Honeymoon Phase and Perspective

When our family arrived in Beijing, 2 weeks ago, and drove to our new home, it felt mostly familiar and only a little new.  That feeling continued when we walked over to the shopping center for dinner that evening.  After living up on the mountain, in Taipei, where choices were basically non-existent, we were all very excited to have so many dining and shopping options so close to home.  The most exciting part of our first evening back in our old neighborhood was Bob discovering that the international grocery store, just a mile from our house, sells Hot Pockets.  He was overjoyed!  They aren’t cheap, but comforts from home are priceless.

As is typical here, the problems with our house have persisted.  Every day has brought another phone call or email request to have something fixed.  Two nights ago, our water dispenser quit working.  Having a water dispenser might sound like a luxury, and not a big deal if it’s out of service, but we cannot drink the tap water here.  It contains Lead.  So, we were all a bit concerned about the thought of not having drinking water.  The next morning, Zack, Dwight and I worked out at the neighborhood gym and filled our water bottles there.  After an email to a new friend, who happens to work at the embassy, a new machine was delivered that afternoon.  It was a huge relief to have renewed access to drinking water.

On Tuesday, I had a great day with a new friend.  Leslie picked me up in her tuk tuk and we went to a local market.  Our intention was to buy some cleaning products and a few groceries and then head home.  What played out, though, was much better.

Dwight driving the borrowed tuk tuk.

Dwight driving the borrowed tuk tuk.

We found the cleaning products in a shop among a row of identical shops.  A cultural characteristic, here, is that shops selling specific categories of products are all grouped together.  So, we walked through the narrow streets of: household products, curtains, and small electronics; each with its own block.  Then, we came upon an opening to a larger building and pushed in to find it was a wet market.  There were rows and rows of fruit and nuts, and the prices were significantly better than at the market near our house.  Using our survival Chinese language skills, we bought dried kiwi and dates, as well as peaches, grapes and apples.  When Leslie was trying to ask which type of apple would be sweet and crisp, a local man spoke up, in English, offering to help.  He translated for us and then said he wanted to help us find other things we were looking for, around the market.  We expressed our sincere gratitude and he said he likes to help because he’s a Christian.  Leslie and I smiled as we replied to tell him we are Jewish and we like to help, too.


We ended up spending about 2 hours with the man who, we learned, goes by the English name, Eric.  He helped us find fresh tofu and chicken and an entire building filled with vegetables and spices.  We will definitely return to these markets for our produce needs.  Leslie, (whose blog you can find here) suggested we take Eric to lunch, so we did.  He guided us to a tiny shop where we sat at a low table, on stools, and ate meals of vegetables, tofu, and noodles (or rice), and the total cost was 23 RMB, which is about $3.50 USD, for the three of us!

street food

After lunch and an exchange of contact information, we parted ways and headed for home, braving traffic in the tuk tuk.  It was a great day; one that reminded me of what I loved about living in Beijing.  I know there will be some good days, and some not so good days, as we continue to settle into our new normal here, it’s to be expected.  I’m moving on to the Culture Shock stage of remembering to keep things in perspective.

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Culture Shock- Revisited

People typically go through four clear steps of cultural adjustment when relocating to a new country.

The first step is known as the Honeymoon Phase and can be described as:

—Initial Delight and Exhilaration

A new arrival can expect to be intrigued by all of the sights and sounds, and all sorts of new sensory input, of their new home.  It can be fun to visit cultural sites, and experience the location, as a tourist would, with superficial experiences.  A newcomer might find amusement in similarities and differences to his/her former home, and be motivated to learn and integrate into the new environment.  During this phase, many people feel immune to the negative effects of culture shock.


We’ve been in Beijing for 10 days and I progressed very quickly through the honeymoon phase.  Upon arrival, I was excited to see how things had changed, as well as, remained the same.  The international area in which we live is home to people from all over the world and it is easy to find familiar restaurants and products, though the costs can be prohibitive.  The number of convenient establishments off all sorts has more than doubled, our new home is beautiful and we are settling in; but I quickly moved on to Stage 2 of adjustment.



The Second Step is known as:  “Culture Shock” and can be described as:

—Exasperation and Loathing.

Perhaps my experience is due to the fact that we are not entirely new to Beijing.  We lived here from 2006-2009.  (You can read about our adventures here.) I already know the positives and negatives of living here and for now, I see mostly the negatives.  Going straight from our previous post to our new post means we missed our respite in our true home.  I did not expect to miss it as much as I do.

The novelty of living a new place has worn off, and the differences between what we are comfortable with, and what we are living with, are becoming increasingly more clear.  Small difficulties feel like catastrophes and they are numerous.  So far: we’ve had a power outage, poor circuitry in the outlets of the bedrooms, spotty wifi, a flood in the kitchen- caused by taking showers on the second floor, a broken washing machine, numerous cases of missed translation, and Westley the 3 Legged Wonderdog has escaped twice!  In a country so foreign to Americans, small hiccups can feel enormous and insurmountable.  The language difference, alone, is cause for numerous blood pressure raising moments every day.

Lucky for me, I know that these phases are just that: phases, and are, by definition, temporary.  I know that this stressful period will pass- hopefully sooner than later.  I remember that I loved many things about living here last time and look forward to getting back to that feeling of comfort.  I’m already venturing out of my comfort zone and making new friends, and am happy to be back

I’m eagerly awaiting the time when I reach Stage 3: Gradual Adaptation, Amusement, and the All Important- Perspective.  I’ll be sure to write about it when I get there.

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Season 2 Premiere: Born This Way– Don’t Miss It **Target Card Giveaway

I’ve met some inspirational people over the years.  As an autism parent, I’ve seen friends and family members with disabilities overcome great obstacles, and now, A&E Television has a show about men and women triumphing in life, despite the fact that they were born with Down Syndrome.


BORN THIS WAY chronicles the lives of a group of young adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions while defying society’s expectations. The series also follows their parents who share their own journey of joy, sacrifice, and unconditional love.

Season 2 premieres tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, and you can stream season 1 now.

The show is truly inspirational and will draw you in from the first clip.  You’ll be introduced to men and women who are living lives you’d probably not have imagined possible.

Meet Rachel, for instance.  She’s 32 years old and she holds a job and, despite living with her parents, she lives a very independent life and hopes to live on her own one day.

Watch the clips and then enter my Target Card giveaway by telling me, in the comments, who, in your life, inspires you.  You can get a second entry by “liking” the post on Facebook, using the button below. I will choose a random winner one week after the Season 2 Premiere of BORN THIS WAY.


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4 Tips to Stay Connected Through Deployment

Guest Post and Photos From United Through Reading


At United Through Reading, we work with military families who are doing their best to tough their way through deployments, annual training periods, or mobilizations — whatever pulls their service members away from home for a while. They are checking off days on the calendar and counting down the days until their loved ones are with them again. They know that for their service members it’s important to focus on routines and to stay a part of family daily life, as much as possible, while they are away. Here are a few tips on how to keep your military spouse connected with family at home.



  1. Leave a keepsake at home
    Before your service member leaves home, have them pick a few special articles of clothing, a favorite book, movie, or CD, for the entire family to hold onto while they are away. Reading their favorite book or listening to their favorite song while holding on to that favorite sweatshirt will help the kids feel like they have an important piece of mom or dad at home; that can help the distance seem a little less far, for them and for you.
  2. Share calendars
    Your spouse is away, but that doesn’t’ mean they have miss out on soccer games, piano practices and important test days. Help them keep tabs on the family calendar, and stay a part of the routine from far away so they can check in on all that’s going on while you’re apart. Likewise, when family at home is as aware of the service member’s day-to-day schedule (as much as OPSEC will allow), you will stay more in sync and involved in each other’s lives, even while you are separated.
  3. Stay United Through Reading
    United Through Reading offers service members who are away for their families for deployed, trainings or other assignments the opportunity to be video-recorded reading children’s books to kids at home. By taking advantage of the service United Through Reading provides, families can keep up bedtime story routines even while mom or dad (or an aunt, uncle, or sibling) is away. The program gives family and kids at home the privilege of seeing the service member and hearing his/her voice whenever they are needed the most. Learn more about United Through Reading by watching this video ― and then visit org to get started and record a story for your family! Though it is not available yet, UTR recently announced plans to develop a mobile app which will allow military parents pre-record books, or read together over life video chat with the book on each user’s screen. Learn more about the coming UTR app here.
  4. Encourage your family to keep up the family traditions
    If Sunday night’s game night at home, and now a member of the family is deployed, don’t quit! Keep it up. Creating a sense of routine and normalcy for kids who are without one parent for a the length of a deployment, will help to reassure them that everything is okay, and that their parent who is away is safe and sound, and will be home before they know it to rejoin them for game night. Keep up the tradition and encourage your deployed spouse, or family member, to call home and ask who won last night’s game night!

Guest Post By Taylor Monaco
Director of Communications

United Through Reading

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On The Road Again- Moving tips

As a military family, we have moved homes 11 times, so many people assume, and feel free to comment, that we “get used to it.”

We don’t.

The 12th move might be easier in terms of the fact that we know what to expect, but it is not easier in any other way.  It’s just as hard to organize our belongings, just as hard to know what to get rid of/donate/throw away, and just as hard to separate the items into the different shipment categories.  It will also be just as difficult and overwhelming to unpack on the other end.

We are three weeks out from our departure to Beijing.  The movers will show up to work their magic in less than two weeks.  Coincidentally, Horatio will be out of the country for the 3 days of packing.  I’m certainly not the first, and definitely not the only, military (or other) spouse dealing with a pack-out/move on her own, but it’s as much of a formidable task as it sounds:

Two teams of movers for two shipments: one by air and one by sea; three days of packing; and I should probably mention that the movers will not speak English.  While my Mandarin is adequate, the language barrier definitely adds an element of challenge and angst to the process.


In the weeks leading up to the pack-out, there are many things to do to prepare.  Since we have two shipments, as well as about a dozen suitcases full of things we will hand carry, we will label everything to indicate how each item will get from point A to point B.  As the movers won’t speak or read English, the labels have to be creative and very clear.  I am opting for color-coded post-its: Yellow for the sea shipment, purple for the air shipment and orange for the hand-carry items.

Most of the furniture in our house is provided by the government, so it stays in the house.  Beds will have to be moved around on moving day, though, since we brought our own king sized mattress from the US, and it sits atop two government issued twin box springs and bed frames.  A queen bed will have to be moved from Bob’s room to Horatio’s and my room, and the twin beds will go into Bob’s room and Harold’s room.  Harold currently has bunk beds we shipped from the US, and they will get packed up, but the mattresses are government issued, so they stay.  This weekend, Horatio will dismantle the bunk beds and bundle all of the parts, segregating the hardware in a ziploc back, to ensure that all elements of the beds make it to the other side.  It’s a task he undertakes with each move and it’s worth the effort.

We must inventory every item in the house so that we can account for everything on the other end.  Since we are moving from one country to another, we have to consider customs issues.  As the movers carry the boxes from the house, they will place each one on a scale and note the weight.  We have a strict weight limit and will be financially responsible for each pound our shipment is overweight.


Here are the key tips I can offer after my years of experience:

  1. Hand carry anything that you want to have immediately upon arrival at your new home.  For us, a set of sheets for each bed is a comfort for which I’m happy to sacrifice suitcase space.  Also, the boys each carry a video game console and a laptop in their carry-on baggage.  Other items we take on the plane are:
    • Essentials for the dog
    • Swimming gear and toys
    • Medical Records
    • School Records
    • Medication
    • Thermometer
    • Family Calendar
    • Umbrellas
    • Lots of clothes
  2. Air Shipment Items
    • Remaining Bed Linens
    • Towels
    • Bathmats
    • Laundry baskets
    • Laundry hamper
    • Computers
    • TV (if small enough, since the air shipment has strict size restrictions)
    • Favorite items for the kids
  3. Sea Shipment Organization
    • Organize by room
    • Put like items with like items
    • Supervise to be sure fragile items are well packed
    • All small parts should be put in ziploc bags before the movers arrive

Most important…  If you don’t want the movers to pack something, isolate it in an area the movers won’t encounter.  Seriously.  I’ve heard stories of many odd items that have accidentally gotten packed:  trash, mouth retainers, a sandwich, a book someone was reading, and worst of all…. PASSPORTS!

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Military Kids- Definitely Not Brats – Post 1

The oldest of our Homefront sons graduated from high school last month.  It’s been a long and winding road.  He attended preschool in three different states: Hawaii, two different schools in Missouri, and Washington State.  He spent Kindergarten in Kansas, grades one and two in Northern Virginia, grades three through five in Beijing, grades six though ten at elementary, middle and high schools in Northern Virginia and finished strong in grades 11 and 12 in Taipei.  Using my fingers to add them all up, I count 11 schools.

Eleven schools.

My stomach sinks a little when I say it out loud, but my heart swells with pride.  Zack has Asperger’s Syndrome, so change is more challenging for him than most kids.  Each move brought the potential for major setbacks, but Zack not only overcame adversity but also managed to triumph.  Like his brothers, Zack has always known that moving is just a part of the life we live.  His dad does important work, and to do so, we all must move around the world where the job takes him.

Changing schools in the middle of high school is a challenge for any kid; for Zack, moving not only schools, but countries, two years ago, for his Junior and Senior years, was a potential disaster.  In fact, the school administrators didn’t want to admit him.  They feared that the timing, combined with Zack’s learning and social challenges, was a recipe for disaster and would set him up for failure.  I know my kid though, so I used my mama bear instincts and sleuthing skills to score him an interview, and he won them over.  He hit the ground running with a heavy load of AP and Honors classes and active involvement in the theater department.

Zack applied to and got into college and will attend his top choice school, with an academic scholarship.   But first, he will take a gap year.  He will move with us this summer and take advantage of the opportunity to learn a new language and explore another country.  Zack is poised and ready to take on the world.  He has taken positive elements from every school he attended and left the rest behind.  I can see that he will do the same as he moves forward.

Moving around to different cities and different schools has given Zack the opportunity to see what he likes and doesn’t like about each environment.  As he moves into adulthood, he is well prepared to make decisions about his career path and destinations.  Sure, it would have been simpler to stay in one place; be friends with the same kids; live in the same house; for his whole childhood.  But, I think the perspective he gained from the vast experiences he has had in his 17 years will serve him well, long term.

A childhood as a military kid, third culture kid, whatever label you want to use, has helped shape Zack into the emotionally intelligent, well spoken, worldly young man that he is.



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Focus on PTSD- Wounded Warrior and the Dog Who Saved Him

LCM headshot

Luis Carlos Montalvan is a 17-year veteran of the US Army who served multiple tours abroad. His decorations include two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Combat Action Badge. In addition to these accomplishments, Luis is the New York Times bestselling author of his 2011 memoir, Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him and travels the country with his amazing service dog, Tuesday, speaking and advocating for veterans. This week, to celebrate Flag Day, Luis has released a children’s book called Tuesday Takes Me There: The Healing Journey of a Veteran and His Service Dog.

This charming book, meant for kids ages 3 – 8, details the daily activities of Luis, who has PTSD, and his service dog, Tuesday, who looks after him so carefully. From helping Luis to get his shoes, to bringing his medicine and his cane to him, Tuesday is there to help Luis every step of the way. When Luis came back from war, everything was different. Luckily he had Tuesday to help him find his way.

In addition to speaking on behalf of veterans suffering from PTSD, as well as their friends and families, Luis has worked with Senator Al Fraken to help with legislation to provide service animals to those individuals. As a part of our community, he’s helped to make strides to take care of his fellow veterans and to help them to re-acclimate to their environments when they return home. Tuesday Takes Me There furthers Luis’s mission to help others by offering a tool to help to explain to children what it means to be a veteran who deals with PTSD. The book is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble; you can learn more about Luis http://www.tuesdaytakesmethere.com/.

Tuesday Takes Me There hi-res

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tuesday-Takes-Me-There-Healing/dp/168261106X
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/tuesday-takes-me-there-luis-carlos-montalvan/1123479262?ean=9781682611067

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Military Families Have Grit


Long after Horatio returned from his most recent 20+ month deployment, people still say they don’t know how we did it.

Horatio gets looks of pity for having been away from his family for so long, and friends and acquaintances alike ask me how I made it through such a long time parenting solo, where I found the strength to endure the hard times.  They feel sad for what Horatio missed, but they often appear dumbfounded by how we made it through back home, the boys and I, without him.  I frequently get asked how I found the strength, and I’ll admit, sometimes it was hard to find, but when I think of those times, the moments I myself wondered how we’d make it to the end of the deployment, I say, I’m a woman, strength found me.

We casually went about our daily routines most of the time.  Going through the motions was pretty easy most days but it would only take a small blip in the system to upset the rhythm of our weeks.  Illness, homework projects, storm damage, excessive snow, a broken appliance, any of these could easily upset the apple cart and throw our life into applecartchaos.  An occasional night of labored breathing episodes for Bob or Harold, both of whom have Reactive Airway Disease, or a stomach virus that set in at midnight, would lead to a series of sleep deprived days and lower my tolerance for everything else, especially anything out of the ordinary.  Weeks like those were more than a challenge and at times I thought I might collapse under the pressure of it all, but somehow, as I said, strength found me when I thought I was clean out of it.

Upon reflection, it’s easy to see the hand of a higher power in our life.  Harold had an accident a few days before Horatio departed for the start of the deployment.  After dinner, one night in early December 2010, he tumbled, backward, down the stairs and hit his head on the corner of the baseboard.  After a few moments of quiet, he wailed, then drifted off to sleep, awoke and vomited- clear indicators of a concussion.  I rushed him to the hospital where doctors examined him and observed him for four hours.  Horatio held down the fort at home.  I was extremely grateful that if it had to happen, it happened before Horatio left.  The presence higher powerof a second parent was essential at that moment, not just logistically, but emotionally as well.  I wondered what I’d do if it happened when I was parenting solo.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out what I would do because, thank G-d, we had no ER visits during the more than year and a half I was alone at the helm- a fact that seemed out of the realm of possibilities back then, when I thought about our house full of boys, surviving during a period of nearly two years.  I know I have many dear friends I could have called upon in a moment of need, but I am happy that I did not have to ask for the help.  Knowing the help was there was enough to sustain my sanity during the hard times of lonely deployment.


Home is Where The Navy Sends Us.

We lived in the Washington DC area longer than we’ve lived anywhere else during our 20 years of marriage.  We put down roots and became part of our great community.  We have dear friends- some of whom are now our chosen family, we made our house a home.  We love it there.  Home is where the Navy sends us, though, and now we are half a world away in Asia.  Times can be tough and the road is not always smooth, we face earthquakes, typhoons, illness, power outages, food shortages and more, but strength finds me and we all get through it.  I don’t dwell on the negative, there’s no point.  I sometimes find myself momentarily stuck in a sludge of self pity, but then strength finds me.  As the Commander in Chief at home, it’s my job to not just survive, but thrive.  Sometimes I have to wait a bit longer than others, but strength always finds me.

Erin Henderschedt Bio-1

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Making a Missing Ingredient

Spinach lasagna is a family favorite dinner.  I make it with cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese.  I knew, from living in China, that cheese is expensive in Asia, but I was prepared to pay the price.  Finding the ingredients in Taipei proved to be more difficult than I anticipated.  I found cottage cheese at the American Club, but at about $30 US, for a small container, I couldn’t bring myself to buy it.  I soon found ricotta cheese at Costco.  It was still expensive, but not outrageous, so, I decided to use it as a substitute in our favorite dish, and it was richly delicious. I regularly found the ricotta at Costco for the first month we lived in Taipei.  Lasagna noodles were harder to find, and also expensive, so I ordered a case of no-boil lasagna noodles from Amazon.  Then, at my next trip to Costco- the ricotta shelf was bare.  The ricotta stayed missing from the shelves for about 10 months before reappearing.  I bought several containers, which we used over the next two months.  Then, when I went to restock… No ricotta.  No ricotta for over a year… Friends told me that making ricotta cheese is not complicated, but once they started talking about cheese cloth, my eyes blurred over and I ruled out homemade cheese as an option. As we near our move from post to post, I eyed the pile of lasagna noodle boxes, in the kitchen cabinet, with a cloud of frustration and annoyance.  Drastic measures were in order.  After hearing Lian Dolan describe, on my favorite podcast The Satellite Sisters, the simplicity of throwing a bunch of dairy products into a big pot to make ricotta, I decided that I’d give it a try. Actually, I decided to ask my fantastic household helper, Rica, to help me with the process.  She loves to cook and appreciates chances to try new things.  I, in turn, appreciate her very much, especially because I don’t enjoy cooking.  We talked about the process, debated how to find cheesecloth, and then set to work; and by that I mean Rica went to the store to find cheesecloth, for which she substituted Chinese dumpling cloth.  I printed out a recipe and Rica made the magic happen. 61ifaJ8QX9L._SL1000_ The process is simple and not even too time consuming.  The recipe is below. 5841888311_a80351a90b Finished Product IMG_0160 Homemade Ricotta Cheese Makes 2 cups What You Need Ingredients 1/2 gallon whole milk 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar 1 teaspoon salt, optional Equipment 4-quart pot Instant read thermometer or candy thermometer Measuring spoons Cheese cloth Strainer Mixing bowl Slotted spoon Instructions

  1. Warm the milk to 200°F: Pour the milk into a 4-quart pot and set it over medium heat. Let it warm gradually to 200°F, monitoring the temperature with an instant read thermometer. The milk will get foamy and start to steam; remove it from heat if it starts to boil.
  2. Add the vinegar and salt: Remove the milk from heat. Pour in the vinegar (or citric acid) and the salt. Stir gently to combine.
  3. Let the milk sit for 10 minutes: Let the pot of milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps of milky white curds and thin, watery, yellow-colored whey — dip your slotted spoon into the mix to check. If you still see a lot of un-separated milk, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait a few more minutes.
  4. Strain the curds: Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. (Removing the big curds first helps keep them from splashing and making a mess as you pour.)
  5. Drain the curds for 10 to 60 minutes: Let the ricotta drain for 10 to 60 minutes, depending on how wet or dry you prefer your ricotta. If the ricotta becomes too dry, you can also stir some of the whey back in before using or storing it.
  6. Use or store the ricotta: Fresh ricotta can be used right away or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.


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Great Gear from Grunt Style for your Guy on Father’s Day

I want to introduce you to Grunt Style, a veteran-owned, and operated, company specializing in warrior-inspired, patriotic gear for men and women. Grunt Style is based in Chicago with 100+ employees, the majority of whom are veterans.

This Father’s Day, they have a great line-up of gear for a Dad who has served, or is serving, — to wear with pride.  They sent me some samples to try and as soon as they arrived, the boys tried them on.  Grunt Style has a variety of messages on their gear; some are less appropriate for a family friendly blog, but they are fun, nonetheless.  The quality of materials and printing is very high.

Support a Veteran owned business and visit their site to buy a Father’s Day gift for the grunt in your life!

Right now, you can get 20% off all graphic tees with the code: GRAPHICTEE

Here are Dwight and Bob, modeling the new gear.

An alternative to the "Don't Tread on Me" slogan

An alternative to the “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan


Very cool hat Dwight hasn't taken off since it arrived.

Very cool hat Dwight hasn’t taken off since it arrived.

They even have nice work out gear!


Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads who serve or have served our great country!

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