Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.
"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,' " she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about"
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A Woman Who Found a Way to Write

July 24, 2005
A Woman Who Found a Way to Write
MY mom always wanted to be a writer. In 1926, when she was 18, she applied for a job at The Washington Post. An editor there told her that the characters she'd meet as a reporter were far too shady for a nice young lady.
But someone who wants to write will find a way to write. And someone who wants to change the world can do it without a big platform or high-profile byline.
Besides raising five kids in high heels, my mom wrote with a prolific verve that would have impressed one of her idols, Abigail Adams.
In her distinct looping penmanship, learned from the nuns at Holy Cross Academy in Washington, she regularly dashed off missives to politicians. I'd often see form-letter responses on her table from the White House or Congress.
She loved Ronald Reagan and when he landed in a firestorm, she'd write to tell him to buck up. She also appreciated Bill Clinton - his sunny style, his self-wounding insecurity and his work on the Ireland peace process - and would write to compliment him as well. (Literally catholic, she liked both Monica and Hillary.)
She wrote to any member of Congress who made what she considered the cardinal sin of referring to Edmund Burke as a British, rather than Irish, statesman.
In 1995, after reading a newspaper analysis suggesting that Al Gore was not sexy enough to run for president, Mom swiftly dashed off a note reassuring the vice president that he was sexy and that he'd done a great job as host of Pope John Paul II's visit to Baltimore.
She carefully addressed it, "The Honorable Albert Gore Jr., Home of the Vice President, Observatory Circle; 37th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C." The letter was returned a few days later, stamped "Addressee Unknown."
It was an omen.
She wrote her last name in black marker on the bottom of the Tupperware she used to bring food to anyone in her building or sodality or family who was under the weather or having a party. On holidays, plates of food were always handed out to those in the building who had to work or might be lonely before she served her family.
When her dinner rolls stuffed with turkey and ham were snapped up at my first cocktail party, as the expensive catered cheese wheel and goose pâtés went untouched, she told me with a smug smile: "Simplicity pays."
Mom - a woman who always carried a small bottle of Tabasco in her purse - wrote out hundreds of recipes, adding notations of her own, including Mamie Eisenhower's Million Dollar Fudge (1955), which she deemed "Rich as Croesus, but oh so good," Mrs. Nixon's Hot Chicken Salad and Barbara Bush's High Fiber Bran Muffins.
In the middle of her recipe cards, she wrote down a quote that appealed to her: "The Talmud says, If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?"
When my mom still hoped I would transcend takeout, she'd write away for booklets for me: "150 Favorite Pickle Recipes From Iowa," "Confessions of a Kraut Lover" from Empire State Pickling and "How to Cook With Budweiser," including a chocolate beer cake.
Without ever mentioning it to anyone, she constantly wrote out a stream of very small checks from her police widow's pension for children who were sick and poor.
She didn't limit her charity to poor kids. When 6-year-old Al Gore III was struck by a car in 1989, she sent him a get-well card and a crisp dollar bill. "Children like getting a little treat when they're not feeling well," she explained.
She had a column, "Under the Capitol Dome," in the National Hibernian Digest. In 1972, she chronicled her debut, at 63, as a protester.
After Bloody Sunday, when British soldiers fired on a Catholic demonstration in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, killing 13 people, Mom went to the Kennedy Center in Washington to picket the British ambassador, who was going to a performance of the Royal Scots Guards. She proudly wore her green Irish tweed cape and waved a placard reading, "Stop killing innocent civilians."
"The triumph of the evening," she wrote in her column, "was when the British ambassador had to be taken in through a basement door."
She wrote me relentlessly when I moved to New York in 1981 with everything from fashion tips ("Hang your necklaces inside your blouse so your bra will catch them if the clasp breaks") to strategy on breakups ("Put all his pictures in a place you won't see them, preferably the trash") to health tips ("I hope you will never take a drink when you are unhappy. It would break my heart to think you had become a jobless derelict, an easy prey for unscrupulous men, me dead, and a family who held you in contempt because you had tossed aside your beauty, youth and talent.").
Mom was not famous, but she was remarkable. Her library included Oscar Wilde, Civil War chronicles, Irish history and poetry books, as well as "Writing to the Point: Six Basic Steps," and the 1979 "Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Satisfactions of Housewifery and Motherhood in the Age of Do-Your-Own-Thing.'"
As her friend Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, eulogized her last week: "She was venerable without any of the fuss of venerability; worldly, but thoroughly incorruptible; hilarious, but ruthlessly in earnest; unexpected, but magnificently consistent; wicked, but good. She could be skeptical and sentimental in the very same moment. She set things right just by being in the midst of them."
When I told her I was thinking of writing a memoir, she dryly remarked, "Of whom?" And when reporters just starting out asked her for advice about journalism, she replied sagely: "Get on the front page a lot and use the word 'allegedly' a lot." The daughter of a manager of an Irish bar named Meenehan's, with a side entrance marked Ladies' Only, she grew up in a Washington that was still a small Southern village with horses and carriages. As a child she saw the last of the Civil War veterans marching in Memorial Day parades, and as the wife of a D.C. police inspector she made friends with her neighbor, Pop Seymour, the last person alive who saw Lincoln shot at Ford's Theater. (He was 5 and saw the president slump in his box.)
Intensely patriotic, a politics and history buff, in her life she spanned the crash of the Titanic to the crash of the twin towers, Teddy Roosevelt to W. One of her big thrills came in 1990 when she went to the White House Christmas party with me and President Bush gave her a kiss. On the way home, she said to me in a steely voice, "I don't ever want you to be mean to that man again."
As my mom lay in pain, at 97 her organs finally shutting down, my sister asked her if she would like a highball. Over the last six years, Mom had managed to get through going into a wheelchair and losing her sight, all without painkillers or antidepressants - just her usual evening glass of bourbon and soda.
Her sense of taste was gone, and she could no longer speak, but she nodded, game as ever, just to show us you can have life even in death. We flavored her spoonful of ice chips with bourbon, soon followed by a morphine chaser.
Peggy Dowd died last Sunday at 6:30 a.m. I'm not sure if she was trying to keep breathing until the 8:30 a.m. Mass for shut-ins or Tim Russert's "Meet the Press."
I just know that I will follow the advice she gave me in a letter while I was in college, after I didn't get asked to a Valentine's Day dance. She sent me a check for $15 and told me to always buy something red if you're blue - a lipstick, a dress.
"It will be your 'Red Badge of Courage,' " she wrote. And courage was a subject the lady knew something about

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. [Coffee] is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat. ~Author Unknown
I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee. ~Flash Rosenberg

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Thank God for the Java House

This article has come to my attention because of a local coffee house owner and good friend of mine and I had to comment on it. First of all, after reading the article it wouldn't take a brain scientist to figure out that the gentleman writting the article is over the age of 50. Now that doesn't mean that anyone in that age-group wouldn't be a fan of the coffee house scene, but from his argument he just sounds so old and well dare I say, crotchety. Is the coffee-house hurting anyone? No one put a gun to his head and made him by a latte versus good old decaf Folgers. Why would you want to be against a setting that brought neighbors of different ages and backgrounds together? A place that attracts people to move to our fair city? No ones ever been killed by a cafinated-drinker, and it makes a great alternative to the bar scene.
Anyone who compares coffee house coffee to the stuff that came from Gert in a brown apron on a formica table, is definately dating themselves. (He started the stereotyping not me) Another assumption I would make about our writer is that he is the type of local boy, that never left Iowa. I have to say I love Iowa too, but I didn't move back here b/c I could get coffee for 75cents at Denny's. I have returned to Iowa because its starting to get a new upscale personality that is recruiting internationals, and Gen-Xers. These Gen-Xers like to participate in their communites and are patrons of the arts and culture scene. (For more info on this check out Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class) In short, I believe this was a waste of space in my newspaper. I believe anyone with a brain, (remember he started it) could have taken this story and looked at it in several much more interesting angles.

1. Cedar Rapids rise in luxury income as demonstrated through our growing coffee house scene.
2. CoffeeHouses filling an unmet need for social interaction of multiple ages and races.
3. Coffeehouses and other cultural settings a must to become a community that can attract a diverse workforce and continue to be competitive with economic development.
4. An alternative to the bar scene, more and more people are attracted to non-smoky, non-alchoholic environments.
5. A Starbucks on every corner? Americans addicition to high-priced coffee is a marketing phenomenom where most rules don't apply.

Joe or java by any other name is something else

When did Cedar Rapidians become such prolific and/or picky coffee drinkers? And an even more puzzling question: Why? As anybody who spends much time around the metro area must have noticed, over the past few years there’s been a big increase in the number of shops whose primary business is brewing and selling the stuff. Obviously, it’s not just for breakfast anymore, to purloin a phrase from the orange juice people. A friend of mine has suggested I write about the phenomenon. I’ve been putting it off for a couple of reasons. One was that the coffee houses are sprouting so quickly that anything specific I would write about them would quickly be outdated, and if I were to interview one or two proprietors I would be deluged by others wanting equal space. The other reason I haven’t written about the coffee shop fad was that I couldn’t figure out anything interesting to say about it. As for numbers, the last time I checked Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Marion, I came up with 14 places that seem to specialize in selling customers a cup of coffee. If memory serves, four or five years ago there weren’t half that many, and 20 years ago there were none. This brings us to the question of what’s happening. Is Cedar Rapids so boring that people are desperately trying to load up on caffeine in order to stay alert? That sounds like a reasonable explanation, except that if it were just the blast from the bean that was being sought, it wouldn’t be necessary to go to a special place. Every restaurant offers coffee, even the fast-food drive-through places. McDonald’s doesn’t serve it as hot as in the past, but still serves it. Every convenience store has a coffee station. No, if it’s coffee a person wants, a person can get it just about anywhere. Which leads one to the inescapable conclusion that it isn’t coffee people are seeing in the coffee shops. It’s the coffee shop experience. That would explain why these new places appear to be trying to outdo each other in the production of hot, dark liquids that taste like something other than coffee and often sport a head of foam that would do justice to a pint of ale. It is why, instead of a middle-aged woman named Mabel or Gert slapping a cracked mug down on a Formica counter, a stylishly coiffed and dressed young person named Heather or Jerome carefully places a cup on a doily. And why, instead of tipping Mabel or Gert a quarter, you are expected to help Heather and Jerome finance their destination wedding. Does this mean I am critical of people who enter a chic boutique and order something that has no caffeine, is topped with whipped cream and tastes like a Snickers bar? Of course not. This is America, however much the patrons may wish it were Paris or Vienna. My only criticism, if I were to have one, would be to the idea of calling such concoctions ‘‘coffee.’’ Seriously, now, did Juan Valdez spend a lifetime leading that mule of his up into the mountains of Colombia to gather the ingredients for a chocolate caramel cappuccino? Can you imagine Mrs. Olson’s reaction if she poured coffee for the neighbor ladies at the weekly quilting bee and one of them stirred a spoonful of raspberry preserves into her cup? Did you ever wonder why none of us remembers an advertising campaign boasting of coffee that was ‘‘good to the last bit of froth?’’ I think not. Now where was I? Right. Unable to think of anything interesting to say about the proliferation of coffee shops. Still no luck. If I come up with something, I’ll get back to you. Mike Deupree’s column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. He can be reached at (319) 398-8452 or

Mike Deupree The Gazette

Monday, July 25, 2005

An Alabaster Jar

I will admit it, its tough to be a woman in the twenty-first century. Who am I? How does how I look affect my relationship with God? Does it? It affects every other relationship I have ever had? God how have you created me? How feminine should I be? How does feminism affect me? Will it make me less desirable or more relevant? There are so many images flooding my consciousness on a daily basis, all telling me who I should be and what I should look like. In the deafening roar how will I know who Christ wants me to be?
When the pressures of the world seem to be against me and I begin to bend under the strain I am reminded of one of my favorite Jesus stories.
“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” Luke 7:37-39

I love this story because of what isn’t said, more than what is. As I imagine it this is a Jewish woman, who understood something of who God was and yet she has been forced into a gruesome and difficult life. Prostitution became her only option for survival. The things this woman has witnessed or been forced into make me want to weep for her and anyone in her position. I think of the leers, the horrible names, the way men have looked at her, like she was an animal without dignity or tenderness. It breaks my heart to think of anyone treated this way. I am also sure there were such tall walls around her heart. She had no choice, if someone had taken her in, been kind to her, protected her and yet every where she turned the world seemed cold, and angry. It only wanted one thing from her, she was only good for prostituting her body, and because of that she treated like dirt. This woman has been wronged by her society and by anyone at all religious and I am sure her heart was buried so deep with in her allowing her to breath. Not to feel anything was the only way to survive.
In Jewish day, any pious person couldn’t even touch this woman, she had intimate contact with the Romans and of course was considered “unclean.” And yet on the day that Jesus is dinning with the Pharisees she enters the house, she braves ridicule, and worse, harassment and stoning. But why does she come? This is the part of the story that is miraculous to me.
I believe it was Christ’s eyes. It was the look in them that she had never seen before. In my short life I have had my fair share of lewd glances that can steal you soul. These predatory looks across parking lots seem to take away something pure in their hunger and audacity. The woman at Christ’s feet had witnessed so much worse than I could ever imagine and yet there was something about this man. Something so absolutely revolutionary that it would convince her that she was special, she could approach this man and be forgiven.
What a risk! How could she know, what if he turned her away? To risk anymore heartbreak or judgment, there must have been something so very different about Christ that she put all her trust in one man. Even though men had wronged her, used her, abused her, this man was different. I can’t wait to meet that man, the one that could bring healing to such an broken heart. The gentle eyes or our Creator looking at his child are overwhelming to her soul. Yes she is woman, and she is beautiful to him. He knows her deeply, knows every detail of her soul and yet he loves her. Christ not only accepts her form, her face, her soul, but he forgives her, releases her from her bondage of sin and suffering. If she could risk everything just to touch her Lord, believing that he would set her free, what is holding me back?
When I think of what this woman say in Jesus, I want to fall on my knees and worship. I want to know this man myself. My foolish worry’s of life and womanhood all seem to fall away. Someday soon there will be healing at His feet, washing away the wounds of this world, all the pain, and rejection will only be a faint memory. In this life I may experience the harsh end of reality, but someday soon I will be able to look into those eyes myself.

Friday, July 22, 2005 Posted by Picasa

View from the Foxhole

I learned so about my husband this week. Nate and I have been married a little over three months and I can honestly say everyday I spend with him I respect him even more.
Yesterday, I had a chance to hear him speak to our all-city worship service that it’s our pleasure to be apart of. What I learned is that a year ago the leader of the group asked Nate to speak and he was hit with so much spiritual warfare that he begged off days before the event. (Not like my husband the worlds most responsible person) At the time he didn’t knew it was spiritual warfare but as many of us know it hits very personally and he sunk deep into a dessert personally and with the Lord.
This year Nate was again approached to speak and reluctantly accepted, knowing his history, like clockwork our family was hit on every side by unseen forces trying to upset God’s work. We have had several issues in our extended family blow-up at the beginning of the week, me being sick to my stomach and trying to finish a book, and to top it off Nate was in a fender-bender.
The hardest part for us, being traditionally conflict averse, was not the car accident or me being sick, but the tension in our family. I haven’t seen Nate so upset since I have known him. My very laid-back husband handled himself very well in every inter-action through this tough time, but he’ll be the first to tell you his heart was in a scary place. Anger and deep emotion threatened to destroy some very old and loved relationships. Thankfully, I can say that all the situations are on the mend, me the car, and our family and that conflict has brought all of us closer to God and eachother.
Last night after Nate spoke we both felt like we had run a week long marathon and finally crossed the finish line. Nate made some wonderful points but the Lord really taught him, through all of this, that Christ dwells in the rawness of the human condition.
For him it was a tough lesson, all about why we need God’s grace to get us through the difficult times and that its by His strength and not our own.
For me, no matter how tough, I am proud to have walked through this time with Nate and our family. In my house growing up, whenever my parents would get into a knock-down drag out fight over something rather insignificant they had the presence of mind realize they were under spiritual warfare. Eventually they would simply ask “wow I wonder what God is up to?” and typically something incredible was just around the corner. I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise that Nate & I have inherited this heritage.
I am thankful for His continued commitment to God and then to our family and now that we have gone through the battle I can’t think of anyone else I would rather be in the fight with. Thanks to all for your support and prayers.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"We can be friends because amazingly you aren't intimidated by my sense of style!"  Posted by Picasa

Feminity a reaction

Great insight on this blog by two successful lawyers both wrestling with their successes and their fears. One being married and expecting, wonders if she will ever be the woman her mother is? Or if she’s let her family down? The other, a successful globe-trotting world-conscious, single wonders if she is missing something feminine in herself, or if God would really call her to such and unfeminine role?

Both women offer my hope that this is a dilemma of the ages; it is just revamped with every era. For me I can’t wait to have time to nurture my children and create a home that truly reflects our family. But at the same time I worry that if I give up my career will I ever be an interesting person again? I can’t wait to have children, but I never wanted to be an elementary Ed teacher, meaning, how do I balance my grown-up desires with my very precious children?
Second, when I think about the things I spend my time on that are “feminine” on a daily basis they aren’t very “deep.” Eg, managing appearances of home and self, staying in shape, staying in-style (you see the depth of my soul) And yet when I have this deep longing to be feminine it is for so much more than looking “put-together.” What is femininity for today? What does it look like? Why are we so hard on ourselves as women?

I am blessed by wonderful friends that are diving into the blogging world and I love it, but just like any other medium I wonder if it will also cause us grief as we compare our lives to each other? Of course we will. If we let it.
Some day’s I wish that every department store was like Nordstrom Rack. I wish having one huge communal dressing room with big mirrors and lights was mandatory by law. The best part about it is that no matter what shape or size or income everyone that strips down has something to hide when were naked in our underwear.
That is one main reason we shop, to find a piece of identity that is flattering to our good bits and hides our “wobbly bits.” (well at least its mine.)
But in that dressing room we are all exposed. On has a flat chest, the other big thighs, and there isn’t much to feel bad about. I hope as we as women enter this new stage of communication we will be good to each other and ourselves. That it will feel more like conversation over a cup of coffee than anything else.

Here’s to women and all the wonderful parts that make us beautiful.

Monday, July 18, 2005

"There is more hunger in for love and appreciation in this world than for bread." -Mother Teresa Posted by Picasa

The power of words

Today I recieved a thank you from someone I had assisted, this wasn't even a potential client, but a very proffesional individual who is looking to move to our area. The individual will probably be a CEO in a major firm, plus it is in my mandate to create a better "business community," but aside from that I love to help people be sucessful.

It is rare for me to recieve any thank you notes but I try to send them as much as possible (well at least at work I still have a stack from my wedding that mock me daily) Any way, what touched me was that this person said, "it's very clear why you are a Director, you are incredibly knowledgable, helpful and kind." This line spoke straigt into so many of my insecurites about my position. I have so many clients and not near enough support to give them all the attention they need but in a moment this person made my year.

Its a helpful reminder for me that so often a kind word is easily given and highly motivating and yet how often do we pass them on. Kindness is the best offense and its also the cheapest.

To all of you reading this thank you for your support and daily inspiration. I have discovered that when I feel close to my friends I am so much more productive. When I am connected to you I feel I can do anything!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~Mark Twain
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You know the real meaning of Peace only when you have been through a war. ~Kosovar Posted by Picasa

If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.
Author: Maria Montessori
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I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nourish them. ~Clara Barton Posted by Picasa

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. ~William Faulkner
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Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have. ~Harry Emerson Fosdick

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The soul never thinks without a picture.
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The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.
Walter Benjamin
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Monday, July 11, 2005

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan
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Summer days mothers days

Its been an intense year for myself and my family. Needless to say we have had our fare share of blow outs. My mother is an exceptional woman, strong and industrious she has given us life and adventure and everything in between. My mother would tear down a wall with her bear hands and rebuild if its what her children needed. But now her children are adults and they need a friend more than they need a mother. That's a tough one for her.

This weekend my family actually had a chance to relax. On Sunday my mother packed a picnic and my grown-up family, and my new husband just got to enjoy each other. Dana, and Nate spent quite a bit of time trying to dunk each other. Having Nate around is like inheriting another brother. My little family has grown. It does my heart good to see the look on my dads face when Nate cannon ball’s off the deck and splashes him. (Punk! with a twinkling smile) Funny that's my pet name for Nate! (with a twinkling smile)

There is sweetness in our new life, my mother is learning to enjoy her grown children as people and our day on the boat yesterday was a testament to the new adventures we will have together. We aren’t always very nice to each other, but we’re learning. We each have new perspective on how precious life is and yet even for us its been tough to take time and enjoy.
Thanks to my folks for taking us out boating yesterday and reminding us how important it is just to have fun with the people you love

Friday, July 08, 2005

A day in the Chamber office Posted by Picasa

I had a run in today with a very unruly executive over a relatively small ammount of money. Its not the issue that bothers me, its that they made me cry. I hate it when they get to me. I am constantly surprised by grown adults I encouter who act like children. I am equally surprised that I never see it coming. I always assume individuals will act in a grown-up, mature fashion. That's why I am so often blindsided by immature behavior. When will I learn? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A tribute to the ultimate creator, who has touched us all in His image variations and all. In the aftermath of today's London bombing, this picture reminds me that we are all cut from the same cloth, divine cloth.  Posted by Picasa

Over Achievers Anonymous

In less than three weeks my manuscript needs to be in my publishers hands.
One minute I think it will be no problem, we are almost there, no worries, the next I am freaking out. How on earth I am I going to do this? Plus keep my job and will anything I write be good? Will anyone ever want to read it or will my first stab at my dream die b/c I didn’t have the time to develop it well enough?

I am a bit of a basket case these days. But if I listen to my own lines, being crazy is an essential element for art, at least in my case. So to quote my own favorite write Nora Ephron “Everything is copy.” Meaning, if its driving you nuts, write about it, if you’re about to loose it, share the world your perspective from the loony bin.

Here’s to you Nora, and every woman, man or child that tried to do to much and died trying. Once a Wheatie, always a Wheatie right!


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