Beyond Blessed and Scared to Death

Saturday, June 20, 2015

**This one might be a coffee and TWO donut post (oy)**

After last week's positive post (here), I guess that title may sound rather odd, but not to me. I feel almost like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know the one I mean. I'm talking about the ten pound steel-toed boot; the one suspended over your head that inevitably drops and beans you a good one on the noggin because you've migrated to LaLaLa Land and weren't paying attention (who, me??). After so many years of struggling so hard with so many things (horrible health, horsekeeping, housekeeping, shoot - just existing, yadda yadda), it is making me positively twitchy that things are going well (though I am genuinely thankful - particularly for the amazing people God has put into my life - which is the point of this post). How silly am I to sit here and worry about it, I ask you? Maybe not so much, when you consider that I just know I will somehow manage to mess it all up. I suffer from self-inflicted stupidity on regular basis. Not to mention being a champion pick-it-apart-er (er). Maybe it's just me, but lately I've been thinking how important it is to simply acknowledge the people in your life; does that make sense? Don't we all have that need? To be acknowledged? To know that what we think or say or do matters to someone? Even here, in the bloggosphere. It's why I asked Carrie to add that silly little sun for comments, and why I try to always respond to them. After all, you took the time to leave one, right? Shouldn't I respond in kind, by letting you know how much I appreciate it? At least that way you know I read what you wrote, right? Of course if I suddenly find myself flooded with hundreds I may have to revisit this topic. HaHa. Maybe acknowledgements can be made enmasse then, eh? Okay, delusions of grandeur aside...

I also struggle with what it is [exactly] the Lord wants me to do about things, and all too often go haring off in the wrong direction. This generally garners me what I call the DHT: Divine Head Thump. (I can hear you laughing from here, Lori ;o) Yep, I earn them all the time. Sad, but true. Sometimes I think I'm the slowest learner on the planet. Gotta be somebody all the way down at the very bottom of that list, right? *sigh* One of my most frequently uttered [and most fervent] prayers is, "Tell me what you want me to do about this Lord. PLEASE make it really, really clear - idiot friendly even - but don't hurt me though, 'kay?"  [above photo inset: A piece of "sackcloth" covered in Scripture (hand written, obviously) and given to me a few years ago by my friend Lori - when things in my life got "move over Job" bad - I laughed 'til I cried, then laughed some more. Only you would think to do such a thing for me - I love you Lori!]

One of the things I've really missed is having a horse crazy friend nearby. Sandy moved away long before the horses came (the heifer), though I visit her when I can, and Lori lives almost an hour away in another state (though I do see her every week at church, but that isn't the same thing at all). Please don't misunderstand me here; I have been incredibly blessed in my life with some truly wonderful friendships (my picture happy galpal Sarah being another recent blessing there). As friends go, I am a very rich woman. What I'm talking about is a local, horse crazy friend; one I could hang out with on a regular basis (sans road trip). One I can carry on important conversations with; the kind where every third word is "horse". I'd been praying away for that local horse-crazed friend to appear for a really long, time (as in years and years). Well, several months ago I finally got an answer. Idiot-friendly, even! I was floored. It came about from a completely unexpected direction too; interpreting. Once a month, I try to go to "Deaf Church" with DD. It's mostly the deaf adults we've known since DD was diagnosed with a hearing loss (forever and a day ago), though there are sometimes students from an area ITP (Interpreter Training Program), as well as visiting deaf from other areas. Anyway, one Sunday an ITP student introduced herself as Kimby and asked if I would be willing to tutor her. I told her I didn't tutor per se, but that I would be happy to help her practice her signing and invited her to come by the house sometime. [photo inset: The steeple on the sanctuary where we go for deaf church taken at daybreak. For some reason the sky came out blue and green (the blue I understood, but the green?). Pretty sure I had the camera on the wrong setting or something, but I loved it. The white streak in the top left is a jet, but it looks almost like a shooting star - isn't that crazy?]

Not long after that, Kimby took me up on my offer to practice her signing and came by the house. She even shadowed me at work for one of her classes. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just "click"? We seemed to hit it off right away, and we chatted about everything under the sun whenever she dropped by. At some point, the subject of horses came up and she visibly brightened. I asked her if she would like to see them, and she jumped up right away. Note: If you're not a horse person or you're a person who "likes" horses, this may sound a little out there (weird, even) - BUT - if you truly are horse crazy, it will make perfect sense. As we headed out the back through what I call the "Tacky" room, Kimby suddenly stopped and grabbed Champ's hackamore. "I'm sorry, but I just really need to do this." She closed her eyes and took a BIG whiff of horse. And there it was. The answer to my longstanding prayer; my new [local] horse-crazy friend. I just stood there, mouth hanging open, staring at her. I guess she thought I was freaked out by her behavior (and hello? Not even a little ;o) because she blushed and apologized right away - but that wasn't it at ALL. I just could not believe how clearly that dusty old prayer of mine had been answered and completely out of the blue, too (for me, anyway - God knew all along. *laugh*). He is so good; and it was a good worth waiting for! Turned out that she had even owned a horse growing up; and missed just being around them terribly (hence her need for a "fix" in the tacky room). Boy, when You answer, You really answer Lord! [photo inset: Our tacky wall, with Champ's hackamore hanging on the far left]

Not only did I make one fantastic new friend, Kimby came with three rambunctious and totally terrific boys that are a blast and a half to be around. They are definitely a credit to her (and husband too!). What continuously surprises me is that she doesn't seem to notice anything remarkable at all about herself (so see me just remark on it for you there, chickie ;o) She is my twin in many ways; a love of horses (obviously), strong faith in God and strong sense of family, and a really wicked sense of humor. Pretty sure we have a hefty handful of matching neuroses as well because hey, nobody's perfect, right? *grin*  In others, we are complete opposites: she is soft spoken (I'm kind of loud), unbelievably generous (though I'm not too terrible, there), calm no matter the crisis (so sayeth the Queen of Spaz), thoughtful with her speech (I eat my own foot all the time), and she may well be the most gracious person I've ever met. I marvel at the things she gets done in a day; she attends college online, makes and bakes all kinds of natural/organic goodies, cares for critters, home schools all three boys, takes care of her husband, keeps tabs on her mother and extended family, and does a boatload of other things for people she meets along the way. Do you have new friends you are thankful for? What about the "old" ones? Do they know how much you appreciate them? Are you sure? Maybe you should tell them...I bet they'd appreciate it. Sandy, if you're reading this...I love you too-too! *laugh* [Photo inset: Kimby's three boys and Bella modeling their supercool matching sunglasses]

Did I mention she's always calm? Always. No matter what the current chaos, e.g. bickering boys or an overflowing call-her-crazy schedule, she is one of those people who simply exudes calm. It's like having a walking diffuser with you; all that peace and serenity. Me? Ha. Ha. I'd be half bald, with the kids dressed in head-to-toe duct tape and stapled to the furniture, and the husband stuffed in a closet before the end of the very first day. *laugh* If she weren't younger than me, I would say I want to be her when I grow up (and maybe I should say that). I know she's rolling her eyes at this post (caught'cha!) but genuine friendships are such a rare and precious find; I am just too doggone happy to be able to add one more to my life to keep it to myself, so there. [Photo inset: Kimby hiding behind Rina: She's also just a little bit camera shy.] Well...maybe more than a little. I'm right there with ya on that one too, sistafriend! ;o)

You know what? Call me cautiously optimistic, but I do believe the Lord may have simultaneously answered another longstanding prayer: One for some pint-sized volunteers. Somehow, I think they'll fit in around here just fine, don't you? Though now that I think about it I might have a teensy bit of trouble with a certain silly pair, there (I'm talking about those two on the right side... Clyde *laugh*).

I'm currently pulling my hair out working on our website, which has been horribly neglected due to our internet woes (this post). Okay, maybe I'm doing that figuratively not literally, as it has finally started growing back in after I'd lost almost half of it (and thank you, thyroid). Naturally, the design software has completely changed since the last time I worked on the site *blowing raspberry at screen* and, just to add a bit more insult to my injury, I cannot access the existing site to make changes; I have to start completely from scratch. I can't even add a note to the site that's up now to say I'm working on it (so I'm sticking it in here). This has resulted in an extremely tedious game of copy and paste. Meh :oP After giving it considerable thought, I have opted to pull some of my Squidoo lenses (who sold out to Hub Pages) and pull them back to our site. Particularly my Body Language 101 page, which is where my heart lies (horse-wise), and was a humongous labor of love. Hub Pages just isn't the same sense of community as Squidoo (with whom we were a partner charity). It's just too commercial for me, so I'll be relocating most of my work from there to our site.  Anyhoo...with temps in the upper 90's outside and the heat index hovering around 105-109 (it's JUNE, and are you kidding me??) I figured now was as good a time as any, you know? I've still got to finish the pages on here, too.... *head thuds on desk*
[photo inset: A screenshot of our shiny new homepage - it's the only page completely finished thus far. One down, 2,384 cut and pastes to go....]

MAN, this post is really long (profound apologies to all!) - and no, I'm not dying or anything so dramatic. *laugh* Just thought I'd take time to actually share my happy thoughts "out loud", instead of keeping them to myself. Who knows? Maybe it will put a smile in place of someone's sad, or it could even inspire somebody else to blog about their friends and how much they are appreciated (it might even be you!) I'll just bet you've got someone somewhere in your life who could use an appreciative word - or ten - right? ;o)

This Week's Random Moment: Is it just me, or have [the newer] T-shirts hit an all-time low both top and bottom? Judging by the one I picked up (and subsequently dropped) earlier this week, it'll not only take me two days to get it all tucked in (down around my knees, thank you very much); I'm scared I'll have random strangers pelting me with Mardi Gras beads.... *facepalm*

Thank you for reading so [very, VERY] far this time, and have a blessed week!

When Opportunity Knocks: ANSWER THE DOOR, DUMMY!

**Coffee and a Donut post**

A little over a year or so ago my mom started going to a watercolor painting class every week. My dad thought it would be a fun thing for her to do; possibly helpful as well since she had been diagnosed with Dementia. He was so right - she absolutely loves it! Although retired my dad is a busy guy, so in an effort to pitch in and give him a break (albeit a small one), I offered to run by the class each week to pick up mom and bring her home; then he could run some errands or do whatever he needed to do during that time. Since he was staying there with her - trying to work from a chair in the studio - I thought it would at least buy him an extra hour or so's worth of [more comfortable] productivity each week.
Now I'll cop to a teensy bit of wishful thinking here, as painting (and I do NOT mean the walls in the house ;o) has been a dream of mine since forever, though I've never made mention of this to my dad or anyone else. I figured if I sat there and paid attention to Mom's lessons, I might even learn something. Photo inset: Isn't that the coolest door? I loved the peeling paint, weathered look, and the overall symmetry of it. This is a local church, and one of my "Scripture Pictures" (to wit: Rev 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock...")

I was an art major in high school and we did all kinds of different things, but we never covered painting. I guess because it was too expensive; it certainly couldn't have been the mess, as we made some spectacular ones on a regular basis. In any case, I was not allowed to pursue art beyond high school (long story, that) and I gave it up completely after I graduated. Well, until my cancer diagnosis, that is (more on that whole story here, if you're interested). Although I did attempt to learn to paint on my own, it was a little too complicated for me figure out without professional help (so I just went back to my faithful friends - #2 Pencil & Company ;o) I did manage to create one halfway decent work with watercolor pencils [photo inset] and a whole boatload of "Meh" before I gave it up in frustration.

After I had picked up and delivered mom a few times, my dad and I had the following conversation:

Dad: You know, if you're going to go get your mom every week you should probably just take the class with her.
Me [rolling my eyes and laughing]: Yes, well. That'd be great there, Pop, but I'm afraid extravagances like art classes don't exactly run around in my reality.
Dad [shrugging]: We'll pay for it.
Me [horrified]: Oh my goodness, that's not what I meant at ALL! No, no, no, I couldn't let you do that. It's way too much!
Dad: I'd be happy to do it. You're going there every week anyway; you might even enjoy it.
Me [backpedaling]: Well I'm sure I would, but I don't want you to feel like you have to do that. I'm happy to just pick her up for you. Really, I am. I don't mind it at all. Honest!
Dad [in exasperation]: LOOK. We may not be rolling in it, but we can certainly afford to do this for you. You know that.
Me [now sputtering]: Well, yes...Maybe, but...Well, I...I mean, you can't...I couldn't... it's just SO much... 
Dad [eyeing me strangely]: I don't see the problem. You like art, I know you do. We want to do this; I know good and well you'd enjoy it. Besides, are you seriously going to keep arguing with me about it?
Me [having a major V-8 moment]: Uh... No. No, I'm not. Not at all, actually. I think I'm done being an idiot. Mostly, anyway. THANK YOU, Pop!
I guess this might sound a bit silly, but I actually cried a few happy tears in the car on my way home. (I mean honestly, what's a girl to do when she's overwhelmed by an out of the blue blessing like that, you know? :o)

Not sure why, but after the first two or three sessions, I decided to start keeping up with the weekly progress on my third painting of a Nandina (done from a photograph of a bush behind the house that was taken a long time ago). My second painting (a Rose of Sharon) is in the blog slider above. The first one may (or may not) ever see the light of day. I have a LOT to learn, and I am incredibly slow. I did do my sketch at home (seemed wasteful do use class time for that, since I can at least draw all by myself ;o) Each slide change is one class; it took me about 23 or 24 weeks to finish this. I told you I was slow. *laugh* Disclaimer: In my defense, I didn't know I was going to share these, so the cell phone photos are not the best (#3 is simply dreadful):

And now for an update on the "P" word (project). I'll bet you thought I forgot all about it, didn't you? Surprisingly, I didn't (though maybe shockingly would be the more appropriate adverb ;o) We definitely needed somewhere for our visitors to wash up after petting the ponies (or using the outhouse), and decided to go with your basic el-cheapo laundry tub. Not only was it basic, it was also incredibly booooring. Added to that, of course, was how utterly ridiculous a blinding white sink looked with the rustic theme we had going on (remember my potty post?) Plus anyone with an ounce of brain cell knows that while it is all shiny and white and pretty right now, it certainly isn't going to stay that way. As if all that were not enough already, don't we all know by now that Jennifer just can't leave such things alone? [Cue eye roll and dramatic, self-deprecating sigh] I decided to paint it, but with what? For the outside I knew I could use outdoor paint made specifically for plastic, but what about the inside? I decided to try Leak Seal (the stuff you put on your gutters). It's made for outdoor use and it's tough (at least I hope it is). Wasn't sure if it would work or not, but it looks like it just might do the trick. *WOOT* I started with the bottom, which still needs another coat or two...
...and then I went for the interior and top portion. So far so good, but it definitely will need another coat of Leak Seal (this was the whole can).
Hopefully, I'll have some "all finished" photos for you in the near future :o) I also [FINALLY] started painting the spectacular wood cutout DD made for me (which was longer ago than I care to acknowledge *laugh*):
I might have gotten just a little bit sidetracked somewhere in the middle of all that to play with some dangling Zenspirations (this info's for my creatively crafty blogging buddy, Ann ;o) to spice up a birthday bag for my friend Kimby. I'll tell you all about her next week - she's amazing! Not my best work, but it was a lot harder to doodle on that bumpy bag than I thought it would be (plus the .07 pen was a bit too thick for my liking - .03 worked much better). Sure was fun though!

I'll be adding something new here called a "Random Moment" periodically. Sometimes I have something I learned or came across that I want to share with you, but it's often short and not relevant to whatever I'm talking about at the time (that's so very... Me: not relevant - HA). Anyhoo, here's the first one:

Random Moment: Paper Karma is the most marvelous app! I guess you could call it the postal version of "Do Not Call". I know one thing; it cut our junk mail down to almost nothing. We had an unbelievable deluge of "spammy" snail mail and credit card offers every single day; it drove me bonkers tearing them all up (can't just toss it all because now they plaster your name all over it and you have to worry about identity theft don'tcha know). Now we barely get a handful all week. Hooray!! Find it on Google Play here, and iTunes here. It really does work!

Thank you for reading so [very, very] far this week; have a blessed day y'all!

OH-OH-OH! Did you see what Carrie did for me? Check out my new little ray of sunshine in the comment part below (I'm telling you, that girl is a digital rock star!) You might even leave me a comment; they really do brighten my day! ;o)

Shot on Location and the Canine Invasion

Friday, June 12, 2015

If Forrest Gump had been into photography he might have said something along the lines of, "Pictures are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." As a photo hobbyist I've been thankful for any number of pictorial blessings (a.k.a. "happy accidents") over the past several years; many of which I've shared with you. I had a great system: God painted the picture and I pushed the button (actually I'm still using that particular system because, well, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" right?) Not long ago, I started practicing photography by faith. What I mean by that is, instead of heading out with my camera intending to take pictures of something specific, I just ask the Lord to grant me what He will in the way of opportunities (and then I ask Him to PleasePleasePlease help me not mess it up ;o) I've missed any number of "great" shots over the years, but I have slowly developed (see what I did there? *snicker*) a more accepting attitude by focusing instead (Oh! Oh! Who's on a ROLL now? Bwahahaha.... *cough* AHEM sorry) on being thankful for the shots I do get.

A week or so ago, my picture happy gal pal Sarah and I went on our biggest [photo] bender yet. All I can say is my new-and-improved attitude of gratitude must have been the right one, because BOY did He bless me! Did I get every shot? Nope, not at all. Did I care? Nope, not at all. I had a terrific day with a wonderful friend and came away feeling totally blessed all the way around. For those of you who think I may have slipped a cog, I can only tell you that is definitely not a recent happenstance (HehHeh). Although I really can't attest to what the norm would be as far as variety goes, I can tell you that I was absolutely delighted by the myriad of photo opportunities I had in a single day. Maybe I'll just let those blessings speak for themselves (obligatory disclaimer: please remember that I am not a professional, yadda yadda, and that I am using a regular point and shoot camera; though it is a nice one ;o)

To see the image title, move your mouse over the picture. Click on the Brown Thrasher (top left photo) to go to a full-screen slideshow. To see the entire image during the slide show, move your mouse up slightly from the scrolling arrow at the bottom of the screen; look out for an itty bitty butterfly blessing in the lower left corner of the tall water lily photo - I didn't even know he was there! These pictures will ultimately wind up on the photography page at some point, so I guess we can call this the early bird's sneak peek. *laugh* Enjoy! Oh, and there's a bit more to this post below the photos (I have LOTS to share this week ;o)

DD came for a visit last weekend with her canine entourage, consisting of two tiny tail wagging furballs; Diamond and Faith (who love coming to "grandma's" house; mostly 'cause I spoil them absolutely rotten ;o) This is Diamond [photo inset] saying "Hello" from the ginormous puppy playpen we created from the small training area behind the house. Call me crazy; we wrapped a 40'x40' area with chicken wire so the dogs would have a safe place to play. Yep. Definitely certifiable. Faith [pictured below] was the first born of Diamond's puppies, and captured DD's heart from the beginning. Of course she just had to keep her. Sometimes DD is just so very.... Me. *sigh* Unfortunately, Faith was diagnosed with a seizure disorder (click here for more information on seizures in dogs) known as Canine Epilepsy. It is likely that this is due to a couple of things: Diamond's extremely young age at her pregnancy (she was only 7 or 8 months old) and her subsequent malnourishment; both by her previous [incredibly careless] owner. For those who missed it, Diamond was introduced here. Faith is on seizure medication and a strict organic/gluten free doggy diet (they both are). She has the sweetest personality of any dog I've met and totally adores DD (both of them do).

Believe it or not, I came across some fascinating research about Epilepsy/seizures and organic coconut oil (click here to read more at the Epilepsy Foundation on Ning). I've been taking coconut oil via smoothie for awhile (it's amazing brain food). After chemo for cancer and all the other scary drugs I took for Polymyositis, I was all over anything that would benefit the brain, believe me. *grin* I bought some for DD to use and she was giving it (in small amounts) to the dogs as well; it's good for them too! Anyway, poor little Faith had multiple seizures over the weekend. We determined that an "all natural" birthday cookie given to Faith by the pet store DD visits was the likely culprit. Although the treat itself may have been organic, we are fairly certain that food coloring was used in the "icing" and was likely the trigger. After the fifth seizure (grandma can only endure extreme heart palpitations so many times; not to mention the fact that it was killing me to watch her convulse as I held her) I got back on line and found that we could safely increase her coconut oil intake to a teaspoon to help control seizures. I gave her a dose (thankfully she loves it), and she hasn't had another seizure since. DD is now giving her two teaspoons per day, one AM and one PM (Diamond still gets 1/2 teaspoon in the morning), so time will tell. Oh, the picture inset is Faith hanging out in the shade by the fan in the puppy pen. Not the best photo, but it's important to keep the grandpuppies cool in the summer (particularly when one of them has Epilepsy).

Below is a better shot of Faith - both of them absolutely love the huge drum we rolled in there for them to play on. Can you say Queen(s) of all we survey? (in your haughtiest tone, of course ;o)

Well. I'd say that's probably more than enough of me for the week ;o) Thank you so much for reading this far, have a big horsey hug and a beautifully blessed day!

Life Lesson: The Cranky Crossing Guard

Saturday, June 6, 2015

On my way to work there is a crossing guard in the school zone. Now she may be a nice, caring lady - after all, she spends her mornings looking out for the safety of our kids come sun, rain, freezing temps, etc. - but she always looks as though she has eaten an entire basket of lemons before coming to work each day. She stops traffic waaay before the buses arrive to cross the intersection. Why does that bug me so much? Because there is a railroad crossing about ten feet before the intersection. This means that the vehicles she stops have to not only sit and watch the line of buses lumber slowly up the road, but also wait as each individual bus stops at the tracks to open and close the doors. When you factor in 5 or 6 buses in a row, this takes a long, long time (which becomes forever if you happen to be running a bit late). Toss in my [somewhat reformed but apparently not enough] Type-A personality, and it makes for a stressfully unhappy start to the day. I can remember snarling at a coworker one morning as I frantically rushed through the doors, "That woman has just GOT to be on some sort of power trip. It makes me CRAZY to just sit there. Why-oh-why-oh-why can't she just wait until the buses stop at the tracks before she holds us all hostage? ARGH!!" 

I don't remember the why, but one morning I was in such an exceptionally good mood that when she stopped me I gave her a friendly wave. She frowned, then looked at me like I was some sort of weirdo, before looking away. Hmph. Well now, that's not very nice. Maybe she's just not used to anyone giving her a G-rated hand signal. (Ha ;o) I honestly don't know what possessed me (though I'm pretty sure I know Who ;o) but I decided I could at least do my part to be nicer. After all, talking the talk isn't worth a flip if you're not gonna walk the walk, right? I smiled and waved at her again the next morning. She drew her head back sideways as though somehow offended and offered me a scowl in response. After that? Well. Never let it be said I would back down from a challenge. IT. WAS. ON. From that day forward, I made it my personal mission to give that woman a big old smile and cheerful wave every single morning (whether she stopped me or not, no matter if I was running early or late, it didn't matter). I am nothing if not tenacious. *laugh*

It took more than half the school year (about six months), but one morning she tentatively waved back. I almost drove off the road, I was so shocked. Funny thing is, it made my day. I yelled at my Mom (who I call every morning on my way to work) through the bluetooth, "Oh my goodness, she did it! SHE DID IT! SHE WAVED BACK!!" I walked around smiling for the rest of the day. Even more shocking? A few short weeks ago, she waved me through ahead of the buses before she stopped the rest of the traffic. Holy cow and wonders never cease! It's funny isn't it, how much easier it is for us to match someone's attitude scowl for scowl? I'm trying to make kindness my new thoughtless habit, particularly when it comes to people who are not at all nice (even when I don't feel like it). How about you? Is there a cranky person in your life? I absolutely encourage you to step out of your "Right back at'cha bud" mode (if you're in one) and become a bright spot in their day. Who knows? One day they may just wave back at you, too ;o)

Did you know that could change your "default" facial expression? My default mode used to be set to serious, for the simple reason that I am often deep in thought. An unfortunate side-effect of this type of expression, however, is that it always generates the same conversation with friends and/or family members (well, except with my dad who has the same look on his face):
Friend/Family: "What's wrong?"
Me [in confusion]: "Nothing. Why?"
Friend/Family: "You look mad."
Somewhere in the middle of my medical misadventures I decided to see if it was actually possible for me to change my default expression (having had a bit of a Divine attitude adjustment ;o) While it wasn't easy, I am happy to report that it is completely doable, and has brought the annoying aforementioned conversations to an end.
Simple heredity made the following conversation occur recently:
Me: "What's wrong?"
DD: "Nothing. Why?"
Me: "You look mad."

I think she and I need to talk, don't you? *grin*

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