Conversation Part Four

It’s a cold snowy winter morning in Montreal. I sit at my desk hoping to continue my conversation. I have taken notes in my journal of all the points that I would like to tackle in my blog. I start to leaf through my notebook.
 
It’s one of those days where I can’t focus on any task. There is a lot going on in my life right now and sometimes I find the simple act of getting out of bed and continuing with my everyday ordinary chores overwhelming. 

On any regular day, I would know what to write about without referring to any notes. But not today. Today I feel I need to silence the noise in my head and turn away from the world and unto myself. I try to relax, take a deep breath, and start reading.

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On the page I have copied three quotes, and next to each I have scribbled in brackets (‘ideas for blogs’). The first two read as follows:

“You are the author of your life.”
“You are the choices you make.”  

I sigh and ask myself. Am I? Am I really the author of my own life? Have I truly written the script of my own life, where I have given cancer to my protagonist, my hero and killed him? How’s that even possible? 

In what universe would I have made that choice when I know that the world is a better place with him beside me. In what mindset would I choose to terminate the life of the one person who has made me a better person and my life worth living? How could I do that to myself and create a void in my heart that gets bigger and bigger with every passing day. Did I ever have any choice in this matter?

True, we make choices, but sometimes the universe does not support our choice. Sometimes providence or destiny or fate, call it what you will, plays its tricks on us leaving us with no choice but to accept what happened. Then what do we do? What can we do?

Faced with the harsh reality we do our best and try again, because there are others who look up to us and we have to set an example. We have to be courageous and faithful and hope that the day will come when we will come to terms with our loss and the void in our heart will not feel that big anymore. 

I sigh and continue to read the third quote:

“Borrow widely, steal nicely.”

I remember the book I took this quote from, a book on writing. And I return to continue my conversation of the previous week. Julia Cameron vs. Sarah Ban Breathnach.

In her book The Artist’s Way (1992) Julia writes:

“Collage: Collect a stack of at least ten magazines, which you will allow yourself to freely dismember. Setting a twenty-minute time limit for yourself, tear (literally) through the magazines, collecting any images that reflect your life of interests. When you spot them, clip them, buy them, photograph them, draw them, collect them somehow. With these images, begin a file of dreams that speak to you. Think of collages as a form of pictorial autobiography. Including your past, present, future, and your dreams. Now take a sheet of newspaper, a stapler, or some tape or glue, and arrange your images in a way that pleases you. Give your collage a place of honor. Even a secret place of honor is all right- in your closet, in a drawer, anywhere that is yours.” 

While Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book Simple Abundance (1995), writes:

“You’ll have to visualize your ideal life. Now see if you can’t find pictures in magazines to match your ideal ones. Cut them out and create a collage on an eight-by ten- inch piece of posterboard. If you can’t find images to match your dreams, tap into the creativity deep within and draw a picture. When you’re finished, find a photograph of yourself that you specially like. Cut yourself in the center of your treasure map collage.
Above all, remember that no one needs to be privy to your personal treasure map but you. Keep your personal treasure map in the back of your illustrated discovery journal and look at it often.”
 
What do you think?

ChK  

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Conversation Part Three

The second most important basic tool for creative recovery according to Julia Cameron (in her book The Artist’s Way, 1992) is The Artist Date. She writes:

“The artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date.”
 
Julia doesn’t stop at that but continues to say that “your artist needs to be taken out, pampered, and listened to.” She suggests “a visit to a great junk store, or an art gallery, or watching an old movie- doing things that do not cost money but time.”

Three years later Sarah Ban Breathnach (in her book Simple Abundance, 1995) recommends the reader to go on creative excursions. She tells us that “creative excursions are regular solo rendezvous with your authentic self.” This can be done by visiting a “fabulous thrift shop,” or taking in a “movie, (one of those English old dramas you love).” Anything that “requires an investment of time, not money. None of us are too busy to find two hours a week.”   

Julia then explains how important it is to go on artist dates, because as you do “you are receiving- opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance. A weekly artist date is self-nurturing but also remarkably threatening- and remarkably productive. You are likely to find yourself avoiding your artist dates. Recognize this resistance as a fear of intimacy- self intimacy. In the course of the release engendered by our artist date, we begin to hear resolutions. Perhaps equally important, we begin to fund the creative reserves we will draw in in fulfilling our artistry.” 

Sarah on the other hand also warns us to be “prepared for strong, emotional resistance. Excuses will be plentiful. Don’t give in. There are ways to do it, once we realize that nurturing our imaginations and developing a relationship with our authentic selves is an investment we can no longer afford to put off. Expect nothing less than signs of wonders to follow.”

In her book Julia designated three full pages explaining the artist date. She brings examples from real life as she makes clear what the advantages and benefits are by going on weekly excursions and what the drawbacks are when avoiding these dates.

Sarah in one page writes about all that Julia has already written earlier, sometimes even using Julia’s words. 

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Is it a mere coincidence on Sarah’s part that she talks about exactly the same thing, in exactly the same words, after three years of the publication of Julia’s book The Artist’s Way? 

In my opinion it’s more than that. It’s natural for people to have the same ideas or thoughts but to express them in exactly the same phrases and words, even using the same examples or exercises, there must be more to it than just coincidence.

What do you think?

ChK

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Conversation Part Two

In my last conversation, I mentioned two best-selling authors Julia Cameron and Sarah Ban Breathnach and their advice about journaling, putting all your thoughts and feelings on paper, in a sort of “stream of consciousness” writing form. Julia in her book The Artist’s Way (1992) called it “writing the morning pages” while Sarah in her book Simple Abundance (1995) referred to it as “daily dialogue.” 

On the topic of writing daily, and to continue from where I left my conversation, I would like to discuss the writings of two other well known authors whose thoughts on journaling are also pretty much the same.

In her book “Inc. Your Dreams” first published in 1995, Rebecca Maddox writes:
“I discovered that writing is the most powerful way I know of to sort through all the inner voices. One night when I was really upset, I just sat down and started writing. Whatever came out. A real stream of thoughts. Some of them made sense. Lots of them didn’t at the time.”

“It felt good, and I began to do it more often. I started to look forward to that quiet time each night. Sometimes I simply recorded the facts of the day. Sometimes I was really inspired and went on for pages. Asking myself questions, pouring out my feelings.”

“Writing gives concrete expression to what’s on your mind and in your heart. It’s a way to pull together and make sense out of the raw output of your brain, the stuff that doesn’t always come out in a straight line or in a logical sequence.”

“Take the information, the feelings, the thoughts and beliefs that are inside you, and put them on paper, and I believe that with time you will discover the answers to your questions.” 

She advises her readers to:
“Go out and buy yourself a journal, a notebook, a diary. It can be any kind you like, whatever you are comfortable with, but buy something nice, something that says “you” all over it. With lots of room too: room to write, to scribble to draw, to paste things in. (And make sure it’s a new notebook.)” 

Can you see the likeness in her writing and Julia’s from my previous post? She may have used different words like “Stream of thoughts” instead of “Stream of consciousness” but sometimes she even uses the same expressions, “ask the questions and the answers will come,” or “the small inner voice.” Which makes me think that Julia Cameron is really the initiator, the pioneer of this kind of writing. 

The second book I would like to refer to is “Discover Your Destiny With The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari:The 7 Stages of Self-Awakening” (2004) by Robin Sharma.
In his book Robin writes:

“Writing things down is an incredibly important practice of self-discovery. The monks I met up in the Himalayas taught me about the tremendous value of daily journaling. Just as you get to know another person by having deep conversations with them, by journaling every morning you will come to know yourself through writing. I discovered what I wanted and what was holding me back from living my greatest life. My journal offered me a place to record my learning, an outlet to process through unfelt emotions that were blocking me and a vehicle to articulate the philosophy that I promised myself I would live by.” 

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This last paragraph makes more sense to me since the Himalayan monks date back to the fourth and fifth century. It is through their teachings then that generations of followers have been practicing writing and keeping a journal.

As for the title of Sharma’s book “The 7 Stages of Self-Awakening,” it was the late Stephen R. Covey who initiated this trend in writing, with his book “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.” A wonderful book that started a community of its own, and changed the way people and companies thought and did business all around the world. I have to admit I used some of his teachings in my classrooms in Dubai as well.  

There are always initiators of new ideas and their followers. We can’t all be leaders nor can we all be followers. As human beings we are different and can never be alike, the same way no two snow flakes are alike. Each one of us is unique in our own way. What’s important is to stay true to our Authentic Self, no matter what challenges we face in this world. Because that’s what makes us who we are, that’s what makes us the unique individuals that we are.

Have a great week journaling! 

ChK

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Conversation Part One

During a recent book sale at our public library, I came across the book “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I had never read her books nor heard of her. I read the book in almost one sitting and I loved it. The book was full of quotes by other writers and philosophers and activists. So I wanted to read more from her.
 
I borrowed “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort And Joy” from the library. A few pages into the book and I had this strange feeling that I had read the book before, it sounded so familiar. When I reached the section ‘January 27 The Daily Dialogues’ I just had to stop.

Hadn’t I read this in The Artist’s Way, I asked myself? A friend had introduced me to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way two years ago. Although I had read the book several times since then, I started reading it again. Here’s what I discovered.

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” written by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan in 1992, targets artists, creative beings who for some reason or another are blocked. The book itself is divided into 12 week sections, where each section comes with its own tasks for the reader to tackle and practice. 

On the other hand, “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort And Joy” written by Sarah Ban Breathnach and published November 1995, targets women readers of all ages. The book is also divided into 12 sections, one for each month of the year, each including daily essays and exercises to complete.  

Julia starts her book by introducing ‘The Basic Tools’ necessary for creative recovery. She writes: “There are two pivotal tools in creative recovery: the morning pages and the artist date.”

Sarah in her book writes about ‘The Basic Tools’ that she thinks will help her readers too, chief among them being The Daily Dialogue.

Julia writes: “I have been doing the morning pages for a decade now.”

Sarah writes: “I have been doing my daily dialogue for several years now.”

Julia: “The first time I did morning pages, I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I had gone there to sort myself out – into what, I didn’t know. I’d gone to New Mexico to mend my heart and see what else, if anything, I might want to do. Living in a small adobe house I began a practice of writing morning pages. Nobody told me to do them. I had never heard of anybody doing them. I just got the insistent, inner sense that I should do them and so I did. I sat at a wooden table looking north to Taos Mountain and I wrote.
“The morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness. They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions. All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the laundry, etc. – this stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days.”

Sarah: “One day, desperate to quiet the voice in my head, I took a spiral notebook and began having a conversation with myself on paper. Everything I was worried about just spilled out in a rapid stream of consciousness. What I was doing was eliminating the mental minutiae that was depleting my creative energy and driving me crazy.”

Julia then goes on and writes: “The morning pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. They get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods. We find our own quiet center, the place where we hear the still, small voice that is at once our creator’s and our own.”

Sarah writes: “I always look forward to checking in with my consciousness because the inner tool really works. It clears my head and calms my restless spirit. I call this ritual the daily dialogue because you are really conversing with someone much wiser and saner as you write: your authentic self.”

Julia: “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power. The pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self. It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to a constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.”

Sarah: “When you start writing the daily dialogue, you will probably be shocked at how much complaining you do at the beginning. That’s actually a very healthy reaction. You can’t moan about a situation for months and not decide to do something about it. You’ll get tired of the sound of your own nagging and be inspired to get moving.” 

Do you notice the similarities? Some of the terms Sarah uses like “stream of consciousness” are the exact same words that Julia used in her book, except Sarah’s book came three years after Julia’s. 

The only difference I found was that Julia advises her readers to “buy a nice notebook for your morning pages” while Sarah suggests her readers “don’t use a fancy, pretty journal for your daily dialogue.”

Before I go any further I feel the need to mention that I am not making any statement or accusation of any kind. I do not intend to. Whatever I say is just a simple observation of how close the two books are in content, principle and even writing. I admire both women for turning their circumstances around and being an inspiration for many of us.

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I hope that this will be the start of a long conversation you and I have on my page. 
 
ChK 

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An Ice Cream Cone So Big

Another year is coming to an end. I don’t know about you, but usually around this time of the year I get mixed feelings. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but at the same time there is this anticipation, the excitement of being on the threshold of something new, something promising.

I wonder sometimes if what drives us, what makes us tick, what makes us get out of bed every morning and face the world, is nothing other than fear and hope. The fear of tomorrow, the unknown, just the simple thought of it not being as good as today, or the hope that it will even be better.
 
I have a horoscope app on my phone that I like to check on a daily basis. It also has a yearly zodiac section, and for my career for this passing year here’s what it said:“Of all the important areas of your life, your career will be enjoying the most significant changes and excitement. By the end of 2016, you could receive an amazingly huge opportunity- one that is bigger and more thrilling than anything you have experienced before. If you maintain your typical dedication and ambition, this is something that could put you over the top in terms of financial success. Overall, 2016 could be your best year in many years- by leaps and bounds.”

Sadly the only thing that I got towards the end of this year relating to my career as a writer was an email from an agent, a rejection letter addressed to a Mr. Hanssian. (Which proves my point that agents do not read queries sent to them, and if you have an unrecognizable foreign name like mine, God help you.)

With only three days left for the New Year, could that something big still happen to me? Could such an amazing opportunity still come my way?

2016 was a tough year for me and my kids. I had to face a big challenge quite a few times throughout the year but thank God all went well. 

Everything in this life comes to an end. We all know that. What we don’t know is when. Even in my happiest moments I cannot help but think that this is all temporary. Some things I want to hang on to for as long as I can, for as much as it is possible for me to do so. But nothing lasts forever.

This New Year I will try to change my attitude. Instead of having resolutions I have decided to jot down my dreams, my aspirations, and longings that I have kept tucked away for when the time is right. There is no right time. Past experience has taught me that there is no perfect time to go after what you want. That you can’t wait for it to come your way, because your time to leave this life might come sooner than you expect.

I have come to realize the hard way that you have to grab every second, every minute, every hour, every day you are given on this earth to move towards your dream and make it come true.

Life is full of surprises, good and bad. But even in our bad times, there are moments in each of our lives when we feel a certain calm. For me it’s the times when I am having coffee with a friend and talking and listening, or when I am with my kids watching a movie and eating popcorn, or getting some ice cream. Blissful moments that I know once over will never come back again. To quote Ray Bradbury:

“Ice cream cones are always gettin’ done with. Seems I’m no sooner bitin’ the top than I’m eatin’ the tail. Seems I’m no sooner jumpin’ in the lake at the start of vacation then I’m creepin’ out the far side, on the way back to school. Boy no wonder I feel bad.”
“It’s all how you look at it,” said Doug.
“My Gosh, think of all the things you haven’t even started yet. There’s a million ice cream cones up ahead and ten billion apple pies and hundreds of summer vacations. Billions of things waitin’ to be bit or swallowed or jumped in.”
“Just once, though,” said Tom, “I’d like one thing. An ice cream cone so big you could just keep eatin’ and there isn’t any end and you just go on bein’ happy with it forever. Wow!”

Wish

“There’s no such ice cream cone.”
“Just one thing like that is all I ask,” said Tom. “One vacation that never has a last day… Gimme just one thing with no tail-end and I’d go crazy. Sometimes I just sit at the theater and cry when it says ‘The End’… And there’s nothin’ so sad as the last piece of popcorn at the bottom of the box.” 

Wishing you all a happy and successful New Year. May all your dreams come true.

ChK

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Till We Meet Again

Today is my late husband’s birthday. It is already the fifth birthday we celebrate without him. Today he would have been sixty-two years old. God only knows how much we need him, how much I need him beside me now more than anything.

Nothing in the world prepares you for something like this. You fall in love, you get married and you think you will spend the rest of your lives together. And then tragedy strikes. Suddenly your life changes and you find yourself all alone. And that hurts no matter what.

Deep down you have all these dreams nestled somewhere inside of you and you don’t know what to do with them. These dreams are not only yours but his too. How can you carry them when there is only you after thirty plus years of togetherness?

When my husband passed away four years ago it came as a shock for us, even though he had cancer and was fighting for his life. At the time and for a while after I felt paralyzed. I kept asking myself questions like Why? Why are we here? Why am I here? What’s my life about? What’s my purpose in life? Do I have a mission in this life? If yes then what is it? Do we love to lose? Do we live to die? What’s the truth? What’s my truth? The question that kept popping in my head relentlessly was, “What’s the point of all of this?”

There was this void, this emptiness inside of me that kept growing and getting bigger and bigger with the passing of each day. I felt more helpless and vulnerable than ever before. I wasn’t alone thanks to my kids and my family who surrounded me with their love and support, and who continue to do so to this day. But I was lonely and deep inside I felt frozen. I needed answers to my questions.

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At some point life became so overwhelming that I felt I couldn’t breathe and needed help, just so I could get up on my feet and start breathing again. I went for counseling and met a few interesting people who introduced me to a different type of literature. A new line of books that I have to admit, had I not experienced what I did, I wouldn’t have read or bought on my own, not at this point and time in my life.

Being a blogger and a writer I felt blocked, I was blocked. Whenever I took pen in hand to write, my thoughts went to him and the immensity of my loss. Three months before losing him I had lost my friend, the only good friend I had here in Montreal, to a heart attack.

Suddenly this new place we had recently moved to start a new life seemed to me as this remote place that swallowed my loved ones. All my thoughts and writings focused on my losses and my loneliness. I saw myself as a victim of my fate, my destiny. I desired nothing other than to spend my days within the walls of my room. 

Because I felt lost. I felt that I had wasted so much time and so much of my life thinking of past regrets, imagining future problems, puzzling over current troubles and choices. And I felt that I totally and completely missed the present, the now, while days and weeks and years passed by. I sensed that Montreal had lost its charm for me and I so wanted to change that. I had to change so I could be at peace with myself and feel at home again. 

During one of my visits to the clinic I met an interesting young woman who introduced me to Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I bought the book the same day and started reading. One book led to another and ever since that day I’ve been reading and studying all kinds of inspirational and spiritual books that could help me rediscover my authentic self. 

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Recently there was a book sale at our public library and I went and bought as many as I could lay my hands on. I was lucky to get some of the books in mint condition even. After reading a few, I started to notice similarities in the ideas and the text. That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps I should write about them in my upcoming blogs.

Needless to say I am no literary expert. I am not a critic, but I can observe and connect and that’s what I will try to do. Make observations and leave it to you to decide. You’re welcome to join the conversation with me to let me know if you agree or disagree, and add your valued opinion and comments.

Until then I wish you all the best.

ChK

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Loyalty Integrity Honesty Dignity

“The human journey is so short. We no sooner realize that we are here than it is already time for us to be leaving.” John O’Donohue

For the past two weeks I’ve been contemplating writing an article for my blog. It’s about the spiritual books I read two weeks ago and the one I’m still reading now. In my mind I made a comparison of all the dogmas and the teachings these books and the authors offered, and the striking similarities between them. It’s a big task that one day I would like to tackle on my blog, and I hope that day is soon. But until I do that, there’s something else that’s nagging me and I think it’s also blocking me from further writing. To quote Zora Neale Hurtson:
“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” 

It’s that time of year again. November 16. Today marks the fourth anniversary of my husband’s passing. Four years ago today we didn’t know it would be his last day with us here. I still remember that day as if it was yesterday.

I play the events of his last two days in my head. It happened so quickly. We didn’t say goodbye, he didn’t want to. He said he was coming home with us and like a fool I believed him. He looked so peaceful and calm with a smile on his face before he breathed his last breath. Sadly we drove home alone leaving him on his hospital bed. Four years have passed and the pain is still strong.

“Death in its way comes as much as a surprise as birth.” Edna O’Brien

Those days and the days that followed were a nightmare. I felt like a robot accepting friends and well wishers and trying to be strong for my kids. I didn’t know what was in wait for me. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was get it over with, the funeral, the condolences, the emails and the phone calls.

It was only at night when I went to bed that I cried myself to sleep. But sleep also failed me on most nights. I was like a lost soul trying to find comfort somewhere, I didn’t know where.  

Four years (1460 days) later, and after going through some really difficult times and facing new challenges, we are still trying to find some comfort. And I know we will never be the same again, ever. There are times when the kids are back from work and we’re gathered in the kitchen having dinner and they start talking about their day where I stop and stare at them, unable to eat or talk.

I think of all the things he missed and is missing, even the little everyday things like the weather, which is so beautiful today like it was on that last day, and all else. All the dreams he had for our kids, the way he would have held his head high proud of their achievements. His dreams, especially his dreams as an artist, the painting he left unfinished on the easel, his sketches, his studies, his canvases, his books and paints. All of these and more.

He wouldn’t know how highly some art critics think of his paintings, that they find his “images intriguing.” I guess he would never know. And that hurts.

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Shortly after he passed away, my uncle Setrak in an email wrote the following about him:

“He was smart. I could tell that when I used to watch him play cards in Ainjar. He was a good bridge player. He could even outsmart his small computer (then in black and white) when he played poker. He was also a good chess player. He was intelligent and wise… and his colors were vibrant and beautiful, his paintings…” and the list goes on.

In my hand I hold his ring, the silver ring that was given to him as a service recognition award by the company where he worked for over two decades. Carved on one side is the company’s logo, the logo that he redesigned, and on the other his initials, VH. Carved under his initials are the words, LOYALTY and INTEGRITY. I would like to add HONESTY and DIGNITY to those words. 

Yes to me, to us, he was all that and more. He was one hell of a guy.

I don’t remember which year he received that ring. His rewards and certificates were so many. We were so proud of him. But his biggest prize is that he was the best dad, and the best husband and friend the kids and I could ever wish for. I feel so blessed to have traveled with him on this journey, life’s journey. I wish that we never stopped and continued ’till old age, like he always dreamed of. 

Robin Sharma writes:
“Painful events come to help us learn the lessons we need to learn at that point of our paths. Sad experiences arrive to help us heal, and grow more philosophical.”

During these four years I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. I’ve come to realize who my true friends and the people who really care about me, about us, are and I am forever grateful for having them in my life.

And after four years, after going through really hard times, I realize things are never as bad as they seem. The situation that causes us sorrow is also the reason behind our strength and power and wisdom.

Lots have changed in these four years, but the one thing that hasn’t is our love. If anything it has grown stronger. In the same way we feel his love and believe that he is our guardian angel, watching us from a more powerful and peaceful place, from heaven.

Rest in peace my darling and rest assured that your legacy lives through your kids, who by the way have all your characteristics and more.

ChK

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