The 2017 Plan: January update

All month, I had my plan in mind. I feel security having a plan.

Then there was inauguration. The world feels off-center. Off center is an understatement. It’s more like an alternate reality.

I feel pulled in a million directions but am still plugged into my plan.

So here’s where things stand this first month:

Things I want to do weekly:

  • Exercise 4x a week: CHECK. I used to exercise to relieve stress. My work is less stressful and now I realize I’m exercising to protect my family in case society breaks down. No, really. I can throw stuff.
  • Give kids weekly allowance: CHECK. I prepped in advance so it’s going smoothly. Still need to discuss budgeting.
  • Do one act of kindness each week: NOPE. It’s been a busy month and I know I probably did little things for friends and loved ones but nothing that was intentional.
  • Read one full length article in a magazine every week: KINDA. So I am basically always reading something. I have tried to sit down and read a longer analysis but it feels like there is no time for that right now.

Things to do every month:

  • Regular library trips: Made it once with the girls. A tantrum made the trip short-lived.
  • 2 Yoga classes: NOPE.
  • Read 2 books: YES!
    • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • Write 2 blog posts: YES
    • New year’s Post
    • Agnostic rallier
  • Choose outside: YES! Went for a snow hike with husband
  • Savings: No movement on this yet
  • 1 date night: YES! Snuck in a double date plus dinner with husband

Other goals:

  • Got my guitar to make good on learning some new songs
  • Donated blood (done until April)
  • Started Duolingo: Still working on the basics of French.
  • Pitched one story
  • Did my first organ donation talk

So it was busy. February is a short month but I’m determined to make it count.

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Agnostic rallying: on the Women’s March (& sister marches)

From the moment the concept of the Women’s March emerged, I was conflicted about it. I did not share in the same level of despondency as many people (and women) post-election. I didn’t feel a need for solidarity because I often feel I have that in my everyday life and that didn’t prevent this election result from happening. I wondered whether the organizers would assemble speakers that reflected the diverse viewpoints of women. There is no one feminism after all.

Over the past few weeks, I have had so many thoughts moving past one another at all times. I can hardly marshal one before another pops up behind it.

I have distilled my worries into the following concrete thought: the president has very little impact on MY daily life. That’s because I am gainfully employed, not carrying student loan debt, I have access to affordable health insurance through my employer, and I am a citizen of this country. I have heard others rationalize the Trump election in this way–well the president has so little to bear on my life, I should tune out until 2020.

Except, I know my experience of this country is not exceptional. And I also know that my experience as an American citizen enables me peace, safety, security, and comfort in a way that not all Americans do. And I don’t want to live in a country where the president can drastically change the rights of people, suppress their voices, pervert information, dismiss the concerns of truly marginalized groups. I have lived my whole life in this country–a country build on oppression and suppression–and have been blind to the comfort and security of other people. And maybe that’s because other presidents haven’t represented the clear and present danger to everyone as this president does. And that’s not a good excuse either.

I have also heard that no matter what brings you to the table, you should stay at the table.

I had so many thoughts all at once, it was difficult to organize them and figure out my #WhyIMarch. When you aren’t sure about something, you can easily lean out, take a break from it. Or you can submit yourself to it. And let’s face it, to have the choice about whether to engage is a privilege on its own.

That didn’t keep me from feeling conflicted or from wondering #WhyIMarch. As news of the Trump administration’s cabinet decisions and policy agendas have taken hold, I felt utterly worried and nervous about the direction of our country. The inaugural address didn’t assure me that I would be included in this administration’s pans to make our country great. I continued to channel my energy into keeping myself informed, staying on top of the decisions of the Trump administration, and knowing as many of the things about the things as I could. I became a monthly contributor to Emily’s List. I started my girls on an allowance at the start of the year to start teaching them philanthropy. I just kept my mind moving.

Then sister marches began to coalesce in cities around the country and I began to ease my mind about going to DC which is logistically tricky from New England. I decided I would attend the sister rally in Hartford happening at the same time as the rallies across the country and around the world. I thought about bringing my children and did invite my husband. I reached out to local friends (many of whom ended up attending the local rally) and in the end, I didn’t galvanize a critical mass to go with me.

So I went by myself.

It was a warm Saturday and hundreds of people are gathered against the backdrop of a sunny, blue sky in front of out state’s Capitol building–a gorgeous structure. There were so many signs, including a sign held by a dad with a daughter who shares my daughter’s name. And people’s energy just flowed through the space. The organizers skillfully passed the baton to the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence who instructed the crowd how to use Kingian principles of nonviolence in our rally. People were there to protest the president, rights for refugees and immigrants, reproductive rights, protection of the environment, and to make a statement. Our governor and elected officials spoke passionately about our state and their work to preserve the rights of women and marginalized groups. I felt assured by their commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive state. From the Governor’s lips…

And I learned a few things:

  • You can have thoughts moving in every direction, many of which are in conflict with one another when you’re protesting something. That’s completely expected, in fact. You may not agree with every person who shares your values. But you have to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
  • I also learned that we will begin and end with love–resistance is built on love.
  • And listening-to be an ally (and right now, I am joining movements that have been in existence for ages and ages so I can hardly call myself a member just yet) but as an ally, you have to listen before you lend your voice.
  • Resistance comes in big and small ways. But I do not think simply teaching kindness or vowing to be kind will be enough to make it through these next four years, And that starts with pushing back on microaggressions and sexism locally.

It was special to attend the march by myself. I was trying too hard in my head to get it right. I didn’t have a sign, I didn’t have a hat. I didn’t bring my daughters. I went to bear witness, to be present, to learn and to listen.

I am not sure where to go from here, but I’m just going to keep my head down because it’s going to be a long haul.

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The 2017 Plan

I spent almost all of 2016 unwinding my mind from the academic calendar. I have always loved making resolutions, but for most of my life, I have looked at the new year as a pit stop from the start of the academy year in September to the end in May. Resolutions have long felt like mid-year corrections rather than a fresh start. Working with a proper calendar, I have started to see the year in time blocks–quarters, halves, months. I have a better sense of how to plan.

I have always been the kind of person to make resolutions. Some of the resolutions are concrete and some (like last year’s approach) are more amorphous. Staring down 2017, I have resolutions piling up. Not resolutions, exactly. More like pieces of a plan. I spent 2016 building good habits and I want to make a plan to keep them going. And there are goals rattling around in my brain.

As 2016 came to an end, I captured the goals, listing them. I thought about the timing of the goals, which would happen weekly, monthly, quarterly or simply once or twice over the course of 2017. Taken together, they represent a plan for the year where I’m working towards personal improvement, professional development, cultivation of relationships, and taking care of myself.

I grouped the resolutions by type and by timing. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t trying to do too much every month (or week or quarter) and I also wanted to be sure I wasn’t too focused on one or another area of life.

The results? A balanced plan (I think).

RESOLUTIONS (BY TIMING)

Timing # Resolution Type
Weekly 4 Exercise Health
Weekly 1 Allowance for the kids Parenting
Weekly 1 Acts of kindness Friendships
Weekly 1 Read one full length article Personal
Monthly 1 Regular library trips Parenting
Monthly 2 Yoga Health
Monthly 2 Read 2 books Personal
Monthly 2 Write 2 blog posts Professional
Monthly 2 Choose outside Parenting
Monthly Savings for kitchen renovation Household
Monthly 1 1 date night Marriage
Quarterly 1 Donate blood Personal
Quarterly 1 Self care (mani, pedi, massage) Personal
Quarterly 1 One external writing project Professional
Yearly 6 Learn 6 new songs on the guitar personal
Yearly Learn a new language: French Personal
Yearly 2 Organ donation talk Personal
Yearly 1 Run race (10K) Health
Yearly 2 Story pitches Personal
Yearly 1 Podquest project Professional
Yearly 1 Podcasting oral histories Professional
Yearly 2 Webinar–May 2017 Professional

RESOLUTIONS (BY TYPE)

Timing # Resolution Type
Weekly 1 Acts of kindness Friendships
Weekly 4 Exercise Health
Monthly 2 Yoga Health
Yearly 1 Run race (10K) Health
Monthly Savings for kitchen renovation Household
Monthly 1 1 date night Marriage
Weekly 1 Allowance for the kids Parenting
Monthly 1 Regular library trips Parenting
Monthly 2 Choose outside Parenting
Weekly 1 Read one full length article Personal
Monthly 2 Read 2 books Personal
Quarterly 1 Donate blood Personal
Yearly 6 Learn 6 new songs on the guitar Personal
Yearly Learn a new language: French Personal
Yearly 2 Organ donation talk Personal
Yearly 2 Story pitches Personal
Monthly 2 Write 2 blog posts Professional
Quarterly 1 One external writing project Professional
Yearly 1 Podquest project Professional
Yearly 1 Podcasting oral histories Professional
Yearly 2 Webinar–May 2017 Professional

Waiting until the 17th day of the month to write about my plan is a good strategy. By now, lots of people have abandoned their one and only resolution.

I just can’t call them resolutions. This is a plan to get things accomplished in 2017. If I know anything about a plan, though, when you go public, lots of things can foil even the best laid of plans. We plan and g-d laughs.

Even still, I love a plan. I thrive with a plan.

At the end of 2016 in a conversation with my husband and another friend, they remarked that I was Type A. I laughed because in my head Type A = obsessive compulsive. My husband and friend could not believe that I didn’t consider myself Type A.

Turns out Type A = ambitious, high energy and competitive.

I just posted my resolutions sorted two ways on my blog (and color-coded in a Google sheet if I’m being totally honest)–if that’s not Type A, I don’t know what is. Ambitious and high energy are high compliments.

I’m a woman with a plan and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings my way….

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Cataloging 2016

In the final moments of a day, a month, and in today’s case, the year, it would be easy to look over your shoulder and think, meh, I didn’t get much done. Most people I know are racing towards the finish line for 2016. It would be easy to blame the slow burn of of the year on the presidential election results, but it seems like a confluence of events have not led to the most thrilling end of the year for many people in my world. 

In the Weiner household, 2016 was a mixed bag. It was never all great or all challenging–the year brought us a steady tide of ups and downs, new adventures and frustrations that we worked our way through one day at a time. 

On the job front, things are starting to calm for both my husband and me. In 2015, my husband and I were in the middle of major professional transitions, and I had hoped that 2016 would bring us a little respite from the stress and anxiety that comes with two people trying to figure out their work lives at the same time. It was anything but that: my husband found a new job and so did I. Instead of making transitions one at a time, we started our new professional adventures at practically the same time after Labor Day.

On the kid front, our daughters are having a really great year. They are both in the same school–the little one started kindergarten and the big one started second grade. This was the summer they both truly learned to swim. We spent the summer watching them jump and splash and throw themselves into their off the ledge of the pool with abandon. It was gratifying to know that they were finally happy in the water. Big sister learned to play guitar over the summer and even though she hates practicing her teacher says she’s quite good. In the final days of the year, little sister is putting together the pieces of reading and surprising us daily with the words she can read. They both finally (after much practice) mastered the art of the cartwheel and the handstand which they won’t stop doing whenever they detect even an inch of extra space. 

Outside of work, I have settled into a productive rhythm with personal projects and self care. I posted 6 times to Rogue Cheerios–a slower year for me. Unlike 2015 where I was writing elsewhere, I was focused on a new project–a weekly podcast that I produce with a friend. The podcast, Boy vs. Girl, is a discussion of gender and gender stereotypes and together with my co-host, author, Matthew Dicks, we produced 49 episodes in 2016. I have been a devoted fan of many podcasts since my youngest was born in 2011 and have fallen deeply in love with the art and artistry of podcasting. I have discovered that I’m an aural learner and I listen to podcasts nonstop whenever I’m on my own in the world. I spent two months making a podcast project proposal for a contest earlier this year and crafted a beta episode that still needs refinement for Vitae (where I’ve written about higher education, non-academic job searching and faculty and family life). I see lots of possibilities in the format–I am even thinking about recording oral histories of family members this year.

My return to exercise as a form of self care in 2015 was a habit I was able to keep in 2016. I have found a home in a local gym owned and operated by two incredibly, savvy women and I find myself there several times a week. 147 times total this year which amounts to roughly 3x a week.

And I got back into reading!! It’s the second year of my book club and in concert with some smart women, I read some amazing books this year:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers 
  • Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman
  • Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Orphan Train by
  • Election by Tom Perotta

I have never read anything post-apocalyptic and in light of this year’s presidential election, I’m kind of glad I did. I discovered I like biographies (though I’ll admit I’m still reading the Jobs biography even months later–it is rich and detailed). But the best of the list was Being Mortal. It changed the way I see the world.

We started off 2015 with a trip to Disney World with my sister and her family. We were able to get away together for our yearly pilgrimage to Cape Cod and for a trip to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary with our girls. We spent a night in New York City and took the girls to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time. This last month of the year was probably our best, though. I logged over 2,000 miles welcoming a new nephew, celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday, and toasting two friends’ weddings (back to back on the last two days of the year).

So when you look at the data, we did a lot this year:

  • Jobs started in household: 3 (2 for husband and 1 for me)
  • Blog posts: 6 
  • Days spent at the beach: 12
  • Books read: 11
  • Workouts completed: 147
  • Podcasts produced: 49
  • Big birthdays celebrated: 2 (1 for stepmom and 1 for mother-in-law)
  • Nephews born: 1

Looking ahead to 2017, I have lots to do. New podcast project ideas, a webinar to produce about finding a non-academic job, lots of personal projects to catch up on at home, songs to learn on the guitar, I have a list I’m maintaining. And rather than focusing on what I can and can’t get done, I’m just taking it one day at a time. Bit by bit, moment by moment.

Onward to 2017……

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Not our time (at least not this election, anyway)

My mind raced all night. When the outcome had not been decided at 11pm, we turned off the coverage. We didn’t say it out loud but neither of us wanted to know the outcome if Clinton wasn’t elected. So we turned out the lights.

I woke up several times wondering if the race had been decided. I checked at 1am and many states were too close. At 3:30am, in a sleepy haze, I thought I saw the vote count tip in his favor. At 5am, I saw the calls.

We turned on the news at 6am.

I always thought a Trump presidency was possible. His behavior is unbecoming of the office, the vitriol he spewed unfit for a person leading any civilized nation. And at every turn of the campaign, his candidacy became uglier and seedier to me. As the year wore on, we never stopped being surprised by the president elect’s behavior and yet he galvanized support. Sometimes, the disbelief and surprise I felt was akin to screaming in an echo chamber where no one could hear me. I felt deeply sad for the state of our country that we could possibly elevate a person with so little respect for other people, especially the most marginalized people of this country, to a level of political life.

As much as everyone wanted to deny the possibility, as much as everyone thought it was not possible, I worried it might be a foregone conclusion.

Polls predicted a victory for Clinton, and I never felt relief. I didn’t take a victory lap. I did not do anything more than vote and share stories and stay informed. And honestly, hope.

But I am not surprised. Many people proclaimed that with the election of our first black president we live in a post-racial society. I never for a moment of the last eight years thought we lived in a country that was more accepting of people of color. If anything, we have hidden our overt racism and relied on implicit biases sown over decades. Racism remains an impossible barrier to equity in this country.

With the rise of a presidential candidate who was a woman, I did not feel as though I was seeing glass ceilings shatter. Just look at this campaign where citizens of this country overlooked misogyny, deep-seated sexism, and wrote it off as “typical” male behavior.

I never thought that electing her would mean we were in a post feminist world. I did feel the gravity of voting for Clinton as I led my daughters to the polls yesterday. I explained what it meant as diplomatically as possible. I didn’t promise them anything. I didn’t instill too much hope.

After we turned off the lights last night, the deepest of fears of what a Trump presidency meant raged in my head. For the first time in a long time, I felt like maybe this country was not going to be for me. Would I have rights? Would my daughters face a a society where they could control their reproductive rights or have a chance at overcoming sexist stereotypes about their intelligence or abilities? Would it all be obliterated by nuclear war before they even had a shot?

And what right do I have to cry about any of this? For decades, in many cases, forever, there are swaths of American citizens who were told implicitly and then explicitly that this country was not for them. We live in a country where our freedoms are built on the savage wrenching of power and resources from native people and then from anyone who threatened the small, powerful, white elite.

This is how it feels when you feel disenfranchised.

And on this morning, we wake a country divided almost completely in half. The popular vote shows us that we are a country divided nearly down the middle. Half of the citizens lost something today. But the losing electorate are not (yet) disenfranchised. We may not control who sits in the oval office nor the houses of Congress, but for now, we live in a country where we have many rights, and where we can contribute to making our local communities sources of strength and hope.

I cannot forgive anything Trump has said or done in his campaign. He has denigrated women and obliterated the long fought work of domestic and interpersonal violence advocates. He has stoked xenophobia and set back decades (maybe even centuries) of civil rights work. And I cannot act surprised that racism and misogyny and xenophobia are brewing below the surface of seemingly peaceful civic life in this country. This candidate–now future president–brought those views into the light. He made a campaign, exposing the ignorance, the bias, the underbelly of this country. And it is important to recognize that this is who we are as a country.

But I also cannot believe he will accomplish all he has promised to do. The liberal people of this country feel as betrayed by Clinton as the conservative people feel by the liberal establishment. The liberals united but not as completely as the conservatives. I remain hopeful that the losing electorate will remain invested in civic life that serves marginalized people, that seeks justice, that makes our world progressive and inclusive.

As much as I cared about the election outcome, I have to care MORE than I ever did about the future of this country. I have to care about the cabinet this man appoints, the possible justice(s) he nominates to the Supreme Court, and the legislation he will propose, support or repeal. And I hope that everyone that cared about seeing a woman in the White House will do the same. I hope that the media will remain more attuned to every move this future president makes. And hopefully, the electorate will turn its attention to state politics where much of the actual decisions governing our daily lives are made.

So while I want to cry, I’m looking ahead.

My oldest daughter wandered in to our bedroom at 6:30am. We told her the news. Her reaction stays with me.

“Well, if he is this bad, the law will catch him. He has to be nice to people.”

It’s true, I thought. He will not win over half of the country with the rhetoric he used to get to this place.

We talked about the election returns she was watching on television and I clearly and unemotionally explained what she was seeing.

As I dropped them off at school, she and her sister chattered away. When I pulled up to the curb, my oldest remarked, “A lot of people are going to be talking about this today.”

“You’re right,” I replied, “And if anyone says anything crazy, you just tell them ‘I’m not sure that’s true’ and then let’s talk about it tonight when we’re home.”

I’m going to watch this concession speech, shed a few tears and move ahead. The people have spoken, and democracy says we won’t always agree.

I have to raise two little girls to believe that they can be president. And today, that job feels a little harder.

 

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Clinging desperately to summer…

There is a chill in the air.

The sun is setting earlier, rising later. The long sunny afternoons have slipped away. Two months of school have whizzed clear past us and we are knee-deep in commitments for the children. We have traded the ever-growing pile of wet towels, flip-flops and popsicles for lunch boxes, permission forms, and early bedtimes. It might snow tomorrow and I am sure that only 50% of the children have boots.

I blinked and summer was over. We filled our weekends with family time, logged endless hours at the pool. The girls finally (finally!) turned into little fish. We’re still holding on to some hesitation but if I had a dollar for every cannonball and star jump launched off the edge of the pool deck, I would be a rich woman. My favorite moments have been splashing with them, lost in their hysterical smiles.

The past few weeks, our temperatures have teetered on the edge of warmth and I have been clutching to end of summer. I have fooled myself into thinking that I can hold the remnants of the season together. Every week I keep thinking that the butter and sugar corn will be over at the farm stand, that the tomatoes will be finished. And yet most of October, it still felt like August. Tonight, though, says the woman at the counter, everything will freeze.

This year hits harder than most others.

It was a summer of transitions: I left my first non-academic job and started a new job at the end of the summer. We prepped our youngest for the start of kindergarten. Those were the tangible changes.

More difficult to pinpoint, though, were the intangible changes. The subtle shifts in our family life. Our girls are becoming more independent–life is getting slightly easier moving through the world as a family of four. We can all buckle ourselves into our seats in the car, there is no stroller to speak of, and my purse is finally my own domain. No more little babies in this house.

The intangible changes were easiest to see when we visited our favorite place–the elbow of Cape Cod. I snapped dozens of photos over girls’ shoulders, wandering through town, watching the fish come off the boats at the fish pier, staring at the full moon. The girls weren’t perfect angels–we bickered and argued plenty. But we also ate ice cream and candy and pie from Marion’s and quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had. There were no naps or diapers or extra clothes to pack. And most moments of the trip, we felt like a team. Our oldest even dubbed us, “the fantastic four.”

These little slivers of family life, the impossibly, amazing sunny smiley faces are now kvetching about wearing a long sleeves. At night they’re snuggled deeply under their covers in footy pajamas. They’re knee-deep in their gymnastic lessons and their library books and being crazy, little girls. It is almost like the summer never happened now that we’re swept up in the rhythm of the school year.

I suppose that’s how it goes. I’d like to cling to summer just like I’d like to cling to last year and the year before that and the year before that because with every passing minute they are morphing from little to big.

But I can’t. So I won’t.

 

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Soliloquy on the occasion of one’s second rodeo

My little muffin,

This day is finally here. You are about to enter kindergarten. And while you have watched your older sister learn the ins and outs of the school, while you have already mastered the big kid monkey bars and explored every inch of the playground as her little sister, the key to this kingdom is about to be yours, too.

When your sister started kindergarten, I was nervous and worried for her. I know too many things about schools and schooling. In the last two years, I have calmed some (but not all) of those fears. Instead of worrying about school, I am simply reconciling the idea that you could possibly be old enough to go to kindergarten.

Until the minute you line up outside the kindergarten door, bug, I will be nothing by thrilled for you. On the one hand, I feel deeply remorseful that I didn’t relish every delectable nanosecond of the last year of your life enough. On the other hand, I feel like I’m watching every minute of your first five years in the span of a second flash behind my eyes. And every frame of every memory is stunning.

From the moment you became ours, you have kept us on our toes. We might have been blissfully ignorant yet confident first time parents but your unpredictable baby nature set us off balance. In your earliest days all you did was cry and nurse, and the only peace you found was next to a warm body, cuddled close. It took us a while to realize that you need plenty of space and loads of reassurance and not all at once. Once we figured out your way in the world, we got along fine. As you’ve grown, you have maintained this as a central aspect of your being–you fly far and huddle in.

I know you’re a little apprehensive. You even admitted you were nervous and confused by all of the fuss. You are different from your sister–you live big but you need time to process what’s happening. And right now, it probably feels like everything is happening so fast.

But, life happens fast, little muffin. And I have not done enough to help you because all summer long, I have told you to stay small. I am tempted to hold your small, curly, squeaky, smiley face and freeze time. And yet, you have done some intense shape shifting this summer–your little, squeaky voice hasn’t changed much but boy do you tell us what’s on your mind. And the insight you have, the curiosity brewing behind those brown eyes, you shock us nearly daily with your questions and thoughts. I could watch you get lost in your own world, in your elaborate games of pretend with your dolls and figurines, for hours. You are empathic and sensitive and bold and creative and tough.

And you are ready.

I am stunned that you could be ready to walk through that door.

But you should go through because it is your turn now.

I will tell you what I told your sister when she started kindergarten with one small caveat: be aggressively kind to yourself and your friends, be loud, be patient, be thoughtful, ask for help, and stay innocent for as long as you can. And for you, littlest one, be yourself. Others will think you’re cut from the same cloth as your sister, and while this may be true sometimes, you are your own person and have the right to be yourself.

Fly now. We can cuddle later.

Love,

Mom

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