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they laughed. [k.s. friday]

they laughed.

two people in a facebook thread LAUGHED (with the convenient use of laughing emojis) at a post i wrote responding to someone’s perception that there wasn’t a lot of peace and love going on in my town and to a comment about kenosha and what “BLM and rioters have done to beautiful cities” and that “denying that it exists [wouldn’t] make it go away.” i was sincere and fervently hopeful, while recognizing realities:

“here, with a house full of smoke from the fires, within hearing distance of the militia shots in the street. we could hear the blasts of tear gas, the yelling and chanting. we had a visceral front seat. but we also see many, many, many people coming together to try to address a long-standing (forever) problem of this nation. denying systemic racism exists will not make it go away. it is incredibly sad that conversation has to be aggressive and pointed, rather than generative and mindfully intentional. cities can be rebuilt, but lives are lost forever. i don’t want to live in a city that looks beautiful and is ugly underneath.”

and they laughed. LAUGHED. i had to step away to catch my breath before i could respond. what is becoming of human decency these days?

yes. kenosha painted boarded-up windows and painted over graffiti of negative messaging. yes. because, connectivity and love are the beginning. and reminders of those can only help. each positive message – in a city boarded up and burned and looted – reminds us of the most basic of emotions: LOVE. each positive message reminds us – as we walk about in this raw wound – that we are incomplete, we are flawed and we have much work to do. we need listen to each other, without overtalking. we need speak, without animosity. we need respect, without exception. we need conversation. we need connection. each positive message reminds us that hope exists, even in the tiniest brush of paint on wooden board.

this is a time of division, to be sure. day after day i am confronted with this reality and with peoples’ brazen attempts to undermine relationship with rhetoric and falsehoods, misplaced loyalties and inaccurate assumptions, and, worse yet, words of aggressive animosity and actual hatred. i wonder what the fallout will be. will the silken gossamer threads of connection sustain? will empathy fall by the wayside? will love of humanity – in all its shapes and sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic positions, religious affiliations – all its anythings – prevail?

“we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender.” (john o’donohue) the question is always, every single day, how will we live? how will we spend that time? who will we be?

realizing the vast array of wise words that would also be appropriate alongside photographs we’ve taken in kenosha, i chose to post these words of dr. martin luther king jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” and i added this in answer to derisive comments about protestors:

“one of the foremost protestors in this land was dr. martin luther king jr. the thousands of people who walked in peaceful protest here, even drove and marched right by our house, were walking in that spirit. there have been rioters and looters in each city of unrest. they are spurred on by the vitriol and angry words of the current president, who seems to revel in discord and chaos. the fact is, the vast majority of people who are protesting in this nation are protesting in peace. just like in kenosha. this nation needs equality – the only way to get there is to listen to those who speak, listen to those who protest. their words count.”

and then, in a fine example of what conversation has defaulted to, i was called a “cupcake”, a “snowflake” and “infantile”. wow. i beg your pardon.

and they laughed? how dare they.

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“it flies by as it drags on.” [merely-a-thought monday]

it flies by as it drags on

we cleaned the garage this weekend.  our garage is old-old-old.  it has a little bow in the front and there is a bit of an issue with the walls no longer in alignment with the foundation.  the decades-old automatic garage door opener no longer opens it.  que sera, sera.

there was the usual assortment of garden tools and clay pots, chairs-in-bags and chairs-without-bags, the wrought iron table and umbrella we hadn’t put out yet, random bags of potting soil, milorganite, sand, a plethora of spiders and their webby homes.  there are old doors in the rafters, the tricycle My Girl and My Boy rode, a red wagon, the hammock.  there are jacks, a snowblower-that-doesn’t-work-but-we-should-have-repaired, a wheelbarrow that has seen many trips down third avenue.  our bikes hang on hooks; we wonder if i will be able to ride this summer – the whole two-broken-wrists-thing has put a damper on things.  there is a woodpile rack waiting for us to re-stock, have a few bonfires in the firepit or the chiminea.  and there is my old vw bug.  smack-dab in the middle of this tiny one-car garage is my well-loved 1971 super beetle.

it was father’s day yesterday when we moved it out of the garage, me behind the wheel, clutch in, gear in neutral, hand ready on the emergency brake as david pushed.  it hasn’t been started in years and i could hear my sweet poppo groan with me from another plane of existence as i looked it over.  dirty from a few years of garage-sitting, it sure-enough wouldn’t start and i ticked off a list of things that likely now need fixing.  these are things i can’t do anything about right now, so i did what i could do something about.

i got a bucket of warm carwash-soapy-water and a good sponge and my dad and i washed our bug together.

i could hear him telling me about when he and my mom picked it up brand-new in germany for their roadtrip around europe, about how it was shipped back home to a port in new york.  i reminded him about how he ‘sold’ it to me in the mid-70s and how i drove that little car everywhere – rain, sleet, snow or ice – and it always kept me safe.  i reminded him about how my little miniature-collie-mixbreed-dog missi used to ride in the well (i could hear him laughing when i retold how she one day actually pooped in the well.)  we talked about its color iterations – it was born baby blue (marina blue, they called it).   somewhere along the way we had earl scheib’s paint it navy and later on down the road it was painted white, its current color.  i drove it with my best friend sue back and forth to florida, a trip where she learned how to drive a stick shift.  it lived in new york and then florida and then wisconsin.  it’s been dragged behind tow trucks and up on flatbeds.  it bowed out of the drive moving up to wisconsin, so we pulled it behind us with a tow bar.  it’s had a couple engine overhauls and lots of tires.  i know how to adjust the timing and the carburetor myself.  i’ve played countless john denver and loggins and messina cassettes at full volume in this little car.   the heat was either stuck on or stuck off.  my poppo reminded me that it had 455 air conditioning – four windows open at 55mph.  i drove it to get both my degrees in florida.  i drove it through a drive-through to get a milkshake the day i went into labor with My Girl.  it’s been around the block.

i gently washed the dirt off of my little-white-vw-bug yesterday and realized how time had flown by.  i was struck by how – right now- in the middle of a pandemic and unrest – time seems to drag.  both are true.

yet i know that one day, as i ponder this time – in all its dragging chaos and emotional upheaval – i will look back and realize time, precious time, was actually flying by.

i sat down on the rusty metal bumper and missed my dad.

“on the road of experience…and trying to find my own way…sometimes i wish that i could fly away.  when i think that i’m moving…suddenly things stand still.  i’m afraid ’cause i think they always will…” (john denver)

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those ferns. [two artists tuesday]

ferns

the ferns make me think of sally; the day we pushed the wheelbarrow up and down third avenue back and forth to her house – over and over – loaded with hosta, ferns, daylilies.  the sweet-smelling peonies make me think of linda, digging in the dirt of our gardens, planting, weeding, helping to shape the space.  the grass makes me think of russ and marykay, again, a day of wheelbarrowing, again third avenue, but due north instead of south, over and over.  we dug the pond with big help from ted and monica and a bevy of friends at our ‘big dig’ party.  we sustain the pond with words of wisdom from jay and charlie.  we build bonfires in a firepit from jen and brad and we watch lettuce grow in wooden planters from 20.  we just added hosta from daena’s mother-in-law-to-be; dan and gay delivered them.  it has taken a small village to plant our garden.

it is not without luck that these have grown well.  dogdog has done his best to try and decimate the yard and My Girl worked long hot hours last summer pulling weeds any rainforest would be proud of; our stay on island and not in our backyard encouraged strong holding-on-not-letting-go weeds of great substance, but the girl prevailed over them.

we didn’t hire a garden center to ‘do’ our yard.  it’s not too planned; it’s definitely not too fancy.  it is a place of sanctuary, though.  a place, created with so many people we love.  a place where – in the middle of this pandemic, in the middle of the heart-wrenching chaos in this country, in the middle of economic worry for so many, in the middle of fear of more divisiveness and even less thoughtful leadership – we can sit in broken adirondack chairs on the patio or on the edge of the deck, arms wrapped around our knees, listening to the fountain, the birds, the wind in the trees.

the sun warms.  and we wait to hear the croaking of the pond-frog who magically appeared just a few days ago.

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triad-ic coping. [d.r. thursday]

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the aarp article addressed ‘dyadic coping’, in brief, the way a couple together handles the stress reaction of the other spouse.  the edition is dedicated to the pandemic so this bit of writing is not a surprise.

in my rant yesterday about every-little-thing david very calmly started to talk about a plan – ways that i can lower my level of anxiety, ways that i can process without taking it into my body.  ugh.  i just wanted to rant.  for a little bit of time.  his let’s-solve-for-this guy approach was lovely dyadic-ly, but made me want to roll my eyes.  letting off steam, regardless of the lack of any linear thought, is helpful.  five minutes later i felt better.  nothing was solved, stress still existed, but i could breathe better and move on to the next thing until the next time.

these are somewhat sleepless nights.  even if i drift off after our mountain-climbing adventure of late night fare, i awaken.  and, like you, i suspect, i start to think.  everything from wondering when i will see my children to finances to work to why the kitchen sink is draining slowly filters through my brain.  although i would definitely label david more daytime singularly focused, my obsession is in the middle of the night with angst.  serenity is elusive.

perhaps this painting is so very appealing to me because of the quietude.  the surrender to rest, beloved pets conceding to the gravity pull of being together, of repose.  an eyes-closed moment.  triad-ic coping.

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the benefits. [d.r. thursday]

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MY LOVES 24″x 48″

i woke in the middle of the night to discover i was spooning the cat.  he jumps up on the bed and, pretty much like a sack of concrete, settles in for a long night’s nap, mostly because, well, clearly, the other 23 hours he slept in the day were not ample enough sleep.  he snugs in and prevents movement of most sorts:  there will be no blanket adjustments, no leg adjustments, little rolling over.  my hot flashes necessitate much wrestling to find cooler air as he has permanently planted his sweet large body and is down for the count.  and so, you must adjust.  granted, his sleep-apnea-style-snoring would be cause for plucking-and-moving (to another room) but we love him and suffer his sleeping-sovereignty; the benefits outweigh the costs.

sally told me that there is a machine that duplicates the frequency of a cat’s purring vibration.  i did not know that cat purring is healing and restorative – to broken or fractured bones, tendons, joints, muscles, infections.  we would rent out babycat but i am trying to figure out how to make him lay on my broken-and-in-the-ridiculously-slow-process-of-healing wrists.  once again, the benefits outweigh the costs.

i hadn’t ever had a cat before b-cat, but now it’s been almost eleven years.  he is in some ways more of a dog than a cat, having tolerated a parent who knows dogs and was too busy at the time to read ‘kittens for idiots’ all the way through.  so he sits when asked and speaks when asked and does dog-like things.  however, he rides the fence and takes advantage of cat-like things at will, like claws.  and he is fickle as fickle can be.  jen explained that cats will patiently ‘allow’ you to stroke them and pet them and fondle them, all seemingly appreciated, until the doll flips and it suddenly reaches out with both front paws and pulls your hand up to its razor teeth.  ahh, but those moments preceding the bite…the benefits outweigh the costs.

in this time of other-worldliness and alternate-reality these creatures of ours – dogdog and babycat – are companions unlike any other.  they will not argue politics or policy.  they don’t strategize or scheme.  they are not semantics-nuts or particularly immersed in propaganda-hunts.  they will not roll their eyes at our rants nor will they feed them or egg us on.  instead, they comfort when they suspect we need it.  they are quiet when there’s been too much noise.  they are entertaining when we need funny.  they are warm in the cold pandemic plane.

and they curl up with us in solidarity.  benefits always outweighing the costs.

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past tommy’s house. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

99 cents:gallon cropped

20 years ago.  apparently the last time gas was 99 cents a gallon in wisconsin was 20 years ago.  i don’t remember that in particular; my children were young and things were busy.   how strange to now be able to purchase gas for 99 cents a gallon, filling up little-baby-scion for about $10, and not be able to go anywhere.

20 years before 20 years ago i remember gas being 79 cents a gallon or so.  on long island, i would go to the citgo station on the corner of larkfield and clay pitts road in my vw bug, filling up for well under $10.  they pumped your gas for you back then.  i had one of my first credit cards, a citgo card, in those days.  on one occasion, a couple days after i got gas, i received a phone call.  it was from the guy who had pumped my gas.  he had saved my information post-pumping and looked my last name up in the phone book.  he called to ask me to go on a date.  he was always nice to me every single time i got gas, so i thought it perfectly innocent to accept.  i don’t remember where we went, but i do remember thinking that i would absolutely not repeat the date – the somewhat unusual way he got my number (i’m thinking that would be against credit card protection acts these days) was befitting of his um, unusual-ness.  “she’s not home,” my mom would tell him time and again when he called.  after a plethora of calls over a series of days, i told him i  wasn’t interested.  i started going to mobil.

citgo, dairy barn, king kullen, genovese drugs, the card store – these were all around the corner, up the hill and turn right.  to get there you’d go right by tommy’s house on the hill.  and just today i found out that tommy, one of the absolute cutest-boys-in-high-school, has died.  a  man taken by coronavirus, i read the posts on facebook remembering him.  it seems, as we lose track of people in our orbit, that they freeze in time – i never knew tommy as an adult so he remains age 18 in my mind’s eye.  we lose track of them and we don’t know their successes or their challenges, things they struggled with or how their lives were shaped as they ‘grew up’.  we make assumptions and find out later that their lives were impacted in ways we never could have guessed, in ways we would have never wished for anyone.  it saddens me deeply to think of tommy, the cool-boy-in-school, struggling in his life, trying to get a firm hold on steady.  the things we don’t know, riding our bikes up that hill just to get a glimpse and maybe wave to him.

20 years go by. and another 20.

and we sit at the pump where it’s 99 cents a gallon.  there is a global pandemic.  we have a blank triptik.  as we drove away from the pump, we looked at each other and pondered without answering, ‘where would we go if we could go?’

but right now, there is no where to go.  were i to be on long island, i would go back to my growing-up house and sit on the curb for a bit.  then i’d go around the corner and up the hill.  and i’d wave as i’d pass tommy’s old house.

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“you’re my favorite pain in the ass.” merely-a-thought monday

you're my favorite

we bought it on our honeymoon.  we knew, even by then, that we would need this sign’s lighthearted truth to remind us – some days – of what we even liked about each other.  in these days of isolation it’s front and center.

these are profoundly difficult times.  without the balance of getting out or having a little space, we are all finding ourselves in close isolation with the others in our home.  we two, here, are often together 24/7.  we work together in a variety of capacities, so we have gotten a little more accustomed to the dynamics than, say, some of you who have been thrown into the deep end with no feathering of getting-used-to-the-water time.  but…that doesn’t mean it’s always pretty.  so we are all here, separately together, figuring it out.

we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

the stress level is palpable.  you can feel the world out-there functioning at a completely different frequency than it had been.  it is like that high pitch in your ears, making you teeter on yelling, “make it stop”.  we all try to go with the flow, try to make the best of it.  we are fortunate to be here together, at home, in a safe place.  we seek ways to stay relevant and do meaningful work.  we follow stay-at-home orders.  we reach out to visit, virtually, with our family and friends.  we video-conference with colleagues.  we wear leggings and sweatpants on a daily basis.  my boy, in a city with ever-exponentially-growing-covid-19-numbers, said that’s a given – sweats, sweats, sweats and the perfunctory button-down shirt.  we know what’s visible and what’s not.  we desperately hope for the best.  we get in each other’s way.  we help each other.  we brainstorm new ways to cope, new ways to work, some with steep learning curves.  we sigh.  we take naps, tired and wrung out.  all are true.

we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

and we try to stay in touch.  we desperately miss our children, our family, our friends, the people in our day-to-day life route.

even in times of ‘normal’, if my daughter, whose home is in a covid-19 hotspot and whose work, like too many, has been decimated, texts me with no punctuation and clipped answers, i know i have either a) stepped past the edge of the chatting time limit b) asked too many questions c) said something completely too mom-ish or d) encountered her at a time she needs space for herself.  no matter which option, it’s smart (and in my best interest) to back up.  she, just like my son, knows she is loved beyond words and i know that, in order for me to stay loved, or, er, tolerated, i need to utter less painintheass words.  but i am their mom and it is an intrinsic part of my job.

we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

if david, the other artist in my two-artist-household equation, mentions an idea to me, i dig under the idea pile of leaves to find the base of it – to order the details of what the idea means, to parse it out.  i can’t start at the top and assume thebigidea will work.  i have to see how the ingredients of the idea will work, the steps to get there.  if the tiniest piece of the idea doesn’t seem plausible, i argue, how could thebigidea be possible.  i don’t mean to be a bigidea killer; i just need to see the practical details.  i’m sure he invokes the youareapainintheass eyeroll when i am not looking, but that’s ok.  he can’t see me rolling my eyes either.

and so, we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

in the biggest way we have seen in decades we have a challenge.  to stay healthy.  to keep others healthy.  what we do affects you and vice-versa.  we all have to be responsible.  we all have to work together.  we are not all favorites of each other.  some of us are the biggest pains in the ass to others of us.  we are learning, bending, flexing.  we are finding out that we are more resilient than we thought, we are capable of negotiating the bumps in the relationship-road.  we are gumby in the real world.

and we are all here.  separate and together.  despite our wildly differing stories, we have a common story.  we are here.

and we wonder about the future.  we worry.  we stew.  we get excited.  we get scared.  we get weary.

i, for one, am grateful for my absolute favorite painintheass even though he is totally a painintheass.  for what would i do without him?

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“even chaos has boundaries.” [merely-a-thought monday]

chaos copy

chaos (physics): ‘behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions’

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we were at a meeting up north this summer when mona said this, “even chaos has boundaries.”  i jotted it down because it felt relevant.  in the midst of a contentious situation we were trying to keep our ‘do what’s best for the organization’ hats on, trying to believe that there, indeed, would be an end to the chaos.  committed to a peaceful forward-advancing plan, we kept both hands on the hats, guarding against a wave, a treacherous wave of onto-the-band-wagon-jumping, the aligning of two camps on different shores offering nothing of good import for the organization.

but there is a fine, fine line.  an infinitesimal line of crossover – where one tiny change, one more jenga block, one more pick-up stick, one more stone in the cairn, tilts the seesaw and chaos reigns.

we face, today, a seesaw of the greatest sensitivity.  like refraction, light passing through various mediums, the bend in light is dependent on the medium.  the slightest change in density yields change.

clearly, we must be sensitive.  the light we refract, our response, will determine what the next person has to work with.  if we refract less light and more darkness, darkness will exist, will be pervasive. and darkness, in the way of chaos, sussing out change and a hole in the dam, will become exponential.  where is critical mass, when the seesaw collapses, the cairn falls?

we must be sensitive.  we must be responsible.  we must respond in integrity, despite everything around us, despite the doubters, despite the rhetoric, despite the cavalierness, despite the political dogfight, despite the positioning of that ever-present caste ladder, doing what is best for each of us, for all of us.  what i do affects you.

in our own worlds, for ourselves, for all, we can strive not to pull the wrong jenga block or move the wrong pick-up stick.  choose your cairn-stones with care.

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what you do. [k.s. friday]

ymad

“what you do will live beyond your lifetime.  it transcends the things of this earth.”

(YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE ©️ kerri sherwood)

when i think about my sweet momma and my poppo, my big brother, my godfather uncle allen, my grandmother-mama-dear, more beloved family and dear friends – all who have left this earth – i don’t think about their jobs or upward mobility, their income or the status symbols they owned.  i don’t think of the timeline of their school or work or whether they had finished a degree or if they had even gone to college.  i don’t ponder awards or certificates they received or resorts where they may have vacationed.

i think about what a difference they made in my life. my mom’s devotion to cheery kindness, my dad’s quiet and stubborn thoughtfulness, my big brother’s goofy humor and ability to tell a story in all its details, my uncle’s absolute commitment to his fun-loving smile no-matter-what-was-happening.  i think about the joy my mom experienced when my dad brought her grocery-store-flowers.  i think about big bowls of coffee ice cream with my brother, neil diamond playing in the background.  i think about my uncle generously paying for my very first recordings in ny, diligently holding me up and gently pushing me.  i think about simple moments with them.  in what could be a crowded-with-information-obituary in my head for each person, i hold a piece of their heart instead.  they have made a difference in this world.  they made a difference for me.  i remember.

(from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS)  “you know, this obsession you have, with being remembered?  this is your life!  this is all you get! you get me, and you get your family and you get this world, and that’s it!  ….  and i’m going to remember you.  …. you say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me.  i know about you.”

 

we live on an infinite continuum of opportunity.  chances to bring light and hope to others.  deeds we can do out of kindness, goals reached by collaborating together.  we face choice just as soon as the sun-peeking-over-the-horizon wakes us.  we innately or intentionally decide, we head in a direction, we live a day.

 

“We’re all traveling through time, together, everyday of our lives… All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.  I just try to live everyday as if I have deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it… As if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” (from ABOUT TIME)

 

this song. i have performed it countless times.  in nyc’s central park for tens of thousands of people, in small medical clinics, in large oncological settings, in chicago’s grant park.  at a pharmaceutical conference in puerto rico, outdoors with the lance armstrong tour of hope.  across the country, in pajamas and jeans and all-dressed-up.  in theatres and at walks/runs, in schools and churches.  for organizations including y-me, the american cancer society, gilda’s club, young survival coalition, susan g. komen foundation, the annual breast cancer symposium.  and each time, heidi and i, working together in performance, fighting back tears.  the list is profound.  not because of the innumerable times i have sang this song, but because of all the people in these places and behind the scenes, joining together, remarkably touching the lives of others:  those they know and those they may never know.

we make a difference.  in every arena of our lives.  every place we go.  every interaction.  every gesture.  every assumption.  every conversation.  every every-thing.  every single thing.

what intention will we have?  will we be positive or negative?

“the truth is, I now don’t travel back at all, not even for a day.  …  live life as if there were no second chances.” (ABOUT TIME)

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“as surely as the moon affects the tides.” [d.r. thursday]

DawsonDetail copy

new mother – a morsel

“when we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves, and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live.  from that time on there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tides, and affect us in some ways more deeply than anyone else can.  our children are extensions of ourselves.” (mr. fred rogers)

i simply cannot think of a more succinct way to say this but for the words of mr. rogers.

forever changed, i am sensitive to every little thing my even-as-grown-ups-children are experiencing, celebrating, enduring, adventuring, loving, suffering, yearning for, achieving.  i feel their joy as my joy, their sadness as my sadness.

parenthood, a profound honor, in all its diamond-facets is no small feat.  the vexing complexities, the moments of sheer joy, the heart-wrenching worry, the holding-on-letting-go-ness, the unconditional love.  all of it.

like the moon, their tide surely affects my tide.  and i would have it no other way.

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