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Entries in family (16)

Tuesday
Sep232014

A Trip to See Sariah | Quilting Week Madness

I'm kidding with the title above. There is really nothing 'wild or crazy' about quilting. I couldn't make quilting exciting if I tried, but for those of you who quilt, then you'll know how thrilled I was to be able to spend six days at Sariah's learning her techniques.

In return, I showed her a thing or two about upholstery, sewing with home-decor-weight fabric, and how to cut and work with foam. It was a win-win situation.

A trip to see my sister, means a trip to see her three wee kids as well: Phoebe, Warren, and Kimball.

Phoebe, the eldest, is now eleven.

Kimball is 10 and I think he will soon be taller than me. Growing like a weed I tell ya.

And Warren, her "baby" is now eight. Who told these kids they could grow up like this?

Sariah also showed me her mad embroidery skills and gave me pointers on starting my own projects.

Quilting, embroidery, oh and I forgot to bring my sewing glasses on the trip so I squinted the whole time.

I can call myself old now, right? I just said quilting, embroidery, and sewing glasses in the same sentence...

Ugh.

One quilt for Cora. One quilt for Lyra.

The beginning of ships wheels to be appliquéd onto each quilt.

When your children ask you when they'll ever need to use math in the 'real world,' tell them, when you quilt, darling, when you quilt.

Now you can see the ship's wheel a little more clearly.

There was something infinitely satisfying about stacks and stacks of perfectly cut 2.5"x2.5" squares of fabric. 

Hmmmhmmm fabric. I could sleep surrounded by fabric and dream happy, cottony dreams all the night long.

If you have OCD, you may want to take up quilting. I can't tell you what a stress reliever it is to line up tiny fabric squares, sew them all together, and see the beauty they become when you make them all one.

It just needed a kick to show my excitement.

An assortment of beverages and stimulants to keep things productive.

Rawr!

Beautimus. Beautimus! In case you are wondering, the fabric is from Sarah Jane's Out to Sea line.

The quilts are about 75% done. That means that, woe is me, I'll have to fly back to Sariah's another time to finish them. It's a rough life, I tell you.

While we were there, I also worked on a thank you project for Sariah. You know, as a way to say thank you for everything she did for us during and after the rescue.

Late night power tools, foam cutting, and dualing sewing machines was involved.

I'll explain more about her thank you gift in another post; you'll just have to drool over her zig zags for the time being.

And while Sariah and I sewed, Eric played Mister Mom for the entire week, and I'm grateful to him for it. He and the girls got a lot of quality time together, though he did come down with strep throat two days before I got home, and taking care of kids when sick is a nightmare, so Eric, here is to you, man.

Last but not least, do you see yon sparkly fabric betwixt the fingers of that comely maid? Yay, for what you are laying eyes upon is the beginnings of a handmade Elsa costume from the movie Frozen.

Eat your heart out, sold-out-Disney-store.com, Sariah sent me home with an Elsa dress for Cora AND an Anna dress for Lyra. I have a few finishing touches to do to both and then I shall show you them in all their glory.

Thank you Sariah!

PS - Crafty sisters are THE.BEST.

Saturday
Aug022014

Cora's 4th Birthday | A Birthday at the Beach

Cora and Wes Turn Four | Amazing photo by Ella ShermanThree years to the day that we celebrated Cora and Wes turning one year's old, we headed up to another North County Beach to celebrate their turning four. 

Living in Mexico has created a piñata tradition that we shall carry on indefinitely.

Eric and Dominic (Dominic is the author of Americano Abroad and To Be Frank San Diego). 

Mele and Lyra

Ella, Gray, Wes, and Miles were all there. 

Me, Renee, Leo, and Helen

Helen and her vivacious girls came.

Renee, Xavier, and Leo joined the fun! (Renee and her husband Dan were one of the families that opened their home to us after the rescue. I was at their home when I wrote this post.)

This is Steve and Monique. They also live on a sailboat, s/v Sea Conquest, and lived in Mexico at the same time we did.

They had this hunk of love, Ronin, only a few months after we had Lyra down in Mexico.

Sacha, Monique, and Cora

Cora has memories of playing with their son, Sacha, in Catalina Island, La Cruz, Mexico, and San Diego. I love world travelers and I love sailing families.

My friend Paige's two munchkins, Maddie and Colin. Paige, and our friend Mollie, are now the talent behind Red Charlotte.

It was a day to reconnect with all kinds of people in our lives, friends, new and old.

Renee and JenDana, Ivy, Jen, Stella, Mike, and Elsa

We played soccer, soaked in the rays, hit the piñata, and had the kids decorate their own donuts (a true crowd pleaser):

Xavier and Leo show off their piñata candy haul.Auntie Mele holding Lyra, and making magic in the water with Cora and Sacha.

It was a day to be happy and to show gratitude for the friends and family in our lives.

Three years ago Ella took this photo of our family on a beach in San Diego:

Me, Cora, Eric | Cora's first birthday

It was both perfect and bittersweet that she was able to take this photo on a beach in San Diego three years later:

Eric, Cora, Lyra, Me | Cora's fourth birthday

We had planned on being somewhere in the South Pacific for Cora's fourth birthday, but it is really, truly, hard to complain when we are in an incredible city, surrounded by friends and family, and so connected with love and support.

Happy birthday, Cora.

----

Post script: Eric sums up the day of intense beach fun perfectly in the photo below.

Is it bedtime yet?

Friday
Jan102014

My Dad is an Unregistered, Unprosecuted Sex Offender | Please Help

**Please see updates at the bottom of this post.**

Warning: the following post could be a trigger post if you have been a victim of sexual abuse. If you are currently a victim of sexual abuse, you don't have to suffer in silence. Tell a teacher or a trusted friend and get help. If you are a survivor of past abuse, or a current victim, you can get help through the hotline listed on RAINN's webpage here.

My dad in front of the Mesa, Arizona, Mormon Temple.

"Do you want to press charges against your dad?"

"No!"

Because what else would a 14 year old say? About her own father? At 14 I was horrified at the idea of having to confront my father in court. I couldn't even conceptualize having a father in prison. My family simply didn't have people in jail. My father wouldn't survive in prison. How would I tell people that I had a dad in prison? How would my mom support five children on her own? 

These are the things you think as the oldest at home of five kids, when you are 14 years old, and a cop asks you if you want to press charges against your father for sexually abusing you.

One of the real fucked up things about being abused by a parent, is that they are still your parent. You still love them. You still want to protect them. You can even still admire them.

It's so twisted.

This is the man who taught me how to drive. How to shoot. How to identify flora and fauna, and how to survive, in the Alaskan wilderness. He gave me a love for learning and writing and taught me how to balance a check book. He took us gold panning. He taught us history. He introduced us to theater, poetry, and public speaking.

But he is also the man who sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused me. As a parent myself now, I am dumbfounded at how someone could hurt their own child. Children are truly innocent and so utterly vulnerable and trusting.

Welcome to the family, sister. You have no idea what is in store for you.

And the mind fuck that occurs when the person who you love and trust, abuses you? It is a total mind fuck. 

I was thirteen years old when the abuse chronicled above happened to me. At the time, I thought it was only that one incident, but after years of therapy, I now know of more. Not because I forgot them, but because as an even younger child when the other incidents occurred, I didn't realize they were abuse. The incident above, done when my father thought I was asleep, is what first blatantly registered to my young mind as abuse.

My father, Stephen Michael Morrisette, who now goes by the name of Rocky Morrisette, touched my breasts (or chest, pre-boobs) several times when I was a young girl. And when he wasn't touching them, he was trying to touch them. 

"Can I give you a front scratch?" (As opposed to a back scratch).

"I didn't have sisters when I was growing up, so I don't know what developing breasts look like. Can I see yours? Can I touch them?"

He would press his body and his erection up against us when we were standing up, or lying on the couch, or in bed at night while we tried to sleep.

Thanks for the sexy silk robe, dad...

He brought me gifts when he returned from his long TDYs (temporary duty in the US Air Force.) One time he handed me a silk, white negligee. I was 12. He asked me to try it on for him. Another time, a purple silk kimono he wanted me to use as a 'house robe.' We were children, and thought the presents were beautiful and exotic (they were); they were also wildly inappropriate. Gifts like these are called 'grooming behavior.' I didn't learn the term until I was in my twenties, in therapy.

There are no nostalgic photos with my dad from childhood. Everything is tainted.

The abuse he perpetrated on one of my younger sisters, Sariah, was much worse. Besides all of the same breast touching, he also digitally raped her (fingers in the vagina). Repeatedly. For years. The first time happened when she was in KINDERGARTEN.

He also made her touch.him.back.

This abuse of my sister was far more extensive and perverse then what happened to me. He would say to her,

"You are beautiful, just like Charlotte."

"You should be a cheerleader, just like Charlotte."

"If you tell, our family will be torn a part."

"This is what daddies do."

"You're a happy girl; stop crying."

His abuse was not only sexual, but emotional. My sisters and I were treated like his wives.  When he came home from work each day, we took off his boots and rubbed his back. He woke me up early in the mornings to have breakfast with him and talk about his upcoming day. We all slept piled on either side of him in his bed. 

My father with my sister, Sariah.

--------------------------

"Why don't you press charges against your father?" my husband , Eric, asked me when we were first dating and I told him about my past. 

"Because I'm trying to get over it. Because I want to move on with my life and I don't want to re-live it."

Eric has always been supportive of me. Years ago, when I told him that I had asked my father to drive out to San Diego for a joint therapy session so I could confront him in person, Eric offered to be there. I didn't want Eric in the room with me, so he waited right outside for me until I was done. When I confronted my father in front of the therapist, I asked him point blank if he had abused any of my other sisters. He said he hadn't.

He was lying.

Foolishly, I believed him. It wasn't until years later that my sister contacted me to share her own story of abuse. We talked by phone, but we didn't go into detail. It is not really the sort of thing you chit chat about. I emailed my father and asked him again, did you abuse my sisters?

Again, he said no.

He was lying.

--------------------------

"Will you help me press charges against dad?" my sister asked me.

A few months ago, my family and I flew up to San Diego to visit relatives and pick up items for our sail across the South Pacific. While I was there my sister told me she had contacted the Air Force (my father is retired USAF) and was attempting to press charges about the past abuse. Why, after so many years had passed, was she pressing charges now? Not that she needs a reason to pursue charges at any time, but in this case, she had reason to believe he was now abusing another family member (family member/age/name/etc not mentioned to protect her identity.)

My sister had contacted the authorities in the state he lived in to let them know her suspicions and now wanted to pursue charges from her own past abuse. She asked me if I'd be willing to speak to the investigators and help with the investigation. For the first time that someone had asked me this question, my answer was unequivocally, 'yes.'

As I'm sure you can imagine, having to dredge up these old memories and emotions wasn't easy. It was one of the tipping points in my descent into postpartum depression after Lyra's birth. The thought that my father was now continuing to abuse the next generation made me physically ill. It took me awhile to realize that by trying to forget my past and move on, I had been putting others at great risk.

Incest. Pedophile. Rape. Molestation. 

Nobody wants to say these words. Nobody wants to think about them, or talk about them. And I don't blame them. There is such a strong taboo surrounding talking about these issues that the perpetrators of these crimes often go unpunished because "we don't talk about that." Or, "that was in the past." Or, "you'll bring shame on the family name." Or, "let bygones be bygones."

I can't keep quiet anymore.

I realize that I have done a great disservice to society by NOT saying something sooner. Not only is it possible that there has been a new victim of my father's abuse, but who knows how many others because I didn't speak up? I moved out of the house when I was 16 so I wouldn't have to live another minute with my father. And my father retired from the Air Force...and became a High School teacher.

And he volunteered as Santa.

And he worked as a train conductor for little kid trains.

And my dad is currently living in Taos County, New Mexico, as an unregistered sex offender.

Do I want to press charges against my father?

I really, really do.

Here is my problem. I recently got an email from one of the investigators at OSI, (the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.) They were updating me on the investigation and said that they can't find an Attorney General in any of the states they have been investigating my father in, that will prosecute because of the statue of limitations. I'm shocked that there are statutes of limitations on child sex abuse, but there you have it. After months of working through all this past trauma again, after preparing myself to confront my dad in court, to see my dad go to jail, to finally see justice served, it looks like my dad will not be prosecuted. 

As so frequently happens, another family sex abuse case will be swept under the rug. My dad will get to grow old with his new wife. And live in a new community where he'll do book signings for his new young adult book. Written for young girls!! :puke:

But if I can't confront him in court, I can at least confront him in the court of public opinion.

As a child I had no voice. But I have a voice now. After the abuse chronicled above, I didn't say a word. I kept quiet because I was certain that if my mother found out, she would leave him, and my family would be destitute. My mother would have no way to support all five of the children who were still at home. We would be split up into different foster families. I couldn't let that happen. My mom finally asked me one day, out of the blue, "Has dad ever touched you?" And I lost it. I cried for so long and so hard that I couldn't even answer her question right away, not that she needed a verbal answer after seeing my physical response.

And once I told her, I was so relieved. At last. She knew. And the process that I was sure would happen, would begin. You know. My mom would call the police and our bishop. My dad would go to jail. Our family might be torn apart, but dear god, I was so relieved that someone knew and that my dad would be out of my life soon.

But I was wrong.

Yes, my mom told our church leaders, who then called the police and the Air Force. My dad had to leave the house. There was a lot of turmoil. My dad was institutionalized because of a mental breakdown. When he got out, I heard that he was going to therapy. I told a policeman that I did NOT want to press charges. But I also, naively, assumed that my mother would never let him come back to live with us again.

I was wrong.

This blog post is not about my mother. But many of the decisions my mother made ended up hurting her children. My mother said that she decided to stay with my father because God told her to stay with him and because church leaders told her to stay with him. I was devastated. And while my father was not allowed in the house for awhile, eventually we were told that he was "better" and it was "okay" for him to move back in. 

Left to right: My uncle, my aunt, my mother, and my father.

The abuse came up right as my father was about to be promoted to Major. Instead, his commanding officer told him to take retirement so he wouldn't have to pursue military action.

And at 15 years old I was told that my father was moving back into our house, with me and my three younger sisters, whether I liked it not. And I didn't like it all. 

My dad moved back in, and I moved out. At least temporarily. I was shipped from church member to church member's homes for a few weeks at a time. One family would take me in until it got inconvenient (and trust me, I was a model house guest. I was terrified of being asked to leave and go back.) After being shuffled like that for months, the mom in the current family I was living with said, "Look, you can't keep hiding. You need to go back home."

I wanted to vomit. But I had no choice. I moved back home. And I lived in the same house as my dad. I tried to avoid speaking to him and walking past him. I went to school early and stayed late. Eventually my oldest brother, Rich, told me I could live with him in Texas and at 16 I left Alaska and I left my three younger sisters still living at home with my dad.

My three younger sisters. Bottom left, Phoebe, top left, Sariah, top right, Rose.

The guilt eats at me.

I had to basically close my eyes and not think about the fact that I was leaving my sisters within his grasp. I had to protect myself and I left. And it turns out that my dad continued to abuse my sister for several more years. I feel physical pain in my chest thinking about it. I would have given anything to protect my sisters. But they said he was "better." They said he could "come back home."

--------------------------

Am I writing this so you can pity me or pity my sister?

No.

Sadly, this kind of shit happens to far, far too many children. I am already aware of the huge percentage of people reading this post who were also abused by a family member, a neighbor, a stranger, or have been dated raped, or sexually attacked in some way. The prevalence is nauseating. 

No, I'm writing this so one day, when I'm ready, and when my daughters ask about my father, I will let them read this post so they understand who he is and what he did and why he isn't in our lives.

I'm writing this post because I'm no longer a child. Because I have a voice and I don't have to be silent anymore.

I'm writing this post as a Public Service Announcement: there is an unregistered sex offender living freely in Taos County, New Mexico, who goes by the name of Rocky Morrisette.

Stephen Michael Morrisette, aka "Rocky" Morrisette

I'm writing this post to ask for your help.  

(Please see post update below about who you can directly contact to help.)

Here is the Twitter page for the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. You can also 'submit a tip' to the OSI here. Though submitting a 'tip' sounds so hopelessly inadequate. Here's a tip: apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before you go out into the sun. Here's some info: the Air Force let my dad retire instead of prosecuting him.

Here is the Facebook and Twitter pages for the US Air Force. Feel free to re-post this blog and let them know what one of their retired officers has done.

Here is the Facebook page for Alaska's Governor, Sean Parnell.  Here is the email address for Michael Geraghty, Alaska's Attorney General. Maybe if enough people email or Facebook them, they'll decide it is worth pursuing.

--------------------------

I want to pursue charges against my father. I'm ready to see justice done. But if I can't see justice done for myself and my sister, I need to at least make sure that my father can't harm anyone else.

I'm not ashamed of the abuse that happened to me. It wasn't my fault. I was a child and what my father did was wrong. I'll forever have the guilt though. The guilt of feeling like I left my sisters behind (because I did). Of staying silent because I thought I was protecting them and then the guilt of leaving when I couldn't stand to be living with him any longer. My chest wants to crack open with hurt when I see the pain it has caused my sister. I couldn't prevent her abuse, but if I can help just one other person who may read this blog, then maybe some good can come from all of this. If I can get information to one person about how to heal from past abuse, or let them know that I have been there too, that I am still there, that it is possible to keep living, to be happy, to move beyond it, I've got to try.

If you need help for issues like these, please contact RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. Here is their site, and here is their Facebook page.  And please know that you are not alone.

Lastly, I highly suggest this book for reading about ways to protect your own children from abuse, and this book for protecting yourself.

----

This post was written with knowledge and permission from my sister, Sariah.

Saturday
Dec282013

Walking in Suburbia | Albuquerque in Winter

No, you did not imagine it; I really haven't blogged much lately, but I've wanted to. So much. Within 24 hours of arriving in La Cruz, my trusty netbook died. Eric had a tablet I could use, but tablets are not great for creating content. Add in super spotty internet, and things became very quiet on the blog front.

But no more. Two days ago, Lyra and I flew up to visit my sister's family in Albuquerque. Cora and Eric stayed behind to keep working on the boat. There was a shiny new laptop waiting for me upon arrival. And with that, blogging shall recommence!

People who say they don't have time to exercise are absolutely correct. Because you don't "have" time, you "make" time. If it is important to you, then you re-prioritize. This morning I came down to the living room, where my niece and nephews were playing video games and clapped my hands. "Get dressed, kids. It's time to go for a walk."

They didn't even hesitate.

"Please wait for me while I go get some clothes!" exclaimed my niece Phoebe, tugging on her flannel pajamas.

"Well, okay, just this once," I grinned.

And they bounded upstairs to get ready for an Albuquerque winter walk.

When you live the life of a cruiser you move your body a lot. You walk and walk and walk some more. But life in suburbia doesn't encourage walking or getting outdoors. You can fix that, though. You just have to step out your front door.

Within minutes we had found an empty lot and had scrambled up on top to discover cool rocks and local wildlife.

I gave each kid a role. Kimball was our time keeper. I wanted to walk for at least 45 minutes. He kept track. Phoebe was our navigator; she needed to know the name of every street we walked on and remember the streets we had passed or turned onto. Warren was our pilot. He told us which way to go.

I marveled at how similar everything looked and couldn't get this song out of my head as we walked:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one 
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

We walked by a woman out walking her Chihuahua. I said good morning to her and then asked the kids to do the same. They chorused their 'hellos' and 'good mornings.' The youngest, Warren, asked,

"Why do we need to say hello to her?"

I try to never answer kids' questions (a trait I'm sure my students in San Diego remember well.)

"Why do you think?" I queried.

"Well, I don't know." Warren kicked a rock ahead of him.

"I bet you can think of one reason."

"So they aren't scared of us. So they know we come in peace."

Warren is seven. I told him that was a brilliant reason. And then we all did the Vulcan hand sign and started repeating, "we come in peace!"

Rock on.

Our timekeeper was a master at it. 

"We have exactly seven more minutes until we reach the 45 mark."

"Awwww, can we keep walking past that time, though?" Warren had a runny nose and a giant smile on his face.

"Don't ask me, Warren. You are the pilot. Where do we go next?"

Answer - to the playground.

We ran into this neighbor kid very early in our walk and stopped by his house to see if he could adventure with us. He gave us important info like which side street had a dog that would jump his fence and chase you (no thanks!) and he knew the code to get us into the gated community next door with the playground.

Handy little fellow.

Phoebe. Age 10. The very first grandkid. I was there for her birth. She'll be taller than me soon.


Kimball. Age 9. Kimball has Asperger's and he is brilliant. The first thing he said to me when I saw him at the airport was, "Can I tell you how a mushroom cloud works?"

Warren. Age 7. It took him about 20 minutes to grasp the concept that he was totally in charge of where we walked to. As the youngest of three, he generally follows. He was a diplomatic leader and took everyone's thoughts into consideration before charting our course.

When we got back I asked the kids to show me the rocks they had collected.

Phoebe's stash.

Kimball's collection.

Warren's design.

Our time keeper informed us that we walked for exactly 67 minutes. Perfect.

That's 67 minutes of exercise for me, and 67 minutes of no-kids-time for my wonderful sister and her husband, Jake.

(If you want to read more about my sweet sister, and see how much her kids have grown, check out this post I wrote about her in 2009.)

Thursday
Jul252013

People are Awesome | San Diego Wrap Up

Celebrating my birthday and opening Amazon packages sent to Mele's house for us.

Before we move on to new Mexico posts, there are still people that I owe thanks to. How, you may ask, can a family of four afford to travel to San Diego from Mexico, and then stay for almost a month there? Through the awesomeness of friends, that is how.

And we know some adventurers.

Lyra, Mele, and Cora, playing at Helen and Glyn's house.

Mele let us stay at her place and use her car while she was visiting her family in Hawaii.

She let us use her mailing address for all shipments coming in (and still is, thank you keeper of our San Diego mail!!)

Making coffee and peanut butter sandwiches at Mele's house.

When Mele left us the keys for her place, she apologized for its being so small. Small? Mele, your place was palatial compared to our usual surroundings :)

Our next adventurer friend, Joanna, let us stay in her beautiful home, and use her car too while she was backpacking through Guatemala and Honduras. Bonus? She has an adorable cat we got to befriend and take care of too. Joanna, I hope I can repay your kindness one day.

Remember this handsome family from our adventures in Catalina last year? While Helen and the girls were in London for both work and to visit family, we stayed at their home, hosted by Glyn, and also had use of their car and car seats as well.

Such generosity! I only hope I can one day repay the kind of trust and openness it takes to allow someone to stay in your home while you are gone, and not just one person, but a family of four, with wee little kids. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And if I can't repay it directly, I shall pay it forward whenever I get the opportunity.

Brad and Ariel, with their gorgeous kids Makani and Aurelia. Picture by Carrie Kaufmann Photography.

My friend Ariel drove back and forth across the city of San Diego to drop off and pick up a spare car seat for Lyra to use while in San Diego. Ariel, muchas gracias amiga.

Cody and Paige, both rocking Tula Baby Carriers and wearing their kids Maddi and Colin. Picture by Alanna Westfall Photography.

Oh my friend Paige. Thanks for giving me my first girl's night since Lyra's birth. Even if that meant just sitting slumped on your workshop floor, while Lyra slept in Colin's old crib, you sewed and I sipped wine, and we talked about business. I needed that! And Cody, you have no idea how sane you kept Eric by letting him use your garage gym. Plus, I can thank you for helping me to have a buff husband.

We were lucky enough to have Cora's longest running, and much loved, babysitter, Taylor, in town from college for the summer. She watched Cora, for FREE. Maybe one day I will watch your babies Taylor? You never know ;)

And while we had a babysitter we got to go on an actual date. Well, as actual as you can get with a four month old nursling.

This shot from dinner at Lizz's reminds me of a modern day Van Eyck painting, no?

People were not only generous with their time and their belongings, they fed us too. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we were lucky enough to meet up with, and re-connect with so many friends. And oh the food...stop it! I love Mexican food, but I sure missed the healthy staples of urban San Diego.

Cora thought it was her birthday when we opened this present of handmade play food from our friend Danielle in Canada.

Cora and Lyra with their Grandma Nancy and Grandpa Lou.

To the family and friends who drove long ways to see us, thank you. And really, this post just scratches the surface. So many people offered us help and love and support. (Corinne, thank you for offering your home as well!)

The crew of s/v Rebel Heart sends our amigos in SD much love and mucho thanks.