Category Archives: Decision Making

Health Care in Tennessee

My somewhat sketchy notes on Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper’s question and answer session on Health Care. Cooper has impressive educational credentials that include Oxford and Harvard and he currently teaches part time at Vanderbilt. His Cell number: 615 714 1719.

Fifteen years ago, thanks to getting a yearly colonoscopy, he was successfully treated for colon cancer.  Not everyone can afford to have yearly wellness checkups.  Yet, the first of our constitutional rights is the right to life for all, not just the wealthy.
He says that in the U.S., Medical care is a business primarily for profit. We have more care, but not better care. Our healthcare ranks 37th in the world. As many as 30% of treatments prescribed are unnecessary. There’s a 15% chance of coming out of the hospital worse than you went in. We’ve lost 8 hospitals in TN, more than any state except Texas.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield controls 60 -70% of the health insurance market. This gives them the power to make a 69% rate increase unchallenged. They get a one billion dollar bail out automatically every year. Medical insurance has to be attached to local provider networks of hospitals and doctors, so we are limited to insurers within our states of residence.
In the past Republicans and Democrats would work together for the good of the people. No longer. Cooper is a Blue Dog Democrat…willing to work across party lines.
In Tennessee, the legislature only needs a simple majority to override the Governor. The infamous Jeremy Durham got a law passed that says the Governor can’t start legislation on medical care. Governor Haslam’s attempts to expand Medicaid have not been forceful or focused enough to overcome the legislature’s resistance. In the South there’s a strong prejudice that if you are poor, it’s your fault.
An excellent book on Health Care in the U.S. ,that he uses in his classes at Vanderbilt, is “Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We know about Healthcare is Wrong” by David Goldbill. (I ordered a used paperback on Amazon for $8.07 including mailing.)
Jim Cooper has a website where you can sign up for email newsletters: http://www.cooper.house.gov with updated information about issues that impact Middle Tennesseans.
Most effective means of contacting legislators is old fashioned snail mail letters with a logical presentation of your opinion (not based on misinformation from face book). He says that Tennessee’s Republicans in the U.S. Congress, Alexander and Corker, are reasonable moderates, which makes it definitely worth writing them sensible non-acrimonious letters.
But he says to make your opinions known to all of your elected officials whether by email, phone calls, faxes, post cards, or a snail mail letter. Check the website http://www.tn.gov for information on how to contact our state legislators and for information on bills currently in committee or coming up for votes.  For U.S. Congressional information check usa.gov/elected-officials .

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Different Gifts Make for Different Politics

One of the problems with education, besides economic ghettos, is not recognizing differences in personalities. Any one with several children knows they were different at birth. Most teachers of primary grades catch on eventually that no one system of teaching basics will work for all  children.
Personality differences include learning style differences, value differences,  actually even what we see, so also how we react to it. It’s complex. I only wish I had known more about these differences when I taught first and second grade. (See blog post: Important Things I Learned from First Graders When I Was Forty.)
Most intuitive thinkers question the status quo, see connections between differing things, explore new possibilities, are idealistic, and though some travel or do something else for a while, most will go to college. They also tend to end up living in the large cities. Concrete thinkers are more hands on, learn from their parents and practical experience, accept what is and tend to prefer small communities. We actually need to challenge all types fairly early to value skills opposite to their natural way of being in the world. The intuitive idealists often don’t recognize the practical costs of their dreams enough to develop either their own practical problem solving skills or preferably learn to appreciate and work with those whose minds work differently. And of course, vice versa. We need to affirm and enable problem solvers, but also early on involve them in problem solving ways to work toward ideals. Change is not always better, but many things can be changed for the better slowly while taking into account the immediate practical side effects for all. As long as many are looking only at the ideal possibilities and the others not only feel more secure with the familiar, but see only the problems involved in any great change, we will continue to be pretty much totally divided. Another difference is some of the population tends to live in the past, some in the present moment without much awareness of long term consequences, and others focus on the long view of the future.  Do you see why we have such different views?

The biggest problem is the solution isn’t either/or. It requires valuing each others’ gifts and working together. Unfortunately, that takes letting go of some of our most cherished prejudices and admitting that no one has answers that will work for all, unless we work together.

God’s Terrible Taste

I had a somewhat amusing, slightly terrifying thought this morning. God loves both Trump and Hillary equally and unconditionally. God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are. I’ve always said God has terrible taste, because God loves everyone. God loves sinners and saints, the smart and the stupid, the kind and the cruel, the sane and the insane, the crook and the law-abiding. Boy! That means if God has His/Her way, heaven is going to be as diverse as earth. I guess I better start forgiving a lot of people, so I can fit in with all of the above. I find I can forgive people if I can picture them as a child with a childhood that was unbalanced between love and the reality of there being consequences of our choices. Often, too much love and no consequences has pretty much the same effect as too little love and unrealistic expectations. Both are impossible to outgrow without the grace of recognizing both God’s love and the consequences of our choices. The present friendship and cooperation between Bill Clinton and the Bushes show how the responsibilities of the office of President obviously challenge Presidents to outgrow their limited viewpoint. So, regardless of whom you vote for, pray for both of them to experience God’s love and be freed to become the person God created them to be, whether they are in or out of political office.

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Controlling Conditioned Responses

Okay, This probably will be an equal opportunity offender, but sometimes you just have to tell it like it is!

When my co-feminists have said things like, “Men’s brains are in their genitals,” I took offense for men. This was certainly a sexist statement. But recently, I have begun to rethink this issue.

As a little old lady, I’ve made an interesting discovery relating to the differences between conditioned responses and mind over body controls. Little old ladies have little old bladders with diminished early warning systems. So it’s sort of touch and go, or rather see and go, to make it not only into the bathroom, but specifically to the commode. I have discovered that we can maintain control by giving our bladder verbal commands and encouragement. Seeing the commode evokes a primal level conditioned physical response. But language is a higher human ability and engages our minds to respond to the challenge. While it is a matter of mind over body, it seems to require at least mental verbal expression.

Perhaps counting or doing math problems would work. I haven’t tried those. I know that our male counterparts can at least slow down other conditioned physical responses in similar ways. So, I’m assuming, that at least when reasonably sober, they should be able to engage their minds by counting possible negative consequences when their bodies react with a conditioned response to physical temptation.

I think I’ll begin testing this theory at the sight of jelly doughnuts.

You Are Loved, But You Can Bet Your Sweet Bippy, Bad Choices Still Have Bad Consequences

Just because God loves you, doesn’t mean that whatever God is won’t let you suffer the consequences of bad choices. And I would put money on the reality that God is not a Wizard of Oz with a carrot and a stick. Consequences to choices are simply built in. And, if you keep on ignoring consequences, you can bet your sweet bippy, they will become worse until you learn. Life is about learning to love. And love may not mean having to say you’re sorry, but it sure means you better be sorry enough to change, when your actions hurt others. And unfair as it may seem if you are now, were, or ever will be parents…..the way you treat other people will come back to bite you even through and on your children and your children’s children. I have seen this and suffered it.  It’s a law of nature. It’s built into the system. It’s Universal. Smart/Inspired Hebrews figured that out and tried to pass that information on down. Unfortunately, we are too soon old and too late smart.  Even though genes may in some way be related to patterns of behavior, that is not a “get out of consequences free” card. It simply means most of us have either inherited or chosen new ways to try to escape the normal pain of living, instead of going through it and learning from it. This is addiction! And it has to be overcome. The sooner the better, because addictions quickly acquire their own pain on top of what we used them to dull temporarily. This is the core course in the school of life. Learn it or weep, cause nobody’s sure there’s a do over.

Listen for the Whisper

Recently I heard a sermon about the great awakenings in Christianity through the ages. It seems obvious that we need a great awakening right now.
But great awakenings don’t just happen. They begin inside each of us.
They happen when we, the people of God, start taking God more seriously than our success, our health, our love life, our bank accounts, our image, or even our children’s soccer games.
They happen when we fear missing God’s call so much that we pray each day like we are beating on heaven’s door, crying and clinging to God like hungry children.
They happen when we read the Scriptures like they are daily emails from God to us personally.
They happen when we begin to hear God speaking to us through everything, even the suffering and heartbreaks in our lives.
They happen when we live like we might die today and would have to look Jesus in the eyes and see his broken heart because we missed the point of both His life and our own.
I wrote a poem , The Whisper, several years ago and today this devotional reading by Max Lucado brought it to mind: “Your last chapter can be your best. Your final song can be your greatest. It could be that all your life has prepared you for a grand exit.”
The Whisper
I hear my name whispered
in the new day’s softness.
I hide in the shadows,
perhaps it was birdsong.
I hear it carried on the wind
much clearer now.
But, I’m old and tired,
I pretend not to hear.
I have a longing in my heart,
a hunger in my mind.
But, I’ve tried and failed so often,
I cling to where I am.
I glimpse a narrow path
winding in the mists.
Abram and Sarah
are there beckoning.
But still I hesitate,
too afraid to follow.
Finally, I see a face
with eyes that see
into my soul,
a smile so warm
it melts my frozen heart,
a hand that reaches out
to grasp my own.
Jesus calls my name.
Here I am, Lord.

The Scripture Luke 9: 57 – 62 tells of Jesus warning to those that say they want to follow him:.
57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Whatever your age, whatever your situation, whatever your fears; listen closely, you’ll hear the Lord call your name.

Adolescent Sex Is as Addictive as Crack Cocaine

Adolescent sex is as addictive as meth, crack cocaine, alcohol, or nicotine. Once teens start having sex it’s like two right handed children playing left handed catch with a live hand grenade. I was a “wait ‘til you marry” person, not because I was a “goodie two shoes,” but because I was a devout coward. In my day there were immediate unpleasant consequences for getting pregnant outside marriage And we weren’t surrounded by people selling sex as the only reason for living.                                                                                                                         But today’s world is simply saturated with sex in almost every ad, book, movie, and on line site. The culture no longer supports abstinence or even monogamy. No matter how good, articulate, loving, and supportive we are as parents……it is like sending our children into war with water guns. Kids have way too much freedom at very young ages, both the opportunities and stress of unchaperoned situations, and less immediate consequences than older generations had. And like all adolescents they live in the moment, oblivious to any life long consequences. Or they are like most of us are about death, not believing pregnancy or disease will happen to them.
Short of locking them up from 12 to 21, I have no simple solutions. I believe and talk about a loving forgiving God, but what I probably never stress enough is that neither love nor forgiveness protects us from the consequences of our bad choices. Without obvious consequences we will just keep making them. That’s not what a loving God wants or allows for us.
In our teens most of us aren’t yet sure who we are or if who we are will turn out to be sufficient in this world. Sex isn’t just amazing pleasure, it makes us feel like a hero or princess…..we are #1 with someone. We are not alone anymore as we do the work of separating who we are from who our parents are.
We don’t realize that need is not love and that infatuation doesn’t last. Learning to love takes years of learning to make unselfish choices. When we make our lives incredibly harder by creating another life that we aren’t yet equipped to nurture, finance, and protect by putting their many needs before our wants, our infatuation seldom has a chance to become love. The overload of challenges may well freeze us in our immaturity and lock us into remaining overwhelmed immature children making bad choices for much of our lives. So many lives are stunted from choices made in the teen years.
And for most youth the danger of disease has no more personal reality than death.   No matter what medicines are available, the consequences of STD’s and even the side effects of medicines for them can permanently diminish the joy of sex and complicate relationships. Today even many adults assume there’s a medicine for everything. But the reality is that as soon as we find a cure for one disease, another disease appears.  The sad reality is that often the victims are youth who plan to abstain from sex until old enough to make a life commitment, but are overwhelmed by cultural circumstances.
Many people of all ages assume a fetus is not a person and if we are the type of person who doesn’t naturally consider possibilities, we may not worry much about emotional repercussions from having an abortion. But in my 78 years of life, I have witnessed the changes in personality traits that people experience as they enter different stages of life. I am convinced that even those that do not feel guilt, worry, sadness or even curiosity about their unborn child at the time of making the choice for abortion, will eventually have to deal with those.
I think society has pretty much obliterated fear of hell. What no one warns is that bad choices can turn our life here into a hell,.
Parents, tell it like it is. They may not hear you, but at least you will have tried.

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Glimpses of God’s Footprints from the Wine Press :)

I grew up living in apartments in large cities. From eight years of age until thirteen, I actually lived on the seventh floor of a ten story apartment building near downtown St. Louis. After I met and married a Tennessee boy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, we moved to Nashville where his parents had both a downtown apartment and a large weekend country house in a neighboring rural county.

As our own family grew, we spent more and more weekends at Birdsong, their lovely hundred year old log house that now had all the modern conveniences, but still radiated the warmth and charm of a by-gone era. It was on a two hundred acre rural setting of both woods and fields with a river sized creek complete with waterfall and swimming hole. It also had fields of peonies, horses and barns, a pond, a replica of Fort Nashborough built for the grandchildren to play in and a historic ruin of a real civil war powder mill.

At first I followed my mother-in-law on excursions into the woods to look for Jack-in-the Pulpit and tiny delicate wild Iris with a city dweller’s fear and trepidation. “Snakes and ticks and poison ivy, oh my!” But after my awakening to the reality of God, I began to fall in love with His creation from its obvious glories to its fascinating hidden world of tiny treasures.

When I was expecting my fifth child by Caesarian section along with a scheduled hysterectomy, my in-laws decided to sell Birdsong. They offered to trade us the main house, barn, the tenant house, pond and the thirty- five acres of creek front woods and fields in exchange for whatever we could make from selling our house. Not only did I covet Birdsong, but this was an incredibly good financial trade for us. Our house was a pleasant traditional two story, four bedroom house in walking distance of an excellent public school, but Birdsong was twice its size, historic, beautiful and unique in a wonderful thirty-five acre setting on a creek. There was even a tenant house that we had been remodeling. After prayer and discussion, my husband and I decided this was the chance of a lifetime and we put our house on the market a month before Thanksgiving when our baby was due.

While I was in the hospital recuperating from my C-section and hysterectomy, our house sold with the agreement that the buyer could have possession by January 1st. To say the least, the move was a daunting prospect at Christmas time in my post-operative condition with a new baby and four other children under ten. But, it seemed like a miracle to sell so quickly for the price we were asking. Besides, I wanted Birdsong more than I had ever wanted anything. To top it off, my husband’s oldest brother had hired a baby nurse to stay with us for the first two weeks I was home. This was a perfect baby gift that would help us considerably. The move just seemed meant to be.

Unfortunately, shortly after we got home from the hospital, we discovered that our baby, who was miserably unhappy both night and day, needed surgery for a painful strangulated hernia. Our wonderful baby nurse and I prayed together for healing for him. But instead, at the hospital the night before his surgery, an intern discovered that our baby also had a heart valve defect. It was obviously his first examination of a baby boy, since he didn’t think to protect his new Christmas tie from a tiny fountain of pee. Shaken by his discovery, but hoping his lack of experience had allowed him to be misled, I called my pediatrician, who managed to get there in fifteen minutes.  After emergency tests, the surgeon and our pediatrician agreed that the heart defect didn’t appear life threatening and since it was the type that sometimes closed naturally, they went ahead with just the hernia surgery. It was a scary, stressful time of tears and exhaustion, but with many people joined in prayer for Tommy.  After the unscheduled surgery there was only room for us in a four patient room.  The spoiled princess part of me was distressed over having to be in a room with three other mothers and their crying babies, all of us sleeping on cots literally under our babies in their high metal cribs. But, I had hardly had any sleep since my surgeries, so when Tommy awoke  hungry the first time in the wee hours after his surgery, I didn’t even wake up when he cried. The kindness of strangers touched me deeply, when I finally woke and discovered that the other mothers had fed him, so I could sleep. It was a humbling glimpse of how false my priorities were.

The day we brought him home from his surgery, my in-laws came to visit and announced apologetically that they had accepted an offer for Birdsong, including the whole two hundred acres and all the smaller buildings . I was devastated.  My heart felt literally broken and I gradually recognized that coveting really is different from just wishing for something. Eventually,  I  accepted that God was trying to set me free.

But ending up two weeks before Christmas having no where to go after the following week was pretty much of a  shock. At that day and time there were no condos or apartments in our neighborhood. Checking the papers and calling local realtors turned up nothing to rent while we tried to figure out what we wanted to do. I didn’t want the children to change schools mid-year, in case we decided to make the change to living in the country somewhere else than Birdsong.  Available houses were as scarce in our school zone as apartments. After I had called the last realtor, I sat on the couch with tears flowing down my cheeks. The kind baby nurse, an older black woman with seven grown children, sat down beside me and put her arm around my shoulders.
“What do you need exactly?” she asked.
I thought about not being able to drive or climb stairs for over four more weeks and answered, “A five bedroom, one story house in walking distance to our school to rent for nine months. That will give us time to decide where we want to live without our children having to change schools.”
She responded immediately with a smile, “All right, we’ll pray for exactly that and a can of oil.”
“A c c can of oil?” I stuttered.
“Yes,” she said, “We have to take the baby back to the doctor’s tomorrow and I’m not comfortable driving your car and mine needs a can of oil.”

I tried not to look incredulous, as she began to pray very specifically. When she finished and we said, “Amen” together, she smiled cheerfully and went to get me a cup of coffee. As I sat there stunned, the doorbell rang. It was Sarah, a woman that I knew from the school’s Parent Association.
“Eileen,” she said,” I’m sorry to bother you. I hope I didn’t wake up the baby, but my car gets eccentric sometimes and it has stopped at the end of your driveway. Can I use your phone to get my mechanic to come?”
“Sure,” I replied, “If you’ll ask him to bring a can of oil.” After making her phone call, she joined me for coffee while we waited for the mechanic and the can of oil.
“I hear you’ve sold your house and are moving to the country,” she said.
“Well, yes and no. The move to the country fell through and I’m in something of a panic. I don’t want the children to have to change schools until we figure out where we want to live. And right now there is nothing available to rent around here.”
Sarah’s eyes lit up as she asked, “Do you know about the Keck’s house?”
“No, where is that?” I responded.
“It’s one street over and two houses down from you. You can see the back yard from here. They are going to the Philippines as missionaries for nine months. They are supposed to leave the first of January, if they can find a renter. They aren’t advertising, because they will be leaving their furniture and possessions and don’t want to rent to complete strangers.”
Breathless with my heart racing, I asked, “What is the house like?”
“It’s a one story with four bedrooms and a study, and a large den. It also has a wonderful yard and patio.”
I actually gasped in disbelief. “That would work perfectly for us and we have a large basement storage area at our office where we could easily store their things. That would probably be safer for their belongings and happier for our kids.”

It turned out that we had many mutual friends with the Kecks, so they were happy to rent to us. Dr. Keck taught theology at Vanderbilt and had a library of books that I read hungrily in the months we lived there.

So, three weeks later we moved a block away and after several months of looking for land in the country, we bought our own ‘hundred acre wood’ with a creek and hundreds of tiny wild Iris all along the banks. That fall, we moved into a marvelous house my husband had designed very specifically for us and in a county with a much better school system than where Birdsong was. Eventually, my husband started his own business here in this county where we still live and work forty-four years later.
One of the best parts of this memory is the woman who prayed with me. She had raised seven children in serious poverty and mostly by herself, due to her husband’s dependence on alcohol. To her, I must have seemed like a spoiled affluent weakling, yet she cared about my problems and believed God would help me just as He had her when she needed it.

An important addendum involves forgiveness.  My in-laws had made an exceptionally generous offer, but were oblivious to the challenges their change of plans presented for us and I was not feeling very kindly toward them.  I still couldn’t drive and our baby and I were both still recuperating.  Christmas expenses and moving were draining our resources and as temperatures dropped along with my size, I needed a winter coat.  As I worked on how to solve this, my mother-in-law appeared at our door.  She came in obviously in a hurry handing me a shopping bag, saying, “I was in Dillatd’s buying underwear and saw this coat. You  may not like it or need it, so you don’t have to keep it, but something  just told me to buy this for you.”   And there was the most beautiful coat I had ever seen.  It was a perfect fit. She brushed away my thanks and hurried on to an appointment.

As I prayed for grace to forgive, I thought,   If she can hear God in this, maybe God has a reason for all of it.   And I was able to shift perspective, let go of coveting and start looking forward again, seeking God’s will without assuming I knew what His plan for us was.

Time has made it clear that we were meant to start a totally different life in a house my architect husband designed specifically for us in a county with a better school situation.  A few years later another crisis of circumstances led to starting an architecture firm in our new area which has been once again a challenging, but grace filled, serendipity.

Sometimes, it seems to me, there are values that we accept when we tell the creative force behind all things that we want to be aligned with its highest purpose, then we become part of the flow with complex circumstances uniting to accomplish this in our lives.  And the pattern is like a tapestry that we are part of, seeing only the crisscrossing mish-mosh of threads from our perspective, while a glorious work of art is emerging from a universal, eternal perspective.

(However, on a feeling level, it often feels like being grapes in a wine press! 🙂  )

 

 

 

 

 

From Monkeys to Jesus: Has Humanity Made the Leap from Monkey Yet?

I read about a Psychology 101 behavior experiment today that raises some interesting questions.

You start with a cage containing four monkeys, and inside the cage you hang a banana on a string, and then you place a set of stairs under the banana.
Before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.
You then spray ALL the monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey makes an attempt. As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray ALL the monkeys with cold water.

Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, ALL of the other monkeys beat the crap out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original four monkeys, replacing it with a new monkey. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment – with enthusiasm — because he is now part of the “team.”

Then, replace a third original monkey with a new monkey, followed by the fourth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana.
Why, you ask? Because in their minds, that is the way it has always been!

My thoughts on this.
Unfortunately this is true of many, if not most, of us human beings. We don’t seem to have made the leap from monkeys.

This is why I so admire the human aspect of Jesus. He responded to the challenge to outgrow his prejudices and even his convictions about the limits of his ministry. It was painful (we see him weep as he has to accept that the people he loved and thought he could save from their blindness reject him).  Over and over we see him change and grow beyond both the limits and misunderstandings of his traditional religion, beyond his own followers, his era and even beyond his own previous assumptions. Often the challenges to His traditional religious attitudes and limits come from disreputable sources: women, gentiles, Samaritans, the military of the hated conqueror, sinners,  and the sick.

That kind of openness is pure grace! And that’s what it takes to become fully human.

A cartoon on Facebook along with my recent immersion in the history of the Cathars while traveling in South Western France resonated powerfully for me along with the story of animal behavior.

The cartoon showed a Knight riding a horse and holding a flag with a cross emblazoned on it while leading long lines of armed soldiers.  One of the soldiers says to the man next to him, ” I hear it’s because we’re right and they’re wrong.”

The Cathars were people who began to question some of the priorities and beliefs within the Christian Church of the 13th century. After failed attempts to convince them of the error or their ways, Pope Innocent III with the support of the armies of the King of France mounted a crusade aimed at completely eliminating the Cathars. It took many battles and involved burning down cathedrals while the Cathars seeking sanctuary were inside them and burning thousands of others at the stake. Some pious Catholics attempted to save their Cathar neighbors and friends and were ruthlessly wiped out along with them.

Who do you think were Christ like in this scenario?