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Life on the Rocks: A Tortoise on the Wall

Yesterday I tried out a new climbing gym with my family. In order to climb, we had to pass the belay test and also the bouldering test. The belay test was nothing new and I passed without issue, no surprise there. The bouldering test consisted of demonstrating a controlled fall and an uncontrolled fall. After watching my family complete the test I

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dropping from a boulder

decided to skip it and not boulder. I am a newbie climber and the idea of falling still geeks me out. I only started falling from a boulder route last week….previously I would climb back down instead of allowing myself to drop from the wall. I just wasn’t ready to drop myself from the wall and fall onto the mat, landing on my back, arms flailed out to the side, the demonstration of an uncontrolled fall. I probably could have passed the controlled fall, as that one lands on your feet into a crouch with fists hitting the mat between your legs. I need to “practice” falling more to build my confidence before testing. This was the first gym that required a bouldering test…I was unprepared mentally for it.

While there, I attempted one climb, a 5.5. I bailed after about half way up the wall. I have bailed on every wall climb I have ever attempted in any gym. On the crag, I have never bailed. There is some mental block that creeps into my head when I’m climbing in a gymhalf-way-up that stifles my ascent, but for some reason, I can push past it outdoors. What is that all about?

When I come down from the wall, I am immediately disappointed with myself, not relieved that I’m on the ground. An hour or so later I want to try again but I don’t because I’m not convinced the attempt will not end in another bailout. Why does that even bother me?

Somehow I need to figure out a way to keep going. Do I need to just dangle in the air to strengthen my resolve? Do I need to initiate an announced and an unannounced fall to test my trust of the rope and my belayer? Do I need to dangle in the air and just rest and shake out my arms and legs? Am I physically tired? Am I afraid of something? If so, what am I afraid of? Falling? What am I not trusting? The rope? My family on belay? Myself? My body’s physical abilities? I still struggle with trusting my body in my weightlifting too.

I have always had a fear of heights but I started climbing because it looked like fun and I didn’t want my fears to prevent me from trying something new that I thought I’d enjoy. I also have a fear of falling that stems from a childhood experience. I have not yet taken a fall, planned or otherwise, on the rocks or the wall. Just writing this seems to resonate with me that maybe this is a necessary evil to progress past at least one mental block.

I also have not allowed myself to just dangle in the air. As a newbie climber, I’m like the

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tortoise climbing a dirt pile

tortoise, slowly progressing in my efforts, but regressing into the safety of my shell when feeling threatened or unsafe. But if I want to continue to progress in my skill, and I do, I want to begin lead climbing, then I am going to have to emerge from the safety and comfort of my current abilities, stick my neck out and press forward.

Each time I have an opportunity to go climbing, I grab it. I know I need to continue to climb in order to improve. I actually begin jonesing when I haven’t climbed in a while. I know this block is in my mind, but it must be fairly deep because it continues to limit me. I just need to figure out how to create a deeper desire to complete a send, than the deepness of the fear that is holding me back.

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tortoise climbing a garden wall

I am ok with progressing as a tortoise on the wall; I just need to learn how to more accurately assess what threats are real, and what threats are imagined. But to be honest, that is a relative assessment dependent upon the situation in which each tortoise experiences the journey of life, or climbing in this case.

 

(Images are from Bing.com)

 

Lighter Fare: Dining on Soul Food

In recent weeks, many exciting possibilities and opportunities have been presented to me. Some I have taken hold of like a ravenous beast in hopes of satisfying my soul’s hunger for food. Not just hunger for any food, though; hunger for soul food. A craving for clean, raw, pure food that nourishes, not just satiates. A voracity for sustenance that comes from philanthropic efforts of improving the lives of others. Nourishment that springs from a life of service to others. I have been craving this cuisine for some time. Saturday I finally received a meal so replete that I felt glutted upon leaving the venue. Let me describe this absolutely divine dining experience to you.

A friend invited me to attend a Gifts That Give Hope Alternative Gift Fair. Well, I have never been to such an event, but I was familiar with alternative giving, so I was up for checking it gtgh-logoout. There are several Gifts That Give Hope events around the United States. Check out the link above.

Upon entering the venue, I was presented with a decorative paper gift bag that contained a “menu” showcasing 30 non-profits and the 3 entrees (gifts) each was featuring for the day. Once I stepped into the “dining hall” I was immediately presented with 30 bountiful tables each lusciously displaying their entrees of soul food. Aromas of pure passion wafting in the air from 30 tables of spiritual fare (information) and I could choose any or all of them to sample.

30 non-profits displaying tables of literature with representatives so passionate to serve me a dish of quintessential nourishment in the form of pertinent information relating to their mission, their goals and priorities for the upcoming year, their successes, their needs for volunteers and funds. Each non-profit fervently showcasing two distinct entrees footer-3(alternative gifts) and one common entrée served by all (open donation gift). An array of entrees ranging from “purchasing” alpacas, llamas, goats and chickens for impoverished 3rd world citizens to providing clean water, educational supplies, and housing for those in need globally. Entrees ranging from animal therapy to music lessons to bicycles and helmets to journey bags (for foster children) to weekend food backpacks for families in need.

Gifts designed for infants through adults, underprivileged individuals to special needs individuals, and everyone in between. All entrees (gifts) categorized into 12 cuisines presented as: Basic Needs, Education, Freedom & Safety, Strengthening Families, Women & Children, Sustainability & Self-Reliance, Equality & Nondiscrimination, Justice & Peacekeeping, Spirituality, Health & Wellness, Cooperation & Empowerment, and Caring for the Environment.

After 3 ½ hours of sampling each tables’ fare, I finally settled on purchasing 3 entrees from the cuisines of Sustainability & Self-Reliance, Education, and Strengthening moringa-treeFamilies, Women & Children. I bought 1 Moringa tree, a packet of vegetable seeds, and a general donation, all to benefit the 2 Seconds Or Less organization. 2 Seconds Or Less is dedicated to ending childhood malnutrition with sustainable solutions to hunger. They plant nutrition gardens at government schools and teach the children about sustainable agriculture. For more info visit 2 Seconds Or Less.

The Moringa Tree is a fast growing tree whose leaves provide a great deal of nutrition. The Vegetable Seeds Packet supplies a variety of common vegetable seeds for an entire garden. The open donation can be used for education or other priority that 2 Seconds Or Less deems

necessary. Three entrees sure to provide many meals for the children and families in Zimbabwe, while also satisfying my starvation for an abundant dish of soul food.

If you too find yourself enduring a starvation for pure, clean, and raw food to nourish your soul, served by attentive and passionate staff yearning to dish up a beautiful bounty of nourishment for your soul, I highly recommend this dining experience or one very similar to it. Trust me, you will leave the table feeling deeply satiated, energized, and passionate to share its bounty with others.

 

Life at the Bar: The Little Gray Box

I have been weightlifting twice a week since last February, something I never believed I would mentally entertain, let alone physically consider at 53 years old. But 10 months in and now 54, I have progressed in strength beyond my expectations. I have learned how to deadlift, front squat, back squat, and overhead squat. I started with a 15# training bar and am now using a deadlift35# bar with added plates! Depending on my lift, those plates get pretty weighty ;). When I reached a deadlift weight of 175# and front and back squat weights of 100+, I finally allowed myself to consider that to be what I call “Big Girl” weight!

My trainer, Heather, is the absolute BOMB! She has been patiently training me for over 2 1/2 years now. She pushes me to limits beyond what I would ever push myself. There are days where I will beg for a bone, and she refuses to toss me one ;). There are days where she is generous and throws me a bone without me asking. I am always grateful! barbell_overhead_squat

I really do love lifting, even though my face and eye rolls may not always reflect that love during my workout. Lifting has been a catalyst for pushing other boundaries and limits. I am now rock climbing too, pushing away my fear of heights.

My favorite lifts are front squats, back squats, deadlifts, and overhead squats, although the overhead squat is still rather challenging for me. The goal in squats is to get the glutes at least parallel to the floor, better yet, below parallel, as in “glutes to boots” as the saying goes ;). barbell-front-squat-proper-form

In our gym, there are several large red vinyl boxes of varying heights used for box jumps, among other punishments. Heather would have me squat down onto the 12″ box to assist me in improving my depth, sometimes even pausing on the box before standing up – now that is a gripe and a grind!

In addition to the boxes used for box jumps, there is a little homemade box (thanks, Russ!) covered in gray duct tape that is only 10″ high. Now 2″ inches doesn’t seem like a big difference, but when wp-1481043797694.jpgyou have a 35# bar with an additional 45#+ worth of plates on it, either in a front squat position or a back squat position, that extra 2″ feels like a mile! I have had several “come to Jesus” meetings with that little gray box and one did not end well ;).

I was back squatting about 6 months ago onto that little gray box and completely lost my form, and crumbled. Heather had to remove the bar from my back. I was utterly defeated, mentally and physically. That vile gray box became a symbol of failure. When talk turns to pulling it out, I automatically go to that place in my head of failure. Stupid, right?barbell_squat_women_2

I can squat to below parallel without that little gray box, but the minute it comes out I lose all confidence. I either cheat my depth or my form completely falls apart. What the hell is that all about? It is definitely a mental thing, I know. For Pete’s sake, it’s only an inanimate 10″ gray box, but you’d think it was the devil by the look on my face, and the conversation it evokes within my mind.

Even now, half way into my Russian Squat Challenge, where I am currently front squatting 80# in 6 sets of 5 and 6 reps with a depth squat-progressionlower than parallel, I am still afraid of that little wicked 10″ gray box! Just the other day, Heather was talking about bringing it out, and I was like “No Way!” “Why?” “Is my depth not good enough?” I’m surprised I don’t have nightmares about that box! 😉

That little 10″ gray box that sits so quietly tucked aginst the wall, dwarfed by the bench, innocent and unassuming, easy to ignore, until it is moved under the rack where I am lifting, then it becomes this demon so looming, so scary, so wp-1481043776118.jpgdownright threatening and defeating. I don’t want to fear that little 10″ gray box, but I do. And now that I have admitted to fearing it, I have no excuse not to push past it.

I have a decision to make. Am I going to allow that little gray 10″ box to rule over me, or am I proactively going to conquer it, over and over again until I no longer fear it? Am I going to overcome it once and for all so that I can look at it sitting along the wall and mentally chuckle at it instead of seeing it as the beast of defeat and fear?  This new me has committed to pushing limits and fears, so I guess I already have my answer.

Monday morning I faced a Russian Squat Challenge of 6 sets of 6 reps at 80#, after 6 sets of 2 reps at 80# as “warm up” ;). That in and of itself, along with the other punishment, was sufficient for a Monday, even though I finished a whopping 6 minutes early! However, Wednesday may be the day where that little 10″ gray box and I have another “Come to Jesus” meeting to work out our differences, abolish fears, misunderstandings, negativity, and accept each other for who we really are as individuals and learn to work together in harmony :).

Aaaah yeah,  Life at the Bar with the Little Gray Box!

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Into the Woods

Several weekends ago I headed into the woods on what was to be the first stop on a local excursion to snap photos for the WPC Local (WordPress Photo Challenge), but I ended up into-the-woodsspending hours alone, exploring the trails; immersed in nature; in solitude; in quiet.

There are three marked trails in this forested area and all three cross over and co-mingle with each other in various locations. Some are well groomed while others are more rugged. Some are even unmarked!

As I travailed through the forest all up in my head, I began to contemplate why an outing as this brings me such solace. I know myself well enough to understand that nature is a very healing place for me regardless of the season or the milieu. I am just as much a zen baby in the woods as I am at the beach. I prefer the beach in the off seasons than in summer and in early morning or evening (during the summer) as opposed to during the day. It is impossible for me to truly hear the ocean’s voice when it is drowning in the cacophony of human jabbering.

In the woods, it tends to be quieter no matter what the season. On this particular trek, I barely encountered a soul despite the beautiful day in Fall. What continued to bubble up in my mind was the sense of adventure that the forest gifts us. While many paths were manicured and marked, I tended to be attracted to the more rugged and unmarked trails I discovered. Why is this? Why do I gravitate to the path less traveled? The path unknown? unmarked2What is it that I am searching for?

I’m not sure I fully understand why the more difficult trail appeals to me, but it probably has something to do with my love of solitude, and maybe even a need to prove to myself that I can navigate successfully on my own. At 54 one would think I should have this ingrained, but I guess I don’t completely, and I’m ok with that. Sometimes I actually do choose an easier route, especially so when visiting the quarry where I rock climb, but I digress.

The other realization and insight I gleaned from this hours long ambling through the wooded wonderland was the multitude of occasions upon which I ended at a crossroads. Which way did I want to go? Which path did I want to take? Which one looked less traveled? But yet, I didn’t want to miss anything hidden within the paths I chose to ignore. Now in this small forest, I can easily revisit and opt to explore the other pathways, even though they wind back around on each other. Not always so in life.

What have I missed by choosing the paths I have walked? Was there a lesson I missed? I don’t have any regrets on where I am in life or of the paths I have taken thus far. I am very decisionsgrateful for what I have, what I have accomplished thus far, and for where I am headed. I like to believe that if I missed a treasure on a path I chose to ignore that maybe either I didn’t need to discover it or that it will appear on a path yet to be chosen.

So I will continue to find nuggets of inspiration and insight as I traipse through the forest, through life, and dare to go deeper into the woods. For there is where the real treasures are hidden, and maybe that is why I am so drawn to the darker, more rugged path less traveled.

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Buddha & Deepak – On Chaos

Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence – Buddha

All great changes are preceded by chaos – Deepak Chopra

Diligence is indeed necessary, especially today , November 8th, for the United States.

Changes are on the horizon….love them or hate them but learn to bend with them as the willow bends with the storm.

Drought

The leaves in my area have been slow to turn, and the colors not all as vivid this autumn due to a lack of rain. We are in a drought. Not a severe drought, but a drought nonetheless. When I heard this from my trainer, several weeks ago, something clicked within me.

Drought. A lack of water, of sustenance, of cleansing. Drought. Physical, emotional, spiritual.  3 That is how I have been feeling. Spiritually in a drought. In need of an emotional and spiritual storm to clear out and cleanse. Wash away the dirt, the grime, the pain, the sadness. Clear away the clouds.

It has taken me a few weeks to write on this. Last week’s storm derailed me.

Several weeks ago I committed to attending a beach retreat scheduled for last weekend. I was so excited to be going to the beach. It had been almost two decades since I had buried my feet in the sand, listened to the waves crashing on the shore, felt the cold water splash my legs, rinse my feet.feet

I was so excited. 20 years since I felt the pull of the water raking the sand from under my feet; jostling my steadiness, sinking me deeper into the shore. It seemed to be just what I needed to correct my drought. A good cry on the beach to jar loose the dirt, the grime, dead debris. I was so ready for this trip. Heading into the weekend with a loose plan, but open to what experiences would come to me.

Alas, a storm came a few days before leaving for the beach. I almost backed out of the trip. Nevertheless, I went. Heavy hearted and wanting so desperately for my internal storm to rage up and vent upon first sight of the mighty waves crashing upon the shore. It didn’t. Maybe tomorrow, I hoped.

The weekend weather was summer’s final appearance; sunny, 70-80 degrees. I was happy. I felt peaceful. I posted photos, sharing my contented moments via social media. I met new people.

I allowed myself to open up a bit yet never manifesting the internal storm continuing to churn within me. I tried so fervently to bring it to a head in my solitude, as I stood in the sand, waves lapping my legs. Epic fail. No tears. No sobbing. No rain. Just endless waves rhythmically bathing the shore.

Feelings of peace, of bliss, of gratitude immersing my soul. Yet deep down, the storm churned, precluding eruption, denying the purge. Nourishing further my drought, or so I thought.

4I felt guilty. Allowing myself to have fun, to be happy; yet remaining aware of the storm within me; the storm taking place 150 miles back home. I felt torn. Sending comforting and consoling texts back home, amidst posting happy photos on Facebook. Grateful for the opportunity to fill my soul, realign with the rhythms of the ocean, yet conscious of the grief harboring in my soul, conscious of those languishing back home.

For two days, I embraced the healing spirit of the tides; cuddled in the arms of Rehoboth’s quaintness, snuggled in my solitude, and acquiesced to the cessation of my drought; albeit not in the expression I preferred.

I wanted a tempest, a mighty monsoon, a deluge, a ravaging hurricane of tears. Instead, wavesmy drought doused with summer warmth, sun-filled heavens, cool sea breezes, and refreshing ocean tides.

Home a week now, the churning storm has subsided; blown out to sea no doubt. My drought is waning with each word I write, each post I share, and each visit with the ones I hold dear. My gratitude is stronger. My blessings are more vivid. Faith and belief are ever growing clearer.

The torrential downpour that never manifested may rear up later down the road. For now, 5my soul, nourished by the ocean, not entirely sated, but no longer parched, can begin once again to flow, maybe not as mighty waves in an ocean, but  at least as a few ripples in a pond.

Such a Wide Net Tragedy’s Pain Casts with its Ripples

Last week, a storm hit, by way of a phone call. A destructive storm. A storm so unexpected, I never saw it coming. I was totally unprepared. A storm so forceful, it uprooted deep 5internal mire. Churning up the darkest, deepest emotions of pain, choices, consequences, life, and death. Churning up unfairness. Churning up loss. Churning up survivors’ guilt. Churning up helplessness. Churning up the inevitable “why” questions that never yield meaningful answers because there just aren’t any.

Churning up anger, first at the ethereal energy or being with which one recognizes and identifies. Anger misdirected because we cannot bear to direct it accurately. Why did you allow this? Why didn’t you prevent this? Why…? Why…? Why…?

Anger at ourselves, also misdirected because we cannot bear to lay it at the appropriate feet. At the feet of the one who left us with consequences for which we did not ask. “I should have…” “I could have…”

Laying the anger at the right feet may come, maybe soon, maybe never, hopefully later. Later; when strength and insight, compassion and love allow us to see that it isn’t really 2anger that we feel; but a deep and painful sadness for what could have been had choices been different. Sadness, deep sadness, for discerning what “free will” unconditionally means; for understanding how “free will” can manifest in others.

How can I console and comfort them when I am crying; aching in sadness at yet another loss. In pain, having gone through this before. In pain, watching them go through this for the first time. In pain, knowing that it may not be the last time. In pain, just wanting the madness that continues to stop. STOP! Please STOP! Damn it, STOP!

Enough loss. Enough death. Enough goodbyes. ENOUGH! Enough souls being removed from this Earth before ever fully gifting their talent. Enough of the Russian Roulette. Enough of the denial. Enough of the “it won’t be me.” This time it was. Enough of the silence. Enough of the pretending it isn’t my responsibility. Enough of the stigmas. ENOUGH! Damn it, ENOUGH!

Why couldn’t he be one of the lucky ones? Why couldn’t he have gotten a second chance? Why couldn’t someone have been there for him, like it was for me? Why…? Why…? Why…? No answers. Only pain. No answers. Only sorrow. No answers. Just “if only’s.”  If only I had… If only he had… If only someone had… If only it had… If only we had…

Family, friends, co-workers, bosses, teachers, classmates, administrators, medical professionals, social workers, friends of friends, family of friends, strangers, everyone, 9anyone, someone, but never no one…all thinking the same thoughts, asking the same unanswerable questions, positing the same if only’s… Such a wide net tragedy’s pain casts with its ripples.

What words do I have to console them as we cry together? I can only muster, “I am so sorry that you are going through this.” I whisper, “There are no answers to your questions.” I choke as I say, “I know how painful this is for you” “My heart aches for you.” “I would take this pain from you if I could” All else I think of to say just doesn’t seem appropriate 8for the time. Maybe later. Weeks later. Months later. Maybe never.

So I remain silent, listening to them cry while wiping away my tears, and then softly saying, “Lean on your friends, you all need each other.” “Lean on those in the rooms; many have been through this at least once already.” “Lean on your family; we have been through this before.” “I am here for you.” “You are on my heart.” “I am thinking of you.” “I love you.” Whispering as we hug, “This madness needs to stop.”

Second chances were there. Second chances different than yours, but they were there. Second chances. Third chances. Many chances; just ignored. In there 7lies the pain, the tragedy. An invitation to grab your hand and come aboard….rejected. And so it is with invitations, opportunities, chances, gifts. We can extend them but it is not our place to force their acceptance onto others. Just as we are free to choose when to give, we are also free to choose when to receive.

Free will is a blessing as much as it is a curse. A life lesson you are so young to have to learn. A life lesson you are now so much stronger for having experienced so soon. The “Why’s” 3and “If only’s” will fade in time as you work through the storm of pain and emotions. In your own time, the clouds will clear; you will see the rainbow, remember the joy, and feel only the love you know as EC; your triplet, your brother, your friend.

Daily Prompt: Waiting

via Daily Prompt: Waiting

Autumn. The season of harvest. The season when all of our toil throughout the year is to pay off in a beautiful and abundant yield that we pleasantly reap and celebrate throughout the season. A season to which we eagerly await not just the harvest, but also welcome the unmatched beauty of turning foliage; colors so vibrant and rustic and grounding.

thA season dedicated to gathering. Families and friends gathering to give thanks. Gathering of food for the impending winter. Gathering our thoughts of gratitude. Gathering our unwanted clothing for donation. A clearing out of unnecessary clutter. Simplifying. Preparing. Sharing.

It is nearly the end of October and the leaves here in my area are beginning to change. Check out my Photo Challenge post. And I have been, and still am, approaching the season with great anticipation of an abundant harvest. My yield being the fruits of my labor in launching my writing career.

Here I am, trusting in faith, that I am on the right path. Yet I am questioning my decision. Here I am wondering if I am delusional. Yet I hold tight to the belief that I can live the life of which I dream. That I can design the life I want to live. That I am, indeed, the architect. That I am in tune with my something “special”. That I know my gifts and how to practice them. That following my passion is the solution. Yet, I cannot see my harvest. I do not see anything yet ready to reap. And so, I am waiting, waiting, waiting.

Sometimes waiting patiently and assuredly. Believing that I planted healthy seeds. Believing that I watered them, fed them, and protected them from the weeds, throughout the spring and summer. Waiting patiently for my crop to mature and yield me sustenance.

Sometimes not. Waiting is difficult. Patiently waiting, even more so. How long must I wait I ask? Will there even be a crop I ask? Will it be enough I ask? Do I just suck at gardening I ask? Do I suck at writing I ask? Is 2the Universe really for me and not against me I ask? Am I cut out for this I ask? Can I make it on my own? Can I have this life I imagine? Am I good enough?  What do I have to hold onto if not faith in my ability? Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Waiting for answers. Waiting for my crops to mature. Meditating. Questioning. Meditating. Toiling still. Waiting some more. Believing is seeing I tell myself. Feeding my garden with gratitude, positivity, faith. And yet, waiting still. Is this a season of the starving writer? Is this a season of the abundant writer? Is it somewhere in between? And so I wait…wait…wait.

Cliques fill my mind; some are weeds, some are fertilizer. My timing is irrelevant I know; The Universe delivers in glorious occasion. And so I wait; sometimes patiently, sometimes not.

Nonetheless, I wait, I watch, I toil some more. The season of harvest is upon us and there will be reaping; whether it be a sustainable crop or just chaff from dead seeds remains to be seen. And so I wait….wait…wait.

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Photo Challenge: Local

via Photo Challenge: Local

just-beginningWhat started out as the first stop on a journey of my locality to snap photos for this challenge, ended up being my final destination as well. I just cannot help myself when presented with the opportunity to spend an entire afternoon in the woods, especially in the Fall. What follows are some of the best photos of my hours long hike through the twisting trails of the wooded park. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed capturing them.

 

The trees have just begun turning. I’ll need to revisit in a few weeks after the leaves have had a few more weeks to get their groove on.

Deeper into the woods we go now, exploring unmarked paths and stumbling onto unexpected discoveries.

Each tree a part of the collective woods, yet each tree so unique in its own beauty. The more gnarly and twisted, the more beautiful is each. In bareness, we see each’s true beauty.

And as my journey came to an end today, alas this photo post as well. Stay tuned for a MIRROR post of mindful discoveries from today’s adventurous trek.

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