Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Relationships For Creative, Sensitive, Intuitive, Analytical Overthinkers — Where Do You Start?

photo courtesy of Omar Lopez, Unsplash

You think a lot. Some would say that you overthink. You feel deeply. Some would say that you over-feel. You love learning. Some would say that you over-research and over-read. You have very high standards and expectations. Some would say that you over-analyze. You are concerned about the future of the planet. Some would say that you over-worry.

My friend Felice would say that she was in her “overs” when she felt she was overdoing anything. Which happened quite a lot. She was intense. Sensitive. Brilliant. Busy.

So. Is being in your overs a bad thing? Or is it just your normal? Your rainforest mind doing what it does.

Is everyone else in their unders?

Well. They are in their unders just compared to you. But it is your nature to be living at a faster, deeper, wider pace. Your personhood naturally questions, analyses, creates, emotes, and imagines in atypical ways. Your drive to know, to understand, and to influence is vast. It is a difference in capacity. The rainforest has extraordinary capacity.

How, then, do you have relationships with humans who might be overcome by your overdrive. Or who might be overloaded by your over-the-top tendencies. Or who might feel overdosed on your overt intuitive insights. (Is that too many overs?)

What I see over and over is that RFMs don’t realize that everyone doesn’t have similar capacity. Even though you feel you don’t fit comfortably in many places, you think: Doesn’t everyone question the meaning of life every darn day and night? Um, no. You don’t realize that your difficulty with relationships is at least in part because of your more complex thinking, feeling, and knowing.

You may also have difficulty in relationships because you have trouble making chitchat. You feel awkward in social situations. What interests you is too complex for many of the other humans. You are excited to watch the BBC documentary Attenborough and the Giant Elephant while they are chattering about Sex and the City. And, perhaps, you are tired of counseling everyone else when no one knows how to listen to you.

And I get it. There’s more.

If you acknowledge that you do indeed have a larger capacity, then, not only do you confirm that you are an oddball, but then you have to prove it and live up to it. And that sounds overwhelming. Maybe even terrifying. (Not to prove that you are an oddball. But that you are gifted.)

Better to stay small, hidden, and under the radar than disappoint yourself and everyone else with your catastrophic failures.

But here’s the thing.

You have to understand and accept who the heck you are. That is the bottom line. That is the place where you begin to connect with the human race.

And you’ll just have to calm and reassure the part of you that feels judgmental or critical of others when you recognize your strengths. I know you want to be fair. To everyone.

But c’mon, sweetie pie.

Time to be fair to yourself.

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To my bloggEEs: There are many posts on finding friends, partners, and relating to coworkers on my blog, just in case you were wondering. And, of course, there is even more on relationships in my books! (What terrific holiday gifts for yourself, your teens, educators, therapists, clients, physicians, acupuncturists, and random strangers.)

How have you been challenged in relationships? Are you often in your overs? Where have you found friends and partners? How do you deal with coworkers? Thank you for commenting. As you know, you add so much to this blog! Love to you all.

(Note: Full disclosure. I am binge watching Sex and the City.)

 

 

 

 


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Living Your Authentic Life May Mean You Look Or Sound Or Feel A Little Weird

This photo will make sense when you read the post.

I know that authenticity is important to you. Truth. Clarity. Open-heartedness. Depth. Beauty. Integrity. Knowing who you are. Living the life you were born to live.

But how do you manage to be authentic when your natural intensity overwhelms others? When you are told to slow down and stop asking so many questions. When no one you know really cares about the holographic universe or the film Fantastic Fungi. When your family denies that there is an alcoholic in their midst. When your listeners get lost in your detailed nonlinear multi-layered explanations; your exciting expeditions down the never-ending supply of rabbit holes. When your imaginative ideas are seen as bordering on the bizarre. When your sensitivities are seen as annoying weirdnesses. When overly-needy people are clamoring for your empathy. When you are driven to find your purpose.

Is it possible to have a rainforest mind and be authentic at the same time?

You betcha.

And, yet.

It is a process. It takes strategizing. It takes expanding the definition. It takes risking failure and embarrassment. It takes finding your own self-understanding and accepting what it means to be gifted.

For example:

Strategizing: There will be times when you need to adapt your talking speed and content to your audience. If you want to communicate effectively, it will make sense to turn down your intensity. This does not mean you are being phony, condescending, manipulative, or insincere. Or that your intensity is wrong. It means that you want to communicate effectively. Of course, you will also need to be sure to find people who can keep up with you and who love your beautiful weirdnesses. But just know that strategizing is an authentic way to be seen and heard and possibly understood when you are with people who are not RFMs.

If there is dysfunction in your family of origin, strategizing might mean that you learn how to set healthy boundaries with toxic family members. How much do you share? Where do you set limits? When do you walk away? In this case, being authentic may mean being true to yourself.

Expanding the definition: See strategizing.

Risking failure and embarrassment: Some of the projects that you undertake as you explore your authenticity might be challenging in ways that you are not used to. You may need to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment and explore new horizons where you are not the smartest person in the room. You may have to lead, speak up, and step out onto an uncomfortable edge. You may have to take action where you are not guaranteed success. This will be particularly difficult if you are used to knowing all the answers and if you were praised since you were a little tyke for your smartness. Your identity may have been based on your early astonishing achievements so that now, a small mistake feels like a total failure. Becoming more authentic will require grappling with this and understanding the root and implications of both types of perfectionism. Give yourself time. This is a big deal.

Self-understanding and acceptance:

The journey to understand and express your authenticity can be long, complicated, fascinating, and at times, weird. It is not a clear cut proposition. It is a work in progress. You are a work in progress. Seeking authenticity, you will likely be letting go of old patterns and inaccurate beliefs. If you had to cope with family trauma or deep distress, much of your authenticity may have gone underground. You may need psychotherapy or another form of introspective work to find yourself. Even without early childhood family dysfunction, you may have had to hide your rainforest-y enthusiasm for all of those reasons I mentioned above. But there is no better time than now to be on this road.

So, why bother? What are the benefits of authenticity? Why not live an unexamined life? 

I don’t have to answer that because I know you. An unexamined life is not an option. Authenticity is a basic need of yours. You’ve seen the list?

Basic human (RFM) needs: Air, water, food, intellectual stimulation, authenticity. Oh, and love! (thank you cmd1122)

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(Note: For more on authenticity, check out this post for the great comments.)

To my bloggEEs: Speaking of living the life you are supposed to live, I have some news. Some of you may know that as part of my authenticity journey, I have been tapping into my spirituality through a kind of channeled singing. Well. A gifted musician friend recorded some of it and added music underneath. Here it is: Spirits of Your Rainforest Mind. This is me looking and sounding and feeling a little weird.

Let us know about your experiences with authenticity. Your comments make this blog so rich. And, tell us what my song conjures up for you. Thank you a million times for being here.


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Why Do Gifted Adults Often Deny They Are Gifted?

There are many reasons why you might not believe that you are gifted. Here is what Virginia has to say about it. Does she sound like you?

First of all, just so you know, I’m not gifted. I don’t even like the word. What does it mean? Is it fair to say that some people are gifted and some aren’t?

The truth is it never really did me any good to be labeled gifted when I was a kid. Yeah, they tested me for the gifted program in school but I just got bullied. And I spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting for other kids to catch up. Waiting for the teacher to teach something I didn’t know. Waiting to find a friend who could keep up with me. Who could understand me. I’m still waiting for that friend.

But I’m not gifted. I didn’t get great grades in school. I’m not a walking dictionary. I wasn’t the valedictorian. I even started failing classes in high school. There wasn’t enough time to think. Sure I got good test scores. But the tests were easy. Don’t gifted people get all A’s all the time? I didn’t always get A’s.

Really. I’m not gifted. I haven’t won the Nobel Prize. I haven’t won any prize. Well, there was the spelling bee in third grade. Does that count? I’m just a regular person. True, they called me a geek, nerd, showoff, and a know-it-all. But, geez, I don’t know it all. Far from it. I’d LOVE to know it all! But that’s impossible. I’d love to know it all. I want to learn everything about everything. I’ve got all of this unbridled enthusiasm about learning stuff. People find it very annoying, you know. Why can’t I just be satisfied with a good football game or with watching The Bachelor on TV?

But I know I’m not gifted. I worry all the time. Am I saying the right thing? Doing the right thing? I can’t sleep at night because there’s so much rumination. So many thoughts in so many different directions. I can’t turn off my brain. Surely, if I were smart, I’d be able to stop worrying and figure things out. I’d be able to meditate easily and find enlightenment, for heaven’s sake! But, no. There’s so much thinking. They called me an overthinker when I was five! And I’m still overthinking.

I’m not gifted. I can’t make decisions. There are always so many variables and variables within variables. I can’t even decide what color to paint the living room. I’ve painted it 12 times in the past 4 years and it still isn’t right. And, well, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m overwhelmed by the number of interests I have. I changed majors 4 times in college and took 7 years to graduate. Don’t gifted people know what they know? And take clear confident action? Aren’t they all prodigies and have a clear direction from the time they’re born? Well, that’s not me.

Look. I’m just not gifted. I tend to go from job to job. Still trying to find my path. I learn a job in about two years, or less, and then get bored and want to try something new. I have a resume that’s all over the place. Coworkers aren’t very fond of me, either. I get frustrated at meetings while I’m waiting for them to figure out what I told them at the beginning of the meeting or two months ago. I’m not patient or a good team player. Other people are so lazy or they don’t listen to me. I get irritated easily. Not very gifted, if you ask me.

I’m telling you, I’m not gifted. Anyway, it’s too much responsibility. I mean, if I were gifted, wouldn’t I have to change the world? Like Elon Musk, I’d have to build electric cars, send rockets to the international space station and run a solar electric company? All at the same time? I’m just a mom. Raising a kid who is still throwing tantrums and she’s eight years old. She’s so sensitive and so emotional. See, I’m a failing parent at that. Oh boy. I am so not gifted.

Really. Truly. I’m not gifted. I just have very high standards and expectations and think everyone ought to live up to them. No biggie. It’s important to keep raising that bar, don’t you think? How else will civilization evolve? Of course, I probably shouldn’t take an hour to write a 3 sentence email. Sure. That might be a teensy weensy excessive. But, still. Standards, morals, ethics, expectations. I can’t lower my standards.

I can tell you for sure that I’m not gifted. Professionals have told me so. And they should know, right? I’ve been diagnosed OCD, ADHD, and bipolar disordered. But no one has ever diagnosed me with gifted disorder. Wouldn’t my doctor and my shrink tell me if I had it?

I may be crazy but I’m not gifted. I go nuts when the lights are buzzing and no one else hears them. When the leaf blowers are blowing. When I smell someone rotting who needs a root canal. When I know someone who is depressed and faking it. I talk to trees and they talk back to me. Crazy, right? But really trees, rivers, birds. They’re the sane ones. They’re gifted.

OK. I know I may a little sound intense. People say I talk too fast. But I’m actually cranking back my intensity right now and I’m not talking as quickly as I’m thinking. Just so you know. But even though I’m not gifted, I may fit some of the characteristics of the rainforest mind. I can relate to that analogy. My brain does feel like a jungle. I’m complicated. Sensitive. Colorful. Maybe creative. Overwhelming for sure. Dense. Green. And I’ve definitely run into chainsaws in my life. People have clearly wanted me to be cut down and turned into something I’m not. That’s for certain. Sad but true. Not that I’m complaining. I’m grateful for this life and for what I’ve got. Very grateful.

It’s just that sometimes, those chain saws. Sometimes they’re just too much. And if I were gifted, which I’m not, but if I were, I’d want to send the gift back to the manufacturer, for a refund. Unwrap the gift and send it back.

Yeah. But I’m Not Gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: This was taken from my new book Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists. The book is a compilation of my most popular blog posts 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes suggestions for further exploration to guide you to greater self-acceptance, meaning, and purpose! It is a light-hearted look at rainforest-mindedness so it is a good gift book for teens, educators, friends, and therapists! (My first book is more in-depth via case studies, strategies, and resources. You can find out more here.)

Did you relate to this post? Do you deny that you’re gifted? Why? Why not? Your comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you for being here. As always, much love to you!


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The Woman Whose Hair Refused To Be Controlled — A Journaling Technique for Self-Discovery

Wearing a hat is a minimally effective tool for hair control

One of my favorite tools for self-acceptance and healing is my trusty journal.  I’ve used it for years. It’s how I figure out what’s going on when I’m depressed, anxious, lonely, or craving another hot fudge sundae. I gain insight, process emotion, and receive guidance. I’m going to share one technique with you here, including a sample entry from my journal from a few years ago. Thus the title of this post.

Here’s how it works: I write a story about me in the third person. I always title it The Woman Who…. based on what I’m grappling with at the time. I stay open to what might appear and I just start writing until I come to a conclusion that usually surprises me. I try to include humor and not take myself too seriously. Titles have included: The Woman Who Was a Mystery to Herself. The Woman Who Lived with a Bear. The Woman Who Couldn’t Stop Crying. The Woman Who was Afraid of a House.

You get the idea.

So, here’s an entry from around 2012. In the days before blogging, when my life was not as effervescent as it is now. (Please excuse the occasional expletive.)

The Woman Whose Hair Refused To Be Controlled

It was in her hair. The control. If she let her hair be free, all hell would break loose. If her hair was free, she couldn’t hide. She’d walk into a room and people would notice her. She’d walk into a room and people would see how unappealingly ethnic she looked. She’d walk into a room and people would be appalled at her bold, expressive, obnoxious, overexcitable hair. She’d walk into a room and people would ask her to be responsible for something.

And then what? Her safe, secure, smallish world might explode on her, shattering her melancholy somewhat uneventful life. And who knows what might emerge from there? Surely something large, loud, slimy and smelly. Which would be intolerable. At least her melancholy somewhat uneventful life was not large, loud, slimy and smelly. There was that.

And she liked control. She. Loved. It. Who doesn’t? Anyone who grows up in any sort of moderately to severely dysfunctional family craves the sweetness of control. Of being out from under the fuckedupedness. Into one’s own world. Creating one’s own path. Away from the neediness, the unspoken rage, the cold criticism. Even if one’s own path leads to fuckedupedness. It’s your very own fuckedupedness. And that was fine. She could live with that.

Almost. Except for the fact that her hair kept popping out of its containers. No matter the conditioners, the gels, the paraben-free shampoos. The clips. The braids. The hats. The avocado-banana-yogurt masks. Her hair could not be contained. It screeched LOOK AT ME at every turn. It cried I AM HERE. It yelped I’M A REBEL AND I’M PROUD.

Oh boy.

What to do? What to do?

Well, of course, there was the obvious. Cut it all off. I’m kidding. That was not an option. She could let it unravel and see what happened. It’s possible that she could still maintain a modicum of control even with her rude hair showing its true self. And, she had to admit that other people didn’t see it as obnoxious or overexcitable. They seemed to like it. They even wanted it for themselves.

Maybe it was time. She wasn’t getting any younger. What if she was seen? What if people noticed? What if she claimed that she was alive, rebellious and proud? What if her true self screeched, I AM HERE. Would that be so bad? What if she came to love her control AND her unruly hair. Maybe they could coexist.

Maybe she’d have MORE control if she let her hair go.  Would that be possible? Was she misguided all this time? Was there true control in no control? Was she getting a little too Buddhist here? Maybe saying YES to her hair, she was saying YES to life. Perhaps there was even room to expand, to grow, to evolve, from her melancholy somewhat uneventful life.

Perhaps her effervescent, expansive, evolving hair could lead the way.

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To my bloggEEs: What do you think? If you try this technique for yourself, let us know how it goes. Do you keep a journal? What works for you? And, by the way, if I were to design an online class for us, what might you want included? Thank you as always for being here. Sending you much unruly love.

(Note: If you’re reading my book, ahem, I’d so appreciate a review on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be long or perfect. Thank you!)

 


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Sensitivity Is Your Superpower

In times like these, you may wish that you had less sensitivity. Life as an empathetic soul is often overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into despair or anxiety. And because you are capable in multiple ways, relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants and animals may be clamoring for your assistance. 

You may be happy to help. It could be your calling to serve others . But you might feel inadequate because you aren’t the one dragging people out of burning buildings. You aren’t the one rushing into war zones to cover the atrocities.

And the clamoring may make you want to stay in bed. On your good days. On your bad days, it may make you want to pulverize the clamorers, if you know what I mean. ( Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean that you never feel drawn to pulverizing. I don’t recommend doing it. I’m just saying… )

You need to understand that your sensitivity is your strength. Being perceptive, empathetic, compassionate and intuitive are skills that the world needs. Desperately.

But because you’re a sensitive soul, there are some things that you need to know.

First: Just because you can sense someone’s pain, doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for fixing it.  Just because you can do something faster, better and more easily than other people, doesn’t mean that you have to do that something. Practice saying no. Think of it like this: There are many helpers out there. You’re giving someone else a chance to step up. You’re helping someone else learn. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities. I’m just suggesting that it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits. You’re very capable in many areas. It’s impossible and inappropriate for you to do everything you could possibly do. Exhausting yourself? Not recommended. Look for the times when you’re drawn to something because it’s energizing. Head in that direction.

Second: Get toxic people out of your life. They’ll get help elsewhere. You may be enabling them by letting them rely on you; and we all know that enabling is a no-no. And, by the way, the toxic people might include family members. In that case, get them out of your life, too. ( If that sounds harsh, it is. Most certainly, try therapy first and blunt discussions, if you’re so inclined. But for the truly toxic, you may need to say bye-bye.*) You’ll feel guilt. Try to let go of the guilt. Tell yourself that you’re healing the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. That your ancestors are benefitting. Because they are. ( Trust me on that one. ) Everyone benefits when you stand up for yourself.

Third: Self-care is your friend. You are not a wimp if you need to rest.

Finally: Appreciate your sensitivity. It makes you powerful. Your awareness and your capacity for compassion and loving is vast. And surely this planet, your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants, animals and even your politicians, need all of the love and compassion they can get.

Sensitivity is your superpower.

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* I know that in some cases you won’t be able to say good-bye to toxic family members. In those cases, do your best to set limits, protect yourself and get support.

To my dear bloggEEs: Tell us about your sensitivities. How do you protect yourself from the clamorers? Describe how you use your superpower. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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The Roots Of Unhealthy Perfectionism And What To Do About It

photo by Dylan Siebel, Unsplash

What if, from the time that you were 2 years old, you were told how smart you were. Over and over. Enthusiastically. By (well-meaning) parents and doting relatives. What if they praised you repeatedly for your many achievements and your perfect grades. What if you could tell that your parents needed you to be smart; that they felt better about themselves because you were so capable. What if you were so persuasive that they gave you too much control and not enough limits.

What if, when you arrived at elementary school, the work was too easy. You knew it before you were taught it. You learned things without really trying. What if you could get perfect scores on tests without studying and your scores were held up as an example for your fellow students. What if you were told by your teachers that you were the best student they’d ever had.

Do you think that you might grow up terrified of failure? Afraid to disappoint others? Hiding mistakes? Paralyzed by anxiety? Believing that if you aren’t a super achiever or the best at everything that you’re a failure? Thinking that all learning must be quick and easy or else it means that you’re not smart? You’re an impostor? A fake?

Do you think that you might grow up thinking that you should know everything before you learn it so that practicing or studying or effort feels boring or scary or unfamiliar? That you have to be mature and adult-like at all times? That you can’t tell anyone that you don’t know something because you have to know everything?

Well, my dears, this, yes this, may be the root of your unhealthy perfectionism. This may be the root of your (possibly unconscious) belief that you have to be super smart at all times or you’re worthless and unlovable. 

By the way, parents, relatives and educators aren’t conspiring against you. They don’t realize the effects of their reactions. Responses like these are very common. (In another post, I explain this more and suggest what parents can do.)

Understanding this root is the first step in changing its effects. 

So, now what?

This is not easy to change, especially if you’ve been living with these beliefs for a long time.

Know this: You are more than your grades, your achievements, your intellectual abilities. So much more. You are worthy of love, whether you write the perfect essay, win the competition, enter the elite school, get the high paying job, make the right decision, invent the iPhone or if you don’t achieve these things.

Somewhere deep inside yourself you know your worth. You know who you really are. So, here’s an idea:

Imagine that there’s a place in you that isn’t about achievement or accolades or winning or losing. This place is just about Love. Just Love. It’s radiant and joyful. Maybe it’s a very young child part of you. Maybe it’s an old wise part. Maybe it’s in your heart. Maybe it’s in your gut. But trust me. It’s there. Waiting for you to notice.

In a journal or in your mind, write to or picture this part of yourself. Take your time. You may be skeptical. You may need to meditate first or sit by your favorite tree. Write a letter to this Radiance. Ask it to show itself to you. Ask it for help. Then write or hear its response. It might come quickly or you might need to wait for a while. Start a relationship.

I’m betting that finding the Love will soften you up. It’ll remind you of what’s really true.

And of who you really are.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you struggle with unhealthy perfectionism? Tell us about it. What have you done that helps? We all appreciate hearing from you.

Note: There is a healthy form of perfectionism. You were born with it. I don’t know any rainforest minds who don’t have it. It’s your innate deep need for beauty, balance, harmony, precision and justice. It can create challenges for you but it’s not something you need to heal. I write about it here.

Another note: This will be extra hard or more complicated if you had chainsaw parents. If so, you might need therapy, too.

A final note: If you need more assistance, here’s a lovely book by Christina Baldwin.

A final final note: Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.


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It’s Never Too Late To Be Your Gifted Self — Part Two

Me. Still dancing the tango.

A 35-year-old client told me that she thought it was too late for her to find a fulfilling career and a meaningful life.

I tried to control my facial expression.

35.

I’m here to tell all of you 20-30-40-50-60-70-80+ somethings, that it’s never too late. Never. Too. Late.

I can say this because I’m 65. I started my counseling practice at 41. I began dancing the Argentine tango at 47. I started appreciating my mind-of-its-own free-range hair at 53. I discovered my sense of humor at 55. I created this blog at 62. My first book was published at 64.

And I’m not finished yet.

But, I’ll admit it. 65 sounds old to me. 65. Medicare. Social security. AARP.

I almost didn’t want to tell you.

But luckily, I’m in a profession (counseling / consulting) where you improve with age. You benefit from experience. You don’t have to move much.

And as a blogger and author, no one notices my post-menopausal moods or my creaking knees.

Granted, I’ve been lucky or blessed to be in excellent health. I attribute that to genetics, years of obsessive self-care, a child-free-so-much-less-stressful life and white middle class privilege.

My self-care includes psychotherapy, acupuncture, energy healing, naturopathy, sweet deep friendships, easy access to organic food, intermittent exercise, more psychotherapy, massage, singing, a spotty yet well-intentioned meditation practice, uncontrolled book buying, astrology, dancing, journaling, Netflix, rolfing, the Canadian Tenors, spiritual connections, avoiding toxic people and breathing. Oh, and hearing from you, my fabulous bloggEE fan club.

Of course, 65 is the new 55. So I’m really just middle-aged.

But here’s the thing. Many of you are just realizing that you have rainforest minds. And, with that realization and understanding, there will be new discoveries. New horizons. What confused you in the past, when you thought you were ADHD or OCD or bipolar or a freak or a slacker, will become clearer.

In the process, though, you may feel despair over all of the time lost, thinking that you were crazy. You may feel anger over all of the missed opportunities. You may grieve because you’re 35 and you think your life is over.

Fear not, my lovelies. You’re just getting started. It’ll only get better from here. There is still time. The planet needs your sensitivity, your intellect, your empathy, your optimism, your humor, your you-ness. No matter how old you are.

And, in case you’re wondering, you can’t become ungifted.

Thirty-five or sixty-five, it’s not too late.

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To my bloggEEs: Have I mentioned that I love you? Thank you so much for being here. Let us know if you’ve ever worried that it’s too late. Tell us your concerns about aging. And, for more posts about aging and the gifted from the wonderful people at Hoagiesgifted, click on the image. (And if you want to read part one of this post click here. Be sure to read the comments.)