Mental Health

End of Week 10 of the COVID-19 pandemic in BC and it’s time for my weekly blog. It’s also the end of Week 2 of being back in Sechelt. Time is really flying by. I’m not sure if we are arriving to our “new normal” or that I am a bit more pre-occupied with life with my kid, et al. I think it’s a bit of both. I have to admit… work is picking up. I am doing a few more online meetings, but I am glad that I am not 9-5 on Zoom like some of my colleagues. I am online 1-2 hours per day. That’s a healthy amount of online connection. I am feeling really good about returning back to the Sunshine Coast. I feel like I am back in community. I feel safer here and it’s much more familiar to me. I really appreciate seeing many familiar faces and it’s a lot nicer than living alone in my apartment. I am acutely aware of the importance of mental health during this extraordinary time of the pandemic and physical distancing. Being with my kid is part of my mental health maintenance, but also continuing with my #daily5kchallenge (something that I started after Week 6), and staying connected with my friends and colleagues via FaceTime or edu-walking. I feel very lucky to have a community whom I can lean on during this crazy time. I am also shifting gears and jumping in on the writing and publishing train. I just learned that the tenure-track position I applied for in February is moving forward with shortlisting, interviewing, and selection via online. I can see that this is a “big deal” but it was nice to engage in #bcedchat and unpacking the idea of NEWNESS. It’s exciting and scary, but it’s also a time for learning and vulnerability. This is so true. Although I will have to start the new school year online with my courses while trying to implement a new BEd program that focuses on “the land as teacher,” I am also prepared for this new way of being that includes reading, writing, and researching. A serendipitous #bcedchat. I need it. I am so grateful for my PLN. I have to really think about the answers I’ve given and look at self in the mirror. “Get the ego out of the way and ask… so what, now what?” Embarking on the new can be intimidating and uncertain, but there are many people out there in my learning community who are willing to help. All I have to do is ask. I also said… Be kind. Be patient. Be intentional. Less is more. Be reflective and reflexive… adaptable and flexible. Literally, I am scrolling through my responses tonight and adding them here. Got it. There is so much that I love about blogging, which in essence is journalling. There is something so magical about writing to flesh out my thinking. So, I would like to end my blog tonight acknowledging my blog as being another essential part of my mental health. it does not matter if someone is reading this or not. I have not been sharing my blog on social media even though my website and blog are public. What I care about is the opportunity to write, think, and reflect. It’s taken me many years to realize and appreciate how much I like writing and now my NEW LEARNING is to write academically but also what it means to write for a living. This is definitely exciting, new, and I am a learner.

#pandemicreflection #gratitude #learningisfun

Renewed for 2-Years

In Community – Understanding Place

It’s the end of Week 9 and heading into Week 10 of the COVID-19 pandemic in BC. Physical distancing, washing my hands, and staying home have been my mantra and way of life for weeks. I spent the first 8-weeks in my apartment in Prince George. I was self-isolating. I lived alone and stayed away from EVERYONE. I was spooked. The news changed from moment to moment and catching this virus could happen to anyone at anytime. As mentioned in previous blogs, I am an extravert who likes to hug and high five everybody. Self-isolating protects me and others. During that time, I learned more about myself, had a privileged opportunity to reflect, and worked from home online.

On Mother’s Day, I decided to leave Prince George and head back to my other home on the Sunshine Coast. I just finished my 2-weeks of my #daily5kchallenge and I felt that it was time to be back with my kid. The last time I was with her was mid-February. It was time. I got my spring tires, “played the food game,” and departed Sunday morning. If anything, heading back to the Sunshine Coast was good for my mental health. I successfully made the 9-hour driving trip to the ferry terminal with one pee-stop, one gas fill, and two Dairy Queen drive-thrus. I caught the 4:20pm ferry and  stayed in my car on the half-filled ferry (because I had to). I was back in Sechelt… back IN COMMUNITY.

Arriving back home was the best Mother’s Day gift to me. I am so happy to be back with my kid and I am sleeping 100% better. Week 9 was spent reacquainting myself to coastal life. I love being back with my kid and my dog. I love being back in my home and I love being back on the Sunshine Coast. Living near the ocean is incredible. I will not take this for granted. The air smells so good. You know that you are back in community when you go food shopping and it takes you over an hour to shop because you see and say hello to at least a dozen people at the grocery store. When you live in a community for more than 25-years, you are connected to many people in many ways. It feels good to be back.

One day after arriving to the Sunshine Coast, I signed a 2-year contract with the university. I did not hesitate. The tenure-track position I applied for was put on hold due to the pandemic and I suspect a lot of competition with those who will be newly hired at the university as one-year term lecturers in the new school year. I really appreciate being contracted for 2-years. I had accepted two one-year contracts in the past so this is a step in the right direction. With all the good feelings I am experiencing back on the Sunshine Coast and reconnecting with my friends and family, I am also building a community in Prince George and learning how to become an academic. The learning experience is experiential, but I am grateful for those in my learning community to move forward.

I am incredibly excited about returning back to the School of Education in the fall. We will be implementing our REDESIGNED BED PROGRAM, albeit online this year and I would love to see our Redesigned MED Programs implemented the following year. Lots of great things to come and to be part of this system change has been an incredible experience. There is no question that the last 2-years has been a learning experience and I look forward to the next 2-years. In the meantime, I will push forward with writing, researching, and publishing during my non-teaching term while enjoying my time with my kid and my friends on the Sunshine Coast. Loving the edu-walks, socially distanced visits outdoors, and life along the ocean. Understanding place is absolutely amazing.

#pandemicreflection #feelinggrateful #thelittlethings

Feeling Happy

1 am. I have come to terms with the idea that I will never sleep at regular times during the pandemic. I fell asleep on the couch at 9:30pm. Thought it would be an opportune time to go to bed at a decent hour, like 10 pm and wake up the next morning at 6 am. Wow. Nope. Correction. Now I am wide awake. Gah. I can’t really force myself to sleep. And I would like to say, I am a very good sleeper. It’s a “Ho-Family” trait. We can sleep anywhere at anytime. Hence, this pandemic reality is putting a spin on what I know and understand about self. No worries. I’ve been engaged in a series of #pandemicreflections such that I should not be surprised that everything is disrupted, including my sleep.

Happiness (n.) – a state of well-being and contentment : JOY.

I don’t want to sound like I am ungrateful. I am. If sleep is my problem, I am doing pretty good. It’s not surprising that sleep habits are disrupted for many during the pandemic. Stress. Anxiety. Depression. I am getting my 8-hours of sleep in, but not at the typical times. That said, I’ve been taking some deliberate actions to focus on my #mentalhealth. I’m participating is a self-imposed #daily5kchallenge. Walking everyday for the last couple of weeks. It’s been great. After Week 6 and term ending, I had to do something for myself. I’ve been eating better since I’ve started walking. Before that, I was eating like I was getting ready for hibernation. So, the daily activity has also regulated my eating habits. I’ve also been maintaining a gratitude journal. I am so glad that I’ve returned to that because you have to focus on what’s going well. There’s lots to be thankful for.

I started writing this blog because I was FEELING HAPPY. I have written many blogs about happiness and participating in “The Happiness Project,” but I don’t think I ever achieved it. I love that definition of HAPPINESS. I feel that way right now. Having to let go of things, delving into the unknown, and learning how to be content with self… I actually feel happy. JOY. I love that. I feel joy. Don’t get me wrong… I endured much pain and angst to get to this place of solace. Having an existential moment last week was a turning point. It felt familiar and I know I was in the midst of transformation. I’m just not hooked on anything, yet I’m invested in everything. This is a great place to be. I posted a picture of my Crocs that I wore out into the rain yesterday for my 5k walk. Some people were teasing me on Facebook, but it didn’t bother me. I like my Crocs. It only made sense to me to wear my Crocs out in the rain. My feet were going to be wet anyway.

This is just who I am. I’ve landed in a new frame of mind where happiness is a choice. You have to be content with self and who you are. You have to be kind to others and empathize. We just don’t know people’s stories. And, don’t assume. I feel incredibly encouraged by people and what I perceive is not necessarily the truth. Stand back. Listen. Take a moment to understand what you are experiencing, witnessing, and feeling. I have come up with 3 axioms, like one of my EdD professors/supervisor had. His were more about systems and education, but could also relate to life in general. I appreciated his 3 axioms and I am often reminded of them to provide context to a given situation. I’ve come up with 3 axioms for self that I believe in and would like to follow and live by:

  1. Be yourself, be seen, and be proud.
  2. Take risks and accept the consequences.
  3. Focus on the present and practice gratitude.

#pandemicreflections #gratitude #happiness

Stepping Stones

On my walk yesterday and today, I had the joy of reading these chalk notes on the sidewalk between College Heights Elementary School and College Heights Secondary School. It mapped out the distance from the sun to Pluto. I loved looking at the chalk messages and notations as to where each planet was located. All I could think of was, “What was the math inquiry?” Was the goal to figure out the scale? Or was the task to map out the solar system given a scale. I come from a math lens, but maybe the goal was to understand the enormity of the solar system using place. Anyway, YOU ARE DEEP IN SPACE NOW. Tell me about it. These #pandemicreflections are lending themselves to daily reflections. You see… I was totally avoiding this and I was trying to commit to a weekly blog. I will still stick to that promise and be OK with the idea that I might blog more than once during the week. It’s all good.

What’s my big revelation for today? First of all, I am filled with gratitude. I am incredibly lucky to be friends with the people I am friends with. I have an amazing supportive network of people and I am grateful to have them in my life. I love my PLN. I feel connected to others via social media and technology. And, I love my kid to bits. She is incredible and I am proud to be her mom. I am safe and sound living independently in Prince George, BC and I had an amazing two-years working with Teacher Candidates at the university. Humbling and inspiring. I am so lucky to have such awesome people to teach and learn with. I could not be where I am without them. And I know, I have a long way to go but I am so happy that they were an integral part of my pedagogical journey.

After letting go from yesterday’s blog and saying goodbye a few blogs ago, I realized that I would not be where I am had I not been where I was. This seems obvious, but I pined for what was for a very long time. It was a love hate relationship. Because I was so insistent on holding on, I could not move forward as far or as fast as I wanted to. I see that now. What’s fascinating to think of is, I would not have met all of the wonderful people I’ve met, learned what I know, and experienced what I have experienced had I not walked away from what was and turned the page. What a strange thought. I left for a reason and I’ve been gifted with many opportunities since. Now that I look back and can see the potential of what could be and why, everything that I have done and experienced have been stepping stones to where I am and where I am going. Every moment and person I’ve met had a purpose. The goal is to EMBRACE THE NOW. Be present. I co-moderated #bcedchat last week titled, “Focus on the Present.” I love the dual meaning.

So I will end this blog with the first quote we used in the #bcedchat by Eckhart Tolle.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a GIFT. That’s why it’s called the present.” 

#pandemicreflection #bekind #staysafe #stayhome

Listen and Let Go

Yup. Another photo of me and another blog entry. Why not? Welcome to Week 8 of the pandemic. Here I am walking around my neighbourhood in Prince George, BC fulfilling my #daily5kchallenge. It’s DAY 9. Walking is a wonderful way to develop one’s sense of place. With each walk, I am honing my best 5k route. Sometimes I take a short detour here and there to explore the area but I think I have established a predictable 5k route that is joyful and rewarding. I always bring my wallet just in case I want to go to Save-On-Foods or Shoppers Drug Mart. Most times I don’t go, but it’s nice to have the option. Today, I chatted with my friend Carrie. Who needs tunes today when you can talk to your friend on the phone during my walk for an hour? It was amazing. I loved laughing with and listening to her today and the weather was great. 14 degrees celsius. It was just as warm as Vancouver, but it was sunny. Anyway, back to the blog. I feel incredibly fortunate to have this pandemic physical distancing time, to stay at home, and have the time to reflect on what is and what will be. I had my end of Week 7 existential moment on the weekend and returned back to writing about my mom. I am so happy that I am writing again because I am reminded of her but also of the lessons that I have learned from her and continue to learn. I just shared with a couple of my friends today of The Double Duck Dinner. That will be the title of one of the chapters of the book. I am also realizing that this project will take an immense amount of time to complete and humbled to write a little bit everyday. It might be the #onehourwritingchallenge. Hmmm… that makes sense to me. DONE. What truly blows my mind is my crazy “writing rules” where I decided that would have different titles to my blog entries. So when I chose this one, the URL popped up and said “listen and let go 2.” Gah. A repeat. I would have normally changed the title to something else, but today I took a look at Listen and Let Go, post #1. I wrote that blog 7-years ago on May 5, 2013. Mind blowing. Exactly 7-years. I guess it’s a lesson to be learned AGAIN. The original post was about my thoughts about math education in light of developing BC’s New Curriculum. Now, it’s about my thoughts about where I am, where I was, and where I will be. After talking to Carrie, a few friends, and my kid, it’s become very clear to me that I am suppose to be where I am RIGHT NOW. Listen and let go.

#pandemicreflection #stayhome #staysafe #bekind

Writing About Her

I love how my kid took a selfie with my mom after we had lunch at KFC in Metrotown. This depicts a few of the things my mom loved. She loved KFC. She loved walking around Metrotown. And, she loved her grandchildren. I cannot believe that in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of Week 8, I have committed to writing about my mom. I’m only blogging about this right now because I need a break from sobbing as I write about my mom and her last 20-days. It’s not easy. The little things are making me cry, uncontrollably. It was like that 2-years ago when my mom passed away and I wanted to write about my experience with her and what I learned about her from those 20-days and beyond. I am crying right now just thinking about it. I stopped writing 2-years ago because I was sobbing so much that I thought I needed to give myself some time and distance myself from her passing. Nope. I was wrong. Still hurts like hell. I might as well continue walking through the pain and remember all of the good things about her and my time with her. I am reminded that I should live in the present and embrace the now. My mom knew me the best. She has always been my advocate. And truth, I did not realize it until after she passed away. She held all of us together… me, my brother and sister, and my dad. I feel so vulnerable right now during the pandemic. The stress and anxiety are taxing to say the least and I need to do this work so that I can move forward with clarity, purpose, and intention. My mom is part of that equation. She continues to teach me as I continue to unpack these lessons I needed to learn. I am still learning. My mom would have never let me post a picture of her on social media, never mind on my blog and I am writing about her. She kept her life relatively low key (at least to me) and I feel that her life needs to be celebrated and honoured. She would have hated it… and yet I believe a small part of her would have appreciated it. I miss her so much. The selfish part of me wishes that she was here to console me and lift my spirits, as she normally would during the tough times. I am also glad she is not here because the stress of catching the virus and the news would have overwhelmed her. She would have been worried for all of us. It would have been too much. I am committed to writing something everyday about my mom. I know that this will not be easy. It will be emotional, but I feel that I am ready.

#missingher #pandemicwriting #staysafe #stayhome

How are you doing?

At the start of Week 8, I am feeling anxious and fearful. This is not a great place to be when I need to face my fears in my work and in self. The pandemic life is not helping. I know in big picture I am well and safe, but what I am wondering about is, will I make it back to Sechelt for Mother’s Day on May 10th or make it back to be with my kid on her birthday on May 29th? Sigh. Will I have the personal strength to address my demons with academic writing? Will I even be a viable candidate for tenure-track? UGH. My heart aches as I am in this state of mind. Was this all worth it? So much sacrificed and for what? I am having an existential moment. What’s really important to me? Why does it matter? And, so what? I will admit, being in social isolation and physically distancing myself from others, I am learning more about myself. I am not sure that I am entirely enjoying what I am learning about myself, but this is an opportunity to unpack what brings us joy and what provokes fear in us. I’ve been wrestling with the path I have taken so far. In some ways, I had no idea that I would be where I am, yet when I look back, it seems like a straight line. It’s confusing sometimes and I wonder if I am meant to be where I am or be somewhere else. I guess there are short term goals and long term goals, so I would assume that I am meant to be here and somewhere else. I am back to TRUST again. Tough one for me. It’s taken a lifetime to identify it, understand it, and develop it… and sadly, I am still learning. I also have to learn how to trust myself. It’s insane. Trust in others. Trust in destiny. Trust in self. The real question is, why do I distrust? What am I worried about? Why does it matter? As you can see, I am deep in an existential frame of mind. Not sure why it matters, but this is where I start Week 8 of the pandemic. Overall, I am safe. I am healthy. I have nothing to complain about. I am good.

End of Week 7

I have reached my #covid19 limit. 7-weeks. I’m beginning to crack. My chest is tight and I’m ready for some human contact. I’ve been living at home alone in my apartment in Prince George while my kid lives in Sechelt, my other home. I am happy that she is safe where she is and I am safe as well. There is no question that #physicaldistancing and #stayingathome have been incredibly taxing but I am very grateful to have a place to live, food to eat, and continued employment (for now). I am also grateful to have friends who check in with me on a regular basis and I am connected to my kid online via various media tools. For the few 6 weeks, I was occupied with completing work for the term. I appreciated the distraction. Now I’m on my non-teaching term. It’s great to change gears and take a moment to write, think, and reflect… but this is also a time when my anxiety and stress are unusually high. I have not had a “normal” sleep pattern since the pandemic was announced, but I’m not surprised. What I realized in Week 7 is that I had to #getoutside. Mental health and physical health became priority for me. I had to not do what I’ve done before (i.e. dieting), so I decided to do a #daily5kchallenge. I’ve mapped out a route and I’ve been walking 5k per day. If anything, it adds to my schedule as something to accomplish. I’m feeling good. I almost did not make it out today, but once I got started, I was ok. I look forward to next week and listening to the possible plans and projections from the provincial government and provincial health officer. I don’t expect life to be “normal” anytime soon, but I hope that it’s a bit more viable for me to drive to the Sunshine Coast to see my kid. I miss her. It’s been an exceptional year. I have not flown to the Lower Mainland as often this year and missed a couple of visits due to the strike at the university and the pandemic. I love the photo above… the sun shining through trees. I just captured this image from yesterday’s walk. It reminds me of hope. I am hopeful.

#physicaldistancing #COVID19 #mentalhealth

Commitment

THE PANDEMIC-REFLECTIVE BLOGGING CONTINUES….

Here we go… everyday during Week 7 of #socialdistancing due to the #COVID19 pandemic… I am rolling out a series of blogs as I work towards my “non-teaching” term in my one-year contract. I am so thankful for my friends who help guide my thinking and provide unconditional support. I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing network of critical friends. I would not be here without you. I’ve been blogging lately to unpack some ideas to understand my trajectory and next steps. The pandemic and being HOME ALONE have graciously provided the opportunity to reflect. What I’ve realized is, it’s almost next to impossible to delve into research when teaching 80% of the time and 20% of my time is dedicated to service. What I am grateful for is, research opportunities do present themselves to me, so this is the time to delve in. I’ve got 4-months. Before I do, I need to FACE MY FEARS. I love this photo of the wontons I made the other day to depict my thinking process for this blog. I have a goal (i.e. make wontons). I tried out different folding techniques (i.e. tinkering and playing). I assessed what worked and didn’t work (i.e. choose a strategy or direction). Then, I just get the job done (i.e. completion).

Fear (n.)

an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear. I hope this feeling goes away over time. I felt this way when I was writing my dissertation. Some would call it, “imposter syndrome” but writing for public consumption (unlike blogging, I guess) is an act of vulnerability. Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Agreed. To research, you have to put yourself out there and BE SEEN. It’s super scary and I’m not sure why it matters so much to me, but this is the lesson. “What’s the greatest risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” Thank you Brene Brown. I’m need to be intentional about this and be true to self. I’m even nervous about writing this because I am facing my fear as I write this blog. I am an extroverted thinker and blogging helps me to make sense of what I am thinking and feeling. I need to be true to myself, let go of what people think, and delve into what I love and am interested in.

Resilience (n.)

the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

I can only get better by putting myself out there, trying, reflecting, accepting and discerning feedback, make revisions, and try again. Embrace Kolb’s EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE. It’s cyclic. The more I write, the more I love it. I am developing my practice and acquiring the goods internal to the practice. Writing, like “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness” – Brene Brown. It’s never comfortable, so get used to it. I am safe. I am worthy. I am strong. Ultimately, everything that I do is working towards a common goal. I can’t look back. As my friend said to me, you don’t want to be EATING CROW. I had no idea what that was so I had to Google it. Honestly, it doesn’t sound very good. I need to keep venturing forward and lean on my critical friends lift me up.

Commitment (n.)

  1. the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.

  2. an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.

I am at a strange time in my life, personally and professionally. Nothing is certain and I am committed in different ways, to different people, for different reasons. For the last couple of months, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of COMMITMENT. What does that mean and what does it look like? Based on these two definitions, I can see why I am struggling. When I look at things at face value, it’s difficult for me to BE DEDICATED and I resist the idea of RESTRICTED FREEDOM. I love my autonomy and I am currently on a term contract. It’s tough to jump into anything that is research related. Last year at this time, I was deep in uncertainty (i.e. teaching online, contract renewal, and living in two-places). It was not a great place to be. Now, I am somewhere else. It’s time to commit. My situation has not really changed, but what I am committed to is my research and teaching trajectory. That’s it. I trust the journey and where I am suppose to go, I will be.

WONTON METAPHOR:

I have a goal. I will tinker and play. I will discern and decide. I will get the job done.

Driven by the Goods Internal

Wow. Here comes another blog entry. The mind is going and well… when you’re inspired, you’ve got to write. I have definitely exceeded the once a week blog entry, but it is Week 7 of the pandemic and living a life of social distancing, so it only make sense to blog to sense-make, wonder, and think things through. I was mentioning in my last blog how some people will ask you THAT critical question that forces you to look at oneself and reflect on the what and why. There are other things in life that just stick with you and you continually learn more about it as you go through life. During my masters program, my first course in educational philosophy talked about Alasdair MacIntyre’s (1981) “goods internal to the practice” from his book After Virtue. My mind wrestled with this concept for years and continue to do so. I am reminded from time to time of this learning.

The only way that I was able to understand these concepts was making a connection to curling. It all made sense, at least from my perspective. I excelled at the sport when I was focused on the goods internal. I just loved the sport. I loved strategizing, socializing, and executing. I could spend hours playing and practicing. I just wanted to learn more about the sport and get better at it because it was fun. Over time in high school, my team and I started to get good at the game. My dad started to incentivize me to win. He started to do this right before the semi-finals and finals of the provincials. I HATED IT. I was stressed and motivated for the WRONG REASONS. Long story short, we lost the finals of one provincials, but won the other. I never received the walkman he promised and it didn’t take very long for me to lose my love for the sport. It wasn’t fun anymore.

I tried so many times to revitalize my love for the sport. I’ve been playing on and off since high school and that’s been over 30 years ago. I just bought new curling equipment this year and curling tickets to the World Women’s Championships in Prince George, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, none of that happened. I might try introducing myself to the sport again next year. We’ll see. It might be the year after when a vaccine to COVID-19 is created. I can only hope. Anyway, why am I bringing up “the goods internal” and “motivation” up AGAIN. I can’t help but think about MacIntyre’s work after talking to two of my colleagues on BlueJeans this afternoon. We were checking in with each other and seeing how we were doing. Both of my friends had wonderful news about their work. I was so happy for them. I wanted to share similar news but “I’m on hold right now until further notice.” What I did realize was their resilience and love for their work. They are disruptors but it’s incredible. They are driven by the goods internal to the practice.

In our work in higher education, your prime motivators are extrinsic. Promotion, tenure, scholarships, awards, grants, etc. Yet, much of that success comes from the intrinsic. People in research do what they LOVE. They research because they are intrinsically motivated. I was reminded of that today when I was listening to my friends. They were recognized for their good work. I know it’s been frustrating for both of them and they were not pleasing everyone one the way as they were both breaking ground, but they relented and succeeded. People can see their work, passion, and contributions. In the end, they were “rewarded” with incredible opportunities. I’m not jealous or envious. I am joyful and happy for them. They deserve it and I am so glad they reminded me of this lesson. Be driven by the goods internal to the practice. Learn more about it. Excel at it. Know the standards. Head down. Dig deep. Delve into what I love and trust that my work will contribute to my discipline, practice, and community. For this, I am very grateful.

#pandemicreflections #community #thegoodsinternal

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