06 February 2015

Making Friends...in your 50's #6


Miss Claire making friends last week in Kribi, Cameroon

When we raise our kids we give them all sorts of advice to get on in the world. When it comes to making friends, it starts early. As soon as a child first grasps the concept of sharing with another...and does it successfully, without tears, we have set the foundation of our building blocks. Playing nicely in a sandbox is a big achievement.  

As the years go by you often feel like the backroom negotiator. One day, your child comes home in tears, "he said", "she said" and "why won't they?"...you give advice as only mothers can.  

Some days were better than others and in the end, they always made friends. Some friendships were short lived, with girls, it can be a matter of hours..and then finally..they find those few friends, and it only takes a few, to build a solid and lasting friendship. 

As an expat, we had many "friendship" conversations over the years. Each new country, brought on new schools and new opportunities for making friends. Settling in during the primary school years was relatively easy, they just got involved and joined in. Doing the same during the high school years was a different matter. Cliques are formed, social clubs are organised, norms are set and newcomers are not always welcome...unless they quickly get with the program. 

We had our fair share of tears in those first months of a new move, when the kids would rather be anywhere else than where they were. The guilt trip was heavy. My husband, "Dad" eventually had a way of smoothing things over, and "Mom" (me)...well, it is always the mother's fault, isn't it? A concept I could never understand as I was not the reason we moved. I used to say "give it a year".  And a year it was before they all settled in, although it seemed a lifetime to them and me when I said it.

I long ago came to the conclusion that expat mothers, any mother for that matter, really have the hardest job of all. For expats, the "travelling spouse" is often the stay-at-home caregiver, be it mother or father, they get to "manage" the day to day in a new move. They get to set up the house, worry about the happiness of their children and their partner and then..when the waters are smoothed and peace and calm reigns..at least for a little why, they get to move on and establish a life of their own.

Fortunately, my friends have slotted in with each move. We moved to Sydney in our late 20's, America in our early 30's back to Sydney in our early 40's, to Auckland in our early 50's, to England in our mid-50's and Vietnam where we are into the latter half of my fifth decade.  

Mr. H calls the friends made during these years my "heart friends". The ones who get you and you get them. I treasure them.

Our children were born in between it all...I was 32 years old for my first, 34 for second, 36 for third and 42 for my lucky last. Oops..can't forget Tika, she joined our family as a six week old puppy when I was 44. If you have dogs, you know that it is just like having a child...and then some. 

Making friends through young children is easy, you meet on the playground, you chat in the school pick up line, you meet through school activities. Many of my lifelong friendships were formed in those early years. Even with high school age kids there were still plenty of activities through the school to connect. 

Then one day, you suddenly find yourself the only adult in the sandbox. New country, children moved on, husband happily connected in his job and you think...I can only build so many sand castles by myself. Now what?




You love your friends...but they all live thousands of miles away. You stay in touch and when you travel and meet with them again it is like time never passed. But you still have to go home to that empty sandbox. 

So you go to the gym, you take a class, you write on your blog, you join a local social group, you attend meetings, go on events, travel to new destinations, join the travelling spouse club, build a house in a different country, travel to see your children, relish the days when your children come home and then there are times when you are back in the sandbox and pouting. 





This is when the "pity party" phenomena takes hold and I REALLY do not like pity parties..especially if something can be done about them. 

I find exercise a great cure for the pity party blues. So.....

Two weeks ago, I slid back into my exercise gear (it had been a while), popped in the headphones and went for a walk. Within 15 minutes I tripped on the pavement and went flying. 

Ok..I admit, holding an iPhone and your camera and trying to navigate a curb while taking a photo of a bonsai tree was not one of my better moves. I was more worried about my camera then myself. I broke a camera doing the same exact move a year ago. Clearly, I never learn. 

The camera was relatively OK and still operable. Phew! I got up, pretended like nothing happened and limped home. The pity party blues were singing big time at that point.

Fast forward one week(knee mended)and I was back at it again..without my camera and at the gym. I was merrily cycling away watching Serena Williams hammer her opponent in the Semifinals at the Australian Open when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a woman tripping over a treadmill. I smiled...I knew what that feeling was like and said so. Long story short, we had a brief chat through the earphones and she introduced herself. I did the same.

Soon after, my workout was over..and I was back in the sandbox. Should I or shouldn't I scribble my phone number on a piece of paper and suggest that if she wanted to walk sometime to call me. So..I did and quickly blurted it all out before running out the door, ending it with "call me...or not". Cringe.

I texted my daughter and said I did the most embarrassing thing. Who was the child now?

But then again, this had worked before, some of my "heart friends" are a result of that "feeling" you get when you know you will get along. We met, chatted and I passed along my details, just to say if they wanted to catch up, give me a call.  And if they didn't, well, I tried. 

Fortunately, my gym partner texted me and we set up a date to walk. We met and were walking along, when she told me she hesitated in contacting me as she was moving back to America with her husband in a week. The life of an expat, always the revolving door. 

I did not mind, I was just happy to step out of the sandbox for a while. Sweet woman that she was and is, she connected me with another walking partner who lives close by. We all met and walked together a few days ago. 

I caught up with her walking partner this morning, both of us talking a mile a minute as we walked. It turns out we live parallel expat lives, her home away form home is in the Cotswolds, mine is in New Hampshire. I got her and she got me. Sandbox, plus one.

So the moral of this story...when it comes to making friends, just go for it, no matter your age, you will never know unless you try. And if it doesn't work, hey, you tried. That's the best you can do.

On that note, I am signing off with post #6 from Vietnam and wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Jeanne :)



Feb 6, 2015
28 Day Writing Challenge, #6
Writing from Chateau Mango
Vietnam time



PS..I wrote a few weeks back that my daughter, Miss Claire, left for a study abroad programme in Cameroon. She sent the photo above to say she is going fine and making friends. Mother (me) is relieved and happy to see that she listened to me all those years ago...




44 comments:

  1. Hi Jeanne, great post! I found you via Sandy from You may be wandering, because she knows I was looking for blogs about starting a project on a farm, farmhouse and your story is fascinating! i look forward to following along.
    This was fascinating.....but right on the mark. So funny too as we can experience the same angst and nervousness as our kids do, talk about a turnaround! You are so right though to just jump in and go for it...as adults I believe we are much more confident and much more secure in doing these types of things, and I do also believe that chances are likely than many more than you might think were feeling exactly like you were.
    I think its also easier when kids are younger, as that is an instant source of commonality. I imagined myself moving to a new place at this point not knowing anyone and I have to admit it could be challenging....sounds like you are off to a great start though:)

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    1. Many thanks Tina for joining in on the comments. I love reading everyone's thoughts and appreciate yours. I will be off to Tahilla Farm in the next week and will post more once I settle in. In the meantime...sending you warm wishes from Saigon. :)

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  2. Good Morning from Northern Virginia, Jeanne.

    I have had the same experience, living in 5 different countries. How wonderful the gym partner leaving in a week, made the effort to get in contact. it is so easy to have one's mind focused on "wheels up" as we head out of country. those small bits of kindness and effort have been the binding moments in holding my expat days together at times. ann

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    1. Hi Ann.. love your expression "wheels up", so true! I sense you know the expat routine well. Given that the first question you are asked when you arrive is "How long are you here for?"...that seems to set the tone for many friendships. Only as good as the amount of time you have left. So lucky when people look and act beyond that. Lovely to hear from you...;)

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  3. I found your post most encouraging. I'm considering retiring to a different city in a couple of years. Everyone says "but all your friends are here", and I don't make new friends easily. That doesn't mean it's impossible! I don't have a husband or children to help connect to a new community. I could get a dog though :) Thanks for the hints.

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    1. Northmoon, I honestly feel when you put your mind and heart towards something you can make it work. It just takes time and it is a matter of how much time you are willing to put into it. I admit, I have had my fair share of days over the years when I say enough is enough...but then, something happens and you are back on track again. You are thinking about a change, that is a start. Appreciate your comment! :)

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  4. Good morning (or evening) Jeanne. I've popped over from Insty to read more. But first I grabbed another cup of coffee knowing very well that when I stop by I like to stay for a while. The 50's. Such an interesting season of life. I never in a million years thought that there would be times when I felt like the only one in the sandbox. But I have lately. Thank you friend for your timely writing. XO Lisa

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    1. You are very welcome Lisa...and you are right, it is an interesting season of life. I think if everyone who commented here sat around a table to discuss the "season", we would be there for days! Wouldn't that be fun! Thanks so much for stopping by...as always, lovely to hear from you Lisa. xx

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  5. Jeanne!! Big sis! I love this post - this exactly captures how it feels and I recognise myself in one or two places. I haven't done the expat thing but I have done the corporate wife thing and even though I live in the town where I grew up, my real buddies have moved away and I struggle sometimes to find a kindred spirit locally. This is something I think about a lot and especially now I have time on my hands. It' so true that the older the children get the more you have to turn to yourself and say 'what now?' It takes bravery to reach out and make a friend - a thing I often written about - the 'veneer' that women can put up which stops friendships from developing. But it's good to know there is hope that a shared number and a walking partner is possible! Lou x

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    1. Lou! Little Sis! So lovely to read your thoughts on finding kindred spirits. I can appreciate how challenging it can be with the school age crowd too. Just becuase you share a commanality in children does not mean it will all click into place. This is the phase I think of as the women in the sandbox who do not play nicely. Boy oh boy could I have fun talking about this one. Pass the Tiara...I can think of a few already. ;) Great to hear from you Little Sis.. xx

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Jeanne!

    Have a great weekend! Cheers from Berlin!

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    1. You are very welcome Nancy and thank you for reading along. From Saigon to Berlin..I send you warm wishes. :)

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  7. Well said, Jeanne! My eyes popped and my face lit up when I read about the sandbox. Perfect! I'd sometimes wondered what to call that empty, suspended in thin air feeling. Very happy the rushed walking partner led to more connections . . . I once met a friend-to-be when I dropped a "container" (ha) of oranges purchased in one of those open air markets.

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    1. I use the sandbox analogy often Kittie, it just seems to work. Right down to those times when there are a few women in the sandbox who are not playing nicely. Been there too..but the nice thing about this "season" in our lives is that we can kick them out...and never look back. Age makes you brave...or crazy. ;)

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  8. Hola Jaeanne, soy Esther, cuando descubrí tu blog hace poco menos de un mes, y tu cuenta de instagram desde entonces, algo que no tenía muy claro hasta hoy me llevaba a seguirte a diario. Hoy después de leer tu ultimo post lo he terminado de entender. Eras esa compañera de gimnasio. Mi conocimiento de inglés no es lo suficientemente completo como para leer sin necesidad del traductor Google, hago lo que puedo. Aunque en nuestras vidas no existe un paralelismo exacto si hay algunos puntos en común, yo deje de escribir mi blog el verano pasado (hemisferio norte) y todavía soy incapaz de encontrar una razón para volver a hacerlo. También me revuelvo en la soledad de una caja d arena, camino por las mañanas voy al gym a diario, sigo mis rutinas disciplinadamente, y aunque mi caja de arena sigue estando vacía lo peor es que me estoy acomodando a ella.
    Esther-D. Abad

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    1. Esther...Gracias! I put your comment into Google Translate and caught the meaning of it. You are very kind to do the same for my post.

      Jaeanne Hi, I'm Esther, when I discovered your blog just under a month ago, and your account instagram since then, something I was not sure until today I had to follow daily. Today after reading your last post I've done to understand. You were the fellow gym. My knowledge of English is not complete enough to read without Google Translator, I do what I can. Although there is no exact parallel in our lives if there is some common ground, I stop writing my blog last summer (northern hemisphere) and am still unable to find a reason to do it again. I also stir in the solitude of a box d sandy road in the morning I go to the gym every day, I keep my routines disciplined, and although my litter box remains empty worst is that I am accommodating to her.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and commenting! Lovely to think in Spanish! :)

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  9. Jeanne, this post is so honest and beautifully written. It is funny because people never think adults have these issues, after all we are adults, we have a lifetime of wisdom to build on. I am not an outgoing person at all and have a very difficult time making friends. I often feel as you described having moved so often during my childhood (every 2 years) and then in my adult life. I do not live near my family or my friends but letters, emails, talks and of course visits keeps us up on the trials, and triumphs of life.

    We are in the infancy stage of a possible move and I have wondered what I will do in a new place with no friends. Now with your direction I know...simply reach out and ask.

    Have a wonderful weekend Jeanne!

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    1. Elizabeth..thank you! I certainly understand where you are coming from. Finding like minded people can be a challenge, especially if your life experiences are different. There are plenty of people who have enough friends and have no interest in making more. Sad but true. Just means you have to look further afield. I always find, when you are not looking, is when things happen or they happen at the most inopportune time. Life...tricky business.

      Best wishes Elizabeth..xx

      PS..I find it hard to believe that you have a difficult time making friends. You are one of the most generous spirits I have come across in the blogging world. :)

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  10. I think it is true of so many areas of life, Jeanne - Just try it. I feel like I am at a crossroads at times and the pity party can creep in. The kids are in HS and some of them have split apart and gone into other groups, etc., and unfortunately, some of the moms have followed suit. Silly to do in our 40's but so it is. And then a night like tonight happens. We're going with friends to see an old high school friend's band play with friends new and old. And so somehow, it is always all ok in the end as long as you are open to it. You, though, my dear, are an inspiration!

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    1. Thank you Stephanie...I often think crazy is more like it but thank you! Now that you mention it, I often found those times when your child makes a friend, and you get to know the mother, develop a friendship and all of a sudden, the kids have had a falling out and you are at a loss how to work around it. There were times when I wanted to just make friends out of the school groups. I found the transition to making friends during the high school years easier. Less hassle without the awkwardness in the after school pick up line. So glad you were able to all get together as a group.. Hope you had a wonderful evening... xx

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  11. Beautifully written, as always Jeanne...I think you're absolutely right 'just go for it' you never lose anything by trying...I like what you say about ringing your daughter, I did something similar the other day...role reversal...made me smile ;) Happy Weekend !

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    1. Thank you Catherine, there seems to be a lot of role reversal in our family these days. Makes for a lot of laughter. All the best... :)

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  12. Such a thought provoking post, truly a joy to read Jeanne. All of us who have lived in more than one country often have faced trials and tribulations regarding family structure. You seem to have managed it all so well and have come through admirably - brava my dear!

    I hope it's OK that I have copied the LIFE poster to forward to a granddaughter (the 18 y.o. in her senior year) who will love to read this. I told her to print a copy and pin it on her wall and refer to it OFTEN!

    Thanks for the story - good luck with your 'sandbox playtime' and time with your new walking friend - I need to do more of that once it warms up. You'll be in for temperature shock when you reach NH - flip flops to furry boots may be necessary!

    Happy weekend - safe travels.
    Mary X

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    1. Flip flops to furry boot is right Mary...and I have to say I am getting a bit nervous about all that snow. I grabbed the LIFE poster from Pinterest. Wise advise for her! Sending you warm wishes from Saigon Mary...xx

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  13. LOVED THIS...........I think I say that a LOT here!Well, I do as I am just like YOU!IT's hard to make FRIENDS once the kids have left school!I have been saying that for YEARS!I have found my circle has gotten smaller over the years do to me losing INTEREST!Lets just say after having people over more than once for dinner or a coffee and NEVER being invited back to their home.........I LOSE INTEREST!!!
    If I think YOU and I will HIT it off I am the one to say........come for a coffee, lets do lunch.I have NEVER MET ANOTHER woman like me who would even THINK of doing THAT.............I find the AMERICANS are a tight knit group.I remember I had a FRENCH friend in the kids elementary school who said, " YOU AMERICANS ARE SO BUSY DOING NOTHING!"that has stayed with me for years..........I do believe she was right!We never took the time to have a coffee or stop by just to say HELLO!

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    1. Elizabeth...I have heard those very words, many times. Making the effort and never having it reciprocated. It seems to be a common feeling, especially with super generous souls like yourself, one who makes such a beautiful and gratious effort. Trials and tribulations of friendships. I think as we get older we learn to take more in stride and do just as you said...you make your circle smaller. Who has time for the drama? Warm wishes being sent your way from Chateau Manog La Contessa... xx

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  14. The sand box is the first one we built in the backyard for the children and grandchildren. It’s wonderful how you carried the sand box metaphor to life’s later years, how we met other people during travels and remained connected and became friends.

    I could not imagine how you navigate your life with “homes” scattered in different places. Now I partly understand. Making friends and sustaining friendship is an art we learn in life. Like faith, friendship lives in our heart.

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    1. Always the poet Edgar..I always enjoy the way you look at life. "Like faith, friendship lives in our heart". Amen! :)

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  15. Wonderful post with excellent advise

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  16. Good morning from snowy below freezing northern New Jersey. I so identified with the emotions in this post. Children in college, husband retired, ... I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one in the sandbox!
    Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
    Nancy

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  17. so well written + "sandboxitis" something we all get if we are honest + just "do it" xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  18. Beautifully written! I am enjoying your frequent writings. Thank you!

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  19. Hi Jeanne, I loved this post and have forwarded to many friends, far and near. Of course, you don't have to be an expat to have an empty sandbox. As we age, we lose friends all the time. Some we'll see again, sometime, somewhere; others, are only in our hearts and minds. But, it is important to be open to new experiences and relationships.....because "it's not over, till it's over".

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  20. I love this post. It spoke to me even though I have lived a polar opposite life. I have pretty much lived in the same place my whole life but have found that other than about 2 people, my close friends seem to change with my life circumstances. We were once on the rise, striving for this and that and hanging out with a similar crowd. We are now wanting to live with less stuff and less stress and finding comfort in like minded people. Thank you for your beautiful blog!

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  21. This post was so lovely as are all of your blog postings. I enjoy them all so very much. Blessings

    Jeanne

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  22. I think the question of what to do in our 50s and 60s, even 70s, when we do not work and have no kids at home, is somewhat difficult for anyone who faces it. And hard even though one might think, "What, you? You have no troubles at all!' I have worked to set up a routine to replace my work schedule, and to balance time creating with time devoted to doing good with time taking care of my husband with time just doing nothing at all:). We all have a different native rhythm, I imagine, and we all want to find it. I have no doubt you will.

    And as many friends to keep you company as you like. Don't forget, you're bound to see some grandchildren in the not too distant future;).

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  23. So true Jeanne, I need to get busy in my sandbox... ;)
    That's my aim this year... more time with friends and more new friends... Yes, such a great post... miss you in London ..xv

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  24. Jeanne, I totally understand what you are talking about. Though our moves have always been within the US, we have relocated many times. Now we are talking about our final move... It is a little scary, starting over without a child to break the ice.

    I'm off to catch up with you past posts. I'm interested in you writing challenge. I need something to stir the embers.

    Hugs! Bonnie

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  25. You describe perfectly how I felt when we met in London. Instant friendship. If only we lived closer!
    xoxo

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  26. A timely post for me. Am retiring in June and wondering where I will make new friends, while knowing that i will need them. There's really no one who will carry over from work, and most of my "besties" are scattered in other cities. Have several good 'blog friends' whom i cherish, but it's difficult to go for a wallk with them. Need to open my eyes and my heart and see who walks by. thanks for the encouragement.

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  27. Jeanne - I know this post touched a lot of us whether expats or not; the moral of the story is to not give up. I've had days where I've cried driving home from work because I feel so disconnected. I try to make friends but those I feel 'that' connect with have had their own huge group of friends as they've never moved away. It's been hard but its also been life-changing in a positive way. Reading your wise words made me feel not so alone in my own sandbox. Thank you! x

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  28. Jeanne, this post rings SO true with me. When my children all left home, I felt the need to start over...and that is why I started my blog. It has led to quite a few new friends AND a new career. I love the blogging "sandbox"! xoxo

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  29. A friend I made in my 50s in Guatemala 20 years ago, never again living/working in same country, is now helping me in every way after unexpected hospital stay and now rehab. Here's to making friends in your 50s !

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  30. WOW! If you only knew how timely this is for me! And I see I am not alone in this. It's not easy at this stage to make friends. I find that so many already have their "group" and don't need to reach out to someone else. Or, they would just prefer to be by themselves than to extend themselves to someone new. I have actually asked for people's phone numbers when I feel that spark of commonality.. I'm that desperate now that we've moved to a new location. However, those slips of paper, with numbers on them, have been tucked away due to fear. But after reading your post, and all the comments, I am going to muster up some courage and take a risk... who knows! My new best friend might be on the other end of that phone call!!

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Can I just say....that I so enjoy what YOU have to say. Just a few words or a few paragraphs, no matter. If you would like to write to me directly, I would love to hear from you... jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

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