Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Four Things I Learned in January

1.    I love my husband and would marry him all over again.  We celebrated 35 years of marriage this month.
2.   In the United States 1 out of 3 woman and 1 out of 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.  Autism, learning disabilities, and fertility issues are increasing.  Serious illnesses are impacting our children.
      Did you know that the United States has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products, shampoo, lotion, and cosmetics since 1938.  The European Union has spent the past two decades banning or restricting more than 1,300 ingredients, the US has only banned 11 to date.  Companies are allowed to use known toxins, ingredients that have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues,and  hormone disruption, without telling us, and can legally say they are following the regulations!
     As a breast cancer survivor, I was appalled to learn this.  It is time for a change. As wives and mothers, we need to be better informed so that we can make healthier choices for our families.
     Two things you can do right now:
     a.  Download the FREE Skin Deep app to your phone.  You can scan the barcode of a product and receive its safety rating.  For those with allergies, the database will let you know what products contain it, other names for it, and alternatives.  I have been scanning the products on the counters in my house.  Some real surprises.  The video below is an Overview of the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  The EWG sponsors Skin Deep.

     b.  Read Little Changes:Tales of a Reluctant Home Eco-Momics Pioneer  (affiliate link).  Kristi Marsh is a breast cancer survivor who shows how making little changes in choices of products and foods that you bring into your home can help to ease the toxic load on ourselves and our families.

3.  My daughter, Patty made these awesome Minion Cupcakes for a church social.  They were the cutest things.  You could add little footballs and green icing to serve them for Super Bowl Sunday.  So cute!

4.   I loved How 936 Pennies Will Forever Change How You Parent, by Eryn Lynum.  A wonderful post about the time we are privileged to have raising our children.  Eryn was given a mason jar containing 936 pennies.  One penny for each week that she has to raise her son.  She tells of investing those pennies wisely.  How heavy the weight of responsibility represented by the jar and how quickly it empties.  Her post is beautiful.  It is well worth the time it takes to visit.

     What did you learn?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What I'm Reading

     I was the kid who got excited when the teacher announced it was time for Drop Everything And Read.  Here are two books I just finished that I think you will fall into.  
     I loved A Fall of Marigolds,  by Susan Meissner.  A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....
     September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?
     September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?
     This was my first experience with Susan Meissner.  She is an author I will be reading again.
     Let's All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have, by Annie Downs  is wonderful.  I think Annie and I could be friends.  Annie Downs shares her journey toward bravery with honesty and humor. Using wonderful stories from her own life, contemporary real-life examples, and fascinating historical and biblical references, Annie encourages readers to grab hold of the brave life that they desperately desire.  John Piper said, "Books don't change people; paragraphs do, sometimes even sentences."  Let's All Be Brave is full of those sentences.
     Annie Downs also wrote, Speak Love: Making Our Words Matter.  A book of encouragement to use your words to build people up, not tear them down.  To speak love, healing, and hope into peoples lives.  It was a blessing to read.  It makes you aware that what you say and how you say it are truly important.
     Name the last great book you read in the comments.  I would love to see your recommendations.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Brave Grace

     God uses people to accomplish His purposes.  Plain, old,  ordinary people.  Like you and me.  Isn't that amazingly scary?
     The idea of being used by God was so astounding to Moses that he suggested that God use someone else.  Moses thought that his story was one of failure and shame.  He hesitated to let God use him.  Of course, Pharaoh was reluctant to listen to Moses to let the Israelites go.  And now that the Israelites were free, Moses was leading them into even more peril.  What did God expect?  Moses had killed an Egyptian and then spent forty years on the back side of the desert.  God could have picked someone else.
     Moses knew that rescuing the people of God was an undertaking fraught with difficulty.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’  And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.  ~Exodus 14:1-4
     God deliberately placed the Israelites between the sea and the Egyptian army.  Through Moses, God gave them specific, step-by-step instructions.  Instructions that were leading them down a path to apparent ruin. Turn  around and camp. Camp there. On that particular spot of sand. Right there, before the entrapping sea. Yes, right there in that impossible place.
     The Lord occasionally does the same with us, leading us into hardship, bringing us to a particular point or allowing us to be in a circumstance not of our choosing. Our initial reaction may be panic and alarm.  (When I was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago, I lay on the couch for three days.)  God gently reveals the depth of our faith to us.  He teaches us wisdom and shows us His ways.  And then we learn to lean into Him.  To rest securely on the only One who could ever save us anyway.  The One who holds us gently in His arms.
     Moses and the Israelites learned that the same God who led them in, would lead them out.  The problem was not left to Moses.  It was God’s dilemma to solve which He chose to do through Moses inadequate hands.  Moses stretched out his arm over the sea.  The waters parted and the Israelites were brought through to safety.
     Sometimes, like Moses, we think that our story is one of shame, failure, and inadequacy.  But you know, it doesn’t have to be.  Our story can be a story of grace.
     It is a brave grace that saves.  A grace that fixes broken lives.  A grace that heals broken hearts and restores sinners.  It is a brave grace that looks beyond what we have done and sees what we can be.  God does not count our sin against us.
     God exhibits grace and mercy so that we might experience forgiveness and healing.  So that, like Moses, we can see that we are capable of being used to further His glory.   Thank God for His brave grace.
     This post is part of a series on Exodus.  I have been joining the Good Morning Girls at Women Living Well.  My other Exodus posts may be found here.
Exodus 1-5  The Burning Bush
Exodus 6-10  Great Lengths
     This weeks assignment Exodus, chapters 16-20.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Read Books

      On these cold January days there is nothing like a warm fire, a cup of tea, and a great book.
So far in January, I have read:

All the Light We cannot See, by Anthony Doerr :  I really enjoyed the way Doerr shared this story through a blind Parisian girl and a German orphan.  The writing is beautiful and the characters are memorable.

Sweet Water, by Christina Baker Kline:  Reading this with our libraries Book Club.  Sweet Water was a first novel.  It was good, but wasn't as satisfying a read as Orphan Trainwhich was excellent.

Little Changes - Tales of a Reluctant Home Economics Pioneer, by Kristi Marsh:   Little Changes blew me away.
     What are you reading?

This post contains affiliate links.  The opinions are my own.

Minion Cupcakes

     Patty made these adorable Minion Cupcakes!  So cute and easy.  Proud Mama moment.

     Patty used a box mix, frosting which she colored blue and black, and Twinkies!  She had some edible google eyes left over from another baking project, so she incorporated them, too.  The Twinkies were cut in half and set on the blue frosting.
     We brought these to a church potluck and they were really a hit, especially with the younger crowd!

Monday, January 19, 2015

What I Wish I Knew BEFORE I had Cancer

     I thought cancer happened to people who made unhealthy life style decisions (like smoking), or had unfortunate environmental exposure through a toxic waste dump in their neighborhood or even who had a family history.  But did you know that one in two men and one in three woman will be diagnosed with cancer?  And, it's not just cancer.  There are dramatic rises in autism, adhd, fertility issues, asthma, auto-immune diseases, and allergies.
    I thought cancer wouldn't happen to me.  I exercise, eat fairly well, and have regular screenings.  I smoked for all of one month in high school. My alcohol intake amounts to maybe five glasses of wine a YEAR.  I live in the 'burbs, think white picket fences and farms in my town.
     I may never know what caused my cancer, but I now suspect that a tipping point was reached.
     I am appalled at what I have recently learned.  I trusted the government to regulate and make companies put safe products on the supermarket shelves.  We live in a country that has rules and regulations for everything.  Boy, was I wrong.  The shampoos, baby lotion, sunscreen, and soaps that I trusted and used on my family contained known carcinogens.  And I bet that YOURS DO, TOO.
     The last time Congress passed a law on cosmetics safety was in 1938.  Since then, we’ve learned a lot from the scientific community about the harmful impacts of ingredients commonly used in the cosmetics industry.   Meanwhile, other countries have taken significant steps to protect their residents from toxic chemicals in consumer products. The European Union, for example, has restricted over 1,400 cosmetics ingredients, whereas the United States has only taken action on 11.  Yes, that is eleven!
     Johnson's Baby Shampoo is one example of a product that we all recognize.  Every mother can identify its scent. I have always thought that there are few things better than holding a freshly bathed baby in your arms and inhaling the fresh clean aroma of baby shampoo from their sweet little scalps.  Fifty plus years ago, my mother used it on my brothers and I.  When I had children, I tenderly washed them with it.  The "Pure and Gentle" wash contained formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.  The company is now making a positive move by phasing formaldehyde out of it's formula, claiming that the amount was so small, it didn't really matter.
     Except that it DOES matter.  My exposure to toxic chemicals started with baby shampoo and then continued with most of the other shampoos, soaps, deodorants, detergents, cosmetics, and cleaning products I have been using since.
     Remember, cosmetic and personal care companies can't use over 1,400 toxic ingredients in Europe.  So the companies make multiple formulas of the same shampoo.  The safer formula for other countries, and the one containing known and probable carcinogens for the US.  The personal care industry does know better.  I can only guess that it must be more profitable for them.
    We can't avoid some exposure to toxins, but we can lower our level of exposure.
    We can and must make healthier choices for our families.
    Start here:
  1. Get the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep FREE app on your phone.  They have put the power of information in your hands. When you know what’s in the products you bring into your home and how those chemicals may affect your health and the environment, you can make informed purchasing decisions.  Simply scan the barcode of the product into your phone and get ratings for healh concerns:  cancer, developmental/reprotoxicity and allergens.    It's quick and easy.  I put it on my phone and began scanning all the products in our bathrooms.  I was unpleasantly suprised.  Why buy a product with carcinogens when there is a healthy alternative available at a similar price?
  2. Be informed.  A great place to start is by reading Little Changes:  Tales of A Reluctant  Home Eco-nomics Pioneer, by Kristi Marsh.   An amazing book.  You can read my review here.  I do have an affiliate link for this book on my sidebar, however, I was not asked or paid to review it and the opinions expressed are my own. 
     Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing about the changes I am making in my home to reduce the levels of toxins my family is exposed to.  Have you made any changes to protect your family?  What are you doing differently?  Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


     I have been joining the Good Morning Girls at Women Living Well in reading the Book of Exodus.  Last week I shared about the burning bush.  The assignment for this week was to read chapters 6-10.   During my reading, I was struck with how big God's plan was and all that He did to reach the Israelites.
     In Exodus 6:6-8, God promised the Israelites that He would be their God and that they would be His people.  He would save them from the yoke of Egyptian oppression.  He would redeem them and then they would be given the land that He had promised to their forefather Abraham.  The Israelites would enjoy times of blessing as they walked with and obeyed Him. The message God sent through Moses was, “I will never leave you or forsake you.  I Am here.”
     The Israelites felt alone and forsaken.  They were slaves in Egypt.  They endured harsh labor.  They had to make bricks without enough straw.  They witnessed the devastation of the plagues.  Egypt had a powerful hold on them.
     Even though the people of God felt alone and abandoned, God never left them.  They were special to Him.  They had value in His eyes.  God went through great lengths to restore the Hebrew people and to provide for them and their future descendants.  The events in these chapters mark the end of bondage for Israel.  The power of Pharaoh to enslave God’s chosen people was forever broken.  The Israelites were delivered to live for God.  They were free to worship Him and to daily make their choice to follow where He led them.
     We, too, are special to God.  1 Corinthians 6:20 tells us that we were bought with a price.  God loves us.  We are precious to Him.  But, like the Hebrew people, there are times when we are shaken and afraid.  When God seems far away and distant.  When we feel frayed and stretched beyond bearing.  When the diagnosis is devastating and the days are both too long and too short at the same time.
     Over the years, God has proven Himself faithful.  He has been there in the good times and the bad.  There were times when He was all I had, and it was enough.
    God went through great lengths to restore the Hebrew people, and He went through great lengths to restore you.  He will never forsake you.  You are graven on His hands.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Little Changes: Tales of a Home Eco-Nomics Pioneer

     This book is about one woman's quest to eliminate harmful and toxic chemicals from her life and environment.  Like me, Kristi Marsh was diagnosed with breast cancer with three young children at home.  While I had just turned 50 when I was diagnosed, Kristi was only 36.
Little Changes by Kristi Marsh
Little Changes is available in Kindle and Paperback formats.  
     While we can't avoid every toxin that is out there, we can greatly reduce the load of toxins that we expose ourselves and our families to.  It's easy to place blame on things like tobacco use causing lung cancer, however, we need to shift our thinking and understand that multiple exposures from many different types of chemicals are just as dangerous
      “So many people are reluctant to make changes in their lives because they think it’s going to be expensive or time consuming. But making little changes over time in the products we smother on our skin, foods we devour, and surroundings in which we immerse ourselves, doesn’t have to be difficult."  ~Kristi Marsh  
     Those little changes make a big difference.
     Kristi shares her story and her knowledge in an easy to read, easy to understand manner.  There is so much information packed into this book.  I will be reading Little Changes again in the near future. 
If you're interested (and you SHOULD be) in making better choices that will be healthier for your family, Little Changes is a must.

     I purchased Little Changes myself and was not paid to review it.  I genuinely believe that it contains important information that everyone needs to know.  I am an Amazon Affiliate - which means that I may receive a small percentage (think pennies here, folks)  should you make a purchase.  This does not increase your cost.
     Have you read Little Changes?  What did you think?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Anniversary, 35 Years

     Happy 35th Anniversary to my precious husband.
     Last July, Pat and I and our younger three children drove south to visit our son, James, and his wife in South Carolina.  We left my parents house in Virginia while it was still dark because a hurricane was due to make landfall and travel up the eastern coast.  We hoped to drive south of the hurricane.  That worked as planned.
     We reached that wonderful tourist trap, South of the Border, in time for a much needed rest stop.  We wandered around their gift shop and then decided to head across the street to the Waffle House for breakfast.  You KNOW you are in the South when you see a Waffle House or a church on every corner.
     We piled back out of the car with visions of buttery syrup covered waffles in mind.  The five of us walked in.  It was July.  It was hot.  We all had on shorts.
     We were greeted by three Waffle House waitresses leaning over the counter.  These Southern ladies had eyes for only one person in the crowd.
    “OOOWWEE, Sir.  You have some mighty fine legs.  Mighty fine.”  Pat laughed.  The other two ladies giggled appreciatively and continued to goggle at the legs on display.
     I thought, “Hello, did you notice the three kids and the WIFE that came in with those mighty fine legs?”
     But wait there’s more.  The waitress leaned even further over the counter still peering at those mighty fine legs, “Why, those legs should be in a magazine.”
     Pat made a leg at his admirers and laughingly wondered what kind of magazine it would be.  Then we were escorted to a table and those mighty fine legs were tucked under it.  Our waffles were sweeter for teasing Pat.
     A marriage is made of a million little shared moments.  Those small everyday things.  The kiss in the morning. The look across a room.  The tender touch.  Singing side by side in church.  There are moments full of beauty and laughter, shared dinners, campfires, and stars.  There are giggles over waffles and syrup and mighty fine legs.  Of course there is also, sunburn, Pepto Bismal, bee stings, and trying to get everyone out of the house on time.
     Last week, Pat left me standing on line with a grocery cart to retrieve something that we had forgotten in the depths of a big box store.  It was crowded.  I saw Pat looking for me and I noticed the way his face changed when he found me.  He smiled like he hadn’t seen me in days instead of minutes.  Those are the treasured moments that make up a marriage.
    The relationship a married couple have with each other is the same as the relationship God desires with each of us.
     But now, O Israel, the Lord who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.  I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fires of oppression, you will not be burned up: the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  ...  you are precious to me.  You are honored, and I love you. ~ Isaiah 43: 1-4
   So, to my dear husband, you are precious to me, and I love you, all the way down to your “mighty fine legs!”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Burning Bush

     Can you be used like a common little scrubby bush in the desert?  God used this unlikely plant to give us an important message.
     Moses was eighty years old when he received his big assignment while speaking to a burning bush.  Moses had spent forty years in the palace of the Pharaoh, left because he had murdered an Egyptian, and fled into the desert.  He then spent another forty years working as a shepherd for his father-in-law.
     We pick up the story here:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb the mountain of God.  There the angel of at the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.  Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, “I will fo over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”  When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to  him from within the bush, “Moses!  Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”     Do not come any closer, “ God said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  ~Exodus 3:1-5
     The miracles of the burning bush assured Moses of the divine presence of God.    The bush was burning, but not consumed by the fire.  Jehovah God spoke to him from the burning bush.  In many ways, we are like that little bush.
     The flaming bush was most likely a common scrubby thorn bush native to the area.  It was minding it’s own business, just sitting in a remote area of the desert, looking a whole lot like the other little thorn bushes around it.  In the scheme of things, it was a very common and very ordinary little bush.  It was also unimportant to most everyone in its immediate area of the desert.  The bush lifted its leaves and thorns to heaven and anchored its roots deep in the earth.  And then God decided to use it, right where it was, in the condition it was in, because God can use anything or anyone for His purpose.  This bush was simply available for use.  Our God likes to use things and people who are ordinary to let others see the extraordinary contrast of His presence burning within them.
     When Moses turned aside to see the burning bush, he saw that it was burning but not burning up.  The Lord of the Universe spoke to Moses from the heart of the bush.  He was willing to speak through this otherwise insignificant little bush.  God will use the foolish things of the world to show us what He wants us to see.
     God still uses ordinary people to make His point.  God may not ask me to be a Moses.  Instead, He may ask me to be a bush that allows God to speak to others through my heart.
     God’s presence was in the bush.  While the bush appeared to be burning, it was not consumed by the fire.  God protected it, not from the fire, bur through the fire.  The fire of affliction touches all of us at times.  But we can rest assured that God will take us through the fire.  The fire will not destroy us, but rather preserve and purify us.
     Zecharaiah 2:5 is referring to the city of Jerusalem, but the thought still applies.  “And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the Lord, “and I will be its glory within.”
     Will you be a bush burning for God today?  Are you available in your corner of at the desert for His use?  Or like Moses, has your time in the desert come to an end?  Is your preparation complete?  Is it time to take off your shoes because you are standing on holy ground?

PS: This post was featured at Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy!  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My One Little Word for 2015

  "One little word can light up someone's day. "

         In 2009, I decided not to make any New Year’s Resolutions.  Instead, I chose the phrase, “Make room,” to guide me as I set about living the year.  In my mind I thought vaguely about decluttering, saying “No,” to tasks that sapped my energy, and focusing on the important, instead of the urgent.  God answered my intention with a diagnosis of breast cancer and I learned to make room for things that I had never considered as I navigated the murky waters of cancer and emerged on the other side.  I was shaken, a bit bedraggled, scarred, and surprisingly whole.
     I continued to “make room” in 2010.  When 2011 rolled around, I was ready for a new adventure.  I signed up for One Little Word, a class taught by Ali Edwards, and I have been taking it ever since.  The class added structure and reflection about each of the words I have chosen to embrace. Each month Ali provides a prompt around your word.  Some years, I have been better at doing the prompts than others, and that is okay.  Always, I have enjoyed the journey my words have taken me on.
      My past words have been: Kindle (2011), Dwell (2012), Believe (2013), and Sail (2014).  Each of these words continues to speak to me and have become part of my life.
     For 2015, I have chosen the word, “Anchor.”  An anchor is a source of stability, strength, and security.  It can refer to fixing or fastening firmly.
     anchornoun 1.any of several devices, usually of steel, attached to a vessel by a cable and dropped overboard so as to grip the bottom and restrict the vessel's object used to hold something else firmly in place: 3.a source of stability or security:4.a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay:
to hold fast by an anchor.
to keep hold or be firmly fixed:  (Source)
    An anchor travels with its ship to journeys end and then holds the ship securely, not allowing it to  be shifted by storms, wind, or waves.  This particularly appealed to me as we are planning on moving from the Hudson Valley of New York to a coastal town in South Carolina.
     Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  The word anchor is used metaphorically  to mean, that which supports or keeps one steadfast in the time of trial or of doubt.
     An anchor is an emblem of hope.  When you are afraid, trust in God, is the anchor that will hold you in safety.  He is the Anchor that holds.

PS:  This is not an affiliate link.  I love the One Little Word class and think that you would enjoy it as much as I do.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

One Starry Night and Plan B

     Embarrassing moment number 4 million seventy-two:   Last Sunday, when I tried to share a slide show from our church's One Starry Night event the video refused to play.  Some kind of technical difficulty.  I told our Pastor in the fellowship hall after the service that regrettably, I had no Plan B.  My message for the service was the slide show.  It reminded me of a story that Pastor had shared a while back.

     A fictional story is told of a time shortly after Jesus was raised from the dead and returned to heaven. The angel Gabriel was talking with Jesus and congratulating Him on having defeated the devil with His death on the cross, resurrection from the grave. and the salvation of men.  Gabriel, an angel with a type A personality, wanted to know what the plan was to announce the salvation of mankind. Gabriel suggested that perhaps they should call out the angel worship team. The heavenly choir could appear in the sky to proclaim the good news to all of the world.
     But Jesus responded, “No, Gabriel, my followers are going to tell the world about Me.”
     “Your followers!” Gabriel gasped. “Jesus, You can’t be serious!”
     “Oh, but I am,” Jesus replied. “I’ve told the ones who believe in me to tell everyone they know abut Me. And then they will tell the people that they know, and on and on, and, well, they’ll get the word out.”
     “But Jesus,” Gabriel responded, “You can’t trust them! Look at how they’ve failed! Remember how scared they were when you were arrested? Peter even denied he knew You.  And, this is the most important message ever! The people of earth can experience peace with God because of what You did! Shouldn’t we angels tell the news?”
     Jesus shook His head firmly.
      Gabriel gave it one last try, “But, what if they fail? What’s plan B? Can the angel choir be plan B?”
     Slowly, deliberately, Jesus replied, “They must not fail. There is no plan B!”
     For two thousand years, people have been telling others about Jesus.  About His life and resurrection.  About His birth One Starry Night.
     So this time, the story was my plan B, and the video once again refused to cooperate.  But you can see it here below!

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