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photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dropping the Ball

"No offense to the older generation...but you really dropped the ball on (civil rights, the environment, the economy, FUCKING EVERYTHING...)"

I heard that the other day, and it sounded so familiar. I wondered for a minute where I'd heard it before.

Oh, ya. *I* said it about 40 years ago.

About 40 years ago it was the '70's. There was gas rationing and racial unrest and a pervasive underlying hostility about the Vietnam War that festered and erupted over and over again.

We weren't quite hippies, us late '50's and early '60's babies.

The '70's Show? Totally accurate. More of a documentary than a sit com.

I spent the '70's in bell bottom jeans, self-embroidered denim or tie dyed tee shirts, my long hair pulled back and up in a leather barrette, no makeup and a mood ring.

We made sand candles and macrame plant hangers for our spider plants.

We burned incense to cover the aroma of...dirty laundry...in our bedrooms.

Actually, I never smoked weed. Never.

Smoking is bad for you.

Brownies are good for you.

We memorized the entire soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar and George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words (shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits) with equal intensity and knew every word of every Monty Python sketch...ever.

The society we lived in was full of change and full of contradiction but one thing we knew with the fervor of youth and the conviction of the teenage years is that we would set the world afire.

Gas rationing? Solar power was just over the horizon...within reach and would be taking off any minute now- our dependence on fossil fuels would be a thing of the past before we turned 30.

We had learned from VietNam that there was no good reason to be at war, no justification for the bloodshed and heartbreak and wholesale destruction it wrought- the broken soldiers and shattered families and scorched countryside in a far away place and we'd be the generation that stopped it...forever.

DDT and other carelessness had come precariously close to decimating our precious fellow travelers on this planet but we knew better now and nothing would happen like that again. The environment was safe in our hands.

So much. So much we were really truly passionate about and we couldn't for the life of us understand why our parents hadn't done something- why they just went to work and raised their kids and stood in quiet orderly obedience at the polling places and called themselves patriotic and we came to the conclusion that it was the times themselves- our parents were raised to be sluggish and pliant and it wasn't really their fault they lacked our passion, our determination to change the world.

They had dropped the ball, but we were different.

Then we were unceremoniously puked out of high school with a recessional and an encouraging word and we oozed though the floorboards of life- some to college, some to the service, some straight into marriage and kids (that would be me).

At 18 I was ready to change the world.

At 19 I was married.

At 20 I had a baby.

At 25 I had another baby.

At 32 I was divorced and working 2 full time jobs to make ends meet.

At 33 I went temporarily insane and fell into a blessedly brief "punish myself for the failure of my first marriage by marrying someone a million times worse" marriage.

At 40 I was married again- sanely and happily.

At 41 I had my last baby.

And at 43 Ward was stricken with cancer and we were plunged into the royally fucked up health care system.

And that's when I realized...

For 25 years I had gone to work and raised my kids and stood in quiet orderly obedience at the polling place and called myself patriotic...along with the rest of my generation.

It had happened without us seeing it, without us realizing it and sure as hell without us meaning for it to.

We dropped the ball.

And though a lot of us are at a point where we can look up over the grindstone and see the hellacious mess we've left for the next generation, not out of malicious intent but out of pedantic distraction, and we are reaching down and picking up the ball again we realize

We're not young anymore. We're old and slow.

And we hand the ball off to you- our children- the defiant and brilliant and beautiful young adults of today- and we apologize and promise.

We apologize for leaving you the same damn mess our parents left us- the politics and the environment and the endless fucking wars...

But we promise- we will not leave you on your own during your middle years, struggling to accomplish the day to day here to there routines of life; mundane yet demanding and guaranteed to suck the soul and passion right out of you unless someone has your back.

We have your back.

Take up the ball and run like the wind with it.



Monday, August 19, 2013

My Birthday Wishes

So I'm 'Edna sitting' while Joe is in Montana.

I love Edna and don't get to spend enough time with her, so I was looking forward to this few weeks when I had her 'all to myself'.

Edna's great.

She's a little fuzzy and a little wobbly but shit, she's just shy of 94 so what the hell?

Sure she's forgetting who her son is (on accounta that CAN'T be her son- that's an old man), and sometimes she thinks her little dog is a small boy who can't talk and who has no fingers but anyone can make mistakes, right?

Last month Edna started complaining about her eyes 'not behaving'. She was having trouble reading because she said her eyes kept jumping around'. So we went to the eye doctor. He checked her eyes and found nothing, so he ordered an MRI.

The MRI they took almost 2 weeks ago showed a large aneurysm that's pushing on her optic nerve, which would make her eye not behave, and also pressing on an artery that feeds blood to her brain, which may be why she's getting more confused rapidly.

How rapidly?

This morning I was going up the ramp to her porch and almost bumped into Edna coming down the ramp. She was dressed and ready to go.

"Where are you going, Edna?"

"Well, I'm going to work of course".

Of course.

The short story is that there are people coming into her house through the TV, bossing her around and then leaving through the walls. Sometimes the ceiling. This is vexing to her because she remembers us going to watch them build her little house and NOWHERE were there hollow panels for people to travel through. True enough.

I asked if she wants to go to work and she said NO.

I told her, she does not have to go to work, ever again, and why. That if those people come back she should tell them to go to hell. Which made her laugh, and she agreed.

She said, however, that she is 'leery' of being alone since they come in at night more than during the day.

So I'll be spending the night with Edna tonight and as long as it takes to ease her heart and poor fuddled mind.

Because no one should be afraid in their own home, no matter the reason.

I called for the THIRD time to see what the status was of the 'stat' appointment they were supposed to be setting with the neurologist...almost 2 weeks ago. I don't know if he can do anything about the aneurysm but we need to know our options. Edna needs to know her options.

While I was stressing and worrying about Edna, I skimmed over Facebook and saw this from one of my friends, writing about her 4 year old son-

"Every night Cash closes his eyes and wishes for a new morning. Then in the morning he yells that his wish came true."

Today is my birthday- my 54th.

I am reasonably healthy, and of a marginally sound mind.

I know my family, and cherish every moment with them- every moment remembered and every moment in the here and now.

I am always (sometimes painfully) aware when I lay my head down on the pillow at night that the day just past is gone forever, and there's one less day for me to live.

Today I remember. I remember all those who love me enough to wish me a happy birthday, and I love all those who love me but who will invariably forget when my birthday is.

Because it shouldn't matter. It doesn't matter.

My only birthday wishes are for security, love and happiness for everyone I love.

For the precious gifts of memory and clarity till my light is quenched and I am no longer.

And for a new morning.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Field Trip...Home School Style

So we took a little train ride last month.

There was a get together at a friend's house we wanted to go to and we thought, "Why not take the train? It'll be fun!"

Just a little train ride.

So we left out of Mineola TX one fine evening, fresh and eager.



See? Eager.



'Round about midnight, we pulled into Little Rock and dropped off a few and picked up a few. The boys slept through that.



Right after dawn, we passed by the St. Louis arch.



Then we traversed Illinois...the long way from bottom to top.



Finally, we got to Chicago.



We got off the train in Chicago and got on the commuter train to Sturtevant WI, which is right outside Racine WI.

Racine WI is where I was born and lived till I was 35. It's right on Lake Michigan and a pretty city during every season but winter...which lasts from October 1st thru May 31st.









We spent the night in Racine, and while there, of course, we visited family- my brother and son and their lovely partners.



And my parents.



And an old friend from high school. Old friend. I'm not sure how he got so old since we went to school together.



And then we got back on the train.

Back to Chicago, where we had time to explore Union Station before our next transfer.



We slept our way across most of the dreariest parts of northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and woke up to Cleveland.



Here's where it sorta went downhill. Most of the time Amtrak will run a bit late and by 'a bit' I mean anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours late. This is not, as you hear so often, the mis-management of Amtrak. This is because the tracks themselves are owned by the freight companies and the freight companies treat Amtrak like the redheaded stepchild and restrict which tracks they may run on and when. Hence...sitting on the tracks waiting for stupid freight trains to mosey on by, while passengers on the Amtrak train sweat out whether or not they will make their next connection.

So the train went from leaving Chicago on time on the nosie, to an hour late, to two hours late, to "Holy Shit We Are Never Getting to Albany" late.

Somewhere in there our train car was overrun by several Amish families- 22 of them from about mid-thirties down to "I think she had that baby on the way to the train" little. They were delightful. And darling. And very well behaved.

Somewhere in there our train was boarded by several border security (I never think of the Canadian border as...foreign) and they asked everyone where they were from and where they were going. Several rows in front of us were 2 women who spoke very broken English. They conversed to each other in their native language- Russian. They were outstandingly pretty. They couldn't answer the questions. They were smiled at and the security guys moved on to...the Hispanic English teacher from Chicago, who got everything but the spotlight shone in his eyes during interrogation. Eventually they wearied from this exercise in National Security and left.

Finally...four hours late, we pulled into Albany.



And our reason for being there...a few days in a 1700's farmhouse



Surrounded by blueberry bushes in full fruit



And this balm-for-the-soul environment







And good friends.



From there it was just a short trip to New York City, where none of us had ever been, and a prettier route I cannot imagine as it went alongside the Hudson River the entire way.






I was sorta excited to be able to SEE New York City without having to DRIVE or FLY into New York City. Unfortunately, just before the train gets INTO New York City, it goes underground, giving this lovely view all through town.



Once in Penn Station I realized...it's fucking huge. I've been all over the US and we're absolutely comfortable in Chicago and Houston- numbers 3 and 4 in size of US cities, but this? Fucking huge. Luckily, we were met by friends who steered us outside long enough for a photo in front of (within sight of) the Empire State Building. We were outside less than 5 minutes, but can now say we have been IN New York City. Where? Oh, Midtown.



This is New York City.



This is literally ten minutes south of New York City. Looks a helluva lotta like Illinois.



Ahhh...Washington DC, where the capitol building hides behind the congressional offices.



The Washington Monument is covered in weblike scaffolding, appearing rust brown instead of marble white



And just across the Potomac River is the Creepy as Fuck Masonic Temple, proving once again that Separation of Church and State is a good thing...because it could totally kick the ass of any building or monument in DC. I mean...lookit it.



We slept through most of the dirt poor charming Southern Seaboard states and woke up to Atlanta.



This leg of the trip was the longest stretch on the train. Thank God for coffee.



By now Alec had decided he was never getting off of the train and pretty much just carved himself out a lair.



Birmingham Alabama may have some redeeming qualities. Or not.



Rural Alabama is just like you'd imagine it...if you ever imagined it. Camaro up on blocks, something in smoker and kudzo marching in to take it all over.



Coming through Mississippi, kudzo really hit its stride and the True South welcomed us home.



'Round about sunset we crossed over Lake Pontchartrain.



And right AT sunset we came into the train yard in New Orleans...sunset to sunset, 7 days from Mineola TX to New Orleans LA via St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Albany, NYC, Baltimore, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Birmingham.



Pulling into the station, where we got off the train after just shy of 3,500 miles.



Ahhh...New Orleans.







Ward went to Tulane and said he didn't feel like he was really back in New Orleans till we saw this-



So that was our Dixon Family Road Trip...more of a Track Trip this year. The boys found out they like train travel as much as I do as we traveled through fifteen states and ten major cities, crossing two arterial rivers and skated alongside three of the Great Lakes.

History, Family, Friends, Food, Adventure, Culture, Good, Bad, Ugly- America.

Don't discount the train as a way to get from point A to point B, especially if you have small children who would appreciate being able to run around while the vehicle is moving, or if you are traveling alone- I've met one unpleasant person on a train...ever... in over 40 years of train travel, or if you are older and don't really want the killer 15 hour days of a long distance road trip anymore.

The train will rock you to sleep, take you places automobile roads don't go, and do the driving through the big cities.

www.amtrak.com

Tell 'em the Dixons sent you.








Thursday, August 8, 2013

Phrases That Make My Skin Crawl

"You've gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet".

That's one of those catchy, 'responsible adult' things you hear from the Sensible Conservatives, along with 'fiscal responsibility' and 'sharing the burden'.

Here's what those phrases really mean as well as what they should mean.

Because these particular phrases are an unholy pantsload of complete bullshit sometimes difficult to understand fully.

Breaking a few eggs to make an omelet really means that once they're done messing with the budget and social programs, a lot of people who need help will not get it. And by 'not getting the help they need', I mean they will actually die from lack of healthcare, actually starve from lack of food and actually be homeless for lack of shelter. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that 'that sort of thing could never happen in AMERICA' because it happens every damn day, and if you don't know that you are living in a dream world of unicorns and rainbows...you know- like us liberals are accused of because we want to make sure that Americans don't die of shit they don't have to die of like lack of healthcare, food and shelter.

Here's what 'breaking a few eggs to make an omelet' should mean- It should mean that those who have eggs to spare pony up and toss 'em into the omelet. Social security cap of $113,000? Gone. If we took (as in taxed) everything- even a fraction of a percent- social security would be not only solvent, but leaping for joy. A .05% tax on $200,000 would be a whopping $100 a year. You cannot tell me that anyone would MISS $100 out of $200,000. Back in 2010, 4.5 million Americans made over $200,000. That would be 450 MILLION extra dollars into the social security fund...just by taking $100 from the FIRST $200,000. Someone who makes $1,000,000 a year would have to pay a whopping extra $500. The horror.

Fiscal responsibility is something we hear a whole lot of. So much that according to some, being fiscally responsible overrides everything else- taking care of our people, making sure our bridges don't crumble while being driven on, everything. Well, except for the military. They're somehow exempt. What it really means is that people just need to get used to the idea that the gravy train candy cane days of good pay and benefits and pensions are gone. For good. Just like that. And to question that or whine about it is not only unseemly and annoying, but fiscally irresponsible. Because what fiscally responsible family doesn't refuse to go to the grocery store and buy food when the bill for the home security system is due? Food? Health care? Shelter? Those are LUXURIES, kids- they're not RIGHTS. You're thinking of guns.

Here's what 'fiscal responsibility' should mean- It should mean that America takes care of its people who can't take care of themselves. Sick people, old people, children. Take care of them, period. Not with stipulations or 'proof' that they need it- 'proof' that they're sick and old and tiny and weak. Fiscal responsibility is using the financial resources you have for things that matter. It does not mean refusing to go to the grocery store because you promised the boys you'd go to Shreveport and gamble on the boats this weekend and if you back out now they'll call you pussywhipped and it should not mean gutting social programs and giving bailouts to corporations that are banking billions in profits because you're askeerd that they will 'take their business overseas'. Because if you aren't aware that they are already GONE, that their bank accounts and their employees and factories are already not still on our US soil, then your head is firmly lodged in your ass...you know- like us liberals are accused of when we question the wisdom of taking American land by eminent domain and giving it to foreign companies to run leaky pipelines over the aquifers that supply most of the farmland in America with water and will provide zero full time jobs for Americans for oil that is already contracted to be sold overseas.

Sharing the burden is a great one. What it really means is that while the corporations and really rich people (think of what you make and what everyone you know makes and times it by 100...that's not enough. That rich.) are paying lawyers and congressmen to be sure that they pay very little or nothing in taxes, people like you and I pay more to try to prop up the system they are making their billions from. See? Sharing.

Picture 2 people struggling to carry a really heavy box. Like a box of rocks. A third person comes up and offers to help. That person opens the box, takes out the smallest rock and puts it in his pocket, then sits on the box while the other 2 carry it.

*Sharing the burden*

What 'sharing the burden' should mean is that the 2 people carrying the box tip the smug asshole off of the box and pour the entire thing out, divide up the rocks equally and all three carry their share. Their FAIR SHARE. It's not Socialism, it's socialism and if you don't know the difference you're an ignorant propaganda-dazed moron who doesn't think past whatever the talking heads on TV and the radio tell you...you know- like us liberals are accused of because we don't watch FOX or listen to Rush because those are the only ones 'brave enough to tell it like it is', unlike the liberal mainstream news which is a three word fallacy on all counts.

I was going to include it's high time the Republicans stood up against the mean old Democrats who run roughshod all over the US Constitution and strong-arm everything they want through the House and Senate, but I can't even type that without simultaneously laughing hysterically and throwing up a little in my mouth.

And that's a dangerous mix.

For a glimpse of how the world is really working for everyday ordinary Americans, please see
http://www.amazon.com/Almost-Invisible--Different-Survival-ebook/dp/B007W4T3B4/ref=sr_1_7_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1375981088&sr=8-7&keywords=sheri+dixon

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Phone Blogging- Like Drunk Texting Without the Spelling Accuracy

So I'm blogging on my phone while Alec is swimming. I haven't had time to do much of anything in my 'normal' routine lately, because Ward is suffering from a mystery foot issue- with his medical history there could be no less than four causes for him to be so crippled up he can barely walk and can't drive, but they are treating it as though it's 'all of the above' and hopefully soon...

Here's the thing that I want to make abundantly clear.

People are always complimenting me on how much I manage to get done.

Ward is always telling me how horrible it makes him feel that I'm so busy and he 'sits at home doing nothing'.

I'm here to tell you- I could not do a tiny fraction of what I do without being secure in the fact that Ward is taking care of the daily grind- the feeding and care of most of the pets and people on our place, the tending of the gardens, running Alec to swinming and art class and social dates every single day, sweeping and steaming the floors that are always sandy from outside, just the never-freaking ending pile of dishes in the sink...shit I never ever even think about- *poof* all done every day without fanfare or complaint.

Ward is and has always been my knight in shining armor- more now than almost 20 years ago when we met and he nurtured me through depression and poverty and despair- all the things that go with the end of even the most miserable marriage.

He's amazing, and courageous, and so incredibly sexy.

And I never want to hear him say "I just stay home and don't do anything to help" again.

Because Gomez?

Your 'doing nothing all day' is absolutely kicking my ass.

I love you.

PS- for those who don't know us and the absolutely amazing man my husband is- here-

http://www.amazon.com/CancerDance--a-love-story-ebook/dp/B008IBMMJ0/ref=sr_1_8_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1375887311&sr=8-8&keywords=sheri+dixon

Oh. It's also about being a cancer family.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

When Every Day is a New Day

Most every morning, I see him walking from his cabin to his mom's house.

It's not stalking if you're in my yard, and both little houses are less than 100 feet from our cabin.

Every morning Joe walks over to his mom's house, her morning medications in hand and ready for coffee and conversation.

I love Edna. I've loved her from the moment I met her almost exactly 2 years ago. She was only 91 then.

She was small and frail and in a hospital bed in a hospital. She had read my book, "CancerDance- a love story" (the first version) because Joe had given it to her to define for her this family he was now part of.

I walked in the room and she looked up at me, and in her eyes I saw relief. "Everything will be OK- Sheri's here" they seemed to say.

I had known from the minute Joe said, "Mom fell down and is in the hospital" that her next move would be onto our place. She'd been living alone and I knew those days were probably over for her unless there were special circumstances.

So we put the special circumstances in place.

She had enough in her bank account to purchase a little modular home- a tiny modular home that was nevertheless as big and about 10 times better constructed than the apartment she'd been living in...the apartment that cost her her entire social security check plus some of her savings every month with nothing included- no utilities, no services, no meals...nothing.

She paid cash, hooked up to our well and septic and got herself an account with the phone company and electric company.

We promised her she'd never be alone overnight, since she was an urban dweller and our rural location made her squidgy.

I try to visit her every other day and when Joe and I are out running errands for more than a few hours either Ward or Alec check on her.

At night when I go to bed I turn on the baby monitor that sits one end on the top of her fridge and the other end on our headboard. I turn it off when I hear her little dog dancing around in the morning.

Once a week I take her to get her hair done and we generally go out for lunch afterwards.

But the bulk of Edna-care falls on Joe's big ol' shoulders.

When Edna declared that she needed help and that Joe needed to move to Oklahoma City to help her, he panicked.

When Edna moved into his cabin for a 'visit' to see if she liked Texas and declared 2 weeks later that Joe's little cabin was just fine for her and he could stay living in his camper permanently, he hyperventilated.

When Edna finally moved into her own little house, he was relieved. And horrified. Because she was here. Right here. Forever.

When Edna moved here she was sharp as a tack, in all ways. And Joe was the one she poked.

For some reason, I'm the one she thinks can do no wrong, and Joe can do very little right. It's only funny about half the time now.

Last summer, Edna came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized for a few days. They wanted to keep her longer but she checked herself out against medical advice and three days later was sitting at her kitchen table eating pizza and drinking a beer.

She seemed a little more physically feeble after that.

About 6 months ago, she was sitting down on the end of her bed, misgauged where her butt should land (shut up- we've all done it) and slid off the bed and onto the floor- cutting her forehead on the dresser and bruising herself up pretty good.

Of course, she refused to go to the doctor, much less the hospital.

She used to tell me about her crazy dreams- where people she knows are long dead or relatives still alive come to visit her- but she knew they were dreams. Because she was awake most of the day, most days.

Now she spends a lot of time sleeping and dreaming and sort of drifts in and out of what we see as reality.

She's been getting more and more confused about days and times and thinks her little dog is sometimes a little boy who can't talk or eat correctly...because he doesn't have fingers.

Joe never knows how many places will be set at the table for dinner, because she's cooking for 'everyone'. Sometimes it's 2. Sometimes it's 8.

She'll be 94 in September. She refuses to go to the doctor. Says she's fine. Old, but fine. She told me the other day, "I have aches and pains and I'm getting forgetful, but you know? I still do pretty much what I want to do. Most people my age are dead".

How can you argue with that?

The one thing I hate, personally hate, is that she is forgetting her son.

She'll be talking to him...about him.

He said something about his upcoming birthday and she asked when it was. He told her and she said, "Oh! My son's birthday is that same day!"

When he offers to go to the store for her, she tells him no thanks- she'll wait for her son to go- he's so good at it.

He tries to tell her that HE'S her son and it only makes her angry. She doesn't know who he is, but she knows darn well that he's not her son.

When I'm talking to her she refers to her son...and that other guy. The one who lives out behind her son's house.

Joe asked me why she never forgets who *I* am. I avoided what would normally be my smartass obvious answer- that she loves me better, because it really does bother him...a lot. And I understand why.

I told him that she's living more in the past now than the present, reminded him that she never knew me as looking other than how I do right now, that he left home when he was 17 and except for visits of a few days never went back. Has he looked in the mirror lately? When he walks into her house he's not her 17 year old son...he's a 71 year old man.

While he understands it, it's still difficult.

While I understand her confusion and wanderings, it takes a lot of patience to have a sustained visit with her.

And I'm not her daughter.

Every morning he takes her her pills and has coffee. Every afternoon he has dinner with her. Every evening he takes her her pills. And generally checks on her in between.

And it's a total crap shoot whether he'll be her son, or 'that other guy'. Sometimes they switch places during the visit.

Joe's packing up his camper as I type. He's headed to Montana for a month- something he didn't get to do last year because Edna had just come out of the hospital.

I give him a ton of shit about it- about needing to run up north to shoot and hunt because obviously there are NO GUNS or DEER in Texas, but I understand. I do.

Now more than ever.

And even though I usually never disagree with Edna unless its a life or death situation (like insisting she go to the hospital...with PNEUMONIA) I firmly but kindly tell her yes- her son does need to go up north and he's not abandoning her and the rest of the family will step in and do what he does for her and he'll be back in a few weeks.

Because a month is too long, but a few weeks is acceptable.

Being the caretaker for a child is exhausting, but you know that child will grow up and fly away as they should.

Being the caretaker for someone who's been ill or had surgery can be daunting, but most of the time they recover and re-take their place as another able adult in the family unit who can then care for others as needed.

I cannot imagine my own mother not knowing who I am. Cannot imagine my mother looking directly at me and denying that I belong to her. Cannot imagine watching the woman I remember as being strong and capable and sharp as a tack decline bit by bit, day by day.

He said the other day, "Every day's a new day- I never know who I'll be or what she'll come up with".

I know the next month will give me just a small dose of what Joe does every day right under our noses as we run our own lives.

Amazingly, when we were gone for 10 days, Joe did all the running of the farm- everything Ward, Alec AND I do, plus cared for his mother.

I just wanna tell him to have a wonderful, relaxing time.

Joey- you are appreciated, you are loved, and you are doing a tremendous job caring for your mother.

Be careful, darlin'- have fun and come home safe.






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