What Ceremony Else?

Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday. I’ve been thinking about how life-changing his work has been for me, how he more than anyone else has taught me the power of words and their arrangement. He arranged words in such a way that we can easily distinguish characters, mood, time, and relationships. And he was a magician, a wizard.

Consider Taming of the Shrew. Katherine and Petruchio’s extraordinary exchanges are mind-blowingly crisp, directed, expressive, and at times fun.

But for me, the most powerful scene I have read– I say “read” not “seen” because I’ve seen enough incredible Shakespeare, particularly The Merchant of Venice and The Winter’s Tale and Hamlet, that there is no way I could single one out– is the scene at Ophelia’s grave, starting with Laertes’ opening question.

I love Laertes’ raw, angry, destitute grief. I love how he takes it out on everyone. I love Hamlet’s glorious expression of love, mixed with what has to be a significant dose of guilt.

So the scene is this: Hamlet was shipped off to England to either recover his wits or whatever. Actually he was to be executed, but, spoiler alert: he got the better of Claudius. Hamlet is back in time to see Ophelia, who may or may not have taken her own life, be buried. This is the first time he learns of her death. And Laertes is back from school and is very, very upset.

So when the funeral is to be simple, Laertes’ question is a pointed one. But since Ophelia is believed to have taken her own life, the priest refuses ceremony for her.



What ceremony else?


That is Laertes,
A very noble youth: mark.


What ceremony else?

First Priest

Her obsequies have been as far enlarged
As we have warrantise: her death was doubtful;
And, but that great command o’ersways the order,
She should in ground unsanctified have lodged
Till the last trumpet: for charitable prayers,
Shards, flints and pebbles should be thrown on her;
Yet here she is allow’d her virgin crants,
Her maiden strewments and the bringing home
Of bell and burial.


Must there no more be done?

First Priest

No more be done:
We should profane the service of the dead
To sing a requiem and such rest to her
As to peace-parted souls.


Lay her i’ the earth:
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be,
When thou liest howling.


What, the fair Ophelia!


Sweets to the sweet: farewell!

Scattering flowers

I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,
And not have strew’d thy grave.


O, treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms:

Leaps into the grave

Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o’ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus.


[Advancing] What is he whose grief
Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers? This is I,
Hamlet the Dane.

Leaps into the grave


The devil take thy soul!

Grappling with him


Thou pray’st not well.
I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat;
For, though I am not splenitive and rash,
Yet have I something in me dangerous,
Which let thy wiseness fear: hold off thy hand.


Pluck them asunder.


Hamlet, Hamlet!




Good my lord, be quiet.

The Attendants part them, and they come out of the grave


Why I will fight with him upon this theme
Until my eyelids will no longer wag.


O my son, what theme?


I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?


O, he is mad, Laertes.


For love of God, forbear him.


‘Swounds, show me what thou’lt do:
Woo’t weep? woo’t fight? woo’t fast? woo’t tear thyself?
Woo’t drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
I’ll do’t. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as thou.


This is mere madness:
And thus awhile the fit will work on him;
Anon, as patient as the female dove,
When that her golden couplets are disclosed,
His silence will sit drooping.


Hear you, sir;
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I loved you ever: but it is no matter;
Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.



I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him.



Strengthen your patience in our last night’s speech;
We’ll put the matter to the present push.
Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.
This grave shall have a living monument:
An hour of quiet shortly shall we see;
Till then, in patience our proceeding be.




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I’m A Writer, I’m Not Mentally Ill, Now What?

I write. I don’t write consistently enough. Sometimes it’s like I have to push through heavy layers of emotional reticence just to get to work on a project.

I must have some kind of mental illness, or emotional damage, which is making it so hard for me. That’s got to be the reason I find it so hard to just sit the frak down, open my document, and get to work. Or to open a Chrome tab to AgentQuery.com and search for more agents to send my completed novels to.

I must have some kind of problem. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have so much difficulty doing this work that I love (mostly– querying is awful) and that I want to spend my life doing.

Except. Except! I CAN sit down and just get the frak to work. I can talk myself out of being stupid, procrastinating, watching another episode of Brooklyn 99, or just vegging out to games. I can reason in my head why I need to get back to this grind. I can push away the fear, the emotional accoutrements, and whatever else is stopping me from working.

I can do that. And I can get to work. Every time, if I try.

And when I do get to work I feel great. Everything’s better. My fear’s gone. My obsession with getting the best word in Word Chums vanishes (for a time). My life feels like it’s in order.

Sure, I still have emotional baggage from my entire life that is sometimes hard to cope with.

But I CAN cope with it. Without the help of medicine or doctors or anything. I can do it.

I’m not mentally ill, much to my own surprise, considering my history. If I were mentally ill, the slight depression or laziness that I feel would be something that had a personality and a hold on me– and it would be me! It would affect my sense of self in every way as it tried to drive me deeper and deeper into a miasma of self-defeating diatribes I hurled at myself.

And I wouldn’t be able to talk myself out of it all of the time.

And I would feel like a passenger in my life, and that is a very difficult place to be. A passenger. Every day. Fighting every day to get control of the train ride of your life and the control room of your brain. And you win that fight sometimes, but the war is never over and sometimes when you don’t win that fight, it gets bad. Scary bad.

But I’m not mentally ill. I’m kind of an anomaly in the writer world, when you think about it. Honestly, and this might get me in trouble, I sometimes think that writer types might even be tempted to find/manufacture a mental illness in order to qualify as a writer.

But that’s dumb and lame. Because mental illness is real and people I know and love, and people you know and love, have to deal with it every day– every moment of their lives.

Can you imagine being mentally ill? I can. Barely. Really only a smidgen. And that’s because I know a guy who is determined to remove the stigma from mental illness and get people to understand that it’s an illness in the same way as MS or cancer is–and mental illness presents serious challenges to treatment. This guy, this friend, is also a writer– a pretty good one when all is said and done. He’s a husband and a father too. He’s incredibly mentally ill.

And while being ill, he’s churned out multiple novels and goes on book tours and to conferences and he works his butt off to support his family and cope with his mental illnesses. He has panic attacks. He suffers from severe OCD. He’s got a lot trying to stop him from being successful and productive– and worse– it’s all in his head. Biologically in his head. Chemically in his head. And it’s expensive to treat this stuff.

I admire Robison Wells a lot. I am so grateful to know him, because he’s really helped me understand what mental illness is. He’s also helped me understand what it means to make a Herculean stand against the worst kind of foe and win a lot of the time.

Granted, Rob and I disagree a lot about political stuff, mainly because he’s a pinko commie, but I value my association with him.

And I want to do everything I can to help him.

I’m not the only one who wants to help. Famous people like Ally Condie, Aprilynne Pike, Brandon MullBrandon Sanderson, Shannon Hale, and Larry Correia are helping him, along with other people you might know or have heard of, like Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, J. Scott Savage, Jessica Day George, Mary Robinette Kowal, Josi Kilpack, Sarah M. Eden, and Sara Zarr are helping him too. All of these people, and many more that I really ought to list but my fingers are getting tired, are working together on one of the single coolest anthologies you will ever buy.

Because you will buy it. This IS the anthology you are looking for.

They are doing this to help Rob Wells get out from under the crippling burden of IRS and medical debt that he’s under, and hopefully help him get his feet under him. I’ve heard the story of the situation that he’s in, and you would struggle to find a nicer, more honest and straightforward and hard-working guy who is absolutely deserving of a lift.

This anthology is being funded by an Indiegogo campaign. I’ve donated and can’t wait to get my copies! Here is the link: Altered Perceptions Anthology.

Will you take a minute and a credit card right now to help Rob? You get what is going to be a really cool, truly unique book. And you’re helping in a good cause.

So I’m not mentally ill. My “Now What?” is to help who I can where I can. I hope you’ll do this too.

Don’t bother sharing this post. But absolutely DO share the link to the Indiegogo campaign.

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My Orange Chicken Recipe

I make ridiculously good orange chicken. Here’s how:

Equipment Needed

  • Deep fryer or deep pot and lots of good frying oil
  • I use coconut oil
  • A big pan or wok to coat the chicken in sauce


Dipping mixture

  • Corn starch (1.5 cups)
  • Unbleached white flour (1.5 cups)
  • Salt (.5 tsp)
  • Pepper (.5 tsp)

Chicken etc

  • Chicken breast, thawed and diced into 1-2 inch cubes (2-3 lbs)
  • Eggs (2)
  • Orange juice (1 orange)
  • Orange zest (.5-1 orange)
  • Salt (.5 tsp)
  • Pepper (.5 tsp)

Orange sauce

  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 6 Tbsp rice vinegar (any flavor/style is fine)
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3-4 Tbsp water
  • Orange juice (fresh from 1.5 oranges)
  • Orange zest (from 1 orange)

In pan

  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp minced garlic
  • .5 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion

Last stuff

  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • Spicy sesame oil


  1. Get your oil heating to 375 F minimum. Be sure you have a slotted spoon or a basket to help with gathering the cooked chicken. (I cook outside in our deep fryer– much oil smoke and steam is produced.)
  2. Prepare chicken- thaw and dice- and put in a large bowl.
  3. Add all ‘Chicken etc.’ stuff to the diced chicken. Stir until it’s well combined.
  4. Prepare your dipping mixture in a deepish, wide pan. Combine well.
  5. Place your bowl of chicken mixture and dipping mixture near the hot oil. Also get a large plate or a cake pan and line it with a couple layers of paper towel.
  6. Prepare a large pan– a wide sauce pan is best– by putting it on the stove– no heat yet!– and adding the oil, garlic, and ginger.
  7. Combine the orange sauce ingredients in an appropriate sized bowl. Keep this bowl near to the pan.
  8. Now, in small-medium batches, toss the goopy chicken in the flour mixture, coating evenly, then immediately cooking. It will cook in 4 minutes. DON’T OVERCOOK. Remove from the oil and put it in the cake pan lined with paper towel. Cook all the chicken in this manner. Your hand will get goopy. It’s okay.
  9. The moment you put the last batch of chicken in the oil to cook, go turn the heat on under the pan with oil, ginger, and garlic. Keep the heat on low-medium.
  10. When all the chicken is cooked, set it next to the heating pan of oil, ginger, and garlic. Put the chopped green onions in the oil, ginger, garlic mixture as soon as it is fragrant. Turn the heat to med-high and saute the green onions until they’re slightly cooked.
  11. Time to rock and roll!
  12. Give the orange sauce mixture one last mix to dissolve all sugar. Now pour it in your hot pan of oil, ginger, garlic, and green onions. Bring it to a quick boil.
  13. Turn the heat back down to low.
  14. Put the cooked chicken in the pan, gently coating it with the dark orange sauce.
  15. When the chicken is coated, decide if you want the sauce to be thicker. If so, decide how much. Also, turn off the heat. (YOUR JOB HERE IS TO NOT ACTUALLY COOK THE CHICKEN ANYMORE WHILE STILL COATING IT.)
  16. If only a little thicker, use half the water and corn starch as listed above.
  17. Either way, mix the corn starch in the cold water- leave no lumps.
  18. Drizzle this over the hot pan of chicken and stir well. The sauce will thicken immediately.
  19. When the chicken is fully coated and the sauce is nicely thickened, serve immediately.

We like to have this with rice, Asian slaw, and roasted sweet potatoes.


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All For The Good

My friends, I thought it would be nice if I wrapped up the journey my beloved and I have been on this year.

You can get the whole story and details up until now in two parts. Part one here. And Part two here.

It started with us being led to do something that required faith: get pregnant. We didn’t understand why, but our hearts grew more willing as we talked, prayed, and talked more. When we got pregnant right away, we felt sure that we were on the right path– and we got excited.

Then the signs of possible trouble, but the belief that the baby would be okay. We spent six hours at the ER as they did test after test on my dear one. The ultrasound technician’s body language was telling me something– I knew something was happening– but I had no clue what we were in for.

Then the ER doctor, Taylor Kallas, came in after we’d waited for so long and leading off by saying, “We have to talk.” He described the mass on her kidney. Said the pregnancy tests were inconclusive. Pointed out that treatment of the mass/cancer was dicey, given the pregnancy. A bolt of lightning hit me the moment he told us what the ultrasound had turned up.

I knew. I knew EXACTLY why Father in Heaven had told us to get pregnant. It was to save her life. We just had to have the faith that would lead us through incomplete understanding to obedience.

Dr. Kallas indicated that we might want to hope for a miscarriage. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted this baby.

Then at the urologist later that week. He said that 90%+ of the time when a mass like this was found incidentally, it was renal cell carcinoma. He said that needle biopsies would be inconclusive, given the size of the tumor: 10cm x 8cm x 8cm. He agreed that a miscarriage would make things clearer and easier.

We still didn’t want that. We didn’t want to have make a choice about it either, because that would have been indescribably harder.

Ten, long painful days of waiting, waiting, waiting. And then we found out conclusively that she was having a miscarriage. That was a tough night. Every tear from my beloved showed me her broken heart– broken in a way I’d never seen before. Different. Really deep. And it hurt me to see it, but that was pain I welcomed, because she needed me there and I wanted to be there and my own grief had to wait for a while.

Underneath and above all of it was the incredible, undeniable miracle of God’s voice and our choice to follow His voice- in actual fact- saving her life from a large renal cell carcinoma.

I still marvel at that. I still marvel, and probably always will, at the moments where we put ourselves at His feet and said, “Thy will be done,” even though we didn’t understand. Who was that? I recognized my wife, her faith and strength and meekness and courage. I don’t recognize myself there– but I want to get know that version of me more.

We arose from our sorrow and got busy with having her kidney removed. The few seconds where I watched her let the grief finish its first run through her and she pulled her frayed self together and went back to our evening of kids and dinner and bedtimes– I kid you not; those are some of the most humbling seconds I’ve lived. My wife is mighty.

She’s also a goofball and a great kisser.

And the surgery happened. Pretty quickly, I would add. And I didn’t know how tight I was inside until I got word that she’d come out of surgery, the cancer looked totally contained, and she was fine. That’s the only time in all of this that I’ve.. I don’t know. Let it go? Mainly because I couldn’t have stopped that release. I was glad to be just parking my car in the hospital parking lot. I needed that privacy.

Now she’s pretty much recovered from the radical nephrectomy. She has a CT scan in May. Then another several months later. Then one every year for five years. All to make sure that there is no cancer anymore.

I went back to the hospital a few days after she got out. I waited in the ER for the ultrasound tech for a couple of hours. After two hours of waiting, I wrote him a note on the back of an envelope which held a tiny token of my thanks for him. As I was about to leave the note with the ER receptionist, the tech walked in. Trevor Whitney is his name.

He recognized me. I hugged him. I told him all the details, mostly that his excellent work found the tumor and saved my wife’s life. He was a little emotional and told me that he was glad to hear how things had turned out. He said he would share my note and our story with other technicians.

We parted ways.

A couple weeks ago, one of my wife’s friends was in the radiology department at this hospital, prepping for a scan of her gall bladder. Since this friend knew the story, she asked if the technician wouldn’t mind checking her kidneys too. She explained the context.

The technician had heard the story. It wasn’t our technician, Trevor, but someone else.

Word has spread. Kidneys are being scanned better as part of their procedure.

People might be saved. Like my wife. Because we listened and had faith and then I followed what I thought was maybe an indulgent whim but it was important to me– and I talked to Trevor.

This has been miracle after miracle, good after good– and it was cancer, major surgery, a miscarriage, a long recovery, and a lot of tears and strained patience and worry.

I can’t find anything bad in this experience we’ve had. Somehow, through grace and faith and love, the hardest thing we’ve ever experienced as a couple has been all for the good.

I’m not going to ask you to share this, because that would feel weird. But we don’t mind if you do and I feel that others can benefit, so go ahead if you want.

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Be A Man

Will the so-called ‘gender wars’ never cease? What do we have to do to get people to treat each other fairly and with tolerance, love, and respect?

Well, I (along with history) can tell you that making a law ain’t going to get it done. Making a bunch of laws won’t either. Legislation doesn’t change opinions, and honestly, it very rarely changes practice on an individual basis.

Legislation provides a pretense of control and assurance. It makes organizations toe a line when obedience to that legislation fits their interest, but more often, it forces those organizations to be more creative and agile in the way they continue to pursue their interests– often leading them to find loopholes in said legislation.

So you can be sure that legislation isn’t going to make today’s kids responsible adults who abide by laws and treat others with respect, love, and tolerance. I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it’s a fact.

Let me reiterate: Laws don’t make good citizens and/or good human beings. Laws, by their nature, are designed to preempt behavior that infringes on the rights of another by providing a threat of punishment for the breaking of that law.

But fear of punishment for breaking a law is not what fashions young people into law-abiding citizens. If that were the case, nobody would murder or steal or speed. Fear of punishment is not enough. It’s something else that makes good citizens.

It’s parents. Mostly.

Sure, some apples fall far from the tree, often because the apple in question makes a personal decision to fall far from the tree and start down a different path.

But generally, it’s parents. Parents and the culture they inculcate in their home are what shape a kid, for the most part. There’s certainly something to be said for individual biology and psychology– but it’s really hard to quantify the environmental and biological influences on kids.

I say this because I wish we could stop freaking out so much, particularly about gender. For crying out loud, the latest cause du jour is this odd, deeply misplaced push to #BanBossy.

You’ve gotta be kidding me.

What with crappy, bloated school administrations letting boys and girls (boys more than girls) slip through the school cracks, massive problems with human sex trafficking (girls more than boys and this breaks my heart), terrible abuse and crime in countless inner cities, indescribably damaging to the self-image pictures in myriad popular magazines, our nation’s ugly addiction to pop culture, the scourge of pornography and terrifyingly asinine idea that it’s a victimless thing, and the astonishingly abominable way that our justice system and society treat rape victims– the movement is to ‘ban bossy?’

That’s like putting a band-aid on a tiny scrape that happened at the same time that an axe was buried in a person’s chest.

Saying we should #BanBossy is as effective as saying #BanStupid.

‘Ban Bossy’ brings us nowhere nearer to where we want to be as a society– to a place where people are respected, where this society has a general expectation of people that they are individually responsible for themselves and their actions.

I tell my boys, five of them, to be a man when I want them to move closer to that expectation. By telling them to be a man, I’m not telling them that women are bad. They know that I’m not saying anything about women– I’m saying something about what I expect from them– my lads. I’m telling my mini-men to adhere to a pretty expansive set of expectations which we’ve been over many times. Would you like to know what a man is, in my family? A man to be aspired to, at least?

  1. A man is absolutely and totally respectful of women. Words such as ‘slut,’ or anything else are never uttered, under any circumstances. Any kind of demeaning language toward women is uncomfortable in the mouth of an actual, real man.
  2. A man does not wait for anyone else to do the right thing. He doesn’t wait when society or friends or fear tell him to hold back. He unhesitatingly serves anyone in need that he encounters. He instantly defends the victim in any situation, and withholds judgment, but makes sure all involved are at least in a place of safety.
  3. A man knows, and lives by the knowledge, that he is responsible for never making another person uncomfortable. He doesn’t buy into a victim mentality; but instead he lives by the individual responsibility mentality: interpretation of behavior and perspectival impressions don’t matter a whit. What matters is whether sufficient consideration went into any given interaction and if any assumption was unkind or inconsiderate– he takes the responsibility unswervingly and makes it right inasmuch as possible.
  4. A man is meek. This is strength. True meekness comes from inner peace and confidence. It comes from a strength of conviction that comes from a person knowing and living by the knowledge that he is never fully aware of the entire situation and the entire set of details about a given situation or issue. Which means that he has something to learn. Always. This means that a man doesn’t win arguments. A man discusses and listens and doesn’t allow pride to push him to ‘make a point.’ A man listens and makes sure others feel valued and appreciated. His meekness is strength because the only thing motivating him in a given situation is love and concern for others. His pride is swallowed in this.
  5. A man has unassailable integrity. There is no attempt to deceive, either for his own benefit or for the detriment of others. None.
  6. A man works. A man does what is needed before what is wanted. A man does what he has to do before he does what he wants to do. Work brings power. Not power over others, but power over one’s self. Power over the things that need to be controlled and put in order. Increased power over one’s situation. A man works hard out of duty, out of love, out of a need to make the world a better place.
  7. A man makes the world a better place. He never makes another person’s day, or life, harder in any way. He doesn’t multiply work for others. He reaches out to those in need. He anticipates need. He doesn’t let fear stop him from visible or invisible service to others. This means he doesn’t make a mess for others to clean up; he sees a person who needs car help and stops to help immediately; he finds ways to brighten a day every day.
  8. A man weeps. A man feels and allows himself to express emotions in positive expressions. He weeps when moved. He laughs when moved. He does NOT shout when moved. He understands that emotional expression is a choice that he is responsible for, so he allows himself to express emotion positively and in a way that increases love, connection, and trust. So a man weeps with his loved ones. He recognizes when he needs comfort and when others will be strengthened through comforting him.
  9. A man is positive. A man knows that the world is full of opportunities to be sad and morose, but chooses instead to be positive, to have fun, to say kind things and find ways to make things enjoyable.
  10. A man is vulnerable. A man knows he cannot hold the weight of the world, knows he needs help often, and knows to ask for that help. A man knows he has needs in a relationship and communicates those needs in a productive, frank way.
  11. A man is silly, imperfect, doesn’t take himself seriously, and knows that life is about finding joy, not wallowing in sadness or depression. A man also knows when he needs help, again, and if he is sick, he seeks that help. And he brings fun, happiness, self-deprecation, and appropriate irreverence to the world around him inasmuch as he can.
  12. A man loves. A man shows love through word, touch, service, goodness, and expression. This also means that a man is peace-loving and doesn’t allow forceful coercion to be how he does things. Loving persuasion is the way to bring people to your side and a man knows this and lives this.
  13. A man appreciates beauty. Yes, womanly beauty as well as natural beauty. He perceives the beauty– or at least does his best to– in all women. He senses the beauty of Creation and all nature- the complexity of systems and life and the planet. And this appreciation means he is respectful of all things– which brings us back to number 1.

Ultimately, life is beautiful in so many ways, even when life is hard and trying. Often, choosing to find the beauty is the only way we can bring comfort and control into our lives.

I know this is a pretty big list, but it’s all stuff that is crucial. Governments can’t make good citizens, but parents can. When I think of how my boys can be as men, I think of these things. I want to be these things. I know I can make the world a better, kinder, happier, more peaceful, and safer place if I live these principles. And I know that living and teaching these principles to my five sons will make them better people and the world a better place far more effectively than laws ever will.

Laws have their place, but I don’t depend on them. Neither should you.

So stop encouraging the ‘ban bossy’ inanity and start taking control of yourself and the way you treat others. Be a man. And honestly, be a woman– because a lot of these probably apply to women. I’m not a woman, so I can’t really say, though. What I can say is that my boys are being taught to respect women enough that at no point in their adult life will they speak demeaningly or disrespectfully to a woman or girl– if what we are trying in our home works.

Which I think it will.

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