Wednesday, September 14, 2011
It's time to make a plan. I've been diddling around with this weight loss stuff for long enough. I won't say "too long". Time is what it is. I'm not into regrets. This is a forward moving project - even when it's stalled.
So. First off - let's see where I am Officially - today - 163 lbs.
And where do I want to be? Officially - 150 lbs.
That's 13 lbs to loose. And while I'd really REALLY like to be there by Thanksgiving, to do that I'd need to loose more than 1 lb a week and I am not sure I can do that. There are lots of celebratory days coming up this fall.... heck. There are lots of celebratory days throughout the year. So
The Goal is to loose 13 lbs by the week before Christmas. That means just under 1 lb a week.
How am I going to get there?
First off - I'm using the new Weight Watcher program. I lost substantial weight on their original 'Points" plan but after a while I learned to sabotage it by eating too many of their snack bars. When both a chocolate peanut butter snack treat and a banana were 2 points - hey - I'll choose the candy. (That's how my brain categorized it) They have recalculated things to push you to eat more fruits and protein and fewer carbs, edging you closer to a South Beach kind of diet. But in a subtle, kind, even interesting way. I read the SB plan - my own physicians recommend it - but it struck me as very Nazi-esque. I realize that is only me - but we are only talking about me right now. I like WW's delivery So Much Better.
I also like their little blue calculator - which has turned out to really help me keep track of how much I eat. Now - when I override the daily limits - I know it. I may still have chosen to override things - but it's no mystery.
So the real task, right now, is to stop overriding my limits. Biggest weakness? Semi-mindless weekend grazing. It's not mindless because I have disciplined myself to track the eating - but it's the attitude of "Okay. I'm gonna overeat" It's making me waffle back and forth, flirting with success but never accepting it. I need an attitude adjustment.
So for this week here are the steps I plan to take:
1. 4 days each week eat no more than 29 points
2. for the next week – each time I think I'll have a bite – drink a glass of water first.
3. walk 2 miles every day – indoors or out
4. tell people my plan and blog about my successes
5. check back each week to fine tune these steps.
So. Guess what? You guys are step 4!! Thank you!
Here is where some rewards might come in handy too. Here's my list.
1. Each week the scale is down the reward will be: $50 of play money to be posted on my Vision Board to be saved up for New Clothes in my New Size when I am At Goal
2. Each time I lose three consecutive weeks the reward will be: Cast on a new project from stash yarn, no matter WHAT else I am knitting
3. When I get below 160 the reward will be: One new garment bought at a local store
4. If I lose 6 consecutive weeks the reward will be: A sweater's worth of New Yarn.
5. When I get below 155 the reward will be: A day off from work, playing with a girlfriend in W'msbrg or Richmond
6. When I no longer have to pay for meetings (152) the reward will be: $100 of that same play money to be posted on the Vision Board
7. When I have stayed at goal for 6 weeks the reward will be: 2 yards of Munro Plaid wool for a skirt
And though I have not thought them up yet - I plan to make rewards for Staying at goal too. But that is for later. After I get there. And Yes! This weekend I will, at last, make my Vision Board.
So, guys - that's the plan. See ya next week with a report.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Lawsie! I had now idea I'd be away this long - almost as if I got buried at that funeral too. Which, in some ways, I was. At least my ability to focus seemed to sink out of sight - my power to think creatively and critically and make good decisions and meet deadlines - it just shriveled up and wobbled in a corner all summer long.
Of course - when I am not coping with the loss of a parent and the loss of a beloved pet and the weeks of triple digit temperatures I am quite capable of doing all those things and by good chance, all last winter and deep into the springtime I had - so while l my brain has been on hiatus, the good things set in motion rolled forward, were accomplished and came to fruition.
Ha! Just in time for Hurricane Irene!
Okay - joking aside - I have been amazed at how difficult it's been to cope with grief and am thankful for my friends, my staff, the folks who have carried the ball for me these past months. I had no idea how often, during the day, I would save up little bits and stories, incidents and funny happenings to share with Daddy. I had no concept of how much both he and my little dog Priss defined me. Daddy was, without a doubt, the most difficult man to live with on earth. At one point this summer a girlfriend commented "I can't believe how all over the place you are whenever you talk about your dad" and I said "YES!" He sucked everything out of you and made you look at it - live with it - deal with it: joy, furry, fear, delight, confidence, wisdom, disgust, happiness, vivacity ... every extreme word you can imagine. And I managed to survive it all. He was proof to me that I could live through anything. He was proof to me that all emotions - all states were there at my fingertips - to be used and lived with and acknowledged.
And my little Priss? Ah. She was proof that at my very core I was a good person - someone a little abused dog would look at and know was her safe haven. I loved to tell "The Story of Priss" and if it sounded like I was bragging - well - I was. Because we all want to think we are good and Priss always made me feel like I was.
So this summer was pretty much a lesson in living on auto pilot. Perhaps I let myself do this because I knew things were fairly well lined up and wouldn't need much supervision. Perhaps I couldn't help it either - since I can't imagine pulling my scattered wits together and making Good Decisions on Important Matters. I think, if I dig deep into my memory, I can remember a moment when I said "In September ..." Like going back to school, In September I would start swimming forward instead of treading water.
Of course, August had one final gift for us - a massive hurricane that left us with more than an acre of downed trees, washed out our road, took the power AND phone, and closed the library for 3 days. Whew!
And then came Katia who just would not move north fast enough - she gave us another 12 inches of rain, though thankfully none of the wind. So out went the road and phone again! I have been home now for 2 days.
All this down time, though, has been very therapeutic. The quiet of a house without power is very soothing. We had plenty of water and supplies and we cook with gas, which is in big tanks in the back yard. I had books and knitting and Himself for company. Here it is looking at mid-September and I'm actually feeling like a normal person again. Last week I could actually see what needed to be done - work productively, creatively, and when I got stuck at home - everything could move ahead without me actually being there. Cool, huh?
Ah - but where am I on my journey to a healthy weight? That's okay too. Moving very slowly - but there has been very little stress eating this summer. I've averaged about .25 to .5 lbs of weightloss all summer - which is okay by me. My motto has always been Down is Down. I've found that 10 lbs moves me into a smaller size and I'm able to Shop My Closet for things that I hadn't worn in years. I'm also ready to devote attention and energy to this journey now too - a not uncommon September phenomenon. Might even set me a goal....
So - dear friends. I haven't meant to be gone so long but there it is. I'm just glad I had this summer to grieve and contemplate, asses and consider, drift away and fritter. I'm glad World Events didn't depend on me. I'm glad nobody really needed me much this summer. Glad someone Else wants to be president or prime minister or king or head honcho. Aren't you glad too.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
When I got in the car, last Monday morning, to drive back to the city for Daddy's funeral, I told Himself that the one thing I hoped for was to have birds singing when we were at the grave site. That happened once at a funeral for a farming cousin of ours and it would be the most comforting thing to imagine the birds singing Daddy home. Among many other beautiful moments that happened that day, there was a mocking bird who sat in one of the only trees on that windswept greensward and serenaded the entire ceremony. At the end. When we were holding on to our composure with all our might.
The funeral mass was held at the beautiful - in my mind, most beautiful Catholic church in Richmond - St. Benedict's Church. It was the church I went to in high school. It has an organ and a glorious music program and a kind, tender music director. Mama was already there when we parked on Shepherd St., dressed and coiffed and ready to participate in everything. She was a little bewildered but mostly wearing her gracious company face. We'd hired a nurse she knows to help but we kept her with us all the time.
Fabulous cousins were arriving - even beloved Haile cousins - warming my heart and sucking up some of the sadness. Darling men, who I last saw as boys, trekked the miles across state lines to hold us and hug us. And there were children at the service. I know of nothing that makes such a difference, when I'm staring at death, as the sight of youth, with its promise of a future, dressed in Sunday best, ready to participate in real life passages.
Sister B played hymns from the choir loft and in those old style churches, violin notes soar out over the sanctuary like angel voices. It's odd - in all the years I went to St. G's I was never once asked to play my violin for any service - and at that time I was very good. Funny the things that you think of when you go back to childhood haunts. But then - I remember the 'hip' masses were all Folk Masses and we all sang Michael Row the Boat Ashore to guitars. Ahh well.
There was an ocean of nostalgia beneath the surface of the whole ceremony. Father Kaufman gave a nice homily that talked about the generous heart and made no false references to my 'sainted father'... who was no saint and who might have risen from the coffin had he done so. It would have been much nicer if he hadn't used a personal microphone. That church does not need amplification and it was big enough and empty enough and made of enough stone to echo his voice back onto itself to the point that most of what he said was unintelligible - like it was to me, when I was tiny and mass was still said in Latin (and I thought the priest was offering dominoes for breakfast).
My cousin J spoke about Daddy, weaving stories of his own with tales he'd gleaned from the rest of us. He is a superb speaker and fortunately, his microphone had less reverb so I hope people could hear him better. I could. Mama could not.
After the ceremony the cortege snaked through the city with a police escort; first with a Richmond squad car and then, at the county line, with three motorcycles. Daddy would have loved that - being escorted. The cemetery is way out in the western part of the county where we were greeted by both the singing bird and a full military honor guard of 8. The heat was fierce and there was a breeze almost strong enough to be called wind. It blew so hard against the flag the soldiers had a difficult time folding it, even having to unfold it and try a second time. But eventually they were able to present it to Mama ... before everyone baking in that noon day sun was completely singed.
When all the ceremony had been fulfilled, we drove to the Capital Alehouse out on West Broad where we'd reserved the back room for the afternoon - and things fell into a traditional Family Funeral Reception - or Irish Party - whichever name you prefer. We are not a solemn sober kind of family. We are loud. We are boisterous. We are really all pretty vivid, now I come to think of it. We had a fiddler - my sister - who played the songs and gigs of Appalachia and Ireland. We had men lifting beer and toasting the Daddies of the world. We had lots of food and a signature family desert made of chocolate and whipped cream. We sent Daddy off with laughter and tears and memories and more hugs than a teddy bear. We did it right for him. We did it right in honor of him. We absolutely know that he's been reunited with his brother and his sisters, his mother and father, with Earle Corcoran, his best friend from WWII days. And without a single doubt I know
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, From the lake, From the skies.
All is well,Safely rest,
God is nigh.
Monday, July 04, 2011
For the past 3 weeks my sister and I have been dealing with end of life issues around my dad. She is the primary caregiver - I jokingly call myself the non-custodial daughter. We each bring special gifts to the table - her's are more visible, more practical, though I think of myself as a pragmatic sort of person. It's just that she's the one who lives there and I come in from out of town - but I have an intuitiveness that picks up on things that someone who's been dealing with an overwhelming number of burdensome facts might miss. Together we have juggled the care of two elderly, difficult, demanding and beloved parents with ease and grace and much success.
Of course, nobody ever did anything with Daddy that didn't carry with it the threat of his ungovernable temper and as he's aged, his hold on language and fury has not abated a whit - only his physical abilities have diminished. Remember - this is the same daddy who disinherited me last September, tearing my picture out of the family calender and banning me from his sight forever. He forgot about that after a while and thankfully, I know it didn't matter what he said. It was the ravings of an old terrified man. It hurt a little while and then went away. Most of the time when he throws his tantrums I just laugh at him and say too bad. We're not the ones in a wheel chair and besides, our turn will come when our kids boss us around. Right now, it's just his turn.
Now, though, things have sunk pretty low. He went into hospital 2 weeks ago with a kidney infection - then his heart began to fail - then a lung infection - I've been up to see him every day this weekend. We called in the far-away sisters who are arriving today. My son has been with me all week and has made even more trips to see his grandfather and another grandchild got in last night.
Ours is not a cozy cuddly family. One sister won't speak to another. A third sister never sees me without complaining 'mother loved you best'. I doubt all of us could gather anywhere other than a neutral location like a restaurant - or a funeral home. It's too bad. It's also the way it is.
Sister and I went to the funeral home yesterday to pick out things like prayer cards and flowers - all the things that we'd really rather not have to decide later, when we're weeping. And we got an itinerary so we know what the next steps are. And the price. It feels good to not have to worry about those things.
So. Now we are waiting. And I am driving a lot and trying to decide if I want to drive back over to the city today and witness the tension between siblings. And participate in it, if I'm honest. There's a part of me that would like to see all my sisters and hug them and feel warmth and remember. And there's a part that asks myself "what makes you think that would happen?". What I really think is that I'd have to drive 75 miles to get to the hospital, then miles around the city to visit one sister and then miles more to visit the others. I haven't decided yet. It may be that I'll do the ostrich thing and bury myself down here, in the safe little cocoon of home.
and the food thing? How am I eating through these endless hours in a car, eating at restaurants, sitting in hospital rooms? Not too badly, actually. I've been going a little overboard with the ice cream at night. Mr. Ice Cream Box and I have a longstanding relationship and usually we treat each other with great respect. It's only when a visiting son brings in Karl's Frozen Custard, all the way from Fredericksburg, that my careful portion control goes out the window. I don't like most full fat ice cream. It's too rich for me. but Karl's .... well. Well. that's an entirely different matter. If you are from Virginia, you know this.
I haven't officially weighed in with the WW guys in 2 weeks because I had work commitments last Tuesday, but the home scale is encouraging. Actually, it's been complimentary. To stay within my weekly food budget I need only eat a normal day's worth of healthy food and the kitchen is loaded with the best white peaches I've ever eaten - from Crozet, Virginia, not 50 miles away, and as sweet as sugar.
So that is where I have been this crowded and challenging month. I hadn't intended to stay silent so long but time whizzed by and now it's July. Hangin' in there, down on the farm.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
March 17, 2000 - June 7 2011
In the country you may not know every dog who lives along your road, but you always recognize a stranger. Sometimes a neighbor has gotten a new dog, but often what you see is that great rural tragedy, the dropped off dog. In honor of the dignity of my wonderful Priss, I won't go into what I think of the low-life scum that abandons a dog on my road but will confine myself to explaining that half way along the 3 mile stretch of tar, at the end of which, I live, there is a creek that is a tacit boundary of responsibility for dealing with downed trees, dead animals and dropped off dogs. If there is an issue on our side of the creek, we, and our closest neighbors, take care of it, calling out men with trucks and shovels and chain saws. On the other side of the creek, the responsibility falls on the folks who live closer to the big highway. It's just a shared duty divvied up by geography.
In the spring of 2000 ... March, to be exact ... I was driving home one day and just before I reached the dividing creek I looked out the window and on a gentle slope lay a little dog, head high, perky face, surrounded by 4 puppies. As I turned my head, she turned hers and our eyes met. Between us passed the arc of love that sometimes sparks across a distance, piercing deep into the heart. Her little soul whispered to mine “I'm yours. You are mine”.
With gritted teeth and clenching fingers I turned my head and drove on, muttering “I already have 2 dogs. You are not my responsibility. You are on the wrong side of the creek”. Have you ever thrust away love? Is there a moment in time you can remember when you turned your back on it? Rejected it? It is something you never forget. You'll think about it and obsess about it and wonder about it. I can't remember what I thought about that little dog later – if I contemplated going back to find her. I just don't know. What I do know is that 3 days later a man drove up to the house and said “did you know there is a mother dog and her 4 puppies at your mailbox?”
I knew then. I knew who the little dog was. I knew that she had come to me because we were meant to be. Mind now – my mailbox is half a mile from my house – and 2 miles from where I saw that little dog. The man was from Canada, come down to buy a sailboat from BD, with all the complications of an international sale, with currency exchanges and such. The boat wasn't even at our house, but at a marina in another county and they had to drive off to see it. It was a work day for me but they drove out first. At the time we had the most vivid black lab, Ike: a dog with more personality than you could fit in an entire circus of dogs. He always escorted BD off the farm but I followed shortly behind. At the mailbox there was Ike, beside himself with joy and fascination as he capered and pranced about the little dog. She responded in kind, actually flirting with him and letting him sniff her puppies.
What a beautiful little dog she was, too. Thirty-five pounds of thick silky fur, still puffed out with her winter down. Her face was pointed, her ears stood up in expectation, and her eyes were the most orange shade of brown I have ever seen. There was some shepherd in her dna; you could tell by the way the down fur was so white even though the top coat was brown – so she had that greenish cast you sometimes see in a German shepherd. And by now, by hook or by crook, I knew she was going to stay with me. How BD was going to be convinced, I wasn't sure, but by golly, this was one dog who was here to stay.
About that time, my farmer neighbor drove by and made a joking comment. I don't remember what he said, but I remember recognizing that he was thinking “thank goodness it's not my problem.” I understood – I'd said the same 3 days earlier. Besides, love was already gushing over me as I stroked and petted this little creature. Who cares what other people think? What I also did was scoop the puppies up and take them deeper into our own property, down by Jacob's Gut where they could get water to drink and be safe from cars. And be a little closer to my house without being too obvious to a certain someone who was already preoccupied with Other Things.
It was late when I got home, dark and pouring rain. The headlights picked out little furry puppies as I turned at my mailbox, but there was no little green dog with orange eyes. I piled the puppies into the car and brought them up to the house. No way was I going to leave them out in that storm – we have a dog house in the front yard. They could spend the night there. The surprise when I actually got to my house was that capering around in the rain was Ike and his inamorata. Already they wouldn't be parted. I was a little surprised that she'd abandon her puppies to go off with Ike – but I was also glad.
Mr. SoftHeart, Mr. TenderHearted, muttered a feeble complaint about stray dogs, but he really was tied up with negotiations with the Canadian fellow and, in fact, stayed so the rest of the weekend. Some other words about 'talking about it on Sunday' were probably spoken. What I remember was thinking that if I just lay low, things would work out.
And they did. I was working in the garden all that weekend, March 17, 18 and 19, according to BD's diary. I had a young boy helping me and I tried hard to pawn off one of the puppies onto his family, but the father absolutely refused. They were cute little fluff balls, but they were also, obviously, no-breed curs with only pet value. Most folk around here are looking for dogs who can do double duty, either hunting or herding or guarding. All weekend long, Ike and my dainty prissy little new love capered about, frisky, happy, flirty. On Sunday, a neighbor came up with his friendly black lab to give him a long country walk and the little mother nearly bit his nose off for even looking like he'd smell her puppies. Obviously she was a fierce protective mother – except when it came to Ike, where she knew her true destiny lay. In fact, time came when we began to call her Ike's Wife.
And so. There was a long walk with my wonderful husband, oh man of enormous heart, where we hashed out the future. He had all the good arguments for not keeping such a dog – a stray, an adult, probably with heart worms, with her personality already formed, bad habits already in place, who knew what her history was, a cur, a traveler, a burdensome family of puppies. The same arguments that had flashed through my own mind in the brief moment of first seeing her. In the end, of course, love prevailed. “What are you going to call her?” he asked me and I replied “Priss, because she is so dainty and almost prissy”.
And that is who she became. Our little green dog with orange eyes. Miss Priss. Ike's Wife. Sleek, stubborn, independent, she became dog #3 in our household. She was unpredictable. She would bolt the moment she was let out of a car and refuse to come when called, so that eventually we wouldn't take her anywhere except on long walks about the property. Even then, walks with Priss involved her dashing off into the woods, or across the fields, only to circle back to us when we were on the way home. When we went swimming, she'd disappear into the field behind the swimming beach and often didn't catch up with us till we were in the middle of the creek paddling home. She had a way of begging that involved pawing you and the curvature of her claws always made her gesture dangerous – lethal if you were in the river swimming with her. We treated her with more gentleness than we've ever given any of our dogs – no rough play with her – because it was obvious that she'd had some pretty serious trauma in her early years. There was a bit of buckshot just below the skin over her hip. She quailed at gunshot or even the sight of a gun or the sound of it being loaded. Thunder sent her, not just indoors, but under my bed. We got so we knew if a summer storm was on the way because we'd hear the screen door slam shut and she'd come dashing into the house, up to us, seeking comfort.
Her devotion to Ike remained strong and she mimicked some of his gestures. He would always plunge his whole face into water whenever he drank and she did too. Only last Sunday BD and I remarked on how she was still drinking like Ike – and we said simultaneously “Ike's Wife”. Ike had a fanatic's passion for chasing balls and when the apples ripened and fell from the tree, Priss would get an apple, run up to Ike and toss her head, letting the ball fly, so he could chase it.
That was our Priss. BD found homes for all 4 of her puppies. We had 3 dogs. A year later we found baby puppy Socks on Our Side of the Creek and we had 4 dogs. Then Ike died. Then Topsy. Jack came to live with us in 2005. Each time a dog would leave us our broken hearts grieved. Each time a new dog would come to us our swelling hearts would rejoice. We are dog people and we give dogs a special, country life full of smells and tastes and space, with warm fires in the winter and cool cement floors in the summer.
A few years ago Priss developed a limp that made her squeal when she put weight on her front paw. Concerned that it might be a dislocated shoulder I dropped her off at the vets on my way to work. Later that day the vet called me, angrier than I thought it possible for such a gentle spoken man to be. The fury in his voice was palpable, it oozed down the phone line to drip into my ear and pool on my desk. “Do you know your dog's been shot?” the venomous voice demanded.
Shocked, I tried to figure out how I could have transported Priss all the way from my house to town without noticing any blood anywhere. “Impossible. I know I would have noticed if she had been bleeding” I remonstrated.
“Not now. This is an old wound.” came back the gritted answer, and how well I remember the sensation of muscles relaxing. I hadn't noticed how tense I'd become with his first question. “Oh yes. I know. There's a little buckshot just below the skin of her hip” I explained.
“No. She's been shot. With a hollow nosed bullet. Her neck and shoulder are full of shrapnel. She's peppered with it. There's nothing I can do.”
I reeled then. I'd have sat down if I hadn't already been sitting. Evidently, the early years of Priss' life had been harder than I'd realized. I called BD, who drove into town, looked at the X-rays, talked things over with the doctor and then took her home. We treated her with a little buffered aspirin, but when she began chasing and wrestling with Jack again, we stopped.
It was autumn when this happened and shortly thereafter Priss got a cocklebur wrapped up in the thick fur around her neck, forming a lump about an inch long and half an inch thick. In the evening I sat with her between my legs, gently working the burr out when suddenly the top of that lump just lifted up like the lid on a trashcan and out of it rose a piece of metal! A fragment of that bullet had formed a cyst and worked its way out of her body! I kept that tiny thing for years, along with a natural pearl I'd found in an oyster one Christmas – but it was lost last winter in a fit of cleaning up after the holidays.
In the past 18 months Priss seemed to have aged a lot. She couldn't jump up into the big bed. She grew a little deaf. She stayed curled up beneath her favorite bush by the front door. Her face grew grey. She still ran fast and hard across the fields and through the woods. She still walked 3 miles for every mile I walked. And on Sunday we took her for a nice long walk down the New Path. I had a library function that afternoon and came home around dinnertime. BD usually feeds the dogs and it was a hot afternoon, so I never noticed, and thus, never asked, about Priss. I figured she was in the cool beneath her bush out front.
But Monday morning she wasn't there waiting to come in for her biscuit. This was not like her and I was a little concerned, though not unduly – because, after all, we live in the country. All sorts of interesting things, smells, sounds, can tempt a dog away from the front door. When I got home, though, I asked Himself if he'd seen her and, at first he said yes, but after a moment's thought he said he hadn't seen her all day. We looked around the yard, and in the hideyholes that our dogs retreat to if they're upset about something – but no Priss. Tuesday morning she still wasn't in her spot by the front door and while I was at work BD went searching for her.
And he found her. Lying in Jacob's Gut – on the north side, where she likes to stop for a drink when we take long walks, out to the mile point or even beyond to Robert's Landing. Her back half was paralyzed and she had obviously been there some time. My darling man picked her up and gently placed her on the road while he went back to get the truck. When he got her home he fed her and she ate and drank but she was still immobile. He took her down to the clinic and dear Dr.L gave him the bad news. I hurried over to be in on the conference. Was it cancer? A slipped disc? Was there anything that could be done? An MRI? Surgery? Almost 3 days in paralysis already? Minimal to no chance of recovery? A wheeled cart strapped to her waist? Diapers?
Each word was a bullet into my own heart. My Priss – so wild. So independent. So generous to have loved us and trusted us after such a rocky start? Poked and prodded and cut and strapped by strangers? She had had a life of good doggness. I wasn't about to rob her of the dignity of a gentle ending. And neither was the softer, kinder, more tender half of this marriage. Instead, we loved our Priss all the way to the end – without a tear or a sad sound in our voices, until she had fallen into her final deep sleep. And then we could sob and we are sobbing still. But we aren't regretting a thing. Only savoring the grief that must come with love. Even my sadness feels - almost good – because it is so very right.
Oh Priss. I love you. I loved you the moment I saw you. I loved you for 11 wonderful years. I will love you as long as I live. Wait for me up ahead and we'll take a walk down heaven's country lane once again.
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