Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Meet Author Christy Brunke

In the winter of 2015, I met Christy Brunke at the Writer to Writer Conference in Hershey, PA.  I was smitten by her smile, enthusiasm, and sincerity. We were both finalists in the Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest. I thought, “Lord, I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if she won.” The Lord was gracious! We both won book publishing contracts that year–along with our soon-to-be-friend Linda Brooks Davis! 

CJ:  When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Who first supported you in this dream? 

CB: When I was born, my parents named me Christy after Catherine Marshall’s bestselling novel. You might say Marshall and her famous heroine were my first inspirations. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved reading, especially inspirational fiction.  

As a little girl, I was always dreaming up stories. I remember going into a patch of woods near our house and pretending I was the queen of a small kingdom. When my brother Jeremy was born, I was disappointed he couldn’t walk or talk. My solution? Create an imaginary friend named “Eremy.” In sixth grade, I won a short story contest and was rewarded with a Butterball turkey. From then on, I dreamed of writing novels, memoirs, and children’s books.

My mom, another avid reader, was the first to suggest I write novels. But I probably inherited by creativity from my dad. A former singer and songwriter, he helped me plot Snow Out of Season.

CJ: What did you do before you became a writer?  

CB: Penning Snow Out of Season was an incredible experience, but, before that, the Lord led me on other adventures. I completed a bachelor of arts in English and moved to China to study Mandarin and teach at a university. When I returned to the States, I attended seminary and taught drama and music.  

Then God called me to Chicago to work at a multi-site church where I fell in love with a zany youth pastor. After we got married, a story grew in my heart, one I felt compelled to share. Now was the time to pursue that long-delayed dream.  

snow-out-of-sesasonCJ: Tell us a little bit about your debut novel Snow Out of Season.

CB: Two pregnant women separated by time . . . Are they more connected than they know? 

Shannon Henry is just starting to put her life back together after the death of her infant daughter when she discovers she’s pregnant again. When her doctor presents her with the choice of either raising a child with Down syndrome or terminating the pregnancy, Shannon is torn. 

Leslie Gardner is a high-school senior in 1979 who dreams of becoming a professional ballerina, but discovers she is pregnant. If she has the child, her chances of a dancing career and college are over …

CJ: What inspired you to write this particular book? 

KB: As a teen and young adult, I longed for a God-scripted love story. I devoured books like Elisabeth Elliot’s Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity. Realizing my Creator knew me better than anyone, and knew every man as well, I asked Him to choose my husband.  And He did.  

Mark complements me perfectly and has been an incredible blessing to me and many others. But when his mom was pregnant with him, her circumstances would have led many women to have an abortion. I started wondering what my life would have been like if she’d made a different choice. 

So began Snow Out of Season, the dual stories of two women of two generations who struggle with the same questions. Is the child each carries worthy of life? What will it cost to keep the child? What will happen if each decides not to? 

CJ: How have your readers responded?

CB: Fiction lovers, book reviewers, and other novelists have blessed me with their reactions to Snow Out of Season. 

  • The Library Journal called it “. . . an astonishing tale with a gratifying ending . . . completely engrossing.” 
  • Award-winning author Brandy Vallance said Snow Out of Season is . . . a beautifully poignant and much-needed story.”  
  • Bestselling author Sandra Byrd said, “The story caught me with characters so real I feel I might see them on the street, and it held me with breathtakingly clever storytelling.” 

Amazon readers have encouraged me greatly with their 5-star reviews, including: 

  • “Best book I have read in years.” 
  • “Great New Author!” 
  • “Couldn’t put it down!” 
  • “I cried!”
  • “Fantastic  – A Must Read!!!”

CJ: What writing projects are you currently working on? 

CB: During this season of my life, I’m focusing on book events, blogging weekly, and writing articles for online newspapers. In 2017, I hope to begin writing my next book. Between novels, creative nonfiction, and children’s picture books, I have over a dozen ideas. 

On my website, I plan to share teasers for my best tales and ask readers to help me decide. Subscribe to my blog at ChristyBrunke.com, so you can tell me which one you’d like to read next!

christy-brunkes-author-photo

MORE ABOUT CHRISTY: Three months after her second daughter was born, she entered her manuscript in the Operation First Novel contest. In January 2015, Jerry Jenkins announced her story was a winner. In November, the Library Journal named Snow Out of Season the Christian Fiction Debut of the Month. By January, it topped Amazon bestseller lists. Christy Lives in Maryland with her husband, Mark, and their two adorable daughters. When she’s not at church or with her family, you can often find her blogging, writing articles, or dreaming up her next story.

Click HERE and scroll down to order all three winners of the last Jerry Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest: The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis, Double Header by Clarice G.  James, and Snow Out of Season by Christy Brunke.

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So Very Thankful: Remission Accomplished

so-very-thankfulHands down, this year’s major to-be-thankful-for item is my husband David’s remission from cancer. His diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia early in January was a jumpstart to a year of extreme faith.

I remember the first prayer we prayed: “Lord, cancer does not define us! Our faith in you does. Help us to remember that as you carry us through this journey.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Our hope is in God, our future is with God—whether here on earth or in Heaven.

We shook off our pre-planned 2016 agendas and headed to Boston, thankful we lived in close proximity to some of the best hospitals in the world. We are grateful for the expertise and experience of the caring medical teams who still treat David. We were blessed with help from family and friends—most especially the perfectly-matched stem cells from David’s sister, Darleen.

peace-lloyd-jonesWe didn’t fret or fear.We prayed and trusted God—not necessarily for David’s healing, but for God’s perfect will for our lives. We’re not naive. We know bad things happen to all people—whether they have faith in God or not. It’s hard to understand sometimes.

But Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) puts it this way: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

We had no idea how this would turn out, yet we lived in the midst of a peace that goes way beyond our mere mortal comprehension. When you know God in a personal way, He does that sort of thing for you.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the midst of cancer, grief, marital strife, emotional turmoil, physical pain, failure, job loss, financial stress, or loneliness. He’s within a prayer’s reach–and it doesn’t have to be a fancy prayer either. Just open your heart to him; you’ll see.

We are so very thankful for our family and friends–for your prayers, moral support, kind words, warm hearts, open arms, and for taking the time to listen.

remission-accomplishedDavid still has a couple more months of a semi-quarantined lifestyle. He’ll start the re-immunization process after the first of the year. Until we see you again, we’ll continue to celebrate a remission accomplished!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 


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I Have Questions. Where is King Solomon?

QuestionsWhen the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem . . . she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. ~ 1Kings 10:1-3 (NIV)

The US is a complicated place, and the people who live here even more so. I have a few questions. If there’s a King Solomon out there, give me a call.

Do you have questions too?

  1. When a company advertises its frozen chicken product as having “ingredients like all meat chicken,” what exactly do they mean by like?Strawberry-Roll-ups
  2. Why do we say “You’re only [pick any age] once” and “You’re not getting any younger” as if it’s a lost nugget of Solomon’s wisdom?
  3. Why were consumers caught unawares when it was disclosed that strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups contain no strawberries?
  4. One day, a doctor can tell a woman smoking may harm the baby in her womb. The next day, another doctor can end that same baby’s life in that same womb. What kind of choice is that?
  5. Yes, bacon soap is real—but why?
  6. Speaking of soap, what happens to soap scum that doesn’t stick to your tile?
  7. Why does the news media blame drug addiction on everyone except the person who started taking the drugs? I know the problem is complicated, but shouldn’t we hold the addict accountable too?da14_bacon_soap_closeup
  8. Who decides what to do when an endangered animal eats another endangered species?
  9. That brings me to this: Why do sharks get more respect (and news coverage) than the seals they eat?
  10. Why can’t gruntled people get as much attention as their disgruntled counterparts? Sheesh. The word’s not even recognized by spell-check.
  11. Have you seen the ad for the Preparation H Totables which come in a “discreet, convenient travel size”? Pardon me, but isn’t all use of any Preparation H product meant to be discreet?PH
  12. If, for unknown reasons, either and/or both of our presidential nominees were unable to continue their race for office, how would a replacement candidate be chosen?  No, seriously, how?

 


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Finding Kissing Spots

Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.  Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. ~ Psalm 85-10-11 (NIV)

Often, while walking behind my husband when he was seated on our couch, I’d stop and kiss his bald spot and say, “There’s a tiny kissing spot right there just for me.”

We both knew it hadn’t been tiny for quite a while. For some unknown reason it began expanding soon after we got married. I don’t have a scientific explanation, but I’m convinced it has something to do with climate change.

Anyway, when my husband was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in January, about the third thing I said was, “Hey! Do you think you’ll lose your hair?” I’m sensitive like that.

David responded matter-of-factly, “Probably.”

My face lit up. “You know what that means? I’ll have more kissing spots.”

David responded matter-of-factly, “Probably.”

I waited patiently. His hair didn’t fall out as fast as we assumed it would. Expecting it to happen after his second round of chemo, he had the nurse give him a buzz cut, but it remained fuzzy, then grew back. Then, two weeks after his third round of chemo —voila!—his head was as soft as pudding. (Well, not his whole head, just his scalp. Actually, I’ve never felt pudding, but you know what I mean.) Now I had a multitude of spots to choose from and I have kissed them all!

two heads sized

Can you say “good sport”? This is David in January then May.

I started to think about that term “kissing spot.” It was my positive way of looking at a negative situation. It reminded me of the joke, “While the optimist argued with the pessimist, the opportunist drank the water.” I wondered what other “kissing spots” I could find in the midst of this experience. I found a great example in my husband.

Every time . . .

  • a doctor or nurse practitioner reported test results—whether good or bad—he thanked them.
  • a person spent time with him, they left smiling.
  • a member of the housekeeping staff swept under his bad and emptied his trash, he told them how much he appreciated it.
  • a staff member changed her hair or wore something colorful, he complimented them.
  • a cafeteria worker brought him a meal, no matter how tasteless it looked to me, he acted excited and said, “Oh, yum!”
  • a group of med students rounded with the doctors, they left chuckling at one of his witty comments.
  • a nurse hooked him up to his rolling IV dance partner for a bag of platelets, packed red cells, or antibiotics, he thanked them.

    IV Stand

    David’s on and off dancing partner for the past 4 months.

He’d found their kissing spots. Now I needed to do the same.

In addition to his hospital room, I spent much of my time at the hotel, in shuttle buses, and trying to navigate my way from Dana-Farber to Brigham & Women’s. I saw a variety of people in various situations.

I thanked . . .

  • the young man walking by the hotel who lifted my heavy suitcases out of my car and put them onto the luggage cart.
  • the desk clerk who programmed my new cell phone’s GPS so I could find my way back to the hospital.
  • the two women who gave me a ride when I missed the last morning hospital shuttle.
  • the van and bus drivers who got me where I needed to go so I didn’t have to fight traffic.
  • every hospital volunteer or staff member who recognized the dumb look on my face and pointed me in the right direction–more than once.
  • the gifted hotel housekeeping staff whose kindness and consideration I will never  forget.
  • my son Chris, his wife Diana, my daughter Erin, and her husband Chris for helping me prepare my house for David’s homecoming.

It was my privilege to . . .

darn collecting 2

David’s sister, Darleen, beautiful inside and out.

  • spend quality time with David’s sister, Darleen, who donated her matching stem cells to her big brother.
  • pray with a woman who’d been told her husband was only a few days from Heaven.
  • get a smile from a little, bald girl when I told her her light–up pink sneakers were so cool.
  • listen as an immigrant father of two, a hotel guest, bragged about his children’s achievements since their move to the States.
  • tell a woman how well David was doing the day before she herself was due to have the same type of stem cell transplant.
  • spend hours with a patient who never whined or complained but exhibited a settled faith, patience, kindness, and peace through it all–my husband.

I learned something else. You won’t find kissing spots unless you’re looking for them. Don’t worry, they’re not hard to find. God puts them all around us.

kindness act.gif

 


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Posies, Puppies, & Posterior

I’m back—but then you knew I couldn’t stay away long. I’ve got a lot to say. Mainly, THANK YOU to everyone who’s prayed, sent cards, emailed, texted, called, and dropped off meals while my husband, David, continues on the high and low roads to recovery.

posies puppy and posterior

Three of the many cards we received. *Cheek not David’s.

I love all those . . .

  • Who kept in touch since you first heard the Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis and said, “Let me know if I can do anything.”
  • Who sent just the right card—or multiple cards!
  • Who sent daily Scripture verses.
  • Who only know us through Facebook, yet offered to pray.
  • Who wrote and spelled every word right (well, most of you but you all get a pass this time). 🙂
  • Who happened upon my blog, read it, and commented.
  • Who cooked and/or baked or bought something delicious for us. (Downside for you: I will blame you for my weight gain.)

Because I have a weird sense of humor (and need material for my next book), I even love those who said stuff like this . . .

  • “You look tired. And I’m going to tell you every time you do.” [That was you, Deb.]
  • “I’ve heard of AML. I think my aunt died from that.”
  • “Did the doctors tell him the treatment could damage his vital organs?”
  • “How do you feel about your husband having cancer?”

Seriously, these friends are the ones who feel close enough to speak what’s on their minds and in their hearts. One of them crocheted my husband a prayer shawl and a matching hat in a week. Another prays with her granddaughter that David won’t get a fever. One offered to keep me company on one of my many trips into Boston. One made sure we had pie on π Day. Another offered to lend David one of her wigs—chin strap included! All of them have kept me laughing!

When someone is battling illness, it’s hard not to let it define you. Early on, that was my first prayer with David. “This is cancer, it’s not us. We are Christians. We have faith. We know what the ultimate future holds. We are not afraid.” We’ve had to repeat that statement a few times, but only because we are also human.

While the hardest part for me is seeing my husband sick, for those who know David, the hardest part for him is not being around (or able) to help me. His love language is service—particularly service to me. I am blessed!

We’re trying to live as normally as possible, but it’s hard to do.  First, because we’re not that normal to begin with. Second, we have a visitors’ ban in place. We haven’t seen children and grandkids since Christmas! As soon as David’s blood counts level out, that will change!

Since David felt so bad when I had to cancel my book launch celebration originally scheduled for January 31, he encouraged me to go ahead and have the celebration anyway. So, on Sunday, April 10–which happens to be the day before the Red Sox opener at Fenway–we will celebrate Double Header, my first published novel. God has good timing, I think.

I would love to see you there. If you have a copy already, bring it to be autographed. If you have one that’s autographed, come anyway to celebrate with me and enjoy some ballpark-style refreshments!

So I know how much food to have on hand, please register on EventBrite at http://tinyurl.com/zbntf2b.

image001

Every card reflects the richness of family and friends.

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (MSG)

 

 


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Sorry, the New Year You Ordered Is Out of Stock

113265_maxWe’ve had a shock of sorts over the past few days concerning my husband David’s health. Last Friday we saw an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

DOCTOR, looking at David: “You’re in good health other than the Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”
ME and denial trying to ignore his diagnosis: “It’s January. Why is he talking about a cute Hawaiian Christmas song?”

The doctor followed his pronouncement with a long and detailed explanation of this type of cancer and the treatment to follow, which would require a six-week stay at Brigham and Women’s (Dana-Farber’s in-patient hospital) in Boston.

I tried to listen carefully, but I kept getting hung up on the last thing he said, thereby missing the next. He had questions for my husband too.

DOCTOR: “Do you take any medications?”
DAVID named a single medication then seemed to hesitate.
ME, thinking it was a good time to step in to help. “You take Percocet in the morning too.”
DOCTOR, brow furrowed: “Percocet?”
DAVID, smiling and shaking his head: “No, my wife means Prilosec, but I switched to . . .”
ME, jumping in to correct my faux pas: “Oh, that’s right, it’s Xanax.”
DOCTOR, now eyes wide open: “You’re on Xanax?”
DAVID, patting my hand. “Please ignore my bride. It’s Zantac for heartburn.”

I decided my helping might not help that much.

DOCTOR: “I’m not going to admit you today. I’ll give you five days to prepare things at home. Here’s an order for more blood work for Monday.” Then leading us over to the lab, he said, “Before you leave, I’d like a bone marrow sample.”
DAVID, quivering: “That’s the one thing I’ve been dreading.”
DOCTOR: “Ask the nurse for some Ativan to relax you. But if you take it, you can’t drive home.”
ME, thinking, but not saying: “That means I will have to drive home. How on earth will I find my way OUT of the city when I can’t find my way IN?”

The bad news was he took the Ativan. The good news was he was on Ativan when I drove home.

The next day . . .

01990ME to DAVID, after posting a professorial-looking photo of David on our family Facebook page to let them all know: “What do you think?”zztop
DAVID, after seeing it: “I think it makes me look venerable. Now everyone’s going to feel they have to say nice things about me.”

He countered my picture choice by posting this much less reputable-looking one with the help of Photoshop.

Getting ready . . .

My 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Contact everyone and ask them to pray.
  • Make sure David gets the seafood and Chinese food he’s been craving.
  • Buy him snacks.
  • Buy him new underwear and PJ bottoms—and make sure his tee shirts and fleece tops match.
  • Buy size 15 slippers–once I figure out where to find them.

When I found the flannel PJ bottoms, David thought he would need x-large instead of large. I bought one large and two x-large. I washed the large and they shrank sink inches, making them look like plaid capri pants. When he tried on the x-large, it looked like he could synchronize swim in them with two of his friends.

ME, looking at him in the x-large pants: “You can’t wear those to the hospital. You’ll look like a . . . “

DAVID, pulling the elastic waistline out a good foot: “Like a what? A cancer patient?”

I returned the PJs and we found some that were NOT 100% cotton to avoid shrinkage. We tried four stores before we found slippers big enough.

David’s 5-day preparedness list looked something like this:

  • Show Clarice how to access online bank account to pay bills.
  • Show Clarice where the water shut-off and water heater controls are.
  • Show Clarice how to contact Tech Support and Comcast.
  • Show Clarice how to get to Netflix. Cancel Netflix DVDs because she doesn’t know how to open the envelope right or even use the DVD player.
  • Show Clarice where the generator is case of a power failure. Then make her promise not to touch it, but go directly to a hotel.
  • Show Clarice how to drive the Venza we’ve owned for three years.
  • Show Clarice how to use the smart phone we just bought her.
Thinking things through . . .

When discussing how he’d feel once the chemotherapy started, I told David not to hesitate to tell people if he was too tired and needed rest. [During her time as a cancer patient, our friend Kellie used to say, “That Cancer Card can come in pretty handy when I don’t feel like doing something.”]

cancercardME, when I learned David had a long call to make that night: “This might be a good time to play that Cancer Card.”

DAVID, shaking his head: “You never want to open with trump.”

ME, later while thinking about the doctor’s order for more blood work: “They took seven vials of blood from you on Friday. Why do you think the doctor wants you to have more blood work done on Monday?”

DAVID, looking at me over the top of his eyeglasses: “Could it be ’cause you told him I was on Percocet and Xanax?”

See why I want this guy to get well? He not only makes my life better, he makes me laugh while doing it.

The doctor is optimistic David will achieve remission because they caught it early. When the six weeks are over, further treatment will be determined.

Here’s the tee shirt he plans to wear when it gets to that point.

i_came_i_saw_i_want_to_go_home_tshirt-rd73d97489d6840a5b83d8e7674dc5dfd_804gs_324

Latin for “I came, I saw, I want to go home.”

Until then, we’ll keep the faith, keep laughing, and covet your prayers. Thanks.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress my God, in whom I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)


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Chances Are I Didn’t Do It

My Christmas Letter: I’m amazed at all the things I DIDN’T do last year.
Winter:

snowvids1I DIDN’T shovel an ounce of the 105 inches of snow we got in the Northeast. It’s hard to shovel snow when you’re in Cancun. Not that I was in Cancun, mind you. But I do live in a condo community with stand-alone homes and low HOA fees–snow removal included. Close enough for me, by golly.

I DIDN’T finish the portrait of my husband I never started. “Why not?” you ask. The answer is simple. We don’t have a fireplace, so where would I hang it? And then there’s this: I can’t draw, not even a short straw.

I DIDN’T dance the cha-cha-cha. Unless you count the mornings I had too much coffee.

Spring:

I DIDN’T quite finish my Fall cleaning.

Not by bicycle.

This is not my bicycle.

I DIDN’T let the strong crosswinds affect me on a 30-mile cycle trip on the Kancamagus Highway. I DIDN’T have one sore muscle. That’s a lie. I did have a few sore muscles, but that was from sleeping on our old mattress. Never been on the Kancamagus myself. Don’t even own a bicycle, and slow speed is too fast for me.

I DIDN’T spit out the car window–not one time. Mainly, because both times the window was closed. [Note to my friend Kellie Parham. You know I’d never do this, so relax.]

Summer:

I DIDN’T go camping. At all. What a shame. (Again, lying here. No shame at all.)

I DIDN’T have the problem of critters spoiling my organic garden. I chose to pay the whole price at Whole Foods and save myself a whole lot of grief.

Prize HogI DIDN’T win a blue ribbon at the fair for my prize hog, Ham. I DIDN’T even go to the fair. Ham and I lounged by the pool that day.

Fall:

I DIDN’T do a scrapbooking page for each of the things I DIDN’T do.

I DIDN’T smack a single person upside the head. (Of course, the year’s not over yet.)

I DIDN’T win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I felt kinda bad about that for a while. The feeling passed when I realized people might expect me to do exciting stuff with all my money. Like sit and sweat in Cancun. Ride or, worse, hike the Kancamagus. Go camping. Or show off my hog, Ham, at the county fair.

More things I’m thankful I DIDN’T do: 

I DIDN’T give up on getting my first book published–and it happened.

I DIDN’T get sick.

I DIDN’T stop being thankful for my family.

I DIDN’T stop loving and appreciating my husband.

I DIDN’T lose a loved one.

I DIDN’T stop praying.

I DIDN’T stop believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the world.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” ~ Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

CJ 02056