Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

One of my fears as a child—yes, I had several—was tornadoes. I called them “tomatoes” and thought they would sweep me up and carry me away from my family. And I was certain, at some point, I would see Miss Gulch riding her bike before morphing into the Wicked Witch of the West on her broom.

So, I dreaded hearing there was a tornado watch or warning—I could never remember which was worse—and since I grew up in Iowa, whirling clouds of destruction were always a reality.

CCCB - 1

Before baking. This is some yummy cookie dough so I recommend grabbing a spoonful before sticking it in the oven!

But one year, the tornado warning sounded just as my mom was stirring her special cookie bar dough. She herded my brothers and sister and me down to the basement, taking the dough and a handful of spoons with her, and let us nibble on the chocolate-chip-filled goodness while we waited for the storm to pass. (This was long before the raw egg scare.)

At one point, I went upstairs to get something to read and, as I passed the front door, I noticed a sky colored with reds and golds and blues. I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. The air was still, hushed and peaceful, and my heart sighed. From that moment on, I was never afraid of tornadoes again. I headed back to the basement, where we ate cookie dough, played ping pong and waited for the all-clear.

I’ve hung onto Mom’s chocolate chip cookie bars recipe for over 30 years now. My youngest sister and I still make them fairly regularly. In fact, I took them to a singles game night just last weekend because this is the kind of love you have to share. They’re chewy inside with a paper-thin crispy layer on top and a slight butterscotch flavor. And so easy!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

CCCB - 2

After baking. I had some white chocolate chips so I threw those in there too.

One yellow cake mix
½ cup oil (coconut oil works as does unsweetened applesauce—though Mom never would have imagined using either!)
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
A splash of milk (optional; makes stirring easier)
1 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine all the ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, depending on your oven. I would check after 20-25 minutes.

Also, you can have fun with the flavor of cake mixes and chips. In the past, I’ve tried:

* Strawberry cake mix with white chocolate chips
* Chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips and walnuts
* German chocolate cake mix with milk chocolate chips, coconut and pecans

Be creative! But, in my experience, the original is still the best.

CCCB - 3

Cookie selfie.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a glass of milk.

 

 

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Epic

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalimages.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalimages.net

Recently, I’ve come to understand something about myself and love. I have noticed I would rather wait for an ideal kind of love than to couple up with someone who doesn’t hold the key to unlocking the important doors inside my heart and mind. That’s true for most of us, I suppose.

What I have also noticed is that when I have met this kind of illusive key-master–and meeting such a man is rare indeed–and it has not worked out with him, I have been reluctant to let the relationship go.

I’m beginning to understand that I am wildly romantic at heart. I would rather cherish the memory of a could-have-been-epic love with a key-master type, than store his memory away, move on, and settle into a love that might be really nice, though it leaves securely locked some doors inside my mind and heart.

Unfortunately, understanding this wildly romantic part of myself is not the same thing as accepting this part of me.

Right now, there is a battle going on inside my soul over how I am going to approach love. Am I going to fight, fight, fight for the possibility of epic love (meaning fearlessly letting my love for my illusive key-master show, and hoping that eventually he has an Aha! moment and realizes that I am everything that he’s been looking for)? Or am I going to say goodbye to the possibility of epic-ness, and open myself to the possibility of simple pleasant togetherness (since there is no shortage of receptions, special events, restaurants and performances that I would be happy simply to have a suitable escort to)?

It is 2015. Twenty Fifteen. It is time for me to do something different. The trouble is I am not sure what “doing something different” means.

My inclination is to hold out for the epic love (of course). This way of approaching romance, though, has not resulted in the love life I desire. So it seems that doing something different means letting go and being open to pleasant togetherness instead of the epic. But. Would cutting my losses and moving on from a love that seems impossible really be doing something different, or would it be doing the same thing I have grown accustomed to doing? Is letting go just me continuing to guard my heart with the titanium shield of my will, so I don’t get really hurt?

What if doing something different meant fearlessly letting my love show and being truly, completely, frighteningly vulnerable?

That would be different. That could be painful.

Or it might be epic.

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Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

Image Courtesy: punsayaporn@freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy: punsayaporn@freedigitalphotos.net

During a recent conversation among single friends, the conclusion was drawn that it’s almost impossible to meet a man the old-fashioned way. It was said that there are no good men in the churches anymore, and if we want to find a man, we will have to resort to online dating.

This conversation highlighted some frustrations I’ve been feeling, but not in the way most of the women in the group would say.

First off, I disagree that there are no good men in the churches. I happen to know several great single men in my own church. The fact that they aren’t the right man for me doesn’t change the fact they are single and available and will someday make someone an awesome husband. And if there are no good men in church, what are the men we might meet online doing for church?

Second, stating it this way puts all the blame on the men. I don’t think that is fair either. Surely we single women play a role in what is going on in the single world these days.

I don’t know what the answer is to my title question. I think each of us has a little different take on what is happening with the growing group of singles who are over 40. Having been in this demographic group for 10 years now, I know there doesn’t appear to be any easy solution.

A friend of mine has met a man in the last year and is very happy with the relationship. She has always been more active in dating than I have been. And, she offers wisdom that I find helpful. The other day she asked me if I was open to meeting someone.

Open to meeting someone? Of course, I am, I responded.

Then the little voice inside began to question whether I was or not. So I said to her, “I think I am open, but maybe I’m not.”

She wasn’t sure what to make of that statement, and so I tried to put it into a coherent thought for her. I say I’m open, but all the while there’s a part of me that wonders if that’s true.

Maybe I’m really not ready to give up a life that is fully my own. It’s possible I think I am open, but that I’m giving off vibes that say differently. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that the right guy hasn’t come along. Who knows?

But all of this questioning and conversation hasn’t led to answers. Do I want to try online dating or do I want to trust the process and believe God will bring the right person at the right time? And better yet, are those two ideas completely separate from each other?

I would love to hear some other thoughts on this whole dilemma. Is online dating the only way to meet dating partners these days?

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Weathering the Storm

Cold Days by Maggie Smith

Image courtesy of Maggie Smith/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

It’s that time of year, when gloomy, cloudy, chilly days steal joy and, sometimes, lead to depression. Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard several friends mention how much they hate winter and how they see it as something to survive. They’d sleep through it if they could but, since they can’t, all they can do is dream of warmer days.

Lately, I’ve come to realize wintry weather and cloud-covered skies don’t bother me. Yes, I look forward to spring and I love sunlight. As soon as Daylight Saving Time hits, I’ll start longing for open windows and fresh breezes to clear out the stale, trapped air.

But I love good storms too. There’s something cozy and homey about rainy or snowy days that appeals to me. I kind of like being able to blame the weather for my decision not to go somewhere.

So, I know how I feel about the weather and the seasons. I know my favorite month is October while the hot, humid days of August make it one to dread. January, too, is a rough month — it’s the furthest from Christmas and often seems sad and dreary after the wonder of the holiday season.

My singleness, however, is another matter. In many ways I feel I’ve closed a door on my emotions where that subject is concerned. I’ve trained myself not to feel. At least, not to feel anything too strong. I especially make regular choices to ignore any feelings of loneliness. Every once in a while, as I crawl into bed at night, I wonder why I still live by myself, and if it will always be this way. A wave of grief hits me, then I push the question aside.

There is no answer so why weep into my pillow? I’ll sleep now and deal with this tomorrow.

Tomorrow, of course, never comes.

In my novel, Spinstered, Catie states, “I am more single today than I’ve ever been.” I wrote that line over two years ago … and it seems just as true now. Except now I can shrug as I say it. Well, it is what it is.

I don’t know that this is better, but I do believe it’s all part of the process of singleness. And there is a light. It’s dim and distant but it’s coming my way. One cloudy day at a time.

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Girlfriends and Boyfriends

Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

After a luncheon and lecture, I was chatting with another attendee. A few minutes into the conversation about the lecture, the man I was talking to randomly mentioned his girlfriend. I don’t even recall how she was introduced into the conversation. It was strange.

First, this man was at least 70 years old. His contrived reference to a “girlfriend” sounded like he was back in middle school. Isn’t there an age beyond which it’s inappropriate to refer to one’s romantic interest as a girlfriend or boyfriend? I like the term “partner.” That is what everyone calls their mate in Cape Town. It’s gender-neutral and age-neutral and respectful of all levels of commitment—no need for girlfriend/fiancée/wife categories. The only problem is that in America the term “partner” is loaded with all kinds of controversial significance.

The other thing I did not like about the old man’s comment about his girlfriend was that it was a bit of a “partner-bomb.” I think of the “partner-bomb” as the surprise dropping into the conversation the fact that a man has a partner.

I hate when that happens.

I don’t hate when involved men want to be clear about their relationship status. That is a good thing. But, generally, this information should be relayed more subtly. I might ask, for example, “How are you connected to the university?” A perfectly acceptable response might be, “My wife and I like to come to lectures since we live in the area.”

On the other hand, if I ask a man on the refreshments line, “Do they have green tea?” And his reply is, “My wife is on a retreat today or she would be here with me,” that’s a partner-bomb. And it’s unnecessary.

I remember one of the first events I attended at a new church. The emcee for the evening was very funny. I said as much to the woman sitting near me at our table. She and two other women replied, “Look, over there in the pink blouse, that’s his wife.”

What do you think? How do you feel about the partner-bomb?

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More Than We Can Bear

Recently, a friend of mine shared some thoughts on Facebook that I appreciated so much, I thought I would share them here. Thank you, Bonnie Cozadd, for your words of wisdom!

David Castillo Dominici

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net

There’s a little standard saying that continues to make the rounds in times of trouble: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Sounds good. Guess to some it sounds true as they tend to share it with others in a meaningful way to offer comfort.

The problem with this saying is it doesn’t tell the whole truth … the true-to-life, day-by-day, honest-to-goodness-reality-of-life truth.

What is that truth? God will give you more — much more — than you can handle. Why? Because if you could handle all of your problems yourself why would you need God? Only by relying on Him can you not only handle but also have victory over the hard times you will have in this life.

“All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limits; He’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Cor. 10:13b, The Message).

God loves us too much to leave us where we’re at. With His help we can be more than conquerors.

***

I’m glad Bonnie wrote about this. To me, it was confirmation that I don’t have to feel guilty for those times when things did seem too hard. Those times when I prayed, “God, this is too much. I can’t handle it.”

What if, instead of looking at this from my perspective, I saw it from God’s? My perspective says I have to do it on my own. I shouldn’t bother God with my troubles unless absolutely necessary. But, perhaps, that’s exactly what He wants me to do.

Recently, my sister told me about a meltdown my young niece had. She didn’t get something she wanted, and she “handled” it by yelling and throwing things and falling completely out of control . Finally, my sister said, “Please tell me this is about more than not getting your way. What has upset you so much?” And, at last, my niece told her that a student had made fun of her at school. As soon as she let it go, she calmed down. 

Like a loving father, God doesn’t ask us to give Him the unbearable moments because He doesn’t think we can handle them. He asks us because we don’t have to do it alone. It is His joy to take those burdens from us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”                                                                                                                          ~Matthew 11:28-30

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Table for One – 3-2-1 Cake in a Mug

Image courtesy of photostock at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at freedigitalphotos.net

Since Mom died, Dad has lived alone. He’s never been one for having to cook for himself, but he does have quite the sweet tooth. Recently, my sister introduced him to 3-2-1 Cake in a Mug. I haven’t tried it yet, but he says it’s pretty good. And it’s easy! So, I thought I’d share this marvel of the microwave with you.

Choose two dry cake mixes. One flavor must be Angel Food, but the other can be any flavor you want. Mix them together and store in an airtight container until your sweet tooth attacks.

Put 3 tablespoons of the mixture in a mug. Mix 2 tablespoons of water in with the powdered cake mix. Microwave for 1 minute and voila! Cake!

 

 

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Uli Meets the New Guy

SpinsteredTheNovelCoverThis week — until the 14th — I’m offering the Kindle version of my novel, Spinstered, for only $2.99 (half off!). So with that in mind, I thought I’d share one of my favorite scenes. Uli, her roommate, Jolene, and their good friend, Catie, have learned a new GWP (Guy With Potential) will be at church … and Uli (pronounced OO-lee) knows a feeling of hopeful anticipation. …

***

Sunday morning dawns crisp and clear. It’s late September, and the aspens outside my bedroom window twinkle gold in the early sunlight. Hope filters through me. It’s like what Anne of Green Gables said: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” I’m ready for something wonderful to happen.

I’m so ready.

Squeezing into my black jeans, I choose not to stress about the thirty pounds I need to lose. Maybe today I’ll take a walk instead of opening a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. The dark chocolate ones. Stop it, Uli. It’s a new day, and anything is possible. I pull eight sweaters and five shirts out of the closet and try them all on before finally knocking on Jolene’s bedroom door and getting her opinion on my final three options.

“This one, definitely,” she says, pointing to a white cardigan covered in big black and gray flowers. It’s lightweight, which is good because fall afternoons in Colorado can still simmer on the warm side. I wear a simple, white tank underneath and wrap a red scarf around my neck for color.

After spending thirty minutes trying to get my hair to do something even remotely cute, I finally pull it back with some black clips, leaving a few curly tendrils free to frame my face. Dangling, silver earrings; strappy, black sandals; a hint of Charlie Red, and I’m ready to go. Since Jolene has been yelling at me to hurry up for the last ten minutes, I grab my purse and chase her out to the car. She streaks ahead of me like a ray of sunshine in her bright, happy outfit. Or like a big, yellow chicken. Brian will definitely notice her. And I’ll make a nice, neutral backdrop.

I have a tough time paying attention to the service. It’s hard to listen to a sermon about the power of grace when you’re craning your neck for a glimpse of the new guy. Especially when you’re trying to look without looking like you’re looking.

Jolene elbows me and whispers, “Can’t you wait another thirty minutes?”

“No.” I grin at her and glance behind me … right into the clear, silver-fox eyes of Brian Kemper. Wow, he actually has an up-to-date Facebook photo, except his dark hair is shorter and there’s some gray at the temples. His eyes are a little close together, and he has a rather large, hooked nose, but it works for him. Especially when he smiles, which he does, and I realize I’m staring. Then he nods at me. One of those polite, “what’s up” nods. Like we work in the same building and, every once in a while, have to wait for the elevator together. What a disappointingly unromantic meeting! I can’t tell our kids that. “Our eyes met across a crowded room … and he nodded at me.” Blah.

I want a do-over.

Though it’s too late now, I look away, feeling the heat crawl up my face. Well, that’s that. Then I make the mistake of glancing at Jolene. She has a serene, perfect, speak-to-me-Lord expression on her face. Good grief, the woman knows exactly where Brian Kemper is sitting. She’s probably known since we walked into the sanctuary.

Jolene: one; Uli: zero.

Catie, however, seems completely oblivious. She’s sitting on the other side of Jolene, scribbling notes faster than Pastor Owens can get the words out. I shouldn’t say “scribbling” because her writing is neat, bulleted, and laid out in columns. It looks like an Excel spreadsheet. But her short, cropped, red-gold hair frames her perky but somewhat plain face just right and, though I’m not fond of business suits personally, her striking blue one makes her seem taller and, somehow, adds a few curves.

“What did he just say?” Tess, to my right, leans closer. Well, he didn’t say anything, he’s— Oh, wait. The sermon. She means the pastor, not Brian. Right. I shrug my shoulders. “Sorry. I missed it too.” She gives me a crooked, behave-yourself smile. Boy, do I wish my friends couldn’t read me like a book. Not all the time, anyway.

So, I turn my attention completely to the pastor until the last amen is uttered. We stand for the closing song, and as the final strains of “Your Grace Is Enough” echo through the sanctuary, the music morphs into the chatter of several hundred voices.

I do not fight my way through the crowd or hurry to our class meeting room but wander around, greeting acquaintances and chatting with whomever I happen to run into. On occasion, I catch a glimpse of Brian. He’s surrounded by people. What could he have done to be such a favorite already? He’s definitely an extrovert. And he’s cute in an older-guy-with-laugh-lines-and-no-sense-of-style kind of way. The group around him seems completely captivated. They laugh at almost anything he says. Hope simmers through me like that first sip of hot chocolate.

Please, God. Please let something happen.

Eventually, I make my way to the classroom where our group leader, Scott, greets everyone with a Squiggy-like “hello” and hands out his weekly list of discussion questions. Thirty-one-year-old Scott Jones works at Home Depot and treats every girl like a sister. Which would be fine if he didn’t see himself as the annoying little brother who pulls your hair and drops ice cubes down the back of your shirt. Okay, he’s not that bad, but I’m pretty sure the thought has crossed his mind. To his credit, though, he does an adequate job keeping our small group on track.

I set my Bible and notebook on a chair before turning to dash back through the door, heading to the restroom for one last, quick check in the mirror. But I take the corner too fast and run smack-dab into Mr. GWP himself. I don’t just run into him; I practically bowl him over, stumbling like a drunken sailor, knocking a cup of coffee out of his hands and to the floor, where it splatters all over our shoes. Strong fingers grab my arms, helping me get my balance. With a deep breath, I look up into gray eyes that flicker startled, then amused.

“Steady there,” he says.

I laugh. What else can I do? This meet-cute might be more interesting than a nod but only if it leads to something. If he never asks me out, it will forever be merely an embarrassing memory. So, of course, my imagination jumps to a happier outcome. One where I tell our kids about how I ran into their father … literally.

Once I’m no longer tilting, he drops his hands away. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” I pick up the now empty Styrofoam cup and hand it to him. “How about you?”

He smiles. “I’ve survived worse. So,” he says, looking around, “are you running to something or away from it?”

To something. Definitely. But I say, “The restroom,” like a ditz. I’m always so much more clever in my mind.

We gaze into each other’s eyes for a suspended-in-air moment. Then he says, “Where can I get something to clean this up?”

“What?”

“The coffee.”

Shake it off. “Right. Of course. I’ll take care of it. You go on. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Where’s that?”

“Oh, um …” Good grief, Uli. You sound like a stalker. “Hello, stranger. I know we only met a minute ago, but I know exactly where you’re going.” Out loud I say,

“I meant … aren’t you …” I point pathetically toward the door I just lurched through.

He looks past me. “Is that where the single professional class meets?”

I nod and am, I’m sure, about to say something completely not brilliant, when Jolene sashays out into the hall.

“Well, hello there!” She flicks her head my direction and flashes a smile that actually outshines her dress. “Uli, are you gonna introduce me to your friend?”

Jolene: two.

Once again I stammer out something nonsensical as Brian steps forward, hand outstretched.

“Hi, I’m Brian. Your friend—Uli?—and I just … ran into each other.” He grins back at me and suddenly hope springs up again like a jack-in-the-box, shocking me with its sudden reappearance. Two minutes after meeting and the new guy and I already have a past, a history, an inside joke.

Uli: one.

My friend and roommate takes his hand. “Jolene. Nice to meet you.” Then, instead of letting go, she practically pulls him into the classroom. “Let me introduce you to the rest of the crew.”

I look down at the puddle of coffee soaking into the carpet, tempted to just leave it. It’s old carpet, anyway. That would be wrong, though, so I hurry to get some paper towels from the kitchen.

It would be unwise to leave Brian in Jolene’s grasp too long. If all’s fair in love and war, then I need to prepare for battle. My roommate, after all, is a seasoned campaigner.

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Envy Is SO Last Year

"We Have Feelings" image courtesy of Debspoons/Freedigitalimages.net

“We Have Feelings” image courtesy of Debspoons/Freedigitalimages.net

The Christmas season brought back old memories for me. I remembered being a kid and being so happy about opening my gifts and presents, only to hit a wall of disappointment and sadness if one of my siblings or cousins opened a gift that seemed better than my gifts, which had, only moments before, delighted me.

It seems my nieces and nephews are no different than I was. I, and the other adults in my family, try to be careful to make sure all the gifts we give to the children are special enough to invoke joy, but not so special as to provoke envy.

It also seems that I have not outgrown my envy. This holiday season was wonderful for me. I traveled home and got to spend quality time with my family. I got good grades at the end of the term. I traveled to a conference that confirmed my calling to research and write and teach. My car repairs, though costly, allowed me to keep my car running well, and cost way, way less than a new car would have. I was honored at school, and honored at church. Blessings and joy abounded in my heart.

Then I heard about my roommate’s wonderful prospects with her job hunt. As I celebrated her good fortune, at the same time I began to envy her good fortune with her job search. My heart began to wail and clamor that I, too, wanted a job! How come I am not getting a job like her? It’s not fair, my heart wanted me to think.

This envious response was totally irrational, however. I, in fact, do not want a job after graduation in May. I am not engaged in a job search. I want to enter a Ph.D. program. But even if I were not continuing with school, I still would not be looking for a job. I am pursuing ordination. My career path does not involve a job search. It involves becoming ordained and being appointed by my denominational leaders to serve as a church leader wherever they choose to send me.  I do not “want a job,” the way that my roommate does.  Yet my heart wants to feel cheated.

Where does this envy come from? Where does this drive to compare our gifts, our blessings, our bodies, and our lives, to other people’s come from?

I have decided that this year, when these stealth feelings of envy (and other uncomfortable emotions) pop up, I will recognize them as a plea for me to acknowledge that some part of me is missing out on experiencing God’s love.  That I am trying to gain security or approval or proof of love through some tangible item. This year when I am feeling envy, I plan to regard it as a signal to listen, and then to speak to my soul and remind myself how dearly loved by God I am.

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One Word for 2015

For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.                                                                                           ~Deuteronomy 14:12

 

Chosen

There’s a trend that’s been prevalent in some circles over the last few years of choosing a word to guide you through the new year. When I first heard about this, I jumped on board and chose a word. I don’t remember what that first word was, but last year my word was intentional. It was how I wanted to live out 2014. I don’t know that I was very successful in that.

Last month, as I was thinking about the coming year, I prayed about a word for 2015. I wanted one that promised great things — like a handsome husband or a book contract. I tried different words to see how they fit. Nothing seemed to be right.

Then one Sunday I was talking to God about my dreams and goals. I told Him I thought it was my time. All my life I’ve been waiting, the wall flower hugging the wall at this dance called life. I am tired of always being the one left alone, singular, lacking.

I have chosen you, Tammie.

The words whispered through my thoughts.

Chosen.

This year God is calling me to remember that I am chosen. If the husband doesn’t show up and the book contract remains a dream, it will be okay. I have been chosen by God.

Chosen.

It’s a good word for a single girl. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t wallflowers. God has chosen each of us. He’s there, waiting with His hand outstretched, asking for the dance of our lives.

Have you heard of the one word trend? Do you have a word for 2015?

 

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