Tara Casey and Nicole Unice
DescriptionOne Small Step conversation partners Tara Casey (48) and Nicole Unice (43) discuss family, faith and raising their children with awareness.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Tara Casey
- Nicole Unice
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
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00:03 Okay, I'm Nicole Unice and I'm 43 years old and today is Friday, February 26th, 2021. We're here in Richmond, Virginia. The name of my conversation partner is Tara and our relationship is through OSS.
00:28 My name is Tara Casey. I am 48 years old today is Friday, February 26th. 2021. I am in Richmond, Virginia. My conversation partner is Nicole and our relationship is she is my one small step partner.
00:47 All right. So Tara, I provided Nicole's bio for you.
00:54 Hi, I grew up as an army brat and an Evangelical Christian surrounded by a very powerful ideology of conservatism patriotism and religion my own spiritual journey has been more mystical but after careers in Fitness and mental health counseling I found myself most aligned and Alive as a pastor of a church here in Richmond. I am married 23 years and have three teenagers. I write books and teach for a living. I believe the ability to connect authentically and vulnerably is Humanities superpower.
01:28 Thank you, Sarah Nicole. I provided Tara's style for you to go through.
01:35 And I have lived in Virginia for 20 plus years moving here when my husband matched at VCU for his residency when I went to law school. I wanted to save the world and be moderately paid for it. I have tried to remain true to that goal. I am a second-generation immigrant my parents were the first in their families to graduate college that Legacy stays with me. Their journey is in My DNA my children are pieces of my heart beating outside my body. I believe empathy is a superpower of everyday Heroes.
02:10 Thank you both for doing that. So.
02:13 I'm going to pose my first question. And since you went last you're going to go first Nicole the question is or at least the ask is for you to tell your partner your life story in 5 minutes.
02:32 Okay, and I'll let you know how much time you have. Okay. Alright. Well, it's nice to meet you and my life story and I think I'll just try to name some of the things and things that have shaped who I am today. One of those powerful things was being an army brat. So that meant we moved every two or three years and there was a lot of good and some hard. I learned in that time about like belonging and like shape-shifting to fit in into whatever scenario that I was in and another big we adopted my youngest brother.
03:24 And it was such a different day and age of adoption like in the early 80s and I have a perfectly clear memory of being 7 years old and being at the JFK airport where these Korean children were just brought off of an airplane carried by basically. I got a guardian and just handed this child to my parents. And literally that was that was it and it was a very like he was traumatized very hard background and just the impact on our family has shaped a lot of what I care about today when it comes to the way people are cared for about trauma about vulnerable and open relationships and families sub.
04:12 Does r a couple of really defining experiences and I was quite precocious and went to college really young and just out of really young age connected with a guy in my freshman dorm. And he was just my best friend and we ended up getting married right after college and have been married a year. So lots of stability in my life that I think I was coming out of a lot of instability. So my life has now been made here in Richmond and that's been very interesting as a person who didn't grow up in the South. I found it here to be a really a really almost disconcerting experience of the powerful culture of southern women of Southern Christian women race and segregation in the city and over the years just as I've become more connected with people have found myself very drawn to understanding people's backgrounds and stories and
05:12 And what it looks like to be part of helping the city flourish even after just so so many just a legacy of Injustice and pain and racism that I think's been a big part of the experience of what and who are city is and that's impacted a lot of the ways that I've seen the world politically and just with my face which is always been a massive thread through my own story has been quite mystical experiences with a Creator and from a very young age. And then for a navigating with us look like through religion Church World Ministry life too and finally kind of where I'm where I am now.
05:58 I forgot to tell you about my children and you have a minute left part. I was coming. I was a therapist when I first started having children to teenagers and I was terrified that I would like to have every problem that could ever happen to teenagers that I had seen in my practice and my kids are not really like that.
06:34 Nicole Terry you have the same path to tell Nicole your life story 5 minutes.
06:48 In my background, I was born and raised in New Jersey and my grandparents. I jokingly say that I am the Ellis Island story because my grandparents Came From Italy and Ireland to Brooklyn and so I'm sure if I looked at some of those fuzzy black and white documentary films I could meet you see them there and my parents grew up in Brooklyn and my grandmother she works the sweatshops of Brooklyn Italian side my Irish grandfather. He was a police officer it is it was very much like that. But we will we have come to sit talk about like the greatest Generations story.
07:35 My parents grew up in a very modest poor environment, but one that was always rich with with love and and food in the importance of education. And so they were able to take advantage of a free college system up in New York. And so they went to college for free and they lived at home and that was their way to and to bring that in 02 to bring better to see their lives to the last of their family eventually again, because this is the story We settled in New Jersey and he settled in New Jersey and that's where my my brother my sister and I am the youngest of three we all grew up and I also consider myself fairly lucky because my grandmother and my grandfather my Italian grandfather died before I was born and
08:30 My grandmother came to live with us inside. My memories of childhood are always of my grandmother there. Her name was great Sylvie. Her name is Sylvie and my daughter. I have two children a 13 year old and 11 year old and their names are still being as you're so there's great Sylveon though. I have a selfie to I met my husband in college and we've been together. We just celebrated dating 26 years. I will be married 21 years this year and it's interesting because I think about any dating advice. I'm going to have to get my children in the future and I will have none because I met my husband in college and that was it.
09:13 I need when we started dating I think Bill Clinton was President when we went be moved to st. Louis and he went to wash you for medical school, and I went to while she for law school and so
09:34 Coyote the best kind of interesting because I'm again now that I'm a parent. I'm trying to imagine what it would have been like for our parents to hear.
09:42 We're in love we want to be with each other forever. And so we're going to like move to st. Louis and go to grad school together because this is it. And so now it's like trying to Imagine by children saying that to me at age 21, it's kind of hard but we did and it worked out last year for his residency. But in a weird twist if they both my brother and my sister live in Richmond to they preceded us here and sit on my brother and my sister and their families were all near each other which meant a lot when especially when my father passed away my father passed away in 2004 and it still haunts me he passed away from cancer and in that probably was one of the moments up like the time of my life where I felt I had the most open wounds that no one could see what's going to happen.
10:42 When it happened, my mother could come to one place and have all three children there now and there now nine grandchildren, you know, she's the Italian Nonna but it may may proceed as I said in my statement is that I wanted to save the world be moderately paid for it before I became a professor. I'm a law professor now at University of Richmond. I was an assistant us attorney here in Richmond, which I thought was one of the greatest jobs because I got to stand up and say I'm Tara Casey here representing the United States of America and that's just something to feel this really proud about thank you both for sharing that you did really well with my next question. What is your earliest memory of politics?
11:42 I'm sorry. Can you say how much I owe you don't have any time with him? I said the funny part is that make earliest memory of politics is was really a story that my mother tells because in our town there was an intersection where my mother and a number of other mom said needed to have a light and they went to the township for the lobby note and they could not getting no no light and so my mother decided with a bunch of other moms to Stage a protest and I was put in a stroller. I was in a stroller at the time so I actually don't remember this but the story has been told many times. My mother took me in a stroller for basically a a sit-in at the intersection stopping traffic.
12:42 If a prefix that there needed to be a traffic light there and my father was one of the people who got stuck in the horrendous traffic.
12:52 And said, that was my that was my first entree into politics, but I also the first memory I have so is my mother was very active in the League of Women Voters and she would take me canvassing with her to register voters. And so she would take me to Neighborhood of diverse demographics socioeconomic racial and she would go door-to-door in this is the seventies, you know, and she would go door-to-door with the clipboard and the voter registration forms to help register people to vote. And then I would I would come with her and remember you said I do remember like knocking on people's doors people. We had no idea neighborhoods that were unfamiliar to me and and trying to have conversations with people about the importance of voting and in trying to encourage them to register if they weren't already
13:51 Oh, that's just a memory that has always stayed with me.
13:57 Nicole Nicole. Yeah, I was like, what is my earliest memory of politics? And I think that what's interesting is like my early powerful memories involve living on Army bases and it is like such a powerful patriotic like nationalism you just as a kid when you see like parades and fireworks and music and there's just such a sense of pride in our nation, but what's interesting that I've experienced now is when you move around you're never really locally rude it at all. I don't really have any memories. I'm sure my parents voted but like maybe absentee or whatever. It was like you're caught up in this bigger messaging that it's almost like politics would be always second to Oceanside like
14:57 What people say it definitely is military first and then maybe God second and then family third no matter what my brother is still active duty and lots of military my family. But yeah, all of my memories are of these like really incredible shows of kind of Forester or patriotism in a in a cool way but really no engagement local or really it felt like National you just kind of felt to me like there's a higher called in every way and like anything else just has to fall under that he don't ask any questions about it, but just kind of how I felt
15:44 Class real describe it that way in to be in that place and what it's like you're going to go first with this question. Can you tell me about the person who's been kindness to you and your life?
16:18 I think the person let's see if I can think of that makes me emotional just to try to answer.
16:25 I think that there is some people my family that's a couple that's been in our life since we moved to Richmond. So when we moved to Tara like you like young your brand-new, I don't know you guys going to grad school first. Like we got married young and no family in town either side and we had a pastor and his wife. We were fifteen years older than us do just extended and unbelief. They basically like extended a family relationship does just cared for us and took us in and took us to dinner and invited us over and we took care of their kids and lots of family sort of ties without a family without biological ties and to this day like one of my children's middle names is named after him. We've been through a lot of ups and downs of life and to this day we are dear to your friends continue to be and there's just something so special about weather.
17:25 When the storms of life the ups and downs without Blood Ties like something about that even to me probably in bodies like the word kindness because of our own I can't wait to ask you questions about your family Tara cuz because our own our own family stories are so just go ahead. Family has really become friends in in this town.
17:52 Also the same question.
17:57 I feel guilty because I feel like I'm giving extra time to think she lived with us and she was the one cheat the way that our house is setup is that she lived my father and and my great-uncle kind of I build out a little apartment for her in the first floor of our house and
18:28 Whenever you do I would walk into the kitchen and ask my mom. So what's for breakfast and my mother would they are there cereal on the table? And then I would walk down stairs to my grandmother's and she she say what do you want for breakfast? I think you got it cuz she's always was just so generous of her her time and her spirit. I mean she one of her classical ime there so many lines from Herbert one of her classic lines was that the best accessory you can ever wear is a smile but she also and I'm Snapchat for me. I cry easily. I'm a I'm a crier. I'm a crier so I'm probably gonna start crying at some point during our conversation, but she also she was somebody who saw tremendous. I mean, when is the first day of me? She had sorrow in her life
19:23 She encountered a lot of a lot of hardship and for her to be on the other side of all of that and still have such a kindness and a gentleness and a generosity. I'm just just filled me and she was always the one, you know, if I ever got upset with my parents because you know tweens and teens will do you sometimes I always knew I could go downstairs to my grandmother's and she would would welcome me. She would never take sides.
19:59 She did sometimes quote the Erma Bombeck line that the reason grandparents and grandchildren get along. So well as they share a common enemy.
20:09 But she just she just was a safe. She was a safe place for me always.
20:17 No matter what she was doing it would she just was stopped and she would be there for me and I can't imagine my childhood without without that.
20:32 Beautiful. Thank you both for that. Alright, this is my last question that I posted the both of you and you are free to post questions to each other. Give me any assistance. I'm here to help out but I think you all got it. So with this question Tara, why did you want to do this interview today?
21:04 Well, I am a big fan of storycorps because of storycorps. I cry almost every Friday morning because that's when is Project Richmond on our local NPR station, but I do see there being this this Discord in our country and
21:29 There's this need for your conversation. I have a dear friend who with him. We disagree on many sissy of political issues.
21:42 But he and I described it as we have a disagreeability about it and as ability to disagree.
21:53 In a way that still conveys mutual respect and friendship and affection is I think really important and especially I see that as being important instill in my students at at the law school because just a very nature of law adversarial process is you're going to have two people on either side and there is a practice here in the fourth circuit where after oral argument
22:28 The judges come down from the bench and a shake the hands of the attorneys who just presented arguments.
22:37 I'm not sure if any other Federal Appellate Court does that but the fourth circuit does that and it's their tradition and it's special because it it communicates that no matter how much she disagreed with in the past half-hour of oral arguments and no matter how much the judge might have put you on the hot seat with some of the toughest questions to pose on the issues. You were presenting at the end of it all we all need to be able to shake each other's hands and I just find out that is just so important in our society in Ann Arbor world.
23:19 Writing call Rob at Tara. So I also like you Tara Love Story Corps and have many years and reference, you know and research to using some of that like story interviews that have been out there before particularly around forgiveness. And so actually a friend of mine reached out and said, I feel like you should consider doing this. I didn't know it was coming and I think for me, I've been more like you Tara I just been more aware than ever in my life of the level. It's not even just divisiveness. It's tribalism it to me in the sense of
24:07 We can't even have this conversation like it. It's it's become so identity driven, it feels like and and I have been at a loss truly for how to even have open conversations in some cases and I thought well, let me do my part to learn I often feel intimidated and the space of like having like a well-formed argument around everything. I believe. I think it's really challenging right now to have a well-formed argument around much except for what I know to be true to like my inherent values and answer beliefs. And so I wanted to come to learn just be I'd love to just hear her perspective and understand the way that people have been shaped because I think like we both said I think that will be I think this could be our nation's downfall or it could be our nation's greatest hour if we're able to find those connectivity.
25:07 It's an recognize our common Humanity that we share and have so many points of reference. I think no matter where we stand in our believes. There's so much to share about our Human Experience.
25:26 We just got to talk now.
25:32 If I could ask a question cuz there's something about
25:38 Your descriptions there was a word that stuck with me.
25:44 Because I eat I feel like there are there are word choices. We make are there intentional or on a subconscious level that that communicate so much. It's your choice of the word mystical and Dad and a description of of your journey with one. That's stuck out with me. And I was wondering can you share a little bit about the mystical part? Yeah. I definitely will like you care a lot about like what we remember and I like how it involved with the background in Psychology. I've always been really fascinated by what what transforms people just in general like what changes people for good and fur and for hard and I have a very distinct memory and it was at one of the hardest moments in my childhood. That was just a difficult time in my family and I have a very
26:44 Very clear memory of Sarah. I will cry too. So don't worry. We can cry together just like I was outside we lived in California the time and it just was like this moment of feeling like I completely belonged and was completely loved. I was just out in nature literally by myself feeling actually quite isolated. Misunderstood. And so young. I mean, I think I was probably 9 years old and it was such an overwhelming powerful sense of love and belonging that that almost became even in the midst of like my my journey with Evangelical Christian Life which tends to be very head knowledge very sort of driven by doctor and it was like somehow I've always had a way of interpreting all of that because of these powerful spiritual experiences from a young age. I've never doubted really have ever really doubted that
27:44 Where is the creator of the universe? I've never really doubted that there's a force of love that play and it didn't actually have anything to do with religious journey of yours, like religion on top of this thing that I couldn't control can't hardly describe don't know where it came from but kind of set me on a journey. I think I'd like to see that kind of love like the life. I don't know. How does that does that have you ever had an experience? Like that writing is actually something that the way you described it right. Now it just brought to mind something recently. And so I was I was raised Catholic, you know, very and it is also in a culture where
28:35 Catholicism and Heritage are so intertwined that you know, the Italian and Irish Catholic by the way, my mom just so you know, I really like I'm a very similar like in a good story and Powerful family and Catholic to actually a lot. Just tell me everything but I just wanted you to know I just feel such a kindred like Spirit of like, I wonder if your mom and my mom newest adore her she is if my mother were a color palette it would just be vibrant like she is someone who comes into his space and she just colors everyone's world, but I owe never forget. She went to cupertino's the bagel place here in Richmond, which was owned by someone from the Bronx. It's clearly the only place to eat.
29:35 Richmond we know that we know that too but I told her that she's like, who is it? Where is he?
29:43 Bike meeting Mister Cupertino, and they started talking about the Bronx and Brooklyn and in within like 2 minutes you'd like. I'll get out of here.
29:56 Erykah Badu was true religion was a very religion and culture were so tight growing up and
30:19 And it isn't continued into my adulthood even when I left him even when I left him for college and I love and I went to law school. I still was very tied to the church.
30:32 And then there came a point where I started not feeling that connection anymore to to to the church and just not feeling like it was a home and it goes from a church was always like almost in it was almost an extension of phone like mine ever. I went to our church going up. Our church is like a mile and a half from our house, you know, it was like an extension of most of our home.
31:03 I started not feeling that way for me. And that was a hard feeling. It was a hard feeling to reconcile. Like I almost don't know if I even recognized that feeling I was able to name it for a while and
31:17 Then after after a while, I felt like I was without a church home and
31:27 It was something I felt like an absence and it's and it's interesting because my my husband wasn't raised in any denomination. So he didn't have that that feeling and my children were so young. They hadn't cultivated that feeling sure yet either best for me and I felt like there was this absence and I went out looking for a church home because I felt like there was something missing like I needed to go and the interesting thing is that because of the pandemic I was able to do that more comfortably because sometimes when I was when I was looking at churches before and you do in person, I feel kind of awkward cuz it kind of feel like speed-dating and then at the end of it I be like, it's not you it's me. This is I don't really see this working out and I only want your free gift.
32:27 I would like the equivalent of like church do stink. Like I was just going to change.
32:37 Visit churches through their online worship and that was just an amazing experience to have and I and we did find a place. I found a church that I felt.
32:52 With home and do in a weird feeling it was there is this piece like as you were describing like this piece of when it's not there, you know it and when it is there you do so pretty there's a writer that I love who talks about like just a beautiful Memoir and he talks about kind of like the Divine wrote that's like always tugging at your heart and sometimes like their feels like the Rope has been let out so far that you're just can't quite Find Your Way connection is never like really stubborn and I love just the way you described home and how like strangely encouraging it is to think about the pandemic providing a wafer like home.
33:42 To leave that physical building and for you to experience that, you know differently at this time.
33:51 Yeah, and I think that part of the pandemic is also causing I think us to think about our concepts of relationships as well.
34:04 Power re-engaging with our neighbors. Are we engaging with our friends are engaging with the people we work with and how
34:17 How do we come back from this experience as well? I feel you. I feel the same. I feel the same things. I'm curious for you. I'm Just a Bill. Miss breast like part of our conversation all the other questions to you, but I'm serious for you about how the beliefs and values that you're living by I am raising your family by how those have or haven't been connected to your upbringing or Catholicism. What would keep you looking for that? You know, I just curious if you put those things together for me. I think that and it actually goes to what I teach I don't have the answers.
35:07 But I want to make sure we're asking the right questions and that's what I tell my students classic response.
35:23 And so I tell my shoes is like I don't have all the answers, but I really think it's important that we figure out what are the right questions to be asked and that is something that I feel like I've had since childhood going up is is is just the Persistence of questioning any importance of questioning and that they're in The Liberation and questioning. Like I feel like some people feel this needs to have the security of clear answers, but I don't feel like that's our world. Our world is a lot of
36:01 Of of a lot of unanswered questions and how do we find ourselves comfortable and engaging with our world knowing we don't have the answers. What do you what do you think like based on being a mom and a professor and being around a lot of young people? What do you think? You know cuz it's actually a personality construct openness, you know, and I've often wondered how much of this is just my temperament to ask questions and see life gray. And how much is like you said like kind of like this is the only way we can operate I've always struggled with like really black and white. But yeah, I'm just curious what your experience
36:49 It depends because I think there is a security with answers. And and also I think that sometimes what can be a challenges when the answers are complicated. I truly believe we don't get from anyways, we don't live in a binary world. We live in we live in a Quantum World there. There are many layers to issues and and I see that
37:28 Playing out in in law, but also in relationships that if you think you're addressing one issue in isolation, are you really addressing it or are you considering the other attendant issues as well know? Can you can you without also looking at housing and employment without also looking at transportation?
37:56 You have to there's that there's an unpacking of a complicated set of facts that I think requires.
38:04 Investment that is said that that takes time and energy.
38:14 And I think that the Universe has your thing looking in the perspective of like as a as a lawyer professor as a mom is like
38:22 I don't see there being like it's theirs me like I don't really see there's like a division of my My rolls.
38:30 You know when they were snow days, I would sometimes have to take my kids to class and sometimes they participate.
38:37 I don't see the Blind and I be interested for for you because you're you're both a mother and a wife and a minister to you see that as being all fluid rolls running into each other or because of the nature of you work. Is it important to set up certain boundaries? I'm I'm the worst person with boundary. So I'm not there when you ask do I unlike you? I think that were I used to teach an end part of it is like some of my questions for you. Maybe we can talk about it, but kind of what we're seeing in our positions cuz I feel like I don't know if you do like in some ways are roles are similar we're serving people, you know, we're serving them in the way that we teach your lead and I think of like, I used to teach my young residents who are coming into vocational Ministry, so they be in a year-long program and I would say Ministry
39:37 The state of being it's not a job, which means you're always always Ministry. I'm always available to serve and even Justin covid-19.
40:37 The generation that you're serving needs like maybe that feels different than your experience. I'd love to hear from what you're seeing in your roles as a mom and as a professor what that feels like that you're trying to offer.
40:57 There's a great line fanorak after getting the play. My English teacher is going to be mad at me. But there's a there's a great line from a Shakespearean play where these two people are plotting.
41:12 Akoo and the line is first, let's kill all the lawyers and that's often used as a lawyer joke you do let's kill all the lawyers but in the context of the play I think is telling because it's the reason they're wanting to kill all the lawyers is the lawyers are the Defenders of the rule of law and that if you kill all the lawyers, then who will be left to protect the rule of law. And so I love sharing that contact with my students because no matter what path they pursue whether they're pursuing litigation transaction legislative policy private sector public sector no matter what they are Defenders of the rule of law and then hums with an obligation and a duty and I'm privileged.
42:03 I'm to serve and so that's what I hope to to instill and I hope to instill in my children to that are being afforded education love and stability right now.
42:22 They need to be a gift to this world. That is what they have to to do with all of that.
42:33 I just like how I agree. I feel the same. Yeah, I often say I try to help my kids see the difference between a gift and a responsibility. So you've been you have a you've been gifted with intelligence security. Those are beautiful things. You don't have to be not like you ought to be ashamed of them, but you have a responsibility with what you do with the gifts. And so I didn't choose to be white. I didn't choose to be a female at it be able to there's all these things that are given to us and we have the opportunity to see those things as a gift that I have to bring to the world and I have a responsibility how I use the gift but especially in today's world that site, you know, when I would drive my son passed on Middle School to go to his middle school and talk to him about redlining I was saying to him, it's not that
43:33 I need to feel guilty but you do need to be aware and we need to like in enter into our responsibility with the gifts that we have. I try to do that. Who knows if it's working by the challenges of Parenthood is like we always wonder like what what are we saying? What what what what are we doing? It actually will be the steel then finds fertile soil and what is going to be the sea that finds bedrock?
44:04 I don't know. If you do that. That's a parable from the Bible about a job.
44:11 Did a teacher
44:15 Terrible Herbst are irrelevant. It's irrelevant. Honestly, it's our life and our story. So I love about my work and teaching is connecting all of this reality in a world. They often feels like living reality. So yeah, I know we're almost out of time and I just wanted to offer like a couple of gifts that I feel like you've given to me and our conversation when you called your grapes o v a safe place for you. I thought to myself what an aspirational goal to like be a woman experience in life who is a safe place for people. So I took that and just loved how you describe your experience spiritually in your life with the Lord Our God like that. You wanted to come home and the concept of home cuz that's always been very close to my heart as well as like, what does it look like to help people find their way home?
45:15 An energy said to say I appreciate I appreciate that and I appreciate our time together one of the pieces that I've ever really appreciate is that
45:27 And it will say you it was on that it that challenged me challenge. My you know, any any Notions I had is used to describe yourself as an Evangelical Christian.
45:39 And you also describe yourself as having a mystical journey of questioning and
45:46 And frankly, I don't know that those are not to that are often associated in public dialogue when it comes to you. No discussions of organized fate and I love hearing that from you because of the way you spoke of it was truly personal and authentic and vulnerable to and I think so much of faith is the confidence of vulnerability faith and fact faith is us saying, I don't know.
46:23 But I'm going to believe.
46:28 I thought I'd honestly so true of the way like Jesus lived his life for the CJ switches. What's so crazy about how hard it is to own that right now, but I love that. I love our connection in that way. I love our connection over the questions that we won't answer but maybe could even enjoy the journey of being questioners and being mystical together is such a small town. I have a feeling we are going to run into each other cuz I could we can do that will make a quick friend. Thank you for your time and for giving so much of your heart to beat last few minutes together. Thank you so much for being willing to enter into this space cuz I know that
47:25 It is it's both one small step trademark and one small step in reality because it does require coming out of different Comfort zones and are bubbles created the bubbles that have been created for us. Absolutely. And so it's it's important for us to get through those given the opportunity. So I appreciate you for doing that and thank you so much also to one small step in there on Fridays, and I appreciate that.