Monday, May 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: May 30 , 2011

Monday: Kabobs on the grill. marinated chicken and a bunch of yummy veggies (red peppers, Summer squash, zucchini, pearl onions, grape tomatoes and mushrooms for Troy).
Tuesday: Scalloped Potatoes and Ham.
Wednesday: (new recipe!) Cheesy Bacon Chicken.
Thursday: Steaks on the grill, mac & cheese and some baby potatoes.
Friday: Leftovers.
Saturday: Leftovers.
Sunday: More leftovers?

Notes from last week's menu: Thursday's Crockpot Lasagna recipe needs a little tweaking before it is share-worthy. We had a ton o' leftovers from eralier in the week so Friday's new recipe gets bumped to this week & we still had plenty of leftovers for Saturday's lunch *and* all day Sunday!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: May 23, 2011

Monday: Grilled pork steaks and Zesty Potato Salad.
Tuesday: BLTs.
Wednesday: Clam Chowdah & a salad.
Thursday: (new recipe!) Crockpot Lasagna.
Friday: (new recipe!) Cheesy Bacon Chicken Casserole.
Saturday: Biergarten at Epcot.
Sunday: Leftovers. Unless there aren't any. In which case, we get creative.

Notes from last week's menu: Wednesday's dinner ended up being a light snack because I just wasn't hungry. Need to tweak the Chicken Parm recipe; some things I didn't particularly enjoy with that one. The Tortellini Florentine Soup was really good & really easy; it's a keeper. Sunday ended up being leftovers. There were a bunch. It was kinda nice that no one had to do much cooking other than some quick reheating.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Green Acres

Last Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday, so the church service centered on the theme of sheep. If you're familiar at all with the Bible, you know there are many references--both specific and illustrative--made to sheep & shepherds. I promise I was paying attention during the important parts, but while the offerings were being collected, I started thinking about sheep.

My mind wandered to my childhood. Gram & Gramp lived in a more rural area of Bristol. Just down the road, right where Perkins Street crested on Chippens Hill, one of their neighbors had a good-sized farm. (Green Acres.) (No, I'm not kidding.) They had, among other things, a decent number of sheep. I remember many many many trips past the white fence alongside the road, fresh paint in the Spring, the paint peeling just a bit as Summer gave way to Autumn, the fence partially buried in snow drifts all Winter long. The low building that housed the sheep pen was tucked into a little hollow, nestled up against the tree line, and on any pleasant day, year round, the sheep could be found in the fenced-in pasture--grazing & napping & doing whatever it is sheep do. The bottom line is that they were never doing anything very interesting. I mean, they're *sheep*.

Well, one day, I arrived at Gram's house (part of me thinks I came home from school but another part of me could *swear* this happened during the Summer, so I don't know where I would have been coming from but anyway...) and the yard looked...wrong, somehow. Gram came bursting out the kitchen door to tell the story.

It was late morning. She was tidying up the kitchen, just like she always did (I think I came by my love of routine honestly, because Gram had a definite routine) when she heard this strange sound. She described it like an angry humming rumble. It wasn't thunder--the sky was clear & sunny. It wasn't a train--there were no train tracks anywhere remotely close by. She wondered if it could perhaps be some piece of farming equipment? Not unheard of on Chippens Hill. As I said, rural-ish: think large yards & gardens & family farms & open fields.

And then they came. The sheep. They had somehow broken out of their pasture & proceeded to panic, as sheep do. They got out & then they didn't know what to do with themslves. So they ran. They bleated & bahhhh'd & ran. Right up the road. The whole hundred-and-twenty-or-so of them. And for some reason, they hung a hard left & ran right up Gram & Gramp's driveway.

Gram watched the sheep stampede from the kitchen windows, disbelievingly. The utter chaos of sheep bodies swirling around the house, running every direction at once. They ran through the backyard. They ran down the side yard & back up the driveway again. They stomped & trampled & the dust whirled through the air. (That's when I realized what looked wrong: the soft green grass was smashed into dirt and all Gram's beautiful flower gardens were trampled & broken.)

Gramp was in his gardens (on the back side of their 3+ acres of property, the orchard between the backyard & where he worked in the dirt) when he heard the ruckus. He rushed toward the house, thankful Gram was safely inside, hopped in his truck & drove quickly down to the neighbor's farm to tell them of their escapees. Several men rode back with him & he helped them herd the sheep back to their proper place. The fence was mended, the sheep went back to munching grass, their eyes quizzical at all the activity, as if nothing had happened.

Until the next day when the whole ridiculous scenario repeated itself.

*This* time the neighbor double-reinforced the spot in the fence where the sheep had busted through. And then he got a great big fluffy white sheep dog named Ben. Ben would patrol the sheep, keeping them in line (and in their pasture!). He would rest in the sun, watching, occasionally circling his herd. It became common to hear a random commanding 'woof!' as he exacted authority upon a potentially wayward sheep, but mostly Ben just quietly went about his business of minding the foolish sheep, who were much happier in rather than out. It turns out, Green Acres really *was* the place to be.

I hadn't thought about Ben or Green Acres or the silly stampeding sheep in a long time. But I did on Sunday. I thought about how we're a lot like sheep--and how appropriate it was that my Kindergarten graduation theme was "I am Jesus' Little Lamb"--and how we get ourselves into all kinds of messes. We *think* we want to be on the other side of the fence, free & joyful, but we break through & suddenly that great big wide open space loses its appeal. It's scary & threatening in the unknown. We'd rather be safe & cozy in our familiar place where we belong, but suddenly we can't remember how to get back there. So we run. All over the place. Freaking out. Arms waving, like Kevin in "Home Alone."

I'm glad I have a "Ben" to guide me away from the fence, when I contemplate breaking through & fleeing. I really am much happier where it is safe & secure, knowing His watchful eye is on me. The grass is green right here, right where I am. Green & abundant & I'm surrounded by my fellow flockmates & life if good. This *is* the place to be.

PS. You know you're totally going to be humming that song to yourself all day now. You're welcome.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Of scars and smiles.

It's been eight weeks since my surgery. Fourteen months since the whole ordeal began, eight months since my happy little world was given a good shake, six months since I made the decision to place myself into what turned out to be the best possible human hands. From January 20 until March 23, I worried about surgery, mostly because it was a complete unknown to me. And now? The whole thing is eight weeks in my rear view mirror. And I realized I hadn't recorded my story.

(It's lengthy but it's for me to remember. No hard feelings for anyone that skips straight to the last paragraph. Or the whole story from this point, really.)

I woke in the middle of the night & flew out to California the weekend before my surgery. I hung out with Nichole & Daniel, got sucked into Mad Men & allowed myself to be as effectively distracted as possible. The day before my surgery was scheduled, we made the trip from the Central Valley to Santa Monica. I'm pretty sure that was the longest trip I've ever taken, even though it was really only around three hours. I spent those hours staring out the window, attempting to make myself think about *anything* else...but you know how well that works.

Outwardly, other than the fact that I was a bit quieter than normal (even for me), I don't think I showed any real anxiety. Sitting in the chair in my surgeon's office though? The poor nurse listened to my heart, took my blood pressure and immediately asked if I was ok. Everyone seemed to think it was "White Coat Syndrome," but it was far more a case of "you're cutting me open tomorrow & I just don't know what to expect with *any* of this" nerves.

Sitting down with Dr P, though, put me tremendously more at ease. (My heart was still galloping though, apparently, because when he gave me a quick exam, his exact words were "You're heart is nice & strong...and fast!") He went over everything with me, right down to the number, location & size of the incisions (four of them: 11mm in my belly button, 5mm over my left hip, and two over my right hip, one 5mm & one 12mm). He told me what would happen the day of surgery, that he expected it to take 2-3 hours, but that I would be able to leave the hospital that same evening, walking on my own two feet. He read me all the "fine print" and then set my mind at ease with his own personal statistics. He answered my questions & "talked shop" with Nichole. He sang the praises of the wonderful "amnesia drug" that I would get as the first line of anesthesia that would keep me from remembering being intubated & having it removed (one of my concerns), as well as some other possibly intimidating parts of the procedure; he actually told me I would conveniently not remember anything from before I was put under until possibly several hours after I came out of anesthesia. Perfect!

We left his office, filled my prescription for Vicodin, headed over to the hospital, ate some lunch, signed some paperwork, discussed my Advance Healthcare Directive with Nichole & Daniel (holy stressful questions to think through!), had it notarized and did my pre-op labs. After which, I proudly walked around, being a butt & reminding my lovely friends that I had "giant gaping holes" in my arm. We checked into the hotel & then, under the direction of Dr P's wonderful office manager, set out for Operation Distraction: Dinner with Friends (and a couple glasses of wine), where Nichole's brother, Steven, made me laugh til I cried. My cut-off for any food or beverages was midnight but at 10pm, we headed back to the hotel, my tummy full, my mind settled, and off to bed, so I could be ready for my 8am check-in.

The morning of Wednesday March 23 arrived. The morning I had been thinking about for months. I took a deep breath, turned over all my personal belongings to Nichole & a nurse took me back to be prepped for surgery. There was a tech in pre-op who weighed me & commanded me to use the bathroom; she was the only mean person I interacted with the whole time. (Hmph.) I closed the curtain on my cubicle, got into my hopital gown, put on my fuzzy purple socks with the traction pads on the bottom & sat there to wait.

My pre-op nurse, Nona, came in. She took my blood pressure. She asked me if I was ok. (This became a running joke, really. I looked composed. I *felt* composed. My blood pressure made a liar out of me.) The first thing she did? Handed me the remote for my own personal HD tv. We watched The Today Show & talked about Elizabeth Taylor's passing while she tucked me under blankets. Then she showed me the coolest thing ever: There was a circular cutout in the front of my gown. The inside of my gown was lined with a crinkly mylar-type, plasticy material. She took a hose hanging on the wall, hooked it to the cutout in my gown & handed me a little box with a dial on it. My own personal climate control FOR MY GOWN. Then she told me I would feel some burning from the Lidocaine that would numb my hand so that she could put in my IV. (I never felt anything more than a tiny pin prick.) She hooked up my IV, sent for Nichole & Daniel to hang out with me til the O.R. was ready for me, and that was that. I was thoroughly impressed later, when neither my blood draw nor my IV left any bruising, just tiny marks at the site where my skin was pierced; I honestly had the best medical staff caring for me. (Well, except for that mean tech. Grrr.)

Around 10am, my two O.R. nurses (whose names I've already forgotten) (I *knew* I should have recorded my memories earlier!) came for me. They had me laughing all the way to the operating room, telling me stories & giving me pointers. We got to the O.R. & dance music was blasting. A tech named Justin, who was setting up Dr P's instruments, said the nurses always tried blaming that on him, but that it was really them having a pre-op dance party to get pumped up. They changed the music to classical (nope, too dreary, they decided) and then to some tropical Hawaiian -sounding which point they proceeded to "hula" for me.

By the time they got me switched from my gurney to the table, Dr P was in the room. His demeanor was calm & reassuring, as I had come to expect. He positioned me on the table himself, and then, he wheeled his little stool over, right next to me, and sat there talking to me & patting my hand while my anesthesiologist began to put me to sleep. The last thing I remember was Dr P talking quietly to me about dreaming of a tropical vacation. If I had any dreams, I have no memory of them.

This whole time, Nichole & Daniel were able to use a number to track me on screens located throughout the waiting area. There were no patient names, just numbers, and only the people you gave your number to could identify you. They could see when I was in the O.R., when I was in recovery. Apparently the surgery went even better than Dr P anticipated. He was finished in a little over an hour, came out & spoke with Nichole & Daniel, and even gave Nichole photos from my surgery, as well as the whole thing recorded & burned to a DVD so she could watch & ask him any questions as a fellow surgeon! (Dr P is absolutely one of the coolest, *nicest* people, in addition to being an outstanding physician and a top-notch surgeon.)

The next thing *I* remember is hearing someone saying "Don't rub your eyes, sweetie. You'll hurt them!" I started waking up & asking a few questions. My recovery nurse, Carmelita, was awesome. She gave me my glasses when I asked for them. She told me the surgery was a success, that it had only taken about an hour, that I had been asleep for another two hours after that in the recovery room. The worst part was that my mouth felt like an over-sized cotton ball had been stuffed into it.

I rested there, fading in & out of wakefulness, and eventually they said they would allow one of my friends to see me for a few minutes. It felt like an eternity. I remember thinking "I wish they would hurry. I am so bored..." although my perception of actual time was all skewed, like I was in Alice's Wonderland or inside the Wardrobe (you know, from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"...? I digress.) Daniel visited for a little bit but then they shooed him away again. I spent a lot of time listening to the various beeps of the monitors, feeling the pressure cuff on my arm & the boot on my leg alternately inflating & releasing, and watched my heart rate go up a bit every time I would start to slide down inside my gown & then push myself back up into a more comfortable position.

Carmelita came back from her break around 4pm & asked me if I needed to use the restroom yet, but considering I hadn't had more than IV fluids for the better part of 18 hours and I still had a catheter in? I didn't feel like I did, though I was more than willing to try. (They wouldn't discharge me until I had shown my bladder was working properly.) Carmelita did a quick ultrasound on my bladder, shook her head, removed the catheter (I didn't feel a thing) & turned up my fluid drip. She left & returned with a cup of ice chips & a remote for the tv. I don't remember what I watched but a little over an hour later, she unhooked all my various tubes & wires and I (slooooowly) made my way to the restroom...where nothing happened. (It is really difficult to pee for an audience!) She giggled, turned on the faucet & said she would step outside in case my bladder was shy. I have no idea how much time passed but it felt like years. And I had produced maybe two drops? I was starting to get nervous that they were going to say I couldn't leave, especially when she checked & shook her head. I asked for just a few more minutes & when she came back again, I swear there hasn't been that much excitement over my bathroom successes since I was two years old!

I went back to my room, got myself dressed (slooooowly) and declined the Percocet she offered. I hadn't eaten anything in many hours & the anesthesiologist had pulled out all his tricks from his magic bag, at my request, to prevent nausea. I didn't want to undo it all with one ill-chosen pill, plus I really wasn't feeling more than slow & a little sore. They put me in a wheel chair, wheeled my woozy self down to the ambulance bay so I could be loaded into the car under cover, since it had started raining, and that was that.

We made an attempt to drive home that evening but the weather & the traffic were uncooperative so we returned to the hotel for one more night, where I was propped up in bed, fed sorbet for dinner & was dosed with Advil every 4 hours. (Thank you, Dr Nichole, for waking up in the middle of the night to make sure the Advil kept my pain under constant control!) The next morning, with BooBoo the medical canine (an awesome soft, floppy stuffed dog Nichole & I had found in Brookstone before dinner the night before surgery & named by Steven) strapped in as a buffer between my incisions & the seatbelt, we set off for the Central Valley. It had snowed in the mountains the night before, so as we crossed the Grapevine, Daniel pulled over & gave Nichole & I each a handful of snow.

When we arrived at their home, I settled into their comfy chair, was fed well (and abundantly!), watched a *lot* of Mad Men, and set about the task of recovering. I never touched a single Vicodin; Advil suited me just fine for the first few days & after that? It was nothing I couldn't tolerate. I was mostly just sore & tender & a little swollen (the swelling threw me off a bit). I finally worked up the nerve to let Nichole show me the photos of the surgery & ummm...whoa. I can't believe how much smaller the end result was. (Let's just say in the first photo, before any removal had taken place, my uterus was the size of a large grapefruit, when a normal uterus is about the size of a kiwi maybe? Yikes.)

The following Monday, I had an appointment with Dr P. He checked my incisions (and...things) and said I looked remarkably well for someone five days post-op. I had color & energy, I was moving around reasonably well and I was in good spirits. He told me that I had no stitches to be removed--the internal sutures would simply dissolve & the surface wounds were held together with steri-strips that would begin to peel off when they were no longer necessary. He warned me that I would be fatigued longer than I would be sore & to give my body rest when it asked for it. I was cleared to fly the next day.

I was out of work the rest of that week & then returned to work on April 4. I lived in yoga pants for about three weeks post-op because the location of the stitches made regular waistbands uncomfortable & the incisions would protest. At my four-week post-op appointment with Dr P, he marveled at my recovery, at the healing of my incisions, even that the swelling of my uterus was far less than he was expecting to find. I've had a few "recovery symptoms," but nothing that won't go away in time. It takes a while for all those parts to heal after they've been messed with. I am, eight weeks post-op. (And here *you* are, if you were crazy enough to actually read all that!) It is a done deal. The surgery is behind me, it was successful, it went more smoothly than I even dared to hope, and all my original parts remained not only intact but fully functioning. All I have now are three small scars that I wear proudly--my badges, showing that I navigated through this mess (with lots of wonderful support, of course, but ultimately I know that *I* was the only one who would actually go under the knife), that I was strong & composed & a good patient (not my words, but Carmelita's, Dr P's and Nichole's--they're the experts, so I take them at their word), and I emerged victorious. I don't care if my scars fade or not. I am not embarrassed by them. They make me smile now.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: May 16, 2011

Monday: Spaghetti & meatballs with a salad & some garlic bread.
Tuesday: Cheeseburgers on the grill & corn on the cob.
Wednesday: Fish sandwiches, some breaded bay scallops & some kind of salad or veggie.
Thursday: Pork roast in the crock pot, boiled potatoes & Asparagus Parmesan Au Gratin.
Friday: Chicken Parmigiana (trying out a different recipe; I haven't made this in so long, I can't remember what I did with the old one!) with broccoli & some pasta.
Saturday: Tortellini Florentine Soup (for lunch - new recipe!). Hot dogs & sauerkraut (for dinner).
Sunday: Leftovers? New recipe? Not sure yet...

No notes from the last menu because...yeah. It's been a long time.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

20 Questions: May 15, 2011

1. Would you ever consider doing a polar bear plunge?
Hi, have we met? I'm not a hugs fan of being in the water as it is. And I live in Florida because I despise being cold. That give you enough clues?

2. How many people are in your family?
I will translate this as immediate family & not extended family because I'm not even sure I can remember everyone I would need to count. There are eight, not including myself: My Dad, his wife Sue, my youngest brother Zach, my Mom, her husband John, my younger brother Josh, his wife Kas & their son Timo.

3. When was the last time you moved to a new home?
December 2006.

4. Have you ever read The Farmer's Almanac?
A whole bunch! I used to get one for my Gramp for Christmas every year. I was always fascinated by the longterm weather forecasts & checking to see how accurate they were.

5. I say "tears." The first three things that come to mind are:
Weddings. Chick flicks. Loneliness.

6. Name one thing you like about yourself.
I am very aware of my many blessings.

7. What did you get into trouble for most often when you were a child?
Probably harassing Josh. If not that, getting a little mouthy. I was a pretty good kid, by & large though.

8. Have you ever sung in front of a large group of people?
In a group. Certainly not alone.

9. What is your holiday guilty pleasure?
Since this doesn't appear to be holiday-specific, I will go with seasonally appropriate candy.

10. What is the busiest page in your address book?
I would have guess 'R' but it turns out there is a tie between 'M' and 'B'.

11. I say 'treasure', first three things you think of are:
Pirates of the Caribbean. My Gram. Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

12. What kind of extreme weather are you dealing with today?
It actually wasn't too bad, given it's mid-May. The humidity was tolerable & it was "cool" enough that we left the windows open with just the fans running. The most extreme it got was the thunderstorm that woke me up at 5am.

13. What did you dream about last night?
I don't recall dreaming, or what it was if I did.

14. What are you craving right now?
A Red Sox win so I can go to bed.

15. What are three things that are on your desk that shouldn’t be?
My old cell phone which I keep forgetting to bring to Target with me to be recycled. Our WDW passes. Two camera lenses.

16. What is something you frequently misplace?
There isn't one recurring item, but usually if I am looking for a specific piece of paperwork, I cannot locate it, even if it's right where it's supposed to be.

17. How many jobs have you had?
Nine, not counting all the babysitting I've done.

18. What is your soda of choice (even if you rarely indulge)?
Ginger ale. Although occasionally I get a real craving for cream soda or some birch beer.

19. How much thought did you put into naming your blog?
A good two to three hours. Sometimes I wish it were more clever but even the few times I've considered changing it, I haven't been able to follow through. I guess after more than six years, it's stuck.

20. Have you ever been to San Francisco?
Does in the airport count? If so, then yes, back at the end of April. Not the actual city though.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


On Sunday, I began my usual post-church routine. I stopped to top off my gas tank, then headed into Target for the first half of my weekly grocery shopping. I carried my two bags out to the car, opened the door to my backseat and was greeted by...

I'm not going to lie. I looked around, startled, thinking I had accidentally opened up the wrong car. But no, that was my sunshade and my box of Puffs. I could see my hymnal on the front seat. I thought perhaps I had hallucinated but as I swung my gaze back to the seat, nope, still there:

I set my bag on the floor, closed the door and slid into the driver's seat, glancing warily over my shoulder. I texted Troy & casually mentioned my silent backseat passenger. I fully expected him to laugh & say he had forgotten that was there...or something. His response "I hope you paid for it."

Maybe now is a good time to say I have never purchased a watermelon in my life. Oh, I've *eaten* watermelon on plenty of occasions but I have never actually *bought* one.

When I mentioned this to him, he laughed it off, and had he not been several states away at the time, I would have thought for sure he was pranking me. See, I am one of those people who is neurotic about locking the car. I check and double-check. So the presence of this watermelon in my car when I had not put it there? Troubling.

The more I thought about it, the more creeped out I became. Who had been in my car? *How* had they been in my car? *When* had they been in my car?? (I don't go into my backseat very often. I have no real need to do so. The things I carry back & forth to work with me ride in the passenger seat up front. Most weeks, the only time I open up my backseat is when I grocery shop on Sunday.)

I made my way to the grocery store to finish my shopping, the whole time thinking about this watermelon. The more I thought, the more suspicious I became. I started wondering if it was some kind of watermelon bomb. Or maybe someone had injected it with some kind of poison! (I watch way too much CSI. Clearly.)

But really? Where did it come from?? I mean, it didn't just *grow* in my backseat! My car was locked. And even if it weren't, who just puts a watermelon into a random car?!

I still have no explanation. Troy cut it up & had some. He hasn't keeled over yet anyway.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Snapshot From Along the Broken Road: April 2011

A photo of me:

Steven & me, toasting Nichole with a Happy Easter & a "Go Sox!"

1) Candle scents this month:
Cinnamon Stick. Applewood Orchard.

2) What I am reading this month:
Finished Firefly Lane (Kristin Hannah). The Wednesday Letters (Jason F. Wright). Started reading Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand).

3) Top three songs I was drawn to:
"Edge of Desire," John Mayer. "Sparks Fly," Taylor Swift. "I'd Rather Be in Love," Michelle Branch.

4) Movies I saw:
How Do You Know? Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.

5) Favorite tv moments of the month:
Is it sad that the only thing I remember about tv in April is watching (painful) Sox games? I really should record my thoughts each month as they occur...

6) Something yummy I made:
This Linguine with Clam Sauce recipe was so easy & *so* yummy, I was still thinking about the leftovers I brought for lunch the next day.

7) Restaurants where I ate:
True Food. Pacific Whey Cafe. CPK. A couple of different places within the Pacific Club. The Sheraton Park Grill (in the hotel where we stayed during my California trip). The Diamond Club at Angel Stadium (for Easter brunch before the game). Arby's.

8) Five things I was loving this month:
Sox sweeping the Angels & getting to be present for two of the four games. Turbulence-free flights. Easter candy. The hymns for Holy Week. New luggage that doesn't rattle so loud it echoes as I roll it through the airport or shed more & more pieces every time I unzip it.

9) A goal I had for this month:
To get a clean bill of health at my 4-week follow-up. I would say I met my goal since Dr P told me I was actually healing ahead of schedule!

10) This month I looked forward to:
Feeling better.

11) Something that made me laugh this month:
Dr P asking me for a hug after my exam. While I was wearing no pants. I do believe I am fresh out of modesty at this point.

12) A photo I took this month:
Well, *I* didn't take it, Nichole did, but we saw Air Force One coming in for a landing at LAX right outside the window of the restaurant where we were sitting.


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