Category Archives: Nonfiction

Week’s End

I might have mentioned that the gardener and I have had a lot going on in 2019 with relatives visiting and other urgent projects (non-writing, of course). I have been looking forward to April to write some poems. Ahem.

Friday I went to the doctor for the plantar fasciitis in my left foot. This is not my reconstructed ex-tumor-ridden right foot. I’ve had pain now for about 8 months, so the doctor had me get xrays. He called me Saturday and told me I need an MRI to rule out a stress fracture or whatnot as there is a weird white line or somesuch on the xray. This line has gotten bigger since a random xray I had last May. That xray was to check on my reconstruction in the right foot and they only took an image of the left for comparison.

Then Saturday afternoon my two boys lay together in a bed on the counter.

Are Perry and Felix not the cutest guys?! Felix has that expression because when Perry lays with him he always says to me, “What fresh hell is this?” a la Dorothy Parker.

I have primary lymphedema in both legs, and I use a compression pump–or am supposed to–to flush out some of the excess fluid. I hadn’t used my pump in a long time because I’m so tired at night and it takes a couple of hours, but I decided to last night. I didn’t put Perry in his room. Big mistake. While I was trapped on the machine, he started “instigating,” and he ended up knocking over our good lamp, shattering the light bulb and breaking a big chunk out of the side of the lamp. In the photo look at the right side of the lamp and you can see the white line at the start of the hole.

The gardener searched for the broken pieces of the lamp and tried piecing it together while I swept up the light bulb and made sure the floor was safe for little cat beans.

Then I hooked back up to pump my legs, while the gardener started watching TV. Less than two minutes later, he was sick. Without going into all the details, I will say he is still ill and we don’t yet know what is wrong.  Because when it rains it pours, I received two separate rejections for poems since Saturday night. Yup.

(Update: The gardener is suddenly starting to feel better!)

So I am going to close comments and leave you with a favorite poem (that I dug out to show Theresa Barker when she visited Phoenix. WordPress won’t allow correct formatting, but I think this is close enough to give you an idea of the poem.

SO I SAID I AM EZRA

 

by A.R. Ammons 1955

 

So I said I am Ezra

and the wind whipped my throat

gaming for the sounds of my voice

I listened to the wind

go over my head and up into the night

Turning to the sea I said

I am Ezra

but there were no echoes from the waves

The words were swallowed up

in the voice of the surf

or leaping over the swells

lost themselves oceanward

Over the bleached and broken fields

I moved my feet and turning from the wind

that ripped sheets of sand

from the beach and threw them

like seamists across the dunes

swayed as if the wind were taking me away

and said

I am Ezra

As a word too much repeated

falls out of being

so I Ezra went out into the night

like a drift of sand

and splashed among the windy oats

that clutch the dunes

of unremembered seas

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Filed under #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Poetry, Writing

Review of Kin Types in Latest Issue of Main Street Rag

Alice Osborn has reviewed my chapbook Kin Types for the new Winter 2019 issue of Main Street Rag. 

 

I love how she calls the book a “labor of love.”

It’s a beautiful issue with fiction and poetry, an essay, and quite a few book reviews, and best yet, it’s only $6! Click this link.

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KIN TYPES IS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON:

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Remember my kitty Tiger, star of The Bitch’s Tale? She has gotten a bit skinny, so I took her to the vet for bloodwork and urinalysis. Her kidney and liver values are now elevated, and she had to have an add-on test for pancreatitis. Please send positive vibes and prayers for Tiger that she just has slow aging issues and not a serious illness. I had thought Tiger was 14, but after recalculating and conferring with my son, we believe she is at least 15.

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Book Review, Family history, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Favorite Outfits Never Really Leave You

I didn’t get much accomplished this week since I had to go to California for business and got caught in the floods there, delaying my return by one day. On the way to California, I saw an odd blimp out in the middle of the desert, just off the 10.

At the time, I found it confusing. Then I saw an article about Carnival Cruise Line starting a blimp campaign last year.  But the gardener saw a different article. That one said that the DEA is using blimps for border surveillance. Hmm. I guess it could be both. Truth is strange, as you know.

I’ve been working on my own version of Swedish Death Cleaning by trying to go through file drawers a little bit every day that I am home. I’m also finding objects and papery reminders which make me want to write more posts about the life of objects.

I found a couple of old photographs of one of my favorite outfits ever which led to a week-long meditation on “favorite outfits,” and the beginning of a possible poem. How many favorite outfits have you had in your life? I can count mine on both hands–maybe one hand.

I bought this one with my store discount from the fancy store in Kalamazoo where I worked when I first started college. It was called Jacobson’s, and they had an apparel store and a “store for the home,” but the prototype was probably Saks. This 3-piece jersey outfit was comfortable, and I loved the cream/vivid blue combination (although I’m not actually a blue person, probably half my favorite outfits have been blue or had blue in them). In these two photos you can see both the tank top and the jacket, but not the almost-palazzo pants. The beads were from work, too. I don’t know what ever happened to the outfit, but I suspect I literally wore it out. I never would have gotten rid of it otherwise. That’s how much I loved it. Best memory wearing it was in Jamaica, at our months-after-the-wedding honeymoon.

The man on the right is one of my uncles, and the other man was his FIL. I was serving punch at a family party. Isn’t it funny that seeing that outfit in the photos makes me as happy as wearing it used to? And why did I love that outfit so much more than anything else? I have always loved birds, and pheasants run loose on the fabric, but that’s only one aspect.

I can’t imagine feeling this way about what I wear today since I have it down to a uniform involving either yoga pants or Duluth Trading Company stretch pants along with a tunic, athletic shoes, and a ballcap.

Anybody else have those thoughts about favorite outfits of the past? Tell me about your favorites, please!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Inspiration, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Magical Music Box

I forgot about writing posts based on Dawn Raffel’s memoir, The Secret Life of Objects. Joey over at Joeyfully Stated reminded me, so I’m happy to be back at it. I’ve written about the magical bowls of my childhood snacking and the name sign from my grandmother’s mailbox, as well as some jewelry that holds meaning for me.

Maybe the object that I still have that carries my earliest memories is the music box I have had since I was a baby. I know it’s weird, but I am a person with very early memories. I apparently inherited this ability from my grandfather. If you wonder what toddler memories are like, they are exactly like memories from all the other times of your life: vivid and realistic.

When my mother put me down for a nap, she would wind up the music box and set it going. I still remember standing in my crib, looking over the white iron bars, willing the music box to start up again. It didn’t, of course, as it had to be wound by someone.

I think I must have been a hard kid to settle to sleep (undiagnosed ADHD or anxiety?), and I always felt I was missing something. But then again my parents wanted me to nap AND have an extremely early bedtime. As a child I used to play shadow games or read under the covers with my flashlight.

When I became a teen, it was the sixties and incense was very popular, so I used my music box as an incense burner.

Have you ever heard that music is one of the best triggers for memory? Well, my music box–after 60+ years–still works. (Take that you plastic parts in today’s merchandise!)

I did a quick search online for a vintage round metal music box, and there are quite a few that look very similar, even to the color. They are called “powder puff” style. It’s very possible that this music box is from the 1940s and predates me. It could have belonged to my mother or grandmother well before I was born.

Question of the day: what song does the music box play?

Anybody want to play along and write about the secret life of an object? If so, please post the link in the comments here!

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On another note, my uncle has been visiting for two weeks and the kids (daughter and BF) are still living here, so for an HSP like me it’s been Grand Central Station over here.

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

Family Histories (Holiday Edition): Dad’s Birthday

Adrienne Morris kindly posted a story I wrote about my dad’s birthday (relates to Christmas, too) on her blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Author Adrienne Morris

Welcome to Family Histories (Holiday Edition). I’ve invited readers and bloggers to share holiday themed pieces with the accent on “Family” and “History” in any way they like.

This story by my friend LUANNE CASTLE nearly made me cry so get ready for a beautiful love story!

When I was nine, my mother took my little brother and me to Robert Hall to buy my father a dress shirt and tie. She asked the salesman for a gift box. “It’s for my husband’s birthday.”

As the man turned away, I pulled on my mother’s purse. “It’s not Dad’s birthday! His birthday is the day after Christmas! It’s only June 26!” My mother’s lie shocked me. My brother’s little face, peering up at us, swiveled between Mom and me.

“Shhh, this really is a birthday present, but it’s for your father’s half-birthday!”  As we walked out to the car, my…

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Filed under Family history, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture

The Bitch’s Tail

(Again, apologies to Chaucer. Third up in the series of Cat Tails is that of Tiger)

I’ll proudly claim my B-word title. I am the most petite cat in my queendom and rely on my claws for protection because almost all my teeth had to be removed. Other than my canines–isn’t that ironic?! I have a genetic tooth disease that comes to me from my god-ancestor origins in Egypt (note: the other cats are obviously not related to gods–this is proof). I am special, set aside from the other cats. My power intimidates them, so they don’t even try to get close to me. They have to respect and admire me from afar.

My story begins as a Cinderella tale. Remember that in Cinderella stories, the heroine seems to start from a lowly position, is elevated to a high station, and it is often revealed that her concealed origins were royal or aristocratic.

So when I tell you that my story here begins in a grocery store parking lot, remember that my story-of-origins begins earlier with my royal Egyptian forebears who now sleep forever in the vaults and tombs of pharaohs.

OK, the parking lot. I was young and tiny and hungry. I don’t know how I got to the parking lot because the first thing I can remember is standing there on the pavement, wondering how to avoid all the cars spinning in and out and all around. Before I was smashed to pieces, a young human snatched me up and took me away. She couldn’t keep me, so her friend took me home with him. He was a single college student, living in a one room apartment near campus. He meant well, but he couldn’t really take care of himself very well. I ate better than he did, but sometimes he couldn’t afford litter for my box. And one day he ran an errand, forgetting to put out the candle burning on the table.

He saved my life when he got home, but only after I got a little sick from the thick smoke. I became cautious of life after that, and especially of people, except for my young dad. I slept under the covers with him. He was my world.

One day, he went on vacation and left me with his parents. That was different. I didn’t like them at first and tried to snap at them (I still had teeth at that time). But the father was so good at playing “mousie” that I started to like him. And the mother wouldn’t give up petting me even when I was mean to her. And they bought me so much litter and gave me pieces of chicken. I have a thing for chicken. I asked to stay with them, and my young dad and his parents agreed that I had a better life with them. I didn’t realize until later that “them” came with a few other cats.

I didn’t have to worry about the other cats. My new father is besotted with me. I am his favorite cat, paws down. He won’t allow anyone to say anything negative about me. And when people talk about his love for me, he gets a silly grin on his face. I have claimed the title of bitch because I will smack any cat who intrudes on my territory–and since my father won’t allow anyone to call me a bitch, I will say it myself as it keeps everyone on their toes. [Mother intrudes: “But, Tiger, you are also afraid of other cats and sometimes your own shadow. How do you justify presenting yourself as brave?” Tiger replies: “Mother, this is my story to tell. And if I sometimes lie on my back and cry when someone comes close and stares at me, it’s because I have a sensitive nature. I guess Father understands that.”]

I am the only cat to sleep with Mother and Father every night. No matter how many new cats come to live here, it’s always me. That shows you how special I am. I am also a Tabico cat. That means that I have Calico Cat markings that are made up of Tabby Cat stripes. Tabicos (or, as some call us, Patched Tabbies–or even Torbies) are very rare cats indeed!

I’ve been with my mother and father for years now. I am fourteen years young. The funny thing is that although I know how much Father loves me, I love to curl up on Mother at night. She tries to push me away (careful, Mother, you know the power of my claws!), but I wait until I think she is asleep and climb back. Every morning she has to explain the scent of Tiger on her to Perry, Sloopy Anne, and the other cats.

Maybe you wonder if I still see my first dad. I do. He visits us sometimes with his new wife, and I let him pet me. He’s still one of my three favorite people. And I’ve heard that he’s become a really good cat dad and even a . . . I can’t believe I’m saying this . . . dog dad. Mother and Father think he’s one of the best. You can all thank me for that. I am the one who trained him, the one who had patience with him, and the one who put up with his childish mistakes.

Just remember my motto when you think of me: I AM TIGER, HEAR ME ROAR!

FOR THE OTHER CAT TAILS (SO FAR):

The Dowager’s Tail

The Baby’s Tail

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Luanne here. I was so lazy all year about sending out submissions that I decided to try for at least 15 publications in 2019. Arbitrary number, but who cares. It’s having a goal, not what the goal is, that matters. (If I reach that number with time to spare, I’ll have lied to myself because I’ll up it to 20).

Just as I decided on that goal, I heard from three journals that had had my stuff for a long time. One yes and two nos. That meant I had one publication coming up for 2019. Fourteen to go. So I sent poems out to four topnotch journals on Wednesday. On Thursday I was called by the editor of one, taking a poem for early 2019. Best timing yet. So now two down, thirteen to go!

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction

Cat Couture as Anxiety Cure

On Facebook, I belong to a couple of cat groups because I enjoy seeing the photos and hearing snippets of stories about cats. On one of the groups, I saw that a woman named Penny Cardino posted adorable photos of her cat Shadow dressed in a Christmas dress. Before you think I am talking about a woman with too much time on her hands, playing dolls with her cat, learn the reason for this. Shadow suffers from a severe anxiety disorder. Wearing her Christmas dress makes her happy. I knew that thundershirts sometimes work for dogs with anxiety, although I haven’t personally heard of a cat who has been helped by one (that I can recall). But this was the first time I had heard about using clothing to comfort an anxious cat. Penny agreed to be interviewed about Shadow and her anxiety problem.

Where did you get Shadow and how long have you had her?

We found Shadow in at a gas station in 2011. Our vet said she was about 7 weeks old and looked to have been abandoned. The first night she would not come to us, but we could tell she was very hungry. She would walk up and then dart away quickly. I went inside and got her something to eat and a cup of water. It took us three days, but we finally managed to get her trapped. A good friend of mine kept her over the weekend for me while we were trying to decide if we could keep her or not (we have a very territorial male Siamese). We decided that she had been through enough and thought that Ashby (the Siamese) would come to accept her. That was almost 8 years ago.

When did you first learn about Shadow’s anxiety?

While we were gone during the day, we kept her in a huge kennel in our son’s room so she and Ashby could get acquainted safely. We would go in and shut the door and spend time with her. She would sleep with William (our son) and then, about four months after we brought her home, we eventually just let her stay out and put the kennel away. She always wanted to go to William’s room at night and sleep with him but she didn’t want to stay in there by herself, especially in the dark. She would follow him to his room, and later we would hear her crying to get out. At that time, I did not think anything about it–I just thought she wanted to be in the living room with everyone else.

Then she would start to cry if someone new came to visit. The crying got worse; it went on for hours and nothing would settle her down. She would pace constantly. Her cries were loud and long. We talked to our vet; I really did not want to medicate her because it was not an everyday thing. Mainly, it happens when the security system goes off, visitors come to the house, or if there is work being done around the neighborhood close to the house. I started letting her go to William’s room when company came, but I would have to turn the light on for her. Occasionally, if the house was very quiet, she would call out intermittently, as if she were looking for someone. We finally answered her one night and said, “we are right here.” She quieted down, and it was as if she were making sure she was not alone.

I started to make mental notes of how frequently she had these episodes and how long they lasted. There are times that we come home from work and she is in the midst of an episode and we have no clue as to what started it. Shadow is strictly an indoor cat; Ashby is as well. Shadow wants nothing to do with the outside, and she panics if we are holding her and open the door to look outside. She will push it shut with her paws.

How does her anxiety show itself?

When Shadow has an anxiety attack, she usually starts to cry back to back. She has different vocalizations, and we have learned them, but her anxiety sounds very distressed. She paces back and forth, she won’t eat, drink, play or get on her cat tree. Her episodes can last from a day to a week, depending on the event that led to it. Her cries will break your heart because they are long and mournful. She does cry in her sleep at times and has nightmares. William says he hears her crying and will wake up and talk to her, stroke her head and let her know he is there until she calms down. What is odd about this is that during her nightmares, her eyes never open.

How did you learn to put the clothing on her? Did you try a thundershirt first and what happened?

I used to swaddle William when he was an infant after a bath or when he would cry. I would rock him until he settled down. So I wondered what would happen if I tried that with Shadow. I saw the thundershirt commercial and tried it, but she started bucking like a bronco and her cries were more piercing. I also tried a little Prozac, but that made her sick as she does not tolerate medications well.

While out shopping for a baby shower gift, I came across a baby t-shirt that was very soft and seemed like it might fit Shadow. I decided to see if this would work better than the thundershirt. When the next anxiety episode hit, I put on her shirt and she jumped down, walked over to her daddy, and jumped up on his lap. She talked to him and her meows were not distressful. She sat with him for a bit, then jumped down but her demeanor was totally different–she was more calm and not pacing. Shadow went and got on her cat tree and actually took a nap. We were amazed that this one little shirt would make such a difference.

I have tried different materials and different styles. She is not a fan of tutus or anything that has a real tight band around the “waist.” Occasionally, she will wear a hat for picture purposes and then I take the hat off. We never leave her clothes on while we are gone; she only wears them when we are home. She last had an episode that lasted three days, our neighbor stopped by to give us some homemade pickle relish and it set off her anxiety.

Have you swaddled or clothed other animals or seen it done before?

My grandmother had a Yorkie that came from a neglectful situation and had to have all of her hair cut off. The mats were so bad that the groomer shaved her entire body, leaving only the hair on her head and tail. This dog would not come out of the bedroom and looked pitiful if we had to go somewhere. So my grandmother bought her a hair bow and a big open bag. In the bag, along with her wallet with money and ID, she paced a baby pillow. Then she fixed that pup’s hair in a bow and off they would go. They went everywhere: to the mall, Walmart, but Dillard’s was their favorite. Everyone would come peek at “Sandy.” For some reason, that little dog perked up and had a completely different attitude when her hair was fixed. She eventually grew a beautiful coat, but still wanted her hair done up in her bow.

Do you have other animals?

We have two other animals–Ashby, our Siamese and Whiskey, our Black Mouth cur.
Ashby will be 9 in March and Whiskey will be 9 in February. Whiskey will not stay still long enough for a picture. Ashby has many, many pictures.

Shadow and Ashby

What else would you like to say about Shadow?!

Shadow is a special girl; she helped my son when he was in elementary school. While he had many friends, he would still get bullied or made fun of and I would talk with him or try and make the hurt go away. Sometimes a parent just can’t make it better no matter how hard we try. But Shadow could make it better. I heard him talking to her one day; he told her that she knew how he felt. He told her that the person that abandoned her was a big bully and she understood how much it hurt him when the kids would laugh at him for being smart or a little overweight because of what she had gone through. Once in awhile, he would cry into her fur and she just sat with him while he let it out. When he and I would talk again, he would feel better. He has learned how handle the bullies.

William and Shadow

Shortly after receiving Shadow’s help, William wanted to tell Shadow’s story. He said that his peers needed to know how “dumping” an animal is cruel, both mentally and physically, so he created a Facebook page for Shadow called Shadow’s Sanctuary. He says that he did this so he could show people the long term effects of being abandoned have on the animal and the people who care for them. Shadow has about 1,000 followers. He hopes to break the cycle of abandonment. William is now 17 and Shadow is still by his side. She is afraid of the dark, unless we are with her. If we know we are going to be out after dark, we always leave a light on for her so she isn’t afraid. She loves her brother, Ashby, and is crazy about my husband. It takes a long time for someone to gain her trust, but once they do, they have a friend for life. I often wonder though, with Shadow, who rescued whom.

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Luanne’s comment: I realized after reading Merril’s comment below that I ought to make a comment about dressing cats in the general, as opposed to the particular as in the case of Shadow. Most cats are stressed out by being dressed up. It isn’t something to try just for the fun of it, unless you are talking about cats who are willing to wear hats and jewelry for photos (as some of mine are). Years ago, my daughter tried to put a sweater on Tiger, and Tiger was so upset it took her four years to forgive her human sister! But Penny’s story about Shadow shows that all cats are different and have different needs. The trick is figuring out what they need and when. That is something that Penny and her family have mastered!

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Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction

Extreme Circumstances: The Life of Caroline Meier Waldeck (Sixth and Final BROAD STREET Magazine Article)

The sixth and final installment of what research went into the pieces in KIN TYPES, published by the beautiful magazine BROAD STREET.

The Family Kalamazoo

This is the sixth and final week that the beautiful creative nonfiction journal Broad Street magazine has published one of the pieces from my chapbook Kin Types along with documents and photographs that helped me piece together these old family stories.

The subject of the poem “Someone Else’s Story” is Caroline Meier Waldeck, the wife of my grandmother’s Uncle Fred, a German immigrant who, as a young husband and father, was hit by a streetcar and suffered severe brain damage from the accident.

You can read it here: Family Laundry: “Someone Else’s Story” by Luanne Castle

The first feature article is “Family Laundry: “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete,” by Luanne Castle

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2: “What Came Between A Woman and Her Duties” by Luanne Castle

The third feature article is: Family Laundry: “More Burials” by Luanne Castle

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Filed under Family history, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Week Five at BROAD STREET Magazine: Wondering About A Violent and Mysterious Death

Some of my relatives whose lives I wrote about in my chapbook Kin Types were heroic, but for week five at BROAD STREET magazine, I discuss the research for family history that is not heroic. Instead, I found it to be devastating.

The Family Kalamazoo

This is the fifth week that the beautiful creative nonfiction journal Broad Street magazine has published one of the pieces from my chapbook Kin Types along with documents and photographs that helped me piece together these old family stories.

This week is about Louise Noffke’s death and the family history (including domestic violence) that surrounded that tragic event. Read it at Family Laundry: “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead,” by Luanne Castle

Louise was buried with her husband Charles Noffke, my great-grandmother’s brother. The “together forever” headstone is a bit ironic considering one of the newspaper articles that I uncovered.

This next is the headstone of the daughter of Louise and Charles. She is also mentioned in the Broad Street article.

The first feature article is “Family Laundry: “An Account of a Poor Oil Stove Bought off Dutch Pete,” by Luanne Castle

The second feature article is Family Laundry 2:…

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Filed under Family history, History, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Publishing, Writing

Six-Week Family History & Poetry Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE — The Family Kalamazoo

The different ways that family history and genealogy intersect with other aspects of the culture is growing. But I think this project might be a first for family history. Broad Street Magazine, which publishes nonfiction narratives in a variety of genres, has begun a six-week series of feature articles on six poems from my family history […]

via Six-Week Family History & Poetry Series at BROAD STREET MAGAZINE — The Family Kalamazoo

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by | October 26, 2018 · 2:30 pm