My Journey to Joy

April 26, 2014

Just Adopt

It seems that I tend to write most when I hurt most.  That’s when thoughts swirl in my head, demanding release.  And so I click away at the keyboard.

I’ve been talking about infertility this week, in a larger venue than I ever have before.  It’s been intimidating.  Scary.  I’ve felt vulnerable, and revisited old feelings and hurts.  It’s been worth it.  I’ve had messages, connections…and I hope and pray someone has been helped to know that they are not alone.

And now it’s the middle of the night.  My husband is snoring, and a thunderstorm is rumbling outside, washing away the flower seeds I planted a few hours ago.  And I’m going to “pull back the curtain” on our adoption journey…

This is our second, and let me immediately say it has been easier.  We started at such a different place emotionally; happy, not wrecked by years of disappointment.  We have our son, who is a near-constant delight and joy.  Easier.  Not easy.

We were sure that the homestudy process would go more quickly this time.  Our application for our first adoption was received February 15th, 2011.  We were approved August 26th, and received our first birthmother profile on August 31st!  (6 months for homestudy)  After that, we were shown more than 15 times.  For our second adoption, our application was received on August 19th, 2013.   By November, we had completed everything… and we were approved February 7th, 2014.  (6 months, again!)  We received our first birthmother profile 45 minutes later.  That was the start of being constantly shown/about to be shown/waiting to hear, that lasted April 2nd.  I don’t know how to describe how that feels; I would if I could.  Tense.  Alert.  Tense.  Of the five possibilities, three of the babies had already been born (a set of twins and a single birth), one birthmother was in labor, and two others were due in the very near future.  Sometimes our social worker asked for our answer by the next week…or the next day…or in one case, in the next two hours!

And we’ve been riding an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions.  Imagine how it feels, waiting…  Knowing we could be parents tomorrow, today, right now… or not.  We’ve sat poised to buy plane tickets or embark on a road trip to go and get our baby.  We made lists for last minute purchases.  We checked our schedules, noting the arrangements we’d need to make if chosen.  We began to imagine our family with a precious new member.  (He/she will be here by Easter/Mother’s Day/Camp Meeting.)  And then, jarringly, abruptly, it’s over.  And it wasn’t our baby after all.  And we try to gather our hopes and dreams, repacking them until the next round.

Sometimes a placement seems so perfect, the fulfillment of dreams I’ve hardly admitted to having– then receiving the dreaded e-mail: “I’m sorry.  She chose another family.”  As decisions stretched out, sometimes for weeks, I began to check my mailbox again and again, just so it will be over.  And I carried my phone everywhere, so I wouldn’t miss “the call.”

And then, everything stopped.  Silence.  No new e-mails.  And there is relief, a respite.  But it’s so quiet.  And now I’m checking my e-mail again, hoping to see a profile, a chance, a hope.  This may go on for years.

And God is in control.  And we are powerless.  Time passes, life continues, and we wait.

And a friend sends a message that reads: “…we seem to have been chosen to walk parallel paths of uncertainty. While I lay no claim on understanding the pain of infertility, I can relate to waiting for the phone to ring, to checking email almost minutely for news….any news. We all know that Gods time is perfect, that His plan is best….but that doesn’t mean that questions don’t arise, that doubts don’t stay a little longer than they should. In the darkness, remember the verse that was brought to my mind tonight by someone also walking this path, several years ago Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  And tears fill my eyes as God once again takes something painful and makes something good.

I couldn’t tell you how many people told us we could “just adopt.”  Some of those same people have since walked this journey with us, and would now be the first to defend and educate.  There is no such thing as “just adopting.”  Not every family is meant to adopt.  Some are unable, for a myriad of very personal reasons.  (I won’t even begin a list; those are their stories to tell, if they wish.)  And for those who do, the process is more often than not grueling, requiring everything you’ve got, then more.

So here we are again.  God obviously has more to teach us through this process.  Our hearts are open, and broken.  And we wait.

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December 23, 2013

Christmas

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 4:31 PM
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“…[Y]ou only really believe in Christmas when you really live it.  When you light a dark world and the unexpected places with a brave flame of joy; when you warm the cold, hopeless place with the daring joy that God is with us, God is for us, God is in us; when you are a wick to light hope in the dark- then you believe in Christmas.  When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone.”  Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

November 7, 2013

Compelled

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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I wasn’t going to share this with anyone, but just as I felt compelled to do it, I feel that I should share.  This was my experience last November.

Today I went way out of my comfort zone.  I bathed and dressed my baby.  I printed off directions to somewhere I’ve never been.  I loaded up the diaper bag and off we went.  I texted my husband to tell him where I was going.  I thought of lots of reasons not to go.  (I really didn’t have time, I needed to be back to take my son to his grandma’s for babysitting, this is scary and uncomfortable…)  I kept going.  My husband said he’d be praying for me.  I cried.  10 miles and 21 minutes later, I arrived.

The building was an unassuming red brick, 1970’s style.  The signs were a discreet brown, with white letters.  There was one car in the parking lot.  A gentle breeze was blowing leaves, so that they skittered down the street.  Cars crunched acorns when they passed.  Other than that, it was very quiet.

At first I walked up and down the sidewalk, then I sat my son on a brick wall.  He played with my keys, while I prayed and cried.  And cried.  And cried.  He’s the reason I had to go.  To Planned Parenthood.  Because when I look at him I am so thankful that his birthmom chose life.  That my baby has a family who loves him dearly.  That he is.

Seeing that building, and knowing what happens inside was horrifying.  Looking at the dumpster out back made me want to throw up, wondering how the aborted babies’ remains were disposed.  I prayed for forgiveness for my country and my apathy.  I prayed for light and truth for the staff.  I prayed for hope and God’s love for birthmoms considering abortion.  I prayed for Christians to answer the call to provide support and help to families in such desperate situations.

On the surface, it was an uneventful trip.  I saw one person as I walked back to my car- a building inspector looking at a nearby property.  I didn’t accomplish any great feat, or have an exciting story to tell.  I just went.  And prayed.  And I’m changed…

November is National Adoption Month.  Adoption is an option.

August 7, 2013

A Peace that Cometh After Sorrow- Jessie Rose Gates

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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There is a peace that cometh after sorrow,

Of hope surrendered, not hope fulfilled.

A peace that looketh not upon tomorrow,

But calmly on a tempest that is stilled.

A peace that lives not now in joy’s excesses,

Nor in the happy life of love secure;

But in the unerring strength the heart possesses,

Of conflicts won while learning to endure.

A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded,

A life subdued from will and passion free

‘Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded,

But that which triumphed in Gethsemene.

June 12, 2013

Esther on Being Real

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Being Real

Remember that post I wrote last year called The Ugly Truth?  The one where I shared how hard it is to be infertile year after year after year?  This is a similarly truthful post — although hopefully not quite as ugly — about how hard it is to be “pregnant,” but not really, month after month after month.
The truth is this:  I feel like a fraud.  For months I’ve been putting on a happy face trying to be strong, but in doing so I feel like I’m not being honest.  Most people see the smile on my face and think that I’m bouncing off the walls, overflowing with joy and excitement that we’re finally expecting a baby, when in reality I haven’t enjoyed much about this journey since it started.
Let me be clear.  
I am excited…  but it is not overflowing.  I am filled with joy…  but only because joy is a choice.  And I am thankful to be expecting this amazing, undeserved gift.  I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that I’m happy.  Why?
Because surrogacy is HARD.
Try to imagine for just a moment what it would be like to  know you’re “pregnant” but not get to feel or see any evidence of that.  Not a kick, not a flip, not a hiccup.
Now try to  imagine that you’re not only unable to experience anything yourself, but you  have very, very limited access to the person who is carrying your baby  because she lives over 300 miles away (which might as well be the moon since gas prices are so high!).  You can’t even touch the belly where your child is growing or even have the chance to feel a kick from the outside.
Next try imagining what it would be like if, due to the difficulty of coordinating busy schedules, your primary method of  communication with the woman carrying your child was text messaging  (where one’s “tone” can be so easily misread and misinterpreted).  You  rarely hear her voice on the phone, and seeing her in person is even  rarer still, which only accentuates how disconnected, isolated and uninvolved you feel.
Now imagine living like that day after day… week after week… and month after excruciating month.
Trust me.  It’s brutal.
I am emotionally exhausted, so forgive me if I don’t have any energy left for excitement.  I often feel as though everyone around me is more excited  than I am.  Which of course is ridiculous since I’m the one who will  have a baby in my arms at the end, Lord willing.  
The problem is that I’m on a road that doesn’t feel like it has an end.  Time doesn’t go fast.  It doesn’t fly by.  It’s not going to be here “before I know it” because Every. Single. Day. up to this point has been agonizing and there’s no reason for me to think that the next 80-something days will be any different.
Every surrogacy story is going to be unique and different because every surrogacy story has unique and different people in it.  The one thing every story has in common is hormones and emotions, and throwing those into the mix can make things oh-so-complex — especially when dealing with a first-time mom and a first-time surrogate at the same time.
Needless to say, our story is turning out way different than how I imagined it would.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I shouldn’t have gone into this with any expectations at all, but how could I not?  It’s human nature to paint a picture in our head of how a situation is “supposed” to play out.

The beginning was full of hopeful excitement,  and I know the ending will be amazing…  but this stuff in the middle?  Messy.  Uncomfortable.  Torture.
In the end all that will matter is the baby in my arms.  All the crazy emotions…  the anxiety attacks…  the sobbing meltdowns in the shower… they will all be a distant memory.  I don’t think I’ll ever completely forget the hell I’ve lived through these past several months, but the bad stuff will fade with time as all bad stuff does.
In the meantime I’ll just keep moving forward, making it through each day as best as I can.  And remember that even though time feels like it’s dragging, now is not forever.  

I will see the goodness of the Lord.  

Joy is coming.    

October 31, 2012

A Loving and Sovereign God Who Lets Me Hurt

Filed under: Shared Findings,Uncategorized — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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This is a wonderful article written by the MS social worker who helped with our family’s adoption.

http://blog.lifelinechild.org/faith-and-encouragement/a-loving-and-sovereign-god-who-lets-me-hurt/

October 23, 2012

Songs for the Journey- In Times Like These

Filed under: Songs for the Journey,Uncategorized — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrEy-bsSznk&feature=related

October 10, 2012

Inspired

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 9:11 AM
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http://blog.lifelinechild.org/adoption/inspired/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inspired

September 12, 2012

The Truth about Adoption: One Year Later ~Jen Hatmaker

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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Our kids have been in our family for one year.

 
I get asked all the time: “What is adoption really like?” Well, sit down, my curious friends, because I’m going to walk you through the first year of adoption with absolutely no only a moderate amount of hyperbole.

Of course, our story is not everyone’s story – we adopted unrelated, older kids from Ethiopia with no major health issues, and we already had three bios at home. This might look very different with babies or foster kids or domestic adoptions or kids from other countries or kids with severe physical needs or families with no other kiddos. But some stages will be identical, no matter. Adopters, if you are in the waiting part (WE HATE YOU, WAITING PART), or the early days, or the later days, or maybe you’ve got an adoption itch you can’t shake, let me share the fairly common stages to expect:

Pre-Stage: Waiting for Your Kiddo

I just want to touch on this stage, as it bears virtually no resemblance to every single phase that follows. This is the hungry, manic process of paperwork, dossiers, referrals, court dates, in-country travel, Embassy appointments, and deferred hope. Maybe 5% of my adoption friends sailed through this stage. For the other 95% of us, expect delays, frustrations, snags, unforeseen interruptions, bottlenecks, slow-downs, obstructions, and an obliterated “timeline.” (Dear People Who Give Us Timelines, please stop doing that.)

Here is the upside: This is the stage you realize God can put a vicious fight in you for a kid without your blood coursing through his veins. Those early doubts about loving a child without the helpful instincts of biology are put to rest. Of course, you don’t know this kid yet, but you love him in your heart, in your bones. You’ll fight like hell to get to him. You can’t think of anything else. You are obsessed. You dream about him like you did when you were pregnant. You realize that when God said He sets the lonely in families, He meant it, and He doesn’t just transform the “lonely” but also the “families.” He changes us for one another. God can create a family across countries, beyond genetics, through impossible circumstances, and past reason.

Stage 1: The First 4-6 Weeks (Honeymoon)

She is home. You can’t believe it. It’s been 18 months or two or three-and-a-half years since you started this process, and here she is, sitting at your dining room table. Look at her sitting at the table! Look at her eating eggs! Look at her in her pajamas! Your bio kids are treating her like a pet. All outside life has stopped. People are dropping food off on your porch. You are in lockdown, circling the wagons around your treasured one and spending more time with your kids than you have in the last three years combined.

This is Fake Life, and everyone is smiling. Your bios are more helpful than they will ever be again ever, and it’s like you are at Weird Family Camp. Nothing is normal. Everything is fragile and bizarre and unfamiliar. Your new one appears compliant and easy-going and obedient, and dear ones, this is because she is about to have the Most Epic Freak Out in the History of Life.

For her, this is like the part of the sleepover when you just get there, and the games and toys are awesome…but then all of a sudden it’s bedtime, and you’re like: wait a minute. This is not my bed. That is not my mom. This is not my space. Good feelings are gone.

Stage 2: Spaz Out (4-6 Weeks – 3-4 Months)

Who knows what the straw on the camel’s back will be – maybe one more food he hates, maybe one final conversation he can’t decode, a moment of discipline, just a smell might trigger it – but something will happen, and your little one will finally lose it. Honeymoon is over. Once the damn has broken, it will flood for months.

There is screaming, kicking, hysterical hysterics. There is wailing and tantrums and full-out meltdowns. You may chase your beefy 8-year-old down the street where he ran screaming barefoot into traffic, throw him over your shoulder and lug him back home where the two of you hunker down for the next two hours, drenched in sweat, while you hold him tight and whisper love into his ears and he thrashes and yells and finally passes out. It is so helpful that your husband is out of town on this day.

Your sweet one is grieving. This is sorrow and loss and fear and trauma; it is visceral. It is devastating. You and your spouse are haunted, unshowered, unhinged, unmoored. You stare into each other’s eyes, begging the other one to fix this: What have we done? What are we doing? What are we going to do?

The house is a disaster. Your bios are huddled up in the corner, begging grandparents to come rescue them. You can’t talk to anyone. Everyone is still beaming at you, asking: “Isn’t this the best thing?? Is this just the happiest time of your life?” You are starving for truth-tellers in adoption. You scour blogs and Yahoo groups, desperate for one morsel of truth, one brave person to say how hard this in and give you a shred of hope. You only find adorable pictures and cute stories, and you despair. You feel so alone. You’ve ruined your life. You’ve ruined your kids’ lives. Your marriage is doomed. Your adopted child hates you. You want to go back to that person pining away in the Pre-Stage and punch her in the liver.

Stage 3: Triage (4 Months – 8 Months)

Somewhere around the 4th or 5th month, you realize the fits are under ten minutes and only happening every fourth day. This alone is reason to live. You’re out of the weeds. Your little one has been pulled from the burning building and subsequent terror and spaz-o-rama, and she is now in triage. You are definitely not out of the woods – the assessments, the precision surgery, the rehab is still to come – but she is out of immediate danger and stabilizing.

Evidence of her preciousness keeps peeking out. You see her real self more and more frequently. She is feeling a teeny bit safer, just beginning to trust your love. Some of those tricks Dr. Purvis taught us are working. (Except for those bitterly frustrating “scenarios” in The Connected Child when the kid follows the script to a tee, auto-corrects immediately, and goes back to playing blocks, nodding his head like, “Lesson learned, Mom. You do indeed know best.”)

As for you, you’re coming out of the fog. You start returning phone calls. You brave a Date Night. You look at your bio kids and ask, “Oh, hi there. So how have you been the last seven months?” Maybe your new role as Trauma Counselor won’t be permanent after all. You color your two inches of gray and get a haircut. You step on the scale and realize you’ve either lost or gained ten pounds from stress. Okay, it’s gained. I’m just trying to give you hope.

Stage 4: Rehab (8-12 Months)

The meltdowns are over. You wave praise banners and start speaking in tongues over this. Your new son is telling jokes in English. He is reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by himself. He is a soccer phenom. You start grooming him for the Olympics. (No you don’t.) (Yes I do.)

You start dealing. You engage Life Books and play therapy and creative ways to honor his birth parents and birth country. You get serious about addressing his brooding and manipulations or whatever coping skills he’s trotting out. He is giving you more amazing reasons to praise him, and you’re no longer resorting to things like, “Um, I really like the way you buckle your seatbelt. You, uh, click that thing right in place every time. Totally nail it.”

 
 
While typing this very blog, I was serenaded with happy “music.”
This is only slightly better than Stage 2.

You remember how your dear social worker told you on your 3-month visit, as she looked into your bloodshot eyes and you burst into tears, that attachment takes time…for everyone. Adoption is not the normal way, biology is, which helps us love that screaming, no-sleeping baby just madly, irrationally. But in adoption, it takes everyone time to fall in love.

And that’s okay.

So in those first few stages, you might feel like you are raising someone else’s hysterical kid. You might be chockfull of resentment, anger, disappointment, and regret. Love may feel elusive, even impossible for awhile. You might wonder if God called you to something then left you.

Normal, dear ones. So very normal. You are not a terrible person, nor is your new son or daughter a lemon. There is so much hope for everyone.

I read this paragraph by Melissa Fay Greene on the first year of adoption, and I’ve never forgotten it:

“Put Feelings on a back-burner. This is not the time for Feelings. If you could express your feelings right now, you’d be saying things like, “Oh my God, I must have lost my mind to think that I can handle this, to think that I wanted a child like this. I’ll never manage to raise this child; I’m way way way way over my head. I’ll never spend time with my spouse or friends again; my older children are going to waste away in profound neglect; my career is finished. I am completely and utterly trapped.” You see? What’s the point of expressing all that right now? Put Feelings in the deep freeze. Live a material life instead: wake, dress, eat, walk. Let your hands and words mother the new child, don’t pause to look back, to reflect, or to experience emotions. “Shut up, Emotions,” you’ll say. “I’ll check back with you in six months to see if you’ve pulled yourselves together. But no whining meanwhile!”

Here is the good news: eventually, you can pull Feelings from the deep freeze, and you’ll discover surges of genuine love sneaking up on you for this kid. You’ll find out: Oh! He’s funny! She’s sassy! He’s good at science! She is compassionate! I had no idea! You’ve mothered with your hands and words, and God did the heavy lifting, just like He promised. You don’t have to be a miracle worker; that has always been God’s territory. You just have to be the ordinary disciple who says yes.

Is adoption easy? No it is not. Is this simple? Nope. Complicated and long-term. Will bonding be immediate and seamless? Maybe, but probably not. Will you struggle with guilt and fear that first year? Yes, but you shouldn’t. You’ve agreed to partner with God in some difficult, heart-wrenching work, and it’s no kum-by-yah party. Give grace to yourself; God already has.

Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through, and adoption is one of them. I can hardly think of something closer to God’s character, who is the “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy.” Certainly, we are his difficult children who spaz out and pull away and manipulate and struggle. We distrust His good love and sabotage our blessings, imagining our shame disqualifies us or that God couldn’t possibly be faithful to such orphans.

But He is. We are loved with an everlasting love, and it is enough to overwhelm our own fear and shame and humanity. In adoption, God is enough for us all. He can overcome our children’s grief. He can overshadow our own inadequacies. He can sweep up our families in a beautiful story of redemption and hope and healing. If you are afraid of adoption, trying to stiff-arm the call, God is the courage you don’t have. If you are waiting, suffering with longing for your child, God is the determination you need. If you are in the early days of chaos, God is the peace you and your child hunger for. If your family feels lost, He is the stability everyone is looking for. If you are working hard on healing, digging deep with your child, God is every ounce of the hope and restoration and safety and grace.

In Him, you can do this.

He is enough for us all.  ~Jen

 
And then, my insightful husband’s remarks after reading:
…I also realized that this is also likely very similar to what happens to someone when they are “adopted” into the family of God. Most people are so happy when they first get saved and they have been seeking this experience for some time. However, the life of a Christian is completely different than the lost. Nothing is familiar, everything is different. God’s family acts and does everything differently than what a non-christian has been raised to do and act like. Suddenly, they have second thoughts and a lot of things just don’t “feel right.” They feel like they don’t fit in and have made a mistake. Now I understand why the discipleship phase is so important. New Christians need that “big brother or sister” to run and haul them “back home” when they “run out into traffic.” They need someone to remind them that they are now part of the “family” and that the family loves them dearly. It’s not about “training” or “mentoring” as much as affirming a new christian that they are ok and that this is still the right choice. The “training” part really comes naturally just like babies learn to walk and talk and eat on their own if they just spend time with their family.
 
Wow.  He just amazes me sometimes!

April 4, 2012

John Chapter 3

Filed under: Shared Findings,Uncategorized — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
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John 3:1-30 As I sit here and read the scriptures of John, I am blown away afresh and anew by their power to transform. I am also blown away by something else: God’s patience in mentoring me along. I used to read and memorize scriptures and quote them like a parrot. I really did mean well in my young, excitable heart. I think back and can truly say I was trying my best to love God, but I also wanted to impress and maybe even win a debate or two. How foolish. Yet God would still say, “I will keep working with this kid. I have a plan for him.” How loving – how nurturing – how kind. What A Savior! So here are some thoughts on what I was reading today: John said to his followers in Chapter 3 Verse 30, “I am really happy that He (Jesus) is getting all the attention now. He must become greater and I must become less important” (my paraphrase). As I grow and let the Word (realize I’m not talking about letters formed together to make a book,) the true Word, the Spirit of Christ, blow where it wants, I am left helplessly small and yet empowered. How does this happen? Why just now? The second half of my journey should prove to be very interesting. Some may say I’m having a mid-life crisis. I have even joked about this with my wife. I’m experiencing feelings and hearing of things that I never dreamed I’d see or hear. My body is weak and my nerves are frayed, but I have to believe this is part of the decrease / increase phase of the Spiritual Walk of Faith. So, I am not having a mid-life crisis. I choose to think that I am having a mid-life Christ Excitement! All my little powerhouse maneuvers cannot and will not work for what true life has to offer. He must increase and I must decrease. I don’t have a clue where the wind will blow next. Back tracking to verse 8: Verse 8 says clearly what I should expect: “It is the same with every person who is born of the Spirit of God. You are going to be blown all over the place. Unknown but felt.” (Once again my paraphrase. Read the whole chapter to see the context.) At this point you and I can look at life and all its harsh, horrible realities (and the times of its lovely wonder and awe) and think “This is too much; I just don’t get it anymore” and cave in. Then spend the second half of our lives trying to feel young again and relive the glory days when life was not so complicated and harsh. Or, we can give in to the wind of the Spirit and let it take us and use us to help others who are still spitting into the wind. This is the great mystery of life. Should be an interesting ride. Gone with the Wind for sure. Love you all. Ernie

http://www.erniehaase.com/

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