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Walking

I always found it a bit ironic to sit with my co-workers in our glassed lunch room overlooking the harbor to Dartmouth, stating how great the weather was. How did we know how nice it was when we weren’t actually out there?

That’s about when I started walking. Well, at first I just walked to Starbucks which is basically the closest coffee to our office (which I realized was totally false later on). Then after a week or two, I started walking farther. Making a small square in the blocks of Halifax, then a rectangle. Before I knew it, I was out walking for 20 to 25 minutes! My favorite route now takes me just about 30 minutes to finish.

After the first few days, I realized I really needed it. I came back refreshed and relaxed. I almost couldn’t justify not going some days. Rainy days were the worst because I opted to stay in. Exploring more of the city, I found other coffee establishments like Uncommon Grounds, the Wired Monk, and the Smiling Goat Coffeehouse. There were so many great places to get coffee in walking distance from my office which weren’t Starbucks or the Canadian icon Tim Hortons. By getting out into the city, I have learned a bit more about it and experienced firsthand some unique things about Halifax.

I never used to be a podcast kind of person, then again I never used to be a huge walking kind of person either but I was out walking and listening to podcasts almost every workday. Earlier this summer, I started listening to The Minimalists podcast. I think what made it bearable at first was fact there were no advertisements. The RobCast was recommended so many times by Joshua and Ryan I decided to check it out. The other podcast I listen to occasionally is the Art of Manliness Podcast (it does have commercials). They interview all types of people and cover so many topics so I normally only download episodes which interest me and then skip through the advertisements. I normally make it to church Sunday morning but if not, we have our own podcast of the sermon from Sunday! I use an app called “Podcast Addict” for Android. It is pretty simple and you can find any podcast that is on iTunes.

Next month, I plan to talk a bit more on my health and other changes I have made over the last few months and years. Relating to my recent walking though, I think that it has helped me slim just a bit. I have received several compliments from my family or co-workers who say that I look great and ask if I’ve lost weight. My parents back home have said so too! Walking has been so great to clear my mind and distress during the workday but has definitely benefited a bit to my overall health.

Have you ever taken the time for a quick afternoon walk or just take a small group trip for coffee? How did it make you feel or did it have an impact on your day? If you are a podcast listener, what are some of your favorite podcasts?

 

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Existence

Over the last few months, I have been struggling with the direction of life. What is the point of existence? What are my goals? What are my passions for living? What helps me to feel purposeful? Do I meet the expectations others have for me? Do I fit into the mold of society, that is to say, do I have a good job, lots of stuff, a great relationship, etc.? Do I (or why do I) even care what other people expect from me?

As a Christian, my purpose is to live according to God’s word and his plan for my life. My struggle is trying to know what that plan is and how to do I do it My church just explored the church community and being one church, one body, one family, moving together for a common purpose. Living with the Holy Spirit flowing through us, guiding us, and teaching us as only the Spirit can. How can the church reach the world if it isn’t united within and not united within its own cities with other churches and organizations?

My real struggle is: how can I do this in my normal everyday life. In my job. At home.
With my family. With friends and acquaintances. The endless family events. Softball practice. Work events. Church volunteering. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. Studying. Grocery shopping.

My hope is to personally wrestle with living a more purposeful, intentional life and to inspire others to ask the same questions. I hope to help others solve life’s problems in their own way. I hope to make my life and the everyday more meaningful.

My “No New Clothing” Pledge for 2019

It seems like a constant headline in the news today: another big clothing retailer is struggling.

There are many different factors that have lead to this, rather than just a single reason. Perhaps, the company has lost touch with their customer base; they no longer understand their demographics and consumer preferences for buying clothes.

It might have to do with the continued decline of traditional malls and the increased online shopping. Shopping online allows people to save time in traveling to and from a store, searching for items, trying them on, and then waiting in line just to pay. Online, you can filter for the style and color you are looking for and purchasing is just a few clicks away. Once you receive the clothes, companies will gladly except them back if they do not fit properly.

Another reason might be the “fast fashion” of clothing today. Perhaps some companies are not updating their fashion styles fast enough.

Customers might not be as loyal to one store or brand anymore. There are so many clothing companies and retailers marketing to people now. If you want to stay in the now and be “stylish” you cannot shop at just one store anymore.

I hate shopping. Going to stores most of the time is a painful experience for me, especially for clothes.

I find it a struggle first to find anything without a big logo or symbol on it. I have never really been a fan of wearing things that I don’t know what they are or what they mean. I might inadvertently be representing something which I do not agree with. Next, I am a sensitive and picky person when it comes to clothing look and comfort, so finding something that fits comfortably, not to tight or too lose, just long enough but not to short, and the right colors can be hard.

One thing that really drives me crazy is when searching through a rack of clothes and I can feel the low quality of the material. It feels so thin or not woven well, like anything might cause it to tear. I imagine wearing it day to day and it don’t think it would hold up. Many times, I have been in stores and feel that the clothes I am wearing are better quality than the brand new clothing right in front of me, even though my current clothes are years older. Other times, I have found an item which looks good quality and something I might like to try on but when I examine closely, the seams aren’t strong or there are places where two pieces of material has started to separate or button are nearly falling off. Why should I pay for brand new clothing which would require immediate care and repair?

These might just be one-off experiences or just only happen at the retailers I have shopped at. Knowing some of the clothing industry through documentaries like The True Cost, I can believe the poor quality because of the volume of products they must make a such a cheap cost. There is no time or incentive for high quality.

This year, I have vowed to not buy any new clothing, with a couple of exceptions.

My two exceptions are:

  1. If do need any new clothing, I will first use local resources to buy used clothing. For example, here in Canada, people can sell used items on Kijiji or at stores like Value Village.
  2. I may utilize my company’s fitness benefit for new shoes if needed.

For the first rule, I have used this already this year. I found a pair of dressy boots that are slip resistant (great for Canada winters!) on Kijiji. They were brand new and never worn by the owner. I saved close to $100. I had been looking for a boot other than my winter boots for days when it is cold but I don’t want to pull out my winter boots because they are large, heavy, and difficult to tie up. Also, because they are more a dress style, I can wear them during work or out for semi-casual events.

Last year, at Value Village, I bought a used dress shirt and a blazer type jacket. The shirt is one of my favorite shirts that I wear to work and I feel great knowing I got it for a low price and it is used. For the jacket, the button paint was fading so I have started to replace them with a different style and color (silver). Once that is done, I will have a much different looking jacket for dressing up a little bit at work or client offices without having to wear a tie or having a full matching suit.

Regarding the second exception and shoes, I think that feet and posture are a very important. In saying that, I think it is best to pay for a higher quality shoe. I will likely need new sneakers near the middle of this year. My company will reimburse me for fitness expenses like walking shoes. This is my only planned “new” purchase for the year. I will also try to research some companies that make ethically made shoes and those that pay their workers a fair wage.

I am reasonably sure that all the clothing I have is in well enough condition or can be easily repaired and patched up to last the year. Also, I do not want to be a supporter of those large retail companies that pay people so poorly across the world to sell an extremely over priced clothing item to me.

Do you think you can make a pledge to go without buying new clothes for one year? Maybe for 3 or 6 months? Do you already follow some of these rules? How do you go about purchasing new or used items? Are there any brands which you prefer to shop from first?

Today

There is a strange peace getting to work early to start the day. I many times find myself watching the sunrise and the colors of the sky. The first initial red fire glow as the sun prepares to make its jump into the sky. The red lessens and slowly fades to orange. The clouds in the sky above look like waves and blotches of light blue patches and fluffy orange cotton balls. The water in the harbour similarly mirroring the colors in the sky.

Further still the sky changes, becoming more of a solid mix of blue and orange and pink. Almost a perfect gradient down to the skyline where it is warming to soft and bright yellow color. The workers building the new structure across the street are becoming much clearer silhouettes, probably working much longer than I already have. I can see the horizon and harbour through the floors which have yet to be completed. Then, the first appearance of the sun through the 6th floor strikes my eye. The beautiful sparkling glow which looks just as a formless blob overtaking the buildings and trees across the water. Rising and rising until its powerful brightness hits the water of the harbour. It is normally shortly after this point when the brilliance of the sun is too bright to admire any longer. I shift my view and may pull the curtain to able to continue to see my computer screen.

I stop to think how thankful I am to have seen the sunrise. An event that happens everyday but something I take for granted. It is kind of funny and sad how something so awesome and beautiful can be ignored everyday. For what reason? I needed that extra hour of sleep or those 5 more minutes before my early meeting were that essential to pleasing my manager in our meeting later today. I have to eat breakfast and shower. I need to hit the road earlier or I’ll be stuck in traffic for longer.

The sun rising signifies a new day, a fresh start. It helps me to remember to try and live for what today is. Today is today, not yesterday or tomorrow. The world is pretty much the same as it was and we have another day to make the best of it on this world. One day our planet will fade away but until then, I will try my best to take it one day at a time and not worrying too far about the future.

Before starting this, I had just clicked an article titled “13 Surprising Signs of Burnout You May Be Missing” while quickly browsing my LinkedIn profile. I almost went into panic, how could there be so many signs of burnout? Could I meet any of them or more than one? I have been feeling tired and stressed lately, am I on burn out? What do I do since I just back from Christmas vacation a week ago?

As some of these thoughts raced through my head, the sky caught my attention. I watched as the sky lit up and transformed. Calmingly but surely the sun came and rose on today, captivating me for a part of the morning.

The rising of the sun is also sign that the laws of nature that God put in place for this world are still here. He is still watching over the earth and those in it today. Although we do not know the end, we can at least be thankful for another day where we can spend on earth. Enjoying the food, family, friends. Warmth and cold. Laughter and great stores. Music and television. Games and sports. Even some of the unpleasant things like dishes and laundry. Aches and pains. Hurtful words and lies. War and evil across the world. At least on this morning, I know that God is still here and in control even though I am not sure His reasons behind everything. He watches over me.

I am going to get back to work now and I don’t know what article you are talking about. I had a wonderful morning reflecting on the sunrise, my outlook on today, my outlook on life. Basking in the peace and love which I know God has toward me.

Communication

This is kind of cliche but it’s very true: You don’t realize what you are missing until you experience it.

Almost five months ago now, I started a new job at a rival big 4 accounting firm. I was on the search for a change but I was not always able to pinpoint why I was not happy in my current position.

A majority of my time here so far has been working on a small team in Atlantic Canada supporting a local team on a large client in Western Canada. The over 4,000 kilometers distance and a 3 hour time difference doesn’t seem to have much affect on our communication or work at all. I have some great dynamics with the team and relationships with each member. We have been able to effectively schedule meetings, request and send documentation, and follow planned testing and review procedures. I feel like a true member of the team and I’m not even physically there working with them.

I sent out a request to my manager for feedback, reminding her that I was also new to the firm and would appreciate any specific feedback relating to that too. She was a little shocked to learn I was new and thought I must have been there much longer. Later, I received some general feedback from the team, finding out they really appreciated my communication style and thoroughness in my work. In meeting with my counselor, his hopes are that I can continue this and even teach and train others, helping to create a well communicating group of professionals.

Reflecting afterward, I could not grasp how suddenly I was being so well recognized for my communication strengths and high quality work.

I have come to realize that in my previous job, I was never really given the power or opportunity to excel at communicating. A lot of communication was handled by my supervisors or managers, where I could not always ask clients for questions. Asking my internal team also never seemed to yield the answers or documentation I needed to complete my tasks. A few times, my questions to clients or others on my team were treated as “bad” questions.

I can recall many times working through a task, raising a question, and then be told, “oh, I forgot to mention this” or “yeah, I have that file, let me send it to you”. How was I expected to complete this if I wasn’t give the needed information? I could not produce high quality work because I didn’t have everything I needed to perform my job well. I couldn’t identify an exception because I didn’t know enough of a process to see it existed.

A lot of these examples were from projects in my local office but I experienced working on projects from other offices as well, sometimes even to a higher magnitude. So, it seems very strange that I am on one now in another company and it is one of the better projects I have been on.

I do know that communication works both ways and I have to be able to ask good questions to get good answers. The person being asked though needs to be somewhat approachable and willing to take those questions. Maybe I did not ask the right questions but could I have instantly become better at asking questions?

I am truly thankful and honored to be part of the firm and team I am with now. Through these experiences, I have learned that I am a great communicator. However, I think that a great communicator is only as good as the importance placed on communication and how well others embrace it.

Snowflakes

Snowflakes! I hope this post doesn’t bring a horrible rest of the winter to Nova Scotia!

A few years ago I was making changes in my life, to you know, be a better me. Become healthier. More fit. Smarter. More productive. Have better things. Social life. All the good stuff.
I noted how I would look at others and judge myself against them. How did my life match to theirs? Did they make as much money as me or graduate from a better school? Did they have a newer car or the latest technology devices? More friends than me? Happier relationships?

I upgraded to a brand new car. I kept up with the newest phones and apps. I was up to date on the top news stories and sporting events. I would enjoy almost daily trips to Starbucks and eat out a couple times a week. I had a great job, working overtime to keep my status as a good employee. Instagram became my favourite social media app. I was starting to become molded by those around me. I was like most everyone else: spending way too much money and busy all the time.

Since moving to Canada, a lot of that has changed. I no longer have the same job and the new car stayed in Virginia. I would say generally I’m less busy. I don’t keep up with every bit of information around the world. I restrict my time on social media and even restrict my phone time each day. I try to limit myself to having only one game on my phone at a time. All notifications for social media are kept off to eliminate all distractions. I only log into Facebook once a day.

In the last year, I have started some practices of minimalism. I have also somehow overnight become a podcast listener. I’m almost fully a vegetarian with hopes to eventually go vegan, at least a vegan diet. I’ve shifted some of my thoughts on finances and my career. I’ve also taken steps to be more mindful of how my actions affect the environment and ways to improve.

Recently, I have been rather pleased with how the general direction of my life is going but I realized that my current lifestyle and values have been adjusted to a new set of people. Watching the Minimalists and listening to their podcast changed or reinforced a lot of my thinning regarding things and money. Through them I was introduced to Rich Roll and veganism. It sparked more research on diet and the ethical side of being vegetarian and vegan. I’ve also been influeced by all of the new people I work with every day.

I definetely have my own opinions and thoughts. My wife can attest, I have my own weird way of thinking and doing things sometimes. I don’t have all of the same beliefs or ideas of the people around me. I am still unique. Like a snowflake.

Sometimes people forget that. The goal of our life isn’t to be like everyone else. With all of the advertisements and social pressures, it’s hard to believe otherwise.

Right now, stop and check the shirt you are wearing. Can you remember where you got it? What made you buy it? Sale or an ad? Other people you admire wear a similar one or style? A top name brand? If it was a gift, why do you think the person bought it for you? Did you want it for the look or how others would perceive you? How often do you wear it? Mine is a multi colored horizontal striped shirt from Target on sale. I bought it with a friend so we could match sometimes for fun and it hasn’t happened yet.

Obviously you can’t stop and analyze everything you do or buy but it might be a good practice to consider once in a while. Why do you have the urge to buy a certain item? Why do you think a certain way? What or who might be influencing that decision?

Remember that you can have your own thoughts and desires, don’t let yourself be influenced by society unless you truly accept and agree to that thought or action. Even if you’re striving to have that perfect thing or act perfectly in various scenarios, you can never actually be the same as someone else. You have your own experiences and circumstances. You can borrow an idea and motify it to how it works best in your life. Don’t think you can take the same thing and apply it directly to your life. It will compute a slightly or drastically different outcome.

You are a snowflake: unique. We all are snowflakes.

For the Environment

In recent months, I have learned that the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) has lost its buyer of film plastics, China. These types of plastics include plastic shopping bags, product/food plastic wrap, plastic wrap used for transporting high number of items on wood skids by truck or planes, and much more.

In January 2018, it appears that HRM was given approval to dump in the landfill and there are reports that a portion of the plastics have been transported to another province for disposal. There were also considerations of incinerating the plastic and attempt to harness some of the gas as energy.

When it comes down to it, it is actually insane the amount of plastics and single use plastic that the planet blows through. Its evident that there needs to be a solution for profitable and sustainable recycling of film plastics. Also, governments should place requirements on companies and manufacturers to reduce plastic packaging. One example is the companies that individually wrap food items in boxes for freshness but seems unnecessary or a bit excessive.

These plastics are damaging to the environment because they do not decompose. Sure, there are tons and tons of things that don’t decompose in the landfill, but the amount of plastics could easily be reduced. Also, there are many alternatives to just trashing items.

Anyway, in my last post, I talked about my trusty Thermos coffee mug. I was influenced by a co-worker to make an effort to use my reusable mug when getting coffee. I thought it would be difficult or too much of a hassle. Then I realized how many cups I bought a week. I thought about the plastic lids they are not recycled in the HRM, the paper cups which are not recycled because of the wax coating on the inside, and the famous “double cup” at Tim’s when you order a black coffee. Since then, I’ve made a rule not to buy coffee unless I have my travel mug or use a real cup if I’m staying in the shop for a while.

If you’re reading this, I ask that you contemplate how our consumption of non-recyclable products is harmful to our environment. Consider how you could eliminate or reduce use of these materials.

Coffee Mug

 

So, I’ve had this Thermos coffee mug for a while. I’m not exactly sure but I think I got it in 2009 or 2010, or more like my first year of college (2007). In one of my first Instagram posts (holt.steven), you can see it in 2013 before graduating from George Mason University (It used to have a handle!).

Recently, I saw a brand new one at a store in Dartmouth without the handle and I fought off buying it. Yeah, it would be nice to have a new shiny one. The exterior finish wouldn’t be peeling off or have a noticeable section where a handle once existed. It would have a clean and unstained inside. It wouldn’t be wobbly from the newest dent on the bottom.

But what is the point? It would still hold coffee in it and keep it hot, probably not much different than my current one. I’m going to use this one until it no longer serves that function!

My personal philosophy in recent years has been, “what is the point of getting something new if it does exactly the same thing as the old one?” I strive to get by with things that I already own. If it breaks or no longer serves the function, I decide if I really need it or could I go without it. If it does need to be replaced, then I will purchase something new.

After this coffee mug experience, I realized I’ve been practicing minimalism for some time and didn’t even know!

Medicine

There is something that I definitely take for granted but I never use: medicine. Put simply, I almost never get sick so I never take medicine.

My family can tell you, I hardly ever get sick. I do get the light cold in the winter months like many people do and have a stuffy nose quite often but I’m never truly “sick”. I can’t remember the last time I visited the doctor for a sickness.

I sometimes suspect that taking medicine is actually worse for you. In many cases, you have to take another medication to combat the effects of another. Then a third for the effects of the two combined.

The thing that amazes me too is that there are medications for everything. Headaches, pain, sores, heartburn, high blood pressure, breathing troubles, sleeping problems, digestive disorders, lactose intolerance, and so on. Many of these can be changed by diet and small adjustments in your lifestyle.

Why is it that doctors seem to only prescribe medicines for healing our sicknesses?

I find that a simple day of rest and eating healthy normally “cures” me of my sicknesses. Sometimes I get strong headaches. I’ll just take a nap and get some more water into my system (sometimes I forget to drink up) and after an hour or so I’m fine. No medicine.

Since moving to Canada from Virginia, I have experienced a the flu once and have found that I’ve been a little more sick that normal. I think this is due to being exposed to things that my body has never seen before. In the last two years, I’ve probably used medications 2 or 3 times for severe headaches and when I had the flu. Every now and then I have a TUMs for heartburn.

Since I’m almost fully on a vegetarian diet now, hoping to go vegan eventually, I would suspect that the amount of times I get sick might be even less frequent. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables, trying new ones every couple of weeks. If God gave us all of these plants, vegetables, and fruits that grow naturally on the earth, shouldn’t that be enough to keep us healthy?

Prayer

Have you ever heard of studies conducted where there a three groups of patients and people that pray for them? The first is the control group, they receive no prayers by others while they are in the hospital. The second group un-knowingly receives prayer from a group of people. The final group, knows a group of people are praying for them to heal and recover. Typically, the patients that know they are being prayed recover faster and generally are found to be in better health.

A few months back, my wife and I got into a great habit of praying before bed. Although it did not stick for very long, we have prayer lists in our bedroom posted behind the door. Although we don’t always pray together, I sometimes lay awake thinking and praying for the people on that list since its one of the last things I see at night before the lights go off.

I really don’t like making new year’s resolutions. I heard somewhere recently that most people don’t keep their resolutions because they don’t have a need or desire to complete them. If people really needed to improve their health or desired to pray or read their Bible more, they would do it whenever they came to that realization, rather than waiting for some random reset period. Anyway, I would say one of my lose goals this year is to get back into the routine of praying at least a couple times a week.

Our Christmas break was not as restful as I had hoped and it has been a bit stressfully starting back to work again this week. We prayed before starting work this week and the other night I prayed out loud for some pain my wife is experiencing in her leg. Strangely enough, this week has seemed less stressful and more comfortable than expected.

Our minds tend to make things more complicated than life actually is. Prayer, especially speaking out loud to God, is a very important part of your faith. Speaking thanks and gratitude to God for what he has done for you reinforces your belief in Him. It is a way of declaring that he is your God and you trust Him to guide, comfort, and give you peace.

So, pray out loud! And if you are praying for someone, let them know!

Do you think it is good to set new year’s resolutions? What are some that you have set?

September (and October) Update

It’s been a busy September and October in the audit and accounting world.

Without having access to a pull up bar due to traveling in Saint John I was not able to do any pull ups the last two weeks. I did do some on the weekend between trips though. It seems like a lame excuse, it is. I don’t like working out in public places. Both of the hotels I stayed in contained fitness centers. I could have checked for pull up bars or performed other exercises. Next time, I will check for exercise in the hotel or at least do some in my room. 

With the amount of work over the last few weeks I also was not able to get in my normal walks during lunch. I tried to get out for grabbing lunch or dinner but it was not as long as my typical walks at home. 

Since these were my first business trips I would say overall I did well physically and emotionally but I need to change some things next time. Take the time to relax and get some exercise in. Do stretches before bed or in the morning.

One area I was extremely successful was not eating red meat these two months. I failed one of the first days of September though. A long story short, my wife and I stayed over at someone’s house and were served bacon and waffles. I had two slices of bacon that morning but have gone red meat free since! It has not been to difficult except for when I have to tell people of my decision. 

Also, the breakfasts in the hotels are basically sausage and bacon… All of my breakfasts in the hotel were totally meat free. The only animals products I ate were eggs and yogurt a couple of times. For lunches, I had quite a few salads and pitas which were meat free. I was able to find a chicken burger close by one night and a been burrito the next. One of my first nights, I got a vegetable curry at Lemongrass. 

This second week of travel I only had meat in three meals I believe. It’s actually quite surprising but great to know you can find vegetarian and vegan options pretty easily. At Pita pPit, you can order two vegan meals: falafel or their black bean patties which are grilled on a separate grill away from the meat. The vegetable curry was vegan. At Thandi, their were plenty of Indian vegan dishes.

I have anxiety telling some people as they will likely ask a ton of questions or challenge me with biblical facts and their opinion. I’m not really sure how to tell people. Well, that’s easy. I’m just afraid the “why” will get lost in their immediate thoughts, judgments, or questions. 

I know that I don’t have to make people understand my reasoning or justify what foods I choose to eat. I do feel like I owe it to animals everywhere to at least point people to resources documenting how animals are treated and killed. Then, those individuals can decide for themselves.

Giving for Hurricane Victims

My heart aches for all those in Texas that have been hit by hurricane Harvey, not to mention everywhere else that was affected by the storm. Also, that is not even mentioning hurricane Irma touching Florida now and the other hurricanes that are formed in the Atlantic Ocean.

I just wanted to put this out there. I have given to an organization for hurricane Harvey victims. I also plan on making small donations for each of the other hurricanes coming this summer to aid all of the people and businesses which will be hurt and damaged from these storms. It is the least that I can do since I cannot physically go there to help those in need.

If you do not have much to give, there are also some free ways that you can participate in raising money for the victims. For example, you can retweet this tweet from Penn State IFC (Penn State Tweet). They will donate $0.15 for every retweet. I have also seen many other organizations doing this on social media.

Another way you could donate would be by leaving a podcast review for The Minimalists on iTunes. They will be donating $10 for every review. They talk about some of the details in their most recent podcast episode titled Relocating (The Minimalists Podcast). They will also be donating all profits from their Houston show from their Less Is Now tour which is scheduled for later this year.

Another free activity you can do for all of those people is to simply pray for them.

I just think how, yes there was some crappy rainy weather here yesterday, but I had my car to drive around on clear roads. I was able to go to the grocery store for food with no difficulty and found everything I was looking for. Most importantly, I made it back to our fully powered apartment to cook dinner and sleep in a dry bed. Many people in Houston probably have none or few of those things right now. Please give, support, and pray for those people in any way that you can.