The Fire One and the Flower One

My daughter just watched her first full-length movie this week: Moana. She’s been watching the songs and clips on youtube for almost a year, so she’s very familiar with the characters and the music, but she hasn’t had the attention span to actually watch a movie until now.

My daughter has also been Going Through Some Stuff this week. The seasons are changing, I think she’s growing (she’s had a really hard time waking up in the mornings!) and she’s been extra clingy, with her teacher and with us–and then extra tantrumy when things don’t go her way, or when she has to share attention with other kids at school.

Trying to make sense of all of this has made me appreciate so much of what is wonderful and unique about Moana. We could write dozens of posts about what is good and not good about this movie (and others have), but for today’s purposes, I just want to focus on Te Ka and Te Fiti or, as my daughter calls them, “The Fire One” and “The Flower One.”

[OK, guys, Moana spoilers from here on out, but if you haven’t seen it yet by now I am not too worried about spoiling it for you]

When I saw the movie for the first time, I didn’t see it coming that Te Ka and Te Fiti were one and the same until just moments before it was revealed. I just was not expecting it, because it’s so fundamentally against the Disney MO! That the scary witch wasn’t just inherently evil and bad and needed to be killed, but that she had been injured and wronged, and she was hurt and sad and fucking angry about it (**ahem** if you’ve noticed in the meantime that Ursula, Maleficent, et al were almost universally powerful female rulers who had their power stolen from them, and were trying to get it back…?). And when someone (Moana) took the time to look at what was going on, and (crucially) amends were made, Te Ka recovered and transformed (back) into Te Fiti.

This was reassuring to my daughter in the most simplistic way while we watched the movie: The Fire One was scary, but then she turned into the Flower One. Imagine! A fairy tale resolved with healing, not with murder.

But it’s also been helpful this week, as we talk about her feelings and behavior. It’s been a rough one. There has been hitting, kicking, biting, pushing, screaming. And it has been so useful to be able to point to this image: that sometimes, when we’re scared or hurting or angry or confused, we are all The Fire One. And other times, when we’re well-nourished, well-loved, when we feel that we’re being seen and heard, we’re The Flower One. We’re still the same person. We’re not inherently bad or good. Sometimes we feel scared (and sometimes we act scary). Sometimes we’re at peace and better able to blossom. But that can (and does) change, back and forth, back and forth. And Moana’s greatest act of heroism is to see The Flower One through The Fire One, to help bring her back to herself–and to force those who wronged her to make amends. And so may we all.

Love to all my Fire Ones and Flower Ones out there…..

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My reading list for illness, death, and grief

Most readers of this blog will know that my dad died, unexpectedly and awfully, almost exactly a year and a half ago. Some of you may even read my other, semi-secret blog specifically about that experience (if that’s something you’re interested in reading and you don’t have access to it, just let me know).

In that time, I’ve read a lot about death and dying and grief (sometimes it’s felt like that’s the *only* thing I could read about!). Some of these have helped me to process and heal; others have helped me to wallow; others have been acutely painful, but made me feel less alone; some were just numbing or a distraction. Below is a list of my “top” recommendations for someone facing the death of a loved one. They’re in no particular order because there’s not really a meaningful ranking here. This is just as they occurred to me. Continue reading

On being outsmarted by a toddler, #metoo, and Hunger

Content warning: sexual harassment, assault, trauma, #metoo

This morning L. was playing with two little wooden animals, a fish and a gorilla. She told me the fish was afraid, because the gorilla was scary. Trying to create a teachable moment, I said, “Hm, maybe they just don’t know each other well enough yet. Maybe the fish could ask the gorilla a question?”

So she makes the fish say to the gorilla, “Hey, you scary? Yeah. OK.”

After I stopped laughing, I thought. (Everything she does makes me think.) My first instinct was to focus on the obvious and child-friendly lesson of “let’s not fear what we don’t understand, or people who don’t look like us. Let’s try to learn more and get to know each other.”

But in light of the inescapable #metoo zeitgeist this week, I recognized a different direction I could have taken–one that I totally missed in this moment: Continue reading

Resolutions–October Check-in!

Guys, it was summer and a lot happened! In many ways I’m feeling better about life all around, perhaps in part because I have now been on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication for about 3 months! That was not on my list of goals for the year, but hey, it’s good stuff. So, how are we doing on the list?

  1. Drink more water. Never!
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night. This got better for awhile, and now it’s getting worse again, for the silly reason that I have gotten totally absorbed in the Outlander series, and where I used to go to bed and read for like 15 minutes before fell asleep, I will now literally read for an hour and a half and not realize how much time has gone by. Not so healthy, but kind of…..charming? Enjoyable? To be so swept up in an escapist delight (though a weirdly, grossly homophobic one–not OK) that I forget to sleep. Feels like middle school. Except that I’m not 13 anymore. 
  3. Aim for 7. NOPE.
  4. Exercise 5 days per week. So! I’m doing this! Well, kind of. At the same time that I started my medication I committed to doing yoga videos every morning. And I do! OK, sometimes they are like 11 minutes long, and most of the time they do not even lead to breaking a sweat, so it’s not exactly *exercise*–but I’m stretching, working on balance, focusing on breathing, building strength in my wrists and ankles, thinkinging about posture, etc. It’s all better–a lot better!–than doing nothing. And the biggest surprise was that I *already had time for it*–I was just dicking around in the mornings. Ongoing, but I took the first big leap, and I’ve been keeping it up for close to three months now, so I’ll go ahead and say goal complete!
  5. Eat more vegetables. On the whole we’re doing OK. We grilled a LOT of vegetables (a lot of cauliflower, esp!) this summer, which was exciting. Right now L. is obssessed with frozen peas and corn, like, from your school lunch. So…that’s not the *best* vegetable option (actually, isn’t it a starch and a legume?) but we sure do have a lot of it around…Good enough/goal complete. 
  6. Be kinder to my spouse. Wasn’t there a goal on this list related to going out with my spouse? Why can’t I find it now? I have no idea. Anyway, we’ve been doing a somewhat decent job of getting out alone together somewhat regularly, with another fun date night on the near horizon.
  7. Be less rigid.
  8. Have more fun.
  9. Roll with the punches.
  10. Take the long view. Everything is temporary. Everything can change. Indeed, everything will change, whether I want it to or not. I think I’m seeing this manifest itself more and more in being willing to take baby steps on projects in life and around the house. I can be an obsessive completist, which means either I go overboard and stay up for 30 hours straight sorting books and can’t do anything else until it’s done, *or* if I have any doubt or hesitation about my ability to complete the whole job, I just procrastinate and don’t do it at all. Lately I have been able to tackle one or two unpacked boxes of books in an evening, stop at a reasonable hour, be satisfied, know that I’ll have to come back and do more tomorrow, but that I’m further along than I was yesterday. That’s pretty satisfying. On the other hand, with friends and family and stuff I’ve gone the other way: it was way too easy for awhile to think we’d have lots of time later, and for somehow five years to pass between seeing each other, because….life is long. Not anymore. I’ve gotten increasingly aggressive about trying to get folks together as frequently as possible. And I’ve never regretted it. 
  11. Take myself as seriously as I expect other people to take me (like, carry business cards and shit). This is always a challenge for me, but I’ve been feeling better about it lately. 
  12. But also take stuff in general less seriously.
  13. But also do not become complacent/paralyzed/apathetic re: the world/our nation/social justice. Hey I did the RESISTBOT re: the Cassidy-Graham Bill the other week and it was the first thing I’d done in months (besides the ongoing donations, which are in fact ongoing and do in fact count). This is one of those areas where routine makes all the difference. 
  14. Just keep grieving. Yes. Grief is a living thing. It comes and goes and rises and sinks and changes. I’d like to write another post on the books and media that I have found most valuable in the last 18 months of processing, some of the most important of which were just in the last few months. I *have* gotten to a point where I’m far enough away from the initial event that I can actually feel empathy for others again. I remember shortly after my dad’s death, I thought something like, ‘Well, if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that I’ll be more compassionate to others in the same boat.” I wasn’t.  For a long time. But I am now. 
  15. Pull my weight re: nurturing friendships; do my fair share of organizing, hosting, prodding, reaching out, reminding, and lowering the overhead as much as possible for busy people to spend good time together. I am so satisfied with progress on this front that I’m going to cross it off the list as goal achieved, even though I intend to continue on. Every week that we were in town this summer we invited people over for drinks in the evening. Sometimes no one came, a couple times lots of people came, most of the time 1-4 people came (which was perfect). As a result, I helped my friends get out of the house, and I spent real time talking and laughing with all the best people probably at least 8-10 times in the last 3 months. 
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly. Goal retired.
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house. I’m not even conscious of this anymore, which means that we’ve struck enough of a balance that it’s starting to become routine. It’s still a mix of actual homemade and semi-homemade, but overall we do ok. Goal achieved. 
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table. Guys! This is happening! We pretty much always eat dinner together now. And Liddie is even starting to help in the kitchen! It took time and for a long time she just wasn’t ready and I was impatient. But we’re getting there, and it’s delightful. On a good day, I actually sit down to eat and have a conversation (such as it is) with my kid at the table. Whoulda thunk this day would ever come? Goal achieved. 
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible. Things got better for awhile there in the summer but now that the school year has started up again this is hard. Will keep at it. 
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible. I have not kept up with this, and I need to. My grandma has been through tons of health trauma this summer, and is now in a nursing facility. I tried calling her several weeks ago and she didn’t answer. I sent her a postcard last week, and since I have three more work trips this fall, my plan is to send her one from each destination. That feels really insufficient, but I will do it nonetheless. 
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others) NOPE. GOAL RETIRED BECAUSE I NO LONGER CARE ABOUT THIS. 
  22. Blog more. Not lately. It’s OK–I don’t feel like I’m failing or anything. But there are a few things that have been percolating in my mind that I want to say. I’ll get to them some day. 
  23. Write more letters. Nope
  24. Make a weekend with Kelsey and Robyn happen.
  25. Visit my aunt and grandma in Denver .
  26. Get my high school girlfriends to Michigan for a visit. Goal achieved!
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation. It’s booked! Roma, here we come! 
  28. Make our bedroom a nice, warm, comfortable, functional, attractive, calming, intentional place to be, rather than the garbage pile where we hide everything that we don’t want anyone else to see. Paint. Window treatments. Closet. A bed. OK, we’re making virtually no progress on our bedroom, but instead, we’re making progress on the other upstairs room, which we want to convert into Liddie’s room, hopefully by the end of the year. So….goal changed. 
  29. Renovate our kitchen. NOPE.
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever YES, DONE, AND IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE! 
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hour. LOL 
  32. Fix our goddamn roof. YES DONE! And then we sprang leaks in other places and ultimately replaced our whole roof. (Sam even *mostly* fixed the ugly stains and bubbling paint where the leak was, but it needs a little more work to really be done)
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle. Not yet, but I’m actively working on this. I have asked for a bike for “Christmas”, by which I mean, make it my Christmas present, but I actually want to get it ASAP in order to ride while the weather is nice. The main thing here is that I’m startled by how expensive they are (I guess I shouldn’t have been but I’ve literally never bought a bike) and trying to wrap my head around how to get started. Suggestions? 
  34. Create playroom space in our basement. We made the space, but it weirdly turned out to be closer to a mancave than a child’s playroom, and in any case we’re not using it for anything yet, except that the cats throw up in there regularly. *shrug*
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie. No, but I’m very happy with the swimming practice and exposure she got this summer. Now that the outdoor pool in our neighborhood is closed, I think lessons in the winter would be a good idea to keep her acclimated and build some new skills.  
  36. Take Liddie ice skating. Not yet, but I think we could manage this in the last quarter of the year. 
  37. Help my mom move out of our family home. Ease this transition as much as possible with significant practical and emotional support, i.e. a substantial stay with her this spring.  Cry as much as needed. Do not withdraw, do not fail to show up for this. Goal achieved. 
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!! Goal achieved.
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes. Ongoing monthly donations to ACLU and PP. Renewed our children’s museum membership and Detroit Institute of Art membership. Soon we’ll renew our Detroit Zoo membership as well. I will go ahead and consider this achieved. 
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times. This has not panned out and I’m beginning to wonder how realistic it is, and how much I should push vs. back off. But I will continue to remain in contact via text and open to whatever possibilities might arise. 
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday. YES! Over the weekend Kelly, Mallory, and I went to East Lansing to see Fun Home–which I am still thinking about constantly–and enjoyed a sushi feast with tasty cocktails to boot. Good birthday. Alos, on my actual birthday, I told L. what day it was and completely unprompted she started singing to me, so, best present ever. Goal complete. 
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale. Done, though not as spectactularly successful as in years past. We made a dent in the stuff in the basement, and then the next day realized that we completely forgot to put out a stupid chair and lamp that are taking up a huge amount of space in the basement. I really, really don’t want to hold them till next year, so maybe we’ll just put them on the curb. Goal complete. 
  43. Go to the beach. Goal achieved
  44. Find a way that also works for spouse to regularly schedule to space and time to myself that does not involve staying up puttering until 1 a.m.: mental health days, Saturday mornings out, whatever. I have significantly improved my morning routine, and it helps a lot, though I still wouldn’t mind more organized time out to myself. 
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time. Seriously. I suck at this. Missed my credit card bill *again* last month. Why? Why? Why? 
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough. Nope. Has completely fallen off a cliff.
  47. See more movies in the theater. Enough movies that I’m not devastated every time I manage to go and it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I love going to the movies. It brings me joy and it is probably the number one thing that I used to do a lot of and now do practically none of. Not making a ton of progress here, but add Atomic Blonde to my previous screenings of Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman. (In short, I’m seeing movies in order of escalating female bad-ass-ness.) And I liked all of them, which is a much better track record than 2015 or 2016. Maybe I’m choosing more carefully. I’m really intrigued by what I’m hearing about Blade Runner 2049, so I think I’d like to make a point to see that. Next weekend we are also seeing Loving Vincent at the Detroit Film Theater, which should be an experience! So, this is ongoing, but with 3/3 positive movie going experiences and two more on the horizon I think I’ll go ahead and call it complete. 
  48. See at least one live theater performance. YUP–Fun Home, as above. I absolutely loved it and feel every human should see it. Was hoping to also take my mom to My Fair Lady at the Lyric Opera, but that didn’t quite work out. Will try to be more proactive about looking for more opportunities, but technically, goal complete. 
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree. Brought back an artificial tree from my mom’s house. I don’t think it’s that big, but at least we’ll definitely have a full size tree this year. And it was free, so that’s cool. I love decorating a Christmas tree, so looking forward to it. 

Three quarters of the way through the year, I have completed or made enough progress to feel like it counts, on 21 of 49–most of the concrete, actionable ones. Considering some of these things are impossible, vague, never ending, or badly defined, I think that’s not bad!

June Check in (or: oh shit, the year’s half gone)

Hey, it’s been awhile…let’s check in on ye olde resolutions.

  1. Drink more water. Still still still no.
  2. Sleep at least 6 hours per night. Still no. This is getting better-ish, though, as a few major committee obligations have wrapped up and everyone shifts gears into the generally more low-key summer pace of life. 
  3. Aim for 7. NOPE.
  4. Exercise 5 days per week. Absolutely no success here, until this weekend, when we walked to the pool and swam twice. Now, this was bobbing about in the shallow end, not laps or anything, but I did a lot of moving around this weekend, and it felt good. At a doctor’s appt a few weeks ago I expressed my concerns and dismay about this and she basically gave me absolution, like, if I’m not already doing this because it’s personally important to me, I need to be realistic about the fact that I’m probably not going to suddenly start going to the gym five days a week, and just focus on moving more, as much as I can. Feels like a cop out, but also feels like a relief to hear someone say, “look, you work full time, you have a two year old, don’t lie awake feeling guilty because you’re not following the generic universal guidelines for cardio.” That’s not to say that this is an excuse, or it’s impossible to do–of course many working parents run marathons (including some readers of this blog). But whatever. I’m not right now, and I can and should focus on smaller steps, and not get so overwhelmed and discouraged I abandon all hope. 
  5. Eat more vegetables. Keep this up OK, though my love affair with roasting is less appealing as it gets hotter and hotter in my a/c free house. Next step: get the grill out and working? 
  6. Be kinder to my spouse. Feels like this is going well lately. 
  7. Be less rigid.
  8. Have more fun.
  9. Roll with the punches.
  10. Take the long view. Everything is temporary. Everything can change. Indeed, everything will change, whether I want it to or not.
  11. Take myself as seriously as I expect other people to take me (like, carry business cards and shit). I still really struggle with OWNING my stuff, preferring to see myself as a marginal helper on everything that I’m responsible for. Think about that later. 
  12. But also take stuff in general less seriously.
  13. But also do not become complacent/paralyzed/apathetic re: the world/our nation/social justice. I’m glad I set up all those monthly donations because it means I’m contributing *something* to the overall good even as I’m doing shit all else–which, alas, does continue to be the case. 
  14. Just keep grieving. Getting over the one year mark was fascinating because because I felt, like, a physical weight lift. It’s not like it made everything go away–far from it–but it somehow felt like permission to have hold this at the top of everything in my mind and heart. The Victorians knew what they were about, maybe. 
  15. Pull my weight re: nurturing friendships; do my fair share of organizing, hosting, prodding, reaching out, reminding, and lowering the overhead as much as possible for busy people to spend good time together. Yeah! Starting last week we launched Welzillian Wednesdays, open cocktails/snacks on our back patio on Wednesday evenings after L goes to bed. Now, we’ll just wait and see if anyone shows. 
  16. Participate in the weekly Sunday night potluck dinner organized by a former neighbor at least quarterly. Aim for monthly. Goal retired.
  17. Cook more real food for dinner at my house. Doing OK–probably 2-3 properly homemade meals per workweek, mixed in with 1-2 more semi-homemade/prepared dishes. As the weather gets warmer we eat lots more salads, and experiment with interesting ones, which is good all around and always feels like an easy, low-prep meal except for all the goddamn chopping. 
  18. Eat dinner as a family, at the table. Last time I checked in on these I was happy to abandon this goal–just for this brief stage of life– in favor of a relaxing evening enjoying my dinner. But now that she’s getting older and the days are getting longer (at this time of the year in Michigan it’s like until like 9:30) she’s staying up later. I think SK would like us to use this to eat together more. But from my POV, it’s still just as difficult to prep food and simultaneously chase her, and we still wind up having to leave half eaten food on the table when she can’t make it through the meal. It doesn’t solve any of the problems, just means we can’t eat until like 9 p.m. I’m feeling very protective of my extremely limited time to just chill and eat, the summer transition is becoming a problem for me. 
  19. Make time to speak with my mom at least weekly, more if possible. Yeah.
  20. Make time to speak to my aunt and my grandma at least monthly, more if possible. I haven’t kept up well with this. My grandma is now in the hospital post-surgery and my aunt is totally drained from care-taking, so I need to step up here. 
  21. Curtail Facebook usage (unless actually writing meaningful messages to the above or others) NOPE.
  22. Blog more. Meh. I guess monthly re-hashes are better than nothing? 
  23. Write more letters. Not yet. But my desk is all set up with my stamps and my address book and everything! 
  24. Make a weekend with Kelsey and Robyn happen.
  25. Visit my aunt and grandma in Denver .
  26. Get my high school girlfriends to Michigan for a visit. It’s booked!
  27. Take one awesome, adventurous, ambitious family vacation. It’s booked! Roma, here we come! 
  28. Make our bedroom a nice, warm, comfortable, functional, attractive, calming, intentional place to be, rather than the garbage pile where we hide everything that we don’t want anyone else to see. Paint. Window treatments. Closet. A bed. OK, as of like a week ago our bed is finally finished being built/hacked (it has a storage headboard that mounts to the wall, but we had to cut some rather ugly notches into it to fit around a windowsill. It’s IKEA, it’s fine). It’s super functional and having this done is prompting us forward…..slowly. 
  29. Renovate our kitchen. NOPE.
  30. Establish a personal desk/table/corner/space for my crafts/personal projects/special off-limits pens/whatever YES, DONE, AND IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE! 
  31. When not on vacation/sick/out of the office, respond to email within 48 hour. LOL 
  32. Fix our goddamn roof. YES DONE! (Now just to fix/clean up the interior wall/ceiling that got all fucked up from the water)
  33. Obtain access to a functional and comfortable bicycle. NOPE
  34. Create playroom space in our basement. NOPE
  35. Swimming lessons for Liddie. NOPE, but we have taken her to the pool and she LOVES it, and we’re working on going underwater, kicking her feet, etc. I know that proper swimming lessons would be a really, really good idea, too, but I feel like we are taking big steps to get her comfortable and safe in the water. 
  36. Take Liddie ice skating. NOPE
  37. Help my mom move out of our family home. Ease this transition as much as possible with significant practical and emotional support, i.e. a substantial stay with her this spring.  Cry as much as needed. Do not withdraw, do not fail to show up for this. I’ve made three weekend trips in favor of this cause already. This weekend is *finally* the “real” move, and I wasn’t going to go because she had other help lined up, but that has fallen through for various awful emergency reasons, so now I’m trying to see if I can….
  38. Cruise on my brother’s schooner!!! Booked for Labor Day weekend!
  39. Make regular donations to worthy causes. Ongoing.
  40. Visit with Liddie’s birthmother in person at least once. Aim for three times. We have had some contact via text and agreed to a plan, but have yet to schedule it–I think this will be the hard part…
  41. Do something fun on purpose for my birthday. YES! Over the weekend Kelly, Mallory, and I went to East Lansing to see Fun Home–which I am still thinking about constantly–and enjoyed a sushi feast with tasty cocktails to boot. Good birthday. Alos, on my actual birthday, I told L. what day it was and completely unprompted she started singing to me, so, best present ever. Goal complete. 
  42. Participate in the neighborhood yard sale. Done, though not as spectactularly successful as in years past. We made a dent in the stuff in the basement, and then the next day realized that we completely forgot to put out a stupid chair and lamp that are taking up a huge amount of space in the basement. I really, really don’t want to hold them till next year, so maybe we’ll just put them on the curb. Goal complete. 
  43. Go to the beach. House booked for family beach vacation the weekend before July 4. 
  44. Find a way that also works for spouse to regularly schedule to space and time to myself that does not involve staying up puttering until 1 a.m.: mental health days, Saturday mornings out, whatever. This has stagnated and it shows…. 
  45. Set up auto-pay or reminders as appropriate to pay all bills on time. This really remains more of an issue than it should be. 
  46. Clean house more consistently. Sweep, vacuum and bathrooms weekly, that would be  a significant improvement and good enough. Nope. Has completely fallen off a cliff.
  47. See more movies in the theater. Enough movies that I’m not devastated every time I manage to go and it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I love going to the movies. It brings me joy and it is probably the number one thing that I used to do a lot of and now do practically none of. Saw Wonder Woman, which  makes….two movies in a theater so far this year? At least I liked both of them, which is a lot of progress over 2016. 
  48. See at least one live theater performance. YUP–Fun Home, as above. I absolutely loved it and feel every human should see it. Was hoping to also take my mom to My Fair Lady at the Lyric Opera, but that didn’t quite work out. Will try to be more proactive about looking for more opportunities, but technically, goal complete. 
  49. Have a big-ass Christmas tree. Brought back an artificial tree from my mom’s house. I don’t think it’s that big, but at least we’ll definitely have a full size tree this year. And it was free, so that’s cool. I love decorating a Christmas tree, so looking forward to it. 

Almost halfway through the year, I’ve made progress on many. 8/49 are fully completed. Many more than that have significant progress, or are open-ended in such a way that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to call them done. Tolerable.