Tag Archives: adventure

Getting Stuck on The Road Less Travelled

roadI started this post over a week ago, shortly after The Embarrassing Incident (or EI, as it shall be known henceforth). I turned this tale inside and out, carefully rearranging the details to spin the story and cast myself as the hero. Or at the very least, the protagonist.

Who doesn’t want to be the power player in their own story? Except some days it doesn’t work like that. Some days you find yourself stranded in the snowy armpit of Where-The-Hell-Am-I, with no one to blame but yourself.

Or so I’ve heard.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve become somewhat of an expert at the whole lock-your-keys-in-the-car/run-out-of-gas/get-hopelessly-lost/breakdown/vehicle-catches-on-fire (twice!)/stuck-in-the-snow/mud/ditch phenomenon. I probably shouldn’t be allowed out unsupervised.

On the day of The EI, I had undertaken a solo road trip to meet up with one of my oldest, dearest friends. We had decided to meet up in the mountains halfway between our two cities. What better way to catch up than a brisk winter hike?

Long story short: iMaps, unmaintained logging road, panic, snow, ice, nowhere to turn around, more panic, “All Season” tires, flaky city driver (me), deeper snow… even my friend’s 4-wheel-drive SUV was having trouble – my little red car didn’t stand a chance. Shannon seemed unphased and shrugged knowingly. She’s been around long enough to be completely unsurprised by my misadventures. Not exactly the years-in-the-making, once-in-a-blue-moon reunion I had pictured.

But here’s me, solidly stuck in the middle of nowhere. Nothing we did helped. Not the ice scrapers, digging, car mats, wheel turning, feats of car-pushing strength… Stuck.

I haven’t prayed so urgently in a long time. Before each new attempt… “Please Lord, rescue me. Don’t let this day be ruined. Save me from the tow bill and the humiliation and having to call Glen with yet another guess-what-I-did-now story…”

After an hour, we gave up. We began making our way back down the mountain (WITHOUT the little red car). There goes the day.

Until salvation came bombing up the road wearing coveralls astride two large, noisy ATVs. In less than 10 minutes, these hearty locals had me out of the rut and on my way back down the mountain. Like it was nothing.

Once again, I was rescued. I always am. Somehow God provides. And people step up – kinder and more helpful than I expect. It shouldn’t surprise me so much each time.

I much prefer being the rescu-er, than the rescu-ed. “Here I come to save the day!” tastes so much better than “Help!” And that’s a problem.

It’s good to give, no doubt, but it’s important to receive also. Either side without the other is unhealthy. Without a balance we aren’t truly participating… in family. In community. In church. In humanity.

A facade of independence and competence and keeping-it-all-together-all-the-time keeps people at arm’s length. My friendship with Shannon has survived (and flourished) over two decades, not because of proximity or circumstance or chemistry, but for all the times we’ve waded into the deep to rescue each other.

All my intimate relationships have grown in the messy, needy, bumpy parts of life. As we reach out to rescue or be rescued, we may not get a quick fix or any kind of solution at all. Sometimes our rescue comes in the form of a safe person to talk to. Or tell us when we’re wrong. Or take the kids during a crisis. Or cry with and for each other. Or spend a precious kid-free day driving for hours and pushing a stupid red car out of the stupid snow.

So here’s me, grateful to the Cameron family for rescuing me, to Shannon for grown up conversation, to Glen for going to the DoodleBops concert so I could have the day… and especially to all of you who keep rescuing this damsel in distress. I hope I can return the favour from time to time.


37 Reasons to Celebrate

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me!

I sound just like one of my kids (B still wishes herself a happy birthday months later). By my age, most women are less enamored with the birthday process than I. They ignore, complain, avoid or simply celebrate “29” year after year. I’ve never understood that.

I’m not gonna lie. I do feel older. And not in the gee-I’m-so mature-and-sophisticated-and-sure-of-myself way. In the I’ve-never-felt-so-tired-and-out-of-touch-and-wth-is-that-cracking-noise-my-knees-are-making way. It doesn’t help that when asked, my husband tells people we are “almost 40” and reminds me that “by his calculations, our lives are nearly half over.” Such a ball of sunshine, that man.

BUT, and this is a big but,

(if you just heard Sir-mix-a-lot singing in your head, that’s a sign you are getting old, too)

I wouldn’t trade it. Not for extra time or a younger body or even the ability to start over. Because it’s been a good life and it’s only getting better. God has blessed me with an embarrassment of riches.

He does it so I can spread it around, make the world better, but also, enjoy what I’ve been given.

So Happy Birthday to me!

At the beginnning of the year I chose One Word to represent this year: DREAM. And though I chafed at the cheesiness of the word itself and the project, it’s forced me to see how powerful they can be. I have so many great dreams. And even though I may not achieve every one (especially all my travel dreams), each one is a reason to celebrate and look forward. It’s not the years under my belt that matter, it’s the ones still to come.

37 DREAMS for the years to come:

  1. Catch a fish.
  2. Try scuba diving.
  3. Write a Novel.
  4. Watch the Hobbit and all 3 LOTR in one sitting.
  5. Tour Europe.
  6. Publish a book.
  7. Watch the Anne of Green Gables play in Prince Edward Island.
  8. Go hang gliding.
  9. Snorkle on the Great Barrier Reef.
  10. Get a blog post on “Freshly Pressed.”
  11. See Les Miserables.
  12. Go on an African Safari.
  13. Finish my Psychology degree.
  14. Spend a weekend in New York City.
  15. Kayak with the whales.
  16. Walk the Cinque Terre (Italy).
  17. Attend a blogging conference.
  18. Visit my sister in Boston.
  19. Speak to a large audience about something I’m passionate about.
  20. Road trip with each of my children (one-on-one).
  21. Learn to crochet.
  22. Celebrate our 20th anniversary in Mexico.
  23. Eat chocolate cake for breakfast
  24. Ride a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs (Venice).
  25. Spend a weekend by myself, in silence.
  26. Take a painting class.
  27. Make my own salsa.
  28. Take the boy to Disneyland.
  29. Tour Israel.
  30. Lead the cheering section each time one of my children graduates/gets married/performs/gives a speech/wins an award/cures cancer…
  31. Go to Comic-Con.
  32. Go on an overnight white water rafting/camping trip.
  33. Reach my ideal weight (and stay there).
  34. Get a PhD.
  35. Become a Grandma.
  36. Ride a motorcycle.
  37. Celebrate our 50th anniversary with all our family.

So here’s me, tooting my own horn. Kind of obnoxious, but it’s my party so I’ll write what I wanna.

What about you? What dreams are on your bucket list? As soon as I cross a few of these off, I’ll need to add some more…

Snot at the Fair

I’m sorry, okay. Consider this a blanket apology on behalf of my entire family to the world at large. Or at least everyone who attended the Fair yesterday.

For the germs.

For the snot.

For the coughing and sneezing and general whininess.

And the kids were even worse!

I swear, we were on the mend when we decided to make our way to the Fair at the PNE. Pretty much. Close enough. Because Dad being able to take a weekday off entirely AND the cousins planning to go that same day AND incredibly wonderful benefactors arranging for 2 of our 6 tickets to be free… are all goliath-sized motivators in our household.

So, we dosed them all up with Tylenol Cough and Cold. We brought water and fruit and our absolute faith that rides and mini donuts and as-seen-on-tv-kiosks and mini donuts and rigged carnival games and, yes, still more mini donuts are worth all the effort.

Rides are a new experience for our boy. From his perspective it seems to go something like this:

  • watching from behind iron bars while other children do something fun (not cool)
  • climbing onto a large contraption that smells, feels and IS a completely Strange and Unusual Experience (also not cool)
  • something’s happening, there is movement and this May Possibly Be Fun
  • after a full minute of Possible Fun it becomes clear that this is The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened To Him and He Never Ever Wants It To End
  • at which point the ride ends and we pry his fingers from the bar and drag our devastated toddler to the next round

Poor kid. He was a confusing mass of excitement, exhilaration and disappointment all day. But he loved the donuts.

B spent the day coveting every painted face she saw. Particularly the kitty-cats. It was cute when she meow-ed and pretended to groom the lady sitting beside us in the shade. But all day we distracted her from her quest to get “a kitty…uhhh… MY cheek.” Because history has taught us that face painting is Not Her Thing. And I hate, hate, hate paying for that sort of thing. If only I had some eyeliner and lipstick in my purse, I could have done it myself. Cause I’m that kind of mom (I was thinking inventive, but yes, cheap is also accurate). She had as hard a day as anyone. Waiting is hard for her and she was tired and feeling sick and more than anything she just wanted her very own cat on her cheek. On our way out of the park we finally gave it a shot. And she sat as still as I have ever seen her while the lady painted a little white cat with pink sparkles on her cheek. And she danced all the way to the van. By the time we got home, it was smudged beyond recognition. Still, it was the best $3 we spent that day.

C is FINALLY tall enough for the big kid rides. At 10, this has been a long time coming, and she is a whole 2 inches over the 48″ cutoff. So, we tried a number of the big rides (for which my husband considers me a hero, despite the fact that I usually love them even more than the kids, except not so much with a head cold and a fever, so I will hang onto hero status with both hands). She loved almost everything. Except the boat. She did NOT like the boat. And she wanted to get off it almost immediately. And it seemed to go on and on as I coached her through it and held her close and assured her it would be over soon. I felt like the worst parent ever born since I was the one who convinced her to try it. This is a girl who loves the coasters and the dropping elevator rides, but NOT the boat. She talked through the whole experience, expressing exactly how she felt and what she wanted and what she Never Ever Wanted To Do Again. Apparently all those “use your words” talks are paying off. What a trooper.

L is too tall for the elephant ride. And the mini cars. And the boats. So basically, a gigantic hulk of a child. Or a willowy preteen and we just have trouble admitting it. With her out of the mix, there were quite a few rides which were out of the question for our littles. Although when the mood is right, B is quite capable. And when it isn’t, she needs a good deal of coaxing and encouraging and holding onto her so she doesn’t leap from the still-moving ride. We miss our helper-girl. Though the helper-young-woman is pretty cool too. Plus, she likes to go on all the rides with her mom.

The Dad, well, he’s a hero because he spent a lot of money (not his favourite thing, at all), and he held the bags and entertained the littles and even used the baby change room on his own more than once. The only ride he likes is the log ride. Which is yet another reason why we are a perfect match. Because I’m NOT a fan of wet underwear.

So here it is; the moral of the story. The wisdom we have gleaned during this great adventure:

Enjoy every moment, for they are fleeting. The ride is over before you know it.

Have patience; don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient ,you only start to worry. Remember that God is patient too, and think of all the times when others have to wait for you (as sung in my head over and over again today thanks to one of my very first records “Music Machine”. Yes, record, as in vinyl. Sigh, I’m so very old… and cheesy).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly:

Fishy crackers are always the answer. Always.

So here’s me: my feet hurt, my nose is runny, and it is clear that this head cold is here for the long haul, BUT I’m glad we went. People like us are the reason hand sanitizer is a good idea in public places. So sorry.

Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

Blanche Dubois, a character in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, is NOT my ideal woman. I’ve always thought she was pretty much an idiot. As she is led off to a mental institution, bewildered and weak, she spouts her famous line “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

Apparently, she’s not the only one.

This afternoon I made a crucial error. I bumped the car door as I got out to fill it up with gas. Which apparently locked it. With the my keys inside. And my bag. And my phone. And my sanity!!!!

I was on my way to pick up my kids from school. Glen was unreachable. I felt the panic rising… What am I going to do? Who am I going to call? Why does my Dad have to live so far away?

The gas station attendant barely spoke english. Poor guy couldn’t understand what this crazy lady was babbling about. Each time I tried to explain the situation, he would ask if I wanted a receipt with that.

Using the international language of charades I managed to communicate my need for a phone and called the school to let the administration know that: I was a loser, and deadbeat parent, and had NO idea how or when I could get to the school to pick my kids up, and p.s. I’m kind of freaking out.

The school secretary was calm and understanding. She assured me everything would be fine; they would sort things out.

Thank you Mrs. L for being a friendly voice when I needed it most!

A young couple overheard my frantic call and witnessed my rather undignified mime to the clerk. They offered to help.

My new friend Nick rummaged through his van full of tools with a capable air. In one of my most unfeminist moments, ever, I let out a sigh of relief that a man had come to save me. Though, to be honest, a handywoman would have been every bit as welcome as a handyman.

When nothing seemed to work, they drove me home to fetch a wire coat hanger and waited while I pounded on the door and yelled “It’s MOM!”, trying to convince my at-home-sick eldest that just this one time she should come open the door. Back at the station, we spent another 1/2 an hour trying every trick in the book to jimmy the lock. I had never met these two before and maybe I never will again, but for that 1 hour, they were my best friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Nick and Megan!

Trying to break into a distraught lady’s car works like catnip for the macho-protector type. Guy in the blue hoodie, chef from the nearby Sushi restaurant, grey haired man in a sedan… they flocked to me, eager to weigh in on the process. Some tried their hand at my fishing-for-the-lock-with-a-coat-hanger game. It reminded me of that claw arcade game or something from a carnival. Step right up, for the ultimate test of skill and manliness! Sadly, much like the fair, no one can actually win this game.

Thank you random strangers for trying, anyway!

 Meanwhile, in the gas station, shift change (thank goodness). As I approached the woman my slow, deliberate speech probably seemed somewhat obnoxious and faintly racist. Especially considering her english was every bit as good as mine; probably better, since at this point I was pretty flustered. She didn’t blink as I made something like 27 calls on their phone – to the school, to my daughter, to the only friend’s number I could remember…

What? I don’t need to remember that kind of stuff. I have an iPhone, SO that I can have immediate access to every number I’ve ever called, tweet about the situation in real-time and keep Facebook posted on every boring detail. You know, for the times when I don’t lock the stupid thing IN THE CAR!

Thank you gas station lady for letting me tie up your phone lines!

Not only did the SEAs and teachers supervise my children during this time, they managed to unearth an old booster seat and drive them home. What’s more, we now have a poster coloured during this after school session which can commemorate this special time forever.

Thank you already overworked, underpaid teaching staff for going above and beyond the call of duty!

Despite the seemingly unending line of car-thieves-in-training, I decided to call BCAA. But apparently the membership is under my husband’s name. And he has to be there. With the card. And I can’t reach him.

Unfeminist moment #2, as I tell my sad story, beg for help… and cry. Like a pathetic, helpless girl who really wants her husband to rescue her. Or her Dad. Or MacGyver, ’cause I’m sure he could get me out of this with a toothpick and a piece of lint.

Anyway, the crying thing… totally works.

 Thank you soft-hearted man at the other end of the phone!

As I waited for the locksmith, it occurred to me, I didn’t have my wallet with me. Instead, it was by the front door. In my other purse. At home. Another fine move, on an already stellar day.

I was told I would need to provide ID, proving I was at least the WIFE of an account holder. Now, in a rational moment I would have thought: oh well, what are they going to do to me if they open the car and I don’t have the ID right there? Lock it all back up again? Sue me? Raise their eyebrows? Speak to me sternly?

All terrifying prospects, so I started calling my one phone friend, again (btw, sorry for all the messages/hang ups on your answering machine, you shouldn’t have such a memorable phone number if you want privacy and stuff). She was able to swing by my house and bring me my wallet.

Thank you G, for bailing me out! As usual! Please don’t ever, ever, ever change your number.

Now we get to the really EXCITING part of the story. The locksmith came and I recognized him. I played it cool, because he was obviously working hard to be incognito. He popped open that door in 20 seconds flat. He assured me it happens to everyone, which is what we call a “kind lie” in our house. He asked if my kids were okay. He told me not to worry.

He was slightly more svelte than I expected and he had shaved off his beard. But I recognized him: the white hair, the moustache, the rosy cheeks, the slightly German accent, the fatherly glow, the jolly… I’m sure it was him.

Thank you Santa-in-coveralls, for saving me. And my phone. And my sanity!

It’s easy to be cynical these days. In a world of Amber alerts, sex offenders and identity theft, strangers usually seem like a threat. We’ve had our credit card info stolen 3 times in the past few years. Our car has been broken into even more often than that. We’ve called the cops twice since we moved to this town; once because a man was being beaten senseless in our driveway. There are a lot of creeps out there.

But, if nothing else, today proved that there are a lot of good people in the world too!

So here’s me, not my finest moments… but I’m happy to know that the kindness of both friends and strangers is pretty reliable when I need it most.

When have you had to rely on strangers?

Also, any stories about locking yourself out? 

That helps me feel less stupid, or at least less lonely in my stupidity…

The First Day of School

After 17 years out of the classroom I returned to school as a “Mature” student this January (they keep insisting that I’m mature, and I’m not going to tell them any different). It was equal parts terrifying and exciting. It sure has given me a better understanding for what my children went through when they started at a new school after years of homeschooling. Of course, I was lurking the parking lot, so it’s not like they were really alone.

Today my Life Writing professor returned this piece I wrote at the beginning of the year. As I look back on how I felt it seems a bit silly, but fears often are. It doesn’t make them any less real.

My First Day of School

I hemmed and hawed. Red, black, blue… heck, I even have purple. How are they doing it these days? It’s the computer age now, perhaps the entire argument is moot? Do they even use ink pens in University?

As all the boys and girls come to class with their laptops, netbooks and iPads, I will sit at the back of the room clutching a handful of ballpoint pens and all the courage I can muster in my sweaty hands. Is a look-of-sheer-panic “in” or “out” this season? I’ll need to see what Teen Vogue has to say on the subject.

It’s been 17 years since I’ve been in the classroom as anything other than the guest speaker or class Mom. I’m not sure what to expect and that terrifies me. Usually I’m the one doling out comfort and reassurance, lectures about “Behaviour I Expect” and advice on how to make new friends.

Who’s going to hold my hand on the first day of school?

So here’s me, months later and a veteran student. Turns out my friend Beth was in my classes. I tried to get her to hold my hand, but she insists on taking notes. I made new friends along the way. They didn’t hold my hand either, but I’m okay with that now. 

Make the Day Special

I used to LOVE Professional Development Days. No holiday parades, no special traditions, nothing to celebrate… just a regular, old Monday to the rest of the world, but a special treat for me. Perhaps it is a sadistic streak, but somehow it seemed MORE fun to have a day off of school when all the adults still had to work.

*Maniacal laugh. *Maniacal laugh.

Now the tables are turned.

Until today, I have had a flexible schedule and we usually manage to find something fun and special to do on Pro-D days. But now, I have a class I cannot miss, a husband who works in the city and very little patience for this crimp in my routine. We juggled and rearranged and made it work somehow, but I wasn’t exactly feeling the “special day” vibe.

The Everyday

This morning I rushed home from class, wrestled B onto the potty, obsessed about my upcoming Psych paper, debated the merits of wearing pants, lectured on completing homework BEFORE the very last minute, finally got everyone INTO pants, and pulled together lunch for three picky eaters (okay, fine, four picky eaters, but I’m the cook so it’s my right).

Suffice it to say, I felt naps all around would be a fun and special way to enjoy the day.

But they wanted an adventure. They wanted to DO something. They wanted to spend time with me. They were even willing to get out of the house and get some fresh air to do it.

If you have indoor kids like mine, who generally prefer reading, puzzles, crafts, talking on the phone, drawing… basically anything that doesn’t require them to get dirty or break a sweat, you know that you have to capitalize on these moments. It’s rare that I don’t have to force it. I like to set the timer: 1/2 – 1 hour and they are not to come back in until it is over. Sometimes they get into the spirit of things and forget to sneak back in, but all too often the time is spent staring mournfully through the sliding glass door and counting down the seconds. Huck Finn, eat your heart out!

Some of you may think I’m making this up. I’m not. While you are bribing and pleading and cajoling your children to read or sit still for just a few minutes, I’m doing the opposite. We all have our crosses to bear.

Fortunately, I understand this quiet/bookworm/homebody thing. After all, they probably get it from me.

But, I’m a grown up now. I know that it is good for everyone to get some exercise. I know we must enjoy every precious non-rainy moment the Pacific Northwest has to offer. I know we’ll feel better and they will fight less. So, I set aside my brilliant “napping” plan.

The Adventure

Today’s adventure consisted of a trip to a local playground and some geocaching in our neighbourhood (geocaching is like an online treasure hunt with GPS co-ordinates to follow). As we set out there were high spirits, joking and singing. And then there was me, dragging my feet and cursing the composer of the Duck song. “Heeeey! Bum, bum, bum.. Got any grapes?” If I never hear it again, it will be too soon.

With the offspring happily playing at the park, I did what any modern mother would do. I whipped out my iPhone and started checking up on the world. I could hear them laughing in the background as I clicked links on Facebook. An amazing article on a blog called Enjoying the Small Things.

It was uplifting. It said, “pay attention to what matters most.” It was inspiring. It reminded me to… Dance. Laugh. Enjoy each moment.

That’s when it hit me – I suck.

At life. Today, I suck at life.

Here I am, in a rare moment of sunshine, in the middle of the day, with my happy children who are actually enjoying each other. Instead of appreciating it, I am counting down the minutes until I can get back home to “get stuff done.” Instead of jumping in, I am huddled off to the side fiddling around with my iPhone, reading about other people’s lives.

I felt myself blush as I clicked off my phone, looking around to see if anyone caught my moment of personal douchebaggery.

If so, I hope they stuck around to see this middle-aged lady catch some serious air on the swings. Also, riding the see-saw for the first time in several decades. My almost 12-year-old can actually hold her own against me, though I’m pretty sure I bruised my butt. Just like the mature, dignified woman my parents raised me to be.

We hiked for blocks and blocks to find a new cache at the Royal Legion, which gave birth to a great discussion about veterans, memorials and death. We found a coin from the Rotary Club and talked about serving others.

We picked up sticks.

We crunched through leaves

We sang the Muppets theme song.

We made the day special.

I spend a lot of time feeling like I am the one serving my children; that motherhood is another duty on a long list of things to do. Today they reminded me that life is for living. While the rest of the schmucks slogged their way through ordinary, for those few hours I really lived.

I don’t think I need to wait for another Pro-D day to do it either.

So here’s me, do-do do-do-do, do do-do do… Mahna Mahna!

Everyday Adventures

20111116-225159.jpgWe almost gave up. The wind was picking up and I could feel the damp seeping into my wool socks. We had slid down icy embankments, skirted the semi-frozen river and scrambled up the snowy hillside half a dozen times. All we had to show for it was frozen fingers and scratches from the thorny branches.

While their baby sister cried from the cold, the two big girls started bickering and I began to seriously question whether I was even fit to parent. I know Glen was wondering the same thing. Whether it was kindness or survival instinct that prevented him from voicing it I will never know, but I could see it in his eyes. This expedition into the snowy wilderness had been my idea… for fun… on our holiday.

Then it happened! The moment that changed this train wreck of a morning into a cherished family memory. Stories will be told through the ages about the greatness of this moment. It will long be lauded in poetry and song.

She found it! Nestled amongst the roots of an evergreen in the middle of the forest. A small weather-proof tube wrapped in green duct tape. C has an uncanny ability for finding things, and she cemented her place in family legend by finding our very first cache.

I have always wanted to try geocaching, and for some reason a trip to the mountains in the middle of winter seemed like an ideal time. We have tagged along with friends before, but this was our first attempt at the hobby. Basically, it’s a treasure hunt using a GPS and co-ordinates you can find on the internet. (Or, download a totally cool app onto your totally cool iPhone and it will walk you through the whole process.) Enthusiasts have hidden caches of all kinds all over the world. When you find one, you sign the log, take a “treasure” and leave a token of your own behind.

A small plastic frog is hardly booty to write home about, but to my kids it has inestimable worth. We did that! Together! Against all odds! Through rugged terrain (if you’re 7-years-old) in a harsh climate (if you are a west coast wimp like us), undertaking the daunting task of navigation with a team leader who has the directional ability of a… (what is something really dumb?).

We were so excited, we decided to keep going. While Glen and B went back to the cabin to prepare hot chocolate and compliments for my brilliant, brilliant idea, we found two more caches. The girls and I have caught the bug!

Why do something as mundane as take a walk, when you can hunt for hidden treasure? It may seem a bit silly, but that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes we get so caught up in the serious business of living that we forget that adventure lurks around every corner.

Suddenly, getting lost is a chance to explore a strange new land. Who knows what you may find? I explore a lot. See above re: directional ability.

My mom used to say that only boring people get bored. I may have repeated this a time or two thousand to my own kids. I think it’s time I took my own advice. Life is mundane only when I forget to look for the magic and the miracles.

So here’s me, finding treasures in normal life.

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