Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Farmer’s Market’

What we’ve been Eating

Just quickly, I wanted to write down some of what we’ve been eating over the last couple of weeks. We are far from thriving as gourmet cooks here, but the contrast between this and our norm just three weeks ago is striking to me. Now that I have my camera back again, I will try to take pictures of new foods as we make and consume them.

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(Not my photo)

Peaches in Oatmeal

Breakfast Foods

We tend to stick with the very basics here. Most days we will eat cooked oatmeal sweetened with pure maple syrup, fresh fruit, and mixed in with either rice or almond milk. Sparkle (9) still refuses to try oatmeal or fruit, unless it’s an orange cut in rings or a banana without bruises. So her typical breakfast is two cooked organic, cage-free eggs, and a couple of links of a Costco brand of sausage that is minimally processed. I forget the exact brand, but will note it when I go back to buy more. I have made pancakes from a GF/DF mix from Harmon’s, but they seemed to be a touch pricey, for the quantity. Today we had breakfast for dinner. I made the Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe for pancakes, and substituted three ingredients: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free flour, canola oil, and a combination of rice/coconut milk. Sparkle wasn’t sure she wanted some, but by the time the rest of us had inhaled our platefuls of pancakes, bananas and pure maple syrup, she decided to eat one too. (Woot-woot!) Some days breakfast consists of a simple green smoothie, Michael usually makes it from spinach, frozen berries, ice, almond or coconut milk, banana, apple, and carrot. After starting Brain Balance, he stopped putting in a spoonful of his favorite strawberry jam (refined sugar). Most of us eat smoothies right up, except you-know-who ;). Daddy’s smoothies are much thicker than mine. I prefer more liquid, and usually add some to my glass. We will try flax-seed soon, to up the nutrient value even more. Oh, and right now, with our trees full of fruit, we are putting fresh peaches into anything and everything we can think of.

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 (Not my photo)

Green Smoothie

Lunch and Dinner Foods

I make a lot of Brazilian beans and rice. Most of the time even Sparkle eats them up. The trick with the beans is a thick saute base of oil, onions, garlic, salt, and cumin. We haven’t made a successful switch from our favorite jasmine white rice, but I am hoping to remedy this soon. So far the best Brazilian rice is made by first browning all the rice in an oil/onion/garlic/salt base, and then boiling, then simmering, with just the right amount of water. I bought a big bag of nice, short-grained brown rice from Costco, and it is calling to me. Soon!

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(Not my photo)

Brazilian Beans and Rice

Did you know that when you combine beans and rice you are eating a perfect protein? Make them Brazilian, and they really are perfect!

Since Brain Balance hasn’t outlawed corn yet (I understand that we will remove this on week 10 however), we make good use of the organic tortilla chips from Costco. They add a little crunch to many dishes, including our taco salad. My taco meat is made with ground beef, browned with a homemade spice combination (chili powder, garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, cumin), and served with tortilla chips, rice, beans, lettuce/spinach, tomatoes, guacamole, corn, and salsa, topped with a touch of homemade, dairy-free ranch dressing from the Brain Balance cookbook.

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(Not my photo)

Dairy-Free Taco Salad

Sometimes as a main lunch course, we dip tortilla chips into albacore tuna, mixed with homemade mayonnaise, and eat garden tomatoes on the side.

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(Not my photo)

Homemade Mayonnaise

Also popular in our family is chicken curry sauce over rice. This is a chicken stock-based dish, beginning with sautéed onions, garlic, spices, and veggies like carrot, potatoes (omitted now for Brain Balance), eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. Michael is the spice master, and takes pride in his ability to season this with just the right amount of curry, nutmeg, garam masala, and onion. A sprinkling of raisins is the final touch. We often don’t have left overs the next day.

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Curry Chicken Sauce

Last night Daddy made his famous Ugandan Curry stew with sautéed red cabbage and purple eggplant from the farmer’s market, lots of sliced onions, garden tomatoes, fresh garlic, seasoned with curry and garam masala spices, in a base of tomato sauce and ground beef mixed in. He also made a lovely corn meal-based side to accompany the stew, called posho. He learned how to do it in Uganda. For dessert, we used our big zucchini to make a Paleo brownie that was a delicious Sunday treat.

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(Not my photos)

Cabbage stew supplies and Posho

Snacks and Treats

Also great with Costco tortilla chips is my homemade fresh guacamole (avocados, chopped onions, diced garden tomatillos, garden yellow and sugar red tomatoes, a bunch of chopped cilantro, fresh juice of lemon, jalapeno pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper).

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(Not my photo)

Homemade Guacamole

Another yummy variation of dip is the Costco Jack’s brand of salsa with fresh peaches or mangoes cut into it. Some days instead of a traditional lunch, we will eat this type of snack at mid-day and then eat a combined lunch and dinner around 4 or 5pm. Fresh fruits and raw veggies are available pretty much around the clock for snacks, and also serve as staples at all meals.

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(Not my photo)

Peach salsa

I have done some experimental baking, thanks to my friend Heidi’s GF/DF/Vegan baking cookbook. So far we have made brownies, white bread, and orange/chocolate chip cookies using her recipes. All of them tasted great, and didn’t last long.

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We also made a simple oatmeal, fruit-sweetened chocolate chip cookie from a recipe I received from Michael’s mom, which turned out delicious.

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A meme from Facebook

I replaced the raisins here with Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

So far we have kept things pretty simple. I hope, as we go along, to get more creative, and be able to make mealtimes really enjoyable and healthy for all of us. For now, I’m just delighted to find my children, for the most part, to be flexible and open to eating differently. Where we are at now is a place that I thought, in times past, we weren’t capable of achieving. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.

Sunshine and Nutrients, Days 12-17

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(Not my photo)

The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together. ~Kurdish Saying

Well, we’ve passed through two intense weeks. Emotional intensity has always been a quality of our family’s life together. I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t know how to be anything else, and hope that others will just accept this fact and embrace it, as our friends. It should not be surprising to anyone who knows us that this program would crank up the pressure for us, and boy, has it! I was not certain at the outset that this would be a bad thing for us, and hoped sincerely that it would mean the opposite. And boy, has it! This post is dedicated to the enumeration of the positives that have come into our life since we commenced. Unfortunately my written descriptions and past images will have to suffice, as we have misplaced our camera once again.

August 1st was a great time to start this program for us. We have no birthdays in our immediate family (no need to make a birthday cake anytime soon) and school has been out of session, giving us the maximum latitude and flexibility to change up our routine. Our garden and fruit trees are producing well, providing an abundance of fresh produce which is directly incorporated into daily healthy meals. We have a farmer’s market every Saturday across the street from the Brain Balance center, both of which are situated less than two miles from our home. This helps me a ton. I received a note from one woman who moved out to Utah from Wisconsin this summer, so that her kids could participate in the Brain Balance program here in South Jordan. Her husband had to stay behind to work, leaving her to navigate the demands of this program as a single parent. I’m so lucky that it is all so convenient and close by, and that this house we bought last year was already stocked with the raw tools to assist us in our effort. Here are some pics of our garden and trees.

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Pears Galore

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Zucchini to Spare

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A bough from one of our mature peach trees, broken under the weight of beautiful peaches.

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Two garden boxes full of veggies.

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Golden Delicious Apple Tree

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Peas, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins

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Dash holds the BIG zuc, with Sparkle and Freckles. We just made Paleo Zucchini Brownies with that baby.

Physical provisions notwithstanding, the spiritual and  mental blessings that we’ve received since beginning the Brain Balance program outshine them. Right around day 6 or 7, my friend TS from church called me out of the blue. She thought she should call, but didn’t know why. Unbeknownst to her, we were in the thick of the overwhelming diet changes, and she had just recently gone through her own journey. They’d learned that her husband has Celiac Disease, and subsequently took the whole family off of gluten. In that process she had gained insight and resources that she could now pass on to me. Beyond the resources, she comforted me by just listening to my complaints, and giving me encouragement.

Last week, around Days 12 and 13, I needed more insight into how I could try my hand at improvising with food, and experimenting with the new ingredients. I also needed more recipes that were yummy and would fit the regime. The BB diet is not quite as restrictive as Paleo or GAPS, but more restrictive than most. By this time we were eating in compliance, but still not thriving. Great recipes have to be pretty narrowly defined. Thanks be to God, a couple of people came to my rescue at this juncture, with excellent resources, both with years of experience.

DB is a family friend who remarried last year, and at the same time undertook the huge task of thriving on a Paleo diet. He and his kids have lived with some of the same sensory issues that we have seen in our children, and have found a variety of tools, a Paleo diet included, that have helped them conquer their symptoms. Lucky for him, he married an adventurous woman, who not only took on the Paleo challenge, but turned their kitchen into a veritable Paleo Laboratory. She employs her daughters as taste testers, and regularly turns out what appear to be gourmet masterpieces! Her blog, if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks Miss Julie, and your Superman!

ND is a perfectly beautiful woman, who also happens to be the former owner of our happy home. She and her family filled this home with happy and healthy traditions, and she inspires me to do likewise. She read my last blog entry, and was moved to have compassion on me :). After midnight on Day 13, she was going to bed, but decided to write me an email before retiring. In true stream of consciousness form, she wrote down some of the ways she has modified her family’s meals to include a healthier array of options. With each meal idea, she included how she had improvised to make it better. Thanks to her writing form, common ingredients and recipes became useful to me. I began to see a bridge being built in my mind, between our former eating lifestyle, and our new paradigm. I begin to see how we can move forward, even after program interventions are complete, and settle on a healthier norm for our family. She also sent follow-up emails, along with more recipes and ideas in each one. THANK YOU, ND!!

Just to give my BB friends a couple more ideas, and to highlight how helpful her email was, here is an excerpt:

“Hamburger curry over rice: I love this because I can make it in the crockpot and it is ready when we are.  Cut up 2 cups of cabbage, 1-2 c celery, add cooked hamburger and onions, 1 to 2 t curry pwd and some ckn broth or water. It will need 1 t or so salt and serve over rice.  The recipe calls for a bit of catsup, but it should be good without it.  You could even grate some zuc or slice it. I like it if the veggies don’t get too done..nice and crispy.

Our family really liked a casserole I made with rice and hamburger and zuc.  I cooked the rice, added a package of cooked frozen hamburger (or what you have, I cook mine ahead and freeze it since it is such a mess to cook up), and some zuc sliced–I used to add some cream of something soup, but I think it would be yummy with a little coconut milk. Salt and onions would be yummy in it too.

You could make a zuc casserole with taco seasoning–the Schilling at Costco I think is clean for you, or you could make your own–, hamburger, sliced zuc and onions.  The recipe calls for Doritos on top (which are so not good for you) but maybe you could sub some rice chips–Dave’s has some yummy ones seaweed and something–also can get them at Smiths market place.  Maybe chips are totally out now, you could use the Costco plain corn chips to add some crunch–or it would probably be good without oh..it needs some tomato sauce, maybe two cans–boy, these are really rough recipes, but I hope they will give you some ideas to experiment with.

The apples from your tree make wonderful apple crisp–they won’t need much sweetening and I bet you could figure out a great topping with a bit of sucanut, oats?/gluten-free flour or pancake mix and a little oil. The apples are sweetest when they are yellow, can freeze and stay best and crisp right on the tree. I am so glad we planted all those trees for you!”

Oh, and here is another healthy food blog she linked from another neighbor. Thanks again, ND!

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Love this meme. It’s true.

Beyond the heaven-sent help, I have also seen mental and physical health improvements in myself, Big B and others. Dash seems to be cruising through the exercises, and has accepted the diet, not without some grumbling :). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Big B’s balance is improving, and he is losing some of his tummy. Eye exercises have been hard for him to do each day, but he is trying. He can do sit-ups better than before (still working on the push-up formations, but that’s OK). His ability to do all the exercises and complete them continues to improve, albeit not without meltdowns. He needs lots of breaks, and still does the whole routing much better for Daddy than he does for me. I could be imagining it, but Big B’s eyes seem to be better aligned than they were previously. We go to the park a lot, and his coordination/ability to run around without falling down seems to be improving as well. Oh yay, Baby Blues just found my camera! Here are some park shots.

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We try to have the whole family do the exercises each day. With the exception of our 4-year-old, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. (Baby Blues just watches the rest of us laughingly.) My own lower back, which seems always to have been quite weak and prone to back pain, especially when I was pregnant or nursing a child, is much stronger now. The morning back aches, a fixture in my life previously, are gone. Earlier this year and last, I saw my hair thinning at what seemed to be an unnatural pace. I’d read enough to gather that it could be an indicator of a hormone imbalance, which of course can be greatly exacerbated by diet. Since we changed our eating habits, I have noticed that my hair seems to have stopped shedding. This has been a relief to me, if not an unexpected stroke to my vanity. I’ve lost five pounds. My husband isn’t keeping track, but he’s lost weight too. (I can tell because there is less of him to wrap my arms around.) This makes both of us happier with ourselves, as we have carried unnecessary girth around for some time now.

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(Not my photo)

Perhaps this biggest benefit to the diet changes for me, is the way I have seen my moodiness and stamina stabilize in a big way. With a predisposition for depression in my family of origin, and having lived it firsthand for many years, I’m indescribably thankful to God for helping us put our aspirations into action through the Brain Balance program. To be sure, there is more than one way to achieve balance in one’s life. If I had hired a personal trainer for myself, I’m certain that I might see similar results, though perhaps not as dramatic, because a personal trainer’s diet would not have eliminated all of the inflammatory foods that BB has. As a mom, I have never been able to make that kind of investment in myself, worthwhile as it may be. What got us on board here, is that the well-being of our kids would be directly improved thereby. We had no idea how transformative it would actually be. For Michael and I, Brain Balance is a means of accelerating our physical and mental development beyond what it was. For Dash and Big B, and to a lesser extent, all five of our kids, BB is a way for us to help them over developmental hurdles that have heretofore been insurmountable. It may as well have been Mt. Everest to us.

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(Not my photo. Mt. EVerest)

Brain Balance Days 1-4

 Yep, this picture pretty much sums it up around here.

At this writing, we are on Day 5.

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This was our last fast food trip, pre-Brain Balance. I chose one of my favorite places, The Purple Turtle.  None of this food would make it on to our approved menu list now. Dash was mad at me for choosing this place, so he made sure he let me know how miserable I was making his life! I thought to myself at this moment, “Babe, you have no idea. Come back in another week or two (after we get going on the Brain Balance diet), and you will be pleading for corn dogs and tater tots. In the days leading up to Day 1 of Brain Balance exercises and diet changes, we went through our kitchen and purged. I’ve learned the therapeutic value of a household purge. Every time I do it, I feel like the world is new, and the brain clutter has vanished. I highly recommend it to anyone, and every six months is best!! That said, this is the first time that I’ve managed a complete food purge on a broad scale. Excepting a few long term food storage items like whole wheat, sugar, and powdered milk, anything that we couldn’t eat on this new regime was put in one of two places: In a box for Leilani and Jake (10 kids in their blended family), or in the trash. The guidelines are: no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no MSG/Additives/Preservatives/Artificial dyes/flavorings, no refined sugars or flours, no white rice or white potatoes, and only 5 raw sugars (pure maple, honey, agave, stevia and coconut sugar) in small amounts. Organic produce is encouraged as far as possible, and organic products that meet the above specs. Boa Sorte to us!

Day 1

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My husband and I are lucky to have a great realtionship. It is rare that we lose our tempers with each other. When this happens, it is usually about one thing: Money. If you know us well, you know that we have very different paradigms about how to approach money. We each have good and bad elements that we bring to the financial table. We learned early on that this fact was likely never to change. So we make do, and set the parameters together, because that is all we can do. It was a HUGE, GIGANTIC deal to get us to a place where we were both willing to put out the big bucks to enroll in this type of program. But some resources are worth it. Those like the Brain Balance Center, which are changing families and lives every day, in significant ways, is one of them.

We are almost 5 days in to the process of making over our family diet, and undertaking some pretty involved physical exercises to help us rewire our brains. It’s not as intense as I imagine a military boot camp might be, but it is tough. We went through the excercises for the third time, and found that Big B has a hard time even getting into the formation to do some of the exercises. So we are starting slow, not expecting a lot. On Day 1 of the new diet, Michael and I had more fights than perhaps we’ve had in the last 6 months put together! I have no idea what came over our household, but apparently stuff happens when you start messing with lifelong eating habits :).

In our (almost) 15 years together, we have learned about and implemented a number of health strategies, with varying degrees of success. In spurts of collective energy, we’ve learned how to de-tox from sugar as a family, and incorporated green juices and green smoothies into our diet. We’ve gone to counseling when trauma has arisen. or when my depression has become too much. We’ve intermittently jumped off the conveyor belt of public schooling, and replaced it with a homeschool routine. We recently upped our aerobic levels together as a family, by way of running together. All of these interventions have been helpful and necessary. But the emerging pattern is that we haven’t been able to sustain excellent diet and lifestyle habits over enduring lengths of time, and this keeps us stuck on the proverbial treadmill. Throw one or more special needs kids into this mix which, and it can get pretty insane.  This is one of the big reasons we needed to pay the big bucks. Once you give that kind of money to someone, to change your family’s life, you can’t afford to blow it off. You can’t give up when it starts to get rough.

We took Dash and Big B to their first Brain Balance sessions at the center. B ran a path from one wall of the lobby to the next. They have the cutest built-in miniature house, right there in the lobby, complete with a couch for mom and a shelf of toys to make the wait pleasant. He’d occasionally pause there. but mostly chose to run around. Both boys came out happy, and excited to return in two days. After dropping them off I dashed madly to the Harmons nearby to load up on whole foods that we could eat. This was a hungry day. And I had a big headache.

Day 2

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(Not my photo)

On the morning of the second day, I woke up on the verge of a panic attack. I had been having bad dreams all night. Incidentally Robert Downing Jr. was in my dreams. He had his Iron Man persona going on, but in a bad way. Iron Man in a leather jacket was a homicidal gang leader in my neighborhood, who went on the attack, anytime someone questioned his authority or stood up to him. Throughout this extended dream sequence, I spent most of my time either fighting him or hiding myself and my family from him, after having inexplicably called him out on his bullying. Any dream interpreters want to take a shot at it? Analyze that and get back to me, will you? What I get from this is that I have been in fight or flight mode for a little while now, trying to gather the resources to fight the incredible forces of habit.

Usually when things get too demanding or chaotic, I stop and take a break to breathe, and address the tasks at hand only when I’ve achieved a semi-peaceful emotional space (you could also read this as procrastination, but it is a coping mechanism). When it’s not possible to work up to big tasks, I do dive in, but often with a bad attitude. I’ve purposely designed my life to be simple and flexible enough to allow me time and space to approach things without haste.

So on this morning, instead of getting out of bed immediately to do exercses like we’d been, I curled up in a ball and asked Michael to hold me. In that moment, I prayed to God to help me do it. I didn’t want to blow the routine off, but the tasks in front of me loomed like Everest. By the way, that’s a tag line for Michael’s company. “What’s Your Everest?” they ask. The idea is that any company which has tough marketing and financial issues to resolve, should come to them to do the tough analysis, and will come away with real solutions. Not even a week before Day 2, I sat in church in San Jose, with the women in my old neighborhood. I’d been asked to read a quote about how God will remove mountains for us when we exercise our faith. I cried as I read it (Mormon women emote a lot on Sundays when they all gather). I felt that God had recently given me the tools to remove what has felt like a mountain of concern and frustration over Big B’s developmental delays. And now here I was, on Day 2, the reality of the task bearing down. I asked Michael to give me a priesthood blessing, which he gladly did. (laid his hands on my head, and invoked a blessing of extra strength and courage from God on my behalf). I felt better. With Michael’s help, I’d given myself the emotional space to put off diving in unprepared, and we got the first iteration of exercises done for the day. Sometimes inertia can be crippling. Thankfully it can be overcome.

Day 3

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(Not my photo)

Today we dropped the kids off for their second sessions at the Brain Balance center, and went immediately to the nearby farmer’s market. They were in the last half hour of their sale time, so we got half price on a lot of fresh, organic produce. A cup of organic raspberries at the market was $3.00. At the local store to compare prices afterward, we found remarkably that it was $2-3.00 more to buy a similar amount of conventionally grown raspberries. With Daddy home on this Saturday, Day 3 was much brighter than Day 2. He helped me do all three home exercise sessions, and the kids listened to him really well. I’m not sure why this happens, but they often listen better for him than they do for me. Today we had a small breakthrough for Big B. He was working on the “lizard” exercises, which have two parts. It was tough for him to execute yesterday, but today he managed to put his body into the mirror formation of the first position without help. He got SO excited, he jumped up and ran around yelling, “I did it myself, I did it myself!! Mommy, did you see? I did it myself!” So yes, a happy moment today. For a treat, I tried to convert my normal brownies recipe into a product that met the new dietary specs. Sadly, this failed miserably. I was surprised how overly sweet it tasted to me, after having no treats for a few days. We had plenty of meltdowns from Big B today as well, but we worked them out. We also weeded a couple of plant beds, and removed a couple of zucchini plants that had taken over a big chunk of the garden. We went to bed tired.

Day 4

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Looking East over South Jordan

On Sunday, Day 4, we took a break from the home exercises to focus on keeping the Sabbath day. This was a welcome rest. Big B kept asking if we could do the exercises. He also loves taking the lemon flavored fish oil pills at bedtime, and kept thinking that he wouldn’t get his fish oil if we didn’t follow the routine (we use that leverage when needed). I went to visit family in the next valley over, and enjoyed the “me” time immensely. Michael made curry chicken and rice for dinner. He added the Brazilian beans I made yesterday as a side dish, and it complemented the menu quite well. On this day I felt loved and supported by my extended family for our new journey. There really is nothing better than to love and be loved :).

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