Your Road to Retirement: Let’s Chat about Financial Planning

February 15, 2017

I know, I know. The subject makes you want to turn and run, right? You’re not alone – I can think of very few people who actually enjoy the process of dissecting their spending and saving habits. But you know what? It’s truly not as painful as it seems, and today I’m here to show you (nay, convince you) why it’s the perfect time to sit down with a financial advisor. At Scotiabank, they offer this service for free with no minimum balance – so what do you have to lose?

First, let’s look at the calendar. March is creeping up on us! And in advance of the March 1st RRSP contribution deadline, it’s important to uncover where you are with your retirement savings, and where you want to be. Last week, I wasn’t all that certain.

You’ll remember from a previous post, Your Road to Retirement: What are Your Savings Goals for 2017? – I was once a smug saver. Today, I’m not as comfortable – with a brand new home (and brand new mortgage) on the horizon, I’ve been under mild stress (read: panic attacks) trying to figure out if I can afford to save. Rather than trying to crunch the numbers myself, last week, I visited my local Scotiabank branch and sat down with Simpreet Sivia, Senior Financial Advisor.
IMG_4206 (2)Here’s what I learned from my visit.

1. Overcome your fear of financial judgement. I get it. It’s hard to be so transparent with a stranger – even one who’s trying to help you sort through your finances. No one likes to have their spending habits judged; we’re all just trying to do what’s right for ourselves and our families. But the logical first step in the financial planning process is admitting that there’s room for improvement, and then, being open to advice. (more…)

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Questions About Winter Tires? I Have Answers.

January 25, 2017

“Are you sure we need winter tires this year?” my mom asked. “We’re retired. We don’t have to venture out when it snows. We can just stay indoors.”

“My all-season tires are brand new!” my friend lamented. “The tread is fine, trust me.”

“There’s no way I can afford winter tires,” another friend confided. “With the cost of gas, insurance and car payments, I can hardly afford to drive!”

Sound familiar? You may even see your own situation in the answers above. And so rather than lecture you (I’d never do that!) on the importance of winter tires, I’m just here to answer your questions.
20170114_100609a“Are you sure we need winter tires, even if we don’t venture out?”

You probably don’t need winter tires if you *never* have to leave your house when it snows, like, ever. (Frankly, even that is a misconception – winter tires actually begin to work their magic the minute the temperature falls below 7° Celsius.) But what about when you’re already out and it begins to snow? Freshly fallen snow on the roads – before the salt trucks can do their thing – can present dangerous driving hazards. So unless you’re a meteorologist (or are obsessive about checking your local weather channel), chances are you may be faced with inclement driving conditions.

And, do you ever have to leave to pick up a child or grandchild? Go to the doctor or the hospital? Run out for a bag of sugar? You know, those things you don’t plan for, but necessitate leaving the house? Yeah, that happens to me too, which is why I’d rather have the added safety of winter tires.  (more…)

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Let’s Have a Seriously FUN Talk.

January 5, 2017

“Are your kids in any competitive sports?”

It’s a simple question, but one that instantly puts me on the defensive. Because let’s be honest; in the past few years, kids’ sports have become increasingly competitive, to the point where competition – and winning – are the main undercurrents of the program. In fact, while both Ryder and Reid participated in house league soccer for years, we recently pulled Reid from the program.

It’s not a big deal. The team was fine, the coach was fine, but there was definitely an emphasis on winning – a slightly uncomfortable emphasis, if I’m being honest. One day, as I watched Reid, running head down and visibly frustrated, I realized one thing: it wasn’t fun for him anymore.

And kids’ sports are supposed to be FUN.

This past Christmas, both Ryder and Reid received their first pairs of ice skates. I know what you’re thinking – if there’s one sport that has a reputation for competitiveness, it’s hockey. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
McDonald’s Canada believes kids’ hockey should be fun. That’s why they sponsor more than 53,000 Atom and Bantam hockey players across Canada each year. The atoMc Hockey Program provides teams a full set of primary game jerseys and socks, featuring the Hockey Canada logo – the same worn by Canada’s National teams.  (more…)

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This Winter, What are You Willing to Risk?

December 29, 2016

As the sun rises, the tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air. Reaching for a cup, you glance down at your smartphone, scrolling past the text messages and onto the local weather app. An inclement weather warning flashes across the screen. You peek outside the window, confirming that there is a fresh layer of snow blanketing the ground. You know what you have to do.

You’ll dress your children warmly, adding layers of protection to cover their delicate skin. You’ll start the car and let it idle in the driveway, allowing the interior to warm to a comfortable temperature. You’ll double check the car seats, ensuring they are positioned properly and the harness is snug. You’ll clear the car’s windshield of snow and ice, confirming you have a clear, unobstructed view.

After all, your children are your most precious cargo. You’re not willing to risk their safety.

And then, you’ll slowly ease out of your driveway, ready to merge into the rush of morning traffic. And just like 34% of the other drivers on the road, you’ll do it without the added safety of winter tires.

What are you willing to risk?
15306597_1066604200118142_1272488536519475200_nDespite an overwhelming majority of Canadians indicating that safety outweighs cost when it comes to purchasing winter tires, a recent Michelin survey revealed that more than 1 in 3 Canadian drivers still do not own a set.

Think about it. Think about everything you do to protect your kids, to keep them safe. And if you don’t have children or grandchildren, think about what you would do to protect the ones you know – a niece, a nephew, a student, a friend. Think about what is holding you back from purchasing winter tires for your car.

Think about why you are willing to take the risk.  (more…)

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Travelling with Baby this Winter? Here’s What to Do.

December 22, 2016

Compensation for this post was provided by hydraSense®. Always read and follow the label.

We first travelled with my sons when they were ages 2 and 4 – and since then, they’ve been on an airplane 38 times.

I think we have this “travelling with kids” thing down pat.

Of course, we’ve learned a few lessons along the way! Travelling with children requires a heightened level of planning and organization (if you think it could go wrong, it probably will) and when it comes to vacationing over the winter months, it’s even more important to be prepared.
img_3777-1If you’re planning family travel around the holidays or in the new year, here are a few of my tried and true tips for travelling with young ones!

1. Don’t ignore a runny nose (for too long). I know, we’re told not to run to the doctor for every little thing. But if you’re travelling with young ones, especially in flu season, it’s better to have them checked out at home (or even abroad) to properly diagnose and treat the ailment. In one instance, I ignored the onset of cold systems and decided to fly with the boys, only to have Ryder clutching his ears and howling with pain for the entire flight. We had him checked out when we landed – you guessed it, ear infection. Had I taken him to the doctor before we departed, I could have saved time, money and most importantly, protected him from a painful experience. If you think your child is sick, don’t take chances!  (more…)

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We All Add Up! This Season, Find Your Gratitude Number

December 20, 2016

It’s the last week before Christmas.

If you’re running around, trying to find the perfect gift, I want you to stop. Step back and breathe.
If you’re frantically searching online for the latest gadget or gizmo, walk away from the computer.
If you’re convinced that your tween or teen will have high expectations, relax. Don’t stress.

The truth is, all they want for Christmas is… you.

Put those wallets away! The most popular gift for teens this season doesn’t have a price tag. A new survey from Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada (RMHC) found that what your teen wants most this holiday season is actually closer to home than you think – spending quality time together as a family is the most important thing to teens. And contrary to popular belief, only 1% of teens surveyed said giving gifts ranked high on their must-haves for the holiday.

Does this ring true in your house?

While my boys aren’t teens (yet!), I can still appreciate the feeling of love, comfort and security that comes from knowing my family is close. But this year, 497 families of sick children will rely on a Ronald McDonald House each night to keep them together for the holidays. Tonight, we are grateful to be home, together.
14592080_692171424291970_4687042280492630016_nWhat is your Gratitude Number? Our Gratitude Number helps us give the gift of keeping families close. Simply add up the ages of your family members – then donate that amount to RMHC. It’s a fun and easy way to show your support!

Why RMHC? It’s simple. Did you know that 70% of Canadian families live outside a city with a children’s hospital? So when a child gets sick, they often have to travel hours to get treatment. The 15 Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada give families a place to stay close to the hospital where their child is being treated. And, as a parent, keeping families together at Christmas is very close to my heart.  (more…)

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Put a Bow on It! Canadian Tire’s Top Toys for Christmas

December 16, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Ho-Ho-How’s that holiday shopping coming along?

If you’re like me, you’ve already put a dent in your to-do list. Parents? Check! Husband? Check! Kids….?? Okay, so I *still* have a little bit of shopping left to do. The thing is, kids are notoriously difficult to shop for, because there are just too many amazing toys to select from!

LEGO or Air Hogs? Dolls or a dream house? NERF Blasters or Micro Machines?

Never fear, friends – I’m here to narrow down the options in the best possible way – by sharing Canadian Tire’s Top Toys for Christmas, straight from Santa’s Workshop!

No, really. I’ve been there.
img_3891It gets better. Last week, I hosted a very special Mom’s Night Out for some of my favourite Toronto influencers! With very special instructions for how to make it to the North Pole (it’s a secret, after all) we gathered for a night of food, girl talk and merriment.  (more…)

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Because When Baby Breathes Better, You’ll Feel Better Too

December 6, 2016

Sponsored by hydraSense®

Just in time for cold season, keep reading for information on hydraSense®, the number one nasal saline brand in Canada for children*. Made with 100 per cent undiluted natural-source seawater that helps reduce and relieve nasal cold symptoms such as nasal congestion to help baby breathe better.
20161106_141738I’ll never forget my baby’s first cold.

He was just over five months old, and one chilly afternoon in fall, it all began with a telltale stream of thin, watery mucus escaping from his sweet little nose.

“Uh oh,” I thought to myself. “Here we go.”

By nightfall, he was fussy, refusing to feed and increasingly congested. It was heartbreaking to watch my baby struggle to breathe through his nose, knowing that as every hour passed, the runny mucus was turning thick and yellow. I don’t think my husband or I slept a wink that night, taking turns walking up and down the hall, soothing him to sleep.  (more…)

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Traditions, New and Old: Ross Petty’s Sleeping Beauty

December 3, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

I’ll be completely honest, friends. When I was asked if I’d like to attend Ross Petty’s latest production, Sleeping Beauty – The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical, I had to Google it.

(Please don’t shake your head at me. Clearly I’ve been living under a rock.)

The thing is, when I started asking around, and doing my own little research, I found out that Ross Petty’s annual production is not only a tradition for many, many families each holiday season – it’s also one of Toronto’s longest running theatrical events!
cykdzfxusaarzmnSince 1996, Ross Petty Productions have been producing what they call “Fractured Fairy Tale Musicals” at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre. The shows are firmly in the old English pantomime tradition, incorporating many of that style’s elements — broad comedy, winking asides that break the “fourth wall”, audience participation, and, of course, a man in a dress. (Source) (more…)

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Celebrate the REAL Side of Parenting: #StopCOMPAREnting

November 26, 2016

You do it. I do it. At one time or another, we all do it.

We compare ourselves to other parents – specifically, the filtered, staged and cropped images we see in our social feeds. Even though these images often depict a filtered reality, and not the real picture.

It’s time to #stopCOMPAREnting.

To celebrate the real side of parenting – the one we don’t always see through our social media feeds – QUAKER is calling on Canadian families to join the #stopCOMPAREnting movement and embrace life outside of the square. On Tuesday, November 29th, join us for a very special Twitter Chat.
quaker-masterbrand-promographic-nov28-2Bring your photos and your stories that celebrate the real side of parenting. Look beyond the image and revel in the authentic, unpolished everyday moments. Be inspired and inspire others in return. And most importantly, #stopCOMPAREnting.

There is no RSVP for this chat; simply join the conversation by following @QuakerCanada and @Listen2Lena on Twitter. See you on Tuesday night!

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Best Buy Baby: Big Savings on Brands You Trust

November 8, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

It’s been a while since I shopped for baby gear. Everything has changed… and yet, it all stays the same.

Because when it comes to strollers or swings, breast pumps or bassinets, in the end, it all comes down to two things: quality and price. The first is easy to prove: find out the longevity of the brand in the marketplace, read online reviews, ask friends and family. And for the second, it’s even more simple: just shop at Best Buy.

YES, Best Buy!

Best Buy has the best products from reliable brands that parents trust. In a previous post, I shared my top picks for baby-to-be… fitting, because my brother and sister-in-law are expecting another little girl! It’s true – this princess is just a few short months away from becoming a big sister.
_dsc0545Now, I know you’re probably zeroing in on my adorable niece in her “Peaches n Cream Barbie”-inspired dress, but I really want you to look behind her, and take a peek at the gorgeous Stork Craft Princess 4-in-1 Crib. The solid wood crib converts to a toddler bed, daybed, and full-sized bed, and the heirloom scrollwork and beautiful bow detailing make this crib an enchanting piece for any nursery.  (more…)

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Busy Families, Hectic Mornings: How to Start out Smart

November 2, 2016

It’s no secret: Mornings are hectic. From the moment I hear the dreaded “5 more minutes!” until the boys are finally out the door, it’s a mad rush against the clock. This means that sometimes, one of my kids will go to school with mismatched socks, and more often, breakfast will be rushed (or in my husband’s case, skipped altogether).
_dsc0602aWe’re working on changing that. Using simple techniques to encourage a more seamless morning routine, the boys and I have been able to get more out of our time together before school. Curious? I thought you might be! I’ve partnered with Minute Maid to provide you with some easy tips and tricks to start out smart!  (more…)

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Because the First MINUTE of the Day should be a Nutritious One.

November 1, 2016

In Canada, one of every five children is at risk of starting the school day on an empty stomach due to a lack of access to nutritious food. That means that nearly one million Canadian children are at risk of getting nothing to eat before they go to school in the morning.

This is not only alarming, but also something that I feel truly requires our attention as parents, and as a society. As I urge my children to finish their breakfasts in the morning, I’m caught thinking about this statistic. I think about it when they turn up their nose at the food options I present, or leave the table without finishing their meal. I think about it after they’ve left for school, as I scrape food remnants from their plates and bowls into the garbage bin.

Sounds familiar, mamas? I know it does.

A generation ago, my own mother chastised my brother and me for skipping breakfast; she reminded us how lucky we were to have the opportunity to go to school on a full stomach. At the time, I placated her – just as my kids do now – scarfing down my meal to avoid a lecture.

Today, I realize that it’s about more than just food waste and rumbling tummies. I know there are real benefits to going to school nourished, including heightened concentration and learning potential. And, when you realize that 60% of learning happens before lunch, it becomes clear why breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day.
_dsc0626aIn fact, according to Breakfast Club of Canada, when children get a balanced meal in a positive, stimulating environment, there are marked improvements in:

– Behaviour and concentration
– Academic performance
– Social skills, self-confidence and the ability to interact with peers and adults
– Overall interest in the subjects being taught
– Incidents of bullying (more…)

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Powering Halloween Safety

October 28, 2016

Trick or treat! We take Halloween seriously. I mean, remember the “Zombie Minnie Mouse” from 2015? Well, I won’t let you forget her.
12145525_182846688723752_346863970_nMy boys are equally excited about the spookiest day of the year. They’ve been asking to wear their costumes daily (“for the last time, NO!”) and we’ve already planned out our trick-or-treating route. And, like every mom getting her kids ready for a night of Halloween fun, safety is a top concern.  (more…)

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IndigoKids Holiday: My Wish List!

October 20, 2016

I’m not one to leave anything until the last minute.

Just kidding! I leave everything until the 11th hour. A serial procrastinator, I work best under pressure and thrive on the stress of a looming deadline.

However, for all my dilly-dallying, there’s one thing I never leave up to chance – Holiday shopping.

You see, it’s all well and fine if I fudge my own deadline or miss out on an opportunity. But I would never do that to the little ones in my life: my boys and nieces deserve to have their Christmas wish lists fulfilled, and when I can find everything I need in one place – with an incredible selection at great prices – of course I’ll be proactive!

That place is IndigoKids. This holiday season, I’ve partnered with Indigo to Make it Merry and help you find gifts that every kid on your holiday list will love!

So, why IndigoKids? A long time “must do” with my kids when we’re out and about, they offer a dynamic in-store experience (and stress-free online shop!) that ignites joy, imagination, and discovery in kids of all ages. Plus, they just happen to have one of the largest selections of children’s books in the country, in addition to wish list staples from popular brands like LEGO, Playmobil, Shopkins, Disney and Ty, as well as specialty brands such as American Girl, The Honest Company, Skip Hop, and Melissa and Doug.

Simply put, it’s a joy to shop at IndigoKids for the holidays!

This year, IndigoKids is back with their famed #IndigoWishlist. Selected by Indigo’s book and toy experts, they’ve assembled a line-up of exclusive and in-demand holiday gifts are guaranteed to please every child on your list! And this season, I’ve had the unique opportunity to curate my own wish lists for the boys!
116332_kids-influencer_06Now I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I’ve got a little reader on my hands. Ryder has recently taken a greater interest in books, and after visiting Universal Orlando last month, he’s now officially curious about Harry Potter. (more…)

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Step Up Your Menu! Make Your Thanksgiving Feast Even More Special #TasteTheFeeling

October 5, 2016

I have a love-hate relationship with holiday menu planning. Being an type-A personality, I always want to be the one to host special occasion dinners; I like the challenge of conceptualizing a feast, preparing the meal and basking in the glory of thankful family members.

“Oh, Lena, you outdid yourself! Everything is delicious!”

Yeah, I know. I’m pretty awesome.

Thankfully, I have a great partner in crime. Possibly the only person who enjoys entertaining even more than I do is my husband; he’s the first to grab cookbooks, suggest dishes and decorations, and always pitches in with the shopping, cooking and cleanup. We’re a dream team in the kitchen!
_dsc0070aThis year, I’ve decided go rogue and swap our traditional turkey for a savoury beef pot roast. Of course, since I’m already switching things up, why not do something super special? Thanks to my friends at Coca-Cola, an idea was born to incorporate our favourite beverage – both at the table AND in the meal! (more…)

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Best Buy: Big Savings on Baby Essentials!

September 23, 2016

Husband to Me: “What are you doing?”
Me: “Just browsing online at… they’re having a sale!”
Him (suddenly interested): “Oh really? What are you looking at?”
Me: “Baby gear! Cribs and car seats and gliders and monitors!”
Him (silent, slightly confused): “Um… baby stuff? At Best Buy?”

YES! If you didn’t already know, Best Buy has the best products from reliable brands that parents trust. From entertainment to comfort, to peace of mind, Best Buy is ready to meet all your parenting needs. And if you have a wee one to shop for, it’s the perfect time to check them out – ALL nursery furniture and decor is on sale this weekend only (Sept 23-25) in-store and online, and their Baby Event continues until September 29th, 2016.

Now I have the best news to share – our extended family is getting a little bigger! My brother and sister-in-law are expecting again, and soon I’ll have two little nieces to shower with love. So, of course I’m spending a lot of time on – seeing how I can spoil our new little princess! Here’s what I have my eye on –
1. Stork Craft Princess 4-in-1 Crib. Give your nursery a fairy-tale look! This solid wood crib converts to a toddler bed, daybed, and full-sized bed, offering a practical solution for your growing child. The heirloom scrollwork and beautiful bow detailing make this crib an enchanting piece for any nursery. On sale until Sept 29 for $479.99.  (more…)

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The Most Prepared Mom: Back to School Edition

September 8, 2016

This post was sponsored by the makers of BENADRYL®. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

I mean, in theory. Back to school time always throws me for a loop; as much as I think I’m ready to have the boys return to a routine, there’s always a bit of a struggle. Mornings are hectic, weekday night schedules are constantly changing and let’s not discuss the shenanigans at bedtime. Sigh.

However, once we do get back into our groove, I like to make a few more updates for the new school year. First, I re-visit our cable television, internet and mobile phone plans to ensure that we’re only paying for the services we need and use. Next, I clean out the pantry. Over the summer we tend to be more lenient with the boys’ diets (do we really need eight kinds of cookies?) and a fall refresh ensures I’m stocking up on good, brain-fueling foods.

Finally, I always use back to school time as reminder to update our medicine chest and first aid kit. With the boys once again in close proximity with other kids in a shared environment, infections and reactions are sure to happen. And, cold and flu season is not far behind. Here’s how to be the most prepared mom: back to school edition.bear1. Replace all expired and soon-to-expire medications. The middle of the night is not the time to discover that your child’s fever-reducing medicine expired last month. Use back to school time as a reminder to check the expiration dates of all prescription and over the counter medicines, as well as items such as rubbing alcohol and sanitizer, antibiotic ointments and allergy medications.  (more…)

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Thank You, Mom.

August 21, 2016

Today, I’m a little emotional.

As the 2016 Olympic Games come to a close, I’m thinking about the highlights from the Games. The women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay team, including Penny Oleksiak, the 16-year-old sensation from Toronto. Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Andre De Grasse, more-than-ever household names thanks to their medal-winning performances. Olympic gold in high jump, individual trampoline, freestyle swimming and wrestling.
winIt’s a great time to be Canadian.

I’m also thinking about the parents of Olympians. I’m thinking about the moms and dads who’ve supported our athletes in the pursuit of their dreams. I’m picturing the early morning practices and the late night physiotherapy sessions. I’m thinking about the fierce hugs and pep talks; the emotional words of encouragement, the calm words of comfort. I’m wondering how many times they waited by the phone for their child to call, saying they have safely arrived.

But that’s what parents do. It’s the job we signed up for.  (more…)

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Baby on Board… Baby on Plane! Mark Oldershaw’s Packing List

August 17, 2016

“Mark Oldershaw bringing young family to Olympics despite Zika threat,” reads the headline. “Canadian canoeist ‘confident’ that situation in Rio under control.”

Travelling with a baby, despite what you’ve read and what you’ve heard, is never as easy as it sounds. There are mini meltdowns and major tantrums. You may (will?) experience delays, cancellations and the dreaded plane descent. And if you’re really, really unlucky, a diaper blowout. Or two. (Always pack an extra set of clothing!)

But does that deter millions of parents from travelling with their young ones? Not on your life. Family travel offers a wealth of experiences and the memories made will last a lifetime (at least for mom and dad!). And for Mark Oldershaw, a third generation Olympian and the fifth member of his family to compete at the Games, family travel means having his infant daughter cheering him on in Brazil.
Mark Oldershaw dad“Excited to have them there in the crowd,” Oldershaw said in a phone interview with the CBC, as part of a sponsorship with Pampers.

Now, while some athletes had expressed reservations about going to Brazil, with some even pulling out of the Games, the Oldershaw family’s plans did not change.

“We know that the COC and International Olympic Committee is very on top of it and making sure that it will be safe for athletes,” said the native of Burlington, Ontario. “I’m very confident it will be safe for me and Annamay (his wife) and (his daughter) Josephine.”  (more…)

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