A Letter to Oregon State Governor, Kate Brown

Dear Governor Brown,

 

This is my first time writing to any form of government. While I’ve always had my views on various issues in our local and federal government, never before have I felt compelled to write and express concern. While I am well aware that if any changes are ever made, they will have no benefit to myself at this point; I feel that for women everywhere in the state of Oregon, something needs to be done. My issue is the lack of laws regarding paid maternity leave in the state of Oregon.

Early this year my husband and I made the big decision to start a family. Swept up in the thoughts of tiny feet, maternity leave never even crossed my mind. When I did get pregnant, I started looking into what kind of leave I would get. I work for a very small company, with less than 20 employees. While very generous with their standard PTO, they offer very little for maternity leave; just two paid weeks. I do feel that my company is unique because they offer paternity leave as well; but whether you’re the one giving birth, or it’s your partner who’s giving birth, it’s still the same two weeks. I started doing the math and quickly realized that with the PTO and sick time I had already used four months into the year, and the two weeks maternity leave my company offers, I would only be allowed to take three weeks off from work. I approached my boss about this, and asked if maybe I could borrow from the three weeks PTO I would get in 2017, so that I could take more time off. I also stated that paid or not, I would need more than three weeks off. I was then informed that due to the size of our company, FMLA doesn’t apply, and I am not allowed to receive unpaid time off. I was told that with my remaining PTO from 2016, all of my PTO from 2017, the two weeks maternity leave, and the four paid holidays that fall into that time period, assuming I used X amount of hours for appointments, I could take a maximum of seven weeks off work. So I will get no PTO in 2017, and still have very little time to recover from childbirth, and adjust to becoming a mother.

I soon learned that we would be welcoming not just one baby, but two; we’re expecting twins. This meant a couple of things for me; more appointments, and recovering from giving birth twice. I’m now half way through my pregnancy, and I am realizing that I’ll be lucky if I get six weeks off. See, with twins, I have to have an ultrasound every time I go to the doctor. They have to make sure that both babies have a heartbeat, and the only way to do this is by having an ultrasound. So each time I have a doctor appointment, I have to schedule at least three hours off from work. I need two hours for the appointment, and an hour to travel to and from work and my doctor’s office. So far I’ve taken 12 hours off for appointments, and have another 12 hours scheduled off for my appointments through October; there will be more appointments, which increase in frequency the further along in my pregnancy I get. Each appointment takes away from the time I’m allowed to take off to recover from childbirth. Don’t even get me started on the costs related to prenatal care and childbirth, even with decent insurance. When all is said and done, my husband and I will be looking at around $7,000 in medical expenses from having our little girls.

I’ve been fairly involved in the online pregnancy community, and it’s easy to see that this is a nationwide issue. I recently saw something that graded states on how well they take care of new parents, and was surprised to see that Oregon was given a B+. Seeing as there are no state laws regarding paid maternity leave, I’m assuming this is because of the FMLA that allows parents up to 12 weeks of job protection, unpaid. While that’s nice, there are a couple of issues with that law. First of all, how are people expected to continue to support their families, while missing out on 12 weeks of pay? As I’m sure you know, one income households are a rarity these days. Secondly, there are a fairly large number of Oregon residents who are unable to use this leave, because they work for companies with fewer than 25 employees. Oregon is all about small businesses. From restaurants and family owned businesses, to small dental practices and locally owned service companies; there are a large portion of Oregon residents who are employed by smaller companies. So while you’re covered if you work for a larger corporation, you’re not if you’re one of the many people who work for the small businesses that help this state thrive. Beyond that issue, there are no state laws mandating paid maternity leave.

Our entire country is behind on this, as many countries have very generous paid maternity leave laws. While I know it may take some time, if ever, for things to change at the federal level, I feel that Oregon should take a stand, and set an example for the other states and our federal government. All elected officials claim to care about families, especially working families; so why is paid maternity leave still something that is nonexistent in the state of Oregon? I urge you as the governor of Oregon, and as a woman, to stand up for the women in our state, and do something about this issue. Choosing to start a family should not be something that is considered a luxury, or something that a person has to plan a year or more in advance, in order to take any and all time that their employer may or may not offer. Mothers deserve adequate time to recover and bond with their newborns, and they deserve to not worry about their jobs or how they will support their families during that time.

 

Sincerely,

An expectant mother, and native Oregonian

 

 

 

 

Crazy Life

Has it really been 8 months since I posted? SO much has happened in 8 months. It’s crazy when I stop and think about how different things are now.

First off, in February, our furbaby, who really was just a baby at not quite 4 years old, got cancer. Yes, a 4 year old dog, with cancer. Lymphoma. You’d imagine how expensive human cancer treatment is, with insurance. Dog cancer treatment is just as bad.  Dogs have shorter life spans than humans, so what could be years of life left for humans, translates to just weeks or months with dogs. We sat there with tears running down our faces, while our furbaby panted and wagged his tail, and the vet oncologist told us treatment was between $3k and $6k, and without it we had just weeks left with our boy.

I somehow managed to use social media for good, and made our boy semi instagram famous. Hundreds of kind strangers donated $3k to us, so that we could get the chemo treatment our boy needed for a longer life. I regained some of my faith in humanity that day. Our furbaby responded well to treatment, and we were so happy to have our boy in remission. He continued to be in remission for four months. Then the cancer came back, and it was very aggressive. We lost our boy on July 24th, just one month after learning the cancer had returned. This, in my short 29 years, was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. He was such a special dog, human like in so many ways. It’s been almost two weeks now that he’s been gone, and thinking about this still makes me cry. I’m so grateful for the 151 days we got with him since finding out he had cancer. I just wish that he could’ve lived his entire life span.

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While all of this was going on, on April fools day, I peed on a stick, and two pink lines appeared. This wasn’t a surprise, but it did take some serious convincing of the few people I told, including C. I mean, it was April fools day….but yes I really am pregnant! My whole life I’ve heard the stories from various mommies. The morning sickness, the food cravings and aversions, the heighten sense of smell. Yeah….not this pregnant lady. By the time I got to 8 weeks, and it was time to see my doctor and have our first ultrasound, I was actually pretty worried. I mean, I virtually had experienced zero symptoms at this point. Sure, I was really tired, and I did have moments when I felt queasy, but had yet to throw up. I’m telling the ultrasound tech this, in response to her asking how I had been feeling…and just nonchalantly she tells me, “Well the extra nausea is probably because you’re having twins!” I gasped and exclaimed, “what the f**k?!”, while C sat there laughing and saying “oh man” over and over again. Apparently my face went though a series of comical expressions as I was looking at the monitor, when they tech told us the news. We will be parents to twins.

I’m now 21 weeks, and we’ve learned that our little jelly beans are very quickly growing into healthy baby girls. I feel very lucky that this pregnancy has been so easy for me, compared to others. Mostly I’ve just been tired…normal body aches and generally feeling like a blimp. Mostly it’s been emotional for me…how the hell are we going to take care of two babies at once?! C seems pretty confident in our untested parenting abilities; I’m getting there. I expect the next four months to be filled with all things baby. Baby girls should be making their grand entrance around Thanksgiving. I look forward to sharing the crazy adventures that come with twin parenting.

Invest in yourself: Self care and other themes for 2016

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I had a very crazy year in 2015. My life, was completely flipped upside down, turned wrong side out, ran over, drowned, and then laid out flat to dry. It’s okay though! It ended with very positive and promising things ahead. Me saying that it’s okay, is also part of why my year ended the way it did.

There are a million things that went on in my life this year, and I won’t get into details, because really the most important thing that went on, was the one thing that absolutely affected everything else in my life; my depression.

Depression is such a taboo topic in our society. I never use to talk about it, what will people think of me if they knew I’m on medication? If they knew there are days when I can’t get out of bed? What if they knew that while on the outside I seem fine, “perfect” even, really on the inside I’m destroying myself? I feel like we are all trained from a very young age to never show weakness. We’re trained to think of lobotomies, insane asylums, and people shuffling around in pajamas with blank looks on their faces whenever the words mental illness are uttered.

It’s not even just society, it’s our families, our friends, our peers. As an adolescent, a teenager, and a young adult I fought daily battles with myself, with my self esteem. I was a chubby kid, I had acne and frizzy hair, my family wasn’t poor but we weren’t rich either, so I never had the “cool” clothes. I was socially awkward, to the extreme. I grew up in a Mormon household; not only a Mormon household, but a shunned-by-our-church-community Mormon household. I was home school between the ages of 8 and 14; for the record, that’s a very bad time to not be in school, learning the basics of human social interaction.

By the time it became just too much to handle, and I finally went on anti depressants while in my early 20’s, I was so incredibly angry to learn that several of my family members had been on them for years. I felt so betrayed learning that, because I was always pretty much told to suck it up, that people had it worse, to stop complaining; I believe at one point I was even told to pray. This was the culture I was raised in; I was raised to believe that depression wasn’t normal, it wasn’t okay, it was something to hide.

I’d like to say that my battle ended there, and that I lived happily ever after. The placebo effect isn’t something that only happens when someone isn’t given actual medication. Sometimes, things have gotten so bad, that you don’t even know what “normal” is anymore; maybe I never really did know “normal”. So when I started taking the meds, yes, things “got better”. What I didn’t know though, was they could be even better. I made two giant mistakes: first, I thought that taking anti depressants would fix everything, all on its own; second, I thought after a couple of years that I was “cured”, and no longer needed to take the meds.

I wasn’t better. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. I had just learned to hide it better, and instead of being sad all of the time, I had this overwhelming need to be perfect, to control everything in my life. Subconsciously, mind you; I really had no idea that this what was going on in my life. I was always stressed. If things didn’t go how I had planned, if something unexpected happened, if my routine was disrupted in any way, I had a meltdown. It took a lot of shitty things happening, it took me hurting people I loved, it took people I loved hurting me, it took being alone for the first time in almost a decade, for me to see all of this for what it really was.

The first time I saw a therapist I was 28 years old (I’m now just 29). I didn’t go for me, I went for my marriage, but it turned into being just me. I don’t know how to describe therapy, I don’t know how to tell someone why it works; I just know that it worked for me. I went back on my meds; in fact my doctor doubled my dosage. I didn’t even know that was an option, I didn’t even know that I truly did need a higher dose in order to get the full benefits of the medication. I think the most important thing I get out of therapy, is I learned how to love myself. I learned how to better my life, how to see things from a different perspective, how to handle stress, how to not blame anyone (including myself) for anything. I learned how to manage my depression. This was the key component that I was missing the first time I started taking anti depressants.

With the new year, I thought a lot about everything I have learned this year. It was so nice, actually, to look back and realize that even if in theory I had a shit year, I learned so much from it. I came across this post on Buzzfeed, and so much of it made so much sense to me. Before, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes, and made some sarcastic remark about someone not getting hugged enough as a child. Oh but no, it’s true.

23 Things To Do To Improve Your Mental Health in 2016

Some of the ones that stuck out to me the most, the ones that I have decided will be my theme for 2016. Yes, my theme, I no longer will have New Years Resolutions, or set goals. Not to say a person shouldn’t have goals; it’s just that the word goal implies that if you don’t meet it, that you’ve failed in some way.

  • Learn to say no, without explaining yourself

This is so important! No, I can’t do this thing for you. No, I can’t make it to that event. No, I don’t need to deal with this for any reason. I don’t need to explain why I can’t help, or why I can’t go. It’s not selfish, it’s self care.

  • Pick up a hobby that’s only purpose is to make you happy

As I got older I got so wrapped up in “adulting”. In work, in keeping my house clean, in managing my budget, in keeping my family happy. What about keeping me happy? What about doing something just because I like doing it? It’s important.

  • Budget for little indulgences that make you feel good every month

Buy yourself that book you’ve been wanting, go get a mani/pedi, go splurge on things for that new hobby you’ve picked up. You work hard, so you need to reward yourself.

  • Cut should from your vocabulary

I should’ve worked out, I should’ve eaten better, I should’ve done that project-NOPE. I would like to work out, I would like to eat better, I would like to do this project. Cut the negative talk, don’t beat yourself up for not doing something.

  • Complain less

Oh this is a big one for me. Prime example of me putting this into action: I took Monday off work, so that I could take my car in to get repairs that it pretty much desperately needs at this point. However, Portland got a surprise snow and freezing rain storm on Sunday! Which meant that come Monday, my car was iced in, and the roads were a mess. I couldn’t take my car in as planned. I could’ve been upset, I mean I was upset, but I could’ve let it ruin my day. I could’ve complained about it, and been grumpy. Instead I said it is what it is, I have a couple more PTO days coming up, I’ll just take care of it then.

  • Cut back on social media

I deactivated my Facebook on January 2nd. I did this for many reasons. It’s been less than a week, and there are moments when I wonder what is going on in the world of Facebook, and others when I really don’t care, because Facebook isn’t the real world.

When I thought about how I wanted 2016 to be, I thought about what I really wanted and needed to be happy. I would like to workout more, I would like to drink less, I would like to have more adventures, I would like to spend more quality time with my husband (read: put down the iPhone dammnit!), I would like to find things that make me happy, I would like to make self care a priority.

I hope that if you are battling depression, that you realize that it is okay to have depression. I hope you realize that there are ways, that may sound cheesy, but there are ways to better your life. Cheers, to not a better year, but to a great year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The calm after the storm; what I’ve learned

I’ve had a rough year. I know, the year isn’t over yet; but so far it’s been probably the worst year of my life. I could also argue that it’s been the best year, in the sense that I’ve learned more this year, than I have in my previous 28 years on this planet. I won’t get into details, because honestly it’s no one’s business (a thing I’ve learned). I will however,  pass along the valuable life lessons I’ve learned.

Your business is just that, your business. The world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do not need to know every meal you ate, every store you visited, who you’re with at every moment, every trial you’re going through, every fight you have with your husband, your family drama, or every damn thought that pops into your head throughout the day. It’s an easy habit to form, and an extremely hard habit to break. I think I’ve finally broken it; my posts now a days consist mainly of photos of my dogs, inspirational quotes, and articles, songs, or videos that I feel are worth sharing. The posts of “Getting dinner with babe at ____________, and then seeing ________ at ________. Yay for date night!” Followed by a tag and a check-in, are I would say nonexistent now. A little mystery in life is a good thing, actually catching up with people you haven’t seen in awhile, is a good thing. Beyond the world of the internet, your mom, dad, sister, brother, three best girlfriends, in-laws, and the neighbor down the street don’t need to know, nor do they even actually care, about every spat you get into with your spouse. Your business is your business, and the world is a better place if it stays that way.

I’ve learned that you should never take anyone for granted. Treat the time you have with the people you care about as if it’s about to run out. Because it can, sometimes it will, sometimes you’ll get another chance, and other times you won’t. I’ve learned that you don’t really know what you would do, until it happens to you. You may think you do, but darling, let me tell you, until it happens, you don’t. Even then, you still don’t know. I’ve learned that family is quick to judge, and while it may be delayed, friends are too. I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion about your life, and how you should live it; I’ve also learned that you should never listen to this unsolicited advice. I’ve learned that sometimes family will try to make you pick sides, and that they only side you should ever pick is your own. I’ve learned that only you can take control of your life, seeing as it is your life, and it is your right to live your life how you choose to, free from the judgement of your friends and family. I’ve learned that people will judge you anyway, and that you don’t have to put up with it. It’s okay to cut people out of your life who bring you down, make you feel stupid for feeling how you feel, or try to control your decisions in life. I’ve learned that even fewer people will recognize this, and will eventually let you live your life as you choose, without commentary, simply because they love you and they’d rather be in your life than not.

I’ve learned that it’s easy to lose yourself, and extremely hard to find yourself again. I’ve learned that loving yourself is the single hardest thing you will ever do. I’ve learned that until you do love yourself, the love you give to another isn’t all of the love that you truly have to offer that person. I’ve learned that the one person who loves you when you cannot love yourself, has their limits. I’ve learned there is a pain, so intense, that no words can describe it. I’ve learned that tears and “I’m sorry” can’t fix some things. I’ve learned that people will change their mind, and change their mind again, and again. I’ve learned that hurt, hate, time, and distance will not make you stop loving someone. I’ve learned that I have one person, who I will always be connected to.

I’ve learned that depression is a very real, crippling illness, and it’s not something that can be ignored. I’ve had days when I couldn’t stop the tears, days when I couldn’t get out of bed, days when I couldn’t bring myself to eat, to shower, or to do more than hit next episode on Netflix. I’ve learned that the wine and whiskey diet is a sure fire way to drop 20 pounds fast. I’ve learned that it is entirely possible to lay in bed all night, and not get a moment’s sleep.

I’ve learned that patience isn’t a virtue, it’s a life choice. I’ve learned that loving someone isn’t enough, that love is a choice that you make each day, something that you have to work for, something that you have to continually give to if you want to keep it alive. I’ve learned that marriage is hard; really hard. I’ve learned it’s better to bite your tongue, and swallow your pride, rather than starting a fight. I’ve learned that you need to be aware how your spouse reacts to certain things, make a mental note, and learn from it; they will appreciate that you’ve noticed and are making an effort to compromise, rather than just ignoring it. I’ve learned it’s important to communicate with your spouse, that you should never hold anything back that you really feel is important, and that you should learn to let go of the things that aren’t. I’ve learned that you should always focus on the qualities you love about your spouse, not on the things that annoy you. I’ve learned that cell phones can be a death sentence for relationships, and that being “unplugged” at home is pure bliss.

I’ve learned that you can’t be perfect, you shouldn’t be perfect, and that’s okay. I’ve learned that life can’t always be planned, and that there is beauty in the unknown. I’ve learned that sometimes the best way to take control of your life, is to lose all control first. I’ve learned to “never say never”, and that nothing is ever set in stone. But most of all, I’ve learned that there is a calm after the storm, true love never really dies, and to have one person whom you are willing to do anything for, is a gift that should never be taken for granted.

Married people should date

Are you married? Or have you been in a committed relationship for awhile? If so, you should date. Date your spouse or partner that is.

Oh dating. Lunch dates, movie dates, dinner dates, breakfast dates; Mini golf, arcades, hiking, river adventures. Do you remember these things? I do, they just seem like they were so long ago. Somewhere along the line, life happens, and people get comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with comfortable, but maybe we should try not to get too comfortable. People stop working out, stop caring about whether or not they look hot or a hot mess when they see their S/O. When people date, they get to know each other, they talk constantly, they do, er, other things, constantly. People do things for the person they’re dating, to show them they care; surprising them with little gifts (I saw this and thought of you!), surprising them at work (I was in the neighborhood, so I thought we’d have lunch). You see the pile of laundry waiting to be folded and think, hmmmm, I know they’re pretty busy and stressed, I’ll just fold these clothes really quick.

People get comfortable, they get use to someone being there. There’s always someone there to bitch about your day to, someone who’s going to do the grocery shopping, or clean the house, a warm body in the bed next to you. You start to just expect that person to be there, like the mail each day, it’s just the norm. You forget to appreciate your S/O, to thank them for being there, to thank them for choosing you.

I think that sometimes people forget that relationships and marriages aren’t concrete, they aren’t set in stone, never changing. I think they’re probably more like gardens; they go through seasons, they grow, they need tending to, they need attention and care, they need maintenance.

Married people should date. They should continue to get to know their partner, continue to fall in love daily, continue to grow as individuals, and as a couple. Go date your spouse, I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

The Dream

I’ve noticed that whenever someone asks my husband or I how we’ve been, we usually reply with “oh you know, just living the dream.” HA. The dream, “The American Dream” is a joke, just so you’re aware. In fact, the whole phase in life known as adulthood is one big fat trap.

TV, movies, your baby boomer parents, your great depression era grandparents would all have you thinking that the way life goes is this:

You spend 12 years going to high school, then you graduate.

Then you get accepted to a four year university, which you will pay for with scholarships of course.

Then you will graduate, and right away land a living salary job with your degree, because honestly, you won’t get a living salary job unless you have a degree.

You will then be able to purchase a house! And of course, be able to make the mortgage payments, and all other expenses with no issues, because you went to college, and got that degree!

Then you may or may not meet someone. You may or may not fall in love and get married. You may or may not start a family.

You will retire at age 65, with your awesome pension, from your awesome job, and continue to live your life out happily ever after.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Here’s how it really goes, for me at least, and most of the people I know:

I spent 12 years going to school. I graduated from a good school, a technical trade high school, where I learned more than your average American high school student. I graduated with a 3.85 GPA, and high honors.

I attended community college, which I paid for with loans, because I’m a white female from a middle class family, and I didn’t qualify for any scholarships. None. Federal financial aid? Yeah that’s a joke. They base your eligibility off of your parents income, because they expect your parents to help pay for your college education, until you are 24 years old. After that, then they will consider just your income. Those loan payments by the way, are $450 a month.

I didn’t finish my associates degree, because I was also living on my own, paying ridiculous Portland Rent, just trying to survive. Working full time and going to school just became too much. I think I might’ve jumped off a bridge if I had continued. So I didn’t. Plus, those loans ran out, and that means books and tuition were coming out of my pocket.

I moved out of my parents house at 19, and spent the next 8 years moving every two years, from one cramped apartment to another. From one crappy neighborhood to the next. Just wherever we could afford.

The we, would be my husband and I. This is part of the “American Dream” that actually came true. At 20, I met a boy, and we fell in love. We got married 7 years later.

At 20 years old, I left my mall retail job, for a “better” retail opportunity. Only to be fired a month later, because I wasn’t cheery enough. I spent one month unemployed. I didn’t collect unemployment. I relied on the kindness of others to make it through that month. I then, by the grace of the universe, landed my first “adult job”, through a temp agency of all places. I still work at this job. I don’t make an astronomical amount of money, but I make more than most of the people I call friend. I have full medical, dental, and vision, which I don’t pay a dime for. I have profit sharing, and 401k. I receive 29 paid days off a year. My supervisor, which I’m hopefully being set up to replace when she retires, make $60k a year. I got lucky in this. I truly, truly did.

We got married this last summer, in a park, with a potluck reception. We bought our first house, but only because we received a federal grant for the down payment. Without this grant, owning a home would have literally never been possible for us. Because, when you’re paying rent, and all the other millions of bills you have, how does anyone have even 3% of the purchase cost of a house just lying around?

Even with my amazing job, and my husband busting his ass at his full time job, we have two roommates. We could do it without the roommates, but for what? We would literally be working to have nothing. That ladies and gentlemen, is what has become of “The American Dream”. You get out of a hole, to have your pipes clog, and you spend $60 trying to unclog them yourself, because rotor rooter is at least $300. Your dryer breaks and you spend $50 on parts, trying to figure out how to fix it yourself. Your car breaks down, and you hope it’s not something expensive, or worse, something that you can’t fix yourself. Your dog gets into something and starts throwing up, and you spend $200 at the vet to have them tell you he’s fine, just feed him chicken and rice for a few days. You get bronchitis, and miss a week of work, and spend $100+ on doctor and prescription co-pays; and hopefully you’re lucky enough to even have paid sick time. Your dog eats your only pair of shoes, and you have to go out and spend money you don’t have on new ones. You lose weight, and your clothes don’t fit, and you have to go buy new clothes. It’s really a never ending, very expensive, trap.

Us “millennials” are told that if we put our minds to it, and work hard enough, we’ll be rewarded. This is utter crap. Because believe me, we hard hard enough, and it’s always a struggle. I know plenty of people who work harder than I do, for half the money, and live in tiny 700sqft apartments, in very scary neighborhoods. The Dream is a joke.

The Last PTA Meeting I Will Ever Attend

I don’t normally reblog, but this post just hit a nerve with me. This woman, and her husband, are amazing parents their child. The intolerance that they have to endure is just incredible.

Raising My Rainbow

PTA-logoImagine my utter delight when I learned that at the next PTA meeting, someone would be speaking about the anti-bullying laws in place to protect LGBT and gender creative kids.

Although I’m a card-carrying PTA member, I’ve attended only three PTA meetings in my six years as mother to an elementary-school-aged child. Each time I sat through the meeting feeling like the PTA wasn’t the place for me.

But, hell, if they were going to be discussing LGBT and gender issues, maybe I had been wrong.

I walked into the crowded Multipurpose Room and found a seat in the back corner by myself. I listened as the PTA board and its members ran through the agenda. When they started passionately discussing the nutritional value of whole-wheat goldfish crackers versus original goldfish crackers, I tuned out. I will never argue about goldfish crackers; of that you can be sure.

Finally it…

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