Tag Archives: Support

Hopeful for Hope

Hope is extraordinary. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it.

Ok, so some days, are much (seriously, so much) better than others. I and everyone around her has noticed the good days versus the bad days more than usual in the last year.

These last four years for Hope have been stable. I’d like to say that they’ve been good, great even, but I know that that’s probably not true, and I’m guessing that the benchmark for good might be fuzzy. On the outside looking in, it’s been great, on the inside looking out, it’s been…more good than not; it’s also been super challenging for her and for me.

Hope’s life before was hard. There was a lot of upheaval and a lot of safety issues. There was also a lot of love in her previous life; I never doubted that. I might side eye a lot of stuff that I know about her past, but I never doubted that her family of origin loved her so very much. There were just a lot of problems and barriers to probably being the type of parents they wanted to be.  All that stuff made Hope scared, distrustful, headstrong, and survival focused. That stuff also left Hope with some real developmental challenges that linger and make life harder for her. That love shaped her, and it made Hope have hope about her future life. I cling to that probably as much as she does.

We seem to be at a bit of a fork in the road in this journey.

My daughter has to make some choices about the type of future she wants. I’m not talking about 5 or 10 years down the road; I’m talking about the next year. To me, the choice for her is obvious, but it’s not. It seems that those extraordinary survival qualities Hope developed in times of need make it hard for her to see the range of choices clearly. It makes what feels like should be an obvious choice not so obvious for my daughter. As a mom, it’s so hard to see the struggle she endures trying to find her way through this maze. The skills that served her so well for so long don’t work as well in this chapter of her life, and the time hasn’t been long enough yet for her new survival skills to evolve.

It’s like taking an Olympic swimmer and putting her on a stage with a concert violin and demanding that she play as though she’s been playing professionally her whole life. She hasn’t and so she won’t.

And yet, she muddles a rocky rendition of Chopsticks and calls it a day. Hope is extraordinary.

Sometimes I find it so incredibly hard to understand how Hope sees and maneuvers through her world. I see immense talent, tenacity, courage and street smarts in her. I have wondered how to help her leverage her skills to her benefit. I’ve tried all kinds of things, but neither of us have found the magic sauce yet. It takes time. With a major life event (finishing high school) looming, it feels like we’re behind schedule.

We’re not, but it feels like it.

As a mom, all this feels so weird, awkward even to guide her though this—it’s a bit of the blind leading the blind. I mean, I went through traditional life events, but with none of the history or life experiences that Hope has had. Sometimes my life experience feels irrelevant and ill-suited for any kind of possible comparison. I can only imagine how it feels to Hope to know how to live a life only to be thrust into another one where everything, EVERYTHING was different. I chose this life to mother and parent her; she didn’t choose anything about this life. I try to remember that as we muddle through together.

These next 4 months will have a major impact on my daughter’s life for the next year. I’m not sure what she will choose; I’m starting to question what the “right” choice is for her. I thought I knew, but I’m also realizing that she and I have different views and different sets of choices ahead of us over the next few months. Things aren’t as obvious as they appeared, I suppose.

As we talk about the choices, I try to assure her that I love her, accept her, still think she’s an extraordinary kid and I will support her no matter what. I hope that Hope believes me. I hope that she does what she thinks is best for herself and that it sets her up for success.

I’m hopeful, and prayerful, and anxious, and worried, and committed and still more hopeful.

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Both And

I posted something on my FB page a few days ago that I’m sure was rather inflammatory towards adoptees. l hate that it was inflammatory. I appreciate a good pal on Twitter engaging me on the post. All that said, I’ve left it up, despite the fact that I think the author is a bit of a hack.

I’ve you’ve followed the blog for a while, or just dug into the archives, you’ll know that I’m a huge adoptee fan, almost groupie level sometimes (see FB posts about Angela Tucker and the goodies I recently received). They’ve given me so much insight into what must be going on inside Hope’s head. They are an invaluable voice in adoption, and I’m going to keep listening because I know they make me a better mom.

But I’m also an AP who’s often in her feelings about what brought her to adoption, how hard raising a kid is, how hard raising a kid with some issues is, how sad and depressed I get, how hard I fight to stay above water, how hard I have to suppress my own ‘stuff’, how I feel I’m failing at this parenting thing, much less this AP thing that seems to require more of me than I ever imagined and the list of feelings goes on and on.  I have this identity that goes beyond being Hope’s mom.

The truth is, I’ve had to make peace in my life that I’m probably not as happy as I thought I would be as a parent. Another truth?

I sometimes wish I had just left my life alone. I’ve said before it was a good life.  Uttering this truth is a scary, ugly thing.

Getting all the stuff you thought you wanted in life, is well, not all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s not that I want more stuff, it’s just everything is tinged with loss…like everything is tinged with loss.

I am a parent to a daughter whom I adore, but I am unable to birth children—a truth that pains me greatly. I can’t *fix* my daughter’s troubles—a truth that is so complicated it just sucks; I mean I can help her heal but…I don’t know where it will take us. Relationships with family and friends are so different—some have thrived but many are irrevocably changed and not necessarily for the better. I lost my church—I grieve this nearly as much as the loss of my fertility because it shook the foundation of what I believe spiritually. Dammit, even my dog The Furry One passed away; he was one of few constants that joined Before AP and After AP. I could go on, but why, right?

Since I wrote my last pissy post on the drama in adoption support groups, I’ve largely shied away from them. Many of them are simply not safe places. They aren’t healthy and they aren’t supportive because it feels like everyone is fighting to see who is hurt more, playing vocabulary police, lots of “if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t do XX,” lots of name calling and lots of power plays.

Frankly, I’m grateful that I didn’t join any groups before I adopted Hope; I probably would’ve dropped the whole adoption thing and that would’ve been awful.  I might be sad about parts of my life, but I love that Hope is my daughter.

My mother has told me for years that hurt people hurt people. This is probably one of the truest things she’s ever said.

I look at support groups, and I see a bunch of marginalized folks—APs, Birth Parents, Adoptees—squabbling over their experiences and the validity of their feelings in the adoption experience.

The things about feelings is that whether we externally get them validated or not, we feel what we feel—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And yes, we are all marginalized groups when it comes to the general public. Here’s my diversity breakdown: We’ve all got these images that we rally against—APs are “saviors”, Adoptees are the “lucky saved” and Birth Parents are the folks kids are “saved from.” This is a super simplified version, so work with me. That’s all the general public knows and sees of this community. And unless we are an obviously adoptive family, we move through the world like a duck—smooth on top, paddling like hell underwater. The world doesn’t understand our trials, and frankly they don’t want to hear about them because that breaks the spell of the do-gooder narrative.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us to build community among ourselves with a power structure that mimics our marginalization. Saviors on top, everyone else on the bottom. Is it really any wonder why folks get mad? Why comments go from pleasant to fury in a hurry? It shouldn’t shock us.

Add to the fact that everyone hurts in some way, and online support groups are a powder keg.

Now, the point of me writing this post is really about me working through my own feelings when I engage online. I recognize my privilege, I try to stand down and help amplify voice, I try to be a good ally, and I hope to get better at that as I grow. I also realize that with this privilege it’s tough—and not fair–to ask other marginalized people to give us APs a break sometimes, but well…the truth is we could use a kind word and a turned cheek sometimes too. I say and do stupid ish on an hourly basis, I’m sure other folks do to. Sometimes we all just need to give each other a break.

what it is2

Holistically, our experiences and feelings with other members of the adoption triad isn’t really either/or, it’s both/and. None of us in the triad seem to get the communication thing right a lot. All of us type through pain and muck. It’s easy to forget that our experiences are our own, they are anecdotal; they can’t always be generally applied. It’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to be on the same team. It’s easy to forget that we all just want to raise healthy families in supportive environments and that every engagement doesn’t have to be a PhD crash course what we’re all doing wrong—this goes for everyone in the triad; it’s true for us all.

It should be all about the both-and. Always the both-and.

It should be about compassion. It should be about hope and caring. It should also be about education, but also mindful of delivery and purpose for all of us.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements or even all out rows, but it doesn’t have to be nasty, it doesn’t have to be discouraging, it doesn’t have to be diminishing, it doesn’t have to be dismissive.

It can and should be supportive; it should be uplifting, it should be encouraging, it should be challenging in ways that improve not tear down.

try

So my call for the whole community, is to just try to do better. And since this is The Year of the Try, the success can simply be found in the attempt to meet each other where we are.

Just try.


Support Group Side Eye

It continues to stun me how myopic folks can be. I left a support group yesterday because grown folk could not have a civilized conversation amongst adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees views on adoption. (I did reluctantly rejoin the group and immediately hit the “silence notifications” tab. #whoneedsthedrama)

Adoption makes for a bunch of interesting bedfellows, some of whom have big voices and a lot of privilege in the narrative. As a part of the triad, I’ve learned so much about how the diversity issues I work on professionally permeate the world of adoption. I was naive to think they wouldn’t, but I am repeatedly stunned by how things play out.

If we hope to build community with others, we have to be willing to feel some discomfort, even pain at times. I had a therapist that used to tell me that growth never occurs without some level of discomfort. We have to learn to exercise our muscles of compassion and empathy and to talk/type less and listen more.

The voice of the adoptee is an important one.  Man, when Hope speaks I’m like old skool E.F. Hutton—I shut up and listen. Why? Because nothing else on this journey compares to her voice, her needs. She is not just the center of my world; this adoption is about what she needed/needs. Oh sure, I wanted to be a mom. But honestly, I didn’t need to be one. I can’t say I feel like I was born to do this. I can’t argue that my maternal instinct couldn’t have been satiated in other ways besides becoming a mom (an all expense year of luxury in Bora Bora might’ve done it…). Hope needed a family. Hope’s family needed her to have a stable family and a stable home. I was available and a good match. I fit the bill.

I got a great kid; I got to be a mom, and she is getting her Mazlow’s needs met.

During the last two years, I’m sure I’ve done and said some stupid things about my adoption journey, about birth parents, about supportive folks in and around my life, about Hope and other adoptees. I’ve had to stretch, not just to understand what might be Hope’s perspective, but the general perspective of adoptees. I get that it’s hard for adoptive parents not to take some of the sadness and grief personally; but really, it’s not about us.

Except when it is, and it is when we are dismissive and silencing to the adoptee voice. Then we make it about us, our feelings, our narrative.

We are entitled to our feelings, we are. But we aren’t entitled to them at the expense of our children. It ain’t fair, but thems the brakes.

It infuriates me to hop onto an online support group that is supposed to welcome all members of the triad to the conversation, only to find that APs are whining about everyone being too sensitive. Yo, check it, everybody in the room typically has lost something, is grieving something, is struggling with something. Let’s get over ourselves. Most of the public narrative about adoption is about us anyway, what we want, what we’ve endured to finally become parents, what we feel then and now. It really is okay to pass the dutchie to the right and let someone else take a puff on the mic.

When an adoptee tells me something is offensive—especially something I, as an adoptive parent, have said is offensive—I take them at their word. End of story.

I don’t do/say any of the following because they are inappropriate:

  • I know this other adoptee and they are okay with it. What’s your problem?
  • Hey, it was just cute/a joke/darling! You are too sensitive!! Lighten up.
  • You always makes everything so negative!
  • You always make adoption about you!
  • Hey, why are you so angry?
  • You must be anti-adoption.
  • You must hate your adoptive parents!!
  • You aren’t grateful for being adopted?

This is just a sampling of some of the things I read on a support group thread yesterday. Now, this might be hard to connect, but much of this is offensive to adoptees much the way that the following is offensive to me as an African-American:

  • I don’t see color.
  • You’re just an angry Black Woman!
  • All/Blue Lives Matters as an “opposite” to Black Lives Matter.
  • You must hate White people.
  • The upside of slavery is that you were saved from the savagery/poverty/etc of Africa.
  • 400+ years of institutionalized, legacy driven racism and genocide has no bearing on today now that you’ve been “free” for 152 years—even though the last of the slaves didn’t even know they were free for about 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

And if I need to explain why any of these bullets are problematic, please feel free to drop me a private email, and I’ll happily send you a prospectus about my diversity consulting and the attending fee scale.  I still have dates for private consulting available for 2016. #sideeye

To all of this BS, I say…

GTFOH.

It’s crap. Just crap. Let’s all spend more time respecting one another and listening to one another. Let’s all remember that adoption is really, really about the adoptee, despite all of our personal roles and feelings. It doesn’t mean those latter things aren’t real and important, but ultimately, adoption isn’t about us APs. It’s just not.  Yes, I know…we wish it was.

If a support group is going to be true to its moniker, then actually offer support by taking time to listen to all of the voices, giving them equal weight and taking them all at their words. Otherwise, just be honest about it and rock it like an old skool treehouse. Name it something clever and post a sign on the e-door that says “No adoptees or whatever” allowed. Let folks know whether they are truly welcome. Don’t waste anyone’s time, and finally, don’t be a jerk. Honestly, it’s not hard.

Rant Over.

#FliptTheScript

ETA: I will not be using the hashtag above in future posts or on Twitter.  Despite very much supporting the movement, a wonderful adoptee brought it to my attention that the use of the hashtag by a non-adoptee–even for purposes of support–is a form of attribution. I should’ve considered that, but I didn’t. My bad.

So although I have used it before with no complaints from adoptees, I recognize how it can be an inappropriate use of my AP privilege to use the hashtag. So, I won’t in the future.

See how easy that was?


Betwixt and Between

Image

There is an overlook in St. Kitts and Nevis where you can see the small isthmus that connects these volcanic islands together.  Standing on this overlook, you can see both the Atlantic and Caribbean Oceans.  One is choppy and violently crashes its surf; the other is nearly still with a surface barely broken by gentle waves.

I think I might be an isthmus between two islands.

My existence feels a little chaotic.  I am at times joyful and incredibly chill,  other times angry, often impatient, still other times depressed, withdrawn and incredibly anxious, and most of the time exhausted.

I am a bit of a mess.  My emotions are all over the place.

In the days since Match Day, I feel like I have had very little control.  Hope will not come to live with me for several months yet, despite the fact that I’d like to board a plane to fetch her immediately.  I mean stat!  Accepting the reality that neither of us is ready for the big move is hard.  Her room has been a guest room with extra storage for 12 years; I have a lot of sifting, sorting, packing and donating to do to be ready for her arrival.  I also have a plan to be finished drafting my dissertation by December; the completion of that draft on time is essential for me to stay on schedule to graduate next spring.  I’m anxious about possibly taking custody around the holidays because I am afraid Hope will be overwhelmed, resulting in my being overwhelmed.

I am also still enduring well-intended, but frankly stupid commentary.  “I can’t believe the agency is letting you adopt alone.  You really need a husband.”  “Why don’t you know things like X, Y and Z about your new daughter?”  How is it that silly comments can already make me feel inadequate as a mom when my mommy-dom is so new and in some ways doesn’t feel official yet?

It is more important than ever that I learn to guard myself against hurtful words and practice forgiveness and judgment-free living.  Forgiveness has never been something I have withheld in great amount, but I am finding that the need to practice it (with a side of grace) at this point in my life is more intense than ever.  I am also finding the old, more judgmental me is slipping away, which is a good thing.

At least two people have shared adoption horror stories with me in the last few days, though I’m not sure what the purpose of the story was supposed to be other than to scare me.   A year ago, I couldn’t believe that anyone’s adoption placement might fail, and I blamed those parents for not trying hard enough.  I don’t blame them anymore; I know better.  It happens, and it is devastating.  I have discovered a pool of compassion I didn’t know I had for all parties involved in a failed placement.    At this point, I find failed stories so painful, gossipy and non-supportive of adoptive families.  When I recently said no to a child, I know it was the right decision.  I knew such a placement looked good on paper, but would be ultimately be a disaster.  This is not an easy path.  I’m learning that forgiveness of all the people making comments that are not supportive of me or adoptive families in general is critical.   It is really the only way I can reduce whatever pain hurtful words inflict.  I have to let it go, not for them but for me and Hope.

At the other end of the continuum, there is peacefulness about moving forward with my new daughter.  It is odd that this calmness coexists with the madness swirling around me.  I went into the room that will be Hope’s room today.  I recently stripped the room of its old décor and had it painted white.  There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in there to prepare for her arrival.   I found the task of room prep (getting rid of things from Pre-Hope days) overwhelming until today when I went in and started pulling things down to send to the Goodwill tomorrow.  I realized that I will relish in tossing some things out and repurposing other things.  I am excited about creating some design concepts to send to Hope.  This transition is a beautiful thing and in some ways I’m running towards it.  Today the tasks brought me a sense of satisfaction; I’m preparing for this change and this young person in a very concrete way.  It isn’t hypothetical and it isn’t conceptual anymore.

I also realized that I need this time and that embracing this awkward period is a good thing.  Although I am eager for Hope to come home to me, I realize that the few months of waiting will give us both some time to prepare ourselves.  Again, this isn’t an easy path; preparation time is needed.  By my own reckoning I need at least 6 more weeks to get ready.  The reality is that this time will also allow me to get through the heavy lift of conducting my research and writing my dissertation this fall.  Besides it will only be a few weeks until we are Skyping regularly.  I’ll see her face, hear her voice, begin to learn how we will navigate this new path together.  Something about embracing this transition period brings me comfort.  I can take a deep breath, pick out paint, write and dream about our tomorrows.

And yet, both of these emotional states, anxiety and calm, wax and wane.  I can float from one side of narrow isthmus to the other in a matter of moments.  The triggers are difficult to manage and exhausting, but I figure I will get better at it during the next few weeks and months.  I will continue to learn to not take things personally and to forgive, forgive and forgive again.  I hope that my family and friends will be patient with me.  I’m a bit of a handful these days.

But it is all worth it.


I Got 99 Problems, But Some Folks…

I think everyone knows and understands that some folks come into your life for a lifetime and others only for a season.  I’ve found that during my times of extraordinary personal growth, I either leave some seasonal folks behind or we just drift apart.  I’d have to say that adoption and dissertation writing represent periods of crazy growth.

For the most part, I have had a solid core of support from friends and family during this journey.  It has not always been easy; there have been moments that have reduced me to tears because we are all navigating new terrain.  The dissertation journey has not been quite as rocky since I’ve been in school for several years; we’ve all got a rhythm with the school thing.   Most of the challenging moments have stemmed from my adoption journey, which falls into a weird, abstract blind spot for many people. People don’t seem to just say “congrats” like they would to pregnant women.   I’m adopting an older child, and since there’s no pregnancy, the whole thing can be more conceptual for lots of folks (thank God no one is rubbing my belly).  I get it, but “congrats” would still be a nice response sometimes.

What has been challenging is when my disclosure that I am adopting an older child is met with:

Are you sure about an older kid?  They are so much trouble.

You know you could/should reconsider having your own child.

Have you thought about surrogacy?

What about infant adoption?

Are you infertile?

Why have you given up hope?

Image

What the what???  Yeah.  All up in my grill.  Other deeply personal rationalizations I have about my life, hey, you want to hear about those too? Oh let me get out my calendar so we can discuss my last menses while we’re at it.

Some of these questions are well-intended.  Some are just out of genuine concern, others are just damn nosey.  But, I know they aren’t malicious.  One person even suggested that my plans to not have bio kids was most unfortunate because I’m smart and cute and should pass those genes on to my own kid (there’s that pesky “own” distinction again).  Um, ok.  Some people strangely assume that my decision making is based on nothing, just nothing and they attempt to school me on the challenges of adoption, that I should avoid older child adoption or even make the choice to be childless.  One person attempted this kind of school session during a recent happy hour.  I’m sad to report that she was injured as I was raising my “You’d better stay in your lane, crazy chick” shield.

Life at the moment is pretty complicated.  I’m waiting for the elusive Institutional Review Board approval for my dissertation study.  The adoption process is involving conference call on top of conference call, and it also requires a level of vulnerability that I’ve never before experienced.  The day job is demanding.  The bills have to be paid; dry cleaning picked up and dropped off, and wait–what the devil is that growing on the broccoli in the fridge?  It is crazy busy; there’s a lot to do and in the words of Michelle Obama, the one thing I don’t do well is answer stupid questions about my rationale to become a parent through adoption or to parent an older adoptive kid.  As if I owe anyone an explanation anyway!

The adoption process reminds me to be thoughtful about the company I keep.  I’ve got a lot going on, and I don’t have time for a bunch of silly foolishness.  I am viewing life through a prism of impending parenthood, and frankly I’m fanatically consumed with protecting the health and well-being of my Hope Kid.  Hope Kid has already been through enough crap; Hope Kid doesn’t need folks around who doubt my reasoning for wanting him/her or second guessing why I want to be a parent at all.

I know that my nearest and dearest will still ask some uncomfortable questions and not everyone will agree with the decisions I am making and will make.  That’s cool, it’s even allowed.  But Team AdoptiveBlackMom needs supportive folks.  It’s ok, to disagree with me, but I need folks around me who will help me be the best parent I can be and who won’t waste time with a bunch of crazy mess about whether I should be a parent at all or how I should go about achieving that goal.   Totally baffled and disturbed by this life choice to the point where your mouth is burning, just burning to question me?  That’s cool, but please see yourself to the door, our season on this life journey has come to a close.  I won’t allow that conflict to be one of my 99 problems.

 Oh you think it’s bad now?  I haven’t even met Hope Kid yet!  Just know that when I do, my inner Momma Bear will be epic! Epic, I tell you!


The Cult of the Support Group

So recently, I lay awake one night fretting about the lack of folks to talk to about the adoption process.  I’ve read books and found them to be useful, but pretty dry.  My agency is really, really into promoting what I call the Cult of the Support Group.  Ok, ok, I got it, and I needed something a bit more interactive than the books, so in the wee hours of the night, I booted up the laptop in search of a web-based source of support.

Search terms….

  • Adoption support
  • Older child adoption support
  • Single parent adoption support

And so the searches went.  I discovered a few pretty vibrant support communities.  With a few keystrokes, I registered for sites and asked for permission to join other sites.  Current anxiety attack sated, I drifted back off to sleep.

The next morning I found acceptance into one group on a social media site.  Awesome!  Grabbing some java, I settled in to read posts and blogs for a while.  All good stuff, until I slammed into some major points of difference that left me feeling some kind of way.

  • No one on these sites looked like me (where are the other People of Color (POCs) who are adopting?).
  • So very few adoptive parents adopted domestically.  I’m sure there are lots of similar issues but there are a lot of different issues as well.
  • Most of the posters were very religiously conservative in ways that don’t align with my own world view.

I felt like I shared part of the experience but was still left out of the group on a number of levels.  Oh it wasn’t them.  It was me.

Was my major contribution to the support group conversation really going to be serving as some kinda expert about hair care for their adoptive girls from African countries with curly, tightly coiled hair?  Where are the threads about nurturing whole-self-identity, inclusive of racial identity of our children?  What am I supposed to say on this site about being perfectly fine if my kid comes to the realization that he/she is gay or believes they are a gender that is different than their biological sex when clearly that position is not going to be tolerated in this support group?  Is this a space where I can safely ask about parenting for progressive, left leaning Christians, like myself?  Is this a space where I can talk about my fears of raising my would-be Black son in a world where he will be viewed as threatening while walking home from the 7-11 with a Slurpee and some candy because he doesn’t have the privilege of just being where he is, doing what he’s doing?

I’m not really feeling like it’s that kinda space.  And I’m not an online hair consultant, though my hair always looks good! (You betta werk!)

Image <<Click for full effect!>

Now I work on diversity issues as a part of my day job, so yeah, issues of race, racial identity and culture have deep meaning for me.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t participate in other realms; frankly I LIVE in all other realms, but I bring this part of me to that space.  It’s a part of who I am.

My adoption agency has encouraged me to plug into support groups and get connected with people who are sharing this experience.  I’m trying.  And I know that this post highlights my dilemma with just one group I stumbled over in the middle of the night.  But I haven’t found a group (on ground or online) where I don’t feel limited or silent  or even invisible because I hardly see anyone who looks like me and shares some critical experiences with me.  So, I’m diving back into other group searches that will hopefully produce what I need or at least more than the group I excitedly stumbled upon.  I realize I’m also going to have to moderate my expectations (seemingly an ongoing theme in the adoption process)  I’m not quitting the group that I found, but it is only meeting a slice of my need as a parent-in-waiting, and I anticipate that it will only address a slice of my actual parenting life.

New search terms….

  • Progressive Christian parenting
  • African Americans for adoption
  • POCs and adoption
  • Adoptive parents who are ok with maybe one day joining PFLAG

 


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