reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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body surfing. [k.s. friday]

it’s all a wave. we ride out, we ride in, the surf is gentle and easy, the surf is rough and pounding. as far as we can see into the horizon we know it will all be like this.

“frozen shoulder,” she said.

at the orthopedic specialist at the highly-regarded froedtert hospital, i blinked back tears. i have had appendage challenges the last two years. it’s a wave. in between the normal tides rolling in, we have a brush with a rogue breaker. she’s kind and explains the stages of frozen shoulder, what i might expect. it can take up to 42 months to un-freeze, she mentions, though i refuse to take that in. for nine months now, since the time of my covid booster, it has become my new normal, this painful and incomplete range of motion. she points to the deltoid and explains the vaccination – any vaccination – must go into the deltoid, not through or slip around it; if either of those happen, inflammation will result. i guess the wave of inflammation has roiled in.

the rogue wave passed by david a couple weeks ago, tapping him as it went. we rose to its challenge, just like we’ll rise to this one. it seems that the surf is not as still as we would wish right now, but there are moments of calmer waters.

we are adrift in our sea – each of us – as we go about living. each molecule of the lake party to the elements, each atom of us rawly exposed.

we are body surfing. every single day.

*****

ADRIFT from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood

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the stars are watching. [k.s. friday]

littlebabyscion is ready. i washed it and vacuumed it and wiped out the inside, reorganizing its small storage spaces, checking to make sure the necessities were there. we travel always with a small tool kit, duct tape (this is from experience), twist ties, rubber bands of all sizes and a big maglite flashlight. light is always good on a dark highway, but the light was barely discernible when i checked it, so i changed the batteries and put extras in a small bag that also has jumper cables and a quart of oil, things we have determined to be practical. in the winter there are a few additions, a few things that my sweet poppo always made sure i carried along. but it’s still late summer, so the extender snow brush/scraper can hang in the garage just a bit longer and the kitty litter doesn’t need to come along. littlebabyscion is ready to go to the shop today and come home later with a muffler that doesn’t make noise. (to muffle: to make quieter and more difficult to hear; muffler: a device fixed to the exhaust of a motor vehicle to reduce engine noise.) it waits patiently in the driveway until The Time.

the people who know – like our mechanic, the exhaust system shop, our plumber, our electrician, the drain experts, tree services, gardening wizards, the company we will choose to be our mason – they are like lights in the darkness. along with their expertise and the wisdom of friends who have beentheredonethat we survive the normal – and not-so-normal – challenges of home and car ownership. it would seem rare – a person without some sort of concentric circle of informants surrounding them in problem-solving and decision-making. asking questions, asking for advice, seeking information are the basis for learning and, it seems, every day is an opportunity for that. (and we haven’t even mentioned the whole changing-bodies piece of this life-thing.)

we stood outside on the deck, the only light from a few torches and the bonfire across the yard; we gazed at the sky. it seemed thousands of stars gazed back at us. the james webb telescope has delivered photographs of space back to us here on this planet, a place that feels big but is merely tiny in the vast. seeing billions and billions of light years away, i read that the webb captures not just the birth of stars but, also, their last dances. it is hard to wrap your head around looking back in time in such a profound way. the light goes on and on. and on.

we each build a framework around ourselves. none of us exists without the other, really. at a time when our purple-mountain-majesty-land continues to be divided and people fight for control and power and are practicing efforts serving to undermine, marginalize, divide further, it would seem prudent to remember the tiny-in-vast. transience.

we can be the light for each other…in so many ways. or we can snuff it out and try to go on without. the stars are watching.

always prepared, always planning ahead for possible big bangs, my poppo would vote for light.

*****

TRANSIENCE from RIGHT NOW ©️ 2010 kerri sherwood

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our chippies. [k.s. friday]

and even as we sat on the deck, the chippie ran to dogdog’s bowl. tiny paws on the top edge, he pulled himself up and ducked his head down into the metal dogbowl, getting a quick drink of water. moments later he scampered away, back toward the potting bench and access to the birdfeeder. it was a really sweet moment and pivoted our conversation to wondering and worrying about the wildlife in the searing temperatures.

i went inside and pulled out two shallow vessels, filling them both with cool water. placing one on the ground and the other on the potting stand, i announced to chipmunks et al that i would keep them filled and they didn’t have to risk life or limb drinking out of dogga’s bowl. we often see squirrels and birds taking tiny sips of the pond, but i’m all for offering them a cleaner water option.

in another pure bambi-movie moment, driving down a local more-forested road, a doe stood on the right-of-way. proudly she nursed a beautiful spotted fawn. i can hear the fawn, “but i’m hungry nowwwww” as she encouraged it to go just a few steps further so as to be out of sight, in the wood. but a mom does what a mom’s gotta do and she unabashedly stood fast, allowing us a gorgeous, heart-stirring view of nature doing nature. we were both moved. a profound moment in time, reminding us it’s not just us.

i reached out to touch the grasses by the old brick front wall and he was suddenly there. holding on to the brick, his tiny face looking at me, direct eye-to-eye contact. i whispered i would do nothing to hurt him, tiny chipmunk, and he zipped off, satisfied he was in no danger.

a few years ago, when we were way up north in ely on the boundary waters, there was this chipmunk we named “humpy” who, well, kind of obviously, had a hump on his back. each day he came right up to me, climbed in my lap and waited for peanuts. he’d stuff his little cheeks and run off to hide his stash and then he’d return to sit and climb on me until i relented and gave him more. each year since i’ve asked 20 if humpy was there again, but he hasn’t seen him. years have passed. these tiny creatures typically only live a couple years, which is probably why they live so zealously.

i suppose we would do well to mimic the sweetly-dedicated-nurturing-zealous-living of critters. never a moment to take for granted. always present in this ballet of life, doing the best they can with what they have. recognizing that simple interconnectivity matters, trusting that others will be compassionate and will have their best interests at heart.

yes. sounds good.

*****

SWEET BALLET from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

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not unimportant. [k.s. friday]

just like when i take a photograph of a person i try to avoid having extraneous people in the picture, when i take photographs outside i try to avoid any messy unnecessities.

this time i did it on purpose.

on july 29th i will have lived in this house for 33 years. i have sat out back watching the sky turn orange over the garage for 33 years. i have watched the trees grow up over the rooftops in my view. i have watched squirrels on their highways-of-highwire for 33 years.

it suddenly occurred to me that there might come a day when i can’t simply walk out the old screen door onto the deck, stepping onto the patio to watch the sky in the west. there might come a day when i live somewhere else and i won’t have access to this view.

and so the messiness of wires sectioning off the sky became important. important enough to photograph. important enough to remember.

we’re surrounded by things – and views – we have taken for granted. we see them every day – though we don’t really see them.

they seem unimportant.

yet, these familiar sights are the very things that help ground us. in a world that is politically volatile, climate that is destroying mother earth, bombastic leaders itching to reduce freedoms, disrespect and aggression out of control, it would seem that we need grab onto that which grounds us, centers us, slows down our breathing.

because i’m thready, i notice – and try to memorize – things like how the old wood floor creaks in the hallway, what it sounds like when the glass doorknob falls off, the feel of the small chain on the basement door and the decades-rubbed indent it has made, the sound of a double-hung window with ropes and weights opening, the deck cracking in cold weather, the cool painted-cement floor under bare feet in the basement, the places where the plaster has cracked. they all spell home.

and, with a world in turmoil, everything in flux, so much anxiety and grief and worry, things that are solidly familiar help.

*****

THE WAY HOME from THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY ©️ 1997, 2000 kerri sherwood

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and then…wisps. [k.s. friday]

we settled into the ritual with ease. sundown came and we gently removed the tiny wax bits that were left in the menorah. we drew new candles out of the box, placed them in their spots, sparked the shamash, lit each day’s wick, reciting either the words we had researched or blessings we spoke into the universe. when the last night came, as we watched the flames dance in glassware on the table and in the window, we sang. we made up the song and intended it as words of gratitude and a wish for light in all. it has become a new tradition we will continue…there cannot be any reason to not add rituals into the darkness.

we found it to be a time of quiet, these moments as we sat and watched the flickering. we sat, silently, for the menorah was small and the candles only lasted the requisite half hour or so. but a half hour, taken as sweet lull in the day is a good reminder to be still. our days, this season, all will us to go faster, faster. yet, it seems, the best way to move into the rest is to pause.

we made dinner after we celebrated our little festival of lights. sometimes with a favorite cd, sometimes with the local chicago holiday station, music floated around us. though i love singing along to carols, and so many of our old albums conjure up piles of memories, i’ve noticed that the instrumental versions of these gently wrap around us, slow us down a little.

when 20 was over for dinner i mentioned that. “instrumentals would be nice,” i observed as yet another pop singer acrobated her way through a simple carol, over-cadenza-ing into the stratosphere. both 20 and david stared at me like i had lost my mind. they hesitated and then one of them said, “duhhhh.” i stared back, “it’s-not-like-i’m-going-to-put-on-my-own-albums-geeez.” they rolled their eyes.

in a more-is-more faster-and-faster society, there is something to be said for decelerating. there is something about simplifying. there is something about lighting candles and reciting ancient peaceful blessings. there is something about taking the time for quiet and taking the time for celebration. there is something about staring into the reflection of years past, of the week, of today.

we watched the wispy trails of smoke as they faded into the rest of the evening.

*****

still, still, still

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THE LIGHTS, JOY!, THIS SEASON ©️ 1996, 2003, 2004 kerri sherwood


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the chalkboard in the mountains. [k.s. friday]

in a high mountain town this wall was full. chalk layered upon chalk, there was no space left for even a word or two. we stood for a few minutes and started to read it. we were touched. it was obvious that, given the chance, people will share what they are grateful for, will express their gratitude, will put it out there in public. grateful begets grateful.

we had spent time with family, time in high elevation, time on the trail. we had eaten good meals together and we had cried together. we had sipped wine out of yetis, ate halos on a big downed tree, sat in front of a roaring fire on a chilly night. we had lingered at the lake and had found a new bundle of prayer flags to bring home with us. we were grateful. and we were exhausted.

the path home this week was long across the great plains. we snacked our way across, from giant bags of every snack you can imagine dropped at our doorstep before we left from jen and brad. we said a teary goodbye to the mountains – waving to the last vestige of very-distant pike’s peak – and then passed through brown barren land and acres of dried cornfields and rolling farms. we reviewed our time spent. we were quiet. we relished double espressos at a surprise starbucks. and we arrived home to a delicious meal prepared by our 20.

we should all have a grateful wall. i’m thinking we should take the blackboard we had at our wedding, six years ago now, and install it in the house somewhere.

in short order it would be filled, layer upon layer of colored sidewalk chalk, layer upon layer of gratitude, a reminder to – no matter what – stay there.

*****

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GRATEFUL from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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old linoleum tile. [k.s. friday]

i’m generally a floor-noticer.

i, intimately, know the wood floors in our house. i know where they creak, where they are silent, where they are slightly uneven, where the floorboard gaps are smaller and where they are bigger. i know where the stains are and where there are holes that were drilled into the floor to install a christmas tree – a silly tale from decades before we lived here. i adore the wood floors in this house.

a year ago today i connected – for seemingly forever – with the floor at my place of employment at the time. i knew those floors well also, having been there for a full eight years…the stuff of old-building linoleum tiles, looking polished and shiny from time to time, committees always pondering the next waxing, the grungy it-needs-to-be-washed. we had a similar floor in our basement growing up, darker in color, but the same stuff. that floor at work used to bring me a sense of comfort, the recognition, the familiarity, the place.

that day was much the same. perfectly at home there and proud of the work i was doing, i was simply walking down the hall. it was unfortunate that someone had washed the floor and had not put up any signage to indicate that caution was needed, that the floor was wet, and, thus, i was unaware. i was almost at the office – where i was headed – when my feet slipped from underneath me and i fell, landing hard on my right hand. and now, that floor will ever be a part of me.

i’ve worked very hard to regain the use of my wrist since tearing my scapholunate ligament that day and i was up to 60 degrees of forward range-of-motion when they stopped covering treatment a few weeks ago. the mri, weeks after my communion with the floor, showed definitive tearing – a “high grade partial or complete tear” – and, just mere minutes into online research, the nih (national institutes of health) states “proper ligament repair is recommended within four to six weeks after trauma” which includes arthroscopic surgery, reconnection of torn ligament remnants and pinning. they continue, “….all intrinsic carpal ligaments tend to undergo rapid degeneration in as short a time as two to six weeks, after which primary repair may be difficult or even impossible and ineffective.” continued degeneration, serious arthritis, ever-decreasing range of motion are the hallmarks of an s/l tear gone untreated in a timely manner.

i suppose that there is a reason why the person-in-charge-of-the-paperwork just put the accident report in the drawer. i suppose that there is a reason why that form-in-the-drawer was a random incident form off the internet that the person printed and filled out without communicating with me about my fall, though there are specific proper-process official-wisconsin-employer forms also accessible on the internet. i suppose that there is a reason i had to do a little preemptive googling and let them know that sans-official-proper-process-timely-reporting there could be a steep fine for this [formerly] cherished place in which i worked. i suppose that there is a reason why they, then, a week later, decided to officially report my injury, ultimately pushing medical intervention coverage back and, also ultimately, in a snowball effect, delaying an mri until six weeks later. i suppose that there is a reason why the physician in my own town read the mri report and flippantly said, “i believe for the most part this should improve”, adding, “i do not believe i will be able to make her scapholunate ligament better than what it is right now,” and, though 3.6mm (my measured interval) > 2.0mm (normal interval), stated “i do not believe that these [results] are going to be clinically relevant.” i suppose that the froedtert hand specialist would disagree heartily with that local doctor when he told me, at a requested-second-opinion appointment, that this injury – the s/l tear (concurring with the mri) – should have been addressed at the very beginning, that lost time was irretrievable. he stated that these injuries are the bane of hand specialists’ existence and that months later – by the time of the second opinion – i had crossed over into territory where complete healing would be impossible. i suppose it would be naive for me to think that requiring an IME-outside-opinion-by-a-doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company was on the up and up and designed for my health, well-being and long-term healing. i suppose abruptly ceasing treatment would, well, i don’t know; it can’t be anything good. i suppose it all didn’t really matter to the person-in-charge-of-the-paperwork back a year ago. i suppose it still doesn’t. it wasn’t that-person’s wrist. that-person wasn’t a lifelong professional musician. neither were those on the rest of the decision-making-committee. why would they care or be compassionate or concerned? perhaps those words were not in their job descriptions, though that seems preposterous considering the place of my employ. whatever-that-person’s-deal was, whatever-their-deal-was, it devastatingly got in the way of protecting me, their employee, from harm and from doing whatever was possible to aid me, their long-term-employee-aka-fired-employee-eight-weeks-after-the-fall-on-the-floor, to heal properly and to be able to normally use my wrist – an imperative for a musician – for all time to come.

i suppose there must be reasons. i just, for the life of me, can’t figure out what they are.

maybe someday, when i feel less indignant, less disheartened and far less disappointed, i’ll forget about those old linoleum tiles.

*****

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UNTITLED INTERLUDE from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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two broken wrists. two and a half months. i kept playing. [two artists tuesday]

tendonitis

out of necessity it was only a few days after i broke both of my wrists that i played.  it seemed that i had nine fingers that were attending this event, and i, relieved to have these nine, worked with what i had.

in the last couple months, my left hand progressed faster than my right.  i had two breaks in my right wrist and, yes, i am older now than i used to be, so the doctor warned me that i needed to be patient.  make that NEED to be patient; healing will take six to eight months, she said.  but all five LH fingers participated in this early-on merrymaking and only my immobilized thumb was excluded on my RH.  and both wrists. they were excluded too.

they changed the cast on my RH from over-the-elbow to one a tad bit shorter; this was happy for me as it gave me more mobility. i kept playing, despite the wad of cast that ended in the palm of my hand.  i am a mom.  i am used to working around things.

later, they changed it yet again to an exos cast, which is removable but much less designed specifically for your hand; it was actually quite uncomfortable and made my hand hurt in places it hadn’t hurt with the ‘regular’ cast on.  i kept playing.

at the point when the coronavirus ceased all my regular doctor appointments, and after only one occupational therapy appointment, i kept playing.

finally, with the phoned-in blessing of my OT, i ordered a splint for my RH – the same one i wear on my LH, releasing my thumb from its cast-prison.  i kept playing.

and then i noticed that my pinky wasn’t responding properly.  nor was my ring finger.  nerve pain was shooting from my fingers up my arm.  and nodules in the palm of my RH were burning, stinging.  no professional pianist i know wants his or her hands to hurt.  i could draw hundreds of analogies here with other body parts and ways-of-living, but i will refrain from doing so and just say that this was disheartening and incredibly worrisome for me.  and i kept playing.

i emailed the doctor and then sent pictures i labeled in photoshop so that my worry would be clear, since i was unable to be there in person; social distancing had put aurora on the don’t-call-us-if-this-isn’t-essential status.  when she called me she said i really needed to come in.  she said that they would take some x-rays and the hand specialist would look at my right hand, in particular.  frankly, i was beyond nervous to walk into a medical center.  they have their hands full (absolutely no pun intended) and i was reticent to be privy to whatever germs were hanging around or to take any focus from the more essential.  but, because i am playing and because playing is what i do, i went.

although there is a slight chance that there is something else going on here, it looks like the palm tendons of my RH fingers are inflamed.  this is likely because i have been playing with casts on.  what’s the expression? damned if i do, damned if i don’t.

when i asked the specialist for a range of time this might last, his answer was ‘probably up to a few months’.  he didn’t ask me a lot of questions to discern what was happening and i tried like heck to fill him in on every-single-last-thing about my hands, but, in as-quick-as-a-flash fashion, he was gone before i knew it.  a-few-more-exercises-and-some-regularly-scheduled-advil advice later, i left the hospital, took off my mask and climbed, sighing, into big red in the parking lot.

and now, out of necessity, i will keep playing.

and worrying.

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silence. below the noise. [k.s. friday]

silent days 6 feet

sometimes we are silent.  sometimes it’s better that way.  a fluid point, a fine line of balance, there’s so much to say; there’s so much we should avoid saying.  silent days.

we walk or hike outside, we take limited trips to the grocery store.  not a lot of interaction, the way it is supposed to be right now.  with varying cautions about distancing and asymptomatic spreading and aerosol molecules, the experts have my rapt attention. although i do not have the ability to make as much of a difference in this as those who are on the front lines, i need do my part.  responsibly and respectfully.

making do with texts, phone calls, work videoconferences, online hangouts with friends, it’s still much more silent than it ever is, normally.

there are reports of residents hearing birds again in wuhan.  the woodpecker is busy in our backyard, the mourning doves call, the frogs quip to each other in the woods.

and so we walk, quietly.  we cross to the other side of the street, we single-file on the other side of the path.  maybe here and there people answer to our soft hello as we pass.  we shop, rarely, pushing a cart, quickly assembling what we need.  we listen to the sounds that often linger unheard below the noise.

and even above the masks, even in the silence, i can see their tentative smiles.

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SILENT DAYS ©️ 1996 kerri sherwood


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two broken wrists. and the saga continues. [k.s. friday]

and the saga continues

bananas.  they were $.49 lb.  we picked up a bunch and walked to the register.  a moment later, with no question or drama, we paid our $1.17 and left.

the next step in my two-broken-wrists saga is occupational therapy.  not because we do everything with our hands.  not because we write with them and open doors with them.  not because we use them for our personal hygiene or because we cook with them.  not because we drive with them or dress with them or shake hands with them.  but because using my hands IS what i do.  the therapist asked me how long i have played the piano.  53 years.  it’s what i DO.  so getting my wrists back to pre-snowboard-fall is imperative to me.  there are no other options.

before we went to this first appointment i, responsibly, called our healthcare insurance company – the one we pay $29,000 a year to – the one with the slogan ” for the care you need at a price you can afford” – to check in about the coverage of OT.  i was told, after much menu-choosing, that i am limited to 20 visits and that the cost will be $50 per visit.  with the OT’s recommendation that my getting-these-wrists-back-trajectory would involve appointments twice a week, that would add $400 to the already-$2400/month in healthcare costs.  bracing.  impossible.

the OT office checked in with me to remind me of my appointment, coincidentally, just after i hung up with the insurance company.  i told them what i had just learned and they insisted i was wrong.  “no,” i was told, “we have never heard of molina charging ANYthing for a copay.”  I asked them to please double-check for me and they assured me they would and that they would apprise me at my appointment.

when i arrived, the receptionist checking me in told me that they had their 23-year-insurance-veteran in the office check and that there would be no copay.  i asked them to provide a written document to that effect so that if and when i was billed i would have recourse.  they assured me that they would triple-check and to stop back after my appointment.

at the end of my appointment with the therapist, the receptionist told me that “no, you don’t have to pay $50 per visit.  it’s actually worse.  instead, you have to pay 100% of all fees until your thousands-of-dollars-deductible is met.”  what?!!!!  now this is the third story i am hearing about the same service with the same provider and the same insurance company.  who am i to believe?

i stood there and literally cried in front of the receptionist in the middle of the waiting area.  you mean to tell me that our $29,000 a year doesn’t really cover much of anything???  this is blatantly wrong, grossly outrageous.

bernie sanders, if you have listened to him speak, has given a example of the perverted and pathetic healthcare in this country.  he speaks about a family who makes $60,000 a year and that this family must pay $12,000 for healthcare.  “that’s 20% of their gross income,” he bellows.  what i wish he would add is this next example:  consider a couple who makes say $65,000 a year (this is the magic healthcare cliff for two people and only $5000 more than the previous example).  that couple will pay anywhere between $24,000 and $29,000 for a policy that will still have high deductibles and yet (clearly) not actually have good coverage.  i want to jump on the bernie-bellowing-band-wagon and yell, “that’s 45% of that couple’s income!!!  what is wrong with that???? EVERYTHING!”  how is it that we can live in this country, the richest country in the world, and have the worst healthcare for our populace?  how is it right to set the populace up for financial disaster when they have to deal with the eventual health scare, injury, illness??  (on a side note, i won’t even beGIN to start talking about Covid-19, for i have nothing good to say about the administration’s handling, lack of information or truth, and unpreparedness for this pandemic that will truly test the resiliency of our country.)

when i could take a breath at the receptionist’s desk i asked, “what do these appointments cost?”  how much is my professionalism worth to me, i am thinking.  i earn my living playing the piano, i am thinking.  i have fifteen albums of piano music, i am thinking.  i am a pianist, i am thinking.  i just need care for my wrists so that i can do what i do, i am thinking.  at what cost, i am thinking.

but healthcare is not like bananas.  i was told, “we can’t answer that.  we don’t know.”  i beg your pardon???  “billing handles that.  and it’s different depending upon insurance plans and whether or not you have appropriate insurance.”  i beg your pardon???? “what if i just wanted to pay cash right now?” i ask.  “you can’t,” she says.  “we don’t know what it costs.”

i wonder if it would be more if i paid cash – after all, i’m not an overstuffed insurance company that has the capacity to deny portions of the billing or disallow costs or base payment on the coding used to describe my treatment, while at the same time accepting ridiculously high premiums from clients with the knowledge that the insurance offered is incomprehensibly lacking.

no.  i’m just a person who needs her hands.

we left, went to the store and bought more bananas.

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