Writing My Life

Now and Then


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Back When I Wanted to be Catholic – and an Ice Skating Olympian

I think my fascination with Catholicism was born at St. Anthony’s Hospital where my mother gave birth to me. Somewhere in my early growing-up years, I heard rumors that before nuns brought babies to their mommies, priests baptized tiny infants. I therefore concluded that I had dual citizenship in the Catholic and the Mormon Churches. I may have even told a few people that I was Catholic.

Vern and Mary with their daughters and Penny, their Cocker Spaniel

Vern and Mary with their daughters and Penny, the Cocker Spaniel

I vaguely remember one or two neighbor children who were bona fide Catholics, but it wasn’t until 1954 when we moved across the street from Vern and Mary and their daughters Ginger, Susan, and Sharon that I learned some details of my “alter-religion”. Susan was closest to my age, and so I assume she served as my mentor in all things Catholic. While she shared some complaints about her faith, I loved everything I learned. For example, I really liked the idea of confession and the resulting absolution from sin. Yes, I know that a tenet of Mormon theology includes repentance, but when I prayed for forgiveness of what I considered many grave transgressions, I wasn’t sure I had been forgiven. I wanted somebody to make it official. Additionally, I was a repeat offender so the idea of frequent trips to the confessional bothered me not in the least. And because I thought of myself as pretty sinful, I also longed to pay penance. For example, I welcomed saying extra prayers especially if I could use a beautiful rosary to keep track of my efforts. In fact, I once bought an early treasure while vacationing at San Juan Capistrano when I was eight: a bracelet designed like a rosary, cross and all.

I really liked the idea of sacrifice, too – at least the ones my friends made. When I was young, Catholics abstained from meat every Friday, not just during Lent, and Fridays were my favorite school lunch days. Cafeteria workers at Lewis and Clark Elementary and Alameda Junior High always served fish sticks or toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup to all students, Catholic or otherwise. I even wanted to “give up” something for Lent. Susan and her sisters usually said goodbye to candy for the six weeks prior to Easter. I think I may have tried to do the same, but if I did, I doubt I lasted 6 days, let alone 40. (Recently I gave up Diet Coke. While this “abstinence” correlates with the Lenten season, it was unintentional, AND I plan to make this a permanent change. I know friends and family are snickering at this – “oh ye of little faith!”)

The biggest attraction to the Catholic faith, however, was First Communion – not because of the importance of receiving the Eucharist for the first time, but because of the beautiful little “wedding” dresses Susan and then Sharon wore. I was SO jealous. When I was baptized into the Mormon/LDS Church at age 8, I wore white knee-length bloomers and a white blouse. I didn’t get a new frock – white or otherwise – for my confirmation. No veil either. Not even white gloves. The adorable Easter dresses and bonnets Mom always bought or made for us did little to diminish my Communion-dress envy.

Looking back at that experience, I find it interesting how religion was often a topic of our childhood conversations. And while my interest in the Catholic Church was fleeting, there was a significant reason I was enamored with my Catholic friends. They were such good, good people. The family was fun and kind. Mom Mary’s wide smile invited friendships, and the girls were intelligent, talented, and beautiful. One summer Ginger kept us busy when she organized a backyard carnival. Under her tutelage, her sisters and we friends created booths by hanging blankets from their clothes line. We featured all sorts of games and prizes, and promoted the event beyond our street to nearby neighborhoods. We charged for the activities but then donated the money – which I don’t recall as being very much, maybe $12 or $15 – to a local charity. Somewhere in my archives is a newspaper photo of us presenting our profits to the organization.

Skating with Mom at Caribou Nat'l Forest rink

Skating with Mom at Caribou Nat’l Forest rink

Then there was Dad Vern; quiet and unassuming, he spent winter nights watering down their back yard to create an ice skating rink. Small at first, the rink’s popularity inspired him to enlarge the square footage until several inches of ice covered all but a tiny corner of their yard. We loved the rink and often hurried home from school to spend a couple of hours there before dinner. I remember one particularly freezing week when schools closed for fear of bursting pipes; nevertheless, the temperatures didn’t dip enough to keep us off the ice. Everyday we spent time playing Crack the Whip and other games with our friends, taking breaks now and again to thaw our toes or sip hot cocoa before resuming.

Wearing our "ice-skating dresses" with Daddy at Caribou rink a few years later

Wearing our “ice-skating dresses” with Daddy at Caribou rink a few years later  

 

When I think of how much time we spent there, I wonder that Vern and Mary rued the day they started that tradition. I can’t imagine how many times children rang their doorbell to ask permission to take the ice, but I don’t remember being turned away very often.

Because of this neighborhood experience, my sister Connie and I became skating devotees, and while our “expertise” did not qualify us for the 1964 Winter Olympics, Mom believed that our love of the sport warranted red corduroy skating dresses!!

The best outcome of that neighborhood skating rink, however, was the closeness we felt to our friends and neighbors. Vern and Mary created lifelong memories of a fun, happy, and safe place for all of us to enjoy regardless of our differences – religious or otherwise. I’ll never forget them!


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Confessions of a Born-again Cook

When I retired last June, I listed some goals I wanted to work on. Among those was to take up cooking. And if I was going to do that, I wanted to prepare healthier and lighter meals. This was not a goal I enthusiastically endorsed but felt it necessary in order to improve my golden year’s health and to save money. So it has shocked, surprised, and amazed me that I have fallen in love with cooking. (Yes, this revelation deserves all three of those verbs!)

This discovery comes from years of seeing myself as a possible candidate for the food network series “Worst Cooks in America”. I am a slow, messy, noisy, compromising, and clumsy chef that uses expired ingredients! (If you doubt my poor image of myself as queen of culinary arts, just read all posts listed under “my cooking life”!) Regardless of how I view myself, I have enjoyed cooking as I never have before, and these are half a dozen reasons why:

  1. Cooking cheers me up. One dismal, cold January day earlier this year, I felt SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) raise its dreary head. Not having anything exciting on my retiree’s calendar, I decided to dedicate the entire day to cooking! I created several recipes from my new favorite food site Skinnytaste.com and a grocery store-mini-book Taste of Home: Light Slow Cooker Recipe Cards(The Taste of Home link takes you to my favorite stew recipe, but I use dried mangoes instead of dried apricots – SO delicious!!) Anyway, by the end of the day, I was in THE BEST MOOD!
  2. Cooking feeds my creative juices. Because I am experimenting with scads of different dishes, I feel like a scientist in the lab, an artist in her studio, an engineer on a design team – well, you get the idea. To serve a successful, delicious, unique meal is so rewarding. Of course, not all recipes have been a hit especially with my meat-and- potatoes, plain-palate husband, but those have been the exception. He LOVED the vegetable beef stew that includes chunks of BUTTERNUT squash as well as the mango, but he wasn’t a big fan of the Quinoa stuffed peppers I whipped up for last Sunday’s dinner. (To appease his boring taste buds, I cook one of his favorites about once a week: meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti, or sloppy Joes. And yes, my eyes just rolled.)
  3. Cooking makes my house smell like a home. I adore the aromas that permeate our little place, and no Scentsy or Febreeze can duplicate wonderful cooking odors that feeds “feel-good” hormones.
  4. Cooking inspires service. Because there are only two of us at the dinner table most nights, we have a lot of leftovers, and G.E. is not high on those – but he’s working on it. That’s okay. I put some in the freezer and try not to forget they are there, but I also deliver my “meals on wheels” to Mom or neighbors who aren’t privy to my poor-cook reputation! So that’s a double bonus – cooking plus service makes me happy!
  5. I have time to cook. Not having to hurry is critical for this slow poke. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, if the recipe claims prep time as 10 minutes, that’s 60 minutes in Renae time. Seriously. But I don’t care. I often cook in the morning when I’m feeling rested and eager. If I am missing an important ingredient, I can run to the store and buy it because I HAVE TIME!!! As my daughter-in-law is a Wildtree representative, I have cooked and frozen 20 yummy meals using their organic ingredients! Yes, it takes a bite out of my week, but again, I am fine with that because – yup, I HAVE TIME!! – and it saves precious minutes in the future!
  6. Cooking is healthier than eating out! While I’m one who has ALWAYS loved a trip to eating establishments – be they restaurants or fast food – such fare is losing its appeal. I get excited to eat my own cooking!!! Seriously. And nearly every dish I make is a “from-scratch” recipe. No preservatives or artificial flavors – I get enough of those in my Diet Coke.

So those are just a few of the reasons I know “cooking is true”. And I hope this newfound love lasts because I am feeling dang good about it. While I’m sure I’ll never be a foodie, I am thrilled with my status of “born-again cook”, and G.E. is too – well, most of the time.


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Food Diary – an Unpublished Post from the Past

Dear Readers – I stumbled upon this entry I wrote in April 2010 but did not post. I still think it’s pretty funny and a sad true story – as least as far as I can remember. RBS

I have yet to figure out how to use WordPress pages. I’m not really sure what kinds of things you write on pages rather than posts. Pages are stationary, so I guess it’s like recording in stone – except you can delete them OR choose “private” rather than “public” visibility. At any rate, I thought maybe I should “page” recipes instead of posting them. Along with that, I thought I could record memories associated with food like I have been doing on recipe posts and  dreary diet pages.

Today, I whipped together my quick ‘n easy lasagna and I started wondering about the first time I tried this Italian dish. Mom didn’t serve it when I was growing up, so I kind of think I tasted lasagna when I went to Brigham Young University and roomed with Dalene, Lynelle, Janelle, Marilyn, and Cheryl. The 2 years I lived with those 5 taught me a lot about cooking. All were better chefs than I was – by a long shot.

We all chipped in $5 a week for food/dinners. Two would shop; two would cook; and two had the week off. Considering that $30 fed 6 girls, I’m amazed at how well we ate. Toast, cereal, and/or fruit were the breakfast mainstays, and most of the time we ate lunch on campus, but we all sat down for yummy dinners that included desserts.

Lynelle created my 2 favorite desserts – a frozen lime thingy and a layered, rainbow dessert to die for. I tried to make them a couple of times when I was first married, but they just didn’t taste as good. And the rainbow dish was so dang time-consuming because each layer had to chill before adding the next one.

It sort of looked like this minus the sun and rosette clouds. Really ghastly!

It sort of looked like this minus the sun and rosette clouds. Really ghastly!

I tried to keep up with my friends by cooking up some of Mom’s great dishes – the ones she DIDN’T use recipes for, like her chili. But EVERY attempt ended in disaster. One of the worst experiences is when I baked a cake – probably from a mix, but then I tried to make the frosting from powdered sugar, butter and milk. I didn’t have any directions, so I guessed at amounts. Most cooks know powdered sugar icing needs VERY LITTLE milk, but I DIDN’T know that. After emptying EVERY box of powdered sugar we had into the mixture to thicken it up, the concoction was still quite runny. And it looked and tasted rather blah, too. So what did I do? I decided to add a little flavoring and food coloring; but the only coloring was BLUE and the only flavoring was ROOT BEER – the kind used to make HOMEMADE ROOT BEER. In spite of the BYU blue tint,  it looked HORRIBLE and tasted WORSE! And, of course, it was supposed to be served at a church dinner for college students! I can’t remember if I was courageous enough to take it to the social or not, but if I did, I am sure not one person except the baker tried it. Yeccchhhhhhh!

Signing off for now,

Renae


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When Life Turns on a Dime

Last Sunday started like the Sunday before that and the Sunday before that. G.E. and I slept in. Upon waking, I wrapped up in my favorite robe and he dressed in his comfy sweats, or “daytime jammies” as I call them. Next I stirred around in the kitchen while he sat at the bar and poured over the Sunday paper, and then the phone rang.

Before picking up the receiver, I predicted that a member of our church congregation was on the other end in search of a Sunday School or Primary substitute. I was wrong. Before picking up the receiver, all was right with the morning. That’s when life turned on a dime.

Within a few minutes we learned that a loved member of G.E.’s extended family had received a life-threatening medical diagnosis and was scheduled for surgery within hours. We quickly cleaned up and headed to the hospital where we greeted many family members who had gathered together in love and support. The well-wishers filled the room and spilled into the hallway. Smiles and laughter intermingled with tears and hugs. It was a warm sight and an even warmer feeling.

Everyone stayed in the waiting room while our loved one was in surgery, and so we were there to hear the surgeon report the results. They were pretty much what he predicted they would be. Silence descended and quiet tears, followed by hugs and more hugs.

And now the trials of faith. Prayers will ask Heavenly Father for a miracle, for our family member to beat the odds, for “the cup to be lifted”. We know those things could happen. But we also know the miracles could take other forms as in added grace. Our Father in Heaven did not intervene in Gethsemane, but He sent an angel to comfort the Savior, and so we’ll look for the attendance of angels and increased love flowing from family and friends in heaven and on earth to buoy up that dear family.

As for the extended family, I am very grateful that G.E.’s siblings have met for dinner several times a year for nearly a decade to strengthen ties. We’ve held yearly reunions to include children and grandchildren for the past 3 years. Those traditions made it natural and comfortable to rally together during this time of need. We are not strangers to one another. When life turns on a dime as it did this weekend, that is a wonderful comfort.

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Kind Acts That Pick Us Up, Warm Our Hearts, or Make Us Smile

0121_HeartwatchesthenewsTo counteract disturbing and depressing news that produces angst in my psyche, I look for heartwarming stories of kindnesses often found in media. I am constantly amazed at the lengths people go to to help others, but I am also touched by the stories of smalls acts of tenderness and giving.

About a month ago, I asked Facebook friends and family the following question: “What little acts of kindness have come your way that picked you up, warmed your heart, or made you smile?”

I really enjoyed reading the dozen-plus responses over the next few days and decided it is fitting during this month of valentines to summarize some observations that help our hearts.

Big or little, kind experiences are memorable. My cousin Julie and an old friend Liz will never forget the Christmas generosity of neighbors during dark days when their husbands left them and their children. Kristine is still grateful for dear friends who cleaned her house and left dinner on the table while she was busy taking care of funeral arrangements for her mother. Friends Christine, Debbie, and Kathy remember strangers in check-out lanes who paid for their purchases that ranged from a soda to a bouquet of flowers to 30 boxes of crayons for the teacher’s classroom!

Good turns perpetuate more good turns. Many who responded to my question passed along the kindnesses because of what they had experienced. Liz, who received “12 days of Christmas” from neighbors, said, “My girls and I ‘paid it forward’ and we did the same for one friend or neighbor every Christmas for about 10 years.” Jan’s extended family honored her mother-in-law, who was respected as an wonderful example of giving, by performing 92 acts of kindness in her memory. They set up a private Facebook page to list the wide and varied experiences of giving, and they drew much joy from performing the good deeds and from reading about them.

Families are hotbeds of giving and receiving.  Not really a shocking revelation, but it was fun to read about husbands who hold hands, open doors, and shower their wives with kisses and hugs. My cousins Bonnie and Linda appreciate their spouses who bring tea or coffee to them while they wake up. Linda’s hubby then reads scriptures and inspirational writings plus more – “Big hugs and praise God every morning”, she writes. My sister Connie remembers when she was “a cranky needy teenager [and] our dear Mom [sewed] new clothes for her. She held down a full time job so the only time to sew was after work late into the night.” Tiffany’s mantra of “doing a good deed daily” passes down to her family where dinner conversation centers around “what did you do for someone else today?” Tara wrote of a sweet little girl, about 6 or 7, who not only provided directions out of the complicated ropes course at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, she escorted Tara and her children out of there! She commented, “Such a polite and considerate thing for such a young person. I was really touched.” Her parents had taught her well.

Even when people are “assigned” to give, recipients are still appreciative. Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women participate in visiting teaching where two “sisters” are expected to visit other sisters in the congregation once a month. Dee wrote of visiting teachers who bring “needed messages from Heavenly Father and that leaves [her] better than they found [her]!” And Karen remembers a visiting teacher who made her a birthday cake and another who listened to what she really needed when recovering from a stroke: “a Bear Creek soup and a loaf of French bread so [she] could still be independent but … choose to use it when [she] wanted.”

It is not hard to extend kindnesses. Several respondents to my Facebook query shared their gratitude for the simplest expressions of thoughtfulness. My sister-in-law Debi loves spontaneous hugs; neighbor Mike appreciates smiles; and Lindsey is grateful for people’s patience, compliments, and thank yous. Although another neighbor Scott did not comment upon my post, he wrote that he was touched when old friends “liked” his Facebook posts and shared kind comments and reflections about what he wrote. While FB is often derided for being the opposite of Scott’s observation, it can be a source of connectedness with people we love and admire whose posts make us smile.

Acts of kindness bring joy to the giver. During a Sunday discussion at church, the sweet teacher spoke briefly about some struggles she contends with. Her counselor suggested a line of defense is to move the focus from one’s own problems to providing some service to others who need help. I know several friends who have adopted the same philosophy to battle depression and other debilitating issues. While it doesn’t “cure” the problems, it helps keep them in check and brings a measure of happiness into their lives.

So, during this Valentine month, I look to this cute advent calendar my granddaughter made to remind me that the world is not lost as long as there are so many people involved in the avocation of giving to others. (If you want to read all the replies in detail, click HERE to be uplifted.)

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Monday Morning Quarterback: Reflections Upon Sunday’s Lessons

We are studying the New Testament in Sunday School this year, and I love what I am learning through my personal study as well as my preparations to teach the lesson every other Sunday. Because we never have time to cover all the wonderful messages, I decided that I want to record some highlights of what I discover.

48_jesus-acclaims-john-the-baptist-come-unto-me_1800x1200_300dpi_2Yesterday’s lesson was about John the Baptist and the Savior’s baptism, and the following is a list of new insights and/or messages that touched my heart.

  • John the Baptist, “a child of promise” was the “last” and the “first” – last of the Old Testament prophets and first of the New Testament prophets. (See Bible Dictionary, a resource found in the King James Version used by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons.)
  • Baptizing the Savior was not the only way John prepared the way for Christ’s teachings as he taught the higher law that was to replace the Law of Moses:
    • Repent and be baptized to gain a remission of sins versus offering sacrifices upon altars.
    • Repent means to change, and so in Luke 3: 10-14, John answers the honest queries of those who asked “what shall we do” to change?
      • To those who have “enough and to spare”, exercise charity by giving raiment and food to those who have none.
      • Just as he challenged the tax collectors who also asked the question, exercise charity in your work by not exacting more of people than you should.
      • In a day when soldiers suffered from “blood lust” and felt the “ends justified the means” and gathered the “spoils of war” because it was their right, John asked the soldiers to abandon those practices: don’t be violent; don’t falsely blame others to justify your actions, and be content with what you earn or what you have rather than to take what isn’t yours to take.
        • John’s reply applies to us, too. In charity, we should resist being cruel or unkind or accusatory to others, plus we need to appreciate what we have and not be unethical in pursuing more and more.
  • Although he acknowledged Jesus was sinless and not in need of baptism, John did not realize the man was the Messiah until he and the Savior both saw the Holy Ghost in the sign of the dove light upon Christ, and heard God the Father confirm that Jesus was His Son and that the Savior had pleased Him. (See John 1: 29-34.)
    • While reading these verses, I received the impression that John and Jesus were the only two who witnessed that miraculous confirmation of the Savior’s divinity.
    • Having been foretold that he would recognize the Christ by this “sign”, John testified from that time forth that Jesus was the Messiah especially when he uttered the powerful and beautiful words, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
    • I also learned that Matthew 3:17 records Heavenly Father’s confirmation of the Savior by saying “THIS is my beloved Son …”; but Mark 1:11 and Luke 3: 22 reports the voice from heaven said “THOU art my beloved Son …”.
      • To me the significance of this difference is that God the Father “considered the audience” as the message was not meant to testify to John only, but to His Son as well.
      • Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost and the spirit directed Him to the wilderness to fast and pray and learn – just as many holy men had done before. But the Savior had much more to contemplate than most men. And it was here, as He fought to understand who He was and what His mission was that Satan delivered his three temptations.
        • James E. Talmage, former apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and author of Jesus the Christ maintains that among Lucifer’s purposes in tempting the Savior was to plant doubts about the words He had just heard: “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

The few who may read this post may not find anything new or startling or amazing in what I’ve written, but I recorded this for myself. At age 66, I am still working on my testimony of the Savior and His gospel, and I want to look back and remember what I learned and felt. Through my recent scripture studies, I not only want to better know and follow Christ, I want to better know and learn from those who were with Him – men like John the Baptist.

Deer in Headlights


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Our Ford Edge: The Deer-Slayer’s Sacrifice

Dear Folks at the Ford Company,

This thank-you note is overdue, but I want you to know how appreciative I am of the heroic efforts of our 2010 Ford Edge. With few exceptions, modes of transportation rarely inspire sentimentality within me, but our SUV is one I will always remember fondly.

On an October night, 2014, my husband and I traveled west to visit our son’s family in California. This is a well-worn route for us dating back to the 60’s, and NEVER in that time have we noticed deer – live or dead – along I-80. We figured the creatures must lurk somewhere, however, because warning signs and a state-of-the-art deer crossing served as evidence of the possibility.

Not long after leaving Wendover, Nevada, the two of us chatted about that very topic and even commented that we better stop talking and be on the look-out for deer because the desert night was growing ever darker. Within a few miles, a huge suicidal buck with our number somewhere on his person instantly appeared in the middle of the highway, staring us down, and daring us to send him to deer heaven.Deer in Headlights

With ninja-like reflexes, my husband of 45+ years swerved towards the shoulder of the road in a failed attempt to avoid the handsome 4-pointer. Few things can make you shudder like the sound of plastic – mixed with a bit of steel – slamming into flesh, fur, bones, and antlers at 68ish mph. Usually a screamer, I silently held my breath until our fish-tailing Edge finally slowed and stopped. (One advantage of traveling in the Nevada desert is the light traffic, and, thank heavens, no other vehicles interfered with my spouse’s defensive maneuvers.)

The next hour was spent assessing the damage to the victims (SUV crunched; deer splattered), calling 911, and reporting the incident to our insurance company. We also noted minor miracles: we actually had cell service – thank you T-Mobile – and the engine of our Edge was still running. Even though the driver’s side was pretty much “smooshed”, the airbag didn’t deploy (yay), and dangling bumper parts didn’t gouge the front tire or impede it from doing its job.

Deer Slayer 2Upon his arrival, the highway patrolman confirmed the deer’s demise was a quick one, and then he assisted us in removing pieces of yukky debris hanging off the Ford. In the meantime, the engine still hummed. Once the patrolman gave us the go-ahead to drive to Elko instead of waiting for a tow company, we traveled 75 miles to our destination with nary a glitch. No engine malfunctions. No more crazy deer.

Because of the late hour, we checked into a motel. The next morning the “deer-slayer” started right up, and we drove to Top-Gun Auto Repair. The manager was expecting us, but he was shocked to see that our brave SUV made it to his establishment under its own power!Deer Slayer 1

“I’ve seen cars with a lot less damage towed here. That’s amazing,” he commented.

At first he thought the Edge could be repaired, and we were thrilled because we really liked that SUV. The ride was smooth and quiet, the seats were comfortable, and most importantly, the vehicle was well-built. It handled so well when my husband played “chicken” with the buck; and the fact that the engine “just kept on ticking” saved us hours of waiting for a tow truck and enabled us to keep the heat operating so we were warm against the cold of the desert night.

In the end, our 2010 Ford Edge couldn’t be saved. Internal damage was too extensive, and we mourned the loss. But once the diagnosis was confirmed, and we knew we had to purchase another vehicle, there was no debate. We found a suitable replacement for that mighty deer-slayer that will always have a place in our hearts: a 2013 Ford Edge LIMITED! Oh yeah!

So we thank you Ford Folks in Detroit for building such a fine vehicle, and thank you personnel at Ken Garff Ford Dealership in American Fork, Utah for treating us so great both times we bought our SUVs!

P.S. If you want us to publicly endorse your fine product, we will be proud to do so – but not so proud that we would refuse a little compensation. (Wink, wink)

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