Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

New Year's Resolutions Report - Week Four

 

As you may or may not remember I’m taking a 12 week course called Stronger Memory and one of the three requirements is reading out loud 20 minutes a day. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it. It’s not! My voice box hasn’t gotten this much of a workout since…well, since never. I wasn't a mother who got to read to kids or grandkids and I’ve never taught classes or had a job where I had to give corporate reports. The closest I got to speaking out loud for any length of time was back in college when I took a couple of classes in public speaking, and I was a second stringer on a debate team but even back then our preposition and rebuttal speeches were limited to ten minutes.

A quick google search of how our voice changes over the years brings you information like: “As you age, all of your muscles naturally lose mass. This includes the muscles of your vocal cords and voice box that make your voice work. The older you get, the more your voice may become hoarse or ‘tired’ feeling as a day wears on." Even before I signed up for this course and discovered how hoarse my voice really is I’d been concerned that my voice was cutting in and out when I talk. I spent so much time alone during the pandemic of 2020/21 that if I hadn’t had a dog to boss around my voice would be even thinner and more cracker-ly than it is. (Oh, look, I just made up a new word.) As one website describes the aging process of our voices, “Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin.” That’s me. My voice sound ten years older than I am by the calendar.

The above paragraphs are the long way of saying that after ten minutes of reading out loud, it gets hard to do! I have to push myself to get through the next ten minutes. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m supposed to be reading out loud. (And I'm not alone in these complaints about our homework.) I am, however, enjoying the content of the book I’m reading: Painting Techniques of the Impressionists. One of the things I’ve learned that gives me hope for my own work is how long it took various Old Masters (by contrast to the Impressionists) to complete some of their famous works of art. Notes, sketches and color samples in a notebook of Turner’s for example resulted in a finished painting ten years later. Impressionists were not like that. According to my book they were “…painters of fleeting effects, as no other painters had done…” Impressionists would paint outdoors then come back with paintings they’d show and sell in galleries while the Old Masters would have taken those same paintings back to a studio, refined them and worked on them for long periods of time---years even---before they’d declare them finished. No wonder the Impressionists were scorned by some in the art world. (The invention of the camera factors in here, too, but that's a whole another topic.)

Anyway, back on topic: New Year’s Resolutions kept and discarded. I have started a painting but I had a least ten false starts before I settled on a subject to paint. Check that resolution off the list since the resolution was about starting a painting…nothing was said about finishing one. Okay, so that’s a technicality and some might say I’m cheating but it’s my Resolution List so I get to make up the rules here.

Although by the end of the year I do hope to finish a couple of canvases I’d been working on when my husband had his stroke in 2000. I recently found the photo and notes I’d mourned as lost about what color formulas I’d been using on a painting I truly want to finish. It’s of my great-niece when she was a little girl and now she’s a woman with two children of her own. If Turner could take ten years finish a painting and some of the Old Masters work on the same paintings for half a decade, then Amateur Hour Jean can take twenty-two years and not have to feel like such a failure about it. And Manet had once scraped a face off his canvas 25 times before being satisfied that he got it right, so I guess there's no shame in me redoing a face for a second time. Still, my mom in the last few years of her life made a conscious choice to finish up all her unfinished projects and sometimes it feels like her ghost is haunting me, telling me to hurry up and tie the loose ends of my life up because time is running out. Mom, quit nagging me, I'm trying!

The above paragraphs cover two of my New Year’s Resolutions, a third one about improving my personality has already been moved to the discard pile as being too vague. I’ve changed that from “improve my personality” to “reveal more of my personality” and I did so recently at a lunch table when the topic of Chick-fil-A came up. Someone asked if their chicken is really that good that people would wait so long  in line to get it and I mentioned that I wouldn’t know because the place is on my Boycott List. When I was asked why I boycott it I kept it simple, just saying that they support a lot of conservative causes that I fight against. That statement opened it up to where three others revealed that they boycott the place too.

Then one of the Skinny Minnie Twins admitted to buying a My Pillow pillow before they knew the company owner was so off the rails Trumpian and how much it hurt to throw that very comfortable $100 pillow out because she couldn't put her head on it without negative feelings filling her head. Another woman admitted that she will only go to Hobby Lobby when she’s exhausted all other sources to find what she’s looking for. Because I had the guts to drop the ‘Boycott List’ into a conversation I’ve found my political tribe on the continuum care campus. And here I didn’t think there were any other Liberals around.  However, The Cheerleader causally mentioned that we all have to live together for the rest of our lives and there are so many other things in the world to talk about that we should keep politics and religion off the table. Okay,  then. ©

Photo at top: J.M.W. Turner's 'Dutch Boats in a Gale.'

The unfinished portrait that I'm pledging to finish by the end of the year. (Need some practice time on other stuff before I tackle her face again.)
 
The shelves I mentioned in an recent blog that I had added to have a place to store wet canvases and various things I need for inspiration or to have handy in my painting nook. The thing to the right of the easel is a fold up, antique table that I can put my palette on when working.

52 comments:

  1. Ooh, ooh, you have inspired me. I have that same voice and think reading aloud each day sure can't hurt. I always feel badly for my friends or family on the other end of the phone as I squeak in their ears. Thanks. I just read your post out loud. Wasn't pretty but I will work on it.
    Wow, that Chick-Fil-A comment really uncovered some like minds for you quickly. Great stroke of luck. And now there are 3 whom you should feel comfortable around stating a political opinion.
    Thanks again for the voice nudge.

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    1. I was telling my hair dresser about the reading out loud part of the class and she said her father is hard of hearing and lives alone and the audiologist told him to read out loud every day which not only helps with the habit of repeating the same thing you just said twice. But it also help you process speech better when you have a conversation.

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  2. Agree 100% about Chick Filet, Hobby Lobby and I’m sure there are more…
    Glad you found some like minded people. I have also where I live, against all odds in Fla., but I feel surrounded by trumpers and a crazy governor to boot.

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    1. Florida is getting quite the reputation for crazies. If it hasn't already it's going to start effecting their tourist trade.

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    2. Believe it or not, it’s the fastest growing state, home prices are skyrocketing and it hasn’t hurt tourism one bit. Lots of conservatives move here. Google The Villages sometime..big time trumpland

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  3. Of course I'm on board with your boycotts of those places, and I continue with my own of Walmart, too. Now I've added Pepsi to the list, thanks to their $15K contribution to the Texas gop, authors of the draconian abortion law that turns people into Old West vigilantes and women into criminals.

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    1. Never drink Pepsi but if I did I'd add that to my list. I can't believe what is happening in family reproductive rights circles. They don't believe in letting the government give them a vaccine but they are okay with the government intruding in what goes on in a woman's body.

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  4. I love the story about throwing out the pillow! Bad dream inducer for sure. The cheerleader may have to move to the nothing of substance discussion table. Why announce the whole group should not talk about those topics?

    The painting you are going to finish looks amazing already.

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    1. She was just making a point that we all have to live together for the rest of our lives in close contact so we shouldn't bring controversial subjects up. One side of me agrees with her but the other side of me thinks we're all adult enough to back off if someone is taking things too far or getting to invested.

      Thank you. The face isn't right. If she was just some random girl I could just add some highlights to the lips and eyes and be done but the whole mouth needs to be done to look like the subject. It's hard to mess with something when I've been away from painting so long. I need to work my way up to it again.

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  5. I imagine that reading aloud will strengthen your vocal cords and help your speech improve so that is a great exercise and I am glad you are sticking with it!
    I like your art corner set up. It is good to have everything handy so you are ready to paint more and you will paint more because you are ready!
    I agree with you about boycotting those places and I threw away the My Pillow I had bought too! I imagine over time that like-minded people do tend to gravitate towards each other in a place like your CCC.

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    1. Like me, I think we've all been here long enough to start letting our guard down now and we're feeling each other out on a deeper level. Still having fun/silly times too.

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  6. I love your art area and your shelves and I'm very impressed with the portrait. I'm so bad at bodies. And definitely awful at faces. I think I should do the 20 minute outloud reading. I notice my vocal chords get funky after I sing much or overtalk. I used to be a belter who could be heard to the back of the auditorium without a mic when I was singing. Not anymore. I recently saw someone on TV older and in a movie younger and the voice was so different -- not as a part of character, just the timbre. Often on road trips, I read a book aloud to Rick who's driving and by the time we get wherever we're going I need a break!

    I'm glad you're finding your political tribe. I'm with you on Chick Filet and Hobby Lobby (although if I'm totally desperate and I need something immediately I can't order up north, it's the only game in town.) But basically, I avoid it like the plague. I'm glad you aren't alone out there!

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    1. I need to get my family to start taking more photos from the backs and sides of their grandchildren because I comb their Facebook pages for photos I'd like to paint. My heart still wants to do people rather than places and some of the best of the artists I admire are of people in more candid poses like that one you did of the little boy at the beach with the sand pail with his back to you.

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  7. Yay for you for getting the paints out and starting. That's the hardest part.

    No Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby close enough for me to even be tempted, but now I know and I can join your boycott without even getting out of my chair.

    Never heard of the reading out loud exercise, but it's interesting and worth a try.

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    1. It was the hardest part. Now I'm in a routine of painting every other day with drying and thinking time in between.

      We had a check-in weekly on the memory class and ever single one of us has the same reaction about the reading out loud being so hard. I figure since it's the hardest it's what we need to do the most.

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  8. My husband used to love to have me read aloud to him. Mostly funny books like Jean Shepherd's stuff or Garrison Keillor, but I did read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" one year. Just about every day I would read aloud some column I found interesting on one of the political websites. Also, several years ago I read to kindergartners twice a week in a reading program. Can't do that now with Covid. Now, I just have my little dog and fat cat to read to. Not the same, so I haven't done any of that since my husband died in 2018.

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    1. Try using different voices and accents to read to your furry friends. My Levi loved me reading in what I thought was a southern accent. His little head would go back and forth. I once read an entire chapter of a romance book to him.

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    2. Ha! I've been studying Russian on the website DuoLingo and my cat loves it when I talk to him in that language. I tell him he's мой большой шумный громкий черно-белый кот. That means he's "my big, noisy, loud black and white cat." Maybe I'll read to him in Russian. :)

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    3. That is so cool! Why Russian? After I listened to The Goldfinch book on my Kindle I was going around talking with my version of a Russian accent. Like your cat, I like the gluteal tones of that language.

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    4. I like the challenge of learning it in the Cyrillic alphabet. My daughter teaches at a private school here and one of her students is a girl who was adopted from Ukraine. She was at my granddaughter's graduation and I went up to her and said a few things in Russian (which she knew besides Ukrainian.) She was so shocked and pleased and it was very gratifying for me to be able to do that. I definitely read Russian better than I could speak it and am nowhere near proficient in the language, but it's been fun.

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    5. Learning a second language, they say is really a good brain exercise as we age. I had so much trouble learning English that I doubt I could do it. I still have trouble hearing the fine differences between words like pen and pin.

      What a wonderful little mini gift you gave that girl.

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  9. Your paintings are fabulous. What talent.
    I was just told my voice sounded young on the phone so I guess I'm okay and don't need to read out loud - yet. lol. I didn't know this about our voices. Makes sense that it too ages. Maybe because I talk a lot it's like exercising. HA.HA Wishful thinking.

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    1. Yes, if you talk or sing alot you voice isn't going to age as quickly. If Rick tells you he needs a break from your storytelling tell him it's just your exercise.

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  10. I learn so much from your blog! I don't talk aloud much any more so now I am going to read too! Forget the voice is muscles and yet another part of me that has atrophied.

    Your paintings are wonderful! Especially PEOPLE! So difficult. What another wonderful talent you have.

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    1. We shall see if I still have any talent left. But I need to try....

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  11. Jean :

    you are such a talented right brain dominant women. love love your painting, you are too good, I can appreciate art even though with my half damaged brain. Now I will make sure to play our sing a songs game from letter you get in our upcoming long car rode trip, & will tell hubby its exercise for our vocal chords to keep the young & fit.

    Asha

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    1. That's a really good idea, Asha. When I was younger I could sing not great but good enough to carry a tune. Now I can't sing anything without my voice cracking and giving out. I'm not sure how much you can improve a voice but we can keep from losing what we're got.

      And thank you for feeding my wanna-be artist ego. LOL

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  12. Yay for finding your political tribe! And yay for the paintings! Just all around yay-ing for you!

    Deb

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    1. Yay for it being a bright, sunny day while we're at it. LOL

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  13. I have always liked coming here, I do not like to read aloud never have

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    1. Me neither. Recently I even announced in book club that I don't read aloud in public but I had a book club discussion list I wanted to share so I handed it off the leader of our group.

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  14. I understand about your reading out loud exhaustion. I had braces as an adult and I was instructed to read [or sing] 10 minutes out loud in front of a mirror in an attempt to get me used to my new tooth placement. It was darned difficult to do. Good news about finding some sensible kindred spirits. I don't go to Hobby Lobby ever.

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    1. Wow, who knew that singing or talking out loud had so many practical applications.

      Yes, I do feel better knowing there are liberals here but I do like it than politics is not a common topic of discussion. I don't think it should be taboo but there is a happy medium.

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  15. I am really interested in trying the reading every day, to improve my vocal chords. During my mother's last decade of life, her voice had a mind of its own, fading in and out, changing pitch, etc. We wondered if there was any help available, but the doctors said it was normal aging. It's important to be able to speak and be understood, for sure!!

    "Amateur Hour Jean" did make me smile, but you have way more talent than most of us. Bet you're going to enjoy painting again. I think the portrait of your niece will be treasured by you and her, once you're satisfied with it. Your paintings look great displayed on your shelves.

    True confession: my daughter got me a Chick-Fil-A sandwich years ago and it was delicious. They have a great sauce that you can put on it. But I'm not interested in waiting in their long lines. Nope.

    Good for you for finding like-minded people. The cheerleader is right about the fact that we all must get along (we sure should try), and I actually enjoy talking to people who have different philosophies than mine. I would think discussions at your dinner table could cover a wide range of topics, as long as everyone remains respectful.

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    1. Voice quality is important to reserve if not strengthen. Most of us read every day anyway, but it's hard to remember to read out loud. 4-5 times a week is what we're shooting for in the class as being the minimum we can do and get results.

      I went to a Chick-Fil-A when they first opened and some of my Gathering Girls pals wanted to try it. But it wasn't good enough to make me go against my Boycott. Here, they say the drive through lines take an hour!

      I'd be surprised if anyone here got into a heated discussion of any kind. We'll see around election time.

      If I ever get the painting finished, I'll give it away. If I don't I will keep dinging around with it. I either have to give things away or hide them because I keep seeing the mistakes. Drives me crazy.

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  16. I'm glad we don't have long lines at our Chick-Fil-A! They're so organized that even at lunch or dinner time it rarely takes more than five minutes: multiple lines do the trick. I'm a huge fan of their Cobb Salad; it's enough for two or three meals, and it's a great way to make myself eat salad.

    I've noticed that my singing voice is slowly disappearing. I do try to make myself sing every day. Some days are better than others, especially if allergies or such are interfering, but I love to harmonize with some of my favorite songs, so I keep trying.

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    1. From what I can see and have heard, they are well organized here too. They have four drive-thou lanes and people who take their orders and cash before they even get up to the speakers. I've never been by the corner where Chic-Fil-A is located that I didn't see at least four lanes up with block-long lines. It's the only one in a town of over a million people and it's on one of the busiest interactions in the state. They are building another on the other side of town which could cut those lines down, since they draw a lot of customers from the lakeshore. Heavily advertised here in the Church newspapers and pamphlets.

      I've tried singing with the car radio and can't do it without my voice cracking in and out.

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  17. I hadn't thought about the possible benefits of reading out loud. I'm going to have to try it. Like you, I'm trying to finish up projects, especially editing my difficult-to-write latest novel, even though I have no intentions of exiting soon. How talented you are. I had no idea.

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    1. When I moved I got rid of a few unfinished projects, ones others could finish. Did you know that unfinished crafts is such a common thing that someone here set up a business to finish what others start. I have a knitting project I'd consider sending off. It's a complicated pattern that I've forgotten how to read. I have a cross-stitch piece that only has one square inch left to do. It was my go-to craft to take to the hospital whenever anyone was there and I had to be too. Been working on it since JFK was president.

      Editing is something I and probably you too need to be in the right mood to do. You'll get yours done. It takes a lot of dedication to get a book to the point where you're at.

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  18. When my mom's eyesight made reading more difficult, my sister and I read books and magazines to her on tape. She had access to those materials via a service for people with limited vision but she LOVED hearing our voices. When she finished a book, we would tape over with something new.

    Another Chick-Fil-A true confession: there is one just a couple of miles from my house but I had literally never even once gone there. But during COVID when restaurants became out of bounds for me and so many other local spots had proven to be pitifully incapable of delivering an edible meal via drive through, I succumbed. I'm surprised that yours has lines because the federal government brought Chick-Fil-A to DC to help them learn how to process big numbers of people for drive through testing and vaccinations. When I arrive there might be two long lines all around the building, but I'm picking up my food in less than 10 minutes. I'll have to find some way to make amends if I ever get back to real restaurants. I have a LONG list of things I boycott going back to the 70s when our family gave up grapes for a decade for Cesar Chavez.
    Nina

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    1. I used to read golf magazine articles to my dad in his last five years of life. It was a special, bonding experience for us both.

      Now that you mention it, I do remember when some government office brought Chick-Fil-A to DC for advice on how to do drive-through testings. I thought at the time it was just another one of Trump's giving his buddies free adverting like the My Pillow guy.

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  19. I love that you had the boycott discussion and found some like minded people. I boycott the same places as you do, although I admit we received some Chik-Fil-A gift certificates last year and we did pick up dinner at their drive through once. (Still have the rest left...it was a large gift and we just don't eat there often.)

    Interesting bit about our voices losing strength. I recently took a long car trip and sang all the way (my normal boredom cure). When I arrived, I was a bit hoarse and couldn't figure out why. I'm sure it's my aging vocal cords.

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    1. I wouldn't have wasted those certificates either and I am glad I went there the one time. Never again, though.

      It seems so logical that vocal cords need exercising like all the rest of our body but it's something we never thing about, is it. Singing on long car trips is something we used to do too.

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  20. The Young Prince and Allen went ahead and ate some CFA and decided to end their lengthy boycott, it helped that every time we've gone thru the Drive-Thru we end up with an LGBTQ Youth Serving us, so now they're not as opposed to the Company as initially they and we used to be. I Boycott some things, like Tyson Meats becoz of proven Animal Abuse. I won't buy a My Pillow Guy product from that Lunatic. I guess each of us has to decide what we will be Consumers of, I think if we knew the Back Story of most Corporations and Suppliers, we'd be having to assess just how much we could practically Boycott... each has their merits and their Dark Side... I doubt any could pass an actual Litmus Test. It is good to know who among your Community are like minded and probably gel best with tho'. There are more PEOPLE I Boycott than Products, much easier for me to assess the Character and Moral Compass of each than to try to discern how entire Companies stand on anything or everything. We are a Capitalist Nation and thus, Money is always their most important deciding factor for EVERYTHING, not necessarily Morals of any kind.

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    1. Your son and Allen's experience with CFA is interesting but, for me, not enough to overlook the fact that they give a lot of money and support to groups that want to take women's reproductive rights back to the dark ages.

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  21. Sorry to be late to this post....I am DELIGHTED that revealing more of yourself is winning over "improving" or hiding. I just had a huge revelation myself about people -- I've spent far too long trying to "form" groups where i can fit in. Now I'm into "finding" them! No one wants to be molded to fit me, nor I to fit them. I know there's a place that already exists and I only need to reveal myself to find them. Way to go! Boycott away! (I'm with you on those!)

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    1. Me too, but it's still hard to reveal yourself and there is danger in doing it too soon into a relationship. There are some very nice people here, though.

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  22. Are there any rules about what you should be reading aloud? I find that it helps me to read my own writing (e.g., blog posts) aloud before I put them out in the world. Word repetitions, syntax problems or spelling mistakes that I miss when I proofread just with my eyes pop out at me when I engage another part of my brain by reading aloud.

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    1. No rules at all as long as you read out loud. I do read my own writing out loud in the editing process because, like you said, it's easier to find mistakes that way.

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  23. Totally Excellent. I'm glad you were able to slip that in the conversation and the benefit of finding like minds. I think so many of us Liberals gave up on sharing our thoughts because we were so exhausted beat with the negativiness of Trumpsters.

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    1. You are right and after awhile you feel like the Trumpsters are the only ones left. I know they exhaust me just listening to their messed up logic and dumbed down conspiracy theories.

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