A Picture Tells a Story

A picture tells a story.

At the end of every year since I got an Instagram account, I go back through all the photos I posted for that year. Recently I went back through my Instagram photos for 2019, and I truly realized that some of the pictures really tell stories.

My first post for 2019 was a photo at the Charlotte airport…not much of a story except that we were starting vacation…meeting friends from Ohio in LA. But the next picture, a photo of me and my friend from Ohio, Jenn, tells a real story.

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Sure, looking at the photo above, all you see is two friends on a chilly day with the Pacific Ocean in the background. But what I see is love. Having just survived the first anniversary of my mother’s death (she died December 30, 2017), I was still reeling. I was feeling lost. And then we arrived in Los Angeles, and Jenn and her daughter arrived. After telling her what a terrible day that first anniversary on December 30 had been (there were additional factors at play)…and crying…Jenn made me feel better. Jenn, the perpetual ray of sunshine, hugged me, listened to me, and made me feel loved. So every time I come across that one single photo that looks completely nondescript and meaningless to everyone else in the world, I remember how much better she made me feel. I can look at my face in that picture and see the pain melting away. I see the relief in my eyes and in my face. That picture reminds me that good friends are hard to find. And that picture reminds me that when we find good friends like Jenn, we need to keep them.

There are other photos from 2019 that stand out for me. In fact, any photos I post on Instagram, I share for a reason…maybe I think they’re funny or cute…maybe I want to share something cool…or maybe there’s another meaning behind the picture. Of course, when I posted the picture of me and Jenn, I had no idea how powerful the picture was for me. It was only when I was looking through pictures a few months later that I saw it again, and the meaning behind it floored me. Instagram photos certainly tell stories…maybe not to the casual observer, but to the originator of the post. Most of my photos tell stories of family, friendship, and love. And then there are some that tell different stories…like this photo of me and my daughter in front of Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The story? In 2015, I took a crazy road trip with my friend, Mary Ann, and our kids. We spent a few nights in Chicago, and while we were there, I had hoped to get the kids up to Wisconsin…just so they could add another state to their list of “states visited.” There was a Six Flags amusement park we could have visited just over the line, but that would have taken too much time, so instead, I suggested Mars Cheese Castle, a giant cheese store shaped like…you guessed it…a castle. We never made it in 2015, and I regretted it. So in 2019, when I was in Chicago with my daughter and one of her friends, we made a quick trip up to Kenosha to visit Mars Cheese Castle. You can see how happy I was!

Those are just a couple of examples of how pictures tell stories, but I can look at every picture on my Instagram account and remember stories and conversations behind them. Right now, though, I keep going back to that picture of me and Jenn. I need to call her and thank her for being a good friend.

 

Posts of 2019 (Joe Namath is a Winner)

Now that 2019 is over, I’ve taken a few minutes to go back and look at some old pieces I wrote during 2019. I can see how many people viewed each one, and the numbers are interesting.

All the “favorite gifts” pieces were read by lots of people…just as they were in 2018. I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Even the most-read piece didn’t surprise me. It was a piece I wrote about teens and much-needed life skills. I wrote it back in the summer, and it got lots of clicks immediately. What I loved most about it was the feedback! So many people had more suggestions to add after they read it! And I’d like to add one more thing to the list: make sure your teen driver knows not to put diesel fuel in his/her car unless it actually has a diesel engine. Trust me…they need to know this information.

But what surprised me most was the second most-read piece of 2019. For one, it wasn’t even written in 2019. It was written in May of 2018, but it gets lots of new readers every week! I use WordPress to write my blog, and through my account, I can see how many people read posts, how many like them, comments, and feedback; and I can see when someone has used a search engine to get to the page instead of clicking through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t worry…I can’t tell who does it…I can simply see that someone does. And frequently, I’ve noticed one Google search that leads people to my website more than any other search. If you guessed “Joe Namath,” you are correct.

Back in May of 2018, I wrote a piece about how my friend, Mary Ann, and I did a little detour during one of our road trips, so we could visit Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the town where Joe Namath grew up. And because of that, some Google searches will take readers to that piece on my page. You can see the piece here. That little piece from 2018 had the second highest number of readers in 2019. Apparently, I’m not the only person in America who loves Joe Namath. Much like Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch, I would love to know Joe personally…like in the photo above. I wrote another piece titled Happy Birthday, Joe Willie about his book, All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters, in May of this year, and it didn’t get even a fraction of the “hits” as the old piece. The search terms tend to be “Joe Namath, home” or “Joe Namath, Pennsylvania,” so I guess folks don’t care too much about his birthday. They just want to know about his childhood. I hope his book had a lot more readers than the piece I wrote about his book!

Other pieces that were at the top of the “clicks” list were about misery. One about all the trials and tribulations my 19-year marriage has survived. Another one, called Poking the Bear, was about grief, something we will all experience, if we live long enough. And falling right in with those was a piece about summer reading for our school-aged children, titled I Bought the Summer Reading Book Today. That one is just one big gripe-fest about how I hate that my teenager has required summer reading for school. You can see it here. Apparently, it’s true that “misery loves company,” because lots of folks read those pieces, and a lot of them read them more than once. I don’t think we like knowing other folks are miserable…we just like knowing we’re not alone in misery. I truly believe we like to know other people have experienced some of the things we experience, and we like to know they got through it.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were pieces that hardly anyone read. They were mostly happy pieces, reflecting on something I enjoyed. But I refuse to believe people don’t like reading about happiness. I think it’s just that trials and tribulations bring us together. When the weather is great in your neighborhood, the neighbors are friendly enough, but when a big storm comes through, everyone works together to help each other. I guess it’s the same with writing. When things are going well, it’s not noticed, but write about a life altering event that lots of people can relate to, and you get their attention.

Recently I watched a movie I had never seen, and I watched it because a friend recommended it. Or maybe I should say she insisted I had to see it. So I sat down and watched Love, Actually. Since I cried during the opening, I knew I would like it. The basic premise is that love isn’t dead. The world isn’t just full of hatred…it’s full of love too, but you have to look around to see it. The narrator (Hugh Grant, I believe) said he enjoys going to the airport arrivals area, where he sees lots of love as people greet their loved ones. And yes, being the sap that I am, I loved the movie.

It reminded me that there’s a lot of love out there, and it reminded me that while disaster and misery bring people together, people really do like to hear about positive things too.

I’ve said before that I don’t write this blog to see how popular it will become. I write it for me. I write it, because it calms me. And frankly, I like saving my memories right here. When I’m long gone, hopefully, my daughter will sit down and read all of them…maybe printing them off…before the subscription for the website expires and everything is lost! Maybe I should print them off myself and bind them. It might be that she doesn’t even care, but lots of times, I wish I could ask my parents about things that happened to them. Just today, in fact, I texted my aunt (my daddy’s sister) to find out the story behind a Facebook post.

So in 2020, if I’m feeling like I need to share some misery, I will do just that. And if I want to share happy story, I’ll do that too. And if I ever get to meet Joe Namath, well…you’ll know it. I’ve met lots of celebrities…had lots of “brushes with fame.” But Joe Namath is one I haven’t met…yet. If you know anything about me, you should know I fully believe in the “power of yet.” That means I truly believe I haven’t met him YET.

 

Discover Hungry Girl Now!

At 52, I still love learning new things, and I really love sharing when I find something I love….thus, my website, of course. In January, we always hear a lot about people wanting to get healthier. Yes, there are lots of different ways to do that…diet, exercise, sleep, etc.

I’m not a good “dieter.” As soon as I think of the word, “diet,” I just want to eat every potato in sight. That’s the truth. Any time I have ever gone on a diet, all I’ve thought about is food.

But here’s something that I love: Hungry Girl. If you aren’t familiar with Hungry Girl but you’d like to know about some good low-calorie swaps and get some new recipes, you need to familiarize yourself with the brand. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Lillien, the founder, and her staff a couple of years ago, and I immediately wanted to become a part of that fun group! I don’t think of it as a diet, because the recipes are flavorful and fun, and frankly, I am amazed at the ease of most of the recipes! Hungry Girl knows how to keep it exciting, and there are so many ways to get dialed into it.

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  • Hungry Girl on Facebook. This should be your first step to getting informed about Hungry Girl. When you go to the Hungry Girl Facebook page, click “sign up,” then where it asks how you heard about it, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador” and enter my name, Kelly Mattei! Go to the Facebook page here. I love Hungry Girl, and I want them to know how much I love them, so make sure you enter my name! Yes, I’m a Hungry Girl Ambassador, but anyone who knows me knows I can’t promote something I don’t believe in…I believe in it.
  • Hungry-girl.com. So, once you’ve signed up through facebook, you’ll start getting emails from the website. Y’all, the website is chock full of great recipes, great swaps, and great tips! Want something low carb? Just type it into the search bar and find some recipes! Want something made with chicken or turkey? Type it into the search bar! And through the website, you can access Lisa’s podcasts, recipe spotlights, and great product finds! You’ll also know when Lisa is going to have TV appearances…she’s so cute and bubbly; you don’t want to miss her! You will get all sorts of great information! Check it out!
  • Hungry Girl Magazine. This fabulous magazine started at the beginning of 2018. I could hardly wait to get my hands on the first issue…and I have enjoyed every issue since. It’s full of recipes, as well, and offers tips on how to snack smart, but it also features some success stories from Hungry Girl fans. You should be able to find copies of the magazine in your local big box retailers like Target and Walmart, but I usually pick up a copy in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore.
  • Hungry Girl books. Honestly, I have all of them and love all of them, but my personal favorite is Hungry Girl: Simply 6, because all the recipes have six ingredients or fewer. All the recipes I’ve tried from her books have been easy, and since I’m no chef, that’s saying a lot! Pick up a copy of one or all of her books at Amazon.com here.

And you know what else? You can follow Hungry Girl on Instagram too! It was from Instagram that I found out about the recipe I’ll be trying for dinner tonight: Mexican Spaghetti Squash Bowl! Yum! You can find it by clicking on the link in the Hungry Girl bio on Instagram!

It costs nothing to sign up with Hungry Girl (on Facebook here)…please remember to click that you heard about them from a Hungry Girl Ambassador and put my name. You will find recipes your whole family will love, and you never have to utter the word “diet.”

Let me know that you’ve signed up! And once you’ve tried a few of the recipes, let me know which ones are your favorites! I think you’ll find food doesn’t have to be boring to be good for you! I will feature a few of my favorites from time to time!

Happy New Year!

The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

The Dead Files

It’s October. Halloween and all things scary tend to be the theme in October. I’m not big on creepy, paranormal things, but I might believe in ghosts. Call me crazy, but we really believed we had a ghost in the house I lived in as a teenager. Our ghost was not violent. We were convinced she was a nice ghost. Go ahead…think I’m crazy. I don’t care. In fact, I might believe in ghosts so heartily that I have trouble watching shows about paranormal activity. Today, I accidentally started watching a show about a ghost in an old house, and all I could think was, “I wouldn’t sleep in that house.” And then I changed channels, because it was a little too creepy.

Earlier this year, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, and a very sweet young lady was seated next to me. We started talking, because she ordered a cocktail before takeoff, telling me she is terrified of flying. She warned me that if there is any type of turbulence, she would become very nervous. I took the opportunity to explain to her that, as a former flight attendant, I might be able to help her stay calm. I told her that she could watch me, and if I didn’t become anxious, she didn’t need to. I even told her she could hold my hand if she needed to.

After all that, she said to me she had been hypnotized to help with her fear of flying before, and while it worked for some time, it seemed to be wearing off. She explained that she has to travel for work. And then she told me something that surprised me: she had been in two crashes before!

We took off, and after we were in the air, I asked her what she does that requires her to travel, and that’s when she told me she is on a television show called The Dead Files. Because I had never seen it at the time, I didn’t have any questions to ask her. I had never even heard of the show, but I told her I felt sure some of my friends were probably big fans. I had no idea what I was talking about.

After we landed, I posted on Facebook that I had been sitting next to Amy from The Dead Files, and a couple of my friends got really excited. When I got home, I did some “research,” which means I googled The Dead Files. And that’s when I discovered Amy is a medium. Oh, that brought up so many questions that I wish I had been able to ask her at the time. Like: When she said she had been in two crashes before, did she mean she had physically been in two crashes, or did she somehow feel the emotions of someone else who had been in crashes? Had she communicated with people who had died in crashes? So many questions…

So now, I’ve watched The Dead Files a few times. It has been on The Travel Channel since 2011, and they have produced about 200 episodes. Amy Allan is the medium who was sitting next to me on the flight, and she was pretty, sweet, and charming…not creepy at all. Of course, at the time, I had no idea she was a medium. After seeing a few episodes, I’m fascinated, and I wish I had known more about her and the show when I met her. Missed opportunity.

But if you are interested in some paranormal activity/communication, The Dead Files might be right up your alley.  You’ll wonder if Amy was actually in a crash or if someone else was in the crash and communicated through her. I hope she has gone back for more hypnosis for that fear of flying.

 

 

Mama Loves A Bellini

Yep, Mama loves a Bellini. Just so you know…sometimes, when I’m being silly or trying to give something more emphasis, I refer to myself as “Mama.” So yes, I love a Bellini.

I’m a big fan of champagne-type cocktails. When I was younger (way back in my 20s) and living in Mobile, Alabama, it was always fun to drive over to New Orleans (two hours away) for a weekend and enjoy a Mimosa with brunch at Commander’s Palace. I’ve loved Mimosas since then, and every time I have one, I think of Joe Simon’s Jazz Trio at Commander’s Palace…back when Joe Simon actually played with the trio. You’ve seen him in movies and on Zatarain’s commercials…he retired in 2014, but his trio still plays at Commander’s Palace. Back then, long before I referred to myself as “Mama,” every time I was there, he would play Baby Face at my table, and every time, I was overjoyed…I was much younger, obviously.

And then, many years later, I had my first Bellini. Of course, I had heard about them for years, but I never tried one till 2011, and I tried it at the right place…Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills. Mr. C is owned by the Cipriani family…the same family that owns Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, birthplace of the Bellini.

I knew Bellinis were made of one part Prosecco and one part peach purée, but I had no idea peach purée varied. They do. It’s difficult to have a Bellini elsewhere when you’ve had the original.

For a few years, I regularly ordered Cipriani’s Bellini Mix online from their website to make my own Bellinis at home, but frankly, it was expensive, and sometimes I didn’t drink it all before it went bad. Therefore, I started making Bellinis with Simply Peach from my local grocer, and I also tried Looza Brand peach juice from The Fresh Market after a friend suggested it. And it was good…but it wasn’t Cipriani’s.

A few days ago, I joined some friends for lunch at Bistro La Bon in Charlotte (website here), and afterward, I wandered into World Market nearby. I hadn’t been into World Market in years…had completely forgotten about it, in fact…so I had a great time wandering around checking out their outdoor furniture, wine glasses, and candies before I came upon a blue bottle with a familiar logo.

There it was…on a shelf in the wine area…Cipriani Bellini in a lovely blue bottle! I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t just the mix…it was pre-made Cipriani Bellini in a bottle! Of course, I put eight bottles in my cart and made my way to the checkout. Yes, I bought eight bottles before even trying it, because I knew it would be good. Cipriani would not put their name on it if it weren’t good.

And I was not disappointed.

I drove home and put a bottle in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours, and when I opened it, I was absolutely thrilled. It was perfect. Even better…I found I can re-cork it if I don’t finish the bottle! It has the perfect peachy flavor with just the right bubbly essence. And I don’t have to travel to LA, New York, or Venice for the perfect Cipriani Bellini!

So, if you like Bellinis, come on over in the afternoon or early evening, and we can sit by the pool drinking the perfect Cipriani Bellinis. Or you can buy your own at World Market…but evenings at our house out by the pool are incredibly relaxing. Come on over!

Hello Bubbles! Goodbye Troubles!

Waiting For Rob Lowe

We got home from vacation yesterday…after a couple of delays…and a friend offered me a ticket to see Rob Lowe (yes, that Rob Lowe) speak in uptown Charlotte last night. I landed in Charlotte at about 6:30am, came home, and got in bed for a couple hours. After waking, I tended my garden ( more on that later…the tomatoes and corn are doing well!) and started getting dressed for an early dinner before seeing Rob. Yes, I prefer to call him Rob.

If you don’t know, Rob Lowe wrote a couple of books a few years back. The first one is titled Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and the second is called Love Life. You can purchase them from Amazon.com here. I have read both, and the first one, Stories…, is my favorite. He really does share some great stories from his life growing up in the Malibu area with Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, the Van Patten family, and the Penns (Sean and Chris). He also shares stories from his career and adult life…which has been colorful.

So last night, we went uptown  and waited patiently for Rob Lowe to tell us stories. Thus, the title of this piece, Waiting For Rob Lowe. Fortunately, he didn’t keep us waiting long.

While we were “spending time with Rob” with about 2,000 other people, we heard a few anecdotes from his books, but we also got a glimpse into his private life. He talked about his family, the freedom he had as a child (“where were my parents?!?!”), and he told some stories he had not shared in his books. We saw his personality shine. We heard funny stories about Cary Grant, Robert Wagner, Tom Cruise, and Sally Field. We even saw a short homemade film he did as a teenager with Sheen and his own brother, Chad Lowe. It was time well spent.

And at the end, he did a question and answer session…sort of Carol Burnett style. Remember how she did that at the end of her show? Well, they turned up the house lights, and hands went up all over the theater…including mine. The first person asked about his indiscretion at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 1988, but he didn’t really answer. He laughed and remarked at the “hard hitting” question, but didn’t really talk about the “incident,” which, I’m sure, was a low point in his life. And I’m glad he didn’t address it…water under the bridge. Honestly, I couldn’t believe someone asked about it. It was more than 30 years ago!

After that, the questions got lighter. One lady asked for a picture, but he very politely  declined. Another person asked about his favorite movie experiences. Still another one asked about his memories of Patrick Swayze. And all this time, I was waving wildly from the balcony, hoping he would pick me!

Here’s my Rob Lowe backstory: When I was a teenager, the first time I ever saw Rob Lowe was in a movie called Hotel New Hampshire, based on a book written by my favorite author, John Irving. I had not read the book yet at that point, and honestly, I didn’t even know who John Irving was, but I loved the quirky movie, and I fell in love with a young, beautiful Rob Lowe. And yes, beautiful is the correct term, because he was a beautiful young man. He’s a “smoking hot” middle-aged man, but he was a beautiful young man. Of course, he made better movies (About Last Night, St Elmo’s Fire, The Outsiders, and more), but my very first glimpse of Rob Lowe was in Hotel New Hampshire.

And then…fast forward 30+ years…last week, when I was on vacation, I had an experience to remember: I actually ran into Rob Lowe in a coffee shop. Yep…the same Rob Lowe. My friend, Angela, was with me, and when I realized he was sitting just down the counter from us, I looked at her wide-eyed and said, without trying to move my lips too much, “Rob Lowe.” She asked, “What?” I said, again without trying to move my lips, “Rob Lowe.” “Juan Pablo??” “Rob Lowe!” She said, “Oh. OK.” And she kept eating! In about a minute or two, she looked at me and said, “You know I can’t hear. I have no idea what you said.” I said, much more clearly this time, “Rob Lowe!” She immediately turned and saw him sitting just a few seats away.

He was sitting with his son and someone else, and soon they got up to leave. Not one to let the opportunity to pass, as he walked slowly past us on his way out, Angela turned and told him (while touching him!) how much she admired his work…and I think she even told him he’s beautiful. He was slowly continuing on toward the door…smiling and being friendly…but continuing to move, so we didn’t ask for a picture. I simply chimed in as he approached the door (right next to where we were sitting), telling him I’d loved him in Hotel New Hampshire. And it got his attention! He stopped in his tracks, laughing, turned around and said, “Oh my God! You are the one person who saw it!” I told him I loved it, and he left.

So, of course, since I didn’t have photographic evidence of my meeting him, I needed to prove to 2,000 people that I had actually met him. Yes, something is wrong with me. I’m a middle-aged groupie. During the Q&A, I continued waving wildly from my seat, and then it happened…he invited “the crazy waving lady” to ask a question. Yes, I’m the crazy waving lady! I’m cool with that. In fact, if you want to refer to me as Crazy Waving Lady every time you see me for the rest of my life, feel free. I stood up and said, “I met you last week at the [name of coffee shop] and mentioned Hotel New Hampshire.” At this point, I paused before continuing, hoping he would remember, before asking my question. He said, “Yes!” And he explained to 2,000 people, that we had, indeed, met in Beverly Hills, and I had mentioned an obscure movie called Hotel New Hampshire that opened in theaters on the same day as the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah movie, Splash. I had a question about Hotel New Hampshire and Jodie Foster (who was also in the movie), but I never got to ask it…or rather, he didn’t hear me, because he was explaining the obscurity of the movie. But really, I didn’t care. I no longer needed photographic evidence of our meeting. My friend, Jenn, heard him say he remembered the meeting…and so did 2,000 other people. Woot!

I guess, when it comes to Rob Lowe, I’m still a teenager going to movies and reading Teen Beat and Tiger Beat. And I loved hearing him tell stories last night. He is, indeed, a storyteller. He knows how to get a laugh. He knows how to tell a story. And he has some great memories.

And now I have two great memories of interactions with Rob Lowe. Now I have more stories to tell friends. I’m Crazy Waving Lady. If I ever write an autobiography, that will be the title: Crazy Waving Lady…or maybe Waiting For Rob Lowe.

***My friend, Jerry Parker, gets all the credit for the title of this blog. I posted a pic of me and Jenn (see below) waiting for the show to start last night, and the caption was “Waiting for Rob Lowe.” Jerry suggested it would be a good book title.***

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