Here Comes the Flower Girl

April 5th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

The torch has been passed. I have entered a new phase of my life. Apparently, I can now go to a family event and not be the drunkest one in the room. In fact, not only was I not the drunkest in the room, I was downright sober, watching the millennials have fun at the open bar at my first cousin’s wedding. At the morning-after brunch, my son went around telling folks that for $2 to $20, he’d tell them what they did the night before (the amount correlated to how drunk the person had been). My cousin, the groom, offered him $5 to not tell him what he did. I will say that the boy collected a decent amount of money before I realized what he was doing and I made him return it. Somehow, extortion at a family wedding didn’t feel right. In my family, extortion is reserved for the holidays.

The wedding weekend was not just lovely, but a bit surprising. At the cocktail hour before the rehearsal dinner, my notoriously “I hate all people” son asked if he could go sit by himself on the couches in a more secluded part of the balcony. I told him he could–I was proud he could recognize when he’d had enough and needed some alone time–so off he went, Shirley Temple in hand. But then, when we sat at the table, older couple came up to me and said, “Is that your son? He is absolutely wonderful! We had the most delightful conversation with him. Such a wonderful boy,” and the boy looked at me with a big grin, nodding his head. When they left, I asked, “Who were they talking about?”

“Me,” the boy said.

“How is that possible?”

He shrugged. “I sat on the couch. They came out and sat down next to me and started talking. I had to talk back.”

Progress, people! Progress!

And then what turned out even more surprising is that 1) my boy has some serious dance floor moves, 2) those millennial women can’t get enough of him, and 3) he totally didn’t mind one bit.


My girl was the flower girl and she reveled in it, to the point where, when I took her to hang with the (14!!) bridesmaids to get her hair and make-up done, she finally turned to me after about an hour and said, “Mom. You can go. NOW!” as she pushed me out the door. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the spread of food and candy she was hoping to get her hands on.


I decided to have my make-up professionally done. As someone who never wears make-up, the whole thing frightens me a bit, so when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. A woman spent a good while doing up my face (and it wasn’t cheap to have done), and the girl and I agreed that I looked pretty good. The boy begged to differ. “Wow, Mom,” he said with horror in his voice. “Your face looks weird!” The kid knows how to make a woman feel confident.

The wedding itself was lovely. My cousin’s then-fiancé seemed determined to marry into this family, despite my many warnings. And then, foolishly, no matter how I pleaded with her not to, she decided to change her name (does the world really need another Brown in it? That name has been a curse all my life), so she is now one of the Dr. Browns of Dr. and Dr. Brown. At least if we have a medical emergency we’ve just doubled the chance that a family member can solve it.

Oddly enough, my Houston born-and-bred cousin met his now-wife at school in Atlanta, yet she’s from Miami. And it turns out that her grandmother married the father of one of my high school friends (who is the sister of the Tweedle Twirp’s BFF), so not only was this a family wedding, but a mini-Beach High reunion, guaranteeing everyone had someone with whom to talk. Adam had my father. I had my high school friend. Tweeds had her high school friend. The girl had 14 bridesmaids. And apparently, so did the boy. A beautiful time was had by all. Even if I was sober.


What’s Goin’ On*

March 31st, 2014 § Comments Off on What’s Goin’ On* § permalink

*You must be humming Marvin Gaye while reading that, please.

Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you ya, what’s going on

My to-do list is a mile long, and while I’ve accomplished a lot, none of it has actually been on my list, so my new to-do on my to-do list is to add all the non-listed to-dos I’ve done just so that they can be crossed out. Only I can create more to-dos merely by doing to-dos. Did that make sense? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Exactly.

The first order of business is I need to acknowledge the events of the past Saturday. Three momentous things happened on March 29. The first, in 1917, the magnificent Thoroughbred Man o’War was born. The second occurred in 1940, when my father, just as magnificent, but not quite so thoroughbred, was also born. The third happened two days ago, on this March 29, when my newest niece, hence forth to be known as Lalune, was born (brother-in-law, do you need me to explain that to you?). I’m sure you too, Lalune, will be magnificent.

The next order of business is to express my love for my town. Our town is run by a Town Meeting (and Selectmen), and my town meeting representative sent out the list of warrants up for consideration. Nothing gives me more pride than reading all of the important things my town is up to. This, my friends, is Article 42 (which means you can imagine how spellbinding the first 41 are!):

To see if the Town will vote to restore the phrase “Birthplace of Uncle Sam” on all applicable
town stationery, to appropriate funds not to exceed $500.00 for this purpose, to be implemented as
current supplies are exhausted; or take any action related thereto.

Personally I’m much more fascinated by this than I am of the consideration of rezoning for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Next, let’s turn to my son. Oh, my charming son. First off, my son has an e-mail account. We gave it to him in third grade after he had proven he could touch type. Note, the girl is now in third grade, but she refuses to learn to touch type, so she is e-mail-less. This causes many fights and tears. Learn to freakin’ type, girl!

Anyway the condition of the e-mail account is that I get to see every e-mail sent. It’s a Gmail account, so all e-mail is forwarded to me as well as appears in his account. I have the right, on demand, to see any outgoing e-mail I would like. So far things have been going well, and he’s proven to be responsible with his e-mail account.

Recently he’s decided he wants to build a web site with a friend. Adam set up a domain for him. The boy was testing out the e-mail (an info@ address that is forwarded to his Gmail account), but they weren’t getting through to him. They were coming to me, though. In one of them he wrote, “YOLO.” He was at the computer in the front room and I was on my laptop in the kitchen, so I yelled to him, “Do you even know what YOLO means?”

If eye rolling had a sound, he made it. “No, Mom! No one knows what YOLO means.”

“Huh, that’s funny,” I said. “Because I do.” I educated my son on YOLO [you only live once]. Do I get thanks? No. What I get is:

Boy: I can’t figure out how to make the e-mail work.
Me: Well, what seems to be the problem?
Boy: I’ll just wait for Dad.
Me: Why don’t you explain to me what the problem is?
Boy: Mom, it’s okay. We can wait for Dad.
Me: I had a computer before your father was born! [Perhaps a slight exaggeration?] What the freak is wrong?
Boy: I think we should wait for Dad.
Me: AAAAARRRRRRGGGGG! I can fix this too, you disrespectful dolt! [Or something to that effect.]
Boy: Okay, okay! I’m sending e-mails but they’re not going through.
I fuddle a moment with his computer.
Me: Do you think it’s because you’re sending and receiving at the same account?
Boy: I’m not! It’s the Web site and Gmail.
Me: Yes, but they both end up in Gmail.
Boy: Huh, maybe.

And that’s when my boy screwed himself.

Boy: Yeah, Mom, you were right! That was the problem.

I looked in my e-mail. And there is was. An e-mail forwarded to my boy. From my boy. FROM A SECRET E-MAIL ACCOUNT! I checked with Adam. It was unauthorized. And now I am ALL OVER that boy’s computer. Secret e-mail accounts MY ASS! He just guaranteed I monitor his every computer move from now until he’s fifty.

And to end this all, my dear friend Lady Chardonnay directed me to this fabulous site of Classic Children’s Books Retold for Adults. And so I leave you with a heartfelt tale from Frog and Toad.

Ta ta.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today…

March 25th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

No, Sergeant Pepper didn’t teach the band to play. That was twenty years ago. Fifty years ago, another act made its debut. You don’t know which one? Don’t worry, neither did my kids, and it’s a heck of a lot more relevant to their lives. When asked what happened fifty years ago today, Doodles said, “World War II? Your birthday?” Pie didn’t do much better with “Um, it’s probably not Earth Day. Was it the Boston Tea Party?” Thank you, public school system.

But back to fifty years ago. Fifty years ago today, my mother went to her class at Tulane with her hair in curlers, which was strictly against the rules. She got sent to the dean’s office. The dean told her curlers in class were not allowed. “Yes,” she said, “but I’m getting married tonight.” The dean let her get away with it but warned her not to do it again.

The wedding, originally planned for June, was put together in a week when they realized they could take advantage of Tulane’s spring break for a honeymoon (and don’t think that the June planning was all that long–they had only met the previous December). The wedding happened so fast, my father’s father couldn’t get off of work to attend. My mom’s mom bought the only white dress she could find, a size 12 cocktail dress, which she altered down to my mom’s size.

And against all the odds, they are still together. Not WWII (although a few moments could possibly be described that way–hey, Tweeds, remember 4th of July fireworks on the Beach? Yeah, me neither.). Not the Tea Party. Definitely not Earth Day. It’s the day that made all this (hands spread wide toward my own family) possible.

A very public happy 50th anniversary to my parents. Let’s celebrate this summer in Europe somewhere.
peter and carol wedding

Sister Sister

April 11th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

So apparently yesterday was some new ridiculous made-up holiday called Sibling Day. If Wikipedia says it, then you know it must be so. Alas, I was blissfully unaware of this holiday until the profusion of Facebook posts and articles on Huffington Post.

Now, while I’m not buying into any cheesy holiday–and I know my sister has my back on this–who am I to refuse a chance to post this lovely picture of my sister and I on a trip to New York City in 1982. My expression tells you everything you need to know about me, my state of mind, and what I thought of being a 14 year old on a trip with her grandparents to New York. And yes, you may be jealous of my glasses. They were totally bitchin’.


This charming photo was taken during my “I’m a film student therefore everything I do must be arty” phase (although this was taken about six months after I graduated college). I dragged Tweeds to Europe and then proceeded to pose her awkwardly in every tourist site we passed. This is a photo of us taken in a mirror. I have no idea at what we were looking.

Yes, I did not acknowledge Sibling Day. But then neither did she. And my current favorite person is Keaton, as she is the person who most recently brought me Peeps. Yes, folks. That is right. My affections can be bought with cold, hard Peeps. (I mean “hard,” too; Peeps are best stale.)

So, Tweeds, next year you’ll have to step up your game. I will expect you to wake me up with a peanut butter sandwich and a Diet Coke. Otherwise, you can forget about me driving you to school in a timely manner. And you know you hate being late for debate.


May 6th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

My memory is terrible. Details always disappear and faces blur in my memories, which is one of the reasons I persist in this blog; it gives me a point of reference, a way to recall what I was doing/thinking/feeling at a particular time. Unless the event is something I did over and over, it’s lost in the crevices of my mind. I remember the things we did regularly: Breakfast at Nancy’s when we lived in Boulder, where every week my mother would reprimand my father, “Butter or whipped cream. Not both.” The bike route I took every morning through the woodsy back areas on my way to elementary school in South Miami, when that stupid orange bike safety flag my mom made me put on the back of my seat would bend and get caught in the trees (this was in the pre-helmet days of bike riding. Remember those days?). The yearly Passover seders at my grandparents where my grandfather whipped through the seder and my grandmother made amazing potatoes, which was all I would really eat, because everything else she cooked was just this side of inedible. Cue Tevye, but for me, tradition is what it’s all about, and what I constantly try to reinforce with my own family. The kids probably won’t remember the singular things we do–the art projects and science experiments that were one-off–but they will recall what we do regularly: homemade hallah every Friday night, the book fairy who brings them surprise reads, our morning walks to school.

Which is why it was so important to me that my kids bet in yesterday’s Kentucky Derby. Because betting… it’s a family tradition from my childhood.

My grandfather loved a good bet. He always took our bets, didn’t matter if it had him betting against his favorite team (I’m pretty sure he was still betting on his favorites with a bookie). He taught me about spreads and odds and he always paid up promptly. When my grandfather passed away, my father took over the position of family bookie. He pays the track odds, plus 10 percent.

For the past week, the kids and I have been going over the horses. To my surprise, neither of them bet on Hansen (an all-white horse). I tried to convince Pie to put her money on Done Talking, but she clearly isn’t and refused to bite.

The way my kids bet so clearly defines their personalities. Doodles wanted to bet on both the horse with the best odds and the longest odds, so he had the potential to make the most money, but had a safety bet as a just in case. I told him one bet, so he went with the favorite (at the time of his betting), which was Bodemeister. Pie wanted to go for the biggest bucks. She kept looking over the odds to find the one with the longest odds, so her dollar was on Prospective. Adam was half asleep on his Saturday nap, so the kids pretty much picked for him: Daddy Nose Best. Watching the race was a family event, and even though Adam and I passed on the mint juleps this year, everyone was excited, even though all three of them lost.

As for me? Well, if you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll know exactly who I picked. Guess that next round is on me. Tradition!

Christmas for Jews

December 12th, 2011 § Comments Off on Christmas for Jews § permalink

My father is complaining. Pie and I have, apparently, ruined Christmas. The meaning is gone. According to my father, we have taken the Christ out of Christmas.

Um, I would like to remind all my readers that my father is an atheist. A Jewish atheist.

The crime? Last year, for Pie’s Daisy troop, our family hosted a Hanukkah party. In the interest of, as the school would put it, “cultural enrichment,” this year we will be Christmas Caroling. But the songs–at my request, to be honest–don’t actually invoke the name of Jesus. Because there are plenty of lovely holiday songs that aren’t religious.

My dad: What are you singing?

Pie: “Winter Wonderland.” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” “Frosty the Snowman.”

My dad: Those aren’t carols! Those are just Christmas songs.

Me: They are carols!

My dad: No, they’re not. Carols are religious. “Silent Night,” “Hark, the Herald Angel Sings,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Little Drummer Boy.” Those are Christmas carols.

Me: Wikipedia says, “A Christmas carol (also called a noël) is a carol (song or hymn) whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.”

My dad: Well, then it’s changed. Carols are supposed to be religious. You’ve completely missed the point of Christmas carols.

So, yes. Rick Perry is right.* We the Jews. We’ve done it. We’ve ruined Christmas. Our bad. Sorry!

*edited: My father didn’t get the Rick Perry reference. I’m referring to his horrific “Strong” video–which I won’t dignify with a link; if you haven’t seen it, you’ll have to Google it yourself–in which he says, “You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when … our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in schools.” For the record, my favorite rebuttal to this is actually the one made by Jesus, himself! (And I don’t mind linking to that one.)

Blurry Morning

June 6th, 2011 § Comments Off on Blurry Morning § permalink

Who filled my house with a swimming pool? At least, that’s what I assumed happened. Because I feel like I’m trying to walk through water. Slow. Sluggish. Not moving very fast. Time is crawling. My revision doesn’t seem to be revising itself.

Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook already know that my weekend in NYC was, um, shall we say eventful? I’m not sure how much of it is interesting to all of you, but I’ll tell you anyway, breaking it up into multiple posts, as I do need to be revising!

Thursday morning was freakin’ jam packed. Woke up extra early so I could cram everything in: I wrote the school newsletter, ran 6 miles, volunteered at the before-school PE program, showered, volunteered for an hour in kindergarten, packed, and still showed up at South Station an hour early for the Acela (why an hour? I have no idea what I was thinking except that I wanted time to buy food). Train ride was uneventful—napped, worked, read. Fast ride—train was only 15 minutes late.

Walked to my folks’ apartment, and did the first thing one must do in New York: Meet the Tweedle Twirp for a pedi and a cosmo. After we had a French dinner outside with my parents and the Tweedle Twirp’s boyfriend/partner/other half (we had discussions about what to call the Tweedle Twirp’s legally-recognized domestic partner of 18 years, and I don’t think we ever came up with a satisfactory title, so I guess we’ll stick with Tweedle Twin) that was delicious even if we did have to keep picking leaves out of our wine. I had requested we go anywhere that was not kid friendly and the place fulfilled! (No chicken fingers on the menu and tight quarters.)

Went to bed fairly early and woke up at my normal 5 a.m. on Friday. Had a lovely run on the Hudson River Park and the High Line Park. Got dressed and walked on down to…

my agent’s office! The office is on the top floor of a small building in the West Village, and I’m kicking myself for not sneaking a picture or two, but—as you can guess—I was so excited (and, yes, a little nervous) about meeting Laney that thoughts like “pictures” weren’t in the forefront of my mind.

The office was exactly what I imagined an agent’s office to look like—it was pretty old school. Desks in nooks and crannies and books everywhere. It’s a small office, but it looked like the kind of place you’d want to just pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and talk books. It was 9 a.m. so not many folks were in yet. Laney and I headed downstairs for coffee.

Talking with her was both reassuring and a little scary. First, having a face to put on e-mail is fabulous. Second, I genuinely liked her as a person. The scary part was when we talked about the state of the publishing world—it’s tough out there and having an agent is no guarantee of a sell, so she’s really working hard to “bullet-proof” my manuscript. I was reassured when she told me she keeps her list small and she only takes on projects she truly loves. But it’s daunting to hear how much work this is going to take!

We talked about ourselves a bit; the only awkward moment was when it came out that my family is serious about the Red Sox. As a native New Yorker, she’s definitely in the Yankee camp, but I think it’s something we can move beyond.

This may be of interest for those of you who are writers in the querying process: I mentioned to Laney that I had tweeted another agent’s blog post and that the other agent had looked at my profile and commented that she really loves Laney. Laney had high raves for this other agent and she said that every now and then (not too often I gathered), if she got a query for a project that she thought had merit but wasn’t in a genre she reps, she’d pass it on to the other agent. Nice to know there’s some camaraderie out there!

Finally, I asked her about my name. Seriously. I have great angst about how common my name is (my father prefers to call my name “popular,” but really, let’s call it as it is: common). So the question is: What name do I publish under? When I first started publishing in literary journals, I went with initials: J. S. Brown (I was a huge fan of A. M. Homes at the time, which most likely influenced me). But given that it’s women’s fiction I’m writing, it makes more sense to have a more identifiably female name. Jenny Brown is so common, although I do generally come up in the top 3 in a Google search. But the domain for that is owned by someone who sells “cheap homes.” I do own the domain, which I’ve used basically as a placeholder. As much as I detest “Jennifer,” it looks like that might make the most sense. And it’ll weed out those I know from those I don’t (e-mails and phone calls to “Jennifer” always mean you have no idea who I am).

Okay, that takes us up to 10 a.m. on Friday morning. And with that, I’m going to go revise. More later. If I can make my way out of this swimming pool daze, that is.

On the Couch

October 21st, 2010 § Comments Off on On the Couch § permalink

People have asked me, “Why are you in therapy? You’re so together!”

This morning I noticed a status update from my mom on Facebook. It read:

Carol K. Brown Anybody in the Miami area have a rifle (unloaded) or toy that looks like a real rifle that I could borrow for something I want to photograph? Or a nasty looking gun?”

I think that pretty much sums it all up!

It Was 70 Years Ago Today…

March 29th, 2010 § Comments Off on It Was 70 Years Ago Today… § permalink

Imagining a parent as a child is hard to do. My parents were pretty young when I was born–22 for my mom; 27 for my dad. But they always seemed old to me. I was recently watching with my kids a video from 1974 and it’s shocking that my parents were actually, truly young. In 1974, my father was seven years younger than I am now. When I was the age he was in 1974, I was a newlywed, no kids. He had two kids, a mortgage, college savings accounts, and an ugly car (really–I don’t know what that car was in the video, but it was ugly! For some reason “Cougar” comes to mind. Was that the car?). I knew him when he was 34. I remember when I was a teen, he once said to me, “You know, I may be in my forties, but I still feel like I’m sixteen.” I didn’t get it then, but I get it now.

Lately, though, I feel like I’ve had a sense of my father as a kid. Because I look at Doodles and I can suddenly picture my father. In his insolence, in his single-mindedness, in his stubbornness, in his antsy energy, I can see my father, and it’s eerie.

My dad turns seventy today. We all know that I don’t get mushy on this blog–it’s just not my thing–but if I were ever going to get mushy, it would be here. ‘Cause, you know. He’s my dad. And I love him.

Happy birthday, Peter!

M-I-C (See you real soon! ) K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you!)

February 20th, 2010 § Comments Off on M-I-C (See you real soon! ) K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you!) § permalink

We made it back. All in one piece. Oh, you didn’t know we were gone? Disney World! I have to say, it was a really great Disney adventure, and I was truly sorry to come back. I think that Disney is one of those places where you either go as a stick-in-the mud “I hate this bullshit” attitude or you just suck it up and drink the Kool Aid. And you all remember the family motto. I sucked it up. I drank that Kool Aid and I asked for seconds!

I’m truly tired and don’t think I can blog everything at this moment, so I’ll hopefully add more later, but it was an excellent trip. But a few of the highlights, which may be repeats for those who are Facebook friends:

–The trip started a little ominously when we checked in at home for our JetBlue flight and then brought our bags to drop off. Now, we usually fly American. We’re used to this drill. With American we usually drop our bags at curbside or head to a kiosk. JetBlue? Not so much. The line for bag drop stretched longer than the hour and ten minutes we had till our flight. In a panic, we decided to take our bags on the flight. Only of course we had packed all our toiletries and TSA decided to be sticklers on the gels over 3.5 ounces or whatever the ridiculous rule is. Out went Adam’s hair gel, out went my shampoo, out went my $40 face cleaner (that sounds much better if you read it to the tune of “Rock Island” from Music Man. Here, I’ll even give you the next line: Look whatayatalk. whatayatalk, whatayatalk, whatayataalk, whatayatalk?). And then, of course, the TVs on the flight weren’t working. Fun times!

–Our family was following the certified, patent-pending Goldfarb System®. I don’t want to give too much of the system away, but it is a fool-proof method for doing the Disney parks in the most efficient and line-preventing way. I will testify that the Goldfarb System® works. But… only if you follow it to the T. The first day I got cocky. I thought I could figure out a few shortcuts to the Goldfarb System®. But I was wrong. And I paid in a big way, with a screaming daughter and a son who waited in line for thirty minutes for the Astro Orbiter. The next day I followed the plan to the letter and had an immensely successful day. Day three, we had the system perfected to the point where my son had a mere five minute wait for Toy Story Mania, got to ride Star Tours… twice, and still got to have another go at the Buzz Lightyear ride. Yes, the system is that good.

–We had characters up the wazoo. First Pie met Cinderella, Belle, and Aurora in Toon Town. Then we had breakfast with Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Ariel, and Snow White. Then another breakfast with JoJo, Goliath (from JoJo’s Circus) and Leo and June (from Little Einsteins). Then dinner with Chip and Dale, Mickey and Pluto. Plus we ran into Goofy, Daisy, Donald Duck, and Minnie around the parks. We also caught glimpses of a whole bunch others. But that girl of mine, she can hold a grudge. Our final dinner, at the Garden Grille in The Land, Dale, Mickey, and Pluto came to our table. But not Chip. “When is Chip coming? I want to see Chip!” She would not be put off. “There’s Chip! Why isn’t he coming to see us?” Finally we left without Chip. She shook hands with Pluto, flirted with Mickey, had her picture taken with Dale. So I asked, “How did you like dinner?” “It was awful!” she told me. “Chip never came to see us.”

–Most exciting thing for girl? When Belle noticed that her skirt had “Beast print” on it. (Why more about the girl than the boy? Because for much of the trip we split up and I spent most of my time with the girl)

–New form of torture? My mother and daughter singing “It’s a Small World” over and over and over and over… and over and over and over… (deep breath) and over and over and over. And then not understanding why I wanted them to stop.

–The Wishes fireworks display was only a mild hit. I let Pie stay up late to watch it; Doodles decided to pass. We went with the Nana to watch the display over Cinderella’s castle. Pie seemed to be into it, but later informed us, “I didn’t like it. The booms made my teeth shake.”

–At the princess breakfast, you walk in and the first thing that happens is a picture with Belle that the family gets a copy of by the end of breakfast.
Me: I want a family picture with Belle.
Pie: I want to stand between Mommy and Belle!
Doodles: I want to stand between Daddy and the wall.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say later. Or maybe I won’t. That’s the way these blogs fly. Now I gotta go have another swig of Kool Aid. Mmm, that’s good!

1973, Disney World (which only consisted of the Magic Kingdom) is 2, the boy (my cousin) is 5, I’m weeks away from 5, my first trip

2010, Disney World is 39, The boy is 6, the girl is 4, their first trip

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    I read, I write, I occasionally look to make sure my kids aren't playing with matches.

    My novel, MODERN GIRLS will be coming out from NAL in the spring of 2016.

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