self-image

What’s Your Superpower?

It’s Gratituesday! I’m blessed to rub shoulders with a huge variety of women.

There’s something you should know about them that I suspect they don’t know about themselves. Most of the women I know wear a secret clothing item.

It’s an invisible cape.

Yes. A superpowers cape.

You can't always see the Wonder Woman logo, but the wonderful is always in the woman!

You can’t always see the Wonder Woman logo, but the wonderful is always in the woman!

Some of them don’t notice that they daily fly, soar, leap tall buildings with a single bound, stop bullets, prevent disasters, keep the peace. It’s just what they do every day. They don’t notice the cape flapping in the breeze as they rush about doing their every day amazing things. Naturally, inherently creative and innovative, women rarely stop to really look into the mirror and see that cape, or see the determination in their own eyes. They don’t see how they create something from almost nothing, pull rabbits out of hats, make magical things happen.

You can hardly expect them to admit to having any superpowers.

A little known code word for superpowers is the word CREATIVITY.

Creativity expresses itself in phenomenal ways and places. It’s not merely the painters, the writers and the musicians that produce work worthy of adulation and honor. My mouth hangs open in astonishment at times at some of the things women create, at the superpowers they quite unknowingly display.

For instance:

  • A single working woman I know puts in a full forty hours or more all week at a difficult job and then comes home each night to care for her aging father. Someday, she hopes to have time to write her novels. In the meantime, she creates a real-life story of love, patience and sacrifice.
  • DSC03027[1]My daughter crafted this poem, then painted a background and the words to hang beside a priceless photo of her daughter sleeping. Those naps, however rare, give her time to replenish her superpowers and use her creativity in many other ways.
  • My sister has a unique relationship with her daughter, chiseled out of moments in a breathlessly busy single-mom teachers life of twelve-hour days and etched in during a few brief weeks of summer.
  • My cousin captured the beauty and serenity of Arches and Canyonlands in a home redecorating project, most of it done on her own or with the help of other women. What a peaceful place to visit, rest and rejuvenate.
  • An inner city high school teacher creates relationships with her students whose only personal contact with a stable adult might be herself or one of her collegues.
  • An artistic blog by another woman features her artwork, recipes, photographs, book reviews and personal stories, providing fun, inspiration and beauty.
  • A young woman cares for her siblings as surrogate mother, meanwhile holding down a job, attending university fulltime, remodeling, running a household with her dad and making furniture just for fun.
  • A tutor/parental support person for special needs children, who also cares for her own special needs child at home.
  • On Mother’s Day a friend of mine honored countless women in her life with praise and personalized hashtag shoutouts on Facebook.
  • Another woman I know writes masterful stories from history snippets she reads about.
  • A widowed young mom helped another woman with a major renovation project, going shopping, giving advice, adding just-so touches that make all the difference.

The women I know daily surprise me with their stamina and cheerfulness, and examples of endurance, creativity and grace. I could heap praises on many women I know and admire; nurses, dispatchers, teachers, mothers, musicians, grandmothers, volunteers, caterers and bartenders, sisters, saleswomen, den mothers, girl scout moms, coaches, accountants, students, online business owners, seamstresses, mentors, hair stylists, aunts, engineers, receptionists, caregivers, friends, musicians, and mentors.

From a running tshirt my daughter gave me.

From a running tshirt my daughter gave me.

From the relentless demands of every kind of work women do, from stay at home mothers, to those who work outside the home, to those who earn a living at home, I’m privileged to know and rub shoulders with superstars. Cradle rocking, impact making, non-quitters who give of themselves, produce smiles, provide compassion and meals and hugs, pay bills, exercise creativity, work miracles, dig deep and make the world stunning, wonderful and worthwhile.

You all take my breath away!

If you don’t know what your superpowers are, ask someone who knows you. You might be surprised at what they see in you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, People, self-image | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Real Nail Biter

When you’re determined to do something not much will stand in your way.

I had a sister who sucked her thumb when she was young until she was almost not a child anymore. Mom and Dad tried everything, rewards, punishments, a mouthpiece, and yucky tasting stuff painted on her thumb. Nothing seemed to work. Whatever she got from sucking on that thumb outweighed any threat or reward anyone could put before her.

What finally worked? Peer pressure!

In other words: You can’t be cool and suck your thumb at a slumber party.

Instant cure for her.

My bad habit cure wasn’t so instantaneous. What other people thought about my fingernail biting didn’t matter much to me at all.

Munched fingernails.

Munched fingernails.

I tried that yucky paint on stuff because I wanted to stop biting my fingernails. Mom and Dad wanted me to stop biting my nails, too. But the stuff didn’t taste bad enough. I would still keep biting and chewing and gnawing away at my nails and my cuticles. I would chew past the quick until my poor fingers bled and throbbed. Sometimes I had four or five bandages on my fingers to keep them from hurting too much. Once they healed enough I would be back at chewing my nails again.

Not only did I want to stop biting my nails, I wanted to have long beautiful manicured nails. But nothing I tried did any good.

I might add that this was long before the common occurrence of nail salons that populate every strip mall across the country. I couldn’t simply go get acrylic nails glued on.

At the back of most teen magazines there were adds for fake nail kits like the ones “used in Hollywood.” I succumbed in my desperation and paid out hard-earned babysitting money for one of these “easy to use” kits. What a disaster! Lumpy foul-smelling glops of gunk on the ends of my fingers. Bah!

At this point you might be asking a few questions. What was I so stressed about? Why did I chew my nails? Was I an anxious child?

Did I worry?

Oh yes, I did worry.

I worried about everything from the end of the world to what to do during a nuclear explosion. I worried about who I would play with at recess and whether I’d see the cute boy at lunch. I worried about the bullies and the popular girls and I worried about getting left behind. Then as I got older I worried about playing the clarinet decently and fitting in with some group, having cute enough clothes, homework assignments, AP tests, a part-time job. You name it, I probably worried about it.

But was all this worry the reason I bit my fingernails? I have no idea.

I think it was just a strange habit I fell into. Something to do. A nervous tic. Boredom.

Saved by Good Intentions

As a freshman in college, a slightly older freshman took me under her wing. I suppose I came across as out of date, or frumpy, or plain. I don’t know. I was more interested in learning something in my classes and doing well writing essays and taking tests. I also held down a part-time job and didn’t have much time for a social life. Whatever the reason, she had a few suggestions for updating my look, inspiring more self-confidence, and for improving my grooming.

Looking back I might have taken offense at her chutzpah, but I think I simply welcomed her attention and concern. Mostly, I was glad for the “older sister” treatment, since I didn’t have an older sister.

Among tons of advice, which I quickly forgot, she gave me some surprisingly simple advice that solved a lifelong problem. She told me that if I took care of my fingernails every single day, pushing back my cuticles, smoothing and filing any rough edges, and repainting them every single day they would grow in.

Guess what?

A sampling of nail care kitsch.

A sampling of nail care kitsch.

It worked! My nails grew. Instead of chewing at the gnarly looking stubs, I looked longingly at the barely growing but meticulously cared for tips of my nails. I saw potential. I saw hope.

Did my dorm mate’s ministrations suddenly and miraculously cause me to start dating a lot? No! And I didn’t care that much about dating then. But my fingernails grew longer than they had ever been! I finally liked how my hands looked.

Strange that all it took to cure my nail-biting was to pay attention to them in a different way. Instead of mindlessly gnawing away, I was mindfully caring for my nails.

Makes me wonder.

I wonder if that works for other things in life? Replace automatic behavior with thoughtful and focused behavior and voilà! Hmmm. Curious.

*Note to self: research this phenomenon in depth.

Once in a while, usually when I’m reading a suspenseful or intense book, I’ll start fiddling about at a rough edge of a nail or a cuticle and before I know it (after fifty pages or so) I have a short nail. And if the book keeps my attention tied up too much, I’ll find almost all my nails short again. But, then I grow them back really quickly.

I suppose that’s why I try to chew gum, or eat chocolate, or nuts, or popcorn when I’m reading. I should keep a nail file nearby, or use an emery board as a bookmark.

For the most part, now that I’m technically a mature adult, I keep my nails looking long and neat. Occasionally I’ll splurge for a manicure, but that’s rare.

I still worry. I haven’t found a magic cure for that. Which is too bad.

But at least my fingernails don’t pay that price anymore.

~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`

I did a quick search and found a few articles about changing bad habits if you’re interested in learning more.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: physical health, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Now Trending: Not Trending.

I’m not much for following trends. The term “trending” makes me want to turn and run the other direction. I’m not big on crowds or trying to fit in.

I couldn’t tell you about “in” styles, name brands, car models, or the cool songs or shows.

 

 

Variety equals energy, joy and fun.

Variety equals energy, joy and fun.

Clothes consist of shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, shoes, socks. Vehicles are cars, vans, SUVs, trucks and big rigs. Any name associated with any of them escapes me.

As much as I love to read I resist reading the latest and greatest. I avoid the NYT bestseller list until multiple friends insist I’m missing out on an astounding book, then I’ll put it off six months or longer.

If Oprah suggests it, I’ll avoid it. If some sitcom or Dr. Phil or Judge Judy or whoever on a late night talk show recommends it, I won’t do it. If it’s something I’m already doing and I hear they’ve touted its benefits, I’ll probably stop.

Does that make me antisocial? 

Probably.

Oh well.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

I went for a walk today in Old North End of Colorado Springs. Most of the houses here came into existence in the nineteen fifties. At the time, I suppose, they probably all kind of looked alike, two or three basic house plans, two or three basic paint colors. Today, over sixty years later every house’s personality sings out.

Some have enclosed front porches, others sprout wings toward the back or side, and some have lovely balconies. Still others boast art glass windows and meticulous yards, while others choose to let vines ramble and allow nature to dictate direction and style. And the colors! Oh my! I saw lovely grays, blues, violets, periwinkles, pinks, stonework, yellows, brickwork, lilac, tans, creams, and white, ivory, apricot.

I loved the variety.

I pictured people of all sorts gathered inside, prepping for a lovely Sunday dinner, family and friends visiting, kids out back loving the spring weather.

Love this cheery home.

Love this cheery home.

The thought of going back to my twenty-year old neighborhood with the same stucco cream-pink cracker boxes saddened me. And to think homeowner associations exist to guarantee such sameness and boring identical identities.

I suppose I’m just an old house, metaphorically speaking. I’ve evolved into something other. I’m a periwinkle siding, open front porch, extra bedroom and bath added, a few upgrades, real wood floors, rambling garden yard with laundry on the line in back kind of place.

Don’t expect me to fit in. It’s not in my blueprints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: People, self-image, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Not So Great Pretender

I often walk through life thinking someone will find out the truth about me. They’ll find out that I’m all fluff and nonsense, a shell without substance, cotton candy. My nutritional value is exactly zero.

I am just like my yard, the front public view blooms with bright colors and lovely swept walks, while the back yard grass overgrows its bounds, weeds replicate in frightful numbers and a dead Christmas tree in April houses countless spiders.

Oh, look, it’s not a secret anymore. I just blogged the truth right here for all to see. (Bet you didn’t realize the subtitle of this blog is “True Confessions.”)

Seriously, don’t you ever feel like a fake? I do, all the time. I know all my failings, all my shortcomings, all my whininess and nitpickiness. I hear all those thoughts I never actually say out loud. I think those thoughts. I’m not a nice person. I’m not someone anyone should trust with anything precious or private or close to the heart.

This hangs in my kitchen, you'd think it would sink in to my subconscious mind.

This hangs in my kitchen, you’d think it would sink in.

For example, I often say “Yes” with a sincere smile, when my heart, mind and soul all want to scream “NO!!!! Are you crazy? Why would you ask such a thing of me?”

It’s almost as if some other entity has taken over my brain and formed my lips into the “yes” word. It’s automatic, instinctual, mindless. Where logic dictates a “no” answer, i.e. my schedule can’t squeeze another drop into it, I blithely, trippingly, child-without-a-care-in-the-world answer, “sure, I’d be happy to.”

Then I promptly and privately find a brick wall and bash my head against it, repeatedly. What a fool I am.

I end up letting people down because I’m overscheduled, unorganized and undisciplined. Then I really hate myself as the truth about me leaks out. I’m not reliable or consistent or kind or helpful or anything good at all.

I can’t decide if I’m super easy-going, lacking a back bone, or simply bonkers.

There’s also the reverse problem. I finally, blessedly, miraculously say “no” to something or someone. You’d think I’d breathe a huge sigh, pat myself on the back and get on with my life. You’d think wrong. I second-guess myself, feel guilty for saying “no,” feel selfish for standing up for myself and generally berate my decision and my no-ingness.

I can’t say “yes” and I can’t say “no” without repercussions. Oh, brother.

My kids know and recognize the truth. They know that mending projects may never get finished, regardless of my deeply sincere intentions. They know that “I’m going to bed early tonight” actually means I’ll probably be awake until two or three a.m. They know and have sadly lived with the raving lunatic driver who wishes her car came equipped with a bazooka and a bullhorn. They’ve seen this angry rock-hurling, lawnchair-throwing maniac pushed past her limits.

Lucky for them, they escaped and now live elsewhere. Miraculously, they still call and drop by occasionally, bless their hearts.

I also agree to things that I’m deathly afraid of. (Snake handling, spider killing, heights, skydiving. Sorry, no way. I can say no to those obvious things. That’s easy.) But, ask me to talk to a stranger, I about disintegrate. My insides shatter like so much safety glass. Try something new and different? My legs turn to jelly and I all but fall to the floor in a puddle of goo.

I’m sure people exist who are exactly what you see. No smoke, no mirrors. A secret hidden camera in their home would reveal nothing new or surprising. The public person would exactly mirror the private person. At least I hope so. I hope most people aren’t like me. Happy on the outside, roiling and gurgling on the inside.

It's like I'm intentionally bonkers, it just happens.

It’s not like I’m intentionally bonkers, it just happens.

I only have my own inner battle as evidence. I want to be the same inside and outside. I want to be consistent in public and in private. My inconsistency often overwhelms me and a kind of self-loathing takes over. A huge, overpowering self-excoriating  “how can I live in my own skin” kind of muck happens. It’s not pretty.

I can’t blame hormones, grief, sleep deprivation, lack of chocolate or the weather. I’ve been like this my whole flipping life. I want to convince myself that everyone battles inner demons like this, but I don’t have any evidence to support such a lame thesis. All I have are these boxes of depositions against myself, double stacked nearly to the ceiling, of how I’ve failed to live up to my own expectations, stand up for myself, be honest about my life and feelings, say what I’m really thinking, do what I really want to do, be the real me.

I’m sure some psychologist or talk show host would have a heyday with this scenario.

Even my computer understands my lack of back bone.

Even my computer understands my lack of back bone.

I’m a mess. I admit it. I’m the first to admit it. Well, MSH would also admit it, maybe. Although he says he still loves me. I’m not sure how he manages to do that. Pity or desperation, perhaps. Maybe he’s a little nuts, too. I don’t love me, so how can he?

Life makes me so tired.

Can I just crawl back into bed today and stay there until Saturday?

Does anyone have any chocolate?

How about a spare life-long around the world cruise ticket? I could use one of those. I’m sure it would help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Communication, Humor, Mental Health, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Challenge Followed by a Challenge

The oddest thing just happened to me here.

I responded to this writing challenge from WordPress by writing about how and why I’m a writer.

I wrote for an hour, then two hours, a beautiful essay that summed up so many disparate but connected parts of my life. The timing of this challenge synced perfectly with a need I had to remind myself why writing tops my daily list of things to do.

I felt energized and excited about writing again.

I saved the draft, then left the room to take a couple of photos to include in the post. (See the above photos? Aren’t they nice?)

When I returned to my computer what I had written had disappeared. Poof. Into thin air. Not on some computer cloud on the ethernet, or internet or web or wherever. Just gone.

Alakazam.

This magical thing I’d created didn’t exist any more.

Sure I could attempt to recreate it. But all creativity and originality aside, the wind had been taken from my sails. (Yes, it’s a cliche’, deal with it.)

But the words, I just can’t summon them again today.

Silly, I know.

I’ll write again. That is what I do.

Why?

Because.

I am a writer.

 

Categories: Books, self-image, Writing | Tags: , , | 21 Comments

Back Flash, Not Quite the Same as a Hot Flash, But Close

This thing is a Thing.

This thing is a Thing.

Saw this car the other day parked across the street that belonged to some parent watching his/her kid practicing soccer. My favorite two-year old couldn’t ignore the thing. In fact she insisted on touching it, tried opening the door, peeked inside, very nearly climbed over the side and into the cute yellow and black plaid seats. Then I suggested a photo-op and she copped a few poses for me. Then she seemed satisfied.

Little did she know I’d just done a back to the future moment during all of that.

I so much wanted to own a VW Thing back in the day. So versatile, I thought. So cool, with it’s convertible roof. I could just picture myself at the beach, my surf board tossed casually in the back after a day of sun and waves. Or just as easily I could envision my backpack and tent piled in the back as I drove to the mountains for a weekend trip. Or even better, imagine me, the famous writer zipping about town in my flashy Thing, to this book signing and that book signing. I’d pop a cassette tape of David Cassidy in the ultra-modern radio console, crank my windows down, put the top back and be the envy of all who saw me.

Not sure how I was going to afford that on my McDonald’s “how may I serve you” salary, but I could surely dream big back then.

I wouldn’t have picked yellow though. Red, fire engine, fingernail, Maverick RED.

And after the dance, the Stomp is what we really called the casual dances, I’d pile my friends inside and we’d head over to the local drive-in and catch a double feature. Wouldn’t that be fun in a Thing? I thought so. Still do.

I liked how different it looked. Not like every other vehicle on the road. Fitting in was for cheerleaders and football players, not smart people.

Flash Back to the here and now. Reality check.

I’m just glad to drive something reliable, even if it’s a bit dated. And, quite frankly, I’ve had my fill of cars that stand out for weird reasons. Fading paint job, a never repaired gash, a window that won’t close, shocks that desperately need replacing on a nearly zeroed out budget.

I’ve been to the beach exactly four times. Closest I came to surfing was a sad imitation of someone boogie boarding. Gave a bunch of people a few good laughs, though.

Camping, I’ve done a ton of that. With MSH and the whole family. There’s some solid good times there. Sometimes all our gear sat atop the tiny Datsun in a totally uncool car top carrier. Sometimes it all fit in the back of the custom van or SUV. Sometimes it took a combination of both.

I met MSH dancing. That turned out okay. We even have a drive-in movie story that’s pretty funny.

We still have a cassette player in the truck we occasionally drive if we have to. There’s some pretty sweet tunes in our cassette collection. Chicago, Vivaldi, Three Dog Night, MoTab, Safety Kids, Brian Adams, Windham Hill, Whitney Houston, Yo Yo Ma, Hercules the Sound Track, Mason Williams, Sharon, Lois and Bram, Bread, Kenny Loggins. I could go on for paragraphs.

No book signings yet, I’m afraid. That would require an actual finished book. Working on that one. So maybe someday…

For the record, nowadays my dream car happens to look like this:

1975 Maverick Grabber

1975 Maverick Grabber

Oh yeah, baby!

Some of us just can’t let go of the past, at least, tiny bits of it. Ah, those were the days!

Categories: Fun, Memory Lane, self-image, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Monkey See, Monkey Do?

It’s Gratituesday ! Today I’m thankful for people who are examples to me. I’m sure they don’t know that’s what they’re doing, but something they do or say or simply who they are acts as a catalyst for me.

When I grow up I want to become like many of these people.

Energizer Bunny

Energizer Bunny (Photo credit: Jeremy Vandel)

One woman I know and want to emulate has the energy level of a pair of two-year olds on caffeine. She just goes and goes and goes. Unstoppable and happy about it, she puts out this vibe that makes people around her feel energized. How she does this remains a mystery. If I could figure out how to do that I’m sure my life would be drastically better.

Unflustered and calm describes another acquaintance of mine. A twinkle resides in her eyes and a bear hug seems to emanate from her. Being in her presence feels like comfort food for the soul. Even when I was a young teenager I wanted to cultivate the qualities I saw in her.

Another woman I know can love unconditionally. No reservations get in the way of her generous nature and bottomless willingness to give. She’s open and willing to share however and when she can.

A negative or sarcastic thought never crosses the mind of one friend I know. He isn’t naïve, no way, but there’s this purity of vision in how he sees people and the world. He sees the best in others and anticipates success. Discouragement rarely if ever crosses his path.

Open, direct and honest almost to a fault, another acquaintance has taught me to open my mouth more often. Attempting communication with people seems risky but she throws caution out the window and talks anyway. No topic is forbidden. Better to try than to hover in a corner feeling lonely or misunderstood. Gutsy!

Puzzle piece

Honestly, I think I learn a bit of something copy worthy from almost everyone I know. From the person who is quick to smile to the tender-hearted quick to cry, from the chatty to the nearly silent, I see qualities to emulate in them all.

It’s more than nice to have so many role models for different aspects of my life. How else will I figure out this becoming a good human thing. The examples of so many continue to help me figure out who I am and how I fit into life’s puzzle.

If I know you personally, thank YOU for the example you set for me. The bar I’m reaching for hangs pretty high!

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dressing Down in the Dressing Room

20130909-121344.jpg

I recently found myself in a department store with a small hopeful stack of shirts and sweaters to try on. As I walked toward the dressing room I saw an unusual sight. The top of a man’s head poking above one of the dressing room stalls. Then I noticed a stroller poking out the bottom of the changing stall. “Must be a dad helping his daughter find something to wear,” I thought to myself.

My assumption turned out wrong. It wasn’t his daughter in there with him it was his wife and child.

How did I know this?

She proceeded to make it clear in no uncertain terms. Here is approximately what I unavoidably overheard:

“*#(%*@ size ____. I’ve never been this big in my life. Disgusting!!! How can you even stand to look at me?

You look fine, honey.

I look like a big, fat, stinking pig. Why are you still married to me?

Honestly, you look great to me. Who are you trying to impress anyway?

&)@*!!! *^ I am a fat stinking *&**!!!%@!# [insert most derogatory swear word you can think of] Do you hear me? You should be so disgusted and just leave me because I am a worthless *#&%@*!!

Another woman in another dressing stall piped up. Girlfriend, you’re a size smaller than me. You can’t look all that bad.

You want to come see. It’s disgusting. I’m a fat *#*%@.

At this point her husband tries to shush her as she’s now not only berating herself in the worst possible terms, but also making other people upset as well. They leave the changing room and thankfully I have no face to put to her words.

Here’s the thing.

If someone else called this woman the names she was calling herself, her husband would have certainly punched their lights out, demanded an apology and made sure they couldn’t walk for at least eight weeks. That’s what I hope MSH would do if someone treated me with such disdain and disrespect.

But it was a woman berating herself publicly. Okay, semi-publicly.

Here’s the other thing.

I’ve thought very similar thoughts. I’ve gotten angry at what I’ve seen in the dressing room mirror. I’ve sworn off shopping for clothes at times because I can’t find anything that I feel presentable in. I’ve left stores hating myself for what my body looks and feels like.

And my size, that number we all give so much power to, runs significantly higher than the number that angry woman was so disgusted about.

I admired the intervening voice, the other woman trying to serve as a voice of reason and solidarity. I thought about saying something, but having felt similar feelings, knew it was impossible at that point to comfort, soothe or repair anything.

Maybe she’d not slept enough, maybe her baby in the stroller had kept her awake night lately. Maybe she’s still recovering from growing, laboring and birthing a child. Maybe she missed lunch or was dehydrated. Maybe she was just having a bad day anyway and the dressing room fiasco was the last straw.

Whatever the reason my heart hurt for her. And for thousands of us who let the mirror determine how we feel and what our worth is.

Is there a way to stop looking in the mirror and being so critical? Is there a way to stop caring so much about the book cover and be more concerned with the quality of the words and sentences and story?

I wish there were an easy answer. But I know there isn’t.

Categories: People, self-image, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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