The burbs, revisited

October 17, 2011 at 4:41 am | Posted in Massholes, Starbucks, the 'burbs, weekend | 1 Comment
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There were approximately 20 children at my house today. There were pigs in blankets, cupcakes, cookies and juice boxes, footballs flying around the house, balloons being popped by rowdy boys, my son grabbing sugar cookies off the counter and eating them in one bite.

For this I blame my friend Melissa. Her daughter is about a month younger than mine; her son about a month younger than Little O. Like me, she moved from the city to the suburbs not long ago. When I saw her at our college reunion this spring, we caught up on our respective suburban lives. I confided that I wasn’t yet sure I loved the ‘burbs. I missed the city and my friends there and that I could stroll to the playground or Starbucks and inevitably run into someone I knew. In the ‘burbs I felt somewhat lonely and, as an extrovert, somewhat adrift in a car-dependent world seemingly dominated by stay-at-home moms.

She was having the opposite experience. “I have never been so busy in my life,” she said. What are you talking about? I said. “I am more social than I ever was in the city,” she replied. Surely, I suggested, this is because you moved back to your hometown; you must know tons of people.

“Nope,” she said. “I hardly knew anyone. But I’m aggressive. Listen, if you meet someone nice at Starbucks or at preschool, get her number and then text her the next day. Get coffee. Or better yet, wine.”

Really? I said. You’re truly that forward?

“I go on dates,” she said. “Basically: You’ve got to stalk.”

We’ve now lived here for two years, and I’m finally feeling like every time I go to the grocery store I run into someone I know. But when I saw my friend again a few weeks ago she asked me about my social progress. “Eh,” I admitted. “I’m a working mom. It’s hard to grab coffee.” She raised an eyebrow, clearly insinuating that I was being lame. So when I got home that night, I bit the bullet: we were going to have a Sunday afternoon Patriots party. I invited some neighbors and some friends we had gotten to know poolside at our little swim/golf club over the summer.

Everyone one could attend, it turns out. So some Barefoot Contessa chicken chili, a seven-layer dip, and Costco artichoke spread later, there were some 12 families, with on average two children each, at our house. I think my kids are going to wake up puking at 2 a.m. from all the sugar, but hopefully they’re too tired to do so.

Oh yes we did. Patriots balloons.

Little Bug impatiently waits for our guests.

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Whose job is more “important”?

October 14, 2011 at 8:28 am | Posted in small law, the firm, weekend | 6 Comments
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As any lawyer-mom will tell you, as stressful as stressing about your billable hours may be, just as stressful are the spousal negotiations that occur along the lines of “whose job is more important?” (This isn’t limited to lawyer-moms, I know — one of my doctor friends has the same negotiations with her doctor-spouse.) Weekends may subtly simmer with resentment — who gets to work on Sunday afternoon? Anecdotal evidence tells me that generally, unless she’s closing a deal, it’s the lawyer mom whose work takes a backseat, and probably this is because she’s on some type of reduced-hours schedule to begin with. So, let’s say because of those reduced hours or just because of the nature of their respective jobs, she’s making less money than her husband. Though I think all of us educated feminists are loathe to admit it, whether consciously or unconsciously, because we earn less money, even though our jobs are just as demanding as our spouses’, we end up losing that endless negotiation.

For me, this was one of the most difficult and stressful aspects of BigLaw. I was a junior associate on reduced hours, and I made rather significantly less money than my husband. He’s not an attorney, and I respect the responsibilities and demands that his executive position brings. But in my profession, I was being evaluated on a wholly objective standard — the billable hour. Whether or not I was on reduced time, if I didn’t bill the hours, I wouldn’t progress or succeed.  So if the nanny was sick or there was a doctor’s appointment or I didn’t work on the weekends, this had an immediate effect on my billables. And yet because I was the one working “part-time” those responsibilities fell to me. Don’t get me wrong — I wanted them to. But I also saw myself as the junior wage-earner and thus my job wasn’t as important. The billable hours slipped away, and I felt like a failure.

As you all know, I left BigLaw. I took a massive paycut. The upside of that paycut is an infinitely more flexible working environment — not to mention that I love my job. And yet here’s another upside: there’s no more job-related gamesmanship. My husband now makes much more than I do. In a way, he’s now the primary breadwinner. In addition, I’m not being evaluated solely on billables. So if he calls me at 5 p.m. and says, “Can I work late?” I no longer seethe with ill-concealed resentment. Or if he wants to go into the office on a Saturday, I’m a little bummed to miss out on the family time, but I don’t feel like his working highlights the fact that I’m not working (something which made me feel guilty and awful about my own work performance). If you know me, you know I am a flag-waiving feminist, so this next statement may sound very un-feminist: my husband’s job is more “important” than mine. And that’s OK. It’s our reality for the time being, a new reality and a risk we collectively undertook. Admitting it has taken away what I now realize was a corrosive undercurrent of stress and anxiety in our family life and in my professional life.

Channeling Tom Brady

October 11, 2011 at 8:33 am | Posted in Little O, Massholes, weekend | 3 Comments

It was time to cut off the baby curls. Surprisingly, Tim resisted as much as I did, but finally the hints from our parents and especially our nanny (who kept telling us that people at the playground thought he was a girl. I mean, who really cares, but still…) sunk in. After I took about a million pictures, we hit SuperCuts on Saturday morning. Just like Tom Brady, he went from shaggy to chic. And oh my god he looks like a LITTLE BOY.

Before

A little scared…

Half-way done…

Voila! My little guy, at 20 months.

The juggle

January 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the 'burbs, the firm, Uncategorized, weekend | 6 Comments

Yesterday morning, I drove the children to a suburb north of the city for a playdate. My friend has three children — a little girl just a week younger than Little Bug, and twin 17-month-old boys. She and I were classmates in college, and while we were friendly then, we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected a few years ago when our girls were infants — we lived just blocks from each other in the Back Bay and were both attorneys. Because she went right from college to law school, she is now a partner at her firm. Nevertheless, we have many of the same experiences being mothers and lawyers. Our girls play really well together, and Little O had fun chasing after the “big” boys. As the kids traipsed around her sunny playroom, we caught up in bits and snatches, and I found myself saying, “Now that we have such a great nanny, it’s really pretty doable.” And I believe that: with quality, reliable daycare, the working parent is free to pursue his or her career with much less anxiety. If the children are happy and well cared for, you can spend your days at work focusing on work, as opposed to worrying about what is going on at home. Our excellent nanny has made that possible for me.

But, then, there are the weekends. And holidays, such as today. When there is no nanny and, yet, because of the nature of our particular careers, we still have work to do. On weekends, Tim and I find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending negotiation about who gets to work when. Today, for example, he is going into the office from 10-3. He asked his mother to come over and help me out, which just means she and I will probably take the children to lunch at the local diner, and maybe she can stay with the baby while he naps and I can take Little Bug to the market with me or something. Fine — I’m grateful for the company and the ability to get some errands done. But I also have about three or four hours of work that I should do before tomorrow — two hours of which I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. When will I do mine? Before 10 or after 3, I suppose. When Tim works on weekends, I don’t begrudge him the time away from our family so much as I feel guilty that I should be working and I’m not. I don’t actually work all that often on weekends — but I always feel like I should be doing so (everyone else at my office seems to be) — and so when Tim steals away to put in a few hours himself, it reminds me that I’m probably slipping behind.

If I weren’t working at all, would these weekend tensions ease? Maybe not because I might feel like the weekends were family time or my time — a break, perhaps, from a long week spent taking care of the children. That would be a different negotiation between my husband and me. But I wouldn’t feel this constant sense of inferiority to my own colleagues, one that I fear manifests itself in my relationship with my hard-working spouse. In a two-career family, does one spouse’s career necessarily take priority over the other’s? And is that the career of the highest earner? It seems that things would shake themselves out this way, but I don’t feel like I’m in the type of job — junior associate at a big law firm — where my career can take second fiddle and maintain any sort of longetivity. Just as I’m starting to feel like maybe I am doing the right thing (and have the childcare to make it possible, at least during the week), I’m reminded that — while many of my colleagues are in the office on weekends and holidays — that will never be me, and I’ll probably never really measure up. This is frustrating, and I feel terrible that sometimes my family bears the brunt of this frustration.

How did I get here?

December 1, 2010 at 8:27 am | Posted in little bug, SAHM, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, weekend | 2 Comments

Sick Little Bug, with the “ellie”, watching our favorite movie, Madeline. Actually, her favorite movie might be anything featuring Dora (groan). But this is mine!

We’re all a little run down at our house. As usual, I packed too much into our Thanksgiving weekend. It was wonderful: we visited with my baby nephew and a whole slew of Murphys and beloved cousins; we invited some of our new neighbors and friends over for cocktails (so adult! so suburban!); and we celebrated my brother-in-law’s 40th at an 80s-prom-themed birthday, complete with 80s DJ and several costume changes for the birthday boy (insane). Against my better judgment, I sent Little Bug to school yesterday with tired tired eyes and feeling slightly warm (I asked repeatedly if she wanted to stay home but she begged to go to school), and so of course by 9:30 the head of the school called to say she was running a fever and had to come home.

She is inordinately sweet when sick (so much so that we realized yesterday morning that she was probably ill when she kept repeating over and over, “I love you, Mommy. I love you, Daddy. I love my baby brother…” etc. etc.).  This morning it was difficult to walk out the door when she kept running over for “one more big hug. No, wait, just one more kiss!”

As is often the case, though, by the time I got to work and navigated the Starbucks line downstairs, my mind was focused on my day’s client meetings, conference calls, and revisions. By the time I rode the elevator up to my office, with its sweeping views over the Charles, the Salt and Pepper Bridge and MIT, and the airport, I was happy I was here. Happy because sometimes I still get a little thrill that wait, I’m really a lawyer. I wear lawyerly clothes to work (today: Theory shift dress, black tights, heels, and a tweedy, Chanel-esque [emphasis on the “esque“] jacket in honor of my client meeting). I have conference calls and meetings with clients in glassy conference rooms on the top floor of our skyscraper building. I write and say things like, “It is reasonable to conclude that…”

Yesterday, I looked on as a very senior partner marked up a document I had drafted. His lawyerly edit marks mirrored those my father used to scratch on the reams and reams of documents he brought home. Again, I thought: I’m a part of this tribe — a life so familiar to me as a child, but one that I still can’t wrap my head around that I actually inhabit and perpetuate. 

My mind will, of course, be half at home all day, thinking of my sick little girl. But I also know that, all the usual BigLaw firedrills and false deadlines and general anxiety aside, I do like what I do. And this is what is sometimes very hard to reconcile with my life “at home.”

Thank you…

March 6, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, Starbucks, weekend | 2 Comments

… thank you to everyone who emailed me, both via the comments and privately, after my “So Lonely” post. I felt both supported and relieved — that my feelings are not unique, that I’m not going crazy, and that, most important, as the weather gets nicer and I get some sleep, things will start to seem more routine. Caring for an infant is inherently isolating — you’re a slave to feeding schedules and diaper changes and, in the winter, the weather. And so on this sunny, lamb-like March day, things seem a little brighter. 

Besides, how could this face not cheer you up a bit?

Or this one? (She is saying, “Cheese!” by the way.) Taking the advice of almost everyone, I took the plunge and hired a babysitter. Little Buggy and I thus made it out of the house yesterday for a Starbucks run (of course) and then storytime at the library. Just getting two hours alone with her seemed to make her noticeably less clingy. Plus, we actually had a lot of fun. 

And then, as my family always does in difficult times, they showed up. Erin was in town for the weekend, so she and Jennifer stopped by to be doting aunties.

My mother and Henry made an appearance, as well. Here are Little Buggy and my mother, having a tea party.  In her sweetest, most non-terrible-two-ish way she asked, “Can you have a tea party with me, Mimi?” 

And so I’ll keep trying to enjoy this gorgeous spring weekend before things turn lion-ish again. Which inevitably, they will, but it is inspiring and encouraging to know that so many people reading this blog have paved this path ahead of me. Again, thank you.

New Year’s, again

December 30, 2009 at 7:00 am | Posted in gastronomy, little bug, running, Starbucks, the firm, Uncategorized, weekend, wine, yoga | Leave a comment
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Last year my resolutions were regimented and ambitious and accompanied by this photo:

Unabashed self-improvement, complete with a killer bod. This year, when I’m quickly moving into end-of-pregnancy, out-of-breath lethargy and clearly will be starting my new year at a decided fitness disadvantage, I almost have to laugh at last year’s idealism.

So I’ll be a bit more realistic. I really do love making New Year’s resolutions — I love a challenge, and I love self-improvement. I love setting goals and diving head-first into meeting them, even if they are forgotten in a few weeks. The planning and that initial, exhilarating dive energize me.

Gretchen Rubin, who writes a blog called the Happiness Project (and has a new book out by the same name, which I pre-ordered, of course!), had some thoughtful suggestions for die-hard resolvers such as myself:

  • Ask: “What would make me happier?
  • Ask: “What is a concrete action that would bring about change?
  • Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?”
  • Ask: “Am I starting small enough?
  • Ask: “How am I going to hold myself accountable?”

With these tips in mind for 2010, I considered not that which would make me better (e.g., eat healthier, lose weight, etc.), nor anything rigidly goal-related (with a baby and a six-month work hiatus rapidly approaching, I just have no idea how anything career-related is going to sort itself out — and I’m not going to try to force anything, e.g., “bill more hours” or “turn blog into advertising bonanza”). Instead, I considered that which, simply, might make me happier.

What does actually make me truly happy? I didn’t consider the obvious yet existential stuff — such as my daughter laying her head on my shoulder or my husband rolling over and putting his arm around me in the early early mornings for a few more minutes of sleep. But almost guilty, materialistic pleasures — what if I tried to embrace these with the resolution to be, well, just happier

What makes me happy:

1.  Very very long very very hot showers. 
2.  Saturday morning yoga with Claire or Rhea at Baron Baptiste.
3.  4.5 mile runs when the stars are aligned (pleasant conditions, before breakfast or as the sun sets, a good running mix)
4.  Starbucks grande soy no foam no water chai (oh, but these are SO bad for you, so perhaps they are best saved for an occasional indulgence of which that I will try to be mindful in the moment — see #9, below).
5.  Opening a new bottle of red wine — from the sound of the cork popping, to that first swirl and smell, to pouring another glass. I love the ritual as much as anything else.
6.  Afternoon naps on the weekends (especially if they follow either #2 or #3).
7.  Friday nights, with wine, in front of the TV and a good dinner of something with pasta and cheese with Tim (though depending on how much wine, #2 or #3 may not be as pleasant).
8.  People and US Weekly.
9.  Catching myself in the present, as brief or startling as it may be: hearing a song in the car that links past to present; running; yoga; wine; reading a passage in a book or magazine or blog that strikes me as true and real. 

My friend Lindsey has been featuring a series on her blog called Present Tense, in which she asks bloggers about the moments in which they are truly present. It’s interesting to read about what the idea of “being present” means to others, and it’s also nice to know that it is as difficult for others as it is for me.

As for resolutions, then (and thinking back to last year’s), cleaning up the house and cooking  — while I enjoy the results of both, and am learning to love the process of the latter, especially with a glass of #5 in hand — don’t necessarily bring me immediate pleasure, as aspirational as they are.  Maybe, then, all of these things that do bring real relaxation and happiness serve as subconscious conduits to #9? Is that the point?

As I embark on a year that promises a few changes, the clean house will happen or it won’t (remember this post ?). Perhaps clearing a path for some of these less lofty moments – and acknowledging how much I enjoy them – can lead ultimately to #9.

First snow

December 6, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Posted in little bug, tax law is sexy, the 'burbs, the firm, weekend | Leave a comment
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And, just like that — December 6 — it’s Christmastime.

Little Bug woke up and saw the snow and shouted, “I want to build a snow-man!” We tried…

…but all we could manage in the light fluffy snow was a snow turtle.

I’m not sure she bought it.

Somehow, I still managed to bill 8.5 hours today. Oh, I know how: I worked from 3-7 a.m., and then went into the office after lunch, leaving Tim and Little Bug to nap, watch football, and go to the market. I was wide awake at 2:50 this morning:  heartburn, post-nasal drip, and a stiff neck from trying to sleep propped up on three pillows thanks to the former two symptoms. My mind was racing thinking about all the work I missed Thursday and Friday while isolated in our family sanitarium. So I just got up and worked. The snow had stopped and outside it was utterly silent.  My little home office was warm and bright, I was snug in my fleece robe and wool slippers, and I accomplished more in those peaceful four hours than I would have had I even been in on Friday, or likely will tomorrow.

Post-Thanksgiving lull

December 4, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Posted in little bug, weekend, wine | 2 Comments
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Some of my loyal readers have accused me politely inquired: “Your job is safe and you stop blogging?” Apparently. The nervous anticipation of my review stirred up some sort of impassioned creativity, and probably not entirely unconsciously I was sharpening up my writing chops a bit. And then, it turned out I was not going to be fired, and I started focusing on work again. It’s a relief to be busy and to feel secure and happy in my job for these remaining few weeks before I go on maternity leave for six months.

Also, I have been contemplating my blog. It is a “real” blog? I don’t write anything too deep, profound, or inspiring. I don’t really comment on other blogs or link to them or analyze them or do guest posts. I’m not entrenched in the “blogging” community and, while it would be nice and I know people who have developed important, profound, and even intimate relationships via commenting on each other’s blogs, it seems like a full-time endeavor — as if you have to truly embrace the identity of “blogger” to do so. (Example: on some of the design blogs I read obsessively, they throw each other “virtual baby showers.” Instead of a real baby shower, each blogger writes a post and picks gifts they would give the honoree, such as an antique crib or amazing print or something like that.)

Instead, I’m just a lawyer and a former writer and a mom with a blog and apparently my friends (and maybe some others) like to read about what I’ve been up to. I’d like to take this a step further — to be more connected to some sort of external, parallel-blogging world. But I don’t have the time, yet. I don’t think. Also (and this clearly is just representative of my own insecurities): I find the whole blogging world — be it mommy blogs or legal blogs or inspirational blogs or design blogs — somewhat competitive. Who is commenting on whom? Linking to whom? Giving a shout-out on Twitter to whom? Obviously, if one is enmeshed in this world, it is fun and exciting and a way of meeting new people and communicating. But if you can’t post every day or be on Twitter every day or whatever, it’s hard to keep up. And I feel left out, out of the loop — an all-too familiar feeling that I’ve spent decades trying to conquer in various ways. For now, then, I’ll just write my simple little posts and if and when there’s is time, maybe I’ll try to jump back in again.

So, then:  It’s December. We had Thanksgiving at our new house — 20 people in all (5 little kids, 3 teenagers, 12 adults). I was more than happy to host, but graciously accepted my mother- and sisters-in-laws’ offers to do all the actual cooking. Fortunately, I married into a family who loves to cook (almost competitively so). I was responsible only for my favorite parts of a dinner party anyway: the decor (I love setting formal tables), the wine, and the cheese and crackers.

I never would have thought I’d seat 14 people at my dining room table (really, two tables pushed together).

Neither had I seen my silver or china in years and years!

The Murphy crowd. They love any and all board/card games.

Unfortunately, despite not cooking, hosting still proved a bit too much for my immune system (and Tim’s and Little Bug’s). I was on my feet all day, probably not hydrated enough, and I haven’t really felt entirely well since, and two days ago came down with an excruciating sore throat. Tim has been sick enough over the past week-and-a-half to not only finish one course of antibiotics but return to the doctor for more. Little Bug threw up on the car on Saturday and came down with a fever. She seemed well enough two days later, but yesterday I took her back to the doctor with a fever of 102.5. She’s now also on amoxicillin and suffering from her first ear infection (although, considering by the time I was her age I had had about 20 ear infections and would soon have tubes put in my ears, I consider this a feat of health! Maybe it was the breastfeeding?) Tim and I both “worked from home” today so as not to infect our co-workers (and also because generally we are coughing, wheezing disasters). Oh, I think I just need a good night’s sleep, but since Tylenol is the strongest drug I can really take right now, that might be a few more days. Fortunately, my friend Erin alerted me to the wonders of Benadryl (safe for pregnant women!), not so much for allergies but as a sleep aid. Last night I took one at 7:30 p.m. and again at 2 a.m. I hope it’s not addictive.

Still, I’m excited it’s December. Little Bug has taken a liking to Christmas carols (especially anything with “reindeer” in the song, e.g., Rudolph or my favorite, the Beach Boys’ “Little St. Nick,” which has the catchy, high-pitched refrain, “Run, run reindeer!”) We have cancelled all plans for the weekend and hopefully will all be on the mend soon.

Home Depot trip, Friday after Thanksgiving.  Want to guess whether we ended up buying this hat?

Weekend

November 8, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Posted in little bug, Starbucks, the 'burbs, weekend | Leave a comment
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Saturday

First stop: haircut.
The before shot:

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The after shot:

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Haircut was followed by breakfast at our “old” Starbucks on Newbury St.:

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Afterwards, we strolled a few blocks to visit our “old” playground:

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Being at CSP made me a bit nostalgic. I logged a lot of hours at this playground.  As we walked down Commonwealth Ave. towards Clarendon, Little Bug got so excited when she realized where we were going. 

Sunday

Four families, six children for brunch. Kara, Lindsey, and I were close friends/roommates in college. Tennessee and Emily are married. Kara’s brother and Tennessee were roommates in college. I went to Columbia J-school with Tennessee. Lindsey and Emily met when they were 7-years-old and went to middle school together in Cambridge. Emily used to be a lawyer at my firm. Lots of connections.

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This is exactly why we bought a house with a swingset in the suburbs. 

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Riding the wave of my kitchen ambition, I made two casseroles to freeze, one for Thursday or Friday night and one for another week. Ingredients: sauteed onion, spinach, browned turkey, penne, Classico sauce, gruyere, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. I just made this recipe up. Nothing fancy (and I feel almost embarrassed divulging it knowing sarabclever will be reading it…), but on a Friday night it is absolutely delicious. (For brunch, by the way, I made this strada and banana bread from a Martha Stewart recipe.)

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Buggy’s little 9-year-old “friends” came over. There are a half dozen fourth- or fifth-grade girls in the neighborhood, and they absolutely adore her. I think they think of her like a pet. They knock on the door and give her big hugs and play with her for a bit but then clearly grow a bit bored of a barely literate 2-year-old and eventually send her on her way. Buggy, however, worships them. “There are my friends!” she cries happily whenever she sees them out on the sidewalk rollerblading or drawing with chalk.

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Finally, we went to our condo to take some pictures for our upcoming all-out marketing blitz. Someday, if I’m completely devoid of inspiration, I’ll tell the long tale of the condo that we thought we sold and so therefore contracted to buy our new house, but the buyer backed out and now we have two mortgages (hello, mortgage interest deduction!) If you, or anyone you know, wants a new construction two-bedroom, two-bath next to the red line in Milton, MA, with a water view, let me know… I couldn’t be more serious.

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See how nice the view is?

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