Review: Huffman Park – Fairfield, OH

A couple of weekends ago, my mom and I went to a new park in Fairfield to make some rain barrels. I’ve been wanting a rain barrel for a while. We have well water at The House, so water isn’t a challenge here, but I really want to be a better steward of the resources God has given us. Rainwater is one great resource.

But before I get going on how great rain barrels are and how we made ours, I want to share about the park!

Huffman Park

2100 John Gray Road
Fairfield, OH 45014
513.867.5345 (Fairfield Parks & Recreation)
Website

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left: rock at the entrance with benefactors of the park. right: windmill used to aerate the pond through an underground tube.

This park has a very cool back story. I remember hearing about it a year or so ago, and now, having seen the finished product, I’m very impressed.

The Huffmans owned the property, 22 acres, and maintained the property as natural open space for their kids to play in. When the couple died, the family donated the property, land and buildings, to the city to be turned into a public park. The two conditions were that it had to be a learning park for families and all the materials in the house had to be repurposed (whether in the park or through the Habitat for Humanity Restore facility). I believe the park staff said that 92% of the house was salvageable and repurposed in some form or another. Even if that’s not the right number, the percentage was very high. Some of the trees on the property were repurposed into playground equipment.

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clockwise from top left: tunnel with an overhead viewing spot in the center; wood balance beam and a rock circle; bumble bee monkey bars (there is some metal on this but even in the hot sun it was cool to the touch); pond with native aquatic plants to attract waterfowl.

Not only is there play equipment for recreation, there are quite a few places for learning more about nature. The property includes several learning spots like a butterfly garden and a fruit and nut orchard. We even saw a persimmon growing on one of the tiny trees growing there.

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clockwise from top left: orchard learning station; tiny persimmon tree with fruit; more playground equipment and tree steppers; beautiful flowers to attract butterflies.

Last year, I took a community garden class down in Cincinnati. At one point I stopped attending (I’m not sure if we were done, or I pooped out), but I learned so much about natural gardening techniques. I would love to take more classes like that (especially for the free price) in the future, but I was so excited to hear that they would have community garden plots at Huffman Park. I had to check them out while I was there. They are completely self-service, so if you don’t maintain them yourself, they will die. But it’s a great idea and there was some good stuff to see.

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This was late in the summer and the plants were already getting brown and scorched in that heavy heat, but I bet it looked great during the growing season!

Baby corn and some peppers. Yum!

Baby corn and some peppers. Yum!

Ok, back to the rain barrel class. Sara was our teacher and there were 6 of us there making 5 barrels. My mom wanted to make one and I have wanted one for a while, so we both made our own. She ended up giving hers away, but ours is proudly out front in its bright, bright blue (that will soon be remedied with some spray paint…it is kind of an eyesore right now). We quickly went through the process and started at it. The hardest part was the hole saw. We had it figured for either not enough torque or too much. One of the men came over and helped stabilize the saw for me while I guided it because it was just too strong for me. I have two little snags in my t-shirt from where it shot off the top of the barrel towards my stomach. I was not harmed. I felt like wonder woman!

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clockwise from top: two of the “students” and our teacher Sara on the right; mom snapped a pic of me in action!; cutting the big hole to sit under the downspout.

We had a great time and learned a lot more about the park and made a couple of friends. Sara is the first naturalist on staff with Fairfield Parks and she is very enthusiastic about her job. She is looking for more ideas of things to teach Fairfield/Butler County residents. The classes are open to anybody, but they are a little more expensive if you live out of the area. Costs seem to be primarily for supplies. They have concerts, painting and photography classes, yoga, bird watching/learning, stargazing, etc. There are tons of activities for kids. Call or visit the city website (above) for more information. http://gettotheBC.com has a lot of great information about other activities throughout all of Butler County. It’s a definite must-visit for the local tourist.

In the meantime, I’m going brainstorm how to paint my new rain barrel and get it ready for next year’s growing season!

Yes, I realize that the spout is too close to the ground. We're working on that as well. :)

From start to finish!  Yes, I realize that the spout is too close to the ground. We’re working on that as well. 🙂

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Getting Married: 15 Weeks – Review: The Darkroom – Fairfield, OH

For a quick summary review, you can skip to the bottom of this post. Everything else is all flowery and verbose and not for Cut-To-The-Chasers.

We tried to do completely DIY Invitations and aside from making the paper ourselves, we were on track to doing just that.

So here’s what happened. I’ve been saving up invitations of my friends for years to be sure I had a wide variety of wording and designs. They’re also just great memories of the lives I’ve been able to have as friends, many of whom are now out-of-state and have homes bustling with kids. I heard there would be a huge stationery sale at Michael’s one day and I had another 20% off coupon, so Matt and I went through and found packs of 50 invites/envelope sets. We picked up 4 and some other sheets of paper and went on our way.

I started brainstorming the design and we discussed the wording. I typed it up, made the adjustments for the dimensions of the invitations and emailed it over to Matt for him to print out. Only, the font didn’t keep, and when I saved the file as a pdf, it wouldn’t hold the dimensions. So, Matt had to play around with it for a while and when he finally got it to print the right way, he was running out of ink and some of the lines bled.

I was getting a little stressed about it before all this and that was worrying Matt. He’s so sweet to me. He said that this was a problem he would solve and I wasn’t to worry about it any more. He took the invitations over to Staples to see if they would be able to print them but they refused saying that they don’t work with paper of those dimensions. (Rule of thumb: When getting paper on discount, be sure that the dimensions are something that can be readily put through a printer!) Staples said that a smaller print shop might be able to do it and Matt remembered the developer shop down the street that printed our engagement photos and Christmas gifts (we gave out some framed copies to family members).

This developer shop is called The Darkroom and I’ve mentioned it before in this blog series. They are, honestly, my new favorite place. Before planning this wedding, I’ve only used them less than a handful of times, opting for the quick develop shops, or online developing. The quality of the prints I’ve got from The Darkroom makes the adage ring true, “Good things come to those who wait.” And the wait is not that long at all. They will work with you on a deadline (within reason, of course), but they seem very flexible and determined to help you out.

Week15 Darkroom Logo

The Darkroom

1195 Hicks Blvd
Fairfield, OH 45014
513.829.3154
Website

Matt dropped off the paper and the file and presented our case. The man readily accepted the challenge and was to call me when he had a proof completed so I could see the result. The difference was amazing! He and I discussed the price (since we had brought our own paper, they didn’t have a set price for just printing invitations) and came up with an agreeable settlement for the both of us. Those weeks learning how to bargain in China and Egypt really paid off! In the States, we don’t bargain much, so I didn’t haggle the price as much as I did in those countries, but it was fun to do on my home soil.

The Darkroom has so many products and services, it really is amazing. Here I thought they just developed pictures! According to the website, they provide the following:

  • Hardbound Lay Flat Photo Books
  • Canvas Prints and Gallery Wraps
  • Fine Art Metals
  • Candids, Portrait Units (which include – Magazine covers, key chains, luggage tags, trading cards, photo buttons, fridge magnets, t-shirts, coasters, keepsake box, coffee mugs, aluminum water bottle, and mouse pads.
  • Shoot for special events and Prom
  • more information on the website.

Within a week’s time, I received a call that the invitations were ready and Matt swung by to pick them up. They turned out beautifully! Now I’ve had the task of handstamping the details, but the text is lovely, precise, and just what I wanted it to be. I would put up a picture, but I want the final result to be a surprise to my guests, so that will just have to wait for an update until after the invites have been sent out. I’m sure you’ll understand.

So here’s the breakdown:

The services:  I didn’t even know that The Darkroom did invitation printing, but Matt happened to notice it on one visit there. We saw another sample set out and it was exquisite, with beautiful embellishments and colors. So, they provide this particular service and just about any other service one would imagine along with photo services. You can find them here.
The help: Richard Braun and the ladies who help out there (I’ve never caught their names, but they are lovely) are very helpful and attentive to their customers’ desires and needs. Richard has been doing this for years, and worked with his father who started the business 34 years ago.
The parking: They have their own parking lot. It’s kind of across from Skyline and near an intersection on Route 4, so sometimes traffic is a bit tricky if you park in the spots along the road.
The facilities: The shop itself is small and unassuming, but I’ve only seen a small part of it inside. I will tell you, though, that someone on staff smokes, so you can smell it when you first walk in. However, the smell didn’t transfer on my invitations or photographs at all.
The results: The results are highly professional and just what you order. If they can’t do something, I’m sure they will tell you, so you have realistic expectations of what you are going to get. The color in the picture prints was lovely and my invitation text was crisp and exactly what I had wanted.
The price: Price is very reasonable for a professional shop. If you’re looking for a cheap shop, then this isn’t for you and maybe an hour developer is what you’re looking for. But you get what you pay for. The quality just is not going to be the same.
Returnability: I plan to use this shop much more in the future, even though I won’t be living in the same zip code. I anticipate bringing our wedding photos to be developed here as well.

Thanks for the read!

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Getting Married: 32 Weeks – Silent Auction

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program for an important announcement. If you don’t know me very well (which, if you are part of Matt’s crew, that is probably pretty true), I would like to share something that is very heavy on my heart with you. I have sought to be involved with the international community since I graduated from high school. I was intending to become a Bible translator and trekking the wilds of Nepal, teaching the Nomadic tribes about the love of Christ. Through a series of events (some felt unfortunate at the time, but the end result, I will not complain about 😀 *heart*) God took me through three unlikely countries (for me) before plopping me right back to southwest Ohio and saying that it would be here that I would serve Him. When I came home from China, I thought that God would send me back there at some point. I started offering English lessons to some of the workers in Chinese restaurants in the area. I worked on learning more about the culture and the language. But God decided to use my exposure here to teach me about something else.

Buy it on Amazon!

I got ahold of a book called “Not For Sale” by David Batstone. This book began with an account of a normal man, in a normal suburb, who found out a young Indian woman was found beaten and left wrapped in a carpet on the side of the road a few streets over from him. This woman was kept in debt bondage to a local Indian restaurant and then cast out, left for dead. It amazed this man that something like this was happening in his own backyard. This was my first real exposure to Human Trafficking.

And then it happened in MY own backyard. I discovered that it was happening to people who I had come to know and had spent time with. I was floored and began to investigate even more about this issue. Learning more about Human Trafficking, the various forms it comes in (debt bondage, sex trafficking, slave labor, child slave labor, child sex trafficking), God began to put these people on my heart. He brought a Bible verse to my attention:

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
– Isaiah 58:6 (ESV) –

Yep, we thumbs up.

I was so excited when my dear friend Amy Davis shared that God had been pulling her heart towards this same issue and to these hurting people over the years as well. She has been such a blessing and helped me get beyond just thinking about the problem and raising awareness to actually doing something concrete. We started out by going through the Love146 Task Force curriculum with a group of people at our church and others. We got a Fairfield police officer to come and speak at our church about the issue in our own hometown. Also, Matt has totally come on board to help whenever work permits and that is such a blessing!

This past weekend, we organized a Silent Auction to benefit a ministry reaching out to women in the sex industry in Dayton, OH. There are so many things I could point out about Human Trafficking in Ohio. Ohio is in the top 10 for human trafficking, with Toledo being the number one city in the nation for Child Sex Trafficking recruitment. Kids are regularly taken off the street and transported to other cities and states for the purpose of prostitution and pornography. Many active adult sex workers were forced into the business before they were 18 and most have experienced some form of abuse as a child. It pains me so much to know that there are people and children hurting like this, and that the demand exists at such a high level in our state.

This was our first time ever doing a Silent Auction and I honestly had no idea what to expect on support and amount raised. When we started talking to people about it, the promises for donations came pouring in. We would come into church and someone else would hand us a basket or bag of items they wanted to donate. The women’s ministry group at the church organized all the food and refreshments. And just when I was getting discouraged about not selling enough tickets, we had a few people come up to us that morning to buy some.

Three Citizens…yes, I realize there are four of them. They still sound good.

The week before, we had a bit of music debacle, but it all worked out with finding a new group that is fantastic! [Insert plug here] These are Three Citizens. We are so grateful that they came out to play for us. We had a great time with them.

We raised over $1,000 for Oasis House! It was so good! God definitely was in control of the whole thing. If you would like more information about Human Trafficking and the impact in Butler County, you can check out the Butler County Human Trafficking Awareness Facebook page. We are completely grassroots right now, but who knows what God will do in the future?! He has done crazier things in my own life so I won’t hold Him to any plan of mine.

Here’s a link to Oasis House, as well: http://oasisforwomen.org. I’m looking forward to spending much more time with them in the future!

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Getting Married: 46 Weeks

I was looking forward to the week following the last post since I figured we had the two big things booked and locked away, so I could relax a bit, enjoy being engaged. Sadly, southwest Ohio weather had another idea. I started getting a bit of a sore throat by Sunday night which progressed to a full-on sinus infection by Thursday. That made for a miserable week with barely any sleep, lots of coughing and a Z-pack.

While I haven’t been up to par, that doesn’t mean we didn’t make any headway on the wedding plans. We decided to do our own invitations to save some money. I’m excited and have been brainstorming ways to make them fun and creative without going overboard. Matt met me near my work place on a half day to have lunch and hang out a bit before going in to work the afternoon. We stopped into Michaels to peruse. I’m glad we did. They were having a fantastic sale on paper and stationery. We got an amazing deal on the blank card stock and envelopes we need for invitations including some card stock for embellishments and our separate reception invitations. When I say, “We got an amazing deal…,” I mean, we got everything paper that we needed for under $50, plus some fun red/yellow flowery things that we can use to decorate for the reception. I can’t wait to start experimenting with designs and trying out different things. I will post some of the outcome on here for you all when I get them going.

After chatting with my sister one night, I decided I should go ahead and schedule my wedding dress shopping date. There has been a great summer sale going on at David’s Bridal this week, but it seems too soon to go get my dress already. We’re planning to go on Labor Day weekend, hoping for a sale, and also hoping that I can get myself in a little better shape by that time. There are going to be 10 of us there if everyone can show up! It’ll be so much fun though, and I want to try on the truly awful dresses too, so I’ll have some pictures for you.

Well, here’s hoping that this week is much better than the last!

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

My Pinterest Wedding Board

Our Wedding Website on WeddingWire.com

Booked! (47 weeks)

There were just two things that I have been stressed about to get booked for this wedding, yes, even 11 months before the aimed-for date: a reception venue and wedding photographer.

This week’s post is to let you know that we have them booked! I am so confident about my vendors so far, that I’m going to do a quick review/plug for them.

RECEPTION HALL – Barn N Bunk – Trenton, OH

Borrowed from the Barn N Bunk website

First, here is the website: http://barnnbunk.com/

Both Matt and I have been to wedding receptions here, so when we found out how economical the place was, we knew we had to get it. Located in Trenton, OH, a very farming-heavy community in Butler County, OH, this venue is ideal for weddings and receptions. Barn weddings/receptions have become super popular in the last few years and this 1893 barn is definitely up for the challenge.

The owners, Bev and her husband (Tom, I believe…I did meet him, but it was for a split second), have been doing this for years. their granddaughter works in one of the shops. You can tell that the whole place is a labor of love. During the growing season, the fields surrounding the barn are filled with a variety of vegetables and beans. They have a farmers’ market and a slew of community activities throughout the year.

What amazed me was how excited Bev was about our future marriage. I’m thinking that she must see about 52 weddings a year and yet she was still so thrilled that we are getting married and having our reception there.

Here’s the breakdown of the deal:

For 200 people, we were quoted a price of $3200. This includes catering for those people of a hot buffet (there are two other buffet options available) with three meats (sliced ham with pineapple, turkey breast in gravy, and roast beef au jus) and four sides or salad options. We chose mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans with ham chunks, tossed salad with dressings, and applesauce. Matt hasn’t insisted on too much so far, but he pretty much said it was a deal breaker if we didn’t get those mashed potatoes. Naturally, I accommodated. I love potatoes too. They also provide iced tea, lemonade, water, and coffee.

Any guests above the 200 is an additional $11/person, which is a very good price based on what I’ve gathered from friends and family who have planned weddings before. We can also bring in pop, if we want, but we would be responsible for clean-up and monitoring of that. They will allow alcohol, but again, you are completely responsible for organizing that. They do have china dishes and silverware available, but they typically use Styrofoam plates and plasticware. This is where I expressed some concern. We have plans for repurposing things for this wedding – reducing our waste and lowering cost. I asked her if we could buy thick paper plates instead of styrofoam, so that the material would at least be biodegradable. Bev is in a recycling mode so she was very glad to help out and said that she would price-check for us and if it wasn’t much more than the styrofoam plates, then she would just consider it in the original cost. Just a testament that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask about something that is important to you – you may not get the answer you want, but you also just might.

I will probably do another review of the place after the wedding, but for now, I leave you with the above. I’m very hopeful for what our special day will be like.

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER – Images by Sadie – Sadie Hodge

Here’s her website: http://www.imagesbysadie.com/

Just about every one of my friends have commissioned Sadie to do photos for them. She runs the gammut of Senior pics, engagement shots, weddings, mom-to-be photos, baby and kid photo, and full family shots. She first came into our lives when my matron of honor (who will be doing our engagement photos) married her super-cool rockstar hubs. I believe that he and Sadie knew each other from school, but regardless, she did some promo shots for his band and then she did their engagement and wedding photos…then my other bridesmaid had her do mommy-to-be shots, then it seemed like just about every other of my friends had her do their engagement shots and weddings. Most recently, she has done pics of friends’ new baby boy and she was brought in for a surprise proposal session at a Cincinnati Reds game.

I have wanted her to do my wedding pics for a long time, years even! So I was so excited to hear that she was available for our wedding date. She has some different wedding packages which are on her pricing page. I have had too many friends who didn’t get a very good photographer and their groomsmen ended up with a mullet from the shadow, or heads chopped off, or missing whole segments of the night because the photographer sat down to eat his meal during the dinner. I do not plan to be a picky bride, but a top-knotch photographer is one thing I am not willing to compromise on. Sadie is the best and has very reasonable pricing for the quality of her work.

Another really great photography couple that I would have used had Sadie not been available is her friend Tammi Harris and hubs Rudy. You can find their website here. I really like the stuff that they come up with and as a husband/wife team, they work super well together.

Thanks for stopping by!

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I’m getting married to my, you guessed it, best friend on June 1st, 2013! Matt and I are super-excited and since we have quite a bit of time to plan this thing, I decided it’d be fun to blog about it. Well, maybe not always fun, but at least informative and it might give me a welcome distraction. You can find all the posts by clicking the “Getting Married” tab on the right of this page, or by clicking here. Thanks for stopping by!

Reflections on the Planning

I love and hate that God asks us to do things that are way outside of our comfort zone.  My pastor has mentioned often that he is a huge introvert and really doesn’t like getting up in front of people.  But God called him to be a pastor and he’s an amazing one!  For me, I can’t stand planning things.  Even planning a get together with friends drives me nuts!  I would much rather someone else make all the decisions and let me know where I need to be when and what I’m supposed to do.  And yet, inevitably, I will feel God say to me, “Sarah, I think you could plan such and such.  You know, I really want you to plan such and such.  It would be great for you if you would plan such and such.”  And I start down the fairly stressful path of planning an event. 

I don’t do this often.  It’s really God who has to convince me that it’s something I need to do.  But He did so back in November of last year.  If you can’t tell, something that weighs heavy on my heart is the atrocity of human trafficking.  I’ve been in exposure and awareness mode for the last few years – learning as much as I can, attending various events, getting connected with others who are concerned about it as well.  But, as I helped out with a Fall shopping day for Stop Traffick Fashion, I really began to feel like it was something our church needed as well. 

And I cringed.  I would have preferred to tell the ladies in my church about it and then they plan it.  I would even have consented to talking about it in front of the church (another thing I’m not a huge fan of doing), but with the words coming out of my mouth, the task was placed in my hands.  Our WMU leader was really excited about the idea, because she had been reading a couple of articles recently about human trafficking in the church women’s literature.  God was in this.  I’m not saying that I did it all – by no means – Brenda Heckman and Julie Johnson (Christmas tablecloths and all *wink) and Amy Jones and Jo Collas…they are some amazing ladies.  I’m so grateful to have them as role models to learn from, especially in regards to unity of kindred women and…the dreaded – hospitality. 

I am not practiced in hospitality at all.  I can’t remember what all is needed to make people feel comfortable.  For me, I go to an event to learn something and to network…and I assume everyone else is there for the same reason.  Shocking, but that’s not really the case.  Thankfully, the ladies mentioned above organized the food and decorating and there wasn’t much for me to do on that part besides being a grunt and moving tables and chairs. 

My primary task was organizing speakers and getting the word out to the community.  I may not have done the last part as well – and really the first part, I’m thinking went exactly as it should have gone, but nothing like I planned.  I was anticipating having a speaker share at each hour something in regards to human trafficking.  Emily would share about Stop Traffick Fashion and Hagar International.  I would talk about the Christian responsibility and upcoming events in the community.  And the one I was most excited about, a Hamilton Police Officer would come and share about human trafficking in our community, state and nation. 

It was awkward trying to figure out how we were going to stop everything and have everyone listen to a speaker for all of 5-10 mins and then go on their way with eating and shopping.  The only really solid group of “fresh” people was right between 10:30 and 11:15.  So, I asked for Officer Collins to share with everyone what she had been researching.  And it was great!

I wasn’t surprised that, as a local police officer, there wouldn’t be much experience with human trafficking.  I would be surprised if even the local sheriff’s department had any experience with human trafficking.  Our wonderful local sheriff isn’t that keen on the rights of illegals – no matter what condition they are in.  So, I wasn’t surprised when she shared that she got wide eyes and remarks of disbelief or discredit from fellow officers when commenting that human trafficking may be an issue in Butler County, OH.  She talked about not finding much information within the department to go off of, so she began to broaden her scope to the state of Ohio and then to the US.  She was surprised to find that Toledo is #4 in Top Cities of Human Trafficking.  Ohio is #7 in the US for human trafficking.  It’s an issue in every city (which would include Fairfield and Hamilton…”every” being an all-inclusive term).

I think that about 50 people came to the event.  Most of them bought something from STF.  But what I’m most excited is how God brought me to a job where I would meet this police officer, who I could then coordinate with and share a concern and a need in our community with.  And that she would then become interested in the issue and maybe work on spreading it to the rest of the department. 

I don’t know what this means for Butler County.  I don’t know if we’re on the edge of something starting or if it will take a few more years for anything to get going.  I don’t know what my part will be or if I will even have a part in it.  But I know that I am available to God – even if it involves more planning – that I will keep going until He stops me.