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My Grapefruit and Me–Part 1

Head’s up guys, this is a heavy one. Full of super shitty news and things I wish weren’t real, but are. I’ve told most of my close friends and family in person already, and if you are a person who’s upset that you had to learn via the internet, I am very and truly sorry. Just know that this is difficult for me to share, and it’s emotionally exhausting to go through the reveal process with so many people. Considering how much shit I’m going through right now, I beg you to let me have this one.

I was so beyond irritated.

The whole ordeal had been one goddamn annoyance after another. It had started with my yearly pap smear, which sohelpmegod, if they didn’t hold my birth control prescription over my head I would never subject myself to. Laying back on the tissue paper-covered table with my feet in those stirrups while a stranger–who’s very nice, but doesn’t think that any of my jokes are funny–jams a couple fingers in my twat and roots around… there’s nothing enjoyable about that.

Then the doctor tells me that she feels “fullness” in there. Whatever that means. And since this is our first examination together (my last gyno moved to Florida,) she isn’t sure if it’s something to worry about or if I just have a fat uterus, so I have to go in for an ultrasound. Yippy. Because who doesn’t love having their belly covered in goo while someone slides a cold plastic wand over their stomach?

But then, to pile a giant glob of annoying on top of my irritation, I find out that a pelvic ultrasound is different than an abdominal ultrasound. Now, I not only get to have my belly covered in goo, I have to do so with a full bladder, so that every time the technician presses the wand into my pelvis I worry that I’m going to pee on the table. And then as if that wasn’t fucking delightful enough, I have to empty my bladder and repeat the process from the inside. That’s right. From the inside. Meaning that I get a camera on the end of a wand up in my business. And even though the technician is making me as comfortable as she can and the experience as pleasant as possible, by the end of the procedure I’m starting to imagine how great it would feel to beat my gyno with the twat-cam for making me go through this just because I have a fat uterus.

So on the day of my followup appointment, I was so beyond irritated. I just knew this was going to be just like the time I had to go in and get the results for my BRCA testing. (The test they give to find out if you’re genetically predisposed to breast cancer. Which I’m not.) Watch, I’m going to sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes, in the examining room for another 15, and it’ll take the doctor 45 seconds to tell me that everything’s fine. What a waste of time. Why couldn’t they just call me and tell me everything’s cool? Blergh.

I was still annoyed when my doctor walked in the room, but that ebbed slightly when she pulled her chair up very close to me. Something in the way she held her shoulders told me that this wasn’t going to be quite as simple as, “Hey, everything’s cool.”

“We found a cyst on your right ovary…”

(Is that all? Like, five of my friends and my cat have had ovarian cysts. Yawn.)

“…and it’s about the size of a grapefruit.”

(…)

In that exact moment, the irritation dropped out of my body. I could very nearly feel it puddling in my socks. And the vacuum that irritation left was immediately filled by fear. The next words out of my mouth? “Well, at least I don’t have a fat uterus. After all, a lady has to keep her figure.”

Something I learned that day is that when presented with unexpected and frightening news, my coping mechanism is apparently to make a series of dry, matter-of-fact, mildly inappropriate jokes. I’d never known that about myself.

After assuring me that I did not have a fat uterus, I had an very adorable uterus, the doctor filled me in on the rest of the details. My cyst–which turned out to not be a cyst at all, more of a mass–was 9cm x 8cm x 10cm, which could also be thought of as slightly smaller than a softball. It was so large that it was folding my uterus in on itself, pushing it inside out. Apparently cysts usually get diagnosed because they cause immense cramping and intense pain, so the fact that this thing wasn’t flattening me was confusing to the doctor. And unfortunately, it wasn’t entirely fluid, but had mass and density. It could be endometriosis, which is where the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows as a mass on the outside of the uterus. It could also be “something else,” which she wouldn’t say what was, but reading my ultrasound results later was revealed to be called “uterine neoplasm,” which is fancy doctor-talk for some kind of tumor. Which immediately put the c-word on the table.

No matter what, the end treatment was going to be surgery. If the cyst was comprised of the right materials and positions in the right location, they could do it laparoscopically as an out-patient procedure, and it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It could also be complicated enough that they would have to open me up and remove most of my plumbing. (Or, as I macabrely started describing it, they’d leave me nothing but a hole to pee from.) Either way, there was about a 60% chance I was going to lose my fertility.

Talking things over with the doctor, I held myself together surprisingly well. Probably frighteningly well. But walking out of the office I could only describe the sensation as “feeling all the feels.” But not in the way you say you feel when you watch a video of a kitten cuddling with an otter inside of a mitten. In the way that every shade of shock, confusion, rage, fear, and loss were trying to shove past each other to tackle me, and only a survivalist numbness was keeping them at bay.

I didn’t know how to handle this news or these emotions. Normally when you get bad health news, it’s because you went seeking answers and the answers just happen to be shitty. When I found out that my asthma had gone from episodic to chronic, I’d gone searching for an answer to why I couldn’t fucking breath. Sure, that was bad news, but I knew that something was wrong so I was emotionally prepared to receive bad news. But this… I was blindsided. I’d thought I was in good heath. Great health, even. My asthma had settled down recently, and I was feeling strong. I’d been drinking a lot of water and eating right, and I’d lost almost 15 pounds. I felt great. And then to find out that I’m not great, there’s something very, very wrong with me…I couldn’t prepare for that. For fuck’s sake, I couldn’t even figure out how there was physically enough room in my pelvis to fit a fucking grapefruit! Is there really that much vacant property in there?

Of course, I was scared. I was terrified of what this could mean as far as my overall health, what kind of surgery I would have to go through, how long I would be out of work, and the potential loss of my fertility, even though Kyle and I don’t have a strong desire to have kids. (And also agreed that even if I did become infertile and we decided down the line that we want kids, neither is opposed to the idea of adoption.)

But the thing that terrified me the most was the loss of control. See, for those of you who’ve never been around me for 10 minutes, I’m hardcore a control freak. Some of my biggest emotional distresses have come when I feel like my life is being driven by someone else’s actions. And when I can’t directly control portions of my life, I use control measures in other parts of my life to make me feel as if I were in control. Things like controlling the number of calories I eat, how often and long I exercise, the things that I wear, how clean I keep the house, even this little corner of the internet that I call this blog, all help me feel as if I’m maintaining control of my world. So to find out that this…this thing grew inside me without my permission or knowledge, that was pretty devastating. All of a sudden my careful eating and disciplined moderation of alcohol and sweets felt ridiculous; who cares if I make myself have a salad instead of buffalo chicken pizza, either way a mass the size of a fucking grapefruit was going to grow in my body. The loss of control over the one thing that I always had complete control over–my own body–was devastating.

As soon as the doctor gave me this news, she immediately started moving things forward to get it out of me. In my immediate future was blood work, an MRI, and some variety of surgery. Hopefully the simple, in-office kind, but that was still uncertain. In the meantime, there was fear.

And my grapefruit.

 

Author’s Note: This blog post is going to be a two-parter. Normally when I write a post like this, I will wait a week or so to post the next part, because this blog can only produce so much content. (I do have a day-job, you know.) But because this post is pretty heavy and affects my for-real life, that feels like a pretty shitty thing to do, making my friends and followers wait a week to find out whether I’m full of cancer or not. (Spoiler: almost certainly not.) So the conclusion to this post will be up tomorrow.

 

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For my birthday, Kyle bought me a pair of Snap Spectacles.

You know, the sunglasses with the built in camera that let you take video from your face and post it straight to Snapchat? They’re like Google Glass, except much less expensive and wearing them doesn’t make you an epic douche?

(They admittedly probably make you a mild douche, but not an epic one.)

First chance I got, I convinced Kyle to go for a walk downtown with me so that I could try them out. As we walked through the park and went for bubble tea, I took little video snippets of ordinary things, just enthralled with the ability to effortlessly and unobtrusively record my experience. I loved the way that I could start a video and then not think about it again as it recorded and automatically stopped when time was up, allowing me to fully experience the moment instead of actively shooting and posting on the spot. The videos were probably of the mundane variety, mostly just me talking about bubble tea and looking at the storm clouds in the sky (and once tripping over the sidewalk,) but it showed me the possibilities for the technology. Something tells me that they’re going to be very fun at the track this summer!

But, if I’m being very honest with myself, there was a little extra excitement that didn’t have anything to do with the tech. It came from the fact that I felt very, very hip, and very, very cool. See, I’ve never seen a pair of Spectacles in the wild; the only person that I even know of who owns a pair is a technology blogger that I follow. Up until very recently, they were hard to even get, since they were only available for purchase at these weird little yellow R2-D2 vending machines that moved locations daily, and without announcement. And the fact that they (mostly) resemble plain old sunglasses only added to my perception of my own hipness; it felt like I was so trendy that no one we passes even realized how much cooler I was than they were.

But as I was strutting down the sidewalk, chewing on tapiocas and complaining that it wasn’t nearly as good as the bubble tea we had in Chinatown, a though popped into my head. It flickered like a neon sign in the dark, there for only a moment and gone, a ghost of it floating just behind my thoughts as we walked.

“Am I actually hip and cool, or just one of those sad adults who thinks they’re hip and cool?”

You know who I’m talking about. You see them walking down the street, wearing what they think “the young people” are wearing. They declare things, “on point fleek” without actually realizing what they’re saying. They make things like glitter eye shadow and embellished jeans that ride way too low part of their signature look, and they pick up their kids from school in “hilarious” raunchy graphic tshirts and cargo shorts.  And even though you say out loud that you admire their confidence and encourage them to let their freak flag fly, secretly you’re embarrassed for them. No one wants to be that person, and (at least I think) it’s fear of becoming that person that drives us to become more fashionably conservative as we age. When we get to “That Age.” After all, if you don’t try, you can’t fail.

And I wondered, is my rocking a pair of Spectacles actually hip and cool, or do I just feel hip and cool because I think that this is what hip, young people are into? I posed that exact question to Kyle, who unhelpfully answered, “Yes.” I don’t know if that was his way of saying, “A little bit of both,” or if the consequences of a wrong answer terrified him and he panicked, but since I love him I didn’t make him elaborate. I think my answer is a similarly, “Maybe…” It’s quite possible that I am not even remotely hip and cool, I just feel that way because the perceived cutting-edge exclusivity of this product makes me imagine that everyone else admires them as much as I first admired the blogger who got her hands on a pair. It’s also quite possible probable that most people aren’t paying a lick of attention to things outside of their own corner of the world, so they don’t notice me at all, let alone my sunglasses. And those that do would probably respond with an anemic, “Neat,” because Spectacles are a straight-up grown up toy, and one that most people probably don’t have a strong desire for.

But even if my Spectacles don’t make me cool (or even make me decidedly uncool,) the answer to the cool-uncool question that I’ve landed on is–

“Maybe…but I don’t give a shit.”

Let’s face facts, my very fashion style–with all its hits and misses–already broadcasts to the world that I don’t really give a shit about what’s cool or not. From my collection Dr Marten boots (which a relative initially dubbed my first pair “zombie drag queen boots,”) to my love of army jackets paired with floral sundresses, to my technicolor hair, I’ve always been more interested in pleasing myself than the fashion world. I do things and wear things that make me happy, and my Spectacles definitely make me happy. So I will wear maroon jeggings with flannel shirts, I will paint my nails glittery purple, and I will walk around talking to myself while my sunglasses take a video of ducks, because those things make me happy.

Even if that makes me uncool.

 

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An Apology to Size 12

Hey there, size 12. How’s life treating you?

Silence, huh? Yeah, I know. I have been pretending that you’re not with me when we’re out in public. I get it. I’ve been letting my shame over our being together pressure me to keep you hidden. But do you maybe understand why I did it? I mean, no one wants to be seen with size 12. We want the world to see us with size 2 or size 4. Even size 6 can hang out while I hold my head high, and on a good day, most of us can feel good about chilling with size 8. But size 12? No one wants the world to know about their relationship with size 12. Size 12 is the first step into fat.

Okay, okay, I know, that’s not true. I was just feeling mean. But that’s kinda how the world tells us we’re supposed to feel, you know? Not in words; in words, they tell us that we’re all beautiful and hire “plus size” (which just means that they’ve eaten a plate of pasta in the last fiscal year) models for their ad campaigns. In words, they tell us not to focus on the number, that we’re just supposed to love ourselves no matter what size we are. But in actions, samples are still consistently a size 0-2. In actions, stores either stop at size 10 or stock a single token size 12 in each piece. In actions, they encourage us to wear dark colors and belts that accentuate our waist. I hate belts! In actions, they design pieces for a size 2 and simply stretch it out to accommodate our frame without making any design changes to flatter our curves. No, the world tells us that big is beautiful with their words, but their actions impart upon us shame. And despite my best attempts to exorcise that shame with words of positivity, it’s nearly impossible not to internalize them. And so I was ashamed of you, size 12.

I also didn’t feel like we really belonged together. I was with size 10 for so long that I felt like it was going to be my forever size. It’s who I was. It’s who my wardrobe was! We were together all through college and size 10 stayed with me as I entered adulthood. But then… Well, I don’t really know when our relationship went sour. You know how easy it is to take a long-term love for granted. It was gradually, without my noticing. A Taco Bell run here. A splurge there. One too many brownies leftover from catering and destine for the garbage, mindlessly swiped as I left work late at night. Suddenly, size 10 left me, and you showed up.

I wasn’t really emotionally ready to embrace you, size 12. I felt like a size 10 in a size 12 body. Even as I bought pair after pair of size 12 jeans, I always told myself that I was only with you temporarily. That aaaaaany any day now (without making any noticeable changes to my diet, of course) I’d lose a little weight and be back in size 10. I even still have a hidden drawer full of my size 10 jeans, for when I finally get thin again. I just…didn’t feel like we belonged together. I’m not a size 12. I can’t be a size 12.

This past New Year’s, I made the resolution to lose weight. I did this partially because I am a giant cliche, but also because I kinda…holidayed hard. By the time January 1 rolled around, everything was tight and I felt like I was sweating eggnog. I tried “just eating better” for a couple weeks, to no avail, so I broke out the big guns: calorie counting.* (*Of course, calorie counting is not for everyone, results may vary, do shit in a healthy manner, consult your doctor, blah blah blah.) And it worked. It wasn’t easy; moderation sucks. But almost 60 days later, I’m down 10 pounds from where I started. (Not very dramatic, I know, but I’m trying to approach this from a place of overall health, not just how small I can make the number on the scale.) And I’m pretty damn proud of myself. 10 pounds may not be significant enough to justify a whole new wardrobe, but it’s certainly enough to enjoy clothes fitting better than they used to. Those tiny victories where things don’t pinch or strain like they did before. As the number on the scale crept down at a agonizingly slow pace, I secretly began to wonder every time I dressed for work if this time would be the time when I pulled on my jeans to find them joyously baggy. Surely, with every lost pound, I would eventually find myself back with size 10 and be rid of size 12 forever.

But it hasn’t happened. Jackets close easily, I can wear a fitted tee without having a pooch sticking out, and that skirt I bought last summer that was juuuust a little too tight now fits beautifully. But my size 12 jeans? Still fit just fine. Sure, the waistband doesn’t bite into my stomach like it used to. But I still find myself having to do the bend-wiggle-hitch when I put them on after washing them. (You know. That move where you grab them by the waistband, do a deep knee bend, wiggle into them a little, then quickly hitch as you stand. Don’t pretend like you’ve never done it.) And it was during this ritual one morning that I realized why I will never again be reunited with size 10: it’s my thighs. My jeans are tightest in the thighs.

My thighs and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t like how big they are; I wish they were smaller and didn’t rub together when I sweat in summer. But more unyielding than my dislike of their size is my love of all the things they can do. Because my thighs are strong. I can leg press my own body weight, and more than once I’ve shut Kyle up by carrying him around the house on my back, piggyback-style. And I do a lot of really kickass things with my thighs. I run half-marathons, I ski black diamonds, I hike mountains, I lift gear into trucks, I hold my own at work. My thighs are my strongs, and I’m proud of the things we do together. And since they’re mostly muscle, they’re not getting any smaller. Not if I have anything to say about it.

And that’s when I realized, size 12, that we really do belong together. Size 12 doesn’t mean that I’m fat, like snooty little boutiques want me to think, size 12 means that I’m strong. So I’m sorry, size 12. I’m sorry I was ashamed to be with you, and I’m sorry that I was so eager to leave you. As long as my legs are strong enough to help me kick life’s ass, those legs are going to be attached to a size 12. And I’m definitely okay with that.

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A Year of Home: The Outside

Hey there, friend. Welcome to part two of this post! If you missed part 1, feel free to hop back a post and check out A Year of Home: The Inside. Or don’t. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life.

Seeing as we moved into our Sage Bungalow around the first of last year, it’s understandable that our primary focus was on the interior of the house. Even if the weather hadn’t been cold and the ground hard, the previous owners hadn’t kept up with their raking, causing a seemingly-impenetrable layer of frozen leaves and pine needles to encase the ground. Since there wasn’t much that we could do to the outside until everything thawed, we just pretended that it didn’t exist and waited until spring to attack our new outdoors.

But once it did thaw? Boy howdy, did we attack. Our eyes might have teared up and our hearts swelled with pride every time we looked upon our new little home, but those were some pretty fucking rose-colored glasses we were wearing. The reality is that the exterior of our house was drab, tired, and completely void of any personality whatsoever. So as soon as it was warm enough for the ground to thaw, we took to spending all our free time outside, making it ours.

And I don’t want to brag, (too late,) but our efforts? Totally worth it.

 

The very first thing we did, before spring, even, was hang new house numbers. This might seem like a tiny change, hardly worth mentioning, but for us, it was huge. This was the first visible personalization that we made to our house, a tiny way of saying, “Hey, we live here now, and this is who we are,” to the world as it drove by. Those house numbers, along with the staggered- shingles style of our siding, also set the tone for the rest of our exterior decorating. I chose the number plate, with it’s beautiful shiny treated-copper numbers and patinaed untreated-copper background, while Kyle stained the backing-board a lovely dark chocolate brown. (Which he would later rip down and re-stain to match the stain of our DIY shutters. What can I say, we’re perfectionists.)

Our first big project for the exterior of our house was the landscaping in front of the house. The original design of the landscaping when we first moved in was…well, there wasn’t any. There were four different bushes, one of each, lined up in front of the porch, as if they’d just gone to a nursery and gotten one of whatever was in the discount bin. There was nothing architectural framing the bushes, and since it was winter, half of them looked dead. It looked unintentional and uninspired, and it had to go.

So in late spring, when the ground had finally thawed and the weather warmed, we ripped it all out. Well, most of it. We did keep one holly bush, because Kyle took a fancy to it and I was okay with it because it was an evergreen. (It’s winter for half the year here, people, I don’t want my house looking like shit for half my life.) We bought a second holly and a quartet of Mediterranean heather, which I’d set my heart on after hearing about its love for acidic soil and hardiness in frigid winters. (And who am I kidding, its romantic blush of purple blooms, which I thought brought out the green in our siding.) Red mulch, which played off both the green of the holly and the purple of the heather, finished off our little garden.

And that’s where we figured the project would end. I mean, we wanted to lay down rocks or bricks or something to edge the plantings, but it was going to be pretty expensive. (And I mean, we had just bought a house.) So we figured we’d just do our planting, lay down some mulch, and wait a while until we had a little more spending money to do our edging.

Then Kyle stuck his shovel into the dirt to dig out a dead ugly bush and hit a rock, one that once we dug it out, looked exactly like the fieldstone that comprises the retaining wall framing our driveway. Another shovelful produced another rock, and another, and before long we had a whole pile of fieldstone, enough to edge our entire box! And I gotta say, we may have chosen this material for its price (free), but I adore the way that the fieldstone cohesively goes right from lining our shrubbery into the retaining wall. It makes it look purposeful (and not like we dug them out of the yard!)

There were even enough rocks left over that Kyle was able to embed them into the soil at the bottom of our deck stairs, making a little landing pad!

 

Next on the list was to repaint the stair railing on our porch. Not only was it rusted to hell, with paint flaking like dandruff, but the black just didn’t make sense when it was framing a white pillar. Luckily, this was an easy project. All it took was some meticulous masking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…a healthy dose of personal protection…

 

…and about 7,000 misted layers of white spray paint.

 

And did I mention patience?

But what a difference it made! More than I gave the idea credit when Kyle first pitched it to me. But painting that hand railing white brightened up the front of our house immensely, and I’m really proud of the way it turned out. It’s one of my favorites of all the projects I’ve done on the house, because it took only a little bit of work and had a huge payoff!

 

Painting the railing may have been my pet project, but nursing the lawn back to health? That’s Kyle’s baby. As spring came and we cleared away the layers of debris, it became clear that there had been no lush green lawn lying dormant under the snow. There was dead growth and weirdly sandy soil. But Kyle is a stubborn man, and it became his sole purpose in life to get grass to grown in our yard.

Which, we learned, is weirdly hard. Who would have thought it’s so difficult to grow grass? I mean, the shit grows between the sidewalk, shouldn’t it grow like crazy in our dirt? (The answer was no.)  We probably could have gotten grass more quickly if we’d sodded, but have you priced out sod? That shit is expensive! Not to mention the fact that there’s no guarantee that the sod will take, meaning that you could spend an ass-ton of money and still have patchy, brown grass. No, Kyle was steadfast in his determination to make grass grown the old fashion way: from seeds.

Even if it killed him.

There was a lot of raking. A looooooooot of raking. Raking debris out, raking seeds in, raking for what I’m pretty sure is no other reason than he likes raking. (Not true.) Two cubic yards of topsoil that were spread throughout both our front and back yard, which is a weird unit of measurement, but I assure you, is an absurd amount of dirt. Kyle seeded multiple times and fed the lawn over and over with different nutrients. And the watering. Religious and continuous watering. He put a lot of work into that lawn.

11-Lawn-After
12-Back Lawn After

And while (much to his disappointment) our lawn still can’t quite compete with that of our neighbor across the street with the in-ground sprinkler system and twice-a-week mowings, I think still think it looks pretty damn amazing compared to where we started. I could not be more proud of all the hard work Kyle’s done on our grass, and I think it goes a long way towards making the house look loved and cared for.

By far, the project with the biggest visual impact on the exterior of our house (and the one I’m most proud of!) has been our new shutters. I hated our old ones from the moment we moved in. The same vinyl louvered shutters that everyone else in the whole fucking neighborhood has on their house, ours came in the only color that Home Depot stocks in stores: lifeless black. To add insult to unoriginal injury, the house right next door to us has that exact same color siding and had the exact same color shutters. If it weren’t for the landscaping, you wouldn’t even be able to tell them apart. It bothered me to no end that not only was our house identical to the one next door, but they shared the same severe, dull look.

Which is boring. Which is not okay.

The problem is that we knew what we wanted, and (do you notice a theme here?) what we wanted was expensive. We had our hearts set on board-and-batten shutters, which for some inexplicable reason are the fucking Rolls Royce of shutters. (Seriously, someone explain to me why they are twice the price of louvered or raised panel shutters. I don’t understand it.) So once again, we were resigned to put the project into that distant future named “someday.”

Until Kyle saw a ridiculous sale on cedar fence boards, and we said, “Fuck it, we’ll make our own.”

Over the course of a couple days Kyle cut the boards, I stained them, and together, we assembled them into lovely board-and-batten shutters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time they went up, I thought they were more charming than any of the expensive ones we’d priced out, and more than a little of their beauty came from the pride that we’d made them ourselves. They’re not just one-of-a-kind because no one else in the neighborhood has wooden board-and-batten shutters; they’re one-of-a-kind because they’re the only set made by us, together, in existence, and that makes them special.

Our little Sage Bungalow has come a long way in the last year. When we first moved in, it looked stodgy, tired, and banal, as if the person tending to it previously cared only for filling check-boxes as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Now, I think it looks more than just unique; now it looks uniquely ours. But even more importantly, I hope to the world it looks charming and warm, like it’s full of laughter and friends. I hope it looks like people live there who are interesting and fun, the sort of people who would love to have you over to play original Sonic the Hedgehog and drink beer, who will make you fried chicken and then sit with you long into the night on their deck and talk by the light of a torch, the sort of people you’d like to know. I hope it looks like a house full of love.

Because it is.

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