wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in Beauty, Christmas, Faith, Family, Inspiring, Memoir, Personal | 2 comments

wonderstruck

  I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered– Red sky at morning, sailor take warning… And I wondered just what the day would bring. If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me. Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor. Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer. The sky felt like an omen. I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know? But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know. And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing. My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck? Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…. It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge. Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time. We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander. But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew. A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?   Share...

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 in Art, Christmas, Faith, Family, Favorite things, Personal, Uncategorized | 5 comments

The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

  I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art. Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity. Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you. As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance. Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves. Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember. This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers. Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity. I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades. A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it…. I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution: Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.   My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.   I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is.    Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).   Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…   And after. Share...

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Understanding Others || a guest post by my daughter

Oct

17

Posted by on Oct 17, 2015 in Family, Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Missions, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Uncategorized | 11 comments

Understanding Others || a guest post by my daughter

Motherhood is a gradual series of Letting Go. Some days it’s harder than others. Today is one of the hard days. My daughter is in her second month of a two-year fellowship with CrossPurpose, a training program “designed to bring together highly motivated individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests, and develop them into powerful kingdom builders for the public, private and nonprofit sectors.” Their mission is “to launch a movement of lifelong urban church leaders who will work through local churches and their communities to advance the mission of God and transform the cities of the world.“ My girl explains CrossPurpose’s philosophy, in part, the way it was explained to her: “You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and you can’t understand from a distance.”   Long story short, this means she’s living among the people she’ll serve, at the poverty level…by design. She knows she’ll be stretched thin and pulled outside her comfort zone. Figuratively, sure, but also literally. A few weeks ago she took part in a 48-hour weekend homeless immersion experience where she “entered the world of poverty and homelessness [to] discover the unique challenges of ministry among those on the margins of society.” She wrote a recent update for her supporters, and I asked her permission to share excerpts of it below. You see, I’m her mama and I know what she and her co-workers are doing is hard. I’m asking your prayers on her (their) behalf. Especially this weekend when she’ll be taking part in another 48-hour encounter: a Refugee Immersion – “an intense, physically challenging immersion experience that exposes [participants] to the parallel universe and ministry challenges among refugees.” Even if you discover this post after the fact, please pray. While the Refugee Weekend ends on Sunday, there’s no doubt its impact will linger, and the Fellowship is ongoing. Please continue reading for a glimpse into the life of a CrossPurpose Fellow. My daughter would be the first to shrug off any personal accolade, but the program is special and what they’re doing is revolutionary. * * * * * “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird __ This new skin I put on smelled bad. It was baggy and stretched from walking for miles. It did not endear me to others; on the contrary, this skin and the words that came from it garnered a type of reaction I’ve never before received. Dread dropped into my stomach to mix with my hunger as we were given a series of assignments throughout the weekend intended to provide a brief glance into the lives of those who have no place to call home. People who didn’t know better would easily make assumptions about who I was. What I was. * * * * * My daughter recently experienced a Poverty Immersion Weekend, where she and others spent a weekend on the streets, feeling and experiencing the lives of people who are homeless. This simulated experience has taken place for 18 years, guiding hundreds of individuals to empathize more deeply with our brothers and sisters who don’t have a place to...

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Greater Love

Sep

14

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in (in)courage, Empty Nest, Encouragement, Faith, Family, Life Philosophy, Mom stuff, Mothers and daughters, Parenting, Personal | 0 comments

Greater Love

Sometimes when you get what you hope and pray for, it’s not just hard, it hurts.   I’m a mama to three — two brothers born before their big sister turned five. Babies, then toddlers, are so active, aren’t they? Endless demands and never enough sleep, a constancy of care and attention. If you see a woman with raccoon eyes and a coffee IV, she’s probably a new mama. Every day is a learning experience for both child and parent. Perhaps the greatest surprise of parenting has been how much my children teach me. I presumed this teaching business was a one-way street, where I played the role of teacher, and they, always the students. While our home has certainly been a classroom, often it was me learning the lessons of love and life and forgiveness and sacrifice through them. The hardest lessons were those of self-discovery, where conflict or circumstance revealed my own sin. Sometimes parenting is knee-bending humbling.    Time plays tricks on mamas. Days stretch forever long but years end impossibly quick. And then one day you wake up to beds already made, an empty laundry basket, two glasses, and two plates in the dishwasher . . . and quiet. On brutal days of parenting, you’ll wish it would come faster. On days stitched in joy and sunshine, you will time to stop, if only that were possible. Yes, you will know this empty nest thing is coming a mile away. You’ll steel your heart for the inevitable. The Day will come softly with no fanfare, the way summer sneaks into fall. In nature and in life, seasons are creation’s evidence that change is good and necessary. Our youngest son started college last month, our middle son began his junior year . . . and on Tuesday we returned from a cross-country trip to move our firstborn into her new apartment. Sometimes parenting means letting go all the way.   We must let go of tiny hands so they can walk. We’ve got to release the seat of the bike so they can ride. When it’s time for them to leave home, we can’t attach strings of manipulation or guilt. We began praying for our children when they were only sparkles of hope in our eyes. When they were old enough, we kneeled right beside their bed or lay side by little side, our nightly prayers a bedtime ritual, a necessary prequel to sleep. That’s something not often marked in a visible place — the last time you say nighttime prayers with your children. I don’t think you recognize it as such; maybe because it’s more gradual than that. And maybe because you never actually stop praying. It’s safe to say that most parents pray their children will follow the Lord’s will for their lives, that they will love and serve Jesus for all of their days. Our world is a broken one and, increasingly, our culture seems to fight Judeo-Christian values. It is no small thing when our children leave home with their faith intact. When they’re on their own, free to experiment and explore, it is reason to downright celebrate when they still choose Christ again and again. Throughout their lives I’ve prayed for my babies to follow Jesus, but it never occurred to me that might come at a cost. Keep reading Greater Love over at incourage, won’t you?   Share...

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The Bookmark Thief

Sep

01

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Empty Nest, Family, Favorite things, Memoir, Mom stuff, Mothers and daughters, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | 4 comments

The Bookmark Thief

It was likely birthed as a gentle correction to my inconsiderate transgression: I had dared to turn down the corner of a page in one of her books. For one so young, she took good care of her special possessions, and there were no greater treasures than her books. These were no papery trophies staged on a shelf. They were stirrers of imagination, journeys of escape, introductions to new friends. It wasn’t hard to figure out those she loved most, loose bindings or passages lined and noted told on her. You could read this child by studying her bookshelf, and even more so if you opened some of those books. For a season, she carefully applied Wite-Out to profanities, a discovery that made me shake my head in wonder and admiration. We were intentional parents who did our best to train a child in the way she should go, but this was beyond expectation. She was so much better than I ever hoped to be. In case you didn’t realize, “bad” words do show up in children’s books sometimes. If memory serves me rightly, I was annoyed when she scolded me for folding a page corner to mark my place. She was making a mountain out of a molehill. I was disrespecting her property. Neither of us was particularly impressed with the other’s point of view. I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of this breach to her until she handed me a present a few days later, a hand-stitched bookmark. Certainly, it served both of us, but it was no doubt a love offering. She paid for it with humanity’s most valuable currency – time – and to me it was priceless. I was heartbroken years later when it was no where to be found.  * * * But this is a story with a happy ending, the kind punctuated with tears, heart-wrung but binding joy to sadness in the presence of good but hard things.   She found the bookmark she had sewn for me half her life ago. She was in the process of turning her room into mountains, piles to sell, piles to give away, piles to throw away, piles to keep. The yuckiest pile was the one marked undecided; it held sentimental attachment but no practical good. Every thing was a symbol of something more, a memory or season worth holding onto. It wasn’t about the thing itself but the everything else of it that made these things so hard to get rid of. If you’ve got an old tee shirt in your drawer you haven’t worn in decades but won’t throw away, you know exactly what I mean. Somewhere in the sorting and pile-making, she found my bookmark. Neither of us know why it was in her room but who cares? She found a treasured possession. When I look at this bookmark, I see her then. I can sense her indignation over my scarring her precious book, and her satisfaction in figuring out a brilliant solution. Uneven stitches…ragged edges…skewed alignment–the casual observer might see a mess of imperfection, but all I see is something perfectly beautiful.   The same could be said of all of us, I suppose. * * * When you’re raising your children it feels like it will last forever, doesn’t it?  The fridge is a revolving gallery, measuring time in footprints and thumbprints and handprints. Crooked letters and misspelled words. Construction paper and tissue paper, glitter...

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Don’t I look different…? {Part II, a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

18

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 in Aging, Empty Nest, Faith, Memoir, Parenting, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Don’t I look different…? {Part II, a series on motherhood & empty nest}

ii There’s this scene in the 1980s version of About Last Night where Demi Moore’s character, Debbie, is rebuffing her former lover’s (and boss’s) advances. Steve’s a persistent one, not believing her first “no” and reminding her of what they once shared. Her response is angry…indignant, not so much at his uninvited gesture but because he can’t see “it,” her feelings for her current boyfriend. Debbie: There’s somebody else now. Steve: I don’t see a ring. Debbie: I don’t need a ring…. Look at me. Don’t I look different? I’m in love, can’t you tell? This has never happened to me before. I want to have ten kids with this guy…doesn’t it show? The scene strongly resonates with me though under different circumstances. I’ve felt a similar emotional tension, markers of something significant. After I got married… After giving birth to my first child… The shock of learning I was post-menopausal when my body told a very different story… And now. When we’re young, we think there’s a point at which we’re grown. What I’ve come to realize is as long as we’re alive, we never stop growing, at least not in the ways that matter most.  In the beginning, we celebrate a series of Firsts. Somewhere beyond the crest of the Hill we celebrate lasts. Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same, the point of view and beauty therein lies in their beholder.   My youngest and I shared a dual ending/beginning, and it hit me he’s not the only one coming of age. So am I. His departure ushers in a new season for me and I find myself wanting to scream Look at me! Don’t I look different? This has never happened to me before! I didn’t expect to feel different, but I do. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. Everything that happens     has happened before, and all that will be     has already been— God does everything     over and over again. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:15 CEV Sometimes all I need to talk me off the ledge are Ancient Words. * * * * * PLEASE check back as I continue this series, as I process this new and precious life season. Though I feel it deeply, and at times, painfully so, there is too much good about it I don’t want you to miss!   It’s easy to subscribe for free, so if you haven’t yet, consider this my personal invitation.  (Also, if you haven’t yet, please read the first post in this series.)   Share...

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Facing giants {a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

17

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Aging, Empty Nest, Family, Health, Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Memoir, Mom stuff, Parenting, Personal | 13 comments

Facing giants {a series on motherhood & empty nest}

i. I’ve been pulling this Band-aid off for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the sting. It still hurts but the pain is a dull one just below the surface. Until it isn’t. But then once it’s off, that means the healing has taken place and the wound is restored to health. Isn’t that the way it goes? Last Wednesday we took our youngest to college, to the big university that happens also to be in my hometown. Athens, Georgia was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s – living in Five Points was a citified Mayberry – but I went away to school and never returned except to visit. Reasons are many, mostly tied to job, but I’ve arrived at a definitive peace with my hometown, and it feels so good to be there now, like all the unpredictability, challenge, and change over the last four years was leading to this: setting the stage for my baby to go to college in a familiar-to-me place. Home. Through him, in an odd sense, I’m able to be at home when I go home. Family is still there – family has always been there – but I think I appreciate being closer in proximity in a way I haven’t in a long, long time. So we moved my boy in to the 9th floor of a 960-student high-rise, and we left him and a chunk of my heart right there on Baxter Drive, 1.4 miles from the apartment we were living in when Mama died, down the road from my high school and middle school and around the corner from Barrow Elementary….within a few minutes and miles of where I spent my entire first 18 years. It’s easy to drift into memories – they’re a flood – but I’m anchoring myself to today. We came home to begin a new season, and lordy, our house was screaming quiet. And here’s the thing, a good thing for you to file away if you’re years from where I am:  You can “prepare” for Empty Nest all you want, you can steady your heart for the letting go, and you can even believe it’s good, well done, that this is what your parenting goal has been; but that doesn’t insulate you from the impact of this major change.  So…I’ve given myself permission to feel it.   Thursday, my husband went to work like normal, and I went to work like normal. No, not normal, I threw myself into my work and barely stopped all day. Not to eat or use the bathroom, just go go go so I wouldn’t have to listen to the damned silence. But then late in the day I had a conversation with a work colleague and she asked about taking Stephen to UGA the day before…and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t speak. And she spoke simple, liberating words over me, He’s your baby. This IS a big deal. It’s okay to be sad. Which of course made me cry, which of course made me feel better. Sometimes tears are a means of escape for all the feelings pounding your heart.   I AM a half-full glass girl. I DO see silver linings in stormy clouds. But sometimes it’s fine, even better, and certainly more honest, to absorb the impact of life and to recoil; eventually...

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Tears, Technology and Halcyon Days

Aug

06

Posted by on Aug 6, 2015 in Memoir, Nostalgia, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | 9 comments

Tears, Technology and Halcyon Days

 Take a minute to subscribe? (Thank you!)    I’m not a cry-er.   I chalk it up to using a lot of my Lifetime Tear Quota when my mom died the spring of ’72 and my beloved grandmother the summer after. Nothing hurts more than losing the ones you love most. Scraping my little girl’s heart something fierce, both left me with a decades-long oozing wound. Recovery comes slowly, and even if they fade to silver, scars remain. Though no one else can see them, you know they’re there. While I used to find not crying as some indicator of strength or emotional stability, I don’t so much these days. Sometimes I even find myself envying those for whom tears fall easily. With age, my tears have gotten conspicuously louder and I’m more attuned to the sorts of things that manage to siphon these tiny, magical waters from my eyes. Tears speak volumes if we’re listening.   Hallmark commercials are notorious for yanking heartstrings but it was a surprise when a granola bar commercial made me cry. Watch — Nature Valley asked the same question of three generations, “What did you like to do for fun as a kid?” It was all well and good when the over-40 set answered the question – blueberry picking, gardening, sledding, fishing, baseball, fort building, going door-to-door to find friends – and then it panned to a series of today’s kids… It wasn’t just their answers that bothered me; it was their enthusiasm, the way their faces illuminated when they spoke. Watching videos, gaming, texting — each child was passionate in answering. The admitted to spending hours…days…committed to their “play.” It made me sad-sick. I thought about my own childhood, what I did for fun– Visits with my cousins in small-town, Georgia, where we’d play Kick the Can with neighbors until the moon was high in the sky, dirt bike rides without helmets where you may not have gotten burned but you could feel the heat of the motor, playing Mumblety Peg and shooting firecrackers and swimming in the Blue Hole–knives and matches for heaven’s sake. Amazingly, we never were injured. Playing board games, building card houses and dining room forts, dress-up and make-believe, lemonade stands, water balloon fights, riding bikes and walking to 5 Points to buy a chocolate cone at Hodgson’s Drugs…. Reading behind the wing chair in our living room, sitting wrapped in a blanket by the heater vent, bowl of chocolate ice cream in one hand and Nancy Drew in the other. Or that time it snowed then iced then snowed again, and no one had power for days, and we became prowling wolves, somehow still finding our people. Boredom was a gift, a birthplace for imagination.   What a disservice to our children, that they never have to be bored. And it’s not that I’m judging kids for their choices; it’s a by-product of our culture.  Following a path of least resistance is human nature. Even as a mama, when I was desperate for a break, I’d pop in a Barney video to babysit. It concerns me for our collective future, mine and yours and ours, that we medicate on technology, how we suckle the internet like a babe to mother’s milk. We’re tempted to point at the addictions because we’re blind or maybe just numb to our own. We settle for imaginary friends on Facebook. We crumble under the...

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A Secret to Lifelong Marriage

Jul

08

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in (in)courage, Faith, Family, Marriage, Memoir, Uncategorized | 1 comment

A Secret to Lifelong Marriage

  We didn’t talk for two days after I wrote about him. Them. It wasn’t because he wouldn’t but because he couldn’t. “I know it’s all true because I’ve lived it,” he quivers, “but it’s still hard to believe when you see it in writing.” My words are mirror to their lives, an undistorted reflection of what I’ve observed for over 30 years. At 75, he and his bride still hold hands. At times I’ve seen them look at each other, grins telling secrets, eyes sizzling. Their son ignored it because – gross – but I thought it was…kind of amazing. Marriage is a hard thing, and untended, it will cool.  I want heat. Even the most blistering of fires will eventually dwindle to ash if not fed.  Give me flames. When I wrote about my father-in-law, apparently I poked a bear. Not a mean, grumpy grizzly but more along the lines of Pooh–not exactly a willy, nilly, silly old bear, but sweet nevertheless. With all manner of deference, he suggested a different title (his, based on a poem he penned 25 years ago, is better) and that I might want to rethink my choice of words in one spot (because I “might present myself better”), so I did. And then he reminded me of the secret to their 54-year marriage lest there was any doubt, to make certain I understood. “People want to know how we’re still so in love, how we have such a good marriage,” he begins. And the next thing he says is the kind of thing pulls taut your attention… “Having a good marriage doesn’t have anything to do with trying to have a good marriage…”   A simple truth that doesn’t begin to be easy. Please, please click to continue reading A Secret to Marriage for Life at incourage! Share...

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Listen

Jul

04

Posted by on Jul 4, 2015 in Aging, Family, Home, Memoir, Personal, Uncategorized | 5 comments

Listen

In the distance I hear a rooster. He’s persistent, this one, afraid we didn’t hear him the first time. He repeats his song–a cockle, an alarm, a lament. It’s midday and he’s waking no one. The air conditioner just cut on. I’m sitting by the return and its breathy strum is the most familiar white noise of the South. What they did before this blessed invention was to fan a lot and sweat a lot, and it’s a reason to thank God with all manner of enthusiasm for a man-made thing. A wind chime signals the softest of breezes but the purple martin’s cacophony is annoying to me. They try too hard to make their presence known, all that swooping and swirling and spinning in circles. What is it they’re after? They remind me of people I know, and it hurt more than a little to realize they remind me of myself at times. Music is playing somewhere outside where the men are working, our men. Two husbands–a son and a father shoulder to shoulder. They’re getting things done that have been languishing, waiting. I suppose for such a time as this. It’s not so much work as it is….investment. Love. Treasured moments. We’re sitting at the kitchen table and she’s handwriting recipes. The famous ones, at least to our family, and maybe to the lucky ones on the receiving end of her gift through all these years. Our playlist is quiet but there’s noise inside my head. So much. I long to hear what’s inside hers. I hadn’t noticed when she started getting quieter. The ice maker just emptied into the freezer bin. The back door squawked open and when he walked by her, he stole a kiss. And somewhere along the way the rooster stopped crowing.   * * * Inspired, in part, by Emily Freeman’s new book, Simply Tuesday. Reading brings with it a call to settle into small moments…like this one. Share...

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