Fall has fell… page 102

Day 194 – 09/22/2020

Fall officially starts today, 2020 having caused us to sidestep spring and summer this trip around the sun. It’s beautiful – days in the 70s, low 80s, nights in the low 50s, and the leaves are responding accordingly. The tree across the street that burns from top down every year has burst into flame, and now the leaves in its center are turning. Eventually, they’ll all be down around the matching truck on the street and another autumn will enter the record books.

My fat spider in the window has retreated for the day, and I’m starting to think about mine, having eased into it with the best coffee in town, Kim’s. I have a date with Rita mid-morning to get back into her project with intent, so we’ll see where the day goes from there. Yesterday’s SI-joint injection is showing signs of having a good effect, which creates hope for accomplishing things, as people do when they get up in the morning.

Random thought because breakfast is supposed to happen about now: I’m tired of food – the thrill is gone. Reading has lost its luster, and now eating is just one more job to do. I wish comfort food wasn’t so thoroughly comforting – I could eat mac & cheese, potatoes, bacon, or Ramen noodles every day, or some of each, but the concept of protein versus carbs is a pain in the ass right now.

Which brings me to a new thought… do I hone in on the nitty-gritty of daily life under a COVID cloud in a bid to keep the heavier worries at bay? On first inspection it sounds like truth. Pretty sure I try to bury the real concerns under a shroud of silence and major on the minors instead. The things I can’t say to anybody, not even me, have to be choked back every day and squashed down into their hole with the lid slammed shut, so at least once a week I’m on the verge of jumping out of my skin and wreaking havoc in all directions.

Kim captured a similar interface from this morning’s sunrise – a liquid but fractured state, still on fire but starting the day with trepidation. Maybe Mr. Sol and I can pool our energies and make it to Wednesday…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

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Bowling for buoyancy… page 95

Day 187 – 09/15/2020

Some days the slog is uphill both ways, through rain, hail, sleet, snow, and broken glass. I wake up and Brain says “Again? Nothing’s changed and you want me to engage with this shit show AGAIN? It’s a freakin’ lot of hours ’til bedtime, chicky.” But… life goes on.

I saved this comment by my Twitter friend Kim – it hits me deep, what with the daily carnage everywhere:

As challenging as this stretch of time has been, I know I would have imploded without the things Kurt Vonnegut recommended to us. It’s just a fact.

Things that “make my soul grow” …

Note to me and mine today:

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Happy Days… page 90

Day 180 – 09/08/2020

We’re cliff-diving today… yesterday’s high temp was 96º and today’s will be around 59º with overcast skies, rain, and wind. Capricious Kansas.

Closing out a beautiful weekend with rain couldn’t be more perfect. This may have been the most memorable birthday celebration since my 50th with my sisters in Colorado, for different reasons but with the same sweet vibe, and I came out feeling cherished, something we should all get to experience at least once. I had loving convos with my boys, greetings from enough friends and family to match my age, and a totally-unexpected gift from some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. This amazing armful of flowers left me speechless and on the verge of tears…

The weekend weather was conducive to staying in until evening balcony drinks, Kim made the food I love, and we spent three days being goofy together and feeling wrapped in cotton. Su-weet.

The sunflowers are in bloom out at Grinter Farms and I’d love to see them this year, but for now a shot that fits the day…

River Photo Credit: Kim Smith

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Lush Tuesday… page 83

Day 152 – 08/11/2020

The morning air is fresh and cool and my walk felt good. Strolled until that certain sharp poke in the hip made me head for the barn, all the time carried on the waves of a playlist provided by Thumbprint Radio on Pandora, clearly my muse. We’re like Siamese Sisters – I couldn’t have picked a better playlist on my own if I’d worked hard at it. Twelve tracks played full-on in my ears before stalling out on one that wasn’t me, from the opening piano notes of LULLABYE FOR A STORMY NIGHT by Vienna Teng to the sweet melancholy of Jim Chappell’s GONE. In the middle were his STORYTIMETHE MYSTIC’S DREAM, Jim Stubblefield… RIVER by Joni Mitchell… HOME, Michael Bublé… Sarah McLachlan’s TRAIN WRECK and FALLEN (LIVE)… two Nora Jones favorites… Eric Clapton with LAYLA (UNPLUGGED)… and finally BALLAD OF THE RUNAWAY HORSE by Jennifer Warnes. Best story song ever. It’s a little sobering how much my friend Pan knows about me but I feel so SEEN, oh wait…

Repairs are underway in the intersection below my windows and I’m watching people operate machinery just like the toys that used to live in my yard… skid-loaders, backhoes, big dump trucks, a little crawler-tractor. Pretty sure some of those guys are living the dream, and it’s a great day for it!

Leaving this here for posterity…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

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Around the ‘hood… page 75

Day 138 – 07/28/2020

Woke up before six to a great morning – 74º and 97% humidity. Body knew we needed to walk, Brain wasn’t buying it.

BRAIN: I’d rather stay here, take my time waking up, get caught up online…

BODY: Online will be here when we get back – I’m not camping in that chair again all day.

BRAIN: It’s gonna hurt.

BODY: Yeah. Let’s go.

We walked down Rhode Island to 9th and when we came up New Hampshire toward home we found our reward – a display for the specially-commissioned mural painted on the adjacent building. After reading the bios, I’m good for at least a week on learning one new thing a day – Kansas has a rich history in every direction. Aaron Douglas, Gordon Parks, Langston Hughes, Oscar Micheaux, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hattie McDaniel, and Coleman Hawkins all spent a portion of their lives here and contributed to the genius that is us while sharing themselves with the greater world.

Ms. Head’s full of it and she knows it. If we listened to her all the time we’d miss some of the best stuff.

DISCLAIMER: Kim Smith had nothing to do with these wonky early-morning caffeine-free photos.

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And Tuesdays, too… page 69

Day 131 – 07/21/2020

That reprieve we needed… it’s here, as of yesterday evening, and it’s pretty sweet. Temp of 72º this morning, and the only reason the humidity is in the upper 90s is that it’s still raining a little. We asked, we received, it feels like a benediction.

Decatur Man and I exchanged quick humor bytes this morning before he texted this in response to my question about his schedule:

“I’m in Covidland today.
I got floated here yesterday, and the unit manager, who’s a friend of mine, was crying because she’s so overwhelmed. 
So I picked up an extra shift today
(12-hr shifts), along with 2 of my 4200 (Oncology unit) buds. 
It’s terrible here these days.”

At this point, any united effort to halt the spread of the virus would be a godsend. Anything, any level of genuine concern, any solid indication that the naysayers are at least trying not to make it worse. It seems somehow unAmerican that the helpers are fair game and entirely expendable – our teachers, healthcare workers, and the countless others who keep the great world humming. I dislike the fact that everyone’s chances of survival seem to be linked to the common sense of others – the odds are not in our favor.

But Pool Man will be home soon from the Ponderosa and he’ll probably stay tucked in with me until the skies clear – he’ll have to get out and ride his bike or walk at some point, rainfall permitting. Life continues to be a desirable thing… irreplaceable and worth defending for everyone I love, however long it takes, so no whining here about anything but the flies in the honey.

Showers bring flowers. Reminds me of my grandma’s house.

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Still isolating… page 53

Day 96 – 06/16/2020

In the past 3 months I’ve been inside public places a handful of times – the barbershop, the ER, my doctor’s office, and a car-service waiting room – and as a downright upright citizen I like our county’s good record on COVID-19 so far – we made page 1 of the New York Times yesterday:

This morning Rita and I met at South Park and enjoyed a walk, by order of the primary care physician we share in common. She’s wise enough to use our sister connection as medicine for whatever might ail us, and it works. The park’s about midway between our houses and it’s beautiful – populated by old-growth trees and eye-soothing flower gardens, smooth sidewalks criss-crossing the length and breadth of the space, and benches for the occasional sit-down. Rita’s a hiker, I’m not, so we strolled this morning, loosening up muscles grown accustomed to a semi-catatonic state, and talking, which is the good juju.

City workers spray disinfectant on all of the picnic tables, benches, and playground equipment in Lawrence’s 50+ parks and green spaces on a rotating basis – those spaces get well-used. Things we once gave little thought to are now part of living together as humans, much of it long overdue.

In the middle of all the insanity around us that’s beyond our control, this little city in a forest has been an oasis of calm. We hope that holds.

Peace to you, wherever you are today. 💙

A blustery spring morning on a deserted Mass Street

Photo credits: Kim Smith

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Staying in… page 42

Day 54 – 05/05/2020

It’s another fresh new morning and the dew was still on the very first hibiscus bloom when Kim snapped the pic. Workers are busy jackhammering the concrete out of our underground-parking ramp, but even they can’t disturb my Zen because…

I accomplished very little yesterday, but it was gray and rainy all day and Mondays are like that, even when every day is Monday. Or Saturday. Hope springs eternal on a sunny Tuesday, though, so we’ll see how it goes with these two little tasks I’ve been kicking around.

It’ll be a good day – thus spake Pollyanna. And when the noise stops, we’ll move out here…

A sweet hello from Kim’s morning walk…

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Gimme Shelter… page 27

Day 33 – 04/14/2020

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross would be gratified – I’ve worked my way through the five stages of grief a few times in various combinations and on this random Tuesday in April I’m a sentient lump of acceptance, or resignation, or “wot the hell.” Where else is there to go?

The anger stage does hang in there under everything, though, so my instincts have steered me toward ultra-light entertainment. If you can’t find me on Facebook, Twitter, in a book, or writing, I’m playing Words With Friends, or hanging out in Gardenscapes or Fishdom. Tried Township but I can’t take the nonstop responsibility, jeez.

Looks like we get low 50s and some sunshine today, and I hear Kim’s key in the door so he’s back from his morning walk. I may or may not have heard talk of waffles…

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SQ Diary… page 7

Self-Quarantine Day 11 – 03/23/2020

Time’s starting to compress ever so slightly while I’m wrung out and still coughing my head off, but Kim, my everyday hero, is in fine form, inspiring confidence and peace of mind. Today is his 69th birthday, same cheeky kid I married 15 years ago.

He walked over to the barbershop first thing, figuring he’d better jump before the bridge closed, and not a moment too soon. He waited with a few other guys, widely spaced, while Mr. Jon, the lone barber, worked his way down the line. Somebody’d stick a head in the door… “One barber, 2-hour wait.” Phone would ring… “One barber, 2-hour wait.” So that’s how Kimmers spent his birthday morning, and came home looking GOOD. Hope he’ll be up for cutting mine for me ’cause I didn’t make it over there before Shelby hung it up for the duration. Yikes!

Life slows to the pace of still water, and only certain things cause a ripple. Only the things that matter.

Self-Quarantine Day 12 – 03/24/2020

Some sunshine would be… good. One gray day after another, sometimes rainy, often just nondescript, isn’t proving to be an invigorating backdrop to what’s spooling out in our midst.

Still draggy and coughing but I’m not ready for the system to dump my old bones, so recovery is the only option here.

Talked with John – all of his meetings have been canceled but he goes back on shift Thursday. Into the lion’s den armed with sheer boldness and knowledge of the job at hand. Get back, virus, in the name of Science.

On the home front… might make the bed tomorrow.

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Diary… page 2

Self-Quarantine Day 5 – 03/17/2020

Good morning, morning. Feels exaggeratedly still out… like a state of suspended animation.

Kim walked this morning while I was wrapped in dreams of a different world – his favorite trek, down one side of Mass Street and back up the other. He says most of the restaurants have signs in their windows reading “TAKE OUT ONLY.” Our hearts are heavy for them – how long can they hang on? People we know and love, count on in the community, half the reason we retired here – this very real place is going to hurt BAD. Made me think of this…

I guess statistics and projections caught up with everybody yesterday and Lumpy decided to participate, so the guidelines are changing by the hour now. My New York Times Daily Briefing helps in keeping things sorted as we go along since a pandemic pays no heed to plans or yelling, it just does what it’s built to do – rolls on while we scramble to catch it by the tail.

Watched Governor Cuomo’s stellar Fireside Chat this morning – ostensibly talking to the people of New York, but emerging as the de facto leader of the nation at this point. Clear, concise information, every word absorbable. Facts, possibilities, probabilities, necessary courses of action in order to flatten the curve if that’s still an option. Calm, measured, everything considered and truthful. People like to be trusted – just give us the facts and we’ll do the right thing.

The KIMN8R’s in work mode this morning, staving off the twitchiness. I’m still a cluster of cells trying to process fast enough to reconstitute. Also I’m lazy, so…

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Known only to me…

When I am old I shall wear purple and every damn color I want, probably all at once. I’ll be just like every other dried up old malcontent you’ve encountered, but different in ways known only to me, thus this brief Manifesto of Independence for whoever ends up having to deal with me, most likely husband then son, not that life ever follows a script.

IN CASE OF FUTURE FULL-ON FOSSILIZATION, BREAK GLASS TO READ:

  1. If I’m hungry, all efforts toward anything else are futile until food happens – I more and more don’t have the capacity to maintain sanity during hangry spells. Good news: the devil within is easily placated, provided we like what we’re being bought off with.
  2.  I still hear music inside my skull from the ice fall that winter and it can get overwhelming in a way that loosens my hinges a little. It may never go dormant, so please factor that in when trying to reason with me.
  3. If I’m certifiably demented, don’t try to reason with me at all. It’s too much like arguing with the proverbial porker – only serves to frustrate you and irritate the pig. I’ll probably be fine in whatever world is current for me at the time, so don’t waste precious resources trying to talk me out of it.
  4. Likewise, if intractable pain can’t someday be addressed with legal medical-grade cannabis – the thing that stops it – then pain awareness will have to be a fixture in the equation, too. I hate that, it sucks, I’ll be doing my best to stay sweet and not cause anybody trouble, but there it is, the big whiny elephant in the room.
  5.  It will be in everyone’s best interest to keep #’s 1, 2, and 4 from happening simultaneously. Good luck to ya’.
  6.  A great set of Beats headphones and Elton & Leon’s “The Union” will keep me out of your face for days – use it. Joshua Radin, Jennifer Warnes, Jason Mraz, the soundtrack of Catch & Release, The Lone Bellow, The Milk Carton Kids…  Merely a sampling – I’ll try to keep the playlist updated* until check-out – it will always be eclectic.
  7.  I don’t require much for survival, but two must-haves beyond music are books and a way to communicate. Even if you think I’m past reading, leave a book or two around because…you never know. No fluff, no bodice-rippers, best no serials. Poetry is good, a lot of niece Krista’s, please. Give me an inactivated iPhone if it seems to provide a sense of being in touch with somebody, but if we’re all fortunate I’ll simply slip into a world where none of it matters to me anymore except the good times and die with a smile on my face. Or get hit by a bus. We never know.
  8.  Apparently women are programmed to eventually grow an increasingly disgusting amount of extraneous hair on our faces. If you leave that shit intact I promise I will come back after I die and sleep between you and your significant other until the end of your days. I mean this.
  9. If I have to live in a care facility for the good of all concerned, please try to find one that operates like a highly tolerant family – one where eating and sleeping are managed individually rather than institutionally – that would be huge. Also, of course, where no one will hurt me, whether on staff or in residence – that’s huge, too.
  10. The age baseline changes imperceptibly with the decades, but I will never not want to look and smell as good as reality allows. Please don’t subject me to the pitying faces of strangers without helping me look as much like this still-me person as anyone could expect. And while I’m here – please universe, no diapers, ‘k?
  11. After I’ve made my presence felt in my immediate world for as long as I can and something takes me out of here, give me a smokin’ hot body one last time and pack my ashes to the coast – pick one – for a sweetly drunken campfire and whatever you want to say about me. Talking to you of course, Kim and John and whomever you’d like to bring along.
  12. In the past few years since I started writing again, I’ve put a body of words out there in the cloud that may or may not survive in one jot or iota. As long as the synapses fire I’m sure I’ll keep contributing to that pile of thought-turned-words that will, odds-on, prove to have been solely for my own rescue. That’s another thing we never know about – where it all goes when we do. Kind of pisses me off that I won’t be around to see if any of my sentences end up on Google Search. What I’m saying is, you two guys can do what you want with what I won’t be taking with me. Big Kev knows how to get to my passwords – that’s for the wording, the bits and pieces of ME. The rest of it…you know what to do.
  13. Anyway, thirteen points being my style, that’s about it. Keep it simple, keep it all about love, keep Karma in our corner. Plus all the things I’ve ever said, ever meant to say, never thought to say – take that with you. And did I mention the love – you know all about the love. 💙💜

I have no thought that anybody might need this vital information any time soon. But if you don’t write it down when it’s now, a day comes when you can’t say it anymore – you’re no longer your own advocate. And everybody needs one.

*Also Tracy Chapman. Keb Mo. And Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours,” the album.

*A previously published piece, lightly edited for re-post.

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REALITY = a full-time job

My Muse has been kind this summer, and attentive. I no more think of something and BOOM, like somebody has ESPN, there’s a reference on a timeline or in an article I’m reading. In reflecting again lately on letting the past be the past, and having been marinated in Midwestern guilt from birth until the West Coast Wild Man (according to the locals) strolled in and stopped that shiz right in its Ropers, I’m well-versed in the dilemma represented up there in the meme. Baby Boomer girls make nice, talk nice, say everything but what we really think, if we know what’s best for us and want nice things said about us.

But if we ever once start saying what we really think, all bets are off. Because sometimes people see what looks like an opportunity to dig a little, and feelings get hurt, peace gets wrecked, doors get closed. It never feels good but you finally have to use what’s been percolating in your Boomer self since shortly after WWII and just stop the bleeding once and for all, say No, I’m not up for this, buh-bye, whatever we were we’re not that now, and memories don’t give you carte blanche to my life. But then, Midwestern guilt would tell us, it’s our responsibility to open that door again and make peace face-to-face, all nice, and start over.

You know what, no. That’s phony and it isn’t peace. I’ve tried it repeatedly and what I got was what most peacemakers get, which is taken advantage of. I’m not whining, I’m stating a fact. If you cut people slack they use it all. They decide you really are a good person who wants them to have it their way. And then they hit you again. From a different angle out of the blue when you’re weak and vulnerable but they didn’t know that, no, they just have great instincts.

I like things real and I subscribe to the knowledge that it isn’t on me to try to build a relationship with people who don’t even like who I am. It’s shocking and absurd that the exact things I was trying to figure out in eighth grade to keep friendships in balance are the same sorts of things that are still canceling the potential for genuine friendship in my eighth decade of living. It makes me despair just a little for human nature, but only a little, because I think of so many friends with their wide, wide hearts and their beautiful minds and their nonstop belief in truth and lovingkindness in the world, and I know arrested development didn’t claim everyone across the board, so sometimes it really is safe to trust. Whew!

Welcome back to Blogging as Therapy this morning, and thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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Putting things right again…

Everything went super today, but this chicky is wiped out (just go with it.) I asked my RN if I’d have to do this again in ten years – she looked at my chart and said not likely, which was a relief – not sure I could pull all that off at 82. I mean, good gawd, I might actually be starting to get old by then.

We got milkshakes at Sonic on the way home, Kim’s talking smashed batatas and mac & cheese later, I had a delicious drug-laced nap in the chair, and then tried to repeat it on the bed with no luck so I’m up, kinda bored, and looking for entertainment. It’s hot as blazes, he’s out running errands, and I’m without adult supervision – what could possibly go wrong?

Maybe I’ll just tell you a story. There’s a guy in our building (he & his wife are probably younger than Kim, both retired educators), who has a dog he loves very much, a big yellow lab who’s been with him a long time. He has a Vespa with a sidecar that was built just for her and he used to take her to class with him when he taught special ed. classes. She can’t get in and out of it anymore so his golf clubs ride there now. In fact, Zoey’s so crippled up with arthritis she balks at the journey out to take care of business, so at least once a day in good weather Will, a tell it like it is, not necessarily soul of patience guy, makes it worth all the pain and effort. He takes a lawn chair and sits down under the trees, and lets Zoey lie in the cool grass for just about as long as she wants to. That’s love, and on the days when the world feels especially awful it makes me cry. Today was a cry day. Guess I needed it.

We ignored the world today and things were pretty all right. But sometimes when you’re a feeler, crying is the answer when you can’t come up with a better one. Amazing how much it helps.

So did the potatoes & mac – it’s comforting to know the old remedies still work. Like having somebody who loves you and knows from long years’ familiarity and caring what makes you feel better.

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Life goes right on happening…

Constant or even Casual Reader probably knows that when I say *interesting week,* stuff happened. This past weekend has been interesting.

On Friday, Kim had his first Mid-Life Crisis Sports Injury, and since 9:30 that morning, routine, that deadly imposter, has gone out the window. Two neatniks have reverted to hippie habits, of necessity, and are getting used to relaxed standards. My singleton side of our King bed is easy enough, just pull up sheet and quilt as I bail out, but there’s a 3′-high pile of clean laundry on the chaise next to the bed, and various admission and dismissal detritus from the hospital strewn across the dresser. Kim’s living and sleeping in his recliner for now, so the table next to him is a conglomeration of what he needs throughout the day and night – but he has a system and don’t screw with it. His kitchen needs his Navy Squid attention, especially since we’d been planning a fall scrub-down, but oh well, I’ll knock some of the big chunks off in a day or two. When somebody you love is in pain, that’s where all your energy automatically gets funneled, as it should.

All day Friday, from 10am to 5pm, was spent going from ER to Ortho and back, X-ray to CT Scan, lightweight “sugar tong” cast, to temporary traction, to plaster “sugar tong.” Food, finally, at 6pm, and home. Saturday and Sunday are a blur of opioids and other meds, a grocery run to maintain a cushion for the drugs, some amazing sleep, and a sense of marking time.

Yesterday, Monday, we checked him in for surgery at 10:30am. He went to the back for pre-op at 11. Was told they were taking him to surgery at 12. Froze my fanny off in the waiting room, listening to my tummy growl, until 1:30pm when a nurse came out to tell me they were backed up in the surgical suites and had just then taken him in. I nearly cried, and would have had she not said “He’s been napping this whole time.” I just said very quietly, “I’m freezing,” whereupon the receptionist said “Oh honey, you have to say something!” I told her “I didn’t know I could!” She turned up the thermostat, the nurse brought me two blankets out of the warmer, and I settled in for the long haul. I’m terribly out of practice since my days of caregiving for six older family members – I didn’t think to take my iPad or any protein snacks, or even BAD snacks. My head had room only for Kim, getting this repaired, and taking him home.

When all was said and done and I’d gotten the Ortho surgeon’s report (he looks all of 19, of course), it was 6pm, eight hours since we’d left home. But the report was good and that’s all that matters. It was a bad break and Kimmers now has a plate in his body that wasn’t there before, but the bones went together well and Dr. Huston was able to deal with the bone gravel and other crunching in there that wouldn’t have been good longterm. All’s well that ends well, which is down the road a bit. He’s in a heavy-duty cast until time for the stitches to come out, then a less mondo one, and finally he’ll get a fiberglass number that will start increasing his independence noticeably.

For now, it’s a little like Momming again and I’m glad for grown-up cartoons like YouTube and television. The drugs make the patient a little sleepy, so movies are good. Also car porn, like Mecum Auction and Barrett Jackson. And the car rebuild shows – there are some of those we both like a lot. The Big Guy has seen me through at least four major medical events in the 14 years we’ve been married – I’ll do anything to keep him comfortable through this one. It’s how we roll.

 

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