Thursday, November 18, 2010

Counting Blessings in Crisis

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done

These are the words to one of my favorite hymns that are helping me pull through here.  I'm definitely feeling tempest-tossed and discouraged.  We were supposed to close on our house in Odgen a couple days ago but now, while they're making no promises, they're saying there's a chance we can close on the house tomorrow.  Since we've got lots of help to load the truck tomorrow night and we've planned to move in on Saturday and the kids are supposed to start at their new school in Ogden on Monday, we're feeling just a tad bit stressed about this situation.  Plus a few more surprise issues have popped up with the house we're buying which doesn't help things any.  And wow, packing and saying goodbyes has totally knocked me out mentally, emotionally and physically.  Plus I've had a hard time sleeping and sleep has everything to do with my moods and ability to deal with stress.

As I talked with Jared last night about all the worries and work I've got on my plate and the fact that I'm feeling stretched to the breaking point, he helped me remember this whole counting blessings thing.  Plus he told me to just go to bed.  As my mom always said "everything's always better in the morning."

The sleep thing was so-so (I kept waking up worrying about things).  But the counting blessings thing is really helping.  I'm finding that as I think of a worry, I can usually counter it with a blessing.  Certainly, the stress is still there.  But throwing in some gratitude and the happiness that comes from gratitude sure helps.

Here are some of the wonderful blessings we do have right now:
  • Jared's arm is healing quite well and he hasn't had the complications that so many have in his situation.  He could have been hurt SO much worse given the fall he had - only his elbow was affected.  Plus we've been blessed with good doctors and a whole week to be together last week thanks to the injury - we needed that week together.
  • Our kids are at such easy and fun stages right now.  They're sweet and interesting and smart and cute and while they certainly have their issues, we are so blessed to be their parents and so blessed to have them all at pretty ideal ages for making this transition.
  • We've got great renters lined up who can cover the costs nicely on this home plus who will take very good care of it and really enjoy it.
  • We're moving into a really different and exciting house and it's always fun for me to "play house" as I arrange furniture in new places and figure out where to put things.  Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to live in an old house.  I get my wish.
  • Jared and I both have such wonderful families who are so supportive of all that we do.  While most of them live far away and can't help much with moving or that sort of thing, they call us and pray for us and do all they can and that is such a blessing.  Plus I've got my parents and Jared has 2 brothers in Salt Lake City who can help us move in and that's a huge huge blessing.
  • Jared has a good new job with a good paycheck attached.  He's challenged and he's doing great work and there's great hope for things to improve for us financially.
  • We got over 160 entries to our Power of Moms writing contest for this book we're putting together.  Pretty much all entries came with an email thanking us for giving them a chance to express their thoughts and for giving them a deadline to write up things they've had on their minds.  Moms wrote in the wee hours of the night while their kids were sleeping, while bouncing a baby on their knee, while nursing a baby, in between story times and carpools, you name it.  It's such a blessing to see something I've helped spearhead prove to be such a blessing in other people's lives plus such a blessing to get so much wonderful material for our book!
  • A really nice woman from church showed up with dinner for us last night - just when we were feeling the most discouraged about things.  She not only brought delicious soup and bread but also brought ice cream and cereal and milk for breakfast and some great snacks.  The kids were over the moon and I saw Heavenly Father reaching down and giving me a hug through this sweet woman.
  • While we've been living on a tiny budget for ages and all the extra expenses with moving and now with Jared's arm have felt pretty burdensome, we've always had enough to eat and we've been able to always pay our mortgage and we've found plenty of good free fun things to do and our family has grown closer through not being involved in things that cost money and generally take away from family time to some degree.
  • We know we have a Father in Heaven who loves us and has a plan for us and He'll help things work together for our good (although it may not always feel good at the time...).  I keep thinking of the words to one of the songs the kids sang in the primary program on Sunday, "Wrapped in the arms of the Savior's love, I feel his gentle touch, I did not see him or sit on his knee, but Jesus is Real to me.  I know he's real.  I will follow faithfully.  My heart I give to him.  I know that my Savior loves me."  What a blessing this knowledge is!  But how hard it can be to remember this in the midst of hard stuff!
OK, I'm getting back to packing but wanted to start the day off right by really thinking about at least a few of the many many blessings I have.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The End of an Era

We've got friends coming to load up all our stuff Friday evening and we're taking off on Saturday morning.  This still doesn't seem real - probably partially because I haven't really delved deeply into packing.  And yes, I should be packing now rather than blogging.  But as we reach this end of an era (those last 4 words brought tears, darn it), I just have to bottle up some memories - and blogging will do that somewhat.

Yesterday the primary program was beautiful - after some sketchy moments in practice, everything really came together and the kids were all so cute. Now I can check off my last big responsibility here in St George.  My job during the program was to stand next to the chorister and hold up signs to help the kids remember the words plus encourage them to smile and to sing louder.  The kids and primary teachers got to watch me gesticulate and make wild facial expressions as I tried to help keep everyone on task (would have probably made a pretty hilarious video).  Of course, the volume wasn't nearly what it was in rehearsal - nothing like a real performance to quiet most kids down - other than the twins - those guys sang their little hearts out (slightly off-key).

After the program, as the kids watched a Bible story video as a reward for doing so well, I sat there looking at those cute kids, all bunched together on the floor, eating popcorn and enjoying the show.  I've taught Joy School to many of them.  Most of them have been in my home and some of them have been here practically every day at certain points in their lives.  I've been a Primary teacher to a dozen of them them.  I've worked with some of them through tough times.  I've watched them grow up for the past 5 years and watched their social skills and testimonies grow.  I love those kids.

Then I looked around at the Primary teachers and presidency, many of whom are my dear friends and many of whom have been such wonderful influences in my kids' lives.  Some of us have sort of followed each other around from working with the Young Women to working in Primary to running Joy Schools for our kids.  Great friendships grow from working together on things and working with each other's kids and sharing chunks of your life.  And that takes time.  Lots of time.  While I'll certainly take many friendships with me and will doubtless make wonderful new friends in this next stage of life, it's hard to leave the comfortable sweet spot of having good friends with shared history.

This morning I woke up to Oliver telling me his tummy hurt and could he snuggle with me.  We lay there together, half asleep, as the sun set the red mountains on fire.  Oliver said, "I'm going to miss those shiney red mountains."  I agreed wholeheartedly.  This stunning view from my bedroom window has started off my day right for almost 6 years now.


Today when I pulled in to the school parking lot to pick up the kids, about a dozen kids swarmed the car before I could even properly get into a parking spot.  Isaac's best friend, Eric pleaded for Isaac to come play and said how much he appreciated us visiting him at the hospital last week (he nearly died of pneumonia complicated by asthma).  As I sent Isaac off with him, he volunteered "You're always SO nice to me - thanks."  I love that kid.  He's so polite and just a good-as-gold kid.  We'll all miss him.  And I was just getting to know his wonderfully warm and kind mother - I've seen her at the school helping with various things for years but have only recently really got to know her thanks to our sons' recent best-friend status and her improving English.

Then the twins bounded into the car with their buddy - we'll call him Jack - who was coming home for a playdate.  Jack and the twins clicked from day one of Kindergarten and have been such cute friends and Jack is so cute about yelling "Hi Saren!" and giving me a big hug whenever I see him at school.  I wish I had more time to be a good friend to Jack's mom.  She's been through some really rough stuff herself (she was on drugs when she got pregnant with Jack and didn't even know who his father was) but said that Jack really saved her - she's got her life in order, found a good man to settle down with  and has two sweet little girls as well as Jack now.  She's so sincere and earnest and so interesting to talk to.

Then our friend Keisha showed up at my car window.  She and I chat every day for a while as she waits for her mom to come pick her up.  She's this very articulate and wonderful girl who's an only child and whose divorced mom works a couple jobs and often can't get there until late to pick her up.  Keisha produces amazing art for the Reflections art contest each year and once she got over trying to be Ashton's girlfriend in 3rd grade, she's become a very good friend to him and to our whole family.  She loves acting as a "big sister" to Eliza and the twins and she's always there after school to help round up the kids for me plus she fills me in on how everyone in her family is doing and what her latest writing or art project is.  We'll all miss Keisha.

Just as Keisha's mom pulled up, Ashton got finished with Safety Patrol and came around the corner, all smiles.  He's so loved being at the top of the school this year (5th grate is the top at their school).  He's loved the responsibility of doing safety patrol and has excelled in Choir and Orffestra (where they all play all these cool xylophones and other orff instruments).  At their fall concert last week, he and a friend played a pretty amazing solo and their music teacher, Ms. Hunt announced the number like this "Ashton and Wesley have come in early every day for weeks now to put this piece together.  They composed it themselves and I think it's every bit as good as any professional arrangement out there.  I'm just so proud of these boys and I'll miss Ashton so much" (that last part said through tears).  Oh how we'll miss Ms Hunt and the great musical foundation all the kids have thanks to her!  Plus Isaac has been going to after-school violin on top of the regular violin all 4th and 5th graders get to do at school and he's really taken off on that.  Both boys were playing me stuff on the violin last night and I got pretty sad that we won't have access to this super-convenient way to learn to play the violin anymore.
Here's Ashton with Ms Hunt and his duet partner, Wesley
After school our dear friends from up the street (their daughter Olivia and Eliza have been best friends since they were 2) brought us snowflake-covered cupcakes in honor of the weather we're headed for and set up a time to help us pack (hard to know what I really need - got to get going so I can have a better feel for what people can help with...).  Olivia and Eliza have been such a good match and Olivia's little sister has served great as a pseudo little sister for Eliza.
Eliza, Olivia and Asia - always dressing up and pretending
Then we went for a walk around the neighborhood because it's a beautiful day and wow, the golden leaves of the cottonwoods in the wash are amazing and the afternoon light on those red rocks is so so lovely.  As usual, the twins had to stop at the traffic circle by the upper gate that they call their ice cream stand.  There's a nice rock "counter" all set up there - I'm sure the landscape designer had something else in mind but it's just the right height for 5 year olds to stand behind and take the orders of every passing grown-up.  Then they rub sandstone rocks together and throw some leaves on top and present you with whatever it was that you ordered.  They can make anything from banana spits to brownie sundaes, you name it and they'll create it and present it to you with pride.  Imagination is a wonderful thing.

Then we ran into our neighbor Corinne with her two little boys and she confirmed that she's coming to help me pack up the kitchen tonight.  Oliver's had a huge crush on Corinne all year and Silas thinks she's pretty darn great as well.  She's one of those great people who really speak to little kids and treat them like they're important.  Plus she has three things we don't have that my kids really enjoy having access to via Corinne: an awesome dog, a super cute baby, and a Wii.

Now I'd really better get going on packing.  And dinner.  And a bunch of other stuff.  But I want to remember these "ordinary" things that are common parts of so many days, these things that will quite suddenly become uncommon.  This has been a good era.  We'll all miss it.  A lot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

If you're squeamish, don't look - really

So on Saturday Jared headed out for one last bike ride on one of his favorite black diamond trails here before we move next week.  He came home with his elbow looking like this.


He took a bad spill and in order to protect his wrists (he's broken a wrist before on his bike), he tucked in and tried to roll - like you're supposed to - but he ended up taking the full brunt of the fall on his elbow.  Ouch!

So we all hung out at the ER most of the day Saturday.  The kids were actually quite pleased about watching TV in the waiting room rather than conquering the mountain we'd picked out for our hike that day.  They're not always pleased as punch about our hiking expeditions - they love it when we get going but the lead up isn't always a bunch of excitement.

The x-ray showed crushed elbow bones - a few little pieces floating around in random places.  He was scheduled for surgery on Monday.


The surgeon wired everything together and said he "sort of had to cram some little chunks of bone into the places where there were big cracks" - didn't sound all that great to me but the doctor said the surgery went very well and things should heal up quite nicely.  In 6-8 weeks he can use his arm again.  In 4 months he'll have good mobility and can lift things safely.  In a year he'll be as good as he's going to get and should be pretty normal - other than the fact that he'll probably experience some early-onset arthritis.

Here's how Jared's elbow looks now on the inside (this is the other side of the arm - that's why it's backwards from the other xray above):



And on the outside:
Yes, those are staples and yes, it is that swollen.  The incision is like 8 inches long.
I purposely didn't make this photo very big.
Jared's recovery hasn't exactly been a breeze.  He had a hard time finding a pain medicine that worked well for him and had some rough after-effects of the anesthesia.  But he's doing better each day and it could have been much much worse.  We're so grateful for good doctors and modern medicine. We're glad we're on a health plan with a $3500 deductible instead of the much higher deductible we used to have.  We're all so grateful that we've been able to have Jared around this week - we haven't had more than 2 days together as a family in months.  Even with him sort of groggy and quite needy, his presence makes everything feel better around here.

But moving next week may be a bit of an issue with my strong-as-an-ox husband unable to lift anything.  We'll be calling in all favors here and quickly making new friends in Odgen!

I'm packing like crazy but it seems like I'm barely making a dent.  We finally got our house here rented to some great people who seem solid but who could pull out if the sale of their house doesn't go through.  And we're crossing our fingers that the sale of the house we're buying in Odgen will close this week as planned.

Send a few prayers our way if you feel so inclined.  We could use them.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The POWER of Moms Getting Together








There is serious POWER when moms gather to discuss the profession they hold dear and strengthen each other. I LOVED getting to know the amazing mothers who gathered in New Hampshire a couple weeks ago for our Power of Moms Retreat. And apparently they loved it to - their evaluations were full of words like "empowering," "life-changing," "revolutionary," "comforting and motivating at the same time," and "exceptional."  Nice to hear.  Very nice to hear!

On a personal level, I got lots of great new ideas from other moms on our main Retreat topics (building strong and positive family systems in a deliberate manner, taking care of the person inside the mom, organizing my time better...). But following are my personal biggest "ah-ha" moments from the weekend:

1.  I need margins in my life. My sister Saydi (so fun to have her as a co-trainer at this Retreat!) talked about how it's important to not only have boundaries (something I've been working on) but also to have margins - to build in extra space in our lives so that we have time to not only accomplish the most important things but to actually ENJOY our lives. It's often in the margins that some of the most precious parts of life can take place. Sometimes we can't have much by way of margins (like right now when I'm moving and have a few pressing projects for Power of Moms), but margin-less living should be the exception, not the rule.

2.  Choices are stressful and they can and should be controlled and pared down. We live in a world where we have literally 100's of choices about how to spend our time, what to buy, what to eat, what to wear, etc. In past generations, there were fewer choices. Studies have been done that indicate that people who have enough to eat and have good health but who have very limited choices in their lives (like the people in the little village in Africa where Jared and I did a service project years ago) are generally happier and more satisfied with their lives than those with tons of choices. We can eliminate or pare down many of our choices and that can really reduce stress.

We can decide to spend only 1/2 hour shopping for a new lamp on line, find the best one we can during that time period and then block out any further thought about that choice. We can come up with a regular menu for our meals and mostly stick with that so that we're not having to make as many choices at the grocery store or make choices about dinner during the time our kids are needing help with their homework. We can decide on a time that we'll get up every morning and stick with it (I re-evaluate almost every night what time I REALLY need to get up the next morning and it's so dumb). We can offer our children many chances to make decisions but keep the list of options involved in each decision short. We can decide what we're NOT going to to in general and then when an opportunity or request comes up, we can refer to our already-made decision on that overall issue (We don't do sleepovers with the kids - we don't have to evaluate and make a decision each time on that. I don't do crafty things like bulletin boards and cute gifts for teachers - I don't have to make a decision each time when something like that comes up...).

This lesson really helped me when it came to deciding on a new house in Ogden. We could have looked for months and analyzed every possible house on the market - and I sort of started off in that mode, spending chunks of time on line looking at houses and rentals and blocking out time whenever we were visiting Jared to house hunt. But a couple of weeks ago, we decided we'd done enough research and needed to stop being distracted by other options. The options were to buy the one house we'd found and that had "spoken" to us from the moment we saw it, forget buying and just rent in Ogden, or stay here in St George.

I spent a few hours researching rentals, Jared visited what looked like the best options and nothing felt right and there were precious few options in homes with more than 3 bedrooms. Plus renting would feel like we were simply prolonging the choice of where we really wanted to life, keeping that larger choice hanging over our heads. We decided to put that option aside.

We looked at the scenario of Jared working from home a week then at his office a week and extending what we're doing further. Not right for us. We need to be together and have a more normal family life quite soon.

So we just focused on buying this house. But even after we agreed on a price, there were still plenty of stressful choices involved - especially after the home inspector's report showed quite a long list of "little things" and a few biggish things that needed to be fixed. We made choices about what we'd accept and what we needed to make things move forward - and that was stressful. But doing one small choice at a time made it feel more manageable. And now we feel really at peace about this house and about making things happen as quickly as possible.

Anyway - that was a tangent - but I'm learning how to pare down my choices and I think that will really help to reduce the stress in my head.


To check out photos and other points of view on the Retreat - plus some great blogs - you can visit these blog posts by some of our Retreat participants:

Just FYI, in response to many requests, we're planning a large day-long Retreat this Spring in the Salt Lake City area. We'll announce dates and details as soon as we can. In the mean time, if you want to organize a Retreat for your area, let us know. We've got wonderful trainers in many parts of the country who can help make your Retreat dreams come true.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Simple Halloween




Halloween happened.  It wasn't super wonderful or anything really special this year - but it was nice, very nice.  Jared and I didn't host the adult Halloween costume party we've done every year for our friends for about 10 years - between my Boston trip and the impending move, it just couldn't happen.  I took the kids to get costumes and pumpkins the day after we got back from Boston (luckily they all opted for a few simple accessories to help supplement what we already had on hand - no one had any elaborate costume ideas this year - so grateful for that).  I went to the simple little Halloween parade they had at the school on Friday morning and we had the ward Halloween party on Friday night.  On Saturday we carved pumpkins, had our traditional black bean soup (the kids love the way the murky black soup looks with a "ghost" - a dollop of sour cream - on top and I love getting something healthy in them before all the sugar hits), trick-or-treated for an hour or so and ended up hanging out with another family for a while at the last house we visited.  That was it.

I felt bad at first that Halloween was just sort of squished between things this year and that we didn't do much.  But actually it was perfect.  The kids were totally and completely happy about everything and I was able to enjoy the few easy things that just sort of happened with little effort on my part.  Maybe this is the way Halloween should be.  I love the fun of dressing up but really, I think Halloween has turned into way too big a deal in general.

One thing that I don't love about Halloween is the plethora of sugar involved and the wildness and bad moods it brings on in my kids.  But we've been able to minimize that in the last couple years thanks to the Halloween Fairy. A few years ago, someone told me about this wonderful fairy who gathers up the candy that kids choose to leave in a bag on on their front porch (you know, the candy they were handed that they don't particularly like but would eat anyway if it were lying around) and leaves dollar-store-type puzzles and games and fun stuff in its place. I love how that fairy helps us get rid of some of the sugar my kids don't really want or need!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bobby Pins

We all have our little things that bug us and can make an otherwise nice time rather annoying or that can almost push us over the edge in an already-stressful moment.

For me lately, that "bug" in my life has been my hair.  A couple months ago I got a haircut that's pretty good in general but that somehow always involves a lock of hair falling into my face - like 10,000 times a day.  My long bangs are supposed to sort of swoop over to the side, creating a graceful, soft transition between face and hair.  But what really happens is that this clump of hair isn't long enough to stay behind my ear and is way too long to be hanging in my face.

I solved the problem with an artfully tucked bobby pin that holds the swoop in place.

But then I got down to my last bobby pin.

I kept track of that thing pretty well.  It sort of lost its grip but I bent it until it sort of still worked.  I started off a lot of days without my bobby pin but as the annoyance of hair-in-the-face built, I'd finally find a minute to go find that thing and stick it in.

But then I lost that one bobby pin at the tail end of my Boston trip and getting to the store to buy more just wasn't happening.  I've spent a week being mildly to majorly annoyed by my dumb clump of hair that would always fall in my face at the most inopportune moments.

Today I put the bobby pins at the top of the list and went to the store and and found the dumb things.  Spent a whole $1.30 on a pack of 60.  Probably should have bought two, just to be sure.

And now life is better.  It really is.  I can be much more patient with everyone and everything when my hair isn't in my face.  Sometimes very small things that we'd like to ignore and that really seem like they shouldn't matter really DO matter.  Sometimes a little fix goes a long long way.

My sister's "bug" is her pants falling down every time she bends over to do something (her prego belly isn't helping matters).  I committed her to finding some maternity pants that stay up.  What's your "bug"?  What dumb little thing is weighing you down and making you more easily annoyed and less patient than you want to be? What are you going to do about it?

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Cowboy Hero in Kanosh

So it's been a while, but 2 weeks ago, when the kids and I were traveling back from a weekend in  Salt Lake to see Jared and attend a bunch of meetings up there, we ran out of gas.

There are several long long stretches of nothingness between here and Provo. Usually the van will happily go on empty for like 30 miles or so.  But I was busy chatting on the phone with my dad and I didn't really notice when that little gas light first went on and when I did notice it, we were in the middle one of those stretches.  When we finally came upon a sign with that little picture of a gas tank on it, we took the exit and felt quite relieved.

But there was nothing in sight after we got off the exit - just a sign that said "Kanosh - 7 miles - services available."  The road to Kanosh headed in the opposite direction of where we were going and didn't follow the freeway.  Hmmm.  Should we take the road to Kanosh and hope we'd make it the 7 miles, realizing that if we ran out of gas we'd be in the total middle of no where on a tiny road with very little traffic?  Or should we continue on the freeway to the next town 14 miles away, realizing we probably wouldn't make it but there'd more likely be someone who could come along and help us on the freeway than on some tiny country road?  The kids and I talked about it (not exactly calmly - I was feeling a bit panicy) and decided to try for Kanosh.

We drove 6 miles - no lights in sight - did Kanosh really even exist?  Would it indeed have a gas station?  Would it be open at 8pm at night?  Uh oh, the car was slowing down. Everyone was silent.  Slower and slower.  Then we stopped.  And there we were, smack dab in the middle of a totally deserted road in the middle of nowhere as far as we could tell.  Hmmmmm.

So we used GPS to figure out that we were 1.2 miles from Kanosh.  We decided we'd better get the car off the road.  Ashton steered (took the job very seriously and felt pretty cool about it) while the twins rode and Liza, Isaac and I pushed.  That car's a lot heavier than I would have guessed.  But we got it off the road - at least mostly.  Then we put the hazards on, called Jared and he got busy calling service stations that might be nearby.  The kids and I got busy praying.

No cars came by.  It was dark.  We were all scared.  Jared couldn't find any listings for gas stations in Kanosh.  We wondered if we should try to walk into town.  But would the gas station even be open if there was one?

Just as my calm resolve was wearing a little thin and I was having a hard time maintaining my "We'll be fine -  God will help us - this is just a little adventure" attitude, a truck pulled up behind us.

A man in a cowboy hat walked up to my window and asked if we needed anything.  Yep. We sure did need something.  I explained our situation and the man said he luckily had a 5 gallon gas can in his car and could go get us some gas in Kanosh where there was indeed a gas station - but it was closed so we wouldn't have been able to get a gas can there.  The pumps would work after hours with a credit card.  "Do you trust me with a credit card so I can go get you some gas?  You can all pile into my truck if you want to ride with me - my truck's a mess - or I can just get you the gas and bring it right back."  The guy seemed nice enough.  I handed over the credit card and sure enough, just a few minutes later, our cowboy showed up with gas for us.

As he poured the gas in the car, we talked about our families and the kids hung out the windows of the car listening and watching.  Turns out he's adopted some kids from Russian orphanages - so much like the Bulgarian orphanages I used to visit on my mission and that our family helps support.  Turns out he was cleaning out his horse trailer at his ranch down the road, hurrying so that he could get home for Family Home Evening.  But he saw our car lights and had a strong feeling he should investigate even though his family was waiting for him.  So he came and checked on us and became our hero.

After we got the car going again, we headed into town, found the tiny dark gas station and filled up the rest of the way.  Our hero came by to make sure we found the gas station OK before heading home to his family.  We said our heartfelt thanks and said goodbye - then all kids started talking at once - "Did you hear how that guy totally listened to the Holy Ghost!"  "Heavenly Father sent him to help us - He really heard our prayer." "That guy is the nicest guy ever - he's our hero."  "He even helps orphans!" "He even came to make sure we found the gas station OK!" "Let's always help people like that guy did."

Let's just say it was the best Family Home Evening lesson ever.

Thank you, cowboy hero from Kanosh!
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