Discovering Gold in Chaos—Adapting to Change

by Liz Jansen

discovering goldMy house move is over and I settled into my new place within a day. As upsetting as it was to get evicted (slight embellishment), it’s been like discovering gold in chaos.

There were two ways to react when I was asked to leave—get angry over the disruption to my life and unplanned expense, when I was trying to finish writing the first draft of Crash Landing, or accept it and move on as quickly as possible. There was no sense diverting and wasting energy on the former. The best thing to do was to pack up and move on.

Realistically, I wouldn’t have discovered had this place had it not been forced on me. Just five doors down from where I was and backing onto the same ravine, it’s much brighter and filled with joyous energy. That it was even available when I needed it was another gift.

It’s quiet and my motorcycle has a special space in the garage. My landlady pours her heart into her family and gardens. Front and back yard are a profusion of vibrant blooms. The back yard, where I walk out, is a delightful place of whimsy and beauty. It’s perfect for the creative lift I need now.

Measha (my cat) loves it too. She was feeling trapped at the old place because of the dog and had stopped going outside. After four days here, she was ready to patrol the back yard again. I let her wander while I was working in my outdoor office and she was back within 10 minutes with a gift of gratitude.

The process of moving has been another gift. Although I’ve pared down on stuff over the past 15 years, I’m nowhere near minimalism. Touching and packing everything you own is a good exercise to assess whether it’s really necessary.

And so I lightened the load even further. For example, I realized I’d moved a big plastic bin of yarn I’d collected from my years of knitting four times. That yarn could be keeping someone warm so I sent it to a place that knits for those in need.

Anything I’d lugged around for more than one other move and hadn’t used, also got donated. There wasn’t that much, but I filled my panniers twice and shuttled stuff to a second-hand store in town where all proceeds go to a local charity.

It’s so liberating to let things go. It was even more meaningful and easier this time as I write about how the experiences of my ancestors have shaped me. Through extremely challenging times, my grandparents learned early in life how little material things meant, and how important relationships—with others, self, and Spirit—are.

I still have one big area to tackle – and that’s my digital collection. It’s easy to save and store files and I have a minimum of two back ups of everything. All of that takes room and creates clutter. But that’s a job for another time.

How have you discovered the gold in what at first seems troubling? Tell us in the comments.



Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with: , ,

Breathing, Packing, Purging, and Moving

by Liz Jansen

BreathingIt’s been a monumental week. I’ve completed the first draft of Crash Landing. Two-and-a-half years in the works, with a focused and intense three months of writing since March and it’s done. There’s still much to do but it’s a major milestone.

Now I’m taking a brief breather before going back and starting the revisions. After that, the manuscript will go to a few beta readers for more feedback, and back to me for more revisions. Then it’s time for professional editing. The words that make it to the printer have to pass much scrutiny.

Coincidentally, I’m moving next week, right during a strategic break in my writing. Not by choice, but because I’ve been asked to leave. That’s right. I’ve been evicted from my lovely place. Sadly, my landlord is ill and needs a live-in caregiver.

The good news for me is that I’m staying on the same street, which I love, and only moving up a few houses. My new place is even more to my liking and walks out to the same treed ravine.

It’s still a move though, requiring cleaning, packing, and hiring movers. Although I try not to accumulate much, stuff creeps in. Or something I’ve been storing hasn’t been touched in more than a year. At the same time, I’ll be doing some soul-searching for outdated thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.

Going through the moving exercise is a good chance to declutter, purge, and divest of anything, on any level, that no longer serves me.

There will be no posting next week but expect me back the week after. Until then, I wish you health, happiness, abundance, laughter, and adventures. Safe travels, wherever your Road leads.


photo credit: Theo Crazzolara paarl nature reserve via photopin (license)

Posted in Liz's Stories

How to Train Car Drivers and Achieve World Peace

by Liz Jansen

train car driversI’ve been experimenting lately in a variety of traffic situations. Remarkably, I’m convinced there’s potential to train car drivers to make our roads safer.

Initial results are promising and the drivers don’t even know it’s happening.

Anyone who rides a motorcycle, including me, can tell tales of aggressive, distracted, and otherwise inconsiderate behavior that ratchets up our risk of a crash.

The solution is simple. Training car drivers is achieved through being a responsible and courteous rider. Demonstrating proficient riding skills, knowing and following the rules of the road, and maintaining awareness of your environment are minimum starting points for this training to work. So is being visible.

There’s no room for either aggressive or passive behavior. Those only escalate the responses you don’t want and increase your risk of injury.

Consider these examples:

  1. While riding on a two-lane road, with a lane of traffic in each direction, it’s correct to ride in the left tire track. When there’s an oncoming semi or similar behemoth, I temporarily shift to the right tire track. Although they don’t have as much maneuvering room, in most cases, the other driver shifts slightly to their right. You can see the gap between the vehicle and the center line widen. It’s called mirroring. Whether they do it because your movement catches their attention or they’re subconsciously following your lead, doesn’t matter. They’ve just increased your safety cushion.
  2. Riding in traffic and maintaining a safe following distance can be a challenge. Someone often wants to cut in between you and the vehicle in front of you. When that happens, I back off and recreate that space between the interloper and me. Consistently, other drivers notice. Again, it may be subconsciously, but they respond in kind. Invariably, the vehicle behind me is following at a safe distance, not right on my tail.
  3. Smiling, waving, or nodding in response to courteous behavior goes a long way in converting a driver who’s oblivious to the world around him, to one who drives more responsibly. Like when someone is about to move left into your lane, notices you approaching at the last moment, and waits for you to pass before executing her lane change. Or when you’re trying to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic and someone lets you in. When the situation allows it, thank them in person. At a traffic light, I’ve even pulled up beside a stopped vehicle who had been maintaining a safe distance while following me and thanked him for his courtesy.

Pollyannaish? Perhaps, but it works. Psychologist B. F. Skinner came up with the concept for sustainably modifying behavior in the 1930’s, using positive reinforcement to strengthen the behaviors he wanted. It’s much more effective than cursing or flipping someone the bird.

Learning to train car drivers is just like attaining world peace. They’re both long-term projects, require consistent attention, and begin with me.

Peace out.

What have you found to be an effective way to train a car driver? Let us know in the comments.

Related Post: 12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – Peace Grunge Sign – Sepia via photopin (license)

Posted in Leadership, Life Lessons from Motorcycles Tagged with:

How to Ride a Motorcycle Across the Country in One Step

by Liz Jansen

ride a motorcycleIn 2003, at age 49, I walked away from a 25-year marriage and a long-term corporate career. What’s a motorcycle rider to do when faced with open-ended time off during the summer? Go for an extended ride, of course.

I closed the office door behind me on August 1. Three days later, I was heading west for two months on the road. There were a few places I wanted to see and people to visit, but within that was lots of leeway. My route would take me generally across Canada to Vancouver Island, south along the Pacific coast to San Louis Obispo, California, and then wind back to Ontario.

“Aren’t you scared?” people routinely asked, referring to riding across the country by myself.

It hadn’t occurred to me to be frightened. “Of what?” I wondered.

They’d offer a number of reasons, the main ones being personal safety and security, rain, breaking down in the middle of nowhere, and being alone for so long.

Certainly those are factors to consider and prepare for, but they’re not showstoppers. I was an experienced and skilled rider, had a new and reliable motorcycle, and was sticking to paved or hard-packed gravel roads. My riding gear, including rainwear, was in good condition. I was riding in countries where English is the primary language so communication was straightforward. I knew how to look after my motorcycle and how to ask for help if I needed more expertise.

Most of all, my heart was asking me to go. The trip was something I wanted and needed to do. There was no reason not to go. Furthermore, I’d have been disappointed in myself had I stayed home.

These prerequisites were no different than what were needed to ride the roads around my home. I had them all. I just had to go.

Rather than being overwhelmed with the thought of two months on the road and all the things that could possibly go wrong, I focused on one day at a time. Dealing with situations as they arose consisted of realistically evaluating the circumstance based on facts, the likelihood it would materialize, and assessing the potential severity. Based on that, I made my best decision.

Before I knew it, I was across the plains, through the mountains and at the Pacific coast, and ready to head south—having the time of my life!

Anything you’re called to do will bring opportunities and trials. You won’t know the details of either until they happen, and then you draw from within to meet the challenge. That’s how we grow.

Here’s the key. All we ever need to do is take one step—the next one.

Then it’s just like being able to ride a motorcycle across the country to the Pacific. You’ll look back from a new place of strength and wisdom and wonder what all the fuss was about.

How do you deal with self-doubt? Tell us in the comments.

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photo credit: sniggie Riding redbud road via photopin (license)

Posted in Leadership, Personal Growth Tagged with: , ,

Connection with Nature, Moms, and Motorcycles

by Liz Jansen

connection with natureAnyone who rides a motorcycle knows the powerful connection with nature you feel while riding through the countryside. It expresses itself as freedom, exhilaration, and joy.

It nourishes our soul and connects us with our Higher Being. And even if you don’t believe in that, you can’t discount the connection with Nature we’re a part of here on this earth walk.

I love living in a climate that experiences all four season. While each has it’s energetic specialties, there’s something particularly enlivening about the energy of spring. New life bursts forth as we emerge from our winter hiatus when nature rested.

When trees were barren and snow covered the frozen ground.

It looked like nothing was going on.

Trudy, my motorcycle was parked in the garage, covered and hooked up to a trickle charger, her life support.

Recently, as I walked through the parkette at the end of my street, it gave me great joy to watch a young mom with her preschool daughter, walking hand in hand. I glimpsed them just after I’d crossed the footbridge over the stream.

Hand in hand, mom and the little blonde, curly-haired girl stopped to check out the blossoms. Mom let her take her time, demonstrating how to touch the delicate blossoms gently. You could feel the little girl’s delight as she felt, smelled, and sensed, awed by what she was experiencing. Her curiosity satiated for the moment, they moved on to the pond to check out the frogs.

When I returned, mom and daughter had meandered back across the bridge. Still hand in hand, they were discovering the mysteries waiting along the edge of the woods. Mesmerized, the three-year-old bent over to take in the fragrance of a blossoming lilac.

What a joy for all three of us to share, even though the little girl was lost in her own world.

Last weekend, after forgoing the express route and riding through the blossom-scented countryside, I visited my mom in the long-term care facility where she now resides. It’s not often she gets outside but I know she thrives on it.

My parents farmed for 55 years. While dad tended the orchards, mom’s pride was her sumptuous gardens. A bank of lilacs along the driveway, interspersed with forsythia and spirea bushes laden with blossoms in lavender, yellow, and white were highlights of spring. Between the lily-of-the-valley, peonies, irises, roses, chrysanthemums handed down from her mother, and a mix of annuals, something was in bloom until the snow returned.

Walking any distance has become difficult so a wheelchair’s become mom’s alternate transport. Once outside in the courtyard, she wanted to get up close to the flowering foliage. As I contemplated how to best get the wheelchair across the lawn, she solved the dilemma. She’d walk.

I held her arm as we moved tentatively from one vignette to the next, mom stopping to admire, touch the blooms, and stoop to take in their fragrance. The lilacs gave her particular joy.

It took me back to the scene earlier in the week where the mother was showing her daughter the marvels of spring. Now with roles reversed, the daughter was leading mom around so she could experience that timeless energy. Even though my mom may not always recognize me, her heart connection with the life around her was unmistakable.

Three times that week I’d been given poignant reminders in vivid technicolor. No matter what our age, state of mind, or method of transport, experiencing that connection to nature, even for a few minutes, connects us with who we are and feeds our soul.

What’s your favorite way of dialing in to nature? Your favorite ride?  Tell us in the comments.


Posted in Personal Growth Tagged with: , , ,

Wisdom from the Child in the Woods

by Liz Jansen

wisdomMotorcycles aren’t the only means of transport for inner journeys.

Now that spring is here, I follow a loosely defined path when I walk to nearby plazas for errands. My place backs onto a greenbelt of mostly cedars I love walking through. Usually it’s a tranquil respite, but occasionally wisdom arises out of innocuous encounters.

Walking home last Friday, I caught the attention of three young girls, ages six and seven, out exploring under the supervision of a caregiver. I was on the side of the stream they were trying to reach by clambering across a logjam.

“How did you get over there?” they screeched in their little girl voices.

“There’s a path,” I responded, “but it’s a little hard to find. I’ll show you where it is.”
Like a shot, they were off the logs, running towards the parkette we’d all come from. They ran across the bridge and I met them at the not-so-obvious entrance on my side of the stream. Running, jumping, and chattering non-stop, they followed me into the woods. The caregiver followed slowly and silently at a distance, a shadowy apparition.

“She’s scared of the woods,” said the alpha-girl, pointing at her friend, although it looked like it could have applied equally to their adult. “Her name’s Faith.”

“Faith,” I addressed the shy little girl kindly, wondering what stories she’d been told. “There’s nothing to fear out here with us. And with a name like yours, you shouldn’t be afraid anyway.”

It was the alpha-girl’s response that blew me away.

“Her parents gave her that name so she’d learn how not to be afraid,” she said, while turning towards her friend. “She needs to take her name and hold it here,” she concluded, patting her right hand over her heart.

We continued on for a bit, them chatting and me listening until their adult, having decided they’d gone far enough, reined them in. I continued on, smiling, pondering the message from the wisdom of a child.



Posted in Liz's Stories

Mother’s Day Motorcycle Traditions Go On Forever

by Liz Jansen

Mom and I went on our first motorcycle ride together on May 9, 2004. It was Mother’s Day and my 50th birthday. She was about to turn 78. So began an annual tradition that lasted for six years until she was no longer physically or mentally able to ride.

The dates don’t often line up like that, like they did on the day I came into the world. When the nurses brought me in for the first time, they’d tied a pink bow to a few strands of fiery red hair. That I’d be taking her for a motorcycle ride 50 years later would have seemed incredulous. With her can-do attitude, however, she wouldn’t have ruled it out—either that her daughter would be riding a motorcycle or she’d be on it.

In 2004, I was a year into my new life, post marriage and post corporate career. New life emerges in springtime, and like the season, I was full of energy, hope, and optimism. My parents were still on their Niagara fruit farm and the blossoms were in full bloom.

Our ride took us through countryside bursting with a profusion of pink and white petals and budding greenery as the orchards awoke from their winter hibernation. Mom’s bony knees dug into my hips and her hands clasped my jacket. I joked with her, reminding her that 50 years ago she was trying to push me out and now she was using her knees to hang on to me.

Mother's Day

A few weeks before the next Mother’s Day, she asked if we’d be going for a ride again. And so an annual tradition was born. She loved to tell her friends about it. One year when we went a little further afield into Niagara-on-the-Lake, dad rode sweep in the car, just in case mom got tired. Of course, he drove alone the whole time.



When my sister Mary got her license, she and her son Evan joined in for a couple of years. Mom loved it! She loved to wave at people she knew or anyone who caught her eye, wearing the smile of the motorcyclist proudly.

The Yamaha FZ1 I had at the time, got harder for her to get on, so I began carrying a step stool. It was like the old days when the stagecoach pulled up to the step so the passengers could disembark.

Then climbing aboard got too difficult and the dementia was robbing her mind. It was no longer safe to take her along. In 2012 we closed the tradition. Although she could no longer ride, she could pretend. With the Harley-Davidson Street Glide I had on loan, it was easy for her to get on and off. It didn’t matter that we didn’t actually go for a ride.

From the time I began riding at age 16, my parents were always accepting of my riding. That their daughter was riding a motorcycle just wasn’t an issue. There were important things to worry about, like running the farm. Now, no matter what time of year I go to visit, even if there’s a foot of snow on the ground, mom assumes I’ve ridden there. She knows nothing is impossible.

A year ago, her dementia progressed to the point we had to move her into long-term care. Her mind is failing, yet whenever I’m there, she asks about my motorcycle. When she introduces me to other residents, the motorcycle is always attached to the introduction.

Sunday I’ll ride down to see her. She’ll likely recognize me, although it may take a few minutes to remember if I’m her daughter, sister, or cousin. But when it registers who I am, she won’t forget to ask me about my motorcycle. Some traditions go on forever.




Posted in Liz's Stories Tagged with:

12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

by Liz Jansen

motorcycle safety awarenessMay is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Many campaigns have been designed to alert automobile drivers to our presence on the road. That all helps, but safety has to start with me. The rider.

I can’t abdicate that responsibility, nor do I want to. Nor will I count on another driver being aware of my presence, even after we’ve made eye contact.

These tips remind us how to practice awareness when we’re out riding.

12 Tips for Riders During Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

  1. Ride within your skill level. Putting yourself in a situation you’re not prepared for, or ceding to peer pressure to ride faster than you’re comfortable put you at risk of losing control of the situation. Fixating on keeping up or staying in control diverts awareness from where you’re going.
  2. Keep the noise down. My helmet has a high noise reduction rating but I reduce that further with earplugs. If you’re going to listen to music while riding, keep the volume down. My choice is no music. There are enough inputs for me to keep track of without adding any more.
  3. Use intercoms only when needed. Chatting on the phone or to your riding partner is distracting, especially if you get into an animated conversation.
  4. Wear properly fitting gear. Anything that makes you uncomfortable takes your focus away from the road—like jackets, pants, gloves, or helmets that bind or are too loose. They also contribute to fatigue.
  5. Scan your environment. Many riders think to scan the road ahead but forget to do mirror checks every 8 to 10 seconds. Constant scanning helps you notice the driver that’s about to pull out of a plaza without seeing you or children playing at the side of the road.
  6. Anticipate. Assume the other driver doesn’t see you and anticipate what they’re going to do next. Be prepared to take action if necessary.
  7. Check your blind spots. Mirrors don’t show you everything. Every turn or lane change, right or left, should include a blind spot check before you initiate the turn.
  8. Ride defensively. This is the companion to anticipating what unpredictable and distracted drivers might do. It does not mean riding passively. Rather it may mean asserting your position, especially if evasive action is necessary.
  9. Wear gear appropriate for the conditions. That means good ventilation in hot weather, enough layers to keep you warm in cold riding—without being too bulky, and rain gear that keeps you dry.
  10. Choose your riding partners selectively. If you’re not confident in the skills of someone you’re riding with and have to watch them all the time, you’re going to miss other hazards on the road. If they must ride with you, ride behind them.
  11. Keep your bike well maintained. Developing rattles, engine noises, or even low fuel levels while riding moves your focus from the road to the bike. Regular maintenance and pre-ride checks will minimize the chances of that happening.
  12. Keep your cool. Getting angry and into a confrontation with another driver does nothing to diffuse the situation. In addition, while you’re focused on him, someone else may be getting ready to cut you off.

Incorporating these tips into your riding habits will make you much more aware and reduce your chances of getting into a risky situation, or even a crash.

Practicing motorcycle safety awareness doesn’t mean riding in a high state of tension. Tension is what happens when you’re not aware.

What other tips do you have for staying aware?  Leave a comment.

Related article: 10 Tips for Sharing the Road with Motorcyclists

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with: ,

7 Tips to Restore Balance in Life

by Liz Jansen

Last week I posted 10 More Reasons Motorcycle Tips Over. It seemed appropriate to balance that with an article from the archives with Tips to Maintain Balance in Life. 

Restore balanceLearning to achieve balance in your life is every bit as important as learning to balance a motorcycle. When you’re out of balance on your motorcycle the feedback is immediate and the consequences potentially devastating. That’s what makes them such good teachers.

Balancing all aspects of life can be tricky. The effects of being off kilter can be harder to recognize and take longer to surface, but the long-term effects can be equally as debilitating. If you don’t respond to messages from your body and your intuition, you increase the potential for developing an illness or having an accident. It’s the equivalent of falling off your motorcycle.

7 Tips to Restore Balance in Life

Know where you’re going

It sounds fundamental and it is. But it’s often forgotten and you end up trying to be everything to everyone. That doesn’t work. Having a clear direction in mind, setting your course and sticking with your priorities does. Only then can you take the steps to get to your destination.

Hone your skills

Physical, mental and emotional acuity are essential for maintaining balance on a motorcycle. Understanding how to use physical controls means knowing what they are, how they work and how to use them.

It’s the same when it comes to being successful in life. Choosing growth opportunities that challenge your comfort zone involve a learning curve. During these times, it’s particularly important to offset the load in once area by allocating time for rest, meditation and exercise.

Keep your eyes up & look where you want to go

And that’s where you’ll go. It’s your choice. There are always going to be distractions and fear is always going to rear its head. Target fixation – i.e. focusing on them, is a real danger because it will draw you into trouble. While you definitely need to acknowledge its role, scan your road ahead for hazards, you’ll stay balanced only by staying focused on where you want to go.

Practice attentive relaxation

When you’re relaxed, you’re much more alert, aware and better able to handle what life delivers. Release negative thinking, avoid over analyzing and enjoy the scenery.

Distribute weight evenly

Stay centered. Not only does this refer to what you take on but how much burden you carry and where you carry it. Nurturing body, mind, and spirit equally are essential for your total wellbeing. Take only what is yours and let others do the same.

Keep Going

It’s easy to stay balanced when everything is moving along, just as you planned. However, life doesn’t stick to your plan and challenges appear in spite of the best-laid plans. Stopping puts you at higher risk of getting mired down and stuck in the very challenge you’re trying to avoid.

Ask for help

Experts are standing by to help! Spirit always provides the resources you need when you need them. Often all it takes is a request for help. You’ll be surprised at what materializes.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’ve ever watched a toddler learning to walk, you’ll know it takes resilience to get up time after time, but it’s the only way to learn. Lying on the ground metaphorically or literally, and feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t move you ahead or teach you the lesson. Learn from your mistakes, get back on and do it right. Or at least better.

When things go amok, what’s your favorite way to restore balance? Tell us in the Comments.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara Balanced Rock – Lassen National Park via photopin (license)

Posted in Balance Tagged with: ,

10 More Reasons Motorcycles Tip Over

by Liz Jansen

reasons motorcycles tip overOne of the most frequently read blog posts on my website is 10 Things to Do With a Dropped Motorcycle. I published it in 2012 and it’s still getting comments. Published a week later and still highly read is 10 Causes for a Motorcycle Tip Over.

If there’s any consolation to what can be a devastating, demoralizing, and embarrassing event, it’s that you’re not alone. I know very few riders who can say they haven’t had their bike go over. At least not if they’re being honest.

The good news is, is that tip overs happen at slow speeds so although you can injure yourself, it’s usually minor. The greater damage is usually to pride and your motorcycle.

Better still, there are things you can do to minimize the chances of it happening. In addition to the 10 causes listed above, I’ve collected others from reader stories.

10 More Reasons Motorcycles Tip Over

  1. Eyes looking at the ground instead of straight ahead. This is a fundamental lesson, and helps with balance, especially during stops or U-turns.
  2. Putting both feet down at a stop. Keeping your right foot on the brake and putting only your left foot down creates the most stable position.
  3. Fatigue. This was mentioned in the previous list, but the causes weren’t. Prime contributors are a lack of sleep, dehydration, not enough rest breaks, hypothermia, and hyperthermia.
  4. Lack of confidence. New or returning riders can drop their bikes often while they’re learning.
  5. Motorcycle size. Riding a motorcycle that’s too large for your skills affects your confidence and makes you more apt to drop it.
  6. Over Confidence. Thinking you’re proficient because you can ride in a straight line does not transfer to slow speed skills. The bike can ride itself in a straight line. Slow speed skills differentiate proficient riders from the rest.
  7. New motorcycle. Switching to a new bike takes some getting used to, especially if it’s a different style or size than the one you’re used to. Practice in a parking lot to get comfortable with it before you take it out on the road.
  8. Letting it shatter your confidence. If you’re not injured, and you really want to ride, pick it up and make sure the motorcycle’s not damaged. Then when you’ve composed yourself, learn from what you did wrong and get back on.
  9. Losing focus at a stop. All it takes is a momentary lapse and a shift in your weight to lose your balance. It doesn’t have to lean over far to go beyond the point of no return. This is even more of a factor if your bike has a high seat height or center of gravity.
  10. Improper weight distribution. A load that’s unevenly weighted, or carried too high can make the bike harder to manage, especially at slow speeds. Carry items as close to the centerline and as low as possible.

Tip overs happen to all of us, even very experienced riders. Regular practice and maintaining focus can minimize the chance of it happening. And when it does, figure out why it happened and learn from it. It’s all part of the adventure!

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with: , ,

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