We grew UP???!!

When did we grow up? How haven’t I ever noticed that life is in fast-forward?

When did we start saying, “I need to study” instead of “I have to finish my Homework”? When did we start caring about money? When did we stop buying what we’d love to have? When did we grow up?

When did friends become more than playmates? When did friends leaving become a must? When did we stop running around when it’s snowing? When did we develop that fear of slipping or breaking bones? When did we become more cautious? When did we start planning the next year, rather than the next weekend? When did sunset start meaning relief from a long day rather than sadness with the end of a playdate?

When did we drift away from our mother? When did we end up calling her, and rarely receive a call from her? When did Dad stop discussing our options with us? When did we start taking our own decisions? When did we become our own responsibility?

When did “I Love you” start meaning too much? When did our relationships move from a crush to the love of our lives? When did a serious relationship start meaning something other than bringing a beautiful valentine gift? When did we start meaning “I Love you”? When did we differentiate between like and love? When did we start imagining our lives with that one person? When did we start seeing more than looks? When did we start falling love with actions? When did love mean helplessness? When did we start loving the boy no one talked about? When did we start loving the girl that people can’t remember her name? When did we start falling in love?

When did we grow up? When did we start thinking about career, pilot projects and starting a family? When did we start drawing a timeline of our lives? When did getting married stopped being about the dress? When did graduating stopped being about the cap and gown?

We grew up without noticing, we grew up too quickly while living our days waiting to grow up. We grew up when we weren’t living our age, we grew up when we were wishing to grow up, we missed a lot to live when we were too busy dreaming, wishing and hoping to grow up. We grew up, we loved someone that broke our innocent hearts and we recovered. We learned that love is not just passion and romance, we learned that the hard way. We learned about the value of friendship when we lost some along the way. We learned about the value of studying when we failed. We stopped caring about looks when the prettiest, hurt us so hard that we still ache. We started caring about family when they were always there. We started taking our own decisions when no one could make the right one for us anymore.

We grew up, not entirely, we’re still in the process. Let’s just hope it goes slower from now…

Salma 😉

Photo by: Nada

After all, there is a silver lining!

Since the last time I have posted, many changes and incidents have taken place, additions and reductions. Considering being an easy-going person, who strives for change, and hates nothing more than routine, most of the changes that occurred were more hurtful and have affected the person I strive to be, the character i want to build, the thoughts i have, the things i want, it have mostly caused all what i am about to come to a blur, doubting everything, doubting everyone, doubting my thoughts and mostly doubting myself. But, to every blur there is an end. A string of questions will eventually lead to this thought, this single thought, this powerful thought that lightens at a sudden, to focus, concentrate, direct and centralize yourself, nothing else, and no one but YOU, and vacuums the smog away and you gain back your complete vision, that’s blur-free.

This powerful contemplation or belief is: coming back to the realization that everything is planned, everything is planned for a reason, the good and the bad. Although, you might think you are in control, you are leading your life, but your actions, thoughts, feelings, words is all planned by a higher power, and no one can change what has happened, what’s happening, and what is going to happen, it was once called destiny. You reaching this notion, is planned, was in the past your destiny!

So, finally coming to this realization, and learning to accept it, after a long time of being lost and distracted with all the life events that have teared you apart, and costed you a lot, has nothing but constructive effects after all:

  • believing in the good that comes after the bad,
  • believing that there is good after the bad,
  • you anticipate and search for the silver lining,
  • believe in the lessons you learn after the ups and the downs,
  • reduces stress during the downhills, it keeps your calm,
  • nothing will seem dangerous, nothing will seem threatening,
  • you are always happy, contented and satisfied searching for joy,

and finally you will find yourself THANKFUL for it all.

by: Nada❤

*painting by myself*

Unparalleled Part 5


I am focused. I am busy. I don’t know who I am outside all these commitments. I am a researcher, I am a professor, I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a friend. We are 35 years old. We no longer climb rooftops to sit and talk, if we meet once a week, it’s a bless. We live a couple of blocks away and it’s still hard to find the right time to meet. We talk all the time. He calls me when he needs someone to push him forward, he doesn’t say it, but I know he needs that. I call him when I need someone to remind me of who I am.

My son is sick. He has a fever, he has been feverish for 6 hours now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a car. My husband is out of town. It is 4:00am it is too risky to take a cab, assuming I found one where I live.

I hold my three year old son close to me. He is my baby, my second child. I am so worried. He has been sick for two days, getting better and getting worse. I know it could be my motherly affection going on, but I am scared. I am scared that my baby is hurting. Sitting in his tiny room, on his race-car bed, that his father bought him last year, I hold my son close to my heart. In the failed attempt that he might feel better. I look around, the room is so innocent. His first paintings hung on the yellow walls. Laying on the ground beside the bed is that shaggy red elephant, my best friend gave my first child that now belongs to my second child. My daughter, my sweet little daughter is sleeping next door. I could see her through the opened door. She still sleeps with a nightlight. She is tiny. She is 7, but she is still so tiny to me. I don’t want to wake her up. She is sound asleep. I should wake her up and get her dressed, but I can’t leave my feverish boy. I can’t wake her up, she’s so quite.

I call him, then hang up. What would his wife say? He is my best friend, but here where we are from, our kind of friendship isn’t the norm. But what should I do?

I call him again, he picks up immediately,

“My son is sick, he has been having a fever for hours, I need a ride. I can’t control it, I tried everything. Could you.”

“I am on my way”, he interrupts.

There is a knock on the door. He’s here. It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes. I rush out, putting on my slippers, carrying my baby boy wrapped in his blanket. I open the door, it’s his wife. She hugs me. I feel her pregnant belly pressing against me. She says, “You’ll need a baby sitter, you can’t wake the girl up. You two take the boy to the hospital. I’ll wake her up for school and get her on the bus, in case you get home late. Hopefully it will be minor, but just in case…” I stare at her speechless. “He is downstairs waiting in the car, go on…”, she hugs me again. As I leave I hear her whisper a prayer for my child. I look back at her and see her as worried as I am. She’s perfect, he chose wisely.


I have a daughter, I am a father. I don’t think I was really ready, but again who is. I have been holding that tiny baby for a while now. I can’t leave her, she is so small. I feel a hand on my shoulder, I turn around unaware of the time, or even the place we are in at the moment. It’s her. She’s been through it all. She is the only friend I have. My wife is still in recovery, it was a hard delivery, but she will be fine, I am not though. I am stressed, I am scared, but she is here. I have my daughter in my arms and my best friend by my side. She looks at me with watery eyes and says, “You are a daddy, I dreamt of this for days. Finally I’ll have someone whom I can be a true aunt to.” Neither of us have any siblings we are our kids’ aunt and uncle. She is it today. I have never been happier. I have a daughter and she has her mother, aunt and uncle, a small considerably perfect family. Everything I do is and will be for this little girl. For this beautiful girl, I could go through hell, to see that beautiful smile, hear a beautiful laugh. I would fight the world, if she needed that. I never felt over protective, but now I can’t think of anything, but how to protect that little family.

“Mommy, Mommy, I want the baby.” Says her 3 year old boy. He’s better now. He has been running around laughing like nothing have happened.

We are parents now, who would have thought…


We are 60. It’s my birthday. He’s sitting across the table with his wife and only daughter and his grandchild on his lap. I am sitting with my husband to my right, my son and daughter by my left, my son in law behind me and my granddaughter on may lap. I blow the candle and make a wish. “I wish we could stay friends till the day we die.”


We are 90 years old. My wife passed away two years ago. Her husband passed away 6 months ago. She says it was his time and that she’s happy he didn’t suffer. We are sitting together in the garden of the nursing home. I look at her eyes and I see my 7 years old best friend playing with our shaggy elephant. I see the girl I danced with at prom. I see the girl that ran to me after her first heartbreak. The girl I ran to when my business went as successful as I hoped it would be. My partner. My friend. I feel my fragile bones screaming in pain as I reach over to hold my best friend’s hand. I whisper a prayer “Until I die”. She looks at me and nods as if she knows what I just whispered inside my deteriorating mind. And together we look into the bright ray of light.

It took us all these years to see the whole picture. It is beautiful, with its dark days and bright ones, but what it really was, wasn’t that simple…


Salma ❤

Art piece by Nada Mohamed

Unparalleled Part 4


The stars are wondrous. They don’t just look fabulous shinning on that dark canvas of the night sky, but they are actually burning millions of miles away. They are beautiful, they seem so quite, but they are so active. They are deadly, but from far they are beautiful. How they make all my concerns and problems vanish is beyond me. They are the stars, watching them on a quite night reminds me of how little we are in this universe and how tiny all our problems ‘combined’ are.

She is laying beside me on the grass. We are both staring up at the beautiful sky. It is a beautiful night. We are more than 14,000 feet above see level and all we are doing is laying there on the grass. We are just 22 years old, we have the life a head of us. I just graduated she’s graduating next year. We are happy.

“Do you believe soul mates exist?” she asks. We laid in silence for a while. I didn’t know what to say. I never gave it much thought. Maybe they do exist, maybe not. But do we have to marry them, or date them or have some sort of romantic relationship with? Can’t a soul mate be someone that I am not interested in. I think a soul mate can be a friends that understands me, that I understand. That completes me in ways others don’t. Those who end up in a romantic relationship with their soulmates are just lucky. I don’t really know, but…

“Well, I hope they do.”I reply.


We are 23. She has someone. She loves him unconditionally. I don’t think he deserves her though. He doesn’t look at her like she deserves. She’s scared to talk to him about stuff. He doesn’t let her. He likes her, I know that. But she loves him. I am scared. I don’t want her getting hurt. I am here for her. She has me. She has a bachelor degree, that’s what matters. He isn’t supportive of her taking her masters. She’s no longer talking about it. I am scared. I can’t see her getting hurt.

We are 24. He hurt her. He HURT her. She had so many plans. She told me, “I am scared”. I told her there is nothing to be scared of. She left him because she should, she has to follow her dreams and he’s an obstruction not an encouragement. She needs a supporter not a critic. She loved him, I can see her heart was broken in her eyes. She deserved better. She does. She’s smart, so she’ll be fine. But I can’t see her that hurt.


We are 25. He found someone. She is beautiful, smart, and cheerful. She’s perfect. He looks at her as if she is his light inside a dark tunnel.He looks at her like she’s the reason he still has hope. Cheesy even for him! He found someone and I was never happier. His eyes light up when he talks about her, he smiles a great smile when I talk about her or when she simply smiles. He’s happy, truly happy. He said he’ll propose. I’ll help him of course.

We are 26. His business succeeded. He’s running a startup law firm. I am a PhD holder and a lecturer at university. I teach students to be passionate and hopeful. He runs the firm and chooses the cases good enough to fit his moral values. He lost a lot at first, but more and more people are coming and he’s succeeding. I am proud of him. He says he’s proud of me. I see him smiling at me, every time I visit and it reassures me. We are there for each other. No matter how hard it gets we must have each other.


We are 28. It’s her wedding night. She finally found the man that deserves her. He looks at her like nobody does. He understands her, pushes her forward and jumps to reach her. He loves her. I am sure he does. He was okay with the fact that I am her best man, yes I am HER best man – never been done, but she can’t think of a maid of honor close to her, so I am her man of honor- if there is such a thing, I am her best man. She’s more like my sister, we were raised together, I know her more than she knows herself. And this man is good for her. She said I should propose to my girl tonight, after the ceremony. She said, “If I’ll have my happily ever after ‘kind of’ then you should go build your own”. I am nervous. She says she’ll say yes. I hope she says yes.

We are 28. It’s my wedding night. I am marrying the man of my dreams. My best friend’s my man of honor. He’s proposing to his happily ever after, tonight and I hope she says yes. I am having the happiest day of my life. Who would have thought I’ll find the man for me. Except him. He knew I’ll meet the right man at the right time. He refused the word guy because he said “you deserve a man, not a guy. A man with the heart of a man who can love you unconditionally”. Never believed him before, but now I do. I am getting married tonight. He is proposing tonight. I couldn’t be more excited. I hope she says yes.


Unparalleled Part 3

I hate the hospital. I hate the smell of that excessive cleanness. I hate the feeling of having  the angel of death passing by every second. I hate that taunted feeling. I hate waiting. I hate not knowing what will happen. I hate what has happened. I should have been the one driving. I should have been the one in Intensive Care. I shouldn’t be standing here with only a cast on my left arm.

I had to stay late at college. I was too sick, I couldn’t drive. He offered to pick me up. He didn’t look so well. “I think he caught the same virus”, I thought when I first saw him. I was too sick to keep my eyes open. He was talking, he seemed better than I thought. He was telling me about this girl he has a major crush on. He talks about her all the time lately. I love it when he looks shy when I tease him about her. He really likes her, but he said he isn’t ready to tell her yet. I hope he does soon, because I can see the way his eyes light up when he talks about her. He was driving safely! He WAS driving safely, out of nowhere came a truck and suddenly we crashed.

I don’t know if its fate or destiny, but I was wearing the seat belt and he wasn’t. He always wore his seat belt and I never did. This was the only time he didn’t nag about me not wearing the seat belt.

I can’t remember the impact it was too dark. I can’t remember seeing the truck’s headlight. All I remember is that, he wasn’t in the car. I was terrified. He was thrown out of it. I couldn’t move. My left arm burned. I didn’t hear him scream, I cried calling his name hoping he’ll answer. I couldn’t get my phone. I couldn’t move my arm!

I heard people coming for help, all I could say was “DON’T MOVE HIM”. I didn’t want him to be dead. I don’t know if I succeeded. I can’t remember how I got out of the car and sat beside him. He was bleeding. He was hurt. I stayed beside him praying to God that he’ll live. He has to live. I can’t handle my life without my best friend. I stayed there, on my knees. My left arm hanging by my side, my hands covered by his blood until the ambulance came.

Everything else was such a rush. I can’t remember what happened after exactly. Everything else was so blurry, like people moving either in fast forward or slow motion. It’s like I was in a lame action movie, where the hero is dying and people are all moving around trying to help him, and then there are those running or crying on a slow motion camera.

“You can see him now, but only family”, the doctor said. How could he stand there all calm? I am studying medicine, but can I ever be that cool about this? I stayed there on the ground unable to move, until his mother came in and offered me a hand. I am his friend, I am his family as much as he is my family, I have to get in.

I sat beside him. I held his hand with my healthy hand and prayed to God, remembering every good thing I ever did. I prayed to have him safe. I gave up on any hope I ever had. If this is what it will take to save him, then so be it. “Dear God, Please save him for his mother… For me… For that girl he always talked about”. We are only 20, he hasn’t lived yet!

I pictured him on his wedding day, wishing we would both live to witness it. I imagined him with his child, holding him/her in his arms hugging them close to his chest, close to his heart. His arms that are now punctured by cannulas and his chest now wired up to machines. I remembered all our good memories, like our lives was replayed in fast forward in my mind. I remember us playing with that weird shaggy red elephant that he still has above his wardrobe. I remember running to him when I was mad, sad, happy or just bored.

“Oh, God, please help him, save him, please!”, I prayed. I couldn’t hold my tears and didn’t notice that he’s been holding my hand the entire time. I relaxed mine and felt his still holding on. I heard his mum give a sound of sudden relaxation followed by a prayer. I looked and he was smiling at me. Eyes closed, but smiling.

I came closer, and whispered in his ears, “Be safe, stay alive”. His eyes open slightly and I could imagine them looking at me sarcastically and said “I’ll try…”.

It will get harder, I know, but please God, Keep him beside me to get me through it….


Art piece by: Nada 

Unparalleled Part 2


Her cousin passed away. She couldn’t talk for two days. My mum says all children who die go to heaven, no child ever goes to hell. She shouldn’t worry about him. He’s happier now, healthier now, and definitely more protected. And I believe her. After 3 years of fighting cancer, he lost the battle. That’s why I want to be a doctor. I don’t want people to die of cancer. I will find a treatment.

We are sitting on the roof at her place, it is exceptionally dark except for the poorly lit lantern beside us. She looked at me. Her eyes filled with tears and I remember fighting the urge to let my eyes tear up. I never met him, and I don’t think they were that close, but she cared about him. She cared about everyone. That’s who she is.

She wiped away her tears and stared at me right in the eyes and said, “I want to be a doctor”. I stared back worried how she will react. She would make a great doctor, I thought. She cares, she cares enough to handle being too tired, to fight sleep until she helps anyone, even if it’s a random stranger.

“You’ll still get to help people,” I told her. At the end that’s what all occupations do, maybe some better than others. But who cares, a police officer saves people from criminals, a doctor treats people directly, a business man provides money for salaries and stuff. I remember thinking back then that all of them help people some more directly than others.

“Let’s open our own hospital one day, we will be some great doctors” I said. She looked at me and I could see her smiling again and saying “We can have it for free to help poor kids, you know. Help poor people!”. The more we talked about the future, the more she smiled, and the more I felt relieved to see her relax in front of me.

“I’ll be an awesome doctor. I’ll treat kids for free, because I’ll have enough money. I’ll buy them healthy lollipops. I’ll save all of them. Never let a kid die ever” She looked at me with tears filling up her eyes, but a smile on her face. She threw her head on my shoulder and started sobbing and I couldn’t help, but whisper “We’ll always try our best”.

Out of no where, I saw a faint figure sticking out of a box. It was the shaggy red elephant, we used to play with only a couple of years ago. He’s still there! It turns out he wasn’t as evil as we thought.

We sat there. Back then I thought as a 12 year old this is the hardest life will ever get. I was so wrong… Believe it or not, there are harder days to come…


We are only 17. Why would an innocent person be imprisoned? Because he said his opinion. Why should there be political prisoners anyway? Politics is a point of view. And if politics doesn’t give people freedom, then it isn’t politics. That’s what I believe.

I never saw him this mad. The boy imprisoned yesterday was his best-friend’s brother. He was his role-model on some level. They crashed his best friend’s house to take the brother who did nothing, but stand up in a protest. The boy was sent straight to prison, no lawyer wanted to represent him, there wasn’t even a hearing held. True injustice.

He didn’t show up to school for a week so far. I went to his house. “He hasn’t left his room since morning,” his mother said. I went up to his room too shy, I haven’t been there in almost 10 years. I entered and here he was sitting on his desk, books pilled up on it. Books that I never thought he ever read. I remember seeing “Long walk to freedom” on his disk. He was sitting with his head in his hands looking down. He looked up at me, surprised. He ushered me to the least messy chair.

We sat there for a while in silence when he came closer to me sat down on the edge of his bed, looking very confused and said,

“I want to tell you something… I can’t be a doctor, there is no point of health when there is no freedom to use this health on.” Back then I did see that coming since he started choosing History, Sociology and Extended English, besides his scientific subjects.

“I am going to make sure people are all treated fairly regardless of anything that makes them different, not race, nor religious perspective, nor political standpoints” he said. In his eyes, I could see the sorrow, but also a spark of hope. I was worried about how hard it is in this field.

“You’ll try your best. But remember to be honorable and choose your cases”. He looked hurt and told me “A lawyer must be noble and I have to be”. It was the first time I noticed that, but he looked like a man more than I ever saw him. Not just because of his unshaved beard that I never noticed before, but the fact that he is fighting for something he truly cares about. I am a woman too, I only realized then that we are both adults fighting for a cause.

We talked about cases that show injustice and I was surprised, by how knowledgable he was about this. He had a heart of gold, he was truly honorable, I could see it and feel it every time his eyes filled up with tears as he talked about those innocent and the violence provoked on them. He never cried. He was truly tough, but he was sensible. We stayed till night talking about nothing, but how great a lawyer he’ll make. A lawyer. A man. With a shaggy red elephant sitting on the top shelf his bookcase. I can’t remember whose toy was this…

We thought we had it all figured out, I was mistaken …


Unparalleled Part 1

Two kids are playing in a garden behind a building. It is almost sundown, but it doesn’t seem like it for them. Full of energy they charge head on into the open air. Running around muttering strange sentences that makes no sense whatsoever. That’s what people would think if they look at these 7 years old sprinting around. What they don’t understand is how massive this day is for them. I am one of these children. Running around full of energy, my only worry is when my mother calls us up to get ready for bed. This is what I could recall about this beautiful day.

“Sir, Mr. Scary Elephant wants to steal all the toys out of all the children’s houses.”, I said, pointing at the cute little shaggy, red elephant that I got on my 5th birthday sitting still on the ground. Back then, I could see it moving, looking at us with his evil black eyes.

“Is this why most of my patients are children? Why do they have crushed toes?” He asked me. He was the doctor, I was the officer handling the case.

“Because the elephant is too heavy, Sir. He steps on their toes as he tries to steal their toys”, I explain obviously.

In our little world, the worst thing that could happen was for a child to have a broken toe, and that was because an evil elephant stepped on them. Now it seems silly, but back then it was the best role play we ever made.

We played for hours. I was running across the yard, back and forth, never stopping. I went around throwing the elephant and fetching it, then throwing it again. He was a sneaky evil elephant, he always ran away whenever I caught him. While the “doctor” was running around in small circles trying to mend the toes of the toys, who are supposedly victims of the vicious elephant attack.

The sun has set. We were both too tired to go upstairs to our homes. We laid there on the ground face up. We watched the stars flickering silently, as if they are annoyed by the lights of the city. We start drawing up shapes of the stars and the one who could spot a cloud in the dark sky gets more points and we were both practicing our math and playing. At least thats what we told out mothers to let us stay there longer. The stars showed, butterflies flying away from their cocoon. There were puppies with bright shiny eyes. There was a heart.

There were a punch of stars looking like a rainbow. I told him maybe these will be the rainbow in the morning, he asked, why does the rainbow only show up in the morning. Why can’t there be a rainbow all the time? It is so pretty to look at. Back then I didn’t realize that if the rainbow was there all the time it wouldn’t be as beautiful because I would have gotten used to it. But back then it seemed so ridiculous to not have rainbows all day long.

We talked about our dreams. We are both 7 years old, our possibilities were all open, our creativity was unbound. He listened to me. I told him I want to be a police officer, he didn’t say “you are a girl”, instead he said he wants to be a doctor to do the same thing I wanted to do, help people.  We made up our fantasy worlds. I was the officer, he was the doctor and together we lived in our perfect dreams. He called me Sheriff for years and I called him Doctor for years to follow.

We were each others supporters. We were each others innocent side. We were… We became…Well, no need to worry about that, it will all be obvious later. We knew for sure everything will be perfect. We didn’t imagine what was waiting for us in the years to come. But why rush it now…


Salma ❤

Art piece by Nada 😉

Unparalleled (Prologue)

Is there such a thing as a perfect relationship? Could there be a profit free relationship? Could there be an exceptional relationship? That’s what they are trying to prove. But will they?

Could there be an unparalleled relationship? What do you think it would be, parenthood, kinship, friendship, romantic, codependent relationships or is it something that we have never witnessed in our world?

Wait for our weekly post of Unparalleled featuring Salma Srour.


Art piece: Nada Mohamed 


Truly Blessed

When I was younger, I believed that you only get one chance in life. You get to have one best friend, one perfect match (or whatever), only one who understands you, only one biggest supporter and all that things we hear.

I have had friends as long as I can remember. There were years that I had more friends than others, but I always had friends. I had an amazing family, some days more supportive than others, but they were there.

With all that, there were days that I felt lonely. My biggest fear always taunted me, saying “you’ll forever be lonely”. I was definitely wrong though.

When people who used to mean the world to you no longer cared, you are given people who care twice as much. When the people you once thought are irreplaceable leave you, they are replaced by others that don’t want to be replaced. Just like the sea, water comes and goes. Small gentle waves follow strong tough ones, and we are simply riding a boat embracing every moment of the experience.

I am never lonely, because everyday at least one person thinks of me. That is not lonely at all. We don’t need to talk, I just believe that I am on someone’s mind when they revisit a good memory.

I know it took me 20 years to realize that, but I never said I am a fast learner.

Salma ❤




Knowing the definition of some words is something and acknowledging the definitions is the reality that strucks me as a person once in a while. 

Acknowledging definitions comes in several forms, but the one i personally know, is experiencing the word especially when its a word that defines a certain emotion.

Gratitude in dictionaries is: the quality of being thankful.

We tend to read, understand, store and use when its needed, but we rarely honestly feel it.

You may really be lucky and honestly feel it everytime, but not everyone is as lucky, therefore we tend to treasure those moments, where joy of the surroundings fufills our soul, happiness is deep in our bones, the rushing blood holds more air to keep our eyes and senses wide open to feel the surrounding. This is were appreciation of the surrounding strikes a pose, and thus you know you are grateful to what/ who have rose your spirit up that the image of being shallow or down is too vague, blurry and far away. 

Being grateful is the epitome in my opinion, it is a beautiful emotion that combines joy, satisfaction, appreciation, realization and clarity. 

Find what/ who makes you feel grateful and hold on to it/them. Be happy, be grateful, and cherish moments/ things.