23 September 2017

Guest post: Kate Davis on How to be a Mental Health Ally

***As many Saturdays as possible, you'll see posts from people regarding their own experiences with their mental health. Use #BreaktheStigma on Twitter to share yours!***

Ten Tips to be a Great Mental Health Ally

As many as one in four Americans live with mental health issues. Some are short term issues, and some are chronic issues, lasting for years or for a lifetime. Knowing how to help a loved one who is struggling can save lives. While this list is just a beginning, here’s ten tips to be the best mental health ally you can be.
Mental Health Is Physical Health: The first step  is knowing mental health IS physical health. Mental health affects everything from energy levels to what sort of foods we can eat - and it’s every bit as real and impactful as any physical health issue. A mental health issue is every bit as serious as a physical health issue. Mental health has a measurable effect on the brain and body and is no different than diabetes, asthma, arthritis, or Crohn’s Disease.
Treatments Vary: Treating a mental health issue varies, depending on the type of issue, duration, severity, and the underlying cause. Talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and medication are the most common. Medication supplements the brain chemistry of a person with a mental health issue, so it more closely resembles what is present in a neurotypical (non mentally ill) person. Some people will only need medication short term (a year or so) and some will require it long term. Some mental health issues have more extensive treatments, like electroconvulsive therapy (a controlled seizure to correct brain chemistry). Everyone’s treatment will be different.
Everyone Is Different:  While this one seems obvious, it’s important to remember each person with a mental health issue is different. Their symptoms, ability, and which treatments work best for them will be different. Some people thrive in talk therapy, and others don’t. Some people benefit from medication, and others have too many side effects or cannot take medication. Every person’s treatment will be unique to them. Support them in finding what works for them.
Ask How You Can Best Help Them: Since everyone’s needs are different, it’s important to ask them how you can best support them. Ask what they need, ask how they feel supported, and let them know you will help them. Everyone is different, and it’s important to ask what they need, and then meet their needs as best you can.
Listen to What They Have to Say: One of the hardest parts of mental illness is how lonely it can feel. Being there for them and listening to how they feel, what treatments are working or not working for them, and even just day-to-day small talk helps combat the isolation which can wreak havoc on people with mental health issues. Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD can lead to long stretches of time in which someone is isolated, and having a friendly, supportive friend there can remind them that they are connected to something bigger than themselves.
Make Sure They Know They’re Not Alone: If they are talking about something they feel, and you can relate, find a time to tell them. The timing on this one is key - don’t interrupt, and don’t make the conversation about you, but make sure they know what they think and feel is completely normal. Remember - mental health issues ARE normal - it’s why we have names, research, and treatments available for all of them. Everyone struggles sometimes, and it’s not a sign of weakness.
Encourage Self-Care: Self-care is much more about basic routine and eating/showering schedules than pampering. Resting, talking, following a treatment plan, and meal planning can all be considered self-care. Remind them it’s ok to take breaks. This one is really important!
Make Sure They Have a List of Contacts: This one seems basic, but it’s really important. Make sure they have their doctors, friends, and family in their phone’s contact list. Remembering phone numbers when you’re upset is almost impossible. Knowing exactly how to contact someone in a crisis saves lives.

Help Them Find Resources: It can be daunting to find a therapist or new doctor, to find a therapy group, or inpatient care. If you can help them by looking up doctors and ratings, or simply being there to support them while they do so, it can make a world of difference.
Keep in Touch: This is the easiest and most effective way to help someone with a mental health issue - don’t lose contact with them. If you haven’t heard from them in a week (or however long would be unusual to not hear from them), reach out and say hi, ask how they’re doing. Talk with them, and listen. It’s very, very easy for someone to become isolated, and with all the wonders of modern technology, it’s very easy to reach out and remind them you’re still here, still love them, and are still their ally.

Do you have more tips? Please share in the comments!

18 September 2017

Disturbing the Peace: Why Mad Love = Mad Me.

***TW: Discussions of abuse***

Recently, the enigmatic and infamous THEY announced a new movie in the DCCU, and fan reaction has fallen pretty much on either side of the spectrum: OMGFINALLYWOW and OMGWTFWHY.

I am on the latter end of the spectrum. OMGWTFWHY?

Because there's a Harley/Joker love story in the works.

Please read that again. A Harley. And Joker. Love. Story.

If you know anything about the volatile relationship between these two, then you know why this is in the top ten of Things We Do Not Need.

If you don't, well....I can sum it up in three easy words: Joker abuses Harley.

Physically, verbally, psychologically, mentally. In pretty much every way possible. So much so that I wrote Harley fanfiction to help cope with my own abuse.

I think once someone has had that kind of "mad love" relationship, they view the world through a different lens. While some see the Harley-Joker relationship as something strange and romantic and whatever, others like myself see elements of that abusive relationship in every interaction.

Image result for harley and joker movie
Just after this, Joker lets Harley take the fall, like the uber romantic jagoff he is.

I have a lot of feelings about Leto's Joker, partly because of the theory that this Joker is my DC husband Jason Todd, and if true, that makes this Joker as much a victim as Harley. 


I have a lot of hatred for the actual Joker. Oh yeah, he's entertaining as hell, and my canon Joker is voiced by Mark Hamill, who is impossible to hate as a person. BUT. The character is a manipulative (and this maddening relationship is based on his manipulations), cruel, sadistic, narcissistic sociopath who scapegoats and gaslights Harley to no end. 

Some background: I identify with Harley in so many ways. Like her, I studied psychology with an intent to become a criminal psychologist. Unlike her, I didn't follow through. Like her, I gravitate toward emotionally unavailable people and want to "fix" them. Like her, I wasted a lot of time in a terrible relationship that sucked away everything I was and almost killed every aspiration I had. I was mentally, emotionally, and verbally abused. I was gaslit and blamed for everything wrong in our relationship. Unlike her, I wasn't strong enough to walk away on my own.

With the releases of movies like Arrival, Hidden Figures, Atomic Blonde and Wonder Woman, and with more women-centric movies coming out in the next several years (still waiting for that freaking Black Widow movie), girls and women finally get to see themselves represented as more than lamps, sex objects, and damsels on the big screen. Hell, Harley's role in Suicide Squad was a win in its own way--Robbie plays her with this complex blend of sweetness, coyness, sass, confidence, vulnerability, fear, and cognizance that we don't see a lot outside the comics (and her runs in the comics are PHENOMENAL; do yourself a favor and check out Harley Quinn #25, by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair, and Tom Napolitano and her arc in the Injustice tie-in). 

Needless to say, I am not thrilled about this little movie. I want to trust Margot Robbie's decision to sign on for it, just like I trusted her to bring Harley to life in the way the character deserves. What I don't trust is people who don't understand the nuance and complexity that Harley's writers have developed over the last couple decades. Yes, she's fun. She's weird and not all there (though it's an act and people who understand her know it is because it's a method of survival). She's sexy. She's also grown so much and the threat of not seeing that growth, some of which was exhibited in Suicide Squad, is galling. 

As much as it pains me, I won't be seeing this one. I'll just wait for the Birds of Prey movie.

Sorry, Harl. 

16 September 2017

Guest Post! Molli Moran - Putting Together the Pieces of Me

***As many Saturdays as possible, you'll see posts from people regarding their own experiences with their mental health. Use #BreaktheStigma on Twitter to share yours!***

Trigger warning: this piece contains mentions of living with anxiety and panic attacks. Please read only if you are comfortable.

I’m in high school and I’ve turned down an invitation to a party because of what could happen. Later, I wish I’d gone.

I’m a young adult and I’ve talked myself out of taking a risk because I don’t believe I can, because of all the worst-case situations that could spring out of it.

I’m working my first job and breaking under the stress of the position I’ve been put in and the lack of support. I can't breathe in the bathroom at my job—but to me, this seems normal.

One of my best friends invites me to a gathering at her house. I back out at the last minute because I’m overcome with nerves at the thought of going and my nails are chewed almost to the quick.

My family is fighting; I’m crying and can’t catch my breath, no matter how hard I try. This happens often when they fight.

It takes until I’m almost 30 to begin to connect the dots between all these events. It takes joining the YA community on Twitter and listening to important conversations about mental illness. It takes hearing the word “anxiety” and—for the first time—linking it to myself as something other than a what-if.

Looking back on my life before I realized that I have anxiety is like finally grasping the missing pieces in the puzzle that I’ve long considered my behaviors, thoughts, and motivations. Even as I told myself, “Everyone thinks this way,” or “Sudden changes in plans throw everyone for a loop,” or “Everyone has worst-case scenarios for everything playing on repeat in the back of their mind,” I knew I was trying to rationalize something that never fit.

As I grew up, I didn’t realize that all the things about myself I didn’t understand were anxiety-related—from triggers to panic attacks to anxiety spirals—because no one around me ever discussed mental illness. In the South, we don't talk about it. (We don’t talk about mental health enough at all, but especially not in the South.) We might dance around it, brush off, or only know about harmful stereotypes. But it’s rare for people here to openly discuss mental health in order to break stereotypes and diminish the stigmas around it and around getting help.

Thankfully, that’s changing slowly. At times, it’s frustrating to no end to have to wonder who will take me seriously when I talk about my anxiety or when the topic of medication or self-care comes up. But I keep going. I keep talking about my anxiety without shame or hesitation.

I always will.

For the most part, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had family and friends sit and listen and offer their support. I’ve had a few conversations where people meant well but still said unintentionally harmful things. And I’ve had those discussions where I’ve encountered ableist and hurtful language and stereotypes, and I’ve done my part to teach and counter those with information and patience.

Now that I’ve begun to understand myself and my mental health better, I want to help others. I want to reach a hand back for anyone who hasn’t put together the puzzle pieces of themselves, and let them know that I’m here to support and uplift them. To break the stigmas together until mental health is something we all talk about (if we’re able to) and normalize those discussions.

About the author

Molli Moran was born and raised in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee, and brings a love of all things small-town to her romances. She grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds, and not much has changed since then. Molli found her own happily-ever-after on the West Coast. Give her Kay and coffee, and you’ve never seen a happier person. Other things she loves include road trips, the ocean, and Captain America. She’s a personal shopper during the day and a romance writer at night, and firmly believes that all books should have a happy ending. Molli writes about girls who are chasing down their own HEA.

You can find Molli on Twitter, where she spends way too much time (@MissMolliWrites). She loves hearing from readers, so don’t be shy! She’s not throwing away her shot. 


17 July 2017

Can we just talk about Mad Max: Fury Road for a minute?

So Saturday night, my roomie and I went to watch Mad Max: Fury Road at our local theater because come on, you do NOT pass up the opportunity to see that movie on the big screen. Personally, I wish they'd play that movie once a month, and I'm going to explain exactly why, for those of you who may not have seen it (WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU), it's quite possibly a perfect movie. Also, in the words of River Song, SPOILERS. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.

Stop reading now if you don't want spoilers.

The basic summary is this: The world is in shambles, irradiated from nuclear war to the point that most people's bone marrow has even become poisoned, creating what are called half-lifes. It's in this world Max Rocka-tansky (Tom Hardy) tries to survive, after failing the people who depended on him most, but he's captured by some of these half-lifes and taken to their base of operations, which is run by a man called Immortan Joe, who controls every aspect of their lives. He controls the water, he controls the food, he's created a Nordic-style religion based around himself and the vehicles his half-life War Boys use to bring supplies back to their base. It's some crazy ish, right here. And poor Max is dragged into it. Even worse for him, he's a universal donor and also out of his mind, leading him to be labeled "high octane."

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron in one of her absolute best roles) is the driver of the war rig. She's one of Immortan Joe's top officers, one of his most trusted, so when she betrays him by stealing his wives and smuggling them to what she hopes is a better life, it sets off a high-speed car chase through the desert with Immortan Joe's allies in tow. And once again, poor Max is dragged into it.

Now, here is why this movie is SO DAMN AMAZING:

  • The story: The story gives you about 3 minutes of exposition through Max's voice over and some news clips through the opening credits, and then you are OFF. It holds no punches. Just like Max, you are thrust into this world that owes you nothing--no explanations, no hand-holding, nothing. You either infer information from the scant dialogue and intuition, or you're lost. Regardless, once you're along for the ride, you figure out just how incredible this crazy-assed world is.
  • The characters: I will begin this by saying that Imperator Furiosa is one of my favorite characters of all time. She's so ridiculously flawed and single-minded that it leads to her making some huge mistakes, but she's trying to help five women, referred to by one of the War Boys as "Immortan Joe's prized breeders," find a better life away from the insanity revolving around the man in question by taking them to the Green Place, the Land of Many Mothers, where she was born. Her journey is one that I can't get enough of, and so much of it is non-verbal. Charlize's eyes, face, body language all tell the story of Imperator Furiosa better than any conversation ever could.

    And then there's Max. Max Rocka-tansky is probably my favorite Tom Hardy role, because like Charlize's Furiosa, so much of Max is in his expressions. Throughout most of the movie, that's what you get, with the addition of some sparadic PTSD flashbacks of his failures. Max is a man of few words; in the beginning of the movie, we see this disheveled man whose hair and beard are long and matted, and while we don't know how long he's been running, it's obvious it's been a long time since he's spoken to anyone. His sentences are clipped at first, sometimes one- or two-word answers if he speaks at all. For him, and for Furiosa, this is a journey of redemption, and it's there that they find common ground.

    But don't discount Immortan Joe's stunningly beautiful wives. His favorite, The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whitely), is so much more than a pretty face and a baby vessel, though that's what Joe has reduced her to. Like the other wives, she shows a strength throughout the movie that, while different from Furiosa's, is no less incredible. In what is quite possibly my favorite scene in the whole movie, the war rig carrying the wives, Furiosa, and Max is going full-speed through a canyon with Immortan Joe's caravan close behind. Joe has a perfect shot to take Furiosa out, but in her greatest act of defiance, Splendid throws open the back door and leans out, her body, especially her pregnant belly, acting as a shield for this woman who has risked so much to lead them to a better life. It's truly a beautiful scene, one that gives me chills and tears every damn time.

    Each wife has her own fully rounded personality, her own agency. I could honestly go on for hours about them. Even if they all have weird AF names.

    The war boys, Joe's band of fanatical worshipers, are something else, man. They basically worship Joe and the vehicles, and it's truly something to behold. This is one of those chicken vs egg scenarios where you're not sure if they worshiped the vehicles before Joe stepped up to become their dictator, or if he lead them to that place. But the war boy culture is one that deserves study.
  • The scenery: Bland hellscape? Check. But it's what you do with said bland hellscape that really matters. Because of the nuclear fallout mentioned during the beginning credits, the scenery itself becomes a character with its own story and background.
  • The stunt work: Fury Road is a throwback to a time before CGI became the go-to for stunts and set pieces. Filmed in Namibia, South Africa, and Australia, there's hardly a green screen in sight. Over 150 stuntmen were used in the movie, and the badass Mothers actually did a lot of their own stunts.

    However, when the CGI does show up, it's INCREDIBLE. Ending the first act of the movie is a huge storm wall that Furiosa drives into in the hope of losing her pursuers. Inside that huge storm wall is basically weather hell--multiple (!!!) tornadoes, bruising rain, and enough lightning to make it look more like Heavy Metal than a Mad Max movie.
  • The pacing: This movie starts off like a gunshot and doesn't stop. Sometimes it can be a little sensory overload, which is part of why it requires multiple viewings (the other part is because IT'S AWESOME). From the beginning chase scene to that last moment between Max and Furiosa, it barely gives you time to catch your breath before the next action sequence starts up. It's riveting. If your heart isn't pounding out of your chest, then either you're not paying attention, or you are dead.
  • Max and Furiosa: They're my OTP. My Ultimate Bromance. My loves. My babies. I ship them. I don't even know in what way, but I ship them so hard. 

I can seriously go on forever about this. So do us both a favor and go watch this movie.

03 July 2017

The Post I Didn't Want to Write


It's been well over a month, and I'm still having trouble finding the words. I'll never be as eloquent as his wife and her beautiful letter. But that's okay. This isn't about eloquence. This is about the sheer, brutal honesty that loss can bring, even if you never knew the person you lost.

Typically I'm not a person who mourns a celebrity's passing. It sucks, yes. It absolutely sucks. When Bowie died, I was sad. When Prince died, I was more flabbergasted than anything else. When Lemmy passed from cancer, I hated it, but in our current society we're not getting that cure.

However, when it happens by suicide, that's when it gets real dang personal for me. Because I understand. And that's scary as hell.

Robin Williams' death left a hole in my heart that won't be filled, but I think it's Chris Cornell's that has devastated me most. And even right now, I'm still struggling to find the right words, if there are any.
Courtesy of Jan Childers, taken 5/10/17

It wasn't just that he was an incredible vocalist--actually my favorite of all time, not kidding--or that he was a pioneer in a genre and was somewhat overlooked, though Soundgarden was LEGENDARY.

Part of it might be that I'd literally seen him one week before his death, playing in Indianapolis, sounding amazing, looking amazing, being amazing. It was easy to see his kind spirit and gentle soul as he sang and talked to us in the crowd. I'd been hoping and praying Soundgarden would play at Louisville's awesome music festival in October, watching the interwebs, following their route. Maybe it was that I'd only seen him once, and once wasn't enough until it suddenly had to be.

Maybe it's because he had crippling anxiety and that the very medication prescribed to help him ended up killing him. Maybe it's because I feared his history of drug addiction would be used against him, a last-ditch effort to tarnish and lessen his accomplishments, his fighting spirit, his beautiful family, the foundation he and his wife had founded to help kids out of desperate situations. I remembered Prince and Scott Weiland, who was demonized after his overdose and labeled Just Another Musician. I feared that outcome, so much. For a man who I saw bits and pieces of myself in. For a man who had struggled and fallen and fought and triumphed over and over again.

The thing about mental illnesses is that they don't go away. There are points where you'll go into remission and remember what life is like. Those points are amazing; the mountaintop after struggling through the Valley of the Shadow of Our Misery and Failures.

 And there are points when you're so desperate to make the pain go away, to stop the negative and sometimes obsessive thoughts, to quell the demons that ravage your mind the way cancer or MS ravage the body, you'll do anything. For some, it's drugs or alcohol. For me, it's video games--I actually feel useful if I'm saving Ferelden from the Blight for the 20th time.

The other thing about mental illnesses is that sometimes people actually look down on you for seeking help. Because there aren't outward symptoms. Because it's all in our head. Well, yeah, it's in my head. It's a mental illness.

Those are the people who can't fathom it, and I've discovered that a large portion are the first to blame the victim when suicide is involved, whether it's from overdose or...well...what happened to Chris.

And to them, I say GOOD FOR YOU. Not in a bitter way, but in a way that's as joyful as I can muster because they don't know those struggles, they don't trudge through those dark times, they don't experience the emotional nothingness that mental illnesses can bestow. They've never felt the actual switch in their brains when a depressive episode takes over, and they've never had to watch their friends and family struggle to find the magic words to snap them out. They've never had people stop inviting them places after saying "no" one too many times, not because they don't want to but because they literally can't. They've never had to talk themselves into the most basic self-care because they don't feel like they're worth the effort. I'm glad. Because it sucks. It sucks to watch yourself fall down a black hole like you're merely a spectator to your own suffering, because you've managed to dissociate yourself from the very essence of You. It sucks to know that you're not safe with your own mind. It sucks to know that all it takes is One Bad Thing to obliterate the positivity you've so carefully crafted and nurtured. One chink in the armor and it's rendered useless. Might as well be that "high level" female fantasy armor that doesn't protect anything.

-I'm so glad there are people who don't go through that.

This post is not for them.

This post is for the ones who are terrified. If our heroes can't beat this, then what hope do we have? And to that, I say I honestly don't know. What I do know is that we have to continue carrying this banner and this burden until we can't. For ourselves. For the ones we've lost. For people who struggle and are too scared or ashamed to find help.

I'm here. If you need a therapist but you're not in a place to see someone in person, there's Talk Space. The National Suicide Prevention hotline - 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project - 866-
488-7386. There are more options now than even when I was a kid. The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, so utilize it. Please. Don't let the closed mind of someone who doesn't share your experiences take away your willingness to help yourself.

And if you're thinking of taking your own life, please see this post as a girl who has been scared of her own mind and understands where you are, begging you not to. These things in our heads, they lie to us. They tell us we're worthless and unloved and unlovable. We don't deserve the kindnesses of our friends and family. They tell us we're failures. NONE of that is true. You are NOT too broken to be loved. You are NOT too broken to live. The world needs you.

I need you.

Please stay.

30 June 2017


OK, well I live. I guess that's good enough, right?

Especially since it's been.....ooooooooooooooooh.......about six months since I've made a peep on here? Mah bad.

A lot has happened. Some good, some not so good. The not so good = massive depressive episode that basically stole my life. After finishing Super Sekrit Project (which is still super sekrit), I kinda fell off the writing wagon. And when that happens, nothing good follows. There's a lot that I've been thinking about, that I'll share as I shake myself out of this weird pseudo-coma I've been in.

The thing that I'm excited most about, though, is the fruition of a different sekrit projekt, one that is near and dear to my heart and deeply personal (no jokes, plz. Eh, okay, one). And that is the development of a line--somewhat by accident--with After Glows Publishing called Cupid's Cafe, which you can learn allllll about at this handy-dandy website I built. I'm hoping this will fill an untapped romance niche full of people like myself who struggle with mental illnesses and want to see ourselves not only overcome the symptoms but also find love in the process.The first two books in the line are available now, and let me tell you, the ladies who have stepped up and taken this project on are AMAZING.

And it's starting to grow more. A third book has been contracted, and a fourth writer (who isn't me!) has expressed interest. That, more than anything else, has been keeping me afloat lately. 

Over the next several posts, I'm going to share a few different things with you guys, and a lot of it might not be pretty. I've given up trying to sugar-coat my illnesses because no one sugar-coats physical illnesses, so why should I treat mine as anything less just because they're mental? If you're on board, feel free to share your own experiences, either here in the comments or on your own blog. @ me on Twitter (@lexcade), find me on Facebook, tag me on Tumblr. I want to know your stories. I want you to feel comfortable sharing them because we all need that from time to time. Want to guest post? Email me at c (dot) peace (at) live (dot) com. It's time we shake off the stigma of mental illness, and the best way to do that is through honesty and speaking our truth. 

Say it with me: I am worthy of love.

'Til next time, peeps.

12 December 2016

Uh wow

So I haven't written anything since August. That's crazy.

Fairly certain the depressive episodes that have colored the last few months have something to do with it.

But I'm not here to discuss depression (today).

And although Batman Arkham Knight has owned me the last several weeks, I'm not here to talk about that, either. I'll post a review later this week that will be a love letter to Jason Todd and what I would love to see from another installment.

Today, we're going to talk about a special breed of imposter syndrome.

A couple years ago I wrote a book approximately 10 people have read about a romance author who hasn't had a relationship in a long ass time. Claire is probably the closest to me I've actually put in a book (though she's not me and there's a difference) because I, too, am a romance author who hasn't had a relationship in a long ass time because of lasting emotional trauma that's gonna require more therapy than I have time for to deal with. And like Claire, I kinda wonder if that fact makes me less of a romance writer. I'm actually quite jaded where 99.999% of romance-related things are involved. I'm a mega-shipper of Olicity and I enjoy a good HEA, though I think happily for now is far more realistic.

So with my books, and even romantic subplots, I tend to err more on the side of realism (btw, I had to add "err" to my phone's dictionary just now, but it knows words that don't actually exist). And I realize that Jaded Romantic isn't a huge sub-genre of the community. But I'm here. And I write what I want to read. Stories that are emotionally messy. People whose worst enemies are most definitely themselves. In fact, I'm working on a project that involves a severely depressed/suicidal heroine because mentally ill people are under-represented. I know this, for I am a mentally ill person and have yet to read anything where the heroine makes me go HOLY SHIT THAT'S ME. It's why I always liked science fiction--those are some fucked up people, but it's ok because they're doing science. In fact, one of the saddest love stories for me is Mr. Fries and Nora, his wife, who (depending on the retcon) suffers from Huntington's chorea, and her husband has cryogenically frozen her to buy time until he can find a cure. Again, not really here or there.

Ok, back to this whole imposter thing. I'd love some feedback on this, btw. But my question is, does a romance author need to be in a relationship to write romance effectively? And more than that, would you as a reader feel a little gipped if you read a book and the author was someone like me with a partner and kids effectively missing from the bio? Do you think I'm just stuck too far in my head? Let me know below.
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