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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

Month

June 2014

Red Rubber Ball

Remember the latex-y smell of a new red rubber kickball? Remember the tinny, hollow, bouncy sound the ball made when it hit the ground? Remember how much air that textured ball would get upon a good, swift, hard kick?

kickball

Childhood memories are a funny thing: some recollections of our youth are so vivid that you can instantly delight not one, not two, but often all of your senses in precise detail as if the memory is as recent as a day or so ago.

The absolute earliest vision I can evoke from my memory banks is that of a gift; a present from my maternal grandparents, Benjamin and Frances Mindlin. My grandparents had driven from their home in Bloomfield, Connecticut to our home in Dover, Vermont for a visit. My mother told me later in life upon rumination of this story that I was about two, but not quite three years old.

To this day, I recall the joy and excitement in anticipation of my grandparents’ arrival as their car pulled into our driveway. After cordial hugs, kisses, and hellos; my grandparents presented me with a brand new red rubber ball. What a gift!

Tink, tink, tink….the sound reverberated as I bounced the rubber sphere eagerly and sloppily on the driveway as a wobbly toddler would. Tink, tink, tink…continued as my brand new ball bounded down the driveway faster than I managed to keep up. Tink, tink, tink……pop……….phiiizzzzzzzz. Just like that, the air spewed out of a pierced hole, faster than convicts on a prison break and my brand new toy was deflated flat. Ruined. No sooner had I risen with the glee provided by my red rubber ball had I collapsed into the ultimate sadness, as my dog sunk his teeth into the fleshy, springy object he chased down the pavement.

Shortly thereafter, or so it seems in the fuzzy and worn memory cards, my family was preparing to move out West. The reality of this relocation meant nothing to me at such a young age, my comprehension being limited to the trauma that ensued when my dad threw out my itty-bitty skis. As my father tried to rationalize with my irrational three year old self, my tantrum escalated. How was I supposed to know that our destinations of Texas, New Mexico and ultimately, Oklahoma had no ski mountains?

My journey from Vermont to Texas is piecemeal at best, with the lively mariachi band that strolled through the San Antonio marketplace being a joy to recall. Otherwise, I have negative snippets of the adventure: the larger-than-life bug that was in our motel bathtub (seriously, it was as big as my little girl foot….okay, no, it was the size of Godzilla and my shrieks probably alerted everyone staying at said motel that something was dangerously afoot); the neon green, algae-filled swimming pool that the motel encouraged my parents to let me take a dip in (have no fear, they did not let me go near the vat); the complaints from my mother how god-awful Texas was and my father’s supreme disappointment in how small the Alamo really was in real life.

painted desert gonewiththewynns

New Mexico brings back fonder memories, so much so that I do hope to take my family there some day. The pictures of visiting the Grand Canyon with my Grammy (my dad’s mother), who had come to spend time with us are near and dear to my heart. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest of nearby Arizona are seared into my brain, as are my mother’s comments proclaiming her love for the area. Najavo Fry Bread (or sopapillas) combined with refried beans bring me *RIGHTBACK* and warm my heart with the love of the time I spent there. Seriously, when I visit again I will likely have that be my first order of food to roll around in emotional happiness.

Najavo Fry bread The recollection of losing my hearing while in New Mexico is non-existent up and until I was being fitted for my new ear molds. Shortly thereafter, we relocated to Oklahoma with a builder my father had worked for building housing for the Navajo Indian tribes; they were going to continue building low-income housing for the Cherokee tribes in the Northeasterly portion of Oklahoma.

My mother spoon-fed me a version of events surrounding my hearing loss which she insisted is why we up and moved from New Mexico to Oklahoma (something about a shotgun to kill the doctor who she deemed as the culprit who caused my hearing loss). My father always corrected her that we followed his work to Oklahoma, and I now know that is likely the more true version of the stories.

Lately, when times get chaotic or too fast-paced for even my liking, I reflect back on my ten years in Oklahoma. I honestly miss so much about those years and that part of the U.S. Everything people here in the Northeastern part of the U.S. think about Oklahoma is pretty close to being true: things are much slower paced in the more rural parts of the state; people are so very kind; and the mid-western drawl has a life of its own.

My memories of Oklahoma take on a life of their own! Again, food based memories are seared in my brain’s taste buds as I think back to happy times with my parents – nothing like Wednesday night at Lorene’s Restaurant. A fried chicken dinner was $1.99! $1.99 people……and this was the 80s, not the 40s! My father would get so excited as I would swap him my breast for his drumstick. I would get so excited when my father would let me get a gigantic, mile-high piece of chocolate cream pie or uber-delicious sticky, pecan pie; all home made from scratch by Lorene and her kitchen staff themselves. White creamy gravy drowned our mashed potatoes and my mother would gag, ask us why we would eat such library paste, and gag again as my father and I would devour the heavenly fatness on our plates. I chuckle at the idea that my dad allowed me to order frog legs for dinner (and I have instant heartburn at my willingness to consume an amphibian from a local pond/lake).

Friends of mine from my days in Oklahoma are now refreshed in memory, thanks to that social media forum called Facebook. Recently, from my childhood friend Nicole, I learned that Lorene’s has closed for business. My brief sadness was not for the emotional food memories, but instead, more likely the closing of another chapter of memories I hung onto with both of my parents who are now deceased.

I relive various memories with each posting of those Oklahoma childhood friends who remain in the area. I know some day I will venture back that way and show my children where the bulk of my childhood was spent, so they can embrace some of the places where the thread of my very character was woven by the people and places that surrounded me. I will show them exactly where I used to catch the tarantula spiders to sell to Tommy on the school bus for $5. I will show them the great Grand Lake where I caught my first three pound catfish (with a fishing pole, thank you very much, no “noodling” or Hillbilly Handfishing for this girl) and spent many a summer day cooling off in. I hope to show them Fairland Elementary/Junior High/High School where I went from 3rd grade to 8th grade; where I was a Homecoming Princess, where I found my love for running track and field, and where my classmates and I went through all the requisite angst of tweendom with the aforementioned Nicole, Tina, Tammy, Talana, Tracey, Amy, Holly, Lisa and oh so many more!

softball

And to think, the reminiscing began all with a bouncy, red rubber ball.

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#FBF “What Did You Say”

An oldie, but a goodie from #ConfessionsOfACurvyGirl

What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

Recently, I had three different people from different walks of my life tell me they were holding back from their exercise in particular; one was returning to her gym, another considering joining a new place to work out, and the third just wanting to do something but unable to just pull the trigger.

Immediately, and independently of one another, I asked each of them what was delaying their return or their actual start. Instinctively, I began coaxing them that each day they did not embark into their desired athletic routine was another day they failed to get stronger. What did they have to lose? Except another day of added strength and good health because they feared what? Get in there! So what if you need to start at what you consider “ground zero” from a fitness perspective; you will walk out of there stronger or fitter than when you first came in. Chip away at your fitness goals, but you have to take that first step in order to get there.

hold back

All three of them had various reasons why they were hesitant: one was ultimately scared, one was nervous about trying a new gym/exercise and the third just does not prioritize herself. Three women, one week, all putting up roadblocks to personal goals they sought to pursue.

And then I realized I had been doing the same thing – holding myself back.

Nearly two months post Boston Marathon, I have only recently returned regularly to my Crossfit and regular activities from a labral tear in my hip. Every day I would wake up and say to myself, “Today! Today is the day I’m back at Crossfit!” Every day for two weeks, something would come up – whether it was a kid activity, or a viral bug that went through the household, or even slight hip pain and I would not make it in to Crossfit. Enough with the excuses (whether they are good, bad or indifferent), the bottom line is that using my injury as an excuse was getting old and quickly so. I was holding myself back because I did not *feel* ready. Rationally, I knew my coach would help me modify my workout. Irrationally, I knew I would get caught up in the momentum and want to push myself further. Rationally, I knew my coach would be ALLUPINMYBUSINESS and not allow me to push beyond what was acceptable for my current state of mobility. Irrationally, I did not want to put myself into that position to have to tell him to GETOUTOFMYFACE (and risk further injury to myself at the cheap cost of some endorphins) as I proved to myself and the world that I was BAAACCCCKKKKK.

worst enemy yourself

Humble, humble, I tucked my little tail between my legs and resurfaced in my local Crossfit box a couple of weeks ago. I was welcomed beyond expectation as my fellow Crossfitters were happy to see me and cushioned my re-entry with kind words like “Welcome Back! We missed you!” Knowing, sympathetic glances were cast my way as my projected and envisioned trajectory into that day’s WOD would be a bumpy ride, at best. Yes, I baby-stepped my way right back into the world of DOMS (that’s delayed onset muscle soreness just so you know) and my brain gobbled up the swirling adrenaline rush and endorphin party. My muscles seem to have a better memory than my body’s fitness. The strength came naturally and the cardio nearly made me die. Snatches felt great (not MY snatch, the overhead barbell movement perverts) and burpees felt not so great. Okay, I lied, the burpees not only hurt my hip they crushed, steamrolled, pounded my ego with the resounding scream that nearly escaped my lips as I tried to bang out five @#$%&*! burpees every minute on the minute (amongst deadlifts and wall balls, thank you very much).

Holding myself back. Um, yes. Why? Because I feared not being able to perform like I was pre-marathon. Does anyone care how I perform? Um, no. Yes, I do. Yes, my coach does. However, the expectations, at least from normal people, are that you must build back up again. Why is that a fearful process? If a friend hurts themselves, the first thing you would advise them to do is go slow, steady and be smart and careful about working back up to their pre-injury routine. Right? Right. However, often times it is much easier to rationalize a different story for ourselves and mold our thought process to fit our justification accordingly.

The realization is that we need to stop and ask ourselves, “What Story Are You Telling Yourself?” Really. Yes! Ask yourself. Stop, breathe, ponder that question for a moment – and find out if your story is true to you.

What do I mean? Here’s an example: during my marathon traiing, endless numbers of people commented, “Ohhhh, good for you. I can’t run.” Reallly? You can’t? Or do you choose not to? It is okay if you choose not to, but do not say you cannot run. Everyone can run. You have two legs and unless you have a physical disability, you can run. Is your story that you cannot run? My question in response will be what activity is it you do like to do?

Running is not for everyone, nor is Crossfit. I happen to like both, for very different reasons. I do not like to Zumba or do yoga. My story is not that I cannot do them, because physically, I can. Dancing is not considered exercise to me, I only partake in busting a move when being goofy (like last week when “Buffalo Stance” suddenly came on the radio while I was waiting to pick up my kid at the movie theater), or when I have had a few drinks (and I suddenly think I am a former Fly Girl). Yoga is great, but not my preferred cup of tea (I prefer to literally kick my own ass). But I CAN do them.

doms

Lately, I have asked myself again, “What Story Are You Telling Yourself” with respect to other aspects of my life. As I seek to discover a way to morph more of my passions into the forefront of my life, I am tethered down with the need to earn a paycheck and pay bills. Alas, more thoughts of me holding myself back and I am forced to ponder what precisely I intend to do about it.

More friends convey similar patterns in their respective lives – afraid to make career moves because of the story they tell themselves. Do you have friends who are afraid to undertake particular activities? Is that person YOU? Are you going to settle for the same old, comfortable layer of explanations on why they cannot do something? Are you going to say you cannot? Because I will tell you that you CAN!

Everybody has the capacity to dream up and believe anything he/she wants to.  Why is it so easy to fall into the trap of your story? Chapters may not be rewritten, but future chapters are certainly open to strategic outline, careful planning and most certainly execution. Is it easy to hide behind the most comfortable version of our book of life rather than seek out the change we most desire? Most of you that I know are not lazy people by nature, so I know it is not languor that drags you down. Most of you are not fearful people, but is it fear or even anxiety that prevents you from tweaking your life story? When I find fear entering my life, I have to remind myself of the old question itself: What’s the WORST that can happen? In my particular version, I simply pick myself up and dust myself off a thousand times over. Sometimes, it is easy and other times, it is soul-crushingly hard. However, that person I am picking up is stronger, healthier, smarter, kinder, and resilient enough to go at it again and that feels good.

chase dreams

So, what story are you telling yourself?

Recently, I became so frustrated with the amount of money flying out my front door that I decided change must occur in our household. With children in multiple activities that cost nearly an arm and a leg, we have to start making some other sacrifices because I do not want to live in a yurt when I am 65 (unless that is the choice I make, not the only option I have because of a non-existent retirement account).

The first place I looked was our “Triple Play” statement. Are you kidding me? Are you #*&$@ kidding me? Every month we pay for a home phone that we NEVER use (because we are NEVER home). Every month we pay for a cable package that does not include the premium channels, but has 652 other channels – yet, constant complaints about how nothing is on are daily mantras from the creatures that reside in our dwelling. Every month we pay for internet speed which drives nearly every form of technology; namely technology that household members are ON while complaining that there is nothing on the television.

Enough. I called our provider and said to nix the home phone (911 will be fine from our cell phones and THAT hefty bill we have been paying for the past three years while in this home). I asked our provider to nix the cable, with the exception of the basic news channels for a much more comfortable $10/month. I asked the provider to please leave the internet alone (and promptly signed up for Netflix for yet another comfortable $10/month). We are saving over $115/month! Yes, that went out the door for another new bill almost as soon as I told the provider to cancel those aforementioned services (damn kids)!

With that, we started watching the series, “Breaking Bad” as we had heard so much about it and I am a fan of Bryan Cranston since his “Malcolm in the Middle” days. Honestly, I had no idea or any expectations of the AMC drama – as I knew it involved Bryan’s character, Walt White, making and selling meth. I had no idea that Walt would be making and selling meth because he has lung cancer. Nor did I have any idea the flooding emotions that would overcome me with many of the passing episodes.

“Breaking Bad” is one of those shows that sucks you in with a magical force; a deep drawing breath pulling you closer and closer – not unlike that of a Dementor pulling the life out of Harry Potter. You cannot get enough and you are conflicted: making and selling drugs is bad, but Walter White wants to provide for his family before he succumbs to what appears to be a terminal case of lung cancer. You find yourself shaking your head in disgust because of the process and community involved with methamphetamine; but you find yourself rooting for the family as their dad sacrifices to ensure their future without him in it to provide.

In my own cancer battle, I recall wanting to make the best decisions for my family and not necessarily me. I knew I had to stay alive at any cost because I had two young children and another on the way. Every single sacrifice had to be made in order to ensure my children did not lose their mother prematurely; that was my driving factor and I did not feel there was any other choice. Perhaps when Walt was being pressured by his family to make that same decision that I had to (saving yourself regardless), my tears flowed heavily because now, six years post-treatment, I understand that a choice of treatment plan is precisely that – a choice, a decision that ultimately needs to be made by the person diagnosed with cancer themselves. Every situation is different; every family is unique and will do whatever they need to do in order to keep a loved one alive. However, at the end of the day, the decision on what poisons, or surgical procedures, or costs to incur is up to the body the cancer resides within. I learned this the hard way when a friend of mine battling stage four breast cancer met with me to tell me she was done. My own brain could not fathom the selection of words she was conveying to me; the side effects and quality of life were not worthy enough to warrant another year or so on this planet. But your kids! She quickly and firmly retorted with a resounding explanation of how she did not want her kids to remember her last weeks/months/years as a supremely sick being. That night, in our local restaurant, my friend gave me a priceless gift of a different perspective, an empathy if you will, but also an empowerment in realizing how important it is for each of us to have the choice in what we do for our bodies; particularly when given a cancer diagnosis.

breaking bad chemo

I cried for Walter White; a fictional character on a television series because his family was not giving him the right of a choice of what was best for him.

Every time Walt vomits, my eyes well up as my own vivid recollections of spasmodic, wrenching, chemotherapy induced projectile vomit rifled through in lighting speed to the front of my memory banks. My oldest is exceptionally compassionate to the scenes because she remembers her mom clinging onto the kitchen sink calling her father for help in between the heaving.

breaking bad walt vomit
Photo courtesy of AMC

As Walt gears up for surgery and acts loopy from the pre-surgery drugs, I laugh with him in recalling my own silly pre-surgery moments; such as when I was in for my wire localization lumpectomy. I laid nervously on the table in radiology waiting to be wheeled into surgery with a very thin, long wire standing up approximately five inches or so out of my left breast. Since it was early December, I joked about how I looked like a remote control car my young son would be getting for Christmas. Or the time the Chief of Radiology wrote a very large signatory initials on my left shoulder to document the proper side for my sentinel node surgery and I clumsily teased him if he autographed all of his art work (he did not find it funny, but I laughed from a drug induced stupor as if I were suddenly on the same caliber of comedy as Lily Tomlin).

I feel every ounce of Walt’s anxiety as he nervously awaits dreaded diagnostic test results, such as an MRI. Ask any cancer survivor and they will tell you, the waiting game is nearly enough to derail you and force you into the fetal position until THAT call comes in or you drag your feet into your oncologist’s office. Even my husband comments on the scenes waiting for the doctor to convey the news, with a repulsive feeling of the dread that accompanies the inevitable words outlining the good or the not so good.

My emotions bubbled up when Walt first held his newborn baby; because I knew, I knew what was going through his head.  After all, I lived it by birthing my own baby smack dab in the middle of my cancer treatment.  The first thought you have is, “Will I live to see this child grow up?”  Yes, I was relating to a fictional character who makes meth!

breaking bad new baby
Photo courtesy of AMC

Watching the show regularly (one plus of streaming your television is instant gratification and not waiting another WHOLE week before the next episode), I question why I suddenly have such strong cancer emotions six years after I finished my treatment. With each passing year of good health, one would assume that I am well on my way to putting the cancer behind me. If it were only that easy!

Not only did I focus so much on getting the cancer OUT OF ME, I neglected to let myself feel the emotions that come with the territory. I shoved those ugly feelings wayyyyy down deep within. Yes, I did. However, the real lesson here is that you may never assume anything in the cancer world. You cannot control what you feel and when you feel it. Six years later, I am still sorting through unexpected emotions just as my body still struggles with the “Collateral Damage”. More so, now being in a position to support my childhood best friend through her cancer battle allows me to process some of the emotions I buried. For what I did not feel for myself, I feel for her…..my eyes well up at the injustice of it all – the cancer world pounds the crap out of you and stays with you for the remainder of your life.

As we pore through Season Three, my heart breaks for Walter White and his “Breaking Bad” family because the pain they portray is very real. The writers and the actors have done a supreme job at conveying the realistic and compromising world of cancer, the unexpected and often times inappropriate reactions as well as the assumed responses from those affected.

In particular, the conflict of right versus wrong (is it okay to make/sell drugs to leave a legacy for your family because you think you are terminal) toys with the obscure reality of whether you may live or die when you are diagnosed with cancer. Would I do the same as Walt has chosen to do? Would you? Would I make different choices in my cancer battle now versus what I did back then? Would I choose to handle my emotions in an altered manner had I known then what I know now?

breaking bad bad good

There are no answers. I am now awake, however.  I choose to live in the now and experience, feel, cope with the emotions that may surface. I cry at the television when it strikes a chord with a relevant cancer scene. I get angry watching my friend going through six hundred and fifty three seemingly never-ending chemotherapy treatments. I am anxious when I plop my boobs on the cold tray as they are about to be squished and scanned for any sign of recurrent disease. I also feel the energy kick of the kale surging through my vein. I experience the strength of cut and weakened muscles as they pound through a WOD at Crossfit. I hug my friends who are struggling to get through their journeys. I laugh at the amount of money we are saving by reducing our spending; and know that even though my children have this new savings spent before I actually touch it that I do not need to sell any meth to buy more time with them. I have it, even if some of it is spent watching “Breaking Bad” together.

breaking bad I am awake

Fly Free – Revisited

Last weekend, within moments of  when I sat down at my oldest’s soccer game, I had a visitor:

baby dragonfly

Yes, a baby dragonfly!  Hundreds of people at these fields and here I am within moments of arrival…..you have to believe.  Although, this dragonfly will grow up to be one of the gigantic variety that I compare to that of a pterodactyl and is not quite as beautiful as some its opalescent counterparts that shimmer in the sunlight; I took the visit to heart – literally.  Cara came to mind and my heart momentarily squeezed tighter as my recollection become more vivid.  I wondered to myself:  Is she now able to Fly Free

dragonfly

Shortly thereafter, I revisited my former blog,  Confessions of a Curvy Girl link “Fly Free” and I know the answer.  I now daydream of a world that may not necessarily be cancer free, because that is simply how our bodies work, but perhaps, a world where there is much less cancer, better treatments for those that do get cancer leaving little or no Collateral Damage, and the ability for humans to revel in the vastness joys of life!

I am re-sharing the content from the original “Fly Free” post from August 2012 here:

I will never forget the day, approximately three years ago when I was sitting at a local watering hole (a pond, not a drinking place people) and a beautiful dragonfly landed right on me. The beach was filled with people, but yet, this beautiful, metallic blue creature landed on me and stayed with me for an uncommonly long time. My friend commented on this unique moment, as did others – while I simply embraced the peace and beauty his magnificent creature brought. Why did it choose me?

Shortly thereafter, dragonflies were very common around me – and in my presence. Of course, I took particular note of them after the pond incident, but big, beautiful, bird sized dragonflies and small, fragile damselflies hovered around me with an odd frequency. My family even noticed their increased company around my being and I could only wonder what it meant.

Of course, google now being my best friend – I researched the various meanings of dragonflies and what their significance could mean in my life. Here, I’ve summarized them:

  • Change – change in the perspective of self-realization and understanding into the deeper meaning of life (looking beyond the surface).
  • Power and Poise – ability to accomplish objectives with simplicity, effectiveness, elegance and grace.
  • Clear Vision – discovery of one’s own self; by removal of self-created illusions. Iridescence being the property to show oneself in different colors or lights.
  • Living IN the moment and living life to the fullest – by living in the moment you are aware of who you are, where you are, what you are doing, what you want, what you don’t and living moment-to-moment. Living without regrets.
  • Uninhibited Vision – open mind and ability to see beyond the limitations of human self.

Wow. Right?

After my cancer battle, my perspective was completely different than before. As cliché as it is, my self-realization of how precious and how short life truly is was magnified as if under an uber-powerful electron microscope.   I tend to over-analyze things in general; however, a clear vision certainly guides one down their destined path.

Another source indicated that dragonflies may often symbolize the appearance of a deceased one in your life. Am I being visited?

Dragonflies are known to live a very short time; hence, the correlation to living in the moment and living life to the fullest. Do dragonflies make the most of their short time on Earth? It’s certainly a good reminder to us humans to make the moments count.

Despite the flight of the dragonflies, I struggle and I have yet to learn how to cope with the shortness of life in people. Some of us die way before our time – before our flight is over; this I understand. I also comprehend (albeit with much frustration), that we will never know the “why”. However, I cannot seem to come to grips with those who die at a young age, particularly because of cancer.

People have offered me various explanations: Scientifically, it’s survival of the fittest – we cannot all live to be 100. Religiously, it is all a part of God’s Master Plan. Medically, his/her body cannot outlast, outwit or outplay cancer and it’s deviance to all modern medicine.

With news of another local warrior entering hospice earlier this week, I have been consumed with heavy thoughts. Every little moment of my day, I am in her shoes. Every moment is a BIG moment.

For example, my daily shower is shrouded by thoughts of how this woman will soon be unable to take a shower and bathe herself in the latest smell of Bath & Body Works shower gel. My morning cup of coffee is savored knowing that the simple pleasure of enjoying a favored drink will soon be no longer an option for her. The latest pop song on the radio may be one of the last enjoyed by her ears. My tears flow heavily for her.

I hug my children so much tighter; knowing that soon, the warm embrace of this beautiful woman will only be a fond memory that her children will have to cling on to. I tell my friends I love them, because I know that in due course, the wonderful friends that have supported this kind soul will cherish all the times they were honored to have with her.

I cry. I cry. I cry.

I only went to high school with her and with her husband. I have taken the small measures that I could during her battle, to try and offset the burden that comes along with a cancer diagnosis; as many in our tight community have done for their family. I am not close enough to this amazing soul that I should be feeling the amount of pain that I do feel.

I cry. I cry. I cry.

Perhaps, my heart is breaking because of my own experience with cancer and my own threat of the possibility of death. I am in her shoes for the time being. I cannot fathom the pain that she and her family are going through as she prepares to finalize her journey. I only know that every time I see a dragonfly going forward, I will think of her. I will know she touched the lives of so many people in her brief stay. The strength she showed during her darkest days; her relentless courage; the brilliant and iridescent smile she afforded everyone in her presence; the vision throughout that life should be lived in moments and memories made………she will fly free.

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