Adventure 4 | Buy Myself Chocolates

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The Adventure

Treat myself to a box of chocolates from locally-owned sweet shoppe Sweets on 3rd.

The Contender

A Disney fanatic who has never felt more connected to a Princess than when Anna sang about “stuffing chocolates in her face”.

The Experience

Today I was just tired. Unlike many other Disney Princesses we know, I had a very hard time falling asleep last night.

I was warned that the steroid shot I received on Monday afternoon could make it hard for me to sleep at night and boy did I find out that that was true.

Upon arriving home from work at 10:00pm, I wound up staying up watching the most recent episode of Vanderpump Rules and horsing around on the internet until close to midnight.

Thinking that late-night reality-tv session might make it easier for me to fall asleep once I hit the hay was a very wrong assumption.

On top of that, since finding out I was now considered a high-risk pregnancy two weeks ago, I’ve felt like I’ve been standing at the starting line of Guys Grocery Games awaiting word from our doctors that we were going to suddenly become parents weeks earlier than we had been anticipating.

Twice weekly doctors appointments (or in the case of this week, four times), moving up projects that we thought we had ten weeks to complete, and mentally preparing to potentially have a NICU baby in a hospital an hour from our home have been equally exhausting.

And if one more person tells me, “Get used to it” or “Just wait until the baby arrives”, I’m going to throw a fistful of cotton balls in their face.

The discussion of how ready we are to be parents and to make all of the sacrifices, lifestyle changes, and daily routine modifications have happened on a regular basis since trying to start a family almost 18-months ago. These are all things we are gladly willing, eager, and so so ready to do. We just thought we had a little more time.

Suddenly, the final twelve weeks of our pregnancy, a time when we were looking forward to relaxing and enjoying our last bit of time as a family of two was stripped away and we’ve had to become parents, totally change our routines, cancel plans, and live on pins and needles for a baby who hasn’t even been born yet.

And something has to be said for how difficult that can be on a person’s mental state.

So that became a major topic of conversation yesterday: self-care. It’s a term that I equally love and hate. I love it because I am such a proponent of it. I hate it because it has been turned into click-bait that is almost always linked with ideas like “bubble baths” and “meditation” and that’s just way too narrow-minded for my liking.

Self-care for me is anything that refills your cup and makes you feel like you are bringing your best self to the moment. So that is what we are focusing on every day until Lil’ D is born - whether that is this week or in nine. We want to be the best, most mentally welcoming, open-hearted, unstressed parents we can be the moment she is placed in our arms.

So my self-care/adventure for the day involved treating myself to a box full of chocolatey treats from Sweets on 3rd in downtown Wausau, Wisconsin after receiving a glowing doctor’s visit for Baby Girl and my second shot of steroids to match the needle poke I had to get 24-hours ago.

Sweets on 3rd has had it’s doors open to the heart of Wausau since 2005 and has been an amazing all-year treat destination ever since. Offering a wide-range of sweets from homemade truffles, chocolates, and candies from various small vendors to Babcock ice cream (the way to this Badger-Alum’s heart) and worldwide recognized brands like Jelly Belly and Haribo. Coffee drinks are regularly available and an always lovely rotation of locally-roasted whole-bean coffee, loose leaf tea, and brewing supplies are available for purchase.

I opted to try three different homemade truffles and because I’m still in the Valentine’s Day and ready for Spring spirit, I decided upon three adorably, pink homemade truffles. All brought in from Moonstruck Chocolate Company out of Portland, Oregon - a company that still hand-crafts each and every piece of chocolate they create using only the finest ingredients - I wish I could tell you exactly what each of them were, but I cannot … I ate them too fast and was too excited at the store to bother taking mental note of what I was buying.
The perfectly cute ladybug was a combination of strawberry and milk chocolate.
The frosted strawberry was actually dark chocolate and strawberry with THE BEST sparkly sugar coating you could ever dream of.
My favorite was the pink champagne heart which was just as hot pink on the inside as it was on the outside and if I ever wanted to be a piece of chocolate in my life, that was the moment.

So on a day when you feel like you need a little self-love, go spend $12 on a box of chocolates — like real, non-artificial, so cute you don’t want to eat them chocolates (or splurge on $12 of Reese’s if that’s your jam … or $12 of beef jerky if you hate chocolate).
Savor indulging in something special that you don’t normally treat yourself to.
Break your normal routine.

That is what life is all about. Savoring each bite, each moment, and each day because, really, that is sometimes the only thing we really have any control over.

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Adventure 3 | Eat Love-ly Donuts

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The Adventure:

Eat sparkly, heart-shaped donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Contender:

A gal who has never met a donut she doesn’t like.

Unless it’s a cake donut, then I’ll happily leave those behind for my next donut-loving friend.

The Experience:

I shared in a recent post about the experience of learning how our easy-peasy 28-week-old pregnancy would turn into a high-risk pregnancy in a matter of 24-hours.
Since that emotionally charged day, we have had twice-weekly doctor’s appointments: one with our regular OB to conduct a Non-Stress Test (NST) on the baby and one with our high-risk OB to do a Biophysical Profile (BPP) and/or a full ultrasound to check her growth.
Today was our weekly NST appointment with our regular OB and after taking a cat-nap during the 20-minute test, thinking all was fine and dandy, my doctor came in and said he would need to admit me into the Labor + Delivery unit to do a full three-hour monitor on our tiny dancer. She had shown one area of deceleration in her heart rate and, because we’re considered high-risk, that meant an immediate admittance and a start on steroids that will help her lung development in the chance we have to have her delivered in the next two weeks.
I changed into the world’s most confusing hospital gown and got settled in to my hospital bed with a Project Runway marathon on the TV, my cell phone by my side ready to triage questions as they came in, and a Sprite on my bedside table to get baby a little more hyped up for her test.

Three hours and a hospital garden veggie burger and fries later, and it was determined that baby was looking just fine. It was possible that the earlier-found deceleration was just a completely normal episode that would happen occasionally throughout the day and that we just happened to be monitoring her when it did or that she was too busy bouncing around that the monitor had a hard time catching her heart rate.

We have another follow-up appointment tomorrow to check on her heart rate and for the second round of my steroid shot that has to go in a place that makes pregnancy even more shameless.

After all of that excitement, though, I knew Lil’ D and I needed a special treat (and my one allotted cup of coffee for the day) so we headed over to the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts.

Dunkin’ Donuts has been the all-day donut and coffee stop for millions around the world since 1950. Being the leader in the donut category for 66 years, Dunkin’ has served up over 2 billion dollars worldwide of their over 70 donut varieties including the classics (looking at you strawberry frosting with sprinkles) and regional favorites in their over 12,500 stores in 43 countries worldwide.

My favorite fun fact about Dunkin’? Their “Manager of Donut Excellence” has been there for 40 years.

Talk about a job title I would eat my weight in Munchkins for.

For just a little while longer, Dunkin’ is helping to get you in the loving spirit with their Valentine’s Day treats. Heart-shaped and pink bedazzled pastries of all varieties are stacking their shelves: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, sprinkled, Fruity-Pebbeled, jelly-filled, powdered-sugared, you name it.

It all gets even sweeter than that, though, as we are just leaving the season of joy, giving, family, and love, Dunkin’ celebrates the finale of their yearly Holiday campaign and their partnership with the Joy in Childhood Foundation: a charitable foundation with the mission to provide the simple joys of childhood to children who need it most and to see more kids laughing, playing, drawing, and creating and fewer kids facing illness and hunger.

Since 2006, the Joy in Childhood Foundation has helped kids battle hunger and illness by gifting more than $16 million to hundreds of national and local charities across the country:

  • Raised $6.5 million with the help of franchisees, employees, corporate partners, and guests.

  • Granted $5.3 million to more than 200 organizations focused on children’s health and hunger relief

  • Gathered 2,200 employees to pack more than 350,000 meals at 85 food banks around the country

  • Delivered 10,000 Starlight Gowns to childen in local hospitals

  • Provided 1.4 million meals to children and families through Feeding America grants

Want to get involved outside of the holidays season? When you’re in need of a boost of caffeine and a sugar fix, consider spreading Joy at Dunkin’ and talk to their staff about ways to donate all year-round

Want to help from the comfort of your couch? Head over to Dunkin’s website and click the “Donate Now” button to purchase a gift card for your favorite sweets eater and gift a donation to family in need.

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Adventure 2 | Try a Mud Mask

The Adventure

Slather river mud all over my face and celebrate a relaxing Sunday morning with the help of Alaska Glacial Mud Company.

The Contender

A gal who, like many women, has a closet full of clothes with the tags still attached, waiting for that perfect day to be worn.

I also have a box full of beautiful notebooks and journals filled with nothing but blank pages ready to be lined with adventures and stories.

I reorganized my bathroom closet this week only to discover I have dozens of candles, soaps, and lotions waiting to be put to good therapeutic use.

The Experience

Last July, my husband and I celebrated our honeymoon on a week-long journey traveling around Alaska in an RV.
In a matter of seven days, we travelled 800 miles in our little home on wheels from Anchorage to Seward to Denali to salmon fishing on the Copper River before returning home. We saw dozens of moose, almost no time without the sun, and an indescribable amount of beauty as we wobbled down the road and trip became our last vacation together as a family of two.

On our third day of our journey, we were traveling from the coastal town of Seward to Denali National Park and made a pitstop in the town of Talkeetna.
Talkeetna has a population of right around 1,000 people but has become a popular tourist destination as adventurers make their way to, hopefully, see Denali in all of its grandeur. We wandered from shop to shop trying to find authentic souvenirs to bring back to our families (no luck), griping about all of the tourists and the difficulty of finding a parking spot for our RV (my husband), and eating Rose Petal ice cream (me).
We went into a shop that boasted having all locally-owned Alaskan companies and thankfully for me (not so thankfully for my husband) it was filled with products my mother and I would love: clothes, purses, candles, soaps, facial products, and Alaska Glacial Mud.

Being major Shark Tank fans, my husband even got excited when I spotted the product. We had just recently seen the episode that featured the Cordova, Alaska-based company and saw it as a good omen as, at the time, we were planning our itinerary for our adventure.

Lauren Padawar founded Alaska Glacial Mud Co. in 2006. Lauren is a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, activist, and beauty minimalist since her younger years. During college at Washington University in St. Louis, she became interested and inspired by restoration ecology and the ways we can impact our planet by incorporating natural resource management in our own communities. Upon graduating, she took the opportunity to dive into one of the most pristine places in the world and worked on a three-month electoral campaign in Anchorage. At 23-years-old, she moved to the remote coastal island (only accessible by boat or plane) of Cordova, Alaska to work with Eyak Preservation Council, whose mission is to protect the Copper River and Prince William Sound areas from unsustainable development. It was during that time, Lauren took took a rafting trip down the Copper River and the idea for Alaska Glacial Mud was born.

Eating lunch on the side of the river, watching brown bears fishing for salmon on the riverbed across from them, she and her friends decided to cool off by taking a dip in the clear glacial pools. Sinking down into the Earth beneath them, they embraced the its resort spa qualities and covered their faces and bodies with the soft, silky mud, allowed it to dry, and then washed it off to discover soft, glowing skin.

Surrounded by bear tracks, soaring eagles, rushing rivers, magestic mountains, and a respect for the importance of protecting our planet’s last remaining wild places, Lauren stresses sustainability in her company. Alaska Glacial Mud sustainably hand-harvests their pure buttery glacial mud from the Copper River Delta where the river annually deposits sediment at 60-100 millions tons. No heavy equipment, mechanical, or explosive technology is used in collecting the mud - instead, Lauren has invested in five-gallon buckets and spade shovels. Following along with local regulations, Lauren only harvests 1% (or less) of what she is permitted to collect. Community hydropower is used to process the raw material, purifying it (read: no bear poop) and getting it ready for its post-consumer, recyclable, biodegradable packaging. To sweeten the Earth-friendly deal, Alaska Glacial Mud also donates 10% of their profits to wilderness preservation, habitat restoration, sustainable community development, and environmental education programs.

Knowing I had to actually try this product after seeing it on one of our favorite shows, I grabbed single-sized packages of each of the mud mask scents: Original Unscented, Vanilla-Lavender, and Lavender-Peppermint. I grabbed three more for my Mom, paid for them, stuffed them in my bag and there they remained until this morning (except for my Mom’s, I did give hers to her in a timely fashion). Wondering how I was going to spend my Sunday morning and discovering it was National Whale Day, I decided it was time to relive our Alaskan journey (I had yet to edit any of our photos from the trip) and later up my face with this rejuvenating product I had been holding onto for over six-months now.

I decided to try to refreshing scent of Lavender-Peppermint because I cannot get enough lavender in my life and, being 30-weeks pregnant and really starting to feel it, I need any opportunity to feel refreshed.
The house was quiet (sleeping dogs, sleeping husband).
The sun was showing up for the first time in days and blessed us with a beautiful sunrise over our three-feet of snow we received over the last two weeks.
My morning coffee was exceptionally heart-warming.
I miraculously managed to not get any mud on my white shirt I foolishly decided to put on before masking-up.

Upon opening the package, I could immediately smell the natural lavender and peppermint scents swirling together as I squeezed the mud into my hands. Lauren describes the mud as buttery and I really cannot find a word that better describes its texture. It’s soft, mildly gritty (you know it’s real mud), and, even though it is mud it feels really clean. Almost immediately after putting it on my skin, I could feel the peppermint and lavender working together to both relax and light up my pores.
You know when you put Icy Hot on your skin and it get that hot/cold sensation? Think that, except way better, way less pungent, and way more organic.

I let it sit on my skin for about five-minutes (maybe longer as I shamelessly tried to get a “good selfie”, which I realized doesn’t really exist when you have mud on your face) before washing it off with warm water. I can’t say for sure whether my skin looked any different, but it felt wonderful and, honestly, that might be the most important feature anyway.

So if you are looking for a small business to support that also supports the kindness of Mother Nature, be sure to check out Alaska Glacial Mud. Lauren has expanded her products from facial mud to body care, soaps, skin care accessories, and more and offers FREE SHIPPING on orders of $35 or more.

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And because it also happens to be National Whale Day, I wanted to share some photos of our whale watching trip in Seward, Alaska.

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Adventure 1 | Start Training for the Dopey Challenge

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The Adventure

Commit to training to have the endurance to run 48.6 miles in four days through Walt Disney World before I hit the big 4-0.

The Contender

I grew up dancing ballet, so running on a treadmill will never be as much fun as dancing Waltz of the Flowers. It just won’t.
On most days, I eat like a truck driver and would much rather eat a bowl of strawberry ice cream than a Larabar.
I hate that my Apple Watch will judge me when I haven’t exercised to its satisfaction by 10:00am and that it continues to lower my Move Goal every week.
I am namas’cray about hot yoga, but haven’t been able to go since becoming pregnant.
If there is chocolate in the house, I will eat it.  
The same thing goes for any ingredients that will create nachos.  
I can very much relate to Crab and Goyle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: I would absolutely eat a cupcake floating in the air without even thinking twice about how shady that actually is.

When it is more than 70-degrees outside, I am a drippy sweater.
When it is less than 30-degrees, I am perpetually in a Joey “Could-I-Be-Wearing-Anymore-Clothes?!” situation.
When there is any wind over 7-miles-per-hour, I feel like Kristoff trying to find Princess Anna on the frozen fjord.
When it’s raining, my dogs think they will melt like the Wicked Witch of the West (which is actually debatable if you’ve met Dizzy)
So, there are really very few opportunities that I find it pleasant to get active outside: my dogs know my serious skill at finding reasons why we shouldn’t go for walks.

The Experience

In February of 2018, I completed the Disney Princess Half Marathon, seven weeks pregnant, totally unprepared, and it completely changed my life.

As I ran across the finish line, I broke into tears realizing I had completed something I had fully convinced myself would never happen.
It was a moment when I realized I was much stronger, braver, and resilient than I allowed myself to believe.
It was a moment when I realized I was capable of accomplishing much more than what I tell myself to strive for.
It was a moment when I realized life is only limited by the beliefs and restrictions we create for ourselves.

Two weeks after I crossed the finish line at Epcot, I was completely crushed when we found out the strong likelihood that I had lost our first pregnancy.

A pregnancy we had found out about just over one month ago, that had completely changed our world, and that had slipped through our fingers like sand. The idea of names and nurseries, hedgehog-patterned swaddle blankets and giant Pooh Bears had to be set aside for another patient day of peeing on a stick.

In our first ultrasound, fours days after the race, the what-was-to-be-baby measured ten days behind where we anticipated. I, naive and hopeful, thought nothing of it.
It was early, everything looked healthy, and the doctor wasn't worried; he scheduled us for an ultrasound one week later, where we were excited to see a tiny little peanut appear.

The second ultrasound, more thorough than the first, showed our not-likely-to-be-baby had not yet made its debut.
In fact, nothing had changed at all. It wasn't boding well. I hoped our doctor would reassure us that everything was still alright even though every fiber in my being was telling me it wasn't. He couldn't.

He recommended one last ultrasound one week later to give we're-just-hoping-to-be-fashionably-late-baby a chance to materialize.
Many tears, many bars of chocolate, and many wishes that I could drink a glass (or six) of champagne later, I became prepared for the news that 99.9% of me believed to be the truth already: I was no longer pregnant. Yet, I was not NOT pregnant because my body was still holding onto something that stopped growing nearly four weeks ago.

I had a D+C procedure, less than four hours after that final ultrasound, the one that finally confirmed what we had been expecting: I was having a miscarriage.

It was like waking up from one of those immensely vivid pregnancy dreams that used to horrify me in college - the ones that feel palpably real, but were just my brain's way of processing the fact that I was bloated from too much cheese bread.

I had woken up (from anesthesia), no longer pregnant, shoved to go right back to the "normal" life I had been leading for the last 32-years.

Was I OK?

Most of the time I was - shockingly so at times. I probably didn’t handle it in the way people think I should have - I had plenty of people who didn’t see my meltdowns in the shower or on the way home from my first Hot Yoga class post-D+C tell me, “You know it’s ok to not be ok” or make a concerned face when I would joke about being able to drink champagne again - but in my grown up years I have grown quite accustomed to doing things my way.

Through the process, I would return to my key beliefs that "everything happens for a reason" and "the universe works in mysterious, magical, and intentional ways".

When the (many) Facebook pregnancy announcements would pop up on my News Feed, I would mentally go through all of the incredible and amazing things to be grateful for in my life and understand is a normal occurrence for 25% of pregnancies in their first trimester.

I was placed at the beginning of a new path: one I wasn't intending.

And through the ups and downs, here I am almost an entire year from crossing the finish line of my first half marathon and my first pregnancy with a burning desire to turn those experiences into something even more life-changing.

These life experiences also taught me how much stronger we are than we give ourselves credit for: taking a chance and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones (and past all of the self-limiting thoughts we tell ourselves) brings us to a place where we can learn how capable we are and the amazing things that can happen on the other side of fear.

I am happy to be able to share I am now standing with a 30-week-old pregnancy of a healthy Baby Girl with two major life experiences under my belt that have taught me how quickly fleeting moments can go by: these tiny moments can turn into days, and months, and years and suddenly we are left wishing we had stayed a little more present, been a little more grateful, and taken a few more chances.

Running a half marathon is a very lonely experience. It's just you and the road. You, alone, have to push yourself to keep moving forward. No one can understand the exact mental and physical rollercoaster you are going through, even if they have been through it themselves.
Going through a miscarriage feels pretty much the exact same way … except that no one talks about it.

But through both experiences you learn similar things. You learn how much stronger you can be in the face of adversity. You learn how many people are rooting you on. You learn how to be patient and trust that, eventually, the end will present itself. You learn that you just have to tell yourself “You CAN do this” one more time than you say “You can’t”. You learn how glorious the celebration at the finish line can be.

That is the true inspiration and my goal to live healthy, live foolish, and live outside of my comfort zone - an idea that crossed my mind as I crossed the finish lane in the parking lot of Epcot, but seems even more important now.

Powered by an excess of decaf coffee and La Croix, a daily chocolate habit, two rambunctious dogs, a stack of personal development books, an unwaveringly supportive family, and a love of all things Disney, I invite you to follow along in my blister, self-doubt, and sore-muscle filled journey to go from couch to Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge.

It will be a very slow process, especially at the start. My feet, back, and bladder are all in the process of falling apart while I act as the apartment for our soon-to-be-born daughter. At 28-weeks pregnant we found out our little peanut was much littler than she needed to be, so we began a new, watchful, journey with our new high-risk OB. While Lil’ D has continued to grow and stay on track, our doctor is keeping a close eye on her and has recommended that I focus on resting my body, so running is out of the question until she makes her grand debut. It’ll be walking, yoga, and horizontal running for the next ten weeks.

I know better than to think it’ll get easier once she’s born, but I also know that self-care and health-care will be even more important and I want to set a positive example for my daughter from the very start.

So we’ll start small, just like her.

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Welcome to My Project

My name is Dani and I am a 32-year-old wife and mother of two ridiculous pit bulls, and an April baby-to-be.
I live on a farm-ette in rural Wisconsin and have absolutely no idea how to take care of all of it.
I am a dance teacher who will always leap in public places, squeal at Nutcracker music, and value being a good role model over everything else.
I have worked for 11 years in the animal behavior and welfare industry and will unwaveringly advocate for animals and the people who dedicate their lives to being their voice.
I will always notify you when there are rainbows or cows in sight.
I believe good things happen when it snows.
I could eat nachos seven days a week for the rest of my life.
I am a professional bargain shopper.
I am an early bird.
If I am not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I'm crying.
I will celebrate all of the Holidays, even the littlest, silliest ones.
I am 100% an Aries - independent, impatient (working on it), headstrong (working on it).
My greatest pet peeves are people who make noise in the movie theater, dried up Sharpies, group texts, and people who don't put their shopping carts away.
I believe there is always a good reason to drink cheap champagne.
I become a vicious monster if I haven't eaten in more than three hours.
I, like many women, have gone through the devastation of a miscarriage, but I choose to become strengthened by the experience and grateful for the universe’s plan.
I am learning how to cook but have an irrational fear of setting my house on fire.
I am namas'cray about hot yoga.
I lived in Wyoming for three years and it will always hold a big piece of my heart.
Seasons of Love will forever be my favorite song of all time.
Leslie Knope, Taylor Swift, and Princess Anna are my soul sisters.
If I were a breakfast pastry I would be a toasted butter croissant.
I will light Christmas candles and leave at least one string of twinkle lights up year-round.
I am an awkward conversationalist and DREAD having small talk.
My favorite places are Walt Disney World, New York City, and Yellowstone National Park.
I have a strong aversion about my hands and feet unexpectedly touching slimy stuff and will not swim in open water.
My favorite color is yellow.
If I were a dog, I would be a Jack Russell Terrier.
I believe impossible things are possible, that life is beautiful even when it is hard, and that the universe works in mysterious ways when we are on our true path. 

I believe life is not all about crossing the finish line, but the experiences we have along the way.
Life is not about waiting to begin our lives until the day we've accomplished all of the things we want to accomplish.
Life is not about only living for the weekend or vacation or special occasions or when everything else is done. It's not about only rewarding ourselves when we've conquered everything on our calendar.
Life is about experiencing all that we can experience.
Life is about celebrating every little thing while we are on the way to accomplishing our biggest dreams.
Life is about doing all of the things we've always said we wanted to do.
Life is about LIVING it instead of just Pinteresting it.
Life is about actually getting out there and living the brighter and bolder life you've been watching other people live on their Instagram accounts.
Life is about what you can achieve when you stop talking and begin doing.
Life is about venturing outside of your comfort zone and realizing how rewarding it can be.
Life is about discovering who you are and fearlessly being that person.

I believe we live in a wonderful world full of beauty, wonder, charm, love, and laughter and there is no end to the adventures we can have if only we have the courage, curiosity, and presence to seek them.

To live would be an awfully big adventure.
— Peter Pan
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