The single life – our "melt"downs, flavor, and our culture(s)!
By day, I am a skilled Customer Service agent for a local logistics company. By night, I am an aspiring theologian, a minister in training, a lady in waiting and an overall, an awesome human being! Singlesliceofcheese was created as a random, whimsical blog with the intent to kick Queen Crabby Pants out of my head!
Hey all y’all my five readers THANK YOU so much for your love and support!! I would like to say this milestone is a big deal, only, it kinda isn’t because I have not written anything out here in a REALLY long time. I would like to say that will be changing in the near future, and if I can get a few things organized in my “new world”, then yes, it will definitely be changing.
Alas, until said time, here I am in all my presence, in my fullness of folly. and self and mysteries as deep as the ocean blue, where my beloved octopi lie!
Until next time my 5 friends, be blessed, be well, and take good care one for another and the earth. Let us learn to live and breathe together, taking the time to actually come to a full stop at the sign and while there, taking in the deepest breath of life. With that parting thought, keep calm, and carry on with the rest of your day, and do not forget to stop and smell the roses!
When I look in the mirror, I don’t see words on a page, or a bearded Jewish man with very kind eyes looking back at me. Instead, I see a woman in her mid-40’s with greying hair, blue eyes and emerging crows feet.
However, my desire as a follower of Christ, is I want to reflect His essence. I want others to see Jesus in me. So then the question becomes, how do I, how do we, make this happen? Especially when in our Western civilization, individualism is highly prized. Yet, scripture says it is more blessed to give than receive. (Acts 20:35) HCSB
While we are responsible for our own spiritual growth, there is no replacing the need for others. This not only includes those in our regular circles, but those who are lying outside of our “gates” (home, church and work).
Proverbs 27:17 (HCSB) speaks to this principle. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. In other words, I need community, I need to share that which has been entrusted to me, my life. Yet, for me to succeed, there needs to be a “we” in this equation. I have to be willing to throw off the cloak of fake heroism which says “I must bear this burden alone.”
Those of us who claim Christ as savior, yet don’t share Him in tangible ways outside of our four walls are like the rich man who neglected Lazarus, as he lay outside the man’s gate. Jesus told His disciples “All people will know you’re my disciples if you have love one for another”. (John 13:35) HCSB
As people of faith who live and work in a world ever consumed by fear, it is, now more than ever, our time to stop and see who is lying outside our gates, asking for our crumbs. It is our time to show the love of Christ in tangible ways.
Many reading this might be like me, living in nice, and affluent small towns where the needs are not so apparent; it is easy to become encapsulated and insulated in our own cocoons of our work, church and family. However, in order to become the church, the living, breathing, collective body of Christ, we need to band together. In a time of division, it is time for those who name the name of Christ, to set down our fear and physically lift up our fellow mankind. In so doing, we cannot forget, nor forgo the importance of (appropriate) physical touch. A hug, handshake or touch on a shoulder, shows those who are hurting, you are valuable to me. It builds a connection, a bridge mightier than words alone.
The question then becomes what is “Love” and how do I live it like Jesus did? “Am I supposed to tell certain religious leaders who are creating a new form of slavery, they are wrong?” “Technically, we have hospitals and doctors for ‘healing” the sick…’ where does that leave me?”
Jesus Himself went against the grain and rules of the religious leaders of His day and He touched those who were dying from the inside out. So too can, and must we find those who are dying from the inside out; freely giving the salt and light which have been entrusted to our care. More than ever we need each other and the rest of the world needs to see a bearded Jewish man when they look into our eyes.
We must love freely, openly, meeting people where they are. We must view others like the wine of Cana, drawing out the best in them because of our genuine love for them. If I have not love, I am but a resounding gong. We need to set down our weapons of, labels, fear, snap judgements and wage peace one with another. Embracing their brokenness, while infusing them with His wholeness. However, we cannot do this, if we continue letting fear rule our faith.
In order for others to see Christ in us, we must love ourselves and our neighbors. We have been conditioned to embrace our brokenness, I am suggesting we let go of our limiting beliefs about our imperfections and start embracing our identities as whole, new creatures in Christ. When we claimed Him as Lord and savior of our lives, we invited Him to have dominion in our lives. In turn, He invites us to partake in communion or common union. Becoming one with Him and the Father, through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Because we have been given new life, we must now share it with our neighbors.
Sadly, it is those in the closest proximity, who are the most estranged from us. In virtually every community there are various opportunities to volunteer. In the workplace, we can try engaging with different co-workers, especially those in less desirable positions. By engaging with those outside of our comfort zone, and in the trenches, we will meet the real superheroes of any operation, as well as meeting some awesome people along the way.
Most of all, we must become missionaries within our neighborhoods. Yes, I mean those who live next door, and across the street. Often, when we think of a “missionary” the first thing that comes to our mind is Africa, and how we don’t want God to send us there.
For the record, no, I don’t mean every encounter we have one with another needs to be an overt evangelistic effort. Realistically, those overt efforts are usually less effective than simply befriending someone. In order for others to see Christ in us, we must see ourselves as the “pearl of great price the true value of ourselves, that we can in turn impart that same value to others.
Let us now focus in with a few practical ways to get to know and love our neighbors. Try hosting a small bonfire in the backyard complete with makings for s’mores. If fire is not your thing, try hosting a block party, or a community game night. Other, low key options include, inviting one another back into our homes. Knock on a different neighbors door once a month and ask them to come for popcorn and snacks. For something low maintenance and yet rewarding, send random gifts to your neighbors, highlighting an attribute of theirs. The list of possibilities is endless! These are just a few suggestions to get the creative juices flowing!
In a moment, as a movement, we have abandoned our power.
In a world of color, we have blanched, faded, and folded. Unless, that is, we can answer the age old question of “why”, we will become void, an entity of no value.
This time, the question at the end of the “why” is not “…am I here?”! Rather, it is “why do I go?”
Go where? Work? That’s obvious, to collect the participation trophy at the end of the week and enjoy the weekend.
Go where then? The answer is, to church. Why do I, why do we, go to church?
We file in like drones, sitting in rows like clones, we sit there staring, pretending to listen. What are we actually hearing?
We have our bibles on our phones so we can pretend to be following along when we’re really following the feed…we gaze and graze on whatever is streaming, when in reality, the life and live event is being presented in front of us. Yet we’re nowhere close to being present.
When it’s done, we file back out to our cars and wonder why nothing changes. Our hearts may burn for a moment when our ears catch a shortcoming, a longing or desire, a guttural flutter, a momentary gnawing of why…what did he just say?
The former moments of engagement have succumbed once again to estrangement.
Again I am left wondering why…?
We’re given words of wisdom on how to get to Heaven when we die, how to be moral, how to run faster and try harder. But in the end what do they produce? Is a yield present, can it be found in our abundance? Or are we simply indulging a primal need for acceptance and belonging?
Has the rhetoric been reduced to dictation, or perhaps an incantation. Does it serve the greater inner need?
Is there more for us in this hour of unrest?
Are we looking to check the box and say “I did my best!” Did you really? Were you really there? That’s not fair one may say, I ask, did you feast or simply graze off your feed?
We have come so far from shore we’re not even sure why we go. We say the right thing, and we might sing along, if we know the song.
How can we be Christ to the world when we don’t know who we are or why we’re there? How do we recharge and reclaim? Be engaged rather than estranged? That, my friends is where you come in! Answer the question of why? What is your real reason, not the platitude “To worship God”.
How is sitting in a pew listening to a skew of words and grazing on the feed – worship worthy?
The hardest gauge to read, is the love gauge one has for another…
One of the most interesting dynamics in life is that of relationships. We come into this world by no choice of our own, to two people who have chosen to come together in a moment. Whether or not they remain that way is as variable. Yet, this is unrelated to our place in this new dimension. We simply arrive on the scene, screaming for all we’re worth, nine months after the “moment”.
With this action & arrival, a family is created and new relationships formed. There may be other children or other partners in the grown up realm… What makes this all so interesting and complex is what we do with these (new) relationships. Meaning, we call those to whom we have been born our parents and if other children, our brother, sister, siblings…
Yet, we’re all individual… Single, autonomous beings who are alone when it comes to thoughts, feelings, actions etc. But wait, we’re all connected too, how does that work? DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid, is how we’re connected within the family unit. Yet there is more to this…friends and “other” people…
Friends as opposed to family, are another form of relationship which creates a tie, a bond, but more loosely connected than blood. Generally, they’re the back up squad to the family, they’re the ones you call right after calling someone who’s blood. Yes, in many cases blood also creates a friendship – but others it doesn’t and goes horribly wrong…It’s as if there’s no real balance to this dynamic, either family is close or its cold. Lukewarm and tepid also come to mind, but they’re not in the cycle of balance, making for a 3 legged stool.
On the other hand, friends can also be the missing link of a family, the un-biological sister or brother, a bond can form so deep only death could part it. Friends are of tremendous value, sometimes even to the point of being chosen over family, because they are the ones you hangout with and have all the best times and laughs with.
The question then is, how do two (or more) complete strangers come together as friends? How can one draw out the personality of another, to the point of being a “truth serum” simply by being there, while another is seen a just a fixture, something sturdy and reliable? How does one have such significant, silent effect on another? We call it chemistry, but what does that really mean?
Sometimes, friendships can become family via marriage… the ultimate of two atoms colliding… I am by far not a chemist, nor an alchemist, yet, I see all around me the effects of this “chemistry in motion”.
The initial two form a tie based on this mystery called chemistry, which has its base in, interests, expectations, social need and personal desires. This foundation forming combination seems to be the most solid and yet most vulnerable to breakdown and disintegration…Yet, all relationships are at risk for this seismic shift. Interests, expectations – people change…
Once again leaving us to be the single autonomous unit we already were. Or simply put, alone again.
Clearly, blood is thicker than water, yet, blood consists mostly of water…
What makes this unique and not at the same time is, the whole dancing dynamic is comprised of one common denominator – people.
People are everywhere, spilling out of every corner of the earth. Population experts claim the number of people in the world is around 7.5 billion people. However we don’t seem to invite all of these “other” random strangers to our family functions or to hangout with our friends, until they become one… But wait, they are people too! Just like, but not quite, just not “us”…
To further complicate and even confound the issue, technically, we all are related in one way or another. We all originated from two people. Some could possibly make the argument for coming from 10 people. They being, the original two, Adam & Eve and after the flood, Noah & his wife or from one of their 3 sons and wives. How did so many come from so few?
How is it we get along one with another with so many different personalities? We’re the same, yet different, alone yet connected…no wonder the earth spins!
Unless you’re like some who prefer to think of themselves or perhaps just others as descending from monkeys who evolved from random protozoans crawling out of the primordial soup kitchen… If that is the case, then really, we’re all here by random chance, despite the chances of “us” being here as ourselves is one in 400 billion and then we’re not connected at all, but simply alone. Or are we connected via that single cell – that decided to divide..?
As it stands, at the end of the day, we are all still people, and a family of sorts. Some of us are even friends –
Have you ever stopped to listen? To reeeaaalllly listen? Most of us “listen” to respond. To get OUR point across, we don’t really seem to care about the opinion or points of others, we just want to be heard.
What I have noticed more and more is how much “visual noise” there is in conjunction with “regular noise” and then there’s the chatter noise; those conversations & voices in our heads. The ones we don’t talk about, the things we “want” to, but don’t say. Those things, which really, are probably best left unsaid.
Let’s take a look at all this noise. Often, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is look at the time on my phone, and speaking of my phone, because it’s in my hand, it becomes visual noise….Facebook, Google, Candy Crush, some other random search for how to make self rising flour.
While driving on the highway there is even more noise, road noise, sirens, and more visual noise. Bumper stickers about honor students, stick figure families and save Mother Earth. Plus, billboards, construction barrels, and my least favorite, speed limit signs. I realize construction barrels and speed limit signs are not really visual noise, but they add to the “other noise” category, the chatter going on in our heads. We grumble about construction or the fact we want to go an entirely different speed than the posted limitation…
Or how about this excerpt of a conversation, “It’s obvious we’re bringing humanities children back in”, in conjunction with, “ wow…those shorts, they could pass for underwear…”, “yeah, I would be tugging on the hemline of that skirt too…” “she’s only wearing that bandage for attention”.
The trouble is, this wasn’t a conversation being held by two people, it was the chatter noise in my head. I was silently judging a specific group, and their decision trees regarding their “out the door outfits of the day”. “Do I wear the flowered shorts and my Marine Corp. Hoodie, or do I go with…?” “I hurt my wrist 3 weeks ago, but I think I will wrap it again anyway…”
That’s when it ALL hit me! Who are these people I was silently judging? The answer is, they’re the younger versions of ourselves. Kids, whose parents surrendered them for a couple hours of peace on a Sunday morning. Some of whom will go into the service industry, some writers and artists, some will become parents and others felons.
They may have different faces, mannerisms and quirks. But deep down, in their core they are us. As we were those who came before us. Given this revelation, one would think we would or should be tripping over ourselves trying to make sure these younger versions get on the right path in life, to make sure the one didn’t really become a felon. Yet I, like most others that day, are not really listening. We are not looking into their silent eyes and hearing all they have to say, all they want to become. Why not? Because we are too enthralled with our own noise. We like being inundated with information, gossip and conspiracy theories, why? Because it’s comfortable. Silence is not. Seeing, those words being silently spoken by the eyes of another is not comfortable, it’s rather frightening to be exact, especially when it’s being said by “humanities children”. Yes, those younger, different versions of ourselves…
Have you ever really considered what it means to be human, to be alive? I was looking at my mom the other day, and wondered about the marvel of how we’re all so different, yet alike at the same time. Sometimes I reduce us to “walking bags of electrified salt water”. Other times, I marvel at the engineering that went into each and every one of us. How is it, I can live happily with her, yet, my siblings could not? What drives one person to be angry all the time and another to be laissez faire?
With some 7+/- billion of us walking around down here with different personalities, it’s truly a wonder how we have made it this far. We talk about having “chemistry one with another”. Often, this is code for did we find the “one” or when making new friends and acquaintances, did we mesh? Why are some people not able to get along with themselves, let alone anyone else? What causes anger, or frustration, or happiness? Yes, circumstances play a part in them, but it’s not like at the autopsy we can find these emotions within them.
Why is it when I met one person in the winter of 2016, I felt an instant connection with them on that particular day, when I felt something completely opposite towards them earlier in late 2015 at our initial meeting?
Much of what happens in life feels like it is outside of our control, outside of our ability to predict, to rationally understand. I had a dear friend die of cancer, in the summer of 2018 who was still making a difference in many lives when hers was cut short.
Perhaps her calling had been fulfilled….Truth be told, her legacy is residing in each of the lives she touched – she too is like this flower, the seeds which she planted are blooming (more) abundantly.
But…what does it really mean to die? Is it when the electricity is cut off from a body? Does a massive short circuit happen and then boom, lights out? Or is there something more? Some it would seem, die before they lived. But what does it mean to be alive? Is it simply because your breathing or when you discover why you’re here in the first place? What if you never make that discovery? Are we then to brace for impact should our paths cross?
How is it life can be framed from the perspective of beauty and joy coming from loss? We want everything to be perfect, to be pain free. We want to have the people we care most about with us forever, however, reality provides just the opposite, so what is it that allows for beauty from the ashes? Is it because we’re made of the same substances – carbon and energy?
Perhaps it really is that, nothing grows on the mountaintop…but, wild flowers decorate the valley floors with their blooms popping out in vibrant colors — After a rain, a releasing of even more carbon and energy into the atmosphere. Let us then just be here in the now, that we might hear and live before we die, before the lights go out.
I have always been fascinated with bags. The fact you could put something in another thing and carry it conveniently was always appealing.
Backpacks in particular have always been my “go to” bag, quickly followed by the uber cool messenger bag. Their particular allure was all the places you could go with one of these sleek, stylish bags slung over your shoulders. The things you could put into them…oh you know, the THINGS!
Back then, the more pockets and compartments, the cooler the bag. As kids shopping in K-Mart one day, my cousin and I found our dream bag; a turquoise Jordache backpack, complete with an insulated lunch box & thermos! Talk about the epitome of cool to a couple of ten year old girls growing up in the 80’s!
However, as a young lady in waiting, I also had a fancy for purses. I was an adventurous sort & I would go to garage sales and look at all the bags and unwanted “valuables” of others.
One day, on such an adventure, I found a purse, and as I was exploring the depths of this treasure, it rattled. There was buried treasure within the treasure itself!
The garage sale purse had holes in the very fabric of its being, yet the structure was sound, however, the lining, that which was entrusted to keep the valuables in place had failed. It allowed for the valuables to slip from their place, and collect and congregate in the structure, but they no longer had a specific place to be in the garage sale purse; it soon belonged to me!
An entity in my life has been vexing my soul of late. An ancient verse in the seldom-studied book of Haggai came to mind when thinking about this particular structure, entity and treasure… “You earn wages to put money into a purse with holes in it….”
The entity itself, and the structure, is not mine, but I am a part of it. However, much like the garage sale purse, I feel like the fabric has lost its ability to hold its valuables in place. Some are now floating aimlessly while others have found a new place within the structure.
Random thought of the moment: There are 35 days, 2 hours and 5 minutes and counting left in this year…take that in for a moment and at the writing of this post, one of those days is virtually over.
Perspective is defined as “1. the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.”a perspective drawing” 2. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view…
The opening random thought of the moment will cause one of a myriad of thoughts and emotions – yet, how we choose to view the remaining 35 days will determine a lot.
This past year was fraught with challenges – losses and changes, requests, revelations, and the list could go on. I will not bore you, my five readers, with all of the details. Despite the challenges of this year, and part of me being more than ready to say goodbye to 2018, I cannot help wanting to look into my non existent crystal ball as I see 2019 approaching. Is it going to hold similar challenges and such as 2018? Is it going to be worse? AHHHHH!!! I want to know!! I want to be prepared for what lies ahead!!!
Record scratch moment! Life does not work that way, so let us take a look at what got me through the challenges of 2018. Good friends, support from others, but then also one thing almost more important and almost lost in the fray – perspective. I used to like to stand on top of the tallest objects I could find – simply for the perspective. Not only my point of view, but my overall view changed. I could see things from the top of the ladder that I could not standing on the floor and vice versa. I am an analytical/reflective sort and I am also very good at dissection – seriously I got A’s on my biology projects. With all of that, I have been trying to take a more objective look at things.
One of the greatest losses of this year was that of a dear friend who lost her very short battle with cancer. Here is where perspective comes into play. At times, part of me has wanted to wallow in this loss, and all of the other changes. Yet, what has kept me going further and stronger is point of view. My friend taught me things in her short time here I would not have had she and her husband not moved close to 700 miles away from their home in Kansas to Holland Michigan. While that seems obvious on one level, think about it for a moment. A decision about a job led them here, which led them to church, where our paths crossed for which I am eternally grateful. It was their courage to take that leap from the known, into the absolute unknown.
I will forever hold their, but mostly her example as a beacon on how to view this thing called life. Her lens was a focused one, focused mostly on her walk with the Lord, and how He not her was in charge of her times, days and ways. I know some who might read this and call that “hocus-pocus” to which I would say, they, like democrats, have the right to be wrong. I know this post is about perspective and while that last is partially a joke, one thing we should all be willing to do, is listen to those who oppose us. My friend and I did not agree on everything, but on those things which I found myself in opposition, I searched to know “why”. Why did I disagree, why did she hold her belief as she did. Why did it matter if we agreed or not. I focused on “what” too. What could be done to change one or the other’s of our perspectives, and did it matter?
Of late, I have been thinking about a question from the book “Start with Why” The author asks, “Why do you get up in the morning and why should we care?” My friend knew her “why”, she, in my opinion had her perspective in right view on many things.
The greatest change of the year, was a job shift – one where I went from talking on the phone all day to one where I barely speak at times. While both jobs held certain advantages, I felt the move from one to the other was the right decision and once again, my perspective has certainly shifted. This move and the way it came about revealed a certain truth, “I do not know what my future holds…!” What I do know is, I am looking forward to meeting the challenges of this new job and new year head on, and I hope y’all are too!
One of my favorite verses in the bible has to do with a rock, a man and the Glory of God passing by.
This rock is by far less impressive in terms of size as there is no room for a man to be placed in or on it, yet he was.
This is a memorial marker for a man I didn’t always agree with, understand or even like. Most kids have some sort of disdain for the authority in their life, and I was no exception. I have some fond memories of Pop and I have some less than fine…alas in the end, I suppose he did what he thought best and gave generously of his money if not always of his time, a tendency I find in myself and am not sure how to fully rectify.
Something else I find myself thinking about is the last line on Pop’s rock. “Your time here was not in vain”. I don’t know that my time here is not in vain, meaning, I know I have friends and they say I have made a difference in their lives, I know they have certainly made a difference in mine. In this particular instance though, I am not speaking of friends, I am thinking about the bigger picture.
The whole thought of leaving a legacy. My father’s legacy is not impressive in the sense that he did not leave a large sum of money anywhere, nor did he write books or the like. Yet, like countless before him, he left the world a richer place by leaving four children in his wake who all contribute something of value to the world at large. His oldest, fine tunes literary works thru the fine art of editing books that will be read and talked about in ways we can only imagine. The next in line works for a manufacturing facility inspecting the welds on ladders, large industrial pumps and other objects used to help others live better lives. Next comes boy wonder, a budding real estate mogul and the only one of the four of us to have children of his own. Actually, boy wonder’s day job is at Dell Computers – the place that provides every other work place their computers. Last but not least, we have me. What’s my contribution? When I figure it out, I will let you know. In the interim, I would suggest living today as if it was your last and despite how often it seems to be repeated, LOVE the one’s who are with you here and now. I made some mistakes with Pop in his care and not loving him the way I could have, where he was at while he was here.
I am trying not to make the same mistakes while I have my mother, but there too, the challenges of grief, mixed with love and other emotions sometimes makes loving the ones you have difficult – but not impossible.
My challenge to you all five of my readers, make it a habit to study those around you, know their favorite colors, what they like in terms of food, their personal style. Love does not have to be expensive, just genuine, a lesson I am still learning.
Analytics and statistics certainly have their place in life but what about when it comes to people? Recently I have been noticing how much I analyze people and then stick them into “neatly arranged categories”. For instance I have one person who entered my life recently and I stuck them in the “do not over share and be careful category.”
Whereas someone else recently entered as well and I swear sometimes I feel like I should tell “them” absolutely everything about me. Not that I am all that interesting and I’m sure they don’t really want/need to know all that mess! Although, I believe there might be some common ground and perhaps learning opportunities within that dynamic.
At times, I think of people in my life as a game of Stratego; with the ultimate objective of not getting blown up. In addition, the set up is to line up all pieces in front of the player and cross to the other side without running into the opponents’ bombs. I’m not convinced this is a “fantastic way to ‘do life’”.
What really brought this all crashing down on me was watching an independent film called “Lives Well Lived” in conjunction with another conversation about “trust”, where I stated rather blatantly that I tend not to trust people. In hindsight, I think that was perhaps a little over reactive and said it more for the impact value rather than being an entirely factual statement. In the moment, I was thinking about a specific person, and not even the people with whom I was speaking!
The other part of this equation comes from two different perspectives. I was walking through Lowe’s the other day continuing on a previous thought about “how we’re all just people and at the end of the day, what do we really have to fear about each other?”
This, and a couple of other friends who too have become a part of my life in different intervals yet the impact they have made in my life is like the many different footprints in the sand in front of me. Each step we take together makes another and a different imprint on me. For instance, their gift of welcome, help and hospitality makes me stand with my head cocked to one side and wonder “how…how can I quit looking for bombs and welcome people with literal open arms?” I believe, this is in part where a fabulous piece of advice comes into play, I was told by a great friend of mine, “You need to trust our friendship…” not only hers, but that of others as well. I need not look for that to distrust and dismantle, rather that upon which to build – perhaps that is the real reason why I was walking thru Lowe’s!
Looking at the lives cast on film, contrasting them with mine, and the conversation from this afternoon where one said “despite all the wrong that has been done to me, I choose to give people the benefit of the doubt”…
Looking once again at a person I used to admire and want to be like – how I see them now as a wilted flower who is often looking for the “criminal element” of people, the government and other entities, I see this not as a life well lived, but as an opportunity to shine a bit of light where I can and yet embrace what was once so good about them and maybe even help them to see it (again) too
One thing I have learned recently was how I had let myself become lost in others and their expectations …” Sometimes I feel like I’m standing alone in the world for the first time. Other days, I’m confident in what I know and who I am; if you’re a part of me, and this awakening, please give me a little time and one day soon, I will be standing in the middle of the teeter totter dancing with my community – arms wide open!