The Best Way To Support Your Adult Kids That Are Parents, Is To Keep Your Mouth Shut

Over the years, I have learned one thing that I hope I remember when I am older and my kids are older and have kids of their own: to keep my mouth shut. Don’t foist my opinion on them about how or what they are doing as a parent. Don’t make comments under my breath in regards to their mom’ing or dad’ing decisions.

Just. Keep. It. Shut.

Even if I don’t agree with something they are doing, or feel it’s hurt me or attacked my own decisions when I was a parent…the reason why is because their choices as parents are theirs to reap and sow. And as a mother-turned-grandmother (God, I shudder at the thought) I am not on the inside of all the aspects of parenting THEIR kids during THEIR time (times change, Mom).

Now it’s one thing if they come to me and ask for an opinion or advice. But if they don’t, unsolicited advice or comments or, as they most often come across, criticisms, should be considered better left unsaid.

My father, who lives with us, is the worst with the under-the-breath comments. I am constantly having to tell him to stop, which he doesn’t. It’s insensitive and hurtful, but never a direct confrontation. So I’ll give him that.

It usually goes something like this:

Me: “Ava, today your chores say put away the dishes.”

Ava: [whines]

Dad: “I’ll help you baby…I’ll be right there, you just put away the silverware.”

Me: “Dad please don’t help her, you’re just making it more difficult for me to get her to do her chores.”

Dad: “I’ll help her if I want.”

Me: “Dad, please let me be the mother.”

Dad: [Slams something down on the counter and starts walking away] “Yeah, a real great mother.”

It’s pleasant.

The thing about *my* dad, though, is that I have enough years and not-give-a-shit enough with him to be able to just let that roll off my back. I mean it stings at first, and I’m sure a psychiatrist is somewhere out there just rubbing his hands together, waiting for me to crack and spend years in his office at $300 a pop, but for now we’ll stick with…I get over it.

But this highlights an issue I’ve noticed more in public, among other parent-friends, and with my husband’s family, to a greater degree than with my dad:

Sometimes, the biggest Mom Shamers (or, if you will, Parent Shamers) are our parents.

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Many of you read my social media shit show saga just yesterday. If you missed it, you surely missed out. In any event, as a follow up my husband called his mother yesterday morning, much to his dismay because she had no interest in 1) letting him talk 2) actually listening to what he had to say 3) doing anything other than screaming over and over again that she is a victim and 4)…

To. Shame. Us. As. Parents.

The backstory is as follows: a couple weeks ago, we secured a new home. A better home. A bigger home. A home with a yard.

We had previously been living in and caring for a family-owned condo, and we knew that there was a high probability that said family would be upset we were moving out. Not only because they wouldn’t have us taking care of the lemon of a place anymore, but because then they’d have to find someone else to get in there to pay the mortgage. Now we could have been wrong, but there’s always that risk with them…so we had to play it safe for our own mental health and decision-making ability.

We wanted to be able to make our decision about the new home without the the opinions of others. Yes, sometimes asking for advice is the best thing to do; but on this one, we wanted to do it ourselves. It’s hard to make the right choices for your family enough as is without the opinions of every Tom, Dick, and Susie squawking in your ear like pigeons.

So we didn’t say anything at first to them, until we had made our own choices.

What complicated the issue was that someone saw online that we had been looking at places, and my husband’s mom heard about it (because what kind of a family doesn’t gossip and talk shit about every. fucking. thing they come across?) and she flat out asked us if we were moving out of state. This is a sensitive issue for her because her other son, my husband’s brother, along with his wife and toddler just moved … out of state.

“No of course we aren’t moving out of state” was our resounding response. Because we weren’t. My husband works in film, that’s actually a stupid question to begin with. Unless he were to move on to work at Girls Gone Wild in New Orleans (um, he actually did apply there years back – they pay well I guess)…we are LA area for life. It’s just the way it is.

But we didn’t continue the conversation beyond that. We changed the subject, because we weren’t ready to talk about it. We hadn’t made our final-final decision on anything yet. And, honestly, the way she responds to any kind of change in other people’s lives is not usually the most positive.

Even just us making a decision for ourselves like “I’m having surgery that day, would you mind giving me one day to recover before coming to visit” turns into a hurtful barrage of comments and attitude, and …opinions and shaming.

As a side note: the kids were there when this whole moving-out-of-state-freak-out happened, and we had talked to them and told them we didn’t want them to lie to Grandma, but it’s really important that they let Dad talk to Grandpa about it privately once we’ve made our decision for sure. Because of the sensitivity of it.

You see, I believe that it’s really important to, yes, teach my kids honesty; but at the same time to teach them that there is a time and a place for everything. And, more importantly, that it’s important to set their own boundaries on what they do and do not share with people; and even more importantly than that to set boundaries on the influence others have on their own happiness.

THOSE are the life lessons that I think are important, especially in light of our daughter already being worried that Grandma and Grandpa would be mad we were moving out of the family-owned home. She didn’t want to move into the new house at first because of that. To me, as a parent, I have failed if my kids believe they should make their life’s decisions based on other people’s bullshit.

Flash forward to yesterday, my husband had this conversation with his mom about the social media shit show, and her main focus was to actually talk about how that conversation about not moving out of state (just being clear: we aren’t, we are moving 2 miles down the road) was an example of how she doesn’t agree with our parenting. She doesn’t think we should be teaching the kids to lie to her and keep secrets. That she should be able to extract whatever information she wants from them, and that by teaching them to have boundaries on how much they share and how much they let others have say in their lives and happiness is bad parenting. Bad parents raising liars and sneaky, sly people that do things behind people’s backs.

What was my initial reaction? To feel shame.

But then I felt the opposite of shame: pride. I felt pride because in her negative reaction, I realized that our decision in this with the kids was actually the right one. That she validated our decisions as parents with her behavior; and more importantly that we actually sometimes make good choices for our kids. I’m not teaching them to be liars. In fact, we are very emphatic with our kids about honesty. Rather, we are teaching them about healthy boundaries – something so few people have, and everyone needs.

Now before all of you are like “oh damn, I can’t believe she’s putting all this on blast on the Internet,” I just have to say: very few people in my husband’s life – from the beginning of it to the end – give a shit enough about me and what I have to say to read my blog. Let’s say none of them do. And, remember from yesterday, I lost (deleted and blocked) 31 friends on social media.

But really… I shouldn’t have to hide what’s right. If you don’t like people finding out about your bullshit, you should probably not pull the bullshit.

And, I’m a writer. The old adage is you shouldn’t ever say or do anything around a writer that you don’t want out in the open. I’m fairly certain that the only reason my husband actually loves me is because I call out all the shit he is too afraid to call out.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about what is going on in your life that is categorically, without a doubt wrong. It ain’t up for debate. What kind of people have we become that feel we have to hide everything about our lives and not speak up about what is right and wrong?

People that are ashamed, that’s what kind of people.

In the end: isn’t that where this whole parent shaming thing got going anyway? We aren’t only just shamed for doing whatever we do, we’re shamed for talking about it too. We’re shamed for talking about our decisions, we’re shamed for talking about how we came to our ideas as parents, and we’re shamed for feeling ashamed.

Lord help us.

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I Lost 31 Facebook Friends Today Because I Posted About My Anxiety Disorder

By “lost” I mean that I gave them the boot. They were all family. My husband’s family, to be specific.

I have an anxiety disorder. It’s mostly hormonal at this point, but the more I deal with it the more I realize it’s also situational. Situational in the sense that I feel a huge conflict between who I am and what I feel I’m allowed to be.

What I feel my husband’s family allows me to be.

To the point, though: right now, I’m in a bad place anxiety-wise. Depression too. It’s OK for me to say that. It’s OK for me to talk about it. And it’s OK for me to set limits and boundaries with all of that in light.

That I feel I have to say any of that is absurd.

So we have been thinking about moving out of our neighborhood basically since we moved in about two years ago. There’s a lot of crime in the community, which is crazy because it’s a beautiful neighborhood with a lot of wonderful people. But moreover, the situation with living in a family-owned home was stressful. And…it just wasn’t enough room for our family.

Finally, several weeks back we found a couple rentals within our price range. Rentals that were bigger. Rentals that didn’t make us feel we were responsible for maintenance because of the family nature of it. Rentals that were a real step up for our family. We started looking at them, applying for them…and within a day or two of even looking, we got the best of all of them.

So we’re moving out of the family-owned townhouse in the crime-ridden community with AMAZING neighbors (that part is in no way sarcastic…except for the ones from that whole pee gate episode a while back, I have never met nicer people)…and the family owned townhouse is up for rent.

Today, my father in law just showed up at the townhouse, though, insisting he be allowed to come in and inspect the place to see what kind of work he would need to do.

To start, we have put so much work into the place simply because my husband and I felt it was our responsibility. Nay, it was said it was always his and his brother’s responsibility. So to be so freaked out and worked up about how much work it may or may not need before it goes up for rent again was a little…suspicious… Moreover, we paid through the 31st. If we need until then to move out, we sure as hell can. And if you really have to get all freaked out and come over – is it so hard to make a phone call and ask when a good time would be? REALLY?

Apparently.

In any event, my husband walked outside and asked politely that he come another time. Today was not a good time. My anxiety level was already through the roof. I have spent every day since Saturday (today is Wednesday) crying, most of the time for reasons I’m not sure. I’ve used more Xanax this week than in the last several weeks. In short: I’m a mess.

The move, however, has been going PERFECTLY. We have just a couple more days in the townhouse and the new place is basically all set up already. And my husband knew that I needed to know that THAT aspect was under control, since everything else seems to be falling apart. Not to have the added pressure of any complaints about the townhouse on my shoulders.

Also, my home is – right now – my only safe place.

His dad pushed his way past him, and barged into the house.

Terrified of my personal space being violated like that, I went up to our bedroom and shut the door. I stayed in there trying to stay calm until he left. It isn’t that I can’t be around other people, it’s just that my home is my only safe space and I need to feel that way. And who knows, anyway? I could have been in the shower. The kids could have been running around in underpants… Who thinks they can just show up and barge into another person’s house like that? ESPECIALLY someone you know has an anxiety disorder?

Once he left, I felt completely panicked and violated. My safe zone was taken control of. I’ve been working so hard to have safe zones – things that help me stay calm, help me keep my anxiety under control… now I have lost that one. Sure, we are moving out in just a couple more days…but a couple days with a panic disorder is an eternity.

So, naturally, I took to social media to vent my frustrations. I did it as vaguely and anonymously as I could. There was NO WAY anyone would know who or what I was talking about. NONE!

I had no intention of even going into specifics as to what happened. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, like I just did. I. Planned. Nothing. But. To. Post. A. Vague. Vent. And. Reminder. (And note: my husband’s dad is not on Facebook, so would never even see this.)

Here was the pertinent part (the rest was me talking about how much I truly hope to keep the friendships I have with my former community)…

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Within minutes, though, the family brigade came out in full force. First, my husband’s mother, who is never online and was at work at the time, suddenly became active enough on Facebook to see my post and decided to reveal in the comments who the offender was. Suddenly aunts were telling me I am ungrateful and should delete my post. That I should be thankful for everything they’ve done for me (to be clear: the only person that has done anything for us has been MY dad, and my husband will be the first to admit that). Shame on me for being such a terrible person!

Shame. On. Me. For. Having. An. Anxiety. Disorder. That. Necessitates. I. Need. A. Safe. Space. That. Being. My. Home.

I tried not to respond to their shit, but finally I did and just defended myself. Which I know I shouldn’t do. I’ve been going to therapy for this anxiety, and the therapist even tells me if I don’t stop defending myself to these people nothing will ever change.

But it just kept going. Suddenly uncles were revealing gossip that had clearly been spreading through the family about us moving out (the idea that we gave no notice that we were moving out). MY near and dear and long time friends were coming to my aid, and family were telling – Internet screaming – at them to butt the fuck out of family affairs. Family members were making public calls for other family to join in and back them up about not tolerating MY TOTALLY AND UTTERLY EGREGIOUS BEHAVIOR ANY FURTHER (it sounded a little drunk-Facebooking at that point). My husband, at work, started getting phone calls from people not even affiliated with me online to get me under control.

Like really?

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To all of this bullshit, I have a few things to say:

  1. It is not OK to just show up at someone’s house, under any circumstance, for any reason whatsoever, and just barge in. You may be stupid. You may have no manners. You may be a blood relative. Doesn’t matter – it is never OK.
  2. It is not OK to shame someone for having an anxiety disorder that requires a little extra consideration about the rude and ignorant shit you do and say.
  3. People are allowed to have feelings and express them.
  4. If you are so stupid so as to respond to someone’s vague post about something with all the specifics, YOU ARE TO BLAME when that escalates out of control.
  5. Facebook friends should be people I would actually be friends with in real life. I would never be friends with people that shame someone for having an anxiety disorder and asking that their personal space at home be respected because of it.
  6. My husband’s family never responds to all the positive and bad ass things I post online about our lives. Adorable pictures of the kids. Silence. Husband got a promotion. Nothing. Heather has an anxiety disorder. FUCK YOU HEATHER YOU DUMB CUNT HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT THIS FAMILY LIKE THAT.

Here’s the thing about it all that I have come to realize and think about over the last several months – not just today. Our kids are witnessing all of this. They hear about it or see it or feel the effects of it at a family party. Is this really the lesson I want to teach my kids? That people can bully and shame others for sharing about their mental health? My oldest daughter has generalized anxiety disorder – should I teach her that she should hide it and not set boundaries with others to keep that under control?

At this point, this isn’t even about me anymore. It’s about my kids. They deserve extended family that is accepting and loving and compassionate and doesn’t act like a bunch of psychotic drunks calling publicly for a revolt against someone that says something they don’t like. If someone doesn’t gel with those values I want to raise my kids with, they’ll be deleted and blocked from online and real life. Tonight, it happened to be 31 of them.

 

 

The 6 Stages of Watching Movies With My Husband

My husband works in film. Well, sort of.

He works for a multimedia marketing firm that makes trailers, sizzles, and other promotional materials for upcoming movies (including those dumb, digital billboards you see at the mall). He’s in the Disney division, so basically Disney movies have been forever ruined for us – not that he’s telling us anything (they are pretty crazy about their security); but Disney movies are now usually marred by how many hours of overtime the ad campaigns kept Dad away from home.

So anywho, you all can imagine that watching movies with him is therefore…trying…

There’s all the idiosyncrasies, the technical talk before and after, the “love of the game.” All of this for someone (that being me) who doesn’t give a single fuck about any of it, and moreover thinks the majority of movies made these days are piles of crap.

People tell me that this makes me super unsupportive of my husband’s chosen career. That because I don’t feign an utter love of the industry and films, in general, that this means our marriage is doomed and I’m the worst wife ever. Well beyond the simple fact that I was raised to believe that a job is just a job, and that your real life is actually defined by what you do with your family and for yourself…isn’t it just a little shitty to say that because my husband works in film, that I therefore must change my longstanding feelings and beliefs and just general preferences? That would be like a woman who hates baseball suddenly pretending to love it because her significant other likes the Dodgers.

Sorry, but that’s not how I play the game.

My husband is more than welcome to have his own enjoyments, and I of course support him, and make hearty sacrifices, for him to work in the career he chooses to work in. And in return, I expect the same for me. And whenever I intersect in this whole film thing…well, I try. I really, really try.

I always thought it would get better, or maybe easier; but alas all these years in, it hasn’t. In fact, every time we watch a movie, I go through a process. Sort of like a process of grief, I always make my way through these stages when watching movies with my husband.

Stage One: “Sure, this movie looks OK”

Even when it doesn’t look OK, I think to myself that it does because I need to go in being positive so that I’m not disappointed or angered too soon into the movie-going experience.

I should add that my husband and I watch a lot of movies, so I really try to keep upbeat about it because if I weren’t I’d be annoyed with the movie choice most days of the week.

The problem is that my husband has a very odd taste in film. Usually it’s some fucked up Lars Von Trier shit – and I absolutely cannot stand that guy. Or it’s something like a musical (in fact, we are watching Les Miserables right now, which I’ve seen before and just can’t deal with because I despise Anne Hathaway).

So I go in thinking “sure, this movie looks OK.” Even when it doesn’t. This is basically the denial stage.

Stage Two: “When can I start talking?”

I’m a movie talker. Not at the theater, no way. But at home, I like chatting it up about the movie while it’s going on. It’s just the way I am.

My husband, by contrast, is a silence-during-the-film authoritarian. If I breath too loud he gets upset. When we first started dating, we went to see The Reader in theaters and I sipped my Diet Coke (not even loudly), only to receive the dirtiest look from him I have ever received from another person.

It’s in my nature to banter through the movie, so usually pretty early on I begin to crave it. Like an itch I absolutely have to scratch, I start chomping at the bit to be able to say something – anything – about the movie that happens to be on.

Stage Three: “How did someone come up with this crap?”

To be absolutely fair…not every movie we watch is crap. And, I think I have a really high and strange standard for movies. My friend Jeremy used to make fun of me for how much I disliked basically every movie I watched.

I guess I just have really high standards. Or no patience. Or maybe I’m just not a movie person. I don’t know, but I’d say that 9 times out of 10 – unless we are talking about 80s movies – I get to a point where I wonder how someone even came up with some of these plot lines/stories/characters/whatever.

Stage Four: “Why couldn’t we just watch Uncle Buck again?”

I would be perfectly contented watching the same, ten or so 80s movies over and over again. I could just spend a whole day watching The Money Pit on repeat.

Why my husband is not willing to just do this continues to be beyond me.

Stage Five: “Fuck it, I’m going to talk.”

I’ve given up all hope, we’re usually about halfway through the movie at that point. And this is when I start to get the dirty looks, the sighs, and the attitude.  I typically start off by asking how much longer the movie will last. Then my husband will pause the movie over and over and over and over and over again as I ask questions, which just escalates into me rambling or talking or making the comments I wanted to make much sooner in the film.

Finally, we get to a point where I realize that the length of the movie is only being greatly prolonged by his constant, incessant pausing of the film. So I stop, and I move on to the final stage.

Stage Six: Sleep

I just turn over, lay down on the couch, and go the fuck to sleep. Go. The. Fuck. To. Sleep.

Rarely does my husband even notice that I sleep through the remainder of the movie. In fact, the other day he started asking me if I noticed something in the movie we had watched the night before. “Uh yeah, I was asleep for the entire second half of that one, did you not notice?”

He never notices. Which is perfectly fine by me.

The next day I always wake up, refreshed from my extra sleep yet guilty that I didn’t spend that time reading, and we start the process all over again. Either that night or later in the week. Another lull in our daily lives occurs, and we decide to put on a movie. And my process begins again.

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Being Supportive Does Not Always Make You A Good Person

I’ve had to do far too much supporting of others lately, and it has taken a toll on me. Keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself has pent up so much anger and frustration within me that I literally want to scream the truth in people’s faces sometimes – am I the only one that sees what is really going on here?

Yet still, I hold it in.

It started about 9 months ago when my brother in law and his wife announced that they were having a baby. At our BBQ. (Because our BBQ was totally all about them.)

Since then it’s been one family event after another that I’ve had to be supportive at. Living only 5 miles from my husband’s family (yes, we basically live in Everybody Loves Raymond) this has been weekly. At some points in the last 9 months, it’s even been daily.

All the while, I just wanted to scream in everyone’s faces the truth – that they were just separated a year and a half ago. That I have vivid memories still of my husband’s brother seeming practically unable to go on with life because his then-ex-now-again-and-pregnant-a-few-months-in wife had left him.

And, more importantly, that not everyone decides to have a baby and POOF is just pregnant. That some people struggle for years only to be unsuccessful at it, and that knowing this is going on with more than one family member, yet still flaunting it around ad nauseum, is at a certain point really shitty of them.

Am I the only one that sees what is really going on here? Hold that in, Heather.

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I could go on and on and on about all the things about this situation my husband and I don’t support, but I won’t. We’ve kept our mouths shut, with the exception of one occasion when we tried to have a reasonable and private conversation about it with his mother. We were told we should be more supportive. Since then, we’ve gone out of our way to be overly supportive of them, because we knew it was what his family wanted. (For that we’ve gotten it shoved up our assholes every way possible.)

Still yet, hold it in.

It has been way more than just that, though. It’s been the expectation to continue supporting my husband’s career even though it is very certainly, and undramatically, destroying our lives.

Hold that in, Heather. Don’t talk about the fact that we’ve got no employer-sponsored dependent health insurance, no retirement, and no raises in years at the Christmas party! That would be unsupportive of your man!

It’s been the measles outbreak – which we were actually exposed to, living in Southern California in a county that has one of the highest numbers of confirmed cases paired with some of the lowest pockets of vaccination rates. We sat there with my mother’s family last month, while friends and family talked about their wariness to vaccinate, as though we are all just supposed to stand by and watch irresponsible parenting run amok in society as a whole, in the name of supporting people’s personal choices as parents.

That was the same day we saw photos of my cousin’s wedding that we never received an invitation to, until a week before the wedding. She texted me and said she forgot to invite me. We were invited, but there were no kids welcome. In the photos, there were 12 kids present at the wedding we did not attend.

Hold it in. Hold it in.

As I have sat here for 9 months brooding and deleting my comments and biting my tongue so hard I need a pint of blood to cover the damages, I quietly – in my head – added again and again to the laundry list of all the times that something should have been said to stop this madness once and for all.

Then, a few weeks ago in a public forum I went nuts on anti-vaxxers. Not emotionally, not illogically. But nuts. Scientifically and morally, yet insane.

I cannot begin to describe how much better I felt.

Now, in the aftermath of that, as weeks have gone on and I’ve been more and more honest, and less concerned about what people think of me and how unsupportive I may come across, I just have to say it. Maybe it will be the thing to end the madness:

Being supportive does not always make you a good person.

Somewhere down the line being truthful and honest became pejorative qualities. Sound advice became negativity, and a sensitivity and attention to the realities of the world, no matter how insignificant any one of them may seem, made you a hater. Instead we should all just hold hands and sing Kumbaya and be supportive of each others’ decisions and endeavors, all the while lying about what is universally true and right and real.

So this morning I logged onto Facebook, because naturally that’s where I get my news. As I scrolled through the feed I saw articles, updates, baby photos, and eventually news from fellow writers.

And then I saw an update about a blogging anthology, which shall remain unnamed, that is going to be published. It’s a sequel, and to be quite frank I didn’t like most of the first one. The update was lamenting not being included, more a statement on that own person’s insecurities and hopes to make it in the blogging world. I didn’t really get that feeling at the news, but I’m a writer, not a blogger.

So me being tired of always supporting supporting supporting when I know that someone should cry BULLSHIT ON THIS NOISE, and feeling more and more comfortable over the past few weeks doing so again, inspired me to just post my own comment on how I was glad to not be included because I didn’t like the first book and prefer to not be included in that kind of book.

As a side, I know a lot of really gifted writers that cannot even sell 10 copies of the self-published books, while cliche and mediocre stuff is peddled and makes it to the best seller lists – there is nothing right or good about that at all. All I said, though, was that I’d rather not be included, as other talented writers should take that as support that there are other, much better, projects out there.

Now, I know it sounded rude the way I said it, though, and I quickly realized that a few of the essays in the first book were written by friends that I did enjoy. So I deleted my comment within a couple seconds. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings at the expense of me feeling better about being more open and honest.

Of course I did not delete it before the organizer of the anthology saw my comment and, apparently, was insulted – perhaps as insulted as I am by her writing, in particular how much of a bully she is to people she doesn’t like.

But that is all neither here nor there to the central point.

After deleting my comment and moving on with my day, I realized that maybe I shouldn’t have deleted it; and not deleted it because of my own feelings of being insulted. Maybe I should have said the entire truth all along, with everything. As much as other people have a right to be insulted by my lack of support, I have a right to be insulted by their flagrantly terrible behavior to begin with. With the opportunistic anthologies; with the BIL and SIL’s baby; with my husband’s job – with all of it.

Keeping silent about what I know to be universally true and right and real feels so much worse than the backlash of speaking up. And in the end, al that is sacrificed by staying silent is me. So speaking up makes me a hater. I’d rather be an honest hater than a loved liar.

In the end, who is really the good person?

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