There will come soft rains

Who would have thought that the world would come to a grinding halt over a virus?

Not a war with guns and tanks, not an atomic apocalypse. Not a power-hungry leader pushing a button in a fit of pique. Just a stupid little virus that moved from an animal to a human, likely in an open-air market, and brought the world to its knees. This tiny organism has brought out the best and the worst in our leaders and indeed, humankind.

It’s not the first time this has happened and likely will not be the last. We can look to literature to shed light on the political and behavioral rhetoric that invades us from every source.

The peonies have the ugliest shoots of all the early risers; their spring to summer metamorphosis is a miracle.

Sara Teasdale, a seemingly demure St. Louis poetess, reflected her study of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species in her anti-war poem, “There Will Come Soft Rains.”

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

And swallows calling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

And wild-plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,

Would scarcely know that we were gone.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” first appeared in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in July 1918—less than two months after the passage of the Sedition Act. Meant to strengthen the provisions of the already-repressive Espionage Act, the Sedition Act of May 16, 1918 was designed to quash American opposition to the war, outlawing “virtually all criticism of the war or the government” (Goldstein 108). Following its passage, anthologies and magazines continued to publish a small number of anti-war poems, but only if these poems were strategically “nonspecific” in their critique and refrained from offering any “substantive political alternative” to the war (Van Wienen 27). This climate of censorship casts a different light on the apparent obliqueness of Teasdale’s anti-war pastorals. Rather than a limitation, their rhetorical vagaries and historical imprecision might be precisely what enabled their circulation at the height of WWI. It is possible, in fact, that Teasdale’s cultivation of a demure, “poetess” persona might have, contradictorily, enabled her to publish anti-war poetry with impunity.” (Source)

Ray Bradbury took Sara’s quiet look at the survival of the species a giant step forward in his 1950 short story of the same name. In Bradbury’s apocalyptic vision, the world has been destroyed in an atomic disaster, yet “nature” continues through the electronic appliances running the house. Finally, a true natural event changes the course of the story. Bradbury lovers will recognize common themes in this penultimate story in The Martian Chronicles.

“There Will Come Soft Rains”

“In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o’clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o ‘clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty. The clock
ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!

In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunny side up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.

“Today is August 4, 2026,” said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, “in the city of Allendale, California.” It repeated the date three times for memory’s sake. “Today is Mr. Featherstone’s birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita’s marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills.”

Somewhere in the walls, relays clicked, memory tapes glided under electric eyes. Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels. It was raining outside. The weather box on the front door sang quietly: “Rain, rain, go away; umbrellas, raincoats for today. ..” And the rain tapped on the empty house, echoing.

Outside, the garage chimed and lifted its door to reveal the waiting car. After a long wait the door
swung down again.”  Click here for the rest of the story. 

Read this analysis after you’ve read the short story — it’s quite good.

The Good News

The good news for today, in my humble opinion, is that we have not yet met the apocalyptic visions presented by either Teasdale in 1918 or Bradbury in 1950. We can depend on humankind and scientific advances to move us beyond our current crisis. As for me, I’m wearing my homemade mask and dreaming of a day when I can get on an airplane again and travel to another adventure.

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News from our shelter

Palm Sunday paper frond and The Scream (from a neighborhood scavenger hunt) sit side by side on the dining room window.

Wow. A lot has changed since I last opened my blog and thought about writing.

We are putting messages in our windows for our neighbors since we can’t actually talk to them.

We’ve gone from boots weather to spring but I am not worried. There will be boots weather again. So disappointing, but it is Chicago. We are known for our many seasons: boots weather and construction weather.

As retirees together with two years of experience under our belts, we generally have this “home alone together” thing pretty down pat. We each wake up at different times, make our own breakfasts and coffee, and settle in to our tasks for the day. We meet up for meals and some shared media time. It works for us and we are pretty happy campers.

Walking at the empty golf course saves our sanity. We don’t care if we look funny.

Nothing much is new in the quarantined life. Except that we can’t go to the gym, band, church, book club, the botanic garden, restaurants, parties, work at the homeless shelter at our church, or basically do the things that create sparks in our retirement lives. We get out occasionally to walk and have graduated from our bandanna masks to actual tailored masks made by a crafty friend.

You are all in the same boat with us, those of you who follow me from around the world and from here in Illinois. I keep looking for the silver lining in all of this, and I can see a few glimmers of hope.

When Music Man retired, he said that he had a series of projects to do that would likely take years. In year three, he’s working on financial records. His shelter-in-place project is a continuation of what he was doing before, but now he’s got even more time. Lots and lots of time to go through our old tax records and throw stuff out. Lots and lots of recycled paper and bags of shredded paper. And we don’t intend to take this stuff to the condo or retirement home, whichever comes first.

Potato Pancakes from the Village Grill

I’ve been cooking up a storm, as many of us are, and my Google calendar is now full of saved recipe links. It turns out to actually be a good way to save recipes — the Google calendar is searchable and I put the link in the Notes section. Pretty slick and easy to go back and find a recipe. We are also trying to support local restaurants by ordering meals several times a week. Posting the photos on the restaurants’ Facebook pages keeps me improving my photography skills as well.

We’ve learned a new skill — videoconferencing on Zoom. It’s how we are doing church these days, but I’m a little concerned about its privacy problems. There’s Skype, Messenger chat, WhatsApp chat, and good ole FaceTime on our phones. A plethora of ways to reach out and virtually touch our family and friends.

So that’s what’s happening here, friends. Pretty much the same thing that’s happening across the world. We are in this together, and together we can save lives if we take it seriously. Tell me what’s going on with you in the comments.

I’ve been missing you.

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Sunrise Memories

This morning I ran through my memories on Facebook and it was a sunrise moment, shedding light on months and months of writer’s block. It caused me to open up my long-silent blog and reach out to my friends. At least I hope we still are friends after all this time.

This was taken in Siena, Italy, as I threw open my huge hotel room windows with a morning view over the Tuscan countryside.

FROM FACEBOOK

November 4, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Pre-certified hospital and rehab with both insurance companies. Borrowed wheelchair, shower chair, grabber, the mother of all shoehorns, and sock helper from the Arlington Heights Senior Center Lending Closet. I think it’s real now.

It’s been six years since I had my total knee replacement. Three more knee and foot surgeries later, I’m still not fabulously happy with the outcome of my TKR, but I know that the stability of my bionic knee is better than that of the one I haven’t had done yet. I’ve been hearing about huge progress being made in stem cell regrowth of your own meniscus, but my forays into stem cell therapy have had minimal positive results. So I continue to put up with occasional pain in my left knee and a lot of stiffness in my right knee. I’m linking here the recent information I’ve found out that I should have known six years ago. Maybe it will help some of you to avoid what happened to me.

 I WAS ALREADY AT RISK AND NO ONE TOLD ME

“We came to a consensus that contemporary literature supported the following definition of acquired idiopathic stiffness: a range of motion of less than 90 degrees persisting for greater 12 weeks in patients without complicating factors. Moreover, we found the prevalence to be 4% after primary total knee arthroplasty, with females and obese patient being at increased risk.”

Idiopathic Stiffness After TKA: Is This a Thing?

I WAS GIVEN WARFARIN FOR WEEKS
“We found that patients who received warfarin, direct Xa inhibitors, or fondaparinux after TKA were at significantly higher risk of undergoing manipulation under anesthesia for postoperative knee stiffness in comparison to patients who received low molecular weight heparin. In addition, there was no significantly increased risk of MUA in patients who received aspirin postoperatively.”
TURNS OUT I HAVE ARTHROFIBROSIS
I am the walking poster child for arthrofibrosis — my initial treatment was inappropriate, my follow-up care has been exactly as this article suggests with hundreds of visits for physical therapy as well as a manipulation, including last summer’s arthrolysis of adhesions.

https://www.healthline.com/health/total-knee-replacement-surgery/arthrofibrosis#prevention

HE REFUSED TO GIVE ME A CPM MACHINE

Despite the studies showing otherwise, I was one of the people who should have had a CPM machine. My doctor refused to give me one, even though I begged. https://www.verywellhealth.com/do-i-need-a-cpm-following-knee-surgery-2548662  

THESE ARE THE THINGS I PROBABLY SHOULD REQUEST THE NEXT TIME

“Your surgeon may prescribe a CPM machine while you’re lying in bed and recovering from surgery. Your surgeon or physical therapist may also provide exercises designed to reduce the risk of developing arthrofibrosis. Using the following may reduce the odds of experiencing arthrofibrosis:
  • a compression dressing
  • cryotherapy, or the application of extreme cold
  • a suction drain”

https://www.healthline.com/health/total-knee-replacement-surgery/arthrofibrosis

Bottom line — I’ve been lucky that I live in a place where I have options for doctors, hospitals, and physical therapists. My last six years have been full of travel to wonderful places such as Tuscany, and I’ve tried not to let my pesky knees limit me too much. It’s been one of those lifetime experiences that gives one empathy for others and builds fortitude for the years ahead.

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Ready for Christmas? Or NOT.

In the spirit of Christmas, I’m going to tell the truth. This is not my current state of home decor. This was my village five years ago  (I wrote about it here), but I’m not sure we’ve set it up since then. It’s a lot of intricate work, but beautiful when it’s complete.

GotMyReservations Dickens Village

The village is at its prettiest when the sun is going down and the lights begin to illuminate the figures.

I’m almost there, though. We’ve hung the wreath and hooked up the electricity.

Maybe almost is not quite the right word.

We’ve cleared off the shelf so that we can put out all the serving pieces. It’s really easy when friends and family visit; I just tell them to grab something off the shelf to serve their food contributions. Right now we only have the first piece out — new this year is the Nora Fleming square baking dish. I blame my friend Michele for getting me started on these; the Santa hat is just too darn cute, and my rationale is that the dish is the perfect size for the empty nest and can be used all year with different trim pieces.

I also switched out the mug shelf. I went back through my archives to see if I ever talked about my mugs, and I did, but somehow the photo is gone.  Suffice to say, I have a dozen cute mugs and we use them for everything during the holidays, including for soup and as silverware caddies.

So out there in blogland, everyone is showing their completed holiday decor. They’ve been showing it since before Thanksgiving in some cases.

Aren’t you glad to know that there is someone like you out there? Just keeping it real, friends.

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Finding My Voice – AGAIN

This week, I got an email and blog post from a blogger that I haven’t heard from for three years. She told a story that resonated with me; she got sick of worrying about SEO and sponsors and monetizing her blog and just stopped writing. She went so far as to say that she didn’t really care if anyone read her blog, since she was mostly doing the writing as a way to collect recipes for herself.

Interesting. There are other ways to collect recipes, but I sure could empathize with her decision to stop worrying about making her blog make money and just use it as a sounding board. That’s mostly what I have been doing all along.

It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything meaningful, and today may not add to the gems I have written. Yet, I feel the urge to get it down on paper and out there…

As I do every year, I am prepping our house for a visit from our relatives. Almost every year for the last thirty-six years, Music Man’s family has flown in from the West Coast, stayed at our house for a couple of nights, and then we have driven 200 miles together to go to our family reunion. Every year I say I’m going to start the prepping and fluffing earlier, and every year things get in the way. I love having them visit, let’s be clear about that, but unfortunately due to my poor planning, now I have about 72 hours to get everything ready for house guests.

But what got in the way today, you are probably asking? Let me count the ways…

  1. Catching the award travel plane reservations on the first day I could buy tickets for our trip to France; that took a few hours, but is oh-so satisfying to use points to get to Europe and far more important than cleaning.
  2. Cleaning out my guest bathroom, which ended up including sorting medicines and pitching expired stuff. That led to cleaning out the back-storage closet where we keep medicines and supplies. You know, like the FOUR heating pads we have collected along the way. I’m trying to figure out how anyone could need four heating pads, but we are certainly prepared for any such emergency.
  3. Cleaning out my shoe rack, because of course I am a professional at buying (and returning) travel shoes from Amazon in the attempt to find the perfect shoe that can be worn with both trousers and dresses. I know there is such an animal, but I can’t get it in the size I need. Since I was already cleaning my shoe rack, then I had to go through the boxes full of orthotics and inserts that I have collected to keep my sad sore feet a little less sad and sore. Once again, I haven’t found the perfect match between my feet and my orthotics. But I have enough of them to outfit an army, it seems.

So now, I’m tired and ready to sit down with some juice derived from grapes and watch some British television. But I still have to put those orthotics away and clean off my bed before I can lay me down to sleep. And then I felt the need to write, so here you are. In the immortal words of Julie Powell, in Julie and Julia, is there anybody out there? I feel you…

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Photography Challenge Week 2: Straight Out of the Camera

I’m running a little behind on my posting, but I have a really good reason. Just in case you have forgotten or didn’t know, I live in a Chicago suburb. And, as Januarys are wont to be, it’s pretty cold here. AND — my furnace went out last week. More on that later, but today’s post is all about Photography Challenge Week 2: Straight Out of the Camera.

This week’s challenge as described by the Dogwood administrators:

WEEK 2 Technical: SOOC Straight out of the Camera. No Photoshop. Shoot a compelling image and post it without edits. No cheating! (Be sure and save the image file for the end of the challenge!)

I took these photos with the challenge in mind, trying to get the best light I could and to crop in my camera rather than in post-processing. All of them would improve with some processing, so I look forward to touching them up later in the year. I’m not really a big processor, but I do improve lighting, color, and almost always do some cropping on my photos.

Tiny Tavern table flowers Navy Pier

Taken at our table at the Tiny Tavern on Navy Pier in Chicago, this photo does a decent job of following the rule of thirds. It’s the best of the four I took.

Quilting tools

I’m part of a crafting group at our church and I loved the POV on this photo of the quilt patch and the quilter’s tools.

Crochet project

The craftwoman’s hands as she starts a new crochet project.

Next up on the photography challenge:

WEEK 3 Artistic: Land Your inspiration this week is land. This could be a landscape, or an image inspired by the land in some way.

Link up your photos in the comments or on my Facebook page if you want to participate with me. I’m always looking for constructive criticism and I know you will be kind.

As far as the furnace story goes, it took us three visits by the repair tech and two replacement parts to figure out what was wrong with our furnace. We were early adopters of a high-effeciency heating system and over the years our furnace has saved us a lot of money in gas bills. Since we sign up for a service contract every year, we have also received both warrantied parts plus labor and discounted replacements over the years. This time was a doozy — with our tech finally figuring out that we still had a first-generation electronics board when most of them have been replaced over the years because they failed. Carrier is now on the fifth-generation board for this furnace — versions one, two, three, and four were all faulty in some way or another. The tech never thought to even check the serial number on our board because he just assumed it had been replaced long ago. The board was unable to talk to our fancy thermostat and eventually just gave up in disgust and shut down the furnace. Obviously it was a relief to get it fixed, and then today, our tech came back again for our maintenance check and to fix our humidifier, which was also not working. I have asked multiple times if I should just replace our aging furnace, and our guys keep saying no.

I’d say that I’m assuming they know what they are talking about, but my experience this week tells me that assuming makes… wait for it… an A** out of U & Me. 🙂

Did you watch the first episode of the new PBS series about Queen Victoria? It looks good so far, and sent me and my friends to the internet to look up all those tangled family trees that got her on the throne.

Have a wonderful week!

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Photography Challenge Week 1: Rule of Thirds Storytelling

This is my story and I’m sticking to it.

I got booted back into writing on my blog by my son who posted a very personal story on Facebook about his annus horribilis of 2016. It’s his story to tell, but I share it because I want to give him some credit for giving me inspiration to write again. I’ve also had a difficult year, but that’s no reason not to write. Actually, for me, it should have been a reason TO write.

Although I didn’t stop taking photos, I did stop posting them on photo sharing sites. I also began to curate who saw my photos on Facebook. What a knucklehead way to react to depression. Enough said.

Back in the photography saddle again

For 2017, I’ve decided to participate in the 52 Week Photography Challenge from Dogwood Photography. Each weekly assignment will include a thematic hook plus a photography technique. Week One’s task is to tell a story using the rule of thirds, a common photography technique.

“Story Telling: Good photographers can take beautiful images of something. Great photographers can take an image that tells its story. This category makes use of compositional rules and directed prompts to push you towards not just looking at the beauty of something, but to find a way to tell that something’s story.(https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge2017.html ).

Interpreting the rule of thirds at the Lincoln Park Conservatory

During the holidays, we decided to go to Chicago’s Lincoln Park to see the seasonal display at the Conservatory and the lighting festival at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The two venues are adjacent to each other and admission is free. They are Chicago treasures! I took my camera along hoping for some inspired rule-of-thirds photos.

lincoln park conservatory windows

Looking through the steamy and city-smogged glass of the 1890s-era Lincoln Park Conservatory, you can see the beautiful luxury apartment buildings along Lincoln Park West.

A visit to Chicago during holiday seasons should include a visit to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which has special seasonal flower displays (and so does the Garfield Park Conservatory).

Garden Girl by Frederick C. Hibbard [1881-1950], Carved in marble: 1937. Location: Lincoln Park Conservatory.

Even Garden Girl by Frederick C. Hibbard [1881-1950],
carved in marble (1937), is decked out in a Santa hat.

 Storytelling in the urban community

A rainy grey day emphasizes the geometric forms of the cityscape.

A rainy grey day emphasizes the geometric forms of the cityscape.

That’s it for this week — thank goodness there are no rules that I need to follow. Next week’s theme is straight out of the camera. No cropping, no color adjusting, no brightening up the lighting. I’m wishing myself good luck on this one.

This photography challenge is based in Flickr, which I do not use.  I plan to share my photos here, on Google +, and on Facebook where I normally share my blog posts. Feel free to follow me on Facebook, but you know how it is with non-boosted posts. You may not see my feed. You will always see my feed if you use email or Google + delivery, or whatever you prefer for your social media feed. I appreciate all of you who stop here to visit and please comment on which photo you like better! Constructive criticism is welcome.

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Another year, another philosophical post

Life is challenging and sometimes scary. Life is exciting and oh-so-fun. Such a dichotomy fills my days. And here we are with another year flown by in the unyielding dance toward the final destiny.

Those of us who are baby boomers have been hit hard at our cores that many performers and influential people of OUR generation have passed away. Every time one of the death notices shows up on Facebook, we are forced to examine our own mortality and admit that it just as easily could have been us. That’s hard, friends.

As most of us do this time of year, I’ve been trying to re-imagine my life for 2017. What makes me happy? How do I want to serve others? What am I going to do to support a healthy lifestyle so maybe I won’t have a heart attack on a plane between London and Chicago? And where is my safe, drama-free place?

I know you don’t want to see photos of my recent foot surgery ( just ask, and I’ll share privately 🙂 ) but having the bunionectomy and hammer toe correction this fall helps me believe there’s hope of a more active and pain-free 2017. If recent days are any indication, I might actually be able to walk those daily 10,000 steps and ride my elliptical bike for an hour a day. And I love my aqua aerobics classes!

Realizing that I can lose that damn weight if I want to is freeing. I’m setting my sights on simple changes in my diet — a fruit, a vegetable, and a protein at each meal will go a long way toward making me healthier and happier. At least for the time being, I’m cutting out processed grains, potatoes, rice, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) because they all cause inflammatory reactions. I’ve got enough inflammation in my joints to last me the rest of my life, thank you very much.

I’m also looking at finding the right niche that needs me for volunteer work. It’s been suggested to me that my relative youth, computer skills, and upper body strength make me a good candidate to work at the local medical equipment lending closet. I’m heading over there to return the shower chair I borrowed for use after my foot surgery and to sign up to help. More on that as we go along.

As a lifelong learner, I’d like to up my photography game this year. I have seen lots of changes in my photos and my gear since I retired four years ago, and I love that I’m still a student of this beautiful art. The plan is to set up a little studio in my office (which needs some massive decluttering and reorganizing). It’s a process. I also plan to do another photography challenge this year to keep me disciplined and learning new techniques.

Recently, I discovered that there’s an actual college degree program and career as a food historian. I’ve always been fascinated with the cultural and familial connections of what people eat — and it seems a perfect way to meld my love of preparing and eating food and of photography. Again, more on that in future posts.

Finally, one year from today, Music Man and I will be entering the next chapter in our life together. He retires on December 1, 2017, and I’m discounting the holidays as a lost month, but January 1, 2018 will begin to tell the truth about what we have done in 2017 to prepare for it and who we will be in the future. Frankly, I can’t wait to have my buddy around more.

Happy new year to you, dear friends. I intend to focus on a positive path through the issues that are likely to present themselves in 2017, and hope we navigate this year in peace and productivity.

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What’s In A Word?

Click into photo for bio and photo source

Click into photo for bio and photo source

Anyone who’s been around me more than a few minutes knows that I love language — its sounds, its clarity and lack of clarity, and its anthropology. A friend of mine sent me an article about learning Potawatomi, the language of an indigenous American people who are now scattered to the winds in “a tribal diaspora” — as the author puts it — and the language of her ancestors.

I loved Robin Wall Kimmerer’s understanding about the Potawatomi people’s language and their relationship to the earth — their language gives life to inanimate objects. In this excerpt, she talks about how a noun moves to a verb, giving it animacy. The language lovers among you will totally “get” Kimmerer’s thrill when she sees the relationship between language and the natural world.

An electric current sizzled down my arm and through my finger, and practically scorched the page where that one word lay. In that moment I could smell the water of the bay, watch it rock against the shore and hear it sift onto the sand. A bay is a noun only if water is dead. When bay is a noun, it is defined by humans, trapped between its shores and contained by the word. But the verb wiikegama–to be a bay–releases the water from bondage and lets it live. “To be a bay” holds the wonder that, for this moment, the living water has decided to shelter itself between these shores, conversing with cedar roots and a flock of baby mergansers. Because it could do otherwise–become a stream or an ocean or a waterfall, and there are verbs for that, too. To be a hill, to be a sandy beach, to be a Saturday, all are possible verbs in a world where everything is alive. Water, land, and even a day, the language a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms. This is the language I hear in the woods, this is the language that lets us speak of what wells up all around us.

Click here to read the entire essay on The Daily Good.

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a botany professor at SUNY Syracuse in New York, and has published several books and essays. Here’s an interview with her in a podcast. Fascinating!

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Road Trip to End All Road Trips

Do you have a spare two months coming up soon — before it snows? If so, you can drive a road trip route that hits all of the national parks in the continental United States, in just under 15,000 miles, and celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

My parents were fans of summer camping trips, probably because it was the cheapest way for us to travel, and I’ve been to many of these national parks. But not all of them. This is a fun goal for our retirement travels!

The link is shared from House Beautiful’s Facebook page and I just discovered this wonderful feature. It’s called “embed” and you get to it by clicking on the carat in the top right hand corner of a Facebook post. The code embeds directly into your blog post and voila! You’ve shared something wonderful from Facebook.

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