When your heart is broken, you need human contact, ProJo

Posted on August 3, 2015
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Rita Watson
Special to the Journal/ Posted Jul. 26, 2015 @ 12:01 am

In today’s texting society, loving and leaving have become depersonalized. We send little yellow heads that throw kisses instead of looking someone in the eyes and saying, “I love you.” When the infatuation ends, the dreaded break-up text arrives. Whether walking on the air of infatuation or feeling the joy of love at first sight, you are probably experiencing an emotional love high. But here is the irony. Researchers tell us that through brain imaging studies, they have determined that love can mimic a cocaine-like high. And in terms of feelings, rejection is similar to cocaine withdrawal.

Strangely enough when he loves you and leaves you, you both may be hurting in ways that are not expressed. Oftentimes this comes from the tension of unspoken expectations. Or it may be that he is resistant to the relationship talk to clear the air. We are losing touch. When the text messages drift away and then stop, the emoticon with tears does not really convey the heart’s sadness. If you are involved in a heavily texting relationship, consider that one of these days love can come crashing down. Here are seven survival tips:

1. Cry. Researchers have found that crying is therapeutic. Long term studies have been validated and were reported in the Journal of Research in Personality in 2011.

2. Resist the urge to send endless texts. They will go unanswered and you may feel angry with yourself for not recognizing that he had a passive-aggressive side.

3. Erase all text messages to and from him. Going back over them and seeing his cute notes and little yellow heads throwing kisses will make you feel worse.

4. Scream privately to the walls in the safety of your own room.

5. Hold off on calling friends to complain about him. If they agree with you, you may be furious that they did not warn you. Or should the two of you reconcile, you will have created distance between yourself and your friends.

6. Be grateful. Find a beautiful journal or some writing paper and write out all of the moments the two of you enjoyed together.

7. Wish him blessings. Let him go. Spend time with friends who care about you while looking for a rebound love.

Once it was thought that rebound love was a mistake. Now new research shows that it can actually help heal a broken heart. If you decide on a rebound love, spend less time texting and more time touching and talking. Even though texts can become more alluring than phone calls, the emoticon is no substitute for experiencing emotion. Talk to one another. Laugh. Cry. Argue. Just do so in person instead of hiding behind a cell phone screen.

— Rita Watson, M.P.H., a Providence Journal relationship columnist, writes “With Love and Gratitude” for PsychologyToday.com.

When the Wandi Family Story Changed

Posted on July 23, 2015
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Grandma took great pride in her cooking. Even though Grandpa worked at the pastry shop with his family, Grandma created delicacies that were just for her children and grandchildren. One of her prize creations consisted of paper-thin fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, wandi, traditionally shaped like wands. However, Grandma fashioned hers into angels’ wings for a combined celebration of July birthdays. Making them was time consuming and often took her a full day. These were handled with reverence.

Then, on an afternoon in my sister’s new Volkswagen Beetle, the wandi story changed forever.

When I young and living at their Water House, I would sit and watch Grandma mixing the batter of eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and butter. She would then break the dough into sections and knead it. After letting me help roll the dough paper thin, Grandma carefully cut strips with a pastry wheel. Next she fashioned them into wings and took them to her kitchen treasure, the black frying pan with boiling oil. She fried them for just about a minute on each side, before scooping them up with a slotted spatula and placing them onto long sheets of brown pastry paper for draining.

On the day of the ladies’ afternoon birthday party at our parents’ home in a suburb about 15 minutes from the Water House, my sister Lois, proud to show off her new white Beetle, decided she would drive to pick up Grandma and her delicacies. In recalling the incident she said, “What was I thinking? Did I really expect Grandma would love my bug as much as Dad’s station wagon?”  The challenge was space. Grandma was just over 4 feet tall and about as wide.

When Lois arrived at Grandma’s, our younger sister, Debbie, who had been sitting in the front seat, got up, diligently placed the wandi on the back seat, and then helped Grandma settle in front. Next, she had to squeeze behind Grandma and maneuver her way into that tiny space behind Grandma. Finally in, she flopped herself down.

Lois said, “All I could hear was a scream and a crunch.”  Debbie had landed on the angel wings.

Grandma was even more crushed than her cookies. Throughout the party, she kept repeating, “Can you believe that Debbie sat on my wandi?”

As soon as Grandpa came home that evening, Grandma practically wept as she told him the story — even before he had a minute to take off his suit jacket. Remembering her often repeated words of wisdom, “Never go to bed angry. Always end the day with a smile,” Grandpa listened patiently. Then suddenly he took hold of her and kissed her madly.

Uncle Albert captured the moment.

— Rita Esposito Watson, a Providence Journal columnist, is writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”

/ Rita Watson: Grandma’s crushed cookies become a family tale

A North End Cannoli Wedding Memory

Posted on July 11, 2015
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Italian Kisses: A Cannoli Wedding Memory

This is from the NorthEndWaterfront.com


Perhaps because our grandfather and his brothers ran a pastry shop in Connecticut, after moving back to Boston I became addicted to North End cannolis.  When growing up, Grandma taught us that any argument could be settled once people sat at the table, ate grandpa’s pastry, and drank her demitasse.  Once in Boston, my children split on the best cannolis in the North End — Mike’s or Modern.  But when it came time for a wedding, the opinion was universal. Instead of a wedding cake there would be cannolis layered in three-tier pastry servers for some 150 guests.

There was just one glitch. The wedding of my older son and his bride-to-be was in Portland, Maine. While Mike’s ships anywhere in the world — the shells and the filling come separately.  As mother of the groom, was I going to spend my morning stuffing cannolis?  Could we import the pastry chef?   My nephew, Jude, came to the rescue. He said he would pick up boxes ordered from Mike’s and then go to Modern just so I could do a taste test. As such, his gift to the bride and groom was driving from the North End to Portland to make their wedding wish come true.

There was magic at that wedding just as in those afternoons with Grandma at the dining room table. Many a tearful love crisis was solved by sitting and talking and savoring the taste of delicately crunchy shells filled with a mixture of ricotta and heavy cream.  In love and marriage, there will always be highs and lows.  A secret to life-long love is in finding ways to savor sweet moments, create memories, and talk about the joys that the two of you share.

While Jeremy and Ruthy celebrate their 10th Anniversary this week, I will be sitting by the Greenway Fountains wishing them blessings — while indulging in cannolis from both Mike’s and Modern. And to my grandchildren, Connor and Clara, NonnaRi sends settemila baci per te!

Rita Esposito Watson writes Italian Kisses for the Providence Journal and “With Love and Gratitude” for PsychologyToday.com. She lives in Beacon Hill and spends her time between the North End and the Boston Athenaeum.

With my thanks to Matt Conti, Editor.

http://northendwaterfront.com/2015/07/italian-kisses-a-cannoli-wedding-memory/

Grandma’s Olive Oil Secret, Projo

Posted on July 6, 2015
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Published/ Providence Journal/ June 14, 2015

Grandma called olive oil the secret to life

Our mother loved visiting new physicians so she could entertain them with stories of why she looked so young at 90 years of age. “I live like my mother and father did by eating fresh vegetables, beans, and cooking with pure olive oil. I still make the escarole and beans the way my mother taught us, with a little garlic and a bit of prosciutto.”

What she never did admit, however, was keeping the can of olive oil under the sink — as did her mother. It had to be nearby so that you could pour a bit in your hands and then rub it into your face to keep away the wrinkles.

That heavy, encrusted cooking treasure was used for sweet batter pancakes, Italian toast with an egg in the center, as well as peppers and eggs, for breakfast. The olive oil remained on the counter covered with a piece of wax paper so throughout the day the golden liquid was ready for frying garlic to a light golden brown, which became the basis for all of her soups and tomato sauces. That pan also welcomed her eggplant slices dipped in batter, her herb-infused sausage, peppers, and onions, as well as zucchini flowers.

“Grandma, why do you strain oil into the coffee can,” I asked one day.

With a look of surprise, she answered: “So I can reuse it. It is full of good flavors. That’s Grandma’s cooking secret. “

There was no dishwasher in the house and so everything was rinsed by hand except for the black frying pan. You wiped it with piece of cloth that was as thin as cheesecloth. Grandma did not like using paper napkins on her frying pan because she knew that her own “pan clothes” were soaked and washed in Castile soap for four hours.

Midday she would say, “Now you can take them out and hang them on the line. Be sure they are not in the shade because I want the sunshine on them to give them a kissed by the sun scent.”

Whenever a relative on Grandpa’s side died in their 70s — Grandma would say, “They died young because they were cheap. They cooked with lard. Remember this — one of the secrets to a long life is that to a long life is that can under the sink — my olive oil.”
Rita Watson: Family’s secret to a long life was under the sink 

Time alone, Providence Journal

Posted on June 30, 2015
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Rita Watson: Time alone helps tend the soul
Special to The Journal
Jun. 28, 2015 at 12:01 AM

In a technology connected world, we often forget the value of alone time. Researchers are suggesting that Facebook is impacting self-esteem and social media is becoming addictive. In an effort to see what our friends are doing, we oftentimes forget to look at what it is that we are doing. Have you ever thought of making a date with yourself and spending three hours alone?

With our busy schedules, making time to be alone can be both difficult and a bit frightening. People are often afraid of silence and solitude because it feels too much like loneliness. But there is a vast difference between alone and lonely that you come to appreciate once you make a date with yourself.

Several years ago the Philippine Journal of Psychology reported that students were asked to make a date with “the self.” They were told to think that on the date they would not be “alone” but that rather they would be going with a very special companion, themselves. We were not surprised to learn the results: Students appreciated the time alone and found that it gave them a sense of inner peace.

To experience the meaning of solitude it is important to set aside time, as if you were going on a date. Whether you choose your quiet moments at home, outdoors, or in an uplifting environment, turn off all electronic devices.

To find solitude at home you may need to set the stage before embracing silence:

If you decide to seek solitude away from home, try to:

Solitude has invaluable benefits. Solitude allows us to take a journey inward — a place where the inner workings of our soul may come in touch with the outer realities of the world beyond our vision. Once we become accustomed to an occasional date with ourselves, it will become easier to allow our heart’s desire to unfold.

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

Restoring a sense of gratitude, Projo

Posted on June 3, 2015
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Rita Watson: Restoring a sense of gratitude

Special to The Journal/ Posted May 31, 2015 at 12:01 AM

Compassion is more than just a feeling; it compels us to reach out and help others. We see outpourings of compassion when a tragic event occurs. Yet ironically, many of us have difficulty when those within our intimate circle anger, betray, disappoint, or hurt us. However, if we can look beyond our immediate negative feelings, we might experience compassion’s relationship to the love hormone, oxytocin.

At the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, some scientists are even mapping “the biological basis of compassion.” Researchers there point out, “that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the bonding hormone oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.”

But here is the key question: Do we give and care for others with selfless love or do we expect a return on investment? When an angry situation occurs within our own home or close circle, oftentimes we simply react. However, it is possible to turn around hurtful situations by looking at the role we might have played to create a flare-up. In identifying and owning up to our actions, we can mitigate the situation and work toward a solution.

Just why it is that even those with a loving nature can become enveloped in seething anger is complicated. However, the center’s research on gratitude indicates that people who turn to acts of kindness — even why they do not feel like doing so — can trigger a positive response. In other words, instead of stewing, change the channel. Express gratitude and take action. Send a thank-you note to someone. Make a visit to someone who needs you.

When you are feeling a lack of empathy, consider the Three Day Gratitude Plan:

Day 1: Express thanks for three positive qualities of your partner or friend. No matter what happens, try to ignore all of those little irritating moments or habits that drive you mad.

Day 2: Identify three aspects about yourself that you know annoy others. Be honest, admit your shortcomings. Now forgive yourself and others.

Day 3: For an entire day speak only kind, complimentary words, no matter what petty grievances might annoy you.

After three days, you should feel a sense of relief. In some ways this exercise is like cleaning out closets and drawers, or tossing piles of papers. And you can expect to feel better and sleep better after banishing the emotional clutter. The gratitude plan is essentially a way to sweep away feelings that deprive you from the joy and satisfaction of unconditional love.

Rita Watson is a relationship columnist for The Providence Journal and PsychologyToday.com.

May Memories with Grandparents, Good Food and a Good Cigar

Posted on May 31, 2015
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For me, May is filled with images of Grandpa, his brothers, and cousins preparing the gardens for vegetable planting. I remember how excited I was to plant the green beans that would grow along the vines. But Deborah, my 10-years-younger sister, remembers green beans that Grandma served on weekends. After reducing his hours at the pastry shop, late Saturday morning became errand time with Grandpa. She recently wrote:

“Do you remember that for years Grandpa drove a black 1948 Plymouth 4-door sedan with a steering wheel that looked like it was made of taffy? The back seat, where grandchildren sat, was big as a sofa and it felt like velvet. The large curved back window gave us a movie view of the beach houses painted like candy canes, white porches and red turrets. On a Saturday drive to Squillo’s Cigar Shop in the city, he would look back at us at stop lights and smile as if he had won first prize at the county fair for his Roma tomatoes.

When we entered the shop he would stop. Look around. And after breathing in the smell of tobacco, he would exhale with a long, loud, “Ahh.” Those short, dark brown cigars were extra stinky. Whenever he pinched my cheeks saying ‘Quanto sei bella,’ and planted a kiss, I could almost touch that lingering scent.

“I loved Saturday afternoon drives because we would come home to a dish of homemade pasta that inevitably involved a side of their garden string beans swimming in tomato sauce.

“Then Grandma would nod to you to get a bottle of her homemade grape juice. She poured the purple nectar into vintage glasses painted with oranges and green leaves. Their food always tasted better than food served anywhere else. And the first time I saw hundreds of canning jars in their basement, I felt that I discovered the secret. I remember staring at the long rows of colorful fruits and vegetables and saying to myself, ‘And to think this is all from their garden.’ “

For most of my own growing-up time, Grandpa was at the pastry shop while I was at home with Grandma. And my green beans memory is one of bushels. We would spend what seemed like forever sitting on the front porch as Grandpa would bring in the green beans. Our job was to break off the stems and snap them to fit into canning jars so Grandma could “put them up.”

Bushels of beans later she would say, “You see how lucky you are. Some children eat food from a can. Thanks to Grandpa, you children have food from God’s good earth. Always be grateful for this.”

For me, May is filled with images of Grandpa, his brothers, and cousins preparing the gardens for vegetable planting. I remember how excited I was to plant the green beans that would grow along the vines. But Deborah, my 10-years-younger sister, remembers green beans that Grandma served on weekends. After reducing his hours at the pastry shop, late Saturday morning became errand time with Grandpa. She recently wrote:

“Do you remember that for years Grandpa drove a black 1948 Plymouth 4-door sedan with a steering wheel that looked like it was made of taffy? The back seat, where grandchildren sat, was big as a sofa and it felt like velvet. The large curved back window gave us a movie view of the beach houses painted like candy canes, white porches and red turrets. On a Saturday drive to Squillo’s Cigar Shop in the city, he would look back at us at stop lights and smile as if he had won first prize at the county fair for his Roma tomatoes.

When we entered the shop he would stop. Look around. And after breathing in the smell of tobacco, he would exhale with a long, loud, “Ahh.” Those short, dark brown cigars were extra stinky. Whenever he pinched my cheeks saying ‘Quanto sei bella,’ and planted a kiss, I could almost touch that lingering scent.

“I loved Saturday afternoon drives because we would come home to a dish of homemade pasta that inevitably involved a side of their garden string beans swimming in tomato sauce.

“Then Grandma would nod to you to get a bottle of her homemade grape juice. She poured the purple nectar into vintage glasses painted with oranges and green leaves. Their food always tasted better than food served anywhere else. And the first time I saw hundreds of canning jars in their basement, I felt that I discovered the secret. I remember staring at the long rows of colorful fruits and vegetables and saying to myself, ‘And to think this is all from their garden.’ “

For most of my own growing-up time, Grandpa was at the pastry shop while I was at home with Grandma. And my green beans memory is one of bushels. We would spend what seemed like forever sitting on the front porch as Grandpa would bring in the green beans. Our job was to break off the stems and snap them to fit into canning jars so Grandma could “put them up.”

Bushels of beans later she would say, “You see how lucky you are. Some children eat food from a can. Thanks to Grandpa, you children have food from God’s good earth. Always be grateful for this.”

Rita Esposito Watson is a Providence Journal relationship columnist who also writes for PsychologyToday.com

A Memory: Sunday dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, ProJo

Posted on April 19, 2015
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Special to The Journal Posted Apr. 19, 2015 @ 12:01 am

 

Just as the cake was brought to the table and placed alongside a tray of cookies and chocolates, out came the old photographs.

We were at the home of one of my sisters, reminiscing about “the olden days” at Grandma and Grandpa’s for Sunday dinner at noon. Relatives and friends always joined us. One photo of our grandparents with our mother, her two sisters and brother perfectly portrays their Sunday best for church and then home again for a seriously food-filled day.

Meals were always sumptuous. But unlike Easter Sunday, there was no leg of lamb, nor a variety of pies. Instead, we often had roasts, tender veal cutlets, meatballs, and a dish of braciole. Thinly cut rolled steaks, braciole had centers of garlic, parsley, pine nuts, prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese. These were tied with string and cooked for hours in the tomato sauce that would cover the homemade ravioli or lasagna.

As I think of those days, I can see why Grandma and Grandpa had so many Saturday afternoon opera tiffs. When Grandma wasn’t standing in the kitchen cooking, she would sit by the radio and crochet.

But Saturdays were a challenge. Grandpa was hard of hearing and would not wear a hearing aid. So their arguments often had a familiar ring. When he came to arias that he loved, he would turn the volume up loud enough to scare away the seagulls and then start singing along.

“Anthony, turn that down. How can I think and cook at the same time?” Grandma would say.

Finally she would stop stirring the sauce and go to him with her arms waving in the air crying out, “Silenzio!”

He would counter with “Annunziata, appetto un minuto,” meaning that he expected her to wait until the aria ended. He only called her Annunziata when he was very serious about something.

Or he might wave her off with “Nancy, aspetta” at which point she would walk away shaking her head saying, “He never listens.” However, when he called her “Nancy” he was listening — just not immediately.

Gram would say, “I’ll be glad when the warm weather comes. He’ll be out in the garden and I will have some peace and quiet in here.”

Because every Sunday was a feast, for Grandma all the cooking on Friday and Saturday was both her passion and her mission. On Sunday, when people gathered round the table, she would be watching faces for signs of contentment.

Then just as we were about to take the last bite, she was there heaping a second helping onto your plate smiling and saying, “You see, I knew you were still hungry. Grandma always knows. Just save some room for dessert.”

Rita Esposito Watson, also a PsychologyToday.com columnist, is writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”

Rita Watson: Remembering Sunday dinner with Grandma and Grandpa

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

 

Resiliency: Thoughts on springing forward

Posted on April 6, 2015
Filed Under Gratitude, Providence Journal - Relationships, Resilience | Leave a Comment

For many of us, the Easter season is time for a new beginning.  By now the winter doldrums should be giving way to sunshine happiness. Easter Sunday is characterized by the Pascal Lamb, resurrection, and rebirth. And in “The Passover Lamb,” by Linda Elovitz Marshall, we see a delightful reminder of a child’s creativity while honoring religious tradition. We all need to find ways to move forward after a snowy winter of interrupted routines, seasonal affective disorders, frazzled nerves, and strained relationships.

In addition to reminding ourselves of that, scientific gratitude research from Robert A. Emmons, PhD, and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, have regularly found that “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”

Here are three other thoughts. Let’s reassess our priorities, make time to play, and embrace mindfulness.

Reassess Priorities: When we were overwhelmed by snow, it felt as if time stood still in terms of our routines. Look at what you let fall by the wayside during that time. Then ask yourself two questions: “How much of my ‘To Do’ list is all that important? What is most important for me today, for those whom I love?” Whenever you go through the unplanned, by making a list of what was expected of you and what you were able to accomplish reinforces your resiliency.

Make Time for Yourself: When time appears to stand still while we address an immediate need — handling a crisis, caring for someone who is ill, or even planning a happy event — we get through it, often without enough sleep. But what about starting now to think of ways you might make yourself a priority? How much time should you save for yourself for the arts, reading, pursuing a hobby, or exercising?

Even our ancestors, early settlers with difficult lives, knew the value of play time. Take a ride on the carousels in Rhode Island, which still bring laughter to children and adults alike, and be grateful to those who built them. The carousels are an example of resilience through folk art.

Embrace Mindfulness: Focus on the moment, not even the next hour. Take just one moment at a time and vow that it will be the best moment you can give to yourself. The Harvard Health Letter, in discussing mindfulness, pointed out that there were 47 well-designed studies whose findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The studies “suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.”

Resiliency means to spring back. In some ways it is a gift, but to those who can recover quickly from difficulties, it is also a blessing, one that we can all cultivate.

Rita Watson: Three thoughts for springing forward Published 4/4/2015 / Providence Journal

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

 

Remembering Grandma and Grandpa on a Musical Afternoon

Posted on March 29, 2015
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Read the original in the newspaper to see the priceless photo of my grandparents.

Within a concert hall of oil portraits, overlooking a snow-covered cemetery, I saw myself frolicking through the water at Grandma and Grandpa’s beach house. Commentary in a program at the Boston Athenaeum was my cue to return to a time just before Easter when we were first allowed to dip our toes into the water.

The pianist for The Capital Trio, Duncan Cumming, dedicated a Schubert piece to his teacher, Frank Glazer. His teacher believed that an opening chord should say, “Listen, I am going to tell a story.” As the violin, cello, and piano conversed, my story began to unfold.

I am not certain that Schubert would have appreciated my wanderings during his Impromptu in C minor, Op. 90 No. 1. Nonetheless, there I was taking an ocean splash, returning to Grandma’s kitchen while she baked pies for Aunt Rose in Providence, and licking batter from the spatula for her Easter lamb cake.

The music began lightly, perfect for tiptoeing in the water before rushing back into a warm kitchen where I was greeted by Grandma preparing her rice pie, wheat pie, cheese and ham Pizza Rustica and, of course, seeing her mixing the cake batter. Grandma baked these before Palm Sunday so that we could bring them to her Providence sister.

As the musical notes glided from a frolicking march to sounds reminiscent of waves crashing against rocks, I remembered Grandma’s voice: “Anthony turn down that music. The opera is drowning out my thinking. I need to concentrate on my pies.”

Taking pies to Aunt Rose — and visiting Roger Williams Park — was special for our mother during her courtship days. Before they married, Providence was as far as she and our father were allowed to travel together.

Grandma’s Easter pies became legendary; however, because she never wrote a recipe, it is difficult to re-create her delights. Each time she baked she would try a different flavorful accent, from lemon or orange rind to hazelnut liquor. Grandpa and his brothers ran a pastry shop where all of the traditional pies were baked.

Yet Grandma was always reminding her sister-in-law, the pastry shop’s Grande Dame, that she could bake a heavenly dessert right in her own kitchen. Indeed, Grandma’s Easter lamb cake, made from her mother’s own mold, was like food for the gods.

At the end of their day of bickering about music being too loud, Grandma’s face would light up when Grandpa put his arm around her at dinner, took a second bite of cake and spoke words that were music to Grandma’s ears: “Nancy, this tastes even better than my mother’s; may she rest in peace.”

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