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Mamapedia City Voices highlights the inside scoop on your city by selected writers, from up-and-coming mom bloggers to well-known mom experts.

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How the Doctor Helped Save My Son from a Shark Girl

September 30, 2014

I have a teenage son. He is all about his friends and girls and hanging out and talking on the phone and staying away from “YOU PEOPLE,” his term of endearment for his dad and I. Evidently, we’re not as cool as we think we are.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a more Mama Bear than normal. It all comes down to girls. I know I used to be one, but these modern girls… boy howdy! I have the desire to grab their jaws and force their mouths open just to prove that they have several rows of teeth because I’m convinced they are sharks. They certainly seem to be circling my precious baby and I sense blood in the water.

He plays things close to the vest. He never lets me in too far. I’m left to my own devices and have to embrace my inner “Secret Squirrel” to learn any facts going on in his life. It’s not too hard, if I’m being honest. He is a boy. Boys are LOUD by nature. I can usually get the gist of the current teenage drama while cleaning the bathroom as he talks on the phone in his room. (Yeah. My toilet sparkles. What of it?)


Photo Credit: Hanna Barbara

You see, I’ve discovered that there is at least one girl in his circle of friends who is playing games. She’s canceling plans without having the decency to call. She’s playing boys against one another. She’s using boys who like her simply BECAUSE they like her. She’s getting my hackles up, is what she’s doing.

I tried the diplomatic approach. I sat my teen down and had a little talk.

“Jimmy,” I said, “be careful. Some girls are not as nice as they seem.”

With all the doubt afforded a 14-year-old who is assured that I, an adult, knows absolutely nothing, he says, “Yes, mother.”

“I’m serious. There are some out there – and I am not insinuating that you know any – BUT there are some out there who will use a boy just because she knows he likes her.”

“Yes, mother.”

Then I went to my husband, Jim.

“She’s doing it.” I said pacing the floor.

“She who? And what is she doing?” he said, clicking away on some zombie game on the computer.

“Oh, you KNOW who. She’s messing with my baby.”

“Miranda, calm down. This is normal teenage bullshit. It’ll pass.”

Astounded at his cavalier attitude, I stopped and planted my hands firmly on my hips, “HOW can you sit there and say it will pass? She’s going to hurt him! I can see it coming a mile away!”

“Yes. And it’s a tough lesson he has to learn. Let him. Stay out of it.”

With a huff (because I know he’s right), I sat on the couch and leafed through a magazine.

Jimmy came downstairs and began complaining that his knee was hurting. I called the doctor and made an appointment since this was the third time he’d complained and I wasn’t sure it was nothing.

I carted him off to his appointment and I was quiet, trying my hardest to let him have his space, to reign in Mama Bear and Secret Squirrel.

When the doctor examined him she said it was likely just growing pains. Jimmy is a pretty tall kid for his age and it seems he’s just getting taller faster.

“It’s all right,” she said. “Girls like tall boys.”

I just wanted to crawl under the exam table until…

“But, listen here, young man. Girls are sharks and don’t you forget it. They will hurt you the first chance they get. Don’t believe them when they say they’re on the pill. Don’t believe them when they say they are virgins and you won’t get anything from them. This body is YOURS. Your mom worked hard to make it, you take extra good care of it.”

He blushed, smiled and said, “Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m serious. They tried that crap with my son and I told him for years to watch out. The last thing you need is a case of the cooties that won’t EVER go away, or a baby you can’t afford, or a broken heart that you don’t want. Use your head out there.”

He blushed again and nodded.

As he went to the truck without me, I lagged behind. Once he was out of ear shot I said, “Thank you so much for saying that!”

“Oh, don’t worry. I tell every boy who comes through here the same thing. I modify it a bit for the girls, but they get their version, too. I know they don’t listen to moms and dads.”

Then I did something I never do. I hugged her. I also backed off my toilet scrubbing for a whole week after that.

And now there’s three new girls on the scene…

I’m feeling the need for a Morocco Mole of my own. Who can keep track of all these sharks?

Miranda Gargasz is a writer from a small suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio. She is a contributor at What the Flicka? and The Huffington Post. In February of 2014, she published her first collection of essays entitled ‘Lemonade and Holy Stuff’. You can read more on her Blog, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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My Husband's Split Personality: Dr. Jekyll and Corporate Guy

September 29, 2014

My husband works at home most of the time, but does commute to a big tall building about twice a week to attend lots of important meetings and business lunches. For this excursion, he transforms into someone who shaves, carries an access badge, and wears a button down shirt — freshly pressed by me of course. (Alright, I put it in the dryer on high, with a wet wash cloth, after having left it damp and wrinkling for 3 days.)

He goes off into the world of adults and does whatever he does to bring home the bacon.

This is great, because I like bacon and I need bacon to fuel my Target and Kohl’s binges. Hey, Mossimo and Sonoma tops don’t come cheap, (or at least they don’t when purchased with great frequency, and in concert with crap loads of contact lens solution, gummy vitamins, Us Weekly’s, and other essentials we go through like animals).

When my husband returns from his bacon-ating, it often takes a while for him to transition from Corporate Guy back to Husband/Dad. You’d think the hour commute home would be enough, but the conversion usually takes longer than that. I’ve encountered Corporate Guy at the door many a night, only to have to remind him of his whereabouts, and of what ISN’T the proper way to speak in my domain. Corporate Guy is very receptive, but often speaks before his transition is fully complete.

Let me illustrate this for you with a few examples.

On one occasion, he actually spoke these words: “Our trash process is ad hoc. We need a new one”. Number one, don’t use terms like ‘ad hoc’ after 5pm. Number two, don’t assume I know what ad hoc means, or will change my ‘trash process’ accordingly. Finally, do not, under any circumstances, use the word ‘We‘ when suggesting that ‘I‘ do something. This is the equivalent of my dr. telling me ‘We’re going to need an injection.”. Oh yeah? You go first.

While pacing in the kitchen after a long day of hard work, Corporate Guy might recently have said, “Here’s a 40 page print out on how to select mattresses. You can read this as research before we buy a new mattress”. At the time, I might have simultaneously been washing dishes, refilling a sippy cup, checking my email, and suggesting alternatives to saying ‘Hell Yeah!” to my 4 year old. Corporate Guy might then have suggested I read it on the way to his parents house this weekend instead, replacing the People magazine I have been waiting to luxuriate with. He may then have apologized for suggesting such a thing, and instead suggested that we have a meeting to read through it together after the kids go to bed. I might politely have suggested in return, that 2 twin mattresses might be the direction we should go in, should this conversation continue any further.

Another Corporate Guy slip that lands him in my stew pot multiple times a week is, “How can we change the process and fix that?” It seems innocent enough, but it sends my head spinning around repeatedly with death rays shooting from my eyes every time. One recent example was me complaining about the constant interruptions I was dealing with. Cue Corporate Guy: “How can we change the process and fix that?”. The only way to fix it, is to Ebay you and the children, and I’m pretty sure my seller rating might take a massive hit for that. I’m hearing you assign me a thinking task, and someone will most likely interrupt me before I can complete… what was I saying?

And finally, perhaps the one that ruffles my petticoats the most. Corporate Guy often starts sentences with, “You know what your problem is?”. Readers, don’t give your husband an empathy slap for me just yet. Corporate Guy’s tone when he says it is less, “You know what your problem is you stupid idiot?” and more, “You are going to be so happy that I figured it out for you!”. I expect that this comes from a job where he is rewarded for figuring out the source of problems on a daily basis. The problem is, that when he says it to me, the answer is either A) Yes, I already know what my problem is, but the first rule of mom’s problems is that we don’t TALK about mom’s problems, OR B) I don’t know what my problem is, therefore it is undetectable to humans, and any further analysis on your part will result in a drastic reduction in mattress sharing privileges.

Maybe some day there will be a decompression chamber he can go through when coming from the office to home. Until then, I’m forming an ad hoc committee to look into the matter.

Susan blogs at Pecked To Death By Chickens, her humor blog, though occasionally she’ll author a poignant post revealing her soft underbelly (a euphemism AND a literal description). Susan also helps other bloggers get featured on the websites they aspire to, via her blog resource site Beyond Your Blog. You can find Susan wandering aimlessly on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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Photo by: Leslie Kendall Dye

What We Mean when We Call Our Daughters Pretty

September 28, 2014

“You’re so pretty,” she says.

I am typing into my broken-down Android, letting my husband know I am still at the clinic with my mother. We are waiting for blood work, and then we need to schedule an appointment with a social worker to help us navigate the corruption at her assisted living facility. My mother has dropped more than 15 pounds in three weeks. It’s time to throw in our cards and get some new ones.

I look up, feeling as cracked and ancient as my Android. I laugh out loud. My mother’s casual comment about how I look strikes me as hilarious. I think about the toddler waiting for me at home, and the hours my husband needs to take off from work to watch her, and the hours he will be working into the night to make up for it, and how I feel I have aged about 20 years in the space of two from stress. I keep waiting for the gray hair. As yet, I have been spared this. Perhaps it is waiting for my forties.

“Mom, it doesn’t matter how people look.”

“It does matter.”

I look over at my bird-like mother. She has been through a lot in the last few years. She survived a massive brain bleed and got out of an I.C.U bed to perform a ballet barre class three days after the doctors told us she would never speak or walk again. She knows her social security number and the recipe for lentil soup that my great grandmother taught her when she was a teenager. She can’t tell you what happened a minute ago or where she is, but within that bird frame there is a glimmer. A light is on in at least one front window.

My mom learned early that pretty matters. Remember that lyric from A Chorus Line: “Different is nice but it sure isn’t pretty, pretty is what it’s about?” My grandmother etched this idea into my mother’s brain, and years of working in television wrote over those lines with a Sharpie. When my mother was on I, Spy, she played a seductress. Then they called her to play another one a year later. Her legs were voted the best on Broadway when she was the lead dancer in How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying.) My mother had a lot of boyfriends. I have many of the old love letters she saved, neatly spread in archived family materials. Letters from boyfriends at Princeton. Can you imagine? It’s straight out of A.R. Gurney.

My mother never felt pretty, though. She talked a good game. She told me how important it was to appreciate one’s sex appeal, how grateful one should be to have it, how much easier it made life. It doesn’t seem that it made my mother’s life any easier. Anyway, she never really believed she was attractive. She told me that whenever the camera moved in for a closeup she would try to widen her jaw to make it more photogenic. Her life was marred by a sense of inadequacy, both inside and out.

I spent a lot of years knowing two things with certainty. One, that my mother got the terrible idea that beauty is the most important tool a woman could have from her twisted mother, and two, that I had to shake off her obsession with guarding this highly subjective attribute above all else.

When I had a daughter, I became sure of a third thing: I would NEVER allow her to feel that her looks were something that were anything but an extension of all else that was gorgeous about a person, and about her, specifically. You cannot separate a person’s beauty from her charm and humor and grace and intelligence. It’s all a jumble, and one day, when someone falls in love with her and she with him (or her) that person will find her an exquisite beauty for all these reasons mixed up together.

I arrive home after seven. It is after eight by the time I step out of the shower. It takes many hours for my child to wind down. She has so much to tell me about her day, she wants to know why her grandmother took so much of her mother’s time today and why she couldn’t be with me for it. She is full of questions and longing and very much needing of extra cuddles.

I get her to sleep by eleven o’clock. We rock to one of the old tunes she used to relax to when she was a colicky newborn. I carry her from the couch to the bed and lay her down. A light from the alleyway shines onto her face, like artificial moonlight in a play, dancing past our curtains.

I whisper to my husband, who can hear me on the monitor. “Come here!” I say.

My tired husband leaves his writing desk to join me at the bedside. “What is it?” He whispers.

“She’s so beautiful. I don’t mean the whole package. I mean her face. She is so beautiful, isn’t she? She takes my breath away.”

I gave in. I think my child is beautiful and would be even if she weren’t remarkable in so many other ways.

And then I realize it: all mothers think so.

My mother told me I was pretty all my life because she never would have thought otherwise. She was my mother. She didn’t insist I was pretty because she was unhealthily obsessed with looks. She thought so because I was her daughter. And I am pretty sure parents of sons think the same about the faces of their offspring.

My sister and I were the most beautiful girls in the world to my mother. And so it has been since time began. Whether or not I think it is healthy to tell my daughter so, I will now recognize my right as a mother to think she is the most beautiful creature ever to have walked on two legs. I just might do it in private.

Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor living in New York City. She was a nanny for a decade before having a child of her own, who is now nearly three. She writes (of course!) at her blog Hungry Little Animal.

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Photo by: Cheryl Nicholl

How to Adopt a Child without Signing Papers

September 27, 2014

Because there are several of you who have asked, ‘What’s the story behind your kid who doesn’t look anything like the rest of you?’ I made a phone call, asked permission, and am now laying it ALL out there.

The short answer to the question, “How To Adopt a Child Without Going to Court" is by omission: when the birth parent doesn’t give a shit.

Simple enough?

Okay- short story long:

Growing up, our kids had many friends. We had the kind of home where all the kids congregated – plenty of food, plenty of room, always something going on, adults who were interested in them, etc.

Ben and I knew all of them, some better than others. It didn’t matter. A friend was a friend was a friend blahblahblah, unless I caught you smoking pot- and then you were out.

One day our son Chase came through the door with a young man I knew, bashful and polite, but he wasn’t one of the ‘regulars’. They were both stunned and dazed.

He sent his friend upstairs with a, “I’ll meet you up there in a minute.” Then he turned to me and said, ”Mom, we have a problem.”

Oh Jesus. My favorite sentence.

“What?”

“Tyler’s sister has just committed suicide. She was found hanging from her bathroom door and his parents are out of town. He doesn’t know what to do.”

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know? Maybe at a hospital?”

“Okay. I’m going up to talk to him.”

keepcalmkeepcalmdooropening

“Tyler? May I come in?”

A small, “yes.”

“What’s happened? Can you tell me?”

“My sister’s killed herself.”

“What have you been told? Who called you? Where are your parents?”

“I just saw my stepbrother. He told me. He found her just a little while ago. I was with Chase at the gas station. I can’t breath.”

“Where are your parents?”

“In Utah. “They’re picking up my other step sister from an Outward Bound program where they sent her because she was in their way.”

What!?!?

“When are they expected home?”

“I don’t know. They never told me.”

“Who’s taking care of you and all the other kids? Who’s the adult at the house?”

“We have a full-time housekeeper. She’s there. She cooks too. And drives us to school.”

“Why don’t you stay here, with us, until this all settles out. Okay?”

“Yes.”

And so I found out that Tyler was part of a blended family- except the blender had very dull blades.

His birth-mother died of an accidental drug overdose when he was just shy of eight, and his stepmother’s first husband died of something that she sued over and won a wrongful death claim leaving her a very rich woman. Tyler’s stepmother came to the marriage with three young kids (two girls and a boy) controlling the purse strings, and his father with three young boys- and the backbone of a slug.

All through that week, we both waited for a call from his parents. Nothing. I chalked it up to shock, but still… Several days later, Tyler told us that his stepsister’s funeral was scheduled for the coming Saturday.

“Did your Dad finally call?” I asked.

“No. I found out at school from some kids.”

Wow.

I called his family house and was told (by the housekeeper?) that neither parent was taking calls. I told her I had Tyler with me. She said, “that’s nice.” then hung up.

Ben, I, and our two children, took Tyler, standing with him, to the wake. His stepmother was so drugged she could barely speak. Tyler told me that was the way she always was — stoned on prescription meds. His father just bobbed his head up and down, with a stupid grin on his face (was he high too?) when I introduced myself and told him that Tyler had been with us, and asked if he would call me to discuss ‘matters’.

I never received that phone call- ever.

Little by little Tyler, a senior in High School, told me what is was like to live in his home. I’ll just say, here, that it was not a happy home and I’m being g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s.

Over the next several weeks, with no contact from his family, I was encouraged, by my friends and family, to call Tyler’s father and stepmother. But I decided not to: I wanted to see just how long, and to what degree, they were willing to abandon him. And they were VERY willing (several months of ‘willing’).

With High School graduation upon him, I decided it was time for a showdown conversation with his father.

“Hello. Mr. Smith? My name is Cheryl. You’re son has been living with my family for the past several months. I think it’s time we talk.”

“Oh. Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately. Could we talk tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow? I’m sorry I thought you said ‘tomorrow’. No. We will talk today at 4pm, here, at my house, and if you don’t show-up I will be at your home, pounding on the door and roasting weenies in your driveway, so it’s going to be today, Mr. Smith. Am I clear?”

“I’ll be there.”

“I have a big mouth, Mr. Smith. You don’t want me using it in our small town. Start being smart.”

Next up: the fam… I told them all, including my husband, to stay away that day so I could have my chat with Mr. Smith. Ben doesn’t like conflict and I thought it best he not be there to witness what was about to go down.

He showed up, Tyler’s father, and we had a talk, or maybe I should say ‘_I_ had a talk’.

He attempted to garner my sympathy by telling me he had recently been diagnosed with cancer. I said I didn’t give a shit. I really did.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your health. We are only talking about the son you have failed to contact for over five months. The one who not only lost his mother, but has now lost his beloved stepsister. The son you and your wife have on all sorts of unnecessary medication. The kid who can’t get up in the morning without his pill, and can’t go to sleep at night without ‘his helper’. We are not talking about you. We are not talking about me. We are talking about him. And if you think because you have a ‘law’ degree you can manipulate this conversation you will find yourself sadly underestimating me.”

What I did give a SHIT about was: 1) his son’s stability, 2) his son’s collage education, and 3) him having anything more whatsoever to do with his son because he was a sniveling tripe of a little man with no business being a father and didn’t deserve any of his children, but I could only save one.

We agreed on a financial arrangement for Tyler’s college fund (no other monetary compensation was offered or requested), and he was on his way- never to be heard from again.

Never. To be. Heard from. Again.

That was 12 years ago. Our entire family has taken him in as one of their own – all the weddings, the picnics, the holidays. The whole kaboodle.

Tyler graduated from college, did a ‘find myself’ moment in Colorado, and later found his way to New Orleans, after Ben and I relocated here. He now lives down the street.

There have been ups-n-downs, like any young man finding his way. But he will find himself. And he can always come home. Because WE are the blended family now… and I keep my small appliances in tiptop shape.

Cheryl chronicles life at Royal Balls, wearing really expensive ruby slippers, while trotting the globe, and gardening naked at midnight- because she can. Join her at A Pleasant House to celebrate the elegance of decay at Midlife! You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

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The 10 People You Meet at Work

September 26, 2014

I’ve returned to the full-time workforce after taking several years off to have, and raise, my babies. Now I’m older, and hopefully wiser, and I’ve noticed some things about people I never noticed before. It humors me, so I thought I would share.

I know we all like to think we’re original. In some ways we are, we all have a somewhat unique view of the world but not so unique that someone somewhere hasn’t had that same exact thought at some point in their life. In every office at every building in the world, I guarantee you’ve run into at least one of these people listed below and if you’ve had my luck/misfortune you’ve run into all ten.

1. ‘Lil Miss Pass The Buck
I’ve had the “fortune” of running into this person in almost every position I’ve had. Male or Female this is the individual who does more work trying to get out of doing work. This person will send you five emails about sending an email to someone else, that they could have just sent themselves. My favorite thing that they do is try to Okey Doke you. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the “Okey Doke”, it’s when Person A has been tasked to do something but they don’t want to do it. They, in turn, come up with many reasons why Person B (you) should do it. All in the hopes that you will take the bait and “volunteer” to do their job, hence the “okey doke” because you just got okey doked into doing their job.

2. The Lunch Thief
I worked at a law firm many years ago and I won’t name the firm other than to say it was really large. I swear every time I brought lunch in, it was stolen. Here I was a lowly Legal Admin, these attorneys were making six figures to my paltry tuppence and they had the nerve to steal my food. Really??? The last straw was when someone took my sandwich out of the Tupperware container took a bite out of it, put it back and then stole my container. I guess that was my penance for making such a shitty sandwich. Next time, I’ll remember YOU don’t like onions in MY egg salad sandwich.

3. Potty Talkers
One of my pet peeves is when you’re trying to take a dump and someone comes into the bathroom, recognizes your shoes and starts talking to you. It’s even worse when it’s your manager because you feel like you have to answer, even if it’s mid grunt. So the conversation goes sort of like this:

Manager: “Michelle, I wanted to know if that Presentation will be done today for my review.” (You hear this and the sound of her violently peeing in the background so loud it sounds like a cow pissing on a flat rock).

Me: (Silent grunt) “Yep.” (Silent grunt) “I’m on it.”

It’s best to talk in short sentences in these situations, lest you accidentally let a fart slip and really embarrass yourself.

4. Mr. I Like To Stink It Up
There’s always one person in the office who manages to ALWAYS bring in the absolute most smelliest food they can find. I realize everyone’s palate is different and everyone sense of smell is different. One man’s Limburger cheese is another man’s Brie. Can we just come to a consensus on three things? Curry freaking reeks, fish freaking reeks, and burnt popcorn freaking reeks. I’m not saying those foods are nasty, (I quite enjoy them) I’m just saying they stink. This brings me to the subset of number four, The Popcorn Burner. You know who you are you dirty bastard. Every damn day you burn the popcorn. Every. Damn. Day! You would think by now you would know it only takes a minute forty-five in that microwave. You know this, Man! Stop burning the damn popcorn.

5. The Lunch Enthusiast.
I’m going to be honest, this person is usually me. I’m the one that’s talking about lunch at 10:30am knowing full well, I’m not going until 1pm. I want to know what you brought for lunch or where you plan on going. If I haven’t been there before, fully expect me to invite myself along whether you want me to or not. Lunch is the second most important meal of the day.

6. The Gossip
I love this person, they are the reason I get up and come into work every morning. They have the D.L. on everyone in the office and freely offer it up. The only thing you have to remember with the office gossip is don’t offer up any personal info about yourself or you’ll be the one in the next story.

7. The Monday Morning Optimist
It’s Monday morning; do you know where your office optimist is? She’s at the coffee machine happily chatting away about how wonderful life is while your baggy-eyed self is still praying for that extra day off that never came and blearily pouring a cup of coffee. She’s just happy, praising Jesus and spreading the Word and I’m wishing she’d just shut the Hell up and move aside. You’ve had those Mondays, come on, be honest.

8. The Pessimist
These are the people that start the office rumors. Every time there’s a conference call, people are getting fired. They feed off your fear like Dementors. They are only slightly less annoying than the Monday Morning Optimist and usually found in the company of The Gossip.

9. The Jerk
This is the condescending little ass hat you have to work with, it never fails. He/She walks around the office like they’re God’s gift to everything and when they do deem you worthy of conversation, you should be grateful. You’re a serf in their little Fiefdom and if you didn’t know it, you do now. They’re not your friend, although they’ll pretend to be, to get what they want. These are also the people that are always really nice to you the week before their kid starts a school fundraiser but then poof when it’s time to quid pro quo that shit. That’s why I made a sign and put it on my cube that says, “If you’re not willing to buy, don’t ask me to.” Oddly enough, I stopped getting fund raiser requests.

10. The Know It All
I Love the Know It All only because I consider it my duty to prove them wrong. You can recognize the Know It All in the room because everyone else just lets them have their way on any project regardless of how dumb their idea is because that’s how its always been. Then I come along and totally throw a monkey wrench into that game. A Know It All will hold firmly to their beliefs no matter how much evidence you present, in their mind they are never wrong but as far as the office is concerned they just got served! BAM!

Who do you have in your office?

Michelle D. is a graduate of the George Washington University where she studied many things that never prepared her for motherhood. A self-professed movie and TV snob, she also has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things musical. When she’s not chasing twin toddlers and a kindergartener, she’s blogging. Scattered Wrecks showcases her short stories, social commentary and advice. Michelle lives in Philadelphia with her three children. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

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