Day #239 – Welcome to Rope Store.

The week before Christmas I went to the studio to do my regular cable tidying and hoovering up of ghost dog hair. Whilst untangling a wire Jason asked me to do some backing vocals on a track he recorded a few months ago. I’m always game for recording opportunities. I want and need as much practice and experience as I can get regardless of the genre or whether it is something that I ‘want’ to record or sound like. Experience is experience. And I just love doing it. I love the process.

Somehow though we never really got around to doing that. Instead, Jason started playing a melody on the guitar that he’d been working on. I thought it sounded awesome. So we recorded some drums. And some bass. Then some guitar. A bit more guitar and before we knew it we were sitting in the control room co writing a song on scraps of paper in my fairly illegible doctors scrawl. I also found myself thrown into my first 8 track master class. Talk about being overwhelmed. Two recordings and lessons later though and me and the machine are starting to understand each other a bit. Those buttons aren’t as intimidating as they’ll have you believe. The cables. They’re another story. I have been pesting Jason for months to form a band with me so to say that I’m happy about this new endeavour is an understatement. Obvs I’m playing it well cool…

And that’s that really. ‘Rope Store’ were born that evening. Jason wrote another song yesterday and we went to the studio last night and recorded and learnt it from scratch. We work fast. We share that with our love of cheese sandwiches.

Rope Store’s sound is essentially 60s soul/rnb I think… There were some definite Mamas and Papas vibes in the room. Jason said the word Abba at one point and I just chose to ignore that. Last night was bluesy. It’s not necessarily how I want my solo material to sound but this isn’t my solo material. This is an awesome band I have the pleasure of being in. We just need to find some hardworking, talented and dedicated to the cause musicians so we can do some gigs. We are going to find you. Look out.

Everything has been produced by Jason at Old School Studios onto 8 track. It’s such a beautiful way of recording. There are always little accidental quirks happening which make the track more turkish rug, guiding you in different directions. I find the lack of shine and polish that our ears have come accustomed to nothing but refreshing and wonderful. Recording onto tape gives the music a rawness that I couldn’t even try to explain and a physical connection to the sounds you are making. It’s not about closing windows and adding plug ins and auto tuning. It’s about being gentle with this seasoned and loyal machine. Carefully cleaning the tape heads, twisting and turning countless knobs and buttons, recording each instrument and vocal to the musicians best ability. If something goes wrong you can’t click ‘help’. It’s a real craft. Find me a laptop or piece of software that is so timeless and significant. If you’re a recording artist and you haven’t recorded onto tape, I highly recommend it.

If you want to take a listen to what we recorded so far you can check us out (and even buy it if you’re so inclined) on band camp.

https://ropestore.bandcamp.com/track/stop

https://ropestore.bandcamp.com/track/all-of-you

If you like what you hear please do spread the word with your little social media buttons.

Here’s to Rope Store!

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Hoping you have all had the best holidays and feasted beautifully xx

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Day #237 – Christmas pork and beans.

Me and Jason have three main things in common. We both love New York City. We both eat far too many cheese sandwiches. And we both love Weezer.

The other night/morning we headed to the studio and made this. It was FUN.

Didn’t make a video because I didn’t take anything with me. Instead, as it’s Christmas, I took this picture of me wearing my daughters Christmas jumper, trying to contort into the chimney, covered in fairy lights. Doesn’t get much more Christmasy than that in our household. I could have got up but I’m scared of spiders.

I heart Weezer.

Hope your days are full of love and cheer! X

Day #233 – The Invitation.

Then, one day she decided to design a life she loved.

Then, one day she decided to design a life she loved.

I’m somewhat technically limited presently. I’m without laptop and constrained to this strange invention one calls an iPad. Honestly, not sure why anybody would have one. It’s just a massive phone. I could have put my cash towards one the other day, but I chose a bass over a computer. It’s all for the same cause. Far prettier than any laptop I’ve ever seen and she speaks a language I understand. I can’t complan… Not too much.

Instead of writing a blog today and hammering you with personal development ideas, I’m going to share this beautiful poem I read the other day. It is Christmas after all! And the Winter Solstice! That’s quite significant. Today is the perfect day to set your intentions for the coming year. This poem made me so happy and resonated with me on every level. It’s basically what I want to ask people the minute I meet them. Small talk is over rated. I hope it fits somewhere for you too.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming, from the book The Invitation published by HarperONE, San Francisco, 1999 All rights reserved. http://www.oriahmountaindreamer.com

Ahh! That one. I love words.

Music news? Co wrote and recorded an awesome little song the other day down at Old School Studios. When I flew back from New York with Icelandair I also didn’t realise that they are the international version of ryanair. No food. No music. No movies.. No beers. Oh unless you pay extra for all of the above. Long haul, that SUCKS! But what I did have was a window seat, a notebook and a pencil. The original material is coming, slowly but surely. Tortoises are way cooler. They win too. I also just treated myself to a bass. Look out for these ninja fingers. And I had my first master class recording onto 8 track. Even managed to fit in washing and feeding the kids. God knows why I’m so tired.

Go CREATE X

What I would love for Christmas is for your jolly self to come find me on my other social media and follow and subscribe! If you find these posts helpful, share them with your friends!

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Day #230 – What New York did.

(Other than make me want to live there more than ever…)

For all my regular readers, you’ll know I just treated myself to a trip to NYC.  I needed a break so I took one. I took the best one. Then I took a bit more. Why? Because I needed to remember how to be free and how to breathe.

I also went to be inspired. In one short week I crammed in so many shows and gigs and people and places. I adorned myself in music and life. It was the happiest and best I’ve felt in so long. I’ve brought that home with me. I met some wonderful and beautiful people. I laughed until I cried and an existing friend turned into a best one.

What I loved the most about New York was  watching people work their arses off in pursuit of their dreams and passions. Everything seemed somewhat possible. I’m sure they didn’t feel like that but I watched them be like that. It’s a city full of people striving for more. Striving to achieve. Everybody wants to do something somewhere and they’re working at it. I probably had my rose tinted glasses on. I don’t mind. I do know that New York isn’t for the faint hearted.

We all need to feel inspired to keep us motivated. Often we expect inspiration to fall into our laps, but sometimes we have to go looking for it. If you want to get to the top of your game it’s so important to surround yourself in people you admire. Smother yourself in them. Read about them, listen to them, watch them. Ask them how they did things. How they do things. Never stop trying to improve how you do things. Never stop asking questions. It’s the only way you’ll get better.

I’ll go to the studio and make something shinier just as soon as I’ve saved enough magic coins.

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Day #220 – My pocket of dreams.

17360-Dream-Jar

A few weeks ago I got my first hater. I have a hater! She made me sad. Now I love her and it makes me smile. One in 7,000 isn’t too bad an odd really. At the time I didn’t though. At the time I got this email telling me what a douche I was and I felt like being sick. Nobody likes the idea of another person thinking bad of them, especially when your intentions are good. It did make me stop and think though. Perhaps I do need to be clearer in what my intentions are. What my motivation is. I always assume that people have been reading this from Day #1. If you’ve just joined us – welcome!

I do have three beautiful daughters.They like to eat cheerios for breakfast. I’ve never talked about them on here, well because, it’s not relevant is it? This isn’t a parenting blog and I don’t want to pigeonhole myself by only directing my intentions towards one group of people. I want as many people to relate as possible. They are the three most intense and important human beings I’ve ever come across. They are an absolute full time job. From the minute I have my eyes rudely opened each morning until I go to bed I am doing that. There is no escaping it and to assume that ‘this’, my blog, my singing could even possibly take precedence over them is just crazy. Even if i wanted that to be the truth – it’s an impossibility. If you have small people yourself, you’ll know it. I wonder if I’d be so critically judged if I was doing more hours outside of the home in a ‘real’ job? If I worked in a supermarket and put them in full time child care? If I was being more socially acceptable.

I am the most private person who ordinarily despises using social media. I’m not interested in it at all. Instagram is nice. I like pictures. But otherwise, I’ve never really been into show casing my private life. It’s private and more fun to live it than report it. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in now. It’s a marketing tool that is too important to reject. Whilst I might not like it, I don’t think I’m above it and I’m smart enough to know that its power is great. It’s got nothing to do with me loving myself. Or wanting people to look at me. I’d rather they didn’t. If I could do this faceless and from a dark room somewhere then I’d much prefer it. I’d probably be doing a lot more, a lot faster. The lack of confidence is holding me back somewhat. It takes all of my energy and determination to put my face on things. But it’s part of the parcel.

It has taken me the best part of 30 years to get to a point where I felt brave enough to face my fears and say out loud ‘I want to be a singer’. The whole point of the blog was and is to inspire other people. Other people who are in a similar situation to me who think they missed their dream boat. I wanted to be a working example that it’s not too late. Ever. There are always options and routes. I wanted to lay myself completely bare and be brutally honest. Yes that puts me in the firing line. There would be no point doing this if I sugar coated it. What help to other people would that be? Hey guys look how easy and great this is! No. This is life. This is how it’s going down. Yours is too. I’m just admitting it. We all feel the same. Have the same fears and issues. My thinking was that if I talk about it, people can see that, yes, dream chasing is scary and hard. But it’s also possible and fun. Look, she’s been knocked down again and gets up. I can do that too. That was my motivation. It still is. That’s why I write about the issues and personal development stuff. I’m relaying what is helping me move forward and grow, in the hope it helps someone else too. Why? Because I want as many people to be as happy as possible, living their bliss. I’m tired of seeing people dragging their sorry feet behind them. That is all.

Over the last 6 months, everything that I have worked on has been ON TOP of everything else. I write and work in the evenings when and if my children sleep. I am currently running on 4 hours sleep a night. I crammed working for studio time in around everybody else. I’ve always made myself be last in line. I write stuff on my phone as I’m walking to the park with my toddler. I practice whilst I’m doing the laundry or scrubbing crayon off the wall. Concentrate on my children? My dear, I do nothing but. They are smothered in love and skittles. If they were suffering, I would stop.

My goals and targets are still the same. Here is my original post on the topic in case you missed it http://wp.me/pRHlH-2T I want to record music. I want to be better. I want to be great. I want to make money doing that. I want to make decent money doing it so that I can share it around. I want to help other people. I want to support and work with organisations both small and big that are helping the wider community. I want to inspire my children how to live life. The only thing that has changed is that I am more realistic now than I was at the beginning. I have a lot of work to do and that’s the only way to go forward. Practice and hard work.

Life is fun. Play with it. Don’t waste your time. We don’t get that long. X

Come check out these bad boys …

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Day #218 – My light went out.

outbursts-and-meltdowns

Wow. So much for lighting up the entire sky. I burnt out about 4 days after and spent the last 2 weeks watering the sky rather than lighting it up. I think that’s a good thing though. I never cry. I bottle everything up and act like a hero. I haven’t this time and I’ve come out the other side a lot more humble and I feel a vulnerability I didn’t have before. I think I might keep her. If the ugly, heavy, creature lying across my chest could just get off now, then we’ll be in business. I’m working on that. Negotiations are taking longer than anticipated.

So much has happened in my personal life the last 6 weeks. A lot of things have been said. A lot of things have been done. Things I’m not proud of and things I’m sure other people aren’t proud of either. But I decided that I’m not going to talk about that. This blog isn’t a gossip column. I will say that there are always two sides to every story though and unless you’re a modern day saint, don’t be so quick to judge. Each persons actions are a reaction to their situation. You can’t possibly know as an outsider what a person has been through in their life and how that has affected them. How that implicates their actions. Keep that in mind. I am. It makes everyone suddenly seem beautiful and lovable.

Life really hurts sometimes. You can’t escape that. But I think as humans we try to. We do everything that we can to avoid pain. Avoid any kind of heartache. It’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. It’s only natural that we would want to avoid it. Nobody tells us to lean towards the pain and discomfort. We’re told to take a pill, distract ourselves, get help. Avoid and fix! Avoid and fix! What happens if we stop avoiding it? If we stop and turn around and look it right in the eyes? Sit with it. See it clearly rather than protecting ourselves. Well, it’s not pretty. But it’s good. What started off as a problem, suddenly becomes a source of wisdom.

The ground has been taken beneath my feet and I have nothing to grab hold of. It hurts. I have been beside myself. I have been this sad twice in my life. The first time was when my first love at 18 years old called me up and told me over the phone that he didn’t love me anymore. How cute first love is. I don’t love him anymore either. The second time was when I was 6 months pregnant and my step father dropped down dead over dinner. I didn’t think I would care that me and Tommy broke up. It was such a logical and practical thing to do. It made sense. We talked about it for a long time. We tried for a long time. We decided that this was for the best. Nobody was mortified. It had to be the right thing. Nobody was crying or shouting no. In my mind that indicated a massive lack of desire and romantic motivation. It was cool and dead. And it had been for longer than either of us wanted to admit.

Despite that, when our break up turned sour, as they all do eventually, no matter how beautiful the sentiment, I completely lost it. Ive cried until I’m sick. Ive had panic attacks. I’ve collapsed. I’ve drank and drank and drank. Ive cried some more. I’ve beaten myself up. Blamed myself. Had second thoughts. Doubted myself. Everything I have been working for felt pointless. I haven’t sang a word. I couldn’t write. I puked some more. Cried some more. Fell to the floor even more. I’ve spent years building this massive defence system to protect myself from things like this and it’s impenetrable. I keep everything and everyone at arms length as a fail safe protection strategy. Or so I thought.

I have learnt so much. I am so glad that my heart is broken. I am so glad that I have been broken. I’m still crying. I need to do some rebuilding. But positive, gentle and tender rebuilding. Fort Knox isn’t coming back. Maybe a nice circle of mature trees can take its place. I feel like one of those wild horses that has been vaguely tamed. I say vaguely, because my spirit is wild by nature and I neither can or have the inclination to change that. I have learnt the importance of pain and embracing it. It has triggered all sorts of unresolved issues in me that I didn’t even know existed. I have learnt the importance of pausing rather than immediately finding something or someone to fill the empty space in you. I’ve been made more than aware how my actions can cause harm and pain to other people. That there is something in all of us that we are trying to hide from and avoid and by acting quickly we manage to avoid it. I’ve come out the other side gentle. I never thought it possible. I feel gentle. That’s incredible in itself. I mean, it blows… But growing doesn’t. Learning doesn’t. Sometimes you need to have a pit stop, cry it out, mourn what you’ve lost. Do a little grieving. You can’t always charge full steam ahead regardless. I just learnt that. After 30 years. Apparently we’re all human…

It is definitely a balance though. You can’t stay in your pit too long else you’ll never get out and you’ll become depressed. This isn’t about wallowing or self pity. This is about allowing yourself to feel pain and knowing that it’s ok. That it’s part of life. Pleasure can’t exist without it. Cry until you’re sick but make sure you get up again. Refocus and keep moving towards what is important to you. Know what is important to you in the first place. Even if it feels harder than it ever felt. Even if you’ve lost the will. You have to try. You’ll be the only one to lose out if you don’t. Cry and then get up.

I’ve come to New York City. I’m here to be inspired. I’m going to cover myself in music and life. In buildings. In America. I’m going to write every day. I’m going to explore every day. Read every day. I’m going to try and sing a song. The air smells like waffles and I’ve already been to the Apollo theatre to watch some of the best musicians in the world. That has to be a good starting point.

Thank you to everyone for the kind messages and support you have all given and offered. It means so much and has stopped me from giving up. For reals.

Come follow me on my other social networks for music and pictures! There is going to be a lot of New York….

Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/gemmadietrich

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Day #200 – Light up the sky.

love

Isn’t that beautiful?

Look at a love like that indeed. It’s what I aspire to and how I want to live.

What I have found great comfort in recently is not to expect anything from anyone. You need to be able to provide everything for yourself. All of your basic needs, both emotional and physical. Provide them for yourself. You need to love and cherish yourself first. It gives you such a feeling of self empowerment. I think this is especially important in relationships. It is so easy to suddenly place all of your happiness and needs onto another person and get angry with them when they’re not meeting those expectations. It’s not healthy.

I don’t mean that I don’t expect people to be nice. Or treat you well. But having this expectation that somebody else needs to act a certain way, or do certain things for you, is crazy. I know that I have definitely fallen into that trap on occasion and for that I’m truly sorry. We get caught up. It’s a sure fire way to feel suffocated, trapped and kill each others creativity. In any relationship. Platonic or romantic. You were separate beings when you met and it’s why you liked each other. Why expect them to join your camp? Can’t the camps co exist? Why do we always need to know what, where and how things are going?

Love isn’t a possession or a noun. It’s an action and it’s a verb. Once you shift your thinking this way, you realise that nobody can take that away. It’s impossible. Love is a way of being. Even when somebody walks away from you, you can still hold your action. Nobody can take that away. Get busy being lovING rather than trying to possess and hold onto a love.

Do everything from a place of love! For the love of it. Not because you are going to get something out of it. Not because you think it’ll lead to something else. Not because it’s what you should do. Just for the sheer joy of it. For the sake of it. Watch the shift in opportunities and people in your life. It’s incredible.

I realise that I don’t need anything. From anybody. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to accept help from people or invite love into my life. But acknowledging the difference between need and want seems to be the thing here. Who doesn’t want love? I just don’t need it from someone else to feel good about myself. I don’t want to be reliant on another person to keep me standing up. That’s been the shift. What I want and what I need are separate. I forgot how much I believe this. If you love, respect and appreciate yourself already, you really don’t need anybody else to. It doesn’t matter. Beauty is everywhere. Look for it. Look up! It’s right in front of you. Take the time to walk down the street only looking for beautiful things and moments. Concentrate on the good. Focus on the positive. Watch the shift. It’s instantaneous. 

Be like the sun. Light up the entire sky.

In other news, I’ve got 165 days left to complete my Cosmic Order. Erm record deal, where are you? I want my experiment to work because experiments that work are FUN! X

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Day #198 – A song for boys.

Im finally working out how I want to sound. What kind of music I want to make and how I’m going to make that happen. It’s all falling into place mysteriously and beautifully. I’m working as hard as I can at any and every given opportunity.

My latest cover is Basement Jaxx ‘Good luck’. Rather than recording onto the computer we recorded and mixed straight onto 8 track so I could hear and see the difference. It is and was amazing. I love the olden days. Most things were better. I hope you like my technological analysis of the experience. I just feel like I’m in the Dharma initiative most of the time. Never watched ‘Lost’? Then you’ll have no idea to what I’m referring.

I was pretty lucky to have the help from Jason’s incredibly talented sound assistant Connor who plays in the band ‘Box Of Light’ on piano and Jason on drums. We recorded live take after take after take…. until it was as ‘perfect’ as it was going to get from a live point of view. It felt amazing recording with a band vibe rather than doing it all separate. It’s still a little rough around the edges but you know what? I’m getting there. Practice practice practice…

Check it OUT.

 

Music is happening and it’s making me feel alive.

Enjoy your weekend! X

Come follow me! Let’s be modern day penpals!

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Day #196 – Where the magic happens.

wherethemagichappens

I get that some people find change really scary. For some reason, it’s never scared me. I’m terrified to the point of having a panic attack about a few things. But change? Nah. It’s my favourite thing to do. If you can change it, you should. At any given opportunity.

As I’ve grown up I’ve observed the people around me. People thought I was just quiet. I was watching. And learning. And listening. I learnt that most adults are full of regret. I learnt that most adults were living a life they didn’t want to lead. I learnt that most adults couldn’t cope with that. I also learnt by watching people go to hell and back, that humans are a lot stronger than we think. I saw that no matter how bad things get, things always get better eventually. What my own mother may regret her children seeing and going through, I see as a blessing. I learnt how to love and how to live. Even if it was indirectly.

That has formed the way my brain works now. I’m not so scared of risks that I avoid them. With all my heart I don’t want to be one of the people I saw as a child, complaining about how their life turned out. Where it went wrong. What they’d do if they could do it all again. Why wait to do it all again? Why not do it now? Why fit in with what everybody around you expects? Is it their life that’s going to end up unfulfilled? The only person who’ll lose out is you.

Life is an experience. You have to jump in and bathe in all it’s glory.

Routine is great but it also limits your creativity. You become so used to doing the same thing every single day, going to the same place, talking to the same people, getting up at the same time, that your mind goes to sleep. You don’t need to think anymore or concentrate on what you’re doing. Creativity of any kind cannot flourish in that environment. You need to keep moving your mind. Changing it. Challenging it.

It takes a lot of courage to accept the fact that sometimes you are going to feel pain. But by avoiding your fears and the resulting discomfort it creates, you will bumble along in a mediocre life that doesn’t challenge you or grow you in any way shape or form. If you’re happy with that, then that’s amazing! You’ve made it! But if you’re not, you’re going to have to look at scarey stuff. Nobody is forcing you to.

Your life is in your hands. Nobody elses. X

Maybe I’ll start selling ball bags. It can be my first piece of merchandise. Until the ball bags are released though, you can come find me on my other social media networks… I’m getting a small collection of music together.

New song coming on Saturday! You’d better subscribe to my YouTube channel to be the first to hear it!

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Day #194 – Happy to be alive

C/o the best friend I could ever ask for. X

C/o the best friend I could ever ask for who has been my absolute rock X

I am so happy at this moment in time that I could cry.

I feel overwhelmed by people’s kindness and love. Think I’m turning emo. Been writing songs too. Jesus…

The last week has been crazy. It’s been the worst time of my entire life. I can say that with all of my conviction. I didn’t think I could cope. I thought I was going to collapse under the stress. I didn’t know what to do. Where to go… I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. And amongst all of that I had my children. My small beautiful noisy little children. I was a terrible mother. I felt like giving up on everything. I literally had nothing left. I felt trapped by my situation and had no idea how I was going to deal with that.

On top of that what was I going to do now about my music stuff? How the hell am I going to ‘make it’ now?! How am I going to even have the time or the mental capacity to make music and push myself forward?

I think its important to share that its not been easy. Break ups are ugly. The sentiment behind them can be beautiful but the physical slog of it is ugly. It can easily become mean and raw. I have a new level of understanding on why people stay together because they have children. Separating is sore. I decided today that I’m going to only focus on forgiveness.

It’s true what the voices say. It’s got to get really really dark before you see the sunshine again. You can’t imagine a darkness like that. You just can’t.  I met my darkness. I embraced him and he turned me around and showed me the most amount of light I’ve ever seen. This is clearly metaphorical. The only real voice I have in my head at the moment is the one telling me to drink wine. Im doing my best to ignore him.

I feel amazing in myself. I feel light. I feel free. I feel like I can breathe again and I hadn’t even realised that I’d previously stopped. I feel like I have everything and need nothing. Maybe this is bliss. I don’t even care. I’m just going to sit here and bathe in it because it’s been too long. It’s been way too long. How did I forget this?

I love life so much. I always have. I love it for all its ups and downs. I love experiencing its extremities. I love how just when you think you’re at rock bottom, something beautiful happens and you’re rescued. I suppose that is because I see life as a journey full of lessons and nothing more. Life is certainly nothing but magical. I have so much faith that everything is unfolding just as it should.

So here’s to the dark times. Thank you for making me appreciate the great and making me stronger and better. X

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