Monday, February 28, 2011

Long Distance Love: 6 Months Later...



As I read through the recent feedback from the Classy & Fabulous survey, some of you expressed that you would like me to share more about my experiences regarding my long distance marriage.

When this journey began, I had actually planned all along to share an update around the six month mark, I didn't want to share too much more in between at the risk of boring anyone that wasn't interested in those details. If you're a new reader and this is all news to you, here is the {original post} where I mentioned our decision.

What I've learned from both the sweet readers that commented on my original post and through the survey response comments is that I am not alone. There is something very comforting about knowing that my experience is shared by others. Many of you are going through something similar as one of you persues higher education, a new job or have a spouse off at war and can relate to long distance love.  Sometimes it feels as though, while others try to be sympathetic, that nobody around you really relates to what you're going through, so the blog world has been a blessing as I've got to 'meet' other women who share a similar story.

We reached the six month mark today which means hubby will come home again for spring break and then in  3 months so we can share the summer together again. I've learned a lot about myself and our relationship in this short time and I still can't believe how quickly the time has flown by! It's gone by a lot faster than I imagined but buckle up, this is a long post!

Where do I begin? During this journey there have been soooo many different emotions I've experienced on an almost daily basis and decisions that I've questioned many times along the way too. It's definitely been a learning experience and a time of growth for both of us, as a couple and as individuals.

Before I was 'on board' with the idea, it was Paul's idea alone. He was looking at schools in many states and countries, while he ended up choosing NYU, one serious consideration was a school in England, although at that time I had no idea how seriously he was taking the idea of getting his Masters Degree. It began with him searching online then requesting information packets from multiple universities and applying for scholarships, once those started coming in, we had to sit down and have a serious 'family discusssion'. While I was open minded to the idea, I was somewhat resistant initially. I knew we'd be taking out school loans which would be a financial burden, I also knew the inevitable move would be a factor.



In my mind, moving here was already an adjustment and I didn't know if I wanted to go through all of that all over again. I really wrestled with feeling as though he was being selfish when we still had other dreams together like starting a family that had already been put on hold long enough (at least in my mind-thanks to my loud ticking biological clock). I also tried to see it from his perspective and then felt like I would be the selfish one if I were to hold him back from perusing his goals and dreams. This was never something that we had discussed prior to getting married. Because we had both gone to school already and had degrees and Paul held a couple already, I had always expected that we'd continue to learn and grow on our own and as a couple by taking various courses and programs but I never envisioned a big move or a long distance relationship after the one we endured while dating. I think I was reacting more to the instability which would once again take me out of my comfort zone.

At that time, I weighed the pros and cons and considered the current state of the economy and where we were at and where each path may lead: having him stay and continue to work here or going for the Masters Degree to have many more opportunities and a chance to do something different that we both knew he would enjoy. I thought back to how he supported my decision to start my interior design business once I moved down to Florida knowing that it wouldn't immediately bring in income the way that a full time job would. I also remember going for a walk with a close girlfriend one particular morning after the decision was made, I listened to her excitement as she revealed that she and her husband were going to begin 'trying' for a baby. I remember feeling so thrilled for her but inside I felt a little sad knowing that for us, that dream would be put on hold once again.



After everything was set in motion and Paul left for NYC, I spent all of my time focusing on my business, blogging, the odd day out with my girlfriends, caring for our home and yard and basically filling my time with projects so I wouldn't have the time to notice he wasn't around. I kept telling myself that he was just away on a long trip. It actually helped. From the beginning we've tried to speak daily late at night before bed so each other's voice is the last one we hear. We began writing each other cards like we used to and I sent him a couple care packages as a surprise when he first moved into his new apartment.

Holidays have been so much more fun and something to look forward to when he comes home or we meet somewhere like we did when we were in South America during Christmas. Seeing him, hearing his voice, feeling his arms wrapped around me always feels familiar but new all at the same time. Where previously seeing each other everyday wasn't a huge celebration per se, now we cherish those times and make special plans during the days we can spend together. It's taught me to take in every moment and hold onto each in a greater way, because everyday is a gift. I learned a greater respect for time in general and actually feel guilty when I'm not a good steward of it or waste time doing something frivolous.



Six months in I feel at peace. I'll admit, there are benefits to living alone, things that I missed when I got married and we moved in together. For one, we were sharing a car beforehand and now I have it all to myself which is a huge luxury. The house is always quiet, peaceful and clean which is a nice bonus. I can play music in the background while I work without worry about distracting hubby whose home office is next to mine. Those are just a few, and while they are nice, I'm always aware that they don't compare to cuddling, kissing and sleeping next to my honey. I'm gladly willing to trade it all to have him back.

Although we're not there yet, I'm still excited about the prospect of children but for now my mind is focused on what I can accomplish that I've always dreamed of in the time that Paul completes school. Really, in an odd way, it's a gift that we've been given. We're both very independent people and the time to focus on ourselves, growing, learning and achieving our dreams, even if we aren't right beside each other every day or every step of the way, is a blessing. If you had told me that six months ago, I would have called you crazy. There are things that I've been working towards for a while that would not be impossible, but much more difficult to accomplish, once a child enters the picture. I can't help but view this time as a gift that God has given me, maybe a last chance if you will, to be completely selfish and indulgent before giving my everything and a great deal of my attention to our future children and to Paul once he's back home.



In taking on greater responsibilities, like being responsible for earning extra money and new tasks around the house, I have also come to respect my husband in a greater way for things that I may have taken for granted before. He is the chief leaf raker at our house and he was almost always was the one to take our car in when it needed an oil change or to be serviced. It's in those moments that I'm reminded of the little things that mean so much and help keep everything running smoothly. I have come to love and appreciate Paul in a greater way without him even being here. He is taking on more responsibility as well and while this was a sacrifice for me, it's also a big one for him too as he left the comfort of his own home to live in a tiny apartment away from family and friends and everything familiar. He knows this is what he signed up for and although challenging at times, I've rarely heard him express frustration.

This time has also forced me to trust God in an even greater capacity and lean on Him more as my source for everything-finances, opportunities, resolving day-to-day 'stuff', strength and patience.  In every way He has shown himself to be a provider, faithful and strong. I have really enjoyed taking little breaks from my workday and sitting in any room of our quiet home to pray, be still or listen to music and worship Him without interruption, being grateful for all that I have, even if things weren't exactly the way I hoped, expected or planned. 

That is the biggest lesson really. No matter where we are, what we planned on, what we've dreamed of vs. what our reality is at this present moment, we are never alone, He is always with us and we are always exactly where we are supposed to be, even when we want to fight it every step of the way. He has big plans for us, if we would just be willing to embrace them and trust.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

~Jeremiah 29:11

Thanks for reading! I hope you'll stop by tomorrow for a fun giveaway to kick off the month of March. If you haven't shared your feedback via my blog survey, I'd love to hear from you {here}.

Has anyone else had a long distance relationship? What is the biggest lesson you learned from it?


*images: phone, nyc, koala, pray

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reader Request: Etiquette for New Neighbors


I mentioned a few days ago in this Manners Monday post that one of my readers, Amy from California, wrote in asking about etiquette as it pertains to being the new neighbor on the block. They will soon be getting married and moving from the bustling city of San Francisco to the suburbs in Boise, Idaho.

This is what Amy wrote in asking:

Karla,

My fiance (our day is in the coming August) and I are moving to a suburb in a whole new state. I understand you have done your share of pulling up and settling down thousands of miles away from "home," I wondered if you'd give me your opinion on what is the etiquette for being the newcomers on the block.

How can we (in a classy manner) simply introduce ourselves to the neighbors and what are the ways that we can explore in building a social network in a new place?

Thank you,
Amy
This was how I responded...

Dear Amy,

Thanks for writing, I love to hear from my readers! :) First of all, congratulations on your engagement and I think it's great that you're stretching yourselves and moving to a new area, albeit unfamiliar.

It's true, I moved multiple times as a child, then as an adult, most recently I moved from Toronto, Canada to Orlando, FL 4 years ago which has been interesting. While the area was new to me, my husband had lived in our now home for many years and grew up here (it was his grandparent's home) so it was a different process for me-he was familiar with it all and I was learning the ins and outs for the first time. I think there is something special though about experiencing a move to a new town with a significant other.

As far as etiquette goes as the newcomers, if you're moving into a home or town home you'll generally find that more established neighbors on your street will see the moving truck and will become curious and make their way over to introduce themselves and offer to be of help as you get settled. If they don't come over on moving day (they may want to give you space), they'll definitely see you while you get the mail, walk the dog (if you have one) or go for a walk yourselves, or even take out the trash.

However, if for some reason this is not your experience, by all means, grab your honey and introduce yourselves to the neighbors. Perhaps you'll see them playing with their children outside, bringing in the recycle bins, etc. You'll definitely at the very least want to get to know the neighbors on either side of you as well as those across the street from you, however it's not necessary to go door-to-door and introduce yourselves to each neighbor. With street parties, local community events and other scenarios, you're bound to meet those that reside around you soon enough and one neighbor is bound to introduce you to some of the others.

The whole moving experience will feel so much more pleasant once you get to know a few neighbors that you can turn to for questions or help if you need to. They can be a great source of information-the best grocery stores, they may also have valuable contact for contractors/handy man, painters, etc. Don't be disheartened if your neighbors seem to keep to themselves, this is especially common in the cooler months but by introducing yourselves and getting to know your neighbors you'll show yourselves to be friendly.

As far as branching out socially, if it's a city where the two of you won't know anyone else, or many others, the website: www.MeetUp.com is highly recommended and exists in every city. I didn't discover it until I was living in FL for nearly 2 years but once I did, I got to meet a lot of great people who were also in the same place in their life, similar age group with similar interests and even started my own women's group on it which has been a blast! It's a great way to get to know local eateries, shopping areas and learn about local parks, activities, etc. It was the single best thing I did besides buying a GPS. ;)

Other areas for you to branch out socially might happen naturally if you set up a library account, explore churches in your area (if that's of interest) and be sure to ask friends if they know of anyone in your area. You never know, a friend of a friend might be able to introduce you to things and places you might not have thought of and you might make a new friend that way too.

I hope this is helpful. Your questions have actually given me inspiration for a couple future posts on moving and etiquette. I hope your upcoming move is extremely stress-free and that you love your new home and city!

Warmly,
Karla

I'd love to hear how you got settled into your neighborhood and how you set up your social network in a new town!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Transformation of a Flower Bouquet


There's something about springtime that makes me want to fill my whole home with beautiful and fragrant blooms. After a cold and damp winter their bright colors and soft texture really help to soften a space.

Last week I mentioned in this post that my hubby so sweetly arranged to have a floral bouquet delivered in his absence. I was so happy to see one week later that my bouquet was still going strong and looked almost as nice as it did when it arrived at my door.

I love switching things up, playing around and turning something lovely into something even more beautiful. So, this morning I separated the red roses, pink carnations, red carnations and white daisies (see last image in this post). I clipped the ends to give them longer life and corralled 12 different small vases and set them up on my kitchen counter to fill each with a small arrangement of similar hued groupings. It's so lovely to have fresh  flowers in every room of our home.

I didn't love the last glass vase I had left over for the rest of my pink carnations (first image) so I used a white teapot instead. Isn't it cute? I love the cottage charm is provides.


I rarely show photos of my outdated 1960's bathroom but here is an image from our guest bathroom. Yup, it's YELLOW! The Tub, sink, toilet, towel bar and a few inset tiles on our white tile floor are this sunshine color. Without the funds for a full bathroom renovation right now, I've transformed it little by little and kept the bathroom palette airy and pastel to work with the existing counter tops and all that yellow.

This along with another small arrangement on the window ledge are the perfect addition to keep this bathroom looking pretty. The 'vase' is actually and old reed diffuser bottle that used to be filled with oil that I bought from Pottery barn. I loved the blue and cream label and shape, it worked out perfect for my flowers.

Throughout the year when your flower arrangements start to wither, pull everything out of the vase and keep only the best, freshest looking flowers. Change things up, mix a few colors or let all the individual colors fly solo and you can get some extra mileage from them that can brighten multiple rooms in your home.




In case you were wondering, this was the original Valentine bouquet (above) that I started with. The pair of red roses are sitting on my desk by my laptop so I can think of my honey while I work. ;)


I like using vintage tea tins, water pitchers, white teapots, reed diffuser bottles, teacups and to add a pop of color. I sometimes repurpose the glass bottles from Izze drinks as a vase just because their labels are so fun and they are plentiful in our house since they're a favorite drink around here. They also happen to make a perfect party drink too!


What unique containers do you like to collect and arrange your flowers in?


*Photo credit: izze

Monday, February 21, 2011

Manners Monday: Greeting New Neighbors




 With springtime being one of the busiest seasons for moving, I thought I'd spend some time focusing on the etiquette of moving as it pertains to meeting new neighbors. Today's post was inspired by Amy, a reader who wrote in this weekend asking me about etiquette as it pertains to her upcoming move, more on that later this week.

Today I want to focus on the proper etiquette of welcoming new neighbors and what your role is as the established neighbor.

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you're working in your garden when you see a moving truck pull up to the home that sold just a few months ago. The new neighbors begin unloading their belongings and directing movers where items need to go. You might be wondering who should introduce themselves to whom and when an appropriate time to do so would be.

Moving day is always a busy one, there is a lot to co-ordinate and often the new home owners are exhausted from packing, unpacking and lugging heavy boxes around so they definitely won't want want to linger long on the day they take possession of their new home, as they'll be anxious to get settled in.

Here are some tips and advice on how to greet your new neighbors so they feel welcomed to your neighborhood.



1. Timing & Taking Initiative- As the established neighbor, it's always best to take initiative and introduce yourself first. If the new homeowner(s) have help moving in, it would be safe to pop over and meet with them for a few minutes however if they're the only one co-ordinating the move and running the show, it's best to wait until a later date. If they appear to have a few people helping them, the break to chat and meet someone new might be a welcomed one.

2. Be Refreshing- Whether it's hot outside or not, moving itself works up a sweat, so pop by with a couple bottles of water which is thoughtful and a good way to break the ice. Don't linger too long but do introduce yourself and let them know your name and your significant other's name and let them know you live right across the street, in the house with the red door or whatever easily describes your home, should they need anything at all. Show interest and ask them where they are from.

Also share with them any resources such as handymen in the area or a great painter/contractor, etc., if they ever need one. It's also a good opportunity to let them know when the city services such as garbage and recycling pickup come by and what days their side of the street can water. Keep it brief so they can get back to work and let them know it was a pleasure to meet them.


3. Magical Move-Sometimes when we're busy with life, away for the weekend or don't even see the move occur, we all of a sudden notice that new neighbors have moved into a home on your street, almost magically. Try to find an opening to introduce yourself and welcome them. This might be while you're taking out the garbage, walking the dog, going for an evening jog or outside pulling the weeds. Wave from your side of the street and say hello, once you make eye contact and they respond, pop over and shake their hand and chat with them for a bit, make them feel a part of the new neighborhood. Try to find common ground on anything they share so they'll feel more at ease.




4. The More the Merrier- Look for opportunities to introduce your new neighbors to other neighbors that they may not have met. Maybe an annual street party is just the time or if you are in the habit of hosting backyard parties, why not invite them over? You could have them over for coffee. Once you've gotten past the initial meeting and getting to know them, you might want to go on a double date for dinner at a restaurant or take them somewhere fun in your area to expose them to what's available.

5. Putting Yourself in their Shoes-Sometimes we try our best to greet someone new and it doesn't work out. Maybe they aren't very friendly or their lifestyle is completely different than yours-you're a busy professional woman with a white picket fence and young children and they happen to be a couple of single guys in their fifties who are proud members of a motorcycle club and drive Harleys. You don't have to be friends with every one of your neighbors if they aren't your cup of tea or you don't have much in common, but do look beyond appearances and extend yourself and show kindness, make the effort and always think of the situation from their perspective.

Moving from another town, state or country into a new neighborhood can be uncomfortable and overwhelming but by being greeted with warm smiles and sweet people, it can make their transition so much easier and they will always remember you for that. It's always good to have people in your corner to watch over your home while you're away on vacation or in case of an emergency and it's better to have met them beforehand vs. when you need to run over during a crisis when you might need their help.



Unfortunately, these days everyone is so busy with their own lives that the lovely gestures of days gone by such as a welcome basket or a freshly baked pie seem to have been forgotten. If you're baking a fresh batch of muffins, why not double up the recipe and bring some over to your new neighbors? Popping by with an inexpensive bunch of flowers is another thoughtful idea to brighten their home.

What was the most memorable thing that a neighbor did to welcome you to your new home/neighborhood?What things have you done to greet a new neighbor and make them feel special?


*images: (1) (2),(3)(4),(5)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Complaining isn't Classy


To me, there are few things in life worse than listening to someone complain. It just brings everyone down and creates a negative atmosphere. Yet, everywhere we turn, somebody is complaining about something. The glass is seen as half empty instead of half full. We've somehow convinced ourselves that certain things shouldn't happen to us. It's a 'Why me?' attitude instead of  a 'Why not?' approach to life. Our time would be better spent turning the lemons that come our way into lemonade.

Unfortunately, sometimes these very people sit next to us at work, regularly visit with us because they are a family member or friend or may even live in our own home. Here's a thought...it might even be ourselves that are the complainers! The truth is that we've all done it. The big question is how to change it so we can be a positive influence not only in the lives of others but to allow blessings to flow into our own lives by focusing on being grateful and what is 'right' instead of all that is 'wrong' with our life, a particular situation, a person, experience, etc.

The thing about complaining is that nothing good can come from it. Rehashing the details of a particular scenario will not change the outcome, it won't make you feel better, in fact it will probably make you feel worse as you take yourself back to that very moment in time and relive it all over again.

Every once in a while I catch myself in the act.  Last week I scheduled for a plumber to come out to the house to attend to a leaky toilet. I had set the appointment up two days prior and the secretary let me know that my home was only 10 minutes away from their office which was convenient I thought. When the day arrived I was both surprised and frustrated that they didn't show. I followed up to make sure that someone was in fact still coming out to my house after half an hour. I had waited 45 mintues before they finally showed up. 

In my mind, I was upset that nobody had even called to let me know they'd be late and when they arrived there was no apology for disrespecting my time. Some might say I had a right to be frustrated. Regardless, there was no excuse for sharing my frustration by complaining to a friend about how it threw off my schedule later that day. All that resulted was her commiserating and sharing her frustration as she recounted  a time that she ahd waited all day for a plumber who never showed. As this type of 'sharing' usually goes, we accomplished nothing more than venting in the process.

Thankfully, I stopped myself as soon as I saw what I was doing and changed the subject immediately. It's a daily effort to be mindful of our actions and one worth investing in as we as adults serve as role models to others, especially young children. As it pertains to dating, it's important to remember that this type of behavior is what a potential mate will watch for also. Men don't enjoy the company of women who complain, or gossip for that matter. It's just one more reason to work on this area. So, here are some tips to avoid getting caught up in the complaining trap.

How to Refrain from Complaining

1. Remember, life is not a Contest

Do you ever notice that while amongst a group of friends or colleagues, when one person starts complaining about their morning, the traffic on their way to work or how little their spouse helps out around the house, that someone will usually jump right in afterwards with something that will top what they just heard. You'd almost think complaining was a competitive sport! It begins with, "You think that's bad, listen to how long I waited in line....." And so it continues. This is how we perpetuate complaining and give a voice to it.

Instead of being the next to enter the complain game, be careful to sit back and observe what is happening. Try to steer the conversation in another direction with a completely different subject. If that attempt does not work, it's best to bow out gracefully and remove yourself from the situation. If you're at a party, you can excuse yourself from a group conversation and mingle with others. At an intimate dinner party however, it can prove to be a bit more challenging with nowhere to run. In those instances, changing the subject is your only option after which point, sitting tight and enduring it is the alternative. This is a great time to evaluate if these are the kinds of people you really want to continue spending time with, if much of the conversation was dominated by negativity. Whatever you do, don't let yourself get sucked in!


{You can dress it up to appear elegant and fool others, but complaints and gossip are not classy}


2. Gossip is really just Socially Accepted Complaining & Jealousy

People that are known complainers generally gossip also, because they don't know where to draw the line. Speaking of others makes them feel empowered with the information they know. It makes them feel important as they might say things like "So, did you hear that the Morgan's are putting their house up for sale?" This generally leads to speculation and petty conversation about the details of one's finances, marriage, job situation, etc. If we dig deeper, we realize that underneath the need to gossip lies jealousy, pride, insecurity, a lack of contentment and the need to compare with others to make ourselves feel better. 

Gossip rarely uplifts and celebrates others, which is why it is good to steer clear of it. This isn't to say that you shouldn't ever speak of others. But only do so when what you have to say will be done in a positive light and uplifts that person. The key is to only say something that you would also express if that person were in the room with you at that time. If something nice can't be said, it's best to say nothing at all.


3. Facts vs. Feelings

There are different types of complaining, and when you are in a situation where something isn't right, it is okay to speak up so that the issue may be corrected. They key is to do this is a pleasant way regardless of how you might be feeling in the moment. It's all about the facts, not your feelings. If you're dining at a nice restaurant and your steak appears to be rare when you ordered it medium well, mentioning it will benefit both you and the restaurant. You want to enjoy your meal and overall experience and the restaurant staff want you to be happy with your experience also so you'll leave happy and become a returning customer possibly recommending them to others.

Politely point out to the the server that you had ordered your steak medium well, at which point they should have it taken care of. Causing a scene and going off about how you paid good money to dine at their restaurant to enjoy a meal with your significant other, only to have to eat your meal alone while they have nearly finished theirs, crosses the line. People will be more willing to work with you to make things right when you are courteous.

4. Create Your World  & Be a Guiding Light to Others

It's important to remember that in life we can't change someone else, only ourselves. There really isn't much use in pointing out to another person how much they complain or voice our concern for how negative it is (unless of course they are your own children). Other people only change because they want to, not because we want them to. The best way to help and positively influence others, as with most things,  is to lead by example.

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

~Maya Angelou

This is actually one of my all time favorite quotes. We would be wise to heed Maya's advice. While we can't control everything in life, we have a choice everyday as to what our attitude will be. It is not in the joyous experiences, but through experiencing life's difficult circumstances that reveal our true character.

I'd love to hear from you. How have you removed yourself from others who were a dark cloud of negativity or overcome complaints in your own life/home? As always, anonymous comments are welcome. :)

Have a wonderful weekend!



*images: (1),(2)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day in Pictures


Hello Lovelies! I hope you are having a sweet start to your day! Since my hubby and I are miles apart while he continues to study at NYU and I'm in our Florida home we're celebrating together in spirit. I got a chance to surprise him by staggering a few handmade valentines cards and popping them  in the mail to brighten up his study time and I got a sweet phone call this morning followed by a ring of the doorbell with a delivery of  beautiful flowers just moments ago. My heart melted. :)

Although we are celebrating together from afar, I'll be hanging out solo today. What's a girl to do? Have a 'me' day of course! ;) I'll be leaving for tea and a light lunch shortly at one of my favorite vegetarian cafes. I'm not vegetarian, but their food is amazing! Then I'll be heading to the spa for a facial, using up the rest of a gift certificate that hubby gifted me with before Christmas. So, I guess you could say it's the gift that keeps on giving!

I also have a date with this yummy looking s'mores cupcake later tonight...



In celebration of all things lovely, sweet, delicious, pink+red and of the heart, here are some images to warm your heart.



How about a heart meringue?



Trusting the one who has the key to your heart.



I love red roses but I'm a pink peony kind of girl. You might remember this surprise I got last spring


The excitement of a delivery full of pink surprises.



New found joy in a new found attitude.



Love and longing can set your heart a flutter.



Sweetheart roses.



Happy Annivesary to my inlaws! Paul's parents got married on Valentine's Day.
My mom and dad also got engaged on Valentine's day. :)




Write a love letter to someone special.



Why not make some creative v-day cards out of paint chips!



Here's to going solo sometimes and being an island unto yourself.



February is a time to start thinking ahead to spring and what will bloom!


I {heart} chai with cinnamon sticks.


Living off of fabulous red pumps + sweet treats


Blow someone a red-lipped kiss.

Wishing you a full heart and a full calendar of fun with friends!



Start someone's morning off with a smile!



I have been meaning to make some framed heart art. Love this piece!


jam-filled hearts for a midday snack.


In honor of the snowy season & my home country, Canada ;) Warm hands = a warm heart



Get a little creative on a chilly + snowy Valentine's Day.



long distance kisses for those you miss...


Wishing you a joyful day whether you're surrounded by those you love or going solo like me!


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