Stacey Loscalzo

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Oct 16

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

by Stacey

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Today I am linking up with the amazing Modern Mrs. Darcy to tell you What I’ve Been Reading Lately. This is a super fun link up that I used to participate in monthly but it has been ages since I have so… I am just going to talk about a few of the books that I have read and loved this fall.

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

I finished this title awhile ago but I’m still thinking about the characters and the world in which they lived. This story, set in apartheid-era South Africa, brings two families together through tragedy. I learned a lot while reading and the story really made me think.

Young Jane Young by by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young is a fun page turner based loosely on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. This was my first selection from the Bookshelf Thomasville Shelf Subscription. I did really enjoy it but I wanted it to be more like The Hopefuls which was a favorite of mine from the summer.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

This book deserves a post of it’s own and it will get one later on this month. Gretchen Rubin touched on her personality framework in an early work and I had myself pegged very clearly as an obliger (a person who meets outer expectations but resists inner expectations). After talking about this framework with a friend last week, I came to an alarming discovery. I am pretty sure I am a rebel. Who knew!? As I said, more to come on this one.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I loved Ng’s latest so much that it got it’s own review. Click here to see what I thought about this family drama.

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

We discussed this book as part of our middle school’s parent-teacher book group. I have to admit that I probably would have avoided reading this one were it not for a bookclub. Fagan tells the true story of Maddy, a young girl who dies by suicide. Maddy grew up a few towns away from ours and until the very end of her story, she could be any one of many girls we know. I will also be writing more about Maddy down the road as this story has filled my mind ever since I finished the last page.

 

 

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Oct 12

Mother and Reader: Two Sides of the Same Coin

by Stacey

 

Mother and reader. These are the two descriptors that I use most often to describe myself. And I’ve come to realize that these two roles have an awful lot in common.

For both the mother and the reader:

You can never choose a favorite.

Every time my girls ask me who is my favorite, I try to be clever and say, “You are my favorite first daughter and you are my favorite second daughter.” Of course, they each roll their eyes and continue to believe that I love the other more but so goes sibling rivalry.

It is the same in the world of books. Choose a favorite book? Never. But my favorites of the year, I may be able to do that. Favorite picture book? The Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio. Favorite middle grade read? Real Friends by Shannon Hale. Favorite young adult novel? The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. And favorite novel? Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

There is never enough time.

Every day I wake up with a to-do list. By the end of the day, I may have crossed off a few items but most likely I have added more to-dos than I have accomplished.

The same principle applies to my to be read list. Today I may have finished Shadow Man by Ian Drew by but I added The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnvich, Castle of Water by Dane Huckelridge and Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It. It seems likely that there will never be enough time to complete either my to-do list or my to be read list.

It’s important to choose your battles.

The girls spend lots of time on their iPhones. They both watch re-runs of Friends over and over again despite the repeated sexual references that I hope (but know aren’t) going over both their heads. And I do in fact make multiple dinners every night despite knowing, without a doubt, that this is a bad idea. There are simply too many battles to fight every day to fight every single one so I have prioritized as a mom.

I do the same as a reader. I should read more non-fiction, fantasy and short stories. I should keep better track of what I read and what I thought of those books. I should write my name in the books I lend but I don’t do any of these things. I suppose these are the book battles that, for today, I have chosen not to fight.


The is no right way to do things.

Caroline had terrible reflux as a baby. During her first few months of life she slept many more hours in her car seat than she ever did her crib. We have yet to figure out an effective way to get our children to complete chores. And I’ve let our girls quit way more extracurricular activities than I would care to admit. While many, many moms would disagree with these approaches, Caroline iis now a sound sleeper (car-seat free), both girls clean their rooms every so often and they both love the activities that they have chosen to do.

And again, it is the same in the world of books. Did I love The Goldfinch? I did not like it at all (especially the Las Vegas part) but I know that many did. Do I understand the fascination with comic books? No. But I do enjoy watching the faces of people who love them as they talk about their favorite issues. Can I finish any of the many, many audiobooks that I have started? Nope. But I continue to write down reader’s favorites because so many people love them. Like in life, there is not one way to be a reader.

Your tribe is important.

I was lucky that Caroline was born just two weeks before one of my closest friends gave birth to her first child. Talking with Elizabeth about sleep deprivation, tummy time and swaddling got me through those early months. The topics my tribe discusses may have changed. The past few weeks alone, we have talked vaping and college essays and curfews. But the power of the group of women that surrounds me remains the same.

The same can be said of my community of readers. Sure I look forward to my book club meeting each month but now, thanks to social media, I am in touch with my reading tribe each and every day. I check in on the Twitter hashtag #weneeddiversebooks. I scroll through the many posts on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club Facebook page. I listen to bookish podcasts and I pour over bookstagram. Checking in with my tribe and on my reading community is a highlight of each day.

So there you have it. Mother and reader. Two sides of the same coin.

 

 

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Oct 02

What I’m Into (October 2017 Edition)

by Stacey

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This month I decided it would be fun to link up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into Series so here goes…

September was… well, it was September. Every year, parents of school aged children know it’s coming but it seems to knock us on our backside every single time. This year, Katherine started middle school and Caroline started high school so the adjustments felt even bigger. Now that we have turned the page on the calendar, I hope that the world (our personal world at least) starts to feel a tiny bit more settled.

Here are a few things that have been keeping me sane-ish during this month of adjustments.

Books:

So apparently one thing that suffered this month was my tracking system for the books I finished. And needless to say, my memory did not stand up to the task. I know I read Hum if You Don’t Know the Words, Young Jane Young and Little Fires Everywhere but I am almost certain there are more…

Music:

Caroline is playing on her high school soccer team which means that she practices right after school and takes a bus to games so there is way less soccer driving than their used to be. That said, Katherine is dancing a ton so there is still plenty of time in the car to listen to our favorite music. Current favorites include Praying by Kesha, All About Us by Pink and Gallway Girl by Ed Sheeran.

TV:

I really don’t know what my issue is but right now the only thing I seem to be able to watch on TV is the news and Criminal Minds. I wrote this post recently about my Criminal Minds fixation and I am pretty sure I am watching it obsessively in a way to feel in control of our otherwise out of control world.

Podcasts:

I am still listening to my old favorites including All the Books, Get Booked, From the Front Porch, What Should I Read Next?, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Popcast and Sorta Awesome. And then a new to me is Bill Simmons Rewatchable in which the commentators discuss some of the most ‘rewatchable’ movies. I am now dying to re-watch movies like A Few Good Men and Silence of Lambs. If you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, I highly recommend it!

Favorite Instagram:

I have been on and off Instagram for years. In September though, I decided to jump in with a renewed focus on books and reading. I am having a blast and meeting a lot of fun new bookish friends. If we aren’t connected on Instagram yet, come find me! I am @staceyloscalzo.

My favorite Instagram from the month has to be the one in which I am reading with my favorite cat wearing my favorite shoes :) 

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Sep 27

Little Fires Everywhere: A Review

by Stacey

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When I heard that Celeste Ng had a new book coming out, the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh, no!’ Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, was such a huge hit that a follow up seemed risky. Interestingly, and for no particular reason, I never read Ng’s debut but after reading Little Fires Everywhere I plan to rectify that mistake immediately. Up until this read, either Beartown by Frederick Backman or The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close had claimed spots as early runners for my favorite book of 2017. After closing the cover (which is beautiful by the way) of Little Fires Everywhere, there is now an unequivocal leader.

Typically I enjoy a book for either the story or the writing. It is awfully hard, I have found, to write a page turner using gorgeous language. This book, however, has both. Along with fully formed love-able (and sometimes hate-able) characters. Little Fires Everywhere is a family story. A story of race. And social issues. Of teenage angst and maternal love. And maternal pain. We follow the lives of the Richardson family, a seemingly perfect suburban family of six. Alongside their lives we journey with Mia, a single mom who is raising her daughter Pearl. The families find each other and their lives become entwined in ways that are both lovely and not.

I hesitate to give you any more detail. I knew little of the story going in and I’m sure it made the read all the richer. I recently heard a reader say that they just couldn’t stop reading because they were so worried about the characters. I had a pit in my stomach for most of the book and there were times when I wanted to look away like I do when watching scary things on tv. Nothing truly scary happened but there were so many decisions made by so many of these characters that you just knew were going to have unfortunate outcomes. I guess I thought looking away could change the plot.

Definitely let me know if you have read Little Fires Everywhere. It begs for discussion.

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Sep 11

Never Forget

by Stacey

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With Harvey and Irma and the state of the political world, our hearts are all so heavy. But still, the pages of the calendar turn and another September 11th arrives. Our collective heart is so burdened these days. Perhaps that it why the ‘Never Forget’ messages rings more true to me than ever on this September 11th.

While I have the luxury of being able to turn off the news when the family members begin to read the names of their loved ones, there are so many thousands of people who hold the memories of September 11th in their hearts every single day. For them, even when it is super hard, like it seems to be today, we must ‘Never Forget.’

Living as we do now in a suburb of NYC, I have always felt like an outsider on this day. So many of our friends and neighbors were there, in the city, close to the Twin Towers, if not in them, on that day. Rob’s sister and father were both in the city on 9/11. We were hundreds of miles away in Richmond. The stories that others have told me seem like fantasy. We watched that day unfold from afar while so many people were living it. That said, I do still have very distinct memories that I know will follow me always. Here they are.

I remember the perfect fall weather. Even in Richmond, the air was crisp and the sky was a distinct blue. Each fall we have a few days that feel exactly the same and someone will always mention the weather and how much it feels like 9/11. And the stories will begin.

I remember sitting in my classroom at Northstar Academy. Stephanie Brown, the history teacher, a tiny women with dark hair and a tweed skirt, stood in my doorway and delivered the news. There was a faculty room with a tiny television and in-between clients, I would go there and watch in silence with the other teachers. My friend Mary Margaret was pregnant and I remember looking at her belly, wondering how she was going to bring a child in to this changed world.

I remember sitting in this same faculty room pressing the buttons on the grey phone, trying again and again to reach Rob. He was a few hours away at a work off-site and I just wanted to hear his voice. I remember trying to figure out where his dad and his sister were in the city. At that point, I didn’t know the city at all and I had no idea how close or far they might be.

I remember finally reaching Rob and exhaling when he said he would be coming home. The off-site was canceled. Somehow, this more that anything, made me realize the enormity of what had happened.

I remember watching Katie Couric and Matt Lauer and getting cold despite the warm day. They looked as confused as well felt and that just didn’t seem right.

I remember listening to the directors of the school debate if we should tell the kids what had happened before we sent them home. I can’t remember what we did. I know there was a meeting in the gym and I feel like the kids were given a general idea but nothing specific. One of our students was the daughter of a secret service agent and I remember wondering where her dad was.

I remember returning to our first house, the one of Fitzhugh Avenue, and sitting down and turning on the tv. I’m pretty sure the tv was on for the rest of the day and into the night.

I remember that by the time Rob got home, he had spoken to his family and  we knew that his dad and sister were in the city but they were safe. We also learned that our brother in law, who lived in the city but was consulting on a job in Richmond, had been in the air when the attacks happened.

I remember going to sleep that night knowing that nothing would ever be the same again.

*Photo credit to Jin Lee. And if you are lucky enough to live in Ridgewood, stop by the library today (or throughout the month) to remember our community members who died on 9/11.

 

 

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Sep 08

Laugh

by Stacey

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When ‘laugh’ came up as the prompt for today, I almost chose another. Between Harvey and Irma and the general Trump-ness of our country right now, nothing seems all that funny. That said, I suppose Katherine Hepburn is right. It is still important to remember that things are fun. So here goes… a collection of things that make me laugh.

I laugh at silly knock-knock jokes. Knock knock. Who’s there? Cargo. Cargo who? Cargo beep beep. I mean, come on!

I laugh at Friends. The fajita episode gets me every.single.time.

I laugh at mistaken song lyrics. My favorite of all time is a college friend’s version of Sunday, Bloody, Sunday. Someday, Buddy, Someday. Sing it. It works and you will never enjoy the song the same way again.

I laugh at the Popcast. I imagine that I am in real life friends with Knox and Jamie but alas I have to rely on hearing them on my podcast app each week.

I laugh at at Jim Gaffigan on YouTube. If you have not heard his one about being in a reverse hostage situation when putting young children to bed you are missing out.

I laugh at movies. The airplane scene in Bridesmaids is my favorite but there’s a lot to love about the bar scene in This is 40 and the therapy scene in Old School.

I laugh at cat videos on Facebook. Any time I am on my computer and laughing, one girl or the other will say, “Cat video?” And sadly, they are correct more often than they are not.

I laugh when Katherine talks in her funny British accent.

I laugh so loudly on the sidelines of the soccer field while talking with friends that Caroline will turn around in midfield to give me a dirty look.

And I still laugh at the same goofy jokes that Rob has been telling me for nearly two decades now. Every time I roll my eyes, he says, “But I still make you laugh.” And that is important.

Ok… your turn. What makes you laugh? Bring it on. I think we can all use a smile.

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Sep 06

Rhythm

by Stacey

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“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

Mary Oliver

Last week I mentioned that I am working my way back through an on-line class that I took years ago called 31 More Things. In this class, Ali Edwards provides a word a day with writing and photo tips to accompany it. Instead of going day by day this time around, I wrote all the words on a page in my journal and when I sit down to write, I close my eyes and point. The word that I land on is the one that I will use for the day. How apropos that today’s word is rhythm.

Ali writes in her lesson about ‘the rhythm of our days.’ On this, the first day of school, thoughts of this rhythm fill my mind. Never am I more conflicted than in the last days of summer and early days of school. I fight all year, but now especially, between a desperate need for routine and a fear of boredom. I want to know what each day will bring but then struggle when it brings the same thing as the day before. I feel anxious when I look at an empty calendar without plans or appointments to anchor my day. I thrill to look at this month’s calendar with school days and Back to School Nights. With dance auditions and soccer games. But then I realize that with all that comes school lunches to pack and carpools to drive. With the same arguments over clothes and bedtimes. And I begin again to crave something new. And this pattern repeats itself over and over again.

This morning, with a middle schooler and a high schooler, the house was quiet by 7:20, a full hour earlier than ever before. So now it’s a new rhythm I must learn. One in which I make use of my time alone so that I am ready to focus on the girls when they need me. Their requests for help are less frequent yet somehow seem more important when they do arise. No longer is it requests to tie shoes but instead thoughts on questions that have implications. Decisions to be made that impact others feelings. Or choices that will change a GPA for better or worse. So, I settle into this rhythm to make time and space for both the change and the routine that is upon us.

 

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Sep 01

Daydreams

by Stacey

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Day Dreams*

I don’t often remember my dreams and I’m jealous of those that do. I’ve tried to keep a notebook by my bed to write them down but somehow that never works. I don’t tend to wake up in the middle of the night (thank goodness!) unless called upon by a child or animal. And when I wake in the morning, there don’t tend to be any dreams right there in my memory. I did have one recurring dream as a child but not since. In that dream, I am riding my big wheel around the end of my grandparent’s dead end street until I am trapped in a fallen garbage can. Do with that as you will. As I type,, I suppose it is rich for some deep dream interpretation. Instead of going there though, I will take this prompt to day dreams. Here are a few…

I daydream of vacation days. The beach is most definitely my happy place and my mind drifts there often. I imagine recent trips to Long Beach Island and Nantucket. But then also to older visits like the Brewster flats as a camper and counselor at sleepaway camp all those years ago. Or the other Cape Cod beaches I would go to with Mom and Aunt Emmy. I remember a private beach and carrying small folding beach chairs. I dream of the Rocks in Sakonnet and the big crashing waves at the Sakonnet Beach Club. I remember turning blue with cold and Dad saying I just didn’t have enough blubber on me to stay warm. I remember jumping off the low diving board into the ocean and never really having enough guts to jump off the high board.

I daydream of high school these days as Caroline counts down the days until she is officially a Freshman. I think of the big LL Bean canvas bag full to overflowing with homework. I think of turning of our trays vertically on the lunch table to fit in one or two more friends. I think of Mrs. Barrows trying her best to get me to grasp Geometry and of hours and hours spent memorizing dates and names for AP US History only to have panic set in on test days. I remember leaving for lunch as a Junior and feeling like a full on adult.

I daydream of stories and articles written with my name on the byline. I dream of setting up my days to make this happen. I dream of finally gaining control of my schedule and more importantly my priorities.

I daydream of a day when the news is just the news and not always a scroll of ‘breaking news’ that makes me anxious and sad. I daydream of a day when I don’t wake wondering what happened over night. When I can listen to the radio on the alarm not for important updates but for the weather forecast and maybe sports scores.

I daydream more and more these days as the girls get older and Rob and I get older along side them. I can feel a new chapter starting here. The girls are at such a different place than they were just a year ago. Middle and high school begins in days. They are not the babies they once were and I am not the mom I was then. Times are changing for all of us. And that opens the world to fear and anxiety but also to daydreams of things to come.

 

*I have taken Ali Edward’s 31 Days Class in the past and have used her prompts here before. I am desperate to get back to a regular writing practice and am going to using Ali’s prompts as a starting point. I will be posting here as often as I can. Fingers crossed, it sticks.

 

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Aug 21

Picture Book Therapy

by Stacey

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On Saturday, a week after Charlottesville, I realized what I needed to help me feel even a tad bit better about the state of our world. I needed picture book therapy.

I read picture books with the girls each and every day for years and years and years. In fact, Katherine and I read pictures books over breakfast until not so long ago. In the past few months though, our picture book reading has dwindled off so on Saturday, I headed to our favorite independent bookstore, The Curious Reader. I told Sally and Chris, two amazing booksellers, that I needed to read their current favorite picture books. Sally and Chris know me well and we often talk politics when I am there so they didn’t needed to ask what needed curing.

They both headed off in different directions and soon I sat on the floor surrounded by an enormous pile of books. I worked my way through book after book and truly, I did feel better. There were books that made me think and books that just made me laugh. It took me awhile to whittle down my pile of books that I would bring home but I did and here they are.*

Picture Books to Make You Think

Strictly No Elephants written by Lisa Mantchev & illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Strictly No Elephants is my favorite from this list. Mantchev tells the story of a little boy and his pet elephant who are excluded from a pet club and what they do about it. This book shares an amazing lesson without feeling too didactic.

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet written by Carmen Agra Deedy & illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

The Rooster Who Not Be Quiet reminds all of us to find our voice and use it. There’s even a touch of a lesson about the political process buried inside this story.

This Is how We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World written & illustrated by Matt Lamothe

When I first read this book, I thought it wasn’t all that unique. Each spread shows how children in various parts of the world do things throughout their days like eat lunch, go to school and do chores. The cool part of this book appears on the very last page when you meet the real families that inspire the seven kids throughout the pages. When it is more important than ever to understand the people who are different from us, reading this book was a great way to spend some time.

Picture Books to Make You Smile

You Must Bring a Hat! written by Simon Phillip & illustrated by Kate Hindley

This might just be my favorite picture book of the year. A little boy receives a invitation to a party and goes about following all the requirements for attendance. I know this does not sound fun, but believe me, it is!

Professional Crocodile written by Giovanna Zoboli & Mariachiara di Giogio

I am not one for wordless picture books so when Sally brought me this one I was confused. But then I read the book. There is a major spoiler in this one so I will not say anything else about this book other than, read it.

Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by written by Andy Stanton & illustrated by Neal Layton

Danny McGee is a little boy who consumes everything in sight. Or at least almost everything. This is one of those books that I know will make children of all ages laugh out loud.

*And now I’m going to climb up on to my soap box for a moment so consider yourself warned. The girls don’t read a ton of picture books anymore as I mentioned above but this has not stopped me from buying them. In much the same way that we give money to NPR each month, I buy books, even hardcover books, from The Curious Reader at least once a month. I do not take for granted the luxury we have to be able to walk in to a bookstore with owners who know us as readers and who stock books that we would not know about on our own. We can talk a lot about how great independent book stores are but unless we spend money in them, they will go away. And don’t get me wrong, I still go to the library. I use a Kindle and it is possible that I buy some books in other locations (shhh… don’t tell Sally and Chris) but I always make sure to buy books at our favorite brick and mortar store. Thank you Curious Reader for being there for us!

 

 

 

 

 

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Aug 15

You Are Doing It Now

by Stacey

 

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When I read this tweet on Saturday afternoon, I felt sick to my stomach. What was I doing? I was cleaning out Katherine’s closet. I had to turn off the tv because I was so upset and disgusted (and this was before anyone died at the hands of an evil message and messenger) and I needed to do something. And I decided that something was to clean out closets.

In the past, when I thought back to what I would have done during slavery, the Holocaust or the Civil Rights movement, I certainly imagined myself hiding neighbors or marching in the streets. I did not imagine myself cleaning out closets and desperately hoping that all the evil and hatred would go away if I just turned my back for a moment.

A bit later, I heard from a friend who has been active in the racial justice community for a long time. She told me that I could use my writing for good. I could be active on social media. I could share information about the March for Racial Justice that she is organizing in September.

And you know what I did? I went back to cleaning Katherine’s closet. And I posted a message about love on Facebook. And I have have been sad and angry since then. I have watched the news way too much. I have spent hours scrolling through Twitter for answers.

Cleaning closets. Watching the news. Consuming social media. These things are not working.

I am scared to march. Or even to attend a vigil. I worry for the safety of our family if we choose to do these things. I am also scared to use my writing and my social media presence to speak my truth. I have read through the posts of like-minded friends and seen the comments that have followed and it makes me scared to engage. I do not know if I have the strength to defend ‘my side’ in a situation where I believe with all my heart that there is only one side that is right and just and true.

I have thought a lot since Saturday about the power of unsaid words. Today I read a post written by Shannan Younger at Between Us Parents. She wrote about her need to speak out and she shared the following words from Desmund Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Both this quote and Shannan’s post convinced that it was time to write.

I am not sure how much more I will write about this or what I will do next. But I know that writing nothing is not working. This is my next step.

 

 

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