Category Archives: Domesticity

Are You My Other Mother?

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Right up there with Dr. Seuss is the author of “beginning to read”  books, P.D. Eastman.  Although not nearly as prolific as Seuss, Eastman’s books Are You My Mother? and Go, Dog, Go! are easy to read classics on par with The Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  

Eastman’s story about a baby bird hatching while his mother is gone from the nest foraging for food, and his subsequent quest to find her, leave an indelible and anxious mark on many a four and five year old.   The baby bird did not know what his mother looked like so he inquired of a kitten, hen, dog, cow, car, boat, jet, and SNORT, asking plaintively, “Are you my mother?”

I  am fortunate that I did not have to ask this question as a child.  However, both of my maternal grandparents lost their mothers in adolescence and my father-in-law, The Headmaster, lost both parents at a very tender age.  This is why, although the waves of grief billow over me threatening to capsize my equilibrium, I try to have only the occasional pity party.  I was blessed with knowing my mother Sally and liking her, to boot.

But even my mother threw me and my sisters out of the house.

“GO OUTSIDE!”  she yelled with alarming frequency.  Sometimes she’d even lock the doors so we couldn’t come in and bug her.  Reading a book in my room was not an option. She needed the nest CLEARED.

When this happened, I would ramble in the neighborhood, visiting my “other mothers”.  Estelle McDowell, a married, childfree woman who looked liked Mrs. Claus, read me her childhood books, books written in the late 1890s and early 1900s by Josephine Scribner Gates.  She entertained me with stories of the pet monkey she once owned.  Even if I couldn’t come inside to visit, she would hand me a piece of Almond Roca candy and kindly tell me to skedaddle.

Then there was my “Nana”, Lois Watson, to whom I was not related but who was present when my mother brought me home from the hospital, who knit my Christmas stocking, and taught me to bake.

Finally, there was Thelma Willard, who taught my mother to garden, kept a basket of polished beach agates on the hearth, and whose husband’s garage was filled with hundreds of clocks with which he’d tinker.

All of these women’s houses were their own special kind of Wonderland and the people who inhabited them were lavish lovers of children.

The absence of my mother Sally has obviously created a tremendous void.  There is no upside in this.  But is there, perhaps, more space for others to tuck themselves in?  Skipping around my Florida neighborhood, I ask myself, “Are you my mother?”

There is Winnie, my mother-in-law, who has given me space and healing hugs.  There is Carol, my next door neighbor, who gives me gardening and household tips, a friendly wave across the driveways. There is Sandy, who invited me to the Daytona Beach Symphony Fashion Show.  There are the women of Sally’s bible study at Trinity Episcopal Church who welcomed me into their circle when I was forlorn.  I gravitate to their experience, wisdom, and open hearts.

The baby bird at the end of the book Are You My Mother? cries out, “Where am I?  I want to go home.  I want my mother.”

Baby Bird gets his wish.   And in my own way,  I am too.

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My Cross to Bear

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I began what is called a “grief journey”.  My parents’ pastor said to start one about six weeks after the death of a loved one.  By this I think he meant to start going to a support group, once the shock had worn off.  But for me, a support group is not the answer at the moment.  Writing about my mother is.  For I have come to the realization that my mother and I communicated through writing as much as through speaking, and perhaps more meaningfully so.  To wit, I have found some of my childhood and teenage notes to my mother which are at once painful, hilarious, truthful.  Mortifying.  Oddly, honoring Sally this way dovetails nicely with the Lenten season.  Planned?

New readers to the blog should note that we all use “love handles”.  Please feel free to pick your own should you leave a comment.  Otherwise, I might do it for you.

If you are joining me on this “grief journey”, we are packing lightly.    Jesus advised to only take “bag, belt, and sandals”*, relying on the goodness of others’ and the Holy Spirit to provide the rest.  As this was one of the central messages of my petite Camino de Santiago, it has never been more apparent to me, both materially and spiritually.  But for now, sweet readers, please remember that between the Radish and me there was no baggage.  Our hearts were are peace with one another.  Does it get better than this?

So, when I write about broccoli I am not writing from a place of condemnation but of genuine love.

I am the child that does not like cruciferous vegetables.  You would think a Jesus lover would.   Per Wikipedia, “The family takes its alternate name (Cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing”) from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross.”  But no, the smell of them is so noxious to me that I become nauseous, swooning with the vapors.  I could never convince my mother, who ate everything, that this was a biological reaction, one induced by a complicated set of factors stemming from my lack of a certain enzyme (her fault or my father’s?).  I even provided her with a scientific article** detailing this deficiency, one that afflicts enough of a percentage of the population that it needed to be studied.

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Above is a photo by The Radish featuring a cabbage and a freshly baked loaf of bread.

I am also the child who nearly passes out at a fish market.  Growing up, one of my worst fears was to have to sit in the main dining room of Lazio’s, a combined fish processing plant and restaurant.  It was where all the travelers passing through Eureka ate seafood.  (Eureka was never a destination, just a passing through kind of town – this was in the days before TripAdvisor!)

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I would beg my parents to eat in the bar, where the smell of fish would not annihilate the smell of my hamburger.  The Shirley Temple with the cunning little plastic mermaid draped over the side was the sole*** reason I survived these visits to Lazio’s.  That I lived in four foreign countries wherein salted cod was a primary staple is an irony not lost on me.

Yet my mother never gave up on me.  Hope sprang eternal for her vis a vis her daughters, her husband, her friends and family.

Just as my mother didn’t give up on my tastebuds she never gave up on her quest for my sisters’ to cut their hair.  My mother liked short hair on women and my father long.  Ever the mother pleaser, I have mostly worn my hair in a chin length bob, which seemed to be a happy compromise [please refer to my post of nearly a decade ago here].Each of us sisters has a childhood photo with us sporting a bowl type haircut.  Again,  mortifying.

Shortly after my mother’s funeral, I said to my sister MCV Was Here, “Just think, now you never ever have to worry about how short to cut your hair!  Mother is forever pleased!”

To which she responded, “You know, I was just thinking I should cut off all my hair.”

“@#$%^&* NO!!!!,” I said, “It was not your best look!”

This is what grief does to one, wanting to go to great or short lengths to please one’s mother even after she has passed on.   Say what?  Yes.  Irrational thoughts seize one’s mind.  As colloquial wisdom says, one should not make any big decisions for after a year of a loved one’s passing.  This includes cutting off one’s hair, even if it would arguably make one travel lighter, and readdressing the issue of cruciferous vegetables.

I leave you with my mother’s recipe for brussel sprouts, a.k.a. gag balls, which she lifted from the food website Food52.com and a recent photo of Sally at the hairdresser’s.   Peace on your journey today.

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*Matthew  10:10; Mark 6:9; Luke 10:4 [Synoptic Gospels].

**ironically, provided by my friend Broccolibooksandbed.  Click here to read for yourself.

***superbad pun, couldn’t help myself.

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Filed under Domesticity, Family, Fine Dining, Life, Luggage, Star Gazing, Travel

Persian Aversion: An Ode to Martha

 

One of the oddities not mentioned in the After Your Heart Surgery brochure that a hospital gives a patient and their family before going home is that the patient will become a Food Diva.  If they were a Food Diva before the surgery, this aspect of their personality will become heightened, exacerbated, enlarged, inflated.  Once the pain is over and the patient returns home, small portions of any food not resembling hospital food will be requested.  This is natural.  But “requested”, perhaps, is too gentle a word.  Strongly suggested?   The very thing the caregiver is suggested to make, however, will offend the patient’s also heightened olfactory senses.  Chex Mix (TM) can send a patient into paroxysms of disgust.  Crockpot pork shoulder, lovingly rubbed with chili, garlic, salt, and cumin, can send a patient over the edge.  Who knew?

If one is not a natural born cook yet finds them self in a primary caregiver role to a Food Diva, this is a bitter pill to swallow.   Where does it say I have to be Alice Waters, Julia Childs, or Ashley Rodriguez?  To the patient whose primary love language is Acts of Service – The Provisioning of Healthy Meals to Your Family – to find oneself in the clutches of a merely serviceable cook of a caregiver is to find oneself gazing about the ramparts of the pits of hell.  Some snarky, possibly overtly aggressive, comments about pizza and the frequency with which it is consumed, just might be uttered by the patient: “You just keep eating your pizza.”  Food shaming at its best!

MoodRingMomma and I were at our collective caregiving wits’ end the other night.  I suggested to our mother that we could eat either a) crock potted chicken thighs in green salsa from her own website cooksallycook.com or b) Stromboli from the Italian restaurant a stone’s throw away.  MoodRingMomma added that she was willing to cook c) chicken curry.  A veritable smorgasbord of options, with a green salad on the side!

But no, The Radish wanted effing ground lamb kebabs on flatbread with roasted tomatoes from Naomi Duguid‘s cookbook Persia.  No matter that we did not have the skewers the recipe required, a grill, or ground lamb.  Hamburger would do, mixed in with the grated onion, mashed into pasty little sliders by my very own dish pan hands, and cooked on the pancake griddle.

I later commented that really, this very labor intensive  dish, was a Persian version of a poor Greek’s gyro, one we could probably get as take out.   I felt it needed some tzatziki but all agreed that the sumac spice was essential (this, of course, we had on hand).  Nonetheless, the Radish was pleased with the outcome and the smell did not offend.  She enjoyed watching MoodRingMomma cry over grating the onions and me mashing the meat paste into “kebabs”.   There was no sitting at the feet of Jesus for these sisters.

It was shortly after this that I had a hissy fit on the phone with my other sister MCVwasHere, during which I explained that everyday with a heart surgery patient is like being on a roller coaster.  Up one hour, down the next, with loop de loops, hanging upside down for extended periods.  This is no reflection on the heart surgery patient.  It is the nature of the beast. But no doctor tells you this beforehand, of course.  A heart surgeon touches your body exactly twice: once to cut on you for 4-5 hours and then again to remove the staples, and maybe then he or she  might even make a different healthcare worker do that nasty bit of business.

My ten year old nephew, overhearing the conversation, piped up and said,

“Wait!  You’re on a roller coaster????”

Like we were whooping it up on vacation at DisneyWorld.  It still makes me laugh hard.

Sometimes life demands that a Martha show up instead of a Mary.  Marthas get sh*t done.  Martha would not have hesitated to wipe up the blood and crust from the wounds of Jesus but she might have been resentful that she had to unload the dishwasher and milk the yak too. I am not so sure that That Other Mary would have been up to the task, something I will inquire about in my personal one-on-one conversation on the other side.  For today, Sweet Jesus, let me make it to Christmas.  At least there have been no poopy diapers.

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Shopping Suggestions:  you are cutting it close, shoppers.  I think you can still order Naomi Duguid’s books Persia or Burma, which are part travelogue, part stellar photography, and part recipes.  Even if you never cook from them, they are beautiful books.  Alternatively, order some baklava from Shatila.com.  I like to think Martha served both Jesus and her sister a piece.  YUM!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tom Brady and a Can of Whoop Ass

 

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Dear Friends,

Yesterday I had a cup of coffee with Polly Positive and we had a post Lent & Easter wrap up chat session. She is continuing on in her new role as Polly Positive as a result of her Lenten exercise. I took half a week’s break from blogging and am now faced with the dilemma of what to blog. Since we have covered religion for the last chunk of time, I am taking that off the table as a theme. Other taboo dinner table topics are sex and politics. Do you really want me to go there???   Be careful what you ask for.

When I pressed Polly for the exact adjective she used to describe me, she reminded me that the word was constrained. I was not sure the word applied to me but looked it up here. Does this mean I am doing a better job of holding my tongue than I think I am?  The only definition I will accept is #5 of the full definition. Of course.  Who would want any of the others???  As it is, the analogy to a sausage is inescapable.

Having said that, I am not sure I will be constrained when writing about the next topic my readers choose. As a premio (prize/treat) before I move on to the next topic, I will tell you a little story to tide you over.

One of Thing 1’s classmates at Migraine Boot Camp is from Arkansas. Last week, I met Hot Tonya and her delightful mother, Miss Angie.  Hot Tonya is a mother of two children, one of whom has cerebral palsy and the other who had a traumatic brain injury at a young age but is doing well. She home schools both of the adolescents. Part of the recovery process for her daughter with the TBI was a one eared mule named Buster – a therapy animule, as it were.  He is featured above.

During the story telling I interjected that today was Good Friday and that Jesus rode into town on one on Palm Sunday. I was promptly corrected.

“Oh no, dear, it’s a mule, not a donkey. But don’t worry, my brother has a miniature one of those named Tom Brady.” Hot Tonya beamed.

At this point of the conversation, I didn’t know which tack to take so I opted for the simplest and most obvious.

“Tom Brady? Is that because he’s an ass?” I asked. As you may or may not recall, I am not a fan.

“Well, he’s had him about 10 years so I don’t think so.” Miss Angie chimed in.

“That thing just roams the country side. One day we had someone ask us if we had a miniature donkey on the loose. And we said, ‘Yessir.’” Miss Angie paused here for effect.

“Well,” the donkey finder said, “the donkey’s up at the church.”

Miss Angie assured the gentleman, “Oh, he’ll come back home, he’s not lost!”

“Sure enough,” Miss Angie continued, “He came back home a few hours later, walked right up onto the porch and peered into the window to let us know he was back.”

Since then, I have learned the difference between mules and donkeys, miniature or otherwise. A donkey is a domesticated ass (equus asinus). A mule is a hybrid of a male donkey and a female mare. (Are you still with me?  This is the simplified version.)  America’s favorite online retailer has a commercial out, which first aired in the UK in November, featuring Asa (?) a miniature horse who is also a dwarf.  A charming video on Asa’s history can be found here. And finally, here is a video of Trevor and Tulip, real miniature donkeys.  Just so you don’t get confused.

Oh, the joy when worlds collide! Thing 1 has “family” in Arkansas before her parents ever move there!  At the end of the day, I requested (OK, demanded) that the women show me how to “call the hogs”.

Many people have asked  me,”How are you going to live in Arkansas?”, as if I am moving to the moon.  I respond, “Just like I have in every other place I have ever lived.”  The Natural State is just like another foreign country except they speak my language – with a twist.

WOOOOOOOO  Pig …..Sooooie!!!  WOOOOOOOO  Don-key Sooooooie!!!

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Dinner Party #1

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If you didn’t manage to watch the sermon I posted on Lazarus Saturday, here are the Cliff Notes*:

Lazarus has just been raised from the dead after mouldering in his tomb for four days.  Jesus had not rushed to his rescue – he wanted him good and dead – so that when He raised Lazarus, the witnesses would really get the message.  To celebrate, family and friends have a dinner at Lazarus’ home.  During the cocktail hour** Mary, Lazarus’ sister, is so thankful she wipes Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume.  Judas chastises her (he thought the money better spent on the poor) but Jesus says,

“Leave her alone.  She bought it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”  [John 12:7-8] 

Students of literature will recognize this as foreshadowing.  Mary is anointing him for his funeral, as a high priest would.  (Go back and watch the sermon video.  Fr. Jason Prati does a much better job explaining it than I. )

Mary’s sister Martha is serving the meal as Mary lolls about, wiping Jesus’ feet with spikenard.  Just kidding, Mary is not lolling.  She is literally pouring out her gratitude for Jesus’ raising her brother from the dead.

The apostle Luke [10: 38-42] tells an earlier story of Martha and Mary.  In this vignette, Jesus tells Martha she is “distracted by her many tasks”. Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s interpretation of banquets [Luke 5:29 footnote] suggests that dinners were held for “instruction”,  “ suggesting symposiums”.  In response to Jesus , Martha actually asks Him to tell Mary to get off her *ss and help in the kitchen.   He tells Martha that no, Mary is doing the right thing by chillaxing at his feet.  This event precedes Lazarus’ resurrection and takes place in Martha’s house.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Martha owned a house. For sure, she had household help but instead of delegating,  Martha was busy making sure  everything was just so.  There is no question in my mind that Martha was the oldest child.  

In the Johanan story, though, I think that at the dinner party for Lazarus, Jesus is happy she is serving.  Since it is Lazarus’ house, and he has just been raised from the dead, you can bet everything is in disarray.  There were probably dishes left in the sink and no food in the house.  But Martha makes sure everything is running smoothly.  She is the hostess with the mostess and there is food to get on the table.  You can almost see her roll her eyes at Mary, once again at the feet of Jesus, emoting, emoting, emoting.   Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to relax, either.  He lets her do her thing.  I  imagine Martha reconciled to her servant’s heart as well as reconciled to her little sister’s heart being her own.   Hopefully, Martha’s ears were peeled as she poured the wine.  

This evening, a woman at church opined that Martha was the old way of doing things and Mary the new.  That pretty much sums things up, wouldn’t you agree?  

No matter my fondness for Mary, today I have channeled Martha.  With a 72 hour staycation with no one in my house except for my errant animals, I have matched 3,000 socks, cleaned the laundry room, done 5 loads of laundry, spot cleaned carpet, taken straggling Christmas crap to the basement, returned a sleep study machine, yoga’d, and cleaned the “self-cleaning” litter box.   There are 2,000 socks still to match, the dishwasher to unload, and twin guest beds to make up for the weekend.  Consider it preparation for Passover, getting the yeast out.  A resurrection is coming but as I wait I am LOLLING with a glass of pinot noir, mindless television, and working on a needlepoint project.  It’s all about balance, friends.    

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite hostesses, godmother to Thing 3, Martita.  She gets her pseudonym from this story and in homage to Martha Stewart, who was well named.

Herewith concludes Day 36.

* I am not sure Cliff Notes still exist.  I was on a limited budget in college and might have bought them once.  Today there is the internet. 

**My interpretation. 

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eGad!

This past weekend, Texas Belle came down from Cleveland.  It is always a flurry of talk and activity when she is here.  We made a Target run for the best new beauty finds under $10, per an Allure magazine segment she watched on the Today Show.  While I needlepointed, Texas Belle untangled all of her balls of yarn  with Thing 3.  We ate comfort food and drank vodka (just a little).  We spent a lot of time thinking about her word for 2015, a word I hope she reveals soon.  Sunday night we went to relaxation yoga with my not-so-favorite yoga instructor.   As friends, we push each other to be better people.  All good!  

On Monday morning we  signed her up for on an internet dating service.   As a happily married woman, this was quite a revelation to me, seeing the underbelly of new age dating, scrolling through and screening the potential matches.  Texas Belle had marked Christian on her profile, said she only drank a drink a week (which in her case is true), and posted a gorgeous photo of herself.   The potentially matching men were in the right age range and, per the algorithmic  calculations, were in the right demographic.  We just had to sift them out.  Texas Belle is a strikingly beautiful woman so she had a lot of men drooling.  A rule was established between us that Texas Belle’s neighbor has to screen each man who makes it past date 3.  Any man who makes it past date 7 has to drive to Columbus, endure an interrogation by me, and undergo Mr. Understanding’s litmus test.  A tall order, for sure, the reasons for which might be detailed when Texas Belle is off the dating market, reasons I am refraining from detailing right now.   

Then on Monday afternoon, I went to Thing 3’s parent teacher conferences and ran into her German teacher from last year.  I had heard she was dating and made the mistake of asking her about it.  Nope.  She then went on to detail her history of dating on eHarmony, Match.com, and ChristianMingle.  No results.  She did have a coffee date with one man during which she let him ramble about all his insecurities and left it at that.  Anne Lamott’s essay on internet dating sprang immediately to mind.   This made me sad. 

And then I came home and saw a card Thing 3 had designed for me in her own fancy calligraphy font.  She had penned in a phrase my Grandma Susie always said to me, “Pretty is as pretty does.”  Next to it, inked in a different direction, was the Scriptural reference for 1 Samuel 16:7.

          “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

This Valentine’s Day, if you are happily married, thank your lucky stars.  If you are married and your love tank is on empty, go buy the book The Five Love Languages, if you haven’t already,  and go on a single friend’s dating website and see what you are not missing.  I cannot stress how grim the dating pool is if you are over forty – men posting selfies taken in their cars.   (Really? It was too hard to get out of the car and have someone else take the photo?  Egads!)  If you are single, try a new approach to sifting out the potential mates by looking at the heart.  Avoid the box that says “instant chemistry” and tick the one that says you can wait for the chemistry to develop.  At best you might find a spouse and at worst you might end up with a friend.   

This post is dedicated to Mr. Understanding who is the light of my life and Texas Belle who WILL one day find hers. 

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I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Amen, and amen!

It has been a long while since I sat down to write.  Most of this autumn my brain has been healing.  Endless rounds of Spider Solitaire, needlepointing Thing 3’s Christmas stocking, and American television* have been the cure.  It took a long time for the post-move tension to drain and when it did, I felt like the marrow had been sucked out of my bones.  Richard Russo, in his memoir “Elsewhere”, describes this kind of crazy as “domestic triage”.  Thanksgiving, good friends,  and a little travel have also healed the cerebral bludgeoning.

Last week I went to Seattle to surprise my father for his 74th birthday.  As I left for the airport at 4 a.m., falling stars raced toward Earth, lighting the way.  I am acutely aware of how many holidays, milestones, and moments I have missed over the last 17 years and was intent on not missing the family “office party”.  My parents have been having it for years, a party for two.  Then my sisters joined in.  I was always jealous.  This year I arrived in time for lunch at Cafe Campagne near the Pike Place Market and a surprise-a-palooza for the Popster, as father is affectionately known.  It felt like Paris in Seattle.  Cocktails, adult conversation, and the satisfaction of us girls, most especially my mother, at having kept a secret.  This is a holiday tradition I would like to keep as long as Mr. Understanding can live up to his name …

Before that was the most wonderful  Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  Seriously.  Everyone jokes about in-laws but mine were perfect.  Winnie, my MIL, brought me her completed Christmas present from last year, an oil painting of Sankaty Head Light House in Nantucket.  For years I had coveted her painting of another Nantucket lighthouse that she gave my BIL so she was kind enough to paint me one of my own.   My FIL walked the dog when no one else would, did all the dishes, and kept company in the kitchen.  The turkey was beautiful (this time), the teenagers behaved, and it was very peaceful.  No other way to describe it!

We are having Christmas dinner just the five of us, no other friends, family or neighbors.  In a bizarre way, we are all okay with it.  All the Things are tired from school and an all day Pajama Fest is in order.

So what does 2013 bring for the EPP, America, and the world?

For the EPP, a renewed commitment to writing, now that the synapses are firing again.  ESL Homework club through the church.  Needlepointing.  Bible Study.  New friends (?) and lots of visits from old ones.

For America, perhaps a dive off a fiscal cliff.

For the world, perhaps a dive off a fiscal cliff.

My hope, however, is for a reconciled America, a reconciled world.  Jesus, in my opinion, is bigger than politics, way more powerful than evil,  the eternal champion of love.  He is neither red nor blue, black nor white, yellow nor green.  In world in which He created the whole box of colors, He is every one.   He came to love the unloveable.  Perhaps this year we can disarm our hearts, unstop our ears, and act like it’s Christmas every day.

¡Feliz Navidad!

*Thank you, The Voice

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