PARENTING TOPIC: Fight for the heart

6 Ways to Take Charge of Your Bad Day

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

 

Happy Toast

I had a bad day recently.
Chances are you have too.

Mine blindsided me, and it threw me off so much I got almost nothing accomplished that I wanted to accomplish.
I don’t like days like that. (Does anybody?)
But they’re inevitable in life….and in parenting.

One of your children spills orange juice spills on a proposal that you had been working on all night long.
It’s your turn to carpool, but the car won’t start. And you have 6 kids in the car.
The dentist calls wondering why you missed your appointment that started 30 minutes ago.You forgot.
You open an unexpected bill.
Dinner burns. Again.
The kids fight over whose turn it is to clean the dishes, who gets the computer next, who was mean first. . .

It happens.
When I have a bad day, it often costs me more than I care to admit:

I sometimes say things I regret.
I occasionally take my frustrations out on people around me.
My co-workers sometimes suffer if I allowed my mood to travel to the office.

Way too many parents allow bad days to undermine their family again and again.

So how do you deal with a bad day?

Here are six strategies I’ve learned to use that can help:

1. Ask yourself: “What would an emotionally intelligent parent do?” Emotional intelligence is all about developing a self-awareness of how your attitudes and actions impact others, and leveraging it to benefit others.  As Daniel Goleman points out in his classic book, Emotional Intelligence, emotionally intelligent people rarely let their state of mind bring others down. They’ve developed behaviors that compensate for their emotional state so they don’t drag other people down with them. Your bad day doesn’t have to turn into your family’s bad day.

So quite literally, on my worst day, I ask myself, “What would an emotionally intelligent parent do?” I imagine what they would do, then I do everything I can to do it. Try it. It works.

2. Don’t act on your emotions. Emotionally intelligent people don’t act on their negative emotions. Ever been around an angry person? Not fun, is it? So when you’re having a bad day, don’t act on your emotions. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t let your kids ‘have it’.

3. Don’t make any significant decisions. The worst time to make decisions is when you’re upset or feeling down. Your emotions will lead you to decide things you’ll regret. So just decide not to decide anything that day.

4. Divert to accomplish a short term win. Chances are you can accomplish something positive, even if you don’t feel like it. Even do something mundane like clean out your inbox. Or straighten your house. While your head may not be in the right space to slay any big dragons, divert yourself to something manageable so you can find at least one or two short term wins. You still need to earn your keep on a bad day.

5. Confide and pray. You should tell somebody about your bad day. Just tell the right person. Don’t trot your frustrations out on your Facebook page (one day your kids will read how frustrated you were with them). Chances are you are going to want to tell the wrong person. Instead, talk to a close friend or your spouse (appropriately). And pray. My prayer on bad days sometimes is as simple as “God, this is your family as much as it is mine. Get me through this. Help me to see my part in all this.”  That’s a decent prayer on a bad day.

6. Get a great night’s sleep. Don’t dismiss this. Sleep is so important. Go to bed early. Shoot for 8 hours. You will feel so much better in the morning. Watch what happens to your emotions when you sleep for eight hours. They get healthier. You’ll be much better positioned to deal with lingering issues when you’re well rested. And chances are your funk will disappear.

Naturally, if your bad day becomes a bad week and bad season, you may have something else going on.  Get some help and tackle it that way.

But for a normal “bad day,” these strategies help me (and my wife and kids) a lot.

What helps you get through a bad day? What doesn’t? Leave a comment!

Faith at Risk

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

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Most moms and dads are ready to fight the battle for their children’s safety and future as soon as they are born. Parents will buckle them into car seats that fit like plastic straitjackets, construct beds and play zones with prison bars, hook their arms to an expandable leash to walk through the mall, and install video surveillance systems so their children can be monitored from every room. Parents are programmed to protect and provide. We feel responsible to make sure we have the kind of boundaries that will keep children safe.

Over time parents become convinced their primary job is protection, so we make rules, set limits, and put up fences because that is what we are supposed to do. We are parents. We will insulate, isolate, and segregate our kids from everything we think might be a threat. It is easy for us to become more concerned about their safety than we do their faith. It is possible to sacrifice the very things they need to learn and the things they should experience by our zeal to protect them.

But living this way and parenting this way demands the question: What happens one day when they are on their own? When they leave for college?  When they enter the working world? When they get married? When they are challenged to sacrifice for the sake of others?

They were meant to be a part of an adventurous story. This is a mission that requires them to engage with culture in order to rescue a generation of hurting and disconnected people. If you are a leader or parent remember this:

The family and church were not primarily designed to protect children, but to set them free to demonstrate God’s love to a broken world.

Welcome to the Cave

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

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By Tim Walker

My wife is incredibly social. She can talk to anyone, and anyone talks to her. She’s one of those people whom random strangers seek out to divulge all kinds of information. She can ride in an elevator with someone and know more about their lives than a close friend would know after a year of Facebook posts.

I, on the other hand, lack a small-talk gene. I know how to shut down a conversation—whether it’s intentional or not. And while I crave alone time, my wife and my kids thrive on spending time with friends.

My dream home is a cave. Theirs is a hotel with a constant stream of guests.

You see, I like order, a little too much sometimes. I like predictable. I like when it’s just the five of us.

I feel like I have my hands full with just keeping up with my wife and kids, and adding someone else into the mix just feels like “one more thing” to deal with sometimes.

I know. If I were eighty, I would be the old man at the end of the street with the dilapidated house yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

But my family loves sharing our life with other people.

And so I give in.

I get up and make breakfast for my sons and their friends.

I drive them to where they need to go.

I give them space.

The house gets noisier.

Messier.

I abdicate the TV.

And in the process, some of those kids who come over become like family. My small, little grinch-sized heart starts to care about them.

As an added bonus, I learn more about my sons by watching them interact with their friends.

And I learn more about their world by seeing the kinds of people they invite into our home.

Now there are times when I say “no” because there is a value in spending time with just the five of us. But I also have to be honest about why I’m saying “no.” And since my natural tendency is to shut the gates, I often find myself asking how my wife, who is more social than me, would respond.

I would love to live in a cave.

But my wife and my boys keep dragging people into the cave.

And so I have to fight my natural tendencies, because it’s how I can show my kids that I love them and care about the things they care about.

So I’ve found more subtle ways to be supportive. I’m the guy who makes the cookies or the one who’s up making breakfast. I’m the taxi service on occasion. And when I need to be alone, and to give them some space with their friends, I retreat to a corner.

I’ve found a way to make it work.

What about you? How are you wired—cave dweller or cave welcomer?

If you’re a cave dweller, how can you fight your own preferences to fight for the heart of your family, and make your home a welcoming place for their friends?

It will require sacrifice. At times, you’ll be more annoyed than welcoming. But you never know what might happen in the heart of your kids or their friends—or even your own.

Tim Walker 1Tim Walker works at Orange and is a husband, father of three boys, editor, writer—well, you get the idea. More of Tim’s words can be found at his blog, www.timswords.com.

Snowmageddon

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

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By Julie Tiemann

Snowmageddon.

Snowpocalypse.

Whatever you call it, Atlanta was crippled by it a few days ago. There’s a lot of debate on how two inches could take down a bustling city in a few short minutes, but beautiful stories are emerging too. Stories of heroism, of selfless acts of kindness, of babies being born on the roadside. . . My day encompassed all of that (minus the baby).

Trapped in my house by a car not up to the task and a steep hill that froze in minutes, I was unable to rescue my four- and five-year olds from school. Sobbing, I called my husband who left work immediately for his typically 45-minute commute. Twelve hours later, he would finally arrive home, but that’s another story. Thankfully, a friend stepped up with her all-wheel drive car and offered to bring them to me.

Two excruciating hours later, she was still well over a mile from my house and not moving at all. I grabbed kiddie-sized boots, extra coats, scarves, mittens and hats and took off by foot. After what seemed an eternity, I spotted the car and soon had my babies dressed like mummies and ready for the walk back home.

The walk back was brutal as we were now walking headfirst into the wind and snow. I held their hands so tightly that my own hands would shake for hours to come. We stayed as far away from the road as we could, as cars slid around us.

After waiting for an 18-wheeler to skid across the bridge and up the hill, we saw our only chance to cross the bridge. As we trudged closer, before I knew it, the words were coming out of my mouth: “Jesus, keep us safe. Please, Jesus, keep us safe. Jesus, keep us safe.” I couldn’t stop the plea from coming, even after the girls started giggling, not understanding why I was repeating myself.

As we walked across the bridge, the girls asked me why I kept saying “Jesus, keep us safe” over and over again. I had a moment’s hesitation—wondering if I should pretend to be strong. And, maybe I should have. But, I decided to be honest. As the cars continued to slide by us, I told them I was scared. But I reminded them that God was with us. And that it was okay to be scared, but we still needed to remember that God was with us.

He didn’t stop the storm. We didn’t see any angels or bright lights. But we made it down that hill and across the bridge, and before too much longer, we were sipping on the promised hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course).

Part of me wants my girls to believe I am invincible. That I never get scared or sad. But maybe one day one of them will be facing a storm that terrifies them. They may feel out of control and have no idea how to handle what’s flying at them. And just maybe, they’ll remember how their mom was scared and yet still believed God was with her. And maybe they’ll drop marshmallows in their own kids’ hot chocolate and tell them about the time they walked home from school, uphill and downhill in the snow, and God kept them safe.

Headshot_cropJulie Tiemann writes for the 252 Basics curriculum team at Orange. She and her husband Mike Tiemann have two little girls who have memorized every word of “Frozen.” (Okay, Julie has too.)

The Words that Stick

Friday, October 25th, 2013

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We lived for a few solid years in our family not having to really watch our words. We could have conversations about dessert, fun places to go, and toys. And our toddlers would be none the wiser. But this past year, we turned a corner. We’ve started spelling. Even then, Asher, my oldest, will pick out letters and ask insistently, “What are you talking about? What does that spell? What are you saying?”

Our years of open conversation and reckless dialogue are done. These days, words are starting to stick. Phrases hang around. Nothing is said “in passing” anymore. Because my four-year old’s mind is like a steel trap. What’s said is almost always remembered.

“I need a few minutes of quiet.”

“What in the world is going on here?”

“This place is a mess.”

It’s kind of entertaining stuff coming from the mouth of four-year-old, unless you’re that four-year-old’s mother. Then it’s just convicting.

But, last weekend, something beautiful happened. Asher told me he wanted to write a letter to his best friend. I was instructed to write down everything he spoke aloud. Thinking this could be interesting, I obliged, sitting down with a pad of paper and pen in hand.

“Dear Levi,” he very confidently began, “God loves us. Be strong and courageous. God, help us learn to have a good attitude. Be strong and courageous. Be brave. Be good and kind. Cook with your dad. Pray as much as you can. Pray and take baths every night. Do not be afraid.”

I couldn’t have done my own talking even if I tried. He had me speechless. As his scribe, memorializing these stream of consciousness phrases, I couldn’t help but think: Just keep your mouth shut. Let him talk. This is gold.

It’s rare for me to not interrupt, interject, or insert my words into almost every conversation making every moment as “teachable” as possible—as soon as possible.  But this time, I kept quiet and simply decided to listen. And I’m so glad I did.

Be strong and courageous.

Pray as much as you can.

Take baths.

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Sometimes, when you just let your kids talk, and you do the listening, you catch some real gems. Sure, you find out that your nagging about washing their hands, finishing their vegetables and saying “thank you” are sticking, but you also hear that there are a lot more meaningful truths being catalogued and filed away as well.

After writing the letter, I began to learn that I don’t necessarily have to always ask, interject, dig, or wrestle truths out of my son. Sometimes, I just need to be quiet and hear from his own mouth and in his own words the things he cares about and is internalizing.

If we can manage to be quiet long enough, the very ones we are trying to parent will tell us what they need to hear from us most. Maybe not explicitly. But tucked into the nuances of the day. In their body language. In their interactions with others. In their questions. In their stories. In their conversations. Maybe even in their “letters” to friends.

So when it comes to weighing what we say, maybe we choose to say less. And listen more. And then choose the words we do say more wisely.

Because they stick. They are remembered.

And whether we intend for them to or not, they are going to show up again. Let’s make sure what gets remembered is worth repeating and speaks to the needs our kids are so subtly letting us know they have.

And now and then throw in something about taking a bath, so your child will be wise and grounded—but also clean.

For more on how words matter, follow the conversation here.

Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.

Get to Know Them All Over Again

Friday, October 4th, 2013

I have two sons.

Two sons, two realities:

One loves music. The other loves sports.
One loves conversation. The other is a man of few words.
They both like camping.

My thinking went this way: of course I know them. They’re my sons. But then I lived a few years longer. And so did they. And I realized that as they’ve grown up, they’ve done more than just add years. They’ve added depth to who they are. Complexity. Nuance.

In fact, I find that the older they get, the more I realize I have yet to learn about the person God’s creating. There are things about my boys I’m still discovering, aspects of their character and personality that are yet to be unearthed or explored. And it’s wonderful.

And you know what bridges the gap between what you know and what you want to know?

Time.

Love over time is what makes relationship deeper.

The gap between what we know and what we don’t know creates wonder, awe, and respect. Respect for who they are. Respect for what God is doing.

If you really want to get to know your family, spend a greater quantity of quality time together. Learn about who they are becoming. Observe what they like and don’t like. Ask them questions, or maybe. . . just listen. Listen a lot.

When you do, you’ll discover:

  • The things you’re supposed to know that no one tells you.
  • The things you’re supposed to know, but that can change at any minute because they have the right to change them.
  • The things you’re not supposed to know because they think it’s none of your business.
  • The parts of their personality that they themselves are still discovering.

And one more thing will happen. The way you invest time getting to know your kids, they’ll see that you love them.

Love over time communicates value.

So this week, spend some time getting to know your family. To really know them. Because there is always so much left to discover.

Follow the rest of the conversation on Playing For Keeps as Reggie, Kristen, and others talk about the 6 things every kid needs over time. You can start with the first part of the series about how Time Matters.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will continue to talk about how kids need Love, Words, Stories, Tribes, and Fun OVER TIME! Next week we will wrap up with the 3rd habit to make love matter more.

Secrets for Dads From a Daughter

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Art by Hannah Joiner

by Hannah Joiner

I happened to be at the wedding when Reggie, my dad, read this letter to Mark on the day he gave his daughter Kristi away in marriage. Even though it was directed primarily to fathers, I couldn’t help but learn a few things myself. I also thought of a few secrets that my dad should know about his daughter that might be beneficial for other dads too.

Secret one: Rolling my eyes didn’t always mean what I was communicating to you.

I remember rolling my eyes as a little girl when my dad needed to take me by his office. The funny thing is I also remember REALLY wanting to go. I just didn’t want him to know that. Yes, we do play games, and I’m sorry it’s so confusing! I loved feeling like I was important enough to be around my dad’s workplace. It made me feel like he was proud to be my dad.

Secret two: I loved when you invested in getting to know my friends.

When my dad would get to know my friends (at any age), it meant the world to me. I pretended to be embarrassed sometimes. Little did he know, he was communicating his genuine interest in my life. What was important to me was also important to him. And I began to realize that his purpose was not to just make the rules, he wanted to build a relationship with me.

Secret three: Letting go helped me decide who I wanted to be.

When I was sixteen, I got into some trouble at school. I was scared to death of what my punishment would be when my dad got home. This is one of those times I remember him “letting go.” He didn’t really punish me, he just told me I was old enough to make my own decisions and that I was accountable to God and myself. The next day, he took me to work with him and treated me like an adult. This was a turning point in my life. I was heartbroken knowing he was disappointed in me. I WANTED a punishment so that I could just pay for it. Instead, letting go in that moment taught me who I wanted to be—someone that could make the right decisions without rules.

Dads, I wish I had been better at communicating to my father how much his holding on and letting go meant to me. The chances are your daughters will probably wish the same thing one day. If you are fighting for her and trying your best, she knows it. So don’t stop. Of course my dad didn’t do everything right, but none of that matters now because he fought for our relationship. I really believe that’s the most crucial part.

I hope this encourages every parent and ever leader to push on through the eye rolls and know that kids need you to fight for their heart. So keep doing what you do. Every day. Every week. And when that moment comes and you have to let go and let them walk away, you can know they will carry with them all the things you have done for them over time.

Hannah Joiner works as a creative director for Orange. By default she grew up around the making and development of Orange and now as an adult can’t help but have a few thoughts of her own sometimes. In her free time she is painting or making something! Hannah believes that creativity is a universal tool we can use to teach children, inspire people, and share stories.

How to Have A Family Fight

Friday, April 26th, 2013

So when you first became a family, you likely thought that you would never have a fight.

You would be a perfect couple.

Your son would discipline himself, and your daughter would, well, never sin because she’s your daughter.

How’s that going?

Hasn’t really turned out that way, has it?

The sad reality is that every family fights. As much as we don’t like it, we do. Most of us realize fighting is destructive and likely unChristian, but we don’t know what to do about it.

And the stakes are high.

Families, break up or break down as a result.

So what do you do about fighting?

Well, if you’re going to fight, just fight differently. There are actually two ways for a family to fight.

You can fight with your each other.

Or you can fight for each other.

These two small words– for and with–represent a world of difference in how you fight.

Most of us have only ever had someone fight with us. If someone fights with you:

It’s a zero sum game.

They need to win and you need to lose and you need to win in order for them to lose.

The people who fight care more about themselves than anyone.

Both walk away feeling diminished–usually even the ‘victor’ does over time. Contrast that with fighting for someone. When you fight for someone:

You’re fighting for them so you want to see them better off.

The fight is happening because you want to see them win, not because you want to win.

You care more about their interests than you do about yours.

Both walk away replenished– with the relationship stronger in the short and long term. Even if the other person doesn’t respond well, you have done everything in your power to help them, not hurt them.

Fighting for your family means you want their best interests to prevail, not yours.

It means that when there’s conflict, the conflict is about moving through an issue so the person you’re fighting with is better off, not that so that you are right or feel vindicated.

And finally it means that everyone leaves better than before the fight rather than depleted. Relationships are stronger and the issues got dealt with in a way that actually helped your family move forward.

You know who taught us this?

Jesus.

No one modeled fighting for someone (rather than with someone) better than Jesus. As his enemies nailed him to the cross, he said “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

What they didn’t realize of course, is that this Jesus they were killing was dying for them. He was fighting for them while they were fighting with him, and it changed the world.

So what do you think would happen if families started fighting for each other rather than with each other.

Question….when was the last time you fought for your family rather than with them?

This week, fight for your spouse. Fight for your kids. Fight for the relationships that matter most. It could change your family forever.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Tell The Truth

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

My grandmother used to tell me about a parenting strategy she used to us to get my mom and uncles to tell the truth when they were kids.

If she suspected one of her children was lying, she would line them up and tell them that she was going to inspect their foreheads. Every time one of the kids asked why, she simply said, “Because when I see your forehead, I can tell who’s telling the truth or not.”

Inevitably, as she went down the line, the child who was lying would cover their forehead so my grandma couldn’t see. Then my grandmother would proceed to them and say “So it was you. Now I know.”

Clearly, she was a genius.

I suppose using a game of deception to encourage honesty might not be the best parenting idea going, but you have to give her points for ingenuity.

What my grandmother struggled with is what every parent struggles with: how do I get my kids to be honest?

I suppose some of you have some parenting tricks you’d love to share (we’re all ears here), but here are a few strategies that can help you foster the kind of atmosphere that values truth:

1. Start talking about honesty early. If you begin the conversation early, you can establish honesty as a core value in your home. You can reward a toddler’s behavior every time they tell you they did something bad. Well that wasn’t right and we’ll have to do something about it, but I’m SO glad you told me the truth. Thank you! That’s so important!

2. Discourage dishonesty even more than you discourage the crime. We all make mistakes. But we don’t have to lie about them.   If your child does something wrong, consequences are in order. But if they lie about what they did, make the consequences greater. If all you do is punish the act, you might be giving them unspoken incentive to lie about the act.

3. Don’t lie. I was going to say this more tactfully, but maybe we need to be direct. Almost all of us tell white lies from time to time. Ever been caught  in front of your kids trying to come up with an excuse to get out of something? Oh, just tell them you’re busy, I know you really don’t want to go. Or maybe your kids have overheard you talking about how to get that ‘extra’ day off on your vacation. Well, you could call in sick. Ouch. They model what you do more than they model what you say.

4. Search for a way to tell the truth. While this might not work well with two-year-old, but as your kids get older, explain the dilemma you find yourself in when you are tempted to tell a ‘white lie’. For example, you might say, “I really want to tell her I liked the brocoli salad, but I didn’t. So I found the things I did like and told her about that. . . such as, “I so appreciate all the time and effort you put into making the meal. Thank you!” It teaches your kids to search for a way to tell the truth when we all have trouble finding it. And it teaches them to value honesty in every situation.

5. Talk about your struggles. As your kids get older, talk about your struggles to tell the truth. Tell them about how easy it is to lie in order to not hurt someone’s feelings, and how you really have to wrestle with being 100% honest at work in every situation. When you let them know it’s still a struggle for you, it validates the struggle they feel within themselves. It’s also another way to establish the value of honesty as a core value not just in your home, but in your lives.

What are you learning about valuing honesty in your home? What would you add to the discussion?

Falling Short

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

My husband and I are short people. We knew long before each of our boys was born they didn’t stand a chance. Height was not in the cards.

Several months ago the county fair was in town, so on opening night we headed out with our family and some friends to experience what only a county fair can offer—shockingly greasy food and highly entertaining people watching. Once there, my 3-year old set his sights on one ride he was determined to experience. And when it was his turn to hop on the ½ mile an hour train going in one painstakingly small circle, he was told he didn’t make the cut. Too short.

To my surprise, he didn’t seem too heartbroken. But I was. And in hopes to avoid what could easily lead to an emotional upheaval—in me more than my son—my husband quickly navigated our family to the games instead. There we were robbed blind—but at least spared more disappointment. Disaster avoided.

And then about a week ago, out of the blue, my son, Asher, asked me, “Remember when we went to the fair? And I didn’t go on any rides? I was too little.”

Just like that, the wound was fresh again. It was the first time Asher indicated that the pain from a previous experience had been internalized—and remembered. He may have been quick to hide it at the time it happened, but something about that night stuck with him. It told him he literally didn’t measure up and whatever his little mind had processed about himself as a result had taken hold.

It is every parent’s nightmare and every parent’s reality. It is going to happen. The day your child’s pain is no longer fixed with a kiss, a hug, or a distraction. When you realize your arms could never reach far enough to keep growing and wandering extensions of yourself as close as you want—or as safe as you’d like. It’s the day they grow up. And the day we dread. We can’t stop it, prevent it or fix. We simply bear it.

Soon after Asher was born I found this quote from George McDonald, “A parent,” he writes, “must respect the spiritual person of his child, and approach it with reverence, for that too looks the Father in the face and has an audience with Him into which no earthly parent can enter even if he dared to desire it.”

It’s wise advice. Respect the “personhood” of your child. They have God’s ear. But it is more than that too. On days when pain cuts our kids in ways we can only imagine (though we imagine excruciatingly well) it is good to know there is a God who is closer.

On the days when we know there is more going on inside then they are capable of—or choose—to articulate, there is a God who sees. On the days we are no longer trusted to assume their hurt—though it is clear it exists—there is a God who shoulders it instead.

I could work myself into a nervous frenzy forecasting my son’s future and the potential hurt that awaits. I could work myself into a near breakdown when I realize that many of the potential hurts will be likely realities.

Rejection. Fear. Failure. Insecurity.

These aren’t mere surface wounds. These are heartbreakers. Chances are they are coming. And certainly I won’t be able to do much—or at least enough—about them.

Which is why I am glad God can. George McDonald got it right. Respect your child’s audience with God. But also be grateful for it.

Be glad that when you can’t do for your child what you hoped you might, God can. Be thankful that it isn’t our responsibility to fix every emotional or physical bump, bruise, or cut—because our capabilities are sorely lacking.

Be deliberate about allowing God to be the parent we think we should, or wish we could be. Permit Him to do what we long to do—but what only He can do well—be their Father, their Fixer, their Healer, and their Confidant.

Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.