Thursday, December 24, 2015

part 2 - on being storytellers & gaining solomon

okay, okay. i know when enough is enough.
i've waited too long myself, long enough that i could almost forget the promise i made -
the one to tell our story - the one where God redeems the broken pieces.

it's not that i don't WANT to tell it.
but it's hard. the words aren't really there yet, and the big heart holes still seem so big,
gaping open here with the cold winter air.

so, we had opened up our lives to bring home a daughter,
and then that one fateful afternoon it all came crashing down.
we can't say much about why - but it started and ended with a family feud in ug*nda that none of us here could mend, no matter how we tried - and oh, how we tried.


while journeying to this sweet girl, 
hundreds of papers collected and notarized,
thousands of dollars miraculously raised -
i continued working as the ugand*n adoption coordinator with our agency.

one tiny boy had been on my list of waiting referrals for months -
a tiny boy who should have been so easy to place.
But four families had "accepted" his referral, 
only to have to turn him down, for various reasons.

so even though our deal with God included the clause:
only a little girl...
we saw him working in ways we hadn't expected...
ways that ended with us saying the hard yes to bring a third son into our family.

it wasn't an easy yes, though we see God's glory in the story now -
it wasn't always so.
it looked more like dreams dashed, baby girl clothes boxed up and moved to the basement,
pink sheets and brown dolls packed up out of sight.

we debated about waiting for a girl,
but though our hearts hurt for a daughter, we couldn't say no to this waiting boy.
through newly made scars, we felt glimmers of hope,
here and there in dark nights - we began to fall in love again.


so while we updated paperwork to reflect our decision to pursue solomon,
we made plans for our sweet girl as well,
and when it was time to travel for court at the end of september,
david and i packed suitcases for us, for solomon, and for a little girl
who wasn't ours, but who had stolen our hearts. 

baby girl was resettled with her 16 year old pregnant sister.
the situation isn't great - and we don't know if it is a permanent resettlement,
or if this sweet girl will end up back at the baby home she had stayed at before -
but every day we say our prayers that they would feel love and thrive in Christ's great protection.

david and i had the distinct privilege of spending time with these girls together,
and while i was in country for 9 weeks i met the family members -
the feuding relatives.
i sat on the floor of the grandmother's hut, knowing it was her final decision to say, "no"
to me being baby girl's mama. i looked at her, and i didn't feel the anger i thought i would,
but instead i looked into her eyes, and saw an old woman who made a choice she felt was right.

and somehow my heart healed a little, even while tears fell hot and mixed with that red dirt -
this country of ug*nda - it ruins me in the very best way -
to be brave and say the hard yeses, even when it hurts.

the sister's new baby is due by the end of december,
and at that point we aren't sure if she will still be able to care for her little sister or not.
we've set up a way to "sponsor" them, and will continue for as long as we are able.

we don't know all the ways God works.
our hearts still ache, especially here at Chrismastime.
we gained legal guardianship of solomon on september 25th, 
and i spent a hard two months away from david and the boys to finish his process.

it was only by the overwhelming grace of Christ that we have three sons,
home with us, making our family feel so complete in 2015.
we don't know what the future holds, but when we look at solomon,
his place with us is clear - he fits perfectly - our little wise man. 

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

on being storytellers & losing our baby girl.

when we brought zion home, david and i looked at each other
and the process behind us and laughed, 
and said now that we've adopted from uganda twice, that will be it,
and thank you very much,

we are required to bring zion back to uganda every five years,
so that timeline sounded nice and fluffy and safe.
"weird!" i told family, "that after going to uganda every year for so long - this is it until 2019!"
and then God did what he does,
and we softened a little and said, "IF."
funny, right? we gave God a big, fat IF.
we will consider adopting from uganda again, 
but only IF there is a little girl who truly needs us and
only IF there are no other families available.
and IF i get a job that is salaried.
 and IF we get a bigger house,
and a bigger car,
and a billion dollars.

So. Take THAT.

and then, just like that, there WAS a little girl. 
and there WEREN'T any other families. 
and i said, "let me ask david,"
which i secretly thought meant NO.
but then david said yes.
and God winked right at me then, i think.

then i got salaried at my job,
which allowed us to buy a house.
and a friend gave us a van,
and in literally 48 hours thousands of dollars fell directly into our adoption account.

so we saw God show up for this little girl.
he showed up big and loud.
and so we said yes, and we moved forward.

we announced that we would be adopting a daughter months ago,
with hearts wide open and praise on our lips.
we quieted as cobwebs thickened,
trails grew cold, then hot, then stopped.

it made me sick. makes me sick still, if i let it.
if i lay in my bed and really stop and think -
that's when the tears come, hot and unstoppable,
soaking pillows and hair like they did all those years ago.

all those years ago - back when lucas died.

i can't and won't explain all that's happened in our lives,
and our sweet girl's life,
since then.
but as surely as we started on our journey with confidence in God's plan,
it all came crashing down one afternoon, and i never swear but i did then,
under my breath while my babies slept
and i begged and offered up every ultimatum i could think of.

we chose not to make our story public during this time,
and it isn't because we don't love our village
or the support we've gotten year after year.
it was because when it came down to it - really far down in the hell hole of losing a child you love,
i wanted to lean harder on everyone else than on God.

i wanted my people to pray for me so that i wouldn't have to think about praying for myself.
i wanted my village to cry with me, to trust FOR me, to have faith because i didn't.
i wanted my village because i didn't want God right then -
the all powerful creator who i know can do all things,
but gives us free will,
and when the shit hits the fan, it just does, and that's that.

i never stopped believing in God.
i never really got mad at him even, 
but the magnitude of who he is - good in our darkest moments - is just too much sometimes.

seek me - he said.
seek and find me.
so when all was shot through, i finally got the nerve to try to learn more about my savior.
the one who gives good gifts - i say this out loud to people,
but in my darkest corner, i question what that means.
we stopped sharing information publicly - because we needed to find Christ's goodness in the mess of things for ourselves.

it was hard. david and i grieved separately at first -
him desperate to complete odd tasks around the house and just survive
and me as cold as ice.
it couldn't hold up long,
and one night we yelled until we could cry together,
and then huddled down as a team for the long haul.

and these words.
they sat here inside me for months really,
words clumped up like dirt,
rolled in a ball like some scared animal,
smoking and stinking like the remains of ashes days old.

and as they burned like this,
and we looked at life and saw clearly that NOT EVERYTHING HAPPENS ACCORDING TO GOD'S PERFECT PLAN,
we started to become better friends with him - this savior who offers grace.
not everything happens according to his plan

BUT - he can use ALL things for his glory.

and so our story wasn't truly done -
though we saw it lying there, smoldering and crumpled like old pages.

where once our hearts were closed, now they were opened again,
wooed by a love who knows the intricate depths of our souls. 
where once we would have said no,
we whispered yes.

we are the storytellers.
but i've no doubt who's writing the story - and friends - it isn't me.

So now, come along and listen -
Listen to the ways he's mended -
The ways he's kept his promises when I thought all was left for dead.
I have a lot to tell.

Part 2 coming soon.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In the aftermath of Baltimore.

These past few days have moved me.
to tears.
to anger.

and now? to some sort of action. 

I watch the same news as you.
I see the same Facebook posts.
I've never been one to like confrontation (does anyone?),
so I've found myself holding back from having conversations I feel in my heart must be had.

I think I've done this for a few different reasons, really.
Maybe because I don't want to offend people I care about.
Maybe because I don't want to make other people feel uncomfortable.
Maybe because sometimes, in the moment, I don't know exactly what to say.

The truth of the matter, though, I've realized, is this -
no matter how much I care about the comfort of my extended family, friends, and acquaintances I'm connected with on social media,
it doesn't hold a candle to the fierce love and protection I have for my sons. 

This post isn't for everyone.
It is for you if:
You jump to defend each police officer who has been accused of murdering a black man/boy.
You say/think comments such as; I'm not a racist, but did you see his track record?
It's a tragedy, but have you heard what his parent's did?
He might have been innocent, but why did he run?
He was acting like a thug.
He should have been in jail.
The real victim here is (Darren Wilson, George Zimmerman, white policemen in America).
Have you seen the riots?
Do you know the stats of black on black murders?

Yes - if you bristled to read those comments then this post might have been written for you.
You are helping to keep the system alive - the one that will make it dangerous for my sons to grow up, the one that will keep them under the thumb,
keep them guilty until proven innocent,
keep them lazy until proven useful,
keep them unintelligent until they pass your test.

It seems you don't connect these men to me - to my kids. 
You say these things, then like one of my pictures or comment "Precious!"
You welcome us in to your homes. You smile at my children.

Let me break this down for you - from my perspective.
Those unarmed teens? Those young men who are dead - buried cold?
They could SO easily be my boys.
People shake their heads, they say no, not if you raise them right - not YOUR kids.
But I promise you - my sons will make mistakes - and they might make them big.
Think about yourself as a teenager. Think about the things you did - the lies you told. 

This is what you are saying to me, when you post and comment and like news articles that care more about shaming the rioting of hurting men and women
than talking about the reality of the system that caused the pain -

You're telling me that when Finn is 17 - if he ever gets in trouble at school, if he gets expelled, if he ever gets in a fist fight, swears at an adult, drives too fast,
if, GOD FORBID - he ever does drugs or steals a soda -
and then is approached by a police officer and feels fear and either:
a. stands up to the officer
b. runs
if he is killed by that officer, he deserved it. 
He had it coming to him. because of the mistakes he made.

My son. My boy. My Finnley. 

My insides twist and turn. Do yours?
Did you know that ingrained in that little boy is the response of fight or flight?
Did you know that many people who experience trauma as children have that same response hard-wired into their minds? That when they feel fear - a trigger goes off that sometimes they can't control? This boy will run fast when he is older. He will be stubborn. How my blood runs like ice to think of the inadequacy of me as a white mother - the ways I will fail to keep him safe.
Are you hearing me?

Can you imagine knowing that Zion's body build 
could give a grown man with a gun the excuse to shoot him dead?
That later, after everything is done and it's all over and too late -
he could be called menacing, threatening, "bigger than his age."
That people would shake their heads and whisper about the way he walked and talked.

My Zion. My baby.

I look at him and I dream of him as a football star, or a doctor, or a firefighter
and beg God to let others see that too.

Do you have a son? 
Do you believe, deep in your heart, that as a teenager he will never backtalk, lie, cheat?
Can you imagine how you would feel if he was killed,
and the only parts of his life shared on the news were the times he'd made mistakes?

Please hear me.
I absolutely do NOT believe any sort of lie that would say all cops are racist, 
I respect law officers and I'm grateful everyday for the ones that protect the people of this country.
I believe they risk their lives when they leave their homes.

Does that mean they can't make mistakes?
Does that mean that there is no cop who is racist?
That there is no cop who has been trained in a system where black men and people of color instill just a bit more fear than white people?
Does that mean they can't do wrong, can't murder?
That justice shouldn't be served where it is due?

I've heard many people say lately that it's not about race.
That the majority of America treat people of every color equally.
I have to wonder if those who think this way love a person of another race to the point they would give their lives for them?
I may have thought that way, once, too -
but if you love a black boy, teen, man, with your entire heart - you will see the truth -
you will feel the fear in your gut -
you will read the comments that make your heart break to pieces.
You will KNOW.

My kids can't play with bb guns.
They can't wear hoodies and walk down the street.
They will be followed in gas stations,
pulled over for random reasons,

But they will do great things.
Finnley? He can run so fast. Throw far.
He loves to laugh. He is goofy.
His heart is gentle and kind.

Zion? He is a jokester.
He is the sweetest boy you'll ever meet.
He will do anything to make others smile.
He has rhythm in his soul.

I tell them everyday how much I love them.
How I would do anything for them.

This is their world as much as it is yours.
Do you listen to the pain in the protests?
Can you hear the hurt coming from generations of unfairness?
Do you want to?

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Friday, February 13, 2015

on finding a full life.

i was NEVER one to do hard things as a child.
i was not a brave person.
i was shy. i chose reading over adventure. i liked homework.

you see - you see who i was.
you're nodding. you know the type.
part nerdy, part peacemaker, part too quiet to bother anyone.

that was through high school. 
somewhere between then, and now, i said something.
i can't even remember exactly what it was, but - it changed everything.

it was something simple,
not profound, not the first time anyone has ever uttered it.
it was something like, "please, use me. make my life count."

and that was it for my quiet, reserved life.
isn't it funny, how one whispered sentence can make all the difference?
how it can take one's easy existence and make mashed potatoes of it?

slowly, i began to feel... more alive inside.
it wasn't all at once - but there it was - this fierce "aliveness"
buzzing around inside of me like bees in a hive.

in high school i read books about people who did things.
changed things.

i wished it could be me -
but i knew, deep inside,
i wasn't brave enough. 

i wasn't made for adventure.
and then - i wasn't.
but just because you aren't, it doesn't mean you never can.

God changed the parts of me that weren't fully his
when i gave him permission. he took the pieces of me i'd always had, 
like compassion, and added his own power where before i'd had none.

i began doing things that were never me,
but always me, somehow, both at once.
i was the girl afraid to stay at sleepovers once, now in love with foreign people and places.

it wasn't just that though, the traveling and adventures.
it was my heart. my heart that had always longed for more,
but could never take the steps, was suddenly reaching and stretching upward.

and the stretching - it hurt so bad.
it opened wounds and eyes to see things i'd always been afraid were there.
sadness and pain and devastation. nations falling apart and children paying the price.

the stretching is where i am still,
and still, it hurts.
i fear more and less now than i ever have.

when i said i wanted my life to count,
i didn't mean i wanted to do great big, meaningful deeds.
i meant i wanted it to COUNT. i wanted to see what it really could be - a full life,

thrown open to all the universe could muster.
i'd read those words - i came that you may have life, and life abundant,
and oh how my heart ached to know what that really meant.

but i didn't know it would mean this.
feel like this.look like this - 
a life upended, poured out, broken into pieces, but somehow so whole.

i didn't know it would mean that i could have a role in His healing.
that i could have a part to play in bearing burdens toward the cross,
that a life laid down could feel so much like loss, but look so very alive.

every once in a while i'll think about what life was like before babies.
i don't do it often, really, because let's be honest - i don't have much time for thinking these days.
but - in those wee moments that i do think, i remember nights full of sleeping,
days without back aches and hot dog chunks and the smell of formula on all my clothes.
but it's more than that, really. i remember a life full of so much -
friends and jobs and reading books in bed late at night.

but i think about it now - this life that i can't keep up with -
and i never dreamed it would be this way then, when i took showers every morning,
went to the gym, the movies, the late church services - just because i could.
because it fit my schedule. my schedule that was mine to dictate and make what i wanted.
fast forward two years to our two newest additions.

these moments, these midnight wakings and early sunrise mornings,
these precious lives that turned my schedule upside down,
stole it straight out from under me.
it is life with hearts on a wire,
mine and theirs, and they are beating out in the open with these scars that look like dirt.

it's feelings not easily talked about, of murmurings late into black evenings
of promptings to kneel on cold wood floors
and beg God to take old memories of steel crib bars and hunger pains,
of mothers gone out who never made it back,
and craft something strong out of this brokenness.

sometimes i wonder how my heart can expand another inch.
in the mornings i grip coffee cup handles and hot wheels cars
and i look into eyes that hold life beyond the walls of this house.
sometimes i wonder if i'm doing it right.

sometimes i want to pull the easy, quiet life around me
like a warm, comfortable coat. i want to get lost in it, blend in with it,
i want to lay down and sleep for days in it.

but that part of me that hummed like bees is still buzzing.
still stretching, yearning, aching.
with each day here of chasing small miracles around this house, my world is ever exploding

with joy. with a gratitude that makes me weep,
and though i feel oh. so. worn. these days, 
i can feel my heart dancing inside these tired bones.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

don't you see my babies? a post in the aftermath of ferguson.

i went back and forth about writing this,
and then, after my fingers screamed it onto the keys
i went back and forth about posting it - perhaps more than any other post i've written.

it's snowing now, and i sit in my parents house with babies sleeping in the guest rooms.
we celebrated thanksgiving, together as a family, with warmth and friendship.
my boys laughed and ate, watched the snow. kissed the puppies.

in the pit of my stomach sat the poisoned reality of life outside of these safe walls.
each day now, for days, my eyes have brimmed with burning tears -
can i tell you what they mean to me? i whisper, as the world ebbs and flows with hatred.

maybe you are sick and tired of it - but maybe not,
as so many of the ones who are unfriended me this week.
do you understand this - what this means? chose not to be friends with me anymore.

it made some angry - a picture i posted of my little boys,
with a caption underneath of a truth i've been reminded of so often now -
of how i pray each day that my babies will be safe as they grow up.

don't make this about them some said.
didn't you see the rioting thugs?  said others.
you can't deny the cop's innocence more told me.

i watched as people simultaneously "liked" pictures of my black boys on facebook,
seconds after they "liked" a story with comments so viciously racist that my stomach churned.
i will remember these days, as my boys grow up - i will remember not to bring them to those homes.

the clock ticks loudly, i can hear it now that everything is so quiet -
and i beg for it to slow, not simply because they grow up so fast,
but no... because they grow up still black.

i am madly in love with my sons - their dark skin, their spunky personalities,
but God, how i've lain in bed these last nights with a fear so deep it pulls me,
and finally i let the tears spill from the corners of my eyes and soak into my hair. 

it is a world gone mad when the thought crosses your mind:
 maybe their growth was stunted enough during their hard beginning,
maybe they won't be tall... maybe they will be small and look less threatening to you.

how can i do it, i wonder. how can i nurture them as children,
wide-eyed with imagination and joyous over adventure,
how can i nurture them and tell them the truth, both here and now?

my oldest one - he is stubborn, and oh how i've laughed at his maddening strong will before.
but now? at just two years old... i can feel the terror rise when he disobeys me with his silly grin.
be good i tell him, though in my heart i'm begging, always listen. don't be naughty.

i want to choke it out all at once - throw it up and be rid of it forever,
so i never have to think about it again, so i can know for sure i've done my job.
these are the rules you must follow, sweet boys, for one day you will be more handsome than cute, and how i weep over, even now amidst my excitement in seeing who you are becoming.

always listen.
dress nicely.
speak clearly.
take your hood off.
leave your hat home.
if your friends are playing cops and robbers, call me and come home.
if your friends are playing paint ball, call me and come home.
if your friends are feeling adventurous, call me and come home.
if a policeman is talking to you, keep your voice down.
if he is wrongly accusing you, keep your voice down.
if he is embarrassing you in front of your friends, keep your mouth shut,
please sweet boy, listen to me.
put your hands up - right away. don't reach in your pocket for the candy bar receipt.
go with him nicely, i will come for you - i will always come for you -
your small, pale white mother.

i want to protect them. i want to scream it out - DON'T YOU SEE THEM?
and then slowly they grow up, and people don't see them anymore.

i want to be with them every moment, forever, 
so when the man at the park starts questioning them,
or i can see the woman clutching her purse, i can just jump out and save them -
don't worry!! i shout it and my voice cracks, don't worry! I'M THEIR MOTHER.
the man would nod and let them be.
the woman breathes a sigh of relief and loosens her grip.

i want to be right there, so when they are pulled over for no reason -
or maybe even FOR A REASON. maybe they were speeding? maybe they DID steal a candy bar?
let me be with you, i want to wish it in to truth, so if you get pulled over
i can fly out of that car - please, i would say, please. we're so sorry. he's with me.

and i hang my head in shame - because this? these thoughts?
they prove the reason for the madness.
they prove the undeniable inequality.
please believe me. i am a mother to black boys. 

i want to stand in solidarity - with someone, anyone.
i want to hug those dead boy's mamas and tell them i'm so sorry -
that i understand.

but i don't.
because i'm white, i will never fully understand.
but i want to. 

if you're trying, too, I'm with you.
we can be better. we can help this world be better.

for the sake of my boys - my sweet black boys who will be young black men soon,
i want to try to understand.
and i want you to try, too.

I want to scream it.
Whisper it.
Curl up in a ball and bleed it.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

tears and knees on floors.

here i am, sitting in a half dark house.
i'm chilly, but in the way that almost feels good.
it's not four o' clock yet, but outside it is already grey.
babies are sleeping.
babies - my two babies.

sometimes i don't believe my own life.
don't believe my own blessings.
sometimes i look around and forget to call it grace - the everyday things that happen here.
how do i forget it?
in this house where tears spilled into cracked floors for a child lost,
where knees bent and prayers flowed out for sons waiting?
i look around and realize all of it - all of it is grace. 
because though the child is still lost,
the sons have all come home. gone home. 

wait. now i hear him.
it isn't as quite anymore, the soft murmurings of undecipherable babble,
the little one who just a few months before couldn't stand the thought of being alone,
would panic upon waking - is it really him?
he's laughing now, alone in his room. i hear a giggle.
he's waiting for me.

i get him.
bring him out with me to the dining room.
put on a sweater.
he's crawling. smiling. 
he's mine. my son - who once was considered abandoned, but not now. 

in the other room, one still sleeps. 
i know i'll have to wake him, since i heard him playing earlier.
i rub his back and he snores. 
he yawns, stretches,

i think about how tired i feel.
i look outside.
it is november fifth, and our pumpkins sit, uncarved.
i wonder if we have enough leftovers for dinner.

but this time - this day - i choose not to care about those things.
not to care about the boxes that are still unpacked after moving out of my cube at work.
not to care about the dust on the bookshelves,
the crumbs on the floor... actually, when i look closer, they're everywhere.
but it's okay.

now finn is up, and he is drumming, loud, and laughing -
because his brother is clapping, drooling.
"Baby Brudder!"
I watch them and the way they look nothing like each other,
but everything like brothers.

a car pulls in, doors slam.
Finn is running to meet him.
the dog is barking. 

we go through the evening. 
parts are messy and the toddler has a tantrum about not getting fruit snacks for dinner.
the baby, suddenly, is over-tired, right when we least expected it.
we hustle with pjs, tooth brushing, fight with their hair,
i gather up my wits and bounce the small in the bedroom -
bouncing bouncing until finally he sleeps.
my back hurts - has hurt for days really.
i kiss the big one, and he goes to dad to get rocked.

we do a million things before our heads hit pillows.
sleep just moments before the baby is crying.
slip out of bed. the floor is so cold.
make a bottle. bounce the babe.
lay down.
do it again.

and then it's morning.
so so early.
i pull hard from sleep.
but my babies are home.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

when feet won't dance

it has been three months since i've opened up this space to type a single word,
one of the months was filled with chaos in getting ready to come to uganda to meet our son,
one month was filled with traveling - planes, cars, feet - orphanages and court rooms and dirt roads,
and this past month has been me wanting to write, to tell this story, but not having the strength.

there aren't enough tears to tell it- or the story of any of these little ones - really.
i'm not sure what to say of this adoption.
do i admit the doubts? the darkest nights? this selfish, ugly heart?
do i lie? do i say it was love at first sight, the happiest of babies, the best of friends?

it was fully God. that much i know. 
He was there, nudging, when i saw this boy's face in a picture on my phone for the first time - 
gripping my heart with a whisper - he's yours.
He was there as we sat rigid, him and i both - looking at each other and crying.

this adoption? oh my friends - it has been hard. 
imagine a child who does not want comfort from you, but only from food.
a child who pitifully wails when down, but grows hysterical when up.
a child you prayed so long for, and now you want to cover your ears and guard your heart.

as congratulations poured in from friends and family,
i wanted to shrink away and curl up in a corner.
what do you do when your feet won't dance,
and you sit as still as can be wondering what in the world you've done?

but oh He's a God of redemption.
He truly is.
after five weeks zion put his head on my shoulder for the first time.
after six weeks i kissed him and really meant it.

we've been together nine weeks now, and so much has changed.
he sits on my hip, waiting contently for a bottle he knows will come.
i feel sincere love when i look into his eyes. he is happy with me.
when the officer placed that visa in my hand, i cried from overwhelming joy.

we spent our time in the trenches,
him with shoulders carrying so much loss.
but every sunday we went to church and sang
"your love has taken chains off me."

it will take time and healing to tell all that has happened here,
but it starts with this:
zion, you are a treasured son.
because of you, i've seen miracles happen.

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