I wonder if Phoebe could learn to do this?
August 19, 2015 | My Jottings
My daughter Sharon texted this video to me this morning and told me to watch all the way to the end. Maybe you’ve seen it already, but if you haven’t, here’s your smile for the day:
My new baby parakeet Phoebe (who’s about three months old now and is settling in and trying out a few cute vocalizations) doesn’t have the “expressive” head feathers this cockatoo does, but I’m wondering… if I worked with her every day, could she learn to respond to music in this way?
Would I have to buy a guitar, take guitar lessons, and learn an Elvis song before Phoebe would start cutting her parakeet rug, so to speak?
I also thought Mr. Cockatoo’s wife was hilarious in her own way. Notice the warning foot Mrs. Cockatoo lifts when she thinks he’s getting a little too carried away?
And what better words to sign off with?
Don’t be cruel,
The kindest Kelly
August 17, 2015 | My Jottings
Her name tag said Kelly. She was a ticket agent in a navy blue uniform with green trim, behind the Eastern Airlines counter in the Atlanta airport in 1979. I was 22 years old, a heartbroken and exhausted young mother with two tiny daughters in tow, eleven pieces of luggage to keep track of, and a bleak-looking future before me. But first, some details.
When my then-husband Glenn decided to end our marriage in Germany so he could be with another woman (who also needed to end her marriage), I just had to get home to Southern California. The Air Force required meetings and copious amounts of documentation to warrant their issuing airline tickets earlier than the planned three years we were all to be in Germany. By the time a few weeks had passed and the Base Commander gave the go-ahead, I was anxious to depart and to return someplace where we were wanted. I’m not sure my mother “wanted” us to move lock, stock and barrel into her quiet home for six months and nearly turn it upside down with sorrow and baby and toddler paraphernalia, but she was gracious to welcome us and let us stay for a time, so I could find a job and get on my emotional feet.
The Air Force travel agent (if there is such an animal) issued our tickets, and here was our itinerary: Frankfurt to McGuire AFB in New Jersey, a long flight filled to the brim with military personnel and their families. I’d been issued two tickets, so two year-old Sharon and I had seats, and eight month-old Carolyn was on my lap for the entire eight and a half hours. Thank God she was a nursing babe. We were not allowed to deplane in New Jersey, and the big jet then took us to Charleston AFB in South Carolina in about an hour and a half. Here our military transport ended and we had to find a way to get to the civilian airport in Charleston, with all our possessions. We had two bags for each of us (because we had to take everything we owned, aside from furniture, which would be shipped across the Atlantic in six weeks), a high chair, a diaper bag, my purse, and I can’t remember what else — I just know there were eleven pieces. I will never forget that. Can you imagine trying to travel with eleven pieces of baggage today? Impossible, and not even allowed. As I stood on the sidewalk at Charleston AFB with Carolyn on my hip and Sharon holding my hand, surrounded by our bags, a man approached me and asked if I needed to get to the civilian airport. He was driving a bus there and kindly loaded everything up and we were on our way. Once we reached the smallish airport in Charleston I knew we’d have a layover but I must have put it out of my mind since the first time I’d seen the tickets days before. The girls and I settled in to a row of connected airport chairs and my eyes probably bugged out of their dark shadowed sockets when I looked and saw that our layover was nearly six hours.
No place to go, no cribs for sleeping little girls, no real restaurant to speak of. And of course no cell phones in 1979.
I did my best, cheerfully reading to the girls, making a big deal out of snacks and water, taking frequent potty breaks and changing diapers, helping Sharon curl up in a chair to rest, and leaning back in mine so Carolyn could doze on my shoulder. My sweet little daughters were so good! They were tired, but were cooperative and easy to console. It makes me tear up just to think about it now.
When we finally boarded our next plane we were headed, not for Los Angeles which was my neck of the woods, but for Atlanta, because that’s the way the Air Force travel agent planned it for us. Because everyone knows the best route for a single woman with two little children and a bunch of baggage is Frankfurt>New Jersey>Charleston AFB>Charleston civilian airport>Atlanta, Georgia>Los Angeles, California. This flight was about an hour, I think.
In Atlanta we now had a four hour layover. And I remember thinking we had landed in the biggest airport in the world. The concourses seemed endless and the crowds were thick. Our ticket changed to Eastern Airlines (now defunct) and we got in a long line to check in and get our boarding passes. Again, this was before the days of online or kiosk check-ins.
By the time we neared our turn at the ticket counter, Sharon, Carolyn and I had been traveling for over nineteen hours. Sharon was almost sleeping on her feet as she shuffled along beside me, holding my hand. Carolyn was fitfully sleeping on my shoulder as I held her and my purse and the diaper bag, and who knows what else. When the attractive blond woman named Kelly called me forward and took my ticket, she must have seen the exhaustion in my face, and assessed my situation quickly. “How are you this evening, Julie?” This was going to be the red-eye flight from Atlanta to LAX, but until Kelly had greeted me I’d lost all sense of time. The compassion in her eyes and concern etched on her face was too much for me. I started to cry, and I told her right then and there that my husband had decided to take up with someone else and had sent us home from Europe. Kelly put down the paperwork, stilled her hands and looked straight into my eyes and said with quiet fierceness, “How. Dare. He.” I can’t even convey how much her words meant to me. She was outraged on my behalf and for my little girls, and what happened next I will never forget.
Kelly issued me FIVE seats on the flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, all across the center of an L1011. And I didn’t have to pay anything extra. I’d never been on such a big plane. Here’s an old picture so you can see the five seats at the center of the L1011.
Then she closed her side of the counter and let the other agents continue issuing boarding passes, and she led me and the girls to a comfortable bed in a private employees’ lounge, where she brought us blankets and pillows and encouraged us to get some sleep. Kelly assured me she would come get us in time to board the plane. So we slept in this blessed, quiet place for over three hours, and I thanked God for Kelly.
When Kelly came to wake us in time to board, she escorted us onto the plane before anyone else, like we were some kind of VIPs. Even the First Class flyers were still waiting to board. She gave us more blankets and pillows and I was able to sit in the middle of the five seats, and Sharon and Carolyn each had a bed made of two seats on either side of me. They both slept almost immediately.
As Kelly was about to go back to her job behind the Eastern Airlines ticket counter, she bent over toward me and wished me well on this flight and in my life. I couldn’t thank her enough.
I have told the story of my encounter with Kelly many times. Several people have speculated that she might have been an angel because of the ways she ministered to us, citing Hebrews 13:2, which says,
“Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
I’m pretty sure Kelly wasn’t showing such love and kindness to me because she thought I was an angel. I wasn’t. And am not one still. But even though I wasn’t the one showing such love and care to her, I never completely discounted the fact that Kelly could have been divinely dispatched to come to my aid on that grueling trip. A ministering angel, perhaps. Or perhaps she was just a really wonderful woman who used the authority she had to soften my way.
Thirty-six years have passed, and I have prayed that God would bless Kelly for the way she took care of Sharon, Carolyn and me. If Kelly is still alive, she’s probably in her late sixties or early seventies by now. I hope someone is making sure she sleeps well and is gently covered at night. I hope there have been friends who’ve come along side her and expressed their outrage at any injustices Kelly has had to endure. And I pray that all the things she did for me during that short time, giving me five seats on the plane instead of two, finding a quiet place of rest for us, going out of her way to help and comfort us during such a terrible time, are multiplied back to her a thousand times.
I’ve known a handful of Kellys in my life, but the Kelly who worked for Eastern Airlines in Atlanta, Georgia was the kindest Kelly I’ve ever met.
Consider the lilies
August 10, 2015 | My Jottings
May God bless your day today….
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
~~Jesus, the book of Luke, chapter 12.
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August 6, 2015 | My Jottings
Sharon and Chris’s youngest child just turned three years old. It boggles my mind how quickly time rushes by once you’re in the senior citizen demographic. Years seem like months and months seem like weeks and weeks seem like days. It really does seem like just a couple of months ago that Louisa had just a little bit of wispy blond hair and would come over on Fridays to visit Grandpa Michael and me.
Anyway, Sharon called a couple of days ago to tell me about a cute conversation she and Louiser had. Apparently Louiser wanted to play with her mama, and she said “Let’s play that I’m Grandma and you’re the little girl!” Sharon agreed, and Louisa began enthusiastically, “Wash your hands!” After Sharon pretended to wash her hands, Louisa then commanded, “Eat your pizza!” And Sharon took a bite of invisible pizza. Then Louisa directed, “Let’s take a tubby!” and I’m not sure how Sharon responded to that — maybe pretend-washed her face. And then Louisa bossed, “Now we read a book, sit down I read to you!” And her final words were “Ok, I love you!”
So my life is pretty accurately distilled into five important views:
1. Germs are bad.
2. Enjoy your food.
3. Germs are bad.
4. Books are wonderful.
5. Love is the way to go.
At least that’s what I think she was saying…
I bought a bird.
August 1, 2015 | My Jottings
Our family had several pet birds during the years our girls were growing up. First we had Rosie the yellow cockatiel. Her last name was Shackadorum and she was hand-fed, so was quite tame and loved to sit on our hands and shoulders. She breeped when we came in the back door and each time the toilet was flushed.
We thought Rosie would like a boyfriend so we bought another hand-fed cockatiel, a grey guy we named Chester Pondaleeky. Chester was mean and domineering to easy-going, cheerful Rosie, and one morning we came downstairs and found her cowering in the bottom of their cage, her wing bloodied. We gave Chester the Molester to a couple right away, who promised to never put him in a cage with another bird.
Then we tried again with a meeker male, another grey cockatiel we named Walter Whomperwhacker. Walter and Rosie liked each other enough to need a clutch box, and over the next couple of years she laid several eggs, three of which had baby cockatiels in them. Rosie and Walter were very intrigued by their newly hatched and helpless offspring, but didn’t know how to feed them, so the poor little ones never survived. Then Walter turned into an angry bird and took his frustrations out on Rosie, and we gave him away too. Rosie lived in cockatiel peace for a good long time, and we were truly sad when we found her dead at the bottom of her cage one winter morning.
Next we acquired a canary with a bad toupee. I think these kinds of canaries are called Gloster Canaries, and you can see what I mean by a toupee here. She first belonged to our friend Carl, but she didn’t thrive in his house because he had over a dozen cats who paced the floor beneath her cage and plotted her feather-exploding death. It was perhaps no puzzle why Carl’s canary began to lose her little yellow feathers, one by one, until she looked like the most pathetic miniature plucked chicken, all pink flesh with an occasional pin feather here and there. Except for her head, where she had retained an odd cap of dark brown feathers I always said looked like a tiny fountain. Carl gave his canary to us and we named her Harriet the Canary with the Bad Toupee. As soon as Harriet came to our cat-less home, her yellow feathers grew back and she was a sweet, trilling pet for a few years.
Here are a couple of drawings my talented son-in-law Jeremy drew of Carl and some of his cats, considering what to do about Harriet, and one of Carolyn and our old Schnauzer Winnie, peering at Harriet once she came to our house.
Then life happened. And dogs were what we could handle. I didn’t want to clean cages and vacuum bird dander anymore, so when Harriet flew to canary heaven I decided to take a bird break.
But now that break is over, and we have a new little parakeet. I’ve never had a parakeet before. She’s quite young, and the way you can tell is that the rows of stripes (or bars) in her head feathers come almost all the way down to her beak. As she grows, these stripes will fade. Here’s a photo of a young parakeet with the stripes, and a mature parakeet who has lost his stripes.
I’ve been relieved to see her eating her seed, and I hope she’ll take a bit of the apple slice I’ve affixed to the side of her cage. I haven’t seen her drinking from her water container yet and that concerns me a little. I hope she’s sipping when I’m not around.
I hope to hand tame her a bit so she’ll enjoy sitting on my shoulder and having her head stroked. But I’ll have to shut Edith and Mildred the Schnauzers away in another room when I try. One doggy chomp could bring about a very sad ending. I’m feeling stirrings of affection for little Phoebe already so don’t think I could bear that.
Michael taught me to love birds. He had a way with animals, and birds were always sidling up to him and were never afraid of him.
How about you? Have you ever had a pet bird? If so, what kind, and what was its name?
Beauty, beauty, everywhere
July 27, 2015 | My Jottings
I love watching my daughters use the creative gifts they’ve been given. My mom was an unbelievably creative person, extremely musical and artistic, such a quick study when it came to making something beautiful with her hands. I’ve heard that creativity often skips a generation and that might be true in our family’s case.
Sharon is my oldest, and is an in-demand photographer whose gorgeous photos make me marvel and gasp. Here’s a (partial) picture of her, gently positioning a sleeping newborn girl for some sure-to-be heirloom pictures her family will love forever.
Sharon takes wonderful family and graduation photos too, but folks around here call her “The Baby Whisperer.”
Carolyn is my middle daughter, and here’s a photo of her playing Salvation Army officer Sarah Brown in our local playhouse’s current musical production of Guys and Dolls. This was in our local paper.
Our family went to see the play last week and Carolyn had us practically rolling on the floor, she was so funny. She can also sing beautifully, like an angel, and has been the lead in many plays since she was in high school.
Sara is my youngest, and she has an almost-effortless way with flowers. This is a photo of her wearing a floral crown she created, photographed by Sharon:
As I’ve said before, it’s so nice to have a florist in the house. It’s not unusual for me to wake up in the morning to something new on the table, and here’s what I found this week:
These flowers were left over from an order Sara was working on — aren’t they breathtaking?
Watching my daughters use their giftings to add beauty to this world is one of my greatest joys.
Sometimes change is nice
July 23, 2015 | My Jottings
I have long been a woman who’s not crazy about change. If I had my druthers I’d still be in the first house Michael and I ever owned, and I’d also make sure my grandchildren don’t grow any older.
But sometimes change is nice, like the change of scenery and experience travel can bring. And I like the change of seasons we have in northeastern Minnesota. And I have always liked to change furniture around, ever since I was a little girl.
In fact, there were times I’d rearrange the furniture in our house on Eckerman Avenue in West Covina, without asking my mom first. She’d be out getting her hair done at the beauty shop by her friend Mabel Fellis, and I’d shove the living room chairs around and movie the hi-fi, and Mom would usually be pleasantly surprised when she got home and saw what I’d done.
Our current living room is fairly small, so there are only two options for where the couch should go, and only one of them is really a good choice.
But my bedroom, now there’s a different story.
I’ve shared before how the previous owners of this house put on a large addition over the garage. They added a super-spacious master bedroom with a large master bathroom and walk-in closet. I haven’t changed one thing they did, except of course move all of our stuff in.
We’ve had the king-sized bed in two different spots in this bedroom, and not long ago Sara moved things around for me, because she too, loves to rearrange things to enjoy a little change. We talked about how having the bed in the corner like this isn’t really the best place in the room, but we thought we’d try it anyway. After all, if you move a piece of furniture and it doesn’t suit you, you can always move it again. So this is how things look now:
The bed is in a corner by a window on the side of our house, and it feels like a cozy sleeping/reading nook. We moved the two chairs by the windows at the front of the house, which looks out on Lake Superior. You can click to enlarge these if you like.
By the way, what color would you say my bedroom walls are? I see a grayish green. I have friends who’ve said they see no green at all, but do see a warm gray. Someone else told me it looks like khaki. And my friend Carey calls the color putty.
What wall color do you see?
The wreath made of hymnal pages was a gift from my dear friend Su, and I love it. It’s off-center because it was perfectly hung over a tall dresser and I don’t want to move it just because my bed is there temporarily. I cover my comforter with a washable cotton blanket because Edith and Millie jump on the bed a lot. They’re pretty clean little hounds, but you’d be surprised at the dirt they bring in from outside.
The attractive tubing draped over the lamp goes to my CPAP machine, which I’ve been using since April 13. Every single night. And while I was sad I needed it, it has made such a positive difference in my sleep, I’m afraid to be without it now.
This little corner of the room is full of children’s books. My grands make a beeline for these bookshelves when they visit, and I often put on soft music or kids’ CDs on the little stereo nearby. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have in my head of children of all ages, sitting on the floor here, laying on blankets, noses deep in a new book I’ve added for them.
My friend Ginny gave me this lovely red and white, square ceramic bowl, and Sara decided to put it in a plate holder. My bedroom furniture is nearly antique, made by Drexel (which I only found out in recent years is a company well known for heritage pieces), and belonged to my maternal grandparents.
These two black shelves were here when we bought the house and I had intended to remove them, but never did. Now they don’t bother me, and I have my little chairs, rats, cardinal print (a gift from Su), birdhouse of prayer, plate, pewter pitcher and hygrometer there.
There’s nothing more wonderful than a pile of books always at hand….
This is the chair I sit in every day. I read here, count my blessings here, pray and study and cry here, and you can see that Millie the Schnauzer likes the chair too. See her Flying Nun ears?
And here’s a closer shot of Millie from behind. You can also see how the sunlight has faded the fabric on the back of the chair. The plaid used to be black.
Monday, July 27th will mark 24 weeks since Michael died. Six months. I can hardly take it in. It seems like last week, it seems like a lifetime ago.
This bedroom oasis has been a gift from the Lord to me, I believe. Michael died in this room and that makes it all the more lovely. It’s in this room that I feel the Lord changing my mind most mornings, from a groaning, glass-half empty sort of outlook to a glass-overflowing view. I shudder to think what my life would be without Him.
Thanks for stopping by today. How about you? Are you a person who enjoys a little change in your life?
July 18, 2015 | My Jottings
There are several things that are just not working for me these days. And I mean this in our present-day idiomatic quirkiness. I don’t mean that there are machines in my world that have broken down and need repairing. I mean that things aren’t working for me sort of like Dr. Phil asks dysfunctional people on his show “How’s this working for ya?” because obviously changes are needed if they want better lives.
So may I just say that chinch bugs in my lawn are not working for me? My very nice lawn guy (who has been inexpensively and efficiently mowing my small yard ever since Michael’s illness took a turn years ago) called me this week to let me know my grass is being feasted upon and will ultimately be destroyed by chinch bugs. Except he pronounced them cinch bugs. So I looked up online all I could learn about the “safe for children and pets” treatment he recommended to kill my chinch bugs, and I decided against it. It causes bladder tumors in rats and is a neurotoxin. It’s supposed to be safe for humans because the amount they would be exposed to after a lawn treatment is miniscule. Even so, this is not working for me, so I guess I’ll be trying the chinch bug program that’s more ecologically friendly.
Try not to laugh as you picture me purchasing a large amount of old fashioned soap flakes, measuring and mixing it and dissolving it in water, spraying it on the little yellow patches of chinch bug settlements on my lawn, laying light-colored flannel sheets down on top of these wet soapy areas, waiting for the teeny-tiny soap-averse chinch bugs to climb out of the grass in a panic and cling to the underside of the flannel sheets, then quickly gathering up the sheets to plunge them into a waiting water-filled, clean garbage can to drown them. And then I’m supposed to repeat the process as needed.
At this point in my life, chomping chinch bugs and soapy flannel sheets on the grass are not really working for me.
But as a homeowner who will eventually sell this house, I guess I need to make sure the lawn survives. This all makes me think that perhaps being a homeowner will soon be something that will no longer work for me.
I’ve been dreaming (again) of more temperate climes, a place not too cold in the winter and not hot in the summer, and have once again come up with the mountains of North Carolina. I’ve been reading about Asheville, and have also become curious about Blowing Rock and Boone, NC. Having a quiet two-bedroom townhome or condo in the Blue Ridge Mountains where chinch bugs would be someone else’s concern sounds appealing.
But it’s not just the chinch bugs. It’s my quadriceps too. My right quadriceps muscle isn’t really working for me. Ever since I had my right knee replacement surgery three years ago, my right thigh muscle has become weaker and more useless with each passing day. I can’t use my right leg to go up a step, cannot stand from a sitting position without using my arms to push myself up, can’t turn over in bed without a wince. I fully realize the answer would be to begin exercising my right quadriceps muscle to strengthen it, and to quit compensating for it, but the apathy and almost compulsive need for quiet and comfort in my life as I adjust to living without Michael isn’t really conducive for vigorous exercise programs. Faulty reasoning, I know, but I don’t claim that my thinking is on task these days either.
I’ll tell you what is working in my life right now.
Having a little male goldfinch dine at the suction cup feeder on our dining room window many times a day, singing his sweet, twittery song…this is working well for me.
Watching episodes of “American’s Test Kitchen” I record on my DVR, learning about the fascinating science of cooking and baking, even though I don’t want to cook or bake much myself — this is working for me right now.
Having window boxes on our front deck that are continuously, gloriously blooming with red geraniums is working quite well for me.
And dreaming of Scotland is totally working for me. And watching the occasional inspiring movie is always good.
Sara and I watched “Babette’s Feast” a few nights ago and I was thrilled all over again. Michael and I watched it years ago and I remember him wiping tears as we saw the sacrifice and unbelievable generosity of one woman toward a group of people who didn’t fully appreciate what she did for them. Have you seen it? It’s subtitled, and is so worth watching.
Ah. It’s time for me to prepare breakfast for my gals.
I hope whatever isn’t working in your life right now is being overshadowed by the things that are.
Virginia Sooter’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting
July 10, 2015 | My Jottings
When I was little my mom made cakes. No bars, no tortes, no really fancy stuff. Maybe she would make an occasional pie or some cookies, but cakes were her thing. I’m sure she must have made scratch cakes now and then, but mostly she swore by Duncan Hines cake mixes. No Pillsbury (too airy) or Betty Crocker (too spongy) for Mom. It was Duncan Hines or nothing. And since bigger was always better, Mom always made a double batch with two boxes of Duncan Hines, and used a giant, deep cake pan that could have doubled as a sled if Southern California had ever gotten any snow. I don’t ever remember her making a layer cake.
So while she always used cake mixes, Mom shunned any kind of ready-made frosting. She always whipped together her made-up version of Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting, and it went on yellow cake, spice cake, devil’s food cake, white cake and marble cake. She liked it because 1) it was extremely yummy, and 2) it didn’t require cooking in a saucepan like many frostings do. My brothers and I loved that Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting, and like any other kids, we wanted to lick the beaters and the bowl and the spoons after she had frosted the cake.
My mom died twenty-two years ago, but I still make Virginia Sooter’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting today. So do my grown daughters. I think it could be renamed Reese’s Frosting, but that would take away all the sentimentality, so when I share it with you here, I’ll keep calling it Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting. If you make it and like it, feel free to pass on the recipe, but try your hardest to call it Virginia Sooter’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting. Thank you.
1 stick soft butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – whatever you like best)
1 teaspoon good vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
Cream the wet ingredients together well, then add the dry ingredients. Stir vigorously by hand with wooden spoon, or use hand mixer if you prefer.
Then slowly add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is the consistency you want. These measurements can be approximate. Taste and savor and decide what you think it needs. If you want it more chocolatey, add a bit more cocoa powder. If you want more peanut butter, go ahead, try another dollop. Sweeter? More sugar then.
The milk at the end, added a little at a time, can help control how smooth it is. Sometimes I’ve added too much milk and it’s too thin. I just go back and add a bit more powdered sugar and/or cocoa until it’s just right.
This frosting doesn’t have the sheen that a cooked frosting does, but it’s quick and delicious and freezes beautifully in a lidded Tupperware container.
Sometimes I make a cake with a Bundt pan, and use Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting for that, warmed slightly and then spread with a spoon lumpily over the cake. Ha.
I love and miss you Mom.
Wednesday’s Word-Edition 120
July 8, 2015 | My Jottings
Two quotes from the Bible study by Priscilla Shirer entitled Breathe — Making Room for Sabbath:
“Some of us have made an idol of exhaustion. The only time we know we have done enough is when we’re running on empty and when the ones we love most are the ones we see the least.” –Barbara Brown Taylor
“Sabbath-keeping: Quieting the internal noise so we hear the still small voice of the Lord. Removing the distractions of pride so we discern the presence of Christ.” –Eugene Peterson
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