Weekly Photo Challenge: Close Up

29 Jul
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Doesn’t look like much to a lot of people, but when you look closer he brings adventure and story every day.

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Weekly Photo Challenge Courtesy of the Daily Post

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The Guat Makes It To 40 … Smiling

27 Jul sky3

I knew I’d be scared. I knew I’d be nervous.

But it was going to happen anyway.

Regardless.

It had to, there was no turning back. My life had taken a step forward and I had to follow, whether I was ready to or not. Just had to be done. So I thought I’d do something scarier than turning 40 on my 40th birthday. Something to start off this decade in a way that would change my perspective on life moving forward.

You see I wasn’t having a big party, and I wasn’t taking a great vacation somewhere. I wasn’t doing any of the awesome things that people do when they turn 40. I wasn’t able to, but I told myself I still needed to do something, something just for me, something to make me forget that I had a really tough month. Something that was bigger than 40, but something I’d always remember doing when I turned 40. Something I’d be grateful for and something that would change me. Something off The Bucket List.

And so … I went skydiving.

I didn’t tell too many people my plans, wasn’t sure if things were going to pan out, considering the personal drama I was undergoing that week and the fact that I had a vacancy in the best friend department that left me having many conversations with myself in an attempt to make sense of it all. And even though the week, or the month, didn’t go as I imagined it to be, this day did.

This day turned out exactly the way it was supposed to … and that made me smile, that made my heart feel good, the kind of good you get when someone who loves you gives you a strong hug, and holds you a little bit longer. That’s the kind of feeling I got. I had a moment that lasted the whole day. I had a Super Soul Sunday moment myself and it happened at 10,000 feet.

Perspective, passion, happiness, gratitude, inner peace, strength, vitality, amazement, and reaching Zen happens all at once.

It doesn’t hit you when you’re approaching the Pacific Coast Skydiving hanger, or when they’re strapping on the harness and belts. It doesn’t hit you when you get into the plane, or when you’re flying over the California coast and can see the Pacific Ocean. No. It happens after you face the scariest part.

The door opens and he says scoot over.

Dude.

I felt my heart drop.

There I was, my legs dangling over the edge and an inch of my butt barely touching the door frame of the plane.

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There I am the most scared I’d ever been in a long time and there’s Tom, skydiving master extraordinaire … smiling.

Holy crap.

This is it. I mean I know it’s it. That’s why I flew up here. For the “it” moment. My heart started beating faster, and the nervousness was building into anxiety and fear.

This is it.

This is really it.

“Ready? I’m gonna say one, two, three,” Tom said smiling.

One … I closed my eyes.

Two … I took a deep breath.

Thr–You know, I don’t remember him saying three, I just remember opening my eyes as he pushed us forward and out of the plane.

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I hate taking selfies and usually want no part in them, but having Tom take one at this point in the adventure was an awesome exception.

I screamed.

I laughed.

And then I screamed and laughed some more.

I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it.

The feeling made me forget about everything crappy that happened during the week. It made me forget about cold feet before 40, made me forget about losing a friend, made me forget about my writer’s block, made me forget gray hairs and anti-aging creams, made me forget the stress in my life and the wrongs that were in it.

It made me present in the moment, the most present I’d probably ever been.

I don’t know how long I was free-falling, I just remember how it made me feel and how glad I was for feeling it.

Then the parachute deployed, the straps tightened, and I eased my way down to the field below, but not before Tom, my skydiving partner who was keeping me alive, did some stuntman swirlee-twirlee tricks reminding me why I don’t get on the Scrambler Zero Gravity carnival rides. I laughed and screamed through that and then we landed safely.

I high-fived Tom and smiled.

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I made it. I had done it and it was an awesome way to start the morning of my 40th Birthday.

40 felt good then.

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‘Twas The Night Before …

25 Jul

Only a few hours before midnight and the fourth decade of my life will have started and my head will be resting on the cool side of the pillow, I hope. Not with a wild and crazy party filled with dancing, music or a disco ball, but just with the soft, steady, breathing of my kids fast asleep and the quiet of the night that can only be the special kind of quiet when the moon is out.

Thinking of the big 3-9 that just passed me, the year that went by, the Gatorade-worthy moments that made me feel good all week and the sad moments the took pieces of my heart away where acceptance was my only option. All of this feels 40, the bigness of 40, I feel it.

It weighed on me today, nervous like cold feet before a wedding. I’ve got it. The cold feet.

I wish I had my best friend here, or just a phone call away. But I don’t. Did I tell you I lost my best friend? They didn’t die or anything the friendship just got lost with time, within the 38 and 39 year-old time frame. It got lost and not so much because of me, which is sad when a friend isn’t your friend anymore, and it’s hitting me more now that the Big 4-0 is coming up.

I still have friends though, good friends, circle of trust friends, comadres and compadres, but that best friend the first one you call when something amazing happens, or something just devastating blindsides you, crushes you and you can’t breathe, and you can’t find yourself and your best friend is there and they bring you back to you. They see the you, that you see and that very fact comforts you back into existence.

I lost them, but I’ve found ways to bring The Guat back to Guat. I’ve found moments. Through this 40-Before-40 journey the smallest moments throughout the day have given me something to be grateful for, something to smile about, something to find the pulse back to my heartbeat.

The sunset, taking a deep breath after my morning run, feeling the cool water of an early morning swim, meditating, finding Ben & Jerry’s, hitting the publish button on a new post, talking to my blogging buddies, laughing with Jon Stewart, getting an a-ha moment from a good book, or finding a life lesson where I least expected it.

But today … in today’s moment, I found that my kids’ hugs were tight enough to make me feel loved throughout the whole day. Today I found that my son’s cannonball brought a smile to my face, and that my daughter’s laughter helped me laugh too. Today I found that even though I haven’t had a best friend in a while, I had family.

I was grateful for that.

They reminded me that we drove all the way over here for a big adventure, a weekend vacation that we all deserved for my Big 4-0, and that it was going to be great.

Twas the night before … and I was feeling better.

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Finding Your Definition

23 Jul
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I’ve had a lot nothing in my life, and at first it used to burn me out. But as I got older I learned that in fact I did have some things, not everything. But just enough.

And that just enough, helped push me to try harder and to keep going. Having just enough made me realize that I would be missing things in life at different stages of my life. Bad things would happen and I just happen to be the person they’d be happening to, just the way life panned out. And I don’t know if I had patience, but I did have humor, and even when cried I eventually found a way to make laughter part of my healing process or solution.

As I grew up I kept getting more somethings in life. I never really had everything, but I’ve come to realize that I was given just enough. Health, heart, spirit, college, friendships, jobs, even love somewhere in between. It was never the complete package as sometimes health, family, love, money, and career would have more downs than ups.

But what I might have lacked in certain areas of life, I made up for in others. I was like Rudy that way, he was small and had a lot of obstacles trying to play for Notre Dame, but damn did he have heart and determination. He had that underdog spirit where possibilities didn’t have an expiration date. He just kept going and when he got there, when he got his everything, he was not only happy, but grateful.

That’s the underdog.

That’s Rudy.

I’ve learned that that’s probably me too. That’s my definition. The underdog mentality, it’s based on gratitude. And although it’s hard to find when life is beating the crap out of you, it changes your perspective and definitely makes a difference. So whether you’ve got close to nothing, or everything, I hope gratitude finds its way to you. I hope you’ve found your definition.

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A 40 Before 40 Poetic Moment … No. 21, No. 22, No. 23

20 Jul

If I hadn’t been present in the moment, I might have missed it.

A small shift was taking place, and I was there, and I was grateful for it.

As my whole 40 Before 40 journey continues I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t taking on this challenge to score points with Karma or to get a thank you, really. It was more of a “something” I wanted to accomplish before I hit 40.

People take stock of their lives every time a birthday comes along, but even more so when they hit a decade. After checking out what was in my cart, I’ll have to admit, I was burned out about the distance between where I was and where I thought I’d be at 40. It appeared to be a pretty big gap.

There was chocolate involved.

Now that I’m in the middle of this 40 Before 40 challenge the gap is not as humongous as it was before, but it’s still a marathon-worthy distance. The only difference is that my perception of it has changed. I still get down in the dumps, but it doesn’t last as long.

Being able to help people out during random parts of their day and imagining their relief and smiles when they thought the universe brought them something other than stress made me feel pretty good. I envisioned some people looking around for bit, and then just looking up to the sky in gratitude.

And as my random acts of kindness continued, I learned to feel more gratitude myself, to find moments throughout the day or remember moments from the day before. I learned to practice gratitude more.

And that’s when grace found its way to me.

I wasn’t waiting for it, just sort of happened. I was out for my morning run, rounding the corner of the block, appreciating the silence of the morning when I remembered the words I had heard the night before.

“…Grace is like rain it falls on everyone…”

I never really saw myself as someone with grace, I figured it was someone of the elegance and poise. I didn’t think I fit that mold and then it happened.

It started raining.

The clouds began rolling in, covering the sun and the rain just came pouring down.

I stood in the middle of the street, looked up at the sky, took a deep breath and smiled. The universe had given me it’s own random act of kindness. Something I had heard during last night’s meditation that have given me a positive vibe and some hope had actually happened. A message that there was something more had found me.

It wasn’t dramatic, like lightning striking, but it was definitely poetic and definitely appreciated. Karma had returned the niceties of the week. It made me feel what I imagined others felt when random acts of kindness crossed their paths. The pool passes I gave to some kids, the sleeve of golf balls I had given a family walking into the driving range, and the important medical board testing admission letter I returned to some chick after pulling it out of some muddy corner.

I didn’t expect something nice in return for my 40 Before 40 last week, but the universe sent me a message, maybe it was Dad. I don’t know. But what I do know was that I was grateful for that moment.

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Just Thinking …

15 Jul

46 (2).

Sometimes it would be nice if I had just one more conversation, one more adventure, one more laugh … one more piece of cake.

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Different is Definitely Beautiful

13 Jul

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Ever seen something so unique that it just stops you in your tracks?

Happened to me today.

As we were hanging out at the aquarium celebrating my little ones 4th birthday we came across this beauty. I had no idea something like this existed. It was so amazing that we stood there in awe of this awesome creature … The Leafy Seadragon. Other than exploring Shark Lagoon, and being able to pet baby sharks as a celebration to the end of Shark Week, this was probably my favorite exhibit.

It reminded my that in the ocean world where all kinds of creatures can be found beautiful because of their colors, strength, size, intelligence, or power, uniqueness is still something that stands out. In the real world people don’t always seem to appreciate the essence of being different.

This was such a good reminder that even if you don’t fit the mold, even if you are different, even if you don’t fit the beauty norm, you’re extraordinary because you are different and that is captivating and that is beautiful. And the thing is the seadragon wasn’t even trying, it was just being itself.

I never forget to be myself, sometimes I get lost in parenthood but my essence is still there. It’s brought back to life with my triathlons, my Hour of Power morning routine, books, movies, races, kids, comadres, and meditation. I don’t forget who I am, I don’t forget why I’m different, but the Leafy Seadragon just reminded me to keep embracing it because that’s what makes me awesome. That’s what makes my kids awesome.

Don’t forget your own awesomeness.

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40 Accidentally on Purpose Random Acts of Kindness Before 40 … No. 18, No. 19, No. 20.

11 Jul

For the most part I’ve learned that people welcome unexpected kindness. Most people that is. Don’t know if it’s because it’s random and unexpected and that’s what makes them happy, that’s what makes them realize that small blessings happen. Or maybe it’s because of the kindness itself and it’s such a relief because they’re having such a crappy week and they haven’t seen kindness in months. I don’t know I haven’t figured it out yet. But I’m kind of leaning toward the randomness factor, and the fact that the kindness came out of no where.

Then I realized people like it when it happens to them, but love it when it happens to their kids. So last week I decided to spread kindness to the minions roaming my neck of the woods and hopefully make the day in the life of their parents a little easier.

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One of my first stops happen to be the pool and as all parents know you definitely need some Little Swimmer Pull-Ups when your kid decides to be Michael Phelps, but sometimes buying regular diapers and nighttime diapers can be expensive. So you tend to think twice about using those, you’re on a budget so sometimes you might save those if your kid didn’t pee in them. Or some of you out there just let them chance it. I mean you warn them to tell you if they’re going to pee to go ahead and tell you, until you realize that it’s been three hours and they haven’t peed yet and you remain suspicious of there will power, because it hasn’t happened before and you figured that they probably peed in the pool, and you hurry away before someone discovers you. Yeah…I’ve seen you. I stay away from your end of the pool.

So in an effort to make everyone’s life a little easier, I thought I’d leave a pack of Little Swimmers in the dressing room with one of my 40 Before 40 special notes, asking them to take one, some, or the whole pack. Hoping that some mom, who forgot her Little Swimmers, was relieved to see the free pack waiting for her at the diaper changing station.

Now I figured after swimming all day, you would build up an appetite, I know my kids do. And sometimes the pool is not always close enough to your house, or sometimes you’re just starving and can’t wait. We always seem to make it home, but I noticed that not everybody made it.

A few people had pulled up to the Del Taco near the aquatic facility. Now I’m not a big Del Taco/Taco Bell person, I usually just make those at home, but apparently nachos are nachos, and kids love cheese, and they love chips. Plus kids meals have prizes. Those always seem to rock, no mater what. So I got a kid’s meal voucher and then walked up to a mom and her daughter, handed them the kid’s meal coupon and smiled.

But aside from the necessities of parenthood, I thought some fun little extras would be a good surprise for parents and their kids. Hanging out at the zoo has always been a treat for my kids. It’s always been an awesome adventure and we tend to love hanging out in the tropical rainforest with the jaguars, or looking for the meerkat exhibit and watching them, or rushing up the hill to make it in time for the elephant show. We’re big on Wild Kratts over here, so going to the zoo is a monthly occurrence.

So when I saw a couple rushing to stand in line to purchase tickets for their family I thought it would be cool just to walk up to them, give them free passes, and say, “Hope you enjoy the zoo, have an awesome day.”

So I did. And I walked away before they could thank me, in fact probably before they could figure out what I had given them. But I’m sure they read the note I attached. By the time they had, I was long gone, checking out the seals.

I didn’t see the family inside, but I imagine they probably enjoyed the jaguars, meerkats, amd elephants too. I imagined they bought some kettle popcorn and lemonade and made their way through the park. I imagined they had a good story to tell their friends about how they got to the zoo late, how they were the last ones in line and how some random chick in a L.A. Kings hat just handed them some free tickets to go in … that would have made my day for sure. Hope it made theirs.

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The Miracle Girl is Out

8 Jul

It’s amazing what someone can accomplish in a couple of years. Some people binge watch on Netflix, some people lose 100 pounds, some people get married, some people get divorced, some people have families. Some people write books.

Everybody has the same amount of time, just got to figure out what you want to do with it.

Every one has got a year.

What’s your passion? What are you going to do with your year?

I’ve got all kinds of things planned, but today I’m here to talk about my buddy, TB Markinson’s passion and her awesome year. Other than traveling the world bit by bit, finding the best pubs Europe has to offer, TB is also a writer. She’s hooked on it, and she’s pretty good at it. This week she released her sixth, yeah I said it … sixth novel! She’s definitely found her passion and she definitely knows how to make the best of her time. I’m definitely inspired by her as a writer and hope to get my first one out there.

So in honor of this accomplishment I’m out here trying to spread the word and give you a sneak peek of her novel, as well as some insight into her creative mind.

This is T.B. Markinson

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When did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did it click for you?

Way back in the dinosaur age, when I was in the sixth grade, our teacher asked each of us to write a story about Christmas. Usually I hated homework, but this assignment inspired me. To get in the mood, I sat by our Christmas tree in the dark except for the bubble lights and I penned my story. My teacher loved it and wrote a note at the top that read: You should be a writer when you grow up.

That was it. Ever since then I’ve wanted to write stories. Not just about Christmas, though.

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Your books are filled with strong female leads, what characteristics do you like about them, which ones are you drawn to, compelled to write about? What makes you want to write their story?

I find it easier to have female leads since it’s easier for me to relate to them, for the obvious reason that I am a female. At some point, I think it would be interesting to have a strong male lead, but I worry about creating a realistic portrayal of the opposite sex.

All of my female leads are flawed. That’s why I find them fascinating. I’m not a fan of “perfect” characters. They aren’t realistic, really. I like to get to know my characters to uncover what makes them the way they are.

You’re big on GoodReads, what kind of books/stories do you enjoy reading? What are you reading now?

I know some people stick to one genre, but I’ll read just about anything, including loads of nonfiction, fiction, journal articles, and newspapers. I studied history in college and I still buy and read books many wouldn’t even notice when walking through a store. I do read lots of fiction, though. My faves are classics, but I’ll read anything from steampunk to romance. I only require one thing from novels: a good story. It can take place on the moon, in a prison, in the past, in the future, or in Timbuktu for all I care. Just as long as it entertains me.

I tend to have several books going at once. Currently, I’m reading The Bully Pulpit, which is about Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, The Renaissance of Hetty Lockler, a young adult paranormal book, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Which one of your characters would you hang out with for a drink? Why?

I would like to hang out with JJ Cavendish, but probably wouldn’t take her out for a drink since she’s a recovering addict. In her younger days, JJ was a travel writer and I’d love to hear about her travel stories. And she has way of embellishing her stories.

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Now with all these books under your belt how has your writing process changed, or has it stayed the same? What has been the difference between your first book (journey from writing to getting published) and your most recent release? What was easier? What was more challenging?

My writing process keeps changing, and that’s due to life. When I was working on my first novel, I was still working full time, so I worked when I could find the time and energy. After my partner’s company moved us from the US to London, I starting writing full time. It’s nice to have more time to write, but it also makes it more stressful. Now I don’t have excuses for not getting the next project done.

What’s easier and what’s more challenging? That’s hard to answer, because it depends on the day. Some days I feel like I’ve learned a thing or two from my editors, other authors, and from reviews. Other days I want to run screaming for the hills. I can experience a range of emotions within seconds. When creating something from scratch and knowing strangers will have a chance to weigh in, well it’s an intimidating experience.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the TB who was writing her first novel, A Woman Lost?

I think I’d give the same advice I give people now: Don’t give up. I think that’s the key to most things in life. Just to keep going even when things are tough. It’s totally a cliché, but it works.

Now talking about The Miracle Girl, how’d you get the idea for this book? When did it come to you? What part of this novel writing process was difficult/challenging and how did you get over it? 

 When I started writing The Miracle Girl, I only knew one thing: the main character had a secret. I didn’t know JJ’s secret, but I was intrigued by her right from the start. As I got to know her, I realized she was an alcoholic and an addict. This was challenging for me since I’m not. Heck, I’ve never even smoked pot. I had to do a ton of research, which included reading, movies, documentaries, and pestering people about their experiences. Thanks to all of those who put up with my questions. Even the lame ones.

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Now that you’ve published The Miracle Girl, what’s next for you? Blog Tour? Taking a break? Working on ideas for your next book? 

 Each time I publish something I think about taking a break, but my mind keeps churning out ideas and characters I want to explore. So right now, I’m working with one editor on a novel and another editor and I are fine-tuning a short story. In my free time, I’m drafting a sequel to my third novel. Gosh it sounds exhausting. Maybe I should take a break, but I love what I do. That’s the key: enjoying writing at least half of the time. The other half I’m slamming my head against the keyboard crying, “Why?”

TB’s new book The Miracle Girl is on sale on Amazon. I hope you go out and buy a copy.

Here’s a sneak peek…

Newspaper publisher and world traveler JJ Cavendish continually feels pressured to live up to her Miracle Girl nickname. Not many people know she’s living a carefully crafted lie. She may not hide ties to the LGBT community, but she does hide past struggles with addiction.

When the Colorado native is handpicked to take the helm at a dying Denver newspaper, she ends up reconnecting with her long lost love in this contemporary lesbian romance. Only there’s a catch. If JJ fires the most belligerent editor at the paper, she risks losing the love of her life.

Mid-afternoon office romps abound in this romantic comedy while also focusing on what it takes for a newspaper to remain relevant in this age of social media.

Must JJ lose everything in order to gain a life more fully her own?

Doesn’t that make you want to buy it?

If you’re interested in this novel, or any of her other works you can find them on her Amazon page as well.

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Dunnnnn-DUN Dunnnn-DUN Dunnn-DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN

6 Jul

Things just went up a notch.

Although there was nothing really wrong with my routine, I wasn’t slacking off or purposely missing opportunities. But it just so happens that I got one of the greatest reminders to just go for it. And let me tell as a mom, you sometimes forget to just go for it. Between being a referee, maid, dishwasher, clothes folder, taxi driver, Lego Master Builder, and tea party goer I tend to forget things. Lack of sleep does that. You need little reminders here or there.

I got a big one this week. A 20-foot one. A couple of 20-footers actually, courtesy of The Discovery Channel and Shark Week.

Yup.

Shark Week is back! It’s back baby!

Image by Tony Sacco/Discovery Channel.

Image by Tony Sacco/Discovery Channel.

I can’t tell you how excited I am that the Great Whites, Megamouths, and Makos are back. Not that they ever left the coast or that I’d want to run into one at the beach, but just exploring the power, strength, and mystery of this beast is pretty amazing. All you ever wanted to know about sharks is brought to you with an amazing scare-the-crap-out-of-you soundtrack this week. It’s Discovery Channel’s SuperBowl and I’m watching. I love the fact that I can get so close to the shark and watch it attack and even though I’m not even in the water I’m still freaked out. Marine Biologist and abalone divers rock.

You know, I had no idea Mondays were gonna be this good

First it started off with the return of America Ninja Warrior, which got my entire family pumped up and creating obstacles and physical challenges every chance we got. It definitely boosted our fitness lifestyle.

Then I found out that AMC had created Mobster Mondays! I couldn’t believe it just when I thought that Mobster Week had ended, AMC came back with this amazing drama featuring Lucky Luciano.

But the awesomeness of Mondays didn’t stop there. Discovery Channel brought Shark Week back, and along with discoveries of this powerful beast, it also reminded me to live every week with Shark Week intensity, enthusiasm, fearlessness, and presence. I’ve got to bring it out in myself and not wait for something to make me feel that I way, because I’ve got this.

I’ve got this.

I am so grateful for the reminder.

It’s not like I’ve forgotten. I’ve had my seize-the-day moments and relax-and-enjoy-the moments last month, but what a way to continue that momentum into July.  The countdown is on to the big 4-0. Got twenty days before I hit that milestone and there were times this year where I’ve felt anxious, sad, and concerned about hitting that mark, worried about career goals and life expectations and where I should be with all that. But small victories, tiny happy moments, and small steps seem to help me flick the switch and get back on the positive track.

And Shark Week?

Dude that was a great reminder to keep the light on and keep going.

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