Ta- Daaa!

Confession: I am a really odd dreamer. I can’t watch television before bed, or clips from shows, commercials, etc. will appear in  a mad-hatter dream sequence montage. Couple this strange sleeping issue with the oddities that pregnancy and deployment introduce to dreamland and we end up with dreams like last night’s fiasco. Before bed, like a good ‘Merican, I watched the Olympics. I prayed for my husband before bed and tried to find a position where my belly could be cushioned and my foot could be elevated simultaneously (I was inspired by a floor routine from a Russian gymnast). What occurred next just furthers my thesis that prenatal vitamins are a form of crazy pills.

Soon after I dreamed that my husband was searching for gold coins that bore the Olympic rings dating from 1988 to 2012, but was unsuccessfully trying to locate 2000’s coin. There were James Bond chases and TSA issues, as well as a few kicks to my belly- which were inspired by real events at the time. All things considered, it could have been worse. I could have dreamed my husband had to don a glittery leotard and do a routine on the uneven bars. (Shudder) I think I’d prefer him skydiving in the Queen’s pink dress. Worst- I could have been in the leotard doing a routine with my Santa-silhouette. My 8 year old self who aspired to be an Olympic gymnast would be devastated.

There are always exceptions, but I’d say about 90% of little girls who watch the Olympics become amazingly enthralled with gymnastics. 4 years ago my youngest niece spent several days in a one-piece bathing suit doing acrobatics in the living room, determined to be an Olympian. With 4 younger brothers and 2 dogs to dodge, she may have a better shot at the hurdles. Seeing that little blue swimsuit flutter as she spun and summer-saulted brought back great memories.

I distinctly remember a scene from the 1988 games. A small, blonde American performed a balance beam routine. She gracefully flipped and turned…and then FELL, hurting herself. The replays were frequent and I was understandably horrified. Wide-eyed, I asked my mother what she was going to do.  “Just watch.” She stood to her tiny feet, whipped her arms up into the air into a “V”, pointed her chin to the sky, and hit what I know to be the “ta-daaa” pose. She later took home medals after another performance. The world remembered her fall, but I remembered how she got up.

At the time my younger brother was a human tornado, constantly running and falling. Over the course of the Olympic events of 1988, we were taught that when we fall we are to get up and do the ‘ta-daa!’ unless we are severely bleeding from the head. When a flying flip from the arm of the couch goes badly, one does not need to pause and whimper to see who is looking before commencing into dramatics. One needs to assume everyone is watching and proudly hit the proper pose.

Now that my son is gathering his bearings as he runs full speed through his second year of life, he happens to fall a lot. I have not taught him “ta-daa”, but I do clap and chee as I tell him to get up. He usually grins or whines just a bit, and then continues on his way. This was a bit awkward at a playdate when my son watched another boy fall off of a chair. He said, “Yay!”tot his playmate. My fellow mother was not offended- thank goodness.

Sometimes when we fall, it seems that people are cheering about it. It may be that they are too quick to cheer; some falls take some time for proper recovery. Other times there really are those who would cheer for others at your expense. Then there are mothers in various forms of hysteria covering their faces and writhing in their seats as they watch their children reach for greatness. (I now think the degree of difficulty  coincides with a mother’s likelihood to lose her mind watching the routine. I found myself much more jumpy and aware of how close heads were to cracking this year.)

Last night the petite American gymnasts bounced all over the floor, and all of them were penalized for going out of bounds. (Hmm…check the springs.) A few competitors lost their balance on the beam. They hopped up, continued, and stuck the landing.

 The Olympics provide a valuable lesson to us all—when things don’t go well, don’t limp away in shame as the world watches. When possible, stand proudly and throw those hands up. You may not have done perfectly or even your best, but the end of a failed routine is definitively marked and scored after the dismount pose.

As I look

at these amazing athletes, it’s easy to see mistakes in a routine. Still, there’s something in me that wants to cheer when I see a competitor victoriously throw hands up. At my present life state I am more likely to get ‘beamed’ than to maintain balance in my daily routine; I have a feeling today will be full of “ta-daa”s but thankfully, no leotards.Image

The Pains of Motherhood

When people talk about the ‘pain of motherhood’, most people are talking about child birth or emotional angst. Today I’d like to enlighten you on another category with which I am becoming intimately acquainted.  These pains come from injuries sustained during ‘good mothering’, like protecting a child from certain doom- or dropped sippy cups. At the moment I am elevating and nursing such an injury.

I did not save my child from kidnappers, certain infection of MERSA, or OU recruiters. Instead I fell victim to the most underestimated force of nature; gravity. It gets us all in different ways, but no one escapes unscathed. I was particularly afraid that gravity would strike at the top landing of my in-laws’ stairs, so I was hyper-vigilant. As the youngest born of 10 grandchildren, my son is the only who had not mastered stair descent. (Thanks to lessons from cousins, that was accomplished in less than 48 hours.) A gate presented more danger to the others than safety to mine, so I assumed the role of Mommy-gate…until 11 on Thursday when nature and duty called at the same time. I carried my son to the upstairs bathroom with me, closed the door…and watched in horror as my son opened the closed door and bolted outward, toward the stairs.

Fear struck my heart that raised the terror alert to BRIGHT red- like realizing no wipes are in the bottom of the diaper bag. I lunged into a .10 meter dash out the door to rescue my son from the embodiment of evil known as gravity. When your firstborn 1 year old tumbles head-first down 20 stairs it HAS to be at a faster rate than 9.86 m/s. (Thanks, Mrs. Misage. It’s in there for good.)

My right foot lunged forward. My left foot lunged forward in the widest possible stride—unfortunately, that was not very far. I was immediately tackled by the jeans that were still down at my calves. Thus, my left foot went careening at full speed into the bathroom door frame. Three toes went to the open right side, while my two smaller toes dislocated and assumed a 45 and 90 degree angle to the left.  To quote a popular Youtube video, I was injured- injured bad.

I fell out of the door, catching myself on the adjacent bookshelf and throwing myself forward to rescue my son, who I had scared to death with my pained, motherly Amazon war-cry. He was running as fast as he could down the hall, totally out of harm’s way. When he reached the bedroom at the end of the hall, he turned in horror to see what terrible, rabid animal was chasing him. That would be his red-faced, screaming, crying mother whose piggies were now purple sausages. At 15 months he mastered the “Oh, that is SO not my mom” look. I don’t blame him; I was hopping on one foot, trying to get my pants to their upright position,and gasping through pain. At under 30 I was the only adult in the house, pot-bellied-pregnant, in charge of a 15 month old, unable to walk, and at the top of stairs. I single footedly began the market for bedazzled life-alerts.

I managed to pull up my pants, relieved that no one was home to witness one of my least graceful moments. I turned my attention to my toes, grabbing them and assessing the damage, trying to determine the source of the blood and if the bones were indeed broken. I had no doubt that the foot could not be saved; it had to be amputated. After a few more screams and crunchy resetting of toes, my terrified son came to me; I carried him down the stairs on one foot so I could reach the phone and call for help. Once I knew help was on the way, I did what every pregnant, seriously injured mother does- cried hysterically. I eventually called my sister, who is an athletic trainer. I was in horrible shape; through my sobs I confirmed the severity of my status; pedicures were no longer possible. What a world, what a world!

Once he returned home, my father in law taped my foot in a criss-cross pattern so that I ‘looked like a ballerina’. How cute is that?  Thankfully, my certain amputation was not necessary, my larger bones were not broken, and my blood loss was that of a slight knife slice.  My dislocations are healing quite nicely, and no one will comment on foot swelling to a woman obviously in the second trimester. My happy dancing will have to be a tribute to Lisa Turtle’s “The Sprain” from Saved By The Bell for a while, but the happy dances will continue.  As for my son…about an hour later I couldn’t see him from the sofa where I was elevating my foot. I discovered he was no longer playing with the Ninja Turtles behind me—he had silently climbed the entire flight of stairs and was now smiling at me through the bars of the second floor landing. Ah, heart failure…just another pain of motherhood.

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Wearing Thin: A Closet Intervention

I was totally trapped. My one year old and I were sequestered deeper and deeper into one side of the house by workers until we had nowhere left to go but my parent’s master closet. Every other room was occupied with men things that babies can’t be around. Naps were out of the question, so we got to work.

The closet rods hadn’t been installed, so piles of clothes and boxes had just been put onto the floor. For some unknown reason my son adores playing with plastic hangers, so he had the time of his life with a hanger and an empty box. However, I was on a mission.

I had been warned that my parents wanted a smaller wardrobe—about 1/3 needed to go. Soon I was surrounded by horrific 1987 shrapnel. I made an overwhelming pile that consisted of green jeans, shirts older than me, worn-out shoes, and items that were several sizes too large. Several guidelines for the future are not instituted. A few of these are:

–          If the item is from 1996 but is not from the Atlanta Olympics or a keepsake from the Chicago Bulls (not to be worn in public) it must go.

–          If it is within 4 shades of pea-soup exorcist vomit, it must not be worn.

–          Christmas sweaters should not light up or attract woodland creatures.

–          The clothing may be tied to a memory, but it won’t bring that time or person back. Throwing out the item is not throwing out the memory.

What is your closet like? In my family the closets vary widely. One closet has an assortment of belongings ranging that are mostly shoved in. Another member’s closet is so organized that the clothing and hangers are color-coded. Another’s is fairly organized but needs a good cleaning sorting through.

It’s amazing to me how long some people retain certain items of clothing. Attachment to items is nothing unusual; the show Hoarders depends on it. I have a few favorite items that are important keepsakes, but not many. Today I went through a box of old t-shirts belonging to my sister but discovered a shirt of mine. It was a student council shirt from 2003 with a cartoon penguin wearing a superhero outfit. It made me smile; I identify with such a super-hero! Beware the Waddler! My powers include going to the grocery store and discovering the last 6 pack of Diet Coke buried in the caffeine free Cokes. I have a boy-wonder and a (literal) side-kick…but I digress.

Sometimes we need to sort through our belongings and really re-evaluate what things we are ‘putting on’. Fashion sense: it’s a knowledge we don’t always apply, that differs widely among individuals. There are lots of jokes about the need for fashion police, but they actually do exist. I don’t mean television make-over shows; I mean actual police who tried to detain my husband for a lack of a specific belt in a particular area overseas. (Details are hilarious, but can’t be further shared for OPSEC. Sorry.) Of course, it can be helpful to have someone else to bring in a fresh perspective. When I moved out of a dorm my roommate I lamented aloud, “How am I going to get dressed without you?” We had spent a year saving each other from fashion disasters and assuring each other that indeed, the event’s ‘best 80s outfit award’ would be in our dorm room by tomorrow.

There are way too many voices bombarding us with advice on fashion, how to dress, and how to present ourselves. We are supposed to find our own style…within guidelines. Who advises you on your wardrobe?

The Bible talks a lot about clothing. Whether it is to put on the whole armor of God, clothing yourself in righteousness, or not worrying about fine adornment, clothing matters. Consider that for 40 years as the Israelites wandered the desert, God made it so that their clothing and shoes didn’t wear out. (When it is God’s action, the “do not wear for more than 20 years” does not apply.)

It’s hard to find time to go through an entire closet and pitch out the old things that shouldn’t be put on and feel the weight of throughout the day. Perhaps it is time for a little sorting…

Are you wearing things that others gave you out of obligation? (That ugly sweater)  Are your adornments reflecting your inside and showing off who you are? Are you dressing for yourself or someone else? Are you wearing cheap clothes that won’t last? Are you covering yourself adequately?

With love, here are a few guidelines:

 Plumbers crack applies to both genders.

V-necks may be popular, but men shouldn’t have cleavage. Purple skinny jeans…not okay.

 Belts worn at the knees should be garter belts… not regular belts. Likewise, it is a waistline, not a thigh-line.

If wearing a transparent or thin material, please wear appropriate undergarments for the good of all involved.

Your hat will never measure up to the Pope or Elton John’s, so don’t try to compete…please.

Happy organizing and casting off. Try not to get hung-up

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My Robert Frost GPS

 

My GPS may not be state of the art, but it is a literary and poetic scholar. I’ve concluded that Robert Frost is the GPS’s favorite, because it is always trying to take me down the road less traveled. With a screaming child and no bathroom in sight, it really does make all the difference. Sometimes the highway and most traveled road is just that for a very good reason.  It could be worse; a dear friend’s GPS is run by a serial killer with a sick sense of humor. Post office searches take her to strip clubs and the middle of fields next to industrial tool shops. Chainsaw massacre? You have reached your destination.

It’s no secret that a woman undergoes major physical changes during pregnancy; a lesser-known change is that saliva changes composition to become 409. Great grandmothers of more than 5 can spit into a napkin can take rust off a bumper.

The other important but under-acknowledged change is that the uterus becomes a GPS. Whenever anything is lost, someone calls a mom. Half a mother’s day is spent locating missing items or reaching in front of a searcher’s face to grab the item that must have been stolen. Just be careful not to overwhelm a mom or she’ll tell you right where to go.

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Today my internal GPS has been above average. For days my parents have been searching through boxes trying to find where the valuables were packed. They were certain that every box had been opened and looked through twice…but it just couldn’t be in the back where I started looking. At 9 am I decided to brave the Texas heat in the garage and open the boxes on the bottom myself in an effort to force peace talks and just make the angst end.  

There was one bottom box whose tape mocked me after an unsuccessful opening attempt. I now returned and  I took to that thing with scissors. After moving one item of clothing, I literally located ‘pearls of great price’ (which I will someday inherit). Victory! After a quick holler my father ran out to retrieve the box, hugged me, and declared, “I love you! You are my favorite child…today!”

10 minutes later he was rummaging through the missing dresser drawer in search of the missing house keys. I walked in, took 30 seconds, and held up the two gold keys. “Kaitlin, you are on a roll today!” my darling father affirmed. I asked him, “What else is missing?” Well, only one more item; out of a box with three rings, a class ring was gone.

It’s the least valuable ring, can be traced, and has a name in it. It’s from Iowa for goodness sake! The thief must be the same renegade who stole the old remote, Hawaiian themed Christmas tie, and the tape player.

At the end of these searches, my dad declared that he felt the need to read the parable about the woman who lost her gold coin. (Hey! I blogged about that!) I was thinking a bit more of the pearl of great price. In order to find buried box, we sacrificed hours of searching in non-air-conditioned areas and some peace of mind. U2 hits are catchy anyway, but it only takes one utterance of “I still haven’t found what I’m searching for” to implant it firmly.

I wish everything could be located by GPS. It seems that some valuables are buried and take a lot of effort to find. Sometimes we bury them ourselves and it takes some effort to unearth what we know we have, but have put away somewhere. (Self confidence? Good judgment? Humility?)

When you finally find something that is missing and feel that wave of relief, how do you celebrate? My family favors happy dances that puts any NFL receiver to shame. Well, not usually my father—but rarely does he feel the need to read a parable immediately. I lost things (keys, sunglasses, wallets, phones) all the time. I know it’s at the bottom of the diaper-bag. Mothers spend about 30 % of their time locating that which is lost (to include children). Maybe it’s the practice that perfects our GPS.

If only I could hear my GPS say, “Locating: Sanity. Turn right. Go forth. You have reached your destination.” Oh well. I searched first in the area that the box was least likely to be and unearthed treasure. The greatest inventions, ideas, and treasures usually are where people haven’t looked. Pioneers may have a harder time, but they see things that others do not. Search the road less traveled; it makes all the difference. Just get gas and make a tinkle before you leave…and a good knife isn’t bad to have handy.

“If They Build It…They Won’t Come!”

 

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Psalm 27:1

As soon as I knew the date my husband was set to deploy, I started a countdown for Texas-trip. I knew I’d be somewhat overwhelmed with a high-strung toddler, an expanding belly, and a new military setting. Grandparents needed some baby cheek-kissing time, and I needed some good Tex-Mex and the rest that comes from being with people who love me.  Why not squeeze in an Aggie pilgrimage/ early college visit? It was time to head to Texas.

Let’s just say, this has not been the relaxing vacation I had envisioned. Still, some of the best family bonding happens through adversity. Take action movies for instance; after some high-stress ordeal full of adrenaline, the main characters share a kiss (or more) as if solid relationships depend on a hijacking or hostage situation. Why speed date when you can drive a bus over 65 miles an hour? However, I will concede that not blowing up is helpful when forming long-term relationships.  

I arrived to ecstatic parents who were embarking on a great journey—building a custom home. We had hoped that the house would be completed by the visit, but it turned out the move would take place during my visit. Then things got…interesting. Here is a little highlight of events.

1)      New renters wanted to move in two weeks early, so my parents were ‘excused’ to allow 65 year old sisters and their mother lease the house for 5 years.  The builders lost 2 weeks of time and my parents now had to pack while working full time.

2)      During nap times and breaks, the three of us packed and moved ourselves into an unfinished home.

3)      The cleaners contracted for the move-out cleaning did not keep the appointment on two separate days, forcing my mother to clean for 6 hours alone while Dad worked at the new house.

4)      Internet and phone service fiascos left us without any connections and spotty cell service for almost a week.

5)      The contractors seem to think appointments are optional and that tomorrow is soon enough.

6)      After the movers hauled the furniture, damaging nearly every piece and the new hardwoods, it seems the only box they packed- which contained a dresser drawer full of valuables- is missing. The hole in our dresser gapes open to remind us that the good jewelry is apparently buried in a box somewhere that we just can’t find…but they’ll get back to us.

 So much for “If you build it, they will come.” It seems quite the opposite, in fact. Image

The list goes on, but that sums up the past week.

Meticulous planning has gone into the building of this house and it is almost complete. My poor parents have worked like Spartans in the face of unbelievable frustrations. Although I am resting and eating extremely well, I spend most of my time helping with the house, boxes, and caring for my little buddy. Needless to say, I have not been able to write for a few days. I will catch up soon but for now this house is established on hard work and helping one another. The multi-generational teamwork is essential to family love and crisis survival; their kid has come home to help, they help me with the baby, and they spend evenings enjoying baby giggles and chasing a caped boy-wonder around a semi-construction zone.

The lack of integrity and commitment I’ve seen this week has been remarkable. The love and teamwork I’ve seen has been equally impressive. I’ve always been told that the family that prays together stays together. In that case, we’re stuck for life; buried voices from garages, closets, and attic spaces have called out, “Dear Lord! Come quickly!” quite a bit lately.

With that said, it may be time to take a literal view of scripture: Unless the Lord builds the house, it does seem to be in vain. I just didn’t think he had to come and personally build it. When this is all done, it truly will be a miracle. If there’s anything we know from the Bible, it’s that miracles should be commemorated with feasting. Time for Tex-Mex and Blue Bell ice cream. God Bless Texas.

 

Magazines and Mumus

“Is Your Body Beach Ready?”

Yes, thank you. Now I just have to find a black and white maternity swimsuit and put on a SeaWorld sponsorship patch. Nothing attracts attention like beached whales.  Not what the magazines meant by having a killer beach body? Oops. My mistake.

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Even when I was at my smallest size, I could never find a swimsuit that adequately covered the parts that bikinis are still supposed to cover. Now that I’m on my second pregnancy I am much more comfortable with the bodily hijacking that previously shook me to my core. I’ve come to terms that my body is not my own; I am a personal Habitat for Humanity.

Although options for pregnancy clothes are infinitely better than in decades past, my mother likes to offer me the bright pink and blue mumu that my father purchased for her. She also offered the mumu to me on a Fiesta pep-rally day to go with a sombrero. It is destined to be a family heirloom on par with The Christmas Story leg lamp.

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This week my writing time has been scarce because I am visiting my parents, who will hopefully move into their new home this weekend. As they are both working full time, I am looking through the closets and drawers, helping to weed out and pack the remaining belongings after nearly annual purges. This is a delightful task for me.  After literally dozens of moves, I have become a world-class purger.  Still, there are a few clothing items that I just can’t bear to part with because of what they represent. My grandfather’s well-worn cowboy boots remind me of his John Wayne gruffness and work ethic, while a 1940s style dress of my maternal grandmothers reminds me that even in the worst of times, it’s important to celebrate  life’s joys.  Packing up my parent’s house has made me realize how many items have precious memories attached.

I’ve also been purging boxes (and boxes and boxes) of keepsakes and finding all manner of hilarious pictures from not only my youth, but my parents’ younger days. Despite the “Princess Diana hair” and blue eye-shadow on Christmas morning (she totally rocked it) and the bell bottom jeans on Dad, most of the pictures show us smiling, laughing, and generally loving life. Life lesson: some pictures are forever.

As I dug out Ninja Turtles and Matchbox Cars and watched my son’s eyes light up in delight, I marveled at the value of what we hand down to our children. As I’ve met a few of my parents’ friends this week many of them have commented on my resemblance to my mother (which is increasing as time goes by). Yesterday I discovered a picture of her at about my age; we have the same long, auburn hair that curls at the ends and a similar smile.  I am certainly not a “spittin’ image” of my mother, but I wonder if she sees herself in me the way I see my husband in my son.

Looking back, I realize that my mother clothed me in more than her colorful hair scarves, lovely jewelry, and unnecessarily warm winter coats; she taught me to clothe myself in grace and that kindness beautifies a face more than make-up. My father would tell me not to wear Grandpa’s denim work jacket that was stained by farm life, but he also taught me to arm myself with tools to get hard work done and to grow an extra layer for when the poop starts flying.

Clothing is certainly not the end all of fashion or identity, but it is an essential display of who we are and aren’t. At the moment I find the magazine fashion advice laughable:

“Find and accentuate the smallest part of my body”.  Hm…that would be my wrists or ankles.

“Use a bold accessory item to highlight your waistline”.  Does a baby count? What waistline?

“Find a personal fashion mantra that identifies who you are to others.” I’m a mom. Excuse the Goldfish residue on my shoulders.

Then, of course: “Look eye-catching at the beach this summer!”  Shamu remains a popular summertime attraction.

The next week or so will be dominated by moving, but I will try to enjoy it and the memories that surround me as much as possible. Watching my son with his grandparents for their first summer vacation, I am capturing each moment. It won’t be long before he outgrows his tiny Superman pajamas and has to move on to Batman. One thing is certain; he will never, ever be encouraged to wear a hot pink mumu.

Glad Pants, Mad Pants, and Wet Pants

My maternal grandmother, who is a true piece of work, is fond of saying, “You can get glad in the same pants you got mad in.” Last year in a state of deep pondering I thought, “Maybe, but if you’re mad because your pants are soaked it will take much longer.”

Today experience confirmed my pontification.

My mother is working today, so my sister and I planned to go by the office with lunch and her grandson to brighten her day. All was going according to plan…until we parked and I tried to maneuver the lunch, drinks, and diaper bag into a convenient carrying position. The lid of a large drink popped off precisely as I put the drink between my knees, sending a river of dark brown sugary liquid careening toward my crotch. I am a fast mover, but there was NO hope of avoidance. Like a pop-tent I sprung from a stately seated position to a sprawled, pregnant bellied crab-walk arch, desperately trying to stop myself from becoming more of a human sponge.

I emerged from the car with napkins that had somehow miraculously launched into my hand (Mom magic) and wiped down my rear, legs, and the seat. My sister, who had very slowly and carefully pulled my sleeping son out of his car seat during this blessed event, did what every good sister does in this situation: laughed hysterically. I tried to rearrange and pat down the evidence of my grace, to very little avail. Of course, I had no choice but to walk into the office pretending that I didn’t have a dark, wet stain down my pants and sit down as quickly as possible.

In the grand scheme of things it isn’t a big problem, and it made me grateful that I had not started the dark load of laundry before leaving. (Karma meets Mom preparation?) All the advice to keep an extra set of clothes handy rang back through my mind, colliding with the times I filled my bag with unnecessary clothes and was then told to simplify. With no one to blame but myself (and gravity), there I stood with wet, sticky, pants.  It’s just harder to get glad in that situation; particularly when you’re sticky and wet.

Now over the years I have had my share of spills. This year’s most popular games have been“Peek-a-boo” and “Name that Stain”. Generally when one has on pants that are wet, stained, ill-fitting, or generally uncomfortable, it can be distracting. Thankfully for liars, pants do not regularly catch on fire; that would really be a damper on a day.

An hour or so later I got home and changed my pants; I am now glad indeed.  It seems that the key to going from mad to glad is about change. Today the change in my attitude came down to something very simple—changing my pants. Sorry, Grandma. Today getting glad had everything to do with different pants.

May your day be free of spills and your pants be glad.  Image