Good Enough Folks

newyearnewmeTwenty years ago today I rang in the New Year in the control room at KBJR-TV. I had just started my first real job as a journalist and in case you hadn’t heard, there was a fear that the world was going to end on Y2K. Or, at the minimum, ATMs and all other computer devices weren’t going to work.  Midnight came and went and other than a minor snafu with our live shot in which a reporter attempted to do a withdrawal from an ATM to show the world hadn’t ended only to discover he had insufficient funds and the withdrawal didn’t work, life went on. The world didn’t end. We signed off and went to the local watering hold to celebrate a new decade. I drank too much and started 2001 with a hangover only the 21-year version of me could endure.

Fast forward to today. I’m currently drinking my last latte of the decade and feeling the pressure to figure things out. Does anyone else ever feel that insurmountable pressure on New Year’s to make some declaration of being a better version of one’s self? Let me give you a tip I wish I could follow, don’t fall for it. You and I are actually good enough. That’s right, good enough. Yes – today marks the end of a decade and tomorrow opens a blank book to a new decade in which we get to write our own story. Own our own narrative. Do all the things. But, can we just for one minute acknowledge that it is also just another day in which we may overindulge tonight and tomorrow, roll out of bed and put our pants one leg at a time just like any other day.  We will be no different. We will be no better or worse. We will know no more than what we know right now. But, we will have the opportunity to learn more and be more and grow into the person who we want to be and that is what it means to work on one’s self. And the amazing thing is this happens every single day. Not just when there is a new year or a new decade.

Next week, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. The skeptic in me is boarding a plane and flying to Florida to attend Rise. This introvert is going to join 4,000 other women to spend 3 days in a full blown time out to spend some time figuring things out. It is a substantial investment in time and money. But, the way I see it, I dropped $15,000 and two years of my life on an MA only to do it again 10-years later at $20,000 for an MBA, just because I feel education is a good investment. Don’t I at least owe it to myself to invest a fraction of that time and money to understand what’s holding me back from being the best version of myself? And, what does that even mean? Maybe the best version is the gal that shows up some days and gives 25% and binge watches You on Netflix… but is a good friend, daughter, wife, co-worker and mother. Would that really be so bad? When did showing up become such a negative? And, if a $1,000 investment and a few days of my time and attention makes me ok with that, well that’ll save me a lot of therapist bills. The alternative, I leave with a clearer version of myself and what matters. Or, I discover that the billion dollar self-help/personal growth category isn’t really at all helpful for me and spend 3-days on a beach in Florida reading good books, sipping latte’s and working on a tan. Last I checked, R&R is good for the heart and soul.

The one thing I do know for 2020 is I want to be more honest with myself about what motivates me versus what I want people to think motivates me.  Maybe it will be self-help conferences, long hikes in the woods and half-marathons. Or, maybe it’ll be trashy tv, bon bons and bonding sessions with my gal pals. I honestly don’t know. But, I want to be a bit more authentic about what I share with people and why. Because I do believe that in a world of perfectly polished posts and photos, a lot of us are feeling that same pressure to outshine ourselves. And, as fun as that ride has been the past 20-years, I’m ready to turn the page to a more authentic, albeit messy, version of myself.

So my wish for you and me as we close out this decade and frankly every day is to find peace with the world we’re in—that when we go to the ATM of life, we find that we’re not overdrawn by trying to be more and do more for others but instead investing in a life that’s good enough… for ourselves.

Eight Years Down, A Lifetime to Go

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At least one person in my world thinks I’m number 1!

Eight years ago, I overcame my insecurities and lined up for my first timed race in decades.  I had decided to become a runner after indulging in too many chips and margaritas, waking up hung over and seriously questioning my unmotivated self.  I had just gotten borderline news from my primary care doctor that implied if I wanted to continue indulging in chips, I needed to start moving more.  A plus size gal in my early 30s, several acquaintances raised their brow at me when I declared I was going to be a runner. The only logical response for this Fin was to sign up and complete a half-marathon because the best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t. My time was mediocre at best but I finished.

Thirty plus races later, I’m currently carbo loading for another Whistlestop Half Marathon. I’m still insecure. I’m still overweight. I still enjoy too many chips and margaritas. And, my finish line time is still mediocre. My health indicators, such as cholesterol and blood pressure, are better but in every other realm I have failed at running. And, here’s a dirty secret, I don’t even like running.

There, I said it. I actually hate running. I love buying shoes, socks and stretchy black running pants. I love checking out new trails, reading inspirational running stories, posting selfies from gorgeous vistas, and runner swag. I love the running culture—the kind strangers you joke with on the trail or catch a ride with on the shuttle bus.  The ultra-fast marathoners who pass me on the trail and take time to tell me I’m doing great, even though they’ve ran 13+ more miles than me and can run 2-3 miles to my 1. I love traveling to new places and meeting the volunteers who dedicate their Saturdays so I can run.

It turns out you can do all of that without actually running.  When push comes to shove, though, I absolutely hate running. I’m sure this is partially due to my size.   But, if I’m honest, I realized that deep down I hate running because I’m mediocre at it. And, I’m mediocre at it because I’m not willing to put the work in to be a good runner. I’m not willing to do the stretches, train regularly, eat healthy and lose weight so that my legs aren’t carrying an extra hundred pounds.

Why after 8-years do I keep showing up? Who knows. Who cares. I certainly don’t. Because at the end of the day, something keeps bringing me back to the trail. Perhaps it is my inner Sisu—this gritty hustle deep within me that says I’m running for me and that’s enough. It doesn’t matter if I’m first or last. That instead, this run reminds me that you get out what you put in. And that at times, that needs to be enough.

I’ve had one of the most lackluster trainings in the past 8-years. I haven’t run 13-miles since I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s Half-Marathon in June. I’ve done minimal training and thoroughly enjoyed a summer of over indulging. In all tangible ways to measure my training, I have failed. Except I haven’t, because I keep showing up. I’m not willing to let the dream of someday being a good runner and everything I could have, should have done, prevent me from just being a runner today. I’m not willing to let the part of me that longs to finish first or to be the best, prevent me from doing something folks said I couldn’t do.  Call it cliché, I run because I can folks, and for someone who had a one-legged dad right now, that means something. And come Saturday, I’ll cross that finish line—not for him but me. It won’t be pretty but it’ll be me doing me.

Say What You Mean to Say

This post is in honor of an extraordinary woman who I had the opportunity to meet by chance. This weekend, she’s fighting her final battle. It was an honor and privilege to know her. And, today I’m reminded of how we never just know how much time we have left to say what we mean to say to folks.

This is a story about an unlikely encounter with an extraordinary woman named Kendra Williams. I first learned of Kendra Williams in 2007 while querying Midwest Living Magazine to write an article about our local mead shop. I remember looking at the Midwest Living masthead and seeing her listed as travel editor and thinking to myself, wow, I sure would love to have her job. I mailed my query, and while hopeful, realistic I would never hear from Ms. Williams. This would be the first of many times she proved me wrong.

In the fall of 2007, I started an unlikely after hour job scouting for Midwest Living Magazine. I explored state parks and public campgrounds; sought out scenic drives and island getaways; taste tested burgers, pizza and fish galore; and shared with Midwest Living readers why I love skipping rocks. I wrote about my experiences, uploaded reports, and filled out databases, all under the guidance of Kendra. And then there were the cats.

Thanks to Facebook, Kendra and I were connected outside of Midwest Living. She was in need of a quality home for her two cats. My husband and I had room. We met up in Duluth for our first non-virtual connection. I left with Chickpea and Mischief. These cats became a part of our annual Christmas card photo and appear on our Christmas tree ornaments. In other words, they became family. But, they also taught me about faith. Several years into our journey, both cats wandered away at different times. It pained me to notify Kendra of my inability to keep her pets safe. Rather than question our parenting abilities, Kendra prayed to the Saint of Lost things. In both cases, the cats returned. Perhaps it was coincidence, but her faith was unwavering and I couldn’t help but wonder, how can someone have such faith?

Kendra’s prayers for my family and I continued. As we grew closer over email chats and some serious redline editing, I discovered what an amazing editor, mentor and friend she was to everyone who crossed her path. She was honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and offered me real life advice about the journey to whether I wanted to transition from occasional freelance to full-time writer. It is because of this, I have finally found a career I love, while not losing sight of my desire to put words on paper daily.
Soon after, I discovered myself seeking out Kendra for more than professional advice. I shared my adoption struggles and sought comfort in her wisdom. Kendra could relate—because her journey to motherhood was similar. More than once, a kind email, message or tweet would lift my spirits. And when the pain hit of a heartbreaking failed adoption, Kendra sent messages of strength, hope and prayers. Months later I would become pregnant and my prayers would be answered.

Soon after, Kendra was diagnosed with MS and in 2014 officially left Midwest Living Magazine. While our professional relationship had come to a close, I continued to stay in-touch. Her posts from Des Moines offered inspiration and courage and reminded me of the power of resilience. And then the cancer came. It was aggressive and mean and relentless. It was painful to watch someone go through so much heartbreak, even virtually from hundreds of miles away. I didn’t understand why someone or something would do this to anyone, let alone to Kendra.

Even in her suffering, Kendra continued to draw strength from God. Over the past few years, she has shared her journey of hope. She has found humor in her pain and beauty in her life, even on the darkest of days. She’s fought harder than anyone I know and still continues to be grateful for all she has in her life. There’s making lemon-aid out of lemons and then there’s Kendra—a woman who has found a way to make life out of death.

This past month, she announced that her primary care doctors were in discussions with her about hospice care. Yet, she still continues to fight, taking baby doses of chemo to see if she can extend life just a little bit longer.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? To just have one more moment with those we love. To have one more conversation. One more interaction. One more memory with those whom we have lost. But, how many of us would continue to fight the fight like Kendra? It was during these moments that I truly began to understand the power of faith.

Eleven years ago, an ordinary letter created an extraordinary impact in my life. The recipient was Kendra Williams. And today, I just wanted to let her know that I’ll always be grateful for our connection. I pray she continues to find love, hope and strength in the coming days and weeks. I am forever grateful for this connection.

Six Going on Sixty!

Jake here again! Mom took a hiatus from updating this blog but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped aging. The last trip around the sun was CRAZY busy. I honestly don’t know how kids have time to be kids now-a-days.

Topping the list, I graduated from kindergarten this year with off the chart testing scores. I enjoy school, especially recess, gym and lunch. I’m a really good reader and sometimes I humor mom and dad and pretend I enjoy reading. I own so many books. But, if given a choice, I’ll take playing over reading any day.

I really love to play. I love playing Guess Who, card games, chess and checkers. I have dozens of games loaded on my Amazon Kindle and sneak as much screen time as mom and dad will allow. Unfortunately, it isn’t nearly enough. But, they say it is the only way to make me sit still and rest. I hate rest. Seriously folks, you can rest when you are dead.

That means, I’m what many folks would call an overly active little boy. AKA I love to play. Are you sensing a theme here? This past year I mastered wrestling, or at least took first place in my age and weight division. I can dribble with both hands, kick a soccer ball and make a basket on a 10-foot high hoop. And, you should see me dominate at baseball. I bat leftie like mom and can knock them out of the park… or at least past the bases. I love pitching, catching and tossing the ball around. I even love the occasional run around the bases. Plus, I look pretty cute in my uniform.

I still live on Moon Lake. As part of mom and dad’s irrational fear about me accidentally drowning, we’ve really been working on my swimming skills. This has resulted in some fish like tendencies, especially if jumping off the pontoon or dock at Moon Lake Park, or tubing at the Green Cabin.

Speaking of fishing, it turns out the fish in Moon Lake LOVE hot dogs. Who would have thought it? The hot dogs are a big hit and I’ve caught dozens of sunfish. They are so cute but mom and dad never let me keep them.  That said, I did with a pet goldfish named Goldie during Blueberry Festival, despite mom and dad’s best efforts to make me lose. My luck ran out, though, on the blueberry pie eating contest and tractor pull. Next up, is a rematch with the sheep at mutton busting. This year, I’ve convinced the sheep hoof will NOT get the best of me.

I’d like to think I’m a pretty creative kid. I like to tell stories (occasionally made up ones) and I’ve really worked on controlling my temper. I’m learning to use my words to express my feelings and what I want (and have even been told I occasionally talk too much).  I have lots of friends at daycare and at the big brown school and my teachers are great.

I still love eating. I can now pack in an entire Jack’s Pizza or a bag of cherries. Despite my best efforts to eat mom and dad out of house and home, I’m losing weight and gaining inches. I also keep having these growth spurts that really hurt my knees. Pretty soon, I’ll be taller than mom and dad.

Mom and dad kept me pretty busy this past year. In addition to school, I joined wrestling, cub scouts (and my first Pinewood Derby) and bible school. I got my own popcorn at Toy Story 4 and worked with dad in the workshop. I also get to cut my freezie pops open with my own green knife (with supervision of course). I occasionally collect eggs from our chickens and am starting to master cracking them. If nothing else, the chickens really love me petting and chasing them. We vacationed in California and mom took me to the Disney castle. I also got to see Storm Troopers and ride the Toy Story ride at Disneyland. We swam in the ocean and visited an aircraft carrier.

Looking ahead, this weekend is my football themed birthday party and mutton busting. We have one more cabin weekend, a trip up the north shore (and some racing on the alpine slides) and then back to school we go. I’m not super excited for school but I do get a pair of new gym shoes, so that’s cool.

All in all, it was another exciting adventure around the sun. Looking forward to what’s in store next year!

Jake from Moon Lake

I’m Five!!!!!!!!!

JakeHey folks – I’ve successfully completed another trip around the sun which means it is time for me to hijack mom’s blog. Today I turn five. This is a big deal. You want to know why? Many moons ago my mom went to bull riding at our local county fair. At intermission she saw her first mutton busting competition. She knew then that if she were ever lucky enough to be a mom, her kid would compete. Turns out you have to be five to ride a sheep bareback. It also turns out that bull riding happens to be at our fair in 48-hours so alas, that’s what I’ve been up to.

I will say this, there is something entertaining about mom and dad pretending to be a sheep in the living room so I can work on my form. At this point, I’m confident that with enough promises of ice cream, no bedtime and maybe a pet goldfish, that I will maybe even get on the sheep’s back. Stay tuned for however many images one can capture in a 2-3 second ride on my mom’s social media accounts later this week.

But, that’s just this week in our house. My life is so much bigger than that. I’m not sure if you’ve heard but in the past year I became a Ninja. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate super heroes like Batman anymore, but I’m finding the combination of strength, wisdom and strategy of a Ninja to be much more a reflection of who I want to be in life. I’ve also decided that I love sports – more specifically – sports that involve swinging bats, knocking people over, or throwing balls in the house. Dad just made me my first wooden bat for my birthday. It is pretty awesome. In other words, I am 150% boy.

Despite my love for sports (and Nerf guns), I’m not letting that define me either. I also enjoy painting my nails and being my own stylist. This includes doing my hair and dressing myself in a combination of GQ meets country boy meets wanna be professional athlete. I especially like Puma, clip on ties and crocs.

I still love food. I’m not a huge fan of sweets. But, if you put a taco, Jack’s pizza, hamburgers or fruit in front of me, don’t plan on me sharing. I love chicken wraps. But, after becoming a bit addicted to apple juice, I was weaned of all juice at home this past winter. It was a bit rough at first but it has led me to sneaking the occasional lemon-aid when we go out or have guests over. Mom also allows me to chew bubble gum.

I hate to brag but I’m also pretty smart, when I choose to. My pre-k test scores, which are a big deal if you are 4 and trying to get into the big brown school, were off the charts high. In other words, I’m totally qualified for kindergarten. I know my letters, can count, and am even starting to spell cool words like bee, bat and stop.

I’m obviously potty trained. But, I even wipe on my own now. Occasionally I miss the toilet but let’s be real, what man doesn’t? That’s right, man. Mom says I’m now a little man.

This past year was marked with quite a few adventures. We went on our first real family vacation on a plane. We went somewhere called Florida, where I got lots of time in the water and picked shark teeth on the beach. I also hit up a flurry of community festivals, the science museum, Airshow, petting zoos, green cabin time and lots of time at our local library. I even managed (with the help of dad) to get mom’s card blocked due to too many overdue items or something. But come on folks, I don’t drive so I really don’t think that’s my fault. Speaking of driving, I’ve been improving my bike riding skills. This summer the training wheels came off and as long as I don’t have to stop I’m good. The whole stopping thing (on pretty much anything in life) is still a bit foreign to me.

What else can I tell you? I’m still rocking daycare 40+ hours a week. A new girl moved in across the street named Gracie. Next month I start kindergarten. Last month I did my first week at Vacation Bible School. I took third place in the 4-year old boys tractor pedal pull. Oh, and I dunked our town’s police officer after leading off the Blueberry Festival Parade with dad. Yep – I’m still a big deal. There’s a reason I wear a shirt called I run this town along with another that says meet the next president.

Seriously, though, it was another great year. I’m learning and growing (upwards not sideways anymore). I occasionally get angry but am finding ways to control my temper. I find sorry goes a long way, especially when I’m tired of being in time-out, and that I definitely inherited my mother’s stubborn gene. Someday that’ll pay off. In the meantime, we’ll just call it Karma, mom.

So much more going on in life right now but time to get back to living it versus writing about it. So, for those still reading, I hope everyone is enjoying what is by far the single most important day of the year!

Jake

Do the Work

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/diving-into-the-unknown-student-athlete-proves-the-merits-of-hard-work/

I’ve been a little MIA lately. But, then I saw this yesterday (sorry for the link/it won’t let me embed the video). And, it comes at a time I’m diving head first into trail running—yet another sport I will 100% suck at. This of course follows a spring where I totally sucked at training and packed on a few pounds. It should come as no surprise to anyone, including me that this resulted in finishing times far from a PR. I didn’t really write much about my spring races in part due to my lackluster performance but also because I was having a bit of a pity party. More simply put, I misplaced my mojo.

Some of this is self-inflicted. I’ve been watching more television than normal and slacking on healthy eating habits. It turns out these things really do impact my overall mood. And, like so many families, we got busy. Busy means less down time. It means more running around getting the important stuff done, but actually not doing anything important. It means burning the candle on both ends, only to realize when you do that, there is nothing left. This came to a screeching halt last week when I had 9 glorious days off. It was spent at our family cabin. No television. Plenty of quality Jake time. Time for morning runs, lakeside reading, evening s’mores and self-reflection. A rare date night. And, a quiet ride home listening to podcasts.

I returned, refreshed to take on life. That last all of two days until my morning training run today. It was hot, humid and buggy. And, I’m not talking the occasional fly. I’m talking the flesh eating deer flies that leave you begging for mercy and dotted with mushroom sized welts up and down your legs, arms and neck. The only reason I didn’t quit was every time I slowed down, they multiplied biting harder and faster than I could swat. I arrived home depleted, wondering what I was thinking. And that’s when a recently purchased present reminded me of why.

Simon Sinek says “start with why.” Michael Pollan quotes Oscar Wilde saying “everything in moderation including moderation.” Gerald from Arlington, Texas says “I felt like if I couldn’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person.” And I say, “do the work.” This past spring I acquired a Greenstonecustom made Greenstone (chlorastrolite) ring by Silverwaves Jewelry. I’m calling it my do the work ring. Why you might ask? The rational part of me would say because I need to justify splurging on something this purposeless for myself. But, the larger part of me can honestly say, I needed this daily reminder to rediscover my mojo.

I know it sounds silly. But the truth is, there is a lot in life we cannot control. The current political climate does not help, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum. And, despite my intention to make a dent on the world, this hopelessness can get overwhelming and at times downright frustrating. There are a number of things out of my control right now that directly impact my future. I imagine that’s the case for most of us.

So today, I want to take a moment to say this. I’m training for a Trail Run this fall because I get to write my own story. And in my story, I know this is something I will absolutely accomplish. And, my success will equal exactly how much effort I’m willing to put in. Am I going to win? Hell no. Am I going to finish? Hell yes. Why? Because I can. Why won’t I win? Because even though my Under Armour beginner trail run schedule says I need to run at least 2, 12-mile training runs to do a 10k race, I’ll follow the words of Michael Pollan and recognize trail run plans are meant to be broken. I’m not willing to put in the work both physically and mentally needed to even come close to the front of the pack. But, I’ll still show up at Mount Bohemia October 6 because similar to Gerald, success isn’t measured by crossing the line first. It is defined by pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I’ll tell you right now, the welts on my legs on week 2 of training are proof, this is as far out of my comfort zone I can get right now.

So I’ve been MIA lately on here. Doubtful anyone has noticed but me. But, I find if I write my goal on here it happens. So now you know what’s on the horizon for me. I promise to share some shots from the trail. I’ll spare you the shots of my welted legs. But I will say this, there is something extremely liberating about doing something you know you’ll be bad at. You remove the expectation, other than to show up and try. To do the work. And enjoy the journey. As sweaty as it might be, it is pretty amazing. And, I’m really looking forward to the swag at the end. Happy Running!

How’s that hopey changey thing treating you?

Thanks to David Litt and his fabulous memoir about his time as a speechwriter in the White House, I couldn’t get those words out of my head today. It also so happened that today was one of those days I had plenty of time to think. It makes for an interesting combination (and to everyone on the Bean/Bear Lake trail today wondering who I was talking to, I’m not crazy. Just processing yet another mid-life crisis out loud).

It was fall peak on the Superior Hiking Trail, hence my paid hiking gig. I hit a trail that’s “moderately challenging” after torrential rain. While I’m not qualified to write technical trail terms, I’d say “moderately challenging” went to “muddy nightmare and potential leg breaker for an out of shape mom with an injured back” within a quarter mile of my car. A wiser and younger version of myself would have turned around. I didn’t. Hence, these shots.

I finished off the trail (and a pair of really nice Brooks running shoes) muddy and smelly but happy. I did it. Last time I hit this trail I was pre-kid and 20-pounds lighter, still actively backpacking on the weekends with a 45- pound back on my back. I must say, sipping my single serve Moscato (which actually holds three glasses) from the Grand Marais Municipal Liquor store listening to the sounds of Lake Superior just footsteps away from my room for the evening is a much better deal. But, either way I did it.

Anyways, I learned a few things on the trail today. And, it goes something like this.

How’s the whole hopey changey thing going for you Probst?

Pretty dam good if I may say so myself. Sure, I have my ups and downs—but as the eye candy (aka hiker) on the trail told me today, “it gets pretty muddy up ahead. Best to just embrace it.”

Embrace it? Seems a bit extreme. But, similar to the muck on the trail, I’m finding ways to endure and manage it. Can we say new shoes?

Next year I turn 40—time to roll out the existential crisis carpet. Add to this, we’ve booked our first family vacation that involves Jake flying the friendly skies. Steve and I celebrate our ten-year anniversary. Jake starts kindergarten. I’ll finally have my MBA in rural healthcare. Our library expansion project will be done. I’m buying a new car. Plus, given my inability to process milestones without some sort of unequivocal piece of nonsense, I’m sure I’ll complete some sort of stretch goal race that’ll leave me achy and sore for days and provide countless social media posts about the misery called training. But, whatever the challenge, I’m confident that I’ll end upright and after my injury last month, that’s a huge win for me.

These incredible highs will be coupled with the lows of an aging father. Countless trips to Cloquet. Praying to a God I don’t even know exists, in hopes for a miracle that won’t happen. Questioning my inner strength and whether I’m good enough. Does he know how much I love him? Do I make him proud? Does he know how much of me is a direct reflection of him? (Just ask Steve about me reading grocery store ads out loud). At times, it is too much. But somehow I endure. We all do, right? Watching friends and colleagues endure incredible heartbreak, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have more time. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? Just one more day. One more hour. One more minute.

I was fortunate that I didn’t know anyone who died in this past week’s tragedy in Las Vegas. But, it was a brutal reminder that our time here is finite. This doesn’t mean I won’t squander precious minutes watching This is Us or drinking wine with friends. But, it did make me pause. Take stock of what and who matters. To look at what I’m doing, and, why. And the truth is, despite my occasional ability to anticipate problems that don’t even exist, I’m finding that deep down, I’m all hopey changey inside. I still believe I can and will make a difference in the world. And, that’s pretty awesome.

I hope for the few folks still reading this, you recognize you’re probably doing the same if not better. Don’t ever lose sight of that. Because this hopey changey gal believes we all deserve to make our mark.

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