Five signs the “Change” has begun…

My sister, Genny, is at it again…poking fun at me and helping me to laugh at myself and the new stage of life that I’m now entering.

For those of you who are also entering this interesting “change” of life…I think you’ll appreciate the humor in the following postcard that I received from her last week.

Thank you Lord, for my younger sister and her God-given gift of wit and humor!!!  I don’t know what I’d do without her!

Five signs the “Change” has begun…

1. Low estrogen produces excess facial hair.

2. Living alone in a cabin sounds pretty damn appealing!

3. Who needs a wood stove with all these handy hot flashes?

4. No, it isn’t hunting season. You got a problem with that?

5. I’m low on estrogen and I have a gun.

~Anonymous

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Like trying to herd cats!

This is the time of year when life always gets really busy in the Blinn home.

With everyone in our household involved in education at some level, our life takes on a faster pace as May comes to a close.  The school year is coming to an end and that means final exams, completion of student teaching, college graduation, class trips, posting of grades, etc.  I look forward to June’s arrival –  a slower pace of life and kids at home for the summer.

However, as the kids are getting older, they spend more and more time away from home, and gathering everyone together – even for a short time –  is a bit of a challenge.

Fortunately, my middle daughter, Olivia, recently had the opportunity to fly home for a late, but much needed Spring break.  It was wonderful to have her home again, but in the blink of an eye we were back in our car and headed south to the airport in the Twin Cities.  Before dropping her off at her sister’s apartment, we all had a few precious hours to “hang out” with one another, share a meal together and hug our girls tight before saying goodbye once again.

It’s so much fun to watch the interaction between my three kids.  They enjoy their togetherness and one of them is always joking around or laughing hysterically at the witty comments made by themselves the others.  And as the evening progressed, the jokes became more numerous and their laughter got louder.  There’s nothing like a good dose of humor to lighten the burdens we all carry.  But their silliness is sometimes hard to corral and getting them together (and standing still) for a sibling photo was a feat that did not go well.

Below is the attempt I made to take a photo of my three willfull wonderful children, just moments before heading back north to our little yellow cottage in the Northwoods.

Mom: “Okay kids, some attention here!”

Isaac:  “Sir!  Yes sir!”


“Good attention, but how about keeping your eyes open?”


“NO! Don’t cover her eyes you doof!”

“Oh yes…you all are sooooooooo funny!”

Isaac nodding head up and down – “Yes…we are!”Isaac…still nodding head up and down.

Isaac being a dorky 14 year old boy.

Uhhhh! This is impossible!

Finally….a passable photo!   I love you all…you sweet chickabees!

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I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by their playful and silly antics…it’s been going on for as long as I can remember!


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PMDD? PMS…on steroids!

To my faithful twelve readers who may have wondered why I haven’t posted lately, let’s just say that the Carey whom you know and love suddenly disappeared on April 20th…but has finally returned!

Yes it’s true. I went AWOL.

Absent without leave?

No…absent without lucidity.

Here are some  synonyms for the word absent: astray, away, elsewhere, ghost, gone, hooky, missing, no-show, nobody home, removed, vanished.

Yes…I was all of these too!

As I’m typing this post, I’ve got a smile on my face and am attempting to make light of the situation, but in reality, it’s taken almost two weeks for me to feel anything other than out of whack.  You see, I’ve been struggling for six months with a severe hormonal imbalance that has disrupted my normally calm demeanor.

After months of ultrasounds, blood tests and experimental hormone therapy, my family doctor has finally given me a diagnosis.  PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.  I won’t go into too much detail, but if you can imagine the worst PMS you’ve ever had and intensify it ten fold – then throw in some abject hopelessness and suicidal thoughts for good measure – you know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, my body decided to go haywire over the Easter holiday… just in time for my two daughters to arrive home from college.  With PMDD, a person lives life without filters and during this time of craziness, I said and did things that shocked even me.  I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come, there will be more apologies to make to the people I love most.

If  life had a Delete button, then I’d highlight the last 10 days of April and remove them from existence forever.  But wait a minute… I know Someone who has already done that for me.   Hebrews 10: 16-17 (New King James Version)

“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”   Then he adds:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Can you imagine what life would be like without Jesus and His willingness to forgive and forget our sins?  I can’t.  I truly don’t know what I would do without Him and His great, great love for me.

When I was burdened and heavy laden, I was reminded to “put on a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”  I sang and I cried, but was able to resist the horrible thoughts that assaulted my mind.  And when I could no longer see reason, He sent me a loyal friend who spoke words of truth and who helped to carry my load of sadness and pain. Without her love and patience, I don’t know what I would have done.  If you are reading this post, let me say this….you truly are a beautiful Jewel who has lived the words of Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times.

Thank you dear friend!


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Do this in remembrance of Me…

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In memory of the Savior’s love,
    We keep the sacred feast,
    Where every humble, contrite heart
    Is made a welcome guest.
    By faith we take the Bread of Life
    With which our souls are fed,
    The Cup in token of His blood
    That was for sinners shed.
    In faith and memory thus we sing
    The wonders of His love,
    And thus anticipate by faith
    The heavenly feast above.

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Blessings to all of you this Easter season as we once more ponder the wonder of the Cross…the greatest act of love and mercy the world has ever known.

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Thoughts for Thursday…

“Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying?  

And why worry about what you wear?  Notice how the flowers grow in the field.  They never work or spin yarn for clothes. 

But I say that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

Matthew 6:27-29


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A Woman’s Work is Never Done

I really should be cleaning my house today but for some reason I just can’t seem to muster enough umph to get started.  I’m beginning to think that my age has something to do with it. Yes, that’s it!  I’ll blame it on my age!

Early on in my married life, I used to love putting my house in order on a daily basis even with three little children underfoot and the demands of a home-based business pulling at me. I found a secret delight in dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, cooking gourmet meals and lovingly serving them to my family on heirloom china.  Every afternoon, at exactly 3pm, I’d put out coffee and home-baked goodies for whoever happened to be passing by.  Now, it doesn’t even bother me if the dust bunnies under the bed, grow to look more like sizable rodents that could devour a small child, or if the meals I make lack any creative flair and are served on paper plates.  Hmm…I wondered what has happened to me?

Before you begin to think that I’m feeling sorry for myself, I’d like to point out that I’m sure this feeling of work apathy has plagued women for hundreds of years.  And I’ve got a name for it..it’s called drudgery – distasteful, dull, hard or menial work. Who wouldn’t agree that housework falls into this category? Much of life is like this, but I’m learning that in God’s kingdom, even drudgery has it’s place.  According to Oswald Chambers,

“We do not need the grace of God to withstand crises – human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us the we have to do exceptional things for God – but we do not. We have to BE exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people…and this is not learned in five minutes.”

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Lord, I ask for your grace and mercy today. Help me to choose a humble and proper servile attitude, even when life around me seems mundane and monotonous. Let the work of my hands and the meditations of my heart glorify You today. Amen.

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How great is our God?

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Psalm 19:1

In overwhelming gratitude….

56 .  As I think about the heavens and about what Your fingers have created;
how You made the moon and stars and  have set them  in their place.

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Go West, Young Man…

For those of you who’ve come to this blog post expecting to read about Horace Greeley and westward expansion – harshly depicted in the photo below – you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

I don’t even know who Horace Greeley was, and I don’t remember anything much from Mrs. Nygard’s 6th-grade social studies class regarding westward expansion, other than the saying, “Go West, young man”.  But even this I got wrong.

According to a reliable source, the real quote is, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country,” from Hints toward Reforms (1850) by Horace Greeley. There. You learned something new today. So did I!

Actually, I’ve been sorting through dozens of folders from an old Mac computer and finding hundreds of photos that had been downloaded, tucked into folders and sadly, forgotten.

I’m having a wonderful time digging them out and transferring them to my desktop computer; reminiscing about yesteryear and completely awestruck by the natural beauty of the West.  Some of the photos are just too beautiful to view alone, so I’ll be sharing them with you here. Photos like this:

And this…

In an earlier post, I spoke of our van’s propensity to always travel West. Well, these photos are living proof that we’ve been there many times and have fallen completely in love with the mountains and streams of western Montana.

One day soon, my husband and I are going to celebrate his retirement by pulling our little pop-up camper to the edge of the Madison river and set up camp for a month or so.  And the only noises we’ll hear, will be the gurgling of the mountain streams, the hoot of the great horned owl and howling of coyotes each evening.  Oh yeah…and the chattering of our teeth as we wake up in our unheated camper each frosty  September morning!

After 35 years of teaching, my husband will consider it pure bliss! I will too, as long as the grizzly bears keep their distance…miles and miles away from us!

This travelogue is a compilation of several trips we’ve taken in the past 8 years, so don’t be surprised when you see how our kids (and big D. & I) have aged!  Sit back and enjoy…

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Our trips out to Montana always start the same.  The plan is to be packed the night before;  exiting our home at the crack of dawn. In truth,  we’re lucky if we’re on the road by mid-morning!

As we’re driving through Floodwood, Walker and then Detroit Lakes – it doesn’t yet feel like we’re on another road trip. But once we’ve reached the North Dakota border, everything changes.  The pine and hardwood forests disappear, the plains open up before us and the world becomes this huge open expanse where we can see for miles and miles in all directions. It’s quite an awesome sight!


Like death and taxes, our first stop in North Dakota is always at the Wal-mart in Jamestown, where we pick up our supplies for the road – sketch pads, colored pencils, bottled water, Kraft “squirt” cheese and crackers!  I’m not kidding!  No vacation is complete without these road-trip survival items…especially the Easy Cheese!

When we were young and foolish, we’d drive like fiends and try to make it to Miles City, MT on the first day.  Now that we’re older and wiser, we stop in Mandan and camp at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.


Located right on the banks of the Missouri River, the park has dedicated itself to the reconstruction, development and interpretation of the historical sites of old Fort Abraham Lincoln and the On-a-Slant Indian Village. There’s lots of history here and it’s a great educational experience for the kids. Who ever said that learning can’t be fun too?

In the summer months, there are also historical reenactments for the history buff and horseback riding for the adventurous.

The girls and I took the horseback riding trip one hot summer day. We plodded slowly along  a well-worn path and about 40 minutes later, had reached the top of the butte and the site of the original fort.  The views of the surrounding countryside were spectacular!


For those of you who thought that North Dakota was a boring state…I hope I’ve correct your erroneous thinking!  The beauty of the West starts before you’ve even reached the Montana border!

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After Mandan , our next stop is the wayside rest near Medora, in western North Dakota.  It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve pulled into this rest area and seen the same sights…the natural beauty of the area still takes my breath away!

The views of the painted canyons are breathtaking!

One of us always poses for a picture at the scenic overview;

and the picnic tables are a perfect place for us to take a break and grab a bite to eat!

One year, as we were returning home from our annual Montana pilgrimage, we were fortunate enough to see these here for the first time ever.

Truthfully, they were a bit too close for my liking AND they disobeyed the traffic signs!

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After we’ve refreshed ourselves and walked the dog, we’re back in our vehicle and headed towards the Montana border.

Upon crossing the border, we’re about to embark on the most difficult part of our journey – the drive through eastern Montana.  For the next 5 hours, we’ll be following the path of the Yellowstone River which we can see from the interstate, as it meanders for hundreds of miles.

Scrub and semi-arid to desert conditions cover large areas of eastern Montana. It’s pretty desolate here and all you’ll be seeing is sage, rabbitbrush, shrubby cinquefoil, snakeweed and prickly pear cactus. We’ve now entered rattlesnake county and are especially diligent to watch for them when we stop along the way.

Since all of our travels involve our children, I try and make sure to have something for them to do while in the car. If  I forget to bring something to keep them occupied, they will eventually stare at me like this,  thinking “Why does my mother keep sticking that camera in my face?”

But I don’t despair…our first glimpse of the mountains is only 334 miles away!  By the time we’ve reached Big Timber, the snow-capped Rockies are looming straight ahead.

Another hour on the road and we’ve arrived in Bozeman.  This is a fun and somewhat cosmopolitan city and there’s a lot to see and do. Often times we’ll take a walk down Main Street and window-shop or stop for lunch at a local eating establishment.  Our favorite is Burger Bob’s with their perfectly cooked burgers and waffle fries.  Mmmmm!


Occasionally, we’ll make a full day of it, heading on over to the Montana State University campus and the Museum of the Rockies.

There’s  something for everyone here – Dinosaurs under the Big Sky;  the Taylor Planetarium; a living history farm; the Northern Rocky Mountain History exhibit and several traveling exhibits.  There’s also incredible photo archives of the native Americans and pioneers that settled the West.  We loved it!

After leaving Bozeman, our route now takes us in a southward curve, towards Yellowstone National Park.

There’s a couple of highways that’ll take us there…we prefer Highway 287 through Four Corners and Ennis.  The roads here are wide open and the views are spectacular.  We’ve also gone due south out of Bozeman, on highway 191 towards Big Sky. The drive is lovely, but most of the road winds through tight canyons and the two lanes are very narrow and have no shoulders…not my cup of tea!

Whichever way we decide to go, we almost always end up at the West Fork Cabin Camp, located on highway 287 North, about 35 miles south of Ennis, MT.  We know we’ve reached the right place when we find this bridge to cross…

For those of you reading this blog…if majestic mountains; clear blue sky; sparkling , pure rocky mountain rivers; and (oh yes) large, beautiful trout excite you, then the West Fork Cabin Camp on the Madison River is the place for you!

We found this campground by accident and it really is a hidden gem! The camp offers 20 tent sites, 24 RV sites and 11 cabins.  Within 30 minutes of your cabin you can fish 13 of Montana’s finest streams and 13 lakes. We’ve stayed here on a couple of separate occasions, and as you view the following pictures, I’m sure you’ll see why this is such a great place to visit.

A cold, misty morning on the Madison river. On this particular day, we woke up to 30 degree temps and frost in the camper…in August. Come prepared!

The kids are fly-fishing for the first time and seriously ready to catch some trout!

Yes…ones that look like this!

Making sure the boots don’t fall down!

He’ll figure this out yet…

The smallest catch I’ve ever seen! “Mom…is it a keeper?”

Livvy…first time out and looking good! My advice: bring boots…the water is freezing!

Caught in the middle of a caddis fly hatch!

Second trip to the river and working the riffles…

A tired fisherwoman taking a rest.

Joining the group….our own Montana Mary!

She’s got the knack…this one IS a keeper!

Great day on the river!

Sunset over the Madison

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If it’s too windy for fishing, we’ll often take a ride over to West Yellowstone for an ice cream treat or take a ride through the Park.  It’s a quick 37 miles jaunt.  On our way there, we pass the famous Quake Lake. There’s a sad story here but if you want to learn more about the origin of this unusual lake, you’ll have to stop at the Visitor Center and discover it for yourself!

Upon entering the Park, we usually find an out of the way road to drive and if we’re lucky, we may even see some wildlife…

This elk was so close to the truck that I almost hit it!

I don’t know where this coyote was heading, but he wasn’t disturbed by our presence.

New tree growth after the last fire…

We take these warning signs very seriously!  Our life or health may depend on it! If we’re lucky enough to see some buffalo, we always view them from the relative safety of our car.

Take a look at the size of these creatures…

After we’ve seen enough wildlife and have tired of fighting the summer traffic jams in the Park, we’ll head back to West Yellowstone and join the hoards of folks that are buying their fill of official Yellowstone souvenirs…all made in China.  Not our family…we prefer the green foam buffalo horns that are made in Taiwan!


All joking aside…it really is a fun if not kitschy town with an old-fashioned candy store on every block, hundreds of overpriced hotel rooms, and enough Yellowstone  National Park t-shirts to clothe all the folks West of the Mississippi!

If this travelogue has encouraged you to plan a trip out West and you find yourself near Yellowstone National Park, make sure to plan a visit to the town of  West Yellowstone.  No trip out West is complete until you do!

You just never know what you’ll find there…




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Wordless Wednesday #5

Sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow!

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Another Vowel Child – meet O.

It’s time to introduce another one of my vowel children.  Today I’d like you to meet my daughter – O – a truly gifted and remarkable young woman.

Our second daughter arrived 2 years and 10 months after her big sister E. had come into this world.  By now, Big D. and I had been parenting for awhile and thought we were getting pretty good at our job.

We’d had our hands full with our first vowel child – E – an exuberant and delightful moppet with a head full of blonde curls; a child who embraced the world in one of two speeds – either on or off.  She was also a somewhat willful little imp whose first word was “no”.  Her strong personality was not a bad thing – she was going to be one of life’s movers & shakers!  Besides, it gave her dad and I an opportunity to discover what parenting was really like.  If you’d like to read her story, just click HERE.

When our second child arrived, just 3 hours and 22 minutes after I went into labor, we were delighted to discover that God had blessed us with another beautiful daughter.

One hour old

We had her name all picked out, a lovely old-fashioned name that I’d heard spoken many times during my youth.  It wasn’t until later that we discovered one meaning of her name – peace.  We gave her the middle name – Rose – not only because she smelled so lovely, but to honor my grandmother whose namesake she shared.

When E. met her sister, the morning after she was born, I knew immediately that these two were going to have a special bond.

12 hours old

Rather than being jealous of her new sibling, E. became a little mother…doting on her baby sister with great tenderness and affection.

4 months

Well, maybe not always so tender…but definitely affectionate!

I assumed that because they had been born to the same family, had the same parents and were the same gender, these girls would have similar personalities.  I thought they’d be like two peas in a pod.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

From day one, we knew that this second child was much more serene and didn’t require the stimulation that her older sister craved.  In fact, it took us a couple of weeks to discover that at night time, she didn’t want to be carried around and coddled, she just wanted to be laid in her crib – wide awake – to fall asleep on her own! And for some unknown reason she always did this…

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And this…

And occasionally….even this!

Though they loved to play together and got along famously, the difference in the two girl’s temperaments was very obvious.

E. was the life of the party…O. was timid, almost shy around people.

E. was strong-willed….O. was compliant.

E. was a bossy little thing…O. was demure and always acquiesced to her big sister’s wishes…

“Hey, let me cut your hair…Mom will never notice”

“Just pet it…I promise it won’t peck your eyes out!”

“There…her hair’s all done. Do you like it?”

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There was never a dull moment when these two were together.  Wherever E. was…O was right behind her…following in her big sister’s footsteps.

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They read constantly…sometimes while half-naked!

They formed a band.

They wore pointy hair.

They even began to dress alike.

And because her big  sister loved her so much, she shared everything with her.

And I do mean… everything!

Shortly after O. turned 3, it was time for her big sister to start kindergarten.  Seeing as I had a degree in education, we opted to teach E. at home.  In order to create the proper learning environment, we set up an elementary school room in which I taught phonics, math, science, bible & spelling. As I taught E, her younger sister O, sat nearby and colored or looked at picture books and was just a passive observer…or so I thought!

This went on for a couple of years and by the end of first grade, E was reading books on her own and writing short stories.  Unbeknown to us, O. could also read…she just never let on that she knew how! It wasn’t until we were vacationing in Washington state, that we learned of her amazing ability.

We had stopped our vehicle at a railroad crossing and from the back seat of our van, we heard O. say “no stopping on tracks”. We looked up to see that there was a road sign outside her side window that read, “No Stopping On Tracks”.  Needless to say, we were stunned…and delighted!

For years, I had worried that her timidity would be a stumbling block to her.  Many times, when I watched her older sister surrounded by groups of friends, I would ask the Lord to give O. the confidence she lacked.  What I didn’t understand, was that her temperament was completely different than her sister’s and she would one day become very confident and able. I  just needed to trust Him and be patient.

According to the Character Therapist, O. was born with a classic melancholic temperament.  In animal terms she has what’s known as the Beaver personality and these characteristics fit her well:

The Beaver revels in the details others despise. They are creative, practical, factual, perfectionist, detailed, orderly and predictable. Emotionally, they are sensitive–to others and about themselves. They’re thoughtful and serious, and talented.  They are efficient, organized, schedule-oriented, punctual, and can be relied upon to carry out any directives or see a project through to completion.  When it comes to friends, they will sacrifice greatly for those they love and care about.

Little by little, our second daughter was coming into her own. It is said that “still water runs the deepest”.  If this saying has any credence, then O. would one day be an ocean!  As she grew, in both age and stature,  a quiet confidence began to emerge.

Age 6 – Christmas

Age 8 – camping

Age 10 – birthday

Age 13 – 1st day of school

Age 16

Age 18 – Duluth

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This quiet,  gentle and independent spirit is something about our second daughter that has remained with her throughout her life – oft times directing her to do things on her own;  many times without our prompting or even our support.

When she was about 12 years old, O. went alone, to our public library and performed in a talent show, dancing  and lip-syncing and bringing home the grand prize – a $50 gift certificate.  And this was after I had tried discouraging her from participating. And much to my shame, I did not even attend the show myself.

She began dabbling in photography at about the same time and has now established a small business and set up her own website – Arm’s Length Photography – winning awards for her work.

While still in grade school, O. announced to her dad & I that she wanted to become her class valedictorian and from that day on she worked toward that goal.  Her years in high school were busy…so busy that she seldom had time to stop and take a breath.We worried about her and prayed daily that God would sustain her and direct her in the way she was to go.

It was with humble and grateful hearts that her dad and I watched as she received the honor of class valedictorian on June 4, 2010, fulfilling the vow she’d made to herself years before!

Deciding on a college was a big decision for her and she had many schools to choose from – some close to home and one all the way across the country.  After much prayer and with conviction in her heart, she headed West and is currently a freshman at Biola University in La Mirada, California.  Never one to shy away from a new adventure, she has already begun to establish herself at Biola –  having entered and won a school-wide video contest before her first semester of college had even finished.  Click on My Journey to view her video.

It’s hard to believe that this successful and confident young woman was once the little girl I worried so much about.  And to think that she spent the first 18 months of her life planted firmly on my hip…our little barnacle baby…now detached and discovering for herself the wonderful plans that God has for her life. What a journey she’s got waiting for her!

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