Panic & Biological Clocks

I was reading a few posts this weekend, by waiting adoptive parents in the foster care system, and reading account after account of delays in being matched with a social worker (too few and spread too thinly), years without either a match and/or even proposals…

This makes me queasy and panicky.

I don’t want to be desperate. Desperation doesn’t help in making good, sound decisions – nor does it do anything to help maintain my mental sanity.

I don’t want to be panicked. This fear that (although we’re early in the process) it won’t even happen for us. Fear that we’ve been too picky in our tickboxes on the application. Fear that after all this time and effort in trying to have children the regular way, then the ART way, and then now through this, that it’ll all be a bust.

I never thought I’d be a person who would have a biological clock that ticked so loudly. I told Rob yesterday, while driving to the movie theatre; “My biological clock is gonging loudly… not just ticking!” He smiled, rolled his eyes, and said “I hadn’t noticed.”

The little kidlets at our church sang a couple of Christmas songs during the service yesterday morning. I went from happy and laughing (and noting to myself at least 3 adopted children out of 20… which, as an aside, is pretty cool!) to having this wave of sadness, jealousy, and panic.

Then I checked up on my WB penpal (yes, I have an actual penpal!) since I got a letter from her that she’s expecting and due this month! I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and was excited for her, so wanted to check online to see whether her baby had come yet.

Big mistake.

For a long time I avoided the BabyBells section (except my TTC-Alt peeps, who get it)… but here I was – feeling all cocky and “Yeah – I’m fine with it!” but then reading these threads of women with their newborns; precious moments and happy stories – broke my heart.

That.will.never.be.me.

I’ll never get to cradle a little person in my womb. I’ll never get to welcome them into the world and laugh and cry over the beauty of it. I’ll never nurse. I’ll never have a baby shower. I’ll never push a stroller and have people marvel at the beauty that is a baby.

Never.

And that sucks. Period.

Add to that the general “suck” factor of the fact that we’re just starting a whole ‘nother journey (which could take years, if it ever happens) and I’m busy having a pity fest. I don’t get it sometimes.

I understand that adoption is family born from loss. It just sucks that there has to be so much of it… and while our future children are likely somewhere dealing with grief and loss of their own, here I am wallowing in my own self-pity. And panic.

<sigh>

Adoption & Ethics – Part 1

Just a little context here…

We adopted our dog, Bleu. He was one of the companion animals rescued in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area. An awesome Canadian rescue, called Furever Friends, from Calgary, Alberta, drove down to Louisiana in the aftermath of the hurricane and rescued (literally) 60 dogs and cats from a high-kill shelter in Hammond, LA, who were scheduled to be gassed the next day. The next day. They packed up these little guys and drove them back to Calgary, where they all received the veterinary care needed (many, including Bleu, were quite ill and nearly died – again – because of  heartworm, etc.) and then placed them in foster care until they could be found homes. Six months after the hurricane, we adopted Bleu – our own little Cajun hurricane. He had (and still has) some special needs, and requires daily medication (5 years later) to manage his anxiety. A lot’s improved in that time (except for the incessant attention-getting jumping, his hatred of other dogs, and his insistence at chasing and biting tailpipes on trucks), and he is a much happier, and more relaxed and attached.

That being said, I know that there were a lot of stories of people whose companion animals were “rescued” when the residents were forced to evacuate and leave them behind, and where these animals were then adopted out to families; leaving their original families frantically searching for them.  This led me to an ethical concern: What if we were one of those families who had inappropriately and invalidly adopted another family/person’s beloved dog?

Thankfully that concern was able to be (mostly) put to rest, as we clarified that Bleu’s information, image, and the location/shelter information about him had been listed with Petfinder.com for nearly five months, with no searches for a dog of his description. Still I’ve thought quite a bit about what my reaction would be if someone came to me and claimed him as their own, wanting him back. We’ve had two veterinarians and two specialist dog trainers all tell us that based on his behaviour, they strongly believe that he was abused and badly beaten by his previous “care”giver(s), and his residual fear of men and protective nature towards me would lead me to agree. These vets have also explained that he suffers from a ‘dog version’ of PTSD, and we can see that as well. Bright flashes, loud bangs, heavy rain and/or winds, and even my husband speaking excitedly and using hand expressions will freak him out. He’ll run to high ground (aka top floor in our house and up high on our bed) and cower. He’ll hide under the covers with me – his body frozen stiff – shaking uncontrollably. When he first came home, if either of us would pick up a broom, or step over him, he would roll over on his back, pee on himself, and shudder; a panicked look in his eyes.

To be honest, I’m pretty sure now what I’d do if his previous owner(s) came looking for him. I’d tell them “Thanks for the physical and psychological scars you gave him, you jackass. Now piss off!”

Just bein’ honest here, folks.

He’s our little Bleu. We love him – scarred body, scarred psyche, and all. We’ve walked with him through a lot of things, and will until the day he passes away. We didn’t make this commitment to him “until it becomes inconvenient” (which it always has been – he’s a little “special needs”) but rather we made it for life. He’s been home for 5 years, and I wouldn’t change our decision. I wish, in hindsight, that we’d been better educated and prepared. I wish, in hindsight, that we hadn’t viewed him as ‘broken’ and then been super soft on him (aka not setting and enforcing clear boundaries and expectations), and that in doing so, we could have set him (and us) up for success from the start. We were super naiive. I still wish that he would learn to at least ignore other dogs and tailpipes – for his own safety and everyone’s peace and happiness, but we’ve learned how to deal with the things that we haven’t been able to work through yet.

But still. I have these worries.

I’m a veggie. I was an active supporter of PETA for a long time (until their stupid “boycott Canadian maple syrup to protest the seal slaughter” campaign – the most nonsensical campaign I’ve ever heard of [Seriously, people? It’s a vegan product and not related AT ALL to the seal slaughter!!]… long story for another day), and I still support a number of other animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations. I live by the mantra of “Don’t Buy. Don’t breed. Adopt.”

Then I get all panicked that I’m not actually doing the “right” thing with Bleu. What if we actually took someone’s beloved companion from them, and judged them as being incompetent of being able to provide him with the proper care and home he needed? Am I judging those from the under-privileged are he came from? Should we have continued to have an ongoing involvement in the area he came from? I get annoyed when people get puppies from a dog that accidentally got knocked up (spay and neuter, people – seriously) and call that “rescuing” a dog. Really?!? What did you “rescue” the dog from? We never claim to have “rescued” Bleu. Furever Friends “rescued” (again – literally rescued) him being being gassed at a high-kill shelter that was overwhelmed, post-hurricane, with so many dogs and cats that they couldn’t possibly care for them all. We just adopted him, and gave him a “furever” family. But them I stop and think to myself – who am I to judge them? Have I been a part of the problem as well?

I share this, to give you the only context and comparison I have for some of the ethical issues I’m facing as we pursue adopting children through foster care. Please don’t get me wrong here: children and dogs aren’t the same thing. Period. BUT, some of the analogies between the challenges facing kids coming from hard places, and companion animals coming from hard places seem like they could be pretty close… and I’m trying to use what I know to help prepare me for what I don’t know.

So – next time: Adoption & Ethics 2… a thousand shade of gray.

 

Adoption Application & “Boxes” – Defining Yourself…

I’m a person who’s not terribly fond of being put in a ‘box’ and defined by a label. I don’t know many others who do like it, to be honest. It feels limiting and presumptuous. I always feel like I want to add a caveat and explain myself more clearly.

And then welcome to the BC MCFD “Application to Adopt” form. All it is is boxes! I understand that this is a government process, and what would that be if it didn’t including labelling you? <sigh>

So I know what labels they’re hoping I’ll use:

  • White
  • Female
  • Married
  • University educated
  • Middle class
  • Suburbanite
  • Vegetarian (lacto-ovo)
  • Christian

While all of these things are true, the one that makes me feel a little uncomfortable is the last one; “Christian.” It’s not that I’m ashamed of my faith – not at all! It’s more that I feel like there’s a lot of baggage associated with the word that doesn’t accurately describe me, Rob, or frankly most of the other people I know who would fall in that generic box.

How would I more accurately describe the ways in which my faith and spirituality seems to vary from the stereotype? I’m not sure that any words I could use would cut it, but I do know a few things:

  • If I were an American, I’d be a Democrat. This is very Canadian of me, but it weirds me out that Americans only have 2 choices (well at least practically), and that your faith/non-faith seems to automatically determine your political affiliations. Not my groove. In Canada, I tend to usually vote Green, NDP, and/or occassionally Conservative. Occassionally.
  • I have gay friends, whom I love dearly. Some of whom were in our wedding party, and one of whom Rob was the best man in his wedding party. And they’re actually really good, close friends – not “love the sinner, hate the sin, I’m really looking at you as a project to ‘fix’ verus as a real person” kind of friends. And I don’t think that their “gay-ness” automatically excludes them from having a personal relationship with Jesus. Or that it should be the most interesting part of their personality/life, but rather that your character should be of greater importance. Just sayin’…
  • I’m a big fan of human rights. I have a right to my opinion, beliefs, etc., and so do you. I’m equally a bigger fan of treating others with respect, compassion, and dignity. It’s always my hope that we can disagree on a topic, but still be friends (or at least friendly) while we do it.
  • I do believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. However, I feel like anyone who seems 100% certain that they know the exactly correct way to interpret the Bible is giving themselves more credit than they should.
  • We’re all trying to figure life out. I have more respect for those who are diligently seeking to learn and grow than those who blindly accept and follow what they’re told without wrestling through the issues to honestly ‘own’ them, themselves.

Phew! OK… so try sticking THAT in a box on a form. <sigh> I guess that’s what the homestudy is for, eh? 😉

Christmas Wishes…

A friend of ours saw one of those Wendy’s adoption ads (like this one) the other day and texted me saying that she thinks maybe we’ll have a child by Christmas.

Hahahahahahah!!!! ;-D

After I stopped laughing, I thought about the nice (albeit completely obliviously un-educated) comment, it led me to wonder how many more Christmases it will be until we have children of our own. Two years ago, I was confident about last year. Last Christmas I was pretty darned bitter and sad, and had dwindling hopes for this Christmas.

This year, as we prepare for another childless Christmas… with little hope for next year… I feel wistful.

I’m wistfully hoping for, and wondering about what it will feel like on that Christmas day. A hope and a future.

So I was really encouraged by Laurie’s post, here, from Adoption Creates Families. How exciting to think that “one day” can and will become “now” one of these days.

Hope. Springs. Eternal.

 

Bitterness, Openness & The Adoption Triad

So I’m a researcher. I read a lot. Before making a major life choice/step I like to learn as much as I possibly can about the subject matter.

I knew (almost) everything about conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and newborns/infants that one could learn BEFORE we even started TTC.  I know more about the subject (except, obviously, for personal experience) than far too many moms I know, and/or have spoken to about the subject.

By the time we’d gotten to our appointment with our RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist), I was basically prepared for any inevitability of what our diagnosis would be, and how we could handle it. By the time we decided to stop ART and pursue adoption, I was already pretty darned prepared.

This habit tends to shock people a little bit. My brain is so over-filled with random information and trivia that it gets a little daunting. Part of this process is, for me, therapeutic. Knowledge is power, right? And after too long of feeling so out of control, there’s something calming and relaxing about feeling like I’m in control of at least one thing – my knowledge about something.

Anyhow, point being – I’ve been reading a lot of blogs recently. First it started with basic information blogs, like adoption.com, the AFABC’s website, Canada Adopts!, etc. And don’t even gets me started on the MCFD’s website… I’ve practically memorized the entire thing.  I quickly moved on from there, and now I’m reading a lot more personal blogs. It started with Carrie Goldman’s Portrait of an Adoption blog, from the Chicago Now website, and from there my obsession has blossomed. <sigh>

The thing that’s shocked me most, however, have been some of the adoptee/adoptee rights and birth/first/original parent blogs I’ve read. I guess I wasn’t prepared for such waves of bitterness. 

Bitterness of those who felt forced into surrendering babies. Anger from those who feel that more should be done to preserve family units by addressing poverty and social disparity issues, rather than ‘solving’ the problem through placing children with adoptive families who may have more financial/social means. Adoptees who feel like the system is broken and like they are victims of an unjust process. Discomfort of those who are in awkward open adoption arrangements.

Now I’m feeling a little panicked. Like there’s no option for success here. Many of the adoptees who express their discontent seem to say that they (concurrently) love, respect, and appreciate their adoptive families; and are bitter, frustrated, angry, etc., about the fact that they were disconnected with their birth/first/original families.  Seriously – this sounds like a lose-lose situation for the adoptive parents.

I’m also reading some blog posts about embracing openness when it’s difficult, like this one. The part of the post that freaks me out is this quote: “I understand that some would use any of the ample excuses at my disposal as a reason to close an adoption.   Run-ins with the police, active addiction, inappropriate gifts, uncomfortable situations, angry family members, criminal activities are all reasons we hear for closing up relationships.  My kids first parents live complicated, confusing, difficult lives.  That I do not deny. And I love them.” 

Seriously?!? Honestly, if my kids’ bio/first/birth family were constantly being arrested, actively addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, etc., there is NO WAY that (at this point could imagine that) I could feel comfortable continuing in openness – for the sake of my kids’ safety!

YIKES!

I understand, and respect, the importance of understanding one’s origins; getting a clear and open picture of the circumstances that led to one’s adoption, maintaining connections with safe and caring family members, etc. BUT, I honestly don’t understand the value of placing a child in that sort of environment – intentionally.

Then again, I also have to remember my “privilege.”

  • I grew up in a loving, stable, healthy nuclear family unit.
  • My parents are each other’s best friends – they love and LIKE each other.
  • I’ve never been hungry, never experienced poverty, or racism, etc.
  • I’ve always lived in (nothing fancy, but) comfortable suburban homes, in safe neighbourhoods.
  • I’ve never been abused; physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually.
  • I’ve always had a loving extended family – both through relationship, and through my extended church ‘family’

The list could go on… I’m certain that some of my shock at the idea of exposing children to abusive/dangerous situations comes from the fact that these sorts of things are ones I avoid. They’re ones I would never want for my children.

We live a pretty sheltered (naïve?) life here in suburbia.

Maybe I’m being selfish for hoping that we can give our children a good, happy, non-bitter, non-jaded life here. Maybe such a thing as a truly successful adoptive process doesn’t exist. Maybe it does and I should stop reading the angry blogs. Am I being greedy for hoping to have a family? Greedy to hope that my children won’t resent me for having adopted them in the first place? Maybe I haven’t researched this enough, and I’m not getting the full picture. Maybe I’m thinking this through and researching too much – working myself into a tizzy for nothing… I don’t know anymore.

Ugh.

Scars of Infertility

OK – so the point of this post is not simply for me to feel sorry for myself. Rather it’s the best expression I can muster about something that’s hard to encapsulate… and since I’m a verbal processor (and most people in my everyday life just simply don’t get it), this is me trying to get it into words.

What is Infertility to Me?

  • Infertility is a wound. It’s a gaping, bleeding, pulsing burn wound that I never expected. A few years ago I badly burned the soft inside of my arm, just near my elbow, with a high-temp curling iron. And I burned it badly. For weeks and weeks afterwards, it consumed a large part of my consciousness. The pain was persistent and distracting. The wound took a long time to heal and was VERY sore and quite tender for weeks after that… and that’s what infertility feels like to me. Even now,  somebody will make an innocent comment (not realizing its effects) and it’s like someone jabbed me in the slowly-healing-super-sensitive scar of my tentatively healing wound. At times it still hurts. It comes like waves – unexpected, surprising waves of grief – that overwhelm and shock me with their ferocity. And I’m pretty certain that even once the wound has healed, the scar will stay. It’s a part of me now – part of my journey. It’s changed me, and that can’t be reversed.
  • Infertility is helplessness. It’s loss of control. It can rob you of your sense of life purpose, when part of your sense of contribution to life and the world is investing in your children as a parent. Many women/couples I know who’ve experienced IF say that one of the greatest frustrations about this is how in every other arena of your life you can make responsible choices, work hard, and achieve your goals. Infertility is one thing we can’t control. It doesn’t matter how hard we work at it, how well-prepared we are, etc. We’re helpless to change something that seems so independent of everything else in our lives. Your sex life becomes timed and monotonous (no matter how hard you work to avoid that, it eventually becomes a reality). You either become isolated and suffer in silence (by not talking about it with people in your life) or feel the discomfort of those around you (because THEY don’t know how to deal with it) when you do share.
  • Infertility is the death of a dream. At least for me it was… which was a shocker. I’d always said that if a doctor ever told me that I couldn’t have kids, I’d be OK with it. Then life happened and we couldn’t have kids. And it ripped my heart out, stomped on my dreams and hopes, and beat me into submission. Surprise! Didn’t see that coming. Didn’t think it would matter so much.
  • Infertility is a sorority. Or sometimes a fraternity (guys walk this path too.) Maybe it’s not the sorority you’d hoped for… not the sorority of women chattering away and sharing their labour and delivery stories – laughing over the common frustrations of pregnancy and the crazy-maker of sleepless nights. But it’s a sorority. I would NOT have survived this season with any sanity if I hadn’t had the privilege of being a part of an online group of women (in the “TTC Alt” section of weddingbells.ca… holla!) who were also walking the same path. There’s something about sharing your story with others, and knowing that they ACTUALLY GET IT, that just makes the burden a little lighter. It normalizes the experience. It helps you to feel a little less like a nut-job when somebody out there ‘gets it’ and feels the same way. I am SO grateful to each of these women for the gift of their support, and the blessing of sorority… none of us ever wanted to end up in this sorority, but it sure is nice to not feel so alone when you get there.
  • Infertility is can be character building. I kept saying to myself (over and over again, like a mantra); “Better – not bitter. Better – not bitter. God – please let this process make me better, and not bitter.” But the reality is that bitterness seeps in… in crawls in through the cracks like all sorts of vermin and creepy-crawly insects. Bitterness, and her sister Jealousy. They eat away at the joy in your life until everything feels like it’s painted with the brushstrokes and colours of pain and bitterness. It hardens your heart… not intentionally, mind you… but after months and months (years and years?) of disappointment, your hearts learns to protect itself from the incessant pain. The hardening is survival. BUT, infertility will come to an end. Someday, and somehow you will stop TTC. You’ll either get that (seemingly forever) elusive BFP and welcome a child into your heart and life. OR you’ll choose to be happily child-free, and bring some ‘fur-babies” into your life – and be the coolest aunt/uncle or Big Brother/Big Sister out there. OR, you’ll adopt, and welcome a child into your heart and life that way. In the end, it will end. And in the end, you get to choose how and when it will end, and what you’ll take out of this roller coaster ride. Will it be bitterness, or a tempered, gracious, humble, appreciative spirit and heart? I’m choosing the latter… even if that choice is made day by day… “Better – not bitter,” I repeat again and again. One day it will honestly be true.

What about you? What have you learned? How have you grown through this journey? What is infertility to you?

Telluride Black Bean Tortilla Bake – Veggie Version!

My mom was on a groove, for a while, of making prepared frozen dinners for us kids. She made a veggie version of this dish once, and it was AWESOME! It took me ages to try to find the recipe again, but today I was able to find an online copy of the cookbook, here. Yay!

So here’s the long-form version of the recipe:

Telluride Black Bean Tortilla Back (veggie version)

  • 1 lb. ground beef (or in the veggie version, Yves Veggie Ground Round, or similar meat substitute)
  • 1/2 C. chopped onion
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16 oz) can stewed tomatoes, Mexican style
  • 1/2 C. enchilada sauce
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 6 fajita sized flour tortillas
  • 3 oz. low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 – 1 C. shredded jack or cheddar cheese on serving day*

Brown meat (or veggie ground round) and onion in a large skillet and drain fat (if using meat). Break up the stewed tomatoes in a blender or food processor, then add to the skillet. Stir in the beans, sauce, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread one side of tortillas with cream cheese, then top with chiles. Fold in half (with cream cheese inside). Pour half the meat mixture into a prepared (with foil and plastic wrap) 8 by 11 dish. Arrange tortillas over sauce, overlapping as necessary. Pour remaining meat mixture over tortillas. Freeze.

When ready to serve, return unwrapped casserole to 8 by 11 dish and thaw. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-30 minutes. * Uncover and sprinkle that 1/2 – 1 C. jack or cheddar cheese across top. Bake 5 more minutes or until bubbly.

———————————-

Personally, I really like this just as a fresh dish as well, and I also like to add extra veggie, like green, yellow, and orange bell pepper strips, to the filling to give it more colour, crunch, and nutrients.I’ve served this to many o’ omnivores, and they’ve all really enjoyed it. Mission accomplished!

First Meeting… Update!

So we had our first meeting with the “Adoption Recruitment Coordinator” (from now forward to be known as Recruiter Lady) on Monday night, and it went really well! I was (as I mentioned) a little nervous in advance… plus Rob ended up leaving work later than expected, but thankfully we were both able to make it on time! Yay!

Anyhow, the meeting was about 1 3/4 hours, and was pretty casual. She gave us a massive information package, with some great articles I (shockingly) had NOT already read yet, as well as a booklet that explains all of their definitions for the Adoption Questionnaire (http://goo.gl/Xy1bF)… and that was handy. I’d not before seen anything from the ministry on how THEY define some of the risk factors/behaviours, so that’s very good to heave.

Note to Self: This is a bureaucratic process. It’s the government. They have their own definitions for things. Learn and go by THEIR definitions for things, and not your own.

She asked us about infertility and the whole grief & loss process, and where we were at with that. We answered (Rob mostly shrugging and saying that he was fine with it. Me sharing more… no shocker there) and she seemed pretty happy with our responses. She smiled and nodded and said “You’re at the right place to proceed with adoption.” Woot! Hurdle #1 – Passed! 😀

Recruiter Lady also explained to us that (for our health region) the Adoption Education Program (“AEP” – the BC version of PRIDE/other types of required training for prospective parents) is over a series of 6 weeks of Thursday nights (7-10pm) and 2 (likely soon to be 3) full day Saturdays. That’s actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be… I was certain it was going to be 6 full Saturdays PLUS the one evening a week. We were both pretty relieved that it wouldn’t be as rugged as that! Also, we may get into the class that starts at the end of January, 2012, as long as we get our application in soon.

So herein lies my dilemma. We’d committed to each other that we would wait until January 2012 (4 months after we stopped TTC and fertility treatments) before formally putting in our application. This was supposed to be time to process, grieve, research, think, talk, pray, etc. BUT, I really wouldn’t want to miss this class and have to wait for the next one in May – Ugh. This entire process (again, being very government-style) is all about “hurry up and wait” for everything.

I’m kind of thinking that we should submit our application a couple of weeks early, just to make sure we get in… but I’m reticent to go back on that initial timeline at the same time because we set that to make sure that we’re taking a healthy amount of time for all of this. I know that grieving has no timeline, but Recruiter Lady seemed to think we’re OK to proceed as we are. Thoughts? Ideas?

Anyhow – that’s it for now!

First Meeting…

We have our first meeting, with the “Adoption Recruitment Worker” at the BC Ministry of Child and Family Development (“MCFD”) tonight. Five o’clock PM.

I’m kind of freaking out.

I know that we’re pretty boring, normal people, and that we don’t have anything to hide or to truly be nervous about, but still my stomach is all butterflies. And I’m a little emotional.

I’ve been reading a lot about creating a “lifebook” for our future kids, and how parents can help to add to the lifebook by sharing little tidbits of where they were at and what they were doing at the same time as their child was in foster care / the orphanage, etc., and this morning on my (painfully long) drive into work I was thinking about telling our future kids about today… about these first official steps towards us finding them. “On November 21st, we had our first meeting with the social workers who would help us to find you,” I would write, “and we were really excited and a little nervous, because we wanted to do everything the right way so that we wouldn’t have to have any delays before we got to find you.”

Then I got all teary-eyed… and said out loud; “We’re coming. Don’t lose hope. We’ll find you as soon as we possibly can, and then we’ll be together – a forever family.”

And then I just plain-old started crying. (I’m such a dolt… don’t know why I get myself so worked up about all of this.) I just hope that whoever our kids are, and wherever they are right now, that they’re safe. I keep praying that God would protect them (physically, mentally, emotionally) and that they wouldn’t give up hope.

I haven’t, and I won’t.

Wish us luck!