Category Archives: Health

Rest In Peace, General Organa Solo

We here at Vote Simpson/Hemstead have been rather heartbroken at the loss of Carrie Fisher.  She was more than just a princess and a general, she embodied a number of concepts that we would carry with us through our formative years and into our adulthood.  She first stepped into our minds at about 3 years old.  For me personally, Star Wars is my first and strongest memory.  And like so many of my contemporaries, that is how we first came to know Carrie, but we didn’t realize the ways she would impact our lives.

 

As (Princess) General Leia Organa Solo:

She was our first crush.

She was the first strong female character we encountered in movies.

She stood fearlessly against giants, and not only held her own but often made them back down.  

She was relentless and determined.  

The villainous could subjugate her, but never break her.  And in the end, they’d pay.

As her character aged she became wistful, and a little reticent of some poor choices she might have made, but would not stop fighting for what she believed in.

As I got older, and became a fan of Carrie as a humorist, author, and script doctor I found that Carrie as a human being was all those same qualities I loved about her most iconic character.  It’s easy to separate Carrie and Leia, but I’ve found in preparing this that I’ve had a hard time separating what I loved most about these two icons, the fictional and real, because as I knew her, Carrie embodied what I love about Leia, and Leia was only a woman I love because of Carrie.

She will be missed.

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D-Day

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Simpson/Hemstead would like to recognize and honor those who fought on this day in 1944.

We recognize with solemn reticence those who laid down their lives on this day, regardless of nationality or ideology, for their sacrifice and suffering.

As we move forward from this day through history’s unwritten volumes, may we take this moment to remember the series of events, both individual and national that led to this day.

And let us renew our promise as individuals and as nations of a civilized world to learn from the tragedies of war, and from those seemingly innocuous events years before the first bullet is fired that create the atmosphere for such human suffering.

May we never forget the sacrifices of men and women, military and civilian, living and deceased, whose histories have shaped our world.

Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword. May these words echo forever as symbols of courage, strength, and resolve, while whispering solemn reminders of what happens when the hubris of the megalomaniacal gains the favor of a population.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Going to repost what I wrote for mom last year.  If you know her, give her some love today.  In addition to all the things that make this woman pretty darned great that you’re about to read, she’s added taking in my 95 year old grandmother and caring for her as well.  If you don’t know her, but you think she’s pretty groovy, please repost/link/press/digg or disperse through your social media of choice.  Hell, just leave a comment below.   Happy birthday Mom, I love you.

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Cooking With Simpson/Hemstead

We’ve been trying out many of the “meal in a box” services and have discovered one commonly overlooked first step to preparing any meal.

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 08

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Until tonight I knew that lyric as a Ray Charles song.  It’s a song Dad would listen to a lot. He’d listen to Ray Charles a lot, not just this song.  Ray, Mahalia Jackson, Ben Webster, Louis Armstrong, are you sensing a theme?  He loved Frank Sinatra, hated Dean Martin, had an appropriate 1960’s socially acceptable racism in his genuine sense of love for Sammy Davis Jr.  But this one song has stuck with me after his death and typifying how I feel Dad thought about his life.

The photo above is from my sister’s wedding.  Mom and Dad were 10 years divorced at this point, and this day was only the third day since they separated that they were seeing each other without the presence of a lawyer.  It was a wonderful day for us all, and one that we had honestly not thought would ever come.

But that was my sister and I underestimating our mother.  It’s a mistake we didn’t often make after the wedding.  If you didn’t read yesterday’s post about Mom, for gad sake, go back and read it.  Share it.  Click the link in it.  Share THAT.  The woman is a superhero.

I didn’t know what to write about tonight.  My girlfriend had a lot of wonderful suggestions, she said to talk about what he would have thought about today, things that make me think of Dad, or things we liked that we both could have shared in.  I liked all those ideas, but it was what she said after that I stuck with, “Don’t worry about it, something will hit you.”

And something did.

To start, I answered one of my questions posed in the very first post in this series.  Sadly, I already knew the answer.  It was obvious, I just had never thought through it before.  Would Dad and Adam32 have been friends?

In hindsight, it’s a stupid question to ask.  They were, of course, beyond friends.  Adam32 is the person my father trusted with his power of attorney.  He was the person my father asked the opinions of regarding decisions as serious as to whether or not he should go on hospice or not.   He trusted Adam32  with his life, and by extension his legacy.  That the question had to be asked shows how far removed from that time Adam42 really finds himself.

Now that I think about it, we’ve really answered the question about whether Adam32 and Adam42 would be friends back on day 06.  So that leaves one thing: if Dad and I knew each other today, would we be friends?  That’s a tough one.

I can tell you what I can pretty honestly say about what he’d like.  He’d be interested in my job.  He’d LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my girlfriend to a point I should be slightly worried.  He’d hate popular music, he thought music in the 90’s was, “caterwauling noise,” he’d probably not take to Fun, Rhianna, or Kanye.  He’d probably like the popular music return to some gypsy jazz roots, but he’d say that hipsters, “just don’t get it,” and are, “half-assing life.”

He’d wonder why anyone would pay two dollars and forty cents for a cup of black coffee just because it had the word “organic” in front of it, and as much as he’d really love the proliferation of microbreweries, he’d laugh at anyone paying more than a dollar-fifty or a beer.  My father was enormously frugal, and when he was alive, he lived his time in an often shocked time-warp.

He once bought a bag of socks for ninety-nine cents.  Not a pair of socks, but a BAG.  A goddamned BAG OF SOCKS for ninety-nine cents.  If you’re younger you’re probably assuming that’s a normal price.  Trust me, it wasn’t.  Not by a long shot.

Dadn’t thought on the whole matter was, “What could be wrong with ninety-nine cent socks?”  The line has become a joke between my sister and I that continues today.

What could be wrong with ninety-nine cent socks?  Turns out the answer is, “a lot.”  No two were the same size.  One of them was, as my father put it at the time, “fits like it was cut for a German Shepherd’s foot,” while another was, “designed with gorillas in mind.”

His grandchildren would have much thicker skins if Dad was alive.  The salt he peppered his jokes with became increasingly personal as he aged, I can’t imagine how he’d be now.

He’d be disappointed that I worked so much, but happy I had a job.  He’d have spent at least 10 days at my office by now, sitting bored behind me asking, “is this really what you do?”  Then I’d show him that I knew how to composite his eyes to be smoldering white-hot orbs and make his Parkinson’s-wracked fingers shoot lightning and he’d be pretty okay with it.

He’d be glad I lost weight, but he’d be irritated I was so weak.  He repaired garage doors for years, and had giant Popeye forearms my entire childhood.  That weakened when he became a postal carrier, but he was still out walking a route for a full day 5 days a week.  The only thing that slowed him down was the cancer and Parkinson’s.

He’d be impressed I have a work ethic.  He’d then complain about hipsters and milennials and misquote something he’d seen on daytime television about how they are lazy and self-oriented.

He’d love that I was swing dancing again.  He’d make me pick him up so he could go watch us swing dance, and listen to the live bands play every week we danced.  He’d come hang out in our room for the duration of Camp Hollywood on the balcony of our hotel room and talk to people.  He’d probably also make a few admirers of the female variety, he was surprisingly smooth for someone who had no interest in dating after he and my mother separated.

He’d love my girlfriend’s dedication to an early bedtime, call her a “real woman” for drinking her coffee black, and would probably at some point tell me, “it’s about time.”

My sister’s wedding, waiting with Mom and I while my sister gave birth to his first grandchild, and holding that baby were three of his favorite days.   He’d be asking the girlfriend and I when we were going to give him a child so he could decide who makes prettier babies.

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He’d let me know I was older than he was when he had me.  I’d tell him that Mom had me and he’d tell me to go screw off.

He’d have learned to smoke cigars by this point just so he could sit and smoke cigars with me when he came to visit.  (and he wasn’t allowed to have cigarettes anyway)

He’d love that drink scotch but think I’m being cheated by the prices I’m willing to pay for a good bottle.

You know what?  I think I get it now.  It’s a ludicrous question to ask, would my 10 year deceased father and I be friends?  You can’t separate who I am without acknowledging that I’m his son.  You can’t define who he was, both good and bad, without branding him as my father.  If he hadn’t gotten sick he’d be 82 now, and I have no idea who that man would have been.  He doesn’t exist in this instance of the universe.

If he hadn’t gotten sick we wouldn’t have shared the relationship we came to have, which was stronger and more evolved than it had ever been in our lives.  We would have found our equilibrium as adults sure, but it would have been a lot more dancing around and not as profound.

By the time he died, Dad and I weren’t father and son.  We weren’t even brothers.  That sick and old man was in every way an extension of me.  An extra-physical organ of my own body.  Our co-existence was brief but spectacular.

I was wrong.  Adam32, Adam42, and our father  aren’t an atom.   Adam32 doesn’t exist anymore, and Adam42 can’t exist in the same world as his father.

By the time my father met Adam32, they were a bonded pair.  They’re not an atom, they’re quantum particles.  When Dad died, it was like one of those quantum particles getting caught on the bad side of a black hole’s event horizon.  He disappeared forever, and Adam32 screamed off into space to become the Hawking radiation that is Adam42.

As Hawking radiation I won’t last long either, but life is short, isn’t it?  Too short.  Whether you’re 25, 32, 42, 72, 92, 102, our spin on this unstable little blue rock is awfully short in the scheme of things.  As Hawking radiation it’s also my job to make my presence, and by extension the presence of my lost companion particle, well known.  That feels about right.

And as a quantum particle, I exist in a number of states simultaneously.  That would mean Adam32 still exists in me.  It would also mean I’m in some ways my father, and they both only disappear when I try to observe them.   They collapse into me as the devil and angel on my shoulders, familiar and yet far away voices in my head.

I think they probably alternate jobs.

I’m okay with this arrangement.

 

Shit.  I’ve got two more days to go.

 

 

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 06

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“Let me ponder this simple question, am I a good friend.”

That’s the question I was left off with last night in my mind.  Am I a good friend?  On paper I would probably say no.  In reality I would say, “to some.” There are at least as many out there who hate me as who love me.  The number those two opposites share, and even the sum between them, is nothing compared to the number of those I’ve met regularly who hold me with zero regard.  When I was Adam32‘s age, that realization would have devastated me.   To Adam42 it’s simply a matter of fact, and needless to change.  I do wish I was a better friend still, that’s a trait we share, but the taxation of life’s responsibilities, and the toll of age and experience has left me on a budget of spirit.

Adam42 has to look back at Adam32 tonight and try to glean in the most unbiased way possible whether they could be friends if they met today.

I’m playing my own version of Looper, but instead of going back in time to kill myself, I’m going back in time to see if I’d want to strangle myself.  And I’ll try to make this brief, because yesterday went on quite a bit.

Adam32 and Adam42 share a sense of humor.  Adam32‘s is maybe a bit more carefree and enthusiastic than Adam42‘s, but they’re still fundamentally the same.  I think they’d feed off each other in that way.  But it’s also possible they’d hate each other for stealing each other’s jokes and making each of them feel like they’re not funny.  Then they’d get self-conscious, and then they’d just have to leave.

Either is possible, honestly.

This question is one I thought a lot about after I finished last night, and throughout today, and it’s something I don’t know if I have an answer to give to you.

I’m sorry, that’s a lie.  I do have an answer to give to you, but I’d like to avoid it as long as possible.

Adam42 takes issue with Adam32.

Adam32 was tired of being at the beck and call of his father.  Adam32 wanted to be free from all this so he could pursue his life.  Dad was hard to deal with.  We got into some absolutely furious arguments over the course of his illnesses.  Especially when he started getting some paranoid dementia.  Adam32 was ready for this to be over.

Adam42 wants to slap him in the mouth.

Adam32 would avoid seeing his father sometimes because it would just be so depressing.  Adam32 would screen phone calls from his father later in life.  Adam32 found excuses to not go see his father after he moved to L.A. because he hated seeing how much Dad would degrade from visit to visit, year after year.

Adam42 wants to punch him in the nose.

Adam32 is the person  who mentally drafted a version of his father’s eulogy that was all about how crummy his Dad was.  Adam32 is the person who pissed away countless hours that he could have spent with his father.  Adam32 is the person who decided to put Dad on hospice.

Adam42, or at least some part of Adam42‘s lizard brain, has a hard time forgiving him for that.

Don’t get me wrong, it was the right decision.  Adam32 was absolutely correct to put his father on hospice, and Adam42 agrees with the decision.  Adam42 harbors more resentment over the hours Adam32 wasted not seeing his father that Adam42 would nearly kill for. And the worst part is that Adam32 didn’t even get it.  He was selfish and immature.  He was focused on the short term and was blind to the long term.  If he knew then what Adam42 knows now…

Adam32 was focused on escapism.  He didn’t have a solid job, was behind in his career, was overweight, and felt he wasn’t worth much in general.  He wanted to chase girls, play with his friends, and feel like a grown up.  It was a feeling he didn’t have much.  He’d lived a good deal of his 20’s at his mom’s house, picking up odd jobs where he could, but generally being unemployed.  He watched all his friends get jobs, apartments, relationships, CHILDREN, and still he was in a bit of a vacuum.  Dad was increasingly becoming the antithesis of escapism.  Adam32 had periods of resentment.  Not long, but real.

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These are three of the friends who showed up to Dad’s funeral by surprise.  (No this isn’t from the funeral, I’m not THAT white trash – but I did wear one of Dad’s Hawaiian shirts to the funeral)  I’m beyond happy to say I’ve reconnected with all three.

I understand everything Adam32 went through and did, and I understand his reasoning.  I just wish he had been a little more prescient.  I would love to have had the time he tried so hard to shed. We come at this picture from such opposite corners, I don’t know if we could find common ground.

The quote at the top of this post says that the author is stitched by the thread of absence, threaded through the needle of himself.  I’m equally stitched by the thread of absence, but the needle is isn’t me, it’s Adam32.  The scars I carry from the puncture wounds of his stitching, pressed through my flesh by way of his short-sightedness, I will carry the rest of my life.

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Not pictured: Metaphysical stitches.

I don’t hate him.  I understand him.  But I don’t know how well I could tolerate him.  I would want to grab him and shake him.  I’d slap him hard across his cherubic cheek and say, “I know this is hard, but I need for you to pull your head clean out of your ass and look at the long game here.  I need you to not take this for granted.”

I also know he wouldn’t listen.  He’d take it to heart, but he ultimately wouldn’t listen.  And I can’t change that.

The absence of Dad is the thread, and Adam32 is the needle, however, maybe I can look at this a different way.  A thread and needle are used to stitch up a larger wound.  Perhaps the larger wound was my immaturity.  Maybe the last painful throes of an evolution partly delayed by the unrelenting ravages of cancer.  Maybe I should be glad I have those scars.

Maybe, just maybe, I’d react in an altogether different way to Adam32.

Oh, I’d still slap him in the chops, and I’d shake him angrily because he needs it.  But maybe I’d also grab him and hold him.  Maybe I’d tell him this fucking sucks all the way around.  Maybe I’d give him permission to cry into my shoulder the way he cried the last time he saw Dad alive and his dad said in an almost unintelligible voice, “I hate this.”  And he answered back, “I do too.”  Maybe I’d tell him I forgive him for the time he wasted, but I’d love to have taken a day or two off his hands.  I don’t know if we would have ultimately been friends, but I think we would have taken each other’s calls.

 

Or at least called back reasonably soon after having screened one another to voicemail.

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 04 Some NSFW Content

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” – Possibly Joan of Arc (according once again to Brainyquote.com)

Okay let me start out by saying it’s really frustrating that in the “information age” it is so hard to find corroborating proof for an attributed online quote.  We’re doing something seriously wrong as a society.

Day 4.  When I started this endeavor I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill 10 days.  Now I feel I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m starting to run out of time.  I hope I do us justice, Dad.  My plan of waiting until the very last possible second to write a loving 10 part essay is backfiring.  It’s so difficult to release these as first drafts, without even a cursory spelling pass.  But it’s the road I’ve built for myself, so here we go.  EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve had two glasses of wine at this point, and I was a solid whiskey in when writing last night’s entry, they’re gonna be a little more stream of consciousness.

Cheers

Cheers, Dad

This was a picture I took of Dad on a weekend he came up to visit me at my old apartment.   He’s wearing scrubs because he was going through treatment for his third bout of cancer and had a pretty frustrating rash over his torso.  He’s got stage 2 Parkinson’s disease at this point, as well as C.O.P.D. and a touch of emphysema.  As soon as we took this photo he put a cannula back in in his nose that fed him oxygen from a tank he dragged behind him 24 hours a day.  He’s not drinking wine, he’s drinking cranberry juice.  And he’s not even drinking that, but we’ll get to that later.

I had mentioned I wanted to expand upon the idea of friendship in part 3.  I’m pushing that until later because something came to me today while I was running errands that I feel should pre-empt that discussion.  Why is this so important to do for me?  Everyone loses their parents at some point.  I’ve got friends who have lost both.  Why is this so special or greater than anyone else’s?

It’s not.  Loss is loss.  It’s tragic and it hurts and it scars the fragile tissue of our emotions. Personally, I felt compelled to blog about my relationship with Dad for one reason alone; when I was 18 I made a promise to help him through his first cancer.  That promise didn’t end until the day he died, a couple of years after he was diagnosed with his third cancer when I was Adam32.  The whole of my twenties, and by extension the whole of the early formative years of my adulthood, were consumed with my father and his health.

I think I should say a few things about those years, because they will affect two essays; the upcoming essay on friendships and the essay about Adam32.

The years of Dad’s various advancing illnesses, surgeries, and recoveries are, in retrospect, the most brilliant and hated years of my life. I walked a line between untethered, carefree child and dispassionate on-call caregiver.  I’ve never laughed as hard, or cried as furiously.  I’ve never felt so powerful, and so worthless.  There’s so much of those years I lived as fully as I could, and wasted more than seems possible.  I met some of my greatest friends during this time, and we’ll get into them in the next essay.  I wouldn’t change any of those years, but I desperately wish I had the ability to go back there and live them very differently than I did.

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With more linen pants and Clark Gable mustaches, apparently.

I am who I am by the forceful will of an abrupt chasm born of those vicissitudes.

If given the chance to change those years, I honestly don’t know how I would answer.  The whole experience reminds me of a line from Wargames.  At the end of the film, as Joshua has played himself in tic-tac-toe an uncountable number of times, he’s learned that nuclear war can’t be won.  The friendly, vaguely british voice of the Joshua echoed throughout Crystal Palace and said, “A strange game.  The only winning move is not to play.”  Maybe this experiment is my version of being forced to play tic-tac-toe against myself until I learn it is un-winnable to try.  I wonder if I will learn that by the end of this the only way to find a solution to this is to never look for one.

You know what?  It’s not until this moment I’ve thought of the line that follows the quote above.  It’s Joshua’s last line in the movie, “How about a nice game of chess?”  Joshua offers it as an alternative to the un-winnable game of Global Thermonuclear War.  Until his Parkinson’s became too strong a tell, Dad and I used to love to play chess.

I wish I had a chance to play chess with you again, Dad. *

*You don’t really have to watch past the first two lines of dialogue if you clicked the link.  I have no idea how to set a custom out point on youtube hyperlinks.

I don’t have much more in me right now, this essay has been a bit more emotionally taxing than I had anticipated.  But I wanted to leave you with a wider picture of the years Dad and I spent in this chaotic dance.  Let’s go back to that day Dad came up to stay with me and we took the picture presented at the head of this essay.  Do you remember that I said he wasn’t really drinking the cranberry juice?

That picture happened because I told my father I didn’t have enough pictures of him, and I wanted some.  He didn’t like having his photo taken since he got Parkinson’s disease.  Then he saw something propped up in the corner of the apartment.  He said, “I’ll take a picture with THAT!”

I don’t know if he thought I would give up, or if he wanted to see what would happen next. I like to hope he was serious, and he was challenging me.  But whatever the reason, I immediately said, “Okay,” and then sat him in a chair, propped this thing in front of him, and hustled around the apartment to gather all the things I would want to make this picture awesome.  This included a wine glass full of cranberry juice.

Once everything was set, we pulled the cannula out of Dad’s nose and I ran behind the camera to snap a photo of my father that he dared, I conceived, and we fired off without a moment’s hesitation or a word of discussion.  Because I get my sense of humor from my father, and I’ll never stop being grateful for that fact.

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Living with an Academy Award caliber makeup effects artist had it’s advantages.

Okay, friendship tomorrow.   My friends, dad’s friends, how I feel we related to them.  If you’re still here, thank you.   If you are enjoying or getting something out of this, please let me know, I’m becoming self-conscious a hair.

Bon Appetite, Dad.

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 01

10 days from now, March 12th, will mark the 10 year anniversary since my father passed away.  It’s been looming a bit on the horizon for me, and I wanted to make sure I commemorated it in a way befitting the meandering course my relationship with my father took up until the day he died.  And the now 10 years that followed.

I think about those things quite a bit, our relationship up until that overcast Sunday morning he passed away, and the 10 years that have followed.  I think on who he was, how he became who he was.  I linger on who I was, and how I became who I was.  And inevitably I settle into thinking about who I am, and how fundamentally different I am from the 32 year old version of myself who had just lost his father.

I often wonder if 42 year old Adam would have tolerated 32 year old Adam.

As this date has gotten closer I’ve discovered that I increasingly wonder if 32 year old me would have liked the person 42 year old Adam has become, and I wonder if Adam32 would see his father when he talked to Adam42.

And how much would he see?

And in those things he sees, would they be those things he loved about his father, or those things he didn’t?  What has Adam42 learned from the experiences of Adam32, and the years since?  Did he keep promises to himself to evolve, or is there a genetic predisposition to collapse into some of our father’s less desirable quirks?

And then, most importantly, I think about Dad and wonder what he would think of Adam42?  Would THEY have been friendly?  Or are they too similar to ever be friends?

As it happens, there’s only 3 people in the entire universe who can answer those questions.  Unfortunately, of those 3 people, one is dead and another is ten years removed by a linear perception of time.

So that leaves me, Adam42 left to answer those questions and many more.  And what better way to commemorate my father than to try and make sense of those questions.  Perhaps an answer can be found.  Perhaps not.  But I invite you to indulge me in the hunt.

For the next 10 days I’ll post daily on some different aspect of these questions, the life of my father, and in a very real sense his death.  I’ll unpack some boxes buried deep in the back attic of my mind and try to answer honestly how the three of us would have felt about each other?  Is the nucleus of Adams within the probability cloud of Bob’s electron shell a stable atom, or would it decay into nothingness?

Giddyup, pop.  We’ve got some adventuring to do.

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Lil’ Bob, Big Pimpin’.

Post Script:  You’d be proud of me Dad, I waited to start writing this until the VERY last minute, just like I did with your eulogy.  So now I gotta scramble every day for the next ten days to meet my own self-imposed deadline.  I partly blame your questionable decision to shuffle off this mortal coil during what would turn out to be a very busy season for me.  We always were a bit of an uphill battle, weren’t we?  I’m excited for this, Dad.  I hope I do you proud.

A Friendly Reminder For Today

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Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm

Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm.

Good friend of Simpson/Hemstead finds herself fighting with her body and her own mind when she discovers she has an aneurysm in a tricky place.

As you know, Hemstead has suffered from, and rallied back against a stroke in recent years, so this looming fear of WhatIf is close to our hearts.  A good read, from a good woman.

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