Facts and Opinions

SAD…it isn’t just an emotion

We have now made it towards the end of the year. We watched the weather heat up during the month of May, letting us walk around through out the spring and summer season with our arms bare and our skin glowing with the sun’s rays. Then we transitioned into the fall. The leaves on the trees changed their mood; showcasing red, orange, yellow, and brown hues as they fell to the ground. We saw families put pumpkins in front of their windows, getting ready for the night when ghosts and goblins walk from house to house collecting their sugary loot. With the shift in seasons, the air shifts in tune as well; with the weather calling for jackets and gloves. At the moment, it is about fifteen or sixteen degrees; a stark contrast from the seventy degree weather us Chicagoans were still getting in the middle of September. We were practically begging for the weather to get colder. Well now it’s here, and while some of us are embracing the slightly bitter cold with our Ugg boots on our feet and plaid scarves wrapped around our necks, others are struggling to grasp Mother Nature’s changes. Sometimes, it can psychologically bring us down. There’s a reason for that, and it has a name.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the changes in seasons. Typically, it begins to set in at around late fall to early winter, but by spring and summer it usually goes away. Now, that does not mean that episodes can not take place during seasons with warmer climates…it just isn’t as common. There are a few tell-tale signs that may indicate that you may be experiencing bouts of seasonal depression, some may include:

  • if your depression persists nearly every day for most of the day
  • there’s a loss in the activities that you once enjoyed
  • insomnia or difficulties sleeping
  • hypersomnia or irregular sleep pattern
  • increase or decrease in weight
  • a drastic change in appetite and abnormal cravings
  • feeling rather sluggish or fatigued
  • heightened agitation
  • restlessness
  • having a hard time focusing
  • violent outbursts

Remember, just because you exhibit one of the symptoms on this list, it doesn’t mean that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if the symptom you exhibit is disrupting your way of life and your mental health, you may want to seek some professional mental help. There may be some other factors that may increase your chances of having SAD. For instance, if you’re a woman, it is four times more likely that you will be diagnosed with it than men. If you live further from the equator, then there is a higher chance that you may get it, or if you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder. Also, age plays a factor too. Younger adults are more affected by SAD. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be overlooked either, they too can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.

Christmas time and holiday cheer may be a positive point during the winter, as well as the whims fall brings, the growth spring attracts, and the warmth of summer, but people with SAD don’t get a chance to experience all of that, and it isn’t that they don’t want to, their brains have a hard time letting them. People with SAD may have difficulty regulating their serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes a person’s mood. This is a pretty important hormone; it practically controls your entire body. Serotonin helps brain cells and other nervous system cells communicate with each other. It is found in your stomach as well as your intestines; aiding eating, sleeping, and digestion. It even helps heal your wounds, triggering tiny arteries to narrow, forming blood clots. Serotonin is great, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Too much serotonin can lead to depression and excessive nerve cell activity. It may also lower your arousal. Low levels of serotonin can be associated with emotional and behavioral disorders such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and OCD. Having high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis; making your bones weaker. Some symptoms of increased serotonin are shivering, high blood pressure, diarrhea, twitching muscles, high fever unconsciousness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.

Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel heavy during the holidays, but there are plenty of ways to manage it.

Medication-

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s can be given to people who are dealing with SAD. Some take certain antidepressants like bupropion, which can also be taken to help people stop smoking. It may take a while to find the right medicine for you; all of them do not affect each person the same. Some of these medications may cause some pretty severe side effects. This article by the National Institute of Mental Health helps you understand some of your medications just a little better (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml).

Light therapy-

I hadn’t heard of this one before, but apparently it has been used to treat SAD since the 1980’s. This is typically used during the months that contain shorter days and colder weather. The whole idea is to mimic and replace the diminished sunlight of the fall and winter months. This helps the patient get a higher dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and nervous system, and of course the brain. It also helps combat some of the symptoms that come with having too much serotonin, like weak bones and teeth. Some people are told to sit in a well lit area to soak up the sun or a light box for about 20 to 60 minutes. A light box blocks out ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin creating premature wrinkles and in more serious cases skin cancer. A light box exposes a person to at least 10,000 lux, an SI unit of illuminance that’s equal to one lumen per square meter. It is more than twenty times the amount of light you would get by being indoors. You would do this first thing in the morning between late fall and early spring.

Psychotherapy-

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a widely used method; they even have a specific method for SAD called CBT-SAD. It identifies negative thoughts while trying to switch them with positive thoughts using a technique called behavioral action. Remembering and doing the things that make the person happy may be a positive way to let the person cope during their episodes.

Vitamin D-

It was talked about a little in the Light Therapy section, but Vitamin D is good for your body. The sun is the most natural source, but you can also buy supplements at your local grocery store.

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or where you are, people show a wide array of emotions every single day. However, for some of us, some of those emotions aren’t so jovial, and it can be a lot harder to overcome, especially during certain times of the year. It may seem difficult, but there are many ways to combat seasonal depression and manage it, you just have to find the right method for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

http://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin

UV Radiation

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Facts and Opinions

How To Stay Young…According to Tracee Ellis Ross

I have been following Tracee Ellis Ross on Instagram for quite a while. In my head, she’s an old friend of mine. I grew up on Girlfriends; watching the reruns while my Mother was asleep laughing at the chaos and lessons that ensued with each episode. I am a Joan Clayton to the tee! With a little bit of Toni (I loved her character too). I admired Joan, a hard working attorney and entrepreneur who knew how to make things happen. I wanted (and still want) to be that…I wanted to be her! Tracee portrayed that character so well, probably because she encompasses a lot of those go-getter and slightly quirky traits (traits that I would like to say I possess as well).

She is the embodiment of the rich auntie that kind of does whatever she wants, and that is a major mood. I have come to the conclusion that this lifestyle will probably be my life; traveling around the world on my own dime, wearing designer clothes, and sending expensive gifts from Paris to my nieces and nephews…a girl can dream. Anyways, people have kind of looked to her for lifestyle advice, even if they didn’t ask her directly. Tracee seems to be living her best life. People (including myself) may ask, well how is she thriving so? What’s her secret? Tracee does exude this youthful energy, what makes her stay so young? Physically and mentally, at 46-years-young, she is as lively and as vibrant as ever! Well, Tracee decided to go into detail and bless us with the information on how she does it, and I think these actions can really improve ones way of life. Let’s dive in!

View this post on Instagram

5 “grown woman” ways to stay young. by me.

A post shared by Tracee Ellis Ross (@traceeellisross) on

Number 1: Giggle As Much As Possible

Laughter is the best medicine, I can attest to that one. Laughter is a complex response and reaction. It is our physiological reaction to humor according to the popular website How Stuff Works. It all contains a set of gestures and the production of sound. Laughter is created through many regions of the brain like the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the back of the brain). If any of these parts are damaged, this can actually disrupt laughter and what one person may deem humorous. The higher function in the left brain hemisphere decode words and syntactical structures in a very analytical way, the right brain hemisphere understands the humor. The center of our brain creates an image of the funny idea or statement in our heads, while our limbic system releases the chemicals that promote a better mood. Laughter releases a substance called endorphins into your blood stream. Endorphins are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect. The endorphins go through your veins, traveling through your body and eventually ending up in your brain. This gives you a more relaxed, positive, and happy feeling. Laughing gives your diaphragm a pretty good work out! Not only the diaphragm, but your legs, faces, abdominal muscles and back. According to Organic Facts, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can be brought down significantly through laughing. Laughing also increases blood flow and the respiratory system. It also boosts your immune system. Laughing improves your health over all!

Number 2: Get Your Sleep

On average, I think I get about six hours of sleep. I’m trying to get another hour or two in there. Eight hours I think would be a pretty good amount of time to catch some z’s. Human beings are diurnal creatures, meaning we like to function through the day and take the load off at night. Owls, for example, are the opposite. They are nocturnal, they love the night time, but you probably won’t see them out and about during the day. A study by the Boston University School of Medicine states that sleeping less that six hours and more than nine hours increased diabetes risk. They say between seven and eight hours is great! And what about naps? According to the National Association of Sleep (that sounds pretty credible, right?), a twenty to thirty minute nap is recommended. Sleeping and napping helps improve focus and alertness. It can also help enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents. Now for some people, naps might be a no go. Some (me….I’m one of them) are left to feel groggy or even more tired after a nap. Sometimes it may also affect later sleep patterns. But if you are tired…GO TO SLEEP…if you can. That’s your body’s way of indicating that you need a rest.

Number 3: Drink Plenty of Water

Please! For the love of God…drink some H2O. I literally drink water 80% of the time. I just bought a twenty six ounce Manna water bottle from Meijer a few days ago, and I carry it all the time and keep it near my bedside. Water keeps your body at a normal temperature. Do you want strong knees like Megan thee Stallion? Well you better start drinking up! Water cushions your joints and lubricates them. Water helps your body protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Through perspiration, bowel movements, and urination, waste is removed from your body.

Number 4: Have As Much Sex As Possible

Okay Tracee! I see you girl! Besides the obvious reason why sex is good (or should be), sexual activity does have some health benefits as well. Having sex once or twice a week helps boost the immune system by producing higher levels of immune fighting antibodies. No more illness for you! Sex may protect people from heart disease; balancing estrogen and testosterone hormones. It helps lower blood pressure too. Remember to practice safe sex and consensual sex (not sure what’s considered consensual, check out my blog post on what consent is and what it isn’t. Here’s the link: https://underneaththefro.com/2019/08/18/what-consent-is-and-what-it-isnt/). And let’s not forget about masturbation (is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?). There are a load (I have a dirty mind) of health benefits when it comes to masturbation. The following include:

  • reducing sexual tension
  • reduce stress
  • helps you sleep better
  • improve self esteem and body image
  • relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
  • strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic region and anal areas

If you aren’t having sex, you can get the same result from a low cardio workout or a brisk jog. Meditation helps too, as well as taking the proper steps towards boosting self confidence.

Number 5: Love With An Open Heart

You lost me there Tracee. No, I’m kidding, but sometimes when you’ve been hurt so many times, it can be difficult to love with an open heart. I took it more so as loving yourself with an open heart. Truly loving yourself is such a beautiful thing, but it is a journey; a journey that I am still on. There are people that have lived their whole lives hating who they were, and I don’t want to be that way, and you shouldn’t want that either. It is easy to love openly and freely when things are just peachy. But what about when things aren’t looking so good? It’s a lot harder isn’t it? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it can also cause a lot of paranoia and create more doubt and fear. Our mind and our heart seem to be on a different page from time to time (or all the time). Keeping an open heart can help heal past pain and transgressions. The heart is so powerful. The heart has the ability to heal hurting wounds. This one might be a little tricky, but it can be done.

Well, that seems simple enough, right? It’s the little things that can help us get through our days just a little easier. Thanks Tracee for the advice!

 

Sources:

10 Impressive Benefits of Laughter

https://stason.org/articles/wellbeing/sleep/how_many_hours_do_you_need_to_sleep.html

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html

https://familydoctor.org/health-benefits-good-sex-life/

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sex-and-relationships/masturbation

 

 

 

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Journaling

Today’s Affirmations: In A Healing Place

I am in a healthy space

I am where I am supposed to be

I do not fear the future

I do not live by my past

I will keep going

I know I will be successful

I will achieve pure happiness

I will make my younger self proud

It’s never too late to change

I will change for the better

I am excited for what’s to come

I will heal in every way, shape, or form

Everything I need to heal is within me

I will grow positively

I will grow in self-love

You are not your faults or traumatic experiences

I am strong

I am amazing

I can be anything I want to be

I love myself

I love myself

I love myself

xoxo

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions

Mental Health Awareness Month

May! I welcome you with open arms! I know this post is a few days late, but it’s alright! It’s the thought that counts, right? In May, nature is blooming; there’s a certain type of rebirth taking place in the atmosphere. The weather’s warmth becomes more consistent. Kids are beginning to wrap up the end of the semester and prepare for summer. People are attending proms and graduations…it’s a beautiful transition from the old to the new. May is the month of renewal; a surge of energy that is needed to inspire and motivate the Earth to continue to create. Like many, we too require the motivation and inspiration in life to keep going, but sometimes, we have roadblocks.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. May has been a month to educate others on the importance of mental health, help people better their mental health, and celebrate the little victories that come with every step in the journey ahead. Slowly but surely, the curse is lifting, and the stigma is breaking. Mental health should not be something that’s seen as taboo. We all have brains (even if some people don’t seem to use theirs efficiently), and the brain like any other organ can be injured. It’s time to stop being afraid on speaking up about how we feel.

By dictionary definition, mental health is quite simple. It’s a certain level of psychological well being; the state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustments. Mental health can affect and influence the ability to enjoy life. Picture your ideal vacation spot. It’s right there; just a few steps forward and you’ll be there. But suddenly, this clear glass box falls around you, keeping you from moving anywhere. To me, that’s how I feel when my mental health isn’t A1. I can envision my happiness, but something is blocking it.

There are so many things that can cause mental health issues; the cause can be quite complex. From genetics, biological factors, past trauma, drug usage, or just the environment that you’re in…it can all have an effect on the brain.

Of course….*deep breath*…..MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT JUST A ONE RACE ISSUE! Every race struggles with it, however, there are races that are more hesitant to explore it and heal the wounds that are left. That is one of the reasons why black mental health is something that is so important to me, because even though we are making more and more of an effort, we can still do so much more. Our mental health matters more than we think it does. Mental health is not a white issue; if you have a brain you can suffer from mental health. It’s time to stop sweeping our health under the rug, I cannot stress that enough.

Everyone deserves to feel good. People deserve to love themselves. People deserve to give themselves a good life. Throughout the month of May, I will be talking a little bit more about my mental health, as well as other issues that effect the black mental health community that need to be addressed.

Peace and blessings

xoxo

 

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Journaling

The Summer Glow Up

I’m stuffing my face with a pack of Mrs. Freshley’s Mini powdered donuts. I’ve never heard of the brand, but their donuts satisfy my sugar craving. You see, this is the last time that I will be eating sugar for probably a very long time. This month has been littered with a lot of lasts. Last Saturday, that was the last time that I ate meat. I shivered as I ordered a Turkey Tom from Jimmy John’s (a place I will miss dearly). As I am studying for finals, I am envisioning a better me, and I want this summer to be time where I put my “glow up” in gear.

When I come home in a few days after finals, the first thing I’m going to do is rummage through all of my clothes and model them in my room; the ones that don’t fit I’m going to give away. After that, I’m going to usher in a new sense of style and replace the old with the new. I want to rearrange my room and decorate it. Your space is very important, so it shouldn’t look like just anything. I want to buy a plant and create a little station for the crystals that I bought last spring. I want to place at least two paintings on my walls too, and maybe a little figurine or sculpture somewhere.

I want to get my body in shape. I always want to workout, but then I think about it, and laying in bed, scrolling through my phone on Twitter filling my brain with mush sounds a lot better than potentially twisting my ankle on a treadmill. Working out is not my favorite thing to do, but it’s all about making it fun! Going out to get a gym membership just to lift some weights and do the stair climber for five minutes would be a waste of time for me. The Bar Method caught my attention recently. My friend in New York has been raving about this place, saying that it’s made her stronger and has “totally and completely changed her life.” After looking at a snippet of their workout online, I loved the ballet aspect, as well as what parts of the body I would be isolating in the workout. Looking at the people shaking from the many reps that they were doing was a little intimidating, but I am up for a challenge. And I can’t lie…I’m excited to buy the cute little socks.

I want to wake up earlier in the morning. If I don’t have work, you won’t be seeing me until 3:00 pm. I want to wake up at at least 7:00 am. I want to make a whole morning routine:

  • First I would stretch. This would mean that I would actually have to get out of bed. I have a yoga mat that is still wrapped in its plastic that needs some loving.
  • After that I would do a fifteen minute warmup for the day. I have The Bar Method online, and their fifteen minute workout was pretty refreshing. I will say, it would be a lot better if I had an actual bar installed in my room, but that’s too much money, and I have a chair that will suffice.
  • I’ll freshen up with a nice bath while playing my morning routine music. It’s full of Anthony Hamilton, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, and etcetera. It’s just a great way to set the mood in the morning. India Aire’s Video always puts a smile on this melanin girl’s face.
  • After putting on my clothes breakfast, I have breakfast. This goes into my next transformation…

To go off of what I mentioned earlier, I am cutting out meat, sugar, and gluten…I would say dairy, but like Oprah, I love bread. Cheese, milk, yogurt and things like that are a no-go, but I can’t let go of bread. Chronic illness is the main reason for this. I don’t plan to live with this forever, and I know the first step towards healing is what you put in your body. My friend and I are going to hop from health food store to health food store and buy a bunch of core healing edible things like sea moss and chickpea flour. I’m going to cook my meals and prep them for the week…vegan meals. I winced typing that. That is something I never thought I would ever type, say, think or fathom…me….vegan? I don’t know, I’ve heard so many people say that it made them feel better, and I want to see if I’ll be one of them at some point. I should eat to live, not live to eat. Besides, now I’ll learn to make more than a good bowl of cereal. Let’s see if I can actually follow a recipe, huh?

I want to reconnect with myself. I feel like I have days where I’m so in tune with who I am, and other days where I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself it seems like. I want to be whole. I want to continue going to therapy. I want to continue exercising these demons I call anxiety, depression, and insecurity. I did a group therapy session, but I would much rather be one on one with my therapist. Not to be selfish, but there were a lot of things I didn’t get a chance to mention. I will make sure I cover all those bases this summer.

I want to be closer to God more importantly. That is the main shift I need. I’ve always been the type of person to think I need to do things by myself. I am going to work on asking for help…more more importantly…I need to work on asking Him for more help. Not to get all churchy on you, but he deserves way more than I’ve been giving.

I have had many times to change, and I didn’t go all out with it. Now, I have to. I think my problem is thinking I have to do everything all at once and then it’ll fall into place. This is going to test my patience and my endurance; my will and my faith. I’ll be recording my process and keeping track. I begin as soon as I get home from school. It’s time for me to get my life together. It’s time.

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Journaling

Month Number One: A slight rant and 400 years

January is coming close to an end. The first day ushered in this new sense of hope and discovery for all of us. 2018 was a year of realization. It was like a gnat; buzzing around our ears and crowding our personal space. The lessons of 2018 are going to be the foundation of my 2019, and so far I am still going strong. Could it be because of the new year and its new wave of energy, or has nothing really changed? Maybe this new feeling of purpose and confidence is some sort of placebo. Am I still the same person now that I was in 2018? Some of the voices in my head (true Gemini lol) tell me these things off and on, and I try not to succumb. If I really think about it, all of my manifestations for the first month of the year are slowly but surely coming into fruition, and I think that has a lot to do with myself, as well as the beginning of a new year.
I wanted to briefly talk about an article on The Root that I happened to come across while scrolling through the internet one day. The first person of African descent set foot on America’s soil in the year 1619. Ever since then, black people have had a treacherous experience here. We are seen as foreign objects that do not belong; the “other.” Our skin is discriminated against, as well as our hair, body types, and culture…but it’s always copied. Like I stated in a Facebook post a few days ago, we are the culture, we just never get the credit. I just thought that is was kind of interesting. This 400 years of slavery (even though slavery was abolished in 1865) may have brought some sort of curse. We might not be picking cotton in fields and being beaten with whips, but we are still slaves to systematic oppression as well as archaic ideologies of how black people should be. Jim Crow kind of still exists you know? It just manifests itself in various ways throughout the years. The 400 years trope comes from the bible. In Genesis 15:13, it says, “Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there (New International Version).” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? If you add 400 to 1619, what do you get? I know I’m not an aficionado in mathematics, but if my calculator is correct, you get 2019!
2019 is the 400th year. Has the curse been lifted? I can say as a minority in America that my experiences here have not been peachy keen. I mean, a bit of my self loathing as a child came from the fact that I did not resemble my Caucasian counterparts. Going to college in a town that is more than 90% white lets me know some days that I am not accepted in some communities. This, however, has only made me stronger as an individual and prouder of my blackness. People are so pressed that I exist, like…keep hating boo. 2018 had made me come face to face with myself. People will not always like me just by looking at me, and I can’t let that affect me. We as people can work together as a collective to strengthen our community, but we must first acknowledge the beauty and power in ourselves individually…and there’s an abundance of it. Do you know how important you are? How much you’ve endured? How much your ancestors have gone through? Your looks are envied by others. Your history is rich and full. Black people…that is all in you! It’s in me! And 2018 has made me aware that I am a blessing and I should think of myself as such. That might sound a little vain, but you are a blessing. You could be six feet deep in the ground. Every day that you live is a blessing.
I have a tendency to get rather preachy with these posts when I’m passionate. My main focus for this post is to say that we must break the curse that we held in ourselves, and that’s with changing our habits and thoughts. I need to plan out my thoughts; my mind goes a mile a minute. This month I have made an effort to better myself, and I will continue to do the same in February. I prayed and manifested for more experience in the career that I want to be in, and I was promoted to a higher position. I’ve had people from my past come and contact me, trying to slither their way back into my life…and I ignored their advances. My worth is much more important than a brief stint of attention. I’ve accepted the fact that I cannot change what has happened in the past, and can only move forward. I’ve accepted my face and the way it kind of hangs to the right. I’ve accepted my little round nose and full cheeks, as well my gap teeth (which I’m proud of). I’ve practiced self-care by keeping to myself when I need to. It’s okay to say no to hanging out. It’s good to spend time with myself and get to know myself even more. She loves overly feminine stuff. She likes perfume and getting her nails done and fashion. She loves to read and write and engage in her own little world. She’s introverted…but nowhere near antisocial. She is delicate, but durable.
I have taken steps toward keeping my peace. I’ve moved mountains this past month. I’ve spoken my truth and expressed my feelings thoroughly. I’ve come to terms with past mistakes that I have made, as well as acknowledge what I did to get into that situation in the first place. The groundwork has been laid, and I need to follow what I’ve laid. I’ve learned not to be as trusting as I have been in the past, and not tolerate the things that I have previously. I just feel chains falling and my head lifting. I just have a good feeling about 2019, even though we have had some major mishaps happen already (thank you Trump). I can only control myself, and I am trying my very best to not fall back and remain the way I used to be. I am slowly evolving, and I can see the progress.
In a few hours it will be February, which is the perfect month to talk about self-love. I want to tie self love in the black community, because I know that us as people are conditioned to think that our beauty is lesser than. I am beautiful. I am beautiful because I am black. I am beautiful because of my history, good and bad. I am beautiful because I am continuously growing and changing. I’m beautiful because I am finally realizing my worth. I am just beautiful….PERIOD!

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