Gaining Time, Giving Back

Yellow Flower

 Image: The Rusted Chain

One of the benefits of being less busy is having more time to spend on things that I value most. I have gained more time which I have spent with family and friends, travelling, writing, and appreciating each day just that little bit more than I did over a year ago. But even though I have gained a lot through being less busy, I still want to give back.

Something that I have recently started doing is thinking more about how I can give back to those less fortunate than ourselves, and my research has uncovered some grassroots organisations that are doing amazing things that I never would have known about otherwise.

A few weeks ago I came across a local organisation that collects and distributes second hand goods to asylum seekers/refugees who have been released from detention and are living in our region of Melbourne. Now call me ignorant, but I had no idea what happens to refugees once they are released from detention- I assumed that they would receive some government assistance when settling into life in Australia. I never thought much more about it.

The local organisation collects all sort of goods and there are volunteers responsible for each type of item: a volunteer who collects household goods, one who collects bedding and linen, one who organises food hampers, one who collects bicycles etc…These are then distributed to the refugee families as the need arises.

A few weeks ago, I put a call out to friends and family who had bicycles they no longer wanted or needed and were still in good condition. We received 6 bikes, which hubby cleaned and tuned up. On Saturday during our garage declutter (more details about this in the upcoming newsletter. Make sure you subscribe!), a lady from the local organisation for refugees came to our house and collected these bikes. She mentioned there was a need for 56 bikes in total for refugees who did not have any other method of transportation. Some of these families needed bikes for their children to ride to school, or to get to the local shops etc…something that we take for granted. They do not have cars, and many do not have family here to help support them.

It was such a great feeling for our family to be able to donate these bicycles and know that they were going to people who really needed them. We hope to collect more bikes to donate in the future- if you are a local living in the western suburbs of Melbourne, please contact me if you have good quality goods for donation and I can point you in the right direction.

When we are caught up in our busyness, we tend to forget what’s going on in the “real world” and sometimes neglect to look beyond the issues we are dealing with. It isn’t until we come across the struggles of others that we realise that our busyness often stems from trivial details and events- I feel embarrassed when I think back to what I used to value in my life, what I thought was important. A family escaping a war-torn country with nothing but the clothes on their backs and travelling in dangerous conditions to this beautiful country of ours: now that’s the real world. Not celebrities, not high-end fashion, not social media dramas, not the stuff we collect in our homes, not our bank accounts.

Love, Fear and Busyness

Children Are Happy


Spiritual author Marianne Williamson once said, “Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “All the Things That Could Go Wrong.”

I’ve been a little bit off the blog radar of late as I am experiencing some changes in my life that have been quite stressful and has resulted in me having to keep in check my unbusyness. There have been lots of phone calls, conversations, meetings, tears, anger, questioning and unfortunately, neglect of my normal, everyday unbusy lifestyle.

As much as I hate to admit it, a bit of the old busyness has tried to creep back into my life.

I realised this when I found myself ignoring my youngest child’s pleas to play with her because I was too busy discussing my situation during an important phone call, and also when I came home from work one night and saw the state of the house with a fresh pair of eyes. Far out, how did I let everything go like that?

But rather than beat myself up about the state of play, I used this as an opportunity to reflect on why I was being dragged back into busyness, and is this the same reason why the rest of us are stuck in the trap of busyness?

The Marianne Williamson quote strongly resonates with me- when reflecting on our busyness, can we pinpoint exactly why we are busy? What is making us busy? Are we busy worrying about all the things that could go wrong?

I believe that fear lies behind much of our busyness.

Take, for example, the following “Fear Statements”. How many of these have you said or thought:

-If I don’t put my child through {insert extra curricular activity}, they may miss out.

-If I don’t send my child to {insert name of expensive/private school}, they might not be smart enough to get a good job.

-If I don’t buy ‘x’ now, what if it is not there when I need it?

-If I don’t insure the contents of my home, what if they become damaged or are stolen?

-If I don’t check Facebook today, I might be missing out on something.

-If I don’t invest my money, I might end up poor at retirement.

-If I don’t protect myself now, then {insert worst possible scenario} might happen.

-What if I ask that person out on a date and they reject me?

-What if I make a choice and it ends up being the wrong one?

-What if I tell that person the truth and they end up hating me?

-What if I decide I don’t want to marry that person, will I end up finding someone else or will I be forever lonely?

-What if things don’t turn out the way I planned?

And it goes on and on and on…

Behind each of these questions and statements, is fear. Fear of something happening (or not happening) to us or others we care about. Have you made a decision because of one of these statements or questions? Yep, I sure have.

The fear that we allow ourselves to feel ends up dictating how we live our lives and the decisions we make, and impacts on what we end up attracting to our lives. If we look at the law of attraction, which states that “like attracts like”, living with and in fear not only dictates our decisions but attracts fear to us. When we live with fearful thoughts, fearful things happen to us. We are blocking the “good stuff” from entering our lives.

We resort to busyness because to us it satisfies and “solves” the Fear Statements we have about our lives. We are so busy trying to do all of the things that we believe will prevent us from experiencing negative events, that we don’t have the ability to see another way of living.

During the busy periods of my life, I was so concerned with having money for the future, everything that I thought my children needed to keep them happy, and everything that I thought I was expected to have and do for someone of my age and at my life stage. I’m a mother, I need to involve my kids in every activity and event otherwise they might end up “falling behind” or missing out. They may look back one day and think “My life is scarred because mum decided not to buy those Smiggle pens back in May 2011” or “I’m not cultured because I didn’t learn to speak 3 languages by the time I was 5 years old”.  Had to make sure I volunteered on every committee I came into contact with, otherwise I was not a contributing community member. All of these decisions were based on fear!

The stressful event I am experiencing now is stressful because of the focus on possible fear-based outcomes that I have. Thinking of all the possible awful outcomes has resulted in some tears and confusion amongst myself and some friends going through the same thing. This has led to busyness, through making so many phone calls, researching, printing, discussing, meeting. Yes, some of it is very important and relevant, but the thoughts and feelings within me do not have to be a reflection of the possible awful outcomes that may not even occur!

I’ve realised that to be able to overcome our busyness, we are going to have to let go of our fears and embrace love instead, to allow loving and positive events to enter our lives. We are going to have to stop the “Fear Statements” from entering our minds and our bodies in order to stop blocking other thoughts and feelings from entering. Like attracts like. I want to attract the outcome that I so desire. It won’t happen when fear permeates my mind and body.

That’s not to say, go and make impulse decisions based on what you really want to happen. It does not mean to let go of our responsibilities, or to not have regard for others in the way that we conduct ourselves. But let’s have some more trust in love, trust in goodness and faith that everything will work out for the best. Let’s not resort to fear as a way of living. It’s damn hard, I know it is, to change our way of thinking and acting to reflect a more loving and less fearful state, but once we make the change and see the outcomes that occur, then we have the proof that it’s a better way to live.

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Gratefulness Over Busyness

(Image: Pinterest)

(Image: Pinterest)


It can be so darn tough trying to feel positive and grateful when you are in a really crappy situation.

For a moment there, it’s much easier to wallow in our crap and feel sorry for ourselves and deal with the situation at hand, especially when things happen that shock us. And it’s perfectly okay to do this!

But once we have had time to process what has happened, there comes a sense of clarity that allows us to see those things around us that were hiding behind our busyness while we were being stressed, worried, angry, sad.

It might be as simple as noticing the first blossom on a fruit tree (I’ve been looking out my window every morning waiting for the first sign of spring!) or overhearing a funny conversation between your kids. This morning, I looked at my 4 year old and thought, “You look older today!”

When we practice gratefulness, we can appreciate what we have rather than hang onto what we once had or look for something that we think we want. Appreciation and gratefulness go hand in hand, and can do wonders for our sense of worth and our level of happiness.

Recently, there was an explosion of gratefulness posts on Facebook that invited people to write 3 things they were grateful for each day for 5 days. Apart from being a nice change from the usual Facebook junk, I did notice friends participating who I had never known to express that level of gratefulness. I enjoyed reading their posts, and I enjoyed thinking about the flow on effect of expressing gratefulness to everyone on social media.

The more we express our gratefulness to the world, the more positive energy we create, and we can never have enough positivity! The effects are far more powerful than lecturing people on how to be happier, because we are inviting people to take a different view of their lives and to open themselves up to becoming grateful for what they currently have.

It’s a shift in thinking that creates a ripple effect.

When we notice what’s around us, we realise that everything will work out fine. The crap we were wallowing in, won’t consume us for much longer.

And with that, I’d like to share 3 things I’m currently grateful for:

1. The ability to make decisions about my life, even when I think I have no choice or control.

2. A glass of water.

3. Being a woman, a mother, who is studying a University degree from the comfort of her home.

What are you grateful for?


3 Ways To Get Back On Track

Strayed off path?

Strayed off path?


Recently I found myself straying off the path I was on before, the one that was making me happy and focused on getting to where I want to be.

One of the beautiful things about life is our freedom to choose what path in life we’d like to take, and our ability to change paths and directions. Sometimes, we find that we are led astray and on a path that takes us somewhere that conflicts with what makes us happy, somewhere that is at odds with what we really want to do. And although this may make us feel uncomfortable, lost, confused or busy, we can take steps to get us back on track.

Here are 3 tips on how to get back on track:

1. Small steps and transitions can get us back into the swing of things- getting back on track might not happen overnight and it may take awhile but the end goal is that you will get back on track. We need to accept the process that occurs and not beat ourselves up because we strayed onto a path we weren’t happy with. Get over that feeling of regret or guilt and focus on moving forward.

2. Celebrate the small achievements along the way: When we learn to have gratitude for the smaller things in life, we soon realise that these “small” things are anything but small, but are actually the building blocks of something much larger. Recently I returned to running after a month off due to a number of other things I needed to give attention to. My first run was nothing like the last run I completed, and I did originally compare the two runs and feel a bit deflated for not having run as well as I did previously, until I recognised the smaller achievements: the fact that I ran at all, and that even though I had walked at the halfway mark, the fact that I found the physical and mental strength to run the last section was a great achievement.

3. Create a less busy environment: We can stray from the path we were on by being caught up in the busyness of our lives, which distracts us from what we are trying to achieve. This happens to all of us, myself included, but if we allow ourselves to get caught up in busyness we will lose sight of what is really important. We can take simple steps to make ourselves unbusy and therefore allow ourselves to get back on track- read here for some tips on making yourself unbusy.

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Too Busy To Cook

Image: The Nutrition Guru and The Chef

Image: The Nutrition Guru and The Chef


Those who know me well, know that I have spent the last 18 months going through a huge transformation in terms of my health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the food and nutrients I consume. What started out as a quest to lose some weight, soon became much more as I realised the importance of eating not only to lose weight but to nourish my body.

During this time, I had been reading up on various styles of eating- fructose free, paleo, whole30, raw food, veganism etc… and regardless of the differences between these eating styles, I found there is one thing in common with all of them:

The avoidance of consuming processed, refined, manufactured items being sold to us as “food”.

Why do we resort to convenience and pre packaged foods? To some of us, it may seem like the normal thing to do- many of us may have grown up in households where it was typical of a parent to buy a packet sauce to add to the family’s casserole, or a tin of Gravox to make gravy for the Sunday roast.

Food manufacturers have taken advantage of the fact that we are so time poor and busy and have created and marketed convenience products that many of us mistake for being healthy: packet soups, liquid cereals and yoghurts that we can drink on the go and muesli bars, just to name a few.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents’ generations grew up mostly cooking their own meals from scratch using fresh produce purchased at a local market. There was no globalisation, no trading of foods between nations, and no supermarkets. Most women stayed home to look after the family and maintain the household, which included cooking the meals.

Our way of life certainly has changed since then. More women are in the workforce than ever before, and the globalisation of our economy means that nations are able to trade food so that we can have available all fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or time of the year. We shop at supermarkets and eat out at restaurants, and drive through fast food outlets to buy something on the go. Some of us skip breakfast, or buy our lunches at cafes near our workplaces. Some of us order lunches for our kids from the school canteen, or celebrate their birthdays and other special occasions at venues that offer fast food catering options.

We have unintentionally made cooking and eating whole, fresh foods an inconvenience of our time.

Have you ever said any of the following:


I’m too busy to make kids’ snacks from scratch so it’s easier and quicker to just buy them a packet snacks.

I come home from work late and don’t have time to peel and cut potatoes- it’s more convenient to buy frozen fries.

I’m too busy to find the time to cook chicken stock from scratch- it’s easier for me to buy packet sauces for flavourings, or chicken stock cubes.

Our family is busy with after school activities so we make this our takeaway night because it’s more convenient.


Yep, I’ve said all these things in the past.

But is it time to change our way of thinking, and not rely on time as an excuse for the way that we nourish our bodies?

Can we make ourselves unbusy enough to create a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and more importantly, our children?

It may mean needing to adjust the way we spend our time so that we can create the time to cook fresh and healthy meals and teach our children how to cook. It’s an investment in our health and wellbeing, and an investment in our children’s wellbeing that will reward us in the long term.

Some of the rewards that I have experienced from cooking healthy foods from scratch include a reduced grocery bill- yes, when many think that eating fresh fruit and vegetables (sometimes organic) can be costly, I have found the opposite. By eating nutritious foods, I find that I need to eat less to feel full and so smaller meals have reduced our grocery costs.

I don’t have to add sauces and flavourings to my meals because my palate has changed and I now find natural foods more tasty than I had when I was eating processed foods high in salt, sugar and other flavourings. I can throw a few herbs and spices into a casserole to make it tasty, much cheaper than resorting to a pre made casserole sauce in a packet.

I also find that since improving my nutrition through healthy eating, that I don’t get sick as often and when I do get the common cold, I recover from it more quickly. I don’t purchase any medications and don’t visit the doctor as much as I used to. This has saved me money and time.

And my kids enjoy having a go at creating something in the kitchen, even if it’s as simple as chopping some vegetables or stirring a bowl when I’m baking. The time I spend with them in the kitchen is giving them valuable life skills that will enable them to continue to eat in a positive way when they move out of home.

Here’s a quick run down of how I have made myself unbusy enough to lead a healthier lifestyle:

-I  have found a great local butcher that sells grass-fed beef and buy all my meat from there in bulk to last us a fortnight.

-I visit a local store for all my fruit and vegetables and buy in bulk to last up to a fortnight, and top up as I go if I run out of anything.

-I then visit one of the supermarkets to purchase anything else that I need, toiletries, frozen fruits, dairy etc…I shop at night when it is quiet and I am without my kids so that I can take my time and read the food labels when I do have to purchase something in a packet.

-When shopping at a supermarket, I try to avoid the lanes in the middle of the store as much as possible because this is where the convenience packaged foods can be found. If you need to buy your meat, fruit and vegetables from a supermarket, then focus on spending most of your shopping time around the outer sections of the store: all the fresh and frozen produce is located around the edges of a supermarket: the deli, bakery section, meat section, dairy, frozen foods etc…

-I spend a weekend afternoon in a cooking and baking frenzy, making things from scratch and then freezing them so that they are available to eat during the week. This helps if there is a day when I don’t find as much time to create something from scratch due to other commitments.

-I try to simplify my approach to cooking. I don’t follow complicated recipes and prefer to think of my meals as things I have thrown together: I might throw some vegies together to make a stir fry, or a simple salad using what I have in the fridge. I will pre cook a few different soups using my homemade chicken stock as a base. I  might sauté some vegetables and add an omelette. The only time I follow recipes is when I bake, and even then I try to find ones that are simple and can be changed slightly by adding different fruits to create variety.

Feel free to explore until you find what works for you and your family. I’m not a fan of Thermomix as I like to do everything myself and it allows me to show my kids how to cook rather than just throw everything into a machine. However, if using a Thermomix or similar appliance means that you will eat healthier and less processed and packaged foods, then go for it.

Let’s change the attitude that healthy cooking and eating are inconveniences that robs us of our time and remind ourselves of the benefits that good nutrition can bring us both today and in years to come.


My Winter Gratitude List

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest


It’s only the beginning of winter in Australia, but I’m already missing the summer we just had. We were pretty lucky here in Melbourne to have had an extra long warm season and apart from the extreme 40+ degrees  days we had back in January, it was a fun, hot summer that my family mostly spent at various beaches down on the Great Ocean Road. And we were lucky to recently spend a week in Queensland again enjoying some warmth and days at the beach.

So rather than dwell on the past and yearn for next summer, I thought I’d come up with a list of things that I love about winter.

I plan on reading this list whenever I’m feeling the winter blues and I hope that you get something out of it too.

What would you add to this gratitude list?

Natalie’s Winter Gratitude List:

1. Laying in bed and hearing the rain outside

2. Hot cup of herbal tea: I love chamomile, green, peppermint or chai

3. Finding a cosy café that makes the best coffee

4. Discovering a new soup recipe (today I cooked a delicious creamy cauliflower soup!)

5. Pyjama day: spending the day at home in my warm pyjamas, fluffy slippers and thick dressing gown

6. Rugging up and going for a long walk on a cold day and coming home feeling warm and energised

7. Staying in on a Saturday night and watching a classic movie with a bottle of red wine

8. Baking a cake with the kids during the July school holidays

9. A warm bath with essential oils, a glass of red wine in hand and some chilled out music

10. A sunny winter’s day: feeling the warmth of the sun shining into my living room

11. Friends over for a roast dinner

12. Watching the footy and World Cup soccer on TV

13. Watching the Tour de France in July and daydreaming about a French holiday

14. Going for a walk along the beach and watching the waves crashing

15. Discovering a book that you can’t put down (even if it’s 2am!)

16. Playing board games with my kids

17. A hearty casserole slow cooked for hours

18. Taking the kids for a day trip to the snow (yet to do this but hoping to in 2014!)

19. A stylish pair of boots

20. Sleeping in

and finally number 21: waiting to see the first blossom appear on our fruit tree! Then I know spring is only around the corner!


Sabotaging Our Happiness

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest


It is often said that we can be our own worst enemy. That we can be the one thing that stops us from achieving greatness.

Looking within ourselves to identify ways that we are sabotaging our happiness can be a real eye opener and take great courage. No one likes to admit their faults and face their demons head on. But in order to change our mindset from soul-destroying to nurturing, I believe we have to take the time to find and admit our faults and barriers before we can take steps to create a better relationship with ourselves.

What are some of the ways we typically sabotage our happiness?

1. We believe that we are not worthy of whatever greatness we are dreaming to achieve. We have not yet worked hard enough, long enough, or suffered enough to be rewarded with greatness.

2. We are too comfortable living within our current zone and are afraid to step out of it for fear of rejection, humiliation, pain and suffering.

3. We believe it takes great effort and sacrifice to find the happiness we so deserve.

4. We look for happiness in the wrong places.

5. We are too busy!


Being busy means we shove everything under the rug for another day, and put things on hold that we probably should have begun years ago.

For those of us who are parents, it’s all too easy to be caught up in our kids’ worlds that we forget to think about ourselves and what our needs are. The long-term effect of this can be soul-destroying as we slowly forget who we are as individuals and hide behind a veil of busyness- dropping kids off at footy practice, dance rehearsals, work meetings, business trips etc… Before we know it, the kids are growing older and becoming less dependant on us and that’s when we stop and wonder, “what now?”

Anyone guilty of this? Yep, I am.

Since becoming unbusy, I have thought more about the ways that I sabotage my happiness and how I can take small steps to change this.

What I discovered:

-Time is an investment. Are we investing our time in things that are giving us the best return for our investment? Or are we throwing away our hours and days for things that do more harm than good? Every minute of every hour, we choose how we spend our lives. The more we think of time as an investment rather than something we have a lot of and can afford to throw away, the better the choices we will make.

-Greatness begins with the tiniest of steps, the smallest of breaths but most of all, the courage and belief in oneself. Tiny steps don’t require hours of time or days to put aside.

-Removing the busyness will allow us to hear what is going on within, and to make room for exciting opportunities that are out there for us.

Create some time to write a list of the ways that you sabotage your happiness. What are you doing that is stopping yourself from achieving what you want to achieve?

Are you too busy to cook a healthy meal for you or your family? Are you too busy to go for a long walk, or to read that book you’ve been meaning to read, or to take that class you’ve been wanting to take? Do you frequently put your children before yourself?

Are you using your busyness to sabotage your happiness?

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Hitting the books the unbusy way

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest


Whenever I tell people I’m a University student and I have three children, and work part time, they think I’m a mega superstar woman who has managed to “have it all”.

I think they envision a woman whose household is tidy and organised, with pre cooked meals in storage containers in the freezer and children with perfect hair wearing crisp white shirts and uncrushed linen pants, running around in the backyard catching butterflies. Meanwhile I’m sitting at my clean study desk listening to a thought-provoking lecture that I’m managing to memorise without having to write notes. Perfect score assignments and test results.

As much as I’d love to play along with this fantasy, the reality is quite different.

Typically, all of my assignments are due during the school holiday period. There’s nothing more fun than sitting at your desk trying to type a report while a child is holding onto your right arm, telling you every five minutes that they’re hungry. Have you tried typing with one hand?

So then I try the approach of studying when I get home from work at 10pm. But by then, I just want to crawl into my warm cosy bed and watch trashy TV.

But when I’m finally on a roll and ploughing through a report, the words are flowing nicely and lightbulbs full of ideas are switching on in my head, the following happens:

-The house work gets put aside. The dishes are sitting in the sink waiting to be washed. The dirty clothes are piling up in the laundry. The beds are unmade. There are crumbs all over the floor. There is very little food in the fridge and pantry.

-The kids get away with more. They can sit infront of the TV watching movies or playing computer games and mum doesn’t say anything.

-The phone doesn’t get answered, the text messages are not read and there is no Facebook status update or Instagram photo.

Prior to my unbusy life, these three things would have stressed me to no end and I would have been tearing my hair out. I would have had my to-do list with 35 items that all had to be ticked off by the end of the day or else I would feel unaccomplished. I would have checked my Facebook newsfeed as soon as I got out of bed. And there’s no way my kids would have been watching much TV.

What’s changed?

When you decide to live a more meaningful and less busy life, one of the things you throw out the window is the desire to live a perfect life. You learn to embrace imperfection and you realise that “this too shall pass”. This is really hard if you are a prefectionist, or you always need to be in control. I was one of these people. I never liked it if things didn’t go to plan.

But this contributed to a busy, hectic, and unfulfilling life. Running around worrying about making everything perfect and “the way it should be”, living up to unrealistic expectations and stressing about things outside of one’s control often leads to pretty bad consequences. Maybe not straight away, but maybe later down the track. General unhappiness, negativity, financial stress, illness.

Back to the crazy Uni mum sitting at her desk. It’s approaching exam time for us University parents and the thought of catching up on missed lectures and note writing along with all the other responsibilities as a parent seems too overwhelming. So here’s my list of tips to unbusy yourself and prepare for exams:

-Learn to accept that as long as you meet the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, everything else can wait. If the kids have good food to eat, clean clothes to wear and can still get a hug from mum, then everything else will fall into place.

-Embrace “Chunk Study”- study in small chunks of time. It might be too hard to set aside two hours to listen to a lecture, or to read a whole chapter of a textbook. Instead, listen to 15 minutes of a lecture then pause it and walk away. Or read two pages of a book and then put it down.

-Give up the fantasy of a high distinction and accept that old saying “P’s get degrees”. Try your best, but sometimes we have to accept that there are other more important things in our lives than exam results.

-Go for a walk or run. Keeping up some form of exercise is vital to staying healthy and refreshed before exams. Eat well and get an early night’s sleep the night before an exam.

-Find what method of learning suits you best. It has taken me three years to figure out that I am the kind of person who learns more when cramming the information in the last couple of weeks rather than trying to remember everything along the way. I find it too difficult to retain things I have learnt in week’s 1 and 2 for the next 8 weeks. Are you a visual learner? Then draw some diagrams. Maybe you like to verbalise everything- record yourself reading revision notes and then replay it while you are doing the housework or sitting on the train.

-Learn to say no to things that are not important during your study period.

-Put the social catch ups on hold.

-Don’t take on a new project at work.

-Delegate tasks to other people.

-Ask for support and have a cry on someone’s shoulder if need be. Then pick yourself up and continue on with the task.

On the day of your exam, have a nice healthy breakfast, put a smile on your face and remember that what you don’t know by now, you will never know. Walk into that exam room and be proud that you have showed up!

Good luck to all Australian University students sitting upcoming exams!

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