Christmas Letter 2003

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2003, word for word.

Hello and Merry Christmas!

This year I decided to try a different strategy – get all my shopping done (almost), the Christmas tree cut -put up- and decorated, all my baking done (except the cherry cheesecake on Christmas Eve) and the parcels mailed to B.C. BEFORE I wrote my annual Christmas letter. So here are the highlights of this past year….

After my last year’s letter, I DID get the baking done and the parcels mailed to B.C. before everyone began to get sick.  On Christmas day, we ended up in the Emergency department of the Kemptville Hospital with Melvin who ended up in the Childrens’ Hospital in Ottawa for 5 days in January.  At one point, both he and Marty had pneumonia; Doctors thought Melvin had leukemia (he didn’t – just double pneumonia and whooping cough); then the next week they thought Marty had a tumor (the lesion on his lung was the size of a quarter and was a scar from Histoplasmosis, which we never knew he had years ago!).  So that’s how our new year began!!  By the end of January they were all back at school!!!!!!

Nellie turned 11 in January – she’s almost as tall as me now with beautiful long hair. She’s now in grade 6 at the same school in the little town of Kars that all her siblings attended. Darin turned 26 in January and he and Amanda still live in Ottawa.  Of course, you’ve probably heard of their new daughter, Kalia Emily, who was born November 15th.  She’s the cutest baby in the world – honest, I’m not biased just because I’m her Gramma!

Taylor turned 23 in February and he still lives in Vancouver – we are hoping that someday soon he’ll come home to visit.  He still works at the same restaurant/bar, ‘Avantes’.  Marty is now 17 and towers over me!  A few months ago he picked up a guitar and hasn’t stopped since!  He’s a natural!!  He’s in grade 11 and doing very well.
Kristi is 21 now and in her third year at Carleton University.  She still works in the ER at the Ottawa General Hospital and also for Foreign Affairs Canada on her days ‘off’.  Her and Mike are still engaged and hoping to get married in 2005.

Robin (now 28) and Natasha (29) still live in Victoria, B.C. where Robin is still in school pursuing a Masters degree.  I will never forget his first day of kindergarten – he refused to go and get on the schoolbus: he actually grabbed onto the fence and clung for dear life – honestly, I couldn’t unhook his little fingers, until the bus left!!  Now we can’t get him out of school!  Ha! Ha!  We are very proud of him – actually of all of our children.

Our little Melvin turns 9 tomorrow!  He’s in grade 4 at the little school in North Gower where all the kids have gone for the past 22 years.  guess I’m the most veteran parent in that school.

During the winter, we still enjoy hockey games with our friends on Saturday nights in our garage/party room and skating on our backyard rink on the river.  Spring, summer, and fall find us working in the yard.  The pond is nearing completion with the stream/waterfall which we accomplished this year.  Chris built a little arched bridge over the stream and several arbors/trellises for around the yard.  I’m forever planting and dividing/moving plants.  Our vegetable garden is being taken over with more perennial flowers which I’m trying to start from seed or find in a heap.

Well, I sure hope that you will come and see us sometime. If not, just write and keep in touch. Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New year.

Christmas Letter 1990

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 1990, word for word.

Dear Friends,
Many of you haven’t heard from us in a few years, so I’d like to bring you up-to-date on all the dramatic changes which have happened.

1988 was an unsettling year. First my Dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in the spring, then died in October. Two weeks afterwards, Dean unexpectedly left me and the kids and filed for divorce. The kids and I were going to move back to Hamilton to be nearer family at this trying time, but a little voice inside me said ‘Kemptville is your home now – stay’ and the larger voice of the kids insisted ‘stay’! It became apparent that I was meant to be here when I met Chris last fall. We’ve shared our lives since then and were married June 9th in our back yard with family, friends, and children present.

The kids sure have grown: Robin (15) is in Grade 10 and enjoys Drafting. In his spare time, he paints Lead Figures and buddies with Geoff. Darin (14 soon) is a good athlete in grade 7 and enjoys racing Radio Controlled Cars. Taylor (almost 11) is in grade 5 and likes to play Nintendo. Kristi (8) is in grade 3 and loves to play school and house with Marty and Terri (her step-sister/Jason is their step-brother). Marty, alias Mards Bar, Benjamin, Batman, Ninja Turtle, is now going to Junior Kindergarten full time after a hesitant late start at the end of October. He’s an independent boy who loves all the attention from everyone.

I practice Midwifery whenever I can and still run my private Lactation Consulting practice at Winchester Hospital and homes. I’ve recently accepted the position of Welcome Wagon hostess for Kemptville, too.

It’ll take a few Christmas letters for you to get to know Chris (30), but briefly, he’s a painter by trade and a jack-of-all-trades who can do anything. Together we enjoy boating, skidooing, relaxing at home, even painting (when he needs extra help). He’s just getting into the Radio Controlled Car Club with Darin.
So that’s quite an update, isn’t it!! We hope that if you’re travelling our way, you will drop by to see us in 1991!

 

 

Christmas Letters

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends. These yearly letters summarized our family activities and highlighted our proudest moments. A few decades ago, I mailed each one in a Christmas card via Canada Post (also known as snail mail) to all our family and friends. That was the only way to go back in the day. I managed to save a few copies in with my Christmas decorations and I’d like to share them with you over the next few days.
TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER WAS WRITTEN 31 YEARS AGO – DECEMBER 1987, including Original pictures. Here it is, word for word, which was typed on a Commodore 64 computer and printed with our dot-matrix printer.

 

Greetings from the Mellways-on-the-Rideau! Has it been a year already since we sent our best wishes for the season? We’ve been so busy this year that we’ve hardly noticed it go by!

 
Marty has been a full-time delight. Already 16 months old with curly auburn hair and blue eyes, he keeps us hopping and literally on our toes continually. He loves to look at all the colourful Christmas lights and the many birds who visit our window feeder. Christmas ’87 will require some ‘creative decorating’ to say the least!

 
Kristi is five already and just loving Kindergarten! She is full of confidence and energy and more than holds her own with her big brothers. Ballet classes are her latest joy (our little angel in pink tights!!).

 
Taylor still astounds us with his enthusiasm for learning (anything!). Now 7 years old, he participates in Beavers and plays the recorder. He and Kristi are in our community Christmas choir and will perform on December 20th.

 
Darin is almost 11 now and since the beginning of the year has made a conscious decision to become a vegetarian. He’s active in team sports and will be joining the ski club at school in the new year. Finally, Linda will have someone to ski with again!

 
Well, Robin finally surpassed his parents in height hitting 5’5″ at 12 years old! He’s in grade 7 now and still plays the Saxophone in the Intermediate Band. His biggest thrill of the year was flying Air Canada to Chicago with Linda and Marty.

 
Most of Linda’s time is spent Home Making – she even took a 2 month hands-on house building course last winter with baby Marty in tow. It’s been a tremendous help as we finish our home and plan the upcoming renovations to the kitchen and outside veranda addition. In her spare time she continues to practice Midwifery and has recently opened a Breastfeeding Clinic to help mothers and babies.

 
Dean remains active in many aspects of wheelchair sports. He’s still Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and plays tennis in the summer and sledge hockey in the winter. Look for him at Ottawa’s Winterlude again in February ’88!

 
We’ll be home for Christmas this year with both Linda’s two sisters and their families joining us on Boxing Day for a traditional Christmas get-together ~ turkey with ALL the trimmings, skating on the river, and good times.

 
May you all have a safe and happy Christmas and 1988.

1987 kidswm

L-R: Darin, Robin, baby Marty, Taylor, Kristi

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Backyard 1987

 

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Front of our house 1987

 

Visiting Vancouver Island

I spent last week on the west coast visiting my sister Betty, my son Robin/D-I-L Nici, and other family.  I love it when I have the opportunity to share time with my family in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.  Betty and I had a week full of adventures – and a pot of barley soup to eat – after I arrived late Sunday night!

We started off by visiting my cousin Jacklyn, her daughter Melody, and her mom Kathy.  It had been a long time since I’d seen Kathy so it was a real treat.   My niece Brodie, a talented singer, also dropped in for a quick hello too.

Robin and I Beachcombing @ Powell River, B.C.

Robin and I Beachcombing @ Powell River, B.C.

The next day Betty and I were off on the ferry to go across the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.  Waiting for us was my son Robin and later my daughter-in-law Nici and their german sheppard puppy Gerda, who was actually the size of a miniature pony!   We had an awesome time!  Robin drove us up to the little town of Lund which is SO picturesque – it’s actually Mile One of a highway that will take you all the way down the west coast to South America’s Chile, 15,202 kms.  We had lunch on the patio at Nancy’s Bakery overlooking the small harbour and the ocean dotted with gulf islands.  Afterwards we went back to the farm to check on the goats and chickens.  I even learned to milk a goat!

I milked a goat!

I milked a goat!

Robin spoiled us with delicious homemade dinners and desserts using veggies from their own garden and milk from their goats.  I’m proud to say he’s an awesome cook!  In the evenings, we enjoyed watching videos on the computer of our Family Frolics – 20 years of videotaping of family life now stored on my external hard drive.  We also spent hours beachcombing, looking for beach glass and unique shells which I’ll make into Christmas tree decorations for our tree this year.  Finally, all too soon, it was time to catch the ferry back to the Island and leave Powell River behind.   A small pod of Orca whales graced us with their presence as if they were bidding us goodbye.

Rob's pumpkin pie made with fresh goat's milk, fresh eggs, and garden pumpkins

Rob’s pumpkin pie made with fresh goat’s milk, fresh eggs, and garden pumpkins

Next, we drove down to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, picking up Betty’s granddaughter along the way to bring her down to her daddy Curt for halloween.  Betty and I stayed at our favourite hotel, The Mayfair, where the rooms are clean and affordable.   We spent a relaxing evening on our computers, each one of us propped up in our individual beds, watching more Family Frolics videos and laughing hysterically until the wee hours of the morning.  We leisurely drove back up Island, stopping along the way at a few new thrift stores and lunch in Ladysmith.  Once back at Betty’s ‘cave’ a few hours later, we got in our comfy clothes and ‘chillaxed’ for the evening since I was leaving very early the next morning.  A week sure flies by way too fast and now I was on my way back to Vancouver to catch another flight to the Yukon/Northern B.C., the land of the midnight sun.

Linda and Betty

Linda and Betty

Living Legacy

This week I received 76 tree seedlings and 30 bushes free of charge because they were ‘surplus’ from a local project:  White Pine, Red Maple, White Birch, Sugar Maple, Bur Oak, Tamarack, Cedar, Sweet Gale, and Pagoda Dogwood.   All were bare root seedlings (not planted in a pretty one gallon container) ranging in height from 12-36 inches (up to one meter).  I assured the donor that I could definitely find homes on my property for every living plant, even though I re-gifted 10 trees to my son Darin for his home.

Bur Oak

Bur Oak tree

I had been expecting them, so I carefully drew up a map of where I wanted to plant all these wonderful trees and bushes.  It was truly a gift to receive them.   Most of the trees were planted along the sides of my property where they wouldn’t interfere with the gorgeous sunlight that feeds my soul and my garden – and maybe some day, solar panels.   White Pines were interspersed with Cedars and Sugar Maples nearest the house.  I thought that the Sugar Maples should be close so I can tap them in about 25 or 30 years to make maple syrup – maybe I’ll be like my Gramma who was active and busy when she was over 90 years old.   Sometimes there’s still snow on the ground when the Maples are tapped so being closer would be easy….. right?  Tamaracks and Cedars were planted down by the river since they like it wetter.  Some Red Maples and Bur Oaks were planted about halfway up the yard.  I tucked in a few Pagoda Dogwoods and Sweet Gale right along the riverside where they will thrive.  Most of the White Birch were reserved for the front of my house near the road where it’s drier.  They’ll grow up amongst the other maples, cedars, ash, and a variety of bushes.

White Pine

White Pine

The majority of Sweet Gale and Pagoda Dogwood bushes are destined for my ditch by the road.  It’s been an ongoing battle for me over the past few years, to keep my ditch perfectly manicured.  The sides are so steep that it’s very difficult for me to trim the grass.  So last fall, I decided to give in and let it be.  I’ll leave the centre of the ditch for the water to flow (or more like, sit and evaporate since it doesn’t really flow anywhere).  I have other bushes to add including Forsythia (which I have rooting in the kitchen), Hydrangea bushes (ready to be dug out from beside their momma bush), False Spirea (which has multiplied from the original single bush dozens of times over), Ostrich Ferns (which grow prolifically around here), Orange Daylilies (which desperately need dividing anyway), and that blasted Goutweed (which has invaded every garden – brought accidently into my garden with a friendly transplant).   So let the grass grow!  Soon it will be smothered by these other plants.

Sweet Gale waiting to be planted

Sweet Gale waiting to be planted

I reserved the three best trees for my three grandchildren who do not have a tree planted in their name yet.  To date, only 11 year old Kalia has a Ginko Biloba, 9 year old Livi has a Mountain Ash, and Spirit Baby has a White Pine.

I realize that I will likely never see these trees grow to maturity unless I live to be 100.  But as I planted each stick of a seedling, I wished it well on its journey and asked it to share its beauty with my children and grandchildren and whoever else might some day lay eyes on its magnificence.  My gift, my living legacy

I Love Photos

 

I love taking pictures. I always have – I’ve been taking pictures for over 50 years. You’ve probably already noticed that I love to include lots of pictures in my blog.

OldCamerasWM
The very first photo I ever recall was a picture taken of me when I was 2 years old. I still have that picture. Back in the ’50s, photos were reserved for special occassions like weddings or vacations. Luckily my parents took photos of our every day lives as well so now I have cherished visual memories of those times. I can jog my memory by looking at pictures of skating and tobogganing in our backyard, Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Hamilton, down home, camping, etc.

 

1stAlbumWM

 

One of the first photos I took was of my pet turtles, Sam and Touché. I felt lucky that my Mom let me use the camera to capture those little reptiles that I loved. It didn’t stop there. I began to put those photos in my first photo album entitled “My Pets” which included pictures of our fish, turtles, dog, cats, cows, pigs, and horses (from down home). All photo albums back in the day were black “almost-legal-sized” pages of heavy construction-like paper. The photo collector would then place their photos on these pages with these little corners or tape or glue. I often wrote what the photo was about with a white crayon or coloured pencil – thank goodness because I would never have remembered all those pictures! I glued those pictures in my first album and they are still intact today. My second album was a compilation of my parents photos from my childhood and my own photos up until I got married. I used scotch tape to ‘secure’ these pictures in place but most of them have now fallen out. It will be another ‘retirement project’ for me to re-install all those pictures on their spots. Many of them I’ll remember where they go based on the white caption under the blank spot but others I’ll just have to guess at. Sadly, some of my pictures were damaged during a flood we had in the basement in the early 1980s.

TurtlesWM
Many albums have followed. I think I was inspired by my dear mother-in-law Florence who was an avid photographer and had dozens of photo albums, one for each year. Every time we would go to her house, I would get out the latest album and look at the pictures she took. I derived great pleasure from looking at all those photos and it’s one of my most cherished memories. Now I have dozens of photo albums for my children and grandchildren to look at. I have to admit that I have some work ahead of me in organizing the last few years of pictures – thousands of pictures. They are all stored on my computer and backed up on my external hard drive. I have to look through them and choose 200 for each of the last 3 years to be emailed to the photo lab to be printed off, then placed in each album. I prefer to look at an actual picture in a photo album than one on the computer. In addition, I want to reorganize my 1970s and 1980s albums which were haphazardly placed in recycled 3 ring binders. And of course, reinserting all those pictures that have fallen out of my original albums……

AlbumsWM
I love taking photos too. Who can resist capturing a lifetime in photographs.  Before I snap the picture, I look through my lens at the background as well as the image I want to capture. I really love to take scenery pictures with my family in them. I don’t own a big fancy camera, just an inexpensive 14 megapixel Kodak. It suits me for now because it fits right in my pocket or purse which is great when I’m travelling or simply in the yard. I have been considering learning more from my grown children about those fancy cameras that they use, where you can adjust the focus and all kinds of stuff. And speaking of my children, most of them are talented photographers themselves. Many road trips have required sudden pit stops to take a photo. But I believe that my family respects the art of picture taking and finds comfort in looking at pictures that are taken by different family members.
Photographs are a ‘trip’ in themselves: I don’t have to go to Bali or hike to the top of a British Columbia glacier because my children share their adventures with me through their photos. And I love that.

Tofino, B.C.

Tofino, B.C.

 

 

 

Halloween

This year I was reminiscing about past Halloweens.  We’ve always celebrated ‘All Hallows Eve’ with family and friends in a number of ways.   I’d like to share some of those hilarious events with my readers of Grammomsblog:

Melvin's

When I was growing up, I used to love creating a ‘haunted house’ in my family basement to take all my blind-folded friends through.  It was very low tech with peeled grapes for eyeballs, cooked spaghetti for brains, jello for it’s feel, and an electric chair (don’t ask).

Chris had his own teenage Halloween stories, like the Great Pumpkin Caper,  that you can read about here.

When my children were little during the ’80s, we’d often have daytime ‘dress-up’ parties with friends in our parent’s group.  There would be a scavenger hunt, bobbing for apples, and ‘catch-the-donut’ where we’d hang a day-old plain donut on a string and suspend it – each child had a chance to take a bite out of the swinging treat.  It was tons of fun for the children and adults alike.

CarvingPumpkins2

Carving pumpkins

Carving pumpkins has been a family tradition for 40 years.   Several weeks before Halloween, we buy local pumpkins and set them outside as decorations.  Then a few days before the 31st, we bring them inside to warm up before carving.  At one time, we had 5 or 6 big pumpkins – one for each of the kids to carve (well, okay it was really us adults who scooped and carved most of those pumpkins!).   Some years, we printed off pumpkin patterns that we found on the internet, trace the pattern onto the pumpkin with permanent marker then proceed to carve them out.  Various carving tools have been used such as paring knives, large serving spoons, screwdrivers, electric drills,  toothpicks, etc.   It was a beautiful display of flickering light through the pumpkins…… for the 7 or 8 kids who came trick-or-treating to our door.

1998Halloween

Many years ago, we began the annual tradition of setting up a Halloween ‘display’ in the front yard.   Chris cut out life-size graveyard ‘head stones’ from scrap pieces of wood, painted them white, and I wrote R.I.P. with a name and caption on them.  We installed them on the grass then laid down bags or newspaper covered with sand (often with a stuffed shirt or shoes sticking out) to make them look like they were freshly dug graves.   I made ‘ghosts’ from small, white trash bags filled with paper and tied around the neck – we hung these with fishing line on the apple trees where they blew and twisted with  ghoulish intent.  One year, we found some plastic skulls on a 3′ post and created ‘One-eyed Jack’ and his 7 friends:  Chris installed red Christmas mini-lights in the eyes and we taped wire coat hangers below the skulls where we hung white dress shirts that I bought at a thrift store for twenty-five cents each.   The ‘arms’ blew in the slightest breeze – it was positively ‘frightening’ on a dark, pumpkin-lit night!  The little kiddies had to walk right by these characters to get their well-deserved treats.   These days, the gravestones, ghostly skulls, and tree-ghosts remain packed away but my grown children still like to carve pumpkins.

57077_447677246465_2166854_o

And the winner is………….

The kids have always LOVED to dress up on Halloween.  We rarely bought costumes – most were made right at home created by the children themselves.  About 21 years ago, we decided to let the kids participate in the town’s ‘Halloween’ fun day.  Kristi spend days and days taping white circles on black clothing to create a Dalmatian costume.  Baby Nellie wore a pink snowsuit and pink hat that I had sewn ‘bunny ears’ on to.  Marty wanted to be a hockey player so he dug out a helmet and hockey stick to go with his team jersey.  Taylor reluctantly agreed to come along and, at the last minute, ripped his jeans a little more, applied ‘zombie’ make-up, and wore a fake ‘knife-through-the-head’.  All the participating children paraded down the main street of town and back up again ……….. and Taylor dragged his leg limping, for effect, the whole way.  Some of the other children’s costumes were obviously expensive looking, store bought and very lovely.  At the end of the celebration, the organizers announced the winners of the best costume and the grand prize of $25.00  went to……….. ‘the limping kid with the knife through his head’!  lol!   Kristi STILL hasn’t forgotten that!

Our Pumpkinmobile

Our Pumpkinmobile

The kids always loved going around our neighbourhood on Halloween night……. and so did we.  Often, we hadn’t seen some of our neighbours much over the summer so this was a great opportunity to say hello – the kids hated it when we’d talk and talk when they just wanted to go to the next place.  One year, Chris tied down our largest pumpkin on top of the van and installed his blue, flashing plow light inside for the drive over to the next road.  I think we created the first Pumpkinmobile!  lol

A decade ago, we were hosting neighbourhood halloween parties on the Saturday before halloween.   Everyone, children AND adults, would dress up.  We would have a potluck supper then games for the kiddies, apple-bobbing, and in-house scavenger hunt  followed by  Hockey Night In Canada.  The night wasn’t complete until our neighbour Mike performed his animated recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” in front of the woodstove fire with all the lights out – it was spellbinding!

Halloween Party2002

Neighbourhood Halloween Party

And who can forget the neighbourhood ‘Haunted House’……..

Those were memorable days…….

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

 

 

GRATITUDE

I feel grateful for many things in my life.  First and foremost, I’m grateful that I have such a great family.  I’ve been blessed with seven wonderful children, five great children-in-law (so far), and 4 grandchildren…..and growing.   I have two terrific sisters who are truly my best friends.  And I have so many cousins it’s hard to keep track.   Plus I have a few close friends that I would consider part of my family as well as many aquaintances.

For the last 36+ years, I have been a mother and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been so influential in another person’s life – to teach, learn, lead, follow, listen, talk, etc.  My children have grown into incredible people whom I am very proud of.  And I couldn’t have picked better partners for them if I’d tried!

I have gotten great joy from seeing my granddaughters grow from newborns to ‘school age’ girls, with confidence and love of life.  Welcoming my new foster grandchildren, has been a new experience for me this past year and I am grateful for the opportunity to share in their lives for however long I am granted.

Now that I am in the ‘autumn’ of my life, I cherish my sisters Betty and Faye even more.  I have lived in a different locale than them for over 40 years but we still remain the closest.  Every time I get a chance to see them, I am forever grateful for another day, as we have spent a lifetime together….and plan on spending many more years in each others’ lives.

I have a home of my own to share with my family, friends,  and visitors alike and I am grateful for it daily.  I stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, feeling safe and secure within its walls.

I am grateful that I am able to grow some food in my garden, smell the creeping thyme, watch the birds, touch the earth, taste my own raspberries, and hear the sound of a distant train.  

I am grateful that I live in a country where people are free, children are loved, and abject poverty doesn’t exist.  My son has travelled around the globe and can attest to the value of a country such as Canada.

I’m grateful that I have choices in my life and can choose a certain path, attitude, feeling, or mood for myself.  I feel grateful that I was ‘called’ to be a midwife for a few decades, assisting hundreds of families as they welcomed a new member of their family on their journey into this world.

I’ve been lucky in my life to have had two long marriages that, for the most part, were very gratifying and brought much happiness into my life during their time.   I’ve been gifted TWO extended families.

I feel grateful that health care in this country is “free” and available to everyone.  If I am ever stricken by a serious illness, I know I will get the best of care and treatments.  I’ve had some experience dealing with our “health care system” when my husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Even though it can be difficult to ‘navigate’ at times, it’s still better than the for-profit system in many countries.

Throughout my life, I’ve suffered many personal losses, but I am grateful for all the positive things in my life.  Every day  I focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative – happy thoughts always FEEL better than sad thoughts.  I look forward to my future and all the experiences that I will encounter.

And every night before I close my eyes to go to sleep, I give thanks for something that I am grateful for ……

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