AWAY WITH WORDS

I am still battling the health scene, but more of that later. What I really want to share today is an short story I wrote for an assignment for a group of writers to which I belong. We have a group of writers called “Out of Africa” which is given assignments by our leader, Margherita Wohlitz.

Twice a month she sends us a first line, taken from other literary sources and other places and we are asked to submit something using this first line. We have twelve writers who participate and who each writes whatever they like. It is quite inspiring what comes out of these first lines and the variety.

We are a group of women from diverse backgrounds, living in far off countries, away  from each other but it is sometimes quite amazing what comes out of these offerings – always inspiring, thought-provoking, humbling, amusing or any other adjective that you can think of. One of our latest was one that I would like to share with you.

And what is more amazing is how we can empathise with one another and how the similarities of our life experiences binds us together.

This was my offering on the theme of “One night after the family was in bed…”

I wrote this piece remembering all those farmers, and their families, who have been killed at the hands of callous murderers and for very little reason other than greed and wanting more firearms to commit atrocities. Our government has not reported much on this ‘genocide’, and in fact it receives little if any press. May we remember them when there are no longer farmers left to provide food for the masses.

JUST ANOTHER FARMER

One night when the family was in bed, I thought I heard a sound outside. Jason was snoring softly, tired out from the day’s harvesting. We lived on a farm forty kilometres from our nearest neighbours so my ears were attuned to the normal sounds of the farm.  I lay quietly on my back, not moving, but listening.

There it was again. But what was it? I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was nor where it was coming from. I started eliminating sounds, Somebody was in our kitchen. Now I knew what it was but he question remained. Who? Both the kids were asleep in bed. They were also tired from the day’s activities. The farm gave them so many  opportunities to be on the go that they never stopped from the moment they opened their eyes. Once asleep nothing would awaken them.

Yes, there it was again. I could hear somebody opening the refrigerator. My heart nearly stopped. There was somebody in the house. I heard another set of footsteps. There were at least two people here who should not have been. I wondered whether to wake Jason or to just stay where I was. Or should I send a signal through to our distant neighbours. There had been a spate of farm attacks by miscreants lately. Was this one of those times?

I listened again to discern a whisper of voices. No doubt about it. There people in the house. I looked across to the clock which glowed red with a time of 3.30. I heard the creak of the floor boards in the passage, I hoped they would not go up the stairs to the children’s bedrooms. The intruders seemed to be moving towards the front of the house though. Our bedroom was the last room to the rear of the stairs, whilst the dining room, t.v. room and sitting room were on the right hand side in front of the kitchen.

Muffled voices echoed through the house. I would have to wake Jason. We both needed to be fully functioning to deal with this.  I gave him a nudge putting my hand over his mouth to prevent him speaking. I did not need the intruders to know that we were awake and aware of them. He sat up, taking my hand from his mouth. With the moonlight coming in from the window where the curtains billowed gently in the breeze he could now see my gestures and understood that there were people in the house. He started getting out of bed, and had half donned his trousers when someone opened the bedroom door and burst into the room.

I screamed, as did the intruder and two other burly figures dressed in camouflage came flying into the room. Jason, whipped around, but before he could say a word or do anything to defend himself the first man to enter the room, hit him flat on the side of his head with the butt of a rifle. I recognised it as one Jason had left in the hall when he had returned from the fields earlier, having hoped to get rid of a couple of pesky rabbits who were intent on ruining the crop of wheat we were in the process of harvesting. He fell to the floor and I flung myself towards him. However, one of the other men made a grab for me and wrestled me to the ground.

Jason uttered not a sound. I looked at the balaclava clad face above me. The eyes were sheer malice. He picked me up by my ponytail. I winced but didn’t utter a word. I didn’t want the children to hear. They had to be kept safe. The cb radio chattered in the corner. It was Neels, our neighbour asking if we were okay. The third man took the butt of the rifle he was holding, bringing it down onto the radio with a thud so that it shattered in pieces.

Jason was coming around now, he tried to lift his head, the first man hit him again, and kicked him in the ribs. Motioning his other compatriot to come forward and lift Jason up whilst he stood surveying the room.

Jason was now groggy but awake. He turned his head and I could see blood streaming from a wound at the back of his head. His left eye was swollen shut and blood was dripping from his nose.  The men screamed at us in a language I did not recognise. It wasn’t one of those used locally. I did not understand. Finally, the man holding onto my hair stuck his rifle into my side. “Guns” he saidddd “We want guns.” I saw Jason out the corner of my eye, he nodded, “I will show you where,” he said.

“No!” Screamed the man at him. “She!” He dug the rifle deeper into my side. “She will show,”

Jason tried to protest. I heard a shot ring out. Jason let out a groan, and crumpled to the floor once more. I was shaking all over. The man closest to him stayed where he was, whilst the other two now grabbed me by my legs and dragged me out of the room into the passage.

“Where?” They asked irritably and menacingly, waving the guns over their heads. I was still praying that the children would be safe. We had rehearsed a similar scenario many times. There was an external staircase on the outside of the building that they could use as an escape hatch should the need arise. I did not dare look up. I indicated the men should go into the study. There was the gun-safe, housing the three rifles we used for game hunting and a couple of revolvers.

As they pulled me into the room I could hear their heavy breathing, they were now psyched up knowing where the guns were.

They found the keys on the book case when I told them where they would be. It did not take them long to open the gun-safe. The greed and lust in their eyes frightened me. However, once they had taken the guns and placed them on the desk, they now turned to me.

I knew not to expect any mercy. Just then I heard sirens in the distance. They were coming closer and closer. The men heard them too, and turned from me. I saw one had unzipped his pants and was in a state of arousal. I blacked out.

Our neighbour arrived with a posse of others, with guns at the ready. As they came into the house, they aimed and fired, killing the two men who were with me, outright.  This was their last farm raid. The third must have heard the commotion but by the time they got to our bedroom he had fled, leaving his weapon and Jason behind him.

Neels rushed over to Jason, feeling for a pulse. He had lost a lot of blood, but he was still alive. “You okay?” I nodded, my mind reeling.

“I must get to the children,” I said.

“You go,”

I rushed up the stairs weak at the knees but like a tigress needing to protect my cubs. At first I couldn’t find them. “Leighann, Christopher,” I called. Slowly, the little door to the outside staircase opened. Two frightened little faces stared back at me with tears in their eyes.

At that moment Neels shouted.

“We are taking Jason to the hospital. My men will stay with you. You will be safe.”

Months later I gave up the farm. The dangers of living there were just too great. Jason was barely alive, paralysed from the neck down. He would need care for the rest of his life. The police weren’t particularly interested in our story. There were so many of these happening every day on farms throughout South Africa.

The perpetrators were never caught. I considered myself extremely lucky not to have been raped and killed. This was one genocide that was not being reported in the international press. Nobody gave a damn.

1344 words

 

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A NAVY DAY

I have been away from this site for a time – ill-health and generally having too much on my plate. However this morning John and I set off to hear the South African Navy band as part of Fish Hoek SAARP (Retired persons) for the uninitiated.

I was ready for a morning of brass band classics played in their inimitable style. But this was nothing like I expected. When they started off after a long delay as the BandMaster had a meeting to attend to before and they kept him beyond his time.

This was, however, very different. Did Johnny Clegg of Savuka, ever in his wildest imagination imagine that when he wrote Scatterlings of AFrica and his other tunes that they would be the opening pieces for a magnificent rendition by a full ensemble Brass Band? I would hazard a guess that the answer would be a resounding “NO”. Well, this was superb int he true sense of the word.

We were mesmerised. Then the music flowed from one tune to another, our own indiginous music interspersed with solid jazz classics, marches of another era, swing from Glen Miller and many others. We clapped along and tapped our feet in tune. Various soloists from our rainbow nation all played their bit. Feminism was accommodated with a lovely and talented lady conducting one particularly stirring piece.

In all, it was a wonderful morning. When the last number was announced we all sighed, wanting more. This played, more  followed and while people were walking out they were still playing, having said that they had another gig to go to in Saldanha, some 130kms away. What more could we want?

Finally the caretaking chairman of SAARP Fish Hoek was brought on stage and asked to pick up the baton. Now, I don’t know the man, but assume that he isn’t a conductor in his day job, but he wielded the baton as although born to it and what the band thought of his conducting I don’t know, but being the seasoned professionals that they are they played to the manner born.

This was a really uplifting experience and one that will stay in my heart for a very long time.

South AFrican Navy Band” WE THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC.

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The Good The Bad and The Ugly

I think the older you get the harder life gets. You try to stay positive, to smile, to be thankful for what you have got. You laugh a little, or a lot, you smile at kids and dogs and parrots. You value the friendships made years ago, and the ones you made yesterday. You have time to stop and smell the roses. but that’s where the bad starts creeping in.

When you stop to smell those roses, your back creeks and sends tingles down your spine and into your legs. You feel a little dizzy as your blood pressure soars. You find that those lovely kids have dug up your prize geraniums to give you a bunch of flowers and then stuck them in your antique vase. No, that’s not right. They were going to put it in your antique vase but they dropped it and now you have a number of glass shards everywhere, a glitter of little stars on the floor where you are bound to tramp on them.

And then the ugly sets in. You don’t understand your new cell phone lovely given to you by your family who want you to keep up to date with technology and you don’t want it, because when the darned thing rings you don’t know how when or where to switch the racket it makes off. And when you visit the doctor he says your blood pressure is far to high, and that there’s a murmur in your heart that he’s not happy with and that he wants to send you for tests. As a preventative measure they are going to put you on a special diet that excludes all the things you like. What’s the point you want to say? And because you like speaking your mind you do.

Well, that’s another thing you learn fast: How to keep your mouth shut. When you voice your opinion, they give you a thousand and one reasons as to why you need to stay healthy? So you can lose your marbles as you watch your friends all cross the sunset bar to never return, is that it? Each day you are forced to make new friends, with people you never liked the first time around. But your circle diminishes day by day and you ache all over, your bowels take a mind of their own and start dictating what you can and can’t eat. Like a two year old you end up peeing in your pants. A the beginning and end of the day you swallow so many pills that you must rattle like one of those voodoo things.

That’s the ugly. All these nasty things. But there is some sweet revenge.You can fall asleep anywhere and nobody bothers you unless of course you snore too loudly. You get taken to places you have never been before, at least that’s what you think although your family assure you they have brought you here many times. Don’t you remember? They will say it over and over again. May be it is them who have the short memories.

No. You don’t remember what you had for breakfast yesterday but you do remember dancing the night away at the annual city ball or taking in a sunset concert in the botanical gardens with your partner. Speaking of which, where has he got to now? Silly fool is always talking to every woman he can find as though he is the real Lothario.

Then you remember, yes he too is gone. Your yesterdays are filled with nostalgia and your tomorrows are uncertain.

That’s the reason to treasure and take care of the moment. It is the only thing of which you can be sure, live it to the full.

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LOSS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

If you are reading this, and I hope you are taking note, please when you get to the end, would you post this on your page. This article is not actually about me, but about the thousands of voiceless people out there who are going through the same indignities that I have just experienced at the hands of incompetent admin staff at local hospitals. As a victim myself, I at least have sufficient knowledge and education to know what is wrong, but many other as fortunate as I am and are not as informed about their medical issues.

So here we go, and remember this is for them.

I was told in July 2017 I needed a colonoscopy. Without medical aid, I am one of many thousands who use the Government Health Services. The doctor said to make an appointment via the Bookings room at my local hospital. They said I was to phone back to them and they would give me the date of an appointment at an affiliate hospital. I phoned back, and phoned back, and phoned back. for months always being told that they had not yet secured an appointment. In the mean time my health was deteriorating to a point where every day things became impossible to handle. An instant stomach cramp results in an instant bowel explosion. I have washed my undies in a restaurant toilet, a theatre toilet, a shopping mall toilet and at friends’ homes. I cannot predict when or where this will happen it just does, and it is most unpleasant and embarrassing I can assure. you. Finally in January, having had four or five different clerks handle this request. I was at last given an appointment. The envelope from the doctor now had a word written on it that I knew was wrong. It said” Coloposcopy”. When I looked at it I told the clerk that was wrong because what I needed was a Colonoscopy. – big difference. He would have none of it.

So secure with an appointment, on the day appointed I was off bright and early, hoping to be the first one there to get it finished and done with. I got there before six, and the  reception opened a little after seven. At about 7.10 I was called and I thought “Hooray” I will be first int he queue. But, to my surprise the lady behind the desk said I was at the wrong department and needed to go to the Emergency Room. I queried this but she was adamant. So away I went. There in the emergency room were many many people, in various states of ill-health and bandages, with open wounds, some still a little hung over from the night before.

I handed in my card and waited. Time passed and nothing happened.  When my husband queried the slowness, they said they were waiting for my file from the filing room. When he remonstrated and said I did not have a file for this hospital s it was my first visit, he was told to sit down and wait for the file.

Who knows where they conjured one up from, but by 9.45 a file suddenly appeared and I was sent down the passage to another waiting room. Here were many pregnant women and others whom I learnt were waiting for other gynaecology treatments. I knew this was wrong, but sat. I was allotted ticket No. 5. However, their numeracy skills were different from mine as they called number randomly, like 9, 7, 4, 11, 8. I asked when 5 was coming up and was told, politely to sit down and wait my turn. I did. Eventually 6 was called and then miracle 5. I joined number 6 to go and collect a urine sample. On return I thought I would be dealt with, but no, we reverted to the illogical numbering system, and 6 went ahead of me after about  four other numbers had been called. I shan’t bore you with the details of what then transpired but after testing my urine sample the nurse then noticed the word ‘coloposcopy’ on the doctor’s envelope. She said “You are in the wrong place.”  When I asked why she said, “Are you here for a pap smear?” I shook my head vehemently. That was definitely not what I was there for so I told her, “No a colonoscopy”. “Well”, You need to be at another clinic up the passage. But they only start at 12h00. (it was now 10h00). “You will have to go there”. I asked where it was and she said “I will take you and show you.”

So we wandered through the hospital to another area, which was empty at that stage, as they only started at 12h00. She then explained my situation to the new nurse who told me that they did not have me booked in and that they were fully booked and would not be able to see me. With that I exploded into wrath and tears until the dear soul gently said to me, “You need to calm down. Sit on the bench over there and I will see what I can do for you.” So I sat and waited until 12h00 – another two hours on a hard bench. Eventually the doctors arrived and they started on their examinations of patients. Finally I was called by the nurse who explained that they would fit me in between other patients. Thank you to her for that!.

Well at nearly 13h00 I got to see the doctor, who was efficient, patient, and very professional.  However because of all the prep work that was needed before the procedure I would have to come back again, bu that I would have to have an appointment a.s.a.p. So at 13.15 I was headed back tot he bookings room at the main reception. Hooray, I thought … until I got there – that section was closed between one and two. Holy geraniums! So once again I waited, to find that there were a whole group of people ahead of me. So once again we played the waiting game. When I finally presented my file with the instructions, the booking clerk flicked through her appointment book, saying the first appointment would be, now wait for it AUGUST!. Once again I lost it and said that wasn’t good enough. Whereupon she and I had words and she said if I didn’t like it I was to go back to the doctor and ask her about it.  I took off like a rocket, bouncing into the doctor’s room whilst she was busy with another patient, poured out my tale of woe and she said to take  a seat and as soon as she had dealt with the startled lady who was not in the chair she would talk to me. To cut an incredibly long story short, she spoke to the Chief of Surgery who then directed me back to the bookings with a letter saying I should have an appointment within two months at the latest.Back to bookings where the cheerful clerk now had a slanging match with me saying that the chief of Surgery knew she had no space, they were full. What was she supposed to do? I said, give me an appointment as instructed. She flicked through her book angrily, almost tearing the pages out in her fury, finally settled on 6th June and said, “6th June, that’s all.”

Well, I was past arguing and I took my little card with its appointment and left – it was 15h30 at this stage.

Next day I had to take a sample for analysis to the referring hospital, and decided to speak to somebody there, where the problem had started. I saw the Hospital Superintendent’s secretary asking for an appointment to see somebody. She listened to the long story then took me down to see the Supervisor of the Bookings Room who was in tears by the time I had finished my story.

The matter now rests with her and she says the least I should get is an apology in writing.

Well, as I have said, maybe this was necessary for those who are unable to speak up for themselves. I am their ambassador at the moment. I know of one woman who died from a liver complaint when she was also sent to the wrong department being treated for an ear infection. These things are happening on a daily basis.

Dr. Motsoaledi, is promising to jack up hospital service. This is where he needs to start, at the base level with the admin staff.

Please put this on your page for all those people who are being short-changed by this inefficient system.

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DEFEATED AGAIN

Once again the African National Congress has managed to dupe the citizens of South Africa that they are changing their ways. Two weeks into his Presidency Cyril Ramaphosa is proving to be just another puppet in an uncompromising political party who are out for self-enrichment no matter what the cost.

The initial euphoria with Ramaphosa’s appointment as President has vanished as have so many hopes of so many South African. Some of us were skeptical from the beginning, and it hasn’t taken for this skepticism to have become reality.

A man who came along with promises of ridding the country of all the corruption which has held the country within its grips for so long has proved by the selection of his ‘new’ cabinet that he is merely the mouthpiece of a corrupt regime. (I use the word regime as this is part of the ANC rhetoric and has been since the beginning of its existence. The appointment of so many of the new cabinet ministers makes us feel cheated. Dlamini-Zuma was part of the corrupt Zuma government, yet she is retained in the new cabinet so that the voters in Kwazulu Natal can be appeased, and those of the Eastern Cape.. And when you run through the list, there is no really fresh blood there. They are all the ones who supported the ANC in its corruption deals under the banner of Zuma.

We have replaced one stool-pigeon with another. One week into the new presidency Cyril was hosting a ‘farewell’ party for Zuma. Why? Why, instead, was the man not being prosecuted for his misdemeanors? Why is he being feted and engaged in conversation? Why is Shaun Abrahams, another lackey,  not being sacked and also being prosecuted. They are all tarred with the same brush.

There is little hope for this country whilst the ANC is in control. When Ramaphosa was proposed as President we should have known that he was there as the head of this corrupt party because he toed the party line. He was not going to break ranks with his fellow cohorts. Of course not. Fools we are for thinking differently.

Mandela must be turning in his grave. All he and others like Tambo fought for, has been destroyed in just a few years.

In the words of a song that goes back to the mid 1960’s I ask, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

 

 

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WATERLESS

Last night we had a preview of what it will be like on a “DRY” run – if you will pardon the pun.

At about 18h00 we, like many others, found that there was not one drop of water coming out any of the taps. There was general panic in our little complex. We hadn’t been expecting this. We hadn’t been warned. There was no email, Whatsapp message or any communication from the people in authority. In fact we were on our own.

NO WATER. AMEN

Most assumed that despite the reassurances that Cape Town had water until 4th June, the reality of being without water had come to being reality. Our worst fears had been realized.  What now? Most of us, those with foresight that is, and I think most caring people have done this, had stored a certain quantity of water in case of emergencies.

Our problem, was therefore, not the fact that the taps had run dry, but how long were we going to be in this situation? Most people would have about 50 litres on hand, enough for one person for one day if you take the reckoning of the Municipality as being accurate.

No joke. Want to make a meal? Use some of your fifty litres. The dishes? What do do about them. Do you use your 50 litres for this, or do you stack the plates, having wiped them as best you could with some roller towel? Want to make a cup of tea? Fill the kettle with up to two litres of water? No way. That is far too much to waste. Use just the minimum.

Personal hygiene. Has anybody in your family got a runny tummy? Heaven forbid. That could use up your whole water supply for the day on one or two flushes, because your grey water will not last for longer than that either.

Bedtime! Probably the best solution when you have no water. But then how to brush your teeth? Use more of your precious water, especially to clean your brush afterwards. And you need at least to have a good wash seeing that a shower is impossible. More water gone, although if you are resourceful, and most of us are by now, you take that water and pour it into a basin to wash your undies at least. But you are feeling a little chilly. Your feet are cold. No, you can’t just soak them in lovely warm soapy water. Oh no. Out come the socks, which in the next twenty four hours you are going to have to wash again, in that non-existent water.

I think the most annoying thing in this whole situation was that we had no forewarning. We hadn’t been able to prepare ourselves for it. So typically being me, I was on the phone to the Municipality ready to do battle with their perceived lack of caring for their ratepayers. Well, luckily something told me to be more polite, more caring, more considerate of others.  Fighting talk was not going to help either me or them.

Quietly I described out plight, enquiring even more quietly whether this was now Day Zero, or whether there was some other reason.The young lady called Monique who answered my call asked all those questions about who, where, municipal account number etc. She then went off for a moment before returning to tell me that (a) it was not Day Zero arriving months ahead of schedule, but (b) although inconvenient at the moment and she was sorry she could not give me better news, but that the switch to the Sunnydale area where we live was faulty and that the technicians had been working all day trying to repair it. They had apparently been so busy with the repair that they had not had time to deliver the bad news to the people who needed to spread it to us. Hence, dear Monique was very sympathetic and most apologetic.

When I told her that all this must be making her life difficult as she was now bearing the brunt of calls from irate customers, I could hear the smile in her voice as she agreed with me. Then I said thank you for being so efficient and I am sure the smile must have got bigger and we closed off with me telling her that I hoped it would be sorted out soon and that she was to enjoy her evening.

To bed, to sleep and this morning, those technicians must have waved their fairy wand over everything because this morning the taps were once again delivering our life giving water.

And to paraphrase the situation, it has certainly given us water for thought!.

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LIVE A LITTLE, LEARN A LOT

This week has been quite revealing and quite daunting. I have battled on many fronts – not in angry jostling fighting, but in finding things that have always been difficult, suddenly made simpler.

I have learnt to push myself further when it comes to computer problems and have finally managed to get my Mailchimp site working. That has been an epic battle.

Then on Facebook, and I can hear many of you saying ‘Not Facebook” with a sigh and a rolling of the eyes. Well, I tell you I can learn a lot on Facebook. One of my dearest friends from schooldays, (yes that’s you Kath!) sent a link to a site that shows one how to do a number of simple tasks in an easy and straight forward manner.

One of the things I learned was how to make my trousers fit snugly around the waistline. This has always been a problem for me. Normally I spend a fortune having trousers altered by a tailor. Now I simply follow the illustration that was given, and voila the trousers fit snugly. A simple piece of elastic threaded in and tightened is all that is required. And those trousers or jeans that are always too long. I always feel that it requires a major alteration, also needing a tailor once again. Now, its a matter of folding in the right place and stitching and turning the right side out again and a quick press. Nothing simpler.

Amongst others there was also a trick to thread a needle. I don’t know about you but with eyes that are not what they used to be I sometimes struggle with this. No more. Now with thread and needle positioned correctly on my hand and a rub of the needle, it threads itself. Nothing could be simpler.

And the best of all in this water deprived area where we live and where water has become more precious than gold, platinum or titanium, a man came up with a simple idea that makes it easy and quick to wash vegetables or hands with the minimum of water. It involves a plastic bottle an straw and a quick lick of contact adhesive. Then you fill the bottle give t a quick squeeze and a trickle of water comes out. You use a minimal amount of water doing this.

But those are only some of the things learned. The most amazing one to my way of thinking though has been training a dog who has never seen me. My neighbours behind me have a rather noisy German Shepherd who gets pretty lonely during the day and so often dreams up invisible burglars at whom he can bark. This barking drives me to champagne but there is only so much I can drink in a morning before passing out. So, one morning is utter despair and because I was hoarse from yelling at it to shut up I started banging on the window from behind the sheer curtains. Well, he stopped, turned and looked in my direction and then after a few minutes started to bark again. Once again I banged on the window, and he stopped and stared before meekly walking away not to be heard again that day.

I was quite proud of myself, especially as the next day when I repeated the exercise, he stopped after the first bark and has gently ‘obeyed’ the signal each day since. Now I think that this is one very bright dog. I am sure he has huge potential to learn a whole lot more. But no, I don’t want to adopt him, thank you. He has barked, but then I could see that there were people in the street and I have left him to do what he has to do, but the nuisance value barking has stopped completely.

There were other things I learned this week as well, but we’ll leave that for now. I may need to return to this subject another day. In the meantime, remember to try to learn something new every day. It will keen your mind active and alive.

Anything you can relate to that has happened to you?  I would love to hear your comments.

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