Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Little Love Story and the Winner of My Giveaway

Drum roll....the winner of my giveaway from last week is..... Jamie Jo from Lord, Make Me A Saint! Congratulations to Jamie and a hearty thank you to all who participated. I was more than a little hesitant to put my voice on that last post because we never sound like what we think we sound like, but you all were terrific. Thank you!

I have 16.5 days left until I am retired from the classroom and while excitement is growing in my heart, so also is the lump in my throat. I'm going through my older school posts. This is one from my first months of blogging.

Every day could use a little love story. 

Carlos had bounced from foster home to foster home by the time he'd reached 8th grade. The only memories he had of his real parents were dark and painful. His mild cerebral palsy and autism necessitated him taking all his classes in a self contained special education unit, where he began to thrive. Carlos read voraciously. He was also selectively mute, only using gestures or on the rare occasion, a simple spoken word. He self-soothed when he became nervous by fluttering his hands near his face, as if they were silent doves. His serious expression never loosened into a smile.

Rachel had lived with her grandmother most of her life. She was a happy, bubbly girl, grown large with her grandma's delectable cooking. Although in 8th grade, she had the mental age of a 6 year old. Her speech was limited, but she also loved coming to school in the same self contained unit Carlos attended.

On a grade level field trip to a state park, their regular teachers were unable to attend. I kept a close eye on them, both to ensure their safety and because I didn't know how the other kids would treat them.

I was proud of the other 8th graders. They were kind to Carlos and Rachel and went out of their way to include them in the tour group activities. Carlos and Rachel both seemed a little overwhelmed, but kept up well with all we did that morning.

Our scheduled lunch was a picnic near the river in a scenic spot canopied with enormous oak and elm trees. The other students grabbed their lunches and gobbled them down, eager to toss a football and explore our area. I sat at a picnic table with Carlos and Rachel.

They shyly and quietly ate their lunches. Rachel giggled a few times as I tried to engage them in conversation, but Carlos kept his grave expression as he finished his sandwich. He stole a few glances at Rachel and his hands began fluttering.

He turned on the bench and faced her. She had her eyes on her food, still smiling, oblivious to his attention to her.


"Rachel," Carlos murmured softly. She continued to look at her food.

"Rachel," he said louder. This time, she swung her head towards him.

His hands fluttered rapidly.

"Rachel, you are my heartbeat," he said clearly, without cutting his eyes from her. Although his syllables were truncated, his voice was steady.

"Huh?" she asked, uncomprehendingly.

"You are the air I breathe, Rachel," Carlos said with fervor.

No one had ever heard this boy say more than two words together. I felt like I was intruding on a sacred moment. I held my breath.

Rachel moved her head slightly towards Carlos.

"What it mean, Carlos?" she asked.

"I love you, Rachel. I love you," Carlos replied. His hands finally stilled themselves, his gaze intently fixed on her.

"Aw, I wuv you, too, Carlos," Rachel answered. She giggled and pulled open a bag of chips, crunching one loudly.

His expression softened and he exhaled a long, satisfied sigh. A small smile curled up at the corners of his mouth. The other teachers and kids loudly jumbled back to where we were and it was time to load the bus.

They did not sit in the same seat on the bus, but he looked back every now and then and grinned at her. She giggled back at him. His whole frame relaxed into the seat and his hands rested calmly in his lap. 

As we unloaded back at school, they still did not walk close to each other, but each time he looked at her, she smiled and laughed shyly and he crinkled his eyes and beamed tenderly as they made their way back to class.


And love still conquers all.

90 comments:

  1. Congratulations to Jaimie Jo.
    Oh Shelly I love this story it pulls at your heart Wow the days are ticking away I bet you are getting excited but nervous:) B

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    1. Buttons: Thank you- they are really sweet kids.

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  2. Wow! What a thing to be witness to. What I take most from this story is that the power of love truly transcends all obstacles. This world sure can use more of it.

    Congrats to Jamie Jo!

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    1. Felt Family: Yes! And no matter who we are, we all have that capacity to love, and to love deeply.

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  3. A lovely love story, beautifully told.

    Congrats to Jamie Jo.

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    1. vanilla: Thank you- love stories never get old to me.

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  4. This is another sweet and wonderful story, dear Shelly. It reminds me of the lyrics to Dean Martin's hit song:

    Everybody loves somebody sometime
    Everybody falls in love somehow

    It also reminds me of a great family television series, Life Goes On, which premiered in 1989 and was the first TV series to have a major character with Down's Syndrome. After years of being segregated in special classes for Down's children, Corky Thatcher was mainstreamed at the local high school. During the series he got a job, found a girlfriend with Down's and eventually married her.

    Your anecdote reminds us that it only takes a moment and a word to change someone's whole life. When you take a risk, reach out to someone, express something from the heart, acknowledge them, validate them and they reciprocate, it is a gift that keeps on giving.

    Shelly, I share your excitement and emotion as you count down to the end of your career in the classroom. I have no doubt that you will continue to make enormous contributions to young and old alike in the next chapter of your life.

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    1. Shady: So true, my friend! Making oneself so vulnerable is hard, and I think that's what Carlos struggled greatly with, but how beautiful it is when it is reciprocated.

      I remember that show, too, and loved it. And thank you- I feel like I'm at the edge of a cliff, ready to try my little wings and see how high they'll go.

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  5. What a sweet, sweet story. And it looks like you have a whole treasure chest full of them, as you wind down your career. All the best, Shelly! And please continue to share your well-written and heartfelt stories.

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    1. Linda: Thank you, Linda- you know well how those wonderful classroom stories can stay with you.

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  6. Such a heart-warming story. And congratulations to Jamie Jo.

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    1. Stephen: Those are really two terrific kids- easy to write about.

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  7. Jamie Jo, how exciting! Enjoy!

    Shelly, what a beautiful story. I remember the TV series Shady mentioned; it was very well done. How amazing that Carlos was able to talk to Rachel; he must have known he could trust her with his words.

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    1. jenny_o: I am still amazed that he spoke so eloquently. He's moved on to another school (he was adopted!!!) and the reports we hear are that he's doing well. It took a lot for him to work up that trust, but I'm glad he did~

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  8. Shelly, this story and others you have shared just tell me that there are multiple lives you have touched over the years and the impact will be profound. What a wonderful blessing to have been able to share in that sweet moment of tenderness.

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    1. Nonnie: They really touched me with how purely they reacted to each other. It makes me smile even now to think about it~

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  9. Since I know Jamie Jo personally, WHOO HOO to her!!! She deserves it!
    hugs to you as you wind down these days. bittersweet!???!!!!

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    1. Christine: Bittersweet indeed!!!

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  10. This is so beautiful. I wish that there is a Carlos for every Rachel.
    My niece has Down Syndrome. She is in puberty age. She used to be pretty social. Now all of a sudden she has become very quite. My brother is worried for her. They tried all kinds of therapy. May be she needs to meet a young man.

    Yeah, Congrats to Jamie.

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    1. Munir: Maybe that is the key- good companionship does wonders for so many. I hope they will find the right combination of what works for her~

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  11. What a beautiful story. I have tears!

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    1. Say What: Those two are just the purest of hearts~

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    1. Sherry: It still touches me to think of him saying those beautiful words when he'd barely spoken even one word at a time~

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  13. Beautiful story. Love motivates. It motivated Carlos to express himself beautifully and it gave Rachel a memory that a young boy named Carlos told he that she was the air that he breathed. I have a feeling that you are a lovely success as a teacher.

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    1. Lorna: Thank you- and love is the best motivating force in the whole world, I believe.

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  14. Shelly, one thing I love about being retired is being able to get out of bed whenever I want to, and to go to bed whenever I feel like it. I don't mind starting projects on a Sunday evening because I know that Monday is free to use however I wish to.

    Congratulations on living a giving life. I am a retired high school teacher and my bittersweet memories all involve the students. All of the angst and petty frustrations. or most of them, came from the adults and the politics of the environments.

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    1. Lorna: Oh, I am so looking forward to that- unfettered Sunday nights and Monday mornings...

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  15. Shelly, that was a beautiful and very moving story. Love really does conquer all.
    Thanks for posting this.

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    1. Pat: I love the way they expressed it to each other, especially him, when it took such a big leap of faith for his to speak~

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  16. What a wonderfully, sweet story!

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  17. That was an awesome love story and I am sure that you could write a best seller with the experiences you've had over the years that would bless so many people. I know it would me.

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  18. Oh, my gosh, I never would have thought I'd win...now I have to go back and read the rest!
    Thank you Shelly!!

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    1. Jamie Jo: Congratulations! If you can message or email me your address, I just want to be sure I have the right one. I hope you like them!

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  19. OK, I'm back. I love that story. You DO have such a way with words. I hope you think of putting your stories into a book when you retire!! I"m so excited for this next chapter in your life!! God bless you!

    Thank you again!

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  20. lovely story. ;)I can feel your excitement in counting down the days to retirement. xx

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    1. Michelle: I am excited, but trying not to think of how much I will miss the kids!

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  21. What a sweet story... I love ALL of your stories. Wish I could hear one every night. Your retirement will be bittersweet, especially at first. New adventures ahead, but it'll be hard to say goodbye. But the memories will always be there in your heart.

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    1. Karen: It is going to be something totally different, that's for sure! I am going to miss those kids desperately, but I am looking forward to new vistas. And thank you!

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  22. I am going to hold that image in my heart all day. Congratulations to Jamie Jo! The writing and sharing of these stories is powerful energy for the world. Please don't retire this space. I am all mushy and sad about you saying goodbye to your school. Change is hard, even if it means that later you experience something expansive and wonderful and free.

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    1. Jenny: I am going through that roller coaster of emotions when I think of how desperately I am going to miss the kids, but also how excited I am to move on to something new. Like you, jumping out of my comfort zone! Thank you, my friend~

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  23. Amazing!!! I loved this with all my heart. Why? 'Cause I have a grandson that is a special needs guy. I can't say 'child' since he'll be 24 the next Sunday after this weekend. But, to read this, it fills my heart with joy - I know and can feel their emotions and yet try to hide them from the world. They live in their own world most times, but can so easily love and show tenderness towards others. Be they 'their kind' or not. If only the world we live in could see how easy it is to be loved and love.

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    1. PS...dang, forgot to congratulate Jamie. I know she's gonna love those TX Pralines.

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    2. HOOTIN ANNI: You are so right- it is so easy to love and be loved, and what an amazing world it would be and how many problems could be solved if we just realized that. Happy birthday to your grandson!

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    3. And I, too, hope Texas pralines will go over well with Jamie and her family!

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  24. Dear Shelly, this love story touched me deeply. We truly are mystery. Each and every one of us. And out of that deep place within where Carlos is truly himself and Rachel also, they spoke to one another. This sharing was a graced moment for them and for you. Thank you for sharing it with us. Here, Shelly, with Carlos and Rachel is the germ, the seed, of a novel. Oh, I so want to read anything you write. Peace.

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    1. Dee: I love how you said that deep place within where each of them are truly themselves. We all have that inside; where any hindrances, handicaps, or other obstacles are gone and we are just us. And thank you so much. I am going to carefully consider what you said about the seed.

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  25. I don't know many adults who can explain love as eloquently and concisely as Carlos did. And don't we ladies just want a man to declare their affection as we enjoy a delicious bag of chips? My oldest childhood friend just had a baby that has Down Syndrome, and this beautiful love story truly touched me. I am so glad you were there to witness it. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Amy: It was such a thing of beauty that I will remember it for the rest of my life. Carlos has a lot more going for him that many adults, I think.

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  26. Congrats to the winner. What a beautiful story. And congrats - I know retirement is bittersweet. sandie

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    1. Sandie: Yes, it is really a mixed bag of feelings. But I am truly looking forward to it!

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  27. What an absolutely heartwarming story Shelly. Love DOES conquer all doesn't it?? Have a wonderful weekend :)

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    1. Optimistic Existentialist: It is the mightiest force of all! Thank you~

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  28. Dearest Shelly,
    Congratulations to Jamie on her winning of your wonderful giveaway♡♡♡
    Wow, how lovely and moving this story is☆☆☆ Your closing words is marvelous. Story of two angels, I thought.
    Today, after our guests left, my husband and I talked about our childhood days. (something connected with the chat we had with the guests) As we had handicaps, we share some bitter and sweet memories. I was happy to read that the other students were kind to them, as well

    Oh, dear Shelly! I wish to send you this Japanese, "長い間、お疲れ様でした” This phrase expresses the appreciations for one's work with thoughtful way. I don't know how I should say in English.

    Night Night from Japan and wishing you blessed future, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. Miyako: I'm so sorry you and your hubby both had some trying times because of handicaps while you were growing up, my dear friend. I hope that we are all doing a better job of educating children and helping them to develop empathy.

      I am blessed by your Japanese phrase. You have a heart of gold, you truly do. Have a wonderful sleep and rest of the weekend!

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  29. Such a beautiful story. Carlos may not have spoken much in those days but the words he chose were astoundingly beautiful and perfect too.

    Is it a true story? Where are they now and how are they doing I wonder?

    xx Jazzy

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    1. jazzygal: Yes, it happened last school year. The very good news is that Carlos was adopted by a family who loves him, and although he's in a different town, we hear he's doing well and is happy. Rachel has almost completed her course of instruction at my school and will be moving on to high school next year. She's also still just as sweet as ever!

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  30. Shelly,
    This one was just as good the "second time around." How wonderful that they had someone like you to watch over them, allowing them to have the opportunity to experience such moments. I am so glad for you to be able to retire; and truly do understand the "lump in the throat."

    I think you are going to enjoy the freedom and love exploring the next phase of your life. Blessings to you - as you are such a blessing to others.

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    1. Marsha: Thank you, my friend. I will be glad to get the retiring part over so I can fully move into the retired part!

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  31. A beautiful, lovely story, it totally touched my heart. Thanks Shelly!

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  32. Awwwww, that is so sweet. Good for him to find some love in his heart and be able to express it. And he smiled.

    Your retirement is going to be a great loss for those future students. But it's time for you to have your next phase and find your next impact.

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    1. Theresa: That was my favorite thing- seeing him finally smile. And thank you- I'm really looking forward to this next phase!

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  33. What a lovely story.I had not read it before, because I have fairly recently come to your blog. I'm sure you will LOVE your retirement, you have such a positive and people friendly attitude to the world and that won't change.

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    1. Jenny: Thank you! I really am looking forward to retiring and yet still being young enough to do something else. A whole new world, for sure~

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  34. Thankfully, I get to hear or read "feel good" stories like this in print or on TV, because I rarely witness it in person. You've been very blessed to be a part of so many young lives. Thanks for sharing this story. I hope both of those kids are living good lives.

    I'll be waiting for your upcoming posts, as you will surely journal your "newly retired" status! It will help you with the lump in your throat and the tears in your eyes. xoxo

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    1. Anita: I am so blessed. Carlos has been adopted, which thrills me, and Rachel will be going to high school next year. She's still a giggler, too! And thank you for your kind words~

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  35. love conquers all...... and your story is a beautiful testament to love!
    what an exciting time for you...bittersweet I guess. you can always go back and sub!!!!!!

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    1. Annemarie: Love is truly the biggest force there is. And I am really getting excited!

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  36. Wow! I can't believe you have such a short amount of time left, when does school get out? I think I have to wait until mid-June. I'd LOVE for vacation to start early but I can imagine how your last day will be, I'd cry!

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    1. Julie: Our last day is May 24- wooty woot! I'm not looking forward to that last day. I will be an emotional mess, but come May 25, I'm sure I will be feeling good!

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  37. This is such a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Congratulation on your retirement. I am sure you will miss the kids, but I sure retirement will be lovely.

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    1. Dawn: Thank you! Retirement is going to be all that~

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  38. You must have taken early retirement. You don't look nearly old enough to retire.

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    1. Ha! Thank you, my friend- I have taught for 29 years, and I am 51, so I meet the full retirement rules. Still is a little surreal, though~

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  39. I have a lump in my throat, Shelly, and goosebumps on my arms.

    Wuv the whole thing.

    Pearl

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  40. What a sweet story! It made me teary:). A writer lurks within Carlos!

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    1. Maria: Oh, he would be wonderful at writing!

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  41. Shelly. Stop making me all teary! You did it AGAIN.

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    1. Lydia: :) It kind of choked me up when I heard it and then thought about it later~

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  42. Oh. My. Goodness. This story could win a contest. It certainly won my heart. Thanks for sharing. I so needed a splash of hope in my stress-filled life right now! Thanks. Oh, I already said that.

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    1. Jeanette: Oh, thank YOU, my friend!

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  43. Hi, for what it's worth, I loved this piece so much that I featured it in my blog. Check it out here: http://www.indianamericanmom.com/2013/05/blog-post-features-25.html

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    1. Roshni: How very kind of you- thank you!

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  44. Referred by Roshni AaMom...this is indeed the best love story ever! Such cute kids :)

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    1. Rainbow Hues: They are precious kids! Thank you for stopping by. I'm headed to your place now-

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