A #Heartfulness Journey with Tonia Anne

A #Heartfulness Journey with Tonia Anne

World Moms Network has teamed up with the Heartfulness Institute as a media partner for their upcoming meditation conferences in the United States. As part of this partnership, World Moms Blog will feature a meditation related post each week through the end of June. This week, World Moms Senior Editor, Kyla P’an, sat down (virtually) with Heartfulness trainer, Tonia Anne, to have a deeper conversation about meditation. Here’s what Tonia had to say about her journey:

Tonia is a terrific example of a World Mom: she is half-Irish, half-French, her husband is Indian and they live across the river from the Melting Pot of America, New York City. She is raising two children, ages seven and four, and has been practicing meditation for more than twenty years. Talking with Tonia is a little like listening to classical music, it’s melodic and soothing. She’s delightfully at peace and put together but she says her life hasn’t always been so.

“In my early-twenties, life seemed quite confusing. I was a sensitive young adult quite lacking in self-assurance. I was studying and working in the professional theatre and life felt complicated. In this context, my mom, who had started practicing meditation a few years earlier, encouraged me also to try meditation.”

When Tonia’s mom put her in touch with a Heartfulness trainer, Tonia was surprised to discover how easy it was to get started; all she had to do was meet with a trainer for 30-minutes each day for three consecutive days to learn how to do this heart-centered meditation. After the three sessions, Tonia knew how to meditate on her own. The trainer encouraged her to join weekly group meditation sessions, which she did. There was a lot of support.

buddha

But Tonia didn’t become a regular meditator overnight. Just as acquiring any new skill, it took practice. “I didn’t do it every day at first but I did find myself looking forward to the good feeling I got from meditating, so I found ways to fit it in,” she reflects.

“Heartfulness meditation is so utterly simple. There is nothing complicated about it. You connect with your heart, rest your awareness there, the ongoing thoughts recede into the background. You are still; and at the same time you are receptive to your heart, which enables you to capture its guidance. Progressively there’s a growing sense of clarity and peacefulness,” says Tonia.

“It feels like the most natural thing to do, like following an inner compass. Like bringing yourself back to yourself.”

To hear Tonia describe meditation makes you realize, perhaps anyone can do this successfully. She’s convinced they can. Meditation, after all, is tuning into a quality of being rather than making something happen.

To help non-practitioners better understand what happens with thoughts, Tonia provides a simple, visual image:

“Picture a river with a bridge over it. Crossing the bridge are lots of little cars. These cars are your thoughts and rather than focusing your attention on any one of the cars (thoughts), you can step back and notice that the river flows nonetheless. At any given moment you can choose where to direct your attention, here we rest our attention on a single point in the heart.”

“We work well with patterns and routines,” she adds. “If you create a place for your meditation (a comfortable chair, a room, a specific spot on the floor), and set a regular time each day to practice, be it 10, 20 or 30 minutes, then soon enough, it becomes a routine.”

Twenty years in, Tonia now meditates every day. Her practice starts when she naturally wakes up before 6 a.m., “before everyone else in my house gets up; before the hustle and bustle of the day; before the e-mails and schedules, when the mind is calmer.” This is the time she takes for herself and she does it by settling into a designated chair in her family room for a thirty to sixty-minute session. She says it makes her feel centered and gives her poise. It sets the tone for her day, and the whole family seems to benefit.

“We are constantly being solicited, especially as moms. We are constantly nurturing and attending to others’ needs. Meditation is my time to be nurtured. Setting aside time for myself in a deep way, where I am connecting with my deepest longing, helps me find balance and deal better,” says Tonia.

When asked how she decided to make meditation such an integral part of her life, Tonia’s answer was simple and beautiful:

“As a child I would wonder in awe at life, at this life that had been given and that I was in, and have a sense that there must be something to make of it…a sense of a diffuse dream. Meditation is like remembering the dream and living more on purpose.”

To learn more about the Heartfulness Institute and their upcoming US conferences, please visit their website: www.heartfulness.org

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Fast Track

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Fast Track

readingLast week I took my daughter to a local book store to spend a gift card she received for her birthday. My daughter loves books and had a hard time deciding what she wanted most, to purchase the final books in one of her existing collections or get something totally new.

While I was in a different section, my daughter engaged the children’s department manager in a book discussion. Evidently sharing with the woman all of her latest good-reads, which included much of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, all of the Harry Potters, and several non-fictions like I Am Malala and A Long Walk to Water.

When I arrived back on the scene, the woman commended me for raising such a voracious reader and said she was amazed that my daughter went to public school, being convinced that only private schools could produce such a 3rd grade equivalent.

I didn’t know if I should be flattered or offended.

The woman, who was in her late 50’s, was a retired educator herself and clearly had a deep passion for books and strong opinions about appropriate reading levels. She impressed upon me that many of my daughter’s book choices were advanced for her age and encouraged me to consider steering her away from further indulgences.

This sentiment concerned me because, until recently, I had kept close tabs on what my children were reading and most of the advanced books were ones we read together. But lately, my daughter had been zooming ahead of me, finding pockets of reading time at school and also before lights out at night.

Admitedly, I hadn’t read any of the Percy Jackson books. Knowing that the books had been made in to PG-13 movies did have me somewhat concerned about content but was I really hearing this book specialist right? Was she really trying to stymie my child’s enthusiasm for reading by directing her choices?

The woman was trying to point out that my daughter is only a third grader once and there were plenty of sweet, age-appropriate books out there for her to indulge in. Didn’t I want to save these 6th, 7th and 8th grade books for later?

I really had to think about this.

After all aren’t I always trying to slow my daughter’s maturity? Aren’t I the same mother that won’t let her watch teen television shows because they’re too sassy and full of content ahead of her age? Could  books be presenting the same issue?

I’ve grappled with this for the better part of 7 days now. What are the demigods in Percy Jackson doing up there at Camp Half Blood? Aside from the reality of Malala Yousafzai getting shot point blank by the Taliban, what fictional characters might be playing out scandalous scenes in my daughter’s young mind from The Secret Benedict Society?

Does it make me a less engaged parent if I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of my childrens’ literary lives? Do I need to give up my own sacred reading time to be sure I’m on topic with my kids?

A writer friend of mine told me once that the difference between books and movies was that movies spoon feed us all of the images and visuals in a story whereas books let our imaginations fill in the scenery.

When kids read books with ideas or content beyond their experience levels, their minds fill in the pictures age appropriately.

I saw this first hand when My daughter read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in first grade without having bad dreams but when she saw the movie in second grade, she had nightmares about the final images of Voldemort for months.

I love my daughter passion for reading and I’m proud of her advanced and eclectic book selections but now there’s a little nagging voice whispering in my ear every time she picks up a new and unfamiliar novel.

And in the end, instead of helping us find a few new, good books, I think the well-intentioned saleswoman may have done more harm than good.

Where do you stand with letting your children read ahead of their age level? Do you think this saleswoman had a point?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our senior editor and mom to two, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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WORLD INTERVIEW: Erin Thornton, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts

WORLD INTERVIEW: Erin Thornton, Executive Director of Every Mother Counts

erin-thornton_executive-directorEvery mother has the right to access the care they need during pregnancy and childbirth – care that can identify, prevent, and manage complications should they arise. But failure to meet these needs results in the loss of 800 mothers every day, even though up to 98% of these deaths are preventable. 

 Every Mother Counts is working to provide solutions that can make pregnancy and childbirth safer. We know that with the right care at the right time, it IS possible that every mother could have the chance to survive and thrive.

Recently, World Moms Blog sat down with Executive Director of Every Mother Counts, Erin Thornton, to talk about how she got involved with the organization and what drives her to work so hard for maternal health.

World Moms Blog: Erin, you’re the mother of three young girls and you live in the metro-Boston area yet you are the executive director of Every Mother Counts, a New York-based non-profit working in five locations around the world. How did you get involved?

Erin Thornton: My involvement with Every Mother Counts grew out of a 10-day trip to Africa with my former organization, ONE. We had invited  Christy Turlington Burns along and she and I got chatting about maternal health. Maternal health was not an issue ONE focused on and I was really drawn to what Christy was telling me about.

WMB: What about maternal health drew you in?

ET: Well, Christy had just completed the film, “No Woman, No Cry” a documentary about maternal health challenges that impact the lives of millions of girls and women around the world. During our  trip through five African countries, Christy and I spent a lot of time comparing notes on what was needed to move the maternal health agenda forward. Through all my time at ONE, I realized how interlinked so many poverty challenges are to maternal health—that if moms are kept alive, we can better keep kids alive, better give them an education and clean water, etc. Yet still no one was really talking about it.

WMB: What prompted you to leave behind a long career with ONE and join Christy in her pursuit of spreading maternal health awareness as she built this new non-profit?

ET: I had been with ONE since 2002, when I became the first hire in the US for ONE’s predecessor organization, DATA. By 2010, ONE had grown to 120 people in four different global offices. I had two young girls and I was starting to think about making a change. The more Christy and I talked about the need for an “awareness campaign” for maternal health, the more I realized I wanted to be a part of it too, so six-months later, I formally signed on to help her build the organization.

WMB:  In just a few days (May 10), we celebrate Mother’s Day here in the US, can you share with World Moms something about what makes you a passionate believer in Every Mother Counts?

ET: Physiologically, every woman goes through pregnancy the same way and faces the same chances of developing a complication. The difference in how they fare mainly comes down to whether they have access to good health care- or not. Helping more moms enjoy a safe pregnancy and delivery may sound like an overwhelming challenge but we really CAN make a difference. EMC has identified three target areas to focus our support on: 1. transport, 2. education and training for healthcare providers, and 3. supplies for clinics–including birth kits, solar suitcases and lighting. And we’re seeing that these seemingly simple things are making a big difference.

This Mother’s Day, Every Mother Counts is celebrating #WhatIsPossible for every mother.

Every mother has the right to access the care they need during pregnancy and childbirth – care that can identify, prevent, and manage complications should they arise. But failure to meet these needs results in the loss of 800 mothers every day, even though up to 98% of these deaths are preventable.

Every Mother Counts is working to provide solutions that can make pregnancy and childbirth safer. We know that with the right care at the right time, it IS possible that every mother could have the chance to survive and thrive.

So this Mother’s Day, as we look at the future of maternal health, we ask ourselves #WhatIsPossible? And the answer is, a lot.

With your help, Every Mother Counts has already impacted thousands of lives by improving access to critical maternal health care for vulnerable mothers.

During the month of May, we invite you to spread the good news about #WhatIsPossible by sharing this film.

This is an original interview with Erin Thornton posted by World Moms Blog Managing Editor, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is from the Every Mother Counts website and is used here with permission.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

hong baoSolar year, 2015—celebrated in most of the Western world— is small potatoes  compared to its lunar counterpart starting today: The Year of the Goat, 4713.

Today, in many countries across Asia, people are celebrating Chinese New Year [CNY]. It marks the first day of the lunar year, which begins with the second new moon after the Winter Solstice.

CNY is the most important holiday for Chinese people world-wide and is celebrated in countries with significant Chinese populations (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Mauritius).

Even right here in America, in ways both big and small, Chinese families are celebrating the Year of the Goat too.

My husband, a first generation Chinese-American, brought his  Chinese culture into our home and together we have established our own family traditions.

Both our 8 and 5 year old children attend Chinese Language School so our celebrations typically begin there. This year, each of our kids performed in a class skit—one doing a New Year’s song and the other both a song and dance.

Their Chinese school rents out a local auditorium and the celebration goes on for four hours, complete with traditional paper decorations, red lanterns and Chinese snacks of spring rolls, scallion pancakes and fortune cookies (the latter of which I’m pretty sure is a wholly American invention).

And though the four-hour Chinese school celebration feels long and drawn out, it’s nothing compared to the 15-day celebration going on over in Asia.

We live just outside of Boston, a city boasting a large Chinatown. If we’re really motivated, we can fight the crowds and view Lion Dancers, firecrackers in the street and dine on authentic Chinese fare surrounded by thousands of people.

This year, however, our city is buried under record amounts of snow (96.7in/2.5m) so we won’t be making any such pilgrimage.

Sometimes we have friends over and make homemade wontons, a symbolic food representing a pouch of coins, or Hot Pot. Other years we just make sure we eat some kind of Chinese food (either at home or in a restaurant).

We also make sure we always give our kids Hong Bao, little, red envelopes filled with “lucky” money. Since our kids don’t get an allowance, this feels special to them. We never give them very much because it’s the gesture that counts but if they happen to be lucky enough to visit their great-grandmother around Chinese New Year,   they might get upwards of $50.

I know these little traditions are modest compared to mainland China but we hope that in our small way we are instilling in our children a some sense of the deep culture they are part of.

恭禧發財 

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

How do you hold on to your cultural heritage? What are some traditions you’ve incorporated into your own family?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two in Boston, Massachusetts, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post was taken by the author.

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Educating Girls

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Educating Girls

malalaI have long been an advocate of girls education. It is something I want every girl, wherever she is in the world, to have access to. I deeply believe educating girls is a major proponent in our quest to improve the world.

So when my daughter was born eight years ago, I committed myself to ensuring that she would always have the access to and support she needs in attaining the best education my husband and I can give her.

But along with the paramount importance her education is to me, so too is her understanding of how valuable having an education is and how lucky she is to have safe schools and multiple options available to her.

But how do you impart this to an eight-year-old?

Like the majority of other eight-year-olds in the US, my daughter takes it for granted that she attends school five-days-a-week, Monday through Friday. But she also attends school on Sunday, when she goes to Chinese School. And this she does not take for granted, instead she long viewed it as a hindrance to her free-time. Because, though she only spends 90-minutes a week at Chinese school, its homework load and test schedule far exceed that of her American school, where she spends more than 30-hours-a-week.

Whenever my daughter complains about the work load or Chinese school conflicting with social events, I find myself saying:

You have NO idea how lucky you are to have more than one school to attend.

But until recently, this was a phrase delivered with little impact. That is, until my  daughter started reading her latest book: I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai.

She received the book for Christmas, along with A Long Walk to Water, from her aunt. When she opened the gift, I was thrilled because, though I love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, here were some stories that really mattered; finally, some glimpses into a REAL world, just one my child did not yet know.

I hoped, desperately, that she’d want to read these stories.

I was in luck.

Almost as soon as she picked up I Am Malala, she had trouble putting it down. It was filled with concepts she had trouble getting her head around: like the idea that a person could board Malala’s “school bus” with the intent to kill her or that having access to school was a privilege.

It had her asking all kinds of questions: about hardships and hurdles girls in other parts of the world have to face in order to get an education; about what it means to be a top student; about what sorts of sacrifices students (and their families) have to make in pursuit of education.

Reading Malala’s story is opening my daughter’s eyes to the opportunities and freedoms she takes for granted and it is giving her a deeper gratitude for what she has.

I don’t want my young children to worry about the injustices and evil out in the world but I do want them to understand better the many blessings they have and that not everyone has the same access to these opportunities.

Tomorrow, here in the US, our Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will air the third and final episode of #APathAppears. In January, when World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, World Voice Editor, Elizabeth Atalay and I attended the pre-screening of this series in New York, by invitation of @SaveTheChildren, it was episode 3 that resonated most with me.

The episode highlights Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya. But rather than showing us the desperate side of life in the slum, viewers (and readers of the eponymous book before) are introduced to Kennedy Odede and his wife Jessica and the organization they have built, Shining Hope for Communities(SHOFCO).

Like me, and so many others, SHOFCO knows that the pathway to hope is guided by educating girls. Authors Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn remind us that, if enough people walk in the direction of hope, ultimately A Path Appears.

You can watch the PBS series, A Path Appears online, by clicking here. Or read the book of the same title by husband and wife journalists @NickKristoff and Sheryl @WuDunn.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sr. Editor and mother of two in Massachusetts, USA, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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STUDY ABROAD: Japan

STUDY ABROAD: Japan

Japan 1994

The author with her Japanese host family,
Oshogatsu (New Year’s Day), 1994

When I was eight years old, my mom moved from our home, outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to start a new life for herself in Los Angeles, California.

Growing up on the East Coast of the US, in the 1970’s, I had been exposed to only small pockets of Asian, immigrant populations; I knew nothing of the large, well-established Asian populations out on the West Coast.

On one of my first trips out to visit, my mom took me to an area of Los Angeles called Little Tokyo. As its name infers, it was a predominantly Japanese neighborhood and wandering around its streets made me feel like I had been transported to a different land.

I can’t remember if I had ever had sushi before my visit but certainly I had never experienced sushi in as authentic a setting as the restaurant she took me to that day.

The entrance involved crossing a wooden bridge over a small koi pond. There were stone lanterns and bonsai trees. the waitresses were all clad in kimono and the sushi arrived at our table on small wooden planks. I was mesmerized. For me, it was love at first…bite.

This experience had such an impact on me that, from that day on, I was enthralled by anything Japanese. I wanted to know everything I could about the country, culture and its people.

The Japanese were the great inventors of all things prominent in my childish memory: Iron Man, Godzilla, Kero-Kero Keroppi, Hello Kitty, my first Walkman. What a genius tribe they must be!

The rise of my curiosity coincided perfectly with the rise of the Japanese economy. Access to their food, products and even language grew increasingly accessible.

When I was in high school, a small group of students expressed their desire to study Japanese, a language option not yet offered at my school. Fortunately for us, since our school was less than an hour from Yale University—one of the US’s leading colleges—we petitioned for and received permission to get transportation to Yale one evening a week, so we could take an introductory-level Japanese language class there.

When I began researching colleges the following year, I selected only those with an established Japanese language program and study abroad opportunities.

I ended up at a small, liberal arts college in Tennessee with a strong International Studies department. I enrolled in every Japanese class they offered. In my sophomore year, I applied for and was accepted into my school’s Japanese exchange program with our sister university in Osaka, Japan.

At the end of my sophomore year, when all students had to declare their majors, I–along with one other student–petitioned for and was granted permission to develop the school’s first degree track in Japanese Studies. It seemed an auspicious plan, considering the Japanese purchase of the iconic, US landmark, Rockefeller Center, earlier that same year.

I spent my entire junior year of college abroad, studying at a Japanese university, living with two separate Japanese families and absorbing as much of the country and culture as possible for a college-aged kid.

I turned 21 there, a major American coming-of-age. I participated on Japanese sports teams, took painting and pottery classes, studied the culture through the fascinating lens of manga (Japanese comics), dated only Japanese men and immersed myself in the pursuit of understanding all things Japanese.

Japan 1994_1

The author and her host sister dressed in kimono

My study abroad experience had an unbelievable impact on my life. It launched my passion and insatiable hunger for travel and Asia, beyond Japan.

I gained greater independence, broadened my global perspectives, forged life-long friendships, developed cultural empathy and experienced life as a minority; a gaijin (outsider) in a homogeneous land.

 

I consider my study abroad experience the foundation of the life I built upon it. I know that many of us here at World Moms Blog also have had experiences living and studying abroad; it is one of the many ties that bind us. We are global citizens striving to raise our own children in an increasingly globalized world.

But, as you will learn later today from World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, here in the US, accessibility to and enthusiasm for studying abroad are not as prevalent as many of us may think.

So what’s it like in your country? Are study abroad programs prolific on your college campuses? Did you benefit from studying abroad? Tell us about what the experience means to you.

And stay tuned later today for Jen’s post on Studying Abroad and how the White House is playing a part…

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two rising, global citizens, Kyla P’an.

The pictures used in this post are credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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