Saturday, May 31, 2008

And, the Perfect Post Award goes to ...

I haven't been watching American Idol for seven years and learned nothing, you know. I won't dare give away the details so early in the blog post.

There must be entertainment and build up and, well, commercials.

OK, not commercials.

But, lots of admiration will be tossed around.

I haven't nominated anyone for Perfect Posts in a while, but I was moved to do so this time because I knew I needed to show some love.

Blogging is such a tricky medium for writers, especially those who are also mothers. We all have other things we could be doing, should be doing, ought to be doing. Many of us choose to put those off for a bit to spend some time connecting with our own thoughts and with others. We've developed some amazing online and offline friendships this way.

And yet there is often this pull to pull the plug, so to speak, to our connection -- maybe by limiting the writing we're doing or by not sharing the emotions we're really feeling. This has been the case for many of the bloggers I love to read. And this is the case for two bloggers of note this week.

My MAY 2008 perfect post award goes to Jena of Bullseye, Baby! It just so happens that Jena announced this week that she isn't going to be posting on her blog anymore, which I can completely understand. She has a very big, full life to lead. I'm going to hope that she takes a week or two -- or even a month -- and returns to us because writing well comes so naturally for her that I can't imagine my blogosphere without her words.

I chose Jena's post Slide because it's a good example of things she has written that were my absolute favorite posts. This post and others like it have left me smiling for their wit, brevity and inspiration. I have no doubt she is a fabulous life coach. I love the image of sliding right now, too, since I'm about to slide right into a big scary life change. It's also one of my girls' favorite things to do as well. Slide down the slide, slide on the floor, slide down the basement doors, slide out of my arms and into their father's and slide into the big, big world of imagination.

There is no such thing as perfect -- we all know that. But, Jena is a true art form in the feminine masterpiece. I cherish her.

For more perfect posts, check out Petroville or Suburban Turmoil.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And, just who is she now?

Tonight I will sit in a crowded movie theater reconnecting with that woman I used to be.

Funny how this movie is hitting theaters right around the time I'm preparing for a change in my life.

Funny how life works out, friends keep reminding me.

I don't care how this story ends. I only care about the journey. Will the ending be perfect? Probably not. Life doesn't work that way. I am OK with that, even for myself.

My mind has been spinning lately with worries and anxieties as I prepare mentally, physically and emotionally to return to the working world and leave Jadyn and Liana in the care of others.

So much of this past year and a half has been a blur in that I really truly spent most of it in the trenches of motherhood, barely coming up for air of civility or even adult conversation except for on this blog or on other blogs.

Sure, much of me is still the same as I used to be -- I think. I've barely had time to feel what has changed and what hasn't. Life has been too chaotic to even be able to feel many emotions other than the ones directly related to mothering.

I know I rise early to try and feel organized; that I go to bed late to fit it all in. I write more than ever; fix my hair much less. I am much more patient on one hand and not nearly as patient as I used to be on the other. I want less stuff except for stuff for my daughters and then I can never have enough.

Would I have gone to watch this movie alone five years ago? Hell no. I would have had a gang of girlfriends with me, I'm sure.

That's how much I've changed; that I'm looking forward to sitting in that theater, alone, with no expectations for myself, or for the movie. Just me and my best friends on the big screen chilling, letting our stories unfold one after another. We've been through a lot, these characters and me. I imagine they've changed just as much as I have. Will I see it in the aging wrinkles on their face? Will they be as tired as I am? Probably not.

What I've learned most these last 2.5 years isn't so much how I've changed, but how much more I know about life, human connections and what is truly most important.

And, it ain't books or naps.

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Got 4 wheels?

Head on over to The Chunky Purse for a discussion on single-car families.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Who was that woman?

She collected used books, scoured stores, flea markets and yard sales for the right one to fit onto her many shelves.

She read at least two books a month.

She advocated for the disadvantaged: the working class, African-Americans, immigrants, the homeless, victims of violence.

She cooked gourmet.

She traveled and took day trips.

She wrote on a whim, read half the weekend and took naps.

She slept in; overslept and slept in hotels.

She wasn't organized, rarely cleaned because, frankly, the house never got that dirty.

She entertained, churning up a batch of creme brulee for a small party.

She was up on the latest everything, including politics and music.

She had patience and compassion for people.

She never splurged, but bought nice things for herself often.

She faithfully watched every Sex and the City episode until its end and then started over and over, again.

She cried a couple months when that HBO show ended even though she was 30 years old.

She knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it but rarely did so.

She thought living meant owning nice things.

She exercised, even if that meant walking to and from the office.

She enjoyed cups of freshly brewed coffee while reading that day's newspaper.

She was visible to people who actually cared how she was doing and feeling.

She celebrated birthdays and holidays by doing nothing and being pampered.

She came and went without a thought.

She was lonely.

She cried a lot.

She felt something was missing.

She was always searching for something.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Five Years ago

We played Scrabble for hours. And slept late on the weekends and watched movies all day. We took long, slow walks, hand-in-hand and stayed up late talking for hours about work or politics. We worked out everything with a nice dinner out, followed by dessert.

Nothing mattered but each other. We were the world and we knew nothing more than that.

So little we knew about the lives we would create, the people we would become. So little.

What a ride! I'm hanging on for dear life, dear husband. So glad you asked me to tag along to that work thing. So glad I accepted that offer. So glad. So glad. About everything. About it all. About you. And them, downstairs, who carry your nose and your eyes and your wit. And your heart.

Happy Anniversary, Dan!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Girl meets mermaid

It was lunchtime. By that I mean, like a half hour past lunch and we were still inside a dark aquarium with four 2 year olds. Had it not been for the mermaid, I may have had a panic attack of worry. I do not like to think of my daughters' bellies growling with hunger.

We were making our way down the long circular ramp encased with wall-to-wall glass holding back sharks and fish bigger than my children -- sometimes running to catch up with some toddlers, sometimes stopping to oooh and awww -- when we spotted her.

The Mermaid.

She came up to the glass with big, bold eyes that weren't scary like the sharks' eyes. They were kind. They were ablaze with purpose. They were zeroed in on one person and one person only:

Liana (lee-ah-nah)

For what seemed like an eternity to me, but was probably five minutes total -- or ten -- this scuba diver who I only know now as the mermaid, put me in a trance.

By the way she stared at Liana I knew she was trying to communicate with her. So I asked Liana if she could show her how she spins in a circle. Desperate to communicate back, Liana spun.

So did the mermaid. Liana's contagious smile beamed across her face.

That begun a series of mirror like movements. The mermaid clapped her hands, danced, flapped her arms, jumped up and down under water each time after Liana did so herself.

Then, they held their hands up to the glass and blew kisses. I had to drag Liana away to get lunch or else they might have been there all day and all night and forever.

The thing that grabbed me, though, and pulled so hard on my heart was that this event created a crowd that included several other small kids.

But the mermaid never took her eyes off Liana. She never strayed. She only once spun in a circle for another boy, but she was humoring him.

And when we left, this beautiful mermaid swam off continuing her quest to feed the underwater creatures we were there to see.

My imagination ran wild, of course. It always does.

Just fresh from reading "The Alchemist" by Paul Coehlo, and looking at life a bit differently when it comes to our true purpose in life, I was deeply moved by this experience, now constantly wondering about that underwater woman and why she chose Liana to connect with that day.

And, more importantly, how that will influence Liana's future. If it will at all. Or, perhaps, she was always supposed to meet her for a purpose we'll never know.

Regardless, the mermaid made me believe in fairy tale endings again, at least briefly.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

When bloggers meet ...

We wear ourselves out.

I've mentioned briefly that I have found connections with some amazing women thanks to blogging. I've even mentioned Shannon, in particular, by name since she and I seemed to have the most in common from the early days, when we first "met."

The clear connection being that we are both full-time moms of 2-year-old twins as well as women who are constantly trying to find time to write and publish a novel.

Shannon has since become one of my best friends.

Since we started emailing several months ago, we’ve learned that we have a lot more in common. Our husbands have the same first name as do two of our children even though they are the opposite sex. And, of course, we also have names that sound similar ourselves. In fact, I was often confused as Shannon in high school.

Now, we are both trying to sell our homes in order to find more peace in our lives. We both know how to shuttle toys into dark holes like no body's business.

This past weekend, Shannon and I met. She and her family traveled to Pennsylvania so that she and I could attend our first writer's conference together.

Her lovely husband and adorable twin boys spent the weekend in town and, well, we exhausted ourselves. We being the adults -- not the four toddlers. OK, they were a wee bit tired, too.

We watched the first night as our kids learned the Art of Screaming together as they ran around the second floor of our home and hid in my closet. There is nothing more entertaining, I’m sure, than watching four 2-year-olds giggle and smile with each other.

On Saturday, out of hundreds of other writers we were both surprisingly scheduled to meet with a literary agent at the same time, in the same room – though, with different agents. Our nervous stomachs fluttered as walked the very long walk to that room. We both left with good news -- our ideas are good enough for them to want to see more.

Our husbands spent the whole day caring for our children while we soaked up the writing atmosphere in our first conference. We ate with two hands and tried to remember how to talk to other adults, in real person.

That night, the fun continued at our house with the kids going crazy together.

And, Sunday we made the lovely memory of visiting the Baltimore Aquarium together and giving our kids the gifts of seeing and experiencing sharks with big teeth, sting rays with long tails, flying puffins and fish of all sizes and colors.

In the end, when this fabulous family parted ways from ours, it didn’t feel like we had only just met but that we had been friends forever.

Thanks, Shannon, for a GREAT weekend!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

My biggest challenge: Me

Motherhood gets in my way.

It's the biggest obstacle I've ever faced as a productive, independent woman. In the past, I've never let a single person or an idea prevent me from passing, from going through, going forward.

Ask me what I want now and I may not know. I want everything. And nothing. I want to do it all and nothing at all.

I want time for me. Time for the family. Time to get things done around the house.

I want to go places. Stay home. Stay in bed. Watch my girls run and play, freely.

I want to plan menus for the week, and get the groceries, all without missing a beat of "me time" or "family time."

I want to be at home, alone, and feel the comfort of my house without the screaming and the crying and the tugging on my legs. But I don't want to miss out on what happens when they go, wherever they go.

I want to exercise. I want to read. I want to run. I want to drink a glass of wine. I want to write.

I want to start scraping wallpaper off where a toddler tore it off. I want to tape that long piece back on and call it a day because, really, where would that fit in my day?

I want to eat as a family. I want to eat as a woman, as a wife, with two hands, with easy conversation, with music playing. I want to share traditional family meals.

I want to nap. I want to get work done. I want to shop. I want to sit and read magazines.

I want to upload photos and create new digital pages reflecting my daughters' growth. I want to sit and create different pages with my hands, with scissors, with love -- not with a mouse and a keyboard.

I want to be more organized and yet I can't keep up with the toys, the shredded paper, the wet clothes soaked in milk.

Maybe someday I'll get out of my own way.

I never knew I'd become my biggest obstacle, yet.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How NOT to spend Mother's Day

In a room, on a bed, in a hospital wheel chair holding a sobbing 2-year-old whose tears easily broke a dozen hearts Sunday.

Holding her still, so still, so not to disturb the injured left arm.

Watching her eyes roll back in her head from the pain, from the exhaustion of the day and from the crying.

Reluctantly helping nurses and doctors move her just so to figure out what was wrong and how to fix her and how to wrap her small arm in a splint and how to get her small body to lay flat on an X-ray table.

Teaching for the first time what a hospital is, what an emergency room doctor is, what the kind nurses will do and how she was just born there two years ago.

Shhing her, talking to her, hearing her say boo-boo and trying not to cry too much, trying not to appear too scared, trying not to think the worst, whatever that is in a moment of torture.

Then, seeing all her pain disappear with a simple twist of her arm by a very smart, heroic doctor who felt that elbow pop right back into place and assured us she would feel better in a couple minutes.

Watching the smile return to her face, again, and how she searches her arm up and down for the now missing boo-boo that kept her down and out for two hours. Letting her and her sister gleefully eat cheese puffs and chocolate stuffed cookies for the first time and not feeling an ounce of guilt and never feeling more happy about junk food and the pleasure it carries with it.

Telling yourself that rough housing with daddy and twin sister is OK, it is bound to happen, that boo-boos happen. This is life now. This is motherhood. This is Mother's Day -- every day. There are no holidays -- except every day, to be here witnessing human life and two childhoods unfold and holding your breath and screaming in your hands and closing your eyes to try and block some of it out.

All in a Mother's Day, I suppose.





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Friday, May 9, 2008

Review: Were You Raised by Wolves?

Check this out. Pretty cool book if you need a graduate gift anytime soon.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Review: That Baby CD/DVD

Please check out my review today for That Baby CD and DVD set. I must be a kid because I am so digging this set!!

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Catching a shooting star

Dear Jadyn and Liana:

I've known for a week that this letter was coming your way. But, it's taken six days to get here, to this point when I could write it with confidence, with honesty and with peace in my heart.

You see, I really thought that I had this motherhood thing all worked out long before you even arrived. I didn't think I needed to meet you to know how life would be with you here.

I was wrong. I'm making it all up as we go. I might pretend some days to know more than others. There other times, like this week, when I look like I do not know what I am doing at all. In some cases, also this week, I might seem like I do not want to be here at all.

I do, though. Very much. Maybe even too much, which is why I rarely leave your sight.

I whisper in your ears all the time that I will never leave you, always love you, here for you always. And, I mean it. I mean it more than anything.

It is with all of this in mind that I tell you today that I will be returning to work full-time later this summer, I will drop this life we've created together and bring us back to a new starting point where we don't know which way is up.

I do it not for me. I do it for you, for our family. Because I know in my heart it is the right thing to do. It is so. There is nothing to question other than leaving you in the care of others and I'm going to put my faith in this as well.

I've been reading about Personal Legends just for this purpose. I'm still learning, trying to figure out what my personal legend is and why I've been tapped for this job right now when I wasn't even looking beyond today's spilled milk.

You see, this job is not just a job. It's a chance, an opportunity to be a part of trying to make the world a better place for you. For your right now. For your tomorrow. For your friends tomorrows. For when you become a woman, a wife, a mother.

And since jobs like this do not drop in a chocolate-stained mother's lap often, I know enough about personal legends, serendipity, life's chances and luck to know that I should grab this opportunity and go with it. I'm going to ride the wave holding on tightly to you as I flow along, making it all up. If we end up at the end standing side by side with a rainbow ahead of us, then we'll know it was right. If the ride is too bumpy or too scary or too wrong, we can fix it and get things right back to where we are now, where everything is the same and changing all the while.

The funny thing is that to this very week in my life, everything was planned out perfectly. Things didn't always go as planned, but many things did. Some things, including your father and you, came a little later than I planned. But, it all came and I always felt I helped made it happen. But, this week, I actually realized that it's only been with the help of the universe that I've been able to reach these treasures.

It's a curve ball, for sure. I thought you and I would grow up together. And we will; I'll just be letting you grow up with some other people as well. I know you will thrive; I saw it in your eyes today playing with your friends Noah and Logan in a bucket of water. You need to be around other kids; to learn the silliness of childhood, learning to dunk your head in to life and blow bubbles -- things I couldn't make up if I tried.

Everything I've become since the day you were born will remain. The essence of our family, of our souls, the connection we've built will still be here each morning when you wake and each night when you lie down for sleep. We'll cram everything else -- all the art projects and field trips -- into all the other parts of the week.

Basically, I'm throwing it all out the window, hoping that someone in charge of this life will hang on to it all and keep us safe.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Aliens have taken over

-- pshhhhhhhhhh --

Something. Is. Not. Very. Good. Here.

Little. Strange. People. Living. In. House.

Do. Not. Understand. Them.

Worried. I. Can't. Make. It. Another. Day.

Torture. Has. Begun.

Dear Universe:

I've been going through the motions of this ride called Motherhood this week and just about each step has made me question if, perhaps, my house and life has been invaded by sources from another planet.

These are not my children. They can't be mine. There's no way they came out of me.

No, sirs or madams. Please send me back my sweet toddlers, who threw tantrums and cried only half the day -- not all day.

Please, I beg you, return my little angels in one piece and statements like, "Just Shoot Me Now," shall never be uttered again. I swear on your spacey-aged music.

For if you leave these "foreign objects" here any longer I am afraid I will need my own gadget to ride me out of here, to a place where I will suddenly understand the language, where "no" means no, "yes" means yes and we can all pick one or the other instead of staying somewhere in the middle of yesnoyesnoyesno land.

And the hitting. I'm sorry, but hitting, pinching, slapping, kicking and throwing should mean time out and time out should mean stop what you just did and that means don't do it again -- NOT two seconds later.

And, please take with you all articles of clothing that look remotely cool enough for 2 toddlers to want to wear at the same time. And shove our ONE swing in that vehicle of yours, too, because if I have to drag another child out of it to put another one into it, well, let's just say that meteors will be the least of your troubles.

Finally, if you bring my girls back, I am sure that I will at least be able to keep a shiny, happy smiling face on until 8/ 8:15 a.m. which I understand this week has been a bit of a stretch.

I have tried my best to take care of your space children, though I understand you may think otherwise. At least I get them out of their beds in the morning as they cry frantically for their daddy, who is at work and will not be home for 12 hours. At least I hug them and apologize for the fifth time that hour that we do not have a car today and no we can't go for a ride. And, I swear that I will not lose my temper, again, when they are brawling on the kitchen floor and I haven't even poured the breakfast cereal in the bowl.

Please. Beam. That. Earthling. Who. Thought. I. Could. Handle. Two. 2-year-olds.

Please. Send. Help.

--pshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh --

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I've been Skirted!!

Remember that list I wrote a while back about what to buy mommy blogger's for Mother's Day ... it's been discovered! Be sure to check it out and send it along to friends this holiday.

You can see the Skirt listing here. If you haven't connected yourself with Sk'rt, you should, and do so before they change the name, which will be very soon. It's just for us.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cirque du Two

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Redirecting: Just stories.

"You can't get on this truck," the 3-year-old boy said, towering from above as we walked into a new, unfamiliar mall play area. "It's for big kids. And, you're babies!"
Redirect to the slide.
Boy scurries over to the slide, hops on and blocks all entrances.

"You can't come up here. This is for Big Kids and you're babies."
Redirect to the airplane.
Boy runs over and hops onto a wing.

"You can't come up here. This airplane is for Big Kids and you're babies."
Redirect to other side where babyish toys stand. Spot half-dozing grandmother not paying an ounce of attention to boy.
"Is that your child?"
"Yes, did he do something?"
"Well, yes, he's blocking the equipment so my daughters cannot get on and calling them babies."
"Thank you for telling me."
Redirect to another location while grandmother scolds boy and makes him apologize.
"I'm sorry, Big Kids!" the boy yelled passing by and leaving them alone.


An hour before dinner. A beautiful afternoon after a groggy rainy day. Wheels.
We were off for a walk.
Redirect. The story of my life right now. Redirect. Redirect. Redirect.
"Let's try a new walk today," I ring out.
"Yeah," the girls say, not knowing where we were heading in the first place.
"Walk," Jadyn whines.
"We have to drive there, OK?"
When we arrive we instantly see a dog romping through the grass.
My heart races. We've committed. There's no turning back without crying. Lots of it.
I hesitate. I wait.
Doggie goes off in the distance.
We get out and start walking.
We see more dogs. More dogs. More dogs.
I'm nervous, wondering how I get myself into these situations.
We walk to the edge where there are about a dozen dogs playing off leash in what is not a dog park.
An older man with his dog are about to leave and spot us. He trots his dog Mindy over and we meet.
"You don't want to go over there," he said. "Not with them."
"I wasn't going to," I tell him, adding that my daughters love to "hug" dogs.
"I'm John; who are you?"
We introduce ourselves, share the news that we've never been to this park before.
"You walking back?" he motions.
"Yes, let's walk back to the car with Mindy," I say.
Liana turns with a smile and reaches up with her small, soft hand for John's hand.
She manages to grab his two aging fingers and hang on to them for the whole walk back.
It was a hard good-bye, leaving all of those dogs and John who was standing there, flopping his hat on and off for amusement.
Jadyn and Liana tossed him a kiss and he beamed as we drove away.

How about you? Have any fun moments to share that involve your kids? Something that gets you out of your comfort zone a bit, breaks your own long standing rules? Something your glad you got out of the car for?

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Inch by inch, straddling the fence

The funny thing about considering going back to work full-time -- by back, I mean return since I was in the workforce once before as a mother -- is that recently I've begun getting really annoyed by the so-called media-hyped Mommy Wars. But, it's not just the media, unfortunately. Web sites are being created for working moms, too, answering things like how to fix dinner or stay social when working because, you know, stay-at-home moms have nothing to do but cook and talk on the phone all day.

Since I've been on both sides of the battle line I know the challenges, the advantages, the joys and sorrows of each. I know them very well, in fact.

We all struggle with finding time doing the ordinary, the stuff we don't like so we can have more time doing the things we do like. Each season brings a new obstacle to figure out and make our own. And, since my mom always worked I know it is still possible to mother well while working. I also know that she missed out on a lot of memory-making, too, because she was busy preparing for working.

Both "sides" have it equally hard for so many reasons.

But I know three things I'm certain about:

The first is that I do have more quality time with my girls now than I would if I worked. Nothing beats our no-rush mornings lying in my bed giggling under the covers before our breakfast that includes entertainment of silly noises and clapping for each other's big bites. And, I cannot imagine a better way to spend a childhood than taking long walks in the park as often as possible or lounging in the backyard in the afternoon, filling ourselves with fresh air and nature's best toys.

The second thing is that by working I would certainly avoid the often dead-beat feeling of being a mother, such as doing the mundane chores while dealing with simultaneous tantrums, or putting their clothes back on several times in one hour or making yet another grilled cheese lunch because, frankly, I just don't know what else to make besides peanut butter and jelly anymore. In other words, I'd get out of a lot of the crap work and get to spend more time just being the cool Mommy.

The third is that no caregiver could do what I do as their Mama. In a way that is comforting to me. But in other ways it is not. You see, I am that Mama who would make and fly a kite. I am that Mama who creates backyard painting projects. I am that Mama who goes on field trips. That's the Mama I love being; that's the one that I wish could be every minute of the week.

These three points are not perfect or black or white. There are certainly times/days/weeks that are better for quality time than others. And, there will still be crap work as a work-out-of-the-home Mama. I know how easy it is to complain about being at home all day, but I also know that I'm lucky to be here, that I still look forward to Mondays when it's just me and the girls.

But, I will say this: All the comments were wonderful yesterday. I appreciated all of them and took them all into account. I do have a great village. Certainly, I am approaching this from the top of the fence knowing the pros and the cons, knowing the challenges for each. Like a good journalist, I'm gathering facts and weighing their importance.

And I do not know which way I am leaning right now. I do know that by writing this post I learned a little more about the gray areas of the situation, the part that wasn't easily written on a pros and cons list. In the meantime, deadlines are looming.

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