Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Everyone is impacted by power, privilege, and oppression to some degree. I believe that awareness of your areas of privilege helps you to realize ways in which you benefit from your various privileges as well as how you might help those who need a boost. In school, we had to complete the ADDRESSING Framework for ourselves. It's a helpful tool. I challenge you to complete it and share it to start a dialogue. At the bottom, feel free to add other ways in which you believe that your life is easier or harder when compared with those around you.  #ADDRESSINGchallenge

Age: I'm 31. I am privileged in that I am old enough to drink, vote, drive, and many other things. Though I lack the freedoms afforded to the youths due to the responsibilities of my age.
Development: (privilege) my intellectual and developmental are in line with my chronological age.
Disability: (privilege) I am able-bodied and in good health. I am able to enter buildings and use every day tools without requiring intervention. (Disadvantage) I am short and often need a stool or a helping hand. I also require prescriptive lenses and struggle with accurate depth perception. I take anti-depressants to combat anxiety.
Religion: (disadvantage) I am agnostic/atheist. I don't believe in a higher power or an after life. This is off-putting to many who would assume that I am a sinner or bad because of that.
Ethnicity: (privilege) I'm white. I had never been denied anything that I wanted because of my race. (Disadvantage) I have felt guilty or that people assumed the worst of me because of my appearance.
Socioeconomic status: (privilege) I'm middle class. I make a good wage and can always afford my bills plus the occasional splurge. I have almost no debt. (Disadvantage) I often worry about savings, and feel I need to save for the things I want.
Sexual orientation: (privileged) I a straight. I am attracted to the opposite gender, and have never worried that who I am attracted to will change how people see me or treat me.
Indigenous heritage: (disadvantage) I don't really know my heritage or the history of my family. I assume, because of my appearance and names that I am of European descent.
National Origin: (privilege) I live and am a legal citizen of the country in which I was born. I am afforded access to all the rights that go along with citizenship in the country I live.
Gender: I am a cisgender female. (Privilege) if you look at me my gender and pronouns are readily apparent. I do not get mistaken for a person of my gender. I am (relatively) comfortable in my body. I feel that it reflects who I believe myself to be. (Disadvantage) I have been denied access to things I want because I am a girl. I have had people call me hurtful names, cut me off, or treat me unfairly because I am a girl. I feel unsafe walking alone at night because of fear of attackers simply because of my appearance.
*I might add to this framework:
Political leanings: I am a democrat living in a liberal area of the country. I do not feel that my political leanings will be judged or disregarded. Though, I do have very closed loved ones who I interact with regularly who have starkly different political beliefs than I do.  I have to work hard to check my values and beliefs and balance them with my love for those peoples along with my honesty to myself.

ETA: I also carry privilege in that I feel safe enough to post something of this nature without overwhelming fear of backlash or detrimental judgement.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Two Out of Three

I have never been raped.

I am fortunate. I have been supported by friends and family who allowed me to feel strong and taught me to stand up for myself.  My loved ones have always contributed to my feeling of security and importance in this world.  I am privileged.

I have never been raped.  And still I have been made to feel small, weak, and undervalued.

As a middle schooler, I was followed home by a boy who was bigger and stronger than me. I told him to stop.  The next day, he left before me and jumped out of some bushes a block away from my house.  He wanted to scare me for a joke.  I laughed because I was scared and I didn't know what to do. 

I have never been raped.

As an adolescent, my male friends referred to my stylish braids as "handle bars."  Again, I laughed.  I felt uncomfortable.

Those same friends of mine once worked together to attempt to unbuckle my overalls because they learned doing so would cause them to fall down exposing me in my underwear.  When I protested, the 2 of them pushed me forcefully into the nearby boys bathroom.  I was backed into a stall, and yelled furiously as they laughed and unbuckled my straps.  They then ran away, leaving me alone, in the boys bathroom, in my underwear.  I did not laugh.  I was astonished.

I have never been raped.

In college, I once had to forcefully shove my elbow into the padded belly of a man dressed as a tomato who felt that the dance floor of a Halloween party was an appropriate time to slither his hand up my shirt and cup my boob.  I did not know him.  I could not see his face, but I stomped his foot, elbowed his gut and shouted "FUCK YOU TOMATO!" I laugh about this now.

I have never been raped.

In my 20s, when I went out dancing with my friends, we regularly discussed how we would skillfully dance one another away from the unwanted advances of men who felt our enjoyment of music was an appropriate time to touch, fondle or kiss us. I remember spinning a friend away from a man who randomly stuck his tongue down her ear.  With my back to him, on a crowded dance floor before we could get away, he grabbed my breast.

I have never been raped.

However, I once purchased a couch from a man who copied my phone number off the sales record.  He began texting me.  At first I responded, thinking of the possibilities.  The messages quickly became uncomfortable, and I stopped responding.  He showed up at my apartment a few days later. I hid from him in the elevator. 

I have never been raped.

However I have been hit on by men who had wrong numbers and knew nothing about me other than that I sounded female. I once answered the phone at a clinic for survivors of domestic violence and encountered a man seeking treatment for batterers. After I directed him to the appropriate agency, he asked for my number. 

I have never been raped, but I have clutched my keys in my hand while trying to find my car in a dark parking lot.  I have held my phone tightly in my pocket while riding public transit alone in the dark.  I have asked to be escorted to my car in the secure parking garage of my luxury apartments. 

I have never been raped.  Though some of what I have experienced constitutes sexual assault, I have never been attacked or beaten, and my experiences do not count in the eyes of statistics. Many of my experiences were brief, and easily escaped. Those that weren't, were reported and promptly dealt with before they could escalate.  I have been protected, defended, and able to keep my self "safe."

I am one of the lucky ones, and these are facts from my life.

I have never been raped. At least not yet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I Am A Writer

"My blog is important to me," I have said to myself, a thousand or more times over the last few years.

"I really need to get back to my writing," I thought, kicking myself repeatedly.

I am a writer.  Ever since the littler version of me asked her mommy to help her make her own story book back in the beginning of my time, writing has been a part of who I am. I went through a melodramatic poetry phase. Then I wrote for my school news paper.  I took creative writing in college.  I kept a diary.  Then, there was this blog.  What I am saying is, I have always been a writer, until recently.

Writing has helped me to process all the thoughts, memories, and experiences that have stuck in my psyche over the years.  It has enabled me to truly witness the development of those I help, while simultaneously appreciating my own growth.

For so much of my life, I have felt like a little girl.  This sense of perpetual youth has admittedly been helped along by my stature.  However, that is not the root of the tension.  I write to process this.  I write to discover myself. I write to understand why I constantly feel that I have tricked the world into taking me seriously as an adult.  I write to understand that it might actually be the other way around.  That possibly, the world has tricked me into feeling like a child.  I write, because maybe that's not so bad.  Children are wonderful, and insightful, and should be celebrated.  Does that mean that as I grow up, I lose those things?

I write, so as not to forget myself.

My Imaginary Friend

Like many small children, I had an imaginary friend.  My imaginary friend and I did everything together.  Her name was Little Min.  She was a miniature, older version of myself.  We played together all of the time.  Then, one day she moved away with her boyfriend.  She never came back after that.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What Lies Beneath

"First thing is first," the over-eager young woman said to me. "I want to learn how to control my anger."

After listening to her explain how she no longer wanted to have explosions and get into fights with her loved ones, I indicated that I knew exactly how to help, but that the answer would likely confuse her. She assured me she was up for whatever I had to say.

"Well," I began. "You're not actually angry when you have an outburst."

Silence filled the room. "What do you mean?" She asked.

I followed with my patented schpeil about how anger is a secondary emotion. I explained that anger sits on the surface, and carries with it a variety of externalizations that are easy to act upon. We discussed how angry people often act without thinking, because anger doesn't require thought. She stayed with me, but insisted that her experiences were solely anger.  So, I did what any self-respecting adult does when kids decide they don't know what they're talking about. I bet her a candy bar that I was right.

"Tell me about the last time you got really angry," I invited.

She provided a detailed account of an argument that occurred the night before when her brother had teased her for being forgetful and disorganized.

"Do you like being forgetful?" I asked
"Not really."
"What about being disorganized, is that something you're proud of?"
"I don't mind really," she insisted.
"Does it seem like it gets in your way though?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do your organizational skills make you successful, or unsuccessful?" I asked. I suggested she consider her follow through on homework, her grades, how often she gets in trouble at home, and what for. 
"It makes me unsuccessful, I guess."
"Do you like to be reminded of that?"
She shook her head.
"Hmm, so there's some shame there huh?"
"Yeah!" She responded passionately.
"And what happens when you feel ashamed?"
"It makes me mad," she said.

I didn't make her buy me a candy bar. Instead, we talked about what would have happened if she had chosen to tell her brother about her hurt feelings rather than explode on him. How that might have impacted her reaction, and if he would have received the information in a way that felt emotionally safe for her. Then, we went on to another example of a time she felt angry, and another. Slowly, we pulled out that her anger outbursts really stemmed from feeling incapable, unsupported, and unheard.

In later meetings, she and I worked to define a wide range of emotions so that she could enhance her understanding of how discomfort and pain can vary more widely than black and white; angry or not. Then, I told her about times I felt angry, and had her guess what feeling I was hiding from her. She made a lot of progress.

Did she stop feeling anger all together? Of course not.

Anger, as I have told her repeatedly, is a normal human emotion. We all feel it, and that's okay. The problem is that we often forget to listen to anger. It makes us communicate in ways that we can't hear ourselves, and others don't want to listen to us. This causes more problems than it resolves. Before we know it, we are angry because we are angry, and the original pain is so deeply buried under a colossal pile of anger that we feel suffocated. The trick to resolving that is to reframe our understanding of anger. We need to learn that anger is a cue to listen harder, to ourselves, and to those around us.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Evolution of Imagination

"Um..could we go for a stroll?"  A delayed adolescent boy asked me one day.   Of course I agreed, and as we walked he asked, “do you like imagination games?” 

I replied with a resounding, “I LOVE imagination games!”

“Would you like to play my imagination game?”

If you’ve read my blog before (which you might not have because it’s been literally forever since I’ve met you all here) this probably sounds like the beginning of my perfect afternoon. Time spent outside, with a kiddo, playing an imagination game, and exploring the themes he develops and works through.  Um…yes please!

Unfortunately, this didn’t go the way I expected.  The young teen walked me down to the football field, and proceeded to tell me the rules to “the game I play in my head.”   The game was called “Clash of Clans,” and if you’re thinking that this is a game that already exists in tableland.  You’re right where I am.  Open-minded and optimistic, but confused.

***For the reader’s information - As I understand it, Clash of Clans is the new equivalent to a point and click adventure.  While there is a back story and one or more goals, the overall action of the game is to “tap” on different parts of the map in order to collect whatever it is they are collecting.  In order to play it, you basically sit and watch the game play itself until it has produced something you can “tap” on. Get it?  Cool.  On with the story!

Kiddo explains to me that we need to build the town barracks, fortress, or some unspecified medieval edifice.

“So,” he says, “first we need to collect wood by chopping down those trees!”  He points toward the northwest corner of our line of sight, at about 50 degrees from midline.

“Great!” I energetically declare, as I grip my make believe axe and start to swing.

“No, no!” he reprimands, as though I’m missing the obvious.  “You just tap here and slide it.” Kiddo then proceeds to “select” the same area he indicated prior, and slides it horizontally on the same plane.  This is when I realize that the game he plays in his head is just that.  It is a literal game, that he is playing in his head. What happens next involves me essentially gaping at him as he seems to project an invisible giant tablet into the foreground of his line of sight, and continues to “tap” and “select” unforeseen areas of the map in order to achieve some inexplicable goals. 

He narrates the whole thing for me.  At times he asks for me to take on a task.  He gets annoyed that I attempt to act it out and explains to me, again as if I were an idiot, that I simply need to tap the thing in the air I cannot see. In theory, I should be tracking it.  It’s not all that complex.  Instead, I notice my heart sinking. I feel helpless. I become slightly annoyed with this game that “we” are playing.  Suddenly, I start looking around for excuses to interrupt the game.  I grapple with the tension between improving our relationship by allowing him to play, or impeding our relationship by sitting with him for a full hour, irritated with our activity.  Eventually I claimed a mixture of “it’s too bright outside for my eyes” (a lame but true fact for those of us with blepharitis and no sunglasses) and “I think you should get back to class so you don’t miss anything.”

Over the next several weeks I struggled with this memory.  I love the unexpected and imaginative things that kids do in their minds.  It is my favorite when they invite me to witness it.  I should find this delightful!  So, why did I find it so off-putting?

It wasn’t until recently that I put it all together.  I was sitting with a different delayed pre-adolescent.  I was observing him to use jenga blocks to create an entire world.  In front of me evolved what looked like a cityscape.  The same wooden blocks were used as mortar and as character.  Blocks spoke to one another, while more blocks constructed skyscapes around them.  I was, to say the least, captivated.  This was incredible.  This kiddo was using his imagination to work out issues.  The conversation between his humanoid blocks was rather unintelligible.  I have no idea if they were discussing world piece, impact of trauma on world view, or just what ice cream they both like, but it doesn’t matter.  This kid was practicing some very useful skills. Whether or not he was aware of it, he was testing the limits of reality, by using his imagination to play out some dynamic scenario. 

This is play with a purpose.  It is how we learn about ourselves and the world, and it’s crucial.  Many species do this.  All you need to do is turn on national geographic, and you are eventually bound to see some video of a polar bear, a lion cub, or tiger pup using play to practice very necessary survival skills.

That’s the difference.  The mind tablet lacked utility.  Kiddo was not using play in the way it was developmentally intended.  He was not practicing social skills.  There were no social skills being used. The game was entirely one sided.  Even when I participated, I had no idea what was going on, and he typically ended up taking over for me.  He wasn’t working through survival skills.  The clashing clans were warring with one another and protecting their territory, but Kiddo just “watched” and then “tapped” when it was over.  The only thing I can see him learning from this process is patience.  The work was definitely not hard, and the topics were flagrantly simple. 

My sadness and irritation then comes to the question of why?  Play exists to help us learn, and kids are incredibly adaptive.  Which, means that this kiddo has got to be working through something, and I don’t understand it.  This leaves me wondering if I have reached that very depressing aspect of adulthood when I no longer understand “kids these days.” Or worse, is this the work of modern children?  Is it becoming a 2-dimensional and nonreciprocal world of “sit and wait,” or “tap and slide”? How painfully sad would it be if children physically reenacting stories turned instead into watching flat projections that no one can see and engage them with? Is our thinking becoming more and more 2-dimensional? Or have I lost my ability to connect?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Having come down with something, I took today off from work.  With no responsibilities other than to improve my well-being, I slept in until 11am. I then got up, and planted myself on the couch.  I laid there, watching tv, and falling in and out of consciousness all day.  (I'm pretty sure I took two naps). With all that rest in my body, all I can think about is time.

In the last year, it seems like something shifted, and there's no more time any longer.  My New Year's resolution was to finally begin reading for fun. Since grad school was over and I'd gotten into a routine at work, it seemed that there was finally time to read for pleasure.  Well, I've been slowly chipping away at the same piece of KidLit since then.  I have a to do list in my brain a mile long.  Every time I think I'm close to completing it, another life changing thing adds on to it.  It just seems that there's no time for it to ever be complete

Don't get me wrong, I love my life.  I'm pretty freaking happy with how things are evolving, but that's just the thing!  My world is constantly evolving and changing, and at some point in the last year it picked up the pace. Suddenly, I can't keep up with it.  As I try to, I'm reminded of all the time I've lost track of.

Growing up is a process that we so often forget to observe.  We get so easily drawn up into the drama of daily life.  Before we know it we are rushed down a stream of bill paying, dish washing disputes, un-laundered clothes, car payments, and broken headlights.  We get bogged down by the necessities of the holidays, and planning the traditional milestones of our lives that we don't even allow ourselves to notice the time passing by. 

Today was perhaps the first in months that I have allowed myself to lay in silence and savor the time.  Congested and achey, I provided myself with a long overdue stillness to appreciate the time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Only Constant

As a little girl, I enjoyed merry-go-rounds.  I would find quiet moments on playgrounds to sneak off to the spinning structure, swiftly run around it, jump aboard, and lay down.  As the world spun frantically and madly around me, I'd close my eyes and focus intently on the wind rushing through my hair, the air passing crossed my face, and the sense of movement all around me while I lay their motionless.  In the midst of my frenzied and ever-revolving surroundings, I was still.

Just as the younger me spent hours attempting to root myself in an moving and changing climate, the older me frequently attempts to find consistency amongst change.

This is a difficult task, and it's a task many of us take on.  Over and over again, we learn that the one thing we can invariably count on is that there will be change.  Like it or not, things will be as they are until they aren't.  Sometimes we know that change is coming. At times we fear it.  Other times we anticipate it.  Some of us hunker down.  We put our feet in the ground, and we refuse to move with the change.  We get stuck, and fall behind.  Then there are those of us who attempt to control the change.  We try to force it.  Knowing growth will come, we apply pressure to our circumstances in an attempt to coerce the change into something that is predictable and expected.

Our varied reactions are a result of discomfort. Change is hard. As a young professional first entering the world of mental health, this was my mantra.  I found myself labeling this for kids, parents, and colleagues frequently.  Change is hard, and we so rarely allow ourselves to acknowledge that.  We want to be okay with change.  We need to "be chill" and roll with the punches, but it sucks and we invalidate that all the time.

Change is a fact of life.  Our brains and bodies are constantly growing and stretching.  The seasons change, and bring a multitude of weather systems.  People come and go.  Buildings go up.  Trees fall down.  The ground moves.  The waves crash.  The world spins...endlessly.

All we can do is look for an opportunity to hop on the merry-go-round, be still, and experience the changes as they come.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Turning Five

Image found here
 Recently I found myself seated across a distressed mother asking for my advice.  We were discussing her resilient daughter's most recent birthday.  She turned five earlier this year, and though she was a bit eccentric this girl was particularly normal.  Yet, because of my career path and educational background this mom, like many other parents in my social circle, felt the need to seek out my knowledge.  ̶ This is beginning to happen at increasing intervals.  It's as though my job reminds people that they could mess up their children, and they need to confirm whether or not they have as soon as they are aware it's a possibility.  Fortunately, this has come largely from the well-intended and, albeit neurotic, healthy members of my community.  So, I get to smile and listen to cute stories, and reassure people that their child is alright and any screw-ups made obvious are what I like to call "normal."

On this particular occasion, this nervous mother comes to me to ask my opinion of an apparently odd behavior her child had engaged in the night before her fifth birthday.  She explains that their family tradition mandated that she read each child a birthday story and tuck them in the night before their birthday. However, on this particular birthday, this woman's daughter struggled with her nightly routine.  She power struggled over tooth-brushing, and dawdled in picking out her jammies.  This was, evidently, atypical for this little girl.  She, unlike most children, had no issue with getting ready for bed, and in fact seemed to enjoy the daily routine.  So, my friend was understandably confused when this particularly special nightly routine took upwards of an hour.

But she muscled through it, as all good parents do.  She summoned the patience to apply and reapply toothpaste in just the right quantity.  She tolerated being targeted with whining words as she calmly brushed her daughter's hair, and she maintained composure as the young girl tried on every single set of pajamas in her dresser. After all, this was tradition.  It was the eve of her baby girl's fifth birthday, and she couldn't be more proud of this bossy little girl in front of her.

Eventually, they got everything all settled.  She tucked her daughter in, and read her the birthday story.  When she was all done, she closed the book and repositioned to look directly at her daughter.

"Tomorrow morning," she whispered lovingly, "you're going to wake up, and you'll be five years old."

She intended to go on further, explaining the excitement and pageantry planned for the day, but she didn't get to.  This tireless mother paused because something did not seem quite right.  She looked at her little girl, and saw that her widened eyes were full to the brim with tears.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

All at once, this soon-to-be kindergartener wailed out "I don't want to be five!"  Before she could even respond, the little girl threw herself in her mother's arms sobbing and heaving.  Streams poured out of her eyes, and she repeated in gasping breaths, "I- don't- want - to - be fi-ive!"

Just like any good mother does, she wrapped her arms around her daughter, perplexed by her reaction but modeling self-soothing through tacit and rhythmic shhhushh-ing.  After some time, the little girl began to calm.  Her tears slowed, and her breathing regulated.  The mother waited another minute or so, and then quietly asked "why don't you want to be five?"

And the little girl responded with the answer that would make this mother later wonder what she had done wrong. "Because," she answered, "when you're five, you're a big girl, and I don't want to be a big girl.  I like being four.  I like all my toys, and I like being at home with you.  I don't want to be five."

"What do you make of that?  What does that mean?"  This mother asked me not too long ago, looking for my diagnostic impression of her child.

"It means you've got a smart kid," I said, and I really meant it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Readiness to Change

I give my dad a lot of flack and some mild public flogging for the excessively rational manner in which he raised me.  My all time favorite thing to razz him about is the time he tried to coax a much younger me off the side of a mountain by telling me I could choose to stay there forever.  As an adult, I think back on this encounter and cannot believe someone would say something like that to a child.  However, it was so effective that I have since made it my goal to attempt this paradoxically supportive intervention.

Image found here

Several years ago I saw my first opportunity.  I was working with an oppositional 6 year old boy.  We had gone out to a special playground for the afternoon.  At some point in the day, he had managed to climb down into the middle of a cylindrical ladder and was pretending to be a caged prisoner.  When it was time to leave for the day, we cued all the children to line up.  After the chaos of transition, we counted all the little heads and determined we were one short. When I went to find him, he was claiming to be "stuck" inside the barred structure; citing fear to leave. I did what I could to support and encourage him, but it quickly became apparent that his "fear" was more related to a distaste for the end of play time.  So, I changed my tact.

"Look dude," I said. "The way I see it, you have two choices.  You could choose to stay out here forever, bu-"
"Fine," he cut me off.
Startled, I stammered "but, like, what if you have to go to the bathroom?"
"Okay," he said flatly. He was still fairly young and thus unconcerned with voiding outside a restroom.
"Um...who's going to feed you though?"
"I don't know," he said with a startling degree of ambivalence. The idea that someone might not was not a reality in his mind.

I attempted to persuade him into seeing that there were better choices available to him.  However, his developmental state did not allow for getting past the idea that he could choose to stay on the playground forever.  I had inadvertently given him permission to defy my expectations. We were screwed. Ultimately, I admitted defeat, and wound up calling my supervisor for back up. She came right out and began the slow but ominous count to three. Problem solved.

Lesson learned. The intervention is a particularly complex one that requires a significant degree of skill and the right kind of child to be able to hear the underlying message. So, I tucked it back into my memory and set it aside for refinement and later use.

Then the time came.

Not long ago, I found myself hanging out with a particularly anxious young woman who had recently learned of an upcoming transition. We sat together as she lamented the difficulty inherent in change.  I listened to her express fear of possible failure upon adjusting to something new.  I validated her feelings and praised her for past ability to manage herself; attempting to remind her this was not her first experience with change. She continued to evidence worries and concerns to the tune of "what if I can't do it?" "What if nobody likes me?" "What if it's hard?" "What if it's scary?" Allowing me to challenge her on all of these concerns but not yet feeling confidence in herself, she joking declared that she was going to wrap her arms around a nearby structural pillar and refuse to leave her present location.

"You could definitely try it," I smiled.
"Really?!" She looked at me with widened eyes, baffled by my response.
"In fact," I offered up. "let's do it together."  I stood up and started to walk towards the identified pillar.  My friend remained stationary; staring at me with a perplexed expression.
"But you know," I stopped and turned back toward her.  "What are we going to do when you get hungry?"
She shrugged.
"I mean, I guess we could probably arrange for someone to bring you food, but that's probably going to make you feel guilty.
No response, minus a slight smile.
"And, what about when you have to go to the bathroom?"
She knit her eyebrows and slumped her shoulders, an expression I had grown to recognize as irritation with a good point. So, I sat back down and continued in a playful manner.
"Even if we figure that out, eventually the paint on the building is going to chip. Then you're going to get paint chips in your hair, and the maintenance team is probably going to need to fix it, which will result in them trying to physically pry you off, and that sounds awkward."

Her affect started to brighten. Together we began to laugh and joke about the various different factors that would make her release her grip on the building.  As the conversation dwindled, I looked her in the eye and delivered the moment of insight I had come to after that cold day on the mountain so many years ago:

"My point is, no matter how bad you want to hang on, eventually something will happen and you will feel ready to let go. It may not be because you want to, and it may not be until after it happens, but eventually you're going to realize that you were ready for a change."
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