The Zombie Apocalypse Has Arrived

We were downtown tonight for dinner and afterwards decided to enjoy the beautiful summer evening with a stroll downtown. We left the restaurant and started walking …

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Look closely at the people. Do you see what they’re doing? They are on their phones. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

A block further down, we headed to the playground and I took another picture…

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There were hordes of zombie-ish people all walking together in clumps, not talking, but staring at their phones. You guys, this was straight out of Hollywood.

(Side note: Two of the Pokemon Go zombies had big black guns strapped to their belts. Not even any attempt to conceal them. Just strapped there proudly for all to see. Standing a few feet away from the playground. Welcome to Colorado, folks, where the pot flows like wine and preppie looking suburban kids pack heat.)

It was surreal.

Speaking of surreal, I’m starting to dread my Facebook news feed.

This morning between services at church, I opened Facebook to post something on our church page and glancing at the news feed, saw that the top item was a breaking news report from Baton Rouge of a shooting. Not the one from the other day. Another one.

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CNN can’t even keep the Breaking News story at the top of their page because more bad news keeps breaking.

THIS MADNESS NEEDS TO STOP. But it’s not stopping. It’s happening faster and faster. I feel like we’re stuck on a runaway train speeding toward the Grand Canyon.

When we got home tonight, my husband and I tried to talk about raising our two littles in this world. We quickly had to stop the conversation because it got too painful. We were both at a loss. We had so many questions and no answers.

How do we teach our kids about things like authentic community and soul care and loving other people when the world walks around ignoring each other to look at their phones?

How do we teach them to love and have compassion in the midst of a terror filled world? 

How do we protect them and yet allow them to experience the world little by little – at their level –  and guide them through this mess we’ve made for them?

This is a brain dump post, so I really don’t have a good way to wrap this up.

It’s almost midnight and I’m awake because I’m burdened by the state of the world and anxious about raising my kids in it and stressed about when and how to address the big things with them. Like racism. And gun control. And terrorism. And technology. And. And. And.

Praying is the Sunday school answer, but it feels really really ineffective right now. (Sorry, God, but since you’re God you already know my heart about this.)

All I can do is stop reading the news for a while and hug my kids tight and take a break from the world and breathe a few deep breaths and then go back out in it and model love and try my best to help them understand where God is in all this.

I first saw him at the library…

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East Library. Here’s where it all began.

The first place I remember randomly running into him outside of our workplace was at the library. He was walking out with a stack of books and I recognized him as the new guy I’d met at work a few days prior. He was brand new to town and I was impressed that he was already at the public library.

We said hello and made some small talk, and I remember walking away from that conversation thinking two things …

  1. Okay. He’s attractive.
  2. He is a reader. So even more attractive.

And I made a mental note to pay a bit closer attention to him.

Married

Let the fun begin!

Nearly eight years later, we’re married.

We had a long adjustment period to married life. We’ve struggled to meld our very different lives and interests while maintaining our individual identities. It’s a delicate balance.

We have vastly different backgrounds, experiences, personalities and dreams. On paper, our marriage shouldn’t work. I mean, here’s a him|me list…

Years of dating | Very little relationship experience
Only child | Oldest child
Contrarian | People pleaser
Analytical | Emotional
Deliberate | Spontaneous
Organized | Messy
Literal | Prone to exaggeration
East Coast | Rocky Mountains

The long list of differences are recipe for disaster.

But God seems to like to defy the odds. So here we are, seven years in.

This past December we embarked on a new adventure of sorts. A shared literary journey. Or maybe its more like a lifelong cocktail tour. Or a boozy book club. Or DIY marriage therapy. It’s kinda hard to describe, actually.

It all began with an unassuming little book we stumbled upon called Tequila Mockingbird.
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As we thumbed through it, Chris said “What if we bought this and read through all the books? And made all the drinks?”

And so we did.

Over the next few days, we formed our plan…

We’d use this book as a guide. We’d read each book it lists. Then we’d each write something about the book. Then we’d make the corresponding drink. And we’d each write something about the drink. And we’d record it all in a shared blog.

So without further ado, I give you:

Through a Book and Glass

You guys, we have a blog. The Giovagnonis are blogging! If you’re interested – in literature, or liquor, or writing, or us – you’re invited to follow our blog. We’re using the blog as kind of a travel journal – a place to record where we’ve been and our experiences, but as it’s out there in the blogosphere, I thought I’d share it with you.

This will likely take us years. There are hundreds of books. And some are … not the quickest reads. [cough] War and Peace [cough] But since we have the rest of our lives, it’s not a problem.

Oh and there are a few rules:

  1. We have to finish each book. It might take a long time. But we finish it.
  2. We have to write something about the book. What this looks like is completely up to the writer. It can be a book review, a piece of creative writing, one sentence or phrase. It just has to be something.
  3. We cannot have the drink until we’ve finished the book.
  4. We cannot start the next book until we’ve completed the process for the last book.

That’s it. We’re three books in. And loving it. Tonight we make our third drink so new posts coming soon.

Alla prossima volta … ciao!

America … You’re Fired

Donald TrumpAfter reading the results of the Nevada caucus this morning, I’ve been trying all day to sort through my feelings about the whole thing. I’m not making much progress. I get too worked up about it every time I try.

I keep posting things about Trump on my Facebook account. And then two minutes later I delete them because I don’t want to be “that person” who posts political things, devoid of any context. I wish I could just not care and go on with my life without having to feel like I have to speak my mind.

I am a Christian. My one job is to love people. I should respect them even when they have a different opinion than me. And I’m trying hard to learn to accept people regardless of whether I agree with choices they make and the way they live their lives. But how do I respect someone’s “different choice” when I fear it would mean disaster for our country?

I have identified three people in my world who are voting for Trump. And I cannot – for the life of me – understand how anyone who loves Jesus Christ and all that he stood for, can want a leader like Trump. Nothing about the man resembles Jesus. Take an inventory of the character traits of Jesus and the character traits of Donald Trump … do they have anything in common?

I cannot wrap my brain around it.

Here’s a comment I left on a friend’s post today, which pretty much sums up my feelings:

I’m completely paralyzed with the dilemma of how to navigate this political mess. I’m distraught about the idea of Trump becoming president. I’m dumbstruck at how he continues to win. But I have NO idea what to do about it. I feel like I’m standing in front of a runaway train.

On the whole, I dislike Matt Walsh. I think he undermines his perfectly valid points (many of which I agree with) with his derisive, divisive and vitriolic way of expressing himself.

However, I think in this case, he got it right in addressing Trump supporters…

…you want a spectacle, not a solution. A celebrity, not a statesman. A circus performer, not a leader …  you’ve accepted authoritarianism as a stand-in for strength.

Every state that Trump wins puts us that much closer to what CNN is already saying is the inevitable outcome: President Trump.

It’s absurd.

He is the complete opposite of a servant leader. He wants to build walls, not relationships. He is erratic and reactive. As president he would have the power to start a world war. He would hold the keys to our nuclear arsenal. We would literally be giving him the power to kill people. As a friend recently put it, Trump is just a crazy person. It would be like giving a monkey an assault rifle.

The thought terrifies me.

If Cruz and Rubio don’t get together NOW and decide which one of them’s going to drop out, Trump will win the nomination. Someone (whoever the bigger man is, I submit) is going to have to sacrifice his presidential bid for the greater good. But I suspect their egos won’t let them.

In 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California with 20% of the vote. That means 80% of voters were against him, but because they couldn’t all get on the same page, he won.

That seems to be what is happening here.

Recently I’ve been reading a book about joy …  about changing my thought patterns. I’ve been trying to focus daily on being positive and thinking positive thoughts and not dwelling on the negative. This presidential race is challenging my resolve to focus on the positive because I’m having an extremely hard time finding the good in the thought of Donald Trump becoming our president.

Here’s where I take comfort…

There is a bigger story playing out. This is just a page in it.

I believe God is sovereign. He allows us to choose our leaders, and yet he is ultimately in control of who gets put in office.

But.

He doesn’t always swoop in and protect us from ourselves. Like the Israelites who insisted on a king despite God’s advice not to, God sometimes allows us to choose something that isn’t necessarily in our best interest.

And that’s my take on Trump.

Wearing In the Shoes (Or a 2015 Wrap-up)

It’s the last day of the year, so it’s time for the yearly Giovagnoni family wrap up. (Doing it three years in a row makes it a “thing” right?)

First the notable events…

Cara started kindergarten.
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And piano.

Tyce started gymnastics. (He’s in the green shirt, flipping over the bar.)


We took road trips to South Dakota and Breckenridge.

After years of dreaming about it (and lots of pinning things) I made a pallet headboard. Which lead to making a lot of other things out of pallets.

I tried out (and found I liked) road biking. So Chris and I had a little mountain adventure to celebrate six years together.
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I started as a tour guide with Rocky Mountain Food Tours.

Chris and I traveled to El Salvador for his anniversary trip.
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Then we spent Christmas in DC.
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So that’s our year in a few neat sentences.

Now’s the part of the letter where I get real and share all the mess behind those pretty pictures. (Remember this? And this?) But guess what?

I am happy to tell you there’s no exposé this time!

I’m not gonna say our year has been easy. In fact, I’m not quite ready to even say it was “good.” But it feels like after six years, we have finally turned a corner. Something clicked this year. We weren’t aware of when it happened (or more likely it was a gradual thing) but looking back on this year, here’s what 2015 was about:

Less fighting. More laughing.
Less depression. More hugs.
Less anxiety. More trust.
Less anger. More joy.
Less chaos. More peace.

Marriage for us has been like a new pair of shoes that have been too stiff and very uncomfortable, but you can’t get rid of them because they’re the only shoes you have, so after several years of painful blisters they are finally starting to get worn in to the point where you can easily slip them on and they feel right … comfortable even. And you can even see a day coming where they’ll be your most favorite pair of shoes you’ve ever worn.

For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward with hope to what the next year holds.

I cannot end this post without acknowledging the One who has sustained us through the storms. Without God as our anchor, we surely would have given up on us by now. He alone gets all the credit for where we’ve come and how we’ve grown.

To Him be the glory.

And So I Cry…

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El Salvador, sometimes known as the “Ireland of Central America.” Also known for being so overrun with violent gangs you cannot go out showing tattoos, body piercings or wearing the numbers 13, 18 or the letter S.

The things I saw today will be seared in my memory for the rest of my life. It happened in a home in San Martin, El Salvador.

To get there, we drove through a narrow dirt alley, parking at the end of two long, tin walls. The entrance to the home was a door-sized opening in the tin a few yards down.

We stepped over the threshold into a dark room. It wasn’t the humidity or the heat that was oppressive, so much as the overwhelming intensity of the situation. Everything in me screamed DESPAIR.

As we entered, immediately to the right were two 55 gallon drums filled with water. All around them were small piles of clothes soaking in small tubs of water on the dirt floor.

A small cookstove stood against the back wall, the top piled with mismatched dented pots. A few plastic dished balanced precariously next to the pots.

A table with a dirty vinyl tablecloth with a faint Spiderman print, worn almost beyond recognition, stood in the center of the room, a few plastic chairs scattered around it. Pieces of the chairs were broken or missing. A small stained mattress stood up along one wall.

As our eyes acclimated to the dark, we saw a small child in a rocking chair. His emaciated arms and legs stood in stark contrast to his distended belly, swollen large from malnutrition. He looked at us with hollow eyes. He was tiny, roughly the size of our three-year-old.

His mom, Ana Luz, quietly introduced him – Kennedy – and said today was his ninth birthday.

And with that, extreme poverty came and slapped me hard in the face.

She told us, through her tears, that he was born missing part of his brain, which explained his erratic arm movements.  Upon learning of his condition when we was born, his father disappeared, running away from the burden of caring for a severely disabled boy, and abandoning his four boys and their mother.

As she spoke, the tiny child started whimpering and making animal-like sounds in the chair. She gave him a bottle of milk, which he drank desperately, emptying it in less than a minute.

As a starving child does.

Shortly after, a young boy came through the door. He was dressed in a white button down shirt, partially untucked, dark blue dress pants, and black shoes, obviously a school uniform.

A slim boy, he carried himself as though he carried a heavy burden and had a look on his face far older than his 12 years.

Ana Luz introduced her fourth son, Diego, with obvious pride. She explained that he attends the Compassion project when he’s able to. (On the days when she can find work he has to stay home to care for his brother.) He plays on the soccer team and the thing he most enjoys at the project is reading the Bible.

Within a few minutes of being home, as his mother talked, Diego began to cry.  And then his crying turned into quiet sobbing.

As he cried, I started to cry.

I cried because there was nothing I could do. Nothing.
I cried from the utter helplessness I felt.
I cried from anger at a world so broken that it had put him in this horrific situation.
I cried from the enormous injustice of the moment.
I cried because I couldn’t take his burden, even just a small part of it, even just for a minute.

Why should such a small, not-yet-grown boy be asked to carry a burden so heavy it would crush most grown men?

A 12-year-old boy. Responsible for caring for his severely handicapped brother. Responsible for calming him when we is crying from hunger and there is nothing to eat. Living in literal darkness, surrounded by filth and oppression.

My heart was completely and utterly broken in those moments.

And five days later, I sit here wondering what in the world to do with all of this.

I feel the immense weight of the things I saw and heard and a burden of responsibility to do something because of it. I cannot go back. I cannot erase my memories or un-see what I saw.

The scene with Ana Luz and Kennedy and Diego replays over and over again in my mind.

So what do I do? What do I do? If I don’t change in some significant way, what is the point of an experience like that? What is God’s purpose in showing me something I can do nothing to change?

All I have is a bunch of questions without answers.

Also, one other thing. I don’t think I’m supposed to despise my own country, but it’s really, really hard to come home and not be repulsed at the affluence and ignorance of people in the US.

I mean, seriously. It’s embarrassing.

When we landed in Miami and I opened Facebook, my feed was filled – literally every post – with almost everyone I know getting all bent out of shape about some video from a dumb-ass the media has decided speaks for every Christian about a Starbucks design decision.

All the while a few hundred miles south a little 12 year old boy struggles to take care of his starving family.

So how about a little perspective, America?

And So I Pray On…

alone-279080_640After my dad died, following three straight months of desperate prayers pleading for his healing, I had a crisis of faith. I felt like I had run full speed into a brick wall.

Prayer seemed like a joke. Seriously. I was left with a bunch of questions and no real answers.

Five years later, I’m still just as lost. I’m still in crisis.

Why didn’t God heal him?
Why does God heal at random?
Why does God say “anything you pray in faith, you shall receive” and then not act like the vending machine he’s prescribed himself as?
Is God even real?
What is the point of prayer?
Does my attitude matter when I pray or is it just the “doing it” that’s important?

Chris and I are off to El Salvador tomorrow.

Everything about me – about my legalistic, rule-follower personality – says I “should” be praying about the trip. I should be asking God to prepare my heart for what he might do. I should pray for our safety. I should ask him to meet me there.

Blah, blah, blah.

So I’m praying. But the truth is, it still feels pointless. I’m only doing it because I’m supposed to. … because that’s what a Christian does.

If I pray simply because I’m “supposed to” does that take away from the prayer? Or affect God’s answer?

If prayer is a “conversation with God,” then mine is completely one-sided conversation. I’m a petulant, needy child, taking God’s love for me for granted, and continually asking things from him.

But then my Christian-trained brain interrupts me and says Beckyyou’re supposed to be like a child.

So I’m stuck. Either I pray because I’m supposed to. Or I don’t pray because it feels pointless. So I feel guilty.

And then there’s the another issue.

My kids.

How in the world do I teach them to believe in the power of prayer when I have a hard time believing it myself? They’re smart … they’ll see right through the flimsiness of my prayers. They’ll see that it’s all words and no substance.

And yet, despite all my questions and confusion, I go on praying. I go on saying empty words and hoping, somehow, that they mean something to God.

Because I don’t know what else to do.

Letting Go

IMG_0615My daughter starts kindergarten next week.

I never thought I’d be the one to cry when my kids went to school. (I didn’t even cry at our wedding.) But the other night, I couldn’t stop crying about it.

She’s young. She won’t even turn five until three weeks after school starts.

Several well-meaning people have advised me not to “rush things.” They’ve told me about how their child started early and how it was too much for them. They’ve mentioned how it means she’ll be a 12-year-old with 14-year-old boys and how she’ll be the last in her class to get her driver’s license and how she’ll go through puberty later than her peers and how she’ll be just 17 when she graduates.

Even though my husband and I both believe this is the right decision, and she is beyond excited about starting kindergarten, and despite the fact that I really wish this weren’t true about myself, other people’s opinions hold a great deal of sway with me.

So I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of letting go. I’m afraid of letting my baby girl, who has spent all five years of her life being shaped and influenced by me, my husband and a circle of carefully chosen and trusted people, out into the big, bad world.

I found myself crying for the unknown. I was mourning the loss of innocence that inevitably comes with growing up. I was crying because I can’t protect her from pain that she will surely experience in a broken world. I was trying to hold on to control.

But control is only an illusion anyway. Here’s the truth. (And this blows my mind.)

Five years ago God trusted me – impulsive, insecure, inexperienced, broken – to take care of his daughter. And now I’m struggling with trusting Him – the creator of the universe, the author of all life, love itself – to take care of her.

What is wrong with me?

I’ve heard that raising kids is a lifelong lesson in letting go. So I might as well get on board. Hopefully it will get easier the more I do it.

I’m not sure there’s a mom that exists that feels completely ready to let go when the time comes. I imagine God might have felt something similar when he was letting Jesus go into this world.

But He did, thank goodness. And I will too.


I’ve really connected with Psalm 121 lately. I speak it over my daughter each night.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Say Yes to the Mess

weddingYou know what nobody tells you about marriage?

How painful it is.

I think one of the big reasons there are so many broken marriages – especially among Christians – is that they go into it under an illusion of what “hard” will look like.

I was 31 when I got married. I wasn’t a young bride, naive to what adult life and marriage would hold.

I spent many years watching friends get married and some get divorced. I knew it would be hard – the hardest thing I’ve ever done – but I had NO IDEA what my “hard” would actually be like.

What it would actually feel like. How incredibly painful it would be.

I realize this is not at all romantic, but I think pastors should start talking about the hard during the wedding ceremony.

“This person you’re standing with here today is going to hurt you worse than anyone else in your life. Are you ready for that? Marriage will bring out everything. All the shit you thought you buried? (And stuff you’re not even aware that you buried?) It will come out. And it will be ugly. You will cry more than you ever have before. Is that something you want to say ‘yes’ to?”

The problem, I think, is that people don’t realize what their “hard” will actually feel like and so when they’re in the midst of it, they’re unprepared. They feel gypped. They feel like they got something they didn’t sign up for.

And so all too often, when the hardest hard comes, they give up.

Anna Duggar.
What if someone had told her what her “hard” would look like?

Or Gayle Haggard.
You think she knew what kind of “hard” she was signing up for?

What about Jason Tippetts?
Would his “hard” be something he chose to say yes to?

Single people, let me tell you something. When you get married, the hard will be harder than you ever imagined.
And married people? If you’re not in the hard yet, you can be sure it’s coming.

But here’s the thing.

I believe that if your marriage can make it through the hardest hard, you will find a beauty that you’d never, ever have without it. You will experience a growth that is impossible without the pain.

And THIS is what marriage is about. This is the whole point. It is SO worth fighting for.

In his book, Sacred Marriage: Celebrating Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline, Gary Thomas says “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

YES. I believe this with everything in me. THIS is what I’m saying yes to. I desperately want holy.

And I suspect I’ll stumble upon happiness along with way.

The Battle for “Us”

Chris and I have been married for five and a half years.

Here we are in Boulder, CO.

Here we are celebrating our anniversary in Boulder, CO.

Recently (the past few weeks) I’ve had this feeling that we are under attack. There is a FrankPeretti-style spiritual battle raging for our marriage and my eyes are being opened to it. And as they are, I’m getting pissed. The dumbass devil thinks I’m going to sit back and let him have my marriage. He’s WRONG.

The older I get, the more I realize how timing is never a coincidence. Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday the battle got real. See, we were scheduled to meet with our Marriage Coaches that night. (Yes … that’s a thing.) We were scheduled to do something proactive to invest in our marriage. Apparently someone didn’t want this to happen. And so this is how yesterday went down.

Chris and I had a rough day. (Sadly not uncommon.) Started out the day with a fight. Neither of us felt well, physically, mentally or emotionally. Couldn’t get on the same page about, well, anything really. All day I felt frustrated that we hadn’t connected. Chris had a particularly bad day at work. He sent me a text on his way home to warn me that he was not in a good place. So when he came through the door, I knew what I should do. But instead, I was quick to go to self-focus and self-pity. Definitely not what he needed.

After a few tense exchanges, I left for the gym in tears. When I finished my class, I didn’t want to go home, so I stopped by the grocery store.

There I was standing in the checkout line at Sprouts. Staring me in the face, right at eye level, was the latest issue of Men’s Fitness. On the cover was a black and white photo of a well-known celebrity (one I’m kind of partial to), doing what I can only describe as “the sexy pose.” Thumbs hooked in worn jeans. Black tank top, accentuating tattooed-covered arms. A few days worth of stubble. Smoldering eyes. A “come hither” look.

And for the first time in my married life, I was tempted to let my thoughts linger on a man other than my husband. (Okay let’s just call it like it is … lust.) The realization simultaneously shocked me and intrigued me.

But here’s the part that woke me up.

As I was looking at the magazine, I (so clearly it could have been audible) heard this voice whispering to me “You should buy that magazine. Chris doesn’t have to know – you have your own fun money. He doesn’t check that debit card. You deserve this, especially after the day you’ve had. Just splurge this once.”

You guys, that voice did NOT come from me.

And I almost did. But then the checker asked if I was all set and I said yes and completed my purchase. No magazine.

But the enemy wasn’t done with me.

As I walked out of the store, I saw another man about my age standing at the deli counter. Tall. Very good looking. We made eye contact. We smiled. And I heard the voice again. “What do you think he’s like to be married to? I bet he wouldn’t treat you the way your husband does. Maybe you need some deli meat.”

I am not making this up.

If only I heard God’s voice as clearly as I heard the devil’s voice.

Married people, we have an enemy who wants desperately to destroy our marriages.

Look around. Marriages are falling apart all over the place.

The arsenal of the enemy is incredibly diverse: fear, rage, depression, anxiety, lust, selfishness, control, insecurity, jealousy, comparison, apathy, laziness.

We have to fight. 

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We cannot sit back and just hope our marriages survive. We have to actually engage in battle. In fact, I am convinced that one of his most effective tactics is to make people forget about the battle.

BUT IT’S REAL. Here’s how I know it’s real.

Because the more “stuff” that Chris and I do to fight for our marriage – counseling, small groups, mentors, prayer, conferences, books – the more blatantly the enemy attacks us. (I mean, seriously? Deli meat?)

It’s like we step up our game, and so does the destroyer of all good things. He is feeling threatened and so he fights harder and more desperately.

I will keep fighting for my marriage. No matter how bloody the battle gets.

Who’s with me?


I wrote this post not to share our junk. No one wants to read our junk. I wrote it because I thought someone could relate and that maybe my experience – my pain and struggles – can help someone else in the midst of their junk.