Posts Tagged ‘Family’

I miss my Memaw

My grandmother (read: memaw) passed away the first of this month. She lived 79 great years. I’ve been putting off writing a post about it because it’s still bothering me from time to time. It sneaks up and *surprise!* I’m crying. I’m doing grief work with a couple of my clients this week too, so that’s adding to it.

I’ve thought about how I would write this post. Would I talk about the last few months? Would I organize it into sections? Do I write it for myself or for my readers? I decided to just write. Whatever comes out comes out.

I don’t have any pictures to share on this post. I have some print pictures but nothing digital that I’ve found. There were several good pictures at the wake/showing, whatever we called the day before the funeral where everyone gathered.

I was surprised at how strong I was during the wake. I spoke to her several times and cried several times. I spoke to people who came in, sharing about my time in PA and some of my favorite memories about living with memaw for a year my first year in grad school. She took me in practically rent-free. I kept her company and she cooked for me on occasion. I had a front row seat for the two quilts she was working on at the time and I played fetch with Babe in the back yard. My car stereo was stolen out of the Tracker on Halloween that year.

The wake was nice. I’ve been describing it as something between a family reunion and a vacation for Maggie and me. We drove down from PA in a rental and it was generally a pleasant experience, outside of the ridiculous toll on the PA turnpike. I got to visit with lots of old friends and family members I haven’t seen for a while. Considering how sketchy our holiday plans are since we’re so far away from everyone, it was nice to be able to visit with people and have a meal or two. Like I said, a family reunion with a funeral in the middle. It was kind of refreshing. The crying helped I think. We shared stories like when my aunts and uncles were young and how memaw handmade most of their clothes.

I remember when I was shorter, younger, and brasher, I was only a few inches taller than memaw, who was only 5’2″ anyway and I hugged her goodbye at the end of a visit. I was somewhere between middle school and high school, I think. Anyway, I hugged her around the waist like I always did and picked her up. Yeah, she reacted as you can expect. She swatted me with whatever was in her hand. I can’t remember what it was because I was laughing so hard. She warned me not to pick her up again, and I never did, but only because she asked nicely. I joked about that for years with her and occasionally threatened to pick her up again. I’ll never forget what that tiny, sweet, old woman told me one of those times:

“Eat shit, Jason.”

I can’t make this stuff up.

I talked with her a lot over the years and asked all sorts of questions about our heritage and her parents and papaw’s parents. She liked to talk about her brothers and sisters and I found out that she is German, making me 3/4 German, rather than the 1/2 I thought I was (I’m almost certain my papaw was French. Coryell is a French name). She told lots of stories and, as the years dragged on, retold lots of stories because she couldn’t remember which ones she’d told. I got into the habit of listening to each story as if it was the first time and asking questions so see if I could uncover new details.

We take trips to the farm in E-Town about twice a year, though my cousins and uncles go more frequently to hunt. We sit around the old house and talk about everything and the kids ride the 4-wheeler and motorcycle (ok, I ride them too). We build a big fire and look at the stars you can’t see from Louisville. We all sleep in tents and memaw would sleep in the house. We’d build a fire, usually a big one, and the adults would drink wine and beer and share stories of their childhood while the kids did their own thing, mostly unsupervised, within “hollerin’ distance” from the adults. Memaw would sit either on the porch or in a camp chair and just observe. She chatted up anyone who came by and we all brought her drinks and food like she was a queen. She wasn’t the center of attention, just not-so-stable on her legs. We’d let her sit comfortably and help her up and around when she wanted to get somewhere.

And she had this laugh. Anyone reading this who knows her just heard it in their head. It makes me smile. I can do a fair impression of it actually. I practiced as a kid. No joke. Think gravelly, like Marge Simpson’s voice, but 1-2 octaves higher. It’s a bit of an “aaaiiigh” or an enlongated “ha”, kind of a short howl, now that I think about it. It’s hard to describe. Ask me about it sometime and I’ll do it for you.

She is a treasure to this family. She and papaw were the people in the family that would give you the shoes off their feet and carry you through hard times. Papaw saved his pension and did well by memaw. She wanted for nothing after he passed. In fact, she helped several of us out financially from time to time and I can’t remember the last time she drove the old Ford Taurus. It’s been in one of her kids’ driveways (usually mom’s) for several years now. She passed these qualities down to her children, including my mother, and thus down to me. That’s family.

Thank you Gertie for everything. I’d list it all, but I don’t want to leave anything out.


I almost forgot about our quilts!

Memaw made a quilt for every grandbaby. She made several for others as well and some of us got additional quilts as the years went on. She also made a Kentucky quilt for my host family when I was in Germany. Anyway, all of these were hand-made. The early ones were more pattern-y than the later ones, but let me tell you the major difference between the two. The old ones, like mine and my brother’s quilts, were well worn. I used that thing until I physically outgrew it. Craig too. The newer ones were used, but not nearly as long from what I can tell. They’re much more displayable than mine, to be honest. She also made one that was a pattern like mine that had her and papaw’s names and their anniversary, and all of her children and grand children’s birthdays on it with scraps of the materials used in making the other quilts. That one gets passed around the family.

I actually do have pics of the quilt.

And that’s how I’ll end this post.

I love you memaw. Take care of papaw. I’ll come visit next time I’m in town.

Family Quilt with all of our names

My Square


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Maggie, the cats, and I have been in PA for just over a month now. It’s been kind of an adventure.

The move was much more expensive than we planned so we’ve been eating a lot of ramen noodles this month. Since we’ve been here we’ve experienced an earthquake, a hurricane, and over 14″ of rainfall (a PA record). We’ve been to downtown West Chester several times on days where the weather is good and I’ve found a few running spots for whenever I get off my lazy butt to do that again. We found a farmer’s market as well and are enjoying fresh, local veggies for the first time in a while. I’m actually spending a little more time cooking, which is to say I help in the kitchen 🙂

Maggie is applying for jobs everywhere and has had a few auditions with churches and the like. She has an audition today for a teaching gig teaching lessons in people’s homes. She is pretty excited about finding some work in her field. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. She turned down a church job in New Jersey because it wasn’t terribly feasible considering the travel time/expenses. She’s also considering taking a class or two at WCU.

I start my internship tomorrow. The first couple weeks are going to be filled with orientation, VA employee red tape, and “getting to know yous”. I’m not sure when I’ll get to work with my first client, but for now I’m happy get oriented and do something more than dissertate and goof off on my computer all day.

I’m still reading a couple of books, though not as heavily as I was at the beginning of the month. I’m working my way through the Harry Potter books at Maggie’s insistence and I’m on the third Anita Blake novel (audiobook). Usually I’ll read a bit before bed (in this case the Potter book), but Maggie and I have been catching up on TV shows on Netflix in the evenings (we just finished Battlestar Galactica and are nearly finished with Arrested Development). The audiobooks, as you may know, I typically reserve for my runs. I need to run more. Also, when I have run here I have been running with Maggie, so I listen to my iPhone less (obviously).

Finally, I’ve started playing Fantasy Football this year. I stumbled across a friend on FB who started a league and I decided to join. I watched John do it the last two years and I had planned on joining his league this year if there was a spot open (jury’s still out on that one). So I’m in several leagues at the moment, each one different from the next. I’m in a standard ESPN league, a light points per reception (PPR) league, and two autopick individual defensive player (IDP) leagues. I’ve enjoyed the draft process and planning my teams. It’s pretty much my only non-Guild Wars gaming outlet, so I’ve approached it with some fervor. I’m getting more and more excited about Football this year.

And that’s the highlights for the month. I plan on having more regular updates once I begin internship and start getting a paycheck that will allow me to do things around town. I’m not homesick yet, but I do miss everyone.

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Moving sucks. Apartment hunting sucks. That’s essentially the rant. Keep reading if you’re interested in the details.

Several weeks ago I made plans to fly to Philly to rent an apartment. Maggie and I found one on Craigslist and contacted the owner. It was as close to perfect as we could hope to find on such short notice. Two bedroom one bath house with a fireplace, small yard, washer & dryer, dishwasher, partial utilities paid, etc. for $1200/month (before you freak out, that’s a pretty standard rent price for the area–stab me).

In case you’re wondering, a one day trip to Philly, with hotel, rental car, and flight from Louisville, goes for about $500. This makes the second time I’ve made the trip (once nearly 2 years ago for an internship interview). Anyway, I make my connecting flight in Cincinnati and I get an email from the guy saying he’s rented out the place. Not only that, he rented it out THE DAY BEFORE. Ass.

So now I’m stranded in Philly for a day with no leads and expected to have an apartment lease by the time I arrive home the next day. That didn’t happen. I looked at about half a dozen places and called twice that many trying to find something that wasn’t an apartment complex. Several places were out of our price range. Several others were already rented and hadn’t removed their ads. Still, others were happy to accept one cat but refused to accept two (like we would choose one over the other!). I looked at a cottage on a farm that was nice, but it was absolutely farm living with all the little buzzy and crawly critters. We were responsible for most of the utilities and mowing the ~1 acre land it sat on. It was nice, but the cons outweighed the pros.

I narrowed it down to 3 complexes after it was all said and done and took all of their information home with me. I consulted Maggie and we made plans, narrowing it down to one complex. They required I show proof of income to prove I could pay the rent. No problem, except my income was slightly lower than their expectation and they would not accept any other source of income I provided (e.g., financial aid awards for the year). Since Maggie is between jobs, she couldn’t contribute a number to the cause, so we lost that one.

Finally we found a place that is going to work out. They accept cats, have all the amenities we want, and accept my proof of income. We still have a few hoops to jump through (such as getting shots for the cats and working with the VA for a proof of income letter), but we should have a place to live when we arrive in Philly next week.

Currently we are plugging away at the apartment here in New Albany. It is a mess. There are three of us going at it, so we’re making progress, but it looks like we’ve been robbed. Maggie took a carload to Goodwill today and we’ll prolly have another load later. I’ve got boxes of stuff to go through to separate trash from stuff I want to keep and I have started a pile for shredding. It’s hot and we don’t wanna do it anymore, but we should be done by Thursday or Friday.

There’s my update/rant. I’ll post more once we’ve gotten moved. Just thought I’d update since I haven’t in a while and people keep asking about the move.

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Smokey Kitty

This one’s gonna be a sad one folks.

Watching the birds.

When I was thirteen years old I got a kitten who was light grey in color and looked like he had stepped into and laid in white paint. Excluding the family dog Dingus and a small gerbil army, this was my first pet. I named him Smokey because of the color of his fur.

Early on he had a lot of energy and liked to pounce. He would run up and down the hallway and hide behind objects waiting for me to walk past so he could bite my ankles. Another of his favorite mischievous behaviors was to wait until I crawled into bed and pounce and nibble on my toes as I moved them under the covers. I also liked watching him stare out the large glass patio door at the birds flying around. I especially enjoyed when he would swat or pounce at them despite the glass barrier.

It wasn’t long before we acquired a second cat: Tigger. The two would chase each other and Smokey frequently showed the (slightly) younger cat who was boss. That’s when I started calling him the “old man.” Even though he was only about 2 years old, he had a quality about him that showed wisdom and respect. He reminded me a lot of an aged martial arts master who was quiet and calm but capable of taking on all comers.

I remember he had a big ear mite problem when he was younger and it led to him being touchy about his ears. Most cats will let you rub or pet their ears, and some even encourage you to do so, but he didn’t care for it. He would tolerate it in the moment and then shake his head back and forth as if shaking off water. I’ll admit, I was mean from time to time and rubbed his ears intentionally to frustrate him, but I also scratched under his chin frequently, which he loved.

Hanging out.

Smokey slept at the foot of my bed nearly every night I slept in that house. More specifically, he made a point to sleep between my legs which made it difficult to turn over without thwomping him. I blame a small percentage of my back problems to the fact that I slept in awkward yoga poses for most of my adolescence because of him. He did this every time I came to visit after leaving college for college as well. I’m told he adopted my mother after I left and frequently slept at her feet, as well as my brother and (at the time) little sister.

I stick my tongue out at you.

Smokey was a calm and quiet cat and seriously affectionate. He didn’t seem to have many of the more annoying personality traits that come with cats. He was rarely moody and not terribly shy, though he did like his isolation time. He rarely hissed at people and rarely left the front porch when we occasionally let him outside to see the birds for real. He would often sit next to people or perch over their shoulder and watch television, frequently grooming the person’s head in the latter case.

Whenever I would visit home while in college I would spend the first few moments after entering the house tracking him down and loving on him. I missed him a lot and even though I am living with other kitties (Zoie and Jasper), I still loved him and missed him. He helped us all through tough times and in a way represented a new beginning following my parents’ divorce. I watched him grow up alongside my sister who was born a year after we had Smokey–another new beginning.

Over the past year or so the old man has really been the old man. He was the oldest critter in my mothers house of 5 cats and a dog. He kept an eye on the younger critters and became a fixture in my mother’s home. He slept for long periods of time and spent a lot of time lounging in far corners of the house. He continued to be sociable, especially at bed time, but he was starting to show his age.

It starts getting sad here.

On the porch.

About a month ago I got a phone call from mom saying he was sick. He had developed tumors in his ears and throat. Mom cared for him of course as he began to decline steadily. He lost weight rapidly and his appetite waxed and wained. I went to visit him about 3 weeks ago and took some pictures. Even then he had lost about 3 lbs and was looking tired. The vet informed us that there was little we could do about his condition, even if we had caught it a year ago, and mom resolved to bring him home.

That’s the second time I’ve cried while typing this.

Smokey continued to decline and began to have difficulty moving around. Mom and I made one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make. I spent an hour with him at home sitting on the front porch Friday afternoon. I pet his soft fur and stroked his head and chin. I talked to him about a lot of things and told him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. We were surprised that he had hung on that long and mom had secretly hoped he would quietly pass away in the home. I realized that he was waiting for me. I have been traveling over the past 3 weeks and was unable to visit. He was waiting on me to say goodbye.

Mom and I were with him until the end. I don’t think either of us could have done it without the other.

Third time. Deep breath.

I miss him already. I tear up every time I think about visiting mom and knowing he won’t be there for me to find hiding in my sister’s room chilling out on her bed. He won’t be sitting on the couch grooming my hair. He won’t be sleeping between my legs at night. I won’t get to scratch him under his chin. I’ve honestly never felt grief like this before. No disrespect to family members who have passed, but this is as close to losing a sibling as I can imagine. I grew up with him and now he’s gone. I will never forget him.

Thanks to everyone who has given condolences and hugs. It means a lot to me. I look forward to seeing my kitties Zoie and Jasper and my wife Maggie real soon. I could use more kitty loving time and hugs.

Rest in peace Smokey. May 10, 1995 - May 6, 2011

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I’ve been in NC for a week now over Maggie’s spring break and now, this week, I’m enjoying mine. It is a nice vacation and I like to spend time with everyone out here. Last weekend Maggie, our friend Susan, and I went on a self-planned wine tour to five different wineries and punctuated our trip with a visit to the beach in Wilmington.

Two of the wineries stood out: The Country Squire Winery and Noni Bacca Winery. Country Squire reminded me a bit of Murray in the sense of Eastertime playing trumpet for the Catholics and eating at the Brass Lantern. Maggie said it reminded her of Patti’s, though I’ve never been (and that’s a shame). Country Squire is a restaurant and inn as well and it crossed our minds that we may make a return visit for another mini-vacation to stay in the cottage.The wines were excellent and I came home with a bottle of “Knicker Dropper.” Susan really liked the place and bought 3 bottles. One thing to note is that apparently there is a little girl that hangs out at this winery and occasionally makes her presence known to visitors. Paranormal groups visit regularly for a chance to say hello to her.

Noni Bacca was also nice and definitely a different locale than Country Squire. It was located in a strip mall adjacent to a mattress store. We did a wine tasting for $5 and got much more than our money’s worth. The staff were friendly and provided us with lots of crackers, cheese, and chocolate. We sampled something like fifteen wines and got lots of extra samples. I was sad that they had run out of a couple of the wines I wanted to sample, but they had a great selection of ice wines and fruit wines. I’m typically more of a semi-dry red wine kind of guy, but I really liked their fruits and whites. They recommended a fresh seafood place down the street that was awesome.

In between visiting these two wineries we paid a visit to the beach. The water was much too cold to wade into and, truth be told, the wind was very chilly as well. We went mostly to enjoy the view and read for a bit. We were pleasantly surprised to see a pair of dolphins swimming in the waves maybe 50 feet from the shore. It was the first time I have seen dolphins outside of an enclosure and Maggie said it was her first time seeing them while not in a boat. It definitely made my day for sure.

This week I get to visit Carl and my brothers-in-law. I’m looking forward to hanging out with Carl and catching up on things. He recently got a job out in Wilmington so I’ll have to pass along some of what we learned in our trip. I have a feeling the in-laws are gonna celebrate my (belated) birthday during our visit. They’re fun like that. It’ll be nice to have cake. It was the one thing missing from my birthday this year. And even if they don’t celebrate it (which I’m cool with too), it’ll be fun to spend the evening with them and play games with the boys.

Finally, I plan to get some work done with my dissertation this week. I’m hoping to work with some of the UNCG students to gather data. I’m partnering with PRIDE on campus to find participants and space to work and Maggie has a few friends who are willing to work with me. Hopefully I’ll get a handful of participants to take back to Louisville with me. I can get started scoring and work on my SPSS (read: boring statistics program) file to organize it.

That’s all for now. Oh, one more thing. If you read the blog regularly, you might run across the name “Belzan.” Belzan is the (nerd alert!) character I play in the online game Guild Wars. I also write a blog for him and other Guild Wars related things. I’ve honestly been keeping up with that blog a bit more, so you may see that name more frequently. All of my blog replies currently show up with “Jason” but I’ll be changing that to Belzan so as not to confuse those guys. Just a head’s up. I don’t love them more than you guys, I just see them more 🙂

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I am well on my way to collecting data for my dissertation. I have acquired IRB approval at Spalding and I’m awaiting approval at 4 other universities. Funny, the one in North Carolina is much more on their game than the local ones in Louisville. I have printed all of the documents I need and will be stuffing packets this week. I also need to purchase a couple of things, including a locking document box (which are harder to find than you might think) and an external hard drive (multipurpose since I need to back up my compy anyway). Other than that, I need to track down participants and get to it.

Friday is Match Day. I will know then where I will be for internship (or if I need to freak out a whole bunch). I’ll be glad to have an answer either way. I’m tired of waiting. I’m growing impatient for my future. I’d like to be able to say with some certainty where I will be in a year.

I have started to consider my health again. This time last year (give or take a month) I began exploring P90 and doing Sparkpeople. I’ve left the latter in the dust, but I have strong intentions to restart the former. I am 225 lbs–the heaviest I’ve ever been. Internship interviewing and all of the stress from these past few months have led to more stress eating and a tendency to want to sit and veg at the end of the day. I turn 29 in 10 days and I’d like to be healthier on for my 30th birthday than I will be on my 29th. Part of that means eating healthier and part of that means exercising regularly. I plan to jump start this process sometime in the next couple of weeks by kicking my own ass with P90X. I also intend to begin paying more attention to what I consume. Portion size is a problem as is eating when I’m not really hungry. I plan to reduce the number of times I eat fast food and how frequently I eat greasy/fried foods in general. I hardly ever drink soda anymore and I have been increasing my water intake, so I do have something to show for myself. I’d like to get back down to between 165 lbs and 175 lbs. Online BMI calculators are telling me 160-176 for a medium frame and 129-169 (BMI 19-25) for my ideal body weight. Honestly, once I’m down past 200 I’ll be happy.

Let’s see, what else? I get to visit Maggie in a couple weeks for a couple weeks. My spring break and hers bunch up against each other, so it’ll make for a nice mid semester vacation. It won’t be all play though. I will be gathering data for my dissertation at her school while I’m there. I should be visiting her from around the 7th to the 19th of March. Really looking forward to it, I must say.

That’s all for now.

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Last week was my second interview trip. I visited two sites and spent time with Maggie and friends. There were fun times and frustrating times, but overall, I consider the trip a success. Site info and highlights to follow:

Site 8 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

It took forever to get there, but I’m glad I made the trip. I encountered a  lot of travel problems enroute to this site (see previous post) and following my arrival in NH, I had to drive 90 miles to my hotel in VT. I’m talking speed limit 45 due to the icy mess that was the road with cops posted every mile or so to catch you for speeding. I’m talking arriving at my hotel at 1:30 in the morning for a 7:45 am interview time. But hey, I got a nice rental car. 2011 Ford Edge with heated leather seats, Sirius radio, AWD traction control, and only 4.5 miles on it (I was the first to drive it). Hella gas guzzler, but fun to drive.

The site was nice. Moderately sized campus,  as VA campuses go. The site offers pretty much everything I’m interested in in an internship site, including PTSD emphasis (with a connection to the National Center for PTSD), inpatient experience, broad assessment opportunities (including neuro and Rorschach), and outpatient opportunities at a local university counseling center. They also offer intensive training in Cognitive Behavioral and Brief Psychodynamic therapies. I knew going into it that this program would be intense and the interns confirmed it. One of the highlights of the trip was that I was interviewed by the executive director of the National Center for PTSD and, whatmore, he was intrigued by my dissertation topic.

Pros: Lots and lots of stuff that I want. I like that I get to try new things and challenge myself and I know that I will get good training at this site. There are a lot of unique opportunities at this site and it sounds like I’ll have some flexibility with my cases.

Cons: Less flexibility than other sites. Very intense 50-55 hr/wk program. Cost of living is moderately high, but hey, it’s New England, so the cost of living is high pretty much everywhere.

Best question asked of me: Nothing really out of the ordinary. I got grilled a bit on my theoretical orientation, but I used that as an opportunity to talk about their CBT and TLDP emphasis and how I want to explore additional theories to further strengthen my theoretical orientation.

Site 9 – On-Site Interview – VA Medical Center

I have to say I was a bit surprised by this site. It is ~1 hour from Maggie (which is a big selling point with her) and I was happy to stay with her and drive her car to the interview. I liked this site a lot on paper, but I like it even more now that I’ve made a visit. They seem very innovative in their thinking and program structure. They also offer a lot of flexibility and are doing things that no other VAs (to my knowledge) are doing, such as including family therapy as a mandatory part of an intern’s training. I’m very excited about their inpatient and outpatient PTSD programs and the manner in which they are organized. I will get opportunities to work with combat trauma and military sexual trauma and will learn several empirically supported treatments for PTSD. They offer a “come as you are” approach to training in neuropsychology seeking to teach the basics to interns who are new to neuropsychological assessment and preparing interns who are more serious for applying to a neuropsych post-doc. They also have training in, and opportunities to practice, hypnosis. The man who interviewed me also uses EMDR and is very interested in ACT and mindfulness, both of which are areas of current study for me. Overall, I’m pretty excited about this site.

Pros: Strong PTSD program, neuropsych and hypnosis training, and emphasis on group therapy. The staff were very welcoming and eager to provide a great experience for the interns. They even asked for feedback from us about the interview process. Cost of living is pretty good and, of course, it is near Maggie 😉

Cons: There is no peer supervision at this site and the opportunities for Rorschach are few given the time commitment to administering/scoring/interpreting/etc (which I completely understand, though I’m going to be a lot faster after this dissertation is done).

Best question asked of me: How would your friends describe you and how would you describe yourself?

So that’s that. I have one more phone interview on Friday and then I rank. I’m not gonna post my rank list here for obvious reasons, but I will keep you posted on how things turn out. Match Day is February 25th, so I’ll definitely post something about that.

Travel Highlights:

  • Flights canceled: 2
  • Flights delayed: 3
  • Total layover time: 8+hours
  • Airports visited: 5
  • Cars rented: 1
  • Hotel stays: 1
  • Days with Maggie: ~4.5
  • Meals with friends: 3
  • Parties attended: 1
  • I got to stay in a sweet suite in VT for approximately 5 hours (check in to check out)
  • I attended Maggie’s Alexander Technique class, which was a lot of fun
  • I met more of Maggie’s friends at a party/get together
  • I got to drive a couple fun cars
  • I got to hang out with Carl and play video games
  • I got to see snow mounds that were ~7′ tall

That about sums it up. I’ll update on my final interview later and find something else interesting to talk (or complain) about soon.

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