Mothering: The Romance Novel, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:52am


I’ve been talking to some mothers recently.

I called my own.

Such an odd experience, talking to a woman who is losing her memory but retaining everything else. The voice and the expressions haven’t changed. “Hello darling!” she says. She knows she misses me, but she doesn’t remember when she saw me last. She rarely forgets she has 4 children, but I’m not sure if she knows who I am, today. A few minutes into the conversation it becomes clear that she can’t remember what she just said, but that she wants to see me, whenever I can make time.

Her memory loss doesn’t prevent me from recognizing her as my mother but the idea is drifting.

I talked to my best friend.

We raised our children together, but she went on to have 3 more than I, meaning she’s got teenagers at home. I can’t remember what it was that prompted her comment, “Of course, that’s not something we need to share with the kids,” but I responded, “Oh, as I get older I feel like I have to get more honest with mine. That I protect them with truth, not by keeping quiet.” Or something like that. I was driving, so probably wasn’t speaking in whole sentences.

In fact, I’d just finished having a conversation with my son in which I explained to him my psychology, as best I can, around pieces of advice I give him. And then explained my psychology around telling him my psychology at all. Poor child. The standards of good care shift so much as my children grow up, and I have no model, no mother’s group, no data to guide my choices. I muddle along hoping that in a pinch truth and love are the right answer.

By the way, by truth I don’t mean full disclosure. Our kids are not our late night friends, for sobbing phone calls or confessions. I mean that whatever I do tell them, whatever advice I give, I make it as true and as free of my own agenda as possible. I suppose I mean we, and our.

I talked to some young women online.

Young mothers and mothers-to-be these days are forging their own course. As it happened, my generation didn’t set the template for the future. The answers we came to, so hard won – I’m going to use the word “forged” again – out of late nights, cracked nipples, pyjama standdowns and teenage disdain, those answers may not stand. Certainly they will not stand. I guess every generation needs to choose their own ways, and often will choose in reaction to those very things we thought our experience had revealed as truth.

I am a very cerebral person. I use logic to make my way through life. (Interrupted of course by emotions I can’t control, and the river of speech with which I am afflicted. Truth.)  So I have thought a lot about bringing up my children and will continue to think about it for as long as I can.

But as time passes, time in which by default my mother ages and new mothers give birth, culture and frameworks shift. Duh, I guess, but always a surprise.

I anchor in the moment. I anchor in the blue of my son’s eyes, in the smooth skin of my daughter’s cheek, in their voices down the hall. Those might seem like superficial images, like the cover of a romance novel, but when I cast my mind’s eye over to them that’s what I see. There’s more of course, their text messages and plans, the spaces in which they live. And so on.

None of my thinking here is terribly brilliant, but even obvious stuff can feel like an explosion when it affects our particular lives.

They are short, those lives. Being a mother is one of the few inalienable loves. So I stay close to how I feel. From there I look back at my mistakes, my anxieties, my biases, my ignorance. I set my mind to work in service of my dear ones and report back when I must. That’s as true as I can get.

Have a wonderful weekend. It’s raining here, so we in the land of drought are glad.

Family Photography Shoots For Cards, And Gifts, And Art


JAMIESTREETPHOTOGRAPHY

Towards the end of 2013, for his birthday or maybe Christmas, I gave my brother a family photography session. Last he, my sister-in-law and Cute Nephew met up with the photographer, and spent the morning wandering around San Francisco’s Mission District. My sister-in-law is now working on a photo book for grandparents. Shhhh.

They’re also going to have some great Christmas cards, assuming of course that they’ve got the time to send any.

In this day of all-photography-all-the-time, you might wonder, “Why pay for images – they flit by my camera/phone lens at the rate of a million/per second, there for the taking?” A couple of reasons. First, clearly, art. Professional photographers really do take better pictures. Funny, that. Second, unposed family. You want someone who can catch all of you at once, doing the things you usually do.

I’m going to assume your family doesn’t line up in a row smiling at the light as part of their normal day?

So I thought I’d show you the work of some of the family photographers I have come to know online. For whatever reason, they are located in London, Brighton, and San Diego. Go figure. I also thought that perhaps if you, reading, know people who do good and similar work in other regions, you might add their names in the comments.

First, up, we have Cara of Bluebird and the Bear, in London. I’ve featured her other work before, but her family portraits are something else again. That little girl’s face. Don’t we want to meet her when she’s 13? And 26?

Blueird and Bear Phoography with Attitude

Twins and the look of love.

Bluebird and Bear Photography with Twins

Extraordinary bubbles. I read somewhere recently that soap bubbles have been deemed one of the top 10 toys of all times.

Bluebird and Bear Family Photography with Bubbles

Moving south, to Brighton, Laura calls some of her work at Baby Picture This, “storytelling.” And so it is. The walk in the country.

Baby Picture This Family Photography

The first of many yawns.

Baby Picture This Brighton Family Photography

Much better than putting her in a watermelon, don’t  you think?

Baby Picture This Brighton Family Photography

Finally, Jamie Street, in San Diego. Who, as it happens designed this website, back before she was listed as one of the Top 21 Family Photographers in the USA, She also these photos of Cute Nephew, and the one top the post, at their family shoot in May.

Hey little hipster!

JAMIESTREETPHOTOGRAPHY

I think I’ll go stand near a flower display and have my picture taken too.

JAMIESTREETPHOTOGRAPHY

 

I love photo sessions for their cascading gift abundance. Gift #1 – from you to beloveds. Gift #2 – when your beloveds give the resulting photos to theirs. Lotta beloveds going on.

One more idea. This time of year involves a lot of dressing up – gorgeously. Have you ever thought to hire someone to take your portrait for a holiday party – hair, makeup, dress, glittery pumps, and all? As we know, the photos from the actual venues are rarely even usable. Every day we’re assaulted by commercial images of perfect people; my wedding taught me the value of an image of yourself looking perfect, for context. Because if this woman in Romona Keveza is the same woman now writing in flannel PJ bottoms, commercial perfection can be seen as simply the Wizard of Oz, i.e., nothing without the curtain.

We’ve all got it in us.

See?  Gift, upon gift, upon gift. Feel free to contact any of these photographers, if you are so inclined.

Bluebird and the Bear

Baby Picture This

Jamie Street Photography

And, edited to add a recommendation from one of my local family members, Eric Rorer in Mill Valley. He does residential interiors and architecture as well, so if you want your beloved house featured too, he’s your guy.

 

 

No compensation has been received for this post.

7 Pieces For A Non-Rustic Thanksgiving Table: Posh, Or Nosh?


Anyone else out there with a fangirl love for table settings? Oh the crystal, oh the gilt, oh the gleam.

While I appreciate rustic Thanksgiving tables – n a hello pretty picture kind of way – my heart belongs to fancy. Or, as the British say so endearingly, “Posh.” Perhaps I have a few allies here?

But posh is expensive! How annoying! Harrumph. So, here’s a graphic for those who would be Posh, but must at least Nosh. Yes, that’s a completely dopey alliteration, and now you know why I was not a marketing executive, but let’s forge ahead.

From plates to candelabra, the look for less.

Posh-Or-Nosh-

Details:

  1. Eat | Bernadaud “Etoiles” china via Bloomingdale‘s / 16-Piece “Bianca” Beaded-Edge Dinnerware from Neiman Marcus
  2. Cut | Reed & Barton Pointed Antique Sterling Silver 5 Piece Place Setting via Amazon /  Polka-dotted flatware from Anthropologie
  3. Cover | “Chateau Blanc” linen tablecloth from Schweitzer Linens / Embroidered organic cotton voile from Coyuchi
  4. Pour | “India” Gravy Boat from Wedgwood / Polished Aluminum Gravy Boat via Amazon
  5. Drink | “Lismore” Balloon Wine from Waterford / “Palace Trellis” glasses from Anthropologie
  6. Serve | “India Covered Vegetable Bowl from Wedgwood / Hammered Stainless Steel Oval Fruit Bowl, via Amazon
  7. Light | Pair of 1930s New York silver candelabra via 1stDibs (I swear I have an identical except-for-multiple-dents pair from my family) / Pair of crystal candlesticks with drops on sale at Macy’s

And finally, a few notes on methodology:

  • Posh derives character from a few fantastic big ticket items, keeping the rest simple but elegant. Nosh gets its glamor from multiple textures and refracted light.
  • Posh loves silver, antique especially. Nosh thinks a heckuva lot can be done with well-crafted stainless steel and aluminum. We might even refer to it as aluminium, ironically pretentious for Americans, and laugh.
  • Posh can be acquired all at once, at marriage for example, or over time, as the family tires of the goods or passes them on as inheritance. Nosh always takes a while. A new piece every year, maybe two, if the year-end bonus is big enough.
  • Posh goes for striking centerpieces, either in a single flower type – tulips are good – or from sheer High WASP eccentricity, via garden foraging. My mom the Smithie always insisted on cutting her own holly. Nosh looks for color and abundance, to highlight the white, the clear and the multi-faceted shine.

You will notice that even the Nosh table costs a fair amount of money, all told. To go lower, you have to get really creative. Picnics, outdoors in California, indoors on the floor of an apartment in Brooklyn, or a young couple’s first house outside of Allentown. Potlucks, where the mismatch of dishes matters not one whit. And kitsch, do not forget our friend kitsch – go to the dollar store and buy up every ugly turkey-covered paper good you can find. I’m sure there’s a turkey candle waiting for you somewhere.

Just be sure to recycle when you’re done. Happy almost Thanksgiving, Americans, with a big wave to the rest of the world as we indulge.

Editorial note: The inimitable @kidchamp corrects me, well, correctly. I meant rhyme, not alliteration. But I’m leaving my mistake for all to see, thence ensuring my future humility.

 

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The Privilege Pre-Holiday Season Report To The Board, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:27am


Time for the Privilege Report To The Board, in which I show a few numbers, and discuss issues of strategic concern. I’ve done this before, through the years, in an effort to stay transparent. This time it’s particularly important, if only to my mental health, because the season of Buy It All has arrived. If you think shopping malls are early on the Christmas bandwagon, you should see what blogger email inboxes look like.

Yikes.

So I wanted to talk stats, money in particular, and let you know how I’m thinking I’ll approach the balance of Thought, Soul and Stuff, in the weeks to come.

The Statistics of Privilege

  • Since February of this year, when last we spoke, page views/month have dropped 30%,  from ~93,000 to ~65,000
  • Unique visitors/month have dropped 20%, from ~26,000 to ~21,000
  • 60% repeat visitors remains constant
  • Subscribers (including email, Blogger, Feedly, Bloglovin’.):  Up 9% from 2750 to 3000
  • Total posts: ~1275, published Saturday, usually Tuesday, and usually Thursday. BTW, I came down with a bug this week, in case anyone noticed the absence of a second post. I always assume it doesn’t register, you’re busy people, but I still try to hold myself to the schedule.

Strategic Issues

  • Why the drop in page views and unique visitors? I broadened my focus, as you know, and I assume that those who came just for the clothes, departed. I am also less often included in weekly links roundups on style blogs, which also leads fewer page views. Same for unique visitors. Now, as I eyeball my analytics, it appears that the drop in page views has leveled off. We’ll see.
  • Why the increase in subscribers? Hard to say, but appreciated.
  • By the way, do I mind the declines? I would always prefer to show an increase. It’s a point of pride, and a sign that I’m doing something right. However, I don’t regret the decision to broaden focus. Not an iota. It was either shift or quit, so here we are. I will try to get better at house and garden writing and photography. Thanks for hanging around.

Monetization – 2014 earnings to date

  • Affiliate links (RewardStyle, Linkshare, Amazon): ~$2200
  • Brand marketing (Uncommon Goods, Readers.com): $400
  • Ads (Beladora, Shopstyle, Sovrn): $675

Strategic Issues

I now see which posts drive earnings. I suppose I could do more of them, and make more money. But right now I balance, very carefully, the pleasures of writing and the pleasures of cash.

You might wonder, given the pretty small totals, why monetize at all? It’s a fair amount of extra work, copying the affiliate links, dealing with advertisers, etc. Point taken. Here’s the thing. Money earned is a metric. It’s a sign of impact, and writing is a solitary occupation. Your comments, and your purchases, are signs of what my brilliant psychoanalyst brother would call my “agency,” as well as the feedback loop we extroverts need to keep going.

Besides, in my retirement I confess to a new appreciation for even pretty small totals. Transparency.

The Road To Christmas

Here’s what I’m thinking. I simply can’t go into All Gift Guides All The Time. I’d have to self-immolate. But neither do I want to avoid the whole process. So I plan to write a couple of gift guides – virtual presents I’d give had I all the money in the world – a couple of entertaining and decorating posts, and maybe one CyberMonday roundup. No maximizing of income, as my monetization partners urge, but no virtuous minimalism either. The middle way.

One more thing that comes to mind. If there are any posts you’d particularly like to see from me in the next 6 weeks, let me know, either in the comments below or at my blog email, skyepeale (at) yahoo(dot) com. And if you would be so kind, please keep the discussion positive, focusing on what we Do want vs. what we Don’t. Maybe I’ll do a kvetching post later in the year, if nerves get frayed and wallets overheat. For now, let’s expect the best.

Have a good weekend.

One New Piece For The Entertaining Holidays: From Sky’s The Limit To, “Hey! I Could Get That!”


As I’ve said before, if I don’t get myself one new piece for the holidays, I’m prone to a certain wistful regret. Celebrations feel just a little more celebratory in new duds. This year, I’m thinking about a new party top.

See, I’m almost always the one cooking, if not as the head chef then as a bustling sous. And I cook with abandon. So I’ve found that the best holiday dinner outfit for me is a pair of dressy trousers, like these from J. Crew (once black is back in stock), and a festive top, which I don’t actually put on until we eat. Cook in cotton jersey – eat in silk, lace, and sequins.  That’s my motto.

In this spirit, I’ve found a few tops to covet, consider, or snap up. Your choice. We’ll start in the stratosphere, and work our way down to the land of, “Excuse me, I’m not the Queen of Sheba! At least not yet.”

Sky's-The-Limit

 

 

Here you will find fine materials, skilled workmanship, and design to the point of audacity. Art becomes fashion, right there on your body.

 

 

Festive-Under-$100

 

 

Simplicity is the key to bargain elegance. If you look for beads, eschew busy patterns, if sequins, make sure they’re straight up. Solid colors and classic silhouettes serve you well; persist in the hunt for good fit and prepare to add yet more sparkle with your jewelry.

Everything-In-Between

 

 

Fashion in between Way Too Much and Over $100 gives you all sorts of options, in pattern, in fabric, in silhouettes that mirror the offerings of the stratosphere. Often your best strategy here is to wait for a sale. As it happens, Bloomingdale’s got one starting today, with 20% off many items. You can try to find something you might wear more than once, but if you falter, these are the kinds of pieces that high-end thrift shops love to take off your hands.

 

And if you decide against a party top, well, then, there are always party shoes…

Edited: In an attempt to deal with the display issues in Chrome and IE, I have another widget below, that slideshows all my picks. Please let me know if you can’t see this either? Additional hint, Chrome on my Mac loads slowly, but it does load, in the end. My apologies for technology’s short-comings, I can only assure you that we try.

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Breakfast With Roofers, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:33am


You might think that someone with a roof leak might think to fix said leak before she began painting her house. People be crazy, what can I say?

Yep, a roof leak, into my master bath as it happens. And I live in a region so flush with cash from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et. alia. that I cannot find a craftsperson for  simple repairs. Everyone wants to build mansions. People be crazy.

Needless to say, when I finally did find someone willing to take care of a small leak, just in advance of rain predicted for next week, he was available only first thing Saturday, aka today.

Which is all by the way of saying, “Fancy a morning with the roofer, dear?” Don’t worry, I’m just talking to myself.

Have a wonderful weekend.

What Color Does A High WASP Paint Her Front Door For Good Feng Shui?


As part of the house fix-up, we’re having everything painted, inside and out. The house exterior has always been light greenish-gray with white trim, the interior varying shades of white on both walls and trim. I feel little urge for change. Except.

I want to paint my front door a completely different color. Right now it’s white. White, old, and all banged up. Shall we share a few ugly photos?

Front Door In Hiding

Ever so attractive. Don’t fret about that concrete. Potted plants to the eventual rescue.

Front-Door-And-Doorknob

All you lovers of mid-century, this is what a real 1954 doorknob looks like. Turns out some 1950s builders preferred Medieval Dungeon to Mies van der Rohe.

How to choose the new shade? I know my instinctual preferences. High WASPs believe, for reasons mysterious even to us, that our front doors should be painted black, white, red, or green. Or left unpainted in the original wood or metal. That’s it. Why we don’t like navy blue, our favorite and almost canonical color for clothing, I simply cannot parse out. And we’re not even going to talk about chartreuse. I guess we’ll let the Cotswolds keep on with aquamarine, if they must.

Door in the Cotswolds

So, wood is out. My front door turns out to be dark and splotchy under its white paint, from previous staining. Black would be too severe with my particular gray, white’s out, green too matchy. Red then. All set? These pictures are pretty compelling.

Screen-shot-2012-04-01-at-11.02.17-AM

Via Maria Killam, Ten Best Front Door Colours For Your House.

new door1

Via Love Your Room, Make Your Outdoor Entry Eye Candy.

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Found here.

But I still doubt my house decor instincts, I want a constraining framework. High WASPs in California often follow the woo woo, as we call it, using irony in its time-honored role as a mask for anxiety. In this case, I thought, “Why not Feng Shui? What does the old Chinese real estate quasi-magic say?”

Feng shui recommends front door colors based on your entry’s orientation. My house looks Northeast. And the best feng shui colours for a Northeast-facing front door are (in order of their auspiciousness): earthy/sandy colors, yellow, burgundy red, purple, deep orange, and rich pink. I can do burgundy, which I will not call cabernet, despite my fealty to California.

Finally, there are some indications that, WASP and feng shui tradition aside, red is a very popular color, and probably good for resale.

Time to choose.

My painter says that although Kelly Moore hasn’t let him down in 30 years, as far as exteriors and standard interiors go, their saturated colors are substandard. OK then. He likes Home Depot’s Marquee line, with one coat coverage, or Benjamin Moore.  So after lining up swatches on the doorway,

Front-Door-With-Paint-Chips

I’m considering the Marquee Reddest Red,

Home Depot Marquee Reddest Red

or Benjamin Moore’s Dinner Party.

Benjamin Moore Dinner Party

What is the final compass reading for my decision? You, my inestimable and skilled readers, you. Do you have a favorite red? On the blueish side, but not too blue, nicely bright but not too-too, deep but not, well, you get the drill? Do tell.

 

(Of course, there’s a board for that.)

 

Where Can I Find Reasonably Priced Cute Reading Glasses?


Ah, reading glasses. One of the universal experiences of aging, that moment when we reset our daily lives just to be able to see close up.

If you asked me, “Lisa, do you wear glasses,” I’d probably say no. But then, if we look closely, I’d have to recant. I wear reading glasses 70% of the time. And not just for reading. As evidence, here are photos from my wedding and reception. In the first, my son is pouring Perrier on me to help remove the red wine I’ve just spilled down my front. I’m holding champagne suede sparkle-toed Jimmy Choos in my hand, so they don’t get wrecked. Elegance ‘R Us.

Wedding-Glasses

In the second photo, I’m reading my vows. Glasses make such a nice bridal hairpiece, don’t you think?

All of which is by way of an introduction to my work with Readers.com. They sent me 4 pairs of glasses and asked me to take pictures of myself, full face and outfits, to use in the Collections part of their site. They even awarded me an eponymous pair. Just had to use that word. Behold, the Lisa. Ironically, my first choices were much more subdued, this one we came up with after a few iterations. Artsy despite myself. Thank you universe, and Readers.com.

tn_images--W--R447-BlueYellow---jpg_w600_h400

Would you like to see a few outtakes? Before I understood what was required to actually market glasses, I took some Artsy shots. Faded to translucency in the Sophie.

Readers.2

Channeling our friend The Highland Fashionista in the Tess.

Readers.6

Convict-style, in the Lisa.

Readers.9

And untrammeled hair, fuzzing in the late Berkeley sun, UNIQLO Ines de la Fressange linen blazer, Bottega Veneta hobo, double diamond solitaire necklace, and the Whistler in tortoise.

Readers.8

The Readers.com site, wholly apart from any of my participation, is easy to navigate, their glasses myriad and fun, prices extremely reasonable. If you need some specs, or are just curious about what the less Artsy photos looked like, I’m over here, in their Influencers Collection. Along with other midlife style bloggers you will recognize and, I suspect, enjoy.

An additional bit of fun in all this. I’m always parsimonious in my glasses-buying, never keeping more than 2-3 pair on hand. This recent abundance brought a new sense of play to the old necessity. Having a whole bunch of reading glasses is kind of like living in your own personal photo filters. Otherwise stated, glasses frames, along with rectangular scarves and dangling earrings, make a wonderful and easily switched out accessory of choice.

Finally, a big thank you to Readers.com. The project was a lot of work, but made me feel very creative and adventurous. All to the good.

P.S. Had to use “parsimonious” too. I guess talking about reading glasses also makes me feel smart, for bonus points.

 

I received compensation for the project of photo-taking for Readers.com, but not for this post. Wedding photos by Emilia Jane Photography.

Just What Is It About British TV?, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:05am


Just what is it about English television?

While I do believe that today’s best fictional experience can be found in American TV series, I enjoy the English stuff in an entirely different way. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Orange Is The New Black, Transparent – all brilliant, but also challenging.

Downton Abbey, Call The Midwife, Doc Martin? A night with these casts of characters and I sleep like a baby. Why? Because these are comedy/dramas of manners?

Perhaps.

But I think it’s something else. For example, I have loved watching Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley. It’s a crime drama, complete with mayhem. Why then does it give me the same sense of peace?

I think it comes back to the American fixation on beauty. Beauty and teeth, perhaps.

American TV shows tend to require a uniform physicality of their casts. I mean, hello Jesse on Breaking Bad. Best-looking methhead I ever met! The Sopranos, with James Gandolfini sadly ballooning to his death and Steve Buscemi honing those teeth for Empire Boardwalk, makes do with the fewest possible pretty people. But I find the actors, while not beautiful per se, still physically larger than life. Exaggerated.

My theory, wholly unproven and surely unprovable, is that Americans need the people we see on screen to be larger than someone we might meet on the street. We then require suffering and irony in our often inhumanly-beautiful humans, in order for them to feel real to us.

On the other hand, British television embraces the imperfect, the just like you and me. The British shows I happen upon enjoy their slightly schlubby heroes and heroines. With that seems to come sentimentality. Maybe we allow more rose-coloring to the more approachable – pointy teeth, patchy skin, irregular balding, and all?

Who knows? Maybe it’s just the plummy British accents and the voice classes traditional in British training.

In any case, I highly recommend Hidden Valley, which you might not have heard of – yet. And another from the inestimable Ms. Lancashire, sporting the worst hair ever on a leading actress, Last Tango In Halifax. A story of two people in their 70s, childhood almost sweethearts, meeting again and falling in love in their 70s, well, it doesn’t get much more happily sentimental than that.

In a good way.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone, with all the milk of human kindness you deserve, and some rose-colored glasses, if needed.

 

 

Amazon links are affiliate. Text corrected to get Ms. Lancashire’s name right, thanks to Shefaly Yogendra for the heads up.

 

Object Of Desire: Even Tomboys Get Cold Necks


Jacket-and-Scarf-Isabel-Marant-Etro

My Etro men’s scarf, which I’ve worn and shown you eleventy billion times.

Scarves are popular. And well-documented, by Mai Tai, Deja Pseu, and the Hostess, among others. In silk, a hallmark of the Grande Dame. Fringed, purview of the Artsy Cousin.

Sturdy Gals and tomboys, however, avoid the traditional carré, unnerved by both flapping and sheen. Give us a rectangle, that domesticated geometry, that sometimes Golden Shape, and let simple squared-off ends hang safely at our lapels.

We do, however, support color. You can remove scarves without risking nudity, after all. And for color, in a rectangle, there’s really nothing quite like Etro. All praise the Italians.

Now, Etro’s admittedly pricey. But if you click through the carousel below, from Nordstrom through Bluefly to the vintage site, The RealReal, you just might enter the territory of possible.

I have found that little elevates extreme casual better than chandelier earrings and Etro at the neck. I suppose a zippered Étoile Isabel Marant jacket, like the one above, or pretty much anything Ms. Marant makes, here, or here, can’t hurt either.

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