Archive for May, 2012

While doing a little research on the Queen’s Jubilee this week, I’ve stumbled upon article after article about her favorite breed of dog – the refined, somewhat height-challenged Welsh Corgi. Over the years, our family has been privileged to share our territory with many breeds (and mutts of mixed breeds too), but the one that stole my heart, the one that was part of the Rocker and Bride’s childhood, the one that would run into the ocean and be swept away if we weren’t careful, was the magnificent and hilarious Corgi.

“Corgi sales are soaring, spurred on by the Jubilee. Liz Hoggard explains how the royal pet has become the subject of artworks, topiary and blogs.” http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/dog-save-the-queen-corgis-surge-in-popularity-7799955.html Yes, I even found a place to buy Corgi shaped cookie cutters!

For us, it all began with a visit to a Corgi breeder in NJ after we’d moved back among family. Was it my way of coping with the guilt of moving my 7 year old daughter away from her sweet, nursery and elementary school friends? Probably. I was expecting to pick out a cute little teddy bear puppy, golden colored without so much as a hint of a tail. But the Bride was very “hands on hips” in those days, and declared that a dog “must” have a tail. So Tootsie Roll came home with us; a Cardigan Welsh Corgi (the kind with tails, not the Queen’s choice) who was a tri-color and looked just like her name, black and white with red on her ends. My sister Kay immortalized her in a needlepoint pillow. Her moniker was, “Lightening Legs” since she coaxed everyone into ball games with a tactic I call the “Corgi Dance.”

Later, Her Hinnyness Toots had puppies, and then it was the Rocker’s turn to pick one to keep. Tootsie had been bred to a champion (well, aren’t they all) who was a most beautiful Sable color.
All the puppies looked like daddy, and my son chose the alpha male in the group; the biggest, first born with the most beautiful shock of white on his forehead, Blaze (see pup at right in above picture with daughter). This mama/son team would sprint out of the house in formation like the Blue Angels, zig zagging their way around the yard, chasing squirrels and herons and sniffing out rabbit holes in the swamp tributary behind us. Depending on the tide, many a day their little legs were covered up to the belly with organic/smelling/black, swamp mud. My vet was the one who told me to look into getting a Corgi. We had an older German Shepherd at home, and he said it would be like going from the “…sublime to the ridiculous.” He smiled as he said that, we had become friends and his daughter was our pet sitter. I knew he loved Corgis, and he knew I would too!

Ms Bean is here because I thought I saw a Corgi on a local news show about a bunch of rescued puppies from a puppy mill. When I got to the vet in another county to take this poor creature home, it turned out it was a Papillon (easily mistaken with those big, foxy ears) and someone else had gotten there first. On my way home, I stopped at the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA and came home with Beaner, my heart just had to be filled.

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What does the city of Charlottesville, VA and Sir John Montagu, First Lord of the Admiralty, Great Britain have in common? They are both celebrating a momentous anniversary, 250 years! http://celebrate250.com/Would it help if I gave you a hint? The Earl is from the town of Kent in Sandwich…and he was a bit of louche, playing cards until all hours of the night. Legend has it that just when the Brit’s table manners were becoming more refined, The Earl asked to be served a piece of meat between two slices of bread. According to food critic Sam Bompus, “What you have with the sandwich is the shock of informality. He was a daring man to eat in such a way coming from his social background.” Little did he know that in his haste, he was ushering in our fast food generation.

Cut to today, and of course the blow out Diamond Jubilee celebrations for HRH Queen Elizabeth II, I had to ask myself, what is her favorite sandwich? An ex-Royal Chef enlightened me this morning on BBC. It seems Her Majesty was ahead of her time, only requesting local foods that were in season; in fact, Chef McGrady said that if he were to serve strawberries in January she’d probably have his head! Well I’m not sure I could belly up to one of these, but here is the Celebration Sandwich – venison, pate of guinea fowl with sour cream and flora (lettuce?), Stilton cheese, gin and Dubonnet (Her Majesty’s favorite cocktail, not quite sure how it is incorporated into the sandwich – http://cocktails.about.com/od/atozcocktailrecipes/r/dbunt_cktl.htm), beet root and apple juice from Sandringham. YUM! God save our Cupcake Queen.

From a daring Earl, to a beloved Queen, and back to our little Dominion; I was catching up on my beach reading the other day, sans beach, and imagine my surprise. There in the midst of May’s O magazine, in an article titled “How to Change Your Life at Any Age,” was my new friend’s daughter-in-law’s name, Kath Younger. I’d mentioned Kath Eats Real Food (KERF) before as a favorite local blogger,http://www.katheats.com/ but little did I know how truly famous she is! The feature was about two young girls, teens from Oregon, who ran out of peanut butter one day and decided to make their own, thereby launching Wild Squirrel Nut Butter. Jiffy this is not, it comes in tantalizing flavors like curious cocoa-nut and pretzel pizazz. Well, they credit sending a sample to Kath for sparking their business breakthrough. Her review – “SO blew my socks off!” And this is how business models and marketing are changing.

I’d call it daring to think you can improve on a lunchtime sandwich staple. I’d call it even more daring to believe you could make a living blogging about food. And I’d call an 18 year old future Queen of England, who insisted on becoming a truck driver and auto mechanic during World War II in part because she feared “…carrying about an inferiority complex for life,” very daring indeed! Happy Diamond Jubilee Your Majesty!

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On this Memorial Day weekend, we are going to the beach, firing up our grills, or strolling through the mall to check out the sales. So many forget what the holiday really stands for. A quick Google check finds that it was formally proclaimed a national holiday by General John Logan, “…the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.” So it started up in this country a few years after the Civil War, honoring the war dead, trying to reconcile the horror, the madness of war with reconciliation; and now it’s all about parades and sales and the start of the summer. I remember being handed small red flower pins on the street with my Dad, by old men in beards who honestly scared me a little.

On this Memorial Day weekend, I’d like to bring to your attention a small protest at the NATO Summit; one that got little if any media coverage. Last Sunday a peace march was held in Chicago and a group called the “Iraq Veterans Against the War” held a ceremony where nearly 50 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan “…discarded their war medals by hurling them down the street in the direction of the NATO summit.” If you watch the video you will hear them talk about their brothers and sisters with head trauma, and PTSD, the 18 suicides a day of returning soldiers, the orphaned children of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lies that were bought and sold in the run-up to war. If you watch the video, you will be moved. “No NATO, No War!”

On this Memorial Day weekend, I think about my 2 brothers, both Vietnam vets, And I think about my other 2 brothers, one from the Korean theatre and one who served in Germany. I think about my Father-in-Law, the Officiant at our daughter’s wedding, who served in the Pacific during WWII. One brother, the psychologist, is actually working with his state’s National Guard to help those returning soldiers facing multiple deployments. Families suffer in silence; the military culture is not one to seek help. Not only are our current vets suffering from major physical trauma like lost limbs, they are suffering from mental health issues like combat stress, substance abuse, broken marriages and more. If we say that we value their service, if we stand when they board planes before us and clap, if we march with our children in a parade, do we really understand what these wounded warriors have to face when they are returned to us?

On this Memorial Day, instead of visiting a grave with a wreath, or throwing a hamburger on the grill, let’s all decide to make our veteran’s lives just a little bit better – I think of my new Son-in-Law. He is about to end his year as the Chief Resident at Vanderbilt’s Veteran’s Administration Hospital, and become a Fellow in Pulmonology. He is an incredible physician, an outstanding human and healer, with a way of making my daughter smile. I think of Bob, who will always hire a vet, believing their experience in combat makes them particularly able to handle a busy Emergency Department. And of course my own brother, working with the National Guard. I will continue to work for peace.

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This week has been proclaimed National Small Business Week and DC is alive with everything little http://www.nationalsmallbusinessweek.com/ And I was involved in a group message about baby carriers with my sister-in-law and the Bride’s Amazon baby registry. I totally understand wanting to support our local businesses, the problem comes when a party is in one state, the parents-to-be live in another state, and the party-goers are mostly from an entirely different part of the world (like Hawaii, or say upstate NY). The nice thing about the Goliath Amazon is that they link to many smaller stores, and they also have a check box next to the “add to cart” link that says – “buying this gift elsewhere?” or, “Yes I am purchasing this item at a store of my choosing!”

I must admit that I’ve been feeling only slightly out of my element since the baby registry talks began. My parental style has again been challenged by this watershed event. “Mommy did you use scissors to cut my nails?” “No, sweetheart, I think I just bit them.” “Did you bathe me in the sink, or did you have a baby bathtub?” “No darling, I used to take you in the bath with me and bathe you on my lap.” I was beginning to sound like some Neanderthal cave mom! Looking back, maybe I was. Living on a mountain, check! Heating with wood, check! Hanging cloth diapers outside on the line since I didn’t have a dryer, check check! Well, that is until the Flapper came to visit and went right down to the local hardware store and ordered an electric clothes dryer and charged it to Bob. Check…

And this is how becoming a grandparent is similar to becoming a mother-of-the bride. You are treading on an emotional land mine; how to balance your ideas for a best practice, with your daughter’s and her husband’s ideas. Yes, nowadays the dad is stepping up to the challenge of parenting thanks to all those rights we women fought for and are still having to defend. Thank you to the Groom’s Mom for raising an enlightened man, one who is not afraid of being surrounded by pink! But I have to say that the one thing planning a wedding has taught me was to listen, and follow their lead. It was their wedding, and this is their baby. I won’t have to buy them a dryer, and I don’t smoke so I won’t be confined to the porch (sorry Gi). I usually try to NEVER give advice unless someone asks me for it. Plus, I am lucky to have a great relationship with my daughter, and maybe key, I have a wonderful MIL. She is a licensed marriage counselor who reminds me daily about boundaries.

Beyond babies and back to business, our soon-to-be Senator Tim Kaine asked on his Facebook page, “What are your favorite small businesses across Virginia?” My favorite VA businesses are: 1) a chic shoe store named Scarpa http://www.thinkscarpa.com/ 2) a delicious Chardonnay from White Hall Winery http://www.whitehallvineyards.com/ 3) my friend Wendi’s high end consignment traveling business http://www.leftoverluxuries.com/ and 4) the only place to go for jewelry and unique gifts http://www.lynnegoldmanstudio.com/ Oops I almost forgot, 5) if you love freshly baked rolls for your next barbecue try Great Harvest, next to Cville Coffee http://greatharvestcville.com/ A very “great” family owned business! And please, if you care about small businesses, read this article and contact your legislators:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fred-r-becker-jr/national-small-business-week_b_1533807.html because, “…a vote for S.2331/H.R. 1418 is a vote in favor of Main Street small businesses and the average American taxpayer. It’s a vote for the American way of life.” Amen.

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I’m starting to collect a children’s book library for the grandbaby girl’s arrival. Reading to your child is a sacred duty, akin to nursing in my world, you can both relax in each other’s arms. I had already purchased “Me . . . Jane,” by Patrick McDonnell about Jane Goodall at the Parnassus Bookstore. It’s a gorgeously illustrated, dream-like story of a little girl’s love of animals, especially her stuffed toy chimp Jubilee. “A moving photograph shows the adult Goodall reaching out to a baby chimpanzee, which is reaching back to her. The book closes with a page about the naturalist’s life…” It’s very tear-worthy. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/books/review/childrens-books-about-jane-goodall.html

And next I’m planning to find “Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria” by Kyra Hicks; a 19th Century story about a little girl from east TN who’s family purchases their freedom and moves to Liberia. She watches the British Navy patrol the coast in order to intercept slave traders intent on capturing her family and friends, returning them to a life of slavery. Should I tell you that this true story ends after many years of sewing and saving to fulfill her dream, to deliver her gift to the Queen herself? http://kidslitinformation.blogspot.com/2007/04/review-martha-annes-quilt-for-queen.html

Two brave, strong women. One white, one black, each with a dream fulfilled. And now to tackle another dream, and another quilt. I just read an interview with Ina May Gaskin on Democracy Now’s website, she is the guru of natural childbirth and creator of The Farm, in TN. Gaskin “… describes the women who died of pregnancy-related causes and are commemorated in squares of the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project; (she) argues midwifery is about helping the woman and her child, but is also key to shaping how society as a whole views the birthing process.” In the article, http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2012/3/19/ina_may_gaskin_and_the_safe_motherhood_quilt_project_focus_on_high_us_maternal_mortality_rates she appears to be quite radical. tracing the history of birth from a more primitive society to its current hospital-based, C-section loving institution. She believes the slight statistical upswing of maternal deaths in our country is directly correlated to the increased rate of C-sections.

Quite naturally, the medical professionals in the family had a bit to say about that. The Bride mentioned the older ages of first-time moms. Then she followed that up with the kicker – that Gaskin doesn’t take into account the increase in obesity and its twin cousins diabetes and heart disease. We all heard the alarming figures this week of nearly half the population becoming overweight by 2030. This is how the CDC breaks it down: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html And here’s the quote that says it all, “Higher income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.”

Which is Bob’s point, what we have here is a selection bias. Anyone who’s ever taken a Stats 101 course knows what this means. Midwives are seeing relatively healthy women, more middle and upper class women, whereas the high risk pregnancies and poor women are (wait for it) going to be delivered in a hospital. If you want to deliver your baby on all fours, in a kiddie pool, an hour away from the nearest hospital, that’s your choice. But I believe you can control the birth experience while still being in a safe environment for the mother and the baby. Fair warning, do not read this birth story if you are pregnant. http://www.younghouselove.com/2011/04/claras-birth-story/

The socioeconomics of birth was not my first choice for this post, nor was promoting fear and loathing of hospitals or midwives. It was supposed to be about children’s books. But in my mind, when they told me that the Bride was breech, and that there was an increased risk of brain damage with a natural delivery, my answer was simple. Make the cut.

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…to be Outside! Britain’s National Trust has come up with a bucket list for kids, 50 things to do before your child turns 12! It’s a pretty extraordinary list and is meant to get everyone moving and exploring nature, outside. I have to admit I did most of them, though I’m not sure what playing “conkers” is? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9201607/National-Trust-50-things-to-do-before-you-are-12.html Here are the top 5:

1. Climb a tree
2. Roll down a really big hill
3. Camp out in the wild
4. Build a den
5. Skim a stone

I remember the Bride’s first little friend after we moved back to the burbs of NJ. They were in 2nd or 3rd grade and had a mini-science project to do, so I suggested they gather up some sand from our sand box to start. The little girl was terrified of putting her hands in the sand box. It was the first time I thought to myself, “What have I done?” I loved living in the mountains of MA, cross country skiing, taking my children on hikes and swimming in our pond, but I longed to be closer to our family. Well to be honest, there was a young friend in MA who once asked me very straight-faced why I wanted to take them for a walk. She just did not see the need for walking without a purpose, and she was only 5 years old!

Today is the third annual, “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day!” Yes indeed, that Free Range mom is at it again, proposing to parents a little break in their day to teach their children some much needed social skills and a little independence http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/third-annual-take-our-children-to-the-park-and-leave-them-there-day-coming-up-sat-may-19/ It’s really not a radical idea, in fact it’s empowering. Of course, I would add this depends on where you live and the age of the child, but raising a bubble-wrapped kid is definitely bad for their mental and physical health, in my opinion.

So tie up your sneakers, fire up your grill, climb a tree! Go out into the great outdoors. I’ve just about finished planting my kitchen herbs in pots by the door. Or hey, maybe the Rocker could set up his band on a runway? “What you don’t have you don’t need it now…it’s a beautiful day!

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A six worded memoir of Spring so far:

1) Magical

2) Cultural

3) Artisanal

4) Minimal

5) Verdantly

6) Comical

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We all have our defining moments. I’m sure Jung, Freud and Dr Phil have a word for them, those watershed episodes in our histories that help to forge our collective character. And for many of us, high school was the battlefield for our very souls. I came straight out of Sacred Heart elementary school into a public high school and found my safe center, my clique with the drama club. You can’t tell me that you don’t remember the “pranks” you pulled, I won’t believe you. I distinctly remember a rumor was started about me, although I don’t really remember what it was about. I just knew it wasn’t true, and found out who started it.

One day during a play rehearsal in the auditorium, I saw the girl who started the rumor in the darkened audience. I walked down the stage stairs and over to her, and as I’m typing this I can feel my heart start racing a little. I stood so close to her I could smell her breath, it smelled like tuna fish. I told her in a very strong, loud voice, “If you have something to say to me, then SAY IT TO MY FACE!” She looked sick, and started backing away from me as if I’d struck her but I hadn’t touched her at all. This may sound lame today, but believe me back in the early 60s girls never raised their voices. It wasn’t ladylike. I felt good, in fact I felt better than good. The Flapper had taught me well. It was an early defining moment for me.

So I have to think that Mitt is lying, just out and out shook up his Etch-a-Sketch and wants to start over. How does one forget holding another boy down on the ground with a group and cutting off his hair? Granted Mitt may not have known he was a gay kid, because back then we didn’t even know about gay kids, or adults for that matter, but he saw him as “different,” as a victim and pounced. And we might forgive him for his teenage testosterone temper; but for acting like he can’t remember the incident, for lying? I think not. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kerry-kennedy/mitt-romney-bullying-human-rights_b_1514273.html?ref=new-york

Today’s news from Richmond is that in the dead of night (actually 1 am this morning) the GOP leadership overwhelmingly voted to reject nominating its special Prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland for a judgeship.

Why? Because he’s gay, and would have been the first openly gay judge elected in Virginia.

Now we all know these things are usually pre-approved and are only given up to the House of Delegates for a symbolic vote, so something went wrong in our state last night.
“The rejection of Mr. Thorne-Begland shows that discrimination based on sexual orientation is alive and well in Virginia,” Del. Mark D. Sickles, D-Fairfax, said in a statement after the vote in the House of Delegates. “And, it shows that legislators are more concerned about the Family Foundation scorecard than Richmond’s District Court.”

What really bothers me – “Ten Republican delegates abstained and 26 delegates, including a handful of Democrats, did not vote.” So we have a bunch of scared people over in Richmond, like those who would stand by and watch someone being humiliated for fear of retaliation. And this leaves me with a sick taste in my mouth. Cowardly is not an adjective I associate with leadership. We need to make our voices heard this November Virginia, it’s going to be another defining moment. We may need to shout!

In this picture in my old kitchen, I’ve just received a graduate degree in education. I was serving as a member of the Rumson High School Board of Education, dealing with pranks among many other things. The Bride was in college and the Rocker was a high school Freshman. He is already taller than us…it seems like ages ago, and yesterday.

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Thanks to a blogger from New Hampshire, who happened to be “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress, http://susannye.wordpress.com/ I started thinking about Moms in general. What was life like around the dinner table, did your mom even cook and insist that you sit down to eat a few times a week? The relationship we form between love and food actually does start at the breast, which then made me think about that controversial Time cover picture of a nearly 4 year old boy in camouflage pants standing up, latched onto his mom’s milk truck.

The Greatest generation didn’t nurse their kids. They embraced white Wonder Bread since whole wheat, brown bread was thought to be only for those who “…just got off the boat.” Those newly arrived immigrants would also nurse their babies; our modern post WWII moms were taught to sterilize bottles. A whole new industry was born, baby formula! No wonder they called pregnancy and early motherhood a time of “confinement,” in fact Bob’s elderly Aunt Bertha asked me once – “When will you be going into confinement dear?”

Now some moms have come full circle, they are baby-centric, wearing their babies all wrapped up in true third world fashion. They nurse on demand and co-sleep in a family bed, it’s something called “Attachment Parenting.” I dislike this term since it suggests that all previous moms in history were practicing “Detachment Parenting.” The feminist in me scoffs, really, do we have to play the mommy wars again? Aren’t we pitting ourselves against the “free range” parents vs the “bubble wrapped” practitioners? Being a good mom means nurturing and loving your child, setting rules and civilizing them too. There is a middle road.

My sister once told me that she never wanted to wake up angry, because she remembers the Flapper being angry whenever my sister would wake her. Of course our Mother had lost her husband to cancer and was working in a shirt factory to make ends meet. She was most likely exhausted all the time. I never wanted my dinner table to be a war zone, because I remember my foster mother Nell always telling me I had to finish everything on my plate. Growing up during the Depression made Nell quite frugal, a ‘waste not/want not’ type of home maker. So we learn how not to be a mother too, from our past.

I wanted a natural childbirth, but my daughter was breech and so they had to do surgery. We plan, God laughs. I nursed her for ten months and wore her on my back in a Bjorn. I washed her real diapers and hung them on the line in the sun. I made her real baby food from whatever I was cooking. But we believed in a good night’s sleep and so she was taught to sleep in her crib. I remember the Flapper calling me one day and asking what was I doing. I told her I was playing on the floor with my infant daughter. She laughed. So I asked her what was so funny?

She said the only time she would play with her babies was when she was feeding or bathing them. Time is the greatest gift moms have to give to their children. Quiet reading, playing, and yes sitting down around the dinner table time. Listening to their day, their concerns, listening between the lines of what they say. Being present. Driving her to cheerleading practice, being his soccer coach. It doesn’t matter if you opened a can, defrosted a TV dinner, or cooked something healthy from an all organic, local farm. Thank you to the Bride and the Rocker, for teaching me how to be their mom. And a very Happy Mother’s Day to y’all.

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It’s all over the news. President Obama comes out in support of gay marriage. Were we really surprised? What is surprising to me are all the unintended consequences to come – like wanting to move the Democratic National Convention out of Charlotte, NC. Oh, and that Etch-a-Sketch moment of Mitt trying to take credit for saving Detroit, that’s old news now. Which is why I love checking in on the rest of the world.

Click on over to the BBC and you’ll find that the headliner is “Syria suicide bomb kills dozens.” This leaves me feeling helpless, what is the world going to do about this? So I scroll down to number three on the list: “Roy Lichtenstein sale sets new record,” apparently in the pop art world Lichtenstein’s blondes have more fun and fetch more money. “Sleeping Girl, from 1964, went for $44.9m (£27.8m) at Sotheby’s New York sale of post-war and contemporary art. The same sale saw Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis, a life-sized silver silkscreen image of Elvis Presley depicted as a cowboy, fetch (only) $37m (£23m).” Want to watch the auction? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18016495

Number nine down the BBC’s front web page is the “Obama supports same-sex marriage” headline, right below “Brazil approves World Cup beer sales!” As most newsy people know, the placement of a story – in a real paper or on the web – is its destiny. We are a lazy bunch of readers, clicking onto the next link is hard…and those who still hold papers in hands like to turn to the obits, or the sports section, or in my case, the op-ed page. And that was that, time’s a wastin.’ I remember the first time one of my stories ended up on the front page, I was ecstatic. Maybe someone would cut it out, and send it somewhere, tack it up on their refrigerator?

I stopped at a McDonalds in TN on my way home this week. There was a life-size poster of Elvis framed on the wall in his white buck shoes. A Memphis boy, the South still loves him. My older brothers listened to him, in fact my brother Mike knew him when he was living in Memphis. Elvis was reduced to beach movies for me, already a Beatles maniac. Somehow it’s nice to know that Great Britain thinks a silkscreen of Elvis is more newsworthy than our President’s remarks on gay marriage…after all, they allowed gays to serve openly in the military a dozen years before we did. Evolution is a tricky, cultural thing.

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