CR Mission Update 3 – The Seminar in Rivas

My time in Spain is coming to a close. I’ve walked what seems like a hundred miles this past week around Madrid and visited over a dozen churches and one Egyptian temple. Thanks to all who made this mission and prayer journey possible. I’m excited to see what God does in the physical realm next. Adios España! Vaya con Dios!

Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau

The seminar to introduce Celebremos la Recuperacion (Spanish version of Celebrate Recovery) was a big success! The people in attendance at the seminar were very open to this ministry and interested in bringing it into their churches or para church organizations.  The host church in Rivas, Comunidad Cristiana Luz y Vida (Light and Life Christian Community), is prayerfully discerning how to integrate CR into their cultural context and what their next steps will be.

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Tempting Fate in Houston, Part 2 ~ The Movie Screening

In Part 1 of this series on the Tempting Fate VIP movie screening in Houston on July 4th, Pedro González Arbona had performed at the pre-screening Meet and Greet, walked the red carpet and was interviewed by local media that was on site that evening.  Now it was time for the main event, the screening of Tempting Fate.

Tempting Fate VIP Screening FB Cover

Almost Show Time

We individually filed into the theater where the screening was to be held.  Our names had to be crossed off the attendee list before we were allowed to enter so there was a bit of a backup to enter the theater.  Oh my aching feet…the swelling and pain in my sprained foot were making it harder and harder to patiently wait our turn to enter the theater.

When we did we were directed to sit in one of the two rows of seats reserved in the center of the theater for actors and VIPs.  We sat sandwiched between the actors as we waited for the start of the movie.  Ramsey Nouah, winner of the 2010 African Academy Award for a lead role in Figurine, was seated to my left, and actress Trinitee Stokes on Pedro’s right.

The audience, can you spot us in the crowd?

The audience, can you spot us in the crowd?

Kevin Nwankwor, the producer/director/writer of Tempting Fate, was introduced and gave a few remarks to prepare us for the screening.

Let the Movie Begin

When the movie and the music started on the full sized theater screen, I’m sure my heart must’ve skipped a beat.  I knew Pedro’s music better than anyone there, except for Pedro, of course.  I had been captivated by these melodies and the moods they conveyed for as long as Pedro had been composing them.  They were the sounds of drama, action, brotherly love, romance, and sadness.  And now here they were larger than life for all to hear.

It was a strange feeling at first for me.  Being so personally familiar with the music, it was hard to separate my emotion and pride for Pedro’s work from watching the movie.  Initially there was a lot of chatter going on during the movie.  There were cheers at times and some laughter too.  At first it was a distraction for me.

However, as the plot began to unfold on screen and the characters’ relationships became intertwined, I got carried away in the story.  That is to say I was thoroughly engaged in the movie.  I didn’t want it to end.  And when it did, I wasn’t the only audience member with tears streaming down their face.  Pedro’s song, “Requiem,” was playing in the background of the gripping final scene, adding impact and emotion with his music.  It was simply beautiful.

As the credits began to roll up the screen, the audience was clapping and cheering for the movie.  Pedro’s name was one of the few with his name listed alone on the screen:  Music Composed by Pedro González Arbona.  Bravo Pedro!!!

Director Commentary

After the credits rolled off the screen and the lights came on, Kevin Nwankwor, the producer and director came to the front of the theater to address the audience.  Kevin shared his passion for the project and how difficult it was to make the movie.  His desire was to make it as much like a multi-million dollar movie as possible, but with the low budget that he had.  And he accomplished it all in two weeks!

Kevin Nwankwor addresses the audience.

Director Kevin Nwankwor addresses the audience.

He finished his commentary by sharing the message he wanted people to take away from the movie, and what he learned as a result of the project:

First, you don’t have a second chance in this life.  Like the brothers in the movie, you don’t know what will happen in the future.  You can’t do it by yourself.  It is God.  Do your best, work hard. But do the right thing.

Whatever it is you believe that you want to achieve, I want you to know that you can always achieve it.  The Tempting Fate movie has made me to understand that in this life nothing is impossible.

Applause filled the theater as the audience showed their appreciation and agreement with Kevin’s comments.

Q & A and More Photos

Next on the scheduled events was an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of the cast and crew.  Several of the actors were asked about how they got into character for their roles.

I patiently waited and wondered if someone would ask Pedro a question; and they did.  He was asked about the composing process.  Pedro stood up, and was acknowledged by the audience for his music.  He shared how he started by reading the script and making notes in the margin to identify scenes to add music too.  Then he begins composing the music.

Pedro fields a question from the audience.

Pedro fields a question from the audience.

At the end of the Q & A session, the night was not over yet.  Photographers and the press were still at the event, so the red carpet media frenzy continued longer into the night.  Pedro mingled more with the actors and crew.  I followed along with my camera and met people as well.

An End to the Fairy Tale

An after-party was planned at Zanzibar Lounge, in downtown Houston, into the early morning hours.  We graciously declined the invitation.  Pedro was still dealing with jetlag and sleep-deprivation from his 2-day travel ordeal.  As much as I didn’t want this night to end, I knew my feet (sprained foot) wouldn’t be able to tolerate any dancing anyway.

At the end of Cinderella’s night at the ball, her carriage turned back into a pumpkin.  In much the same way, our fairy tale evening didn’t have such a smooth ending either.  Although the hotel was only two miles from the theater, we got lost and spent almost an hour aimlessly driving around Sugar Land, TX.   Dead cell phones, no GPS, and closed services on the 4th of July all contributed to our sense of frustration and exhaustion.  Thankfully we met someone in a parking lot who could direct us back to our hotel.

Tempting Fate 150

When we pulled into the hotel parking lot, the limousine was parked outside waiting to take the cast and crew to the party.  Next time, I suspect that’ll be Pedro’s carriage.

When the clock struck midnight on July 4th, 2014, our day to remember was emblazoned forever in our minds, not as a fairy tale, but as a dream come true—with more on the way for the cast and crew of Tempting Fate.

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Post Screening Update:  Exciting things are definitely ahead for this movie.  In the two months since the Tempting Fate screening, KevStel Group has been working on the release of the soundtrack with Pedro’s original compositions, a new music video was shot in LA for the theme song, and they announced that the movie will be widely released in Nigeria on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015. 

(Many photos for this post are courtesy of KevStel Group. You can view other photos on the Tempting Fate Facebook page.)

Updated 2/12/2015: The Tempting Fate soundtrack with Pedro’s music released today and is available on Amazon and iTunes. The movie release has been rescheduled to July 17, 2015 across Nigeria.

A Tribute to Mom, Part 2 – Her Final Gift

This week marks the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. Last year I shared her eulogy on my blog. It continues to be the post with the most hits (interest). I am sharing it again to commemorate the sacrifice my mother’s life became for me. May it inspire you to turn your healing into hope.

Making Me Bold

When I started writing for a public audience, I knew that many of my initial writings and journal would potentially become published.  They were the basis for much of what I wrote in my story “Walking My Mother Home”, published in “Journeys to Mother Love”.  One year after the acceptance of that story by Cladach Publishing, and to mark the anniversary of my mother’s passing,

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How This Journey Started

I’ve been asked many times how my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, came to be published in Journeys to Mother Love. I’ve written about that under the category “My Writing Journey”. In this post from, the blog for the book, my publisher tells the story of how the book was birthed. Thank you Catherine Lawton and Cladach Publishing for following that gentle nudge from the Lord. I’ve been blessed over and over again to be part of such an inspiring book.

Journeys To Mother Love

Hard to believe, but more than a year has passed since the book Journeys to Mother Love was published and the authors started sharing this blog as well. How did these nine women, who live in all corners of this great country, come together in this way? Well, here’s the story.

As publisher and editor of Cladach Publishing, a small Christian press, I was invited to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, to give 15-minute interviews to authors. At the May, 2011 conference I spoke with three or four women in one day who had heart-wrenching personal stories that they hoped to have published as books. The authors were so passionate and full of the fresh touch of the Lord, and their stories so real and relevant for many women, that I couldn’t get away from thinking about them. By the third or fourth interview the thought…

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Hitting a Home Run for Recovery

After my second viewing of the movie “Home Run” a few days ago, I’m left thinking about the face of recovery and why so many people sit in denial about their issues.  By issues I mean unhealthy habits like hiding their hurts, medicating their pain, isolating, and trying harder to make life fit their demands.

Cory Brand, the main character of the movie, played by Scott Elrod, is one such person.  He is a major league baseball all-star who is forced to face his alcoholism after a DUI and team suspension.  In recovery circles, we call it hitting bottom.  It is not a pleasant moment in one’s life, but for those who choose recovery as a result, and work through a 12-step program, their lives are transformed.  I know because I lived through it myself.

Breaking Through the Wall of Denial

Through the use of vivid flashbacks, the movie shows the pain of Cory’s upbringing, as he lived with an alcoholic father who expected perfection from his son at an early age.  The scenes are hard to watch at times as you feel for what Cory went through (rated PG-13).  These painful reminders drive Cory to drink and lash out in anger, unwittingly repeating the generational curse of his father.

Cory is like many of us who have found recovery.   We don’t come easily or quietly.  Our denial runs deep.  What struck me in this story, was that despite his being mandated by his team to attend a 12-step program as a condition of his suspension, he doesn’t embrace it until later on in the movie.  He just goes through the motions.  His life continues to spiral out of control until he finally realizes he can’t do it on his own.  That is the point in which one really starts recovery—coming out of denial.

Why Recovery?

Step 1 of Celebrate Recovery reads:  “We admitted that we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”  That brings me to a misconception that is dealt with in a powerful way in the movie.  Recovery gets a bad rap because most people think that recovery is for “those” people.  You know who I mean—alcoholics, drug addicts, and people who REALLY have problems.  That is so far from the truth.  I won’t give away the story, but suffice it to say, that just because someone is a Christian or lives their life in a Godly manner doesn’t mean they’ve had it easy.  We all carry hurts inside of us, and we all have to deal with life’s problems.

Celebrate Recovery - A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery – A Christian 12-Step Program

Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christian 12-step program that helps people with their hurts, habits and hang-ups.  It’s for anyone who struggles in life.  Typical struggles that people address at CR are anger, fear, grief, guilt and shame, holding on to the past, inability to forgive, isolation, need to control, finances, eating disorders, alcohol or substance dependency, pace of life, rejection, relationship problems, sexual addiction, stress, and emotional, physical, sexual or spiritual abuse.

CR is often described as guided sanctification.  That’s just a fancy theological term for becoming the person God intends for us to be.  CR gives one tools to take responsibility for our actions, offer forgiveness to those we have hurt, forgive ourselves, learn to lean on others for help, and to give back from a grateful heart.  All this transformation comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and a relationship with Jesus that is core to this biblical program.

See the Movie for Yourself

In my opinion, “Home Run” hits a big home run for recovery.  It is a realistic view at how turning our lives over to Jesus brings about healing, wholeness and transformation.  It brings about freedom from our past and hope for the future.  In Cory’s situation, it gave him a chance to restore a broken relationship, giving him a new lease on life.

Even if recovery isn’t for you, I’m sure there is someone you know who needs a program like Celebrate Recovery.  With the end of baseball season looming, it’s the perfect time to view this movie.  “Home Run” is available on Blu-Ray/DVD, on demand, or watch it online on youtube.  To find a Celebrate Recovery program near you, click this link.  You or someone you know will be glad you did.

Home Run Movie Photo

Going Down Memory Lane

As we sat at a Seattle waterfront restaurant watching the rain, clouds and sun fight for control of the views out the window, I marveled at the thought of the 19 years that had passed between my friend and me.  We didn’t look 19 years older, but the age of our children was reality enough to ensure we were not dreaming.

A blustery day on the Seattle waterfront

A blustery day on the Seattle waterfront

Two Peas in a Pod

Mildred and I met when I re-entered the workforce one year after the birth of my first child.  We have a very strange history together.

Our work history intersects at three different employers.  I was her supervisor at two of those employers.  At one point in time, I held a former position of hers and then later she held a former position of mine.  That speaks volumes in itself.  It is a testament to her character and her work ethic.

Nineteen years later, she has a nice retirement nest egg from her employer waiting for her; and I am just now finding my career niche—my writing.  Unlike most writers I know, I don’t have a day job to fall back on.   Some might say it is a luxurious lifestyle.  For me, it is part of my self-care program.

Mildred was eager to hear all about my upcoming trip to Spain.  As if to confirm why she was such a good employee—and how very like-minded we are—she immediately suggested having my story translated into Spanish.   I agreed and told her that I negotiated the foreign rights to my story with my publisher and that Pedro had already translated the manuscript.

Does time really heal all wounds?

Does time really heal all wounds?

Wounds of the Past

We caught up on talk about our kids and our parents—being in the sandwich generation.  We naturally ended up talking about work.  Many of my former colleagues and employees had retired or moved on to other organizations.  A few remained.

As we talked about work, the memories and people’s names started to drift back to my short-term memory—people she had even long since forgotten about.   Some of my memories were of painful events, like my demotion.  Except for one brief moment, I experienced no emotional pain in discussing it though.

They say that time heals all wounds.  I’m not sure who that ‘they’ is, but that is not something you’d ever hear in recovery circles.  If you don’t look at the painful wounds of the past, you bury them alive.  They will leak out in unhealthy ways when you least expect them—like in outbursts of anger, or can lead to physical symptoms like ulcers, etc.

In my case, I worked through my character defects that brought me to my knees at the hands of my boss.  I’m grateful for it, as it pointed me down the road to recovery, and eventually to Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step program.

Memory LaneMoving Forward

Going down memory lane is a healthy practice—not for self-condemnation or holding on to resentments—but for healing.  The one painful memory that surfaced helped me to realize that I still have one last thing to clear up—an amends of sorts.

Even as Mildred and I reconnected we touched on the same thread between us—making sure we understood each other and to not take advantage of our friendship.  Her words served to encourage me, and likewise mine for her.

Another luncheon is over.  Another friendship is rekindled.  Another day is done.  All because of the connection my story is making in people’s hearts.

Maybe I do lead a life of luxury.  It’s not the kind of physical luxury or success that pays the bills.  It is the luxury of friendship.  That’s the best kind of riches to have.

Do you embrace opportunities to go down memory lane or avoid it like the plague?  I hope you’ll embrace it and free yourself from the pain of the past.

Reclaiming Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day forever changed for me in May 2010. That was the last time I saw my mother alive.  It was also her last Mother’s Day.  Previous to that day I think the last time we were together on Mother’s Day was my senior year in high school—a span of 35 years.

Happy Mother's DaySeparated by Mental Illness

Over those many years Mother’s Day wasn’t something I looked forward to.  It was a day of obligatory cards or calls. She was remarried (again) and happy it seemed—that is until her husband died.  After that she drifted in and out of mental hospitals and eventually became a ward of the state.

I had tremendous guilt about my relationship with her.  I wanted a mother, but didn’t want her to be my mother.  Due to her mental illness and emotional instability she wasn’t able to teach me how to be a mother myself.  I had to figure it out on my own.  I didn’t hold that against her.  After all, I was pretty self-sufficient in those days.  I just accepted that she was mentally ill.  I chose to distance myself from her physically and emotionally and told myself it was for my own sanity.

Coming Together Again

My final Mother's Day gift to my mom

My final Mother’s Day gift to my mom

When mom had her stroke in 2009, God nudged me back by her side for two visits. The Lord was working on my heart on those trips.  As she lingered on hospice, living day to day with the aid of a feeding tube, God was making it clear His work wasn’t done between us yet.  That led me to that last visit on Mother’s Day 2010.

Between that trip—the last time I saw her alive—and the day she passed away nine months later, Pedro and Rosa, my Spanish family, entered our lives.  And the rest, as they say, is history—forever documented in Journeys to Mother Love.

Mother’s Day Reclaimed

Those first few Mother’s Days after she passed away were hard for me.  I deliberately spent them entrenched with my immediate family, to distract me from those painful reminders.  Now, I celebrate Mother’s Day with Rosa, as my kindred spirit of mother love—although it is one week earlier in Spain.

Mother's Day Gift of LifeAs strange as it may sound, I feel like every day is Mother’s Day to me now.  My mom’s death in February 2011 brought about a rebirth in me that forever changed the way I view my life and Mother’s Day.

It was as if her death brought me life, not because of any burden I was carrying of guilt or shame, as some might do.  It was because I got in touch with pieces of myself that were previously buried deep within me—parts of my identity that weren’t ok to express.   God revealed to me in her passing that I am beautifully and wonderfully made in ways like my mother that I couldn’t bear to embrace before.

So every day really is Mother’s Day to me, because of my gratitude to my mom, and to the Lord for giving me back my life.  I have reclaimed the real purpose of Mother’s Day in my life.  It is the incredible gift that mother’s give to everyone—the gift of life.

Regardless of the status of your relationship with your mother, my wish for you is a Mother’s Day that is filled with pleasant memories and gratitude to the one who gave you life.

Journeys To Mother LoveMore “Journeys to Mother Love” & Free Ebook

If this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon my blog, I encourage you to also check out, the blog hosted by Cladach Publishing, the publisher of Journeys to Mother Love.  This blog, dedicated to encouraging each other in mother/child relationship healing, is authored by the nine contributors to “Journeys to Mother Love”, and invites others to share their stories.

Now through Monday, May 13, 2013, get your free Kindle ebook of Journeys to Mother Love at  Since this is free, after you’ve read the book, would you do me and my publisher a huge favor by writing a review? And don’t forget to subscribe, follow, like, pin, press this or share in your favorite social media!

May these stories inspire you on your journey to mother love.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Is Mother’s Day Painful for You?

I used to dread Mother’s Day and the feelings it brought up about my mother. My journey to mother love changed all that a few years ago. Your journey can change too. Don’t give up hope.

Journeys To Mother Love


How many of us, if we were really honest, would admit that we don’t look forward to Mother’s Day? We dread this day devoted to celebrating mothers. It conjures up feelings of inadequacies in our own parenting or maybe how we didn’t live up to the expectations our parents had for us. Maybe it even reminds us of the shame or condemnation we felt at the hands of our parents—especially our mothers.

Mother’s Day isn’t always about bouquets of flowers or a box of chocolates for mom. Sometimes it is filled with bitter memories of a childhood loss due to abusive parents, a longing for the birth mother we never knew, or regrets from things we said or did that can’t be taken back. Maybe your mother has died and you miss her presence in your life.

Those kinds of painful memories can also leave us questioning God or turning…

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It’s Not too Late to Forgive

I never considered mercy one of my spiritual gifts. In fact, I’ve never felt called to feed the poor, go on mission to a foreign country or minister to the health care needs of the elderly or terminally ill. Which is why I believe the trips I made back home to care for my mother at the end of her life were so transformational for me. God was giving me a heart of compassion and helping me to put aside my needs.

Then last year, during Holy Week, I traveled 150 miles south over spring break to care for my aged father. God was opening the doors for more healing and preparing my father to go in peace. I think forgiveness, and a letter I wrote to him before he passed, were key to that (excerpts in the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog post above).

My father would’ve been 95 this week. I’m very grateful I had that caregiving time with him.

Rest in Peace, Dad. And in case you’re wondering, I’m doing just fine.

Journeys To Mother Love

Like a scab ripped from the skin, my wound was exposed again. Why would I deliberately enter into that wound again? How could I think that it was really healed? A recent post, “I Forgive You,” by Catherine Lawton was the catalyst that prompted me to take another look. That, and the fact that I spent Holy Week last year caring for my 93-year-old father, sent my mind back to the months preceding his death.

Catherine’s post reminded me of how the words and actions of forgiveness were not something that was modeled to me when I was growing up. Tears weren’t allowed either. We were taught to ‘buck it up’ and move on. Reading that post took me back to the letter I had written my father a year before he died. My grief at that time was still fresh from my mother’s passing, and my healing…

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Acts of Service, Part 2 ~ Take Care of my Sheep

It’s Spring Break—a time when many families head off to sunny climates and fun-filled adventures.  With less than three months before I travel to Spain, I am staying put and working toward that goal.  But I have very vivid memories of my Spring Break trip last year.

It wasn’t exactly a fun-filled adventure. Yet it was an important next step on my journey to healing in my family relationships. I was away from home caring for my ailing father.  Considering what I went through with my mother, as mentioned in “Walking My Mother Home”, it felt like déjà vu.

CaregivingServing My Stepmother

My stepmother had been my father’s only caregiver the last few years and needed a break.  In recent months my father had significantly deteriorated, but they opted to keep him at home as long as possible.  Weeks shy of his 94th birthday, he spent most of his day in bed, used a walker to get around, his eyesight was waning, and his hearing was limited too.  Thankfully he was still pretty lucid though.

My father was a very proud man.  He didn’t want any help and fought desperately to keep his sanity and his dignity.  He was also mean-spirited at times, inconsiderate of others and had a strong need to be in control.  On top of that I was never very close to my father.  So one week of caregiving for him sounded like a recipe for disaster.

However, I had grown closer to my stepmother over the last few years and wanted her to get some time away.  She deserved it—not only because of his deterioration, but because I knew how hard my father was to live with in general.  This was my gift to her.  (My sister-in-law also made the decision easier for me by graciously offering her home to my son for the week.)

Helping HandsServing My Father

When my father woke up the morning after I arrived, my stepmother was already gone.  He knew I was coming, but nonetheless he acted surprised to hear that I was going to be his caregiver for the week—and he wasn’t happy about it.  That day was the worst.

My father’s anger surfaced right away and he said things I’m sure he later forgot he said.  (I guess that is one benefit of old age.)  It shook me up a bit—triggering the little girl in me and reminding me of how he used to scold and criticize me growing up.  Thankfully I was able to recognize what was going on inside of me and stood my ground with him.  He didn’t much like it.

It was in sharp contrast to caring for my mother.  She had suffered a major stroke and couldn’t talk.  I think that was part of the gift God gave me while caring for her.  With her schizophrenia, my previous visits were so emotional for me—never knowing what would come out of her mouth.  God had taken her voice and replaced it with eyes that spoke volumes in love and gratitude.

After the first day of butting heads and testing the water, my father started to accept my caregiver role for the week.  I knew his time was short so I embraced his storytelling a little bit more (the same ones I’d heard numerous times before).  This time though they didn’t feel the same.  My conversations were more deliberate and felt more significant.

My father and stepmother reunited at the end of the week.

My father and stepmother reunited at the end of the week.

A Change of Heart

Over the week, my father’s attitude towards me changed.  He expressed his gratitude for my taking care of him.  He told me how proud he was of the manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home” and his stories even helped me with the final edits for the publisher.

My father passed away three months later.  I know this time with him helped me to let go and get more closure in our relationship.  Although he never mentioned it, I think the letter I sent him about forgiveness on Father’s Day the year before (excerpts recently posted in “It’s Not Too Late to Forgive”), made a difference.  He was softening.  He was preparing to say goodbye.

The Unexpected Gift

It’s funny how I never really considered myself much of a caregiver—even with my immediate family—yet I ended up giving some respite to both of my parents at the end of their lives.  In return I received the gift of healing and restoration in our relationships.

On your road to your final destination, take time to care for others.

On your road to your final destination, take time to care for others.

Serving both of my parents in this way reminds me of the scripture where Jesus tells Peter (shortly after Jesus’ resurrection) to “take care of my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

You never know where God is going to lead you—in what kind of serving capacity.  I encourage you to be prepared to serve your parents while you still can—even if, like me, you don’t think you can do it.  It may be the gift you both need to let go and make peace with the past.

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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