Makes Me Happy Monday : Growth

wild fern

Sunday morning
a few weeks ago
I took a walk around the property where I am now living.
I set out early … just after the sun rose.

The weekend that we made the bedroom-furniture transfer
from the old house to the new one
is the weekend that we topped the hill above our property
to find several fire trucks battling a fire
that had jumped the fire pit and was raging through the pines.
Even though the fire was legal with a burn permit,
sometimes nature has mind of its own.
Such was the case that morning.
A quick response from the fire team
and the fact that the fire pit is far from inhabited buildings
allowed the fire to be extinguished without much harm.

charred woods

And the beauty that has sprung up since that morning
awes me.

If you look closely, you can see the tiny sprigs of green new life below.
wild fern after the fireWhen I look back on that morning that I wandered in worship,
I remember that I didn’t wonder about the classification of those wisps of life
stretching from the charred earth.
I didn’t even wonder “What are those little plants?”

In retrospect, that strikes me as odd.
I always wonder … and question.
I guess I was so taken by all the beauty … I just accepted it and soaked it all in without questioning.

I even photographed a few of the curls of vegetation.


This week, I had a chance to visit with my sweet landlord as she tended the fire pit
overseeing a month’s worth of brush turn to ash.

We sat for a good hour and chatted children and grandchildren,
spouses and exes,
gardening, investments and poor customer service skills.

Before heading back home,
she drew my attention to the patch of ferns that had sprung up
amongst the pines. wild fern

HOW had I missed them?
All of those curls of green
were ferns, now tall and full.

The green was striking against the background of blackened trees
and the amber carpet of pine straw.

As I walked home,
I thought about how life is so cyclic …
death and rebirth
injury and healing
winter and spring
questioning and answering.

Sometimes we have to sit in the tough places for longer than we would like.
Sometimes we walk through grief for longer than others understand.
Sometimes the distance between injury and healing feels endless.

But, be encouraged.
Today is a new day.
Rebirth is coming.
Healing is near.
Spring is beginning.
Answers can be found.
Even when we don’t stop to wonder and question,
answers will come.
In time.

Your walk through struggle and grief is yours.
Nobody gets to tell you “Get over it,”
“Move on” or “Forget about it.”
This is YOUR life. These are YOUR experiences.
If it takes you a little longer than other people to process and work through your pains,
that’s okay.
Other people want to rush you because they know they can’t “fix” it for you
and it makes them uncomfortable.
Or they know they’ve caused the pain and they feel guilt.
Or they don’t deal with their own messes so they don’t want to watch you deal with yours.
Well, you don’t have to hide your pain
in order to make other people comfortable.
You take your time. Walk through it. Look at it. Work it out.
Like the fern pushing through the blackened earth
unfurling towards the light,
there is a newness and a freshness coming.
You take as long as you need.
I encourage you to give yourself that permission.

Because it is better to walk through it
than look the other way
and act as if the pain is not there at all.

This morning and every morning, growth makes me happy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

– Makes Me Happy Monday : Mistletoe

Oak out my kitchen window
There is a wonderful, stately oak tree in the backyard at the old house.  You could see him out the kitchen window. He has HUGE, strong limbs that held up well against the blustery spring days of the past and the weight of a layer of ice in last year’s storm.

Mistletoe in the oak

In the spring, I would often go outside and lie down on the driveway for a few moments
when the intense warmth from the sun on my face felt like a stranger
and the chill of the pavement on my back offered great contrast.
I would look up through those beautiful branches
and find myself squinting … my eyes surprised by the intensity of light
after a long, dark winter.
How quickly clouds would roll past.
How unfamiliar was the crisp, blueness of the sky.

And at least once a winter,
the oak would offer me a substantial cutting of mistletoe
placed in my walking path
right there on the ground so I couldn’t miss it.

Careful not to dislodge the waxy, pearl berries,
I would gently bring it into the house
find a “Christmas vase”
and call it an arrangement.

Mistletoe in a "vase"

Mistletoe has always reminded me of south Georgia.
The pecan trees hide the orbs of green through the lush summer,
but Oh, Fall!
Those parasitic plants are revealed
when the trees become bare.

Wiki says that mistletoe is not native to America. And it explains that mistletoe requires a host plant.  It buries roots into the limbs of a host plant and then draws nutrients and water from the tree or shrub. And in some cases, the limb upon which it plants itself can eventually lose circulation and die.  So, in more ways than one, it is an uninvited invader to our area and to the plant it thrives upon.

And yet it is beautiful  … at least in my eyes.

The balls of life dot the tree canopies across thousands of acres during those cold months when most life that bears a bark overcoat is barren and slumbering. They cling tight in the frigid, blustery air of winter and offer fresh berries to birds and other foragers. And they remind me of the symbol of Christmas festivity – to offer a kiss when you stand beneath a sprig.

Not far from our new home,
I spied a tree full of mistletoe.

My heart sighed with joy.
God knows how I love mistletoe.
And like a gateway tree welcoming us to our new home,
I drove past this tree time and again
when we first visited
and later began to move our belongings
just around the corner.


These two photos were taken less than two weeks apart during mid March.


And as I drove past this morning with the sun barely over the horizon?
The mistletoe is nearly completely hidden.
The tree’s new leaves are a fresh, spring green … just moving past wildly iridescent …
while the parasitic plant is a deep, saturated jungle green.
The tree is filling in with leaves on every branch and limb.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world ....  I thought about how there are times when life is so full of growth
that we no longer notice the parasite who has the potential to cause damage.

He is covered, disguised and hidden.
He lingers there nourishing and growing
while we hardly notice his presence.

Wiki also points out that mistletoe has long been considered harmful to its host plant, but recent studies have revealed that it offers many benefits. Many animals eat the berries, shoots and leaves of the mistletoe plant. Their orbs provide protection for some animals during winter and others nest in them. Some animals that are drawn to the plant, become covered in pollen from the host. Later, these animals carry that pollen to other host plants, so the mistletoe actually encourages pollination of his host.

I am so reminded how our pains and discomfort can bring good.
When someone comes into our life that puts down roots
and steals what we feel is OUR nourishment,
they may simultaneously be beneficial to our lives
in ways that we might not expect.
In the end, we may feel like we have “lost a limb” because of their presence,
but searching can show us ways that we have benefitted from their stay
or that others have grown and reproduced via their intrusion.

It isn’t always pretty
when we are used as a host,
but if we search
we can find ways to see
how our loss
can also be the channel used
for gain, good and glory.

And, to be truthful,
in the end
we may find that
the “loss of a limb”
was a small price to pay
for the good that came
and also a small price to pay
to have them finally out of our lives.

I love mistletoe!
Mistletoe brings me joy.
What about you?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

– Morning Wandering and Reflection

Beaver work

I stroll through the morning in the spring air
chilled to the low 40’s yet filled with powdery, yellow evidence of awakening life
and see natural images
that remind me of

Our paths are strewn with dregs from past mistakes
yet some will blame others for not clearing the way
and making their walk easy. Path strewn with rubbish

our view is filled with obstacles, damage, ruin.

Left over damage

Some will walk through life searching through clover
wondering why others find the lucky four-leaf beauty …
but all they see in their own life is the common, three leaf variety.


While new life springs forth,
some will find themselves stepping on the prickles of
last year’s mistakes.

Sweet Gum Balls & New Growth

They hold onto those old brown pods  …
as their souls naturally sprout the fresh growth
as the days grow longer and the sun more bright.
“Let go,” cries the wind. But they cling.

Sweet Gum & new growth

Some will come along
and cut down the healthy and strong …
the growing  that is full of life and possibility ….

Beaver toilsWe see the damage .

Beaver work

It is hard to watch them walk away
and leave that broken and wasted behind.Beaver damage
Life lost … relationship broken … for naught.

In the end, that waste can be used for some good.
It can fuel other life.
It can nourish other growth.

New life being nourished in deathWe can take the bitterness or injury that spews from others
and use it in our own lives
to help us grow in empathy, compassion and understanding.
We can even offer it back as a sacrifice to those that first offended.
But, this doesn’t ease the pain of the original loss.
It only helps us to heal
and is an indicator of our own growth.
Left over damage

Look closely.
Our thoughts, words and actions
are a natural reflection of
the condition of our inner spirit.

Reflection We don’t see things as they are;
we see things as we are.  – Anais Nin

May we all strive to see others with grace and mercy.
May we use the broken in our lives to nourish our empathy towards others.
May we be pleased to be surrounded by the common,
and easily let go of the old,
that we can nourish and foster new growth.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Internet Connection

My desk

Oh my goodness. It feels so good to sit at my desk
and open a browser on my laptop.

Four or five months ago, I made the executive decision to disconnect our internet. Things had become more and more tight financially and I decided that surfing the internet freely wasn’t a necessity. I have a friend who let me use her connection to pay bills once a month. And Joy and I used the library or a close-by Starbucks  or Chick-fil-a when we needed extended use.

I’ll have to admit that there are things about being detached that were not pleasant. I didn’t like feeling so disconnected from news – local and world-wide. And my reply speed to email and Facebook conversations slowed down to a two or three-day response time.  Oh, how I missed the daily visual inspiration that Pinterest offers me!

But, for the most part, I was surprised at how much I accomplished when I wasn’t distracted by the endless information and entertainment found on the web.

This acceptance that I was overextended financially came with the realization that I needed to leave my home of ten years. I just couldn’t afford to remain any longer. That home was the first house that we bought after having children. It is the home that my children and I lived in for the longest period of time. It was the home that I chose to remain in after the divorce, because I thought that the upheaval of a move would be too much turmoil and unrest for those of us left behind in our home.

I’m very glad that I stayed.

Sifting through 25 years of marriage and 30 years of adulthood while guiding two grown children and a teenager to choose what to keep and what to release was quite a feat. There were tears. There was frustration. It was tough. I know that I made the right choice to do it five years after the divorce rather than the months immediately following it.

This morning, I sit at my desk and marvel. We’ve been here since March 1st. Sixteen days in and we’re settling in well. In many ways, things are better than they have been in years. My responsibilities have been cut greatly and I feel the weight lifted physically and emotionally. We have downsized by a great deal and I am not longer a “home owner,” but rather a “tenant.” If something breaks, I CAN fix it, but I don’t HAVE to fix it. This change is monumental.

So, I sit and drink my coffee and check my email from home in my pjs. I hear my youngest’s Nickelodeon alarm clock play reveille while I type here. And my Smudge sits in my lap while I check my Facebook inbox.

My desk

And I’m thankful.
I’m thankful for home internet connection.
I’m thankful that I was put in a position to make a tough decision that my kids wouldn’t like, but I stood my ground.
And I’m thankful that I had a break and realized just how much time I have wasted on the web.

There must be balance.

And just in case my photo above offers an unbalanced idea of what my desk looks like …..
this is the other half of the desk.

I still have work to do ….
and I am thankful to say that the internet won’t be so great a distraction that I will be slowed down TOO much! My desk

So, a home internet connection
in our lovely new domicile
makes me happy this morning!
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday?

Makes Me Happy Monday : A Single Leaf

My sign from God

I vaguely remember a story told by a woman on a Christian radio program. She told the story about years before when she began to identify a certain animal with God’s love. The special sign for her, I believe, was a cardinal.  I don’t remember exactly how she came to this place, but she told the story of seeing the cardinal over and over during tough times and feeling like it was put in her view just for her. Her stories were a little bit … out of the ordinary as I remember. It seems as though she saw her cardinal in an odd place or an odd time and she was so moved by the sighting. And this began to happen over and over. Truly, I don’t remember all the details

I do remember that she encouraged the listeners to pick an animal and associate it with God’s love.
Let that animal be the one that would prompt us to remember that He loves us.

Well … what a great idea, right?
I mean … we all want to be reminded that we’re loved, right?

I decided that didn’t want to choose something common
like …. a certain kind of dog or bird.
I wanted to KNOW when God spoke to me.
I needed to KNOW that a SIGN from Him was a real sign.
You know? Like make the fleece soppy, drippy wet and the ground dry.
No. Wait! Wait! Wait! God … make the fleece dry and the ground soppy, drippy, muddy wet.   (Judges 6:36-37)

So, for my animal, I chose a manatee.
Yeah. I know. I don’t live near the ocean and never really have.
And the oceans near me don’t really have manatees.
And manatees aren’t really popular in paintings and home decor
… the way owls or ladybugs or birds or bees are.

I was helping God out. I wanted to help Him to make this super obvious.
… ’cause you know …. how God needs our “help,” right?

And I’m pretty sure
in the 15+ years between the time that I assigned God  my chosen “animal sign,”
I’ve seen one or two manatees a year.
And even when I SWAM with manatees in Florida a few years ago, 
I didn’t feel overwhelmed with God’s love.
Oh, I was excited and thrilled … but it wasn’t a
“God loves you” kind of overwhelmed.
It was more of a
“Oh, my goodness! God, you’re so cool! Thanks for letting me experience this!” kind of overwhelmed.
In reality, I’ve never felt overwhelmed with God’s love when I’ve seen a manatee
in an advertisement, painting, decor or image of any kind.
I have just thought … “Oh. There it is! Would you look at that! A manatee!
That’s supposed to remind me that “God loves me.”
It’s never felt any different from seeing a stop sign, or a cloud or a bowl of cereal.
In other words, seeing a manatee has always felt common. ordinary. every day.

My sign from God

And if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that God’s love is not common.
And I’ve known when He speaks to me
and when He comforts me
and when He convicts me.
His communication and presence are n.e.v.e.r common.

This morning, as I was crossing a lone parking lot
with nary any cars
just cracked asphalt and worn, painted parking lines
with the wind blowing winter in strong … bold and brazen and blustery
and the cold cutting right through my cotton dress snapping and flapping like a flag ….
I saw this leafMy sign from Godand tears welled up in my eyes.
Because I was reminded that God loves me.
He will never leave me or forsake me.
He walks with me and reminds me to breathe.
He gives me peace to rest at night.
He guides me along my way.
He is my provision.

My sign from God

I remembered the manatee
and how seldom I have see one.

And I thought about how often I see a lone leaf
forlorn on the ground
all alone
sometimes tattered
sometimes matted to the ground by rain
sometimes crushed into the cement by passersby ….
but … with a beautiful shape and design created by Him
with His purpose in mind
and right in my path.
I love trees. I love sticks. and I love leaves.
I often think of Him when I see them.
And when I think of Him and all of this beauty,
I am reminded that He loves me.
And He sees me.

My sign from God

In my helping God by letting Him know that I would remember He loves me when I see a manatee
I was undercutting His magnificence
by ignoring that He has assigned my sign from Him.
My sign from Him
is a single leaf
laying alone on the ground
right in my path.

Yes, a single leaf makes me remember I am loved
and brings me great joy.
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Vintage Bottles

I love things that are old.
And I adore these vintage bottles. 

Vintage Bottles

I got the idea to place my bottles together on a tray through this pin  which links to this webpage by Kristin at Yellow Bliss Road.

My bottles are mostly finds. I went exploring in an area that was a dump ancient eons ago. I was in high school with a family friend. In fact, the friend was the brother to my friend Rusty who died just a few years ago.  Robin went on to study archeology and then art and is now a potter. He is a fabulously talented man. And he was the one who took me on the dig that unearthed several of these bottles over 30 years ago.

These bottles … some still caked with remnants of earthen history …. sit on the round table that sits in my bay window.

Some days the sun floods in and they glisten in the light.
And some days they sit in shadows.
Vintage Bottles

No matter the day, if I am seated near, I pick them up and re-inspect … wondering about history and stories and what liquid they once held.

And no matter the day, they simply bring me joy.
They are a pleasure to behold.

My arrangement of vintage bottles nestled in a tiny silver tray
bring me joy!
How about you?
Something small? Something common?
Something HUGE? Something sentimental?
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?



Breathing & Messages from God

As far back as 2009 when I first bought these “breathe” socks
and then shared them as a Makes Me Happy Monday  post,
God was reminding me to slow down and take a deep breath.

My Happy Breathe Socks

My friend Linda came not too long ago.  I was gathering things together for a yard sale when she was here. She spied my “breathe in – breathe out” coffee cup and I found myself easily able to explain that I didn’t need it any more. I don’t need the reminder. I’m okay now.My Breathe in - Breathe out mug
But, evidently I do need the reminder.

Kelly Rae Roberts Reminder to Breathe
Because God keeps reminding me ….

Breathing reminder from GRU Health
over and over again …..
Inside the book Raw Survival
It continues.

My friend, Heather,  tells me these c.r.a.z.y stories about seeing messages on license plates. I remember a story about how she was really struggling to keep her four active kids entertained in the summer heat.  She’s a single mom on funds that are very limited. She had an above ground pool that her kids thoroughly enjoyed … but she needed a new filter for the pool and had no money to buy one. She found herself crying out to God in frustration as she ran errands. In her wonderfully honest, bare and authentic way, she was fussing and crying and driving and sobbing and praying about all of life’s current crazy including the need for a pool filter … when a car passed her with a license plate that said “FILTER1.”
That was only ONE of the car tags that she saw that night
with words or phrases that specifically fit her life and situation.

I laugh and send her pictures of license plates that I see. They say things like this ….

Great plate.
I don’t hear a personal message though.

And that reminded me how awesome God is
in that He speaks to us in a way that we know is for us.
He speaks in a way that we understand.
He says what we need to hear when we need to hear it
in a voice that we can hear.

So, I’m watching and listening.
And the message God keeps putting in front of me
remains the same ;

Just breathe - c/o Dancing Dogs Yoga Studio



Stop the striving …

My sweet Glory is getting ready to pack up her vehicle and move her boyfriend to Texas to live with her.
Five years ago, I would have been sorely disappointed.
Ten years ago, I would have been devastated.

But, I am a different person today than I was five or ten years ago.
Divorce has been so good for me.

In a conversation with a friend last night, I was asked how I felt about this move.
Without hesitation, I replied, “I’m okay with it.”

At the end of every Super Soul Sunday interview, Oprah ends her conversation with this marvelous question

“What do you know for sure?”

I am still blown away by the question.
If there IS one thing that I KNOW for sure,
it’s that I really don’t know much of anything for sure.

Through divorce, I lost all those crazy dreams of things that may never happen … those dreams that you hold on to because you want them to come true. I used to be so hopeful. But, my hopes hung on ideals and expectations.

Oh, what joy and freedom
to just live …
in the here and now
not waiting for
hoping for
or praying for something
bigger, better, faster, stronger, safer, richer ….
just be.
now. Life is a journey ... not a destination. - Emmerson

What DO I know for sure?
I know that life is full of lessons.
And it is a gift that we go through struggles.

I’ve noticed a recurring theme in the answers given to Brandon on the Humans of New York webpage. When asked about regrets, we often make decisions on how to live our lives according to the things we have seen others do. We decide we won’t spank our children, because our parents were too aggressive with spankings. Or we choose to indulge in grand vacations, because our parents never took us away from home. Or we decide to let our kids eat whatever they desire, because we were forced to eat green things and we still hate them.

Click here for a perfect example.  This woman said, “”My mom died the week she was supposed to retire. I think she died of sheer exhaustion. So I decided I was going to live my life in the present, and not focus on money. I just wanted to know myself and live life accordingly. I never thought about the future. So I find myself, at my age, having to focus on money.”

Here’s another.   ““My dad was a Latin musician, so I rebelled against that and chose rock and roll. So I wanted to be careful not to try and force my interests on my son, because then he’d go the other direction.”

This man  is living his life in a way that makes sure that his son has a better life than he did.

Here’s the thing; there are no guarantees. Going left may keep you from the trouble you see on the right, but you don’t know what struggle is around the bend, over the hill or just out of sight.

My daughter is moving her boyfriend into her apartment half way across this nation to live with her. Am I okay with it? Absolutely. You know why? Because, she’s a grown woman. There are lots of roads to be taken. Hers is not mine to travel. And hers is not even mine to direct. I could plan out her life making my decisions according to what I did right or wrong, what I should have done or what my parents did or didn’t do … and in the end, her life could still be a total wreck. Her life may or may not be what I expected for her when I was planning or directing. Most importantly, it certainly wouldn’t be a fulfillment of her vision.

I have had the firsthand experience of watching a parent turn their back on a child because a child said something that hurt their feelings. The words spoken were foolish, but the fact is ….. a child spoke them. I’ve seen parents turn away from children for their actions. We all do things that don’t please others. If I please you today with my words, surely I’ll offend someone else. It’s all part of life.

My dream today for my children like my dream for myself ; just be. Drop the expectations. Leave behind the struggles of what should or shouldn’t happen. Forget about that hokey movie-script life. Even the people who LOOK like they have it all together …. simply have a well-constructed facade. There is no perfect life.

*Of course, I dream that they love God and obey Him …
but just like He does for each one of us,
He’ll deal with them on own His time
in the areas that He chooses
in the way, timing and order that He chooses.
It’s not my job to step in and snatch His job from His hands.
What a joy! It’s not my job anymore.
Because if I look back over my life …. I’ve made some really big messes.
It’s probably a good thing that I’m not perpetually in charge of anyone
except myself.

In a few days, I’ll watch Glory drive out of the driveway to begin a new chapter in her adventure book. She has a wonderful boyfriend who adores her. He even embraces her feisty spirit!  I see how comfortable she is with him. I see them thoroughly enjoy each other. They appear to be a good fit.

Yet, they will have bumps in the road. They will hit struggles. But, the life is theirs to live. I’m not willing to let my ideals and expectations get in the way of loving her and remaining in sweet fellowship with her.

What I know for sure is
people and relationships are more important than ideals and expectations.

* Note paragraph added after original publish date

just be yourself

The last few years have been SO good for me. God has certainly taught me lesson upon lesson upon lesson.
One of the hardest to learn has been to be okay with being myself. Lose the fear of being wrong. Just be yourself

To be myself means being okay with not being liked by everybody. I’ve always been a people-pleasing, people-loving people-person. For me, those things were inseparable. I loved because I needed to feel loved. I wanted people to know that I loved them because I needed people to let me know that they loved me.  I wanted to please others so they would not be reject me. My goodness … just writing those things exhausts me today. One of God’s lessons has been that everybody isn’t going to love you and that’s okay.  As odd as it sounds, He’s taught me to say “I don’t care.”  He has reminded me that He loved everybody, but He didn’t please everybody. It WILL be okay

And since I am fearing rejection less, I am becoming more bold.
(*whispers* it’s so exciting ….. )

Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful

So, when the time came to hang artwork at a local coffee shop for a second showing, I began to pull quotes from my folder at home and harvest them from quote sites and scan my pins on Pinterest …. until I had enough to fill a wall with artwork.

I layered paper and paint and texture and tissue
and fiber and jute and sticks and rocks and stamps
and vintage penmanship … and created a whole wall of art
that felt more like adorned, creative notes to myself
hanging in a public showing.

i put it down. i did not want the burden of carrying it anymore.

Salvaged wood clock
I added some of my practical pieces from home like a clock I made a few years ago out of salvaged wood

A jewelry board made from an old chair

and a jewelry board that was made more recently from assorted old knobs and a vintage chair part.

As I have looked at all the pieces hanging, I see some things that are consistent. I’m finding the more that I create, the more similarities I see in my work. I work almost exclusively in autumn colors. My work is almost always layered. And I use lots of pattern and texture.

I have recently befriended a man who came to my home for a visit.
After spending some time chatting,
he pointed out that my house is “too brown.”
My fabulous first thought was, “Maybe for YOU.”
I didn’t care what he thought.
HE might think it’s too brown, but I think it’s just right.
I LOVE it. I love my furniture, rugs and tablecloths.
I treasure my bedding, artwork and curtains.
I adore my artwork, practical creations and  clothes.
And when he said that my world was “too brown” ….
rather than thinking,
“Oh, no! Really? Well … I should add more color! What can I change?”…
I am proud to say that I comfortably knew,
“It IS brown, and it’s perfectly, wonderfully beautiful! I LOVE it!”

So, if you’re out and about in Augusta
and you’d like to see some brown artwork (with other autumn colors thrown in),
feel free to stop by Inner Bean on Davis Road.  It’ll be hanging for a few more weeks.
Read the little notes that I wrote to myself and hung on their gracious walls.
And know that I’m pretty proud of how I’m finally becoming okay with just being me.

Inner Bean Coffee Shop on Davis Road
I hope you’re finding that same boldness.
I hope that you’re comfortable in your own skin.
Some people seem to reach adulthood without struggling in this area.
I am not one of those people.
If you’re struggling, figure out why
and work to untangle those gnarly ties that keep you bound.
It takes a while to become free, but you can do it.
If I can do it, you can do it!
It’s a good thing to
                  ….  just be yourself.