FTSF, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, TGIF, The Insightful Wanderer

Pieces of Peace, #PiecesOfPeace #FTSF

I’m sitting in a loud, dark, crowded bar on a Saturday night and I don’t belong here. I feel invisible and yet like I stand out, anyone who sees me sensing my feelings of not belonging, maybe not anywhere, but certainly not here. I am hear to listen to music sung with heart, guitar played with boundless talent, but I don’t fit in in this place. And so I begin to examine each individual bead on my little piece of Mexican memory and I feel like I am meant for something, somewhere, somehow.

***

I took it off the other day, likely to wash dishes or take a shower, and I couldn’t remember where I’d placed it when I went to put it back on. I panicked. It was a strange sort of panic I wasn’t expecting to feel.

It was like I was Gollum from Lord of the Rings when I couldn’t find my bracelet. I needed it. It is PRECIOUS to me.

***

It is how I find peace in these troubled times, times which test my patience with humanity and with my own patience with myself. Vicious circle.

A wise man with a long white beard made it. He chose it for me, out of a selection of other bracelets, and he placed it on my left wrist. He told me, in so many words, that writing is my destiny. All the new experiences I was having, making it all the way to Mexico on my own, I needed a little reassurance, in that moment, even though I’d started to feel it deep down, and he and his mosaic of art and wisdom came along at the perfect moment in time. His words and my bracelet came along, reflecting back at myself all that I can be and all that I already am.

***

Now, when my heart wants to jump out of my chest on a daily basis, when I hear news I want desperately to block out completely, the fingers of my right hand grasp and turn the beads on my left wrist. I turn the bracelet, every uniquely shaped and textured piece of colour and exquisite form over and over, around and around, breathing deeply and grabbing hold of the memories of those moments of peace I felt while I was away from home.

Thinking about the care and time that must have gone into making my newly acquired wearable piece of art, how someone even took the time at all, this brings me peace. I find peace from art, from a piece of jewelry or a piece of music created and played with passion.

This has been my story of finding pieces of peace wherever I can.

These pieces of art bring me a special brand of peace, one I’m currently finding it hard to obtain anywhere else, in any other way. Maybe, if I say the words piece/peace, again and again and again, just maybe I will feel just a little more of it.

And so, thank you to Mr. McLauchlin and the musicians and artists and peace bringers/makers of the world, for all that you’ve given me.

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TToT: Run Time and Take Five – State Smash! #ShePersisted #10Thankful

Another birthday has come and gone and I’m fired up, in a lot of ways and by the positive signs of women persisting, remaining cautiously but still incredibly thankful.

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I know, I see, I’m not the only one.

Ten Things of Thankful, #10Thankful

So, to keep things in the proper perspective, I’ll just launch right into what makes me so grateful.

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(Makers, all, with Anado McLauchlin.)

I’m thankful for this group.

And for these girls.

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I’m thankful for friends, together, in one special spot.

I missed out on seeing for myself just how colourful this place was, but at least I got to take a break, for a minute or two, to sit on the couch with friends.

Thanks, Anado, for letting us into your home.

I’m thankful for newly introduced music, better late than not at all.

RIP Mr. Jarreau.

The guy sure could scat!

Speaking of music and birthdays, I’m thankful to have made it to a year with my decision to learn how to play the violin.

It was on my last birthday that I walked into a music store and rented a violin. I had no idea what I was getting into then. Well, okay, I kind of knew. I knew, but I didn’t really know. Know what I mean?

No?

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I’m thankful for a teacher, to take this photo of my re-commitment, one who hasn’t given up on me, even in those moments when I’ve wanted to give up on ever learning a difficult instrument like the violin in my thirties.

She taught me new finger exercises, ways to strengthen my left hand and the fingers on it. I spent most of my anniversary/birthday lesson wishing for new fingers, longer fingers, but I will get there, one day.

I’m thankful for another birthday.

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I’m still mulling over what that means, on a practical level of course. I had a rather subdued birthday, after spending a week in Mexico, but it did have its high points.

I had blood taken and both arms needed to be poked. I made a dentist appointment. I drank a lot of tea to fight off the beginnings of a sore throat. I had another bad eye day, noticing how blurry everything looked as I ate lunch out with my father.

I did wonder if I will still see anything by my next birthday. I am not freaked by being one age one day and another the next. I do realize, however, that I am getting older. A lot of things bring this fact home to me. I am trying to still live in the moment and enjoy all that life has to offer, but at a certain point I have to think about the future and what I want, really want and what is good for me.

Everything in life has its Run-Time.

I’m thankful for another successful, triple family birthday celebration.

It got off to a slow start, but really kicked into high gear there.

The lasagna was delicious. The kids were smarter than when we last saw them, all the way back at Christmas, if that is possible.

The best thing about each year I gain since they were all born is getting to see how they grow with every passing year, whomever happens to be the one celebrating the actual birthday.

They are all so creative and full of imagination. We adults have a ball watching them interact with each other and with all of us.

My family and I don’t likely agree on every single thing in life, but we are all pretty in sync on most things that really matter. It makes for a lovely coming together of the minds, not to mention senses of humour and attitudes on life.

There is always just the right amount of nostalgia and, this year, there are plans in the works for zip lining in Niagara Falls this spring.

Who else can you count on to try something as thrilling as zip lining with you, on a day that matters greatly to you, but your family? Mine are the best for those sorts of things.

It’s fun to sing Happy Birthday to three people at once. I only sing for two.

Happy Birthday Paul/Steve. You both crack me up and are the two best big brothers any thirty-three-year-old could ask for.

I’m thankful for my sister’s help in figuring out what I need to do, as part of taking some of my next, newest steps in my writing.

The writing is one thing. The business side is quite another. It’s all somewhat scary in its own way.

Filling out forms and paperwork is not my thing. Necessary, I realize. I truly appreciate any help I can get.

I am thankful my bracelet was found after I set it down, in my own house, and couldn’t, for the life of me, remember where I’d stashed it.

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A few of us got jewelry when we visited Anado’s home. We share this in common now and wanted to commemorate the fact.

I knew I would get home and set mine down somewhere, forgetting where that somewhere was. It scratches against the metal of my laptop when I’m writing, so I take it off, but I don’t like to.

Brian said it sounded like I was Gollum from Lord of the Rings when I couldn’t find it, the bracelet reminding him of “My Precious!” and he had a point.

Thanks to my brother-in-law for spotting where I’d left it. I hope I would have remembered, sooner or later.

Made By Anado

This is my reminder of my time in Mexico. It is more than just any old bracelet. It was made by Anado McLauchlin and it reminds me of the makers of this world. It reminds me, when I hold it, of my purpose. It brings me peace to feel all the different bits of it under my fingertips.

And, finally, I’m thankful that this hasn’t ended.

Very grateful that someone has decided to take over the weekly running of the thankful blog hop, to give its originator a well deserved break.

I would have went ahead with these gratitude posts, one way or another, but it’s nice that it will continue on with more than just this blog.

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TToT: Yearnings of the Heart and Soul – Seriously? #10Thankful

Red or blue? Coke or Pepsi? Apple or Android?

What a week. Ruined colours for me forever.

Okay, not really, but my examples do showcase our differences and what separates us, the teams we often feel we’re on and the people we most closely identify with, as opposed to those other people. I wanted to cry all week, but couldn’t quite get the tears to come. So I play this song.

By now, we all know who the next guy in charge of the US is going to be, and he’s eating that worldwide attention up like we all knew he would. Then Leonard Cohen died. People say these things are final and we must get over it, well that first one, and so I can’t simply listen to a song like Don’t Worry, Be Happy and accept the way things in the world seem to be going. I am afraid of that and I’m afraid I can’t.

Saturday Night Live found the best way to help out the grieving Americans and to pay tribute to a favourite poet/artist at the same time.

Then there is this song which comes from the “This American Life” series:

Seriously?

I was afraid of where this election was leading and this song is the perfect mixture of intense jazz, sad realism, lyrics that make me want to cry and cry out because I don’t know what has gotten into the US and not just them. I am critical but I know that if it were happening here in Canada, I wouldn’t want to be forgotten and forsaken. I would want help in understanding and whatever else and these things tend to spread eventually anyway and already seem to be doing just that. My knowledge of history has me rooted in fear and apprehension, but thankful to be Canadian at this time. I feel powerless amongst my existing and somewhat even more clearly defined thankfuls.

I’m thankful for the chance to express my thoughts and distract myself with a task during the night of the US election.

We thought we would do a before/after, from our Canadian perspective. Our hope was to focus on a lot of tough issues discussed and a few laughs thrown in there from time to time also, to try and lighten the mood a little wherever possible, but I haven’t been laughing for a while, not about this stuff.

It didn’t look good to me, not from the start, and in that case I did not relish being right with my instincts. We recorded a bit during the night, as the results came in and again the next day, once the results had time to sink in somewhat.

Bad dream or a sign that the end is near? Yes, either way, I had a sound effect for the occasion. If you aren’t sick of hearing about it in a few weeks, our podcast and the third episode should be available on iTunes. After all, we wouldn’t want to forget this event would we? Well, now we have it recorded forever.

I’m thankful the election is over.

I did feel relieved. It was painful and surreal. Now those long months are behind us and the nightmare of the next four years is just beginning.

I’m thankful for The Paris Climate Agreement, a step in the right direction.

So many countries have gone together on this. Who knows what will happen going forward, but I am proud Canada is represented and hopefully doing our part.

And then there’s the setting aside of ocean reserves, with the three oceans Canada exists within and the work President Obama has done. Oil spills, like the one on Canada’s west coast recently, these can do a lot of damage, and hopefully Prime Minister Justin Trudeau understands this. I am proud to be flanked by the three, Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic.

Whether it’s the ocean in the northern hemisphere or the opposite pole, down at the bottom of the world, I hope we realize how valuable it all is.

I’m thankful that my family reads my blog as much as they can.

And they put up with me and some of the things I say here.

They never quite know what to expect I’m sure and, truthfully, neither do I most times when I sit down to write.

They are incredibly supportive and I can say the things I want to say, though I hope I never hurt any of them too much in the process. I am lucky to be able to speak my mind, as I do appreciate at this time of year.

I’m thankful that I discover new and different music through the music expert in my life.

My brother is the music guy and he has so so many internet radio stations and is always playing something new and different to my ear. This one was just the kind of fast tempo I needed to perk up my spirits. I hadn’t heard anything quite like it.

I’m thankful for strong women who are fighting for women and minorities, even as I feel the bleakness of powerful forces out there.

What Hillary Clinton’s Fans Love About Her

So many wanted to see a female president and a secret Facebook group for her popped up and certainly left a mark.

Then there are wonderful women like this one.

She is a strong woman too and she is leaving her own mark, on me certainly.

I’m thankful for those who fought, though I do find it difficult to wrestle with my conflicted feelings on war and everything that goes along with it.

Leonard Cohen recites “In Flanders Fields'”

Instead of sharing one of his songs, I thought this might be better.

It’s one of my favourite poems, though the subject matter is one I struggle to understand.

I’m thankful for beautiful TToT bloggers and their messages of hope and peace.

Bluebell Sounds,
which sound divine.

Just Remember This,
a kiss is just a kiss.

Cruising Through,
most of us just doing the best we can do, but with lovely memories and photos in this case.

I’m thankful for the peek into the rest of the world from a story I’ve loved since childhood.

‘there’s always more to the story’

This song is for you Clark and for Almira.

I’m thankful for more comedy to keep me smiling.

I love Vince and Jimmy.

I was escaping into some Lord of the Rings movies to distract myself from the things I fear, but the similarities to the power men crave and the ring, a physical symbol of that greed, it was all too obvious. But there is hope amongst the uncertainty.

And so I am determined to end this post on a positive note, among all the bad news, the protests going on around the US, and my spot, from where I sit, feeling helpless, here in Canada.

What are the things that bring us together? These are the things we have in common.

If we cut our fingers, we all bleed.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, SoCS, Spotlight Saturday, This Day In Literature

Reviewing “Kindred” #SoCS #BookReview

If I used to doubt I could like a book about time travel, I sure have been proven wrong this week.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday, #SoCS

If framed in a way that reminds me of how time travel books are just stories about history, I am likely more willing to take a chance and read on.

My writing mentor has helped me see that I could travel to another country to have new experiences and go for my goals, so why not be the one to prove me and my dislike for time travel novels wrong too?

Travel. Time travel. These two share a few similarities.

With both (one fictional and the other super easy with the invention of aviation especially), we learn a lot about another place and people we’d never met otherwise.

I often wonder how I would react to find myself in the situation the characters found themselves in here.

I like to think I could cope. We all make do. I would adapt. I am good at that.

I don’t have practice living without luxuries like plumbing and running water and indoor toilet facilities. I guess I would do poorly in a time travel situations, not that anyone swept up by it in this particular book had much of a choice.

I do love history a lot, especially the history of the last few centuries.

My writing mentor shares books and I likely wouldn’t have found this one:

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler,

if it hadn’t been for her recommending it.

It was an audio book. I like to do the reading sometimes, but other times, I like to be able to just sit back and let someone else bring the story to life through their own storytelling ability. It’s like its own little piece of performance art. I’m not sure I would have the skill to make any story I might read come alive to the listeners in this way myself.

This story was a lot more than time travel, but really that has its place. I should have learned from the whole Lord of the Rings and fantasy genre experience.

Kindred is about an interracial couple in California in 1976. One day, while moving into their first home together, Dana is putting books away on a shelf when she starts feeling strange. Before she knows what has happened, the room, her husband, and the year she is living in all vanish and she finds herself on a riverbank.

After she suddenly hears cries and ends up saving a young child from nearly drowning, she finds herself in another time and about to embark on a strange back-and-forth adventure, from 1976 to the early 1800s. She and this child will become linked, through time and space, for reasons beyond either one of their comprehensions, until that link is finally severed for good.

I would recommend reading this book, as it is written so much better than I could ever sum up here, but instead I can speak to what this particular story ended up meaning to me.

Whether it’s 1819 or 1976 or 2016, some things are radically different and yet others aren’t really so different at all.

The biggest difference is, of course, that in the early 19th century, slavery was in full force in the United States of America. But, even if it was abolished one hundred years or more prior to the year 1976, a lot of the deeply ingrained cultural beliefs were still evident. Even though the 1960s was known as the decade of Civil Rights, things hadn’t evolved all that much by the 70s.

A lot of things take years and years to know in reality. A country hardly changes enough for all of its citizens in the years of any one person’s lifetime, or multiple generations.

All the racial tensions that seem to be building once more in the US of today have always been there. Rights have been fought hard for and laws eventually changed, but changing hearts and minds of a country’s people can’t be legislated.

Far from me to lecture, but denial that the problem was as bad or still is, this is more common than most people would like to think or are capable of even hearing.

So many of the scenes in the pre-Civil War era of Kindred involved life on a plantation and vivid descriptions of the mistreatment of slaves, the deep seeded ranking of white people and slave owners being above the dark skinned people they had control over, this was all stuff I’d heard about. How anyone could ever truly believe another human being who looked different was less human is beyond me. But that is the point I suppose. That time was beyond me. I like to take the holier-than-thou stance that I never would or could’ve stood for treating a dog let alone a person like people were treated then, but I know I can’t say that for sure.

My mind struggles to try and understand it. I can’t.

Even while I read and learn, even fictionally about that time in history, I can’t comprehend fully. Of course I can’t.

It was the repeated descriptions of whippings that were hardest to take. Many times I reflexively began to reach over to turn off the book or to get up, to distract myself from the words and the meaning behind them, but I couldn’t. Something held me there.

I felt as baffled when the black and white couple (Dana and Kevin) told their families about their plans to marry in 1976 and were met with nothing but disdain, as much as by many of the things I heard when time travel had taken them, (in a way me), back in time to 1819.

I think a lot of us would much rather live in a bit of a denial state, than to almost force ourselves to hear things we don’t want to hear and learn the facts that we can never unlearn. I know I would, but then my mouth would always be so full of sand from my head being stuck in it.

Linda Hill’s prompt for this week can be found here.

Not sure a so-called book review can be written through stream of consciousness writing. Most times, we think of book reviews as the book reports we were told to do in school. I don’t think this necessarily has to be so.

These are just a few of my thoughts while reading. I just wanted to take a moment here, on record, to make note of one book I am very glad I listened to. I think books like this are more important than ever.

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Feminism, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, RIP

Saying Farewell to Patty Duke, #RIP #WomensHistoryMonth #HelenKeller

Most know actress Patty Duke as Helen Keller, in the famous water pump scene from the 1962 screen adaptation of “The Miracle Worker”, but few have seen the movie in its entirety.

Patty Duke as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”

For a role where she hardly said a word, making mostly sounds (cries, moans, and the word “water”) – this character had a profound effect on me, since I was quite young. Of course, the effect had a lot to do with Anne Bancroft (Anne Sullivan) and the other characters with more of the speaking roles, but as a blind child watching the movie, I felt Duke’s determination to portray Keller as authentically as possible.

I held the VHS case in my hands. I remember the iconic picture on the front, the one from the end of the film where Helen (Duke) spelled out the word “teacher” into Anne’s hand. I stared at that black and white image again and again, as I probably checked the video out from my local library dozens of times.

After learning about who Helen Keller was, when I was read a book about her by someone when I was eight years old, I became fascinated by the story. When that same someone informed me there was a film based on the story, I proceeded to rush right out and find it in the movie section of the library. This was my first introduction to old movies and I liked them, this one in particular.

She was an actress, a singer, author, and advocate. I don’t know Patty Duke from anything else, not from “The Patty Duke Show”. I really can’t even picture what she sounded like, as I said, I hardly heard her speak in the film or afterword. I did not know her in any other roles, but she did something great for me.

People who are blind are not represented, in great numbers, in society or the media. Helen Keller became famous for several reasons, but finally I saw her story shown in the most moving and beautiful of ways, Oscar worthy performances all around in my opinion, but Patty Duke was at the centre of what gave me something, in the world of others with disabilities, in history, to look up to. I would never get to see Helen Keller, as she passed away around the same time “The Miracle Worker” was made. However, there existed an amazing representation of the girl she must have been.

I wish I could have been around to witness the original portrayal of “The Miracle Worker” and Patty and Anne’s portrayals of Helen and Anne on Broadway, in the late 1950s. Though Duke went on to switch roles in later years, playing Anne Sullivan in a later version of the film, her iconic role, played with skill, this will be a special one to me always.

Finally, years after I held that VHS and stared at the cover, imagining that relationship between student and teacher, although fictionalized, I held my very own DVD copy. This was the first DVD I ever owned.

A few years later, upon stumbling on a new film obsession (Lord of the Rings), I learned one of the main characters of the trilogy (Sean Astin) was Duke’s son.

Patty Duke was the youngest person to win an Academy Award, at the age of just sixteen and she went on to speak up for mental illness awareness, after being finally diagnosed, after years of turmoil, living with bipolar disorder.

On this second last day of Women’s History Month, I wanted to pay my respects to Patty Duke, a woman who brought awareness to mental illness when it was just beginning to truly be understood, the one who took on a role that must have been a difficult one, hard to live up to in her performance of a once living person who stood for so much in the disabled community, over the last one hundred years. That must have been a mighty big pair of shoes to fill, a difficult task to take on, but she did a marvellous job. She managed to make me feel, so deeply, and to find a relatable personality, brought to life for me, on screen.

RIP Patty, (1946-2016).

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Teaser Tuesday: The Icing on the Cake, #LoIsInDaBl

For this week’s

TEASER TUESDAY

I present to you, just days after Valentine’s Day, one of the sweetest, most romantic scenes I’ve ever read in literature:

***

Ginny looked up into Harry’s face, took a deep breath, and said, “Happy seventeenth.”

“Yeah … thanks.”

She was looking at him steadily; he however, found it difficult to look back at her; it was like gazing into a brilliant light.

“Nice view,” he said feebly, pointing toward the window.

She ignored this. He could not blame her.

“I couldn’t think what to get you,” she said.

“You didn’t have to get me anything.”

She disregarded this too.

“I didn’t know what would be useful. Nothing too big, because you wouldn’t be able to take it with you.”

He chanced a glance at her. She was not tearful; that was one of the many wonderful things about Ginny, she was rarely weepy. He had sometimes thought that having six brothers must have toughened her up.

She took a step closer to him.

“So then I thought, I’d like you to have something to remember me by, you know, if you meet some veela when you’re off doing whatever you’re doing.”

“I think dating opportunities are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest.”

“There’s the silver lining I’ve been looking for,” shoe whispered, and then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before, and Harry was kissing her back, and it was blissful oblivion, better than firewhisky; she was the only real thing in the world, Ginny, the feel of her, one hand at her back and one in her long, sweet-smelling hair–

The door banged open behind them and they jumped apart.

***

Was that more than a teaser?

I just love that scene, but one writing instructor I once had did not quite agree on it being one of the most romantic in all of literature.

🙂

I don’t know what page that would be in the print version, but in braille it comes from the final book in the Harry Potter series, (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Volume Two, Page 169).

It may have something to do with the moment I read it for the first time, the place I might have been in my life back then.

I was always looking, at the heart of it, for the love story in a novel. When I read Lord of the Rings for the first time, after watching the movies, I couldn’t wait and I asked a friend who loved the books if there was more of a particular romance between Sam and Rosie.

Of course, Lord of the Rings has its romantic themes, but it is an adventure fantasy story overall. Let’s just say, this male friend thought me a little nuts for only wanting this one small storyline when there was so much else going on in that world.

Well, Harry Potter is definitely not a romance novel and I am no longer a teenager, that girl who that’s all I read. I learned to love the fantasy and epic adventure genre for what it is and I love Harry Potter for so many of its themes, but this was just the icing on the already amazing cake.

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Just Jot It January: Skeletons, Headaches, and Mountains #JusJoJan

I wrote using the word “skull” in my previous JJIJ, but I really owe it a lot.

I used to press my fingers against my cheek, under my eye socket, and along the bone of my upper nose. I would press my fingertips against my temples to create the kind of pressure, almost my own brand of acupressure, when the headaches were particularly bad.

I imagined those skeletons at Halloween, that under all the coverings of skin and muscle, there was something basic and strong.

My skull, my scalp, where the pain seemed worst. I wondered where all the pain came from.

Recently I imagined it again, holding the brain inside. I was so grateful for it, for the skull itself, the structure that was keeping safe a very important brain, one that was uniquely belonging to a one-of-a-kind personality. If it hadn’t been for it, a fall would have spelled disaster. It saved all the intelligence and all the character that made up my one-and-only younger brother.

Then I read this prompt and thought of the sound all those fake skulls made when they fell down on the three brave characters, in that scene from Lord of the Rings, Return of the King, as they went to find the King of the Ghost Army in his forbidding, forbidden mountain tomb home. It was a mountain of skulls raining down upon them.

Music is on all our minds.

Under Pressure

Linda’s inspirations range from Japanese artist to British rock legend:

Just Jot It January 12th – Skulls

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan

The rules are

RIGHT HERE.

The “skulls” prompt is brought to us by the brain of an artist named Dean, over at

Deanz Doodlez.

Check him out over there.

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