Author Archive

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at April 10, 2015

Category: Memoir

I must have “approachable” tattooed on my forehead. I must have talked to at least six people at Walmart tonight. And I was shopping alone.

I was looking at the bare-root roses they had by the door. I didn’t see a sign nearby telling what the prices were on them, so I stepped inside the store and asked a clerk. As we walked back outside, I realized all of the roses were pre-priced. Duh. I thanked the clerk and we both laughed.

Inside the store, I headed for the dairy department. I picked up eggs, and as I passed another customer, she asked where the butter was. I pointed straight down the aisle, where I was going and replied, “Right down there.”

As I went around the corner of an aisle to pick up cereal, a woman turned to me and asked about a product. She laughed as she realized I was not her husband, who had come around behind her and was waiting on her other side. “You’ll try this for me, right?” she asked. I laughed back and kept moving.

A little girl in the pet department greeted me as I walked past her to find dog bones. Another shopper apologized for cutting me off at the end of an aisle. As my energy for shopping was flagging, I found drain cleaner in the wrong section of the store, but picked it up because it was on my list. I thought about trying to find the right chemical section, but decided it was serendipitous that I found anything without a lot of effort.

The mom in front of me in the check-out line was a little frazzled; her two boys insisted they wanted to buy seeds so they could grow watermelons. The mom explained that they didn’t have anywhere to grow them because they lived in an apartment. She added that the boys’ dad might let them plant something at his house, but she had to find out from him first.

I silently sympathized with the mom — I’ve had similar discussions. I thought about telling the boys that they wouldn’t get watermelons overnight, but the mom was patient and explained it again. No seeds until we know if we can plant them.

It was my turn in the check-out line, and the checker was characteristically chatty. I double-checked my list, and tucked it away. I put my bags in the cart and headed out to my car. In the next spot was a family from … let’s just say Somewhere Else. They were chatting in another language, but I could still tell that the mom was nagging.

My groceries were loaded up in the back end, and as I went to crawl in behind the wheel, the young man of the family complimented me on my Kia. I thanked him and explained that I liked it, too, because I got to sit up a little higher, improving my visibility. He told me that he’d just bought an Impala. “Good for you!” I responded, and got in my car.

I have shopped at that store countless times and never spoke to another person. Tonight was unique.

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at February 7, 2015

Category: Charlie

We are trying to discourage our dog Charlie from barking so much. When he’s at home, he barks whenever anyone knocks at the door. I understand that. And maybe that’s a good one. But he also barks when the fellow next door locks his car door and the car honks at him. That’s annoying.

Charlie and his doggy daycare buddy, Tucker, are accustomed to barking at anything that moves at Grandma’s house. They sit at the deck door, waiting and watching. Tucker can also look out the front picture window, when he jumps up on her couch. Then he gets a clearer view of what’s moving, because there isn’t any deck shelter blocking the way.

Tucker has gotten better. He’s clearly settling down in that regard. He still greets me enthusiastically because he knows I’m a soft-touch for throwing the ball for him. He likes to nuzzle my face, and I think he knows I love that. There’s no such thing as too much enthusiasm when a dog gives you attention.

Or is there?

I’ve been lax over the past few weeks about daily walks with Charlie. I don’t want to go out when it’s icy. I don’t want to fall. Now that we’ve had a little snow again, I’m extra careful, because that snow hides the ice on the sidewalks. I think it was last winter when Charlie and I opted to walk in the streets because the sidewalks were too dangerous. But I digress.

Now when I get dressed in the morning, donning long underwear and sweatpants, Charlie knows what’s coming. When I step into my boots, he’s really figured it out, and he knows we’re going for a walk. And that’s when he starts barking. He’s excited about going out for a walk — I get that. But he barks from the moment my toes disappear into my boots to the moment we get to the front door.

That means he’s barking when I’m putting on my hoodie, stocking cap, scarf and overcoat. He’s barking when I go to the kitchen to fetch another roll of doggie bags. He’s barking while I’m trying to fasten his halter and get his collar over his head. Charlie’s bark is loud, especially when it’s right in my ear as I’m bent over him, attaching the leash.

At first, I thought it was charming — Charlie barking with delight, trying to speed me up in getting ready. Now it’s getting old. And I don’t want Charlie waking the neighbors with his yapping. (My upstairs neighbor has assured me that she doesn’t hear a thing, because she wears earplugs at night. No snoring or traffic noise is going to disturb her!)

No sign language or verbal command from me has done any good. I finally grabbed my slipper and swatted him on the butt. He got the message. Now I just have to make sure I have my slipper close by whenever Charlie starts barking.

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at January 23, 2015

Category: Uncategorized

We get several deliveries at our home each week. The FedEx guy comes and drops off a slim envelope that contains some paperwork that could have just as easily been emailed. That’s the company HighGuy works for. He has to print out stuff daily, but they send other stuff FedEx. I think it would be nice if they’d FedEx it all and we wouldn’t have to go through printer ink like water.

The UPS people know where we live. They’ve dropped off stuff several times. They get a signature from me or Mom or whoever is in the hallway at the condo, and off they go. No big deal. The Forum comes every day, sometimes earlier, sometimes later, but it always comes. The woman who delivers it wouldn’t win any beauty contest, but she’s dependable!

And then there’s the US Postal Service. Sigh. They really do well — when all they’re really delivering is junk mail. Oh, of course we still get a few bills through the mail, and there’s a momentous occasion when we get something really nice, like a greeting card, thank you note or an invitation.

And why someone who doesn’t like dogs would do this job is beyond comprehension. And why someone who doesn’t like dealing with the public would sign up for this job is also beyond understanding. But there are and they do. We were compelled to install an outdoor mailbox for the building because ONE carrier was afraid of our dogs. We did it. We didn’t like it, but we did it.

And then another carrier comes, and comes right in the door and delivers the mail to our locked interior boxes. OK, that’s very nice. Apparently not all of the carriers understand what that box outside our main door is for. Whatever. So Mom checks the outdoor box and sorts the mail inside, putting the mostly-junk mail into our wire baskets on the wall. And then we have to check both the locked box inside and the wire basket on the wall. We’ll manage.

One day I realized I hadn’t checked our locked box for some time, so I opened it up and found a notice that they’d tried delivering a package. Mom had seen the carrier and told him that she could take the package — she’s my mother. Mom didn’t understand that the USPS carrier had orders to get MY signature on the little piece of paper. She was less than cordial with him because she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. It was only logical that he could leave the package and be done with it. His orders were to get the signature for the person sending the package.

And I know what’s in the package. It’s a wonderful stretch fleece sweatshirt from my son and daughter-in-law that they bought me for Christmas. Unfortunately it was a size too small, so I returned it to the company for the next larger size. Their suggestions on returning it? Insure it. Well, OK, it’s a high-priced sweatshirt, but I’m going to trust the postal service to get it there.

A representative from the Alaskan company who makes the sweatshirts called me. She said that they’d be shipping out my sweatshirt, and that her kids went to Concordia College — just across the river in Moorhead. What a small world. Unfortunately, she doesn’t trust the postal system as much and asked for a delivery receipt from them. That’s why I have to sign the paper saying, I received the package.

I went to the post office two days ago, orange receipt in hand, as well as my identification, and stood in line for at least 15 minutes. The lined snaked out the door into the foyer, and no one at the counters was moving anything too quickly. That’s because they’re all ready for retirement after having walked a route for who-knows-how-many years. But I was already there, so I wasn’t going to give up my place in line out of impatience.

Thankfully, when I got to the head of the line, the person behind the counter actually looked at my ID and took my receipt and disappeared into the back. And I waited some more. Finally the woman trudged back to the counter and admitted that she couldn’t find the package. She would take a copy of my receipt and they would call me when they found it. She took my receipt and disappeared into the back again. I waited. Ah, yes.

I called my mom to see if they’d dropped off the package there. No, she hadn’t caught the postal carrier, but I did have another receipt to sign. So apparently the carrier had the package with him on the truck. (And maybe they waited at the curb to make sure Mom wasn’t anywhere around so they wouldn’t get harassed by her.)

So now I have two receipts and no package. I thought about going to the post office this morning to see if it’s there, but it’s probably already on the truck. If I just wait long enough at home, they’ll deliver it. Sometime. Before spring, I hope.

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at January 22, 2015

Category: Charlie, Memoir

Now we have one of each again in the Condo Commune: small, large, brown, black and yellow. I’m talking about dogs, of course, not people. And our condo isn’t really a commune — it’s just that my husband and I own one unit; my sister owns another; and my mother owns the unit across the hall. (The fourth is owned by someone totally unrelated, but we try to make her feel at home, since she’s been here longer than any of us.)

We lost our smallest white dog, Abby, to old age. She was Mom’s faithful companion. Abby slept on or under Mom’s bed, depending on the time of the year and whether she was due for a bath. It’s been an adjustment for Mom. She misses her little lapdog, even though Abby was too old to hop up on Mom’s lap. Besides, Mom always has a book on her lap.

Our smaller dog is now Charlie, our puggle. He’s our empty-nest dog. When our son and daughter-in-law and their dog returned to Alaska after their visit a few years ago, our condo unit felt empty, and HighGuy and I both felt the loss. So we adopted Charlie — already potty trained, and already done with the chewing phase. A good choice.

Charlie made friends with Abby easily enough. They basically ignored one another or tolerated one another with equanimity. Now and then, Abby would inspect Charlie’s ears, and Charlie would sniff her hind quarters. But making friends with Tucker was a different situation.

Both dogs are males, and both of them were territorial. Charlie knew where his home was and he wasn’t about to give up too easily. They snarled at one another, circling with their hackles up. But before we knew it, they were great friends and gamboling in the back yard with one another.

Tucker, being a black Lab, had the upper hand, so to speak, and now and then would run roughshod over Charlie. Charlie, being the resourceful older dog, had a solution: he nipped Tucker in the underbelly, maybe even on a tender part, and Tucker got the message loud and clear.

I have a mental image of the two dogs, resting at the top of the steps next to one another, their tongues hanging out because they’ve been running up and down the stairs — and Tucker’s paw is draped around Charlie’s back as if to say, “We’re best friends.” I wish I would have had a camera. It was a classic pose.

And now we’ve added another dog. Jake is my sister’s boyfriend’s dog. He’s a yellow Lab — the dog, not the boyfriend. My sister, LisaLouWho, is seeing Keef, so nicknamed by her granddaughter, Gracie. Keef can’t leave Jake at home in the kennel all the time, so he comes to LisaLouWho’s — to spend time in the kennel.

Jake and Tucker have not had a great time of it. They’ve snarled and growled at one another, and even had an all-out fight. So Keef and LisaLou have to keep the two dogs separate for the time being. Jake comes in with his kennel and goes into one bedroom, while Tucker cools his heels in the other bedroom. Once Jake is settled, then Tucker can come out. When it’s Jake’s turn, Tucker goes into the bedroom with his chew toy.

Jake has been neutered, too. The thinking was that perhaps that would settle him down some. Or not. Both dogs just need to be socialized more. Charlie goes for walks with me in the morning, and we see all kinds of people and animals. He’s not nuts about cats, but for the most part, Charlie likes to meet other dogs.

In fact, just yesterday, I let go of the leash because he was so insistent about seeing another little dog on a leash, and I wasn’t moving fast enough. Sorry, it was icy. Charlie went scampering over to see what other dog was claiming the park as his, and the two circled one another with their hackles up. I made my way over and stomped on Charlie’s leash so the other dog and his owner could continue their walk.

The other dog was a smaller furball — one of those breeds that sound like you’re swearing or sneezing or both. His owner had told me before that his dog wasn’t very social. I wanted to inquire why he had chosen that time of day when children would be walking through the park on their way to school, but I filtered that snarky question. On this encounter, we both commented on the icy walking conditions, and went our own ways.

If left to their own devices, the two dogs may have gotten past their hackles and sniffed each other’s backsides. Who knows? But I digress. Tucker and Jake will both have to grow up some, and perhaps, someday, they’ll decide to let it go. Until then, we can always tell when it’s Jake’s turn to go outside.

We hear him first. LisaLou opens the door upstairs and Keef is at the door to the back yard. Jake comes like a streak of lightning. It sounds as if he’s running on the walls and then taking the stairs six at a time. I swear, he goes from zero to 60 in two seconds. And then he’s outside, doing laps along the fence. I think he must stop at some point to actually do his business. But I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him at rest.

And speaking of resting, I have a dog on my couch with his head on the armrest, silently pleading with me. It’s time for our walk.

 

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at December 29, 2014

Category: Uncategorized

HighGuy and I spend a lot of time watching HGTV — we watch The Property Brothers and Fixer-Upper, among other home improvement shows. We enjoy seeing the changes that can happen with money and the right tools. (The thing I’m always amazed by is that the homes don’t always end up looking the same.)

At some point, I get tired of hearing people whining about not having enough space. They want spa tubs and gourmet kitchens and open concept living areas. They want all kinds of storage areas, and room for the kids to play, and a place for the dog to run.

And the Scott brothers try to give them everything. Then they run into a couple where one or the other is a control freak and wants to know what’s going on all the time. Or worse, they get a couple where one or the other wants to change the plans halfway through the construction. I don’t know how the brothers keep their cool. Maybe that’s what we don’t see when the cameras leave.

One of the things they talk about on Love It or List It is functionality. Does a room “work” for the family? We have three bedrooms in our condo — one is our master bedroom, of course; one is the office/sewing room; and the third is the library/spare bedroom.

We have a hide-a-bed in the library/spare bedroom which just barely fits. It’s a small bedroom which has been used as a dining room. I can’t imagine using it for that, since the kitchen is big enough for a good size table. So HighGuy suggested that we change the two extra bedrooms around — making more room for our guests. But we have LOTS of stuff in that larger bedroom.

We have our computer desk, a buffet, a bookcase, a filing cabinet, a sewing machine and a big dining room table that I use to cut fabric for sewing projects. There are two large closets in that bedroom, too. They’re filled with fabric, sewing notions, and bins filled with craft supplies. I’d like to go through those bins and see what can go and what can stay, but I can’t get to them.

That room is so cramped with stuff that I don’t think I could pull anything out of the closet until we get some of the stuff out of the way. But I doubt we’ll be able to swap the two rooms around. There just isn’t enough room. What I can do, however, is organize our office/sewing room so that it functions better.

The bookshelf in the office is mostly picture albums. I need to find a different place for those, and get rid of the rest of the junk on the shelves. Some of it is old craft magazines and random picture frames. Those can go in a bin if I ever get to them.

January is a time when I like to start a major project — like a quilt, or a cleaning project. This January, I’m going to conquer that extra bedroom. To start off, I’ve done some mending projects that were piling up on my sewing machine. Next I’ll be pulling the albums from the shelves and finding them another place in the condo — perhaps the book shelf in the other bedroom.

I can certainly downsize the number of books stored there. I should only have books I haven’t read yet, and those that I’ll definitely re-read. So far I haven’t re-read very many books. I have too many other books waiting to be cracked open. So if I get my books sorted out, I should have room enough for everything on one bookshelf.

After that, I think I can convince HighGuy to sort through some of his papers and find a solution to storing them. We have a file cabinet for those papers we need to keep — we just need to file them. And we need to find room in those drawers for more papers. I get tired just thinking about going through all that stuff.

That’s a bad sign. When I get tired of a project, I’m likely to take shortcuts. I’ll just cram stuff where it’ll fit instead of going through it with a garbage can and a shredder. But really, who need information about an insurance policy you no longer have?

So I’ll take it slowly, bit by bit, climbing the mountain a step at a time. And if all else fails, I’ll find an episode of Hoarders to watch to inspire me.

 

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at November 10, 2014

Category: Uncategorized

Taylor came in to work with her hair down. It was lovely. It looked as if she’d had a spiral perm — all the rage a few years back, and still in style today.

I was stunned at how pretty it was — it framed her features and and made her face softer. Almost glowing. I had to ask, “Did you get a perm? Your hair is gorgeous!”

Others had noticed, too. No, she told us with a little scorn in her voice. “This is my normal hair.”

“What?! You have naturally curly hair and you don’t love it?!”

We all told her how nice it looked and how we would kill to have wavy gorgeous hair like hers.

Why is that? Those of us with straight hair want curly hair, and those with curly hair do everything they can to straighten it. I have spent hours and several hundred dollars on getting my hair to curl. It’s stick-straight and doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t even hang nice. I would have to curl the ends to get it to look presentable.

Now that I’m older and wiser (snort!), I’ve learned to embrace my straight hair. I wear it straight. Straight up, that is. And now I don’t own a hair dryer or a curling iron or a perm rod. I wash it, I color it, and I use a little pomade. I spend about five minutes on it in the morning, if that.

I no longer burn myself with a curling iron or get tired arms from using a hair dryer. I get it cut every six weeks or so, depending on how short it was to begin with, and I color it. That’s it. That’s my hair regimen. And I’m starting to think about letting it go gray. If it were coming in a beautiful white, I’d certainly let that come through, but it’s coming in gray, and I’m not so enamored of that.

My greatniece Gracie is still a toddler and has the most charming blonde curly hair. It falls in natural ringlets around her face. I hope she embraces her hair just the way it is. But I know human nature. And at some point she will look in the mirror and say, “I wish I had straight hair.” And she’ll spend hours blow-drying it straight.

I just hope someday that she’ll say, “I love my curly hair,” and wear it that way.

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at September 22, 2014

Category: Charlie

Charlie leaves a post on Furbook

On a television special recently, an animal specialist said that when dogs sniff a fire hydrant, it’s like logging into Facebook for them. They can tell who’s been there, how they’re feeling, and what they’ve eaten recently. Yeah, that sounds like Facebook.

So when Charlie Puggle and I go walking in the morning, that’s logging into Furbook. I don’t think we have any fire hydrants along our route, but Charlie knows where to find the Three Amigos — the three chihuahuas that live on the next corner — or the Dynamic Duo — a pair of barky little Yorkies a block from the park.

Now and then we see other dogs face to face — Java and his owner Gerald, and a woman and her white Yorkie cross. But Charlie spends a good part of our walk checking out the World Wide …World. Guided by his mouse (muzzle), he leaves friend invites on nearly every tree and fencepost, and checks those posts to see if he’s had any res-paw-nses.

He never knows where his muzzle is going to take him on Furbook. He checks out the latest posts by other dogs, and will sometimes add his two cents’ worth. And there are times he just gets lost on the WWW and has to be guided back to the sidewalk. Thank goodness he doesn’t have a cordless muzzle. Who knows where he’d end up?

Alas, some of those dogs will never respond because they’re limited to MyInnerSpace, or ChainLinkedIn. Charlie likes to leave a message now and then on a chain link fence for one acquaintance. And now and then, Charlie will just run out of juice. That means he’s been on Furbook for too long, and it’s time to go into sleep mode on the couch.

 

 

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at September 16, 2014

Category: Memoir

It was a sweet, simple wedding: no string quartet or 16 attendants, no champagne toasts or limousines. It was just our daughter Robin and Nate, their attendants Kelly and Jason, and a small country church.

The pews were filled with mostly family and a few friends. In a larger church, the group may have seemed skimpy, but in the hometown church, it was a full house.

The attendants came from a side room; Robin’s attendant was her brother Jason. No maid of honor in a dress that would never be worn again. Nate’s friend Kelly was the best man. They opted for white shirts and bright blue ties. Jerry escorted Robin up the aisle, and the ceremony began.

Pastor Sonja introduced a couple of women who read poems that Robin had written. In one, Robin talked about how she and Nate had met: at the gas station where she was working. It was a sweet reading that brought a genuine grin to the groom’s face.

The pastor spoke a little, mentioning how the two met, and how they’d been urged by friends and family to get married. They’ve been together for nine years. (Has it really been that long?) She gave them their vows, blessed the rings and voila! It’s a marriage.

Whenever we discussed plans, the mantra was, “Keep it simple.” I’ve seen at least one wedding where no expense was spared, and the marriage didn’t last more than a month. And that’s part of what drove some of the decisions: do we spend money on this, or save it for a down payment on a house?

Robin and Nate will be making a great start together. The wedding might have been quick and simple, but the marriage should last for a long time. They’re good for each other.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at August 22, 2014

Category: Memoir

I made a new friend today. That’s it, that’s my big highlight. I have the fog to thank. Charlie the puggle and I were taking our morning walk a little later than normal, so I also have Charlie to thank. He let me sleep in until 7:15! Oh, the luxury of it! (I don’t have to be to work until 11 a.m., so you understand my enthusiasm.)

We were out at the park, thinking about sitting down on one of the benches, when a woman rode up on her bicycle and sat down at the picnic table as if she were meeting a friend. (She was.) We chatted about the dense fog and she told me how her friend got lost in the fog and ended up several blocks away. I expressed sympathy about having to look for her friend.

Charlie dragged me over to her, so she could pet him, and after they bonded, Charlie sniffed her backpack.

“Ooh, Charlie,” I cooed, “what does she have in her bag? Is it her lunch?”

“That’s my house,” she told me.

“Ah,” I replied. “Traveling light.”

We talked more — about the weather, about the park and how it gets trashed now and then, and how nice it was to have a porta-potty there. I recalled how last year, someone kept tipping it over. She said she remembered that. She told me how someone vandalized the porta-potty, and she called the phone number on it, and they came out and cleaned it up.

Yes, my new friend Stephanie has a phone. It’s likely a prepaid phone and perhaps it’s only for emergencies — I don’t know. It didn’t matter. She was friendly, she shook my hand, and she laughed with me when I joked about how fat my dog is. She told me that she’d been staying at the Gladys Ray Shelter since it opened. She has a voucher for a month’s rent and a deposit for an apartment, but no one will rent to her. I expressed my dismay at that.

While we were chatting, another friend pulled up on her bike and sat down. She’d brought the doughnuts. And soon, two fellows joined us. They were on foot. They pretended to take the two bicycles, and then laughed and sat down. They were apparently friends, too. They had all the time in the world. There wasn’t any pressure to be anywhere at a certain time. It was a nice visit.

I have a job, so I do have to be somewhere. And now, looking at the clock, I realize I have to get ready for that job. I hope I see Stephanie again. She’s a nice lady.

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at August 18, 2014

Category: Charlie, Memoir

It looked foggy out this morning when I peeked from the window. But it was Monday and Charlie hadn’t popped up on the side of the bed to wake me. I could hear him breathing heavy from the floor, and I heard him when he got up and flapped his ears to let me know he was actually awake.

Charlie had actually let me sleep in until 10 to 7! Usually it’s 6:30 every morning when he stands beside my side of the bed and then puts his front paws on my arm to let me know it’s time to get up. I have permanent little bruises on my arm from his nails. But he’s so appealing, I can’t get cross with him.

I rolled out of bed, got ready, and got Charlie all cinched up for his walk. He always wears his collar, and then we use a harness on him so he doesn’t strangle himself with all his enthusiasm for getting out there. We got out onto the front step, and Charlie turned around. It was drizzling.

I stepped down off the porch and felt it. It wasn’t too bad. We were just going to get a little damp. “Come on, let’s go,” I told him, and away we went. I intended to go around one block, but Charlie decided for us: In for a penny, in for a pound. We went all the way to the park. And by the time we got there, it had stopped spritzing.

A murder of crows greeted us in the park. I decided that’s going to be the opening line of a book I write. The crows have been hanging around the park because there’s always something to forage for in the garbage cans. People from the apartments go out there and have picnics and take their kids to play. Drunks on their way to the shelter leave their bottles and bags, too.

I didn’t pick up trash today. The trash bins were already full, so whatever I’d pick up would just blow out. Maybe tomorrow.

Charlie and I got home and dried off, and in no time, Charlie had eaten his breakfast and fallen asleep on the couch. And he was barking in his sleep. Just little yips that came from deep in his belly, punctuated by his twitching paws. It was so cute. Yeah, I’m a dog person.

I imagined that he was dreaming about last night. We had an impromptu family get-together because my nephew was here from California. It was minor mayhem, since the three dogs in the building had more people to get attention from. Charlie was lapping it up, since all he has to do is turn his gaze on someone to get their affection.

Tucker, the Lab who lives upstairs with my sister and cowers in the bathroom during thunder storms, had eyes only for the tennis ball. He would whine until I tossed it for him, or tried to kick it past him in our little soccer matches. If I get it past him, I consider it a goal. He’s a good goalie.

It was fun visiting with my brother and his family. We had some laughs and shared our lives a little. It was great to be able to connect over ribs and brisket, and update everyone face to face. Facebook is OK, but face to face is better.

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