The Two Towers: Journey to the Cross-Roads & The Stairs of Cirith Ungol (Week 10)

 

In the morning, Frodo and Sam prepare to leave Faramir’s company, following Gollum toward the Cross-Roads and the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. As they leave, Faramir gifts them with walking sticks and food, bidding them “go with the good will of all men!”

Frodo remarks to Faramir, “It  was  said  to  me  by  Elrond  Halfelven  that  I should  find  friendship  upon  the  way,  secret  and unlooked for. Certainly I  looked for no such friendship  as  you  have  shown.  To  have  found  it  turns  evil to  great  good.”

From there, they journey for days into sickening darkness towards the Cross-Roads. Gollum urges them to make haste, saying, “We’re not in decent places. Time’s running short, yes, running fast. No time to lose. We must go.”

At last, they draw near to the Cross-Roads where Frodo is filled with dread. However, despite all fear, the hobbits experience a few glimmers of hope amidst the darkness. The setting of the sun reveals to them a head of carven stone, toppled from a statue of a king. Upon its head, “a trailing plant with flowers like small white stars had bound itself across the brows as if in reverence for the fallen king.”

“The  king  has  got  a  crown  again… They  cannot  conquer  for  ever!”  - Frodo

Together, they near the base of the stair where they are horrified to see the city of Ringwraiths, Minas Morgul. They watch as a great army marches from the gates, and Frodo finds his hand moving toward the ring against his will. They are deadly tired, but begin to climb the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.  

As they come to a place of rest, they begin to wonder about what sort of tale they’ve fallen into, thinking back to the tale of Beren and Luthien.

“Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on.
Don’t the great tales never end?’
‘No, they never end as tales,’ said Frodo.
‘But the people in them come, and go when
their part’s ended. Our part will end later—or sooner.’”

 

In the last moments of this chapter, we encounter a glimpse of the humanity of Smeagol. Perhaps his last. “For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, and old starved pitiable thing.”

The Two Towers: The Black Gate is Closed & Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit (Week 8)

The Two Towers: The Black Gate is Closed & Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit (Week 8)

As Gollum guides Frodo and Sam to the Black Gate of Mordor, Frodo agonizes over what path to take from there. He is determined to carry on his quest and can see no other option than to march up to the Black Gate itself, yet he knows this is hopeless. At this moment, Gollum reveals a more dangerous, secret path that could lead them into Mordor. Frodo agrees to follow him, warning him of his promise to the Precious...

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The Two Towers, Book IV: The Taming of Smeagol & The Passage of the Marshes (Week 7)

The Two Towers, Book IV: The Taming of Smeagol & The Passage of the Marshes (Week 7)

After leaving the broken Fellowship, Frodo and Sam scramble towards Mordor, where the come face-to-face with Gollum for the first time. Instead of attacking or hiding, they approach him and take him as their guide. Gollum leads them through the Dead Marshes, toward the Black Gate of Mordor. 

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The Two Towers: The Palantir & A Recap of Book III (Week 6)

Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from The Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! We're currently reading through The Two Towers, the second part of The Lord of the Rings. Want to journal through The Two Towers with us? Grab your journal here! 

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The Turn of the Tide

This summary is an excerpt taken from our Two Towers companion journal.  Grab yours here! 

Book Three of The Lord of the Rings brings about many changes for the members of the broken Fellowship. Boromir confesses that he tried to take the Ring from Frodo and defends the hobbits against the Orcs, costing him his life. Frodo and Sam escape but Pippin and Merry are captured by Orc soldiers. After being held captive for days, Pippin and Merry escape into Fangorn Forest and are brought to safety by Treebeard.  In their search, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are met by an unexpected friend: Gandalf the White, risen from the dead. They journey to Rohan where Gandalf frees King Théoden from the influence of Saruman through Wormtongue, and they ride to battle at Helm’s Deep.

After battle and unexpected victory, Théoden journeys with Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to Isengard. There, the men are surprised to see Pippin and Merry sitting at the gate! They come to learn that Treebeard has ‘taken over management of Isengard’ and Saruman is being held prisoner in Orthanc.

Gandalf offers counsel and mercy to Saruman. However, his efforts are fruitless and Gandalf is forced to assert his authority over Saruman — breaking his staff and leaving him safe but powerless in Orthanc. As they are speaking with Saruman, Wormtongue throws a mysterious stone down towards Gandalf. He quickly wraps it in his cloak, but not before Pippin takes notice of it.

Overwhelmed with curiosity, Pippin takes the stone (which is revealed to be one of the Palantíri) while Gandalf is sleeping. As Pippin looks into it, he suddenly finds himself in the presence of Sauron who now believes he is the bearer of the Ring.  Soon, one of the Nazgûl is seen flying above them, and Gandalf quickly rides with Pippin towards Minas Tirith.

Important Quotes

"Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!" - Aragorn to Boromir as he lay dying

"Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern then, as much as in the Golden Wood as in his own house." - Aragorn, Chapter Two: The Riders of Rohan

'Do not be hasty, that is my motto." - Treebeard

"For behold! The storm comes, and now all friends should gather together, lest each singly be destroyed." - Gandalf to Theoden, Chapter Six: King of the Golden Hall

"None knows what the new day shall bring him." - Aragorn, Chapter Seven: Helm's Deep

"I do not wish for mastery." - Gandalf, Chapter Ten: The Voice of Saruman

"Often does hatred hurt itself!" - Gandalf, Chapter Ten: The Voice of Saruman

“But at this time we have been strangely fortunate.
Maybe, I have been saved by this hobbit from a grave blunder.”
Gandalf

bOOK cLUB mUSINGS

  • Reflect on some of the major themes from Book III: discernment, vigilance, control versus cooperation (seen in the differences between Saruman and Gandalf), the power of nature over the machine... Which stood out to you as most important or influential? What other themes would you add to this list? 
  • Which characters did you identify most with throughout this book? 
  • In what ways can you seek to grow in 'hobbitness and holiness' inspired by these chapters? 

What would you add to this discussion? 

Artist Spotlight


Want to dig deeper into these chapters?
Order your Two Towers companion journal here! 

The Two Towers: Flotsam and Jetsam & The Voice of Saruman (Week 5)

The Two Towers: Flotsam and Jetsam & The Voice of Saruman (Week 5)

The majority of this week's first chapter, Flotsam and Jetsam, is spent amongst old friends as they eat, drink, smoke, and recount their stories to one another.  Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli stay behind with Merry and Pippin as the others leave to consult with Treebeard. As the chapter comes to an end, all are feeling refreshed and nourished for the journey ahead... 

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The Two Towers: Helm's Deep & The Road to Isengard (Week 4)

The Two Towers: Helm's Deep & The Road to Isengard (Week 4)

The Riders of Rohan journey to Helm’s Deep in anticipation of battle. On the way, Gandalf urges Théoden to continue on to Helm’s Deep but that he must leave them for a while. As the battle begins, they become surrounded by a vast sea of Orc soldiers and victory seems hopeless. In a desperate last defense, Théoden rides forth into battle. Suddenly, they are greatly relieved to see Gandalf appear on the horizon leading more men to their aid in battle. With Gandalf’s arrival, the battle is quickly won...

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The Two Towers: The White Rider & The King of the Golden Hall (Week 3)

The Two Towers: The White Rider & The King of the Golden Hall (Week 3)

In this week's chapters, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are surprised to be met by Gandalf in the midst of Fangorn Forest. He is arisen, with a new authority and strength. With him, they journey to Rohan to meet with King Theoden. When they arrive, they are unwelcome and uneasy, finding Rohan much different than before. Theoden has lived long under the spells of Saruman through Wormtongue and upon realizing this, Gandalf quickly uses his strength to free him...

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The Two Towers: The Uruk-hai & Treebeard (Book Club Musings, Wk. 2)

Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from The Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! We're currently reading through The Two Towers, the second part of The Lord of the Rings. 

The Uruk-hai & Treebeard

In these two chapters, we are reconnected with Merry and Pippin as they are being carried toward Isengard by the Orcs. While Pippin feels hopeless, he manages to drop his Elven brooch in a last effort to leave it as a sign to anyone who might be trying to rescue them. 

As the Orcs become distracted by battle, Merry and Pippin manage to escape -- only to find themselves lost in Fangorn Forest. There, they are met by Treebeard, an ent, and are taken into his care. He tells them about Saruman, and of the history of the forests, and he carries them along with him through the forest. After much discernment between the ents, they decide to march on Isengard. 

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Book Club Musings

  • Do you ever feel hopeless or useless like Pippin did in the midst of the Uruk-hai? Reflect on these times and remember that you were created with a unique purpose and value...
  • Similarly, do you notice when people in your life drop hints in their despair (as Pippin did with his brooch)? How observant are you of your friends and family? Do you notice when they are crying out in hopelessness? What can you learn from Aragorn's vigilance in pursuit of his friends?
  • This description of Saruman stood out to me: "He has a mind of metal and wheels". Saruman seeks domination instead of cooperation or co-existence. Do you ever find yourself leaning towards a Saruman-like state of mind? 
  • My favorite quote from these chapters is from Treebeard: "Do not be hasty, that is my motto." How can you apply this mindset to your life?

What more would you add to the discussion? Leave it in the comments below or join our Facebook group to participate more!  

The Two Towers: The Departure of Boromir & The Riders of Rohan (Book Club, Wk. 1)

Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from the Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! 

Today, we're beginning The Two Towers, starting with chapters one and two: The Departure of Boromir and The Riders of Rohan.

These first two chapters, marking the beginning of the third book of The Lord of the Rings, follow Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli as they discern their path after the breaking of the fellowship. 

After hearing the desperate call of Boromir's horn, Aragorn rushes to his aid to find he has been pierced with many arrows and is dying. Boromir confesses that he tried to take the Ring from Frodo and as atonement, he has defended the hobbits against the Orcs soldiers. Although he fought valiantly, he was unable to overcome against their strength and number, and the hobbits have been taken captive by the Orcs. Aragorn reassures him, "You have conquered. Few have gained such a victory. Be at peace! Minas Tirith shall not fall!" After this, Boromir breathes his last and Aragorn weeps bitterly for the loss of his friend.

Together, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas discern that Frodo and Sam have gone by boat towards Mordor and that it is Merry and Pippin that have been taken captive by the orcs. At last, Aragorn decides to pursue Merry and Pippin, and they begin to run following the tracks of the orcs. 

"I would have guided Frodo to Mordor and gone with him to the end; but if I seek him now in the wilderness, I must abandon the captives to torment and death... Yet that we remain cannot forsake our companions while we have strength left. Come! We will go now..." - Aragorn

Their journey leads them into the land of Rohan, where they are met by Eomer, the Third Marshal of Riddermark. He tells them that they overcame a company of orcs and killed them all, offering little hope in their search for the hobbits. Aided with horses and guidance from the men of Rohan, the members of the broken fellowship enter Fangorn Forest in search of the hobbits. 

Still need one of our two towers journals? grab one from the tea with tolkien shop here! 

Still need one of our two towers journals? grab one from the tea with tolkien shop here! 

Book Club Musings

  • As always, what was your favorite scene, passage, or quote from these chapters? Why did it stand out to you? 
  • Boromir's confession to Aragorn brings great peace to both Boromir and Aragorn. Take heart from their examples and make amends with those around you. Is there anyone in your life who needs your forgiveness? Similarly, do you need to ask anyone for forgiveness for yourself? Reflect on the mention of Boromir's last act in his life: to smile after the comforting words of Aragorn.
  • Boromir seemed to bear the weight of the world when he begged Aragorn, "Go to Minas Tirith and save my people! I have failed." This sense of responsibility comes, in a way, from his pride. He has convinced himself that the fate of the world rests on his own shoulders, when in fact there are many more forces at work. Do you ever feel this way? Allow yourself to be humbled and comforted by the thought that although we may sin and fall short, the fate of the world rests in the hands of God and not our own.
  • Before deciding to pursue the Orcs, and even afterwards, Aragorn struggles greatly with discerning his path. What does his decision making process involve? How can you learn from him? 

What more would you add to the discussion? Leave it in the comments below or join our Facebook group to participate more! 

Fellowship of the Ring: The Old Forest (Book Club Musings)

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Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from the Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! I'm quite behind on posting these so I'll try to catch up in the upcoming weeks! 

The Old Forest

Leaving behind the safety and comfort of Crickhollow, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin begin their journey through the Old Forest. As they enter, they soon understand that the horrible legends and tales of the forest were quite true, and soon they are hopelessly lost. Paths shift before them, leading them down into the center of the forest rather than through it. Soon Sam finds himself needing to rescue Frodo out of the River because, as Frodo claims, a tree threw him in! And after becoming drowsy and falling asleep against the roots of a great willow, Merry and Pippin are soon swallowed up by the tree's roots itself! 

Frodo calls desperately for help and is answered by Tom Bombadil.

"At any rate he was too large and heavy for a hobbit, if not quite tall enough for one of the Big People, though he made noise enough for one, stumping along with great yellow boots on his thick legs, and charging through grass and rushes... He had a blue goat and a long brown beard; his eyes were blue and bright, and his face was red as a ripe apple, but creased into a hundred wrinkles of laughter. In his hands he carried on a large leaf as on a tray a small pile of white water-lilies." 

While Tom is puzzling, he makes quick work of saving the hobbits. He quickly frees Merry and Pippin with a song, and then continues on his way, beckoning for the hobbits to follow him towards his home. 

Book Club Musings

This chapter spoke to the power nature holds over the earth. Although our forests are not enchanted and our trees do not have wills of their own, Tolkien's forests can serve as a reminder that we do not own the earth. The earth is powerful in its own ways and while we may cut down trees and make paths of our own, like the hobbits had done in the past, there is no guarantee these paths will stay the same. 

I also wanted to share this quote from one of our book club members because I loved how insightful it was: 

"It struck me how afraid the hobbits were when they entered the Old Forest. And how oppressive the trees made them feel. No actual harm came to them, before Old Man Willow, it was like psychological warfare, against their emotions. And how powerful that can be. And yet Tom (or Someone) seemed to guide them to safety, where they would be saved and helped and fed and sung to." - LaNel Newman Davenport 

In the next chapter -- one of my favorites-- we will come to learn so much more about Tom Bombadil and Middle-Earth itself. 


 

What were your thoughts on this chapter? Leave a comment to keep our book club discussion going! 

Fellowship of the Ring: A Conspiracy Unmasked (Book Club Musings)

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Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from the Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! I'm quite behind on posting these so I'll try to catch up in the upcoming weeks! 

A Conspiracy Unmasked

Frodo, Sam, and Pippin are reunited with Merry and together they finish their journey to Frodo's new home in Crickhollow. Once there, they bathe and eat dinner together. Then, pulling their chairs to the fire, they begin to discuss the events of the past couple of days.

Frodo struggles with how to tell his friends he is leaving, only to be told that they already knew he was planning to go. He is surprised to learn they have been paying very close attention to him since Bilbo has left, and that they intend to go with him into this great danger.

Book Club Musings

Heroic friendship was the major theme of this chapter. In these hobbits, we find some serious #squadgoals. We all agreed that this quote was our favorite from the chapter: 

"But it does not seem that I can trust anyone," said Frodo.
Sam looked at him unhappily," It all depends on what you want," put in Merry. "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there is is... We are horribly afraid - but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds."

A couple members of our group shared some comments in our discussion that I thought needed to be shared:

  • "To have such devoted friends must make any trail seem just a little lighter." - Kimberly Ewalt
  • "Not just in their determination to continue on with Frodo, but even just in the lengths that they had already gone in journeying with him and preparing the Crick Hollow house for their arrival." - Kenzie Key

While this chapter was relatively short, the intensity of their friendship is unlike anything I've ever experienced - and I think many of us can agree that this level of devotion is scarce is our world. I hope this chapter will encourage you to seek out friendships wherever you go (as the hobbits were able to rely on Farmer Maggot) and hold fast to the ones you already have. 

Our Two Towers Reading Schedule (Summer 2017)

Yesterday morning, we began our last discussion of The Fellowship of the Ring as we finished the last two chapters. It's been such a fun experience to read it slowly as a group, soaking it in and digging deeper into the story and its meanings.

I'm looking forward now to starting The Two Towers in two weeks, and I wanted to share the schedule for anyone else who might be interested in reading along with us! We'll begin with the first to chapters on June 12th, reading about two chapters per week and coming together every Monday morning for discussion (online in our Facebook group!)

You can download and print this schedule to help yourself stay on track! 

Fellowship of the Ring: A Short Cut to Mushrooms (Book I, Ch. IV)

Fellowship of the Ring: A Short Cut to Mushrooms (Book I, Ch. IV)

As they continue to scramble through the woods to avoid the Black Rider, the hobbits find themselves walking through the farmland of The Farmer Maggot. Frodo is dreadfully terrified of Farmer Maggot's dogs as he had been caught stealing mushrooms as a child... yet the Farmer Maggot seems much more kind than he remembers and invites the hobbits in for dinner. Inside, he tells them about a strange man who had been asking for Mr. Baggins, but Frodo does not reveal much to him. After dinner, Maggot offers to give the hobbits a ride to the ferry in his wagon. On the road, they encounter a hooded rider and are quite terrified... until he reveals himself to be Merry. 

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Fellowship of the Ring: Three is Company (Book I, Ch. III)

Fellowship of the Ring: Three is Company (Book I, Ch. III)

After much preparation, Frodo finally says goodbye to Bag End and begins toward his new home in Buckland - and just in the nick of time it would seem! As Frodo, Sam, and Pippin set off on foot through the woods, they are closely pursued by a mysterious Black Rider which fills Frodo with dread and a nearly overwhelming desire to put on the Ring. The hobbits come across a group of Elves, among them is Gildor, who offers Frodo unsettling yet council along with food, drink, and a safe place to rest for the night. 

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Fellowship of the Ring: The Shadow of the Past | Book Club Musings

Fellowship of the Ring: The Shadow of the Past | Book Club Musings

Chapter II, The Shadow of the Past, begins with Hobbiton reeling over the mysterious disappearance of Bilbo, or as they begin to call him, "Mad Baggins". His story becomes a sort of legend, and there is much gossip about Frodo throughout the area. Gandalf suddenly reappears in the Shire for the first time in over nine years and begins to share with Frodo what he’s learned about the Ring... 

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Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue and A Long-Expected Party | Book Club Musings

Every Monday, our Facebook group has been discussing one or two chapters from the Lord of the Rings, and so I'm happy to be sharing a little bit of our conversation and reflections as we go! If you'd like to read along with us, join our Facebook group! Otherwise, leave your comments below and we can continue the discussion! 

The Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue & A Long-Expected Party (Book Club Week One)

Conversation Starters

Prologue

  • What is one aspect of Hobbit culture that you identify with and why? Which element of their culture was the most surprising or interesting? What is one element of Hobbit culture that you would benefit from adopting into your own lifestyle?

A Long-Expected Party

  •  Notice Bilbo's behavior as he is discussing leaving the Ring behind with Gandalf, particularly when he becomes angry and accuses Gandalf of wanting the ring for himself. As we begin to recognize the Ring as an object of sin, how can we relate to or learn from Bilbo's reactions?
  • A Question of Morality: Would it have been loving for Gandalf to encourage Bilbo to keep the Ring, regardless of its corrupting power? Reflect on this question in light of the Christian definition of love (“willing the good of another”) versus the secular understanding ("do what makes you happy", "I accept and celebrate every choice you make", etc.). How would keeping the ring have changed the course of Bilbo’s life, and in a larger way, Middle-Earth history?

Book Club Musings

A lot of the group resonated with the familiar lifestyle of hobbits - the large families, the crowded parties, and all of the quirks that come with them. Hobbit culture is very reminiscent, to us Americans, of life in the rural Midwest. We also loved how hobbits aren't really adults until they're 33 and agreed that society would probably function a little better if this were true. :)

Reflecting on the Ring as the manifestation of sin was a common thread for our group this week. When Bilbo remarked that he felt "thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread," I initially identified with him. Often times, I've blamed certain elements of my life (the demands of mothering my darling children, my husband's busy schedule, my disorganized life... etc.) but as I began to see the Ring as an illustration of sin, I took a step back. Bilbo doesn't feel this way because of his annoying relatives or his day-to-day obligations, rather he feels this way because of the way the Ring is slowly beginning to possess him. So then if I turn and look at my life in this light, I have to ask myself, "What sinful habit or lifestyle am I allowing to possess me?" A few others mentioned that this was a great way to start the conversation about sin with family members. 

We also noticed how little the Ring was able to influence Bilbo in comparison to other characters who have carried the Ring. Molly pointed out, "He hangs on to this thing for years without it fully corrupting him..... it corrupts men and Smeagol almost instantly and even Frodo almost falls to it within a year, Gandalf can't even touch it. How good must Bilbo (and Sam I think too) be?!" I think it had a lot to do with the manner in which he received the Ring and how he reacted towards Gollum afterwards. Rather than killing him, Bilbo had pity and instead acted mercifully towards him.  

The last point that we chatted about was the way that Gandalf seemed to be acting in a parental way with Bilbo as he encouraged him to leave the Ring behind. It was incredibly important for him to let it go of his own free will, to leave it to Frodo on his own. For those of us who are parents, it felt like a beautiful example of how to lovingly guide our children towards making the right decision without forcing them. 


A thank-you to the wonderful members of our community who participated in this week's discussion: Jen Olsen of Fiore Design Studio, Kimberly Ewalt, Molly Walter of The Merrier World, Rosanna Torrisi, Liz Schriver, Kira Bridges of Joy Pursued, Sarah Tamiian, and Rebecca Solomon. If you shared your thoughts on our group discussion thread and I missed you, please let me know & I'll add you to the list. :)