Weekend Coffee Share, Our Selves.

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer. Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair; Bixby and I are getting philosophical today over green matcha tea. It’s a hot and muggy day, so the A/C is on and the sunlight peeks through my blinds.

I’m tired of always talking about the same things here; my family situation keeps changing, and my family member who had left on a bad note is now back and in need of a lot of patience, but let me share what has got me philosophizing and looking inward. I saw a thought-provoking quote on social media this morning….

So I was thinking, didn’t who I used to be affect who I am today? I made mistakes, trusted the wrong people, and tried to be a good child to avoid conflict at home, therefore only rebelling in quiet ways and unleashing worry on my mother but not every outwardly rebelling against my father whose temper was worse than hers; he wasn’t there after age 10, so his knowledge of any of my rebellion was just second-hand after that.

As a child, I don’t think I trusted many people, but as a teen and young adult, I think trusting the wrong people made me just trust myself more in the long run; that is, after I beat myself up for stepping in it. Perhaps it made me more aware and more wary. I gauge the moments when it’s best to keep it close to the vest, and when to wear my heart on my sleeve.

What I am saying is, there is nothing wrong with who I was. Everything was a learning experience. The only error would be to never learn from the experiences that told me ‘don’t go there next time’ or ‘let him go’ or ‘she/he has shown you who they really are; pay attention.’

I would like to let go of the remnants of the girl who was so anxious when first learning to drive that she took 3 tries to get her license, of the girl who applied for a first job at a fast food chain but ran out of confidence when told to go back and talk to the manager, and the one who didn’t speak up for herself when a ‘friend’ made fun of her in front of other kids in school. It’s okay, I stopped talking to them. I showed them…I was lonely, but I saw regret in their face. I would do it differently today, but through all these things I learned to be stronger.

So, do we let go the remnants of our younger, unsure selves? The ones who put up with boorish family members just because they were ‘family’? The parts that always felt a need to show sympathy for the underdogs to the point we had to endure their odd characteristics that separated us from our friends. Yes. But how can we let go the girl who listens to people at a dinner party before jumping in and being friendly in order to avoid suffering the company of a boor all evening? Why would we let go of the specific facets of our personalities, the intuitive, empathetic parts of ourselves?

‘Guard your heart,’ a friend once told me. That was not always me, but what is me is the person who shares her heart with young people to show them that being a person to others matters, who gives a little more when I feel and read the need on someone’s face. And I still avoid conflict, but I will speak up for myself, though I will do it calmly; I insist on doing this calmly and if it becomes an argument, I will be the better person.

So, who I am evolving to be should be stronger than who I was, but there are remnants of a past me that led to where I am today. I keep learning a lot about myself, how to be myself, and how to keep making myself a better person. Therefore, I both agree and disagree with this statement.

It also makes me think of who I’ll be in the next phase of my life, the one after I am a teacher. My personality will still be here. Will I still have the desire to be a positive influence on young people? Will I find a way to do that daily and perhaps hold a job that allows this? Within the next decade, I’ll have the opportunity for such change. It could be a little scary; I tend to stay so long in one job, but I think this will be exciting. I am going to leave the remnant behind that made me stay in a situation much longer than I should. I will keep evolving, so I won’t be carrying remnants of my old self, just evolved pieces of me that form who I have become.

Stay safe, my friends!

Navigating Special Family Dynamics

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When you have a family member who is ill, you try to help them. You have to accept the reality of their illness, even though sometimes, they won’t. If it is your child, you must get over the self-blame.

I’ve read many books on mental illness, alcoholism, and recently, the book I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help, by Dr. Xavier Amadore. Over the last 4 to 5 years, I’ve attended meetings through NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to learn what my loved one is dealing with and how to face it. Over the course of a week, I tried to record some of the most important things I’ve learned in order to remind myself how to deal with the ups and downs of this life.

The ABC’s of Navigating Mental Illness in the Family

a- Acceptance. It is what it is. Maybe it is a tragedy and so unfair, but it is the reality, and now what matters is how you all deal with it.

b-Boundaries. You have a right to them. I can only be healthy when I set them and require others to respect them.

c-Care, for your loved one and the others in your family.

d-Detach from the drama. Sometimes it’s not easy. Other family members may react to the ill loved one in anger or catastrophize the situation. Try to handle it calmly to be supportive, but remove yourself when it’s too much.

e-Express your true feelings to a therapist or friend

f-Forgive. Your loved one may hurt you emotionally, and may not even remember doing so. It’s hard to forget, and I don’t since I learn from each event, but forgiving is what you do for someone you love.

g-Gently voice your concerns. Hollering never got me anywhere with a sick person.

h-Hug freely, if it is accepted.

i-Instill confidence in them. Show them you notice or remember their good qualities.

j-Judge not. It’s even Biblical. I personally don’t like people judging me, so I’m working on not judging the ones I love.

k-Keep anger at bay–do not aim it at a loved one who is ill.

l-Listen openly. There are many times they may not even speak to you. Emrace the times when they do.

m-Model calm reactions

n-Never Stop Believing that it could get better. It has gotten better many times, and I try to forget that it could go downhill before getting better again.

0-Offer a listening ear but do not offer advice. Don’t speak to your loved one like an expert.

p-Practice Self-Care (Part of NAMI’s protocols and many other support groups)

Q- Quit blaming yourself. I think this could mess up a person’s personal balance of boundaries and caring for the individual who is ill. You’ll be more respected if you have boundaries, in my humble opinion.

R-Reject Stigma. I got this one from NAMI’s best practices, and it comes down to dealing with our own shame over our loved one’s illness. Do not allow others to belittle or mock their struggle. Accepting the stigma sort of feeds our own shame. I second-thought my decision to share this post, because I’m aware of the stigma. Yet, I know this post may encourage another who is dealing with a similar situation.

S-Show your love. There are ways to do this confidently and reassuringly without fawning over them and while maintaining boundaries. I constantly remind myself of this. Examples: “Next time you come over, please check the time. Midnight is too late.”

t-Try to empathize. It’s hard, but I think it really helps.

U-Understand, it’s the illness, not them

V-Validate their struggle. They are fighting a serious battle daily. No wonder she/he is acting like a jerk or waking up in a bad mood. They are struggling. Validate their struggle and acknowledge their bravery.

W-Work together as a team. This is still a goal for me, but my other family members and I are getting better.

X- eXhibit bravery. Soon, you may believe it. I constantly tell myself, ‘be brave,’ and it helps me.

Y-You are not alone! Seek help.

Z-Zone: Find a safe zone where you can express the truth of what’s going on, a friend, clergy, counselor, etc. It’s also helpful to clue you work supervisor in on the general situation as it could affect your attendance in the future.

*I’m sure some of these repeat themselves, but I have my favorites, and I have the ones I must remind myself of constantly. This is why I put it into a format, and the ABCs are, of course, quite simple. Keep it simple would be a good one as well, but it never was simple; maybe we can try to make it simplified, though.

You can find information about NAMI at http://www.nami.org.

Weekend Coffee Share, Home

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share,Β  hosted by Natalie the Explorer.Β  The drink for me is green tea today, and the background music is peaceful ambient. Actually, Saturday got away from me; I started this post yesterday but was not quite finished until this Sunday morning. Bear with me please! There is some good to share. πŸ™‚

I’ve been postingΒ  a little this week about my trip to Rochester,Β  NY, a much needed getaway.. I returned Monday at noon, and boy, was Bixby ever glad to see me! I was glad to get home, as there was a lot going on here while I was on vacation. There has been a family situation, and I am trying not to let it get me down. Sadly, my reading has brought me to the term Anosognosia, which describes what one of my loved ones is going through: refusal to accept that one is ill and needs medical help. The serenity prayer is going through my head so often now. Unconditional love means we love each other no matter what.

The Serenity Prayer also helped me get through a sudden, unplanned repair to my car. Sigh. I can handle it, but I can only handle my own reactions. I’ve been happy to see my local family and friends again, though.

Back in Florida, I’ve enjoyed sitting on my back porch in the sun eating breakfast a few times, but I fondly remember sitting on my friend’s patio in Rochester eating breakfast,  lunch, and sometimes dinner. I even caught a beautiful sunrise once! Rochester is also home to many beautiful and historical sites.

The statue of Frederick Douglass, who is buried in Rochester.

There was a lot to enjoy of nature, whether rain or shine! We actually found Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite in the rain with rain ponchos on, but did not find that of Frederick Douglass. His statue, however, was located in the nearby park which we visited later at night. Such a beautiful sight.

Hennessy River Falls. Beautiful in rain or sunshine.
Lacy Acres Farm in Bloomington, New York

My friend and I also met my cousin at an alpaca farm, which made for a lovely day and a relaxing tour. We got to feed them and pet them too! I published more photos and details of that in a post this week: https://pamelascanepa.wordpress.com/2021/07/22/the-alpaca-shag-rdp/

My summer break will end soon, but I am at peace with that! I like knowing I can pay for my car repairs, and I certainly want to plan for future vacations. Considering I really love teaching overall, I don’t mind getting back to that while earning a paycheck, but I am planning future vacations. πŸ™‚ Life is short! All I can do is do what I enjoy, live up to my responsibilities, and be there for those I love while respecting my own needs, which likely looks different for all of us.

Have a great weekend and an even better week to come!

Weekend Coffee Share, On Relating and Forgiveness

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer, accompanied by the music of Agnes Obel. It’s a good day to invite tranquility in. I’m getting my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today and following up an eventful, slightly stressful wake packed full with just, well, too much for my liking. Still, I managed.

State testing was the first challenge, though nothing compared to handling the emotions of my son moving out ON THE VERY SAME DAY. However, I focused all day on the positives and paced the aisles as the students whittled away at their thoughts and words for a state writing test. My ex had flown down to help my son move and get all things in order as possible. The students had my attention; I kept the thoughts at bay. I felt happy that my son is stepping into independence, happy that I may have a new sort of freedom now that my son is moving out on his own. All the while acknowledging that I felt relief and a little worry at the same time, but knowing that this is a necessary step.

My son and my mother, circa 1997-98.

I got to see it after work on Wednesday. The place is small, a studio apartment, but the landlords put in a new stove and ceiling fan. There is faux wood flooring which looks very nice. He got his bed and long dresser in there, has to keep his bike inside, and there’s a bookshelf. There is no room for a sofa. Mom and I decided to get him some folding cloth chairs and TV trays.

After seeing the place, my ex-husband took me, my mom, and my son out to eat a steak dinner. My son was so tired, and my ex was talking a lot about details and ways my son could improve his life, get a car, etc. I’ve mentioned before that my son had a bad car accident three years ago. He also has a mood disorder that is mostly kept in check. He gets lost in the details, and it is not wise to throw too many at him at once. He truly needs to take it one day at a time, but I am proud of how he lined up all he needed to do to get this apartment. He does not have a high-paying job but makes enough to pay me rent, so now he’ll see what true independence is.

It is true that my ex-husband can worry a detail down to a fine thread. Sadly, I guess that is one thing we had in common. He is more of a “You’ve got to do this” sort of person. I am more of a “You need to do this, and if you don’t get that done, what is your back-up plan?” gal. Obviously, we did not get along well enough to stay married; it only lasted 5 years, so dating and marriage for us lasted seven years, and my son was only 2 1/2 years old when I had to leave that marriage, after two failed marital counseling attempts. I felt controlled, manipulated, trapped. He would get onto me about who I befriended and talk them down to me, also accusing me of affairs with male co-workers (which did not happen at all). He stressed me out a lot.

In the years we were together, I had some depression, had a rough post-partum year, and his drinking was problematic. Sometimes I wonder if stress during pregnancy led to my son’s emotional state. I have often been very wary of my ex when he’s back around. I sent my son to live with him one summer six years ago, and it did not go well at all; my son was anxious to come back a month later. I have to try to avoid blame, yet I do feel I’ve forgiven him.

There’s a funny thing about forgiveness. It means “to grant pardon” or “cease to feel resentment.” It is healthy for us, they say, and can prevent the toxicity of such feelings to ruin us. Still, I want to point out that forgiveness does not mean letting down boundaries, which exist for a good reason: self-preservation. In my past year of self-improvement and looking inward, I have been re-establishing and exercising boundaries in relationships with family, at work, and with others. You can forgive someone, but still keep the boundary up. I’ve given past relationships a second chance and learned things didn’t work the first time for a reason. It is not a lesson lost.

My mother is impressed in the changes she sees in my ex. Yes, I’ll admit there is some goodness in that man and he seems to have straightened up. He is here when my son really needs him. I am allowing him to do that. He bought a microwave and some other things for my son’s apartment. The two of them may be bounding, and that’s good. So, I sat at dinner and enjoyed it whole-heartedly, telling him what a handsome son we have and how I love my son.

It is notable that, I have been divorced from my ex for twenty-two years. I dated a few other men after, but I have currently been dating the same man, Kenny, for eleven years now. That relationship provides me some freedom to be my own person and has allowed me to determine what I want: to come forward in my writing, to communicate with the world instead of hiding. I relate to others more freely and have found it benefits my teaching by showing I care and have empathy, benefits how I relate to co-workers, and not being afraid of relating to others makes me feel better about myself. I had a past full of secrets kept from my mom, a therapist, friends. Where I learned I shouldn’t tell my husband everything for fear of being judged or having it spun out of context. I have learned I’m imperfect but pretty awesome as I am.

My current boyfriend, Kenny, has boundaries and likes an amount of time to himself. I am finding that, so do I. Therefore, I am happy with all that has come about. I do wish some things had happened differently and had gone better for my son, but I am going to make the best of today and perhaps make it better.

So, I sat across from my ex-husband, with my son to the left of me who looked quite tired from working the usual hours and moving in the afternoon. My mother was to the right of me, raising a glass of wine, wishing for a good transition and new life opportunities, smiling at us all. I smiled and thanked my ex-husband for the dinner. I hugged my son and said “I love you” as they left. Then, I went to Target and happily bought some chairs and TV trays to support my son in his move.

Thursday I had a usual workday with Spring-springy middle schoolers and evening time to myself for exercising. Friday after work, I had dinner and caught up on my sleep. It has also been a wake-up-at-2 a.m. and struggle to sleep again week. I made up for it last night. So, this morning it is coffee and a vaccine shot at 11 a.m. I look forward to more rest later!

Have a good weekend, my friends. I wish you all a reconciliation with your past events and/or decisions, a present that cannot be controlled but only appreciated, and a belief in a hopeful future!

Weekend Coffee Share, Shifting the Perspective

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Traveler at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/2021/03/26/5-themes-for-a-fun-week/ . The day is warm, and the coffee is on ice. Agnes Obel croons in the background to increase a calm, cool, collected mood. It has been quite a week.

I am not only dealing with rambunctious kids overwhelmed by the scent of Spring , the encroaching state tests, and my own allergies, but some family stress has given me hard lessons in parenting. You do know that once a parent, you are a parent for life, right? It is so hard to stand back when they are going through a hard time.

You cannot create peace in someone else’s mind. You can only be an example of how you will not let their sparks of agitation burn your calm down.
It is exhausting to think and not react, to feel love even when you feel spit on. It’s also hard to let go as a parent, and to acknowledge the hurt and the love you feel, leaving space for both at the same time. Suffice it to say, I felt disrespected by my adult son (24 going on 12) and told him to save up, he had two months to move out.

He decided he would apply for an apartment right away and try to move out next week. He has his eye on some cheap apartments just down the road. He will have to ride his bike to work, as he has not gotten his own car since the accident that totaled his car and gave him a brain injury three years ago. He does need to experience true independence, so I know I cannot talk him out of it, and part of me does not want to. Yet part of me does, and I am not listening. I start to worry.

Worry is one of my traits and character flaws. It is distracting from real-life tasks. I am working on meditation. Trying not to ponder too much on whether he’ll take his meds as needed and be careful where he goes, eat healthy and live a healthy life, not the partier lifestyle. I could worry on any little thing, so the meditation is pretty necessary for me right now. I have an app called DARE (an app that addresses anxiety), and there are some really helpful meditations or information sessions there. Worrying about the future is a waste of time.

Flashback photo. Many cherished memories!

I am not just a parent. I am a writer, which is mostly consisting of blogging right now, and that’s just where I am at the moment. In looking at my life right now, I have to shift the periscope for another perspective. I am an English teacher of middle schoolers, and I mostly enjoy that. Still, I have to make myself remember the good that I instilled in my son, and believe that all of it will overwhelm the headstrong stubbornness of a young adult. While I have expressed that work can be stressful, I always try to maintain an accepting atmosphere in my classroom and to build relationship, to know them and make them feel part of a community, and that can be so rewarding!

It seems I may fail with some, but others, and even some whole classes, seem to feel the strength of community or at least appreciate my efforts. I believe in them as well. Some are so brilliant! At times I make corny jokes and tell them the teaching platform is just practice for my future live comedy career. πŸ™‚ I can get going and talk fast, I always thought it was anxiety brain but my doctor thinks it could also be an attention deficit. I talk about these things with some of my students. Many of them know what these issues are like. Perhaps I can be a good example of functioning regardless. (So I hope). πŸ™‚

When I relate to my students, I sometimes forget my worries. I get the feeling of being a stepping stone and learning experience in their lives. To let them know I’m glad to see them, I use my imagination and call them my little rays of sunshine, bright shining moonbeams, dragons, or butterflies. (Their choice). Some do not identify as the assigned gender. I have had to learn this; It is 2021 and I’ve been teaching 21 years. Things are different now. I must be mindful of whom I call a boy or a girl. So I’ll say, ‘Boys and girls or NBs (for non-binaries), listen up!’ They approve. I purposely called someone the wrong name who just laughed, then I started adding the wrong name behind his real name, and he just laughs.

Yesterday, I had another student request that I add a syllable to their name! I thought it was sweet, a way I can make someone feel special. There are some really bright kids in some of my classes, but they are all special, just in different ways. So, of course I’ve added a syllable which happens to be what her dad calls her, so she likes it! Now I have more to remember. I’m always trying new things to be sure I challenge the brightest gifted children while using strategies to motivate those at grade-level or just getting there. It’s safe to say, they challenge me as well. I appreciate that; my job is not boring, my life is challenging and motivates me to wake up daily. Those who may misbehave at times also challenge me to always show acceptance, one of the most important things in life.

Not only that, but the Newspaper Club I am sponsoring at school provides an outlet for ideas. It seems to decrease the burnout I could get from FSA test prep and prescribed teaching methods as well as antsy Springtime behavior in middle schoolers.

I feel I have digressed, as I often do. It’s just that, these extra syllables and NB nicknames as well as the bright students are giving me good moments that will become memories during the challenges of my life….as well as lessons learned. It is a wonderful life when you can teach others and keep learning from the experience as well! Maybe it is actually possible I am reaching these students socially and emotionally and building an accepting community. So now let’s shift the periscope again to another perspective that can also be viewed brightly: I have many reasons to be grateful, and raising a son who has been a challenge is just one of them. Maintaining an accepting relationship with him but giving independence shall be another, I am sure.

Smile and think of mad possibilities when you’d rather give up and take a nap.

Thank you for reading my Weekend Coffee Share! Writing is so cathartic for me. I also love poetry, where I can just feel things and be completely metaphorical if I like. Maybe you can tell by my love for butterflies and dragons. πŸ™‚ I can be either, depending on my mood. I am allowed. I hope you have a wonderful week!

#WeekendCoffeeShare. What’s New?

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Ali. Today, I drink green matcha tea, since I had coffee yesterday and experienced some bothersome sciatica. I started the matcha tea in an attempt to improve sleep and stress/anxiety reactions. I do think it helps in the long run, and I allow myself coffee 3 plus times a week. So now, I am experimenting to see if my nerves are calmer with the matcha tea, hoping that means I know one way to keep sciatica at bay. We shall see, right?

Bixby has had a haircut, and good timing, since it was 78 degrees yesterday here in Northeast Florida! It’s supposed to cool off again but won’t be below 40, so it’ll be fine.

The always-poofy tail! #pommix

On New Year’s resolutions

I always liked the idea of New Year’s resolutions. It is a great time to start over and look forward to a better year. I sort of did it differently this year. I’m reading and working on something called A Mindfulness for Beginners Journal. (That’s because, despite trying for fifteen years, I still suck at meditating, but I’ve accepted that some ideas that pop up at the wrong time could still be good ideas). Anyway, this journal gives recommendations on things or ways to ponder and disconnect from worry and the every-day grind. One suggestion was to think on an inspiring mantra, shut my eyes for a certain amount of time, and then write down the mantra or whatever variations occur to my mind.

Perhaps I was not narrow enough or focused enough (which I’m not), and I always break the rules with these ridiculous exercises; still, I will actually own it if I do it my way. I only call them ridiculous because I don’t do them exactly as they are prescribed. I’ll own that too. πŸ™‚ Since mindfulness is a personal thing for all of us, don’t we need to access it in a way that works for us? I was writing each time something good popped into my head, thinking of the things I need to remind myself all throughout this coming year. Here’s what I have, in a quaint little graphic:

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”-quote by Amit Ray, from A MIndfulness for Beginners Journal

Yes, I am enough.

My running joke is that I take selfies merely to document the aging process. Believe what you want. πŸ™‚

My gratitude today is for sleeping well last night, which is overall much better for my sciatica. They say practicing gratitude is a great way to stem off or fight anxiety, which I believe affects the nerve pain of sciatic. I will make it so. My belief is that, day after day, I can make a difference in this world while honoring my own needs and boundaries. I will make it so!

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for stopping by. I hope your life is wonderful, and I’d love to hear what you feel gratitude for during, and despite, this COVID pandemic.

Peace!

Weekend Coffee Share, Grateful for Each Day

Welcome to my Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Allison at Eclectic Ali. Pull up a chair and grab your favorite beverage! My ‘coffee shop’ has a cute pup wandering around, and in the background, music plays by the band, LIVE, particularly, my favorite song lyrics:

Don’t try to find an answer

when the the truth’s already here

don’t let your heart be wounded

Show no mercy to your fear.

****

Quite appropro, as I had to meet my traffic anxiety face-to-face this holiday season.

Scenes from my Thanksgiving: I proudly drive two hours straight through Georgia and then (respectfully) require my boyfriend, Kenny to drive I-95 in S. Carolina. At a rest stop in Santee, my bro grills hot dogs and we have chips too, before he ushers my mom up to Raleigh, N.C. I gratefully ride home with Kenny having avoided an 8 hour trip alone with my mom and my traffic anxiety. (If I needed a break, her driving would also cause me great anxiety). You see, I could have gone up to N.C. with my mom, but, you can infer why I preferred not to, and my brother and his wife don’t get much time visiting alone with Mom. By the way, what is up with I-95 in South Carolina? Everybody seems to take that route north during the Thanksgiving holiday, and it is just TWO AGONIZING lanes. That scene is just not for me, and let’s suffice it to say, I am honoring and setting my own limits….

Thursday, I effectively teach Kenny’s 83-year-old dad how to take a picture with my cell phone! His smile was wonderful! Carb-laden food is consumed and I laze around. I let my son drive me later on and I get scared half to death because of his involuntary tics…which also add to my anxiety and I don’t know how he can white-knuckle it and tell me “It’s nothing.” He won’t get checked out. I sometimes fear it is a lingering result of his head injury from 2017. It is in his hands, also in God’s hands, I suppose. I pray it is not as awful as it appears to me. Friday, I avoid shopping malls and do nothing but dog play, yoga, and laundry.

On the note of anxiety, I am starting to re-read the book, Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety. It speaks of Toxic anxiety (so prominent in our world today), Natural anxiety (think of wildlife, ready to fight or self-protect), and Sacred anxiety (involving fear of death or that our time is running out to fulfill our purpose). It is brilliant, faith-based and Science- based, so all-around perfect in my book, and I highly recommend it if you are trying to achieve/ maintain balance or calm in your life.

I am not writing much as far as progress on a novel, but I already decided this next one will take some time, and I will give it time to marinate. However, I seem to churn out poetry now and then and a short story or two. Here is a recent poem I posted on my blog about ‘knowing thyself’ and honoring yourself during the start of a hectic holiday season. Check it out here: https://pamelascanepa.wordpress.com/2020/11/26/slow-down-and-grow/

Thank you for stepping into my world and catching up for coffee today. I hope you all have a great week!

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