Five quirks of mine that I just adore

I am a quirky person. And…honestly…I’ve come to love and adore those little oddities that I get to call all my own. I think those funky personality traits that make us each unique and special are to be celebrated! Although I know some of mine drive Scott to the brink of insanity; in truth…he loves them just as much as I do because they are what makes me – ME!


I absolutely love rules. Lawfully imposed rules, moral rules, flexible guidelines – I love them all! And who would have thought it if you reviewed my teenage years where I spent most of my time figuring out how far I could bend and break the rules without too serious of consequences. But now I love rules. Most of them I know are personally imposed; a matter of perspective and interpretation. For me, they help generate a feeling of structure and security. I also feel a great sense of personal integrity and self-esteem from following those lawful and moral rules that are important to me; “my word is my bond” kind of thing. I don’t cheat at games, or in relationships, I don’t peek into Christmas presents, and I try to be as honest a person as I can be. Rules Rock!

Lists and Plans

OMG – don’t get me started with how much I ADORE lists and plans. They are my lifeline, my guideposts, and my heroes. If I am feeling frazzled or overwhelmed, all I need to do is sit down and compose a plan with supporting to do lists and I am a happy, organized, calm girl. It’s like by putting it down on paper, I feel less apt to forget something, I get the anxiety out of my head, and it enables me to relax and just start checking stuff off. They help me feel on top of my home and professional life. Poor Scott is constantly inundated with “honey, I have a plan…” or “here’s a list of stuff to get done for the weekend.” Although he isn’t a big fan of the lists and plans, thankfully he sees the extraordinary value they’ve brought to our lives (and saved our butts more than once) so he’s pretty accepting of this quirk. Although, we have agreed, no more Christmas shopping lists – he had to draw the line somewhere.


I have always been someone who values my sleep. As a baby and a child, my mother said that she never had an issue at bedtime with me; I always went easily and happily. Nothing much has changed in that realm. I like my sleep! Seriously, I would be thrilled if I could get nine to 10 hours of sleep every weeknight, although I settle for around eight hours. On weekends, ten hours (with an afternoon nap if we have late evening plans) is ideal! Now mind you, I don’t let my love of sleep control my living but, it does mean that I can get a wee bit rigid on my bedtime. Most evenings, I calculate backwards the number of hours of sleep I want, the amount of time my bedtime routine takes (including some bedtime reading), so that I know exactly when I want to be jumping in the sack. And once I hit that time threshold – watch out. I get awfully grumpy if interrupted or delayed. However, in the last year, I’ve worked hard to relax a little bit because I know this is one quirk Scott wishes I’d “loosen” up on.

Being on Time

I am seriously obsessed with being on time! It’s a huge pet peeve of mine if people are constantly late for no good reason. Now I understand, life happens and we (me included) are all late from time to time. But for me personally, I strive, almost to a fault, to be on time. I think it’s because I feel like it’s a part of my integrity and says a lot about my character. If I tell you that I am going to be somewhere, at a certain time, I am there. You can count on me. Your time, and my time, are important and both deserve to be mutually respected. But – as with any obsession – I can take it a bit far. For example, in the mornings, I used to turn into a huge grump if we were running a few minutes past our usual departure time. Or I could get a serious cranky on if we were leaving the house rushed to get to a family dinner at my Mom’s. And, in both those cases, arriving five to 15 minutes late isn’t the end of the world. So…this year I turned over a new leaf recognizing it’s about knowing when being on time is a matter of respect and integrity and when being close to one time is acceptable. So far, I am doing wonderfully!

What little quirks about yourself do you love or what ones would you change?


Let the birthday seasons begin

This weekend was one of fun, friends, and shopping. Friday night I celebrated another gal pal’s upcoming birthday with dinner, wine, and lots of laughs. We were in the midst a serious snow storm (30 cm) so there was no better place to be but warm and inside. I wasn’t worried about getting home on the roads since this storm was no match for our newly acquired Dodge Ram (Scott was my chauffeur since I was enjoying some drinks). There’s something very special about girlie evenings where you sit around, munch on great food and great wine, and just ramble steadily for a couple of hours about boys, jobs, gossip etc. We tee-heed for hours and I came home feeling rejuvenated and giddy!

On Saturday, Scott and I ran errands and did some BIRTHDAY gift shopping. Scott’s 40th bday is around the corner (Jan 27) and I felt like the milestone warranted something special and long-lasting. We do have a dinner party and evening out planned for a Saturday night celebration with friends and family but still – it’s his 40th – and I am a huge birthday person so we needed to commemorate with some serious shopping.

Given the winter season, the recent dumping of snow, and our desperate efforts to try to find winter sports that ease the pain of getting through our  New Brunswick winters (which usually last about 5 months), cross-country skis came to mind. We have snowshoes and have enjoyed them in the past but – there’s something missing. I thought skis might be just the ticket. I would have actually preferred to buy downhill skis but the budget wasn’t quite that extensive so cross-country it was. And low and behold, Scott was on board with the idea so off we went Saturday a.m. shopping up a storm.

$700 bucks later, we were both geared up with skis, poles, boots and bindings (Happy Birthday to me to…again!)

We went out Sunday to give the little suckers a try. I cross-country skied as a young girl but hadn’t been on a set in about 20 years. Although I was shaky and wobbly (and did take a tumble), I loved it. And WOW – what a workout! We only went about 30 minutes and we are STILL recovering. Although, a contributing factor to my soreness may have been a zealous Pilates session Sunday evening adding to my screaming core, shoulders, and inner thighs! I stepped on the scale Sunday morning and had only lost 1.6 pounds in 20 days even with ALL my efforts so I got a bit extreme…no kidding!

I can’t wait to get out on the skis again. Hopefully, we will get out this weekend if we aren’t too “hung over” after the celebrations Saturday evening.

And…guess what arrived today…my KINDLE!

I have loaded Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and the Sookie Stackhouse series of eight books – in a mere 30 seconds (for everything…holy sh*t) and for a total of $40 bucks! Woot woot! I expect this will be a good start and now that my Kindle baby is fully charged, I think I’ll head off to bath and bed and give it a whirl…Stay tuned….

Staying inspired through the chaos

When I look at my calendar widget to the right, I can see that I haven’t blogged much in the last two weeks. I think it’s mostly because my work has been insane. By the time I get home at night, I am zonked. I am lucky if I can stay focused long enough to commit to eating at home and choosing something fairly healthy to eat.

After supper, I sink into the couch and curl up into my favorite position in the nook of Scott’s arms drawing in his heat and love. Ahhhhh – it feels sooo good! After about an hour of couch cuddles and TV, I have been doing remarkably well at pealing myself out of my fav comfort zone to do Pilates. Kudos to me! But walks have been out of the question – it’s freaking cold and snowy out!

After all that is done, I am ready for a bath and bed.

In times like this, when work just seems to take the stuffin’ out of me, I feel like my “home” creative brain shuts off completely. All I want to do is get warm and watch TV; my motivation seeps away leaving me with a long wish list left untouched.

How do you keep your creativity and your commitment to writing when you already write all day, every day, and under great pressure to boot? How do I turn the juices back on?

I was wondering if creating a habit of writing is what I am missing – setting a specific time aside every evening where I go into my office, shut out the world, and write – about anything and about nothing – for the blog, for my journal, for shits and giggles. Whatever. If I just wrote – with no intention and no prescription. I bet that type of set-up would help me through the tougher creative times such as these.

What do you do to keep the creative juices flowing through the times of chaos or fatigue?

On a happy note, I ordered my birthday present. A bit early considering my birthday is mid-March but I like a nice, long birthday season. The Kindle should be here in a couple of weeks. I already perused the long list of books and marked a pile into my Wish List to download once the little gadget arrives. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it – happy birthday to me!

Books that have moved you

For the last few weeks, I’ve been considering purchasing a Kindle. It’s a portable e-book reader that I think is gaining quite a bit of popularity. Given the cost of books and how quickly I devour them, I think a Kindle would be a more cost-effective option for me. The last book I purchased was The Confession by John Grisham. I was in desperate need of a read, I like John’s writing, but the book was only available in hardcover so I caved and spent around $29.99 to buy it. As an e-book, it would have run me about $9.99. Considering the Kindle is $139.99, it would practically pay for itself in seven hardcover books and then…well…let the savings begin! At that rate, how can I not buy one???

Scott supports the idea and with a birthday coming up in March, he figures I am coming into a splurge opportunity. He knows how many books I go through in a year. I’ve never kept count but I’d guess I read around a book every two or three weeks – give or take and depending on the density. That’s around 12 to 16 books a year. Add to that, he thinks I’d actually be more “comfortable” reading on a Kindle than the traditional page turners – interesting – perhaps so?!

I also like the idea of the convenience of it. When I am done reading a book, I wouldn’t have to make a trip to the bookstore. I could just jump online, find the next best thing, click download and TADA – book ready! I don’t know how many times I haven’t anticipated finishing up a read only to be caught with no new material at the bedside – grrrr! This would definitely be a huge plus for me.

Anyone try the Kindle yet – thoughts?

And while we are at it, any great books to suggest?

I am hungry for a book that moves me. I’ve really enjoyed my Philippa Gregory run with the 16th Century Tudor stories and John’s was okay but I am looking for a book that inspires me, motivates me, and all around moves me.

Anyone had that experience with a book before?

For me, the book that has always stood out in my mind as a life changer was Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. Out of his long series of these books, I have only ever read this one, book 1, so I can’t speak to the others but this book helped me completely alter the way I saw myself. I realize that it had a lot to do with where I was in my life; going through a divorce at 28 years old, realizing I had dated the same type of guy for 10 years because I didn’t love myself enough to know that I deserved better. I was realizing the true meaning of personal responsibility and accountability and finally taking a hold of the fact that I was ultimately responsible for absolutely every piece of my life – past, present and future. It was a momentous time in my life to begin with and it was like this book found me, at the perfect time, when I needed it most.

And it spoke to me and it moved me. I read it four times (in a row) and used it to journal extensively. It absolutely played a significant cathartic and healing role throughout this period in my life because it helped me open my mind and learn to love myself. It also helped me open up to a new level of spirituality and enlightenment and enabled me to tap into a lot of the grief and pain I had been carrying around for years with regards to my father’s death and my insane fear of abandonment.

It helped me renew and rebuild myself.

I have given the book as a gift to many of my friends over the years but none have spoken of having the same type of experience with it, unfortunately. I realize it can be a very tough read, especially the first few chapters and the concept can be very difficult for some people to grasp but I loved it. And whether I believe that the answers are the word of God or not matters very little – what was written made sense to me and helped me renew my inner world.

Anyone have suggestions for books that have done that for them?

Or do you have suggestions for really great books to read? I am hoping to create a vast reading list this year.

In the meantime, I may just order my Kindle along with the e-book Conversations with God and read it for a fifth time – I can only imagine what it might bring to my life this time.

Things I wish someone would have told me at 18

Wow, now there’s a loaded subject title. I could go on for hours – the list is extensive. But let me try to pull out some highlights.

I wish someone would have told me that there was no need to have my entire life revolve around a boy; having a boyfriend, keeping a boyfriend, losing a boyfriend, chasing a new boyfriend etc. Boys simply occupied way too much of my time – bending and shaping myself into different pretzels in the hope that someone I liked would like me to. My entire being and self-love was centered about a boy’s approval, acceptance and love. Life has so much more to offer and especially at that age when every opportunity is presenting itself like a Christmas present. I let the “wanting” of some guy dictate way too many decisions and choices and will never be able to get that time back. Thankfully, I still managed to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I must have near given my mother a heart attack with my path.

I wish someone would have told me that loving myself was more than thinking I was hot and skinny and that HOW I thought about myself deeply drove a lot of my behaviors and choices. Although I am pretty sure my mother preached this one to me a million times to no avail. I am not sure if, as a girl coming into womanhood at 18, I even had a milligram of the maturity required to not only understand this concept, but to embrace it and do the work necessary to see it at work. My god…how I sure do wish I would have taken my mother way more seriously – go figure, she knew what she was talking about!

I wish someone would have told me that there is no meal replacement for self-respect. Once you trade it and let go of it with trashy choices, it’s gone and it’s a lot of hard work to get it back.

I wish someone would have told me to have the self-confidence to stand up for myself (not in a violent, drunken kind of shouting way); to feel confident in who I was to express my thoughts, feelings, wants, needs, choices, and decisions assertively and with authenticity. And to know that I was “OKAY” just the way I was. And that anyone who called me “crazy” was likely a little off-the-wall themselves because it takes one to know one!

I wish someone would have told me that it does not matter what anyone else thinks about anything in this world. In the end, the only opinion that matters one iota is MY OWN! To go out and live life by my own rules, to carve out my journey and destiny like there was no tomorrow, and to give up being so afraid to live, die, or make a mistake. To just LIVE authentically, with no apologies, guided by self-love and self-respect.

I wish someone would have told me that I could just relax and have fun, I didn’t need to try so hard…cause I’d get it figured out pretty good by 30!

What do you wish someone would have told you at 18?

Driving distracted

A few years ago, before the age of texting, my best friend had an extremely serious car accident when she reached for the dipping sauce for her garlic cheese fingers. She was driving out to her boyfriends, had had a very hectic day, and was trying to cram dinner in while driving. When the sauce slipped to the side of the passenger seat, she cautiously reached over to grab it and in doing so, veered the car slightly right. As soon as the tires hit the gravel, it was a done deal. The car careened into the ditch and slammed head on into a culvert. It was totaled and thankfully, by the grace of God, my best friend was unscathed. Although for the next five years, her car insurance was through the roof.

We’ve all been guilty of driving distracted. The kids fighting in the back seat, a heated argument with your significant other, or the oddities you see walking down the street that not only grab, but hold your attention for seconds. And now, with the explosion of our need to be in “constant communiqué” with our friends and family, it’s only gotten worse. Talking, texting, emailing, and surfing – the list goes on – all while driving.

It’s as if driving seems so easy, so safe, and so insignificant that we can do anything while driving. We seem to forget that we are all behind the wheel of a compilation of steel and mechanical parts weighing anywhere between 4000 and 15000 pounds going 30, 50, 110 kilometers an hour making it, in some senses, a very dangerous weapon.

They say if you drive while texting, you are 27 times more likely to be in an accident. Did you know that is tantamount to driving drunk? A driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 or greater is seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash than is a driver who has not consumed alcoholic beverages, and a driver with an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater is about 25 times more likely.

AT&T just released a short documentary that they hope will convince people to stop texting while driving. The campaign is geared towards teens in the hopes that the youth of the world will stop texting and driving but in this day in age, I think the video applies to everyone, at every age, and in every demographic.

And if that one didn’t make you take pause before picking up your phone while driving, check out this UK video showcasing the dangers of texting while driving.

Honestly, for me, it comes to know acknowledging and understanding that driving is a privilege! If you are on the road, behind the wheel of an automobile, you have a responsibility to the other people on the road to be as safe as possible – your driving education is up to date, your health and ability to drive and respond appropriately is in check, you aren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and you most certainly aren’t engaging in distracting activities like texting while driving.

It’s about being accountable and taking a real, personal responsibility in your own safety and the safety of others when you choose to drive.

Having lost my father in a car accident when a driver hit a piece of black ice and hit my father head on, killing him instantly, and then my mother-in-law when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver, I know far to personally how dangerous the roads can be. So, I extend this plea to everyone – take your personal safety and that of others on the road seriously enough to drive with care, caution, and attention – it’s the least you can do!

Blog of the Month – Views From Nature

So I am a bit late on my Blog of the Month post – not sure what happened but I had the post all drafted and then…forgot to post. So without further ado, this month I would like to highlight Views From Nature. It is one of my absolutely favorite blogs to read.

Summary of the blog

It’s a fantastic mix of personal journal postings on everyday things like ups and downs and regular happenings along with creative writing posts that feature great fictional stories. I love it. The author uses a lot of prompts from the Red Writing Hood and Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, which gives the blog a lot of variety, flare, and creativity!


Why I like the blog

Every time I sit down and read it I always find myself wanting more.

I love how this blogger gives the two main fictionally characters that keep popping up in her writings their own page; Amy and Elle. It makes following the novels-in-progress and the stories, not to mention catching up, easy.

Add to that, Amy and Elle’s stories have me completely enthralled. Every time I finish reading the latest post, I am breathless waiting for the next. The author’s story-telling abilities and writings are simply extraordinary.

And then throughout her blog post, she brings in new and interesting characters scattered throughout. The blog is simply a wonderful mix of real-life writings along with fictional stories all woven together with beautiful, flowing prose that is a pleasure to read.

Won’t you join me in my latest addiction?

Posts that spoke to me

Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop: The Law – as with most of the posts on this blog, when I started reading I was confused and curious – I love the out-of-the-box imagination – and it’s a storyline I’ve never seen before. It felt like I was reading a novel and at the end of the post, I was disappointed there wasn’t more.

Red Writing Hood: Love Defined – this is a post about a woman giving birth, under obviously odd circumstances, and if you read “The Law” prior, you’ll have a sense of connection between the stories. From the very first paragraph, I was hooked.

Red Writing Hood: Dreams – in this post, we fast forward a little bit into Elle’s life. It’s a post about a little girl and little boy looking at a decorated Christmas tree. The little girl knows nothing of the tradition of Christmas at all and the little boy tries to explain it. The post left me with a million questions about Elle – who is she? Where does she live? Why don’t they celebrate Christmas? Where is her mother? Definitely more to the story here…like I said, always left wanting more…

And let’s not forget Amy…

Red Writing Hood: The Confrontation – here we meet Amy in the midst of a tight situation, stuck in the elevator with her worst, most feared work enemy, Abigail. And I am sure you’ll all join me in virtually screaming “give it to her girl” as you read the confrontation.

Be sure to check out Views From Nature – it’s definitely a worthwhile, fun visit and I guarantee, you’ll keep going back for more.

Life handbook???

Over the holiday season, I was perusing some of my favorite blogs and came across an interesting post on divine caroline entitled “Thirty Ways to Live a Life of Excellence,” which was full of great ideas that were useful, and timely given the 2011 new year resolutions. One in particular stood out to me and has had me pondering and chewing on it for the last few days – a life handbook.

The idea is to create a handbook to store everything in one place – my life purpose, vision, long-term and short-term goals, and plans to achieve them, success, dreams, other plans, mottos, values, inspirational quotes, ideals, daily/weekly/monthly to do lists, annual budget – everything.

Fascinating idea! My interest was understandably peaked and in wanting to know more, I was lead to the Create Your Life Handbook post on the Personal Excellence Blog where I learned that a life handbook is your own personal manual – and that sounds like just what I need for 2011!

More often than not in my travels I come across quotes or blurbs that move me, touch me, inspire and motivate me and I wish I had one central spot to store them. More than once I wished I had a place where I could outline my long and short-term goals along with a strategy/plan on achieving them through “to do” lists. I am pragmatic and analytical and lists are my friends. And right now, I have them stored here and there electronically with a few dozen scratched out in pen on this piece of paper or in that notepad. To have one, central repository – why didn’t I think of that!!?!?!

I like the idea of having a digital version for the ease of organization and editing. I am BFF with Excel and Word so that doesn’t intimidate me but I also love the idea of going out, shopping for a gloriously gorgeous hard copy journal that speaks to me upon sight to create a beautiful rendition of Natalie’s Life Handbook. I can see myself filling it with pen scratches and iteration after iteration of ideals and goals. There’s something about seeing the growth of the journey scratched out in ink (although god help my hand writing). Eeeeekeeee….which to choose???

Some key sections/ideas:

  1. Life purpose/vision/mission
  2. Core values and beliefs
  3. Strengths and improvement areas
  4. Life adages and inspirations
  5. Dates of note (birthdays/adventures etc)
  6. Annual Budget
  7. Life goals: Long-term (5, 3, 1 year) and short-term (monthly/weekly) goals
  8. Plans/lists to achieve the goals
  9. Accomplishments – as acquired
  10. Bucket List

The only downside I foresee for this new project would be the time management issue. How would I fit in creating the handbook, updating and maintaining while achieving my other goals, and especially my writing goals? Is this just something else that would sit on a shelf once done only to collect dust (virtual or real)? Or would this be the foundation of finally staying on track; creating a consciously driven lifestyle and therefore, a worthwhile time investment? It’s hard to say. My instinct tells me this is a great idea and could become an invaluable tool, if I invest in it and then use it – that being key!

In my professional life, I use a book similar to this ideal. It’s a hard cover, ring notepad (8X10) and I put everything in it – tasks, long-term and short-term goals, meeting notes, ideas, brainstorming sessions etc. It’s not sorted by any theme or idea in particular, no sections, other than being in chronological order. I know many people do the same thing electronically through Outlook and tasks but there’s something about my hard copy book that I love and that works for me. It keeps me on track, helps me prioritize week to week, enables me to store everything pertinent in one spot, and allows me to plan efficiently. When I am work, I am rarely seen without it, and to be honest, I’d be lost without it. And since it’s hard copy, I never have to worry about it “crashing”!

Interesting…hmmmm…maybe I do have a track record of making good use of a something similar to the life handbook.

I feel like this year more than ever I have this craving, an unbelievable urge, to get ORGANIZED across all facets of my life. My writing life is haphazard; my healthy lifestyle is completely hit and miss; and some of my relationships (including the one with myself) are not quite where I’d like them to be. Maybe it’s exactly what I need to kick off my 2011 life plan!

What are your thoughts? Ever used a life handbook?

Charity of the Month – Family Enrichment and Counselling Services Fredericton Inc.

First off, I should say that Family Enrichment and Counselling Services Fredericton Inc. is one of my favorite non-profit organizations for two reasons. One, my mother recently took on the position of Executive Director, which has been her “dream” job for the last 15 years.  Two, counselling saved my life, quite literally, so I believe in it passionately.

Family Enrichment and Counselling Service Fredericton Inc. is a not-for-profit, community agency dedicated to providing counselling services and educational programs in Fredericton and surrounding area since 1974. They offer professional and confidential services to support the individual, the family, the employer, and the community. Better yet, there is no referral required, and most clients are seen within a week!

They provide services to children (Play Therapy); individuals, families, and couples; to employees through Employment Assistance Programs (EAP) and to employers through on-site consultation and training; and to the community through personal and professional development programs and advocacy.

Their therapists and facilitators can help with challenges involving abuse (physical, emotional, financial), anger, anxiety, budgeting, bullying, depression, separation and divorce, fears, financial planning, grief, panic attacks, parenting, relationships, self-esteem, stress, suicide, and more.

And one of the things I love most about this organization, they believe in Services for Everyone! They use a sliding scale fee based on ability to pay for counselling services. And personal and professional development programs can be offered at a reduced (subsidized) rate. How incredible is that?!

For more information on this amazing organization, visit their website at: And be sure to check the website often as they are getting a website overhaul in 2011. A local company, is donating a website redesign as part of their commitment to give back to the community. Cheers and hats off to the Smartypants gang for going above and beyond – you couldn’t have picked a more deserving organization to support.

I am diggin’ my new office

I am very proud of myself. I took about four hours today and managed to tick one task off my long list of New Year resolutions. I finalized my office and it feels fantastic!

I move my desk so that now as I sit and type, I can look out the window and see the trees, the driveway and the gorgeous, crisp, fresh snow. And I can watch the sunset.

I moved my bookshelf so that it no longer partly covers the window. It is to my back making it easy to grab references or resources while I am working.

I hung pictures and painting and made the wall alongside the window my serenity wall – so when I turn right and casually peer out the window, I also see a small wall with my pale blue Relax, Imagine, Dream paintings etc. They complement the paint color perfectly. This wall simply makes me feel wonderful and at peace.

I also went through every drawer and piece of paper and got some insane filing done. Phew – what a job but it’s nice not to look at it any more.

What’s left (the gravy – nice to haves):

  • I’d love to move the dog food storage out of my closet and have Scott install some shelving so I can store more stuff in the closet.
  • I want a larger table for the serenity wall so I can have pictures, candles etc. I would also like a nice plant stand so I can have more than one plant enjoying the sunlight in the afternoons.
  • I definitely want a new chair – I slide out of this one constantly. Very annoying when you are trying to get into a writing groove.
  • A new keyboard set-up would be nice. For some reason, my wrists hurt when I use this one. Maybe I just need a wrist gel pad for the keyboard and the mouse.
  • Perhaps another book shelf and an area rug!?!

Either way, as it is, it’s a huge improvement. I finally like the room and I want to come in here and work, create, write, explore. It feels like home. It’s comfortable and serene. Check out some shots:

What kinds of writing/creating places have you created?


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