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Healthy Breakfast Quinoa

This morning I woke up and realized I only had a tiny, tiny amount of oatmeal left. Since I’ve been trying to eat mostly vegan lately, I didn’t want to eat yogurt or eggs for breakfast, so I thought I’d get a little creative and use inspiration from many recipes I’ve seen to create my own breakfast quinoa.

The result was actually amazing! I can’t wait to try this again tomorrow morning.

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Since I rarely use real recipes and I just make things up as I go, here I’ll try to describe my process, in case you want to recreate it (which you should, because this was SO good).

Ingredients:

Quinoa

Almond Milk

Raisins

Dried Apricots (or any dried or fresh fruit)

Cinnamon

Honey

Almonds (or walnuts)

I already had quinoa pre-made from last night, but if you don’t, you can start from scratch, which might actually be better. (I’ll be trying that tomorrow.) Mine was a quinoa-bulgur wheat mix, but I recommend just straight quinoa. I had… a normal serving size? About a cup? Not really sure. You can be more precise if you want.

I put it in a little sauce pan, turned the heat on low, and poured in some almond milk (but not too much at first). I tossed in some raisins, and a small amount of honey and cinnamon and some sliced dried apricots (though you can use whatever fresh or dried fruit you desire). I mixed it all together and kept adding almond milk until it was a consistency that looked good to me (I didn’t want it to be too watery but you can make it as watery or dry as you’d like). At the end, I chopped up some almonds (if you have slivered almonds, or shelled walnuts, even better so you don’t have to deal with cutting whole almonds) and tossed them in, and gave it a little taste test to see what I thought. YUM.

Since I had a tiny bit of oatmeal, I cooked that and mixed both together, and the result was a delicious, sweet, healthy, protein-filled, fiber-filled, nutrient-dense breakfast to start my day. Seriously this might be my new favorite thing. Dare I say… better than oatmeal??

TRY IT. I dare you.

Here are some suggestions for things to add, though the beauty of this is that you pretty much can just do whatever you want and it will most likely be amazing.

– Fresh blueberries

– Fresh strawberries

– Almond butter

– Avocados

– Maple syrup

– Peaches

– Mashed banana

– Protein powder

– Chocolate chips

– Greek yogurt

… The list can go on as far as you’d like. Just some ideas to get you started.

Seriously this is my new favorite discovery. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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Grocery Shopping

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to two grocery stores yesterday and spent half of my weekly allowance on food that I shouldn’t even need to buy. But, its not likely that my host family will be buying tempeh and almond butter, so I’ve been taking matters into my own hands (aka broke-ass wallet) for the past few months and buying myself things that I want/need.

I went to Monoprix, the big “normal” grocery store, and bought whatever didn’t need to be bought at Naturalia, the organic, healthy store. I came home feeling like Santa, excitedly arranging all of my food on my tiny table in the corner of the room, and proudly taking pictures, just for YOU.

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Featured on my list of healthy items:

– Oatmeal

– Quinoa

– Nuts

– Thin Brown Rice Cakes

– Sun Warrior Protein Powder

– Organic Whole Wheat bread

– Fruit (apples, bananas, avocados, tomatoes)

– Vegetables (sweet potatoes, canned chickpeas, spinach)

– Tahini sauce

– Almond butter (I caved in…)

– Tempeh

– Soy Yogurt

– Almond Milk

 

This is a very limited list. But these are my staples, and knowing that I have these in the house, I feel prepared and ready to eat healthy and clean for the rest of the week. Dinner times I know will always be a challenge, but I’m learning slowly that it is okay to make my own dinner and eat that instead. It takes a bit of courage (I’m shy and I feel the need to be respectful) but ultimately, it tends to work out okay when I give it a shot. But at least for the other meals of the day when I’m on my own, I don’t have any excuse now to not eat right. My challenge is to avoid all the other temptations around the house, and trust me, there are plenty.

Oh yeah, also my challenge is to not finish the enormous jar of almond butter by the end of this week. Because my brain does not understand “all things in moderation” or “portion control” or “STOP god damnit!” when almond butter is in front of me. I knew I shouldn’t buy it, but again… brain shut off, hand grabbed jar, wallet paid, and oops now its here.

Im TRYING, okay!?

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Accidental Vegan For The Day

Without too much effort and almost without meaning to, today was an entirely vegan day. I feel amazing! I feel light, healthy, full of energy, happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. I really feel like today was the first time in a long time where I felt liberated by food – the thought of food didn’t consume me while I wasn’t eating, and while I was eating, I felt no anxiety whatsoever. I found myself eating slower, being more mindful, and really appreciating all the distinct flavors of my meals, instead of mindlessly shoveling things into my mouth, stressing over calories or nutritional value, and feeling anxious about whether or not my food was in some way controlling me. Today, I felt free.

I woke up without an alarm (I had the day off) and eased myself into my workout clothes when I finally felt ready. I went for a 4-mile run and threw in some sprinting intervals as well as some bodyweight exercises, similar to the ones featured in this recent post, and I felt powerful and strong the entire time. Slow, but strong. At one point, I had been looking forward to using the adult play structure to do some pushups and other exercises, but when I jogged up to it, I realized that as per usual, it was full of beefy guys, and no women. In America this would be somewhat intimidating, but in France it is so much worse. There is a distinct divide between men and women in most aspects of the culture, including exercise, so I felt immediately hyper-aware of my womanhood and my instinct told me to run away and work out in the privacy of my own home. But, as if sent by Hera (Greek goddess of women) through my headphones, this song came on and my attitude changed instantly:

I redirected my path and set straight for the bars to do some spiderman pushups and pull-ups and a few other exercises before doing one final, balls-out, full-speed sprint. I guess theres some part of me as a woman that feels the need to compete with the big boys when I’m in workout situations where my gender becomes very salient. I always tend to step up the intensity a bit, perhaps to prove to the beefy men that I’m not just some girl, and that girls can be tough too. I don’t know. I guess that’s how I deal with being the only woman in a group full of men flexing their cock muscles and eye-fucking each others’ biceps.

Anyway… I refueled with an enormous banana and some almonds, and later had my real breakfast of oatmeal, protein powder, and walnuts.

For lunch, I ate a quinoa-bulgur wheat mix with sautéed veggies (leftovers from yesterday) and half an avocado. My dessert was a few prunes.

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During my Parisian outing, I ate an apple, a banana, and some more almonds. And when it came down to have dinner, instead of going home for dinner with my host family, I bought a book and did a little search online for nearby vegan/vegetarian restaurants, and treated myself to a healthy, cozy dinner-for-one. I went to this restaurant called Le Grenier de Notre-Dame and I ordered the “formule”, mainly because it was the same price as any one dish, and I was hungry. For a starter, I ate a chickpea mush (I’m sure there’s a much prettier name for it) which was delicious and flavorful and was great for spreading on the whole wheat bread they gave me. My main dish was a mixed vegetable-brown rice-black bean dish, served with soy tofu, seaweed, and a salad. YUM. I ate the whole thing but didn’t feel overwhelmed. I still felt light, at least in spirit. For dessert, a warm vegan apple tarte with a few fresh apple slices. As I was reading while at dinner, I felt calm and relaxed around my food and I didn’t feel any urge to rush through my meal, which helped achieve that level of mindfulness that I mentioned earlier. Amazingly, when the dessert came around, I actually waited a minute or two before starting to eat it (because I was entrenched in my book) and then I only ate it in small bites, slowly, over 5 or 10 minutes. I felt so powerful, knowing that food didn’t have to control me! I’m really proud.

Eating vegan is actually way easier than it seems. It feels so good to eat so clean, and I know my body will thank me for days to come, not to mention my soul. This was such a great day and I’m feeling really happy about myself. I hope I can keep this up!

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Question for vegans out there: I am thinking about making dinner for my host family one night, and I’d ideally like to make something vegan, but I have no idea how to create a dinner-party-style vegan meal, and I wouldn’t know what to prepare. I want it to be impressive, so no one can find any reason to discredit vegan food, and I want it to be relatively easy, since I’m lazy and don’t want to spend all day cooking. Suggestions? Thoughts? Email or comment if you have any insight!!

 

 

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Lessons Learned

Yesterday I learned a few things. Or rather, re-learned.

Eating shitty feels shitty

– Eating well feels great

– I am stronger than I think I am

Let me explain.

I went to work and because I was in a rush in the morning, I didn’t have time to pack a lunch and was thus at the mercy of whatever everyone else was eating when lunchtime came around. Chinese food was ordered and I, slightly excited because of my AFD (Asian Food Deprivation) here in Paris, filled my plate up with whatever was offered: general chicken (i.e. deep-fried chicken bits, generally the worst parts of the chicken that really shoudln’t be eaten at all), some other saucy chicken-y thing, white rice, a fried shrimp egg roll, and a meat potsticker. There were no vegetables, so I ate little bits of onion mixed in the sauces. After a few bites, I already knew this meal was going to be a bad idea, but I was hungry and everyone was eating, and I couldn’t not eat it now, so I ate it, every bite causing my stomach to hurt a little bit more. By the end, my stomach was hurting so bad, I was bloated, and I felt sick. Likely there was nothing directly wrong with the food (meaning, it wasn’t food poisoning or anything like that), but I think my body just isn’t used to eating so much awful, unhealthy fried food, and it rebelled. I pretty much hated my life the entire rest of the day… I couldn’t walk up straight because of my stomach ache and I was so bloated that I had to wear stretchy leggings and lie in fetal position any chance I could. I felt AWFUL! (Even now as I write this, I still feel remnants of this shitty feeling). This was a very immediate reminder: EATING SHITTY FEELS SHITTY.

To compensate, I prepared myself some sautéed vegetables (onions, carrots, zucchini, red bell peppers, tomatoes) and some quinoa and set it aside for dinner. Every night, my host mom is in charge of dinner, but a few weeks ago she sweetly brought up my cholesterol and said that if I ever feel like the food they eat is too heavy or anything, that I am free to make myself something else for dinner too. I really appreciated her telling me this, though, perhaps because I’m shy, I only took her up on this offer once before last night, and even then I still ate some of what she had made. Last night, however, because I was feeling like death, I reminded myself that I do have more control over what I eat than what I realize, so I asked my host mom if she would mind if I ate some quinoa and veggies I made myself earlier, and she said “of course” (as in, of course I won’t mind), so thats exactly what I did. I added some salad and half an avocado to my meal, and felt satisfied and healthier than I had felt all day.

Eating clean just FEELS right, and there are no two ways around that. So, lessons learned, and learned, and learned again. And likely they will be learned again and again and again over time, hopefully improving each time these things come up. I am stronger than I think I am. I can make good choices if I want. I totally can.

 

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Paleo Carrot Cake Balls

Ok, that title is misleading. They would have been paleo, but I took some liberties with the recipe and added a little bit of oatmeal, so the ones I made are not actually paleo. But if you want to make them yourself and you want them to be paleo, just don’t add the oatmeal. Duh.

(If you don’t know what paleo is, it’s basically eating like hunter-gatherers used to eat, before the advent of agriculture. Essentially, it is meat + fruits/vegetables, no dairy, carbs (like bread, etc), sugars, etc.)

I got the idea to make something carrot-cake-y because there were a ton of shredded carrots in the fridge and I wanted to put them to good use. So I went on my Pinterest and looked at a few carrot recipes and I decided to make paleo carrot cake balls when I examined the ingredients and realized that everything was available in my house and the recipe was simple. That’s how I roll… I ain’t about to make an effort. Shiet.

These make an excellent pre or post workout snack, they provide plenty of healthy fats and protein and all-natural sugars, so when you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to completely destroy your diet/body, make these instead. They’re delicious and so healthy.

After dinner, I offered some for dessert to my host family and to my great pleasure, they loved them and they loved that they were a healthier version of dessert. I’m hoping to keep making little things like this that I can share with them so that I can better introduce my need for a healthier diet into our daily lives here. Baby steps. This was a good way to get things going and I feel proud of this small accomplishment. I wonder what I’ll make next??

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Soooo anyway, I’m going to wing this next part… the recipe.

I loosely based my balls (… pause, reflect on that phrase… and continue… because you are more mature than me…) on this paleo carrot cake balls recipe from Sweet Pea Sylvie but as soon as I realized that measurements don’t really matter and that these are basically just a big mixture of delicious items, I started taking liberties and ended up with my own little version (thats also how I ended up making them not paleo, but you can just ignore that part if you’re super paleo-y). For the sake of showing you how to make them, I’ll try to make a recipe out of what I did, but in all honesty, you can pretty much eyeball everything… you literally cannot fuck these up even if you tried.

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MY ABSURD PALEO CARROT CAKE BALL RECIPE (… with commentary)

3/4 cup almond flour (If you want to make this yourself, you can just grind almonds in your food processor until they are powdery. Or so I hear, I’ve never actually tried this.)

6-8 pitted dates, cut into pieces… Recipe calls for 5, but I’m giving you some leeway here because I know you’re going to eat a few of them, obv.

4-6 dried apricots, cut into pieces

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 

A bunch of shredded carrots (Okay, proper measurement says 2 cups, but really, who gives a fuck. They’re your balls and you do what you want to them. Amirite??)

1/2 tbsp cinnamon (Seriously, I have never measured cinnamon in my life and I tend to think people that do measure it are entirely deranged. Its cinnamon, people! The Lord’s gift to us. Get crazy. Take your top off!)

A pinch of ground ginger (I don’t know why I added that, but I did, and you will too if you’re following this ridiculous recipe. This is essentially me playing in the kitchen and trying to act scholarly about it.)

2-4 tbsp coconut milk (oops… I just realized I put way more than that, which is probably why my balls came out really moist. Whatever, they’re delicious!)

A handful of raisins (Again, who ever measures raisins. The more the merrier.)

6-8 almonds, chopped into small pieces

Here’s the non-paleo [optional] part: 1/4 – 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal (I didn’t measure this, but this is another dumb estimate)

Instructions: Put it in a food processor. Thats it.

Okay, really, here’s what I did, kind of…

  • Pit and chop dates and apricots.

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  • Mix the dates, apricots, and shredded coconut in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed.
  • Add almond flour, oatmeal, carrots, and spices and mix well.

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  • Add coconut milk and blend until desired consistency is reached.

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  • Remove and put dough in a separate bowl, and gently fold in raisins and almond pieces.

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  • Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Once cool, form into balls, roll in a bowl of shredded coconut, and store in freezer or refrigerator as desired.

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  • Try to not eat them all in one sitting. I dare you. Whoever said “guilt free” was full of shit.

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Recipe brought to you by Strong Fits Well. Thats me, bitches. And if you try my recipe and think its shit, then 2 things: 1) you’re full of shit because its delicious, and 2) not my problem.

ENJOY! ❤

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Preparing to Fail

I may have quoted this before, but I keep thinking this in my head when I have days like today where I waste a bunch of time, and thus don’t accomplish all the things I wanted to accomplish, i.e. a decent workout. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

This is kind of how things end up happening for me…

I live abroad, so I stay up late (1, 2, sometimes 3 am) talking to friends and family back home and winding down from a long night of work (I end work at around 9pm). I don’t get much done on the internet late at night, but I can’t seem to convince myself to just turn my computer off and go to bed at a decent hour, because I feel like I need that time to disconnect from work before sleeping, and eventually the night gets past me. As a result, I wake up late the next day, usually feeling a bit of remorse for staying up late, but rarely enough to get me to bed earlier. I generally plan my eating and exercise around each other, such that I’ve eaten the right types of foods before and after exercise, giving myself enough time to digest properly before working out, but I somehow manage to get lost in whatever it is I’m doing, and my exercise tends to get pushed back, further and further, until I’m down to very little time before I have to shower and pick up the girls from school and thus start my work day. On days like today, since I woke up late, ate late (and too much, thus forcing me to wait even longer before I felt ready to exercise) and didn’t plan my time properly, I missed my workout entirely and felt shitty all afternoon because of it. My exercise was walking up and down the stairs a few times throughout the day and walking to the school to get the girls, and that was it. My body feels stale and tense and my brain isn’t functioning as I wish it would, and emotionally I’m not feeling as lively as I know I can… and what kind of way to live is that??

As far as food choices go, I think its all entirely related. Woke up late, felt anxious about it, ate a little too much for breakfast and with the first poor choice I made in the morning, I set the tone for the rest of the day. The moment I reached for a small handful of granola, I knew today would be difficult. Was it my knowledge of my upcoming “failures” that led me to “fail” (I don’t really like using the word “fail”, but I can’t think of another word to use…), or was it just an honest acknowledgment of my weaknesses in the hopes that I would overcome them? I don’t really know. But I knew I was setting myself up for trouble by making poor choices in the morning, and thus continuing that behavior all day long. It was a small handful of granola in the morning, and by 5pm, I had, over the course of the day, managed to eat several cookies, bread, granola, and all sorts of terrible nonsense, without even realizing it. Without my necessary exercise to raise my motivation and self awareness, I didn’t feel compelled to stop myself from my poor choices, and I spent all day with the mentality that I had already failed, so may as well continue to do so. Because I didn’t plan my meals, snacks, workout, and work schedule properly, I didn’t succeed in any of them and allowed the failures of one to hugely influence the behaviors in another. I know I didn’t eat enough protein today, which may have encouraged the constant snacking (because I didn’t feel adequately full or nourished by my food) and I know I ate too many carbs, which similarly did not keep me full long enough to feel satisfied. I allowed allowed myself to “fail” today by not being wise about my preparations for my day, by not setting intentions for the day, by not visualizing my goals, and by not weighing the consequences of my actions. I’m beginning to see the relationship between seemingly unrelated behaviors and how they are all actually very much interconnected in the definition of my life and of my self.

On a more positive note, I’d like to share some inspiration from a friend that recently sent me a picture to show me how they are preparing for success this week. Many people will praise the habit of preparing all/most of your meals for the week on Sundays (or whenever works best for you) so that you don’t have the excuse of not having enough time or not having the right ingredients to make good choices when all the stress of daily life comes at you during the week. Even if it doesn’t involve cooking entire meals, at least having vegetables chopped and meat pre-portioned can help save so much time when you are in a rush or getting home late and feeling lazy. I have always wanted to get into this habit, but living in my current au pair situation doesn’t allow me that flexibility. I was so pleased when I received these pictures from a friend who really made an effort to avoid failure this week.

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A grocery basket full of clean, raw food. Nice!

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They made 2 different dishes, full entirely of vegetables and lean protein. Looks delicious.

 I have to forgive myself for my mistakes today and use it as an opportunity to learn. I want to set my intentions for tomorrow and I hope you will all hold me accountable for them! I will wake up earlier than I did today and I will run 4 miles (my usual short run) first thing in the morning so that I don’t have an excuse later on in the day not to exercise. I know myself and I should have known this today, but I chose to ignore it: I need exercise in the morning, because I know I will get lazy later on in the day. By working out first thing each day, not only have I started the day on the right foot, but I’ve also gotten my workout out of the way and I don’t have to worry about it later. This routine works for me when I find the motivation to wake up early enough, but I have to remind myself “If its important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” I’m so tired of making excuses for myself! Tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow, I’m grabbing that shit by the balls and doing what is best for me.

Fuck yeah.

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Overcoming the Dinner Hurdle

I may have touched on this a bit before, but since I’m an au pair and I live with a host family who provides my food for me, I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available or made for me as my only option for food. My host mom is an amazing cook (she always says she would have loved to be a chef/restaurant owner in another life) and I am lucky to be surrounded by such tasty meals all the time. The thing is, as is the case with most gourmet eating, the emphasis is mostly on flavor and not so much on nutrition or health, and this is especially true in France, where people eat for pleasure above all else. Typical French cuisine consists of copious amounts of red meat, butter, creme fraiche, cheese, bread, and wine and I’m really starting to understand why people are so constantly blown away by this so called “French Paradox”… despite this insanely unhealthy diet, French people are not generally overweight! Now, I don’t know the stats on heart health in this country, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the numbers are not so pretty. French people insist that they are healthy, but I just think thats bullshit, to be perfectly honest. I think they smoke enough cigarettes to keep their appetites at bay and they probably walk enough in a day to reduce the obvious effects of the food they put into their bodies, but still, their diets are pleasure and flavor based, and thats it. I mean, they do know how to enjoy “the finer things in life”, thats for sure.

Anyway, tangent. My host mom is an amazing cook, and in general her cooking is healthy enough (and incredibly tasty), but considering my “dietary needs” (cholesterol, which she knows about) and my general desire to lose a few of the pounds I’ve gained since coming here, I feel like things could be quite a bit healthier. Its tough, though, to make special requests in a culture and in a family that values food in such a sensory and emotional way, so I’m just trying to find my balance… allowing myself to enjoy and partake in meal times like any other member of the family, while mentally setting limits for myself and making small efforts here and there to improve my meal in a way that works best for me. It’s really not easy, and I struggle with it every single night. But every dinner time, I hope it will be a little easier than the night before.

Tonight was one of these typical struggles for me, and I am proud of myself for being strong enough tonight to set a few small, but symbolic limits for myself. Dinner was homemade pizza tonight (thin flaky crust, pasta sauce, cheese, sausage, chorizo, ham, tomato), which is incredibly hard to resist, of course, because its pizza and who the hell doesn’t love pizza? I had one slice (about the size of two small slices) and I filled up the rest of my plate (and my stomach) with green beans and lots of water. When I was offered a second slice, I immediately felt the guilt I always feel in refusing food from my host mom, so I initially said “yes, but just a small one”, and as she was cutting the pizza, I sat there and momentarily thought about why I was accepting another slice, I asked myself if it was worth it for my body and my heart to eat that, and I wondered if I would be strong enough to change my mind and eat more greens instead. To be honest, I thought about this blog a lot, and of those small handful of followers I already have, and of the promise I made a few posts back to be honest with myself and with you, and I knew I wouldn’t want to come here defeated. So I politely said I had changed my mind because I realized I had eaten enough, and alas, I said no to more pizza, and that, my friends, is a miracle.

For the second course (since there is always a second, and often third or fourth course here in France), I had a plain yogurt along with the girls (they added sugar or preserves to theirs but I opted out and I’m proud of that!), and I again said no to dessert! Another miracle.

Maybe the pizza was not the best thing in the world for me, but I think I handled it as well as I could by filling up on fiber-full greens (fiber helps keep you full!) and getting some decent protein and calcium from the plain yogurt as my “dessert”.

This is the type of hurdle I have to learn to overcome, and every day is an opportunity for me to learn just a little bit more, about my own ability to assert some type of control over my health, even when it is mostly outside of my control. As I said before… “If it is important to you, you’ll find a way…”

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