Pages

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

My Heart's at Home, by Jill Savage

In my grand scheme to read books that are on my own bookshelves this year, I finally picked up My Heart's at Home, by Jill Savage. I think I've been staring at it for about 2 years now.

It's kinda interesting reading books just because they've been staring at you and you know you need to get to them. You don't really know if you are going to love it or not and sort of enter the book half heartedly as a result. Or, at least, that's what I do. I never got beyond the half hearted feeling about this read but I don't know that that's necessarily the book's fault.

My Heart's at Home isn't the best book I've read on home and motherhood, nor is it (anywhere near) the worst. I found it to be a nice pep talk more than anything else. If you are feeling discouraged about the value of your work as a stay-at-home mom, I certainly would recommend this book as an encouragement to your weary soul. Savage makes a good argument as to why it's helpful to have the wife and mother at home to help the house run more smoothly if for no other reason at all (although there are a great many other reasons). This book doesn't in any way address arguments about gender equality and I was glad of it (as those type of arguments pretty much flat out annoy me anyway for all the emphatic statements which everyone feels compelled to make). Savage is here with this book to encourage the stay-at-home mom. Plain and simple.

Part of the reason I think I might have felt half-hearted about this read is because I feel very confident about my chosen road. My husband and I are in complete agreement that the right thing for our family is for me to stay home. Things are exactly the way I would want them and I feel very blessed that I can stay home with my kids. I don't feel cheated by not having a "career." I am not undervalued by my husband. He wants me home; I want to be home. We have the same goals and everything runs smoothly in our household surrounding this concept. I am content even if certain groups of peoples would like to believe that I am not. They would be very wrong.

All that said, I like being home but that doesn't mean that somedays feel very long and there are struggles with the kids that sometimes that leave me feeling a bit exhausted. When those times come though I think Jonathan and I have a pretty good system going and he doesn't just begrudge my escaping the house to spend some time alone. In fact, he encourages it! We've got a system and it seems to work well for us. I have time to breathe when I need it and yet I'm still available to my family as they need me to be and as I want to be.

As much as I don't care about the nay sayers who think I'm either "less than" the more career minded female or somehow trodden down and dominated (I laugh at the absurdity) I really do appreciate it when people come along who are supportive of the concept of a stay-at-home mom. For that reason I appreciated My Heart's at Home. Jill Savage clearly cares about ministering to young wives and mothers and encouraging them as they serve their families. That is admirable and I always feel comforted to know that there are those in the world who are there to cheer me on instead of try to convince me that I'm being dominated in some strangely bizarre way and should really be thinking more about my life outside of the house instead of inside. In reading My Heart's at Home I thought of a few friends who would really appreciate and benefit from this read. Any mom who is new to the concept of staying home and tending to family "only", or who wants to be a stay-at-home mom but is surprised to discover what all that means, would be greatly encouraged and inspired by this read and so I think it serves a great purpose.

I guess what I'm saying is that although I wasn't "wow-ed" and blown away by the read, I am glad to know about this resource and am happy to share it with my friends. We need more Jill Savages in the world who aren't afraid to talk about what a beautiful gift it is to be a wife and a mother. She gets that it's hard work but rewarding work. She wants to encourage moms and I think she does so admirably and well. Yes, I recommend it. If you are feeling a bit "dry" in your role as a mother, consider this one for a pep-talk and pick-me-up.  There is positively no shame in seeking that out when you need it!!


*****

I love/hate how Amazon tells if you've already purchased an item. When looking up this title it told me that I purchased this back in 2011. Ok, so I've been staring at it for four years. Thanks for that, Amazon. Thanks.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Pursuit of God, by A. W. Tozer :: RtK Book Club Read (March)

Reading to Know - Book Club

Shonya from Learning How Much I Don't Know is here to host this month's book discussion. She has chosen The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer to read. I'm glad she chose this one for the simple fact that I cannot remember whether or not I've ever read this before! If I did, it was in my pre-blogging days. (This argues to and for me why it's important, for my own sake, to write down my thoughts about a book after having read it.)

I always like the books that Shonya picks for us because they tend to be the thought-provoking sort. She might choose shorter books, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are easy. She is always willing to give herself a challenge as well to share it with her friends. Sometimes I poke fun at that but I truly wholly appreciate this about her. She's a lady to admire and I am excited to read the book she selected for us. Without further ado, here are her own thoughts concerning why she chose this book:

*****

I chose the christian classic The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer for this month because I have intended to read it for years, and have just never gotten around to it. I thought the accountability of reading it with others for a book club might help me actually accomplish this goal.

Like Paul, I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. I am good at knowing about God from what He reveals about Himself in His Word, but how well do I really know God? I have long heard admiration for Tozer's devotion to following God and leaving worldly things behind and I think there is much I can learn from his writings about developing a closer relationship with my Lord.

I have also heard that he didn't have much formal education, but educated himself and I am always inspired by self-taught people.

I have to admit I'm also a little intrigued about his biography, A Passion for God, which indicates he was so focused on ministering to others that he might have neglected the mission field of his own family consisting of his wife and seven children. If I have time, I may have to read both books.

*****

Will you be reading this with us? Please let us know in the comment section below!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad :: Reading to Know Classics Book Club

Reading to Know - Book Club

Ironically, given the most well-known holiday of this past month, the Reading to Know Classics Book Club was set to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness during the month of February. We can thank/blame Heather from Don't Let This Universe Forget you for that one! Ha! Below are her thoughts on the book and some of the history which is fascinating to read (even if you didn't read the book):

*****

I read Heart of Darkness at a great time. I’ve been wanting to reread it as I’ve mentioned before, but also I just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible which centers around Belgian Congo. Though the events in the book happen over sixty years after the events in Heart of Darkness, Ms. Kingsolver borrows heavily from the themes of racism and cultural arrogance centered around the Congo. Also, just this week I went to watch my husband teach his World History class at the University and he actually mentioned Heart of Darkness! What a good time to have read this book!

To situate the book, it is important to know that once natural resources and minerals were discovered in Africa in the late 19th century, European countries began to lay claim to large parts of the continent. The biggest contenders were France and England, and the other countries, like Portugal began to worry that they wouldn’t be able to get what parts they wanted. So, the Berlin Conference was formed where Africa was sliced up and handed out fairly. (Well, as long as you weren’t African at least, it was fair) The Congo was a bit of a different case since it wasn’t given out to a country, it was given to a person. King Leopold of Belgium now owned the Congo and chose to rule by company administration. The company he formed began to use the native population to amass a gigantic fortune for Leopold mainly in rubber. The outstanding exploitation and cruel abuse of the Congolese has been widely documented, but it actually grew so bad that even other European nations began to exert pressure on Leopold to lighten up or to give up the Congo. Leopold ends up relinquishing control to the government of Belgium. I’m not saying things got wildly better for the Congolese, but you know you’re a bad imperialist when even the other imperialists think you’ve gone too far.
During this time Joseph Conrad was employed by a Belgian trading company to take a steamship up the Congo River. Like other Europeans at the time Conrad was disgusted when he actually came into contact with the abuse of the Congolese people and wrote this book denouncing the effects of Imperialism. (I should point out here that while the River is named, the Congo itself is not actually named. But we all know what he's talking about) While later authors have criticized Conrad for not going far enough, we have to remember that Conrad was a product of his time. He was Polish born and always considered himself Polish, but by the time he entered the Congo and definitely by the time this book was written he had been given British nationality and had certainly settled in England. So, it’s not quite like the British people were going to denounce Imperialism any time soon.

As for the book itself, I didn’t really think of it like an extended poem. (I’ll have to ask my sister to explain that one to me) Though Conrad certainly did have a powerful grasp on the art of writing and some of the way he phrased things bordered on poetic. (Seriously, how does one come up with a gaze falling on one “as trenchant and heavy as an axe” ) The plot is basically what I just said about Joseph Conrad, only replace Conrad’s name with Charles Marlow. Marlow is recounting to some fellow shipmates about the time he was employed by a Belgian trading company to take a boat up the Congo River, and along the way became disenchanted with Imperialism and its effects. Heart of Darkness is uses Mr. Kurz as an example of failed imperialism. We are told Mr. Kurz is going into the heart of darkness bringing science and progress and pity (probably meant more as a patronizing pity and not mercy as I originally thought), but at the end of Marlow’s tale we are left questioning whether the heart of darkness is the Congo or Mr. Kurz’s own heart. Now, there are some unanswered questions here. Is Conrad saying that cultural arrogance, ill-treatment of the natives, and the push into Africa is at fault for the eventual break-down of Mr. Kurz or is Africa itself at fault for pulling him in? Or are both things working together against Mr. Kurz’s efforts? I’m not sure the answer is obvious, but I do think there is a clear criticism of whether Imperialism was good for either side.

There is a part about halfway through when Marlow and his crew are moving up the river toward Kurz when he observes the native population and begins to question his superiority to them. I thought this was a very well done scene since he was beginning to recognize the humanity (imago Dei…though he probably didn’t know it) in the people around him. Being made in the image of God is something that belongs to everyone, regardless of color and creed, and even regardless of whether you acknowledge God at all! But it’s a very radical concept, especially in an age where white superiority was being heavily emphasized for the purpose of acquiring more land and power. Reading this today seems tame, but I’m sure when Conrad was writing, this type of thinking would have been scandalous.

So, I love being in a “classics only” bookclub, but I also find it particularly challenging to know what to say that hasn’t already been said about these classic works. There are much smarter people than me reviewing this book, so really all I can talk about is my own personal reaction. I think the book was amazing. It’s tough to say that since there is a lot of darkness (heh) in it, but I think it was well written and I think Mr. Kurz is such an immense character. You can clearly see that Conrad is a great writer. I can’t say I had fun reading the book. Sometimes I got to the end of the page and had no idea what I just read so I had to go back. Also, there was a little nautical terminology and I have never done well reading nautical terminology. I tend to space out a little and you just cannot space out when reading Conrad. You have to focus, and it took some energy.

Now, this review has gone on entirely too long, but grant me this one last indulgent confession: This book (at least my copy) was under 200 pages and I could NOT seem to get started. I finished it yesterday and I had the whole month, and I only finished it because I actually forced myself to just sit still and do it by brewing a cup of tea and not allowing myself to move. Tea is the great motivator.

*****

Ok, so I (Carrie) confess that I didn't finish reading it because I could not get into it and I didn't understand it. However, hearing the background history of it makes me want to push through to the end. I make no promises, but after reading Heather's explanation and thoughts, I'm really curious.

Thanks, Heather, for taking the time to write that all up. I think a long review of this one is actually most helpful!

Did anyone read it? Now is the time to share your own thoughts! We're curious to hear them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

White Fang, by Jack London

One of the things our family absolutely loves to do is go on adventures together. Jonathan and I were not experienced travelers by any stretch of the imagination when we got married, but one thing we decided we wanted to do in building our own family culture was to incorporate travel into our lives. This past month we had a trip planned to Southern California and this time we wanted to travel via Hwy 101 instead of I-5. (Best. decision. ever.) In researching ideas for places to stop and things to see, I noted that we could visit Jack London's Wolf House. But we couldn't do that without reading something by Jack London first, right? Not reading London before traveling to his house would be all kinds of wrong.

I don't think I had ever read anything by Jack London before, but I was a huge fan of the Disney movie White Fang growing up. (I don't think it's anything like the book, but I haven't re-watched the movie to confirm this.) I was thinking that we could plow through the book and then watch the movie before we left town, however the book was so intense that the kids opted not to see the movie. This is not to say that they did not like the book, because they did! We all did! (But it was quite intense and I think we all have a newly developed fear of being eaten alive by wolves now.)

The beginning of White Fang opens rather calmly and remains calm for at least a few pages. We meet two men and their sled dog team who are traversing the cold, Canadian wilderness. They are pursued by an ominously dangerous pack of wolves. There is a mysterious she-wolf whose job it is to lure the sled dogs away from the camp fire, after which they are, well, eaten by the pack. Then one of the men are eaten alive which pretty much justifies our fear of wolves and set us trembling through the rest of the story.

Is this already too intense? It gets worse/better. The she-wolf (who is part dog) "becomes close friends" with a male wolf and the two produce a liter of wolf pups. Most of the cubs die off because there is not enough food for all of them. One pop survives and, as you might surmise, this pup is White Fang. White Fang and his mother live near an Indian village and it becomes apparent that White Fang's mother is no stranger to life in submission to a human "god" and White Fang himself learns to submit to the leadership of these gods. His wild nature becomes somewhat changed as he adapts to life with humans.

White Fang is essentially a story of a wolf-dog who is born in the wild but is eventually tamed. However, this process takes many years and his experience under three particular humans shapes and molds him. He experiences domination, terror and love in turn. We are told his story through White Fang's eyes. Jack London does a terrific job of communicating to the reader what a wolf might think or experience as he relates to the world both in the wild and with humans. I found his descriptions of White Fang's "emotions", if you will, to be quite fascinating. (Note: Teddy Roosevelt disagrees with me. He thought Jack London was full of hot air. Roosevelt called London a "nature faker" and found his writings ridiculous.)

To give an example of what Roosevelt didn't like - and which our family found interesting-to-amusing:

"The hair bristled up on the grey cub's back, but it bristled gently. How was he to know that this thing that sniffed was a thing at which to bristle? It was not born of any knowledge of his, yet it was the visible expression of the fear that was in him, and for which, in his own life, there was no accounting. But fear was accompanied by another instinct - that of concealment. The cub was in a frenzy of terror, yet he lay without movement or sound, frozen, petrified into immobility, to all appearances dead. His mother, coming home, growled as she smelt the wolverine's track, and bounded into the cave and licked and nuzzled him with undue vehemence of affection. And the cub felt that somehow he had escaped a great hunt."

London said of his own writing that he wasn't trying to state facts about nature but to offer something of a supposal, based on observing the natural world. Whether you like his attempts to personalize wildlife or not, our family found London to be an entertaining writer. He made us fearful, yes, but he also made us laugh. This passage in particular got a good chuckle out of Bookworm1 (age 8 1/2):

"This helped the cub's courage, and though the woodpecker he next encountered gave him a start, he proceeded confidently on his way. Such was his confidence, that when a moose-bird impudently hopped up to him, he reached out at it with a playful paw. The result was a sharp peck on the end of his nose that made him cower down and ki-yi. The noise he made was too much for the moose-bird, who sought safety in flight.
But the cub was learning. His misty little mind had already made an unconscious classification. There were live things and things not alive. Also, he must watch out for the live things. The things not alive remained always in once place; but the live things moved about, and there was no telling what they might do. The thing to expect of them was the unexpected, and for this he must be prepared."

Due to the nature of the book - which focuses on a wolf's life in the wild and out of it - we readers are exposed to a lot of blood. Wolves hunt. Wolves kill. They bite with their sharp teeth and bring about pain and death. Jack London spends a lot of time talking about White Fang attacking the throats of his victims and life blood spilling out of the great vein. Having never read a London book before, I was somewhat taken aback, even though I loosely was aware of the story. Truly, it is a little graphic and after stumbling over a few such descriptions I noted that Bookworm1 was growing particularly uncomfortable. Actually, I didn't have to wonder about how he felt. A few chapters in and he emphatically stated that he would NOT under. any. circumstances. be watching this movie. If I felt that he had to, he would require me to preview it. I didn't blame him one bit! And after while I just edited those jaws of death. Instead of silent attacks with ears and throats being ripped apart I just started reading, "And White Fang killed him." This also sped up our read considerably as there are some rather long and frequent passages about wolves and dogs fighting one another.

The end of the story, I am happy to say - (and Bookworm1 and everyone else is happy to say) - is a happy one. Least I scare you off, you should know that it is precisely the intensity of the story which makes it so compelling. We had to know how the story played out. We had to know it was a happy. We wanted to know that White Fang would survive victorious, and that he would be loved. All of this is so and it made for a satisfying read.

On our travels we braved a wooded walk through the Jack London State Historic Park  to see his Wolf House and we were rewarded for our efforts. It is a magical, mystifying place and if you ever have a chance to visit it, we highly recommend it! Bookworm1 said he rather enjoyed seeing it and it was fun to visit after having read one of his works. We all talked about Jack London the man as something of a familiar friend. (Although honestly I don't think we would have been friends in real life.) Reading one of his books before visiting was an excellent decision as it made the entire place, and the person of Jack London, more real to us all. It's one of my favorite stops during our recent travels.

Unbeknownst to us, one of my children's friends from church prayed that our family "would not be eaten" while traveling about the countryside. Thankfully we were not eaten and have lived to tell the tale of White Fang and take a walk through the woods. We are a very brave people, yes?

To see pictures of our trip to the house, go HERE.

Here's a teaser photo for you:





Monday, February 23, 2015

What's On My Nightstand - March

What's On Your Nightstand

February was such a short month. We're just returning from a week long visit with family which "interrupted" reading time. Not that I'm sorry one little bit about that but it did slow down the reading.

This time our family traveled down to California via Hwy 101 and so I knew we were going to have a chance to stop and see Jack London's Wolf House. With that in mind, I nixed my Laura Ingalls Wilder reading plans and the kids and I plowed our way through White Fang which we finished right before we left town. I'll have my review/our thoughts about White Fang up shortly.


Since we were headed to California it seemed a little far fetched to me to read The Long Winter for Barbara's Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. We've had such a mild winter in Oregon that it didn't seem quite as fun a read when you can't imagine the bitter cold as well. So, instead, I switched books and we took Farmer Boy along with us on our travels.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

The Canterbury Tales ended up being pretty much a total flop for me, unless you consider the fact that I was completely unfamiliar with it at the beginning of the month and am now familiar with it all that I wish to be. It's not the length that got to me, it was the vulgarity. I just felt "BLAH" towards it. Picking up that book left me with the feeling that I'd rather not be reading anything at all than that and that's never a good attitude to have when reading.

I made myself read the General Prologue, The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale and then I watched this three part animated series (hey. no judging.) and am calling it good.



It is interesting to read and find out about The Canterbury Tales from the perspective of being able to understand the myriad of references made to it even in modern culture (even if people don't quite realize that they are referencing/mimicking it). So I pat myself on the shoulder for being slightly more educated? How pompous of me!! But perhaps it will help if I also confess to you that the only way I was able to understand and track with Chauncer's original language was to read it aloud to myself like a pirate. If you read it like a pirate it actually starts to make a lot more sense. (ha!)

I read the first few chapters of Heart of Darkness before vacation and didn't care for it either. (What a depressing reading month.) But I shall make myself read that one all the way through because it's too short for me to set aside. It shan't be a favorite book though. I can pretty much tell you that right now.


So that all wraps up February's reading, more or less.

Let's look to March, shall we? I intend to have a great deal more fun reading in March.

Mostly I just have stacks of books everywhere and so I'd like to read on a whim.

The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer is the Reading to Know Book Club read for the month. I shall read that.

Then I might pick up any number of the following books:





We shall see what we shall see!

What about you? What's on your nightstand for this next month?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ranger in Time, by Kate Messner (Or, Bookworm1's First Official Review)

Are you ready for this folks? I'm not exactly sure that I am.

We've reached that magical/horrible/terrifying moment in time when Bookworm1 is reading faster than I can keep up with him. Now thankfully I've been a long term fan of middle grade fiction and have built up a library of things that I know are not just safe, but good for him to read. But he's read all titles I had available for him and now I am scrambling to find things that will suit him. I love that he's a voracious reader though so no complaints.

I received a copy of Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail in the mail for review. As it was not a book I requested or agreed to accept, I wasn't sure that I would get around to reading it. However, the thought occurred to me that Bookworm1 might like to do so. I perused the first chapter and flipped through the book a bit to see whether or not I could find anything instantly objectionable and I could not. So, without further ado, I offered it to Bookworm1 who thought it looked interesting and he read (and enjoyed) it.

The description on the book jacket reads as follows:

Ranger is a golden retriever who has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog, but can't officially pass the test because he's always getting distracted by squirrels during exercises. One day, he finds a mysterious first aid kit in the garden and is transported to the year 1850, where he meets a young boy named Sam Abbott. Sam's family is heading west on the Oregon Trail, which can be dangerous. It's up to Ranger to make sure the Abbotts get to Oregon safely!

This is what Bookworm1 had to say of it:

This book is about a dog named Ranger who goes on a trip to Oregon. It is a very long trip and there is a very big river that must be crossed. It was so big that some of the men got stuck and Ranger had to help them out.

Q: What was your favorite part of the book?

A: When people were trying to swim and get away from a big, rushing river.

Q: Would you recommend this book to a friend?

A: Yes, it is very exciting.

This book is roughly 125 pages long and the format is very easy to read (i.e., large font, ample spacing). It took him about 3 reading sessions to complete the book.

Rescue on the Oregon Trail is the first book in this series. The second, Danger in Ancient Rome is set to be released at the end of June.


Here is the description for Book #2:

Ranger travels to the time of gladiator fights and wild animal hunts at the Colosseum, where he rescues a servant boy from a runaway lion. But for gladiators and the servants who help to run the games, there's no escape from Emperor Domitian's brutal world of the arena . . . or is there?

Something tells me that I will want to preview the next title as Bookworm1 might find a little more excitement than he is currently bargaining for.

Still, I'm intrigued by this series and like that there's some historical fiction available to kids that is not related to the American Girls or even Magic Tree House. Not to say that we haven't enjoyed both of those series of books, but I think a search-and-rescue dog is a unique and fun twist on things. Glad to see it, Scholastic.

Many thanks to Scholastic Books for sending a copy of this title my direction in order to facilitate this review. We received no additional compensation and all opinions expressed are our own.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Misc.

I kept waiting and waiting (and waiting and waiting) for The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book IV: The Interrupted Tale to be released in paperback so that I could buy it and it would match the rest of my set. Alas, my impatience won out and now I have to repurchase books 1-3 in hardback so that everything will match. I sigh but you understand, don't you? Also, I don't mind because it's such a great series that I anticipate it running through the family over the years. We'll want those hardback copies to hold up to the many hands which will touch it.

Like all of the others in the series, I enjoyed this one equally well. I was happy to find some of the answers to the questions which are raised in the prior books. (Book 4 also has me wondering if Maryrose Wood is getting near to drawing this series to a close. Hmm?) This series is part adventure, part mystery, part drama, and part comedy. It's all fun though and I've enjoyed the time spent with it. (See prior thoughts here and here.) One thing that these books DON'T make me want to do though is write up full reviews on each title. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but that it is. If you decide to pick up this series (and I do recommend it for your consideration) then you won't want to know a whole lot about it before diving in because if you did that would somewhat ruin the mystery.

I'm happy to note that The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book V: The Unmapped Sea will be coming out at the end of April. Now that I don't have to wait for a paperback edition, I'll snatch it right up.


I'll be looking forward to it, for sure!

*****

Remember my review of A Fine Romance, by Susan Branch? (If you don't, hop over and read the review and then pick up the book. It's so fun!)

I mentioned then that I had meant to post a picture of my book in keeping with the personal journal them - complete with my mug of tea! -  but that I hadn't yet downloaded it off the camera yet. It's not like it's all that exciting or anything, but here it is:


*****

After reading (and feeling inspired by) The Nesting Place (linked to review/thoughts) I wanted to add a little spring-like something to our sitting area which is off the kitchen. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, but I did purchase some new candle stick holders that were bright and cheery. (I don't do so well when the weather is forever gray and overcast like it is much of the winter in Oregon so I've been looking for lighter/brighter decor to help out.) you can see in the far left hand side of the page my little corner on the counter with lit candles, and a bright red tea pot. It makes me happy to look at.



Bookworm4's bear is also nestled on the glider because Smith encourages using children's toys in decorating and making the place feel more like home for everyone. (Tree branch supplied by a dying tree we were going to cut down in our yard anyway. And twinkle lights are not just for Christmas!)

*****

For the record, I'm hating reading The Canterbury Tales. Just so you know. I've been "cheating" by watching this video on Youtube which carries with it all the flair of the story without making me wallow through it miserably. (It's almost miserable enough just watching it.)



*****

But we don't want to end on a sour note, do we? So let's not. I thought this was funny:


Enjoy your Wednesday, folks!


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