Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Category: Spirituality

How To Ruin Your Teenager’s Life In Three Strategic Steps

To all my parenting peeps out there, sit down and hold on to your hats for a few minutes as we enter the turbulent world of teenagerism.

Truly, it has been my experience as having been a teenager once myself and now living through my second bout of it in my kids, that being a teenager is TOUGH. Much tougher, perhaps, than even being a parent of a teenager.

And it’s getting tougher. I mean just yesterday, when I was a teenager, we didn’t even have social media to screw with our heads. If we wanted to join up with other teens and make bad choices, we had to put a little scheme into it. Nowadays teenagers can just google their way into trouble. Often while sitting on the couch right next to you (if you can get them to come out of their room, that is).

This is why it is even more important than ever that we, as responsible parents, try really, really, hard to ruin our teenager’s lives. Because if you aren’t ruining your teenager’s life, somebody out in there in google world is (for realsies).

So, based on my aforementioned experience, I have created a quick How To guide to help you do your absolute best in your noble parenting quest to ruin your teenager’s life.

Strategy #1: Chores. Lots Of Chores. 

Now when I say chores, I don’t mean some cute little chart where they earn stickers for unloading the dishwasher and brushing their teeth. I mean real, gritty, down and dirty chores. That actually help you out and make life easier on the entire family. Sure, cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals are just fine (we could actually use a little more of those around here) but think about adding something intense to the mix- something that makes them sweat, makes them think, and/or creates a lasting result.

My children haven’t always had to do chores (this could be why we have such a hard time with cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals…). To be honest, it wasn’t until we started homesteading, living off-grid and taking care of animals that I realized chores weren’t cute anymore. In our life, everybody is needed to keep everything running smoothly (and even then, we are often still just puttering along).

For my sanity and because I would turn into a bitter old lady otherwise, everyone has to do their fair share of chores every day. Which translates to hours and hours a week. And the older they get, they more chores they get to do. Yay!!

So how is this beneficial to anyone else but me? (Said while sipping a pina coloda from my easy chair as the children fan me and feed me grapes). It creates this thing called character. It creates confidence. It gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Basically, your kids won’t be whiny namby-pamby’s if you work ’em young and work ‘em hard.

Now, I realize most of you are not living off-grid on seventy acres with endless amounts of work on your horizon. I am not suggesting you disassemble your house and have the kids nail it back together. But I am suggesting you create the kind of life where each member of your family contributes in a valuable and meaningful way. And if it makes them sweat, even better.

If you are homesteading, coming up with chores is easy. If you are not, you might have to get creative when it comes to doling them out in large quantities. Some ideas for meaningful chores for teenagers are: Design and take care of a small butterfly or vegetable garden, help with a building/repair project, learn how to fix a flat tire/change the oil, assist in family meal planning, or committing to a volunteer project or organization like Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Fun Fact: The younger you start them on chores, the easier it is to get them to actually do anything by the time they are a teenager. Plus by then, if you have done due diligence, they will surprise you with how capable and helpful they can be, even while perfecting their death glare.

Strategy #2. Make Them Spend Time With You

Now I know this sounds cruel, but hear me out. To truly ruin your teenagers life, you need to insert yourself strongly into it. That way, when they are thinking back on how you ruined their life, they will have lots of memories of you doing all kinds of stupid stunts to support their theory. Drag them to a movie, ask them about their latest book (tips on how to get your teenager to read in Strategy Three), do a chore together (my favorite).

Don’t be afraid to act silly, talk to people in public, or show some kind of affection towards your teenager while spending time together as these actions are sure to having a lasting embarrassing impact, a key to ruining their life. 

It really doesn’t matter what you do together, but it is important that you remain positive and unaffected by their attempts at withering your soul with a single glare. Forcing your teenager to spend time with you when what they really want to do is kill you can be brutal on the tender parenting heart. This is a good time reach into your spiritual toolbox and pull out the Second Agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz’s incredibly simple yet profound book, The Four Agreements, which is this: Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Of course, getting a teenager to agree to spend time with you can be pretty tough. The first step is getting them out of bed.  For tips on how to do this, refer back to Strategy One. The second thing you need to do is to completely bore the shit out of them so they talk to you out of sheer desperation. Which brings us to Strategy Three, the Mother of all Methods for ruining your teenager’s life.

Strategy #3: Take their phone away. (Insert horrified gasping emoji here)

Yes. I. Did.

I took my teenager’s phone away.

And guess what, everyone? She didn’t die! She didn’t go into convulsions, or start blubbering and drooling. (Actually, she quit doing that when I took her phone away).

In the interest of full disclosure (a caveat of this blog, really), I can now admit (a year later) that Maverick was right (of course, once again, yawn..) when he suggested we wait to give Phoenix a smart phone and social media. But did I listen? Oh no, I did not.

In hindsight, the best tip I have for moms and dads approaching the should-I-give-my-teenager-a-phone-and-social-media-decision is this: The minute that smart phone (or even tablet or ipod) goes into their hands and social media accounts are opened, the lines between parent and child autonomy start to blur, getting ever blurrier as the days, months and years go by.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as developing personal autonomy in our children is a baseline goal for parents. But giving your child too much autonomy too early sets the stage for trouble, as I found out the hard way. So be very, very sure you are ready to go down this road.

Also, parental controls and/or spying apps are there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them. They allow for a slow release of your child’s privacy and autonomy as they prove they can handle it.

Above all, always make sure you follow your mom instincts and DO NOT give in to the mom guilt, no matter the amount of justification they sling at you. Truly, my resolve to wait on the phone/social media was blasted apart when Phoenix began pointing out all the deficits she already had in life, such as living in a camper in the woods, being homeschooled with no close friends, and the whole pooping in a bucket thing.

She begged for a phone, citing all the ways it would magically change her social life for the better. Saying yes to the phone, Snap Chat and Instagram was really my way out of all the mom guilt I was feeling. Of course, when I realized what I had done by giving her the phone, my mom-guilt came flooding back. Oh, the irony.

When I made the counter-decision that my teen’s phone had to go, it was not easy. By this time, she had pretty much turned into Gollum from The Ring, stroking the phone adoringly while muttering precious, my precious over and over to herself.

Honestly, I was downright scared. For some irrational reason, I thought I might actually ruin her life if I took her phone away. I even googled how to take your teens phone away and also should I take my teens phone away. (Apparently, teens are not the only ones who no longer have to think for themselves).

And even though, in all of google land, I found not one professional advising me to take my teen’s phone away (in fact, all I found were articles telling me how I should never invade my teen’s privacy or break her trust by taking/searching her phone), I did it anyway.

Best. Decision. Ever.

After all, do kids really have a right to social privacy? Shouldn’t they at least have to work for it?

I mean, when I was a kid, we had to sneak out in the middle of the night to have any privacy with our friends. And there was a reason why we wanted privacy in the first place, which wasn’t exactly anything our parents would have approved of.

It seems the leading edge opinion on the topic is that going through your child’s phone is akin to sawing off the top of their head and peering into their private thoughts. A complete violation of their personal being. Yet maybe, just maybe, it is not in the best interest of our children and teens to have unchecked and unregulated access to each other (and everyone else lurking around the internet)

Of course, when I took Precious from Gollum, there was a period of total freak out. The death glares were in full swing, along with dramatics to make any momma’s heart race. Yet, with the gentle support of Maverick, I stayed strong, my friends, and just loved her through it.

Then slowly, every so slowly, my child came back to me. Now a year later, she told me just the other day how glad she was we took her phone and social media when we did because she was being a ‘total idiot’ and that she is still suffering some repercussions from her ‘wild days’.

I am not telling you what to do, just reminding you to listen to your instincts and find what works for your family. But please, as tempting as it is, don’t put your head in the sand. What you don’t know CAN hurt them.

Believe me, I know how tempting denial is, but remember, as parents it is our job to ruin our teenager’s life. This means doing the tough work sometimes. So even though they may scream and shriek and have phantom limb pains, stay strong, my parenting warrior.

And if you find your resolve weakening, just repeat this mantra over and over: A phone is not an appendage, a phone is not an appendage.  Also, try not to delay, as I am pretty sure taking your child’s phone away will soon be illegal. 

And there you have it friends, three strategic steps for ruining your teenager’s life.  They seem to be working really well for me, judging by the intensity of death glares I am earning lately. If you have a strategy to share with the rest of us, let me know in the comments! #parentingwarriors

What Drum Are You Beating? Find The Rhythm Of Peace With These Three Simple Tools

Most of my life, until about five years ago, peace was something that I never actually felt. Only, I didn’t realize it.

In fact, I thought I was pretty happy. I had a job, a mate, cute kids and fun friends. I had a social life, and a supportive family. Yet, I also had unchecked ‘voices in my head’. You know, those worrisome fear thoughts that run a constant loop inside your brain?

Cloaked in the rhythmic rehashing of past or future events, my incessant internal musings went something like this: Why did I say that?, Why did I do that? or, even more profound, why did I wear that?

If the thoughts weren’t specifically about me, then they were about everyone else. I can’t believe she said that, or he better not do that again.

If I wasn’t stewing over what had happened, I was fretting about what was to come. Seldom was I ever truly present. 

No matter the specifics of the thoughts, they were all pretty much saying the same thing: I’m not good enough, nobody likes me and, of course, the classic, I’m a terrible mom.

Basically, without actually being aware of it, I was telling myself a story and believing it. I was beating the drum of fear. I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough.

The problem was, I was living in the past and the future. I was never in the Now.

So what? Well the past is full of regrets, woulda’s and shoulda’s. Even if it’s full of the best times of your life, it’s still the past. Done. Over. Time to move on and live.

The future is full or worry, uncertainty, what-if’s and what-wills. Even if its full of exciting projects on the horizon, spending your Now day dreaming about the future has it’s limitations. The only time we really have is Now.

It is said that humans have anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. The interesting thing about this statistic is we are not having 70,000 new thoughts every day. We are actually repeating the same thoughts every day. Even every hour and even every minute. Over and over again. Beating the drum. I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough.

Before I had a practice of staying in the Now, these voices literally took over my life. They were me. They were my story and my identity. But they are not real. Ultimately, they were just thoughts.

Yet, I had no awareness that it was my thoughts that were creating my peace or lack of it. I assumed it was my circumstances. If things went according to plan and everyone followed my script, then I was happy. If things didn’t, then I wasn’t. And, true to my Taurus nature, if I’m not happy,nobody gets to be happy.

So, what changed? Well the first thing is, I became open to something new  and began to seek answers. With authentic desire and a humble spirit, God brought me some new tools for peace.

Tool #1: Get Out Of Your Head

Get out of your head and stay in the Now. This means when you catch yourself in the loop, jump off and pay attention to This Very Moment. Shake off the what-if’s and what-will’s, the shoulda’s and coulda’s, and Be Here Now. The difference between how I feel when my head-stories are interrupted by my pesky children’s endless wonderings versus how I feel when I am fully with them in the Now, answering their questions and discovering life right along with them, is remarkable. Life is meant to be lived in the moment.

Tool #2​: Breathe

Peace is all about rhythms. Choosing the rhythm and pattern of peace is a daily, hourly, minute by minute practice. In the Angel Communions of the Holy Essenes, it says: “Breath long and deeply, for thy rhythm of the breath is the key of knowledge which will unlock the secrets of the Holy Law.”

Essentially, the breath is the connection between the physical realm and spiritual realm. It is the Angel of Air, messenger of God, and provides immediate access to God, which is Peace, which is Love. Anytime I feel myself losing my peace (and decide I want it back), I always first and foremost go right to my breathe and practice deep, intentional breathing.

Tool #3: Let It Go

We have to be willing to let it go. We have to be willing to redirect our thoughts. Instead of picking apart every little thing that did happen or might happen, just let it go. This takes practice, constant diligence and a choice. We choose to let it go. When it comes back up (you’re not good enough), banish the thought, come to the Now, breath deep, and let it go. Breath In… Breath Out… Breath In…

Beat A New Drum

So with these three tools, I have learned to beat a new drum, to find a new rhythm. The drum I choose to beat these days is the drum of I am a powerful creator and everything is always working out for me. Sometimes, I even beat the drum of I’m a great mom. When I make mistakes, I don’t rehash them 70,000 different ways every day. When other people make mistakes, I try not to take it personally, I let it go.  I breath… I breath… I breath. I jump off the loop.  I find a new rhythm. I choose peace. I choose to Be Here Now.

Beautiful Farm Girl Seeks Vegetarian Cowboy: A Law Of Attraction Love Story

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Five years ago I met Maverick, my (mostly) vegetarian cowboy; the man who is making my dreams come true by building me an off-grid, sustainable community surrounded by nature with only his bare hands… and a bulldozer.

While many people say our successful union was a stroke of blind luck,  the very fact he isn’t a serial killer (so far…) defying all odds,  I like to believe our meeting each other was a result of one of my more successful incidents of deliberate manifestation. Either way, one thing is for sure,  our ‘how we met’ story is so utterly unromantic and scandalous that it makes the perfect story for today’s blog post.

Before Maverick, I had dated my share of questionable characters (shocking, I know). Some of these guys were pretty terrible, some were just the typical zombie-types, devoid of any meaningful, independent thoughts. To be fair,  it takes one to date one, so I could only describe myself as a zombie as well.  

Anyway, after having an epic awakening followed by the crumbling of my latest  zombie relationship,  I moved north with my girls to explore community farm life and learn to grow my own food. We moved into a tiny primitive cabin (or shack as Mav likes to call it) on a small farm in a quaint country town in mid-west, America.  

It was a bold move to be sure, some would even call it reckless. Yet it remains to be one of the best decisions of my life. 

I spent an idyllic spring and summer pulling weeds and tending seeds (both figuratively and literally), eventually deciding I felt emotionally healthy enough to meet someone great. I had dumped some baggage (though come to find out, not all of it!) and was confident in my newfound creative abilities to attract a great mate into my experience.

So now that I was ready to date, the question was, where would I meet someone? After all, I lived in a tiny cabin on a farm in a city where I did not know anyone. I was not working outside of the farm. My hosts were great and I was quickly becoming best friends with the head lady of the farm. But her husband was oooolllldddd. Like just-suffered-a-heart-attack old. And so were all his friends. (In the interest of full disclosure the odd social structure on the farm consisted of a lot of young, lively, fit farm girls and a handful of really old dudes. It’s no surprise my city friends were convinced I had joined a cult!)

Anyway, back to the love story…

I am not a very patient person. When I make a decision, it pretty much has to happen right now. So once I had decided to meet someone, I was not content to just wait for fate to bring him to me. Taking a proactive approach to dating clearly left me with only one option: Online dating. (This was in 2013, just as dating apps were really gaining in popularity. Good thing I am usually a few years behind the latest trends or Mav and I might have never met seeing as how he still carries a flip phone).

So I crafted a clever profile, with vegetarinism and cowboyism a clear prerequisite, and joined a popular dating site (or two). However,  the selections were very few and far between of people who shared any of my interests (who wants to go roam the woods barefoot? … anyone?)

 I met a few guys that could never be pinned down to an actual date or were, um, a bit different than their pictures. Yet not a single cowboy. Basically, the process was long and drawn out and not worth the money. I felt using the dating sites just served as a buffer to immediate communication and actual interaction. Looking back, I wonder if maybe it also served as some sort of safety feature… hmm…

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a Craigslist Personals Ad.

Now I know you are all gasping in absolute horror.

And I agree, Craigslist personals are teeming with filth and debauchery of all kind. But seriously guys, it is not like I advertised my address or any other personal information. I also did not include a picture or make any references to sexual fetishes. It’s all good, people. Calm down.  

What I did do is remain 100% convinced that I could find an amazing person anywhere I put my mind to, as long as I believed. 

So, yes. Maverick and I met on Craigslist. I put out an add, he ignored my very specific qualifications (vegetarian, yo!)  and responded. I decided to overlook my non-negotiable standards based on the fact that he owned a huge lot of land and seemed willing to let me do whatever I wanted with it. 

From the very beginning, our dates have consisted of wondering aimlessly around the woods. That is literally all we do, other than the whole homesteading thing. He has more patience with me than my own mother. He never yells or demeans me when I lose the car keys, or my driver’s license, or drain the batteries for the millionth time (okay, well, he does lose his patience over that one, but the first 100 times he didn’t even bat an eye). 

Seriously though, Maverick is 100 percent dirty cowboy, 90 percent vegetarian (thanks to my many years of food shaming him), and the sweetest, kindest, safest, calmest, pure-of-heartist man I have ever met. He is so amazingly capable and smart and warrior-minded, I have full confidence we would survive a zombie apocalypse completely unscathed. He is my knight in dirty work boots. 

And there you have the most epic, unromantic love story of all time. Swoon. 

Remember, if you want miracles to happen you have to BELIEVE they can.

P.S. This post is in no way an endorsement for Craigslist Personals or any other form of online dating. It’s just a story, people. Date at your own risk! 

Namaste, my friends 

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How To Become An Enlightened Christian In Five Fearless Steps

I grew up in a typical Christian home. My siblings and I were all involved in various church activities and my parents talked often about God and Jesus, albeit from a strict biblical perspective.

Most of the time we considered ourselves Methodists, though we did get a little wild for a few years as Pentecostals. By my teen years, we had settled into one of those huge mega-churches. You know, the kind with stellar music, fancy-pants coffee stations and zero risk of having to talking to someone you don’t know?

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My Three Dads!

Anyway, having grown up with some very clear definitions of what it meant to be saved (hallelujah!), what the trinity was (three dudes in one, man), heaven and hell, sin, etc., I always struggled to be a ‘good’ Christian girl. I mean, I didn’t struggle so much as in actually trying to be good. That just wasn’t my style. But I did struggle with the shame that came from being a sinner, especially a woman sinner, (burn her at the stake!)  and deep down I struggled with not feeling so great about the  “You were born a sinner” slogan.

To be honest, there were more than a few things I didn’t buy into. For example, we have in the old testament an enraged, war-hungry, rather fanatically jealous God, obliterating entire villages of innocents, desiring sacrificed blood, and gifting out virgins to his favorite followers.

Then Jesus comes along for a little while and things seem to get better (especially if you can read between the lines) but as soon as he is offed, we go back to getting all our advice from another ego-maniac patriarchal slave-supporter, otherwise known as Paul.

And then there is this business of the all-male, Holy Trinity which is at the core of evangelical Christianity. We are told to believe we, as children of God, are the offspring of three males in one, no females needed. It would seem the whole of nature reflects otherwise, yet I suppose infallible is infallible. I mean, hey, who am I to question divine inspiration?

Step One: Ask For Help

Yes, I knew my bible facts. Unfortunately, rather than compelling me to claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior, they were repelling me. Something wasn’t right. I was actively seeking. I wanted, I desired, I craved to understand this God thing. The infinite energy that creates worlds pulsed in me, yet I could not claim it. It was a time of despair, it was a time of loneliness, unhealthy relationships, financial struggles.  I desired intensely to know God, to connect to something bigger than myself, but I was failing to do it in the context of mainstream Christian doctrine. I began praying earnestly for a mentor, thinking that a wise Christian woman would be able to sort it all out for me.

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Step Two: Relax and Let Go

And then something awesome happened. God brought me my mentor, in the guise of my best friend.  After (another) argument with my (at the time)  beau, I ended up having a rare and impromptu sleep over at her house, She introduced me to something different, something called “The Law of Attraction” by Abraham Hicks.

Oh, I was resistant at first. My old belief system was whispering, “this is the devil’s work”. When she told me it was channeled material, I almost suggested we hold an exorcism right then and there. But my mentor, wise sage that she is, told me to relax and just be open to the message, without judging it.  So I did.

Step Three: Be Here Now

Driving home with my kids the next morning, I felt noticeably better. Something had clicked. I understood more about the mysteries and the mechanics of the Universe than had ever been taught to me before. I was beginning to play around with the idea of being a ‘vibrational being’. I decided to pay attention to how I felt, noticing the contrast between feeling good and feeling bad, and choosing to think thoughts that felt good. I recognized how I was always in my head, rarely in the moment. So I decided to be in the moment with my kids, enjoying our Now for what it was. A major breakthrough had been made.

Step Four: Release Fear

From then on, things were different. I finally had ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’. As I scoured through my mainstream bible, I began to put together little clues about what was missing (deliberately edited, perhaps?).  Rather than seeking answers outside of myself (the bible, a preacher, my dad), I could trust my own intuition – provided it was not clouded by fear and doubt. I was empowered.  I began to work on releasing myself from fear-based thoughts and opening myself up to trusting the larger part of me that vibrates with unconditional love, the same vibration God holds, that ultimately is God.

Step Five: Collect Your Jewels

Now I allow myself to question freely, to pray for clarity,  and to trust the evidence as I come across it, whether it be an ancient text or an absolute inner knowing.  I am learning to shake off the fear-based lies of my traditional Christian roots, the ridiculous claims and ego-centric imposters,  while treasuring the many shining jewels of Truth. I have merged these jewels with new ones of my own discovery and feel incredibly confident and at peace that I am finally on my way to understanding God and by default, my own inner being.

How To Be Happy and The Magic Of Perspective

My family and I live a hard and dirty life with very little luxuries. We live a life that, described from a certain perspective, might have most of you feeling a bit sorry for us.

The fact is, we don’t have much money and we rarely buy new things. Our vehicles are so old and obnoxious, we make a scene everywhere we go. Due to not even having what some would consider the basic necessities of life, it can be a daunting task just keeping up with the day to day household operations.

On top of all this, we have hours of physically taxing farm chores that have to be done too, every single day. Being out in the middle of the woods, living in very tiny, very temporary housing, even a simple rainstorm can create so much mud and mess it’s enough to drive any woman crazy.

​Yet I stay… Why?

Because it’s all a matter of perspective. Everything I just described are some of the facts of my life,  but the perspective is all wrong. I’d like to share with you a different perspective

 My family and I live a fun and free life with ample amounts of time together, working and playing side by side. We live a life that, although unconventional and challenging, is one we have chosen just for those very reasons.

We try not to be weighed down by unnecessary possessions, yet we surround ourselves with the things most important to us, such as books to spark our curiosity, animals to teach us kindness, and the natural world to help us connect to the divine. We have chosen to live frugally so we can pursue our dreams of living sustainably, building a community, and teaching our children spiritual and ethical truths they are not likely to learn from a public institution.

From our perspective, cuddling up in the middle of the woods to watch a movie in the great outdoors powered by off-grid technologies is a luxury. Squashed into the front seat of our ’72 Chevy, bouncing down our mile-long dirt driveway, we learn to laugh at ourselves and not take everything so seriously. We have time to literally stop and smell the roses, though it is more likely we are pointing out a hawk in the sky or snapping a picture of an strange-looking mushroom.

And when, as inevitably happens from time to time, I begin to feel some mom-guilt that my children might be missing out due to their lack of electronics and shiny new shoes, I remind myself that helping split firewood for winter warmth, chipping in on building projects and foraging dinner in the woods, creates strong and capable children who will eventually turn into strong and capable adults, where as shiny new shoes are simply muddied up before they can be outgrown… around here anyway.

Our specific things and circumstances, we don’t take those with us once we leave these physical bodies. We take our beliefs. We take our perspectives.

If we see ourselves as victims, then our lives will reflect that idea. The same is true if we see ourselves as blessed. It is my belief that whatever perspective we die with is the one we return with in the cycle of many incarnations.

If the eternal part of ourselves is that which is unseen, and all that manifests stems from our beliefs, getting a handle on your perspective will create the eternal happiness we all desire.

After all, the only thing we can ever truly control is our perspective; not our circumstances.  Maintaining a balanced and positive perspective takes practice and perseverance but is worth the riches received: joy, peace, and true security.

For myself, when I feel circumstances out of my control creeping up on my happiness, I breathe deeply. I grab my dog and we go for a walk in the woods, where I connect with the eternal truth of the divine, and bring myself back into the perspective of my choosing.

Baby Jasper waits under the hammock while mom takes a moment to reset her perspective. (Hammock naps = Happiness)

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