Adventures in Imperfection

Attack of the (marriage) Killer Tomatoes

A few years ago, my boss introduced a fascinating book to our small group – StrengthFinders 2.0. The general concept was that humans spend too much time trying to improve upon our weaknesses instead of sharpening our skills in areas where each individual has the most talent. My co-workers and I took an intensive, validated test and then waited for the magic computer to spew out our secret super powers. In order, my top 5 strengths (with commentary) were:

Restorative: People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it. I still scratch my head at this one. Maybe they meant causing problems? I am the BOMB at that 🙂 

Discipline: People strong in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create. Raises hand. First-born German Catholic girl here. 

Empathy: People in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations. I am a self-proclaimed Atticus Finch (pre-Watchman version)

Learner: People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them. Remember that chick with bright notebooks at the beginning of each school semester? The one who was first to school because she couldn’t wait for the doors to open? Yep. That was me! 

Relator: People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal. No shocker here. Except, don’t make me do team activities, please. I just wanna hang in the corner with my best friend. 

I had hoped for a few more interesting strengths like strategizer or intelligence or something really smart-sounding, but that never happened –even after testing twice. The goal of this test for our organization was to find a diverse set of people with different skills in order to cover all bases.

I hypothesized that these concepts might apply in a marriage as well.

While I didn’t talk hubby into taking the test, I easily postulated what his skills would be.

Grass Whisperer: He doesn’t use a lawn service or have a sprinkler system. I swear he simply walks onto the grass each season and chants magic growing incantations. He mows long after the first frost and complains that his grass is too plush and too abundant.

Circus Monkey Management: In his first career, Scott started as a cable TV tech, then moved to supervisor. Not long after that, he became a manager and then closed that chapter of his life by finishing as one of the top-ranked directors in the country. Now he’s a realtor without people management responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean he’s escaped the monkeys who need a little direction – he has a whole house full.

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Flood and Risk Management: At the first threat of rain or a storm, you can bet that hubby has the generator ready, the sump pump primed, and escape routes planned. He doesn’t sleep on these nights, and I know it’s because he feels like it’s his job to keep us safe and dry and completely away from the flood that wrecked us several years ago.

Daddy Extraordinaire: I almost dropped extraordanaire simply because I couldn’t spell it right! But it’s the only word appropriate to describe. He does the hard stuff, and he’s so good at it. He knows when I’ve had a bad day and need a hug. He also knows when to go down to the basement and listen to whatever problem (football, girls, etc) has surfaced for the teenage man-cave dweller living in the basement. Same goes for the sweet girl who moved back home to go to nursing school.

Arranger: I grabbed this one from StrengthFinders 2.0: People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity. Need your dishwasher filled to maximum capacity? Scott is your man! Remember the egg photo from my recipe a few weeks ago? That was his work. He even has to make sure that the food is categorized within the shopping basket and on the conveyor belt when we check out–for maximum put-it-away efficiency. Want to see one of his favorite desserts?

An Arranger’s Nirvana

Of his five strengths, you might guess which one causes conflict. For example, how do you suppose an arranger would react to something like this sitting on a counter top otherwise absent of clutter?

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Or this…

 

A “normal” person might relish in the accomplishment of fresh veggies from the garden to table to feed the family. Not an arranger. Poor Scott gets itchy when he sees something other than blank space on the cabinet. Our biggest tiff this summer?

What are you going to do with all of those stupid tomatoes we will never eat?

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In March, I planted 24 seeds, placed them under grow lights and watched all 24 emerge like they were on plant steroids. Fast forward 4 weeks, and my basement was overrun by green. I moved everything out to the greenhouse in early April and counted the days until I could put those bad boys in the ground. Despite a minor mishap (hard frost, window open) I was able to save 13 of the original 24.

Normally, I’d give away all but six, but something snapped in me and I decided to keep all thirteen–I couldn’t bear to part with any of them.

“Really?” hubs said as he watched me dig a Baker’s dozen worth of holes.

“You are the only one who eats tomatoes in this family.”

Some couples fight over money, or discipline, or sex. Scott and I put on gloves and go to opposite corners when we talk produce.

He pointed at me, “You, little mama, are a vegetable hoarder.”

“I am not a vegetable hoarder!” and then stuffed a handful of purple beans in my pocket and scooped up tomatoes and peppers with my dress.

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In stubborn, German fashion I ignored him and continue to nurture and fertilize all spring and summer. By the end of May, they had grown to mammoth sizes. For June and July, they produced pounds of tomatoes like they supplied a Heinz ketchup factory.

Our family took a vacation to Wyoming in early August and my biggest problem was not packing or finding phone chargers, but trying to figure out what to do with a bazillion tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter.

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I didn’t have enough time to can them

You can’t really freeze tomatoes

My friends ran the other way when they see me coming with produce

For the each of the seven days leading up to the trip, Scott asked, “What are you going to do with those tomatoes?”

Then, his questioning became relentless until I decided to hide them in the garage refrigerator. Once the questions turned from tomatoes to departure times, I knew my  ‘maters were safe until we returned home.

After an awesome week with my family, parents and siblings and their families the tomato problem was still there when we got home. I did what every good vegetable hoarder wife would do. I lied about their existence until the evidence became smelly. I’d planned the entire time to put what I couldn’t eat into my compost.

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When I couldn’t find the tomatoes for environmentally conscious disposal, I suspected foul play.

“Honey, did you do something with the tomatoes in the fridge?”

He took a couple of steps back, “What fridge?”

“In the garage?”

He looked puzzled for only a minute, and then his face gave away the crime.

“Did you at least throw them in the compost?”

“They were SMELLING! They were LEAKING! Why did you plant so many tomatoes??”

He spent the next few minutes spewing the anti-logic of planting thirteen bushes for a family who DOES NOT EAT tomatoes. He suggested that I tear up the entire garden and never plant another *($)%($$ tomato seed again. Then he launched into my vegetable hoarding tendencies and threw in a few barbs about the messy garden shed and weedy front bed.

His baby blues burrowed into mine, “Next year. ZERO tomatoes. In fact, why plant any vegetables at all? We can buy them at the store. You should put your whole garden to flowers.”

In my best (feigned) sheepish voice, I conceded, “You’re probably right. I’ll convert the vegetable space to a cottage garden next spring.” Then, I walked away pouting until I was around the corner.

There is only one thing I hoard more than vegetables.

Problem solved – marriage saved. My sexy arranger won’t know what hit him.

My greatest strength? Maybe I am a Restorative after all 😉

******
Part one in a three-part series 🙂

75 thoughts on “Attack of the (marriage) Killer Tomatoes

  1. Oh Michelle, we are so similar! I would be hoarding all those tomatoes too, yum, and thankfully my daughter would be making sauce with them! Your husband sounds like a sweetheart- a real keeper. I want to plant a cottage garden of flowers every year. If you do it, I will! Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Next year, I need to borrow your daughter (I’m still gonna have six plants!)
      I would love it if we planted parallel cottage gardens – I ordered all of my seed today! We can garden together via Instagram ❤

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  2. I don’t thing that song got anythin’ to do with “pickin’ ACTUAL wildflowers!” LOL! Great song though! Loved it.
    I took the Strength Finder quiz a while back and I should probably take it again because I think I would change some of my answers. Right now they stand at..
    1. Communication
    2. Woo
    3. Input
    4. Positivity
    5. Developer
    I don’t know that I agree with this anymore…..

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    1. I always wanted to meet a “woo'” – of all the strengths listed, that was the one most intriguing to me. I could totally see all of those strengths in you, Courtney! Especially the positivity part 🙂
      And yes, that song. It’s one of my favs – has nothing to do with the post, but a fun way to end. I’m glad you liked it. Xoxo

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  3. There was a time of ambitious gardening at a rented farmhouse – straw mulch (some infused with equally aged “other organic matter”) – great weather, and then the Great Cucumber Glut. The problem was that it wasn’t just us. It was a banner year for cucumbers. You couldn’t give them away. In the big crock bought at an auction, they turned out to be not the right variety for pickling by the uninitiated (gross and stinky). We also found out just how huge a zucchini can hide under those big leaves.

    Happy blossom hoarding this year.

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    1. LOL – I may have some of that “other organic matter” baking in my soil as we speak. The Great Cucumber Glut sounds like a story I would love to read. And yes, isn’t it shocking to find a forgotten zucchini – some look big enough to eat a human instead of the other way around.
      Thanks for being here, Robert…and thank you so much for the reblog! This was truly a write, clean up quickly and publish moment.

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  4. This is so funny! I told someone the other day that I’m a tidy person and Matthew looked at me sideways like I was insane. Our definitions of tidy are on the opposite ends of the universe. He’s such minimalist that he’d leave every flat surface in the house with nothing on it. I get 4 measly picture frames and we once argued for a week about a bowl of potpourri. Decorating for the holidays drives him insane.

    Those purple green beans look amazing!!! ❤

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    1. Oh Karen….our husbands must be brothers. I can hear your discussions as if they were our own…oh wait, I think maybe we may have fought over a bowl of potpourri or two ourselves.
      Thanks for popping in, Karen. You’ve been on my mind today…I need to see what you’ve been up to.
      Love seeing your kiddos and kitties 🙂

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  5. Oh but Michelle, those ‘real’ vegetables actually taste better, have much more ‘goodies’ in them…and because they were grown with love, they are then cooked with love, for those we love 😀
    If you buy them at the shop…its just ho hum, another veggie….minus the love. Love heals everything, including grumpy husbands. I bet if you spread a picnic blanket in the middle of the garden it would be a beautiful outing…do that in the grocery aisle and I bet it doesn’t feel the same 😀
    Just do love kind lady, and even if your fingers are black from the soil, you’ll still smell nice among the tomato bushes 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My fingers are itching for the dirt as I type. In fact, I put in my seed catalog order today. But with today’s post, I knew I needed to bury last year’s garden before unfolding this years.
      That picnic in the garden sounds like the ticket – underneath my favorite sycamore…fresh bread, a bottle of wine…what a wonderful idea, Mark 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny you’d use those terms – it was actually a different post that I wrote which inspired me to finish this one (that’ll be the part 3 of 3).
        What are you doing these days, my friend? Any new photos in your gallery? I’m feeling the urge to come visit 🙂

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      2. Mmmm, synchronicity Michelle…it is touching something within I think, what is your higher self saying to you? 😀
        I have been a good boy and had a break over Christmas and took my nose out of my project (which will come to light in the next couple of months…I hope 😀 ). Of which I enjoyed, it was good to walk on the sand with the waves around my ankles and just enjoy the things that make this planet really glow, those little things we sometimes take for granted and pass them by 😀
        Even my posts have dried up to one a month or less. And I must take a few more photo’s and top up the tank, so to speak.
        What I would like to do, when I have the time again, is grow something as you do. It grounds you, brings a sense of peace and achievement when they come up, blossom into a beautiful living thing, and then allow you to share in their ripeness. A blessing indeed Michelle, to be a part of nature co-operatively. You are coming from your heart, only it will bring growth 😀

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      3. Imaginging your walks with the sand and surf around your ankles makes me so happy. I’m also thrilled to know that you’d like to grow something – truly grounding as you’ve shared. Do you know what you want to grow? I have some ideas…

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      4. I’ve been ‘growing’ my heart for so long now Michelle, and neglecting it’s grounding 😀 Yes, the surf does that, but the garden just touches it in another way, as you know 😀
        As children, my brothers and I would have a plot each in our yard to grow sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, and a range of ‘greens’. It was great to do, but now as I’m in a unit, 3 stories up, it makes it difficult because my balcony gets way too hot during summer. I measured its temperature and I think (and this was on a cool day), that 130F may be a little too warm 😀
        So when my ‘project’ is finished, i think I will move house to somewhere that I can ‘have a play’ in my garden 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Now I could go herbal and put an aloe vera out there…great idea Michelle, thank you. At the least I’ll have some green to see out there 🙂
        I’ll let you know as I get closer to the finish of my project. I’m not landing anyone on Mars, I decided to do the moon landing first to iron out the bugs 😀
        Have a great day Michelle, may it be green wherever you go 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. all i could think of..

    how i wished i were your neighbor, because i can’t grow a thing, but those tomatoes were so beautiful!

    i wonder if that test is available online….

    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I took the test online – I will look through my stuff and see if I can get you the link and the code.

      I would love it if you were my neighbor, too. You could fix my hydrangeas and make them bloom and I would fill your veggie trug with fresh carrots, tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers. Xo

      PS: Call me a stalker, but I read a post of yours from December of 2014 this morning – so good!

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  7. Would a “relator” feign a sheepish, concerned voice. I feel like you are very conflicted. This is hysterical. I can totally relate except for the grass whisperer part (I say as I look at the brown spots that dominate my lawn).

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  8. Dangit I LOVE tomatoes! (Might have eaten 4 fresh and several canned today). Wish I lived near you!

    I am fascinated by the results of the test you took! Wow. I bet I wouldn’t get anything intelligent sounding. DEFINITELY not organiser heheh

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    1. I wished you lived by me, too! I’ve been so out of it this week…did I see that you have plane tickets to somewhere????
      And BTW: you are far many more strengths than the measly 5 that test would spit out for you – compassion, intelligence, insight, good friender of all, gratitudefullness, beauty, glorious smile…shall I continue??

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Those are gorgeous photos! And I do love the strength-finder concept…I’m thinking it is an important concept for folks with disabilities and challenges, who so often are constantly reminded of the weaker sides of things. Thanks for a post that brings a smile!

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    1. Thank you, Pam! I am prone to take a picture of every fruit or veggie that survives the march through the season 🙂 And I love your idea for application for people with challenges and disabilities. Even the concept was eye-opening for me. Why focus on our weaknesses when we have more power to leverage our strengths. Those other skills? It’s why we have each other.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment today. I’m going to come over and visit you, too 🙂

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      1. I read somewhere the amount of change you can make by focusing on strengths vs. honing in on fixing weaknesses… it was an amazing thing. It requires a great mind-shift on my part, but I am working on it!!!

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  10. Buy vegetables instead of eating them fresh from the garden? Is you husband insane? Seriously. Why does it bother him so much when you started from seed? And composting the extras is an awesome way to deal with them. Although, the idea of more flowers is always a good one.

    I love how you and your husband’s strengths dovetail and weave into each other. Yes, you are restorative after all. I wish my husband were more of an arranger, or organizer. He is, however, a great Dad, is willing to fix anything or figure out how to fix it, always has my back, and keeps me grounded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Susan…if only you knew of the MULTITUDE of conversations we have about seeds and veggies and the work that goes into growing from seed.
      I love the way you called out your husband above and highlighted his strengths. My favorite is one that belongs to my hubby, too. “Willing to fix anything or figure out how to fix it.” Do you know what a dying skill that is? And the comfort in knowing when something goes haywire in the house (faucet, dishwasher, heater, car) that I don’t even have to worry – Scott will take care of it. BTW: I’m getting ready to leave you a message on your Instagram – I was suddenly filled with the need to tell you something!!

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  11. I’ll be thinking of you and your beautiful cottage garden this spring and summer when I’m cursing my alkaline clay soil that came straight from the bottom of hell, I swear. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my yard here. Thankfully, the marshlands around me are beautiful, so maybe I’ll just ignore my clay soil atrocity and focus beyond on the ponds and marshes…and up at the mountains (and silently pray to meet a landscaper that is affordable). I could use your green thumb here.

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    1. I am laughing so hard, Charissa! I can’t imagine anything in your presence to be straight from hell…that said…the clay soil would be close–you can’t even really amend that stuff. That said, you have me all curious now and ready to research your climate and soil – I am so intrigued to see what others grow in other parts of the country. I’ll look up Utah.
      Trivia: Kansas State University has plant labs all over the state used to test annuals and perennials. The hypotheses is that if it thrives in KS, it’ll thrive any other place (because of our extreme temp drops and spikes at any time during the year).
      Okay – enough rambling. I’m going to be sending you an e-mail at the end of the next week…thinking that I am finally ready for your editing expertise 😉

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      1. Awesome! Can’t wait for your email. All of my valley doesn’t have this crappy of soil. My sisters 20 min away complain about how rocky theirs is. I just happened to pick a house right in a marshy area–so it is straight alkaline clay and doesn’t drain at all. Thankfully, we weathered our first unnaturally wet January here and our basement didn’t flood. We are surrounded by flood plain that drains into the lake, so since we’re higher, all the water just filled the dry marsh areas and made it super pretty around us. People more in the center of our little town had flooding because they didnt’ have the natural drainage around them–so when all our massive snow melted all at once because it went from negative temps to 40’s in one day (And rained like crazy), the water had nowhere to go around them but into the low places. So I guess that’s one good thing about my yard. The hard part will be trying to dig holes to plant anything in (it’s harder than concrete when it’s dry and like quick sand when it’s wet). Wish me luck. I definitely won’t have the lush flowery yard like I had in Boise. I’m just hoping to get some grass to semi-grow here.

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      2. No water in your basement is indeed a blessing – I can’t think of a much bigger mess. Especially marshy water!
        I am sure you will find something you can grow (Iris? Tulips? Dahlias?) You don’t need luck – you have skills, and you have faith 🙂

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      3. Yes, I brought a bunch of iris with me, but they look pretty dead. We’ll see. They surprise me sometimes and come back in spring. So still crossing my fingers. If not, my grandma’s house is only 3 hours away and I can got transplant some more. Dahlias are a good idea. I’ll have to check those out.

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  12. Very entertaining post, Michelle! Had a similar problem with peppers last year, but I grow my veggies in containers on a much smaller scale. Still had way too many! I even put pictures of them on Twitter to promote healthy eating because I’m so darn fixated with food! Hope to graduate to a ‘real garden’ this spring. Thanks for the inspiration and the laughs. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kelly,
      So awesome to see you here. Thank you! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who likes an abundance of vegetables. You and Carrie are my healthy Twitter pals – I love the message you send (I’m a dietitian by training, healthcare consultant in my day job). I can’t totally give up my vegetable garden – I’m just going to hide them behind some tall flowers. Shhh…..don’t tell the hubs 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! Too funny! I love that you garden and I love your positive energy. Your blog is uplifting.
        Thanks for saying that about my tweets. Twitter is a strange place… still haven’t gotten a handle on it (like all social media) but for some reason, I find it cathartic to release little messages into the ether. It’s just fun!
        We have a lot in common. I work as a health educator and coach part time. (But travel a lot, so it’s like full time.) Made the switch to preventive care over ‘sick care’ a few years ago and I love it. I love writing too, but I’m taking it slow and letting myself grow into it. I have a lot to learn.
        Anyway, I’m really glad we’re connected! Hope you have a lovely Sunday!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We DO have a lot in common! Much of my job is educating providers on evidence-based communication techniques (Teach Back, motivational interviewing, health literacy, etc.)
        I LOVE your Twitter feed – I think there’s a huge value in putting out a positive message and you always do that. I think it’s really awesome that you moved from sick to prevention – it’s a mind set change that could benefit an entire nation. Thank you so much for being here – I am so glad our paths crossed! Have a great week, Kelly!

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  13. Personally, I think your greatest strengths are:
    1) Your ability to illuminate truths while entertaining.
    2) Your irresistible smile.

    Of course, that’s barely scratching the surface, but it’ll do for now.
    Be well. my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love this! I’d never heard of the strength finder quiz, and that sounds smart and practical to build on strengths. I love how you wrote your husband into this post in such a sweet and relatable way and even wove in a suspenseful story. Beautiful work (and the flowers ain’t bad either). 🌺

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    1. Awww…thanks, Kristen! You would love that quiz – it was fun to take and even more fun to compare notes with my co-workers. I’m glad you thought I wrote about my hubby in a “sweet and relatable way” – he read the story the in bathroom (TMI?) – once he laughed out loud, I knew we were good 😉

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  15. Loved all vegetable photographs. Don’t stop growing them, Michelle. Veggies from the garden are more delicious, and it’s so fun to grow them, be with them, know them. Im another veggie hoarder too. Especially cherry n grape tomatoes- they look so pretty that I grow them every year and the arranger husband never understands why I “decorate” my kitchen and refrigerators with those colorful beauties. 😂 I love growing vegetables more than flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those cherry grape tomatoes are gorgeous! I love growing the purples and black tones in all veggies – have you ever had purple potatoes or carrots? YUMMY! You are right – I can’t give up the veggie growing totally–I just have to get more efficient at harvest. Hope you’re having a great week, my friend! xoxoxo

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  16. I moved from being a slave to clutter to being a minimalist. This took time, lots and lots of time. But I got there. Without an intervention at that! Which . . would have run counter to the whole minimalism thing. 🙂

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