10 Things You Should Definitely Toss Before The New Year Rolls Around
I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t do holidays, I am a Rosh Hashanah observer or what, but I really do find it fascinating (sometimes even funny), that right when November pops up, so many folks will make these grand declarations about all of the things that they are going to do…after New Year’s Day. So…you’re going to wait two whole months, as if tomorrow is guaranteed, to make big changes in your life? Doesn’t that sound more like procrastination more than anything? I mean, why not start right now? Like…right now.
More or less, that’s what this article is about. In the spirit of seizing the day and also in honor of those who may put stock into the turn of a calendar year, here 10 things that, by getting rid of them, you can feel lighter, more focused and ready for your new season — whether to you, that is tomorrow, next week or yes, January 1, 2022 (sounds crazy to say, doesn’t it? Whew, chile!).
1. Expired Stuff
There is nothing like buying some canned goods, telling yourself that you’re going to use them, and then when you finally get around to it, you realize that because they were put way back in the back of your pantry, they now are totally expired (le sigh). Y’all, I don’t care if it’s food (including spices), make-up, sunscreen, medicine, tea bags (yes, tea expires; the only food that doesn’t is honey), eyeglasses (get your annual exam; lens prescriptions can also expire); motor oil; paint or batteries — if it had an expiration date on it when you bought it, check it now to see if it’s expired or not. If it is, it’s not going to benefit you on any level at this point, so it’s time to let it go.
2. Certain Streaming Apps
Recently, I was teasing a friend of mine who, a couple of years ago, tried to be slightly high ‘n mighty about the fact that, while I still had cable, she had “downsized” to streaming apps. As we were comparing notes on how that’s been going, she is now paying about $75 more than what my monthly bill is. Listen, I know that the pandemic’s lockdown had us all thinking that we were going to watch more television than ever but, looking back, is that even really true? As grandpa used to say (on loop), money doesn’t grow on trees and there’s no point in wasting money on streaming apps that you only barely watch, right? Cut some of those subscriptions so that you can put those coins to much better use.
3. Clothes (and Shoes) You Haven’t Worn in 1.5 Years
OK, most interior designers, stylists, and professional organizers will say that if you haven’t worn something within a calendar year, you need to either donate it, sell it or toss it. I know that most of us aren’t going to do that which is why I extended a grace period of six more months. I’m about to actually do some getting rid of things in a couple of weeks, not because I don’t adore all of my fashion investments but because I treat my closets like I do my weight — when something doesn’t fit anymore (my body or in my closet), that’s my cue to do some transitioning.
Besides, from a lot of the studies that I’ve read, Americans only wear about 18 percent of what’s in their wardrobe. So, why keep holding onto things that you haven’t worn in three years now, just because you like them? Hell, if that was true, you’d be wearing it all more often. Yeah…it’s time to move on.
4. The Old Make-Up in Your Bathroom Drawer
Although I’m not a huge make-up wearer, a sistah does adore some mascara and lip color (the lip thing is totally out of control!). And I must admit that back in the day, I didn’t change my mascara as often as I should have (which needs to happen every 2-3 months). Honestly, I’ve got some lipstick that has far exceeded its shelf life at this point too (those are supposed to be swapped out every six months or so). We’ve all got a cosmetics drawer; it’s a rite of passage for women. One day, put on some of your favorite music and clean yours out. I promise you that you’ve got something lingering in there that your skin has been ready (past ready) for you to get rid of. If you need a bit of a cheat sheet on what to do, check out “When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?”.
5. Memorabilia from Your Ex
Pardon the pun but I’m still unpacking why so many of us like to keep things from our ex (or exes). I mean, I get that some memories are precious but if something is truly over, I’m not sure how much holding on to memorabilia is going to help any of us to move fully forward. I mean, isn’t the fact that most of our past is on social media, so it’s not like we can’t hop onto a site and catch up on their world in 10 minutes or less (please try and keep that down to a minimum, by the way)? That said, if things ended well and clean and you can look back with peace and closure, I guess a pic or two isn’t too bad.
Yet if there’s a part of you that is still hanging on (when he is not) or you are close to tears every time you look at that birthday card that he got you two years ago, sis, stop torturing yourself. Things carry a certain amount of energy. Clear out the power of things that are holding you hostage on an emotional level so that you can get some fresh and new life into your space.
6. Unnecessary Social Media (and Emails)
Earlier this year, Google mail told me that my box was about to be full (do you know many emails you’ve got to have for that to happen?!). When I went to investigate what was up, I was still holding onto Facebook messages and notifications, and chile, I haven’t been on there in close to 15 years at this point. Once I cleared a few thousand of those out and then got rid of some of my promotional emails and old emails from folks I don’t interact with anymore, Google stopped sending me those warnings. Paper trails are wise to a point, even in social media and email form.
At the same time, you know there’s stuff that you’ve got that you absolutely don’t need anymore. It’s gonna be a bit of a headache to go through all of that stuff yet one day, while watching a movie, do it. I promise that seeing those numbers of unread (or not dealt with) emails and unfollowing some folks who either are out of your algorithm at this point or who bring nothing beneficial to your life will cause you to feel so much better.
7. Stuff That Makes You Busy but Isn’t Really Productive
A word that I have spent a lot of 2020 and 2021 trying to use a whole lot less is “busy.” While there is no solid right or wrong here, to me, it just sounds kind of pretentious to tell someone that I can’t do something due to how busy I am. I think a part of the reason why I feel that way is because I wholeheartedly believe that none of us are too "busy” to do something; we simply prioritize what we want to do. That said, what I also believe is sometimes we can get caught up in stuff that doesn’t really help us out, one way or another. For instance, there are a couple of clients who I’ve reduced the amount of time that I spend with them. Why? Because they are super cyclic and so, even though they pay me, it’s starting to become a waste of my time to be as invested in them as I’ve been when there are other people who are more serious about hitting certain relational goals.
Also, when it comes to writing opportunities that are presented to me, I’m more thoughtful about what I agree to do. I’ve been writing for 21 years now. I’m by no means a novice and so, not everything is a “great opportunity,” just because it’s pitched that way. Stuff has to honor my purpose, my time, and my mental and emotional bandwidth. If it doesn’t, more and more these days, it’s gotta go.
Before the calendar year ends, do some processing in this lane. If there is something or someone who is keeping you busy yet you know it or they are not really productive in the long run, at the very least, reduce the time that you are spending on it or with them. We all only get 24 hours and life is shorter than we think it is. It’s important that we are as productive as possible. This brings me to my next point.
8. Whatever Drains You Without Benefiting You
When something or someone benefits you, they are advantageous. Some synonyms for that word include helpful, worthwhile and for your best (FOR YOUR BEST). On the flip side, when something or someone drains you, they deplete you of your resources and/or energy. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you how important it is to be responsible with both of those items. You know, over the past couple of years, I’ve had to make some somewhat challenging decisions to release people who drain me because I know that my energy is my life source and spending a lot of time caught up in their drama, their manipulation, or even just their selfishness was depleting me of what I needed in order to manifest certain goals and aspirations.
Just like being busy can be really counterproductive, being drained can be such a waste. Sis, only you know what people, places, things, and ideas are taking more than they’re giving. Now is just as good of a time as any to shift some of those things out of your way — too.
9. Your Grudges
A writer by the name of Sherrilyn Kenyon once said, “Grudges seldom hurt anyone but the one bearing them.” Agreed. That said, one of my favorite takeaways from this year is that generalizations oftentimes stem from pure bitterness (check out “Ever Wonder What It Means To Be Bitter? The Answer Might Surprise You.”). It might be a bit of “red pill thinking” (or maybe just a good dose of spiritual enlightenment) but I really don't get how people think it's empowering to hold grudges and refuse to forgive other people.
Now am I all for setting up some boundaries and making sure that you learn from the experiences that put you in the position to hold any grudge and struggle with unforgivingness in the first place? 1000 times 1000 percent. All I’m saying is, there’s a really huge possibility that no one is really losing sleep over your grudge than you. And so keeping it is such a waste of that precious energy that I was just talking about; energy that could be directed into something (or someone) that will make you see that getting past the grudge is far better than holding onto it.
That stuff in the trunk of your car. Old condiments and plastic utensils from fast food spots. Books you haven’t looked at in five years. Magazines. CDs and DVDs. Lawd, those plastic bags that are underneath your kitchen sink. Containers that no longer have a lid. Hangers that have lost their shape. Junk jewelry. Office supplies. That nasty ass loofah (you know those are supposed to be replaced once a month, right?). I’m sure that I’ve named at least one thing that you know you’ve got that you also know needs to be tossed into the trash.
By definition, junk is “anything that is regarded as worthless, meaningless, or contemptible; trash.” Basically, junk is clutter. It’s physical clutter that can oftentimes trigger mental and emotional clutter. Why keep something that is worthless? Before 2022 creeps up on you, get that junk out of your space so that you can relax so much easier. Amen? Hallelujah, chile!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Text This Before You Ghost Them, Sis.
We’ve all been there at least once (or a few times) along our dating journey. Maybe you’ve had a date or two with a potential suitor, but the spark just wasn’t there. Perhaps you convinced yourself that just “one more” date would help you overlook a non-negotiable ick. At this point in the dating cycle, you’ve probably reached the point where you must decide to either communicate “why” things won’t be moving forward or simply ghost them.
What Is Ghosting?
“Ghosting” refers to the act of suddenly and unexpectedly cutting off all communication with someone you've been dating or talking to without any explanation or further contact. It typically occurs in the early stages of dating but can also happen after a few dates or even in more established relationships.
The act of ghosting has become quite a common practice in our modern dating culture and can manifest in a number of different ways. From days of ignored text messages and phone calls out of the blue to not showing up for pre-arranged plans and sometimes disappearing from someone's life without any notice or explanation.
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The Problem With Ghosting
Being ghosted may seem like a harmless act of “self-choosing,” but the person on the receiving end of your decision can be left feeling confused, rejected, and even abandoned, wondering what happened and where they went wrong.
And we get it, what explanation do you owe someone for leaving after a few cocktails and a $100 date? While that may seem like the perfect opportunity to cut and run, taking an alternative approach to fizzle out a fling is a great time to practice clear and effective communication that can pay off in the long run.
While there is a time and a place for ghosting (and even blocking) if your boundaries have been crossed or safety has been threatened, if we’re looking to live out our best healed, secure-girl summer, there are ways to date freely without leaving others with damage of their own to recover from.
Being honest and upfront about your feelings while being respectful of the other person's time is the best way to leave a situationship or fling with both parties emotionally unscathed. So if you’re looking for ways to break things off with care and consideration, we’ve provided five text scripts to send instead of ghosting somebody’s son:
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5 Texts To Send Instead of Ghosting Them
1. If you want to take the honest but gentle approach:
"Hey [Name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I've been doing some thinking, and I don't see this going any further. I wanted to be upfront and honest with you rather than leaving you wondering. I wish you all the best."
2. If you want to express gratitude before saying goodbye:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the time we spent together. You're an amazing person, but I think we're better off as friends. I hope you understand and that we can still maintain a positive connection."
3. If you want to leave a note of appreciation:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to let you know that I've had a great time with you, but I don't think we're compatible for a romantic relationship. I appreciate the moments we shared, and I hope we can both find what we're looking for."
4. If a face-to-face convo is needed:
"Hey [Name], I've been doing some thinking, and I believe it's important for us to have an open conversation about where we stand. Can we find some time to talk about our relationship and how we both feel? I think it's important to address things honestly."
5. If you want to keep things cute and concise:
"Hey [Name], I've realized that we're not on the same page, and it's best if we part ways. Take care."
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