To My Silent Sisters (happy belated women’s day to the ones who save us)

“You are a woman, this will be different for you.” I have heard these words so often the past several months that they have taken on a life of their own. These words that were spoken to me over and over again were meant as a salve: you are not broken, you are grieving, and your process doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It was meant as a reminder: this path that you walk has been traveled by others, but only those who have traversed these hallowed grounds will understand what this pain can do to you. You, my love, are a woman, this will be different for you, but you will be stronger for it- my arms are open and you are welcome.

There is something powerful in the sisterhood that will surround you during your darkest days. There is something sacred in the way these women carry their scars and lead you down this path so delicately. There is something strengthening in the way we recongize one another, pay tribute to the joint experiences and embrace the pain. There are things in this world that only these women will understand, struggles that they have shared in, burdens they will help you carry.

These women will not lie to you and pretend that life will be okay. We know better than that. When I was hurting they taught me to embrace the pain, to recognize that it would forever remain a part of me, but to take comfort in knowing that it would eventually loosen it’s strangling hold and let me breathe again. These women taught me that strength is not an innate force that we are born with, it is something that we build when our back is to the wall because there is no other option.

The life of a woman is not always an easy one. Far too many of us know what it is like when you are not taken seriously, when you are judged for every action you do or do not take. We know what it feels like when your body is not viewed as your own, when your choices are stripped from you by those who will never have to live with your struggles. We know what it is like to carry life, and some of us are burdened with the pain of intimately knowing what it is to hold death. We have learned to fight the status quo that we were so often forced to follow, to create a world for our daughters that was better than our own. We have joined our hands and stood in solidarity when it truly mattered. We helped one another up when the world knocked us down.

The past few months have been difficult for me, that is no secret. And yet I have learned so much about what it means to be a woman through those who reached out and stood beside me. In my loneliest moment I still knew that I had an army of my silent sisters with me. I will forever be indebted to them, and I know that the only way to repay this is to be there for the next woman I see lost on this path.

You see, women are far too often taught to hide our pain and our frustrations. We want to be strong and resilient and we don’t realize that within our weakness is our greatest strength. We bury our struggles until we see someone else in need, and only then do we speak our truths- we use our pain to ease the hurt we see in someone else’s eyes.

In October I learned what it meant to carry a life inside of me. And in January I discovered how the loss of that life can crush your soul into dust. I had been far enough along that everyone knew. It was both a blessing and a curse when people had to be told. But an amazing thing happened in my darkest moment- the women in my life surrounded me, whether they knew me or even liked me, they stood by me and helped me pick up the few miniscule pieces I still had of my life. They protected me, and fought against anyone who tried to act as though my grief should follow a specific pattern. When I was happy they let me embrace it, when I was angry they let me scream and fight the world, and when I fell to pieces they stood sentinel to make sure none of my broken shards blew away in the wind. Many of them shared their stories- women I have known my whole life, women who were still surviving and thriving- they told me that they had walked the same path. They didn’t give me false hope, they gave me the truth. And it was everything I needed to hear. When one in four women experiences a pregnancy loss, you begin to discover that you have an entire army surrounding you.

That is what the strength of a woman truly is- it isn’t always in your face, it isn’t necessarily obvious or showy. It is in the way that she can be ripped apart by the world and still pick everything up and begin to rebuild even though everything in her body wants to stop. It is in the way that she uses her pain to ease the burden of others. It is in the way that she shows up, in the way she subtly reminds you that you are not alone. It is in the way she stands for you when you can’t find your feet, and the way she cheers for you even though you might not be on the same team. Her strength is in her heart, in the way she bravely faces a world that has let her down so many times.

There are so many facets to being a woman, and every year on this Earth I discover a new one. To my sisters, my mothers, my daughters out there- I see you, I recognise you, and with every breathe I take I honor you. Thank you for saving one another time and again. I will spend the rest of my life repaying this debt, living in the way you all taught me. We are strong, we are fierce, we can survive and thrive through anything. Happy International Women’s Day, my loves, I know I am a day late and a dollar short, but I also know that you will understand why.

My Heart and My Hope are in Texas

Hope doesn’t always come in the form that you would expect; it is not hidden in the tone of a speech or written in the drafting of a bill. It’s not going to come swooping out of the sky wearing a cape and decreeing justice for all. True hope comes from simple gestures and an innate sense of compassion. It comes in moments of desperation and defeat, it comes without warning, without prompting, and without demands. It comes from us and the choices that we make. It comes in the way we see one another, the value we place on the lives of people we will never truly know. It comes in a moment of need, it comes with arms wide open and heart full.

It is no secret that we have divided, that the chasms we have created go far too deep for simple sutures to heal. It is no secret that the issues we have rumbling to the surface are ones that will take years to address with any degree of accomplishment. And yet this week it didn’t matter. This week brought the sad reminder of what gives me hope in our country. It is in the simple fact that we have spent months grinding our heels into the dirt staring at one another defiantly; and yet people are still quick to jump up out of their fight stance and help when the need arises.

This week my heart is with Texas. It is with the friends I know and the strangers I do not. It is with the pain and the devastation, and the hope that we will not relive Katrina all over again. I’ll admit that it scares me; the fact that I haven’t heard from some of my friends makes me nervous. Watching the devastation on the news breaks my heart and leaves me at a loss. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your political stance or the color of your skin. She doesn’t care about your gender, your age, or your economic stability. She strikes where she pleases and she reminds us mere mortals of what we truly are.

And yet, out of this devastation, something has risen; something profoundly beautiful in its simplicity. People are helping each other again. They aren’t fighting, they don’t care what you look like or what you believe; they are showing up and giving everything they have to give. They are giving hope.

Today I was able to watch a truck driver be rescued as the reporter tried not to cry. I watched boats manned by both professionals and laymen float through neighborhoods in search of anyone who needed help, anyone who needed out. People with the needed equipment drove hours to show up and assist those they have never met. I’ve heard stories of people who have opened their homes to those who were displaced. Some souls have taken to social media to let loved ones know that their friend or family member is safe. A man who owns a furniture and mattress store opened his doors to anyone in need of shelter, ushering people in saying he had plenty of beds and chairs. He even offered up all of the food they had available at the restaurant his business had inside. People are giving selflessly because there is need. Calls for help are being sounded, and brave souls are going out of their way to respond. News reporters who don’t generally wind up on the side being reported came forward and helped those in need while on the scene; they rescued elderly people trapped in their homes, they directed rescue crews to those they encountered who were trapped, they reminded us of what is important.

It wasn’t about the story or the ratings; it was about that moment of pure humanity and compassion. This right here- this is what we are about; this is the empathy we forget sometimes. This is the hope that will get us through.

When someone is in need, it doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from; their cry should be answered. And right now- people are responding with loud, resonating voices. They are stepping forward, they are doing everything they can with what they have. With the deepest of wounds comes a reminder for hope. Don’t forget the good, no matter how much the bad begs to be seen. Watch these unexpected heroes who simply showed up when they were needed. They are what this country is all about. They are the ones we need to emulate.

My heart is with Texas tonight; all of ours are. Tonight my wishes are simple; I hope that these people find safety, compassion, and help. I hope that we never stop answering that call. I hope we remember the wounds of our past and use them to improve our present. I hope we can remember what a brighter world looks like and how deeply important it is for each and every one of us to look out for each other. Our differences don’t matter right now. Helping one another; that is the key. I hope we never forget.

If you wish to assist, contact The Red Cross at 1-800 RED CROSS, or visit their website at redcross.org. You can also text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. There are other organizations also accepting donations to the relief effort, but please do your research prior to donating to ensure that your time/items/money will be used appropriately.

Camp Nano Cabin Search

Hello there, my dear friends! Camp Nano kicks off tomorrow at midnight- I am really hoping I will manage to stay awake for the late night start, but there is always a possibility that I will turn into a pumpkin instead. I wanted to extend an invitation to anyone who may be interested or is sitting uncomfortably on the fence- if you would like to join our little writerly challenge, we still have plenty of room available in our group. All ages and genres are welcome (the more diverse the better). You don’t need to have any crazy goals for July- just a love for writing and an openness to talk with other people who share this little passion of ours.

For those who haven’t heard of it- it’s a virtual writing challenge, so no real sleeping bags are needed (unless you want one, then by all means- enjoy). If you would like more info, you can peek at the website right here Camp NaNoWriMo, or feel free to leave me a comment! I’ve participated the past couple of years, and though I’m not an expert, I’d like to think I’ve explored it enough to answer any questions. And if, as I hope you will, you decide to take the plunge and join this lovely little adventure- let me know- I have plenty of room for a friendly face in our cabin.

Happy writing, my friends! It’s going to be another crazy ride.

Wait, it’s almost what month?! (The frantic February goals)

So, January was…yea. Personally, the first month of 2017 was not all that successful for me. Between catching yet another nasty illness (seriously, I am attracting these bugs like flypaper), drinking too much of the political poison and having a constant stern face whenever I opened Facebook- I struggled find productive time for me in the last 31 days. Well, that’s not entirely true- the first few weeks were good before I fell off my little wagon and scraped my knees. But- on the bright side, I did manage to read some pretty phenomenal books when I was supposed to be writing, so I do have that going for me! Plus- the snow was awesome. And I am currently ending the month writing in my blog and enjoying a bubble bath with a blue moon because I am still leery of wine (if you know of any good ones, let me know- so far I think I am partial to sweet white wines, but I’m working my way up to the big girl drinks).

So, instead of dwelling on the month that has been, it is time to move forward and set some fresh goals to keep me focused in February. A friend of mine, Cindy, mentioned that she was going to do her Nano this month because November tends to be pretty crazy for her (cheers to that!) So I’ve decided to try my hand at it this month too. That’s right- 50,000 words slated for February! Time to stretch my fingers and get ready to type! If anyone wishes to join, please do, the more the merrier! Nano even has a goal tracker on their website for the next few months- you can plug in a project name, a time frame and a goal to track. I am going to be trying it out on this little adventure, and I’ll let you know what I think at my month-end review. I have some old projects I meant to finish in January, so I will just shift those over one month and jump in.

The goal for this blog: a minimum of four posts a week. I’ve got some ideas I’m really excited to peruse, and I am desperately needing a routine to keep me on track (and off Facebook- the bane of my existence and, apparently, my new obsession. Ugh- I am so disappointed to actually say that. I miss the days when I checked it maybe twice a year). I’m not wanting to flood the site with content just for content’s sake, right now I need to focus on quality. We will see how it goes! Any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.

I’m supposed to start training for a stage race I’m doing in July. And before you say it- I know, why do I keep on agreeing to these things when I know how good I am at coming up with excuses not to actually train for them. And not only that- why did I agree to a stage race where I will spend a good portion of the time in a car with other stinky runners (did I mention that I am related to all of them)? There is a possibility you will be seeing a couple of ‘lazy girl fitness’ posts geared towards the book nerd/person-who-would-rather-watch-tv-than-go-to-the-gym-so-she-makes-up-her-own-workouts-that-go-with-her-favorite-shows. Think of it like a fitness version of a drinking game. If you don’t see any mention of this in February, then that means I am still making excuses and will start panicking in a month or two. Cheers!

I am sure that I have other things on my list, but these are the ones I need to focus on. It’s time to get back to my regularly scheduled life. It’s time to start splitting my time a bit more evenly and giving myself the outlet I’ve ignored the past month. I am actually really excited to get back to some of my old projects. I was even dreaming about one last night. As it turns out, I missed my characters more than I thought. The jury is still it on whether they missed me or not.

Goodbye January, you were…umm- eye-opening. You brought me many ‘firsts,’ that I will never forget, I learned a lot within your 31 days. And again- thank you for the snow. I can’t say I’ll miss you, because I’m not a liar. But you made me a better person, you gave my some stories I’ll bore my grandkids with, and for that I thank you. Kind of. And as for February: welcome, may we find some peaceful moments to enjoy our passions! Goodness knows the world needs a few more happy and peaceful moments.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Right now I am sitting bundled up in blankets in my little office (I use this term loosely, as this little room doubles as my impromptu living room and occasional dining area- I live small). We put up our own strand of white christmas lights around the single window, and we are both working by their comforting soft glow tonight. There is a chill in the air and talk of snow next week. Yesterday at my dentist’s office we listened to all of those old holiday favorites everyone can sing along to. And tomorrow morning I have a date with my mom and sister to bake (hopefully) delicious holiday treats. It seems this year ran away with me before I could take a second to enjoy the scenery. 

It is the time of year for thankfulness and small acts of kindness. A time to remember all that we have and make sure those in our lives know their importance. I can occasionally appear to be a cynic (I prefer the term realist) on the outside, but inside I have always been a hopeless romantic who falls head over heels in love with this time of year. As cliche as it sounds, it isn’t about the bows and shiny wrapping paper. It’s not even about the twinkling lights and eggnog. What I love about this season can only be found in the smallest of moments.

It’s in the way my sister’s eyes light up when she finds the perfect Christmas tree. Even at 25, the magic is never lost on her. We will tramp through the lines and lines of trees, scrutinizing every detail until our noses are as red as cherries and we can’t feel our toes. And then she spots it. She grins like she did when we were kids and she stole my first dollhouse. We make our way back with our prize slung carefully over our shoulders and warm up over hot apple cider and rice crispy treats. And then onward home to trim the little beauty in all its glory. That’s why I love this holiday- because it puts a smile on the face of a girl who doesn’t catch many breaks the rest of the year.

It’s in the way I can dance in my car on the way to work and not even feel silly (I strongly suggest Jim Carey’s The Grinch soundtrack for this activity). It’s in the pay it forward coffees as Starbucks. It’s in the excited way my nephews tell me all about their letters to Santa or proudly hold out their freshly cut paper snowflakes. It’s in the midnight snowball fights on the front yard (in which Zach will, at some point, drop some down the back of my shirt). It’s in the small little thoughts of coworkers who try to make the office a little bit brighter. It’s in the way we all speak to one another a little more kindly, smile a little broader, listen a little bit longer when we ask how the other is. It’s in the calming twinkling of those beautiful lights that dance across our faces on late night walks with the dog, all bundled up with gloves and scarves.

There is a magic to this season that is unparalleled. When you stop to enjoy the life that it breathes into a soul during these dreary winter days. There is a warmth to it that you won’t find come January or February. It’s unique, it’s comforting, it’s a hopeful conclusion to a long and busy year, holding delicately a promise for the year to come.

Welcome back, my dear, sweet holiday season. This year, may we remember what is truly important and learn to find some common ground. May we bring one another smiles and friendship without ill intentions. It is the time of year for openness and hopeful endeavors. My friends, may you find all of the love and promise that you had hoped for this season, may you rediscover the childhood joy that still sleeps within, and may you embrace the simplistic beauty that surrounds us. This year, may we find comfort building bridges to one another instead of constructing walls to hide behind. May we remember who we once were and who we still hope to become. Cheers, my dearest friends. May we all embrace this magic and hold true to the true meaning that breathes life back into our weary souls.

Autumn is in the Air and I am Home

Happy first day of fall! I haven’t quite figured out why this auspicious day isn’t marked with a parade or a holiday off from work or, I don’t know- free coffee and half priced sweaters.

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As cliché as it may sound, this is my favorite time of year. I love the bright sunny days with cold weather. I adore the sweaters, boots and scarves. I live for hot chocolate, spiced cider, steaming tea and toasty coffee. I love walking down the street all bundled up and stomping on crunching leaves. But most of all, I can’t get enough of the colors and atmosphere. The true beauty of nature is enhanced with the fiery hues of red, the deep sunburst orange, dusty brown and golden yellow glow. My all-time favorite sight is on the drive out to my childhood home to visit my dad. The house is in the woods, down long winding roads thickly lined with trees, beside a river. It is the only sight I have ever actually gasped over, literally taking my breath away. The change seems to happen over night, if you wait an extra day you’ll miss the beauty of that first burst of fall colors. It is a sight to cherish.

Autumn is always the time for coming home. Perhaps its the impending holidays full of good memories and close family. It comforts me, bringing me back to my deeply buried roots. I feel more like myself, more in touch with those around me, more comfortable in my skin. I rediscover the wondrous child inside, full of curiosity and excitement. I can’t wait for hayrides through a pumpkin patch, searching for that perfect little creation to carve my ‘masterpiece’ on, working my way through a corn maze with those that I love to spend my time with, clinging to my fiancé as we run through a haunted house. I am so excited to bake for Halloween, make homemade chicken pot pies and chili, watch Hocus Pocus, plan Thanksgiving dinner with my sister. I can’t wait to take walks down the street with my friends holding cups of steaming coffee or setting out that customary candy dish at the end of my desk to help us through the long work days. I am ready to settle in and remember the things that are important to me- friends, family, good books and adventurous nights.

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Fall has never been a time of ending for me; no, it is always my time for new beginnings. Its when I re-evaluate my life and plan my next steps without outside pressure. Autumn is the time that my soul flies free, the time that family and friends pull in tighter to stay warm on cold nights. Today we ring in a new season, full of promise and impending adventures. So settle in my friends, cuddle up with that blanket, take a sip of your steaming tea. Now is the time for books and crackling fires. Now is the time for long nights and beautiful beginnings.

So, an introvert walks into a party…

An extrovert can walk into a party and get recharged on the energy that’s present. They thrive on their interaction with others, they get stronger and brighter as the night wanes. But people like me- we have to plan and build ourselves up. We have to restructure our entire day to ensure that we can walk into the room with a full battery, because the energy it takes to interact for long periods of time is draining right to the core. To be perfectly honest, I have never been a fan of parties. My idea of a fun night out involves dinner and a movie, or going down to my favorite local bar with a few friends where I can sip on a beer while we talk about life. To some that could be boring, it me it is the perfect way to relax after a long week.

The other weekend, however, was different- it was my little sister’s 25th birthday and she wanted to let loose and celebrate. My sister is one of my best friends, but we are the most similar opposites you will ever meet- perhaps that’s why we get along so well. We like all of the same things, but our personalities are night and day. We are yin and yang, fire and ice, Monica and Phoebe. She likes to party and be crazy, and I guess you could say I am the old soul out of the two of us. I adore her, which is probably the only reason I walked through that door into the 90’s themed house party with a dozen total strangers (insert mild panic attack here).

I’ve always been able to play pretend at being bubbly and social for short bursts of time. I worked customer service in a high-stress environment for many years. I can smile and laugh, make small talk and pretend to be a different version of myself. But I will always walk away exhausted, ready to hop into a hot bubble bath with a good book and sit in silence. During my customer service years that wound up being a near-nightly ritual. I needed a way to recharge. I can still channel this part of my personality whenever the need arises, and I knew when we walked through that door- the need had arisen.

I selfishly hoped that I would be able to lurk in the kitchen with my fiancé and Finnigan- the adorable puppy that magically appeared about an hour into the festivities. But alas, even Finn was enjoying the social adventure, prancing around from room to room, happily soaking up all of the attention. No, I would have to glue on my smile and do my best.

What people don’t always realize is that my social anxiety will pop up no matter how nice and accommodating you are. It has nothing to do with the people in the room, it has everything to do with the critical eye I use to view all of my own actions. I will tear apart every word I say and every insignificant move you make. You close your eyes because you have an eyelash stuck in it- no, I must have said something boring. You move your weight from one foot to the other- you must want to leave and talk to someone else. It doesn’t matter how irrational it is- the funny thing is, I usually know I’m over-analyzing, but I can’t stop it. It’s like there’s a button in my brain that sticks, and no matter how I try to turn it off, it just wont pop until it’s good and ready (usually well after I intended to fall asleep).

For those that don’t understand,  this is a glimpse into the mind of an introvert with slight social anxiety issues on a typical night at a regular party:

  • Is this the house? I’ve been here a million times, why am I questioning whether this is the house or not? But did I come on the right day? What if it was cancelled and I’m the only one who didn’t know?
  • Yep, this is the place- but where do I park? I mean, I might get boxed in there if I decide to leave early. And will I be too close to that other car over there? No, that spot requires parallel parking. Would it be weird to park down the block? I think I say a Fred Meyers parking lot a few blocks away…
  • Did I get here to early? I will look so stupid if I’m the first one here.
  • So I’m at the door- do I knock, or text them that I’m here?
  • They still aren’t at the door- do I just open it? Would that be weird? I’ll text them again.
  • Okay, so I’m inside. Of course I’m like the second one here. I am always too early. I should have parked farther away.
  • So food- where is the food? Would it be strange if I just sat next to this bowl of chips? Will people try to talk to me? Maybe I’ll just stand in the kitchen.
  • Nope, I keep getting in the way in the kitchen and they don’t need help. Okay, I’ll just go over there.
  • I don’t know anyone here. I guess I’ll just smile like an idiot because I don’t know anyone here. Where is my friend? She invited me, she knows I don’t like this stuff.
  • Is it too early to leave yet?
  • Oh, who’s puppy? Yes, I will just sit here and pet this adorable dog. Let’s just hope is owner doesn’t come over.
  • No, puppy come back! You were my only friend! Okay, stand up like you weren’t just rolling around on the floor with the K-9. And step back until you are against the wall again. Good…did anyone notice?
  • Yes! Someone I know! Hello someone I know!
  • Oh look, another person coming over to talk- okay, smile, but not too big, you don’t want to look weird. Just play it cool, you’ve got this! Be smooth, be smooth.
  • Hey, this person is kind of cool.
  • Oh no! Lull in the conversation- okay, look really interested in what is happening on the other side of the room while you try to come up with something to say.
  • Why did you ask them about their cat? Now they’ll think you are a crazy cat person.
  • They have a dog! Don’t get overly excited, wait for them to show you a picture of theirs before you whip out yours. And only pick one- not seventy-two.
  • You’re talking too much, stop talking so much, you’ll scare them away.
  • They just moved from one foot to the other- are they bored? Are they trying to find a nice way to extract themselves from the conversation?
  • Another person is coming over! Remember: you can do this. Another smile, introductions. Shoot- they want to shake hands, left or right? Okay, move my drink to the other hand and…success!
  • Look at me, socializing all over the place like a boss! I haven’t even had alcohol yet. I am amazing, I am acting like a relatively-well adjusted human being. I am awesome.
  • Okay, now I’m getting tired. But these people are actually pretty cool. Except that one over there trying to force people to dance. I don’t want to talk to that person. I think I will subtly side-step out of the room so I can avoid that person.
  • Is it too early to leave?
  • PlayStation? There’s a PlayStation here?! Okay, I’m in!
  • I don’t care if it’s rude- Crash CTR was my game, and I am going to own everyone! Unless that would be rude- would that be rude?
  • I lost- maybe they’ll like me more for losing.
  • Why did I say that? That was such a stupid thing to say…
  • So I’ve asked ‘what’ three times and still have no idea what they said. Let’s hope that smiling and nodding is an appropriate response.
  • Ha! They laughed! I need to remember that joke, it was gold! Phew, I was really nervous at first…wait, that wasn’t a courtesy chuckle, was it?
  • Okay, I am getting tired. Oh- and I’m at that good spot in my book. Maybe I’ll leave soon.
  • It’s going to take me like ten minutes to get to my car. I really shouldn’t have parked so far away.
  • Okay, and say a few quick goodbyes- oh, hugs. I did not see that coming. Does that mean they like me?
  • Dancing guy! Nooooooo!! Hide behind the tall guy! Shoot- how am I taller than the tall guy? I’m like a giraffe in here.
  • Wait for it, wait for it…and go! Phew, out the door.
  • That was fun. I’m tired. I cannot wait to get into my pj’s!

Do you see yet why we get so exhausted? This is just a small snippet of what tends to go through my mind, and some of these are repeated over and over and over.

There was a time when I would try to hide that side of me, I would play pretend and act like I was ‘normal.’ But at my sister’s party, I did something different: I embraced the awkwardness and joked about it. And as it turns out- I wasn’t the only one feeling the same way, suddenly there was a gush of people laughing about doing the exact same thing, thinking the same way I did- and then in a flash, being there in a room full of strangers wasn’t so scary any more, if only because these people weren’t so strange. They were just like me, playing pretend and stepping out of their comfort zone. I think there are more of us out there than we ever thought, people you wouldn’t expect who have that same internal dialog that doesn’t turn off. We all put on our bright shiny faces when we go out, and we smile and laugh, hoping others wont see the insecurities in our eyes. We all walk into a party wearing a mask, without even realizing that everyone else is doing it too. We can’t turn off the internal dialog, but perhaps, on occasion, we can make a joke that cracks our mask. Perhaps someone else will recognize a bit of themselves in you. And then the small talk can fall away and a true conversation can be had. You would be surprised at what people are really like, underneath it all.

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