Monday, March 28, 2011

Nancy and Nancy, Jr.

My mother has been in poor health for some time.  When someone asks how she is, my answer is "how long do you have?'  She has had her left knee replaced once and her right knee replaced three times.  Her bone kept deteriorating from the prosthesis.  She now has a "super prosthesis" and the Dr. was aggressive in replacing bone with prosthesis.  We call her the bionic woman. 
About six months ago, she started to get out of bed first thing in the morning and she fell out of bed.  After the fall, she had deep tissue injury and strong infection set in.  About six weeks ago, she had surgery to clean out the knee.  During that hospital stay, they put a port into the inside of her right arm.  The port has tubing which runs directly into her heart.  The antibiotics are put into the port and then her heart pumps the antibiotics through-out her body.  This won't be forever- but for a while.  A couple of weeks after she was home from that surgery, she had another fall and her knee burst open.  It was something akin to a compound-fracture except what was protruding wasn't bone but her prosthesis.  Horrific.  My Dad called 9-1-1 and then held a cloth over her knee.  She lost a pint and a half of blood.
I was sick with sinus infection and probably bronchitis or pneumonia and when my sister contacted me, I could not go to the hospital.  I was  torn, but it wouldn't have helped anyone for me to go.  I am the oldest.  My role it to sweep in and take over.  To take care of everyone.  I have two siblings so my brother and sister each stepped up to help our parents.  I was sick for almost three weeks.  Yesterday was the first day that we were able to make the two-plus hour trip to see my mother.  I called ahead and asked if we might bring Chelsea.  My mother was tickled.

well, hello there!

ma mere et moi

Chelsea is so over this little photo session
 Mother was only seventeen when she had me.  All of my life we've gotten the "oh, you two look more like sisters than mother and daughter."  My mother would giggle and I would groan.  We do look a lot alike.  That is why I refer to myself  as "Nancy, Jr."  

My mother still has a long road to recovery ahead of her.  They have told her she may be on antibiotics forever.  She has lost a lot of muscle mass and strength.  (And confidence.)  They are working with her on walking.  My Dad has been instrumental in her care for quite some time, now and he has done a great job.  Please send all prayers, good karma and healing thoughts her way.  She has a great attitude and she is a fighter.  I get my positive, tenacious spirit from her example. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Water, water, everywhere

One of the things that I love about art is the immersion.  I don't think about anything else.  The edges around blur and the background fades.
Last night, Doug was working his part-time, once a week job at the YMCA.  At some point, he came through the door and came into the dining room where I sat working.
"Do you know there is water running down the entryway floor and out the front door?" 
I had put a load of laundry into the washer.  I think in the very, very back of my mind I was thinking
that load of laundry should have been done by now. 
But I wasn't thinking about it enough to get up to see what was going on. 
My washer just kept filling.  It had not moved beyond the fill stage in hours.  Just a few hours, but hours.  The washer over-flowed. 

When you come through the door of the house, there is a long entry way hall and then you turn right at the end of the hall and that is where the washer and dryer sit.  Fortunately we have ceramic tile and it didn't hurt the floor at all.  Doug and a couple of neighbors loaded up the washer this evening into the back of his pick-up truck.  He will take it in to the repair place tomorrow.  Because we live in the country, it will save some money for him to take it to them rather than having them come out to visit us. 
Why didn't I notice all of that water? 
I was doing this:

Pretty little feather
 and this:
 and this:
Building their nest
 and this:
Doug asked me if I was smoking crack when I made the last one.  I said "no."  He told me that he might feel better if I was.  I don't usually do anything too abstract- but I had seen something similar in a magazine and wanted to experiment.  It was fun.
In the midst of a flood, the only thing that carried me away was my art!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the second day of Spring...

On the second day of Spring it was nearly eighty degrees in Southern Indiana and Cheryl ran to get a pedi/mani.  On Monday nights, it is $30.00 for both.  Then if you get a french manicure on your fingernails like I did, that is five dollars more.  I usually do my own to save money.  I do like to get a pedi early in the season to get off to a good start.  We went to Hawaii last February and so by now I had two pedis.  One before leaving to go to Hawaii and one upon returning home.  (The beach really wrecked out my feet.)  So now I am ready to reveal my toes. 
pretty in pink
Do you remember when I was taking a vote on whether or not I should get fake fingernails?  As much as I love the look and convenience, I did not get fakes.  These are my nails done in french.  I am going to baby them as much as possible.  (Also known as "I'm not doing Jack as long as I have these nails." )  
make mine french
I cringe looking at my hands.  They look like what I am...Grandma's hands.  I used to have the prettiest feet and hands.  Sigh.  The wares of youth.  Oh, well. 
Do you get a pedi in the spring time? 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring has sprung!

I love yard work.  Basically, I love being outdoors.  But I also love making it all look nice and pretty.  Removing what I don't want.  Putting in what I do want. 
The first day of spring was beautiful here in Southern Indiana with some of our warmest temperatures to  date.  I went out dressed in my Wenger boots, lightweight hiking pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a zip front hoodie.  I quickly realized that I didn't need the hoodie and shucked it.  I probably could have been in a short sleeve t-shirt as well, but sometimes it feels good to sweat a little.  I raked and swept and cut out two dead bushes and cleaned up all of the mess.  Just enough yard work that I could feel it today.  If I sat too long at my desk, I was stiff and a little sore when I got up.  
I should have taken before and after pics so that you could get a true appreciation of my efforts.   

There are still some roots left where I cut out the two bushes...if you look closely, there between the V of the wood...I really love to cut stuff out with my cutters.  Wonder what that means? 
When I was all finished, I pulled a camp chair out into the drive and sat another chair in front of it.  I leaned back, put my face to the sun and put my feet up.  With a cat on my lap and a dog at my side, the three of us sat there like that for probably two hours. 
A wonderful first day of spring!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cheryl's wonderful scrambled eggs

I do not like to eat scrambled eggs in restaurants because they are never as good as mine.  I do not like my eggs "runny," and I'm not too crazy about the white of an egg.  When I make scrambled eggs, I blend them in the blender so that the white and yellow are thoroughly mixed.  This morning I started with two eggs, added some milk and a little (quarter cup?) of shredded cheddar.  Then I blend that in the blender.  The secret ingredient is about a teaspoon of relish.  Not something that most people would add to scrambled eggs, but I think it is very good.  Think about it- you put relish in deviled eggs. 

I just look through the refrigerator to see what I can add.  This morning I had some fresh cilantro and ham.  After blending I added those two ingredients.  I don't measure any of this, I just eye it.  While it was cooking I hit it with the pepper grinder.  Wonderful!  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I won, I won, I won!

Patti over at It's A Wonderful...had a giveaway the other day.  Do you enter giveaways?  I feel like I enter all the time and never win.  Until now!  I won, I won, I won!  Thank you, Patti!  Now...everyone head over to see Patti and tell 'em Cheryl sent you!  She had the cutest stowaway story today. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wine and Canvas

Have you heard of Wine and Canvas?  It is a new craze that is a lot of fun. 
I was online twice on Sunday between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.  About ten p.m., I noticed an email in my gmail account and opened it.  It was from my friend Lisa over at Life Unity telling me she had won a couple of tickets and would I like to join her?  I quickly wrote back. I fully expected her to say that she had given up on me and the ticket was no longer available.  But she said she still wanted me to go!  I was so happy and excited!  I met Lisa through blogging and we took another class together about a year ago.  Lisa's email said something like "I would like to paint with you, again."  Do you read Lisa's blog?  If not, hop over and give her a visit.  She has a beautiful soul that shines from within.  She amazes me- has two little ones but still manages to constantly continue to keep up her quest for personal growth and continuing on her artful journey.
I arrived early and Lisa and I sat and visited while we waited for class to begin. 
starting out
seeing red
Lisa and moi
Our class was taught by Greg and our picture was a brilliant New Orleans image.  It was interesting how each picture was similar, but different.  No two were the same as each artist's own personality and style came through.  Greg kept us moving and there were two helpers assisting and snapping photographs.  Our entire class session is on facebook under Malibu in Bloomington.  If you are able, look into the classes.  Each one is taught by a different artist and there are different paintings.  I would do it again.
My favorite part of the whole evening?  Getting to see Lisa and catch up on our lives.  We sat before class and talked about how art is calming and stress free.  We talked about integrity in art and how you are continually growing and learning not only about art and all that it has to offer, but about self and what is inside of you.  I only began my artful journey about three years ago.  Prior to that, my only artistic expressions were through music and writing.  I love art because it is ever changing.  I love how a piece leads you. 
Now, go check out Wine and Canvas and visit Lisa

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One of my favorite recipes

My favorite meat loaf recipe comes from this cookbook:  Square Meals by Jane and Michael Stern.  This cookbook features recipes that were popular from the 1920's through the 1950's and not only gives the recipe- but the history behind it. 
My favorite recipe from this cookbook is called "diner meat loaf."  I like the combination of beef and pork.  (And as a rule, I do not eat beef.)

Here is how it looks with the beef, pork and oatmeal. 
 I added a small can of mushrooms.

Another trick of my own to add a little more fiber and flavor is to add carrots.  When my children were little I would grind the carrots very small.  I was also "hiding them" from their Dad.  Doug and I both like carrots in our meat loaf, so I slice them very thin.  I used three small carrots. 
Two of these little babies.  My granddaughter, Natalie, was born on the same day as my egg lady/friend/colleague, Mary Jo.  Mary Jo gave this dozen eggs to me ("the eternal symbol of fertility,") as a gift celebrating Natalie's birth.  You can see why I am friends with Mary Jo.  I like the way that lady thinks!

Here is how the meatloaf looks when all mixed up before I cover with tomato juice and catsup.

And here is how it looks after I slop on the tomato juice and catsup.  My mother had one of these speckled enamelware baking dishes with lid and when I married and "set up housekeeping," I had to have the same.  She always baked her meatloaf in hers and I have always baked my meatloaf in mine.  And my meatloaf always looks something like a football. 

The instructions in the cookbook read  "Do not under cook.  A pink-centered meat loaf would humiliate any true diner chef.  Gray is the color, through and through." 
Before living here, I (and the two maternal generations preceding moi) have always cooked with gas.  Dug's stove is electric and I hate it.  It always "over cooks."  I get mad and then he says it is my fault for not knowing to compensate. 

As I said yesterday, I have been sick and my appetite has been hampered by the fact that everything tastes like cardboard and my sense of smell has been hampered.  So I made buttered peas. 

And mashed potatoes.  Do you know what the secret is to good mashed potatoes?  Heat your milk before you add it to the potatoes.  I always heat mine in the microwave in a coffee cup.  And lots of butter, of course.  I remember when my children were in grade school and they came home and said "the potatoes at school are white- not yellow like yours!" 

And, just because I found it in the cabinet, I mixed up one of those envelopes of brown gravy.

It was so good (yes even to me through my stuffy head) that we ate it for lunch and dinner. 

I have to change every recipe that I make.  Do you?  I just always think to myself "now, how could I make this just a little better?"  For this recipe, I add one small (drained) can of mushrooms, 3 small carrots sliced thin and a teaspoon of Colman's dry mustard.  I use three-quarters of a cup of tomato juice when I mix the recipe and then I use the remaining quarter of tomato juice mixed with catsup to spread over the mixture before baking.  And, because I have colitis, I eliminate the onion.  
Here is the recipe from Square Meals:

1 and 1/4  lbs ground beef
1/4 lb of ground pork
3/4  cup instant oatmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup tomato juice
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix beef, pork, oatmeal and eggs.  Blend in milk, tomato juice, onion, Worcestershire, and seasonings.  Pack firmly into 9x5 inch loaf pan, shaping a rounded top.  Bake one and a half hours.  Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.  Drain off any excess juice at bottom of pan.  Serves 8.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cedar Bluffs

I am still sick.  As of yesterday, I've been sick for two weeks.  I am better, but have not been able to kick this junk.  Still have it in my head, my chest, my ears. 
But- it was sixty degrees today and dug and I decided to take Chelsea and do one of our favorite hikes, Cedar Bluffs, which is two to two and a half miles from our house.   The hike isn't very long, but it is rewarding.  You walk along Clear Creek on a rocky trail and then head up to the top of the bluffs.

We happened upon a tree that a beaver had taken down so I thought I would take a photo of it to share with you.  If you'll notice in the lower right-hand corner, Little Miss had to get in on the action. 

Look at that smile!

Looking up at the bluffs.
I happened upon this excellent crinoid stem.

Chelsea and dug were up ahead of me.

One of the trees that live on the bluffs- a cedar.

Moss growing on top of the limestone.

View from the top of the bluffs.

Looking down over the top of the bluffs.
Because I've been sick for the past two weeks, I didn't have a lot of energy or stamina, but it was good to be out and hike the bluffs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do over

This has been a long, yucky winter.  I get SADD in the winter and this winter I was only on anti-depressants for about a month.  I felt like they were making me gain weight.  And I don't like the numb-to-life feeling that I sometimes have with them.
I didn't want to miss a thing when the baby came along. 
I wanted to FEEL every ounce of emotion. 
I cannot tell you how excited and nervous and scared I was for the girls.  I could barely sleep.
Yesterday was ultimate happiness. 
Last night as I was about to turn out the light and go to sleep I looked at her picture one more time.  And then I cried.  I thought about what a wonderful blessing to our lives this little girl is.  I thought about how much happiness she will bring. 
I thought about how being  Grandma is an opportunity for a do over. 

I was a single mom from the time that my kids were two and seven.  Every day I got up and tried to be the best mom that I could possibly be to them.  But I'm afraid that sometimes my efforts fell short.  There was never enough money.  I didn't have anyone to turn to.  I didn't have anyone to balance me and I am someone who needs to be balanced.  I always described myself as a balloon bobbing about on the end of a string and that I just needed a man to hold onto that string and ground me.  All those years when my children were growing up I didn't have that. 

For ten years I worked in advertising.  The first for three years I was employed by my hometown newspaper where I was also a columnist (I still write for them on occasion).  For the next seven years I worked at a bigger paper where I made more money, but I had a lot more stress.  In the end, I lost my job at that paper.  The night I lost my job I sat my two children down and told them I had some bad news and some good news.  I said the bad news is- mommy doesn't work for the Star Press anymore. Then I said and the good news is- mommy doesn't work for the Star Press anymore.

I had been going to school to earn my degree and paying for it out of pocket for two years.  When I lost my job, I got a job at the university where I was going to school and then they paid for my education.  That was without a doubt the biggest blessing of my life.  The job change for me was like going from hell to heaven.  And the university could put me to work right away and asked me when I wanted to go to work.  I had some money saved and I took a month off to get my head together.  I walked my son's paper route with him.  I kept them home with me.  It was summertime.  I always worked and it was just good to be with them. 
But all of those years in advertising were stressful and I know I brought a lot of it home to them.  They both would tell you that they could tell when I came through the back door how it was going to be. 

I was always the mean parent.  I was the one who pushed and expected a lot.  I always felt like if you expect nothing, you might get nothing.  I had very high expectations.  Both of my children always were stellar people and still are, but I think they resented the fact that I expected them to excel.  Even when I was still with their Dad, I was the mean parent.  When I was with him, he basically made me be the disciplinarian.  Our son had a lot of energy and there were times I had to take him out to literally run it out of him like a puppy.  Total strangers would come up and ask if I had heard of Ritalin.  Which is very rude first of all and secondly, our pediatrician never suggested meds.  I was the one who learned that he slept better if we went to the park to play.  But he could be literally jumping from chair to sofa and his Dad would just sit there and not say a word.  I always had to be the one to correct. 

The divorce did nothing to help that situation.  Life with Dad was all fun and life with Mom was real life- which wasn't all sunshine and roses.  And the teen years were...teen years.  Not easy. 

There were times when they were taking care of me instead of my taking care of them.  I tried not to show it, but there were times I was scared.
I am close to both of them at this point in my life.  There is no one I would rather be with or talk to or hear their stories than the two of them.  I never get enough of them.

With Natalie I get to be Grandma.
I had wonderful examples of what a grandparent is in my life.  The first person to show me unconditional love was my paternal grandpa.  I remember sitting in his lap with his watch to my ear and listening to the tick-tock.  To this day I love a ticking watch or clock.  His wife, my maternal grandma was like a mother to me.  She lost grandpa about three years before I got divorced and when I got divorced we became even closer. 
My paternal grandma lived on a farm.  I grew up going to her farm every Saturday night.  Those nights at her farmhouse in eastern Indiana were something akin to the Waltons.  She had a big old kitchen.  You entered the house through the kitchen.  She had a big farm table with six chairs- something I've always had.  A big farm table with six chairs just says sit down a spell and talk.  She had a plaque hanging in her kitchen which hangs in my kitchen that says "no matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best."  That was so true.  In her home there was peace and safety and love.  We sat in metal rockers in the yard and caught fireflies.  I learned what I knew about cooking from her.  From her patient guidance and teaching.
And I was blessed with a great-grandma who was the keeper of the stories.  We would finish a meal and she would assume the position.  Crossing her hands before her, she would start to tell stories.  Oh how I loved hearing her stories. 

I've got lots of grandma know-how stored up in the memories of these grandparents who were the perfect examples of  the office of grandparent.  The office of grandparent is simple.  The office of grandparent is to love. 
To rock and tell stories.
To exclaim and listen when she comes running saying "Grandma- look!" 
To send cards (with bee stamps on the envelopes) and a dollar for every birthday. 
To show her fiddle head ferns and leaves floating in puddles and to lay on our backs in the sun looking at cloud shapes. 
(Here come the tears again.)

I laid in bed last night and thought all of these thoughts. 
And driving to work this morning, the tears filled my eyes again.

I can't get my hands on her until the end of the month because I have a plane ticket for then because she was supposed to arrive on St. Patrick's Day.  (At least now she can wear the My First St. Paddy's Day bib that I bought for her.)
And I have this stupid lingering cold in my head and chest that I've got to kick before I go there to cuddle and rock. 

I am so happy to be a grandma.  To get a do over.  All I have to do is love.  Not work.  Not struggle.  Not anguish whether or not I'm doing it right.  She has parents to do all of that.  I just get to have fun and laugh and listen and tell secrets and spoil and read stories and take walks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Natalie's Garden

She arrived today.  My little granddaughter.  Her name is Natalie and objectively, she is beautiful and perfect in every way. 
Immediately, my mind begins to go to work.
Initially, I thought:
I can't send flowers because I don't know what hospital she was born in. 
I know it is a hospital in a major east coast town- but that is all I know.
Then I thought:
I'll send flowers once they get home. 
Then I thought:
I'll send a plant or a tree that we can plant in the yard to honor her birth. 
Then I started thinking about how my daughter said maybe I could help them in the yard when I'm there this summer and I thought:
we'll make a garden for Natalie.
Then I started thinking about how she and I can garden together. 
How Grandma will wear a hat like this:

a hat for Grandma

And then I start thinking about a hat for Natalie:
baby hat
I think about how Grandma will wear gloves with flowers like these:
gloves for Grandma

And how Natalie might wear gloves with cows like these:

child sized gloves with cows
How Natalie can have her very own tool bag with gardening tools like these:
Child sized garden tools
Rakes, spade, and shovel just for her:
child sized
We will plant pansies and zinnias. 
And I will let her pick all she wants.  Why not?  It will be her garden! 
Natalie's garden.

By now you may be wondering if you read wrong at the beginning of this post.  When was Natalie born?  Today.  A Grandma can dream can't she?  A Grandma can plan can't she?  Am I wishing away her baby years?  No.  I'm just dreaming on this a day that is suddenly filled to the brim and over-flowing with possibility and wonder.  Of having fun and being crazy and wearing a funny hat with someone who isn't embarrassed by my wearing a funny hat because she will think I'm wonderful.

I got the call in the very early hours of the morning.  Before I left for work I grabbed a vase and stopped on the way to work and bought myself a dozen pink roses.  I took myself to dinner.  I was tired but floated happily through the day in a dizzying cloud of happiness. 

Driving to work, I had my hand on my chin.  The thought occurred to me:
I'm a Grandma and I have two zits!
Some things never change.

Monday, March 7, 2011


What matters?
I've been thinking about mid-life. 

My mother took a fall yesterday.
She took a fall about six months ago and got a bad infection in one of her (two) artificial knees.  They did surgery and irrigated and cleaned out the infection about ten days ago.  Then she fell on that knee yesterday and busted it open.  I guess it was pretty gruesome and horrific.  She lives in my hometown, two hours from where I now live.   I couldn't go because I have been sick. 

I've been sick as in wheezing so bad that you can hear me wheeze even when I have my mouth closed.  Hacking with a cough that sounds like a bark.  Coughing to the point that it is embarrassing.  In the beginning I could hardly talk because I couldn't breath through my nose. I was off work last Monday and Tuesday.  Now dug is coming down with it and he was off work today. 

So yesterday when my family contacted me, I was in pajamas- late in the day.  I asked dug when, if ever he had known me not to shower and get dressed.  Even when I was off work last week, I showered and dressed.  But not yesterday.  So my family contacts me when my mother falls and I had this terrible struggle of feelings to rise up within me as if I should run and shower and get in the car and drive the two hours north to be there.  To be the strong, steady oldest child that I've always been.  But I couldn't. 

And the baby is coming and I have a plane ticket to go on March 31st to the east coast to be with them.  And I want to run and be there and peer through the glass at him or her and say to the stranger standing beside me "that is my first grandchild."  But I can't and I will hold him/her when he/she is a few weeks old.  Life doesn't allow me to dash here or there or to be where I want to be when I want to be. 

And I am torn between aging parents and children having children and I am learning this is what mid-life is. 

My gal pal Jennifer and I were talking on the phone tonight and she asked me how dug and I are doing.  I said
"oh, he is o.k.  I'm o.k. with him." 
Because sometimes I am not o.k. with him.  And I said to her "you know, sometimes being with someone is just being with them?"  The two of us sit in front of the fire and his head begins to nod and his book begins to fall and I say
"you are falling asleep."

And sometimes your best friend is the orange marmalade cat that stands on the kitchen table and nuzzles your head with his and he has been in your life longer than the man you are living with.
Or the little Corgi glued to your leg who has stolen your heart and is your new best friend. 
And you sit with the phone next to you waiting to get the next phone call or text telling you
that she made it through the surgery just fine and the artificial knee wasn't damaged in the fall
or they just broke her water
and the cat is at your feet
and the dog is at your side
and the man has gone to bed
and it is quiet
and the fire burns on.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Only one thing is missing

I am about to enter into a new relationship in my life.  My first grandchild.  There is a part of me that thinks I am "too young" to be a grandma, but another part of me that thinks it is about time!  Growing up I was fortunate to have three grandmas.  I had my paternal grandma that lived on a farm.  I had my maternal grandma (who was a lot like a mother to me) and I had a great-grandma, too that was my mother's grandma.  My mother was extremely young (17) when she had me, so that is part of the reason I was able to have my grandmas for a lot of my life.  I was always so close to each of them.  I have things in my home from their homes that I cherish.  Things that remind me of them.  I can't imagine a grandchild wanting to have my things around when I'm gone. 
My daughter's wife is carrying my daughter's egg.  My little grandbaby is a petri-dish baby.  We got to see baby pictures of the sperm donor and hear an interview.  He seems like an amazing person.  I had tears in my eyes as I listened to his voice.  The due date is March 17 but now the doctor says it may be sooner.  I have a plane ticket to go to see them at the end of the month.  I am so excited and yet there is a part of me that can't imagine how I will feel.  I know I am going to love this new little person very, very much.  It will be interesting to see my daughter become a parent and to see my son be an uncle.  We are all just beside ourselves with anticipation.  Every time my phone rings and it is my daughter I am saying "yes?  yes?" 
Here is a tour of the nursery. 
changing table

rug in front of changing table

glider rocker and ottoman. 
 I bought this for them and cannot wait to sit and rock my angel.

baby bed and friends. 
the plan is to take the little one's photo with the giraffe through the years.
diaper holder

I recently made this card and sent it.
"Grandma."  A new name.  A new role.  A new responsibility.  I know I will be over-the-moon excited and in love.  Only one thing is missing.  "C'mon little baby, Grandma can't wait!"

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