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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

B Is For Books; How I Miss Them

Much like Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, I feel like I was reading since I was born. I went to kindergarten already reading well above all those Little Golden Books, and a very grateful Miss Osborne used to plop me on a spare teacher's chair and have me read to the rest of the class at naptime while she was busy at her desk. Any spare minute found me reading, a habit that continued well into adulthood, and I have rung up an impressive tab over at My Boyfriend's Place (amazon.com) to prove it.

Imagine my Shock and profound Dismay when I tell you now that I have not read a book in almost a year.

Oh, it's not for lack of effort. Believe me; I have tried so hard to Do Something About This. I desperately miss Reading. It was one of the things I looked forward to most in Retirement--the chance to finally, finally read and read and read like I always did during the Summer when I would order six or eight Books to devour like icy sorbet on a steamy hot day.

Those Summers I would get my puttering done, my gardening out of the way, and grab my Book du Jour along with a cold drink and my Reading Sunglasses and skip out to the patio. I'd position my chaise exactly perfectly to keep the sun on my legs and the shade of my head on the page and read in undisturbed bliss. If I got too warm, I'd seek the oasis of the umbrella table, steps away.

Lovely.

And then, it seemed, my brain went on summer vacation...and stayed there. The last book I read took me over a month; I couldn't concentrate and stay with it. I tried re-reading a book that I had loved before, but that produced the same result. I abandoned it after less than fifty pages of plodding and distraction. I tried reading short stories, and that was a little better, but not much. Poetry was unsatisfying in that it wasn't solving my problem. I still read the newspaper every day, but you and I both know it's not like reading Books.

I miss Books.

Books were such a huge part of my life for over fifty years of my life. I don't think a day went by when I did not read from a book. I became an English teacher, in part, so I could talk about Books. There are Books in almost every single room in my house--wait--they are in every single room of my house. Until last year, they occupied space on every wish list I made for my birthday and Christmas. I took them to bed, on vacation, to the hospital when I had my children, and on my honeymoon. They helped teach me how to parent, how to understand the world, and how to dream. I feel lost without them.

This...brain fog seems to be a menopause leftover, like my migraine resurgence. Sometimes I feel like I'm losing the battle against both of them as I take my pills and do my crossword puzzles and order two new Books from My Boyfriend. Those Books are on my night table, looking more foreboding than inviting. One is a true crime story about arson in the California wine industry, and the other is an old novel I have wanted to read since long ago. All I need to do is pick one up and start it. That, of course, is the Hardest Part.

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29 comments:

  1. I almost hesitate to make this suggestion. Going gluten free is the "thing to do" these days, very much a fad. However, as someone who truly is gluten intolerant, and has experienced brain fog from ingesting gluten (among other worse symptoms) it might be worth a try, a month maybe. wadda ya gotta lose?

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    1. Sillyak--Thank you for trying to help, and I appreciate your concern. Some time ago, my dear friend Shirley from glutenfreeeasily.com suggested that I try going gluten free as a way to mitigate my migraines. I did, and there was no difference in anything. I suppose I could try again, but if it didn't work then, I don't see it suddenly having an effect now.

      Over the summer we actually ate very little that contained gluten. We spent it at the lake, and our diet was primarily veg and grilled meat. Sadly, my brain fog persisted. But thank you again for your idea.

      As an aside, it has to be Dreadfully Annoying to constantly hear about Gluten Free as a fad diet when you have celiac disease and it is a life necessity. I have heard/read of GF diet being used to "treat" everything from autism to toenail fungus. Sigh.

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  2. I feel the same way. I was always reading something then just lost interest in reading. I blame this partially on hot-flash induced brain fog and partially on information overload courtesy of our 24/7 connected world. As I wrote on my blog today, I'm taking steps to methodically start reading again. And I'm letting myself off the hook about needing to read every book as if there's a test later. Reading is going to be all about pleasure now, at a pace I dictate.

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    1. Ally Bean--I hate to think that browsing the Interwebs is ruining my reading. After all, I have been on the web for decades, but my reading problem has only been a recent one. And I don't even turn on the television until Rick gets home at 5 for his Dr Phil fix.

      I will say that I am so glad to see--judging by the comments here--that I am not alone in my predicament. It was honestly scaring me and making me feel very lonely. The old adage of Misery Loves Company is true!

      Reading has always been all about Pleasure for me; it is such a Joy for me when I can do it. Good Luck to both of us in restoring it to our lives.

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  3. I half expected your B to be Bowie. Sigh.

    Your inability to focus and enjoy books just breaks my heart. I wonder if it's one of the meds that you're on for your migraines? If so, I don't know if there's a real solution, which really really sucks. Maybe your body will adjust, and you'll get your reading groove back. I sure hope so.

    My illness comes with a brain fog as well, which has let itself be known in sundry unpleasant ways. As I get better, though, the fog seems to be retreating. I hope the same will happen for you.

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    1. Oh, dear David Bowie. An aside:

      The Cleveland news was full of David Bowie's death, as you can imagine, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, etc., and Rick and I were watching a lengthy report/retrospective. I was commenting and sighing, and Rick said, "You know, I was never a fan of his music." Just like that, the segment began playing snippets of Bowie's hits in chronological order, talking about how he kept reinventing himself, etc. Rick kept saying, "Oh yeah, I liked that one," and, "Forgot about that song," etc. At the end of the segment, he turned to me and said, "Hm. Guess I DID like David Bowie after all!"

      As far as my migraine meds, I've been on the same ones since 2003, the dosage having been adjusted several times for maximum effectiveness, and all under the care of my wonderful neurologist, Dr. B., whom I've written of here. He has assured me that my meds are not at issue, also that they are not Eating My Brain, which I told (insisted to) him they were.

      I hate blaming things on The Menopause, which I am Technically Over With, but seems to be The Gift That Keeps On Giving. I do not want to turn into An Idiot.

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    2. J--and PS--I forget myself: I am very glad to hear that you are Getting Appreciably Better! This is good news indeed. I remember well your struggle and search for answers and even a diagnosis. So happy that you are nearing The Other Side.

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  4. I suffer from the same strange malaise regarding books. It started when I finished my masters. At first I thought it was from having to read so many tomes over a 4-year stretch; I needed some distance from than burnout, especially since I could not enjoy what I was reading nearly as much due to the pace and volume of reading. I was looking forward to getting back into reading for just the sheer pleasure of it. But I have to say... I have read damn few books in subsequent years. And I have to agree with Ally Bean: I think the amount of stuff I read 'on the run' on internet has something to do with it. I try to read something now before going to bed, but it still isn't the substantial reading I used to do. *sigh* Meantime... I am going to read this, which I just came across:
    http://tinyurl.com/z58fd9y

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    1. Ortizzle--What a wonderful article! As I said in my response to Ally Bean above, I wonder, however, if it is really the Interwebs that have ruined me, or my smartphone. I have been online for decades, and a committed pleasure reader forever. Perhaps it is a Perfect Storm situation of all factors?

      No matter. I am fully committed to bringing Books back into my life. I have to.

      Thanks again for a wonderful article.

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    2. I agree that it is not entirely the interwebs, but the combo of that + stuff you do on your cell phone, which might be checking mail, news, FB (not you there, of course), playing with a game app (I play WWF all by myself against Them, ha, ha), etc., etc. ...

      I think all the digital stuff ditzes our brains out. And eats into TIME. READING TIME. When we were less distracted with computers, internet, cell phones, ipads, etc. ... we only had to contend with TV vs. THE BOOK. My brother, who was certainly not the avid reader that I was as a child, gets in several books a year by listening to audio books on his long commutes back and forth from work. Hmmm...

      When I lived in Spain, I not only read tons of books (either to keep my English up or learn Spanish), I also read a few news mags from cover to cover every week while I was traveling on the metro. On visits back to the States I discovered I knew a truck-load more than people here about just about everything. That was the pre-Internet era, of course, although if I still had to take subway rides all day, I am sure I would read more; it would just be on my cell phone, lol. Hard to get in quality reading time when you only have a few minutes at a traffic light.

      In the end, we would probably have to poll the younger generation to see what their reading habits are like in order to see if this is generational or a gestational life pattern. (I hate using menopause as a scapegoat, although it certainly is a culprit for a lot of crap that hits us at A Certain Age.) In any case, I plan to ask my college students about this reading thing. Of course, they really don't have time to do much more than what is in their courses, but I wonder if the current generation will suffer from a decline of readers, or at least *book* readers. Not the same as just reading any old thing. I blame very bad spelling on texting, spellcheck and the lack of reading. And I think it has definitely led to a general decline in the size of their vocabulary. Maybe video games should up the ante and put sophisticated vocabulary in there, LOL. (And, yes, I DO digress!)

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  5. I'm afraid I understand exactly what you mean. I used to read constantly and now I'm hard pressed to get lost in books as I used to. I have blamed work and the Internet, but maybe it is menopause, oh how I wish to read as I used to. Will await your solution!

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    1. Rose--I've never been so glad to know that It's Not Just Me! Yesterday, I started the wine arson book and have gotten 50 pages in. I read a bit before bed: no tv, no screens at all. So far, so good. Keep your fingers crossed.

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    2. Just got home from the library, thanks to your post. Hoping to do some reading now.

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  6. Yep, Same thing happened to me, Nance. I used to look forward to a day off from work (especially a snow day)so that I could start the new book I had waited for on a long list at the library. I would get up early, make a cup of tea, straighten up the house, then settle into my favorite chair and start to turn pages. I could read that book until Midnight or until I finished it, whichever came first. Now, not so much.

    It all started in my late 40's. I thought I could never find a good book anymore. Nothing held my attention like the stories I had read in the past. I would start a book, read a chapter or two, nod off or simply lose interest, and put the book down. When I picked it back up the next day, I had to reread the same two chapters I had read the day before to remember the plot. At that rate it would take a month to finish even a short book. So, I had a lot of half read "losers" on the shelf. At first, it never occurred to me that the problem was MY concentration, or lack of...Until I would see one or two of the "Losers" on the New York Times Best Seller list.That woke me up to the fact that it was MY problem.

    Sometimes, I pick up a book that years ago I could not put down, and the result is the same. Not interested.
    Short stories do help. I love the ones Rosamund Pilcher and Jeffery Archer write. They are short and sweet and I actually get through a couple of them before I tire.

    Take heart, Nance, you are not in this alone. It's just another symptom of aging that you have to accept and not worry about too much. Just because you can't get lost in a book anymore does not mean that other things are not available to you that will easily take their place.

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    1. Nancy--Thank you. I wonder, however, if it is different from person to person. Many other people I know, in age groups older than me, still are avid readers.

      It is comforting to know that you (a person a bit older than I am) experience the same problem, but are certainly not lacking in your Mental Acuity or Brightness. I am terribly afraid of losing myself and my Intellect, this inability to read a book being the harbinger of it all. You have helped assuage my fears considerably, for if anyone is proof of that NOT being the case, it is YOU.

      Whew.

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  7. You are most definitely not alone in this. It started a few years ago for me (late 40s - I just turned 51) and has continued, although occasionally I will stumble across a new book that holds my interest - part of it is that I seem to have a much harder time these days finding such books. Interestingly, I do great with AudioBooks and spend more now on buying them than I do on print books (although I still have a serious problem, as my piles of unread print books all over the house will attest.) I think the Audio book thing works because I tend to listen while I am doing other things and can 'tune out' occasionally by doing something else. In my case, I chalk some of this up to the Internet and the tendency of our culture (the World?) to provide entertainment only in small sound-byte type chunks. I feel like everything now is short - brief - to the point - and then on to the next thing. Interestingly, though, I can pick up a beloved older book that I've read before (once, twice, or many times) and will find myself reading compulsively through to the end. I do that on a regular basis with the 'Lord of the Rings' Series and also one of my other favorites, 'Brideshead Revisited.' Also anything by Louisa May Alcott, Lloyd Alexander, or (don't laugh) Francis Hodgeson Burnett and Rosamunde Pilcher. In other words - anything that I 1) read for the first time Before the Internet and 2) really enjoyed. Why? No idea. I have a vague concept that it has something to do with neural pathways that are long-established, some warm memories, and Old Times' Sake, but I've really got no idea why it is this way. No idea what it's all related to, but this is really the only aspect of my life that's been affected - all other systems (well, within reason for my age) are running as they always have - no 'brain fog' in any other area of my life, so to speak. I do really think it's somehow related to the internet and am really considering some sort of cyberfast to test my theory....sometime.

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    1. MsCaroline--Thank you. You and I are different when it comes to the audiobook, however. I tried that, and I found that I could not stand to be read to. I became impatient with the narrator, who I felt read much too slowly and ploddingly. I also felt...I don't know, like I was being condescended to, in a way. I could not shake the feeling of wanting to grab away that book and reading it myself. Which would have been a great motivation, until I DID, and then, well, you know.

      Making fun of someone's reading material is Not My Thing. I gave that up when the world lost its mind over the Harry Potter books and people I respect fell in love with them and kept telling me I Had To Read Them. I never have and never intend to. Not as a judgment, but because that is a genre I don't enjoy.

      I've been afraid to pick up my Old Standby, Gone With The Wind, because I am terrified that I will find its Joy all gone to me. That I could not endure. But if your Theory is to be believed, perhaps that is precisely what I need for Encouragement.

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  8. Brain fog is real, says this 70+ wreck (not really!). For me it took the form of not wanting to keep up with the Good books, the reviewer recommended ones. The difficult ones. I can still read non-fiction and any fiction with a good plot line, but I don't enjoy a lot of the ones a literate person should be knowledgeable about. I reread old favourites to put myself to sleep, to shut out the world when I want it shut out and for lazy pleasure. I have just been coerced into joining a book club full of literate folk and struggled with the first meeting choice a lot. Turned out everyone else hated it too, which cheered me. I am about to try the next one (the Christmas meeting was more about food and the book was Wind in the Willows). Might be worth a post about worn out brains.
    I would give yourself time, Nance. You are still adjusting to coming off a hectic and important job .... the transformation does not happen quickly. And, yes, your body has to adjust to being lower in estrogen and all of that stuff. I hope the migraines are not too frequent or debilitating and that you have a good medicine person keeping track.
    But hey, we have The Web. I read (and what is miraculous, retain) a lot of what I learn here.

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    1. Mary--Thank you. I do have a wonderful Cleveland Clinic neurologist who is taking care of me. Who keeps reassuring me that my brain is not being eaten away by my migraines or my meds, a fear I have shared with him many times.

      I'm not afraid of Getting Old as much as I am of Getting Stupid. I've always been proudest of my brains. It takes me such pains to concentrate--and I hate to fail.

      I will give myself more time, but patience continues to be troublesome for me. Sigh.

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  9. I have been a lifelong avid reader and always intended to read as much as I want when I retired. And fortunately that has happened. I have at least three books in process all the time; a biography or other non-fiction, a mystery, and a "comfort" book to read at bedtime. And I belong to two book clubs so I will read things I otherwise might not pick up. Hearing from you and the others with similar problems makes me all the more appreciative that books continue to be a great part of my life.

    Is it the printed word that holds you back? Have you tried Audible? I often listen to books on my iPod when I am knitting. Once you download the app, you can listen on any of your devices. Or if you have a Kindle Fire you can order the printed book and download the Audible onto the Kindle Fire. That way you can follow the printed words as the narrator reads them aloud. Might that bring you back to the reading world?

    I'm very pleased to hear you are seeing a neurologist. Especially with this problem coming on rather suddenly. I truly empathize with you. I cannot imagine a world in which I could not read all the wonderful books that are out there. And I would seek every specialist I could find in order to determine what made for the sudden change. And whether or not there is something that will help be it traditional or alternative in nature.

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    1. NCmountainwoman--As I said in my response to MsCaroline above, I found listening to someone else reading to me an annoyance. Which is odd, really, because I always enjoyed reading aloud to my children and my classes, both of whom gave every indication of enjoying it.

      Truly, I am glad to hear that you remain a blissful and unencumbred reader yourself. And thank you for your concern.

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  10. I think it can just all be part of life cycles. I grew up loving to read, but as an adult, I found that I go in cycles. There can be months and months that I don't pick up a book (or now my phone, as I refuse to buy physical books since I live in a limited space), and I don't care or fret about it. Then I feel like reading again, and find a slew of things to read on Kindle Unlimited. All free, and like a giant lending library.

    At almost 60, I don't feel that I've dumbed down or that I live in a fog. My day job is IT and computers, and I deal with the internet all the time. My other job is with the horses, and that keeps me physically going. None of it really affects whether I am in a reading cycle or not. I just find that keeping busy, mentally and especially physically, keeps me going at my best. I try to go with the Zen flow of "what will rest my mind right now?" and then do that. That can be Solitaire or Katherine Graham's Personal History. It doesn't really matter, as I get a lot from both and am ok with that.

    My advice would be to stop worrying about it. I sort of equate it to insomnia. The more you worry about trying to fall asleep, the harder it is to actually do. Find something else of interest. Get busy walking or knitting or wood-working or SOMETHING that has always piqued your interest. Then when you feel like reading, read. If not, pick something else to do. Relax and don't force it. (Frankie Goes to Hollywood anyone...?)

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    1. LaFF--Thank you for your perspective; it is most Comforting. I like the idea of it being a Cycle. I have had a lot of changes in the past year or two, and perhaps Reading has been the thing that got sacrificed as Other Things nudged in.

      Certainly I can be a Champion Worrier about things when they begin to occupy my mind, and the insomnia analogy is so apt.

      (Love that Frankie Goes To Hollywood song!)

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  11. With both of my children, I had periods where there was no way on Earth I had time to read a book. I did miss it terribly, as I was very much the same as you growing up. Always a book in my hand, and I had read through our small Catholic school's library by the time I was in 5th grade. Well, except for the non-fiction, anyway.

    I agree with Life at the Funny Farm, that even though it is counter-intuitive, you should stop worrying about it. Then, there will be that One Book that will bring you back at the right time.

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    1. Gina--I remember my elementary school library (before they added on a new wing). It was on the stage, meaning all performances took place on the gym floor. I read all the books in there, too! Even the boring biographies of people like Christopher Columbus and Benjamin Franklin. Ugh.

      I will try to Stop Worrying although it will be difficult because I do miss reading as I used to, being completely absorbed and lost in a Book. Here's hoping the One Book appears soon.

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  12. I am big audio book person too - I can really get lost in a book (with a good narrator - I've had some really horrible ones in the past & gave up & read the "real" book). But until I got my smart phone I also read a lot of books too. Now I find myself playing a word game for hours instead of reading. In fact, I'm only 66% of the way through the one for book club on Sunday - I'd better get with it!

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    1. Bug--As I said above, it seems that audio books are not the answer for me. Good luck with getting Sunday's book finished!

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  13. Well, I'm gluten free as you've mentioned in comments and while being gluten free and then getting "glutened" most definitely shows you how gluten can give you brain fog, being gluten free does not have me being a big reader at all right now. I definitely think that being online and reading so much otherwise makes one less likely to read for enjoyment, plus for me I think being retired makes a difference. Some things that I used to do as a major way to have an escape from real life, relax after work, etc., I no longer feel the need to do or am really interested in as much. Some of them I/we still do (e.g., travel), but they're different now. It's been a surprise for sure. There's simply not that same anticipation and enjoyment and it saddens me a bit. I do continue to listen to audio books although I'm NOT suggesting that to you, Nance, as I get that it's not your thing. I'm simply sharing my experience. I've progressed to reading about one to two actual books a month now. I've read them on cross-country plane trips and while relaxing on vacation. I was afraid they would not keep my attention but, thankfully, they did and I read them just as quickly as ever (have always been a fast reader) and enjoyed them. It's a start. I truly believe that it was because I was away from my laptop. As you know, I'm not a smartphone texting type gal (I'll be dragged kicking and screaming into that nonsense), so the laptop and blogging with TwitFACEPin (emphasis on purpose, although my time on all probably does not compare to most who use them) are my main detractors from books. I'm curious to see that if I make more changes this year in being away from my computer for blogging, TwitFacePin, etc. will have me thoroughly enjoying reading again.

    By the way, Mr. GFE is enjoying a resurgence in his reading. I think he's reading enough for both of us put together. Don't get excited though. He's a sci-fi reader. That's definitely not my thing, although I do go to sci-fi movies with him and sometimes rearrange my house in my head while I'm watching them. Not kidding.

    Last comment because I do feel it's my duty to educate folks on gluten-free living when the subject comes up, especially with all the bullshit--and I do mean bullshit--info that is shared because of all the gf faddists. It can take quite some time and 100% dedicated gluten-free living to see positive results, as in absence of symptoms or conditions one would hope to eliminate, when going gluten free. Having even a little gluten now and then screws everything up. The damage and symptoms continue even though one might not think they would be consuming enough to make a difference. Also, in my experiences working with folks with non-gastrointestinal symptoms, it will usually take an even longer period of time living 100% gf to see positive results in those areas. I'm certainly not sharing this info for Sillyak and probably not even for you, Nance, but anyone else who might be reading and interested in gf living for health reasons/concerned that they might have celiac/non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Getting tested for celiac is best (and it must be done before going gf to yield even close to accurate results), but if the test is negative, then folks should go down the 100% gf path to see if they might have NCGS and benefit from gf living.

    Okay, I didn't read a book here, but I sure wrote one!

    Shirley

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    1. Shirley--thank you for weighing in on going gluten-free. You are my Number One Resource for that, and I constantly refer to you and your website for information.

      I really think your perspective on the relaxation mode of retirement is an interesting and valid one. Not needing the escape of reading to alleviate stress makes sense to me. My latest strategy has been to read at night rather than watch television. It has been hugely successful. Not only am I reading well, I am also sleeping much better and waking without grogginess. Such a happy outcome thus far.

      I am laughing about you pretending to watch scifi movies with your husband when in reality you are redecorating. You are ten times better than I am. Either I would refuse to watch the movie outright, or I would be on the internet, or watching and loudly criticizing the ridiculousness of the movie, or I would be on my smartphone playing a game.

      Glad to see you here. Never apologize for long comments, or "blogging on my blog", as they say.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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