Category Archives: Cerebral Palsy

Waiting for the Right Trend

I am not much for trends. But every once and a while a trend will come along that I like and I will quickly jump on board. Usually I stay long after everyone else has jumped ship; my Blackberry is a great example of this. However, I do not do trendy things for the sake of the trend. I think oversized glasses are silly and I had enough of eighties fashion in the eighties. That being said, I love when a trend works in my favor.

For years I couldn’t find a cute purse to save my life. This was because I wanted [needed] a long strap to wear cross-body, and long straps on purses were just not the “in thing” when I entered the purse needing phase of my life. I usually had two options: old lady style bags or giant messenger bags. Then the style Gods smiled upon me and suddenly cross-body bags became all the rage. Now I have a cute purse in almost every color. Later, the same thing happened with shoes. For years I was forced to wear sneakers year round because Mary Jane style shoes were the only summer/dress type shoe I could keep on my foot. Then, one day, everyone loved the Mary Jane style so much that the “z strap” was invented. Oh happy day!

The latest trend to come around is spill proof glassware for adults. I gotta say, this one was a long time coming. I have spent many years asking for a straw for my beer, crushing red solo cups into unrecognizable shapes and listening friends joke that I might need a sippy cup. Now, there are plenty of fun and stylish cups that come with lids and straws for (almost spill proof) drinking. I have many of these items and I use them for both recreational drinking and plain old daily hydration. But my favorite is the Mason jar. Being from country, drinking out of a Mason jar is no big thing, my sister even uses them as wine glasses; but someone decided to take it to another level by leaving on the lid and adding a straw.

These glasses are super cute, great for kids and adults, and an adorable idea for barbeques and weddings. If you’re like me, you might be thinking, why would I spent money on another mason jar when I have so many at home already? Fear not, there are lots of online tutorials that will show you how you can convert your mason jars into one of these cute glasses.

So yes, most trends I let pass by without a second thought, but others I wait years for. Sometimes you’re just so cool you have to wait for everyone else to catch up.


My Assistive Technology Dream Come True

Whenever I see back to school commercials that talk about laptops, tablets and cell phones, I feel really old. When I was going back to school, only adults had personal computers and only the really important ones had laptops; not a single one of my friends had a cell phone. And now, just 13 years after I graduated high school, most students have one or more of these devices on hand. As a person with a disability, I’m glad I was born at a time when technology was on the rise; I have seen this technology grow and change the lives of people with disabilities. Read here how to spend time effectively.

Thanks to technology, people without the ability to speak can talk, many of the people who want to hear are now able to, and those who cannot walk have more and more options for mobility. Everyday new technology is created that can improve a life, and you have to admit that is pretty cool. I have benefited from many of the new technologies out there, they have allowed me to be more independent and more productive. However, there is a part of me that still waits, hoping that someday technology will come up with something that will allow me to walk hands free.

I have Cerebral Palsy, and like everyone with C.P., my case is unique to me. I am able walk with assistive devices such as a walker or crutches; I can also walk around my house by holding onto the furniture or walls, and I have decent balance. However, despite multiple surgeries, countless hours of physical therapy, and multiple bribes from my parents, I cannot take more than one or two steps unassisted.

This is something that I have come to accept. However, I do wish that there was something out there that would allow me to walk hands free. Having my hands free for reaching items is one benefit I get from using a chair; but when I want, or need, to walk somewhere, my hands are tied up doing other things. They have plenty of handsfree walkers meant for children to help train their muscles for walking and balance; but these walkers are typically bulky and a have ton of straps for support As an adult who just needs that tiny bit of extra support, there seemed to be nothing that could help my cause. At least until I saw this walker.

I can’t help but be a little excited. It does not seem like a perfect solution, and it still seems quite new given the limited information on the site; but the fact that it even exists gives me some hope. Hope that technology is catching up to my needs. Hope that someday, in the nearish future, I might be able to walk down the street carrying a child, holding hands with my husband, pull multiple items out of the fridge in one trip, or grab gallon of milk from the store without needing to put it in a cart first.

Is there anything on your assistive technology wish list?

My C.P. Superpower

I was in the kitchen the other morning preparing a pork roast for my trusty crockpot because I already knew I wouldn’t feel like putting in much effort when it came to dinner that night. I was almost done; the pork had been seared, potatoes and onions chopped, beef broth added, all I had left was to add salt, pepper and garlic.

Typical for a Monday morning, I was being lazy and didn’t feel like putting together my garlic zoom; it had been disassembled for a thorough cleaning the night before. Instead, I pulled out my standard garlic press. I find the garlic press easy to use, especially mine. It seemed to be pretty sturdy, well-constructed, and had a nice big handle with a rubber grip so I wouldn’t drop it. Yes, I said it seemed to be sturdy because somehow I managed to break it. It snapped at the joint that connects the two sides together with absolutely no effort whatsoever.

I cannot say that I was particularly surprised, C.P. has plenty of quirks. Some of my favorites include the startle reflex and the inability to control the volume of my voice. By far the most impressive of these quirks is something I like to call the “C.P. death grip.” This is a common quirky ability present in those with Spastic Cerebral Palsy, and is characterized by sometimes uncontrollable grip strength.

This particular quirk has caused a lot of frustration over the years. The garlic press is not the first thing I have broken, crushed or manhandled to the point of destruction. I cannot be trusted with juice boxes, origami masterpieces, or apparently well-made garlic presses. A friend recently told me about an unintentional tug-of-war game she had with a cashier when she simply could not let go of the twenty she was trying to pay with.

As frustrating as my death grip can be at times, it is also one of my favorite C.P. quirks; especially when I can call upon this strength as needed. When my kitten batted at a fishing pole and got a hook snagged in his cheek, I snapped a 30 pound test line with my hands alone. I am the “it” girl when it comes to opening jars, and this grip has also saved me from many falls.

Though this quirk is considered to be part of a disability, it is also an advantage, a real life super-power. Even the times it has worked against me are good experiences. They are unique, they are funny, and I learn valuable lessons, like if I am going to be lazy and use a garlic press, I should probably get one with a warrantee.

Throwback Thursday: A Toy from My Childhood

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Recently, my husband and I went to visit some friends in Grand Rapids who were celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary. If that doesn’t make you feel old, nothing will. We left our dog at home, but several of the other guests brought theirs. They were all varying degrees of small, but the smallest was my friend’s Yorkie; who tried in vain to keep up with the other dogs as they raced around the yard. I couldn’t help but smile and feel sorta bad for the little guy. He reminded me so much of myself as a child; always struggling to keep up, but no matter how hard I tried, I was always just a fraction too late.

In other posts, I have credited my sister with inadvertently teaching me how to be independent. It was, after all, my struggle to keep up with her that inspired my parents and I to make adaptations where necessary and come up with new ways for me to do otherwise simple things. I have already told the story of the bicycle, but watching that Yorkie running feverishly about the yard reminded me of the scooter at my Grandma’s house. As it turns out, not only could I use this scooter, but was actually so good at that I had others struggled to keep up with me for a change.

Let’s face it, toys such as tricycles, bicycles, scooters, and rollerblades are not geared towards kids with disabilities. And yet, kids with disabilities want nothing more than to go zooming around with their friends. The Roller Racer is one of the few toys I could use without special adaptations as a child (aside from the Power Wheels my cousins had, which I used to run over my sister).

This scooter was great because you used it while sitting down. There was a wide base and you were super low to the ground, this made it really easy to get on and off of independently. The best part for me was that it could be operated with one or both of my arms. I remember the first time I got on it, thinking that Mom or Dad would have to push me around like everything else; I was overjoyed when I realized I could do it myself.

The Roller Racer was my first taste of real independence. Walking at that age was still hard and slow going, and I didn’t have a wheelchair. But with this scooter I felt like I was unstoppable! These, of course, were the days when the end of the street felt like miles. Obviously this scooter is not the answer for truly independent mobility, but it you have a kid that wants nothing more than to zip around the neighborhood with friends, then you really should give with a try. I’m not the only one that thinks so. It has made it onto several lists of toys for kids with disabilities.

Heck, I turned out to be a small adult; part of me wants to order one for myself just to recapture that joy.

The Mother of Invention

This weekend I got to spend some time with my twin. I have not seen her in quite a while because she lives in another state and has a large family, which makes it hard to travel. The distance sucks, but we talk a lot, and even when we don’t there is a bond that no one can touch. I think it would be awesome if every disabled person in the world had a twin. Unfortunately that is not something we can market on the UNlimiters’ website.

My twin has been an invaluable part of my UNlimited life. When we were young she was my constant companion and I would work hard trying to keep up with her. In turn, she would adapt her play for me or help me do something. We were always conniving, her and I. I remember when we had a bunk bed as kids. We both really wanted me on the top bunk, so she pushed and I pulled and somehow we got me to the top bunk. We were thrilled; but then, of course, we couldn’t get down from the top bunk.Then there was the time she tied my trike to her bike and tried to tow me along behind her. It worked for about 5 seconds before I tipped over and was almost hit by a car.

She wasn’t always nice, though. We may have been twins but we were still sisters, and sisters can be mean sometimes. She didn’t always enjoy having me tag along. Sometimes our parents forced her to take me with her in the wagon or my stroller; on these occasions she would take me far enough that I was out of sight and earshot of the house, then leave me stranded while she went to play. She also liked to make me pee my pants when she was feeling extra mean.

These days, she has given up on most of her mean tricks. She is still my best partner when it comes to adaptability, though; she is always helping me come up with new ideas. Even though she doesn’t have CP, my sister seems to understand the way my body works in a way that other people don’t. This makes her a good person to brainstorm with. For example, this last weekend we were at a party at our other sister’s house. A bunch of us were sitting on a blanket playing with my baby niece; but I had to lie down on the blanket because I cannot sit up independently on the ground.

I could have easily sat in a chair, but I wanted to feel included. As I was holding myself up, my twin thought that the wrap she uses to hold her baby hands free could be tied around me in a way that would support my back and allow me to sit up independently. There was a lot of giggling, my oldest niece and my mother thought we had gone crazy, but after some thinking and a few strategically placed knots we came up with this:


It worked, but after fifteen minutes my neck started to hurt, so the design needs some tweaking. Of course, after we posted the picture of Facebook, my ever practical college roommate suggested that this stadium chair might be an easier solution. I will have to try it; if it works I might be a little sad. My twin and I were sure that we had struck gold with this particular idea.

An UNlimited Year in Review

This post marks my one year anniversary as a blogger for UNlimiters. I can hardly believe that it has been a year, and what a year it has been. I went from being unemployed, to working three part time jobs; from having Hepatitis C to being cured of the disease, and from writing once a month, to writing at least once a week. A lot has changed for me over this year, but many things have stayed the same, including the things I use every day in order to live my life Unlimited. For my anniversary post, I would like to revisit these items, and to share with you the top three I never want to be without.

My very first post highlighted an item that I used most often in my house, the crockpot. Growing up I don’t remember my Mom using the crockpot for anything other than baked beans. The other recipes I had eaten out of a crockpot left much to be desired; so at first I didn’t think I would like cooking with a crockpot. However, I was presently surprised. Crockpots are great for more than just beans, sauces and soups. You can make many delicious items in the crockpot, including desserts. It is a life saver during a busy work week or when I would rather spend time sewing than worrying about what is for dinner.

My second post featured an item I literally could not live without. I mean, I guess I probably could, but it would not be a very full or exciting life. The Hurri-Cane Crutch was introduced to me by a friend of my fathers who happened to know a guy that was trying to market a new kind of Lofstrand Crutch. I have used Lofstrand Crutches since I was about 6. Ever since I was introduced to the Hurri-Cane Crutch, I have never used another, and have tried quite a variety of mobility aids in my time. These crutches are light, stylish and practically indestructible.

Finally, this post featured an item that I had seen a hundred times while being around others with disabilities. Although the reacher was a familiar adaptive tool to me, it was not something I felt I needed. I grew up in an “adapt or fail” type of household. I was taught to adapt to my environment instead of expecting it to change to accommodate me. Thus, I equated the use of certain assistive technology with laziness. However, after starting a new job, I got tired of asking people to pick things up for me; I finally cave and bought the reacher. It has increased my independence and changed my perspective on assistive technology.

Life is about change, it is about learning and growing. The person you are today might not be the person you are tomorrow. You will learn new things, form new opinions and have new experiences, but that doesn’t mean we should discount the things that stay the same. It is the unchanging things in life that give us the confidence to do all the changing along the way.

A Recommendation from my Husband

painI am the first to admit that I am not the most sympathetic person when it comes to other people’s aches and pains. When someone stubs their toe and has to grab an ice pack, or spends the rest of the day wincing when they put on their shoes, I have to try really hard not to roll my eyes. I don’t do this to be mean, I just don’t quite understand. While pain is not a constant for me, it happens quite a lot in my world. I fall often. I bounce my head off the floor, the wall, and the bathtub. I burn myself, cut myself and sometimes things hurt for no reason at all; that’s CP for you. So when others make a big deal about things that happen to me so regularly, I find it hard to reach their level of anxiety over it; my husband knows this first hand.

My husband has Psoriatic Arthritis. I have no doubt this is something very painful for him. I also understand the feeling of frustration that comes with feeling older than you should due to certain aches and pains. But when he started complaining about his knee hurting, I sort of blew him off. Partly because of the reasons I stated above, but partly because he stopped taking the medicine they gave him for his arthritis because “it didn’t work.” My husband, like many of his gender, wants immediate results; so when he doesn’t get them he just assumes there will be no results at all.

For a while he just tried to live with the pain. This made him somewhat of a grump. Now, not only did his knee hurt, but it was keeping him from doing things he wanted to do. My husband finally went to the doctor hoping for those immediate results and was prescribed physical therapy instead. It was the fact that he actually went to the physical therapy that made me realize the pain in his knee really was a big problem for him.

The physical therapy was helping, but my husband was still popping pain meds like candy. He was starting to worry that he wouldn’t be able to play kickball in the summer with his friends. Then his father told him about Tart Cherry, a supplement that is supposed to help with joint inflammation that he has used with good results. Now, my husband’s father is a pretty skeptical person, so his results were enough to persuade my husband to give it a try. He has been taking the supplement for a couple weeks now and says that his knee barely bothers him.

I guess I will have to try a little harder to take my husband’s aches and pains more seriously from now on. Since taking the supplement he has become more active again. He got the garden in this weekend and is back to playing kickball with his friends on Fridays; he also seems much less grumpy. I am not sure if I should contribute this to his knee feeling better or the improved weather, but either way, I’ll take it.

For the Forgetters

I have a friend who can remember just about everything. I met her 13 years ago and she can still recall, with clarity, many of the conversations we have had over the years. I would like to blame this phenomenon on the value of my words alone, but that is not the case; she simply has a great memory. My own memory is not so great; sometimes I can’t even recall what I had for dinner the night before. I think this is why I have always been drawn to writing and photography; these hobbies can help me recall the events in my life with more detail.

While these two hobbies have helped me remember things in my personal life, I still need a little help remembering things in my professional life; just last week I forgot to submit a very important nomination application to our graduate school. My boss was very kind about it, and thankfully, the mistake was correctable, but I was thoroughly embarrassed. I had put the deadline on my outlook calendar, but because I wasn’t sitting at the computer then the reminder popped up, I never got it.

While I am aware that this problem may not have much to do directly with my disability, as a person with CP I often feel the need to prove that I am capable and qualified, because more often than not, I am judge my strangers to be unable; I am held to not just a different standard, but a lower one. When I make a mistake in my professional life, I often feel like I am proving all the naysayers right. This wreaks havoc on my self-esteem, even when people understand the situation.

I have realized that personally, I cannot rely on technology in order to be less forgetful. Those little reminders are great if you happen to see them, but if you are away from your desk or phone, they are rendered useless. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you will happen to see the reminder only to forget it when something more important distracts you. For me the answer is old school: paper and pencil.

Of course, I am not talking about any paper. I am talking about a daily agenda . These things have been a lifesaver for me since I was 14. Without it, I might not have graduated from high school or even college. I am also very specific about the agenda I use. First, they have to have a nice big writing space for each day so that I can make lists of tasks and reminders for each day. Second, I look for one with a monthly calendar included. This makes it easy to get a big picture of when things are due, upcoming events, appointments and other important dates.

With this agenda at my desk, it is a lot easier for me to remember to do things. It is always in front of me, unlike those pesky phone and computer reminders, and it doesn’t go away until after I have checked it off the list. I feel more efficient, capable and most importantly, less stressed.

My Smartphone Pick

Technology has come a long way in my lifetime. However, I am the first to admit I am a little slow to jump on the band wagon when it comes to the latest and greatest. I did not get a cell phone until after I graduated high school and I didn’t even know how to send a text message until the middle of my sophomore year in college, so it was no surprise that it took me several years to upgrade from a cell phone to a smartphone.

I originally got a BlackBerry because it was recommended to me by several friends who had one. At the time iPhone was still relatively new, and I don’t think Androids were even out yet. I became instantly addicted to the convenience of having the internet at my fingertips. I used my phone to look up recipes, downloaded quilting projects, and send emails for work. I kept my original blackberry for 5 years, and only got a new phone because the battery in my old one kept going bad.

When I went to finally get a new phone, I told the saleswoman that I wanted the new blackberry and she looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently I have once again become a user of old technology. But despite her efforts to point me toward a phone with more apps, I stuck to my guns and got a Blackberry; an iPhone, Andriod, or virtually any other smartphone on the market would be useless to me because I cannot type on a touchpad, at least not one small enough to be attached to a phone.

The Blackberry is one of the only smart phones that still use a real Qwerty keyboard, with actual buttons. The only other one they carried with buttons was one of those slide out jobs that breaks if you look at it too long. The keyboard is the one feature that allows me to use my smart phone the way it was intended to be used, but that isn’t the only feature about my phone that I like. It has the same basic functions as all the other smartphones out there, including a great speech option that allows me to send a text, email, search the internet, compose a note or update my Facebook status with my voice. The blackberry is also durable. I drop my phone at least once a week, and I have yet to break it.

If you, or someone you love, struggle with touchscreens like I do, the Blackberry Q10 is a great option. It will allow them to have access to the all features of their phone without having to rely on the speech option or an additional piece of adaptive technology. Because blackberry got rid of the track pad that I loved, you are still using a touchscreen to navigate, but the accessibility features on the phone make it much easier.

Worry Free Home Decor

My husband and I bought our first house in 2009. It was really exciting. The place was definitely a fixer upper; I had all these wonderful ideas about how I would decorate and how beautiful it was going to be. I was going to have a house fit for a magazine. I think everyone feels this way the first time they move into their own space. However, most of us come to the realization that what we have in our head and what we can afford are two different things. We also find out that those DIY projects are not as easy as the home depot commercials make them look.

My husband and I have now lived in this house for about four and a half years, and we are still working on various projects. This is because we don’t want to go into debt fixing up the house, so my husband takes on one or two projects a year. I obviously cannot help with these projects, but I do my best to make sure my house has that homey feel by adding small touches here and there.

One company that I have discovered along my decorating way is Scentsy. Scentsy is a company that sells electric, wickless, candles for your home. I am going to be honest, with a dog, four cats, one husband and my tendency for setting of the smoke alarm, my house can get a little smelly and stuffy, especially during the winter when we are all cooped up inside. Candles are a great way to help keep your house smelling nice, they also give your house a cozy feel. But lets face it, open flames and Cerebral Palsy are not the best combination. Open flames and cats are even worse.

Scentsy products are great because they use these beautiful ceramic warmers to melt a non-toxic scented wax that will fill your room with one of many wonderful scents. The wax gets warm, but not hot, so you won’t get burned if you spill it. I have even had wax spilled on my kitchen floor, it was quick and easy to clean. The burners come in several sizes and can either be plugged directly into the wall like a nightlight, or set on a table.

The main reason I love Scentsy is that I can select a fragrance, turn it on and not worry about it. I can leave the room, or even the house, and not worry that something is going to catch on fire. I also don’t have to spend 45 minute rummaging for a lighter.

One word of warning: Scentsy is awesome and you might feel like you don’t need those candles anymore, but make sure to keep a few on hand, and know where they are. Scentsy might be safer than a candle, but they won’t work during a power outage; you really don’t want to forage for candles to light your living room in the dark, trust me on that.

Home Alone? Tips on Staying Safe and Sane.

My husband is an avid outdoorsman. He likes to hunt, fish, camp, and go for long walks in the woods. A few times a year, he goes on what I call a “man-cation.” I call it this because, generally, women are not welcome on these trips. Not that I want to be invited. Spending a few days cooped up in a cabin with no access to running water and sleeping in close proximity to a bunch of snoring men does not sound like my idea of a good time.

He really enjoys these trips; getting some time away from the daily grind in good for him. However, this also means that I lose my primary source of transportation while he is gone; which means we have to plan for what I will do while he is away.

Generally, I try to plan my own trip, or have a friend come stay with me while my husband is away. This is as much for boredom as it is for peace of mind. But if the timing doesn’t work out and I do have to spend a chunk of time alone, I always make sure that my family knows when he is leaving and when he will return. My Mom and in-laws are just minutes away in case of an emergency. Additionally, I like to set up a “check –in” schedule with them; this way we can check in with each other once a day, and if I cannot be reached they come over to the house. This might seem like a silly thing for an adult to do, but because I don’t use an aid, this is very important in case of a bad fall or something similar.

Besides making sure that I have someone on hand in case of an emergency, I also like to stock up on easy meals. Spending half an hour to an hour cooking for one just seems silly to me. I like to buy frozen skillet meals, because they taste better than the microwavable ones and I usually end up with left-overs. Also they are really simple to cook, with no chopping or measuring; just put in the pan for seven minutes and you are good to go.

The last thing I do when facing a week alone is make sure that I have a project and a nice long book to keep me entertained. I have just started the Game of Thrones series which I heard from a friend is “epically long.” Of course, I love Stephen King, but his novels tend to not be the best when home alone, though some of his less scary work would be a good choice. My favorites include Heart of Atlantis, The Green Mile and The Long Walk. My project of choice is of course sewing, but being without my husband for a few days is also a great reason to get some organizing done, or trying a DIY project seen on Pinterest. The best part? No one is around to her you swear.


UNlimiters blog post by Stephanie Torreno

Until a few years ago, I lived with my mother all of my life. I now proudly tell people that I live on my own, even though I rely on a caregiver to assist me with tasks I cannot do independently because of cerebral palsy. As I work at home and spend much of my time taking care of myself, many products make these chores easier, quicker, and less frustrating.

Although I always walked up and down my townhome’s stairs, friends worried about my risk of falling when I am alone. A very generous gift of a stair chair has given me safety, greater freedom in my own home, and more energy for other activities. Stair chairs can allow individuals to remain in two-story homes without the risks of climbing stairs.

My limited coordination prevents me from pouring drinks. When I’m alone, I take drinks from the refrigerator that my caregiver has already poured. Stainless steel travel mugs with lids and handles work best for me. Straws usually fit into these mugs, and I can enjoy whatever I’m drinking without cleaning up spills.

Speaking of straws, reusable ones such as these make sipping from a regular cup or glass more fun. Most have wider openings to allow more liquid to flow through them. Although some do not fit into the lids of travel mugs, reusable straws come in various widths and lengths. They save money, and are dishwasher-safe, too.

When I’m eating at home, I typically use plates that are lightweight and non-breakable since I clean up after myself. Since I also have difficulties scooping food out of deep dishes and bowls, I find these small scoop plates perfect for yogurt and fruit. The curved side assists me in scooping up every bit of what I’m eating. Other melamine plates meet my needs for everyday use, too.

Limited coordination often causes objects to slip and slide. Dycem, an anti-slip, rubber-like material, is great to put under placemats, books, computer keyboards, or anything that needs to be stabilized. I prefer to buy Dycem on a roll because it can be cut to fit the size of the object, which makes it unnoticeable. Dycem washes with soap and water, and can be easily brought to school, an office, or anywhere.

I have never had the ability to use traditional scissors. Loop scissors enable me to open packages and cut the few things I cut on my own. The large loop handle lets me grip the scissors without much effort.

With severe difficulties in locking and unlocking a door with a key, I couldn’t leave home independently without a keyless entry system. Different brands and models have various features. Mine includes a programmable keypad that allows me to enter my code to unlock the door from the outside. Inside, I can turn the toggle switch to lock or unlock the door. It also automatically locks within a minute. I always take the key that came with the system, though, in case the batteries die.

Stephanie TorrenoStephanie Torreno graduated from Houston Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and technical writing. Her work has included numerous online articles exploring education, special education, and mental health topics. She also wrote an online newsletter for supported employment professionals focused on obtaining work for individuals with disabilities. Stephanie published her memoir, “Keeping My Balance: A Memoir of Disability and Determination,” last year. Her website is

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