Monthly Archives: February 2015

All The Things!

I have a problem.

It’s not that big of a deal.  In fact, it really isn’t a problem, per say…
See?!  There I go again.  I just can’t seem to help myself!
My problem is not a unique one, but that fact alone doesn’t make it less of a problem.
So what’s this thing that I keep babbling on about?
I hoard clothes.
And not for anything other than the following excuses:
 – It’ll fit me again soon because I’m finally working on getting back into shape.
 – I don’t have the money to replace it.
 – It’s really cute, even if it doesn’t fit me or I never wear it.
 – I bought it to wear with this other specific piece that I haven’t hunted down, yet.
 – I have too much of this other color and need to balance it out.
 – I need to replace it before I can get rid of it.
 – I need a weekend of relaxation.  I’ll get to it next week.  (isn’t this one always on the list?)
The sad part is that most of this is absolutely ridiculous… especially since I end up wearing all of the same clothes over and over again and never touch this other stuff.  I do like the pieces.  I just “don’t feel like dressing up, today” or “want it to be my motivation to get back down a size” or “maybe I could alter it and make it work, again”.
Whatever.  I suck.
Maybe the problem is in letting go.  Just freaking letting go of “all the things!”
I swore I’d try the technique of turning hangers backwards and throwing out the stuff I didn’t flip back around (because you turn the hanger back to normal when you take the item off and put the hanger away), but then I always have an excuse for not actually doing that.  Even with shoes I haven’t worn in years…. Years, people!
Super lame.  I know.
Like I said.  It’s a problem.
But I’m tired of it.  SO tired.  And I’m over not pulling the trigger on some of the adorable outfits (or at least pieces that I find inspired by them) simply because I already have way too much clothing.  I feel like it’s time for a change.  Or more accurately, I’m long overdue for one.
That’s really all there is to it.  I want to purge my massive closet.  And this is where I need your help…
I want to be serious about purging my clothes and getting down to some basics so that I can “rebuild” my wardrobe with newer pieces.  I’m thinking about activating my Stitch Fix again to help with this, but what else can I do?  More specifically, are you all aware of any good techniques for consigning your clothes?  Any websites that have begun e-consigning?  Because that would be awesome.  And if e-consigning isn’t a thing, yet… WHY the heck NOT?!
I’m thinking that making money off of my plethora of old stuff will help entice me to truly get rid of stuff with the reward of having money to replace it with newer, cuter pieces.
So what about y’all?  Have you purged your closet recently?  Any pointers or recommendations?  Am I the only clothes hoarder out there in need of a closet intervention?  come on, now… don’t leave me hanging.  Please tell me there are others out there!
I’ll just be over here in my little lazy corner feeling ashamed and apprehensive…
~Hope
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Snooze-ville

I’ve been out of it lately…

Not just out of the blogging routine, but legitimately out of it.

After a year and a half of no issues whatsoever, Sunday morning brought my “winning” streak to a halt.

For the sake of making some kind of sense, here, “winning” = Not having another neck muscle spasm.

Alas, I woke up Sunday morning, walked into the closet to decide what to wear to church, and yawned.

That is it.

I yawned.

With the simplest of things that happen every morning (sometimes afternoon, too, can I get an “Amen”?), I felt that all-too-familiar POP and just knew it.

Groaning loudly and hating my luck, I took off in a light job to the kitchen, in the hopes that if I took something right away I’d be able to fend off the worst of it.  Unfortunately, luck is rarely ever on my side.

I made it through church and then attempted to rest for the remainder of the day.

The Monday morning included some increased awfulness and I was all “Bleeeehh!”

The second day is always the worst, after all.

I tried to push through work and then ended up leaving early to go by the Urgent Care clinic.  After sitting in their awesome (sarcasm font!) waiting room seats for over an hour and a half, I finally got to chat with a doc and was given a prescription for some off-brand flexerol.  Woot!

Went home, downed the goods, and waiting for Studly to get home.

Queue additional rest, followed by a day of sleeping as much as possible (I did have one meeting at work that I couldn’t miss, but I limited my workday to only what was necessary to make that happen).

And I woke up today feeling like I wish I’d had the entire day to rest.  Feeling a little tighter than anticipated, I have been pushing myself through a full day of work.  I do only sit at a desk so it shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

*le sigh

If only.

Well… that’s my excuse for being such a slacker this week.  Also, is it just me or does it seriously feel WAY later int he week then Wednesday? Maybe more like a Thursday-and-a-half?  Is there a word for the feeling between Thursday and Friday?  Because that’s where I reside, at the moment.

Anywho – I hope everyone else’s week is going way better than mine.  The silver lining to this awesomeness is that once I am feeling back to my ol’ self again, I’m pretty sure I’ll be unstoppable.  Nothing like a movement-limiting injury to be the kick in the pants you need to just get stuff done!

If I don’t make it back again this week, I promise to return next week with some updates on our Adoption journey.  Get excited!  😛

~Hope

Simple Pleasures

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason… painted nails just make me feel so put together.

Among other random, relatively petty, and unimportant things, one rule that I live by is this – and it is NOT negotiable:

Toes should NEVER NOT be painted.

Case in point…

**shivers.  Gah-ROSS!

Here we go… let’s try that again:

Theeeeere we go.  Much better. (sorry… can’t turn the stinking pic for some reason)

And fingernails… they can be naked.  It’s no big deal, really.  But having them painted?

It just makes me feel so… grown up, I guess?

(please disregard my messy closet in the background… *le sigh)

Let’s not get too crazy… to be clear, I am so NOT one of those people who coordinates their nail colors with their outfits or accessories or anything like that.  I just pick a color probably once a week and go to town.

I’ve been on a pretty good streak of painting, too, ever since my bloggy friend Lindsay over at Learning To Be A Wife posted about her love of painted nails and the simple joy it brings her and reminded me of me long-lost love of “grown up” nails.  So for the past… 6 weeks now, I believe, I have stuck with it.  And it really does make such a difference.

On the days where I feel pretty shambled and not even remotely put together, seeing my painted nails typing on the keyboard brings back a little of that cheeriness, and is usually just what I need to get me through the day.

So what about you guys – what little things get you guys all cheery?  Any quirky little habits that we should know about?  Come on… we’ve all got ’em.  Be honest!  🙂

~Hope

Baby Steps

We’ve talked about adoption for years.  It’s just been “the plan” for quite a while, now.  But it’s always been an “in the not-too-distant-future” kind of plan.

Not “today” yet because:

  • we are getting ready to move to another state
  • we have a ton of debt to pay down
  • we have to save up the money for the costs involved
  • we can’t afford for me to stay home full-time
  • and whatever else comes up that week

It’s not at all like we were putting it off.  On the contrary, in fact.  We have been ready for a really long time.  Both of us.  But I think if I’m completely honest, we’ve just been waiting for everything to align perfectly before “pulling the trigger”… and I think we are really realizing that this will probably never happen.

So we had a really good talk earlier this week and…

We are ready.

And this time, I don’t mean ready to just keep being ready.  But we’re ready to start down this path.  Ready to take our Baby Steps… steps toward bringing home our little one.

We are going to take our first step off of the path we are currently on and start really putting the work in to make this happen.

Currently, we are researching domestic adoption agencies (and actively looking for recommendations, if anyone has any!) and seeking out updated information on costs, especially since we’re still new to Texas.  And we’re also hoping to start collecting information on any/all available tax breaks, grants, adoption loans, etc. and to see what we can qualify for with our combined income and whatnot.  And we are counting people at these places, too.  Which is a huge step forward for us.

It’s really exciting.  I’m not sure why, but it feels so much more… real!  Submitting requests for adoption information packets from various organizations is quite an awesome step for us.  It doesn’t just feel like yet another thing sitting in our tomorrow basket, but it feels like we’re really on our way.  We’ll actually be answering questions and filling out applications and… really, truly getting the ball rolling. Eek!

It will definitely take time – the average wait for domestic adoption within the US is around 2 years.  And for those of you unaware, this is why I tend to look at little elephants as a kind of symbol for our little one, as the gestational period for an elephant is about 21 months.

So here we are ready and oh so eager to get this show on the road.  It may not be how we always pictured things playing out, but that’s life, right?  And if we always wait for things to be perfect before we do anything worth while, then we’ll never get there.

Please pray for us.  Please check in with us (I will be MORE than thrilled to answer questions at any time, trust me).  And if nothing else, stick around to see how everything plays out.  I can’t wait to share this journey with you guys!

~Hope

Cash Monies

Fun little fact about me… I hate debt.

I know. I know.  Shocker.  But it’s true.

Although I am sure that no one really likes debt, based on the analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data the average US household carries more than $7,200 in credit card debt alone.  And if you only look at those houses that are indebted, the average credit card debt among these homes totals over $15,600.  According to another source, the worst part is that these averages have stayed roughly the same for over three years, meaning people appear no closer to paying down credit card debt than they were back in 2010.

All of this information tells me that… like it or not, we’re carrying a whole heckuva lot of debt around with us.

And for me, the kicker is this:  according to a creditcards.com poll conducted in early 2013, 85 percent of respondents said they were unlikely or somewhat unlikely to talk with a stranger about credit card debt — a subject more taboo than religion, politics, salary and love life details.

Not only are we in debt, but we’re too ashamed to talk about it.  If the debt were caused by unforeseen medical bills or sudden loss of employment, would we really be quick willing to sweep it under the rug?  I can’t speak for others, but if there were some seemingly legitimate reason, I wouldn’t be so ashamed by it… so in a giant assumption, it makes me think that it’s not something of this nature that’s causing us to rack up credit card after credit card.

According to a TIME article referencing a survey released by the financial monitor Bankrate.com, 28% of Americans have more credit card debt today than they have in a savings fund. That means that if one quarter of Americans even wanted to use their savings to pay off their debts at this moment, they wouldn’t be able to.  And that’s NOT a good place to be.

Something that I found fascinating while looking up some of these statistics was also from creditcards.com and it said that those without credit card debt reported having savings nearly three times greater than average households with credit card debt.

Craziness.

So to me, this points to a pretty good reason why there is such a gap between those with credit card debt and those without – and it seems to be savings.

This may seem like a “duh” kind’ve thing, but think about it… having savings vs. having credit card debt.  Both tend to grow.  Both lead to higher numbers.  Both mean “more” and “bigger” and the only difference is that one is a growing cushion, while the other is a growing deep, black pit.

Anywho – I only brought up any of that, really, to start talking about our current situation.  As I stated at the beginning, I hate debt.  Hate debt.  And I refuse to be one of the statistics and I listed any longer than I have to.

When Studly and I first got married, we had a good bit of credit card and revolving debt.  It wasn’t crazy, but it was probably somewhere around $12,000.  The bulk of this (if not all, frankly) came from paying for our own wedding and honeymoon and also setting up our first home (though we only bought a couch, a mattress set, and a dining room table… the rest of purchased from friends we knew that were selling things).  Regardless of the reason, it was there and we were stuck with it for a while.  Due to our income levels at the time, it took us almost 2.5 years to pay it off (and that included a few situations where we had to add to it because of finances being tight some months).  We had been able to buy our first home during that time as well, but only because of the Hezekiah fund which helped us do so without a down payment (a fact that seemed perfect at the time, but we later regretted).

Needless to say, the day that we paid off our last dollar, I was beyond thrilled!  We went to dinner to celebrate and felt SO free.  I can remember back to that time… it was glorious.  I can’t truly explain to you the feeling, but it really was weightless and so freeing.

From that day forward, we swore we’d never get back into debt like that.  And we did really well!  We saved saved saved and paid for everything in cash.  Anything we put on the credit card, we did so to get the incentives and then we paid hose purchases off the same month.  It was glorious.  Fun fact:  we even paid to fully renovate our kitchen completely with cash.

It.  Was.  Amazing.

And interestingly enough, we were much more choosy with our purchases when we were using cash.  Funny how debt all starts to blur together and you are less frivolous when you are actually pulling cash out of the bank to pay for it.

Then…. this past year happened.

The home that we purchased back in 2008, we lived in until 2013.  Short version: we had some extreme neighbor issues, and decided that we wouldn’t continue to live in the situation, so we rented out our home, and found a rental not too far away.  Preparing the house for tenants after spending a good bit of savings to get into a rental hit our savings pretty hard, but knowing that we wouldn’t be miserable every. single. day. made all of that worth it.  Plus, we knew we’d be able to build our savings back up without too much trouble.  So with little to no savings remaining and now some credit card debt back on us, we set forth to pay the debt down and build the savings back up.

Unfortunately, since we knew we’d be able to do so pretty easily, we also thought that buying a couch was “necessary” because of the layout of the house we now lived in and needing seating for the second living space.  We didn’t go crazy and buy anything stupid expensive, but in retrospect, we should have waited.  This all happened at the end of 2013.

Enter 2014… we discovered that we would finally be moving to Texas and decided that since our tenant’s lease was coming up, we should try to sell the house and get just start over in our new home without any financial ties to the area.  So that meant more money just to wash our hands of the place… we had to prep it to show and sell.  Also, our “awesome” tenants took it upon themselves to do things around the house without asking and/or telling us.  And they were full on proud of themselves for it, too!  What is wrong with people?  The sucky part, we didn’t catch much of this stuff until after we’d said they’d get their full deposit back because we, ourselves, had to do the walk-through since our property management company at the time was absolutely terrible.  So we were stuck footing the bill for everything, which included painting, fixing their deck-staining job and having to suck up the now dented stainless steel refrigerator and carpeting that was “patched” with a piece of non-matching carpeting.  WHO DOES THAT?!

(sorry… movingrightalong)

Then came time for our house-hunting trip.  Due to all of our spending, we knew that we’d take a significant hit with trying to get into a rental in Texas, what with needing to pay a security deposit, application fees, and first months rent all at one time.  But fate intervened and we couldn’t find a rental anyway.  The market for rentals here is so crazy that (and I kid you now) people put in applications on houses without even seeing them first.  Good and notsogood houses, that is.  And we just could not compete with that.

So one day, after quite a rough patch of house hunting… I decided to just have some fun and worked with our realtor to set up a viewing at a house that was for sale.  We had discussed buying and both said we wanted to learn the area better first, so this was really just going to be for fun.  We went to see a house that was way bigger than we would ever need, very nice, and thanks to the Texas real estate market, still somehow within what our budget would be.

And of course… we fell in love.

Enter the cost of buying a home.  Since we weren’t planning on buying, we didn’t really have the money to do so.  But since we were struggling to find a home, period… and since we fell so in love with this house… we figured we would pull from one of our credit lines (which we normally never touched, mind you) to just make it happen.  With our pay not decreasing as we moved into a state without income taxes, we knew we’d have excess money and be able to recoup pretty quickly.  So we made it happen.

Something like 3 short weeks after we move in, Pup got injured and then came the $9000 in vet bills.

We. Were. Strapped.

Neither of us had ever been so strapped for cash.  Not even back when we were single.  And to top it all off, we had already agreed to host Study’s family for the holidays and didn’t even have enough beds for them OR enough chairs for us to even be able to eat together.  So as we slowly started to make the littlest dent in what was now around $28,000 in debt, we’d have to spend more money to uphold something we’d already agreed to (and tickets were already purchased, so there was no backing out, now).

It was really tough.  Very stressful.  And having known what it felt like to be debt free, it was all the more disheartening.  We suddenly felt the weight of it all over again after it snowballed out of control in less than a year.

We made a plan:  buckle down, cut out unnecessary spending, and only get the bare minimum to meet the needs or our impending family visit.  And we stuck to it (which pained my hostess heart, though I knew it was what would be best for us).

Well here we are.  It’s the beginning of February and we’re already had a MAJOR major win.  For those of you who get paid every two weeks, you are more than familiar with he 2 months every year that you get a 3rd paycheck.  It’s a glorious glorious time and it always seems to hit at just the right moment.  Well, for me one of those months was January.  Last month.  And holy goodness did it help.  And to top it all off, I found out that I would be getting a bonus from work as well.  SO unexpected and so so so beyond amazing.  A $1200 bonus, to be more clear.

To recap, in a single month, and the first month post-back-breaking debt culmination, on top of what I would call our “normal” monthly funds to now be put toward debt payoff, I was getting a full extra paycheck AND a $1200 bonus.  GOD IS SO GOOD!

Early in the month of January, we also learned that Studly was getting a raise starting at the beginning of February.  AND I would be getting a 1% increase beginning in February as well.

Guys – I seriously cannot express to you the level of awe we have been in.  God, in his loving and total faithfulness, has met us in this difficult situation.  He has provided for us in such unexpected ways and in a situation that we SO do not deserve.  We got ourselves into this situation with poor planning, the need to instant gratification, and without fully thinking things through from a long-term perspective.  And yet, here we are.

And today I can say with no real way to convey our true feelings about it… that we have officially paid off one entire line of credit, with a value of $5000.  EEEEEEEEEK!!  That combined with our being able to make payments pre-Christmas expenses and by minimizing costs in preparation for everyone coming, we have brought our debt down to $21,000.

There’s still a LOT to pay down, but oh my goooosh it feels so good!!  That’s one huge pile of debt and one entire bill that I can cross off the list.

Our plan going forward is to just continue using a “Debt Snowball” method to knock the rest of it out.  That means, we’ll pay minimum payments on everything except for the smallest total balance, and we’ll apply all extra finances toward that bill each month, now including the minimum payment we would put towards the bill we just paid off.  Then stand back and watch it all dwindle down.

It’ll take time and patience… along with some self-control.  But we’ll get there.

So how’re you guys doing? Any opinions on debt?  Any lucky ducks out there that are living debt free?

~Hope

Our House: Dream vs. Reality

Studly and I are big fans of Craftsman style homes.  We loove them.

I have LONG admired the clean yet comfortable lines of the exterior and how it’s pretty much a must to have a covered front porch.

It’s just gorgeous.  They so easily incorporate both rustic and clean elements which just feels like it screams “HOME!” to me.

And another bonus the fact that almost any interior style would work well with this home style… but especially things that I love love love, such as:

Five-panel doors –

Bulky, yet clean and simple moulding –

Cozy built-ins –

Barn Doors –

Coffered Ceilings –

Large, open kitchen islands –

School house and/or farmhouse lights –

And board and batten –

Basically… our dream home is a classic Craftsman style home.  Unfortunately, that is just not quite our reality.

Here’s what we actually have:

A 100% Spanish Style House.

Now don’t get me wrong, Spanish style homes can be beautiful.

And since I live in Texas, now… I am totally cool with them (am I the only one who finds it strange that someone would build a Spanish style home in the middle of Maryland?).  They at least make sense to me, here.

Fortunately, there are still a lot of ways to incorporate the features I shared above into a Spanish style home without it seeming out of place.  But some of them… not so much.

So there you have it.  Our dream vs. our Reality.  And it could definitely be worse!  One day, it’ll be perfectly “us”… and it’ll be awesome.  In the meantime, I’m daydreaming of ways to blend the two styles together to create a perfect blend of our style and our current house.  After all, we don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

What style homes do you all live in?  What are you dreaming about and what are you thrilled to have in your home?

~Hope

Parenthood – Show and Finale

I know I’m a little late, here, because most people watch shows when they actually come on instead of waiting, but what can I say?!  I’m a slacker.

When it came to the final season of Parenthood, I was a super slacker.  But frankly, it was intentional.

I love this show.

Like… I LURVE it.  For serious.  And when I watch it, one episode never seems to be enough for me.  So then I tend to “save up” and watch at least 2 at a time… especially when it got close to the finale.

This. Show.

It’s been one of the only Dramas that I have watched from start to finish and still wanted more.  And even though there have been other Dramas that I’ve enjoyed, they don’t compare.  It’s such a beautiful show.  It was always so real, instead of just the typical hollywood, in your face, constant or overly-liberal… yada yada yada.  It was just real!  It showed multiple sides to real issues.  It just met people where life actually happens, and not just where it gets people’s attention… and that alone is what then got people’s attention, I think.

Basically, if you haven’t seen the show, then you should absolutely watch it.  And start from the beginning, because there is just so much that you do NOT want to miss.

And if you do follow the show and haven’t seen the final season and/or the show finale, then DO NOT KEEP READING!

***SPOILER ALERT!!***

The ending to this show was absolutely beautiful.  It’s very rare that a show can wrap things up for its viewers, and then to do it well… that is practically unheard of.  But this show?  Oh.  My word.  It was so perfect.

I love that Sarah and Hank got married.  It was perfect.  And their wedding was SO very them and this family.

I loved and so appreciated the peaceful, yet respectable way that they showed Zeek’s passing.

I adore that they jumped forward for everyone, too, and gave us a glimpse into the future –

– Amber’s man with his own child (or their child together?) and still bringing little Zeek’s father back into the picture to show that he got his life together and spent time with little Zeek and was on good terms with Amber and her man…

– Crosby running the Luncheonette and having Amber working with him, then seeing him with his kids and a future-pregnant Jasmine in the studio together…

– The Bravermen 4 finding Adam’s perfect place as Headmaster of Chambers Academy when Julia finds her dream job with the non-profit and then Max getting his diploma…

– The Grahams… Joel and Julie not only being back together and adopting Victor’s half-sister, but then seen happily celebrating together at a future Christmas with even a 4th baby…

– Camille taking the trip and visiting the little french bed and breakfast that Zeek tried to surprise her with earlier in the season…

– And finally, the entire family playing baseball on the field where they sprinkled some of Zeek’s ashes together…

… All of this while you even listened to a much more melodic version of the Show’s own theme song playing over everything (originally Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”).

And I loved every minute of this show.

From the beginning, this show stole my heart with its realness and it’s fearlessness in the handling of very emotional and difficult topics –

– The struggle in pinpointing, diagnosing, and then learning to live with Max’s diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome…

– Crosby’s period of growing up, from finding out he had a son to suddenly trying to become a father and then a husband, which he wasn’t so natural with…

– Sarah’s journey in finding herself as her children grew and she learned that being a single mother wasn’t her only identity…

– How parenting styles differ from parents to their children and when parents become grandparents, they are sure that they know the best way to do everything and don’t keep that to themselves when watching how their kids fall into those new parenting roles…

– Kristina’s breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and remission and her meeting and watching others that weren’t so lucky…

– Adoption as a whole… thinking you are selected to adopt a baby and then having that plan shattered when the decision is reversed, the real difficulties of adopting an older child and not pretending it’s all easy to suddenly assume an older child as your own, especially when you have other children… and then the sudden possibility of adopting another child, because adoption isn’t something you just pick up and go with randomly like finding our your pregnant is…

– Amber going through the somewhat typical phases of not wanting to listen to a thing her mother or grandparents said, and then acting out and rebelling, and then reeling from those choices and finally discovering more of who she wants to be, and then falling into making some of the same mistakes that her mother made and almost hating herself for it before realizing she can still learn and grow…

– Joel and Julia’s marriage troubles… between whether or not to be a stay-at-home or working mother, to the stress that’s put on a marriage when both careers are going full force and entailing long hours, to moments of doubt in trusting each other and then ultimately to unfaithfulness…

– Camille and Zeek growing older and wanting different things.. Zeek wanting to just enjoy their life the way it is without the requirements of a job, and Camille’s desire to travel and see the world and downsize…

I know I’ve missed so, so many things with this list, but this show – it was just so full of REAL.  Life isn’t scripted, and although this show obviously was, they did an amazing job of catching you off guard at times and choosing to be real and genuine when you thought for sure that you’d be able to predict a typical, hollywood style situational play out.

I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again – if you haven’t watched this show, then you should.  Even though I’ve talked through much of it, it’s still something that you should absolutely see for yourself.  It’s on Hulu, for sure, but I’m convinced it’s probably almost everywhere.  But if you’re going to watch it, do so from the beginning, because it’s just so full of awesome.

I’ve gone on and on about this show, but it’s just really that awesome.  And for once, a show was wrapped up in such an amazing way that you couldn’t possibly be unhappy with how it finished.  That alone is a good reason to watch it, if you ask me.

Do you watch Parenthood?  Did anyone else see the finale?  What shows are y’all watching these days?  Because I am now in the market for a new one to fill the void.

~Hope

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Taking life a day at a time, with a little bit of faith and a whole lot of trial and error.

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Taking life a day at a time, with a little bit of faith and a whole lot of trial and error.

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Taking life a day at a time, with a little bit of faith and a whole lot of trial and error.

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