Posts in Scintilla 2012

The Scintilla Project | Day 11 | Here and there

March 28th, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 11 | Here and there”

I am participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: What is it that you’re sure you’ll never forget about being this age, or an age of your choice?

I’ve been waiting for my life to begin.

Waiting to get my driver’s license.

Waiting to graduate from high school.

Waiting to go to college.

Waiting to go to graduate school.

Waiting to get married.

Waiting to buy a house.

Waiting to own a dog.

Waiting to have a baby.

Always waiting.

Once X happens, then my life will begin.

All those things happened.

But I’m still waiting.

For what?

Conditions to be perfect? To move homes? Have a second baby? Earn another degree?

If I waited for all those things to happen, I’d be waiting a long time.

Being this age is tough. So much is happening and changing and yet nothing moves forward at the same time.

Life with a young family puts up contraints and barriers, working between nap times and travel schedules to carve out time for me to make plans and move things forward.

Such is this season in my life. And it’s easy for me to feel like I just want to give up.

This stage and age of life, here at 27, can feel like two steps forward, one step back. And I worry I’ll never get there.

Then again, where is there? Maybe I’m already there. And I think I’ve already been there. And moved beyond to a new and different there.

At every stage and age and phase of life, obstacles and roadblocks and barriers stand in the way of me and my am I there yet thoughts. But here, today, I’m thinking I made it here. Here is a good place to be. And the distance between here and there isn’t so far as I thought.

The Scintilla Project | Day 10 | Temper tantrums

March 27th, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 3 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 10 | Temper tantrums”

I am participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Talk about a time when you lost your temper.

Everday is a battle to not lose my temper.

Before the day is done, and I can sit back on my couch relaxing with a bowl of whipped cream, Kate puts me through the Toddler Gauntlet.

On any given day, I’ve:

+held Kate while she screams in my face;

+tried to reason with Kate while she flails on the living room rug, kicking and screaming for milk, no wait, water, no crackers, no park, no, wait, MILK!;

+submitted to acting as Kate’s personal jungle gym while she pulls my hair, yanks my clothes;

+made multiple lunches only to have each one rejected and thrown to the dog;

+chased her down the street because she refuses to get in the car to go bye-bye;

+been that mom football holding her kid kicking and screaming because it’s time to leave the park;

And that’s just the stuff that happens before nap.

I lose my temper. So sometimes I go hide out in the bathroom and take a couple deep breathes. When I feel my patience expiring, guilt rises in my pit of my stomach just as fast as my annoyance.

Wouldn’t a good mother just smile when her toddler smashes a display at Rite Aid because I won’t let her stuff my diaper bag with Kit Kats? Would a good mother conjure up promises of Elmo’s World and Stacy’s Pita Chips to stop a crying jag because she just can’t take any more screaming? If I was a good mother, Kate wouldn’t have any tantrums because I’d anticipate her needs and desires and make her happy.

But I know that’s just not how it works. Twos tantrum because, well, they’re twos. Kate needs to push back at me, assert her independence, work to tell me what she wants.

So sometimes I’ve had enough. Sometimes I just need to step away. I loose my patience. I give us each some space, so we can both regain control so I can calming explain why we can’t steal from Rite Aid, in toddler terms.

I lose patience because I feel I’m doing something wrong, I’m loosing, I’m not good at this.

But in the middle of that screaming fit, when I sit down on the floor next to her and rub her back in soothing circles, I think, this is hard. And after she stops kicking and lifts herself off the ground and into my open arms, I hug her against my chest and think, I am doing my best. We hug and kiss. I talk about using our words. And I wipe the slate clean.

The Scintilla Project | Day 9 | food, restriction, and the power of moderation

March 26th, 2012 Posted by Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 4 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 9 | food, restriction, and the power of moderation”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Talk about the ways in which your body is awesome.

Restrictions ruled my life.

No peanut butter. No ice cream. Only cheese made with skim milk. Rolls, bagels, sandwich breads of all types were on the “no-no” list. Pizza, rice, cheeseburgers. No, no, and no.

I’d fret when I went out with a group to eat and the table wanted to share cheese fries or an ooey gooey brownie dessert. Those items were most definitely not on my preappoved list of foods.

Not many things made it onto my list of approved foods.

Some fruit. Some veggies. Yogurt. Grapenuts cereal.

It was a mean, unfullfilling diet. I was hungry all the time. And moody. Suffered from headaches and a forever growling stomach.

I instituted my restrictions over various periods of my life. After those awful mean girls told me I was ugly in middle school, during stressful periods of life at college.

I thought I was being healthy, eliminating almost all sources of fat and calories from my diet. But all I ended up with was feeling weak, in a constant state of low blood sugar, sallow-looking skin, and absolute unhappiness.

After years of living on restriction, I grew tired of missing out on group dinners when the restaurant’s menu didn’t offer meals that fit my limited food criteria. I wanted to be out with my friends, laughing over a shared giant cookie cake smothered in bright icing instead of isolating myself in favor of rice cakes.

So I started easing up. Expanded my food rules. Learned more about what actually constituted a healthy diet.

Turns out, low to no fat diets don’t do me any good. Once I introduced good fats and the right kinds of calories into my rotation, my fitness level improved. I ran faster, cycled better, increased my endurance.

Healthy isn’t about what I restrict, it’s what I let in. I balance out my love of whipped cream and cupcakes with blueberry oatmeal and grilled chicken. All in moderation.

When I first eased off my restrictions, I thought I would balloon. But instead I redefined a healthy lifestyle into what worked for me. That’s when I got into group fitness, cycling, explored recipes with a good balance of fat and calories and protein.

I’m stronger without my restrictions. I’m in better shape than I was under my restrictions. My mood improved. I’m happier. My skin changed from sallow to rosy. I can squat and lunge and cycle and jog with a body that feels like a machine, running on the fuel of all things in moderation.

The Scintilla Project | Day 8 | Who I am

March 23rd, 2012 Posted by Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 3 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 8 | Who I am”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Who are you? Come out from behind that curtain and show yourself.

A mom who blogs. Not a mommy blogger.

Group fitness enthusiast.

Lover of whipped cream, Ghirardelli 70% cocoa dark chocolate chips, ice cream. And cake. And frosting.

Big-dog owner.

Writer. Blogging. Story teller.

Wife. Sister. Daughter. Daughter-in-law. Granddaughter. Neice. Cousin.


Amatuer photographer. Currently working in Program mode.

Caffeine junkie. Avid coffee drinker.

Bright color wearer. Orange and yellow devotee.

A do whatever works parent.

Karaoke queen.

Hesitant crafter. Unperfectionist scrapbooker. Glue stick user.

Embracer of others just as they are.

Believer in a good night’s sleep, big hugs, kind words, long talks.

The Scintilla Project | Day 7 | Tribes

March 22nd, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 13 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 7 | Tribes”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: List the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, you get the drift. Talk about the experience of being in your element with your tribes.

Motherhood is lonely.

I don’t get out much. Unless you count the local Harris Teeter where I’ve trained Kate to expect a balloon and sugar cookie (or four). Or the park where I spend the entire time on my toes and lifting Kate in and out of the swing at least a dozen times. And if I’m not at the grocery or the park, I’m dodging Kate’s cozy coupe car while cleaning up goldfish cracker crumbs off the floor.

Most days I’m wearing the same yoga pants for the fourth day in a row. Haven’t bothered with makeup. Start talking to myself just to break up the monotony of the dog barking and Kate repeating water, snack, water, snack, PARK!

It’s just about enough to have me praying for a lobotomy.

Then I start to sink into the lonely pit.

I want to e-mail a friend. Post a note on a pal’s Facebook wall. Send a tweet. But I’ve let motherhood ground me into couch.

I’m tired. Feel gross with toddler snot on my shirt and dog hair covering my four-day-old yoga pants. Energy-less. Inertia sets in.

There’s this saying about it taking a village to raise a child. After having a child, I understand this to be true. Kate is part of a community of toddlers and their parents, family friends who watched her grow first inside my ever-expanding stomach to the tall toddler she is today. They sent over onesies and casseroles and hugs and kisses and shared her first birthday with us.

But if it takes a villiage to raise a child, it takes that same village to support that mother.

While there are some days – weeks, even – when my brain’s numb from too many Sesame Street episodes or laundry piles, when I see an e-mail from a friend – a member of my support tribe – just checking in to see how I’m doing, I feel ever so slightly not alone. Or when a friend writes me a sweet blog comment or sends me a Tweet, I realize I am recognized for more than my toilet-cleaning abilities (which, by the way, aren’t that good). When I am trying to hide but a group of friends coax me out for a lunch or coffee date, I manage to find some clean jeans and feel human again.

Motherhood is lonely. But I don’t have to do lonely alone.

The Scintilla Project | Day 6 | Bullies and mean girls

March 21st, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 14 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 6 | Bullies and mean girls”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Write the letter to the bully, to the cheater, to the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn’t quite. Now tell them why they can’t affect you anymore.

“People hate you. You’re ugly.”

Awkward started early for me. I was a chubby, braces mouth fifth grader. But I was a nice girl. Kind to her friends. A caring classmate. Good student.

I didn’t think I was ugly. Until that group of girls told me I was.

And I believed them.

After that painful realization in fifth grade, I felt different from the rest of the girls. Puberty hadn’t cursed them yet, so they were all beautiful and slender, nary a greasy hair or pimple on their flawless faces.

It didn’t get better in middle school. I knew I was “the fat one” among my friends. They didn’t have to try hard to be pretty. But I spent bathroom breaks in between classes covering up zits and wondering if I’d ever be as pretty as those skinny girls who walked the halls in their matching jeans from The Limited, a place my mom deemed too expensive.

Individually, the girls were nice to me. I think they saw that beneath my discount store clothing was a nice girl with a kind heart. Who also knew all the answers to the Civics homework. But they also knew I wasn’t cool. So when I’d see the girls walking down the hallway and start to smile and wave, my heart bursts when they’d turn their heads and pretend not to notice me.

One day on the sweaty middle school bus waiting to head home, I sat with my thighs plastered the the sticky seat. A group of cool kids hung out in the back. They were loud and carrying own, I suppose to highlight their coolness. And then I heard what sounded like my name. My maiden name is Gatsos, and that awful hot day those cool kids were loudly whispering Sarah Fat-sos, Sarah Fat-sos.

Instead of feeling mad, I felt confused. I was a nice girl. Why are they making fun of me? I’d never teased any of them. Or anyone. Ever. The idea of purposely hurting anyone’s feelings hurts my heart.

But empathy for others is not a skill most middle schoolers embody.

Puberty cut out it’s angry wrath on me by the time I entered my freshman year of high school. My metabolism evened out. I got my pimples under control. Babysat so I could earn my own money to buy the clothes I wanted. Grew strong from sports and jogging.

I wish I could say I never had a run in with a mean girls group after those terrible preteen years. But I have. There are mean grown girls, too.

Even though now I’m healthy, happy, in the best physical shape I’ve ever been, with mostly under control skin, when I meet a mean girl, I’m back to feeling like Sarah Fat-sos on that bus.

I don’t know why people are mean. I used to think it was because of something I did or who I was. It was my fault they were mean.

But now when I run into one of those mean kids all grown up into a mean adult, I know it’s all about them. It has nothing to do with what I look like or who I am. It has everything to do with their own hatefulness.

I don’t feel remorse because I choose to be a nice girl. I don’t worry about hurt feelings because I think carefully before I speak. I don’t burn bridges because I care more about keeping connections. So maybe I’m not cool or popular. But I care about others, treat people kindly, and don’t need other’s affirmations because being a nice girl is its own reward.

The Scintilla Project | Day 5 | Leaving home

March 20th, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 7 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 5 | Leaving home”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Talk about a time when you left home.

I’d never left home. No sleep away camps. No extended visits to grandparent’s houses. No weekends home alone while my parents were out of town.

So when it came time for me to get ready to leave for college, I shook with nervous excitement to be off and on my own.

I spent that summer between the end of my senior year of high school and the beginning of my first year at the University of Virginia in a perpetual battle with my parents.

Picking fights is not my personality. But that summer, I let it rip.

I instigated battles over what I would and would not bring with me to school. How myself and all my belongings would be transported to school. Who was taking me. When.

We fought over shower caddys and plastic bins. Extra long twin sheets and printers. And how many purses and multi-colored flip flops one first year undergrad girl needed.

I got into it with them. They got into it with me. That summer seemed like an endless heated battle of wills, both sides pushing each other away while pulling each other close.

Finally, on a sweltering August day, my family loaded up our Dodge Grand Caravan with all my belongings (including purses and flip flops in all colors of the rainbow) and set off for Charlottesville.

And of course there was fighting.

They wanted to stop for breakfast.

I didn’t.

They couldn’t figure out where to park.

I got inpatient.

They wanted to look around.

I wanted to get busy unloading my stuff.

Once inside my room, we bumbled around, me trying to figure out how to get my purses and flip flops into my half of the 10 x 10 cell, my parents hoisting my bed onto risers and sliding all my plastic bins underneath.

By midday, we were all tired of the oppressive heat, waiting around for IT, and each other. So my parents said it was time for them to leave. Good, I thought. Finally. Then I can do what I want.

I dragged myself down the two flights of stairs and out to the gravel parking lot, thinking about what I needed to do after they left and how glad I was they were leaving, so I could do stuff without them in the way.

But when we reached my parent’s van, my feet slowed. I watched them walk ahead like they were in slow motion. The sun beat on my brow, and I brushed my sweaty, sticky hair our of my eyes. This was it. They were really going. They were going to get into that car and drive away. And I wasn’t. They were going and I was staying. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t going home with them.

I reached out and clung to my mom, bracing myself against her and feeling shameful for all the arguments and fights I picked that summer. My dad came around beside me and enveloped my mom and me in a giant squeeze while my little sister sobbed and clutched my arm.

Deep cries stuck in my throat, causing me to heave. My mom wiped away my tears and told me how much she loved me. My dad patted my back and told me how proud he was of me. My sister hiccuped and told me how much she’d miss me. I couldn’t even speak, the words caught in between my quaking breaths.

They held me until I stopped shaking, gave me one more squeeze, and loaded into the van. I stood there in the sun in that gravel parking lot amidst the other kids and their parents with tearful goodbyes, waving even after I couldn’t see that gray van.

Slowly I made my way back to my dorm, waiting until I could breathe evenly before entering. I made my way to the already dirty shared hallway bath and stood over the sink to splash water on my face. I looked in the mirror and saw a young girl with puffy eyes and sun on her face. She was sad and nervous and scared, that is true. But she was also a little excited, a little hopeful, and a little ready to take her first steps on her own.

The Scintilla Project | Day 3 | Childhood bedroom

March 19th, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 13 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 3 | Childhood bedroom”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Talk about your childhood bedroom. Did you share? Slam the door? Let someone in you shouldn’t have? Where did you hide things?

I spent a good portion of my youth with my bedroom door off it’s hinges.

Because privacy was a privilege. Not a right.

My parents grew tired of listening to my sister and I enter into angry door-slamming arguments. So my Dad invoked the “you slam it, I remove it” rule.

As a teenage girl, nothing got me going more than being door-less. Like any teenage girl, I valued my privacy. I wanted to paint my nails blue with silver sparkles while listening to Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill album and chat on the phone with my best girlfriend about our current crushes without my family listening and watching.

So this lack of a door thing really got to me.

I’d crawl back to my parents with an apology and swear up and down I wouldn’t slam my door again. Of course, like any teenage girl, I broke that promise a few more times before I learned better ways to solve disagreements other than slamming my door.

But my door still caused problems even when it remained properly installed.

My sister and I are eight-and-a-half years apart. That’s a lot of years. A lot of life space between us. But like any little sister, she wanted in on my life. And like any big sister, I wanted her out.

We spent many days with me on one side, holding my door shut, and her on the other side, pushing to get in.

And when I wasn’t around, she’d steal my stuff. I kept my room meticulously clean and organized. So I knew when some messed with my things.

I’d sneak into her room to located my stuff, and I’d always find my Lip Smackers, faux pearl necklaces, and blue nail polish squirreled away in her closet.

Just like a big sister, I’d rat her out to my mom for stealing my things.

Tired of her getting into my stuff, one day I decided I’d just lock my door. I was sitting in my room with Alanis on repeat when I heard her coming towards my room. I popped up, quickly shut my door, and with smug satisfaction, locked it.

She went ballistic. Banged on the door. Begged me to let her in.

Like a big sister, I ignored her.

After a few minutes, I thought she gave up. But then I heard a grinding noise coming from my door. And my door knob starting jiggling and spinning around. And then my door sprung open to reveal my sister, holding an unbent hanger she jammed into my lock.

My door never locked again. The knob just spun around uselessly. I couldn’t keep her out. She continued stealing my things. Most of the time, I gave up on retrieving my items.

Now that door-slamming, Lip-Smackers-stealing duo is 27 and almost 19. The girl I’d yell and scream at and rat out to my parents for stealing my stuff babysits my daughter. I trust her to care for Kate when I’m not home. She’s kind and caring and a great aunt. Instead of trying to keep her out, I welcome her in.

But I’m pretty sure she still has some of my stuff.

The Scintilla Project | Day 3 | Relationship challenges

March 16th, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 10 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 3 | Relationship challenges”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Today’s prompt: What’s the story of the most difficult challenge you’ve faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?

When you get married, everyone feels free to weigh in on ivory versus white gowns, summer or fall weddings, up dos or flowing free hair. Opinions fly on tulle and cake layers and bouquets.

All that stuff is useless.

What no one talks about is how to settle disagreements on where to spend Christmas, how to come to a middle ground on disciplining toddlers, how to learn to work together towards common goals.

That first of year of marriage was the hardest. Suddenly, I wasn’t just thinking about my future and what I wanted but how my desires and needs fit into this marriage mold that wasn’t all about me.

Everything about that first year was hard. The littlest things require big conversations. Stuff like when we’d buy furniture to replace our borrowed futon required an entire weekend’s worth of discussion. How much of a couch could we afford? Would we buy it with cash or finance it? Should we buy the pieces one by one or buy the couch, chair, and ottoman all at once?

Seriously, this was a huge deal back during that first year of marriage when we were both starting out in the work world and finances were low but expectations high.

We had our disagreements, our fights, things said in anger we later regretted. Dan likes to remind me of this one time when I got so mad at him that I stalked off into our bedroom and jumped into the bed, only to get back up and slam the door for dramatic effect.

He can tease me about that now, almost four years later, since we’re past that newlywed stage where we fumbled around trying to find out how we fit together. Now that we’ve moved through some of those initial tough marriage challenges of buying a house, becoming dog owners, and – most dramatically – parenthood, day to day married life doesn’t require as many deep, long conversations where we iron out nitty gritty details.

But it doesn’t mean we don’t still have disagreements, challenges to work out and overcome. Long days (and nights) parenting a toddler, fixing leaky faucets, days when we’re both tapped out and tired of caring for dogs and toddlers and a house and everything else.

So while everyone tells you how to get married, no one gives you advice on how to stay married. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know a couple things that work for us.

We never keep score. No tit for tat. No I-changed-the-last-diaper-and-it’s-your-turn. No I-took-the-dog-out-already-and-you’re-up. Marriage, I believe, will never be exactly 50-50. It’s just impossible. Life is just too fluid. I’ve come to terms and accepted that sometimes I’ll just be doing more. Because that’s just what has to happen. And some weeks, Dan will do more. Calculation and score keeping leads to resentment, a land I don’t want to enter because that’s a game I’ll never win.

No marriage is perfect. Dan and I are both people. We make mistakes, say things we don’t mean. I look at how we move together on the whole. On the whole, we’re excellent partners, great parents, good people. We don’t have to be constantly updating our Facebook status with pictures and mushy words about how much we love each other to prove we’re meant to be. And just because we have a disagreement doesn’t mean we’re not meant to be together. We’re human, and we give each other room to be people and don’t expect marriage perfection.

When I was a young, impressionable wife, I thought there was only one way to be married. A right way. And a wrong way. Everyone else’s way was, obviously, the right way.

It didn’t take long to realize that everyone else’s way didn’t work for us.

Now we focus on what works for Dan and Sarah. We’re kind to each other because oh, so often, the rest of the world isn’t. We support each other fully when no one else will. We recognize that the tough situations don’t define our relationship, we do.

The Scintilla Project | Day 2 | Letters to my rescuers and mentors

March 15th, 2012 Posted by Lexicon, Scintilla 2012, Uncategorized 8 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 2 | Letters to my rescuers and mentors”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Today’s prompt: No one does it alone. Write a letter to your rescuer or mentor (be it a person, book, film, record, anything). Share the way they lit up your path.

Dear Cuisinart Grind and Brew,

You are my first coffee maker. Dan bought you as a birthday gift for me when I turned 22. At the time, I didn’t appreciate you because I had just moved home after graduating from undergrad, and you felt like a cruel joke because I didn’t have a home of my own to use you. So I got pretty mad at Dan, didn’t even take you out of your box, and stashed you in my parent’s attic until I moved out a year later.

Now, five years later, we are fast friends. When I go to bed at night, I look forward to the morning because you and I will meet again. You get me through the mornings, dear grind-and-brew friend.

Many thanks,

You’re number one morning fan

Dear Mom,

I don’t know how you did it. Mothering a toddler is nothing short of a physical and emotional three ring circus of tantrums, sweet hugs, and swift mood changes. Some days I think, I can’t do this another day.

And then I call you.

You tell me I’m a good mom, I’m doing my best, it’s okay to feel frustrated. After we hang up and I’ve taken some deep breaths, I realized you just mothered me. So this mothering thing never ends. And I hope I can be as good of a mom as you when adult Kate calls me up with her adult problems.

I’m glad you’re my mom,

Your eldest daughter

Dear group fitness,

You changed my life. And my legs. And my butt. The energy and commraderie I feel in class keeps me coming back for more. You challenge me, encourage me, and give me 60 glorious minutes all to myself where I only focus on what I need.

Yours in squats and lunges,

Cardio addict

Dear Dan,

Sometimes I think about how lucky our kids are to have you because all too soon they will need help with math homework, and I’ll be all you know I don’t do that stuff, ask your Dad. The way you understand spacial relations and cardinal directions blows my mind.

The other day I thought back to our first dates, and I chuckle because how funny is it that just a few short years later we found ourselves married, parents of a toddler, home owners. I am pretty sure if I told you that was our fate on our first date, you would have snored diet Coke out your nose.

We make the best team. You’re my person.

Thanks for letting me talk and talk and talk, steal the sheets, and not comment on the volume of colored cardstock I may or may not own,

Your directionally-challenged wife

Dear Joan Didion,

You were my first love. When my AP Language teacher introduced me to your work my junior year of high school, I realized I wasn’t alone in my love of the personal essay. You are The One.

I met you once, when I was a senior in high school. You were speaking at a Washington Post event downtown and signing books after. I was one of the last people in line, and I requested a photo. You seemed a little concerned with my overzealousness to meet you, but you conceeded.

Joan, can I call you Joan? You lit my writing fire and will forever be the one who showed me the way to my own voice.

Yours in prose,

Fellow lover of language

Come ShootAlong!


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