Posts Tagged ‘social activism’

We are collectively waiting.  Corporations wait with huge coffers of cash (Apple, for instance, is sitting on $98 BILLION).  The unemployment rate, officially, around 8.3% in February 2012, doesn’t include the long-term unemployed – we can guess that 10-15% of working-age people are sitting on the sidelines.  Entire industries (construction, finance, and to some degree manufacturing) have a lot of sidelines going on – in terms of workers, production, etc.  11 % of US homes are vacant – and that number seems to be increasing.  Then there is the tsunami of Baby Boomers starting to cascade into retirement – and the sidelines.

So what is “the sidelines”?  In this sense it is “a sphere of little or no participation or activity.”  However, I think there’s a sense of impending and previous participation implicit – so to me it’s more like limbo “an intermediate or transitional place or state.”

I think of the sidelines as a resting place.  The coach has pulled me out of the game – but temporarily.  I am watching the action on the field, maybe drinking some Gatorade, catching my breath – and beginning to plan my next moves.

I believe any sentient being can see that we are on the brink of – and to some degree, amidst – great, sweeping change.  The old order is very rapidly dying away and yet the new one is yet to be born.  It is a gestational, liminal time, to be sure.

What then, shall we do?  I wrote about one such solution in this post – Power to the People! Let’s Turn this Country Around.  I wrote this post right after my beloved friend was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal liver cancer – so I got distracted.  It may be time to revisit implementing some of these ideas.

I’m also participating in The 99% Spring and plan to be involved in that.

There is so much abundance – time, energy, talents and money – sitting in abeyance while people are hungry, lonely, angry and tired.  Isn’t it time to change that.

Please join me in the 99% Spring.  And if you are interested in beginning dialogue on the ideas I laid out in Power to the People, let’s dialogue about how we can begin.  Margaret Mead was right:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I’m in.  You?


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The problem:  Where to begin?  Income inequality in America, crumbling infrastructure, corporations trying to wrest control of the Internet, Citizens United, global warming….pick your issue!

The solution:  Say no! —- and — Say yes to an alternative!

I spent a lot of last year being outraged.  Well, I’ve been outraged a lot since 2008, watching America change into an entrenched plutocracy.  Being outraged, per se, only hurt me.  Not paying attention (the tactic I see many – most? – people use) is probably worse.

Now I’m focusing on two alternatives, both of which will create positive change (as you know, that’s my theme for 2012 – create positive change).

Say no to what you don’t like.

Or say yes, to a better alternative.

At a philosophical level, I feel the better strategy is to say yes to the better alternative.  My mom used to tell us “you become what you think about” (wise woman!) and one of the tenets of my church (Unity) is that “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind” – i.e., our thoughts create our reality, so best to choose positive ones.  I agree with that.

But this pugnacious, passionate Irish girl still gets riled up at injustice and inequality.   Rather than wishing I were less bombastic, it’s occurred to me that I can do both – focus on creating good, put my energy into the new world I wish to see.  But also continue to say no.

What saying no looks like for me:

  • Attending “Occupy the Courts” in Chicago this Friday
  • Writing about what needs changing
  • Boycotting companies that are egregiously wrong (top of my list:  Wal-Mart, followed by Target and BP)
  • Getting more involved in Occupy Chicago

What saying yes looks like for me:

  • Getting more involved in the Transition Town network
  • Getting food from local sources – farmer’s markets, CSAs, my friend’s garden, Farmer Nick (local eggs and chickens)
  • Buying locally in general
  • Seeking sustainability from the very small acts (cloth bags rather than paper/plastic), to the medium (buying a shredder with my friend rather than each of us buying one) to the larger (investigating co-housing)

I plan to explore more of these this year and will take you along for the ride.

How are you saying no right now?

How are you saying yes right now?

Which feels more natural to you?

I really want to know!


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Building on yesterday’s post here’s my initial proposal to start a TRUE revolution in this country.  The America I grew up in was the leader of the world in virtually all measures – not a plutocracy, with people’s day-to-day quality of life falling behind. I think we can use the Army of the Unemployed to turn this ship of state around.  Please dialogue with me – this is simply an initial offering.


  • LifeSchool – learning what we REALLY need to know; each one teach one
  • BodyShop – real HEALTH with CARE – taking back our bodies, not turning them over to BigPharma
  • Earth Forces (the REAL “Green {Hats}”)
  • S.O.S. – Save Our Society

Program overview

We all have talents and abilities.  The unemployed, the retired and the generous have time to donate.  There are ghost-towns of empty buildings available.  Instead of “wasting time in the unemployment lines, standing around waiting for a promotion” (nod to Tracy Chapman); instead of waiting for the government or (imho, worse yet) the corporations or the rich – let’s roll up OUR shirtsleeves ala Greg Mortenson and turn this ship around.  So this is all about things regular people could do by, for and with each other (remember the Gettysburg Address).  OUR country – not the rich people’s or the corporations (or, to give a nod to my friends on the right – of the government).


Let’s set up free schools with volunteer teachers and administrators (or – someone who can write grants, write a grant to get money for building space and a SchoolMom/SchoolDad – someone to organize the thing).  “each one teach one” – people who know things can teach people who want to learn those things.  I see 5 initial curriculum:

  • Strengthening your Self (personal skills, including a tie-in to BodyShop)
  • Strengthening your Relationships – relationships of all kinds:  parenting classes, negotiating skills, marriage-strengthening, getting along at work, etc.
  • Work and Money Skills – Create your own job, find a job, job skills, money 101, investment classes, frugality, buying a house, anti-foreclosure classes
  • LifeSkills – cooking, plumbing, fix your car, write a grant, gardening, etc.
  • Save the World – getting beyond yourself to help your community, the world, how to make a difference, setting up your own Grameen-Bank-like skill/money co-op, etc.

BodyShop (REAL Health CARE – taking charge of your own health)

  • Natural Healing classes of all kinds (herbs, Chinese medicine, ayurveda, first aid)
  • Fitness Camp – personal training you can do at home with very little equipment or info about cheap gyms, etc.  Free classes (spin, aerobics, circuit training)
  • Food & Nutrition – cover basics, nutritional defense for specific diseases, build your immune system, fast and easy nutritious meals, eating healthfully when you’re broke, good food for people who don’t like to cook, etc.
  • Cooking classes – beyond just educating – big kitchen, group cooking, hands-on fix a meal.  Use Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution idea – learn a meal, then teach your neighbor.  Eating healthfully, inexpensively with meals that are tasty and easy/fast to prepare.
  • Emotional Health – things YOU can do to help with what ails you – EFT, support groups, exercise, nutrition, mentoring

EarthForces (Green Baseball Hats? – smile and nod to the other Greenhat guys…)

  • Classes on sustainability
  • Green your home
  • Habitat-for-Humanity like group to focus on weatherizing homes for the poor, elderly, infirm, etc.
  • Johnny Appleseed Corps – tree planting  – help people, public spaces, unused land – fill it with trees
  • WaterWorks – water conservation – from in your house to in your country – water action!
  • Garden Guerrillas – turn this land into food  – teach gardening, encourage community gardens, ask to put gardens in unused land, etc.

S.O.S. – Save our Society

  • Take back Food:  localvorism, CSAs, food co-ops.  Move AWAY from the industrial agriculture that is killing us and is outrageously inhumane to animals.
  • Take back Money:  Buy local! Say no to Big Box stores
  • Take back Money, Part 2:  barter economy, skill banks, stop outsourcing your life

What’s Next?

Your “yes, we can” ideas.  I’m sure some of you have 100 “that will never work” ideas, which you are welcome to ponder while we move into action ala Greg Mortenson.

What I’m interested in:

  • Feedback on these ideas
  • YOUR ideas – what else can the army of unemployed, under-employed, retired or generous folks do with their ‘spare’ time?
  • Interested folks.  You don’t have to be local.  I somewhat suspect Chicago is not the only town that could use an initiative like this.  Start a school/movement/group in YOUR town!
  • But if you are local and would be interested in seeing what we could collectively create let me know – send an email to lifeschool.chicago@gmail.com

“We can change the world.  Rearrange the world.  It’s dying.” (nod to CSNY for lyrics, nod to YOU for wanting to change the world).

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When I was a coach, my client Jim used to say “Action leads to satisfaction.”

In response to my elegiac post on the BP oil spill, my friend Myra Henderson said two things that I wanted to use as the springboard for tonight’s topic:

“We demand our comforts and close our eyes to what happens around us to get them. I feel helpless. What I can do is try to live my life as lightly as possible. ”

“We CAN make things better without giving up too much but we must be willing to change.”

In general I try to emulate my father, who taught us at an early age to “make the world a better place for you having been there.”  But sometimes the changes that are needed – in the world or in my own life – seem so huge as to be almost insurmountable.  The BP oil spill.  My lifelong addiction to sugar.  They both seem out of my control and too hard to fix.

One of the things I used to help coaching clients with was clutter control.  I would advise people to do a “10 minute sweep” at night – just set the timer for 10 minutes and clear as much as they could in that time.  Probably not going to work for people with serious issues in this arena but for those of us regularly visited by smaller amounts of chaos it’s amazingly effective.

In response to my post It’s Not Just Turtles Swimming in a Sea of Oil which I also posted as a Note on Facebook, my friend Carol posted a link about a lady named Bea Johnson who was taking simplicity to levels which to little old middle class me seemed somewhat unimaginable.  I’m so not there.

But I don’t want burning turtles.  Or the idea that my beloved grandnephews & grandnieces will grow up in a nightmarish world.  Any of you who have read the first half of Tom Friedman’s book Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America have some ideas about what that could look like.

In the second half of Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America, Friedman presents some societal changes that could not only alleviate global warming and the destruction of the earth that is quite seriously already underway, but would also provide an economic boon.  It’s a good book written before the crash (so not capitalizing on it). The second half is hopeful.  But it’s about what power companies and Congress and appliance manufacturers can do.  I’m none of those.

So I could get to that “Diane syndrome” space – the one where I sit and bemoan it all and do nothing.  Ya.  I’m sure you never do that.

I think Myra raises two really important points. 

“We demand our comforts and close our eyes to what happens around us to get them. I feel helpless. What I can do is try to live my life as lightly as possible.”

I stopped eating beef after I heard a show on NPR that said that cows cry.  That haunted me and I just couldn’t eat beef anymore.  When one of my friend suggested that pigs and chickens maybe cried too I’m ashamed to say my response was “Could be, but I don’t know about it.”  Ouch! Hurts to admit that!  Then I read Michael Pollan’s superb book The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals about factory farming and now I don’t eat pork either.  I know poultry is next, but I’m not quite there.  My point is that I need to be conscious of EXACTLY what I’m doing.

When I was young there was a book out called Sugar Blues which laid out quite clearly and convincingly how dangerous, addictive and health-ruining sugar is.  MY response?  “La la la la la – I don’t HEAR you….”  I read a lot about health and always manage to skip the part where you take sugar, wheat and dairy away (“la la la la la – I don’t HEAR you.”).  So now I’m being conscious that I’m eating things that quite likely are not so great for my particular body.  I’m not ready to change.  But I’m not willing to play games and act like I don’t know that I’m doing things inimical to my long-term happiness.

So awareness first – whether in my own personal life, the life of this country that I love, or of this planet which is my home.

Then I look for actions I can take.  This is where Myra’s second comment is so helpful:

“We CAN make things better without giving up too much but we must be willing to change.”


That’s HUGE.  So in terms of my country and my planet – yavo! I am ready and willing to change.  My body – I’m getting there….

Then comes small, incremental action. 

I wrote the other day about some of the changes I’m making for Mama Earth:

  • Ditching plastic containers, moving towards glass
  • Ditching bottled water (in plastic) using my stainless steel water bottle
  • Turning off appliances when not in use
  • Using CFL light bulbs (this was/is harder for me than I thought it would be and I’m not there yet – but more and more I’m replacing burned out bulbs with CFLs)
  • Cloth shopping bags – really doing great on this at the grocery – never forget them. Why then does Target or Home Depot seem so different to my consciousness?  Working on remembering them at places where I do need a bag and that aren’t grocery stores.

Those are in play. The ones I’m moving towards – and making tiny baby steps on:

  • Driving less. I am the original Gemini-rising gadabout – go, go, go Diane.  I’m a people person and I live alone – I need my strogan! (My childhood word for other children).  Makes the idea of moving to cohousing feel all the more imminent – get my people needs met without driving all over God’s green acre.
  • Driving more slowly.  Okay, I got a speeding ticket on Saturday and let me tell you – it wasn’t my first one J.  Driving faster uses more fuel.  Driving fast is dangerous.  Driving fast is really really fun.  Hmm.  I’m working on it.
  • Turning down the A/C.  Hardest change for me. Ameliorated today by San Diego weather in Chicago – 70s, no humidity, lovely breeze.  But when it’s 99 and 99% humidity (ah! Chicago in the summer) – not so much!  This will be a bigger growth opportunity.

I have a similar list of victories and growth opportunities as I look at how I eat and move my body.  And once again the key is:

  • Become aware
  • Become willing
  • Make incremental changes
  • Forgive myself for not being perfect
  • But keep at it!

How about you?  What incremental changes are you making in response to the oil spill?  Where else in your life are you finding that Action leads to Satisfaction?  I’d really like to know!

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When did we stop being alive?  Doesn’t it seem like someone should have told us? Hey! Yo! You!  You’re walking around, but you are dead.

Most of my dreams (the very few I remember) are yawningly prosaic, focusing on minutiae from my daily life.  But I had one big archetypal dream and it involved President Kennedy. He was teaching a class and i thought “oh my! No one has told him he’s dead!  We have to let him know….”

I had dinner tonight with my new friend Susan.  I was saying that I felt change was in the air.  That I felt hopeful that some of the seeds my generation planted might start to come to fruition.

I don’t know how old Susan is, but its decades younger than I am.  She has a PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from UC Berkeley and she’s brilliant, thoughtful, and observant.

So it pained me that she said she really didn’t see that happening anytime soon.  Because people are asleep (or, I think, perhaps dead).  They don’t care.

When an election was totally stolen, absolutely cancelling out the principles on which this country was founded, I thought people would rebel.

When we were robbed by the rich – plutocracy run amok, I genuinely thought there would be rioting in the streets.

This year, when the Supreme Court of the United States held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment, (thus allowing the current nod-nod-wink-wink buying of elections to proceed apace unencumbered) I felt ill – truly creeped out.  I thought, ah yes, we will look back and say “There! That’s when it happened….”

Except, I’m not so sure that’s right.

I think it was before now.

I once had Marianne Williamson as a teacher – she’s the woman from whom Nelson Mandela got that great quote about “it is not our darkness that scares us, but our light” and is the person being the campaign for the department of peace. Oh yeah, and she wrote 4 New York Times bestsellers.  Anyway, she was talking to my generation, to those of us who felt we dropped the ball,  that the Boomers as a generation sold out.  She said:  “Look.  Here’s what happened. We were idealistic – we were going to change the world. Then they came in and murdered all our heroes and in our grieving, they dangled materialism in front of us to assuage our grief – and we went for it.  So, forgive yourselves and get back to work!”

I think it started then – after John, Bobby, Martin.  But then the 80s sealed the deal.  I think that’s when we started to become the Corporate States of America.  When every city started to look the same. When people started watching more and more TV. When liberal arts degrees went out the window and college became vocational education.  When people stopped thinking. And soon, living.

Because people who were REALLY alive would not have let the America who put a man on the moon start slipping really quickly to the back of the bus.  There was a story on Cnn.com the other day (hardly a hotbed of crazy leftwing liberals) about how America has the most expensive “health” “care” in the world and we’re #37 in overall health and well-being. Greece and Iceland are ahead of us! I mean – America?  Is this REALLY the best you can do?

I don’t watch TV, but they play it at my gym.  So when I’m plugging away on the elliptical or treadmill there it is.   Is America really THAT inane?  I think of the Roman emperors “Feed them bread and circuses.”  Man, it’s not even good bread, people.

My friend said that during Obama’s campaign she got hopeful watching the populace get engaged.  But she’s been disappointed subsequently at how people have gone back to apathy.  To sleeping. 

I’m hoping that this nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico awakens people. 

But then again, on the drive home from the city tonight I heard a guy on a radio talk show brag about his 3 vehicles with V-8 engines.  The host said “we’re all paying for your 3 V-8s” (meaning through things like the travesty in the Gulf) and the guy basically said “I simply don’t care” (though he was far less articulate than that).

How did America get so dumb? So asleep?

I think one part of the answer is that when people feel powerless they cease to care.

So that will be my next blog entry – riffing on my friend Myra’s thoughts about incremental change – how to get people to know they CAN make a difference.

But before I get back to my usual stance of “our thoughts create our realities, so let’s focus on how we can make it better” I have to grieve just a bit. 

When I was in 3rd grade they wheeled in a TV on a stand to my classroom.  This was not a usual thing in a Catholic grade school in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  The teacher told us that “The Russians” (ooh! Scary! The Enemy) were putting a rocket into space.  We saw it on the news.  Our teacher told us we had to study REALLY REALLY hard or before you know it, the godless Russians would be running our country and there would be no more Catholic schools.  And we would not be free.

We DID study. 

In 1969 I was in Ft. Smith Arkansas.  My husband was in the Army and mercifully in Arkansas, not Vietnam.  His grandparents came down to visit us. And we listened to the transmission from space of a man walking on the moon.

I grew up thinking – knowing – that this was the greatest country in the world. 

When did people stop caring?  When did we become a plutocracy?  I don’t always agree with Michael Moore, but on this count I do — Dude! I want my country back!

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I’d really like to just blame BP and be done with it.  I mean, wouldn’t you?  Because if you think about what the burning turtles and oil-soaked pelicans REALLY mean – well, it changes everything.

I bought some housewarming gifts for my buddy last night.  Among them were some glass storage jars – I want to call them glass “Tupperware” except that’s a trademark violation – but you know, containers to put leftovers in.  My friend Myra turned me on to getting these and has gently encouraged me (by example) to think about my usage of plastic.

When I think of BP and peak oil and oil addiction and oil-oil-oil-oil-oil (Iraq? economy?  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? who knows! it’s all about the oil spill now) I think of filling my car with gasoline.  I guiltfully think of my long drives down Country Club road seeking beauty, inspiration and refuge.  I self-righteously think “i HAVE to drive to work – it’s not like there’s any other option for that 22 miles each way trip.”

But, until Myra’s urging I wasn’t thinking that much about plastic.  Which, of course, is made of petroleum. That would be oil-oil-oil – yeah, that stuff that is taking over the Gulf of Mexico.

I started to think about plastic in my life but then I felt as helpless and overwhelmed as when i hear about burning turtles.  And at fault. 

Getting the glass containers for leftovers – easy.  The stainless steel water bottle and goodbye bottled water – harder, but still doable.  But I look around my house and think of my typical day – very little of which doesn’t involve plastic.

Then there’s heating/cooling.  I pride myself on being somewhat macho in different ways.  I didn’t wear shorts until menopause, not out of concern for the beauty of my legs (they’re actually alright!) but because as kids my brother and i decided that “tough guys don’t wear shorts.” 

But I’m at a stage in my life where extremes of temperature just aren’t very much fun. Especially the heat of summer, my least favorite season.   So I can’t say I’m doing a Jimmy Carter in the winter (heat down, cardigan on) or emulating my dad in the summer (whose thermostat was set to 79 degrees last weekend when I visited – I thought perhaps i had inadvertently died and was indeed in hell – good gracious that’s too hot!).

I don’t know about you, but when the path ahead feels WAY too steep and murky to boot it looks like a good time to whistle Dixie, grab a little dog and just walk off the cliff like my favorite Tarot character, the Fool.

This whole conundrum brings to mind “paper or plastic?”  – i always felt that was a trick question.  Paper?  Kill trees.  Trees = good.  Paper bags = bad.  But then there’s plastic.  Plastic = oil = bad. 

I finally figured out the TRUE answer:  c) none of the above. Bring cloth reusable bags.  The Americanized books I read on Buddhism exhort me to find the middle way.  So I found it with bags. Ah, relief – now I know what to do.  no guilt, just action – it’s a good thing.

But what do I do about my plastic and oil-laden life? 

My friend Marian suggested we will look back at this oil spill as the turning point – when everything changed.

I can see the good on the other side – we could stop invading countries and killing children so people who think they’re protecting THEIR children could drive huge gas-hog vehicles.  Turtles wouldn’t be murdered (or plankton and pelicans and ospreys and minnows).  We wouldn’t be subsiding terrorists because they’re from countries from whom we need oil.  There’s a zillion good things on the other side. i want to be on the other side. But right now we’re here.

So while we’re figuring out the non-oil world (because we have to) what do I do now?  Paper or plastic?

I want to know what the cloth bag solution is for driving.  For air conditioning (and don’t tell me to get tougher – you can’t imagine how mean I can get when I’m too hot).  For the TON of plastic that i seem to be surrounded by (just in front of me now – my router, my eyeglass frames, the top of my desk lamp, my printer, my photo printer, the 3-tray desk organizer, the Scotch tape container, the paperclip holder, the container that holds blank CDs, the barrels of the ballpoint pens, the case for my fancy headphones for my iPod – and that’s just what I can see in maybe 6 feet around the desk from which I’m writing.

I can see why the right ponies up ridiculous “experts” to say global warming isn’t real – changing your life is hard.  Changing an entire culture – harder.  Dying like the burning turtles – hardest. 

Right now it’s turtles and pelicans and minnows, oh my.  But don’t fool yourself – this trajectory is going nowhere good.  And the worst part?  It really ISN”T something we can pin on BP.  Who’s responsible?  We are, my friends.  You and me.

So what are we going to do about it?

I’m going to continue to work to get smarter.  To make hard, but correct choices.  To look for the cloth bag solutions.

I welcome your input and suggestions. 

And I’m going to pray and ask forgiveness of the sea turtles, the pelicans, the men who died in the explosion, the guy who committed suicide over this mess. 

In the spiritual circles in which I travel we talk about making amends.  Which is not the same as asking forgiveness (though it can involve that). It’s more about changing your ways.  Let’s figure that out.  Will you help?

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I’m noticing that several streams are coming together for me and, like people at my parties, they are all ending up in the kitchen!

– Localvorism:  buying local foods both for environmental reasons and to move away from being part of the machine (hey I KNOW Farmer Nick, Eggland? Not so much….)

– Slow Food movement – cooking my own dinner, not being part of the 51% of American meals that are eaten outside the home.  Though I must say “guilty as charged” for plenty of lunches and dinners, alas 😦

– Creativity – as long as I’m going to trouble myself to cook, I have been actually (Gasp) cooking – not just microwaving what someone else made me for dinner or lunch.  This has led to a lot of odd little mustgo meals (everything that Must Go — from my brother-in-law Tom’s days working in an Eating club when he was at Princeton) which are frugal (using up those mustgo leftovers), healthy and quite delicious.  tonight’s odd offering – leeks, asparagus, Trader Joe’s apple-chicken sausage and because the apples seemed a good idea, 1/2 an apple, plus garlic and pepper jack cheese.  Sound odd?  Make some – it’s delish!

Simple living – cooking for oneself – indeed, doing anything for oneself – is frugal, conscious, and I believe innately satisfying.

Social activism/cultural change – by taking charge of my own life, especially when it involves food I’ve bought directly from the farmers growing it, I’m saying NO to corporate personhood and The Machine.  I’m also in a sidebar way (but in my opinion, just as importantly) saying no to “Health” “Care” –whomever pays for it, a lot of mainstream medical care is fixing what we broke by what we did or didn’t eat.  Me?  I’d rather spend my money and time on food than drugs.  Just not into drugs, thanks very much.

Making dinner is so much more than making dinner.  I’m glad I thought of that.  And glad I thought of throwing in that apple – I think it’s what made the dish!

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