Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Acting Techniques for Everyday Life

If you missed the Virtual Book Tour on Wednesday's blog, scroll down for author Jane Marla Robbins' interview about Acting Techniques for Everyday Life.

Want to feel strong and relaxed no matter what you're doing? You'll find answers by clicking on 'comments' at the end of yesterday's post. Our readers' questions will resonate, and Jane's responses are insightful, thoughtful and honest.

Thanks, Jane, for ideas about how to feel more confident in many difficult family, work and social situations. Your techniques create a sense of well being so we can make our most uncomfortable moments less stressful.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: Acting Techniques for Everyday Life

Readers, we're delighted you've joined our Virtual Book Tour today and a hearty welcome to author Jane Marla Robbins. We think that you'll be very interested in what this successful actress and performance coach has to say about her thought provoking book, Acting Techniques for Everyday Life: Look And Feel Self-Confident in Difficult Real Life Situations. So let's get started on some readers’ questions:

Nourishing Relationships: I am in a wonderful marriage, we don’t fight often, but when we do, I fall apart and I hate when that happens. Any tips?

Jane Marla Robbins: Actors often imagine personal images on the back wall of a theater. So, on the wall behind your husband, you might imagine some symbol of the love between you, some image of the good times you have shared. It could be the picture of Gustav Klimt’s famous lovers, if that makes you smile and trust in your love. Or it could be an image of you and your husband dancing when you just met and fell in love. Our bodies react to imaginary images, if we really see them, just as if their reality were actually there. Archetypal images are particularly powerful, and could help you to be grounded in the reality of your love instead of in a fear that your love will not survive the argument.

N R: My mother-in-law is sometimes so critical of me, I want to shrivel up and die. Are there any acting techniques I can use for being with her?

J M R: Let’s say your mother-in-law tells you you’re fat or stupid--or whatever insensitive label she manages to put on you. Try writing an Inner Monologue to say silently to yourself, as she’s criticizing you, or, worst case scenario, afterwards. It might include some of the following: “She isn’t really talking to me, she’s talking to herself. She hates herself. I’m okay. She’s mean. I should never expect love and support from her. If I want love and support, I have other people to whom I should go.”

You might write your Inner Monologue on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket. You can always just put your hand in your pocket, feel the piece of paper, and remember your truth. Writing down words on a piece of paper, words that remind us of our strength, or the insanity of our attacker, helps a lot of people.

N R: When I go out for dinner with my boyfriend and his friends, every time I begin to speak, my boyfriend interrupts--even though he’s complained that I don’t speak up enough when we’re with his friends.

J M R:
Here’s the Acting Technique I suggest you use: Speak the Truth. Tom Hanks says the ability to tell the truth is essential for any good performance. A lot of people need to practice knowing what the truth is and how to speak it. And a lot of us need to learn when not to say it, if it will make a relationship worse. In this case, however, I would suggest that you Speak the Truth to your boyfriend, and tell him that it doesn’t help if he interrupts. After all, at least we know he wants you to speak up more! If you can’t speak this simple Truth to your boyfriend, maybe he’s not the right boyfriend. On the other hand, if you work up the courage to tell him, you may be surprised by his reaction. He might even stop interrupting. He might even apologize. (A good test.)

N R: My brother and his wife, who I luckily don’t see very often, are nevertheless quite nasty and mean to me when I do. Is there an Acting Technique you would recommend when I have to see them at our family functions?

J M R: The first time I consciously used an Acting Technique in my “real life” I was frankly amazed that it actually worked. I was having to spend time with a man who had just married into my family, and who apparently could not be in the same room with me without mocking me, belittling me, or somehow putting me down. The times I had to see him became unbearable.

Then one day I pretended he had leprosy. I just told myself, “He has leprosy.” I didn’t imagine boils on his face, or bones sticking out of his hands, I just said, “I’ll try it. I’ll pretend he has leprosy.” I was using a simple acting technique called the Magic As If. I merely acted As If he had leprosy. It worked.

For one thing, it helped me to avoid him. I was pretending he had some terrible disease I could actually catch, why would I have wanted to get near him? So for starters I never got close enough for him to start in. The odd thing about my adventure with leprosy is that the day after I tried it, the guy actually told his wife, “Jane seemed better yesterday, didn’t you think?” Did he feel compassion from me for his disease (his meanness)? Or was it that, because I avoided him, he was no longer threatened by my energy, and therefore didn’t feel the need to try and diminish it or me? The bottom line is it worked; the abuse was over.

Leprosy may not work for you. If it doesn’t, you could of course substitute another disease for the people who upset you and from whom you may want to keep your distance. You can still love them (always a good idea!)--just don’t get too close!

N R: I just started dating someone, but I can feel myself wanting to rush into a relationship and I’m afraid she’s going to bolt. Any advice?

J M R: Try an actor’s “Inner Monologue.” Here’s one you might keep in your pocket and /or repeat in your head: “I enjoy building this relationship slowly.” Or, “I deserve to really know this person before I jump in the sac or marry them.” Or you might keep the Perfect Prop in your pocket, maybe a pair of glasses, to remind you really to see the larger picture here, to remind yourself really to see the woman. Not easy after only two dates! Or you could bring along a doggy collar and leash in your pocket--to remind you to put on the brakes and slow down.

N R: I am newly married, I love my husband but I am not always comfortable with his family. I think they don’t like me, they’re not very nice to me.

J M R: Here’s what worked for one of my clients: when you’re with them, you might imagine seeing and smelling a bouquet of your favorite flower (or box of your favorite chocolates, or whatever makes you totally happy). Bottom line: you’ll be smiling. And no one will know why. More important, you will know why. This will give you an extra sense of power, so you won’t feel as uncomfortable or unhappy or like a victim with this “not very nice” family.

The bouquet (or its substitute) works not only because you will have tricked your body into believing your favorite flowers are in front of you, but also because you will have given a gift to yourself, a special gift, which, like any perfect present you might receive, can make you happy. Plus, you will have a secret. Secrets help us to feel powerful, because when we’re afraid, our body fears being robbed--of its self-confidence, joy and ultimately of its life. But when we have a secret, we know it cannot be stolen, because nobody knows that we have it in the first place.

The gift of the “bouquet” will also make you feel gifted and loved, just as you would feel if you were in fact given your favorite gift. And when you feel really loved, you cannot feel uncomfortable and afraid. Plus you will no longer be the passive victim, but consciously active, an actor in your own life.

N R:
I’m suddenly nervous with someone I’ve just started dating and want to be cool. Any tips?

J M R: Here’s a technique to help you be not only “cool,’ but also Your Most Authentic, Relaxed and Best Self. It’s called Sense Memory. When, and only when you suddenly feel nervous, and not all you want to be (funny, charming, relaxed, smart, whatever), you would sensorily transform the person with whom you’re nervous into someone with whom you’re very comfortable. So you might smell your best friend’s perfume, or hear his or her laugh. Look at the person who may be making you nervous, and compare his or her hair to your Best Friend’s--Is it darker, longer? Or you could see your best friend’s eyes, with their mischievous glint, replacing the eyes of the person who makes you uncomfortable. Your whole body will relax AS IF the person with whom you feel fabulous is actually there.

N R: I have to see my ex, a difficult man. We have business to do and need to be together. Any advice?

J M R: Try Playing a Character. Meryl Streep always works for me. In extremis, sometimes playing a lion is needed. Your “Actor’s Adjustment” will be your secret. When you shake your head, only you will know it’s a lion’s mane, or that your nails are claws, should you need them.

N R: My boyfriend and I get into fights. They’re not that bad, but particularly when he gets angry, I get very upset. Is there an acting technique to help me with this?

J M R: Try finding the Perfect Prop, and even hold onto it in your pocket during an argument. It could be a piece of paper with your Inner Monologue, maybe with the words, “We will resolve this, we always do. We love each other.” You might also remind yourself that anger will not kill you. That said, it is always deeply upsetting for me to be with someone who is angry.

Other props might work--maybe a locket in your pocket from your most loving grandmother. Just touching it in the face of insanity could remind you of the people who love and support you, to remind you that the world is ultimately a safe and loving place. When we feel safe and loved, arguments are actually easy.

N R: I have a meeting with my boss. I like him, but I’m actually a little intimidated by him. I know our meetings would go better if I weren’t so intimidated. Is there an acting technique that might be helpful?

J M R:
I’m suggesting you have an arsenal of Sensory Memories that make you feel strong and happy. Scientific experiments at Harvard show that using the right Sense Memory (which the medical establishment calls “guided sensory imagery”) can lower your blood pressure, as well as your pain and anxiety levels. In other words, if you use the right Sense Memory, you and your body actually get stronger. So, what makes you feel strong and courageous, instead of intimidated and afraid? An awesome waterfall? Then imagine one on the wall behind your interviewer. If you sensorially re-create one, your body will not know the difference between the real waterfall and the imaginary one. Our cells hold the reality of all our sensory memories, that’s how our bodies are wired.

The senses, as Pavlov proved, are a doorway to the unconscious. For example, if you were to imagine a lemon wedge in your hand, tried to smell it, feel it and taste the juice in your mouth, you would probably start salivating. If, on the other hand, you were simply to command yourself to salivate, which is an automatic, unconscious response, like discomfort or nervousness, it’s unlikely that you would.

So, don’t logically tell yourself not to be nervous for a meeting with someone that might make anybody nervous. But give yourself a pleasurable Sense Memory and see if you don’t start relaxing and even smiling. Use any or all of your senses. You might imagine you’re drinking champagne--but only if it makes you relaxed and open, not drunk and stupid. You’d imagine tasting it, smelling its sweetness, feeling the bubbles on your nose, feeling your body relax.

Or you could hear a piece of music that makes you feel strong. Samuel L. Jackson heard the theme from Star Wars in his head for his fight scene in Star Wars II. He says it galvanized him and made him feel powerful. Feeling “intimidated” is just feeling afraid; but when we feel strong, we’re so much less likely to be scared.

N R: There’s someone at work who just can’t help being mean to me. Is there an Acting Technique I could use to help me not want to cry?

J M R: One of my clients, whose brother is particularly hard for her to be with, sings the following lyrics to herself when she is with him, to the tune of “I Feel Pretty” from Westside Story: “I don’t like him, I don’t like him. He’s withholding and nasty and mean. I don’t like him, it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.” Scientific studies show that both words and music alter our brain’s chemistry--whether actually heard or imagined.

Thanks, Jane, for such insight and thorough responses. Now, readers, it's your turn to share your thoughts and ask Jane questions. Just click on 'comments' at the bottom of this post and follow the prompts. You can even sign in as 'anonymous' - it's as easy as that. And if you want to learn more about Jane and her work, spend some time on her website.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reminder: Virtual Book Tour Tomorrow

Ready for our monthly Virtual Book Tour? Log on anytime tomorrow and meet author Jane Marla Robbins, a successful stage and screen actress, and performance coach. Jane will do a Q&A about her book, Acting Techniques for Everyday Life. Using real-life examples and easy-to-follow exercises, she'll show you how to:

• Look and feel self-confident at job interviews
• Be more charismatic and witty at social occasions
• Better cope with difficult or intimidating people
• Perform at your best when speaking in front of a group
• Use special relaxation techniques to put yourself at ease
• Feel strong, relaxed, and happy no matter what you’re doing

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Be a Cushion of Kindness

I'm savoring the memories of last week in Canada, where I joined in the celebration of my sister’s 70th birthday. And the shared kindness among family and friends was a prelude to our post today by author and speaker, Kare Anderson:

"Write injuries in sand, kindnesses in marble." ~ French proverb

Our media fans the fires of a "right-wrong" approach to escalating discussions. Linguist Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. describes this “let’s argue” style eloquently in her book, The Argument Culture. We get frozen in our differences, and may wind up feeling alone.

While many in our social and other media tend to highlight conflict-oriented stories, you can take a different course. Share the stories of authentic connection, comfort and collaboration in your conversations. By choosing where you put your energy and attention you cultivate and deepen feelings of empathy, not envy or enmity, in yourself and in others.

Whatever we praise, we cause to flourish.

In fact, looking back on life, what we most fondly remember might be, not what we accomplished, but the joy we shared along the way to those accomplishments. So here I'm sharing some of my favorite related quotes to stimulate a quiet Piped Piper-style "Kindness Campaign" in my life, and perhaps in yours.

We can choose, moment by moment, where to put our attention, emotion, and intention. "If you think you're too small to make a difference, you've obviously never been in bed with a mosquito," wrote Michelle Walker.

Kindness is often unspoken.

"The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines," wrote Charles Kuralt in On the Road with Charles Kuralt. "So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind, While just the art of being kind Is all the sad world needs," wrote poetess Ella Wheeler Wilcox in The World’s Need.

"Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate," wrote Albert Schweitzer. After all, the heart can be our strongest muscle if we exercise it regularly.

You can learn more about Kare and her work on her website, Say It Better. And mark December 19th on your calendar and look forward to our monthly Virtual Book Tour where Kare and her recently published book, Moving from Me to We, will be featured.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finding Peace of Mind

Want to experience a sacred space in your hectic daily life? If technology now has the upper hand, begin to disconnect and find moments of mental tranquility. What follows are some tips on how to decrease your stress.

Begin to journal.
Unplug your electronic devices, pick up a pen and start to write. Putting thoughts out of your mind and onto paper gets rid of the noise in your head. By not censoring yourself, you can tap into your unconscious. Writing is cathartic and allows you to release pent up feelings. It’s a great process to help regulate your negative emotions and savor your positive ones.

Consider new priorities.
Get out from behind your computer and open up to more meaningful experiences. Trust what you discover - direct ways to resolve conflict, to feel closer, to express yourself. Build actual relationships and feel a real sense of support and connection. You'll have time to take a walk or have coffee with a friend. Enjoy a face to face meeting or business lunch instead of a webinar. And make a commitment to no texting during family time together.

Embrace change.
Stop focusing on status updates of friends and mandate time to reconnect with you. Relax and rejuvenate to increase self awareness and tap into your dreams. Get in touch with what you really care about and value. If you take a much needed vacation, you’ll return with a different perspective and renewed excitement. Think about what’s holding you back from living the life you want and begin to pursue goals that are right for you.

Of course technology is here to stay – what would we do without data access? But you’ll give yourself a priceless gift by developing stress relievers to counteract burnout. And take heart as you embrace the calm of the present moment.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Sixty Minute Solutions for Less Stress

If you’re looking for less stress and more mental freedom, you may be a candidate for a tech detox. Instead of 24/7 connectivity and instant gratification that’s no longer so gratifying, how about creating a sacred space where you can daydream and relax?

There’s a backlash brewing in the digital world as more boomers turn gray and information overload increases. How tense are you lately? Stress can manifest physiologically with headaches or stomach upset, emotionally by feelings of irritability or overwhelm, behaviorally through changes in your eating or sleep patterns, cognitively with memory loss or trouble concentrating.

If you can’t afford to take time off and unplug in the south of France, here are practical tips to develop a different mindset and restore balance right here at home:

Seek solitude. Set limits by saying 'no' to others and 'yes' to yourself. A physical place with little opportunity for distraction will free up your thoughts. Try not to worry about mistakes from the past or what the future will bring. As you disconnect, stay in the moment. Carve out an hour every day for quiet time and discover what brings you peace of mind.

Change your attitude. Emotional discomfort can be an opportunity for greater self understanding, and awareness is always the first step toward change. Learn how to face uncertainty with a positive attitude or turn pessimistic ideas into more optimistic ones. Six sessions with a cognitive therapist can teach you a lot about how to reframe your thoughts and gain a different perspective.

Practice meditation. Find ways to attend to your mind and spirit. Learn about techniques of deep breathing or develop a yoga discipline. Drop your thoughts into the space between breaths and steer your mind away from constant stimulation. Think about nothing and completely clear your head. Mindfulness is a concept derived from Buddhism that's central to meditation and involves being present and observant without judgment.

Want to share some ideas about how you disconnect and find moments of mental tranquility? Just click on 'comments' below and follow the prompts. And log on Wednesday for more practical tips about de-stressing your life.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

100 Blogs to Visit

Have you visited these 100 blogs, named best of the best on the web? Compiled by, they include, among others, blogs about food, travel, humor, social media, finance, celebrities, hobbies, fun, and - in the category of love/sex/dating/relationships - OURS! So, as a reader of Nourishing Relationships and HerMentorCenter, consider yourself in the know about where to go when you surf the web. And come back here often to read more about improving your family relationships as you continue to nurture yourself.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Coping With Your Aging Dad on Father's Day

Father's Day gives us the chance to salute our dads and say thanks for all they're done for us. As a young girl, mine taught me how to swim, stand on my head and play tennis; as a teen, how to be responsible and accomplish my goals; as an adult how to feel cherished. As we all grow and mature, our relationships with our fathers change but the bond of love is constant.

If your dad has become more fragile as he ages, it's likely that your connection has been transformed. As more Baby Boomers become caretakers for their aging fathers, the stress of struggling with the issues this raises can be overwhelming. It's easy to become weighed down by the duties and responsibilities of caring for Dad. When you feel sandwiched between the demands of career and family, try these tips to help sustain you:

Get help. You don't have to do it alone. Reach out, create a network, hire someone to assist Dad as often as you think it's necessary. Have support systems in place, even if it's over his objections. Make good use of community interventions, respite care, support groups and adult caregiver resources.

Involve your siblings. Be honest with your family about your needs. Engage them in the problems and the solutions. Ask for practical help and delegate responsibilities. Have them set aside personal agendas and work together toward goals on which you've agreed.

Consider your present challenge as a teachable moment. Learn from the experience and apply these lessons to other areas of your life. What insight have you gained about dealing with your own healthy aging process? How can you talk to your children about your wishes when you become older?

Look for positives. Think less about what you're losing and more about the chance you may be gaining. Spending more time with your father, you'll have the opportunity to give back to him emotionally what he's given to you. And you may learn a lot about yourself and your capacity for resiliency as you care for Dad in the last years of his life.

If you're part of the Sandwich Generation, these may be especially difficult times. Rely on whatever sustains you as you search for a way to nourish yourself. Call on friends for support as well as your faith, spirituality, and sense of humor.

This weekend, if you can, let Dad know how much you appreciate the role he has played in your life. If your father is no longer alive, share stories about him with your children and grandchildren so they will know the kind of man he was. And a very Happy Father's Day to all the men in our lives.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Father's Day and Your Aging Dad

With Father's Day approaching, are your thoughts turning to the men in your life – father, husband, son, other male figures? Mine are. It's heartwarming to see how my sons have become devoted dads themselves, reflecting their own loving father. This weekend, I'll also be honoring the memory of my dad, who died in his 90th year over a decade ago.    

While helping with his care during the final years of a chronic illness, it was painful to see how he was declining. Always active and fun-loving while I was growing up, he became weaker as he aged, both mentally and physically. As Sandwiched Boomers, it's difficult towatch as your parents deteriorate. And they may complicate the situation by being in denial about their vulnerable condition.

Today nearly 10 million adults are caregivers for their aging parents. If you're caring for an elderly father, it's up to you to acknowledge the true state of affairs and be straightforward in dealing with his increasing fragility. You'll need to discuss practical, yet uncomfortable, issues - health care directives, long-term care options, a designated power of attorney, distribution of income and assets. After addressing your most immediate concerns, here are some tips to help you plan and implement your care:

Learn about your dad’s illness. Educate yourself on what to expect and how to recognize warning signs threatening your father's health and independence.  Talk to friends who have gone through similar experiences in order to get realistic feedback and concrete advice.

Surf the Internet to investigate resources available to you. Some nonprofit organizations offer free services or financial grants for respite care for family members who provide most of the care to their chronically ill elders. If you're in the U.S., the National Family Caregiver Support Program provides funds and the Eldercare Locator identifies programs in local communities.

Involve you dad in decision-making. If you decide it's necessary to move your father out of his home or take over management of his finances that may signify a loss of independence to him, leading to anger, frustration, or depression. Understanding his pain, taking it slow and engaging a geriatric social worker or gerontologist can help the process.

Embrace the changes in your dad and respect his integrity. As he becomes less strong physically and mentally, he may lose some of the magical power he once had in your eyes. Still you can admire his courage and dignity, as he struggles, coming to terms with end of life issues. Recall the good times you shared even as you adjust to the changes in your roles.

Check back here again on Wednesday for more Father's Day tips for caring for your aging dad – especially if you're part of the sandwich generation.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tips for College Grads Boomeranging Back Home

Are your college grads getting ready to move back home?

In Monday's post, we started a list of tips for parents busy cleaning up their college seniors' rooms before heading off to graduation. If boomerang kids are about to become your new housemates, here's some practical insight you can share as they begin to look for work in this tough economy:

Rely on your instincts. Listen to the advice of those you trust. But look inside for answers and find your own voice. Don’t jump at money or do what others think you should - define success on your own terms. If you feel you’re moving in the direction of where you belong, believe in what you’re doing. Emotional discomfort can be an opportunity to grow.

Discover your passion. With our society and the job market in flux, you may have to reorder your priorities for now. Keep busy and try to make a contribution as a volunteer or mentor where you can use you talents and energy to be of service to others. You can tap into your compassion and courage to find a larger purpose.

Increase your resiliency. At times it may be difficult to maintain composure under trying circumstances. Take one day at a time. Develop strategies to manage stress and build your confidence. Call on your faith or spirituality. Step by step, you'll turn your hopes and dreams into reality.

Your recent grads may not be sure of what road they’re on or whether they should have taken it. Perhaps they’re having doubts or second thoughts: if only I had applied to law school, what if I had majored in engineering? It’s common and normal to have ambivalent emotions - the desire to hold on and to let go, excitement as well as fear about the future.

The 20s are still the defining decade of adult life and your emerging adult kids are living with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Let them know you have their back. Encourage them to reach deep for the resolve to face their situation squarely - in time, they can’t help but grow from their challenges and experiences.

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Monday, June 04, 2012

2012 Graduates: Moving back Home

This year over 1.75 million students will walk across the stage to pick up a diploma. College seniors everywhere are anticipating graduation and their parents are thinking about words of wisdom to impart. With the scarcity of jobs and school loans due, it may be harder than ever for these kidults to engage in adult roles. If your brand new graduates are about to boomerang back home, here’s some practical insight to share:

Face uncertainty with a positive attitude. You can’t change the slow economic recovery but you can have control over how you handle it. Of course, you feel frustrated that you don’t have a job or anxious about the future - these reactions are common and normal. But try to face your feelings directly as you explore the circumstances that will work for you.

Take control of your situation. It'll help you gain perspective and focus when you spend some time identifying your inner strengths and external resources. If you know that what you want is within your reach keep going after it, no matter how hard it is. Be sure to recognize the difference between what you can manage and what you can't.

Turn to those who support you. Family and friends care about you and you can count on them to cheer you on. They’ll be there to help because they love you and want to see you succeed. And remember, as you move ahead, you don’t have to do it alone - ask for help whenever you need it.

Make a public commitment. Talk with others about your present intentions and you’ll create a strong reality that will motivate you. As you begin to set and reach short term objectives for longer range goals, you’ll become even more determined. Although there may be stumbling blocks along the way, don’t give up.

Please click on ‘comments’ below to share your pearls of wisdom. And join us again on Wednesday – we’ll have more practical tips for your recently minted graduates.

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