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Podcast #20: Gratitude & Acceptance

Updated: May 24

Want to try something new that could really change your life? Try gratitude and acceptance. It's so simple and it really works! See if it can work for you....

Definition and Benefits

When you first read the title of this Blog entry, you probably asked yourself, "Has Dr. Price gone over the edge? Is there something in the water on the Gulf Coast that is making her dippy?" I would bet that you have never read anything about the connections between invisible disabilities and gratitude & acceptance. And yet, I can tell you with all sincerity, this can be one of the most powerful tools in your tool belt when coping with LD or dyslexia. You, and all of the people around you, have probably spent most of your life focusing on the negative. For instance, how often do you wake up thinking about all of things you can't do? What about what a failure you are? Maybe, you ruminate about all of the hurdles and frustrations that you will face today? While some of those thoughts could be accurate, there's clearly another side to this story that can change your life.

Since it's free and easy to use, what is this magic bullet anyway? A simple definition of gratitude is "the quality of being thankful" (Oxford University Press, 2024). The folks at PMC (2024) go one step further when they say, "Where thankfulness is an emotion, gratitude is an attitude of appreciation under any circumstance. Gratitude involves being thankful, but it is more than that. Gratitude means expressing thankfulness and being appreciative of life daily even when nothing exciting happens." In other words, you may still struggle with the challenges and frustrations of having LD or dyslexia, but you also have the power to be positive even during bad or slow days. This proactive mindset can be a powerful force in your life, as research as shown that there is a direct connection between being positive and good mental health (Hunter, 2017; PMC, 2024; Radias Health, 2023).  Gratitude has clear physical ramifications as well. Multiple studies have shown that when you feel gratitude, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin. These are strong neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotions. They help you feel better, more contented, and with less stress (Radias Health, 2023). It's like taking medication without the pills!

Now add to that mix an even more potent ingredient called acceptance. Acceptance means: "Taking people and things as they are, doing the very best I can with them, and to do so without an expectation that the person or thing will change" (Sunrise, 2024). Acceptance can go one step further to include not only your life, with its daily challenges and routine, but also to accept yourself. As Cassata (2021) explains: "Self-acceptance refers to the act of embracing every aspect of yourself — strengths and weaknesses". That sounds so simple. But it can be really hard for adults with LD or dyslexia, as they often spend the majority of their lives hearing from themselves and others just exactly what they can't do--and why that needs to be fixed. The paradox is that, sometimes as adults, we don't need to fix things about ourselves; we just need to understand and celebrate them instead.

As you can imagine, the benefits of acceptance and gratitude are profound. For example, did you know that if you practice gratitude consistently, you can actually re-wire your brain? As Chowdhury (2019) explains, "Studies have demonstrated that at the brain level, moral judgments involving feelings of gratefulness are evoked in the right anterior temporal cortex. People who express and feel gratitude have a higher volume of gray matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus (Wood et al, 2008; Zahn et al., 2014). This same gratitude almost acts like a natural antidepressant which, in turn, promotes both mental and physical health. This means if you consistently practice gratitude and acceptance, you will have better sleep, higher self-esteem, get you through traumatic events, have less inflammation, and fewer aches and pains (Keep a Breast, 2019). The benefits of acceptance are equally powerful. Practicing acceptance will: a) make you a better problem-solver; b) give you healthier relationships at home, work, and school; c) encourage forgiveness and self-compassion; and d) make us feel more in control of our lives (Wood, 2018). Who wouldn't want that everyday?

Apply to LD and Dyslexia

Here's a truism for you: Gratitude leads to optimism and optimism leads to acceptance and acceptance leads to happiness (Hayes, 2018; Kannangara, 2015). See the on-going circle? This is the exact reverse of the experience that many adults with invisible disabilities live with every day. For instance, the majority of adults that I have interviewed and worked with over the years seemed to be in a fog of "grayness", where they wake up, surrounded by feelings of sadness, stress, anxiety, frustration, and isolation from others.

Unfortunately, this gloomy message often starts very early. Whether it's at school, at home, or on the playground, children with LD and dyslexia often spend their lives hearing the same broken-record over and over again: "There's something wrong with you--and it needs to be fixed!" When this theme is continually repeated, research by Marwick and Sage (2014) conclude that: "A person with learning disabilities is seriously disadvantaged in this aspect [self-image]". What's even more heart-breaking is to hear this described from adults with dyslexia themselves (Redit, 2022). As one adult explained his situation: "Confidence and self worth was mainly destroyed due to what people would call child hood "trauma" brought by dyslexia, mainly as a kid stuggling tounderstand my purpose in a place like school and in the social context. im stuck [SIC] now because i dont know where to start or how to rebuild it and its really impacting my every day life." Another man summed up his feelings by saying, "I'm 51 & still think of school as the worst years of my life. And I feel robbed."

I think both of these people speak for many adults with invisible disabilities who don't have a voice. Clearly, gratitude and acceptance are not part of this picture. And they are not alone. Numerous studies have underscored the strong connections between learning disabilities or dyslexia and negative self-esteem and emotional problems. (Gorman, 2024; ADD MY CITATIONS!!!!). I believe what I observed over the years just highlights what the research has been saying. Feelings of sorrow, poor body image, shame, anger, frustration, anxiety, and low self-esteem seem to intertwined with an invisible disability for many adults with LD or dyslexia (Daderman, Nilvang, & Levander, 2014; Gaynor, 2024; Gorman, 2024; International Dyslexia Association, 2024; National Center for Health Care Research, 2023; Smith, 2024). Suicide can also be a factor (ABC News, 2002). That's why I think practicing gratitude and acceptance are important skills worth teaching. As Hayes (2018) explains: "Living with a disabling condition can make gratitude a more of a challenge – there are so many things in our lives that have gone wrong, or have left us in need, that gratitude for our lives’ blessings isn’t the first thing any of us think about. However, that challenge makes feelings of gratitude a more important goal than ever!"   

*Please Note: The vast majority of information that I found about gratitude and acceptance and disabilities refers to physical disabilities. I found very little data specifically connecting these important tools to invisible disabilities, especially LD or dyslexia. However, I believe that gratitude and acceptance are equally true for all disabilities--either seen or unseen. Consciously cultivating optimism can become the catalyst for changing your life and attitude from being a victim to being a winner. It won't fix all of the challenges in your life--but is sure makes that life easier and more productive to live everyday. See below for more information.


Scenario A:

Nate loved being an actor. He always felt that he truly "came alive" on a stage and would do anything that involved being in the theater with his buddies. There was no part too small or job too menial for Nate to do if it was associated with being part of a theater group. Nate found this out early when he was a pumpkin in his grade school Thanksgiving pageant. His mom made him a great costume and he even had two lines to say! The audience loved him--and Nate was hooked.

His parents soon realized that this was the way to balance out Nate's life, because as much as he loved being on stage, he hated school with a passion. Nate had been diagnosed with Learning Disabilities and ADHD in the third grade when he struggled to barely read and write at grade level. He rarely paid attention in class or did his homework, unless his folks nagged him to do it. However, Nate was in every school play in middle school and high school, where he was a shing star. Next, he talked his folks into letting him go away to college, when he had received a small Drama scholarship from a prestigious, private school. Multiple student loans, along with lots of financial help from his family, helped him to stay in college. Nate was never happier. However, graduation loomed before him. What could he do with a Bachelor's degree in Drama? Most of his buddies already had plans to move to New York or Los Angeles to make the big time. But Nate didn't even have an agent. On top of that, his folks kept badgering him to get a regular job so he could pay off his student loans. They reminded him that he could always work in his father's construction business with his brothers. But, Nate doesn't want a boring, steady paycheck--he wants to be a professional actor. How's that going to happen?

Scenario B:

Lucy never, ever got along with her mother. A single mom with four kids to raise, Lucy rarely saw or spoke to her mom who was often working two or three jobs. As the eldest in a family with "step-dads" in and out all of the time, Lucy took care of her brothers and sister as well as she could while resenting her mom's heavy drinking and erratic parenting. All of this was complicated by her learning disabilities. Lucy really struggled in a over-crowded, inner-city school with little academic tutoring. Because she often felt lost and alone, it was usually easier to just skip school entirely and take care of her younger sister. After Lucy barely passed her classes to get a diploma, she was out of there for good. Lucy's next step was ditch her family entirely and move in with her boyfriend. She rarely spoke anyone in her family after that. Then one day, she got a phone call asking her to come and see her mom. Her mother had been diagnosed with liver cancer and wanted to talk to her one last time. Lucy gritted her teeth, as the call brought back so many bad memories. Why should she bother? Drive half-way across the country to see someone who had always let her down? Lucy really didn't know what to do.

Scenario C:

Catherine came from one of the best families in Atlanta. As a child, she never felt she was privledged because everyone she knew had nannies and multiple vacation homes and fathers who flew by private jet to consult with other financial wizards. In addition, Catherine's mother, M'Lady, was a famous beauty who charmed everyone who met her. As an only child, Catherine spent the majority of time with her mother. M'Lady doted on her daughter and kept reminding her that "Appearances are very, very important; especially when you have the advantages that we have. I know--just look at my life."

Catherine rarely spent time with other children as she was home-schooled by her governess. She was finally diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD when multiple staff were unable to teach her how to read or write. She was then sent away to a private school and came home only for holidays. Her academics really improved, but she because shy and withdrawn with little confidence or self-esteem. She also started eating everything in sight to ease her lonlinesss. Her favorite times were having fun in the woods or playing with her animals.

After secondary school, M'Lady insisted that Catherine go to her alma mater and pledge for the same sorority. She pulled some strings so Catherine could be admitted even though her grades were below average. Catherine followed her mother's directions to the letter, but she was still lonely and unhappy. She made few friends and the big, college classes were a nightmare. Studying in the sorority house was a continual struggle, plus Catherine felt so out of place. Then Susie, one of the girls took Catherine aside: "I like you, but we're all really worried about you. You're not like your mother at all. You need to lose at least 25 pounds and fix your nose asap. What about having your stomach stapled? Once you look better, we'll fix you up with a few guys from the fraternity and you'll be fine." Catherine was shocked. M'Lady was right, as always. Like Susie said, appearances really do make a difference. Or, do they?

Tips and Tricks

Tip #1: 5 Minute Gratitude Journal

Gratitude can be a tricky concept. Most people think of being grateful as being thankful. But living in the 21st Century, it often seems like there is very little to be thankful for and lots to worry about. Even if you think being grateful is a great idea, it often just seems like there are too many barriers to make it happen. For instance, you may feel that you just don't have enough time or energy to practice gratitude. You may have a negative mindset or always focus on comparing yourself to others (LinkedIn, 2024). Maybe, you are impatient or have high expectations that are never met. Or, the idea of being grateful is just too "touchy-feely" for you (Khorrami, 2021). All of these are common hurdles that everyone faces sometime in their lives.

But, there are ways to get around these barriers and figure out how to use the powerful tool of gratitude for yourself. For instance, you could: a) Go for a brief Mindfulness walk outdoors; b) Say things you’re grateful for out-loud. Try it while looking in the mirror; c) Tell one person in your life, verbally or writing, why you’re grateful for them. Texts or hugs are great for this; d) Think about gratitude once a day either first thing in the morning or when going to sleep or e) Make a Gratitude Jar (CITATIONS). These ideas can all be very effective, but one of my favorites is the 5 Minute Journal.

If you google "5 Minute Journal", you will quickly be bewildered by all of the articles, opinions, and materials. There's lots of suggestions, but they all boil down to one basic idea: Consistently taking 5 minutes a day to list 3 people, places, or things that you are grateful for in your daily life. It's the actual act of writing this information down that is the key to the process. After that, the options are endless. Want a cool-looking journal to record your thoughts? Try Amazon or Etsy. Have dysgraphia or dyslexia and don't want to physically write in a journal? Use an audio transcription app to answer one of the 12 questions found on . Like to keep things simple? Answer only 2 questions everyday: a) I am grateful for _____ and b) What would make today great? (CITATIONS). Want more detail to guide you? Try an online template with lots of examples (e.g., use your senses, focus on specific activities, describe your dreams, list personal strengths, struggles, or happy memories, etc.). Any of these suggestions are a fine place to start.

A great illustration of how to use the 5 Minute Journal is Scenario A. Nate shines on the stage and has done everything that he could to make it happen. However, his dream seemed further away than ever. Then, he got a text from his buddy Jim. Jim was working on location on a big TV show in Texas. He heard one of the actors didn't show up and talked the Director into seeing Nate. Nate borrowed money from his folks and was on the next plane. He loved being on the set, but things seemed to go wrong from the beginning. Due to his time management problems, Nate over-slept and got lost trying to find the location. With his nerves and memory problems, he couldn't remember his lines on camera. Because of his ADHD, he got bored and frustrated sitting around for hours waiting for his take. When he was finally called up, he often forgot what the Director wanted him to do. Nate was let go after two days. He sadly left Texas, feeling angry, discouraged, and very, very embarrassed.

When he got home, things went from bad to worse. While Nate was gone, his father George had finally got his medical results back. He had Congestive Heart Failure. Things were really gloomy around his house for a while. Between Nate's recent failure in his acting career and his family's sorrow at George's prognosis, there was lots of sadness and very little hope. Then, George started attending a support group sponsored by the American Heart Association. The counselor suggested that George keep a Gratitude Journal. He kept resisting the idea, but was told it was easier to use a partner. Perhaps, Nate could keep his own journal and George could keep his. Since neither of them felt that they had anything to be thankful for, maybe they should do it together. Every morning they met for coffee and shared three things from their journals that they were grateful for. At first, this seemed silly and artificial. But both Nate and his dad were suprised to find that this became the best part of their day. Gradually their gratitude lists got longer and longer and they became closer and closer. They started sharing inspirational quotes and ideas with each other. Both were surprised that they started seeing the most negative situations in a more pro-active, positive way.

For Nate, this became one of the most powerful experiences in his life. He talked alot to his dad about his dreams for an acting career--and how different the reality was for him. Nate just couldn't see himself waiting for years for the next phone call that might never come. Besides, he had bills to pay and a life to lead. George encouraged him to revise his dream by temporially working in the family business to pay the bills, while also volunteering at the local Community Theater. Because Nate knew a lot about construction, he began designing and building all of the sets for the company. He also directed two shows and acted in two others. Nate was so successful that he went back to the University to study set design, where he was asked to teach a class one semester. Now, he had a lot more to put into his Gratitude Journal, which became especially valuable when George passed away two years later.

Are you waiting to start your life? If so, a 5 Minute Gratitude Journal may be just the ticket. See below for more information:

Tip #2: Practicing Acceptance

As you can see, finding the motivation and energy to practice gratitude and acceptance sometimes feels like a full-time job. I think this is especially true when dealing with your family. Let's face it, you can practice gratitude anytime or anywhere, but dealing with the people who raised you--or brought you pain and craziness--can be a minefield. How many times have you wished you never had to talk to your sister or parents again? How often do you want to just walk away from your toxic aunt when she starts ranting about money or politics? You may truly love your kids or your husband, but maybe they push your buttons in ways no one else can. It's clear that finding the positive in your family can be complicated by past baggage. As Arthur (2015) admits: "My family relation-ships are not all cleaned up and pretty much like I'd like them to be. I want to wave a magic wand and make all of my relationships work . . . I know what it's like when your family is a mess and it's hard to give thanks." The folks at (2023) go one step further by saying, "Acceptance is about being flexible, tolerant and open-minded. It’s also about knowing how to compromise, understanding that we all make mistakes, and learning to forgive." Those are critical tools that can heal any family.

While I truly believe that everyone, even the most well-adjusted families, will have conflict at one time or another, there is a way to get past this. It's called gratitude and acceptance. The benefits of this can be really amazing. For instance, Arthur (2015) says, "I am going to give thanks even though my family is a mess. I’m going to write down the things I’m grateful for even if my relation-ships are messy and unresolved. Did you know [that] practicing gratitude could increase your happiness level by 25 percent? Did you know that writing for a few hours a month in a gratitude journal can have lasting effects, up to six months, on your happiness levels?" Other benefits of accceptance include: better communication, dealing with your feelings in healthier ways, finding self-acceptance, and being less judgemental. You will also have less pain (both emotional and physical), more compassion and forgiveness, more resilience, more understanding, and have better problem-solving skills (ADD CITATIONS). An example of using gratitude and acceptance with your family is Lucy's story in Scenario B. Whenever Lucy thinks about her family, all she remembers is guilt, anger, frustration, craziness, and struggle. As a child herself, Lucy did the best she could to be a second parent to her brothers and sister when her mom was unavailable. Lucy was the one who often packed the school lunches, did the laundry, and fought with the bill collectors. School was never a priority for her, and her academic struggles just made things much worse. Now, Lucy feels pulled back into all of the madness.

Her partner of 10 years, Andrew, had other ideas, however. He encouraged Lucy to see her mom just once more to put all of the ghosts to rest. This could be her chance to finally move forward and let the past go. Andrew also had another suggestion--why not try a little gratitude and acceptance? He had used it in his own life with his broken relationship with his brother. He was amazed at the results. A friend told him about a study that listed three factors to increase gratitude (Greater Good Science Center, 2024): 

  1. Think about when a family member purposefully tried to help you. 

  2. Ask yourself how much they sacrificed to do it. 

  3. Reflect on how much you benefited from their efforts. 

Andrew thought Lucy could look at those 3 factors to view her mom and her childhood through a different lens.

Grudgingly, Lucy talked through the three factors with Andrew. She soon realized that she was still very angry with her mom. Lucy remembered that her mom was often totally overwhelmed by being single parent, with no role models or support from her own family. But, Lucy's mom was trying to do the very best she could at the time.She truly loved all of her kids and only wanted the best for them. Then, Lucy started thinking about how hard her mom had worked for years at multiple jobs to take care of everyone. She remembered finding her mom crying because she couldn't attend her brother's basketball games. She recalled how her mom curbed her drinking so there was money for her sister to go to summer camp. Maybe, even all of the multiple "dads" were her mom's way of trying to bring more stability into their home.

Last, Lucy reflected on not what her mom had taken away from her, but what she had given her instead. Lucy realized that all of her independence, strength, and resilience came from her mom. Andrew agreed and told her she was a great problem-solver. He reminded her about how they had bought a failing restaurant together and made it a success. He prompted Lucy to think about how she got her college degree online, studying to be a chef, even though she struggled continually due to her LD. How much of that was Lucy and how much was her Mom? Maybe, there was something to be grateful for after all.

The more Lucy tried to practice gratitude and acceptance--even a little bit--the more she knew that she had to see her mom one more time. It was the best decision she ever made. At first, the visit was strained and rocky, but Lucy brought a few childhood pictures for them to look at together. That broke the ice and they talked and laughed for hours. Lucy stayed an extra day and saw other family members as well. There were still resentments to be healed, but she was finally able to thank her mom and tell her she loved her. That was a bonus Lucy never expected. If you're like Lucy, with baggage, anger, and frustrations with your family, try gratitude and acceptance instead. It may be hard to do, but it really works! For more information, see below:

Tip #3: Putting Gratitude and Acceptance Together

Tips #1 and #2 focused separately on Gratitude and Acceptance. Now it's time to put it all together. Both are sides of the same coin and can be powerful forces in your everyday life. Each brings different gifts to the table. For instance, the folks at Avalon Malibu (2024) explain: "Gratitude can bring about warm, fuzzy emotions. . . . Learning to appreciate the good that already exists in your life can help you cultivate a more positive attitude and resilience to adverse circumstances. Acceptance, on the other hand, may feel very different. It involves consciously releasing the grip on emotions that prevent you from moving forward. These emotions can include hostility, resentment, and regret. It can feel like a burden is being lifted, and suddenly you have more room to breathe and think." Practicing both gratitude and acceptance together is like an insurance policy on yourself. It increases resilience, improves relationships, makes you happier, and gives you a greater sense of purpose in your life (Faster Capital, 2024; ADD CITATION). So, how do you do this? Here's four steps to get you started (Faster Capital, 2024):

  • Change your perspective. Don't spend your time focusing on what you don't have or can't do. Shift to thinking about what you already can do or what you are good at doing now. This is how gratitude works.

  • Find meaning. Re-frame a difficult experience. Avoid thinking about what a painful tragedy it is to what is it teaching you. Also, don't spend time and energy brooding about what a victim you are. Instead, see if there is a lesson here. Try accepting the lesson and being grateful for an opportunity to move forward.

  • Let Go. Ask yourself two questions: What can I control right now? What is out of my control right now? Work on changing, if necessary, what you can control. Leave the rest alone; it's not your business in the first place. This is acceptance at the deepest level.

  • Discover empathy. This is one of the most valuable outcomes of gratitude and acceptance; you learn to see the situation through someone's else's eyes. Also, because you're moving away from the damage you feel, you can start being more kind, understanding, and forgiving to yourself. If you change the way you view your life, you can change it for the better.

None of this is easy, but it really works if you stick with it. For example, look at what happened to Catherine in Scenario C. Ever since she was a young child, Catherine felt that she was a disappointment to everyone around her. M'Lady spent years trying to turn Catherine into a mini-version of herself, with all of her style, grace, charm, and good looks. But, Catherine was a small, shy, dumpy child who could barely read and write. It just wouldn't work. Unlike her mother, Catherine was never happier than when she was playing in the mud or roaming the woods chasing bugs or frogs. Going away to school definitely helped her academics, where she got lots of tutoring and one-to-one instruction. Still, she had a hard time making friends and just kept eating more and more. When she went to college, things went from bad to worse. She really didn't fit in there and gained lots more weight. Her classes were overwhelming, with heavy reading assignments. Sadly, Susie's comments were the last straw. Catherine felt like a complete failure. Then, one of her sorority sisters found her crying in the bathroom and offered to take her to a Peer Mentor in the Advising Office.

Terri was the best Peer Mentor anyone could have asked for. She reassured Catherine that she was not alone and they could deal with everything together. They made a plan focusing on three goals: improve academics, feel more comfortable in the sorority, and lose weight. First, Terri contacted the Disability Office and got advocacy and accommodations for Catherine. She suggested that she drop two classes and get extra tutoring for the other three to raise her GPA. Second, when Catherine kept sobbing and refused to go back to the sorority house, Terri set up an appointment for her at the University Counseling Center. Because Catherine was so resistant, Terri walked her over to the Center herself, where Catherine met a warm, caring Counselor named Lisa. With Lisa's support, Catherine started talking about the resentment, sadness, loneliness, & constant feelings of failure that had haunted her since childhood.

To heal some of this negativity, Lisa suggested the 4 Steps to Gratitude and Acceptance (see above). Catherine couldn't believe that anything so simple could work, but she tried anyway. She changed her perspective by journaling about what she could do: she was a loving, loyal daughter; a caring, kind friend; someone with a great sense of humor; a person with a playful spirit; and a knowledgable, strong advocate for the outdoors and the environment. For the first time in her life, she didn't compare herself to M'Lady and come up short. Next, instead of feeling resentful and victimized by Susie's comments, she tried to hear what Susie was really saying--Yes, she really liked Catherine, but she would never be M'Lady. Plus, Catherine had some serious work to do if she ever wanted to fit into the group. With Lisa's help, Catherine made a huge decision. No--she was not M'Lady--and never would be. Instead, Catherine moved out of the sorority house and into the dorm. She finally started becoming her own person. She also decided to join a weight loss and exercise program at the University for her physical health.

Next, Catherine really tried to let go of what she couldn't control (e.g., her mom's disappointment, her relationship with food, her dyslexia and ADHD, and her low self-esteem). She became proactive about what she could control by joining Overeaters Anonymous and learning more about her disabilities. She did self-esteem exercises with Lisa and tried to let go of M'Lady's reactions to the changes in her life. For instance, she changed her major from Psychology (M'Lady's major) to Environmental Sciences. Of most importance, she began fostering empathy in her everyday life. She started really listening to people, asking questions, and looking for non-verbal cues. She volunteered at the local animal shelter, and later at the Disability Office. She tried to connect more with others, instead of withdrawing into her shell. She wanted to understand what others were experiencing, especially when she thought about her parents and how they related to her and each other.

What Catherine never expected was that using gratitude and acceptance gave her a new outlook on her dyslexia and ADHD as well. For instance, she discovered that her on-going struggle with weight loss was strongly influenced by her ADHD and inherent lack of impulse control (Olivardia, 2023). She also found that her difficulties with reading spelling, and writing made her much more empathic to others with learning problems. As she started accepting her dyslexia, she wanted to give something back. So, with a professor's guidance, she created on-line ecology lessons for children with reading problems and English as a Second Language for a final project. The curriculum was so well-received that Catherine decided to become a teacher--and has never looked back. Teaching pre-schoolers is a joy and one her mom is the most proud of. Gratitude and acceptance do work! If you want to try it, see the sites below:



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