the few…the proud…the incredibly sore

Educator’s Workshop at Paris Island March 1-4, 2016 for the Recruiting Station of Columbia, South Carolina…holy cow…what an amazing experience.  The sign that speaks 2016-03-03 07.20.02 (2)the mission of the base really says it all.  “We Make Marines”

My participation in this workshop tops the list of professional development experiences and learning  about what I can do to help young people to find their paths, wherever they may lead.2016-03-01 15.26.41

Our group of 30 educators stayed in Beaufort and traveled to the base daily.  We met Marines and recruits and learned what it takes to be a US Marine.  We also were able to experience shooting the M 16, repelling down a 50 foot wall, running the obstacle course, and of course, visiting the pit.

The PIT – a sandy spot that looks like it is ready for a beach volleyball game, but I assure you this is not a fun spot.  PIT, I believe stands for “personal incentive training”.  Now, I don’t know if that is an official breakdown or one of affection.  I know we all thought that some “personal incentive training” could be very effective in our classrooms.

The repel wall… one marine at the top and one at the bottom.  These 2 men are there to make sure you go down safely.  You could pass out and drop and still be lowered without harm.  This did not assuage my fear AT ALL!   So, here is the whole story.  When we first arrived, they put us in formation and said “those that have no intention of repelling please go to the back fence”.  I did not move.  I was in.  The instructor explained what was going to happen and told us to go get our gear.  I walked with the group, but in the room with the gear – I bailed.  I came out empty handed…I just could not do it.  My fear of heights was going to win today.

2016-03-03 09.51.43The Marines that we were working with over the course of the 4 days expressed their dismay as I passed by to join the non-participants.  I stood to the side for the 20 minute preparations of the group – anger growing and frustration brewing.  Not only was I battling my fear of heights, but I had just hurt my knee on the obstacle course (read about that here).  Still, I could not take it any longer and I walked up to my Drill Instructor and said “I don’t want to wuss out – is it too late?”  No it was not.  They went and got gear and got me ready in 60 seconds flat.  As I climbed the stairs the shaking began.  I tried not to think about it as I watched educator after educator disappear over the side.  It was finally my turn.

Marine number 1 hooked me up, told me to step back, and then, just lean back.  I tried and tried.  We were to put our heals over the edge – half on, half off sort of thing.  And then, keep legs straight and do a trust fall – 50 feet in the air – with the guy that is going to “catch” you 50 feet below.  I kept staring into the eyes of Marine number one and listening to the voices of those below – trying to distinguish  that of Marine number two.  I had my first heal over the edge.  As I tried to inch my other foot back, I rocked back and forth, left to right, not really making any progress.  As the anxiety level rose, I had to step from the edge completely again.  UGH!  I repeated this twice.  Seriously?  I was so frustrated that I could not overcome this.  I wanted it so badly!  My Marine was so patient and so good and calming a woman on the edge.

Again, I get my right heel over the edge.  “Now, just move your left foot,” he said.  Sure.     “I’m trying!”  I screamed.  Mental note – do not piss off the Marine holding the rope.   Deep breath.  Finally, I edged the foot back and he said , “you are there – now just lean back.” and in one fell swoop I dropped over the edge.  The exhilaration at all time high in this 46-year-old life – I made it half way down the wall before they stopped me.  My fingers were dangerously close to the rig and we needed to reposition before they lowered me the rest of the way.  Whew.  When I hit the ground it was hard to even think straight because the adrenaline was so high.  I do remember, however, giving a great big hug to Marine number two.

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I can see why they make recruits to this.  A trust and confidence builder for sure.  I am so grateful for the experience and to two very special Marines that I will never forget.

“You and Me Against the World”

Released in 1971 –  The song was written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams – two men.  I never would have guessed it.  Fast forward 17-18 years or so, after my parents split for the second time and my brothers were doing their own thing,  it was just me and my mom mourning the loss of our family alone, together.

Fast forward to 1993 – my mom passed and I was a single mother with a 13 month old daughter. I often sang this song to my daughter at night when I put her to sleep.

What the song is about: A single mother’s anthem. A mother sings to her daughter about their journey through life together.

My favorite lines:

“You and me against the world,
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walk away,
You can count on me to stay.”

What the words mean to me: This is the verse that first pushed me to sing this at night to my daughter.  My mom stayed.  She was a rock, a dependable, persistent rock.  I wanted my daughter to feel safe and secure and to know that I would be present – always – and that she could depend on me and never disappoint me.

This verse also has the hint of how I depended on her.  I put all of my energy into this little girl and our life together.  After my mom died, my daughter kept me going out of sheer necessity – food, shelter, etc.  Then, my daughter kept me going because I wanted to give her a better life and I was the only one in the world that could do it.  We were alone, together.

“And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
You and me against the world.

What the words mean to me:  I often cried through these lyrics.  Still do.  I wrote this in an earlier post about my mother and another Helen Reddy song – “My mother remains my hero and a visage of strength, powering through life’s challenges with courage, integrity, and conviction.” (Read that post here.)  I never thought anything could ever really keep her down or take her away from me.  I think I sang this to my daughter, in part, to try to prepare us both for the day we will be apart.  When my mom took ill and died 10 weeks later, I had never considered for one moment that she could be taken away from me.  So naive at 22.

I think of my mother every day.  Memories are all I have of her…and ‘remembering will have to do’.  She is in my heart and the heart of my children – even the ones she never got to meet.  They have been touched by her because I have been.

The tears through these lyrics also let me express my sorrow to my daughter.  They allowed me show my daughter that it is okay to be sad and express your feelings…and that life does, indeed, go on.  I would speak of my mother and recall fond memories of her, sharing the stories.  I would tell Alexis that grandma is in heaven and I will see her again one day.  Which leads me to the next verse.

 

“And for all the times we’ve cried I always felt that
God was on our side.

What the words mean to me: I spoke of God and faith to my small, little girl.  Although my anger towards Him exploded within me at times, and I questioned my faith when such an angel as my mother had to suffer so, and to meet such an ugly, early end – I know that the same faith got me through.  The same faith that God has a plan is the same faith that helped me to raise a beautiful and talented young lady.  I see my mother in her, now – strong, smart, confident, kind, independent, forthright, and loving.  This brings me peace.

Full Lyrics for “You and Me Against the World”:

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walk away,
You can count on me to stay.

Remember when the circus came to town
And you were frightened by the clown,
Wasn’t it nice to be around someone that you knew,
Someone who was big and strong and looking out for

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world
And for all the times we’ve cried I always felt that
God was on our side.

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
You and me against the world.

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Love Bucket

Flowers!!!  So, my husband brought daffodils to my classroom the other day.  He had cut them fresh from our front yard and wanted to brighten my day.  Needless to say, it worked.

Many different analogies cover relationships and how we balance ourselves, how we judge our contentment and happiness.  I choose to go with the love bucket.  Perhaps you saw that I referred to it in another post – Slushie to the Face.  Anyway, it is very obvious.  When you are treated with kindness and thoughtfulness, when your needs are placed in front of others – your bucket gets a scoop of lovin’.   If your love bucket runs empty then you have no way of filling anyone else’s.  And that really is the goal, isn’t it?  To fill others with love?

I try very hard to fill the love buckets of those in my life.  On this day, though – my husband really nailed it.  I had commented on how pretty they looked in the front yard and even said the words…whose day could I make brighter tomorrow by bringing them some fresh, bright yellow flowers? I promise this was in no way a passive aggressive hint to my husband that I would like for him to bring them to me.  That’s just not how I work; or how he does.  In fact, until this day I would have told you that I had a much better chance of having flowers in my classroom if I  just cut them for myself rather than wait for him to do it.

Let me explain – that is not a slam against him – it’s just now how he thinks, generally. I mean, if he cuts them, then they will die sooner.  If he cuts them and removes them from the house, then we cannot enjoy them at home…where we spend most of our time together.  I get it. They are planted there – they should stay there.  Now, that’s how he thinks.  That all just adds to the gesture.

Wow.  Nice one, honey.  To be surprised after all these years.  Not just by the flowers, but by the change in perspective.  My bucket runneth over.  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to make me feel loved.  These daffodils are way better than any store bought flowers because we grew them together – gross, right?  The grosser the sentiment, the fuller the bucket – that’s just how the love bucket works.  Have you handed out your scoop of lovin’ today?

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“Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Released in 1971 – John Denver first released this song written by  Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver

What the song is about: No hidden meaning here…it’s about the country roads of West Virginia and the joy of traveling home.

My favorite lines:

“Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads”

What the words mean to me: I wanted to belong somewhere and I longed for a country road to take me home.  My home was not in West Virginia, or in the mountains, but I guarantee my home had my momma.  I longed for her when I was a child.  We were sent to my grandmother’s home in Florida every summer due to the need for child care.  My dad had John Denver on an 8-track tape and I remember listening to it in the car – both directions.  On the way to Florida it made me very sad.  All I could think about was how much I was going to miss my mom and dad.  On the way back to Ohio at the end of the summer I felt lost because abandoning my grandmother did not seem like the right thing to do, but I so did not like being there.  I wanted to be with my mother and father – always.

There was one road in particular that I will always remember on the journey home that this song brings to mind.  It is barren and straight and goes on forever.  It felt symbolic of how far away and empty I always felt as a child – no matter where I was.

Take Me Home, Country Roads – full lyrics

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

All my memories, they gather ’round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrops in my eyes

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

I hear her voice in the mornin’ hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin’ down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, West Virginia, mountain momma, oh momma
Take me home, country roads
Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads

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Getting back in the game.

So, after a lifetime of an on again, off again relationship with running – I finally ran my first marathon 2 months ago at 46.  It was my third attempt at training and my first time at the starting line.  Read about it here.

I did all the research about recovery – what I should eat, what kind of time to take off.  The moment I crossed the finish line I knew I wanted to run another.  Fast forward 2 months – I have really struggled with getting back out there.  I knew this was possible.  It, too, was in the research.  I mean, I have been running, but not with the passion and fervor that kept me training through the cold and rain.  And the 3 miles feel like 10.   Also, I hurt my whole right leg – bruised every part of my knee-joint and connective tissue when I landed hard, sadly, from a marine corps obstacle course rope swing (whew – that was a mouthful).  This does not help the motivation to run.

Honestly, my schedule during track season makes it very difficult to run.  Our meets keep me out until 10 or 10:30 pm.  On nights that we do not have meets I get home around 5:30 – generally physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.  The other night, after a track meet, I crawled into bed around 11:30 and I hurt more from toe to hip than I ever did before, during, or after my marathon training.  I had a restless night and awoke feeling the same way – simply aching.  Standing at the finish line for 5 and a half hours on that track – after a day of standing on concrete floors – I guess is just too much for this 46-year-old lady.

Friday morning I emailed the male track coach who has great experience that I like to tap into now and again.  I asked him “what am I doing wrong to feel so awful?”  He suggested that I still needed to recover from my marathon.  Say what?  I struggled with this idea. Big time.

So, I jogged a few laps on Friday before the kids all hit the track. Then, I stretched well and promptly walked over to the trainer to get that knee iced down.  The knee has been feeling better – and I have been under her care since the injury.  Her suggestion has been to use it – keep running and keep checking in with her.  No problem.

 

I ran a 5k with some friends on Saturday – I felt pretty strong, surprisingly.  This morning, Sunday, I also ran with some confidence.  I ran and easy, easy 4.5 and stretched and iced everything.  I have been also been drinking a lot of water this weekend.  I think I am going with that I was severely dehydrated on Thursday.

I need to get a race on the board.  A half, I think.  And a few 5ks through the spring.

What’s the point of this post?  I am running – and I am not going to let my busy schedule, painful  15 hour days, or anything else keep me from running.  Now if I can just believe that because, evidently, getting back in the game is hard after a marathon.

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Batter up!

I just sat through the first scrimmage of our girls softball team for this season and boy was it cold!   So, after coaching track and going on a run with my husband, the weather seemed tolerable enough – oh no — no, no.  The lack of clothing on my body and the failure to stretch after my run, and the (what felt like) 20 degree drop – not a good combo – I have some tight muscles!

Anyway, I enjoy going to the sporting events of my students.  I try so hard so go at least once every season to every sport.  My goal is 2-3, but sometimes I just cannot make that happen.

As I looked at the softball team tonight I realized I either currently teach or have taught every girl on the team, by far the highest volume of students of any sport.  And, although my fingers maintain little feeling still as I type this post – my pride for these girls knows no bounds.  Although I left after 2 hours and they still had more game to play, at one point they were down zero to 7.  They fought their way back to an 11-7 lead.  Nothing makes me more certain that I am in the right place when I see young folks rise above and conquer.  It had nothing to do with me – I was merely a spectator.  But, boy it felt good to see them fight and find that success.

I do not know at this time if they won the game, but they definitely won my heart (too much?).  Well  it’s true – and I know that I am a big sap!  If you get a chance to attend a sporting event at a local high school I encourage you to take it.  These kids work tirelessly at their sport.  We often hear comments like “this generation is so lazy”, “these kids are so entitled”, “no one wants to work for anything anymore”.  But these kids go to school all day, maintain their grades with homework (sometimes hours), and practice every single day for 2 hours after school – not to mention friends, jobs and chores.  And yes, I put friends on the list because, let’s face it, relationships of all kinds are work.  These kids work hard. These kids have drive.  I was so tired after work today…but then I just remembered how tired my students must be, too – and so I go and sit in the cold.  Way to go girls!

***update – I wrote this a few days ago – the girls won the game.  I have since been to a few more games and they continue to thrive! Go Canes!

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Yanks out for a run in Killarney, Ireland

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Me and my travel buddy, Kelly

I love to grab my phone and go out for an early morning run while on tour with my students.  Unfortunately, exhaustion tends to take over and the rest becomes more important as we move through our 14 hour days of walking and sight-seeing while traveling abroad.

 

Still, when I am able to do this I am able to see a few things that I would have otherwise missed.  Plus, running through town can really give you a sense of what it is like.  I mean, you are on foot and don’t have the protection of a vehicle or a large group.   You smell smells and hear sounds that you would otherwise miss – things that really add to the ambiance of a town.   If it feels unsafe – you usually know it right away.  Still, I would never run where I thought I might be unsafe.  We always discuss the area with our tour consultant and folks at the hotel to ensure our safety – and I would never run alone.

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Our Hotel in Killarney

While in Killarney, our first stop on the Britannia with EF Tours, my travel buddy and I went out for a short run – about 2 miles.  We went away from town in the opposite direction from which we arrived.  It did not disappoint.  Our first lesson was to run on the correct side of the path.  We were running on the right and the running path/bike path follows the rules of the road.  We ran into only one person before we realized our error and began keeping to the left.

First, we saw a flock of sheep in a field with a lovely backdrop.  OUR FIRST FLOCK!!!2015-06-18 17.19.53

We ran to a bridge as saw this lovely view.2015-06-18 17.18.00

We went out a mile and then backtracked.  There was a lovely gentleman selling strawberries near this bridge and he gave us a taste.  They were fresh and yummy.

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Our tour bus never did make it this way.  I feel like I won a special prize when I get to experience these places with a short run.  Stinky clothes remain the problem.  I can put them in ziplock baggies with dryer sheets, but they really need a washing machine!

 

 

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Read about more group travel trip here.

Read about my first marathon here.

 

 

 

“I Am Woman”

Released in 1971 – I was merely 2 years old when this song was originally released, but it found its way into my life through my mother.  After my parents divorced I heard this often – maybe because I was finally old enough to listen.  It has become my personal anthem, as well.  Any adversity that I face, any time I struggle – I put on this song and scream it out over and over again.   Often times, the adversity that I actually face is missing my mother – who passed when I was merely 22 years old.  I cannot hear it and not think of her…I cannot think of her and not hear it.  She remains my hero and a visage of strength, powering through life’s challenges with courage, integrity, and conviction.

What the song is about: These lyrics are simply about the strength a woman finds in herself.

My favorite lines:

“Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman”

What the words mean to me:   My life experiences have led me to the depths of despair and I have been able to crawl out of the darkness, time and time again.  I am empowered by my victories, as well as forever scarred.  My mother would tell me all the time that “God never gives you more than you can handle”.   And she favored “that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”.   Her strength of faith in herself and God speak to me through these lines.

“As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land”

What the words mean to me: My mother’s heart overflowed with love and compassion for all people.  She did not see race or class.  She did not look down on others – ever.  She embraced everyone with patience and love and always tried to help those in need.  She’s got the whole world…in her hands.

“But I’m still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand”

What the words mean to me:  I take these lines quite literally, often, when I am trying to connect to either of my ACTUAL brothers. Good grief.

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 I Am Woman

By Helen Reddy

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

[Chorus:]
Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

[Chorus]

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

Songwriters: HELEN REDDY, RAY BURTON
© Universal Music Publishing Group

 

the wrong kind of goodbye

As a teacher I am used to saying goodbye.  Students move in and out of the district, always coming and going.  Farewells naturally occur at the end of every school year as I pass along my little cherubs to the next lucky soul that gets to touch their lives. Often times I ignore my feelings of loss and try to focus on the next batch of students that lie in wait.  However, when I lose a student to death…well, that is just the wrong kind of goodbye.

I recently attended the funeral services of a sweet young lady named Danielle.  A senior at my high school, she had yet to see her 18th birthday, had yet to recieve her diploma, had yet to live her dreams.  I taught Danielle when she was a freshman and although there is a certain detachment that occurs between student and teacher when the student is no longer a regular in the classroom – there is always a connection as our life paths have crossed.

Filling the needs of students drives me as a teacher.  Sometimes I fill their minds with knowledge and growth.  Sometime I fill their heart with love and acceptance.  Sometimes I fill their bellies.  Sometimes, honestly, I don’t know what I am doing or if I am making a difference in their lives at all – but they always, always make a difference in mine.  I carry hope for all students that enter and leave my classroom that they live long lives, find joy and love, reach their goals, and live free from despair.  So, when I say goodbye to them because they move on to another grade – I never really say goodbye – until it’s the wrong kind of goodbye.

Danielle drove off the road and into some trees.  Two passengers also died.  One survived.  Danielle’s speed led to the accident and an unforgiving road on a sharp turn sealed her fate.  Our community loses too many young people to these roads.  We say too many of the wrong kind of goodbyes.  As I sat at her funeral service and looked at all of the beautiful flowers, I was surrounded by current and former students. Oddly, I focused on a wasp thavasflowers-colorful-sympathy-casket-spray_maxat had found his way into the chapel.  This wasp, rather than hovering on the mounds of colorful blooms that were gathered around the coffin, sputtered at the ceiling as if trying to escape the pain and suffering in the room.  I remember thinking that his flight path was staggered and haphazard; misguided and misdirected – simply all over the place, as if a strong, shifiting wind kept him from going his intended direction. It seemed so symbolic of life sometimes.  Determined, however misguided, he pounded himself into the white ceiling again and again to no avail – no escape.  Eventually, he gave up and landed on the chandelier and remained motionless, as if he had found peace.  When the preacher began to speak I lost sight of the wasp as I focused on the words of the man.  Tears do not scare me, nor do I shy away from public displays of emotion, especially in a situation like this.  But, I was trying to be strong for the students around me.  So when I found myself overcome with emotion I searched for the wasp again in an attempt to distract myself. However, much to my disappointment, I could not find the wasp.  The wasp was gone.  The wasp had found his way out; he was free.  Right then, as my eyes swelled with tears, I realized that Danielle is also free.  She is free from all of this pain and suffering.  Her struggles have ended and she has found peace with her Savior. Still, I remain, looking at her grieving parents, and cannot help but feel that this is the wrong kind of goodbye.

When I returned home I did as expected – I hugged my chldren, cried into their shoulders, and told them that I love them.  I spoke to them about speeding and reckless decisions.  They are teenagers, afterall.  “Please don’t ever do that to me,” I told my son.  “I would be lost without you,” I told my daughter.  They heard my message; they felt my love and despair for Danielle and the wrong kind of goodbye.

 

**The featured photo is of a banner that the students signed as a way to help them greive and say goodbye to their friend, their classmate. Sadly, this has becomre tradition.

 

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Arms waving, feet flying – This is my life!!

Rome, Italy: Picture this  – a 10 year old American boy running full speed down the cobblestone street – arms spread out and waving in the air – excitedly and repeatedly screaming at the top of his lungs “This is my liiiifffffe!”,   “This is my liiiifffffe!”

I wish I would have snapped a photo of this little boy. Happiness consumed him until he actually burst and could no longer contain himself.  Pure joy.  And pure energy. After we witnessed this, my travel buddy and I decided to strike this pose whenever we were feeling overcome with that joy of realizing how amazing it is that we can visit and experience such beautiful places.

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This is our life – in Florence, Italy

Travel with us through this blog!  So far, you can climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvuius, visit the ruins of Pompeii, or spend a day in England visiting Stonehenge, Abbey Road and the home of Sherlock Holmes.  I lead student tours through Europe – follow me to see where we go next!

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