Darkness cannot drive out darkness

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeking some words to grasp after the terrible violence of the week in Dallas, MN, and Baton Rouge; this MLK quote was the first that came to mind.

While investigations need to follow to know the details of the most recent shootings, there is clearly a pattern of black men dying at the hands of police that is cause for anger. Yet most police serve and risk their lives to keep us all safe; and it is incredibly sad to lose officers who were helping to uphold the right to protest injustice.

I pray for the families of all those who have lost loved ones due to this violence. I pray that we as a nation can somehow draw resolve from this violence to work for a more just and safe nation. And rather than waiting for one big answer or change that will solve this, may we all find ways in our everyday lives to create more understanding, to take what steps we can to bring about change and contribute to a more just society–which could simply mean we all have equal opportunity, regardless of skin color, to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I share these thoughts and concerns from a position of privilege. Not the least of these privileges is the ability to feel confident that the police are here to protect me, that I need not fear for my life at a traffic stop.

There is also the privilege of having simple things I can dive into and enjoy and forget for a time all the violence and injustice we see in our world. Cooking a good meal to enjoy with family, I get caught up in the act and forget the good fortune to have regular access to good healthy food. The joy of watching our boys play a big baseball game, oblivious to all else in the world other than the next pitch.

Yes, I will jump into the joys of cooking, baseball and family over the weekend. Yet there will be a heaviness underneath, percolating concern for that state of our world, with an eye to things I might do to help bring about what King referred to as the Beloved Community.


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Summer Rain Haiku

Walking in the light warm rain today inspired this little Summer Rain haiku. The last line came to me thinking about another time I was walking on a day like this.

walking in warm rain

summer smells steeped in moisture

skies open up and soak

bench with rain drops from Summer Rain Haiku.

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Easily Switch Between Instagram Accounts

Were you excited to learn you can easily switch between Instagram accounts now? Yes, me too! This posts breaks down the simple steps for switching between Instagram accounts on your phone.

Image by Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons sharing license.

Image by Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons sharing license.

I was excited to learn that you can now easily switch between Instagram accounts. I happened to hear about this from a teen during a social media workshop we were doing recently. I wanted to share this news here on my blog, and show how simple it is to toggle between different accounts on Instagram with the new features that they have added.

Up until recently, Instagram has been in stark contrast to other social media services where it is easy to switch between accounts. For instance, on Twitter I can easily choose which account to tweet from when tweeting from my phone; and can use a service like Hootsuite to choose an account to tweet from on the desktop.

By contrast, to switch from my personal Instagram account @davidbcrowley to the Instagram account for our nonprofit @socialcap, I would have to logout of one account and sign into the other. Of course, that means you have two passwords to remember and type in correctly on your mobile device. If you thumbs and password recall is similar to mine, you would run into the trouble I did switching back in forth. Basically, I wound up using the @socialcap account less and less, and mostly Instagramming from my personal account, mixing some @socialcap related content in with my pictures of food, family and nature.

Now that it is easy to switch between Instagram accounts, I anticipate we will be generating a more regular flow of Instagram content for Social Capital Inc.

How to Switch Between Instagram Accounts

Ok, so I promised you that it is now easy to switch between Instagram accounts. You might well be able to figure it out on your own, but let me break it down for you to make it even easier.

To start out, I am logged into my personal @davidbcrowley Instagram account on my phone, checking out recent photos from accounts I follow, and gleaning insights about the NCAA March Madness brackets. To switch to another account, you must first click on the profile photo in the lower right hand corner (presumably you will see something other than my face in the lower right hand of your screen).

switching between Instagram accounts, step 1.

This takes you to your profile screen. From here, click your account name in the top center of the screen.

switching instagram accounts screen shot.

This option gives you a drop down menu, allowing you to toggle easily between Instagram accounts.

showing how to switch between Instagram accounts

Use the dropdown menu to select the account you want. I had already entered password info for @socialcap as well as my personal account to my phone. If you need to add another account at this point, simply choose the “add account” option to enter the details for that account. But if you already have a second account in your phone, you can simply select that to switch right now.

switching between Instagram accounts demo.

Boom, there we are! In about 5 seconds or less, you are ready to post and engage via your other Instagram account.

For those of us who are managing multiple social media accounts, this ability to switch easily from one Instagram account to another is a big help! Hope you found this useful and enjoy this feature.

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Color Blind Book Review: Breaking the Baseball Color Line Before Jackie Robinson

Color Blind book reviewI’ve been putting most of my blogging energies into Cooking Chat, but I do want to get back into blogging here with some regularity.  A good place to start is with a quick book review of Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line by Tom Dunkel.

Color Blind tells the nearly forgotten history of an integrated semi-pro baseball team from Bismarck, North Dakota, that managed to become one of the most successful baseball teams at its level in the 1930s. There is a great deal of interesting history about baseball in that era and small-town life in the Midwest at the time.

Early in the book, Dunkel does a good job painting the picture of what a big deal local baseball teams were in small cities and towns in places like North Dakota during the 1920s and 1930s. With no televised sports, and professional teams being hundreds of miles away, it was a big deal to have a local team you could watch live. Not to mention how people were seeking a distraction from the struggles of the Depression and Dust Bowl.

The manager of the Bismarck squad, Neil Churchill, did not have a grand vision for social change that led him to recruit black players. He simply wanted to field a competitive baseball team. Though the big leagues were white only during this period of time, semi-pro teams would from time to time recruit top players from the Negro Leagues and other talented African American ballplayers. Churchill went all in with this approach.

By the time the Bismark team was competing for national tournament titles in 1935, the roster was full of some top African American players. Foremost among them was the legendary pitcher Satchell Paige. As a baseball fan, reading Color Blind was a good chance to learn more about this extremely talented pitcher. Unfortunately, learning more about Paige’s skills is bittersweet, as  it serves as a vivid reminder of how much baseball missed by not having some of the best players of the era competing in big leagues. Not to mention how unfair it was to the players; and the book does give some glimpse into how frustrating baseball’s racist policies were to the players.

Churchill and Paige were two very colorful characters that helped make the story of Color blind interesting. There were a few times that the book delved into some detail that I found a bit less interesting, but overall it was an interesting and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend Color Blind to anyone interested in learning more about the history of baseball and its intersection with our country’s history of segregation.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you chose to buy a copy of the book using the link, I would earn a small commission from the purchase.

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#FoodDay2015 Reflections and Links

Linguine with Kale Pesto, celebrating healthy and tasty food.

Sure, if you read my food and wine blog posts on Cooking Chat, much of the focus there is simply on the pure sensory delight of good food, and the aesthetic appeal of a well-presented plate.  Today being Food Day, with a focus on a healthier diet and food system for all, provides a chance for me to put my passion for food in a broader context and reflect upon how my foodie ways connect to other interests, including our work at Social Capital Inc. I noted the post about Food Day at Babson College talked about everyone having a “food story”; essentially this post shares a bit of mine.

I use term “real food” here. I like the way Michael Pollan defines it in Defense of Food–you can get an intro to his take on it in this summary of his book.

Food and place: My food story starts with enjoying healthy and tasty food every day. Enjoying tasty, real food provides immediate gratification to the sense. But really paying attention to the nuances of flavors provides an opportunity to reflect upon what is on our plate, where the food comes from and how it was produced. Good food, in my book, provides a sense of connection to a particular place and the people that care for it.

As much as I love to eat local as much as possible, I also love the way food can transport us to another place. My travel budget is limited, but a good meal celebrating the cuisine of a region along with wine from that area is a way to visit the culture of that place for the evening. Twice a month, I join fellow bloggers in exploring a specific region of France and Italy, sharing recipes and wine pairings that seek to capture the food culture of the area. Most recently, we visited the Cotes du Rhone, and I made this Rustic Chicken and Sausage Stew to pair with a wine from the region.

One of the most important values that undergirds our work at SCI is that place matters, something we need to be reminded of given the amount of time we spend on screens, untethered to place. Enjoying real food that is clearly traceable to specific places and people is a great way to ground ourselves in the tangible world.

Food brings people together: Our work at SCI is about bringing people together in local communities, and valuing the importance of relationships. Coming together to share a good meal is as good a way to build relationships that I can think of.

Waste not: This morning I overcooked my son’s waffle. Too crispy for him, I cooked another without much argument. But I inspected the discarded waffle before tossing it, doctored it up a bit, and enjoyed it with a second up of coffee.  I did this instinctively, muttering “waste not” to myself. Reports that we waste about 40% of the food produced in America are quite disturbing to me, and I work hard to make good use of all the food we purchase. Including taking one for the team and eating what others won’t!

Real food has to taste great: Let’s face it, those of us advocating people eat real food are up against big industries that have figured out how to manipulate salt, sugar and fat to appeal to cravings that have been hardwired into us over the course of evolution (see Michael Moss’s book for more on this). That’s a big focus of mine on Cooking Chat, sharing healthy recipes that taste great. Toward that end, earlier this year I published my first cookbook: Collards & Kale: 20 recipes that will have you loving your greens. I also posted a recipe roundup, 25 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes, tying into today’s Food Day theme “toward a greener diet”.

Collards and Kale Cookbook

More on the Social Capital links: There have always been some natural links between my food interests and our work at SCI, based on the way it brings people together and grounds us in a sense of place. The link is even tighter recently, as our current strategic plan includes a focus on building social capital to promote health and wellness. Thus, we now have several AmeriCorps members based with local food and fitness coalitions, doing great work to promote healthy eating and food access in urban communities. Based on this tie Dan Arrick, SCI AmeriCorps member based at our headquarters, participated in yesterday’s Massachusetts food system event and wrote this blog post, A Need for Low-Hanging Fruit.

OK, I’m going to sign-off now and enjoy the rest of my Food Day! On the menu tonight–ziti with kale pesto and roasted broccoli (for now linking you to another kale pesto recipe, will update!). My 10 year old is participating in a contest at school to see which class is eating the most healthy fruits and veggies, with extra points for local food. Awesome idea, so we will be looking for local broccoli and kale!

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Cape Cod Summer Haikus

Wow, it’s been over a year since I’ve written on this blog! I’ve been focusing my blogging energies over at Cooking Chat, growing the readership and generally improving the quality of the blog. Oh yes, and I published my first cookbook, Collards & Kale.

Strolling along to Chatham’s lighthouse beach this morning on a family walk, Jodi mentioned how for awhile I was very into writing haikus and other poems. I explained to Brendan about the format of a haiku, and then we set about collaborating on some. A fun family activity! See the three haikus from our walk below.

strolling along a Cape Cod beach can inspire poetry, including some fun haikus.


***Ocean Breeze

on our way to the beach

scent of the ocean wafts by

thorn attacked Brendan!

***Summer Sun

summer sun beats down

shells glisten amidst the hot sand

Brendan goes on fire!

***Fire in the Valley OK, I did this one solo:

fire in the valley

flames leap branches crackle and burn

rain falls and sizzles

This was fun! Still pretty focused on the food blogging, but will have to pop over here to write a bit more often.

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Two Keys to Doubling Blog Traffic

I’ve been at my Cooking Chat blog for over five years and nearly 500 posts, so when my blog traffic doubled over the past few months, I thought it would be worth a look under the hood to see what was behind the growth. Blogging at Cooking Chat has been a fun project related to my interests in cooking and finding good wines to pair with our food. I put enough time and effort into this blog that I’ve been interested in finding ways to increase readership for Cooking Chat. For quite awhile the blog had been getting under 5,000 views per month. Early in 2014, the traffic was around 3,500, then it climbed to 4,456 in April. For June, traffic had grown to 9,609.

cookingchat chart2

My posting consistency didn’t change much during this period–I continue to post once or twice per week. I turned to my blog stats provided by the Blogger dashboard to try to get some insight as to what was driving my growth. Google was easily my top referring site and referring URL. I suspect continuing to be active on Google+ helps here. Yet I’ve been active on G+ at various levels of frequency since the service was made available, so this wouldn’t seem to explain my recent growth. Considering my site stats along with what I had done differently this spring and early summer led me to conclude there are two primary factors driving the traffic growth:

1) Connecting with a community of bloggers: I’ve always tried to connect with my fellow food and wine bloggers through post comments and engaging on social media. The new ingredient this spring was starting to participate more regularly this spring with the #SundaySupper bloggers. Founded by Isabel Laessig, a.k.a. “Family Foodie”, in 2012, this is a network of food bloggers that does weekly posts on a Sunday Supper theme, along with a live Twitter chat each Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. They have a good setup of a Facebook Group, Pinterest boards, Facebook group and more to create a sense of community among the fellow bloggers.

I’m pretty sure it’s no coincidence that my traffic growth mirrors the period of time I started participating in Sunday Supper, doing at least one #SundaySupper post per month and generally connecting with the community. The posts I’ve done tied into #SundaySupper events have gotten good traffic, and generate much more commenting activity than I typically get. In addition, several Sunday Supper bloggers are among my top referring sites now. Twitter is close to Pinterest for my 2nd best referral source, and I suspect all the shares from my #SundaySupper friends has helped with Twitter link growth.

The lesson here seems to be that connecting with a community of bloggers with similar interests can be a big boost to your blog. I’ve recently been working on a new blogging community, Wine Pairing Weekend, focused on food and wine pairings. The early returns there have been good, with my initial #winePW post topping my June traffic report.

2) Strategic Use of Pinterest: “Food & Drink” is one of the most popular topics on Pinterest, so it’s no surprise that many of my fellow bloggers report it’s one of their best referral sources.  I’ve used Pinterest for a couple years with this in mind, but during the past few months, I’ve gotten more strategic about the photos I add to my blog posts and my pinning frequency. This seems to be paying off, as I’ve seen Pinterest climb in prominence on my blog referral list. I plan to share more in a future post on how I’ve been organizing my Pinterest activity. Meanwhile, here’s a link to my Pinterest profile if you’d like to connect there!

Are you a blogger? What have you found helps boost readership of your blog? Would love to hear your ideas!

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3 Insights from Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”

volunteers packing meals for a food pantry

volunteering can boost our own happiness

Could giving be the key to success? Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success suggests there is some real power to the old maxim that it’s better to give than to receive.  He starts the book by presenting evidence that givers dominate both the top and bottom of the success ladder, and explains that his motivation in writing the book is to “demonstrate that success doesn’t have to come at someone else’s expense.”

Much of the book contrasts the style of givers with two other groups–“takers” and “matchers”. Takers are fairly self-explanatory; matchers refer to people who are motivated by a sense of fairness, and seek to have their giving reciprocated by people they help.

I finished this book a few weeks ago and am just now getting to blog about it. Fortunately, I read the digital version of the book and highlighted 63 excerpts to quickly jog my memory about insights I wanted to share from it.  Below I’ve summarized three insights that stood out for me, in addition to the general point that giving can contribute to our own success. The book is full with insights on professional relationships, social networks and success; so I encourage you to give the book a read for yourself. In addition, you can check out Adam Grant’s website for additional resources on the subject, including an interesting self-assessment tool.

Our networks are strengthened through giving. A giving approach is a powerful way to strengthen our social networks. I had some appreciation for this concept prior to reading the book, but Grant provides interesting detail on how this plays out. For instance, he talks about how “dormant ties”, people we haven’t been in touch with for awhile, are an important source of new ideas and information. This point is consistent with Mark Granovetter’s classic work on the “Strength of Weak Ties” which explained that we are more likely to get job referrals and other resources from people whom we don’t know especially well, who can help us tap into new networks and information. Those close to us, on the other hand, tend to have information similar to what we already know.

Grant presents entrepreneur Adam Rifkin as a compelling example of how a giving approach can lead to success. Rifkin’s giving approach helped get him important leads early and his career, and now he is very intentional about cultivating a network of givers through regular entrepreneur networking events he facilitates. His real aim is to “change our fundamental ideas about how we build our networks and who should benefit from them.

Givers help create strong teams: People who are giving help make teams successful. Grant notes that engineers who freely share ideas without expecting anything back are key drivers in innovation. He also states “Givers are more likely to see interdependence as a source of strength.”

How we give is important. Seeking to explain research that shows givers rank at both the top and bottom in terms of success, Grant explains how we approach giving is important.  He notes that “when people give continually without concern for their own well-being, they’re at risk for poor mental and physical health.” There seems to be a sweet spot for giving. For instance, one Australian study found those volunteering between 100 and 800 hours per year were the happiest; those under or over had worse outcomes.  It’s not just about the amount of hours, but the approach. Grant says that those practicing “otherish giving” reap the best results. Otherish givers aren’t giving selflessly; rather, they understand and seek to fulfill their own needs while giving. Throughout the book, Grant provides many practical suggestions as to how people can practice otherish giving that helps others while contributing to their own success.

Note on links: The links take you to the Amazon pages for the books referenced. I’m part of the Amazon associates network, and get a small portion of sales sent via these links. You get the regular pricing starting from here.

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A Walking Day Around Boston

View of Boston Hancock tower from post on walking.

Walking is a great way to enjoy a city

Practical reasons had me opt to park at a MBTA subway station to take the T into my morning meetings. With a 9:30 meeting downtown at City Hall, I’d be fighting traffic all the way into an expensive parking spot. Then I had a tight connection to get to my next meeting in Dorchester, to a location that always seems to involve an extended hunt for a parking spot.

Logistics nudged me to make a choice that saved some money and fossil fuels while building some nice walking into the day. Parking at the Wellington Station garage sets up two nice long walks on this connecting pedestrian bridge:

pedestrian bridge at Wellington station builds walking into your day.Who needs a treadmill with this kind of walking?

The traffic and T timing worked out pretty smoothly so I walked around the City Hall Plaza area for about 10 minutes, and came across this landmark related to the first telephone, which I don’t recall seeing before.

Boston landmark remembering the first telephone.

In addition to the benefits of exercise, you definitely see more walking in a community; it’s certainly a great way to get to know a place. I recall backpacking around Europe after college, I’d typically walk from one point of interest from another in those great, old walkable cities, and finding neat things that weren’t in my tour book.

A view in Codman Square, Dorchester

A view in Codman Square, Dorchester

I sometimes forget how sedentary the suburban lifestyle can be until spending a day getting around Boston by train and by foot. I’m sure I got a solid hour of walking in throughout the day. We are fortunate to live by Horn Pond, a great spot I get out to for regular walks. But those 20 or 30 minute walks are often my one segment of sustained physical activity for the day, otherwise spent in a car or sitting in meetings or in front of a computer. The latest research definitely points to the benefits of integrating physical activity throughout the day.

Recall that I was nudged by practical considerations to build this healthy exercise into my day. Yesterday was a nice little case study pointing out the merits of walkable cities. The good news is, there are folks doing good work to try to make walkable cities more the norm. See for instance Walk Boston and this article about Walk Scores.

Do you build walking and other physical activity into your day? Have some good ideas for doing so as an individual or community? Would love to hear about it!

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Cheering Big Papi and Mourning a Hamster

Father son fun at Fenway ParkOur first 24 hours flying solo with Jodi away for a conference seemed to encapsulate the joys and trials of parenting pretty well. A few weeks ago, I noticed a tweet from the Mass. Public Health Association indicating it was “Public Health Day” at Fenway Park, and they had good group ticket rates available. We’re focusing more on health at Social Capital Inc. these days, so it seemed like a good thing to participate in. Of course, it doesn’t take too much convincing to get me to go the see the Red Sox! I consulted my calendar and noted that the game coincided with the day Jodi was heading for San Antonio. What better activity for the “boys” time then heading to a Sox game?

As much as the three of us enjoy our family time together, doing special things one on one with our lad seems pretty important. Pulling B. a bit early from school to head to Fenway had all the makings of that! We headed for the MBTA station, conveniently located next to a Starbucks, where my lad eagerly placed his regular order–tall Lemonade, no ice, 3 pumps of sweetener.

It’s great just to be anywhere in Fenway, but as we ascended to our right field bleacher seats just a few rows from the back wall, I could see why they could be had for $10 in early April! Long way from the action but a nice view of the new 2013 World Series Champions banner! As we were heading back to our seats with snacks early in the game, we heard our name called out and quickly spotted the fellow Woburnites who were also enjoying the game. They indicated some open seats near them which we eagerly grabbed to get a better view.

2013 Red Sox World Championship Banner at Fenway

The 2013 World Championship Banner at Fenway looks great!

Now, before I get on to the fun end to the game, let me note that sitting through a 1 to 1 baseball game doesn’t come easy to an 8 year old digital native. Especially seeing as we were still a bit far away to observe the nuances of the pitchers’ duel. Fortunately, I fended off a number of mid-game “When can we go?” inquiries and convinced him to stay. The ending seemed to pick up where the 2013 Red Sox left off. Down 2 to 1 in the bottom of the 8th, they had two runners aboard when David Ortiz, a.k.a. Big Papi, hit a monstrous blast way over the right field foul pole. High fives all around the bleachers as Big Papi touched’em all, and more high fives when the home run withstood the scrutiny of the new replay system (not a fan of that BTW). We then had a great view for the amazing closer Koji Uehara quickly getting ready prior to trotting in and ending things with his usual efficiency. I believe he got the 3 outs faster than it took to play the Sox winning anthem, “Love that Dirty Water.”

Koji time at Fenway! World's most famous bullpen cop in foreground.

Koji time at Fenway! World’s most famous bullpen cop in foreground.

But any parent reading this knows parenting is not all fun and games. I was quickly reminded of this the morning after our Fenway trip. As he was getting food for the puppies, B. started looking concerned. “How do you know the difference between a dead hamster and a hamster playing dead?” Not a question you want to hear! Unfortunately, our hamster wasn’t playing.

Our family is new to the pet scene, in part because of our various allergies, plus I’ve never been enthused about having pets.  But Jodi and B were eager to have a pet. One hamster became two, and then we got a pair of puppies last fall. I figured I’d be a good sport about it, provided they team up to do the work of taking care of them.  I felt my plate was pretty full with cooking and other household tasks.

Pet person or not, the hamster burial couldn’t wait for Jodi’s return. We figured learning to care for a pet offered some good life lessons for B, and dealing with death is clearly part of that. This being the first death of a pet for us, I turned to some Googling for advice. I gleaned some practical tips on hamster burial, and browsed for some ideas about prayers for pets. We were ready for the task.

There’s more emotional attachment to the puppies at this point, which probably made the hamster passing a bit easier for B to deal with. He wasn’t showing a lot of emotion when we first figured out what had happened, but it was a bit hard to read how he was feeling about it. I wanted to follow his cues on how much he wanted to be part of the process. He expressed interest in being involved in everything except actually touching the dead hamster, but he did hold the box  open for me to place her in. I figure it was good for him to actually see her going into the box we were burying, in terms of closure.

Practical note here in case you’ve come across this post Googling for how to deal with a hamster burial: placing the hamster in a small box was recommended, as was trying to dig a fairly deep hole and covering it with rocks, to prevent birds and animals from getting at it. We landed on an empty box of chamomile tea that was in the recycling, it had a nice picture of a cozy home and flowers on it, so didn’t require too much decorating. B. wrote the hamsters name on it and a few other words for it.

I had a someone more in-depth prayer in mind, but as we placed our hamster in the ground, I could feel we were both touched by what we were doing. I kept the prayer short and sweet. B added “Amen. Let the force be with you.” I thought that was a pretty cool touch!

My parenting takeaways from these two events? We’ve got to grab our chances to have a special day with our kids, as I did when I saw the Fenway tickets in my Twitter feed. Everyone I know with grown kids always talks about how fast they grow, and I certainly believe it seeing how fast B has gotten to age 8. Have the fun when we can, and then when a curveball is thrown, be ready to seize that moment too. Though officiating a hamster burial was in many ways not something I relished, it too provided an important experience for B and I to have together.  May the force be with you, too, in all your parenting endeavors!

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