8 Year Old Amy and the Case of the Cursive P

The most stressed out period of my life was the year I spent in Mrs. Lemieux’s third grade class. Yeah, you read that correctly, third grade. Like clockwork, I came home every day after school and cried. The crying caused full blown migraines, and I’d have no other choice but to lay down in a dark room with a wash cloth draped across my forehead so that I didn’t barf all over the place. My parents couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. My mom spent hours talking to my teacher and sent me a greeting card in the mail that promised, Everything is going to get better. Thinking the migraines were because I couldn’t see the chalkboard, they even took me to an optometrist to have my eyes checked out. The conclusion was, “There is nothing wrong with your daughter’s eyes. We think the headaches are stress related.”  Duh.

I had been duped! Second grade was a walk in the park! We studied dinosaurs, we watercolored, we learned the Star Spangled Banner and we played outside. The end.  I excelled at second grade. I was awesome at second grade. I even remember thinking second grade wasn’t challenging enough. I approached my teacher Ms. Saunders one day and demanded to know, “When are we going to learn cursive!?” Ms. Saunders was caught off guard, and probably wondered to herself, How can learning about the Palaeosaurus not be enough for you?  But instead sweetly laughed and said, “That happens in the third grade.”

“Excelllllent,” I evilly replied and rubbed my two hands together like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. (Ok, that didn’t actually happen because I never saw the Simpsons until middle school, but for our purposes we are going to pretend I was a badass).

I was very excited between the summer of second and third grade. I had gelled bangs, I could sing our national anthem, and dammit, I was going to learn cursive. Nothing could stop me! photo

On a scale of one to ten, I’d say third grade was about two million times harder than I had expected. There was so much homework! There was so much reading! There was so much less recess time! I had it good the year before and didn’t even know it.

My desire to learn cursive turned out to be the biggest challenge of them all—a classic case of be careful what you wish for. It started off easy enough. Mrs. Lemieux would draw a letter on the board and in our little notebooks with predetermined dotted lines, we would do our best to copy it. “A” was a synch for me because, duh, my name started with that letter and I was obsessed with finding out how to write my name in cursive. “B” also didn’t give me much trouble because it meant I could learn how to write my brother’s name in cursive, too, and of course hold that over his head when necessary. But by the time we got to the middle of the alphabet, I was struggling.

There were so many letters that made no sense to my little brain. Why would anyone give a lowercase “m” three humps when it only has two in print?! And couldn’t giving “n” two humps be confused for “m,” especially for us people who barely can read our own handwriting?! And who the hell came up with the cursive “z”? That is some sort of hieroglyphic shenanigans right there.

The letter I had the hardest time with, hands down, was the lowercase “p.” I always seemed to screw it up! I would tilt it too much, or forget to close the loopdy-doop thing below the line, or forget the squiggly piece that started it. I’d bring my booklet up to Mrs. Lemieux for approval and each time she would say, “You still don’t quite have the ‘p’ correct. Go back and try it again.”

What was this hellish prison I was stuck in?! Take me back to second graaaade! [cue headache].

My classmates at our four-corner desk quad would see me in tears, with my hands on my head, starring at my practice sheet and that goddamn “p.” A few of the girls were really nice and would show me how they drew it, hoping I would catch on. But I honestly don’t remember any eureka moment where I got it right and jumped for joy. I have to assume I did because I moved on to 4th grade – but it’s very possible that I should not have and that you are reading the work of a cursive criminal.

 

I do have to say there were a few redeeming qualities to third grade:

  1. We watched Voyage of the Mimi…a lot. Starring none other than Mr. Ben Afflick himself, VOTM “was a thirteen-episode American educational television program depicting the crew of the Mimi exploring the ocean and taking a census of humpback whales.” We learned everything from navigation, to drinkable water, to sea animals. VOTM even taught us that when someone gets hypothermia, you both need to get naked and get into a sleeping bag together. How our third grade jaws dropped during that one. (Note: I did NOT enjoy the Second Voyage of Mimi, because during Episode 1 they revealed one of the characters was an amputee and showed her putting on her fake leg. Terrifying.)
  2. We had pet crawfish. While other kids in neighboring classrooms got to snuggle up to fuzzy, adorable, baby ducks, my classmates and I were given crustaceans with pinching claws. Looking back, it does seem kind of weird that kids in land-locked VT had pet crawfish…but in 1993 at Flynn Elementary School, it was just another day in paradise.

    I picked out a female and gave her the most appropriate name I could think of: Francesca. Francesca only pinched me a couple of times, which was actually something to brag about considering how often the boys in my class had crawfish dangling from their hands as they screamed for help. I remember two things about Francesca: 1-she smelled really bad and 2-you could tell she was a female by flipping her over and studying her legs. 1694549_orig 

    I don’t know what happened to the crawfish in the end. I think we let them go down by the river, or maybe they were shipped to Louisiana where they belonged. I do remember that when our unit on VOTM and crawfish came to an end, Mrs. Lemieux threw us a big party and brought in cooked lobsters for us to try. It was the first time any of us had ever had something so expensive and delicious. She let us each take a piece of the lobster shell home as souvenirs. (Again, why she thought giving 8 year olds smelly fish parts in June was a good idea was beyond me…) I wrapped a lobster abdomen up in a paper towel, showed it to my mom, and begged her to let me keep it. I think it lasted a few hours before the smell of rot was enough to make me chuck it myself.

  3. I fell in love with writing. When we weren’t getting attacked by crawfish or cringing each time our teacher drew another new cursive letter on the blackboard, we wrote stories. We would work on our stories for what seemed like weeks and then we would hold “An Author’s Tea” and invite all of our family members to hear us read them. The majority of my stories were centered around my cat Midnight who had an affinity for chasing and eating bumblebees, and sleeping on my head and drooling into my ear. I also wrote about time travel and secret passages–an obsession I had that last well beyond third grade (thanks Babysitter Club books).

    But third grade was also my first and last bout with plagiarism! I guess the creative juices just weren’t flowing one day when I decided to copy Danielle Bombardier’s story about The Boy Who Didn’t Like Cake. The plot was simple: there was a boy, and he would eat almost anything, except he didn’t like cake, and how could anyone in the entire universe not like cake? Yeah, how could someone not like cake, I thought to myself. What would be even crazier is if he didn’t like ice cream! And so my story entitled The Girl (see what I did there) Who Didn’t like Ice Cream was born.

    When Danielle found out I was essentially stealing her story and changing a few parts, I remember her squeaky little voice protesting in anger and saying, “Heeey! That’s my story. You just changed a few parts.” And I pulled a Vanilla Ice and was like, “No, no. It’s different. See YOUR story is about a BOY who doesn’t like CAKE. MY story is about a GIRL who doesn’t like ICE CREAM. Completely different.” Maybe Mrs. Lemieux, thinking that I couldn’t handle another cursive “p” incident, took pity on me because she let me write my story anyway.

 
Though it was challenging, I think third grade taught me some valuable lessons: 1). Crustaceans make better meals than pets; 2). If at first (or second, or forty-third) you don’t succeed, try, try again; and 3). Cursive is some straight up useless bullshit and you will only use it in third grade.

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The Return of Amy

A funny thing happened to me the other day: I had a moment where I felt like myself again.

I was at work on a sunny Friday and noticed my coworker come in with a dozen My Little Cupcakes. I thought to myself that either she was going to have to most awesome breakfast of all time, or I should be expecting an email alerting me of food up for grabs. You know the email—the type that sends polite office workers into fools stampeding toward the kitchen. Sure enough, an email appeared in my inbox with the promise of chocolate, sprinkles, and buttery whipped cream.

But ah-ha! There was a catch to cashing in on these sugary bundles of joy. The cupcakes were from her husband Steve’s birthday, and in order to take a cupcake, she asked we write him an email to say happy birthday. Interesting!

Now, have I ever met Steve?
No.

Did I even know she had a husband named Steve?
Again, no.

But was I going to let any of that get in the way of me and some perfectly adorable cupcakes?
FUCK NO.

I’m not entirely sure why I was amused by this situation. The “me” from a few months ago would have angrily received that email, made some comment to myself about how dumb and small those cupcakes are, and hit “delete” with enough gusto to break the backspace key on my keyboard. Then I probably would have popped on my “please-don’t-talk-to-me” headphones, listened to some more depressing Sarah McLachlan type music, and rushed to the ladies’ room 15 minutes later for a good cry when fill-in-the-blank thing happened.  Yeah…That was pretty much me at work from September to last week. Home life was even uglier.

But for whatever reason, I wasn’t annoyed by this email. In fact, I wanted to play along. If an email to Steve is what she wanted, an email to Steve she would get!

I carefully thought about what sort of message I’d like to craft to good old Steve and came up with the following:

Dear Steve,

You don’t know me, but I am writing to wish you a happy (belated) birthday and to say thanks. Because your parents got it on when they did, and because you married Eve, who then started working here, I’m reaping the benefits of a delicious mini cupcake! So thanks! Hope you had a fabulous day.

Your Fan,
Amy

OK, so it wasn’t exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but for the first time in a long time, it felt like the real Amy was back—the person who was creative, spontaneous, upbeat, and dare I say…a little bit funny!? What an awesome fucking feeling.

This past year or so has been incredibly hard and sad, but I think I am finally past the roughest patches. I’m fortunate to have an incredible group of people who stood by me when the bottom fell out and saw me through the most awful months of my life. Sure I still have my Sarah McLachlan days, but I’m regaining myself with every day that passes, returning to the person I was before. I’m crossing off items on my life’s to-do list, spending my time with people who bring me happiness, and I’m doing the things I love. The fact that I’m even blogging speaks volumes to this.

everythingisgoingtobeOK

Three people this week alone have commented on how nice it is to see me so happy again.

I couldn’t agree more.

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What We’re Teaching Little Girls

I recently experienced the following at a grocery store…

In the check-out line behind me was a young girl who couldn’t have been older than seven or eight.  She had long hair, was wearing a floral print dress, and by all accounts seemed like a typical, innocent child. She was buying popsicles with her Dad, scoping out all of the magazines, and this is the conversation I overhead:

Girl: Dad, wow. Look how fat Kim Kardashian is…
Dad: Wow, yeah she is.

Girl: And oh my goddd, is that __? It doesn’t even look like her. You can totally tell she has had plastic surgery. I bet she has had a face lift, maybe more!
Dad: Yeah, I think you’re right. She’s barely recognizable.

Girl: Ugh, look how ugly Mylie Cyrus looks with short hair! Why would anyone want that haircut?
Dad: I don’t know, honey. It does look pretty bad. I prefer the long hair myself.
Girl: Me, too. I would never want to look like her!

!!!

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There are so many problems with this conversation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll dive right in with the little girl.

Socialization 

This girl is seven years old and has already been socialized to believe the most important thing in life is beauty. And not just any type of beauty—beauty that’s defined by being blonde, white, and thin (with long hair, apparently). She thinks that anything that strays from this is bad, wrong, ugly, and undesirable.

What is arguably the saddest part of all of this is that the standard of beauty she so badly believes in and presumably wants to emulate doesn’t exist and no one has ever told her differently. Those aren’t real people she sees on the magazine covers. They’re airbrushed, photoshoppedliquefied, perfected versions of someone they used to be. And she probably won’t learn this until it’s too late.

Did you know half of girls between the ages of 3 and 6 worry about being fat?  Don’t even get me started on thinspiration or thigh gap.

Little girl's diet plan

One little girl’s “diyet” plan, found by her mom

Girl Hate

Another huge problem is that this little girl has already learned girl hate. She’s been taught all women are in competition with each other and that she should dislike any female that could potentially be prettier, smarter, or better than her at something… And if she suspects any of those things, she’s learned to pick them apart.

Wow, look how fat Kim Kardashian is.
Ew, why would Miley Cyrus do her hair like that?

You might be thinking, she is only talking about celebrities…does this really matter? YES, it absolutely matters because she I guarantee you she will do this with girls her own age, if she isn’t doing so already.

Reinforcement

Even though I truly believe our society is to blame for what this little girl knows, I still find myself angry with her father. He is her role model and did nothing but reinforce everything she said. Wow, you’re right. I think she did have plastic surgery. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of short hair either.

Was it possible that this dad had a really long day and was just absentmindedly saying anything to appease his kid? Sure. But something tells me he truly believed these things and may have even taught his daughter some of it.

There are so many teachable moments with kids. During this short time in the check-out line he could have easily talked to her about body image, worth, respect, the concept of beauty, or even some age appropriate sex-ed!

IE: Actually, honey, Kim Kardashian has gained some weight because she’s having a baby, and that’s the normal, right thing to happen.

The Dad happened to be an elected official. I don’t know why, but I expected and hoped for more from him.

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Change

I have a niece that’s three years old and is obsessed with weddings, fairy tales, and princesses. Her favorite color is pink and her favorite activity is putting on makeup, a crown, and prancing around the house. When anyone gives her a compliment, nine times out of ten it’s, “Oh, Maddie, you are so beautiful.” She always cocks her head to side and starts laughing, as if to say, “I know.” Her five year old brother Jack experiences the opposite. People seem to have a list a mile long of words to describe this boy: smart, inquisitive, caring, compassionate, strong, and, sure, cute. So why is it that Maddie, even at three years old, is constantly reduced to her looks? Why doesn’t anyone tell her how smart she is? How capable she is? How strong, or compassionate, or good she is? I try so much to relay these messages to her when I see her, to let her know she’s more than just a pretty face, but it disappointingly feels like an uphill battle I’ll never win.

Tonight made me realize more than ever that this isn’t the world I want my future daughter or son to grow up in. I don’t want them believing their worth is measured by the symmetry of their faces, or the number that appears on a scale. I don’t want them to hate other kids and people around them who aren’t blonde, thin and white. I want my future seven year old daughter to not know what the word diet means. To not know what plastic surgery is. To recognize the images she sees before her in grocery check-out lines aren’t real and don’t matter. To spend her summer nights chasing fireflies barefoot in the grass, or telling scary ghost stories around a campfire with her friends. To scrape her knees. To get dirty. To eat ice cream cones. To be a child. And to remain that way for as long as possible.

I just don’t know how to make this happen and that’s what saddens me the most.

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My Dad vs. Modern Technology

Sooo Hotmail is officially dead. Sounds like everyone who was still holding out was migrated over to Outlook. I could really care less about this development, except it made me think of my dad and a funny story.

My pops is a hard-working, traditional kind of dude. He’s spent the better part of 40 years as a painting contractor and has worked on everything from local banks to doctor’s offices to residential homes and even some Vermont McMansions. He knows everything there is to know about painting – what kind of primer to use, how many coats a job will need, which areas will need patching, sanding, caulking etc…which is all great…but it means his knowledge on things you and I take for granted is basically non-existent.  Let me get right down to my point: the man knows absolutely nothing about modern technology and more importantly, doesn’t care to know.

Did you ever hear that joke about the person who was using a computer and received the prompt, Press any key to continue,  and his/her response was, Where the heck is the ‘any’ key???  Yeah, well I’m 99% sure that joke was based on my dad. With his coke-bottle glasses rested on his forehead and his eyes about two inches from the screen, he once spent a good 5 minutes searching the keyboard for it, only to throw his hands up in despair and say, “I can’t find the ‘any key,’ anywhere!”

business man with laptop over head - mad

Martin P. knows three things and three things only about computers: 1) how to turn them on; 2) how to get to the start menu and; 3) how to start a new game of Hearts. The end.

His hatred for technology dates as far back as I can remember and was especially strong for video games systems. For whatever reason, my dad just couldn’t remember the name of any of them, and always seemed to be a game console behind. He called the Nintendo, “The Atari,” called the Sega, “The Nintendo,” and then finally reached a point where he just referred to all video game systems as “THE MACHINE.”

“Bobby, it’s time to shut off THE MACHINE.”

“I’ve had enough with THE MACHINE, MACHINE, MACHINE! I mean it. It’s all you guys do!”

“Uh, Ricky, the red light is blinking on THE MACHINE…”

My dad also grouped the cable box, VCR, and of course all computers into THE MACHINE category. In fact, he was so “anti-machine” that we didn’t even purchase our first home computer until I was a sophomore in high school and my teachers stopped accepting hand-written essays (btw, we’re talking about 2001, folks.)

I think the reason he hates THE MACHINE is the same reason he hates THE MAN. He grew up in the 60’s, dodged the draft, believes all politicians are corrupt, and is 100% convinced Big Brother is always watching. THE MACHINE (whichever one he happens to be referring to—doesn’t matter) is just one more way for our government to keep tabs on us and he’s not gonna let that happen. Yup, no computers for my dad.

He does every estimate by hand. Gives out every bill by hand. And the only advertising he does is a Yellow Page listing. My dad’s business doesn’t even have a website, which is just mind-boggling to think about in our digital age. I guess it goes to show you the power of a good referral.

So yeah…keep all of the above in mind as I now (finally!) tell you the funny “Hotmail” story from a couple years ago.hotmail-logoThe year was 2005 and I was living in Gorham, ME, attending the University of Southern Maine. During one of my (ah, hem, DAILY) phone calls from home (MOM), I got to talking to my dad about some guy we both knew. Can’t remember his name, but for our purposes let’s just call him Ted. Here’s how the conversation went down:

DAD: Yeah, so I ran into Ted the other day.

ME: Oh yeah? What’s he up to now?

DAD:  I guess he’s looking for work. Said he might wanna do a couple of jobs for me this summer if I needed help. But I dunno…

ME: Oh, that’ll be good, Dad. Why are you hesitant?

DAD: ‘Cause the guy is…I don’t know how to describe it…WEIRD.

Let me just interrupt here to point out that my father is the most opinionated person in the ENTIRE universe and is never afraid to tell you how little he thinks of a person. So to hear my Dad struggling to come up with an insulting adjective for Ted was off-putting.

ME: What do you mean he’s “weird,” Dad?  Did something happen?

DAD: I don’t know. I just think the guy’s kind of…full of himself and I think he’s some sort of SICKO.

ME: (starts laughing when I hear the word ‘sicko’) Ok, so something obviously happened…SPILL…

DAD: Well, he called me up after I ran into him and we got to talking…and then at the end of the phone call he wanted to give me his “E-mail” address (my dad says “E-mail” address real slow, and I imagine him also using air quotes). I tried to tell him I don’t have “E-mail” but he started spelling it out anyway.

ME: Ok…so…

DAD: And well…he told me it was TEDVT1924 at HOTMAIL dot com.

ME: Ok…??

(long pause)

DAD: Yeah, HOTMAIL. Can you believe the nerve of that guy? I mean, who does he think he is?

ME: I mean Hotmail is kind of a shitty email service but I still don’t get why this makes him a sicko.

DAD: Well, I dunno. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (my dad’s favorite Seinfeld quote), but I don’t think I want any part of it.

ME: DAD, I still don’t understand what the hell you mean.

DAD: I think he’s pretty cocky. That’s what I mean. And a sicko to have HOTMAIL as his email.

And then it clicked. My father, the computer-illiterate, heard HOT MALE.

Benjamin Godfre - Hot Male Model-03_thumb[2]

Once my hysterical laughter subsided, I explained to dear-old-Dad what “HOTMALE” really was, and assured him Ted was still a good guy.

DAD: Well, I didn’t know! I don’t know anything about that sort of stuff. It’s not funny, Amy. Ugh, we’re getting another call. MARY LOOOU. How do I do this thing? Gotta go, Amy. Someone’s beeping in. I HATE THESE MACHINES.

*click*

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Priceless

White eyelet skirt: $35
2 tickets to Gin Wigmore at Higher Ground: $26
Finding out your brother is engaged via Facebook: Priceless.

There are some things money can’t buy.

For everything else, there is alcohol.

FACEPALM-Copy

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Back-Trackin’ Ain’t Easy

He may or may not have been from the Jersey Shore

Today, while attempting to find a backing track to our new radio commercial…

DJ: So, what kind of music are you looking for?

ME: I’m thinking something happy and upbeat…something poppy…

DJ: Ok, what about this? (plays tribal, African drum loop).

ME: Um, (smiles politely), nope, I don’t think that’s quite it.

DJ: Ok, how ‘bout this? (plays some reggae, Bob Marley rip off)

ME: Very relaxing, but no… I think we need something more POP.

DJ: (plays intergalactic, dubstep medley)

ME: (laughs uncomfortably)…I think we need simpler than that. Have you ever listened to Spotify? They have really great music for their commercials.

DJ: Oh ok. Let’s see here… (Googles “Spotify commercial.” Finds it. Plays it.)

ME: Yeah! See, isn’t that great? I think that’s what we need.

DJ: Yeah, definitely. So it seems like there’s some guitar strumming in there and it’s really simple. I think I got it…

DJ: (plays theme-song to “Deliverance.”)

ME: Uhhhh…Maybe it would be helpful for me to tell you a little more about who we are and what we do…(cause you clearly didn’t listen to the ad you just recorded)…Our target audience is women between the ages of 18 and 24…

DJ: MMM, hmm. Right. How about…

DJ: (plays Enya)

ME: Yeah…again… we serve YOUNG WOMEN and I don’t think that’s really gonna speak to them. Can you sort these by mood?

DJ: HAHAHA, no! Wouldn’t that be great?

ME: It certainly would be.

ME: Feist! That’s the kind of music I want. As if Feist were our backing track.

DJ: Ohhhh, ok!

DJ: (plays sultry, SloJam. Clearly has never heard of Feist)

ME: BAAHAHA! Bow-chica-bow-bow! That would be great if we were a strip club. But that’s not gonna work either.

DJ: Are you sure?

ME: Yeah, I’m positive.

***

2 hours later…(ok, fine, it was only 20 minutes)

We landed on something. What it was, I really can’t remember now. But if you end up hearing it on the radio in the next week or two, please know I tried my best.   

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Bear and The New Kitten: Day 2

So, you guys, I hate to say it, but things aren’t going well at home.

Baby girl and Bear are NOT getting along. I know it’s only been two days, but I was convinced that I would come home from work yesterday and find this:

cats cudding

Instead, all I’ve seen is THIS:

cat hissing

Strangely enough, it’s the kitten who is doing all of hissing. Bear has been ridiculously mellow and is dying to get to know her. Unfortunately, whenever he approaches her she goes ape shit and starts making these demonic growling noises and raises her hackles. Cause she’s so scary. All 4 pounds of her.

Bear really can’t figure her out. He just keeps looking at Liam and I like, “Really? I’ve got 12 pounds on this chick and SHE’S trying to intimidate ME?” He is not impressed. And unfortunately, he sprayed last night. UGH.

Can I just point out that the website said she gets along great with other cats?! We’re feeling slightly lied to.

Bear being thoroughly irritated

Bear definitely feels lied to

They did have a breakthrough this morning though, which was that they smelled each other without a fight erupting. But like all good things, it came to a screeching halt when Bear decided to sneak up on her from behind (seriously, dude, I’m on your side. Help me out a little bit). Kitten lept into the air like a flying squirrel and beelined it to our bedroom. The end.

I’m exhausted.

Have you noticed she still doesn’t have a name?

Between refereeing brawls, anticipating brawls, and following the sound of her pitiful little cry from another unusual place (like when she wedged herself in between dresser drawers), we’ve had zero time to think about names.  We also had all of these sweet names picked out for her, like Sadie, or Nora, or Charlotte that are nowhere close to her personality. She’s definitely a sassy Diva and needs a diva-licious name.  I suggested Beyonce, and before I could even finish my sentence Liam had put the kibosh on it. BOO.

cute kitten

I’m a diva and I know it

The only silver lining so far, and I do mean only, is that she is a phenomenal cuddler. She snuggled on the couch with me for a couple hours last night and then slept right on Liam’s pillow! Now if we could just transfer a small portion of her love and affection from US to BEAR we’d be all set!

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 Also accepting sassy cat name nominations in the comments section.

<<Photo credit: cybergal / Foter.com / CC BY-ND>>
<< Photo credit:
doistrakh / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA >>

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