Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'alive and well women'

This coming Wednesday I’m getting a new hip! I know…you’re probably saying, “She’s way too young for hip replacement.” That’s how I feel too. But the x-rays, a limp in my stride and increasing discomfort and fatigue that keep me from living the life I want, tell a different story.

I still love to ride my bike!

I still love to ride my bike!

My hip is dis-eased! It isn’t a happy hip anymore. It complains when I get up from sitting down and when I walk more than a few hundred feet. Sometimes it even grumbles just walking from the car into the house. I have moments of freedom and ease when I think, “Maybe I really don’t need a new hip.” But then I find myself limping again.

The combination of a hip supportive yoga routine along with physical therapy have kept my hip relatively happy over the past 3 years since arthritis was first diagnosed. I worked with my hip to keep it mobile and strong. I applied the principles I teach others. I listened to my hip. I eliminated activities that exacerbated the discomfort and found softer, gentler ways of exercising. I exchanged my road bike and long distance cycling for a more recreational style of riding. Swimming became my go-to cardio. I devoted anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes a day just doing my yoga and PT exercises. But, disease can’t always be cured. Some disease can only be managed and delayed.

Like breast cancer at 30 and my shoulder reconstruction at 50, hip replacement is another teacher on my path of being alive and well. What’s different this time is I’m choosing surgery. I’m choosing to do it sooner than later. I didn’t have that choice with cancer or my dislocated shoulder.

Learning to live with disease is an essential life skill that we don’t learn except through experience. We don’t always get to choose the treatment, but we can make significant choices about many other aspects of how we respond.

What dis-ease are you dealing with today?

  • Mental dis-ease of worry or anxiety about finances, employment, relationships, or other life issues?
  • Chronic emotional struggles with depression, anxiety or other bio-chemically related dis-ease?
  • Spiritual lethargy or existential angst about meaning, purpose, vocation, love?
  • Physical dis-ease of body aches, allergies, headaches, gastro-intestinal disruptions?
  • Stress and tension accumulating in random mental and physical symptoms?

What do you do to manage and work with the dis-ease that doesn’t seem like it may ever be cured? That you may just have to find a way to live with as best as you can?

My life’s work is to help myself and others love and enjoy living in our bodies, just as we are and make life-giving choices as we adjust to the changes and dis-eases that are an expected part of life.

I didn’t want cancer. I didn’t want a dislocated shoulder. I don’t want osteoarthritis in my hip and low-back. But once they became part of my story I made choices to let them become my teachers. All of the wisdom, guidance and compassionate support I offer others grows out of my daily choice to move toward dis-ease of body, mind, heart and spirit with compassion, openness and curiosity.

Will you join us?

Will you join us?

If you’ve got some dis-ease you’re dealing with and want support for your journey, please consider joining me and my companions at Alive and Well Women for our upcoming program: Alive and Well – A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being.

Some of you participated in previous versions of the Alive and Well program. I’d love to have you re-join me for this revised version. The journey begins with an “in-town” retreat on Friday, March 31 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 1st from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. followed by weekly gatherings on Thursdays from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. during April (6, 13, 20, 27).

Alive and Well is also offering Awaken: Self-Care from the Inside Out on Saturday, March 18th. The day includes experiential teaching and practices designed to help you connect to and work with your body to discover your unique blueprint for self-care.

Both events take place in Pasadena area. I’d love to see you at one or both.

In the meantime, your prayers for a smooth and successful surgery on Wednesday, February 22nd and a solid recovery after would be much appreciated.

 

 

 

Last week I introduced a group of entrepreneurial Christ followers to the use of contemplative prayer as a means of self-care. I led a simple breathe and body awareness practice, inviting them to “just be” with themselves in God’s presence and notice their experience. What was it like to just stop, let their minds be still, notice their experience without “doing” anything in response to whatever thoughts, feelings or sensation came to mind?

A newbie to contemplative practices reported that for a brief moment, he felt his brain stop working and relax. A calm and bright smile spread across his face as he reflected on the rapid pace of his life and how his mind is always thinking about something. “It felt amazing to just stop and be quiet for a moment.”

Another participant noted a deep sense of gratitude flooding his awareness as he felt his breath and body move in rhythm with each other. He said he felt like God was breathing with him!

Contemplative prayer is a way of praying without words, or with very few words. It’s a way of paying attention to experience as we are held in God’s loving presence, letting our very presence become a prayer as we rest and trust in God’s love.

Miss Liberty Belle - 8 weeks old

Miss Liberty Belle – 8 weeks old

Recently, I’ve recommitted myself to daily centering prayer—a contemplative prayer practice popularized by the writing and teaching of Father Thomas Keating and the community at Contemplative Outreach. From 2007-2014 I had an almost daily practice. Then, a two-week vacation to Ireland and the arrival of Miss Liberty Belle two years ago threw me off my game. Some days, it takes an enormous amount of discipline to show up for my practice. But I know from my experience of both yoga and centering prayer that these simple tools are powerful resources for helping me be a better lover of God, my neighbors and myself. So, after two years of rather sporadic practice, I’ve renewed my commitment to daily centering prayer.

Perhaps you too could use some practical tools to support you in being more at peace with yourself, a kinder and gentler partner, a less reactive employee or boss…Whatever the change you seek, strengthening your capacity to just be with your experience in a loving, non-judgmental way, can be a powerful support in the slow work of becoming!

On September 24th I’ll be leading a women’s retreat on how contemplative practices support spiritual growth—especially in facing the disturbing and disquieting aspects of ourselves that we desperately long to change, but also greatly resist.

Transforming Beauty from Ashes – Saturday, September 24th Retreat

Miss Liberty Belle - 1.5 years old

Miss Liberty Belle – 1.5 years old

I’d love to have you join me and the Alive and Well Women team at the LA County Arboretum from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. for a day of opening up to the life that wants to be born in and through you as you rest and trust in God’s transforming love within compassionate community. The $60 registration fee includes admission to the 127 acre gardens, spacious time for individual reflection, experiential teaching on contemplative practice, facilitated small group and community conversations, and light refreshments. See more details and registration at the Alive and Well Women website.  I hope you can join us!

In case you were wondering, Liberty is flourishing. Thankfully, I’m not as easily distracted by her charming ways I as used to be!

Mindful eating is simply eating with attention. But in our fast-food, eat-on-the-run world, just paying attention to what you are eating and how you are eating can be challenging. For overall wellness, nourishment and digestive health, how we eat can be as important as what we eat! Join us for an evening of slowing down, savoring each bite, honoring your body and celebrating the abundance we’ve been given.

SAVOR

SAVOR

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

In addition to meal and beverages, our time will include teaching on mindful eating principles, guided experiential learning on hunger awareness and engagement with five senses and five primary tastes, personal reflection on how you eat and facilitated conversation.

WHY MINDFUL EATING?

In our diet-obsessed but food abundant society, rather than being a joyful and nurturing experience, eating is often fraught with anxiety, distraction and guilt. While we may know that eating with attention could be helpful, deeply engrained patterns of relating to food and the hectic pace of life can undermine our efforts.

In addition to providing a delightful evening savoring a meal with a welcoming and compassionate group of women, this workshop will help you:

  • Strengthen your capacity to listen to your body’s signals about hunger and fullness
  • Understand the interplay between physical, emotional, spiritual and other hungers
  • Expand your awareness of the multiple levels of satisfaction possible through mindful eating

Dinner takes place at a private home in Pasadena. Space is limited to 12 with only 10 spots still open. More information and registration at Alive and Well Women.

My mom taught me from an early age about loving the unlovable: “I may not like what you do, but I will always love you.”

Usually stated after she’d blown her top in anger while trying to contain and appropriately discipline the wild child energies of my brother and I, the message “No matter what you do, you are loved” went deep into my heart and mind.

Like teenagers throughout history, while working through my adolescent differentiation process, I was convinced my mom didn’t love me. “If you really loved me…” followed by a litany of parental errors filled my mind much of the time.

- “If you really loved me, you would let me do what I want.”

- “If you really loved me, you would give me what I ask for.”

- “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t be depressed and crazy.”

- “If you really loved me, you would make the pain go away.”

- “If you really loved me, you and dad wouldn’t have divorced.”

Volatile arguments with mom marked my teen years. At times I hated her. At other times I felt deep compassion for her suffering. Most of the time I was too busy avoiding and denying the painful reality of her depression, addictions and suicidality to feel anything but indifference.

In her better moments, she did her best to guide my emerging wild feminine nature. Yet as strong willed as she was, her depressed middle-aged energy was no match for my angry adolescent intensity. Her attempts to set boundaries around my choice of friends, where I went and what I did, were sadly ineffective. I’d tell her where I was going and what I was planning to do–sometimes truthfully but most often not. She’d extend some parental guidance in an effort to do her job: “Be sure to call if your plans change.” I’d verbally assent to the plan while knowing all along she’d be out cold by the time I came home and it wouldn’t matter anyway.

As her disease progressed and I became increasingly frightened and resentful of her weakness and ineffectiveness, I acted out my own insecurities in a show of hostility. I responded with outright disrespect and at times, even contempt. I’d laugh at her and dare her to “try and make me” come home at a certain hour.  Sometimes she’d fight back with further attempts to assert her authority, but I’d respond with more venomous words. I have more memories than I’d like of calling her a “fuckin’ bitch” or other hateful things.

And yet, through it all, she’d faithfully call me back to love. Often initiating a conversation about “a new beginning” when our relationship was in more a emotionally stable place. She’d apologize for her “craziness.” I’d cry and admit I loved her and didn’t mean what I’d said. We’d forgive each other and carry on–for a few days, a week or two, sometimes longer, until our next upheaval. The message that I heard time and again:

“No matter how badly you behave, I will always love you.”

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 – Remarkable & Silly Mother

Ours was never the cozy, intimate, “best friends” kind of mother-daughter relationship. We enjoyed each other at times, laughed and had fun. But it wasn’t a sweet or easy love. Even to her dying days we struggled to love each other well through our words and actions. Yet, in the depths of my innermost being, I knew I was her beloved and precious only daughter. She loved me fiercely, deeply and strongly. She taught me to love and forgive the unlovable in myself and others.

Reflecting on our relationship, I’m grateful she died when I was only 30. Her physical passing put an end to my struggle to love the parts of her I didn’t like, to forgive the things she did that hurt me. Her limited, broken, imperfect human self no longer inhibiting her capacity to love, her goodness lives on in and through me. I see her charm, her wit, her ability to stand up among a group of strangers and speak boldly and clearly–when I engage in those ways. I see her in my mannerisms and the ways I’m physically aging.

I know she’s proud of the women I’ve become and that I’m still working on loving the unlovable in myself and others. And I am forever grateful and proud to be the daughter of Moira Deidre Ford! May she rest in peace.

I’m blessed to participate in a blogroll with a writing group. Please check out Staci’s blog for more on loving the unlovable. 

 

This morning I sat down with my word for the year seeking inspiration to share. To be honest, I am not in the most self-reflective or “deep” season of my life.  I look back at past blogs in wonder. I feel so distant from the wise, reflective writer that I’ve been in the past. And that is okay! It’s just the way it is.

undivided word map

undivided word map

Two writing tools I fall back on when “nothing” seems to want to be said are word mapping and acrostics. This morning I tried both. No prizing winning essay emerged, but that’s not the point of reflective writing. It’s more about the journey than the product. It’s more about listening to my life than “landing” somewhere.

With a word map, you place your main word or idea in the middle of the page and listen for other words or phrases that arise in connection with it. Sometimes great insights come and a poem or essay emerges. Other times, like today, interesting ideas or themes unfold, but nothing more materializes.

After my word map, I turned to the acrostic method.

United with myself and all living beings.

Near to the heart of God.

Devoted to serving Love.

Integrity of body, mind and spirit.

Viewing myself and all human beings through the eyes of Love.

Intentional as to where I invest my time, energy and resources.

Dedicated to alleviating suffering.

Enduring expected frustrations, disappointments and obstacles.

Delighting always in my status as Beloved Daughter of God.

I’m grateful that there’s no one “right” way to share my life with others. And that every blog I post doesn’t need to be polished and perfect. Sometimes it’s just showing up and sharing what comes. 

If you have a “word” for year, make time to listen for wants to be known and expressed, if only to yourself. I highly recommend these two methods and would love to hear what comes as you listen to your life.

For more reflections on “words for the year” from my blogging friends, check out our blogroll. I love the way each of us does it our own way. A great example of how there is no one “right” way to share our lives with others!

http://www.growingplaces.us/prospero-ano/

 

Stephanie Says Yes to Rest - Camping in Joshua Tree

Stephanie Says Yes to Rest – Camping in Joshua Tree

My friend Stephanie’s fierce commitment to living wholeheartedly and authentically inspires me. She shared her poem “Say Yes to Rest” with me in early October. She listened to her body’s signals and made a radical choice to take a few days off from work before she got sick. I was proud of her and grateful for the ways we support each other in self-care. And I knew it would be meaningful to those who follow my blog. I appreciate her willingness to share the wisdom of her lived experience here.

Say Yes to Rest by Stephanie Jenkins

The street outside my window is filled
with the rush of cars; their dirty engines
propel them in opposing directions
with equal measures of hurry
as if, for each one, there is an unseen fire
somewhere that only that one driver can put out.

I have pulled myself out of the hustle
and bustle today; I have crawled
out of the jaws of the beast
refusing to be devoured.

The ache that runs through my body, the piercing
in my skull, the awful pressure on my throat
like two angry hands pushing, are evidence
that I barely survived. My eyes throb,
there is a stabbing in my right side.

This is the violence of our day–we abuse both
earth and body in our relentless pursuit of productivity.
The thirst for output that refuses to be slaked
has indeed given us more…
more anxiety,
more fear,
more pollution,
more poverty,
more violence,
so much more…

Today I want less. I push pause
on the crazy, frenetic rush. I enter
into my own slice of Sabbath. I tend
to my aching bones with loving care.

I want to see what is real in this world,
my eyes long to be healed by the vision
of the rose unfurling towards the sun;
my body asks to be rocked and soothed
in the ocean’s cool embrace; my bones beg
the soft give of soil rather than the harshness of pavement;
my skin thirsts for canyon breezes and dappled light
instead of conditioned air and florescent bulbs.

And today I say yes to my longings.
I say yes to rest, yes to wild, yes to free.
Today I say yes to Love,
so I might find again what is real in this world.
__________

After sitting with Stephanie’s poem, wondering how to fit it into a blog so I could share it with others, I realized that I was the one who needed the lesson. Stephanie’s words were prophetic–calling me to “crawl out of the jaws of the beast” lest I too be devoured by the ways I’d fallen prey to believing if I just worked harder, more efficiently or found the right time management tool I’d be more successful. Stephanie helped name my experience.

Following a very busy September and first two weeks of October I found myself depleted, out-of-alignment with myself and God, and in deep need of refueling. As Alive and Well Women enters its second year, I was experiencing the emotional exhaustion and decreased sense of personal accomplishment that accompanies burnout–and is an occupational hazard of helping professionals! The goodness, blessings and excitement of birthing a nonprofit had worn off. Amidst the busyness of my rushed and useful life, I’d lost my center, my “why” and “how” of the work I am called to do in the world. Distracted and anxious about “what” I was doing, my self-worth and identity were becoming overly attached to my level of productivity. As Thomas Merton wrote in his Letter to a Young Activist, that is not the right use of my work!

Merton speaks to the activist in all of us when he advises: “All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.”

Saying Yes to Rest in Coronado by Day

Saying Yes to Rest in Coronado by Day

I’m grateful that self-care and authenticity are the heart of Alive and Well. We are committed to practice what we preach. And I’m grateful for the remarkable team God is bringing together to support one another in these values and empower others to do the same. With their support and a very generous scholarship from The Cottage on Coronado, I spent last week recovering my center, remembering that the success or failure of anything I do is not a reflection of my self-worth.

It wasn’t easy to say “No” to the many tasks left undone on my list. As noted in research on the stresses of nonprofit work, despite the intrinsic rewards of the work we do, jobs in this sector often come with high demands, long working hours and low pay!  My main work is to stay rooted and grounded in God’s love and entrust outcomes to God’s care.

The wisdom of Stephanie’s experience is a gift to remember as we head into what can become a very frenetic season.  May we listen to our lives, find courage to press the pause button, and take time to rest!

A recent blog post from the Breast Cancer Action (BCA is a nonprofit advocacy group for health justice for women at risk of or living with breast cancer) reminded me why I don’t buy pink.  All the hype about “Think Pink” during October’s breast cancer awareness push is as much to benefit companies using the slogan as it is to increase awareness. Some companies claim to care about breast breast cancer yet produce, manufacture or sell products with chemicals linked to the disease. And some department stores, clothing and accessory manufactures and other companies that sell pink products donate only a small percentage of the profits to the effort. That’s why I don’t buy pink anymore. Although I once did.

This Thanksgiving I’ll be 23 years out from that horrific holiday season I spent being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. The first few years I walked or ran in “Pink” fundraisers, only to find out later that the companies organizing  the events were pulling in huge profits. I wore pink ribbons or related products, only to discover that in some cases only a minor percentage of the profits went to anything breast cancer related.

I’m grateful for awareness that allowed me and other early diagnosis patients (AKA “Bosom Buddies”) to live full and long lives post-cancer, but I’m not buying any pink products. If I want to give money to raise awareness or research I’ll give it directly to the providers.

Katy’s story reveals the subtle way companies use breast cancer to promote the very products that contain chemicals linked to to cancer. They don’t do it maliciously…at least I hope not. But, as my wise spouse often points out, corporations don’t have a soul. They have no moral compass to guide their decisions. The bottom-line is…the bottom-line. Morals and ethics are a side-note at best and most often not even a part of the conversations about how to do business.

While companies that use the “Think Pink” slogan to sell pink hats, shoes, shirts and other products may give some or all of the profits to breast cancer research and advocacy, the companies do it for their own sake as much as for those of us impacted by the disease. Certainly the decision to give breast cancer patients products full of toxic chemicals linked to the disease wasn’t done with morality or justice as the bottom-line.

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

Celebrating Life Together with My Bosom Buddies

I’ll be celebrating life with my bosom buddies at our annual ThanksLiving party next month. And we’ll be serving as much organic, close to nature food and drink as available. After 23 years I am still careful to eat organic and use personal care products with as few human created chemicals as possible. I’m convinced that all the pesticides in the foods I ate during puberty played a role in activating cancer. That’s why I support Breast Cancer Action’s work in the world. They focus much of their effort toward awareness of the role environmental toxins play in the onset of breast cancer – something the tradition medical industry refuses to address.

As Katy’s story exemplifies, if companies really had her welfare in mind, they’d do something other than provide free products that contain chemicals that interrupt the effectiveness of the medication she’s taking to prevent reoccurrance. And, if they really had the interests of women at risk or living with breast cancer, they’d invest all the time, money and energy spent on developing pink promotional products toward direct services for those in need rather than pocket a portion for themselves.

To join me and Breast Cancer Action in telling the Personal Care Products Council and the American Cancer Society to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in personal care products please sign send a letter.

Thanks for joining me in this effort to stop the abuse of all the good being doing through breast cancer awareness! Let’s “Think Pink” but do so in a conscious and ethical way!

 

 

We all know that walking is good for you. Just getting up from your desk to walk around the office or outside for a few minutes has plenty of health benefits. After all, sitting is the new smoking.

But a study by Gregory Bratman at Standford University found that when compared to an urban walk, a nature walk resulted in even more emotional and cognitive benefits than an urban walk. Moreover, it may even change the wiring of our brains!

Winter Day at Occidental College - All Brown Now

Winter Day at Occidental College – All Brown Now

I imagine the same results would apply to walking on a treadmill versus getting out under the trees on a dirt path.

I live 1/2 block away from a busy street in Los Angeles, California. Some days I have time to get away to a more scenic and natural place to walk. But on a busy work day, like today, that isn’t going to happen.

So, I’ll put on my walking shoes and make the best of the tree lined asphalt and concrete streets nearby. I might stroll through the urban oasis of nearby Occidental College where a small but sacred few acres of dirt paths wait to be trod upon.

Walking is good for your health. Walking in nature is even better!

Whatever you do today, urban or nature, make time for a walk. Your body and brain will thank you!

 

 

Last week I received an email from a colleague. She’s learning how much more effective self-acceptance is than self-hatred for motivating positive health behaviors. She told me what I’d said  the last time we met kept coming to mind: “I love myself more as I get older because there’s more of me to love…”
I don’t remember saying it. But God knew I needed to remember!
Most of the time I’m content with aging, grateful for the wisdom and sensibility of growing older and I accept my body just as I am. But last week I looked in the mirror a few times and felt that old familiar sense of shame and dissonance flood my body and mind. My particular body story combined with living in a body-shaming culture, I don’t expect to ever “get over” it. And I’m not sure that’s either realistic or necessary.
My mantra when that old story of “I’m not okay just as I am” shows up: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.” And repeat as needed until dissonance vanishes.
 
Sometimes that’s not enough. I need time to work my way there. Not with compulsive exercise or dieting…but with breathing in God’s love, naming the shame, writing in my journal, talking to my husband or a friend.
As Brene Brown has confirmed with her research, shame thrives on silence and secrecy. When we can name it and tell another about it, it loses its power.
Glory be to God in Christ, we don’t need to remain silent about the shame that so easily entangles.
With the season of summer comes more body shame activation opportunities. And each one is an opportunity to breathe in God’s love and let go of shame.
I take a deep inhale and pray, “Lord, have mercy.”  I exhale and pray, “Christ, have mercy.” And will repeat as needed!
Don’t let shame win! When it hits you, take a deep breathe and remember how deeply, fully and unreservedly loved you are by God, just as you are right now.  If that cloud of shame is still hanging around after a while, call a friend and talk about it.
Let’s not let shame have the last word this summer!
May the final word be LOVE.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common and natural part of aging.  If we live long enough, normal wear-and-tear breaks down the shock-absorbing discs between the bones in the spine.  Symptoms of disease are more likely in people who smoke, perform heavy physical labor or are obese. Although it’s not completely avoidable, we can minimize the process by building strong core, abdominal and back muscles, maintaining good posture and avoiding lifting heavy objects.

Ironically, lifting heavy objects is often a central part of weight training. CrossFit is the latest example of a fitness program that relies on heavy lifting to build muscular strength. It’s been called “the world’s fastest growing athletic specialty.” And it’s also been identified by doctors, physical therapists and rival fitness professionals as one of the most potentially debilitating forms of training.

My Dear Spine - Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

My Dear Spine – Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

I can’t attribute my DDD to any one training routine. But I’m pretty sure that years of mildly compulsive exercise didn’t help!

My recent ventures into weight training weren’t extreme. I kept my dumbbells light, listened to my body and adjusted poses with support from my trainer. But my DDD (diagnosed 20+ years ago) coupled with an undiagnosed osteoarthritis in my hips, lead to increasingly stiff and sore lower body.

I landed at Optimal Performance Systems – an alternative to traditional physical therapy and training.  Their corrective movement therapy and vitality program has loosened up my hips in ways that yoga and traditional stretching had been exacerbating. And it’s deepened my commitment to helping myself and others focus on holistic health. The OPS motto says it all: “Exercise is optional. Movement is mandatory.”

bike

I love to ride my bike

I got back on my bike this weekend for Ciclavia Pasadena. While I loved it, I also realized I need to get a new set of wheels if I want to do any significant cycling. I’ll be giving up my old faithful road bike and the spine jarring mountain biking my husband and I used to love. But, I hope to find a way to keep enjoying the freedom and joy of riding my bike without further compromising my spine or hips.

When expected changes of aging or unanticipated challenges of injuries and illnesses arrive, we need to adjust. Ultimately, it doesn’t take heavy lifting to maintain functional levels of strength, flexibility and balance. Of course, if I ever need to move a large boulder or lift a car, I’m screwed!

At this point in my journey, heavy lifting is optional. But bending over to harvest zucchini and sweet peas from my garden is essential. I think I’ll choose the veggies and flowers!