The Returning by Rachelle Dekker – Book Review

I was given this book by Tyndale Publishing Network with the wonderful opportunity to review it however I wished. All opinions are my own. 

Glorious Summary of “The Returning” by Rachelle Dekker – derived from the back of the book, for who can summarize it better than the book itself? 

“They say the Awakening is coming.
That she’s the key.
But can she find her identity in the light
Before she perishes in the dark?

Twenty years have passed since Carrington and Remko Brant’s baby, Elise, was kidnapped and they were forced to leave her captive in the Authority City. Though they fled with the Seers far from Authority reach, they’ve never given up hope of rescuing their daughter from the man who betrayed them. Now Authority President, he’s ushered the city into a new era of “peace”—one where the Scientist Roth Reynard’s Genesis Serum has eradicated all memory of emotion or rebellion.

But the mysterious Aaron and his Seers are once again on the move, threatening the illusion the Authority has worked so hard to build. As the Seers send seven chosen warriors to rescue Elise and bring restoration to the Authority City, the lines are drawn for a final battle between light and darkness. The key to ultimate victory may rest within the strangely powerful girl who has felt forgotten but was never abandoned—a truth she’ll need to wage war against the powerful forces of evil. ”

My Thoughts:

This book is the third installment of the series.

Upon receiving this book, I wasn’t aware of the previous books at first until I started to read and do some research. I quickly made it my goal to dive in to the series and read all three books before reviewing “The Returning“.

I sped through the books, all whilst trying to do them justice. I found my self-ordained task to be effortless, as these books drew me in, much like her father’s books have always done since I was a little girl. In case you all didn’t realize, Rachelle Dekker is the daughter of the esteemed Ted Dekker, who is also a famous Christian fiction author.

The Returning” came at a perfect time in my life, and I found it to become much more than just an ordinary book. It quickly began re-awakening a lot within my spirit! I even confess that my dreams have become impacted by the words of Truth and Life within these pages written by Rachelle Dekker.  

The words spilled throughout “The Returning” coaxed, soothed, and called to my soul.  Words from the book that cascade over every chapter, and consequently resonates and lingers within the deep cavernous recesses of my weary soul. Words such as, 

“Remember what I call you, beautiful daughter.(pg. 226)”

“Remember who you are. Your identity lies in me alone, and I see you as blameless. Beautiful, perfect daughter. (pg. 226)”

“Remember who you are. You are the light of the world. (pg. 227)”

“Take heart, See beyond what is in front of you. Hear the call; remember who picked you, crafted you, held you through all things. (pg. 230)” 

As a soul who has lived through much abandonment and rejection in earthly terms, and is on a long road of healing and erasing the lies with His truth about who I am, these words were more meaningful to me than I can adequately describe. It was as if Yeshua Himself was speaking directly to me throughout this whole series, and specifically this book, “The Returning“.

I am at a point in my life where I am dealing with a lot of pain and addressing the numerous lies I have believed that have written my personality and self-belief system and fueled my self-hatred and immense feelings of shame.  I have lived as a creature of fear…  but that is NOT who I am!

That is not my identity…

That is not my soul. 

I must call forth the Truth of who I am and REMEMBER.

 

I was leery of this book at first as it seemed almost like a cheesy bible study with a fiction aspect to it, but the more I read and processed, the more I fell in love and realized that I was meant to read this book… and it is anything but cheesy! I resonate a lot with Elise and Carrington in this book, especially with their battles with fear and self-doubt. Elise, even on a deeper level, as she battles with rejection, abandonment and feeling worthless. My adoption and personal life are a testimony of those struggles, as well as His restoration.  

Some of this book confused me at times. Questions such as, who is Aaron supposed to represent? (This is answered below in an interview with Rachelle Dekker by Tyndale Publishers).  Where do these powers exactly come from and how do they manifest?

These were answered more as I read deeper into the book and had self-reflection.

I definitely encourage readers to not be afraid to challenge and ask questions when they read!

A true author will answer your secret questions as you go deeper, or at least guide you on the path to find the answers within yourself… I found this to be very much true in the affirmative with Rachelle Dekker. She is a truly gifted author, in my honest opinion. 

It is intense how palpable the light and darkness (darkness specifically) is in this book, but it speaks to me because I love to see the world with an allegorical eye and it helps redshift my focus back to the reality of our world… peel back the mask of lies and numbness and face the spiritual battle and awakening right before me every moment of my life. 

I just LOVE the quote at the beginning of the book about the mask, which I’m not sure if my reader’s remember, but I have been going through a lot of soul work in being genuine, vulnerable and removing “the mask” in which I find myself hiding behind way too often in a false hope of achieving the veneer of “perfection”, which just leads to living a lie. 

This Quote by Kara Dekker goes as follows – pulled from the beginning pages of the book “The Returning“:

Do you know who I see behind this thick glass?

A distorted image I call me.

But do I really know the person behind the bask, the body, the facade?

For you see, all I’ve ever known is how to attempt to be perfect

And when I fail, my mirror gets darker until all I see is filth. 

Disappointment.

We all live in tainted glass that consumes us.

But do we have to?

What if I decided to wipe my mirror clean?

Pull a lamp string to bring in light.

Forgive myself for my mistakes…what happens then? 

What if I chose to shatter my mirror altogether,

Believe in my beauty and worth and step beyond the 

Fragmented glass

I’d have to live in a world with flawless glass,

Where I never hated myself, never hated others.

Wouldn’t that be a world? 

-Kara Dekker

Interview Questions for Rachelle Dekker by Tyndale Publishers:

Rachelle Dekker -Dreamer, Writer, Child of the Light
  • What themes are explored in this book? Identity is something I am always exploring, so that’s no different in The Returning. But in this novel, I took a really hard look at forgiveness and how that relates to our journey of discovering who we really are.
  • You talk about the power of belief in the book. What is the purpose of faith, and what makes faith so powerful in people’s lives? Belief and faith are everything. We form our own realities. We make judgments based on the past and what we think the future will bring; then we shape our idea of what we are capable of around those beliefs. Imagine if we truly believed we were infinite sons and daughters of the creator. How different would the world look then? When we believe and have faith in who the Father calls us, then the world looks pretty different.
  • Aaron is a somewhat mysterious character throughout the series. What is he supposed to represent and what kind of spiritual leader is he? I like to leave this one open, which I know isn’t really the answer you want. I want the reader to decide who he is to them. For me he’s a guiding light, an angel maybe, a representation of the spirit who communicates with us and leads us. He can be many things—mostly, though, he’s a great way to hear truth.
  • How do you hope this book will resonate with your readers? I hope, as with both of the other books, that the reader sees themselves in the characters and that the story causes them to look inward. To ask hard questions like, Who am I? What am I capable of? Do I see myself the way the Father does? Can I? I hope it challenges their idea of identity and then gives them hope to see themselves and others more clearly. Because that’s how these stories have impacted me, and we are all really just the same.

 

I mean really… NOTHING beats curling up on a couch, in front of a blazing fireplace and reading a book that captures the imagination and soothes the soul. *swoon*

Summary: 

If you are looking for a Christian fiction book that will take you on an adventure of the imagination as well as a self-reflection and growth journey of the soul… then I highly recommend this book! It is just marvelous! I can’t wait to read more from Rachelle Dekker. I am so glad she answered her calling to be a writer, as I am sure she has already touched many lives. I know for sure, her writing has indeed touched my life.

At the very least, I encourage you all to check out her book at this link for more information! You won’t regret it!

Amazon Link (hardcopy and kindle formats available): “The Returning” by Author: Rachelle Dekker.

As always, my kindred spirits,

May you be awakened and renewed by His love for you every morning,

Rebekah Clark

What To Do When You Wish You Had a Maid, But Can’t Afford One

If you could be given any luxury service (personal chef, nanny, maid, hair stylist, makeup artist, assistant, personal trainer) for free for a few years, but could only pick ONE, which would you pick?

I know from a recent Facebook conversation that many of my friends would pick things like personal chefs or a personal assistant. A few would pick hair stylists or makeup artists or nannies.

There was one, though, that showed up over and over and over again. A Maid.

Me? I would choose a Maid (or a housekeeper if you’re being politically correct…is that more correct? Does it really matter? I wouldn’t mind being called a maid. But I digress….)

Hands down, absolutely, no questions asked. Whatever you call them, I’d love to have one. During the entire time we searched for a house I wore hubby out by saying over and over, “You know, if we could buy a really BIG house, I would much rather get a smaller house and a maid instead.” When we looked at the bigger homes that were in our price range when it came down to it all I could see was more space to get filthy that I wouldn’t have the time or energy to clean.

That is one of the many reasons we ended up in our Goldilocks house at 1,702 sqft. Our family of four fits perfectly in it with room to stretch and it’s the just right size for us!

However, as hard as it is to believe we’ve already been here for 5 months!!! While that’s amazing it also means that my ceiling fans are starting to look like this—>

Yepp, getting real with you ladies.

Now, you might be a little surprised if you’re new around here, because, aren’t I the gal with an entire section dedicated to organization? And it’s true, I am, but what’s really funny is this:

I love to organize but I do not like cleaning.

If you’re of the tribe that hates both, you might not have ever realized there’s much of a difference, but oh, there is! I could spend all day sifting through items, sticking them all into special boxes, and getting rid of clutter. When that happens I’m in my zone and happy place!

Show me the furry caterpillars of filth on the ceiling fan or the thick layer of dust behind the screen of my computer monitors….she types as she just now notices it and glares at it…willing it to disappear. Nope didn’t work, moving on…..

Where were we? Ah yes! So when I was getting ready to open my door the other day from picking up the kiddos, and saw a Maid’s Business Card stuck in it, I kept it. One, because I’m tickled pink that we live in a nice enough neighborhood that anyone thinks we can afford one, and two because I realllyyyyy truly would love to have one.

That being said, while I totally do believe in outsourcing tasks that you don’t do well/dislike in order for you to focus on the ones you are great at, a maid for us is just not in the cards nor in the budget at the moment. I have a feeling that you might just feel the same way, and be in the same position?

So what’s a girl to do? Well, that’s just what I put this post together for! I’ve managed to come up with a game plan that will make my cleaning game as effective and painless as possible until I become Insta-famous and use my earnings to hire that sweet maid whose card I still have.

#1 Get a Game Plan  If you’re like me it takes awhile for you to see the mess. I work from home and as long as everything is tidy, I don’t really see the dirt and grime. That is until it’s REALLY dirty and grimy and I go “Oh GROSS!!!” and spend an entire day nuking the bathroom. Yeah, that never works well for anyone.

Thankfully my mom discovered and introduced me to FlyLady ages ago and I’ve relied on her since I got married. Her book Sink Reflections is one that I have read and re-read and always keep on hand to refer back to. Since I’m a weird combo of organized but not a cleaner, I’ve never had *much* of a challenge with keeping clutter free like the first half of her book is dedicated to. I also started in this mindset early in marriage, when we had no money. Because of this my life and home have never gotten into a state of CHAOS as she describes it (thankfully!!). It did, however, let me throw away those ring boxes from the fancy jewelry stores I’d been holding onto for years. I didn’t keep anything in them…but they just seemed, nice, you know??? Please let me know I’m not the only one who keeps weird stuff!

So anyways, the part of her book that helped me the most was the second half where she teaches you how to “Never Spring Clean Again”. She divides every home into zones and gives you detailed lists for how to get them de-cluttered and then deep cleaned, just a little piece at a time. If you’re interested you should purchase the book! I love having systems in place that are customizable but say “Do this, this, and this”. When you’re busy-crazy they’re so helpful!

Of course, they only work if you do! I’ve now divided up our home into the zones and am going to begin setting my timer for 15 minutes a day of Zone Cleaning, along with following her weekly plans. Once I get those in place and stick with them I’ll never have to see those fuzzy filth caterpillars again, Yey! I did use these systems to keep our apartment in Boston clean and they work great even if you have babies and toddlers!

#2 Get Great Tools

We all know the old saying “Work smarter, not harder.” This is my motto in every area of life. I want to zone in on the ways I’m wasting time and energy and start doing those tasks more efficiently. One way I find great new tools and systems is by paying close attention to whenever my friends start raving about something. However, at my core, I’ll always be the review blogger I was when I started this site. So although nowadays you pretty much only hear me raving about and promoting the brands I love, you can be sure I’m carefully testing out and trying multiple things and companies to see if they’ll be worth bringing to you all or not!

Lately one of the companies I’d been hearing a lot of buzz around was Norwex. Several of my friends were raving about their products, so I poked into a few parties to see what the fuss was all about. Ever the skeptic, one video seriously impressed me–you can check it out here–>

 

I love third party reviews and so when I saw this I was sure I wanted to try out the products. So when a friend from back home approached me and asked if I’d like to give them a try, I was super excited! Erica so graciously sent me all of the products you’ll see me trying out today!

She sent me a few other videos, and the one that really intrigued me at first was the claim that I could get my windows and mirrors streak free using just the EnviroCloth®, the Window Cloth, and water. If you’ve been around for any length of time you know that I started moving my family away from using harsh chemically based ingredients as much as possible ever since Amber was a baby because of her ongoing battle with eczema.

It was funny, because right when I was writing this a gal reached out and sent me this article about how bad traditional cleaners can be, especially for allergies.  I have to admit, though, that many times I still rely on traditional medicines, and cleaners. Because, most importantly of all, I need something that works, and works well and fast.

I’ve tried lots of DIY and homemade cleaners, some have done great and others have fallen flat. I was excited to give these Norwex items a chance! The first place to tackle? The china hutch!!!

So cleaning the glass on this has always been a nightmare for me. I absolutely love my beautiful hutch that was graciously gifted to us as newlyweds. No glass cleaner, store bought or homemade, has ever been able to keep the glass streak free, though. You can see above what “clean” usually looked like. Such a pain! So I tackled it, inside and out, with pretty low expectations.

HA! I couldn’t believe it. The only way you can tell that there’s glass there now is the reflection of my china–and it’s like that in real life too. Super impressed with these two items I was like, well…..let me come up with something that there’s NO WAY they could clean. Especially since she also sent me Cleaning Paste. As I was cleaning my glass I noticed my amazing silver tea set was getting tarnished. In the past, I’ve always used a polisher which contains known carcinogens (I know, nasty!!! But it’s the only one I could ever get to work!) So I decided to put these to the test again!

The skeptic in me was starting to believe. So basically I then went through the whole house trying to find things that looked like they needed cleaning to see if it would work, haha!

Pretty cool, right?! They really did work well, and quickly! I really wasn’t putting a lot of “elbow grease” into cleaning these either. I’m a big believer that you should use tools that work harder than you do!

You can see above — the one side I used the paste and the cloths, the other side is still super yucky! Plus–aawwww!!! Chubby baby Amber!!!!

Time and time again, from the bathroom with the body cloths to my glasses with the optical cloth, I came away impressed!

I got onto Facebook and messaged this to Erica,

So I have been using the products this weekend and Holy Cow!! I’m impressed and that is NOT easy to do!!! So excited to share some of my photos!!! ❤ 😀 ❤

After my first package arrived she also wanted to send me the dusting tools–which are super fun and great, too! It’s like she knew my ceiling fans looked like that ^^^ without me even having to tell her!

Which also nicely brings us to my next point:

#3 Ask for Help

While you might not be able to hire someone to come and help with housekeeping right now, chances are pretty good that you don’t live in your house alone! This is the part of the post where I tell you that you shouldn’t be doing it all, alone, no matter how much you’ve told yourself you should.

Also! If you have very little children then just give yourself a big ol’ dose of grace, and know that NO ONE expects you to have a spotless house. Please find a good local moms group, get involved, and feel free to send SOS messages when things really get out of hand. Swap watching kiddos so you can each get the house clean, or trade your product or services for something that they offer! And remember, If anyone offers to help *accept it*!!!

Now for those of you, like me, who have older kiddos, be sure you’re having them pitch in! One reason I really love Norwex is that I can feel super good about having the kids help clean out because there aren’t any nasty chemicals in these items!!! In fact, Norwex has entire line of products specifically designed for kids that include kid-sized dust mitts! If you’re not sure where to start hop over and pin my 15 Beneficial Chores Your First Grader Can Do post – some of them you can also have your preschoolers start helping with, and ALL can be done by kids ages 6 and up!

I’ve shared over and over again but it really is true–my kid’s attitudes and personalities are just so much better and happier when they are contributing to helping out around the house! It’s when we start to let things slide and they have fun, all the time, that entitlement issues and unhappiness and bad attitudes abound. Teach them young that you all work together to keep your things nice! I’ve shared before how the ticket system works great in our house, and we’ve been doing it so long now that we’ve stopped using tickets. Now the kids know what chores they have to do each day, and which are extras that will earn them screen time.

Also, if you work from home or outside of the home full-time, it’s definitely more than fair to ask your husband for help and break chores into a game plan between the entire family. Because I still work part time without a long commute, (while hubby works full time with a long commute), the kids and I do all our cleaning. Hubby loves “new toys” though, and he played around with the next product when I got it in and even made a comment how much he liked it for dusting (without even knowing I’d been sent it to review!)

This awesome product is the EnviroWand™ with Two-Sided Sleeve. This was the handy tool that finally killed those ceiling fan dust bats (because if they’re on a fan they wouldn’t’ be dust bunnies..right??) anyways, I loved it! Instead of just knocking down the thick fluffy caterpillar-like yuck I was able to bend it to dust the top and the sides, and it trapped all the yuck in its fun fur (technically called nubby chenille microfiber).

I’m a shorty (5’5″) and I was able to reach and dust the ceiling fans in our high ceilings no problem with it, so nice!

See?? All beautiful and spinny once more!

Just as I told Erica, I’m so impressed with these products, and that truly is not easy to do! I highly recommend them and hope you’ll all be able to get at least a few of them, so that you can have the next best thing to your own personal maid!

Don’t forget to check out the catalog! Also, if you want ALL.THE.THINGS. (because, why wouldn’t you after this post???!!!!) You can have Erica host a party for you and you can earn free products! Check out her website for details!
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New Year’s Revolution

Hi friends! Happy New Year!

Oh, wait. We’re over three weeks into the new year. (How’d that even happen?) This is the point when resolutions are starting to waver…or just flat out crash and burn, right? Unless, of course, you’re like me, in which case you haven’t even made resolutions yet.

I’ve been planning on making some good new year’s decisions, I really have. But with family visits, a month-long sickness (no joke), work at the newspaper going crazy, and Netflix binge-watching with the best friend on the weekends, coming up with resolutions hasn’t happened. Part of the problem is also that I’m an idealistic perfectionist, so I can’t just make resolutions on the fly. I have to sit down and think them up and probably write about them and feel that I’ve made them. If I can’t, it doesn’t happen.

But here’s the other part of being an idealistic perfectionist–I’m terrible with resolutions. I have grandiose ideas of what I want to do. I’ll tell myself that I’m going to read so many books, write everything I want to write, do so many Bible studies, practice my Spanish, lose weight, eat better, exercise more, get enough sleep…you get the idea. But I never do much of anything to break those big goals into small or realistic steps. So if I can’t accomplish them in huge leaps and bounds, I don’t do them at all. When I make resolutions, they crash and burn almost immediately.

One of my resolutions is always to write more. Each of these notebooks represents one or several writing projects that I want to be working on…

Still, I do try to make some resolutions or at least have a few ideas to remind myself of the things I want to accomplish and work on through the year. One thing I did last year was an idea I took from Nicole—pick a word of the year. My word last year was “follow.” I knew that I’d be graduating from college, going back home, and trying to find a job. I knew that things would be more uncertain than anything I’d dealt with in the past. And I knew I would have to trust God and follow His will, His plan, His adventure for my life. That simple word was a huge challenge, inspiration, and encouragement to me throughout the year.

So I thought: “why not choose a word for 2017?” The problem was, I couldn’t choose! “Follow” still seemed so appropriate in so many ways, since I’m pretty up in the air about any long-term future plans. “Discipline,” “adventure,” “submit,” “content,” “abide”…all good words, all with lots of meaning for me, but nothing seemed to be clicking as the right word.

I’ve been trying to make the perfect resolutions, trying to find the perfect word…then it hit me. That’s not ultimately what I need.

I don’t just need resolutions. I need a revolution. And I don’t just need a word. I need the Word.

Let me explain. My best friend, Marissa, has this habit of referring to resolutions as “revolutions.” (It’s not because she doesn’t know the right word, it’s just a funny family quirk.) At first I just thought it was fun–then I realized how important and awesome it is.

A “resolution” is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” We make resolutions because we want to make changes, and by George, we are going to make them. Until about three weeks later, when our motivation and dedication tend to falter, anyway…

A “revolution” is “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.” (It’s absurdly ironic that I’m listening to “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton as I type this. I’m also very tempted to turn on Les Mis. Do you hear the people sing… Oh goodness I’m such a Broadway nerd. Getting back on track…) So, what does that have to do with anything?

Here’s the point: A resolution is me gritting my teeth and saying “I am going to do this!” A revolution is a change of who’s in control.

We can make decisions, but we usually don’t have enough strength to carry them out. We mess up. A lot. Especially when trying to better ourselves. Especially when trying to sin less or serve God better. Want to know why? Because we’re trying to muscle our way through and make it happen in our own strength. Just ask Paul how that works out (Romans 7:18-25). We simply don’t have the strength to do it on our own.

That’s why we need a revolution. When I’m trying to do everything in my strength, I’m letting my sinful self be in charge. There needs to be a “forceful overthrow” of our inner “social order in favor of a new system.” We need to execute our proud, teeth-gritting, self-dependent sinful nature (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5). We’re not sufficient, we’re not good enough, we’re not able, in and of ourselves…“but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). We need a new system–one where the King is in charge (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16-18). That way, He can be our strength, and in His power, we have all we need to live as we should (2 Peter 1:3). This is the revolution through the power of the Word (John 1:1-5).

We can make resolutions, but without the revolution of letting God throw down our sinful self and take control, those resolutions won’t get us far. We can pick a word for the year, but without the Word of God–Jesus Himself and His written Word–controlling our lives, it won’t accomplish anything worthwhile.

So yes, I do have resolutions for the year. I want to write: posting on this blog weekly, working on two books, and keeping up with/trying to publish smaller projects. I want to be healthier: eat smaller portions and less junk, maybe find time to exercise more, hopefully lose some weight. I want to be faithful in studying my Bible each day.

But more than those resolutions, I want the revolution of God being in control so that my writing is for Him, my health is for Him, and especially the time I spend in His Word each day is to know Him better.

And yes, I do have a word for the year. Kadima. It’s Hebrew for “forward.” (I got it from a cool scene in the TV series The Flash, not from the liberal Israeli political party of the same name. Just throwing that out there…)

Forward. Forward in my writing, forward in my still up-in-the-air life, forward in my relationship with God. Forward in the revolution.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

So, friends, have you made any resolutions? Do you have a word for the year or anything similar? How’s 2017 starting for you? And how will you move forward with those ideas in terms of this revolution? Give me your feedback in the comments!

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How To Organize Your Life As a Working Mom

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PilotYourLife #CollectiveBias

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As I stood at nearby the Kindergartner’s table, watching them happily and frantically shovel their Christmas Party goodies into their mouth, I did what all good mommies who attend parties do. I swapped tales and empathetic head nods with the nearest mommy, who was also awkwardly hovering over her child.

“Do you work?” I asked, then I stopped and started laughing, “I’m sorry,” I continued, “You’re a mom OF COURSE YOU WORK! What I meant was, do you do any work in addition to the more-than-full-time-job of being a mom?”

If you’re a mom, you’re working, day in and day out 24 hours a day. I was a stay-at-home mom to my first baby for 2 glorious years. Believe me, I know that it really is work! Some of us super crazies, though, decide to add a whole other layer. In addition to being full-time moms, we also add in other jobs. That’s when things really get interesting!

But regardless of where and how you work, this post is for you! It’s for all of you, who like me, are everyday overachievers! Maybe you’re class mom, soccer coach, and play date queen extraordinaire. Perhaps you’re a corporal boss pulling the 9-5 and coming home to housework and homework. Or you could be just like me and you work from home and somehow try to smoosh those two worlds together in a glorious and utterly crazy mess.

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The people at Target and Pilot G2 get us. In fact, they get us so much that I just had to laugh when I saw this display at Target and read the back of the G2 Target Fashion Collection Package. They get us so much that they have created a club for us!

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Are you an everyday overachiever too? (If you’re reading this post that tells me the answer is most likely yes!) If so then you should also Join The Club! Be a part of the Target G2 Overachievers Club to receive promotions, product news, Overachiever life hacks, giveaways and more. Text G2CLUB to 40679 to join and we’ll send you a coupon to kick off your new club membership.

Fun right?! I joined right away because I always love finding new ways to save money and overachieve even more!

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I have been a deep lover of metallic gel pens for years now. Picking up my new box of G2 Metallics gave me big time nostalgia and I just had to go dig out one of my old journals. I never wrote the year on the dates (oh to be the age where a year on the date didn’t seem necessary because life was long and *right now*).  Looking at the babble on the pages about crushes and seeing cute boys, though, I believe I was probably about 14 years old when I wrote this one. So, it’s completely safe to say that I’ve been addicted to pretty gel pens for over 15 years now!!! (P.S. I was totally going to take a full page shot to let you all snoop, but it’s seriously embarrassing to read what I prattled on about as a 14-year-old, so this side view is the best you’re gonna get! 😉 )

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These days I have a whole lot more to yammer on about than going to the store with my mom. But no matter what you use them for, Pilot G2 is America’s Go-2 gel ink pen! Known for its smooth writing and comfortable grip, Pilot G2 is the #1 Selling gel ink brand in America (NPD, 2015).

I loaded up on both the Pilot G2 Target Fashion Collection & the Pilot G2 Metallics to help me keep my crazy life organized. Today I’m going to give you some fun, easy, and practical tips to help you do the same!

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Tip 1: Buy New Pens & a Paper Planner Head to Target and purchase a variety of fun Pilot G2 Pens. There are a ton of different options, because, after all, pens aren’t one size fits all. Also, purchase a paper planner. Yes! Do it! I’m a huge fan of using both online and paper planners, and I’ll give you a few more hints about them a little lower down. Also, peek at tip 2 before you head out, in case you need to add it to your list as well!

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Tip 2: Set Up an Enjoyable Work Space Including a Fun Pen Holder. Your beautiful pens will not do you any good if they’re scattered every which-a-way or hidden deep inside a drawer. Here are some super easy and fun ideas to keep them close and on display! One easy option is to purchase a store bought or handmade holder. This handmade clay holder is somewhat of a mystery in our family. It has the initials “MG ’87” on the bottom and none of us have any idea who MG is or why they made the pottery the year I was 2 years old, or why it’s now in our possession. All mysteries aside, it’s beautiful, and it’s also perfect for holding my Pilot G2 pens!

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How many of you own a zillion and one adorable coffee cups that never-ever get used? *Raises Hand* Go grab your favorite and re-purpose it into an adorable pen holder! This brings a smile to face because I bought it for myself. (5 points for the first person who gets this reference!)

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I’m a huge DIY fan if it’s fast, easy, and involves up-cycling. Throw in a little glitter? Even better! I made this adorable pen holder by up-cycling an old salsa jar! I just removed the label, washed it, and used glitter spray paint to coat the entire outside. Bim, Bam, Boom, Done!

((PPS Those are not Christmas Lights, they’re my Happy Lights that I keep on, around, and over my desk year round!))

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Tip 3: Use Your Pilot G2 Pens & Planner I’ve heard it once said that all the organizing tools in the world won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t use them and it’s sooo true! Now that you have all your tools it’s time to use them!

I’ve found for overachievers it helps to have multiple calendars and lists to help keep everything on track. For my paper planner, I always purchase one that is large and has the “month at a glance” as well as detailed daily sections.

On the month calendar I put BIG things happening–birthdays, meetings, appointments, special trips, etc.

Then on the day to day list, I split it into two categories — Work and Home. Under each, I put all the tasks that need to be done for the day.

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Tip 4: Define What To Say Yes To & What To Say No To This is SO HUGE you guys!! As a working mom, it is so easy to feel like we must do ALL. THE. THINGS. Then if you’re anything like me you get completely overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted. As you’re prepping to get organized do yourself a HUGE favor and use these two printables!

Print “Things To Say Yes To” Here

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Print “Things To Say No To” Here

So if you’ve never done this kind of a soul-searching, priority defining exercise you might be completely lost at what I even mean. So I’ll give you my example of Things To Say No To and hopefully it’ll help you get started on your own! Remember, we most likely have extremely different personalities and values, so all of these might resonate with you, or none of them will. This is all about taking the time to stop, taking a step back and evaluating your life and schedule. As you do this hopefully you will realize what things are literally sucking the joy and life out of you at the moment (to put it bluntly!)

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These are my things to say No To! You’ll notice that by “things” it can be an activity or a physical thing, and I have 4 distinct overlying areas. First, you identify the thing, or the area/activity to say no to. Then I want you to narrow it down just a bit, and start to come up with a plan on how you’ll identify that in your life and how to practically say “no” to it.

I’ll walk you through this whole process with my first “No” which is Drama! Any kind of Drama gets me all sorts of upset. In my “real life,” I’m surrounded by amazing and wonderful people. While, yes, real life is always hard and it’s not always happy, there is very little drama in it.

Online, however….well do I really even need to explain this?!?!?!

So how do I say no to it? By avoiding it entirely!!! For example, during this entire election season, (pre-post-and-now) I avoided my main newsfeeds and political articles LIKE THE PLAGUE. Instead, I went to only the specific sites I needed to, to evaluate and research candidates, and I only went to my personal notifications, my work pages, or specific friend pages I knew didn’t post drama and that I enjoy talking to.

Find your things to say NO to! They will help you free up time and emotional space and energy to run toward your goals!! Going right along with that, I’ll leave you with these great tips that tie right in with everything we’ve talked about today!

Put all of these tips into your overachiever world and watch your productivity soar!! And Don’t Forget To Sign Up for the G2 Overachievers Club With Me!

Also! Go Here to find even more great tips and ideas on how to get the most out of planning and organizing your life!

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Great Grains No Bake Breakfast Cookies Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SpoonfulsOfGoodness #CerealAnytime #CollectiveBias

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Can you believe that we’re spiraling quickly towards the end of January already??? Every new year brings thoughts and reflections to what you can do to make a new, or better you. Did you know that by the end of the first month almost half of everyone has jumped ship on those good intentions, though?! That means while it very likely that while you started out strong a few weeks ago, life and all the complications it bring is already threatening to mess up your mojo!!!

Don’t worry! I’ve found that the BEST WAY to kick-starting the year well is by making small changes that are so easy and delicious or fun that they don’t feel like a sacrifice. Becoming your best you is a life-long process, so it’s got to be something you are willing to live with forever! For me, this means getting active while doing something fun, like watching shows on my tablet while jogging or playing at the park with my kids. It also means eating food that’s as nutritious as it is delicious.

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We all know that the importance of breakfast can’t be overstated. And, fortunately, it’s never been easier to find a healthy and tasty breakfast options! Lately, my family has been loving Post cereals! (Tyler *literally* did a happy dance when he saw the boxes–go watch it here) They contain fiber that prepares your body for the day and keeps you full until lunch. And they have whole grains that are packed with nutrients, including protein, fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Plus I can find all their yummy varieties (like Post Cereals Great Grains, Post Cereals Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted, and Post Cereals Grape Nuts Original) at Walmart! So stocking up during my weekly trip is a breeze (ok, these days it’s honestly more like 3 times a week, but I live RIGHT next door so it’s ok). With all of these delicious and better-for-you options, you’re bound to find a favorite for everyone in the family.

 

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All these cereals are delicious to eat as-is (the kids favorite) or with milk (if you’re like most Americans) and a great way to kick-start your day before diving into school or work.

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Grape Nuts always gives me big-time nostalgia because it was the only thing I ate for breakfast for I think about a year when I was in my young teens. I remember cooking up their hot recipe and munching on it curled up in a blanket tucked into the corner of our itty-bitty kitchen on snowy Wyoming mornings.

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Because it is the time of year when all those good intentions start to slip, not to mention the fact I have a wicked sweet tooth that only raises it’s ugly head late at night, I put my mind to creating something for our family that would be nutritious enough for breakfast, but delicious enough for my dessert. As a result these Great Grains No Bake Breakfast Cookies were born and they totally fit all sides of the bill!!!! Here’s what you’ll need:

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Great Grains No Bake Breakfast Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Post Cereal
  • 1 Cup Crunchy All Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Ground Flax Seed
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Honey
  • (Optional) 1/4 Cup Dark Chocolate Melted for drizzling

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Take all ingredients and combine in a medium to large mixing bowl. You can use 2 cups of Post Cereals Great Grains Cranberry Almond Crunch as shown here, or you can use 1 Cup of the Great Grains Cereal (there are a ton of different varieties so pick your favorite!) and 1 cup of Grape Nuts. The thing I love about this recipe is it’s sooo forgiving and easy to change out the cereal, so you’ll always get a slightly different but delicious taste!

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Combine ingredients well, smooshing down the cereal so it crunches into little pieces and combines with the peanut butter and honey.

Chill for one hour in the fridge.

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Take out and shape into cookies! I found this works best if you use a big spoon to scoop the amount out, and then use your hand to shape them the rest of the way.

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If wanted drizzle with melted dark chocolate (trust me, you DO want to! 😉 )

Keep chilled until ready to serve! They’ll hold up out of the fridge, but they’re just so tasty chilled!

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Even if for some reason you’re not a cereal person you should still seriously tries these!!! They’re so delicious and I love how they really taste like a cookie to me (I’m really picky when it comes to nutritious food that tries to be dessert), but they’re also jam-packed full of nutrition!

Looking for more amazing recipes and inspiration? Check out This Awesomesauce Cereal Anytime Board on Pinterest (my happy place!) and don’t forget to Pin This Post as well!

Want the recipe right now? Here’s a handy-dandy printable version for you!

Great Grains No Bake Breakfast Cookies Recipe
These no bake cookies are delicious enough for the biggest sweet tooth, but nutritious enough for breakfast!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Post Cereal
  • 1 Cup Crunchy All Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Ground Flax Seed
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Honey
  • (Optional) 1/4 Cup Dark Chocolate Melted for drizzling
Instructions
  1. Combine in a medium to large mixing bowl.
  2. You can use 2 cups of Post Cereals Great Grains Cranberry Almond Crunch, or you can use 1 Cup of the Great Grains Cereal any variety) and 1 cup of Grape Nuts.
  3. Combine ingredients well
  4. Chill for one hour in the fridge.
  5. Form into Cookie Shape
  6. If desired drizzle with melted dark chocolate
  7. Keep chilled until ready to serve! They’ll hold up out of the fridge, but they’re just so tasty chilled!

 

How To Make A Football Themed Guest Bathroom

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MegaGame #CollectiveBias

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I feel like yesterday was Halloween, but then I blinked and now everywhere you look in stores and social media you can’t forget that it’s almost time for the Mega Football Game of the year!!!

If you’re a long time reader you know all about my deep love for football and how it blossomed out of me being forced brought along to all of my brother’s football games as a tween–teenager. I still love it and although my team didn’t get far this year,  they won the Mega Game last year so it’s all good! The end of the season brings with it a perfect excuse to entertain, which I love!

I love it, even more, this year as it’s the first time we’ll be enjoying it in our very own home!

I mentioned last fall that one of the most frequented but neglected rooms of the house when guests visit is the guest bathroom. A neat and tidy room will do the trick, but why stop there? Why not add a little fun and flare, especially if you can do so fun, fast, easily & practically? After all, isn’t fun and flare what football is really all about?! Here’s how!

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First off you’ll need to head to Target! Of course, Target is well known as an amazing place to stock up on all things Home Decor and I love that they have all the practical essentials as well! (you know how much I love my one-stop-shopping!!  The fact I can get delicious coffee to drink while I’m shopping as well? So perfect!!)

If there’s just ONE THING you need to buy for the Mega Game it’s this:

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Your house will be full to celebrate, and you want to keep your guest space perfect and put together. Quilted Northern® Mega Rolls mean a fuller roll and less roll changes (because no one wants their guest to experience a bath tissue run out!) Because, seriously, there is no faster way to ruin a guest’s experience than for that to happen #awkwardmoment

Plus right now there’s an awesome Cartwheel offer for 10% off  Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong® Mega Rolls so be sure to check that out!

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Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong® Mega Rolls last and last so you can change the roll less often during the Big Game (because, really, that should be the last of your worries am I right?!) Look at how much the roll gives you! They’re actually 4 regular rolls in one!

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Hopefully with this Mega Roll, you won’t even need to swap out the bath tissue during the game. I’m one who believes in being over-prepared, though! So I came up with this super fun, adorable, and oh-so-practical way to display your extra Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong® Mega Rolls. That way if one of your guests is in need, they can easily and simply help themselves without any embarrassment of fumbling through cabinets!

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In the storage section of Target, I picked up this super cute plastic bin. It was the exact right size I needed and this DIY couldn’t be easier! You’ll just need a cute black plastic bin, thick white tape, and scissors! I also used penalty & coaches’ challenge flags I had to add some extra fun, but those are optional!

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Take your tape, start at the top, and use it to cover up sections around the bin to mimic the patterns on a referee shirt. Snip and tuck tape around the bottom–that easy!! The best part about this DIY? You can easily remove the tape after the season is over and keep the bin for your bath tissue storage solution year round!

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Tuck your extra Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong® Mega Rolls into the bin, put in an obvious but off-to-the-side location in your bathroom, and top with a fun football themed item like these adorable flags!

Now that’s all taken care of all you have to do is add a few more fun touches and you’re finished!

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One fun and easy idea is to take your current decor and put a cute football spin on it. These adorable birdies and rocks are always on this shelf. I just added some faux grass, a mini football, and had them “face off”. The result will bring a smile to any guests face!

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Your guests are your MVPs, so why not tell them that in this cute way? Simply purchase glass markers and use them to create an MVP Frame at eye level. I chose green to go with my Black, White, Green, and Brown football scheme, but if your favorite team is playing feel free to jazz everything up with those colors! Use a white window marker to create a play beneath the frame.

Another easy but really effective staging tool? Linens! They’re an inexpensive and fun way to completely change the feel of a room no matter the time of year or the scheme you’re going for. Put out white and black towels or your favorite team’s colors to tie the entire look together!

If you really want to go all out change your shower curtain to match, as well! Ours is a fun tree one that pretty much goes with any season or color, including football so I was already good to go!

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There you go! Small Updates with Mega Impact!!

To find more Quilted Northern inspiration, check out the social hub here.

4 Tips for Handling the Loss of a Parent

One of the hardest things in life to do may be dealing with the loss of a loved one. This is particularly the case if this person is your parent. There’s little doubt that you love your parents a great deal and this death is sure to have an extreme impact on your life. Getting through this difficult time can be done if you look for help in the right places. There are steps you can take that will allow this time to be much less challenging for you and enable you to cope better. Being aware of tips you can put to use to help come to terms with the death of a parent is sure to be ideal.

Tip #1: Looking after the surviving parent

If you have another parent that is still living, you’re sure to get a great deal of happiness in this. The surviving parent may be helpful to you in order to get through this challenging time.

However, you will want to do everything you can to ensure the well-being of this person. The last thing you will want to have to deal with anytime soon is losing another parent that you dearly love.

One thing you will want to consider doing is visiting www.alert-1.com and taking a look at some of the devices that may be helpful when this person is living alone. This is an ideal way to ensure your elderly parent living alone can have some way to communicate with others if an emergency situation does arise.

Tip #2:  Consider spiritual guidance

The key to being able to handle the numerous challenges that accompany the loss of a loved you care a great deal about may rest in becoming more spiritual. However, if you already have lots of faith in your life, you’re sure to lean on this during this trying time for Gods’ blessings.

Relying on spirituality could be the key to helping you feel more at peace and less depressed about the loss of a person that you loved dearly. Simply being able to rely on this is sure to enable you to feel better about the entire situation and can be a huge help in allowing you to get on with your life in a much more positive frame of mind.

Tip #3: Acknowledge your emotions

There are many steps to dealing with grief that you will want to take the time to feel. In fact, studies show there are five stages of grief that you must go through. It’s no secret that the loss of a parent can lead to many feelings that simply are overwhelming to you and may cause you to simply halt in your life.

It’s critical for your full recovery and being able to restore your own well-being to acknowledge each of the steps of grieving that are listed below:

1.  Denial – Not fully believing the death has occurred.

2.  Anger – Being mad at the world and others that you have suffered the loss of your parent.

3.  Bargaining – Trying to work out a deal with  God to spare the parent and not thinking that it may truly happen.

4.  Depression – Feeling extremely down about the loss of your parent and not wanting to cope with the world. You may stay out of work and try to avoid life for a while.

5.  Acceptance – Finally coming to terms with your loss and knowing there is nothing you can do, but to accept it and work to move on with your life.

The key to being able to work past the loss of this critical person in your life will rest on knowing what to do. There’s nothing easy about losing a parent, and you will want to work hard to cope with this challenge as much as you can to see you through it. Be sure to rely on the tips listed above that can assist in providing you with the help you need to be able to get on with life and work to start getting past the grief and working to feel better in the process. It will take time, but is sure to be well worth all the steps you must follow for being able to heal as much as you can.

Written by Monique

One Little Word 2017: Serve

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You know that a year slipped and spiraled away from you when you sift through your posts to find your “One Little Word” for the previous year, only to realize you never wrote that post you were sure you did.

This will be my 5th year doing One Little Word. It’s been absolutely amazing to see how perfectly the words God has given me each year have been in describing how my life would stretch, grow, and change through those years. Since it’s something I pray about the words are not often ones I would choose, or that I want, but rather ones that God impresses upon my heart as I ponder the direction life will go with the coming year.

For 2016 my One Little Word was Trust

Like all my previous years, it proved to be poignant and so fitting over and over throughout the year, which was full of exciting, joyful, crazy, and suspenseful changes for our family.

A busy, bustling last semester of college for Bob and crazy regular life for us brought our lives in East Texas and living with Bob’s parents to a close as we said goodbye to commitments, friendships, and service. In typical God fashion we found out at the exactly right time and last moment what job Bob was supposed to take, through 2 job offers so perfectly timed and orchestrated so that it could have only been His hand showing us the way.

Next came the flurry of house hunting and the loan application process that lead us into a part of Texas we’d lived close to for four years, but never visited or heard of before that point. Just when I was sure we’d found *THE* home for us, I’d end up in a puddle of tears as the inspection came back horrific or we got the call that it had been bid out from under us by a buyer who paid cash for the entire amount.

I learned that Trust is so much harder than it seems, but that God is truly patient and forgiving. Each time I’d stamp my feet and cry my tears and sigh my sighs He lovingly re-directed me, my eyes, my thoughts, and my dreams to the path they were supposed to be on. It’s one thing to tell God, “I trust You. I only want for You to put us wherever You want us.” It’s quite another when He starts to guide and direct and you back peddle, “Are you sure about that one??? That’s not what I had in mind when I told you that.”

Though my year of Trust had it’s stumbles and trips, God’s hand lovingly upheld me through it all. He was faithful and answered prayer and already I can begin to see how He perfectly set everything into motion to get us exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there. Like so often in my life, it’s the last thing I thought He had for us, but I’m wonderfully joyful and blessed right where He’s called us to be, as He knew I would be.

From Trust in 2016 to 2017

As I have for the past several years, as the year drew to a close, through all the holiday joy and crazy, my mind started to form and pray about my One Little Word for the upcoming year. Like my year with “Wait” this year’s word kept crowding into my mind, tugging at the corners, forcing itself to my attention.

Serve.

Like with the year Wait, I wanted to push it aside. No, no Serve. I don’t want you. Let’s focus on a fresh, cozy, or happy word! One of those that the other people are throwing around. Even a word like Intentional would be fine. Not Serve, though.

But yes, my word for 2017 is Serve.

And this time I’m OK with admitting to you that I’m not even sure why it is Serve. I know that God has been hacking away at my selfish, prideful, and narcissistic sins for the past several years, and there’s no better way to cut to the quick of what I struggle with most than through loving Service. I know that I need to focus on my marriage, and on my parenting, and in my ministries, and I know there’s no better way to Grow, to Bless, and to Trust–than through a servant’s heart in these areas.

How, what, or who God will be calling me to Serve, or how it will look played out through the year, though, I have no specific callings or ideas.

I’m excited, though. I’m excited to push past my selfishness and embrace this year, this word. I’m excited for the riches and the growth it’s sure to bring.

I’m excited, to Serve.

 

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