the last piece (or, i lied)

Jessica:

Part seven is the last piece of my rock-climbing story. Here, I talk about how my accident still affects me today. Yes, I recovered. But eleven years later, there are still things that remind me of my injury every day.

Originally posted on shift:

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There are things you learn to live with. Things that never cross your mind—until “that time.”

That time when you’re ordering at Starbucks and the barista says: “What was that?” “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” “Are you sick?”

That time when you’re chatting with a friend, and your voice cuts out and cracks, then dies.

That time when you’re calling across a street, and no one hears.

That time when you’re in a noisy restaurant, and you might as well just look into each other’s eyes.

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how to not die: the “real” missing piece

Jessica:

My story from my perspective has been told. But, as I mentioned previously, there is a missing piece: you. In part six, you’ll hear from others who knew me at the time of the fall and how my accident affected them.

Originally posted on shift:

A few posts back, I talked about the missing piece from my rock-climbing story. I was raised Christian and went to small Christian schools all my life, including college. When I had my accident, the entire student body at the university I was attending prayed for me. Both people I knew and people I’d never met watched as I went from nearly dying to fully recovering—a miracle they attested to the power of prayer.

I’ve already talked about how this incident affected me—how I slept through it all and came out an incredibly sick girl on the other side.

But there certainly are spiritual implications to my story. I cannot deny that prayer is what brought me through (it certainly was no power of my own): to say otherwise would be a slap in the face to both God and my dear friends . . .  This is true even…

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how to not die: the road to recovery

Jessica:

In “The Road to Recovery,” I talk about just that: recovery. This is where I found my passion for cycling and scared my mom to death by water-skiing only a few months out after my injury . . . Ha!

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago (on January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is the last part of my story. (To start at the beginning, click here.)

THE ROAD TO RECOVERY

8 a.m. Wednesday, March 12

*”Rise and shine, it’s butt-whoopin’ time!”

I opened one eye and squinted at my brother in the light. A goofy grin engulfed his face. With my good arm, I threw a pillow at him. “Where’s my lucky egg?” He ran from the room, laughing.

Moments later, my mom appeared. “Awake?” I nodded. Cradling my right arm with my left, I slipped out from under the covers…

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how to not die: the missing piece

Jessica:

Still reposting my rock-climbing accident story. This is part four, where I talk about something many people are often surprised by — you.

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part four of my story. (To read parts one, two, or three, click here, here, or here.)

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THE MISSING PIECE

For an audio recording, click here:


There’s a piece of my story that’s missing
the piece that is all about you.
It’s the piece that I’ve struggled the most with
the piece so many assume true.
I recovered from my accident eventually.
My rehab is on the next page.
But what of my soul, of “God‘s purpose”?
What is it that I…

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how to not die: the i.c.u.

Jessica:

For those of you who’ve been following along . . . “The I.C.U.” is part three of my near-death rock-climbing story. This is my favorite of all of the sections and shows most clearly what it is like to be a very very sick patient in the ICU.

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part three of my story. (To read parts one and two, click here and here.)

THE I.C.U.

4 a.m.

A scream. More of a growl, actually. Arrrr! Arrrr! Arrrrrrrr! The pirate a few rooms down was hallucinating again.

Footstepsechoed off the laminate floor.

Then, silence.

I could hear machines humming. My machines. Whirrrr. Whirrrr. Their green lights glowed in the dark. I pretended they were aliens.

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how to not die: the rescue

Jessica:

A year ago, on the ten-year anniversary of my rock-climbing accident, I decided to write the story of my near-death experience on Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, for the sake of my new readers, I’ve decided to repost my story. “The Rescue” is part two . . . If you’ve already read it, I’m sorry! If you haven’t, I hope you enjoy!

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part two of my story.

THE RESCUE

There were voices. They echoed off the hills and were magnified by the silence. Flashes of light bobbed in the distance. Leaves cracked and branches snapped.

My rescuers were coming.

rescueteam

My rescuers–I’m hidden behind (image: chattanoogan.com)

My friend stood up. “Over here, we’re over here!” He ran in the direction of the voices.

Moments later, helmets with lights bounded onto the scene. The helmets were attached to people wearing jeans and jackets and thick gloves. Apparently, they had work to do.

A helmet with…

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how to not die: the fall

Jessica:

A year ago today, on the ten-year anniversary of my rock-climbing accident, I decided to write the story of my near-death experience on Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, I am in Chattanooga on my 11-year anniversary, and I thought that, for the sake of my new readers, I’d repost my story (this may take a few days) . . . If you’ve already read it, I’m sorry! If you haven’t, I hope you enjoy!

Originally posted on shift:

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is my story.

T-Wall (image: flickr.com)

THE FALL

The sun was falling from the sky. Once it dropped below the hills, all light and warmth would disappear. The clouds were chameleons: yellow and pink and purple. Somewhere a bird twittered.

An icy wind crept into my jacket. I shivered. Beyond the edge of the mountain, a silhouette was standing far below. “Just remember what I said,” it called.

Just remember what he said.

I took a deep breath and leaned back. My harness cut into my jeans. I couldn’t feel…

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cling to hope

Some of you have wondered where I’ve been. I’ve been posting less often, commenting the same . . . Have I given up blogging? Have I given up loving? Am I heartless? Do I not care?

Hardly, friends! Anything but! I do care, and care all the more! It’s just . . . my life has been shifting. To give you a review:

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In December, 2009, I moved to Taiwan. My viewpoints were challenged. My perspectives, changed.

I shifted.

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At Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan

Continue reading

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this blood will bleed us dry

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Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe on January 3. This place should be BURIED in snow.

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There’s a story often told about the Eskimos. In the dead of winter, when out hunting caribou, hunters plant blood-covered knives blade up in the snow around their camp at night. The blood on the knives attracts wolves who, rather than attack the camp as they would have, lick the blades excitedly, thus cutting their tongues. The wolves are so excited about the blood, however, that they ignore their pain and go on licking, not realizing that they’re drinking their own blood . . .

The truth is, this story isn’t true (Google it if you don’t believe me), but there’s a lot of truth in it — at least in parallel. I am thinking particularly of the drought in California. Continue reading

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blessed

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The holidays are a wonderful time. Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me. Oh, wait. I guess that was supposed to be Ho-ho-ho! — Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Or was it?

Something that’s always bothered me about the holidays is — no, not the materialism (although that’s part of it) — the focus on self. When I was a copy writer in Chattanooga, I wrote countless articles on depression around the holidays. The media paints Christmas and New Years out to be such a wonderful time of year, but what if it isn’t? What if you’re single and alone? What if your family lives a long way? What if a loved one just died, or money is really, really tight? It’s a well-known fact that shop-lifting rates go up around the holidays.

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A little girl begging at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Around my home, Christmas cards from friends always come rolling in around the holidays. Pictures with smiling faces and new babies and fall colors and fancy scarves beam from the refrigerator door. Sayings like “Blessed!” and “Wishing you and yours happiness throughout the holidays and the coming year” jump out at innocent passersby . . . And, as I look at these clean, painted faces, I wonder: Do they even know? Do they know how blessed they really are? Really? Continue reading

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let us trust (or, happy new year!)

Santa Cruz

Last year, on December 31st, I wrote a post about growth. I talked about the good and the bad that make up the times of our lives. I talked about how we all have a choice: Will we grow and learn from these times, and be generous and grateful for will we have? Or will we . . . Most of you can guess what the opposite reactions to those listed might be.

When I wrote that post and said that I hoped we would choose growth, I was mostly referring to my own growth in Asia during the previous three years. I was remembering the culture shock and the cold showers and the day-to-day isolation and the discomfort and uncertainty that frequently accompanies living in a foreign country. I was remembering how I went from hating my surroundings — to loving them . . . From succumbing to my circumstances — to mastering them. I was talking about the life-altering change to my worldview that I owed entirely to a place I’d previously never ever thought I’d go . . .

Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea what growth would mean for me in the United States, in my home state of California, in the coming year. Continue reading

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merry christmas!

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I’m writing from Pell City, Alabama. This last week has been an adventure! I will give details later, but let’s just say traveling around the holidays is not always fun! I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, though, and say that I love and miss you all and hope this holiday season has been about the important things (things that last) instead of , . . everything else. (Those of you who have been following me for a while know what I mean.)

Merry Christmas!!

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it’s a hard knock life

eldo-raleysI’m walking to my car in a Raley’s parking lot. It’s about 6 p.m., dark, and cold. I shiver as an icy breeze picks up. Why oh why did I forget my jacket?

Suddenly, I notice a woman off to the left. Her car is parked across a grassy divide facing mine. She’s at her car, like I am now, only . . . What on earth is she doing? The woman isn’t getting into her car but, rather, is pacing beside it. From trunk to passenger’s side, to trunk to — Nope! Nope! she looks at the driver’s side — passenger’s side. She looks angry. Safely inside my car now, I realize what’s going on, and, I’ll be honest, start laughing. The lady has parked her car a little to the left in her parking space. The truck beside her is parked a little to its right. The lady is about 100 pounds overweight . . . She can’t get into her own car! Continue reading

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let us grow

hole in wall

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

There was a time . . .

When life was simple, choices slim.

When decisions were easy, schedules flexed.

When writing was endless, thoughts abounding.

And then times changed.

At the end of last year, I wrote this post about growth. I talked about the good and bad things that shape the “times of our lives.” I talked about how we have a choice: When good times come, will we take them for granted, or will we appreciate them? When bad times come, will we moan and groan and complain about them, or will we stand up to them and learn from them?

We have a choice. Continue reading

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dead man’s lament

cemetery 3From darkness I came,
to darkness I went,
and wondered, inane,
how my days were spent.
As there in my grave,
in coffin so cool,
regret was a wave:
“Had I been a fool?”

My days had been good,
my days had been bad,
The life that I led,
was all that I had.
But what had I thought?
How far did I think?
Had I seen it not –
this critical kink?

See, money was mine,
and power and fame.
And all was a sign,
I’d much to acclaim!
And if I lacked love,
I wasn’t to blame.
That came from above,
was God’s little game! Continue reading

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thankful for the good and the bad

redtreeWell, folks, here we areThanksgiving Eve. For some of you, Thanksgiving is already here, has already come, is already gone. Then again, some of you may not even celebrate Thanksgiving. I sure didn’t when I lived in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Tonight, I am thankful for many things, but I wonder, what are they for? Is it only the good things I appreciate? The luxuries? The kindnesses? The love? What about the bad experiences? The ugly ones? The horrid-nesses? The hate?

To be honest, I am thankful for all of the experiences in my life, including the bad ones. I’m thankful for my rock-climbing accident, for my bad grades, for the times I got caught doing wrong, for relationships that hurt me. I’m thankful for the scratches on my car, the times I was late, the jerk who stole my purse, the plans that have gone wrong. Why? Continue reading

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the true meaning of the holidays

bedroom1

My room in Taiwan

Two months after I left for Taiwan, I got a phone call. “Jess, your mom and I have something to tell you . . .” My parents were getting divorced. After nearly 28 years, my mom had made up her mind — it was over.

The conversation wasn’t long. There wasn’t much to say. I couldn’t say I was shocked. I’d seen the disconnect between my parents for years — both of them trying, each in their own way, to bridge the gap. Both of them failing. I’d convinced myself that they were going to make it, knowing, deep down, I was wrong.

After we got off the phone, I sat on my black bedspread and stared at the brightly polished wood floor that I’d scrubbed and scrubbed when I’d first arrived. Outside my window, the dark sky began to rain. I didn’t notice. My mind was empty; my emotions, numb. I wondered, blankly, how my brother would take the news. Continue reading

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staying true to me . . .

san marino italy

For some, the path has always been clear . . . But not mine!

My parents had a plan. From the time he was a kid, my dad knew he wanted to be a doctor. My mom was fostered into a career as a physical therapist — in high school, she fell in love with gymnastics. She was naturally strong and interested in fitness. Becoming a PT just made sense.

I never knew what I wanted to do. While the rest of my friends fell into paths almost identical to their parents’, I was not a science person. I hated Chemistry and Biology. Give me a literature class any day! And besides, I’d seen how hard my parents worked and what working with people in pain could do. I knew I wanted to help people, just not with their physical health.

Fast forward several years. A college graduate with a B.A. in English, but now what? . . . I’ve held a handful of jobs since I graduated, ranging from being a copywriter, to an ophthalmology technician, to an ESL school teacher (in Taiwan and Hong Kong), and now, to a freelance writer. I’ve been trying to come up with my long-term plan: But what? I’ve wanted to return to Asia: I have this HUGE fear of getting tied down. The world is too big and too beautiful and too full of need to live in one tiny pocket my whole life . . . But. But.

Do I always want to be alone? Continue reading

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a simple life

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A home overlooking Lake Folsom in El Dorado Hills

It’s a simple life, an easy life,
in El Dorado Hills.
Where cookie-cutter houses sit,
on cookie-cutter hills.
Where all the people drive to work
in fancy, shiny cars.
And all the children laugh and play
and look up to the “stars.”*

It’s a simple life, a quiet life,
in heaven’s spot on earth.
With all the fences whitely washed,
and mothers giving birth
To little ones who’ll laugh and play
and look up to the “stars,”
and grow up doing just the same,
in fancy, shiny cars.

It’s a simple life, a little life,
the one we’ve bought and sold.
Where all that matters is our health,
our riches when we’re old.
Where nothing’s to be thought, of course,
about the world outside,
for all that matters is our own,
America’s our pride.

*Stars as in celebrities

For an audio recording of this poem, click here:


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Image: Google

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poetry

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Poetry’s in the journey . . .

Poetry I cannot force,
it comes and then it goes.
Like a river at its source,
it ebbs and then it flows.

Words, you see, are only that,
and rhyme and rhythm, too.
Poetry’s not pit-a-pat,
but here in me and you.

–in the sun and in the rain,
the things that quiet tears;
in the love and in the pain–
experience of years.

Then the poet, what is she?
She’s nothing like a muse.
Rather, she’s a puppet, see,
and words her only use.

So poetry, my fickle friend,
I wonder what’s in store?
Will you stay until the end,
or show me to the door?
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For an audio recording of this poem, click here:


“Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.”
Charles Bukowski

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Note: The first stanza of this poem came to me in a moment of frustration when I was trying very, very hard to write another poem on a very different subject–and getting nowhere. Since that time, it has taken me FOREVER to finish this. Fickle is right!

Image: Pinterest

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walls are for head-banging

elephant

Some days I feel like this — especially when I’m writing poetry!

When I created my blog, it was to share ideas. To share ideas and experiences, and to engage with others — yes, that includes you. I detested blog posts that were simply daily journals or gripes or complaints or even inspirational photos or quotes. To me, those things seemed empty: Unless I know you personally or have established a relationship with you, I don’t want a recap of your day, I want a point. I want something that makes me think, or smile, or that catches my attention in a meaningful way.

The trouble with that line of thinking, though, is that it’s the same kind of thinking that makes me cry when I hear songs like “Message In a Bottle,” which I talked about here. It’s me being “Little Miss Intense,” the one who can’t stand “fluff” and could turn even the silliest situation into an internal philosophical debate. “To bake the cookies, or not to bake the cookies — that is the question.”

. . . Kidding! Continue reading

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kick ‘em when they’re down

red light2Warning: This post contains blood!

The other day I’m out riding my bike. I’ve just left my apartment and am headed left, towards the light. The plan is to turn right onto the main road and hit a few hills. I’ve been missing my bike! Trouble is, the light’s red and there’s a car there, also turning right. I come up slowly behind it, clicked into  my pedals but ready to click out, waiting to see what it does. The car starts to go but then stops, starts again and stops, and (those of you who are cyclists know where this is going) . . . Crash! I’d lost my momentum; I knew I was going to fall, and I did.

I toppled hard to my right, and even on the ground had difficulty getting out of my pedals. My left calf was smarting, but I didn’t pay it any attention. A passenger in a car waiting to turn left beside me had rolled down his window so that I could hear him laughing at me. I ignored him — didn’t look over —  and finally got upright again. The indecisive car had finally moved on and my lane was clear. I peddled on. Continue reading

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lessons not learned (now learned!)

macbookHave you ever done something stupid and said, “That’s it — never again,” and then done it again . . . and again and again?

I have.

Last night, after putzing around on my blog for several hours, I decided to wipe down my MacBook before heading to bed. I am a clean freak, and while I love the sleek design of most Apple products, the fingerprints and other marks that love to show up on my screen drive me nuts. Well, I got out my Windex (I ran out of electronics cleaner a while ago and keep forgetting to replace it), sprayed it on a soft napkin, and then proceeded to “Cypherize” my computer . . . Only there was this one smudge that wouldn’t come off. I rubbed and rubbed . . . It was late, and I was tired, and in my impatience, I decided to use the Windex bottle to spray the spot directly. I did, and wiped it and the rest of the keyboard squeaky clean, and “Wha-la!” I went to bed and forgot all about it . . .

Until this morning. This morning, my keyboard freaked out. Continue reading

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not about me

Image by Nathan Dinkerson

Image by Nathan Gray*

The truth is: I don’t like writing posts like my last one — at all. Say what? you might ask. Why?

Why? Because this blog isn’t about me.

This blog isn’t about me just like life isn’t about me — just like it’s not about you or him or her or them or those. This life isn’t about any of us; rather, it’s about all of us. There is nothing I detest more than a braggart. People who are either too full of themselves or too insecure to acknowledge the strength and beauty in others make me sick. After all, it is the intrinsic value of all of us that makes this world a beautiful place. Without that . . .

And so if my last post came across at all boastful, my friends, please forgive me. Truth be told, I am anything but. I recognize my strengths but am acutely aware of my weaknesses — in every way. I think this life is about the collective — about each and every one of us pushing ourselves to be the best we can be, and about encouraging and helping others along the way — and not about placing people on pedestals. We are all of us human. Let’s keep it that way.

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“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”— Picasso

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*My friend Nathan shares his gift through photography. You can find more of his amazing work here.

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pushing through the pain

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I honestly had no idea I was grimacing this much . . .

There are things we do because we need to. There are things we do because we want to. And then there are the things we do because we have to.

A week and a half ago, I had to run a half marathon.

I am not a runner. As a kid, I hated running. I picked up running as a teenager when I discovered just how terrible I was at sports. I loved being active, and if I couldn’t make the varsity basketball team, well . . . After my rock-climbing accident, I discovered cycling. My right shoulder was severely damaged in the fall, and in the months that followed, my right arm couldn’t swing properly. Running was out of the question; cycling, on the other hand . . .

I got my first road bike for my 21st birthday and was hooked. I still ran often because, let’s face it, putting on a pair of running shoes is a lot simpler than pumping up bike tires and fixing flats, but, in reality, cycling had my heart. That’s why the furthest I’d ever run until October 20th was seven miles. That’s why the furthest run I’d done recently was six.

I’d always thought about running longer distances, of course. I had friends who’d run half and full marathons and reveled in their dedication. How could I not admire someone who purposely put their body through that much pounding? I wondered if I could do it, too—and knew deep down that I could—but I hesitated to sign myself up for the task. Why would I, unless I had to? Continue reading

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