theorangeinkblot

Looking at life through orange colored glasses…

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

It’s the end of the world as we know it….

Based on the movie previews I have seen recently, Hollywood would have us believe that we should be preparing for an apocalypse of robots and aliens. Personally, I am worried about a threat that is much more real. My house is being invaded by Littlest Pet Shops.

They are arriving in droves, by luxury airliner, car, motorcycle, and pawpaw cruiser.

It started out as a small group, but they are multiplying like, well, rabbits.

They claim to come in peace, but I got this aerial shot of them training what appears to be an army.

They are building settlements,

and spend their leisure time watching TV (they appear to be Rutgers fans),

and swimming. I think they have recruited my cat.

Maybe there is something in the water.

Don’t be fooled by their cuteness- I think they are watching us sleep.

Or maybe I’m letting my imagination run away with me…

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I’m not laughing at you- I’m laughing with you.

You may think I’m crazy for thinking this, but sometimes I feel bad for celebrities. Oh sure, I envy them the whole making enough money to afford a personal trainer, multiple nannies, live in chef, and never having to scrub another toilet again part. But I would not trade them all of their dollars, trainers, nannies, and sous chefs for my anonymity.

Every time I am standing online at the supermarket and happen to notice a headline from one of those celebrity magazines all I can think is, boy am I glad I do not have paparazzi. That’s not to say that in this day and age I wouldn’t make the news if I locked myself in an airplane bathroom b/c I didn’t want to turn off my cell phone, but at least I can feel secure in knowing that if I run out for a cup of coffee in pajamas and bed head my picture will not show up on the cover of some tabloid magazine.

You can argue that by choosing a public career, you are susceptible to public scrutiny. But imagine what it would be like if someone was following you around with a camera capturing only your bad moments and printing them for the world to see. We would all look like self-involved people and terrible parents, with mood disorders, and no fashion sense. It’s bad enough that my children point out my short comings on a daily basis.

Mom, what’s that thing on your face?

Mom, how come your hair only looks pretty when you just get out of the shower?

Mom, how come your nostrils are shaped like potatoes?

Here are some reasons I am happy I don’t have paparazzi:

1- Gravity is not my friend. I have fallen off of walls, slipped on ice, and tripped over my shoe laces. I have slipped down a flight of stairs (twice) and have even fallen out of the shower (there’s not even a good story to go with that one). I declined the opportunity to be hoisted up in a chair during my Jewish wedding- I have learned to not tempt fate. There was a photographer at my wedding, after all.

2- Parenting is hard. The first time I cut my daughter’s finger nails, I accidently snipped off a small piece of skin from her pinky finger. I called the pediatrician. She laughed at me. Two hours later, my daughter’s finger was still bleeding. The pediatrician met us on a Sunday at the doctor’s office to stop the bleeding. She was no longer laughing.

3- I have locked myself out of my house. Twice. In one day. I have locked my keys in my car with the engine running. I have locked my car keys in my office while working late and had to call someone for a ride home. I have left my keys in the front door more times than I can count. I have accidentally taken both sets of keys with me leaving my husband stuck at home with no keys at all.

4- I lose things- besides keys. I have lost my wedding ring more than once. I have lost family heirlooms and the beautiful scarf my husband gave me one year as a gift. I have lost money, lost my patience, lost my temper, and lost my voice. I have been lucky to find them all again at some point (except the scarf- sorry honey).

5- I have unintentionally had my underwear showing. One year at our neighborhood picnic after spending three hours mingling with neighbors, my daughter told me I had a hole in the back of my jeans and she could see my pink underwear. (Note to self: wear denim colored underwear the next time I wear the jeans with the hole.)

I could keep going. But the point is that we all have flaws. We are quirky, klutzy, forgetful, underwear showing individuals. It is what makes us human. Sometimes, we have to forgive the things that make us human, and sometimes, we have to laugh at them. But just because we laugh, does not mean that we judge. Celebrities- in the highly unlikely event that you are reading this blog please know: Sometimes, the headlines on the tabloids make me chuckle because they are ridiculous. But I do not think any less of you because you forgot to buckle your child into their car seat (done it), lost twenty pounds and then gained it back (done it), or unknowingly flashed your underwear (though I do recommend wearing underwear when you know that photographers are likely to be following you). We have all had those moments- most of us just get to have them in private.

Here’s the other thing. If my neighbors saw my pink underwear that day at the picnic, they didn’t let on- and they still seem to like me. The people, who know us and like us, do so despite our flaws. Sometimes, when we show people our flaws, it even makes people feel better about their own imperfections. How many times have you seen somebody do something embarrassing and thought ‘I am so glad I am not the only person that has happened to.’ And for anyone out there who just read about some of my less honorable moments and choose to judge me based solely on that? Well, that’s your loss- I’ve got a lot of great attributes too.

The moral of the story- judge less, laugh more (that would be laughing with people, not at them). I am very lucky to have been raised by two very smart, (and very human individuals). They taught me not to judge a book by its cover, and not care too much what other people think. They also taught me that it is okay to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and that it’s healthy to laugh at ourselves.

So, I’m glad I don’t have paparazzi. But I’m okay with being human. It’s probably a good thing- I don’t know any other way to be.

My life in verse…

I know I owe you part 2 to my last blog entry. Consider this an intermission.

My brother is the poet in my family, but I was feeling creative this morning and thought I’d give it a shot. Here’s what I came up with (mostly) while I was driving my daughter to preschool this morning They are all a work in progress:

Wake Up Call

I am privy

To a very exclusive

Concierge alarm clock service.

Extremely personalized

And very reliable,

Every morning

At crack of dawn o’clock

I am roused from slumber

By the intermittent,

And increasingly loud

Shouts of

“MOMMY”

Floating across my house-

And there is no snooze button.

A Girl Named Sarah

I know a girl named Sarah who likes to stay in bed;

Morning, noon, and night, with the covers on her head.

“Wake up” says her daddy.

“Wake up” says her mommy.

“Wake up” says her little sister too.

But Sarah says, “that didn’t work, so you’ll have to try something new.”

I know a girl named Sarah, who likes to stay in bed;

Morning, noon, and night, with the covers on her head.

“Tickle Tickle” says her daddy.

“Tickle Tickle” says her mommy.

“Tickle Tickle” says her little sister too.

But Sarah says, “That didn’t work, so you’ll have to try something new.”

I know a girl named Sarah, who likes to stay in bed;

Morning, noon, and night, with the covers on her head.

Daddy takes the legs,

Mommy takes the arms,

Sister smiles sweetly, turning up the charm.

“I guess we’ll have to throw her” little sister starts to say.

“I’m up, I’m up” yells Sarah. “I guess I’ll start my day.”

Crayons

Crayon scribbles in the hall,

On the floor and on the wall,

They’d mark the ceiling I suppose

If she could reach on tippy toes.

I guess it’s better than last year,

When she stuck one in her ear.

And according to her tummy,

Periwinkle is quite yummy.

Cereal, It’s What’s for Dinner

Perhaps, instead of ‘mommy,’ they should call me “Cap’n Crunch.”

I eat cereal for breakfast.

I eat cereal for lunch.

At dinner time, cereal appears on the menu too.

There’s just not time to cook with all the running ’round I do.

My Town – A Haiku

(I wrote this yesterday in response to a Haiku challenge issued by my brother. The challenge was to describe an unusual addiction or obsession using Haiku or rhyming verse.)

My digital town

Has turkeys that roam the street.

No one seems to care.

Photo credit: Original filename: alarm_clock.jpg, added February 12, 2009 by Credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit link: http://photo-dictionary.com/phrase/409/alarm-clock.html#ixzz1hDFoB3wZ

The story of how I WAS NOT going to follow in my parents footsteps by pursuing a career in education, and instead go to law school to eventually become a judge, Part 1

Both of my parents had long careers in the field of education. Both started as elementary school teachers. My dad eventually went on to be an elementary school principal, and my mom was a community educator, health advocate, and taught adult education classes. As early as second grade, I remember people asking me if I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, just like my parents. And I remember, that my answer was no, I was going to be a judge so that I could put “the bad people” in jail. I’m sure that throughout my childhood I considered other career paths. In seventh grade, we got to choose an occupational area to explore and I chose careers working with animals. One field trip was to an animal hospital where we got to observe a male dog being neutered. That pretty much put the kabash on that idea.

But by the time I was in high school, I was fairly confident that a legal career was in my future. Even if it wasn’t, I WAS NOT going to pursue a career in an education related field. When I went off to college, I chose ‘American Studies’ as my major. The combination of history, literature, and sociology seemed like good preparation for law school and I really liked my classes.

Then, my sophomore year, I got a part time job at my University’s law school library. That’s when my plan began to unravel. The job was a virtual snoozefest. My very important job was to replace the paper and toner in the photocopiers, alphabetize and refile microfiche, and reshelve very heavy law books. I also very efficiently referred students upstairs to the information desk when they mistook me for someone who knew anything. But the job itself did not disuade me from my path. It was the law students.

I worked Friday nights from 7pm to midnight, and every Friday night I saw the same students poring over the same law books. NONE of them looked happy to be there. A couple of the men, to my misfortune, did take a liking to me. Without fail, one or the other would make his way over to my work area, lean on the counter, and try to convince me I should go out with them. Being that these were lawyers in training, you would think that they would be somewhat persuasive- Not so much.

One of them told me that I looked like “good wife material” and that I had “good hips for carrying babies.” Just what every 19 year old woman wants to hear. But he was a total catch compared to the other guy who excitedly filled me in on his “secret” plans to purchase a rocket ship so he could colonize the moon- and did I want to join him?. I’m sorry, I think I have to wash my hair that day.

Then, there were the law students who would get mad at me when I couldn’t answer their legal research questions. “Is there anything you do know?” they would ask me. You mean it’s not enough that I look like good wife material?? Try asking that person upstairs at the information desk- you know, the REFERENCE LIBRARIAN.

It was enough to make me not want to spend any more time in a law library or with law students, even as their peer. Thus ended my legal career aspirations. Ironically enough, I did end up marrying a lawyer- one without a secret plan to colonize the moon. And what does one do with a degree in American Studies once they have decided to not go to law school? For that answer you will just have to wait for Part 2 of this blog entry: The story of how I ended up following in my parents footsteps and pursuing a career in education despite my foolproof plan to go to law school and eventually become a judge.

Dude, you’re harshing my buzz…

I have had a hard time writing my blog post this week. Usually, something happens during the week that reminds me of a funny anecdote from my younger days and I can fold the two together to create a little piece of literary ribbon candy.

This week, I have found myself too distracted to reminisce. I found myself witness to a bizarre traffic incident and read a couple of disturbing media posts that have left me feeling like much of the American population has substituted it’s cocoa puffs with coocoo puffs, or added a shot of ‘questionable behavior’ syrup to their extra hot, half caff, no foam lattes.

Let’s get caught up, shall we?

Thanks to a spark of surburban planning genius, the road leaving my neighborhood, merges with the driveway that serves as an entrance and exit to a shopping center. This was not a big deal when the shopping center contained a supermarket that few people shopped at and a vacant former Home Expo store. A few months ago, a certain discount superstore moved into the old Home Expo space and the parking lot turned into circus. The superstore could use a parking lot three times the current size, a concern which was raised by the residents of my county as soon as it was announced they were moving in. We were informed, however, by the county planning office that according to their city plans the parking lot and it’s entrance and exit “met county regulations” thereby alleviating them of any responsibility to, you know, check.

Since the store has opened, there have been multiple accidents in the parking lot, people can’t seem to figure out the traffic pattern, and then there was this bizzare incident:

The entrance and exit of the “superstore” consists of a traffic light and a divided (by a narrow mulched embankment) driveway. Exiting traffic stays to one side and incoming traffic is entering on the other. At least four times, I have seen exiting cars turn into the entrance lane, realize their mistake, and then have to back out (sometimes with incoming traffic barreling towards them) and turn into the correct side of the driveway. In this particular instance, an elderly woman trying to exit the parking lot turned into the entrance lane, pulled right up to the light, and sat there, waiting for it to turn green. A man parked in the correct lane, rolled down his window and tried to yell across to the woman that she was in the wrong lane. The woman either couldn’t hear him, or was ignoring him. The man, then got out of his car, walked across the embankment to the woman’s car and tried telling her through the car window that she was in the wrong lane. The woman looked terrified that this man was yelling at her through the window, as if he was about to carjack her Oldsmobile at gunpoint. After a minute though, the woman seemed to comprehend what the man was telling her (good thing it is a very long light). Even then, she just waved him off as if to say, “pish posh, don’t be silly” and went back to waiting. The man gave up and went back to his car. When the traffic light changed, and cars started coming directly toward her, she continued to sit there, while the incoming traffic (who luckily had been watching her from across the intersection for two minutes) drove around her, honking their horns and shaking their fists. When the outgoing light turned green, the cars allowed her go first, and then we followed, all equally puzzled by what had just gone down. Maybe I should have been able to just dismiss this incident as a random one-off. But I am still thinking about it. Was the woman simply confused? Did she have dementia? Did she feel that she had just found a way to the front of the line? Would she have taken help from somebody other than the man who tried to intercede? Should someone close enough to have seen her plates written down her license plate number and called the police?

Being that my tendency is to over think, my mind has been busy trying to dissect the above incident. Maybe that’s why my brain has been unable to comprehend the two stories I read about in the days that followed. One was about a Florida college student who died as a result of a marching band hazing incident (There is hazing in marching band??). The other was about a college fraternity that was suspended after creating a survey which asked men to choose which women on campus they would like to rape. (Really?) Both of these incidents are, in my mind, pretty disturbing. At what point, in either incident, did people allow themselves to think, “this is all in good fun.” Having spent the bulk of my career working in higher education, it saddens me to no end that even with all of the anti-bullying and anti-hazing initiatives and sensitivity training that has been implemented on college campuses, these incidents continue to take place.

On the other hand, should I be that surprised? Look at how our national leaders act publicly towards each other. Name calling, back stabbing, scapegoating and accusation throwing are all par for the course on the political scene. There are a plethora of bad examples out there who get plenty of air time from the media. Still, it is no excuse for poor judgement and hurtful behavior.

I find myself thinking that this truly great (but currently troubled) country of ours could use a voice of reason. Someone who does not have a personal agenda to push, or an election to win. Someone who could help us put our differences aside so we can again recognize the human qualities that make us mostly the same. Since a national voice of reason seems unlikely, maybe each family could appoint their own. Wouldn’t it be nice if in each family there would be someone who said that regardless of where we stand on any issue, perpetuating violence (physical or verbal) is not okay. Because I don’t think it’s just implied anymore. And that while none of us are perfect, we should try awfully hard to do no harm. I’m not talking about being “politically correct.” I’m merely suggesting that before we do something, we take a step outside our little box and look both ways to see if there might be larger implications to our actions coming down the road.

(P.S. Next week is Chanukah- always a happy and exciting time in my house. Hopefully, once I am in the holiday spirit with visions of latkes and dreidles dancing in my head I will return to my humorous, self deprecating, family teasing self. In the meantime, thank you for indulging me this opportunity to clear my mind. And a special thank you to my favorite clip art characters (the screen beans) for helping me out with my little cartoon.)

I am already an embarrassment to my 8 year old daughter. Do I get extra points for that?

My 8 year old came home from school recently complaining that I had embarrassed her by putting a box of raisins in her lunch box. “Now” she fretted, “everyone will know that I like raisins.” Apparently, this was top secret information and unbeknownst to me (among 3rd graders) liking raisins ranks pretty low on the cool scale.

The raisin incident is already old news, but my daughter is going to need to toughen up some if she expects to survive parental embarrassment into her teenage years. As you may recall (see the Plant Parenthood blog entry), I was trained by the master. What my daughter really needs is a little perspective, so the next time I embarrass her by putting her sandwich on whole wheat bread, or some other disaster, I will tell her this story:

When I was in high school, there was a local discount store called ‘Cheap Johns’. With it’s garage sale pricing and the ambiance of a warehouse store, Cheap Johns could have been the love child between The Dollar Store and Costco. The merchandise (if you could call it that) was piled in giant bins and lacked any kind of presentation.

As my parents liked to remind me, that while we were rich with love, we were not rich with anything you could actually spend at a store. When it came time to shop for school supplies, they were not going to cough up the five dollars it cost to buy a highly coveted Trapper Keeper (plus more for matching folders and notebooks) when they could buy a 3-ring binder, plus a notebook, and a folder, some pens, pencils, and a pencil case for that cost at Cheap Johns. The cheap version may have served the same purpose as the stylish looking Trapper Keeper, but it did not have the same visual appeal.

Each Cheap John’s binder, notebook, and folder was proudly embossed with a picture of the illustrious Cheap John mascot, Mr. Cheap John, himself. With his bulbous nose, and his bushy mustache, I always thought the Cheap John logo bore an insulting resemblance to Albert Einstein (See comparison photos below).

:

I felt especially bad for the Cheap John logo (as if he had feelings) that those of us with cheap budget minded parents started off each year by filling in the logo of each notebook and folder with black sharpie marker. Having school supplies from Cheap Johns, was definitely not cool (way less cool than bringing raisins for lunch). Worse than being seen using Cheap Johns school supplies, though, was being seen shopping at Cheap Johns.

One September evening, I begrudgingly accompanied my mother to Cheap Johns with my list of required school supplies. I immediately recognized that the only cashier was a student in my graduating class. (Working at Cheap John’s was acceptable as jobs for teenagers in our small town were hard to come by.) I made a mental note to be as invisible as possible, to minimize any damage to my already fragile reputation (what comes beneath nerd in the high school social order?). I should have known better than to have asked my mom to be invisible too.

As we shopped, my mom sang (in her loud off-key voice) and danced (shimmying and all) up and down each aisle. Mortified, and convinced that everyone (all five shoppers) in the store was staring at us I (quite stupidly) asked my mother to stop singing, dancing, and, well, embarrassing me. My mother was taken aback- “I’m embarrassing you?” she asked. I insisted again that she please stop drawing attention herself (and, by association, me).

My mom didn’t even miss a beat. She simply told me, “I’ll show you embarrassing” and then marched to the middle of the store. She then proceeded to shout, “I am Meryl Orange’s mother, she is a student at SWR High School, and she is right over there!!” I immediately dropped to the floor and crawled (because that’s not embarrassing) under one of the giant bins where I fervently wished I could disappear. Eventually, I got up and followed my gloating mother through the check out line (complete with my classmate cashier who now had real story to tell at school).

My mom gave me a great gift that day- perspective. Having learned what it really felt like to be embarrassed, I have rarely felt that way again. I also learned that in most situations, my peers really weren’t paying all that close attention to what I was doing- it was just my own insecurity that was rearing it’s ugly head.

I will tell my daughter this story for two reasons. First, I think my little drama queen could benefit from a healthy dose of perspective. In the grand scheme of things, is it such a big deal if people know she likes raisins? (As an aside, she is obsessed with beef jerky which makes frequent appearances in her lunch box and she is not embarrassed about that.)

Second, I think it’s important that my daughter understand early that I have tools at my disposal and I will not hesitate to use them if necessary.

My super hero alter ego is an On-Star agent

My husband is an all around great guy. He is a great partner and father; he is hard working, smart, funny, and successful. His accomplishments include completing a marathon, earning a black belt in karate, and putting up with my crazy family for the past thirteen years. Yet, despite all these attributes, he is desperately lacking in one area (no, not that area!!).

You’ve heard the expression “he couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag?” That expression could have been written for my hubby. After living twelve years in the DC metro area, he still doesn’t know the difference between the inner and outer loops of the DC beltway. He still asks, every single time, if he needs to go East or West on Route 66 when we visit my parents. This affliction appears to be genetic. The running joke around here is that the reason the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years is because one of my husband’s ancestors had the map.

My husband gets lost every time he travels for business. Detroit, Orlando, San Francisco, whichever the city, when my husband exits the airport, he may as well have arrived on another planet. Regardless of how near he is to his destination, or how good his directions, he can never get “there” from “here.”

Lucky for my husband, my super hero alter ego is an On-Star agent. Like Clark Kent’s Superman, my alter ego is ready at all times to answer the call of disorientation. Along with my trusty side kick, Google Maps, I can pinpoint my husband’s exact location and guide him safely, and efficiently to his destination. And like the real On Star service, I provide turn by turn directions, and can even find him a florist to send me flowers as payment.

You are probably thinking, “just get the man a GPS already.” Several years ago, I did just that- stupidly thinking that this would solve the problem. It hasn’t. Since my husband always thinks he knows where he is going, he rarely has it plugged in or programmed to his destination. Lately, our GPS seems to have developed dementia, sending my poor husband circling in a loop of ‘legal u-turns’ as if he were suddenly taken over by the spirit of Clark Griswold (look kids, Big Ben!).

Like most superheros, I wish for a day where my super power is no longer needed. But until disorientation no longer exists in my husband’s head, it’s nice to be needed.

By the way, my husband has a super hero alter ego of his own. I call him, ‘he who can jimmy rig anything’ along with his side kick duct tape. But that is a story for another blog entry…

I’ve lost that idealistic feeling; now it’s gone, gone, gone…oh oh oh oh oh

There was a time in my idealistic youth when I thought I could change the world.  In high school, I belonged to more organizations with catchy acronyms than should be allowed.  There was S.T.O.P. (Students and Teachers Opposed to Prejudice), S.A.D.D. (Students Against Drunk Driving), and H.U.G.S. (Human Understanding and Growth Seminars).  I volunteered at a local nursing home, and was both a peer counselor and peer educator.  And being that I was such a goody two shoes, I was also occasionally tripped in the school hallway on purpose.

Attending college in Washington DC made it easy to stay involved.  I marched for gay rights, walked to end the AIDS epidemic, and over the years took back a week’s worth of nights.  As a Resident Hall Assistant (and later a Resident Director) I was so well-trained that I could have talked a student out of attempting suicide, led a floor program on health and wellness, and drained a keg down a shower drain all at the same time.

I was the queen of causes.  Called naive and idealistic by some, others told me to never lose that passion and innocence.  One guy, whom I had dated for a couple of months, broke up with me after being perpetually annoyed at my philosophy that everyone can make a difference.    He left me with these final words, “Stay gold, babe.”

It’s not that I have stopped caring or stopped fighting for the things I believe in.  But where volunteering and being involved used to energize me, these days, it feels more like an obligation.

Maybe it’s because I am currently juggling so many volunteer commitments I could be a performer for a (non elephant abusing) circus.  I AM  quite over committed at the moment.  Currently I am serving as Assistant leader and cookie mom for my daughter’s Brownie troop; Chair of her youth group; and am editor of the monthly newsletter for my neighborhood civic association.  The list goes on- just Tuesday night I spent half an hour cutting circles out of oak tag for my daughter’s teacher.

I know what you are thinking- JUST SAY NO!!  YOU ARE BEING TOO NICE!!  Here’s the thing.  I did say no.  I said no to the Girl Scouts so many times, I started to feel like a virgin on prom night.  I said no so often I should have single-handedly won the war on drugs.  So how do I end up feeling like behind my back people are whispering (I hear Meryl is so easy, she will volunteer for anybody)??

It’s the email pleas that get to me the most.  You know, the progressive onslaught of emails that get more and more pleadingly desperate as they arrive in your inbox.  Example:

Email 1 – We are looking for a volunteer to Chair the 3rd and 4th grade youth group.  Please contact us if you are interested.

Email 2- We are still looking for a chair for the 3rd and 4th grade youth group.  This is a great chance to get involved and give back to your community!

Email 3- We desperately need someone to chair the 3rd and 4th grade youth group.  Do it for the kids!!

Email 4- If nobody steps up to be the chair of the 3rd and 4th grade youth group, we will have to cancel the youth group and the kids will have to do without.

Darn Jewish guilt!  It gets me every time.  And it shouldn’t.  It’s not like the email read, “if nobody drops off these meals at the homeless shelter the kids will go hungry.”  In reality, it’s closer to, if there is no 3rd and 4th grade youth group, the 3rd and 4th graders will have no organized trips to the bowling alley with their Sunday school friends.  Stop the suffering!  Save the children!  And yet, I caved.  They probably sent Email 4 exclusively to me after the Girl Scouts told them what a push over I am.

A rabbi of a congregation I used to belong to once told us that he gets asked a lot if he believes world peace is achievable.        His response was that if every person focused on making their own tiny corner of the universe  a little bit better, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

Sometimes, you have to work with what you’ve got.  I am trying to find ways to create peace in my tiny corner of the world.  Whether it’s creating a multicultural word find to go in the puzzle section of my newsletter or taking advantage of a teachable moment with one of the great kids I get to interact with, the opportunities are out there.  I figure, if I can inspire one person to think about things differently and that one person pays it forward, (and so on) well, maybe I can change the world after all.

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