Live Life In Reverse

What if we could live life backwards

When I am an old woman by Mamjakty

When I am an old woman by Mamjakty

I’m imagining that I’m at a party, a birthday for a very old woman. She is surrounded by all those she loves in her life. They are the gifts. The memories of a life well lived are a gift. The momentoes and books on her shelves tell the story of adventure, imagine and creativity. Photos capture loved ones and beautiful places.

I’d like to imagine that woman is me many, many years in the future.

If you imagine life as an old woman or man, you could understand so much. You could understand why the bad things happened to you. Or what you really wanted out of life. It’s kind of like asking yourself the questions, if you were at the end of your life what you would like people to say about you? If you are 50 now and you’re going to live to 80, you only have more 30 years? What will you do with that time?

It’s a wonderful exercise to help you figure out how life should be lived! It’s a way of living life in reverse.

If I could look back from a ripe old age, I will have:

1. …traveled the world, appreciated different cultures and landscapes.
2. …not been fearful and followed my passions and been creative! I need to get out of the box/comfort zone and experience life!
3. …been healthy and in good shape.
4. …mental clarity and be able to find my keys!
5. …been positive!
6. …helped people – those I know and people I don’t know.
7. And the most important thing… I will have loved the family and friends in my life – really gotten to know them and let them know me. Having great relationships is the thing you’ll think about most at the end of your life. I will have shown my children that they are totally and unconditionally loved.

I love this from Steve Job’s commencement speech to Stanford:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘NO’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Zentips Steve Jobs Last Day

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment of failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the rap of thinking you have something to lose.  You are already naked.  There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
~Steve Jobs

You can’t live life in reverse. You don’t know if you’ll live a long life. You need to TRUST that everything is happening or not happening the way it’s supposed to. You need to start doing what you want to with the rest of your life today!

“Make today your masterpiece.” – John Wooden

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Want To Be Happy? Try Gratitude – 7 Ways to Practice Gratitude and Be Happier

Zen Tips Gratitude Beattie

Looking for Happiness?
Of course you are! We all are.
What is the key to finding it?
Could it be gratitude?

Yet how do you define gratitude?

Many of us are thankful for the things in our life. Yet, gratitude is much more than being thankful. Thankfulness is an expression of happiness. Being thankful is telling someone you appreciate what they have done. Being thankful is being glad it didn’t rain on picnic day. Being thankful is happiness from a gift.

Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is a heart-felt and intellectual acknowledgement of all that is good in your life. It’s embracing uncertainty. To feel gratitude towards the bad things that have happened to us knowing that will lead you a new opportunity.”

In our society we’re taught to concentrate on what we don’t have. I call this “Scarcity Thinking”. Scarcity thinking is the opposite of gratitude. What you think is what you bring into your life. If you think scarcity then you have lack. When you practice gratitude, scarcity thinking disappears. You concentrate on what you do have. Remind yourself that you are not lacking. You have such abundance in your life! Did you know that? I love what Oprah said in a life class about scarcity and gratitude: “Focus on the $3 you do have in your wallet instead of focusing on the $50 you don’t have.”

Epictitus Lack:rejoice quote

There are many benefits to practicing gratitude:

• You will experience peace of mind and more optimism, suffer less stress, be more satisfied with life, less materialistic, often feel more spiritual, regardless of religion.

• It’s great for your family or children to see your positive attitude and that you appreciate the little things. Did you know that everyday you’re teaching your children to be good parents? Did you know that they will copy your behavior as adults? A study showed that “children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families” (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008). Last year at our preschool we had “Nice Wednesday” where everyone complimented each other. You should have seen them smile when they got compliments, even though they thought it was like a game. They still felt warm and loved.

• Gratitude is great for all relationships. Feeling gratitude for friends, family or business associates makes your relationship stronger. It may seem like a simple thing but saying thank you really makes everyone feel better! You can be general about your thank you or quite specific.

• There are physical benefits. Grateful people tend to exercise more and experience better health. Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons conducted an experimental comparison. Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

How does one practice gratitude? It’s a habit like anything else. Just as a negative thoughts can strongly influence your mood, so can a positive feeling of gratitude affect your day.

Here are 7 ways to help you make gratitude a habit:

1. Have a morning gratitude practice before you get out of bed. Begin each thought with the words, “I am…”
• First, start off being thankful for your breath, clean water and shelter. Many of us focus on what we don’t have. This is scarcity thinking. Concentrate on what you do have.
• Next, be grateful for your family and friends. Think of all their wonderful traits. How do they make you smile? What are the little things they do for you? What can you do for them?
• Next have gratitude for the little things like the blue sky, hot coffee, clothes. Be mindful of all the little things around you, in nature, like a spider’s web or a warm blanket. Then be grateful for the big things, your health!

2. Learn to identify ungrateful thoughts. Those thoughts might be: “I don’t deserve this.” “What went wrong?” “I’m not appreciated.” “No one helps me around here.” “Why is she so lucky?” Replace those thoughts when they appear. Count your blessings. You can’t be envious or angry when you are thinking grateful thoughts.

3. Write in a gratitude journal. Write three to five things a day that you’re grateful for using mindfulness as a tool.

4. Find time to inspire yourself. It can be quotes, inspiratioinal facebook pages, a video or a books. Just find at least a few minutes a day to be inspired. Click here to check out my daily Zen Tip on Facebook. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach is a year long inspiring read. I just loved this and got a little closer to the meaning of gratitude

ganasha coffee machine5. Have a Talisman, a little statue or charm that reminds you to be grateful. I have a small Ganasha that I found in Thailand that I keep by the coffee machine. Ganasha is the Hindu god of wisdom and the remover of obstacles. Each morning as I make coffee or at night when I cook, the little statue reminds me to take stock and be grateful and know anything is possible.

6. Bring gratitude to the dinner table. Have each family member say something that they are grateful for. We asked our kids to say one thing good that happened that day.

7. Now the most difficult part. Can you have gratitude for the difficulties in life? We all hear about people who eventually feel gratitude for tragedy like cancer in their lives because it’s made them look at life differently. Can you try to feel it about the little things like traffic, bad weather or big things like financial or health problems?

Have fun with it! Gratitude is such a positive emotion. It will seep into all areas of your life. I feel great gratitude for all of you readers out there! Thanks for being part of my dream to be a writer and to help others.

“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”
~Albert Clarke

What do you feel gratitude for? How do you experience it? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Please watch this wonderful TED video on Gratitude. You won’t be the same after Louis Schwartzberg’s beautiful images and Brother David Steindl-Rast’s narration.

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Give Inspiration To Your Graduate!

Congratulations Graduates!

Congratulations Graduates!

My college senior graduated this weekend and will soon be heading out into the work place. The event was joyful! I didn’t expect to cry but I did. There’s something about the song “Pomp and Circumstance” that brings out emotions in me!

This generation is full of hope. Today’s grads want to do some good in the world. They want to explore the world. They want to do what they love. Money isn’t necessarily the end-all, the way it was when my generation was graduating in the ’80’s. Yet, if you watch the news, you know how bad the world is portrayed. It can be disheartening to be entering the workforce. This bad news puts fear in the lives of these young grads.

Don’t want to concentrate on the negative with a new grads. Give them some inspiration! Write some wonderful quotes for them in their graduation card and inspire them. Maybe you’ll inspire yourself, too!

Why do we love quotes? Quotes reaffirm, remind and put life into perspective. Quotes help us to understand ourselves. Quotes are popular sayings that often express common sense and universal truths. They often motivate us and make us think. Quotes inspire. Quotes pack a lot of wisdom into a few words. Quotes explain a purpose to life.

As many of you know, I love quotes! I’ve been inspired by quotes since the first quote book I received as a young girl from my aunt. Over the past few years, I’ve collected these quotes and put them in my second book, THE ZEN MAMA’S BOOK OF QUOTES. Here are some to inspire the graduate in your life!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
~Mark Twain

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
~Jawaharial Nehru

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
~Helen Keller

You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.
~Joan Baez

There is no education like adversity.

There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.
~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

The road to success is always under construction.
~Lily Tomlin

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

~Winston Churchill

Three Rules of Work:
Out of clutter find simplicity;
From discord find harmony;
In the middle of difficulty
lies opportunity.

~Albert Einstein

It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
~Albus Dumbledore

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
~Thomas Edison

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
~Author Unknown

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
~Albert Einstein

When one door closes, another opens: but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.
~Alexander Graham Bell

A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.
~David Brinkley

If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your own path.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

~Dalai Lama

Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.
~James M. Barrie

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
~J.K. Rowling

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world…it is the only thing that ever has.
~Margaret Meade

Get the Zen Mama’s Book of Quotes via the Zen Mama Store and I’ll get an autographed book to you!

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Just Say Yes!

“The era of “yes” has begun.”
~Carl Allen, main character in “Yes Man”

“I was saying yes because … the world is full of possibilities, and… you want to take every single one of them.”
~Danny Wallace, author of the book, Yes, Man

All around me lately, I’ve been seeing the word yes. In books, in newspaper articles, in quotes on facebook and even movies. Last week, we rewatched the movie “Yes, Man” with Jim Carey. He plays a bank employee, Carl Allen, who has become withdrawn after a divorce. He says no to everything offered him and has an increasingly negative outlook on his life. Then he goes to a “Yes!” seminar. Reluctantly, Carl agrees stop being a “No Man” and say, “Yes!” to every opportunity that comes his way. Mostly this is a good thing, and he meets his new love and gets the job he’s always wanted.

Chapter 5 of How To Be A Zen Mama‘s is called, “Be A Yes Mom”. Several years ago, I decided to become a “Yes Mom”. Are you more of a “Yes Mom” (you can also insert Dad/Person) or a “No Mom”?

A “No Mom” (Dad/Person) is not unlike Jim Carrey in the beginning of the movie, one that says “No” to anything someone suggests. Yes, I was that person. No would come out of my mouth automatically. A “No Mom” doesn’t take the time to think it over. They just know that they don’t want their child to get wet, cook, make a mess, go out, read an extra story, get dirty. And when asked why, “Because I say so” is a perfectly acceptable answer for a “No Mom”. A “No Mom” (Dad/Person) is the final authority. And they certainly knows what’s best for you. Besides everyone, especially children, need to understand what no means, right?

A “Yes Mom” (Dad/person) is one that stops before saying “No”. A “Yes Mom” is open to possibilities. A Yes Mom wants to hear, “Why do you want to do that” first. “Yes” stops argument because “Yes” means “I’m listening and I find your interests of value.”

The Zen Papa and I try to say “Yes” as much as possible. I must give him total credit for this idea. His thought was that if you say “YES!” to your children’s questions, they are usually satisfied with the answer and an argument is avoided. Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t set limits or that there are no rules or discipline. The kids may want to stay up all night or have ice cream before dinner, which isn’t going to happen except maybe on a special occasion. “Yes” is just another way of answering questions positively. For example:

• “Mom, can we go to a movie?” YES, maybe this Saturday would be good. Instead of, NO we’re too busy today

• “Mom, can we play Go-fish?” YES, after you clean your room. Instead of NO, I’m cleaning the house.

• “Mom, can I have ice cream for breakfast?” YES, on your birthday. Instead of NO, that isn’t healthy for you.

• “Mom, can we stay up really late tonight?” YES, on a night that we have nothing going on the next day. Instead of, NO you have a soccer game tomorrow.

• “Mom, can I make brownies?” YES! Next time I’m at the store I’ll get the brownie mix. Instead of, NO, I don’t have the ingredients.

If you’re a “Yes Mom”, people know that when you do say “No” you have a good reason for it. This is a benefit of saying “Yes”. If you can say “Yes” most of the time, when you have to say “No”, (like when a car is coming) children listen because they know you mean it. Children tune out people who say “No” all the time.

By saying “Yes”, you may be starting your child out on a career or a life long interest. Steven Spielberg’s Dad said, “Yes” when he asked if he could the family’s 8mm camera. While getting a boy scout badge, he recounts, “My dad’s still-camera was broken, so I asked the scoutmaster if I could tell a story with my father’s movie camera. He said yes, and I got an idea to do a Western. I made it and got my merit badge. That was how it all started.” The rest is history.

When you take your ego out, you begin to realize, what’s wrong with eating ice cream at a bad time, what’s wrong with getting a little muddy on a rainy day.

Just saying “Yes” feels good. Try it! “No” makes you feel grumpy inside.

“Yes” is a word of gratitude, of being a Possibilitarian. “Yes” lets you accept opportunities you never dreamed of before.

“Yes” makes things happen and says “I respect your crazy wonderful ideas”. “Yes” helps you to live in the present and move forward to do wonderful things. “Yes” allows you to create an extraordinary life.

Try having a “YES!” day or a “YES!” week. Find a way not to say “No” but to say “YES!” to most everything. Get out of your comfort zone. Let your children (spouses/friends) have their dreams. Say YES and be supportive.

And watch Jim Carey in YES MAN and I recommend reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

“I thank god for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirit of trees and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
~e.e. cummings

Photo Credit: Gossip Gone Good from Facebook

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Take Two Smiles and Call Me In the Morning

Smile!! Photo credit: The Mona Lisa Foundation

Photo credit: The Mona Lisa Foundation

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”
~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

There’s nothing like humor to make you feel better. A big laugh is one of the best feelings in the world. I’ve even written a post aboutlaughter is the best medicine, but what about smiling? Is smiling good for your body and mental health?

I’ve always thought so…I have always been a big fan of smiling and even made up a “Smile Theory” long before I’d ever thought of having kids or being a Zen Mama. While I was in high school I thought that when your brain is happy, you smile. I figured that the reverse must true then, too. If you’re unhappy or depressed and you smile, then you should make your brain happy.

So, I decided to do a little research to see if my theory is true.

First I checked out the saying “It takes less muscles to smile than to frown”. According to The Straight Dope that not’s true! Even though there are many muscles in the face, it takes about only about 12 to smile and 11 to frown. (for more information Does it take fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown?) I still like the old research that it takes 26 muscles to smile and 62 to frown!!

Duchenne Smiling
I came across the Duchenne smile when I was researching the smile muscles. The Duchenne smile is named after French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne. He conducted smile experiments back in the mid 19th century. The name “Duchenne smile” has come to represent the name used for a real smile, a smile that is found in the eyes. When you smile a Duchenne smile you use the “zygomatic muscles” in your cheeks. This in turn activates the “crow’s-feet” or the “orbicularis oculi” muscles by your eyes. This is what sets off all the smile benefits. And even a fake Duchenne smile can kindle the benefits of smiling. Try a Duchenne smile for 18 seconds and you will activate happiness.

Smiling, Like Laughter, Has Many Health Benefits

• It boosts the immune system.
It decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection fighting antibodies.
Smiling releases endorphins the body’s natural pain killers. Endorphins also make you feel more relaxed and enhance your mood.
Smiling lowers your blood pressure by improving blood flow and helps to prevent heart disease and strokes.
Smiling lowers stress by relaxing body with a flow of oxygen to the muscles. It decreases stress hormones. The main stress hormone is Cortisol. Cortisol is produced during the highest levels of stress in the adrenal gland. Too much cortisol can weaken the immune systems and cause memory loss.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
~Thict Nhat Hahn

Mindful Smiling
Mindful smiling is like a gentle Buddha smile. Taoist Master Mantak Chia explains that “in ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile to oneself insured health, happiness and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.” Many meditate with a smile on their face. Try this smiling meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh while sitting or walking:

Let us enjoy our breathing.
Breathing in–I feel I am alive.
Breathing out–I smile to life.
To Life…smiling to life

Try it right now with a subtle Mona Lisa smile. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply through your nose like smelling a flower. When I do this, I instantly have a feeling of inner peace.

Smiling Connects Us With Others
People are attracted to happy people. No one wants to be around someone who is always talking about their problems. Research tells us that happy people are more successful as well!

Here are some of my favorite smile quotes by Mother Theresa that emphasize that connection with others through smiling:

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

I think I found my research to be a success! I feel so great after writing about smiling because I’ve had a Duchenne smile or a mindful smile on my face the whole time. So take two smiles and call me in the morning!

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I Just Realized How Greedy I Am!

The amazing northern lights

The amazing northern lights

Just recently we were lucky enough to visit Iceland. The sun rose at 11am and set at 4pm. We saw shaggy Icelandic horses, geysers and a colorful downtown Reykjavik. We ate delicious herring, smoked trout, sour milk (like yogurt) and drank Viking beers.

And we got to see the treat of a lifetime, something from my bucket list, the Northern lights. I’d studied up on camera settings and “How To Take Pictures of Northern Lights” on pinterest. We checked the weather, and thankfully, our first night was clear. We got a knock on the door from our hotel at about 12:30 am. We dressed quickly, grabbed our coats and shoes for the chilly in January weather. And they were, just as beautiful as I dreamed they’d be, dancing green in the sky.


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How To NOT Change Someone

How to get a great understanding of yourself
It’s tempting. Yup, very tempting, to believe that maybe you could change someone. It’s totally natural to have days when you wish you could change something your child does or someone else in your life…perhaps a co-worker, spouse, neighbor? You can drive them and yourself crazy wishing for that change. That’s the point when I remind myself, “Of course I can’t change anyone. No one wants me to try.”

There were a few times throughout motherhood that I tried to change my kids. These times were met with diasterious results. The message I was sending to my child was, “There’s someone wrong with you that I don’t like.”

I recently read a famous blogger’s post, 7 Tips for Helping Someone Else to Change A Habit. There were some very valid points but I thought to myself, “Can you really make someone else change?”

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21 Positive Quotes To Brighten Your Cold Winter Day

Winter can be depressing. It’s dark, cold and you might be missing the sun! I felt like this years ago with a baby and 3 years old. I was depressed during winter years ago and couldn’t wait for spring. Then one year I hit rock bottom and I decided to love winter.

I knew I had to change my negative thinking. We had a bad case of cabin fever and it turned out that getting outside was the perfect medicine. We dressed correctly for a start. Warm sweaters, thick socks, scarves and comfortable boots seemed to take hours to put on! Then we headed outside to see the beautiful world of snow and icicles. Delicious soup and hot chocolate were waiting when we came back in. We were cold and refreshed. That’s how it all began. Over the years we added many more winter activites into our life.

I also began to love the indoors. Dark, cold winter is a great time to Hygge (hooga) with friends or by yourself (see my last post here), read a book, watch movies, do something creative or just get organized.

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Do You Hygge? The Happiest Country Does!

“Hygge was never meant to be translated. It was meant to be felt.”
~ToveMaren Stakkestad

For many years, Denmark has been named one of the happiest countries in the world. In fact I recently read this quote, “We should look to countries like Denmark” if we wanted the US to become a happier place.

Many people in Denmark attribute this to “Hygge” pronounced “Hooga”.

What is Hygge? Simply put, it’s about living in the moment. It’s one of those perfect days, usually indoors during the short winter days of Northern Europe, where you’re relaxed, cozy, maybe with a fire, definitely with candles and a hot drink. You might be alone or maybe with friends and family. Time will stand still. There is no agenda, everyone is happy, lights are dimmed an atmosphere that you create. There is no drama by the way. No upsetting discussions. Just interesting conversation. The planning is not very organized. More spontaneous. Hygge is a mental state that you’re in and is very good for the soul. It can be your coziest sweatshirt. A hot cocoa on a cold day with a good book. It’s tea served in a china teapot. You can be by yourself or with others.

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Surround Yourself With What You Love In 2016 !

“This year believe that anything is possible. Start each day with goals. Eat more real food. Buy good books and make time to read them. Drink water. Exercise daily even when it sounds like a terrible idea. Shop for quality not quantity. Purge the unnecessary and decrease clutter. Hug the ones I love. Find the best in others. Show others the best in me.”
~ Unknown

I love the New Year! All the stresses of the old year gone. A chance to wipe the slate clean. I love to write resolutions and make them fun things that will make my life happier. The new year is like a book, just waiting to be written!

This year, surround yourself with the things you want in your life. Want to learn something new? Surround yourself with books. Want to be more creative? Surround yourself with art supplies. Surround yourself with an appreciation of the little things we take for granted. Surround yourself with music, real food and have real conversation. Want to lose weight? Surround yourself with healthy food, a garden and walks. Let go of the old and surround yourself with what you want in the new year. Enjoy it and don’t look for perfection. Instead, believe anything is possible!

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