Practically Speaking Mom: Intentional Mom, Strong Family

198. Guest Angela Startz: Family Peace - Difficult Marriage or Divorce, Co-Parenting & More

September 04, 2023 Val Harrison, The Practically Speaking MOM Season 4 Episode 198
Practically Speaking Mom: Intentional Mom, Strong Family
198. Guest Angela Startz: Family Peace - Difficult Marriage or Divorce, Co-Parenting & More
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Wouldn't it be nice if our life really was a fairy tale, and everything turned out the way we wanted it to? But life just isn't like that. Things get difficult and today we have a guest to help us with difficult. Join Angela and I for an encouraging chat on how to handle some of the most difficult circumstances in life.
What happens when a passionate mental health coach, Angela Starts from Called2Rise, shares her insights on managing life's challenging circumstances? You get a treasure trove of relevant advice and transformative insights! 

Join Val Harrison, The Practically Speaking MOM and her guest for a lively discussion on all sorts of topics regarding healthy family dynamics. Trauma, a difficult marriage, divorce, co-parenting, making the stepmom an ally, decisional forgiveness, how our bodies hold on to stress, and living in victory after difficulty are some of the topics explored. Parental alienation is also sifted under Angela's expert gaze.   We tackle strategies to identify and protect our children from this phenomenon and hear Angela's personal journey through trauma and divorce that's led her to her current ministry. 

This conversation is sure to motivate and inspire every parent. Listen in for these and more transformative insights that could be the key to a harmonious family life. So, buckle up and get ready for a fascinating exploration into the world of emotional health and family dynamics!

  • If you're a mom aiming to build a strong family, our episode wraps up with an invitation to join our Intentional Mom Facebook Group. It's a supportive community where mothers like you navigate the journey of motherhood, together. We encourage one another in our worthy journey of motherhood, a divine appointment from our Creator, full of lots of challenges but also exceptional reward! Motherhood is messy and marvelous; let's navigate it together in the Intentional Mom Strong Family Facebook group!


Helpful links from this episode:
Called2Rise.com
Hopeworks Counseling
Coparenting International
Dr. Everett Worthington - Forgiveness

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"May the Words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord, my Roc...

Val Harrison:

THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS GENERATED ELECTRONICALLY AND HAS NOT BEEN EDITED. Wouldn't it be nice if our life really was a fairy tale and everything turned out the way we wanted it to. But life just isn't like that. Things get difficult and today we have a guest to help us with difficult. Our guest is Angela Starts. She's a mental health coach with Hope Works Counseling, and you're in for a real treat. She is just a ball of fun and fire. So pull up a chair and join Angela and I for an encouraging chat on how to handle some of the most difficult circumstances in life. So let's go.

Val Harrison:

Welcome to the Practically Speaking Mom podcast. I'm Val Harrison, the Practically Speaking Mom. I join you right here every Monday because God has placed on my heart a great passion for encouraging and equipping intentional moms just like you to build strong families. So who is Val Harrison and why do I do this?

Val Harrison:

Well, I was born in Oklahoma, grew up as a farm girl in Iowa, went to college by Chicago, then married my high school sweetheart, rich. We've been married 30 years and have seven kids, four girls and three boys, from ages 28 to 12. We've got married kids, college kids, a teenager and three grandbabies, who are occasionally the special VIPs on this podcast. Let me tell you those 14 precious souls deserve my best efforts. But wouldn't you know I have made and still make lots of mistakes.

Val Harrison:

The wonderful news for mistaking parents is that our good God works miracles with our mistakes and somehow he gives us a masterpiece to manage. You see, learning from our mistakes, letting our kids see us reflect, regret, repent, refine and restore our relationships, is the perfect example our kids need for their lives. Our kids don't need perfect parents. They need intentionally growing parents, and that's what we're all about on the Practically Speaking Mom podcast. We take an honest look at where we are and we get a game plan for growing as we manage our masterpiece families. If you're willing to grow, you're in the right place. You can manage your God ordained masterpiece family right here with me, val Harrison, the Practically Speaking Mom, now intentional mama. Are you ready? Let's grow.

Angela Startz:

Thank you.

Val Harrison:

Thank you. Yeah, I was so excited about this.

Angela Startz:

I don't even know how I came to stumble on the episodes that you did over emotional health. But I was like this is gold, because if we don't learn this as a child, it's not like we hit 18 and suddenly we know it. So there's a lot of adults that I work with that will be getting links to your podcast on those episodes, because it's like that was just really relatable, very practical, like this is how you do it, this is what it looks like, and a lot of times we don't know how to do that. So I just love the way that you broke it down. I was like this is so good. It's interesting.

Angela Startz:

It's almost the older we get when we don't learn how to process our emotions, the more difficult they become, the more nebulous they are. Like we don't know how to even put a name on it. If I ask somebody, you know what are you feeling and they don't know upset, okay, is that angry upset, sad upset? You know they don't know, because when you can break it down into very simple things, it helps them identify, because a lot of times I'll say where are you feeling that in your body? You know we carry, we tend to carry stress in our neck or our shoulders. We carry anxiety in our stomach.

Val Harrison:

Something that you said about you know that we find ourselves being adults and we don't not have put names on things. The other problem with waiting till adulthood to work on emotions and understand emotions is that by then we've developed so many bad habits with not handling them well yes, that we have so much to untrain ourselves about. So if we can help our kids really get a handle on this at the earliest age possible, we are helping to eliminate all of these bad habit years as well.

Angela Startz:

So one of the things that that I often as I'm educating clients and kind of how that works, is there's a saying that neurons that fire together wire together. So we are literally creating neural networks in our brain through our experiences. But, just like, our body has muscle memory. Like, if you think about when you learned how to tie your shoes, you sang a little song, you did a song, you did everything you know and then all of a sudden, one day you don't have to sing that song anymore, you just know how to tie your shoes. But then you know, however, many years later, and you're trying to teach your first born how to tie shoes, you're trying to remember that song, like with everything you've got, because you don't know how to teach it, you just know how to do it. We've developed muscle memory. Well, our cognitions do the exact same thing, and so when we get into those patterns of thinking, of processing our emotions a certain way, then it is very difficult it's not impossible, but it's very difficult to unwire and rewire, create new neural networks. So we handle things differently.

Angela Startz:

And if you remember the game shoots and ladders, the goal is to move your little piece of the board and if you get really lucky, you get to climb the ladder so you make more progress. That's like a neural network. Well then, so is the shoot. All of a sudden, when you land on the shoot and it drops you down, that's sort of when we get triggered and we feel an emotion. Let's say I feel intensely rejected. I will go back to the first time I felt that feeling, because my mind is says oh okay, this is rejection, and puts it in that bucket, and then I'm going to react like the six year old that was left out at the new school Right Only now I'm 50. And so it's not. It's. It looks much more out of place at 50 than it does at six, and so if I would have had someone at six teach me how to process that rejection, then that shoot would land differently and I would land on coping skills instead of just in a little bucket of rejection pain.

Val Harrison:

Yeah, that makes sense Absolutely. I love that analogy of the game. And the other problem about you know, now we're 50 is that it's not just us who's dealing with this. Now We've got these kids that we're impacting and, for the most part, what we struggle with is what they're going to struggle with. Either they're struggling with it directly in the same ways that we do, or they're struggling with it by trying to clean up all of the additional stuff that we added to them about it. The earlier we can fix these things, get a handle on these things, redo our neural pathways, the better. Speaking of that, is there any book that you recommend on that? I, literally a month ago, was looking for a book on rewiring neural pathways because it's so critical in how we interact with our kids. To interact with them effectively, we have to be so aware of our neural pathways. You know what things that we're just doing on autopilot reactionary usually that we need to work on. So do you have any book recommendations on that?

Angela Startz:

You know oddly I do, and it came from a client of mine. It's a little bit of a dry read in my opinion, but it is really very good. And it's called cleaning up your mental mess by Dr Carolyn Leaf. It's actually pretty good. She gets a little science heavy and so, in that regard, if you're really interested in the research that was done to be able to come up with the conclusions, it's very solid. If you simply want the nuts and bolts of it, then it's a good skimary because she handles both. She kind of gives you the this is what we learned and then she backs into all the research as to how they learned it. Yeah, it's pretty solid.

Val Harrison:

Awesome, I appreciate that. Okay, so we just dove right in today and I want to backtrack a minute here.

Val Harrison:

I want to tell our audience about you. So you are Angela. You are a mental health coach with HopeWorks counseling. You completed your undergraduate degree in psychology and Christian counseling and your master's in human services counseling and life coaching through Liberty University. You have extensive training in relationship restoration I love that topic geared toward restoring relational intimacy, overcoming trauma from infidelity, the impact of PTSD and addiction on relationships, creating secure attachment in marriage, emotion regulation, trauma recovery, communication skills. What a great list. Like, I love all of those things, so I was really excited about this time with you today, and I know your heart is especially for helping single moms or kids who have gone through big traumas. Do you usually work with the moms of those kids who have gone through the trauma or with the kids directly as well?

Angela Startz:

Both Currently I work more with the kids I work with. My population is 16 and up, and so currently I work more with the kids. Moms usually sit in sort of as needed, because I really need to understand how the divorce has impacted the kids before I can tell the mom. These are the areas that you need support and these are the areas that would benefit your child the most. So that tends to be how it works out. So eventually I wind up working with both of them, but usually it's more centered around the child. Sure.

Val Harrison:

And are you able to do this across states, or are your licenses specific to your state?

Angela Startz:

I can cross state lines. So the difference between coaching and counseling is coaching is not a licensed profession, which means I don't diagnose and I am not bound by the licensure requirements of any particular state. So I have clients from Romania. I've got someone in Latvia right now. California, connecticut, texas, oklahoma, louisiana it's pretty wide open and in person. So the majority of my work is done in person right now, but I do have a lot nationwide.

Val Harrison:

Okay, can you tell them how to get a hold of you real quick? And then we'll jump right back into all the good stuff.

Angela Startz:

Okay, well, thank you. Yes, if they want a 15 minute consultation just to see if we would be able to work together, if they feel like it's a good therapeutic fit, they can visit HopeWorksCounselingorg and just click on the button that says request 15 minute consultation, select my name, angela starts and they'll get on the schedule for a phone call and then we can proceed from there. If they simply want to learn more about me and maybe read some of my thoughts on single parenting, on honoring God through divorce, parental alienation, those types of things then they can visit my personal website, which is called to risecom it's called the number two risecom and just click on the blog and be able to get some more information from there.

Val Harrison:

Awesome, and I want to back up on one more thing, and then we will dive into the things on your heart. You brought up that we hold emotions in different parts of our bodies which I only like have skimmed the surface of that. Could you tell us a little bit more about that, if you would?

Angela Startz:

Sure, dr Buzzel Vander Kolk is sort of the leading researcher on trauma and he has written a book called the body keeps the score and in his research basically what he has learned is that there are physical memories, memory centers, and so, as I mentioned before, anxiety tends to land in the stomach. The old saying oh, she just has a nervous stomach, that's anxiety and it's sort of the butterflies in the stomach, the nauseousness I can't eat or I want to eat too much, and that's a function of the vagus nerve, which is your 10th cranial nerve. That basically goes into the from the base of the brain throughout the thoracic cavity and it regulates your fight or flight. So a lot of that centers around your stomach.

Angela Startz:

If you have stress, anger, fear, sometimes that causes muscle tension and we often carry stress in our shoulders and in our neck. So if you're having chronic pains in certain areas of your body, if you experience certain things like there are some people that when they get really anxious they suffer digestive problems A lot of that is because of what's happening within their body and it's not something that we're we're overly conscious of. So a lot of the work in alleviating that is literally through movement. So once you can sort of identify what emotion you're feeling, you can process that cognitively and you can also find ways to express it physically, whether that is through stretching or exercise or Diathematic breathing to be able to calm down the vagus nerve and settle the stomach. There are different things that you can use to attack the emotions that are trapped in your body.

Val Harrison:

Well, that is great. I've heard of that book and it's been on my need to read list, so now I'm just going to bump it up higher on the list.

Angela Startz:

Okay, okay, so let's dive into what is on your heart.

Val Harrison:

today I pray before different recordings like this, and I know that whoever's listening to this today, god has really ordained some mamas to hear your message.

Angela Startz:

So I am a firm believer that our greatest pain becomes our greatest ministry when we turn it over to God. There are reasons that he allows us to go through things, and it's not necessarily something that we understand, but it is something that he can use. So if we submit it to him, he uses it. So my greatest pain would be associated with my divorce and, as a result of that, the trauma that I suffered and that my son suffered, primarily through the way that all of that shook out. Basically, you had two Christian parents that were not able to honor God in our marriage and nor did we in the divorce, and there was parental alienation. That happened.

Val Harrison:

Tell us what you mean by parental alienation.

Angela Startz:

Parental alienation is when one parent triangulates or sort of creates a relationship with the child to alienate the other parent, so it really becomes an us against mom or us against dad. In my case, it was the father aligning with my son to alienate me, and parental alienation is a extreme form of emotional and psychological child abuse. It is also very hard to prove. Judges are not educated in psychology, right, so really what they're looking at through the divorce process is is the child safe, are they provided for? And that, as far as how they may feel about things or what may be said about the other parent, really isn't on their radar. Their radar is to ensure that the child has access to both parents and is provided for physically, and that's really it. So there wasn't a lot that I could do, and so now that that was a that was very traumatic for me. So through this parental alienation process as being very traumatic for me and knowing that it is traumatic for my son, I began to educate myself on that, which is actually when I went back to school and got my psychology degree and I spent time studying that. I've got hundreds and hundreds of hours and how does this work and how can you protect children, and so now the ministry, part of what I do professionally Is helping children recover from it when it's happening, connecting moms with support so that, if they have a feeling that this is happening, there are certain therapies that can be done. With play therapists and licensed therapists that I know about I'm not legally allowed to do that I can say, ok, this is the, the support you need to get for you and your child, this is how I can support you through the process. So it's really become a ministry for me.

Angela Startz:

In that regard and I think a lot of it is we feel very powerless. You know, when we, when you, when you walk in through divorce, hardness of heart is the reason that God hates divorce, right, it's. You know, he only allowed it because of the hardness of heart and it wasn't designed that way from the beginning. And so when, when you're going through this process, it's how do I honor God in a really simple situation and how do I keep my heart from getting hard? And it's a real struggle because, if we look at the statistics and forgive me, minor, a few years old now, in 2021 the statistics were 26.5% of children below the age of 21 have parents living in a different household.

Angela Startz:

So that's either through separation, abandonment, divorce, and that is a large portion of our population. And so, when you take a look at how this happens, how can we benefit these kids? Because children that come from divorced homes have inherently have a higher risk of divorcing themselves right? So oftentimes we live what we learned, and so how do we walk through this in a way that is most productive? And the research all states that cooperative co-parenting is how you do that, because, if you take a look at God's design for the family, that is, children being raised by a mother and a father, and even if that can't be done in the same household, you still are their mother and your ex-husband is still their father, and so you need to be working together so that your children are still raised by a mother and a father.

Val Harrison:

I would interject here, too, that there's a lot of marriages that are still together, where both parents are in the household, but there is not a healthy communication. There's still the triangulation that you brought up. There's just very unhealthy dynamics there. So I think these skills that you're about to talk about will apply to many more women than besides, just the single moms, the moms who are in. They're in the same home, but they are not on the same page.

Angela Startz:

Yes, that's true To your point. One of the most influential things on how destructive a divorce can be to a child is parental conflict, and that parental conflict often starts well before court proceedings. So to your point how do you handle conflict within your home so that you're not negatively impacting your child? How do you handle conflict with the other parent living under the same roof or at post-divorce? The number one factor is forgiveness, and Jesus do His thing, like it always comes. It always kind of comes back to that right. And so what the studies have shown is forgiveness is the strongest predictor of the quality of co-parenting over time. Not only is forgiveness part of a healthy Christian walk, but it is empirically validated to reduce depression and repair functionality and interpersonal communication. So if the parents are going to communicate, whether they're living under the same roof or not, forgiveness has to happen.

Angela Startz:

In the case of divorce, and I would say pretty much in the case of human relationships, sin is a factor, right, and so we have to learn how to forgive effectively. And there are two pieces of forgiveness and where the scripture commands us to forgive. When we take a look at sin, a debt is incurred, right. That's where we get the phrase you owe me an apology right, there's a sense of something is owed when we look at what Jesus did. He paid our debt because a debt was incurred when we sinned against God. When we sin, a debt is involved, and so when we are commanded to forgive, essentially what we are doing is making the decision that that person no longer owes me. I'm transferring that debt to God. I've forgiven that debt personally. I am transferring it to God. Now it's between you and Him and that's a decision. But now we have all these messy emotions. Right, it's like, okay, I've forgiven you, but I still don't feel very forgiving towards you, and oftentimes we can confuse emotional forgiveness and decisional forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness is how we obey God. Emotional forgiveness is something that we strive for, so we live in the freedom that comes from having made that decision.

Angela Startz:

So, part of that, there's a really great researcher named Dr Everett Worthington. He's the foremost researcher on forgiveness. Oddly enough, he happens to be a Christian as well, and on his website, which I believe, I shared the link. If you could add that in show notes, that would be fantastic to Dr Everett Worthington. He calls them DIY workbooks and they're free off of his website. You download them, and it is a workbook that literally helps you through the process of emotional forgiveness, because what has to happen is at some point, in order to be able to free yourself from the negative emotions, you need to be able to look at that person with compassion. And that's a tall order, right? Someone has sinned against me, someone is going to be having access to my child 50% of the time without me there as a buffer, and how do I have compassion on that person? Well, it's impossible without the Holy Spirit, but if you lean on him and you work through Dr Worthington's workbook, it really is very effective in being able to simmer down the emotions so that you can live in the freedom of forgiveness and you can interact with your spouse or your former spouse in a way that is much more effective, because once defensiveness enters into a conversation, nobody is listening to understand. They are listening to defend their position. That's good. So that is the biggest piece, and the first step for me is working through the forgiveness piece.

Angela Startz:

The second piece is never forget who you are. You know, when we're in heaven and we're walking on the golden streets, you will always be the person that God said you are Becca's mom. I mean, you're her as an example, right, always and forever. You will be the one that God chose to be her mother while she was on earth, and so that is who you are. Regardless of the state of anything else, the state of your relationship with her, the state of your relationship with her rich, you are still her mother, and so I think sometimes we can feel very threatened and we can begin to question our worth and our value. And as soon as we do that, when insecurity comes in, we begin operating from a very unhealthy place, and we're either trying to earn our place in our child's life by being their friend instead of their parent, or we are being domineering and prideful because we don't want them to forget who we are. And then you know it swings the other way, in which they don't want to have that close relationship with us, and so we can never forget the importance of who we are and what we do as a mother has eternal value, and that also means that if there is a stepmom that comes into the picture, she's no threat to who you are, and it's one thing to think okay, well, she's getting time with my child. Okay, then be her friend, so that y'all are on the same team and you're both loving your child.

Angela Startz:

My mother once told me I am blessed when someone loves my kids, and that really stuck with me. And when she said that to me I actually wasn't a Christian, it didn't mean a whole lot, but it has never left my brain. And as my son has had stepmoms or women that have filled that role in his life, I look at it and I pray for them. And I pray for their relationship because, at the end of the day, if this woman loves my son, I'm blessed, because if she really loves my son, she's going to do what is best for him. And so if we don't look at the stepmother as competition and we look at her as an ally, this is a third person that can come in and love my child and do what is best, and if we're on the same team, rowing in the same direction, then that does nothing but benefit my child.

Angela Startz:

And there's another great co-parenting international is a great Christian resource for co-parenting books and lessons and videos and one of the things that they call, as they say and I found this to be true you now kind of run this thing as a business, so it would be Starts Inc. It would be, you know, angela and her former husband working, as you know, co-vice Presidents of Starts Inc for the benefit of our son. That's ideal. So how do you do that? You do that with business meetings. It's very structured meetings that have agendas. We're going to talk about this school year, we're going to talk about the sports that he's involved in, we're going to talk about extracurricular or when they're driving, what they're driving, who they're driving with, you know, setting up the rules, and it becomes very focused on a business meeting. It's structured and you have a plan and those things actually work well because it keeps it focused on the, on working together for the benefit of the child, instead of proving a point.

Val Harrison:

I want to back you up for a minute to you talking about being friends with that stepmom. Yes, and there is a lot of times in our life as parents where we need to have that decision, apart from our emotion. Yes, for example, in the middle school and high school years, I used to be threatened by the concept of my kids developing a mentor with someone other than me. It's a fabulous opportunity and I need to embrace that and I need to become really good friends with that mentor.

Angela Startz:

Yes.

Val Harrison:

When, when my child gets married, that other parent I want to be good friends with that other parent. They are going to be co-grandparenting with me, yes, and we're going to be influencing those grandkids lives. I want a good relationship with that person. Also, the other grandparents in my kids lives.

Val Harrison:

You know, maybe I have a problem with this aunt or that grandparents or whatever. I need to go be really good friends with them because they are a big influence in my kids lives. So I hope that, as moms are listening today, even if they're not a single mom, there's so much in what you're saying, so much wisdom, that we need to glean from this that we set aside emotions. I think of this. Recently, someone was their daughter, their first child was getting married and she didn't want the mother-in-law to come to watch the trying on the dresses. Oh, and I was explaining to her no, this is the person that is going to have big influence in your daughter's life and in your grandkids lives. This is your new best friend.

Angela Startz:

Yes.

Val Harrison:

And that's really, you know, the same thing as what you're saying here about this stepmom. It's hugely harder because you've got way more emotions and bigger trauma that you are trying that you have to set aside. But God does call us to really hard things as moms, lots of really hard things. Yes, and this would be one of those that our emotions, our feelings don't get to be more important than what's best for our child. Yes, and that's what you're telling us to do here and be friending that stepmom and, in having a healthy relationship, co-parenting with their dad.

Angela Startz:

Yes.

Val Harrison:

Yes, I just wanted to throw that in for all of those who are listening, who might not be the single moms in the room, so but keep it.

Angela Startz:

And those are great points, because I hadn't thought of the concept of co-grandparenting. But you absolutely are, yep, you know you really are. That's a very valid point.

Val Harrison:

Which I have all awesome co-grandparents in my life with my three married kids, but if I didn't and you know I have seven kids, so I'm gonna likely have some that that's not the case.

Angela Startz:

Well, exactly, and I think. I think you're very intentional in the way that you build relationship and the way that you have raised your children. And so if, if, if, you bring that same intentionality to every part, right, because even though when our children are adults, like the active parenting ends, we don't get to tell them what to do anymore, right, they're adults, they, at this stage, they're making the choices and we at best get to serve, as you know, consultants, but you still play important roles in how you model, getting along with people that you don't know very well, because you are blending families, right, and you didn't get to pick the other family with which you're blending. But Val shows up with a spirit of acceptance, because I'm prioritizing the marriage of our children and I think that's the piece that you have to do.

Angela Startz:

Co-parenting International they use an acronym called team, and it's the end. Adult matters most, and so, basically, it's like when you're looking at your child, you know you cannot be myopic and you're going to the mat on one issue. You know, with your, with whoever you're co-parenting with, at the end of the day, it's like this person, god willing, is gonna grow up to be a functioning adult in society. How well are they going to function? So it's part of being intentional in the battles that you choose and the way that you negotiate, because they are watching, and I think that brings me to another piece.

Val Harrison:

Well, let me pause you just for one second and say that we're going to take this into a second episode. For moms that are listening right now, I like to keep our episodes about 30 minutes, which is where we're at now, so you and I are going to keep talking and they're going to listen. Next time we have been visiting with Angela Starts from Hope Works Counseling. Today she has also agreed to join us in our Facebook group, intentional Mom, strong Family. So if you have questions for Angela or questions from what we've talked about today, I will put a post that will announce this podcast episode. It'll have a cover art that includes Angela, so you just feel free to comment on there with your questions.

Val Harrison:

There are other ways to connect with Angela and that will be in the show notes. And then I am Val Harrison, the Practically Speaking Mom, and you can connect with me in our Facebook group or you can follow me at PracticallySpeakingMom. You can also go to my website, practicallyspeakingmomcom, to find my blog and my books. The six rooms of the Intentional Mom's home is there, which divides all kinds of mom issues into the six categories of our life, so you can check those out, and you'll find other resources there as well to help moms become more intentional as you build strong families. So Angela and I will see you right back here next time on the Practically Speaking Mom podcast.

Handling Difficult Circumstances in Life
Parental Alienation
Co-Parenting and Building Healthy Relationships
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