I am doing that thing forever now

It is 5:30am as I type this, and it is my least favourite time of day to be writing anything.  I most certainly a night owl, and I think that (planes excepted) if I’ve been up at 5:30 in the morning it’s almost always been because I’m at it from the other side. (We pause here to remember the bleak years when I had toddler who loved to get up early and I’d stagger through those coffee laced early mornings wondering about the cruelty of landing someone who loved to get up before dawn on a mother who loved to stay up until then.) I have neither a toddler nor a plane today, and this early morning is brought to you courtesy of the nasty virus I’ve been down (or up) with for a few days. I’ve been sitting here typing for a while and just deleted absolutely everything because being sick always makes me so miserable that it was really just a whole page of whinging about it. It’s out of my system now, I think.

The last several days I have got absolutely nothing done, barring a whatever I could knit while lying on the chesterfield or in bed buried under a mountain of blankets and tissues. Today- except for the cough that’s got me awake, I think I’m recovering and I’m pretty sure I’ll feel loads better as the day goes on.  Knitters, my sweets, I have never, ever been more grateful for the Christmas Spreadsheet System™. (It is not actually trademarked but after this week I’m considering it.)

(Photo from Vancouver Island last week – the sun doesn’t get very high in Canada in the winter, I took that picture at about 2:30 in the afternoon.)

I started organizing the crap out of Christmas several years ago, and it’s made me so much happier and more relaxed through the holidays that I can’t even tell you. Every couple of years I make a spectacular error that makes me unhappy and not relaxed, and I make a change to the way I do this thing. For example, a few years ago I agreed to go on a family trip right before Christmas, and that trip was a crazy error. We got home on the 21st of December, which during the planning phase had seemed really reasonable but the lived experience of the thing was me crying on the 24th while trying to figure out where the (*&^% the wrapping paper was and making cookies at 2am. Uncool.

This year, when Joe (who has an odd love of taking trips right before Christmas, something I can’t relate to and suspect is related to our relative levels of Holiday Responsibility) suggested a trip that would take us out of town to see his west coast family from the 16th to the 20th (technically the 21st because he inexplicably booked us a flight that got in at 2am) I said… well.  I said no, but with a lot more words and emphasis. He convinced me though, and so I made a change to the spreadsheet. For this to work, everything had to be done by the 16th. All of it, except for the knitting. (Note to self: may adjust this next year.) Even Joe’s stuff had to be done, because one of the absolutely horrible things about the first year we went away was that I had a lot done, but Joe didn’t and he was driving around trying to finish his old list while I was trying to give him the emergent list. He was useless to me and the whole thing degraded into me bitterly shopping for groceries (which is totally his job) and trying to find 5×7 frames and fresh sage while rethinking the permanence of our union.

So, this year, if he wanted to go away, things had to be different, and it was. We busted a move and got it all done (except for the knitting) and a few stocking stuffers and all the wrapping was done (except for the knitting.) We had a lovely trip, and all was well until I got the plague.

(PS I got the cookies done too.)

Let me tell you this – if I didn’t have that spreadsheet, this  holiday would be a screaming dumpster fire right now. Instead, the worst thing that has happened is that I missed a family event and had to cancel our solstice party, and I am now officially behind on the knitting, since I slept through a bunch of my intended knitting time.  (I am not so worried about this. I have missed knitting deadlines before and despite how it felt, it wasn’t actually fatal to anyone.) I was horizontal for three days (and I am not so sure I am up now) and I didn’t have to compound how crappy I felt by feeling terrible about the things that weren’t getting done, and if it really needed doing and I couldn’t do it, it was easy to give other people jobs off the spreadsheet.

(Almost everything in that picture is done now. Sort of.)

Sure, the house isn’t as tidy as it was (and it is sort of sticky in spots) and I’ve scaled back a couple of missions that I thought would be fun, and now we’re celebrating the solstice in the new year, but this thing is still going to go off. Joe has his grocery list (from the spreadsheet) there are a few tasks left (I have to wrap knitting) and there’s tons of cooking yet to do, but my girls will all be here soon, and from there many hands will make for light work.

In a lot of ways I am glad I got sick this year. (That is an absolutely reeking lie but I am trying to look on the bright side.) It reaffirmed my love and purpose for my Christmas Spreadsheet System™, made dumping paint down the stairs not seem like a huge problem after all, and further clarified for me what’s important to me about the holidays.  I am not sad about the tasks that didn’t get done (or that the stairs didn’t get a second coat of paint) but I am sad about the time I missed with my family – and it’s going to make being with them over the next few days even nicer.

From us to you, a the happiest of holidays, and I hope you don’t get the flu, but if you do, I hope you have a spreadsheet. See you on the other side.

82 thoughts on “I am doing that thing forever now

  1. No flu here, but discovered on Thursday my body decided to spontaneously resorb the root of one of my molars. It had hollowed out and had to extracted by an oral surgeon Friday, where it shattered into fragmentes and took 1/2 hour to extract. Kept hurting more and more and it’s now officially infected.


    • Oh, I am so sorry that you are suffering through this! I hope you’ve gotten some antibiotics and are able to rest. Mouth pain is No Fun At All.

      • Thanks so much, and Yes! Started the amoxicillin last! Hopefully it works quickly as the infection tastes awful (and hurts!). But I did finish my daughter’s Christmas present, a blanket for her new dolly bed, so I think I’m still winning!

    • Oh my goodness, poor you. I’ve never heard of the body doing that before. That’s fascinating. I hope you feel better soon. Happy Christmas!

  2. Happy holidays to you and yours, Steph!
    I’m with Joe – I love going away in December! This year I was gone Dec 5-15, and it was wonderful. I had ten days of utter, delightful calm, and it gave me the perfect excuse to not do things that didn’t serve me. (“Sorry, I’ll be away that day” or “Sorry, I just got back from a trip, I really don’t have the time before the Holidays.”) So much less stress – this was my second time doing a trip around this time, and I think I’ll keep repeating it every few years.

  3. I also love winter holiday trips and have right out told hubby I wanted to go to the mountains. But, we haven’t. Perhaps in February.
    Cooking filled yesterday and has begun again this morning. Today—after the cooking is done—we will go out for an early supper and watch the stores close.
    Tomorrow will be family breakfast; then opening presents and a late lunch/early dinner. After that I am seriously thinking about closing the kitchen for awhile!
    Happy Holidays!

  4. Merry Christmas, Stephanie, and may you feel completely like yourself soon! Meanwhile, rest and relish the satisfaction of having built a system that can withstand some hard knocks like this.

  5. We were to get together with most of the family today for our Christmas celebration. My husband came down with the stomach bug and all that entails yesterday, our 1year old granddaughter was sick on Sunday and now her dad is sick also. My stomach is telling me not to put anything in it our it will give it back. The party is slowly dwindling from 14 plus to single digits. No one even wants to stop by our house for fear of contracting this bug and we sure don’t want to spread it to anybody.
    At least your family still wants to come by.
    PS did you scrape up enough paint to at least redo the bathroom wall?
    Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your family!

  6. Ooof I’m SO SORRY you got sick! But am glad you have a spreadsheet and a plan.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, and happy new year– may it be a good one for you and your whole family, including the arrival of the new little one!

  7. Merry Christmas Stephanie! I am making cookies and cinnamon rolls for tomorrow’s breakfast. I think it is under control except there is no more butter and the husband at all the fruit but otherwise all is well!

  8. Hope you are feeling better Stephanie! Enjoy your time with your clan! My Christmas with family will be delayed this year as I am recuperating from some bug. So glad your spreadsheet worked this year – except for the yarn!
    Merry Christmas!

  9. I am ill, too. Cancelled trip to see family, cancelled solstice — perhaps this means the light won’t return? : ) (just kidding.) But I really needed to rest, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Hope you and your family (and everyone in the world) have a Happy, Peaceful Season.

  10. Look at it this way: you survived spilling paint down the stairs, cleaning up enough frosting to paint the stairs again, a trip with Joe, and now this #$%^&*&^%$! contagion. If you can successfully wrap the knitting without needing a trip to the emergency room, you should be OK. Maybe. If the dust bison don’t stampede. . .!

    Anyway, happy holidays to you and the whole bunch!
    (Good popcorn, Presbytera!)

  11. I was at the liquor store at 9am this morning due to poor planning on my part. Next year I’m definitely going to try a Christmas Spreadsheet System.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    Peace to all of us.

  12. Happy Holidays to you dear Stephanie. I am definitely going for the spreadsheet in 2020. This year is a mess. Thank you. Copywrite it! Love to you and yours

  13. Best of luck to you on completing your Christmas spreadsheet. I gave up the ‘perfection’ of Christmas the year my father died the week before. I’ve never returned to the need to have everything done to be happy. My father personified Christmas to me. It has been a reflective time for me ever since. Now I enjoy my children and grandchildren and the chaos and the quiet moments and the love of being together on whichever day it happens. If you enjoy the stress you are experiencing, then keep it up. It sounds pretty crazy to me. Enjoy your celebration and do it your own way.

  14. Merry Christmas Stephanie and family! I haven’t gone to your level of spreadsheet yet, but I have learned from it and do a scaled down version (for now). I thought of you on solstice and I’m sure your new year’s solstice will be just as lovely! I hope you continue to recover and feel better so you can enjoy the time with your family!

  15. Thanks to Stephanie I’m doing a spreadsheet for the year. My mom passed away in September and my life was so wrapped up in her care that literally everything that needs to get done hasn’t. I’m breaking things down into the months. It will be nice to look back on what gets accomplished and where I need to focus more.

    Right for now I haven’t been able to knit (grrrr) for awhile due to an extremely painful trigger thumb which is getting surgery next week. I cannot stand not knitting!!!

  16. Rest easy, Stephanie. You’re on the right track with keeping priorities and letting some things go. Today is my letting go day. No peanut brittle today, it can wait. Only part of the cookies are done but there are enough. Yes, the spreadsheet is key – I’ve been doing one for years as well. The best thing is that while it sets a time frame, it’s all movable and can be eliminated or shifted as necessary. Give yourself the time to recover, enjoy your family and may your light so shine. Thank you for sharing ups and downs and lovely yarn.

  17. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

    I never worried about a perfect Christmas, life happens. Plus, I believe, I’m suppose to enjoy the holidays as much as anybody else. If it is all done by Christmas Day, great! If not, I have until Epiphany to get it finished.

  18. No virus here, but my back went into spasms for absolutely no reason and I lost a whole week of productivity… unable to find a bearable position for knitting, let alone anything else. I am getting around now (painfully) but there are Things That Will Not Be Finished. Fortunately we are a very easygoing family so it will be fine. And it’s way better than the Christmas that everyone except me was down with bronchitis!
    I am so glad you are on the mend in time for the day itself. Have a lovely holiday with your lovely family! Now, I am off for another dose of the best muscle-relaxant ever… a glass of wine! (Silver linings!)

  19. Merry Christmas and A Healthy New Year!!!

    Best wishes to All your Family!!!

    Drink lots of Lemon and Ginger tea. Hope you feel better very soon.

  20. Bless your heart! I’m so sorry you got sick, but I deeply love & appreciate your Christmas Spreadsheet System! My husband & I have been struck low the past couple of days with a different kind of plague. We’re thru the worst, but instead of making 4 dishes for the family dinner, I’m making 2. It’s the only energy I have. We won’t starve — my sweet daughter-in-law always has enough to feed half the county! We will be with family & granddaughters. Wishing you and your family the very warmest greetings!

  21. Hope you continue on the mend. If memory serves, your family has a number of parties over the holidays so chances are good you will be feeling better for at least some of them. You have done an amazing amount of knitting and prep work despite traveling, having the flu (the two ar probably related what with the recirculated air in airplanes) and accidentally creating a very good sillouette of Bill the Cat on your stairs. The mittens are especially spectacular. Best wishes for the rest of your holidays and for the coming year.

  22. bummer on the flu. bravo on spreadsheet, wonderful Joe, great children, darn cute grandchildren, sparkly tree (pix?), houseful of sympatico guests.

    Equanimity. I’d like some things to happen and others to not happen – and then here we are with you heartful example of the big vision of the arc of life.

    Sweet holidays and healthy New Year.

  23. Dear Steph, firstly, I love hearing you say ‘See you on the other side’ at Christmas.
    Secondly, a heartfelt thanks for the Christmas Spreadsheet TM. I have my own embryo one now, since last weekend I realised I forgot to buy the tree, and there’s been no time to get one. Henceforth I am going to organise the crap out of Christmas, as I want it nicer next year (and if we can have it without 3 weeks of bushfire smoke haze that would be appreciated too please, though the spreadsheet can’t do anything about that, sadly). Hope you recover enough to have a gorgeous one, Steph, big thanks to you for the blog

      • Thank you Tegan, yes it is all very worrying. I can’t think highly enough of the firies as we call them, such brave people! Hope your family isn’t too badly affected.

  24. Airports always seem to wind up with me having a cold (i blame the jerks who cough and don’t even try to cover their mouths) and a facemask has become my mandatory flight object when travelling. Hope you feel better soon.

  25. Beautiful, restful photos–I’m glad you got to have that visit. Glad you’re getting better.

    My daughter just moved from Alaska to Washington State and now her two year old has to figure out how there can be so many hours of sunlight on a winter’s day.

    Warmth and light and happiness to you and yours in this season of celebration and gratitude.

    • Sunshine is so precious at this time of year, at least to me. I spent this week in Florida and we got an extra hour (at least) of sunshine a day and its much brighter.

  26. Happy holidays! I am so sorry that you suffered through the ills of the flu.

    However, I am glad that it illustrated the value of your system and emphasized what is important in your celebrations.

    And, unfortunately, you are not the only family who will be rearranging holiday celebrations due to flu. It is widespread in Virginia.

  27. Well, a tough entry, but we can remember worse, yes? All hail the spreadsheet and returning health and the solstice party when ordinary mortals can tell the days are getting longer. And a merry Christmas to all chez toi, lambpie.

  28. Dear Harlot, Merry Christmas to you and yours. And I hope you feel well very soon.

    I can’t claim nearly your level of organization. I have 1/3 of a sock left to knit, but I did get krumkake & spritz baked today. BTW, I love the sprinkles on your spritz!

  29. I agree the spreadsheet should be trademarked and have built in buffers that use the real amount of time+what possibly could go wrong=actual knitting time. If you finish early, you’ll feel even better.
    Also, can we talk? I’m constantly amazed at everything you accomplish during the holidays-cooking for 50, towering piles of cookies and gallons of icing, you must have gingerbread elves! However….a review of past holiday blogs may assist you here…you need to move your due date up by 14 days or more. As in everything must be done, wrapped and if it isn’t ,someone won’t have a gift and therapy will be required-that kind of done. Because the flu finds you just about every year this time and takes away your ability to knit, organize or direct. Or in a year of good health, babies arrive early, weddings happen, extra people show up, the gingerbread elves lock up your stash-needles-swap out sizes on patterns….you know. You’ve been there done that.
    So. With extra days and everything baked, cooked, knitted, shopped and wrapped….you can knit something for yourself. And have it done. And wear it for the holidays. The mind boggles..

  30. I’m sorry you came down with the crud. Ok, that said, here’s some unsolicited advice. Get together with the family and say the only presents you will be giving in the future are going to be for the grandchildren. It’s ok if the kids want to exchange, but…. I suggested to my sisters that we stop exchanging presents after my parents died. Made things so much simpler. I’m sure friends will understand if you say you want to simplify. This way, Christmas can be about family and friends and, well, not about things.

    Some friends used to have a Solstice Party. It’s now a fall harvest/equinox party. Has made their life simpler. Or someone else can take over the SP.

    I started some form of the crud and started taking Urban Moonshine’s Immune Zoom, Colloidal Silver, an Oregano pill 3 times a day with food, Umcka when I felt my throat needed it, humidified and ran a difuser with homemade Thieves oil for 7 days. No creeping crud.

  31. I am sorry you are sick but happy that it is forcing you to rest when you are usually pretty crazed. I hope you recover soon and can fully appreciate all the wonderful celebrations of the season with your family and loved ones.

  32. You make doing Christmas the way you do sound so stressful. You are always behind, there is always a disaster going on. Perhaps time to let it some of it go_

  33. Many hands make light work and many hearts make lots of love. However and whatever each of us celebrates during this season, we bring the memories forward and pass the stories along.

  34. I guess I have had a knitting spreadsheet in my head for several years now, trying to get my knitting done by the beginning of December, but never included all the other details, cards, which slipped through the crack this year. Mailed on the 23rd, but hey, they will get a card instead of a bill this week. I have never considered a December trip but after reading some of your replies, I think I have to consider this. Thanks for all the wonderful inspiration, Steph. I love reading and following your joy and sorrows through out the year. Many blessings to you and yours.

  35. Happy holidays, Steph!

    (This is why I knit the grandgirls sweaters first. The adults understand when I get overwhelmed and don’t get it all finished. The girls not so much… altho when I told them their christmas present from me and Grandpa was stuck at the canadian border and wouldn’t be here until next week, they were surprisingly cool about it 🙂
    (Apparently it’s very cool they’re getting a gift from a foreign country)

  36. Merry Christmas! Good thoughts for your health going your way. Best to you and yours in the new year, too! With a family of excessive size, I have made use of the spreadsheets for many years. They are a holiday season saver! May all your knitted gifts of love make those knit-worthy souls happy and warm!

  37. Some things do turn out right. I had ordered something not connected with Christmas, and had been promised the package would be delivered before 8 pm on December 23. That would work out fine because we planned to leave about 8am on December 24 to make the three-hour trip to share Christmas with most of the family. Alas, 8 pm passed, and no package. So I had all night to worry. I surmised the package would in fact be delivered sometime the nest day while we were gone, would sit on our front porch until we returned late on Christmas Day, and/or whatever could I do to prevent the package from being stolen in our absence. (All the children who used to live in the neighborhood have grown up and moved away to families of their own and can no longer be hired to perform these little neighborly tasks.) So morning came and we are frantically trying to remember everything we need to do to get gone at our scheduled time of 8 am, and behold (!), there appears on the front porch not only the small package, but a much bigger unexpected package of delicious fruit, and everything has worked out fine, thanks to those hard-working delivery people, and we can go our merry way on our trip without leaving a theft-prone package on our porch. May they have enjoyed a much deserved day of rest on December 25. And if my luck holds out, one of my LYS shops will have the new needles I ordered two weeks ago, and another LYS shop will have replenished their supply of the one color everyone seemed to need just before Christmas. Life is good.

  38. Happiest of the holidays to you. I have a version of the spreadsheet system and due to children being relatively far flung gifts of yearly clubs have been invaluable (get a present every month!!)
    Thanks for sharing your life with us. Let’s hit 2020 like the rock stars we are.

  39. Yarn Harlot Christmas 2019.
    From now on instead of my family watching a Christmas movie. We are going to sit around the fireplace and read the Yarn Harlot December 2019 blog as our Christmas story. For the next generation we will read this blog out loud at Christmas and realize the real meaning of Christmas and the real meaning of our lives is the people around us -friends and family.

  40. This year and last year I felt horrible around Christmas. As in, unhappy. I celebrate Hanukkah and we do Christmas with my husband because he loves it. But I feel guilty about “making Christmas.” I made a tiny spreadsheet this year of gifts. Just to see that we actually had gifts for people. After reading this I updated the spread sheet so I can actually spread some holiday cheer, be a pleasant and kind person and not feel like a jerk for not at least sending a card for Christmas. Thanks for the inspiration! Happy New Year!

  41. The cookies are beautiful! Could you share the recipe and/or where you got the cookie cutters you use? After all these years of chaos at Christmas I think I may adopt the Spreadsheet next year!

  42. 3/4 of my immediate family was down for the count with the flu for the 2 weeks before Christmas (we obtained it at a *funeral*, just to add illness to [heart] injury), and we almost all agreed to do exactly nothing but lie around in the same room together watching Hallmark movies.

    This will be a year of many gift returns, because it happens that purchasing gifts in a delirium of fever is not really optimal decision-making headspace, but the whole vibe of “how do we do this as easily as possible” actually turned out really great.

    Hope you’re feeling better and that your celebrations turned out similarly well.

  43. Happiest of holidays from the other side of them. I hope you are now 100%, with knitting in hand, spending more time with dear family and friends. All the best! (and take lots of photos – I had to tag the camera to prove I’m not a robot)

  44. Happiest of holidays to you and yours! Thought of you often this holiday season as I had my own long range planning box and was able to gift most of my loved ones with hand knitted items this year. I also love your idea of making donations on the solstice,and remembered your family as I donated to my local charities. Thanks for adding light to the world and inspiring others to do the same.

    • I’ll add that I also thought of you as I pulled back my son’s Christmas sweater for the fourth time- he may get it by Valentine’s day

  45. Complex family travel plans = doing Christmas dinner twice, this year. I stressed and fretted until I worked it out – one big Christmas Day divided by two = two calm celebrations. We divided all the cooking, treats, gifts and traditions across the two days and voila! No one is falling over, and I have time to make jam for my ‘part 2’ relatives.

    I thank all of the commenters for the ‘let it go’ and common sense ideas. As much as you, Steph, have had to modify your achievements to fit the conditions, I have discovered how to find knitting time when it’s usually impossible!

  46. You. Are. A. Genius!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me. I just went back a read your post explaining the spreadsheet and I believe it will be life changing for me!

    Thank you!

  47. Dearest Stephanie,

    I imagine your blog is a treasure for you and yours as it serves as a living scrapbook. Moved to say this after clicking on the trademarked spreadsheet link, to find myself in the middle of December 2014, with not only a great description of the spreadsheet but also a “what Luis hung today” entry from his Advent calendar and a “what to buy the knitter in your life” entry.
    Those were the days, weren’t they?
    Love you as your life progresses and you continue to progress with it.

  48. Happy New Year, Stephanie! We appreciate all you do for us, especially inspiring us to give in support of the Gay community in Toronto. You’re
    my hero!

  49. Vancouver Island, Canada…the beauty makes my heart full! Enjoy your new year! I am finding beauty in mine starting with a gorgeous rambouillet fleece that my son & daughter-in-law gifted me with this Christmas, and that I washed on New Years Day! (after an incredibly difficult work week)! Amazing that this breed bunches up tightly to sleep, giving them a higher degree of protection from predators. Could this be why the ends of the fleece are caked with dry mud! Oh, the fun of processing it, it relaxes me to the core! A sensation of softness to the hands, and lanolin to the nares! Thank God for humble beginnings and delicious wool! Happy New Year to all!
    What is your passion this year? Live it!

  50. I know this is heresy, but have you ever considered starting the Christmas knitting sooner, say in September? Or baking cookies in November and tucking them away in the freezer until Christmas? Just my 2¢… (Of course, then we wouldn’t have the *fun* of you counting down your tasks until December 25.)

  51. I am a firm believer and advocate of the Christmas Spreadsheet System™. I’ve had mine going strong since 1996 (first Excel, and now a Google Sheet), despite a slight bobble in the works when my computer died with the Blue Screen of Doom in the late 90s. The CSS started with just Christmas gifts I gave, and then I added a tab for gifts I received, with a column for thank you notes sent, and then I added a tab for birthdays. I also have a tab for gift ideas in general or for specific people, although that can also go onto the next appropriate Christmas or Birthday list next to their name. I already have a good start on Christmas 2020 because of this system, and I like to start shopping right after Christmas for the next year, and do additional shopping throughout the year. I maintain a box of gifts purchased, with notes on who they are for. A little OCD for some people, perhaps, but it sure alleviates a lot of stress for me.

  52. Hey Stephanie, have you seen this about the Australian wildfires and the pouches they need to help small wildlife? If you or any knitters felt the urge, it might be a nice project. file:///C:/Users/Mike/Desktop/Knitting%20and%20sewing%20pouches%20for%20possums%20and%20smaller%20wildlife.html

  53. You are my hero! Mostly because you don’t sugar coat it and you tell us the truth! I have had my share of disasters too, but things all come together eventually as you have shown. Thank you for your blog and for letting us know about the reality behind the pretty pictures. Too many instagram/facebook/socialmedia types only show us perfection and it’s just impossible to try to meet those kinds of goals. Thank you for being real and being funny and entertaining and dare I say lovable.

  54. Hope you’re healed and didn’t succumb to the plague. Radio silence is leaving us a bit twitchy. Perhaps the repainting of the stairs has turned into Let’s Repaint the Whole Interior Because The Stairs New Coat of Paint Made The Rest of The House Look Tired and Shabby in A Not So Chic Way.
    Hard to start the new year without the Harlot. Muddling along.sigh. Hoping all is well with you and yours.

  55. Do you want to know what I love? The long range planning cabinet and the fact that the people that I love do not mind after the fact gifts! Happy New Year!

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