Monday, February 22, 2016

Love the Game

Love comes and goes, doesn't it?  You don't always love the things you once did, but if it's true and deep-rooted, it stays a part of you.

I started playing basketball in fourth grade-I was eight.  I wasn't good.  I didn't even know what I was doing.  But my friends were playing and I wanted to play, too.  And then I played again in fifth grade, and sixth.  I can't tell you who my coaches were, or if I even scored a basket.  I pretty much only remember one girl from an opposing team who, when she had the ball, ensured her team was victorious.  

In seventh grade, we had to try-out for the basketball team.  We were faced with the fact that not everyone would play on the team.  There were a couple weeks of tryouts and then the team was announced.  I, at the height of 5'0" tall, and with an awkward two-handed, chest-pass-looking free throw did not make the team.  I was heartbroken and embarrassed.  I had come to play.  When asked, I reluctantly agreed to be the team manager.  I fetched water bottles for players and recorded shots during the game.  It was a tough pill to swallow, but being a part of the team as a manager was better than not being a part of it at all.  

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In eighth grade, I tried again.  I'm not sure I had improved since the previous year, but I had grown nine inches.  That's right-I was 5'9" tall by the time tryouts were held, and I made the team. I remember sitting on the bench.  A lot.  And I remember being taken out of games because I couldn't make lay-ups and I didn't rebound.  But I was on the team.

During the summer between junior high school and high school, I played basketball in my driveway; I played HORSE with my dad and I'd play one-on-one with anyone who came by. By this time I had nearly perfected my two-handed, chest-pass-looking free throw.  

When it came to tryout for the freshman basketball team, I showed up...with seven other players.  Where was everyone?  It seemed that in junior high school, basketball was the only Fall girls' sport offered, so everyone wanted to play. By ninth grade, girls could play tennis or run cross country, along with many more options for after school activities.  So there we were-a freshman girls' basketball team of eight.  There wasn't a lot of time on the bench that year for me, or anyone else.  I had no choice but to improve, and I did.  I was told that if I was serious about wanting to be a better player, I should consider attending a shooting camp that summer to be taught the correct way to shoot. I jumped at the chance, and convinced my parents to pay for my week away from home.  That week probably changed the path of my life.  I was in the gym practicing for hours and hours and in my free time, I hunted down my favorite coaches and asked them to give me a little extra help.  I learned the correct way to shoot and wanted to be good.  When I came home from camp, I continued to practice.  I'd even practice in the dark, until my mom yelled at me that I had to come in for the night because the neighbors were surely sick of hearing that damn ball bounce. 

After a successful tenth grade year on the junior varsity team, I was asked to move up to the varsity team for the playoffs.  I didn't really expect to play, but I was honored just to share the bench with some of the girls I looked up to.  Then, somehow, in a playoff game, against a team that had five players heading off to play college hoops, I was called to go in.  It was only for a couple of minutes but I'll never forget it.  And I knew I wanted more.

I continued to improve throughout my junior year on the varsity team.  Every day after practice, my dad would stay and work on post moves with me or rebound for me until the coach would kick us out.  I'd go home for dinner and then head to the YMCA to play full court with the men who played there.  At school, I'd skip lunch and head to the gym to shoot free throws until I could make ten in a row consistently.  I was pretty good, but I wasn't good.  I had made the All-conference team that year and I joined a travel team with many of the best players in the area.  I couldn't get enough.

The summer between my junior and senior years, I went to a couple of camps, hoping to be recruited to play in college.  Surely with my consistent 12 or so points per game and my left-handed hook shot, someone would want me to play for them, right?  Well, it didn't happen.  I had a great senior year, once again earning All-conference honors, but without the offer of a basketball scholarship, I applied for college at Michigan State University and got in.  

Every year, the varsity players were assigned to coach and referee those fourth, fifth and sixth grade teams I had played on when I was younger.  The girls were uncoordinated and unfocused and was I this terrible when I was their age?  But then I told myself, that just like me, they wanted to play.  Everyone has to start somewhere, right?  We, as seniors, were there to teach them, to encourage them, and to convey our passion to these little girls.  And I had a blast.

Then, one day as I was shooting in the gym, I noticed a man watching me.  I figured if he wanted to watch me, I'd put on a show.  I think I made 20 three-pointers in a row before I missed one, and he wanted to talk to me.  What's your name? Why don't I know you?  Where are you playing next year?  I introduced myself and explained that shooting three pointers was not my role on this team and that I wasn't playing next year-just heading off to college.  And then he said, "No, you're not.  You're coming to play for me."  And I did.  

It was a scholarship to our local junior college, but I didn't care.  I knew many of the girls from high school teams in the area, and I was excited to be given this opportunity.  Two more years of basketball?  With free college attached?  SOLD.  Even though I was one of the tallest women on the team, my role wasn't being a post player like in high school; I was given the green light to shoot three-pointers.  In fact, much of our offense was centered around getting me an open shot.  It seemed that all those years of practice were finally paying off.  My second year of junior college was even more successful.  Aside from our team having a really great season, I had made 144 three point baskets, and was voted onto the All-Conference, All-Regional and Junior College All-American teams.  Even with all of my success, I hadn't received any offers to play at a higher level after my second year of college.  

But then, there was a small glimmer of hope.  My coach had attended the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament and through his connections, he met a Division II coach who needed a three point shooter.  Ding, ding, ding!  Turns out, he had just what she was looking for.  My parents, grandma and I planned our trip.  A long trip to West Virginia, down winding roads with sharp drop-offs on either side.  A trip where several times along these roads I was asked if I was sure I wanted to live so far away.  I urged them to not get carried away and to see how things would go once we got to the college.  When we arrived, I was introduced to the team and shown around campus and then we headed to the gym.  You would think that after sitting in a car for eight hours, I'd be exhausted, but I had come to play.  It's safe to say that I rose to the occasion on that afternoon.  I played very well and I couldn't miss any shot I took.  After the game, the coach asked if I could stay for a night and get to know the girls a little bit better, but I told her that since we had driven this far, we had another college to go check out.  This one was in Maryland, and happened to be in the same conference as this West Virginia school.  Upon hearing this, the coach offered me a full scholarship on the spot. I was flattered, but wasn't sure about the whole West Virginia thing, so we said our goodbyes and I promised to be in touch and we drove East.  The Maryland college, it turns out, was, in my eyes, cold and loud and unwelcoming, and I couldn't wait to get out of there.  When I called the coach from West Virginia and told her I was going to accept her offer, I think she was a little surprised but excited.  I told my reluctant parents that I had made my decision and we made plans for me to move to West Virginia.  

In contrast to my junior college team, where everyone was starting from the same point, when I came onto the team in West Virginia, most of the girls had already played on the team for two years together.  I had to earn my place, and I intended to.  My junior year was successful for me personally-I had earned Second Team All-Conference honors-and our team had made it into the Division II National Tournament.  My fourth and final year of basketball went by in a flash.  It seemed just as I was getting comfortable on the team, my college playing days were over.  West Virginia was amazing and I met some incredible people.

Shortly after graduation, I met Jason through mutual friends.  I had my degree but I couldn't really find a job in my field, so his mom set me up substitute teaching in the district where she worked. I actually loved the job and got to know all of the students in a short amount of time.  The following year, the Junior Varsity Girls' Basketball position opened up, as well as a long-term substitute teaching position at the high school.  I applied for both of them and was hired.  My team was comprised of mostly ninth graders, with a few tenth graders.  As it turned out, most of those girls had never been given a solid base to build up from.  I had expected to jump right in with plays and defenses and full court presses, but we had to back up a few steps and start at the beginning.  It was a huge learning experience for me as well as the team that year, but I loved everything about it.  I would sing them silly songs to make the time pass faster while they did wall sits , and I'd braid their hair before games, but they knew when it was time to work, and they WORKED.  I showed them that even if you can't be the best shooting team and score a ton of points, you can always work your butt off and everyone can play defense.  It's all about heart and how badly you want it.  

After that, basketball was put on the back burner for awhile.  I got married and started having babies and before I knew it, years had passed.  And then my kids started playing sports.  I volunteered to coach whenever I could.  A lot of parents don't have the time or the knowledge or the desire, but when I wasn't coaching, I always wished I was.  I have coached boys' basketball, and girls' basketball, and even cheerleading.  

This year, when I took Owen to his first basketball practice, where the boys were separated into teams, I hadn't intended on coaching.  But when the hour of practice was over and still no dad from his team had offered to coach, I walked up and asked if they allowed moms to coach at this level.  I'm sure many 4th, 5th, and 6th grade boys don't really think it's cool to have their moms coaching their teams, but Owen said he was okay with it.  And that was that.  I had eleven boys staring at me as their coach, wondering what, exactly, I had to offer them.  I quickly assured them that I wouldn't be there as a MOM.  I was there to teach them not only how to play the game, but about sportsmanship and respect and determination.  Sunday was our last game.  I had been given seven weeks with these boys.  Eleven boys who were there because they had come to play.  And on Sunday, they showed me they could.  They boxed out and rebounded and threw bounce passes and ran full court fast breaks and hit crucial three-pointers when we needed them.  On Sunday, they rose to the occasion.  And I might have been on the sidelines as their coach, but I was cheering every single one of them on as a proud parent, because when I coach, those kids become MY kids. I don't know a better way to teach someone to love a sport, than to show them how much I love it, too.

What do you love?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Any Given Thursday

On occasion, I like to ask my kids random questions. I get each of them alone and ask ten or twelve random questions-nothing too complicated, just whatever comes to their mind first. And then I write about it here, because someday I'll want to remember little things like this. Most of the time, their answers are predictable. Once in a while, I get a surprise. If I'm lucky, I get an answer that's downright funny. So without further ado, here are today's random questions and answers...

 1. What is your name? 2. How old are you? 3. Who is your favorite person? 4. What is your favorite color? 5. What is your favorite animal? 6. Where is your favorite place to go? 7. What is your favorite food? 8. What is your favorite television show? 9. What is your favorite kind of cookie? 10. What do you like to do for fun? 11. What is your favorite song?

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  1. Owen
2. 12
3. Mom
4. Green
5. Snake
6. Florida
7. Mom's chicken noodle soup
8. Spongebob
9. Mom's chocolate chip cookies
10. Play Minecraft
11. "Backseat Driver" by TobyMac

 "Can I go play Minecraft now?"

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  1. Emerson
2. 10
3. Myself
4. Pink
5. Cat
6. Roller skating
7. Chicken and biscuits
8. Spongebob
9. Mom's chocolate chip cookies
10. Gymnastics and hang out with Claire
11. "Apple Bottom Jeans: by Flo Rida

 "I'm not answering any more questions until you tell me why you're asking me questions!"

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  1. Greyson
2. 8
3. Mom
4. Blue
5. Dog
6. Roller skating
7. Chicken and biscuits
8. The Thundermans
9. Mom's chocolate chip cookies
10. Ride dirt bikes
11."Stay a Little Longer" by Brothers Osborne

 "These questions are BORING."

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  1. Alayna
2. 6
3. Chloe
4. Green
5. Horse
6. Dollar Store
7. Bisketti and pop if you let me
8. Spongebob
9. Frosted sugar cookies with sprinkles
10. Ride horses
11. "Taxi" by David Weinstone

 "If we had horses I'd be riding them right now."

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  1. Nashypoo
2. 7
3. Miss Nikki
4. Black
5. Fishies
6. The fishie store
7. Sausage
8. Mickey "I miss him! I sad now."
9. Nene cookies!!! "I happy now."
10. Make popcorn
11. "Taxi riding in the backseat" by David Weinstone

 "Ask me the questions again!"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Burning Question

Three weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity to guest post on a friend's blog.  This was new territory for me, but I was up for the challenge.  I was asked to write about why I run.  And not only why I run, but how I find the time to run.  That would be easy.  When people ask me why I run, my most common answer is, "Why don't YOU run?"

I remember a twenty mile race I ran a couple of years ago.  I got to mile 17, right as we were running back into town and I saw a woman standing alone on the side of the road, watching us pass by.   At first I couldn't hear her, but I could see that she was cheering us on.  She was eating a very large donut and drinking an even larger pop, and she was obese.  When I passed by her, do you know what I heard?  "You're almost there!" and "Keep running!" and "I COULD NEVER DO THAT!" I wanted to stop and talk to her.  I wanted to tell her that exactly a year ago I couldn't do it either.  I couldn't run ONE mile, let alone twenty.  I wanted to tell her that one good choice would lead to more good choices and little by little you can change yourself.  Everyone has to start at the beginning, no matter where your beginning is.

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"What seems impossible today will one day be your warm-up."

Why do I run?  Why don't YOU run?

You can read my guest post over at by clicking this link: AMIE'S GUEST POST

Sending a special thank you to Mrs. Allison Hardy for giving me this awesome opportunity!  And if you'd like daily inspiration, go follow her on Instagram @sweat.flex.shine along with me at @amieontherun.

Monday, February 15, 2016


A little over a year ago, I wrote about our journey from Michigan to Tennessee to Ohio and back.  I wrote about what, exactly, we came back to, and the challenges we faced.  You can read that story HERE. (Click the link!)

Once we were finally settled back here in Michigan, we knew we had to make some changes.  We decided we either needed to keep our current home and add onto it, as three bedrooms and seven people make living quite "entertaining", or find a new place to call home.  We casually looked at houses with our ever-so-patient Realtor, and perused building plans for a possible addition.  Jason and I ultimately decided that if we hadn't found a new home by the time the school year ended, we would stop searching and break ground on the new addition.

Although we have lived in many homes over the years, this time we became professional house hunters.  We searched all of the popular websites, we had our friends sending us potential houses, we had friends of friends sending us potential houses, we searched down back roads and through towns we had never really blinked at before.  We looked at newly-built homes and old, falling down homes. We knew when a house sold or a new one came on the market, and nothing was right.  Every house I walked into felt like someone else's home, not mine.  And then, in early June, Jason sent me a link to a house listed on Craigslist.  By this time, the links we sent each other throughout the day became something of a joke: "Wanna live in a two bedroom home and put on an epic addition?" or "How about this one without a driveway?  I mean, do we really need a driveway?" or "Never mind the house, with all that land we could BUILD a dream home!"  With only a couple of weeks left in the school year, I had basically ruled out the idea of moving.  But I opened the link, read the short description, and scrolled through the pictures.  The home didn't jump off the screen at me.  In fact, with the square footage and the fact that it had only one bathroom, wouldn't this be a step backwards?
We decided to go see the house anyway.  Jason and I were both feeling pretty desperate at this point, and going to look at houses is always an adventure, right?  So, we loaded the kids into the car and headed across town.  And kept driving.  Where were we?  Cows, horses, sheep?   I didn't know our little town stretched this far!  Finally, we arrived.  And there it was: The old house with an even older barn, and acres of corn and room to breathe.

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We were greeted by the daughter (Mrs. K) and son-in-law (Mr. K) of the woman who had lived there.  Mrs. G, as I will call her, and her husband, Mr. G, who had purchased the farm in 1959, had both passed away and the house was left in a trust to their seven children.  Our family was greeted warmly by the couple and as we entered the house, it felt like stepping back in time.  From the big kitchen with the vintage cabinetry, to the butler's pantry with thick, peeling wallpaper, to the dining room with its original windows, to the stone fireplace in the family room, to the skinny staircase that led to the second story bedrooms, to the Michigan basement with its stone walls and low ceiling that I was unable to fully stand up in, it was clear that this was not the kind of house we had been looking at.  At every turn there was something interesting: a little owl plant hanger attached to the wall, a bell near the back door, an eagle over the front door.  What stories did this house know?  What had it seen?  I wanted to know everything.  Luckily, Mrs. K was willing to talk as long as I was willing to listen. She wasn't trying to sell us a house, she was offering us the opportunity to live in the home she had known for almost her entire life.

When the kids started to get unruly, which never takes that long, we all went outside.  They peeked inside two little sheds, attempted to go into the barn, (which I was certain would fall over if the wind caught it just right) and sampled apples from the apple tree in the backyard.  Eventually, we said our goodbyes and piled back into the car.  We always voted after we looked at a house, which usually ended in mostly no's with one or two of us declaring that they "really liked that one!"  This time, the vote ended differently.  This time, the vote was unanimous: seven votes for YES, THIS IS THE HOUSE!

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Although we loved the house, and the idea of moving from a house on a cul-de-sac in a subdivision to a farm with a lot of acreage, there were still many things to consider.  First of all, the house had a serious slant, which I found endearing but Jason found alarming.  Second, there was one bathroom and seven of us.  Third, there were several things the house didn't have that we had grown very used to: air conditioning, a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, city water.  Fourth: The barn really was going to fall down.  What would we do about that?  Oh, and fifth: Our current house wasn't even for sale.  THAT could pose a problem.

I had an out of town race that weekend, so we decided to think on it for a few days.  And let me tell you: I thought about it.  In fact, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  We had always looked at older homes and ended up buying the houses that just needed minor face lifts.  But I had always dreamed of restoring an old home-to make it how it once was.  To live in a house with that much history would be amazing!  And the kids hadn't stopped thinking about it either.  There was talk of horses and barn cats and bunnies and, "Mom, THERE'S SO MUCH ROOM TO RIDE DIRT BIKES!"

We had a discussion with Mr. and Mrs. K, letting them know that we were interested in the property but we had a house to sell.  Finally, it was decided that they would give us sixty days to obtain a purchase agreement on our house.  Sixty days.  PRESSURE.

Words cannot begin to describe how stressful those days were.  I think in the first thirty days we had twenty showings.  Twenty people who said they loved the house and loved the location and not a single offer. Twenty times I had to have my house show-ready with five kids off on summer vacation.  We had reduced our asking price twice in that thirty day period and we didn't want to go any lower. When it was proposed that we try a third reduction, we were ready to call it quits.  Jason and I were not willing to take a loss on our current house in order to sell it and move on.  Our Realtor urged us to consider one last drop in price and stick it out for another couple of weeks.  By this point, we were frustrated and angry and feeling hopeless.  We had made several more requested visits to the farm house, and every time we went, we heard more stories about its past.  Stories of the seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. G.  Stories of the family who had lived there with twenty children.  (And here we were worried about our family of seven fitting in!)  A story of the first family who had built the house and how when the husband passed away had willed to his wife a portion of the property along with a cow of her choosing every year, and had left the remaining land to be split between his daughters.  A story of the family trading labor and cows in exchange for the beautiful cabinetry that was built in the kitchen.  A story of when Mr. G gathered stones from the corn field to build the amazing fireplace in the family room.  A story of Mrs. G directing the choir at their little church and all of the sheet music that was still upstairs and where she kept her piano in the home.

Sometimes, I'd really want to go see the house again but it hadn't even been a week since the last time and I didn't want to bother Mr. and Mrs. K, so I'd take the kids and we'd drive by and if no one was there we'd pull in the driveway and just dream.  Dream about it being ours and where we'd put a swing and what our horses would look like and what we'd name our barn cats, and who would sleep in which bedroom, and what delicious desserts we'd bake with the apples from our tree.

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I felt like I was holding my breath.  I was waiting, impatiently, for some news.  For one of those second showings to turn in to an offer.  Please.  And, then, at the very end of July, it came.  We got an offer, and it was an offer we could live with.  It was an offer we could MOVE with.

We set up a time to meet Mr. and Mrs. K at the farm house; we wanted to tell them the news in person.  I think as our agreement got closer and closer to that sixty day mark, they were also feeling a little hopeless.  When Jason and I told them that we had an official purchase agreement on our house and we were ready to move ahead with the purchase of the farm, they had to have been relieved.  After all, they had been entrusted to make sure that they not only sold their family home, but also that it would be in good hands.  I think we all needed the summer it took to make the sale happen.  We needed to hear the stories of the house and the land, and they needed to know that this part of them would be taken care of.  I am sure their emotions were very mixed, but I can tell you one thing for sure: they were unimaginably happy that a family full of children would once again be living-really living-in this home.

The month of August was a whirlwind.  We not only had to pack, but we had to decide what would go to the new house and what would go into storage.  We were planning an immediate addition of a laundry room, master bedroom, bathroom and closet, but in the meantime, our new house had just two closets, and no garage or basement for storage.  There was also an elementary school change, and bus schedules to change, along with all of the regular back to school goings on.  And, of course, there were more visits to the farm before it was officially ours.

In the middle of August, we lost Jason's Grandma Lois at the age of 100.  Grandpa Ro and Grandma Lo had 40 acres here in our town where they raised five children and built their own little compound which is split between farm land and the homes of some of their children and grandchildren.  Ro and Lo were all about family and keeping family together.  On the day we said our final goodbyes to Grandma Lo, we received word from the bank that the farm would officially be ours.  Could it have been more perfect?  After the funeral, several (many) of Jason's family members just had to sneak a peak of our new endeavor and might have bombarded the farmhouse to check it out.  Yes, we knew we had our hands full with this house, but we felt excited and privileged to have this opportunity.  Ro and Lo certainly were smiling down on us, watching us take our young family on our own path, much like they did 67 years ago.

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With September came the first week of school, which also was the week the farm would be officially ours.  We signed all of the documents needed and invited Mr. and Mrs. K to stop over any time.  Although the house was now ours, we wanted them to still be a part of it.  And while I would've been happy just to own the house, getting to know the family who had lived and loved here has really been the best gift.

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We have lived here almost six months now, and a lot of work has been done, which I will get to in later posts.  I have learned so much about construction and repair and renovation, but I've learned more than just those things.  We've met almost everyone on our road now-there's a mix of generations-old farms and people fairly new to this area.  Along with sheep and horses, there's a white cow down the road who chases me when I run past, and while we wait for the morning bus, we count the number of rooster calls we hear in the darkness.  Across the street there is a little blonde girl with glasses who happens to share the exact same birthdate as our little blonde girl with glasses, and the two houses next to her miraculously have two boys who love nothing more than dirt bikes.  I run into neighbors and friends of neighbors and friends of friends of neighbors at the schools, or church, or the grocery store, and without fail, this is the what I hear: "Oh, you're the family that bought the old farm house!  It is so nice to see a family living there!  We just love seeing bikes in the yard and kids running around and lights on at night!"  And I nod and smile and agree that we are just so happy to be here.  This is our eighth home in fifteen years, but our first time not living in a subdivision.  And while we've made friends everywhere we've lived, we have never felt so welcomed as we do here.  Even the fairies leave us sparkly gems on occasion!

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The past six months haven't been the easiest, and we knew it wouldn't be.  Unlike other homes that we've whipped into shape in a matter of weeks, Jason and I knew this would be a huge undertaking. And I think because we don't intend on moving any time soon, I'm okay with this.  I've got big plans for this place, but I'm not in a hurry.  I'll work on projects for a few days, and then take time to explore outside with the kids. This is the first chance I've had to really do what I want in a home-not just what will be best for re-sale.  I want to live here and get a feel for things and see what I need and what I don't.  I don't want to make this place new and unrecognizable; I want to keep as much of it as original as possible while also suiting it to our needs.  Things move at a slower pace out here and I'm adjusting quite nicely.  Most days, I get up before the kids to just sit with my coffee and enjoy the quietness.  When the windows are open I can hear cows in the distance and roosters waking up.  I imagine it was quite the same when this place was built in the late 1800's.  And the things I thought I would miss, like a dishwasher and garbage disposal and city water? Well, it turns out those things aren't that important.

When we went in search of a new home for our family, we didn't really know what we were looking for.  But when we found what we needed, it seemed like maybe this place needed us, too.

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