Mean Girls Part Two

This post takes up where the last left off.  Please know that my goal in writing about bullies and mean girls is not to air my dirty laundry or to point fingers at bad behavior.  The fact is, if I’m really honest, there’s probably someone out there who would accuse me of being a meanie.

So let’s approach this topic with humility, shall we?  Let’s make it our goal, not only to gain some skill in navigating tough interactions, but also to recommit ourselves to kindness-especially in our relationships with other women.  It’s exceedingly rare to find a spirit of generosity between women in professional, personal, and even in church life.

Now, let’s get down to business.  After we’ve identified mean girl behavior, called it out, and sought advice, what next?  In my experience with these tough situations, it’s been very tempting to develop a “me versus them” viewpoint.  The worse the bullying behavior becomes, the more tempted I am to turn the mean girl into a villian and gather forces to defend myself.

As tempting as this approach can be, a better use of our energy is to take the circumstances to a higher level by following the next three steps.

Form a plan

This may be as straightforward as deciding to avoid the bully.  While not always possible, there is wisdom in choosing a new group, or even a new job, if there is no hope for change in a poisonous situation.  If a change isn’t possible or you feel led to confront the bully, find organizational backup or include someone else who is also affected or willing to side with you.  Prayerfully talk through your plan, resolving your options if the interaction ends poorly.

Pray for protection

Remember, there is always a spiritual component at work, but avoid “spiritualizing” the situation in order to procrastinate in dealing with it.  Simply ask God to shelter you and equip you with the discernment and pure motives you need moving forward.  Ask Him to guard you from any damage to your health, your peace of mind, or your future success and reputation.  Remind Yourself of His power over circumstances, both in your life and in that of the bully.

I have witnessed unexplained job transfers and even sudden family and health concerns that completely changed the playing field surrounding bullying behavior.  Remind yourself of God’s power to work in whatever we He chooses.

Pray for the mean girl

Yes, it sounds trite.  But praying for a persecutor is not only Biblical, it also frees you to consider a positive outcome.  We so often get stuck in our own ways of processing situations and emotions.  When we bring these tangled feelings to God, we allow Him to lift the burden off our shoulders, and also to keep our spirit from becoming hardened and bitter toward the person.

Here are some specific prayer asks:

Provide any additional information that would help me develop empathy for this person, while still keeping me at a safe distance.

Soften the will and emotion of the mean girl, so she is open to another way of behaving.

Bring all evil plans to nothing.  If there is some kind of negative plan directed toward my harm, I ask You to bring it down.

I ask You to bring unexpected blessing to this woman.  Give me the opportunity to share that this was an answer to my prayer.

I’m going to be completely honest and tell you this is the most challenging step for me.  Human nature usually veers toward revenge rather than mercy.  When someone does me wrong, I crave justice.  But praying blessing on my enemy, even though those prayers are initially insincere, leaves room for a heart change.  Instead of seeing my bully brought down, my end goal becomes God’s grace in the situation.

And that, my friends, is nothing but Jesus.  Everyone around us will see Him, because they will know that kind of grace is impossible in the human realm.  As His followers, that’s what we’re after, right?

What Makes Her Mean

Here’s where things get real… Today’s post follows last week’s topic, Five Friends Every Woman Needs, where we talked about positive female friendships and the stability they can bring.  But those kinds of relationships are tough to find.  Many of us have more experience than we like to admit with the “mean girl”.  Maybe you are navigating a thorny relationship with one right now-if so, I hope you find encouragement today.

Mean girls find their way into every walk of life- even church.  Sometimes, as believers, we can give the mean girls too long a rope in the name of being a good witness or turning the other cheek.  So today I’m stepping out on this shaky bridge and talking about how to navigate rude and sometimes even abusive behavior that ultimately threatens our sense of self-worth and the safety of our environment.

Whether you’re confronting unacceptable behavior at work, in your family, or in a faith setting, knowing how to navigate these rocky waters is an essential life skill.  When we skip over bad behavior and go straight to understanding and compassion, that is false grace- and Satan loves to run with it.  So how should we deal with the mean girls in our midst?  I don’t pretend to be a therapist or professional on this subject,  but I can share what I’ve seen work in practical experience.  Like most of you, I’ve lived long enough to encounter this dynamic more than once.

First:  Acknowledge the bad behavior

Mean girls are more than just grumpy people-in fact, they often seem to have life figured out.  Sometimes they get their power from having their spiritual, professional, and personal life all in order, very seldom showing their weak side.  But don’t be fooled.  When the mean girl finds a target, the ugly comes out.

Need an example?  I once worked in an office with a woman who very seldom smiled.  She prided herself in speaking her mind and giving an “honest” opinion.  I certainly wouldn’t have gone to her if I needed a compliment, but she never directed an insult toward me or my coworkers personally.  The office administrator, however, had an open-door policy.  She made a point of asking about her employees’ personal lives and gave out gifts at Christmas.

But I began to notice she made repeated verbal digs at the receptionist, who was quite a few years younger and eager to please.  At first I brushed the put downs off, thinking maybe the two of them had some kind of strange rapport.  But one day, the stinging comment came on so strong, I noticed the receptionist wince, as if the blow of those words had physically hit their mark.  Since I had witnessed the exchange, I knew I needed to defend the younger woman. I took my concern to another manager who kept a watchful eye on the situation.  But I could have just as easily let it go, and I still wonder if I did enough to advocate for this young woman.

Don’t minimize, explain, or tolerate acts that cross the line from thoughtlessness to abusive or denegrating.

Acknowledging bad behavior requires discerning the difference between a generally unhappy person, and one who has set a target for their meanness.  While the first is unpleasant, the second is emotionally damaging.

If the mean behavior is directed at you, your first inclination may be to avoid conflict and try to ignore it, hoping it will go away.  But internalizing the hurt or becoming a “silent witness” to someone else’s suffering exacts a high price in the long run.  The first step to setting a new course is to verbally acknowledge it in real time.

“But what do I say?”, I can hear you asking.  Here are some suggestions, but feel free to form your own one-liners and practice repeating them with a confident expression.

  • “That seems harsh.”
  • “I don’t appreciate that.”
  • “I’m really surprised to hear you say that.”
  • “I don’t agree.”
  • “We’ll have to disagree on that.”
  • “I wish you could hear yourself.”

Second:  Name it to someone you trust who is outside the situation

Start with a statement like, “I believe I (or someone I care about) am the target of someone’s aggression/bullying/anger.  Would you mind listening and giving me your perspective?”  Choose a trusted, supportive, and wise confidant.  If you are in an organizational setting like work or church, choose a friend who operates outside that setting.  Their perspective will be more objective and also avoid any chance of gossip.

Verbalizing your thoughts and emotions on the subject can help you seperate fact from emotion, and ultimately help you prayfully move to the next step.

The Bible, especially the book of Psalms, is full of examples of unfair treatment.  I’ve often found comfort in David’s brutally honest prayers and complaints about the suffering he experienced at the hands of Saul, a bully of epic proportions.

Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused.  Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise.  Psalm 140:9, 10 (NIV)

But David didn’t end his conversations with God this way, and he never gave in to the urge to take matters into his own hands.

…for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.  Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you.  Psalm 143:8b, 9

Make sure you come back for next week’s post, where we’ll talk about some practical steps for confronting the mean girl.  Until then, let me end on a prayer.

Father, life is complicated and sometimes very heavy.  As we grow in our faith, give us the resilience to pray big prayers for wisdom beyond ourselves.  Help us to see conflict as a messy opportunity for growth, and to engage that opportunity, rather than shying away from it.  Amen.

Five Friends Every Woman Needs

The trend in clothing right now is the “capsule wardrobe.”  It’s a movement away from trendy and toward classic pieces that can be mixed and matched over time and seasons.  As I’ve studied the must-have pieces, several repeats keep popping up:  the white, tailored blouse, the boyfriend jean, the pencil skirt, and the little black dress to name a few.

This year, I’m feeling blessed.  My family has faced more than our share of challenges over the last few months, and the process has brought me quite a bit of clarity.  The securities and entitlements I once considered precious have been replaced by an unknown future, and I now consider friendships more dear than ever before.

Like a capsule wardrobe, every woman needs a few solid friendships to carry her through life’s seasons of challenge and change.  I use to buy into the illusion that one person could or should be the “everything” friend.  Maybe you’ve labored under that one, too.  This year, I challenge you to put some thought, prayer, and energy into the five friendships every woman needs to really thrive for the long haul.

The True Blue friend

Keep her on speed dial for when you are stuck in traffic and need someone to pick your kids up from school.  She’s like your favorite pair of jeans, always there for you when you need her most.

The Gentle friend

This sweety may not have the answers, but she’ll always offer her shoulder for you to cry on.  Her non-judgemental listening skills are just the ticket when you need to unload a burden or talk through a problem.

The Childhood friend

She knows all about you and where you came from.  No explanations about your crazy family dynamics necessary-she gets it.  When you’ve lost your way, she’s the friend who will remind you of your true north.

The Coach

This gal will remind you of your strengths when you feel like giving up.  You’ll need her on your side if you’re attempting to diet, budget, or go after a really big dream.

The Challenger

Always pushing you forward, this friend is a true believer.  She may annoy you with her lofty expectations, but she can also bring out the very best in you.

Maybe you’re blessed to have a friend who embodies more than one of these titles, but more than likely you’ll need to diversify.  Before January is over, spend some time taking stock of your friendships and ask yourself a few questions:

How can I get back in touch with a friend I’m missing?

How can I be one (or more) of these kinds of friends to someone else?

How can I say “yes” to deeper friendships in the midst of my busy life?

Here’s a prayer for the process

God, make me a better friend.  Help me embody the kind of friend I so desperately want and draw healthy friendships into my life.  Show me if there are friendships I’ve held onto too long or placed under too many expectations.  Show me, in Your Word, specific examples of your kind of friendship.  Amen.


I Can Be a Ballerina

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today- one of those holidays I’m never quite sure how to celebrate.  I’d like to say I’ve figured out a way to commemorate the life of this extraordinary man and all he did to break down barriers.  In reality, I’ll probably spend most of today organizing my basement.

But this morning, as I flipped through Facebook posts, I stumbled upon a very special video.  The scene brought me to tears.  Without any words being spoken, this video illustrates one of the most beautiful examples of inclusion I’ve ever witnessed.

The actions of these teenage girls are not about race or gender, but rather about inviting and even showcasing the kinds of people teenage girls would typically pass by.  Joy is written all over the faces of these gorgeous ballerinas as they twirl and spin with grace.

Maybe the best way to celebrate the life of Dr. King has less to do with race than it has to do with acts of kindness.

I don’t pretend to understand what it feels like to be a minority, but I am very much familiar with feeling left out and overlooked.  Most of us can remember a time we felt that way- perhaps in childhood, but maybe just this morning.

So today, I’m looking for opportunities to notice others.  To slow down and look up from my phone.  I’m asking God to give me a chance to follow in the graceful steps of these precious dancers and put a smile of pure joy on the face of a someone I’ve never really seen before.

Praying the Devil Out of Your Problem

Tears sprung to my eyes as I looked at the little closet.  The television show I randomly settled on had reconstructed the tiny bathroom where she had hidden all fifteen of her pupils the day our nation remembers with such incredible sorrow.  Kaitlin Roig-Debellis, the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, described how she stood a smaller child on the toilet paper roll and several on the back of the commode.  It seemed impossible that she could have accomplished this feat under normal circumstances, never mind with the sounds of gunfire just outside her classroom door.(1)

In her book Choosing Hope:  Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours, Kaitlin aims not only to give a description of the events of that day, but also to recount her struggle to carry on in the days that followed.

“Life is all about choice,” she told People Magazine. “The choice is each of ours alone to make. That’s really powerful, especially when dealing with the hard stuff.” (2)

Kaitlin’s story reminds me of some intimidating facts:  God has a plan for my life, so does the enemy.  God’s plans are full of hope, future, fulfillment, and dreams realized.  The enemy’s plans involve anxiety, overwhelm, and wandering away from truth.

Sometimes prayer tips the scales on which side wins out.

Prayer is that feather-weight of action on my part that invites God into the struggle.  And that action of praying-no matter how quick or feeble, unleashes the power of God to silence the lies of the enemy.

When anxiety becomes the traffic director of my thoughts, prayer kicks it to the curb.  When fear becomes the star of my show, prayer makes it nothing more than a movie extra.  Anxiety and fear don’t always dissapear completely, but prayer allows me to choose how much space they occupy.

And sometimes, after I’ve made a choice for prayer many times over, those pesky voices become so faint that I only remember them in the bigger context of my life story.  The story that I use to encourage someone, to provide help, or to empathize with another’s struggle.

1. US | Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:02pm EDT


When God Whispers Hope

We sipped our morning coffee and watched the show.  For the first time in months we were able to catch a minute to relax in each others’ company.  I had woken just moments before on the cranky side of the bed.  My first conscious thoughts were worried ruminations of a long-standing problem our family was facing.  Despite months of hard work looking for a solution, my husband and I had reached the very end of our resources.

Some days he was the strong one, allowing me to air my grievances over circumstances beyond our control.  Other days I reminded him to hold on, even in the face of overwhelming disappointment.  But lately, we were feeling more and more like we’d both emptied our piggy banks of hope.

So there we sat, steaming cups of coffee in our hands and the rough wood of deck planking holding up our back sides.  That’s when we noticed the little miracle.  A lattice-like spider web draped across a five-foot spread caught the morning sunlight between the trees in front of us.  “When did that happen?”, my husband wondered out loud as we both caught sight of the enormous work of art.

He’d been working on staining that deck just the day before.  He’d stood between those trees, laboriously covering every leaf of foliage with plastic tarps to keep them from damage.  Long after the two of us had layed our tired heads on the pillows, our spider friend had begun his work.

Just how he’d danced his way across that wide expanse of air I can’t imagine.  Truly, this guy was an acrobat.  Then, as if on cue, our eight legged performer appeared.  Skittling across the web with purpose, he deftly detached the edges of the web in a matter of seconds.  As we watched, spellbound, he retracted that magical masterpiece into a tiny ball and carried it with him up a single strand of web.

My husband and I locked eyes, coffee steam wafting between us.  In one wordless act, God had illustrated His miraculous provision.  Without offering specifics of how or when He would make a way, our Father had reminded us that He is able.  Even in the tiniest of His created beings, He placed the ability to make a home when needed, then pack it away and move on when the time came.  We felt encouraged-enough to pack up our questions, like that incredible web, and move forward into another ordinary Saturday.

If you are facing a problem too big for your reasoning, understanding, or effort-may I offer a simple prayer?

Father, You alone know the burden of my heart.  When I have come to the end of my resources, I ask, not for answers, but simply for Your presence in my need.  Amen.

When Life Won’t Stay Put

Your house is never so gorgeous as the day you list it, right? In order to get our house ready to sell, we realized we needed to invest in repainting the bedrooms, remove wallpaper in the bath, and replace counters in the kitchen.   But no matter how hard we tried to plan and prepare for the impact of the disturbance, my family still felt like refugees in our own home.

To make matters worse, we were in the midst of some pretty major life changes-sending in college applications for my son and my return to full-time work.  No matter how much we discussed and organized the week, as soon as the “guys” (from 5-7 workmen per day) showed up, all bets were off.  I would carefully lay out paperwork to be done when I returned home, only to find it moved to an undisclosed location.  My neatly organized bins of cosmetics went missing on the day my drawers were painted, leading me to panicked thoughts of showing up at work without concealer.

Living through the past month of home renovations reminded me of a core value:  I like resolution.

The strong desire to tie messy situations up with a bow has driven me to pursue conversations and confrontations in which I had no business engaging.  I have cloaked my actions in concern for others or an improved outcome for an organization, when in reality I was motivated by a need for situational “tidiness”.  Can you relate?

Messy houses are one thing.  With enough time, effort, and the right cleaning products, they can sparkle and shine.  But messy people are another problem altogether.  And let’s face it, there are a lot of messy people in this world-including me.  And, well,  pretty much each of us.

What do we do when relationships and organizations become difficult to manage?  When the effort we have diligently put into them only makes matters worse?  There’s no cleaning product or organization system for that kind of mess, and it can leave me, for one, feeling like a scattered failure.

In this week’s sermon, our pastor reminded us that the following kinds of words don’t really count as prayers:

Oh God, please bless what I can already do on my own.

Please resolve this difficulty so I can move on with my life feeling happy.

He described the “inscrutability of God,” meaning the quality of God that is beyond our grasp and defies organization and tidying.  This is what John, the disciple, was talking about when he quoted Jesus’ words:

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.  John 15:4 (NASV)

Christ was describing the only kind of relationship that can get us through the times when life just won’t stay put.  Not Jesus + my hard work or even Jesus + my gifts, but rather all of me taking refuge in all Christ has to offer.

I’m learning to save the renovation for my house and leave life’s bigger messes at the feet of Jesus, but I must confess it’s a process.  If you’re having the same struggle, here’s a little prayer of encouragement.

Jesus, teach us.  When we finally fall at your feet, exhausted from trying to fix life, pour out your grace over our lives.  Thank you that Your love doesn’t depend on our efforts.  We are the ones who need fixing and we are counting on You to gently and powerfully do the job.  Amen

Three Steps to a Decluttered Spirit

When my husband threatened to get out the shovel, I knew the weight of all the little things had finally reached critical mass.  My daughter was in the elementary-school stage I like to call “precious collections”.  Here are just a few of the items she considered worthy of keeping:

  • chewing gum wrappers, both paper and foil
  • rocks of various weights and sizes
  • anything found on the street while walking the dog
  • notes passed during school (teachers, I feel your pain)
  • pennies
  • soda can tabs
  • bird feathers

Our attempts at negotiating down the volume of the collections had proven fruitless, which made keeping her room clean impossible, never mind being able to find anything.  Finally one Saturday morning, after realizing he was unable to traverse a path from my daughter’s door to her bed without needing a tetanus injection, my husband threatened to get the snow shovel and clear the wreckage unless she did something.

This began her process of mourning.  She looked at each object with sadness and regret before her forced surrender to the giant trash bag.  By the end of the day, her trash bag was full and her mood was lighter.  “Look Mom, I found five dollars in change!” she declared triumphantly.  Once the  spirit of purging took over, she was even able to fill a bag with items to donate to a local charity.

We’re more that half way through our Ten Summer Psalms, and this week’s focus is forgiveness.  In Psalm 51, David asks God to clear the clutter from his soul.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.

Psalm 51:10 (NASV)

When I hear the word forgiveness, my mind first goes to all the people who need forgiveness from me.  Like my daughter’s precious nick nacks, I too often hold on to tiny offenses and wrongs done against me.  Here’s a ragged sampling of the “collections” that threaten to clutter my soul:

  • Times I’ve helped someone and they didn’t thank me
  • The sting of knowing someone else took credit for my good idea
  • Disappointment I felt when a ministry leader let me down
  • Hurt from an insensitive comment

Holding onto all these offenses keeps me from the focus and freedom God wants for me.  David outlines a 3 step purging process to get rid of the garbage.

  1. Acknowledge God greatness (verses 1,2)  Remind yourself God alone can judge people’s thoughts and actions.  Even in cases where you have been sinned against, God can be trusted to set things straight.
  2. State your need for help (verses 3-12)  Humble yourself, telling God you no longer want the burden of holding onto wrongs done against you.
  3. Ask God to bring you full circle (verses 13-19)  This isn’t God “helping” us let go, this is God miraculously giving us freedom.

Here’s my prayer for the cleaning process:

Create in us a clean heart, O God-not a heart filled with denial, bitterness, or fake forgiveness.  Those we can come up with on our own.  We are asking You for the miracle of true forgiveness, Father.  Clean our souls from the clutter of a million offenses of all shapes and sizes and reward us with the hidden treasures of peace, clarity and new vision.  Amen.

Looking for tips to help your child organize their room?  Here’s a link to a great resource from Step-by-Step Declutter.

It’s not too late to follow along on our summer series!  Click below to download the free guide.

How to Pray for Your Son

“We must be lost…”

If the conversation on our road trip were a song, those four words would have been the chorus.

My-17-year-old son and I ventured on a couple of college visits last week.  He was an excellent navigator, although I wasn’t as good at following his directions.

Although the school we were hunting down had a great reputation, it was, quite literally, located in the middle of corn fields. He kept reassuring me that civilization was just around the corner, since he could see the little red dot on his smart phone map growing ever closer.  I finally gave up trying to control the journey and did what he said. Sure enough, we ended up warm and safe at our hotel.

My level of anxiety on that car trip was probably related to the looming reality that this little boy of mine has somehow turned into a man and will soon be charting his own path.  There’s no smart phone app for that journey, either for moms or their sons.

I’m a week behind on our Ten Summer Psalms schedule, but I thought some of you might be grappling with the same struggle-letting go.  My son and I walked that campus together and my mind raced to all the possibilities:  Would this be the spot he’d meet his wife?  What kinds of temptations and tests would he face?  Who would mentor him and check on him?

That evening I sought out a quiet place and read through Psalm 15.  These five little verses pack quite a punch.

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart

3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,

4 who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,

5 who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.


Verse five drew me in.  That’s what I want for my son-to never be shaken.  Even when he goes off course, messes up and feels lost.  More than anything, deep down in the core of him, I want him to have a solid assurance of who he is and what he stands for. Verses one through four elaborate on how to get there, and how I’ll be praying for him.

Feel free to borrow my prayer over my son for the coming year and fill in the blank with your child’s name:

Father, I want so badly for _____ to live in Your presence.  Even if he is living in another city or part of the world, I pray that ______ will seek Your holiness.  I ask that ______ would be known for his honest words and pure heart.  Keep _____ from giving in to the temptation to engage in gossip.  Help _____ to verbally respect and build others up, even when he disagrees with their choices or opinions.

I ask you to keep ______’s perspective clear.  When others excuse evil, give him the courage to speak out against it and steer clear of situations that invite compromise.  When he is faced with the hard choice of suffering for his beliefs or self-preservation, help ______ to follow through with what he knows is right.

Make ______ a generous and kind person.  Keep him from self-focus that breeds cruelty and exclusion.  In the midst of a culture of selfishness, may _____ be known as a righteous man.

I ask, even now, that _____ will take this next step fully relying on You for strength.  Amen.

When You’ve Drifted a Bit Too Far


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The lyrics to the song were boldly sexual, but the melody was so much fun.  Although I’d never heard the pop melody before that casual drive around town with my daughter, she was so familiar that she began to sing along.

After changing the channel on the radio, I challenged my sweet teenage girl to recommit herself to higher standards this summer.  Then the conviction fell on me.  In the busyness of the school year, compromise had crept into my lifestyle as well-specifically in the area of my speech.

Areas I purposed to keep off-limits had slowly become more acceptable to me.  I realized I’d drifted, like a ship at sea, into murky waters.  This week’s Summer Psalm is Psalm 1 and the focus word is CONVICTION.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. (verse 1, NLT)

Conviction, for me, is best symbolized as an anchor.  Set down deep in the sea of everyday life, our true beliefs keep us securely centered and balanced.  When we live according to conviction, here’s what God promises us.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (verse 3)

Our summer group met this morning for coffee and talked about what anchors our souls, and where we might have drifted.  As a little kick-off present, I printed off an anchor and framed it as a gift for each of us.  If you’re following along, here are some thoughts and ideas for your week:

  • What practices help you stay centered in your faith?
  • In what area do you need to come back to your anchor this summer?
  • If you are doing this study with your family, try making an anchor from tin foil or drawing one on paper.  If you have older kids, do some research on different kinds of anchors and their various purposes.

Please leave me a comment on what you thought of this week’s Psalm and come back next week for more!

Click on the link for a printout of the Ten Summer Psalms reading schedule.

disclaimer:  I receive no commission from sales of the anchor print, just so you know…