Thursday, December 7, 2017

What To Do When People Invalidate You

Hello my friends!  I hope your week is treating you well so far and that many of you are participating in the 2017 Holiday Self Care Challenge.  I've got so many fun giveaways planned in addition to the daily self care activities this month, so be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook (or sign up for my emails in the sidebar so you never miss a dang thing!).  

The holidays are a joyful time for so many, but they can also be stressful (hence, the Holiday Self Care challenge!).  This is the time of year when we are likely spending extra time with family and friends, and though that is assuredly a blessing to many, spending time with people who "don't get you," amongst difficult family dynamics, or with people who invalidate you can cause a festive occasion to go from amazing to infuriating in no time.  

There are multiple ways someone can invalidate your feelings, but they all have one thing in common:  they all make you feel pretty miserable.  From disrespecting boundaries you have set to simply telling you why you don't or shouldn't feel a certain way, being invalidated is just plain frustrating.  The good news?  You don't have to stay in that frustration and anger.  Once you realize what's going on, you can effectively deal with the situation...both internally and externally.  And you know what that means:  you can enter any holiday party (or any situation ever) with confidence, knowing exactly how to handle it when people disrespect you.

When invalidation occurs... The moment you are invalidated by someone, it's like a zillion inner alarm bells go off inside you.  You likely have an intense emotional reaction, become defensive, or just plain angry.  Let me be the first to validate your reaction.  It never feels good to have your feelings disregarded.  It would be easier if everyone agreed with us all the time.  Obvs.  But here's the long as we're alive, we're probably going to have to deal with having our feelings hurt.  So first thing's first:  the moment someone invalidates you (and you hear those alarms sounding), take a deep breath or count to 10.  Pause.   Think about what you want to say, or perhaps think about saying nothing at all.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is politely excuse yourself, particularly if the person in question has a pattern of invalidating speech or behavior.  You don't have to go ape on them, but you don't have to stand there and continue the conversation either, especially if the current setting is not the time or place to further discuss what they've said. 

Further investigate what you are feeling (and why).  It's so easy to let a person set you off and then let your emotions run away with you.  Trust me, I have been guilty of it many times.  However, this usually gets you nowhere and can add to your feelings of frustration.  Instead, try to figure out exactly what triggered you in a given situation, and what emotions it brought up in you.  I highly recommend using a thought tracker for this.  A thought tracker (or thought record) allows you to process through what happened and how it made you feel.  It forces you to a greater level of emotional intelligence (always a good thing!) so that you will not only understand what happened this time, but have a plan to act (not react) more effectively next time.  

List all the thoughts you are having on your thought tracker, and focus on your "hot thought," which is the thought that set you off the most or caused the greatest amount of emotion in you.  List all the evidence for this thought being true, and any evidence against this thought being true.  Afterward, write an alternative or balanced thought that takes all the evidence into account.  By this time, you'll probably have had a "eureeka!" moment and will be well on your way to decreasing the amount of negative emotions you're feeling.

Decide how you want to move forward.  Once you have done the difficult yet awesome work of figuring out the why behind what you are feeling, you'll be ready to decide what next steps to take.  Do you want to readdress that conversation with the person who hurt you?  Would you rather focus on an effective game plan for next time?  Think about what course of action will bring you the most peace.  What can quiet those inner alarms?  Whatever you decide is ok, my friends.  Do you and don't apologize for it.  This is a crucial part of self care that often gets overlooked.  You have permission to decide what is best for you going forward; don't be afraid to impose a natural consequence or boundary and let it do the hard work for you.  

Forgive and forget.  Last but not least, we must learn to forgive people when they invalidate us.  I know this feels like a monumental task to those of you who have been repeatedly hurt by someone who seems to thrive off of control, manipulation, and invalidation.  But hear this:  you can't live in peace if you are constantly going over these conversations in your mind.  You can't thrive yourself if you are stuck in a rut of negative emotions, whatever (or whoever) the cause.  Instead, we must do the hard work of forgiveness.  Perhaps you can write a letter to the person in question, whether you send it or not.  Maybe you can talk things over with a trusted friend or therapist.  Pray.  Journal.  Meditate.  Do what you need to do to move on.  Do what you need to do to stop this from stealing your joy, now and in the future.  Life is too short to withhold forgiveness.

I hope you have found something helpful and encouraging here today, my Besties. Have you learned anything new about what to do when people invalidate you? I know you are brave enough and strong enough to effectively handle your emotions and manage your moods.  Please feel free to let us know how you handle it when people invalidate you in the comments.  We're all in this together.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to .  All opinions expressed are my own and I never recommend a product unless I truly love it!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Self Care Gift Ideas For Everyone on Your List

Buddy the Elf always says "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."  Well, I'm a huge fan of the movie Elf, but I beg to differ, Buddy.  

IMHO, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is...give everyone you know presents that will help them take care of themselves and be healthier and in a better mood more often.  In fairness, Buddy's little slogan is catchier, but I promise if you do decide to gift your loved ones with self care goodies this year, they will thank you for it profusely.  And who knows, maybe they will be so full of cheer, they will sing loud for all to hear.  #goals

If you, like me, loooove self care so much that you want to help everyone on your list practice it, here are my top self care gift recommendations, from the tiny tots all the way up to your G-ma.

Self Care Holiday Gifts

Beats Pro Over-Ear Headphones - A popular gift request year after year, any music lover on your list will be ecstatic to receive these high-quality wireless headphones.  No matter what their self care soundtrack, any man, woman or teen would be pumped to get these!

Puffin In-Bloom Collection - Any avid reader will adore this gorgeous hardcover book set!  The set includes 4 classic titles:  Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Little Women, and A Little Princess.

Shark Tail Blanket - I know my boys (ages 5 and 7) would love this, and I think it would be perfect for any young niece, nephew or grandchild on your list (in addition to your own kiddos).  Make resting and relaxing something they want to do with this adorable blanket.

Sleep Sheep Travel Sound Machine - Any baby or child would love having this soothing, snuggly sound machine for use at home or on the go.  My kids love falling asleep to white noise, and I love how quickly they fall asleep when they do!  This gift is a self care win for everyone.

Set of 6 Bath Bombs - It may be cliche, but nothing says self care like a soothing, hot bath.  Perfect for teens and ladies (and bath-loving men) of all ages!

Lightbox with Letters - Honestly, this is something any tween or teen or adult who loves Instagram will love!  Admittedly, this is on my list because: how fun is it to be able to caption your life any way you want?  Answer:  SO fun!

Mindfulness Coloring Book - You probably already know how I feel about coloring:  it rocks.  For everyone.  This book would be perfect for literally anyone, ages 7 and up!

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Nothing says hygge like watching classic movies with your loved ones.  Any kid from 1 to 99 will love receiving this movie to watch each and every year.

Fox Mug - This mug is super sweet for any coffee, tea or cocoa drinker on your list.  Cute for the kiddos but just as fun for any adult, it is sure to bring a smile to your loved one's face each time they use it.

Fuzzy Women's Fox Slippers - What does the fox say?  So hot right now.  These furry critters are everywhere this year, so why not gift someone with an on-trend, fun, and comfortable pair of slippers?  Perfect for cozying up by the fire.

Stitch Fix Personal Styling Service - Last but not least, I had to include Stitch Fix for any and all ladies on your list.  From teen girls to fashion forward seniors, this is one of my favorite gifts to give...and let's be receive as well!  You fill out a personal style questionnaire and in just a few weeks, you will have 5 amazing items delivered to your door.  Normally, there is a $25 styling fee for each "fix" (which gets credited toward anything you decide to keep) but from now until Christmas, that styling fee is WAIVED!  Woot!  This is literally risk-free shopping y'all!  So excuse me while I go treat myself start my holiday shopping!  No judgment if you take this opportunity to buy yourself the perfect outfit for your holiday festivities.  

Whether they've been naughty or nice, self care is important, my Besties!  Are you loving these self care gift ideas as much as I am?  Which one are you most excited to give (or get)?!  Happy shopping, my dears!

* This post may contain affiliate links.  For my full disclosure policy, please visit my Advertise page.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Therapist's Top 10 Parenting Books

Last week, I shared my top 10 favorite marriage books with you. Why?  Because marriage is awesome but difficult and maintaining healthy relationships is an integral part of self care.  When you intentionally cultivate amazing relationships, your life will be rich and joyful.

But if I'm being honest, I have to admit...though marriage can be difficult at times, parenting can be off the charts HARD...I would say, like 30-50% of the time.  Or maybe more.  There are a million reasons for this, including (but not limited to):

1.  We can't control other people (even the little ones)
2.  We want (generally speaking) 100% obedience

Oh. My. Word.  Parenting is such a joy, but you see why it can be so trying, right?  To make matters worse (or at least more complex), there are 293,820 parenting books out there, all promising to cure your baby's colic, potty train your toddler in 2 days, ensure that they sleep through the night every night, and make sure your teen gets into Harvard.  But alas, no matter what books we read, babies still cry uncontrollably at times, some kids take months to potty train, sometimes bad dreams happen and only 5.4% of applicants are admitted to Harvard.  

Wouldn't it be nice to know the exact parenting books therapists recommend?  Um, yes...yes it would.  So here you go, my fellow mamas (and papas!); today I present you with my top 10 parenting books - full of my favorite advice that actually works!

1.  Have a New Kid By Friday - Dr. Kevin Leman is one of my favorite parenting experts.  He writes with a wit and candor that make you feel better about life/all the parenting problems you are facing.  This book is a simple, no-nonsense guide for parents with kids of all ages.

2.  If I Have To Tell You One More Time - Amy McCready is my go-to source for positive parenting solutions.  She offers an entire toolbox of knowledge for parents who find themselves continually asking the question "what in the world am I going to do about this?"  With a time-tested suggestion for each parenting issue, this book is one I refer to again and again.

3.  On Becoming Toddler Wise - Gary Ezzo has a whole "wise" series that starts with babies and goes up through teens, but this one is my favorite.  Personally, the toddler years were super frustrating for me, so this book helped with lots of practical suggestions for parenting a strong-willed little person.  

4.  Five Love Languages Of Children - Dr. Gary Chapman did wonders for me (and countless others) with his best-selling book on the Five Love Languages, and this book is no different.  Learning your child's love language is life-changing.  Just like with adults, making your child feel deeply loved will be miraculous for your relationship with them.

5.  The Happiest Baby On The Block - I discovered this book when I had my second son and I'm so thankful I did!  I have read countless baby books that make all sorts of bogus promises, but this advice actually delivers.  This book teaches you how to soothe your baby in ways that work.  I honestly think it should be called The Happiest Mama On The Block.  It's that good.

6. Parenting Your Powerful Child - This is another Kevin Leman book that explains that there is a powerful child in every family, and what to do about it.  Each child is different, and "powerful" children need different types of correction than their siblings.  

7.  31 Days To Managing Your Moods - I promise this isn't just shameless self promotion, even though yes, I did write this book.  As I told you here, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  My goal with this book was to encourage people (parents or not!) in every stage of life to take care of themselves and be intentional about understanding their thoughts and behaviors.  The tools I share are the exact same ones I use with all the frustrated mamas and papas who make their way into my office. 

8.  What To Expect When You're Expecting - This book is a staple for just about everyone I know that has ever been pregnant.  If you've ever been preggo, you already know that every stomachache, terrible night's sleep, and muscle spasm can be a source of anxiety.  This handy guide takes the fears out of what can otherwise be a very stressful time.

9.  How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk - This book is a best-seller for a reason!  It teaches parents how to understand their kids' emotions based on their behaviors and how to respond in a way that will nurture the bond between parent and child while still setting the child up to be obedient and make good choices. #winning

10.  Grace-Based Parenting - This book is a favorite among families with Christian values.  It focuses less on punishment and more on loving your child well (similar to the 5 Love Languages of Children).  It's a breath of fresh air for parents who are looking for ways to model grace and forgiveness to their children.  

Do you have any books that have been especially helpful to you?  Which ones do I need to add to my list of top 10 parenting books?  Share your favorites with us in the comments!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to .  All opinions expressed are my own and I never recommend a product unless I truly love it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Self Care Bestie Ultimate Holiday Playlist

Well, may I officially say:  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!  Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope this season is full of cheer, goodness, hope, and peace for you.  Many of you already know I've been in a crazy good mood lately because:

1.  My book just came out this week!  I couldn't wait to share it with you and I'm so so pumped that it is finally available on Amazon.  Click here if you are interested in checking it out!

2.  Four words:  Holiday Self Care Challenge.  Have you been following along on Instagram?  To be honest, I've been having way too much fun creating the photos and especially enjoying some intentional holiday flavored me-time!  We're about 13 days in and the challenge will take us up through Christmas day.  If you haven't yet, go check it out!

In the spirit of the holidays, I feel like it's my duty to share an amazing holiday playlist with you because the only thing better than holiday self care is holiday self care to the beat of ridiculously awesome holiday music.  #realtalk

This playlist is a bit on the long side, but how do you expect me to narrow it? ;)  Pop these songs into your Spotify or Apple Music and feel free to enjoy the rest of the Holiday Self Care Challenge to this fantastic soundtrack (if I do say so myself)!

Self Care Bestie Ultimate Holiday Playlist

1. I'll Be Home For Christmas - Frank Sinatra

2. Do You Hear What I Hear? - Bing Crosby

3. O Holy Night - Perry Como

4. Carol Of The Bells - The Vocal Majority

5. Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes

6. The Christmas Song - Frank Sinatra

7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Burl Ives

8. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - Michael Buble

9. All I Want For Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey

10. Last Christmas - Glee Cast

11. This Christmas - Christina Aguilera

12. Frosty The Snowman Theme - Jimmy Durante

13. Silver Bells - Perry Como

14. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - United States Army Air Force Symphony Orchestra & Singing Sergeants

15. Silent Night - Andy Williams

16. Angels We Have Heard On High - Mormon Tabernacle Choir

17. Medley:  Caroling, Caroling/The First Noel/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Silent Night - Perry Como

18. Adeste Fideles - Frank Sinatra

19. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen - The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & The Sheridan Ball Singers

20. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Kelly Clarkson

21. Holly Jolly Christmas - Michael Buble

22. Merry Christmas Happy Holidays - N'Sync

23.  O Come O Come Emmanuel - Enya

24. Little Drummer Boy - Pentatonix

25. Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy - Lindsey Stirling

26. It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Michael Buble

27. Up On The Housetop - Gene Autry

Ok, Besties...what do you think? Is this your new go-to holiday playlist? Tell us your favorite track in the comments!  Here's wishing you a holly jolly day, my friends!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

31 Days to Managing Your Moods

Happy Self Care Sunday, my Besties!  I hope you have an amazing and relaxing day planned.  My family and I will be driving for 8 hours to get back I guess that's relaxing!  #optimism

Before we pack up and hit the road, I wanted to share some very exciting news with you:  I wrote a book!  And you can read it if you want!  

Based on my most popular blog posts, 31 Days to Managing Your Moods is your go-to guide for understanding and effectively coping through your emotions.  Over the course of one month, you will be inspired and encouraged to make the changes necessary to experience present moment peace and joy like never before.  Here's an excerpt from the introduction:

Are your moods running your LIFE?

Hi, I'm Cathleen, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice.  In over a decade of practicing psychotherapy, I've found that no matter what brings a client to my office initially, they all have one thing in common:  they struggle to effectively manage their moods.  That's why I'm so glad you picked up this book.  I truly believe that over the next 31 days, you can develop the exact skills and habits you need to stop obsessing over what doesn't matter, and start living in the peace that comes from a healthy mindset.  31 Days to Managing Your Moods will encourage and empower you to finally start loving the life you are living.

I'm so excited to finally be able to share this with you, my sweet friends!  I hope you love this book, as I wrote it with you in mind.  If you are interested, you can click the book cover in the sidebar to purchase, or simply follow this link to  

Thank you all for your love and support!  You are the absolute best, Besties.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to .  All opinions expressed are my own and I never recommend a product unless I truly love it!

Friday, November 24, 2017

My 10 Favorite Marriage Books

Hello my friends!  For those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I hope it was a warm and wonderful time with family and friends.  We had an amazing day with extended family and delicious food.  So, so much to be grateful for!

With the holiday season in full swing, one thing I'm especially thankful for are my relationships with my family, particularly my relationship with my husband.  My husband and I were high school sweethearts; we began dating at 17 and married at 22.  Thinking about it now, we were such babies but we were so in love.  Still are, thankfully.  If there's one thing I've learned after 12 years of marriage and 10 years of counseling couples it's this:  marriage is freaking hard.

Like, one of the most difficult things I've done.  Despite the fact that my husband is an amazing guy and my absolute best friend, we are both far from perfect and that can cause issues at times.  Which makes sense - at its core, marriage is the union of two imperfect people.  We promise to love each other and forgive each other and stick by each other no matter what the future holds.  When we say it, we have no idea what that even means.  But nevertheless, we enter into that promise and choose to love and forgive again and again and again till death do us part.  Some days that's easier than others, but having a thriving marriage can be one of life's greatest joys if two people are committed to making it all that it should be.

Over the years, I have read a lot about marriage, both for my professional and personal use.  I feel so strongly that a healthy marriage is the cornerstone of a healthy family, so today I'm sharing my top 10 marriage books in hopes that they can help you too.  In no particular order, they are:

The Marriage Builder - This book was one my husband and I read as part of our pre-marital counseling and it is still one I recommend to anyone even considering marriage.  Focusing on men and women's needs for significance and security, Dr. Larry Crabb clearly defines what each partner needs and how those needs are meant to be met in and outside the marriage relationship.

The Power of a Praying Wife/Husband - So often people pray to change another person, but the heart of prayer actually changes the pray-er first.  Stormie Omartian illumines all that is possible in a marriage (even when things seem impossible) by providing practical ways to pray for and care for your spouse.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work - This book by John Gottman is a classic...and for good reason.  It's a fun and easy-to-read book that partners can read together.  It begins by providing several quizzes for partners to recall why they got together in the first place.  From there, it addresses all the issues married people commonly face and troubleshooting for those problems.

The Five Love Languages - One of my absolute favorites!  This book seriously transformed my marriage, and I recommend it to all of my married clients.  I also refer to it with just about every single client, married or not!  Gary Chapman posits that once you know your love language (and your partner's), you can begin to give and receive love in a way that is meaningful to you.  It is a must read!

Have a New Husband by Friday - Dr. Kevin Leman is full of wit and humor in this book that teaches women how to respond to their husband in a way that actually makes sense to their husband.  This book is perfect for any woman who is tired of nagging but doesn't know what else to do.

10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage - Another Gottman book, this one utilizes an incredible amount of clinical data to present once and for all, what works and what doesn't work in marriage.

Lasting Love:  How to Avoid Marital Failure - My husband and I read this book in the early years of our marriage and it is one we still reference from time to time.  Written by our former pastor Alistair Begg, this book is full of practical advice for both spouses to do what is necessary to maintain a healthy marriage.

Sacred Marriage - Gary Thomas explores the question:  what if God intended marriage to make us more holy than happy?  If you are a Christian, this book will be helpful in illuminating the ways you and your spouse can be selfish and what to do to actually have a healthy marriage despite each other's flaws. 

The Meaning of Marriage - Tim Keller does an amazing job of exploring the purpose of marriage.  Written for both singles and married couples, the book is uplifting and full of wisdom and insight on why we are the way we are and how to manage the difficulties of marriage with grace. 

His Needs, Her Needs - Willard F. Harley, Jr. writes about the ten most vital needs of husbands and wives in this best-selling book.  This book would be particularly valuable to couples facing extreme difficulties like infidelity or distrust.

What are your go-to books on marriage?  Feel free to share them with us in the comments!  Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, my Besties!

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to .  All opinions expressed are my own and I never recommend a product unless I truly love it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How To Tell The Truth Without Complaining

When I worked in a psychiatric/rehab hospital years ago, I would often open group by saying, "When someone asks you how you're doing, what do you normally say?"

Inevitably, the group members would reply, "Fine" and "good."  

Then, I would tell them:  "Right.  Now today we're going to go around the circle and say how we're actually doing.  Tell us how you're feeling on a scale of 1-10, and tell us why you gave yourself that number."

And that's when group got real...and really good.  Everyone from war veterans to Hollywood stars to janitors to business people began to open up and relate with one another.  That's one of the main reasons I love being a therapist...I get to have deep conversations with people and share the ups and downs of life with them.  

Being vulnerable and real with people is amazing.  It fosters deep connection and healthy relationships.    However, at times, we may find ourselves venturing from being real to downright complaining without even realizing it.  Convicted of my own sense that I have been complaining a bit more than is healthy or helpful of late, I wanted to share some advice on how we can be truthful about our thoughts and experiences without turning into Debbie Downer.  So the next time someone asks you how you're doing, use the following tips to be honest without complaining:

Use "I statements."  Therapists recommend starting sentences with "I feel" or "I think" when teaching clients how to effectively communicate with others in high stakes conversations.  But these statements can also be helpful when you want to share how you’re feeling without having a “you’re not you when you’re hungry” Snickers commercial moment.  For example, when you say “I’m feeling anxious about spending the holidays at my brother’s this year ” or “I feel stressed from everything on my to-do list,” you are communicating the truth about what’s going on in your life without ranting.   Those two statements are examples of being vulnerable and real, and even though things aren’t going well, they are not complaints.  By contrast, if someone asks you how you’re doing and you say “Not great - we have to spend Thanksgiving at my brother’s this year and it’s bound to be a train wreck because of his drinking problem” see the difference.  Likewise, saying “Ugh, so overwhelmed!  I have to buy for ALL my nieces and nephews, plus find white elephant gifts for TWO Christmas parties...I’ll never get it all done” is neither constructive nor fun to listen to.  Stick to simple I statements to both convey your feelings and keep things from spiraling into unbridled negativity.

Find something to be grateful for.  No matter what we’re going through, the truth is there is always something to be grateful for.  You are always going to be worse off than some people, but better off than others.  Try honestly sharing your negative feelings when you have them, but end your thoughts with gratitude.  You might say, “Well I’m feeling pretty stressed with all the shopping I still have left to do, but if that’s my worst problem today, I’m doing just fine.” You could also say, “Spending Thanksgiving with my brother might be tough this year, but I’m so grateful we can have the whole family together.”

Understand that complaining won’t actually make you feel better.  This is a biggie.  For some reason, most people (myself included), feel like venting all over the place to every person we know about whatever issues we are currently facing will either a) make us feel better or b) solve our problem.  But in my experience (and I bet yours also), neither happen to be true.  While venting may feel good in the moment, it’s actually more likely to make you feel worse once you’re finished.  When you’re complaining/ranting, your heart rate will likely increase, you may experience shallower breathing, and you will generally just feel uneasy.  You can ask your loved one for advice without complaining, if necessary.  Otherwise, journaling your feelings (vent away!  Rant all day!) or filling out a thought record will be much more helpful in the long run.  

I hope you will find these suggestions helpful, my Besties!  I know it takes a lot more work to cope effectively than to just keep doing what we’ve always done. I’m right there with you!  But, like anything else, the more you practice these skills, the more progress you will make, and the better you will feel.

One last thing...if you’re feeling stressed or bogged down this season, why not join the 2017 Holiday Self Care Challenge?  With a fun list of daily self care activities and a community to follow along with, you’ll be feeling like a happier, more joyful person in no time!

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