200 square business cards in the Frame It design. Here’s what I like about these designs: most come with different options for the back, so you’re essentially getting more than one design per pack. For example… I ordered one pack and was able to choose from five designs in the Frame It design. I could have 40 of each, or I could delete two designs and have 60 something of each three designs. Here’s the options I had:

I picked 2, 3, and 5.
I picked 2, 3, and 5.

Also, I really like that you can change the text layout for the front of your cards look however you want it to. Here’s a screenshot of some of the options I had:

You can change the font, size, color, background color, add a picture. There's a ton of variation that's doable.
You can change the font, size, color, background color, add a picture. There’s a ton of variation that’s doable.

For level of ease on Moo.com, I would give it a 9. There were a few kinks in regards to being able to position in my own photos and wishing there were more options, but overall it was super simple and easy to use.

Options: 10++++. Really, really great options.

Pricing: 6.5? It was a little on the high side for me, and there are not too many valid promo codes for Moo.com online to help with that. It ultimately became worth it because they were memorable. Really, who has a square business card? So unique! I did get a first time customer discount. With your first purchase, you save 10% on your order. You can click here to get that discount

I’ll let you know how I feel about them once they are here on March 2nd, ish.

Southern Style Snowstorms and 10 Silly Things “We” Do

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Winter Storm Warning Season is upon us all which means family bonding time/trying not to kill each other, making creative dinners from whatever you can find in your pantry, and preparing for the icy road conditions. Now, I know all the “Northern Folk” are like, “Y’all oops, YOUS GUYS get two inches of snow and people are stranded in Atlanta for days…” Okay yous guys, that happened ONE TIME. I decided today to write a little blog about some amusing things I saw while grocery shopping in Memphis in preparation for tonight’s winter storm that will more than likely leave me on house arrest for a few days. Thanks to some Facebook friends for sending in some of their winter weather preparation traditions.

1. Where are all the shopping carts?

And they were wet.
And they were wet.

Is this for real? I love that everyone in our neighborhood hit the store all at the same time. Now, I’m just gonna say… I cannot judge on this one. I’m a horrible planner. Going to the store last night was an option. I could have beat the crowds, but ew. Who wants to carve out time in advance when you can let the anticipation build and go one hour before the storm is supposed to start? Live life on the edge, folks…

2. “Grab the bread and milk!”

This will be about 95% of our responses, unless you have a gluten allergy + lactose problem. I’ve seen so many “milk sandwiches” jokes on Facebook, but maybe this is my 22% Northern-ness speaking, I don’t get it. As I was telling my mom about this blog she said, “Make sure you have milk and bread!”

PhotoFromZeroHedge.Com

I forgot to get a picture at the Kroger of the bread aisle, but this is pretty much what the Wonder Bread section looked like. Thanks ZeroHedge.com for the picture!

3. No need for real food, just grab the Little Debbies.

Here’s your contrast. Now, I’m not a food snob. I love Ho-Hos just as much as the next girl, but this was just too funny! Is it anyone else’s tradition too to stock up on clementines too when a snow storm comes through? We’ve always done that, but I refrained this time.

I need to buy Little Debbie stocks in November and sell them in April. Every year.
I need to buy Little Debbie stocks in November and sell them in April. Every year.
When all other food runs out, rest assured. You can always eat your veggies!
When all other food runs out, rest assured. You can always eat your veggies!

4. Grab the clothes hamper, kayak (or if you’re real fancy you’ll have a sled) and prepare to hit the snow/ice! (Thanks Ivorie!)

I’ve never owned a sled (ahem, birthday present idea) and I’ve only been sledding twice. Once in a neighbors backyard and once in Chicago at an actual hill built for sledding. Maury, Aimee and I (California Ave. girls) hit the slope* with a kayak when we were stuck in the house for a week! Luckily, there was plenty of snow and a Save-A-Lot down the road to buy clementines.

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5. Help your neighbors out by clearing the roads with your four wheeler.

Let me just add, salt trucks and snow plows don’t go down the majority of our roads. So, once the sun comes out and melts a lot of the snow, overnight it turns into sheets of ice. Mix that with roads that get little sunlight due to hills/mountains, and windy roads, and you’re in for a pretty dangerous combination of black ice and snow.

Thank you to the guy who rides up and down our road in Memphis (which is a city, y’all) with his four wheeler to ensure our roads are clear.

6. “Oh? It’s going to snow next week? Schools cancelled.” (Thanks Jules!)

“They cancel school because of the possibility of inclement weather.”- Lauren, 6th grade teacher.

SouthernSnow
My cousin is cool.

I like this one a lot. My first year in Illinois it snowed ( I say 4 feet my sister remembers it being 12”), let’s just say it snowed a lot and we still had school… on time! Have you no heart Cook County superintendents? Here we have the opposite problem. We think there’s gonna be snow and we live by the motto (on this one, only) better safe than sorry! Snow days for daysss….

7. Help the little ole ladies with the hair caps at the grocery. 

My Nina used to to get her hair permed and whenever she would go outside in the rain, she’d put one of these caps on to protect her hair. Now, you know if you live in the south you see this. And they are precious. And the more precious thing, the staff at the groceries help them load their groceries in their car.

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8. Spy on the neighbors and judge them when they do things like…

Scrape the ice/snow off their windshield with metal spatulas…

Spell their name in the snow…

Don’t let their dogs inside (this may or may not have been why we “rescued” our neighbors dog and then they knocked on our door to ask for him back…)

Scrape their windshields with a CD case… (TRUE STORY)

Hang their recently shot & skinned deer from their carport since it’s pretty much a freezer outside anyway (also true story)

9. Prepare like it’s the apocalypse. 

Snow’s coming, and heaven forbid it’s like the ice storm of ’94. Everyone remembers that ice storm. In ’94, I was six years old and we lived in a two story home in Memphis. I remember waking up to a loud thud and the oak tree had fallen in between our house and our neighbors and crushed our fence. Mom says it missed our house; dad says it fell on the house. I can’t remember. Branches were falling all over the city due to the weight of the ice, so nearly the whole city was without power. We lost electricity too and one of the only places around us that had it’s own generator was my mom’s office. So, we packed up our bags and slept at my mom’s office for a few days.

Here’s a few survival skills from some friends on Facebook (Thanks Marty and Sharon!):

Have plenty of candles and matches, make sure all your blankets are clean (no dog smells please), salt the driveway, park on the street, get vanilla extract for snow creme (I have yet to try this), get extra animal food, get gas (oops!), make sure your flashlights/lanterns have batteries, stock up on chocolate… and for the love of everything millennial, charge your electronics (Thanks for the reminder Catherine!!).

10. Have so much fun in your 12” or less of snow and celebrate that you have a day off! 

It’s not often that we get to play in the snow, so enjoy it while you can! Take it as an enforced pause in life and enjoy the stillness. And really, is there anything more beautiful than the countryside covered in snow? I heart you East Tennessee.

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**As per Andy H.’s request I need to put a disclaimer on this blog. I 100% claim to be a southerner. I might not be Alabama southerner (you know the chevron, monogramed and Simply Southern ladies, LOVE them), but to simplify my already woefully complicated life, I claim the title. I dread the question, “So, where are you from?” in group encounters and skirt around it and want to just say, “I’m a mud blood, but I claim Tennessee.”  So, just so all the pure breeds know, I claim you as my own. Sorry Illinois, you’ll get ’em next time. And Sorry Senegal, I clearly don’t look like I belong to you either.