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Archive for the ‘Growing up in Wisconsin during World War II’ Category

Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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Image result for royalty free images of Pearl Harbor
     I was eight years old in 1941.  Sundays in our home were normally fun—roast chicken or a beef pot roast after church and, during the cold months, an indoor afternoon of jig-saw puzzles and/or Chinese Checkers followed by THE SHADOW at (I think it was) 5:00 p.m. when I would sit with my head (almost literally) in our cabinet-style radio/phonograph, happily lost in the cliff-hanging adventures of Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane.
     But that Sunday was unforgettably different.  The “SHADOW” that day was the massive gloom which spread over our home and extended to all of America along with the entire world.  Some things seem like they happened yesterday, even 75 years later!
     How many people on earth point to a single day in their life when everything changed—when they realized a kind of growing-up epiphany?  The attack on Pearl Harbor, albeit far away and not an immediate threat to my life at the time, symbolized my realization that much in the world is not good—in fact downright horrendous—although sweetness had been my only experience since birth.
     Geographically distant events were revealed to us over a crackly radio and, in the years that followed, in newspapers and the 6:00 p.m. broadcast by Gabriel Heatter (“There’s bad news tonight”, or occasionally “Good news tonight” when the Allied Forces scored a victory.)
     Today the world scene is omnipresent.  Every time we turn on our cell phones or TVs we are updated and bombarded.  The news is old and predictable, but the horror washes over me anew with every viewing—the realization which began at age 8, that much in the world is downright horrendous!  The means of communication have changed; humans have not!
     There is only One Person in the entire universe Who can (and will!) bring “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”  He came once, to show us the way and then to die for our salvation—to pay the sin debt we humans could never pay, and to rise victorious over sin and death.  He is coming again, to reign in Jerusalem and establish His justice and righteousness!
      Meanwhile, although we are not to (and certainly do not wish to) nurture ill will toward enemy nations of the past, may we Americans never forget the unforgettable Sunday!  We humans are fallen!  Every person on earth needs to be redeemed by the One who will ultimately bring peace on earth!
Margaret L. Been — December 7th, 2016

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Piano Musings, Recollections, and Resolution . . . .

music 2

In a good week I have four or five of them:  piano days.  I never sit down to play without thinking of childhood.  How pleased my mother would be with this daughter who, when young, preferred to putter in the shallow creek at the base of our property (crunching on ice floes in winter and catching pollywogs in the summer) to the discipline of piano and violin.  Yet practice I did, many hours per week.  Mom gave me no alternatives.  I had to do a couple of hours of music before messing about in the river.  Mother was passionate about music.  She was a classical pianist, and sat me down at a piano long before I can remember.  At age eight I began my 10 year stint of violin lessons.  I thank Mom for her music passion.  Throughout adulthood, music (especially vocal and piano) has been one of my passions as well.

Mother was unique—so different from some Moms, and how I praise the Lord for that!  Now and then I was allowed in the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies.  After every meal I helped with the clean up; Mother washed the dishes and I dried them and put them away.  (That was special bonding time.)  But I NEVER cooked a meal.  I picked up a few tips from kitchen observation, but I was not taught to cook.  Mom’s famous words were:  “Soon enough you will grow up and have to cook, and since you can read you’ll be able to manage!  Anyone can cook!” 

I was taught to work.  I had to clean the bathrooms and do the ironing (both of which I absolutely love to this day).  But Mom was the cook.  We frequently had company for dinner and my job—my wonderful job!—was to get out the silver, china, and stemware, and set a beautiful table.  The centerpiece was my domain; I had free reign to arrange flowers, candles, and whatever else I could dream up.  Even when there were only the four of us at the table—my parents, my sister, and me—I dressed the table and took enormous pride in the job.  I still do!  My mother wanted me to invest time in reading, knitting, stitching, and doing other creative things along with the music—rather than cooking.

Obviously, as a wife and mother of six children, I did end up doing a lot of cooking and baking over the years!  My mother was wise.  She schooled me in the even more vital, life energizing creative things that bring grace, beauty, and elegance to those chores we have to do in the midst of life’s inevitable challenges.

I’m eternally grateful for both of my parents, and the older I get the more I think of them.  My father traveled frequently because the company he worked for (Lauson Motors in New Holstein Wisconsin/the company eventually became Tecumseh) was knee deep in wartime production.  But when Dad was home, he was my Dad!  He frequently came home with the gift of a book for me, and he always wanted to read whatever I had been writing.  The greatest boost I can recall was when, at age 11, I showed Dad an essay I’d written for a school assignment.  Dad read the text carefully, and said:  “You really think thoughts!”

I could go on forever and bore you readers to distraction about my delightful life, but I won’t.  I hope to stop short of causing abject ennuni!  Meanwhile, much as I have always thought New Year’s resolutions to be rather silly, I have set a goal for the coming year:

To constantly evoke a rather maudlin, corny old Bing Crosby tune the lyrics of which went:  “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . . . “.  Not that I subscribe to “the power of positive thinking”.  Mankind is fallen, and without intervention of the life of Jesus Christ we are lost.  The power of positive thinking is hogwash.  I cannot eliminate ISIS by thinking.  We cannot change our nation, by just thinking; we must pray and WORK—and then only God’s Spirit will make a difference!  Just “thinking” will never deal with the horrendous world issues which our clueless, muddleheaded, and/or downright evil President refuses to acknowledge.

Only God can change the world, and eventually He will—as He has promised through ages of Old Testament prophecy confirmed by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, as well as in the New Testament Epistles!  Meanwhile, as I pray and live as the Lord leads, I can—as old Bing crooned—“Accentuate the positive”.

Here is an example:  rather than continuing to spout off about Obama’s idiotic State of the Union address, or grousing about the Packers’ failure to complete their great start against the Seahawks last Sunday I can (and am!) robustly cheering Speaker John Boehner for his classic End Run around our President, by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to address The House of Representatives on the threats of Iran and Islamic terrorism.  Clearly, the Seahawks—even Obama’s speech—fade into the back of my mind, next to Boehner’s Play of the Week—maybe the play of the year!

To summarize, my goal is to continually and faithfully focus on and publish good news.  But specifically, what do all these musings have to do with a piano day?  Simply this:  On my piano days I begin by struggling over the few Chopin nocturnes I can even dream of playing, adding some easier classics such as George Winston’s arrangement of Pachelbel’s beloved Kanon, lightening up with a Scott Joplin rag or two, and ending with my treasured book of Gospel hymns including Amazing Grace. 

AMAZING GRACE!  Forty four years ago almost to this very day, I was catapulted in the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It was a bitter cold day in January of 1971 when I entered the Kingdom.  The sun pounding down on the pristine banks of snow was so bright, so exquisite, so unspeakably and amazingly beautiful that I still experience a flush of joy when I think of it.  And every time I play Amazing Grace, the wonder, brilliance, and joy of that day is new—all over again!

Salvation and eternal life in Christ.  That is the “positive” to accentuate, the Good News which tops all else—yes, even John Boehner’s Fabulous End Run around our misguided, muddleheaded, and possibly (quite probably!) evil President!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—January 22, 2015

Note:  Here is an aside:  my pick from the cast of GOP contenders for nomination is Dr. Ben Carson.  Someone new, someone non-political, someone with real straight arrow values—although others in the list, including our own Governor Scott Walker, project straight values as well.

In his book, ONE NATION, Dr. Carson begins by demonstrating how “political correctness” has undermined our nation, as it is literally killing freedom of speech and promoting dishonesty at many levels.  I can accentuate the fact that I positively agree 

Dr. Carson is outspokenly Biblical in his views on the sins of abortion and homosexuality.  He is not afraid to quote Scriptural references, and point to God’s Word as the ultimate authority.  Coming from a distinguished man of science, this is especially refreshing!

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Frog daysDahlia

I don’t want to let go.  Our summer has been so ineffably sweet, I will hang on to it forever. 

Beautiful weather.  No need to run the AC—except that we occasionally put it on for Baby Dylan when we have to leave him for a few hours in the closed-up home.  Okay there were a couple of times when at home, that we broke the humidity by turning on the AC for very short spells, but always with the doors and windows wide open to the out-of-doors.  And due to the ubiquitous AC in most every indoor place, our favorite summer restaurant has become a local pub with outdoor seating. 

Leisurely early morning strolls around our park.  Visits with friends.  Plenty of summer knitting, which always brings woolly recollections of being 8 years old and learning to knit on the porch of our family cottage at Lake Winnebago.  Bookish naps on our shady afternoon patio.  And best of all, mellow days with the three generations which have resulted from our marriage of 61 years!

Too too sweet

More pool

Leo again again again again again

Mia Mia 2

musician

Recently Joe and I had the (probably once in a lifetime) experience of having our portraits painted by a friend, Janet Roberts, who is a professional artist.  We didn’t have to sit it out, as Janet works from photographs.  You can check out our portraits (“Joe in Winter Hat” and “Margaret in Summer Hat”) on Janet’s website.  Just GOOGLE “Janet Roberts, Brookfield Wisconsin Artist” and click on “Gallery” from the home page menu,  Voilà!

Our portraits have inspired a lot of mulling and musing.  With all the wonderful photos I have today—hundreds in albums and hundreds more in my computer files—a painted portrait is something unique.  I reflect on how for centuries paintings and sculptures were the only way a person’s image could be captured and preserved.  I think of the court painters such as Holbein, sent out by Henry VIII so he could visualize a future wife.  (I’d sure hate to have been one of those!)  And commodious stairwells lined with ancestors in great houses down through history.  Photography is an amazingly wonderful art, yet there is something ALIVE about paint in the hands of an accomplished artist such as our friend, Janet.

Mellow days, and a summer to remember.  A summer of quiet contentment and simply joys.  A summer of plenty in a world that grows more crazy, more sin ridden and tragically brutal every single day.  A summer in which I feel compelled to share at every possible opportunity, the one and only LIVING HOPE—that hope which is more real than this keyboard on which I type. 

In the midst of a world where an American journalist is decapitated against the background of an American president deeply engrossed in golfing and fund-raising, Our Lord Jesus Christ will return!  As He came to earth 2000 plus years ago to die for our sin and rise victorious over evil, He will return—to gather His own to Himself, and finally to reign for 1000 years in Jerusalem:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Margaret L. Been, September 2014 

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My piano bar

It’s amazing how a “one-liner” can stick with you forever!  Years ago a violin teacher, Amy, shared an unforgettable one-liner which summarizes most everything I have endeavored to do for much of my life.  At a violin lesson years ago I was sawing through a seemingly boring and nondescript exercise in my Kreutzer, when Amy interjected a teacherly command:  “Play it like a love song!”

This concept revolutionized my practice sessions.  Heretofore, violin (and piano) teachers had stressed metronome-driven precision.  Now Amy was setting me free to transform even the most mechanistic of studies into a vehicle for interpretive expression.  The Kreutzer exercises came alive.  Suddenly they were beautiful—as I learned to play them with my soul as well as with my fingers.

I grew up in the era of heart-rending love songs and idealistically elegant films.  The Hit Parade featured pop classic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como—and the cinema portrayed love affairs framed in romantic settings.  Though some negative-minded folks might bad-mouth my early conditioning as being “unreal”, I praise God for it.  Beauty and elegance via entertainment, along with the beauty and natural elegance which my mother modeled every single day in our home, taught me something vital about living—and endowed me with a working philosophy, as succinctly summarized in Amy’s words:  “Play it like a love song.”

No, beauty and romantic elegance are not “unreal” when we attempt to bring these qualities to the most mundane of tasks, thereby inspiring and uplifting the moment—when our concept of outer beauty mirrors a quality of the inner soul.  We are free to choose, free to create with whatever we have at hand, free to play life like a love song—therefore highlighting our material reality whenever possible, with manifestations of inner beauty.

When we reflect on our loving, creative God—the Author of beauty (material as well as spiritual)—we realize that “playing it like a love song” can radically exceed some merely human philosophy on how to live.  Although beauty and/or romantic elegance need not take the form of a 1940s Hollywood production—or, for that matter, a Kreutzer exercise—the essence of gracious inner beauty can be palpable in diverse forms as well as applicable to most every circumstance and area of life depending on how ardently we love life, how we view life, and most vitally how we think!  Again, we are free to choose.

The intrinsic character of God’s beauty materialized at creation, when He spoke the beautiful Heavens and earth into existence.  Many centuries later, an Apostle whom we revere expressed God’s command for humankind through the priority of the “whatsoever things”:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”  Philippians 4:8

Are there moments when your life exercises seem drab and routine, and your duties are characterized by metronome-driven precision?  Here’s an idea you might want to try:  Play it like a love song!

Margaret L. Been, 2014

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Brynn's art day 4

Featured here is our great-granddaughter, Brynn Daane, creating beautiful green art on one of our fun Art Days at the dining room table.  Green!  A wonderful color for art, foliage, gardens, cooked and buttered veggies, the Irish, frogs (I mean pond creatures—not French people), and Green Bay Packer uniforms.  Just as I do, Brynn loves to paint a green scene; in fact, she named her finished work “The Green Jungle”—and it’s a remarkable piece of abstract art!  BUT . . . isn’t there always a “but”?  “Green” can also mean “SICK”!

Many decades (actually I think it was eons) ago, in my “Live on the Edge Youth” I went by myself to our Wisconsin State Fair Park which was a short bus ride from our home in Wauwatosa.  Why did I do this?  I loved carnival rides, and there you have it.

After brushing up on the tame stuff, I went for the LOOP-O-PLANE.  (I think that’s sometimes called a HAMMER.)  On a tall vertical pole two units of swinging cages go back and forth, passing each other en route—higher/higher/higher until every passenger gets the delightful opportunity of hanging upside-down.  And, if that were not enough, each cage (containing two persons) has the joy of a suspended, upside-down pause in the altitude—at which juncture nearly everyone screams but some simply throw up.

After the LOOP-O-PLANE adventure, I made for that homebound bus as quickly as I could!  Perhaps the bus was green; I can’t recall.  But when I walked in our kitchen door, my mother looked aghast.  She said, “Margaret!  You are GREEN!  I don’t even want to recall what happened next!

So where are we going with this gruesome meander?  Right up to the current moment, when suddenly it seems that everything has to be GREEN!  By way of disclaimer, “Amen” to a sensible, balanced diet.  “Yes” to avoiding junky fast foods.  “Oui, oui” (now I am speaking of the French frogs) to recycling plastic bottles and tying the newspapers in bundles.  Those things are a DUH!  The DUH of the century—not even worth talking about, any more than I would go on about painting my toenails or blowing my nose.

Although I may someday be told that I “should”, I will not give a tiddelly hoot about whether or not my teeth might fall out from commercial toothpaste.  Nor will I fester in a frenzy of angst over the possibility that my skin will decay due to using some economically priced body lotion purchased at Walmart.  And, believe it or not, I still have a long, swishy, fairly respectable mane after 10 decades of commercial shampoos.

GREEN has gone too far.  Constantly I hear people say we should all get back to exclusively using only those good things God put on the earth.  Have these proponents of GREEN forgotten that the earth fell with Adam?  Well it did, and consequently there are lots of things in and on the earth that are not good—things like poison ivy and bad apples which make one really turn GREEN.

The GREENIES are rarely consistent!  Poppies grow in the earth; yet oxymoronically enough many GREEN addicts are obsessed with the idea that anyone (even happy, arthritic octogenarians) seriously needing a poppy-derivative prescription drug will end up selling pills on the street!

Some of the “Anti-Prescription Drug” ilk think it would be far better to drink booze and smoke pot!  Never mind that booze and cannabis will undoubtely kill incentive and ruin relationships—while by relieving debilitating pain, a well-monitored prescription serves to enhance one’s activity level and quality of life!

I am very sick (LOOP-O-PLANE level sick!) of hearing the word “GREEN”, and seeing it splashed all over the place wherever I go!  I am sick of hearing talk about what we should or should not put on our skin, or into our stomachs!  Like fake sugar.  Artificial sugar was developed/discovered/whatever, in the mid-nineteenth century, but it took awhile to catch on.  My dear father used fake sugar from the inception of its popularity—maybe back in the 1960s (?)  Dad remained healthy for three more decades till the end of his life, fake sugar notwithstanding.  But then, he only lived to be 102—so what do I know?

My friend, Karen, and I agree that what really sticks in our craw is how so many young folks are sanctimoniously (self-righteously!) preaching those very things that we grew up automatically doing.  But we didn’t make a big deal of it.  We ate a balanced (home cooked, at that) diet.  Yes we drank sugary sodas.  Yes we ate a plethora of sweets.  Our mothers baked them, and we gobbled them up after school before going out to play in 15 degree weather—and build snow forts until the dinner bell rang.

Then we piled indoors, draped our snow-packed wool wraps over the steam radiators—and thankfully sat down to eat a reasonable serving of war-rationed meat or casserole, plenty of veggies (home-preserved), a bowl of home-canned fruit, and Mom’s homemade bread or dinner rolls followed by cake, pie, or cookies.  It’s not too amazing that many of us are living happily ever after, and still knowing precisely how to take care of ourselves.  DUH!

Regarding the logical process of recycling, during the Great Depression it was common for women to unravel old sweaters, and re-knit whatever yarn was still usable into mittens or scarves.  We saved every string, every paper bag, every box, every glass bottle and jar, and every old piece of clothing for some form of a new life.  DUH again!

I have no complaint with anyone choosing to be frugal (in fact, I applaud that choice) but I simply cannot stand the supercilious attitude which pompously assumes “We are the only ones who ever thought of recycling, and we are going to save the world from all the stupid people who refuse to go around yelling, ‘GREEN!’ ”

Would these same arrogantly Green pontificators be able to march stalwartly through a Depression and two Great Wars like my parents did, or would they choke on their meager portion of lettuce while crying because they could no longer afford to update their electronic “devices”?

Give me a break!!!  Can’t we go back to that rational mentality where “GREEN” means a child’s painting, perennials popping up in spring, a dish of green beans (and they don’t have to be raw!!!), an Irish logos, a Packer uniform, or a terrifying trip on the LOOP-O-PLANE?  I am about to scream:  “RED LIGHT!  NO MORE GREEN!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

P. S.  The problem in America and around the world is not what we put into, or on, our bodies.  It is what we put into, and on, our minds!!!

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Vaseline Glass--1

Glass has been a major interest and source of delight for me as long as I can remember.  When I was a child, my parents took me to antiques shops which were often located in homes back in the 1930s and 1940s.  When visiting or traveling via small towns (there were no interstate or toll highways to bypass communities in those days) we would cruise through neighborhoods looking for window signs which read:  ANTIQUES. 

Some children might have been bored to distraction by such a pastime, but I was not “some children”.  I can’t even begin to express the joy I experienced when touring these home shops.  My hands were well-trained to remain with fingers interlocked behind my back, so there would be no temptation to touch anything.  In this rather uncomfortable position, I would quietly inspect every shelf within reach of my eyes, and every table-top arrangement of gorgeous Victorian and Art Nouveau glassware.

My parents were collectors of American glassware—especially abundant due to the soils of states such as Ohio, West Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania and Indiana, and often created by skilled immigrants from Eastern Europe where glass blowing and molding were time-honored arts.  Thus, in the manner of individuals with a happy childhood, I grew up to continue pursuing that hobby which my parents enjoyed so much.  FENTON, NORTHWOOD, AND HEISEY are practically household words for me!

Given this background, my recent weekend in Toledo was memorable.  Joe and I went with our son, Eric, and his wife, Cheri, to visit their daughter, (obviously our granddaughter) Nicole, and her husband, Travis.  Along with being together, the ultimate highlight of this weekend was attending Nicole’s Christmas concert with the Toledo Masterworks Chorale.

But a runner-up to Nicole’s concert, was the fun of being involved in MAKING GLASS!  The Toledo Glass Museum offers ongoing workshops, in which participants make different glass items around the year:  roses, pumpkins, and whatever.  Since my workshop was near Christmas, I made an icicle.

Here are some photos of stages in the exciting process of making a glass object.  I let the workshop expert do the 5000 degree oven phases—and I just did the easy stuff:  rolling the molten glob and shaping it into a rectangle on a metal table, and crimping my icicle with a pincer-type tool to form spirals while the teacher pulled the substance up at the top.

Glass 1

Glass 7

After a glass item is formed, it must cool down very slowly in an insulated container over a period of 2 or 3 days—depending on size.  Since we returned to Wisconsin the next day, Nicole picked up my icicle and brought it to me at Christmas.  And here it is!  ↓

My Beautiful Glass Icicle

Indeed, there are some instances where a picture is worth a thousand words!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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