120: Find Your Way Back to Reading with Comfort Reads
Updated: Aug 4
In this episode, we talk about what kinds of reads are bringing us comfort during these challenging times. Sara shares her love of cookbooks like Michelle Smith’s The Whole Smiths Good Food Cookbook, Ashley shares her love of poetry including the grief anthology Kevin Young’s The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, and Jen shares some great fantasy reads that she's loving including Sarah J. Maas’s House of Earth and Blood. We'd love to know what you're reading that is bringing you comfort! Let us know here or on social media @unabridgedpod!
Ashley - Louise Penny’s Still Life
Jen - Susannah Cahalan’s The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed Our Understanding of Madness
Sara - Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire
Comfort Read Recommendations
Annie F. Downs’s 100 Days to Brave: Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self
(See this episode 198 from What Should I Read Next?)
Sarah J. Maas’s House of Earth and Blood
Elana K. Arnold’s Damsel
Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Wendell Berry’s Window Poems
Mary Oliver’s West Wind
Kevin Young’s The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, including Phillis Levin’s “Vigil”
Don't miss our episode where we talked about ways to beat a reading slump in Episode 54!
Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away
Give Me One - What's Getting Us By Right Now
Jarrett Lerner’s activities online
online streaming of new movies (Onward)
Joe Wick - daily PE activities for kids (and adults!)
Lindsay Brin - Kids' workouts
Yaymaker - Virtual paint class
Wow in the World podcast (now releasing daily with “Two Whats and a Wow!” as well as weekly!)
(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see other blog posts with the same hashtag.)
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
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Welcome and Bookish Check In
Hi and welcome to Unabridged. This is Episode 120. We're going to be discussing comfort reading today but before we get started, we just wanted to encourage you if you haven't signed up yet for our newsletter, we are currently bringing you new newsletters every week that have recommendations for things like books and movies and we did poetry this last week and just lots of different things that we think might be helpful (activities with kids in your life, those kinds of things that we think might be helpful), things that are helping us right now and that we hope could be helpful to you as you are adjusting to what's happening and the craziness around us. So if you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that on our website Unabridgedpod.com or you can do it through our Instagram account at Unabridgedpod and it's just in our link tree there that you can sign up for the newsletter. Before we get started, let's do your bookish check in for the week. Jen, what are you reading?
Jen's Bookish Check In (1:30)
I am currently reading Susannah Cahalan’s The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed Our Understanding of Madness. I picked this up from book of the month because I had read her memoir Brain on Fire about an autoimmune disorder that caused her to present as schizophrenic. And that one I listened to on audio and it was great. And so I picked this one up. This one's quite different. It's not a memoir. It's a researched book, but it is really fascinating and also quite scary. So I'm about a third of the way through that one and kind of hanging on every page. It's really interesting.
Nice. What about you, Sara?
Sara's Bookish Check In (2:10)
Well, I'm a little bit all over the place... I'm sure that's not surprising, but I've started several books and I'm just having a hard time concentrating. But this is one that I am reading on audio when I have a moment (I have found it's more challenging to read my audiobooks now because I'm not in my car as often...) But I am reading Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire. I really liked her book, How to Walk Away, that I read last year, so I was really anxious to read this and also do have a hard copy of this one. So once I'm finished with the hardcopy book I'm reading, I will also move to listening to the audio and trying to finish up with the Things You Save in a Fire hard copy. I'm really liking it. It's about a female firefighter, which I find really interesting. I'm not too far into it. But she is in the very beginning of the book, she's receiving an award. And there's kind of the gender dynamics are playing because she is one of very few female firefighters. And I'm really excited to see where it goes. Ashley, what are you reading?
Ashley's Bookish Check In (3:27)
I am reading one I started on my Kindle. So first of all, I should say, Sara, that I really relate to the audio struggle. I normally do quite a bit of audio book reading, and I do it in the car and also do it when I run at the gym. And since I'm not doing either of those things right now, I realized that the book I was doing, by Megan Angelo, Followers, which I really enjoyed, but then I realized, like the last you know, period of time has gone by and I haven't listened at all. And so I like that idea about trying to find if they have things on Scribd that are on audio that I already have at home I think that's a great strategy. That way I can feel like I'm making some progress and go back and forth between a paper copy and the audio. So I think I'll try that next. But right now I am reading Louise Penny's... sorry, listeners, I just need to say that I will in my editing try hard to fix my Ps and my Bs. I'm also going to try to say them very softly. But I ordered a pop filter that is like six weeks backed up because you know, the whole world is trying to do everything remotely right now. So forgive me if my Ps are a little abrasive. Okay, one more time. I'm reading Louise Penny's Still Life. I have never read any of her books and they have been recommended to me so many times as great access into the Cozy Mystery world. I don't read a lot of mysteries as people who listen often know and a lot of times I don't particularly like them, but I haven't really tried this specific Cozy Mystery type of mystery before and I am loving it. I'm reading on my Kindle, and it's like Sara said, I've started I also have started a lot of books lately in an effort to kind of dig myself out of the, it's not really a slump, but just kind of I feel like I'm not making the progress that I want to make. And so because of that, I keep starting new things to try to go faster, basically. And that is never effective. But it's also hard not to do it. But this is the one that I'm making the most progress on for sure, because I'm just really enjoying the story and I find it engaging enough and not stressful at all. And so that's been a great fit for me. So again, that's Louise Penny's Still Life.
I just want to say as far as going back and forth between audio and for if anyone has a Kindle unlimited subscription, sometimes you can get those for really cheap prices, like for a three month trial, and a lot of times those come with whisper sync, so that is a great option for people who want to be able to go back and forth. I've really appreciated that with some books that I want to get through more quickly. So that's a great idea. I don't know if they're running a deal now. I was thinking that you would really like it.
Yeah. And I think typically, I feel like I have so many things to read already that I haven't wanted to have another subscription because I have plenty to read and to listen to. But I think right now... this is a special time. And this might be, this might be a great time to try something like that and just do it for, you know, for the for the duration, as I keep saying, so... Awesome. So, listeners, today we're going to be talking about comfort reading. And when we started thinking about that, we realized that that might look really different for different people. So we're just going to share a bit about what we what we find comforting in reading and maybe make some recommendations for you about things that we think that you might be interested in. So Sara, you want to start us off?
Sara's Comfort Read Suggestions (6:45)
Sure. So like I said, I have been having trouble reading novels and even nonfiction like memoirs and things like that. I have just had a really hard time staying focused and keeping my concentration. So one thing that thing that is a comfort read for me are my cookbooks. And I have just, I've stacked by my chair where I read a stack of cookbooks, and I look through them, I read them. They're very non scary. And you know I'm not going to read anything that could be triggering. And I love to cook when I have time. I wish I had more access to ingredients now, but I still like to look at them, look at my books, and read through the recipes and decide what I might make when we're kind of out of this crisis. So that is one thing that is really comforting to me are my cookbooks because they're beautiful and very non offensive.
The second thing that I have found a lot of comfort in is having a Devotional by Annie F. Downs, who is awesome, and the devotional is called 100 days to brave and I've read it before, but I have really been doing the devotions. Because I find comfort in my faith and her what she says in her devotions are telling like kind of, in this one especially is focused on bravery and finding courage, and unlocking your most courageous self. And I really feel like I need that right now. So that has also been bringing me some comfort. So those are my two things that that are bringing me comfort at the moment.
So I really enjoyed her episode on what should I read next. She might have been on there a couple of times, but I'm just thinking of her most recent episode. She was really interesting. It was a we can link that in the show notes. I can't remember offhand. I feel like she was on is more than just a typical guest? and she talks about other things as well?
I mean, she is an author. She has tons of books. Not just devotionals. Yeah, I listened to her episode too. And she is a really funny follow on Instagram. She has this thing with her followers, it's a hashtag called, "Tuesdays You Ain't Cute." Because she says all these terrible things always happen to her on Tuesdays. And so her followers will do the hashtag and show the things...You know, Tuesday you ain't cute type thing. So we can we can link to all that but yeah, she's a really a good follow, and she's really funny and very personable. So yeah, I really liked her.
Nice. That sounds great. What about you, Jen?
Jen's Comfort Read Suggestions (9:38)
So I just in general, I find comfort in reading. And I have found it doesn't really matter what it is. It's just the act of reading in itself. But I will say I've been reading a lot of fantasy since... our world has shut down here. And so recent fantasy books that I've really loved Sarah J. Maas's House of Earth and Blood is the first book and her new Crescent City series. It is quite long so for people who like to just escape into a world for a long time, it's one of those that when you come out you kind of feel like you're not in the real world. And that was a great read if you like Sarah J. Maas. It's urban fantasy, so it's quite different maybe from her Court of Thorns and Roses series, which I know a lot of people love.
I read Elana K. Arnold’s Damsel right before all of this started. I actually read that on our way back from Podfest, and that was this great YA fantasy novel with a really strong feminist message that I really enjoyed. And Ashley and I have both love Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely and so I have the sequel to that on the slate. But yeah, for me, it's just been reading in general and then act of being able to escape, whether it's romance or fantasy or sometimes even cathartic books... like it doesn't even matter if I find it to be overly emotional. It's just that okay, I can stop thinking about our world for a few minutes and think about the world of the book. But what about you, Ashley?
Ashley's Comfort Read Suggestions (11:13)
Yeah, that's a good point about the long about the fantasy series. I have had that Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight... is that the right name of that series? I borrowed quite a while ago and have all three of those and they are huge. And I've been letting them sit there forever, because they're so big, but now might be a great time to just dive in. And I might find that I make better progress on something we're already again feel like I'm making traction because I think that's important. Like when you already know the characters and you already know the world sometimes that can move more quickly... Or just keep me going in a way that moving back and forth between books wouldn't so... But yeah, for me, I have found a lot of comfort recently in looking back at poetry. I really love poems and (there's the Ps again) Maybe you all can't hear it, but I sure can. And I know I'll hear it when I'm editing also. Anyway, I really love poetry, I it's something that I came to love in my life. I was a very much a prose person, both in my writing and in my reading, at like when I was studying English and when I was doing literature, I mean, that was always what I gravitated toward. And then I really had to grapple with poetry when I started teaching AP literature. And it was like opening up a new world for me. And so it really changed my attitude about it. And now I find that that is something that I really find comfort in. And it's also something that comes to my mind when I'm struggling. So you know that this is a very hard time. And so there are a lot of things that I'm really focused on gratitude right now and I keep trying to ground myself in the, you know, the joy of not rushing from place to place and realizing that we have time to do things because I have very little kids, and I think a lot of the time, in our normal lives, you know, every, every second, you're trying to rush on to the next thing, and we just really don't have that right now. And I've tried to appreciate that stillness. And so that has made me think about, you know, all the poems that I love that that focus on nature or on the connection to the world, like that kind of thing.
So a couple of poets that I think are great for that are for one Wendell Berry. I love his poetry. He also has essays. And so he's a great choice. We have his collection called Window Poems at our house, but he is very, he's very prolific, and there's tons of stuff that you can read online. So Wendell Berry is a great one, if you're looking for some peaceful poetry that focuses on nature and also on gratitude. I think he's really great for that. And Mary Oliver is another. I have her collection, West Wind, but she's another very prolific author who has lots and lots of poems. She also has some essays, and I think she's just another great fit for poems that are focused on stillness, on appreciating what's around us. And I think I found comfort in reading about nature, especially because our world is changing as people, but the world around us goes on, like nature is going on, like the flowers are blooming and spring is coming and baby animals are, are coming to life. And I think like all of those things are continuing just as they always have. And I find that really comforting, like, it's very comforting to me to be able to kind of look at all the things that are staying the same and a time that's really tumultuous. So I think those poems are great for that.
Another author I really love is Nikki Finney. I have her collection Rice, and also her collection Head Off and Split. But I think that she's another great poet to read and is just an amazing, she's really an amazing writer, and can be a very fulfilling read. And then I have one more that I wanted to mention. And this is a collection that is about grief. And it's called The Art of Losing and it's edited by Kevin Young, and it's the subtitle is Poems of Grief and Healing. In a time like this... for one thing that that collection got me through a really hard time in my life several, several years ago. And I think that in this kind of time, it is a kind of grief. I think there is some grief in us struggling to adjust to change. I think we all feel the last of the things that are different now from what they were just a couple of weeks ago. And just kind of that upheaval of not knowing what's coming next. So there's, I think that's a great collection that's really just beautiful, and helps, helps bring solace and also helps bring celebration for what can seem like a really terrible time in people's lives... I think a lot of the poems focused on going through the emotions of that but also like the carrying on and how to, how to do that and how to find some redemption, how to find some hope. And so I think that's it. I love that collection, and I think it's a good one to try out right now if you're interested in trying some poetry because it has a wide range of poets in it and that would help you find some people that you like.
I will say, since I have been friends with Ashley, I have come to appreciate poetry more and more. And last week when we sent out our newsletter, last week's newsletter had some poems that Ashley curated and even my mom was like, I really just enjoyed those poems.
Yes, that's awesome. That makes me feel I feel good.
So I just think that poetry to me, like, even I often I will, of course, I follow actually on on Instagram, and she will post poems and things and her stories. And I think that it helps me because it's really daunting for me as a person who has not normal does not normally read poetry, that when you get those poems that are curated, and you can find poets that you could that really speak to you, those little snippets that you can read throughout the day. I mean, that's really helpful. I think that it's a lot like a devotional like when I was talking about my comfort, reads a devotional. It's just a short snippet that kind of speaks to your heart and you and helps you move forward throughout the day. So,
Yeah, I think... I thought a lot about that. I have been gravitating towards them. But then I also thought about with Anne Bogel's Don't Overthink It that we talked about... the idea that mantras that she promotes in there and the importance of having mantras that you rely on. And I think that's what poetry does for me. It's just like, it helps me like one. Like one poem from the collection The Art of Losing that I really love is called "The Vigil." And it's by Phyllis Levin, and I'll link to that in our show notes. But, I mean, basically, it ends by saying, "Why not wake at dawn, after all is gone, and go on?" And it's just this idea of like... it's a really beautiful poem, and it's kind of talking about the, you know, it's a dark time; again, this is about grief. But it's also like, you know, here we are, and I find a lot of comfort in that. And so yeah, I think like you said, Sara, it's a lot like the devotionals and just like the whole the mantras and holding on to things that help us stay grounded at a time that can feel really unsure. Yeah. Awesome. Did y'all want to say anything else about comfort reading before we do our Give me One?
I was just gonna say that I can link in the show notes... I realized I didn't see any specific cookbooks I've been reading, but I can link to the ones in my stack in the show notes. But one that I love and I've talked about before and I just made the recipe because I had a whole chicken, is The Whole Smith's Good Food cookbook. She is a mom, so not that non moms can't have great cookbooks, but she's a mom and I feel like because I often try to cook with whole ingredients... Sometimes the recipes can be daunting, and I feel like she does a really good job of curating and putting together recipes that are that are both healthy and that don't have like 2000 ingredients. So I really like that cookbook and it's beautiful. So I often I'm looking through that one to try to find the next recipe I want to make so i can i can also provide a list of the cookbooks that I love.
That's all cool. Yeah, yeah. And I didn't mention but I do think like the cozy mysteries that I talked about the Louise Penny, I think that I am apparently going to find that very comforting. So I think I plan to read some more of those and that romances are something that I've really found that I enjoy recently that I didn't know that is comforting and and pretty fascinating for me.
So I think we've been publishing bookish faves on our blog each Monday and I can just do a long list on as a bookish Fave. So watch out for that. I'll try to do it either the week or the week after this episode releases. So people are looking for other types of escape reading or comfort reading that you can find it there.
Give Me One - Something That's Working for Us
That sounds great ladies, okay. So I think We're going to end with our Give Me One today. And we decided our topic is something that's working for us right now. Jen, what do you think?
Jen's Give Me One (20:09)
Sure. So one thing that my family often does when we have free time is go to the movies. Obviously, that is not happening right now. And my boys have really wanted to see the Pixar movie Onward. And we're kind of disappointed that we weren't going to be able to go to the theater to see it. And so the fact that some movie studios have released their current movies, for online streaming, most of them you do still have to pay for and I will say there's more than you usually pay for streaming movies. But as my husband possibly rationalized, it's less per person than it would be if we went to the theater. So we did pay to watch the movie Onward, which was great. Oh, my goodness, we loved it. I cried. I laughed. I it was really good. It's a great Pixar movie. And it was sweet. It's really great. Yeah, so we watched that and that that is one thing that we're sort of strategizing big movies that my kids want to watch. I'm dying to show them Lord of the Rings. So I'm not sure if they're ready for it yet. But kind of longer things too that we've been saving I think are nice because again, like Ashley said, we have time now so we can watch longer things and not have to worry about bedtimes as much as we normally do.
Also, just a more this is a much shorter activity, but my younger son has been loving Jarrett Lerner’s activities online, and he has these great finish the comic activities set up for kids. So he'll have like, I think it's a six or eight panel comic and he'll have say three of the panels filled in and then kids have to finish the other panels and my son loves to draw and he loves to tell stories. And so he has been having a great time with those. I'm really appreciative of all of the authors and all of the educational companies who have been putting free resources online. At times it's been a little overwhelming because we're sharing them among our instructional technology staff, and I feel like there's so much out there, but I'm also really grateful for it because I feel like there's something for every kid and every parent to find. And I will just say, I spoke with one of my good friends who homeschools. And she said, she used to teach in the public school. And then when she started having children, she changed over and started homeschooling. And she's just said, allowing your kids to follow their own curiosity. That is like the number one tip as a homeschooling parent, she would offer that you don't have to plan every minute. And I think our division has focused a lot recently on genius hour and 20% time and I'm like, that can be the way kids are learning now. And so just kind of reframing the way we're thinking about planning kids time has been on my mind, a lot. Sorry, that was three things and I was only going to do two, but I did just want to share that tip from a friend.
I think that's a great tip because a lot of us are looking at that right now with our kids at home and thinking about how to help them continue to learn but in a way that's going to be manageable for us and for them. So yeah, it's a great tip. Sara, what about you?
Sara's Give Me One (23:10)
So I have a couple things. One thing is that I really, we've been getting outside, but we've also been having some rain. And sometimes it's nice to have something structured that the kids can do in terms of physical activity. And so there are two people that I wanted to recommend for that. One is Joe Wick, who is a UK PE Teacher. He has a YouTube channel that has tons of workouts for grownups on it. But he also he is starting every day, every work day, releasing like a 13 to 15 minute video for PE and it's basically a PE class for kids. So the kids can do it. Parents can do it with kids, and we will link to in the show notes to his YouTube channel. But I think that's awesome. And I think sometimes kids just need someone besides me or a parent trying to tell them what to do for, for physical activity. So I think that will be great. I know my kids will like it. And also Lindsey Brin, who has the company moms into fitness, she has been releasing kids' workouts too, that you can do with your kids. And I will, we will link to that in the show notes too. But she has a lot of really cool stuff that she does with her kids. And I love it because she's doing the stuff and sometimes her kids are like, you know, being a mom and trying to do the thing with the kids and you're and you are like, so earnest, and the kids are, you know, kicking their legs up... and you know, I just appreciate that.
And the last thing that I wanted to talk about is that gamemaker which is a company that does the you know, group, I almost said that group wine drinking, that's not what it is... the group painting, but oftentimes it's at a winery or a restaurant and it's kind of like a paint and sip situation. They have taken put half their employees doing online paint classes. And normally like when you go to a winery or a bar or a restaurant and do these, they're like $45, because it's because you pay for the supplies, and then like a glass of wine or whatever, and then the person's time, but online, they are offering classes and they're also offering classes for kids or ones that are appropriate for kids, and it's only $10 or $15. My daughter did one the other night. They do the classes do last a couple of hours. And my daughter is all about the art, so she was she was all into it, and she did a great job. So that is something to think about that. The classes are kind of long, but they also have some drawing classes geared right to kids. So I'm not sure that they're as long as the painting classes. And then we're going to try one of those too, so I can report back. But it was it's really nice. We used just what we had at the house; we had some canvases, but we also have drawing paper and we were able to scale because our canvas was smaller than the one the artists was using. It was just a really fun time for her. And we enjoyed it. And we'll we'll definitely try it again. And I appreciate again, like Jen said, the companies, the fitness companies and the app companies and everyone who is trying to help out during these times. So it's been it's been nice to see that I think in the world when a time when we feel either scared or anxious, seeing how so many companies are coming together to offer all these free or discounted activities to help to do their part to help well everyone stuck at home.
Ashley what's your Give me one? Jen and I cheated today.
Ashley's Give Me One (26:55)
I know... I was like I have a few things I can share. One thing I wanted to add on with what Jen said about the streaming as we have Disney plus, which we got for our girls, and we really haven't wound up using it as much as I hoped to for them for their series stuff. But it does have the Star Wars series, the original Star Wars movies are on there. And we have been rewatching those this week, and it has been great. So I just wanted to say that, like you said, Jen, I mean, I just think those epic stories, it's been really fun to watch them. I haven't seen them in a long time. So it's been fun because I know them, but not... I'm still kind of surprised by what's happening because I don't remember them as well as I thought I would. So that's been really fun. So yeah, I agree about I will probably be starting another series after that because it's been easier to enjoy. And we're not watching them like one movie a night or whatever. But it's been nice to do that instead of trying to watch a TV show, because it just felt easier to kind of get in and out of something that I'm already in the middle of.
And so that's been good, but I wanted to share, the thing I had planned to share for Give Me One is a podcast that my daughter who is five is loving and it's called Wow! In the World. It's an NPR podcast. And she loves it so much. And so she listens to it. I mean, seriously, now that she's been off of school, she listens to it at least once every day. She will re-listen to an episode. And often she'll listen to them back to back as long as we will let her but she just really is fascinated by it. It's really well done. It's Guy Ross and Mindy Thomas. And they are hilarious in this, which is funny because, you know, we usually hear them like doing the news, and they're very serious. But they're really funny on this, and they have great information. And it's just it's a very science oriented podcast, which my kiddo loves. And so it's been really fun and what's been really cool just like you all were saying about how neat it is to see all the things that people are doing to help us through this time. They just started on Monday releasing a daily episode, so that is pretty mind blowing to me. Since we're in the podcasting world, and we know what it takes to do an episode every week, but they now are doing them daily in addition to their normal weekly ones, so they have some shorter ones each day called "Two Whats and a Wow!" And so it's these facts, and then they're having to figure out which fact is the true one. And so and they'll have to listen back to find out, so it's just really great. So I already was loving it. And then when they switched to that and announced that they're going to be doing that this week, I mean, she was just over the moon and you know that--that means a lot to to a mom who is like thankful that something that she's already loving, she's going to have a lot more of now. So, yes, I'm really excited about that.
And one more thing that my five year old has really been enjoying... So my kids are three and five, and they enjoy workbooks. And so I am not promoting... while we're giving homeschooling tips, I do not think that kids need to sit and do lots and lots of worksheets, or whatever, in order to learn. But my kids like them, my five year old especially, and she'll burn through quite a few activities in a workbook. And I don't know if you have tried to find any workbooks for your kids lately, but if you have, you will know that they are out of stock, possibly for the duration because of this onslaught of people looking for those for younger kids, but one thing that I ordered when all this started was hidden pictures from Highlights. They still have the hidden pictures collections. And so just like a lot of us read Highlights when we were kids, and they had a page of it or whatever in the magazine... I'll link to this because I think it's still available. They have a set of four of those books that are just the whole book is hidden pictures. And it was $24 for the four and so I was worried that it wasn't going to be worth it. But oh my goodness, my five year old has been doing this for the last few days. And she just loves them. She will spend hours looking at looking for all of the things and they are really challenging. Like it's a little bit too much for my three year old. I just ordered her a simpler one to do because these ones I mean, I can do them in they're challenging for me. So it is hard to find the find the things, so I just wanted to mention that because if you're looking for things that your kid can enjoy doing that's great for critical thinking and concentration, but that also is still available for younger kids and something that you probably can still order. Those have been a great and surprising choice for me.
All right, well, listeners, we appreciate you all so much. And we really appreciate this sense of community during this time and we are thankful to have the podcast and to still be able to connect with each other even if it's remotely and with you. So please let us know what you are up to and what what you're finding comfort in right now and we will share out those recommendations with others. So thanks for listening.
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