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Friday, December 15, 2017

Fun Friday

Only the good stuff here today.


This Christmas video has made me laugh all 3 times I've watched it.


Our annual work Christmas party was Tuesday, and it may have been my favorite one so far. So. many. laughs. And I walked away with a $50 Amazon gift card!

Today is Brian's last day of school for 2 weeks. I'm pretty sure this is his second favorite day of the entire year.

The kids both won spelling bees this week. Here's the thing. Rory worked so hard studying after school for the past 3 weeks. Really, so much studying. Camden literally said the words "there's too much to learn to even try." But he still won. How do I teach him that studying is necessary when he can win and make straight A's with no effort. College is going to hit hard I'm afraid. We had a family spelling bee earlier this week and I am the true Lewis family spelling champion. Rory's studying paid off, however, and I only won by 2 words.

We have two friends hosting orphans this Christmas and I am so excited for them I can hardly stand it. My heart also breaks as I think about those two little ones returning to their country still as orphans.

With the exception of an eye appointment next week for my monthly hyper dilation, I am doctor free for 2 weeks.

Sometimes you just need coffee, a cinnamon roll the size of your head, and a 3-hour chat with an old friend. We've managed to let an entire 6 months pass by without a chat so we had a whole lot of catching up to do. 

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Basketball game tonight, Rory has a little outing with a church friend tomorrow morning, and next week is about as full as it gets. We've been reading our Christmas Advent and putting our focus on "remembering" and "anticipating" the birth of Christ. Happy Friday!




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

November/December 2017 Catch-Up

God's love was revealed to us in this way: God sent His one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. -I John 4:9

I'm choosing to just quickly write events out in list form with little commentary purely for memory-keeping purposes. Fair warning - I am considering converting to a private blog. As the kids grow older (I have a teen and preteen!), I want to protect their stories and I want the freedom to document our life with honesty and transparency. While I would hate to lose touch with all of my readers after so many years, it just seems like it might be time. Still giving this some thought.

Camden was diagnosed with the flu. He's all good.
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Brian's dad had a heart attack. He also appears to be all good.

I made a quick 3-day work trip to Greensboro, NC (my first visit to NC, btw). If you've ever wondered what the presidential suite looks like, this is one small part of it.

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Brian and I spent the day together during my last scan day, mostly at Vanderbilt, but we also had a chance to grab lunch and it's worth mentioning. Milk and Honey is a new, adorable coffee/food/bakery in Nashville and I can't wait to visit again. We also tried out a new coffee spot - Sump Coffee was interesting, but I'll probably cross it off the list and move on.

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After the first basketball game of the season, we had a 3-week break. Back in action now and Camden scored his first career points. After a couple of games, he appears to be the 6th man, which is fun. I'm certainly not suggesting he's a star, but the personal progress he's made is pretty remarkable.

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Work has been intense, but is slowing down for the holiday season. I only have 1 more day in the office and 1-2 more days working from home and then I'll be finished until January 2. This has also been a fairly intense 5-6 weeks of chemo in terms of side effects. While the cancer is receding, chemo side effects are in full force. I'm hoping to have a little chemo break over the holidays, but that isn't confirmed.

Brian's parents came to TN for a quick overnight visit. I did not even snap a one single picture.

My grandparents rolled and baked my Christmas cookies for me. So sweet and helpful!

Someone gave Rory play make-up, and she experiments pretty much every day. It is not subtle.
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I'm reading books #55 and #56 for 2017; my goal was 60.

The school Christmas program was Friday night and Camden surprised us with a solo.
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We're facing about a 20% overall income reduction as we move into 2018 and life has felt a bit like a living version of Murphy's law with both vehicles needing work, unexpected expenses, etc. But God has also shown Himself so faithful and we've been reminded time after time that finances are no big deal.

I'm headed to Nashville for my regular Wednesday schedule of lab work, doctor appointment, and chemo. I have a friend coming to keep me company and I'm ever hopeful for a smooth, quick day at Vanderbilt.

Happy Wednesday, friends!


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Happy Birthday, Brian!

I posted via social media this morning, but it's worth documenting here.

Happy birthday to the love of my life. I can mention two things from recent days that should give you a glimpse into why he's such a wonderful, godly person. (1) Camden set his alarm for 5 this morning so he could be the first to wish his dad a happy birthday and (2) over the past weekend Brian was due a major iphone upgrade after using the same phone for well over 3.5 years. Without even blinking, he gave me the 8 plus upgrade and took my 7.

Happy, happy birthday!

(those red eyes and wrinkles are proof of his many early mornings)
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Friday, December 01, 2017

Happy December 1

Every year my goal is to make it to December 1 with most of the "work" of Christmas finished. I want the tree up and the house decorated. Christmas gifts purchased and wrapped (the wrapping never happens on time) and Christmas cookies planned and maybe even baked (this also never happens). I'm 100% behind on every single item this December 1, and we're heading into a hectic December (I know we're not alone in the craziness). This year we have the added bonus of chemo and very long days at Vanderbilt. It's hard to believe this is my second December in a row full of doctors and appointments and long days at the hospital, not to mention that I've now completed an entire year of treatment. Twelve whole months is a very long time, friends, and I am feeling every bit of it.

Before I list a few Christmas favorites, let me also tell you Wednesday's scan shows yet another decrease in cancer - I'm now at a 29% decrease from this time last year. If I can make it 1 more percentage point, then not only is that good news for me, but it is very good news for my clinical trial doctor and drug. That one additional percentage point means that the trial drug is officially successful and could have a long-term positive impact on many other cancer patients. And I still get the distinct impression I am their star patient, but maybe they're just trying to make me feel good. ;)

Unfortunately, there are signs the neuropathy is returning, which is no good, very bad news. I'm praying those side effects disappear. The drug I am taking to counteract the neuropathy is a sedative (yikes), but I'm only taking half the dose so we have room to grow. I do not have room in my schedule to deal with the sedative side effects, however.

So. I may not have any of my own Christmas goals complete as I write this morning, BUT I've found some great Christmas favorites that I want to share. Honestly, you've probably missed out on the discounts since Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, but they are great companies that you can bookmark for later.

I also want to note here that I have tried to purchase small business and fair trade more and more each holiday. I don't know quite how to make it to 100%, but I have purchased more this year than ever before and I am so proud of that.

Mery House Global - a fair trade global movement started by Kristen Welch who authored one of my favorite parenting books, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Read all about their mission and then go buy items made by women in Kenya.

May Designs - design your own menu book, agenda, phone case, stationery, etc. I bought several gifts this year and it is going to be an annual favorite. (I also might have bought myself something as well, but I'm not telling.)

Dignify - I still haven't purchased one of the Kantha blankets, but they are on my list every. single. year. One of these days!

Bottle of Tears - I am certain we all have people in our lives who could use a little encouragement. I love this little company and its mission. I've sent one bottle this season and plan to send another soon.

Mezzati 1800 Thread Count Sheets - I didn't buy this as a gift, just replaced our old, worn out, and holey sheets. They are incredibly soft and so cheap!

And my favorite books of the year if you're a reader:
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Fearless Parenting by George Barna and Jimmy Meyers
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
    On the off chance you need something to help track all of the money you're spending, I have been using the Daily Budget app for the past 6 weeks or so and it is easy to use, but effective (I am using the full paid version). I love it and it's the only budgeting app/tool that I've kept up with for this long.

    I'm going to do a catch-up post soon. For now, the best way to stay connected is via instagram - lifeasalewis. It's a private account, but I'll accept your request (especially if you comment here!).

    Putting up the tree. Camden is working on lights; Rory is singing away to Christmas songs. The reality of this was nowhere near as idyllic as it looks.
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    We rearranged furniture so that the tree could go in front of the window this year (Brian's idea). This was also not nearly as idyllic as it seems, although I am enjoying it.
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    Happy December 1, friends.

    Thursday, November 23, 2017

    Thankful

    One day soon I will write a catch-up post. The past 3 weeks have flown by jam-packed full of events, both big and small, good and not-so-good. For now, we're resisting the call of all things Christmas to say a few thank yous. Our annual Tuesday night Thanksgiving service, comprised of music, communion (to recognize the One to whom we owe our ultimate thanks), also provided an opportunity to share with others what is filling our gratitude bucket right now.

    Brian is thankful for two volunteers at church this week. Volunteers aren't always willing or excited to take on new responsibility so Lindsey blessed him more than she'll ever know when she jumped at the chance to manage the nursery program. Adding to that scenario is Preston, who told Brian he is ready, willing, and able to do whatever Brian asks of him. 

    Rory is thankful for people who never let you down - she mentioned Michael and Liz, Ms. Paula, Kinsley and Kylah.

    Camden is thankful for Zach, our worship pastor, for his guidance on the guitar and for his good example and the time he invests in Camden.

    I am thankful for my parents and grandparents being a mere 15 minutes down the road and for my Friday morning Bible study group who have been so thoughtful to pray for me and to show me love and kindness via weekly meals for the majority of 2017.

    It seems ungrateful to stop with only one item per person, but there aren't enough words to express how thankful I feel this morning. 

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    Friday, November 10, 2017

    Five on Friday (November 10, 2017)

    A final word: be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
    Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.
    For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies,
    but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,
    against mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
    Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy
    in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. -Eph. 6:10-13

    1. This has been a difficult, stressful, don't want to repeat anytime soon kind of week. Betrayed and weary would actually be an honest description of how the adults feel today. Not coincidentally, my daily scripture writing theme this month is strength. God is sweet to provide encouragement ahead of the time we actually need it. I'm wearing my "But if not" t-shirt I received from Becky for my birthday this morning. The blog post explaining the shirt is worth reading.

    2. Chemo this week was a full-day event. As usual. I really need to lower my expectations for these days because I am forever thinking the multi-step process will proceed on schedule, and I will have time left over for errands or coffee or work. A bright spot was having my favorite nurse back. Kris is a delight and I love catching up with her. While nurse assignments are random, I have been lucky enough to have her nearly half the time.

    3. Last night was the first basketball game of the season. Camden had some playing time and chalked up an assist, several defensive rebounds, and 2 steals. It's incredible how in one year his body matured and those long arms no longer flail about but move with purpose. New this year is the requirement that players dress up, as in actual dress shirts and dress shoes on game days. Camden had none of these items, of course, so we had a shopping trip Tuesday that could only be described as stressful. I plan to return to online shopping and returns as soon as possible.

    I noticed that Camden looked a little puny on the basketball floor and when we got home, he was running a high fever. You know he's sick when he literally shivers his way through supper and doesn't eat. So we're convalescing together today as I am also not well. He's missing Tip-Off tonight which is the school's official opening ceremonies for basketball season. His coach signed him up for the 3-point competition, and I think he is simultaneously sad and relieved to be unable to participate.

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    4. Sunday is my birthday and it's kind of fun to see all the birthday coupons and rewards roll in. I've cashed in my Sephora and Cold Stone Creamery rewards so far.

    5. I leave for Greensboro bright and early Monday morning for the annual work planning retreat (my first trip to NC I believe). This means lots of juggling of kids and schedules. I'm so thankful to have my parents a mere 15 minutes away. 

    The weekend includes Veterans Day parade (our church has a float), birthday party (Rory's friend), moving my grandparents in with my parents (yes, a second set of grandparents), and then a birthday dinner Sunday with parents, grandparents, and the rest of the family.

    Veteran's Day chapel at school
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    Our very own Daniel from 180 speaking to the students
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    Sunday, November 05, 2017

    Halloween 2017

    I mentioned Halloween was a bit of a bust in terms of costumes, but I wanted to post these anyway. Rory was SO hyped up for the evening.

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    Friday, November 03, 2017

    (More than) Five on Friday (Nov. 3, 2017)

    Since I'm covering more territory than the past week, I cannot condense events down to just 5. I have listed them in chronological order, not order of importance. ;)

    1. The kids both participated in the annual PVCS Talent Show on October 21. Rory performed a monologue and Camden played/sang. Their prep and strategy for performing is completely opposite, which always cracks me up. Rory haphazardly practices and is full of excitement over being on stage. Camden obsessively practices and is a total bear with loads of performance anxiety. Adding to the angst is the fact that his 14-year old voice is changing almost daily and he suddenly could no longer hit the same notes so he and his teacher worked out alternate melodies. Oh, the joy of the teenage years.

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    2. A longtime dream came true October 24 when we attended a Crowder concert. He is my favorite, favorite, favorite and his live show was just amazing. Adding to the experience was the small venue and our 4th-row seats. Truly my favorite night of music ever. (Yes, we had two major date nights in one month - John Crist + Crowder in a 10-day span is memorable!)

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    3. The annual birthday trip with Becky was last week (she traveled to Nashville this time). Lots of laughing, eating, and coffee drinking occurred. A busier than necessary schedule as usual. Two days in Nashville. We visited 3 coffee shops, ate grilled cheese and BBQ nachos (not together), tried out the new cookie dough spot, and spent a fun time at a Nashville favorite McKay's used bookstore. A complete bummer was my mom coming down with vertigo, ending up in the ER and having to miss one of our days together.

    (You have NO idea how many times we took this picture trying to get the right one.)
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    The No Baked shop was fun to try, but I'm not sure it's at the top of my list for treats. That Five Daughters Bakery donut a few pics up? Definitely!
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    4. If you are local, a tour of Olive and Sinclaire Chocolates (only available by reservation and on Saturdays) was awesome with lots of incredible information about the process and tasting along the way. They are 1 of 4 bean-to-bar chocolate shops in the U.S. I was completely convinced to blow an entire paycheck on expensive chocolate by the time we left. Brian is thankful I did not give in to that urge and only bought a $6.50 coffee mug and a solitary cinnamon/chili chocolate bar.

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    Hairnets required
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    5. Rory went to her first sleepover Friday (she hosted her first sleepover this summer) and came home sleepy but happy. Thank you, Anna, for such a fun time!

    6. The Trunk-R-Treat our church hosted was an enormous success Sunday night. The actual holiday was uneventful. I tend to forget how big Halloween is for many families. For the umpteenth year in a row, we did not plan costumes. Rory threw up some pigtails and we added freckles to her face and called it good. I am finally accepting that Camden truly hates scary costumes. If at 14 he still refuses to answer the door on Halloween, it must be a real fear!

    7. Camden has had double practices for the past 3 weeks (basketball and cross country). Thankfully, cross country ends today with the final district high school meet (he's still middle school but was chosen to participate). Because this is a high school met, he ran a 5k instead of the standard middle school 3k and finished with a time of 25:22 which was a personal best. He said it felt like the race would never end. Ha! I am really proud of the hard work both kids put into cross country, especially the last several weeks. They've been running 4-5 miles in practice 4 times a week (plus basketball practice for Camden).

    8. Brian has been helping out a fellow teacher (off work because of surgery) for the past 3 weeks, which means 3 a.m. wake-up calls every day. He is certainly beginning to look as if he's been getting way too little sleep, but I'm hopeful we're about to turn a corner. He continues to be the most hardworking, patient, reliable, loyal man I know. Which is good, since I married him.

    Weekend plans are a little light (for me anyway). Saturday plans include Brian and Camden helping a church friend move followed by a guitar lesson for Camden. Rory and I are holding down the fort managing the laundry and baking pumpkin bread. Sunday is very full with a service at the nursing home and budget meeting.

    Hello, weekend!

    Thursday, November 02, 2017

    Lashes and Brows

    After talking with the oncologist yesterday (I actually didn't get to see my own doctor but the oncologist who created the trial drug instead), the decision is to move forward with the taxol + clinical trial drug at a slightly reduced dose. I am to keep the doctors a little more informed on how I'm feeling regarding the neuropathy and let them know before the side effects become severe. I admit that I brushed the extreme numbness and pain aside for too long. I'm not sure if the outcome would be any different if I would have said something earlier, but moving forward I'll be less of a superhero. ;)

    I did not intend to cry (and haven't cried up to this point), but my poor nurse was on the receiving end of my tears as I pointed out my eyebrows and eyelashes were growing. I am feeling a slight bit obsessive over these eyelashes/brows right now. Most days I can put aside the fact that I am a hairless human, but not-so-far from the surface, I feel very vulnerable and self-conscious. I think I can chalk up my newly developed make-up obsession to this vulnerability.

    So I am going to work on feeling grateful for this ongoing chemo and pray that these drugs continue to work. After all, they are producing the most progress I've had in 6.5 years and it would be silly to feel sad about that.

    Just for memory-keeping purposes, I'm going to mention that my number one thing I am grateful for about this break is that is has allowed me to go back to 3 days a week of work. Not only has it been a crazy time in the office and I couldn't have possibly kept up during chemo, but the extra money has been very timely. AND that break included the weekend Becky was here for our birthday trip (so sad it came and went so quickly!).

    I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. Ps. 116:17

    Monday, October 30, 2017

    Choices

    After a fun 3-day birthday weekend with Becky, I dropped her off at the airport Sunday morning. Drove myself home, proceeded to become ill and then slept for over 7 hours throughout the day.  Thankfully, as I usually do after a day like yesterday (which happens occasionally; too often to call rare, but not a common occurrence either), I feel like a new woman today.
    I will blog more about all the fun things that happened (and the fun food/coffee consumed) over the weekend later. But today I wanted to let you know what's happening Wednesday. 

    After 6 weeks off Taxol (and I have a small bit of hair and eyelash growth to prove it), my appointment with the oncologist Wednesday will determine whether I have to take a permanent break from not only from Taxol, but also the clinical trial meds. Selfishly, I just want to be done with it all. I am perfectly satisfied to skip chemo and wait for the cancer to return. I'm ready for hair and eyelashes again. I'm ready to feel better. If the choice were only mine, I would absolutely choose to stop Taxol for good.

    Probably not the wisest choice. So the prayer is that my doctor will be wise, the side effects will continue to diminish, and that the best choice will be abundantly clear. 

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    Friday, October 20, 2017

    Five on Friday (October 20, 2017)

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    1. Brian and the kids spent a couple of days visiting Gram and Gramps for Fall Break. Listen, I won't say that wasn't looking forward to a little alone time, but it felt a little too quiet by the end of that first night. In hindsight, the quiet was providential because work has been increasingly busy and stressful for several weeks. I have returned to working 3 days a week (and then some). It's good, but has certainly been a time of transition.

    2. Camden received an invitation to a box seat at the Austin Peay football game recently. I have mentioned before how sweet it has been to have men in our church choose to invest in Camden. I am confident this investment will impact him long after his teenage days are over.

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    3. With the exception of a brand new 2001 Pontiac Grand Am early in our marriage, the Lewis family drives old, cheap vehicles. It's always been a secret little dream to drive a cherry red car, and I do not want to return this rental (while our car is repaired from wreck damage). I am married to a Lewis, however, which will always mean no new vehicles for us, but I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

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    4. When I uploaded the pictures of the car this morning, I discovered that I had a memory card with hundreds of pictures from our trip this summer that never made it to the computer. Here are just a few from Vail Pass. I need a vacation so I can work on pictures from vacation!

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    5. Date nights are rare these days, but date nights in which we do more than grab a bite to eat on our way to Sam's are even rarer. Last weekend we had dinner at Farm Burger than spent 2 hours laughing our heads off at a John Crist show. Seriously, I have never laughed so long and so hard that my face actually hurt. It was a balm to my soul. Tuesday we're leaving after work to drive to Kentucky for a Crowder concert. Two actual date nights in one month feels like a big deal!


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    Our weekend includes an all-day meeting for Brian, the annual talent show at school, and a regular Sunday. We're making a strong attempt to keep Sunday evening free - a rare commodity these days. Happy Friday, friends!


    Friday, October 06, 2017

    Five on Friday (October 6, 2017)

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    1. October is my absolute favorite month of the year. The weather is officially cooling off, humidity is down, leaves are turning yellow and orange and red. The schedule stays busy, but there's room for an extra breath or two. This year October brings fall break and tickets to see John Crist and Crowder, more cross country and the beginning of basketball.

    2. I'm certainly not used to reporting such good news 3 scans in a row, but last week's scan  shows a 24% decrease in cancer tumors and my CA125 is 30. Crazy!

    Unfortunately, I have been experiencing significant hand/feet issues and we're taking a little chemo break. I will continue to take the trial drug via pill, but will be skipping my Taxol infusion. Dr. C will re-evaluate on a week to week basis. I'm guessing it will be a couple of weeks before I return to my full schedule. You will not find me complaining about this break.

    3. I am nearly 42, but have never experienced a wreck before until yesterday. A teenage boy narrowly avoided broadsiding our car (on Rory's side). Instead, he clipped the bumper and we were all unhurt (but sore). Rory was especially shaken up, but we're all safe and the car can most likely be fixed. My dad was fairly close by and was able to come wait with us. I would really like to never experience that again!

    We're actually having good conversations with Camden about driving/cars (he can get his permit in less than a year - YIKES!), and this was a perfect opportunity to learn.

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    4. Today is Grandparent's Day at PVCS and this year my parents and my grandparents were able to attend. Camden is too old to participate at this point, but Addison's class performed. Rory's school choir also performed. Fall break begins today. Plans are light at this point, but the time off for both Brian and the kids will be nice. I have a regular work and hospital schedule, unfortunately.

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    5. We celebrated Rory's birthday over the weekend at my mom and dad's. She asked for a lemon pound cake; both grandmas worked together to fulfill that wish.

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