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Category Archives: Marriage

Witness to Love: Promoting a Culture of Healthy Marriages One Couple at a Time

When Stephen and I got married, we were just inside the 6 month window our diocese requires for an engagement. Although we were anxious to get married soon(!), there are good reasons these times of waiting are in place.

Marriage is not for a day; it is for a lifetime. The wedding ceremony takes place over the course a day {or two or three, if you like long celebrations}, but the marriage will last many years {God-willing}. Wedding preparations are important, yes, but what is vitally important is marriage preparation.

Stephen and I had great difficulty finding a weekend between our engagement and wedding day to participate in our diocesan requirement of an engaged encounter retreat. Fortunately, our priest knew about an alternative: an online program called Catholic Marriage Prep run through the Diocese of Denver. The program teams engaged couples up with a mentor couple who go through an intensive, marriage preparation program together through email correspondence.

We had a great experience with our mentor couple {and would highly recommend the program!}, but one thing that would have enhanced the experience was the ability to establish a more lasting relationship with the couple. We certainly grew together as a couple but it was a rather detached experience with the mentoring couple for the long haul.


A couple who have been very involved with diocesan and parish marriage preparation recently started a new ministry called Witness to Love that seeks to incorporate this longer-lasting connection between the mentoring couple and engaged couple. Ryan and Mary-Rose Verret encourage couple-to-couple marriage prep with couples that are chosen by the engaged couples. The idea being that a relationship of trust is a better way of influencing and has the potential to open up deeper communication between the couples. This starts during the period of engagement and will, hopefully, extend throughout marriage as they continue to look to the mentor couple for encouragement and help during trying times.

Their recently-published handbook, Witness to Love, goes into depth about being that witness–indirectly, through the daily living out of our vows and, directly, by engaging in shared activities and questions for discussion with particular couples.


We are also reminded that this model of couple-to-couple mentoring helps the mentor couple also grows in their relationship. It has the beautiful effect of being beneficial for both couples. Because we can’t give what we don’t have, the mentor couple’s own marriage must be a work-in-progress in order to be an effective witness. The couples mutually enrich each other.

Even if a couple is unsure about mentoring others, this book is an excellent read as it contains a superb collection of questions for discussion between couples. It is sure to improve communication between spouses who whole-heartedly engage in the discussion suggested. {And it just might give you the confidence you need to say, ‘yes!’.}


Pope Francis has been calling all of us, as witnesses to the Gospel, to a “culture of encounter”. He emphasizes that dialogue is essential to being effective witnesses. This book does an excellent job of showing how to do that in the areas of marriage and family life. Our over-saturated, technology-based culture is separating those personal encounters so essential to healthy relationships, between spouses, between friends. The book gives practical, helpful advice on how to renew bonds and heal the rifts.

The authors are encouraging us laity to spread the news of this model of marriage preparation to each of our dioceses/parishes and offering our support as mentors to other couples. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book and prayerfully considering whether God is calling you and your spouse to do just that.

Defending Marriage, Defending Family {The Quoteable St. Josemaria Escriva}


In the national life there are two things which are really essential: the laws concerning marriage and the laws to do with education. In these areas God’s sons have to stand firm and fight with toughness and fairness, for the sake of all mankind. ~St. Josemaria Escriva (The Forge, 104)

The ruling of the United States Supreme Court today saddens me greatly. As Bl. Fulton Sheen said, “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.” The foundation of the family is undermined in our country by this ruling, but it does not change the TRUTH about marriage: it is a union between a man and a woman. Saying otherwise does not make it so.

The growth of healthy and happy families is reliant upon its foundation: the union of a man and a woman in marriage. Families are better capable of flourishing when the couple which comprises its foundation are growing in love together. The union becomes fruitful and multiplies. {And I don’t just mean in the physical sense.}

Defending the family means defending the truth about marriage.



Today is the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva. It is also the 40th anniversary of his death. Fittingly, the prelature of Opus Dei {of which he is the founder} is celebrating #JuneForFamilies this month. They are offering prayers and reflections on the growth of a family, the love of a husband and wife, and the relationships that grow within amongst children and siblings.

St. Josemaria had a special influence on the establishment of our family {which you can read about in our love story} and continues to be a guiding light in our daily lives. If you have not had a chance yet to read any of his works, I highly recommend doing so. The Way, The Furrow, The Forge {or all three in a single edition} offer short reflections, most of a sentence or two, that give great insight into living as a Christian in one’s every day life. He makes sainthood attainable for the layman.

A few of my favorites reflections relating to family:

A person in love doesn’t miss the tiniest detail. I have seen it in so many souls. Those little things become something very great: Love! (The Forge, 443)

Some people bring children into the world for their own benefit, to serve their own purposes, out of selfishness. They forget children are a wonderful gift from God for which they will have to render a very special account.
Do not be offended if I say that having offspring just to continue the species is something that….animals can do too. (The Furrow, 845)

No Christian married couple can want to block the well-springs of life. For their love is based on the Love of Christ, which entails dedication and sacrifice. Moreover, Tobias reminded Sara, a husband and wife know that “we are children of saints, and we cannot come together in the way of the Gentiles, who do not know God.” (The Furrow, 846)

Your task as a Christian citizen is to help see Christ’s love and freedom preside over all aspects of modern life: culture and economy, work and rest, family life and social relations. (The Furrow, 302)

“You won’t laugh, Father, will you, if I tell you that, a few days ago, I found myself spontaneously offering the Lord the sacrifice of time it meant for me to mend a broken toy for one of my little children?”
I am not laughing. I am delighted because with that Love, God sets about mending our faults. (The Furrow, 986)

“It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened.
Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends. (The Furrow, 14)

“If any man comes to me without hating his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life too, he can be no disciple of mine.”
Every day I see more clearly, Lord, that family ties, if they do not pass through your most lovable Heart, are, for some, a permanent source of the cross; for others they are a cause of more or less direct temptation against perseverance; for others again, the reason why they are totally ineffective; and, for all, a dead weight which impedes their total surrender. (The Furrow, 214)

You have to learn to disagree charitably with others–whenever the need arises–without becoming unpleasant. (The Furrow, 429)

“Who said that to reach sanctity you need to seek refuge in a cell or on a solitary mountain?” That was what a good family man asked himself in amazement, and he added: “If that were so, it would not be the people who would be holy, but the cell, or the mountain. It seems they have forgotten that Our Lord expressly told each and every one of us: be holy as my heavenly Father is holy.”
My only comment was: “Our Lord, besides wanting us to be saints, grants each one of us the relevant graces.” (The Furrow, 314)

I am moved that the Apostle should call Christian marriage sacramentum magnum–a great sacrament. From this, too, I deduce the enormous importance of the task of parents.
You share in the creative power of God: that is why human love is holy, good and noble. It is a gladness of heart which God–in his loving providence–wants others freely to give up.
Each child that God grants you is a wonderful blessing from him: don’t be afraid of children! 
(The Forge, 691)

Remind others (and especially all those fathers and mothers, who call themselves Christians) that a vocation, a call from God, is a grace from the Lord, a choice made by divine goodness, a motive for holy pride, a call to serve all joyously for the love of Jesus Christ. (The Forge, 17)

Our Mosaic

wedding day

Marriage is a mosaic you build with your spouse. Millions of tiny moments that create your love story. 

~ Jennifer Smith

We really are only just beginning to create our mosaic together but, boy, what work we have done on it over the past 3 years!

Happy Anniversary to the love and light of my life. <3

Thank You, Laurel

*To regular readers, forgive me while I, Stephen Muff, commandeer this blog today. *




“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true. What they don’t tell you is that when it starts again, it moves extra fast to catch up.”

-Big Fish (2003)

Time Stopped

It was the same week my grandfather passed away and the same day I had a run-in with the California Bar Exam, so I attribute this to Divine Mercy. I had already planned a Thanksgiving party with friends from a local young adult church group (called Faith and Ale). I didn’t feel very thankful, but nonetheless, I knew the show must go on.

Laurel came with her roommate, having never met me before. She was also dating somebody else, who is a good friend of mine now. Before I proceed, I’ll add this tidbit: my Thanksgiving party required people to dress up like pilgrims or Indians. We were both pilgrims.

She struck me the second I met her, and it’s true, time stopped. When it started again, it threw things into fast-forward and it has yet to slow down.

Anyway, months later, Laurel was no longer dating anyone. Many of us were at a prayer vigil and then went to the amazing Leatherby’s Family Creamery for lunch. We didn’t happen to sit next to each other (I deliberately sat next to her), but we did both order the same delicious tuna melt.

On my way home, I realized I missed a call from Laurel. I pulled off the freeway at the next exit and listened to the message.

“Hi Steve, it’s Laurel. I think we talked about going to the Crocker Art Museum – I don’t remember, but I think we did – anyway, my dad’s birthday is cancelled today because he’s sick and I’m free to go if you are.”

Pause. We never spoke of going to the Crocker. I wouldn’t lie, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I called her back.

“Hi Laurel, I’m still in Sacramento if you want to go. I’ll pick you up!”

I never said we spoke about the Crocker, but I wasn’t going to tell her we never did.
And that was our first non-date, despite me picking her up and paying.

Not long after, one of Laurel’s roommates heard Laurel say that she did not have a date for her brother’s wedding, so her roommate suggested me – in front of me.

About a week later, the day after my brother’s wedding, we went out on our first date to the Sacramento Music Festival.

A few months later, we both knew we were right for each other, and I asked her to be my bride.


Catching Up

As they said in Big Fish, time moved extra fast to catch up again. It’s 2015, we have a house and two kids. Laurel is my greatest support in life, helping me with chores and our two girls, but also encouraging me when I’m down, relieving me when I’m stressed, and praying for me – and God knows I need it.


Her stamina and perseverance amazes me. She’s not just watching a two-year old and a six-month old, but bringing one to ballet and the other to the doctor, both to the grocery, and so-forth. You know! If you read this blog, you can see what an amazing mother she is. I have a two-year-old that enjoys baking! That says enough.

All the things you see on here are not even half of what she does for me. She knit me a beautiful scarf, which I meant to take to work today, but was rushing out the door and forgot. Since one car is having trouble, Laurel drives me to and from the train station several times a week. She does this, managing two little ones at the same time.  When I get home, dinner is virtually always ready or in process, and I can relax the best I can after a long day.

I do what I can to help her outside of going to work, but she does so much she rarely leaves anything for me to do (so I ask the blog readers to keep her accountable and leave something for me). With that said, most days I come home absolutely worn out, but she’s there to welcome me home. I cannot express how grateful I am to her and to God for putting her in my life.


How it could be anything other than Divine Providence that someone like me would end up with such an amazing person by his side?

I could go on and on and on, but I won’t – for now. All I want to do is say thank you to Laurel for helping me through hard times, guiding me in the dark, and supporting me when I lack the energy and strength to do it myself. These days, that’s every day.

I look forward to the day when I live closer to work and have no school or exams for which I am studying so that I may spend time with this amazing woman. At least her birthday, our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday are coming up and we can see each other more. I can’t wait!


Thank you, Laurel, for everything!


Yours Truly,


Books I Read in 2014 and Books to Read in 2015


{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

Read ’til you drop. That’s my motto and, apparently, I’ve  instilled it well in my daughter too. When I went in search of the books I had read this year to write this post, I was rather surprised at the number I got through. Then, I realized that most were read while I was sitting hugely pregnant with my second and I haven’t read much since then. So we’ll see how many I can actually get through this year. I have high hopes.

Read in 2014:


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I picked this up because What Alice Forgot wasn’t available yet at the library. A quick read and definitely justifies why it vitally important that one is open and honest with one’s spouse.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – An interesting, quick-read novel about a woman who wakes up having forgotten the past 10 years of her life. Makes you think: Would you go back and do it differently?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – The topic of assisted suicide has been greatly discussed this year with Brittany Maynard’s social media presence about her decision to end her life. This novel addresses that topic on the side of pro.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I loved her book, The Secret Life of Bees, so picked this up to read. I didn’t realize until later that this is work of historical fiction based on the life of Sarah Grimke. Interweaving the lives of a slave girl and her owner, it addresses the struggle for the ending of slavery and the abolition movement. Still not sure if I liked this one or her previous one better.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This may be a young adult book but it was one of the best I read all year. Dealing with those facing serious illness as young people, it emphasizes the hope and joy that can still be found in this life even when you know your time {or the time of one you love} is short.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls – I, honestly, had to peek at the plot again as I couldn’t quite remember what this one was about. {Although, I think I read it in January so it’s been a while.} It’s a story of overcoming adversity and understanding how to cope and thrive despite the shortcomings of others in your life that negatively affect you. It was good, but not a favorite.


Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert – This is a beautiful reflection on the life of our late and great pope. It is incredible all he did and the influence he had the years God gave him on this earth. Definitely recommend.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – A fantastic telling of this amazing crew from Washington. Historical tales can be dry but this one certainly wasn’t. Particularly good for those who have done crew themselves.

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd – This book was fun for this Francophile. It tells the story of fictional characters in the settings of historical events that happened in Paris over the years. Well-woven tale by the author.


Don’t Move the Muffin Tins: A Hands-Off Guide to Art for the Young Child by Bev Bos – Great ideas for hands-on projects with young children using things you probably already have in your home.

1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Irene Van Der Zande – Picked this up after having it recommended for dealing with toddler independence but didn’t find it particularly helpful.

Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – Read this before giving birth to my second and I am convinced it drastically helped me get through labor with its pain management recommendations. Highly recommended especially if you are aiming to achieve a medicine-free birth.

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen – This was helpful for gathering ideas in how to educate without being didactic. I love Montesorri’s method and am hoping to incorporate it into our home education.

The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by Leila Lawler and David Clayton – Although I haven’t done much to implement what I’ve learned {that comes in 2015!}, this book has been revolutionary for me in considering how to bring Christ more into my home and life. Check out Leila’s blog with her daughters for more practical tips on running a Christ-centered home.

Self/Home/Family Improvement

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – This isn’t exactly a didactic how to make your nest, but more a philosophy behind how to make your house a home even if you don’t have much money to make it happen. The author has mostly lived in rentals and has moved often so it was great to hear how and why it’s important even if it isn’t your place and you won’t be residing there for long.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – Another fun one by the author of The Happiness Project. She gives a lot of insight in ways to better improve your quality of life just by slight changes in attitude and habits.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Discovered this one through Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy and loved it. The book describes so well how habits are formed and how forming habits as a leader in those we lead can have great {or disastrous} consequences.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider – I love Tsh’s blog so this was a must-read. Her experiences attempting to live simply in an ever-increasing complex world are both refreshing and inspiring.

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by Greg and Lisa Popcak – I read this first on my own and then Steve and I were working through it together. Really helpful in cementing your relationship on a firm foundation in the first few years. {And a good refresher later on.}

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – I love Gladwell’s books and this one was no different. This book addresses how the sufferings and obstacles in this life can ultimately be great blessings when faced properly.


Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen – Middle-aged memoir of the author. Probably more appropriate for someone in that age group, but good to read of things she would have done differently as a young woman.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Nequist – Food memoirs are my favorite. So many special moments happen gathered around the table. The author shares some of her family’s memories connected to food and a collection of great recipes. For every woman who loves to love her family with food.


One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot and More by Editors of Martha Stewart Living – We’re all about efficiency around here most days getting meals on the table so this book which tells how to get it all into one pot was a must. I’ve only done one recipe {and loved it} but I have quite a few others dog-eared for later.

Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon – With several {maybe all} suffering from hypoglycemia in this household, having breakfast meals that have long staying power are essential. This has been a great resource for adding new recipes to the morning {and evening because who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner?}. The author has a great blog too.


Hoping To Read in 2015:


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough


Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art Bennett

A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer

Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by Laura Kelly Fanucci

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Gregory K. Popcak and Lisa Popcak

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted by Karen Burton Mains

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman


Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulweiler


Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson {Joy the Baker}

Delancey by Molly Wizenburg

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Date Night In: More Than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez

The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens and Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand


Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles by Mary Kate McDevitt

Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet by Mags Kandis

What to Knit When You are Expecting by Nikki Van De Car


What’s on your list for the coming year? I would love your recommendations!



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Virginia Wedding Bells

The day you’ve all been waiting for….Andy and Joyce’s wedding day!!


We had a wonderful time celebrating with the couple.

Andy and Joyce

The bride wore a lovely dress, overlaid with lace and a short train. And the groom looked mighty dapper in his suit.

Waiting for the bride

Waiting for the bride

bridal entrance

bridal entrance 2

Andy was beaming from ear to ear the whole day. 🙂

with his bride

Exchange of rings.

ring exchange

ring exchange 2

bride and groom

The reception was at the Old Silk Mill in old town Fredericksburg. (The interior reminded me a bit of the Old Sugar Mill where we had our wedding reception. 🙂 )

exterior of silk mill


Each table displayed a photo of the couple from some memorable moment in their lives.

table decor

The wedding party made a grand entrance by couple….

wedding party 1

wedding party 2

…followed by Mr. and Mrs. Andy Bodoh!

mr. and mrs.


all together

The maid-of-honor and best man gave beautiful toasts to the bride and groom, sharing anecdotes from their times together.

maid of honor speech

best man speech

I knew the groom (Steve knew Andy in law school — small world! — neither of us had met Joyce before, but had heard many great things about her from Andy!) and the best man, Dan, in college.  He shared about how Andy never dated anyone in undergrad (it’s true! — but was always gracious to all his women friends), because deep down, somehow, he knew the one who matched his heart wasn’t there. Very sweet words, Dan!


Dan’s daughter, Molly, listening to his wise words. 🙂

Andy and Joyce first dance together was beautiful.

first dance

And Andy watched admiringly close by as his bride danced with her father.


At one point, the couple was serenaded by older members of their families.


The getaway car was thoroughly decorated by the wedding party (they actually got the couple’s other car too!).

getaway car

We had a great time catching up with many of my college friends and Steve’s law school buddies.

Sarah, Laurel, Lizzie and Evey

Evey took a particular liking to Lizzie (and her scapular). 🙂

Lizzie and Evey

We even managed to get a photo of Stephen and I together at the wedding (thanks, Colin!). 🙂

Steve and Laurel at the wedding

And, of course, Evey and Daddy. <3

Evey and Daddy

Evey and Daddy outside

Marriage Preparation

My friend, Laura, over at B is For Bissonnette inspired me to write this post. (Thanks, Laura!) It started out as a comment on her recent post, but I decided it was getting rather long to leave as a comment, and would be beneficial for me to share with my readers as well. 🙂

Marriage preparation is vitally important, not only to assist in determining whether you are truly with the right person God has chosen for you as a lifelong partner, but also to aid in the forging of a foundation for a lasting and healthy relationship to be improved upon throughout your life together.

There are many great books to help in this endeavor. Laura listed a number of great ones; I’d like to add my own to that list.

things i wish i'd known

This first one we used during our marriage prep, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman (Chapman is famously known for his book, The Five Love Languages — another essential-read for couples!) In this book, he gives some really great, down-to-earth advice about topics couples should discuss before marriage (and continuing after!). At the end of each short chapter, he provides a few questions which (hopefully) help lead into a discussion between a couple about the topic covered. We found these very helpful in discovering and opening up about topics we had overlooked or didn’t consider that important at the time. He covers a range of topics, from dealing with past baggage to jiving well with in-laws to dealing with pet peeves committed by your spouse.

dear newlyweds

The second is Dear Newlyweds by Pope Pius XII. I guess the audience for this book is more those who just got married, but it doesn’t hurt to get it on your bookshelf. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a stack going that you’ll probably reach the end of by next year, so you might as well get it in the queue. 😉 Speaking of which, I actually haven’t read this yet but it was given to us by a friend for our wedding, and it is top on my spiritual reading ‘to-do list’. It’s been recommended by many couples who are friends of ours.

sex and the marriage covenant

Sex and the Marriage Covenant was also given to us by our marriage prep counselor to read. It explains the meaning of sex and marriage, especially the Biblical basis, and discusses NFP, reasons for and against using it within marriage. It is more theoretical and intellectual, so a bit more dense to get through, and better read in small chunks.  The author also co-wrote a book with his wife discussing NFP in a more practical light, as well as ecological breastfeeding (another good one) called Natural Family Planning : The Complete Approach. This book has sample charts as well as ones you can fill out yourself to help you in the NFP process. It is written in a question-and-answer format which I found more helpful than if it was written like a regular book.


Theology of the Body by Blessed Pope John Paul II is absolutely essential for married, religious and single alike. Although, unless you’re trained in theology, I would recommend reading one of the more explanatory texts, either Theology of the Body for Beginners or Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, first. It is rather difficult to get through on one’s own. I was fortunate to take a class on it in college, and even then found it a bit overwhelming at times. It has become a regular book I return to time and again as I always find new insight when I read it. JP II reveals wonderfully how beautiful human love can be when it is rightly ordered! (It reveals the divine!!)


It is rather wonderful that we have so many resources to learn about marriage and love! If only more people would take advantage of them (and follow their teachings!).

Do you know of other good ones to add to the list?

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