The Dragon Journals
The Dragon Journals

Journal Archives: August 2000 - December 2000.

31st August 2000

I am now the proud owner of a hifu and pants to match! I don't feel "ready" to wear it yet but hopefully with more study and play I will be able to do it some justice eventually. You may be wondering why I own it, if not to wear it. A bit of background for you: as a hobby, my mother sews and would have made an outstanding seamstress. Therefore, when she asked a few months ago what she might sew... well, the rest is history. Lucky for me that I did ask for it, as Eric has advised the group that he will be organising "demonstrations" for us to provide, and that he expects us all to own a hifu and wear it on that occasion. This RULES. As soon as I have a photograph I'll put it up, but don't hold your breath as the camera is without film. Enough for tonight, I've got dishes to wash and food to eat and Bagua to play!

3rd September 2000

"Part One" section is completed... to a point. I'm sure I'll always be updating, correcting et. al. but the main body of Part One is now done - phew! It's now 4:30 pm on the Sunday afternoon of the labour day weekend so it looks like I'll be playing either just before supper or just before bedtime. I really need to sort out a regular schedule, it may help keep me stay on track.

FYI, we are currently on "break" from the regular study group sessions, which commence again in mid-September. At our last session, Eric recommended that we only do the standing meditation until that time... which I enjoy, but to be quite honest, I miss some of the other practises... strange, how after finding it all a bit bizarre I now miss my "linear walking" practises! Ah well. Off to do some work and prepare some food and stand.

9th September 2000

Today, I spent some time browsing other martial arts websites. You see, I've submitted this site to various search engines and am busily trying to correct my code to make it more palatable to them (or something to that effect) and was trying to see if I could glean any useful tips from popular pages.

In so doing, I came across a website where the webmaster had asked several people why they had chosen and remained with that specific martial art. One answer in particular saddened me. It went something like this, 'I wanted something that was practical and could be used for street fighting, without all the Eastern mysticism crap...' (this was on an American site). It made me wonder what is being taught, and in what manner? In our Western culture, we seem to be losing all notions of respect for others (just look at the increase in 'car rage' and 'air rage' incidents) and so the thought of a peaceful approach to life, and embracing virtues such as honestly, humility, patience and sincerity don't seem to be all that bad to me.

Perhaps the problem lies in the word "mysticism". For many years, these arts have remained "secret", and so the practical applications, and the scientifically-provable health benefits, have remained "mystic" or mysterious for far too long. It is sad when, rather than educate oneself, one is discouraged by something that appears mysterious and unknowable.

Well, if anyone wants a better definition, I am sure that the answers may be found. Our Shifu has long understood the Western thirst to understand the "why" and "how", and has devoted much of his lifetime to finding the answers to those questions and to remove the "mysticism" and increase the "understanding".

I hope that anyone who is looking for a martial art, doesn't continue to allow that "Eastern mysticism" to turn them away. Aside from our efforts to better understand the arts, that "Eastern mysticism" is certainly part of the history and development of martial arts. Moreover, we are in dire need of some peaceful values at any time.

That having been said, I'm going to complete my updates to the site now, then sit quietly for a bit. I hope you too, have a chance to relax on a beautiful day like today. Because my personal approach is far simpler: I may not understand how it works, but it works for me. I'm satisfied with that.

12th September 2000

a.k.a Day 3.
After a long hiatus, not only from class but personally also (I am ashamed to admit) from practising, the group met at Bob's new home in the countryside, where he had invited not only the group but also their families for "the first class of the season" and a pot-luck supper. It was good to begin again but I have been paying for it ever since - sore legs, guilt and an all-too-easily-distracted mind when trying to stand or sit quietly.

The day at Bob's was a fantastic refresher: not only did we play outside, but Bob had set up the nine posts. Oh ok, it was only seven but it was not feasible to fit all nine into Bob's double garage. Next time build a bigger garage Bob! (j/k). I had never played with "the nine posts" before, so let me give you my (beginner's ) perspective: like every other aspect of this art, it looks deceptively simple. Simply walk around the posts (which are hanging suspended from the rafters). Next, add eight or ten of your closest buddies - if they weren't close before they soon will be - and try to avoid touching either each other or the posts while moving around them as previously described. If this is still too simple or even if not, now set the danged things swaying violently and watch the dominoes, errrrrr, people land where they may. This was tremendous fun despite the fact that Eric (our group leader) did not choose to re-enact the scenario where he was playing this game at the Gompa and a 100-pound heavy bag (one of the nine posts) happened to be moving in the direct opposite direction he was... all in all, great amusement for those who watched him physically lifted into the air, then deposited none too gently on his back. This sounds like something I will do eventually. Did I mention the incident with the bruised bum?

Nope, still too embarrassed to tell that one... maybe later...

The regular classes begin this Thursday but after Sunday's event, I am once again determined to not allow a day to pass without play. At 9:30pm each night, regardless of any outside event, it is bagua time. Considering that it does not require great amounts of space, this should not be difficult to achieve. Last night, my man and I, despite great pain, stood for about 16 minutes... tonight, it was 20, plus linear walking with rooting exercises, plus circle walking. Now, at almost 11pm, I do feel as though I have accomplished a great deal of good for myself. Why, why, why, when I feel so good afterwards, is it always so difficult to begin? This is however a moot point. "JUST DO IT" is not only a marketing phrase, it's sometimes a philosophy needed to get things done! If I questioned everything, I would finally accomplish nothing. Balance in all things, yin and yang if you wish, sometimes just do it, sometimes question and find answers.

Tonight, I don't have any answers. Just a determination to do this, and maybe find my answers along the way. Wish me luck.

24th September 2000

a.k.a Day 15.
Setting aside a regular "practise time" for bagua is working well. On those days where I intend to "do" or "be" elsewhere at that time, I usually work out an earlier time of day and so by 9:30pm that night, I have had some play. Whether standing and stretching, or trying to kick the crap out of the double-ended speed bag (my one toy so far!), I always enjoy what I've done.

If you've ever been involved in any kind of sport or fitness activity on a long-term basis, you'll understand just how amazing was that last statement. As a former competitive swimmer, there were days when I'd have paid money just to get out of the pool during training, but the coach was always standing guard (so it seemed). Years later, when I went to aerobics classes, I had the same experience. It's just not all that unusual to lose interest, or get bored, or not be "in the mood" while you're training. It just happens.

However, I always enjoy my play. I suppose it has a lot to do with the "self learning" aspect - there is such a lot to do, that if I'm less motivated than normal by standing and stretching, I can always speed it up by walking, or slow it down and add intensity by focussing on deliberate movement.

This last couple of weeks has been challenging, though. A week ago Thursday, we had a surprise family visit from overseas. Add to that my business trip to the West Coast that began the following Saturday and lasted through until Friday, and you'll understand the challenge. On the plus side, visitors' body clocks are always messed up if arriving from overseas, so there was always a time available to play. Apparently, a fear of flying also helps - well, it did for me. As the airplane was taking off, I decided that some meditation might be in order! Ok, I'll readily admit that I was not meditating by any means, but it was the calmest takeoff I've ever experienced. Missing home and busy days, followed by social events in the evenings, meant that usually I'd be feeling busy and frazzled. Instead, I got up a bit earlier each morning (easy to do when the time change is -3 hours!) and practised. That settled me down for the day and left me feeling refreshed all day.

I've been missing classes, though, and really look forward to this Tuesday when I'll be back in class after another (unintentional) break from class. I find that the group does help accelerate my understanding and motivation, though not always in the expected manner. For example, it is becoming more and more important to me to make the opportunity to go the Gompa (a Tibetan word that translates as, "Place of quiet study"). The Gompa was founded by Dr. John Painter in October of 1994 to serve as a base of operations for the instruction and production of classes and products dealing with the Li family internal martial art and healing systems, and one of the offerings are week-long seminars and training sessions with Dr. Painter.

It's fun enough to have a play area in the basement, and a study group to play with, but "the real thing" - that is, an opportunity to learn from Dr. Painter and his senior students, and to learn and hear the stories, in an ideal setting, is what I am now working towards (however, it doesn't make sense to go there if I'm not fit enough to last the entire week!). I must be a masochist, just looking forward to being covered in bruises I suppose :) ...

Wish me luck! More, and more photos, to follow shortly...

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4th October 2000

I work in an office. All I can say today is, perhaps we need to all go back to kindergarten and re-learn those lessons once in a while. A better man wrote a small book about this very subject... the importance of not talking all at once, listening when others speak, sharing your toys, and taking time out for milk and cookies. It is very sad to see adults bickering and reduced back to pre-school chaos. Before I started this art, I was always a part of this problem. Now I find myself able to watch without participating, but not without sympathy. I am experiencing a new sensation of being able to be sympathetic and look for solutions to problems without adding more emotions to the mess. I attribute this improvement to a heightened awareness, and a greater ability to remain relaxed than I have ever experienced before. More on this later... for now: time to have a nap, and chill!

9th October 2000

I am wide awake. This may not mean much to many people, but it is now midnight here and, rather than being laid fast asleep, gearing up for work, I am awake and alert. This is of course my own doing. You see, this past weekend the Study Group Leaders ("SGL's") were invited to The Gompa to celebrate Founder's Day, a day on which students celebrate and pay their respects to the art and the school (The Gompa being our school). You may well ask how this relates to my lack of drowsiness... it doesn't really, but as a direct result of an email from SGL Neil on his return, wherein we were promised information and news about the weekend, our excitement led to an extended session of bagua tonight which lasted several hours. You might think that after a long - and intense, did I mention intense? - workout such as tonight's, we'd be ready for bed... but, noooooooooooo. I have never felt anything but refreshed ... oh, ok, sometimes weary and sore, but never ready for sleep, after a session of bagua or qi gong. Workaholics please note: less sleep required. More productivity possible. This is one beautiful bonus I have found from this art that I never had from any swimming, jogging, weight training or aerobics classes: the activity will make time for itself - the rest is up to me...

14th October 2000

Perhaps 9:30 pm is a bit late to play! We've agreed on that, my man and I, after a full week of sleepless nights. I suppose that we could have figured this out without the sleepless night experience, but what fun would that have been? Just goes to prove yet again that this art helps with alertness. We have also just started early morning play. Looks like our evening play will be commencing earlier, unless of course, I can convince my boss that 11am-6pm are normal working hours for which I should be paid a full salary. I'd put my bet on the earlier practise, myself.

22nd October 2000

So many thoughts, so little time! I even surprise myself with comments like that. You see, even though I usually can find something to say, it's usually thought out moments before I burst out with it... which can be a bit amusing but also somewhat embarrassing (someone pointed out that I was, according to these journals, "laid in bed" recently, and perhaps I should have rephrased it, ummm... well??!!!).

All such drivel aside, I have recently found myself with a bit of extra time as I've decided to once again risk the mass of humanity that travels daily in the subterranean tubes known as THE SUBWAY. With petrol (gasoline) and downtown parking prices once again on the rise, the issue was a bit of a no-brainer, despite my perhaps somewhat obvious aversion to that mode of travel.

In any event, a few observations I have made while using the public transit system:
It is possible, although far from ideal, to attempt "quiet sitting" on a bus or subway. It shows just how restless everyone else there is as well, even those seated apparently quietly are usually far from quiet - reading (while glancing about occasionally), talking if more than one person travelling, chewing gum, rooting through assorted purses, packages, parcels, (looking for god only knows what), listening to a Walkman - you name it! No wonder nobody's relaxed, even when forced to be still, we can't be. Not sure if this is observation only applies here during rush hour, but it certainly explains a lot.

It is also possible to attempt standing meditation on a crowded subway which constantly speeds up and slows down, as a matter of fact, it's not ideal simply because it can be distracting to watch someone watching you (ummm, me) trying to ride a subway upright without once holding on. On the other hand, it's still fun to try to maintain my so very recently found root. So, I'm going to keep playing this game, subway watchers be damned! (oh heck there goes my PG rating, ah well...)

It isn't always nice to be observant, but it keeps you from sitting next to the old man who peed his pants.

Final observation: when all else fails, read the manual. This saying also applies to martial arts. What I mean by that is, if I can't do any of the above "sitting" or "standing" games, then I can use the time to review my "basics" manual.

More later; I'm still sorting out my thoughts!

23rd October 2000

Yesterday, on my way home, someone grabbed a $5 bill I was putting into a change machine... as it turns out, it was a joke as it was an office colleague (he was behind me) who asked me "aren't you supposed to do your martial art on me?"

Actually, I was both disappointed and pleased with myself, and I'm not sure even I understand it, but I'll try to explain. The disappointment is easy - although he was behind me and I was aware people were there, I was not "ready" or even as observant as I should be. Another is that when he grabbed the bill, I was so startled that I had a moment of inaction, then grabbed the bill back and turned around to see who/what was there.

"You startled me!" I was shocked at his action. "aren't you supposed to do your martial art on me?" "You really startled me!" I was hugely disappointed with myself. And so, despite thinking this was becoming part of my daily life, I have learned that I have yet to become part of this art, even in the smallest sense. And yet... maybe it is, but so far only in the very smallest sense. I don't think I can explain, but some part of me yesterday, was screaming and panicking, but was trying to figure out 'what next', or at least I think it was, but in any case I do know I didn't panic as I have done in similar situations in the past... that's all.

More quiet sitting and standing will be added to the daily routines... and a conscious effort to remain alert always.

Thank you, Steve.

28th October 2000

Last week, a memo was circulated at the office asking if anyone wanted to sign up for the annual 'flu shots. Yes, I am one of those fortunate few whose employer cares enough about my health to pay for the innoculation. However, I've always been annoyed that you apparently need to get a little bit ill now, to avoid a worse illness later.

On the other hand, I hate being ill. And this is where I started thinking once again about the health aspects of this rather fun and cool martial art. You see, right now, I have a cold. To be honest, I'm not quite sure. I should really say, I think I have a cold.

Actually, for approximately a year now, I haven't had to take a single day off work due to illness. I presume this is due to the health benefits of the art, but I never before realised how those "sick days" act as a break from routine. This lack of "time off for sick days" is what made me notice that I haven't been ill for a while.

So I was more than a bit annoyed the other day, when I woke up with a bit of a sore throat. Like most people, when everything is going well, I don't notice any change, but if things go wrong, well! An actual absence of problems isn't quite as noticeable, until the problems return.

On that particular day, I noticed the sore throat, then got out of bed and went to work as normal (it went away after an hour). However, at about 11:00 am, I noticed I was sniffling and by the end of the day, I had to blow my nose all of three times. AND I sneezed once or twice the other day.This is definitely NOT normal.

The following day, I also realised that for the past week (about), I've been sleeping more than usual, and after the week and a half of "no sleep" (see Oct 14 entry), I was wondering if my sleep patterns would ever return to normal.

All of a sudden, it dawned on me that I might know the answer to the sniffles, sneezing and sleeping questions. I have a cold! The sniffles have stopped (I think I may have had to blow my nose a total of 7 times over 2 days), I've sneezed once over the past 2 days, and I'm beginning to return to a regular sleeping pattern.

You can keep your office 'flu shots. If this is the worst cold I get this year, I'll stick to bagua.

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2nd November 2000

Yes, I'm still practising. I have realised that although one of the benefits of this type of martial art is that sheer brute strength and force are not an issue, it certainly helps to be fit and strong. My fitness level is unfortunately at an all-time low, as well as my strength, so I will be spending about half of my personal practise time in strictly strength (external skill training known as "waigong") and endurance workouts.

I'm off to stand in a deep wuji stance. Thigh muscles prepare thyselves!

5th November 2000

I used to be far more fit! Yesterday I did 10 heaven palm exercises in a deep horse stance, moving between yin and yang palms in a very slow, very controlled manner. Took 5 seconds to move down to twin yin, held the deep squat for 5 seconds, and took 5 seconds to move up to twin yang, and stayed there 5 seconds. This was after about 5 minutes of standing in a regular somewhat deeper than normal horse stance. Guess what? There must be some aerobic benefit here as my heart was thumping away after about 7 of these squats.

Felt good afterwards, though. Ten a day will have to do for now. On the plus side, the sore muscles are telling me that SOMETHING is happening. On the minus side, I really need to get far more fit, and intend to work much more on not only strength training, but also aerobic and endurance, which may turn out to be swimming (used to swim competitively but you wouldn't know it to see me now!). I'll keep you posted on the 'fitness' thing. I hate being out of breath after only a few exercises!

11th November 2000

Just a quick note today. Life has become very busy and at times, very unpleasant. Hmmm it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Given my work and school overloads, as well as anticipated busy holiday season, I have put going to study group sessions "on hold" until mid-January. I will miss it, but the 5 hours twice a week out of my schedule was killing me! (To be fair only 2 of those hours are session time; the other 3 are killed in travel and in time wasted between work and class time).

This leads to the interesting place I now find myself in with respect to bagua. I have recently been practising far more consistently than I ever had before; will the lack of classes affect my practise? If I truly aim to advance, it should not. If I find I stop practising, then was I ever serious to begin with?

I will let you know. It's been a hard day here (did the full moon have anything to do with it?) and I'm off for some seated. More tomorrow!

14th November 2000

Midnight...

I've just spent a quick hour playing Bagua in the basement with my man.

I say a "quick" hour because if I hadn't seen the time, I would not have thought it was any more than twenty minutes, tops. Instead it's 12:30 a.m., the cat is having midnight kitty crazies, and I'm wide awake and ready to start the day.

Got to go. I'm having fantasies about getting headgear and other training toys for Xmas...

25th November 2000

With each passing day, I look for the "best" way to incorporate this art into my life...

It certainly has changed my personal outlook. I am a far calmer person than I ever was, and am now quite happily viewing my life and how I choose to live it as a "work in progress"; that is, what changes will I make to introduce and encourage a calm environment, both physically and emotionally?

For example, I have a (tiny) fish tank at the office now. It's mine (no, I'm not an executive whose company pays for such extras), and it is very soothing. Several office mates come by just to look at the fish... and who can blame them, when the very sound of running water is soothing?

We also have a small area in the basement which we use for bagua practise, (I haven't posted any photos since I haven't taken any), but I also want to "DO" something about this area. You see, the basement is unfinished and so the paint is old, cobwebs tend to collect in corners and off low-hanging ceiling beams, and the red sheets hung to one side seem to be only a temporary partition. There is a scroll with chinese calligraphy of the word "dragon" on the wall as well as some fans but they would all be better framed once I have managed to clean and paint the area.

In essence, I now have a better understanding of and appreciation for the saying "a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind"(sic). Tidy the physical area, and order and calm will be the emotional and mental influence.

So, I am in "tidy up" mode: tidy the house, the rooms, the office, the practise area... everything! And in so doing, also calm the mind. As I have never been a tidy person by nature, it will take time to get things organised, but eventually the goal will be achieved...

Now if only I could be as patient about my progress in baguazhang... but I am sure that too will happen one day. We are, with each passing month, always looking for ways to improve our practise, our habits, and our bagua play, and are now committed to a minimum hour of qigong in the morning, and a minimum hour of martial play in the evening... and, I am still thinking about getting equipment so anyone reading these pages who may be looking to give me a present (you know who you are!), well, you now have my wish list!

Hmmmm, perhaps a small fish pond in a corner of the garden... some posts in the centre of the yard... still thinking...

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6th December 2000

First off, an apology... anyone who's visited expecting an update the day before yesterday, I just haven't had time for both a practise and a website update, so please accept my sincere regrets for promising to provide one, then not delivering. Tonight, however, I need to do both, and you'll understand why in a minute...

After a long day at the office, followed by a business meeting out of the office, I was ready to head home at 6:30 pm tonight, but decided to stop at a grocery store in the building where I was parked. After all, with only a $10 purchase, one hour of parking would be free!

With that thought in mind and little else, I headed for the grocery store, picked up a few items, and headed for the "express" checkout. On my way there, in a very busy and crowded store, I noticed that there was a man standing, blocking the aisle. To his left, were people walking in the opposite direction. To his right, a narrow squeeze. It appeared that he was intent on standing in the middle of the aisle, and I suppose I could have waited to see what would happen. Instead, I walked up and said "excuse me please" - and realised he was in a world of his own, so to speak. "Excuse me!" I repeated and turned to pass him, brushing past him and pushing him slightly in the process in order to squeeze by.

In response, just after I had passed him, he turned into me, and as a result I was pushed into the shelf to my right. My arm completely dislodged all the tins stacked there. I didn't lose my balance though. I didn't fall, I didn't circle walk, I didn't turn into him. I kept on going to the cash register since I just wanted to get away from him, and had my hands full on top of it - business case with computer in one hand, groceries in the other.

I did, however, watch to see what he would do next, something I would never have been calm enough to do before. First he walked away until I had trouble spotting him. He then turned around, made his way back through the crowd, and when he was close by, did not walk up to me, but rather walked around to my other side, but since I was watching him, I was not surprised when he finally did approach me from the opposite side.

He then started shouting. Called me names. Told me off. You want to discuss a fear response? Well, be a woman with a man two heads taller than you shouting at you, a complete stranger who obviously isn't right in the head, with people all around you pretending that nothing strange is happening.

I acknowledged that yes, I did push past him, after excusing myself. I also pointed out that he pushed me into the display. I apologised for pushing past him and corrected him, no, he was not standing as close to the display as he had said, he moved there only after I had moved past him. What did he want to accomplish? I asked. "Is this really all that important?" By now, an uncertain-looking young store employee was standing next to us. "Please, sir, is this worth making such a big deal?" he asked, but the man wasn't listening. He continued to shout, call me names, and generally was very successful at being intimidating. However, I did not want him to know, and was able to act calm. I then pointed out that he had already made his complaint, I had apologised, so if he did not stop the harassment, I would call Security. "I'll call Security on you!" he shouted. "Go ahead, please call Security. I'm willing to speak with them, by all means," I said.

There was a total change in his demeanour. "So what happened?" he asked, less certain of himself now. I replied, "I excused myself, tried to get past you, you pushed me back, I apologised." "Ok that's all right then, never mind" he said, and disappeared.

Then I went home. End of event.

I'm off to meditate now. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in a few days, when I've had time to think on it a bit more...

10th December 2000

Owwwwwwch! Bagua or no bagua, there's still no cure for a hangover... we had a night out last night!

Sihing Neil had a theory about the supermarket nutcase above - perhaps the man felt some of my energy (thunder?) and it may have felt as though I had pushed him violently, ergo his reaction. Perhaps. In any case, I for one have moved on. I have noticed, however, that in general, both at work and around the city, people are getting more stressed, less friendly, and much less self-aware, sadly - or am I just more aware of this mass of emotions? Never mind, because I for one am getting ready for my holidays! Next posting will be from the UK! *off to get ready*

20th December 2000

Hello from rainy North Yorkshire!!

It is inevitably difficult to practise while away from home, and even more difficult to find time for this site. Those of you paying attention will have noticed that the 10th December entry was NOT posted on that date... due to the hustle and bustle, the file just never was uploaded to the Internet (my apologies).

On the good news front, it is definitely a more relaxed atmosphere here, and I have discovered that it is indeed possible to walk a very tiny circle if required *grin* ... So far, I've been doing mostly qigong and not so much of the martial practise, still trying to figure out the best use of tiny amounts of floor space. The good thing is, I have found that I am always practising in a sense. For example, while I am walking, I am also now making sure that I have a "root", that feeling of solidity under your feet even when they are not necessarily touching the ground. This practise has the added benefit of improving my balance, virtually a requirement on English roads which are covered in thin layers of black ice on these misty days and dark damp nights just before Christmas.

More news of my bagua experiences while in England to follow soon!

29th December 2000

Hello from snowy North Yorkshire!!

... and a fine, fine holiday this is! Bagua and holiday time together; what could be more relaxing? I had thought that it would be a "chore" to practise, and as usual it has not been easy, but it has been FUN. I discovered yesterday that a root helps out a great deal on icy and snowy surfaces made slick by the dampest weather known to the English-speaking world.

It snowed here lightly on Christmas Day, and in the following days the snow has decided to stay for a little while - not much snow and not enough reason to change out of my trainers, but certainly enough to make walking tricky and it has become part of my daily practise to walk into town each day using a rolling step, ensuring my posture and breathing are correct, and walking just briskly enough to speed up the heart rate. If this keeps up I'll return to Canada fitter than when I left, even with English chocolate, fish'n'chips, sausage rolls and vanilla slices added to my diet *grin*.

I hope everyone who celebrates it, has had a wonderful Christmas, and that everyone is enjoying your holiday time. In case I don't update this page before then, I'd also like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. What is, is. What was, was. What will be, will be. Enjoy!

- Happy New Year and All Best Wishes from Sandy.


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