Kindness

Only twenty minutes left until the bell rings. We are outside on the “small playground” getting the kids ready for the bus. It is hot. Already at 85 degrees which is unusual for us this time of year. Everyone has had a long week. Students and teachers. Only twenty minutes to go. My phone rings. Quickly, I look at the number. It is a local number, yet one I do not recognize. I have a very unhealthy fear that at any given time Gracie will have a seizure, therefore, I always answer all local calls, because, you never know.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Jennifer?”

“It is but you need to make it quick I am at work.”

“Oh yes, of course. This is “Jessica Smith” the principal at…”

“Oh, of course, I will always make time for you, is everything okay?”

“Yes, I just wanted to connect with you and thank you for the email….”

Immediately I knew the email she was referring to. I took a small, silent breath of relief, realizing that everything is okay with Gracie, and I listened.

The woman on the other end of the phone is a mother of two. One of her daughters also has autism. The woman, “Mis Smith” is also the principal at the middle school my children go to. It was only then I realized she called me from her personal cell, and not the school phone.

“I was so touched. It just meant so much to me. You have no idea and…and…”

And she starts to cry.

Teacher Appreciation Week was this week. It came pretty fast. I struggled to decide what I could do to show appreciation for my daughters’ teachers. I wanted to do something but was at a loss.

Two days ago it all came together. I picked three strong educators who I feel make an impact on my girls, and in a somewhat lengthy email, I let our Superintendent know just how much I appreciate these women. One Principal, One Sped teacher, and one Gen Ed Teacher.

Apparently, the Superintendent forwarded the email to the teachers/principal. Which brings us up to date. On the phone with the principal, listening to her cry, telling me how much she appreciated my email, well, you know me, I almost started crying!

I have years of experience as a parent volunteer seeing first hand how much teachers do. I can fill this post up with stories of how over the years my children’s teacher not only tutored my own children but me as well. I can tell you the countless times I have seen teachers use their own money to supply classroom supplies, or the times they stay up all night making Christmas treats for the kids, especially the kids who may not get anything else for Christmas.

For the last eight months, I now have the perspective of being a paid employee with my district. Guess what, the stories do not change. I see it every day, I see teachers go above and beyond. So, for me, sitting down for twenty minutes, penning a letter to our Superintendent, well, that was the least I could do.

And being on the other end of the phone, listening to the tears of appreciation, well, it just reinforced what I already knew.

Educators, they do not need much.

Just a little “thank you” every now and then.

kindness
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The One Where I Was Blackballed.

Every Sunday “The Parents” make their weekly calls to all of us kids. Many times we will talk during the week, whether by text or a quick phone call, but every Sunday without fail they call. Of course, I am the only kid who answers every Sunday just like clock-work. This is of no importance other than to mention that perhaps I am “the good kid.” It’s okay, my siblings do not read this blog, so I am good!

Anyway, today The Parents and I had a nice little conversation of a memory from years long gone. It was my 14th birthday, and somehow The parents were able to pull off a pretty epic surprise birthday party. It all began with “Jen, can you take the trash in the kitchen to the garage for me?” I thought it was weird that I was handed a bag that was not even half full of trash, but whatever.

As soon as I opened the door that leads to the garage, I was greeted with countless “SURPRISE!” “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” and familiar faces of my friends. Many of whom I am facebook friends with today. It was a great memory, one made even nicer with the fact that my grandfather was there as well.

Then, the conversation with The Parents kinda took a turn for the worse. It took a turn down a long dark corridor to a memory that I feel pretty much screwed me up, but everyone gets a good laugh at to this day. Everyone except me that is.

It was my sisters birthday. She was turning 12. Now, although my sister and I were never really close back then, I did not think anything of it. The Parents rented out this Rec Center type of venue, and my sister was able to invite her friends. It was a boy/girl party, there would be music and some light snacks. I was actually kind of excited to go. I mean my sister and I hung out with different crowds, but I figured I would be able to invite my friend, and we could just hang out and feel important chillin’ at the Rec Center where there would be dancing, and music, and who knows, maybe I could even meet new people.

You see, back then, my friends were only church friends. I had no friends at school. Zero. My sister had friends everywhere. Church, school, the local pool hall, you name it. So in my feeble little mind of a 14-year-old, I thought that maybe I could meet some local school people then maybe people would start to be nice to me because my sister was the popular one, and everyone wants to be friends with the popular girl. Or hopefully the popular girls’ sister. Follow so far?

Now, imagine my surprise when I found out I was not invited to my sister’s birthday party. I will pause so you can read that line again. Yes, you read it right, my sister did not want me at her birthday party and The Parents backed her up.

Oh, my feelings were hurt so bad. I cried, secretly in my room while listening to Skid Row. I questioned everything. “Does my sister hate me so bad that she did not want me at her birthday?” “Am I that much of an embarrassment?” “Maybe I am too fat?” (I mean this is the mind of an insecure 14-year-old girl) It was a tough one for me, and clearly still is being that I am blogging about it!

I never really got a satisfactory answer. My sister did not want me there so I was not there. Now that I am a mother of four, and my girls are just about the same age apart as my sister and I, I can tell you 100% for me as a parent, I would not do that. We are all a united team, and excluding anyone is not an option.

I do not fault my parents, I mean at the time it was not about me. It was about respecting the wishes of my sister, and I will say if they truly ever knew how much it hurt me, I think things would have ended differently. I do not fault my sister. She was a brat back then. It would be a few years later where I went through my “brat phase.”

It’s just interesting to me. A memory that when reminded takes me back to those dark places. Things were different then.

After the phone conversation with The Parents, and after giving them fair warning that I am totally writing a blog about “The Time I Was Blackballed” I called Christin.

Excitedly, I told her I FINALLY have a blog to write about. I give her a quick synopsis of everything you just read.

Christin: Wait, what? You were not invited?
Me: I was not invited!
Christin: Are you being serious?
Me: Yes, I am totally serious!
Christin: Wow….this explains so much.

And there ya go! It kinda does explain a lot, right?

Now, again, it is important for me that none of you two readers come away from this post feeling some kind of way. Whether you think I need to get over it, or not agreeing with my sister or The parents, I feel I need to say that I had a wonderful, magical childhood. This particular incident was maybe just an “off day” for everyone, or maybe no one has any regrets? Who knows?

However, how fun would it be if we can somehow get my Dad, who has his own Blog that he writes with his brother) to do a follow-up post? I think that would be pretty epic. He could title it “The Time I Blackballed My Daughter” or something along those lines. Soooo, Dad, if you are reading this, I think sometime in between your crazy schedule you should write a post! That would be fun!

Anyway, on a closing note, what I have learned over the years, we all just try to do the best we can. And sometimes we are spread thin, we can never make everyone happy. It’s not always an easy lesson to learn, but it is a life lesson.

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The One About the Book and Real Life.

You guys know I enjoy writing. I currently have two books in the works that I hope to self-publish by September. I enjoy writing here on the blog. Whether I am pouring my heart out or writing about nothing in particular, I just enjoy it.

Just like most aspiring writers I have a collection of unfished work. Most of them in dusty old notebooks, a few of them on the worn and torn desktop. I always wanted to write a romance kind of story. But, a realistic one. Not one based on the Cinderella Fantasy. Know what I mean? A few years ago I started writing one. Out of all of my unfished work, I keep coming back to this one in particular. One day, I will get it finished.

The opening scene begins with a husband and wife. The wife (Jess) is sitting on the edge of her bed while her husband is pacing back and forth. He wants a separation. She cries, she is confused and is many ways never saw it coming.

The story then flashes back to an undisclosed amount of time. A younger Jess has a new, up and coming catering business. On this particular day, she is doing interviews for a cook. She meets Jack. Although she and Jack do not immediately hit it off, she hires him just based on his experience and references. The beginning of their working relationship offers a lot of comic relief, and then over time, they become friends.

The readers see their relationship progress from annoyance, to friendship, then dating. Jess and Jack have a great connection. We are rooting for them. They are real and likable. They are like us.

Then one-day Jack gets a call. His mother passed away unexpectedly. He leaves town to attend the funeral.

Time goes on and it is as if Jack dropped off the face of the earth. The readers are privy to information Jess does not know. Yet, the readers also see Jess heartbroken and confused.

We see Jess’ decent, then we see her rising. Eventually, she has healed. Jes puts her all into her catering business. Leaving no time for anything else.

One day at a flower shop of all places Jess meets Ryan. Slowly and cautiously, Jess and Ryan build a relationship. Their relationship is different than hers and Jack’s, yet the same.

As time continues to move forward, on a lazy Sunday morning, Jess runs into Jack at the local coffee shop.

A conversation takes place. A conversation that leaves us more confused than ever. All three main characters are likable. We want to see them all succeed.

It is at this point that we have no idea who the husband is in the opening scene.

Is it Jack? Is it Ryan?

Soooo, that is the gist of it. All I will say is one of the main leads I based off of Joe, my own husband. I think it has the potential to be a good story. Most importantly I want to write it in a way where both Jack and Ryan have equal fans.

I don’t know, I guess we will see what happens.

Now that I am older and wiser I know the “Cinderella Fantasy” does not exist. There is such such thing as Prince Charming. Hell, there is no such thing as Cinderella. It’s the writers and producers who want us to believe that Love is always wrapped up in a pretty red bow with candlelit dinners, passion, extravagant vacations and presents, but that is not who the real world works. Of course, we can have Love. But Love is good and the bad and overcoming it all even when you want to throw in the towel. The “Honeymoon” phase in a relationship is a very real thing. But, after that comes the “Comfort Phase.” If done correctly, the “Comfort Phase” will last a lifetime.

The “Comfort Phase” is being tired, and stressed out, but not wanting to be that way with anyone else. The “Comfort Phase” is not wanting to talk, yet wanting to be in the same room, reading a book while the other is watching t.v.  It’s going to bed at different times, tired, and moody, but once you feel the familiar touch of an arm wrapped around you or legs brushing against each other in bed, it just makes everything seem okay. That’s the Comfort Phase, and probably in my 12 years of marriage, my favorite phase yet.

~Jennifer

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The One About The Fat Jeans

Is it just me, or do other women out there have about 50 pairs of jeans all ranging in different sizes?

Jen’s Jean Sizes.

“I will never look this good again.”
“Makes my butt look like J-Lo.”
“Current goal”
“Need to lose ten pounds”
“Need to lose twenty pounds.”
“Fat Jeans”
“Too far gone from fat jeans.”
“Leggings.”

I know I am not the only one out there, right? So, this morning I wake up bright and early for work. Just like every morning, I am tired. I am not a morning person and will never be a morning person.

Haphazardly, I stumble to the bathroom, jump in the shower, and get dressed. It is a “Fat Jeans” kind of day. It just is. No explanation needed.

I wriggle into my Fat Jeans.

Hmm. This is not right. I mean usually, with my Fat Jeans I can just slip them on with ease while throwing on a belt on to keep them up. These bad boys were not going over my hips without me having to unbutton and unzip. I was mad. Mostly mad at myself. How is it that I am now at the point where my Fat jeans do not even fit?

Needless to say, I had a less than a stellar morning at work. I was annoyed, moody and felt less than. Less than what, I am not sure. Probably “less than” these stupid expectations I put on myself.

On my lunch break, I ran to the restroom. Once again, I wriggle every which way just to well, you know, use the restroom. It was in between the moment of “I may dislocate my hip” and “How many squats will it take to stretch these bad boys out” that I realized something.

Hmmm. How could this be? Taking a closer look, I realized that my “Fat Jeans” were not, in fact, my “Fat Jeans” they were the “Need to lose ten pounds” jeans.

After questioning myself on how I could be so dumb to not notice the tag size, my mood suddenly changed. I was happy, giddy, and may have even shouted a “Thank You, Jesus” proclamation.

My Fat Jeans are not tight on me! This is even better, I am thisclose to goal. At least that is what my jeans say, right?

Leaving the restroom, making the walk and perhaps “happy dance” back to my classroom, it hit me. All day long, I allowed a number to dictate my mood. I allowed what I thought was a number on a pair of worn and torn comfy jeans to define me. I mean what is up with that?

My weight did not change between the hours of 6am and 12pm. What changed was my mood, my mood based on some ridiculous number that I gave power too.

Unacceptable, right?

My trials and tribulations, my character, my story, that defines me. Not a label, not a number, and not another person.

Confidence comes in all shapes and sizes, as does beauty, strength, and courage. I think what needs to happen, at least for me, is I need to go through all 50 pairs of jeans that range in about eight different sizes and take a scissor to the tag.

Because what I have learned in the span of today is that the only “size” that matters, is One Size Fits All.

~Jennifer

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The One Where I am All Over The Place.

This has not been the best of starts to the new year. I mean can I even call it the “new year” anymore since we are already three months in? We should be approaching Spring in about 18 days, and for many of us, the weather says “Nope, not done with Winter yet….Suckers!”

In the last two weeks, this is what has been going on with different members of my family/extended family.

  • Leg amputation
  • Heart Attack
  • Second Heart Attack (Same person)
  • Diagnosis of Parkinson Disease
  • A beloved family pet passed away
  • A second pet from the same family is close to passing.
  • A diagnosis of Gastroparesis.
  • An abscess that needs surgery.
  • Diabetes diagnosis.

Two weeks you guys! All this has been happening in the last two weeks. Then there are the stories, mostly work stories I cannot talk about. Sad, horrifying stories that involve the innocent. It is a lot.

By the grace of God, on my own personal homefront, we are well. But damn, no one ever really knows what can change in the blink of an eye.

I was talking to my sister on the phone today. The conversation went a little something like this.

Sis~ How’s work going?

Me~ Oh, it’s good, I mean other than the stories I can’t talk about it is good. I also need to up my low carb game.

Sis~ Aww, why? Did you get off of it?

Me~ No, not really, I have been maintaining. But now since I have to chase kids all over the freakin neighboorhood, I figured it is time to get healthy, you know, so I do not collapse from a heart attack while I am chasing these little Dictators.

*insert laughter*

But, I am serious. I suppose I am finally at that age where I understand the size of my jeans does not determine my health, there is a bit more to it than that, and I am still young enough to get it in check, ya know? Again, look at the last two weeks with just my extended family alone. It really is enough to make you stop and think.

I have a plan, I know I can execute my plan. It’s not a “diet” but more of a “lifestyle change.” And, I hate that term “lifestyle change.” When anyone says “Lifestyle Change” I picture a young Bohemian artsy chic who lives off of granola and kale. That’s not me. I am more of a Rocker artsy chic who enjoys bunless burgers and vodka. So, we are just going to nix the “Lifestyle Change” wordage and use “New Habits.”

Depending on which study you read it can take anywhere from 18-66 days to develop a new habit. Or, I think to say it better It ONLY takes 18-66 days to develop a new habit. Do you see what I did there?  The first sentence I said, “It can take…” The second sentence I just changed the wordage to be a bit more positive. “It only takes…” Oh dear God, I am a Bohemian artsy granola, kale and all about positivity chick aren’t I??

Whatever. I know myself. And FOR ME, I know I only need 18 days to develop new habits, and for me, my new habits will entail building muscle while sticking to low carb. We will see how this goes, but I have no doubt I will accomplish exactly what I want to accomplish.

In other news, and remember, the title of this post warns you that I am all over the place. Okay, so I live in a suburb of Seattle. In my city, for whatever reason, all these storage units are being built. Off the top of my head, I can list four storage units that are in the process of being built, not including the ones that are already in place. I am talking about large storage unit areas. It is insane. One place, in particular, has one storage unit being built and then not even a mile down the road is another storage unit being built. These are not single units. So, because I have a crazy imagination, and for all intense and purposes I fancy myself a writer, I thought of a potential short story.

This would be a thriller type of book. Think Stephen King or Dean Koontz.

“Bedford Falls, a cozy little town located in the Pacific Northwest with the glorious Puget Sound as its backdrop. A town where every Friday night the locals will either be at the high school football games or the infamous Patterson’s West skating rink. A town where people chose to live. A town that has great potential.

Jess and Steven have been married for fifteen years. Steven is a pilot for Alaskan airlines based out of Sea-tac airport. Jess spends her days caring for their three children while working part-time at the local hospital.

When the police inquire within the hospital of any “John Does” Jess allows her curiosity to get the best of her. Too many people are going missing. Something is not adding up. It is only when Steven goes missing that Jess takes it upon herself to do what the police are not doing. 

A thriller with many twists and turns that leads her to Washington, Government coverups and the final straw. Storage units.”

Do you see where I am going with this?! It may work, right? The only thing is, I have another writing project I am working on so I cannot do much with this right now. Dad, if you are reading this, and you better be reading this since no one else in the family reads my blog…what do you think? I can “almost” see you and “Uncle R” doing another story with a plot similar to this.

I told you guys my mind was all over the place.

Gracie’s birthday is on Friday. Celebrating Gracie’s birthday is always bittersweet to me. For those that do not know, she was born six weeks early, spent time in the NICU was born with her intestines outside of her body, and almost did not make it. Joe and I told her “You pick, whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go, we will do it.” This is something we do with all the kids. For Sofia’s birthday, she chose to go to the mall to eat and then do some shopping. And remember, Sofia’s birthday was just last month, on the 15th. So……Joe and I had the same talk with Gracie and she decided she also wants to go to the mall to do some shopping, but she chose Panda Express to eat.

Well, as I was writing this post, Gracie comes out and told me she changed her mind. She now wants to do pizza and shop at Fred Meyer. After pulling teeth, wondering why she changed her mind, I found out Sofia thinks Gracie is “copying” her with her birthday plans. I am seriously just as lost as you are.

The girls are complete opposites. Even if Gracie did shopping at the mall, Gracie would be all about makeup and clothes, where Sofia is all about anime and books. But what do I know, I am just the mother that gave birth to these Dictators.

Anyway, I am going to sign off. I mean I could write more, but I figured I may have lost your interest when I wrote my potential “book blurb” so I will not push it.

Again, my mind is all over the place.

It is deflection.

Deflection so I do not have to think about how so many people out there have it so much harder than I do.

~Jennifer.

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The One Where I need Therapy (Again)

I am an overprotective mom. I am sure this is not news to anyone, but I kind of feel like I take it to another level. Especially with the girls.

With the boys, in some ways, I was more lenient with them. They were boys. They grew up in the same neighboorhood that they started elementary school in. As long as they were together, I knew they were fine. And they were. It was after high school that some bad choices were made, but that is another blog.

The girls did not go to the same elementary school as the boys, even though we lived in the same neighboorhood. Because of Gracie’s delays, she had to go to a different school that offered the program she needed. When Sofia came along, we had to keep her in the same school as Gracie. Just simple logistics and all. The girls never really grew up with friends in the neighborhood, because they did not go to school with any of the neighboorhood kids. And, listening to the stories my then middle school and high school boys told me, I was okay with them not hanging out in our neighborhood.

I do not know if times have changed or in the day and age of social media do we just hear about more? I have a fear. An honest to God paralyzing fear that someone will violate my girls in the worst way possible, and this fear, coupled with their elementary school years has turned me into an overprotective mom.

My boys would spend the night out at their friend’s house. Of course, I would make contact with parents, make sure everything was on the up and up. Back then the sleepovers would consist of staying up all night and playing Mortal Combat. And, I know this is wrong, but they were boys. They had a little bit of “street smarts” to them, common sense. I could not imagine allowing my daughters to spend the night at someone’s house (assuming they were ever asked!) I read too many horror stories online. “Jessica spent the night at Melissa’s house. It was during the night that Melissa’s stepfather groped Jessica.” You know what I am talking about, we read about it all the time. Hell No! I cannot risk that. I will not risk that. In my mind, I rather be considered an overprotective mom than risking anything with the girls. Is this a normal thought process?? Serious question.

So, I am overprotective. Also, and I know this, but I tend to maybe do too much for the girls. “Do you want me to cut your steak?” “Bring me your clothes and I will wash them.” You guys, my boys were washing their own laundry at 9 years old, and they were good at it! I prided myself on how I taught them at a young age to wash their own clothes while knowing one day their future wife will thank me.

Why is it different for me with the girls?!

Today, I took the girls with me to the grocery store. Something that I do not do often because I worry about sex traffickers. Just due to our schedules, they went with me. We bought a lot. Two carts worth of groceries. I told them “Okay I can push one cart but someone needs to push the other.” They look at each other with a mixture of fear and confusion. “You guys, it will be fine, just follow me.”

Gracie~ “Not it!”
Sofia~ “Fine Gracie, I will do it. Geez!”

So off we go through the way too busy parking lot. No issues, we made it to the car in one piece and loaded it up. We emptied one cart first and I told Sofia “Take this to the cart return, it’s right there in front of us.” She took it, kind of giving me the side eye, which is her nervous look. We then unloaded the second cart, and I told Gracie “Okay your turn, take this to the cart return.”

Gracie~ “What’s the cart return?”
Me~ “The thing where you return carts.”
Gracie~ “How did I do it?”
Me~ “The same way Sofia did it.”

It was at this point where I sensed her nervousness. It threw me off. In that moment of seconds, I realized that not only am I holding her back, but she really does need to become more independent, right? I stopped loading the groceries and gave her my full attention.

Me~ “Gracie, you will be fine. First, you turn the cart around so you can push it. Then you just push it straight ahead into the cart return thing. You make sure to push it in with the other carts. Then you look both ways before coming back to the car.

With autism kids, you have to break everything down step by step. In fact, if you are not familiar with autism, please let this be the takeaway from this post. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting someone with autism. Everything and I mean everything has to be broken down in steps.

So…Gracie takes the cart. Then she kinda freaks out because she cannot get the cart completely lined up with the other carts. I tell her “It’s okay, you did good come on back.” And then she runs back without checking both ways.

Now….I do not know where my thought process is. Have I sheltered them that much that returning a simple cart to the stall freaks them out? Or, is Gracie’s reaction typical of those with autism? Did I not give her the proper step by step instructions? Is my fear of something bad happening to the girls hindering them? If so, how do I fix that?

I am at a loss here. Am I overthinking? Is this all normal? Am I the only crazy parent out there who has this paralyzing fear? Anyone????

~Jennifer.

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The One About Him

He was a good person. He still is a good person.

Although it has been many years since we had an actual conversation, I know He is one of the good ones.

I met Him when I was young. Maybe around ten? Gosh, I think it was younger than that? He would come home from work and always have a candy bar for me. Most of the time it was Butterfinger. So, he is kind of at fault for my Butterfinger obsession.

He always told me he thought my hair in a ponytail looked nice. I never forgot that because I love wearing my hair in a ponytail. Back then and today. It’s a good example of how a simple compliment to one can turn into confidence for the other.

Sometimes things were not easy, but He always treated us well, despite the not so easy times. He was funny in his own way, and boy did he like “collecting” things.

Sometimes I felt bad, wondering if the fights were my fault, although He never made me feel that way. It was just the young mind of an insecure little girl.

When my grandmother passed away, They took me for a walk. It was me. At least in my memory, it was just me. Now that I think about it, it’s a good question to ask. We took a walk to Fort Clifton in Colonial Heights, Va. It was right before the walk when They told me. The details are fuzzy. On the walk, He took out his pocket knife and carved my grandmother’s initials in a tree. Years later I would go back trying to find the tree. I never did.

He was at my first wedding. As a wedding gift, he bought me one of those large, family size bibles where you can insert the family history. It was my favorite wedding gift. I wish I still had it.

When I had AJ, He came to visit me at my house. My POS of a husband (at the time) would not let him in. I always felt horrible about that. Guilty about that. Once again, He left a baby gift. Like I said, He is a good person.

He did not have to remain in my life, He chose to.

Because of the close family history, He never seemed that far away, ya know? I am Facebook friends with his wife, and over the years we have exchanged Christmas cards.

He has served our country. He is a son, a father, a grandfather, a husband. His life has not always been an easy life, but, we are not promised an easy life.

He is strong, He is a believer. He is a story-teller.

Tomorrow, He has to have surgery. Leg amputation surgery.

It is my opinion the VA has failed him.

And now, here we are.

We will be praying. We will be asking ourselves “How can this happen? What went wrong?” We will be wondering where the solution is for our Vets. How can they be treated this way?

And, at some point during the day, I will have a Butterfinger. I will think of him and be thankful that at a not so good time, he came into our lives, and never really left.

~Jennifer

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