Mar 142013
 

A few times in our lives, truly course altering opportunities knock quietly and wait patiently–just to see if we will notice them. Often times, these opportunities come in the form of, well, work–and if not back breakingly hard work, at least work that we feel (and possibly are) completely ill equipped to handle. Now that I’m more comfortable opening the door, I can’t help but wonder how many blessings I turned away. Maybe they took a long walk and then came to knock again when I was ready. But really, I don’t think we always get  a second chance.

I sat writing on a Sunday afternoon. Whether perfect timing or distraction, an e-mail alert stole my attention. Essentially, the message read:

God said you should edit my mom’s book. What do you think?

And what I thought was, “Yeah, like I have time for that!” Thankfully, what I wrote was, “Tell her to send it right over!”

I told her to send it right over because, to me, her mom is my mom, too. I’ve been blessed with just a couple bonus moms in my lifetime, and I hope my kids will someday find that same gift. I haven’t seen this bonus family since I was in my early twenties, but family never stops being family–especially not when you join them of your own free will.

My first day in the Stein home was a whirlwind of activity. I didn’t have time to unpack my bags until very late that first night. I was nineteen, still painfully shy, and the reality of what I’d gotten myself into hit me as I sat on my new bed and flipped open midwifery textbooks. I turned off the light and sat still in darkened silence, tears welling in my eyes. This was stupid. I can’t do this. I should just pack up my car and leave now.  Then, I heard laughter. And not just any laughter. If your run of the mill breed of laughter works like a medicine, laughter in the Stein home behaves more like wine.

The midwife I would be training under had two daughters still living at home–one older than I and one younger. I never did ask them the question I’d wondered as I sat in the darkness that night, “What on earth was so funny?!” Because, as I would soon find out, pretty much everything was. I’d lost my joy; but I found it again, among many other things, in the Stein home.

There were a few times over the past several months when I tried to back out of this editing project. Times when my work and my time crawled back to the top of my priority list.  I shudder to think what I would have missed, what you would have missed, if I hadn’t seen through to publication a book that far exceeds the importance of anything I’ve ever written. If I’d failed to swing open the door to this opportunity, I wouldn’t have seen that what was veiled in a tremendous amount of work (on my part and of course on the part of the author herself) was not so much a chance for me to serve. It was an invitation for me to change–and one of the most important invitations of my life. How could I not share that with all of you?

Everything Old is New Again: A Jewish Midwife’s Look into Pregnancy and the Feasts of Israel is making it’s Kindle debut today. And for the next five days (through 3/18) you can download it for FREE. Let me encourage you, please, this is not a book to simply add to your someday collection. This is a book to read. Tonight. I’ve asked Renee to answer a few questions, and I hope her answers will woo you to dive heart first into this incredible invitation she has hand engraved especially for today, and especially for you.

Where were you living when you first received the revelation for this book?

In Colorado, the first nudge was a word which just would not go away. That word is release. Release is the word used for the emancipation of Hebrews from captivity (known as Passover), and release is the word for the beginning as a human  egg is released from the fallopian tube during mothers’ ovulation. I kept seeing that parallel for a very long time. Then, at a birth in Colorado, which was just before Chanukah which is the Feast of Light-Chanukah celebrates victory over darkness. I suddenly saw this baby as being  ‘born into the light”, and I made a mental note to find out more. The revelation of this book came in pieces. Many years later I made Aliyah to Israel, and there I found more answers as I was immersed in Judaism. I became drenched in the Feasts of the Torah and realized this was all part of the plan of G-d for this little book.

Is the ole wives tale true, does revelation come easier in the Holy Land? Is it a wives tale at all?

I’m not sure if there is an ole wives tale or not, but the people in general told me spiritual things do come easier in Israel as nothing in Israel distracts from the Torah. When there is a holiday in Israel, all things come to a halt. They even turn off the TV nationally. No distractions. All things being Torah seems to lead to an open heaven for those who seek Hashem.

Why do you think this comparison has been missed by so many people?

For many,  the topic seems too complicated to follow, and people are busy. How could one be as crazy to make the Holy Feasts line up with the act of childbirth? The two side by side become a controversy. The Holy Feasts and the growth of the preborn become unsettling to rabbis, and rabbis do not want much to do with childbirth. But once you get past all the complexities, both the Holy Convocations, or the Feasts, do align with  the growth spurts of a preborn baby! I believe both are relevant today and are perhaps a timeline which may be understood now because our time is so short.

What would you say to someone who might think, “So, I celebrated the Feasts in the womb? Why should that affect my life now?”

I would say to someone who may be skeptical that each one of us is so very special, and even our savior experienced the Feasts as do each one of us. If it’s good enough for Him, then it’s something I want to consider for myself.  For Believers, this knowledge should be extremely validating. For those who may not get it, (that each of us has had the opportunity to experience something of the Holy Feasts), the facts I have presented should help move them into a more ‘believing’ position and certainly a deeper understanding of the secret place.

Whom do you most hope will read this book?

I hope everyone will read this book, but this book may not be for everyone. I do think that it will speak to those who have an interest in Torah or a deeper walk with the L-rd. I also think teachers, pastors, and anyone in the Birthing Theater  (midwives, doulas, birthing assistants, childbirth educators, etc.) would benefit from this information.

And there you have it. Buy it, gift it, download it…but please read it. And for the next five days, I am also offering you another opportunity to claim your free Kindle copy of 31 Days to Lovely! Grab both today!

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31days for blog

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Feb 182013
 

In a matter of days (and yes, I realize that 300 is also a matter of days), but in a mere matter of days—in a trivial amount of days—I will be posting the interview with an author who has changed my life. Not only have I been busy writing my second book, I’ve also been busy editing and publishing Renee’s first. This will be the first “outside find” published by Whatever is Lovely Publications, and God is just so smart to have put us on paths that led to each other.

Until that interview and the corresponding book are ready, though, I do actually have something to blog. This is a throwback to when my blog was actually read, I guess. But I still think these words are worth repeating.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.      1 Cor. 13:4-7 (NIV)

In recent months, I have become enraptured by the goodness of God presented boldly and plainly in the Old Testament. Now, some of you are thinking, “Oh, no, God was mean in the Old Testament!” Though, if you call yourself a Christian you might not admit that thought out-loud. Others of you are thinking, “Duh! Of course He was good in the Old Testament! Our God is good all the time!” And of course, you are 100% correct.

To give you specific examples of what I’m feeling, though, let’s just think about Adam and Eve. God created a perfect world and plopped them down in its center. He gave them one law. One law. Obey me. Eat. Prosper. Enjoy. But don’t eat from that one tree in the middle of the garden.  Why did God even say that? Have you ever wondered that? Why did He make the fruit pleasing to the eyes? Why didn’t He place flaming swords to bar the way to that one tree?!

Before I offer my minor opinion on that point, let’s look at another story. In Exodus nineteen, when God came down from Heaven to give the law and to essentially marry Israel, have you ever noticed what He said?

“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish.’ “ Exodus 19:20-21 (NIV)

God is good, and because He’s good, He can know how fully awesome He is without any measure of arrogance. He is the very definition of awesomeness. No one is better. It’s not bragging if it’s true. And so, knowing full well of His own greatness and the measure of love He is capable of bestowing, God expected the Israelites to run full speed at the mountain. He warned them not to because He’s also aware of what His holiness does to unholiness. He wanted to protect them, and He thought that warning was necessary because He couldn’t even imagine His people not being eager about meeting with Him.

If your heart is anything like mine, you might need tissues before reading what happened next. Because, you see, our perfect God was not mobbed by throngs of adoring fans. The mountain was not charged. They did not approach to the point they’d been allowed to in hopes of catching a glimpse of His glory. No, they stayed at a distance and sent Moses with pathetic high school love notes addressed to the Creator of the Universe who’d rescued them to make them His.

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When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 (NIV)

We know that God is love, but do we stop to think about all that that means? Do we stop to consider that the all-knowing God of the universe will actually set His knowing aside and assume that we will love Him correctly, obey Him perfectly, and reach the full potential He intended in our creation? He is love.

“Love always trusts, always hopes.”

Love is not concerned about looking silly or being let down. Love doesn’t care about those things. Love continues to assume the very best even when history would prove that a foolish thing to do. Our Creator assumes the best about us, even though—at the very same time—He knows exactly what we will do. He never lets the knowledge of our future failures taint the hope He has for our success. He’s been rooting for our obedience and love since the Garden of Eden.

If, like me, you have just a sampling of this kind of love, hope, trust for another human being…don’t let the world steal it. They have no right to take what you have received directly from your Father. And after all, you’re just daring to follow in the footsteps of a God who fully believes you can.

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Jan 262013
 

Thank you so much for sticking with me through another book writing. I’m just a few weeks away from letting my editors have their crack at it and then I’ll be all yours for awhile. The fact that any of you still check in is such a blessing.

I’m not revealing any real details about this book, and I won’t until it’s for sale. I do want to tell you that writing it has changed my life. I don’t mean the way pinon coffee or Double Stuffed Oreos changed my life. I mean in a deep down to my soul, waking and sleeping kind of way. I’ve been in the Word more over these last six months that in my entire Christian life combined. I dream in Scripture, and I sleep with the computer by my bed so I can raise a sleepy hand to the keyboard to look up words in Hebrew. I’m not sleeping much, actually, but the refreshment of the Spirit is more than worth it. When this book is finished and published, I’m doing what I said I’d do last time and I’m checking into a hotel to sleep until I wake up.

In the mean time, as I’m sure I’ll still be a little quiet as I wrap up this current project, please keep checking back. I’ll try to update at least once a week and will continue to posts reviews and contests as needed. In case you need a reminder of our review policy here at KT+1, we subscribe to the philosophy that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I just put that in quotes but have the sneaky feeling I misquoted. You never need my permission to send me a product for review (or, ya know, to send me coffee), and I never charge for reviews. Just check the “Contact” link for more information.

Till next time!

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 January 26, 2013  Blogging & Writing 1 Response »
Oct 162012
 

I don’t want to think about how old I was at the time, because it was a very, very long time ago. And I don’t want to admit that it was Sister Act II that stirred me (even though I still have the soundtrack and love it), because I like to think I’m somehow impermeable to the shallow–to anything that swims at depths that require no more than a snorkel. It is what it is, though; it was what it was. When Whoopi Goldberg told her talented music student that what she woke up thinking about in the morning was that thing she was made to do, I knew that I had–I would die if I wasn’t–I had to write and to be a real writer. 

Somewhere inside me is someone so much better (and I mean more talented) than I have the time and energy–the focus, maybe, to be. She speaks to me in those early morning hours when I’m too tired to reach for a pen. Apparently, she requires much less sleep than I do. She preaches violently if not eloquently as I shower, but the revelation leaves about the time I stop dripping. I’m dry. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it quickly–rapidly–do or die. I wrote late at night and through the wee small hours of the morning. I edited while Dora the Explorer babysat loudly in the foreground of my 800 square foot mobile home. Dora, Dora, Dora… I was broken; yet, as I wept, even the oldest scars reopened and then truly healed. I had to share, and I didn’t want to forget it all before I had written it down. So I wrote,  and when it was finished, I hit “publish”. And then I mourned it. I allowed Satan to torment me over it. I had published my first book, and I still didn’t feel like a writer.

If you’ve read 31 Days to Lovely:A Journey of Forgiveness, I hope you’ve received it as truth. It’s just the Bible alongside my meek and simple life. It’s not flowery or overtly pretty. Truthfully, it’s not what I’ve spent the last fifteen plus years hoping my first book would be. It doesn’t showcase me–it’s not about me at all. Still, maybe I wanted it to be about me. I still want to be a writer.

Today, my book received it’s first bad–pot-shot filled review on Amazon. The words that everyone feels sure I can brush off  captured the depth of my secret self-loathing. It’s from there the melancholia is flowing. You see, Satan won’t knock on those doors that are barred and guarded. He slips through the open ones. He knows all about my writer’s envy, it comes from him, and how I have a hard time loving Ann Voskamp (I’m kidding, how could anyone not love Ann?!). But so what if my book lacks the polish I might have found through more time and maybe a little more solitude? What does it matter if my words are simply words and not prose? The message, if received, will change lives. I truly believe that. After all, it changed mine. That’s why He asked me to write it.

I’m writing this post to break my silence–to speak to yours. I’m writing to every musician who has slaved over a song and then flipped on the radio to hear something better. I’m writing on behalf of every mom who has baked and decorated a two a.m. cake only to discover Pinterest later that same day. I’m writing for every athlete who has given her all only to be beaten by superior talent. I’m writing to every ex-beauty queen who has manually lifted her aging face as she’s leaned a little too close to the mirror. Someone will always be smarter, better, prettier. And that’s OK, sisters, because we are not our gifts. We are daughters of the Most High God! What people think about us cannot touch that. What we believe about ourselves cannot touch that. But what we think about ourselves will effect that we do and in what ways we serve His Kingdom.

I feel silly, like I usually do, admitting tears because one of you doesn’t like me. Maybe, I hope, my silliness will help to heal yours.

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 October 16, 2012  Blogging & Writing, Me 17 Responses »
Sep 182012
 

Quite a few of you have e-mailed me with questions about my book writing process. It seems I’m not the only struggling or aspiring author out there, and I know I only mentioned that I was writing and editing and then announced that the book was for sale–it was a little bit more complicated than that.

Write

I wouldn’t dare give a “how to” on the actual writing. Everyone has their own process, I’m sure. I can tell you how I chose to write 31 Days to Lovely; it may or may not work for you.

First, I wrote a chapter outline. This changed very slightly as I started to write, but it gave me a confident place to start. Because my book centered around Scripture, my outline was primarily Scripture.

After the outline, I began filling in the chapters–just 500 or so words per night. When each chapter had it’s bare bones information and I had written just over 15,000 words, I was finished with an incomplete book. Still, I felt a little too close to the project to be able to improve upon it without some outside perspective.

Focus Group

I have amazing friends; I like to think that makes me an amazing friend, but they truly surpass me in every way. Because you can now set up completely private and secret Facebook groups, I invited about fifteen friends to a group in which we would read and critique what I had written. These were all women whose opinions I greatly respected (some of them were writers, others were avid readers). Seven of them were enthusiastic about helping and were in a time in their lives which allowed it (although most of them didn’t really have the time; they just made it). The “What exactly do you mean here?” “I think you could expound upon this,”  and “You’ve gotta lay off the parenthesis,” comments they returned were absolutely invaluable. I edited according to their suggestions and added another 5,000 words or so.

Edit

I highly suggest hiring or begging two editors for every major project. The first one should be an in depth editor and critic and the second a consummate proofreader. We [writers] all know that it’s almost impossible to edit one’s own work (I’ve often worked as an editor for others and cannot believe the errors I both make and miss in my own work). Likewise, the editor who begins a project may have difficulty finishing it as he/she may also become nearsighted. Before you run off and spend $1000 or more on an editor, see if you can’t hire an equally talented friend  for cheap or free. Both elance.com and ifreelance.com are good places to look for an inexpensive but talented editor. You may very well have teachers or writers among your immediate family and close friends that would be happy to fill your editor positions for free, however. I was lucky enough to have my cousin edit and my parents proofread. And I’m now paying it forward by editing a good friend’s book (also for free). Just look around, and don’t be afraid to ask! I added another 5,000 or so words at the suggestion of my editor, and she was good enough to read through again after I had made the revisions. If this seems like too much to ask of one person, you might consider finding three editors (two editors and one proofreader) to get the job done in sequence–this is the road I plan to take with book number two.

Design

I had a very specific vision in mind for my cover. First, I knew that I wanted my good friend and the namesake of my youngest daughter to hand-draw the word “Lovely”.

 

I pictured it on a background of white roses. I began searching the internet for the picture I wanted (and I found tons) only to realize that purchasing a picture for use in a commercialized project could easily cost me thousands of dollars. So, I dusted off my camera and drove to the store for white roses.

I have a nice camera and decent (for amateur) photography skills. That was enough to get a usable picture. If you haven’t invested in a quality camera, never fear! You are sure to know someone who has! Again, just ask around.

Without my designer, I would have been stuck with a nice picture and a beautiful but unusable scan. I had no idea how to combine these things and begin to bring about my vision. Luckily, one of the gals who’d agreed to join my focus group is a talented designer. Not only did she design the most beautiful cover I have ever seen (and yes, I might be biased), but she acted absolutely thrilled to do so for free.

If there is not a willing designer in your circle, never fear! Fiverr.com is the place I run for many, many of my design related issues (blog, book, and logos for clients). Just hop on over and look around. There are designers, coding experts, and all around creative people galore! And amazingly, they will do most small jobs for $5 (check the Fiverr’s rating before hiring). Be sure to let your designer know that they are working on a commercialized project so that they can choose their fonts accordingly.

Format

I knew I wanted to publish my book both in print and for Kindle. However, formatting my MS Word document for Kindle was far outside my scope of understanding. After a full day of frustration and about an hour in tears, I remembered Fiverr.com. I would highly suggest not even trying to format your own document unless that is your area of expertise. I paid $10 (because I tipped) to have my document prepared for Kindle publishing. It might also be wise to hire someone to format your print version. This was my very first publishing expense.

Publish

After quite a bit of looking around and reading reviews online, I decided to publish my print version with Create Space. For the most part, I’ve been extremely happy with their printing quality and their customer service. They walked me through the publishing process step by step. Also, Create Space (an Amazon company) makes it easy to sell your self-published title on Amazon. They have a Kindle publishing walk-through, though I chose to bypass this and to hop over to Kindle with my formatted version in hand–therefore skipping the wait and fee that would have been associated with the Create Space to Kindle option.

Create Space is a print-on-demand company. This means that books are not printed until they are purchased. There will never be a minimum amount of books for you to buy; and, like I said, I’ve been predominately pleased with the job they do. I did receive some misprinted books last month, but Create Space replaced them free of charge. Create Space has a completely free option, and because I had already enlisted an editor and designer and was taking and formatting my own interior pictures, free was the option for me. Create Space allowed me to choose from standard book sizes and color options and also allowed me to set my price based on the royalty I wanted to receive.

Royalty rates are higher for self-published authors, because you are the one solely responsible to…

Market and Sell

I’ve read in several publishing articles that the average self-published title sells about a hundred copies [ever]. That hardly makes it worth all the work! No matter how well-written or relevant your book is, it will not sell if it is not marketed. Publishing on Kindle is an essential marketing strategy for a self-published author. In fact, you may decide not to publish a print version at all! When publishing on Kindle, you’ll have the option to sign up for their Kindle Select Program–you want to do this! One of the features of Kindle Select is the option of listing your Kindle title for free (for up to five days). Not only do you want to take advantage of this (whether your title will be priced at $2.99 or $9.99), but you’ll want to use up all five freebie days. There is simply no better way to market, and every single free download will be counted [for ranking purposes] as a sale. In other words, even though my book has only sold a few hundred copies to date, Amazon ranks it as though it has been sold over 14,000 times (I gave away 14,265 Kindle copies).

Because your five freebie days do not have to be used in succession, I highly recommend taking a quick step backward once you are ready to sell on Kindle and before you go live with your print version (I didn’t do this, so you’re learning from my mistake). Activate a twenty-four hour freebie day, but do not advertise it. Instead, send the link to close friends and family, only, letting them know that you’d love it if they would preview your book and point out any errors that might have been overlooked in the proofing or formatting process. Also, ask them to review your book on Amazon, and ask them if they can do all of these things within a specified amount of time (you only have 90 days to use your freebie days, so keep that in mind).

If it becomes necessary for you to make changes to your file, you can simply upload a new file to Create Space. You’ll need to have your Kindle file formatted with the changes. Again, I recommend that you hire someone to do this.

As soon as you’re ready, contact the freebie sites (both miscellaneous and Kindle)  and let them know that your book will be listed for free for four days (give them exact dates). You can find the relevant sites by googling, “Freebie Sites,” and “Kindle Freebie Sites”. Don’t worry about contacting every single one. Just pay attention to the top three or four listings, the rest will take their cue from them.

That’s about it…I won’t say simple, but it’s definitely something you can do. Let me know when you publish so that I can review your book!

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 September 18, 2012  Blogging & Writing 2 Responses »
Sep 152012
 

What do I say? What can I write to the One who knows me far better than I know myself? I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m physically cold. Winter is on its way and I’m just not ready. But this morning, I pointed a space heater at the toes of my squinty-eyed children. I opened the fridge and poured cold cups of milk. I turned on the faucet to rinse out five glasses. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I am silly and selfish, and sometimes that revelation hits like a bus. But when the tears do come, I welcome them. They leave a puddle of perspective for which I am so very grateful.

Out of true perspective comes immediate action; and when I feel the gut-wrench of helplessness, my only obtainable action is heartfelt prayer. So I’m coming to you today on behalf of Sabajit, Rodrigo, and Basu. They have parents who are struggling even to feed and to clothe them, Lord. I know a little about how that feels. Their sons sign their letters as my sons, and I count that as the greatest privilege of my life. Please pour your mercy and grace upon them . They’re heavy on my heart today, Jesus, and I ask that you abundantly bless them–bless them as they’ve blessed me. I’m asking you, on behalf of my five children, that you bless us, too. But more than your blessings, please grant us the perspective necessary to truly know that we’ve already been blessed.

Please help me to raise children who possess open palms. Help us to lay down any luxury for the sake of life. And when it is called for, help us to lay down our lives for the sake of life. Thank you for birthing me, and for birthing my children in such a way as would prevent us from looking downward, so that even in the privilege of our birth, we grasp our equality with those scorned and despised. Thank you for your careful teaching. I acknowledge that any gift worthy of receiving comes straight from you. When we become your hands, our hands are blessed. And when we withhold with clinched fists and worldly judgment, we curse ourselves and refuse your heart.

I ask you to expand my reach and to bless many more children through me. Thank you for the blessings that are poured out, dumped with a drenching force, just through the privilege of serving you. It is such an honor to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have not yet experienced the blessing of a sponsored child, I urge you to be moved with compassion. I promise you, you will never regret it.

 September 15, 2012  Blogging & Writing 2 Responses »
Sep 082012
 

It’s a little bedroom, bigger than mine, but one of the smaller rooms that they’ve had. But is it too small for five kids? Thanks to Wal-Mart.com, nope. It’s just the right size.

I haven’t put up their curtains, yet, but I plan to use the same ones we’ve been using for awhile. And I’m ordering canvases so their walls can feature their own artwork. When it’s all finished and cute, I’ll post again.

Here’s the bed. It’s a twin over full bunk. But there is also room to slide another full mattress right underneath. So, now, it’s a twin over full over full. I think I’m a genius (and Lula thinks so, too).

The bedding is also from Wal-Mart, but we would never be able to find it in our small town store. That’s what makes Wal-Mart’s free site-to-store shipping so awesome. Big city bargains delivered straight to our mountain Wal-Mart! Can’t beat that!

The closet is still unfinished. I really hate sliding closet doors, so I’m thinking about redoing the whole inside with shelves and rods. Maybe something like this. Or a bunch of these. But I really like this, which would leave room for shelves on each end. If you’ve redone a closet, please let me see. When I look here, all I see is wasted space. Which, of course, we can’t have!

But that’s what we have, for now. A very clean and workable bedroom–with just enough stuff and plenty of room for all.

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