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Adventures in Solo Travel

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Kids today are so lucky.  They have fewer chores (because they’re so busy) and they get to go everywhere (because they’re parents feel guilty leaving them at home). Parents today are much more adventurous in travelling with their children. I realize I’m part of this culture, indulging my children in all sorts of travel adventures. In return, I hope my kids will look back upon our family travels and continue to be inspired by the world and long to see more of it … preferably on their own … soon.

So my daughter recently experienced the pinnacle of childhood adventures:  the solo voyage. As in sans parents. When family and summer scheduling conflicts prevented us from attending a much loved beach week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my daughter somehow managed to finagle an invite from her uncle to go to the beach with his family – complete with puppy dog eyes, curled lip and promises of ‘I won’t be any trouble at all …’, I have no doubt . Naturally he, being entirely defenceless to the puppy dog eyes and curled lip look, agreed.

us customsThe first significant hitch she encountered was US Customs.  I guess runaways are extremely clever these days, including those with an official consent to travel form notarized by a lawyer, signed by both parents AND carrying a return airline ticket. Evidently US customs officials are impervious to the puppy dog look and curled lip routine but good on her for trying. She fared much better with Canadian Border Services upon her return and the usual, “Are you bringing back any weapons, alcohol or tobacco?’ was replaced with “I bet you had a lot of fun! Welcome back.”

This solo adventure of hers took another unfortunate turn when Hurricane Arthur decided to take its own unfortunate turn towards the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she was staying with my brother. If anyone could turn a hurricane on its heels it would be my daughter, but alas, the Governor did not think know of her powers (primarily reserved for use at our family dinner table), and Dare County issued an evacuation order for Hatteras Island. While I am certain she had visions of a SWAT team lowering their ladders from helicopters evacuating stranded tourists such as herself, she soon found out what it really entailed: a day’s driving stuck in the worst traffic jam imaginable.

And now she is off to sleep over camp for two weeks (something she has done now for seven summers).  While there will certainly be someone there to feed her and do her laundry, I know she will return from camp grateful for a flushing toilet.

bluesfestMy sons are also on their own solo adventures this week. My 18-year old is at the national Canadian Big League Championships in Thunder Bay, Ontario (ten days of residence living at Lakehead University will be good training for his body to get used to dorm beds) and my 16-year old is experiencing Ottawa’s largest outdoor musical festival, Bluesfest 2014 (requiring him to master one of the biggest travel obstacles for today’s youth:  public transportation). Their adventures, however, will probably not be titled Adventures in Solo Travel but rather Travel in with Solo-Cup Adventures. Sigh.

So this house is just a little too quiet for me right now and I think it’s time to embark on some solo (or solo cup) travel adventures on my own. But I am a seasoned traveller, right? None of this Customs nonsense, lousy beds, public transportation woes or guilt can get in my way, right?

Stay tuned!

airplane

 

The Worm in the Apple

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It’s sad really. I was the apple of my kids’ eyes for what seemed like only a nanosecond. I have three kids and I was their go-to friend from birth until – well – about that time around Grade 8 where they each dropped me like a hot potato.  I suppose that’s about when independent social lives start to bloom and a mother’s presence not only is no longer necessary, it is a downright intrusion of the You Suck variety.

I frequently chaperoned field trips until returning to work outside the home and even then offered one field trip per child per school year which was happily approved and anticipated by each of my kids.  Until Grade 8. Then I sucked.

I happily hosted non-birthday parties around Christmas and Halloween for all our kids and their friends. Until Grade 8. Then I sucked.

We all posed for family photos at various events and important tourist shrines. Until Grade 8. Then I sucked.

The eagerness to have “Mom” participate in any aspect of their lives other than stocking the frig and doing the laundry, waned considerably around Grade 8.

Initially my boys still permitted my attendance on the field trips, but disappeared with their friends upon arrival, leaving me to chaperone the girls or whichever group was last assigned to a parent. Soon thereafter field trip forms start coming home with the preamble, “But they don’t need any volunteers”, or with the box “No” already checked off next the question, “If volunteers are needed, may we contact you?”, even from my daughter.

I have become middle-school-redundant.

And so today, we are off to my daughter’s Grade 8 graduation ceremony after which is a class dance at the local RA centre.  All was going very well with our graduation planning until she learned that I was volunteering at the dance.  This elicited a “You’re kidding, right?” response from a now grown-up thirteen year-old (in all fairness, I did sign up for clean-up, thinking I could stay out of the limelight and her wrath).

Just when I thought I would have to politely decline my assistance at the dance, an email from the organizer came out suggesting the window from the kitchen to the hall would be closed and parents could (should?) keep a low-profile.

So there.

I’m not the only one!

I’ve been practicing a few dance moves though should things get a little boring.

 

 

 

The dustbunny way …

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Last week, I was invited to participate in a “Blog Hop” where people share three bloggers they love and then those bloggers do the same.  I was “tagged” by the spirited and hysterically funny Amy Sherman, whose laughter is as infectious as her writing is witfaced. She and the others I’ve met through various writing circles, are an inspiration to me. In this blog hop, I am asked to share my writing process. Since my blog is called The Dustbunny Chronicles, naturally I have nicknamed my writing process is The Dustbunny Way.

  1.  Why do I write what I do?I write mostly out of a sense of obligation. I have a failing memory and am trying to capture the snippets of glory my generally mundane life. Kinda like Luminosity for the Soul. I write to remember. I write so I don’t forget. I write … wait. What was the question?
  2. How does my writing differ from others in its genre?I write mostly humour through occasionally I veer off-genre. I write primarily in English, as do many in my genre but I am also fluent in Sarcastic and Cynicism. Also I tend to mock myself in my writing mostly because I have so much material but I occasional move on to mocking others (particularly my husband and my teenagers – and other people though very rarely (like the high school principal in my most recent post).
  3. How does my writing process work?My writing process begins when I have a brilliant, totally captivating and hilarious idea for a writing piece, which I then promptly forget. That’s about it. Honestly though, I work full time as a Human Resource professional and am mother of three teenagers so my writing tends to get done on a very haphazard and occasional basis, limited to evenings and weekends and when I can’t sleep.
  4. What am I working on/writing?I recently finished writing my humour memoir, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom. Someone should commission a scientific research study on the effects of Zamboni fumes on one’s memory (that’s not what the book is about but certainly how it starts!).  My book has been professionally edited but I have recently sent it to three Beta readers for a little more dicing and slicing. I’ve begun dangling query letters in front of agents but so far I am scoreless. This memoir has been a true labour of love, so one way or another it will be published, of that I am certain. I also maintain this blog as best I can to hone my writing skills for project #2 which is about …  hmmm …. (see answer to question number 3).

Now for paying it forward:  There are so many amazing humour writers out there whose work makes me and the rest of the world laugh and smile. I have a very hard time picking out three. I never miss a post by Amy and she linked up to two of my favourites as well with Sarah Hunt and Michelle Lamarca.

You will enjoy these funny women – but also maybe take a look and laugh at these three:

Cece Harbor, is the Knowledge Maven. She provides just the right amount of inspiration and motivation just when I need it!

Terri Spilman is The Laughing Mom  whom I had occasion to meet at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. She understands the power of humour (all mothers should!)!

Blunt Moms is a website for women and for moms and for those that are both! As their byline suggests, the writing (from a series of contributors) is honest, direct and surprisingly hilarious. Sometimes I cringe; sometimes I laugh out loud. That’s what being blunt is all about!

Enjoy!

~DBC

 

 

Chug big or chug home…

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An unsanctioned event organized by students at one of our local high schools has raised the ire of its principal. So much so that emails have been sent home warning parents of this event and its imminent danger.  Parents have been urged to ask their children NOT to participate in this wasteful and harmful event and have been cautioned that local police have been asked to provide additional officers to enforce safety, should the event take place.

What is this undesirable event that parents should be so anxious about?

Is it an illegal swim party at a local quarry? Is it an unchaperoned bush party at one of the many local farm fields? Is it the private post-prom party across the border at a local ski resort (where most of the students will be of legal drinking age)?

No. In fact, these events (which have taken place or are about to take place on my son’s social calendar) have not been deemed sufficiently objectionable by anyone such that parents should be alerted to potential unsafe and/or illegal activity. The low-down on the street is how we get savvy to these events.

The appalling event that I am being warned about is the annual senior student-organized milk chugging contest.

This will be one of the most uncomfortably awkward and sensitive discussions I will have with my teenagers yet.  There’s no way all those conversations about safe sex, drugs, alcohol, academic challenges, work and money chats will serve me for this one.

I’m not sure how to handle this one. Should I go the sour milk is bad for you-route? Or, that unpasteurized milk may make you sick-schtick? How about, milk that comes from cows who’ve been injected hormones have been fed is unacceptable-deal (oh, but that’s illegal in Canada, so will probably not be too effective).  Or the time-tested, waste-not-want-not talk? No, I think I better stick to the fear tactic that always works best:  “Do you have any idea how easy it is to get addicted to milk?”

This isn’t the first time we’ll be talking about milk-chugging contests, and I can assure you, it won’t be the last.

(Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I hope I don’t get my son suspended).

milk

 

CSI – the drama I could do without

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CSIMy three children are all teenagers now and like many today, they are home from school before my husband or I are home from work.  I am generally the last to return home at the end of the day, and while my own housecleaning habits see me tidying up the kitchen before I leave for work, I am not likely to find it this way upon my return. My keen eyes are trained to decode the evidence before me and I know just what to nag about. Because my kids now know:  I am highly specialized CSI expert. I am a Cuisine Scene Investigator.

“Nobody move!” I shout, with the anticipated impact:  none of my teenagers has moved nor has any intention of moving.  Securing the scene is not as challenging they make it out to be on TV.

I begin my preliminary analysis:

I study the spatter stains and I know right away that my son has made himself a big glass of chocolate milk.

I examine the trail and I know my daughter has been into the popcorn.

I analyze the dishevelment of the dishes and I know my oldest son has emptied his lunch bag.

As I evaluate all the physical evidence and the possibilities I try not to jump to conclusions, but it hard not to.  And as I walk around collecting evidence I make sure that my kids do not interfere with my examination of the data.

“Don’t touch that!” I shout.

“But I was just about to put that away.” they lie.

“Too late! I caught you! You are now one of my suspects!”

“You should not be eating cookies right before dinner!” I bark at my son. How does she know? I see the querying look in his eyes. “You left the cookie bag completely open in the pantry!” He rolls his eyes.

“Did I not tell you that the ice cream was for dessert?” testing my daughter. How does she know? says the look in her eyes. “You could have at least rinsed off the ice cream scoop before putting it in the sink.”

Even today, I walked into the kitchen and found a half-filled coffee travel mug on the counter and know that my husband, too, is home from work. Clearly he did not pick up on the trail of evidence already before him. Clearly he is not a cuisine scene investigator – he’s just another instigator.

I finish wiping down this scene and catalog the evidence before the dogs decide to catalog it themselves (knowing the dogs they’re already accessories to many of their crimes that will go unsolved). I then begin my own cuisine scene and start making dinner. Sigh.

CSI … not for sissies … only for moms.

RIP 42.2

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I’m so tired of running.

If that sounds like a euphemism for facing some important life issue, I guess it is. What I mean, though, is I’m tired of long distance running.

I’ve had a on again off again relationship with running for the past thirty years, but we’ve been in a very committed relationship for the past decade or more. Over the past eleven years, I have run ten or eleven major races, including three marathons.  Why go the distance? A little voice told me to.  A little voice told me 5 and 10k were not a commitment. 21.1k was a real commitment – and 42.2k was marriage.

Whatever.

Like many marriages these days, I’m about to file for divorce.

While I can’t say I gave it my all and left it all on the course, I did finish. I’ve crossed that beeping finish line (seriously, in case you didn’t know, finish lines beep) and called a panting, sweaty end to our bond. I made a new vow – no more marathons.

During my race, I passed several signs along the way that I have seen in previous races and used to inspire me but now totally piss me off. If I actually had had the stamina and could spit out the words, here’s how I would have replied:

“Toenails are for sissies!” 

Toenails are not for sissies, they’re for people. I am very attached to my toenails and I think we should stick together. Nevertheless, my toenails look like sissies right now.

 “You’ve done dumber things when you’re drunk.”

True. Very true. I agreed to my first marathon when I was drunk so maybe it really is time to lay off the vino.

 “Run like you stole something.”

I did. All my senses (and feeling below the waist).

 “… because 42.3 kms would be crazy!”

Who’s you trying to kid?! 42.2 is crazy.

 I love your endurance … call me!”

OK, but don’t touch me. I hurt all over.

 “Your perspiration is my inspiration.”

Gross.

 “I’m sure it seemed like a good idea 4 months ago”

It did, but I changed my mind about three months ago.

I’m hobbling around for the next few days, clutching the banister for support. Why did I do this to myself? Maybe celebrating my 50th birthday last year made me think I should do another marathon, as kind of a midlife fitness double-dog dare. Maybe it’s because my brother has done countless marathons and I’m not mature enough to refrain from sibling rivalry.  Maybe I was temporarily insane. I’m experiencing the opposite of that euphoric ‘runner’s high’. Whatever the reason, I’m done. I don’t want to run a marathon again. That marriage is over.

I am, however, totally up for a fling with a 5k, or a one-night stand with a 10k!

 Image

The rest of your life starts here …

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campus tourA few months ago I wrote a post about my eldest son’s applications to post-secondary institutions. And now with a few offers in hand, my eldest son has some decisions to make.

Much to my son’s surprise (not mine), bit by bit those offers started trickling in and we carefully picked the ones we would go and visit. Unlike the parents of many university-bound kids, I chose not to take him on road trip visiting every single post-secondary school between infinity and beyond. Instead, I promised I would take him to visit those to which he received offers, and was most keen to attend. Never having been on a single university tour myself when I was applying, I did want him to make an informed choice.  Depending on the location of these choices, however, a campus tour can set you back the price of a school year’s tuition!

The campus tour is generally pretty standard: the major academic buildings, the library or libraries if the school is large enough, at least one dorm room, at least one dining hall or the dining halls, the sports complex, and all the major support services (academic, health, etc.). It is also possible to arrange more in-depth tours with various faculties and even arrange to meet faculty members or varsity coaches. I’ve quickly realized that a good university tour guide is more than someone who can walk backwards and talk at the same time – they can make or break a prospective student and their family’s first impression.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get the uber- energetic student or recent grad that could not imagine life without this university. As annoying as their enthusiasm and university loyalty can be, the tour will not end until you know everything about the school including the words of the favourite university drinking song or have the university’s motto emblazoned on your brain. Alternatively, you may get a less enthusiastic tour guide who appears to have better things to do than make converts of wide-eyed, naïve high schoolers, and who showcases themselves and their accomplishments inviting you to come the their university so you can truly be as impressive as they have become (doing university tours for a living).

So now begins my son’s decision-making crunch time. He has ultimately has about three weeks now, to make his decision and pay his deposit (as you can guess procrastination runs in our family!). In that time, he will reflect not only on the wisdom of all that he has learned about these respective universities, but also on the words of wisdom of the tour guides.

I hope he took good notes!

 

Letting myself go …

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I read an article recently in which a young mother had grown tired of the way she looked as a stay-at-home mom. Her former self as a working professional had paid a lot of attention to her personal appearance and made sure she always looked her best.  As a mother, her personal best had deteriorated from “Hell Ya” to “Haggard”.  She’d fallen into that familiar habit of motherhood attire:  yoga pants, no makeup and unkempt hair in a ponytail, if attended to at all.  She realized something had to change when she caught sight of her reflection in a store window and mistook herself for a street person.

Now, if she did in fact look like a street person, then yeah, maybe a shower and a new pair of shoes are in order. But I’m pretty sure she was not sitting on a piece of cardboard, begging for money with tattered shoes and yellowing teeth. I’m pretty sure she looked like 90% of young moms and all she needed was a good day at the spa (which she would spend texting the babysitter or her husband about the kids anyway).

But then she went on to write how she turned herself around a little, made sure to shower daily, put on real clothes, a little make-up and took a brush to her hair. It took barely any extra time and she felt so much better about herself and urged all moms to try it because we deserved it.

I think that’s that last thing a ragged, sleep-deprived mom wants to hear. I felt sorry for her. And if I’d read that post back when my kids were young, I would not have been jumping on that bandwagon too quickly.  My three kids are teenagers now and I am back in the paid workforce but I do recall the long stretches of my street person lookalike days.  So what?  My kids didn’t notice and they were the ones for whom I’d forsaken my ‘Hell Ya’ look in the first place.  I am still to this day, however, deeply offended when my husband or any another man comments on a woman – a mother – suggesting, “Oh, she’s really let herself go.” Well, duh! She only has two hands and both of them are full.

It’s a phase of motherhood and I wouldn’t dare make any mother feel guilty for her motherhood dress code. Yes, I’m back to work but I don’t feel bad about my showerless, yoga pants days. They made me a better mom.

And by the way, you should have seen what my husband looked like after a single day alone with all three of our kids. Boy! Had he let himself go!

Thawstruck

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You can tell an awful lot about a woman by the contents of her freezer.

I have a friend who, despite having three kids, has a truly immaculate home, unlike my own home with three kids which seems to be rife with kid clutter and dog dirt. Whenever I come home from her place, I am inspired to tidy up just a little.  If nothing else, to at least wipe the dogs’ drool off the patio door. Well, this time I went for broke:  I cleaned out my bottom-drawer kitchen freezer!

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about my kitchen freezer. In fact, a freezerful of je ne sais quoi. As I was cleaning it out, I was not at all surprised by the number of containers with unidentifiable contents, or the amount of food with freezer burn beyond rehabilitation.  I was, however, a little grossed out with the amount of dog hair I cleaned out of my freezer – which seems to be immune from freezer burn. Pretty sure this explains the string of declines for any dinner invites I extend.

Delighted with my Saturday morning’s accomplishment, I gathered the family (except the dogs) around the kitchen frig and presented them with my handiwork. “Ta da!” I announced, to a primarily indifferent audience.

“What’s that?” asked my husband, pointing to a little square Tupperware container amongst the ice cube trays and frozen treats.  “It’s Fishy” I whispered. “It’s fishy?” he asked. “Why does fish get its own corner of your freezer?” which would be a very good question in a normal household. “Shhh! Not fish,” I corrected, “Fishy.

“Fishy’s alive?!” screamed my daughter jumping up and down. Sigh.

“No honey, Fishy is not alive.  He is still very much dead.  He just happens to be still very dead in our freezer.” A now thoroughly confused husband then said, “I’m going to regret asking this, but what is a dead Fishy doing in our freezy?”

“Well, when he died, we were on our way out the door and didn’t have time to give him a proper funeral.”

“Sooo, when exactly did Fishy die?” asked my husband, glancing over at the fish bowl on the kitchen counter that contained a very much alive Beta fish.

“Three years ago.” I answered “Give or take …”

Needless to say, after having her dead fish replaced with a new alive one, the urgency surrounding a proper pet burial had diminished, and we all sort of forgot about the whole thing – until today.

Despite the wasted food and a long-overdue funeral, I truly feel like I accomplished something that morning.

The patio door, however, is still covered with dog drool.

This essay was written for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.  It didn’t win but was great fun to write.  I put on my best “Erma”.  As many of you know, I learned so much from the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held every other year in Dayton, Ohio, its faculty and most importantly its attendees.  You can read the winning entries here.

Canadian Hockey Offers some Happiness ( or C2H5OH)

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Hockey parents have this reputation for excessive drinking which I believe is unwarranted.  The truth is, hockey parents do like to drink a lot but, come on, it’s not because we’re hockey parents, it’s because we’re parents. Period. I can assure you that I was drinking long before my kids strapped on their first pair of skates!  For some reason, that does not seem to surprise anyone.

So you know who I think started this nasty rumour about hockey parents and their drinking? I think it was that it was those crazy little hockey kids who drove us to drinking in the first place – they’re the work of the devil.

My daughter asks me stuff like, “Oh, do you really need alcohol to have fun?” I pondered that this weekend as I looked around what passed for a hotel room smaller than my university dorm room and I answered, “Yes.  Yes I do. It is way more fun to be stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere with a glass of chardonnay than being stuck in a little run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere without a glass of chardonnay. In fact, I think you’re having way more fun yourself when I’m here with my little glass of chardonnay, because you’re out there doing God knows what and I don’t even know where you are until I need another little glass of chardonnay and I find you in some random hallway with all your friends eating popcorn” and thankfully not my chardonnay (not yet anyway; I’ll give that a few more years).”  She should know that hockey weekend would be way less fun for the both of us if I was without chardonnay.

How about this one: “I don’t know how you drink that stuff … it tastes terrible!” I don’t believe  it has ever been – nor will it ever be – about the taste. Wait until you have kids – especially hockey kids – and I assure you that little glass of chardonnay will NOT taste terrible, it will be medicinal magic –so will the second glass. And so on …

And when she tells me that I don’t need my wine to have fun, I tell her she doesn’t need the $12 buffet to have fun either.  What’s so fun about paying $12 to witness a couple hundred screaming little girls waiting half an hour for the one single waffle iron that every single one of them seems to “need” at 9:00AM on a Sunday morning?

I’d say we’re even.

white wine

 

Note: This is not a sponsored post, meaning , I was not offered any free booze to write this post. I had to buy it myself. And for you hockey parents, please rink dresponsibly.

 

 

Offside by a Mile – The 7-7-7 Challenge

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777I was tagged by Lesley Donaldson in the 7-7-7 Challenge in which writers are invited to share seven lines from the seventh page of their work in progress, starting from the seventh line. Lesley’s urban fiction book “The Queen’s Viper” is due out in the spring of 2015 and her non-fiction book, “Growing A Rainbow: The Premature Journey of a Two Pound Hero” will be on sale imminently.

The seventh page of my manuscript happens to be a blank page (chapter separator) so already this challenge did not bode well for my marketing.  So I cheated a little. The number “7” is a lucky number, after all, right? Well, not for me as this story unfolds …

Below are seven lines from the eighth page of my manuscript “Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom”.

My husband, Peter, turned from packing balaclavas, thermo ski mitts, and HotShots hand warmers into the ski bag and said, “He’s going to find out, you know.”

“Find out what?” I asked innocently, though I knew only too well what he was referring to.

“Right . . . ,” he answered, rolling his eyes heavenward.

“Well, I’m not taking full blame for this one, buddy!” I snapped back as he continued shoving ski helmets into the bag. “I learned to ski for you! Our kids learned to ski for us! We’re a skiing family, and that’s final!” I bellowed, and hammered my fist onto the kitchen counter.

I knew he was right, though. Connor was going to find out sooner or later that we’d lied, that first-year hockey starts at age four, and that even though this had been a mutual decision between my husband and me, odds were good Connor was going to blame me. That’s motherhood for you.

These lines set the stage for a fourteen-year odyssey which continues to this day: my après-ski life as a hockey mom. I am hopeful that my book, Offside by a Mile – Confessions of a Hockey Mom” will soon be published. Stay tuned!

I am supposed to now play  this forward to a few authors that I know. These incredibly talented women are very busy, so I am putting NO pressure on them to participate but I know they have a few great projects in their quills and inkwells!

Amy Sherman, Barbara Cooley, Sharon Enck,Brenda MoguezBonnie Jean Feldkamp and Kimberly Dalferes? Whatcha workin’ on?

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