Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Hermit and the Butterfly

This year is a big one for Cowboy and me.   We are celebrating 20 years of marriage.   A big milestone for sure, but we also tip our hats to both sets of our parents who are celebrating 44 and 50 years. Marriage runs deep around these parts.

All those years ago, our wedding invitations were emblazoned with the phrase, “Today, I marry my best friend.”  

We had dated for several years before tying the knot, but to be honest, I developed a bonafide, heart stopping crush on him the first time I saw his denim blue eyes and slightly crooked smile.  Too shy to talk to him, I’d find reasons to pass him in the hall at school just so I could see him.  

But even from the beginning when my breath would catch just trying to talk to him, friendship with a healthy dash of humor has always been our heartbeat.  To this day, there is still no other human on this planet that I’d rather spend my time with than that car-loving, mr.-fix-it, critter-wrangling man.

Which brings me to what has often been one of our greatest differences.  He could easily be a hermit.  He’s a loner.  He’s perfectly happy working away on a project, minding his business.  While he can be sweeter than southern iced tea, the man simply doesn’t like to socialize much.  Those who know him best, know that he has, what we all affectionately call, a people limit.  In general, the fewer the better.

Me, on the other hand, well I love people, sharing stories, and connecting.  I mean seriously, my first grade teacher didn’t call me the mouth-of-the-South for nothing.  So I’m often itching to go galavanting somewhere, to see or do or taste something new, to meet up with friends, or to just take a break from the farm.

Not Cowboy. Nope. Not one little bit.  What he does have is a deep down in his bones kind of contentment and satisfaction.  He knows who he is and what he wants.  And over time, I will be darned if that man is not rubbing off on me.  I swear, at least once a week I break out in laughter as I look at him and say, “You are successfully turning me into you.”

And as you can probably guess, he just smiles.   

My Farmtastic Lie - Cowboy and Ranger
One of my all-time favorite pics of Cowboy. That man continues to capture my heart each day, and boy can he make me laugh.

This winter, I have found that I can go weeks and weeks, barely leaving our beloved farm.  I am perfectly content to putter around, drink up the sunshine, and just be. Cowboy is so proud.  

Cowboy and his contentment have taught me so much.    The realization that you can define for yourself exactly who you want to be.  That you can love so deeply and be so connected to a place, a person, a passion that the noise from the outside really doesn’t matter.  It’s not about loading up your days with busy.

It’s been in this season of freezing temperatures and shorter days that I have truly settled in.  Had a chance to reflect on this major milestone we are approaching, of who we were and who we are.  And I am grateful.  

Once a social butterfly, I now consider myself more like a faithful old hound dog. Learning that it is not about the quantity of activities but about the quality of them. Knowing that when it comes to the heart of the matter, it’s about friendship and kindness, and well, just simply being who you were always meant to be.  May we all be so lucky to have someone rub off on us, someone who can show us the way.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Resolution Revolution

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past 365 days – the glorious moments, the critter-filled challenges and antics, the experiences lived and the moments missed.  It’s also that time of year when we look hopefully and optimistically into the next 365 days with dreams that we will make it count, challenge ourselves to be and do better, and, if you are like me, that tiny little nagging voice in your head that says, “Will you really live up to your own expectations?”

Oh yes, those little internal voices. Gremlins.  Mine have had a lifetime of criticizing, chastising, and  just downright tormenting me.  That is until 2017 when the tide began to turn.  It was a year of change, the time when I finally learned the meaning of enjoying the journey, and the beginning of being a-okay with my serious lack of perfection.

As one dear friend once said to me, “You suffer from the dreaded triple-P syndrome.  You are a people pleasing perfectionist.  You see, I recognize this, because I too am in recovery.”  I laughed.  I had an aha moment. Someone had named it for me.  That was years ago.  And so I kept that little jewel tucked away, hanging onto it and truly not knowing what to do with it.

I’d occasionally trot it out with friends to chat about my ailment.  I’d make minor strides to try to keep myself in check, but truly on the inside me and triple-P were besties.  We knew each other far too well.  And because we knew each other so well, we had no intention of parting ways anytime soon.

Then 2017 came along and things began to shift for me.  For some reason, I decided to heck with resolutions, because who am I kidding, I never kept them anyway.  Instead, I made a vision board filled with words and images and thoughts that inspired me, that laid out the life I wanted to live. It was fun – I cut, pasted, and scrapped until my heart was content. I framed it and hung it on my wall.  It’s still there.  It still speaks to me.

Something started with that vision board.  I started thinking about the person I wanted to be, the things I wanted to try, the possibilities.  But not the possibilities that were like my typical New Year’s eve rush of resolution panic, but true possibilities. I started listening, listening to my insides.  My not so perfect but oh so me insides.

Then came springtime, and things lined up just right; I had my soul listening ears on, and I hired a life coach.  I did it on a whim.  I saw her website, and thought “Why not?”  And before I could talk myself out of why I didn’t need to spend the money or convince myself that I’d be the same me at the end of it, just with less cash in my pocket, I signed up for an exploratory session, and IT. CHANGED. MY. LIFE.

I met with my coach every other week for 6 months.  I discovered who I wanted to be, who I didn’t want to be, and how to harness the little voices in my head and turn them from tormentors into cheerleaders. Now let’s be serious, it was not all roses, rainbows, and unicorns.  There were tough moments.  Moments of doubt and frustration.  But my world slowly went from black and white, to shades of grey, to full on technicolor magic.

When I look back on 2017 I see where I went head to head with some of my most ingrained thoughts on what it means to be spiritual, what it means to live my best life, what it means to follow my creativity, what it means to plan but still hope and dare and most of all find deep down, soul loving joy.

For maybe the first time in my life, I started to believe in me.  In the possibilities all around.  Oh and trust me, I have oodles more work to do.  I mean when you spend a lifetime letting your gremlins drive the car, sometimes you still have to take a stick and whack them into the backseat.

My Farmtastic Life - Find the good in 2017 and work for the joy in 2018!
Find the good in 2017 and work for the joy in 2018!

So on this New Year’s Eve, as you sit and ponder if 2018 will be different, I encourage you   to listen to the messages that are swirling around you, the good people in your life who are encouraging you, and take a chance on something that just might make all of the difference for you. Sure, your gremlin voices might party like it’s 1999 tonight, but tomorrow they will totally be passed out in the back seat.

P.S.  When looking for a life coach, you need to find someone who clicks with you, as you are building a relationship.  Trust is critical.  You’ll also want someone who has their certification and is a professional.  Because I think she’s absolutely the best, I can’t recommend Kelsey Joy highly enough, and I look forward to continuing to work with her in 2018.

P.P.S. I’ve learned tons throughout my journey 2017, and I’ll work to create some short vignettes to share those lessons with y’all.  I can’t wait to continue to get my learn on in 2018.

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Happy Christmas, Merry New Year

Trees are going up.  Lights are twinkling.  Menus are being planned.  Parties are in full swing. Giving is on our minds. Across this great big world, no matter what you celebrate, it’s the holiday season –  from big cities to suburbs to small towns to rural communities.

In our family, it’s Christmas. Growing up, our tree glowed with colored lights and candy canes.  Christmas pageants and plays afforded some slightly off-key singing. And Santa’s milk and cookies were always snickerdoodles. (Interestingly enough,  those were also Dad’s favorite.) It’s a time filled with memories, from the emotional to the hilarious, like the year our new puppies pulled the tree over by leaping for the aforementioned candy canes.

Now well into adulthood (ahem … dare I say entering middle age), we continue to count on those traditions and build new ones.  When Cowboy and I were newly married, Christmas was one of those times when when our families filled our home with the things we needed most like silverware, mixers, critter essentials, jeans, and boots.  

We are grateful for all of those gifts that helped to make our house a home.  We still treasure them.  I mean how many parents don’t blink an eye when you ask for four mineral block holders for your horses for Christmas?  Or horse steps so you can get your vertically challenged self closer to the saddle? (This last one is totally my issue by the way, not Cowboy’s.)

As we build on new traditions, we’ve begun to focus on experiences, like taking family to see a Christmas musical or hunting out the best Christmas lights, which also requires that the perfect mug of hot chocolate be brought along for the ride.

We’ve also become very aware of those that could use a little extra compassion, a helping hand. We’ve got amazing friends and family, and over time we have been shifting our gift giving to those organizations that need help to make this world we all share a better place.  It’s fun to see which causes friends and family care most about and donate in their honor.  Even our just-barely-a-teenager niece has gotten in on the act, finding an organization she thinks honors those she cares about.  Those moments are priceless.

Which brings me back to this world we all call home.  Let’s be honest, it’s been a tough year, especially if you spend any amount of time watching the news.  From natural disasters to man-made ones, to politics that have divided more than united, 2017 has made us all a little weary.  Our collective spirit could use a dose of holiday joy.

So when someone wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, or just plain old Happy Holidays, let’s remember to take it with the grace and love it was intended.  We could all stand to give each other a break, and realize that when someone is wishing you a merry or happy anything, they are simply sharing their best wishes for you.  They are not entering into a religious or philosophical debate or argument.   They are purely wishing you peace, joy, memories, and giving – all of the beauty that comes with this holiday season.

When you look around the world, we could all use a little more love, humor, and kindness.  Share your memories, share your well wishes.  And above all, share the love. Happy Christmas and Merry New Year from our farm to yours.

My Farmtastic Life - Christmas cat and dog
This is how we roll with Christmas at the farm – nothing a little stare down won’t fix. Seriously though, love all around.

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Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

What’s in a Word?

As we welcome November and the promise of cooler weather, turkey leftovers, and family gatherings, we also enter the official spokes-month for gratitude.  A time when we take a personal inventory of all that we are grateful for – from people to things, jobs to homes, children to critters.  All of us have something to be thankful for, even in our darkest moments, and for many of us we can swell up with a feeling of being blessed.

But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this word blessed.  No doubt it’s trending right now – you can find it on everything from dish towels to picture frames.  And it’s a perfectly good word.  But it’s also a word that I think we sometimes get mixed up with grateful.

You see, blessed is a passive word, whereas grateful is an active word.  Someone gives you a blessing, but you have to take an action to be grateful.  Being grateful is a decision.  We are fond of saying that God has blessed us.  And trust me, I wholeheartedly believe He has, but maybe just not in the way we think.

Now if you feel like I’m on the edge of blasphemy here, please stick with me. I promise this will turn out okay.  

Let’s say you have a beautiful home and a good job.  It’s easy to say, “I’m so blessed.”  But here’s the flip side.  Is the person who lost their job not blessed?  The person who is working two jobs just to make ends meet less blessed?  

Or think about how often you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m blessed with good health.”  Great, but does that mean the person who has cancer is not blessed?  That they somehow incurred wrath from somewhere?

I can hear you thinking, “No way.  That’s not what I meant at all.”  

And I’m with you.  What we really mean is that we are grateful for our homes, our jobs, our health.  And we would never want our gratitude to be confused for the belief that we have somehow received divine preference over our neighbors.

Blessings are something that we, the collective humanity, share.  Nature and life itself are blessings.  Things we can all enjoy.  I, personally, don’t believe they are doled out to a few, and I don’t believe they always look like we would expect them to.

And while this may seem like a game of semantics, words really do matter. (Yes, I was an English major, so humor me with this one for moment.)  Think about someone whose world is falling apart.  If you are busy talking about your blessings, things that are received, where does that leave them?  It leaves them feeling like they are walking around under a dark cloud, out of sorts, out of favor.

Rather, share your gratitude.  Your zest to acknowledge all that is beautiful, from the smallest to the greatest moments.  Trust me, I am a recovering blessing user myself.  I used to liberally smatter blessings here, there, and everywhere.  But after reading an article about the importance of our words, I realized I was truly filled with gratitude.  I wanted to wish people a beautiful day, a day with at least one moment of happy, and leave blessings to the big guy.

So as you start to make your plans for family dinners, school activities, and get togethers with friends, I encourage you to think about those words that are most meaningful for you and those you love.  How will they impact others?  How can you share your gratitude?  

P.S. A version of this post was published in the Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Smashing Pumpkins (not the band)

Okay, I’m going to admit it. We have not one itty bitty bit of pumpkin decor out at the farm.  No farmhouse steps lined with white pumpkins and mums.  No pumpkin spice latte in the percolator.  Somewhere in the garden shed is my pumpkin welcome sign, which I may or may not bother to dig out.  We’ll see.

As I scroll through Instagram, I see tons of tablescapes, porchscapes, and all kinds of farm-y scapes filled with pumpkins and leaves and just the right amount of bling.  And did you know if you are decorating with pumpkins, the traditional rich orange is not your only choice?  They come in all shades of sage green and cream so you can artfully blend them with the carefully crafted farmhouse look.

What’s the farmhouse look?  As best as I can tell, it’s furniture slip covered in white, a little bit of distressed wood, a little bit of metal, a few antique-y things, and grey, beige, and white everywhere else.

It seems the concept of farmhouse is all the rage these days.  I get it. It’s lovely and dreamy, and the Fixer Upper people have turned it into a lucrative business (seriously, that’s great for them).  But for most of us living in the country,  these pics are not even close to reality.

So for a little fall fun, I thought I’d debunk a few of the fall farmhouse decor myths, at least around this farmgirl’s humble barndominium.

White sofas – Who are we kidding with this one?  Yes, it’s lovely.  And yes you can bleach it, but heaven help me I’d be bleaching daily.  It would remain white for all of two seconds before Maybelle bounded onto it with wet paws or a black cat decided to make it his scratching post.

My Farmtastic Life - Rhino the cat and Max the dog
This right here is why we do not have white sofas. If it’s not washable and can take a little dirt, it’s not happening at the farm.

Pumpkins by the dozens – Yes, pumpkins are great.  But thanks to Starbucks and their PSL (pumpkin spice latte in case you’ve been hiding under a rock), pumpkin flavors and pumpkin decor are E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.  And while folks used to get one pumpkin and carve it with the kiddos, the photo worthy farmhouses filling up my Instagram feed look as if they’ve had an 18-wheeler of pumpkins delivered. Seriously, the last time I had a pumpkin, it was lovely, right up until I left it outside, sitting too long on the porch bench, and well let’s just say it was not pleasant when I picked it up.  And on a side note, I seriously do not remember all of this pumpkin crazy when we were kids. Our moms handed us the plastic pumpkin to go trick-or-treating, we watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and called it good.

Accessories, lord honey, accessories – Look, we all love to decorate our houses. They are expressions of us.  For Cowboy and I, it’s a mix of things we’ve collected over the years.  Lately, though we’ve been on a real pairing down spree.  Why?  Because country living is dusty and messy.  That’s right, when you live in the country with gravel driveways and large fields, well dust is just a fact of life. And while I truly adore all of those perfectly accessorized rooms, it’s just not practical.  Not to mention, with dog tails wagging and cats climbing, things will get knocked over, broken, and worst of all, eaten. (And on that last one, if eaten stays down and doesn’t come back up or out to haunt you in another way, well then that’s a good critter day.)

Perfect porches – Now this one speaks to my heart of hearts.  The porch is my home. I am out on my porch daily.  It’s my happy place.  But it does not constantly look like I am ready to host tea.  I don’t have rugs and fabrics swathed all around.  Why, you ask?  Well, first of all, the aforementioned critters.  Heck, I’m lucky if I can keep Maybelle from digging up my potted plants, or, worse, eating horse apple snacks.  That means it’s slim to none, I’m going to keep fabrics pristine outside.  Pillows?  Let’s just say they’d be gone with the wind.  After two summers of chasing chair cushions around the pasture, I finally wised up and bought ones that tie to the chairs. Brilliant!  There is nothing like riding the tractor around the farm, weaving between horses, looking for chair cushions. Oh and what decor is on my porch right now? A snake grabber and a shovel. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Now I say a lot of this with fun and jest.  We love fall and all the joy that comes with it. And I’m sure pumpkin something or other will appear at the farm before this season ends. (Seriously, all of this pumpkin madness has to be a real boom for pumpkin farmers. Two points for that.)

And to those farm style bloggers who can whip up some amazing decor and inspire us all, more power to you.  You are some amazing folks. However, if you are reading this and are a bit more like this farmgirl, i.e. likely to be wandering around doing chores in an old t-shirt, jeans, and muck boots, your house slightly disheveled, the only white decor that stands a chance is your washable wood trim, and critters rule the roost, it’s perfectly okay.

Don’t feel guilty.  Don’t think you have to run out and fill your grocery cart with pumpkins and somehow stack them with  hay bales and mums in a way that is oh so extra.  Don’t spend hundreds on craft supplies to make the perfect tablescape that is destined to be chewed on by the cat.  Instead, enjoy your farm (or cottage, or house, or apartment), and whatever fall means to you.  Drink a PSL if you like, or go rogue and drink a Dr. Pepper from a glass bottle while sitting barefoot on the porch reading a good book. (Personally, I pick cozy mysteries every time. )

And for all you ladies who make it looks so easy, God bless you. I do love the inspiration.  But when I look at my own farm pics on Instagram, I have to remind myself that pumpkins and white sofas are just one of the many ways farmgirls can decorate our humble abodes.  For the rest of us, washable denim and a can of Libby’s pumpkin will have to do.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 6.21.54 PM
Okay we have one pumpkin on the farm. But seriously – how can you not love this crazy girl? #maybellethemagnificent

P.S. I totally recognize the irony of writing this on the eve of visiting the Magnolia Silos. Maybe I just had to assure my wacky farmgirl self, who while not the quintessntial decorator, is still quite okay.  At least in the eyes of Cowboy and the critters, and that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Church on the Porch

I grew up in church. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, I was there.  Sunday school, choir practice, youth group, sermons, lots and lots of sermons.  It’s where my best friends were, and it was the lense I learned to see the world through.    

Throughout our years together, Cowboy and I have attended quite the menagerie of churches.  We’ve seen the beauty and, unfortunately, some of the really ugly. We’ve been members, participants, told we couldn’t be members, or worse only one of us could join. (If you know us at all, you know we’re a packaged deal.  For better or worse, you get both of us.) We’ve taught Sunday school, volunteered, and attended Bible studies.

And right now, we are officially on a break. There, I said it out loud.  We are churchless.  Without a church. Without a denomination.  

But what does that mean?  Does it mean our faith in God is diminished?  Does it mean we love less?  Does it mean we are no longer Christians? Nope, absolutely, 100 percent no. In fact, for us, I would even dare to say that our faith in God, our love, and commitment to what it really means to be a Christ follower is stronger than ever before.

When it comes to church, we have not found the right fit for us, a place that speaks to us, a group where our core values line up.  It doesn’t mean it’s not out there, it just means we haven’t found it, and so instead of continuing the exhausting search, we are taking a break.  

So what do you do on a break? You have church on the porch.  We are intentionally taking time to sit on the porch and soak in the awe and wonder of God’s creation that surrounds us.  

Watching the horses laze around the pasture, while dogs nap in the yard. Watching bees and dragonflies buzz through the air, as hummingbirds hover at the feeders. Marveling that a single Basil plant growing out of an old horse trough can smell so fragrant and get so huge.  Feeling the breezes on skin warmed by the sun. And being grateful, oh so grateful.  Not because everything is perfect, because that will never be the case, but because we’ve let go of the perfect in return for finding peace and joy in the moment.

My Farmtastic Life - Maybelle rests in the shade of a Basil plant
A fellow church on the porch attendee, Maybelle rests in the shade of a Basil plant.

Observing our surroundings is just one part of church on the porch.  There is reading, discussing, listening to music, inspiration of all kinds.  For me, church on the porch brings clarity to my crazy thoughts, a deep rooted grace of sorts.  The conversations are special, personal, and helpful.  Oh, and most importantly judging is banned from the porch. Curiousity is welcomed.

Sometimes church on the porch happens on a random Thursday evening. Sometimes it’s a glorious Sunday morning.  Sometimes once a week and sometimes more often.  Sometimes for 15 minutes and other times for hours.  There are no rules.  Just time to revel, to meditate, to laugh.  (Laughing is totally okay during church on the porch, in fact it’s encouraged.)

So if you are struggling right now to find the place you fit, don’t be afraid to do what is best to nurture your soul and explore your faith.  It may not look very traditional, but what you may find is oh so spiritual.

P.S. I absolutely love to read.  Right now I’m working through a series of Rob Bell books, including: What Is the Bible?, Velvet Elvis, Love Wins, and How to Be Here.  If you need a little inspiration and are looking for a more expansive, inclusive view of God, I highly recommend these as a great place to start.

P.P.S.  Please don’t take this as encouragement to leave your church if it is working for you.  We think that is a beautiful thing.  This a personal story of finding a new way to express our own faith, while struggling to fit within the traditional boundaries and options present for us.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Sun, The Water, and Hope

August has shown us the best of humanity, and through tears of joy and sorrow, it has offered us hope.  We so desperately need hope.  We need to believe in the goodness of the human spirit, in what unites us all – our raw, deep down humanity, our will to survive and thrive.

Earlier this month, we saw people lining up, camping, and gazing skyward in unity at the beauty and wonder of the eclipse.  Caught up in the awe of nature, of science, of God’s creation. We now see people launching boats in streets swollen with water to rescue strangers, animal rescuers descending to make room for displaced critters, and people around the world donating in ways big and small to help those in South Texas with hurricane Harvey.  It is these images that give us hope.

Admittedly, this Texas farmgirl has been glued to the news in the mornings and evenings, keeping a watchful eye on my Twitter feed throughout the day, and checking on friends in Houston as they wait and watch.  Doing my best to go through the workday, but in the back of my mind thinking all the while about what is important in this life.  Watching as the dogs and cats and horses and donkeys laze around the farm unaware of the world in peril, getting some sort of peace observing their peace and knowing Cowboy and I would do anything to safeguard our little zoo.

My faith in God is such an important part of my personal journey, and continues to grow and expand as I watch these beautiful moments when we come together with the best that we are, offering all that we have in order to help a fellow soul.

My Farmtastic Life - The sun, the water, and hope. The beauty of humanity when we all come together.
There is nothing more beautiful than connecting to your fellow humans – reach out, hold someone’s hand, say a prayer, offer a hug.

When I first sat down to write this post, I wanted to talk about how we’ve all gotten into an us vs. them mentality, and how it is pulling us apart.  How at some point, all of us are part of a them group to someone.

Even today as my fellow Texans are fighting to survive, I watched as ultra conservative religious leaders took the opportunity to launch the Nashville Statement – targeted to isolate and condemn our LGBTQ friends and those of us who love them.  And again, my heart broke as all I could think was, “Really?  Seriously? This is what we are spending our time on?  Why oh why are we not lifting up our neighbors?  Jesus was and is the ultimate in love, and we are so missing the point.”

And while I could argue until I am out of breath as to why this latest attempt to divide us is wrong and heartbreaking and ill timed on so many levels, it’s become clear to me that we simply cannot give hate or those who look to divide us any more airtime. It is enough. Silence may be our greatest gift to each other.  If no one is listening to the dividers, then they no longer become dividers, and we become the uniters.

The beauty of our world is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and hopefully thoughtfully.  The curse is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and if not careful not so thoughtfully.

So as we watch the tragedies that surround us, let us share the beautiful stories.  Let us link our hands with our neighbors in comfort and solidarity.  Let us remember that there is far more good than evil.  We just have to make our voices thoughtfully and beautifully heard.

P.S. If like me you grew up in a church that had a limited view of love and are looking for a breath of fresh air, might I suggest checking out Love Wins by Rob Bell.  You might just find a little respite for your soul.

P.P.S. There are lots of ways to help those who have suffered and are suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Whether you want to help families, babies, the elderly, or critters find a spot that speaks to your heart and offer your hand. See list from Texas Monthly. #TexasStrong

P.P.P.S. For all of those who have checked on us at the farm during this storm, thank you for thinking of us.  The farm was never in danger, as we are several hours from the coast.  However, knowing you care means a lot.  God bless!

P.P.P.P.S. A version of this post was published in the Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

 

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