Reshaping Life Goals with a Reciprocating Saw

We’re occasionally faced with asking ourselves the question: What is the definition of home?

The answer I usually provide is: Wherever my collection of scotch resides.

But in truth, as we all know, it is more than that.

It’s: Wherever my collection of scotch and Glencairn glasses resides.

Because really, drinking straight from the bottle is just barbaric.

If I were forced to expand upon that description though, I would add that my furfaces—the hodgepodge of bewhiskered, keen of eyesight, and sharp of teeth domesticated companions—would, with great certainty, be found sprawled on some floor. Usually right beneath a bottle of whisky I’m trying to reach.

Also, my books. They would need to be included within that sphere. As books are the most practical of possessions. They educate, entertain, act as trivet and coaster, and in a desperate pinch, garden trowel.

And as most people could attest, one’s home often comes with an eclectic set of quirks—uniquely perplexing at first, but ultimately leaving one resigned to its presence.

When you first move into a freshly built home—one that comes with the architect’s telephone number temporarily affixed to a wall in each room for easy access to explain what this button does or to report this doohickey still doesn’t work, one also hopes that it comes equipped with a full staff to fix those pesky particulars.

When one moves into an older home, say a dwelling that has seen the birth and death cycle of a few families, one should expect the house will have accumulated a few peculiarities that no architect can explain away, and no butler can restore. It’s also likely the old house will have accumulated a dead relative or two who one of the previous families neglected to take with them.

I’m fairly sure I’ve got one of those.

And it’s no surprise to me, as I am used to the presence of old dead relatives and long ago acquiesced to the idea that my family was stocked with deceased witches, soothsayers, crystal gazers, and astrologists. Women who had a habit of making strange announcements suggesting you were just as weird as they, and that one day you’d all gather at some great Wiccan bonfire in the afterlife.

Until then, they would have to suffice with pestering you during your current one.

Seriously, yesterday I had a thirty minute conversation with a flickering light bulb.

Photo by Nayara Dinato on Pexels.com

I’ve called in an electrician, but I’ve done that before and not been surprised when the resulting diagnosis included the phrase, Hey, lady, this thing ain’t even plugged in.

This month I had a birthday, a fairly noteworthy one according to our culture, but birthdays have never held much weight for me other than to grasp the opportunity to sit down and recalibrate.

I like the feeling of biennial rhythm—a life cycle of two seasons from New Years to midsummer and midsummer to New Years—in order to see how six months of effortful work in some direction is fairing.

I usually scratch out on pen and paper new projects, new habits, soon-to-be discarded habits, and the odd lofty goal or two. I ask myself the age old question, Are your mindset and behaviors still serving you? And then proceed to block out any mental responses I find prickly or distinctively unattractive.

This year, I ratcheted up my level of earnestness and wrote a list revealing sharper resolutions coming from a more candid examination. Fruitless labor is out, accumulation of new skills is in.

When one lives on one’s own, there comes a time when you look around and discover that the architect is no longer returning your calls, and the butler left to become an Instagram celebrity. Therefore, purchasing a drill is at the top of the list.

As are things like nails, hammers, vises, and pliers. Bonus to the guy at the hardware store who convinced me that every girl should have a reciprocating saw that can cut through a person like butter. Best not to ask for a bag of fast acting lime to go on your tab straight after that though.

Feeling quite plucky and proud of myself, I set to work with a newfound sense of purpose fueled by my annually refreshed mission statement: Don’t waste my time, Life, I’ve got some serious shit to do.

And this would have all been fine save for the fact that I’m certain one of those ‘stayed behind specters’ was reading my list across my shoulder and then, cackling with great glee, called over her other residuum compatriots, and they all agreed I should reexamine my new motto.

Nothing was as uncomplicated as I believed it should be. Nothing as straightforward as I’d hoped.

Spending an hour spraying weeds on a hot sunny day is met with an ancestral titter of On your knees and pulling by the root is not fruitless labor, as one gains an appreciation for toiling effortfully.

And then the sky darkens with clouds and immediately washes away my insecticide.

Or … I finally break down and decide to purchase a washer and dryer. I travel fifty minutes to purchase said washer and dryer. Washer and dryer now on its way to my house. Bank calls and cancels payment of units, labeling the cost as “fraud alert behavior.” Washer and dryer not on its way to my house. I wrestle with bank. Washer and dryer again on its way to my house. Units arrive and delivery men discover no exhaust vent for dryer. I now own a fine washer and a large metal box that pointlessly sits on top of it. I saw through walls (thank you hardware store guy) and fashion an ‘inside the house’ vent. Metal box now operates as both clothes dryer and sauna generator. Mold grows on walls. Handyman and I soon discover after spelunking in the crawl space beneath the house that an actual dryer vent does exist, it’s just been linoleumed over.

*insert a great shrill of sniggering laughter here and an ethereal chorus of Perseverance is not superfluous exertion.

I get it. You’ve all made your point.

Perhaps I was a bit glib with my whole I can do anything charge into battle bit and must remember an old adage of my grandmother’s: the higher the price you pay for something, the dearer it becomes to you.

And yes, I think I’m willing to devote time and effort to a footpath with no poison ivy, and clean clothes with which to travel upon it.

Now I simply have to discover just how much an exorcism costs because no longer conversing with a chandelier is likely worth a pretty penny or two.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

How to Come to Your Senses and Leave Some Behind

If I had to choose one sense to give up, what would it be?

December.

Yeah, I know, none of that holds any meaning. Which is par for the course these days because I’m pretty sure I have never been this insanely busy and still comprehensible.

I start out each day finishing yesterday’s work—this again, is rather average and ordinary for many of us. But should it be?

Maybe—and only from the perspective that I’ve never been this incredibly productive—but I’m noticing a pile up of all my minor bucket list activities ignored, dismissed, and pitched off the itinerary entirely because really, who has time to teach quantum physics to their dog?

Except I wanted to.

I also wanted time to balance last month’s checkbook, take a glance at last week’s four thousand emails, and clear out last year’s leftovers from the fridge.

None of these activities are nearly as important as the whole science experiment believing that with enough patience I could turn the genus Canis into a genius Canis, but I feel the surplus of neglect in other areas is starting to rear its ugly head demanding attention.

I know, I know, I can hear the responses to my gripe pouring in right through my computer monitor:

Editor/publicist/agent—We told you this business is a tough one, and maybe not for a pansy such as yourself, but you went ahead with it anyway. Stop your whining and deliver us work.

Parents—None of this would be happening if you’d just finished your degree in opera performance with a minor in third-world country folk music. You could be onstage at the Met right now dressed as a villager from Tajikistan.

Pets—Like we give a damn. Feed us.

Pity party over. I find no solace from any quarter.

Except … from Father Time.

Because everything ends. And December, in particular, is a time for endings. The end of the fiscal cycle, the end of the endless holiday season, the end of twelve months on every calendar. It is the finish line of the long six month journey into darkness. And at the end of darkness comes light. Dawn follows the night, summer springs forth from winter, illumination shortly succeeds most every election.

It is a pattern we’re used to, but maybe not wholly aware of. It’s so far in the background it’s now just white noise.

Eckhart Tolle sends me (and millions of others) an occasional “present moment” reminder. It’s a pithy little sentence that in a gentle non-blaming, non-shaming kind of a way announces you’ve strayed from the path and lost the plot.

And it doesn’t matter what tender, sympathetic words the great philosopher uses as an alert, I always read, then slowly hunch over in my chair, and end up face down on my keyboard, forehead somehow locating the letters U, G, and H, tapping them out repeatedly as my head rolls across the characters.

The work will always be there.

The work doesn’t care about you.

Eckhart Tolle doesn’t necessarily care about you either, but he cares that you care about you.

And that is as bright a light bulb moment as we’re ever going to get from anyone.

Our beginnings, middles, and endings are largely structured by us—in an everyday sort of way, although if you want to start the argument that covers the whole “ultimately, we’re fooling ourselves if we think we have free will,” then the first part of my sentence is a moot point.

And I really hate moot points, unless they work in my favor.

The grand message here is that endings— for this essay in particular—are all around us, and personally, I love endings. I like all loose ends tied up and solved, I’m drawn to the last chapter of a book, the last scene of a movie, the last forkful of pie—okay, that one I might wish were never-ending, but it’s technically still a delicious ending.

But the thing about endings is what follows them.

Beginnings.

A little meta, I get it, but valid nonetheless.

And beginnings are fresh starts. Clean slates ready to be scribbled upon. A whole new pie ready to be forked over. Where some last breath is drawn, some other lungs are filling with air for the first time—and I know that’s a little morbid, but death is morbid.

Except when it isn’t. Like the death of a day. Sunsets are not morbid.

The death of a bad law. Slavery was a very big and bad idea to begin with. Not morbid.

The death of longhand penmanship. I’m pretty sure there are millions of school children across the land who are prepared to throw a parade in honor of that withering demise.

It’s perspective, really.

But you know what does not have an ending? Work.

Work never ends. You finish one pile, and another grows exponentially in that same space. One project overlaps another. Years of effort accumulate and you can no longer remember the pitch you made to start the mission.

To be fair, work is truly important, as it’s what makes many of us feel as if we’re making a difference. But we also crave feeling a difference.

In everyday life.

And the way to make that happen is to experience things that are mostly outside our ordinary sphere of interactions and practices. AKA, that bucket list.

It doesn’t have to be big or grand or cosmically so noteworthy it’s on the 6 o’clock news. It just has to be worthy enough to us.

Because it would be awful to come to your own ending only to realize that there were a million things you wished you could have at least started.

So, I say hop to it. Get on the ball and make some movement forward—toward the middle of something new and exciting and un-work related.

Because the clock is ticking and time is running short. Pretty soon, you won’t be able to smell December anymore.

~Shelley

Happy New Year to you all!

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Wait a Second–or a Lifetime by Accident

It has been said that if you step back and actually look, you’ll discover that pets and their owners are remarkably similar.

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Sometimes they share the same personality. Combative and pugnacious people rarely pick out a limp puddle of fur to come home to. And folks who flinch at the militant sound of wind chimes seldom pair themselves with a set of finely edged fangs and three lungs to power some vocal chords.

Often there are similarities to personal appearance. I’ve seen bucketloads of folks who could easily be mistaken for a poodle or a basset hound, but that’s usually because my supermarket is right next door to a bargain basement hair salon and a dilapidated liquor store that has long park benches in front of it.

I might add that many of us are beginning to take on the features of an overwhelmed puckered up pug from too many months of listening to the academics of our communities attempt to interpret the world of Twitter.

Yeah, if a Chinese Shar-Pei was capable of doing a killer eye roll, we’d be an identical match.

But recently, I’ve noticed that my own fetching Fido and I have yet another similarity: we are waiters.

I’m not suggesting that we both have a shift at the local greasy spoon bussing tables, but rather that our lives have been arranged around events yet to come.

I’m pretty sure you know where I’m going with this one, as no matter how old you are—if you are still inhaling breathable gases from a westward zephyr, you will likely have uttered something like this:

When I turn eight, I finally get to jump off the diving board.

Once I’m in college, I’ll open an IRA.

After I retire, I’m going to build an art studio.

I’ve got three years left in the slammer and then (or … you know … something similar).

Now although my trusty rusty trail tracker may not have as extensive a list of to-dos put on pause (paws?) as his human counterparts, there are undoubtedly enough things in his life that are worthy of comparison.

He’s always waiting for food. Not being blessed with opposable thumbs, he is dependent upon the memory of others to know that when the sun makes a certain shadow on the floor, kibble must appear in a bowl. I caught him once staring longingly at a possum sniffing around on the back porch—not because around here we consider possum to be the other other white meat, but because the creature had finely crafted digits that—if directed to do so—could pop the beer tab off a can of hash in under a minute.

The hairy hound is also forever waiting for someone to open the door. Any door. I think, during the last few years, that I’ve come to understand that his desire is not simply to go out, or come in, as he is fully aware of the fact that he has a dog door and uses it successfully and repeatedly. No … he’s too intelligent to have “forgotten” that he has free access. And he’s not making me get up out of my chair dozens of times a day to let him in or out just to be spiteful—or make sure I’m getting enough exercise.

I rather believe it’s due to his level of sensitivity. His inner Zen master bubbling up to the surface. I’m nearly convinced that, to him, a door is a blockage of Feng shui. Certainly this would explain the poster of Chinese Metaphysics on the back wall above his bed.

It’s probably just a phase.

But the thing that baffles me most about this perplexing pooch is the daily routine he puts himself through where he is waiting for his close of day constitutional. The long walk to the post.

We both go. Together.

Except the weird thing is, is that he doesn’t have to wait.

He can go. On his own. At any time.

There are no fences keeping him bound. No lead that needs to be strapped to his collar. No commands that have been drilled into him that indicate permission given to leave the premises.

Nothing.

And yet, every day, he waits.

He could take this walk a dozen times a day if his paw pads could withstand the demand. But instead, he paces the floor, nudges my elbow, and slyly glances at the clock upon the wall—which he has repeatedly requested be replaced with a sun dial as he argues them to be more accurate.

I look at him each day and ask the question, “What are you waiting for?”

And like each one of us—with all of the things we’ve hesitated to do, suspended until later, or sidelined until our plate has cleared—he’s got no answer.

Yes, part of that is because we’ve not spent as much time on speech as we have hands on the clock or really reaching into the corners with the vacuum to get a good clean—and he is making great progress in those departments. But mostly, it’s because there really is no good answer.

I’ve got a million things I wish to do, want to do, and long to do, but the waiting game is a familiar routine whose grooved path is so deep it’s nearly impossible to scale out of. The waiting game even has a waiting room filled with distractions that float across my field of vision with false urgency. It’s a cozy place that serves an endless hot cup of tea, countless food porn pics, and the head-spinning flush of dopamine text alerts.

There are so many things hijacking life that life is getting in the way of living.

That walk is the most important thing to my mollycoddled mongrelized mutt. He waits and waits and waits and never gives himself permission to make it happen of his own accord.

It’s frustrating that I can’t seem to communicate that message to him yet. Maybe he needs to watch the Wizard of Oz just one more time

Image result for good witch of the north

—to see Glinda burble up the phrase You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas—er the mailbox.

Or maybe … because we’re so very much alike, he simply needs to see me mirror that behavior.

Maybe … he’s really just waiting on me.

~Shelley

 

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

Unfettered freedom; America’s elbow room.

Tis the week we Americans begin getting a sprightly gleam in our eyes. It could be suggestive of our massive appreciation and gratitude toward our forefathers—the ones who gave their lives for our liberties. Or it may simply be a reflection of all the illegal fireworks we’re setting off in preparation for the big day: the one where we’re supposed to be showing massive appreciation and gratitude toward our forefathers, but end up losing focus due to the overabundance of burgers, beer and bad behavior.

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Therefore, this year I am determined to explore the theme of freedom before my brain becomes befuddled.

Summertime is a season where typically we are encouraged by the onslaught of complimentary commercials to enjoy the hot, sunny days and wear the attitude of one who is footloose and fancy-free. And I think that works brilliantly if you have a trust fund and are allowed free rein with someone else’s credit cards. Sadly, this is not the case for most of us.

If you are a regular Joe, with a “regular Joe” debt, any day that you are offered a free lunch, or a free ride, or heck, even a Freemason, you’ll likely feel some appreciation—especially if  you’re hoping to understand anything Dan Brown has written.

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So although we attempt to conjure up a free spirit on our off hours and break free from the hectic work week mentality, it can be challenging to toss off the shackles that bind us and view our good fortune.

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I’m trying to encourage this holiday of independence to become as meaningful as I can possibly make it. One needs only read the headlines or hear the top of the hour news to gain crisp perspective on how fortunate many of us are—irrelevant to the number of dollars, pounds or shekels we have in our respective bank accounts. A good number of us are granted the license of self-government—to an extent. Wear what you want to wear, say what you want to say, love whom you want to love. These are prime examples in our culture of where we are encouraged to think and act freely. And folks make an impressive practice of it.

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Unfortunately, not many follow through with an all important end clause: think and act freely, and then pick up all the garbage that may have been the result of your thinking and acting freely. That’s the hard part. Because as I see it, sometimes the privileges we’ve come to bank on crumble, and from then on it’s a slow, tortuous game of pass the buck in search of a clean-up crew. You can ascribe these words to politics, to education, and even to something as trivial as whomever chose the “meh” food, horrific service, and over-priced restaurant you all dined at last night.

As I sit in wonder this week, hearing the pop and crack of homemade bottle rockets, cherry bombs and Roman candles, and as I gaze with awe watching the professionals set off specialty fireworks–particularly, certain explosions that leave me wondering how anyone was able to make a massive Bundt cake appear in the sky, I want to evoke my many definitions of the concept of independence.

Self-reliance falls under that umbrella. Realizing that yes, maybe for much of your life someone else is in the driver’s seat, but understanding that at any point you are allowed to ask your chauffeur to pull over and let you drive, let you out, or let you toss your cookies on the side of the road before you continue on. And all free from guilt. You are more than capable of deciding your own compass heading.

Self-determination is another idea I gravitate toward, as well as the easily linked word autonomy. The world is full of people with ideas. Some are masterful and well-thought out, some are sparked ‘in the moment’ by inspiration, and some are bound together within the pages of The Darwin Awards—a wonderful series of books that salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it.

My point is, is that it takes courage to strike out. It takes confidence and pluck and a bold arrogance that you are right. And sometimes, all it takes is an excess of liquor.

If there is one thing in particular that I will focus on during the celebration of this country’s independence, it will be bravery. Robert Anthony is quoted as saying, “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.” It’s clear that history is rife with examples of those who chose to liberate themselves from an incompatible life. They faced a daunting task. And it took grit.

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Freedom is not free. It comes with a price. And I believe that the higher the price you pay for something the dearer it becomes to you.

This is not a free ride, it is not a free-for-all, and we are certainly not home free. There are people who need our strength, children who need our voices, and causes that need our leadership.

Stand up and fight. Like those before you.

I want to see you be brave.

~Shelley

(And for your viewing and listening pleasure, watch this vid and get motivated!)

June Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click on June 30th to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Waist management: detest detox

I am having one of those days.

And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

I think a massive chunk of people around the world—people who have shoved at least four or five holidays into the space of about 5 weeks time—are feeling much the same as I do:

Stuffed.

We’re all plumped up on high fat, high carb, highly salted foods that were liberally washed down with bucket after bucket of spirits, wine and wassail.

We’re all glossy-eyed over late night movies, all night Twister games and unsuccessful attempts at sleeping in inactive airport gates staring at going nowhere aircraft.

We’re all hyped up on candy canes and gingerbread, rum balls and Yule logs, cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels (yes, maybe I got carried away, but you get my point). I cannot eat one more forkful of panettone or stollen. No more fruitcake nor wedges of pie. I’ve hidden all the chocolate and I’ve thro—wait … what? No, of course I’ve not hidden all the chocolate. I know exactly where it all is.

But the rest of the stuff … totally trashed. Except for the eggnog. And that last bit of trifle. UGH! Can you see what I mean? Once you start—and by start I mean make a six week long practiced and perfected habit of stuffing yourself to the brim full of “just this once” holiday fare–it is ridiculous to imagine your body is every going to look at a piece of kale again and say, “Umm, yeah, I could go for that.”

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Maybe if it’s coated in peppermint bark first.

And if you’re not one of us—the bloated, thickened, pot-bellied pudgesters—then I kindly ask you to stop reading any further because I have the feeling that you’re simply going to leave a comment down below that’s basically the equivalent of a giant raspberry.

And I am much too full even for a raspberry at this point.

Unless it’s coated in peppermint bark.

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And even though the word DETOX is not one that rolls off my tongue in a familiar, family friendly kind of way, it has multiplied like a rabble of rabbits in my inbox, pinging its “new arrival” announcements at an exponential rate. It’s oddly reminiscent of just how quickly the THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE FOR FREE SHIPPING and WE’RE REALLY SERIOUS THIS TIME AND WE TRULY MEAN IT NOW: THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE emails piled up. They attempted to share the same space with the plethora of “You’d be crazy not to make this recipe” newsletters.

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The nerve-wracking moments all leading up to each holiday left me (and yes, many of you) desperate for some sort of respite from the frenzy. A marvelous solution I’ve stumbled upon is simply to provide an extra layer of fat to protect those vulnerable internal organs.

Stress needs to be cushioned.

Except now that the festivities are officially over, I can’t walk around in my floor-length, three-ply plush robe of rapture with the excuse that holidays are meant to be cozy and comforting. And I translate that to mean I’m not required to change out of my PJs. Well, I suppose I can keep wearing the robe as long as I’m willing to ignore the sky high eyebrow raising that occurs whenever I’m filling up my gas tank or standing in line at the bank. I’ve found that reaching into my fur-lined pocket and handing the bank teller a rum ball sends the crisp and unmistakable message that I’m not ready to give up the holiday and join the rest of the world who are already ear-marking seed catalogs and looking for their Easter baskets. Not yet.

I realize now is the time when I have to make friends with grains, greens and the graceful act of surreptitiously crying in front of the bakery window. I must walk that extra mile, ignore that Ben & Jerry’s and cover every mirror in the house. I will make pasta out of zucchini, suck on lemons liberally sprinkled with cayenne pepper, and whizz up every fruit and vegetable into a frothy liquid fiber. I will nibble like a rabbit, forage like a ferret and snuffle like a pig. Wait … scratch that last one.

It’ll probably end up being something more like ‘cry like a baby.’

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But not without effort first. (The healthy detoxing, not the crying bit, although I’m sure they all go hand in hand. Plus crying is a form of expunging inner demons, right? So yes, I shall endeavor to cry with monumental exertion.)

I shall put my back into it, give it the old college try, use some elbow grease. Egads, we’re right back to foodstuffs again, aren’t we?

It’s no use. Who are we trying to fool? Winter pudge is here to stay. I might as well start getting ready for the holidays early this year.

Pass me the peppermint bark.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

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