35 years ago….

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person.
You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.

Julia Child


(August 13, 1983…me and my godpoppa, The Very Rev. David B. Collins, who officated at our wedding)

35 years ago today, I said I do.

Or actually, we said, we do.

Oh, that is such a long story from such a long time ago…

It is a story that was questioned by some back then and later questioned, more times
then not, by our two younger selves.

And yet here we are.
For better and worse…35 years later…
And yes, we’ve seen both…

However, we are currently out of pocket…so that little story will have to wait for
a day or two…

But this is the first time in 35 years that we’ve actually gotten to go do something on
the actual date…I was always teaching and he was always working…so we typically had to
squeeze in a night out or a quick getaway at a later day…at a later time when
time actually allowed.

And with one of us having just recently retired… leaving both of us now home…retired,
we’re practicing on that notion of Julia Child’s…
that notion about being together alllllllll of the time.

I’ll let you know how that goes… 😉

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

It takes two baby

“It takes two, baby
It takes two, baby
Me and you
It just takes two
It takes two, baby
It takes two, baby,
To make a dream come true
It just take two”

Lyrics Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston


(our lone apple / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thirty four years ago two rather young naive people said “I do.”
Over the years there would be many a time when both thought that
having said “I don’t” might have been the better option.

And so it is with anything that we do in this life that is done for any real
length of time….
There are the days you’re glad you’re in it and there are days
you wish you’d never seen it!

Marriage is just such an endeavor.

Eventually add to the mix a family…and it can suddenly become hard even
on the best of days.

One thing I know as a Christian.
Marriage is a thing that Satan abhors.

For marriage is a worldly example of God’s love and desire of and for us.
A union and a joining…that mirrors His gift to us in the form of His son.
As Christ is considered the bridegroom and the Church, His spouse…
so we come together as man and woman, bridegroom and spouse.

A union that is a rhythmic tandem of two becoming one.

And just like a tandem bike—you’ve got two very different individuals working
together to make a single bike work…making it move and steer in the direction
that both folks want to go…
because a tandem bike can only go in one direction despite two very distinct
and very different people peddling. Both folks need to be on the same page,
or nobody is going anywhere.

For there has to be just one person who steers and directs while both work to keep it going…
Balancing and moving together as one in order to keep everything level and
flowing.

Which brings me to the picture of the split apple.

Out of the 4 apple trees that my husband and I planted a couple of years ago..
Little trees that we’ve babied, watered, fertilized,
trimmed and fretted over…
we have just harvested our crop…
a lone single apple for the year.

We watched a little flower bloom then form into a tiny green orb.
The tree actually had another little apple that was growing alongside the first…
we concluded there’d be at least one for me and one for my husband.

But one night one of the two apples disappeared…
disappeared to our ravenous deer population.

However, for whatever reason, the higher apple remained….
growing into a full fledged apple.

We’ve been watching it.
Waiting to see if it would survive our midnight thieves.

So triumphantly the other evening, my husband picked the apple and ceremoniously
carried it into the house where I proceeded to wash and cut it in half…

One half for me, one half for him….
Cause it takes two halves to make a whole….

Happy Anniversary to us!!!

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself
up for her, that he might sanctify her,
having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
that he might present the church to himself in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and
without blemish.
Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.

Ephesians 5:25-28

celebrations

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state–
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


(Dad’s cake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the years, I’ve read many tales of those who suffered in the death camps
of Nazi Germany.
I also have read a great deal about those who endured exile in the Soviet gulags.
Some of the stories end with liberation while many sadly, or perhaps poetically,
end in liberating death.

One key element that I’ve noticed over and over, that is evident in almost all of the
individual stories of those who endured the horrors of either form of death camp,
is the single element of either anticipatory hope or dejected hopelessness.

Those who chose to hold onto hope, did so in seemingly small, insignificant and almost
unnoticeable measures…

They would simply keep count.

They would count hours, days, weeks, months, years…
the counting of their own particular life’s moments…
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any of their own personal life’s hurdles or goals…
anything of what life had been outside of the camps to them personally…
They would count and look forward…
forward toward what normal had been….
and holding on to that normal.

Notches were marked on walls, small prayers were silently said as hymns or songs were
privately sung…
As some semblance of recalling and holding onto the marking of these personal moments
could actually keep life sane…
It is what helped those tortured souls hold onto that which was of sanity and routine…
that of life’s normalcy….
all the while as they were being held in the depths of brutal insanity.

There is a bittersweetness found in the holding onto of normalcy during those times
in our lives that are anything but normal.

Those of us who have watched loved ones slowly ebb away due to illness, disease, war, famine,
brutality, paralysis, or any other catastrophic thief understand the importance
of continuing to count.

For if we didn’t count,
if we didn’t hold onto,
if we didn’t hope…even in the face of a seemingly earthly hopelessness…
we would simply succumb to a sorrow so deep, so black and so bitter
that we would be lost to the abyss of utter nothingness…
all of which we would know would equate to utter despair.

One of the hardest bible verses to live out in life is found in the book of James.
(1 James 2….)
We are told to consider it “pure joy” when facing trails.

A seemingly impossible task that many a non-believer throughout time has relished
in taunting the faithful with the sneering
“what kind of loving God would tell you to find joy
in your suffering…other than a maniacally sick puppet master…”

And as it is seemingly impossible to do just that when one’s heart is in the midst of
being torn out of one’s chest….

We continue doing just that….

Because in part we know that what we’ve counted and held onto here in this life,
that which we have considered so dear and so precious…
is but a glimpse of what will be even more so…
once we are liberated and home….

So be we liberated in life or in death…either way…we the faithful…
count our milestones and choose to celebrate…


(this is a really good picture of Dad right now, the other shots look wretched…but there remains
a small twinkle and sly smile in this image)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

1 James 2-6

a shot of fortitude, knowing I can do anything for two weeks…

“True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace,
exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing
the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following
good affections and dispositions,
without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies…
Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and
counteracting the enemies that are without us;
yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us;
because they are our worst and strongest enemies and
have greatest advantage against us.
The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more
than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,
and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries,
strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this
evil and unreasonable world.”

Jonathan Edwards

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(a jumbled mess of fishing line, fishing hooks and seaweed washes ashore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves at our favorite restaurant celebrating
a month late anniversary. This particular restaurant is a place we love to visit whenever we are fortunate enough to find ourselves at the beach.
The restaurant is very nice and the clientele can be equally as nice…with the exception
of some not so nice diners, but that’s for another story for another day.

As we arrived a bit early for our 7PM reservations, the host kindly asked if we
wouldn’t mind waiting as they prepared our requested table.
“Not a problem” I replied as it is often nice to sit for a minute and observe
those who have also opted to come dine…
Folks at the beach are always most colorful in a variety of ways….

As we waited, we watched as two couples entered together through the front door.
Very attractive couples…say, mid 60’s.
The women were puffed and coiffed to the Nines.
Giving the air of overtly well to do.

They waited a bit and were shown to their table as one of the men excused
himself from the group asking for the men’s room.
About two minutes later the other gentleman wandered back out for
what we assumed was to direct his friend to their table.
But rather than wait on his friend, he headed straight to the bar.
He appeared very impatient wanting the bar tender to hurry to his aid.

He ordered what appeared to be a triple shot of scotch.
I know these things as my dad use to be drawn to the same sort of amount and
libation back in his younger years….

The man took glass in hand bringing it quickly to his lips as he threw his head back,
draining the brown liquid from the glass in one quick swallow…
As he just as quickly plopped the glass on the bar.
No savoring, no sipping nor enjoying…
more like a “wham, bam, thank you mam, sort of moment.

At this point his friend emerged from the men’s room and
off they went to join their wives.

My husband and I kind of laughed to one another as we wondered aloud
if spending time over dinner with his wife was such that he
needed a heavy shot before continuing…

Fast forward to today…
I was back at the Orthopedic’s office following last week’s MRI.
I sat in the exam room almost 45 minutes before the PA came in.
How are you feeling she asked.

“Well…
imagine that the top of your thigh is numb yet at the same time it feels
as if your inner thigh and groin have been flayed wide open
while someone is constantly scrubbing said area with a brillo pad…
All the while someone else has a drill and is drilling right
into your hip bone and lower back, just a tad over from you lower spine…”

“Hummmm, that good eh?”

I flatly looked at her and stated more then questioned…
“I suppose the MRI didn’t show a thing did it?”

“Oh no, it showed something alright…
that’s what took me so long, the doctor had to keep looking over the MRI”
The scan wasn’t as high as we wanted it to go nor as deep…
but there is definitely a distribution of disc material outside of the
column on the left side…and it’s squeezing the emerging nerve.”

In other words, a bulging disc with severe nerve inflammation.

I asked if they wanted to repeat the MRI…
with her response being “only if we have to do surgery.”

Surgery?

“We have two options…we can be conservative and do therapy and traction….”

The thought of traction conjured an image of me flat on my back in a dingy cell
tied to a dark wooden plank as my hands and feet are chained to a roller
all the while as the masked torture master cranks the medieval rack…
stretching me till I snap.
Which mind you might feel better than flayed skin and brillo pads….

“Or, and this is my recommendation, we schedule a spinal nerve block.”

Ahhhh another torturous device where a large long horse needle is wiggled deep into the spin,
injecting steroids and anti-inflamation meds directly into the source….

“Ok, I’m in” I said probably a bit too eagerly…
but I think she grasped the fact that the pain has got to go…as in now.

“We’ll need to schedule it with one of the other doctor’s who normally does this sort
of procedure…and I’m afraid it could be a couple of weeks…”

“WHAT?”

Sure enough, the first available time is in two weeks.

“I can do anything for two weeks,” I hear myself chanting in my head.
That use to be my mantra when I was a much younger mother and teacher.

I would always have to take some sort of continuing ed training or coursework,
usually during the short summer, and it always seemed to be for two weeks.

I despised having to give up my precious home-time–
Whenever I was home, that’s when I savored being like a full time wife and mom…
Having to give up any of the sacred home-time was…in a word, torturous…

But….

I would always reassure myself that both my young son and me could manage anything for two weeks…

Just as I reminded myself today, “I can do anything for two weeks…”
even if it means living with constant pain, no energy and no moments of rest…
while now dealing with poor dad’s conundrum….

All this while as thoughts of just running around naked seemed to make perfect sense as nothing
would then be rubbing on the skin where angry nerves recoiled at the slightest touch.

Which brings us back to the previous observation of the gentleman at the bar…

Whereas I feebly attempted to soothingly reassure myself that I could do anything for two weeks,
perhaps this particular gentleman, who found that he needed a shot of fortitude just to endure
dinner with his wife, had it more aptly figured out…

As I quipped to the nurse, “two weeks is fine, but please call me if anything comes available
sooner… as you may just find me at a bar drinking heavily….”

Here’s to doing anything for two weeks…along with a shot of fortitude!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Will it or won’t it ?? Oh, and a happy anniversary to us. . .

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
Mahatma Gandhi

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(the ominous forming of icicles / Julie Cook / 2015)

Perhaps it derives from a sense of solidarity with our northern kinsmen—
Those hearty New Englanders who are currently burdened, as well as heavy ladened, by the 9 foot and growing mountain of snow which has beset misery and woe upon our northern brethren in oh so many weeks.

Perhaps it is because of the still painful memory of the debacle of Atlanta’s SnowJam 2014 with
visions of the interstates as frozen parking lots and children camping out in their frozen-in-place school buses. . .

Perhaps it is because we are simply tired of the abundance of cold dreary rain and are, by sheer force, willing this miserable liquid to be something different. . .

Today marks the 3rd day in recent weeks that our school systems, at the behest of the Governor, have canceled school due to snow. . .might I add that there has been no snow.

This being a cancellation of anticipation.
Hummmmm. . .
Have you ever had a snow day without any snow?

Our weather woes and worries have become a much ado about nothing sort of affair. . .as in we have been warned for days and days in advance that calamity is soon to be riding in on the snow packed Northerly winds as the southern streaming Gulf moisture rides up to meet it. . .a scenario for the perfect Winter Snowstorm meeting in the middle—it’s just that nothing really seems to ever meet in order to materialize. . . other than up in the north Georgia Mountains where such happenings are expected.

As mere mortals, we are constantly trying our utmost best to corral the fickled wiles of Mother Nature. We study radar and charts, we compare highs and lows, we listen, we watch, we probe, we dig, we explore, we enlist the myriad of satellites circling the earth like lonely buzzards over head in search of calamity and catastrophe. We pat ourselves on the back when, by chance, we actually hit the forecasting nail on the head and then are quick to point fingers, while casting blame, when we’re caught by surprise.

So on this day of standing on the periphery of will it or won’t it, while I mindlessly join the masses who are making the dutiful pilgrimage to the grocery stores in search of the vastly fleeting and survival necessary bread and milk, as once again we stay glued to the windows in search of the elusive snowflake, I want to take a moment to wish both you and I a warm and loving Happy Anniversary. . .

Anniversary you ask?
Yes, yours and mine, as in ours. . .
Two years ago on the 25th of February 2013 you and I began this little blog journey–together.
Well actually I started the journey relatively alone and by myself–as in I ventured out into the unknown blogoshpere not even knowing what a blogoshpere was. . .

But two blessed years and 859 posts later here we are. . .you and I. . .together!
What a Blessing. . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!

You bring me joy daily as you allow me to wax and wane, grouse and sing, vent and create. . .we support one another and we share. . .
We share the ups and downs of life–of which none of us are exempt. . .
And so it is on this 2nd anniversary of this journey we call Life, as visited via the blogoshpere, I thank you for walking by my side—it always makes a journey so much more meaningful, bearable, fun as well as magical walking side by side don’t you think. . .so thank you for taking this journey with me, by my side. . .

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Numbers 6:24-26

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Signs of the times through the eyes of a piper

Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Teddy Roosevelt

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(a lone little sandpiper wadding through the sand Watercolor Beach, Santa Rosa, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

A rather hopeless image is it not?
A lone little sandpiper, supported by tiny little nimble legs barely wider than a toothpick, dutifully trudges its way through an endless sea of sand.
Up and down the dips and hills.
No matter that the air temperature is 97 degrees and the sand barely tolerable to bare feet.
All day, every day, from sun up to sun down, the sandpiper marches on, on his life’s quest of foraging for food and of finding a mate.

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Yet if we zoom in, focusing more on the actual bird itself, blocking out the endless ocean of surrounding sand, the journey, the chore doesn’t appear to be as daunting or overwhelming. Rather we see a cute small bird dutiful to his task, nonplused by the uneven barren terrain.
Merely going about the task of daily life.

Two images of the same little bird which helps to bring us today to our quote by President Theodore Roosevelt.
President Roosevelt, quite the maverick and trailblazer of his day, reminds us that a life lived with numerous attempts and failed attempts is much better than the life lived by those who either, out of fear, ignorance or both, choose inactivity and complacency.

Those who attempt a venture, a quest, a goal will most likely eventually see some sort of progress, triumph or victory. Yet those who remain still, immobile, or sedentary will see simply the same ol thing day in and day out—a rather grayness of nothingness.

My poor Dad, he prefers a life lived in the grayness.
He has never understood my love of traveling nor of my desire for adventure.
I mentioned recently that’d I’d like to one day travel to Ireland.
His response was “just stay home, you can watch it on television”
“Watch it on television?!
DAD, I don’t want to watch Ireland on television!!!”
This as I had called to tell him we were driving down to Florida, to the beach, for the weekend.
“Why do you want to do something like that?”
“We’re celebrating our belated anniversary”
“Why can’t you celebrate at home?”
“Dad” (there is a tone there)
“Dad, there are no terrorists on the roads to Florida” (or so I hope)
“There is always danger; there’s danger driving up to Sandy Springs” (the city just above his home)
“Dad” (note the tone again)
“I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to come up until next week”
“Oh you don’t need to come up. There’s danger on the roads. Just stay where you are”
“Dad, how in the world am I going to see you if I don’t come up?”
“Oh there is just too much danger on those roads. . .”

My mom never got to go anywhere or do anything the least bit adventurous during her life.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, she died from a brief bout with lung cancer at the age of 53.
After her death I wanted to make darn certain of two things. . .
A. that I would beat my mom, living past her short span of 53 years.
and
B. that I would make her a promise– that I would go and do, as best I could, taking with me always her spirit as I knew my mom would have enjoyed and liked to have seen and done more in this world.

Sadly however, I’m afraid Dad may have a point as I think the times in which we find ourselves living are most precarious and frankly quite dangerous.
Dad is right in that regard.
The world has certainly grown dark as the shadow of Death and Fear work in tandem to engulf the lives of a world community.
Suspicion, doubt, apprehension have come to rule our daily comings and goings.

As we read our papers and watch the news, as each is laced with the dire warnings, statistics and predictions of these dark days of which we live, may we be mindful that if we succumb to the fear, to the threats issued by Madness itself, we are the losers who therefore allow Fear, Death and Madness their win.

May we never settle for less in life merely out of stagnation and fear.
Life and living are always going to be accompanied by risk.
That’s simply the nature of the game.
Even the old adage reminds us that “nothing ventured is nothing gained”

I certainly do not advocate throwing caution to the wind, that we should dash off half cocked into the abyss of Madness ill prepared or ill informed, but I do believe in moving forward by being watchful, mindful as well as vigilant, willing to see and do within the confines of good sense and good reason. . .but always moving forward.

May we not allow the times of which we find ourselves living hold us back as we dare to dream the dreams of hope and dare to live the adventure of going to those places and of meeting those people our hearts and minds have always imagined and longed for. . .

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole
creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve
those who travel
surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey’s end;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

Happy Anniversary. . .to you and me…to us

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
W. Somerset Maugham

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(a lovely mum from a bouquet, Julie Cook / 2013)

This lovely flower is the very first image I posted, exactly one year ago today, to this little blog of mine. Stating that we all needed a little color— reminding us of brighter days ahead.

The other post that day was a bit more reflective as I explained the impetus behind the inception of the blog. The reasons remain the same, much as they did this time last year. A retired educator who felt as if she still had things to “teach” and share, as well as a daughter who was beginning the adventures of dealing with an elderly father in the early throws of Alzheimer’s disease.

I didn’t know what to expect.
I pretty much figured I’d be rattling on to the wind.
I wasn’t necessarily a technology savvy individual nor was I much for social media preferring to eschew things such as FaceBook and Twitter.
Blogging seemed to allow space for the hidden writer, it was a blank canvas waiting to be filled.
It also provided an avenue of creativity for the retired art teacher—allowing for a new vehicle of expression–that being a bit of photography. Nothing fancy smancy, just the capturing of life, specifically that being images from Nature–affording me time to be in the place I love, out of doors.

You have allowed me to share with you my better moments as a human being, as well as those not so grand moments of my life. You have allowed me to do something that I had always wanted to do, but due to work and life. . .I simply had not the time—that being the opportunity of a chance to write. It is not that my writing is of any significance nor even something that is a virtue of our English Language. I have never been one who could spell and I greatly suspect my son inherited that learning disability of his from his mother as I imagine there just may be a bit of dyslexia lurking under my surface.

You have supported me during those heavier days of life. You have offered kind words, prayers, suggestions, and merely an ear to listen and a shoulder of support as I’ve grieved watching my dad slowly shrink from my world. The grieving continues today but I feel as if the initial sorrow has given way to the resolve of, borrowing from that most emblematic phrase, “Keeping Calm and Carrying On” —he isn’t getting better nor are the issues of trying to keep his world above water, but there is humor hiding in the frustration and sadness and just knowing that I can write about it, sharing it with you, has been a wonderful anchor in a stormy sea.

We have laughed together and cried together as you have allowed me to share in your life’s adventures as well. I have made many new and wonderful friends. Far away friends living in Australia, Bulgaria, Italy, England, Wales, Canada, France, the Philippines and India, as well as friends a bit closer–those from Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida and California to name but a few. 280 of you have honored me by following along on this blog of mine with almost 14,000 views, as well as a little over 1300 comments. All this from a little blog which was started a mere year ago with no ties to social media, from a person who just wanted to share her heart with others.

You are business people, educators, monks, priests, nuns, college students, high school students, single folks, married folks, grandparents—you are artists, photographers, woodworkers, cooks, bee keepers, world travelers, scientists, professors, mathematicians, philosophers, theologians, students, unemployed, overly employed, retirees, singers, dancers, friends and strangers. Some of you know me know me, others of you know me only from this blog.

Magically hiding in the midst of all of us is but a single element which binds and ties us all wonderfully together. . .that being the single thread from this journey we call life. We are all traveling along the same journey—one of birth, life and death. To travel along this sometimes joyful and sometimes woeful journey with other fellow travelers can be so very inspiring, so uplifting and so very beneficial. The singleness of our humanity inextricably unites us together, linking us all, for good or bad, as members of this family of humankind. As one who has been afford the gift of your wisdom, knowledge, experience, faith and love. . . it is I who now humbly wishes to thank each of you for the generosity you have shown to me—for the warmth, kindness, openness and acceptance. I have learned so very much from each you— from your lives and your life’s work. You have made me a wiser person, a more thoughtful person, a more open person, a grateful person.

So it is to you, on this 25th day of February, that I raise my glass offering you my heart and prayers for this, our Happy Anniversary!
Thank you. . .
***Also a little shout out to the two other blogs I contribute to via photography
The Legion of Door Whores (I know, I know. . .) legionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
What light through yonder window breaks? whatlightthroughyonderwindow.wordpress.com

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