Pour Me a Glass of That, Buddy

The verb “collaborate” is popular today.  It’s primary definition, according to Merriam-Webster, means to “work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”  Yet according to a search engine “use over time” chart, the word is approaching “peak word usage” and may be in decline.  Thank God for that.  If I am asked to “collaborate” one more time, I may lose whatever is left of my COVID-clouded mind.    

I prefer the secondary definition of the word, “traitorous cooperation with an enemy.”  It has a delicious Cold War feel, reeking of espionage, well-coiffed women in carefully fitted clothing, and vodka.  Remember the Cold War?  Pour me a glass of that, buddy.  Those were good times.

While I’ve been staying home and saving lives, I’ve given some thought to “living like it’s the Cold War.”  I’m sometimes a throwback, drinking my coffee from a cup and saucer, not a mug.  I wear skirts and sweaters to go to my virtual office, too, and I always wear an apron when I make lunch or dinner.  It doesn’t cure the deadening suffocation of the national fear-fogging, but it helps break up the day into manageable pieces.       

One bright October day, while not staying home and saving lives, I stopped in Bath, Maine.  I sat on a park bench outside the Patten Free Library and read my brother’s blog on my phone.  He ruminated on the coming winter.  “Six months into Covid, with little abatement in sight, the looming darkness and colder days don’t bode well for anyone preferring light and summer breezes…what’s coming, I’m afraid, is a dank, Dickensian dystopia to be endured over the course of the winter.”  Exhausted from isolation and sharing his concerns about the dimming of our days, I looked up from my phone and into the blue October sky.  A young man was walking towards me.

It was the strangest thing, to be filed under “you cannot make this stuff up.”  A kind young man, he tipped his hat and unabashedly answered my curious questions.  He was a “historical costumer.”  He said he and others happily walked the earth like the Ghost of Christmas Present, spreading joy and good will by wearing garb from another time and place.

It warmed my heart and I’ve thought about this man’s spirit many times as October’s bright blue weather dwindles towards the Halloween full moon.  I’m so glad he chose not to stay home and save lives.  If only for a brief moment, the world seemed bright with light; I felt alive.  It warmed my heart.  

Pour me a glass of that, buddy.

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The Politics of Coffee

Boom!

It’s August 7, 2020 and I’m up at the crack of dawn drinking coffee and listening to a British band I discovered in college, The Jam.  Thanks be to the masters of the universe!  Today, I can stream all of the band’s music (and their remastered versions too!) at any time I desire.  I began today’s birthday beat with The Jam’s “Girl on the Phone.”

As I listen to lyrics from these 1980’s songs, I wonder how much the music influenced me, either overtly or covertly.  The Jam’s members were bold in their opinions and although I could not identify with many of them, I liked their sound.  In retrospect, many of their songs were downers.  Take for instance, “Private Hell” from the band’s 1979 album Setting Sons.  It’s a dirge-like number and the lyrics are a dark, dismissive look at domestic life.  See for yourself:

“The man who you once loved is bald and fat,
And seldom in,
working late as usual.”

The man I love is bald.  I’m ok with that.  Honestly, I can’t even imagine him with hair.

But the song has a good beat and as the coffee hit my bloodstream, I danced around on the Oriental runner in my hallway.  (Is it ok to say “Oriental runner” anymore?)

I had a different vision for my 56th birthday.  I wanted to wake up in the Canaervon Room at the The Norumbega in Camden, maybe hike up Mount Battie, eat something delicious from Dot’s in Lincolnville, and then stop in at The Dollar General in Montville to pick up some detergent and paper products.  Instead, I’ll soon check in with Palm Beach Perry at my job for pay.  We’ll kibitz about work for a bit and then put the hammer down on the day.  The Jam had a song about working in an office, being part of the production line.  “Smithers-Jones.”  A song from a different time, with different and the same politics.  I don’t know.  I took the lyrics and worked them into my own reality, then as now.  The music had a good beat and I could dance to it.

I’m not going to overthink it today.  No thoughts on the politics of coffee and whether I should be drinking so much of it.  I’m going to put the hammer down on the production line and get done early.   (I’m on my way up to the office, Perry!!!)  Then maybe I’ll go out on the river in a kayak with the bald man.  I might even bake some chicken drumsticks for a picnic.

He is not fat.

The Politics of Coffee

How lucky am I to have a friend who lives on a cove on the shark-infested waters of Maine?  She has a delicious recipe for chocolate zucchini cake, too.  Here’s to another year of life, love, friends, beauty, and all things glorious.  (And the Oxford comma.  Google it yourself.)

Happy Birthday to me!

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Pretty Ugly

The other day, an acquaintance on Facebook posted this:

“If only people could see the advantages of wearing a mask.  Not related to the novel coronavirus.  You can stick out your tongue at rude people; you can mumble comments to people not following the arrows in the grocery store.  Those are just a couple.”

This same acquaintance ended his disgust with people not wearing masks in public with “What is wrong with people?”

The great and horrible thing about the novel coronavirus is we, like Cyndi Lauper, are seeing our citizenry’s true colors.  But unlike Lauper, I don’t love the true colors I’m seeing across the fruited plan of this once beautiful and prosperous land.

It’s possible that I don’t even know the beauty of this country, having been born about 125 years (more or less) after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  But I have trodden through the grainy sand of Georgetown’s Reid State Park, hiked Camden’s Maiden Cliff, and eaten a lobster roll in Eastport.  I have been to beautiful places in other states, too.  True, I have not traveled as much as I could have in my middle class life.  Because I like being at home.

And now I’m stuck at home; all around me, almost everything is pretty ugly.

The best part of my days are the text messages from friends about meals and recipes.  And sometimes they listen to my occasional cries into the digital wilderness.  Like yesterday.  I asked a friend if I could share “something mean.”

“Go for it,” she texted.

“I would not object to the masks so much if everyone didn’t already look like slobs.  If they wore pretty dresses, with matching masks, gloves, and hats…that would make it more bearable.”

Pretty Cute

(That’s little me on the right, stylish at an early age thanks to my mother.)

I can see a smart Lily Pulitzer dress with a matching mask and some opera-length gloves.  Maybe a pair of matching Jack Rogers sandals.  I might be able to tolerate that.  But our world has disintegrated into an amusement park, with everyone walking around unwashed in their pajamas.  And mumbling venomous comments through forked tongues under their homemade masks.

Before the novel coronavirus, the same Facebook poster I opened this essay with was a person who might rail against bullying, reminding others to “be kind.”  Funny how he’s become a mask bully now.

My fellow Americans…I see your true colors.  And they’re pretty ugly.

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The Moose Lottery

I got a letter from my brother the other day.  Apparently, he’s sequestered in his basement during this “unprecedented time.”  When he takes a break from his guitar, he writes a letter.  It’s been fun catching up with each other through letters.  I love letters and in spite of Crona (or Krona if you’re German), the mail continues to move along swiftly and safely.  The post office in Lisbon Falls is still open, too; prior to these letters from my brother, there was little need to walk there.  Now I have a reason to go, even though Main Street is a ghost town and no one is hanging out at The Rusty Lantern.

In an April 12, 2020 letter, my brother Jim Baumer wrote “I sense when I read your posts that there’s much more you’d like to say if there was a reason and audience to write for.”

Bingo.

Busted.

There is a lot more I’d like to say, mostly about the cognitive dissonance of the Crona narrative.  Think about it.  How can we be “alone together?”

Then there is “stay home, save lives.”  I guess that means when I drive alone to my family’s property four miles away (for my walk with nobody) I’m a natural born killer.

Do you see what I mean?  There is so much more I could say about this strange cognitive dissonance.

Speaking of killing, I entered the Maine moose permit lottery this week.  There will be 3,135 permits given out; 2,350 of those are for bull moose.  I did not enter the cow tag lottery.  No one really wants a cow tag.

One day while walking alone out and around Baumer’s Field, I found a big bone near a stream.  When I got home, I showed it to several hunters and they all agreed it was a moose leg bone.  It’s in a peroxide bath right now, whitening.  Although there are no moose permits given out for wildlife management district 22, the location of our property, it’s exciting to think one of those giant lumbering creatures was lurking around near my grandfather’s land.  I wonder what Pa would think?

Pa_1

Last night, as I was circling the field and cresting the hill near the powerline, I stopped in my tracks.  Five deer were grazing in the area where Pa used to plant potatoes.  They didn’t smell me right away, so I stood perfectly still, watching them.  There were two doe and three younger deer.  Not fawns, though.  Perhaps “pre-teens.”  Rats!  I didn’t have binoculars!

Then, all of a sudden, a small head popped up from the over the hill, about 30 yards from me.  Deer are incredibly curious animals.  A woman hunter I know once told me “I’ve seen more deer when I’ve pee’d near the stand…and believe it or not, by lighting a cigarette.”

I didn’t have a cigarette and the pre-teen turned and ran back to the other five deer nervously.  Then one flagged and they all flagged and ran off in a line into the woods.

It was a beautiful thing.

Someone once asked my father if his father (my grandfather) ever wanted to return to the “Old Country” of Bavaria.  My father said his father was unhappy here in America until he bought some land.  Then he was happy.

I am grateful for the legacy of land Michael Leo Baumer left.  It’s a good place to be alone.

All alone and not together.

Pa_2

I don’t have anything more to say about Crona, even though there are many more things I’d like to say.  Cognitive dissonance…it’s what’s for breakfast.

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The Bluebirds of Happiness

Maybe you didn’t grow up Catholic (or Anglican or Lutheran), so you are not familiar with the Easter Vigil.  It’s a long service, beginning at sundown.  The church is dark and the priest lights a fire outside and then lights the Paschal candle.  There is a procession to the front of the church and congregation members light small candles until the church is ablaze with brightness.  The priest stops three times during this procession and sings:

“Christ our light.”

The congregation responds,

“Thanks be to God.”

After the liturgy, there might be a baptism or a confirmation and then the entire congregation renews their baptismal vows.  The whole ceremony is very powerful if taken seriously, especially the renewal of your baptismal vows.

In spite of these “unprecedented times,” this past week was lovely.  I accomplished a week long “news fast” with no Facebook, no Instagram, and no Dr. John Cambell talking about these “unprecedented times.”  We had a freak snowstorm on Thursday evening and I hiked into it with the hunter man.

Holy Thursday Snow

I got some beautiful e-mails from the philosopher “At Your Service” and a letter from my brother, reminding me that uncertainty crushes hope.

Good Friday started off on a shaky foot, with no power and no internet, but all was well with the world by 11:00 a.m.

Yesterday was gorgeous and as I took my daily air in one of my secret places, I noticed some small birds in the budding maple trees along the edge of the large field.  No binoculars, but I stopped and looked closely and identified them as bluebirds.  I have never seen a bluebird before, but according to the internet, they are universally associated with happiness.  One internet guru says “the visiting of a bluebird is a good sign, and you should act upon it immediately.”

And so I did.  I built a snowman in the field and was so inspired I drove to Baumer’s Field and made another one in the spot I sometimes see turkeys (who are the spirit of abundance, ‘sez the netz!).

Snow Goddess

It was invigorating, to be sure.

Last night was still Holy Saturday and the Catholic Diocese of Maine encouraged Catholics and others to light candles at 7:30 p.m. and offer silent prayer and reflection in lieu of an Easter Vigil.

I dressed up like I might if I were going to church, styled my hair, and lit a white candle.  I stood at the end of my driveway and made the sign of the cross.  I recited the Lord’s Prayer and then renewed my baptismal vows.  It’s a powerful thing, beginning with the rejection of Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises.

When I woke up this morning, I decided to also reject uncertainty and the ‘Crona virus.  I opened every window in my house and blasted The London Philharmonic’s “Hymns Triumphant.”  I looked outside and my white candle was still burning brightly at the end of my driveway.

May your day be filled with bluebirds, light, fresh air and the type of true hope that overcomes any uncertainty.  Go, drink coffee, bake ham, and live your life!

Christ is risen, indeed!

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Palm Sunday 2020

Let us consider that Friday, March 13, 2020 was the beginning of The Apocalypse here in the United States.  What were you doing on that day?  Little more than three weeks ago, yet I cannot remember what I was doing.  My last diary entry on March 12, 2020 reads “what happened on this day?  I don’t remember.  Time has passed so quickly in this time of Corona virus and yet so slowly.”

Last Palm Sunday, I was ruminating about my “Surprise Garden” and portable toilets for The Moxie Festival.  You can read about it here.

My mother will celebrate her 82nd birthday this Wednesday and she doesn’t want me to bake her a cake.  She is afraid of ‘Krona.  Not unreasonably so, based on her age.  I look back on a visit from her last year.  What were we talking about?  I don’t remember the details, other than Helen boldly announcing “we could live to be 100.”

God bless her.

While I am sad I cannot bake a special cake for my beautiful and industrious mother, I’m encouraged to think I may have another 17 years (at least!) to perfect her birthday treats.  She likes lemon-flavored sweets and I was thinking of a lemon cake made in a loaf pan with a glaze-soaked crust.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Next year, Mom!

I have not blogged about this much, but prior to The Apocalypse, I was an occasional French-language lector at The Basilica in Lewiston.  I volunteered because there were not enough lectors to read in French and although I am not bi-lingual or even fluent, I am a good actress.  I would bring the selected passage to my mother and record her reading it in French.  I’d practice a few times with her and then listen to her recording.

Je pense que j’ai fait du bon travail.

Many times, as I stood in the ambo at The Basilica, I would look out at the congregation and think “these institutions are dying.  What will become of these traditions?  Who will remember the prayers and creeds?”  The thoughts were heartbreaking to me and sometimes I would leave church feeling the weight of The Basilica’s North Jay white granite pressing heavily against my heart.

And here it is Palm Sunday, 2020.  We cannot attend church, we cannot wave our palm branches during the processional.  Those of us who remember cannot weave our palm fronds into crucifix accessories.

We will have to make do with other things.

Palm Sunday 2020

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

I hear the birds singing outside.  I am reminded that “they neither sow now reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”

May you be well today and know that your heavenly Father feeds you because you are of more value to Him than the birds of the field.  If you remember nothing else today, remember your high value.

Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged , ,

The Apocalypse Brisket

Friday was the first full day of Spring.  It was overcast and damp; unlike many of my fellow Americans, I got paid. I did the duties of the intellectual sweatshop to the best of my ability, taking occasional breaks to tend to the brisket.

It seemed like a good idea a few weeks ago.  As a purist, a perfectionist, and a student of the domestic arts, I ordered a “whole packer brisket” from Pat’s Meat Market in Portland.  It weighed in at around 12 pounds and was exquisitely trimmed and tied.  My friend Shelley said “it sounds like a baby.”

When I unwrapped it from its beautiful swaddling clothes, it provoked the kind of anxiety only a giant piece of meat can.  Oh, I’d been driven to oven door prayers before cooking my first turkey.  Or maybe it was that candle roast.  There have been so many meat anxieties over the years and yet, here I am.  Still standing.

I’d watched a number of videos on full packer briskets and couldn’t figure out why mine was folded over and wrapped in twine.  So I unfolded it, cut it into 3 pieces and tucked each one in a separate brining “cradle.”  There were two small pieces and one large.

“You’ve got triplets!” said Shelley.

The triplets were submerged in a robust assortment of brining ingredients including but not limited to Kosher salt, juniper berries, and the controversial Prague Powder No. 1.  Nothing could go wrong.

“It will be delicious,” they all said.

And it was.  Two of the smaller triplets were served a la boiled dinner and I was fascinated and pleased with the online instructions from Cook’s Illustrated that recommended slowly simmering the meat in the oven instead of boiling the life out of it on the stove top.

But Friday’s piece was so large.  Too large, even, for the 10 quart cast iron Dutch oven.  So I cut it in half again.  Does that make it a quadruplet brisket?  Three down and one to go.

Yesterday’s brisket will be made into hash and today’s will become Reuben sandwiches.  Homemade Russian dressing is brewing in the refrigerator.  Shhhhhh….don’t tell anyone I’m colluding with the Russians.

I told a young co-worker about the brisket.  Such a nice young man, he says he only eats take-out.

“I want you to cook for me and be my mom,” he said.

It warmed my heart.  I could always adopt him for a few family dinners after this strange time of social distance is over.

All Is Well With The World

Brisket babies, Lady MacBeth-like hand washing, and a lack of traffic on Route 196.    I really could not have made this up.  So onward we go; all is well with the world.

Posted in Abundance, Cooking and Food | Tagged ,

The Conundrum

February came and went; we even had an extra leap year day.  I sat down last night and tried to write a February blog post about the benefits of “getting outside” every single day.  For 60 consecutive days, I have walked, snowshoed, hiked, trudged, and explored the natural world around me.  It has been immensely enjoyable during the actual hours of being outside.  But it has not created peace and calm within me, I am not sleeping more soundly, and I am still mired in the midst of a life conundrum.

This act of going outside every day has changed me, somehow.  I look at my watch at the middle of the day and I want out.  I crave the silence of the woods and trees.  It seems almost unbelievable in reflection that I am this person walking around in the forest every day.  When I first started this endeavor, I considered a walk around town to adequately meet the requirements of “getting outside.”

Now, after spending a late afternoon hiking through the snow and woods of our family property, sitting in a tree stand 30 feet in the air, or watching a moon sliver rise, walking about town seems boring and less than satisfying.

God's Fingernail

How did I become this “wild woman?”  Is this my true self?  My best self?  I have spent the majority of my adult life working in an intellectual sweatshop, removed from the natural world.  I have enjoyed cities and shopping and an economically appropriate number of first world acquisitions.  Yet here I sit, dissatisfied, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Where do I go with this new love and passion?  Is this the “real me?”

They say reinvention is an arduous task, not for the meek.  If money or time were no object, I would throw off the many things that are hindering me right now and run with great speed and endurance towards these new love and passions.  I would QUIT these “busy projects” that clutter my mind.  I would not back down when I’m asked to reconsider staying with a busy project for just a few more months.  My “no” would mean “no.”  The busy “projects” currently cluttering my mind are not my passions; I do not want them to define me.

I don’t want them eating, locust-like, at my spirit.

Waiting for revelation and working towards conundrum resolution is hard work.  I am impatient; yet I want to believe everything is happening for a reason.  One of my spiritual readings says “all is happening according to plan.  Have patience and feel grateful while you wait.”

I will consider this.  Thank you.

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One of the Nicest Days of Her Life

On Sunday, November 26, 1972, Maine food writer Marjorie Standish’s column featured recipes for Ritz Cracker pizzas, broiled cheese on sesame rounds with onion salt, and Helen Robinson’s Seafood Newburg.  Who was Helen Robinson?  I don’t know, but I’ll find out.

The column headlined “Try These Snacks on Football Fans” and Marge said the mini-pizzas were “so delicious” that “you will find the men especially like them.”  The recipe was courtesy of Mrs. Sylvester (Marion) Poor of Augusta.  (I’ll find out.)

I have a sleeve of Ritz Crackers in the cupboard.  I may cook up some mini-pizzas for Sunday night’s Super Bowl feasting.  So what if the New England Patriots aren’t in the mix?  The playoffs were relaxing and enjoyable without football’s “evil empire.”  Is it the end of the dynasty?  I don’t know.  I had to tune out the Boston sports chatter after the team’s crushing defeat to the Tennessee Titans on January 4.  I was free to cheer Mike Vrabel’s Titans past the wretched Ravens and love Patrick Mahomes like a son as the Chiefs piled on the points against the Texans.  The NFC?  They had teams playing too.

Countering the post-holiday torpor and tonnage, I’ve been outside every day since January 1, walking, hiking, or snowshoeing.  And I just finished an intermittent fast so I can fit into my “skinny jeans” for the real Super Bowl competition, Beyoncé and Shakira.  The men I’ll be watching football with “especially like them.”

Marjorie Standish was not only Maine’s first foodie, she was a football fan.  She wrote about it often in her fall and winter columns.  In the Ritz Cracker column mentioned earlier, she wrote that December 1, 1962 was “one of the nicest days of” her life.  This was the day she and her husband George went with friends to the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.  She said they took the train from Penn Station in New York City and she remembered the picnic hampers, the thermos bottles, and heavy coats as everyone piled into the trains.  She said “it would be hard to describe the color and thrill of the traditional pre-game activities.  That day we watched Roger T. Staubach play for Navy – he is now with the Dallas Cowboys.”

She remembered surprisingly seeing acquaintances from home in the midst of the thousands of anonymous faces.

After the game, she recounted “then walking down the platform to our train, we saw a group gathered on the track next to ours.  There was the presidential car with John F. Kennedy waving and smiling to us all.  We watched the train pull out into the late, beautiful afternoon sunset.”

Marjorie Standish wrote about her Maine cooking life, simply highlighting the joy of Ritz crackers, friends, and sunsets.  It was a different world, for sure.  My own “get outside every day” in January project has been filled with beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and a few Ritz Crackers.  Like the Norwegians, I’ve embraced the winter weather without complaint.  Things like long underwear, insulated boots, and a mink coat have helped.  And here we are, the last day of January, 2020.

I Love You January

There have been so many beautiful days in January it’s hard to decide which one was the nicest.  Dear sweet January, I love you from the bottom of my Baumer’s Field heart.  See you next year!

Posted in Cooking and Food, Weather and Seasons | Tagged , , ,

The Better Angels

In these late days of civilization, the internet provides us with an opportunity to connect the words we speak and write with their sources.  For instance, when I titled this blog post “The Better Angels,” I was curious to know where Abraham Lincoln sourced this phrase in his 1861 inaugural address.  Like many expressions in the English language, it goes back to Shakespeare (Othello) and then passes through Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge.  In the novel, published in 1841, Dickens wrote: 

“So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed.”

Christianity offers a mixed bag when it comes to angels.  Generally, angels are presented as darling and cherubic images with only an occasional nod to the fierce and multi-eyed creatures of the Book of Revelation.  Angels wax and wane in home decorating although I have never seen any at a decorator show house.

I have two ceramic Christmas angels in my house, sentimental relics from my childhood.  They will not make an appearance on the blog today.

Here in Maine, the decade ended peacefully in anticipation of New Year’s Day.  I heard a few fireworks in the distance as I drifted off and I was excited and anxious about the first day of the new decade and another first for me.  Ice fishing!

2019 was a first-filled year…I rolled out a flaky homemade pie crust, I went deer hunting (took two shots), I drove an ATV, learned how to operate a snow blower, navigated a small boat, and drove a decorated golf cart in a parade.  2020 looks promising, with ice fishing added to the list of “firsts.”

What a glorious day it was on Upper Narrows Pond in Winthrop.  The sun was bright and the sky was cloudless when we got there with our traps and started zooming around the pond on a Yamaha Rhino.  Record that…my first time driving a Rhino on a frozen lake.

Here’s my first snow angel of 2020…

Snow Angels 2020

The angel was my totem of peace, safety, and good will for the day, the New Year, and the decade unfolding.  It turned out to be a busy day on the pond, with red and black flags popping up every time we considered sitting down and enjoying the sun.  We caught our bag limit of brook trout before we ate lunch and the clouds started rolling in.

As wonderful as the bright day was, clouds made the pond more magical as they cut the glare and sent many of the fishermen home.  Snow swirled in around 2:00 p.m., creating a shadowy snow globe-like feeling.  I spent a lot of time walking on the frozen pond, contemplating the day and the upcoming year.  Two eagles soared in circles overhead, eyeing our now-frozen fish.

The shadows of our own desires…if they are for good, can they really eclipse the brightness of our better angels?  Perhaps there is a compromise between the shadows of our desires and the brightness of our better angels, all working towards something wonderful for everyone involved.

Much of my 2019 energy was focused on cultivating “good vibes” in my life.  I kept coming back to this notion that I could choose to be happy.  I could choose to be grateful.  That faith could not co-exist with fear.  And that walking on a frozen pond on New Year’s Day felt a little bit like walking on water and I had no fear and no doubt that 2020 was starting out exactly as it should.

As one of the kindest people in my life often reminds me “how lucky are we?”

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