Making Sense of Gun Non-Sense

I’ve fired a gun. I took my aim with the old, heavy shot-gun (probably only a step up from a bebe gun), carefully lining it up with the old skillet that hung from the wire with an array of other old things to shoot at the homemade range on the farm. I steadied the gun, feeling nervous that I might miss or accidentally hit a loved one, or get knocked over from the kick back. Heart thumping, I carefully pulled the trigger and let my shot fly. Ding! I couldn’t believe it! I hit the target! A smile creeps across my face and pride fills my head. I lower the weapon and my old fears arise because this is still something that could cause harm to my loved ones huddled close. I hand the old heavy gun back to its owner and proclaim that I’m done. One shot, one hit. Objective complete. Though I’m proud of myself, I don’t ever want to do it again.

I’ve shot a gun. I see how our host enjoys taking aim at the homemade ranges set up at the Northern Michigan farm. I understand the real and present danger of a bear on the land, threatening the safety of the dogs and grandchildren (or us). I understand that the sound of firing the weapon is enough to frighten away the animals or possible intruders. I can see the enthusiasm of the gun owner as he describes the civil war era gun he has recently procured and how it is a fine addition to his collection. And while it is not a hobby I prefer nor want to take part in, I respect his will and ability to do so. I get it.

I don’t want his rights taken away. I don’t want his collection of guns to be taken away. I want him to pursue his passion, to be able to protect his family from lurking wildlife, to expand his collection, and to play on his own land and practice his aim. Like the majority of gun owners, he is a kind, responsible man who probably wouldn’t hurt a fly and deserves his rights. I get it. I understand.

On the flip side, there is rampant gun violence in this country. No one can deny it. My heart broke on December 14, 2012 when I heard the horrific news that 6 adults and 20 children were slaughtered at an elementary school. First graders. They were murdered by a deranged and psychotic person armed to the hilt and using an automatic assault weapon. The shooting was done in 10 minutes. Ten minutes. Six adults and 20 first grade children were killed in 10 minutes. It’s sick and horrifying.

The tragedy at Sandy Hook has since been debated and discussed at nauseam. I’ve tried to read all sides of the debates and all the stories to be better informed. Yes, the shooter was mentally ill. Yes, there is a major lack of support in this country for the mentally ill and their families. This needs to be improved, no doubt. It is said the killer was likely into violent video games. No, playing video games does not turn someone into a murderer, but it has been proven that these images are desensitizing us as a nation towards violence. Perhaps this needs to be explored as well. Finally, there is the question of guns. Yes, the majority of gun owners are law-abiding, responsible people. Yes, the Second Amendment allows us the right to bear arms (and has been tested and defended in the Supreme Court several times).

As I said before, I understand that gun owners are enjoying our right to ownership and are naturally protective of that right. I respect this right and agree. Keep your guns. The issue I have is over a) the type of guns available to the market and b) the easy accessibility of guns available to just about anyone, which goes hand in hand with a lack of checks and balances in the system. Regarding the type of guns available I personally don’t understand why society needs assault weapons. From a conspiracy theorists point of view that in the extremely rare occasion it is necessary for citizens to overthrow a dictator, you’d want to be equally matched in weapons with the military. Ok…. That is an extremely rare occasion that the second amendment was probably getting at when it referenced militias being able to bear arms… I’m not convinced it’s worth our children’s lives on a daily basis though. If the psychotic shooter who entered Sandy Hook on that fateful day had only a shot-gun, perhaps he would not have been able to take so many lives. Perhaps it would have taken him longer and allowed police to arrive or given a chance for someone to stop him as he reloaded. He would have needed better aim to kill so many, versus littering those babies with up to 11 shots each. It’s sick. I personally can’t understand how these particular weapons can be legal and how anyone can truly defend their existence in society.

Now, I totally agree that it’s hard to take rights away. Or make previously legal items or products suddenly illegal, and I can understand gun enthusiasts outrage at this prospect. It’s probably the same outrage smokers felt as they were slowly banned from just about everywhere. It’s a free country, right? But poor smokers, your product is lethal and it can harm you or harm others so your rights have been restricted and you have been inconvenienced. Or maybe outrage from the alcohol industry and the everyday person who wanted to have a few drinks at the bar and drive home at the age of 18. Oops, sorry society, alcohol over certain quantities, especially if you plan to drive can harm you or harm others so that right has been limited (and to the dismay of college kids everywhere been taken away) so you are now inconvenienced. I’m inconvenienced every time I get on a plane. I have to strip off my shoes, jacket, pull off all things metal, have all of my belongings scanned, including a potential pat down because some psychotic person put a bomb in their shoe. I am a law-abiding citizen just trying to get from point A to B but my right to a calm and easy travel experience has been taken away, all because my water bottle could be harmful. The point here is, I know it’s not fun to lose a right to own or use a product that is currently legal, but it can harm you or others and isn’t that why all of these other rights were taken away, for the better good of society? So why are assault weapons exempt? Why do the truly most deadly products on the planet get a free pass here? Why are the small percentage of people interested in these products protected over everyone else? (Let me be clear, I’m not talking about all guns, just the ones specifically designed for mass killing/firing with high ammunition clips etc.) There are bucket loads of restrictions and regulations on everything from OTC drugs, to toys, to children’s pajamas. Why are our most lethal products on the market exempt? Why are guns, when used as intended, can actually kill someone not subject to greater scrutiny?

To my other point, why also are we so worried about inconveniencing our fellow law-abiding gun owners? No offense neighbors, but your product of choice is lethal whether you are intending to use it in that manner or not. Why the loophole in background checks or any other safeguards at point of purchase? I have to scan my ID every time I buy beer at Target (I’m 35) and show my ID when I buy Sudafed (because a small number of crazy people used it to make meth). It seems logical that law-abiding citizens would want to keep guns out of the hands of the criminals that give the entire past time a bad name. (Apparently 90% of Americans support background checks) So why isn’t this happening?

The biggest arguments I’ve seen, largely from the NRA is that it would a) inconvenience law-abiding citizens (sorry, cry a river to the smokers and travelers), b) inconvenience gun sellers (boo hoo, your peddling guns here, not teddy bears) c) it won’t work anyway so why bother (that’s like saying no one goes the speed limit so we should just do away with them) or d) the system doesn’t work… (Hmm seems like we could fix that considering we have networks just for being social that can house a whole lot of info & share it quickly). I understand concerned citizens fear of data collection or a registry. Maybe the concerned should complain to the registered sex offenders that aren’t allowed to live within a certain distance from schools and can be found on the internet? (Ok, not trying to liken all gun owners to sex offenders by any means! Just making the illustration that some people, who really don’t want to be on a registry are on one and for a much, much worse offense then owning a gun). …Also not saying there should be a registry…There is tons of data floating around out there on just about everything we do, there ought to be a way to have enough out there to tell if someone is “allowed” to have a gun or not without violating privacy rights. And most importantly, holding all gun sellers by the same set of rules! Why is a gun show allowed to skip this step or online retailers? Hmmm, if I’m a criminal or intend on using a gun for a less than honorable reason, where should I go buy my gun? Law-abiding store down the street or loophole gun show in the next state??? It doesn’t make sense to me.

It’s not just Sandy Hook, it’s all of these tragedies that have ripped the fabric of our society. Politicians and special interests will scare you and have you believe this is an all or nothing proposition. They’ll ask you to pick a side: anti or pro. I am not anti-gun. Once again, I feel like one of the few (or many?) silent minority (or majority?) that think there is middle ground. That it’s not Democratic or Republican. That it is not Anti or Pro. That things could be better and are worth a try. I feel like the lack of checks is ridiculous. I think letting it slide, especially in the wake of yet another horrific tragedy is cowardly. I feel like the assault weapons are absurd in our society (or part of a sick one up game the gun manufacturers are playing with us to make a profit because if average joe’s have the best weapon then they better sell an even better one to our military and so forth). I don’t want the rights of my host on the farm to be taken away or that of my neighbor. And I’m NOT advocating ALL guns be taken away (no one is). But I also don’t see how his right is more important than my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a safe society. There has to be a way to balance the rights of my neighbors AND protect society from those who wish to do us harm. Background checks seems like an easy one to me. Getting rid of assault weapons seems like a good idea to me too. Mental health, video games, media, movies glorifying violence are all possibilities too. One step at a time. I’m going for low hanging fruit.

I’m not waiting to be horrified by the next mass murder and I don’t want armed guards my children’s schools. (Armed guards didn’t stop the massacre at Columbine and, hello, crossfire?). There’s got to be a better way.

If you’ve read this and you feel the way I do, please consider contacting your House and Senate representatives today. The Senate votes on Senate Bill 649 next week (Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act). It includes universal background checks, anti-trafficking and straw purchasing measures, and school safety enhancements. Call 202-224-3121 ask for your Senator, and tell them you support common sense legislation and are for Senate Bill 649. (Assault weapons ban is an amendment being considered too, I believe is separate from this Bill).

If you like the law the way it is, but were still saddened by the children and adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook, consider the “26 acts of kindness” to honor the victims.

If you disagree with me that’s ok too. I’d like to better understand your point of view (respectfully and kindly if you please).

Thank you for reading.

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It’s Like Riding A Bike

Life is full of little set backs and triumphs. Last week I had a triumph when I officially conquered a fear. And oh man, it felt good.

Just over 8 years ago, I had a mountain biking accident leaving me with a broken nose, broken jaw, and 6 missing teeth. Had I not had on a helmet (which completely cracked from impact), it could have been a lot worse. After a long surgery and several days of recovery, I headed home with my jaw wired shut, 5 pins, and hundreds of stitches. Over the course of the next year and some more procedures, an amazing team of docs helped me get my smile back. Though the road to physical recovery seemed long, the road to mental recovery was much more intense.

The first time I got back on the bike, I was absolutely paralyzed with fear. Shaking and crying, I made myself get on the bike and at least pedal a bit. I made it half a block on the sidewalk then decided I had had enough.

Some may say, why bother? Well, prior to my accident, I wasn’t a huge mountain biker, but had done well in triathlons, commuted to work by bike and enjoyed it, and lived in Minneapolis which is a bike friendly place with lots to see from the saddle. I missed it… At least a little. Not to mention that touring around town by bike, along with long walks through the neighborhood, was something my husband and I enjoyed doing together and I wanted to try again. That first time on was terrifying, but I felt really proud I myself for trying and vowed to ride a whole block the next time.

Indeed I did try again, and again, and again. Every time my heart pounded and my nerves were on edge but I did it anyway, slowly, in my own way and on my own time. With encouragement and support from my hubby, I kept trying. I still had the images of the trail, the feelings of fear as I awaited surgery, and the memories of a multi-week liquid diet pumping in my brain (though I gotta admit, I did love those Starbucks coffee milkshakes every morning)!

A downhiller’s bike helmet that has a protective covering over the jaw, helped me get to the next level where I could go out on the many, many bike trails and feel safe. I felt that if I crashed again, at least my jaw and new dental implants would be ok🙂. I’m sure I looked funny, biking along on the trails on my mountain bike wearing a hardcore downhiller’s helmet and my biking skirt (skirt over bike shorts) and cycling tank. I got more than a few funny looks, but I didn’t care. That helmet was my magic feather that helped me fly. After another year, I graduated to a regular helmet. That was a big day too.

A move to Columbus meant reduced bike trails, which forced me to ride on street with cars. This was a big one. If more drivers hopped on a bike once in a while, maybe it wouldn’t be so scary, but too many drivers are not kind to cyclists (I digress). Nonetheless, it was another little triumph. Slowly, over the years, I became more and more comfortable until last year I finally felt back to my old self on a bike. Where I wasn’t riding the brakes the whole time. Where I wasn’t white knuckling every downhill. Where I felt confident to let loose, ride hard, and ride really fast on my road bike again. Where it was fun again.

So the final step? Riding with my kids in the trailer. Big fear. I’m in Madison now, another extremely bike friendly place with hundreds of miles of trails and a bike friendly community. But I’m just now feeling comfortable on my own- I can’t pull the kids! They’re my babies! What if I crash? What if I can’t get used to the extra weight? What if the trailer makes me fall? Though my husband reassured me, I was nervous.

About 3 weeks ago I was ready to take my son to preschool. All dressed and ready to go, I couldn’t find the keys. After a full house search I texted my hubby to find he had the keys with him at work and couldn’t get them to me till much later. I’ve gotten used to this preschool thing so was faced with a dilemma: face a huge fear and take the kids in a bike trailer or be stuck at home all day with both toddlers and no car… Yup- trailer. Luckily his school is right off a bike trail so on road fears were essentially eliminated. I hooked the trailer up, loaded up the kids and nervously begged them to be good since this was mommy’s first time doing this! Of course it went well and I felt liberated. The kids were great, I got a workout, and I discovered a new mode of transportation! That was a big big triumph, but I did it because I felt forced, and that bothered me a bit.

Last week, however, I did it again. On my own free will, with no apprehension. I seized an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful day, and decided to take the bike trailer to pick up my son from school. And that was a triumph. To feel comfortable enough on the bike, something that caused me to tremble and shake and cry over years ago, and to now feel good enough to pull the kids- amazing. Liberating. Fear conquered. Doors opened. Ahhhh….

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6 Favorite Things for Baby

With two little ones at home (ages 3 and 1), and new nieces, nephews, and baby friends due this year, I’ve been thinking about the baby things I really love. These are the things I find the most user-friendly and worth every penny. As any mom or mom-to-be knows there is no shortage of kiddie stuff to buy out there. After searching the stores and trying new things, these are things that I also find most practical and get a lot of use in my house. Without further ado, here are my favorite things for baby.

1. Bumkins Bibs – By far my favorite bibs and a daily necessity for little ones. The pocket on the bib catches all of the tiny peas, crumbs, or milk that spills out of my kids’ mouths and saves me from picking it up off the floor or changing their pants after every meal. The water-resistant material is easy to rinse off in the sink, ready for the next meal. They start off a little stiff, but soften after use. The wide coverage at the shoulders helps protect baby’s shirt. Love!

2. Tommee Tippee Cups – I didn’t discover these until last year when I was shopping for a new cup for my then 2-year-old son. He needed a cup with faster flow that didn’t spill. TT cups have those features, plus was shaped more like a regular, non-sippy cup at the spout. It is also thick-walled so insulates a little better. I will probably get an earlier stage cup for my 1-year-old when she is ready.

3. Kiddopotamus Tiny Diner Placemat- I got this as a gift from Grandma and it’s the perfect solution for dining out with baby. Both my babies would grab, tip, or throw plates increasing my anxiety level while out. Putting food directly on the table grossed me out, even after a thorough wipe down. The mat has a tray/pocket on the end to catch small items that miss baby’s mouth and suction cups to keep the mat firmly in place on the table. It rolls up well and can be easily wiped off making it really portable.

4. Bambino Land Swaddling Blankets – These were perfect for my spring/summer babies! They are made of lightweight organic muslin and are very large (47″x47″) making it easy to swaddle my babies so they felt snug but didn’t overheat in warmer temperatures. They were also a good sun shade or nursing cover in a pinch.

5. The Chariot – This is one of the priciest things we bought for our kids but is worth every penny. It’s a stroller, bike trailer, jogger, ski trailer all in one. We got the double Chariot so it has been our stroller for both kids, and since it’s no wider than a wheelchair, it can fit through all ADA approved doors. It is completely user-friendly with wheels that pop off and on (when you want them to) so you can easily switch between bike trailer and stroller etc. Can’t live without it.

6. Euro II High Chair – There are other versions of this but we ended up getting this from One Step Ahead. My son used a chair we got from my sister, but it collected food behind the seat cushion and the tray was not always easy to clean. Looking for something more compact for our tiny kitchen, we found the Euro II. It is nice looking in a wood finish and is a “grow with me” item that can be used as a regular chair/stool that I could sit on when my kids have out grown it. My favorite part about the chair is the removable tray insert. You just lift the tray insert out and put it the sink.  And if you haven’t gotten around to the dishes (ahem), there is still a tray attached to the chair ready to use. (You will then have to clean both the tray itself and the insert, but what can you do)? I found this way easier than the large trays that slide off and on, or trying to scrub a tray stuck to the chair. Just being able to run it under the sink with a little soap, dry it like I would a dish, and drop it back into place seemed to make my life a little easier.

What are some of your most useful/favorite things for baby?

 

*These are my opinions and I have not received compensation in any way from manufacturers or businesses of any of these items.

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My Favorite Songs of 2011

Well it’s been a busy year to say the least, hence my lack of updates… We welcomed our sweet baby girl into our family in March, then listed our house for sale in May. The summer was filled with some vacation time with family, open houses, and a lot of showings which spilled into the fall. In October we finally received an offer on our house and the following month turned into a whirlwind of packing, finding a new place to live, new job, and moving to a new state. Throw in a couple of holidays and here we are, finally able to take a moment to relax and reflect. It’s been a lot of change in one year, but all very exciting.

Here is the music that got me through the craziness, stress, and excitement. It was difficult to narrow down, but this is my 2011 Soundtrack with some newer artists and songs that I couldn’t help but sing along with!

  • “Dog Days are Over” & “What the Water Gave Me” – Florence & the Machine
  •  “Internet Killed the Video Star”- the Limousines (Yes, I am aware that Video killed the Radio Star, but just try to not sing along to this one!)
  •  “Young Blood” & “Punching in a Dream” – by Naked & Famous
  •  “Rumor Has It” – Adele (yes, became an Adele fan with so many others this year; love the sass in this one)
  •  “Home” – Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes (You will be whistling this tune…)
  •  “High Road – Broken Bells (Can’t get enough of Mercer)
  •  “Sweet Disposition” – the Temper Trap
  •  “Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes

 (Below are some slightly older songs but my favs)

  •  “Electric Feel” & “Kids” – MGMT
  •  “L.E.S. Artistes” – Santigold
  •  “Lazy Eye” – Silver Sun Pickups

Kind of electronica based, but all pretty melodic. Singable, and some you just have to crank up and belt it out. Haven’t heard these? Check them out and enjoy!

Sending wishes for a happy and healthy 2012 (and to more great music)!!

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Top 3 Reasons to Love Farmers’ Market & One Great Recipe

It’s no secret that I love going to the Farmers’ Market, but why? What’s the big deal? Here are my top reasons for loving a trip to the market.

1. The Atmosphere: There’s something special about strolling along, admiring the brightly colored produce, seeing the warm faces (often smiling with a touch of pride) among the people selling goods, and hearing the happy din of customers as they delight in their finds of the day. There are more smiles floating around the market than just about anywhere. You just can’t find that feeling in a grocery store. Add on a cup of coffee and some fresh-baked goods, and you’ve got yourself a pleasant morning out.

2. The Food: Duh. The fruits and vegetables couldn’t be any more fresh, with some of it picked that morning, at the peak of ripening. Cheeses, hand-made by local artisans. Meats available by small farmers raising their herds in a humane and healthy manner. (You can tell by asking the person selling it to you directly).

3. The Feel Good Factor(s): There’s a lot to feel good about when going to a Farmer’s Market that you really can’t get from going to the grocery store.

a) You know where your food is coming from and how it was grown/raised/made, with a lot of it being pesticide/hormone/antibiotic free. It just feels healthier.

b) Keeping jobs nearby because you are supporting local farmers and people in your region or community.

c) By supporting small farmers, how tend to use safe and healthy practices for themselves, us, and the planet, you are saying a small but powerful “no” to some of the large-scale farms that put profits before people and planet.

d) The environment gets a break because your food didn’t need to be shipped or trucked over long distances.

4. The End Result: You get to eat what you bought!  This week’s trip yielded a beautiful, deep violet eggplant, sunny yellow, summer squash, dark evergreen zucchini, vivid red tomatoes, and bright, shiny green peppers. It all looked so beautiful in my bag, I hardly wanted to cut it up!  But I did, and I tried a new recipe to boot: Vegetable Parmesan (below). It was delicious and super fresh!

If you haven’t been to a Farmers’ Market in a while (or ever), check it out. Not sure if your city has one? Go to http://www.localharvest.org to find one nearby.

Vegetable Parmesan (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis*)

1 med eggplant

1 green bell pepper

1 med zucchini

1 med summer squash

2 small tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

salt & pepper to taste

1 jar of marinara sauce (26 oz)

3 cups shredded mozzarella

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup plain bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease 13 x 9 dish. Slice all vegetables and toss in olive oil, salt, pepper. Grill veggies in a grill pan over med-high heat about 3 min on each side or until softened (can use grill or roast in oven about 15 min).   Spoon 3/4 cup sauce on bottom of dish. Put eggplant slices on top of sauce. Sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella and 1/3 parmesan cheese. Arrange pepper and tomato (can do 2-3 peppers of different colors instead of tomato) on top of cheese. Pour 3/4 cup sauce on peppers, then add cheese. Layer zucchini and summer squash next. Cover with remaining sauce, remaining cheeses, and then bread crumbs. Drizzle olive oil over bread crumbs.  Bake 30-35 min. Cool for 10 min.

*(Note: Giada’s original recipe uses 3 peppers instead of one pepper + tomatoes, and uses 2 fennel bulbs instead of zucchini & summer squash. I improvised based off my farmers’ market veggies on hand).

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Baptismal Heirloom

There are many traditions that have gone on in my family for years, but we partook in a special one last month during our daughter’s baptism. It was a particularly extraordinary event because my daughter wore the same baptismal gown that my grandma, my mother, and I wore for our baptismal ceremony. Not only that, but it was handmade by my great-grandmother over 100 years ago.

The 101 year old gown is modest yet lovely and very delicate. I was so worried my daughter would have a blowout in her diaper or spit up all over it (not that she’d be the first), but luckily we were free of incident. The gown had two parts to it: an undergarment that is a simple sleeveless, v-neck, white gown, and the outer gown. The outer gown has long sleeves (which were updated/replaced some years ago), an interlacing tie up the back for closure, some smaller, simple lace and ribbed detailing up the bodice, and a very long gown with larger, lattice-type lace detail at the bottom. The length of the gown was really quite dramatic as it hung off my baby and over my arms as I held her. It was almost like a waterfall of a gown extending out over my arms.

The other interesting thing about the gown besides my daughter being part of the 4th generation to wear it, is that she’s one of over 100 babies to do so. My Gram and both her sisters started it out, then all 11 of my mom’s family, in addition to my gram’s sisters’ families as the second generation, then nearly 50 babies of the third generation including myself and my 6 siblings.

My aunt guards the gown that is stored in a box with explicit instructions for care and a list of every baby that has worn it and their birthday. It was fun to look through the list (my husband even saw one of his old classmates listed).

Having my daughter wear the gown on her baptism turned an already special day into an extraordinary day by linking our family’s past to her future. I’m so glad that my Gram, Mom, and Aunts decided to keep this tradition going so my daughter could be a part of it too.  It felt comforting to know there was a huge community of family that had gone through the same sacrament with a baby in the same gown. Though the times have changed in innumerable ways since my great-grandmother held my grandmother at her baptism, the gown has lived on, and the day remains unchanged where it still is a mom, holding her baby, and welcoming her into the Catholic faith. Pretty amazing.

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It’s Good To Be Back!

After three months, I feel like I’m finally back (mostly) to my old self. Our baby girl is at long last, sleeping 8 to 9 hours a night, allowing my husband and I to get some well needed rest and begin feeling like ourselves again. Of course, there were a couple of nights were our 2-year-old decided he didn’t want to sleep through the night anymore, but we’re working on that.

Getting sleep has allowed me to feel like I can get through the day without needing a nap, which I rarely got before anyway, as well as have energy to do things around the house that I’ve been putting off for the last three months (more like four months since those last few weeks of pregnancy weren’t exactly “productive”). It’s like a whole new world has opened up.

My husband and I don’t have to take shifts sleeping at night and can actually sit down and have a conversation over a beer. We felt like ships passing in the night for a while there! While things are still a little crazy, and probably will continue to be so, I can manage it all a little better with some rest. (Thank you, sweet baby girl!)

Hello world, it’s good to be back.

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