Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

50 reasons to be happy

I’m in contentment limbo right now. Totally self-explanatory right?  No?  Ok, what I mean is I’m at a point where contentment (with life, job, etc) is meant to have been attained, and I have achieved a KIND of contentment, but I’m not really content with the flavor of contentment I’m now “enjoying.”  Got it?  Still no? Ok.  I’m not super happy with my life, but it works….kind of.

Anyway (and thanks a lot for distracting me and making me write all that out because I almost lost my train of thought), I thought I’d spend today writing about 50 reasons to be happy.  This is sort of like the blog, 1000 Awesome Things, but shorter, less in-depth and infinitely less awesome.  Seriously, you should probably just go to that site and stop reading this one.  So, here is my list of 50 things that make me happy. You can’t judge me, but you can put your happy things in the comments and then I’ll judge you.  You’re welcome.

1. Being busy.
2. Using fancy words in everyday conversation.
3. The moment I finish working out.
4. The first sip of coffee in the morning.
5. Getting recognition for my accomplishments from unlikely sources.
6. When my sister surprises me with cookies.
7. Being able to amaze people with trivial bits of information (e.g. blue eyes didn’t exist 10,000 years ago, a raindrop is an accelerated sphere)
8. Traveling to faraway places.
9. Coming home.
10. Days with low humidity and bright sunshine.
11. The fact that wind is my favorite meteorological phenomenon.
12. The number 7.
13. Good TV.
14. Bad TV.
15. When my dad likes the same things as I do.
16. When people think I’m funny.
17. Finishing a writing assignment.
18. Good books.
19. Clean closets.
20. Yarn.
21. Knitting needles.
22. The fact that my obsessions with yarn and knitting needles leads everyone to think I’m a crazy person.
23. Dirty jokes.
24. People who like it when I repeat dirty jokes.
25. Board games.
26. Competing.
27. Go-carts.
28. Finding a new type of pen that writes really well and has the perfect width of ink line.
29. Getting good deals on groceries.
30. Shoe shopping.
31. Farmers markets.
32. Thanksgiving.
33. Shaking incandescent lighbulbs to see if they’re burnt out.
34. Gerber daisies.
35. My dog.
36. My scars.
37. The ways little kids pronounce things.
38. Being a strong swimmer.
39. Stargazing.
40. barbecuing.
41. Being able to do quick math in my head (I’m talking like, “how much do i tip?” no advanced calculus).
42. Saying good morning to the woman who collects aluminum cans on recycling day.
43. Sunglasses that flatter my face.
44. Summertime.
45. The first snowfall.
46. Boat rides.
47. Good music.
48. Chocolate.
49. Being 98% done with this list.
50. Surprising myself that I can actually think of 50 things.

I should add that these are really in no particular order.

What are your things?

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First Anniversary Repost: Naked Ambition

In celebration of our first year of blogging, this week we’re reposting some of our favorite posts from the past year:

 

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for awhile now.  In fact, I wrote myself a note and left it on my desk.  I cleaned off my desk on Friday, and found the note, so now’s a good time to write this all out because to be honest, I had no idea what else I would write this week anyway.  But it’s also appropriate to tell this particular story now, because it took place on Memorial Day Weekend four years ago.  This is one of those stories that sticks with you, and the memory of it is so vivid, it could have taken place this weekend.

The Scene:  Warm, sunny, Memorial Day, 2007.  Robert Moses State Park, Long Island, New York

My friends, Tim and Jen, and I drove out the the beach early, and grabbed a good spot for our blanket: close-ish to the car, the concession stand and the bathrooms.  Tim was recovering from an Achilles Tendon injury, so walking on sand wasn’t easy for him.  But, he was a great sport and played paddle-ball with us through the morning.   We sat in the sun through the morning and into the afternoon.  The early-day clouds cleared a bit and the sun was strong.    Jen and I decided to go for a walk down the beach.  Tim, because of his injury and because someone had to, volunteered to stay with our stuff.

Jen and I walked down the beach talking and joking.  We walked through a mostly empty section of the beach and then back into a busier section.  There was something different about this particular busy section of beach: everyone was naked.  We continued to walk and talk, and I was silently thankful that my sunglasses disguised what must have been some incredibly rude staring.  I tried to stay facing forward and not gape.  And, to be honest, these were not the best beach bodies I was surrounded by.   About this time, we noticed there was a man, naked, walking a few yards ahead of us.  He turned around:

“Hey, do you guys mind if I walk with you for a little while?”

“Um…..”  Seriously, what do you say to that?  “I guess not.” We didn’t want to be rude to the nude stranger.  He seemed perfectly pleasant, and it was clear that he was not concealing a weapon.

The naked stranger, whose name turned out to be Bill, joined us and walked us through the finer points of nude beach-going in New York.  Turns out, according to Bill, it is perfectly legal to be naked on National Park beaches, but on State Park beaches (like Robert Moses) you have to wear a suit, at least a bottom, you can go topless anywhere (again, according to Bill, I make it a rule not to fact-check the pantsless).  Bill demonstrated his willingness to follow the law when we crossed back into another State beach, he put his swim trunks on (seemingly from nowhere, seriously, to this day I have no recollection of him holding a swim suit when we met).  When we crossed back into the National Park, he asked, “do you mind if I take my suit off?” “At this point, why would we mind?  You were naked when we met, Bill.”

Bill chatted us up about our jobs briefly, before starting to talk about his new business:  an at-home spa services company.  They did massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and other spa treatments for parties and groups in people’s homes, hotel rooms, etc.  It sounded a bit sketchy to me, just this side of an escort service.  But the more Bill explained, the more legit it sounded.  After awhile, we turned around and headed back toward Robert Moses.  Bill again donned and de-donned his suit again as we passed through State Park territory.  When we got back to the place we had met him, he ran to his bag, and got out his business cards and some laminated sheets detailing the services his company provided.

We shook his hand, said goodbye and walked back to Tim.

We’d been gone about an hour, and in that time, the tide had come in, and poor Tim had to drag all of our stuff up the beach with his injured leg.  We apologized and told him why we’d taken so long.  He laughed, we gathered our things, got an ice cream, and headed home.

In the car on the way back, it struck me:  Bill was giving us a sales pitch!   Who could forget something a naked man told you on a beach?  So simple, yet so brilliant.  If you’re interested in at home spa services, I know a guy.  He may or may not be wearing pants.

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Pardon me, can you turn off the wind?

I’m a frequent air traveler.  And, like most people who travel regularly, I have the airport processes and procedures down to a science.  I also have my personal preferences and travel routines:

  1. I wear slip on, comfortable shoes that make security procedures easier.
  2. I like an aisle seat, as close to the front of the plane as possible.  Being able to stand up immediately after a flight is vital!
  3. I don’t work on planes, unless there is an extenuating circumstance.  I prefer to read a book, listen to music, sleep or watch movies.  Plus, it’s difficult to keep a laptop open in a coach seat.
  4. I rarely make conversation with other passengers, but I am not rude.  I say hello and smile at the beginning of the flight, but then keep to myself.

Point 4 is not set in stone, but it’s one of those things that makes getting through a long flight easier for me.  No small talk.  It’s also the hardest to enforce.  Because my policy of keeping to myself is occasionally in direct contrast with someone else’s policy of chatting up everyone in the immediate area.

I went to Colombia last week.  We flew in on Sunday night, spent a long week booked with back-to-back meetings and flew home on Friday at 11pm to prepare for a long few weeks of proposal-writing, budgeting, planning and reporting.  After a week like that, and with the next few weeks’ agenda in mind, Rule 3 was in full effect.  I planned to watch movies, eat what I could stomach of the airline “breakfast” (served at 12am), and hopefully log a few hours sleep on the way back to Boston.

Sadly, it was not to be.

I sat next to a Colombian woman who may have been anywhere from 55 to 75 (she had had a lot of plastic surgery).  She was sitting in the middle seat when I came up to the row and indicated that I was assigned to the window seat (direct violation of rule 2, must speak to our travel agent about this).  I sat down, said hello and got ready for the flight.  She pulled out an English guide and started reading it.  Shortly before take-off, I sneezed.  She said, “Salud” then asked how to say that in English.  I told her “bless you” and we chatted amiably for a minute about her trip and her new knowledge of English.

Then the flight took off, I put in my headphones and started watching a movie.  And that was when my agenda and hers began to collide.  I had just started the movie and she said something to me.  I didn’t catch it, so I took out my headphones and she said again that she was having trouble making her touch screen work.  I gave her a quick tutuorial (during which, she requested that we set the TV up in English so she could practice) and got back to my movie.  After the next five or six interruptions, I started to wish I had set up the screen in Spanish.  Phrases like, “right up your alley” are difficult for me to translate into Spanish and don’t appear in most Spanish-English phrase books.  And, being of small stature, it became my responsibility to turn her air vent and light on and off at request. It went on like this until I turned off my screen and went to sleep.

Plane sleep isn’t awesome, but sometimes necessary.  I slept fitfully for an hour or two, then I heard the cabin announcement that we would be landing shortly, no electronic devices, blah blah blah.  At this point, my cheerful neighbor woke me up.  Awesome.  I groggily awoke and read for the final minutes of the flight.  Once we landed, my neighbor stayed seated until almost all other passengers had de-planed.  Keeping me hemmed into my window seat for twenty minutes, longing for escape.  Silently resentful, tired and ready to scream.

Ahh, the joys of air travel.

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Ahhhhhhh……annnnnd we’re back

Vacations are delightful, aren’t they?  Particularly when you have no to-dos, no responsibilities, no wake-up calls.  Coming back from vacations is less awesome.

I was just away for a week, I went to TN, to our friends’ houseboat with my mom and my sister.  We have known these people since I was seven and my sister was five.  My mom worked at a preschool with two other women and they really hit it off. They happened to all have kids about the same age.  We all became friends, too.  So these TN trips are like a big family reunion.  During the weeks we’re floating in a TN lake, I have more mothers, fathers and siblings  than any other time of the year.  Remarkably, this isn’t a cause for irritation.  The people who own the boat have cultivated an atmosphere of extreme relaxation:  You want to float with a drink in your hand?  Sure!  You want to get drug around the lake behind the boat? Ok!  You want to lay on the deck and get sun?  Cool!  How about going to ride on the jetski?  That’s good too.

Which makes it all the harder to come back to the reality of expectations, schedules and work.  I’ve been feeling zombie-ish this week.  Getting my thoughts together is harder than usual (which could be because the weather has been hotter than usual) and my desire to move myself is pretty low.  My brain is still on vacation.

Never fear!  I’m going back on vacation next week.

 

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Judging a book

Never judge a book by its cover.  It’s a cliché, to be sure, but in this case it’s very appropriate.  The cover of The Help doesn’t want you to buy the book.  The cover makes it look like the most dreadful kind of chick-lit and deceptively conjures images of the Middle East.  What are the birds about?  Why yellow and purple? The title doesn’t do it any favors, either.  We discussed reading The Help for my actual book club for months.  Every time, I’d look it up on Amazon, see the cover and have a visceral reaction to it, “I do not want to read that.”  Then, I’d read the plot summary and think, “well….maybe.”  When we finally did choose to read TH for book club, I brought this issue to the attention of the other members.  Someone, holding up the book and gesturing to the cover summed it up perfectly, “I don’t want to read this book.” Then, turning it over and pointing out the summary, “but I do want to read this one.”  This was the essential hurdle for me. 

That said, when I actually sat down with the book, and got into it, I found it a delightful, if problematic, read. 

The author is a white woman who grew up in Mississippi and was raised with the help of a black maid.  The book is written as a series of first person narratives from the perspectives of three characters, two black maids and one young white woman. The voice and writing style shift between characters.  I found myself growing slightly uneasy during the first few chapters. 

The two black maids’ chapters are written in thick, accented english, portraying at the very least a sub-standard education.  As I became aware of this bias in writing it came to feel, at first, like a very strange choice of voice for a writer.  But then, I realized that the characters’ voices told me things about them that they never overtly said.  I was still wary of the choice, however, until I read the author’s epilogue, where she wrote about her inspiration for the book and the deeply conflicted feelings she herself has about her home state and its history.  Her personal story put me at ease with the characters, the writing and the setting of the book, in a way that even the story’s conclusion and the growth of the characters could not.   

The Help was entertaining , sprinkled, if not fully directed by the historical events of Jackson, MS in the early 1960’s.  Character growth for the protagonists is monumental, for the other characters, especially the primary antagonist, it’s thin on the ground, which was a little bit disappointing.  Some people are resistant to change.  But the force with which the main “bad guy” of the book, Hilly, pulls didn’t quite ring true to me.  She was, after all, a young woman, barely into her twenties.  She had some years of college and was raised in a big city.  Surely, some understanding of the changing nature of the world must have penetrated her psyche?  But Hilly actually pushes the other characters to devolve socially, to move backwards toward more separatism and more inequality, and without a moment’s reflection, at least as far as we know.  Political motivations and social pressures and expectations are her primary driving forces, and though she acts as a ring leader, she shows almost no capacity for independent thought.  What I’m trying to say is that even though she’s a good mother and has the capacity to be a good friend, Hilly’s character was a little too one-dimensional and single-minded to be fully believable.

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How to not do anything

Last week was insanely busy.  From Tuesday through Friday, I didn’t get home from work before 10:30 at night.  Friday I didn’t get home until nearly 2 am.  It was a lot of work, some nerves and a great deal of fun.  By Friday night, I didn’t really want it to end, and I wanted to stay at the hotel and do it all over again on Saturday…someone offered their extra bed.  But, I was completely exhausted.  Physically and mentally.  I was worn out. 

So, Saturday came.  And I did nothing.

Now, when I say I did nothing, I’m afraid that what you read is “I didn’t do very much.”  What I mean is, I did NOTHING. 

My mom was supposed to come over, so I did shower, and put pants on, but when she called at 10:30am and said she would come on Sunday, I put my pj’s right back on. 

I didn’t cook for myself, or even put together a bowl of cereal.  I ate cake.  That’s all.  I had leftover cake from Tuesday’s reception.

I didn’t even go into the hallway outside my apartment. I don’t think I even went down the hall to my front door at all.

I was so unmotivated to move that I watched the same movie three times.  Start to finish. In one day.  Why? I was too tired to look for the remote. 

I’ve been slowly recouperating since Sunday.  I can now interact with people in a somewhat normal way.  I can leave my apartment for stretches of time.  I cooked for myself last night.  I change channels again. 

I’m not sure what happened.  I’ve been tired before, but never have my mind and body been in concert and so adamantly against any form of activity.  I hope it doesn’t happen again.  But if it does, I hope a good movie is on.

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Work and Friends

Today’s post is late.  I have an excuse.  I was at work until 10pm last night, and I’ve been here since 7:45 this morning. So, you see, no time to post.  And this will be a short one since I’m on my way out to another function.

This week, we’re having a consultation.  We’re bringing together all the people we’ve worked with to talk about what we’re learning.  It’s an incredible amount of work. From logistics, which get started months in advance, to the content, which is completed in the week leading up to the meeting.  It’s a lot of writing, a lot of planning and a lot of talking.

But, apart from all the work, it’s an incredible amount of fun.  My friends from Norway, Cambodia, Indonesia, Madagascar and other places are all in town.  I’m awash in hugs, kisses and warm greetings.  I’m also meeting new people.  Names I’ve heard, people I’ve emailed, but faces I’ve never seen. 

It’s a great experience, and a fantastic opportunity to spend time with some of the smartest, most capable and funniest people I’ve ever met.  So you see why I have to go now to see them again.

good night all!

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Naked Ambition

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for awhile now.  In fact, I wrote myself a note and left it on my desk.  I cleaned off my desk on Friday, and found the note, so now’s a good time to write this all out because to be honest, I had no idea what else I would write this week anyway.  But it’s also appropriate to tell this particular story now, because it took place on Memorial Day Weekend four years ago.  This is one of those stories that sticks with you, and the memory of it is so vivid, it could have taken place this weekend. 

The Scene:  Warm, sunny, Memorial Day, 2007.  Robert Moses State Park, Long Island, New York

My friends, Tim and Jen, and I drove out the the beach early, and grabbed a good spot for our blanket: close-ish to the car, the concession stand and the bathrooms.  Tim was recovering from an Achilles Tendon injury, so walking on sand wasn’t easy for him.  But, he was a great sport and played paddle-ball with us through the morning.   We sat in the sun through the morning and into the afternoon.  The early-day clouds cleared a bit and the sun was strong.    Jen and I decided to go for a walk down the beach.  Tim, because of his injury and because someone had to, volunteered to stay with our stuff.

Jen and I walked down the beach talking and joking.  We walked through a mostly empty section of the beach and then back into a busier section.  There was something different about this particular busy section of beach: everyone was naked.  We continued to walk and talk, and I was silently thankful that my sunglasses disguised what must have been some incredibly rude staring.  I tried to stay facing forward and not gape.  And, to be honest, these were not the best beach bodies I was surrounded by.   About this time, we noticed there was a man, naked, walking a few yards ahead of us.  He turned around:

“Hey, do you guys mind if I walk with you for a little while?”

“Um…..”  Seriously, what do you say to that?  “I guess not.” We didn’t want to be rude to the nude stranger.  He seemed perfectly pleasant, and it was clear that he was not concealing a weapon. 

The naked stranger, whose name turned out to be Bill, joined us and walked us through the finer points of nude beach-going in New York.  Turns out, according to Bill, it is perfectly legal to be naked on National Park beaches, but on State Park beaches (like Robert Moses) you have to wear a suit, at least a bottom, you can go topless anywhere (again, according to Bill, I make it a rule not to fact-check the pantsless).  Bill demonstrated his willingness to follow the law when we crossed back into another State beach, he put his swim trunks on (seemingly from nowhere, seriously, to this day I have no recollection of him holding a swim suit when we met).  When we crossed back into the National Park, he asked, “do you mind if I take my suit off?” “At this point, why would we mind?  You were naked when we met, Bill.”

Bill chatted us up about our jobs briefly, before starting to talk about his new business:  an at-home spa services company.  They did massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and other spa treatments for parties and groups in people’s homes, hotel rooms, etc.  It sounded a bit sketchy to me, just this side of an escort service.  But the more Bill explained, the more legit it sounded.  After awhile, we turned around and headed back toward Robert Moses.  Bill again donned and de-donned his suit again as we passed through State Park territory.  When we got back to the place we had met him, he ran to his bag, and got out his business cards and some laminated sheets detailing the services his company provided. 

We shook his hand, said goodbye and walked back to Tim. 

We’d been gone about an hour, and in that time, the tide had come in, and poor Tim had to drag all of our stuff up the beach with his injured leg.  We apologized and told him why we’d taken so long.  He laughed, we gathered our things, got an ice cream, and headed home. 

In the car on the way back, it struck me:  Bill was giving us a sales pitch!   Who could forget something a naked man told you on a beach?  So simple, yet so brilliant.  If you’re interested in at home spa services, I know a guy.  He may or may not be wearing pants.

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My diamond shoes are too tight

Every day, a man prays to win the lottery.  He does good deeds, he’s a good person and he prays really hard.  Weeks and months and years go by, and his prayers are unanswered.  Finally, one night, instead of praying to win the lottery, he asks God why he hasn’t won yet.  God ends his years of silence by saying, “You never bought a ticket.”

I don’t usually buy lottery tickets, the 1 in 200 million odds just aren’t enough to motivate me to shell out my dollar.  But I do dream about what I would do and buy with that kind of money.  Of course, my dreams, as ever, are tempered by practicalities.  It would be the amount after taxes, after all.  And my spending habits would depend on whether I decided to take the lump sum payment or the annualized amount.  I’d probably opt for the lump sum, do some investing and only pay taxes on my interest, in case you were wondering. 

I would quit my job.  Lots of people wouldn’t and I understand, but I don’t think I could focus on my work if I was dreaming of my 5pm-9am life of luxury.  I’d buy a couple of houses.  One in New York City, a nice town house in Brooklyn or the Upper West Side.  I wouldn’t live there full-time, so I’d see if my friends wanted to stay there, keep it up and enjoy a rent-free life. 

I’d buy our lake house from my father and his brother, tear it down and build my dream house there.  A Craftsman style home, with a big patio, outdoor kitchen and big windows to watch the water from. 

I’d take a luxury vacation and I’d bring my favorite people with me.  We’d spend the first day getting pampered in the spa, fresh haircuts, new clothes.  Then we’d dance and party and swim (or ski, depending on where we went) and have a grand time for a few weeks. 

I’d make some donations.  Some organizations do wonderful work, and I’d want to support that.

I’d start a business, something to fill my time, employ a few people and make my life fun and interesting.  Maybe I’d help my sister start a business for herself.  Get her the capital and start her off right. 

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.  So, I suppose I should buy a ticket already.

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May: A month with no weekends

A quick thanks to Sam for taking the Wednesday post off my hands.  I was sick (so her germ-based post was especially apropos) and I had completely forgotten that it was Wednesday–I took a long weekend so Tuesday was my Monday.  But, she jumped in like a champ when my concentration wasn’t strong enough to tackle three or four measly paragraphs. 

So it’s May.  The month has come and (nearly) gone so quickly.  It hasn’t helped that I’ve been indoors for the last seven days because of the rain; I’m a couch zombie this month.  But, when the weekends come, that’s my time to relax, rejuvenate and retravel to New Hampshire. 

This month, my weekends have been full.  Usually I go up north once a month or so.  I visit my family or go to the lake house, always taking advantage of the opportunity to do laundry for free.  But this month, it’s been EVERY WEEKEND. 

Weekend the first: May 7 and 8
May 8 was Mother’s Day, so that’s a no-brainer.  Of course, I went to see my mom and spend time with her. It’s also my sister’s birthday.  We had lots of fun, exchanging gifts and brunching and hanging out. 

Weekend the second: May 14 to 16
My cousin has two charming babies.  An almost two-year-old and a five month old.  These are very happy, pleasant children. The kind of children that make me scared to have kids because I’m afraid my own kids will be hellweasels, and it will be hard to make people like my kids as much as I like these kids.  I took a day off from work on Monday to spend some extra time with the kids (and to hopefully get some things done for myself like grocery shopping and cleaning my apartment, but those things were not to be).  It was, in reality, an excellent time. 

Weekend the third:  May 21 and 22
This coming weekend, I’m in a bit of a pickle, because technically, I could stay home, but pragmatically I need to go back to NH.  My cousin is graduating from college this weekend.  I’m not going, but there was talk that my parents would go.  My sister, thinking that I would be in Colombia told her roommate that she could “probably stay” at my apartment with her father and her brother because I’d be out-of-town.  Then, Colombia didn’t happen.  But, because my parent’s were going to the graduation, I figured I would come up and dog-sit for the weekend, so my apartment would be free.  I agreed to vacate my house.  To be clear: I don’t have a problem with people staying in my place.  I know and trust my sister’s roommate, and it’s a pleasure to be able to do this for them.  On Tuesday my mom called and said, “looks like you can stay home because we’re not going to the graduation after all!”  So I said, “but there will be people staying here, so I have to come up.”  Again. forever.

Weekend the Fourth: Memorial Day Weekend
It has yet to be confirmed, but I think this will be a lake weekend.  I want to start planting my garden up there, my dad wants to get a jump on some house improvements and I think they’re bringing the boat out of storage.  The long weekend is a good one for trips up to the lake, and there might even be a bbq.  I’m totally in for this.  Unfortunately, that will make five weekends in a row that I’m not home (I forgot to mention the last weekend in April, which was also a lake house weekend). 

No, the drive isn’t onerous.  Yes, I love being around my family.  But I have to start being where I live more.  I need to make my apartment nice and cozy.  I need to buy groceries.  I need to vacuum and scrub the tub.  I need to re-organize my kitchen cabinets.  These things won’t happen on week nights.  They just won’t.  I need a weekend, at my house, on my own. 

Oh, I’ll also be going up to drop the dog off the first weekend in June.

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