Living within glass walls.

It is about the glass walls that we are living in.

No, you don’t realize that you are living in it, but you are. We all are actually living within compartments made of these glass walls. Occasionally, we share the compartment with others.

Mostly, we live separately.

Actually, no one knows about it. Only you and I do.

Glass walls of prejudice, hatred, and misunderstandings. We just cannot understand anyone living in the other compartments. In some cases, we ourselves were living in some of those. But through time,  or circumstances, we shifted unknowingly. Now, it is about ‘them’ and ‘us’!  Childhood, teenage, adulthood. We kept shifting. Now, we cannot understand other children, teenagers, or adults or even anyone who is more than a few years older or younger than ourselves. In fact, many times not even those who are of our age, but just don’t think like us! Hmmmph.

The problem is we cannot understand anything about the other ones. Just don’t.

So, we look at the ones living around us in their compartments of glass;  professionals, non-professionals, city-dwellers, villagers,  third-world country people, developed world country people, ‘whites’, ‘colored’, Asians, Europeans, Far Easterns, Americans  and what not!

We all live within glass walls. Sometimes we move in between them without knowing it. Sometimes we have them between ourselves and our fellow humans.

 

It can easily be your own family members.

So, the big problem is that no matter how much we try, we cannot ‘understand’ them. Not at all. The differences have grown so much. So, in spite of watching many on a daily (and even hourly basis), we still do not understand them.

How can we understand each other?

What is it that can penetrate these steel invisible walls of glass?

Only one thing can!

That one thing is:

Love.

The same love that Iqbal and Rumi have been raving about. When you love, the walls fall down magically. Suddenly, we can feel the ‘loved one’s ‘ pain, sorrow, and difficulties.

Love does conquer all.

Those who are loved, and have love for others, they are the blessed ones. They are the ones who have no glass walls around them, because their love for others has simply penetrated through these walls. Now, they can understand all.

It isn’t logical but it is true.

With their love they feel, and can let others feel too. That love which is so powerful that it wins over all hurdles, and ‘compartments.’

Love.

Love for the creations of the Creator.

Stay blessed, my  Reader.

PS:  Hey, I love it when one of you comes over to me and talks to me, telling me she or he reads my blog posts. We really need to connect. Thank you so much Faqeha (not sure of your spellings) for reaching out the other day. Love you. Take care of yourselves, you are special and very precious.

Dealing with Overwhelming work.

Many times in life, we are overwhelmed with our ‘to do’ list. Mostly, at such times, the first ones we ‘sacrifice’ are, our loved ones.

When I went to my roof, I found the rainwater had collected on the rooftop. I love reflections, they help me reflect on my situation and my life. I love the sight of mountains and reflections. It brings perspective in life, which is essential. 

Then what happens? 

When that project is completed, you say, ‘while I was doing that project, my normal work got neglected, so I have to complete that now!’ So, then the family gets neglected again!

Weekend after weekend is ‘sacrificed’ for the ‘work’ which keeps coming with every ‘success’. 

Till one fine day, your loved ones get fed up of waiting for you. When you look back, there is no one waiting for you any more. 

So, today, if your mother, or spouse or loved one keeps calling you and finding out if you are fine. Value their presence in your life. 

Once they know, that there will always be ‘more important’ things for you to do during your time with them. Most relationships face rocky grounds due to this. If you don’t want that, then read on. If you are fine with that. Then you have more ‘important’ things to do than reading this stupid blog post,

This blog post is all about ‘how to meet your deadlines, and keep your loved ones happy with you also!’

You see the problem is, that every project faces unexpected road blocks, and many unprecedented issues. Your intent wasn’t bad. But it was unrealistic. 

So, the thing is that we have to put every ‘project’ and ‘work’ in its place in our lives. So, we can have what matters in our own lives in spite of it. 

I’ll share these beautiful words with you by Rabindranath Tagore: ***

This is all we need: Courage, patience, lots of strength …. and who helps us in having this courage, patience and strength? Yes, it is those loved ones in our lives. 

Know that all projects take time:

So, during that time, we’ve got to manage ourselves very well.

You know what life is like these days? It’s a flood of work, followed by a tornado of work.

So, its time to get smart.

Appreciating everyone coming over to give us their time and attention. Having simple meals together is like a tonic for all.  Give time to loved ones during meal times with your attention.

Working without getting overwhelmed:

  1. Prioritize: By being super smart: Prioritize according to importance, rather than urgency.(Remember, Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? ) Use it.
  2. Pray hard: Give five minutes of prayers. Real intense praying is needed. It’s the most important relationship …the one with our Maker. It is the most vital one. Everything else depends on this single relationship.
  3. Relationships:Of course it is complicated, depending on the relationship. Mostly, each one wants to be heard. When you give them time, give your full attention too.Sometimes even ten minutes can be enough if you make it powerful enough. Remember, in the end, nothing and no success is worth the price of a relationship.
  4. Starting with the most important: Once you’ve picked the most important part of the project or chore to be done. Maintain a balance.  Take along a few other things too. But try just sticking to five at a time.
  5. How to have your love one’s understanding: Plan activities with your loved ones, as you launch the projects close to your heart. Keep your loved ones also close to yourself, as you do your project. Share the experiences. (Not just, ‘oh I’m so busy! There is so much to do…’ Give details of your work. Show your loved ones where you are busy and why. You want their understanding, show them why and how. Not by keeping them out of it all, but by including them inside it. (Even if it is metaphorically speaking.) I remember, my Dad, having his dinner at 12.00 am. Mum and I would be sitting next to him while he had his food, he told us about his day. (He had left home at 7.30 am that morning.) Like this many months would go by, but my father always kept us in the picture. In his engaging manner, he would tell us about some interesting characters he met, or about the out of the ordinary that happened that day. We felt part of his life. When he went on trips abroad, he returned with his bags full of gifts for us. 

Fix goals/projects within a time table:

  • Make a time table including all chores. Remember, that if it doesn’t get completed within that time, then get on to the next chore. Do not extend the time period at that time. Otherwise, it will play havoc with the rest of your goals; Or you will start a ripple effect of more issues. For example, in school or university when a ‘period’ or ‘class’ ends then the next class begins. The previous ‘work’ can be completed at another time slot. Or next week.
  • Realistic time perception of a project or task: It is when we get into it that we realize all the hang ups it has inside it. So, the extra hours must not be at the expense of your family or your own self.
  • Do not believe the ‘experts’:  You go to a lawyer, till he is paid up, he paints a rosy picture of everything. Especially about how long it will take. After you have paid up, and done all the fetching and carrying for his royal highness, then his face changes. I remember, how the lawyer would say, while taking the money for anything, ‘Oh this won’t take long! Just a few weeks.’ Once paid up. Even after three months if I asked why its taking so long? He would get upset and start getting rude and obnoxious. Saying, ‘how can you expect it to be done immediately? (Of course it was my fault now!), Then he would add, ‘if you don’t trust me, get another lawyer!’(After all, he had taken all the cash anyway!)
  • Everything takes more time than estimated: when my husband passed away, the pension process, I thought would get done very quickly. As it was the only aspect without many hang ups. Still it took around five months to actually happen. it was the same with my friend Shehla whose husband Air Cdre (Rtd) Rehmat, when he got shot, when he went for a walk in the nearby park.  Both our pensions took five months to come, till then we had to manage somehow.
    • Similarly, the succession certificate which was to be ready within ten days or two weeks took a hell of a lot more time to get done!
  • Breaks and Recess period: Just as every ‘time table’ has ‘breaks and recess period’ in it, similarly, make sure you have breaks for sheer relaxation and enjoyment within your timetable. This includes time slots with your loved ones. During these times, do not take ‘business calls’ or any such stuff.  Be absolutely mentally and physically free. This is vital for ‘sharpening the Saw’, or to recharge your batteries. Muslims have prayers to unwind, and then you have to reconnect with your other half and dear ones too.

Today, I received a phone call from my tenant Muhammad Ali, who has recently left, and we had to work out the security and bills’ payments. He said he was at the Qul of my father’s as well as at the time of  ‘janaza’. He saw me meeting those who had come that day. He was shocked at how composed I was, and how well I managed everything. He admired how much in control I was.’ His father-in-law used to stay with him. He had gone through the death of his father-in-law just a couple of months ago,  so he knew what it entails. That’s why he appreciated my composure. Of course, it all was accomplished with the help of my Allah’s help. His, and so many well wishers, friends and dear ones. Specially due to the army which rose to the occasion. However, I had also made all arrangements otherwise, too. 

It all comes with training, and being organized. If you aren’t, you can get swept aside. At such times all you need is to have is to do ‘self talk’ with yourself. In my case I told myself: 

  1. I will not cry.
  2. As my father’s only child, I would  manage everything with command and control. So, I took a few minutes of planning and organizing of the situation and managed with the help of my cousin Hasan. I made the necessary phone calls and had the concerned persons on board.
  3. From previous experiences I had already learnt, that being weak only invites the wrong elements into your life. 
  4. It took me over six years to get over my husband’s death; I’m not going to take that long this time. Instead, I’ll be grateful to my Allah for all the time I had with my father. 

That’s all.

The rest will all be handled with Allah’s blessings and His angels who have helped me always. There are my mentors, guides, well-wishers and loved ones who are always there for me.

All this happens, if you have paid them attention during the ‘good’ times also. It happens when you include them in your time table no matter how ‘busy’ you are in your life.

Stay blessed, my sensitive readers. 🙂

Holidays – opportunities for bonding with children.

If life is difficult for us in these times, consider how hard it is for our children. Remember ‘for love, you need time’. When you get the time, don’t throw it away, by putting children into ‘summer classes’ and ‘winter break activities’. Spend the time with them. Otherwise, later on don’t wonder why there is no bonding, no caring. How can it be when at every opportunity you are looking for ways to get the children out of the way?

Come to think of it, how much time, do we have with our children? Most of the time, one is telling them, ’get up’, ‘get ready’, ‘have food’, ‘time for school’ ‘Finish your homework!’ So, after all that is done, how much time is there? Even when it is there, we are busy with something or the other.

So, while making the weekly, plan during summer or winter vacations do plan for activities with children. Cook nice dishes for them, arrange fun activities. Let them feel important.

Remember when you have guests, then you are with them, your children are not getting your attention. So, when you give time to your children, it means giving your full attention to them also.

Every summer, I’m being asked about classes for art or other activities, where mothers can put their children. Why?

Why not take every vacation in school as an opportunity to bond with your child at home? In fact, many times, I’ve taken the children with me by taking leave from school. I believe, our children learn more through travel. 

One of our most memorable holidays in USA, here we are at the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. 

Lots of time, I’m asked how have I got such lovely daughters, well it is because I had special ‘family time’ on a daily basis with them. During vacations I planned out lovely outings and activities for us to do together. Even on weekends we went on outings. Such outings and activities are important for bonding among family members.

If such times are not planned properly, I knew we would mostly get on each other’s nerves. (That doesn’t mean we never got on each other’s nerves. We still did some times.) So, it was best for us to balance it all. If there were ten days of winter or spring break, I’d make a plan for activities for at least four to five days. If possible, we would bring their father also into our plan. Otherwise, we went on our own. I’d get a tourism department brochure on places to visit in the city. (Remember, it was the time before internet.) Then I’d check out the activities and events in newspapers. Most of the time I knew what was going on, as I was writing about many events, in magazines and newspapers. So, we’d mark out what we wanted to do:

Yes, they are rather grown up now, but this is how its always been – right from the time they were babies. Here we are in Nathiagali when we went for two days, and stayed at this beautiful and charming place. 

Before leaving:

  • Just get the house tidied up, so we come back to agood neat home.
  •  I’d make sure there was food in the ‘fridge. Mostly, I’d take along snacks, or even a meal to be taken as a picnic.
  • We would often use the opportunity to eat out.
  • Usually, I’d have the food cooked a day before.
  • Water, (yes, there were no mineral bottles then.) Juices, and we were ready.
  • Sometimes, we’d take our pets along too, if it was an outdoor location.

Where to go?

  • Art gallery.
  • Zoo.
  • Puppet theater.
  • Funfair.
  • Fun land.
  • Museum.
  • Science museum.
  • Folk heritage.
  • Have a picnic in a beautiful spot.
  • Watch movies.
  • Take them for theater plays.
  • Specially, take them to book fairs.
  • Take them to literary festivals, and get them books.  

Points to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short and crisp, if needed. Avoid dragging an event. This will make them hate such outings.
  • Keep it fun.
  • Have their favorite snacks hidden in your purse, to give when their moods get bad.
  • I’d ask you to keep your personal calls and smart phone time, totally limited. (I’m being realistic enough to not ask you to avoid altogether.)
  • Do not take your maid with you. Do everything for your children yourself.

Indoor activities:

Of course you don’t go out daily. So, have indoor activities too. Let them help with household chores too. Then all of you can do something together. It can be any of the following:

  • Reading out the holy book, (one person reads andeveryone listens.)
  • Cuddle up on the carpet to watch a movie,
  • Play a game.
  • Sing songs together.
  • Dance together with music on full blast.
  • Just talk for hours, if you feel like it.
  • Share important events in life with each other.
  • Cook their favorite meal with their help in the kitchen. 
  • Throw a party, with party games in it. Let it all be a family event, where each person does something. (Instead of leaving all the work for you alone.) Remember to give them full credit during the party. One child can lay the table, other can make the salad and sweet dish. One of them can serve the cold drinks to the guests. Everyone can help clean up afterwards.
  • Cleaning up, or sorting out clothes, cupboards and drawers.
  • Planning and doing a new setting of lounge or the kid’s bedroom.

There are times in life when you do not have to play your role as a parent too much. Just be a friend to your kids, play silly games with them. I tell you, laughing together is the best medicine for all.

Having a favorite breakfast together. 

Stay blessed, lovely ones. Parenting can be so much fun, if you let it be so. 

Caring for Elderly Parents

Dealing with issues while caring for your elders.

Very few of us are blessed with the responsibility of caring for one’s parents. I cannot express the rewards and blessings that I enjoy just due to their presence in our home.

My parents have been with me for five years now. It is heartbreaking to see one’s parents getting  weaker day by day. Yet, being with them at this time in their life is the greatest feeling.   It has been a time full of ‘raunaq’ and lots of fun too. Our times have been difficult, happy, rewarding and wonderful. I’ve written in detail about almost every aspect here. Now that they are older, I felt that a brief updating is needed.

In my blog post on weekly planning  here, you will notice that it is best to plan one’s own week from physical, social/emotional, intellectual, financial and spiritual point of view. So, while caring for one’s parents too,  it should be the same .

Physical caring:

 

  • Clothing: Make sure clothing is comfortable and easy to change. Get new clothes for them, especially every season and on special occasions. (You can give away another dress with their permission which can become charity from their side.)
  • Get as much help of manpower as you can afford. Train them and motivate them well. Do, give surprise checks. Yet, keep their morale high, by appreciating their efforts. We know, it is a tough job. So, be kind to them. Yet, they must realize that they have to be efficient. Your surprise checks and vigilant care must be there also.
  • Equipment: Use the appropriate equipment available in medical shops. This  could include hospital bed,  wheelchair, walker, special chair for bathing, and the one for the WC is also good.
  • Dealing with incontinence: Remember your parents can become incontinent, (you don’t remember a time, when you used to be that as a kid, so stop turning up your nose.) If necessary,  pampers and catheters can help. Make sure rules of hygiene are followed. You can find water proof slip covers for mattresses, also  smaller water proof sheets to protect the place they sit or sleep in.
  • Family doctor: Have a good doctor on call nearby, whom you can consult on your phone also, preferably who is willing to visit your home. Otherwise, do take your parents to hospital on time. I’ve found that responding to first signs of problems is better than waiting for things to get worse, and then going in an emergency. On the other hand, after some time, you realize, you can handle at least fifty percent of the issues on your own. You learn from every hospital experience. Soon you can reduce trips to hospital.
  • Laboratory Tests: Let me tell you one secret. Every doctor is made to advise you to have so many ‘tests’ taken. (This is all cash income for the hospital – believe me, my ninety year old dad has been tested for fertility!) This is not a laughing matter, so do counter question the doctor about each and every test that he prescribes. Ask if it is invasive and what it is all about. You will find, half of them are unnecessary. I’ve realized some counter questioning can make a big difference. Of course, you cannot do this in an emergency, but you can be vigilant on normal visits.
  • Emergency services: Do proper emergency services research, to find out which hospital is best. In Islamabad, Quaid-e-Azam hospital is the best these days. Do find out what is good for which type of emergencies.  Going to the right place for the specific emergency is vital.
  • Healthy foods and their intake: As far as food is concerned, sometimes the intake is restricted due to dental problems. In that case, getting good dental work done is essential. My father got a set of teeth put in, which is the full set. Due to that he looks good and also can eat well. Now, he is having problem in swallowing. So, now we just liquidize the food, and make it into a porridge so he can have the food. Make sure their nutritional intake is good. Fruits and vegetables are a must, as is meat and milk.
  • Herbal and natural treatments: Try to use herbal and natural treatments as much as possible.
  • Safety: Have handles placed in washrooms and preferably soft flooring, to avoid slipping and falls.

Social and emotional care:

 

  • Home environment: Keep a happy environment in your home, and in their room. Try keeping their familiar things with them.  
  • Take them often for outings: Do make sure the outings are within the time slot of their waking hours, and smooth and well planned. Do not tax them too much. Never be out too long.
  • Encourage visitors: Having visitors over to meet your elders is the best thing. Specially persons they love. Such moments are cherished by all. When visitors come you need to inform them about your parent’s routine. Be vigilant about their sleeping and eating hours. Encourage guests to adhere to these hours. Otherwise, take the parents in to rest, and entertain the guests yourself.
  • Mood swings: Take the bad moods with humor and patience. It is okay. Remember, as kids we would bellow our heads off? So, it is okay if they want to do it sometimes. Even now, we all have our moments.
  • Love: Plenty of love and care is all that they need. Hug them tightly, and sing their favorite songs for them too. Otherwise, keep the I-pad handy.
  • Psychological issues: Just be happy and keep them happy eighty percent of the time. Be patient and loving. However, if you feel that your parent is being too aggressive and impatient, know that it can be a medical condition, not age related at all. Perhaps there is another issue: As Dr. Shahid once mentioned, a problem can be due to any of three  following factors:
    • Age, 
    • Illness.
    • Medication. It could be the reaction of two types of medications that you are giving, causing this side effect. Only a doctor can find out, and monitor this situation. Preferably a good psychiatrist.
  1. Intellectual care:

  • Use intellectual triggers of memory and learning to keep their minds active. Use of color and sounds also help. Put on their favorite music for them by using the Youtube, and help with finding whatever interests them. Get new gadgets like mobile phone, ipad and computer for them, help them in getting comfortable with these.
  • Reading of books and magazines is very good. If they can’t read themselves, you can read out. You can see what they like and make sure you help them attain it. I know my father loves Allama Iqbal, Ghalib and Mian Muhammad Bukhsh, so I often read their poetry out to him, and his face really brightens up. He even fills in with verses that I cannot remember. It is a wonderful experience.
  • There will be times when he or she is disoriented. Just go along.  You will notice, most of the times they are perfectly fine and fully alert.
  • When you speak to your parent, look in the eye, speak slowly and slightly loudly. Keep your expression pleasant and listen when he speaks. Be patient and repeat what you understand. (Another point suggested by Dr. Shahid. He is a consultant at IDC F-8, Islamabad.)
  1. Financial care:

  • It is essential to let them enjoy the fruits of their lifelong hard work. Their property and wealth is theirs. Help them benefit from it. They deserve to enjoy and have all the comforts of all that they own.
  • If they aren’t financially stable, then do give them all that you can.
  • Unfortunately, I’ve come across very ugly scenes where on the death of the father, the children are talking of ‘distribution’ in the lifetime of their mother. How can anyone even think of such a thing? If only one parent is left,  let him enjoy his wealth till the end of his life. You didn’t make it, it is theirs.  Your parent deserves to use his or her wealth to be financially independent .
  • Remember, when you were young, your mother could have got many jobs, but didn’t take them for your sake. Now, when she is old and feeble, you want to deprive her of her own and her husbands’ belongings in their lifetime? I’m really shocked.
  • You are young, robust and strong. You cannot even imagine the hardships your parents suffered to bring you to this strong position that you are enjoying today.
  1. Spiritual care:

  • Reading out Holy Quran to them, is a good way to start the day. Do it with meanings in the language which they understand best. Your voice will be like a tonic for them.
  • Help them in saying prayers.
  • Give sadqa and charity for organizations from their side, or get food distribution in soup kitchens etc.

Take care of your parents with love, and you shall certainly be blessed.

 

 

Marriage Safety Valves

It is about making your story as ‘Happily ever after’ as possible.  

 

(Warning: This is my longest blog post –  why not grab that cup of tea or coffee you’ve been wanting to have?  It is can important topic, almost as important as life itself.  So, here goes: )

I asked my eighty-four-year-old happily married mother what she had to say about married life and she said,

‘Married life is what you make it!’

She said this, after sixty-two years of married life, and her husband is crazy about her. They cannot live without each other even for a minute. Each one looks out for the well-being of the other all the time. Of course they still have their little skirmishes and let each other have it. The fact remains, they cannot be without each other.

Isn’t that what marriage is really all about?

Once I was going through a bad patch in my married life. (My close friends were convinced it was ‘jadoo’ or ‘nazar’, as we were the envy of everyone. Our parties, home and family were looked upon as an example by all. As you can see from my husband’s round up of our home and family here. Anyhow, I didn’t believe that one. )

I went to a mentor of mine. After I told her my (sad) story, she said, ‘you know, everything that you have said, sounded like my own story!’ I was shocked. When we compared, there were a few major common factors.

‘If that is true, then how is it that you are counseling me, and I’m so upset?’

She said, ‘I turned to Allah.’

 

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What to look for in a Life Partner.

The scary business of choosing a life partner.

Making the decision to choose a life partner is the toughest decision of one’s life.   It has to be a decision which is straight from the heart – preferably, keeping both head and heart in sync. It is even tougher if you are choosing one for your child, or helping your friend in the process.

Continue reading “What to look for in a Life Partner.”

An Elegant Home in Islamabad.

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Truly, I cherish my friends. Especially the ones whom I’ve known for a long time. Maintaining these friendships is my greatest happiness and joy.

 

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AVM Qasim and Munazza have been known to my husband and myself since 1992. (I’m sure my husband has known bhai for a much longer time.) But I met him and his wife when we were in Badaber, Peshawar. This colony had been originally built by the Americans, but when they left, it was taken over by the air force.  In those days, Waliya was just a baby, and I was a freelance journalist in Peshawar. My articles often got published about Peshawar, in  Tuesday Review of daily Dawn (newspaper) and Women’s Own magazine.

Continue reading “An Elegant Home in Islamabad.”

Blessings of Domestic Help.

Domestic help in Pakistan, and this region (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Gulf States,) are a point of discussion all round. This is so because they are an integral part of our lives. Like them or not, we can’t live without them. Driver, servant, maid, gardener, cleaning maid, cook, guard – you name it we have it. If not many, almost everyone has at least one who does it all.

Most of my married life, I’ve kept part-time help, as I find them less nerve wracking and easier on the pocket. When there is no help, I declare, ‘we are living abroad!’. All of us put on full blast music wherever we are in the house and enjoy while we work. So, it’s ok. Presently, God has been very kind, more so due to my parents, who have become so old and weak that I need twenty-four hour help taking care of them.

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Maintaining Relationships

“Love your relations” Said General Jilani to my father, then he added with a twinkle in his eyes, “ – but only from a distance!” General Jilani, was my father’s senior, when he joined the army. Later, he became the Governor of Punjab, however their closeness continued.  By the way, his home was always full of guests and relations. So, don’t take these remarks too seriously.

There is a lot of wisdom in this remark too. 😉 It just means, ‘be in contact, but give space to each other!’ So, that is what I’m talking about….

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Friends are priceless!

How to have friends and keep them! 

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Friends are some of the greatest treasures that we have. They play such a vital role in our lives. There are all types of friends in our lives. Some are very close, some are just acquaintances, the common factor is that you feel happy just being with them. They make a difference in the quality of our lives. They enhance and enrich us. Yes, having a true friend is priceless.

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Continue reading “Friends are priceless!”