Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grant me the serenity


Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, January 25, 2017:

“He can make you so nuts — he can so vacuum your brains out — that you find yourself slumped on the sofa all day refreshing Twitter, eating a big bowl of your son’s Honey Nut Cheerios, Cheerio by Cheerio, dry, for lunch, with a piece of prosciutto, for dessert as your whole personality drains out through your left heel and you find yourself in an agitated trance 24-7, not to mention fat.”

I took some liberties with the second half of Friedman’s quote.

I’ve written about my addiction before, but I think I finally hit bottom. At least I hope that was bottom. My only goal for January 25, 2017 was to stay off the internet. Because my laptop has been used primarily for monitoring Twitter in recent weeks, yesterday I did not touch my laptop. When I had thoughts that required expression, I wrote them on pieces of paper with a pen. I read stuff on paper. I finished Ian McGuireThe North Water, a novel full of pus, blood, sodomy, and frostbite in which the protagonist shelters in the hollowed-out carcass of a freshly-killed polar bear. It’s gross. It’s great. Leonardo DiCaprio should star. Then I started and almost finished Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House which is one weird, excellent book. 

When I came across words I didn’t know, I walked over to the dictionary and looked them up. Dimity, in case you’ve ever wondered, is a kind of thin fabric with checks traced by thicker thread. The curtains in Hill House are dimity. I wrote down passages I admired in my notebook, like I did in the olden days.
If your handwriting reflects your character, does that mean that by improving your handwriting you improve your character? Asking for a friend.
I read the newspaper, on paper and cut out bits that I liked and taped them into my notebook like I did in the olden days. 
There was a really cool story in the food section of the NYT yesterday about the beauty of burned foods. It included a recipe for burned toast soup, but I am most curious about that kazandibi.
When I felt bad about accomplishing absolutely nothing and started spiraling into a self-loathing existential crisis, I reminded myself that my only goal for January 25, 2017 was to stay off the internet and congratulated myself on how well I was doing. I looked at some cookbooks and remember how delightful that can be. I decided I wanted to make and eat Gabrielle Hamilton’s lamb shoulder with a celeriac remoulade and some juniper sorbet for dessert.That meal is happening tonight. I felt more and more and more like myself. My powers of concentration returned. Everything slowed down. It was wonderful. It was such a relief. 

At the end of the day I allowed myself 20 minutes on Twitter, just enough time to catch up with my boyfriend Keith Olbermann and watch clips of an ABC interview with this sad, bloated old man who was lying about stuff that no one cares about but him. I discovered I had already lost my taste for it. On a food diet, you get hungrier and hungrier. On a Donald Trump diet, you feel better and better. Today, I am positively jubilant.

To quote the protagonist of The Haunting of Hill House, “The warm wind would come down the city street where she walked and she would be touched with the cold little thought, I have let more time go by. . .

Time goes by no matter what, I just don’t want it to go by as I slump on the sofa in an agitated trance, eating Honey Nut Cheerios and reading about our pathetic president.

65 comments:

  1. Brilliant. Also, I'm going to read Hill House now. XO

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    1. It's wild. I think you'll like it.

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  2. And you wrote this excellent post. Thank you.

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  3. I must come up with a strategy for myself. The downward spiraling must stop. Just emailed that to a family member whose money is where her mouth is - she and her husband ARE leaving the US. Moving overseas until Trump's out of office.

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    1. Today I listened to a podcast that made me want to jump off a cliff -- interviews with Trump supporters who seem to have few to no misgivings about his recent behavior. They have bought his line about the media hook line and sinker, which is really troubling. I might have to banish podcasts too, but I just. . . can't.

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    2. Which podcast was that? OnPoint? ThisAmericanLife? WilliamsburgHipstersRiffingonPolitics brought to you by Blue Apron? I feel so many these days are bending over backwards in this way but it is the opposite of illuminating.

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    3. Ha ha ha, it was On Point. It was illuminating insofar as I heard people who don't sound at all like the people I see in my daly life. It didn't help me understand them as people, it helped me understand them as political opponents. It was pretty grim.

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  4. There you are! I had no doubts as to what you were up to, but I did have hopes you would surface. I am determined to stop letting this run my days, so I have limited myself on internet and news. It is *SAD* when you can't watch the news because it is all about Drumpf. I have been reading a lot as well. I think you must report back to us all on that lamb shoulder. We need all the diversion we can get these days. I am so glad you are back and feeling well!

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    1. I just ate the lamb shoulder and am feeling if not well, full!
      All Drumpf, all the time.

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  5. Well, my diet has not devolved to the Honey Nut Cheerios point, but otherwise . . . well, I just have to know the worst, you see. And there is such a lot of worst to know.

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    1. I steered clear of the Honey Nut Cheerios today. It was a small victory.

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  6. I was on a news media blackout on Friday. I couldn't bear to watch the inauguration. Instead I went on the internet to become a member of the ACLU. I thought that was fitting way to spend the day.

    The NYT article was interesting. I am going to give the burnt toast soup a try. It sounded good

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    1. I need to join an organization, do something good.

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    2. Doing stuff really does help. I find myself spending way too much time on Twitter, but I'm also calling my Senators daily, I called Mar a Lago (since I can't leave a comment at the white house ...), donating my time and money. Every little bit helps. And look - Nordstrom is getting rid of Ivanka's line, the uber guy backed off, Capitol Hill has gotten more calls in the past week than ever before. Keep calling, keep fighting. but yeah, a day off from it is *very* mentally healthy.

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  7. To support my news blackout I tell myself that if anything really important happens someone will let me know...and in the meantime I can try to spend my days constructively, or at least not in "an agitated trance".
    Juniper sorbet sounds compelling!

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    1. The juniper sorbet is good! It's from an antique recipe. I'll write more about that tomorrow or the next day. I told my friend to text me if there is an urgent reason to look at Twitter. Otherwise -- 20 minutes at the end of the day. I did my 20 today already and I think I got all I needed.

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  8. I second your recommendation for "The North Water"! An awesome book.

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  9. Have you read Hillbilly Elegy yet?

    Also, an interesting article from my Twitter feed this am:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/01/27/511795672/syria-supper-club-reaching-out-to-refugees-one-dinner-at-a-time

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    1. That's a lovely story!
      I haven't read Hillbilly Elegy. I gave it to my father for Christmas and he read it and loaned it back to me, so I will read it soon.

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    2. HIllbilly Elegy is a book, well written, about a specific place and time and one families tale. There are a million more stories about different places and different people in this same region. So yes, read it and think about it, but please don't take this as a glimpse of everyone who voted for Trump. Another look at a region close to but not the same is the book Dimestore by Lee Smith. Set a couple of decades earlier it looks at the coal country areas. I live in this region, did not vote for Trump, am totally sad about the way this whole thing is going. We have thought about moving but can't quite make the decision. So we will stay (for a while anyway) and fight the good fight. You can't alter the problem if you aren't in the system.

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  10. That reminds me of the American Heritage Dictionary that haunted my childhood. I love the book stand!

    I'm trying to put myself on a media diet. Maybe one day on, two days off.

    Also, the burning urge to knit and sew has helped me deal with this gloominess. Just finished a lined cape and scarf. Onto three more projects over the next month.

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    1. Maybe when it gets warmer I can garden?
      I love the dictionary stand too. It was in my childhood home and I loved it from the very beginning.

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  11. Madame TB, with all respect, Keith is mine. Life is a waking nightmare. We must hang on.

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    1. I like Keith in his sorrowful "mellow" mode when he's addressing Trump voters, but I like him when he's all fired up even better.

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  12. Amen, sister. I'm glad it's not just me. Yesterday I started watching the OJ marathon you mentioned earlier this month. I can't seem to read -- only watch. And cook. Fattening NYT chocolate chip cookies and chicken pot pie and cakes by the dozen. It's like I'm in mourning and only want to eat comfort food.

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    1. I hope you like the OJ documentary. I also was having trouble reading until I began the Twitter break. I started wondering if I'd simply lost the ability to read. I have to go back and re-try the books I gave up on during the craziness. Your cooking life sounds pretty wonderful.

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  13. Thank you! I am similarly trying to disconnect electronically from the vile one's relentless assaults on our country and my own heart, with limited success. I am off social media, which has been pretty good so far (I've already read 2 books and studied for --and passed--a tough professional certification exam. On the other hand, I am reading the Washington Post multiple times each day and also checking in with Olbermann because he reminds me that it's not the whole country that's gone off the deep end (but sadly, a big chunk). I have been reading your blog for a long time and think you are a brilliant writer who also makes me laugh, but I also deeply appreciate your writing on your thoughts about this political morass we are now stuck in as a nation. You provide a much needed counterpoint to the constant bad news, and I thank you!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words.
      I subscribed to the Washington Post -- I really like that paper more and more.

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    2. Oh, I read The Post avidly. I think that paper has the best journalistic minds available in that venue. I like them better than the NYT these days. Do you have other sources that you recommend?

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  14. I'm starting to get more comfortable with my news/internet/despair/hope cycle. It's a general variation on the following...

    1. This is terrible. I won't look at anything at all.
    2. Starting to feel better, hopeful, calling Senators!
    3. We got this! Power to the people! I think I can look at the news a little....
    4. Oh no...back to step 1.

    Each round of the cycle takes about a week. Ugh.

    I highly recommend pairing your news with action. If you're not already on a good newsletter/email list about taking action, the re:Act newsletter is fantastic. Once a week, really quality summary of the news with specific actions to take for each one. It's not exactly positive or uplifting, but it doesn't feel like being at the mercy of all the bad, bad dudes quite as much.

    Also, I feel like the best thing we've done since the election was have a neighborhood potluck dinner. Nothing political, just good old fashioned community building. I figure it's a win-win no matter what happens...nuclear war - we need our neighbors! 2018 mid-terms - we need our neighbors! Etc, etc.

    Peace and strength to everyone!

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    1. I'll check out re:Act -- I have an app that sends me action steps on my phone, but I have yet to take one, I am ashamed to say. I love the idea of a potluck.

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    2. I found that a once a week email ended up getting more action from me than every day. I loved (and appreciate!!!) the every day ones, but figured out pretty quick that my brain and heart just couldn't take it. Which is ok - having a bad reaction to this stuff is what makes us human. Figuring out how to hang in there for the long-game is important!

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  15. It's been a rough week and I'm exhausted. I've decided to make Saturday's Drumpf free. I'm going to cook instead! This weekend we're having Mexican. I realize I'm no good to anyone if I allow my physical, mental and emotional health to decline due to anger and stress. I was able to attend the March on Washington last Saturday and it was very uplifting! It's interesting to see who is rising to the forefront in the resistance. Who would have guessed that Teen Vogue and the National Parks would be out in front. How cool is that!

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    1. I went to the San Francisco sister march and was really glad to be there, really glad to add my body to the count. It HAS been a rough week. I like the idea of Drumpf-free Saturday. I have allowed myself political podcasts which are better than Twitter because I can cook/clean while listening and they don't induce the same kind of stupor, but they can also cast me down.

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  16. I'm not on twitter at all, and I limit Facebook to 10-15 minutes twice a day and use it mostly to find out what action I should take today (i.e. today I will call my senator and talk about topic x, or I will go to the local Democrats Club meeting, or ...). This has helped immensely. It also helps that no one in the house eats breakfast cereal.

    Shirley Jackson is great. She also wrote a couple of memoirs, not quite as bleak as The Egg and I, about following her husband to small towns in New England as he pursued his academic career and about trying to get in her own writing around taking care of him, their four children, and the house. There's a new biography of her out: https://www.amazon.com/Shirley-Jackson-Rather-Haunted-Life/dp/0871403137

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    1. The SJ bio was the first book I read his year -- it was really interesting and now I want to go back and reread the analyses of her novels. Have you read the bio? If you're a fan of SJ, you should. It talked about those memoirs you mention which sound so very different from her fiction. I listened to We Have Always Lived in the Castle in the car this past week. Yeesh.

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  17. I'm on a similar diet and I'm finally getting some sleep at night. I'm baking more, which isn't really helping in terms of a food diet, but it's restful. Now to find more neighbors who want cake!

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    1. What is it about baking? I am trying to resist going in to the kitchen and baking some cookies because I know I'll just eat them all, but it is very calming to bake, to have cakes and cookies around.

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  18. Bless your heart. I feel your pain and then some. Being a Hoosier, even if Trump goes away, We're left with Pence. Another hate filled man. I try to limit the computer, But then I miss the things that lovely people that I enjoy, write. Catch 22.

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    1. Pence. Preferable to Trump for sure, but far from my first choice. I used to associate Indiana with cornfields and The Music Man, but now I see the face of Mike Pence. . . .

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  19. Here is an interesting project by the WSJ, comparing typical entries of "news" by and targeted to "liberals" and "conservatives" on various subjects on Facebook. Look at these and you will begin to understand the great divide in perception......

    http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/#/trump

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    1. That's a wild chart. Ugh. I don't believe the more extreme things from the Left, but I must admit that on the margins I'm susceptible. If I saw everything that's going to the Right, I would probably have different views. On the other hand, I have eyes and ears and I have seen and heard enough from Trump that I don't need any help disliking him. I definitely needed help disliking Paul Ryan, but the last few weeks did the trick.

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  20. P.S. I have not felt as stressed or scared since immediately after 9/11, having been in NYC that day and saw it all, too much. That also says something. I like the baking/cooking idea. It gave me great comfort after 9/11. Can't believe I'm comparing this election to that.....

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    1. I know. 9/11 was worse but I felt closer to other Americans, not completely alienated. I should start a bakery, for personal therapeutic purposes.

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    2. I wonder if you could send cookies/baked goods to Standing Rock for the protests there....

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    3. Katie, that is a brilliant idea.

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  21. Even from across the Atlantic the news cycle is exhausting and I feel like I have nothing left to give to it (drama!). Your idea of staying off Twitter, particularly, is one I am trying to abide by

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  22. I don't want to be caught off guard by everything that is happening, and I want to be able to take action. So staying off the internet altogether does not seem like a good goal for me. However, it is so easy to get sucked in to the constant social-media swirl, and not even have time for action, let alone the rest of life. So it seems crucial to figure out a schedule and limits-- this much for information-gathering, this much for doing something with that information, this much for living the life we are trying to preserve the freedom to live. I've been intending to write a post about figuring out such a schedule and limits, but I haven't been able to find the time. :)

    The most important thing I've figured out so far is to listen to my brain and body signals when they are saying, Enough, you have to step away now.

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    1. Actually, I finally did write it: http://www.eatingisimportant.com/home/steve-bannon-wont-let-me-cook-dinner

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  23. I find that taking small, frequent action helps. So I have been calling my senators, calling members of cabinet confirmation committees, making donations {I pledged a monthly sum to the ACLU} subscribing to the Washington Post and The Atlantic, writing postcards. I joined a local action group, which I found through The Indivisible Guide, and have been encouraging my friends to take part. This website is a great resource for a small, doable act of resistance every day: https://5calls.org

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    1. I think you have spurred me to make calls! That's a good thing. I HATE making calls, but I should put my mouth where my concerns are. And it is much better than emailing or writing a letter. All my reps are Republicans, so I don't think it will make much of an impact, but I should try.

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    2. Funny, I was thinking that as all my reps are Democrats it probably wasn't necessary to write them! I guess we all need to write or call.

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    3. Beckster, yes, please do call. One of my senators is minority leader Charles Schumer. His voting record on Trump's horrendous cabinet picks has been surprisingly disappointing so far, despite one of his staffers' reassurance during a recent phone call that they were doing everything to fight the good fight. Our elected officials must know that we are monitoring their actions and not rolling over and letting this unfold without a fight. We absolutely must call them out and prohibit anyone from normalizing the White House's takedown of our democracy and its blatant violations of our constitution.

      Your Republican senators need to hear from constituents that don't want what is happening to continue. It's especially important in red states for you to let them know what you think.

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    4. Just to update you, Witloof, my Republican senators are not accepting calls, so I have no recourse other than the email them, which they then ignore. It is very frustrating!

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    5. Hmmm. I suggest talking to a reporter at your local newspaper. That is a horrendous abuse of power. They need to be held accountable for not being available to their constituents. Your senators work for you and are responsible for hearing your point of view in order to be able to act accordingly. You might also try calling your local congressional representative and complaining about it. I never have a problem getting through to mine.

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  24. The media diet is a good idea, but complicated by living with someone who can think and speak of little besides the Orange One and attendant horrors. I find myself working a lot, and seeking distractions in movies and books. Last night, we saw the very wonderful, not at all saccharine, "Hidden Figures".

    Regarding the trend towards burning things and serving them anyway: If only my mother had known that she was ahead of the curve, and possibly even a trend setter!

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  25. joined the ACLU (they have received ~$19 million since Saturday a.m. Normally $3-4 million/year!!) and renewed National Park membership
    trying to channel the frustration into action--it's good to take a breather if only for my sanity, but I don't want this nationwide passion to fizzle out

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  26. I had to leave Twitter and indeed, all of the internet behind on Nov. 8, because I was in such deep despair. I don't care for myself: I'm old and most of my life is behind me. But I have children and grandchildren. You are the first of my regular websites that I have visited since the election. Thanks for your eloquent words as I take my first gingerly step back into the internet world.

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  27. من المعروف ان نظافة المنازل من بين اهم الخدمات الضرورية في التنظيف والترقية بمنازلنا الى مصاف المنازل العصرية والتي عرفت تنظيفا عصريا من شانه ان يوفر لساكنته ظروفا حياتية راقية ولابد من توفر هيئة تختص في المجال مع تقديم ضمانات متكاملة من شانه ان تجعل الافراد يضمنون نجاح خدمة التنظيف ولا حاجة للمزيد من ضياع الاموال عبر طلبات خدمة نظافة المنازل التي لا تلبي حاجياتهم ولا تتماشى مع رغباتهم لأن العديد من شركات تنظيف المنازل تسعى فقط الى عرض خدماتها عبر طرق ترويجية فحسب من اجل كسب المال فقط دون مراعاة الوازع الاخلاقي والضمير المهني الذي يحتم على مدراء مثل هاته الشركات ان يسعوا خلف ارضاء العملاء ليس اكثر من هذا عبر اتقان تنظيف المنازل . شركة عزل خزانات بالقصيم
    شركة تنظيف بتبوك
    شركة نقل عفش بالاحساء
    شركة تسليك مجارى بالاحساء
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بتبوك
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بالاحساء
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بابها

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  28. من المعروف ان نظافة المنازل من بين اهم الخدمات الضرورية في التنظيف والترقية بمنازلنا الى مصاف المنازل العصرية والتي عرفت تنظيفا عصريا من شانه ان يوفر لساكنته ظروفا حياتية راقية ولابد من توفر هيئة تختص في المجال مع تقديم ضمانات متكاملة من شانه ان تجعل الافراد يضمنون نجاح خدمة التنظيف ولا حاجة للمزيد من ضياع الاموال عبر طلبات خدمة نظافة المنازل التي لا تلبي حاجياتهم ولا تتماشى مع رغباتهم لأن العديد من شركات تنظيف المنازل تسعى فقط الى عرض خدماتها عبر طرق ترويجية فحسب . شركة نقل عفش بالقصيم
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالقصيم
    شركة تنظيف بالقصيم
    شركة تنظيف منازل بالقصيم
    شركة رش مبيد بالقصيم
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بالطائف
    شركة تنظيف بالخرج

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    ReplyDelete