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The No, Boundaries, and Staying On The Yellow Brick Road

18 Oct

I’ve known about the power of “no,” for a long time.

As a  writer, I’ve heard it at least a million times. No we don’t want your book, no we don’t want your story, no it’s not what we’re looking for at this time.

As a mom trying to figure things out in the Mommy-Mafia world I’ve learned to pull it out plenty of times. I say it constantly to die-hard PTA boosters trying to corral me into a time-consuming saga. I know the power of “no,” when it comes to money and things being out of my budget. I know the power of “no,” when my kids want their millionth got-to-have-it Lego as we’re buying a birthday present for someone else.

It’s in my vocabulary. I know I own it. But sometimes when it comes to setting boundaries … the “no,” doesn’t quite make it’s way to the top of the list.

Now when I put others at the top of my priorities and I’m working on a project for them, I have no problems zoning things out and saying no to distractions, procrastination, and toxic encounters that are gonna take my juice away. If I gave my word to help someone out, either with a grant, volunteer work, or just my time, I make it happen. I sacrifice and say no to things so that I can be there for that person. I say no to sleeping in, I say no to just grabbing a quick coffee with someone that winds up being an entire afternoon, I say no to Netflix, I say no to Stephen Colbert.  It’s painful, but I have to do it. I gave my word.

I set boundaries for myself so that I could come through for others. But when I try to do that for myself … the “no,” is nowhere to be found.

Standards fall short and deadlines are always extended. It’s sad because the power of no is sometimes stronger when other people are counting on me. But I realized that I should hold myself to the same standard I give to others. I’m more relaxed when it comes to me, as I can always say … well, I can pick it tomorrow.

Sad to say that sometimes this happens more than it should. I’m trying to get better at it. I’m trying to be stricter with my own boundaries when it comes to writing. I’m trying to hold myself to those deadlines. I’m trying to give myself the same amount of respect without feeling guilty about doing it.

I’ve been trying to finish the rewrite and edits of my book for some time now, but for some reason other projects or grant writing comes along and since I had offered to help the obligation to keep my word to someone else becomes stronger than the promise I kept to myself, and then I feel bad about the broken promises and then the sense of failure spirals into anger with myself and then frustration. But I reboot, and then say I’m gonna try again tomorrow and then the cycle happens over again.

But I was recently reminded by a soulful friend that sometimes the most important promises should be the ones you keep to yourself, and if there are friends, or people that call themselves friends, out there not in support of your dream then they don’t have to be on this ride with you. They can just get off the bus. She reminded me that I need the same power of “no,” that same commitment that I apply to fitness, exercise, and health to my writing and other parts of me. I’m on a roll when it comes to health, it matters because it’s not just for me. It’s beyond me. I don’t do it for the outfits or a smaller pair of pants. I do it to stay healthy and live longer for my kids. The purpose is bigger than me.

She said I need that same “no,” those same boundaries, that same sense purpose for other things in my life. Spread the no. You can leave the dream killers behind.

There is no need for the digs and back-handed comments  from other voices when you’re already in doubt yourself. You’re in need of back-up singers who are going to lift you up on stage. You’re in need of people who understand the “no,” and don’t make you feel guilty or bad about it. You’re in need of a realization that you are a priority and the same standards of deadline apply to you that you have for yourself when others are counting on you. The power of no applies to your dream quest as well. You’ve earned it.

So while you’re on the yellow brick road, bring the power of “no,” with you. It will help keep you on the path and keep the boundaries up. Boundaries are important.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

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The Master of The Dig on Motivation Monday

9 Oct

Tell me something good it’s Motivation Monday they said …

I stuck up for myself today, not that I don’t do that if the situation presents itself. I do. It just happened today. It happened with one of The Masters of The Dig.

You know this person. Everyone knows this person. You have one or have witnessed their slimy skills once in your lifetime. It’s the ambitious co-worker, your mother-in-law, your best friend’s sister’s cousin, the girl scout troop leader who wants your kid to join but you don’t want that in your life, the worst bridesmaid ever, your neighbor.

You’ve seen them. The Master of The Dig.

They have this look. This word. This way of delivering news that makes you twinge. They suck out the life during a conversation and you need like 45 minutes to recover from that interaction. It sucks.

Toxic people are bad and you usually have to keep your distance but sometimes you can’t. You see them every day, every week. Like Carol from accounting, or your neighbor Mark, who always parks over the line. They just get to you and know how to do it so you think … give me a little more grace today.

But I didn’t have it in me.

I was in need of the famous DayQuil, NyQuil, and tea regiment. So you know, when you’re sick and fighting inner-cell battles, mucous, and symptoms you have very little tolerance for people that add to that fight. I mean if you’re not gonna help me, great, but don’t think I’m gonna let you make things worse, especially when I’m feeling at my worst, and when there’s no chocolate in the house.

Digs. They’re nasty bits of criticism full of contempt with no constructive or helpful nature behind them. They use something you’ve said to them in confidence or in a moment of sadness and then break your trust by turning it around and zinging you with it. Sometimes it’s nothing that you’ve said, but an observation they have and they keep drilling it over, and over and over again.

It’s a hidden hostility really, to just bring about some flaming response, just to get a rise out of you. In essence it’s just trying to tear you down, bit by bit for whatever motive. Either because they’re insecure, or they’re having a bad day and are lashing out. Either way it’s not you.

So there was no grace for this person. I had no patience for toxicity today. Zero. And I tried to do the nice thing and just ignore it, but they just kept going, continuing the conversation and dug in, so I had to put an end to it.

I sassed my way out of their nastiness, and I found it interesting that they were not happy with my defense. Some people are so used to getting away with all these little attacks, trying to tear you down, but I just couldn’t. These last two years I’ve tried to rid myself of this type of toxicity, and minimize any interaction with people who’s primary focus is the dig.

I’ve tried to Zen Master my way out of things, but sometimes sass works too. In-need-of DayQuil-and-NyQuil kind of sass.

So on Motivation Monday tell me something good that happened …

I stuck up for myself … and the Dodgers won.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

Pockets of Hope for More Good Times and Noodle Salad

2 Oct

Pockets of hope. I’m filling them up and sending them through the cosmic airwaves, wanting them to reach a Puerto Rican family, or a grieving family member of a slain music lover in Las Vegas.

In just one month, a lifetime of heart aches and hurt, and recovery seems so distant. But pockets of hope that fill the air can land on someone’s shoulder and make it possible to get through the day.

 

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Pocket of Hope

Breathing in the morning air and facing the warm glow of the early sun gave me pause. I realized in mid-breath that the same sun that shined on me in this peaceful, hidden habitat was the same sun warming the faces of teary eyed music fans that remained grieving. in disbelief over the deaths and unexplained violence of bullets. It was the same sun that rose over a broken island functioning on the mercy of kindness.

Sadness and aching hearts are a part of life I wish we never had, but there are silent tragedies that happen everyday when no one is looking, when Facebook and Twitter don’t post links, when newspapers and local TV stations don’t report the story. It’s a time to strengthen resolve and bring in laughter when sadness tries to darken it out. It’s a time where pockets of hope rise up and communities forge together.

It’s a time where finding moments of laughter can help heal a little, because those are small steps to the recovery of happier times, to good times and noodle salad moments that were being robbed from people .

So as just one person, far away from both tragedies, I ask myself what I can do to help someone who’s suffering. I can click on links and donate, I can send good vibes and positive wishes, I can raise awareness to their cause, and I can try to lighten the heavy load in their hearts and on their shoulders by trying to comfort those that are suffering and make someone smile. I can continue sending pockets of hope their way, and try to stand with them during  an overwhelming pain.

It’s always lightheartedness and finding the funny at not-so-funny times so that we can go on, that’s the formula over here at The Wish Factor. But making light of an act of cruelty isn’t.  Awareness in hopes of bringing about change is what I champion for, and I hope that sadness felt by so many in Las Vegas and Puerto Rico isn’t breaking their spirits, as the whole nation stands with them, sending pockets of hope and doing what we can for healing hearts.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

Writer Wednesdays … Literary High-Five

6 Sep

Sometimes you’re just in a funk, and you can’t find the right words for your characters or feel like that missing piece is never going to fall in place.  You have no idea where the writer inside disappeared to, then all of sudden you write a letter, an email, or do a different type of writing  and you get the groove back.

I’m getting my groove back.

 

Recently, I had a blogging buddy of mine Jacqueline Cangro edit one of my manuscripts and let me tell you, having someone read something like that gave me the butterflies. I mean I know that eventually it’s going to be out there for everyone to see, and some close friends of mine have seen parts, if not all of it. But Jackie was going to edit it … really edit it. So I was nervous. I was like … dude what if she hates it? Will she ever return to my blog? Or how will she let me down easy. I was creating all kinds of scenarios in my head, but none of them panned out.

Jackie was really nice about it and spoke with me about my concerns. Sh did an amazing detailed job with content analysis, story and characterization. I was so glad to have met Jackie. Her advice was on point and I could feel the missing pieces coming together.

But I’ll be honest with you, rewriting and rewriting after edits and edits became a daunting task, even with the awesomeness that is Jackie. I got a little nervous. I didn’t want to veer too far off course, I didn’t want to get lost in all the editing that I couldn’t find my way back. And then the universe sent me a sign.

A friend of mine asked me to write a grant proposal for arts programs at my son’s school. Now normally I don’t get involved with the Mommy Mafia or the PTA clicks, which she is a part of,  but seeing how this was a close buddy and it was for a great cause I thought it would be a great service for the community and a good opportunity for a pause in novel re-writing plan.

So I took a step back from my 100th rewrite and did something good for someone else. During that process I learned that tapping a different avenue of my talents, helped stir up the writing mojo in all areas of my life. Writing about advocacy and arts engagement helped boost my own focus. Being able to write a cohesive statement that had nothing to do with my crazy character and her journey, helped glue ideas together in the recesses of my mind, and make things click. I was making connections and feeling confident about the fine-tuning that was going on.

And this is where I find myself.

I find myself looking back on how I turned the corner and I never would have guessed that grant writing or executive summaries would have the power of a high-five, because that’s what it was … a literary high-five. After I finished writing it … I thought damn! That was me … I put these words together. I conveyed how critical arts were for inventiveness and out-of-the box thinking. I put together a piece that speaks to the heart of this school and the need for arts education despite financial cutbacks. I convinced someone, I persuaded them to give money … and just with words. They hadn’t even met me yet. All they knew were my words.

And that seemed to be pretty powerful stuff. That seemed to be the make-up of a writer. That seemed to put be back on the yellow-brick road pathway.

So while, I’m still working on the grant, which will be due in a couple of days, I feel that time away from my story, spent working on a different discipline, has helped bring the story back full circle. I don’t know if any other writers experienced something like that, because I figured people get inspired or back into the story, by being away from it for a moment, taking a trip somewhere and then coming back from that sabbatical refreshed ans zoned in, but it was my first way down that road. And I’ve got to say, it was interesting.

 

Buen Camino

 

 

It’s That Time Again …

25 Jul

I look forward to this every year. Not just for the excitement and stories but because it reminds me of promises I made to myself in January …

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SHARK WEEK!

I love it. I totally geek out about the Hammerheads, Makos, and Great Whites. I honestly start contemplating life as a marine biologist and imagining the safest way to swim with sharks, you know the small ones.

We get jazzed up the entire week, mark it on the calendar and anticipate the close calls in tagging and tracking the sharks in order to collect data. We find out about their hunting patterns, migrating patterns, eating patterns, any and all kinds of patterns we search for them, just like the rest of America. We love to revisit stories from last year and can’t wait to compare them to this year. Megaladon was one of my favorites. This year they had Michael Phelps racing a shark! Sort of …

Discovery Channel had their X-Factor this week. There’s no other week like it for them. They go all out with the programming and I am one of the many, glued to her television set waiting to see what will happen next. We make shark pancakes, shark tostadas and shark cake.

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😉

We do it all in order to celebrate SHARK WEEK!

You see because that’s where they get me … the dangers of the shark. I’m waiting to see what will happen next, the excitement of the stories and the enthusiasm of these researchers is contagious. I want to know what’s next because nothing says living on the edge more than sharks.

So here I am mid-July, during one of the best weeks of television and I’m reminded that I should be living my best week regardless of the month. I should be emptying out the tank, remembering the Bucket List additions I wrote down at the beginning of the year and doing a self-check on the New Year’s Eve promises. I should be living every week like it’s Shark Week.

I like to make a big deal of the whole thing. I like to build up momentum and spread it out to my son and daughter. If there’s no build up, or excitement leading up to this week what’s the point? Shark Week is the week for all of that. My kids, they love the series of adventures and imagine themselves on excursions just like these, on being adventurous, on following your passions, and on celebrating the little victories, just the way researchers do when they tag a shark.

Shark Week brings it all.

So with all these positive energy, I remembered the good vibes from January 1st. I remember the everyday balloons scenario that allows for appreciating the little things. I remembered the promises I made to myself and so I checked, have I been on track?

For the most part … yes … yes I have, although there have been some serious wipe-outs. But I still persist. I wake up with purpose, tired, but with purpose. I wake up and think it’s Shark Week! Go all out. No excuses … and so I try.

Happy SHARK WEEK!

Buen Camino my friends!

 

I Don’t Wear A CatWoman Suit But I Was Inspired

5 Jun

When you see a friend reaching for it, you really hope they hit their mark.

You’ve seen their hard work and witnessed their dedication and you know they deserve it, so as one of their fans you’re pulling for them. You’re hoping that opportunity meets luck and the universe rewards them.

Sometimes it ends up being a learning experience, other times it’s a stepping stone closer to the bigger dream, and sometimes it’s a homerun and you leave feeling inspired. One of my friends received an award for her awesome duties as principal, another for providing medical services to young children, and another for her volunteer work with kids and bringing arts programs to school. They got their plaque and sort of reached a peak, or mini-milestone, in their career, and I was happy for them. High-five happy.

But something recently happened that not only left me high-five happy but also inspired. As a creative person I constantly root for other artists to make it out there. I love the underdog stories of how luck and hard work meet and then the universe sprinkles out an opportunity that changes lives.

I root for artists in a different way just because I know the struggle first hand, so when there was an opening on the road to success and dreams coming true, I was happy to have been in the audience witnessing it happen.

You see, I recently attended one of my friend’s debuts at a small venue, where she filled the place with her magnitude and rockstar attitude. She had a presence about her, so I knew she had it in her, but I was still wowed by her performance.

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My buddy Lo Thompson setting up for the next song

It was a well-deserved night out, but more than that, it was an opportunity to be inspired by a buddy chasing her dreams and leaving it all out on the stage. We were all consumed with her energy and left feeling … who wassssssssssss that?! We all knew her … she was one of the moms at school, picking up her kid and just running around trying to keep it together, just like the rest of us.

But she wasn’t like the rest of us … She was Lo Thompson and she was rocking the stage that night I saw her in her element and it felt good to see someone I knew get a win.

She definitely came out there and made her mark. And as I was seeing her dream unfold I wanted to bottle up that emotion of pride and happiness I felt for her. She was doing it and bringing down the house while it was happening and it felt great to share that experience with her.

While she was living her dream one night at a time, getting closer to the Bigger Picture, and enjoying the moment, I found myself inspired. Creatives inspiring other creatives, that makes me happy, feeling like it can happen. Big or small, it can happen. Now I won’t be wearing an awesome Catwoman type of suit when I hit my mark, but I was inspired and I’ll probably be feeling as badass as Catwoman.

 

Buen Camino my friends. And incidentally if you enjoy rock music you should check her out.

 

 

 

All Kinds of Messengers …

19 Apr

Things eventually work out … somehow.

I never used to think that … like ever. I’d be like if they don’t work out the way I want them to or planned them to, then that’s not really working out for me.

That’s what I used to think.

But as kids came into the picture and gray hair followed, I realized that’s the perfect philosophy, and I was recently reminded of this through one of my meditation sessions … and a text message.

During my recent meditation session, with Deepak, we focused on hope during uncertain times. And as he was talking about people’s reactions to different scenarios it clicked. That used to be me. Somehow during this journey, this moving on up to the East Side to a deluxe apartment in the sky to finally get a piece of THE pie journey, a switch happened. It happens to everyone. You’re not in the same place you were last year. You’re either better or worse, but you’re not in the same spot.

Over 20 years ago, the semester before I graduated college I was so worried about what my life would look like, I mean I had a plan, but the steps on the yellow-brick road weren’t quite lining up. Everyone I knew had a gig waiting for them after turning in their cap and gown but me. That uncertainty freaked me out. I worked hard my entire 18-year old life at the time and felt like … where’s my reward? When is success gonna come rain down on me?

The uncertainty made me feel uneasy and stressed out. I wondered with all my suit-and-tie friends getting their foot in the door, whether I’d even make it out of the parking lot. But eventually I met Matt, the guy who gave me my first break, and it happened. It just took a different route and eventually it worked out … somehow.

And with last week’s meditation sessions, I was reminded of the lesson. I thought about all that wasted time, freaking out and stressed out and worried everyone would be a success except me. I didn’t approach uncertainty through a positive lens, as I thought uncertainty to be a negative thing. Now I realize I should have looked upon it as an opportunity, a chance for something great to happen, or for a learning experience that would have led to personal growth. Either way it would have been a win, short term or long term, but a win nonetheless.

I trip out how the universe sends me these reminders through various messengers, just to put an exclamation point on that message.

During uncertain times, unemployment, broken relationships, new jobs, new city, first-time-stay-at-home parent, when you’re in the thick of it … just pause. I don’t remember pausing to turn my thoughts around 20 years ago, so I learned things the hard way. But now I have all kinds of pauses, and I remember that eventually things will work out, that Hope is in my corner, sometimes hiding, but it’s there. I just have to remember it’s there. That’s what I’ve come to learn through the years, and with Deepak’s help.

But I was also reminded of this with the help of a text  …

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The universe is funny sometimes. It has all kinds of messengers.

 

 

Grabbing The Mic

22 Mar

It involved getting bailed out of county jail, stepping in a pool of vomit on the subway, riding in the trunk of a car in a zebra bathing suit, playing with a lighter and can of hair spray, and a dead cat in the wall of an apartment.

It was only an hour, but it was the most inspirational sixty minutes of the week.

Hanging out with a bunch of storytellers and a glass of wine proved to be a memorable evening. I came away feeling motivated to finish my own stories after hearing about these adventures. Something about hanging out with a bunch of creatives and listening to them craft their epic misfortunes into Silver Lining Playbook stories centered on friendship was contagious.

I came home ready to dig deep, although with my life I didn’t have to go far to capture moments. Although the one thing about these artists was that the stories were free flowing. No script. They had it in their head. They performed their stories. They were animated and I felt like I was part of the circle. I was there when he was making the call from county jail and no one came to bail him out. I was there watching the woman slip in a pool of vomit on her way to steal the elderly woman’s seat on the subway. I was there when the zebra bathing suit got pulled over by the CHP. I was there when the curtains caught on fire from the can of hairspray. And I was there when the girl had to break her lease because she kept getting fleas from a dead cat in the wall.

The stories came to life. These storytellers were the writers, actors, and directors themselves. They placed full confidence in their stories and their ability to tell it. They stepped on stage, grabbed the microphone, and began. Fear or no fear. They grabbed the mic.

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I left away with that feeling … the one with butterflies. They took creative control of their story and it was empowering to see. No one changed their timeline. No one added unnecessary  dialog. No one changed the integrity of their characters. No one changed their soundtrack. No one changed their stories.

It was great to see how their bravery helped maintain their creative control.

I watched. I listened. I learned.

I might be grabbing the mic soon myself, as I was invited to come back “try it out”.

And I just might.

After my experience with the play director, creative control seemed to matter more in my next endeavor. But I’m not rigid, I welcome constructive criticism, and collaborations. I like input that makes the story better. With every creative, story and characters matter. Every writer has this intention.

But not every project ends that way.

So my lesson learned during this inspirational outing?

Be brave enough to grab the mic and hold onto your creative control, but be willing to work with others, just choose people you trust when sharing your visions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

40 Days And The Jar of Awesome

8 Mar

When he said it … I thought … dude. Yes! Why hadn’t I thought about that before.

So last Wednesday I revamped my search for appreciation in the little things, in addition to the big ones, during this 40-Day Fish-Stick-Friday Lenten Season. People are always giving stuff up, stuff that’s bad for you, but you can also give something to yourself or others, something that might be lacking or something you know you need.

I’m big on gratitude as it’s a daily practice of mine, because I’ve learned if you don’t appreciate the little things the big ones might lose their fluff after a couple of days.

But I learned this lesson as an adult.

I thought it would be great to get my kids to be mindful of moments and practice gratitude with me. I thought maybe I’d step it up as a parent.

So I got the idea from Mr. Tim Ferriss, and if you haven’t met or heard of Tim Ferriss, I stronggggggggggggggggggggly suggest you check out his podcast. He’s right on the mark, discovering strategies, routines, and stories that can affect change and help improve your life.  From Navy SEALs to Tony Robbins, to storytellers, to scholars, to actors like Jamie Foxx he covers it all and I’ve definitely picked up some good tips. Over 200 episodes and I found the one, well several actually, that gave me a moment … a pause … a shift that added something. This one in particular helped in parenting, helped with kids, could help with anything really, but thought kids would learn from this lesson.

The Jar of Awesome.

Just a regular mason jar with the word AWESOME written across it and any time a moment of awesome, big or small, took place, we’d write it down and put it in the jar so that we could remember. We’d write it down, so that when things happen, we can be grateful for them, mindful, we can remember things that were made to be Kodak moments of the heart, even when you don’t have a camera.

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So we’re off on the mason-jar journey, and I’ve realized the kids enjoy being reminded of their awesomeness. They forget the little moments, but smile the feel-good smile when they’re reminded. And I know we’ve only just started, but I’ll be sure to take a picture of it once we’re at the end of our 40-day journey. Who knows? We might actually keep it for 365 days.

The Jar of Awesome … here we go.

Writer Wednesdays: The Voice

1 Mar

They’ve got 90 seconds to do it.

There they are sitting with their backs turned, waiting to hear the voice that moves them enough to turn around. Blake, Adam, Alicia, Gwen. Ready to give a somebody a chance. That somebody is there, waiting in line to be discovered. Some people put it out there, giving it all they got, vulnerability, pain, strength, happiness. Emotion. They leave it all out there and they get a chair to turn.

They’ve got 90 seconds to do it.

That’s the writer’s life.

We’ve got about 90 seconds to pull it off … maybe even less. 90 seconds for someone to care enough about a character, a journey, a story, a voice to keep reading, to keep turning the page.  Writer’s don’t have reality TV shows giving them a break, because our life tends to be a reality show with its on plot twists and dramatic downfalls, although if Project Greenlight came back I’d have no problem with that. I often wished we’d get a competition show for writers and wrote about that once. But the writing process is not all that exciting. Pajamas, bad ideas, taking over the Starbucks tables. Don’t know if people would tune in.

But regardless if we’re on air or not, writers do have about 90 seconds to connect with someone, connect enough that they read the next paragraph. 90 seconds for someone to hear our voice.

And the weird thing is, even though I hate reality television, The Voice tends to slip under the radar for me. Watching it often inspires me. It reminds me to cut the BS,to empty the tank, to leave it all on the page. I like the fact that I hear one constant theme throughout the seasons. Emotion. These coaches keep emphasizing emotion. If you feel it when you sing it, odds are people feel it too and the connection is made.

I see this in writing all the time.  If you’re honest enough and feeeeeeel what you’re writing, no BS, whether it’s comedy or drama, if you’re genuine about it, you’ll make a connection. You just have to be vulnerable and strong enough to take that chance. And sometimes chances like this pay off. So, when I’m in a rut, or fallen off my writing schedule and discipline was out the window, when I’m trying to get back on track, I remind myself of The Voice, of stories or movies that connected and ask how did they do that?

Emotion. Honesty. 90 seconds.

 

 

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