Year of Pleasures: Feminist T-Shirts

Fourth Wave Tshirts

My friend Noelle launched a T-shirt company last year and I’ve become obsessed with it. Like, the first T-shirt I bought because I’m a supportive friend and the design was awesome. Every single other T-shirt I bought for me. (And I literally own every T-shirt they’ve made. It’s the only thing I wear these days.)

Fourth Wave Apparel was founded by feminists for feminists, to celebrate the achievements and gorgeous vintage style of the women’s movement. They take great care with their sourcing and the results are amazing t-shirts that drape instead of cling and are so soft that I literally get stopped by strangers to pet my shirt. I went into a crunchy granola type store wearing my Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society shirt and I nearly got tackled to the ground. I am not at all exaggerating when I tell you that a crowd gathered around me to know all the details of this fabulous shirt. Even Atti’s teachers and doctors comment on them. I wear these shirts and I’m the most popular girl on the block.

(I’m still a supportive friend, but other than that I have no affiliation with this company and am not getting paid. I just really really believe in this product and it brings me a whole lot of pleasure.)

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Summer is over

2015 First Day of School
Last Wednesday was Atti’s first day of second grade. I have a lot of feelings.

But mostly, I have total relief.

This summer has been ridiculous. All the in vitro stuff, a busted wheelchair, weddings, Atti’s surgery and recovery, a sudden emergency that had me away from home for a week, home for two days, then driving alone across the desert to a conference followed immediately by a camping trip where I cooked for 100 people, another freaking root canal, and then school. I did so. much. laundry. I should have taken a picture. If a wonderful friend didn’t come over and force me to let her help, that mountain of laundry would still be covering up two giant couches.

And now, I’ve had a week to get myself together. I rested up to fight the weariness that made me a shell of myself. I slept off the root canal. I did all the laundry and washed the mud off the camping gear and organized my pantry and bought food. And I find myself wandering around the house wondering what’s next. You get in those hyperactive frenzies when everything is coming at you so fast, and then once it settles down you don’t know what to do with yourself.

In my case it’s led to a whole lot of angst about what I’m doing with my life. Like creative people do, I have a lot of irons in the fire, and right now, they’re all stalled. Novels that can’t find an agent, shows that need production help, companies in the planning stages, product lines being rejected, and all the while this little blog waiting patiently in the background. Except, no one reads blogs anymore. There are a few bright exceptions, but even Dooce stepped back from blogging. The kind of blog that I write – a personal one sharing my life and growth – is a dinosaur.

But I’m REALLY uninterested in the kind of blogs that are getting read these days. I tried, I really did, to hang with all the SEO and Pinterest Ready and Trending Content but it just bores me silly to produce it, even though I consume it. That’s just not what I have to offer. So a dinosaur I will remain. But it also means that I need to change my perspective on this place.

The punk-rock DIY days of blogging are far behind us. Now it’s media conglomerates and listicles and content scraping roundups. I sound a million years old, but that’s what a decade of internet time will do to you. People don’t read and develop relationships with the author anymore. I think about some of the valuable friendships I’ve made with readers over the years and it does make me sad that those wouldn’t happen today. Now everything has to be discrete chunks of info that can be searched on Pinterest.

I remember years ago, I watched as another blog I loved went dark, and the author said something like “I’ve realized my blog is never going to break through.” I thought that was sad and pessimistic, but I totally get it now. After ten years of typing here and watching the internet reinvent itself at least as many times, I find myself in that same place. I’ve realized my blog is never going to break through.

That doesn’t feel sad to me, though. I’m not giving up this space. I’m not going to stop blogging. I’m just going to give up the pressure. If I don’t have anything I feel like sharing, I won’t post that day. I’m not going to worry about how something fits in with viral news stories or seasonal content. In fact, if I was a good blogger, I’d be through all my summer projects and getting close to Halloween stuff by now. Except I’ve got some truly excellent summer projects that didn’t get attention, so I’m going to share them anyway. Because I don’t have to be a “good” blogger anymore. I can just do me. And these days, me is about two months behind everything.

I started this blog because in my secret heart I was a writer, but I was too terrified to write. I was drowning under the pain of chronic illness and infertility. Now I have Atticus, we’re hopeful about more, and I am an honest to goodness, paid for the work, published and everything, Writer. My blog may have never broken through, but I did.

Snuggle

This is really just a letter to myself. I don’t think things will change much around here. Other than I might write more about some behind the scenes projects that are in development that good blogging rules would tell me I should keep under wraps until I had a brand and a marketing plan. But I’m not going to worry about that anymore. Blogging has given me so so much, I’ll never give up on it, but I think it’s time I started looking beyond.

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Newsflash: In Vitro is hard!

Fertility Meds

Every time I think I’ve got the hard stuff of this year behind me and I’m ready to get back on the horse of regular life, the next thing comes along and knocks me flat again. We’re now at a year and a half of health garbage taking over my life – when it wasn’t outright threatening it – all with the hope of having another baby. This kid better be dang cute, that’s all I have to say. And, of course, it better exist.

I have gotten through the egg retrieval phase of IVF, which really really sucked. Like, bad. Over the years I’ve known hundreds of people who have done IVF and everyone said it was hard, but nobody really prepared me for exactly how hard it is. Granted, I am a medical marvel that will find every possible complication, but still. I had to put every single other thing in my life on the back burner and just do this. While Bear got Atti on the bus and raced home from work to pick him up, I laid on the couch watching old episodes of the Bachelor and moaning.

Every ounce of energy that wasn’t necessary for breathing was draining into my ovaries. I slept and slept and slept and I was still exhausted as my egg factories were kicked into hyperdrive, reacting to the oodles of medication I was taking every day. My belly was so swollen I looked like a waterbed, and I was covered from hip to belly button in giant bruises and puncture marks.

Since I’m one of those women who has pain during ovulation, and here I was hyper ovulating, it was not only exhausting, but PAINFUL. And even taking advil freaked me out, panicked I’d be causing harm to the eggs or risking the whole process. I used a heating pad to try and get a little relief but even then I was too worried about making hard boiled eggs to have it help much.

But all of that investment in energy paid off when we got news that there were over 30 eggs waiting to be retrieved. I went in for a quick procedure where they sedated me and then used a needle to aspirate up each of those little eggs. By the time I woke up they were already at the lab being joined by a sperm that had been individually chosen as the best candidate. I had visions of embryologists looking through their microscopes at a little sperm beauty pageant, the winner crowned and injected directly into the egg. Then we just had to wait and let nature take its course.

Of course, since I am, once again, a medical oddity, I had complications even from this little procedure. I had some bleeding that they couldn’t get stopped easily, which resulted in bleeding into my abdominal cavity. Apparently, I’ve learned the hard way, there is a major nerve that runs underneath the diaphragm and sends the impulse to move up and down to breathe. This nerve gets aggressively irritated by blood. So for nearly three weeks this nerve was driving me to distraction. The first night I felt like I was drowning, it felt like I couldn’t get my lungs to fill. Then as my body slowly, slowly, slowly absorbed the blood that was causing all the problems, I began to breathe easier, but I still had intense shooting nerve pain up into my shoulder. After a month of exhaustion making the eggs, I had another month of pain just trying to heal from getting them.

It was disheartening to watch the numbers go down at each stage of development – 30+ eggs retrieved, 16 fertilized, 12 grew to day 2, 8 made it to “blast stage” and on and on. I kept trying to remind myself that it didn’t matter how many embryos we had as long as we got a baby at the end, but it was terrifying to think of everything I’d put in to this process and know that it could all still go wrong at so many different points.

Just before we were ready to proceed to the implantation stage – where they put the embryos into my uterus and wait to see if a pregnancy is achieved – we got yet another twist thanks to my dang malfunctioning body. My hormone levels were out of whack and they felt it was best to wait before trying to get pregnant. So they took our little embryos and popped them in the freezer until I could get everything all cozy for them. I admit, I was crushed. This just felt one too far. After all the pain and exhaustion and sacrifice, to still not have it work out for us, I just about lost it. But once I could calm down and think it all through, I was kind of glad to have a little time to heal before launching into a pregnancy (knock on wood). This whole process has been so rough, it ended up being a good thing to be able to get myself back together before dealing with pregnancy symptoms on top of all the pain and exhaustion I’d just gotten through.

We’ve got four little embryos waiting for us in the freezer, and now we’re just waiting until I can dedicate another month to shots and daily office visits to see if all of this suffering of the last year and a half will prove fruitful. Hopefully August will be a lucky month. Hopefully those four little popsicle babies will actually make it into this world. And hopefully they’ll all be just like Atticus.

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JORD watch giveaway

JORD watch
While I was sick I had to quit a lot of gigs. I left design teams, I returned products and money for posts I’d agreed to write, there were a whole lot of opportunities I had to let go of in order to get healthy. That’s hard on a whole number of levels. It’s hard to have your work suffer, it’s hard to feel like you’re burning bridges or letting people down, it’s hard to admit your limitations. Everyone was nice and understanding, but there was one company that went so far above and beyond that I have to brag about them at the same time I brag about their product.

Months ago, like maybe around Mother’s Day, the folks at JORD watches approached me about reviewing their product and hosting a giveaway. I went through my usual screening process, checking what the corporate values were, if the product was sustainable, and of course, whether I would actually spend my own money on the product. JORD is committed to using sustainable resources in the sourcing of their products, and when I first started learning about them they had just released a special watch design with proceedes going to the Pujols Family Foundation, a charity dedicated to those living with Down Syndrome and those in poverty in the Dominican Republic. The watches passed all my tests so I asked them to send me one that I could try out.

For real – it is indescribably gorgeous.

I love it. I truly love it. Wood is such a beautiful material that I love having something so fine to celebrate it. It’s not cold and it doesn’t trap my arm hairs like a metal band, but it also doesn’t sweat like a leather band. I wore this throughout a sweaty summer and felt just fine. It’s surprisingly light, and it’s so unique I get comments every time I wear it. It’s the best thing I’ve gotten in ages.


So even if all that happened was that I got a beautiful new watch I was totally besotted with and recommended it to you guys, it would be a successful partnership. But how the marketing manager I worked with treated me was what bumped this up from a post about showing off something pretty to an unqualified rave.

Like I said, everyone was nice. All the corporations wished me a speedy recovery, they all held doors open for me to come back, everyone was understanding and supportive. But they also have a job to do, so most of them went for the quickest resolution to our relationships. One company emailed me several times a week to make sure that we settled on square terms – not really easy for me to deal with when my health was such a concern, but never rude or unwarranted. JORD, however, just sent me support and well wishes and told me to take my time, they’d check back in around the holidays. They never suggested that I send the watch back – which would have broken my heart but they would have been well within their rights to do it. I never got an email that didn’t first address their support and concern for me, and by the way, could I just give them a timeline, and also, if they could do anything to help me they would.

I’ve worked corporate marketing jobs, so I know that one individual nice person can only go so far. That nice person has bosses with their own timelines and agendas. They want to know how their marketing budget is working out, where to put their future marketing dollars, and see some return on their investment. The fact that they set all that to the side, along with the concern that I’d never fulfill my agreement to them and just keep the watch with no marketing at all, meant that they prioritized respect for people over their business agenda.

How rarely does that happen?! As major chains make their employees come in on Thanksgiving, it’s getting harder and harder to find companies that make you feel like you’re putting your money in a good place. I’m so happy to recommend a company that makes a beautiful product made by good people.

wooden watch
And you can have one too! JORD has earmarked another of these beauties to give to one of my readers. Just leave a comment and I’ll pick a random winner on Black Friday. Good luck!

**Disclaimer** JORD gave me a watch to try but all thoughts and pictures and opinions are my own.

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Sprout

Sprout

This was my Mother’s Day present from Atti, and it’s a pretty fitting metaphor for what I’m up to right now.

Remember when I talked about Therapeutic Boredom? And how being forced to slow down because of all the crazy hormones was forcing me to learn stuff? I had no idea.

I work really really hard at being emotionally healthy, I think that’s clear. And most days I feel like I’m pretty on top of things in that department. I know when to rest and when to push and what cues to listen to, and I make it a real priority. That’s how somebody can come from my kind of background and wind up as the person I am. A lot of really hard scary emotional work.

And other than what it takes to live with my mental illnesses, I feel like I’m pretty sorted. The stuff of my childhood doesn’t grieve me like it used to. Entire weeks will go by without me thinking about what used to cause me tremendous pain. I didn’t see a breakthrough coming because I didn’t think I needed a breakthrough.

But apparently I did. And forgive me for vague blogging again, but for once it’s too personal to blog about. I didn’t think I would have a limit, but what do you know? I do!

It’s actually all great news. Once upon a time I would have come up against something that brought the grief back and I would have taken to my bed for a week. This time, I actually feel better. I feel like a literal weight is off of me. I feel proud of myself for being strong and brave enough to face hard things, and proud that I can use the tools I’ve acquired to take care of myself. I’ve been meditating, and taking long baths, and seeking quiet and candlelight, and making myself as physically relaxed and comfortable as I can be so that I can do the hard interior work of facing the worst, darkest, most terrifying corners and scrubbing them clean.

This might sound twisted, but I’m actually enjoying it. My body is not healthy enough to let me use it to feel powerful. No marathons or unassisted births for me. But this? This feels powerful. I am healing myself with the power of my own mind. I am sorting through old scripts, beliefs that don’t serve me, things that other people believe about me that I don’t, casting them all away, and watching as it’s so effective I feel it physically.

I don’t know why it is I seem to need hard horrible times to learn lessons, but I do. At least I can be grateful I’m learning the lessons. Maybe then I’ll never need to go through this again.

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Seen Elsewhere

Rhinestone Shoes
My slow down here at the blog doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating. I mentioned I’ve been working on my Master Bedroom, but I’ve also been working at a new gig as part of the Darice design team at Live.Craft.Love.

DIY Lucky Necklace
It’s kind of a dream job. Every month I get to look through the extensive Darice catalog, which is pretty much like walking the aisles at your favorite craft store since, if they don’t make the supplies themselves they distribute them, and come up with a couple of projects. It’s a little like the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run, but for crafters.

DIY Drum Shade
Twice a month I’ve got projects that show up over there, and I share the space with a bunch of other really great bloggers. Follow along for crafting inspiration every day.

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Feeling Rebirthed

Easter 2014
We had a quiet Easter over here. Just the three of us with a no-frills ham dinner, matching clothes courtesy of Old Navy so I didn’t even have to work at that, the first hour of church and then a visit to Bear’s work to check in on the patients and spend the holiday with his work family, then home for a nap. It was exactly the speed I’m running right now.

Last week I went in to get my second shot of Lupron and they couldn’t give it to me. The medicine got recalled and they didn’t have any new stuff. They seemed to feel that the dose I got didn’t apply to the recall, but I’m wondering if that’s why things have been so different this time. Why my emotions are on overdrive and completely disconnected from my brain, why I’m still feeling pain a month in, why I’m still living with the worst of the endo symptoms and the worst of the Lupron symptoms at the same time.

But all this time being forced off my feet has been so good for me in so many ways. I’m a big believer in what Joyce Carol Oates calls “Therapeutic Boredom.” That it’s only in the still and quiet times that healing can take place and discoveries can come to light. I’ve made a whole bunch of changes behind the scenes that are too inside baseball to bother talking about since they won’t change much about the blog but change everything about my workload. I’ve spent time examining my goals to see if what I’m spending my time on is what I really truly want out of life or if it’s where I’m spending my time because it’s “enough” for me. I’ve asked myself if I’m doing what I really want to be doing or if I’m doing things as a distraction from taking the risks I really want to be taking. And I’ve found some new horizons for myself.

Like I said, all this vague blogging won’t change a ton here, and it’s all too early to discuss even if it would, but I’m writing about it because I feel like I’m not alone.

I worked at a M&A firm back in the early 2000’s, and when the economy dropped our work dribbled away from a crazy torrent to a whole lot of nothing. My boss at the time called me into her office to talk to me about how much time I was spending on the internet and she said something that’s stuck with me, “We have to be careful not to let the work expand to fill our time. We have to let our time expand our work.” It was a great reminder then to use our slow time productively and to work just as hard in the slow times as I did in the fast times. But I also think about it a lot in my motherhood.

I can get so obsessed with getting a recipe right that I go a whole week without making dinner for my family. I can take something like a Halloween costume and make it as time consuming and important as the Oscars. I can have a big idea or a big dream and put it off for months or years while I work on holiday decorations or printables. None of those things are invalid or wrong by themselves, but they are a distraction if they’re not what I truly want for myself.

So with this slow down I’ve been forced to take, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions and reshuffling my priorities. And then a funny thing happened. I rediscovered my love for what I’ve been doing all along. I longed to come back here and talk through all my thoughts, I felt my creativity revving back up, but I also found the drive to tackle the big dreams. I had just let things get out of order and putting everything back where it belonged helped me rediscover my love and enthusiasm for all of it.

So hopefully soon I’ll have the big dreams far enough along to share, but in the meantime I still have some great things coming up. I’ve finally begun tackling the Master Bedroom makeover I’ve had as a crafty goal for more years than I can count and I have some pretty amazing results to share with you. And a whole new attitude while I do it.

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Ordain Women, again.

Sisterhood
Photo by Katrina Barker Anderson

I spent this conference weekend in Utah, attending the second Ordain Women event asking to attend the Priesthood session of conference. I was planning on still being there today to meet with people who worked for the Church to have discussions about how to help the women of the church, but the meetings I had worked so hard to line up all got canceled. And I am left wounded and grieving and trying to not let go of faith in my people.

I’ve been writing and talking about this all so much that I am loathe to recap it all again. My OW sister Annie wrote a post that speaks for me as well. Read this.

What has been so deeply saddening in all this is not that we were turned away, I expected that. What has been so difficult is how we’ve been treated. Denied from the sacred ground our ancestors built and told to stand with the protesters screaming violence and obscenities in our faces. Our every action and mere existence interpreted with suspicion, people projecting poor behavior on us because their pride was wounded. Cars full of white shirts and ties yelling at us. Online commenters and friends I’ve known for years telling me that I don’t understand the gospel or must not have a testimony.

This is a video my friend Troy Williams took of me asking for entry:

I took her, and myself, honestly, by surprise when I went in for that hug. I was near the beginning of the line and when I hugged her, she bristled. But I was overcome and couldn’t help myself. I had empathy for her. I knew that what she was doing was going to be physically and spiritually exhausting and I felt for her. When I went in for the hug I whispered in her ear, “I know this will be hard for you today. Thank you so much for being here and letting us do this.” That’s when you can see her pat my arms and say, “OK, take care.”

I am grateful for the spirit of love I felt that allowed me to be empathetic to her. As Annie wrote in the link above, over the course of the day, she softened. I don’t think that the PR department had any idea that we were actually earnest seekers. I think they came prepared for people waging a manipulative and deceptive battle and by the end of it, I think at least Kim understood that we were not there to cause trouble or embarrassment. We were there honestly.

The statements coming out of the PR department are not honest. And that breaks my heart. In part because I know these people, I’ve had great associations with them, it hurts to have them think such nefarious things about me and it hurts me to see them not living up to their own values. Bear says, “PR people are PR people. They’re going to do whatever they have to do to protect who’s paying them.” But I want to believe that people who work for the church would still place their morals above their job performance. And the statements issued contain demonstrable lies. There’s no way to sugar coat that. Believe me, I’ve tried. I want to find a way to make it OK, and the truth is that it’s just not.

When people think that I’m doing all this for reasons other than my own earnest devotion to truth and justice, it never fails to shock me. There are people who honestly believe that I get something out of this. That I’m a ‘try-hard’ who wants to fit in with ‘the world,’ and I’m doing all this for attention. I can’t help but chuckle ruefully and shake my head. Here’s the truth: ‘the world’ doesn’t care about Mormons. They think we’re an adorably out of touch religion at best and a source of oppression at worst. I take heat from all sides, I don’t get any credit there at all.

Instead, if I were able to put all this away and fit in as a Good Mormon Woman I would be dramatically more successful. Because of my activism I have lost book deals, sponsorships, readers, friends, family, community, jobs, careers, speaking tours, and more opportunities than I can count. So often we members think that we are sacrificing to live our values, without ever looking at how much we gain by being “community approved,” particularly when Mormons have such a huge presence in the blogging, publishing, and craft worlds. By following my heart and the Spirit I am “community approved” exactly no where and it has had a major impact on my work.

But if I didn’t do it, I could never ask for another prayer to be answered. I could never ask for another blessing. I would know that I hadn’t lived up to what I had been asked to do and couldn’t be worthy of more. I don’t know why God has given me this road to walk, but he has. And I know that to be true with the same fervor and in the same way that I know God lives and that I find him in this faith. To deny one I’d have to deny the other. And I won’t.
Turned Away
Photo by D’Arcy Benincosa

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Quilters Bib Necklace

Quilt Inspired Bib Necklace

Remember all that great stuff I got at CHA? This is what I made with it, and now I need your help. The grand prize is $1000, and the winner is determined by votes. I need you lovely people to go here, search for my Quilter’s Bib Necklace Pattern and vote for me. Voting is once per device. And then once the contest is over I’ll show you how to make this little gem. You don’t have to login or make an account or anything.

Go Vote! (Thank you, and I won’t ask for this again. Promise.)

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How to help

How to Help

How to Help

Being the unfortunate expert in going through hard times, I often get loving tender hearted people who ask me how they can best help their loved ones who are dealing with something hard. Parenting a kid with special needs, dealing with miscarriage or infertility, chronic illness, and so much more, I am all too well acquainted with hard stuff so people come to me for the lessons I’ve learned that they can apply to their relationships.

Here’s the big thing I’ve learned: no two people need help in the same way. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little pride and I’ll just take what goodness comes my way. But for other people, well intentioned but actually unhelpful help is just one more thing they have to deal with.

This is especially true when people express sympathy and then say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

I know that comes from a sincere place. We feel helpless watching people we love go through all the hard things life holds and we don’t know what to do. But we want to do something, so we give some vague offer of good intention and then our phones never ring. Because who among us is good at asking for help when we’re in the middle of suffering? When I’m dealing with the worst of it I know that there are people who would show up for me, but the thought of picking up that phone or delegating some part of my life to them is too exhausting to contemplate.

But since everyone needs help in different ways, what else are we supposed to do?

Here’s what:
You hand your loved one a questionnaire. You ask them what kind of help would be helpful and what kind of help would really only be about you feeling like you were doing something, and then you follow through.

Giving your friend this little handout my friend Jerilyn and I made for you (I wrote the words, she made it beautiful) is an act of love all by itself, but it allows you to learn exactly what your friend needs without giving them a burden. You can learn what works and then without any further instructions you can do it.

i know times are challenging for you right now, and since you are my friend, and i love you, i want to do something to give you support.
but i want it to be something that would really help you, and not just make me feel less helpless as i watch my friend go through hard things.
tell me what would be truly helpful, and i will be there.

bringing dinner would be great.
dinner is one area we’re covered.
food would be great, but only if it meets these specific dietary requirements.

providing childcare would be a nice break.
my child really just needs to stay with me.

my last priority is a clean house. i would totally let you tackle that for me.
are you kidding? i’m not letting anyone see the state of my house.

all of my clothes live in one pile. i would let you find them a home.
if somebody folded my towels wrong it just might be my last straw.

flowers are beautiful and so thoughtful.
flowers are only great in theory and then i have to clean out a moldy vase.
chocolate makes everything better.
i don’t need cavities on top of everything else.
a care package on my doorstep shows me that i’m thought of.
i want to talk to someone about anything else. let’s chat about something fun.
i want company without the pressure to be entertaining. just come sit with me.
i need people to keep a little distance and let me take the lead.
i need someone who is unafraid to let me be angry, and sad, and depressed, and whatever else i’m feeling. help me process what i’m going through.
i need a distraction. take me to__________________________.
this is what i need more than anything: _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________

I love you. I believe in you. And I will be there for you.

Download the pdf here and use it with love.

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