The Puny Pundit

Musings of a big guy with small thoughts.

Try-Cultural

I come from a family that loves food.  My parents, my aunts & uncles, my cousins…from top to bottom we love food.  We are an unusually close family having always lived within 5 miles of each other.  Being raised by and in a food loving family I was exposed to the wide range of cuisine that LA has to offer.  Hole-in-the-wall, ethnic, ethnic hole-in-the-wall…you name it, we ate it.  As an immigrant family we are not just bi-cultural, we are try-cultural.

Last week I took my wife and kids to Papa Cristo’s in Los Angeles.  It is Greek restaurant and market.  Those of you who are parents know how picky and honest kids can be about food so going to an ethnic place always makes us wonder.  Since my family has never been here before, we ordered various plates so we could try different Greek proteins.  We ordered…

1. Rack of Lamb

2. Gyro Plate (gyro meat on a plate with potatoes and salad)

3. Falafel

4. Grilled Octopus

5. Beef and Chicken Kebabs

6. Hummus

Our kids ate everything.  I mean everything.  They loved the octopus, falafel, and even the lamb.  I love Greek food and was hoping that my kids would too.  They did.  My wife and I were happy and proud that our kids are try-cultural as well.  They like Indian, Vietnamese, Armenian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, seafood, vegetables, etc. I believe food is such an important window into different cultures and can be a small part of growing someone’s tolerance, perspective, and ability to engage those that are different from them.  Also, it just tastes good.

The more I learn about myself while loving my wife and raising my kids I realize that we humans are all racist and curious at the same time.  My hope in exposing my kids to the ethnic foods of Los Angeles is that we will feed the curiosity and starve the racism and ignorance.

Did I mention that it tastes good too?

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Broken Heart

The other day #4 was crying and being difficult.  Annoyed I asked, “What is your problem?”  #4  said to me, “I am a drama queen.”  She is 5 years old.  I look to my wife and asked how she knew that phrase.  My wife told me that #2 calls #4 that all the time.  Well, it is true.  #4 is a bit of a drama queen.  She has a smile that will make all your troubles go away and a cry that will make you wish you were deaf.  She is extremely sensitive to physical and emotional pain.

Later that same day my wife and I hear #4 crying and shouting, “You broke my heart!  You broke my heart!”  My wife and I looked at each other for a couple of minutes wondering (a) what happened and (b) what a strange choice of words for such a little kid fighting with her sibling (most likely #3 her nemesis).  After looking at each other with a perplexed look, my wife goes up and comes back down with a huge grin.  I realized that what most likely happened was that her brother broke a toy heart.  Lo and behold I was right.

I think my wife and I were a little disappointed that the drama that unfolded was so ordinary and literal.  For a moment there, we thought we got a glimpse of genius or maturity.  Well, until then, we will keep on hoping and keep on nurturing.

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R and R

Last week I took my wife to her favorite restaurant to celebrate her birthday. One of our church members graciously agreed to watch all of our kids so we could get dinner and a movie. After the sitter fed the kids and hung out with them, she got #4 and 5 ready for bed. She waited in the bathroom while they were brushing their teeth. #5 brushes her teeth, rinses her mouth, spits out, and then looks for a towel. There is no towel so goes up to the sitter puts her little face in the stomach of the sitter and shakes her head drying herself on the sitter’s outfit. The sitter said, “What are you doing?”

#5 shrugs her shoulders and says, “There’s no towel.” After this she walks away. When I heard this story I laughed. My baby girl’s response was both rude and resourceful, therefore I was both embarrassed and proud.

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More Than A Game 2

More Than A Game is a series about life lessons I learn from observing or participating in sports.  The first in this series was about Phil Mickelson (click here to read).

A few days ago I took my son to a driving range to hit some golf balls.  My hope is that one day he will play golf so that I can kill two birds with one stone…be a good father and play the game I love.  It has been a long time since I have done anything sports related with my son.  You see, when it comes to sports I can be the biggest a–hole mankind has ever seen.  I had to take some time off from coaching my son because every time I tried to teach my son sports, I would treat him like crap.  Sometimes I will sit next to him while he is sleeping and weep because I know this kid deserves better than he gets from me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Knowing Your Idols

I am not sure how comfortable my readers have been with my last two blog entries.  For some, I am assuming, it may feel like a little too much information.  For others the fact that a pastor uses the language I use sometimes is a major turnoff.  The reason I share this stuff with you all is because I have felt a great burden these days to share and speak on the topic of marriage.  Why?  Because it can be tough.  Marriage is a unique kind of tough.  Because our lives as husband and wife are so intertwined and so complex (family history, temperament, personality, hurt, gifts, sin, etc.) it has been easy for my wife and me to ignore issues in our marriage.  It is easy to be overwhelmed because the knots in our relationship can be so many and so big.  We did not ignore them on purpose.  We either didn’t have the self-awareness (we got married when I was 24 and she was 21) or we didn’t know how determine if our problems were deep issues or just a result of being stressed and tired from the responsibilities we have.

My wife and I came across something that helped us a lot.  I do not know who wrote this thing (most likely Tim Keller…a pastor in NYC).  As all of you know, the human heart has a propensity for making GOOD things ULTIMATE things.  The Bible calls this idols.  If you are not a Christian, I still think this concept applies.  We take good things like money, sex, work, culture, possessions and make them ultimate things from which we derive our identity and self-worth.  It happens to the best of us.  If this is true then there are millions of potential idols.  I came across a chart that saw four major idols which all other mini-idols serve.  Below is the chart. Read the rest of this entry »

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Knowing Your Strengths (Part 2)

Our family gets super crazy super fast.  Like all families and people we have to deal with both the day to day responsibilities and the stuff that just happens because we live in a world where stuff happens.  Just the day to day stuff is mind boggling and exhausting.  You read yesterday about what it takes just to get the kids to and from school.  Then there is buying the food, cooking the food, cleaning up, doing the dishes, and then throwing out the trash.  Only to do all of this again the next day.  Laundry piles up (and out).  Bills lie around all over the desk.  Cars need maintenance (gas, oil changes, wash).  This is not including things that “come up” like flat tires, illness, and other weird emergencies.

Every once in awhile my wife and I sit down for a heart to heart.  It is usually when money is short, laundry is bountiful, energy is low, etc, etc, etc.  For 10 years we have been going through the same routine.  We get overwhelmed.  We fight.  We make up.  We make out.  The only problem is that the making up part is really not making up.  A lot of times it is the classic sweeping our dirt under the rug.  Sometimes that is not a bad thing.  A lot of times we are able to let a stressful season pass simply because we love each other and at the end of the day we still have God, each other, and our awesome kids.

What we noticed though is that over the years, this cycle just got heavier and heavier.  Yes it has something to do with having five kids, but it is more than that.  The cycle gets heavier because…well, we never knew why it got heavier.  We just knew the resentment was building.  Let me explain a typical scenario at our home when things are overwhelming… Read the rest of this entry »

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Knowing Your Strengths (Part I)

About a month ago, my wife and I bought a game that our friends introduced us to when we were living in Boston.  The game is called “Tickets to Ride”.  The board is pictured above.  You get one set of cards that assigns your your routes (ie: Los Angeles to Miami).  You also get colored cards to put down trains to achieve your routes.  Anyways…we love this game.  When we first got it, we played religiously.

Something strange happened while playing that has never happened in 10 years of marriage…my wife beat me.  She didn’t just beat me, she beat me bad and often.  Right now her record against me is 20-3!!!  Why is this strange?  My wife sucks at games.  She has never beaten me in Scrabble, Monopoly, cards, Uno, any video game, etc.  Now all of sudden she is beating me like a drum. Read the rest of this entry »

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For Better For Worse

A few weeks ago #2 asked me, “Are you and mommy ever gonna get divorced?”  This question stopped me in my tracks.  I immediately responded, “Of course not.”  Then my mind began spinning and spinning.  Have we been fighting a lot?  Did we say anything to each other that brought this question about?  I hesitantly asked #2, “Why do you ask?”  She shared with me that one of her really close friends experienced the divorce of her parents this past summer.  I have always known that having a strong marriage is so important for the stability of a child.  We all know this.  It is another thing to see how much it matters to them.

As a pastor I have the privilege of walking with people that give me access into their lives.  This privilege is both humbling and at times opens my eyes to the realities of how difficult family life can be both past and present.  The one thing I have seen in others and experienced myself is that marriage is the brightest and darkest.  There is so much joy when two people sacrificially love each other.  There is so much pain, darkness, and loneliness when love has lost its way.

This week I want to share with my readers (both married and single) things my wife and I have been learning about marriage very recently.  These entries will not be seminars.  They will be stories and the lessons we learned. This week I will be sharing an entry everyday.  The last one will be about how these life lessons helped me in my relationship with my son.  I do not share these entries because I have arrived and am an expert in marriage.  If you were a fly on the wall of my home, you would probably never read another entry ever again.  I share with you a process that my wife and I have been going through and that has helped us learn to love and enjoy the chaos that is our lives.

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Thumb Suckers

Most parents have to deal with their children sucking their fingers, usually the thumb.  It actually can become a source of stress.  Is it ok?  At what age should they stop?  Will it really ruin their teeth structure?  All of my children, except #3, sucked their finger(s).  Notice the singular and plural.  There is a strange phenomenon in our family.  #1 sucked her thumb.  #2 sucked her index and middle finger at the same time.  #3 never sucked his fingers.  #4 sucked her index finger only.  #5 sucked her middle and ring finger at the same time.  Four different kids, four different combos.  Cracks me up.

#1 sucked her thumb.  Typical.  As first time parents we didn’t know what to do.  One day we told the doctor our concern and the fact that it seemed to help her sleep.  He said, “So you are telling me that thumb sucking comforts your daughter and it helps her sleep?  So what exactly is the problem?  Don’t worry about it.”  So we didn’t worry about it…for like two days.

#2 sucked her index and middle finger.  Funny right?  This kid was something else.  We noticed that this technique was causing her to have an under bite.  Try sucking on your index and middle fingers at the same time.  Do you feel that tug on the bottom jaw?  Well it is my theory that she was creating an under bite by sucking her fingers.  So we tried everything.  We bought this nasty thing you paint on their fingers that tastes really bad and looks like iodine.  Well it didn’t work.  That thing is like those Mexican candies that are nasty spicy on the outside but if you suck it long enough turns sweet.

#2 (and #1 for that matter) just took one for the team and kept sucking.

Since that didn’t work, I taped her fingers with water resistent medical tape.  She tried to suck but it felt so uncomfortable she would just drool and drool into the tape and through the crevices till it got so slippery, the tape would just slide off.

I know every parent and doctor has their opinion on the matter.  While my wife and I tried hard to rid our kids of finger sucking, we just decided to chalk this one up as “losing the battle to win the wars.”  We just told ourselves that no one sucks their fingers in junior high or becomes a bad person because of this habit so we let it go.  We felt like we were making too much of it.  Even if our kids decide to suck their fingers till they go to college, eventually peer pressure will take care of that issue.  It just takes one really mean (or funny comment) from a classmate and voila, the habit is gone.  So why sweat it when there are millions of other things we have to deal with like boys, safety, and demon possession.

Does this make me suck as a parent?  (sorry couldn’t resist that pun-ny comment).  What have you tried?  What do you think about finger sucking?

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Damn You Disney (Part 2)

So a couple of weeks ago I shared that #5 told me that she loves TinkerBell and me the same (click here to read).  A few days later I followed up with her on this issue and included #4 in the conversation as well.

Me: Hey #4, who is your favorite person in the world?

#4: My family

Me: But who is your favorite?  Who do you like better than the others?

#4: I love everyone in my family better.

Me: I love you.

#4: I love you too

Me: Hey #5!  Come over here…who is your favorite person in the world?

#5: #4 is.

Me: Wait, I thought you loved TinkerBell the most?

#5: I do!  I love #4 and TinkerBell.

Me: So you still love TinkerBell more than daddy?

#5: Noooooo…I love TinkerBell and #4 more than daddy.

FML

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Never Say Never

A couple of weeks ago I came across a woman’s blog who shared ten things she said she would never do as a parent but now does. I tried to find the link so you all could read it. Great writer. Anyways, I decided to do my own list of things I said I would never do as a parent that I find myself doing.

1. I will never fight with my wife in front of the kids.

2. I will never talk or play with my phone at the dinner table when my family is present.  And I will always eat dinner at the dinner table and never have the tv on during a meal.

3. I will only discipline out of love and not anger.

4. I will not go crazy about boys because parents who are too strict about boys and everything else drive girls to dance on poles when they go to college or to make an appearance on Girls Gone Wild.

5. No matter how many kids I have I will not let the younger ones get away with anything. My strictness would be consistent for every child for all times.  They will all be treated the same.

6. I will never use baby talk. I will speak like an intelligent person to my kids regardless of their age and I will never change my voice or sound like a different person (like the Wiggles men do).

7. I will never let the kids watch The Wiggles.  Never.  No matter how tired I am.  No matter how much work I need to get done.

8. I will not take pictures of them in the bathtub especially if there is more than one in the tub.

9. I will never lie to them.  I will only tell them the truth every time.  Is there a Santa Claus…truth.  Did you study a lot…truth.

10. I will not tell stories about them in public without their permission.

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Knock On Wood

My wife is a bad driver.  There is no other way to explain it.  Every car she has ever driven she has hit another object.  Her car, my car, her parents car…When we got our beautiful Expedition EL she got into another car accident less than a month after we got the car.  I know it is so wrong, but I got really upset.  It was a minor accident but the damage was severe to our car.  Go figure right.  We have the giant SUV and our car gets the worst of it.

As I said, I know its so wrong but I got really upset…

Wife: I got into another accident. (She said it in a way that I knew she was ok and that it wasn’t too serious…so don’t judge me for what follows next)

Me: WHAT?  WHY?  HOW?  WHO?

Wife: What happened was…

Me: Why do you always do this?  Why don’t you drive more carefully?  This is gonna cost so much money!!!

Wife: I am SORRY!  It was an accident.  I didn’t do it on purpose.  I didn’t hit another car just so I could make you angry!

Me: WHATEVER!  Let’s get some ICE CREAM!

This is the truth by the way.  We really went to go eat ice cream after my hissy fit.

So we get to the ice cream shop.  There is no parking and no street parking so I yell in frustration and get ready to leave.  I look in the rear view mirror and a street parking spot opened up behind me.  I look for cars and start to back up.  We have a huge car that has a rear sensor that beeps if you get close to something.  That sensor was useless because I had our bike rack in the back so there was constant beeping.

Anyways, I back up and all of sudden I hear crumpling.  I get out and for the first time in my life, I hit another car.  First of all, it was a BMW convertible.  I couldn’t see it because it was so small.  The damage to his car was enormous because the bike rack rode all the way up his hood and side.  He yells at me.  I yell back.  When I get back to the car, my wife has a grin on her face.  I look at her at say, “What?”  She said, “Nothing.  Nothing at all.”

My wife was really good about not rubbing it in but I knew she was secretly enjoying all of this.  The worst part of all this was fate not letting me forget.  Every time I talked to the insurance company…

Me: Hi, I wanted to check on the status of the accident I reported on such and such date.

Insurance: Oh yes. The one in the morning on such and such street.

Me: No.  That was the accident my wife got it.  I am talking about the one in the afternoon on such and such street.

Insurance: Can you hold?  Are you referring to accident on such and such date?

Me: Yes and No.  My wife got in an accident in the morning and then later I hit a car in the afternoon after yelling at my wife.  I get it.  I get it.  I deserved it.  I should have knocked on wood.  Can you just checked the status of my accident.

I hate karma.

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Recurring Dreams

I am one of those people who wakes up most mornings with a clear memory of what I dreamed about that night.  Not sure if it is because of the caffeine but my dreams are usually very vivid.  For the last 12 years I have two recurring dreams.  This may border on “too much information” so bear with me.

DONALD DUCK DREAM

For the last 12 years I have this dream that I am preaching with nothing covering my bottom.  I am only wearing a shirt.  For some reason that shirt is always really short.  No pants.  No undies.  Donald Duck.  Some of you are thinking, “But you preach behind a podium or pulpit so what does it matter?”  True.  In my dreams I am always preaching behind a pulpit.  However, there is the trip up to the pulpit.  There is the singing time before the sermon.  Lastly, there is the meet and greet after the sermon.  In this recurring dream no one ever comments on my weird exposure.  It is weird to me that no one in my dream can notice because I am constantly trying to cover myself up in my dream.  Can anyone interpret this for me?

IMPROVISATIONAL DREAM

The second recurring dream I have is I end up in a scene where I am getting ready to preach.  While I am walking up to the pulpit I realize I have no clue what I am preaching on.  No passage.  No notes.  Every time I have this dream, I do a little intro, “Hey everyone.  Good to be here with you.  It is so good to be here…”  During this time I am flipping through my bible to find a passage to preach on.  I usually wake up from this dream very anxious and with my heart racing fast.  It is important to note that I have never ever gone up to preach without knowing what I would be preaching on in real life.  Any thoughts?

How about you?  Any recurring dreams?

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Damn You Disney

A little while ago I was hanging out with #5 and I asked her a series of questions.

Me: What is your favorite color?

#5: Yellow

Me: What is your favorite movie?

#5: TinkerBell

Me: Who is your favorite person in the whole world?

#5: TinkerBell

Me: No.  Who is your favorite person?  Tinker Bell is not a person.  Who is your favorite person?

#5: I said TinkerBell.

Me: Really?

#5: Yes.

Me: Well that is not nice.  You don’t even like me more than TinkerBell.

#5: I like you both the same.

I hate Disney.  They are too good at what they do.

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Back to the Future

My father told me a long time ago that he use to ask God everyday, “God, whatever I have done well as a parent, let it stay with my sons. Whatever I have done wrong, help them to forget and cover my mistakes.” My dad is an amazing man however he is not and was not perfect. Growing up I struggled with my relationship with my dad. Looking back now, I realize that just as he had expectations for me and of me, I was no different. When I was a kid I always thought my dad was disappointed because he couldn’t accept me for who I was. But you know, I was the same way. I expected my dad to play catch with me. I expected him to come to my sports games. I wanted him to talk to me about girls and life. I couldn’t accept him for who he was and therefore didn’t appreciate the sacrifices he had to make for us.

All this to say, like all of us, I have scars from my childhood. One day however, I saw something that completed a long healing process. A few years ago, my wife and I took our kids down to visit my parents as we do once in awhile. Nothing out of the ordinary. My dad was outside playing with the kids. He was making silly faces. He made silly voices. He was chasing them. He was swinging them around and giving them piggy back rides. All of a sudden I saw this ordinary picture in an extraordinary way. It hit me…watching my dad play with his grandkids gave me a window into what my dad would have done with me if he could do it all over again.

How did this heal me? All the things I wished my father was to me, he is with his grandkids. It healed me because I see in him as a grandfather, the father he always wished he could be with my brother and me. God answered the prayers of a good man who in his goodness did the best he could at the time and who in his humility knew he wasn’t perfect. My dad always tells me that the younger generation has the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the generation that precedes it. My dad is teaching me how to be a better father by being a great granddad.

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Bud

One of my favorite shows growing up was the Cosby Show.  Not only was it one of the most important shows, with respect to race and stereotypes, it was dang good.  One of my favorite plot lines of the story was Rudy’s friendship with Bud.  If you remember Bud was the boy from the neighborhood who always regurgitated his older brother’s chauvinisitic view of gender roles. Well in one of the episodes Bill Cosby discovers that Bud’s name isn’t Bud.  It is Kenny.  Rudy just called Kenny by the name Bud because she felt like it.

The other day my wife was walking #4 back from school.  On the way back a boy from school recognized #4 and started walking with my girl.  She introduced the boy to my wife as Rex (names have been altered).  She kept calling him Rex.  Obviously my wife thought the kid’s name was Rex.  The next day #4 comes home and says, “Rex’s name is Mike!”

Here is the funny thing.  My daughter has been calling Mike by the name Rex for a few days and he never said a word.  Here is the funnier thing…the day #4 learned Rex’s real name she forgot it again.  When she saw him walking home she leaned over to my wife and asked, “Mommy.  What is Rex’s name?”

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What Dreams May Come

When I was in high school, our family gathered for breakfast every morning.  One morning I noticed my mom wasn’t eating with us even though she joined us at the table.  She kept making funny faces and noises like her lips were on fire.  I ask what happened and my dad has a huge grin on his face.  My mom is kind of annoyed so she tells my dad to explain.

While they were sleeping my dad had a bad dream.  In the dream a mugger grabbed my mom’s purse and started to run off.  In the dream, my dad reaches out for the bag and tries to rip it out of the hands of the mugger.  It turns out that in real life he was grabbing my mom’s lips like it was a bag and started yanking like there was no tomorrow.  My mom is awakened by this act and starts screaming.  My dad wakes up and gets a earful from my mom.  Being the sensitive guy he is, he starts laughing.

I will never forget that morning.  As mad as my mom was at my dad, even she couldn’t stop laughing.

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In It To Win

A few weeks ago I took my family on a trip to Vegas for vacation.  I am sure some of you have opinions and questions about taking kids to sin city.  Actually, Vegas has a lot for families.  You just have to be careful and creative at night.  One day we went to the Excalibur hotel where they had carnival games and an old school arcade.  It is really run down but we figured the kids wouldn’t care.

We pulled out $80 from our bank account and figured that would last us all afternoon.  WRONG!  After an hour the kids blew through countless games very quickly.  During this activity time my wife noticed something interesting.  All the kids except #1 picked games to play based on the prizes they offered. Regardless of what the game was, they just focused on the prize.  For instance, my son saw that one booth was giving out electric guitars.  It’s the game where there are hundreds of wine bottles and you toss rings trying to get it on the neck of the bottle.  As most of you know that game is impossible.  I paid the guy $5 for 72 rings.  My son was done after 60 seconds.  He tossed them like ninja stars.  It was kind of funny.  He almost hit the guy manning the booth a few times.  He wanted to play again because of the prize.

#1 is totally different.  She only played games she could win.  She never paid attention to the prizes.  She carefully walked around the carnival games and discerned which ones she had a legitimate shot at winning.  This observation reveals two things about #1.  First, she is incredibly competitive.  She only plays to win.  For the other kids playing is most of the fun.  Not for #1.  It is not fun unless you are winning.  She gets this from me.  I have the same mentality.  In it to win.

The second thing this reveals about #1 is that she is very logical, having a strong ability to connect the dots.  You see for #1 it is totally ridiculous to play a game where you walk away with nothing.  That makes no sense to her.  After my son chucked 144 rings he still wanted to play more.  #1 thought that game was a waste of money because she realized very quickly that the ring toss game was impossible to win.

I remember when #1 was learning how to talk (between 1.5 and 2 years of age), she would often whisper words she was trying to say.  I thought that was so strange until my wife pointed out that she was doing that because #1 didn’t like saying anything out loud unless she felt she could do it right.  She would practice speaking words under her breath until she was able to perfect it and speak well enough to be understood.  It was amazing to me that even at a young age she had a philosophy that anything worth doing was worth doing well.

#1 gets her competitiveness from me.  She gets her ability to connect dots from her mom.  You would think after having five kids it would be normal and common sense that kids are like their parents.  However it never ceases to amaze me how our kids take on our attributes.  That reality is both scary and beautiful.

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