How I Am #RockingMotherhood

Mothers are closer to God the Creator
It’s been three weeks now since Anni tagged me to participate in the #RockingMotherhood challenge.  I hadn’t forgotten about the challenge–I was just thinking.

Because it IS a challenge, in a society that’s hell bent on making mothers feel that they are never quite good enough, to focus on the positive.  And it can be intimidating to toot one’s own horn, especially since I just did not long ago.  Plus I am a perfectionist, and am far more likely to be berating myself for my motherhood failures than congratulating myself on my wins.

So to get myself in the proper frame of mind, I decided to ask the people who ought to really know the answer to this question: my family.

My big kids all wanted time to think up a good answer.  I’m still waiting. But William’s answer to the question: “How am I a good mother?” was just what I needed:  “How AREN’T you a good mother?”

Seriously, y’all, William is my biggest cheerleader.

Lorelei said, “You feed me,” but that’s a pretty low bar for motherhood, I have to say.  She did add, “You look at my pictures,” and allowed that I could translate that into, “You support my artistic pursuits,” which I think I can work with.

John had two answers, and since they were the two things I’d already thought of myself, I considered it a sign that I was on the right track.   (I marked those with a *.)

So here, without further ado, is the list of some ways I am #RockingMotherhood.

  • I am a good advocate for my children.*  William has an IEP.  I show up at meetings with an intimidating-looking binder full of research/ammunition and an attitude.  Yes, I am That Mom.  I don’t care if anyone at the school likes me and some of them probably don’t, but most of them understand and appreciate parents who educate themselves and are engaged in their children’s education.  I was not always as good at this as I am now, which leads me to my next point . . .
  • I learn from my mistakes.  I am not under some kind of illusion that I know everything about parenting.  In fact, as the years go on I really feel like I know less and less.  I don’t see anything wrong with apologizing when I don’t get it right, or with changing my approach from kid to kid or even from week to week.
  • I have (mostly) figured out the truly important aspects of parenting teenagers.* You can read more about that here.
  • I know how to provide the right kind of support for my adult kids.  I didn’t tell my big kids where to go to college.  I didn’t tell them what classes to take or what to major in.  I don’t pry into their personal affairs or tell them more than once that I disagree with a choice they have made. I DO give advice when requested, feed them when they are hungry, help them with adult things they haven’t learned about yet, and provide financial support when requested if I can.
  • I celebrate and support my kids’ interests, even when I don’t share them.  It’s easy for me to support Emily’s interests in literature and writing, since I love those things too.  It’s harder to remain enthralled by William’s fascination with all things Godzilla.  But I listen and learn.  I consider it a privilege that my kids want to share their passions with me.  And you know what?  You can develop an interest in anything that is loved by the people you love, if you try hard enough.
  • I don’t live a life that revolves around my children.  My kids know that my relationship with their father is important and that he and I will be spending time away from them frequently.  They know that I need time alone.  They know that I have interests and passions and they are expected to pay attention if I want to share about those just as I listen when they tell me about their passions.
  • I model faith, morals, values, and principles.  My kids have seen me go to Mass every Sunday and they’ve watched me march for causes I believe in.  We have conversations about politics, ethics, philosophy, and theology.  They know I am a person of strong opinions and they know what I think about things.  With this foundation, they are learning how to think (not WHAT to think), and the importance of having their own strong beliefs in these areas and standing up for them.
  • I love my children and they KNOW that I love them.  That may sound like another baseline requirement for motherhood–and I truly believe it’s a rare mother who doesn’t love her child–but the second part is just as important.  They have to know they are loved, just as they are and no matter what.  They have to be hugged and kissed and listened to and affirmed, and I am confident that I have done all those things, notwithstanding the impatience and the screaming and the inconsistent discipline and all the many other mistakes that I have made.

Here’s where I tag other bloggers to participate in this #RockingMotherhood challenge!

I am nominating:
Yanique of Kiddie Matters
Kim of This Ole Mom
Kim of Knock It Off Kim
Crystal of So-So Mom
The “rules” are simple:

  1. Thank the blogger who tagged you, and provide a link back to them;
  2. List 10 things (plus, or minus) you believe make you a good mother;
  3. Tag some other bloggers to participate in the challenge.

I picked these ladies because I KNOW they are rocking motherhood–but there’s no punishment for not participating in the challenge!  And if you weren’t tagged, feel free to tell me how you rock right here in the comments.

And here, by the way, is my actual MEDAL for being a good mother–part of a custom necklace that my sister gave me for Christmas, made from an antique French medal still given out to mothers of many kids today.
mother award necklace

He's Baaaaack

There is another laundry basket in the hallway.
I have to check the waistbands of all the jeans and boxer shorts for sizes before I put them away.
Another car is jockeying for position in front of the house.
I am cooking more meat than usual.
We needed a second pew on Sunday.
The t.v. has been on during the day.
My grocery list last night included peanut butter, protein powder, Gatorade powder, and three dozen eggs.
Teddy’s home for the summer. 🙂

Picture taken by a school friend of Teddy’s

He who does not weep does not see

les mis poster
Y’all, I am OBSESSED with Les Miserables right now.   Searching Twitter and Tumblr tags, listening to every soundtrack I can find on Spotify pretty much nonstop, reading reviews and analyses online . . .  I cannot WAIT to see it again.  Let’s not call this a review, exactly–it’s more of a tribute (or a gush) because this movie is WONDERFUL.   It rose to the top of my favorite movie list like a rocket.
Here’s where I would normally tell you that if you aren’t interested in this movie and don’t plan to see it, you should move along.  But I won’t say that, because everyone should see this movie.  You just don’t know what you are missing.   Some are avoiding it because they think it is depressing.  No.  It’s sad.  Very, very sad. But SAD and DEPRESSING are different.  This movie–this story–is UPLIFTING.
I learned about catharsis in high school English, but I didn’t understand the point of it then.  Why seek out emotional experiences in fiction?  Aren’t our tears over the reality of life enough?  Now, though, I love me some catharsis and Les Miserables has been a source of it for me for many years.
I saw the musical on stage probably 20 years ago.  I purchased the soundtrack–on cassette–and when my big kids were little I was in the habit of listening to it regularly.  I remember clearly standing in my little yellow kitchen, chopping vegetables for supper, tears rolling down my face.  It was Fantine’s death scene that always got me then.  I only had to hear the opening line for the tears to start.
As for my kids, they grew to love the songs as well, especially “Master of the House” because of the bad words (okay to sing but not to say!).  I was so excited when almost 12 years ago the play came back to Knoxville.  I wanted the kids to see it, and we spent over 80 dollars we could ill afford then on the tickets.  My dream was squelched when I (nine months’ pregnant with #4) got put on bedrest for high blood pressure just days before the show.
John and the kids got to go, though, and in the years since we’ve kept the magic alive, frequently bursting into the initial sung conversation between Javert and Valjean. (Things like that happen around here a lot.)
I’ve never seen it since, and I was beyond excited for the movie, and especially to finally get to experience the story with the big kids. (They loved it too.)
You always wonder and worry a little about seeing an adaptation or a remake of a much-loved book or show or movie.  You know there are going to be changes.  And the newer version is going to stick in your head.  Will it spoil the old one?  If you haven’t seen this movie yet for those sorts of reasons, don’t let it hold you back.  Of necessity, a film is different from a play.  And there are some small changes.  But the changes add rather than detract.  Where additions are made they come from the book or reflect its spirit.  Here is the first of several blog posts I’ve been reading that explain this beautifully, along with quotations from the book.  Read them all.
Having experienced the story onstage and onscreen and through the music now over so many years, one thing that has interested me how my own reactions to the material have altered.  Part of that has to do with the differences in media but I also think it reflects where I am in my own my life.  As I said earlier I used to find Fantine’s death the most devastating part (it’s still sad!).  I think that was because I was empathasizing with her as we were both mothers of little children.  This time I was most moved by the death of the young men on the barricade.  Why?  Because I am now the mother of two almost grown up boys.  They reminded me of Jake and Teddy and their friends.
young rebels
One virtue of the movie format is that you get to know the minor characters so much better.  Even with the best seats in the house you can’t see individual faces at a play the way you can on a screen.  The young men on the barricade were humanized and individualized in the movie version.  The tragedy and waste of their deaths became personal.
Some reviews I read criticized what I saw as a strength:  the way the movie showed the characters in closeup while they were singing their big numbers, never leaving their faces for the duration of the song (which by the way were actually sung while filmed, not lip synched and added later).  Me, I thought it was amazing.  THEY were amazing.  No, they didn’t always belt out the tunes, Broadway fashion, because this was a different format, and not necessary in a film.  They ACTED the songs.  The feelings they showed were amazing.  They cried while singing.  Their voices broke with emotion.
Anne Hathaway should get an Oscar.  What everyone is talking about is The Song, and The Song is amazing, but to me her acting was just as moving in the small parts.  The way her lips trembled and her eyes filled when she knew she was about the lose her job.  The way she cried while her hair was being cut.
fantine hair cut
I’ve got nothing negative to say about the casting or the music, although plenty of people seem to.  I concede that Russell Crowe’s voice isn’t on the same level as the rest of the cast.  However, I liked his Javert very much and I think his softer singing shapes his depiction of the character.  His Javert was meditative, thoughtful, driven but not fanatical, trying to do what was right but getting it all wrong.  I understood this Javert.  I felt sorry for him.  I didn’t want him to die.
Hugh Jackman’s transformation from convict to Monsieur Madeleine was impressive.  We couldn’t figure out how they could possibly pretty him up!  I only knew of him before this movie.  If you’ve thought of him as an action hero he will surprise and delight you here.
I won’t go through all the characters because you can read about them anywhere.  But I will say that I am a critical person, trained to be that way as an English major, and I wouldn’t–couldn’t–criticize anyone’s performance in this movie.
I have more to say–especially about the music and the religious themes.  Because this is a profoundly Catholic movie–more than the play–and I loved it for that as well.  But I will leave that for another day and here end with a plea:  GO SEE THIS MOVIE.
P.S.  If you have a heart, you should approach Les Miserables prepared to weep.  Don’t see it with people you don’t want to cry in front of.   I had to stifle an actual sob at one point.  You’ll cry because it’s sad, and you’ll cry because it is beautiful.

THINGS I KNOW: Raising Teenagers

In an uncertain world, there’s a certain appeal in believing that there is anything we are sure about, and pride in celebrating and sharing lessons learned and wisdom gained.  And I do know a lot of things, some of them instinctively and others through hard life experiences.  This week I am telling you what I know–or think I know, anyway–about teenagers.

Let’s be honest from the start: teenagers are going to rebel. They are going to do things they shouldn’t and if they don’t actually get into trouble it’s only because they didn’t get caught. If your teenager always conforms exactly to your wishes, either you don’t know what she is really up to or her wishes are currently the same as yours. At some point when her wishes diverge from yours too much, your child will choose to do what she wants to do and not what you want her to do. The day will come sooner or later and it’s a normal part of growing up.

Teddy and Jake at 17 and 18

You cannot take the blame or the credit for how your teenager has turned out.  There are two reasons for this.  One is that–as my own teenager once told me–kids are a product of genetics and environment and you are not morally responsible for the genes you passed on and the inherent temperament with which your kid was born.  But much more important is a revelation I had last week. Your teenagers HAVE NOT TURNED OUT YET.  They are nowhere near done and you cannot judge the finished product right now any more than you could judge a cake by eating half-cooked batter.

Think about your own teenage days, and if you were a perfect teenager like I was then think about some of your classmates. Chances are you are friends with them on Facebook now, and they have homes and significant others and steady jobs and more money than you do. They have teenagers of their own whom they love and worry about. And you thought they would never amount to anything, didn’t you? Well you were wrong and if you are worrying about the future of your own teenagers think about that. The vast majority of them turn out fine if they make it through their teens.

And that’s no laughing matter, is it? Because what with teen drivers and drinking and drug use and stupid teenage tricks and feeling invulnerable, there are some teenagers who don’t get to grow up and their parents never see how they would have turned out. That leads me to more Things I Know about teenagers: the two most important tasks in parenting teens.

The first one is keep them alive.  That sounds melodramatic but what it really means is that the truly important rules, the nonnegotiable things, the things you should really be worrying about, are those that impact your teenager’s safety.  Because a bad grade may seem like it will have a dire effect on his future. But it’s really not nearly as big of a deal as ensuring that he HAS a future.  Spend less time worrying about homework and grades and more finding out who your kids’ friends are and where they are going and what they are doing once they get there.

The second task? Preserve your relationship with them. Are you prepared to say my way or the highway and mean it?  Do you really want to go there? Is maintaining compete control worth foregoing a relationship with your grandchildren and your adult child down the road? Because that happens to a lot of parents who are too critical and punitive and authoritarian.  Their kids break free one day and don’t come back.  Or when they do it’s just a matter of politeness and that distance is never bridged.  Do you want that to be you? If not, then let love guide your relationship at every turn, not pride.  Don’t let maintaining control–which you are going to lose anyway–which you are SUPPOSED to lose anyway–guide your actions when you have a problem with your child.

So many people have the kid thing backwards.  They want newborn babies to sleep through the night in a separate room so that they can “get their lives back”–whatever that means–but they hover over these same kids when they are teens, waiting up for them at night, monitoring their homework, telling them what colleges to go to.

No. The teen years are a time for letting go, for allowing more and more independence, for encouraging your kids to make good decisions, for trusting them to be the architects of their own lives.  Remember you cannot tell anyone anything.  There are very few mistakes that cannot be fixed down the road, and they are not going to learn from the ones YOU made, no matter how much you wish they could.  They have to make their own.  So let them.

This post originally appeared in Singular Insanity’s Things I Know Linkup.

What Mothers Do

I’ve got five kids and I’ve been a mother for over 21 years.  I find that my “mothering urges” sort of spread themselves over whatever children happen to be around me.  When my kids have friends over, I’m all “sweetheart” and “honey” at them.  I feed them.  I feel sorry for them if they are upset.  I try to talk to them if they will let me.  If little ones fall down or have hurt feelings I hug and bandage.  If I’m out in public and hear someone being mean to their child I follow them around to make sure it’s not serious.  When I hear tiny babies crying in Target I silently beg their mothers to feed them already!
I’m not tooting my own horn–I mean, I thought that was just how mothers mostly are.  I bet most of you mothers reading are like that.
What would you think of a mother who would provide her own child with illegal drugs?  Who would hide behind her prominent family while selling pain pills to other young teenagers?  Who would not call 911 to assist a teenager who was slowly dying in the home of drug-dealing acquaintances?

Laurie Pelot Gooch

Laurie Gooch is the mother of Henry Granju‘s girlfriend.  I’ve written plenty about Henry almost since I first began blogging, but if you don’t know his story you can start here.  Ms. Gooch is also the daughter of a prominent Knoxville politician, and one cannot help but speculate that her family connections have thus far shielded her from prosecution for her activities.  She was finally arrested and charged, thanks to a KPD investigation fueled by information provided by Henry’s mother.  But now apparently she has been allowed to plea to lesser charges and may serve no jail time at all.
I don’t know Laurie Gooch’s whole life story.  I don’t know what has happened to make her the person she is today.  Perhaps she has redeeming qualities of which I am unaware.  But I know enough to know where she belongs right now:  behind bars.  Not only is she a danger to the teenagers of Knoxville, including her own child, but letting her plea her way out of this doesn’t do much to end the scourge of prescription drug abuse that is killing our teenagers and ripping families apart every day.
Please help by sharing this post or any of Henry’s mama’s posts on this topic.  You can go here to sign a petition that will go to the sentencing judge.  You can go here to find out how to write him a letter asking that he refuse to grant her judicial diversion.
If you are a mom (and even if you aren’t) let’s do what mothers do, or what they are supposed to do.  Let’s take action to protect all the vulnerable children–teenagers are still children–in our midst from those who would prey upon them.

Drowning in a Sea of Responsibilities

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by life?  Have you ever had one of those days–or weeks, or months–where you just couldn’t get on top of everything you needed to do?  Have you ever felt like you were drowning, or being crushed by the weight of your responsiblities?
Of course you have.  That’s modern life, isn’t it?
I’m having one of those weeks, and since this is my space, I get to vent about it here.  Will it help, or should I spend this time doing the work instead of writing about it?  I’m going with writing about it. 🙂
Where to begin . . . a few weeks ago I thought I would try to get organized by making lists of “the next right thing” to do in various areas of my life.  Only what do you do when your “next right things” occupy about 15 pages of a yellow legal pad?
I’ve had Emily calling me multiple times each day to remind me that the FAFSA was due today.  But to do the FAFSA I had to at least take a stab at the taxes.  We are self-employed and I’m trying to do this myself with the help of H & R Block At Home.  Not easy.  Not fun.  The records all burned in the fire.  I guess that’s a plus if they audit us.
Two days this week were completely consumed by a client matter I had to help with.  Spent most of yesterday going to court with John.  Most of the day before that writing pleadings and making copies.  I have a stack of time to enter that’s about a foot high.  A stack of new files to set up.  A two-foot high stack of files to write closing letters on.  At least two cases to bill.  To-dos that I have fallen behind on.

Two out of three cars were in the shop this week.  The cat had to be spayed.  William’s birthday is coming up.  Income fluctuates when you are self-employed, and things are tight right now.
The house is a disaster area.  After doing so well for so long at keeping it neat, I’ve really let it go the past couple of weeks.  There’s just not time for more than cooking, dishes, laundry, and the occasional sweeping right now.

John had blood work done last week.  It came back positive for diabetes.  I haven’t even had time to process this.  They just want him to take more pills.  I have a sneaking suspicion that there are other things he could or should do as well–like change his diet.  I now need to become a diabetes expert.  I’ll pencil that in for this weekend maybe.
I have some ungodly amount of grants I am supposed to be preparing proposals for this month.
I am trying to “grow” my blog which really requires attention to social media.  I have about 20 windows on three browsers open at all times so I can keep up (or try) with that, plus all my work stuff.  I’m supposed to blog every day during Lent and I missed two days this week because I had to be gone during my morning blogging time.
I don’t have time to clean the house, order gifts, make a cake, or plan a party, so poor William has to wait until after his birthday to celebrate it.
I’m worrying about William.  He needs to go to school next year.  He has some specific learning issues I want to see about having him tested for.  I need to continue investigating schools for him.  I’ve been trying to give him some assessment tests this week, and he is very resistant to that.  I need to make appointments to visit some of the schools.  I need to make calls.  I did buy him shoes last night, so I can cross that off his “right things” list.
I’m worrying about Jake, who thinks he’s grown up but has a few important things he needs to do before he REALLY is, like graduate from high school, learn to drive. and get a job.
I’m spending hours each day in my car.  Every time I have to leave the house it fractures my concentration and makes it difficult to get back to work.
It seems to be more or less springtime now and thank God I at least have a window.  What I’d really like to do is go dig a garden.

There are 1082 messages in my email inbox.
You know, this is not nearly all of it.  Not nearly.  But I am going to stop because it’s actually not helping.  I think I’d better just keep plowing through it instead of trying to analyze it.
Thank God I at least gave up Farmville for Lent.

Bacon Love

I’m supposed to start writing about Diet Rehab today.  Instead I am writing about bacon!  Do you see a problem here?

Actually, that's not bacon, it's hog jowls. We are out of bacon so I can't photograph any. But that's close enough, right?

When I was growing up, there was always a cup of bacon grease in the refrigerator, but the only time I remember my mother using it was when she made green beans.  But I have recently discovered the joys of using bacon grease to cook practically everything!
What happened was that Weigel’s had a buy one get one free sale on bacon!  We go to Weigel’s (that’s a local version of 7-11, which we don’t have here) every day, and if I make a pound of bacon it gets eaten in five minutes by someone–in fact, there are actual fights over bacon.  Bacon is one of the few things William will eat, and Jake and Teddy are always ready for meat.  So while it was on sale I bought it every time I went there.
So then I’d have a big frying pan full of bacon grease just sitting there on the stove looking lonely.  After the fire, we received a gift of a whole lot of steaks.  A WHOLE lot.  Jake and Teddy eat steak almost every day.  I don’t know what they will do when those are gone.  So I discovered that a quick and yummy way to fix the steaks is to pan fry them in the bacon grease!  John doesn’t like his pan fried, so I put a slice of raw bacon on it before I broil it.   William won’t eat steak any more, but he does like boneless chicken, which also responds well to the bacon grease treatment.
Teddy and Jake will eat a plate full of steak and be satisfied, but for some reason John wants a side dish.  How about spaghetti sauteed in the grease that remains after the steaks are done?  (With some garlic and salt and pepper as well!)  Sweet onions sauteed in bacon drippings are pretty delicious too.
What do I do with the actual bacon?  Yesterday I made sandwiches:  avocado, a little leftover tomato sauce, the sauteed onion, bacon, some pepper jack cheese.  When Emily was home I made bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.  Mostly, though, people just eat slices off the plate the bacon is draining on.
Even the dog benefits from the bacon regime–when I think the grease has had enough, I mix it in his dog food!  He hates plain dog food but he’ll eat that with gusto!
And don’t worry about my rehab–I actually get to consume very little of the bacon myself!

Very Good People

Once we received a printed thank you card for a gift we took to a wedding we attended.  It said something like, “Words cannot express how much it meant to have you at our wedding.  And thank you for your thoughtful gift.”  I’m not kidding–that was IT!  Not even a handwritten signature.
Well, just because words cannot fully express our gratitude doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  I’ve written thousands of thank you notes–four wedding showers, a wedding, and five kids with, I believe, seven showers all together generate a lot of gifts, not to mention birthdays and Christmases–and I’ll be writing more in the days to come, although not for awhile yet.  And I am also going to make as many grateful posts as I can here, both to provide some relief from all the gloom I am dishing up, and to keep up my own spirits.
Because despite what some people have indicated by their kind comments, I don’t really feel like a person with a positive attitude right now.  The fact is I feel very, very sorry for myself and my family.  Without mincing words, this is a terrible experience.  More on that later.
But the kindness of so many people does help.  It really does, as do the many prayers which are holding us up at this time.  Today I want to highlight two especially thoughtful gestures.
My grandmother–Mima–loved to crochet.   Even after her first stroke she was able to continue with this favorite hobby.  Mima made afghans for all of us when we were children, she made them for our weddings, and she made them for her great-grandchildren.  She gave them to friends as wedding and baby gifts as well.  She always had a spare one on hand if you needed a quick wedding present.  She made baby ones for the Ladies of Charity layettes.  And she used her leftover yarn to make lap rugs for old people in nursing homes–she said the loudest, tackiest combinations were the ones in most demand.
Two weeks ago, we had close to twenty afghans that Mima had made–two from my childhood, a crib blanket and soft layette blankets for each of my first four children (pink, blue, yellow, and green), two she made for me to use at Georgetown,  one she made for my wedding, one that she made to match my wallpaper in my old house, and a few she had made for Jake and Teddy.
After the fire, two remained:  one that Emily has with her at Spring Hill, and one that was undamaged by water or smoke in Lorelei’s room.
A couple of days ago I received a Facebook message from someone I went all the way through grade school and high school with.  Susan was two years ahead of me.  I have not actually seen her in person, I don’t think, since high school, but after Mima’s first stroke she was her speech therapist, and my family thought very highly of her.
Mima had given her an afghan for her baby and one for her own bed, and she wanted to give them back to me.  “They belong with you now,” she wrote. [Another friend followed suit later.  So thoughtful.]
On that same day, Jake received a very special and moving treat from a fifth grade class at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, where Lorelei is in first grade.  The kids knew about the fire, of course, and because their teacher is the mother of one of Jake’s friends, they heard about Jake.  They decided they wanted to do something special just for him.  So he was taken to SHCS after school, not knowing why, and surprised with cupcakes and a poster and one of those giant checks like in the sweepstakes pictures.  One of the little kids had actually donated his own $50 birthday gift card (Jake wanted to give that back but the child was absent.).  They had stayed after school just so they could surprise him.  He was so delighted and touched.
Materially speaking, Jake of all the kids lost the most in the fire.  Emily’s room was entirely burned but she had a lot of things with her.  Jake’s was the only one of the downstairs bedrooms to burn and the only things to be recovered were two watches  on his closet shelf–one of them John’s father’s so that was actually a pretty big deal.  Jake collects knives and he got two of those, plus a book and a record album, out of the den in the basement, soot-covered but undamaged otherwise.  He had a habit of putting his things upstairs where he could easily find them in the morning, and his clothes were all sitting on the sofa in the living room waiting to be folded, so all of it was burned.
And unlike Teddy, who has reached a state of enlightenment (his words) and doesn’t care about personal possessions, Jake does care.  He likes nice clothes and had been working to assemble a wardrobe.   Yesterday a very happy Jake went to Kohl’s with us and bought shoes and a jacket.  He will probably go shopping again today.

Jake, sitting in Teddy’s room last weekend, covered in soot during our salvage operation