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The Great Divide

These days, at least a few times a week, I find myself mumbling the words “What the actual fuck?” With the fabric of society seeming to unravel at an alarming pace, I’m surprised that I am shocked anymore. But I am. 

Earlier this week I participated in a focus group in which we were asked to give our response to a commercial concept from a large company. The commercial began innocent enough with a second grade teacher asking students what they wanted to be when they grew up. Classic. 

The first student, a boy, said “I want to be a teacher, just like you!” to which the teacher responded, “That’s wonderful! I love my job! It’s very rewarding.” Then a little girl said “I want to be an astronaut!” “Amazing!” the teacher replied. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Next, a young black boy answers that he wants to be an engineer. The teacher responds, “You know, black men are more likely to have criminal records that follow them wherever they go, so that’s unlikely.” I’m paraphrasing, as I don’t recall the exact vocation or the verbatim response, but you get the gist. Another, presumably white child offers another answer to which the teacher responds with more words of encouragement. Lastly, a little Latina girl says she wants to be a professor. The teacher states Latina women are less likely to graduate from a graduate program, therefore, she shouldn’t set her sights too high. 

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? 

The commercial then offers the statistics to support their narrative and of course, Company X is the solution with their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. “Go to http://www.company.com to learn more about what we’re doing to create a more just and equal workforce.” 

How about not telling second graders that they’re less likely to find jobs because of the color of their skin or suggesting a ceiling is placed on their level of achievement based on a bunch of numbers? I realize they were telling a story to make a point, but why don’t we try promoting a different story? How about we stop promoting a story of what is and start to encourage people to tell a story of what could be? 

I’m not asking anyone to ignore reality or statistics. But numbers without investigation can be void of any in depth analysis or reasoning. Has anyone stopped to ask what other factors may contribute to these outcomes other than racism? 

To me, this commercial sketch simply shines a light on what really needs fixing – our education system. Of course, this is a much bigger issue to tackle and requires real work on the part of our government, school boards and teachers, not to mention parents’ involvement in their children’s education. Wouldn’t it be better to level the playing field early on to erase any excuse of racial injustice as best we can? Wouldn’t it be nice if kids weren’t taught, as is so often the case these days, that the color of their skin makes them either the oppressed or the oppressor? Why are we teaching racism to children where it often doesn’t exist? These are the golden years of life when race truly means nothing to them. As long as you play nicely and share, kids are likely to get along. 

Reforming education is an uphill battle, but it just might alleviate what we have now – people pointing the finger at everyone and everything for whatever unfortunate situation they find themselves in. Much easier to call it racism, slap a band aid on the problem, and continue on with people misunderstanding each other. 

I’m so tired of this negative programming. I’m so tired of politicians and companies pitting us against one another. I’m tired of hearing about the problems with no real solutions. Aren’t you? 

What was most interesting to me was my comrade in the breakout group. She was as upset by the commercial as I was. Here she was – a successful, kind, intelligent (this girl took diligent notes and put my academic skills to shame), proud Latina – the younger version of herself being portrayed as a victim of the system. I found it highly insulting. So did she. 

In the short time we worked together, I instantly took a liking to her. I respected her for no other reason than we were supposed to be a team and she was generous and kind with me. Because I felt a certain fondness for her, I’d sit down with her and listen with an open heart and mind despite the fact we likely would have disagreed on certain issues. 

Furthermore, she pointed out, Company X didn’t offer any real solutions. She wasn’t even sure what Company X did and had to Google them. 

I agreed. Company X appeases the social justice warriors and hires P.O.C and minorities. Fabulous. Now what? What are they doing once they meet their quotas? Are they fostering a culture of compassion? Are they offering courses to their employees to improve communication skills? I’m not talking about a specific course in race. I’m talking about courses in how to human better. How to listen to each other. How to create an environment with a priority on personal development and responsibility. There can be no corporate growth without individual personal growth. Period. 

I can smell virtue signaling bullshit a mile away. And this. Was. It. 

This is no different than MLB’s Rob Manfred moving the All-Star game out of Atlanta to protest the new voter legislation in Georgia which requires identification to vote. Great. You’ve done your virtue signaling at the expense of $100 million lost revenue in a city with the largest percentage of black people and moved the game to a city with stricter voter laws and a black population hovering around 10% – and that’s being generous. All the while you get to drive around in your limo ignoring the real issues that you are doing absolutely nothing to resolve. Well done, commissioner. 

Neither of these are long term solutions to the real problems of racial inequity. True racism springs from a dislike of self. When you like yourself, are proud of yourself and the work you do in the world, there is no reason to hate another person, no matter the color of their skin. You can call it systemic all day long. But systems are made up of individual people so while companies can make some grand gesture in the name of solidarity, how many are really doing things to heal this divide in our country? None that I see. So stop sounding off with some politically correct bullhorn and start creating environments that promote individual growth and encourage people to listen to each other with grace and generosity of spirit. 

Like Charles Barkley mentioned in this video that mainstream media didn’t make much of a peep about: 

“Man, I think most white people and black people are great people. I really believe that in my heart, but I think our system is set up where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power. They divide and conquer.”

Stop letting them. 

Head Vs. Heart

I had one of those “Ah-HA!” moments in my morning meditation last week. At one point I could physically sense the difference between ‘being in my head’ and ‘being in my heart.’ The transition was palpable. Something that had been a high concept esoteric principle became very real for me. It’s always difficult to accurately portray a subtle body experience. After all, the most sublime sensations and experiences can rarely be encapsulated into words. At least that has been my reality.

It seems there are two very different ways of seeing and experiencing this world, each with their benefits, each with their drawback. We can perceive the world through the lens of the heart or the head. We also have a choice in the matter.

What I’ve come to realize however, is the heart is not limited, where the head is. The heart has unlimited capacity for love – for forgiveness and compassion. Our heads will try to rationalize all of the reasons these things should be withheld. Our heads will say things like:

It’s not fair.

They don’t deserve it.

What about me?

He/She/ can’t get away with that.

It’s not right.

The heart has no need for right and wrong because from the heart’s point of view, there is no difference. Only in the head do we separate the two. And only in the head does separateness exist at all.

I believe some of us are more inclined to operate in a certain mode over another. You either love working on a MacBook or a PC. One feels inherently intuitive, the other, rather clumsy. Some cannot fathom life without rationality, pro and con lists, and a careful scrutiny of all the options. Others find it painful to ignore the loud whispers from the heart.

Like many, I was trained to lead from my head and I’ve become quite adept operating in the world this way. However, I believe I was born to lead from the heart.

It feels so damn good to be out of my head and in my heart. When I get there in meditation or even in the daily activity of life, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t feel as good to operate in my head anymore – all the figuring out and thinking and analyzing and trying to make sense of it all – but old habits die hard. It’s a consistent practice for me right now to drop down from top to center.

At one point, I needed all the head skills. But my mind keeps me small and limited. Thus the term small – minded. Not that a particular way of thinking is small, but primarily using the mind as a source of guidance can trap us in a box. It’s restrictive. We are so much more than our heads. There is so much more we are capable of beyond the space of the mind.

I would, however, like to say thank you to my head. Thank you for keeping me safe. For helping me grasp concepts and knowledge. For teaching me how to remember so I don’t have to re-learn things every day like how to talk, write, walk, etc. You have your purpose. But you will no longer guide my ship. I trust my heart more than my head. More and more every day. And the more I practice it, the more tangible it becomes. I can feel a difference in my body as opposed to having it be some out there woo-hoo spiritual teaching. I literally feel more expansive, supported and just, well – GOOD. It’s me. There I am. The person I was meant to be.

Crash And Burn

Have you ever driven head first into a relationship you knew would ultimately hurt you?
Why do we do this?
Do we think somewhere along the way we’ll be able to alter the outcome?
Is the draw to certain people too intense to resist?
Maybe karma is so keen that she renders you helpless so you can work your shit through with some people.
It’s like a car wreck – you can’t seem to pull yourself away no matter how much you want to.

Maybe there’s something inside saying “NO” but you’re desire to feel good – to have companionship, joy, sex – that desire overrides any logic you may have left.

Or maybe it’s hope. Hope that this time – this guy – will be different. This guy won’t abandon you after sleeping with you. Not this guy. This guy had done his WORK. This guy is older. This guy is a MAN. This guy is honest. Upfront. Trustworthy.

Or at least he makes you believe he’s all those things.

So you give it over. Your body. Your heart. Your passion. Your care. Your vulnerability. Your trust.

And then you realize this guy is no different than most guys you’ve been with. This guy turns away. This guy leaves.

And you do your best to convince yourself it’s not you. You’re not broken. There’s not some faulty part. But out of all the guys, there’s only one common denominator – YOU.

You’re aware of your patterns and what you attract. But you really thought this guy was different and that you’d FINALLY started to change. To heal those old wounds.

But the wounds are still there. And nothing has changed. And you feel stuck. Hopeless. Like maybe it’s going to be this way forever.

Because this guy wasn’t different. You are left with your hope and your heart in your hand. And all you really want to do is share it with someone. Someone who will say “Here. Let me hold that and take care of that the way you take care of it.” Not drop it on the floor like a banana peel.

And you cry. Not so much for this guy. You barely knew this guy. You cry because you’re tired of doing the work. Tired of being lonely. Tired of waiting for THAT guy.

Listen for the NO. No matter how enchanting and persuasive and magnetic and amazing that YES feels. LISTEN TO THE NO.

Intuitive Eating

Recently, I touted an article on Facebook from a hot young author named Jessica Knoll (author of the best selling book “Luckiest Girl Alive“) who wrote about smart women falling for the pseudoscientific claims of the “wellness” industry. She wrapped up everything I’ve been feeling and saying for the past couple years in a wonderful op-ed piece in the New York Times. That all these trends – keto, Paleo, the Whole 30, you name it – are eating disorders in prettier boxes. All of them espouse a comparative model of eating, claiming certain foods are ‘bad’ for you while others are ‘good’. And while we could all use a kick start plan to eat healthier every once and a while as bad habits can be difficult to break without a good strong dose of discipline, the diet as lifestyle has been the norm since the 80s.

I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything Ms. Knoll wrote, but something keeps nagging at me: the idea that we still label what is women’s inherent nature (because, as Ms. Knoll points out, not many guys are sitting around the table talking about their thighs as they scarf down their burgers) as yet another methodology called “Intuitive Eating.”

Intuitive eating implies we need to learn a specific way to eat. We don’t need to learn anything else about food. We need to forget about everything that society has told us is right or wrong with our bodies. We need to un-learn all the ways we’ve dishonored, shamed and hurt our bodies whether that be through diets or abusive language or comparing ourselves to other women. We simply need to return to the inherent wisdom that was granted us at conception. The wisdom of our Divine Feminine. She knows why she eats. She knows what her body likes. She knows how to nurture and nourish herself whether that is with a kale salad or a chocolate chip cookie.

Women, we’ve been brainwashed. By advertising, magazines, celebrity culture and heaven help us, social media. And while it’s all around us, it’s been a covert operation, as Ms. Knoll points out, hiding under the alias of ‘wellness’ and ‘balance’. Slowly but surely, our patriarchal society has turned us against ourselves. Convinced us that we need products and expensive tonics and potions to live a fulfilling life and convinced men that we’re not worthy of praise, attention or love unless we look a certain way. Our capitalistic and consumer driven culture has made us question and distrust ourselves.

As I’ve written before, I’ve struggled with being in the ‘wellness’ industry, as I promote and write about workouts and food and nutritional supplements. I’ve done the best I can to strike a chord of balance between what’s absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle and what could be considered indulgent luxuries. Before I put anything out to the public I try to assess why I am doing so and will it help someone more than it will harm them?

I’ll be the first to tell you I got into this industry because I didn’t feel ‘enough’. Pretty enough. Thin enough. Successful enough. I was able to hide my insecurities in the name of health. I learned a lot on this journey, but my biggest lessons have come from unlearning everything I thought I knew about who I was. It has come from tearing down the facade I built to make myself okay. It came from questioning and continuing to question everything I know to be ‘true’ or ‘good’ or ‘right’.

While the wellness industry has done an amazing job convincing us we can never eat gluten again and be happy, we must not abdicate personal responsibility. As women, we need to take back our power and stop being so willing to buy whatever anyone is selling us. We must do whatever we need to return to that inexhaustible well of confidence, grace, trust, compassion, tenderness and yes, strength, that we were endowed with when we were conceived as females. And we must continue to fill it over and over and over and over again. With food. With friendships. With intimacy. With laughter. With joy. With vulnerability. With whatever fills up not only our bellies but our hearts as well. We must feed our souls.

We can begin this process by asking ourselves one simple question not only with food, but with all of our decisions. Why? Why am I eating this donut or this piece of fish or this broccoli? Why am I buying this potion or supplement? Why am I getting botox? (A question, yes, I recently asked myself.) And then, be brutally honest in our answers. Sometimes we may like what we hear, sometimes not. Decide accordingly.

Your answers may lead you down a rabbit hole that may uncover a root unresolved issue for you. While not always pleasant, these moments can be transformative and healing. If you have the resources and feel you need to, seek outside help like a therapist. Counseling can be helpful, but so can writing, reading, talking with trusted friends and committing to our own happiness and well being.

I don’t need L’Oreal to tell me I’m worth it. And neither do you.

And Jessica Knoll, if you read this – I’d love to lunch with you and discuss how to take up more space.

Free Falling

As seems to be my theme for 2019, last week requested I, yet again, be flexible – demanded I let go of plans, even as I’m making them. I was all set to begin my new job with Square Organics, an amazing company making its mark not only in the health and wellness space but also exemplifying the generosity and heart of a company doing the right thing in the world – the kind of company I’ve been craving to work with for a long time. In today’s day and age, it’s been challenging for me to find the right fit, especially given my aversion to the nine to five gigs.

When the opportunity to sign on as their Field Marketing Director came my way, I jumped on it. I received everything I wanted – freedom to work from wherever I chose. Opportunity to contribute to the creative direction of the company. A nice salary. Health benefits.

Despite all the pros of the job, the one con is that I was not particularly enthusiastic about the actual work I would be doing. Could I manage a team of brand ambassadors in Whole Foods across the country? Yes. Could I pimp the product in stores? Yes. Is this what my soul is crying out to do? No.

This is the year life is demanding I start walking my talk. The year I make the seemingly crazy decisions that will drop me deep into the unknown. The year I say no to the opportunities that I pro/con to death until I justify saying yes, even if that decision doesn’t move me forward along my path or towards fulfilling my purpose in life.

If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a no.

Trust your gut.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t means you have to do it.

Say no to the imperfect opportunities so the perfect ones have room to appear. (This one I made up myself. I think. Maybe not.)

I’ve espoused all these catchphrases and paradigms at some point in my life. However, I wonder how much have I lived them? What kind of teacher would I be if couldn’t serve as my own example?

Yet again (and again and again), I am being asked to trust, to surrender, to just let go. To risk safety for growth and expansion. I’m recognizing this is easier said than done.

When the founder of Square Organics and myself came to the mutual conclusion that turning down the role would be best for everyone, we began devising a new role that would better align with my passions and talents. I am not sure if that will come to fruition or not. I feel like I should be more anxious, more worried than I am. Some days the fear of the unknown wins and I find myself spiraling in a vortex of Oh Shit. What did I do? Other days I have full faith that by saying no to a job that would keep me small, I’m saying yes to an opportunity that will demand I be as big as I know myself to be.

In the meantime, I’m writing through the discomfort.

Intimacy

Usually, when something in my life needs to be healed or resolved, it hits me from all angles. Everything around me becomes a reflection of living life under the influence of the particular wound or deficiency. The people in my life, the conversations, the shows or movies or books I’m drawn to – even what pops up in my web browser from the black hole of Google searches. Eventually I see it. Someone is not so gently nudging me. Hey you. Yeah, you. You need to look at this. If I don’t get the picture, then a little bit of pain, a tad of heartache will usually be invoked.

Recently, everything in my field of awareness is leading me to one of my most challenging obstacles – Intimacy.

I’m not sure whether intimacy is an innate or learned skill. Are we born with this ability to connect to another sentient being in the most vulnerable way? Or is intimacy something taught to us (or not) by our parents and our environment? I imagine in utero, we get our first taste of intimacy. We rely on another human for our very life. We have no choice. It’s either stay connected or die. I think the fact that women have the ability to physically tether themselves to another life may explain why we seem to crave intimacy more than men.

I also believe that if this inherent quality isn’t nurtured and reinforced through behaviors and surroundings from the day we are born, then we easily forget how to use it. Life sweeps in and hurts us. People break our hearts. We begin to erect barriers that thwart intimacy.

I can not speak definitively on this topic because it is an area in which I am blaringly flawed, especially when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. Sex is not the equivalent of intimacy. Just because you’re naked it does not mean you’re vulnerable. I should know. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced sex and intimacy at the same time. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve cried after having sex with a man. Something gets touched, busted open – but I quickly shut it down. While I’m comfortable with men seeing my body, I’m not comfortable with men seeing ME.

The three most intimate words in the English language are not “I love you.” They are “I see you.”

I see you. You with your flaws and your fuck ups and your haven’t-quite-nailed-it yet. You with your wounds and your scars and your dis-ease that may never go away or be healed. You with your insecurities and your ugliness and your beauty and your light. All of it. I see you. AND I love you.

That scares the shit out of me. Intimacy doesn’t have room for judgment or blame. It doesn’t tolerate guilt or shame. It looks these in the eye and says “PFFFFT!” Swats them away like a fly.

I think when I’m able to look at myself without judgment or guilt or shame, then I’ll find someone who will do the same. And I’ll know what true intimacy is.

Until then, I practice. I practice with friends I trust. I practice with my kitty. (This one is easy!) I practice with dance. I practice with strangers now and again.

This is the good stuff. This is where it’s at. It scares me, but only because, like anything else scary, it’s unknown. Once I know it I imagine it will be sublime. And I’ll wonder why I waited so long to be anything but intimate.

 

 

My Staycation

As of Friday December 21st, I gave myself permission to take a two week stay-cation. I decided due to the expense of travel during the holiday coupled with a deep desire to go nowhere and do no-thing, to stay put in Los Angeles. I was looking forward to sticking around while everyone else left. L.A. is best when half the town leaves. You can get from the west side to the middle of Hollywood in less than 40 minutes. That’s unheard of on even the best of days here in the City Of Angels. I actually enjoy driving as long as I can move unobstructed by other cars. I love driving fast even more. (It’s particularly satisfying driving north on PCH with a stick shift.) I roll the windows down, crank the music, sing loud and feel free. Other times, I just listen to the wind in complete silence. Either way, it’s a meditative experience for me.

I told myself I wasn’t going to work for two weeks. That I would take time for personal projects and self care. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the last two weeks of 2018. The two weeks prior had been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I had been feeling tired, lost and sad. I assumed my heavy mood would extend into the holidays and maybe even intensify given the particular amount of loneliness one can tend to feel this time of year.

I experienced just the opposite. The past two weeks has been fulfilling and inspiring in ways I couldn’t imagine. I binge watched my now favorite episodic – Californication. And while for many the show may have confirmed that L.A. is nothing but a cesspool of vapid wanna be artists, it made me fall in love with my town all over again – its landscapes, its debauchery and its ability to continually inspire (and simultaneously ass kick) any who have aspirations for a creative life.

I began writing again. Not in the long form ways (like this blog) that I feel compelled to share with the world, but just musings and short poems and random thoughts – streams of consciousness that may or may not have a public life somewhere down the road. I wrote in ways that were personally satisfying.

I began dreaming again – allowing my imagination to open avenues of creativity for me. Thinking of all the possibilities this town holds, excited for what’s to come and the ride that 2019 will take me on.

And while I told myself I wasn’t going to work – I did here and there. Which proved to me, that no matter what, I know I will always be motivated to move ahead. I suppose I needed that confirmation.

Somewhere in the past two weeks, I began to trust myself more. Trust what I’m feeling called to do. Where I’m guided to go. I let go of the should’s and shouldn’t’s and gleaned what I was doing out of necessity and what I was doing from sheer love.

I drank (quite) a bit, I moved a bit, and I expressed a lot in all forms. By golly, I had FUN. I found pleasure in life in so many ways. I found what has been missing for so many years.

Given how not busy my life was, I had plenty of time for social media and other distractions. However, I had no desire to post much of anything. I had nothing to say. I was too busy LIVING my life rather than pontificating about it. A whole day would go by and somehow, I just couldn’t find the time for Instagram.

While I know my life will ramp up as the New Year moves forward and that I am never completely free of the darkness that sometimes distinguishes my light, I am going to try my darndest to carry these past two weeks with me. The ease. The joy. The disinterest for what I thought my life was supposed to be or look like. Because I’m too busy enjoying what it is.

Insignificant

Sometimes the level of insignificance I feel is staggering.
Like it wouldn’t matter if I drove my car
Straight through this red light into the ocean
Instead of south on PCH.
I dream of it often.
Instead, I turn left, like I’m supposed to.
Like I’m always supposed to.
And just drive really fast.
As fast as I can without hurting someone else.
Driving really fucking fast makes me feel better.
I get an inch closer to knowing death.
It’s nights like these
I’m glad a drive a manual.

 

 

Homecoming

I am back in my home earlier than some of my neighbors after being evacuated due to the Woolsey fires this past week. By the grace of whoever watches and protects us all, the officer at the roadblock allowed me to pass into the canyon where I live.

I hit a breaking point. I just had to go home and for some strange reason felt the Gods were on my side. However, I wasn’t sure what obstacles I would encounter on my way home or how I would talk myself into passing through. Maybe I’d lie and say I had to get more medication or some other bullshit. I needed a break from it all. I was drooling at the thought of sleeping through the night in complete silence in the woods.

I don’t like to lie nor am I any good at it but sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. When I approached the officer blocking the street I needed to enter, I asked if I could get in. He asked where I lived. I paused just a bit too long before I answered. My reply was less than a mile from the truth and I sensed he knew it. He let me pass anyway. I felt terrible for a bit and then utterly relieved. I thanked whatever angels were with me.

As soon as I stepped on my property my shoulders relaxed. My rib cage dropped. And I took a huge exhale. I expressed my gratitude out loud for the officer that let me pass. Gratitude for my home, with all its quirks and little noises and imperfections. For my friend who so graciously took me in with Zeus, my handsome kitty, when many were not as feline friendly.

Now I am somewhat sequestered in my home as I don’t know if I’ll have the same luck getting in and out freely. I’ve spent the day tending to things that haven’t been tended to. Cleaning. Home assignments I had been putting off. Emails that should have been sent days if not weeks ago. I’m nesting. It’s so peaceful here with over half our town gone.

Without little Zeusy around (I left him at my friend’s apartment truly believing the evacuation would be lifted today and I could return to get him), my home is so much cleaner. I am relishing in its lack of paw prints, cat food and litter littering my floor. I needed this. Even for just 24 hours.

But I had some important realizations today as I washed clothes, cleaned floors, emptied closets, and rearranged furniture.

While my house may be a bit dirtier with Zeus traipsing in and out from the great outdoors, my heart is fuller.

No matter how sparkling your floor is or isn’t, however big or small, a home is to be cherished. Honored. Loved. Respected. And nurtured. We all have different ways to do that. It felt good for me to clean, burn sandalwood, organize and rest.

As I unpacked and re-nested I realized, like I do when I move, that I didn’t need much of what I have been harboring in my closet. I started pulling items off their hangers and putting them in a ‘To Donate’ pile. All ready to go to any organization collecting items for victims of the Woolsey fire.

I don’t have a lot. Everything I own fits in a studio apartment and my office and practice studio. I have one closet. One dresser drawers. Yet, as I unpacked I still felt too cluttered. I began emptying. With every shirt or pair of shoes I dumped into the donation pile, I created a little more space for other non- material things to enter my life. Things I’ve been hoping, wishing, and praying for.

We’ve all heard that people are more important than things. But how many of us are truly living by that philosophy? Do we ever stop to think when we buy that fifth pair of shoes (in my case boots) that we are cluttering our life, preventing the things we truly desire from entering? We weigh ourselves down with so much – food, shoes, lip glosses, purses, t-shirts.

When is enough enough? I wondered if our culture’s obsession with consumption – having more in every area of our life – may be contributing to the devastation of our planet. That our singular home – Earth – is suffering as a result of our insistence on overstuffing our individual homes.

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