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When a Writer Tries to Date: ‘Are You Going to Write About This?’


It’s usually asked with a chuckle. It’s usually asked with a
hint of cautious curiosity. It’s usually asked with the expectation of
reassurance that private moments won’t go public. And it’s usually asked on all my first dates:
“Are you going to write about this?”
Depending on the date, a variety of answers come to mind.
“You seem like a nice guy, so I’ll give it a proper waiting
period before I include this date in a blog post.”

“Heck yeah I am. I can’t believe you just said that!”
“Huh? What was that? (Big
gulp of wine.) Sorry, I just wrote a blog post in my head. Is this over yet so
I can go home and publish?”
But because I’m a single woman who’s attempting to
shed her dating cynicism, I usually just chuckle back with a flirty smile and
say, “Of course not.” I figure that’s enough to appease their fear, but
nowhere near a promise that they’re safe from becoming an example of a bad date
in the Huffington Post.
I realize it’s tough dating a writer. We pull material from
any life event, and our interpretations can be brutal.
But I can tell you it’s not easy on the flip side either, being a writer trying
to date. 
As much as I dread the “Are you going to write about this?” question,
there’s another inevitable one I dread more:
“What do you write
about?”

This is intended to be a simple question followed by a
simple answer. When it comes to blind date ice-breakers, this is pretty much a
no-brainer when all you know about a woman’s professions is she’s a writer.
However, the answer is not simple.
On one hand, I could say my job is to write about
military discounts. But as exciting as military discounts may be for military
families, it’s not exactly glamorous. Military discounts don’t scream, “This
chick is cool!”
On the other hand, I could say I have my own blog, I’m a
regular contributor at the Huffington Post and I’ve written for the New York Times. That would definitely up my coolness factor. But then I’d have to admit
I write about divorce, single motherhood, how much I hate dating — subjects
that probably guarantee no second date.
Being vague and saying I write about
military life doesn’t satisfy the question either because then my date thinks I’m a service member. Explaining that I’m not leads to talk of my ex, and the last person I want invading my date is my ex.

I’ve finally discovered the best bet
is to mention my interview with Gary Sinise. We’re off topic in no time.

Then there’s the Google factor. One guy I went out with was
from my running group (always nice when a guy asks you out after he’s seen you
sweaty with no makeup), so unlike guys from online dating sites, he knew my
full name.
“I read your Veterans Day article,” he said as we sipped coffee.
My first instinct was to be flattered that this very young Navy guy enjoyed my article. But my next instinct was panic. If he read
my article, that means he Googled me. And if he Googled me, that means he knows
I write about really personal stuff. He knows details about my emotional
journey through divorce. He knows about quirks and insecurities. He knows I have a tattoo on my ass.
That’s pretty heavy stuff for a first date. Plus, it means
our relationship is already lopsided. He knows way more about me than I know
about him.
Finally, being a writer might actually be preventing me from
even getting to the first date. After communicating with one guy on Match and
then exchanging a few texts, he asked the question even my friends ask:
“Are you mentally
editing my texts?”

Well, of course I am. I edit for a living. I can’t help it.
It’s instinctual. But I’m more than willing to ignore poor grammar if it’s
overshadowed by impressive content.
I don’t remember how I responded, but shortly after
that, he apparently lost interest and stopped texting before the mere
suggestion of a date.
One of my friends analyzed my online dating profile and said
maybe I’m too intimidating. She suggested I dumb myself down, maybe neglect to
mention I have a Masters degree.
But I don’t want to dumb myself down. I’m an intelligent
woman with an advanced degree, an enviable career and cool personal successes. If
a man find that intimidating instead of attractive, I don’t want to date him
anyway.
So what’s a writer to do in the dating world?
After two attempts at Match and a never-ending stretch on
eHarmony because they won’t let me close my account, I’ve decided to laugh it
off. 
Out of curiosity, I joined Tinder without bothering to create a profile
other than a single old photo. I text my guy bestie screenshots of all the
crazy rejects that I can’t imagine would ever get a swipe right from even the
craziest of women.
“I hope you’re laughing at these,” my friend said after a
batch of Tinder pics that included a dude with a crab on his groin, multiple
men wearing masks, an overweight man holding a jumbo jar of
Nutella, a man wearing women’s clothes and a group of young men passing a
joint.
I do laugh.
Then I take a moment to appreciate both my single status and the
men who provide all this writing material.

Sorry guys, I AM going to write
about it.

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Apartment Complex,
I want to apologize for being in such a hurry to abandon you for a house. I know I said I wanted a yard for my kids and my dog to play in, and I would love to be able to claim the title of “Home Owner” for the first time as a single woman, but after deciding it’s not the right time to move closer to my parents, I’m realizing I have it pretty good because of you.
You are the Melrose Place of Transitioners. I can sit on my deck that overlooks the pool and point out all my fellow divorcees who, like me, needed a place to go to put their lives back together. I can point out the newlyweds just starting out, the retirees who no longer want the hassle of maintaining a house, the military families who know they’re only in the area for a year. It seems almost everyone here is in transition. These are my people. And I’d be crazy to rush away from a home where Friday evenings can be spent drinking wine with a neighbor whose husband is deployed while our kids eat pizza, play with dolls and make zip lines for Lego figures, fun nights that end with a child swap so the boys sleep over at my place and the girls sleep at hers.
I do still want to be a home owner, and I’ll continue brainstorming with my realtor friends and going to open houses, but for now I think I’ll enjoy Melrose Place a little while longer. And the fact that I don’t have to mow a lawn.
Always,
Your Loyal Transitioner in Building 13
Dear Physical Therapist,
Please don’t go easy on me. Kick my ass! Yell at me! Rip my toe off with that stretch cord! Whatever it takes to get me running again, please do it.
My foot starting hurting about 8 months ago. I ignored the pain until I couldn’t. X-rays. A month in a clunky boot. An unsuccessful cortisone shot. An MRI. Two surgeons telling me I needed surgery. I was tired of the drama. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the thought of surgery, but once I did, I wanted it over and done with ASAP.

So when I got the call that my cutting day was bumped up to right before the holidays because of a cancelation, I jumped on it, despite having less than a week to prepare for the aftermath of a foot surgery as a single mom.

The surgery was successful, but I’m impatient. I was working 2 days after the surgery. I quit the Percocet with more than half the pill bottle still full. I ditched the crutches after less than 2 weeks because they slowed me down. And I never forgot that my surgeon said he was running 8 weeks after he had the same surgery on both feet.
Today I am 8 weeks post-surgery. And I’m nowhere near running. Physical therapist, you’ve warned me if I push myself too much too soon, I’ll be back in surgery getting a metal rod in my big toe that will prevent me from running for the rest of my life. I keep that in mind as I wrap my dog’s leash around my toe and stretch, hoping the next time I see you, I’ll measure at more than a 20% backward bend.
You’ve also told me the St. Patrick’s Day 8k in March is too ambitious and I should shoot for the Final Mile race I’ve done with my kids the past 2 years. So I’m trying to focus less on how bummed I am that my running goals have shrunk so drastically and more on the fact that my first post-surgery run will be with my 2 favorite people on the planet.
Painfully yours,
An Impatient Patient
Dear Tae Kwon Do,
One or both of my children have tried soccer, t-ball, coach-pitch baseball, kid-pitch baseball, swimming, running, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tennis, chess club, pottery club and science club. For one reason or another, none of these activities sparked a passion in my kids. 
But then you came along, Tae Kwon Do.
Getting them to their first class was filled with pep talks and bribery, but since their first bow to the mat, they haven’t looked back.  I don’t want to jinx it, but I think you’re going to be around for awhile.
Thank you,
A Proud Mom
Dear True Friends,
You know who you are. Some of you have been a constant in my life from the moment we met. Some of you are brand new. Others have resurfaced from my past. I want to thank you for reasons you hopefully already know.  You are the reason I am where I am. You are my support and strength. You are the glow behind my smile.
Love,
HS
Dear Bucket List,
I’m done being all talk and no action when it comes to you. At the end of 2014, I dusted you off and tackled item #1 by starting to write my novel and quickly moved on to #2 by getting myself a guitar and enlisting my father’s services as my instructor.

But that’s just the beginning.

2015 is my year. Watch out…I’m coming to get ya.
Sincerely,
Determined and Motivated

Top 10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And as I look through my social media feeds, I’m inspired by the countless quotes spoken by this inspiring man.

His words have the ability to speak to anyone across a spectrum of just about any life circumstance. The following quotes are the ones that speak the most to me.

Here are my…
 Top 10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes
10. “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
9.  “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 
8. “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” 
7. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 
6 “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” 
5. “It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent.”
4. “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” 
3. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” 
2. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 
1. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” 

Moving Home After Divorce: No Brainer or No Way?

I’m currently obsessed with the show “Parenthood.” After my work day is done and my kids are in bed, I binge on Netflix as I join the Braverman family in all their adventures in parenting. I watch as they celebrate life’s joyous moments, mourn life’s tragedies, help each other with problems big and small and stand by each other unconditionally.

And with every episode I watch, every theme song I sing along to, I have the same thought, “I wish I had that.”

I love my family. I have the best family in the world. And while we’re able to do all that celebrating, mourning, helping and supporting, it’s usually over the phone. Unlike the Bravermans who live a stone’s throw away from each other, my family is spread out all over the country. I can’t drop the kids off at my parents’ house when I attempt to have a social life. My mother can’t swing by with chicken soup when I’m sick. My kids can’t have sleepovers with their cousins. I can’t go over to my brother’s house with a bottle of wine. My closest family is a 14-hour drive away. We are not the Bravermans.
I left home when I was 18 to go to college. I never moved back. Always proud of my independence, I never doubted that I would succeed on my own. I knew my parents would support me and welcome me home with open arms if I ever needed a soft place to land, but in the last 20 years I never needed it.
Until now.
I didn’t expect divorce and single motherhood to be easy. But after being a military spouse, I was already used to doing most things on my own, and I figured it wouldn’t be much different. Throughout our separation and for the first several months after the divorce, my ex and I maintained a relatively consistent custody schedule that the kids came to view as normal. If emergencies came up, such as our dog almost dying, my ex was around to take the kids so I could nurse the dog back to health. If he had scheduling issues for work, I kept the kids on a weekend that usually would have been his. I may not have had family nearby to help, but I wasn’t doing everything on my own.
That all changed 4 months ago when my ex moved to Hawaii.
Since he left, I am solely responsible for my children. Sometimes I try to view this as a deployment. I’ve done this before, right? But this is not a deployment. He’s gone for 3 years, and there’s no guarantee he’ll come back to this area once it’s time for new orders. 

The second question most people asked me when I announced my divorce (after “What happened?”), was, “Are you moving closer to family?” But it wasn’t until the past few months that I started seriously considering moving back home. Between the stress of single parenting, the appeal of my children being closer to both sets of grandparents and my parents’ ability to help me, recent health issues, the fact that my job travels with me and my old military spouse mentality nagging me that it’s time for a change of scenery, signs are pointing me in that direction. Throw in the added plus that the high school reunion I attended over the summer reminded me that I would already have an established circle of friends once I got there, the pro side of the debate is pretty hard to beat. 
But my fiercely independent side can’t help but view it as a sign of defeat. I worked really hard to create a new life for myself. I moved to an apartment complex a year ago that I chose primarily because it’s in the best school district in the city (and, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s in walking distance of the beach). My kids don’t want to move again, and now that I’m not a military spouse and the Navy is no longer forcing us to move, I feel fortunate that my kids can say they’ve lived in the same city for a whopping 6 years. In fact, my daughter, who was only 10 months old when we moved here from Japan, doesn’t remember living anywhere else. Why would I uproot them again? Why would I uproot myself again?
It’s a tough call. 
I have days when I’m ready to call a moving company and tell my parents to clear out my old bedroom. And I have days when everything falls into place and I can’t imagine leaving a city I’ve grown to consider the closest thing to home since I left home 20 years ago.  
Right now those days seem to balance each other out. So I guess I’ll just continue to take life day by day, lean on my local friends for support and appreciate the times when my parents visit me and I visit them.
And maybe live vicariously through the Bravermans.

Happy Moment: A Birthday Adventure

Seven years ago today in Sasebo, Japan, I listened to countdowns from 10 in a foreign language as I watched dolphins swimming on a flat-screen tv in front of me. The result was a beautiful baby girl who makes me laugh and swell with pride while constantly keeping me on my toes.

I’ve never been a girly-girl. I was always the jock academic type who cared more about swim practice and books than clothes and makeup. So when I found out I was having a girl, I braced myself for a life of pink and princesses.

Turns out, no matter how many Barbies and dolls and pretty dresses I buy for this little girl, she’s growing up to follow in my jock academic footsteps. She would rather spend her time finding new adventures, reading a book and requesting I change her name to Cannonball.

So what did I get this mini me for her birthday this year? An afternoon of obstacle courses and zip-lining!


We spent 2 hours sweating and flexing our muscles and laughing and getting dirty and enjoying family time together. And despite the rocky start with massive Labor Day weekend traffic and an unexpected trip to the vet for a dog who somehow managed to slice off a chunk of his paw pad, it was all worth the effort when Little C sat on the platform before her final turn on the zip line and said, “This is the best birthday present ever, Mom.”

Days like that remind me that happy moments are everywhere
Happy Moment: A Birthday Adventure

Happy 7th birthday to my blonde-haired, blue-eyed Japanese tomboy. You rock, Little C.

10 Books That Helped Me Get Through Divorce


I’m one of those people who turns into an obsessive reader when I’m going through something unfamiliar. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I read everything I could find on pregnancy and parenthood. I read so much that, by the time I hit my third trimester, my OB/GYN told me to stop reading pregnancy books and start reading lighter material to counterbalance all the heavy stuff that was stressing me out. 

When I started heading down the road toward divorce, I naturally reached out for reading material. (And my OB/GYN would be pleased to know that I still follow his advice and add some humor to the rotation.)

Here are my…

Top 10 Books That Helped Me Get Through Divorce


10. “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The
dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you
can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”
I started reading this book the day after signing the
separation agreement. This novel was my way of dipping a toe into the
overwhelming pool of books about divorce. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into the
self-help books that would force me to dissect feelings and motivations and
behaviors. I simply wanted a glimpse of what I was getting myself into with a
twinge of humor. And no one does the heartbreak and humor dance better than
Nora Ephron.

9. “The Five Love Languages of Children” by Gary
Chapman and Ross Campbell

While I originally started reading this book to write a blog post for work, it turned into a valuable lesson in how to nurture my kids as
they cope with their parents’ divorce.
My 10-year-old son’s preferred love language is Quality
Time, which comes mainly in the form of undivided attention during
conversations. Although most of our chats these days revolve around Minecraft
and Clash of Clans rather than the divorce, I know he feels most loved when he
knows I’m truly listening to what he has to say. And I know that my ability to
fill his emotional tank in that way makes him feel safe to talk to me about
more serious topics.
My 6-year-old daughter’s love language is Physical Touch.
She needs hugs and hand-holding and cuddling to get her emotional needs met.
That knowledge was important during all the divorce-related transitions,
especially because a child her age has difficulty verbalizing thoughts and
feelings. She may not have understood why mommy was moving out of daddy’s
house, but cuddling during a movie went a long way in making her feel better.

8. “Seriously, I’m Kidding” by Ellen DeGeneres

After sharing the news of my separation with a select few
friends, I was thrilled to find care packages on my doorstep to help keep my
spirits up. Bubble bath, nail polish, sweet treats, DVDs to make me laugh or to
help me cry it out. And this hilarious book.
I can count on one hand the number of books that have made
me laugh so hard I had to put the book down and compose myself. I didn’t think
I could find a book to top the laugh-out-loud quotient of Bridget Jones, but
Ellen did it. (Just ask the poor dude who sat next to me on the airplane when I
was reading this during a business trip. I eventually abandoned my attempts to
stifle my giggles. I’m sure he was thankful he brought headphones.)

7. “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin

Moving out allowed me to start over in many ways. I read
this book shortly after I moved into my apartment, and it helped build my
excitement to decorate my new home in ways that would reflect my new life. I
learned to “see things with fresh eyes” and to remember that life doesn’t stop,
that “now is now.”

6. “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James

Don’t judge. You know you read the trilogy too and can’t
wait for the movie to hit theaters.

5. “Are you There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea” by
Chelsea Handler

Another book I saved for those beer and bubble bath nights when
I needed some comic relief.

4. “Moving On” by Russell Friedman and John W.
James

“Successful recovery requires completion of the pain
rather than retention of the resentment. You are the only one who suffers when
you don’t forgive.”
A friend recommended this book very early on in my
separation. I ordered it immediately and sat it on my nightstand when it
arrived. And that book sat there on my nightstand unopened for almost a year.
This book isn’t just a self-help book filled with theories
and advice for moving on after a divorce. It’s a journey through past
relationships, analyses of patterns in partner choices and brutal honesty about
your own role in the destruction of those relationships. It was therapeutic and
enlightening as I revisited relationships back to age 14 and uncovered what I
thought I wanted, what I was actually getting, and what I ultimately want, need
and deserve.
This book ripped my guts out. But not only did it show me
what mistakes not to make in the future, it also helped me recognize sources of
anger I didn’t even know I had and taught me the importance of forgiveness.
(I’m not fully there on the forgiveness part yet, but I’m getting there.)

3. “Not A Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters” by Brian Donovan

I read this short book after giving up on online dating. I
can’t tell if the author’s stories made me realize my experience wasn’t so bad
or if he scared me into never wanting to try it ever again. Either way it made
me laugh.

2. “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Patty Hansen

This book offered up great feel-good divorce stories (which,
I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be an oxymoron). A few of my faves include:
“Through my divorce, I learned to become the person I was
meant to be. I went on a journey, deep into my soul and met the me who I had left
behind so many years ago.”

“I discovered happiness on a newer and higher level. I
learned how to get past the rough spots and remain focused on the happier times
ahead.”

“My life had not gone according to plan, but I was okay. In
fact, I was better than okay. I was beginning a new phase of life, and I could
look at it as scary or I could look at it as an adventure.”

1. “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” by
Tina Swithin

I ran out of Post-It notes with this one. Too many lessons
learned to list.
(In the same genre, I read “Stuck on Me MissingYou” by Larry Bugen, which gave an interesting perspective on narcissism.
And I skimmed through “Assholes: A Theory” by Aaron James, which offered very
useful suggestions for “asshole management.”)

An Anniversary of a New Beginning

One year ago today I moved out of my marital house.
For most of our year-long legal separation, my ex and I
lived in different parts of the same house. It was partly to save money, partly
because he was traveling for work and would be gone anyway, and partly because
neither of us seemed willing to move out.
It wasn’t until we got in a fight one day last May that I
realized I needed to move forward. An hour after the argument, I was touring an
apartment complex. The next day I put down a security deposit. My move-in date
was July 29.
I hired a moving company, and after a friend gave me the
boxes from her recent move, I started packing. This time the military wasn’t
helping with the move. I was on my own.
My ex and I had already walked through the house and split our
possessions with little conflict. I spent the next 2 months packing on the weekends,
a task that was both physically and emotionally exhausting.
Somehow I thought the process of placing items in boxes
would be as easy as it sounds — and some days it was. But there were other
days when each item placed in a box flooded my brain with memories, both joyful
and painful. The teacups we bought in Japan. The photo albums that spanned
almost 15 years. The jewelry he’d given me, including the engagement ring that
I had taken off so long ago that the once prominent indentation on my ring
finger was now gone.
Some days I blasted music to drown out the memories. Some
days I gave in and cried on the floor.

I finally finished packing a few days before the big day. I
called to confirm my move-in date with the the moving company, finding it
strange that they didn’t pick up the phone. 
I figured they were busy. After all, I live in a military town, and it
was prime PCS season.
Then July 29 arrived. My brother flew halfway across the
country to help, the kids were in camp and I was able to make a couple of trips
to the apartment to start moving items before the movers were supposed to show
up.
But the movers didn’t show up. I called repeatedly. No answer.
 At one point, I had to go back to the
apartment for my Internet and cable hookup. By mid-afternoon, I had to face the
fact that the movers weren’t coming.
While my brother somehow found a moving company that was
available the next day, I drove to the address of my no-show guy to see if I
could find this jerk in his office. I pulled into the parking lot to find a
police car.

Turns out, the moving company I hired wasn’t really a moving
company, but a thief the police were actively looking for. The policewoman said
I was lucky he didn’t show because the chances were good he would have loaded
my belongings onto his truck and disappeared with them in addition to my
deposit he had already pocketed.
So instead of getting settled in my new apartment, I was
filing a police report that led to a warrant for a man’s arrest.
I was devastated. July 29 was supposed to be my new
beginning. Because of this crook, I had to bring all the bedding back from the
apartment, remake all the beds, and spend another night in the house I had
already said my goodbyes to. My new beginning was ruined, and I had to mentally
prepare myself to spend my second last night in this house.
Fortunately, the next day the move actually happened. It took
way longer than it should have, and my brother had to get on a plane halfway
through, but by the end of the day, I was officially moved out of the old and
into the new.
Shortly after the truck arrived at the house, a neighbor
came over, another mil spouse asking if we were PCS’ing. (I hadn’t told her
about the divorce. In fact, only one neighbor knew I was moving out. I still
didn’t know how to tell people, and I just wanted to slip away quietly.)
“You’re getting divorced?” she asked, clearly shocked. “How
long have you been married?”
“13 years.”
“That’s a long time. You guys can work things out.”
“No,” I said, trying not to cry. “We can’t.”
She meant well, but it was statements like that I was hoping
to avoid. The marriage was unfixable. It was time to move on.
When the last item was loaded onto the truck and my kids and
the dog were loaded into my car, I did one last walk-through of the house. The
items I left behind were just as telling as those I chose to take. The painting
from Thailand. The obnoxious desk I once worked at. The dresser that was so
oversized and heavy that it left gouges in the hardwood floor as the movers
pushed it into position when we first moved in.
One last look. I said goodbye. And I closed the door for the
last time.
People often ask me why I was the one who moved out. “You’ll
have the kids more. Why don’t you get to keep the house?”
I’m sure life would have been easier if I had been the one
to stay, especially now that my ex has moved to Hawaii and the house has new
owners. Knowing how transient his life is with the military, it probably would
have been more logical for me to stay.
But I didn’t want the house.
We lived in that house together for 5 years, a lifetime by
military standards. But for many reasons, it never felt like home to me. That
house saw too much. The walls held too many bad memories and too few good ones.
I needed a fresh start. I needed to make my own home in my own way.
Moving out of that house was one of the hardest things I’ve
ever done. But moving-out day was also moving-in day. So I can look back on
that day with sadness as the day I moved out of the last house I lived in with
my husband. Or I can see it as the exciting day that I moved into my new home,
the home where so far good memories outnumber the bad.
As I re-signed my lease a few days ago, I realized that this
is where my new life started. One year ago today was a day of new beginnings. I
may not live here forever, but for now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Happy Moment: Jumping Into Vacation

We all need a break every now and again. My break came recently when I combined my 20th high school reunion with a weeklong vacation.
I had some time with my parents. Time with old friends. Time with my kids. Time for myself. And a little time OFF from work and emails and deadlines.
Although I almost feel like I need a vacation from my vacation, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated getting away for awhile.
Happy Moment: Jumping Into Vacation

 

 

 

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