“Help, I’m Lost!”

You have come to the inevitable crossroads of making difficult decisions about assisted living or long-term care for your loved one, and the emotional pressure and exhaustion are enormous.  The pressure rests on you to find the best resources to help and carry out a smooth transition.  You are also tending to a myriad of daily needs, like phone calls, medicine, doctor’s appointments, dealing with family members, and much more.  No wonder you have a tendency to lose yourself, or at least, feel lost.  You may even feel at the brink of snapping emotionally.

Even if your loved one refuses to go along with the best possible choices you make, you have to make the best choice for them and then live with that choice.  Often, guilt accompanies your decisions, no matter how much effort and love you put in to the process.  Then, family members will have differing opinions, which further adds to the stress, confusion, and frustration.

If your loved one has died, leaving you to handle their estate, you enter what many of my clients call “Prozac time.”  Though they say that with a bit of humor, their body language confirms the truth they feel.  They walk into the family home for the first time and their brain betrays them with a whirlwind of thoughts.

  • Where do I begin?  There’s so much stuff!
  • What was she thinking by keeping all this stuff?
  • What do we do with it all?
  • Is there anything of real value here?
  • Will we argue over it all?
  • Should we sell, donate, keep?
  • What if I just move it to storage and deal with it later?

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are answers to all these questions and solutions for you by hiring the right professionals in the estate industry.  Make sure all the professionals you think about hiring have appropriate experience, credentials, and training to give the best possible assistance to your family.  These professionals are valuable resources who can relieve so much concern and solve so many problems.

Exercise caution if you find someone who “dabbles” in estate sales or any other occupation.  They may appear “more cost-effective” but in the end, you will pay a heavy price.

Dabbling is dangerous!  You need a PRO!

Get the best professionals and the process will flow smoothly.  You may be tempted to “do it yourself” but these experts can solve more issues effectively because they have the resources and experience that you don’t have.  Be sure to ask questions, and seek out the few professionals that you trust.  The really good ones are worth their weight in gold!

Take comfort in the fact that this is a season of your life which will get better.  Keep your sights on the positive end result.  Be sure to ask for help from close friends, trusted siblings, and counselors to keep you emotionally on track and healthy.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

To locate an estate sales professional in your area, go to www.ASELonline.com and click on the top tab “For Consumers.”  You’ll find a searchable database of professionals, and many other resources to help you.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Unforgettable Note We Found in an Estate

“Please Take Care of This for Me”

Borrowed from Robert N. Test, American poet

“The day will come when my body will be determined by doctors to be without life.  When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine.  And don’t call it my deathbed.  Call it my Bed of Life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face, or the love in the eyes of a significant other.

Give my heart to the person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to a teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of a car, so he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist.

Take my bones, every nerve and muscle, to find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain.  Take my cells if necessary, and make them grow, so one day a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left and scatter my ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil; give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs it.

If you do all that I have asked, I will live forever.”

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 10:21 am  Comments (3)  
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Who will Care for the Caregiver?

I find it hard to believe there is actually a word in the English language that could possibly describe what caregivers go through.  There can’t be.  What is experienced during the caregiving process is often a deep, emotional shift accompanied by confusion, frustration, even resentment for many.  Somewhere along the line, one loses oneself and their individuality blurs with the needs of the loved one.

Most are caregivers out of love and affection, and others caregive because it is not financially feasible to pay for professional care.  Perhaps a child has a strong desire to care for mom and dad, or possibly a sense of obligation.  They will caregive for as long as they can, only to surrender when they reach a point when they can no longer offer the quality of care the loved one really needs.  It make no difference what the scenario is — all have experienced the same emotional labor.

Who then will care for you, the caregiver?  Ultimately the answer is you.  We’ve all heard the saying: “You have to remain strong for those you care for, so please take care of yourself.”  But are caregivers really taking the time to replenish their bodies, minds, and souls?  If I were a betting lady, I would say no.

As a dutiful daughter myself, I would, without thought, put my parents first at every turn, and would eventually become weak in body, mind and soul.  Lost somewhere between raising children and tending to fragile parents, there is a place called limbo, and we must prevent ourselves from going there by anchoring to a solid, stable place.

What I have learned along the way from my clients is that it is 100% necessary to tend to yourself.  This brings with it the image of being on an airplane; the flight attendant talks about placing the oxygen over your mouth before assisting others.  You do this because without you, others might perish.  The strong one must get stronger (have oxygen) before helping those who aren’t strong.  Place the mask over your face and “breathe.”  The same is true when your feet are on the ground and you are a caregiver.

©2015 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on June 24, 2015 at 11:45 am  Comments (1)  
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The Haunting and the Healing

Humans can be haunted in many ways: their own fears, an unforgettable bad memory, or a visit from a ghost of the past.  Sometimes a wound is so deep, it has trouble healing because we keep things buried.  The hard part of being haunted is we may not know how to heal it.

I am haunted by a particular memory of my beloved father; I was very close to him.  Dad had dementia, and even through this experience, we remained close.  For all people and caregivers who deal with this beast called dementia, there is no instruction manual, no safe harbor that will provide concise answers and direction to make skilled, knowledgeable decisions.  All you can do is your best.

Dad got along just fine for a long time, until one day, he didn’t.  It all happened so fast.  The day before, we laughed, we ate, we talked and walked and shopped.  It was a good day.  By that midnight, the nurses started calling me.  Dad had declined rapidly — within hours.  A new drug the doctor kept recommending was given to him.  The doctor said it was time for him to take it, now that this decline was happening.  I was worried about all the drugs he was already taking.  Little did I know, this drug would claim his life a few short days later.  I did not know he had a sensitivity to it and feel responsible for what happened.  This is the haunting that I had been carrying.

Last night, I had the most vivid dream.  So vivid, I could see every detail as if I was wide awake and it was really happening.  I was standing inside a fishing boat on a very large, beautiful lake.  Fishing pole in hand, I cast my line and suddenly found myself tangled up in the line.  It looped around my shoulders, arms, neck, hands, and face.  The more I struggled to get free, the more entangled I became.  The line consumed me to the point I could barely move and panic set in.  It was as if I had been wrapped like a mummy with fish line.

Suddenly, my dad appeared right next to me in the boat.  He was wearing his favorite, old, beige windbreaker, blue and white plaid shirt (complete with mechanical pencils and sunglasses case in his pocket), navy ball cap, glasses, and baggy jeans.  He was holding a pair of wire clippers and he gently and slowly raised his hands, as if to tell me to calm down as he started clipping the fish line.

With a few snips, I was free.

Dad gathered the tangled fish line in his hands and threw it behind him, then turned and looked at me.  He said, “Jul, you don’t need that anymore.  Let it go.”  Just like that, he disappeared.

Wow, what a powerful message!  Dad was telling me to let my “haunting” go about the medication and what led to his demise.  He was telling me not to carry it anymore.

Was this apparition really dad who came to comfort me, God himself healing me, or a figment of my imagination?  I prefer to consider one of the first two.  Whomever it was, the experience left me with a great weight lifted.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 9:55 am  Comments (3)  
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Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Sitting here with my morning coffee, I can hardly see the computer screen through my tears.  I have gone from soft, silent crying to full force, hurting-my-gut weeping.  My beloved “Tommy” is by my side and he is dying; I know you understand when I say it is killing a part of me too.

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My head turns to the right to look outside my breakfast room windows and see the beautiful woods and birds at the feeders.  The hummingbirds are active too, defending their feeding territories, preparing for their long journey before winter arrives.  My head turns to the left and I see my beautiful cat of 12 years, my sweet buddy, who has heart failure and is declining rapidly.  It happened so fast.  Right now, he is a lump in the softest pile of blankets I could find.

I am very good at care-giving, making people and pets comfortable, but I cannot fix this.  I cannot fix his heart or bring his vitality back, neither his playfulness or fun spirit.  Right now it feels like he has a foot in both worlds and we are forced to say goodbye, either through God’s will or ours, very soon.  I’m afraid I’m not very good at saying goodbyes.  Lately, it seems I am saying goodbye far more than I’m saying hello.

One might wonder how a little cat could bring a strong woman to her knees emotionally.  At the time Tommy came into our lives, I was a single mom and working very hard.  One day I was outside gardening and I heard the tiniest cry coming from the woods.  It wasn’t a bird, so I had to go investigate.  What if some little creature was in trouble?

Finally, I saw him among the leaves and twigs; a tiny little fur ball no bigger than my palm and not old enough to be weaned.  I watched for a long time to see if mom would appear, but something must have happened to the mother or she abandoned her kittens.  Tommy had crawled through a large patch of woods where I found him, hungry and scared.  Certain death would have been his fate with birds of prey and other critters around here.  The decision had already been made.  With one swoop of my arm, I scooped him up and put him on my chest; when he started purring, he owned my heart.

From that moment to this, he has proven himself to be the coolest cat in the world.  He comes when you call him, plays with you, nuzzles you, and will do anything for a scratch under the chin.  Very loving, very sweet-natured.  Now, he is at the end of his life, and I discovered last night that his diagnosis is exactly what my mom died from.  I was helpless then and I am helpless now.  The drugs help with breathing, but there is no quality of life.  I know what must be done but it is ripping me apart.  The vet said he is not yet in any discomfort and I don’t want that to happen.

Two days ago, Tommy came into the kitchen where I was checking emails on my laptop.  In a manner very uncharacteristic of him, he stood up on his hind legs, reached his paw as high as that paw could go, and tapped me on the chest.  I looked down into those bright green eyes; it was as if he was trying to tell me something.  Something I didn’t want to hear.

Just this minute, I let out a whimper as I wrote that last line and blew my nose.  Tommy got up from his pile of blankets and is sitting right next to me.  He just reached up and tapped me again with the same paw, wanting to be picked up.  He’s trying to say he loves me; he has succeeded.  I whispered “I love you too, buddy” in his ear.  He wanted me to swoop him up in my arms once again and put him on my chest, just like I did in the woods so many years ago when he was lost.

You just never know how or when paths may cross to change your life forever.

I must end this blog now, because this purring embrace with him is too precious.

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com.

Published in: on September 19, 2014 at 9:30 am  Comments (8)  
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The Permission to Let Go

For more than two decades, I have cleaned out other people’s estates and enjoyed the reward of knowing we really do make a difference in people’s lives.  As complicated and contentious as the dis-assembly of a loved one’s estate can be, I have learned that the issues that arise during the process come from much more than grief or even greed.

When I am consulting with a family – usually children who are dealing with the aftermath of losing their parent(s) – I can see their very personal struggle, trying to decide what to keep and what to let go.  Many deal with guilt issues and feel compelled to hold on to the items mom so dearly cherished.  I can see that the children do not cherish these items; they become resentful at having to bring them home, even though they have no room for them.

What most people need is permission.

  • Permission to surrender, to relinquish, to let go and find a new home for these items.
  • Permission to accept that these are not the kind of things you may want to keep for yourself or the grandchildren.
  • Permission to not pass the buck to the next generation.

When you boil it all down, it seems to be the one issue the kids don’t even realize they are experiencing, until I say, “It’s ok to let go of it.”  They know instinctively that I know what they are thinking.  Most of the time, a look of awareness hits them, and they just say, “Thank you.  I really needed to hear that.  How did you know I needed someone to give me permission?”

But the “permission to let go” affects many areas of our lives, not just personal possessions.

It finally dawned on me after living on this planet for over 5 decades.  Most of life seems to be about embrace, surrender, and then oddly enough, letting go.  It just seems that life has been a series of fabulous blessings, ups and downs, disappointments, tremendous joys, profound sadness, frustrations, surrender, and …. when the time is right, letting go.

  • Letting go of your small child headed to kindergarten for the first time.
  • Letting them take the car keys.
  • Letting them go off to college.
  • Letting go of our own youth as time marches on.
  • Letting go of a loved one at the end of their life.

It is part of the cycle of life.

It takes introspection, strength, mindfulness, awareness, and while we are at it, a few thousand tears.

I’m writing this as I hear the jingle of keys.  My teenager just shouted up to me, “Bye, Mom!”, jumping in the car along with her newfound freedom, a big smile, and a spring in her step.  It is a bittersweet thing and an almost impossible balance: to be happy for her, on the one hand.  Yet seeing the beautiful adult emerging, I know I must let go of the child in her,  even though I don’t really want to.  Here come a few more tears …

But even I know that all butterflies take flight when they are ready.  We must also be mindful of all the letting go and sacrifices our previous relatives have done for us.

You probably know someone, if not yourself, who is in the process of letting go of something or someone.  Letting go can either be a huge struggle or a freeing experience.  I hope it is the latter for each of us.

Letting go.  What a beautiful gift, if we can find the strength!

©2014 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com.

No part of The Estate Lady® blogs, whole or partial, may be used without Julie Hall’s written consent.  Email her at Julie@TheEstateLady.com

 

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Estate Medium

Give me a little while in an estate – any estate – and I will tell you more about that loved one’s life than most people who knew them.  Walking into an estate, sight unseen for the first time, can be compared to an artist starting on a new canvas.  We wipe the mental slate clean from the last estate and clear ourselves before going in to “receive” thoughts, feelings, and even a certain energy about the home and the people who lived there.  One can sense many things immediately, if they are open to it.

In my career, I have handled the estates of young and old alike: the mentally ill, the lost souls, those who end their own lives, the hoarders, the estranged, those with dementia, eating disorders, chronic disease, those who died rich, and those who died poor.  While these are all very different, I have come to the conclusion that in the end, we are all pretty much the same regardless of the situation that led to the eventual demise.

I went into an estate last week where someone ended their life.  This is not common, but I see it a few times each year.  The feeling is always the same once I have entered the home.  I walk in and instantly feel a wall of despair.  It is a profound sense of sadness.  As I walk through the home, I will see other signs that something wasn’t quite right; either the home is too clean (as in OCD clean) or I see hoarding tendencies.  Often scattered around in the strangest places, I will see liquor bottles coupled with a multitude of prescription bottles; you know what a dangerous combination this is.  I look at what their hobbies and interests were, which will reveal much about them.  And sometimes I can see conflict in their lives just by observing what was in their home.  Was it mental illness, untreated depression, drugs, etc?  We’ll never know.  It is not unusual to sense that at one time, they were a very bright light.

If we are in the home for any length of time, would you believe me if I told you that my staff and I begin to cry, or that we are filled with sorrow we don’t understand?  It’s as if we can feel what they felt.  We can feel that they were “stuck” in a dark place even though they had much to offer.  A very sad situation indeed.  We always end up praying for that person (for everyone, really), lifting lovely thoughts and words hoping that they have found peace at last, and that we are there to help the family begin to heal by handling the estate for them.

On the flip side, we can also sense lives and homes that are buoyant, colorful, joyful, and productive.  These homes are filled with light, usually lovers of animals and nature, and hobbies such as volunteering, bird watching, and gardening.  In these homes, we usually just feel a stillness that has no heaviness to it.  And in some cases, we start singing and are lighthearted while working in the estate.  We don’t always understand why the environment affects us and our feelings.

Two completely different experiences, and everything you can imagine in between.

I believe there’s a way we can incorporate a conscious change into our lives and homes, so we can positively shift the energy we carry with us, for it remains long after we are gone, and deeply affects our loved ones left behind.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Julie Hall, The Estate Lady®, is the foremost national expert on personal property in estates, including liquidating, advising, and appraising. http://www.TheEstateLady.com  She is also the Director of American Society of Estate Liquidators®, the national educational and resource organization for estate liquidation. http://www.aselonline.com

“I Never Saw it Coming!”

A client of mine knew he faced a hellacious task ahead of him — cleaning out the parental home of lifelong collectors.  Some people call it collecting; others like myself call it pseudo-hoarding.  After an initial consultation, and explaining the process of disassembling the estate, he was completely on-board with emptying the house.  I promised I could undo 40 years of heavy “collecting” in 56 hours.

He assured me the family had already chosen the items they wanted to keep, and we even gave his sibling a few extra days to go through it.  My instructions were clear; please make your selections and remove the items because once I am in the home, it would be best to remain away until our work is done.  The client was very understanding of this and we scheduled the work.

On a personal level, I know it can be emotionally draining to go through this process of sorting through and selecting items from mom and dad’s home, who are now deceased.  I have always believed this is part of the grieving process.  But there is a fine line where it can quickly turn to hoarding, and it becomes clear a child can’t let go for numerous reasons.  I have long preached that memories are not found in things, but in the precious relationships we build along the way.  Sadly, most people do not get this concept.

Long story short, one sibling could not stay away from the home, and could not stop filling their vehicle each day.  Things were missing that were slated for auction; so much that we had to all but cancel the auctioneer!  My client was most baffled by his sibling’s actions.  “I don’t understand why they are doing this!  I have been very clear with them to stay away, and they assured me they didn’t want much.  I don’t get it.  I NEVER saw this coming!  Why are they doing this?”

The explanation was simple:  She could not properly digest that mom and dad were gone, and as a close second to having them there (which is no longer possible), she took their possessions.  I also see many children who never made amends or rectified any pending issues prior to a parent passing away.  This leaves a tremendous weight on their shoulders that they don’t know how to deal with.  The problem now became that this sibling took so much, there was no room in their own home to enjoy.  Don’t look now, but they just continued the pattern of being a heavy collector, I mean … hoarder.

It is easy for me to critique what I see because I am on the outside looking in.  I know the sibling who took so much will be miserable with all this stuff.  They won’t be able to move around their own house, which forces them to make decisions to let go of some items when they are not thinking clearly, probably causing marital strife also.

Bottom line: Just when you think you can predict a family member’s actions, you can’t!  We all handle infirmity, death, and grief differently.  In this case, there was one sibling who was in serious emotional turmoil and could benefit from grief counseling — and I mean that most sincerely, as it helped me greatly.

©2013 The Estate Lady®

Don’t Mess with My Mojo

Twinkies are soon to be a thing of the past.  How could they do that to us carb-aholics who suffer from a permanent sweet tooth and require the perfect comfort food?  I can hear mom say, “All good things must come to an end,” but seriously, Twinkies?  There goes a special taste from my childhood, along with a few cholesterol points.  Sometimes I wish everyone would leave well enough alone.  It’s true that we become creatures of habit and enjoy things our way.  Then one day we wake up, and someone has messed with our mojo – again.

The same is true for the different chapters in our lives.  One day, if we’re lucky, we find the love of our life, then a baby or two arrive, along with mounting responsibilities.  Our children grow in the blink of an eye; we start to age.  Suddenly, our parents get old, sick, and pass away.  So much of this we learn as we move through it.  There is great joy, there is great sorrow, and there is everything in between.  Just when we understand how to handle it, life throws us a new experience and it all changes again.

I think much of life is about our ability to adapt and accrue wisdom, painful as it may be.

So too, when I am handling an estate where a loved one has recently become ill or died, it is important to remember that each of us bears the scars of loneliness, frustration, pain, depression/anxiety, grief, worry, etc.  This is why I go the distance to always treat my clients as if they are family, because I understand their pain.  Their mojo will never be the same, and if I can shed a little bit of light and direction at that given moment and alleviate some of their heaviness, I have lived a good day.

The bottom line is I can live without the Twinkies, but I can’t live without my nearest and dearest very well.  I need to get over the fact that people and circumstances will mess with my mojo, with or without my permission.

I just looked outside my window at the backyard to see the many squirrels eating the bird seed that has fallen to the ground.  Out of the blue, a large bird of prey swooped low and plucked an unsuspecting squirrel who suddenly found himself air-bound.  Man, did someone mess with his mojo.  All things considered, I’m doing okay … comparatively speaking.

© 2013 Julie Hall

Published in: on January 24, 2013 at 11:01 am  Comments (3)  
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A Heartfelt Thank You

They say time heals all wounds.  In the last few weeks of losing dad and mourning the loss of both my parents in the last year, I have asked myself how I will get back up and move forward.  For me, it is about staying active and busy.  A frequent thought visits me; what can I do to help others, and how can I serve them best?  I just assume, since we all grieve in different ways, I will eventually be okay with the passage of time, bending God’s ear a lot, and relying on the support of family and close friends.

What caught me by surprise, however, were all the wonderful comments and emails I received from you.  I had no idea so many people who I don’t know personally genuinely cared, or that my blogs or writings had somehow touched you or your family.  I had no idea that sharing my thoughts made a positive impact.

I am deeply honored that you reached out to comfort me.  Little did I know that a good dose of healing took place over the holidays because of your kind comments and heartfelt words.

You have re-instilled my faith in humankind — people are by nature “good” even though all we ever hear about in our media is the bad.  Your comments and sincere emails were deeply touching at a time when I needed them most.  I am reminded of a line from a classic movie, “The Sound of Music.”  Fräulein Maria says, “Reverend Mother always says when the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”

Maria with Mother Abbess

Thank you for opening a window for me.  Happy New Year!

© 2012 Julie Hall

Published in: on December 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm  Comments (7)  
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